January 29, 2007

Poor Butterfly

My friends Walter and Joseph, who virtually adopted me in my late teens and became something of a surrogate family, and about whom I will some day write, left me with a cache of memories and lasting treasures of all kinds, both virtual and tangible.

One of those is a handful of record albums, some of which I have begun digitizing. I'll post selections from some of them from time to time. The first from what I'll call the Salem Village Collection (that's where they, we, lived) features "the original piano artistry" of Jonathan Edwards with vocals by Darlene Edwards.

"It takes great skill to go wrong that carefully..." Walter said of the "Edwards'" work. This was back in the smoky and freewheeling late sixties, there was always a handful of artsy hedonists hanging around, and we'd do anything for a laugh. Once we dyed Barney, the sheep, plaid (we had to finally tether him out back when passing motorists started driving into the ditch). We made 8mm underground movie versions of TV shows. Once in a while we'd break out the Jonathan Edwards. The track here is his take on Poor Butterfly. Is it ever.

And here's the sound of the other shoe dropping:

January 26, 2007

January 22, 2007

Sarasota this time

When I woke Saturday morning it struck me that I could drive up to Sarasota if  
I felt like it, and that’s what I did. Half the kick was meandering up there, 
stopping at anonymous but familiar-looking fast food spots, sitting in air 
conditioned booths looking through glass at the highway and palm trees, 
without a plan in the world. 

Sarasota is an arty town. There’s an opera company and a film festival. Ballet.
The big Dali collection. Galleries galore. All kinds of Music. But its Greenwich 
Village grit has, like that of so many other old Florida locales, been swept away 
in the storm of regentrification. This time on a more grandiose scale. The city, 
when I got there, was congested and spiked with cranes. Towers were sprouting 
everywhere, and construction walkways obliterated familiar storefronts. I had 
contacts there, Bill, Stephanie, but I didn't want to look anybody up. I wanted to 
wander around taking shots and watching people. 

Main Street was still a dappled and umbrella-strewn haven, jammed with cafes,
and the galleries on and off Palm were engaging. One was showing lush, period- 
looking seaside scenes reminiscent of Sargent, with Turner's glowing, operatic 
light. Another had some neo-cubist but whimsical confections of musicians 
carefully rendered in Crayola colors. 

I sat at a table under trembling shade thinking about the last time I was here
with Nicole, already stumbling toward the black hole that would swallow her 
for the next two years. She was saying that people looked like vampires. That 
manikins scared her. That Johnny Carson was terrifying. She’d asked me for a 
Tylenol and instead of taking it, sat scrutinizing it, breaking off tiny crumbs in 
her saucer until there was nothing left but sand.

At one of the galleries the owner, all taupe, and silver, and cashmere,
accompanied me quietly, amid the carpeted hush and fine art, and bars of light 
streaming through plate glass. A desultory tour of the exhibit. Art chat. We 
parted with sly but blatantly dawning smiles. A brush with flirtation mutually, 
and somehow indulgently, deferred. 

Outside, a bank of newspaper racks offered a bunch of free weeklies and art
rags. I stocked up and headed home, having taken no photos.

January 19, 2007

The seagull and I

"Tuna is always nice, but if I never have to taste another drop of Miracle Whip, I'll be thrilled."

January 13, 2007

Pool ku

pairs of lotioned limbs
grow tan on white deck chairs
sometimes a page turns

a hibiscus bud
skips across the chalky deck
prodded by a breeze

crows drop crusts of bread
into the blue pool, a few
sink to nevermore

styrofoam noodles
the color of crayons
float in bright water

the black and white cat
crouches, lapping water slyly
then feigns indifference

a ring of house keys
a pair of yellow flip flops
lie in striped shade

her gaze enjoins
the umbrella’s taut shadow
of whom does that girl dream?

January 8, 2007

Boggle and beach

Yesterday I drove thirty miles south along the beach road to see Bobby. A 
designer, he lives in what was a model house a few blocks off the beach that he 
picked up some years ago for less than market value, even for back then, before
the boom drove prices through the hole in the ozone layer. The house is all
poured concrete and glass, cosseted in raphis and bougainvilleas - shadowed, 
polished, darkly bright. Bobby was telling me about the ten-year-old son of a 
client who had accompanied his mother to a meeting there. The boy had 
remarked that the house has a certain “transparency” which it does. We laughed
at the boy’s sagacity. “Transparency!” Bobby repeated incredulously, having 
noticed my amusement.

He made a pitcher of bloody Marys. We listened to some new iTunes. After a
while we threw a backpack together and went to the beach.

We found a depression in a bank off the dunes at the south end of the beach and
put down towels. A couple of boats were anchored lazily offshore. We lay down
in the soft, deadening sand, and once down, it took only minutes for the far blue
horizon to empty us, for the surf’s relentless rush to exfoliate thought and
purpose. We played Boggle, keeping time, but not score.

A young family strolled by, close to the water, scanning the wet sand solemnly
for shells. The boy, in half-scale, replicated his father’s shoulders exactly and
drolly. With the posture and grace of a dancer, the woman would squat on
lovely haunches to examine an oyster shell or periwinkle. She wore, knotted at
the waist, a filmy flowered skirt, a scarf, lifted and ruffled by an inquisitive
ocean breeze… I thought of Richard Selzer’s observation in Mortal Lessons: “I
love the solid heft of men as much as I adore the heated capaciousness of
women.” I looked at Bobby and thought briefly of Jane. Of the summer at the
lake, evading Jane’s drunken old aunt Cynthia, hiding like children in closets,
the felonious kisses in the dark and the streaks of sunlight across the tangled
sheets in the cottage. I had never hidden from Bobby my sporadic lady-lust, but
I rarely recounted anything, usually begging off when asked. He sometimes had
fun with it, making flirty suggestions when the opportunity, a waitress or a
pretty driver, crossed our path.

It was too windy to write, so we announced the words as we found them, hidden
in plain sight, in Boggle’s ivory rows and columns.

“Lore”, said Bobby… “Role. Gore.”

“Sloe,” I said, tracing out the homonym with my finger. Bobby thought for a

“Fanta!” he announced.

“Since when are the brand names of soft drinks allowed?” I wanted to know. 

“This is the beach,” he said. “Soft drinks only.” I had to smile at that, 
considering his penchant for smuggling screwdrivers onto the beach.

“Ok then, NAFTA,” I said.

“Oh, please! That’s an acronym. It’s not even a word.”

“You shave your rules, I’ll shave mine,” I said.

He stared at me. The vaguely ribald suggestion hung bobbing in the air like a
cartoon. Bobby cracked up. I did too. Then we were guffawing and rolling, and I
was pawing his belly, reflexively, reaching to press and behold the spasm and
source of all mirth. Glancing down the beach, I noticed that the boy had seen us.
He stared, turned away, then turned back again, with a look that was remotely

We had fish at Angelo’s, sandwiches that the menu was now listing, in the wake
of the recent grouper scandals, as “grouper-like”, actually tilapia we were told.
Back at the house we watched, seditiously, The Apprentice, and drank red wine.
I had a morning meeting, so I didn’t stay. As I dressed, Bobby said that he had
signed up for a dance class. “I want a dancer’s body – like yours,” he said. I was
touched, but told him that he already looked like Greg Louganis, and how do
you improve on gold? He rolled out of bed and squeezed me so hard that I
thought of the old Groucho Marx line: “If I held you any closer, I’d be in back
of you.” I drove back north on the highway, the mercury vapor lights streaming
by and sparse, distant red tail lights drawing me home.

At night I dreamed I was in an office supply store buying blank DVDs,
beautifully packaged in a modern technological dispenser. The store was
jammed. All the sales people, male and female, were gorgeous and friendly. I
realized I was in the middle of an Apprentice episode. The guy at the check out,
laughing and mugging, was hustling me like I was making his day. “This is a
great product,” he said, admiring my purchase. “Isn’t it great,” I said. “And I
really like Heidi Klum’s new line of office products.” He smiled in agreement.
“That’s the beauty of the free trade agreement.” I realized that he was Bobby.
Then we were in bed, holding on to each other, awash in a tide of tenderness and
tears, of muscle and mortality. “Life is temporary for a reason,” Bobby said.

January 4, 2007

Leapin' lizard

Wherever you go in Florida, you’ll cross paths with an anole. Especially taken with the little lizards are newly transplanted homeowners, thrilled by the prospect of spending balmy, exotic lives where palm trees drop coconuts on cars, and the little reptiles perch on rocks, translucent crimson dewlaps flashing territorially in the endless summer.

They eat ants and crickets and can be kept as pets… but why bother? They’re just as much fun peering at you through your kitchen window or hanging from a fern on the porch. Perhaps because of the housing boom, a rather lot of the little beasts are suicidal, running directly under your feet as you pass. Hopping from one foot to the other to avoid them does no good. They have an uncanny knack for finding the Shoe Of Doom. Suicide by bicycle is also a trend.

One day, halfway to the beach on my motorcycle, I looked down and saw one perched on the handlebar, face to the wind, like a dog in a pickup, master of all it surveyed. I was enjoying its company, as we sped along, as much as it enjoyed the ride, an old hand it seemed, as smug as a toad. But as we neared the beach it grew restive and appeared to be casting about for an opportunity to disembark. Perhaps it smelled the sea, or the seagulls. Of course it picked the most impetuous moment, when I was rounding a sharp curve in the road, to jump off. Whether it survived or not I have no idea. We had just passed a cluster of coconut palms.

January 3, 2007

Untitled 1

You don't understand
why you've lost his embrace
once a kiss was enough to feed multitudes
now the jam and croissant
and the morning's soft mirth
are declined because they're "half eaten."

Is it so unforeseen
his pursuit of Eros
the highest and best and most beautiful
was not just a rhapsody
wrapped in your name
but a doomed questing passion you loved and "forgave"?

January 1, 2007

Happy New Year!

My party animal neighbors set off fireworks in the street on every other holiday. Yee-ha!