February 28, 2007

Body and soul

My body serves and betrays.
It rises to the occasion of virtue or sin,
and falls into scrumptious sleep and
inexorable decline.

My soul as well...
no competent princess,
bastilled in my flesh’s indolence and babble.
She, too, mints sin and transmits light,
before the morning coffee’s gone.

February 23, 2007

Vote McGovern

We were college freshmen, not long in New York. Smart-ass lookers, we had more attitude than wherewithal, but we didn’t know that. 20 year olds never do. It was the summer of 1972; we had lucked into an apartment. It was on east seventh street, between Avenues C and D. The rent was $74 a month.

Larry was from Pennsylvania, and studied design at Pratt. I was in my first year at NYU and had a part time job at an art gallery on Fifth Avenue. I often walked home from the Bleecker street subway stop, meandering through the East Village, always on the lookout for curbside cast-offs that might be useful or decorative.

It was quite possible, especially for young fashionistas like us, to furnish an entire apartment with such stuff back then, which is pretty much what Larry and I had done. Most of those acquisitions were junk, but frequently appealing junk, imbued with a history whose benevolence our apartment absorbed, whose particulars deferred to our own. But this time, it was a literary find, a stack of old LOOK magazines, rich with photography, on a ninth street curb, that caught my eye. But no sooner had I begun pawing through the pop culture archive, heedlessly absorbed, than three young muggers quietly surrounded me.

With incredible swiftness I was hustled at knifepoint into the deserted lobby of an old tenement across the street. I was young and there was a tussle. I’d managed to wriggle free for the second time, but now they were looming closer and I was backing into the dead end of a stairwell under a bare light bulb. Then I began to yell. "Help! Help!" I yapped with what seemed to my astonished ears the bleat of a baby goat. "Help!" I bawled again, and the three suddenly relaxed, paused, and looked at one another, and then at me, with incredulous disdain. They tossed around some sly Latino banter. "Fuck off," I said, and lurched for the street. They let me go, but not without first stripping off my jacket with such dexterity, as I passed, that it seemed like a magic trick.

I was back home scarcely five minutes, panting out the story to Larry, when there was a commotion, shouting and a scuffle, out in the street. We ran to the window. There were the same three thugs, mugging someone new. From our third floor window Larry put up a ruckus and they all scattered, leaving their victim dazed, but uninjured. Larry went down and got him. We gave him coffee. He took off his jacket. There was a long slice in the leather where a knife had sought, but missed, his reflexively arched back. We made him as comfortable as we could on the couch. He was gone by the time we got up in the morning.

Larry took his Pierre Cardin tuxedo out of the closet.
"What’s the occasion?" I said.
"I’m trading it with Brian for his Meladandri suit."
"Roland Meladandri?"
Larry gave me a look.
"Good grief. Doesn’t Brian have brain in his head?"
"Not so loud," said Larry.

The occasion was an auction the next night at Brooklyn Academy to benefit the McGovern campaign. I had a press pass. We ended up, importunate but affable intruders among indulgent celebrities, at a table with Hermione Gingold, Andy Warhol, Peggy Cass, and Ed Koch. Warhol’s poster of a spinach-colored Nixon was on the auction block.

"Mr. Nixon’s nose resembles a scimitar," said Hermione, in her legendary affected-to-near-disablement accent.

"Could that explain his appeal to voters?" said Koch.

We were homeward bound on the subway well after midnight. It was all Larry could do to refrain from recapitulating the evening with his gut-busting Gingold impression. But his Meladandri was quietly, and insistently, gleaming under the scrutiny of a couple of punks at the other end of the rattling and flashing subway car. We sat tight and looked unamused. When we pulled into the Canal Street station, the car was infused with a small flock of late-night civilization. We could relax.

"Has it ever occurred to anyone," Larry began in Gingold’s trembling and aggrandized tone, "that Golda Meir looks exactly like Lyndon Johnson in drag?"

"I think George McGovern sounds like Liberace," I said. "What if he gets elected and has a state dinner for Golda Meir at the White House?" But that, of course, wasn’t the way it would turn out.

February 18, 2007

Flash city

Inspired by Logophile’s recent flash fiction, I thought I’d attempt a few. I’ve limited the stories to 64 words, in honor of the bit depth halfway between 32 and 128. The setting is New York.

“It wasn’t a lie,” she said. The last of the company had gone. Glancing out the window, he saw Phil and Barbara walking slowly to the ferry. “You sighed when you saw the photo of London.” The whole autumn had had such a meandering quality. He smiled at what he knew she was about to say. He switched on the TV. Letterman had Couric.

The July sun pierced the sycamores, spraying the lawn with golden coins. Music played. The bride was radiant, and it was apparent there would be no rain. Elaine was halfway to the ladies room before she noticed the napkin she had been carrying, now wadded and rebuking, and discarded it on an empty plate where a bee was feasting on a smudge of frosting.

That summer they played badminton on the roof. They never kept score. Rich rushed the net for a shot but his wrist went wayward and turned his hand to spinach. George slammed the flub over Rich’s head, and immediately felt silly. “That was venal,” he said. “Forgive me?” Rich picked up the bird and lobbed an easy shot back to him. “Yes,” he said.

I looked down the length of the cavernous warehouse collapsing on its pier and disintegrating into the Hudson River. Someone, an artist, had sliced open the corrugated wall, high up, in the shape of a crescent moon. Stealthy shreds of city traffic surged and receded. When I heard the footsteps, a distant echo-edged tattoo, I stripped down to my briefs and sneakers and waited.

He glanced at the cabbie’s license. Vasanthi Rajan. The Seagrams Building, an elegant shadow, lurked in the windshield then slid away. The thought of being greeted in the white bathrobe and damp hair made his heart leap. As he emerged from the cab, he saw Howard Cosell. “Hello Howard!” he said, surprised. Cosell looked at him, expressionless, then looked away and trudged up 58th.

February 16, 2007

Let it snow

Here's the quietest street in Lee County. As you can see by the bullet hole in the bottom of the sign, mention "snow" in Florida and some people lose their sense of humor. I love snow; it's a wonder of nature, and a planetary feature that may be unique in the universe. I like the winter Olympics better than the summer games. As a kid I lived to skate. I like stopping by a wood on a snowy evening. Christmas in Manhattan, snow-dusted and cornucopia-spilling, is a jewel of civilization. I love when it sticks on my nose and eyelashes. And I like, most of all, remembering it fondly.

February 15, 2007

It's all about the ingredients

My friend Bobby made dinner here. Well, we both did. He made grilled pork chops and roast potatoes. I made my over-the-top sauerkraut, and pineapple white cake whose only wet ingredient is egg whites. Then we had coffee and lay around listening to assorted playlists and pets.

He wants to write a cookbook. It has only one recipe: spaghetti sauce. The book is mostly about shopping for the ingredients... in Greenwich Village. A couple of items take him as far away as Mott Street or 14th, and lead to danger, history, possibly Philadelphia, and assorted odd diversions. It's based on a true story - his. It’s a great recipe, by the way. A rich Bolognaise sauce. Good with a new cabernet, but then what isn't?

February 12, 2007


Shining on the lake
falling in the rain
lapping at my heart
you are here again
surging like a wave
lifting me upon your wake

Heart forever kind
grace like falling snow
calling out the stars
blowing through my soul
palladin of peace
lover from the end of time

Aching in a smile
smiling in a tear
love that makes me cry
stay forever near
trembling in a leaf
whisper to my heart a while...

February 8, 2007

Tis the season

...when more commercial work lands on my desk. I'm not complaining, mind you. Here's a shoot I'm working on:

One must eat. I owe my career in photography, and later in journalism, to sibling rivalry. My brother won a camera in a contest, and at seven years old, I had to have one too. So I worked, saved, cajoled, and conned my way into getting one. Jimmy Olsen was my hero. I never strayed very far from that myth or career track. Though my work, since I left the dust of battle, has been a bit less, well... gritty.

February 7, 2007

February 4, 2007

February 2, 2007