December 29, 2010

Flagged


One summer day at the lake an older cousin, some neighborhood boys, and my brother were readying a game of flag. The flag was a square, a square foot perhaps, torn from an old sheet, a dish towel, a rag. Tacked to a strip of whatever lumber could be found or filched, a yardstick, a dowel. I watched my cousin fasten his square, in a frenzy of intent, with tacks jammed all along the length of the fabric. My brother, snorting at his opponent’s excess, attached his with just three - top, middle, and bottom. It struck me immediately as not only confident and sufficient, but elegant. It was a turning point in my apprehension of the economy, and vested power, of good design.

Because I was young, it made a vivid impression. And the signal impressions of our youth become the banners under which we barnstorm the world. Geronimo!




December 27, 2010

December 22, 2010

December 18, 2010

December 15, 2010

December 9, 2010

Into the fold



I remember clearly the dawning of reflexive consciousness that inaugurated my entrance into the human estate. I was a toddler, it was summer at the lake, there was a picnic in a park. A bunch of my extended family, grandparents, cousins, a few others, were there. It suddenly came home to me, in a vivid and sun-dappled moment, that I was one of these... and I was immediately and irrevocably in love. More, my consciousness suddenly expanded in all directions to something like infinity, and doubled back infinitely on itself. For the first time, I was a discrete and self-contained being, who knew himself, in an apparently infinite space that I shared with others. This moment, although preliterate, was completely mature and nothing could have, or has, been added to improve it. There was nothing shattering about it. It felt as natural as stepping into a place that had been waiting for me all along. I like to think that the angels chose this moment to awaken me.


Over time that love would be challenged. Would be distorted, deferred, and betrayed. But nothing, nothing, has dislodged or corrupted its essence. You're one of mine.





December 6, 2010

December 3, 2010

November 29, 2010

November 28, 2010

From whom much is given, much is required


Thanksgiving with the Bud. His digs have a striking view of the ocean, admired by many. Several of his friends, and a couple of mine, joined us for dinner. He’s not big on socializing. As we were putting dishes away in the kitchen, he said that he hoped they didn’t hang around all night. I asked him why, then, he always ends up playing host. He sighed. “The responsibility of the view,” he said.



November 26, 2010

bumper crop / 2




"What if I don't WANT to get a life?"





November 17, 2010

Bogglelogogenesis


You’d think the skies over a metropolis like New York would have dozens of
aircraft floating by at any given moment, on orderly tracks like those in science
fiction movies depicting an agreeably urbanized future. When I lived in
Manhattan, I’d look up occasionally and see some solitary plane fly by overhead
once in a while. The sky is huge.

I drive the Florida interior now and again, on back roads less traveled, en route
to a city or remote state park. I was always amazed, especially during the height
of the development frenzy, at how much undeveloped land I saw, vast stretches
of subtropical topography that will probably be waterfront property some day.

If you’ve played Boggle, you’ve come to realize that there are countless words
that don’t exist, have never existed, but should by now. There’s a vast
undeveloped philological world out there. Here are a few examples, along with
their proposed meanings, each of which has been carefully verified for non-
existence:


ancid - beyond rancid; no longer rancid

brif - shorter than brief

clost - a creepy fog, believed to harbor demons

dadder - paternal dandruff

flove - a fancy glove worn on special occasions

gludge - the gummy concentrate that collects around the rim of a ketchup bottle or mustard jar

nise - a nice nose

pelva - all things pelvic

sania - pathological sanity; a saniac

scoat - a juvenile scapegoat

zatin - a synthetic luxury fabric


Bogglelogogenesis studies is a new field with many as yet undefined parameters
and a rich deposit of undiscovered samples. I will return with new findings...





November 14, 2010

Who's naughty or nice



I went to pick up a few things at the supermarket, eggs, Danish butter, a bag of onions... the entrance doors parted and there on a dais, surrounded by twinkling Christmas trees, enthroned and merry, sat none other than Santa, Mrs. Claus, and a couple of elves. The costumes were outstanding. Santa waved. I waved back. “Have you been a good boy?” he said, ho, ho, ho. I told him that every so often an irresistible urge to behave comes over me. I try to resist, but usually end up giving in. “What fun is that?” said Santa. A right jolly old elf.





November 12, 2010

November 10, 2010

Impromptu / 1




Watch in HD (the gear icon in the control bar) if you connection supports it.



November 7, 2010

November 3, 2010

October 27, 2010

How to determine if you're a peasant






These are my keys.


These are my other keys.


This is my wallet,


cell phone,


pocket change,


etcetera.



Here's what heads of state carry on their persons:











October 24, 2010

The triumph of ambiguity


One of the strangest things about looking at old photographs is that they’re not as
momentous or meaningful as I thought they’d be, “years from now”. It’s years
from then now, and they’re mostly a little forlorn, awkward, or just inscrutable.
“A photograph” Susan Sontag wrote in 'On Photography' “is both a pseudo
presence and a token of absence...” its “qualities and intentions swallowed up in
the generalized pathos of time past.” The photograph of Walter, because I knew
him, is missing so much more than it contains. The shot of Roberta doesn’t smell
like Roberta. And that skinny kid on the ladder... who is that? I feel no connection at all.

Paradoxically, photographs of people I don’t know and places never seen, or seen
in a new way, sometimes have an uncanny ability to evoke an emotional response
that images of my own people and places do not. They’re not as overtly drained of
the living nuance that seems better brought to life with simple memory. The
photograph of your 10th birthday party is fascinating to me, because it tells me
more than does the photograph of mine.

Maybe photography resonates most, especially in the hands of an ardent and
skilled observer, when it’s about nobody in general, and everybody in particular.
My journalistic stuff does stay fresh for me. There is endless potential in the
particulars of the glimpsed, not sapped by the accomplished facts of personal
history. It’s medium cool, as McLuhan would say: open enough to invite
participation, extrapolation, engaging memory and imagination in a way that our
personal photos, which are both oversaturated and poignantly wanting, never can.




October 16, 2010

The other half


Downtown Sarasota. I found a parking space at Island Park and we headed for
O’Leary’s, a favorite spot on the bay, a waterfront bistro with picnic tables and
live music. Pat ordered a grouper sandwich, I went for fried shrimp. White wine
for all. There was a grouper scandal a few years ago. So popular is the
delectable Gulf aquatic chameleon that fake grouper, everything from tilapia to
pollock, was being passed off as the real thing in restaurants all over Florida.
Eventually the State Attorney General’s office, following a St. Petersburg Times
expose', began randomly testing grouper sandwich DNA. A lot of restaurants,
who blamed their suppliers, got snagged in the Groupergate net. Authenticity
has since dramatically risen, along with grouper sandwich prices. If you’re paying
$10. or more for one, there's a good chance it's grouper. At one of our favorite
seafood spots we noticed an offering, on the post-Groupergate menu: 
“grouper-like sandwich.”


I offered Pat a curly fry.
“What is this?” she said, “an onion ring?”
“No, it’s a curly fry.”
She sampled a bite. “Mm,” she said, noncommittally.

We headed for Lido beach. I found a parking space close to my haunt. I bought 
some Mike’s Hard Lemonade at the concession stand. The friendly young man 
behind the counter informed me that he couldn’t sell me an unopened
bottle to take away. So I asked for it in a cup over ice, which I could take away.
Which was fine. Seems the county prefers that visitors begin drinking as quickly 
as possible. Which was fine.

We hiked to my spot, a relatively remote section of the beach, nestled between
some dunes, just south of the gay zone. But no sooner had we set up camp
than a quartet of noisy and well-fed young women began posing for pictures just
feet away from our little hideaway, on a section of the beach otherwise empty in
both directions. What compels people? You’ll park in a remote slot of a parking 
lot, not another vehicle around, and return to find somebody parked inches 
away from your car door, no other vehicles around. Cars, apparently, are 
mammalian litter mates that cannot nap alone. Pat was more gracious than I. 
She even agreed to take a picture of the group. Then they were on their way, 
satisfied that we had been properly disabused of any claims to privacy.


We headed straight for the water. The temperature was exquisite - probably 
somewhere in the seventies, and there was some surf. “It’s been ages since I’ve 
been in the ocean,” Pat said with a laugh. After splashing, and floating, and 
paddling around for a while, we returned to the umbrella to find that the wind 
had dumped our lemonade. Must have been a county wind.

We lay around for the rest of the afternoon, reminiscing, updating, speculating. 
was both shocked and grimly fascinated to learn about the odd paths taken by 
some of the tribe at the apartment, the ones who’d had establishment jobs, 
uptrending careers, families and connections. While Pat and I, the outliers and 
shiftless rebels, survived and stabilized. One never knows. Two of those 
neighbors, erstwhile friends of us both, who have managed to maintain a 
tenuous grasp on their respective apartments, one of which had been my home 
for ten years, have taken to ordering pizza and having it delivered to their van, 
parked outside the building, and enigmatically eating it there.

I wanted to show Pat Siesta Key before sunset. We packed up and drifted back, 
along the shore, to the truck. Siesta Key is on my short list for post-lottery win 
places to live. I could probably move there tomorrow if they gave a prize for the 
most tickets purchased without a single winning number. I’ve been up there with 
my bike, my scooter, with little more than a camera. There isn’t much there, 
really. A great beach, a village, a few inns. Parks and resorts. And endless 
residential back streets and cul-de-sacs tucked away in lush tropical settings. We 
drove around the back streets. Oohed and aahed. We fantasized and schemed. 
We made plans to buy winning lottery tickets. But mostly we simply enjoyed the 
remains of the day in each other’s company.





October 12, 2010

Getting there is half the something

My friend Pat was in Florida on family business. She emailed from Tampa
suggesting that we meet up in Venice, where she would be visiting her uncle. I
remailed that I would pick her up there and spirit her off to Lido Key at 10:30
the next morning. Could I supply a beach umbrella? Pat wanted to know. What
color would you like? I said.

The pleasure of riding the sweep and velocity of I75 was suddenly disturbed, just
outside North Port, by the flashing tire pressure indicator on the dashboard. I
pulled off at the next exit, marveling at the fact that the truck’s hypothalamus
was tracking my tire pressure, and into a service station to have a look. The
slowly deflating driver’s side rear tire gently hissed. I looked around, and saw a
WalMart across the street, its Tire & Service Center standing serenely in the
morning sun.

I thought it best to reflate the tire as best I could for the jog over to the Big
Box. The air pump required an outrageous $.75 for a blow job - quarters only.
Which of course meant I had to break some dollars, ie: buy something, in the
convenience mart. I bought chips and a coke. My inner paleolith, an incipient
sybarite, rejoiced.

I rolled cautiously up to the megamart's Tire Center. The cocky young mechanic
informed me that I would have to park the truck “over there,” and added,
gratuitously, as if pointing out the obvious to an imbecile, “you can’t park here
and block the service entrance.” I looked around. There didn't seem to be
anybody, or any vehicle in the vicinity, waiting to drive into the service entrance.
I got in the truck and limped “over there,” so that, presumably, somebody else
could come out to the truck and drive it back to the service entrance. A much
friendlier service rep, clipboard ready, came out and together we examined the
tire. A piece of wood, formidable enough to dispatch a vampire in its coffin, had
pierced the tread. I took it as a reverse-omen, remembering the words of Kay
Rist, my retreat partner at Mount Manresa on Staten Island: "The devil is trying
to throw a stumbling block in your path." That proved I was serving my karass.
It could not, I was told, be patched. I made a mental note to save the tire and
have it patched by my local mechanic.






























It would take, I was told, about forty-five minutes to deal with the flat, an
estimate which I immediately and mentally doubled. So I had an hour-and-a-
half to find what diversion I could, in a Walmart off the freeway. I phoned Pat.
“I’m at Walmart,” I said. “About a half-hour from Venice. I have a flat tire.” An
uplifting mew of sympathy came. Words of encouragement were exchanged.
Pat, never a morning person, was not noticeably upset that I would now arrive
closer to lunch than to breakfast.

I have a nephew whose grocery shopping strategy I’ve always thought
innovative: he goes down every aisle once, then proceeds to checkout. That was
my starting point, though WalMart’s considerably expanded resources, compared
to the average supermarket, promised to consume time instead of save it. But I
soon abandoned the strategy: WalMart has many more aisles, unlike a
supermarket, of things, unlike food, that I’m not remotely interested in. I
lingered for a while in front of the large-screen televisions. Went to see if they
were still importing Chinese raw silk camp shirts. Didn’t see any. Looked at the
latest in fishing lures... I’m entranced by artful replicas of real things. The
assorted bugs, invertebrates, and small fish were fascinating. Some of them
wiggled realistically and were eerily lifelike to the touch.

I noticed the eye-care facility and decided to have my eyes checked, since it had
been several years since my last. Turns out the facility is a concession, devised
by a presiding physician. This one seemed quite advance and high-tech,
futuristic, hushed, sterile, white-on-white. After the traditional eye-chart, eye-
dominance, and peripheral vision exams were completed by an agreeable and
attractive young assistant, I was given the familiar glaucoma air-puff test, all of
which fell into, or bettered, the normal range. Then it was on to Clockwork
Orange mode, and a couple of machines that anchored my chin in a tray, and
my temples between padded plates, while bright lights were flashed at my retina
and rings of neon green encircled my pupil like intergalactic worm holes. This is
what an alien abduction must be like, I thought.

At the consultation, doctor had nothing alarming to report. Sun damage was
trivial. My macula was mainstream. I wouldn’t have to worry about cataracts for
another decade. I thanked him, swiped my card, and headed for the Tire &
Service Center, the eye lab iterated in a cavernous, noisy mode, black-on-black.
As I was driving away, new tire spinning happily, I noticed that the tire pressure
indicator was still lighted. I turned around and went back to query the rep. “It
should go out after you drive for a while,” he said. And so it did, synapses re-
engaged and warning cancelled.

I arrived in Venice in time, as expected, for lunch. Pat and I exchanged hugs
and gifts. I gave her an ounce of Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur. She
gave me E. L. Doctorow’s “Homer & Langley,” a novel, and a beautiful
saffron-yellow NYC Community Kayak T-shirt. We check-listed supplies and the
game plan for the day ahead, and pointed Frog toward Lido beach. We fell into
the old patter. I sang “If I give my heart... to you...” Pat fell in with the
harmony, its celebrated inverted thirds, its paradoxically beautiful ode to love-
as-revenge. “Take that,” we seemed to sing, as the world flew by, Lido Beach
drew near, and all our troubles seemed so far away.



October 8, 2010

October 6, 2010

October 3, 2010

September 30, 2010

Naked lunch


“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”
Genesis 3:20.

I’ve always skimmed over that passage without much thought besides noting that
those skins were probably unlined, and a bit itchy. But the animal (whom the
young humans probably knew and had named) had to be captured, killed, and
skinned to provide that first ever garment. Witnessing that (as my friend Rick
noted) must have been quite the experience for the young couple. The first
animal sacrifice. Which by all appearances kicked off the whole predatory order,
life for life, in which we now find ourselves.

Our ancestors had enough consciousness at least to worship the plants and
animals whose sacrifice sustained them. Our Chicken McNuggets, and the millions
of creatures from which they’re derived, earn mostly ridicule, if we notice them at
all.

In a spiritual and anthropological leap, the gratitude expressed by our ancestors
was transferred from the sensate to the inferred. From the creature to the One who
provides all, and forgives all, and gave us dominion over the earth. Thank heaven
we’re forgiven. But it strikes me that paying a little more attention, a little more
regard, once in a while, to what, as William Burroughs phrased it, is on the end of
our forks, and how it got there, could do us some good.




September 27, 2010

September 24, 2010

September 21, 2010

September 20, 2010

bumper crop / 1




"Wag more. Bark less."





September 16, 2010

Passing redux



I’ve been preoccupied with making a living. I think I’m retired, but I rarely turn down the occasional project, shoot, or assignment that still comes my way.


After having completed a couple of new television spots (one must eat), and still in video mode, I felt a yen to do something with the creative momentum. I thought of my "Long time passing" post, a piece that I always thought had a video lurking in its bittersweet light and shadows. You can see it here.




September 10, 2010

September 6, 2010

September 3, 2010

August 31, 2010

For now


I did a lot of shopping last weekend, in and out of several stores rounding up stuff for my new Mac: adapters, cables, flash memory. By the time I got to Staples, and it was conflated with the stuff in my head, it looked like all the other stores I’d visited. When I exited to the parking lot, I experienced a momentary thrill when I realized I didn’t know where I was.

For an extended moment, I was in the now that Tolle talks about. I clung to it for as long as I could, savoring the vivid disorientation, the presence, before my bearings regrettably returned. That was quickly followed, as I proceeded to the car, by an overlay of rational thought, the chatter of the day’s concerns.

I sense that moments like this, connotation-free manifestations of themselves, can be cultivated and expanded. That the tyranny of the inner narrative can be deposed and deferred. For now.




August 25, 2010

August 22, 2010

August 19, 2010

August 14, 2010

Untitled 4



You may be a new species.
Or just trick photography.
But I have been impressed with both
your sangfroid and the resident mosquitoes.
Diplomatic relations, according to
the tour guide, are rarely found wanting.


Task conflict bollixed my standing in the gonch meme.
Mnemonic indices have fallen sharply.
Didn’t you once take my car without asking?
The past is never the past, considering
the eventual outcome. Want real action?
Get in line. Things are sometimes what they seem.



August 9, 2010

The Paleo Route


In keeping with the Paleolithic narrative (to go with my caveman diet) that
eschews regular exercise in favor of frequent but irregular episodes of heroic
exertion (think wooly mammoth, pit, now how do I get it out of there?), I set off
last weekend by kayak for Lover’s Key beach, off Estero Island, a dozen miles
south of around here.

There’s a small dirt parking lot at Big Carlos Pass at the north end of the island
(top map circle), where a short hike with a paleolithically shouldered kayak
brought me to the water’s edge. After waving goodbye to Big Carlos, who was
fishing with some friends from the bridge, I shoved off.
































It’s a delicious moment, nudging yourself off dry land into the buoyant glide of
the world’s largest domain. I paused, adrift for a moment, to enjoy the
sensation, and to look around. The pass, flanked to the south by the key, and to
the north by the resorts of Estero Island, opens out to the Gulf. The scale on
Google Maps suggests that the key’s north cape (cap, caput, head) is about a
mile from the pass, but from the kayak it looked farther. There was a very light
chop in the strait, easily negotiable. Having maintained a path toward the
center, to shorten the trek to the beach, a vigorous paddle, with my usual
drifting and watching, brought me into the vicinity of the beachhead in about
twenty minutes time. That’s where things changed.

The open Gulf quickly made its presence felt. Three-foot waves were upon me,
and halfway around the cape a strange eddy seized the kayak. No matter how
deeply I dug in with the paddles, or in which direction I pointed the bow, I made
no progress at all. Paddling into the waves helped a bit, but that direction led out
to sea. Angling across the waves brought me to a standstill, and turning toward
shore brought a volley of slaps from the Gulf that threatened to swamp the
boat. I was hung up at the beachhead, far from the favorite old nook whose
sandy slope awaited my umbrella.

After a humiliating struggle, and with my strength in the tank, I eventually gave
up and let the surf fling me ashore. I scarcely had enough strength by then to
get out of the boat, tripped on the edge of the cockpit, landed in the water. I
tried, for a bit, to tow the kayak along the shallows toward Old Nook, but my
strength was gone. I summoned what determination was left and dragged the
boat ashore where I collapsed on the sand. A gull flew by and laughed.

There I lay, on the hard sand by the water, in exhaustion’s giddy abandon,
letting the waves wash over me, focused on the odd sensation of the sand under
the prominences of my body - ankle, knee, hip - dissolving away beneath each
retreating wave. Soon I would be half buried and turn to driftwood...

Eventually I roused myself, got up, grabbed my bag and umbrella, turned the
kayak over to drain, and headed south along the beach. I found my spot. The
same one I always use. Some erosion had taken place since my last outing
there, it usually does. I was still a little more spent than I’d realized. Turning the
sand screw, a device that anchors the umbrella, took a couple of goes. I’m fond
of my umbrella. It’s big. A small market umbrella, really, scarlet, decorated with
an embroidered Coca Cola logo with its famous fishtail script. I don’t know where
it came from. It’s tall enough on its two-piece pole to let you stand up beneath
it, and stride off directly into the ocean, and back.





The midsummer heat in Florida, if you’re inclined to enjoy it at all, acquires an
intensity from which a kind of sweetness emerges. Hot and sweet, that was the
prevailing mood of my lay about on Lovers Key. I swam in the ocean, drifted off
on the sand. I found a couple of nice shells.

By late afternoon storm clouds were brewing to the east. I didn’t want to be on
the water in a thunderstorm. Gathering up whatever shreds of optimism and
paleolithic imperative remained, I made for the boat. The prevailing winds were
blowing in from the gulf, the paddle back to the pass should be painless. I
pawed around in my bag but couldn’t find my T-shirt. It wasn’t in the boat. It
must have blown away. I scanned the dunes. Nothing there. No matter, it was a
warm day, and I had no plans to stop at Tiffany’s, or church, on the way home.

The beachhead’s gaze was evidently still fixed toward the pass, and the kayak
slid across its profile with ease. But now a wall of leaden sky had arisen just
beyond the bridge. Jagged streaks of lightning, like the route line on my map,
flashed down from cloud to horizon. I looked around. An amphitheater of storm
clouds was forming to both north and south. Imagine yourself on a pitcher’s
mound under a clear sky. The stadium surrounding you on three sides is a
storm. It soon occurred to me that my paddles, poking alternately into the
ozone-laden air were the highest objects in the vicinity. I dug in. “At least my
death will be instantaneous,” I thought and the thought gave me some comfort.
But the comfort was quickly offset by the vivid presence of the “my death” in the
thought, which forthwith drove me to Shelter Strand (see map) to think a bit
more.

What to do. I surveyed the sky. Had I over-reacted? The clearing overhead
remained. Was I turning my back on divine providence? A flash and a loud crack
of thunder interrupted that speculation. I grabbed my bag and umbrella,
dragged the kayak into the scrub, flipped it over, and began to hike to the pass.
The plan was to make it safely to the truck, wait out the storm somewhere and
return, possibly the next day, to retrieve the boat. It seemed unlikely it would be
found, at least until the weather cleared. So why didn’t I get on with it? I sat
down on the sand. I looked wistfully back at the kayak, so faithful, swift… and
abandoned. A heart possessed of more intrepid stuff than mine.

Does compassion confer courage? Can you feel compassion for a kayak? I can’t
quite name everything that drew me back out onto the water. But whatever it
was gave my heart wings. A bit of rain was starting to pock the surface, but the
storm hung back, and I felt oddly exultant. By the time I reached the pass, it
was raining. By the time I got the boat and gear ashore, and the truck backed
up to load, it was pouring. With the salt washing out of my hair and burning my
eyes I struggled the boat, which had gone slippery and fish-like in the windy
rain, into the truck bed. Nothing worked. It took four tries to get the straps
threaded into the winches. I couldn't get the paddle to break down, so I had to
jam that in the bed too, hoping it wouldn't fly off on the highway. Everything
else went helter-skelter into the truck, while the wind kept trying to slam the
door on me. I was drenched to the skin, on the verge of a chill, and wondering
whether some passing microbe might exact what the storm had spared. I threw
a dry towel on the driver’s seat and got in.

The door closed with a reassuring chunk. Sliding off dry land into the smooth
buoyancy of a river is one sensation. Climbing into the quiet, dry, cab of a truck
in a storm is another. I started the engine and with that, command was
transferred from the elements to me. The headlights sprang to life, the wipers
swept the storm aside, and I rolled through the deep puddles, crunching gravel,
and scaled the steep incline to the highway. Visibility was limited, but the
highway soon morphed into the town road, lights appeared, a shower and dry
clothes awaited me at home. But I had found, it delighted me to contemplate, a
kayak route to a remote corner of a favorite beach. And a bit more Paleolithic
exertion, and grace, than expected.



July 31, 2010

Untitled 3



I watch, clock-still,
the unfolded gesture,
the long arc of shadow,
with patience’s subtle qualms
and my struggle to outsource
the flame that demands assent.

I’m getting a feel for the downslope,
the slidy look that haunts the late afternoon.
I respond on friendly terms:
the skirmish finds me supine,
a shimmer of risibility
waiving my somber vows to the rain.



July 29, 2010

July 27, 2010

July 20, 2010

...du temps perdu


I met up with Andy at a beach bar for beers. We hadn’t seen one another since
covering the Crist gubernatorial campaign together back in 2006, just before I
left the newspaper, and he moved back to New Jersey. He was in town to close
on a house at the beach. Seems his stint in the Garden State had cured him of
his fear of hurricanes. And left him with enough east-coast cash to cash in on
the slump in Florida real estate prices. They’re planning, Andy and Elle, to take
occupancy before year’s end. Andy will teach.

Andy has a questing mind. We would sometimes stop for an illicit drink after an
assignment, toss a few impressions around, before returning to the newsroom.
The managing editor found out about it once and punished us both - humiliating
me, and infuriating Andy - by giving us a joint byline for Andy's story. Crafty
wench. Not that it stopped us, or was even meant to. It was more in the vein of
Paul's "meat sacrificed to idols" principle. Once something is on the table - and
named - propriety requires a response. Discretion, thereafter, prevailed.

We fell into the old rapport. Amidst the reminiscing, and speculation, we asked
one another what moment in our pasts we’d revisit, on the condition that
nothing could be changed. It didn’t take much thought, really, for me. My first
taste of chateaubriand with sauce BĂ©arnaise was quite a revelation. There are a
couple of orgasms I wouldn't mind revisiting. The first ride on my new
bike. I was addressing a workshop once, told a joke, and the right people
laughed; it was surprisingly exhilarating. Andy cited, among other things, a
season of play with an amateur baseball league with whom he played infield.
Paris with Elle.

Would I want to revisit the darkness, the crimes and misdemeanors? The
traumas? The question’s premise that I could not change anything dampened
my enthusiasm, although there might be some insight to be gained that
memory’s narrative-making tendency tends to obscure.

But we ended up concluding, generally, that life's choicest moments aren't
spectacular in the usual sense, but in hindsight are suffused with a winsome
glow... hanging out with friends and lovers on a carefree day, the connection
and understanding shared, the humor, the inspired oddball moments that
nobody else would get. The peace that you think could go on forever, but
never does...

It’s a pleasant revelation, though, that it’s not really the big whoops that are
such big whoops after all. Maybe it’s the commonplace, the available, the local
terrain that have some of the highest peaks. Did I really quote Anne Murray?
Yes I did. “So high that I can almost see eternity...” Andy, who once claimed
that “Listening to Anne Murray makes me want to climb up to the roof of the
nearest Walmart with a rifle and start thinning out the crowd,” laughed. Then
mused. “Even a blind old goat can find an acorn once in a while.” I told Andy
that that was the first time I’d heard him use a clichĂ©. “That’s the first time
Anne Murray made me cry. For the right reasons.” We went down to the beach
for a while, copped a little sand-time. I looked out at the ocean where a prim
little sailboat, far away and cloud white against the eternal blue, plied the horizon.



July 13, 2010

July 10, 2010

July 7, 2010

July 5, 2010

July 2, 2010

June 25, 2010

Vestry Street

Many people talk about unconditional love, including Oprah and Dr. Phil, as if it were something that human beings are capable of, the pious cant and personal divinization marketed by pop spirituality notwithstanding. Mere love, apparently, doesn't quite get us there any more. Those pesky conditions do spring up of course, usually sooner than later, often the moment our convenience isn’t consulted. Yeah, I know... unconditional love does have its limits. But that's OK. Be real, and we'll get along fine. "Let your 'yes' be yes, let your 'no' be no." Love, in my experience, is pretty amazing as-is.

Steven was certainly one of the most generous human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure to know, asking nothing in return. He plucked me out of a difficult situation and let me stay in the Christopher Street apartment of a friend of his who was abroad for months, no strings, no rent, no problem, until it ran out. And when it did, he invited me to join the tribe at the Vestry Street loft. He lived there, off an on, with his boyfriend Earl, while wisely maintaining his own little pied-a-terre elsewhere in the Village.

Steven and Earl were restaurateurs, mostly, proprietors of Odile, a bisro near Tribeca, named after the wicked black swan in Swan Lake. Earl had been, for many years, in the corps de ballet at New York City Ballet, and the loft was a crossroad for a lot of dancers, among others, forever passing through on their way to Tanglewood, or Quogue, or Key West. We lived there, my roommate Bill and I, in our own little annex, for most of the late seventies. Herewith, a photo album, with captions. The rest of the saga awaits a more ambitious day...


Steven was a talented shiatsu masseur and naturalist, a New York native. We had dinner together, just the two of us, at the loft once - he made roast cornish game hens stuffed with millet.


That's Earl, doing the arabesque. Seated behind him, all in one chair, are Jerry, Rob, and Lemuel. Weezy looks on.


The ceiling at the loft was high enough to play badminton under. This is where we left phone, and assorted other, messages for one another. There were few personal computers back then. The big technology was the stereo, a monster. Music came and went in binges. We'd play Nina Simone for a month. Or Traffic. Aretha. Dr. Buzzard. Maria Callas. Jazz on the edge of insanity.


Rob smokes a Winston. He did prep at the restaurant, as did I for a time. Rob revealed to me the zen of prep.



Alison 



Jerry paints the floor. I told him to paint his hand, and he did. He'd do anything.


Dennis paints his eyelashes orange with a match stick. We were dressing up for a night at some club. Dennis had beautiful eyebrows. He was a regular in my underground super-8 movies.


Hunky little mad John Rosser, a musician and an artist with a pirate vibe. One of his sculptures makes an appearance in one of my stories. He invited me into his bedroom at the loft once, where he was crashing with his girlfriend, Chloe. Half undressed himself, and with the three of us sitting on the bed, he demonstrated, after hiking up his girlfriend’s T-shirt, how a pencil could not be made to lodge under her breast. It fell. He tried again. It fell again. “That’s important,” he said.


Nietsche. An agreeable cat, like most big orange toms. I don't have a photo of Oyster, the other cat. Their names, and their names only, were on the front door of the loft.



Peter was a very bright and adventurous human being, a novelist, my bud.
We went a few places with each other that I can't go with you.


Felipe, the Indian from Village People, out of costume. We'd done one of the shoots for the group's first album cover on the roof of the loft. (The record came out that summer. I had a pretty good time at Fire Island that year.) At the Bicentennial party (the loft had a commanding view of the Hudson River) I'd described this to Louis Falco who tried hard to get me to go up there with some of his dancers for some shots. But a light drizzle had begun, and I was nervous about lightning and the camera and the rain, and declined... something I remember now with burning regret.



Chris. Had I remembered, at the above mentioned party, that Steve Sondheim and I shared a mutual interest in Chris, we would have had more to talk about. (Well, that hit the page with a clang...) The last time I saw Chris, ten years later, he was sitting crouched, high up in one of the sculptures at Battery Park, beautiful as ever, mad as a cat, watching the world going around. I saw in his eyes that he half-remembered me. I didn't have the presence of mind to not look startled. He made a sweeping gesture with his hand, said "Whoosh!" and I continued on my way...



Tom, a dancer. I photographed him a lot. Tom had a remarkable face.


Bob, a regular, a Texan, and a tropical plant dealer. He did a lot of work for Tiffany's, a lot of which I photographed.


David worked as a paralegal at the midtown headquarters of a huge corporation involved in a class action lawsuit against it. Although we never talked about it explicitly, I can say with confidence that David had little hesitation doing whatever he could, overtly or otherwise, to favor the victims. He had an astonishing knack for networking, and was forever turning up with tickets to some premier, piano-side seats for Blossom Dearie, a summer cottage on Quogue Island. The last time I saw David was at his 10th Street apartment, overlooking a garden. His boyfriend had died of AIDS, David was holding on. I brought caviar. We munched and talked and sipped Chablis until the sun went down.


I think Dennis took this one. I was crowding thirty by then, as were we all.





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