Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Night the Man Died and The Music Lived/ Maybe It's Time To Live

Part I.

On the night Michael Jackson died, I watched Cameron Diaz do the moonwalk across Washington Square under a violet sky. Somewhere between the vibrant smog and two gay kids vogue-ing to their boom box in the middle of the fountain, the rest of New York City fell into the rhythm of “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”. A woman in a pink dress slid her pulsing body into the shallow water, twisting the music, and throwing Frisbee to the homeless man enjoying their sport. Two, tattooed white men jammed out on acoustics switching from “Hey Ya” by Outkast, to following the Jackson tune. My friend Lydia and I waltzed around the fountain, wondering why there were mosquitoes in New York City, and Was it because of all the new flowers? “Did you hear about Michael Jackson?“ some homeless man yelled, throwing the Frisbee under his leg to a friend. Washington Square is for Squares now, we joked, ever since it underwent construction. Some of the usuals selling pot still skulked the perimeters by the chess tables, but mostly the park was full of the lounging well-paid.

“That’s Cameron Diaz”, Lydia said nonchalantly. We both were not surprised given the world is a stage and actors could be anywhere. We sat beside the fountain and watched as Cameron ran up to a light post and twirled around it, before setting her white purse down on the ground and grooving to the Jackson tunes playing from the two boy’s boom box. She swung her hips and flicked her hair; completely aware she was unaware, and the rest of the city somehow paid her no notice. She turned to where we were sitting and gave a short wink. The two boys with the boom box waded out into the water to stand atop their stage in the middle of the fountain. The sky was purple, and somewhere between that color and the music coming from the boy’s speakers all of New York throbbed to Michael Jackson.


Part II.

Lydia and I walked to St. Marks, discussing how far away everything had always seemed in walking-distance measurements, years ago, when we first met each other and decided to become close friends who saw each other once in a couple months. St. Marks in the process of turning into a giant sushi bar stared at us from closed down tattoo shops, and stripped vintage CD stores. I decided we should pay our respects to Mr. Strummer while we were in the area, and so we made the trek to Thompson’s Square. At the corner of St. Marks just before the Square, two cars stopped at the light and blaring the same parts of “Thriller”, before pulling away, revealing the pub behind it playing the same tune.

“Michael Jackson’s dead!” a punk kid screamed our way.

We crossed the street, and stood in front of the Joe Strummer mural. People in high fashion pushed by, smoke curling the edges of the building of the bar next door. “Strummer is kind of like a Dylan. More tangible, though, I think,” I said to Lydia. We watched the wall; she trying to read something from the paint, and me hoping I could bring the man back to life.

“It’s strange, isn’t it? Death, I guess,” I said.


“It’s funny that this painting is here, and no where else. It suits him. But we’ll all be there. Behind the brick.”

“Yeah, somewhere. We all get leveled.”

As we walked away I asked Lydia about her relationship with God. In secret these are my favorite conversations to have with her. Lydia has the most beautiful God of anyone I have met. Her relationship with the Man is a vibration, a vibrance, and a heart string tying Lydia to Him and somehow invisibly to each and every thing. The kind of love she feels is the most pure form of love and belief and for that reason her belief is more real to me than anything sanity could teach me.

“How are you doing spiritually?”
“I lost touch with the reason.”

“Doubt has it’s ways.”

We turned a corner near a neon Walgreens, only to find a man lying in the center of the road, a group of men and women with white flowers in their hair on their cell phones. Lydia and I stopped along with another man on the sidewalk, and watched. A car with its hazard lights blinked softly on the normally empty street, hinting it was the culprit of the broken man. “We got 911,” a woman said softly. No one was worried, no one yelled. The man just lay there, unmoving, uncelebrated for its lack of blood.

We moved on.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Anti- Poetry Jam

There was a strange jelly bean shape on the wall. It looked like a globular cello. I looked around the room, while playing catch up with my friend Zooey. Some seats were filled, others held feet or coats.

My thoughts on the Bowery Poetry Room are mixed. Though I have constantly read wonderful things about it, every time I make the trek over to the East side to get my poetry readings on, there is always some lame jazz band, or 15 dollar cover charge for a no-name comedian. Which would be fine…if it wasn’t…a poetry room. In any case I always seemed to miss the good performances, and so I never actually went in. Albeit why I always seemed to miss the good performances.

So on this particular muggy day, I finally discovered a 3 dollar cover charge for the night, after 10 PM. I invited Zooey along and so we sat in the webbing of overstuffed cafeteria chairs. I can’t say I was expecting anything, I’m not some blind hopeful expecting any backwash leftover from the ’60s beatniks. Instead, these people looked like the East melding with the West- Village, that is- with some, fuck-it-this-was-on-my-floor smushed in-between. No one looked particularly like Bob Dylan’s offspring (probably for the best; I was never particularly a fan of the Wallflowers), or quoted Ginsberg. Instead, (supposedly) true to my generation was the first act: a group called the OMG Girls. I heard the beginning notes of a song, and turned to Zooey with angst. “I swear to God if I hear fucking Bohemian Rhapsody once more time, I’m hitting someone. I love Queen, and I don’t mind that song, but really. Enough for one lifetime”.

When two seventeen year old girls (approximately), climbed on stage, hula hoops in hand, and plastic ukuleles I knew this was going to be…where are the words? They strummed and shakingly sang “Something” by The Beatles (not Queen), one girl obviously star struck by the general nature of it all. I gave them mental congratulation on having the guile to get up there in the first place.

Then a man started up the stairs very slowly; looking around at the stage like something had frightened him deep down in his core, only to start grabbing at his stomach and letting out low grunts. He turned to himself and said, “will you please say what you’d like to say?” He then turned to himself and answered in mostly gruntish, “I don’t want to talk. I’ll talk when I want to talk”. He did this for his full allotted six minutes until the buzzer went off, and he told the audience that this was how he should speak all of the time, because it gets people to listen. Kind of like his landlords, who are all addicts. Of GREED, he told us. The audience hollered in agreement.

Next, an Asian man wearing baggy army pants, a yellow button up shirt, and beige cabbie hat came to the stage. As soon as he started talking, his left arm would start at his hip, then jut out suddenly with his fingers curled and his thumb out like he was busy hitchhiking. His other hand grabbed at his t-shirt, as his mouth gaped sideways as he formed his words like they were difficult to make out, even for himself. “Ome eople caw me cr-ea-eative. Ov-ers caw me duff-ent. Ov-ers caw me, bow-hee-me-an, bow-hee-me-an,” and as he stuttered, the lights flicked off and a spotlight erupted on him in the middle of the stage. “Bow-hee-me-an…WAPSODY!” At that moment Bohemian Rhapsody blared through the speakers, and everyone in the audience was in shock. Rather than singing, the man started to shake his arms wildly, gesticulate, and only half attempt lip-synching. His eyebrows rose and fell, and his arms went out, then back, then out in hailing position again. The audience didn’t know what to do. I knew this was karma getting me back for ever insulting his majesty, but the rest of the audience couldn’t figure out what to do. Except join in.

As the guitar part started picking up to the “he’s just a poor boy from a poor family”, the guys surrounding the bar dove down on their knees singing in time, the lesbians in the audience swung their guitar around standing atop their seats; some quiet bystanders just clapped or drew out their lighters. Finally, after the major guitar breakdown, everyone in the room started head banging. People jumped off of their seats, one girl shook her boobs wildly from the floor, one guy took half of his shot, then let the floor take the other half. Some people leaned into the aisles and did the wave, and other stood in it waving their arms methodically back and forth in a drunken haze. Zooey and I were in shock. I knew the gods would find some way to smite me, but this?! This was too good. I was enjoying Bohemian Rhapsody more than I ever have. Yes. More than when I first saw Wayne’s World. When the song ended, everyone gave a standing ovation.

The guy hosting it came on stage with the biggest grin you’ve ever seen. “Who needs to play instruments, or even sing a song? You just need to emote.”

A younger man got on stage, with torn jeans and an attractive face, but with a lean to his spine that added years. He spoke of all the times he’s been arrested- 3- and how he had to leave each respective country after the happenings. The second time, he told us, was from chalk paintings on a brick wall. 23 hours in prison later, he left France and wound up in New York City with only forty dollars to his name, and the F train to call home. The third time he got arrested it was for lying down on the subway. Its people like him that make me realize how resilient people can be, how much we can put ourselves through, and how much we believe we deserve to be put through. He told a series of New York stories- about the homeless man who asked if he could lick his asshole? And the “woman on St. Marks who was bent over, carefully inserting a straw into her ass;” the guys next to me looked at me and said, ‘Hey, want a sip?’”

Next was the man angry at everything, screaming so loud into the mic that you could hear your internal parts bleeding out. He asked the everyday question of If you ever had the chance to fuck the Pope in the ass, would you wear his hat? The Wicked Witch of the West who had been sitting behind Zooey and I the entire set was cackling away again at everything funny, and everything not even close. He yelled the response: “The answer is as obvious as a Werewolf in a tracksuit in the 80’s. Fuckin’ yeah you would wear his hat.”

One of the women who works at the place came to the mic in just rain boots, sweatpants, a button up jacket, and only a bathing suit top showing off her carved ab muscles. She sang an old show tune, as her stomach quivered in its awkwardly toned quality, making the song better and yet distracting.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

And On A Side Note:

"The beauty of the voice is found in the grain. The shape can tell you more than the purity of the note. Bob Dylan is one of the best singers in the world- always has been, always will be, and he used to be able to hold his breath three times as long."


Everyplace, Anywhere, Nowhere: An Intern's Journal.

Woodie Guthrie once signed off, New York City, New York State, New York Everything, New York New York New York. He also liked claiming that this place was the same as every where else, and his songs were everyone else’s song. This was Every place, Every where, Anywhere. Haruki Murakami states in his interview with John Wesley Harding that to him, this is a nowhere place, nowhere city, nowhere street. I’m not particularly sure which nowhere he’s referring to in specific, but still I find Murakami and Guthrie’s words to both be putting a finger to the same point. While I was transcribing Wes’s interview with Murakami, I found myself taken by Murakami’s charisma that somehow transcended the thick, arty pages of BOMB, and stuck to my forehead. I couldn’t stop wrinkling it in quiet shock. After thumbing through the interview, and rereading several parts, I attempted to tack several of Murakami’s quotes to my mental tack board. His views on writing were so similar to my own, it’s as if I accidentally spilled my guts on a chair seat somewhere, and he just so happened to have soaked it up with the seat of his pants and gathered my thought patterns through strange osmosis. I have never read anything the man has written- though I’ve heard much about him- and yet this interview really struck me.



“I can do anything when I’m creating some stories. I can make any miracle. I can say I deal in magic.”

After having to spend several hours pouring over stacks of allotted 25 page manuscripts at The Agency, I am already connecting the dots to what many writers think people want to read about. They all begin the same: the grease spot on the driveway; the sun setting; the abusive father yelling; the criminal whores on the ship bound for Australia praying they’ll be able to ply their trade. Well. After having read one too many stories revolving around honey-thick taboo sexual encounters, coke problems, and music obsessions, I had begun to write most modern authors off as sheer fetishism. Not that you will find me calling the pot kettle black, however; the first complete short story I ever wrote was all about sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. In any case, I was growing tired with this similar string of Hollywood shock values, and found myself secretly wondering when I could sneak another Neil Gaiman book into my agenda to rid myself of the drug abuse and get my fantasy geek on. After reading Murakami’s interview, however, I found that perhaps my draw towards the surreal was not for nothing. Normally a huge fan of regular old literary fiction, my strange attraction towards magical surrealism has been popping up all over the place- from disliking most of the stories Salman Rushdie chose for last year’s “Best American Short Fiction Stories” except for Kevin Brockmeir’s “The Year of Silence” (a piece about short periodical short blips of silence all across the world, suddenly changing the way different people view their lives) to favoring “The Invasion from Outer Space” by Stephen Millhauser (where alien yellow dust falls to the earth instead of green extraterrestrial blobs) over any modern mobster story.

So why this draw to the ephemeral, the changing-and perhaps what some would say, worst of all- the not possible? Murakami brings to light this incredible notion of humans constantly being stuck inside of ourselves; stuck in the habitual nature of our personalities, sometimes never able to break free. By writing, he claims, he is able to step outside of himself; become someone new. “I don’t write for bread and butter,” he says. Perhaps that is why I hold these works so close: what better way to discover new areas of ourselves than by creating fantastical worlds and peoples that can live right out in the ordinary? Truth is stranger than fiction, as everyone loves to throw around; but I feel sometimes fiction can emphasize a truth, and in that regard, perhaps a certain level of surrealism is the closest we’ll ever get to that truth. Reading a good tale that plugs me into the ether and connects me to whatever is going on out there is similar to staring at a Pollock painting. Your not quite sure what is going on, and there doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason for it, and yet…

And yet it makes more sense than anything else you’ve looked at because it doesn’t make sense. Because it’s in the here and now, and yet it doesn’t partake in time. It’s Anywhere, Somewhere, Everywhere, and Nowhere, all at the same time. And perhaps that’s the closest to the truth we can get. Once we understand the nature of the thing. The thing that is the forging of a truth through pen and paper (or more likely, a plastic key, and LCD screen). The thing that becomes a reality in and of itself without the help of an explanation. Just as life gives no explanation. I don’t want to pinpoint sex addicts, or drug fiends. Not today, anyway. Maybe some years down the road when I’m further from memories of people who have fallen by the wayside, much like many of the characters in books I’d like to someday forget. I want to find a way to open my own eyes up and suggest a new way to find reality within the unreal. I hope somehow, someday, I’ll manage to do so.

When I’m writing I believe that somebody else can understand my feelings, somebody else can experience those things I’m experiencing. I call it empathy. When I ran the jazz club, customers came to the club. Maybe eight out of ten wouldn’t like my club. But if two people liked my club, they came back. And my club did well. But some people would want ten out of ten people to like their club. I just think two of ten is enough. I can feel somebody will know what I’m feeling. It is a lonely life sometimes, like throwing a stone into the deep darkness. It might hit something, but you can’t see it. The only thing you can do is to guess, and to believe.” - Haruki Murakami

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I'm On Colin's Kitchen Couch..

And I laughed, a real hearty laugh tonight, and meant it.

More than once.

Late Last Night, I Finally Wrote A Stream of Conciousness:

Probably one of the few things I can still love about New York is the bit of silence here and there that Kevin Brockheimer should and sort of did write a plot about. One of those times was tonight, at the IFC center, when I spent $12.50 too much on a movie I could have easily looked over, or just as easily never paid attention to. “Summer Hours”, a French flick with some actors here and there I may or may not have seen before, in a film that was as climactic as watching grass grow. But when I first opened the black iron doors, there was only an older man in the audience, and after asking if this was theatre three? he promptly answered me yes in a rather pronounced French accent. I sank into a leather seat, and watched. I moved, and put my feet up on the seat. I did because it didn’t matter, and I was too physically and mentally exhausted to care. It's a cold, rainy Wednesday night, and my mom was just in for surgery this morning, and was now sleeping peacefully in a lit hospital bed. Her one savior her morphine drip. I’ll never forget how she looked at me, or how Keith rubbed her head and pushed her hair back, and fed her ice chips.

But the silence.

I walked out of the theatre at 11:50, and for a New York City night, it was strange to walk out into a theatre lobby filled with no one. I went to the bathroom, and felt the silence around my bare skin hovering around me as I peed. I went down stairs and gathered as many postcards as humanly possible into my purse, hooded my head and ambled down the street. Every noise was a rush to my ears, and in that I realized the magic of noise and the random action happening all around me. This is what movies should, and sometimes do, address. The seemingly still chaos swirling around every object thrown into motion, throwing other and every other object into a continual, perpetual swing of knocking into one another, and causing one to say to the other, Hey, watch where you are going! And moving it’s umbrella out of the way, just in time.

In the movie, a family tried to decide what to do with their mother’s estate. At the end of the movie, the daughter had such a unique, beautiful, distantly scultpuresque about her face. I wanted to paint it. The story spoke about these objects being pricey and worth something to collectors. At one point they show some of these pieces in a museum and the main character says, “doesn’t it all seem caged?” and I thought to myself of all the times I thought how strange to think that all of the things in museums have belonged to someone at one point or another, or was set in someone’s living room, or perhaps held someone’s letters. These things are expensive because we put a price on them. Now I am one who is all in love with history, of course, but at the same time, I can understand completely and wholey what the man was saying because really, the person who painted or made these works have an attatchement, and so do their families. Of course museums are great things, but it is interesting to understand that each family has its own internal history that is better represented by this materialistic “residue”.

I ached during the movie. The house was utterly beautiful. I thought how much I would love for someone to delve through my things, after they were gone, and feel energy, feel that I was still alive inside of those panels. Some people should be too alive for death. But I wouldn’t just want it to be me, I’d want it to be my family, my history. I would want it to have texture, and vibrance. I would want it to sing and splash color, and have someone visit it one day and say remember when? But yet. My personality and unsatisfactoion with settling anywhere prohibits me from even toying with such ideas. How am I to own a house with beautiful things and memories, if I cannot have pleasant ones on my own? But perhaps that is my problem. I move about too much, in my mind, more importantly.

But. I also own things that are mostly in the form of paper. Perhaps, one day, I can create my house and build it all out of scraps of sketches, collected posters and various post-it notes. I will build a three story, spacious living area, complete with crawling vines, and gaping windows. Some with amazing cathedral glass. There will be a sprawling paper mache garden, with paper mache fruit and birds to pick at them when they are just about to fall. There will be paper baskets for my kid to collect fruit in, and bugs if her or she wishes. Her/His middle name will be Orion so he/she never forgets to look at the stares, and be humbled by them.


But as for today. Today being the 18th, and what feels like, the 100th day in a row of sheer rainfall. I like when you find that you're smiling, and you didn't even know, and didn't have to try. I just did.