Legacy

Dad and me

I was, apparently, a hella out of it baby who slept lots.

Dad died three years ago, this morning. 6:47 am, to be exact. I was awake for it, by some betrayal of my body, staring at my phone as the minutes counted down. The battery died before I got there, cheating me out of the most self-indulgent memorial I can fathom (besides, of course, this). I remember the exact time because I can still hear the doctor’s voice pronouncing it; somewhere, it’s still echoing in my ears. And in that place there’s a pathetic fallacy: eternal late winter without the hope of spring.

But, here and now, I know tomorrow will be warm, at least.

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Empire State

empire_state

midtown from downtown

I was out with my friend Frankie the other night. It was just the two of us after a show, which was itself after a party, so it was more-or-less the inevitable time just before you call it quits and find a cab home. We were at a bar. Some Williamsburg special with cut up playing cards festooning the tables. It wasn’t our first choice, but it was out of the cold and we could hear ourselves over the pulse of the jukebox.

“One day, I’m going to miss this,” Frankie told me. It was a thought that had come to him the night previous while walking home in Bayside, so late it was morning. It wasn’t, he explained, just a thought that struck him because he was walking home or because of the train ride before that (or the midnight movie before that); instead it was a strange awareness that passed over him, a pre-emptive nostalgia for being young and in New York. A knowledge that some day all of this will be over.

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My Winter Rooms

I.

The city retreats in winter.
It recedes into itself and
I worry about the alley cats
And the man who used to sit
Wrapped up in ratty blankets
Like a great flightless bird
Nesting over the sidewalk grate.

Without them, the sky closes in
And low-hanging clouds
Fat with ice bear down
Compressing skyscrapers into
A claustrophobic maze of
Pavement—white with salt
And cracked like
The skin of my chapped lips,
Once so plump in spring.

I retreat into myself:
Another hidden face
Biting against a scarf.

What imperfect beasts we are,
Dreaming of our heated rooms,
Wrapped into misshapen wool packages
Into down-padded trappings that
Don’t keep out the misery.
At least not for me.
I feel all full of leaks
And the wind it blows
Through every open window
Every crack in my countenance.

And in my house of empty rooms
The fires have all been banked, for
My heart is an unused space:
I do not heat it in winter.

II.

I miss her again. Sitting in my new life. In a room she never saw, in a city she never lived in. And yet, in this place she’s never even dreamed of, her absence is an ache: as palpable as a physical wound.

Winter is maybe the worst time. The years of their passings were the longest winters of my life. I’m not sure they’ve ended yet.

Still, I know I’m not the only one living with ghosts. Everyone will, eventually.

III.

My friend:
I love you just enough
To visit you.
Provided
It doesn’t involve walking
Through the bad part of town.

IV.

Meet me in the cold. In the untrodden snow. In the memories we never made. I miss you, or the grand potential of you: I’m not really sure which was ever dearer. I miss your hands and the sideways look you’d give me in the backseat of a cab. I miss the way I fit right under you chin. I miss how annoyed at you I could get. I miss your optimism, your frustration. I missed the way you loved everyone you met, but could never find the words to really tell them. I miss who I was when I was with you.

I wonder if it’s an authentic feeling, this wistfulness coiling in my chest, or if I’m merely looking at ourselves on paper. A story with characters much beloved and yet…finished. Done with what they have to say. I hope not. I’m very jealous of anyone who has your time, these days. I wonder often if we could be friends. Not the kind we are now. The kind with late phone calls and an encyclopedic knowledge of the other’s everything. I know you’re busy. That these things either happen or they don’t.

I wonder if my missing was the problem all along. I wonder if I saw the ending before the start. I wonder if I was too wistful, too sad. Because the truth is, I don’t smile much. But when you touched me, I laughed.

Giving Thanks

I’m thankful that I woke up this morning, with my feet still buried in the earth. I’m thankful for the time ahead and time behind, and the time that stands to sway.

I’m thankful for my weird little family that’s made from odds and ends and misfits and just whatever was left. But that doesn’t matter, really. I’m thankful that half of you put up with me and you’re not even blood.

To my Sister: I’m sorry you’re stuck with me, but don’t think I’m not grateful for all you do. Remember: I make you look put together.

(To my parents: I miss you. Rest well among the stars.)

I’m thankful for my extended family: all the hundred million of you, all around the world. Thank you for walking this path along side me. I’ll be better for you, I promise.

I’m thankful for those absent friends who still consider me one of their own, even though I’m now so far away. And to friends present: thanks for putting up with me. You inspire me every day.

(I’m especially thankful for my asshole best friend to whom I say: Ace, you’re a turd. I hope you read this and cry.)

And finally, I’d like to thank those who (I feel) wronged me. Because it’s hard to thank you, but you deserve it the most. Because without you, how would I ever improve or change? Thank you for breaking me, so that I could rebuild stronger, better, kinder. I’ll do better for you. I promise I will.

Beyond Death: The Aesthetics of the Human Corpse

Screen shot from http://www.bodiestheexhibition.com/newyork/ retrieved 11.12.13

Screen shot from http://www.bodiestheexhibition.com/newyork/ retrieved 11.12.13

Against a sanguine backdrop a skinless man stands tall. This is quite a feat considering he has been bisected down the center of his body, a foot for each side to stand on. Through the gap between his separated sides, his organs have been neatly shuffled to the left or right, providing a jigsaw view of the human abdominal cavity. Despite his exposure, the man is confident: he’s got one fist against each hip, as if inviting the viewer to peruse his innards. And why shouldn’t he be confident? He’s been gifted with a new lease on life. His fat has been melted away, his fluids replaced by silicon. As a display in Bodies: The Exhibition, he will never rot, ignominiously, in the ground; instead, medical students, children and the curious can pay Premier Exhibitions for the privilege of staring into unseeing eyes. But whose? The process this nameless, skinless man has gone through is called “plastination,” an invention of German doctor Gunther von Hagens, who founded the Body Worlds exhibition, which features preserved human and animal corpses (“Plastination”). In 2011, the then 66-year-old anatomist announced that he was dying. He requested that his body be plastinated after death and put on display.

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Does Not Contain Pumpkin Spice. At all.

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No one ever said this was a photography blog, okay?

October Leaves

My heart is an apple,
Still dusty from the field.
It is the clanging of the school bell,
To which we all must yield.
My laugh is the dry crackle
Of a ghoul dancing in the yard
Whipped high by chill winds
And trodden into crisp-crinkled shards.
Oh the faces you’ve carved me!
Mad smirks with yellowed teeth
An army of angry villains
Set on every doorstep to seethe.
I escape them, flying
Through each gusty ghoul-puff,
And still so desperately trying
To head South with the northern geese.
The wind is treacherous, a betrayer.
It impales me on the sugar maple.
My blood

Drips

Red

Onto

The dull summer leaves,
Giving them festive costumes
For All Hallow’s Eve.

October 25, 2011

From Greece With Love

A few years ago I spent quite a bit of time in Europe. Not alone: with many other people. And I saw the insides of theatres, for the most part. But there was also a fair bit of Europe in there as well. It was a good time for writing: I filled up a moleskin and a half with journal entries on that trip, and I briefly entertained the thought of cleaning some up and compiling them. I never made it to the end of that project, of course. Because who cares about crappy journal entries?

Me, mostly. Maybe you’d also care to see some; I don’t know. I came across a few I’d written in Greece sitting on a hard drive that I probably typed up a couple of years ago. Maybe gave them a new coat of paint, at one point. Probably later in 2010. Still, there isn’t much embellishing going on in there. In fact, they’re almost devastatingly general. A little sentimental.

When I read them again I very much remembered how it felt to see Greece for the first time but not having the luxury to linger, what with being ceaselessly borne forward by the momentum of the road.

Weirdly framed picture of the Porch of the Caryatids at the Acropolis. Didn't actually go during this part of the trip, but I don't have any pictures that correspond with the journal entries because my camera was broken those days. Yes, I know. You're terribly disappointed.

Weirdly framed picture of the Porch of the Caryatids at the Acropolis. Didn’t actually go during this part of the trip, but I don’t have any pictures that correspond with the journal entries because my camera was broken those days. Yes, I know. You’re terribly disappointed.

5.18.10

There lies an uncommon pleasure in watching the Ionian Sea speed by in a rush of water, plowed aside by our boat.  Our wake trawls hugely, as if someone were dragging an island through the waves.

Right now I’m watching a boy practically heave himself over the side of the ship to get a better glimpse of the sea.  He twists himself impressively in an effort to be both on the boat and in the water, his hair whipping in the wind of our passage.

His friends call him back, and I’m half tempted to take his place. There is nothing wrong with being lost at sea. The ocean is a study in contrast, and watching the dance of gleaming sunlight glazing each glassy, roiling crest brings a tremulous feeling to my chest. I feel as if I were trying to catch a soap bubble on my finger tips, and not have it burst, dispersing that magical ratio of tension and liquid into meaningless space. But the sea as a whole is a ponderous thing: shifting between turquoise, lapis, and and a murky green. Look hard and you’ll understand that beneath the surface there are well and truly fathoms.

Near the end of the deck, a French hornist plays “Amazing Grace.” The song is wrong for the scene. It’s not the melody that comes leaping out of the water, as joyfully as a dolphin, nor is it the groan of the engine, which sounds like a hundred slaves rowing below deck.

But still, the roundness of the horn lays itself thick, enveloping us as we watch the sun dip its warm rays into the sea. The scene is tastelessly majestic: a study in the contrast of dark clouds against violently saturated colors. At that moment, the sun could very well have been a fiery disc drawn along by the chariot of a young god, ready to make its journey under the ocean of the world. There’s inspiration in the history of it; in the unchanging nature of the feat.  Nothing seems irrevocable about this moment. If someone made a mad leap overboard I would expect him to pop up out of the water again, laughing for the sport of his fall.

Every hope, every blessed optimism, is spread out before me like wings of red from behind a dark sunset.  An illusion of an evening goes by in bold yellow and tangerine, bursting out from the blackness hanging over the horizon.  The colors fade, and slowly we make our way below deck, hearts creaking from the magic.

On that ship, and in the small hours, I dream of the sun.

5.19.10

Sunrise.  The philhellenic part of me may have been waiting its whole existence to watch dawn’s rosy fingers break over the Ionian Sea, but it shall have to remain disappointed for now. The mainland is in the east, and once the sun peeks over its crags everything is suddenly illuminated: from the ancient rocks and pines, to the modern, boxy buildings lined up along the shore.  It’s a new day, acknowledged by a dotting of fishing boats on the water.

There’s no time to lose in morning. And so it’s off to climb the crags of Ionia, roadside shrines marking the passage and the passing of people on mountain roads. Churches pop suddenly out of the landscape: round little things in the orthodox tradition, accompanied by towns and villages to worship them.

The tarmac becomes more cracked, on the roads down the mountains, and the shrines become fewer.  The morning’s freshness gives way to dust and crumbling brick yards; troupes of feral dogs and signs in both English and Cyrillic that look like they haven’t been replaced since the eighties.

What most captures my attention is an enormous wall of graffiti, which possibly predates my birth. I get the message, I think, even though the only things I understand are the Communist symbols mixed in with the words and painted onto cliff-face by someone with a large, square hand. It’s a dark look into Greece’s tumultuous modern history.

We stop at a gas station with typically outdated English signs. Four Euros will give you a carryout container of potatoes but sorry, he can’t give any change.  The cashier is not used to large bills. The women’s bathroom is a wreck and the small café seems to be inhabited completely by chain-smoking men who regard us silently, a dish of cubed cheese set down before them.

Soon, a youth comes by.  He doesn’t look exactly native. He tries to sell us bootleg videos.  Porn. No one is interested.

I think of the riots we watched on television about a week before we came.  These are hard times.  I wonder what these men speak of, in their low voices, as they chain-smoke and watch us.  Their stares are unreadable, but not angry. Or wary. I don’t know what to make of it.

The café has a selection of packaged ice cream with English names and slogans.  Ridiculous ones. Like “Chocolate Orgy.” There’s a tiresome debate on the merits of fudge over cookie dough, then it’s time to hit the road again.

6.6.10

Greek White

It’s the morning and we think ostensibly of going home.

Everyone longs for home, says Odysseus,

Through the epochs and the ages.

Everyone longs for home—

But I can’t seem to find one in the motion of the world

Or the motion of the waves.

I can only bear in mind the bodies on this windblown deck,

And the gaze of those I’d rather forget.

Every beauty I’ve known is false.

We can only hope in the face of the inevitable.

Odysseus thinks I accuse him.  I can’t tell him I do not.

Greek white, Greek white.  Every one longs for home.