Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Let the sun shine in: On Getting Older, Writing, and Other Illuminations

Image result for yotsuba 14
That time that  you turned 49, went to Chorus Line, Anime.con, Marie's Crisis, turned in  the novel it took you twenty-five years to write, you hung with your tribe, and LAK brought Nan over
to the house and she took a pic of you and your beloved.

birthday greetings with my tribe, my city of friends. thanks for the pics.
Erik McGregor, you're da best. 

For a long time,  I have written every day. 
It’s a habit going back years.
The process always changing.
I started writing album and concert reviews in high school,
Columns in college.
That morphed into reviews without a subject,
Into  essays and experiments in fiction.
Everything was relevant.
Novels in Italy.
And confessions on the left coast.
Notes every day.
I wrote in a blue notebook every day in San Francisco.
But I never knew what I was writing.
I never knew the story.
It was as if  I was a detective,
Looking for my own story. 
The novel I wrote in Italy did not come together.
I was lost.
So I kept writing daily journal entries about the world,
Interviewing  everyone I  could,
Never knowing where it was going.
Writing  ten  books of non-fiction, 
Never quite knowing if I’d get back to that novel.
A quarter-century later those old journal entries became
The novel I turned in on the first day of my 49th year,
364 days from fifty.
They were my Illuminations.
Terrified to turn it in, I edited every day.
Re reading the chapters over and over again.
Going out, teaching, blogging, pushing off my other books, to get  back to the novel,
Which still did not have a story.
But that was ok.
Maybe that was the story?
When I turned 49 I’d turn it in anyways.
In between I rode to work and walked out into the snow
Love the first snow!
And made it to
Last Show at Hank’s Saloon (for us)
Jessie and company were  playing  a Hanks:
“This is our final show at Hanks Saloon before it relocates to downtown BK,” she wrote. “I'm stoked that Hank's will live on--and that I get to send it off amid my good friends and some of my favorite co-billers from shows past! But I am so sad to see this joint go. So come help make this last one a good bye to remember! (Then maybe we meet there for beers every weekend until 2019!?).
Yes please. 
Jessie Kilguss Music
Bucky Hayes (featuring Maddy Wyatt)
Andi Rae & the Back River Bullies*
Bryan Dunn…”
Mark and Caroline joined us.
And Jessie dropped by to chat, for one more night at this dive,
Where music flows every night.
The city always in  flux.

Sometimes it feels like the music is over.
And then it pours from the streets.
I remember walking  into  Zaytoons on Smith Street
after Adam MCA Yauch died.
He used to eat there, supporting neighborhood middle eastern food that had become a staple of the neighborhood for years, as the kids grew, the cooks gave them dough, and they got older, eating the lentil soup and chicken shwarma. 
Now Zaytoons was closing.
Just about done with the novel,
We went for a final bite there, saying goodbye,
Kids growing and the neighborhood changing every day.

Caroline took us to A Chorus Line at
City Center of Music and Drama 131 W 55th St.
The showed opened in 1975 in  a very different time.
From the very beginning, it was an homage to finding a sense of self, work,
play and oneself in the city.  
Coming  out stories throughout the audition.  

The crowd of Broadway geeks roared to the familiar opening notes, of the story of the epic audition.

Song  after  song, the dancers told their stories.
I thought of my high school days loving this show.
At its best, theater is always a place to re imagine reality.

Morales told a story about going to  High School of Performing arts:

“I'm so excited because … I was dying to be a serious actress. Anyway, it's our first day acting class and we're in the auditorium and the teacher, Mr. Karp, puts us upon the stage with our legs around everybody, one in back of the other, and he says: "Okay, we're gonna do improvisations... Now, you're on a bobsled and it's snowing out and it's cold... Okay, go!"

Ev'ryday for a week we would try to feel the motion
Feel the motion
Down the hill
Ev'ry day for a week we would try to hear the wind rush
Hear the wind rush
Feel the chill
And I dug right down to the bottom of my soul
To see what I had inside
Yes, I dug right down to the bottom of my soul
And I tried, I tried!

And everybody's going "woosh... woosh... I feel the snow, I feel the cold, I feel the air...". And Mr. Karp turns to me and he says: "Okay, Morales, what did you feel?"

And I said... "Nothing
I'm feeling nothing,"
And he says "'nothing' could get a girl transferred."
They all felt something
But I felt nothing
Except the feeling that this bullshit was absurd!...

And Karp kept saying, "Morales, I think you should transfer to Girl's High, You'll never be an actress, Never!" Jesus Christ!

Went to church, praying, Santa Maria
Send me guidance
Send me guidance
On my knees
Went to church praying, Santa Maria
Help me feel it
Help me feel it
Pretty please

And a voice from down at the bottom of my soul
Came up to the top of my head
And a voice from down at the bottom of my soul
Here is what it said:
This man is nothing!
This course is nothing!
If you want something go find another class
And when you find one
You'll be an actress
And I assure you that's what fin'lly came to pass

Six months later I heard that Karp had died
And I dug right down to the bottom of my soul
And cried...
'Cause I felt nothing…”

Morales is always my favorite, I told the little one.
Santa Maria give all  of us guidance.
We ran into  Karina, Zanthe and  Tif at  the show, still thinking about their days in  the play.
And made our way home,
What I did for  love running through my head.

Woke up  the  next morning, my official birthday,  made a few more edits for the novel, before the morning coffee.   

And the little one and I were off onour way out into  the city.
No philosophy today, just pop culture at AnimeNYC,

Like theater, anime is all about cosplay, or costume play. Young people, adolescents, adults, black and Latinx kids, people all genders, boys, girls, and everyone else, from all over the city, dressed up as Samurais, sailors, fantasy characters.

The rules of cosplay are simple:

The little one dressed as a member of the Sailor Moon crew, her favorite anime.

Meeting people on the subway, we all talked about the day.

We arrived at ten the little one and perused the place.
The new Yatsuba, her favorite manga comic, was out.
The story of a Yatsuba taking a trip into the city, her story was not unlike our adventures, the scavenger hunts, navigating among subcultures, which I had no idea existed until this day.
Its like revenge of the nerds, but the kids all have their own stories, a world of their own invention.  
Their tales they follow, make reference to, dress up, perform, and even sing out.

At the one pm Sailor Moon meetup, everyone struck poses for the camera, walking the runway, and singing
the Sailor Moon theme song:

“Fighting evil by moonlight
Winning love by daylight
Never running from a real fight!
She is the one named Sailor Moon!

She will never turn her back on a friend
She is always there to defend
She is the one on  whom we can depend
She is the one named Sailor...

Sailor Venus! Sailor Mercury!
Sailor Mars! Sailor Jupiter!
With secret powers all so new to her
She is the one named Sailor Moon

Fighting evil by moonlight
Winning love by daylight
With her Sailor Scouts to help her fight
She is the one named Sailor Moon
She is the one named Sailor Moon
She is the one... Sailor Moon!”

All day we were there.

Six hours later, we wandered home.

My tribe was coming over.
Joe brought fish to cook.
Joan E, a  few boxes of  cereal.
Wendy and Ray some honey.
Babs came with Gladys.
And Leslie brought her friend Nan,
Perhaps the most iconic photographer of our generation.
She laughed with me.
I’m not sure where you were focusing that shot,
She commented on my  picture of her.
That  would have been  the cabinet behind you.

Claire dropped in from London.
Lets to Marie’s Crisis.
We talked about Judith’s funeral.
That’s another story.

Andy and I talked about amor fati and  Neitzche.
Why so many eternal returns, I asked.
None of us were quite sure.

 But friends remind us.
Even when they stay up past three at the house.
See you tomorrow at Marie’s Crisis.

Meandering to Princeton on Sunday,
I edited a bit of the novel, visiting John, Mom and Winston,  afraid to turn it in.
You look tired noted  mom.

Linda sent an old picture,
Eight grade graduation.
Wow, its hard to find the right haircut.
Makes me laugh.
Thank you to Looloo for this twisted picture of eighth-grade graduation, yours truly in the middle with red pants, a bad haircut, and a few lifelong friends.

Edited the book a bit more on the way home.
And decided I was done.
Back home, I punched send and let the novel fly into the distance.

Let the sun shine in
Hands up in the air. 
Let the sun shine in.
Anything goes,
We sang at Marie’s crisis,
Summers of Love,
 Just like the other rent geeks, singing along in 1996.
The feeling remains:
“Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles
In laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life”

Straight people,  can you listen?
Can  you refrain from talking  as we sing,
Noted the piano man, drunker than usual.

“I AM WHAT I AM,” we all sang,  JC,  Kim,  Claire,  Judy and  I.

“I am what I am
I am my own special creation
So come take a look,
Give me the hook or the ovation.
It's my world that I want to take a little pride in,
My world, and it's not a place I have to hide in.
Life's not worth a damn…”

I gotta go, I told  my friends.
I didn’t get any sleep last night.
Neither did we.

Back home in  bed,
I dreamed, sleeping hard after
the weekend, a year before entering my fifties, when  I completed the book I started drafting in 1993 when I was 24 years old, in between AnimeNYC, Chorus Line, and Marie’s Crisis, after spending the last 25 years looking for the story.  

A snowy night and music at Hank's!

Last nights at Zaytoons. 

a trip to a chorus line

a trip to an from AnimeNYC!

Marie's Crisis!

Thanks for this shot! 
All of us letting the sun shine in at Marie's Crisis.

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