Monday, May 20, 2019

"Why, then, will we not turn our eyes toward the stars? Why?”: Crumbling Books,Spring Walks, and Inquiries for the City

I had been  warned about this. 

No-Wave-Punks-1978, Ramones_CBGB_1977, and Blondie_CBGB_1977 

Scenes from a Cannibal Girls  show. 
by. cweinbaumphotography

date night on freeman's alley

At  some point after  I got  home from Romania,
I heard  a rumbling.
But had to run.
When I got back to my office,
a few hours later.
The books had fallen.
Precariously piled beneath some old pictures,
A photo of Saturn  Bar before flooded  by Katrina in  New Orleans.
The old illuminations SF montage,
My Texas Longhorns plaque.
A  college  diploma from 1992.
Had to  re arrange the books.
But why did come crumbling?
What of  the foundation was shaken?

I’d been  out walking  the streets from 
Romania and Salem,  Brussels to New Bedford.
Dropped the little one  off with friends.
And visited  a few of my own at Interference Archive,
Where they were busing working and  playing.
Printing, conspiring, planning, collecting, posting secret histories of resistance.
“Cheat death NYC” declared the graffiti on the Manhattan Bridge bike  path,
Right beside a dick pick.
A Sylvia Federici reading later  that day.
After Salem.
Meeting Colin at  Bluestockings.
Running into  Susan.
What are you doing?
My friend put my hair in  her show
Years ago.
Now she said I  can  come get  it.
 William  Burroughs used  to live here.
Raken Leaves and Julius Klein.
Raken laughed  and gave Susan her hair back.
Julius told me about his playful inspirations.
I love this pic of the  Mars Bar.
Boy that place smelled.
This one is about that, he explained.
See the etchings from the bar.
I kindov love it.
I hate East  Village nostalgia.
Its still too fun.
I hate to hear its all over.
This doesn’t look over to me.
Well,  I’d like to think its not over,
Sail Julius.
I’m not over,
 Julius is adamant.
Gushing  about art and  the neighborhood,
Where he still lives and  makes art.
And  drinks.
We all do.

Colin helped  me  bring my piece back home,
Where  it now lives with Allen Ginsberg and the  Clash.

It all felt a little magic.

Running into Susan,
Walking to see art.
Talking  gardens and activism
It all still  here.

It felt like that all month,
Stroll after  stroll.

Bike ride  after bike ride.

But is it all over?
Is it?
It’s a question  we ask all the time here.


A few  days later. I was late to get to a demo at
the Governor’s office.

Before  making his way out to
May 6, 2019,
Ken  wrote:
“The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released a report:
“Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’
Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’
Current global response insufficient;
‘Transformative changes’ needed to restore and protect nature;
Opposition from vested interests can be overcome for public good
Most comprehensive assessment of its kind;
1,000,000 species threatened with extinction
“Last week I was arrested along with 6 other members Sunrise NYC,” Ken  continues, “in front of Senate Minority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer ‘s Manhattan office to emphasize the urgency of the crisis we face and demand action. Our electeds need to take substantial steps to insure the welfare of all citizens and the planet. The #greennewdeal recognizes #climatechange on the scale the #climatecrisis demands.

Has the demo started yet, I asked,
Arriving at half past noon.
It’s over.
You guys were really on time?
Really on time.
Lovely to see you all.
We  navigate between cars and tourists  making their ways through the bike lanes.
Godlis has a show up on Ludlow,
He reports.
Lets check it out.
So,  we ride to 72 Orchard, sticking our head inside Seth’s show at  the new Max Fish.
Ken regales with stories from his life here,
Across from old Mars Bar, where he got married.
And the party was crashed.
I moved  to NYC because of these  images,
I gushed taking  in Godlis’ pulsing photos of Debbie and Joey,
CBGB and a New York long past.

New York ain’t  over.
Not at all.
Is it?

Should I wear this to the reading this  afternoon at the college?
Why not, Ken replies.
The reading is a blast.
Mark and  Camille and  Caroline were there.
So was Mark for a pint after it was over.

So was  Julian at  House of Yes,  later that night.
So were Barbara and Emily and Andy and  Austin and Emily at the 169 Bar.

So was Caroline as we walked to  Freeman’s Alley for  a drink and  some snap shots
Two nights later.
Walking from Rivington Street to Tribeca
As the  lights went down.
Still in love.
Still loving this crazy city.
Still giving  us so much.
Even  while it battles sameness.
Still revealing and inviting and breaking  our hearts.
Ever commodifying and expanding.
Taking  a life of its own.


The  city can  be cruel.
Sunday was rainy.
A man was asking for  change,
Clothes soaked.
A few  of  us pull out a  few bucks.
He stands there.
A man walks in with his ear pods.
“You smell nig###!” he declares,
 a black  man wearing  expensive slippers on F train to West 4th,
No one was feeling  great.
 “Take a shower.”
 “Show some compassion,” I replied.
“They guy is homeless.”
No speaks up to  defend the man.
We  all keep our heads  down.
The cruelty  is everywhere.

He looked  homeless,
But could he have been the bhudda?
Or Van Gogh?
Or an Angel?
A test for us.
What you do to the least of my brethren you do me.

No one really knows what any of us would do if the prophets came back.
If we encountered them.
Or what  we would do if the devil paid us a visit,
As he did in Moscow in  1930. 
I was around when Jesus Christ has his moment down in pain, Mick sang after reading The Master and Margarita.

Would we lose  our minds?

Is Stalin Pontius Pilate we wondered making our way through., The Master and Margarita.

Bulgakov has something to say:
“But would you kindly ponder this question: What would your good do if 
evil didn't exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows 
disappeared? After all, shadows are cast by things and people. Here is the 
shadow of my sword. But shadows also come from trees and living beings. 
Do you want to strip the earth of all trees and living things just because 
of your fantasy of enjoying naked light? You're stupid.” 

All afternoon, we chat about art and aesthetics  and religion.

Do  any of us really control own lives or  fates?

The questions just keeps coming  and coming.


My friend Jackie Ruden walks around the city all day Saturday,
Lost within  the city.
 She writes:

“Feeling lost today. Walked over to the river - no camera - just the water.
Walked around the west village, my touchstone for the late 60's and 70's.
Leaned up against the bricks and mailboxes of buildings that raised me.
Looking for clues.
205 W.10th Street - first apartment (while at FIT) in the late 60’s - the best place to score pot and psychedelics thanks to the guys I let move in.
207 W. 11th Street- Gina Blumenfeld- best friend, filmmaker, fellow feminist
106 Waverly Place - Judith Sharir - first therapist
101 West 12th Street - Monica Boscha -refuge from the storm
47 Horatio Street - Bobby Beers' studio -the room where "it all" happened
390 Bleecker Street - Howard Aaron, a love of my life.
77 Perry Street - Ricki Rosenblatt - a woman to love
9 1/2 Jane Street - Maurice Herz - HS Spanish teacher - black leather jacket+ motorcycle
69 Fifth Avenue - The Wedgewood Building - my parent's last nyc address
20 East 9th Street - The Brevoort East -could see Patricia Field’s 8th street store from my window and walked 2 blocks to work at the Village Voice.
80 University Place - The Village Voice - my playground for 15 years.
842 Broadway - The Village Voice - my last 5 years there
732 Broadway - Howard Smith's loft
857 Broadway- University Review - UR - first newspaper job/publisher
810 Broadway- Trix Rosen, the first female love of my life.
213 Park Avenue South - Max's Kansas City- the back room
Walked east .
59-61 East 4th Street - Stephen Van Horne - shelter from the storm
59-61 East 4th Street - the Wow Cafe.
76 St Marks Place- Bobby Beers' "Fred Leighton" lamps
330 East 11th St- the first Wow Cafe
270 East 10th Street- Ambrose shot up while Sandy Moon made quilts
300 Canal Street - Pamela Camhe's loft - a safe place with women to love
31 Crosby Street - our live-in commune/ playhouse for artists
49 Prince Street - my apartment - before soho - when the only store was the one on Spring Street that baked bread in the middle of the night -where we could drop acid and play in the middle of the street where never a car came by.
Going to my home now of 40 years (on 15th and 5th) still have no answers... sometimes there are no (immediate) answers, sometimes there is just today.”
“…sometimes there is just today.”
While Jackie is walking, friends are playing in the trees in Prospect Park.
Joe is selling fish.
And we are busy hashing out the Mars Room in our Activist Informed Reading Group,
Looking out at the water on  the  West Side of the City,
Built from the rumble of the city.

In the meantime,
Our protagonist, Romey, is looking down  the barrel of a life sentence in
“I’m twenty-nine.  Fourteen years is forever, if that’s what  I have to live.
In any case its more than twice that – thirty seven years- before I will see a parole board, at which point, if they grand me it, I can start my second life sentence.  I have tow consecutive life sentences, plus six years.
I  don’t plan on living a long life.  Or a short life.  Necessarily.
I have  no plans at all.
The thing is you keep existing whether you have a plan to do so or not, until you don’t exist, and then your plans are meaningless.
But not having a plan to do so or not,
Until you don’t exist and then your plans are meaningless.
Don’t not having plans doesn’t mean I don’t have regrets.
If I had never worked at the Mars Room.
If I had never met Creep Kennedy.
If Creep Kennedy had not decided to stalk me.
But  he did decide to, and then  he did it relentlessly.  If none of that had happened, I would not  be on the bus heading for  a life in a concrete slot.”

Is there free will?
Does Romy have any?
Do any  of us control our own fates?
Did Romy have a chance?

The questions keep coming and coming.
Riding back to Brooklyn.
Out to Bushwick to see the Canibal girls.
Back to parts unknown with Tony.
Is  it possible ever  to be home,
Even  here?

Why did Harper Lee stop writing?
Asks  the Book  review on  Sunday.

At Judson Mary Oliver insists Wild Geese Are Headed Home Once Again.
"Tell me about despair, yours, and i will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.

Whoever you  are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagition,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh  and exciting - 
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things."

But what does home mean?
Why do you come here?
Why did you come here in the first place, asks Micah introducing new members?
I have no idea.
The kids don’t really come with me.
Caroline has gone from agnostic to atheist with me.
And I keep coming  back.
The preachers kid.
Force of habit.

Jenny sings AP Carter:

“I was standing by my window,
On one cold and cloudy day
When I saw that hearse come rolling
For to carry my mother away

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, lord, by and by
There's a better home a-waiting
In the sky, lord, in the sky

Oh, I followed close behind her
Tried to hold up and be brave
But I could not hide my sorrow
When they laid her in the grave
Will the circle be unbroken

My mind flashes to me dad,
At Mom and Pops outside of Thomasville.
The banjo players sing.
We’re all sitting  in  a circle, 
My grandad,  grandmom, mom, my uncle.
This is a really good song,
Dad nods.
He loved his heritage and hated it.
Will the  circle ever be connected again?
Will it ever  be unbroken?

I ride through the city.
Playing with the little one in the Prospect Park.
How do you really climb a tree?
She wonders, climbing again and again.

I wonder what came of the graffiti on my way
Back to the Bunker.
Going to art.
Across from the old Sunshine Hotel.
Over  to Elizabeth Street Gardens, 
Hoping it will survive?
Hoping the city will survive?

How do you bring  a rainbow to everyone else’s clouds,
Asks Maya.
How can I learn to  be more abundant?
To save the gardens?
To support the movements?

“Grumpy  cat died!” screams the teenager to the  little  one.
And the  Koala bear  is  extinct.
Well, functionally extinct,  she clarifies.
All the cute ones are going.
I have not idea what compelled the books to fly off the walls.
Why did the books fall off the shelf?
You need a new bookshelf Rob had warned.
I left them piled precariously until gravity had its way.

“Everything passes away - suffering, pain, blood, hunger, pestilence. The sword will pass away too, but the stars will remain when the shadows of our presence and our deeds have vanished from the Earth. There is no man who does not know that. Why, then, will we not turn our eyes toward the stars? Why?” 
― Mikhail Bulgakov, The White Guard

It not easy learning to climb a tree.

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