By the ninth chapter of Ulysses
Steven Dedalus delivers a lecture on Hamlet.
It goes on for some thirty pages.
Reading, one wonders,
why is it there, in this most interminable day of days?
One explanation, of course, is Joyce had an academic paper he didn’t publish elsewhere.
So he plugged it in there.
But there may be more to it than that.
One could argue, he’s exploring our self-doubt.
I know you did it.
A ghost told me so.
There are countless reasons to explore this,
most filmed, most performed of plays.
“Essere o non essere, è questo il dilemma?”
the Italians wonder, performing the bard.
It’s the question we all face:
Self-doubt about our moment in time.
Ever contemplating vengeance,
like the underground man,
or chasing windmills.
Was that my father’s ghost or just my imagination?
Am I ok?
Are any of us?
It’s a sensation we’re more than familiar with now,
with storms coming and going.
Watching covid rage,
Friends and family still getting sick.
Still descending into madness.
Why not watch it again?
Storms are coming.
Most everyone feels stuck.
Certainly, Hamlet does.
“Denmark’s a prison,”
our every man confesses in the second act:
“A goodly one; in which there are many confines,
wards and dungeons, Denmark being one o' the worst.”
On and on,
“O God, I could be bounded in a nut shell and count
myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I
have bad dreams.
A dream itself is but a shadow.”
This inner dialogue invites us into a meditation on a history of consciousness.
It is all there.
Its up to us to make the choice to go back there.
Jenn told me she was reading,
Lucy Ellmann, Ducks, Newburyport,
another longish novel, one sentence winding through hundreds of pages.
“you’ll never know what sort of person you might have been if you’d read different stuff…”
Few of us regret going back to Elsinore.
Real things happened all week, as I tried to get there, wondering which to explore.
We were back in town for the storm.
John and Jenn were arriving.
Tropical Storm Isaias was on its way.
We met Karina on Church Ave.
And Greg and Emily at Halyards.
Nora and Tom on Venice beach.
Erik and Claire in Williamsburg.
And Babs and Wendy on Ave B and 7th.
Eric saw the storm coming.
The president hints he might push back election day, curtailing democracy to preserve it.
Too many irregularities with voter fraud, too many people trying to vote without enough forms of identification.
Too many absentee ballots, without the proper postmarks.
Send in the troops to still unrest.
The army sits back. Waits. And makes a move.
The next day, the storm rips up trees throughout the city.
The sky a stark blue on its passing.
We had food to deliver in the Bronx.
One storm is passing.
Another is coming.
Every action creates a reaction.
Mother nature knocks down a tree in front of our car.
We were supposed to drop off food for Judson food pantry.
A Blue Lives Matter flag hands in the front stoop of a neighbor sitting out front.
She starts yelling at me that I'm going to knock down the tree.
She says I'm not from here. Yells. I say I live down the block. She says she doesn’t know me. Another neighbor comes out and says I should ignore her. She yells. We leave.
Off we go, into Manhattan, to pick up supplies on Thompkins Street,
through the city to Queens and up to Pelham Bay.
A young women and her child in need of support.
A woman is walks the street, in between the cars, looking for something, anything.
We give her a few cans of food.
Food insecurity is only intensifying.
A fridge full of food on 3rd and Bond, arrives, where people drop off supplies.
On Friday, to the beach with Greg,
To the West Village with Kendall, recalling,
“There are a lot less opportunities for sensuous experiences,” says Kendall. “It’s more of an alienated experience, being here now. There is less pleasure seeking, less encounters with strangers. That’s what Times Square used to be about.”
People feel less connected.
You see it our disjointed response to the pandemic.
Why are we failing at this?
Margaret Thatcher put it,
“There is no society, just individuals and families.”
We are not looking out for each other.
Instead people are left on their own.
to navigate the traumas.
Kalief Browder was left in solitary until he lost his mind,
Assata Shakur, got out.
So did Angela Davis.
Others were not so lucky.
Certainly, Breona Taylor was not.
Each day, we try to make sure our city remains vital.
We get word that the police provocateurs are out at the demos.
Alexis Danzig writes:
“Nonviolence can be a lifetime moral commitment.
Or it can be a strategic response.
The state will always have "more violence" than we do. Resources, cops, courts, sentences.
When we do property damage and other forms of what the state calls "violence," the weight of the state can be brought down on individual activists with consequences for the person, for families and for resistant communities.
"If anyone you do not know is pushing you to say or do something provocative at a protest, remember such actions are usually deliberate. There are reasons we maintain a Gandhian commitment to non-violence."
We hope to help our city live, organizing against the Gowanus rezone.
Flooding is real. Plans to make high density housing on a flood plain
without plans for drainage defy common sense. A thorough, inclusive assessment of environmental impacts is needed for the Gowanus Rezone.
No more developer giveaways.
New York is reeling says one observer.
The president hopes to hold onto power.
We’re pushing back.
But none of us know.
The storm has come.
Others are on its way.