Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Walking and Friends, Forward, Gowanus rezone stalled, Kamoinge Workshop, The Last Blog of the Trump years.

Big heart NYC at the Whitney with Caroline, in Soho with Steve. 

Photograph of Arbus by Allan Arbus

Murals from Vida Americana and the Kamoinge Workshop at the Whitney

On Tuesday, I learned about what happened to Aaron,

The all too familiar refrain:

" Dr. Barlow first joined City Tech as an adjunct in 2001, and became a full-time member of the faculty in 2006.  A dedicated scholar and educator..." 

I think about our last words together, regretting the futility of it, reminding myself to feel it, to find the pleasure in the every day, no matter where we are, or what's happening. 

That night, I ride to Ft Greene to meet George and Greg and Erik from Peru, where we unpack the insurrection and boy talk. 

On Wednesday, Emily and Joe and I catch up at Barbes, for a little solace.

Friends need each other now. 

We gotta take each other's calls.

More than ever, this may be the time of friendships. 

Sure we have intuitions, but they leave us wanting. 

Thursday, tea and crackers with Billy and Savitri, thinking about the things that have disappeared, the ways we connect and let go, giving ourselves room for old things to fade and new ideas to grow.

 That night, the union meets trying to build a space for solidarity for all. 

I'm sick of zoom meetings.

But its less compelling than seeing friends, a good meeting allows for both.

Friday,  Max and Jenn and Caroline and I catch up  at Karazishi Botan, a Ramen Diner, on Smith, hatching plans for an escape to Africa when the world opens again. 

If it does. 

Saturday, Steve and I meet in Washington Square and talk about it all, in between two decades of friendship,

A woman dancing in the distance,

Borges' journeys through the Highlands,

Kafka's aphorisms,

 Steve's fishing trips,

Friends who've come and gone,

And kids moving away, chatting and gossiping, the heart putting to the head, everyone flirting away all afternoon long.

Sunday we make our way on the F, taking the A route to Fulton, walking to the park in Chinatown for dumplings.  The kids are doing their best to survive it all, a long Freshman year inside, hard for the kids. 

Gene talks about Russian optimism. 

It could always get worst.

We make it. 

I think the Sentimental Education got us through it all. 

In the end, Fred and Desauriers are the last ones standing, the last chatting about what it all meant. 

That's what we're doing here. With revolutions ebbing and flowing and institutions crumbling, sometimes friends are all we have. 

Its the time of friends, to console and comfort and remind and cajole and remember and help us see it all.   You gotta have friends, said Bette. You gotta have friends. 

This may be the last blog of the Trump years. 

Four years since it Jamie said, stop the coup d'état and call me in the morning.

That seems like a long time ago. a lot of painful things since then, kids in cages, COVID botched, two impeachments, lies, conspiracy, a rightward tilt of the courts. I'm glad the a few of us are still here. that rise and resist is still here. So many others gone,   Gilbert Baker  died right after this started, the first of many trump era casualties.... 

Somehow it is all changing.  

On Thursday, we saw some signs of progress. Every day, progress.

Carlos Menchaca 萬齊家@NYCCouncil38 posted:

"Today we celebrated as NYS funds to transform Sunset Park's SBMT into an offshore wind assembly port for NYC. Many thanx to the residents, community orgs, advocates, and allies who have made this day possible."

And in the Gowanus, we sued the city over its plan for a virtual ULURP and stalled a rezoning in our neighborhood.

 Yes, activism still works. 

One step up, back, up, up, forward, ever forward.

And the trials of friendship continue to echo through my mind. They are there in my writing and life, our collective mythologies, Cicero's essays, in my strolls through the city, our trips to the Whitney to see Diego's murals and the Kamoinge Workshop, a collective of Black photographers, who found a mentor in Langston Hughes in 1963:

"Kamoinge” comes from the language of the Kikuyu people of Kenya, meaning “a group of people acting together,” and reflects the ideal that animated the collective. In the early years, at a time of dramatic social upheaval, members met regularly to show and discuss each other’s work and to share their critical perspectives, technical and professional experience, and friendship. Although each artist had his or her own sensibility and developed an independent career, the members of Kamoinge were deeply committed to photography's power and status as an independent art form. They boldly and inventively depicted their communities as they saw and participated in them, rather than as they were often portrayed."

The group came together, debated, merging, clashing, separating, reforming, over and over anew as the work  took new shape, and the family evolved through time. 

Collective and personal dreams shifted, ebbed, flowed. 

The sun shimmered.

We walked outside into the golden hour. 

"That's where Diane Arbus killed herself," said Caroline, standing on the patio at the Whitney, pointing to the Westbeth Building where she ended it in 1971. 

"Last supper," she wrote in her journal on the 26th of July, ingesting barbituates and cutting her wrists.

"So many souls," I said. 

"So many souls."

The city is always changing, as are we as we walk through it, two decades of walking it together. 

The last pages of Sentimental Education:

"He traveled. He came to know the melancholy of the steamboat, the cold awakening of the tent, the tedium of the landscapes and ruins, the bitterness of interrupted friendships.

He returned into society and he had other loves. But the ever present memory of the first made them insipid; and besides the violence of desire, the very flower of feeling had gone. HIs intellectual ambitions had also dwindled. Years went by and he endured the idleness of his mind and the inertia of his heart," (P.411).

Romance and revolution seem to fade from their minds. 

It is only friendship  that endures. 

"Towards the beginning of that winter Fred and Desauriers were chatting together by the fire, reconciled by that irresistible element of their nature, which always reunited them in friendship. 

"That was the happiest time we ever had, " said Fred, looking back. 

His friend agreed.  

A day in the light.


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