Tuesday, February 23, 2021

"Open Until Demolished," Sunflower Sutra and Other Adventures, Book Readings, Trips to David Hockney and the Café Rezone


Photos of the Cafe Rezone.
Waves of displacement and pandemic got you down? The smell of
toxic waste making you blue? Join us Sunday, February 21st at the Café Rezone, a
special Gowanus outdoor dining pop-up highlighting the Gowanus rezoning.

 The day began with Blake and ended with Allen Ginsberg’s Sunflower Sutra:


I walked on the banks of the tincan banana dock and sat down under the huge shade of a Southern Pacific locomotive to look at the sunset over the box house hills and cry.

Jack Kerouac sat beside me on a busted rusty iron pole, companion, we thought the same thoughts of the soul, bleak and blue and sad-eyed, surrounded by the gnarled steel roots of trees of machinery.

The oily water on the river mirrored the red sky, sun sank on top of final Frisco peaks, no fish in that stream, no hermit in those mounts, just ourselves rheumy-eyed and hung-over like old bums on the riverbank, tired and wily.”


The teenager had been reading about the sunflower 

Allen and Jack discovered after a long weekend of riding and telling stories along the waterfront.

Thursday Mery Diaz and I gave a talk.

If you are around this evening, stuck at home on yet 

another snow day please join us at virtual @word up where

Benjamin Heim Shepard

and I will be chatting with

Trevor Milton


Erica Goldblatt Hyatt


Stephen Ruszcz

about narrative approaches, lived experiences of youth, immigration, homelessness, criminalization, grief & loss& school experiences, the pandemic, and more.


Snowflakes in the sky, we were on one side.

The audience on another, as we zoomed away through the atmosphere, 

talking about our book.

Erica Goldblatt invited us to look inward, as William James imagined, observing the self.

“I have an intrusive narrator,” said Goldblatt.

“I grew up with death at every turn, loss always on my mind, My mind plagues with an anger.

Never happiness.  I ran toward death, not away from it.

Gradually I found a way to cope with it and the story is told about me.”
Goldblatt paused.

“Youth are subject of an adult lens, teens as passionate people, especially in the wake of loss.

What if we look at how children create and cope with loss…

 with death inevitable…. How we they cope, how we cope.”

“You see the passing of time and how they make meaning,” 

said Stephen Ruszczyk, reminding us of the stories of triumph and tragedy, 

not a single issue that multiple intersecting narratives.

“Should needs to exit our vocabulary,” said Mery Diaz, looking at kids adapting to the new realities.

On and on we talked, exploring questions about it all:

What do narratives do for the subject (child/youth voice, meaning-making) of research, the researcher (reflexivity/positionality), and the reader (engaging, evoking, meaning-making)?

Consider how the pandemic, socioeconomic and political crisis this past year has shaped youth experiences in your area of study? Have these events reshaped our thinking about children and youth and their experiences? Reshaped our work with children and youth?”

Finally, we talked about the experiences of youth under the pandemic and can we hear the youth?

Can we hear them or respond to their needs?

Kids are doing one thing.

We are doing another, a year into this.

Sometimes we meet.

As much we miss each other.

Each day, whirling through our missteps and reconnections.


Friday, the teenagers and I were to the Morgan to see Drawing Life, 

David Hockney’s drawings, a day trip in the snow.

The little one wanted to stay home and read Slaughter House Five.

The elder and I walked through the emotions in the snow.

Meeting Gene, chatting all morning, perusing Japanese Magazines at Kinokuniya, off Bryant Park, looking at pictures of models she knows from Tokyo.

Eating outside in the snow, taking in the city.

Hockney’s drawings reminded us, friends change through time.

Can we be there to observe the changes?

Can we be there?


Looking at him, looking at us,

The teenager went one way, I went the other.


A band played.

And I thought of Stanley Across the street.


Saturday, I visited my old mentor.

I hadn’t seen him for over a year and wasn’t sure how he 

was going to be after a series of strokes and falls.

“What do you think of our new union leadership,” he said, greeting me, with a smile, gossiping about trade union politics and books, talking about Thomas Mann’s Dr Faustus, his master work, Benjamin and Faulkner and Absalom Absalom!.

I asked Stanley about the fights.

“If you are interested in a fight, think about Stalin and Trotsky.

That was a fight.”

“That’s not exactly a resolution I’m looking for.

One man stabbed…” I paused.

“Well, you said fights,” he replied, pausing.  “How about Vladimir Lenin fighting with Georgi Valentinovich Plekhanov, Russian Democratic Party.”

We kept chatting away, talking about books and Honoré de Balzac and John Paul Sartre.

“He wrote a wonderful essay about New York City.”

“What do you think I should be reading?” I follow.  Stanley has never lead me astray.

 “Try Adorno’s 1951 Minima Moralia.”

He writes:

Whoever wishes to experience the truth of immediate life, must investigate its alienated form, the objective powers, which determine the individual existence into its innermost recesses.


“Thanks for reading with me through the years.”

“Try Hannah Arendt’s edited Benjamin.”

“We read it together,” I reply.

“It reminds me of the city, ever evolving, mechanical reproduction”

Like Allen’s poem, our lives ever changing.


“When you are my age, its every day,” says Al, after losing his drug dealer, an old friend from years  ago.


Gene and Norm and I chat at 169 Bar, talking about the movies and days we are surviving, my third meeting with Gene in a week, all of us together for a moment again in the snow.


And Sunday, back at the Gowanus, for the rezone café, acting up with comrades inviting the world to re imagine what a city could be, should be.


Vamping it up all afternoon.

Pardon me for Asking posted:

“Café Rezone, Gowanus' newest trendy outdoor dining option made its debut for lunch today on 4th Avenue near the Old Stone House, serving such delicacies as Oysters à la Sewage, Free Range Flood Risk Du Jour, Ram It Through Roast and Carcinogenic Coal Tar Cake.  The special of the day was Moules Brownfield.  An equally innovative drinks list included the popular Mo' CSO Flow, The Bought Non-Profit, or Sludgie's Soul.

The upper echalon patrons of this very exclusive eatery thanked Chef Hizzoner de Blaz and Sous-Chefs Member Lander and Member Levin for what they were cooking up at the Rezone, and were delighted that the menu did not include a Racial Impact Study and raised their glass to displacement.

A second seating of this special toxic outdoor bistro was provided on Union Street a bit later. Make sure to make your reservation soon before this outdoor pop-up is demolished.

Café Rezone is the newest venture of Voice Of Gowanus, the coalition of community organizations and individual citizens for a healthy and sustainable neighborhood.


Later that night, the teenager and I read William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence:

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour…”


Just like Allen did all those years ago, his days, stumbling over into our days, all of us alive, stumbling through our days, between here and there, childhood and wherever we find ourselves now, here in Brooklyn in the snowy winter, snowflakes turning to rain.  

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