The waves poured over me.
Kids were out on surf boards, waiting to catch one.
Just jump up when it feels right, said one, advising me. Just jump up.
Jean had invited us to the Rockaways for a summer day.
Our we walked to take the train that was a bus, taking us to connect with a train.
A couple fought, fists flying in the hot, summer poverty, summer in New York.
Just keep on moving.
The waves surrounded me, pulled me, lulled, between this world and the next.
Bodies shining on the surface, waiting for a wave, maybe this one, maybe that.
No wet suit, just waves, first chilling then warm, then exhilarating.
You never know when ones going to pull.
First time I’d been out on a surf board since Costa Rica or Ireland before that.
Other summers I body surfed… in Edisto, South Carolina or wherever, jumping on a boogie board.
Paddling it possessed me, sending the board flying, up on my feet I flew, defying it all. Then crashing back down in to the water.
Summer 2021, back on the surf board, with Caroline and Catherine and Jean Francois and Greg and so on through the day, summer shimmering.
In between it all, a few notes moving stories and summer.
The next day, Magic Mountain for book group.
“So, valley and mountains under snow for six months now? Seven! Time sweeps onward while we tell our tale – not only our time, the time we devote to the telling….The waves of the ocean of time, in their eternal monotone rhythm, washed Ester ashore,” wrote Thomas Mann (p. 341, 349).
All weekend I read it furiously, on the subway to the beach, before book group, hoping for more, moving forward, the books pages like the waves pulling hypnotic through the water.
Waves of people pouring through our lives, arriving, receding, art shows, ideas, stories, pouring forth through the mind…cycles of illness and living and death, to and from making it through the city.
Julie Mehretu and Dawoud Bey paintings at the Whitney,
and going out for birthday drinks, Caroline summer smiles and oysters and friends and conversations with Morgan and Jeremy and Dominique and trips to Tompkins Square Park and back to Governor’s Island on my bike. The towers are not up yet, but they will be, with time passing.
The epiphany of kids growing up and forming and separating, and re arriving, and remembering, and coming and disappearing.
Friends dropping by, talking about War and Peace and Lacan and trying to get back into that summer groove.
And on and on it went.
People shared mutual aid on Bond Street,
And zines on St Mark’s and 2nd.
And met for a summer lunch at Volna in Brighton Beach,
Trying to reconnect with the city of friends, after a year and a half in a strange other place, trying to find something that we’d lose, a lightness which found its way elsewhere, talking about neighbors and life, and people arriving and leaving, ever disappearing. and on and on.
We rode the train from Brighton Beach to the Lower East Side for stories with friends.
JK pulled together the circle in El Jardin Paraiso on 4th Street, between C and D.
“There are flowers of evil in there.. .also known as ground elder. It comes like high tide and ground sand grows and throws up flowers, like the sun moves around the garden, it blows up” said JK. “Let me show you.” We walked to look at the flowers. “A taller weed grows to protect it.”
Harry and Joan and Jacobi and Ann and Wendy form the
Wendy and JK are talking about Pipelines we fought.
The losses and wins, Keystone pipeline down.
Joan says she still wants to get pregnant, before she’s a hundred.
Lilith is here says JK.
“Get drunk, on wine, on poetry, on virtue whichever you choose,” I say, reading Baudelaire.
Is this about poems or stories?
Both or neither.
“Go ahead and fall, that’s what you are supposed to do, everything just fall,” says Dee Dee.
Harry Lichtenstein recalls a poem about Fallen Trees:
“Memories of how and where we were, season of life gone, arising sun helping the young grow, life continues on bent on the toward its orange glow, seasons to come…”
No rules about what’s a poem please.
“I was just talking about the bull,” says JK, recalling those circles and a friend who did grab it by its horns.
“Have we had enough what we did in the pandemic stories?” asks Joan. “I have another one.”
“Grab the bull by the horn. Face fate and time,” says JK.
Wearing red, drinking a beer, Anne Lee recalls another bombing as prudence suspends revenge, the trembling soldiers experiencing grace … finding peace… out of the terror, reading a work in progress: “Rashi is a freedom fighter. She is known far-and-wide for her courageousness and humor. The militant government agent, Fid and his two henchmen, have chased her and her family of four children into a subterranean catacomb of caves. Luxury sunglasses, issued only to the elite, are reluctantly removed. Their side has lost many troops to her actions. Power drunk, Fid lazily waves his pistol between all five. His grin turns grimace and asks her, “Pick one now”, while jerking his chin towards her, “and I’ll shoot, or we will kill them all”, and his men jeer at their quarry. Rashi, always quick and prepared, hands up, walks towards him and looks at each child. He raises his gun and she replies, “I cannot choose one, you must shoot me”. An exploding small homemade grenade turns the three mens heads and as Fid’s gaze returns he find Rashi a lunge closer. Her eyes pierce his and with a flourish of her eyebrows, her left hand grabs his right which holds the gun, now pointing at her heart. All the while the children have been tag teaming Fid’s soldiers. Taunting while encircling. With a whistle from Rashi and in synchronized tandem, the smaller of each pair spits at their man’s feet. A glaring response is the very opportunity to throw dirt in his eyes. The larger kids then swoop kicks that knee knocks their pursuers down soon after. With the duo hindered, the children scatter as they have been trained to do, living in a war-torn country all their lives. Fid is furious. He is surprised by her strength and speed. He cannot loosen her grip. As his struggle plateaus, she pulls in swiftly and tacks a sharp thin blade to his throat. He has been told by higher-ups to bring her in for questioning. In his fury he nearly shoots her. But prudence suspends revenge. Rashi glances towards the recovering men. When she pricks the skin close to his artery, he waves the soldiers down with trembling hands. Rashi softens her gaze and quietly says, “I understand that you have not been blessed with love growing up. Perhaps you will experience grace and find solace for your soul in the next life.”
“This is like an ancient fable, a myth born in your fertile fierce mind,” says Lilith, “Wow….”
“Each bomb took a bit of our consciousness,” I say, paraphrasing Allen G, who grieved when we bombed Iraq.
JK follows recalling the days after the November 2000 election, when no one knew what was going on. “The election was going on and on and on. We still didn’t know… We go up to the Andes. We keep going up and up and up. They let in two bulls and a cow. They were going to be sacrificed. The bull looked at me, seeing what was going on. The festivities went on and on. The bull seemed to know. Lots of dancing and they saved the others. One night they danced with the Guinea pigs … the bull was killed… another saved…We don’t know who is going to be president. Maybe I should stay? ‘Stay’ they said to me… don’t go back to the US. Stay…”
“I’m glad you come back,” I say.
“That’s when I met you… in 1999, 2000 at the garden…
I read more Baudelaire, the Fool and the Venus… “filled with tears to the immortal goddess… And his eyes say ‘I am the lowest and most solitary of men, deprived of love and friendship….Oh Goddess, have pity on my sadness and my frenzy.”
Friends come and gone.
600,000 dead, a lot of us have been deprived of it.
Alive and dead..
“Perspectives do not belong to vagueness,” says Harry…
“You can’t avoid perspectives.
After death you enter the void.
You don’t know.
Do truth and reality?
Only in perspectives…”
Harry looks up.
“I was in English class at Hunter College… I brought it up. They crumpled it up… uncrumpled it. They crumpled it…. That winter of 1971.”
All lies, half lies.
Don’t act, you’ll let out the rainbow concealed in you…
Anne reads another work in progress:
“Sario settles into the cafe ritual and Memu waves the boy down to sit for a story, his favorite part of the day.
I am a young woman of 17 and my two warrior tutors are running from our pursuers who announce their arrival to the clearing with the rat-ta-tat-tat of automatic rifles. Shia and Neeya are wounded but make it to our shelter where I lay in-wait to surprise our attackers with our planned trap. But as they collapse just within the threshold, my eyes dart to assess the myriad of the bloodied exit wounds I see on both. I hear someone whisper, “fly fledgling” and turn to see three stately men baring arms and of my tribe. Relief washes my eyes and after blinking profusely look a bit more closely at them. It’s been 10 years since I’ve seen a man. Our oppressors separated our people by gender, men west of the spine of mountains that spilt this island, our home. Women to the east. Since then, a fortified fence blocks every pass in this range. Just before a boy here turns seven, he is taken across.
“Was that Namaja?”, asks the boy in the middle. The two men nod slowly.
What if post menarche commencement, there’s a part of the collective unconscious that reminds the girl she will never be a babe in the womb again, well not at least until next time round (if you are so inclined). Perhaps it is that old viseral fear of tumultuous change and future excruciation that holds the desire for a flat stomach in eyes of young women. And why some males prefer some roundness there. For them it is that subterranean tactile imperative for progeny. It is the sweet memories of subsumption. The truth suspending wish of return to that place of safety and freedom from responsibility. Herein lays the ultimate difference. CIS anatomy’s power to mold a mind. Polarity from the inside out. How we are shaped.”
On and on we talk...through the wonder and spark, through the little nuggets like the pellets JK and company used to light on the Fourth that ignited and delighted us with ashes crawling like snakes across the sidewalk. Like doors that we want to duck into and see where you were and what you did there, but only in brief glimpses. Reading ourselves in our stories.
The teenager calls sounding quiet and far away.
Last day of high school, after years trying to figure how to grow up.
Eighteen years of to and from school and then it ends.
She was so little coming to the garden; now she’s about to fly.
Its never easy, but we were all pandemic buddies, watching things change together, and now its in flux.
Moving, ebbing, moving, coming, going, graduating onto other lives.
No one is trained to be a parent.
We take our stress out on them and then they fly.
I wish we could parent backward, says Caroline.
No one does it right at first.
Same thing with friends.
They are here and then they disappear.
“One of my most beloved friends of this lifetime, Fintan O’Sullivan, has died. Fintan was a magical creature, a gifted healer, a talented cook, and one of the deepest, dearest, most treasured loves of my life. He was a profoundly spiritual person who suffered tremendous trauma as a child and dealt with inescapable mental health issues as an adult. He left my life in June of 2008 after a particularly intense episode that put him in the hospital. Upon his release we had a wonderful phone call and he sounded like his old self and I was so relieved and hoped he was finally on the road to recovery. No matter how bad it got we always found something to laugh about and that day was no different. I was sure I would hear from him a few days later as I usually did. Sadly, I never heard from him again. He just disappeared. I kept waiting, hoping, and praying that one day he would just resurface, show up on my doorstep and be okay. I really didn’t think our story was finished. I still can’t believe it. I’m in shock. His wonderful brother Greg reached out today to let me know that he was found dead in his bed in a homeless camp in Bisbee, AZ. on May 21. I have no idea what these past 13 years have been like for him.
When we were kids in the 90s we used to put on skirts and sun hats and walk the streets of San Francisco reading Gertrude Stein’s poetry aloud to each other in our guises as a couple of very fey sisters named Flora and Fauna. I was Flora, he was Fauna. One day as we were traipsing down the street in Noe Valley some guy was chasing another guy with a baseball bat and, startled, deeply concerned, and ever one to help, Fintan said in a panicked voice, “Flora dear, what should we do?” I said in my best Auntie Mame affect, “Parallel universe, Fauna dear, keep moving!” And we, along with Gertrude Stein, sauntered on in our own little world.
I hope that he is finally at peace amongst the stars. He was and always will be my friend.
I love you Fintan.
The next day the story continued:
· I stayed in my pajamas all day today. Too sad to get dressed. This evening I watched “Rich & Famous.” Fintan loved that movie and used to say that’s how he saw us ending up some day. I was never quite sure who he thought was who. I lie. It was clear he thought of me in the Candace Bergen role and of himself as the more serious and less successful Jacqueline Bisset. I was fine with that. But in watching it again I realize I ended up being more like Jacqueline Bisset -alone in a country house after having my heart broken by a string of younger men. And he’s, well, dead. He’d laugh at me saying that, btw. So I said it. But no one is here laughing but me. Tomorrow I’m going to get dressed and get on with it. Some days life sucks. The other thing I’ll say is. I spent a lot of years being angry at him for never reaching out to me even though a big part of me suspects it was his way of trying to protect me. Somehow, even though he’s gone, I feel closer now. Instead of wondering where he is I can feel him here in my heart and that’s a comforting feeling. Sorry to be all confessional up in here. I just needed to get my feelings out before I go to bed.
Penny Arcade left a comment:
Losing someone one to death after you had already lost them in a real way in the world - permanently now - is alot to process.Especially when that person was part of our reality at a much younger age when life lay in all its mystery and possibility before us. Its a weird arithmetic we need to do internally - of who we were then and now and how it all played it. It happened to me a few years ago with my friend Larry - We were teenaged friends. He was a performer - talented and extroverted - I was the side kick - we shared ideas and dreams of adventure and glamour but his life was ACTUALLY glamorous then with the clothes and talent and real extroversion i lacked - then I lost him for about 22 years as he spun out in a descending 30 year spiral of alcoholism. Then I found and lost him again - He called out of the blue he was very impressed with what i had accomplished - he kept saying - " My family in NY knows who you are! You became famous ! How did you do it?" Then just as suddenly another ten year disappearence - then out of nowhere he was in touch by FB - his carer wrote me . We were on the phone alot - it was a shock how his life had ended up but he laughed at one point and said "Well you know me! I'm a wild one" We were in touch for couple of months - he in Section 8 housing - far from anyone he had ever known , just tv and cigarettes , the alcoholic part of his brain - gone- bashed in during a drunken brawl and now in a state of diminished capacity and then a sudden and mysterious and ignominious death - knocked down by a car in the dark as he hobbled to buy cigarettes one dark night...more time in the hospital, a hip replacement that became infected and then death. I wrote this the day i found out he died.
The Wild One
The wave that rose the wave that swept you far could have stranded me instead of you way out there where you are The world measures tragedy to ambition's drive the will to attain against the will to survive but tragedy clings equally it shadows us all both he that trips the ledge and he who holds the wall Destiny leaves no clue to who will rise or fall To whom honor will be bestowed and who is left to crawl. There's pity for the tragedy but never any sympathy for the wild one. I remember you so vibrant and so brave the one who had it all the hero and the knave in whose shadow i crouched small and never, no never will I forget your radiance and your glory doesn’t matter how it was spent you were the wild one Alone, alone tv and cigarettes Your only friends beside you now yet you without lament Just wondering and amazed by how quickly it all went and when I ask you to add it up you laugh without regret you pause and you say I ‘m a wild one.”
So many stars, passing the summer days.
Dream until its your reality, say the words on the sidewalk.
Perspectives don’t belong to lifeless void spaces.
You can compare yourself to lifeless emptiness,
but that comparison is your perspective.
You can’t escape having perspectives –
You are not in an empty void or dead yet...
and after death, is there a lifeless void?
You don’t know and you do have perspectives.
Are perspectives linked in universal consciousness?
Love, hate, morality, sin, Heaven,
beauty and ugliness –
are defined differently in different perspectives.
Do truth and reality exist only in perspectives?
You exist in mine and I exist in yours.
Do Gods exist in ours and do we exist in Gods’ perspectives?
Can science…time or space…atoms and subatomic
particles…energy...exist in the absence of perspectives?
Who you really are is according to you.
You can be anything that you imagine.
Are universes infinite and finite depending on your perspective?
If you are happy and there is no suffering in the universe;
then that is your perspective.
One thing can be a contradiction in terms of conflicting perspectives.
I can be happy according to my perspective,
but sad according to yours.
The same relationships can be loving, caring, and joyful,
or loveless and sad.
July 6, 2002, by Harry Bentivegna Lichtenstein, (718) 231-0021 firstname.lastname@example.org