Monday, November 15, 2021

“We may choose something like a star”: On Fall Colors



@1000people1000trees #saveeastriverpark save the track house... keep New York New York...

Red leaves and yellow, a drive through the city, 

North up the West Side Highway, the Hudson, West, 

Over the George Washington Bridge, to see Al. 

Turning off the Palisades in Ft Lee, to look the shimmering light, lives, a city in a panorama.

Playing in the rocks on the way, 

On the way to Garrison. 

Over the Bear Mountain Bridge. 

Red Leaves and yellow, in the trees along the water, after the rain, bright, fall days. 

Just about to drop. 

Everything changing.

Penelope is gone. Al remains. 

Dodi is there. Bicoastal, LA and NYC. 

We are here. 

Scarli and Mav and Ty and tell stories about transvestites who can be cannibals too. 

Playing Emo and folk punk.

Good guys and bad guys on the mix. 

Chet Baker and Bowie on the radio.

Van Cliburn playing Tchaikovsky Moscow in 1958.

China is there.  Al tells stories about where he was and where we are.

Remembering playing at Julliard, meeting Kathleen Cleaver.

No one is sure where the conversation is leading. 

There is no way out, he says, looking at his life. 

There has got to be an opening, I say as he’s turning bleak.

Every conversation is fueled by opposition. 

Not in my movie, I think watching the scary movie with the kids. 

Red leaves and yellow, falling from the trees, our lives shifting. 

Sitting on the couch in the morning, coffee in hand, looking at the leaves outside.

No penel this morning. 

Just us, the birds and leaves and me. 

Striking red on the Japanese Maple. 

Good morning coffee. 

Good morning Penelope. 


A month ago, she was here, sipping it with me.

51 years here.

She’s not here. 

I’m not sure where she is. 

But she sure left fast.

When’s she coming home?

Al wonders. 

I wonder. 

What is next?

Tim wonders about it all. 

“Light shines in the darkness…” reads the ancient testimony from John at Judson Memorial Church in the Washington Square.

“Say something we can learn,” says Robert Frost in “Choose Something LIke a Star.”

“It asks a little of us here. 

It asks a certain height,...

To carry praise or blame too far, 

We may choose something like a star

To stay our minds on and be staid.”

Virginia meets me on the steps.

It's hard not thinking of Bob and Dorris at Judson, 

Not here, but here. 

Bob riding through China, Doris greeting the birds, in parts unknown.

Disappearing, transforming. 

Moving on during the 18 pandemic months. 

Now their seats remain empty in front.

A few elders and regulars remain.

Strange being back.

Still it's good to sing.

To let the sun shine in, our voices reach upward.

We need to feel abundant, to laugh, to sing.

It's been too serious lately. 

Virginia and I greet Mel on 7th Ave, taking a break from Tim duty. 

We talk about love and life and holding on and not wanting to hold on, 

When Lou Gehrig disease grips a partner of three decades.

To live forever, forever young, none of us enjoy that certainty. 

Tim says: “My balloon just burst. Now my life is in peril because I have ALS….

I see the end, just my eyes unable to blink. But Brain and vision remain…

My life ends… unable to breathe…”

For now, Tim can breathe, sitting in his beloved apartment..

He’s put his life on the line, his body on the line, over and over again, 

Now he needs us to visit, Ken wrote last weekend. 

Mel and I talk about activism, wins and losses.

It feels like pissing in the wind lately, I relate, with Virginia, visiting our Rise and Resist comrad.

He was one of a small group of people I met that first week in NYC, in the fall of 1997 when I came here from Chicago.

Virginia drops off a Patricia Highsmith novel.

“Do people always fall in love with things they can’t have?”

Tim smiles… we chat about Peter Staley, gossiping a bit, remembering the last actions, the last summer BBQ’s he attended two years prior before everything changed.

Not too long ago.  

No longer able to walk.

Breathing getting harder.

“Don’t understand why my friends are not visiting me,” wonders Tim. 

“Have you ever heard of the hollow man?

Too frightened so he turned and ran. 

Everyone has a secret sin. 

Everyone needs a chance to win…

It's too late to be friends.”

Is it?

Tim grows tired. 

Mel wonders why more with ALS are not fighting. 

I sit holding Tim’s hand. 

He tells me about his dream, a premonition of dying.

Asleep, awake, unable to move.

Between here and there. 

This life and that. 

This love and that. 

We say goodbye. 

See you next week, ok?

Riding down Bleeker, past #9, where the Yippies used to reside.

We still see Dana Beal at actions. 

Everyone is older. 

The East River Park is under attack. 

Restore don’t demolish, plead the preservations.

NYC is always changing. 

Ty is there. 

He’d been with us on Friday, greeting Al, chatting about it all.

It's the most beautiful thing to read your own poems, says Ty, telling us how it went,  stories, connecting with AI.  Everyone has lost something. It's part of being, of living, talking about dialectical philosophy. 

How about an and not a but suggests Ty. 

The two teenagers go hiking on the Hudson through the immaculate fall. 

Painting pictures on the train tracks. 

Red leaves and yellow.

Back home, Carson takes us to that place between childhood and growing up after the war. 

Between here and there, by ourselves, alone, together, growing, leaving Columbus, finding, loving, losing ourselves, finding something. 

“It happened that green and crazy summer when Frankie was twelve years old. This was the summer when for a long time she had not been a member.  She belonged to no club and was a member of nothing in the world. Frankie had become an unjoined person who hung around in doorways, and she was afraid.”

Isolation, I recall Mom and Dad leaving Columbus.

Existentialism was in the air in Moultrie, Georgia that summer of 1945, when Frankie was planning to leave, twelve year old girl, having a tantrum at a wedding, playing cards all afternoon with Berenice, can’t stay, can’t run away, captured, sent back, sitting with her bags.

“She could not be in the war… the world seemed separate from herself…”

In a queer dreamworld, she wonders what it would like to be a boy, pretending to be a girl, changing names, transforming selves…a curious silence, a queer sin,  a new voice, more progressive than Eudora Welty, more critical than Harper Lee, never coming back, changing, transforming, queering. 

“I am I… you are you”

Excluded and included and excluded, making her way north toward home with Auden and Tennessee and Harold and company in the February House, on 7 Middagh  Street, in Brooklyn Heights. 

Taking that first step, writing the novel just down the street from us. 

Once you take that first step, become yourself, captured and freed. 

Book group, chatting all afternoon long, in our Brooklyn home, reading passage after passage.

We could be in Prague.

Could be in Berlin. 

Could be in Brooklyn, down the street from the February House where Carson drafted the story  in 1941. 

Tim West of us in the outer borough of Manhattan, in the West Village, 

Al upstate, in Garrison. 

Penel off to points unknown, with Doris and Bob.

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