Every year I try to avoid listening to the 'reading of the names,' and yet I always find myself hypnotized by the words of my beloved neighbors, unable to pry myself away from the echo of loss. There is no closure and there never will be. Our sky remains broken.
"I'm gonna pull the chain on you, pal. And you wanna know why?
'Cause you're fucking up my city. 'Cause you're walking all over people like you own them.
And you wanna know the worst part? You're from out of state."
My fondest Burt Reynolds memory is when my great aunt took me to see Sharky's Machine in the theater. I was definitely way too young for the film, but loved it to pieces. She was aghast by the language and violence. Fare thee well Burt, thanks for the memories.
I’d grab the subway at Dekalb and take the long ride to Brighton Beach — one of my favorite trips in the city, with all its slow turns and views of scarred rooftops and weather-worn store-top signage. After I'd exit the train, I'd troop over to my grandparents' street for the barrage of you-got-so-big's and cheek-pinches via all the lovable yentas from the building parked out front. (I can still picture my grandma's tough smile when she'd see me, and perfectly recall the unique smell of the lobby of her building and the creaky ancient elevator up to the 6th floor.) The beach chairs were usually lined-up all the way down the block, each building with its own unique crew. One of my favorite characters was a very zaftig Russian woman whose name is lost with time. Her sons were supposedly gangsters and she sold blackmarket caviar from a cooler under her chair. She never smiled, and when she died she was buried in a piano box.
“We’re so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about everyday, too many new things we have to learn. But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone.”
There's a new breed of city-dwelling squirrel monkey that is able to slip through cracks in walls and open windows. They end up in people's homes, where they mount the chins of their sleeping victims and slowly poke at their faces with X-Acto knives, all while making a strange laugh-like noise.
Aretha Franklin's passing yesterday sent me into a music-obsessive frenzy, ending up focusing on her underrated Columbia sides. As I was listening to her take on the oft-covered "(It Will Have to Do) Until The Real Thing Comes Along," I realized it was one of the rare times I think she was bested on a song. That's not to say her version isn't stellar; it is, it's just that Judy Henske's take sends chills down my spine, and I prefer it to classic and stunning versions by the likes of Billie Holiday, the Ink Spots, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Aretha, etc. Henske's work-up is the perfect synthesis of Holiday and Fats Waller's adaptations, with an extra helping of sass, a hint of 1960s abandon, and total raw fucking power.
"New York is best seen with innocent eyes. It doesn't matter if you are younger or old. Reading our rich history makes the experience more layered, but it is not a substitute for walking the streets themselves. For old-timer or newcomer, it is essential to absorb the city as it is now in order to shape your own nostalgias."
There was an elderly guy sitting at the bar tonight talking to anyone and everyone who sat near him. He was buzzed but not overly drunk, and nice enough albeit slightly annoying. A couple sits down and humors him for a while, and then gently asks if they can get back to their own conversation. He says “okay,” sits quietly for about five minutes and then tells them that he is “the loneliest person in the world,” adding after a pause “and I live in Brooklyn.”
Should I ask the guy speaking/yelling at an insane VOLUME at the bar what his thoughts are on the current US trade deals, the recording industry, situationist art, or tight fitting pants, seeing as he apparently has an OPINION ON ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING ? Or, should I just knock him off his stool on my way out for being all THAT IS WRONG WITH THE NEW NEW YORK?
“Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go."
Rest In Peace
I was majorly influenced by Anthony Bourdain to open my mind and to eat at random, and sometimes odd spots at home and abroad; at times trying dishes that were completely foreign to me. Due to this I've had some of the most delicious food and wonderful experiences that I'll always treasure the memory of... From heavenly ceviche tostadas inhaled at a roadside street-cart in Bucerías, to oysters scored from a guy decked out with a tool belt of hot sauces, still dripping wet from the catch on the beach in Puerto Vallarta. From fiery street-cart ear tacos in Jackson Heights, to an eye-opening sitdown meal at a Himalayan spot down the road. From truly scrumptious $1 fried dumplings in a filthy hole in the wall in a Chinatown alleyway, to Shabu-Shabu in a somewhat hidden, walk-up ten table restaurant in midtown. And so on and so on and so on.
"They were offered the choice between becoming kings or the couriers of kings. The way children would, they all wanted to be couriers. Therefore there are only couriers who hurry about the world, shouting to each other — since there are no kings — messages that have become meaningless. They would like to put an end to this miserable life of theirs but they dare not because of their oaths of service."
Fare thee well to my favorite author... I never met Philip Roth, but I still feel like I lost a friend last night. As with his writing, his death has hit me hard, though I am thankful that I can revisit him time and time again through his words. He is now truly immortal.
Last night I dreamt that a few old friends told me it had been decided by a collective that I was to be killed (sacrificed?) for some unspoken transgression. I accepted my fate, though after being stabbed multiple times in the stomach, and sitting with two of my friends on a long bench in some unrecognizable dystopian setting, I realized I wasn’t ready to die. I expressed this to them and they seemed relieved, as if I passed a test. They rushed me to a hospital, which was set up like a maze. Suddenly I was wandering around alone, clutching my gut, and when I finally found a doctor, she calmly told me I needed an organ transplant. She then walked me to a zip-line, the type you’d see set-up for tourists in a forest or jungle, that was to take me to the operating room...
I can perfectly recall the first time someone spit in my face. It was 9th grade and the subway was so overcrowded — as per usual — that I had to climb in between cars to get a spot, otherwise I’d be late for school uptown. I did the not so graceful '80s train-jump, and ended up with a bunch of other miscreants like myself rolling towards the city. Within moments some b-boy ran along the side of the train as it left the platform, and launched a loogie at his boys next to me. It hit me full-on in the face, and the hard-rocks next to me didn’t even laugh as they knew that there were borders you just didn’t cross. The rage I felt was incalculable, and I still see red when I think of the slime running down my cheek.
"By trying to export myself into a place that didn't fully exist I asked works of art to bear my expectation that they could be better than life, that they could redeem life. In fact, I believe they are, and do. My life is dedicated to that belief. But still, I asked too much of them: I asked them also to be both safer than life and fuller, a better family. That they couldn't give. At the depths I'd plumb them, so many perfectly sufficient works of art would become thin, anemic. I sucked the juice out of what I loved until I found myself in a desert, sucking rocks for water."
A lesson I learned a bit too late in life living in this big fucked up and wonderful city is to always take the time to look up, stop and smell the angles; take some time to live in the moment. There are countless days this place I’ve lived all my days drives me to drink — as of late, mostly due to the new breed transplants with no respect for our traditions — but there’s many more days when it feels like a first kiss. Oh New York City, I love you so. You own my heart.
For as far back as he could recall, there was one thing that always brought him comfort. The words that rang true and glowed like burning coal. Words that heralded hope, proclaimed love, celebrated loss, embraced shattered faith, and shook a finger at corruption. Words that carried his broken self to lonesome side-streets, waterfront docks, and beauty parlors filled with sun-pecked faces. Words that caressed with a singular voice, a knowing wink, and left in their wake a warm, seemingly all-knowing security.
“What was astonishing to him was how people seemed to run out of their own being, run out of whatever the stuff was that made them who they were and, drained of themselves, turn into the sort of people they would have once have felt sorry for. It was as though while their lives were rich and full they were secretly sick of themselves and couldn't wait to dispose of their sanity and their health and all sense of proportion so as to get down to that other self, the true self, who was a wholly deluded fuckup."
"We are accustomed to think of ourselves as an emancipated people; we say that we are democratic, liberty-loving, free of prejudices and hatred. This is the melting-pot, the seat of a great human experiment. Beautiful words, full of noble, idealistic sentiment. Actually we are a vulgar, pushing mob whose passions are easily mobilized by demagogues, newspaper men, religious quacks, agitators and such like. To call this a society of free peoples is blasphemous. What have we to offer the world beside the superabundant loot which we recklessly plunder from the earth under the maniacal delusion that this insane activity represents progress and enlightenment? The land of opportunity has become the land of senseless sweat and struggle. The goal of all our striving has long been forgotten. We no longer wish to succor the oppressed and homeless; there is no room in this great, empty land for those who, like our forefathers before us, now seek a place of refuge. Millions of men and women are, or were until very recently, on relief, condemned like guinea pigs to a life of forced idleness. The world meanwhile looks to us with a desperation such as it has never known before. Where is the democratic spirit? Where are the leaders?"
Words by Henry Miller from The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, 1945
"The real damage is done by those millions who want to 'survive.' The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves — or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn."
"When I was very young, I admired hardened criminals locked behind prison doors; I visited inns and taverns they frequented; with their eyes, I saw the blue sky and the blossoming work of the fields; I tracked their scent through cities. They were more powerful than saints, more prudent than explorers — and they, they alone, were witnesses to glory and reason!"