President Obama’s Inauguration: Good Words on a Good Day

Richard Blanco (from Inaugural Poem One Today): BlancoOneAll of us, as vital as the one light we move through, the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day, equations to solve, history to question or atoms imagine, the “I have a dream” we all keep dreaming or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain the empty desks of twenty children marked absent today and forever. 

President Obama (from Inaugural Day Speech): obamatwoProgress requires us to act in our time. For now decisions are upon us and we cannot afford a delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle. Or substitute spectacle for politics. Or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act.

Martin Luther King: (from final speech given on April 3, 1968): mlkAnd another reason that I’m happy to live in this period is that we’ve been forced to a point where we are going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn’t force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence or nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or non-existent. That is where we are today.

Christian Marclay’s “The Clock”: Artistic Insomnia

Late last night, we decided to visit Christian Marclay’s 24-hour art installation The Clock at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It was a kind of insomnia, a filmic one, reminding us we were awake when most others weren’t.

Mastroianni in "8 1/2"

Mastroianni in “8 1/2”

The piece chronicles moments in film in a full 24-hour loop, focusing on a specific time, thus operating as a virtual clock. We arrived at 10:45pm and expected to watch shortly thereafter until 2:00am or so; however we were told that it would be a three-hour wait. Unbelieving, we went ahead and were oddly heartened when we found the wait was to be only 2 1/2 hours. IMAG2189We moved slowly, very slowly and envied those in front of us who had planned ahead; they had magazines and books.IMAG2200We mused, checked our messages – there were none – took turns going to the bathroom, thrilled at the incremental steps and stared at the slowly looming sign.IMAG2202We finally arrived, yes, three hours later at 1:45am. We were sleepy as soon as we sat but the film was good. More than that. It was exhilarating. We were in a cinematic world at an alluring hour…trapped in the frame with lovers, drunks and confusion.

Fonda in "La Ronde"

Fonda in “La Ronde”

Shue and Cage in "Leaving Las Vegas"

Shue and Cage in “Leaving Las Vegas”

"Planes, Trains and Automobiles"

“Planes, Trains and Automobiles”

A woman beside us kept turning on her phone, and I had had enough. I leaned over, “Please stop playing with your phone.” She glared back. “I’m not playing. I’m texting my son.” What was she thinking? She was missing it! These were the witching hours of celluloid, the time of transition, from darkest night, lost in thought, to the realization of the approaching day. This was the time of winding clocks, standing naked by the window and watching emus walk through the bedroom.

90years

"Tales of Ordinary Lives"

“Tales of Ordinary Lives”

"Phantom of Liberty"

“Phantom of Liberty”

The man beside me, a vague mix between Andy Warhol and John Cale in pale sunglasses and what looked like a tea cosy draped on his head, was fully reclined and began to snore; it was 4:00am. teacosyWe considered staying longer – until 5:00am and beyond – but thought it better to come back another time, whenever the event may be staged again. We would just have to go to bed early and have Marclay’s film as our virtual alarm clock for another day. IMAG2214

Writing Process: My Awkweird Self

I pull the album from the shelf. I open it to a random page. An odd figure is there. The elbows are crooked, the posture awkward, everything unsure. It’s me.IMAG2185I’m a teenager. I think I know better than I do. I know I do. I say and do things because nobody stops me. I just want to grow up. I want out of this childish world. IMAG2186I call myself Dr. Shades as I play basketball in the backyard; I bounce in a chair when I listen to The Partridge Family. partridge-familyI remember running out the door and yelling something stupid. I was referring to a crazy idea in my head; my mother thought it was aimed at her. These memories aren’t treasured. As much as I might decry the lack of a sanctuary in Manhattan’s public spaces, the danger of the cranes overhead, this is the most unsettling aspect of writing, the reflecting, what I find inside, remembering what I wanted to forget so long ago. To quote Jodie Foster from her 2013 Golden Globes speech: “It’s like a home-movie nightmare that just won’t end.” jodiefosterIt might appear cute to others, but it is utterly stupid, half-baked and wretched, so much so that I’m even willing to consider the notion presented in the film Looper, that of killing off this version of myself…just to get rid of it, the cringing, the inadvertent shivers, the denial. It’s almost a thought and then it isn’t. The truth is that I hate guns, and that, in the end, like Alvy Singer, “I have to keep going through it because I need the eggs.”IMAG2188

New York Cranes

The New York Crane is not a rare bird. It can be see everywhere in the city, especially in Downtown Manhattan. IMAG2180As awkward and innocuous as they may appear, they have a tendency to collapse.

91st Street - 2008

91st Street – May 2008

34th Street - April 2012

34th Street – April 2012

51st Street -2012

57th Street -October 2012

Long Island City - 2013

Long Island City – January 2013

It is nerving to see Downtown Manhattan resemble a nesting ground for these cranes.

Nassau and Anne Streets

Nassau and Anne Streets

John Street

John and Nassau Streets

World Trade Center Site

World Trade Center Site

No matter how well these things might be functioning, I must admit to half-expecting one of them to “fall like a dinosaur” at any moment. I look forward to the day when they find another place to roost.

Manhattan Retreat

Downtown Manhattan is a noisy neighbourhood, making it hard finding a place to think. For example, while there is a park around the corner….

John Street Methodist Church Park

John Street Methodist Church Park

It is claustrophobic, more akin to a prison yard than a park. City Hall Park offers a beautiful fountain, festively decorated during the winter, for contemplation… IMAG2156But the traffic, on Park Row and Broadway, is a never-ending story. IMAG2174The East River Esplanade looks like it might have moments of quiet…

East River Esplande

If not for the fact that the traffic on FDR Drive Overpass is worse.

FDR Drive above South Street and East River Esplanade

The World Trade Memorial has potential as a place of solace…

World Trade Memorial

Once the security checkpoints are gone and the construction is complete.

World Trade One has completion date of 2014

World Trade One projected completion date: 2014

Until then, I will have to accept that the only time silence comes anywhere around here is when a hurricane comes to town. IMAG0027But then the power is gone too…unless I get a generator. And there’s no quiet in that.

Room Full of Mirrored Ellipticals

I do my work-out in a room full of mirrors. My head bobs up and down over a small blank TV screen, up and down, and I look back at myself staring back, up and down, my face there and then not, and then another room behind that, like this one, but backwards, the back of my head behind that. DSCN2587It’s a pair of me, and another, another and another, the room warping off in a limitless arc, as if on a space station, or so I tell myself, in limbo. I am on this machine almost every day. It’s good for my lungs and heart and my mind. An hour every day. ellipNo sprints and hills for me. I cannot run. I ruined my knees years ago on my bike trip with Adam Davidson. We stopped at Zermatt for a day of skiing on the Matterhorn. I had never skied before, but it was July, and it was father’s favorite mountain. matterhornI was out of control – like the rest of the trip – and crashed again and again and eventually completely wiped out and tore up my knee. But I digress. I am on this elliptical machine every day with these mirrors, reflecting, thinking. That’s the point. That’s where I sort everything out. That’s where I thought about this.

Writing about Distant Lands

There is a certain schizoid imbalance to writing about distant lands.

Battle Harbour, Labrador

Battle Harbour, Labrador

My mind is half in the arctic, but when I walk the dog, I know that I am a long way from that.

John Street, Downtown Manhattan

John Street, Downtown Manhattan

I think of vast expanses, glacial winds, privation and suffering and remember that I need to get pecorino cheese and a nice Sicilian white for dinner.

Knud Rasmussen

One of the greatest thrills in writing is the initial research. The setting for my upcoming novel will likely be in the high arctic. And so I have come across the life and words of Knud Rasmussen (1879-1933), who led six major expeditions over his lifetime, circumnavigating his native Greenland and crossing the Arctic. KnudRasmussenAll true wisdom is only to be found far from dwellings of man, in the great solitudes; and it can only be attained by great suffering. Suffering and privation are the only things that can open the mind of man to that which is hidden from his fellows.

Dark Matter: Toxic People in Life

I have had the misfortune of being wronged by a most unpleasant individual for a number of years now. He seemed like a friendly enough person when I first met him at my place of work, four years ago now. He was new to the city and needed help and support. Columbus 011And so it was a complete shock to be suddenly subject to his abuse, to hear that he had slandered me to friends, and then was insulted directly over and over again. He dragged others into his damaged and crazed world. He made it his mission to attack me and eventually orchestrated a campaign of lies against me, with the aim of having me removed from my job. He is, without a doubt, one of the worst, most damaged people I have ever known. It has been awful to have had him in my life. dark-matter-galaxy-1920Time has passed. I recently began research for my new book, my science fiction trilogy journey into space. I have been reading about dark matter. No one knows what dark matter is, just that it is there only because of how it affects the orbits of suns and galaxies. It obstructs. It obscures. And it is said to comprise the majority of matter in the universe.IMAG1302This concept of dark matter has made me think. As much as I would rather not have had this damaged person in my life, I have come to realize that he is dark matter for me. He has obscured and obstructed; he has done everything he can to ruin my path.apollolaunchHowever the real question for me is how well I respond to this, how well I can maintain my journey through the stars. While it has been disorienting at times, I have righted my course and expect this piece of dark matter to dissolve behind me, to collapse into itself and, in all likelihood, drag other bits of dark, and waste, matter with it. And more than that, I have been readied for the next bit of dark matter coming my way.

Maiden Lane, Manhattan: 10 Weeks after Hurricane Sandy

The television cameras recently returned to the pier at the foot of Maiden Lane in Manhattan. IMAG2124This wasn’t for news on Hurricane Sandy, but a ferry accident in which 90 people were injured. manhattan ferryIt has now been over ten weeks since Hurricane Sandy, and this part of Manhattan, around Maiden Lane, remains much the same. IMAG2117The external generators and boilers are still in the streets. IMAG2115Many of the businesses remain closed. IMAG2120Yes, the Toyota Prius was removed, but it was just replaced by another external generator.

December 8, 2012

December 8, 2012

January 10, 2013

January 10, 2013

Now I am keeping watch on a pair of delivery bicycles which have been chained to the same spot since the storm.

November 15, 2012

November 15, 2012

January 10, 2013

January 10, 2013

It will be odd when all of these things are finally removed…by thieves or the city.