While Trump’s statement that New York is a ghost town is a gross understatement, there are quite a few businesses that have kept their doors closed for the time being.
Along with the surprising closing of a Starbucks, many independent businesses have shut down, including a number of bars and restaurants, the iconic Century 21 store and Amish Market on Park Row.
But let’s be clear, Chicken Little, New York City isn’t close to being dead. As good as that might be for clickbait, it’s bilge water, as my father used to say. Just try to remember that a pandemic is a pandemic, which means that we have to respect the medical authorities, and that there is always something else coming around the corner.
In the meantime, it’s time to treasure that Escape from New York feeling. No doubt we will be sentimental about it in the years to come.
Young Chronicles is my record of a 1983 Cross-Canada hitchhiking trip. This section details my first few days in Newfoundland.
June 11-13, 1983 St. John’s
Stayed at Will and Helen’s house. (Will was my ride into St. John’s.) They insisted that I sleep in their son’s room who moved into the living room. Sat in the kitchen as Helen rolled cigarettes with a small machine and Will did the crossword. Incredibly friendly people who left me on my own during the day and had dinner with me every night. Treated me to fish and chips on my final night.
Went to Signal Hill where I photographed an iceberg and mused: The massive shiny white behemoth silently watches the land as its turquoise blood seeps ever so slowly into the sea. It knows its time is limited yet continues its silent vigil with its very own evaporation. Its powers is incredible, its size immense, yet it is unable to combat the pleasant rays of the sun. The beast sinks to its mother. A gull glides past and defecates upon its melting brow. The mortal evaporative wisdom of an iceberg, never understood, yet always cursed. The giant melts, and I do not. Does the shining beast acknowledge my presence? I say nay. (Yes, indeed, I really did write all of that.)
June 14 St. John’s to Marystown
Ride One: To Trans Canada Highway. Mother and young girl
Ride Two: To Kelce Goose Turnoff. Brown Rabbit. Old guy. Hair all over back seat.
Ride Three: To Argentia Turnoff. Military man from Maine. No talk by his request.
Ride Four: To Marystown Turnoff. Red LTD. Cool Scottish guy with wife and kid. “Watch yourself down there. It’s backwood-sy.”
Ride Five: To Swift Current. Three guys. Quiet times.
Ride Six: To Marystown. Avis Rental. Money-minded Oil jerk.
Ride Seven: 45 Kilometers short of Fortune. Silver car. “If you don’t get a ride, drop out.”
Ride Eight: 30 kilometers short of Fortune. Chrome pickup. Local who loved Red Rider.
Ride Nine: 10 kilometers short of Fortune. Red car. Man named Schneider; hates Toronto.
Ride Ten: Fortune. Young couple from Toronto.
Stayed in Seaview Lounge and Motel. A dump. Cheap curtains, chipped walls, ugly lamps, semi-intact luggage rack and rude inhospitable staff. Went to see the capelin run where many were out with buckets to catch them on the beach. “Hey, kids, out of the water. Let ’em come in!” A number of teenaged boys approached me. One thought I was an undercover cop. He was a bootlegger who dealt acid. Another boy, Corry, was formal. “When you address him, do it politely.”
The ferry to St. Pierre/Miquelon, France was cancelled. I tried to get a ride with a fishing boat but they left without me. Cold and foggy. I went to camp in the bog the second night but was too cold and freaked out by all the bog noises. Went back to Seaview Lounge and Motel and watched Butterflies are Free with Goldie Hawn.
It’s eight months since this pandemic got going, and it looks like another few months (eight?) to go? Yikes! Anyway, I am still accomplishing things, still doing the rehab, getting safely out, breathing and still blogging.
I have applied for a few jobs and, although I did not get the job at The Julliard, I had a solid interview for a job in Paris. No final decisions on that, but I did go to the airport to renew my Global On-Line card.
I’ve made significant progress on my latest edit of the first part of Anori: “A lot to take in? Huh.” She sipped the drink. “First of all, I’m supposed to believe that you’re an interstellar pilot? Is that it? I’m having imaginary drinks in a galactic orb with an interstellar pilot? Is that it?” It’s a mentally taxing affair, but it should be complete in a month when I can take it to another editor and get slaughtered again.
I finished Brian Greene’s exhaustive opus Until the End of Time: Survival rests upon amassing information that accurately describes the world. And progress, in the conventional sense of increased control over our surroundings, requires a clear grasp of how these facts integrate into nature’s workings. Such are the raw materials for fashioning practical ends. They are the basis for what we label objective truth and often associate with scientific understanding. I understood about a third of the book, which is good for me.
I just attended Kate Hudson’s interview of Matthew McConaughey which failed to meet my exceedingly low expectations until Ms. Hudson started to get into her wine.
Mr. McConaughey was under the false pretense that I had tuned in to hear him wax philosophical when all I wanted was ribald tales and a modern-day rendering of his definitive “All right, all right, all right!” from Dazed and Confused. (Truth to be told, the best part of the interview was interpreter, Joe Lucas, just hanging in there.)
I continue to slog through Fishdom, having made it to Level 1821 and avoiding my first purchase (of $4.99), even though the ghost squid and bonus lives were incredibly tempting. I will maintain the purist route, diligently feeding my fish and cleaning my aquariums.
Apparently there is nothing harder to write than a sex scene. (Wink, wink.) It’s either Henry Miller’s sweat (“she commenced rubbing her pussy affectionately”) or Pablo Neruda’s honey (“I want to eat you like skin like a whole almond”). Nothing in between. And that’s where I aim to come in. (Say no more.)
Dee Sinclair is not just a sex worker; she is a performer. She is featured in my last four books – My Bad Side, Anori, Aqaara and Mina – and embodies what sex in literature should be. In the words of Nancy Qualls-Corbett, she is “the bringer of sexual joy and the vessel by which the raw animal instincts are transformed…and made sacred.” (The Scared Prostitute, Nancy Qualls-Corbett.)
As Dee puts it: You know what I’m good at? I’m very good at balancing at the tip, my orgasm looming, you know, on those tender little nerve endings. And just when I might slide off sideways, before I reach that moment, letting that go and pushing harder, I stop, all taut and stupid, clinging to this moment like it might go on forever and keep it like that, everything at the tip, holding my hips high.
I try to make it a long leisurely thing, really thinking like that, and then slide into my mania again, and all I can see is the sex, just the flesh, naked and depraved, everything like I’m a kid again, and I’m holding it, holding it, staring ahead, lost, my hands digging in, snapping ahead, missing the steps as I come out of a dream and finally give in.
I had come in through a cellar door. She came in like she always had; she wasn’t there and then she was. It was a long, empty space, windows on two walls, a bureau in the corner. The light was even and dim. She lay in bed and we talked like we had never been apart. Many things had happened – kids and other traumas – but now we were back to how we had always been. We were content, nervous too.
We wanted nothing more than to be here. She said that. I did too. And it wasn’t guilt. We knew that there was nothing like this. It was pure, almost like that, something to believe in. We had been here and lost it. We were back again. There was no other place to be. Until we drifted apart again.
It was here and would be gone. I knew that. We were making promises we would never meet. Lives had been lived. If it were any other way, this place would not be here. She said that. She said she was as I wanted her, as I pretended to remember, because that was the thing made it so whole, that we would never be there.
Trevor Noah’s autobiography, Born a Crime, is thoughtful and entertaining. More than anything he paints a vivid picture of his relationship with his mother, Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah. She is a fascinating character who defies societal expectations such as her willingness to tell stories of her life with her son: My mother would give me little bursts of her life, random details, stories of having to keep her wits about her to avoid getting raped by strange men in the village. She’d tell me these things, and I’d be like, Lady, clearly you do not know what kind of stories to be telling a ten-year-old. (64)
The Cx Trilogy
Neither does Dee Sinclair, the main character in my book, The Cx Trilogy, meet the norm when it comes to telling stories to her children: “The Obgum captured Space Enchantress Cx and took her to a metallic city above the jungle where she was stripped naked and put on display.” Dee sat on the floor between her daughters’ beds. “The Obgum grabbed her, touching all over her body, as they grunted horribly.”
“Why does every story have to have so much sex?” Calli, the eldest, protested. “You’re always talking about her breasts being fondled and getting penetrated, mother. We’re kids. You can’t say stuff like that to us.”
“Sex isn’t a bad thing, Calli.”
“It shouldn’t be in stories for me and Ashe. Ashe is eight years old. You’re not supposed to be talking about sex like it’s a super power.”
“Why not?” Ashe curled up into a ball and was almost standing on her head. “I think it’s fun.”
“Sex is procreation, Ashe.” Calli insisted. “It’s what adults do, not kids. Not kids.”
“Kids aren’t having sex in my stories,” Dee replied.
Brothers Grimm “The Goose Girl”
The Brothers Grimm produced a collection of folklore from the Germanic culture, featuring frequent violence, such as in the end of The Goose Girl: She deserves no better fate than to be stripped entirely naked, and put in a barrel which is studded inside with pointed nails, and two white horses should be harnessed to it, which will drag her along through one street after another, till she is dead.
Children’s stories have only recently been made sweet and clean, a by-product of American Puritanism, much of that led by Disney. Ironically enough, this is the same culture that has developed a morbid fascination with violence and sex. Repression is the darnedest thing.
Profound understanding is the goal in my writing. To share that with the reader. More simply stated, this might be called empathy. More thoughtfully stated, Saul Bellow put it like this: Only art penetrates what pride, passion, intelligence and habit erect in all sides – the seeming realities of the world. There is another reality, the genuine one, which we lose sight of. This other reality is always sending us hints, which without art, we cannot receive.
It’s not about thinking a thought, but feeling a thought. These are the moments that all of us have which transcend description, indelible moments that mark our existence. I was nine years old the first time I saw the palm trees of Florida out of my plane window. It wasn’t just being in the plane for the first time or seeing the lush green after leaving icy Canada; it was something more. It was magic. It was being transported to a place of dreams.
Years later, after an arduous camping trip on Brooks Peninsula, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, we were ferried back in a small boat through heavy wind and weather. The young man piloting the boat had lost sight of an important landmark, a massive rock which lurked beneath the surface. Just as he stood and wondered aloud, “Where is it?”, we rode slid into a trough and the massive boulder appeared, menacing, dripping thick algae, just behind the boat. The young man was speechless. A moment earlier and we would have capsized and drowned.
I vividly recall the death of my cat, Popo as well as seeing Aguirre Wrath of God the first time on a tiny black and white television. I don’t just remember these things. It is well beyond that. And more profoundly, because it is all in my head, I remember standing alone in a dark Paris apartment the moment I realized that a character I planned to kill off, Chantal Deschampes, decided that she would not leave the book.
She not only survived to the very end of The Sacred Whore, she even made a more recent appearance in Aqaara, Part Two of The Cx Trilogy. I realized that she was not a fictional character but a spirit that had something to say. That was when I knew I wrote.
One of the greatest challenges during this pandemic, which I compounded by getting both knees replaced, has been the lack of movement. Being stuck in my apartment for such an interminably long period made me a dullard who spent too much time either staring out the window or at a screen of some kind.
As I noted in previous posts, I need to move. If I don’t move, I don’t think. It’s that simple. Without motion, my brain barely moves. It’s like mush. It just doesn’t do much. According to Brian Greene (who despite my many references to his words of late is not my guru), thinking is an actual physical event. He uses Boltzmann Brains as well as an entity of his own called The Thinker to demonstrate that thinking demands the physical movement. Particles must dance about in our heads for our brains to function. And that makes it a physical act. There’s a lot more to it, but I don’t understand much – quantum tunneling you say?? – except what I wrote: thinking requires energy.
I know this because, four months after getting my knees replaced, I am back on the bike and my brain is back at it. I figured out a number of blog topics – sacred sex and more! – and narrative fixes in Anori as well as deciding to end a meaningless feud and that I hold no animosity toward the people who fired me (almost) as well as a bunch of other nonsense you don’t want to hear about – all in less than an hour.
I move therefore I think. That’s the thing. Which begs the question: Was Walter Payton the smartest of all?
The general premise of the book is obvious: living through the pandemic and watching the routines of everyday life dissolve away. Our main character, Davis, considers the lack of achievement in his life and then approaching death.
Davis sits on his fire escape every night and listens to the sounds of the city. One specific sound emerges: the communal humming of the buildings. He realizes that his mind has been cluttered and starts to dig into the more essential question of the meaning of this sound. He listens to it intently.
The sound is constant, but Davis realizes that he is not, that the sound swells and fades as does his interest. His mind drifts to other things. He tries to devote himself to the sound. He begins to understand that the sound asks that we do nothing but listen to it. The only thing needed is to listen to the note. His confidence in his understanding of this grows and grows until he realizes that he is now thinking about that – his confidence – and not the sound.
He then understands that he doesn’t understand. He cannot understand. He understands that to listen to that sound, to understand that sound is an impossibility.
Anyway, that’s the general premise. The book needs more of an arc and a whole bunch of interesting characters. And the real trick is to keep the tale sharp and witty! Lots of existential jokes and sex bits too.
In Until the End of Time, Brian Greene states that our only possibility of eternal life is through The creative mind, able to roam freely through imagined worlds, exploring the immortal, meandering through eternity, and meditating on why we might seek or disdain or fear endless time. (380)
God knows that I have striven for immortality in my writing. (I might even settle on one published work!) I have rummaged through my head and flailed away with anything I could find. My family’s distant interest in me has been a source of bitter inspiration. My father’s certitude of always doing the right thing has been a touchstone and albatross. I have pissed off many a person with my righteous thoughts. My terror of the darkness and deep waters has held me back as has my reticence and distrust of people.
I have channeled much of this into Dee Sinclair, a 30-something former sex worker who owns an exotic pet and who appears in four of my books, including My Bad Side and The Cx Trilogy.
Her mother was dead. Her sister was dead. Nani was dead. Everyone was gone. And she was alone. That was how she was used to it being. Alone. She just wanted this corner, Apollo with her, just Apollo, a place she could pull her knees into her chest and be quiet. That’s all she wanted. (Anori)
I deeply admire Dee for her courage and singular focus, for her intense devotion and fury, for her willingness to carry on, knowing that life is only there to disappoint. I desperately need to get her out into the world, to have her thoughts published, so that an audience might understand and care. She must be heard. She is my one and true child.