You can’t break the rules until you know you’ve been following them

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Age of Empires exhibit

 

What if nothing—nothing—depended on you? What if everything and everyone your life currently contains would not only survive but in all probability do quite well were you no longer involved with anything? Say you moved to Cleveland or becoming a hermit or even hmm…

Once again the obvious had occurred to me, something that seems to be more and more a wonderful byproduct of living long enough. In this case I’d actually realized that that is exactly what will happen when I die, and that works! And the only ‘proof’ of that is that there is no longer any desire, any craving to be in any way indispensable re any aspect of human or planetary existence. Just let everything and everybody be in charge of its own life. I might be nice or annoying or useful to have me around, but when push comes to shove, life without me will continue unabated.

A lovely consequence of this insight is that there’s no bucket-list. Were my life on earth end today there would be no one whom I’ve loved whom I’ve not told that or didn’t need to. There are no bike rides I’d still long to do or photos to take. No blog entries unposted or water aerobics classes unattended. No countries there’d be that I must visit—not that I’ve been to all, of course. Even the trip I’ve scheduled for next spring to the “5 Stans” should it not happen would not leave me with regret nor the folks in those countries saddened at my non-appearance. It will all be all right.

What a phenomenal “load off” to know this! And it’s not the only bit of blessed information to have worked its way into my consciousness recently. It follows the equally great release I was granted last spring when Simon Child, leader of a Silent Illumination retreat I’d attended upstate told us that:

  1. We have all internalized or accepted consciously sets of “rules” by which we live our lives.
  2. These rules are abstractions and thus not reality.
  3. Trying to abide by them often puts us in conflict with reality and thus creates suffering.
  4. You don’t want that!

All this came together last night. I was sitting in meditation with a small group of folks vastly more advanced in the practice than I. Apparently one of my rules for this situation was “You must sit perfectly!” I’m pretty sure I got this rule from Shunryu Suzuki, a teacher close to my heart. Actually he said, “To take this posture is itself to have the right state of mind. There is no need to obtain some special state of mind.” No biggie. I can sit as still and in as good posture as the next guy. Nobody knows what chaos is running through my head at any particular moment–which, it would seem, is a perfectly permissible state of mind–so that’s covered. Just sit still…until along came the backache!

And what a backache! All mental chaos disappeared, swallowed up into the outrageous agony lower right just above the waist and below the rib cage. My mind—my soul, my Buddha Nature, my Essence—probably my amygdala, pleaded with me to move, to twist, to rub the spot, to stand up from my kneeling bench, run outside and scream.

But no—nnnoooo—0! That would be breaking my “perfect meditator” rule. And it wasn’t about looking bad in front of these folks. Hell no! These good, loving souls weren’t about to turn on me for revealing some humanity. This was about me looking bad to me. And just in case I was slipping, Rule Voice kicked it up with the list of reinforcers:

  1. You’ll disturb the others if you move.
  2. They’ll think less of you.
  3. Rubbing the pain might not help.
  4. You’ll feel bad that you moved. You’ll be a failure again!

Rule Voice knew that I was weakening, that somewhere in my intelligence the voice of Simon Child was again being heard. And that voice now echoed brilliantly. RV reinforcers fell like chickens in front of a hungry man with a Kalashnikov AK-47.

  1. We’re meditating in Manhattan. We’re hearing traffic, street conversations, crying babies, halve of phone conversations, and that’s not disturbing anybody. Besides, meditation isn’t about escaping reality. It’s ultimately about refining (I almost said perfecting) our awareness of that reality as inseparable from us.
  2. No they won’t.
  3. Not rubbing the pain in the belief that it will not work is predicting the future—again a departure from reality.
  4. Feeling badly that l’d moved could not possibly feel as bad as the back does right now.

Rule Voice was not about to give up: “Those are rationalizations!”

My Voice responded silently—if not, “Yeah, yeah.”

I reached around with my left hand and began to massage, to knead, to rub, pull and push the painful area. Sure enough, just doing that, just overcoming the misery being imposed by Rule Voice created a smile deep in the deepest aspects of me.

And yes, there was another benefit: The pain left enough to allow another half hour of meditation on the bench.

Published in: on July 22, 2017 at 3:09 pm  Comments (8)  

Silent? Illumination

At the end of a nine day Silent Illumination meditation retreat l attended recently the instructor, Simon Child alerted us that many people think of meditation retreats as semi-luxurious vacations from the stress of the world. “Don’t be surprised,” he warned us, “when folks ask you ‘did you have a good time?’ or ‘How was the Jacuzzi?’ He also asked we write a report on our experience. I hope the below is an appropriate response to both the warning and the request.

 

Silent Illumination Retreat Report

 

After the storm

Sunlight streams

Over the spillway

 

For the first four days of this late spring nine day retreat in the Catskills the only times I’d take off my jacket would be to step into the shower or slide into my sleeping bag. By the middle of the fifth day, however, temperature was no longer an issue, that consideration having been obliterated by the merciless throbbing in both my left and right calf muscles. I meditate astride a seiza, the Japanese kneeling bench much more comfortable for me than a traditional cushion—at least until now. Behind me I could see, first with anger then jealousy, a few other retreatants sitting in chairs.

Fine for them,” the self-righteous voice in my head spoke thru the pain.  “I would never begrudge anyone that which they needed.” But I knew—deep down, truly knew—not for me. In my book chairing was the revelation of a weakness in no way mine. I could not be a wimp and still expect a successful retreat.

I was sweating. Simon had instructed us that Silent Illumination begins with locating the mind within the body, but not like this. This wasn’t observation and investigation. This was hell. This was suffering and suffering well beyond any conceivable strategy to end it. I sat tortured in my seventy-five year old body, steeped in self-pity and on the verge of tears while Suffering screamed brilliantly loud and clear that I was in the wrong place and, yes, at the wrong time and that my only sensible option was escape.

“Get up! Take the seiza, fold the towel, slink out the Chan Hall door, return to the dorm, pack and hitchhike to the nearest train station. Do it now!”

Pain and panic flooded my mind as I leaned forward to make my exit. It was then that Awareness—blessed Awareness–spoke:

Danger! Danger!

Great Doubt! Great Doubt!  Great Doubt!

Danger! Danger!

Aha! Moment of insight: My suffering was not being created by my legs but by my mind in the guise of male ego. This filter of judgements and commandments interposed between the world and my awareness of it was keeping me from responding appropriately to the situation at hand. Simon had mentioned the rulebooks we write or adopt and then force ourselves to live by, and here mine was—titled in bright gold script on its shiny red jacket:

Do’s and Don’ts of Real Men!

I rose, folded the seiza and, rather than slink out the door, I placed myself on a chair!  A brief smile and I returned gratefully to Silent Illumination practice.

*   *   *

For the remainder of the retreat my body continued as the entry point for more investigations. Each would be accompanied by sensations I would have previously identified as pains. None came with drama.  Never again did it occur to me that I might be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Right here-right now was just fine.

 

Published in: on June 17, 2017 at 11:30 am  Comments (10)  

The day before spring

 …Heaven brings life into being and Heaven takes life away;

there is nothing to fear about death.

                                                   — Saigo Nanshu

 

The previous night Yoshiro had slept fitfully.  On waking he remembered only one dream, and it quickly vanished.  In it he was himself but at no more than himself at three or four years.  He sat in a classroom of the antique style.  Desks and chairs were bolted to the bare wood floor in precise rows.  All was grotesquely outsized.  His feet were suspended several meters above the floor.  The teacher, gigantic and dressed in a dull, conservative tradition, wore her hair piled up in a huge topknot that doubled her height.  Her obi, a solid and disturbingly shining green wrapped tightly about her waist looked in his dream like a flattened eel.  She lumbered toward him in a state of throbbing agitation, waving a ruler in the air, an actual eel with tongue extended and blood-red saliva spraying from its mouth.  Clearly she was screaming at him, but no sound came from her moving lips.

Terrified Child Yoshiro struggled to get down from the high seat.  High above the floor his legs flailed helplessly in the air.  The sandals his mother had so painstakingly woven for him—how did he know this?—flew from his feet.  Alas, the narrow space between the fixed positions of desk and chair permitted no room for him to descend.  Try as he might he could not slide sideways, held in place by an unseen force he could not name.  He remembered the strong aroma of rotting cabbages.  Yoshiro cried out for mercy as she approached, but, like her mouth, his too made no sound.  As she arrived at his desk Sleeping Yoshiro’s bladder called him awake.

Several times this night he arose to urinate.

 

Most of their bedroom was filled by a Western-style bed, which as Yoshiro noted first with disbelief and then resignation, at this moment stood invisible under several vacuum-flattened clear plastic bags of her summer clothing themselves under mounds of carefully folded winter garments.   The door to the emptied closet stood ajar.  Barely inside the doorway he smiled with his mouth only.  He recalled the room as it had been before their now decades old cohabitation, a time when it held only his desk, its chair and a small altar for the statue of Buddha he’d brought back from a trip to Kyoto.  He’d refer to it as his Heian Period, the great classical period in Japanese history.  Friends—acquaintances really and more Western in orientation than Yoshiro—called it his time of waiting to afford furniture.

He sighed.

“If you—when you—need help,” he offered, turning toward the door and his writing desk—now in the common room—“just call.”  Yoshiro was one of those few in Tokyo experimenting with a freelance existence rather than opt for the security of “company man” status.  He wrote advertising text.  Between assignments—and frequently his situation was such—he was one of those filling time by writing haiku or photographing flowers.

“Maybe after dinner,” Ko mumbled from her desk.  Lost in playing American solitaire on the computer—a growing preoccupation she justified as a way to rest her tired back—the enthusiasm of her reply matched exactly that of his offer to be of assistance.

“As long as we have the bed for sleeping,” he called out with an uneasy lightness.

“We have the futon,” she answered perfunctorily referring to the couch in the common room.  “It pulls out nicely to sleep two.”  Before her sentence ended Yoshiro had veered from both his path and his offer.  He passed through the apartment door, closing it with deliberate quietness, bypassed the elevator as had become his custom of late and started down the stairs to the street seven flights below.

This day was Setsubun, the day before spring.  The weather was appropriately uncertain.  Four flights from the street he stopped abruptly, reversed and climbed back up the stairs.  As quietly as he had just exited, he re-entered the apartment, snatched his maroon Uniqlo jacket from the shelf near the door and once more exited.  Soon enough he was stepping through the ground floor fire door onto the street.  Ueno Onshi Park but two blocks away filled his mind.  Cherry blossom viewing was still weeks distant.  This early in the season and late in the day—shadows had already begun to lengthen—it would surely offer all the quiet he needed to digest his rising feelings.

 

Akemi means bright beauty.  Her parents, fresh from the countryside at the time of her birth, named her thusly in the belief that it would guide her destiny.  As things turned out they were correct.  From her first moments free from mother’s confining womb through the very instant she entered Ueno Onshi Park her days had been a succession of seeming successes guided, if not compelled, by her physical appearance.

In any period of Japanese history Akemi would have been found unsettlingly beautiful.  She stood just taller than an average Japanese male and thus sought after as a trophy by men of power.  Her desirability was further enhanced by a pale—but not at all unhealthy—complexion offset by full and radiantly shining black hair which, regardless of fashion, she wore midway down her shoulder blades.  This, much like her large, round, exquisitely dark eyes, removed her from fleeting fashion trends and placed her in that timeless aesthetic beyond any era.  Appropriately her weight—without an excess of exercise or concern for diet on her part—more than suited both her height and her culture.

Her easy smile always appeared unprovoked by the immediate but rather in response to something deeply internal.  Men seeing Akemi’s face were quick to label her expression serene while hoping that energies more dynamic were concealed beneath.

How often though is happiness spoiled by the belief that it is undeserved?  Unexpectedly sensitive Akemi had not been raised in nor discovered on her own a religion or even a philosophy offering a judgmental supreme being or some systematic structure for personal evaluation.  Nevertheless she had come to believe that somewhere beyond consciousness and, perhaps reality, there was indeed a being all-powerful.  Sadly, she was quite sure that being was intent on and poised to snatch away at any moment all the accumulated beneficence that had flowed virtually uninterrupted into her life.  Its reason?  Simple, direct response to her having done nothing whatsoever to have earned it.  So it was, with no supernatural intercessor to intercede for her wellbeing, she assuaged her feelings of inadequacy through traditional daily offerings to her ancestors—a flower or a fruit, surely nothing conspicuous—in hopes that they might somehow ameliorate that fate she saw as imminent.

To facilitate this ritual and hedge her bets, she’d bring her daily gift for the spirit world to Ueno Park and its statue of Saigo Takamori.  Takamori, called Japan’s last true samurai, stood honored at the southern entrance to the park, ennobled while walking his dog.   Under the name Saigo Nanshu he had not only written poetry but also a philosophical manual, Instruction of Dying, advice on the only eventuality Akemi saw at this juncture as holding the potential to relieve her of her ever present, if well concealed, anxiety.

On this Setsubun when she finished her entreaty to Nanshu-san and bowed, Akemi opened her eyes only to discover herself standing shoulder-to-shoulder with sad Yoshiro.  A slight chill riding on the breeze of impending evening, Yoshiro now wore the maroon jacket.  He, regardless of the preoccupations which led him to the park, stood like so many others drawn to his particular location by her radiance.  (Later he would deny this.  His denial, however, would read hollow to some and contemptible to others.)  Akemi quickly covered her mouth, giggled just audibly and stepped back.  Yoshiro wanted so to smile, but found he could not.  Flushed, he batted his eyes hoping to regain contact with the reality he’d temporarily abandoned.  He coughed.  There then passed a moment that might have seemed to an outsider like an eye blink, but to the two of them represented eternity.  He cleared his dry throat.

“The statue is well lit by the late afternoon sun.” He spoke with the authority one might expect of a television newscaster.  She let the moment for her response pass.  He continued.  “It is well that Takamori-san is located as he is.”  He hated himself for the drivel coming from his mouth and despised even more the pomposity with which he delivered it.  If he had spoken to beloved Ko as he was now speaking to this stranger, she would have laughed outright and, like a mother to her child trying too hard, kissed him on the nose.  Akemi, long accustomed to men making fools of themselves in her presence by their extended effort not to appear foolish, continued with her mouth covered still smiling with her eyes.  She giggled once more.  Yoshiro perceived a great deep hole equaled in its depth only by his own compulsion to fill it.

“You know, he was a samurai and a poet.”

Akemi lowered her hand.  Her smile lost, she stared at the ground between her feet.

“Weren’t they all poets, the great warriors,” she asked the air above her breasts.  Yoshiro had no answer.  He, too, focused on the ground.  The sun touched the tops of the still bare tree branches black against the orange-yellow sky.  The uu-gah of a police car klaxon in the far distance made its way to their ears and just as quickly disappeared into the dull roar of rush hour.  A gaggle of passing uniformed schoolchildren noted them and smiled among themselves.  When stillness returned Akemi spoke just above a whisper.

“Have you ever considered suicide?”

Yoshiro looked up abruptly.  “No!”  Had he answered too quickly?  “Of course not…that is…” He paused.  He returned his gaze to the spot of bare earth where so many had stood to view the last great samurai.  “Yes.”

Akemi shivered.  Without thought Yoshiro removed his jacket and leaned toward her, extending the garment ahead of him as a torero might hold a cape.  She turned away at the final moment brushing against the jacket.  His phone fell from its pocket and clattered to the ground.

“No!” She stepped back.  “You must put it back on.  You’ll be cold.”  His face flushed again.  He stooped to pick up the phone.

“But you, you’re—.”  She took two crab-like side steps toward the Southern gate and the street.  He stood up.

“I must be going,” Akemi whispered to herself then repeated it to Yoshiro.  She turned and walked now at full stride toward the street.  Yoshiro silent, rigid, stared after her.

The last rays of the setting sun left his face.   Ueno Onshi Park stood gray about him, a perfect foreground for the street lights and those in the windows of the various buildings beyond.  Yoshiro did not notice.  He stared at the phone held tightly in his hand.  Ko, despite her agonized back and her various chores would be waiting dinner.  There was a market on the way home.  Something might be needed.  A bottle of wine would be nice.  He flipped open the old fashioned clamshell.  Ko’s number was the first he’d entered into it all those years ago.  Still and as always, he dialed from memory one digit at a time: 03-7653-7821.

 

The end

Published in: on June 6, 2017 at 10:24 am  Comments (10)  

Sometimes it’s just about color

More snaps from Spain and Portugal. Aside from some details in Seville’s Real Alczazar and morning sunlight kissing Lisbon there’s nothing famous in this selection.They really are just about the–not always bright–colors.

Malaga

 

Lisbon

 

Madrid Airport

 

Barcelona tour bus

 

Palma Mallorca Harbor

 

Cartagena

 

Cartagena

 

Cartagena

 

Cartagena

 

Malaga’s Jewish Quarter

 

Gibralter

 

Gibralter: World War II Tunnels

 

Seville: Real Alcazar

 

Seville: Real Alcazar

 

Cordoba

 

Loule Portugal

 

Loule to cork factory, Portugal

 

Loule to cork factory, Portugal

 

Francisco Carrusca Cork Factory, Portugal

 

Published in: on May 22, 2017 at 10:57 pm  Comments (16)  

Not really Spain & Portugal (& Gibraltar)

Bobbie and I recently spent 15 days–when you add in travel time–cruising the Iberian coastline from Barcelona south to Gibraltar then north ultimately to Lisbon. The trip was delightful. We were well cared for at every moment by Grand Circle Cruise Line’s program director and crew who genuinely seemed to enjoy their tasks and our presence. At each of a dozen stops we saw magnificent churches, picturesque old towns (with the occasional no-longer-Jewish Jewish Quarter,) Medieval and Roman and–perhaps most remarkably–Phoenician ruins. Sagrada Familia, the Gaudi church still being built in Barcelona, remains the high point of this trip for me. The only way I could make a poor photograph in this place was by accidentally shooting my feet or the back of some other tourist’s head as she passed between me and my intended target–and yes, I did both.

Along with documenting the trip to re-trigger our memories in whatever distant future might remain to us, I also found more than enough time and subject matter to do some of my more personal visuals. Here–and in no way intended to represent our trip–are a few of my current favorites.

Enjoy!

Leaving the Clio

 

Gaudi’s Casa Batllo at night, Barcelona

 

Sagrada Familia

 

Valencia

 

Reservatauro Rondo

 

Malaga’s Jewish Quarter

 

Malaga’s Jewish Quarter

 

Ray

 

Gibralter: Macaque monkey

 

Seville: Jewish Quarter

 

Seville: Plaza de Espana

 

Seville: Holy Week Parade float carrier

 

The road to Cordoba

 

Cordoba: Jewish quarter

 

Cordoba: Mezquita-Catedral de Cordoba

 

Cordoba: Mezquita-Catedral de Cordoba

 

Loule Portugal

 

Loule Portugal

 

Francisco Carrusca Cork Factory, Portugal

 

Alfama, Lisbon

 

Published in: on May 4, 2017 at 11:37 am  Comments (21)  

Leave a comment!

Back in July I posted my first batch of haiga. Since I had only just learned of them myself, I figured no one else in the world knew what they were and so included a definition. It went like this:

Haiga is a combination of visual image and poetry, each to enrich the other and, ultimately, to lead the reader/viewer beyond what is presented toward what their own life experience suggests.

The posting garnered sixteen comments–all of them favorable. That made me feel good enough that I posted another batch. Imagine my surprise when this second group resulted in just one (!) comment. Granted it was favorable, but, you know, just one?! After all, there were thirteen of the little guys, thirteen!

Whatever, I was having so much fun  that I wasn’t about to stop just because nobody except for cousin Sharyn seemed to give a damn. To make a story that isn’t particularly long shorter, I’ve since tucked my ego in its own little sleeping bag and spent a remarkable amount of the last few months creating more haiga. I’ve even begun fantasizing publishing a book of the little rascals. But, of course, that’s about me.

Here’s where you come in. Below are a few of the newer haiga.

  • Do you like them?
  • Do you not?
  • Do they lead you off into thinking about moments in your own life?
  • Do you simply not give a damn?

Tell me. I’m strong enough to hear your truth. Please use the “Leave a comment” option at the end of this to make your feelings known.

Trust me, this is definitely not (NOT!) about will you buy the book!

Here they are:

 

 

 

Published in: on March 12, 2017 at 9:36 pm  Comments (23)  

A very short story and some snaps

I don’t know…whatever

“Damn it Dick, the whole world’s goin’ to hell in a handbasket, and all you want to do is take photos of things we’ve all already seen—I mean sidewalks and sunlight and shit–and drink cheap tequila on the rocks in bars that claim to be either Black or Irish.”

‘Dick,’ Goldberg thought. Seventy-five fucking years old and he still couldn’t be sure if he was being called by a nickname name or a body part. “So show me a Jewish bar in New York–a real one. I don’t mean one that’s just owned by a Jew. Latanzzi’s is owned by a Jew. Maison Fou Fou is owned by a Jew.”

“You mean ‘Frou Frou.’”

“Whatever. Just show me one where there’s Klezmer music on the box—not Steve Lawrence and Edie Gorme or the Non-Nazi Clams.“

“And batter fried lox-wings with cream cheese dip?”

“Yeah, cream cheese fuckin’ dip twelve for a dozen!” Dick and Ron stared at each other, silent for the moment, then raised their glasses.

Death to the Kaiser!

And there it was, the toast of great and total healing, the eraser obliterating whatever grief each—however smiling—might have caused the other in the preceding fifteen minutes of lunacy projected as fact.

*     *     *

And now for some photos of things we’ve all seen.

Verdi Square

Verdi Square

 

Rain & leaves 5

Rain & leaves

 

Madison Av & low 80's

Madison Av & low 80’s

 

Bow Bridge Central Park

Bow Bridge Central Park

 

Central Park snow

Central Park snow

 

Magic Hour

Magic Hour

 

Midtown from Reservoir

Midtown from Reservoir

 

The Ramble

The Ramble

 

Chambers Street

Chambers Street

 

Published in: on January 31, 2017 at 5:41 pm  Comments (16)  

South India & Sri Lanka Snaps: the book

Here yet again is the link to a book of  my 196 favorites of the 1500+ taken on the trip.

http://www.blurb.com/b/7540115-south-india-sri-lanka

Blurb is an online publisher that does wonderful work. Being a book of snaps, however, it is prohibitively expensive. Using this link you can see the entire tome all for free!

Negombo airport

Negombo airport

Enjoy!

 

Goldberg

Published in: on December 13, 2016 at 3:14 pm  Comments (1)  

Kasimedu Fishing Harbour, Royapuram

Again to the north of central Chennai, this time in the Kasimedu Fishing Harbour of Royapuram. It is early morning and already hundreds of boats have brought in their catch from the Bay of Bengal for the fish auction held each morning. The shapes and colors, the crowds and smells and energy of this place engulf the senses without pausing for considerations of like or dislike, pleasant or unpleasant: pure excitement! Still even the busiest fishmongers, cleaners and helpers seem to have both time and inclination to welcome the foreign visitors.

Kasimedu Fishing Village, Mamallapuram

 

Kasimedu Fishing Harbour, Royapuram

 

Kasimedu Fishing Harbour, Royapuram

 

Kasimedu Fishing Harbour, Royapuram

 

Kasimedu Fishing Harbour, Royapuram

 

Kasimedu Fishing Harbour, Royapuram

Even looking

thru your camera

it is me you see.

 

Kasimedu Fishing Harbour, Royapuram

 

Kasimedu Fishing Harbour, Royapuram

 

Kasimedu Fishing Harbour, Royapuram

You!

Hey!

Look everywhere!

 

Kasimedu Fishing Harbour, Royapuram

 

Kasimedu Fishing Harbour, Royapuram

 

Kasimedu Fishing Harbour, Royapuram

 

Kasimedu Fishing Harbour, Royapuram

 

 

 

 

Published in: on November 21, 2016 at 5:34 pm  Comments (20)  

South India and Sri Lanka, First Glance

Chennai

Tamil Nadu, the South Indian state on the Bay of Bengal, includes Chennai, Mamallapuram, Chengalpattu and Kanchipuram. Here marked the start of my 18 day visit to South India and Sri Lanka with Stalin,

Stalin V

a magnificent guide, and six truly experienced travelers. Our trip, so abundant in its events and aromas, its sights and tastes and textures, goes well beyond my ability to document or encapsulate it. One blogpost will certainly not do.

I’m not going to begin with the beauty shots or even the exotica. I’ll start with just a few images and a very few words taken from Chennai’s George Town, an area of dense and intense wholesale, retail and distribution activities. More than the sounds or the smells or the jostling I experienced here, the attitudes–yes! attitudes–I encountered here foretold all my subsequent interactions with folks I’d met or just rub up against in the rush of life in this remarkable tropical world. Everywhere–even in Kerala, the Upper West Side of South India–people were simultaneously humble in their lives and proud of what they did, determined to get things done but willing to pause when pausing was the only–or most desirable–option.

Yes, I’d return in a minute.

Georgetown, Chennai

100 kilos

balanced above his grin–

“I work in George Town!”

 

Georgetown, Chennai

 

Georgetown, Chennai

Age–

and I hope it is not you–

is not me.

 

Georgetown, Chennai

 

 

Georgetown, Chennai

The English drive on the left

Americans drive on the right

We drive wherever we can.

 

Georgetown, Chennai

 

 

Georgetown, Chennai

 

 

Georgetown, Chennai

 

 

Georgetown, Chennai

 

 

Georgetown, Chennai

You travel so far

to watch me work—

I am honored.

 

Published in: on November 15, 2016 at 4:19 pm  Comments (25)  

Everything–almost–is beautiful!

In 1970 Ray Stevens wrote a theme song for his TV show. The song: “Everything is Beautiful.” Stevens was better known for comedy songs like “The Streak,” “Ahab, The Arab,” and “Harry The Hairy Ape,” but that didn’t deter America from treasuring this particular ditty. Nor did it keep us few chosen souls from accepting it as truth. In testimony to that truth I submit the following snaps.

First, nothing more than a dark hallway .

175 W 76

 

Next part of the front of a building that used to be something else.

Madison Av in the high 70's

 

An old Japanese jug…

Japanese collection, MMA

 

The wet street outside a gallery with not much of interest inside.

W 22 in the rain

 

Another gallery with art so uninteresting as to make me admire the ceiling:

Gallery skylight

 

And another gallery where the high point was the stairwell:

Hansen-Worth Gallery

 

And a gallery where even the floor beat what was on the walls.

Gallery floor

and another tree growing in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

 

‘Catch my drift?

OSGEMEOS, Silence of the Music

OSGEMEOS, Silence of the Music

 

Published in: on October 4, 2016 at 8:26 pm  Comments (5)  

Second Haiga

Two months ago I tried something new, haiga.  I introduced the form like this:

Haiga is a Japanese concept for simple pictures combined with poetry, usually meaning haiku…It can be watercolor paintings, photographs or collages with a poem of any genre that is integrated into the composition. Sometimes the poem is handwritten or it can be computer generated, depending on the artist’s taste.

Haiga is a combination of visual image and poetry, each to enrich the other and, ultimately, to lead the reader/viewer beyond what is presented toward what their own life experience suggests.

Here is the second batch. The first is from a former life of mine, then a series using photos taken in Thailand back in 2004 and finally one snap from Vietnam made in 2013.

Enjoy! (And please leave a comment.)

 

 

1-100_2637

 

Poling on the Ping River

Poling on the Ping River

2-image0-055

 

3-image0-150

 

Floating Market of Damern Saduak, Rajburi Province

Floating Market of Damern Saduak, Rajburi Province

 

Sukhothai: Wat Mahathat

Sukhothai: Wat Mahathat

 

along River Kwai

along River Kwai

 

Inside the Long Son bell, Nha Trang

Inside the Long Son bell, Nha Trang

Published in: on September 18, 2016 at 11:55 am  Comments (1)  

A confession

While I certainly thank all of you who’ve praised my photography, the truth is, it’s not about me. I just happen to spend more and more of my time–with my camera, of course–in the right place. Sunday offers a perfect example of what I’m talking about.

Bobbie’s daughter Lynn from Harwinton, Connecticut spent this weekend with us. She brought along her grandson from Las Vegas, Michael.  Here they are at the American Museum of Natural History the day after the event I’m about to report and, of course, illustrate.

Lynn & Michael Turner

We’d gone to the Statue at Mike’s request. His status as Lynn’s grandchild and my great grand child as well as this being a rare visit from his home on an Air Force base in the Nevada desert gave all his requests great weight. So, you see, all this is just another way of saying, it was all because of Mike.

On our way back from Liberty and Ellis Islands, in the transition from the Battery Park dock to the #1 train, Mike spotted a most unusual building, one I’d never noticed before although, as it turns out, it had been at that location for a year:

“Let’s see what it is,” he said in an eight year old voice  which utterly belies his noteworthy sharpness and intelligence.

“OK,” say I in a voice dragged almost to a mumble by the heat and humidity and hour spent walking around Miss Liberty. We went.

The Seaglass Carousel!

I went speechless while Mike kept up both ends of our conversation. On automatic, I put my camera against the glass wall/window and randomly clicked the shutter–never looking at the camera screen to see what it was showing. Here are the results:

1-IMG_6559

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5-IMG_6563

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As much as I’d like to take credit for these snaps, it’s clearly not about “credit.” I’m blessed to live in a world that–without consulting me–constantly provides me with visual beauty and excitement. I can live with that.

Here’s a link to their video:

http://www.thebattery.org/seaglass/

Published in: on August 15, 2016 at 3:18 pm  Comments (6)  

First Haiga

First a definition, drawn from AHApoetry.com:

Haiga is a Japanese concept for simple pictures combined with poetry, usually meaning haiku…It can be watercolor paintings, photographs or collages with a poem of any genre that is integrated into the composition. Sometimes the poem is handwritten or it can be computer generated, depending on the artist’s taste.

Haiga is a combination of visual image and poetry, each to enrich the other and, ultimately, to lead the reader/viewer beyond what is presented toward what their own life experience suggests.

Here are my first first:

 

Fez, Morocco

 

W 181, NYC

 

W. 72nd near B'way

 

Central Park

 

First snow fantasy

 

Enfield sunlight

 

Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

 

 

Freeman Street #2 station

 

Chrysler Building, NYC

 

03-Niantic 2015

 

]]At Nianatic Crescent Beach

 

Ghost of the Klein

 

Manhattan Av

Manhattan Av

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on July 23, 2016 at 1:53 pm  Comments (19)  

I don’t know

Whenever there is something I want to convince you I don’t care about I have a variety of possible responses. I might say, “I don’t care,” but probably not. “I don’t care” is just too simple, too direct, and too non-passionate to convey any sincerity at this point in our history when “phenomenal” means second rate. “I don’t give a darn” or a “damn,” too, is too weak nowadays, so I’m more likely to go with a “rat’s ass” or a “shit” or a “fuck” or even a “flying fuck,”  knowing that the louder, the more vulgar I got, the more I believe you’d understand just how important it is to me that you believe I don’t care about whatever it is that occupies this particular moment in our conversation.

What I saying here—and, frankly, I’m not too sure this is something I want to be known for—is that regardless of how important or unimportant our topic is to me, it is still more more important that I convince you that, quite frankly, Miss (or Mr. or Ms.) Scarlett, I don’t give a _______! (You may fill in the blank here, but “rat’s ass” is definitely my favorite.)

Right now I’m thinking of Omar Mateen who seemed—according to the NY Times—to be deeply committed to convincing himself and the rest of the world that he was not gay. Maybe, maybe not. Maybe I don’t give (all the way to) a flying fuck about Omar Mateen’s motivations or self-perception. Of course should I say it in just that way, you’ll have more than sufficient reason to doubt the veracity of my claim to indifference. You might—I might think—think, “If he doesn’t care about this, why is he making such a big deal out of telling me he doesn’t care about it?” Then you just might use that logic to feel yourself more perceptive of my true inner being than—dare I say it?—I myself.

Such a claim to superiority could certainly lead to no good, and we both know that!

In the wake of Mateen’s killing of 49 people and wounding of more than 50 others there have been postings on Facebook and other social media of the ease with which Americans currently are able to obtain AR-15’s.

  • One woman claimed it took her all of 7 minutes to do so at a Pennsylvania Walmart. Now Walmart has announced it will suspend all AR-15 sales, so you know it’s stock will be sold off to far less conscious retailers to then be sold to an eager American public.
  • A man (I think he was in Georgia) lollygagged at the cash register–perhaps reading the Enquirer, so it took him 15 minutes to become so armed.

Now some of you have seen the video of me quite competent with a variety of pistols pouring lead into a target in northwestern Connecticut. How big a stretch is it to imagine that same me, not an Enquirer reader, AR-15 in hand, proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that I did, indeed, not care about whatever we might have been discussing? And yes, that includes such delicate issues as the Yankees pitching rotation, the use of small, hidden motors on Tour de France bicycles or the Tony award for best costume design in a musical revival.

And for those of you who might be wondering, “Why doesn’t he just shut the hell up and show us some pictures,” here they are.

Thank you very much.

 

Sideshow Goshko at KGB Bar

Sideshow Goshko at KGB Bar. Sideshow Goshko is a delightful once-a-month storytelling event.

 

Benny & Topher at 9

Benny & Topher, my grandsons, at 9

 

St. Patrick's Cathedral, NY

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, NY

 

subway

A subway moment with no one visibly using earbuds.

 

Central Park

Central Park

 

David & Felipe's

David & Felipe’s apartment

 

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

 

[Jack &] Sonyo

[Jack &] Sonyo

Published in: on June 16, 2016 at 6:41 pm  Comments (8)  

Just Lucky I Guess

Perhaps totally unintended, the greatest benefit of owning a smartphone for me is the camera app. True it’s great when coming home to find out what to pick up at the supermarket or to know who might be waiting for the traffic light to change in San Francisco or that the cutest cat in the world has just befriended a reindeer in a high school classmate’s backyard. As for being able to watch videos of whatever rock star from the ‘60’s  has just died and read the rants of those supporting those still seeking presidential nomination, sure, they’re important too. But it is the camera that most enriches my life. It is the camera that puts me in touch with my non-virtual world with whole new levels of intimacy and appreciation. The camera’s ready availability attunes me more than ever to the ever-changing beauty and excitement and drama and comedy that I pass through while my mind does all it can to distract me from those things.

Whoops! I just made this a Buddhist or maybe a mindfulness thing, didn’t I?

  • Be in the present when my mind wants to spend the afternoon in the past or the future.
  • Observe!
  • Participate!
  • Leave analysis for less enlightened or more reality-avoidant.

And there’s another—I’ll say it—spiritual aspect to this: the phone-cam as link to humility:

  • Look at all this that I’ve had nothing major to do with either creating or maintaining!
  • Understand it all as the gift of a universe possessed of grace and in constant motion!
  • Learn over and over again that beauty and excitement come spontaneously and live well outside the realm of value judgements!

My Mom loved to say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” My little phone-cam with its constant urging to see and its ability to instantly communicate to the world what I see whispers “Behold!”

The Oculus

The Oculus

 

02-IMG_4932

Morning sunlight

 

#2 train

#2 train

 

Crossing guard

Crossing guard

 

Norman Shoenfeld

Norman

 

W 76 & Columbus

W 76 & Columbus

 

Teddy Rosenberg

A Friend

 

Freeman Street #2 station

Freeman Street #2 station

 

09-IMG_5005

The Met Breuer

 

Subway Smith Street

Subway Smith Street

 

Doing dishes

Doing dishes

 

Subway: D train 167th

Subway: D train 167th

 

Central Park

Central Park

Published in: on April 17, 2016 at 12:07 pm  Comments (15)  

A Trip Across the Waters

My slide away from words more and more into photography continues.

Dave Lutz

Good Buddy David–who has a greater knowledge and a deeper appreciation of our city than anyone else I know–took me on a walk through the epitome of new construction and traffic noise, Long Island City. Our mission: to see how much of David’s Human Enrichment (aka, quality of life) suggestions for the area had been rejected by the Ultimate Powers. What we found delighted my shutterbug aspect if not his dreams.

*     *    *     *     *

 

02-IMG_4397

 

Long Island City

 

Long Island City

 

Long Island City

 

Long Island City

 

 

Long Island City

 

Long Island City

Graffiti Realismo or something else?

 

Sculpture Center, LIC

Resting inside the Sculpture Center, LIC

To be sure the visit concluded with an hour or so spent in one of the many foin Irish bars in LIC: coffee for David and for me Bushmills Black Bush. A good time was had by both.

Published in: on February 8, 2016 at 3:38 pm  Comments (12)  

What about the shoes?

It all started on Craigslist with this, the ad I’d placed once I finally admitted to myself that I’d no longer be riding fast or far:

1-IMG_1655

 

It continued with this exchange of texts, first from Moses Helster:

December 6

Hi there! I am very interested in buying your bike and willing to pay your asking price. I’m currently working at sea as an oceanographer for NatGeo. Due to this I will not be able to come pick up myself. I can purchase a cashier check and mail it to you to cover the final asking price and I can arrange for a reliable shipper to come and pick it up once the check has been cleared by your bank. Let me know who to make the check to and where to send it.

Regards Moses Helster

*****

To which I responded on December 7

Mr. Helster we have  deal! Make out the cashiers check to Richard Goldberg (at my address). When the check clears the bike can be picked up at my address. Additionally I have an almost unused 8-8 1/2 shoes for the bike. They’re free. If you want them they’re yours.

*****

On December 7 he wrote:

I am glad you agreed to sell to me and also the final price is alright by me so i will go head and mail you the payment..I will send you the usps tracking #after mailing it   Regards Moses Helster

*****

To which I re-inquired: And the shoes?

*****

Two days later, on December 9, I received this:

Good morning Richard, Sorry it took so long to get back to you. I want you to know i sent you the check as agreed. It was shipped via USPS with tracking number XXXXXXXXXXXX. After  reconciliation of my account, I discovered that somehow my assistant must have overpaid you. The payment meant for my daughter’s school fee’s was sent to you! Please help me fix this error! I’m so sorry for the confusion this has caused. Regards Moses Helster

Please when payment is received in the mail, I would like you to deduct your money as agreed, and send the remaining to my daughter’s school., The shipping company will be responsible for the pickup. Regards Moses Helster

*****

On the same day, December 9, I answered:

Mr. Helster–I will not cash the check but rather return it to you. Please have your assistant make out the proper checks. we will do our business when I receive a check for the correct amount.

*****

On December 10 I received this:

Good morning. The payment I sent to you will deliver today..I want you to be on the look out and get back to me once you are in possession of it..

And then, later on the same day, this from him:

Hello

Richard, Information reaching me from usps l have it that the payment had been delivered..All you need to do is to have the Check cashed at your bank and get back to me once you have the cash with you so that I can update my daughter’s school..I look forward to hearing from you.

Do you have the cash now?

I need your response

*****

Not hearing back from me, on December 12 I received his final text.

what’s going on Richard,…you have been quite since you received my check…i need you to keep me updated

********************************************************************************************

OK, so on December 6th I received a text from someone who wanted the bike at my price without first looking at it or having someone he trusted look at it. Hmm…  Nonetheless, being eager for the sale, I agreed to his terms and sent him the address at which his trusted shipping company could pick up the bike. So delighted was I that I offered him the shoes as well.

On the 7th he confirmed the agreement but ignored the shoes. Hmm number two.

On the 9th he testified that, indeed, the check was in the mail, then acknowledged that his “assistant” had made an easily corrected error, that I was to receive a check for vastly more than the meager $400 to which I was entitled. He also noted the simple action I might take to correct this and reconfirmed that the bike would be picked up.  [Now we are well past the hmm stage.]

This was quite enough to overcome my eagerness for a sale, hence my reply saying I’d wait for the proper check before going any further. [My evaluation and approach were both confirmed in a visit to the 20th Precinct of the NYPD and by my wife’s unfailing common sense.] This not fitting into his plan, he ignored my text and, on December 10th, texted only about the check’s imminent arrival. By this time the USPS envelope had been delivered and I refused delivery and sent it back to the return address in Ohio.

The following day, the 11th, he again texted regarding the check and again mentioned his daughter’s school. His concluding “Do you have the cash now? I need your response” was clearly geared to get the money fast.

The next day, the 12th, the eagerness and pressure continued, this time with a hint of feigned desperation. Nothing has followed. It’s now been eight days. I still have the bike and the shoes.

Anybody want to buy a light, fast, wonderfully geared bike?

 

Published in: on December 20, 2015 at 4:32 pm  Comments (11)  

Back from Down Under

Weta Cave, Wellington

Weta Cave, Wellington

 

If you’re careful how you say things, you won’t have to retract (or is it recant?) them later.  For example, let’s just say you’re married to someone who for years has been saying

“I want to go to Australia. This is my dream trip, the one I’ve always wanted. And, if possible, New Zealand too. After all, if we’re going to go all the way to Australia…”

Meanwhile, you’ve spent all those same years not saying but certainly thinking,

“If I’m going to travel, I truly don’t want to find myself in just one more bland version of exiled English people who are perfectly content to spend their lives eating white bread and watching televised rugby and football by their own idiotic rules.”

O no! You’re much too clever to say something like that, probably because you’ve been married long enough to know how frequently you’ve had to eat such words without the benefit of her having first cooked them.  No, what you do say is,

If I’m going to travel, I want experience a culture as radically different from my own as possible.  It’d be cool to see some different scenery, I suppose, but what I really want is to feel like (I’m never afraid of platitudes or old sci-fi book titles) a stranger in a strange land.”

So for all those same years you encourage her to find someone else to make that long trip with, someone who’d appreciate it the way she would. Meanwhile she goes along with you to China and India and Vietnam and Thailand and Bhutan, all those spots of sufficient cultural difference to be worthy of your attention and travel dollar. True, you do relent re Ireland where you find live music to drink to and sing along with every night, so you actually come home praising the place to others. But Ireland’s just a skip across the Pond.  It’s hardly the 21 hours 13 minutes (according to Travel Math) from New York (and that’s just the airport, not my home and TSA-enforced 3 hour early arrival at the airport time) to Melbourne and the clearance and baggage carousel at that end.

OK, so I know all this. I know what I want and don’t want. I know what will make my senior years on the planet joyful and what will simply fill them up. So why then, sitting across a table late one afternoon,  one grilled cheese sandwich in front of me and one BLT in front of her (both with extra crispy bacon) did this voice, having utterly bypassed my brain, come out of my mouth saying,

“I’m going to Australia (New Zealand implied) with you!”

This, by the way, was the self-same voice that asked her to move in with me in 1996, but that’s another story altogether.

Anyhow, I have no genuine answer to this question. Of course in subsequent conversations regarding my decision to embark on this travel I’d rationalize with things like,

“Well, she’s gone with me on my dream trips” or

“Well, I really want to be supportive…”  This latter with frequent interjections of “You know” and “I mean” and “what the hell.”

The truth be told, anyone who knows me knows I’m really not all that giving when there’s the slightest chance that being so involves less than the dictates of my own selfish will. Perhaps that’s why, in more intimate, tequila-lubricated moments, I’m tempted to identify that unclaimed voice with some deeper awareness that is able to speak when my ego is at the movies. Think of that as a variation on The Devil made me buy this dress. Whatever.

Magpie goose, Cleland Wildlife Park, South Australia

Magpie goose, Cleland Wildlife Park, South Australia

The trip was phenomenal! 16 of us, under the profound and loving guidance of Roxanne Garner, a Kiwi living in Oz (I can say that now that I’ve been there), spent time in a mammoth desert, a rainforest, in snow-capped mountains, among seals and penguins, crocodiles and kangaroos, among dingoes and Tasmanian Devils and wallabies and glaciers and floating above the Great Barrier Reef. We met with Aboriginal and Maori people to learn of their history, their successes and their current difficulties. We visited the Weta Cave in Wellington where much of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, King Kong, The Chronicles of Narnia, Avatar, District 9, The Adventures of Tintin, Elysium and The Hobbit Trilogy were designed and manufactured. In Roxy’s words, a month of learning and discovery.

Below are a few more choice snaps from the venture.  Even more are available at

https://picasaweb.google.com/richsgold/ANZShowreel04?authkey=Gv1sRgCLK1pI7s2tfamgE

Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki

Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki

 

Bearded Miner, Reefton

Bearded Gold Miner, Reefton

 

Cape Tribulation Croc/wilderness cruise

Cape Tribulation Crocodile

 

Queenstown

Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown

 

Bobbie & Riwiri Te Kowhai hongi, Ohinemutu Maori Village

Bobbie & Riwiri Te Kowhai  in a traditional Maori greeting (hongi). Ohinemutu Maori Village

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on November 5, 2015 at 4:47 pm  Comments (10)  

Back from the Beach!

Back in April I wrote that I’d started writing haiku following–as best I can–the wonderfully flexible guidelines of English Language Haiku (ELH).  Like the Japanese style, the aim remains to portray a situation, a moment which has stirred feelings–but not to name those feelings.  Thus the writer presents an opportunity for readers to access their own reactions.  ELH does not follow the Japanese conventions of three lines arranged in syllable counts of five, seven and five.  Nor does it demand a seasonal reference or consign haikus involving human presence to a separate and inferior category.  Finally, there is no consensus among the ELH folks as to punctuation or capitalization.

With all that in mind here are a sampling of haiku written very recently at Crescent Beach, in Niantic CT.  Interspersed with them are some snaps made at the same time.  The photos, for the most part, are scattered randomly among the poems.  Sometimes not.  Whichever, they are never meant to illustrate a haiku.  Nor are the haiku meant as captions for the photos.  It is simply that, when dealing with the same moment, they are products of the same moment.

As usual I’d like your thoughts.  Click on “comments” below and follow WordPress’s logic–the same logic that created large spaces in this post no matter how I tried to undo them–to enter your thoughts (your haiku?) for me to see.

*****

sun’s up
the back porch
instantly too hot
*****

Nianatic Crescent Beach

a train rumbles past
miles away
his grandsons
*****
after meditation
the cat litter—
yes, dear
*****
moon rise
above the power plant
beyond the clouds
*****

Niantic Bay big moon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

coffee on the porch
unseen starlings
in conversation

*****

Nianatic Crescent Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

retirement–
vacation becomes
something to do
*****
emptied recycle bins
return from curbside
rolling thunder
*****
down the road
a screen door slams
Salty breeze
*****
strangers together
at the ocean’s edge
moon rise
*****

Nianatic Crescent Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 flights of 20 each
now fill this single oak–
whose choice?
*****

Gus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

down the block
a flag flaps silently
morning sun
*****
a butterfly
approaches the hydrangea
constant course corrections
*****

dry leaves
scratch along the sidewalk
autumn too soon
*****

Nianatic Crescent Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

birds chirp
the wind whispers
shush
*****
here a bird
here a frog
hear the breeze
*****
a glee-filled baby
eager for conversation
one breath
*****
dusk
shadows of an old oak approach
the ocean’s edge
*****

Adirondack, Nianatic Crescent Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

now painted blue
a weathered Adirondack
sits empty
*****
after
the train passes
wind chimes
*****

At Nianatic Crescent Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

morning mist
one gray gull patrols
the shoreline
*****

Nianatic Crescent Beach

wind chimes
across the road
once in Bhutan
*****
wind chimes
wthout the sound of wind
zen audio
*****

Puck

silent swift
it flies along the shore
the seagull’s shadow
*****
still visible
on the rusted mailbox
a seascape
*****

Nianatic Crescent Beach

can’t write
can’t remember—
just this now
*****

Nianatic Crescent Beach

beneath their stones
the actor and his wife
oh the sly smiles
*****

still unread
pages turn
morning breeze
*****
sunset
new tides move
old water
*****

Nianatic Crescent Beach

red lights
against a red sky
holiday weekend ends
*****

Published in: on September 10, 2015 at 2:03 pm  Comments (9)  

(Everybody sing:) I love New York!

It probably started with the New York Yankees, Mel Allen and a radio program called Grand Central Station.  Growing up in Hartford Connecticut my first contact with New York City came by way of the big console radio we had in the living room.  By the 1950’s and Allan Freed’s Saturday morning “Top 50”, usually hosted by (was it?) Paul Sherman because Allan was touring the country with his live Rock ‘n’ Roll show–which, of course, I would faithfully attend at the State Theater in Hartford, sitting as far forward as I could both to get closer to the performers (Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, The Cadillacs, the Spaniels, Sam “The Man” Taylor and that woman in the incredibly short skirt whom everyone was convinced was Alan Freed’s you-know) and as far away as possible from the back rows filled nodding junkies and couples doing what they do.

In 1949 my Dad and Uncle Jack took me to New York and Yankee Stadium.  Coming in on the 8:04 New York, New Haven and Hartford train it was just the way the announcer on Grand Central Station described it: “…past a long gray line of tenement houses…tunnel…ta da”  Remarkably, 68 years later and nothing’s changed.  Stepping out of that train, walking along the platform and up the steps, entering the vastness of–!  Even today I can’t step into the main hall of Grand Central without gasping at its sheer magnificence.  Every change in that space, from the removal of the Kodak exhibit at the north end to the cleaning and revitalizing of the ceiling (with the exception of that one small square to remind us of how it had been corrupted by cigarette smoke) only brings my memory-fantasy back into vivid being.

But–as is my privilege as creator of this blog–I joyfully digress.  Before I end my digression, however, here’s this:

Grand Central

Grand Central

The caption and the little grayish frame around the photo, I don’t know where they came from or how they got there so that we can see them.  Along with knowing more and more as I slide into my seniority, an equal amount of more and more–maybe even more–becomes a mystery. 

But where was I?

Ah, yes.

I was regaling you with my love of New York City and how often that love is expressed in ways which only confuse or bore those unwillingly positioned to endure my carrying-on–as are you, Dear Reader, having endured up to this point and perhaps boldly continuing on past this point.  Ahead of you await four haiku written in the English Language style and one photograph, all conveying to my satisfaction my love of my city.  It is my hope, certainly, that you, too, will find delight in these expressions.  Whether you do or not, I can only glean from reading your comments.  First the haiku:

the light changes
a bus heads uptown
a woman laughs
*****
late afternoon
Chinese take-out joint
surrounded by bicycles
*****
Avenue D & 6th
an old man’s tag
still there
*****

spring
tattoos appear up and down
Fifth Avenue
*****

Now the photo, taken from the new Whitney Museum:

From the Witney

From the Whitney

Seriously–if I may step out of character for a sentence or two–I truly benefit from your comments.  So, should you wish to benefit me, please comment.

Be well.

Published in: on June 29, 2015 at 6:39 pm  Comments (5)  

Tuesday late

Today, according to the New York Times “Your Thursday Briefing,” is National Short Story Day.  Here is my tribute to that event:

1-Between Moments 004-001

 

Almost getting into a fight had been the high point in Ripley’s career as a barfly. Then Roxanne walked into the place. She looked surprisingly together for a woman still out on the town at what was now close to two in the morning. Taller than the night porter who sat at the end of the bar waiting for Ripley and the bartender to leave, shorter than Chris, the wannabe actor tending bar, she stood just about Ripley’s height. Ripley guessed her to be about two years younger than himself. She was dressed in summer dress-up, loose, gauzy pastels, heeled sandals decorated with glitter-glass, even a wide-brimmed purplish hat that was equally involved in framing her face and covering her head against the long-set sun. Not oppressively classy despite what Ripley saw as an attempt at intimidating. When she ordered an orange blossom neat with tonic on the side. She said, “Tonic back.”
Chris said, “What?”
“In a separate glass,” she replied quickly.
Ripley remembered an old country tune, The Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time. Beyond that, it had been a while since he’d heard bar talk from the past—from his past. He smiled and turned toward her.
“Bartenders nowadays don’t know bar-speak.” He grinned.
She looked up—face blank. “You talkin’ to me?”
Taxi Driver! He grinned. “Ain’t no one else here. You must be talkin’ to me.” She half-smiled. “May I join you,” he continued not fully believing the words came from his mouth.
Full smile. “I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.”
“Mae West couldn’t have said it better. “
“Tell you what,” she eased off the stool. “It looks easier for me to come over there than for you to make it all the way down here.” She picked up the orange blossom and the tonic and took them down to his location at the end of the bar.
“What’s a nice guy like you doin’ in a joint like dis?” Mae West again. He liked that.
“Hi. My name’s Ripley.”
“Ripley,” she repeated. “First name or last?”
It was his turn. He scratched his head much like Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith goes to Washington. “You know,” he answered in his best Stewart voice. “It’s been so long since I was asked that question, I plum forgot the answer.”
“I’m Roxanne. “
Ripley’s eyes opened wide and, to his own amazement, he began singing.  “’Rox-anne, you don’t have to—‘. “ Big mistake!  Roxanne glowered. Her hand blocked his mouth.  “What’d I do,” Ripley asked astonished.
“Do you think that’s original—or cute?”
“What? No…I mean…” He looked so helpless to her, not unlike her six year old grandson that time when she caught him playing with himself in the bathtub. Innocent and guilty all at the same time. Her face eased.
“Does everybody sing that,” Ripley asked.
“You think?”
“So maybe I’m not as weird as I thought?”
“Maybe you’re not.” She took a sip. “Anyhow, I’m just kind of touchy about that.” She looked him up and down then up again. “What the hell. You’re not Sting but, you know, you’re actually kinda cute.”
“For a guy my age?”
“To a gal my age.”
“Thanks,” he blushed. “I guess I needed to hear that.”
Roxanne wasn’t finished. “Needed?” She was off again. “I hate the N word! Now you’re gonna play the ‘poor me’ card and start in about things getting rough at home with the wife and all the rest of the barroom crap that comes with that.”
Ripley sat up tall on the stool. “No. I wouldn’t tell you that even if it were true.”
Her tension broke. “What would you tell me?”
Ripley took another chance. “Would it matter?”
Roxanne stared down into her drink. “Probably not.” She took a long sip and then another. “Look!” Her voice let him know she wanted to be heard. “It’s been a long, bad day at Black Rock, you know, this job I’m supposed to really love and be grateful to still have.” She bit off each word with angry precision. “OK, so I say, ‘forget about that, I’m going to a movie’ and end up at the worst piece of shit anybody’s ever paid twelve frickin’ dollars for. For Christ’s sake, giant robots slamming giant monsters in the face with what’s supposed to look like the Empire State building. So please, can you just back off for a minute? Just let me finish my drink. OK?”
“Damn,” he managed. “I really didn’t mean to get you upset. I thought we were just having some fun—. “
“OK, OK. I’m not looking for apologies. Just give me a little space for a minute.”
She sounded dismissive, a tone he was all too familiar with. Still, “for a minute” suggested possibility.Her head tilted down, she took a deep breath, then looked directly at him. Her face no longer hostile, she just looked exhausted. She took the last sip of her orange blossom and held up the empty glass like she was offering it to the world.
Ripley tapped his empty against the bar. Chris put down his phone, brought them two fresh drinks.   Ripley drank quickly. Roxanne waited a moment, tasted hers and put it down on the bar. “Where’s my tonic?”
“Hey, Chris,” Ripley called out. “Can we have the lady’s tonic?”
Chris was fixed on his phone. “Be there in a minute.”
Roxanne scowled. “No, damn it,” she snapped. “Bartender!”
“The name’s Chris.”
“Whatever! Just get me the damned tonic now.”
The silence weighed a ton. Ripley made a no-face and directed it toward the dark TV set at the near end of the bar.
Chris turned slowly. “On it,” he sighed, mumbled something to the phone and brought a fresh tonic to Roxanne. He placed it in front of her like he was planting an explosive.
“Punks,” Roxanne smirked to Ripley well before Chris was out of range. “When are they gonna learn where their tips come from?”
Chris kept walking.
“Hey,” began Ripley. “Give the kid a chance. “
She glowered. “What? You’re takin’ his side?”
“I’m not taking anybody’s side—“
“Like hell you’re not. You’re takin’ his freakin’ side.” She rubbed her eyes with the backs of her hands. Her mascara smeared. Her eyes glistened deep in their enlarged dark sockets. “I don’t even know why I’m talkin’ to you. I mean, who the hell are you anyway?”
Good question, Ripley thought. A Viet Nam combat vet about to retire as head of security for a poorly regarded medium-sized supermarket chain that his own mother wouldn’t patronize for fear of food poisoning; living alone for the past eight years since she’d died; a nice enough guy according to his sister out in Colorado. If there was anything else, he couldn’t think of it. Ripley threw up his hands in surrender. If he’d been sober or been someone else, he’d have told her what to do and walked out. He was a regular. He could always pay his tab tomorrow. But he was drunk and he was him.
“Look Roxy—“
“My name’s Rox-anne! Get it? None of that “Roxy shit! You don’t know me like that.”
“OK, Rox-anne. Jesus…” His head swung from side to side. “I thought we were just having some fun.”
“You said that before! Christ! Is that all you know? Fun?” She turned her attention to the contents of her large, purple-to-match-the-hat summer bag. Another silence. Roxanne sighed. Her shoulders lowered. Her face softened. “Yeah, we were, I guess…I don’t know…” She shook her head in a half-hearted effort to clear away fog. “Sometimes…I just don’t know.”
He reached for her arm but quickly thought better of it. Words he hadn’t thought through came softly from his mouth. “What don’t you know? You wanna talk about it?”
She returned her gaze to the bag. “Not really…Yes…maybe…” She turned to him. “You really wanna hear?”
Ripley felt his energy and his hopes returning. “Hey, I’m all ears.”
Roxanne breathed deeply and tossed back her head. She smiled a vixen smile. “I hope not.”
Both grinned.   She stood up. “You smoke?”
“Naw. Not since ‘Nam,” he replied.
“Nam,” she questioned. “You don’t look that old. Whatever, I’m going out for one.”
“OK, you go ahead. I’ll save your seat.”
She continued like he’d said nothing.  “God, I hate it you can’t smoke in bars in New York any more. I feel unbalanced with a drink in one hand and nothing in the other.” She was starting to look pretty again.
“Want another orange?” How old she did now think him to be.
“Wait till I get back.” Roxanne stood up slowly. Once the clack of her heels was lost to the outside, the bar stood quiet. Chris was focused on preparing the night’s receipts. The night porter was busy draining the deep fryers in the kitchen area just beyond the bar. Ripley waited until she, visible through the window, lit up, then stood as cautiously as she had and walked to the back of the bar.

Five minutes had passed since Ripley’d pissed, washed his hands and checked to make sure that the condom in his wallet was still there. He stood frozen in front of the men’s room mirror, one hand mechanically pulling towels from the dispenser, wiping the sweat from his face and neck while the other caressed his belly. It had been forty years since he’d returned from ‘Nam. His flat-muscled abs were long a thing of the past. Would she notice? Would she care? Would she make fun of his little paunch? She’d already shown him what she could be like. What would she make fun of?
When he came out of the men’s room there was no one at the bar but Chris. A quick look through the window revealed no one outside.
“She paid,” Chris spoke without looking up from his paperwork. Ripley fumbled for his wallet. “Yours too,” Chris put a rubber band around the last wad of twenties and noted the count on the register slip. “You ready?”
Ripley shook his head slowly. “Did she say anything?”
“Just asked what the tab was and could she pay in cash. She thought that was funny.”
“Anything about me?”
“Nope.”
“You’re sure?”
“I’m sure. Look, Man–.”
Ripley waved him off. There was no need for sympathy or empathy or compassion or anything else. It was all right whatever it was. His world restored, Ripley took a deep breath. He thanked Chris for the evening’s hospitality and walked out slowly into the welcoming coolness of the hot summer’s night.

The end

The end

Published in: on May 7, 2015 at 2:19 pm  Comments (9)  

Reflections & Haiku: Looking lnward

A friend of mine insists that we all–all!–carry around loads of disfunctionality and depression.  He says those who deny this are simply those who carry it at an unconscious level, so, of course, they don’t know they’re doing it.  Another friend is more likely to say, “Yeah, whatever.  Let’s fix whatever’s broken, then go for a bike ride.”  Me?  I make photogrphs and write.

The recent transition from winter to spring has been very fruitful for my photography and writing, some of which I share with you here.  First the snaps: all are multilevel images offering subjects behind glass along with reflections on the glass.  Some are subtle like dirt smears and ceiling lights in the image below:

 
Westbeth

 

 

This one juxtaposes contemporary fashion with both old and new architecture.

Canal Street

 

 

An empty storefront with a mirror reflecting the avenue it fronts.

Columbus & 76

 

 

After school at Starbucks.

Columbus & 76

 

 

A Chinatown meat market.

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Two new portraits  of friends in which I give more respect to environment.  First Mike:

Mike Millbaum

 

Then Bill:

Bill Toner

The haiku are done following–as best I can–the wonderfully flexible guidelines of English Language Haiku (ELH).  Like the Japanese style, the aim remains to portray a situation which has stirred feelings–not to name those feelings.  Thus the writer presents an opportunity for readers to access their own reactions.  ELH does not follow the Japanese conventions of three lines arranged in syllable counts of five, seven and five.  Nor does it demand a seasonal reference or consign haikus involving human presence to a separate and inferior category.  Finally, there is no consensus among the ELH folks as to punctuation or capitalization.  Here are a few from my first attempts:

cycling alone

not far, not fast

just riding

*****

Look, she grins

kneeling in the snow

daffodils

*****

paper crinkles

somewhere in the library

the smell of garlic

*****

spring–

tattoos appear

on the avenue

*****

barroom laughter

spills onto the avenue

midnight

*****

Perhaps you’d like to give it a try or two?  If so, please enter them by clicking Comments below.

 

Published in: on April 24, 2015 at 2:23 pm  Comments (6)  

Your Ride Starts Here

 

Washington Heights grafitti

Stay with me on this one.  It’s got nothing to do with grafitti, and I don’t know where it’s going.  The stimulus comes from a Facebook posting from Diane, a woman I met when taking a Foundations (or, maybe, Fundamentals) of Chaplaincy course at the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care a few years ago.  Diane posted an article by a doctor (Jessica Nutik Zitter, a critical care and palliative care physician at Highland Hospital in Oakland, Calif.)   The article deals with the doctor’s response to the treatment wishes and the mortality of a particular patient.  My concern here is not the specific situation reported in the article.  Nor is it about the remarkable discussion I found elsewhere on Facebook that day arising from an article defining us as “no more than dead stardust” and the responses it provoked ranging from “We are the only rational beings in the universe” (How rational is that?) to “We are God incarnate” to “Look at the shit we do to our selves, each other and the planet and tell me we are rational or godlike.”  Whoever thought that, intermixed with photos of nude women tattooed all over and pleas to respect liberals and complaints that Caucasians get criticized for saying or writing Nigger and recommendations that I be nice to people and be myself at the same time–did I mention videos of 4 year old children dancing, adults playing in the surf and cats doing just about anything–I’d get this roundtable on mortality?

I didn’t…but I did.

Now that I spend more time among my senior peers, I meet fewer and fewer people who are willing to talk about mortality.  True, there are two.

  • There’s Reverend Doctor Barbara Simpson who runs the Ethical Death Cafe, a group which meets regularly to talk about all the various issues surrounding our passing from this mortal coil while eating delicious home-baked goodies.  The website (http://nysec.org/death-cafe-6-18-14) hasn’t been updated in a while, but it’s still informative.
  • There’s Howard from the senior center, whose fascination with mortality has led to my reading some intriguing best sellers on the near-death experience and reincarnation.

All the other folks I hang out with nowadays at the local senior center, they just aren’t interested as far as I can tell.  They’re more focused on making good use of their time remaining by keeping doctors appointments and getting the most out of their Lincoln Center subscriptions and their children’s guilt.  There is one, a woman of 93 or so, who’s prime concerns are with getting a great winter suntan and her daily fill of cigarettes and  Jack Daniels.  When I once mentioned to her that I am 73, she looked at me in a way I still find curiously ambiguous then said, “Ah, yes. The same age as my daughter.”

But I digress.  The subject here is mortality and my lack of anything to say about it.  That being the case, I appeal to you.  What’s your take on the death of the body?  I still remember a dorm mate from way back when proudly and confidently defining death as the inability of the body’s cells to reproduce.  What is it to you?  Yes, this could very well get you into a consideration of the non-corporeal about us.  Words like soul and ethos and aura and–dare I say it–Buddha Mind come to mind.  So do such conversation enders as “When you’re dead, you’re dead!” and “What’s on TV?”

What are your feelings, thoughts, intuitions and/or insights into this matter?  Use “Comments” below to register those thoughts, feelings, et cetera in hopes of stimulating those of others.  Then come back in a week or so to check out the Comments and see what others have thought about what you’ve thought.

As for me, I’ll look too.  I’ll take any guidance I can get.

 

Published in: on February 8, 2015 at 6:20 pm  Comments (7)  

Northern Connecticut Sky

CT skyThe sky above Enfield, Connecticut

Enfield and Harwinton Connecticut, Feeding Hills Massachusetts.  These are now the homes of three of my step children and, consequently, the foci of my visits now to northern Connecticut.  It wasn’t always that way.

From 1942 till 1956 I spent my life for the most part at 220 South Marshall Street in Hartford.  Jean and Judy Snow lived across the back alley.  Freddy Adams (whose last name was actually Garcia) lived next door to us on the second floor.  Tommy Shortell–his dad was a fireman–and his sister, Patty and Johnny Harvey and his sister, Maryann lived two buildings to the north.  Joe Tobin, who’s father was a real policeman, lived a few buildings south.  Steve Perlmutter lived across the street.  His mom was our Cub Scouts den mother.  Ronnie Bernard and Maurice Jacobs–they were French Canadians–lived in wooden three or so family houses a little further up the street toward Farmington Avenue at Case Street.  (Before I could read I thought that was Kay Street.)  Mom, Dad, Sister Barbara and I lived in a three room apartment in a series of three story redbrick apartment buildings that then, as now, looked like this:

220 South Marshall Street

These being the tallest buildings not just on the block but in the whole neighborhood, the sky seemed always visible, and, for me now employing that device so favored by the aging, euphoric recall, it was always beautiful.  Whether seen from curbside (where the Google truck grabbed this image maybe two years ago) or walking south on Laurel Street to play ball in Pope Park, deep clear cobalt skies regularly set off great, tall piles of white cloud that felt like they stretched up to the end of the earth’s atmosphere.

In 1949 my Dad’s brother, Uncle Jack, bought the family’s first car, a dull, gray Chevy–Connecticut plates PD803.  Only then did I come into contact with the sky beyond the city and discovered that the same absolutely spectacular canopy we knew from South Marshall Street covered all of north central Connecticut.  There it was when I attended Boy Scout Camp Pioneer at West Hill Pond outside of New Hartford.   It was clearly evident from that point on Forest Road in Merrow where, in 1964, the paved road became a dirt road and I struggled to remain at UCONN.  In the early 1990’s it gloried over Hammertown Road in Salisbury when friends I thought would be my friends forever and I biked our weekends away through Litchfield, Berkshire, Putnam and Dutchess Counties.

I remember great cloud pillars holding up the rich blueness when my wife-to-be, Bobbie and I drove north to South Windsor to celebrate our wedding in 1998.  The rain held off until the last guests had gone.

Just how and how much that sky influenced the events occurring below will always be a welcome mystery and meditation for me.  How many times did I, as a 10 year old sit on the branch of a tree in the lot across from 220 South Marshall staring up at bits of sky between the branches just to do it?  Or lie on my back after a ballgame at Pope glorying a rare great catch at first base?  How many hours did I spend on Forest Road in Merrow in that fall of ’64 looking up for traces of my dead father?

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And now, how many visits under that sky to the United Synagogues and Old North Cemeteries to spend pleasant time with family gone?   And certainly, equivocally, yes!  How wonderful on the way further north to pass through Hartford under that brilliant blue sky?

Hartford RR Sta.

Published in: on January 4, 2015 at 11:57 am  Comments (12)  

Alaska Without Adventure

A week on a luxury cruiser

Carefully orchestrated land excursions

Food and scenery in abundance

Local folks keen on pleasing us

Us the cash crop.  Still–

Fun for all!

 

 

Bald eagle, raptor center, Ketchikan

 

 

Bald eagle being treated for injuries in a raptor center

 

Skagway

Skagway “gold rush” train

Skagway

Skagway souvenir shop

 

South Seward Glacier, Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Alaska

South Seward Glacier, Tracey Arm Fjord

 

reindeer preserve, Ketchikan

Deer sniffing money

 

Bald Eagles, wilderness river adventure, Haines

Healthy bald eagles

 

Celebrity Solstice in Ketchikan

Celebrity Solstice

 

Ketchikan

Ketchikan, 7 a.m. Sunday morning

 

Ketchikan

Ketchikan, a few hours later

 

Formal night

Formal dinner night on board the Celebrity Solstice

 

Humpback whale watch

Tail of a humpback whale

 

at Mendenhall Glacier

Waterfall adjacent to the Mendenhall Glacier

 

Inland passage

Along the Inland Passage

 

RSG at wilderness river adventure, Haines

Alaskan tourist (with blanket)

Published in: on November 10, 2014 at 9:35 pm  Comments (26)  

Cluttered, Clearing…Not So Cluttered

This year’s five day Western Zen Retreat began much as had all the others I’d attended: my mind filled with the beautiful and the painful and the mundane, the usual clutter of living in this particular world.

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 After a while–actually, not too long a while–my mind began to clear, thus making more than  ample room for

1-WP_20141015_006

screaming pain, great doubt and the kind of suffering you don’t want to know about.

 

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Imagine a malnourished and consequently really pissed lion raging inside  your brain, your knees and your hips.

 

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More time, a little more, then bango! the bolt of lightening, the pealing thunder, the parting clouds and voila!  Mind clutter pretty much cleared leaving nothing  but the knee pain, the hip pain, a wealth of smiles and more gratitude than a man in so much knee and hip pain could ever really account for.

 

DDRC 2008

Ah, the good old Western Zen Retreat.

Chances are next year I’ll go back.

 

 

 

Published in: on October 19, 2014 at 3:25 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: ,

You Never Know

You Never Know

 

Arlen was born Arlene. In high school back in the ‘80’s she decided dropping the final e would make both her name and her way cooler. Her friends agreed and the deed was done just in time to be reified on her very first driver’s license. She celebrated by requesting the family’s brand new, dark blue Chevrolet Chevette five door hatch-back, listening patiently to her parents’ safe driving tips and only then chauffeuring Brandi, Cherri and Tildi out to Chez Rodolfo’s on the highway for “Shirley Temple Nots,” the official coming-of-age drink among her peers. On the way home the Chevette strayed across the center line and crashed into a partially completed abutment leaving only Arlen still alive.

This happened three weeks to the day before her high school graduation, three months less a week before Freshman Week at her intended alma mater, Wichita State. She never returned to high school although as a good student she was awarded her diploma nonetheless. After written and telephoned appeals from both her high school principal and the family’s minister supported by documents from the State Police, her primary care physician and the psychiatrist she had begun seeing after the accident, her tuition deposit was refunded. Oddly enough, it arrived in an envelope which also contained a brief note of condolence signed by both the Freshman Faculty Adviser and the Dean of Students. Her father invested that money wisely along with her many graduation gifts—all of which, it seems, had been significantly supplemented for reasons of pity. These would provide Arlen with sufficient income to support a thoroughly acceptable if humble lifestyle without her having to resort to employment. Indeed, from that summer forward every opportunity for any degree of happiness that might present itself in her life she would evaluate against the moment of the crash. She would then reject it in favor of continuing a colorless if comfortable status quo.

Brendan first spoke with Arlen in the lounge of a Howard Johnson’s Motor Inn on Allegiance Avenue just south of the mall. It was early spring of this year. Had the remarkably rotund man reading the Financial Times on his iPad not deserted the bar stool immediately to Arlen’s left and Brendan’s right, their meeting would never have taken place. Brendan, who had been reading without interest over the man’s shoulder, now found himself with neither distraction nor obstacle between himself and the middle-aged woman wearing a backwards Kansas City Royals cap only one stool away. As for that woman, Arlen, she was content to continue staring into the empty glass before her firmly convinced that nothing of greater interest might present itself.

Brendan liked being called Brendan. Though his associates—he had no friends—called him Bren and he could accept that from them, whenever the opportunity to do so arose, he would introduce himself as Brendan. And so…

“Hi, I’m Brendan,” he offered genially across the emptied stool.

Brendan was two years younger than Arlen. He had moved out of his family’s split level in Cheyenne at eighteen to attend a residential college only because his folks had always wanted to be the parents of a college graduate. He’d chosen Emporia believing he was more likely to find himself in that flat place than he had been in the mountains. Once out of Wyoming he never returned for longer than a weekend. Even when his parents died, his mother in 2003 (cancer) and his father in 2007 (skiing) he’d left the tasks of their final rest and the enactment of their wills to Cynthia, his younger sister. She was a lawyer after all. He appeared only for the two funerals and once again in 2010 to visit briefly with Cynthia, her Italian-born husband Pinero, and their two adolescent sons, Mauro and Michael.

Three things must be known about Brendan:

• He was pretty much ready to try anything, just not ready to try it seriously.

• He was comfortable in the manufactured indifference of fern bars.

• He favored the word “ain’t” over the word “isn’t” for no reason other than “ain’t” had fewer syllables.

One thing must be specified regarding Arlen, although it might already be intuited:

• The life she had chosen left her with ample time to create exquisitely detailed imaginings of the lives she’d not chosen, to rehearse these and subsequently make them the substance of her bar conversation.

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“Hi, yourself,” she replied. She had been at the bar a while. “I like that name, Brendan. It’s got weight, if you know what I mean. You get it from Brendan Behan or something?”

“Thanks,” he smiled. “You know, I never asked my folks why they picked it. It’s not like we’re Irish or something.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in here before,” she continued.

“Usually I come later,” he lied.

She took off the cap and shook her thick, just-to-the-shoulders and just-beginning-to-gray hair back off her face—she’d read in a magazine not to push it behind her ears—and stretched her neck up to its full, uncharacteristically graceful length. She started to replace the cap but thought better of it.

“I can be here pretty late,” she assured him. “I guess not the same nights.” In truth each had seen the other before. Each however had ruled the other out as a possible source of interest or entertainment. Tonight though, simple proximity and that “You never know” attitude that strikes so many bar patrons as the evening wears on combined as only fate might have it.

“OK,” he replied with new energy. “What are you drinking?” She looked down at her empty glass.

“I was drinking chardonnay.”

“That a hint?” He beamed. She chuckled.

“I like a man who catches on quick. Whatcha gonna do about it?” Brendan signaled the barmaid.

“Maggie, May I have a chardonnay for the lady and back me up, this time neat.” Arlen recognized his play on the old Rod Stewart song, smiled but said nothing.

“You got it, Bren,” Maggie responded and went to work.

“Bren!” Arlen sounded both puzzled and annoyed. “She forgot the last half.”

“Yeah,” Brendan said. “Ain’t no big deal. We’re still getting the drinks.”

Arlen introduced herself. He liked her name and said so. She thanked him with mock Southern modesty, they raised their glasses and the evening was launched. He spoke variously about his work as a stringer for the local paper before it got taken over by a wire service, his brief time as social director on a stern-wheeler gambling boat that went up and down the river and now as managing the Charles Schwab office over at the mall. For her part she talked mostly about her graduate degrees in anthropology and, after an all-too-long, childless marriage ended, the years spent rebuilding her life first in the investment field, then with the Peace Corps in Peru. The enduring consequences of the latter, she sighed with resignation, were disillusionment with the agrarian classes and a love of cocaine that ended only with her eventual imprisonment for importing sufficient quantities to maintain—she swore this to be true—only her own habit.

Not to worry, she assured him. She’d been clean now for several years. Coke was too expensive in the joint, and she wasn’t ready to exchange sex for it. The topic of sex having thus been introduced into their conversation, Brendan, if only for obligations of gender but more likely out of half-hearted hope, sought to continue in that direction. Not so Arlen. Rather than endure the anticipated discomfort of such unfamiliar territory, she abruptly turned focus to the lateness of the hour and her early morning appointment at the small airport just north of town for her flying lesson. Brendan said he’d really enjoyed their talk and might he see her again. How about, could he pick her up after her lesson for lunch? No, she replied quickly. Her stomach was usually too unsettled after all those banks and turns and her landings were still far from smooth. She shifted her sweater from the back of the stool onto her shoulders.

“Maybe later, how about back here at the bar around eight? They have pretty good burgers here.”

“Yeah,” he agreed. “You order one medium rare and that’s what you get. And they’ve got those sweet potato fries.” Now it was Arlen’s turn to agree.

“Yes,” she smacked her lips. “The sweet potato fries are really the clincher.”

Without making a show if it, Brendan settled up the bill. Arlen had drunk steadily but slowly, and wine was cheap, so the total was well within his means. He offered to walk her home. Much to the surprise of both she accepted. When they reached her front walk and she began fumbling for keys, he reached out to take her hand. She clasped his, raising it almost to eye level.

“Don’t think this means first base,” she grinned. “I got pretty tough back—you know.

“I’m not surprised,” he smiled back. “A pretty woman like you, you probably had a lot of times you had to defend yourself.” She looked directly into his eyes.

“You’re sweet, and you’re very understanding,” she said with a new softness in her voice. The sweet smell of chardonnay filled the space between them. Simultaneously each leaned forward for a brief kiss.

“You be careful up there,” he whispered.

“Don’t you worry,” she replied. “Nothing can keep me from a good burger.” She squeezed his hand just a bit. “Trust me on that.”

 

The end

Published in: on September 13, 2014 at 5:48 pm  Comments (8)  

Remembering John Goldberg

Last Saturday, May 24th, marked the 50th anniversary of my father, John Goldberg’s, death. Bobbie, my wife, was in Connecticut with her kids and grandkids. I was left here with restlessness, discomfort and the urge to look at old photographs. I phoned my sister, Barbara Kinloch, not so much to reminisce as simply to talk to my sister. I posted this on Facebook:
The picture was made in 1945. In 1964, 50 years ago today my father, John Goldberg, died. Back in 2010 and again in 2012 I wrote about him in my blog. Today I have no words, no names for the feelings. So much we never got to share. So many nights at the bar without him to listen to me, to nod and put his hand on my shoulder. So much joy flooding my life right now without him to share in it. And yet I trust he knows, he feels and he remains with me always. Thanks Dad.

'45: Barbara, Mom, Dad, Dick

Friends were generous with their comments of support. These two, however, rocked me:

Bernie Sullivan:  Rich, I remember many times when you were so proud of your dad because of his family ethics. People like him never leave us. They become our conscience.

Patrick McMahon:  Beautiful. I understand.

 

Bernie and I go back to high school, have led very different lives and seem somehow to be connecting through Facebook. Pat and I worked in film together for years without really knowing each other, but now, again through FB, each of us has shown the other aspects of ourselves we were too young to expose earlier.

 

This morning, looking for some writing to work on, I came upon this:

          Like Father Like Son

More and more, it seems, less and less matters.

Perhaps it’s age.

Perhaps Taoism—not the religion or the philosophy, but the worldview of things never more than what they are in this moment.

Perhaps it’s the quiet yet joyful feeling that accompanies the cutting away of each attachment to the desires carried in one form or another since that time I felt it important to succeed in life.

There was a time when identifying causality was my prime goal, especially in response to life shifts I’d not chosen.

Why am I doing—or not doing—this—or that?

           was my default response before falling into life on the street. At that point,

What’s happening?

           became enough. In my post-street period—the more or less now-time–the response is

Hmm…

Now I frequently find myself astounded at my increasing relaxation, my easy acceptance of just going along with whatever’s happening and the soft, bemused delight that accompanies it.

  • A film on Taiwanese aborigines replacing their spirit house?
  • A rug in need of cleaning?
  • A group on the emotional aspects of aging?
  • A frank, well done, with mustard and onions?
  • No tequila. How about an ice tea?

In a word I once hated but now see as invaluable: Whatever.

Johnny, my dad, Johnny knew how to live

Something this son didn’t realize while the old man was still alive.

He thrived on his family and his job and watching others play at sports and politics.

He respected his heritage.

The 4 years between the death of the Hartford Chiefs (Class A, Eastern, Boston Braves farm team) and getting a TV set to watch the Yankees or the Red Sox were not so much a time of mourning as of hiatus.

     Dad knew how and when to rest.

     He knew the senselessness of argumentation.

Some folks in the half generation between his and mine didn’t think so. They thought his lack of desire for success as they counted it was a weakness, a fault, a defect of character significant enough to be mentioned to his son at Johnny’s funeral. That son, me, already sufficiently deep in his father’s mold, did not coldcock those cousins who felt it necessary to criticize the corpse in the next room.

That was all then.
Right now I sit here.

Coffee to my left, Traffic outside the window.

Rejoicing in being my father’s son.

* * *

Thank you all for reading this.

Published in: on May 27, 2014 at 11:45 am  Comments (9)  

More Ireland Snaps!

Three weeks ago Bobbie and I returned from a two week long guided tour along the western, southern and eastern coasts of Ireland starting at Galway, then moving south to include the Cliffs of  Moher, the Dingle Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry, Killarney, Cork, Cobh, Blarney Castle, Waterford, New Ross, Kilkenny and Dublin.  Since that time we’ve been taking our daily coffees and teas in our souvenir of Ireland mugs and working on an album of what turns out to be our favorite 165 photos out of the 1400 (!) or so shot.  Now I don’t expect you’re ready for 165 photos of Ireland although if you are you can access them at

https://picasaweb.google.com/richsgold/Ireland2014?authkey=Gv1sRgCN3ugpfQu6HcGw

Meanwhile, here are a few of my favorites.

Enjoy!

 

Dingle Peninsula

 

02-030-P1040988

 

Killarney

 

Waterford

 

Cliffs of Moher

 

 

Ring of Kerry

 

Cobh

 

Dingle Peninsula

 

Ring of Kerry

 

Cahir Castle, Cork to Kilkenny

 

John driving!

 

Cork, River Lee

 

Blarney Castle

 

Cobh?

 

Guiinness Storehouse, Dublin

 

Ireland

 

Off Grafton Street, Dublin

 

Doorman at Brown & Thomas, Dublin

 

Published in: on April 30, 2014 at 12:10 pm  Comments (5)