Sunday, May 24, 2015

A song is a river

A song is a river born of mist and rain 
and carried by the same 
to clouds, then down again as rain, 
to streams, to rivers, then again 
to mist and rain, then again, 
a little different each time it began
until the song is new again and again.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Thoughts on the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman and many another tortured, brilliant soul

What I think: AT LEAST, he had the opportunity, talent, determination, taste and self discipline to create an amazing body of brilliant work in his chosen field before sinking into the darkness. For that alone, he was lucky and so are we all. We have the work he left behind and will for a long, long, time. For that, I am grateful. How long should a life be? Of what should it consist? Does legacy trump longevity? I am 67. What have I done? My mother is 97. What has she done? My father died a drunk at 64 after combat in three wars and I'll never know what else.  What would a drug addict be addicted to without drugs, an alcoholic without alcohol, a suicide without death? There is a dark clock in the soul of some that ticks faster than real time and winds down sooner, much sooner that others. Some manage to struggle against all odds and leave a monument of creation behind, but most leave only dust. Thank you, Philip, for doing so much with the time you could manage to get through before giving in.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Snow and sun in a cold new year.

Snow, snow, there is no air only huge fat flakes of snow in the beams of the headlights as we pull into the small Bavarian town, windshield wipers laden and slow on the thick, quiet, darkening streets. We are lost. Truly strangers in a strange land in our '53 blue Ford that had been shipped over for us by the Army for our tour of duty. Now what? My dad in his vague German has us directed to the only place in town that can put us up for the night, my brother, my mother, my dad and me. We are ushered into the warm, wood paneled dining hall of a German Catholic girl's school to become objects of great curiosity at the long table of silent girls and nuns who study us in polite amazement. Later we are led up a winding stair to a high garret room with no heat but foot thick feather beds to which all future beds will forever be compared and found lacking.

Snow, sun, bright light so cold you can break it. Colorado Springs, winter of 1956. The hill in front of the school is so fine for sledding and learning to ski, then later we're being pulled in a long line of sleds tied together behind a station wagon with my dad sitting on the tailgate and holding the rope.  Not the sort of thing a parent would do today, but a rare fine memory to have on a sunny, snowy cold day decades beyond that one winter in the wild west.

Snow, a record snow, out of school for weeks it seemed, new kid in town, Rutherfordton, NC 1960. There is fine, fine, sledding on the golf course and a bonfire at night. A good place to make new friends in this new town. Mrs. Carson, who lives by the golf course, will later fail me in algebra and trigonometry but for now, makes us all hot chocolate and is kinder than she will ever seem to me thereafter in her disappointment with my meager efforts in higher mathematics. "But what is it for", I would ask, over and over. It would have helped me to know, really it would. "Just learn it" she said, but I didn't until I was writing algorithms as a computer programmer in my 40s. Oh, the irony!. I finally found out what algebra was for. And the sledding on the golf course was the finest I remember.

Snow, horizontal snow, ropes tied between the parking meters to hang on to. I in my woefully inadequate navy surplus pea coat and really wrong shoes. A southern boy in no way prepared for winter in Buffalo in 1968 or anything else with a baby, a wife and this unforeseen, unplanned life. Hunkering down in this land of winter, smoking pot, watching the Chicago Democratic convention, the election, the war and the Smothers Brothers on TV. I wore a Santa Suit for Sandy that Judy rented.  It was a long, long winter at the end of a short season before another short new season and moving on from everything there to a different where.

After waiting at the bar for two hours for Linda to get off on New Year's Eve 1970 we finally walk out into a silent Sheridan Square into the sparkling new year's new snow about 2 or 3 AM. It was a magically beautiful night - the city at it's best, a new year, a new life, the snow swirling in halos around the street lights. There were virtually no footprints or tire tracks. Miraculously, a lone yellow cab crawls up 7th Avenue and for a king's ransom takes us off the meter from the West Village to the East Village. We were two souls warmed for only this one winter beginning on a fine, lovely, crystalline, new year's night. I had survived NYC now for 15 months, at first, homelessly couch surfing, even once staying in a crummy hotel overlooking Washington Square later mentioned in a Joan Baez song but she was there with Bob Dylan, not me. Nope, not me. I even stowing away in the lighting control booth at the Equity Library Theater theater when I did a couple shows there. I'd say goodnight to the cast and crew then sneak back in and curl up somewhere for the night. Finally, exactly one year before, on New Year's day, 1970, I'd moved into my little studio on 2nd street between Avenues B & C.  Then this one year later, Linda for the winter, warm, so warm.

The coldest winter of my life was Miami in 1974. I never thought to rent a house with heat. There were 4 of us and I was the smart one who selected the florida room for my bedroom. It had only screen walls.  Coldest winter in Miami in decades. So, so dumb, but then there Sara showed up to be led astray and kept me warm there and was kind and loving and fine in every way and in the end, got not much for her troubles, I'm ashamed to say.  I had left the beautiful, delicate mad woman, Jeanne, whom I loved but couldn't care for to tarry in the coldest winter of the subtropics and found Sara. The guilt would trip me up in the end, only to leave me alone again for a while. I was not to be trusted in those days, (or for many days to come) but never knew it quite soon enough. "Take warning, all ye fair and tender ladies, be careful how you court your men."  That was me the song warned against.  "They're like the stars on a summer's morning. They first appear, and then they're gone." I thought better of me than that, but had no cause to. Love always seemed so real. Just brief.

Many winter's have past now.  The Hollywood Christmas Parade seemed a violation, those palms against the sky all hung with twinkling lights.  Many winters in upstate New York, my unexpected home, there and back again.  Hating the cold, hating the gray piles of snow at the end of the drive, hating the weeks of gray skies and white lawns. Vowing to be gone, but still here. It's spring now, spring, that pale green of the new leaves, forsythia, quince, blue skies, perfect little clouds in a tremulous breeze. Oh, spring, what is winter now but a prelude to glory?  I'll worry about winter later, perhaps in autumn, I may start to worry some, but Autumn's fine as summer is. Three out of four ain't bad and:

A warm home in winter is a blessing to be counted. Like a loving wife and forgiveness and mending the error of one's ways.