I really want to get this going....

Each day's listing is an excerpted edit from my work. These are numbered and sub-headed for ease of read and isolation from full body of continued text. Each small excerpt is a single-themed piece culled from a much larger whole. Please follow the heading numbers down to #1, or click on 'archive'. The highest numbers are most recently posted, obviously. If so interested, for follow-up, you may contact via e-mail shown - perhaps for discussion or annotation needed.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

LIVING AT MACDOUGAL ALLEY

61. LIVING AT MACDOUGAL ALLEY:

'More stuff about solitude and longing' - it seems sometimes that could be a pretty fair title of some of the stuff I'm seeing for everywhere I go it seems there is hurt and a wounded structure for it appears that even the very physical State of our Union is being ruined in the same way that the spirits of people have already been destroyed and it's something that I wanted to delve into but often was unable - back at the library in the old art school where I often slept on the floor overnight after reading for hours this or that tome on theory or practice or history of ART - and by the reading of that in such a place as I was reading it (a great enormous tiring spectacle of a centuries old series of buildings put together as a mansion with its stables and gardens) it seemed to grow even larger in life than in concept - the tall 19th century windows looking out over some stupid January 1968 street with its beast-like cars trolling by in the cold - causing little curlicues of vapor to trail them - the people in scarves and great-coats silently passing along their ways to whatever it was that was drawing them in - into a climate of change as awesome and yet as cold as the weather around them : WE all knew it was coming we all knew it was changing but we could not bring ourselves to explain what we saw so we traveled in silence and the only references right then that I had were references to the past - the past without endings and without doubt - some jagged part of the path I wanted to be on but which was turning out to be only some odd offshot without much meaning some dead-end where I'd flounder some island of limited potential from which I'd simply just never make connection NONETHELESS three floors below me on the street they walked oblivious past what I was inhabiting and all the histories which went here with it and all they had to offer to that date were feeble photo-shops 'instant passports enlarged blow-ups of your favorite photo poster-sized wall shots of your favorite stars' and all the other tendentious crap that went with it - eighth street shoe stores five step walk-ups with little lobbies of mailboxes in rows and buzzers at every address and the worn-down brownstones the sagging steps the forlorn claptrap of every shoe-shop and cheap delicatessen each had its own answer and tried to proffer it - the sailor-sized tattoo shop the smoke shop the ties and clothing stores the record shops and the bookstore and attached at the corner The Christian Science Reading Room lest I forget (that one-night stand of the hopeless and the beleaguered the helpless and lame) - and it was right across from there that the old bar/restaurant was with the Cezanne in the lobby and I often stood there just to see it (albeit through the glass for I never went in) and although it was never understood by me what that particular Cezanne was doing there or why or how - it was as if an extra point had somehow been added onto the personal compass I navigated by - for that reference was referenced as often as anything else : polestar northstar setting sun or riding-high moon : and whether by darkness or bright light each time I passed through MacDougal Alley to or from whatever I took it in and the old stables and the black metal fence and the tiny flicker of the gaslamps and the alleyway with all its entrances and my own back door (some leftover segment of a varied Victorian day when even old New York was answering to a different theme) they each meant something dear and right to me and I knew by the knowing that SOMEHOW right then I was in the correct place for that moment of my life even as much as most of it came to naught but NO MATTER that for I went on nonetheless waning and prospering and waning again as any light from another place was wont to do in the weird atmospherics of this heavy Earth we walk.
-
And then some guy walked up to me as I was looking in and said "you know what that is do you ? that's a Cezanne a card players Cezanne and we've only got it for a year or two before it has to go back from where it came - I can tell you're interested in it" and I looked over and said "interested ? yeah that's right I guess I can't get enough of looking at it" and actually I wasn't sure who this guy was or what he was up to or even if he knew or was telling the truth but I didn't let it bother me right then "yes" he said "yes and I can tell - well you KNOW what I can tell about you?" and of course I didn't so I said (stupidly in hindsight) "no what can you tell?" and he uttered these still indescribable words to me "that you're a lost little boy walking these streets with a LOT of pent-up anger and the very idea of peeking into a place like this to look at what you think is some form of high art gets you excited" and then I realized he was just another fag trying to pick up another young street-walking young man like me (for this wasn't the first nor the last time that this sort of thing occurred to me and I never knew why) and I turned and said "fuck you you slattern what do you know about anything anyway and besides you're nothing but a predator now leave me alone" and his eyes narrowed and he stared back "careful now fellow I wasn't meaning no harm rather just seeing if you'd be interested in anything" and in the usual course of these annoying Greenwich Village nights I knew he'd offer to buy me food take me home want to talk and then sit around and then try something stupid and try to bed me for it had all happened before and there'd always been something about these middle-aged Village lonely gay men that somehow leds them to find wandering lost boys but what really annoyed me was his weaving of the Cezanne bullshit into this whole thing - and what did he mean with the 'we've only got it for a year or so more' I wanted to know and I kept trying to think of something next to say while at the same time not wanting to take this any further so I turned on him and said "look pal if you don't get out of my face right now I'm going to kick you in the nuts so hard you'll be wearing them as earrings" and with that he turned away and quickly left.
-
I don't know why I mentioned that as I did but the trembling path of Eighth Street makes me remember things and I can't always contain what's remembered as I think he retreated back into Washington Square Park not far off and if I close my eyes right now believe you me I'm there again - as I can recall every sound sensation smell and item about that place the old Mews the old MacDougal Alley the old start of MacDougal Street itself and the little gallery on the corner across from the park and the park too and every person who by or along it and all my days there were filled with observation and (even then) the thoughts of memory and the past together - the bleak gray rooftops the cityscape seen from above the old housetops and roof portals of old Greenwich Village the coffee shops and the wasted corners and old havens of geeks freaks artists queers lovers and whores the Italian thugs from south of Bleecker coming north to beat the senseless shit of any fag or beatnik they could find the turning points of old old religion and old foreign custom and the bakers commingled together with vegetable men and lumber men the hawkers and their wares the spaghetti palaces and the twisty street leading downward and east to the Chinese haunts the smoke-dens opium hovels pharmacy and herb shops ginseng weed tubers of this and that and every potential herb and blossom known to man for everywhere to everywhere was Health to Healing known together. -
HOWEVER that is NOT 'end of story' - and I still remember a hundred other things : how that guy started telling me about some cabinet or something that was underneath the painting some piece of furniture I'd never heard of some French name as he put it "you know what that is ? it's a 'bon heur du jour' - a delicate fall-front desk of the late 18th century and it literally means 'happiness of the day' and favor is found in its time" for I guess he knew furniture or something or maybe he sold antiques or ran one of those musty antique shops downtown - I never knew - but he did seem to know his 'happiness of the day' as he put it while by contrast I was still concentrating on the Cezanne which concentration had started this whole scene and whatever this place was - restaurant or nightclub or bar/lounge or something I never did get inside there and never did really know or need to know for all I was doing was learning it by its art and that was certainly not for me the art of steak-fries or food service so it really never mattered and I've written of all this stuff a few times already but not like this - for this once I'd been transported to another time and place a scene entirely different and there were horses for certain and carriages and candles on mantlepieces and doorways lit by gaslight and darkness in the sky amassed with stars of a totally pre-electric era and I'd already left two centuries and entered a third and another besides and the language as I traveled was getting harder to understand thicker and sterner and more formal and the people I'd see were people from somewhere else and things were different and the streets were almost bare and in places non-existent and just pathways and tall trees and lanes and shrubs with horse-paths and copses and small bodies of water and streams and rivers and hilltops and the land shambled both up and down and made no sense or logic of itself and much of nothing was everywhere as the air was crisp and certain and I knew - certainly knew for sure - that I had moved along to someplace else.
-
And then I was pausing I just found myself pausing - short of breath and unable to even gasp as the thoughts were racing through me like racehorses images piercing sounds and the visages of people and things they'd done and said and it was all I could do on the evening's day to sit across from some Henry Jamesian doorway facing Washington Square Park and find a way to just let it all flow : '1958 Summerspace Merce Cunningham costumes by Robt. Rauschenberg music by Morton Feldman a pale-toned speckled design covering backdrop and dancers' leotards equally created an allover Monet effect as the performers camouflaged to sink into the background emerged as markings and exclamations as staccato events that were continually reabsorbed into the enveloping mood into the vast lyric canvas - a new kind of American pastoral sophistication (Carolyn Brown and Viola Farber as dancers) The Stable Gallery - Eleanor Ward's establishment in a converted stable on Seventh Ave at Fifty-eighth Street 'greatness in art isn't heavy it's light it strains to leave the earth but it's light' Kenneth Koch said that and Gustave Flaubert said 'be regular in your life so that you may be VIOLENT and ORIGINAL in your work' and Freidrich Schiller who died just recently in 1805 spoke of two kinds of pastoral poets the naive and the sentimental he called them and he said 'Nature has granted this favor to the naive poet to act always as an indivisible unity to be at all times self-sufficient and complete and to represent in the real world humanity at its highest value and IN OPPOSITION it has given a powerful faculty to the sentimental poet or rather it has imprinted an ardent feeling on him - that is - to restore from out of himself this first unity that abstraction has destroyed in him to complete humanity in his person and to pass from a limited state to an infinite state - and these two types BOTH propose to represent human nature fully or they would not be poets and writers but the naive poet always has the advantage of sensuous reality over the sentimental poet by setting forth as a real fact what the other aspires only to reach and SENTIMENTALITY here in writing is the offspring of retirement and science' and I thought to myself WHEW! I didn't want any of that - sentimental foppery being just what I hated the most - the faction of the wet-eye the moper the crier for God and his works the helpless the broken and those who can do NOTHING to advance themselves and their thought so to the rest of the world I said 'be damned' and meant each word of it too and it was Andrew Marvell who'd written in 'The Garden' - 'annihilating all that's made / to a green thought in a green shade' and then I looked up and saw two black men silently it seemed sawing a tree and for whatever reason I couldn't understand what they were doing until I realized the time and the place and saw they were servants or slaves at one of the advancing mansions along the way and they'd been out collecting wood for fires and stoves and their two carts seemed quite full but apparently they'd had one last opportunity at an attractive tree or a situation of a tree needing trim and so they were doing it as they closed the task and I went to them and said "Sirs sirs excuse me but what is this night and what day has it been?" and apparently my calling them Sirs had caused confusion for they seemed flustered and stepped back hurriedly and replied "we's only doin' what's the rightful task and so when y'ask us such a question we'not be unda'standin' what ya aksed us" and I said back "no - simple though it is I really want to know where am I" and they laughed and said "why's you'se here to be sure o'that and this is Master Henry Morton's wagon crew settlin' fo' this night - jes' we two nig'r's gittin wood" and I said "OK OK thanks for that" and knew I'd lost the game but still was hopefully sure of illusion only and not much else - for how was it I could be unattached to the fabric of both time and place and still inhabit both a lawn and a street together - these were things I did not know but wished for knowing.

2 Comments:

At 10:53 AM, Blogger Chuck O. said...

You paint a vivid image of Greenwich and New York...I also like the cataloging of different things; makes me think of Walt Whitman...it really gives your poetic voice an all-encompassing, "this is how it was," instead of the "this is how I seen it". Does that make sense? (yes I know I seen it, ain't the queen's english)

 
At 3:10 AM, Blogger consise10 said...

what a vivid piece of writing Gary.It must be so difficult for non gay men to be approached in such a manner.I have often wondered why men tend to resort to 'violence' as portrayed by the 'response' given to the pestering gay male on the streets of NY.Is it that when confronted by the obscure or some thing which goes against the core of them, naturally they react instinctively violent ? Just posing the question. Thanks for your blog.You really are a very talented writer Gary.

 

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