Sunday, September 11, 2016

SEVEN FOR NINE ELEVEN

Songs of Sorrow,
      Songs of Hope

       Seven for Nine Eleven

                I.

September morning---
 Clear and calm …
 Streaking, screaming jets
 Collide with the crisp serenity,
 Crushing the dreams of thousands
 Of world citizens
 In one prolonged
 Agonizing instant---
 Altering perceptions and events
 In a tangle
 Of terror,
 Toppling towers,
 And barbaric entombment

              II.

 All the fallen heroes
 Rushing to rescue
 Innocent victims of violence…
 Trapped between their selfless bravery
 And fanatic hatred
 Focused on annihilation
 Of all hope and happiness…

Gone in the momentous collapse
 Of monuments and unsung miracles…
 All the fallen heroes,
 Mourned and remembered,
 Forevermore.

             III.

Bewildered with rage 
 And weeping,
 We gather and huddle
 In streets and parks,
 Embracing strangers, 
 Posting our private grief
 On walls and chain-link fences…
 Coming together in the spirit 
 Of ourselves
 As though this magnitude
 Of love
 Could stifle and smother
 The animosity,
 The atrocity,
 That has befallen us.

            IV.

Weep, world…
 Many lost their lives today.

Weep for clashing cultures
 Exploding on the world.
 The eleventh of September
 Collides with human destiny…
 Ending all innocence
 And immunity.

Weep, world,
 Weep in sorrow…
 Many lost their lives today…
 Yet, beneath the smoldering debris,
 A new spirit struggles to erupt.
              V.

 A fragile experiment,
 Begun in a time
 When humanity defied tyranny
 And sought a sanctuary
 Of liberty…

Once begun,
 There was no assurance
 It would survive…

Even now
 Tyrants and barbarians
 Threaten the frangible frame of freedom.

             VI.

 We will not die---
 There is a gentle presence
 That gathers strength 
 In our awareness---
 Through all the adversity,
 Through all the tears,
 Through all that perished
 On that frail September day,
 We find the substance
 Of ourselves
 Embedded in all who have gone
 Before us…
 Grasping intangible threads 
 Binding us...  
 
            VII.

 Celebrate the loved ones
 We have lost…
 Celebrate the right to sing
 Of one another…
 Cherish the links
 Connecting us…
 To dare to dream,
 To seek to hope,
 To make festivals
 Of images and sounds
 Leaping like magic
 Across an electric consciousness
 Like shooting stars
 Across the cosmos 
 Confronting chaos 
 With the simple song of ourselves.

© Copyright John Gilbert, September 12, 2011, 
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Sunday, August 07, 2016

MULTIMEDIA OPERA ROTATION BEGINS A NEW LIFE WITH OFF BROADWAY PRODUCTION

ROTATION performed its final Off Broadway tryout in BlackBox Theatre on Washington Square. on Sunday, August 9.  This multimedia opera by John Gilbert was premiered in 1969 and was included in Stewart Kranz's epic 1971 book Science and Technology in the Arts. The work is decidedly contemporary in tone, eclectic, but also distinctive in achieving a personal style in Gilbert's libretto as well as his music. Besides the convincing and expressive musical performance, perhaps the most distinctive element is the extraordinary production directed by Clare Hammoor and choreographed by Lisa Naugle, with media created and mounted by installation artist Diarmid Flately, including special images by Evelyn Walker.

ROTATION features an extraordinary cast of five singers and two dancers. According to his Manifesto written in 1968, one of Gilbert's goals for this work was to achieve independent theaters of text, music, action, media, and dance which interact in a dynamic fluctuating context. In his program notes, Gilbert notes that the setting is something like Greenwich Village in a distant or timeless future. As one of the characters, Julia, observes, "This is a very strange place."

The work begins with a quiet opening in which the dancers create the space that is quiet and contemplative or comic and dazzling, a magical but ordinary setting that seems to be waiting for something. The Critic, sung convincingly by baritone Suchan Kim, lays the groundwork for what is to follow by sharing with the audience that he knows everything and he will guide them with his keenly analytic mind.

As the Critic exits, Merculian, played by veteran opera performer and song stylist, Ulrich Hartung introduces himself to the audience as Merculian the Merchant selling his "odds, and ends." Hartung possesses a strong classic presence, and he communicates a wisdom always couched in a sense of humor that he shares with the audience.

Lost and seeming to wander into the space is Julia, a runaway who first is at odds with Merculian, but accepts him as merely an old man with a cart of junk. Played by Julie Song, Julia is an innocent who searches for some meaning for her life by discarding her past. Ms. Song has a very clear voice that  is sometimes quite intimate, but also often projected a commanding and strong resonance.

With commotion and screams of "Merculian, what have you done with it!"  renowned opera diva Oksana Krovytska,  erupts upon the stage as Cassandra, the Witch, and Merculian's companion and collaborator.  Ms. Krovytska's voice is rich and vibrant. Although she usually plays the more dramatic diva roles, her experience and insight fashions a comic role that could become classic. The collaboration of Hartung and Krovytska create Merculian and Cassandra as a quintessential paradigm, vintage and primal. At times, Hartung achieves a Hans Sachs grandeur, while Krovytska creates the realm of a witch with compassion, humor, and understanding. They perform some remarkable duet passages and imbue the setting with a sense of mystery and discovery.

Christopher Sanfilippo, tenor, suddenly interrupts the mystique of the moment as he struggles with the Critic who has stolen one of Brian's poems, and begins to read it mechanically. Brian grabs the poem from the Critic who sneers, "Can You Do Better?" Deliberately reminiscent of the scene in Wager's Die Meistersinger when Walther sings the prize song,  Brian sings perhaps what might be regarded as the only full-length aria in this chamber opera.  Sanfilippo's passionate delivery reveals a voice with rich texture that includes elements of contemporary musical theatre. His sense of pace and shaping the climax was impressive. Sanfilippo revealed strong acting background in manifesting a deep sense of humor while in the midst of extremely dramatic moments. His comedic work helped reinforce Hartung's tragicomic eloquence.

In general, the musical scenes, ensembles, solos are truncated and interwoven in an intensely intimate tapestry of interaction with dancers, and media directly engaged in the action or sometimes commenting, or entering and leaving in contrapuntal fashion.  Every character has distinct moments, but the work is rich with miniature duos, trios, quartets, double duo's laced throughout the work.

Flatley's media is abstract and painterly, but often with a stunning presence of a "universe uninvolved with us."  Evelyn Walker's added images are evocative.  Flately has created a multiscreen texture requiring precise image projection and timing. Into the abstractions, Flately captures the action unfolding onstage and projects it to different screens in the theatre, an extraordinary technical effect.

Hammoor's direction is deft and pragmatic, creating moments for characters to grow into the action and blocking.  His setting is functional and comedic, allowing ample space for the media while maintaining a careful balance with the physical presence of objects and set pieces. An added touch is The Young Boy played by Nathan who mysteriously moves in and out of the fantasy.

Naugle's choreography is evocative, and perhaps the most critical and difficult of the separate theaters acting independently. Dance is the one constant that never changes in terms of presence and requires continual attention to details of consonance and dissonance. Theoretically, this presence can interact with the actors and action, and with more time they might have achieved greater cohesion. The dancers, Tal Etedgi and Jacqueline Shannon, weave a tapestry of mystery and coherence, as they establish their identity as the gatekeepers.

There are several highlights worth mentioning: a masquerade scene led by Cassandra and Merculian to seduce and persuade the hapless young couple ending with the explosion of a perpetual motion machine, and a stunning climax to the opera in which the characters sing the quintet "We Require the Masks." In this moment this disparate group of characters bond into an ensemble powerful, eloquent, and memorable.

The star of this opera is the music. Musical Director and Pianist Stella Chiashan Cheng led an inspired ensemble of Zack Hicks (fl/cl), Jordi Nus (vln), and Jiafan Shi (vc).  The original score included analog tape cues which have vanished. Synthesist and Audio Engineer, Tate Gregor recreated the tape cues in consultation with the composer.  The instrumental score was arranged by John Russell Gilbert, assisted by Sean Shiwon Kim and the participating instrumentalists.

Stella Cheng's musical direction was rich and insightful and extremely responsive to the many changes in tempo, dynamics, and emotional range. Given the context and limits of this Off Broadway trial run, the result was a rich and powerful musical event.

ROTATION explores the meaning of life with humor and skepticism, but also with passion and verve. It is highly compressed with all the elements of grand opera on an intimate scale. The work is also about energy and recycling, and the adventure of discovering who we are and who we might become.

                                                                                           ... George Grisham





Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Recovering

After a long drouth, I wonder where I lost the way. As I awake, so many things are going on that I am bewildered by the activity. I hear myself saying things as though I was overhearing me from the next room.

There is so much activity. There is so much energy from around the world, gathered into this place. When I was last here, in the shadows of Wizard Ways , I was writing stories that had begun a year ago after IMPACT 2015 started to dissolve, and I recovered from a deep silence inspired by the vision of a new discovery, a new awareness. In that space, I felt the connection to the source of all creating, coming out of the silence, from the zero state to indescribably incandescent decibels of beauty.

But then I started to disappear. Becoming invisible was a slow journey out of myself. Although I had many stories in my head, none of them could find their way to my fingers and the keyboard. As I looked in the mirror I noticed I was fading. There were the poems that called to be published and I had a favorable experiment on FaceBook, creating poems in the fiery chaos of a rhythmic shift that reverberated with a deep and infinite shudder, an echo of the universe erupting into being.

Phaedrus stood in the shadows and watched, he strode the corridors of silence and listened.

There was the miracle of concinnity, the mingling of gathering energy that would propel an emerging vision of our immediacy in this moment of the world.  In the fading days of summer, our intuition seemed to engage a new awareness of who we are and how we make the quality of discovery become a shared reality.


Friday, November 27, 2015

The Prince of Bleecker Street

For years Jerome had noticed a gypsy-like figure that he thought of as The Prince of Bleecker Street living in a natural habitat located near the corner of Bleecker and LaGuardia Place in Greenwich Village.  This habitat preserves the terrain the way Manhattan was before settled by Europeans, and in some cases, even before the Lenape Indians became the inhabitants of Mannahatta. The ancient setting was clear and pristine with a grandeur that some say rivaled the wilderness and beauty of Yosemite National Park.

Now the pristine wilderness is cement and asphalt. The Prince of Bleecker's palace is a tarp attached to a sprawling fern tree, where he sleeps and keeps his stash of necessities.

Most of the time the Prince presides at the corner of Bleecker and Laguardia Place, sitting outside the supermarket while reading the New York Post. He is constantly doing his "researches," working for the Secret Service and the CIA, or so he claims.

One day Jerome  learned the Prince came from Peru where he was known as Delphin Blanco. Delphin calls himself the White Dolphin. He has ruled his Prince street domain for a decade. He is almost indescribable: an ancient patriarch, a gypsy, ageless, often wearing bright red tunic, bearded and with thick braided hair that is longer than his height when he stands about five feet four inches. And of course, a pipe that is fragrantly ancient as he puffs and reads.

He maintains that one day he will return to his mansion in Peru, but not until his work is done. Jerome asked what that work was and he replied in a low voice and heavy accent "top secret researches." The Dolphin speaks with such conviction that you have to believe in him on some level... at least on the level where he believes himself.

One day he said to Jerome, "I live high in the mountains of my country overlooking the Pacific. My mansion is made of marble, and I continue the traditions of the Incas, my ancestors." He lowered his voice.  "There are many mysteries in the world, my friend. My ancestors are from the stars. We are the stuff that stars are made of.  Someday, I will return to my star home. That is the legacy of the Dolphin."

So the days went by and the seasons passed and Jerome would see the colorful Prince sitting and reading, smoking his pipe, and talking to curious young people who were fascinated by the White Dolphin who seemed to have stepped from a book of fairytales. Occasionally, the Prince would disappear for a few days and then enigmatically return.

At one point, Jerome started to speculate that perhaps the tarp was a time warp, a space portal that the Dolphin would use to travel through space and time. He knew it was absurd, and yet the "Prince" had an air of other worldliness about him that was intriguing.

The Dolphin mysteriously came out supporting a conservative political candidate who was extremely wealthy and hated by the liberal establishment. Almost immediately the sanitation department and the police department descended upon the Prince's palace and began to harass him. The sanitation department  gathered up his newspapers and discarded them as trash, but strangely although they hassled him, the police refused to evict the Dolphin as a homeless vagrant.

But the glare of publicity was on the Dolphin. The Post interviewed him and published the interview with photos which strikingly confirmed Jerome's impression of the Dolphin as the Prince of Bleecker Street. The Dolphin claimed that his support of a conservative candidate had prompted the mayor to go after him as a political enemy.  Jerome was puzzled at the amount of attention given to this gypsy vagabond who lived off the land and somehow managed to escape the label of a homeless derelict.

Then  months later, the Dolphin disappeared. His domain remained intact, but the Prince of Bleecker Street was nowhere to be seen. Jerome was worried. Autumn faded into winter, and snow blanketed the Dolphin's tarp domain. The winds buffeted the fern tree, and on occasion the Prince's domain lay buried in snow drifts. Jerome became so alarmed he pulled back the tarp during an especially cold wintry siege, dreading that he might discover the Dolphin's frozen remains. What he saw was a strange device almost buried in the snow, an artifact that might have been an amulet, bullet shaped with fins, but looking ancient and faintly glowing. He was tempted to retrieve it, but he felt almost paralyzed and afraid to move. A blast of wind forced him to lower the tarp and withdraw.

As summer approached, Jerome saw his mystical monarch walking along Bleecker as though he had never been away.

Jerome was stunned to see the Prince looking quite regal, his colorful demeanor now sported a multicolored knitted sleeve that encased his body-length braids like a kaleidoscopic tail. He seemed younger somehow, inscrutable and radiant.  Even his pipe seemed different, oddly reminding Jerome of the amulet he had seen in the snow.  Everything about him seemed different as though he had gone through some mystical metamorphosis.

"Dolphin, where have you been?" Jerome asked. "I was worried about you."

The Prince smiled. "I am doing my work, of course... my researches."

He paused and pulled on his pipe. "Never worry, my friend, the Dolphin is always secure in his legacy... there are many mansions in my domain... but I am always searching for the next adventure... There is always something waiting for me... There is always my researches..."

He reached into his pocket and pulled out an amulet looking very much like the one Jerome had seen in the snow. He handed it to Jerome.

"Think of me when you look at the stars."

Jerome never saw the Dolphin again.

Friday, October 16, 2015

A Perfect Match

Mabel was extremely happy. She had found Ralph, and they were a perfect match. One might say they were a match made in heaven, but not exactly. She had gone through so many relationships over the past decade that she had begun to despair. But then Ralph came a long. Well, he didn't exactly come along. She met him through a computer matching service online. It had been all so simple that she wondered why she had waited so long to try the computer matching approach.

Now everything was perfect. Well, not exactly perfect, because Ralph was married and had a son and a daughter. He was about ten years older than Mabel and in the middle of a divorce. He needed to keep his relationship with Mabel secret until the divorce was finalized so his Ex couldn't use that against him in the settlement. This was annoying, but everything about Ralph was so perfect that she convinced herself she didn't mind the secrecy. 

Mabel didn't look like a "Mabel", (not really sure what that means, except it's true). Her parents were in the maple syrup business in Vermont and picked "Mabel" because it was like maple music to their ears. But all of her life, Mabel was yearning to be a New Yorker---a true New Yorker.

Mabel appeared statuesque, perfectly proportioned, although she was only 5' 9". She could have been a Rockette if she were taller because she could dance with the best of them. The first week she came to NYC, she went to an open audition and won a spot as a dancer in a Broadway show. She thought this would open the door to many male companions. She quickly learned that the male dancers in her show were not available because she wasn't the right gender. 

Mabel tried speed dating because she was in a hurry to find a guy in the Big Apple that could keep up with her life style. She met many guys that were looking for a hot romance, but really had nothing much to offer in a lasting relationship. After almost a decade of losers, she decided to try APERECTMATCH.com. That's how she met Ralph.

Ralph was a lawyer, very distinguished but low key. He was senior officer and partner in a small firm. He was smart, very methodical, and had a routine for every facet of his life, from making coffee to working out. Mabel loved routines as a way of managing time. In a way, it was also a way of managing Ralph.

Ralph was physically fit and worked out regularly, which was a priority for Mabel. She liked to run along the Hudson River almost every day. Her work as a dancer kept her "lean and mean"--- always ready for action. 


The one factor on the matching scale most important to Mabel and Ralph was a vigorous physical relationship. Ralph was not especially handsome, but he was rugged and very strong. On their first date for dinner, they could hardly finish the meal. Their relationship started with a bang, one might be tempted to say. Ralph was experienced, strong, and in control, but deeply considerate of Mabel.

But now the days started to drag by as Ralph's continued negotiations with his Ex. It had now been two years since Mabel and Ralph met, but the divorce settlement was still in progress.

Mabel noticed that Ralph seemed to be texting a lot lately, and it didn't seem to be to her. He still was attentive, sent texts to her for liaisons, and their physical relationship continued to flourish.

But something seemed different.  Not that Mabel was less committed, but she wondered what was going on with Ralph. He seemed ready to commit, but was so slow in finalizing and going to the next level.

Out of a premonition, she decided to create a new profile for herself as Mandy on MATCHMAKER.COM. She submitted photos she had in her phone of a girl she had met from Maine. They actually looked very similar, so Mabel didn't think it was really that misleading. Also, this was not really a serious commitment, just testing the water. She thought to herself that the computer matching had worked so well, why not have a backup now that Ralph seemed to be dragging his feet?

Much to her surprise she found several matches, but one that matched her even higher than Ralph. His name was Randy, and he was a sports professional, a personal trainer in a nearby gym. For several days, Mabel agonized over whether she should contact Randy.  However, Ralph, although attentive and continuing to be an exciting lover, seemed a little distracted. After these two years, Mabel had fully expected to be wearing his ring, and making wedding plans. But there seemed to be no real movement toward that expectation.

Through the matching service, Mandy and Randy agreed to meet on Thursday for a late lunch at Rock Center Cafe in Rockefeller Center. This worked well for her because she had a 7 p.m. call for her show. It was a crisp October Day, and Mabel arrived early. She was surprised to see that ice skating had already started in The Rink at Rockefeller Center. She took some photos with her smartphone and posted on FaceBook. Even though she was early, Mabel walked through stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue across the street. She decided she would arrive fashionably late. She didn't want to appear eager, but she was curious to meet her match.

Finally she took the street elevator to the lower restaurant level. She told the receptionist she had reservations. She was getting very excited. Her heart was pounding. The receptionist led her to a table looking out on the rink.

Mabel suddenly was stunned as though someone had slugged her with a baseball bat. Her knees buckled.

"Ralph?"

"Mabel?"

Friday, September 25, 2015

Shooting the Pope

Miranda came to New York after her family fled Cuba on a life raft one summer night in 2003. It was a rare escape as most such attempts failed in recent times. Miranda was sent to live with her mother's sister whose family lived in the East Village near Avenue C. Miranda worked as waitress at Favela Cubana on LaGuardia Place. Her aunt was friends with the owner.

Miranda was a deep believer in Fate, and that God was watching over her. She trusted life and people for that reason. She believed she was destined to escape Cuba and to come to New York and a new life.

Miranda was passionate about life and smartphones. She managed to save for a smartphone, which served her like a beacon of freedom. Miranda might go without meals. She might go without movies or other entertainment. But she would never be without her phone. It was the most important device for creating her identity.  She loved to take selfies in every possible setting, including just taking an image of some drink she had ordered at a bar. She thrived on posting on FaceBook and had gradually developed more than 200 FaceBook friends.

When Miranda learned that Pope Francis was coming to New York, she began to dream of shooting a  selfie with the Pope. She was excited that he was reviving the Church in Cuba, and she thought about how that would have such a positive effect on those of her family still living there.

She studied everything on the internet she could to find out his itinerary. He was arriving in Washington D.C.  and then coming to New York on Thursday to hold prayer at St. Patricks that evening. The next morning he would address the UN, hold a ceremony at the 9/11Memorial, visit a school in Harlem, motorcade through Central Park, and end with Mass at Madison Square Garden. Miranda marveled that the Pope could do so much in such a short visit and the plans put him in touch with so many different people---but always at a guarded distance.

Miranda thought about what would be the best opportunity to take a selfie with the Pope. As she took a work-break from Favela Cubana, she stood on LaGuardia Place looking south. She saw the Freedom Tower gleaming in the bright September sky. The tower was a symbol of her own escape to freedom with her family.  "It's perfect," she smiled, "it represents my life, and a picture with the Pope would be my greatest wish." Miranda prayed, and on the evening before the Pope's visit to the memorial, she walked around and tried to connect spiritually with the surrounding area. She imagined where the Pope might travel and how she might get in position.

Miranda told her co-workers and friends she would be trying to take a picture of herself with the Pope. They all laughed, but knowing she was vulnerable, they hoped she wouldn't get hurt.

That night Miranda couldn't sleep. She thought about the Pope and where he was. She wondered if he was sleeping. She prayed that her dream would come true, that Miranda would have the chance to take a picture with Pope Francis, who took the name of St. Francis of Assisi to help the poor and downtrodden. Miranda felt poor and downtrodden. Surely God would smile on her tomorrow and help her with her picture. She left her phone plugged in to make sure it would be charged.

Miranda left her apartment at midnight. and headed by foot toward the Freedom Tower. It wasn't easy. She was among the first to be on the scene, although some had been there all night. She had some coffee. She liked the smell of coffee in the early morning hours. There was a chill in the night air and the coffee warmed her. Somehow she managed to be near the entrance of the Freedom Tower and the memorial.

As expected people were overflowing the area, but the police were effective in maintaining control. Miranda had been lucky in being pushed along almost in step with the Pope's entourage and dignitaries as they moved forward. There were spaces where Miranda could get a good view of the Pope. The timing would have to be perfect, but if she held the phone at the right angle she would capture her face with the Pope in the background.

As the Pope moved along and came into her view, he would disappear behind the crowd and then appear again. Miranda was watching and timing it just right. She anticipated the next chance, and at the precise moment he would be visible, she turned and raised her phone to shoot a selfie with the Pope.

The world is a mysterious and dangerous place. Miranda could have never dreamed what would happen the way it happened at that moment. Suddenly there was violent push, and the crowd was screaming. And then she saw him, a dark and bearded man with a gun who was shoving his way toward the Pope. He knocked Miranda to the ground and her smartphone went flying. Police and military leapt on the man, and he was subdued within seconds without one shot being fired.

The Pope's party hastened forward to the Memorial Site where the ceremony was to take place. Everything calmed down as the attacker was hustled away. The entire event lasted only twenty seconds, a tiny rip in the fabric of time. The brevity and rapid resolution of the attempted attack led to the impression nothing had happened at all. It was completely censored from the media.

For a moment, Miranda lay there dazed, and then struggled to her feet. No matter how brief the attack had been, Miranda felt it ravage her soul. Her phone was gone! ...knocked out of her hand just as she was taking the selfie. She began to sob. In such a brief moment her world was completely destroyed. She tried to look for it, but people were now moving slowly, tightly packed together. Miranda tried to gather her thoughts. She tried to understand what had taken place. Maybe God was punishing her.

Then a young man approached her, holding her phone.  He was tall and strong. At that moment Miranda thought he was Prince Charming.

"Miss, I think this is your phone...is it not?"

Miranda reached out and took the phone and kissed it. She looked upward, thanking God for restoring her phone. And then she gave her savior a kiss of thanks.

Actually, Miranda was still in a state of shock. The handsome young man noticed this and took her for some coffee so she could settle her thoughts. Miranda thought that maybe this whole thing might have happened so they would meet.

She shared with her handsome hero that she had gone to the Memorial Site to try to take a selfie of herself with the Pope. He laughed, but said it was difficult feel sorry for her because the event had led to him meeting her. Even so, Miranda shared her deep disappointment at failing her mission. She had been terrified when she saw the bearded man with the gun, but was so thankful nothing happened. He escorted her home, but not before they exchanged phone numbers.

Later that night, Miranda gave thanks to God. Just as she was about to go sleep, she turned on her phone to look at messages. She looked at FaceBook and there was a notification of people liking her photo. She clicked on it, and there on FaceBook smiling at her was an Instagram of Miranda in a selfie with the Pope.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Sweet Taste of Fame

New York City still seems to attract people in search of fame and fortune, although many argue that Hollywood is really the true mecca for being discovered. New York seems to have recently become more of a playground for the rich, especially the new rich who are generating code, creating apps and exploring new ways to connect through smart media.

So maybe Sam Osbourne ought to be going to Hollywood, because he was certainly not a media developer. Sure, he had a smartphone, but that's nothing to write home about. Sam was simply a good looking dude from New Mexico. He would probably be discovered in Hollywood at the drop of a hat. Going  to New York would be much more of a challenge. There was still some mystery about New York. New York was like a magic potion that drew you to be a part of it.

Sam Osbourne was 6'7" and a lady killer. What's more, he could sing circles around any leading man on Broadway. He was a natural. At least that's what he and his friends thought in Santa Fe. He had played in musicals, even an opera or two while in Santa Fe, not always the lead, but he was very popular on and offstage. He was at every party. Inviting him insured the party's success.

Everyone urged Sam to go to New York.They were certain he would become famous. His high school drama teacher encouraged him, and the director of his choir had commented that Sam was the best prospect for success in New York since Dennis Hopper or Val Kilmer...or even Adrian Grenier.

With such endorsements, Sam began to believe he would be making a big mistake if he didn't go to New York. The truth is that such success always came easily for Sam. He really didn't need to make an effort.  He was always the captain of his teams in school. He was voted most popular senior on his high school website, and the most likely to succeed.

Almost the moment Sam joined FaceBook he had more than 1500 friends and he was constantly flooded with requests. People followed him on Twitter, and his popularity grew seemingly with each advance of social media. He was an instant hit on Instagram. He enjoyed the Fame generated by the social media. This modest taste of Fame whetted his appetite. There was something about becoming famous that was delicious, like some exotic elixir that became habit forming. Now he wanted Fame so bad he could taste it.

You have probably surmised that Sam didn't go to college. Sam thought college would be a waste of time. Maybe he should have gone to Hollywood he thought. Look at what happened to Tom Cruise fresh out of high school in New Jersey. He went to Hollywood and became a super star. Almost overnight. Tom Cruise had it right. College was for losers.

Sam Osbourne posted on FaceBook that he was going to New York. He received hundreds of comments. There was advice on some people to see. But Sam was way ahead of his followers. He had already looked up top agents in New York City and sent them his resume and headshot, with a link to his website.

Sam had such an impressive website, he was surprised that he hadn't received offers and propositions from that.  Well, actually he did have a few propositions, and he had some mind blowing encounters with a few women who had something in mind other than show business.

Finally, Sam announced on FaceBook and in his messages and Twitters that he would be staying at the New York Marriott Marquis in the heart of Times Square, on Broadway. He was arriving that Sunday. He sent out his Cell number to the many contacts.

Sam booked Southwest Airlines direct to LaGuardia. He wouldn't be wasting time at JFK with all those international travelers trying to get a cab. He'd land directly in the city that never sleeps. The flight was four hours and one minute.

The cab to the hotel was exciting. Sam relished the skyline and felt a nervous anticipation as he approached Times Square. The taxi pulled into the receiving area for the Marquis hotel. Sam collected his bag (he travelled light) and checked in. From his suite on the 47th floor he could look out the window at the east side and also look down below to Times Square and Broadway.

He thought to himself: it doesn't get any better than this. It had been all so effortless. He wondered why he hadn't come sooner. It was Sunday evening and he went downstairs and walked around Broadway and the side streets with all the glittering theatres. There was the feeling of Autumn in the air, and Sam could almost taste how delicious it would be to enjoy the NYC feast of fame. He took selfies in front of the Broadway theaters, in Times Square, the Great White Way... His FaceBook became the personification of the excitement of Broadway, and there was Sam, in the middle of the milieu.

At last, he thought, I'm finally home where I ought to be. As he returned to the hotel, he checked at the desk. There were no messages. This didn't bother Sam. After all it was Sunday.

It is somewhat puzzling and a mystery as to what happened the rest of the week on the 47th floor of the Marquis Hotel.  Sam sat by the hotel telephone, and also made sure the battery was charged on his smartphone.  He checked his messages and texts. He checked his website.

But nothing happened. No one seemed to notice Sam Osbourne had come to the Big Apple. He watched television, and checked the Internet. He sent a few emails, but he received no replies. For the next four days there were no calls, no messages, no offers. Sam sat alone in his room waiting to be discovered.

On Friday, Sam Osbourne checked out of the Marriott Marquis and returned quietly to Santa Fe. His whole affair in the Big Apple left a bad taste in his mouth.

He thought to himself, "Yeah. I shoulda gone to Hollywood."




Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Muse and The Motorcycle

One of Jerome's best friends was Gordon Elliott who was attending Columbia University to pursue a master's degree in American Literature. He was fresh from the University of Texas and had come to New York City to pursue his dream of writing fiction. Academia was a comfortable way of landing in New York where he knew no one.

Gordon actually arrived in New York City before Jerome. When Jerome got to the city he looked for his friend at Columbia. He found Gordon  so excited because he was learning so much from a girl named Rona in his class.

Gordon had noticed Rona, often by herself, always obsessed with her smartphone where she seemed to be constantly texting and reading messages. Rona Cohen had a dark intensity that promised a keen intellect sharpened in the cultural context of her Jewish heritage. She was stunningly beautiful, and so her countenance was a source of obsession and challenge to Gordon who had plans of conquest if he saw an opportunity. Rona was majoring in medieval literature, and married to Irving Cohen who was the wunderkind of the psychoanalytic world.

Gordon was attracted to Rona, petite, sexy, and vividly alive. Gordon was not without attractive qualities to someone like Rona. He was a Texan, strong, masculine, and a diamond in the rough. She could see he was very smart, but he came to New York knowing nothing, having not read the essential literature. He was essentially a blank slate. Rona thought Gordon was an unconscious genius, and she was more the happy to be his muse, to be his Beatrice.

They became lovers and were inseparable, with Rona taking on his education in a crash program of analyzing masterpieces of the world's greatest literature. But Gordon benefitted from an extremely gifted scholar who not only knew the masterpieces he should attend to, but also the critical reviews  and theories that were essential to complete his education.

It was incredibly thrilling to for Gordon who found their bouts in bed awesome and inspiring. Rona was constantly taking selfies of them as a couple and posting them on FaceBook. Some of them were of them together in bed, looking relaxed and reading the Sunday Times. They became an item in the New York gossip circuits. Every moment she was pushing his career, urging him to write.

As Gordon's Muse, Rona had considerable effect. She inspired him to write, to publish. He started to connect with stories in The New Yorker, and in some obscure literary journals where he could experiment with form.

The Cohen couple's best friend was their high school buddy who had become one of the most important celebrities in the entertainment business. You would recognize him instantly, but he has asked to remain anonymous, since his identity would not add anything to this narrative. It is only pertinent because the four of them hung out together: the Celebrity, Irving, Rona, and Gordon. They were known as the Quartet, and pictures of them at various clubs, pubs, and the latest celebrity chef hangouts often appeared in the New York press and the Internet.

Through it all, Rona's husband Irving was calm, reflective, and understanding. He knew Rona had to have her fling, but he knew she would be back. Irving became a good friend of Gordon, and this was a source of wonder for Gordon, who doubted he could be as gracious if Irving was bedding his wife.

As Gordon completed his studies, he accepted a position teaching at the University of Alaska. In the late summer, as August rounded the corner to September, he asked Rona to go to Alaska with him. This was an extremely significant and passionate exchange. She was deeply in love with Gordon, but she still felt a loyalty to her husband Irving.

Gordon sold most of his belongings and raised enough money to buy a motorcycle, a Harley-Davidson Road Glide. He left the showroom and headed for the Cohen Townhouse. Rona had texted him not to come, but he went anyway and parked his cycle at the Cohen doorstep. Rona opened the door and and went down to Gordon. He was quite, strong, and insistent, and in the end, Rona mounted the steps and returned after a few moments with some clothes, some books, lipstick, and a purse. She climbed on the motorcycle behind Gordon and wrapped her arms around him. He handed her a helmet and adjusted his own.

The sound of the Harley Davidson exploding to life on 10th Street in the village shook the windows violently and seemed an assault on the neighborhood. Gordon sat there and reved the engine a few times, each blast rattling the windows and trashcans nearby. He slowly pulled away from the Cohen Townhouse with Rona clinging to him.

Then Rona and Gordon pursued their cross-country adventure toward Alaska and a new future.

They raced across the George Washington Bridge and headed west on highway 80, Rona clinging to the love of her life as they crossed the Delaware Water Gap and headed west through Pennsylvania with the wind whipping away like a major windstorm. Rona could feel the wind burning her face.

Rona lasted until Chicago. Then she quietly boarded a train and headed back to Irving and her life in New York. Even Muses have their limits.

Gordon continued to Alaska and started living with a sweet young coed from Seattle. She was blonde, friendly, and open. The exact opposite of Rona. Rona went on to become a world renowned scholar of secret societies, and Gordon wrote short stories of life in Alaska. Irving Cohen became the foremost practitioner of integrative healthcare, world renowned for a therapy of the imagination.

The coed from Seattle would always address Gordon by his last name. She invariably called him Elliott. He simply could not persuade her to call him Gordon. As a result, he changed his first name from Gordon to Elliott and became known as Elliott Elliott.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Karla's World

Karla was from Kansas, but now she worked at NBC, attached to the newsroom. She loved going to Rockefeller City, and walking around the area on her lunch break, if the weather was nice. She was a good worker and everyone liked her. She knew all the famous newscasters and personalities, and they all knew her. She was even FaceBook friends with some of them. She was on a trajectory to become famous. It was just a matter of time. She already had acquired more than 300 FB friends without trying.

It was September, but summer clung to the air as if it would never let go. She had spent a dull summer. She did't even visit her parents back home. She never talked much about Kansas, but her favorite painting was Wyeth's Christina's World.  She finally saw the original in MOMA. She had seen the painting in an art book her parents owned. It was of a girl crawling and looking longingly across a flat plain at a house in the distance. Karla always assumed it was Kansas. In fact, it was Maine.

This misconception was indicative of an overall perceptive disconnect in Karla's life. Most of her assumptions about life and how to live were based on vague premises that never quite fit reality. She had come to New York to be discovered and become famous.

Karla decided she was an actress, so she hung out at a repertory theatre in the village that was run by a writer who thought he was Tennessee Williams. He would write long, rambling plays based on his growing up in the south. Wannabe actors would pay him to perform in his plays so they could get exposure and experience. Most of Karla's friends came from that crowd. She would get an occasional small role, and tried to speak with a southern accent.

She had a husky voice and great eyes, for which she used too much make-up. Being fresh from the plains, she had been in New York for about a year. She had a Tom Boyish quality, and some of her acquaintances thought she was gay. But Karla liked guys, and she was always on the prowl, except it was a life she kept entirely private.

When first in New York, she drove with her theatre friends to Maine to see a total eclipse. She had her first fresh lobster at a little restaurant on the bay. It arrived freshly boiled with a tiny fork in its claws and was propped up looking at Karla. She didn't know what to do so she started struggling at getting some meat from the lobster. She tried to hold it, but the buttered creature would slip out of her hands as though it was still alive. Finally in frustration she exclaimed, "I'd love to eat ya sweety, but your legs are crossed." Everyone in the restaurant burst into laughter.

Shortly after Karla started working at NBC a certain famous comedian and director was going through relationship problems. Some mutual friends who had met Karla at a party arranged for her to meet him on a blind date at a Chinese Restaurant on the upper west side. They thought she might make a great girl friend. She had a great sense of humor, and they knew she had seen him around the Rockefeller Building because the comedian had been writing for the Tonight Show.

His friends went with him to the restaurant. They arrived a few minutes early and decided to start ordering while they waited for Karla.

Time passed. They decided to go ahead and eat. Thirty minutes later, Karla walks in nonchalantly, without a care. She was dressed to kill, really made up like a doll. She and the comedian were introduced, and he was very sweet to her. He said, "Karla, you must be hungry. Sorry we started without you... here, let me help you catch up with us."

He took some tongs and started piling food on a plate. "You should try these noodles, and here are some dumplings, and chop suey..." He kept piling the food until he could barely hold the plate. "Sorry, we're all outa motzah balls!"

With that, he threw the plate down in front of Karla and stormed out of the restaurant, leaving her and his friends stunned and speechless.

Karla's life was like that. She had skirmishes and near hits with fame. She hung out in the center of New York across the street from Radio City Music Hall, but she was just a few inches too short to be a Rockette.

That was it. Although she often was in the vicinity, she was always falling short of fame, kind of like that girl Christina who was forever crawling across that prairie field toward the house in the distance, but never getting there.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Sleeping Beauty

Usually you might not notice Koko, which you should find mystifying because Koko was statuesque and ravishingly beautiful. She should have caused a crowd in a room to suddenly stop talking when she entered, because her presence was potentially spectacular. Her skin was flawless, alabaster and translucent. Her smoldering eyes could be inexplicably deep and compelling, except that she would never look at anyone.

This mysterious aloofness was not because Koko was fashionably inaccessible or naively detached. It was not because she was so completely self-assured and in control of her destiny, although to look at her you could have thought this should be the essence of her.

At the heart of this enigma was that Koko Minami seemed to have no idea who she was or why she was on this planet. Although men pursued her, she could not believe that anyone could really take an interest in her.

Koko had come to New York from Japan to escape her family. She strove to be anonymous. She did not friend many people on FaceBook, and she seldom used her phone to text anyone.

Her girl friends didn't really know her, but still tried to be the best of friends. Koko would occasionally go to movies with them or go to some popular restaurants or local clubs. On those occasions, her girlfriends often went home with guys they met, and Koko would go home alone.

Koko wandered through her life as though she had lost her way. She was not happy, but at the same time she didn't think of herself as unhappy. She preferred a quiet, simple life. For a while, Koko was a student at city university because it was a place where she could get by unnoticed.

There was Jerome, an older man she met in Central Park who spent his time watching people. Jerome recognized Koko's remarkable beauty and was mystified why she was so alone. He predicted someday she would surprise herself. He thought of her as slumbering through life as though she was in incubation.

Koko's days passed unremarkably. She would walk around her neighborhood on the upper East side, and then find herself in the rotunda of the Guggenheim, or wandering around the Metropolitan Museum saturated from overexposure to so much art.

She would spend long hours alone, often sleeping the day away, with nights becoming days and days becoming nights.

And then quite suddenly Koko disappeared.

On FaceBook appeared a most phenomenal posting. Using Check-in, Koko revealed she was at JFK waiting to board a plane for Paris. Her global positioning confirmed her location. Friends read her FaceBook status in bewilderment. Koko in Paris?

But indeed, in Paris, Koko became the exotic toast of the town. Emerging from the Paris Hilton in a provocative red dress that underscored her flaming sensuousness, Koko was pursued by an Italian film director who had fallen into obscurity but recognized that Koko was his ticket for a comeback. Perhaps the most incredible turn of events was that the camera positively loved Koko  The camera embraced her incredible frame, her glowing complexion, and what had become a radiant, penetrating smile that could melt your heart.

Koko Minami became Coco Chenille.  She never looked back as she enjoyed international acclaim in films and managed to go through several famous European directors and even one aging and popular American filmmaker, eventually becoming a celebrated director in her own right.

Jerome was somewhat astonished in later years when he went to the Angelika to see a film Awakening which starred his beautiful friend from Central Park. He found her transformation breathtaking. He thought maybe he had witnessed a subtle pattern of evolution.

Koko literally really did disappear. Emerging from her cocoon was the beautiful butterfly Coco who amazingly happened upon her place in the sun.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Choga

Benjamin plodded along Bleecker Street headed west toward Sixth Avenue or Avenue of the Americas as it had been dubbed in 1945 by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. That was before Benjamin had come to New York in the 70s. Benjamin had come to The Big Apple to seek his fortune, but it isn't clear just exactly how that turned out. Clearly, Benjamin was not wealthy, and as he walked along Bleecker he noticed how much it had changed when it was the center of the burgeoning music world of jazz, folk, and rock clubs that peppered the street with thousands of visitors milling around seeking the latest acts. Now the clubs had been replaced by drugstores and banks, The Village Gate was barely a memory, and Bleecker was becoming bleaker.

As Benjamin crossed La Guardia Place, he glanced up at a place that had almost been like a second home to him, a tiny Korean restaurant named Choga, up a flight, above The Bitter End.  It was closed now... not exactly boarded up, but empty and lifeless.

Benjamin paused, and for a moment he felt inclined to struggle up the steps as though this might magically make Choga reappear. Maybe something like that should happen, he thought. Maybe like Brigadoon, Choga could appear every hundred years when something magical might happen to people who came looking for adventures in the Village.

For Benjamin, Choga was a place of enchantment. The owner and cook was Mi-sook who had come to New York from Jeju Island, by way of Daegu. She added a regional touch to her Korean offerings, not that Benjamin would have known, since although he liked Korean food, he had no experience beyond Korean Barbecue and Kimchi. Mi-sook's repertoire was far more varied, and she often cooked custom dishes for her friends that never found their way to the menu.

Benjamin had been introduced to Choga by his  friend and colleague, Andrei, a composer from Romania. Benjamin regarded Andrei as the first true world citizen he had ever met. Andrei used Choga as a gathering place for friends to make plans for outrageous events in the village. Now Andrei was gone. Choga was gone. Benjamin felt as though his world was disappearing.

As he looked upstairs at the empty space that had once been Choga, he noticed the name and logos were still in place although it had been closed for almost a year.  October was near at hand, and the Village seemed poised for a celebration of Autumn and the end of summer. Benjamin remembered the many feasts and celebrations in Choga with his friends. He had met Mi-sook because he had been talking about someone he had heard about called Mi-sook, and the waitress told her boss that someone was talking about her at one of the tables. Mi-sook came to inquire, and all at once they became old friends as though they had already known each other from another time.

Choga had closed suddenly, without warning, and Benjamin frantically tried to contact Mi-sook, but she had disappeared. He and his friends had so many celebrations of events, happenings, birthdays, and holidays, that it was hard for Benjamin to imagine his life without his second home. Every Sunday night he would have dinner at Choga and contact his friends through his smartphone. It had become a ritual. He even documented the many different dishes and posted them on FaceBook. Mi-sook had introduced Benjamin to Makgeolli, Korean rice wine, and would often offer an especially rare brand "on the house," for special occasions.

It was very quiet on Bleecker. Night was coming. Benjamin waved at the upstairs as though Mi-sook might be looking through the window. Many times she had watched him walking on Bleecker and waved to him. He felt a rush of emotion and tears welled up in his eyes.

What had disappeared was more than a restaurant. It was a way of life, a brief reality so precious that he never realized how fleeting and transient such treasures can be.  If only once he could embrace that reality, celebrate it.  He tried to keep such moments vividly alive, but Time erodes such corridors of permanence.

This is how it happens, he thought. We continue to remember even as we  disappear.

Even so, Choga would always be a place he would return to in his mind, a haven for remembering some of his best moments and friends. As he continued along Bleecker he picked up his pace and smiled at people passing by. Benjamin felt something was enduring there on Bleecker Street. Despite the many changes eroding our sensibilities, there is substance to the past that shapes the present. He heard an echo of Choga resonating even as it faded into history... seemingly lingering forever.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Whole Rigamarole

George was both elated and distressed as he stood on the deck of Staten Island Ferry while it pulled away from the ferry slip. He watched as the ferry churned toward toward Manhattan, away from the myserteous woman who had dominated his thoughts. He could only imagine what she must think, but the most startling development was that she appeared to recognize him! He could hardly believe his eyes when he thought she had noticed and remembered him. Yes. that was definitely a wave, he thought, and she really smiled!

His thoughts raced feverishly as to what he should do. Of course, he would catch the return ferry, but now it was evening, and the ferry crossings were fewer. She would wait for him. But would she? Maybe she would have the same idea and take the next ferry to Manhattan to find him!

But wait! What if all of this was just a fantasy? Just an illusion? George staggered backward and crumpled to the bench at the rear of the ferry. He watched as he continue to pull away from Staten Island. Hadn't he wondered if she had even existed at all...whether or not his encounter with this stranger and her butterfly in Washington Square Park was just a figment of his imagination?

What should he do? He was now halfway back to Manhattan. He took out his phone. He was so stupid! Why hadn't he thought to take a picture? That could have proved it wasn't just a dream. Yes, he should have the presence of mind to document his adventures.  He started to think on the power of these smartphones... but if they are so smart why couldn't they use the global positioning technology to identify her frequency so he could track her and find her? Yes, he thought, they could that. Suddenly he thought maybe smartphones are not smart enough. If they were smarter he wouldn't be in this predicament. Just a few clicks and he could know where she was and who she was.

All at once George began to realize that Irving Berlin had anticipated this whole smartphone revolution in All Alone. How could he have known the phone would become the basis for relationships in the 21st century?

All alone,
By the telephone...
Waiting for a ring
A ting-a-ling
I'm all alone every evening
All alone feeling blue
Wondering where you are
And how you are
And if you are
All alone too...
(Just for a moment you were mine, and then
You seemed to vanish like a dream).

Amazing, George thought, except maybe now it is "All alone WITH the smartphone." He thought about all the people walking on the street caressing their phones.

George was alone, but still clung to hope. He had been astonished to see her again against at all odds, only to watch her vanish! Irving Berlin's melody was running through his head, distracting him from his real objective. He needed to figure out how to find her.

But this mysterious woman who seemed to hold George's destiny in her hands was oblivious to his distress and unaware she had triggered an identity crisis in this strange man who seemed to stalk her, but also appeared not to be a threat. Sylvia thought perhaps they would talk, but things took a strange turn when she left the park, half afraid that maybe he was deliberately following her.

This was Sylvia's last evening in New York, and on a whim, she had decided to ride the Staten Island Ferry. It was always such fun, and this summer day had been so beautiful. The ferry would give her a last glimpse of her favorite sky-line and remind her of all the wonderful moments spent in New York City after so many years of absence.

But she did become concerned during the ferry ride. She noticed the man who had followed her into the park had now apparently followed her to the ferry and maybe really was stalking her!

As the ferry came to the landing, Sylvia panicked and ran ahead losing herself in the crowd. She could see him running after her, but looking confused and agitated.  She knew he would attempt to follow her, so she ran toward the return gate for the ferry. He would assume she had come for a round-trip ride. She disappeared into the women's restrooms.

True to form, George followed her and surmised she had boarded the return ferry. It would be perfect. He would introduce himself, and they would talk. Maybe even become friends. He thought he saw her ahead.  He rushed to catch up. For a moment,  he went to a woman with long flowing black hair, but it turned out to be a false alarm. Then the Ferry whistle blew, the gates were lowered and the Ferry cast off.  George continued to search the different decks.

Sylva had seen him rush onto the ferry and felt relieved that she had escaped. Maybe he was dangerous. But as she thought about it, he seemed intense with a certain abandonment that she found attractive. In fact, on one level she thought he might be interesting to know.  Why was she always so cautious, she wondered?  She began to regret that she had tricked him to get on the return ferry.

She pressed forward to the ferry entrance and watched as the ferry departed its moorings. Then she saw him looking back at the ferry slip. She caught his eye. She smiled and waved at him. She wasn't sure why, but she could see that he recognized her waving and seemed so jubilant.  Now she was certain she had been too cautious and hoped she might meet him.

And this is how the whole rigamarole began. George caught the return boat to Staten Island and Sylvia headed for Manhattan. For the rest of the evening they went round and round, always out of phase, never really touching. Finally Sylvia had to leave for JFK ,and George would probably still be passing the Statue of Liberty in both directions if he thought there was the slightest chance he would find her.

He was convinced there was something magical about her. He thought Rodgers and Hart had nailed it when they created:

I'm wild again, beguiled again
A simpering, whimpering child again,
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered - am I...

That was it! He knew it. She had bewitched him that day in the park, that mysterious woman who could gesture to butterflies to land in her lap.

George never lost hope of finding her. He would dance around the places where he had seen her, celebrating her existence and singing "I took one look at you, that's all I meant to do, and then my heart stood still..."

He walked around and sometimes floated on air as he continued to search for her in Manhattan. He danced along the wharfs and piers, and made a ritual pilgrimage to Staten Island every week hoping against hope that he might see her.

There was something quite innocent and magnificent about George and his imagination. The world was always challenging him to rise above the mundane. To find adventure and to make miracles. George liked that about the world.

Yet, George could not forget the mysterious woman who had so beguiled him. He thought she embodied all that he had been searching for his whole life.  He continued to search. He continued to hope.



Autumn In New York

A few days after the idyllic ending days of August,  Jerome walked around Chelsea and kept wishing the autumn weather would soon kick in. These first days of September were very hot and debilitating. He especially liked to wander around the city in September, and the shift in the weather that usually came energized him as he explored what has always been the new season for the arts. There were shows opening, galleries putting forth their best exhibitions, food festivals such as Madison Square Eats or the Oyster Festival, and of course City Center Dance with this year's theme of Fall into Dance. This he had gleaned by stopping for a drink at East of 8th, an intriguing place that Jerome was still trying to figure out. There he had a chance to check his smartphone to see what destinations might be the most promising.

But truth be told, although Jerome kept his phone with him as a close friend, it was still more like a distant relative from a younger generation. For his younger friends, the technology hummed as part of their being. He couldn't walk around  plugged in with earbuds, listening to music. This prevented him from hearing the music and sounds of the city that was as vital to him as the visual experience.

Now appeared to be a time in which those who had been closer to him in the past were more distant, their orbits ranging to other needs, demands and interests. He recognized this as a necessary  evolution in relationships. But he believed that on a fundamental level they remain constant to his experience.

He had just been going through many systemic changes and wanted to share them, but it no longer seemed possible through the configurations of the past which now emerged drained of spontaneity. But the immediacy might now come from other sources.

Yesterday he had been experiencing an intense artistic breakthrough. It was an extended high as though he were on drugs. He realized part of the source was the energy of new people in his life who had imbued him with their energy and zest for living, and suddenly he was aware of new projects, ideas, major alterations. Additionally, it seemed clear that an indispensable source for writing and creating includes social media and blogging.

He had these creative binges before, especially in college, and often came crashing down. Some collapses were quite serious, but always led to positive growth. Yesterday had been a synethesia, a mixing of sensory experiences and genre.  He couldn't help but think of the poets Coleridge and Wordsworth who were perpetually high on life (and heroin) and were the rock stars of the 19th Century. Jerome had always thought of himself as a poet living a masquerade, minus the heroin.

People he would like to engage more in a dialogic exchange were also not accustom to the technology providing that possibility, so there were many missed opportunities. But now there were some new friends that seemed to be more attuned to his need for exchange and didn't feel it was so much of an imposition. It was difficult to find a balance because text on a screen can sometimes the opposite of what is intended. Emoticons were not necessarily the solution to the clarity of emotions and meanings.

By now, the reader might well wonder where this story is going. Well it's headed toward Autumn, if we can believe titles.  Of course, this contains an assumption that there are any readers around. I am learning that writers must assume there are readers, or I'm not sure how they could remain sane. But I am learning writers can be a closeted group, writing their stories in solitary confinement.

We can only observe that Jerome now was sorry that he didn't go into the Chelsea Square Restaurant and to join Suna and Hana when he had seen them a few days earlier. That would have been the spontaneous thing to do. They were so casual and enjoying each other's company as they sat over coffee.

If that had happened we might have had a humorous turn of events, because the trio often laughed together over the most trivial things.  I think we might be genuinely happy if Jerome could lighten up a bit and trust the humor in life. Sometimes he just thinks too much. His best moments seem to be when he simply lets go and connects to the immediacy of the moment.

Well, with that in mind, as Jerome walked out of East of 8th, he heard the strains of Autumn in New York sounding in his mind's ear:

Autumn in New York...
Why does it seem so inviting?   
Autumn in New York... 
It spells the thrill of first-nighting  
Glimmering crowds  
And shimmering clouds  
In canyons of steel   
They're making me feel,   
I'm home...

He looked west and followed his eyes to the river, and there was a hint of joy and laughter in the air. There was the thrill of a new beginning, new experiences, new friends... the turning of leaves to the colors of October ---and then the glistening snow... life is about change, he thought, and tentatively he started to let go and enjoy.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Was It What Might Have Been?

Elysa was busy being about New York pursuing her usual departing adventures before she left her fairytale land and returned to the real world of responsibility. She couldn't resist the many elixirs and balms of Farmer's Market and Union Square. She liked the freedom of this morning. She was still angry about Jerome's canceling their appointment.

New York had been a productive time. She had worked on an experimental production that had been brought into being under the duress of so little time and so many demands. Although she had known Erick from the past, she hadn't realized how much energy and how demanding it would be because each had quite different ideas.  A remarkable performer and musician, Erick was the clearly the focus of the production. He had been working on this material for more than five years, helping Jerome recover his past through this profound artistic gesture. It was an act of artistic friendship to insist on involving Jerome into working on the production.  This was a gift of restoring Jerome's work, enabling him to undergo a renaissance of discovery.

Elysa knew Jerome and his preference for hanging back and not asserting his presence. She knew that his friendship with Erick was so deep that he feared his ideas and actions might destroy their rapport and deep sharing.

Well, the reader should understand that the creation of new work is always an adventure and the experiment fails as often as it succeeds in making a difference in the precious passing of time in our small interval of existence in the world. It is always risky.

Now it was over and clearly Jerome had been touched by the level of of Erick's work and Elysa's choreography and dancing. As the work developed, Jerome started to understand the relationship of the songs to the context of their creation and saw distinctly three characters, a trio if you will. But it was a moment of triumph that was not entirely free of personal damages.

Elysa sighed as she walked around Union Square. August ending was spectacularly revealing  how beautiful a summer day in the Village might be. Her trek to the Farmer's Market had become a yearly ritual. It somehow brought closure to the year. And it did seem as if the year was ending, and she was off to a new beginning.

She had texted Suna and asked if she wanted meet soon since she would be leaving New York, abandoning her creative retreat, returning to the glare of schedules, meetings, and administrative crisis upon crisis.

Jerome had always thought that Suna and Elysa would be great friends. The moment he introduced them he could feel the bond between them. Deep. Like steel.

A while later, they were meeting, immersed in urgent details of life, relationships, of hopes, and dreams and frustrations. I wish I could go into greater detail, but the reader should understand there are just some places we cannot go. There is a certain expectation of decorum for godsake. And maybe you shouldn't be so nosy.

But you should know that Jerome considers women to be creatures further developed in the evolutionary chain than men. This is true when they mingle among us men. But when women get together they seem to devolve to an earlier tribal stage, creating code that no man can decipher. Now this is not a politically correct observation, so rest assured I will be looking over my shoulder these next few days.

But Elysa's triumph in New York City, there in Greenwich Village in the summer of 2015 is something to celebrate. But nothing occurs in a vacuum. Without Erick and Jerome, it would be empty indeed. No doubt what happened there in the Village will continue to reverberate for some time.

Maybe.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Gotta Dance!

George stared down at the churning water in the wake of ferry as he tried to collect his thoughts. He couldn't understand what had happened in Washington Square Park with the mysterious woman with the butterfly that he had followed, hoping to meet her.  He had started to dismiss it as a fantasy, but knew it had to be real.  Now it was too late.

He became discouraged to continue searching for his mysterious sorceress and wandered from the park walking south toward the financial district and Freedom Tower. She remained a mystery, but someone he would remember. Maybe if he went back tomorrow, he would find her with her book and her butterfly. He remained astonished that she could make the butterfly land on her book. He wasn't sure how, but he thought somehow she had bewitched him.

Now here he was, the sun was setting, and he crossed the harbor toward Staten Island. He loved  the wind in his face and the sound of the ferry slicing through the waves. As he stood at the rear of the ferry he watched city skyline recede, gleaming like a beacon in the approaching night. As The Statue of Liberty loomed on the left, he saw that the lights illuminating the grand lady had just flicked on. Such a great night to be alive and here in this moment, he thought.

As they passed the statue, George turned and walked inside the ferry. He liked to look at all the people riding the ferry. Most were on their way home probably after having some drinks or dinner after work in Manhattan. But some were sight seers, and George found them interesting because of all the nationalities apparently visiting New York.

Suddenly Bernstein's New York, New York..it's a hell of a town... started playing in his head, and George imagined himself to be Gene Kelly out on the town searching for the girl he had seen in a picture on the subway. He imagined his footwork was more lithe as he tapped his way to the front of the boat, taking a flower from an old lady who was selling them to passengers and presenting it to the first girl he saw who was sitting reading a book. She was surprised, but also somewhat embarrassed, but George danced on 'til he was at the front of the boat.

The ferry was slowing, bumping its way into the landing that would receive the passengers. There was a rush of people onto the deck where they watched the ferry crash its way to its mooring. "Welcome to Staten Island" the sign read. People crowded around and angled for the front of the boat to be the first to depart. George felt himself being pushed backward further and further. Things were getting out of hand, George thought.

Then the gates opened and people flooded into the station.

It was at that moment George saw her, his mysterious stranger that he had followed into the park. She was on this ferry! He couldn't believe his good fortune. But she was disappearing into the streaming crowd that appeared almost running into the station.

He tried waving to get her attention, but she was focused on leaving and had no idea he was trying to catch up with her.

"Miss! Miss!  Don't leave! Wait for me!" George was almost in tears, but it was much too noisy and chaotic for her to take notice.  There were so many people struggling to get away, and he was trapped in the turmoil.

In what seemed an eternity, George broke free and  found himself in an immense station with hundreds of people milling about. Many sight seers who had come just for the boat ride were running to the departure side of the station to return on the ferry to Manhattan. George wondered if that might include his mysterious lady. He ran with the crowd and saw the gates open with passengers starting to board the return ferry. Was that her?  He ran up to a woman with long black hair walking rapidly onto the boat. It wasn't her!  He struggled through the crowd, searching desperately.

He didn't even know her name! After a few minutes the gates were lowered and the ferry pulled out of the ferry slip slowly. George continued to search and went to the front of the boat. Was that her standing there... flowing black hair and such lovely arms. He approached her. She was looking ahead trying to see the very distant NY skyline.

"Miss, were you in Washington Square Park today?"

The woman turned and looked at him as though he were from another planet..

"I'm sorry," he muttered. "I thought.. " he shook his head. "I hoped you were someone else."

He retreated to the back of the boat and then for a miraculous moment he saw his mysterious phantom standing in the Staten Island station watching the ferry depart.  He waved at her. She stood there and looked at him, and then smiled. She waved back! It was her! George was ecstatic, but also mortified as he stood and watched the ferry take him further and further away from his mysterious stranger, his muse, his reason for living.