I dreamed I was in the East Village, which was originally Aspen, for
some reason, and I was with older friends.
I went down below the table to pick something up, and when I rose I
saw that the restaurant was being taken over by mafiosi. Some with
They started taking hostages and they picked me as the first one. In
an instant, I punched the top mafiosi in the stomach and I dashed out
of the restaurant without retaliation. Then I walked along First or
Second Avenue and I saw a poor Puerto Rican girl begging for money. I
said I didn’t have any change to give her. And then she said, she
needed money. She didn’t want to have to wash dishes in some stupid
ass restaurant. And then I woke up. I think I was about to give her
something. I don’t know.
I dreamed I was in the East Village, which was originally Aspen, for
So the year has come to an end, and I feel like this semester at Columbia was very strong. I only had four courses: CC, Intro to American Politics, James Joyce and Creative Writing. I liked Creative Writing and CC the most but I feel like reading Ulysses was an extremely important experience. Not only was it one of the greatest novels that I have ever read, but also gave me a very important outlook on life. This was to remain positive in the face of troubles, as Leopold Bloom had done throughout the novel. Here was a man who lost his infant son, was constantly being abused for his Jewish ancestry, had no friends and his wife was cheating on him like mad. In spite of it all (and a few pangs of nihilism), Bloom maintains a fundamental attitude of positivity and constantly moving forward. Survival, as Professor Sarah Cole pointed out, was the key to his greatness as a modern hero, as many of his contemporaries were suffering out of their own respective grief. I see a similarity between Bloom and Winston Churchill, who was the greatest hero of the 20th Century. Churchill’s greatness lay in his ability to keep his country alive in the face of one of the most destructive powers known to man, Nazism, and then to keep it alive again in the face of nuclear war and the threat of the Soviet Empire. Britain did not gain much in Churchill’s time, and in fact, lost a great deal of its empire, through the natural and healthy course of national self-determination, brought in part by the nation’s own economic turpitude. Instead, Britain stayed alive, while many of its neighbors fell or fell into disgrace, such as France, Germany or Russia. This ability to withstand the destructive forces of the modern age should not be overlooked, nor should it be under appreciated. I think there is alot to learn from it.
I absolutely loved Creative Writing and was proud to study under the great novelist and performer, James Hannaham. He was like my literary Buddha and I learned a lot from his comments, as well as from the very talented writers I worked with. Ultimately, I took from the class the importance of subtletly, character development and the lack of necessity it is to write what you know, but rather what you can get away with. I wrote two short stories (the second of which was infinitely better) and came out feeling much more confident in my writing. I have decided that I would like to write regardless of whether I make it as an author, because it is a great passion and I feel I only need to please myself. Additionally, if for some reason I were to become successful at a young age, I would be ruined. I would much prefer to be a late bloomer and have a lifetime of success, than be some young buck gadfly and burn out quickly. I see this quite a bit with Jonathan Safran Foer, who has a reputation amongst NYU students and other people I know who have met him for being a deeply pompous person. It would also be interesting to see what would have happened to people like Biggie (forgive my blasphemy) if he had not been assassinated. I feel like part of the reason I have so much respect for Jay-Z is because he got successful comparatively later in life, and has remained relatively grounded, allowing him to have continual work and pursue other business interests, in which he has been tremendously successful in.
This semester was also somewhat of a social and political awakening for me in other ways. I grew to regret not being more active in the Occupy Wall Street movement last year, even though it was so poorly run in New York and constantly infiltrated by maniacs and black-bloc anarchists (half of whom are definitely police informants hired to cause trouble and get peaceful protestors arrested). I don’t consider myself an anti-Capitalist and I definitely don’t consider myself a socialist. I do have some regrets, though, about not actively standing up for social justice. Then again, perhaps there are better ways to do it than blazing and yelling about “the 1%” in a public park in Lower Manhattan, like actively engaging in community service, soup kitchens and tutoring underprivileged children. I also noticed that there was an Occupy encampment dedicated to publicly shaming Lloyd Blankfein outside his Upper West Side apartment. For G-d’s sakes, it’s the man’s home. He has a wife and kids. Attack his office with your public and vaguely anti-Semitic condemnations if you feel so compelled, but have the good sense to leave his family alone and give them some damn privacy. That was definitely a part of the Occupy movement I can never get behind.
In spite of this increased leftism, I refused to identify as a ‘leftist,’ per se, and wasn’t even sure I was going to vote for Obama. I was very tempted to vote for Romney because of the problematic economy and the promise of someone who was potentially more pro-Israel. I also believed that he would not be a right wing president, as he governed Massachusetts in a fairly centrist fashion. However, his rhetoric and the people he surrounded himself became more repulsive, and Obama’s words identified much more with the way I felt about things. I also grew to appreciate Obama as a leader and a thinker, respecting the way he stacked his cabinet with Republicans and had a sort of bravery in passing legislation unseen in many Democrats. He also passed PACA (Obama-care), which I agreed with and was upheld by the Supreme Court, and oversaw the execution of Osama Bin Laden, which was probably one of the single greatest and empowering actions in modern American history (though the SEALS deserve credit as well). I think what really turned my vote definitively for Obama was Hurricane Sandy. The combination of recognizing the need for innovating sustainable development for the Eastern Seaboard to withstand climate change, as well as his strong leadership throughout the episode showed me his true presidential material. After this, I happily voted for him. I have been very happy and proud of this decision and have been very happy with him as President in the last month or so. I look forward to a good four years, hopefully where he doesn’t appoint fools in his cabinet, and he uses his victory clout to enact gun control measures, improve environmental standards and do more to stand up for gay marriage.
I think the most important part of my political development was my support for Israel during the recent War in Gaza. I loudly and proudly stood up for my homeland in this period, holding up an Israeli flag in front of the SJP protestors who called Israel a “racist state,” singing Hatikvah and being one with my friends in LionPAC. The chanting was stupid, but I enjoyed yelling back “stop the human shield!” and “we have gay rights and you don’t!” (which I have learned is not entirely accurate on their side). I feel like this period strengthened my relationship with a select number of people, but also weakened it with others. I had friends on the other side, and after the ceasefire, I went over and shook the hands of my SJP friends, warmly wishing them a Happy Thanksgiving. Even if we disagree about these issues, it should not be an impediment to our friendship. They have a point that the Palestinians are an oppressed, landless people that are deserving of a homeland of their own and a right of return. We have a point that Hamas, with their rockets fired into Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, has embedded in their constitution to destroy the destruction of the State of Israel and they are a threat to peace that must be nullified. I think both are valid, and I also have grown in this time listening to my pro-Palestinian friends, as well as my own Zionist friends, to support measures to give back the settlements in the West Bank to the Palestinians and to have strong reservations about the construction of settlements in East Jerusalem, which I feel will inevitably stoke more fires of violence.
An episode that weakened my relationship with other people occurred when two friends of mine spotted me at the protest. Friend 1 was apparently very upset at my supporting Israel, but said person still talks with me and we have a good rapport. Friend 2 did not take my texts for a day. When I asked said other person if they were upset with my activities, they said they were, but it was not worth talking about. This person was not communicative with me for much of the rest of the semester, and according to a mutual friend, I was very much on this person’s shit-list. This was intolerable. To me, this had nothing to do with Israel, Palestine, politics or religion. This had to do with personal respect, of which Friend 2 had none for me. Said person demanded conditional friendship, where if my political views did not coalesce with their’s they would not be my friend. That is not the making of a real friendship in any way, as it is so completely devoid of the personal respect needed to look beyond politics for the sake of real things about a person. Unfortunately, I see this far too often in college and outside of school. There was a student who I talked to that thought it was absurd that he was friends with a Zionist in high school. I have also known some right wing Jews who will regard other Jews as self-hating if their views on Israel break with the Likud line. These are both forms of the same pig-ignorant chauvinism cut from different cloths, and are not emblematic of the intellectually honest behavior needed for true friendships. I will essentially never deny someone friendship or love if their views happen to be different from mine. Friend 2 did and hence, cannot be called a friend.
Moreover, aside from Israel, I feel like I have gotten in touch with my Jewishness in a way I never have before. I have been frequently reading the works of Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, particularly the Code of Jewish Ethics which I find to be a great code of loving, inclusive morals needed to lead one’s life and really can be found by any person, Jew or Gentile. From this, I have a desire to read Maimonides, which was additionally spurred on by my joy of reading St. Thomas Aquinas in CC, a great Christian philosopher and writer who was also influenced by Maimonides. Some of my closest friends in school, are Modern Orthodox Jews, and I share with them a great sense of intellectual interest in both religious and secular affairs as well as a great interest in our shared background. It should be said, that the three closest of these friends are becoming less religious in their own respects, which would be inevitable coming from yeshiva to Columbia. I also have enjoyed discussing Jewishness when inquired from a community of Gentiles. For example, in CC, I was readily available to clarify any point on the Old Testament and had the access to the great Greenwicher Rebbe Yossi Deren to respond to my preceptor, Owen Miller’s query about Ecclesiastes. When I am with my closest Gentile friends, I am generally the token Jew, and am more than happy to answer any of their questions about Judaism, Jewish culture or Jewish women. When my friend, who is a devout Lutheran, started dating a former Frum girl, I offered to give him pointers and be his “Jew-ru” (like guru).
At the same time, I feel like I ought not be carried away with my background. I find obsessing over background makes people very monolithic and appear insular in what should otherwise be a highly communicative, diverse society. I must admit that I have really enjoyed the company of some very religious Christian friends, who have a strong commitment to their faith, and whose respective commitments to G-d and Jesus are very unique. I feel like I have a lot to learn from these people. I also feel compelled to study more about Buddhism. Maybe it might be a touch of Saidic Orientalism about me, but I get the sense that if I can bring the Buddha’s values into my life somehow, I might be able to obtain some kind of inner peace. This, I feel, would not be contradictory to my current faith, as I have seen many a Jew-Bu.
After struggling with political science, underperforming on an English term paper and talking with Professor Ira Katznelson, I think I want to major in history. Ultimately, this is a thing that I truly have loved since I was a little boy and that I have excelled and been happy with at Columbia. He also said that I should have fun with this major and take courses in political philosophy and political development. The most important thing, I feel, will be that I will be happy taking a majority of these courses for the rest of my college career.
All in all, I think it was a solid semester. I’m still waiting for the grades back, but I think I learned a lot regardless about life and knowledge, etc. I am very blessed to go to a place like Columbia, have had professors like Katznelson, Hannaham or Owen Miller, and of course to have had the love and quality time of good friends from various walks of life. I have no regard for the Apocalypse and look forward to the Spring of 2013. Until then, I will enjoy my winter break.
I wasn’t the best sister, but that still isn’t an excuse for her. I kept that in my mind the Saturday after Thanksgiving as I walked along a South Williamsburg street where two years earlier, as a senior in high school, I attempted to tag a brick wall with Banksy’s flower-thrower lodging a rock at Herriman’s Krazy Kat. A patrol car pulled up, I was frisked, handcuffed and taken to the 90th Precinct where I was eventually let off with a fine. With the exception of a massive grounding from my mother, the whole incident had almost little to no effect on my getting into college or my performance at school. At this time I felt like I was invincible, that nothing could bring me down. But on that Saturday two years later, I knew I was not, nor was my little brother Noah.
What brought me down was this delusion and not being able to learn from it. After the high school incident, I kept tagging cartoons in public places marking them with the signature ‘Exile.’ One night in September as I was finishing up a piece by the South Street Seaport, two on-duty cops spotted me. Two hours later, I was sitting in the 7th Precinct with photos of some of my other pieces in front of me, each one count of graffiti vandalism and criminal mischief. At that point, I recognized how dumb it was to leave a signature. Detective Mendez, in his banana-colored tie and shirt put his arm on my shoulder.
“Rosemary,” He said to me in his smooth voice. “You’re looking at a year in jail unless you help us out.”
I had no lawyer with me at the time because I couldn’t afford one and I didn’t ask for one yet because I thought I could handle this on my own. Like the signature, this was foolish.
“I can’t to go to jail,” I said nervously. “My little brother’s in recovery from addiction. With my parents split up, he needs me as a stable force in his life.”
“Well, what we want to do will actually be kind of tough on your family… we need information on your sister Catherine’s activities. She knows a supplier that our division has a large case against and we need to put some leverage on her. Do you think you can help us with that?”
He gave me some time alone in the interrogation room to think it over. After a half hour, I reluctantly accepted to help. I ultimately had two reasons: not wanting to go to jail and justice for Noah.
For the previous seven years, I wore a thick black leather bracelet on my right arm to hide some shameful scars from younger years. Sometimes, when I was nervous, they itched like a sort of warning sign. That Saturday, my nerves were tangled up in a small recording device that the police gave me. They wanted me to have a sit-down with her and wear a wire. I felt guilty, walking with this asp around my wrist, as to how ready and willing I was to lend them a hand and the guilt made the skin under the bracelet twitch twice as hard as normal.
The place where Cat and I were supposed to meet was called Jake’s Eatery, located near the Williamsburg Bridge in a decrepit walk-up building, while facing newly built apartments across the street. It appeared like any ordinary American diner with plastic seats, multicolored menus and a steel counter. Cat sat in a booth in the back of the restaurant, wearing a faux fur jacket and scratching her nails. I began to think how much we looked alike, particularly our eyes, but I looked closer and saw the dark circles under hers, as if the three years between us had transformed into a solid decade. Her hair looked like it hadn’t been washed in days and was bundled together like knots of bed sheets. Looking at her rose my guilt and my fear of being seen as a snitch in my own family like Henry Hill, Joe Vallachi or some other mafia weasel. But then I remembered the two reasons why, and kept on going.
“Rosie!” She exclaimed as she saw me moving closer to her booth. “Girlfriend! Where have you been? It feels like it’s been forever.” She stood up gave her a firm hug and a kiss, both of which felt very contrived. Her lips smelled like weed and something else that I wasn’t sure of. I hung up my leather jacket and bag on a hook by the table and we both sat down.
“It’s crazy,” I said. “It’s like I have to go to three Thanksgivings. First mom’s on Thursday uptown, then dad’s special dinner on Friday in Boreum Hill, now you.”
“Did you stay over at Tom’s last night?” She asked, taking up her knife and playing with it, trying not to stab her fingers. “I can’t stand that new bitch girlfriend of his.”
“Yeah… total gold-digger.” Her knife playing grew more aggressive. “Such a snake.”
“I don’t think you’re right about that.”
“I mean, Dad’s a literary critic, he kind of has no money. Most of the time, he’s asking me if I can get mom to lend him some.”
“Yeah, well Tom has cultural capital,” Cat spat back, dropping the knife as it fell ringing on the table. “I mean you’ve seen his famous friends. Was Jonathan Lethem at that dinner last night?”
“He was,” I said smiling. “He’s always been really nice to me.”
“Do you still have your signed copy of Motherless Brooklyn in your room?”
“I need it.”
“Are you going to sell it?”
A cute waitress nametagged ‘Orli’ with arms full of Hebrew letters and Betty Page hair came by to take our order. I ordered a matzo ball soup and some water. Cat ordered a Brooklyn Ale. I had little appetite because of the twitching that had now proceeded into my stomach. All conversation to me seemed laborious, as everything seemed to be dedicated to incriminating her. I would do what Detective Mendez told me and continue the small talk for a while, leading her on slowly and carefully for her to reveal her activities to the wire.
“She’s doing well,” I said. “She’s got her new book on the Romantic poets coming out. I see her at school a lot. She’s been on edge trying to deal with Noah’s problems, but my being home is helpful, I guess. We all have to keep an eye on him. Like yesterday mom and I found a baggy of orange pills in his knapsack and we got into a yelling match for hours before he threatened to hang himself with his belt.” Cat gritted her teeth upon hearing this, looking disgusted and disturbed.
“Do you like City?” She said. I was not surprised at how quickly she changed the subject. Some of the guilt in me began to fade as I saw her insensitivity.
“It’s okay. I was kind of really upset to leave Oberlin after a year, but the financial aid was terrible and with Mom and Dad needing money for Noah’s treatment, I was ready to give it up. I mean, I miss the small classes and the people I met there, but I’ve made a lot of friends at City and I’m doing really well. I also got into the Honors Program recently, so I’m kind of excited about that.”
“Yeah, it’s much better than the shit I went through for a semester at Hunter,” She said. “Just a distraction from my music career. All of schooling was.” I saw this as a moving point.
“By the way,” I asked. “How is that going for you? Are you still in a band with Frankie and Lew?”
“Frankie and Lew?” Cat said smiling. “Remember when I introduced you to those guys? That night where we all smoked in Lew’s apartment in Chelsea and watched that weird movie, Baraka?”
“Yeah, that was fun.” I said recalling that evening when Cat thought the television was going to devour her whole. At that moment, I also remembered that the police had me on wire and that everything I said could be held against me in the court of law, including that statement. I worried that upon hearing this, I would get charged with possession of marijuana too.
“No, Rosie, I’m not in a band anymore. I decided to do things solo like Carrie Brownstein. She didn’t need Sleater-Kinney and I don’t need the fools I’ve been playing with. Even though I like Frankie and Lew.”
“Have you gotten any gigs?”
She winced. “Starving artist, Rosie. Starving artist.”
Good. She was in some financial straits. I thought this would be a good way to raise the question. “How are you taking care of yourself then, in terms of money and stuff?”
“Oh, the same shit I’ve been doing for the last six years.” I sat closer and put right arm on the table. Now it felt as if there was no time to be guilty, but rather to get things right. The rush of the successful venture in my heart and brain was superseding the nerves I felt in my wrist. “I still live with Marco and Bebe in Crown Heights. Bebe’s dad is kinda rich so she pays for a lot of the rent. Only thing she’s good for. But everything else I need,” Her voice lowered. “That’s paid for by selling some shit here and there.”
This was stuff that Detective Mendez wanted, although I had to have her be specific. But at the same time I had to be subtle. I couldn’t blow my cover, he said. I had to let it come out softly, without showing my eagerness.
“Like what?” I asked her.
“Ah, you know, sometimes some coke, some pot to some people in Park Slope. Families, believe it or not. What Marco has really gotten into is prescription drugs.” My anticipation turned to rage upon hearing that term. Prescription drugs. It stung.
“Have you been selling any of that?” I asked.
“Yeah, to college kids. We keep this stuff stored up in our place: Adderall, Ritalin, Xanax, Oxy, I get a call from an NYU or CUNY student who needs help studying, I lend a hand. I get what I need. It’s win-win. By the way, do you know any girls in your honors program that could use a fix? Maybe some stressed out Asian girls with tons of pressure and like, two jobs or something?”
That’s how she did it. That would have been enough to get her in trouble. Maybe not arrested, but maybe would be grounds for a warrant and then an arrest later on. It was definitely good enough for Mendez, but the rage that now superseded my focus that had in turn superseded my guilt pushed me further into bringing up a dangerous subject that I wanted answers for.
“You know,” I began slowly. “When Noah was taken to the hospital, they found a ton of prescription drugs in his stomach.”
“That’s what started his addiction and was really the base of his problems.”
“I thought it was coke or something,” Cat said looking surprised.
“He did coke, but the doctors at his recovery clinic said his real addiction was to amphetamines and pain-killers.”
Neither of us spoke. I was ready to drop the bomb on her, but my sadistic side wanted to make her sweat.
“Cat,” I said raising my voice slightly to sound more audible for the wire. “Noah told me in the hospital that you sold him the first bottle of pills. Adderall. And you kept selling it to him for two months after and then Oxycontin later on.”
“Yeah. I did.”
“Why?” I asked raising my voice as my internal temperature rose.
“He was doing badly in school and I needed to eat. It worked out for both of us.”
“That’s your little brother!” The rage finally became unleashed. Other patrons in the restaurant turned around to look at me. Some shushed me “Are you fucking crazy?”
“Rosie, keep it down,” Cat said.
“Oh, the fact that he’s related to you means nothing? Well how about the fact that he’s severely ADHD and Borderline?”
“He also was doing bad in that school because of those problems and I was just giving him a hand.”
“You were giving him a hand?”
“Yeah, some pills to help him focus. He’s my little brother too. I didn’t want to see him suffer.”
“How does an opiate like Oxycontin help him do better in school?”
“I dunno, he wanted some.” She looked up at me, now with a degree of surprised frustration. “You blame me for him getting hooked, don’t you?”
“Absolutely!” I said.
“And the need for him to go to multiple shrinks and that special recovery camp for kids with issues that he went to in the Poconos, you blame me for that, too?”
She took a swig of her beer and slammed it down on the table.
“Well, Queen Rosemary of all judgment,” Cat said with a newly invigorated anger. “I guess you’re not to blame at all for this.”
“No, I’m not,” I insisted. “I was in Ohio while you were getting him hooked here in New York.”
“What about high school?”
“What about high school?”
“You don’t think smoking weed or drinking forties with your friends didn’t set a bad example for Noah? You don’t think that you set the precedent? I mean you’re closer to him in age. Remember that one time that mom found that weed in your bag and you got grounded? Don’t you think that inspired him, kinda? He looked up to you, you stupid hypocrite.” To me, this all sounded stupid and I shook my head at her furiously feeling that she was just trying to evade responsibility. But then she said something that made me stop. “Or what about that tagging? That incident where you got grounded? I heard about that. Sure, no charges were pressed, but you set a standard. You were a rebellious girl… and you never got in trouble. You still did well in school and you still got into a bunch of good colleges.”
“What are you saying?”
“You created a role model of yourself as a bad girl for Noah to look up to,” Cat said. “Someone who could be a really rebellious person and still turn out okay. And the truth is, you were just smart and lucky, and he’s not. And what happened to him when he tried to follow your lead? He ended up puking himself halfway to death in his high school bathroom. Now you say he’s suicidal? That’s bad.”
There were no words as Orli came with my food. I started eating, as I began to reflect on some accurate points on what Cat was saying, noting the inaccuracy of the fact I was never punished. Why else was I here? But then again I might be slipping through the cracks. Then I thought of Noah, white as a ghost while hooked up to wires on a hospital bed in St. Luke’s. No, I had been bad, but his pain was not my fault.
“You know what, Cat,” I said. “You’re right. I was partly to blame for Noah. I created a false image of someone who could misbehave and break the rules and think they could still get away with it. I made it harder for him to do the right thing and it was wrong of me.”
“That doesn’t take away from the fact that you sold him drugs.”
“Prescription drugs!” She yelled. Some other patrons in the restaurant shushed her.
“You know, this whole attempt to transfer the blame unto me because I broke the rules in high school is stupid. And you know what else? The reason I never got caught for my shenanigans and you did is because the things you were doing were much worse!”
“For G-d’s sake, you got kicked out of Bronx Science for doing lines in the girl’s room. I’ve never even tried that stuff. In 11th grade at Beacon, you took your clothes off in the cafeteria while tripping. The truth is that you’re a druggie, Cat. You’ve always been one and you sell so you can continue that habit, even if that means nearly killing your own brother.”
“Oh yeah?” She said, slowly bending her spoon into submission. “Yeah? Well, fuck you, Rosie! I started on weed and klonopin to get over mom and dad fighting, and by the time I was on coke and ‘shrooms, they were too busy trying to screw each other over to give a fuck! And when you had your blowups, they were all done and they sent you off to therapy and little Rosie was all better to be sent off to college!”
Now, this was true. At that moment I felt scared of her, partly because of her anger and partly because what she was saying was accurate. If I had been the older sister in the situation, I might not have gotten the help I needed. It seemed for a split second that Cat had convinced me into thinking that the maladies that had befallen her and the other people
“I’m sorry, Cat,” I said to her. “I guess you’re right.”
“Oh, don’t say your sorry,” She replied. “I mean, you’ve got battle scars too, sister.”
I looked down at my right wrist and I felt a tear coming to my eye, remembering the pain I caused on myself in that period. She then grabbed the bracelet with tremendous strength and the tension in my wrist began to jump. She grabbed my bracelet and began pulling on each string to pull it off. I was sure she wanted to make my scars public, something that I did not want to bare to the point of tears. Then I asked myself what if she got control of me and found the wire? What would she do then? I tried to pull it away, but she was too strong. My arm felt chained, as if a giant boa constrictor was cutting off my circulation, making it impossible for me to breathe or act.
“Please stop,” I asked. “You know I don’t want this taken off in public!”
“Let the world see those shiny key-marks, Rosie,” She said grunting. “I show mine every day. Give us the truth.”
Just as the bracelet was about to go loose, I made a desperate decision and landed a left hook in her jaw. She fell down to the floor and groaned in pain. Other patrons in the restaurant turned around to see the violence. One waiter bit his finger and winced as he saw Cat moaning on the floor. I knew I would be asked to leave and I had to get away now that I had the chance. I dropped some bills on the table and grabbed my bag and jacket and proceeded out the door, while Cat wallowed in agony and cursed me.
For three blocks, I was sobbing. Part of me felt bad for Cat, because she was in some ways a victim of circumstance and I knew she was destined for jail partly because of my actions. Then I thought of Cat’s constricting grip, her playing with the knife and Noah’s desire to hang himself, an act of desperation devoid of control. He might have been a time bomb, but someone lit the fuse. I ultimately concluded that Cat deserved to be taken away, since she was really too dangerous for anyone, including her own family.
Then I thought of my own wrongdoing. I had been bad and gotten away with it, and I would even get away with ratting out my only sister, as well as assaulting her in public. Even my tagging was still going to give Noah a false image that one can break the rules and get away with it. In fact, if he saw me spray-paint another building after getting off for this recent arrest, I would just be serving as a bad example. I could have cared less for the walls and billboards I desecrated, but it was still against the law like buying prescription drugs. In spite of the damage to Noah that I said would have been done if I went to jail, I felt that I deserved some kind of penalty. Maybe seeing consequences for my bad actions would have been good for him.
Once, when Noah was seven years old, we were playing in the playground in Riverside Park. I couldn’t have been older than ten. He was then just a small boy with a small tuft of black hair and a little ski jacket who was crying heavily and loudly by the jungle gym.
“Why are you crying, Noah?” I asked.
“I-I’m s-scared of the m-monkey bars, Rosie.” He said panting through his tears. “I don’t want to f-fall off and die.”
“I’ll show you how to do it.” I lead him by holding his legs as he tearfully moved across each rung. Then when he did it himself, he fell down on the ground and howled like a baby wolf. I checked him out to see if he was hurt. Mom, who had been standing at the side rushed over quickly to take care of him, picking up Noah and coddling him. I decided that I needed to keep my promise to him and show him how to do it. I ran over to the bars and succeeded in grabbing rung by rung until I reached the end, reminding Noah, who sat watching in amazement, to always hold on tightly. When I came down, he hugged me.
“I want to be like you, Rosie,” He said. “You’re so brave.” At that point on, I knew I was a role model to him and had a responsibility to do the right thing, so he may do it too. I realized that I had failed.
I came to the Williamsburg Bridge entrance where a van labeled Brooklyn AC and Cooling stood. The tears at this point had ceased and were drying on my face. Detective Mendez stood by the hood of the van with a plainclothes cop. He was smiling.
“Good work,” He said as I came walking towards him. “We’ve got the whole thing recorded and we’ll have some kind of deal worked out with the ADA by tomorrow. Nothing is certain, but I’m sure you won’t have any jail time.”
I took off the bracelet and I unleashed the wire, dangling from the leather and revealed the islands of scars and bruises below my wrist. Detective Mendez winced, but nevertheless looked down with interest. I stared down at the scars as they were set free from their hiding place beneath the black leather and looked back at him.
“Sorry, Detective,” I said. “When I was younger, I used to cut myself with my house keys.”
“Why?” He asked shaking his head. “Why would you hurt yourself like that?”
“I was angry. Angry at my parents for getting divorced, angry with myself, angry with my sister. I never like to let them out in public because I’m too embarrassed. It was wrong for me to inflict pain on myself, but I think if I’ve forced my sister to be honest, I might as well come clean with all my wrongdoings too. I’m not innocent. ” I then flipped my wrists over on their forearm side and extended them.
“What are you doing?” Detective Mendez asked.
“Forget the deal.” I said. “I don’t deserve a pass.”
Dolores Santana was a working-class girl who wanted more out of life. Hailing from the city of Santiago in the province of Magallanes in the South American nation of Maiten, she had been a good student in school, receiving awards in poetry and science. ‘Lola,’ as she was called, was also interested in theatre. As a child, she would put on plays with her friends for her fellow residents of the San Jacinto Council House, one of the many dilapidated and poorly constructed flat blocks in Santiago’s North Side built after World War II. She dreamed one day that she would exit her life of working poverty and become a great actress on the stage. This was especially believable if one considered her striking beauty, her long flowing black hair and her shimmering brown eyes that bespoke generations of Spanish grace. However, in 1971, at the age of 20, Lola still lived in the Council House, where she supported herself and her 9-year-old sister Magdalena by working as a mechanic at the Waverley Toy Factory.
For five days a week, she got up before dawn, made Magdalena breakfast and walked her down the hallway of crying babies and screaming in Spanish to her school’s bus stop. Afterwards, Lola jammed into a crowded streetcar headed to Barrio Norte, an industrial center where the suffocatingly humid subtropical air mixed with the hellish smell of sulfur. Upon exiting, she joined a mass of tan-skinned people huddled through a steel gate towards a dreary box of a building whose walls were marked with cartoon images of light-skinned children playing with stuffed animals. Each day they entered and left with the punching of a time clock, and at the end of the week they would receive paper money marked with the face of the Queen of England. Her patched jeans and colorful shirt were replaced with a grey jumpsuit and her long, flowing black hair was shackled in a bun. Over the course of 10 hours, burly superiors in white shirts and ties hollered at her.
“Santana! Fix this engine in section six! Santana! You’re wanted at the doll upholstery. Couldn’t you mend that broken engine it last time? G-d, Santana, why are you so slow? You better hurry up, or else you’re out of here.”
To most other workers in the factory, this would be an empty threat due to the strength of their union and the protection they had from being fired. For Lola, who was very young and still new to both the job and the union, unemployment remained a constantly real and frightening possibility, since she would be deemed as unfit to be a guardian of her kid sister. Mr. Williams, the Child Services worker often reminded both Lola and Magdalena about this on his numerous unannounced visits to their flat. So she made busy with her wrenches and screwdrivers in dark places, dirtying her pretty face with oil and sometimes electrocuting herself due to someone else’s negligence. While the front of her body was often inside some kind of machinery, the lower half was left vulnerable to the groping hands of her male co-workers, like Lopez, a fat, lazy assembly line worker who often gave firm squeezes while uttering “So fucking firm for a little girl.” There were no comprehensive sexual harassment laws in Maiten at this time and violence against another worker was frowned upon in the factory and in her union. This forced Lola to often herself to bite her fist that would otherwise be let fly in Lopez’s face, sacrificing her dignity for custody of Magdalena.
At night she would come home and pick up Magdalena from a schoolmate’s flat in a neighboring Council House. She would make her dinner, help her with homework and then put her to bed as teenagers outside screamed at the police and blows were exchanged. Dolores would then go to bed herself, beaten from the day’s demands but reminding herself that the weekend would bring two days of release from this chained routine.
On Saturday, Lola spent some quality time with little Magdalena, thereby fully replacing the role of their mother. They often went to nearby Barbosa Park, where Magdalena would play on the rusty jungle gym and Lola would keep her away from the teenagers smoking marijuana by the dirty benches. Sometimes they would go to the zoo or cooking baked treats with their elderly neighbor, Sra. Ramos. These days were of deep liberation for both of them where they could appreciate each other in the glow of the South American sunshine unchained from work and school. Some Saturday evenings, Lola and Magdalena would talk over their phone to their eighteen-year old sister who was in another province. They would get only ten minutes in these calls, but would not be able to have her back in the house for another ten years. At the end of these conversations, Magdalena would break down and cry.
“Lola, please don’t ever ever go to jail! I miss Maria so much!” Lola hugged her sobbing sister.
“I promise. I will never desert you.”
On Sunday, while it seemed that the rest of the Council House went off to church, Lola walked three blocks over to Social Club de Pushkin, a dirty hole-in-the-wall pub on Duarte Street. Sometimes she would bring Magdalena, sometimes Magdalena would stay in the Council House with a friend. She would pass the usual sinners on the ugly barstools walking to the back of the pub to a door not for “employees only.” She knocked on it twice.
“Password,” A voice asked.
“Che lives,” She said. The door swung open and she entered a dozens of young, angry people in this basement adorned with red banners and photographs of Che as well as other intense looking people, including mugshots.
“We will rise up from our place as a beaten people!” A young male speaker said standing on a table, adorning glasses and a beard. The crowd raised their fists in the air and cheered. “We will unite as workers, as Spanish-speaking people to overthrow the corrupt imperialist scum that has held us back for two centuries! Our Matanese oppressors do not stand a chance if we join together! Together we can strike down the doors of our factories and let our brothers free! We can throw our leaders out of office and their money-backers out of their boardrooms! Though, we must be willing to risk our lives and go to prison! We must be willing to spill blood if we want to achieve our dreams!”
Lola joined the loud cheering and put her fist in the air with pride, as she proudly chanted “Freedom now! Freedom now!”
The truth was that Maiten was not like other countries in South America. For instance, it was not physically in South America but constituted a fairly large island 300 miles off the South Atlantic Coast. Unlike its distant neighbors such as Uruguay and Argentina, it was part of the British Commonwealth. The majority of the people were descendants of English settlers or from immigrants who adopted English as their language. Only a minority was of Spanish stock whose lands had been conquered by the British in wars past. These people, Lola’s people, were called “Magallanos” and their province, “Magallanes,” had once been Spanish territory and now accounted for a solid fifth of the Maiten’s fourteen million people.
Lola, like many of the people in that room, was brought up feeling like she was part of a colonized class. She recognized as a child that Maiten’s Prime Minister, its leaders of industry and as well as its actresses she idolized had names like “Fraser” or “Jackson” and not “Santana.” Guidance counselors at school told her that there was no room for a ‘Maga’ movie star. She was smart enough to know that while Maiten did not have the shantytowns or extreme poverty of its neighbors on the mainland, Magallanes still had very weak infrastructure compared to the other provinces and disproportionately high rates of unemployment, drug use and incarceration. The fact that there was a middle class in Magallanes was no consolation to her; at the end of the day, everyone would be under the thumb of people like Hugh Waverley, the Scottish-born owner of the toy factory. Lola believed this establishment would keep them in their place, as they did with her by crushing her dreams and they did with her jailed sister, who maintained she had never seen what they found on her.
Some of the revolutionaries dressed in full guerilla garb, brandishing guns and calling for the deaths of the “bourgeois pigs on the South Side” and the bombing of their “banks and offices” to let them know they were serious. Since 1968, there had been ten deaths related to such executed separatist activities, resulting in some of these revolutionaries to be wanted by the police. For Lola, it was so empowering to see people break out of their own jumpsuits and say and do all the things she wished she could do. Even as a way to break out of her own five-day block, she too would have probably done violence to the people and system that forced her into it.
Her favorite of these revolutionaries was Javier Garcia, a 25-year old carpenter at the Mesas de Carlos store in her neighborhood, who was known to be a good shot and had been involved in the kidnapping of a prominent right-wing politician three years earlier. On one hand, Javier was a thug. On the other, he was a dream. Not only did he personify the liberation that Lola wanted, but had the physical attractiveness to match a fantasy. His arms were chiseled and broad and a face that combined a conquistador’s eyes with the rugged beard of an Ancient Moor. He was also a gentleman to Lola, who took time every week to talk to her in between speeches.
“You look very beautiful in that paisley shirt, Lola. But you always do. I’m sure you get that a lot.”
“Oh, no.” She laughed nervously. “No one ever tells me that.”
“It’s so nice to see your sister again,” He would say stooping down to Magdalena. “Can I get a hug?”
“No.” Magdalena said smiling.
“Magdalena!” Lola said scolding. “That’s not very nice to Javier. He’s a good man.”
“It’s alright, Lola,” Javier said getting up laughing. “She’s much better than when I was her age.”
Lola certainly fancied him and by serendipity, Javier was a fan of theatre like she was. Sure enough, he took her one Sunday to an afternoon performance of Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding at a small avant-garde theatre in an ancient section of the city, with low-lying Mediterranean houses and cobblestone streets. Watching the performance reminded Lola of her makeshift plays in the Council House, when she was a small child filled with dreams. A tear came to her eye during a less tragic scene when she felt envious of the actress playing La Novia, which Javier brushed away. He held onto her hand and kissed her softly on the mouth. It felt so natural and so right, so she held onto him more tightly and kissed harder. This came to an abrupt end when the patrons sitting next to them scolded them.
Afterwards, he took her to an Argentine restaurant near the Fortaleza Real, the old powerful fortress by the river where the Spanish soldiers kept their battery to fight the British. They talked of the play, its connection to modern totalitarianism, and the significance of the barrio they were in, and how it was a reminder of a halcyon past. When their food came, they ate heartily and Javier footed the bill. He held Lola’s hand again at the end of dinner and looked deeply into her shimmering brown eyes.
“I want to take you away from here at some point,” Javier said. “Our comrades have built a small farming collective sixty miles outside of Santiago.”
“That sounds amazing,” Lola replied excited.
“It is. We grow all our own food. There is no private property—we share everything. It’s paradise without all the corrupting influences of the city and Maiten trying to lock us up with greed and self-doubt. But the best part is, we train everyone who lives there how to fire a gun and fight.”
“For the revolution that’s soon to come?”
“Yes, Lola. The revolution that will wipe away the grime and the fat from Magallanes and make us pure and free, like the collective we established. A place where your little sister does not have to grow up to become a wage-slave or a prisoner.”
“It’s so visionary… it’s like you’re building the framework for a new country on the farm.”
“It’s not a new country, as much as it is a new perspective… maybe a new world.”
“Give me a new world.”
He walked with her by the river holding hands. He was careful with her and not abusive like the men at the factory. They kissed passionately on the embankment with the handsomer, more modern buildings of the South Side lighting up the night’s sky. Lola asked him to stay the night, but insisted that he had something to do early in the morning. He walked her back to the Council Houses and kissed her good night. Everything felt like a beating heart of beautiful bright red as she walked upstairs to her flat, and received light mocking from Magdalena who was being watched by old Sra. Ramos.
“Lola’s in love! Lola’s in love!”
She picked her Magdalena up and kissed her.
“Yes, she is!” Lola replied.
That night, she dreamed of being locked in a damp jail cell, dressed in her work jumpsuit. Two guards were outside speaking in Matanese English about an inmate who was supposed to “get the chair” for a crime that they did not know. They opened the doors to her cell, which creaked open as her heart raced and cold sweat ran down her body, knowing at this time, it was her who was wanted. The guards were light skinned and wore pith helmets and white tunics, the ceremonial garb of Maiten’s national police that harkened back to the days of Queen Victoria. One guard carried a nightstick and the other carried manacles.
“Up,” He commanded, hitting Lola quickly on the arm like an animal. Lola stood as handcuffs were slapped around her wrist and irons around her legs both in a manner that was so tight they cut off circulation. They dragged her down a long corridor to a tiny room, where sat an American model of an electric chair and stood a senior guard, the warden in a business suit smoking a cigar, and a lone priest with a wry look on his face. Lola felt like vomiting as she saw the chair and thought she would collapse as the suffocating chains were taken off her and the blood rushed through her body.
“We just had your sister, Maria here this morning,” said the warden smirking. “Burnt like a crisp. We’ll have your little sister in here soon.” Inside, Lola would have liked to fight back against this scum who threatened her family, but was being shoved down into the electric chair by the guards. She closed her eyes and tried to wake up, but it just would not happen as the guards strapped her in with the suffocating straps.
Just as the guard was ready to pull the switch, machine gun fire was heard and she looked up to find the men in the room fallen dead. There stood Javier in guerilla camouflage holding a mighty Kalashnikov. He looked untouched by any enemy attack and stared at her confidently like the Alberto Korda portrait of Che. He released Lola from the straps and pulled her out of the chair.
“Come with me if you want a new world,” He said. Then she woke up to the sound of her alarm clock.
As with any powerful dream, Lola gave consideration to its meaning, and like Scrooge, decided she needed to change. She was done being a prisoner and only thinking like a free woman. She had to start living like one or she too would end up dead from the prison around her. She would throw off all the institutions that kept her in. No more toy factory. No more being hollered at by white-shirts and groped by scummy old Lopez. No more Council Houses and food vouchers. No more visits from Mr. Williams and condescending statements that reflected his sense of racial superiority. No more living for the weekends. No more living in fear. No more of the same for her little sister. She would take Magdalena and move with her beloved Javier to the commune. There, Lola believed Magdalena would grow up knowing truth and goodness, while Javier would love her and show her the ways of the gun. Then, when the time was right, they would leave the commune and take back Magallanes so no one would be denied, like she was, the possibility to live their dreams.
Lola decided she would go as soon as she dropped off Magdalena to find Javier at his store and propose this plan to him. She had no doubt he would say yes. Magdalena noticed she was particularly excited, as she told her about what she wanted to do.
“We are going on a trip soon,” Lola said to Magdalena. “Javier is going to take us to the country. It’s very beautiful there.”
“But I don’t want to go to the country. I like the city.”
“Once you go you will never want to come back.” She hugged her and said goodbye as the bus to school pulled up and took the little girl away.
Lola’s spirit was elevated to a point that it never was before. A new hope was dawning inside her as she watched the streetcar that would have otherwise taken her to work pull away. In the state of her euphoria, she had neglected to realize where Mesas de Carlos was. She came to a newsstand and was about to ask for the location of the store, when the front page of La Canaria, a major local newspaper, struck her. The headline read “SEPARATISTS MURDER LOCAL BUSINESSMAN AND YOUNG SON IN FAILED KIDNAPPING. CULPRITS KILLED IN POLICE SHOOTOUT.” Beneath was a home picture of a man dressed in upscale leisurewear playing on a grassy with his smiling son who could not have been more than seven or eight years of age. Next to that was an image of the police looking over the corpses of the kidnappers. A man lay on the scene with his mouth open in shock, clutching a beretta in his cold, dead hand. As mentioned in the full article, the corpse was “Javier Garcia, 25, a carpenter at Mesas de Carlos in Barrio Capri, who was believed to implicated in the 1968 kidnapping of Roberto Diaz, a City Councilman and father of two girls.” She looked at the page again and saw the pictures. Then she looked a second time and a third. At that point, all the joy within her died as she crashed to the ground in a howl of painful tears. She tried to wake up, but it was no nightmare. There would be no one to save her now.
I’m going to serialize this story I’m working on entitled ALEXANDER’S FIXER.
I just finished Part One and it’s still a bit rough, but I felt eager to get it out in the open.
ALEXANDER’S FIXER-PART ONE
Jerome Parker was a fixer—his job was to solve problems. His employer was Brooklyn politician Jamal Alexander, a Democratic Assemblyman who had his eye on Washington. Parker had worked for Alexander for six years, when Parker had left his job as an associate at a big Wall Street law firm and Alexander won his seat in Albany. As part of his job as Alexander’s fixer, Parker was required to make introductions to people who needed each other, such as a hat seller in Fort Greene who had tax trouble, with a low-cost accountant who had fallen on hard times. Parker also helped constituents deal with daunting government bureaucracy. He did this in Downtown Brooklyn by helping a number of family-owned restaurants and barbershops avoid negative scores from the health inspector by taking care of their storefront sanitary problems. During the worst of the recession, he gave consulting help to community organizers who set out to protect tenants in a Bedford-Stuyvesant complex from being evicted. When each problem was concluded, Parker told the beneficiaries, “Assemblyman Alexander is always at your service.”
These actions were not only extremely positive for Alexander’s political status but also allowed Parker to earn serious friends and fans in neighborhoods he had helped. He could not walk down certain streets in Fort Greene or Clinton Hill without being greeted warmly by a random slew of single mothers, bespectacled professionals and even inner-city youths. Once, Alexander, Parker, and some of their team were walking back from a community board meeting in the Ingersoll Houses, when two tough looking youths in hoodies and flat-brimmed baseball caps came up to Parker and warmly greeted him. It was a surprising sight to see this sweaty, moderately built Caucasian suit in his mid-thirties pounding fists with these street kids. When a surprised Alexander asked Parker who they were, he explained that he had got them a lawyer to get them off for some absurd possession charge. One of the their mothers worked for Alexander’s campaign and called him for help.
Yet, these were the nice things, intended for publicity purposes and were not the darker, more important parts of Parker’s post. He also had to keep a stranglehold on problems and threats to Alexander’s political rising. Along with three other fixers, Parker blackmailed the leader of a powerful construction union for endorsing Alexander’s rival, threatening to reveal information about funds he had embezzled to the public. When one of Alexander’s financial backers objected to a crew of student filmmakers making a documentary about the pollution in the Gowanus Canal, Parker and his “squad,” planted mushrooms and other psychedelic drugs in their napsacks and called the police. The director and the cinematographer, both 20, were arrested and sentenced to one to five years in Rikers, a larger sentence than the squad intended. Apparently, the police had found two salt-shakers of cocaine in the cinematographer’s jacket, which was a higher drug class than merely mushrooms. In addition to sabotage, Parker would use his background as an attorney to routinely threaten libel suits upon Alexander’s critics in the press and even in the blogosphere. These almost never went to trial or even settlement, but the sheer notoriety of what Parker and the squad could dig up on people caused the media to relent their negative comments.
This dark side secured Alexander’s elevation to the United States Congress, but made Parker unhappy, as if he was some kind of backroom political cretin from the Tammany days. Many times he had made innocent people cry, even grown men of dignity, just because his boss told him to do so. On a few occasions, he and the squad even used physical violence to get their point across, such as when they beat up a young man who had been vandalizing Jamal Alexander campaign posters. Even though he was paid well ($48,000 per annum for his official title as Associate Counsel to Alexander and an additional $70,000 for the work he did as a fixer) he sometimes wished he could be doing something less morally corrosive, even if it meant taking a cut. Yet, as he felt when he first took the job, he was so convinced in Alexander’s abilities as a statesman and the care he had for his community, that he was willing to do whatever was necessary for his boss to stay in power.
To make matters worse, Parker was lonely. Although he was beloved by the constituents he helped, friendly with his neighbors in Cobble Hill and his buddies from college and law school, he was terrible with women. In effect, Parker never married and never had a girlfriend longer than three months. In this period of his life, when many of his friends were getting engaged, he cried at every wedding he was invited to. This was not so much out of joy, but out of embarrassment for his personal failings. Meeting women was also difficult; he was only average looking with a pug face and often made comments in dates that were unusual or off-putting. Sometimes, when he was out with a young woman, he would randomly put on a cartoon voice or talk about things that were completely off-topic, making his date think he was not listening. Norman Atwater, a friend from college (who was single and made Parker his wing-man when he scoured Red Hook bars for women) said Parker behaved this way was because he was quirky, which should be celebrated. Parker knew the truth—he acted strangely because he was nervous. The comfort he had when dealing with a constituent or a problem for Alexander was gone whenever he had a romantic opportunity for himself.
As President Obama faced his re-election challenge, so did Jamal Alexander for the first time as a Congressman. One day in that unseasonably warm March, Parker was called into the Congressman’s office in Downtown Brooklyn for what seemed like an ordinary assignment. Seated at his large mahogany desk, Alexander was a short, healthy looking African American man in his mid forties. He was bald and wore an un-ostentatious grey suit made by a tailor in Washington, adorned only by two pins: an American flag and the shape of New York State. Like Adam Clayton Powell, he was a very articulate speaker who talked in a non-rhotic, ethnically ambiguous Brooklyn accent.
“Parker, these developers think that Bed-Stuy is going to completely gentrify. What do you think of that?”
“I don’t know, Jamal.” Alexander let Parker call him by his first name to be friendly, something he never reciprocated. “I don’t know if it’s such a good thing for the current residents. In regards to its possibility, it’s such a big neighborhood that it seems impossible to change altogether. Besides, I’m not sure my fellow Cow-casians would be too thrilled to take on ‘Do the Right Thing-Land’ like they did with Williamsburg.”
Alexander chuckled and nodded. “Quite.” He pushed his intercom. “Jenny could you send in Ms. Klein?”
“Yes, Congressman.” A very attractive, firm woman with expensively volumed blonde hair and a pantsuit came in the door. Her eyes looked seductive and confident, but also somewhat insensitive. She was Danica Klein, Alexander’s chief spin-doctor and Parker hated her bitterly because she was mean-spirited and did not show the same remorse he did. In her hand she clutched a manila folder, which she handed to the Congressman. He perused the inside and handed it over to Parker.
“This is the problem,” He said. Parker looked at contents. “The Myrtle Avenue Community Center. The Saunders Brothers want to buy the building to put up a new condo with a gym and a postmodern roof deck and all that other shit.” The building in the photos provided looked decrepit in old, rotting brick with cheap painted lettering on the front.
“And the community is protesting the purchase?” Parker asked.
“The usual suspects are,” Klein interrupted. “The Occupy crowd, the activists, Charles Barron, a couple of preachers. The general pains in the ass of the Party.”
“You should be lucky it’s just Occupy and not the Tea-Baggers.” Parker said. Klein looked at him strangely while Alexander smiled and shook his head. “The Tea-Baggers. You know, the Tea Party. They’re much better organized than the Oc—“
“Yes, I know who they are.” Klein replied. “I’m not an idiot. I’ve just never heard them called such a stupid name.”
“The Saunderses are pretty big supporters of mine. Their endorsement is not that huge financially, but they hold the support from the other developers that I need, including Speyer and the Zeckendorfs. They’re pretty critical to getting re-elected. Personally speaking, I think that although Bed-Stuy should never become fully gentrified, but it will. Besides, this block has always been pretty sketchy and could use some new blood. I mean, two of the buildings beside the center are abandoned, populated by junkies. In a quarter-mile radius, there have been five rapes in the last month—reported. In the long run, Parker, we have to do everything in our power to let this building project go up—“
“In short, we have to destroy the protestors.” Klein interjected. “Cut off the head and the body dies.”
“And who is the head?” Parker asked. Klein took the document out of his hand and revealed to him a page of photographs of a very thin, pretty young woman, with loose dark curls of hair and very deep hazel eyes. In one shot, she was in a row of picketers wearing a woolen trench and holding a sign saying “Save the MACC.” In another she was giving a speech, wearing a light, eclectic looking blouse. She did not appear dogmatic, but calm in her speaking. In another, it was just her walking with her purse over her shoulder. Parker started reading her profile out loud.
300 Hewes Street Apt. 3
B- 9/19/83 Portland, Oregon
Education: Cleveland High School, Reed College BA in History Cum Laude, NYU MA in Education.
Occupation: Teacher at Achievement Academy in Bushwick, Tutor at Myrtle Avenue Community Center, Independent SAT Tutor.
Work Experience: Salt & Straw Ice Cream (part-time) 1999-2002, Teach for America (New Mexico) 2005-2007, SAT Tutor 2007-Present, Achievement Academy 2009- Present
Political Groups: Save the Myrtle Avenue Community Center (Leading coordinator), Williamsburg Co-op, Marcy Community Garden, #OccupyWallStreet, Save Darfur Coalition, Green Party, Human Rights Coalition, Obama 2008
Arrest Record: Misdemeanor for Disturbing the Peace, December 2, 2011 at Union Square
Miscellaneous: Although notably left wing, not necessarily the typical activist type. Did take part in #OccupyWallStreet at Zucotti Park at intermittent times and was arrested at the final confrontation on December 2, 2011. Seems to be fundamentally dedicated to her students and their community. Extremely well-regarded and popular teacher at her school with very high test scores amongst her students. For additional income, tutors SAT to privileged families and retains a solid book of business. Her lack of definitive partisanism or higher political ambitions make her an attractive face for this campaign. When she addresses the protestors in the MACC movement, she uses certain buzzwords such as “community,” “opportunity,” and “social justice” and manages to demonize the Saunders Brothers. Terms she uses for them are “exploiters,” “money hungry,” “selfish,” “the one-percent” and “not caring about the future of the community’s children.” She has gained solidarity from the Teacher’s Union, which she is not part of since she teaches a charter school, as well as #OccupyBrooklyn. She could be a very big problem for the development to go through.
“We sent one of these to the Saunderses. They’re adamant we rectify this situation at once and put this Emma Foster girl down.”
“You want me to do to her what I did to those college students at the Gowanus?”
“Maybe as a final attempt if we can’t blackmail her. That kind of thing is always really risky to pull off and it might not be enough to shut her up. But, if we choose to do that, let’s find something that will put her in jail for a long time. Until then, it’s better to pressure her out of commission, like a boxer told to throw a fight. She appears not to have a computer, nor a Facebook account, so hacking her is out of the question.”
“So what do you want me to do, Jamal?”
“Get close to her, Parker, find some dirt on her, and then give her an ultimatum.”
“Get close to her?” Parker asked surprised.
“Yeah, pretend to be her lover.”
“Oh.” There was a pause. “I don’t think I’m so good at that, Jamal. You know how much trouble I have with women.”
“What’s wrong, little man?” Klein said to Parker. “Not enough juice in the wild snake? Just a deflated balloon?” Parker was annoyed.
“I’m not the one overcompensating by bullying.”
“No, you just bully people for a living.”
“And you just bully people for fun. Speaks volumes of your character.”
“That’s enough between the two of you,” Alexander said firmly. “It doesn’t matter how insecure you feel about this, Parker. You’re the only fixer I have that can take care of this issue. Matthews left to work in the State Department, Jackson now keeps an eye on things for me down in Washington and Megan Frankel is a straight woman. It’s up to you to get close enough to her to get in her apartment and snoop around for any dirt. The fate of my campaign and the well-being of our district depends on it. In this last year, who provided 10,000 new jobs with the stimulus? Who stood up for healthcare reform? Who stood up for the victims of profiling and Stop-and-Frisk in the Congress?”
“You did, Jamal.”
“Right. And if I lose, the people of this district won’t have that kind of voice to speak for them. And you won’t have a job.”
“But why can’t we just do a break-in or something?”
“Parker, do you know what Watergate was?”
“Never mind, Jamal.”
“I thought so. Now this afternoon at three hop on the G to Myrtle/Willoughby. The Community Center is right around there and Foster goes there every afternoon when school ends. Go talk to her, be a gentleman, and don’t say or do anything stupid. Be sure to watch your white ass when you’re around there, too.”
“That’s all.” Parker got up and they shook hands as Klein stood there shaking her head. Parker did not acknowledge her as he went for the exit. As he closed the door to Alexander’s office behind him, he sighed at the prospect of failing Alexander because of his own failings.
TO BE CONTINUED
Recently I deactivated my Facebook account and I’m going try to do some blogging work. This way I feel I can express myself without having to completely fabricate an identity for myself. I also feel like spiting Zuckerberg to add insult to injury in the wake of his pathetic IPO (in a very small way).
I have just arrived at Cornell University for a three-week Creative Writing class. I am very pleased to be here in this beautiful part of upstate New York, and away from the heat and the hustle of the metropolitan New York City area. I will admit that I felt alone and homesick when I first arrived, but that is primarily due to the fact that I have not eaten very much and I had slept very little last night. It was most enjoyable to take a long soothing nap in my dorm, which is a veritable palace in comparison to Columbia’s Spartan/Soviet style living situation. They even gave my sheets and an ethernet cable!
I hope to grow greatly in this program in my writing ability and enjoy this new, bucolic environment. I am blessed to have some friends from high school and elsewhere to be here in Ithaca for other programs. I won’t be completely alone to begin with.
Today, I landed and bought some necessities for the room. I love the West Campus housing situation, but am frustrated by how far everything is from one another. If I had an issue at Columbia and needed to buy something, I would rush across the street to Morton Williams (FWP). It is very beautiful, although the town of Ithaca is a bit of a strange place. It’s an awkward intersection of the wealth and liberalism of a university city, with the poverty and conservatism of many of these upstate towns. You see beggars and drifters waiting for buses while people in expensive glasses and Toms walk down the street and talk about Quantum Mechanics. Actually, that isn’t too different to Columbia.
I’m currently reading White Noise by Don DeLillo. Pretty good. Very fitting with the Cornell/Ithaca environment.
We’ll see what happens…
ON JUSTIN BIEBER: WHY LITTLE GIRLS LIKE GIRLY BOYS
By Michael Davis
1992 Words/November 9, 2011
Justin Bieber is an internationally renowned teen idol that has taken the pop music world by storm over the last three years. With hits such as “Baby” and “Never Say Never,” he has climbed to the top of the charts and into the hearts of many young girls. Like The Beatles before him, throngs of screaming early and pre-adolescent females dominate his concerts and feel a special attraction to him. He is, to these young American ladies, an icon, resulting in the creation of the phrase “Belieber” that puts a religious twist on his most ardent fandom. Yet, how unique is Bieber when one looks at the myriad of teen idols that have come before him? Not very, to be blunt. And like Bobby Sherman or the Jonas Brothers, he too will grow up and become old hat.
But what ultimately is it that makes him so attractive to these girls? It isn’t necessarily their appreciation for his musical talent. Nor is it necessarily his intellectual prowess, which he either lacks or declines to display before the television cameras. Interestingly enough, it is not buff, masculine good looks either that make him so attractive. In fact, it is quite the opposite. By using Justin Bieber as a paragon accompanied with analyses from essays by Michael Kimmel and Wendy Doniger, I intend to show that heterosexual girls who are coming of age tend to be attracted to effeminate and androgynous looking boys. This is primarily because these boys do not have the unfamiliar, threatening features of the opposite sex and are seen as somewhat rebellious figures, which appeals to their youthful instincts.
In his essay, “Masculinity as Homophobia,” Michael Kimmel suggests that intense masculine behavior represents a subtext of insecurity and homophobia. He says that the resounding behavior includes behaving very aggressive and tough, which involves appreciating and manifesting masculine features (both natural and artificial) and bullying any person who displays the qualities of being “a sissy, untough, uncool” (Kimmel 103). He says this behavior is born on the playground, where boys force these images onto themselves and end up bullying one another to maintain their gender status (104). As they grow up and become men, these attitudes become more intense because of a sense of “powerlessness” that comes from being subservient to the demands of family, workplace and society (106). Manliness is a way of maintaining their personal strength in spite of all these forces (107). Kimmel denotes how this behavior includes two very important attributes: one of which, violence, he argues is the “single most evident marker of manhood” (104). The other, fear, represents the concern that that “other men will unmask [and] emasculate” them (104). This is more subconscious, but he describes it as being absolutely essential to the male experience, as it serves as the root for all other associated behaviors and attitudes (104).
Let us look at some images of Bieber and see what we can reveal using Kimmel’s analysis:
We can observe from these photos that Bieber lacks the stuff of manliness that Kimmel writes about in his essay. It is evident that he that he is instead an androgynous boy, wearing clothing such as the hoody sweaters or the oversize button-downs that aren’t very manly looking. Additionally, he lacks exaggerated masculine physical features like bulging muscles or a strong build. Instead, he has a skinny body, is incapable of growing facial hair, and maintains a very trademark bowl-cut. The bowl cut is a key point to identifying Bieber’s androgyny since it can easily be replicated as a pixie cut for ladies. Bieber does not even try to dress in a manly fashion in these photos and is unashamed to wear bright colors that are not particularly gritty. He non-conforms to the traditional fashion of other men, which represents his androgyny not only in regards to his appearance, but also in regards to his manner of self-presentation and self-expression. Since Bieber has all these effeminate features, it would be easy to label him in Kimmel’s terms as a “sissy” and, consequentially, make him prime for abuse (103).
To extend the analysis further, perhaps we can take a look at one of Bieber’s songs, where he displays an extremely loving attitude that breaks with Kimmel’s interpretation of manhood defined by fear:
You know you love me, I know you care
Just shout whenever, and I’ll be there
You are my love, you are my heart
And we will never, ever, ever be apart
Are we an item? Girl, quit playin’
“We’re just friends,” what are you sayin’?
Said “there’s another,” and looked right in my eyes
My first love broke my heart for the first time.
(Justin Bieber. “Baby”)
These lyrics describe a precocious young male in love and interested in romance. It does not display a man who is consumed with doing violence, which as Kimmel noted before, is a definitive factor for manliness and comes from a deeply rooted fear of being emasculated (104). Bieber clearly does not have this concern, which is evident by his comfortable descriptions of love, devotion and subsequent rejection that are not followed by the desire to hurt or do violence to his love-interest (“Baby”). He also does not need to overcompensate his manliness to hide any fears he might have of being a homosexual, as he is so clearly expressing a heterosexual interest in a member of the opposite sex (“Baby”).
So of these factors, what is it that makes Bieber so attractive? The truth is that it is the deviance from the typical male standards themselves that makes him appealing. Young girls, like the young boys who fight and call each other sissies in Kimmel’s essay, do not socialize with the members of the opposite sex regularly because of a combination of society’s gender placement and their own hormonal insecurities (103). Therefore, it is natural to assume that a girl might be more attune to appreciate a male more feminine in appearance as he is less threatening and more natural to her eyes. Furthermore, Bieber’s genuine appreciation for women as detailed in “Baby” details a loving attitude that is in sharp contrast to the aggressiveness that is assumed of other boys; all the while dispelling the possibility of his being a homosexual, which in turn makes himself more available to their affections (“Baby”). Bieber is inviting and warm through this media, and thus is successfully able to capture a heterosexual female tween fantasy.
Now let us compare Kimmel’s analysis to that of Doniger. In her essay, “Many Masks Many Selves,” Wendy Doniger shows how individuals will perform a “triple-cross” where they will exaggerate stereotypes and assumptions that others have of themselves (60). Doniger suggests that people do so to achieve something they desire or are conforming to the past assumptions their society expects of them; noting the most prevalent examples of which to be in “politics and gender” (60). For the sake of relevancy, I shall only discuss the latter. Doniger details how people triple-cross in terms of their own gender, such as an 18th century Italian named Bellino who pretended to be a “castrato” in men’s clothing, and ended up attracting the eye of male heterosexual, Giacamo Casanova (Doniger 65). Another example she gives is of a Chinese male actor who was mistaken for a woman by a heterosexual French diplomat because he portrayed females in the theatre (Doniger 66). What kept the Frenchman interested was that the actor told him he was “born a girl” and changed gender identities for opportunistic reasons (66). Ultimately, what Doniger concludes from her essay is that we have no true “core self” and that we continually wear masks in order to define ourselves and obtain interest from “someone we love or someone who loves us” (70, 67).
When we look at these elements within Doniger’s article, we are able to see Bieber as an attractive rebel. Like Bellino, the fake castrato, Bieber also puts on an unclear and androgynous image that attracts many people. Since we can take Doniger’s conclusion that the masking is to attract those “we love,” then we can assume Bieber’s effeminate identity is constructed to obtain the love of some member of the opposite sex, as suggested by his songs (70). If such a thing is true, then it evokes a more marketable image of a young boy interested in love and makes his gender bending more heterosexual, as opposed to homosexual, which our patriarchal society might target him as. We might see Bieber as someone who becomes popular and successful for denying the social convention of gender, only to serve the purpose that would be expected of a more masculine figure (67). From this, we can determine that Justin Bieber is popular because he is a rebel, a person who consciously shows off his deviance to gain attention. That would make a great deal of sense given the other kind of iconoclastic figures young people are drawn to, whether they be rock and roll revolutionaries like Kurt Cobain or real ones like Che Guevara. In the case of Bieber, he would be seen as a kind of revolutionary on a very small scale, with an audience that is growing up and just getting their first minor tastes of defiance.
Kimmel and Doniger’s analyses are different but are very much complementary in regards to reaching a conclusion. Kimmel looks at gender bending as something that is frowned upon in society, and that is condemned from a young age. It is impossible to look at “Masculinity as Homophobia” and suggest that Justin Bieber is attractive by societal standards because of his effeminate nature. Instead, it is only possible to look at Bieber’s appeal in terms of women relating to him for not being male. In contrast, Doniger’s “Many Masks, Many Selves” shows androgyny as an attractive, edgy element through her various anecdotes and makes it easier to see not only Bieber’s appeal, but the appeal of androgyny overall. Nevertheless, one concludes from reading these two texts that Bieber is appealing because he is a “relatable rebel.” This is not by any means a contradictory statement as it gives the young girls both comfort in the absence of a foreign masculine appearance and strength to go against the mold and appreciate something en masse that society might not accept.
From this analysis of Justin Bieber, we can determine that not only are androgyny and gender-bending activity extremely attractive to young girls, but we can conclude that masculinity and extreme gender definition appear very unattractive to them. As mentioned before, the former two are non-threatening and very comforting to the opposite sex, and are subversive to the ideas of the mainstream, which makes them all the more attractive for the naturally iconoclastic youth. What we can assume, however, is, as Bieber grows older, he will lose much of his teen-idol sex appeal to the natural course of maturation. Facial hair will come in and define his gender from a physiological standpoint and eventually he will lose his world famous hair-do to balding, if not by his own choice. Ultimately, Bieber will cease to be a teen idol, as he will transform into a man and cease to be a teen.
What does this ultimately say in regards to society defining sexual attraction? Not necessarily that it lies as much as it is inaccurate and its answers do not apply to the population as a whole. A single body or even a large group of people possessed of a certain notion, whether it is heterosexual or homosexual, cannot determine the element of absolute attractiveness. The only way to truly determine whether a person is “hot or not,” is to look at how they make other people feel on the inside, as we have learned from Mr. Bieber. Desirability is an element that needs to be judged by a careful analysis; all other definitive answers that society posits cannot be taken seriously.
1. Doniger, Wendy. “Many Masks Many Selves.” Daedalus. 135.4 (2006): 60-71. Print.
2. Justin Bieber. “Baby.” My World 2.0. Island, 2010.
3. Kimmel, Michael S. “Masculinity as Homophobia.” Reconstructing Gender, A Multicultural Anthology. Ed. Disch, Estelle. New York: McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages, 2006. 103-109. Print.
Some people will rise and fall.
I will always ride the waves.
Because I know I cannot be the wave maker.
I instead hope to be Kelly Slater and live forever as the greatest surfer who ever lived.
I don’t really love anything,
I’m too young and wise for any of that.
I recognize, for most people my age,
Love is a glorified erection.
The thoughts of beautiful people
Keep us sane in the Autumn months
As the leaves turn and the Crepuscule comes earlier.
My infatuation is the fire
For the nights that grow cold and dark
In the time before the reaping.
Yet my heart sinks each time I think of her
And I long to be alone to cry deeply.
I relish this pain like a masochist
For that which I cannot have
Is all the more desirable.
While that which is in front of me
And ripe for the picking
Is of no interest.
This is why people say I am a fool
And I will soon be filled with shame
When I fully realize this truth.
-New York, 2011
When can I stop falling in love
With girls that come from broken homes?
Should I always be their savior?
They are rolling stones that have no base
As they move and speak like loose cannons.
Their mouths go off in every direction
And they walk like static radio waves.
Perhaps I need to be the father
While her’s is off shtuping some shiksa.
Do I need to be the man in the relationship?
Or will she make me her little boy?
She will drag me to her left wing causes
Her marches and rallies for the poor
For the weak
For the other rolling stones
Just so she might do good with
Her pennies and hours
And find love from someone else.
I like to think I’m not the desperate type.
After all, I have principles and vanity.
The good doctor tells me to keep clean
And drown in my books to stay afloat.
So I say I’m done
With girls that come from broken homes
And I fall in love with Plato instead.
But a hunger burns deep inside my heart
And I must break the rules, if I wish to be fed.
The world is collapsing under venemous heavens,
society is making me pay my severence
I’m chained to the wall with a terrible ailing
my mind is weak and my body is failing…
I need ADVIL… TO TAKE AWAY THE PAIN!
I need ADVIL… OR TWO FOR A MIGRAINE!
The world is corrupt full of evil and sin.
The smiling faces will burn my skin
Childhood memories explode with the sun
My body starts to melt as my days are done…
I need SUN SCREEN… TO PREVENT THE MELANOM’!
I need SUN SCREEN… PREFERABLY COPPERTONE!
(At this point I’d continue screaming and destroying my intstruments, while possibly cutting myself or doing something related to fecal matter.)
It feels everyday like I’m going to blow
and enter that horrible death that I know
I long for the day but it will not come soon
When all will suffer as I unleash doom…
I need LAXATIVE… I REALLY GOTTA POO!
I need LAXATIVE… AND NOT JUST CHOCOLATE GLUE!
The train came down the line
The same way it did every day.
Delano boarded it with a black bag on his shoulder
While wearing his striped grey suit.
He moaned as it chugged uptown
The recycled air of the car
Suffocated him and the other passengers.
The starch in his collar and tie
Shackled his neck, as this endless case
Waterboarded his brain.
Finally he reached 50th Street
And came up into the dead light
Of the dull grey building where he worked.
He took the elevator up
And passed all the familiar faces
Chained to the same prison he was in.
He wouldn’t have it anymore:
It was time to escape.
He ran towards the window
Taking off his dreaded noose
And throwing off his shoes
Irreverently at senior partners.
Everyone gasped as he stripped down to purity
And screamed in horror as he jumped out the window.
But he did not fall.
He was beyond such human faults.
Instead, Delano grew broad rainbow wings
And Like an angel, he flew.
He flew high above rooftops and trees,
Above the barred windows and unbreakable glass.
Other prisoners below looked up in disbelief
At this free man floating above them
As he roared laughing at them below.
For they couldn’t buck the system
And fly away from their problems.
And then he woke up—
The insensitive alarm buzzing in his ears
reminded him it was time for work.
He sighed sleeplessly at his reality
And moaned mournfully at his mortality.
I walk the banquet line with a drink in hand
where all the guests don suits and masks.
These people come up to me. Some give hugs.
Some give kisses and say, “I love you, son.”
They congratulate me for my victories
and chastise me for my foolish errors.
The men in white tie claim to know me well
and the ladies in gowns claim to care for me.
But all these people seem meaningless;
I don’t know who half of them are.
This is most clear when they spill their souls in speech
but keep my secrets closed like a bolted safe.
Some even try to steal my life away
while none of them wish to take me home
when the night is over and the world is unclear.
I long to find that special person
who stands before me naked in this room.
A true friend whom I can unearth myself to
As she opens up her heart and mind to me.
I long to walk out of the stuffy hall
and into the lush meadow where the sun shines.
There time is dead and all that exists is life.
There I lay beside her, watching the clouds
as they merge into a perfect unit.
But I have yet to find a soul alive
in this deceased and bustling place.
Too many times have I been deceived
by wise tongue or gorgeous face.
So I play the field and I don my mask
as I meet and greet some unknown friend,
but I will be vigilant to find the piece
that brings this charade to a glorious end.
-Cape May Courthouse, 2011.
These are all the motion pictures that I’d recommend to see before college to sound cultured, well educated or even pseudo-intellectual about the upper echelon of popularfilm. The films I have not seen have an asterix next to them.
- The Godfather (Part 1 and 2)
- Schindler’s List*
- Citizen Kane
- The Good The Bad and The Ugly
- Eight and a Half
- Gone With The Wind
- It’s A Wonderful Life
- The Social Network
- Pulp Fiction
- Requiem for a Dream
- Garden State
- The Royal Tenanbaums
- Trading Places
- American Gangster
- White Heat
- Fight Club
- The Dark Knight
- Taxi Driver
- The Shawshank Redemption*
- Star Wars (Episodes IV, V and VI)
- Forrest Gump
- At least one Hitchcock movie
- 12 Angry Men
- Spirited Away*
- Any Akira Kurasowa film*
- At least one Kubrick film (I quite liked “Clockwork Orange.”)
- The Pixar films (All of them. I am at a disadvantage for not having seen the last “Toy Story” film.)
- The Big Lebowski
- Several Woody Allen Films (“Annie Hall” is a must)
- The Princess Bride
- V for Vendetta
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail
- Goodfellas OR Casino (I happen to think that the latter is a better movie)
“I fear no evil…”- Psalm 23.
The holiest of holies
The highest of the high
Preaching from the tabernacle
Reaching for the sky.
I ignored your snakes constricting
Around my brother’s head
You were only just an issue
I’d face when I was dead.
I had walked across your holy land
And nodded at your wall
I spoke your ancient language
And bowed before your call.
But it was mostly show before you
So you were not enraged,
I did not wish to dwell in Azazel
Inside some darkened cage.
I carried on, forgetting,
Like a Frenchman after war,
Until one day it all flashed back
And I was shown the door.
As I listened to my favorite song
On an island paradise
I was struck down near my palace
By a heathenish device.
I was not dealt much sympathy
From any soul around,
Humanism did not exist
In this most sinful town.
Like the sun, the ideas of the West did sink
As I lay in the hospital bed.
In agony, I then turned East
And prayed I would not be dead.
I prayed my brain would keep from cracking,
That my skull would be in tact.
I apologized for my ignorance
And promised to come back.
Lo and behold, the doctors said
That I was fine and well.
A miracle! I was so blessed
Or else I’d be in hell.
I returned to the palace that very night,
With love for all around.
I cherished my friends and family
And the strangers in my town.
But most of all, I cherished you
Who gave me second life:
You let me see my blessings
And alleviate my strife.
I won five times la semaine prochaine,
Three more than Mr. Sheen,
But it was all too good and I forgot
The reason for my being.
I then came to a foreign land
Where they killed many of my own,
I loved this place, but felt great fear
And sickness for my home.
So I found your secret agent
Who put the snakes on my brainstem.
I smiled as they went around my wrist
And I said, “Baruch Hashem.”
In Memory of Blair Dorner (1993-2011)
Three years ago I met a boy
In a very brief encounter.
He was black and bright
With strength and swagger
And I envied his sense of poise.
Today, they say, he turned up dead:
He is the first of my age to go.
We Millennials pass from diapers to death
Through the struggles we each must face.
There will be those who float,
And those who drown,
And those who could not try.
But we are equal as the spawn of hypocrites
All plugged into the wall.
We are equal in our arrival
And can be equal when we leave.
Eliot was wrong in The Hollow Men,
Life is very short;
But the Road is the same for every age,
There are no crossing guards.
I am not home to mourn this “friend”
Who faced a cold and bitter end.
I am far away and thinking of
The equal distribution of love.
The stage is set
The actors have been paid
The audience gathers in the concert hall.
They chatter and clamor, idly awaiting the show.
There is a deep burn at the pit of my stomach—
For I have done everything right
Yet now they watch me dressed in black
Like an undertaker
As I undertake my greatest venture.
The Curtain rises,
Light strikes my place like God’s convex lens.
I stand alone surrounded by applause.
But I am ready.
I am ready for them.
They have come to see me make my exit.
An exit from my life
—Not through death as Hamlet would have wanted
Or that Gonzo soon received—
An exit from this circle:
The dimension that has eclipsed my score.
I shall do a high dive and a flying squirrel leap
Across the river
And be greeted by flourishes
In what seems to be a sort of homecoming.
I shall then fall far and deep
Through the new dimension
And land happily
Into the arms
Of our mother.
I’m here in my two favorite places:
Oblivion and Obscurity
Strung out under an egg-shell sky
Beneath the camouflage tree.
Children pass holding bats, balls and gloves.
Their parents follow them in pain.
Beautiful joggers grace the tiled path;
I will never see them again.
Far away from the home I once knew,
I now exist in a world that is new.
My name is different, as is my face,
I inhabit a speck in much larger place.
To me, my family is so very distant
My love life is fake—nay—nonexistent.
I can be anything that I wish to be
but being myself is a liability.
The anonymous cars pass with furious speed,
I am growing like a pungent weed.
The pigeon mocks me, as it struts with its head,
I am a newborn after having been dead.
-New York, 2011.