Wednesday, October 12, 2016

You Should Know the Score By Now

New York! It's always a thrill to enter this city. "La Capital" as they say in Argentina. Capital cities have that vibe of everything converging in a culture or nation. Mexico City has it, Buenos Aires has it, and New York has it in spades. Makes you remember how amazing, despite all its dramas and shortcomings, this country is. It's hard not to feel overwhelmingly motivated and positive here, and even when folks complain, it's still New York. San Francisco seems mired in misery about rising rents and gentrification, but NYC, no matter what happens, can be defeated by nothing. It's a god or goddess of sorts...it's everything that's best about America....and it makes you feel something about the human spirit..fuck yeah, look at this! Look what people can build! Richard LaBonte said, "it's majestic"...yes, like a big fabulous castle...or as captured by George Gershwin and Woody Allen in true romantic writer mode:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyaj2P-dSi8

A song I always sing when I visit, probably because I first visited New York City as a high school student in 1979 when this song was on the radio...with all its sweet, plaintive disco sadness... listen to all the words...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sObuwA0VOE

You're no tramp, but you're no lady, talkin' that street talk
You're the heart and soul of New York City

I'm the same. I'm not the heart and soul of NYC of course...I'm not sure what I'm the heart and soul of, but I'm no tramp nor am I a lady...I'm something in between, talking my sweet talk....

My other favorite Manhattan song..courtesy of Blossom Dearie....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzGWuJheJ_4

And if women are singing the city's praises, why isn't it singing back to them?

http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/city-of-women

This guy poured me coffee at a diner and I said, "you must be Mike"..."No" he answered, "I'm Chris -- Mike and Kyle are my band mates"



The lovely little Queens rowhouse that I stayed in while Mark and Bill were off in Barcelona and Portugal. Bill and Mark are my oldest gay friends, a couple who've been together 32 years. Both amazing people and champions in a million ways - they took me to my first ACT UP meeting, they did yoga with me for years, they both inspired me with their activism, their art, their generosity and goodness, their humor, their ability to live and be happy and do what they love - to serve others and to enjoy, which is my goal as well. Their love for each other has inspired me and put the lie to all those who have tried to dismiss gay love...Fuerza Bill and Mark, love you both so much

Then and now....


 

Bill never aged as you can see, and Mark only slightly, much like myself.... I love their neighborhood, which is still pretty pre-grentrification...lots of Greeks, Mexicans, women in burkhas...love it because it's unselfconscious...the few hipsters or yuppies (remember that word?) can be seen at the newer eateries, etc. - generally self-conscious, vain, and unfriendly, sad to say...but those who seek wealth and power are the same everywhere in all times (power and wealth are the booby prize of human life, or as Bruce Springsteen once said of the burbs - the door prize)......instead, seek connection, seek service, seek art, live in the heart not the head...those who do are spilling out of the trains in Queens, with lunch pails and snotty little kids, offering me directions and good wishes, welcoming me home...and what is home? For me, it's a friendly smile from a stranger in a faraway place, someone who gives with no expectations of anything in return other than the affirmation of we are all here together for whatever reason, lets be kind to one another



My good fortune: Leonel, who I met in Oaxaca in 2014, just happened to have moved here in the interim. I had no idea! We spent a lovely day walking the breadth and length of Central Park. For the first time, I didn't visit a museum, so strong was my longing for nature after a solid week of concrete and airports...and the bonus of getting to speak Spanish for 3 hours with this good, gentle man :)





High rent apt bldg flipping off us poor folks out for a stroll

Some of the folks at the reading...bottom left, Jim Eigo, an early champion of my work, and behind him Tom Cardamone, my favorite gay author...then left to right...Paul Masse, Greg and Donnie, Jerome, Kyler, Rich, Joshua and Chris. We had an amazing discussion afterward about art, life and pushing the envelope


Tom's artful pic:


And the Keith Haring murals all over the walls in the gay center's bathroom....now that's pushing the envelope for pubic art...you go, Keith! 


"Once Upon a Time” was an homage to the more care-free days of bathroom sex before HIV and AIDS ravaged the gay community in New York and beyond. These are not the Haring images we are used to seeing on buttons, magnets, puzzles, and clothes; this is the private, sexual Haring come to life in a grandiose and unapologetic celebration of gay sexuality. 


Chris, on our rainy walk down to Poet's House to see Alfred Corn, who was being feted by the likes of Edmund White...


Edmund White is probably the grand dame of gay letters, and he's the sweetest man you'll ever meet. I see him occasionally and was really happy to see him at Alfred's event...I happened to be reading his short story collection, Skinned Alive, so he signed it, and I passed along my book, which I hope he enjoys. Below, myself with poet Alfred Corn


Then it was off to meet filmmaker, Nicholas Giuricich, who'd read all my books, which is always that rare gift. We had a great time at a sports bar way down in the financial district, while the rain came down outside, and we shared a million stories. He's a sweet, sharp guy and he'll be coming to Mexico City when I'm there, so I look forward to more time hanging out and sharing our creative visions 


  I was here for way too short a time..I never visit New York for less than 10 days, and I was here only 3....tough to go...and it rained as I left..so sad, and yet the bus driver, in true New York style, was all New York Brooklyn accent and talking a blue streak about everything....this town is full of great people....and, of course, at my age, to quote our New York disco anthem, you should know the score....I'm not some big famous writer, but I do what I love and I'm happy for that and maybe the score is not what it's about, or "the score" is something else entirely...who knows? I feel very lucky and very loved by a special handful of folks....gratefulness is the greatest answer to the world, just as art is the greatest question. I'll take Manhattan and I'll take Trebor....

I asked Nicholas before we left: "Will you end up going to LA?"
"No, New York is where I want to be."
I smiled. I wanted to say, "Me too". But I think that time has passed, though I always wanted to live a few years here. Well, I'm grateful for Buenos Aires, Mexico City and to visit NYC whenever I can. That's the score right now!

Should we have Frank take it away?.....https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMfz1jlyQrw




Thursday, October 6, 2016

Brotherly Love

....I wondered how getting used to rising at 5 am to go to my physical therapist in West L.A. was going to benefit me down the line...well, it made it easy to get up and catch my 8 a.m. flight out of SF to Philadelphia to spend a few days with my literary pal and good friend, Karl Woelz...brotherly love, baby, he's that!

on the way....cutest flight attendants ever...she was wearing pink for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and he was just wearing that smile and those eyes 


Arriving in Philadelphia, I went to find the train into town and it isn't marked too clearly, so I figured I'd ask someone and here's this cute kid in a UC Irvine shirt and I think, OK, a little LA solidarity...as it turns out, someone gave it to him when he visited LA, but he is actually Australian. Riley is traveling around the states interviewing colleges and seeking a basketball scholarship and it sounds like he's had a bunch of offers, so he wants to choose wisely and is going from school to school

The cuteness just wouldn't let up....got to see my niece, Michelle, for dinner. She does recruitment for Catholic University in DC and was in Philadelphia working some schools. We had tapas and sangria and talked about all sorts of stuff, including her fear of a Trump win as she's seeing nothing but Trump signs in Pennsylvania. I felt quite proud of her as she was a high school kid last time I saw her, and now she's a young woman on her game, with her rental car, her hotel, gps, etc. :)
Text me as soon as you get home, girl...she did!


And then, of course, Hello Kitty reared her feline head with the coup de grace of cuteness



Karl, like myself, disdains most of pop culture, but he likes Hello Kitty. I can't get enough of her -- I also like Teletubbies
Somewhere in Argentina.....looking drunk, but truth be told, I was just beside myself with Kitty-ness


Karl, expostulating on the virtues of Hello Kitty and other matters....we had several long 2-3 hour intellectual conversations...I so miss this kind of friendship...seemingly unavailable in LA



His house, which is three stories, but like 3 tiny studio stories - very Philadelphia

one of the nearby 18th c. streets

You can spot the old streets mixed into the modern city


This west coast boy was reveling in the 'oldness' of it all...





Reminding me of the book I didn't bring along, and should have...I'm slowly slogging through it, but chose instead to travel with Angela Carter's and Edmund White's short stories and Michelle Tea's amazing Valencia (I would have had to pay for an extra bag to lug that Spanish tome along, thus the scuttling)I'll read with Michelle Tea, who I first read with at the Paradise Lounge in SF 25 years ago, in LA on Oct. 19th


This apt. building struck me as very Argentine...

Then there's the new city...




I don't like these two gigantor towers architecturally-speaking...but it's weird, they appear like a Catholic Gothic Cathedral from this vantage point, which makes me like them as I'm an aficionado of Catholic culture...one spire is higher, or more complete, than the other, creating an assymetry. I've always been curious about this aspect of several Gothic cathedrals and when I research it, they always say, well the church towers were built at different dates, i.e the cathedral at Chartres. There is also some evidence that the architects wanted to make them assymetrial so as to conform to the natural world's assymetry. As spiritual structures, I've always had a sense they were also an indication of the two different ways of approaching a religious or spiritual system - hard core transcendental or a more moderated, earthier or grounded approach. 


Philadelphia's contribution to patriarchal phallic cityhood from Rittenhouse Square

Karl, like me, loves to walk, so we walked all the way over to U of Penn



Love the contrast....


PAFA (Phil Academy of Fine Arts), the oldest museum and art school in the country....




"Cupid" by Abraham Woodside (looks like a Pinot Noir or one of those new hip ros├ęs)


"The Poet's Dream" by Emmanuel Leutz....just in case you are wondering what my natural state is (that's the muse bringing down the harp and there are a couple little fairies right below the harp)


The figurative ship that still hasn't come in...Katherine Bradford "Approaching Ship"

Jacob Lawrence "Dream Series #5: The Library"



Kehinde Wiley "Three Wise Men Greeting Entry Into Lagos"...I really like this guy's stuff: kehinde wiley...and it launched Karl and I into a fruitful discussion. Karl posts black artists' work on his facebook page as a way to "do something" ala Black Lives Matter instead of just talking about it. Allen Page and myself in LA are going to start a discussion group to come up with actions in LA so that it ceases to be JUST discussion, and we want to encourage people to take action in their support of black lives mattering...Wiley picks all his models off the street, as a means of empowering and recognizing real people and dignifying them...his work is like the epitomy of black is beautiful...he's queer too...Fuerza Kehinde!


Take a look, you naysayers who claim the Egyptians aren't Africans...Elihu Vedder, "The Sphinx, Egypt"

Violet Oakley "Maquette for the Madonna of the Crusaders"

Meanwhile, some beautiful white people...
George de Forst Brush "Mother and Child


Robert Henri "Wee Maureen"

Peter Blume, "Flowering Stump"




Then we drifted over to a gay bar called Eye Candy (which incidentally has recently had an issue with discriminating against African-Americans, so I wanted to get a bead on the place)...Not surprisingly, it was the kind of place I would never go to....the tackiness and lack of creativity of gay bars has always baffled me....suffice it to say, I ordered an IPA


Philadelphia has a lot of murals and there are several by a mosaic artist...https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaiah_Zagar






Oh yes, sending you off with some songs again! :) And thank you Karl, for two incredibly lovely and intellectually-satisfying days...off to New York on Megabus for $13 :)