I'm wandering back into my hurly-burly days, my early days in New York City...my time of divorce from a very charming and gorgeous wife...but...perhaps I suffered from a Casanova complex at that time...so I screwed the marriage up...whatever, after the divorce I started "hunting" for a new female relationship; in fact, since I was still suffering from that Casanova complex, several female relationships. Those days became my glory days. I had a good job, I had money in the bank, and, dammit, I had an American Express card, a Gold one, the best before the AE marketing department came up with Platinums and Titaniums--'cause see, our money is supposed to be based on the precious metal values of gold, silver, nickel, on down to copper for the cents (old Tom Jefferson set our money standards back in 1779--even gave up a set of his finest silverware to the US Mint to use in making silver dollars and halves--that kind of silver became known as "coin silver"). American Express started out as a New York City "express" company, like they had teams of horses fresh and at the ready to handle "express," large or small, around the city and the New York City area. They also had teams of messenger boys on foot and on bicycles late and even motorcycles later that "expressed" the smaller things around New York City, including tranfers of bank transactions, or stock certificates, or valuable powers of attorney, gold certificate transfers, also jewelry, plus they issued money orders and vouchers and such--and as a bonded express company they guaranteed safe delivery of these "expressed" items large and small--and American Express's first mascot was a Bulldog, a guard dog, and not the Centurion they would later adopt and still do use. American Express grew so big that they issued the first credit cards, the first was made of paper, then the first plastic card came along in 1957--then along came the copycats, Diner's Club, Carte Blanche, MasterCard--mostly to use in restaurants, department stores, and in travel--and American Express became big in the travel industry and in restaurant guides and such--it was a luxury to have an American Express card, or so they got to saying your class would be designated by precious metal terms, the Titaniums going to the keiko-muckity-mucks, the Platinums to the vice-presidents and lower management, the Golds to the better off in the Middle Class, and the just plain old blues to the untrustworthy (risky). I haven't had a credit card since this very same American Express card I'm bragging about having back in my glory days was called in after I ran it up to $4,000--money I'd spent on trips with my wife, but after my divorce I would as a surprise ask my dates if they'd like to fly to Jamaica for a breakfast on the beach, for instance...,"I know this hotel, I know the owner, blah, blah, blah." Or only once, I offered a trip for lunch in Paris, be back home by midnight. You could do that sort of thing with your American Express card--and see how naive I am--I know today you can do the same thing except more extravagantly. The highest limit I ever had on an AE, and I got up to a Gold, was $5,000--I left the fold with them claiming I owed them $11,000 including interest and court fees and shit. SHIT!!!! I tuned in, turned on, and dropped out. Left the world of credit. Went off into the sunset. Now I have no credit record at all. I don't owe a fucking soul either! Wait, I owe a guy on eBay for an Oscar Peterson CD I just bought from him for 99 cents (they make their money off the shipping and handling)...oh, and I just remembered, I owe a certain dude I need in order to maintain my sanity.
...AND NOW BACK TO OUR STORY:
So after my divorce, my freed inhibitions led me into many female relationships, and as a result I was out on the town a lot--I had a good job--I was a freelance copywriter/copyeditor with a list of showy clients, like CBS-TV and Time-Life Films and Viacom International and one year the Emmy Awards--so I had a bit of glamor about me--plus I did most of my Casanova-ing in the better parts of midtown Manhattan--Rockefeller Center--then up to West 56th to some great combo pick-up bars, restaurants, and dance floors and early deejays who just put a music program together out of his record collection and his keeping up with the hottest new pop dance craze bands--with some long shots of James Brown thrown in--no hollering over the music, no messing with the turntable and then startin' to put two TTs together and starting to fuck around with equalizers, drum machines, looping, and mixing--and mixing became the craze turning into all kinds of shit, i.e., what became known as house music--
One night I had a date to meet this accessories model my best friend had hooked me up with, though I'd met her at a party so it wasn't a blind date, and I met her at this particular place I usually hung out at on West 56th. And she showed up there on time, and looking good, looking really good like New York City models are taught to look, and she was bubbly and anticipatory and over sweet and charming, and winking at me. Only problem? She had a friend along with her...WHAT problem, you ask?...a problem because I was immediately more attracted to the friend than I was to the accessories model. Irony. The friend was one of those obviously Jewish girls--you know, dark, wild black hair, dark black eyes, hollow eyes, big but elegant noses--my kind--I had one I had been in love with back in my starting-out days in Dallas--a girl named Ruth--and I had Ruth on my mind when I met this girl, and, DAMN--here we go with this coincidence shit--I love it, that's why I gab on and on about how much of it happens to us all in life and how when it happens it excites us! Coincidence at this point: this girl's name was Ruth. Holy Jesus! My heart was hoppin' around in my chest like most men's hearts hop when they see a woman they can't take their eyes and imaginations off of. And, yes, it caused a "thing" with the accessories model before the night was over. She caught me with my hand up her friend's dress for one thing! She acted aghast! Eventually she stomped out of the place screaming how much she hated me and how I would never see her again. And I didn't see her again until the night she tried to move in with me about a week later.
The rest of that night I was with this Ruth and we had a great time--what a great time--and when the end of the evening came and I made my move--I mean she let me kiss her--she let me get intimate with her like a crazed being--I mean she knew my objective--love though I imagined it. Finally, I said something like, "Let's get the hell to my place or yours, somewhere, dammit, I think I'm in...." And before I could get the first syllable of the word "Love" out, then's when she told me, "Sweetheart, calm down. Calm down"--like everything's hunky dory--"Look, I have to be going back to college this afternoon [it was dawn]" and then I said, "Hell, no problem, I'll drive you back to college--you know, I can fuck around up there and blah, blah, blah, and then come back to NYC whenever the hell." But she cut me short--and by now I was--the excitement was over. She said, "Oh no, no, I wouldn't do that to you. My college is way up in Upstate New York..."--and I said, "No problem, I got all the time in the world, and I like to drive, blah, blah, blah. Besides, I'd drive clear across country for you, baby." She said, "Oh, Wolfie, sweetheart, you are such a great guy and I've had so much fun with you, and yes I'm attracted to you, but I've got to be honest with you...." WARNING. That was it. The arrow that flew straight flat into my heart. I knew what was coming. WARNING. "Wolfie, I've been awful, I know, but you are so much fun and such a great guy...er-ah, but, oh I'm so sorry, too, but I've got a boyfriend and he's driving me back to school...and, Wolfie, sweetheart, I'm moving in with him this semester...." Like Admiral Stockdale facing death from the Cong in the VietNam fiasco, I said, "O.K., O.K. No problem." And like the Jolly Tinker, I shouldered up my load and headed on down the road. In those days I could handle that sort of rejection. It pissed me off, yes. I felt sorry for the boyfriend to be quite honest. You know, I got that turned-down-male attitude of considering a woman a slut who trickbags them out of a wonderful night of great fun, closeness, intimacy, to then only be pitched out into love's gutter...God, I'm feeling like Villon must have felt while writing his slang poems, the untranslatable ones, even writing about this--but off went this Ruth to Upstate New York and her boyfriend...
All of this to get to another coincidence. This woman at a moment in our evening when we were talking about both of us being able to play the piano mentioned she was a distant relative of the pianist and composer Leo Ornstein...
And now I sit here, yes, really sit here, typing on this, right before your eyes, and I'm listening to a beautiful woman pianist from Upstate New York on a new CD I just got in the mail playing two piano sonatas by--guess who?
No, this good-looking pianist from Upstate New York is not named Ruth, though oh how as a writer and imaginationalist I wish she were that Ruth, but her name is Janice Weber and she's really doing a wonderful job of interpreting Leo's (Ornstein's) very hard to interpret compositions--first six of his short pieces, including Danse Sauvage (Wild Man's Dance) and the Debussyan-like Impressions of the Thames (one could make a point that Leo introduced Debussy to the US through his concerts of modern music back in the 19-teens) and his big piano works, Piano Sonatas #4 & #7, the first one written in 1925, the last one in 1988, cause old Leo lived for a whole century, from 1892 until 2002, except nobody really knew the real year Leo was born in Saint Petersburg...
Leo as a young pianist and cult figure in New York City in the 1920s
Leo as a Maestro and Elder
Any man who could compose something as sentimental as A Long Remembered Sorrow and also the wonderful Suicide in an Airplane is my kind'a man--or woman--I love women piano players (musicians)--composers, too--[and I just thought of our own womantrumpetplayer--and she knows we love her]--though I've never really been compatible with any of those women musicians I've managed to get more intimate with than hearing them play the piano or their instruments (I've had relationships with an operetta singer, a jazz pianist, a classical flautist). And I look back and suddenly I can remember so many women musicians I've had affairs with--hell one of my wives was a good piano player and had sang professionally before I married her and ruined her life--
Janice Weber the concert pianist--who plays Leo Ornstein with vim and vigor.
Distractions--but lovely distractions--especially in this time of Chaotic complexities--a time when a lot of young beauties are tattooing the bejesus out of their bodies and piercing every god-damn hanging down or pointing out appendage--nipples were meant to be SUCKed, ladies, not wear jewelry on--a man sucking on a woman's nipple is a sign of begging for forgiveness of woman, of the life we got from those breasts--a way back to a woman's heart. One of my Lesbian friends once told me she felt the same way as I did about women's breasts--and how she loved sucking her lover's. Ah the child in us. And that child knows nothing about the sexuality of breasts--teenaged boys and adult men project sexuality onto breasts, but they really symbolize that comfortable time when all our needs and cares were met at those breasts. Of course, I confess, like Henry Miller lying about being Chinese in Greece--he says he jabbered away in his fake Chinese in front of this old Greek dude and after he finished, he swears, the Greek dude understood what he said and spoke back to him in the same jibberish--though my confession is not that I can't speak fake Chinese, but that I wasn't breast fed! That still doesn't quell my child-like appreciation of a women's breasts--and I like 'em flat, hanging low, full and trumpeting, girlish and shy--I like 'em all! From thine breasts and their perky paps come the elixir and pacification that calms the tender-growing soul. Pardon my fake Shakespeare.
What a way to spend a Saturday, eh?
for The Daily Growler
In Honor of Francois Villon, a The Daily Growler Hall of Famer, Criminal, Murderer, Pimp, But Also a Great Poet, We Present Basil Bunting's 1925 Work From Poetry Magazine Entitled Villon:
He whom we anatomized
‘whose words we gathered as pleasant flowers
and thought on his wit and how neatly he described things’
to us, hatching marrow,
broody all night over the bones of a deadman.
My tongue is a curve in the ear. Vision is lies.
We saw is so and it was not so,
the Emperor with the Golden Hands, the Virgin in blue.
(—A blazing parchment,
Matthew Paris his kings in blue and gold.)
It was not so,
scratched on black by God knows who,
by God, by God knows who.
In the dark in fetters
on bended elbows I supported my weak back
hulloing to muffled walls blank again
unresonant. It was gone, is silent, is always silent.
My soundbox lacks sonority. All but inaudible
I stammer to my ear:
Naked speech! Naked beggar both blind and cold!
Wrap it for my sake in Paisley shawls and bright soft fabric,
wrap it in curves and cover it with sleek lank hair.
To read the rest of the poem, here ya go:
Our man in language, L Hat, recently had a post on Basil Bunting. Check out his Archives at www.languagehat.com (it's over in our Blog List)