Sunday, August 05, 2012

Existing in New York City: With a Light On and the Radio On

Foto by tgw, New York City, 2006
From the Ironies of Life:
NEW YORK (Reuters) - "In a rare move, New York's top bank regulator threatened to strip the state banking license of Standard Chartered Plc, saying it was a 'rogue institution' that hid $250 billion in transactions tied to Iran, in violation of U.S. law."

While openly crooked banks like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman-Sachs, CitiBank, J.P. Morgan-Chase, Barclays (they just named the new Brooklyn basketball arena after Barclays), HSBC go on totally unpunished while they steal monies from the poor, wreck economies all over the world, are too big ('a crooks) to fail--and I'll guarantee you, they do business with Iran, too. Wanna bet?
Say Goodbye to: Ruggiero Ricci, one of the great violinists of the 20th Century. Ruggiero Ricci, 94, American violinist, heart failure.
Where in the World Is Hillary Clinton? She's in Malawi being swarmed by bees. What's she doing in Malawi? That's a secret. I'm sure she's giving Malawians the shaft whatever she's doing there (We the People of the Good Ole USA just gave the Malawians 200 million bucks). Maybe she's trading them nuclear secrets for one of their products.

Travelin' Hillary: "
Clinton's visit to Malawi comes in the middle of an 11-day tour of Africa that has already taken her to Senegal, Uganda, South Sudan and Kenya. After Malawi, she will travel to South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Benin" (from Murdoch's NYPost).
I used to never dream. Then I had a heart attack and was put on 7 medications. Now the dreams unspin like television programs. On a regularly scheduled program basis. And, to put it bluntly, since I keep the television on while I sleep...and that's a result of not a dream but a reality. A reality explained to me by my first girlfriend's uncle. Uncle Clinton. Clinty his family called him. Clinton was an artist who had left my hometown as a daring-do young man with intentions of studying art in New York City and becoming a successful artist in the age of American impressionism.

I first met Uncle Clinty one sizzling Christmas in my hometown. By this time I had fallen for his niece, a dream girl who I never had dreams about. I never had dreams. I know, the Freudians and Jungians say we have dreams and don't sometimes know it. But I used to rationalize it as: if I don't remember dreams, I must not have dreams.

On this sizzling Christmas, when I was dumbstruckly in love with Uncle Clinty's niece, he arrived. And what a character he was. I had already decided that New York City was my dreamland destination due to my finding a Coke bottle from New York City on an abandoned interurban track in East Dallas, Texas, when I was a kid. I believed in premonitions in those days. This probably came from my growing up with a mother who truly believed in Jesus Christ as the only son of the living God, a dude she referred to as Jehovah. My mother had a friend called Birdie who I used to hear say many a time that she dreamed of Jesus almost every night of her life and I remember this rather spacy woman saying one time she was awakened in the middle of the night by this Dream Jesus appearing at the foot of her bed. I knew nothing about apparitions at that time so I marked Birdie's visions of Jesus off as her having bats in her belfry. That's how I described "crazy" people in those youthful days.

So when I met Uncle Clinty, I was already fascinated by my one day living in New York City. Brought on, too, by the fact that my step-grandfather (my maternal grandmother's second husband) was a native of New York City and I had during adolescence heard this vile old man spew out many an alluring story about his heyday in at that time the world's largest city. Earlier, too, my father, who had a habit of running off on his own sometimes, had during World War II, when I was but a babe in arms, ended up in New York City and had sent a postcard from the world's largest city, a special postcard of at that time the tallest building in New York City, the Empire State Building, with an "X" extended by a line just off the observation deck and accompanied by a note saying "I'm here." On returning home after a lengthy stay in Gotham, my profligate dad brought me a little packet of tiny photographic reproductions of all the startling sites of this great city, my favorites of these miniphotos being one of the Flatiron Building, a building, just around the corner down Fifth Avenue from where I live, that to this day fascinates me, and one of the Empire State Building, a building I now live in the shadow of.

And Uncle Clinty, after many years living there had soaked up the culture and style of New York City, though in particular, he considered himself a dyed-in-the-wool Manhattanite. "I would never live anywhere in New York City but Manhattan," he said. "All the other boroughs are not really the City I dreamed of coming Thomas Wolfe said, 'Only the dead know the other boroughs.'" [A misquote I found out later after I became a stone-solid Thomas Wolfe fan [the original Thomas Wolfe and not the white-suit-wearing fop from Richmond, Virginia] and had come across the Wolfe short story about Brooklyn entitled, "Only the Dead Know Brooklyn," titled such because of that borough's housing the largest of New York City's many cemeteries. Though really if you die in Manhattan you could be buried in Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island, or on Hart Island out in the middle of the East River--there could be more dead than living in New York City at any given time--who knows?].

At the time Uncle Clinty was in town, I was panting heavily after his niece--she was still in high school while I was in college. And, yes, I was panting after her with eventual marriage on our trembling minds. The night I met Uncle Clinty she had called me over to her place excited that I should see the sketches of a wedding dress he had designed for her. As best I can remember those sketches, the dress was styled in Old West chic, you know, short burnt-orange skirt with black Navajo-looking lace trim, the skirt intending to show her magnificent legs. Atop that skirt Clinty had designed a burnt-orange blouse with a low bodice, tight waist, and frilly sleeves, also displaying this black Navajo-looking lace trim. The outfit was topped off with a black Stetson-style Western hat that had a bridal veil (I kid thee not). I found the dress gauche but I didn't dare tell the niece or Uncle Clinty that. Besides, he had also brought with him the first John Cage LP I had ever heard, this before I had even heard John Cage on a late night talk show, the Les Crane Show, where he had a table full of kitchen appliances, alarm clocks, and such which he turned on all at once after introducing it with a title as his latest composition.

That night, we cracked open the usual bottle of champagne I had brought from college with me--every time I raced home to see this girl I brought a bottle of good champagne (Moet was my favorite). I had read somewhere or heard from some of my college dandy associates perhaps that if you plied your girl with champagne and then held her head between her legs she was at your mercy--you could do with her sexually (get in her pants) as you wished--and over glasses of bubbly Uncle Clinty's tongue loosened and he began talking a blue streak about life in New York City. At the time, he was working as a window dresser for Bonwit-Teller and Tiffany (along with his young artist friend Andy Warhol) and living alone in a studio apartment down around 10th and Hudson streets. The drunker he got the more precise he got and the one thing I remember him saying was he found it impossible to sleep in NYC without a radio playing and a small lamp burning all night long.

That fact stuck with me as I experienced life across a path of years and when I finally did move to New York City---without the niece---the little strumpet took advantage of my absence while I was serving this republic in the U.S. Army to bang another guy and get herself knocked up, a story I've told in a previous post---and my first night in a studio apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side, sure enough, I found it impossible for me to sleep without the radio going and a small lamp burning all night.

To this day, I still can't sleep without a light on and the television has replaced the radio as that which is playing all night long.

Like I opened this post with, before my heart attack and this bevy of meds I now choke down twice daily, I never dreamed...or if I did, and I concede to have had very rare dreams, sketchy ones at best, before---maybe one every ten years. In college I was a student of Freud and read his books on dreaming and as a kid working in my brother's magazine stand, I read the King Solomon Dream Book, at one time a standard source when it came to checking on one's luck based on what dreams you commonly had. And I used to try like the devil to dream, but I never could.

The one dream I had in my late teens in college that stuck clearly in my mind for a number of years--which was probably due to what Jack Kerouac called a "beermare"--was one in which I found myself in Cuba (understandable since at that time I was writing letters to Fidel Castro offering him and his Grandma revolutionary army my services) lost in the space of a palace-like structure's long endless marble hallway. In this interminable hallway, I was 27 years old and was quite aware that at the end of this hallway I was facing death. I awoke without dying, but until I was 27 and older, that dream haunted me. Like at times, like I said, I believed in premonitions, I really was afraid the dream had predicted my early death. I certainly would not have gone to Cuba at that time. Only after I was in my early thirties and married to a "revolutionary" wife, did we discuss venturing down to Cuba--and when we lived briefly in Key West, Florida, and I watched Havana teevee all day while drinking tons of beer, we both considered sneaking across that ninety-mile stretch to see first hand what Cuba was all about.

Uncle Clinty returned to New York City and I continued going after his niece for another several years, our affair ending, like I previously said, after I returned home from the U.S. Army on a furlough and found out she was knocked up and that was that for her. I meanly started dating her best friend, a lovely creature who had aspirations of being a children's book writer.

Ironically, I was at my first girlfriend's wedding. She did not wear the Uncle Clinty original wedding dress but a plain-ole white typical wedding dress.

I never saw Uncle Clinty again. And though I thought about him often when I finally landed on Manhattan Island, I didn't go to any trouble of looking him up. Only in the early 2000s when I was cruising around the Internet looking for that first girlfriend's whereabouts (I've always held a special place in my life's adventures for her)(I knew she had ended up in Nevada, divorced from that cad that had knocked her up and stolen her from me, and remarried to an English professor at a Nevada college) that I happened across an obituary in my hometown newspaper's online edition. The obituary was Uncle Clinty's. It seems in poor health (he was a chain smoker), he had left New York City and had moved back to our hometown, where the air is dry and the days pass slowly and the sky is high and runs on forever into the universe, where he had set up his art studio and was painting and creating to his heart's delight an enormous body of work in his final years.

And I am still living in Manhattan in now my final years and yes, Uncle Clinty, I still sleep with a small lamp light on and now the television on low voice all night long. The only difference now is that I now have dreams, complicated ones involving a current lover of mine who is married and in these rather Hollywoodish dreams (inspired by what's running on my television when I pass out--I keep it on an "ancient" movie channel) I'm chasing this woman through many marble hallways, her husband blocking my every advance, her husband an artist who once was a chain smoker and who was born on Manhattan Island...his wife, guess what? She's almost the spitting image of my first girlfriend, just taller, but with the same dark black hair and the same lovely face highlighted by the same black-rimmed glasses. As a matter of fact, these women characterize all the women I had "gone after" in my long adventurous life here on my beloved Manhattan Island.

For a look at Uncle Clinty's (his name was Clinton Hamilton) influence on my hometown, check out

And also Hannah Capra's blog, read her interesting blog or scroll down to her post: "My First Art Teacher" at

for The Daily Growler

No comments: