Monday, October 29, 2012
Existing in New York City Anticipating the Unknown
Wednesday Morning 6 AM After the Storm
I've just read a marvelous piece by Yasha Levine on lying bastard, scumbag financial crook David Bach. See what a crooked scumbag really looks like--and he's still roaming free as a bird:
It's 4:16 AM on Tuesday Morning
I'm sitting here in the haunting quiet and stillness of the city--I do hear a truck off in the distance. All is calm. The storm has passed. Parts of Gotham took it pretty hard. Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan got flooded pretty bad, water was gushing and rushing up over the Battery sea wall and water was pouring through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel (some politician named it the Hugh Carey Tunnel; no New Yorker will ever call it that; just like we don't refer to whatever bridge it was some politician named the Robert Kennedy Bridge--you see, I don't even know which bridge it was--maybe the Triboro?) The 9/11 memorial got flooded...or at least a part of the construction site there looked like a little Niagara Falls...here I go, that piece-of-shit cost-overrunning stalled 1 World Trade Center Tower---yes construction has halted on it--sorry, that building once called the Freedom Tower irks me no end. The Lower East Side got flooded and Con-Ed cut the power down there...on purpose some were saying...thewomantrumpetplayer, originally from Staten Island, way out in California knows more about Sandy coughing up seawater all over NYC than I do. She said a Con-Ed power station blew up; I had no knowledge of that in terms of teevee reportage. And, of course, her Staten Island took bad hits...though NYC television has a habit of ignoring what goes on out there--Staten Island's always threatening to secede from New York City.
But, I swear, folks, my neighborhood got only a modicum barrage of high winds, if you could call 'em that--I've had worse during stormless days. I only had a couple of flickerings of my lights--I now sit with my apartment lit up like the proverbial X-mas tree. My neighborhood (Midtown Manhattan) got no raging rain, only sprinklings at the most---no flooding at all...I mean, it, to me, was as though Sandy wasn't even happening.
One of my dear friends in Rhode Island lost her electricity while talking to me on the phone--she said it wasn't raining or windy and the lights just went out like that. I haven't heard from her since.
We shall see later this morning what the neighborhood looks like, though looking out my window over the city now I see nothing unusual. The roofs of the buildings behind me are, I swear, absolutely void of water of any kind.
Maybe I'm blessed afterall. Maybe I live within a miraculous shell. I certainly live in a blessed NYC neighborhood. No brag, folks, just facts.
Sittin' and Thinkin'
Here I sit on a Sunday morning in New York City. I'm listening to old jazz, the great baritonist Serge Chaloff on an old Capitol recording called Boston Blow Up. I sit here listening to old jazz with a head full of remembrances. For some strange reason I started thinking about my first wife. So long ago now. In Monterrey, Mexico. We were down there with a whole passel of our friends including her boyfriend and my girlfriend. We were all staying at the California Motel, and hooked up in a joyous time of extreme mafficking, of rum drinking, of beer guzzling, of interacting. At one point in the night my first wife and I found ourselves alone, the others having either passed out or gone off and shacked up with the willing, including my girlfriend and my first wife's boyfriend...not with each other but with other of our friends. Those were days of release, of great free will advancements, which of course included free love. And Liz and I found ourselves walking down a Monterrey backstreet, both of us looped, at one point linking arms, at another point stopping under a dull street lamp and kissing, at another point totally immersed in each other, me finding her the most beautiful girl in the world, and she was beautiful, an ex-airline hostess with Capitol Air Lines out of Chicago, and she asking me where had I been all of her life, her black eyes shining exceedingly brighter than those dull street lamps. At one point we found ourselves in the middle of an otherwise darkened block, absorbed by our new found love of each other, when we suddenly were aware of being surrounded by rather celestial lights. Aware, we saw to one side of us a Mexican wedding chapel all lit up with neon suggestions in Spanish: Porque no consequir se caso hoy and Dios bendice casado topped off with Bodas realzadas por Reverendo Elio Gomez! The other light was coming from the glaring front of La sala funebre mas fina de Monterrey! "Look, Liz, my darling, we can get married over here and die in each other's arms overthere." "Just like that mule...." "What mule?" "That mule in the window of that place." I looked closer at the Finest Funeral Parlor in Monterrey and she was right, there was a stuffed burro in the lit-up window.
Of course, after only a few minutes of passionate kissing and feeling each other up, we ended up in the Reverend Elio Gomez' wedding chapel getting married. Married by a Reverend who couldn't speak a word of English, his esposa playing on a pump organ. We laughed our asses off all during the ceremony. After being admonished for our frivolous approach to so serious a subject by the Reverend Gomez, we followed clumsily along through the vows, which we didn't understand, I mean we must have smelled of rum and beer and sexual love, until the Reverend got to, "Usted toma a esta mujer para ser su esposa?" "You talkin' to me, Reverend?" To which Senora Gomez said in perfect English, "Yes, Senor, it is you to whom he speaks...you respond with 'Yes,' please." And "Yes," I answered and then he asked Liz the same question and I told Liz to just say "Yes," and she did and soon Reverend Elio Gomez got ecstatically happy and Senora Gomez played a mariachi on the pump organ and there were balloons, a pair of wedding dolls, two small cakes, two cold Coca-Colas, and a paper sack full of wedding presents that included condoms, all for 100 pesos, which at 8 pesos to one US dollar came to about $13.00...hell, the generous newly married Gringo gave Reverend Elio Gomez a 20-dollar bill, which gained the new Mrs. Wolfe and I many "Gracias!" and a "Vayo con Dios," from Senora Gomez.
And back out into the street facing the stuffed burro walked I and my first wife.
"By God, Liz, we're fucking married."
"I know...it feels strange...I'd never thought of marrying you."
"Ah, come on, you know you've been in love with me since we met that night while I was making out with Jeannie on your apartment floor."
"What the hell do we tell...."
"Ah, fuck 'em, this is just between you and me. Shall we go to a cantina and celebrate?"
And Then It Was Monday Morning
It is Monday morning and Sandy is lying off the North Carolina shore line in the Atlantic and I'm no longer listening to Serge Chaloff but now listening to old Sonny Rollins early Prestige recordings. Nor am I thinking of my first wife. And I was thinking instead of initiations and rituals and magic and religion---all during the World Series game, during the commercials, I was reading Malinowsky writing about magic, religion, and science, Sociology stuff. After San Francisco won the World Series, the New York City news anchors and weather phonies were looking serious and talking serious and trying to be scary; no jokey joke news stories tonight; no kidding around with each other. Their intent was selling we New Yorkers a constant fear of this coming behemoth storm, this "Frankenstorm," a man named Cisco had first called it; this "monster storm"; this "perfect storm" that was with the speed of a gigantic turtle hurling its way toward the New York metropolitan area. Hurricane Sandy the English-speaking hurricane namers had named it. Sandy, a name that can go either way. A switch-hitter name. Sandy was also Little Orphan Annie's dog. And I can remember a time when eyeless Annie was in all the funnies. And all her Sandy ever had to say was, "Woof!" Which reminds me of Henry Miller crawling around on the floor of his Brooklyn basement apartment going "Woof, woof, woof." And my character name is Wolfe.
I was into dealing with knowns. Like my first wife. And when we got back to Dallas how we laughed as we tried to read our marriage certificate and couldn't and we laughed some more when Senora Gomez had spelt her name wrong. It was an official Mexican government marriage certificate with the names filled in in an elaborate script by Senora Gomez. "Look, baby," I chirped, "the good Senora spelled my name right...she put the 'e' on Wolfe." And we laughed and acted like we were really married and talked about it and how strange it was that we were married but only were married in a fictional way. And I found myself liking being married to her. She was beautiful. A truly beautiful and well-pampered daughter of a rich Dallas businessman. So attractive that she attracted male attentions everywhere she went. Male attentions that included wolf whistles and propositions. "Hey, baby, ditch that twerp and come with a real man." "Mama, mama, mama, how 'bout let's you and me find a cozy little place to ourselves?"
We didn't tell a soul about our marriage for several weeks. For those weeks I felt married and so did she. We were jealous of each other. I still had a girlfriend and she had a boyfriend but when we tried to date we backed out. We backed out so much my girlfriend and her boyfriend got suspicious; her boyfriend eventually dumping her on the grounds she wasn't any fun anymore. We met like on Sunday mornings and had breakfast as man and wife. One time we went into a Catholic Church just for the hell of it and we acted like man and wife there, holding hands while we made fun of the whole Catholic rigamarole and bullshit. And during the Good Father's sermon against loose women, I slid my hand up her dress and she said for me to stop or else we were gonna bring down the wrath of God right there in his holy temple.
And that has been so long ago now. My first wife last I knew was still alive. Living in the Philadelphia area, ironically where my third wife is also now living. To have two out of three of your wives end up in Philadelphia, come on, ain't that unusual? I used to call my first wife when I first came to New York City and we'd flirt over the phone. I still felt like I was married to her. She flirted so sophisticatedly.
One night way back in Dallas while we were still married, she and her roommates threw a wild party at their apartment; my girlfriend was her roommate, or did I tell ya that? Anyway, that apartment opened onto the apartment complex swimming pool, so they left their door open and I moved their piano up by the door and started playing it, and eventually with my girlfriend and my wife and several other girls in brief bathing suits gathered around me singing in their sexy ways, several men began hanging around, one a genius of a dude I had met out by that pool already, and this dude brought a bottle of Jim Beam whiskey over and asked me if I'd like to imbibe with him and while we were imbibing, he asked me, "Who is that luscious creature that was all over you while you were playing the piano?" I slipped up and said, "Oh, you mean my wife?" And he said, "I'm sorry, man, I didn't realize you were married to one of these girls." I backtracked and said, "Naw, man, I'm just jiving...she's not my wife." It hurt me to say that. It really did. I liked her being my wife.
It's now hot and stuffy in my apartment. It's after one in the morning on this Monday morning in whose late afternoon Sandy is due to approach the immediate vicinity. The temperature was supposed to drop down into the low 50s this morning but it feels more like...well, stuffy, that's the best word for it. And "Stuffy" was a tune Roy Eldridge and Coleman Hawkins made famous when they formed a band together back in the late 60s and played at the old Metropole Club up on Broadway when I first came to NYC. And then Coleman Hawkins died in the spring of 1969 and I, a young jazz enthusiast, went up to the old Saint Peters Church where the tacky CitiCorp building is now and attended Coleman Hawkins' funeral. I sat among my heroes...Charlie Shavers to my immediate right; Dizzy Gillespie right behind me; and when Charlie Shavers passed out and started snoring, Dizzy leaned over and told me to elbow Charlie in the ribs and when I did Charlie let out a howl and Dizzy got such a big kick out of that. And over to my left were Gerry Mulligan, Al Cohn, and Zoot Sims, and then in walked Horace Silver wearing a blue velvet suit with two very fine babes on his arms.
And I had just come to NYC with my second wife, the Mexican-Choctaw-Welsh beauty---and my God I have known some beautiful women. In fact, and this may sound pompous, but I've always attracted beautiful women since I was a mere novice at womanizing. My girlfriend when I was eleven and she was ten grew up to be one of the most beautiful women in the whole state of Texas.
So it turned out my first wife fell in love with this dude who had shared his fifth of Jim Beam that night with me at that party. He and I had become the best of buddies and soon my first wife confided in me that she loved him and that he had ask her to marry him and what were we to do about our marriage?
We sneaked off one day and confided in her father that we'd gotten married as a sort of a crazy joke while we were partying in Monterrey, Mexico, a few months back. He consulted with his attorney and the attorney called us into her father's office and he tore our Mexican marriage certificate up right before our eyes and dropped it into a waste basket. "There, you guys are divorced. In fact, you guys were never married. That thing wouldn't hold up in any U.S. court." And that was that. And on the way back to her apartment we couldn't keep our hands off each other. "I wanted to be married to you," she said actually crying. Actually crying. And I felt bad not being married to her, too, but we both agreed she would be much better off marrying our mutual friend since he had all the money in the world and was an Ivy League PhD and had a great and wealthy future ahead of him and what was I?...in terms of making money I was a god-damn Sociologist who at best could only get work as a god-damn Social Worker.
And she and my buddy got legitimately married in the biggest church in Dallas, Texas, and he chose me to be an usher and before the wedding while we men were all putting on our tuxes, he brought out a full bottle of Jim Beam and we men all took long slugs out of it and he got wobbly and I got wobbly and silly and thus their marriage began.
And Further Into Monday Morning
Time passes swiftly. New York City has awakened. It is still, light rainy, and the streets are full of cabs. I ventured out to get my breakfast and my far corner deli was wide open, all the workers there, and the joint filled with plenty of grub. Sandy? Where's Sandy? Woof! But I'm not crawling around on my apartment floor giving out the Woof, Woof, Woofs. Not I. I'm eating breakfast listening to Andrew Johnson [Frederick Russell Jones] and his trio or Ahmad Jamal as Andrew renamed himself back in the late 50s when Negroes started referring to themselves as Blacks and changing their White names to Muslim names, Black Muslim names, like Andrew Johnson changing his name to Ahmad Jamal. Distinction. We all are striving for distinction. That's the trouble with rugged individualism: it's so highly god-damn competitive. Yet, this has given the U.S. some of the greatest music ever produced on this itchy planet, itchy in the sense it would probably like to swish itself rapidly like a wet dog swishes to throw the water off its body, the planet swishing to throw us irritating humans off its body.
I'm listening to Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing Room in Chicago. Ahmad Jamal who got so famous and rich off this LP when it was issued on the Argo label he had enough to open his own restaurant in Chicago. And when I was in Chicago for the first time---while I was on leave from the U.S. Army--the big dog in jazz was Ramsey Lewis--and my soldier friends and I went down to the SRO Club and heard Ramsey and His Gentlemen of Swing, the other gentlemen being Eldee Young and Redd Holt. And later in life, after my second wife and I had established ourselves in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I heard Ramsey and the Gentlemen of Swing perform in the Santa Fe High School gymnasium. He had at that time Cleveland Eaton and Maurice White (who later founded Earth, Wind, and Fire) as his other gentlemen of swing.
And I taught my second wife jazz and she took to it like a duck to water and later after she divorced me had her own FM jazz show down in the Tampa Bay area and later over in Orlando.
And my first wife and her legit husband, moved from Dallas to the Philadelphia area and last I heard she was still alive and living in Philly suburb splendor with a successfully married daughter. And I wonder sometimes what she's like now but because of a foul thing I did years ago over the telephone when I thought it was Liz and instead it was her young daughter, I think I ruined our relationship for good. She had become respectable, a society dame, but I had remained...well, we once went to see Jack Teagarden at a fancy club where you had to sign the register to get in and I signed it "Mr. and Mrs. Carl Crude."
And Then It Was 2 PM Monday Afternoon
Sandy's suppose to hit Atlantic City dead on tonight at 8 pm. Here in New York City right now it's very quiet, ghostly quiet, except out on the street there are quiet a few people and the deli up on 32nd and Broadway is still open and doing a brisk business. None of the workers there know how they're getting home tonight. There are cabs still cruising the streets but otherwise our Billionaire Mayor shut down the subways and buses last night. I'm well off in my apartment. I've got plenty of water, and I have food that should last me a couple of days, and I'm still cynical about the "oooooh" scaredy-cat attitude being portrayed by our millionaire teevee talking heads--there's a very beautiful weather babe reporting from Battery Park down at the southern tip of Manhattan Island where Goldman-Sachs' new building rises up right on the edge of the water down there. All of us are hoping Sandy pinpoints that insulting office building to blow it down or at least flood it up to the fifth floor. Of course if a wave that high hits the Goldman-Sachs building it means that damn wave will come right on up Broadway and maybe reach me, though, like I said, I'm too cynical to really believe a lot of this scaredy-cat reporting yet. Our biggest fear is high waves since according to the National Hurricane Center map Sandy's, like I said, headed dead on toward Atlantic City, spreading its Act of God evil up the Delaware River and into Philadelphia.
Out in the streets around my apartment it's lightly raining, more like a sprinkle, and there's some wind that's sort of refreshing in a way. Inside my apartment, I have a window open and there's hardly any breeze coming through it currently.
I've quit listening to music. I've quit thinking about my first wife, though she's like I said in Philadelphia and so's my third wife and Philly may get battered pretty bad. I wish them safety and good fortune since I've always respected the women in my life I felt moved enough to marry, no matter how unsubstantial the marriage. I've fallen in love or sexual love with some very smart and beautiful women. In fact, all my life I've preferred beautiful women to any of the men in my life, though I have some exceedingly true-blue men friends in my past and my present. Good men and beautiful women have been my rewards for being the character I am. I'm evidently a good one to know, love, marry, and be friends with.
I'm waiting for Sandy at now 3 pm on Monday, October 29th, the day I was supposed to undergo a procedure to implant a defibrillator in my upper chest.
And Now It's 7 PM Monday Evening
I'm bored. I'm sitting here exhausted from waiting on Frankenstorm to do its thing. But it ain't doin' nothin', folks. There's no rain, no wind, no screaming, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Our Billionaire Mayor surrounded by his fire commissioner, Ray Kelly our shanty Irish police commission ("Hey, Ray, did any of your spy cameras blow down in this phony storm?"), and the President of Con-Ed (our power company giant---we in NYC pay the highest energy rates in the USA), still trying to be our Big Daddy and warning us it could get worse..."It may feel like it's over but it isn't."
Yes, 'tis true, Atlantic City is getting blown to bits...the wrath of God coming down hard on that part-Sodom part-poverty center (Atlantic City behind the casinos and Boardwalk is a Black city). Yeah, and southern New Jersey always gets whacked pretty bad...always floods like hell no matter the storm...so, yes, Jersey will wake up in the morning to find themselves under water. Meanwhile here in New York City I'm cocky, with my feet up, digging the sounds of Jimmy Reed whose singing right now "Bright Lights Big City," which is from a phony album Jimmy made in 1960s called Jimmy Reed at Carnegie Hall that was recorded in Chicago at the VeeJay studios, several hundred miles due west of Carnegie Hall.
An explosion just rocked my building. It happened south of me somewhere. Now my lights are flickering. Maybe I've jumped the gun on my sinister cynical put down of Sandy. Should I get on my knees and approach my maker? See youse in the morning...or will I?
for The Daily Windbag Growler