Wednesday, November 18, 2009
#30 – THIS LANDSCAPE
To me now the landscape of the city has changed. These diners and coffee shops where I get together with new friends and associates. These churches and schools where I go to wild meetings. My comfortable lair in the part Chelsea that has the feel of a time warp. My beginning forays to the farther reaches of the parks, and to the Drawing Center and the Frick and the Met and the Brooklyn and the Modern and the Guggenheim and the Whitney and the National Academy, and then the galleries on 57th Street and then up into the 80s and down into Soho. This unfolding landscape of mine.
I was beginning to meet people in my narrow four-story building where I had my sunny place, two apartments on each floor, on the front tiny balconies with designs in concrete that I thought were probably intended to look Venetian, and across the way the new Korean grocery and salad bar and hot dish place that was becoming a center where I met the other tenants from the building. From the apartment across from mine, \ the jolly Venezuelan man, and his trim Brooklyn airline girl wife; on the fourth floor, a round and musty couple who spent their time coming from and going to the Catskills; the girls, young and confident, on the second floor. I met another tenant who sat on sunny days in a wheelchair in the overgrown garden down below my window. This garden that had been left to go wild. I liked that it was down there. And I liked that from it grew a tree that went right by my third floor window. Some people said it was a weed and not a tree but it had a big round trunk, and when I gazed past it to rooftops and water tanks I could see all the way, it almost seemed, to the Battery.
One sunny day I met this old man parked in the undergrowth garden in his wheel chair. I knew he lived on the ground floor. I had been told that he had for many years lovingly tended the place, and when he could no longer handle it no one else took over. We did not say much. We talked a little about our landlord, who he thought was fair, which was not something I expected to hear about a landlord. He just seemed like a kindly old man. A retired teacher he said.
Then one evening I came home a little after dark and there were bright flood lights playing on my building. Lights for television cameras. A breathless Channel 2 newsman was standing on the stoop steps talking into the camera. I joined onlookers and listened.
Somebody had been murdered. And it turned out he had been a prominent member of something called Namboy, North American Man Boy, an organization to promote sexual relationships between men and male children, and it was clear that this had been the kindly old man from the garden. He had picked up a young man who had sliced him to ribbons. Inside there were yellow police lines blocking off his end of the ground floor. And there was this smell that I somehow knew, not knowing yet how I knew it, was the smell of fresh blood.
And on the radio for the next few days, before they caught him, I heard how the murderer was calling in to the TV station as he made his way down the East Coast from town to town as far as Baltimore, saying he would kill again and again, called in saying that the old man and many others has abused him, saying the old man deserved what he got.
This in the middle of this new life I was leading.