Monday, September 27, 2010
The road was of course slippery now. I had not even thought about getting snow tires, and did not even know if people in the north country still used chains. So I moved ahead very slowly. Almost immediately a big noisy plow was coming the other way with chains clanging. It was the first vehicle I had seen or heard since entering the Notch.
There was a moon a few moments later as I passed Echo Lake and the turnoff for the Aerial Tramway. And then I was off the interstate and on the remaining segment of the old Notch road that came down Three-ile hill and went into Franconia Village. Gaga, who was not one of the family's alcoholics, had joked about drunk guys taking a car down Three-Mile Hill after skiing and one of them saying “But I thought you were driving.”
On past Lovett’s Inn which seemed closed for the winter, on past the dimly lit Aldrich family’s supermarket that had replaced the old Aldrich IGA store. The supermarket had gone up in the early seventies, The old wooden store building, which looked abandoned now, had been rented in the early seventies to young people living communally while they went to a short-lived institution named Franconia College, which never got beyond the old summer hotel that had been meant to be only its temporary headquarters. When it folded, the hippies who had converged here quickly disappeared.
Past the old Esso station, then across the rushing Gale River and the turnoff to the remains of an old iron smelter, and up the hill towards Sugar Hill, passing old Iris Farm, which was clearly visible in moonlight, as was the mountain panorama behind it. And I am thinking not so much of death in a white out as of how this place is always as beautiful in sight as in memory.
And I drive on, and if feels more like I am a passenger than the driver and I turn off into the woods and worlds of the past, Davis Road, on to the old family houses, and there is Terri’s mailbox with the silhouette of the murdered Greyhound, and the lights are on in the left wing of White Wings. This comforting sight in the early winter night. As comforting as our imagined inn by the side of the road. This wing that has been turned back to a time before family history.
And Terri is awake and waiting, a bundled up house owner who may be as old as me but in whom I still see the young girl – despite the wear of the years. The young girl who had been here when it was first bright and white and shiny, so different from now with the dogs and the pot belly stove and the bare wood and the paintings – the sister of Milton Avery, who seemed to do only Milton Avery’s, and some watercolors by someone else, including one in which the birches and the snow and the shadows from the birches on the snow, the snow whose light has been captured, which is so very close to what I have just seen outside. And it is like the interplay between the Metropolitan and Central Park, and the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Like but not the same. For this is Sugar Hill.
Friday, September 17, 2010
A song from the boarding school time is playing. I have put Willie Nelson on the tape deck. He is from this summer, this time in my aqua Mustang, and he is singing a very old Frankie Laine song. A song that I have not heard since 1950. Nineteen-fifty when I was 15 and the song was everywhere. It was on the juke box in Edgar's Diner in the town. And in the school it was blasted out of dormitory rooms.
That song which was so stupid when my tomentors kept on playing it, and then seemed gential and sad when I heard it again this summer on a Willie Nelson tape. This new time in which all time sometimes seems to be the same time.
I am back shy but bullying them into respecting me by filling up the school's trophy case. I am awkward but causing them to be consumed with envy because my girlfriend is so appealing. Making them see that my new grades prove I am smarter than they are. When I had done all that I had thought nothing more could go wrong. And now I knew how much unfinished business there still was then, just as I have come to see how much unfinished business there still is now. As I remember where am going and how much is still at stake.
Up in the morning, out on the job,
Work like a devil for my pay .
But that lucky old sun has got nothing to do,
But roll around heaven all day.
The family in Sugar Hill, so safe seeming with their popovers, Floating Island and Anglophilia. My grandfather with his distinguished walking stick. My grandmother orchestrating formal finger bowl dinners. Their compliant children. And their children’s children.
My generation. The dead or walking dead – suicide, drugs and incest. Me in peril recently, a foreign war zone enemy of my twin in the CIA. Now Cousin Lauryn, the youngest, my favorite, beaten and fucked before puberty, back now, sprung from a battered women’s shelter.
I go for years without seeing those mountains but I know now they are always there in consciousness - even when I am in more honest war zones far away. And in this new time, 1986, I realize that also in consciousness, every day of my life, whatever might be happening, there were and are always songs in my head. Never sung aloud, for I do not sing yet – but always in my head. Songs. A parallel if hidden reality – a world beyond.
Fuss with my woman, toil for my kids,
Sweat till I’m wrinkled and gray.
But that lucky old sun’s, he’s got nothing to do,
But roll around heaven all day.
So fine, this working man’s chant. In the Mustang I feel so fine, though driving into the belly of the beast. I fear for Lauryn, who has returned… She was going to be a dancer. I drive north to do battle with the ravenous past. Dear lord above, don’t you know I’m pining, Tears are in my eyes, Send down that cloud with a silver lining, Lift me to paradise. The night is blacker than I had expected. I reach Franconia Notch, this mountain pass that takes you into those old summer places, as it has since some point in the early 19th century when pioneers found the way through it. I am deep now in the Notch, with Cannon Mountain rising on my left though it is too foggy to see the Old Man of the Mountains rock formation that juts out precariously high above the small, placid Profile Lake. On my right is Mt. Lafayette, taller and harsher. I am actually up here in the mountains, driving on this very dark night between these two landmarks of the Franconia Range, which you can see from a distanced in the center of the panoramic view from Sugar Hill. There is no starlight, no moonlight, no traffic except me. I sense more than I can see of the icy black granite that rises on either side.
In a whirling rush, a fierce early mountain snow storm, like out of the past, it creates a full white-out. Opaque whiteness. I can see nothing in front of the car. I slow to a creeping crawl and pull over to what I hope is a safe shoulder. I stop.
Once again, just the sort of thing so feared by the upright people who were my people in the rich houses – the way they feared lightning strikes on golf courses, and the larceny of poor people and brake failures on ill-kept mountain roads, and hunters’ bullets in the woods, and non-Episcopalians, including cute New Englanders who use the adjective “wicked.” No way to tell in the white-out if I’ve stopped the Mustang in the middle of the Notch road where something might crash and crush me.
No way to tell if I’m on a shoulder at a ravine with no guard rail. Am I to die here so near to where I began? Die listening to old music and remembering old scenes. Die in this whiteness just as the past is coming clear?
Show me that river, take me across,
Wash all my troubles away,
Like that lucky old sun, give me nothing to do,
But roll around heaven all day.
On the thruway I have a second thought about my route. Even though I am on a deadly serious mission, I want to make the most of the trip. It could be a mistake to not go up through Connecticut, as in the familiar route from childhood days. There would be a purpose to doing it that way, for surely new memories would appear.
Then I have a better idea. I pull in to read a map at the rest stop where Gillian had picked up vending machine trinkets. It has been six weeks but it seems like years – a familiar sensation in this time still in which a whole lifetime is moving along in compressed form.
The map shows I can take the Mass. Pike east to connect up with Interstate 93, which has exits for Plymouth where, before there were interstates, I had been in boarding school. And from there I can head up the dramatic way through Franconia Notch.
The bare trees and the now brown hills on either side of the thruway are still startlingly vivid in this late autumn air. It is as if I have never seen such a tree, such hill, before. The billowing look had been replaced by an eternal look. And the sky is as blue as remembered skies of winter.
It is getting cold. I turn up the heater. I play my tapes. I think of my days in boarding school. Of Kitty up for the school dances. I think of St. Mary’s. I think of bright summers, striped awnings, the vistas when you get above the timberline.
I think of the only recent time I was above the timberline. It was when my wife’s son had just arrived from the Philippines and I had taken the two of them up to the White Mountains, which at that time still seemed like a threshold to a full life. I had decided to take them up the car road on Mt. Washington, not the full experience they would have had in climbing Washington but a taste. There had been no warnings about weather, but when we were above the timberline it started to snow. There were no other cars. I managed to turn around, and inch back down the mountain. There were no guard rails
Mama bears and rusty nails and lightning and winter storms in summer.
In the evening my wife and I and her son went to a spontaneous gathering of the old gang. A number of us happened to be there. We were at a pleasant simple house that Terri had just rented. For the first time she was going to stay in the mountains year round, and her then husband, a vigorous and open man, would remain in Bedford. The reason was dogs. Terri had about a dozen rescued dogs, too many for Bedford, where her husban had a champion spaniel he took to dog shows. (Also in Bedford he kept a copy of the Social Register at hand. He said it was useful because so many of the people he knew were included.)
My wife did not like it in the mountains. She kept saying she wanted to go back early. We stayed in the basement at my Aunt’ s House where on a long ago Christmas trip I had first made love to Christina. My Aunt, whose Anglophile ways included 1940s British cooking, had made a shepherd’s pie for us that seemed to be filled with sawdust rather than meat. We surreptitiously brought Burger King burgers to the basement. A bonding experience.
Thinking ahead, I go past the exit for Plymouth that would come out right at my old boarding school. Normally thought of Playmouth would set off sparks in my mind, for this school down here in the lake country of New Hampshire was where I had first realized I could go beyond what my parents and past schools seemed certain was the limited life I would have. But thinking ahead, I continue on to Franconia Notch. I am thinking of the notch now as a route into something soft and affirming though I have been billing this last leg of the trip as the entryway to the belly of the beast.
That feeling of hope and pleasure and excitement I had when pointing the car north is back again. Maybe I have been unfair to this influential old place.
These two places, the place of perfect summers, the winter place where I came to myself.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
As the past kept changing, in my head there were constant revisions not just of what I saw in my life up till this year but even in how it had been at the start of this new time. Just before everything began to change, I had had high hopes for a light, with some earnest overtones, non-fiction, personal experience book to be called Twins in the American Century. Which was someone else’s idea but seemed to interest my agent and a guy at one of the big houses who said they would be sure to take it after I went through the charade of writing a sample chapter that would convince their sales people that if they gave me money there really would be a book. So I had worked late into the night in my bright new apartment in Chelsea, trying to get started. It should have been easy. I had been through this before, these proposals to get advance money. Also, this was not the first time that I was making use of someone I knew. I had met the editor a few years before this in Singapore where he was a partner in a slick illustrated guide-book operation called APA that had volumes out on many Asia places. The editor was a conscious intellectual. He kept telling me then that Singapore was at a vortex. But there was another side to the man. He had this wife who was a lithe and lovely Balinese dancer with whom he had eloped, spiriting her out of her village in Bali.
Now the editor was in New York at the same time as me in this time just after my marriage when everything was changing. He had gotten a mortgage and taken the lovely dancer to live in Forest Hills, the ultimate haut bourgeois place. My wife, also young and from Asia, and I had been there for dinner before the dancer left.
The editor was still there. And I knew that even his publishing side in Singapore could not have been as unimaginative as it seemed. For I knew from a number of years in Southeast Asia that APA Publications may have held out but it would have been a struggle to not become a CIA front. Travel writing and photography were such good ways to move people around in foreign places. In Southeast Asia nothing was quite what it seemed, and it was hard to find a foreigner out there not working on the side in something devious for some foreign interest – the CIA being the foreign interest with the most money. Even backpackers were put on per diem by this octopus agency.
I had reason before this year of change to look at APA’s most recent volume, which was part of its recent move beyond Asia. This one was on Jamaica. The introduction was devoted to thanking and praising the recently installed prime minister, a right-winger named Manley who was as charming and evil as Ronald Reagan. On top of everything else Manley looked like a white man. Practically no one who wrote about Jamaica seemed unsure CIA money had brought him to power.
This was when I was searching around for things to do. The reason I looked at the Jamaica book was that my agent was hot in negotiations with Simon & Schuster for a series of little books on the West Indies that would be geared to cruise passengers who had only a few hours to look around. The idea was based on a lie that the West Indies had a brilliant and beautiful colonial history when in fact it had a grim slave worked plantation history. The little books would play up the remains of slave owners’ big houses, and an occasional dumpy fort, as being romantic vestiges of a grand and romantic past. Just the sort of travel writers’ lie I had sworn I would never propagate again. But I needed work, and besides there was this very stylish American photographer I would take along to these island places. She was willing to fly in from Rome to join me.
And nothing in my life was what it seemed.
And I had not quite realized that fakery in travel writing was the least of what I was about to leave, though it was a blow when the travel book project fell through. My agent called and said we had to drop it because this outfit APA was going into the same territory in a comprehensive way in a new joint venture with a New York publisher.
My FBI file from civil rights days? My CIA file from Southeast Asia days?
And meanwhile the editor was waiting for a sample chapter in this book about me and my adventures and my brother and his CIA work, this light book that would also honor our internationalist grandfather and would be called Twins in the American Century, this in 1986 which was about the last point when the American century conception was around, something the CIA did not seem to realize. And maybe the last time it was possible for me to go with my family’s white-washed history.
The editor’s office was in the Macmillan building which was the most characterless building I had ever seen. A far cry from the days when Macmillan was a musty literary place that published my grandfather. As you got out at a floor in the Macmillan building you were face to face with a receptionist. Every floor looked just alike, the walls always bare. The place had no more personality than the sad State Department building down in Washington. One day I got out of an elevator in the Macmillan building and a very serious receptionist was saying with pride to an apparent delivery person that “this building has many PhD’s in it.”
The CIA. Travel writing. The dullness of publishing. Twins in the American Century.
As my life changed I began to believe it was to my credit that I was completely blocked when it came to writing that sample chapter that could do so much for my career.
Friday, September 10, 2010
They cheered when they saw me coming down Second Avenue and it was if I were outracing death on their behalf.
I talked that night about my trip the next day to see my favorite cousin who had just been released from a battered women’s shelter, which I said seemed to fit so well with everything I was finding. I called it a trip to a place where I would be in the belly of the beast – a Norman Mailer line. And I got all the sympathy I wanted here from these new people who knew more about me than I had known myself until this year.
In the Belly of the Beast was the title of a book of letters to Mailer by a prisoner named Jack Abbot for whom Mailer had won a parole. Just after the book came out Abbott murdered a young actor in an altercation outside a restaurant. The actor’s widow was a Filipina, like my then wife, who was hit hard. She spoke of how fragile the killing made everything seem.
To me the murder had also felt close because the site of the killing was the
corner of East 5th Street and Second Avenue in the East Village, just a few blocks down from the tenement where I had been when I was first living in New York, and just one block from my startlingly lovely artist girlfriend’s place. More immediately, the site of the killing was practically where my new friends had stood cheering last night as the Aqua Mustang came into view.
As I started out for New Hampshire I was thinking for a few moments about Norman Mailer trapped in his own words and getting everything wrong to the point where he was an accessory to a horrible crime. Though in my mind now Norman Mailer and the murder are covered by a picture in my mind of those big houses in the dark.
Then again Norman Mailer. Jack Abbott. A pretty Filipina left as a young widow. My empathetic wife. But mostly my mind is filled with scenes of the present, alternating with scenes of the deep past in the White Mountains, as I prepare to leave for that place. And as in my mind I continue to move back and forth between past and present it feels like I am indeed outracing death that the past ordained – though at the same time I am about to make a trip straight into that past.
I do not start early the next day. In past years I would pack in a flash when I was about to travel, but today I linger. I go outside. The air is late autumn air. The man who repairs bicycles is at work on the sidewalk. The Korean grocery across the way looks inviting. I see the buildings where Rita and Freddy live, and also Howard. It is as if I have known this place for many years, not just in this very recent time.
I decide to go to 23rd Street for falafel. Am I killing time? I walk down Eighth Avenue. To my left are stoop steps leading up to a Chinese restaurant, where a cardboard sign in the window says:
"BROWN RICE is here!
“And the people cheered."
To my right are the fifties style stores, and the big brick union houses, where I sat in my car on a curving street drawing buildings in 3rd grade perspective with comical hanging traffic lights and fine old wooden water towers. Before I reach 23rd Street I am walking past homeless people lying on the sidewalk. I have to be careful not to step on them. I am reminded that this is still the America of Ronald Reagan. One man lying out in the cold has a big festering sore on his arm. Another man has his hand in the pants of a man beside him. This is chaotic homelessness, and not at all like the organized and picturesque homelessness around the band shell in Tompkins Square Park.
As the day goes on I pack slowly, an item or two at a time, making sure I have a pad to draw on, and also that I put in that Woolrich sweater I had worn in Vermont. I bring the Mustang around to my block, put my old suitcase in the trunk. I throw in those new boots that look like work boots. I forget the soft leather boots lined with ersatz fur.
It is afternoon by now. I drive up a now familiar route, starting first where the elevated West Side Highway used to be before it was so deteriorated it was torn down. Then I am on the elevated part that is still in operation. I pass the docks from which ocean liners used to sail. From the George Washington Bridge I see that every detail of the river, even a lonely sailboat, is clear in the dry, cool autumn air. I cut over to route 17 through Paramus and its rows of chain stores and bargain stores, and turn onto the feeder road for the New York State thruway.
I have Judy Collins and then Roger Whittaker, then James Taylor, then Robert Flack, then Willie Nelson on the tape deck. It is great background music for this wave of good feeling that, I note, sweeps over me as soon as the car is pointed north on an open road.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Nancy is in the city to take care of a baby. She says she loves babies. She is biding her time right now working as a nanny before deciding what to do next, which may mean college, but which college it might be is still unclear. And meanwhile she has these meetings. And her warm smile.
I think of our house in Connecticut on hot summer nights. My room was brought into my father’s cooling system, which was much the way young Nancy described hers. It did not seem important to me that her father would be my age or younger. It was all so familiar. It entailed keeping open the door to my room for the hall as well as the facing door from my room that opened onto a rickety outside staircase. And a fan was placed at the staircase door – those two doors an essential part of the complex and silly cooling system my father, like Nancy’s father, had set up.
Beneath the staircase there was storage space which had been turned over to my dog Moxie, who had a bed of old cedar chips in there, but whom at night I would bring up to my room.
This black Lab trotted along everywhere I went on my bicycle. He stayed with me on the banks of the Saugatuck river, where I had my favorite fishing places. He was with me dodging the warden when I went for bass in the Aspetuck Reservoir. A great place for swimming was a part of the river that ram deep, backed up by old waterfall.
The part just below the waterfall was deep too, but forbidding. I would stand at the top, my feet in moving water, and let my line down, and catch an eel from the dark place down there. Or a ferocious catfish place for eels and catfish down there in the dark, but in the sun sunfish and perch and sometimes a bass.
Once on a wide path coming back from the reservoir we had come upon a rattlesnake. Rattlesnakes, unlike copperheads, were very rare here. This one was coiled and ready to strike, like the “Don’t Tread on Me” rattlesnake of patriotic lore. Moxie wanted to confront the snake. I yelled for him to come with me, as we both ran away.
We spent much of our time on the river. The perch, with their dots of red, and the sunfish, with rainbow markings, each had little areas they had staked out, sandy bottom areas that they were patrolling, and I had to stay in denial about how they looked while free in the water when I was pulling one of them out of the water and later eating him.
Moxie had been the successor to my short lived first dog Brownie. He did not annoy them the way Brownie had, for he was quickly housebroken. He had been billed as the runt of his litter of the Cowen family’s Labs, the last puppy remaining after the others had found homes.
I could still see Moxie swimming in the deep part of the river behind the waterfall dam that once powered sharpening wheels in the ax factory that had abandoned long before my time, long before commuters arrived. Moxie looking happy and pleased as he swam
with a stick in his mouth. Like me he wanted to be in water all the time. He was a great swimmer. He had a lab’s equivalent in flesh of a duck’s webbed feet.
That summer before college while I was in Holland Peter had driven up to New Hampshire with Moxie, who had disappeared in the woods down below White Pines. They never found Moxie. I was given the news while being driven home from the student ship. But I did not let this get to me. I did not let it stop me moving towards Princeton.
Moxie was on my mind as I heard the pretty girl talking about her father, who was probably about my age, and also the age my own father had been when he set up his bizarre cooling system. The worse part of that system was that I had to keep my door at the end of the hall open, for it was on a direct line to the outside staircase door. And I also kept the door to my brother’s room open to make absolutely sure the air was flowing as my father thought it should.
Listening to this pretty girl talk about her father and her country house and what they did in hot summers… All time has become the same time – almost --- for there is something dangerous in the air ---
At the end of one meeting I am talking with Nancy. She says she has to get back to the brownstone just off lower Fifth where she looks after a baby. She says she loves babies. To continue talking we walk together from the Corlears School to the brownstone. At the door she says she is excited too about this trip I am about to make. Do I know Lenox? I have not been in the center of the village but I have been aware of the township for it is one of those places marked on the roads I have been wandering while heading up to or down form Vermont and New Hampshire. Nancy says she thinks Lenox is about halfway to where I am going. She will be home with her family. She is leaving in two days. Would I like to spend a night there in Lenox on my way Everyone in ACOA is privy to this rescue mission of mine. I say spending a night in Lenox is a good idea. In front of the brownstone we do a program hug.
But the day before I go, Nancy phones and says she has spoken to her parents and this is not a good time for a visit. And I think I know what that means.
In the evening I drive to the East Village. As I am coming down Second Avenue in the Aqua Mustang, I see familiar people gathered on the sidewalk of the church to which I am headed. They see the Aqua Mustang, which is now a part of ACOA lore. They see the happy chrome horse coming towards them. And they cheer.
The last time the Playhouse was in operation, the summer after my first year of college, boys and girls from our old gang were sprucing it up again, making last minute repairs in the French doors, giving the place a thorough cleaning. I had gone with a new young summer girl over to Littleton to get paint brushes and paint, and as I came back up past the Farm House, down below the House on the Hill, and onto the flat stones at the rustic entrance area to the Playhouse, I see could them there ready for me. For when they saw the car they all came to the front and actually cheered. The new girl, a northern version of a neurotic southen bell, was clearly so aware of her appeal. When the cheered sh said “Oh you must be so conceited.” It felt good and bad at the same time, good because this was like a line spoken by a pretty girl in an F. Scott Fitzgerald story.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
One night I came back and found bright lights – like lights you see when a feature film is being made on location – such lights now playing on the four story building with the concrete Venetian-like facade where I lived at this time. On the steps leading up to the entrance there was a small man whom I had seen on the local evening news, and he is in the bright light holding a microphone and reporting something that has him excited, something about someone being stabbed. I make my way past the TV guy, wondering if I am on television, then enter to a downstairs partially roped off with those yellow police lines tapes. And there is a strange odor, this being the time that I identified the smell of blood so clearly that I knew I had smelled it before. This killing right her in my amusing building.
From TV in my apartment I learn the killing was done by a young male hustler who slashed up the elderly, and apparently kindly, retired teacher in the downstairs front apartment, this man who had tended the building’s back garden up to the point where he had to spent most of his life in a wheelchair. This man, the journalists quickly discovered, was in an organization called NAMBLA, actually one of it founding members, NAMBLA standing for North American Man/Boy Love, in other words an organization for men who prey on young males, which seems to explain the murder.
Already on TV the story is getting bigger and more awful, for the young guy who slashed up the old man is on the run, heading down the East Coast, pausing to phone in reports to the TV stations, telling whoever answers he is glad he did the killing, that all his life he had been molested, and now that he has killed once he feels so good that he will kill again. He called in from Pennsylvania, and Delaware, and they finally picked him up when his bus got to Baltimore.
And I flash quickly on a scene in a drawing room of an old Pullman car going up the single track to the White Mountains when I am not quite two years old. The drawing room, a big corner compartment, is in chaos. Moaning and screaming. My Southern grandmother is talking away, and my mother is sunk in despair, her head in her hands, and my brother the good twin is red-faced and horse from screaming. I am sitting on an upper bunk that was pulled down from the ceiling earlier. It feels very high up. My legs are dangling over the side. And on the wall behind me is a button that I somehow know will summon help if I push it, though I can’t, I am that paralyzed. And I smell what I now know was fresh blood before darkness closes over the memory.
And it does not feel particularly strange that there should be a horrible murder here in this gentle-seeming place where I now have a bright apartment with a view from above the back garden almost all the way down the Battery. This amusing apartment: lots of sun coming in from the south; you enter through a small kitchen and go down a step to the living room that, since it is virtually the same room as the kitchen, seems quite spacious. And I have this view to the south past the trunk of the tree growing up from the garden. This place that seems to perfectly fit the new life I am in that has come from questioning everything, this place where I made love to Gillian – it had felt like love – in the final hours of our time. The building’s front has what can only be a Venetian façade, small balconies on each floor. Seem from the street each balcony has what could be a Byzantine pattern in concrete that resembles iron or lattice work – the sort of stone or concrete simulated lattice work that you might see in Italy on balconies that get the intense southern sun, but the front of my building gets the far less bright light that comes form the north. The makeup of the building is a little like the makeup of my old Aqua Mustang, a car designed to simulate a sports car but though it convertible top can never come down since is a hard top, and though I have a gauge on the dashboard that shows me how fast the engine is turning over, a gauge essential for high speed shifting of gears, the Mustang has an automatic gear shift, meaning I could not shift gears to match changing speeds in a race even if I wanted to.
The TV correspondent that I recognize I remember well from four years back in life when my stepson’s public school middle school graduation was held for some reason in the awe-inspiring Riverside Church – which till then I had known only as a center for anti-war agitation in Vietnam days. This little TV guy was up there in what I took to be a pulpit giving the most mundane motivational advice that kids should be good kids and study hard and stay out of trouble. And that silliness seemed to fit with the murder and also the Venetian façade, and the Aqua Mustang too. And there was more.
I had wound up on this block at a time I was sleeping on people’s couches right after the end of a marriage that not only went wrong but in retrospect seemed to have been doomed for its entire seven-year duration. A very old friend of mine from many years back, who had been with me on a high school age summer exchange program in Holland, had a friend living on this block of 25th Street between 8th and 7th – a part of town I knew before now only from quite a few years ago when there was a big dark place on the corner called the Egyptian Garden and I had had one of those intense affairs – this time with a girl named Barbara who by day was a nice Jewish graduate student at Hunter and by night a super-sinewy belly dancer under the name Princess Aisha in a time still before the time that belly dancing was brought into the daylight as something entailing health and enlightenment. It was very near where I was living now, A stone's throw away was where there had been an upstairs after-hours place, where they looked at you through a small panel in the door before letting you in. I got in because I as with a locally well known belly dancer, and then you could spend the rest of the night drinking ouzo fast from tea cups.
The day after the killing I cross the street to speak with Lois’s friend Horace, the person who had sent out word that there was a room to rent in his building, a room that put me in the right place when the rent stabilized apartment I was now in became available. Horace worked all the time at home some sort of educational writing with which he and Lois were involved. Working all the time while his quite pretty wife Constance stood by, often with a glass in her hand. He had heard about the murder and the NAMBLA thing, he said. He said there was a lot to be said for North American Man/Boy Love, that these relationships were often good for the young guys.