Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sound Wars

Mabel Butler is singing along with every song. She is amazing me with her tenacity if not her musicality. The humming is an octave lower, a step after, and a decibel louder than 106.7 Lite FM. She is really pushing my buttons. Loud annoyed sighs are not conveying the message.

Mabel Butler, or “the B woman” as some of my coworkers refer to her, is a big-boned, wide-bodied black American in her mid-thirties. My first night on this shift I was warned by a sexist coworker not to say anything sexist around her because she carries a recorder with which to collect harassment evidence to take upstairs. She sued the museum once because the chairs in the perimeter booths are not adequate. Mabel wears a jacket that says “Special Patrolman” which means she can arrest criminals (and sit on them?). She carries no guns, but she has handcuffs. She also carries a portable DVD player, an iPOD, an Internet cruising Blackberry phone, a black folding cushion that has potential for electric vibrations (this function is not used), an additional black leather cushion which further supports her ampleness. She carries her Bible, with plastic tabs denoting the books within, O magazine and Black Entrepreneur, and cinnamon flavored gummy whales.

Mabel is now carrying her paraphernalia back to her locker as part of her 30 minute “personal break” so that the management of the day does not see the things she carries. While she’s gone I switch to Morning Edition to catch up on the bologna the politicians are spinning about the State of the Union. Then she’s back, but she doesn’t stay! Turns out she would rather be out in the thin early morning cold then in our cozy booth listening to NPR. Guess I’ve got her number just like she had mine. After an hour of this Liberal torture I switch back to the soothing sounds of commercials for Swedish mattresses and Brian Adams. She’s back, calling me sweetie, with a dangle of gold hoops from her ears, a flash of white under her faux-fur Russion style black leather hat – the ear flaps buttoned up. It’s 7:49 and I’m going home at 8:15.

She stopped singing along.

Yesterday a T.V. crew from “Law and Order” was shooting on the street in front of our apartment.

I saw the following works of art while walking up the steps to our apartment:

NOTE: Mable is not her real name. Neither is Butler.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Riding to Church

I’m riding the 6 train south from 86th Street – stealing glances at the middle-aged Latina woman that just sat down with an emphatic plop across from me. Her pants are too tight. She grabs the Sunday Daily News out of a black plastic bag. Why plastic bag? Why plastic? I burrow deep into my own magazine. At next glance the Dominican woman has been replaced by pimple-faced pubescent Chinese girl. She adjusts her eyeliner with a pink Hello Kitty mirror that folds.

I’m waiting for the J train to Brooklyn at Canal Street. The end of the platform smells less like urine than some. I would take a picture of the carefully angling tiles if I had a little camera. A young hoodlum echoes a basketball dribble; a Chinese woman reaches deep from the sound of things and spits onto the train tracks.

The train is here. I step into the first car in time to hear the conductor tell the men who were smoking cigarettes that they “had no respect.” They looked sheepishly defiant. The woman across from me yelled “Norma!” at Essex Street. The nerves in my ears rebel. Loud friends always sit as close as they can to me. Then, relief, I recognize the soft covered consonants of Thai. Thai is never loud. Norma pulls out a bun stuffed with sweet bean paste. A black grandmother in a long flowing black coat of textured velvet and matching hat, although it is at least 50 degrees outside today!, sits down to read her Daily Bread. She has a Jesus bag prominently displayed on her lap. Daily Bread inhaled, she grimaces, her face a mask of concentration, as she shifts the Jesus bag and files her nails. If you look up at the right time as the J leaves Essex and emerges on the Williamsburg Bridge, you can see the right hand of Lenin stretching out over the East Village.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


A Year

Over the past 24th year of my time and space as I measure it, there have been many moments when I felt alive or, another way, felt a living part postioned in History: the warmth of Jean Baudrillard’s large hands, the depth in his eyes – look at how big his head is! this is the cold genious of postmodernism? no, a bonafide prophet, yes, but kind – the nervousness of his English-speaking French smile; the uncomfortable wetness of the forest green wooden chairs of the Delacorte Theatre as Jennifer and I waited for Liev Schreiber to enact MacBeth under clouds of graying mist and the everywhere present ambient noise of Manhattan; the way poetry and song and the naked light of day can be made to respond to color and canvas in the paint of Edvard Munch and Paul Cezzane; the soft-spoken yet strongly-felt Spanish words of Evo Morales, a lama herder dressed in an alpaca chumpa, thanking Oji-Cree from Wisconsin for singing their native songs in his native honor; a silent storm of lightening lashing at the remaining trees, howling over barren hills, whipping my face, raw, as lights blink in distant Port-au-Prince; my moments alone in the Chinese scholar’s courtyard, listening to the sound of water and the silence of the stones chisled into small worlds of solitude; the tired spirit of Kofi Annon as he walked down the steps in the Lehman Wing of the Metropolitan Museum to look for signs of truth in the paintings of Fra Angelico; the sounds that responded to Paco Pena’s unassuming hands, music made by strings and soul, flamenco which invoked El Greco’s view of Toledo, gypsies from Perpignan mingled with Berbers (from Tangiers eating tangerines), with Spanish peasants from Valencia and Cormac McCarthy’s otherworldly sweeping Southwestern vista, a world of language that arises out of the book of Job and resonates with Harold Bloom’s Nietzsche; all those times when thought arose and enacted a flow of words on paper and from paper, in the abscence of time and space chills gave me delightfully involuntary shudders, and only what was, was, and was then gone, a flow: the humanness of thought, of History made of histories, all of which makes me want to dance a high-stepping jive up and down 5th Avenue on Early Sunday Mornings when the world is fresh and traffic is stilled, only the birds and the dogs and the people with cellphones, who are not really there, are talking; I am silent and alive in a world of singing beauty as my Life is made again. I will live.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Semi-Random Pictures from the Buckeye state
A visit with Matthew, Olivia and Lyric in mysteriously dreary Akron, Ohio.

Recording our passions
The imperial electric factory


a frank picture of fake flowers at an enigmatic cemetery
Matthew briefly turns his back to the cross
the separation of church and american state
NOTE: The first five photos are by Matthew in Akron at various locations including: the Imperial Electric Factory, the Firestone Rubber Plant (both of which no longer function as factories), a small crackerbox at 912 East Archwood Ave. (whatever that means), the basement of which functions as Matthew's recording music studio. The other odd pictures are by me, of Lyric as reluctant muse, Matthew and I recording our passions (you will need to visit either of our places in order to hear our as yet unreleased energies), a frank picture of fake flowers at an enigmatic cemetary in Akron, Matthew briefly turning his back to the cross, and our discovery of the separation of the church from the American state.