Sunday, June 15, 2008


I came home from Manhattan by bike yesterday, during an early evening rainstorm.
Biking in rain is generally non-recommended behavior. But it was time to go home...and i think the fact that i had recently gotten my ass kicked romantically made the stormtrip inviting. There's nothing like an intense physical experience to clear out your psyche. As recently as the evening before, i had been so lovesick that i was physically ill, unable to eat.
As i started home, i thought perhaps i had missed the worst of the storm. But as i neared the Williamsburg Bridge, the rains returned in force. I stopped to get my poncho out, quickly realizing that my poncho was missing (which accompanied the earlier realization that i had left my tail light at home). But i most always have backup plans, and i pulled a large trash bag out of my pack, and began punching holes for head and limbs. By the time i was ponchoed, darkness had fallen and the wind had increased, driving the rain sideways into my sidewalk shelter. At this point, a more sage person might have found some Manhattan refuge to wait out the weather. But like i said, my psyche felt a need to be in it all. The rain was so intense that i gave pause to wonder whether my phone, inside my insulated fanny pack, would remain dry. I also carried a mini-boombox in my backpack. Even with a poncho, i had my doubts about keeping it or all my papers dry. But i was off.
At the base of the bridge, i passed a few bikers who were prudently waiting out the storm. But if you've never biked over a bridge in a storm, you're missing one of life's singular experiences. On the way up, i passed two men ardently embraced and kissing each other deeply. It was rather beautiful, obviously a very intense moment for them. The crossing was mostly solitary, except for a few walkers i passed coming down on the Brooklyn side. At one point around the apex, i suddenly felt that lightning was about to strike very close to me...............but it didn't happen. By that point, the water accumulation was so great that my sneakers were full to the brim, and i hadn't even stepped in water. The most conspicuous dangers of storm riding are that your brakes don't work, and you can't clearly see road irregularities. Again, i admit that this is idiot's behavior. But for much of the ride, exhilaration had me shouting for joy (sometimes echoed back by the stray people i passed). The lack of pothole visibility was a particular problem, as my chief route was Brooklyn's Broadway, which is the most raggedy-ass NY road i know, a crumbly headache even in dry conditions. But fortune was with me; i had only one wrist-clanging moment, and one moment when a sudden road seam channeled me directly toward a parked bus.
By the time i was within a mile or two of home, the rain had lessened considerably. Very peaceful, it became. Arrived home, i found my fanny pack insulation had not failed, and that my pack stuff was still reasonably dry. It was a beautiful experience, the kind that makes you happy to be alive. I do indeed love you all very much.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


We live in the most politically divisive era since the Civil War, so they say.
I suspect they're full of shit, in the sense that the "average person", whether in Manhattan or Muncie, doesn't really care too much about all that. We all want to live safely and freely and make the world a better place for our children. That's pretty much it. Well-intentioned people, regardless of zip code, will most always get along.
But somebody out there has been pounding the hate drums of divisiveness. That somebody seems to be the media, and the neo-cons.
I've never identified with liberal or conservative, democrat or republican. Even my youngest mind perceived an element of nonsense there, so i've always been registered independent. Out of sheer disbelief that Bush had become his party's candidate, Gore was the first major party candidate i voted for (go Perot...twice!). So with Kerry. Mind you, i've never had faith in the integrity of our elective system. The electoral college seems an outright assault on democracy, and i was stunned when ballots became computerized. Or rather, i was stunned that more people weren't stunned. At least if you're going to rig a hand-counted election, you're going to have to work to do it. But i've long been convinced that our elections are well-fixed, even in places not called Florida and Ohio. Whatever pressure was brought upon Gore to give up his claim to the presidency, that's probably a nasty story that won't be told for a long, long time.
Currently our media, led by Fox, is displaying a conservative bias. But before you get upset, let's acknowledge that for decades our media had a slight liberal bias, epitomized by Walter Cronkite, one of the most respected men ever. Even though this bias was well-intentioned, a bias it was. And again, lest you get too upset over our current situation, well, i find the current conservative media movement fascinating. It almost seems like it's been constructed to self-destruct. If the forces of liberalism had been allowed to choose the voices of conservatism, wouldn't they have picked people like Limbaugh, O'Reilly, and Coulter? Limbaugh has already de-toothed himself with hypocrisy. O'Reilly is a bully with anger issues. Try getting one of his fans to repeat "O'Reilly is fair and balanced" three times; only the zealous will make it through with a straight face. Coulter is uncomfortable around intelligence, and sometimes seems just a twitch away from a nervous breakdown. None of these people will ever be treated with Cronkite-like respect. And going a step further, if the liberals were to choose a conservative president, wouldn't they pick someone unintelligent and un-American? Irrefutable fact: Bush's comment "you're either with us, or against us" is the most un-American sentiment any president has ever uttered. There's just something a bit tawdry and obvious about it all. If you want a deeper understanding of bias in the media, read Al Franken's "Lies": he may be dismissive of a slight historical liberal media bias, but unlike the leaders of current conservative media, he doesn't lie.
Frankly, it's been a long time since there has been an actual liberal/conservative debate in this country. Arguably the last major political figure who was a genuine conservative was Barry Goldwater. Because my father was conservative, i grew up with an anti-conservative bias. But look at the things that Goldwater stood for, and you may find that true conservativism is mostly honorable and well-intentioned, and is just as needed as liberalism. I feel great empathy for conservatives, as they watch the neo-cons run loose. For the record, neo-cons are not conservative. No conservative government would ever run up the kind of beyond-staggering debt we are now in. There are elements of my father's conservativism that have possibly made me a better person, my aversion to debt being the one example i can think of. And if i may digress, i think i'm finally able to enunciate what was wrong with Reagan. The man was our leader for eight years, and i realize now i haven't the foggiest notion of what he stood for...although he did have the wherewithal to note that his vice-president's eldest son was shiftless and insubstantial.
Don't bash the conservatives. It's the liberal's job to be more forward-thinking than the conservative. As a result, liberals will generally attract more intelligent constituents. But don't bash the conservatives. Liberalism run amuck leads to...well, Switzerland i suppose, which doesn't sound too bad. But don't bash the conservatives. They're in as much pain over Bush as the rest of the world.
As for my feelings on the upcoming election, i've been frankly a bit puzzled by the Hillary/Obama divisiveness. Why would anyone feel the need to choose sides? Years ago i vowed i would vote for any major party candidate who ever came along, who was not a white male. So either way it's Christmas morning. Obama's got my vote and i'm not even interested in his politics, as the military-industrial complex will probably control the next president just as they've controlled the rest of 'em in my lifetime.
Go get 'em, Barack. Make me not a cynic, i dare ya.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

in the shadow of two hospitals

I moved to Brooklyn five days ago. It's been a singular journey, with amazement and wonder along the way.
I left comfy Astoria after only seven months, somewhat reluctantly, because i didn't look forward to moving again so soon. I feel a little Astoria-cheated, not getting to spend a full warm season there. But there was also a measure of relief. Sal was the worst landlord i'd ever had, and though Kat was good company, it became clear early on that we weren't going to become too close, as she was never a good listener with me. The handful of times i tried to talk about anything personal and deep, she would quickly start babbling. Also, it had been a strain being cleaner than the others. I consider myself pretty easygoing, but Kat actually made me feel a little obsessive/compulsive. Doyoung I'll miss more. Helping her, taking care of her from time to time, made me happy. I was sometimes surprised at how she was able to open herself. If she weren't so superficial and Christian, i probably would have told her how i wanted to hold her.
The move itself couldn't have been more smooth. I hired Shin, the man with a van whom Doyoung used two weeks ago. I assisted on that move. I don't know whether he works with non-Koreans often, but he was a delight. Shin was a little concerned that i might have to leave some furniture behind, but no! My new room, on St. Marks Ave. in Crown Heights near the Utica stop on the AC line, is a bit of a delight. I have mice, but traps will be employed until our kitty, Suzie, is older. She's only four weeks, and has been cut off from cat contact since her mother abandoned the litter two weeks ago. She's taken to me, and i'm determined that her growth won't be stunted by lack of love. Last night i made dinner, and she slept between my legs as i ate. So precious and tiny.
The room was a last-minute compromise (but then one should never be reluctant to embrace an "imperfect" choice, in terms of spiritual growth). It was a tiny bit more expensive than i wanted, and a bit far from Manhattan, in terms of biking. My sense of the neighborhood was that i'd not find any coffee shops or falafel places or soy products, and that i'd have to escort any female guests to and from the subway at night. The neighborhood feels like it hasn't changed in thirty years. It seems obvious to say that you're never so genuinely aware of your skin color until you're in an environment where no one looks like you. On my first walk-through, i saw not a single non-black person. I've lived in diverse neighborhoods, but the only other time in my life i've felt so aware of my skin was when i traveled in parts of China where whiteys don't go. Mind you, i don't generally perceive people in terms of skin. I was worried for a moment that i might be doing so, but then i realized that it didn't hit me until i'd already moved here, that in my last two households i've been the only whitey, among Asians and now blacks. So skin is not foremost in my thoughts when interacting with humans.
I've had the minor sense that i might not live here a long time, but i know i'll be glad i did. One of the things that sold me on the neighborhood was that people seemed happy. Two of the times i've stopped for directions have led to ten-minute conversations. Cultural differences are fascinating though, and it doesn't make one a racist to find them funny. I think there was a comedian who commented on black neighborhoods having the highest per capita incidence of two things: churches and hair salons. That, my friends, is nooo comedic exaggeration. The funniest moment i've had so far came biking home one night. When i bike, i sometimes get a funny phrase in my mind, and amuse myself by saying it out loud, over and over. Something like "No, they're people", or "You're a weird guy, Ace!" There are billboards around the city for one Creflo Dollar, and whatever brand of religion he's selling. Now, Creflo Dollar is a funny name. On this ride through my neighborhood, i kept repeating "Creflooooo Dollah!" At one point, an obviously sassy young black lass heard me. Her eyes bugged a bit at the white boy irreverantly invoking a black holy man, but she then gave out one of the earthiest guffaws i've heard in a while.
My room itself is...i guess palatial is the word, being about as large as my previous two rooms combined. I have two big windows, which look out on trees in the back yard (which will be nice for the hours i spend here writing to you). My non-feline housemates are Shelly and her two children, recently arrived from Grenada. Shelly is very sweet and accomodating, and her only character flaw seems to be a little religious fundamentalism; it's quite amusing that there was one picture left up in my room when i moved in, of a Barry Gibb-looking Jesus, and Mary. I've left it untouched, but may need to put an Asian or black woman's face over Jesus's, at some point. Melissa is eleven, and very special. She's smart and writes poetry, some of which she has shared. I think she has a little crush on me. The youngest is Tarlick, all of three. He's a pip, and has taken very strongly to me. Shelly says that his Dad overindulged him, so he has discipline problems. I've been establishing boundaries, and getting him to hold the kitten more gently. Shelly says she can see a difference in him after only five days.
The biking-distance objection seems perhaps not to pertain! I've been biking regularly, and the times have been shorter than expected. It's always a fun adventure to not know how to get where you're going (in this case, Manhattan), and have to rely on directions from people on the street. I thought i had been on all the East River bridges, but my first trip over the Manhattan Bridge revealed that i most certainly had not. It was amazing. I don't want to take anything away from the Brooklyn Bridge, but the Manhattan seems just a little higher, and you're only separated from the drop by a thin chain link fence. The architecture is quite arresting too. Arrived on the other side for the first time, two pigeons came from behind me, one after another, and almost landed on my head. I could feel the beat of their wings, and i'm sure the passerby were entertained by my manly shriek. Earlier that day, my first in my new home, i had opened my window and had my closest-ever encounter with an adult squirrel, just a couple feet away. He kept moving closer, looking me in the eye, until i closed the window. A very Wild Kingdom day.
Strangely, i'm again living in the shadow of a hospital. It was Mt. Sinai in Queens, and here it's an abandoned hospital across the street. It's not an old building, which makes it a little eerie. Very curious. I'd love to get in there to explore.
I love you all.