Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Resolutions 2013

Every January 1st millions of Americans vow to better their lives and the world. The Top Ten New Year's resolutions barely differ from year to year, since few people realized their resolutions. I made no resolutions this year. At my age I've failed enough times to accept my rut with aplomb, but here are the perennial Top Ten;

1. Spend More Time with Family and friends
2. Exercise more
3. Lose weight
4. Stop Smoking
5. Enjoy Life
6. Quit Drinking
7. Get Out of Debt
8. Learn Something New
9. Help Others
10. Get Organized

After reading this list I figure I'm not so bad off.

There's some of them I do without the help of a resolution.

Hell, I must have quit drinking a hundred times in 2012 and I got out of debt by cutting up my credit cards in 2008. Two months of stress knocked off 15 pounds and I don't really smoke cigarettes, except when I drink at a bar.

I do feel good about life, especially when I'm with my kids.

Somehow I got to get over to Thailand more often.

The end of January is the next trip.

So don't worry too much about resolutions.

Most of them are unattainable, otherwise you wouldn't have to make them, so life for today. It's the best resolution of all.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Tower Of Blather

I speak several languages with varying degrees of expertise.

All of them with a Boston accent.

Linguists estimate that there are over 6700 languages spoken on the planet Earth with English acting as the prime lingua franca or most popular bridge language at present.

Unfortunately silence is not a language.

This morning at the Academy Dinner I listened to a young man converse with his friend about how easy women were if you pretended to be a filmmaker or photographer.

I knew the speaker.

Ray lectured his friend's about his failure as a lady's man.

"No one wants to hear the truth. You tell them you know Spike Lee and their eyes light up thinking they going to Hollywood and the fastest route to stardom is your bedroom. I know you ain't likes that, but you can't argue with success."

Ray ranted on and on.

Everyone in the diner heard him.

He didn't care and neither does anyone else talking on the phone.

Most of what they have to say is meaningless, which is why most people text messages.

So no one can eavesdrop on the inanity of their words.

Billions and billions of words spoken each day to unite mankind by the creation of a Tower of Blather.

As the King James version of the Bible puts it: "And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do."

The Lord hated the language of Blather and said, "Let's go down and confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech, so the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Blather; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

Telecommunications draw us close.

I can speak with my children in Thailand.

But most of what people say is meaningless.

Then again it has always been so.

Eyes In The Sky

The FAA announced plans to allow Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia to test drones for commercial use starting in 2015.

The BBC reported that the head of the FAA, Michael Huerta, said safety would be the priority as it considers approval for unleashing the unmanned aircraft into US skies to provide luxury realtors to show off multi-million properties with aerial views, deliver beer to music festival-goers, and make movies such as the recent SMURFS PART 2.

I like the idea of beer delivery, however my Chinese take-out delivery man will stop at the bodega en route with my moo she pork.

Truthfully drones will be used to spray poisonous pesticide over farmlands and aid police surveilling the public.

Hundreds of thousands of young men have already been trained as drone pilots thanks to AR PURSUIT and their kill counts number in the billions each day.

Drones, stay-at-home video geeks, Diet-Pepsi, and fast food are a perfect formula for the new fascist state.

"We see all, we hear all, and we are all."

Jeff Bezos of Amazon loves the idea of drones.

Drones will cut out Fed Ex and UPS.

Less humans = more profit.

The ACLU complained that, "Giving drones access to US skies would only ensure "our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded and scrutinized by the authorities."

Not that anyone listens to the ACLU.

"We are Devo."

To hear MONGOLOID, please go to the following URL

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2tZqXWa7no

Thursday, December 26, 2013

THE SEASON FOR GIVING by Peter Nolan Smith

photo-roman, isle of wight, tennyson walk, lizzie mercier descloux, paris

Early on the morning of December 24, 1985 Vonelli, Lizzie and I boarded a train at Gard Du Nord. I could see my breath in the cold. The winter damp had a good hold on Paris. Lizzie exhaled a thick cloud of smoke. The singer liked her Gaulloises.

Lord Ventnor had invited us to spend the Christmas Holiday on the Isle of Wight. The train ran straight to Calais. It got to the Channel on time. Hovercraft was running a special holiday service to Portsmouth and I waited the arrival of the PRINCESS MARGARET on the tarmac.

Vonelli and Lizzie were drinking wine in the waiting room. The bearded art dealer must have told the singer a joke. She was laughing with a cigarette between her fingers. Lizzie was a good audience.

The SR.N4 hovercraft hoved into the harbor. The winter morning hummed with the power of the four gas turbine engines. I turned to the terminal. Lizzie came out of the doors. Vonelli followed buttoning up his camel hair coat.

Lizzie and I knew each other from New York. The petite Parisienne had been a hit on the punk scene. Richard Hell was her friend. The two of us had been having 'une affaire' since Armistice Day. Nobody in Paris bet on us lasting out the year. None of my romances seemed destined for forever.

I checked the sky.

The grey clouds bore no threat of snow and we boarded the Hovercraft from the 'flight 'across La Manche.

An hour later we disembarked at Portsmouth and I carried Lizzie's bags over my shoulder. The three of us boarded the ferry to the Isle of Wight. We stood at the stern railing. Portsmouth became small. Lizzie held my hand. Crossing the Solent took less than forty minutes.

Vonelli spoke about our destination.

"Queen Victoria lived at Osbourne House. During her reign The Empire was ruled from this island."

"So the Isle of Wight is like Rome after the Goths burned it." Lizzie was a virulent anti-royalist.

"Only here there are no ruins." Vonelli had left the USA in the early 60s without ever going back to the Land of the Free. Many people suspected that his art dealer calling was a cover for a more clandestine career.

We got off the ferry and walked to the Cowes Floating Bridge. The chain-drawn ferry was idling on the other side of the Medina. Vonelli suggested a drink at the Navy Bar. The narrow drinking establishment had been built to service quick drinkers. The barkeep was a relic of the glory years of the British Empire. Time stopped and we missed two crossings of the Floating Bridge.

The trip across the Medina was quick. Lord Ventnor was waiting on the opposite bank in a red windbreaker. His hair was regally coifed by the wind. He shook my hand and embraced Vonelli.

"Welcome to the Isle of Wight."

Vonelli and he went back twenty years. I knew Bob three.

Aristocrats have good manners and kissed Lizzie's hand. She attracted admirers with ease.

"I love your song OU SONT PASSES LES GAZELLES."

"I am recording a new LP about Soweto" The chanteuse had been in a Paris studio for the last two months.

I saw her a few hours a week.

"Maybe you will sing us a song."

"Only if Vonelli plays piano."

A good left hand on the ivories of one of Vonelli's hidden talents.

Ventnor drove us to his expansive house in Ryde.

Bob's wife installed Lizzie and me in the same room.

She was ancien regime from Sud du Loire. That haute class knew how to read the land when it came to relationship.

I opened the windows. Lizzie didn't mind the cold. That way she could smoke her Gaulloises.

After a long lobster dinner accompanied by a deluge of wine Lizzie entertained us with Vonelli at the piano. They were a good combo and at the end of OU SONT PASSES LES GAZELLES Lord Ventnor announced, "Our Christmas morning tradition is the Tennyson Walk. We're rising bright and early."

"Nous partons vers le 10." Ventnor's elegant wife had a better hand on the time. "A polite hour to be on the Walk, so bonne nuit."

We retreated to our rooms. I shut the windows. They steamed up with the heat generated from Lizzie and me celebrating a XXXmas Eve.

We woke to the tantalizing scent of bacon, beans, mushrooms, eggs, toast, and tea.

"Une petite dejeuner anglais." Bob's wife served us a sumptuous breakfast.

The clatter of knives and forks were not interrupted by conversation. Talking could come later in the day. Lizzie and I helped clear the table. Bob's wife waved us from the sink.

"The faster you reach the Walk, the sooner you will return to dinner."

She accompanied us outside to the van

Lord Ventnor was in no condition to drive.

I was in no better shape and Vonelli only had eyes for Lizzie.

Lord Ventnor's wife took the keys.

"I'll drive."

She wasn't taking 'No' for an answer.

She dropped us at the Needles.

Wind-spawn waves crashed on the sandy shore. Atlantic gusts gushed across the gorse.

"I don't see any Needles." Lizzie brushed back her hair. I had never seen her use a comb or brush on her mop. She liked to look natural.

"You can hear them." Ventnor's teenage son, Anthony, was joining us on the walk. He had a favorite Lizzie song, but wouldn't say which one.

"We don't have all day." The savage sea air had revived Ventnor and he tramped up the grassy slope to the edge of a white chalk cliff, as his wife drove away to cook a Christmas dinner of roast beef.

"Tennyson took his walk every day. He said it was worth six pence a pint," Anthony explained, as Lizzie and I reached the edge of the cliff.

"When will you English join the modern world?" Lizzie loved the metric system, since its math was easy for the workers. She was more than a punk.

A sudden gale off Watcombe Bay swept over the rim and Vonelli stood against its force. I could tell that she didn't like heights and held her close, as she used my body to shelter a light for her cigarette.

"Get back, you fool," shouted Lord Ventnor.

We descended to Freshwater Bay. A fox hunt party was gathering for "What Ho' before the pub.F

"The unspeakable chasing the uneatable." Lizzie was familiar with Oscar Wilde's description of The Hunt.

We set off again on the muddy trail. There was no sun in the sky. A raw surf rose over emerald kelp belts.

The previous summer I had swum at Brightstone. The ocean had been calm as a sedated clam.

"Now we are on the Military Trail. Once revenue gangs patrolled these cliffs for smugglers."

Anthony was at Lizzie's side.

"Wine from France. No tax." She was also an anarchist. "Or tobacco."

"Now drugs." Ventnor and Vonelli exchanged a knowing glance.

We tramped along the Military Road and the five of us shifted allegiances in companionship according to the pace.

A little before noon we arrived at Blackgang Chine.

A smugglers' tunnel funneled to the beach.

"Anyone claustrophobic?"

Lizzie plunged into the darkness.

I followed the cherry of her cigarette.

Wild waves crashed on the rocks to submerge the beach in a frothy surge of sea. Lizzie and I were alone and she said, "I think I like Vonelli."

"What's there not to like?"

Her definition of 'like' differed from mine.

We returned to the trail and the party turned inland from the Atlantic.

"You're not angry?" Lizzie stood an arm's distance from me.

"No." I had lost to the oddsmakers in Paris. "You have my blessing."

"Tonight?" She wasn't wasting time.

"You do what you want. It's my Christmas gift to you."

Lizzie kissed my cheek, then dashed up the trail.

Vonelli watched her approach. He shrugged his shoulders, as she passed him to join Lord Ventnor and his young son.

Vonelli waited for me.

"A rich industrialist built a 'folly' down in that valley."

I spotted a Roman ruin.

"What about you and Lizzie?"

"I can't explain it." Vonelli was contrite, but not sad.

"Boy meets girl is the simplest story in the world." Vonelli and Lizzie were Romeo and Juliette. "Have a Merry Christmas."

Ventnor's wife would accept the change in this evening's sleeping arrangement. Scandals were for the English. Not the French.

I lingered behind my friends and allowed them to walk out of view.

Losing Lizzie didn't seem like a loss, but it wasn't a win either.

And it wasn't anything in between either.

I walked a little faster and spotted Lord Ventnor's son.

I ran to Anthony.

"I think Vonelli has designs on Lizzie." The young teen was astute in the ways of love as would be expected from the son of Lord Ventnor.

"Cut me out like a bird dog."

"Bird dog."

"Barking at someone else's quail." I sang the chorus of the Everley Brother's BIRD DOG, then clapped Anthony on the shoulder. "It's no big deal. Lizzie and I are just friends."

Anthony was gracious enough to not question the truth of my statement and we sped up our pace.

The path was wet under foot.

We caught up with Ventnor and Vonelli.

"Where's Lizzie?"

"With my son."

"Watch out, Vonelli." My green light to Vonelli had given hope to the teenager. "This is a strange island for romance."

Vonelli was in his thirties. Anthony was a young man. The art dealer hurried to Lizzie. I heard her laughter. His jealousy must have seemed funny to the singer. Vonelli fell back.

"She told me not to worry."

"Then you've eliminated your rivals." I felt drops of rain. "They taught you well."

"They?" Vonelli was a specialist at being visibly perplexed by the simplest accusation.

"Your bosses in Washington." Ventnor smiled at his longtime friend's discomfort.

"You mean Langley." The Agency had a big building on the other side of the Potomac.

"I have no idea what you mean." Vonelli walked onto the grass.

The mud on the trail was too slippery to make good time.

a href="http://www.mangozeen.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/trip-18.jpg">

I knew that his ignorance was an act.

Ventnor too.

"Are you alright?"

"Fine."

"I have some special wine for dinner."

"Great." I had forgotten the date. "Hopefully a lot of special wine."

We had arrived at the end of the trail. Lord Ventnor's wife was waiting in the parking lot.

She looked at the new couple and then at me.

I shrugged with understanding.

It was a Gallic gesture.

Her smiling eyes promised me the best slice of roast beef.

And I couldn't have been happier.

I had no place to go other than to eat a good meal with friends.

Bob's wife cooked a feast. I filled myself to the brim and danced on the table to Lizzie singing FEVER. Everyone had a good laugh and while Lizzie and Vonelli might not last forever, I wished them luck.

We all drank to that.

After all there is no time for giving like Christmas.

Lord Ventnor aka Bob Souter passed away several years ago.

He remains alive in the hearts of his friends and family.

Lizzie also went to the other side of the Here-Before.

Her music survives in the Here-Now.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHWYfzrv6G4

Or

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoA_wLqBi7M&list=PL94A0E41CF1A30844

fotos by peter nolan smith

Boxing Day England

Boxing Day has been a strictly English holiday dating back to the Middle Ages when the lower class received hand-outs from their feudal overlords.

In early capitalist times the box was clay pot containing the year’s tips for the underclasses from their betters and on December 26 the year’s bonus would be doled out to the workers, however whenever I ask Brits about Boxing Day’s origins they state it’s the day after Christmas on which nothing is open.

This is a fact, for I traveled from Portsmouth to London on Boxing Day 1985.

The single 2nd Class train car was shared by me and five National Front lager louts. The ride had all the making of a combination of the zombie film 28 DAYS LATER and the Jam’s hit DOWN IN THE TUBE AT MIDNIGHT. I opened my Opinal knife with care. The edge was sharp and I weighed out the factors.

Desolation. Rain. Drunks. Violence.

I first felt a fist, and then a kick
I could now smell their breath
They smelt of pubs and wormwood scrubs
And too many right wing meetings
My life swam around me
It took a look and drowned me in its own existence
The smell of brown leather
It blended in with the weather
It filled my eyes, ears, nose and mouth
It blocked all my senses
Couldnt see, hear, speak any longer
And Im down in the tube station at midnight
I said I was down in the tube station at midnight – THE JAM

Luckily the skinheads departed after the second stop up the line and I closed my knife.

It's a good thing to be a lucky man.

To hear DOWN IN THE TUBE by The Jam, please go the following URL

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KQLrOijWt0

BOXING DAY ON THE BOWERY by Peter Nolan Smith

Boxing Day has been celebrated on the day after Christmas in the UK and host of Commonwealth nations such as Australia, Canada, Ghana, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Nigeria, Kenya, Guyana, Trinidad , Tobago, and Jamaica.

For years I thought 'Boxing Day' was when the aristocratic rich gave the poor ornate empty boxes in lieu or a gift, however the holidays was actually the day when the tithes from alms boxes were distributed to the parish needy.

Boxing Day sounded like a holiday to most Americans, who honor December 26 as 'Left-Over' Day.

Every Christmas my mother cooked a 20-pound turkey, I mashed seasoned potatoes, and my sisters set the dining room table with yams, creamed onions, turnips, peas, stuffing, and all the fixings for my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmothers, friends, cousins, sisters, and brothers. Grace was said with bowed heads. Our plates were swept by forks and knives. Conversations were dominated by the retelling of old tales. Gifts from under a brightly decorated tree were exchanged before dessert of apple, pumpkin, and pecan pies. A fire burned in the fireplace. The wood came from Maine. We were one big happy family.

There wasn't much to do once the china had been cleared from the table, the pots were washed, and the silverware packed into a velvet-lined cedar box. My parents lived in the suburbs, which had been paradise for a teenager and a purgatory for a young adult in his 20s, especially since I had no car.

On December 26, 1978 I thanked my parents for another superb Christmas dinner and caught a southbound train from Route 128 to Penn Station. My hillbilly girlfriend was with her family in West Virginia and Alice wouldn't be back until the weekend.

I phoned Anthony Scibelli as soon as I reached my East 10th Street apartment. The photographer was a native New Yorker. We were both weary from pretending to be good boys to our parents.

"Suicide is playing at CBGBs." Anthony loved the subdued fury of Alan Vega and monotone drone of his keyboard player Martin Rev.

"I'm in." Suicide was a solid remedy for too much Christmas cheer, plus CBGBs was the only bar opened that evening in the East Village. "Come down to my place and we'll catch them at midnight."

"I'll get us a treat." Anthony lived in East Harlem. They had hard drugs up there.

I went out to buy beers from the corner bodega. Snow scurried against the brick tenements and I ran back home with shivers penetrating my spine.

Anthony showed up at 11 with a bottle of amyl nitrate.

"I couldn't find anything else."

"It's better than nothing." Poppers were beat, but the ghost of Santa Claus died on the first huff.

After listening to the Dead Boys on my stereo, we headed for CBGBs along 2nd Avenue to avoid the frigid wind tunnel of 3rd Avenue.

Snow trapezed beneath the street lights. The temperature was in the low teens. We crossed 3rd Street and cut through the gas station to the Bowery.

A crowd of derelict was gathered before the Palace Hotel.

A man lay on the concrete sidewalk.

A groan signaled that he was still with the living.

According to witnesses the 50 year-old derelict had stepped out of the third-floor window of the SRO hotel.

The short drop had snapped the gaunt man's legs and arms.

A dingy sheet was draped over his naked body and blood pulsed from a jagged bone protruding from his leg. His chest heaved with rapid breaths and he asked with a pained voice, "Damn, where am I?"

"Where you think you are, you dumb drunk." A fellow misfortunate answered from the huddle of broken dreamers.

"Not the Bowery, please tell me I'm not going to die on the Bowery." His grizzled face strained into the air.

“No where else?” One bum chortled with a bottle of Zapple in his hand.

I lifted a warning finger for silence.

A distant siren filled the air.

Help was on the way.

I kneeled over the bleeding man and tucked the sheet under his wasted frame. I had been a math major in university and calculated his impact on the sidewalk and said, "You're not going to die, old man."

"Maybe you ain't gonna die, but you look like a used condom." His relentless heckler and the bums laughed at this comment. They were a tough crowd.

Anthony quieted him with a kick to the shin.

The police from the 9th Precinct showed up a minute before the ambulance and the cops cleared space for the EMS crew.

"If he ain't family, then move on. Same goes for the rest of you." The driver motioned for me to get lost.

I surrendered my spot and we walked into CBGBs.

Merv the doorman let us enter without paying.

The bartender Allison glommed us a round of beers.

Suicide took the stage before a sparse audience. I counted 19 people.

Martin Rev stood impassively at his keyboards and Alan Vega smacked the microphone into his face between stanzas of CHEREE.

Anthony handed me the vial of poppers.

My head exploded on the first inhale.

It was Boxing Day on the Bowery and tonight was as a good a day as any to be alive in New York City.

To see a live performance of Suicide playing CHEREE please go to this URL

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRcHi5Nasn4

This video was filmed Merrill Aldighieri at HURRAH in 1980.

THE GIFT OF UNGIVING by Peter Nolan Smith


Most of my landlord's friends are married couples with kids. His wife and AP regularly invited them over to the Fort Greene Observatory for weekend lunches and evening drinks. I keep my distance from his guests, since my marital status is an enigma and after a few glasses I tend to recite a litany of my tales from around the world. AP and his wife have heard enough of these to last them a lifetime, so whenever I do join them at the kitchen table, I am mindful to only speak when spoken to. Silence is golden in children, but in older men reticence was a platinum hit to be rewarded with another glass of wine.

Last year AP, his wife and another couple were discussing their favorite toys.

"I would give anything to see my old toy boat." I had lost it in the early 60s. "It's probably in the Closet of Lost Things."

"What's that?" asked our neighbor's young wife.

"My 6th grade nun had comforted our sorrow over lost toys by saying that a closet of lost things awaited us in heaven." I had been too old to believe in miracles, but young enough to still expect miracles from the unknown.

"I have something like that in Chicago." The wife filled my glass with a clear Pinot Grigio. The woman was a doctor. Her husband worked for the NY Times. AP had smart friends. "Every Christmas my mother would put all the gifts under the tree. One each present had the contents written on the wrapping along with our names."

"Did your mother do that to keep you from opening the gifts?" I drank half the glass in one go. My kids were on the other side of the world. I missed them more than words could explain. This was going to be a sad Christmas.

"Let her tell the story." AP's wife scowled at my interruption with disapproval. In her eyes I would never change and she didn't want me to change too. We liked each other just the way we were.

"No, my mother wasn't that kind of woman. Christmas morning would come and she'd give out all the presents one by one. We had to read out our names and the contents. Halfway through the distribution she would give us a gift and then take it back saying, "You're not getting this one this year."

"No."

AP, his wife and I flabbergasted by this maternal Indian-giving. Her husband said nothing. They had been married over ten years.

"She'd take the gifts and put them in a closet with all the other gifts that she hadn't given us from previous Christmases."

"Did she say why?" AP's wife poured everyone some more wine. I had a thirst.

"No explanation. Just put them in the closet and locked the door."

"Were they empty?" AP was stunned by this admission.

"No, they felt like whatever she had written on the wrapping was inside the box."

"Wow." I was speechless until I sipped my wine. "And does your mother do that to your children?"

"The tradition lives on to this day."

"And your husbands don't say anything?" AP was looking at the NY Times editor. He was a big man in media.

"You don't mess with tradition." He must have tried to break the string of ungiven gifts without any success. Any man in his right mind would have tried to free the teddy bears and dolls. "Mother-in-laws are a world onto their own."

The three males at the table had at least one mother-in-law and we lifted our glasses to toast our wives' mothers. I excused myself from the gathering. It was morning in Thailand. My kids would be waking for school. Later in the day I would sent money for gifts. After all it was the season of giving and my toy boat had to be somewhere.

If not in this world, then the next.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

THE CLOSET OF LOST THINGS by Peter Nolan Smith

The Nuns of Our Lady of the Foothills taught their students math, English, religion, history, geography, and a scattering of other basic subjects. Their educational technique depended heavily on rote memorization and harsh discipline. The Palmer penmanship was beaten into our rebellious right hands. Laziness on small ts earned a wrap on the knuckles. The nuns were experts in teaching through pain.

A pinched arm opened our eyes to Math. The mysteries of adding, subtracting, multiplication, and division were boiled down to tables.

7 X 7 = 63.

How didn’t matter as long the charts were in our heads.

1 + 1 always equaled 2.

The flow of history was divided into dates important to the Holy Roman Church and America; 5 BC the Birth of Jesus Christ, 1215 the Magna Carta, 1492 Christopher Columbus discovered the New World, 1776 the American Declaration of Independence, 1914 the Start of the Great War, and the 2nd Vatican Council in 1961.

Questioning why the Birth of Jesus Christ was 5 years before Anno Domino or why Christmas was only four months later than the Immaculate Conception were grounds for a visit to the Principal. Sister Mary Eucharist corrected adolescence heresy with a yardstick. She expected the same iron hand from the nuns of her convent.

The mysteries of faith were solved by the memorization of the Baltimore Catechism; God made the world, God is the Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things, Man is a creature composed of body and soul, and made to the image and likeness of God and God made us to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven. God reigned over man with capital letters.

There was no detour from these tenets, until my 6th Grade teacher Sister Mary Osmond ignored the dictums of her superior. The ancient nun had taught in Egypt and entertained her pupils with tales of Africa.

“We lived by the Nile. After the harvest the children ran barefoot over the sharp stalks without slicing their feet.”

Closing my eyes I envisioned her students gliding over the fields of razors. Sister Mary Osmond opened our minds to worlds beyond Boston and we followed her new approach to learning like sheep.

Sister Mary Eucharist hated her.

“Fear. That’s how the Church rules the faithful. Fear.”

Sister Mary Osmond nodded to her superior with love and we reciprocated by scoring the highest test scores in the Boston Diocese. Her knowledge flooded our senses and she had an answer for everything.

Not all of it was true.

One afternoon Connie Botari cried in the back of the class.

Sister Mary Eucharist would have ignored the silent sobs.

Our teacher put down her chalk and approached Connie’s desk.

“What’s wrong?”

“I lost my headband.” Connie had looked very cute this morning with it on her head. She was pretty, although not a pretty as Kyla Rota. Neither girl knew that I lived and breathed on the same planet. I wore glasses and sat in the front of the class.

“Is that all?” Sister Mary Osmond tenderly touched the young girl’s head. “Don’t you worry about that?”

She paused for few seconds and I expected the venerable nun to tell the same thing that my mother told me when her six children lost a favorite toy.

“If you lose something than it wasn’t yours to begin with.”

My mother had learned that lesson from her mother. Nana had come over from Ireland in the Year of the Crow. She had been 14. Losing things was bad luck and she expected her family to avoid bad luck. Only St. Anthony had the power to help us find things.

“St. Anthony, St. Anthony, Please help me. Something is lost and can’t be found.”

I had rejected the belief in God at age 8 after the drowning of my best friend, but remained true to the powers of the saints. Most of them had pagan roots and St. Anthony of Padua had at one time lived in Morocco, which rendered his faith questionable in my eyes.

Sister Mary Osmond had a different take on loss and explained to Connie, “In heaven there is a closet with everything you ever lost waiting for you.”

“Really?” The cute brunette sniffed behind the swipe of her wrist.

“The closet has your name on it in gold letters. Nothing is truly gone. It remains in your memory, so you will enjoy seeing it again in heaven.” Sister Mary Osmond gave Connie a handkerchief with our teacher’s initials embroidered in a corner.

“You keep it. All possessions are transitory on this Earth. The only thing you need is a pure soul to get you in heaven. That purity is the key to the closet with all lost things.”

I was on the verge of pubescence. Impure thoughts outnumbered evil deeds. Heaven was for only true believers. I was going to Hell and I was certain that Lucifer had a closet loaded with the things that I never wanted in the first place.

I lowered my head into my hands. My toy boat and teddy bear would remain trapped in their heavenly closet, but then I remembered what Sister Mary Osmond had said about lost things. They remained forever in your head and I smiled, because forever will be a long time in Hell without a teddy bear.

As I got older the number of lost things grew with my travels around the world. My possessions were scattered across two houses in Thailand, a mountaintop cabin north of Santa Cruz, two farms in upstate New York, my apartment in Fort Greene, and my sister’s house outside of Boston.

Upon my return to the States from Thailand in 2008 I emptied my storage space in the East Village.

Not everything was there.

I was missing paintings, first editions, color slides as well as my cowboy boots and collection of nightclub memorabilia or at least that was what I thought until visiting a good friend out in Easthampton several years ago. in 2009 I

“I have several boxes of your in my cellar,” Billy O announced on a bright sunny morning.

“You do?”

“Yes, you left them here after you gave up your apartment.”

“That was in 2002.” The rental management had offered $10,000 for my vacating the tiny apartment on East 10th Street.

“You were living in Thailand.”

"Remember what you said?"

"No."

"You said that now I was just another guy from Boston who once lived in New York." Twenty-nine years in the city didn't make you a native to New Yorkers.

"Harsh words."

"But true, I thought I put everything in storage.”

“Wrong, boyo.” Billy O and I celebrated St Padraic’s Day every year. We were both Irish in the right way.

“Damn.”

“You want to go check on them?” Both of us were recovering from LEAVING LAS VEGAS hangovers.

“No, let’s go for a swim in the ocean first.”

"You boys be careful," his wife shouted from the pool. She came from the UK. Sara liked her ocean calm.

A distant hurricane was churning giant waves along the offshore sand bars. The water temperature was in the 70s. The salt air and danger of riptides had natural curative powers more important than a reunion with long-lost relics of the past.

“You boys be careful.” Billy’s wife shouted from the back porch. Two people had drowned the previous weekend.

“We’ll follow the buddy system.” The ocean was unforgiving to fools.

Amagansett Beach was ten minutes from Billy’s house via the back roads. His I-pod played John Lennon’s WORKING CLASS HERO, as we broke through the barricade of slow-moving SUVs and Porsche Reich sedans on Route 27. Billy is a local. He knows the back roads.

At the beach a parking space opened up next to the reserved handicapped spot. Billy grabbed it before an up-island vacationer could steer his Mecerdes GL 405 between the white lines.

“Nice, huh?” Billy had a healthy disdain for the summer people, while recognizing his high-end real estate job survived on their largesse. He smiled to the irate driver of the luxury SUV and shrugged like he was sorry. It was a good act.

We walked onto the beach with towels over our shoulders.

Two men in their 50s wearing sun glasses.

The strand was crowded with weekenders enjoying themselves in the sun. Their blankets were surrounded by coolers. The sea air was tainted by a miasma of melting sun lotion.

“Straight into the water.” Billy was a good swimmer. He did laps at Guerneys three times a week.

“The only thing to do.” A single surfer bobbed on the waves beyond the nasty shorebreak. Few people were venturing farther than their knees into the sucking froth. I ran into the sea. Billy followed close behind.

The water was cold and the current grabbed our bodies like the Atlantic wanted us to see Iceland.

We ducked under the close-outs and stroked through the sets of double waves to the calm of the outer break. I couldn’t touch the bottom.

The lifeguard looked in our direction.

I waved that we were fine.

He nodded to say ‘be careful’.

Billy and I rode a few waves. One crunched my body into the sandy bottom, then tumbled me in an eddy of foam. My head bobbed to the surface. Billy was a few feet from me. We shared a glance and let the turbulent surge carry us to safety.

“I think I’m ready to look at those boxes now.” I was out of breath and exhilarated by the swim.

We returned to Billy’s house, listening to John Lennon’s IMAGINE. I was never much of a Beatles fan, but these two songs revealed the genius of John, although Billy and I had to both ask, “Why Yoko?”

My boxes were downstairs. One was covered in mould. A small carpet had rotted in the damp. There was no damage to the art work; cartoon series by Gaetano Liberatore, an oil painting from the Steaming Musselman Philippe Waty, two of Ellen Von Unwerth’s first photo or a suede jacket in a plastic bag.

“It still fits after all those years.”

“A little tight around the waist.” Billy’s wife said it in such a way that the truth didn’t hurt. The English are a polite people.

The next box was loaded with slides and photos from my travels around the world. Bali, Tibet, Laos, Peru, France, Ireland, China, Thailand, plus love letters dating back to 1976, the first year I moved to New York.

I read a few aloud.

“Sweet.” Billy’s wife was very sentimental.

The third box was a set of Wedgwood china from Bowdoin College. It had belonged to my Grandfather, who had graduated from the Maine College in 1912. I had served countless dinners on the plates at my old apartment on East 10th Street. The large serving bowl still bore the stains of a sauce. I guessed that it was tomato sauce for pasta.

The last box contained books; first editions of FRANNY AND ZOOEY, CATCHER IN THE RYE, MOONRAKER, and about twenty other classics. They would have been worth a fortune if signed or still in good condition. Thankfully I hadn’t put them in the box with the carpet.

“Thanks, Billy.” He could have thrown these out years ago.

“Well, we still have to discuss the storage fees.”

“Oh, Billy.” Sara was British. They had a different sense of humor from the Irish. “You can’t charge him anything.”

“I was just kidding.”

I wasn't so sure. The Irish can be mean.

I told them about the closet of lost things.

“It was supposed to be in heaven, but there was one right here on Earth and it was in your basement.”

“Proving there is heaven on earth.” Billy O examined the copy of JUNKIE.

“And it’s where we find the things we love.”

Now if I could only find my lost teddy bear, my life would be complete.

I am a simple man.

AREA - NYC

Last month Area held a re-union party to celebrate the lives of the club-goers.

I skipped the event to babysit my landlord's two children.

Area wasn't really my scene.

I was living in Paris throughout its heyday.

The doorman Joe Breeze couldn't stand me, but the bouncers were part of my crew.

I entered without paying and drank for free.

I can't remember anything special happening there.

But most people can.

Both owners Eric Goode and Sean Hausman had a touch for fun.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Santa’s The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

And we all know who's been naughty without Santa shitting down the chimney.

At least I hope we do.

No More Santa


"Sorry, Virginia, there is no more Santa Claus." Parents will be sorely tested this December.

No money means no Santa Claus. Children crying, "Where are the reindeers?"

"They have been laid off due to the dire economic conditions."

"Same as the Detroit autoworkers?"

"Good boy." The parents will be glad that the home schooling is improving their children's intellect since the public schools have been shut due to no funds.

Sounds ominous?

Maybe it is.

But my sons and daughters still want a Christmas.

Who am I to tell them that there is no Santa, when they know Santa is me.

The Longest Night

Stonehenge has endured time. This morning the sun rose in the east. Light passed through the massive portals to cast a path marking the winter solstice. Beer and mead were ready for drinking after the season of fermentation. Both were served as food through the winter. I have always called the Winter Solstice the holy day Beermas.

I celebrated it often during the cold months.

Modern historians paint a bleak portrait of the Bronze Age.

They called the time after Meán Geimhridh as the famine months.

Few of them lived amongst the poor of Now and even fewer understand the nutritional value of beer.

I woke this morning to the sun rising over Brooklyn.

The light was gold on the tall buildings to the west.

They told me the time and honored the day.

I drank beer with friends.

I drank Irish whiskey.

It was a good beermas.

Now begins the longest night.

My pillow waits.

Brionglóid milis or sweet dreams.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Richard's Ride

Back in the 90s I ran into Richard Hell in the West Village. He was getting into a purple Barracuda. Cynthia Sley from the Bush Tetras was wowed by the car.

Me too.

It was very cool.

Helen Levitt PHOTOS FROM THEN

Last summer a friend from the Rockaways was selling a camera collection.

Leicas and Hasselblads.

They had cost a fortune in the 70s.

I offered him $500.

He said no and sold them for $600.

I should have upped my bid, because nothing is better than real film.

Just take a look at these photos by Helen Levitt.

Helen Levitt was a high school dropout from Bensonhurst, but in the 30s discovered the enigmatic chalk drawings of Harlem children and shot them with a Leica.

Jean-Michel Basquiat must have seen her work.

Oh, for those years of then.

Duck Dynasty Demise

The year is 2013.

Criminalizing homosexuality is a losing battle for the God-fearing GOP, yet gays are a target of hatred for many Americans. Faggot remains a popular insult among the young and mainstream media regularly portrayed counter-culture sexuality as an aberration.

Straight men are scared of queers.

This week GQ published an interview with the familial founder of the A&E hit DUCK DYNASTY in which Phil Robertson lumped homosexuality with bestiality as deviant behavior.

"It seems like, to me, a vagina -- as a man -- would be more desirable than a man's anus. That's just me. I'm just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical. Sinfulness starts with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men, but homosexuals aren't alone. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers -- they won't inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right."

Phil has yet to come around the reality of godlessness; i.e. there is no God and after an onslaught of negative response the cracker patriarch wrote, "I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity."

He was speaking his mind.

I respect his right to free speech. I free-speechify without any restrictions, however I have also seen pornography in all its forms and bestiality is definitely more perverse than homosexuality in my eyes.

True to their roots the Robertson clan backed the old man and threatened to leave A&E en masse along with its 9 million-plus audience.

I have never seen the show.

I threw my TV off the roof five years ago.

Not many Americans are willing to give up the faith in the Boob Tube and the Robertson clan responded to A&E's decision with the following statement. "We want you to know that first and foremost we are a family rooted in our faith in God and our belief that the Bible is His word."

Needless to say as an atheist I say fuck their hateful God unlike Tea Party MILF Sara Palin and Governor Jindal of Lousiana who said, "The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with."

Guess I don't know what I'm missing, but in a family as big as DUCK DYNASTY the odds are in favor of one member rejecting the straight life.

I couldn't tell who from the group photo.

They all look straight to me.

Maybe someone else will have better luck.

Why Then Matters

Several months ago I was at a party in Williamsburg. My tales of hitchhiking, bareback sex, and cocaine nightclubs mesmerized a clutch of true believers and a young girl holding a PBR asked, "When did then end?"

"Then?"

"Then." The question was shared her friends' inquisitive eyes. "There is nothing like then now."

"Nothing like it? You're young. You must have fun."

"Not like you did." Her words dripped of worship.

Not for me, but for time glazed by myth.

"Then ended in 1994 with the internet. It could come back, but you would have to give up your cellphones, cash cards, big screen TVs, and start living in collectives instead of paying $2400 a month to live alone." I was asking for a sacrifice which I wasn't willing to make.

They looked at each other and murmured, "Then."

"Yes, then." I joined them, because at their age I had a 'then' too.