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On failing

On failing

tomorrow it starts again
the leaking roofs, faucets, tubs
the tenants happy or not
the contractors willing or not
the plans plausible or not
tomorrow it begins again
because these three days
I failed

It’s Just Huey Lewis Sonnet

It’s Just Huey Lewis Sonnet

Remember this? There I was. You were too.
The music we blasted as best we dared.
Just only kids like ten or so, we two.
The Power of Love. Sing along and tear

Around. I can see the bedroom unkempt.
I take up plastic egg-butted punch cone
with sketched opponent, fists up raised to tempt
us little boys our battle skills to hone.

Enthused, I banged the giant drumstick down
upon a narrow racecar bed. Who frowned?

Your older cousin, that’s who! She voiced this:
She said aloud: It’s just Huey Lewis.

What did she mean?

Skating to That’s What Friends are for Sonnet

Skating to That’s What Friends are for Sonnet

I never thanked you. Nineteen eighty four?
In hardwood roller rink with music round.
The littlest skaters; rented blue rollers.
Dark oval path around and round we’re bound.

They played That’s What Friends are For, my fav’rite
A couple’s skate. I cannot skate alone.
Your hair was blond and short. We weren’t destined
to long at men; their pushy, greedy moans.

You said we could together skate this song.
Surprised, I took your hand; we went along.

I remember something else.
A party.
I don’t think either of us was there.
Somebody’s birthday in the back room.
Because you could rent it.
A windowless white-walled room in a windowless high-walled dome.
You could rent it and eat pizza and drink soda there!
Right there! Next to the rink!
Basically in the rink!
But off to a side, close enough to hear the music and the click-clack and the video games beeping.
But private and special, with pizza and soda, which never die, which never fail, which never lose.
Maybe I attended a birthday party there once.
But whose?
Maybe I just peered in and wondered in quiet awe.

Anyway, thanks for skating with me to “That’s What Friends are for”.
I couldn’t have done it without you and I’m glad I did it.

Keep smiling!
Keep shining!

A Note on the Supreme Court

A Note on the Supreme Court

A Note on the Supreme Court

It would be easier and less scary to keep the peace without swinging guns around all the time if there were less guns on the street.

There is no reason to interpret “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” to mean that cities and states cannot have and enforce gun laws. The amendment frames itself as being there to protect states’ rights to defend themselves with well-regulated militias, which at that time were comprised of John Q Publics and their own personal weapons, not as being there to protect the right of an individual to carry any firearm anywhere he or she wants at anytime he or she wants. Not only would such a law have overthrown local laws existing and being enforced at the time the amendment was written, and which were not challenged by the amendment until recent times, it soon becomes patently absurd: Can anyone walk down the street with weaponry capable of killing a dozen people before other weapons have a chance to respond and halt the spree while also risking further collateral damage? Oh, wait that is already happening. It has already become absurd. I remember 20 years ago feeling so shocked and nauseous when I heard about a school shooting. We can still feel nauseous, but who is shocked anymore? The situation, however, could be made worse. The Supreme Court could prevent cities and states from controlling guns within their own borders, erasing the distinction between areas with stronger gun control laws (and statistically less gun related deaths) and weaker gun control laws (and more gun related deaths).

As US citizens, we trust the government to respect our inalienable human rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is accomplished not by letting anyone do whatever, but by balancing individual rights with collective responsibilities. A government that interprets ambiguously-interpretable statutes in such a manner that invites violence, lawlessness, and chaos undermines its most fundamental mission: to create and maintain a public space where people can gather together safely and freely to discuss ideas and together choose better ways to do business, to worship, to govern themselves, and etc. A government that cedes the right to violence to private citizens cannot protect either itself or its citizens. What happens when everyone is allowed to walk around everywhere with modern weapons? The occasional bloodbath. In the name of what? Poor logic and crazed dogmas?

We need some police, but the supreme court is more trouble than it is worth. How about this?: You have to wait until you are 60 to be appointed; you can serve up to 20 years; those currently on the bench are allowed up to 20 more years; there also needs to be some way of lessening the court’s power — nine people get to decide the fate of a country only if those nine people are philosopher kings and queens — but I’ve never seen a philosopher king or queen, only more or less miserable failures. Anyway, bestowing so much power on people chosen by a president distorts presidential elections, especially as many people will turn a blind eye to everything a president does so long as he appoints judges willing to gratify their wishes. Maybe allow for congress to overturn a ruling; and then the president can either sign and overturn the ruling or veto the overturning of the ruling; in which case it of course it goes back and needs a 2/3 vote. That way at least really egregious errors could be undone before things get too out of control. Since active politicians are beholden to the people and their actual current suffering.

Of course, to make politicians more beholden we also need to reform campaign finance laws; another area where dogmatism — the conflation of the right to voice your political opinions with the right to saturate everyone’s mental space with those opinions,provided you have enough money (aka: POWER) to do so — has harmed our republic’s ability to function healthily.

NYC Journal #19 & 20 – #BLM

NYC Journal #19 & 20 – #BLM

[NYC Journal]

NYC Journal #19 — Saturday, June 6/2020 — Black Lives Matter March

Accuracy: Some notes made on the subway ride there. Some were taken on Saturday while waiting for the rally to start. Some taken while the leader was talking. Some jotted down on the subway ride home. The memory of the observer is iffy. So where he fills in the notes, and where he has no notes to refer to, the accuracy becomes iffy. In general, accept this as an attempt at the gist. The gist requires many details, for it was a scene full of details. Would you believe that even if none of the details are quite right, the gist can still be captured? If not, please accept this as pure fiction.

Perspective: Older now, repenting the blitheness of youth, but not quite wise enough for the moments when we’re tested; always tested, always faltering, missing the essential rhythm, muddling along with time’s arrow. Need to start again.

Walking down the sunny streets towards the subway stop.

A clump of bikes, white 20-to-30-somethings pedaling. The first with a basket on front a big brown cardboard sign in it: “Organize, Mobilize, .. “ (I forget the rest). On the final bike a tall thin girl covered in tattoos with legs much too long for her bike; makes for a gawky ride.

A white couple somewhere-30s, looking fit and trim in their preppy-casual shorts & Ts. She stops to adjust her top-edge grip on an unwiedily large cardboard “Black Lives Matter” sign.

By the street-serving bar (“Open for Take-Out!”), a tall blond girl 30ish, shoulders a little high, a bit knock-kneed, pretty face, sloping nose, long hair pulled back. Sipping some clear liquid from a clear plastic straw inside a clear plastic cup. Standing by a little tree by the street, in the shade, angled towards a medium-height, medium-build 30ish black guy sitting on (a bucket? I didn’t see, but his seated posture was erect, not sucked down into a chair) with his back to the street. “So you guys from around here?” “New York, born and raised!” Another black guy, shorter, slighter, with a pointy beard and short hair, milling a little this way and that. All three in shorts and T-shirts; the guys’ shorts long and baggy, the girl’s black, short, billowy, riding high on her belly.

Yesterday [Friday] walking home from work same area:

A superintendent formerly employed by that place you work M-F 8AM-5PM or a little beyond. Sitting on the stoop, half-way through a blunt. Thing’s going great, got a new job, still smok’in my weed, still here. Family’s good — we’re work’in through it.” “Yeah? … Strange times.” “It’s alright. You gotta [and he shimmies up into a very tall seated position] keep your head up through all the bullshit.” “Yeah.” Flecks of gray in his black beard. The dreads still there, tied back? Cannot recall. His camouflage handkerchief around his neck; your blue surgical mask in your hand. Another sunny day.

Columbus Park – in front of Kings County Supreme Court, the Plaza bookended by Borough Hall (south) and the statue of abolitionist preacher Henry Ward Beecher

I picked this march because it assembled on the courthouse steps in Columbus Park (it’s called a park, but it is a big cement plaza with benches), and I happen to have the key to a bathroom not far from Cadman Plaza. No public bathrooms when the city’s shut down for a pandemic. And so at 2pm I quit all liquids and at 3:35pm I used my security card to beep open the tall glass entrance door to a tall brick office building near the gathering crowd. Upstairs to my office’s floor for one final bathroom break. Back down in the main lobby, with its glittering marble floor and infinitely tall ceiling, I head towards the door I’d entered with. But then I see signs reminding me that that door is now only for entering, and the other one only for exiting. I look up at the guard behind the high desk, but swiveled towards the open-end of square guard station. He’s facing me. He’s in his late 20s, tall, broad-shouldered, trim, in the uniform dark slacks and white dress shirt. His legs a little long for how low the chair sits, and so with his knees spread to allow his feet the ground. I make an exaggerated, swinging fingersnap, as if to say, “Forgot!” and begin to turn around to take the longer walk towards the further doors. He throws his long arms in the air, hands heaven-beseeching, “I mean … ! You’re … ! There’s like … !” His head is oval, hair buzzed pretty short, jaw square, skin-tone 70% chocolate. He’s grinning and shaking his head. I give a little forward shrug and say, “I’m gonna do it! I’m gonna do it!” And then I head towards the back door. From behind me now: “I mean … !” Because, you see, the point of those signs is for when there’s a lot of foot traffic, but on Sunday afternoon the building’s completely empty.

[Update June 2, 2020: Management must’ve clarified the dogmatic rigidity they expect in the enforcement of this one-way policy. Now when I absent-mindedly, at almost 8pm, blurry-brained from processing a thousand heartless forms, wander towards the front and most convenient door, a well-suited young man points sharply and not without wrinkles of annoyance ruffling his brow, and, his voice likewise a little clenched with impatience, declares, “The exit is that way.”]

Less than ten cops stood under the scaffolding (Brooklyn is always under scaffolding — for one thing, all the brick buildings need to be pointed every year; and then there’s always other repairs) by the giant office buildings on Court Street, across from Columbus Park.

I crossed the street and walked to benches across from the fenced-in garden housing the statue of Columbus. It had just rained. The benches were all wet. I sat on the railing. Black metal tubes, about 3 inches in diameter, the top bar about two feet above the bottom one, itself a foot or so above the cement (on one side; on the other side is some lumpy dirt with sparse grass). Five feet from me sat two women in their petite, fit but skin-tightening 40s speaking a fast Spanish (not sure; didn’t listen closely enough). They were on the top bar, with their feet on a bench. “Stronger Together” with interlinked hands of various hues on giant white posterboard, propped up dry on the tops of a pair of white sneakers, with two small hands clasping the sign’s top edge.

At 3:45pm there’s a pretty large group gathered around the plaza in front of the courthouse steps. A little group of maybe ten black people are on the top of the steps in front of the recessed courthouse doors. Hundreds of people had gathered by then. By the time we started walking (I guess that was maybe ten minutes after 4pm), we must have been several hundred, with the crowd spilling all the way back to Borough Hall. The demographics were not closely studied by this observer, but I would say: people of all races, with the largest portion being caucasion; people of all ages, with the vast majority in their 20s and 30s. Many many signs. Everyone wearing a mask. It had been billed as a nonviolent and a social-distancing march and rally. And a little before 4pm, the man with the bullhorn — 40ish, African American, with a beard and short hair, medium build with a very slight paunch, in blue jeans (or dark slacks?) and a black T-shirt, said that if anyone didn’t have a mask, to please come up to the front and get one.

A 30ish Asian girl, 5’6”, slender, fit and lithely curvy (or do I, a month later, now add that detail for my own sake?) in black tanktop and black yoga pants held up a long narrow cardboard sign that said “Mask”. It must’ve said more than “Masks”. There must’ve been something about them being free. I don’t remember. On the bottom was the #BLM hashtag, or maybe “Black Lives Matter” was written out. There was a blue medical mask fixed to the center of the sign. She held it over her head and moved it from side to side. I don’t remember noticing anyone ask for a mask. Most everyone had brought their own.

Up on the top of the steps where stood several black people who I guess knew the organizer and/or had helped organize the march, there was also a little skinny white girl (maybe 4 years old?) in a straight, frill-less dress emblazoned with a green and red floral print over red biker shorts. The girl, pale with long dark brown hair, was pacing this way and that, swinging her arms, and then she took to leaning on the banister, giving a little raised open-palm, side-to-side princess wave.

Many many people, standing around, signs at the ready or already raised. T-Shirts, shorts, some jeans. One tall thin white man with a handsome face and long luxurious brown hair wore a beautiful green dress and white low-heels.

Asian girl 30ish. Black T-shirt, black cut-offs, white Nikes with red, yellow and blue lettering and swoop; long hair in two braids. Can’t read her sign.

“Black Lives Matter” sign. White guy, 30ish, arms reddened from sun, 6’, stubble, rangy in gray athletic T shirt, maroon shorts. Curly brown hair. Shades. Green cloth mask down.

Black woman, 40ish. Hoop earrings. Black tights and T-shirt. Hair buzzed to one-inch. Hand around a Big Gulp (well, that type of large plastic drinking cup with heavy-duty lid and straw)

A dark and a light skinned black girl, both in their twenties, leaning against the railing around the little garden surrounding a statue of Columbus on a raised pedestal. Both a little over average height, pretty. A blue T-shirt; blue handkerchief over her hair. White mask. Digging into her big leather purse-like bookbag. The other’s shirt said 44 > 45. I had to google it. It is referring to the superiority of our 44th president over the 45th. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that. I forgot what number president we were up to, I guess. Curly hair drawn on top into a little bun.

Tall thin pale girl with her very red hair in two braids. In blue jeans and a long blue T-shirt. Her friend also pale, but with dark hair flowing, and not so thin — her breasts and belly bumping her tight green long-sleeved T-shirt a little out. Black camo tights. Both 30ish, wearing knee and elbow pads, with standard bike-helmets in their hands. Both fanning themselves with rainbow-themed fans.

African American lady 40ish “Black Teacher’s Lives Matter” T-shirt. Light brown, (red-tipped?) curls exploding out from under green cap. Her friend also African American and 40ish, wearing a gray T-shirt that read simply, “Abolitionist”. Her mask heavy-duty like from a war movie, but mostly clear and with the two side mushrooms a very bright pink. Pin-striped pedal-pushers. White sneakers.

Lots of sneakers at this rally.

Black guy and white girl, 30ish, him in black T-shirt with “Oakland” in white and “Riots” in multiple colors. Hair full and buzzed to like 2 inches thick. Girl pale with a pregnant belly in white & navy striped soft-flowing shirt that billowed down to her thighs. Pants a thin loose black fabric, very wide cut, kind of like chiffon culottes.

A very short 30ish white girl, reddish hair (or do I misremember?). Cardboard sign says, “Standing for my Students” with “#BLM” on the bottom. A well-drawn raised fist in the upper right hand corner. Red, white, gray, geometric print sleeveless shirt. Short khaki shorts. A pink hat in her belt. (really?? That’s what my notes say, anyway.)

“Silence is Compliance” on a cardboard sign on one side of a big bike basket filled with water bottles. Bike led by the handlebars by a 30ish white guy. Free water and snacks come around, the latter brought by 20ish year olds, smooth-skinned and shining youth.

The girl offering water. “Indians for Black Lives.” In a black polyurethane mask. Petite/Sturdy/Shapely/Vigorous. Long straight black hair. Cute.

From Columbus Plaza past the Cadman Plaza Post Office, Taking a right on Tillery and a left onto the Brooklyn Bridge, & Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge

We walk down the park, past the statue of the 1891 Henry Ward Beecher, abolitionist preacher and brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe. On one side of his pedestal a black girl (13ish?) offers laurels at his feet; on the other side two younger white children (a girl and a boy; 7 and 10?) do the same. Ahead of me two 20-something men, 5’7”-ish, sporty, rectangle-faced, tanned, with dark hair buzzed on the sides and spiked on top. Is that right? Or just longer on top? Maybe one with spiked hair? I thought they (or their parents) were from south of the US, with blood indigenous to the Americas. The one thumbed towards the statue, making a “what is this??” grimace. I had often passed this statue and had long ago read the plaque and also looked Henry Ward Beecher up on Wikipedia, and then also sometimes heard tour guides talk about him, and was therefore in a very good position to tell them all about the statue. But I thought it best to let it go. They can google it if they want to.

When we crossed Tillery Street onto Brooklyn Bridge Boulevard, and also as we started up the Brooklyn Bridge, there were cops on both sides. Mostly with helmets. Some in just a white captain shirt, without even a hat. As we passed the police, the chants changed from “No Peace! No Justice” and “Black Lives Matter” and “Say her name! Breonna Taylor! Say his name! George Floyd!” (different chants going on in different places in the long wide moving line (one person just starts one, and then the people around join in) to “Our Streets! Our Streets!” As we began ascending the bridge, I watched the police lined up in the street on either side of us, looking hot in their big round visored helmets, putting on stoic faces, men and women, 30s, 40s, different races.

People in cars would beep-beep-beeeeep-beep and the flowing crowd would cheer back.

People standing off to one side, filming. As we crossed onto the Manhattan side, I noticed a tall, strong-shouldered black woman in a multi-colored dress, leaning on a post, watching. Her face was long, oval, attractive, with big eyes, full lips. I tried to read her expression. She wasn’t smiling, but there was a smile in her contemplation, though a kind of pained one. Or so I guessed at the time. I wish I had a better memory.

Foley Square; what does the building across the way say? Something about Justice etched in stone in giant letters above its triumphant Roman portico. Organizer stands on the pitch black Triumph of the Human Spirit statue (abstract two-D four-foot-thick cut out of a vaguely human form with one arm raised above its square head and another curling around its tapering waist — it kind of reminds me of the shape of Texas, or a tea kettle)

I’m Phil Mckay. Instagram and FB. First of all, I want to thank you for being here. Give yourself a hand. I’m glad — what I’m glad to see is black people, white people, etc. Black people and white people need each other. Black people need white people and white people need black people. If you’re a white person and don’t yet have a black friend, I’ll be your first one (big laugh). An injustice for one of us is an injustice for all of us (lots of cheering). We all need justice. A moment of silence for everyone, black men, white men, anyone who’s lost their lives to police violence. White people, give yourself a hand.

Shame on you, police! End police brutality.

Warrant, swat team raid, Breonna Tayler’s boyfriend fires one shot (he has a license for the gun), police respond with nineteen shots. Breonna Tayler dies. The guy they were after had already been nabbed.

What was he saying about how accountability keeps him in line? I missed that part, but it got more an uneasy foot-shifting than the standard cheer.

“I got no problem with the police. I got no problem with the police.” The guy next to me, light skinned black guy. What??! “What I don’t like is dick heads.” Yeah!

When someone from the crowd yelled the system is broken, that same guy, with agitated, raised voice said that, The system is not broken! This is exactly how the system’s supposed to work! His white girlfriend says shh, shh, shh, the system’s broken because (but I don’t hear the rest).

A text about a broken elevator. Me yelling in crappy Spanish with the rumbling crowd in the background.

Asian cop round hips with belly widening into them. 40s. Not tall. A little plumpening from shoulders to thighs. Smile wide and tall, gesticulating, ignoring my satisfaction at the general direction, indulging in a long drawn out explanation with hand signs and every left and right, smiling, pointing, peering over her hands to the paths I must travel. So happy to be asked for directions!

Walking down China Town all boarded up.
Police in side streets, a couple rows deep. Standing behind riot shields. People stand a while in front to film them with their phones. People yell, “Does this look like a riot to you?!”

Some Signs
Black Lives Matter
No Justice. No Peace.
White Silence = White Violence
End White Supremacy.
My Life Matters.
Defund the Police
If you think it is hard breathing in a mask, trying being black in America.

A Good Goal
To make all police/citizen relationships like mine were when I was a stupid kid: Nice, safe, cozy, minimal.

Change training and emphasis: 0 collateral damage.

But how do you police a country overflowing with guns?
[which led to:]
A Note on the Supreme Court
We moved A Note on the Supreme Court to it’s own page.

NYC Journal #20 — June 2020 — Other #BLM Notes

Monday, June 1, 2020

Protesters marched down Dean an hour or two ago.
I couldn’t make out their chants.
Well, “Don’t Shoot!” (they raised their hands as they chanted) I got, but not the others.
The crowd looked mixed.
At like 7pm my phone went all Amber Alert and then told me in Spanish of the 11PM curfew
I don’t know why, but it texted and spoke in Spanish to me.
An hour or so later I got the same message in English, but only texted, not spoken.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020 – Morning

Co-worker and I in the break room.
My sister called me; she was in the demonstration.
Which one?
They started on Flatbush and went all the way downtown. She said yesterday when they started rioting, she was like: oh let me get out of here. I said, well at least you had the sense to leave. It’s a shame, all that …
But it can’t take away from the people who are out to help.
But it is! It’s all people are talking about!
Yeah, well, there’s always a few people; it’s too bad; most everyone’s just trying to make a positive change.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020 – Nighttime

When I was a kid I played church basketball from second grade through like seventh.
I was close to all the kids on the team; they were in my grade so we did all church stuff together and we did a lot of church stuff; we were not, it’s worth noting, even a little bit religious — we were just hanging out and goofing off.
Before every game we would all put our hands together and yell, “let’s go team!” and throw our hands up in the air.
Except not me. I couldn’t stand doing that. It became a kind of game where the other kids would run and catch me and try to carry/force me into the circle.
I’ve been feeling that memory lately, as the protests go on.

My boss just texted me: there is going to be a rally at Cadman Plaza tomorrow and so she’s going to work from home and maybe I should too.

People are marching by now, chanting. I can’t make it out.
Now they are going past my window.
They have their hands up, marching down Dean, chanting, “Whose street?” “Our street!”
Rows of police in helmets are walking behind them.
It’s two hours past the 8PM curfew.
Most of the arms I glimpsed were pale; at any rate, a mixed group.
A slug of what — a hundred people?
On their way to a larger gathering, I imagine.
The rain’s stopped.
I can see the reflection of police lights red and blue on the red brick of the medical center.

Thursday, June 4 – Early Afternoon

Bodega nearish to museum – Fat white guy 30s with white T-shirt tenting out from big belly and his wide-legs lean-back stance. Blue shorts and striped shirt. Mask over his beard.
The guys speaking Arabic around me as I purchase coconut water.

At museum steps see lots of people — mostly white — walking with signs about Black Lives Matter.
Wondered why I wasn’t joining in.
People come from miles to do this important thing. I, after my boss’s text last night, avoided Cadman Plaza, site of today’s scheduled rally, towards which I suppose all these young energetic, forward-thinking people are now streaming.

Saturday, June 6/2020, see:
NYC Journal #19 — Saturday, June 6/2020 — BLM March

Sunday, June 14 – Early Afternoon

At Museum steps. More and more people showed up. Mostly white & 30ish. They took of their shirts and replaced them with white T-shirts with black lettering: Black Trans Lives Matter. The T-shirts were being handed out by someone leaning against the wall by the YO statue.
Two light skinned black girls in their 20s wearing the shirts came and chatted and giggled merrily a few steps above me.
A pretty woman like mid-30s walking her tiny dog climbed over the low sloping wall and sat down a bit away from me. I thought she eyed me with open admiration when I looked in her direction. Maybe it was my vanity that eyed me with admiration.
Stood up and slipped my flip-flops back on and headed back home.
A light-skinned black guy wearing a white wedding dress and with long hair and eyes made up with giant lashes talked with some other guys.
A thin dark-skinned black guy in a black one-piece dress danced with swinging butt a little bit, just as a laugh while greeting someone. The dress was a piece of cotton with straps over the shoulders flowing into an open V-neck; it was cinched around the waist and then opened up into a simple, pleatless dress. Another guy dressed similarly also danced around with them for that brief smiling moment. Who were they greeting? Was it the guy who was all queened out? The two in the simpler, more athletic dresses were in their 20s or early 30s; the one in the fancy dress was perhaps a little older.
The plaza around the museum soon filled.

As I walked down Washington Avenue I saw many slugs of young people, some with Black Trans Lives Matter signs, one with two big prongs coming out of her back with that feathery carnival look. Between them was a cardboard sign with the BLMT message. That lady was black. Most everyone was white, but there were also quite a few black people and some other racial profiles. Lots and lots of people. Lots of hot girls. I also saw a big slug of young people coming up Classon as I got to my apartment.

About the Plaza around the museum:
The cement was bright in the sunlight, so were all the white T-shirts and youth radiated off of the participants. 30 was not the mean age. There were too many in their 20s for that. People were congregating, milling, in groups of many. Everyone had masks on, but I did not as I threaded my way close-lipped through the swelling crowd in front of the museum steps and the wall at the back end (along the sidewalk, facing the street) of the terraced grass steps. I sunbathed on the farther of the two banks of these walled-in “steps”. I started sunbathing at 11:53AM and more and more people streamed in during the twenty minutes I was there. By the time I left the place was full and people continued streaming.

Race in America: None of us here now chose it, but here it is still. It has gotten much better since the days of slavery, but it is still not where it should be. We have to balance forgetting about race and letting everyone just be people together and remembering that this mythology called “race” has caused and continues to cause real problems for real people. None of the things people say and do are True, and human truths only point adequately well towards Truth to the degree they are living in and through and for the Love that Knows we’re all in this together. The Light is coming to claim us all. The rest is often beautiful and fun and neat; we should work together to create and sustain systems and places where we can each understand and ground ourselves within the Love in a way that is meaningful to each of us, and where we are safe and mutually supportive and can together push towards the more aware, clearer, more honest, more competent, kinder, more effectively helpful — towards more shared joy, more beauty, more fun, more neatness.

Author: Sam Spade, Private Investigator, hard-boiled and with a clipped 1940s cadence.
Editor: Jonathon surle Spotte
Oversight Committee: Bartleby “I don’t even exist!” Willard & Amble “I’ve spent my life out at sea, subject and responsible only to the sloshing waves and splashing spray!” Whistletown
Copyright: Andy “oh man, idunno, i, i, i, well, uh” Watson

[NYC Journal]

NYC Journal #18 – Test Your Blood

NYC Journal #18 – Test Your Blood

[NYC Journal]

NYC Journal #18 — Test Your Blood — Friday, May 29, 2020

Earlier in the week I signed up via a link that my brother texted me. They had every day broken into five minute intervals and there were lots of available slots. I thought Friday after work-from-home would be good. 5:55PM meant I had 55 minutes to travel 25 minutes.

I left home like 5:10PM and walked quickly to the train. I kept my mask in my hand. Is that why the young woman who was starting to cross over to my corner backpedaled and then waited to cross the giant street from her corner and not mine, which was contaminated by a man without a mask? I thought, should I put my mask on? But the light was changing soon and so by then the most polite thing seemed to be waiting for the big street while ignoring her and her chosen corner.

Of course I hate this train for being the loudest and with the most glaring yellow light and so I never take it anymore, but I used to take it to work all the time and so I knew the way and my feet followed along the concrete and past the concrete walls while my brain floated out to sea. Sat down, waited three minutes. Train screeched up. Going to board it, but then the metallic sing-songy voice reminds me that this is the train to Manhattan! I’m supposed to go deeper into Brooklyn, which means I should be waiting on the other side.

My lungs, which never quite recovered, notwithstanding my herbal teas, breath exercises, sunbathing and other incantations, felt a little soggy as I dashed up five flights of stairs. The main problem I’ve not shaken is the chest mucous, the sogginess. The paper lungs feeling has largely gone away, at least it’s been largely gone away a while now. There were a lot of steps; the equivalent of running up a steeply slanted football field. Unless I exaggerate.

At the top of the concrete-incased-in-metal steps is a nice clean covered pedestrian walkway. I crossed it, but then on the other side I saw a sign beckoning towards only a train line which I did not need, that in fact had nothing to do with my planned route. So then I ran down the steps. At the bottom was an elevator that said it could take me to the train I needed, though once inside the dark (one weak yellow light — so not pitch black, just kind of dusky) glass-sees-concrete-walls elevator, I did not quite understand which button to choose. I picked the most likely candidate.

Up I went and exited next to the top of the stairs I’d just run down. And so then I realized that the elevator wanted me to do the same thing the stairs had wanted me to do; and so again I crossed the pedestrian bridge, this time looking desperately around for some kind of a clue about the whereabouts of the train I desired, longed for even.

Ah! There off to the side right after you cross the bridge! An elevator that will take you down to the side opposite the one my autopilot had misguided me to. The elevator, however, had a pink plastic ribbon taped across the steel frame, and on the steel doors a sign explained that it was out of service and that the way to get to that side of the train was to go back outside and come in the other entrance. I knew about that way; I’d been avoiding it because I’d already used my ticket and you can’t use them twice in quick succession.

I explained my situation to the lady (African American, round-faced, hair bundled into square loaves on either side of the top of her head) within the station kiosk. I couldn’t understand what she said through the speakerbox. I said, “what?” a couple times; she said loudly, “go ahead!” and pointed again towards the gate that she’d buzzed open. I walked through, still confused and still with damp lungs; I turned and said thank you through the slowly-shutting door.

I jogged down the steps, but oh! people are jogging up the steps! And the trains at this station are only running every 12 minutes (coronavirus time, I guess)! Actually, even worse: the digital sign (hanging from the ceiling on the platform) says 14 minutes until the next subway. On the opposite side (formerly the side I was on) sat s a very skinny 50ish black man in black jeans and a black hoodless sweatshirt and a tight buzz cut. White high tops. What was he saying? He was going on and on but I couldn’t make out about what.

I’m going to switch to the present tense now.
I just would rather.

Between us stand the many straight metal support columns; between each row of those rivet-rich beams the ceiling arches a little, which gives one a little sense of luxury, even if the paint is mostly peeling and gloppy where it isn’t and of course the cement platform is as always stained so gross.

Eventually the train arrives and says to get on board and just thank the Lord.

I’m still going to make it! Not five minutes before my appointment, which my emailed reservation requested, but close enough:at exactly 5:55PM I hop up the steps to the NYPD Community Center. It is a repurposed bank of the old-fashioned sort. I mean the kind that’s a big marble box with columns and other classic touches, and that on the inside consists mostly of one giant rectangular room with a 100 foot ceiling ending in some fancy mosaic or tile work or at least some beautiful old fading stencilled designs of geometric shapes or laurel-knots. This one, as I was to find out, had a nice, new basketball court as the main room.

Now I’m going to switch to the second person.
I’m just gonna do it!

In front of you a tan-skinned medium-build fit guy in tidy shorts and T-shirt, behind you a tall giant-bellied pale-skinned guy in tidy shorts and button-up short-sleeved shirt (like a Hawaiin, but with milder designs) with his white hair combed up and back and long sideburns.

The 5’ light skinned African American lady stops you at the large rectangular entrance to shoot your forehead with an electric ray gun. “What’s this?” you say. “Temperature! Taking your temperature,” she answers quick and cheery. “Oops”, she exclaims after an apparently unsatisfactory beep from the machine, “got to try again.” You square up to try and be a better target. A better beep ensues. “That’s it! 97!, so you’re good to go.”

And you move into the long rectangular foyer where a young, chubby-cheeked tan-skinned man (in blue scrubs and a white lab coat; like everyone working there) with his dark hair combed forward over his bangs speaks to you in a soft, shy voice. “What?” you bend towards this man, who is perhaps 5’4” and seems a tad delicate and in need of quiet reassurance. He repeats towards your bending ears, “if you have an appointment, I need the black and white barcode.” Fortunately, you’ve already brought the email with that code to the fore of your intelligent telephone, “It’s here” you say, turning the phone’s screen towards him. He scans it with his handheld scanner, which beeps approvingly and he says OK you can go on. What flooring is there in the foyer of this old repurposed bank? Square Marble tiles??

Straddling the end of the foyer and beginning of the gymnasium is a very short black (less than 5’) with long hair combed down but buoyantly lifting back up and out en masse. She and the first lady are older than you; the man in the middle is younger than all of you. This final member of the gauntlet also seems happy to see you — so far you’ve been enjoying that great experience of cordiality and communal ease that fancy restaurants in vain attempt to create (you cannot buy true fellow-feeling). She chipperly announces, “Here’s info on how to get your results!” while handing you several stapled-together print-out pages, all the while leaning gamely forward, eyes scanning lively, looking for your spot in the gym. “OK, thanks” you reply. A quick nod, still intent on the tables and her duty, “OK, station 6!” and she points towards the table labeled “6”.

On the left side of the gym are like five or six two-table rows, each of which is about four feet long and houses a single health worker across from whom sits a single test-seeker. Your guy is pale, maybe 50 years old, with dark eyes and a bald head. He leans back kind of bored, arms folded over chest, in his metal folding chair. “ID?” he asks as you take your place opposite him (everybody is in a mask, of course). You search your wallet and emerge triumphant. He takes it with the slow steady nod of infinite indifference, keyboards a bit, and then stands up, “OK, you can follow me.” This man, stocky with big rounded shoulders, is a bit taller than you.

He leads you twenty or thirty feet across the gym floor to one of the blood-drawing stations. Here on this side there are also fix or six or maybe it’s more I can’t remember rows of these tables with let’s guess gray plastic tops supported by steel legs. But instead of two columns of single tables with a little walkway between them, these rows consist of two tables smooshed together, with two coworkers, the blood-drawer and the other one who I guess helps organize the data and equipment.

As you follow your man away from his table, you take one last look at the two ladies from the table next to yours. The short (5’?) skinny 50ish white lady in a white cotton tank-top and brightly colored biking shorts is sitting with her legs double-crossed, so that one running shoe’s heel is flush against the other’s tongue. Her long mousy-brown graying hair is braided tightly down. She moves her hands about nonstop while talking with big eyes and much gusto. I don’t know what she’s talking about. The African American health-care worker across from her is taller and heavier, with broad shoulders and a patient close-lipped nod. You think maybe she’s bored and humoring the other lady, but then, just as you’re leaving the scene, she gets animated and leans forward with a very emphatic, “See, I’d never … “

A tall thin lady with the creamy brown skin and delicate features wears a white lab and long hair tied back. She is 30ish and pretty and says, “Hello, my name is _____ , could you verify your name and date of birth?”, which request you easily fulfill.

Does she ask everyone, or is it the way you push back into the plastic chair and slightly squint your face that makes her say, “You have any issues with needles?” “No,” you lie. Well, it’s not a lie, lie; it’s an expedient exaggeration.

I don’t know what the lady standing a couple feet to the blood-drawer’s right is up to. She’s assisting and/or supervising, because at some point she says, “he should clench his fist”, and the beautiful young blood-drawer with the long flowing but professionally restrained hair — who has already placed your forearm on the leftern most edge of the plastic tabletop and tourniquetted your unexceptional bicep with a blue elastic band — says to you, “can you make a fist?” And then, “Everything OK?” And then, “OK, one, two, three!” at which point arrives the slight prick and then a little prickly wait while the vial fills. And then, “OK, you can relax your fist now.” And quick as a wink she’s removed the needle and replaced it with a little cotton ball. “A little pressure.” she says, and you replace her gloved hand with your bare one. “I’ll just give you a bandage and you’ll be good to go.” “OK. And I go online to check?” “Yes.” “Have a good day.” “You too.”

You leave with a sense of hope for Brooklyn, and with her the world. People of all colors and backgrounds working well and efficiently and happily together towards a shared goal.

Back to first person and to past tense.

“It was poppin,” by which I in this case mean it was going smoothly, with everyone in sync and moving with one accord. However, when I look up that word in Urban Dictionary, I am not sure that I find that exact meaning. The meanings I find are get something started; happening (as in, “what’s going on?”/”what’s poppin”); feeling competent (OK, so this one maybe — but not just feeling competent, but actually being competent); in style. Maybe I used “poppin” correctly and maybe I didn’t, but you get what I mean: it was like we had it together. But more than that: we were all glad to be there together and were flowing along, making it happen, getting it done, a well-oiled machine, a friendly healthy team, a fellowship.

I took the train back home.

About the guy who had been leaning back with his long arms stretched out on the back of the wooden waiting bench — the one I’d seen and heard but whose statements I could not follow when I’d been waiting on the opposite platform. He was still there, and still jabbering into the air when I returned and got off on his platform. But now I heard some of his commentary:

“Moved back to Bedford Stuyvesant! Moved back to Bed Stuy after 40 years and I got no regrets!”

Well finish the piece in second person, past tense.

This was Friday, May 29, 2020. At night your parents called. No, you’d not heard about a black man dying at the hands of white Minneapolis police officers last night. You’d worked from home and then headed straight to your blood test appointment. Burned down a police station in Minneapolis? No, you’d not heard anything. Protests in Brooklyn? Not that you know of, but again you’d not really done anything except call people about building maintenance issues all day long, and no one had mentioned anything about any of this.

Author: Ian Yu
Editor: Johnny Onda Spoett
Oversight: BW/AW
Copyright: AM Watson

[NYC Journal]

NYC Journal #17 – Sunbathing Days 4 & 5

NYC Journal #17 – Sunbathing Days 4 & 5

[NYC Journal]

NYC Journal #17 — Sunday, 5/18/2020 — Sunbathing Cure Days 4 & 5

It’s getting desperate. Yesterday he felt terrible. Lungs papery and soggy. Swimming in phlegm. Exhausted like a slaughtered calf.

I think, however, I understand what’s gone wrong. He’s living beyond his powers. It isn’t just caffeinated tea that has too much caffeine for him; two consecutive days of two pots of one decaf black and one decaf green tea bag poured over ice all day long is also enough to destroy his rest reserves.

Accordingly, we limited the decaf tea to a half a pot yesterday morning, he slept from 10PM to 11AM, and is now drinking only Breathe Easy tea, headlined by fennel, fennel having been suggested to him in a dream. Suggested by whom? By Joseph and the very same archangel that told Joseph he should actually stay with Mary, love her forever, dance with her to the end of time, and build her a little castle in the rolling dusty hills where the air’s so bright clear dry and safe. So we KNOW fennel’s a good tip.

We can’t say much about what happened yesterday. The memory chips were destroyed in a terrible fire that ravaged the Lower 48, sparing only the wisest and most humid areas. But we do know this much: about the right amount of sunbathing was performed at about the right amount of time and no water washed off the vitamin D as it lounged about on his earthly flesh.

Today we told him: don’t get up until you feel good and rested; then we let him have a little breakfast; take a shower; and go lay out in the regular place.

No one cared. Not the 30ish tattooed couple, masks down, leaning against each other across the way. Not the trio of 30ish girls, two on a step (dark haired caucasion?; light skinned african american with poofy curls?), the other leaning against another step (fair skin, long blond hair) at an angle, almost the proscribed six feet away. All with masks down, smiling in the sun. The two on the step in light breezy cotton; with even a midriff catchable. The one kitty corner in slacks (or jeans?), a jacket and otherwise dressed for a slightly colder day. All of them thin, not short, with tall white teeth, happy to be outside.

No one cared. A pale young Orthodox family set up camp right next to him. Over his ipod he would sometimes hear and tilting up his head he would sometimes see the tiny boy and slightly older girl, in Sunday best (he in little trousers, a nice shirt ?and dark sweater?; she in a poofy-pleated white dress and an open yellow sweater). The Mrs lay down in the grass a few feet from him, her blue denim dress down well past her knees. The Mr first parked the sporty black stroller and then chased after the kids when they wandered out of their mother’s purview. He wore a white dress shirt, black slacks, white prayer tassels; and our observer did not crane his neck at the right moment and in the right way to see the yarmulke, but we are confident it was there.

Something that’s a little bit too bad: the same people most likely to skip wearing a mask on the subway are also the most likely to walk around spitting as they loudly sing or rap along to their headphones, or while laughing hysterically at something watched on their phone or merely recollected or imagined.

But is all this sunbathing working? We understand that insufficient sleep and one too many chicken burritos laid him low yesterday, but now that the vitamin D’s had five days to seep in and reorganize his health, shouldn’t he be blooming like a flower, rather than shaking like a leaf?

Hmmm. Well, he feels pretty good today, just a little tender and delicate and fading into the day like desert sands tripping over each other and disappearing into the swirling desert winds. His temperature’s not been above 98.6F in a couple months. All we’ve got to do is flush out this lingering weakness in his lungs and sometimes overtaking his shoulders, swooping off with him like a diving hawk on a scurrying mouse. So maybe: give the sunbathing cure the benefit of the doubt: let it run its course: we’ve got tomorrow yet, and then it’s rainy for a week; so let’s keep him away from caffeine and generally deescalated, and assess at the end of the workweek.

Authors: Bartleby, John, Amble
Copyright: AM Watson

A Note on Our Standards of Accuracy: We just make everything up, though sometimes something reminds us of something or seems to somehow connect to an event we somehow perhaps observed outside of pure daydream. Hard to say.

[NYC Journal]

NYC Journal #16 – Sunbathing Cure Days 2 & 3

NYC Journal #16 – Sunbathing Cure Days 2 & 3

[NYC Journal]

NYC Journal #16 — Friday, 5/16/2020 — Sunbathing Cure Days 2 & 3

You can sunbathe in the little ledge running along the US Bankruptcy Court on Cadman Plaza — about three feet up from the Johnson Street sidewalk. Well, before the street slopes down, taking the sidewalk with it. On Thursday no one seems to notice. On Friday a tallish stoutish woman in a green coat will call the police and two men with blond crew cuts and pale faces reddening in the sudden bright warmth will walk over to you. They will wear short-sleeved uniform shirts stretched taut over bullet proof vests, and, from a few feet away, one of them will look over towards you and say, “Are you OK?” You’ll take down the hand covering your eyes and lower the one holding your ipod out to one side, turn your head and squint over in their direction. “Yeah, just sunbathing.” Then they’ll walk over to the 50ish black woman and say something, presumably about how you’re sunbathing rather than dying, and she’ll say, “Oh! OK! … Sorry.” And they’ll say it’s no problem. Because there’s a couple cops every hundred feet in New York City, so it really is no problem to have them check out the occasional shirtless man in fancy gray thin-fabric, smooth-flowing dress-slacks a little worn and faded, lying with his hand cupped over his eyes and nose, in a sunny little nook along the bottom of a federal building. Maybe you’re normally not allowed to do that, now that I think about it. It is a federal building. Anyway, I hope it’s OK because there’s no easy way otherwise and it is very important that you continue this sunbathing cure. Already on Day 3, you’re feeling much improved, even if today you were very tired from not quite sleeping enough and had to stomp around the office moaning about how sleepy you were and how delicate your system is, that the slightest little error in diet will so disturb your sleep that the next day you’re a veritable zombie although you do truck on and carry on your duties and do the Queen proud and so on.

Why is the sunbathing working so well? Because it was the end of winter and your vitamin D stores were depleted. I can feel the sogginess evaporating out from your lungs. And your step’s got that spring that we’d so missed.

Question: Do mid-May Covid-19 sunbathing cures only work for people whose ancestors lived far from the equator? Because maybe people with ancestors from places that are always sunny don’t store up vitamin D for half the year and then, like a camel sucking on its hump, live off it for the other half.

Question: Do Covid-19 sunbathing cures only work for clinically insane people, deranged enough for psychosomatic improvement to translate into actual physical improvement? Deranged into one’s very bones?

Another Couple Details:

Yesterday a tall homeless man in a long green coat. 50ish. Slacks and coat and sweatshirt clean and unwrinkled. Broad shouldered and robust, with a bit of a paunch. Soft brown skin, soft features in a long oval head, a mild countenance. A well-groomed beard. At first glance you might think, “college professor, gazing off dreamily, contemplating math, poetry, economic theories, whatever it was that caught his fancy three decades ago and has woven itself completely into the fabric of his life.” But then you notice the black sneakers have been so beaten down at the back as to become slippers, and that a big chunk of the back of each foot is showing and that his feet are terribly chapped, so chapped and worn that they’ve become yellow and flaky all over. And then for no apparent reason he starts kicking determinedly at a tiny scrap of plastic — a little scrap from a clear (but tinged tan) plastic bag. Supporting himself with the subway pole, over and over he kicks at and misses this little scrap of sheer plastic.

Yesterday we learned that to buy a thermometer at the local drug store you ring the bell, which has no effect, and then you knock on the glass door, which brings over the young woman, who asks what you need, and who then brings you a couple inadequate vitamin Cs and a couple adequate thermometers for you to choose from. Do they take credit cards? Of course! She takes it back to the register, runs the card, and brings you the receipt and the thermometer all wrapped up together in the tiniest cutest little pharmacy-themed plastic bag.

Today we learned that at this one place by the 2/3 & 4/5 Franklin stop, the table shoved up at the front and the square metal stool between the table and the wall are not there to encourage you to climb over the stool, but rather to stop all forward momentum and speak out your order in a loud voice so the girl behind the register can hear you from a dozen or so feet away. Why do you keep ordering chicken burritos? It’s becoming weird. It’s becoming a problem. It’s becoming suspicious. If they hadn’t been so prompt with the burrito we would’ve also learned how to say in Spanish: Attention delivery people, unless customer’s request otherwise, you are required to bring the food to their apartment door, if we learn from a customer that you’re leaving food anywhere else, you will be banned.

A Few Sunbathing Tips:

Do Not Take a Shower! First of all, you need the sun-activated oils to loll around on your skin filling you up gradually with Vitamin D. Second of all, then you’re getting the harmful radiation without the protective Vitamin D oil, which is foolhardy. Third off all, people take too many showers in this culture. [Also: you should never use soap except where grime and odor build up. Otherwise you’re destroying the balance of your skin for nobody’s sake but the advertisers’.]

10 minutes a side and no more and you really should build up to the 10 minutes unless you absolutely cannot wait because the Covid-19 won’t quite leave your bones even though you haven’t had a fever or anything like that in let’s say six or seven weeks. But as a general rule, you should just do like five minutes a side the first few times and then build up to ten minutes a side. Of course it depends on your skin type. So this advice is only really relevant to our test case.

Drink Green Tea. To fight against the sun’s damages. If you can’t handle caffeine, maybe decaf. If you can’t handle how boring green tea is, consider one green and one black bag in a little pot that you pour over ice all morning long. How delicious, invigorating, and downright interesting that would be!

Health Warning: This is a literary blog! Don’t take it’s health advice seriously! Well, you could think about it. You could use it as a starting point for some internet research. But don’t act like this is a health blog when it’s clearly a literary blog, or at least would be if it’s authors could pull it together and become real men of letters instead of just real men of self indulgence.

Authors: Bartleby, John, Amble.
Copyright: AM Watson

[NYC Journal]

NYC Journal #15 – Sunbathing Cure Day 1

NYC Journal #15 – Sunbathing Cure Day 1

[NYC Journal]

NYC Journal #15 — Sunbathing Cure Day 1 — Wednesday, May 13, 2020

If you get over it, but it isn’t quite gone. If it’s settled into your bones and keeps crawling back up to the fore. So you get all zapped all through and your lungs are spongy by the end of the day. You’re fine. You’ve not had a fever in six weeks. But you can’t quite shake it.


Unless you sunbathe ten minutes a side until you’ve gotten a nice light tan. Then it will be leached out of your bones and you’ll be fine.

[Also there’s the vitamin D. Vitamin D levels appear to play role in COVID-19 mortality rates]

If it is 55F and breezy, wear long johns under your khakis. Roll up the sleeves of your snap-button yellow plaid Westernwear shirt and head out.

I tell you who is annoying, is the shirtless guy lying on the museum amphitheater steps when your little kid wants to run around on those steps. This little boy is a tiny toddly two or three. He leans over the bottom marble step, which is wider than the concrete steps. It is also higher instead of lower than the step behind it. It isn’t really a step so much as a bench. The light brown little boy is quite a bit paler than his mother or aunt or babysitter or friend — let’s call her his “guardian”, but has her curly locks exploding up and over. “Not there! Over here! You can do the same thing over here.”

The annoying sunbathing man is not watching. His face is covered by his hands. He is whispering, “I need to get well, I need to get well, I need to get well” over and over as he, prone on the lowest concrete step, stripped to his waist, twists ever so slightly towards the sun, which is tilted thirty degrees to his left side and ten degrees behind his feet.

The guardian is an attractive young woman, tall and thin, with a long face with a wide forehead and curving a little to a sharp chin. A soft brown, with dark curls up and over and tumbling down. In stretchy black running pants and a maroon athletic top. And white running shoes. She could go running, but she has to keep an eye on the small denim-clad boy totter-step running everywhere.

This man sunbathes exactly ten minutes per side. This man is not here for pleasure. This man is taking his medicine.

What kind of a father not only lets his eight year old son skateboard without a helmet, but shoots movies of him ollying off of curving marble steps while kick-flip-spinning the board, and over and over again failing to land the trick and so sprawling forward on the cool white sidewalk by the entrance to the Brooklyn Art Museum? I don’t know, but the boy has long blond curling hair tumbling out his black baseball (but not of a team) cap, and the dad doesn’t (although the cap’s similar). The boy’s camouflage pants are not baggy like his dad’s tan ones. And the boy has on only a black T-shirt where the dad has an unzippered black sweatshirt over his black T-shirt. The dad sits on the sidewalk to try and get a better angle.

The sunbather by now has put his shirt back on and is watching from the other set of steps. Presently he’ll head to the second scheduled activity of his work-from-home lunch break: purchasing a chicken burrito.

What has happened in his life that makes him only want chicken burritos? What about everything else the world has to offer?

It’s so sunny out! Has the vitamin D helped? Is he cured? He feels better. He feels quite good. He thinks, “If only I could do this three days in a row! Then I’d be at full-health and wouldn’t need to tread so gingerly, stopping always to catch my reflection in storefronts, checking for signs of melancholy and fatigue.”

Today’s black bean, chicken, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, cheese, rice, and guacamole burrito comes from Guatemala. (“add avocado”; “OK”; pause with cogitating eyes and then: “it comes with avocado — with guacamole”; “Oh, OK, great”; “OK, OK”, but then a worry lingers in brow: “you want the rest, right? Bean … “) Well, the small restaurant, all windows and light, has a Guatemalan and travel pictures of Guatemala (a gray Mayan pyramid; a colorful tour bus roaring down the road, wild heaps of green on all sides).

“What is ‘Cantinflas’?” The 20ish girl and 40something man say he’s a Mexican actor. And the man motions towards another man across the room, facing out one of the windows into the sunshine.

The man who’d been facing out the window swivels around to face the man who’d ordered a chicken burrito and had thought perhaps “Cantinflas” was some kind of a pun on “cantina” (because the poster showed a skinny mustached man drunken into a knock-kneed stupor, beer bottle clutched in one hand).

Heavy cheeks darkly stubbled. Somber bloodhound eyes. Fixes the burrito-buyer with a serious steady look (head bent a little forward, so that eyes have to roll up a little in their creased brow): “He was a comedian. A Mexican comedian.” “Oh!” “You remember Charlie Chaplin?” “uh, yeah, uh huh” “He said Cantinflas was the funniest person he’d ever seen — and he didn’t even speak Spanish! That’s how funny, how comedic he was. He’s like … what would be a good comparison?” “Charlie Chaplin?” “No, … I’d put him higher than that. I”d say more like the Marx Brothers and The Stooges. Let’s put them in a category.”

The man with the open blue sweatshirt, his back to the sun-streaming window, liked Robin Williams, though Richard Pryor was greater: “His comedy was more natural; it came out of his life. Williams was all over the place — he was cocaine without even taking it!” This last comment made with pauses, head tilts, and eye scrunches that conveyed, “yeah: he did take cocaine; but he didn’t need cocaine to fly so fast”.

Cantinflas died in the 90s, and you know what he said at that time? What he said was wrong with the world? That it’d forgotten how to laugh, that we’d forgotten how to laugh. That was his thing.

But then recently. It comes out. It comes out that he wasn’t that character. He was more serious; but he made other people laugh.

That happens a lot, actually.

Yeah, take, take Robin Williams: perfect example — hilarious; but he kills himself; he had a dark side.


[It should be noted that, though neither of the conversants brought it up and perhaps didn’t know or at least didn’t know exactly enough to venture mentioning, Robin Williams had a devastating neurological condition called Lew Body Disease. His widow wrote a moving account of its impact on their lives here: The terrorist inside my husband’s brain.]

[NYC Journal]

Author: Walkalong Walt
Editor: BW/AW
Copyright: AMW



This website sells Pure Love for free: Pure Love Shop. It has many funny and engaging features, like Descriptions & Usage, and a lot of advertisements and other writings. Here’s a commercial that claims Pure Love is Even Better than Classy Sneakers.

We’ve collected many of our poems at Bartleby’s Poetry Corner. This one turned out well: America. Here’s an example of the Nostalgia Sonnets: To Greg’s Dad.

We have not made a lot of progress with our Short Story Game. Here’s a response story to Joyce’s “The Sisters” (in Dubliners): Another Cotter Story.

We did translations of and response stories to three Kafka stories. Die Wale is the response story to Die Sorge des Hausvaters / Worry of a Family Man.

We have a philosophy. We call it Something Deeperism. We’ve made an Institute. These essays are pretty readable: A Shared Something Deeperism and Duties of a Republican’s Citizenry.

We’ve tried many political essays. One worked out well: A Fun New War.

There was this idea to record moments of days in a NYC Journal. NYC Journal #9 – First Nice Day is one of them. No one’s really reading them, but we’re still trying to do one a week or so. Just, you know, an activity.

Years ago we wrote some science articles for FT Exploring. They’re the ones attributed to AM Watson. Here’s the Definition of Life.

No one ever does but we always wish they would purchase our books. They are available on the !Buy Our Books! tab on this website. Right now we’re pushing “Superhero Novella” and “A Readable Reader” because we think they’re both pretty readable and readers will be able to read them right down without too much trouble. That was actually the whole idea behind “A Readable Reader” — that it be both worthwhile and engaging (“readable”).

Everything on this site is copyrighted by Andrew Mackenzie Watson.