Category Archives: messenger

The Prophet Redux

Image

8/22/12 7:48am

I woke up late (at 6) and washed the dishes I’d left from last night. I had wanted to wake early and go to the Y, but I did not set my alarm.  After I washed the dishes I sat down and read Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet while applying the heat pad to my ankle. Very nice except where I chose to sit the rising sun was shining directly in my eyes.

I have always loved The Prophet, ever since that day (well it was a late night) that the messenger (Oscar? Ben? Bill? I can’t remember his name) sat me down and explained why this was the life of all life, book of all books. I think he thought it was a secular bible.  There was another book that he was obsessed with, something new agey (this being 1981, it was an outlier) that he also liked, it might have been RamDass or something that stupid. In any case he spent an hour or two after midnight evangelizing this text as I drained a 40 of Ballantine Ale (or three). As I said “I’ll be right back, I need another,” he confessed to me that he was a heroin addict. I’m not so sure why it mattered that I knew that, but I definitely filed that bit of intelligence away (people not to be trusted any more) he became even more passionate about The Prophet.  We stayed in Washington Square until 3 or 4 in the morning talking about that book and the ideas that it provided.

I have very few clear memories of Ben after that day. I saw him once on Madison in the 20s and on 5th below 14th (Funny how early in their addiction addicts can be found in the Village). I last saw him in midtown, near triple-six-Fifth, the DC building. He was looking run down. I wonder if he survived. Most addicts from ‘81 died of AIDS.

I wonder why people have always wanted to talk about books with me? I was a simple drunken messenger back then. But still people wanted to talk books with me. I’d been pretty good at avoiding the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious fanatics who want to talk about “Their Book.” But when I was in early recovery in Harlem and in other unusual places people have always come up to me and wanted to discuss philosophical texts. I must have a bookish mein to myself.

I’ve always considered that night in Washington Square and the book by William James The Varieties of Religious Experience that an Addict at Gracie Square gave me in ‘86 odd. But somehow I felt like Siddhartha, someone with a huge destiny because people brought me books to read in unlikely places (these are not the only 2).

In my paper journal I wrote about The Prophet, but I don’t have time to retype that here now. Sad, really.  Previously I had loved “Marriage” because of the idea of separation and love: “For the pillars of the temple stand apart.” But now, these days, with teens, the passage “On Children” really moved me. I am comforted and tortured by the passage that says “For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”

Thing 1 has proven herself to be a totally independent thinker, who suffers instruction unhappily.  However she does follow rules, like most older siblings, and has made her trajectory towards the future clear. Thing 2 -TACITURN youth- has little communication with us, though he seems to know that we are excluded from his future.  He suffers our interruptions unhappily, knowing this. Thing 3 has become prematurely knowing.  She is the tween sister of two teens and has started salting away their mistakes for her future use.  Clever, she is.

Advertisements

Autobiography for Class (Draft 2)

Stafford Gregoire

ENG101.1211

Professor Gregoire

30 April 2012

 

the shy[1] rebel

Stafford has always had a strange sense of the world. Even in 1st grade he admired the kid who couldn’t do the normal 1st grade assignment, “naming his parents and grandparents and where they were from.” “Tony” was a kid from down the block and his parents and parents were always around our block. They were from Cambridge, the town we lived in, Stafford could have done the assignment for Tony: “my parents and grandparents are from Cambridge, Massachusetts, just like me,” he should have said in Mrs. Pierce’s 1st grade class. Instead he wet himself in front of the class: “Stafford’s hero!” For some perverse reason, ever since then whenever Stafford encountered a “freak” who couldn’t or wouldn’t “behave normally,” he had a new hero. I think that this is because his parents told him to respect people who stood up for themselves, and never to shame children who refused to conform to the norms of society. Ever since then Stafford has elevated people who refused to conform to society. Personally, I think that he elevates eccentric people to defy conformity and make himself more unique.

As soon as Stafford grew up, he left home. Arrogant, he wanted to make his way in the world on his own as a bicycle messenger. He moved to New York City in 1979, just after the city went bankrupt and was allowed to default by the federal government. The crumbling city was perfect for Stafford because “[t]he small community often tolerates eccentricity. The city, on the contrary, rewards it” (Park, cited in Kidder 307). Like yeast in moist flour or hops in a brewery or a bully on a 3rd world police force, Stafford had found his perfect environment. It is a place where he can live the fantasy The Toronto Star reporter Cheney described as “[l]iving by your own skill and animal cunning, like a gladiator in the Roman amphitheatre, surrounded by fat and decadent citizens” (Cheney A1). Of course, that is a young man’s dream of rebellion. And if you look at most of these imaginary heroes of the street, they prefer to keep these fantasies to themselves. So Stafford lived his fantasy life of an urban warrior.

_____________________________________________________________________

Works Cited

Cheney, P. “Bicycle Couriers in Love with Life on Mean Streets.” Toronto Star, 27 March 1993, A1, A8. Print.

Kidder, Jeffrey. “Appropriating The City: Space, Theory, And Bike Messengers.” Theory & Society 38.3 (2009): 307-328. Academic Search Complete. Web. 23 Apr. 2012.

 

 


[1] passive aggressive

Paul Thornquist

Beautiful Kids

6th Ave

When I moved to NYC in 1979 my first roommate-friend was Paul Thornquist. He was from Milwaukee, an artist and reluctant Punk. He taught me how to be an artist, writer and better Man. We lost touch in the 80s, going our seep rate ways. When I rode through the village the other day I saw so many young men who looked like us: confused, overconfident and alive with youth. Johnny 19 died of Aids some while ago, but I think of him often. The haikus below are are a meditation on our youth living on in this new crop of New York Youth. In some way they are our children.

1. We have beautiful/
Children you and I Johnny/
Here in the future/
#haiku

2. The styles we fought for/
By refusing to fit in/
Have become the norm/
#haiku

3. You said “the only/
Real punks can’t avoid looking/
Like punks: thrift store style/
#haiku

4. “Those St. Marks peacocks/
Their lacquered rainbow Mohawks/
Are just copy cats”*/
#haiku
*Just want attention/

5. “Real Punks can’t help it/
They just refuse to conform/
Collect together/
#haiku

6. The punk we fought for/
Was to be left all alone/
Not to be on stage/
#haiku

7. Some: drunks and junkies/
Lost are just punk refuseniks/
Opting out on life/
#haiku

8. The “life” they avoid/
Is a purchase driven sham/
Of “thing” defined”selves”/
#haiku

9. Not some suicide/
But a punk affirmation/
Sharp-loud sensation/
#haiku

10. They search out beauty/
In the detritus of life/
Where consumers can’t/
#haiku

11. They are our children/
Though AIDs killed your thin body/
And I just conformed/
#haiku

12. Our rebellious selves/
“Live” on in these new people/
Doing what we did/
#haiku

13. They ride on track bikes/
Call them “fixies” (that’s the style)/
“affirming” city/
# haiku

14. Track bike aesthetics/
reject the baroque pullies/
Of derailieured bikes/
#haiku

15. They are our children/
With their wheat pasted xerox/
Pictures of icons/
#haiku

16. You glued Sargent Rock/
All over the West Village/
Called him a great faG/
#haiku

17. Christopher Street/
They are still fucking outside/
Just like you once did/
#haiku

18. Yes, we have children/
Although we never made love/
They still came to be/
#haiku

19. Everybody/
Parents a generation/
Not just D.N.A/
#haiku

20. Biological/
Parents donate a culture/
That kids must reject/
#haiku

21. That is how they’re ours/
We provide the rebellion/
From biology/
#haiku

22. My own “real” children/
Must reject my whole world view/
To become themselves/
#haiku

23. They will have “style dads”/
Who will help them to become/
Who they want to be/
#haiku

24. I wish you could see/
How you live on Paul Thornquist/
In New Yorkers’ style/
#haiku

Kiko Learns Pack Procedure

img00019-small.jpg

Here’s more of Kiko’s Tale.  He’s back, our delivery guy, (if only your intrepid scribe was as dedicated and regular as Kiko). Here Kiko meets another aspect of the City Cycling world, a singular character named Croak. There’s more the pipeline.

And of course, if you want to start from the beginning, go here.  IF this link doesn’t work you can search “Kiko” on this blog and feel yourway back to the beginning by hitting “previous entries” two or three times.

Kiko, this is Croak,” Mike said gesturing to the chest of the hard 40-something man there by the side of the highway. It was a strange place this road between leafy houses and the trench the LIE was in, and it seemed stranger with Croak there. They all hopped on their bikes, Kiko having locked up Sra Choi’s bike and taken off the baggy jeans and t-shirt he’d worn over the kit. With his street clothes removed Croak and Mike both saw the broad chest and shoulders of Kiko’s Indian ancestry looking like a barrel of muscle barely contained by his mule-like ribs.

The three of them set off with Mike leading to start. As they hit the city limits in about 20 minutes Croak took over and it was not so easy for Kiko to keep up. Mike pulled 20 inches off their line and pedaled more slowly so that Croak and Kiko passed him and he fell back into their slipstream. Croak , a narrow man, rode hard and pulled them at a pace that Mike had not. Inside of Kiko there was a smile on his heart because he was finally being challenged. Kiko dug deep and kept up with florescent advert without much trouble, but he was riding harder and he knew that they were covering a lot of road in a little time. The smile in his chest was his pride at going so fast and working so hard as a team.

20 minutes alter Croak jumped out of line, fell back two places and clicked back into the line like a safe’s tumbler. Kiko kept the pace, maintaining his rhythm and cadence in perfect tight circles. He felt the extra resistance of being in front so he dropped the gear one level and spun away. After a time he felt he was spinning too much and he shifted again, increasing his speed. He didn’t know this but behind him mike had to dig much deeper to keep up and Croak’s face broke into an ear-to-ear grin as he clung to mike’s wheel for every jewel of energy savings that Mike’s big Irish draft offered.

Kiko Rides Again

bike-chinese-sign-0806-small.jpgHere’s the latest installment of Kiko’s Tale, because I haven’t posted anything in a while. He’s back, our delivery guy, (if only your intrepid scribe was as dedicated and regular as Kiko). Here Kiko meets another aspect of the City Cycling world, a character named Croak. There’s more the pipeline, though if I don’t start getting some feedback (It’s hard to keep going without hits and feedback, of course it is possible that it sucks.)

And of course, if you want to start from the beginning, go here.  IF this link doesn’t work you can search “Kiko” on this blog and feel your way back to the beginning by hitting “previous entries” two or three times.

Once The Blue and Gold Line had caught them Mike taught Kiko about riding in a pack, swapping places at the end of the line, and talking about how to figure out where the wind was coming from and how to fid the best place to draft off of people in the pack. By explaining, without actually executing, mike told Kiko the basics of working your way to the front, climbing the grapevine, and, again, holding your line in a pack, which took equal parts nerve and skill.

As they were breaking up for the day Mike, impressed as much by Kiko’s teachability as his natural skill and stamina, went to the van he had brought the bikes in and got Kiko a set of cycling togs, a pair of shoes (with pedals) and a helmet. He explained a bit of the rational for wearing tight colorful clothes, using the Blue and Gold Line as an example. He pointed out how the Jeans and T-Shirt made him look less able, and how “the kit” (the cycling term for uniform) would cut down on some of the resistance (social and physical), and asked him to come meet him the next week at the same place.

When they met the next week Mike had a new guy with him. His name was Croak and he looked vaguely familiar to Kiko. He was thin and mean looking in spite of the affable smile that rode beneath the pencil thin mustache on his beige skin. Croak was obviously a black man, though his skin was the color of a paper bag and he had no hair to speak of. Kiko could just make out the outline of a receding hairline in the microscopically barbered hair that was left on his skull. He wore a faded Campagnolo hat that had odd creases ironed into it on the back of his head that reminded him of the soldier’s hats back home. His gaudy “kit” advertised an Italian banking concern in florescent colors from his shoes to his hat and gloves everything matched; the bike and handlebar tape even sang the praises of Tuscan-low-rate-mortagages.

Prophet Housing

bike-on-roof-16-small.jpg

12/18/07 04:56:38 AM

So our new lives in our new apartment have started. I took Chandler to meet Aneka at 46th Street on the seven train. We were there so early Chandler has renegotiated for an extra 10 minutes of sleep today. I was a work by 7:30 and If I continue to do this I’ll have time to go to the gym in morning. Apparently Lennox and Mason’s drop off also went well. Linda and I went to Costco to buy a TV, which I think we’ve put off in the hopes that we can buy the kids more of what they want this “holiday” season. Funny thing about that ironic use of quotation marked holiday.

I found a copy of Khalil Ghibran’s The Prophet (that I had bought on telegraph avenue used) and in it was a bookmark. The page it marked was the Prophet’s response to the Mason. “’Ironic,’ thought I, it is addressed to my son.” But the opening line is “Then a [M]ason came forth and said speak to us of Houses” (34). So, since I spent the evening unpacking my seemingly endless supply of things and assembling them I was intrigued by the synchronicity of the bookmarking.1 This is the electronics (and modern) version of feathering my nest. We’ve got to get all of the twigs and grass just right so that the chicks and their parents will all fit comfortably. I imagine a bird’s nest of wires, surge protectors, USB cables and transformer power lines in which we comfortably cuddle together. (God, how I digress.)

The first few “stanzas” were pure anti-city, and I’ll include a bit here as an illustration: “Would the valleys your streets and the green paths your alleys… [and] In their fear your forefathers gathered you too near together” (35). These nods to the bucolic piss me off. Besides the fact that the human condition is social, and there would be no wilderness if we spread people out like that, even in 1922, I just want to dissent a bit further on this romanticization of the bucolic.

(Digression Alert) I remember one week when Scott and I lived on Maui. This was before we got food stamps, in deed it might be why I got food stamps. We had “no visible means of support” and we had alienated those off of whom we could beg. But there was a mango tree and an avocado tree that were in season near where we were camping. We could fill ourselves nicely on these huge trees for the cost of a climb. Guavas, I think were also ripe in a pasture a couple of miles away. Before seven days had passed I was crazy and hungry though my stomach never went empty. There is a reason that we are a social and agrarian species. The hunter gatherer thing is too much work. (I think it is also why we are omnivores, but that is another rant.)

Then the prophet gets to why I am writing this now:

Tell me have you [peace, remembrances and beauty] in your houses?

Or have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house as a guest, and becomes a host, and then a master?

Ay, it becomes a tamer, and with hook and scourge makes puppets of your larger desires.

Though its hands are silken, its hear is of iron.

It lulls you to sleep only to stand by your bed and jeers at the dignity of the flesh.

It makes mock of your sound senses, and lays them in thistledown like fragile vessels.2

Verily the lust for comfort murders the the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.

But you, children o space, you restless in rest, you shall not be trapped nor tamed.

Your house shall be not an anchor but a mast. (36)

Continue reading

Kiko and Mike V

 dscn6465-small.jpg

 Holla at me. Here Kiko continues to re-meet Mike, which is how things start to happen in a linear way again. I want to speed up the pace. And of course, if you want to start from the beginning, go here.

Second were the bikes hanging upside down in the loft, they were thin and light like Mike’s.  In fact, thinking back to where the egg white feta omelets go they were like spider webs floating gently over the thin strong woman who over-tipped him in that loft.  There was so little bike there that he thought that they probably floated up to the ceiling, rather than hanging there, Kiko thought.  But were those webs a trap for a fly like him, or the fairy-dragonfly wings spouting out of the back of the omelet-bicycle lady?

And finally, he wondered how he had beaten Mike, on his sick-slick-skinny-little bike and funny clothes, up and over the Queensboro Bridge.  Kevin had also asked how he went so fast.  Kiko just knew that he could ride well, but he had no idea that it was phenomenal, and Key-Vin and Bridge Mike’s attention just made him self-conscious and suspicious.

On Sunday, Kiko’s day off, after a fair amount of negotiation he agreed to meet mike and go for a ride.  According to Mike Central Park was too busy, so they met out on the LIE service road and rode out of Flushing towards Long Island.  It was there that Mike had a proper bike, “una bicicleta flaca muy bonita, Gracias.  Estás seguro?”

Reassuringly, “yeah, sure Kiko, this is one I no longer use,” as he took out an allen key set and adjusted the seat and handlebars to Kiko’s height.  Mike explained the mechanics of a proper fit on a bike in Queens English that went by far too fast for Kiko to understand: “The heel of your foot on the pedal when your leg is stretched out will keep you from rocking…  Bent over enough when in the drops to stay out of the wind while not interfering with your breathing… Head-up, shoulders down….”