Category Archives: needle park

The Prophet Redux


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.

A Bad Dream

Last might I dreamed I saw my old revolutionary friends. “Carlton,” the black one I remembered. I had to be re-introduced, through surreptitious whispers, to “McVie” and the others by my guide. I’ll call him Virgil.

McVie and another were both blind. Their eyes scarred over with skin as if from Some horrible procedure (it didn’t look like a burn). His eyelids were mostly sealed, and pulled out from the eyes, though when the light was right you could see within. Atrophied eyeballs, milky blue with cataracts set back from the lids. A jailhouse tattoo of a crown floated between his eyes, on the skin that seemed pulled tight by the missing or damaged eyes that peeked from the incompletely fused eyelids.

The next guy I called “Patrick” was leaning against a city lamp post. He was also blind, with a sparse goatee. His skin looked like it came off a 3000 year old mummy. That, his greasy down jacket and his white pony tail all told me he was a methodonian. His face was skin-grafted over his eyes, with little tears where I could see enormous eyes with cataracts, like he was an alien. He could sort of see and he moved his head to point the tears towards me to look.
Carlton, suddenly not his name, was black, thinnER and, well, “wrong” in some way I can’t named. He has pepper and salt hair, in a blown out Afro. His sparse goatee was white like revenge. It grew from his chin like moss or mold. Parts of it looked like it grew from his soul, stout and meaningful. Other parts ( the mustache on the right) looked like algae from a ships rope, except white.
I woke up in horror when it occurred to me this is what became of the true believers. They had all committed themselves to street-corner revolutionary philosophy. Had I not stopped smoking pot and hanging out on Sixth Ave selling Buttons, this would have been my lot. I was too lazy and selfish to be a Marxist of their ilk.
I was looking for Jason, who was a leader or catalyst for us. We’d all meet at his stand where he sold tiny Stalin and Marley pins to the people walking around the village in the early 80s. Virgil said he would not be there. I met the scarred survivors who made me look young. Besides “Carlton” I didn’t remember any of them.
They were like R. Crumb comics left in a basement or on a roof for two decades. I guess, like an inversion of Dorian Gray’s portrait, the images grew older faster than the immature souls the people had. The physical wreckage was visited on a bunch of old guys who wanted to have the peter pan syndrome. Never growing old emotionally made them rot physically.


Nocturnal Creation

Nocturnal creatures/

1. Nocturnal creatures/
Thrive in bustling cities/
Finding their freedom/

2. Maybe it’s the light/
Or perhaps it’s the crowding/
But the night frees them/

3. People out at night/
Are the non-conformist ones/
Trying to stay young/

4. Since vampires aren’t real/
They only suck their own blood/
A pint at a time/

5. Daylight conformists/
Cede them the darkness follies/
For a safe routine/

6. Daylight people have/
The myth of security/
To mask all our fears/

7. But darkness and light/
Bathe an uncertain planet/
In equal measures/

8. “Seeing is believing”/
But we look at the future/
Absolutely blind/

9. Daylight is a lie/
Showing us but fate’s grim mask/
With its lying smile/

10. destiny is fate/
And death is all that awaits/
Life is what we have/

11. So enjoy your life/
Each and every moment/
Give your life meaning/

12. The meaning you give/
To this messy existence/
Is the best worship/