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the Goliard

July 2003

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Dispatch from NYC 

Gay Pride was on parade down Fifth Avenue, Sunday the 29th of June.

In a bar on 11th between Avenues A and B, 3:00 in the morning on the 28th of June, Frank Sinatra was played at talking level. Old Speckled Hen was on draft. A trumpet player pretended convincingly to be gay, but then laughed to dispel any suspicion.

Union Square Park has a new corner, the southwest. Featured are a fountain, benches, more plaza space, and girls in summer dresses.

Occasionally someone will walk by on a cell phone, crying.

Confetti and balloons floated down from the rooftops as though the paraders were returning from World War Gay, which in a sense they always are.

A black labrador jumped (well, was lifted, truthfully) into the new fountain, despite probable city ordinances to the contrary, all dogs being anarchists. Nobody seemed displeased.

"Regime Change in Burma" was the banner du jour on the steps. Wasn't that the kind of thinking we were just condemning in Iraq?

I'm not suicidal, but if I were given a diagnosis of no more girls in summer dresses, I might have to rethink my position.

The advance guard for the Asian Pacific Alliance float included a somewhat portly coffee-ice-cream-hued gentleman, bare above the waist, a blue garland on his close-shaved head. As the parade paused to let traffic by, he took a call on his cell phone. Where to put it? I wondered. Where did it come from? He tucked it into his lava-lava. Safe and snug.

One of the odd things about New York is how you always run into friends and acquaintances, regardless of where you go. At the parade I was found by two people I had roomed with in Ft. Lauderdale. They subsequently were found by two people they knew from Ithaca and Colorado, respectively. Who knew each other, unaccountably. It isn't at all uncommon to run into friends on the train, in the middle of town during the rush hour, for example. A train has perhaps twelve cars, all full at that time, and trains come every five minutes or so, and there are many distinct lines all over the city, so the chances really don't seem good, but it is not uncommon. This evening I ran into someone in the East Village I knew ten years ago in San Francisco. Yes, he comes to New York periodically for auditions, but I don't care what you say, this was not likely.

There's what appears to be a Tae Kwon Do club that meets in the park on Saturdays. Central Park, that is to say. Either that, or it's just a group of friends with martial arts bodies who like to hang out and see what their bodies are capable of. On Saturday the 28th, their bodies were capable of: 1. Human pyramids 2. Cartwheels 3. Handsprings, front and back 4. Standing on shoulders 5. Unison choreographed hybrid martial-arts/dance moves 6. Jumping 360 degree turns with kicks, followed by back handsprings (or was that in Matrix:Reloaded?) 7. Just generally better physical fitness than 90% of the frisbee-and-softball boy-toys stalking the lawn. Although that other 10%….

Central Park in the summer has a critical mass of European/South American people. And, of course, pretty girls in summer…well, summer practically nothing.

If you walk out West 79th Street with the intention of drowning yourself in the Hudson, you'll find the Boat Basin first. The Boat Basin is a large, primarily outdoor café below the level of the road. Above the covered parts are vaulted arches that make you feel as though you're in a catacomb. Why not have a beer while you're still around to enjoy it?

There is now, officially, a Starbuck's on every corner. For a while it seemed like there might not be one on the corner of Lexington and 50th, but now there is. Sometimes they are between corners, as well. I hope there doesn't come a time when Starbuck's has taken over everything, because then it will be very difficult to buy soap.

On the evening of June 29th, a gentleman walked his cat on the steps at the front of Union Square. On a leash. This square is literally teeming with nightlife every night of the week in the summer, but the Haagen-Dazs outlet just down the street on 14th is never open. Of course, around the corner there's a Starbuck's.

For my money, there is nothing more miraculous than flesh.

In the community laundry room late this evening (one washer, one dryer) there were three loads of wet clothes and no sign of anyone wanting to dry them. How could this have happened?

It may have been Lawrence Durrell who wrote: "What are stars but points in the body of God where we insert the healing needles of our terror and longing?" It was certainly Durrell (in Balthazar) who wrote: "The effective in art is what rapes the emotion of your audience without nourishing its values."

It's been rainy in New York lately. There is little doubt that the mosquito population has seized that opportunity to multiply itself all out of proportion to demand. There may be a puddle outside right this minute nurturing the biggest mosquito New York has ever seen. He'll fly in my window some night and go right for my kneecap (they always do), and with a lick and a promise he'll leave me hurting and fly, fly away.

On 11th between 1st and 2nd Avenues is a sushi place called Sandobe. It's good. Real good.

On West 4th close to 6th Avenue is the Belgian Beer Bar. If you're lucky there will be a statuesque Valkyrie with a jewel between her eyes behind the bar, washing the glasses with a Belgian style bar-top washer. Everything is on draft, everything is made by monks or the like. (Whatever the like would be, in this case.)

Around the corner on 3rd is the Fat Black Pussycat, the bar that resides directly over the Village Underground, where if you're really lucky Satellite Kid might be playing a set or two. The back room at the Pussycat looks like a cross between a Victorian parlor and an opium den. Hookers would not feel out of place, in fact I may drop that in the suggestion box. A curtain leads from the back room to the foyer of the Underground, so bouncers periodically wander in to check out the overstuffed furniture. Good to have a little strong-arm presence in a room like that. It just feels right. Like the National Guard troops with assault rifles in the subway. There's just something so comforting about knowing a firefight could break out on a moment's notice.

Tonight some black kids came by to try to break my windows with rocks. The first one sounded like something had fallen in the apartment, but the second one was unmistakable. I ran over to the open window and shouted "what the fuck you doin'?" as is my custom in these situations. When they're under 10 they usually run at that point, but since these kids were adolescents one kid had to speak up for the benefit of his friends. "I'm fuckin' breakin' your window!" he said, laughing and looking to the others to see if he was funny. Then they ran.

How is that kid going to live, how are any of them going to live, if they don't even know that it's wrong to break people's windows with rocks? If there were a gun in his hand would he know not to pull the trigger? Did anybody ever tell him not to?

The heat can be oppressive, just like the rain. Neither one is worse, nor better. Both bring this vague haunting sensation that somewhere there is some lonely flesh that wishes you could be with it. July 4th is on its way, so the sound of explosions punctuates everything. Ice cream trucks and explosions, and stones on windows. Occasionally someone will walk by on a cell phone, crying.

It was Faulkner who wrote (in Light in August) that "ingenuity was apparently given man in order that he may supply himself in crises with shapes and sounds with which to guard himself from truth."

That's New York for now, and I'm John Rose. Thanks for listening.

 

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