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Too Long In Exile II

Baby, the great sadness / you’ve got to let it all go
Live in the present / live in the future, Johnny – ain’t that so

-Van Morrison (with John Lee Hooker) “Wasted Years”

Here today and expected to stay
On and on and on ..

-Elliott Smith

Been looking at bits and pieces from the last five or six years and considering how they might fit together or remain apart. Either is equally valid, but at certain junctures it all lands in curious synchronicity. At times I’m completely perplexed by the nature of my thoughts or direction of my words, and then a day later it falls in place like some preordained production. This isn’t to say it’s necessarily or typically pleasant or palatable – just undeniable. Like what I wrote below. I’ve had these discussions with a wide range of folks, from the pragmatic to the just plain loopy. Most typically arrive at a similar conclusion – who knows? – and I guess that’s a question we’ve all got to address individually or be satisfied with leaving be. My dad told me recently that I think too much, but this has nothing to do with thought, and is likely the opposite. Besides, I never made it to trigonometry and as an English major couldn’t identify Hester Prynne in a lineup. But enough of this crap.

Standing in the middle of West Fourth Street and Sixth Avenue the other day I felt a gentle October breeze, glanced upward at the sun cutting a straight path through the buildings, and took in the varied New York foot traffic, many fashioned in seasonally adjusted attire and on course to getting somewhere else. Which is curious, because at some point a good percentage of them were bent on getting here, to the corner of West Fourth and Sixth on a perfect Fall afternoon. I was going somewhere myself, but had a minute to reflect on how I’d been in a Petaluma backyard just days earlier, reclining in an easy chair and staring upward at the starry sky. And only months prior it was Scotland, amid a late night Summer sunset, standing riverside and skimming stones across the Tay. In between there were plane trips, car rides, subway connections, train travel and a number of decent meals. The good fortune with which I’ve been blessed is undeniable, despite my fair share of disappointment, disillusionment, and dilapidated discourse. For the small handful concerned, this isn’t a eulogy – merely making a point while practicing my d’s. And for the few banking on the former, well, sorry.

To back up and end it with just yesterday, I made my way down to the Broadway-Lafayette Station, then over to Great Jones Street and The Great Jones. I was planning on getting a salad or maybe even a cheeseburger, but the bar was packed so I stood and sipped a draft. Almost immediately the guy sitting in front of me turned and began to chat. It could have something to do with gruff New York hospitality, but I like to imagine that my face has evolved into something softer and more approachable as the years have passed. “Good taps here,” he commented, in curious reference to the limited selection of beers. I took it as a friendly hello and nodded in agreement. He was a house painter, making the commute from Nyack and working on interiors in some of the more bucks-up dwellings on the Upper East Side. “Doing this job for an Italian woman – the paint work alone is costing her a hundred  and seventy grand. Good-looking broad for sixty .. well-preserved if you know what I mean. Must be spending three or four million on the place. Her father big game hunted with Hemingway – polar bears and stuff like that. I never got that, personally. Take a picture if you want their head on the wall..”

His coworker and underling showed up, a short thirty-something guy who switched the conversation to throat cancer. The Nyack Commuter gave the guy his seat and shook my hand on the way out. I scanned the bar in futility, looking for a potentially vacant spot, then gave up. I finished my beer and looked around the room – I have some history with this place. Outside it wasn’t yet dark and I took a picture for my cell phone’s wallpaper of the street, facing east to west. It’s one of my favorite settings in Manhattan. Shortly after and now dark, I compromised and bought a chicken roll in my hood, eating it as I walked home alone. Another disjointed piece of the puzzle, hopefully coming together at some point down the line. (10.04.08)

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