... Normal was always right around the corner -- a 50's drugstore -- milkshakes for a quarter -- black coffee in thick white mugs -- white boys in duck tails pouring Crown Cola over black girls in white dresses -- newsreels just couldn't do it justice -- even colorized years later -- the shock of red -- how you never saw their faces in the same light again -- how every year the price went up -- how the trouble was never quite good enough to stop the endless rewinds the multiplication of names on marble walls
16 years ago, as Katrina was devastating NOLA and the Gulf coast, I moved into a first floor flat on the 1300 block of Morris in South Philly. I was there for 7 years–longer than I’ve lived anywhere since. A neighborhood dense with poets. I had a front porch, and a nice little garden. My walking stick spouted feathers and ribbons and can tabs. I made a Poem Tree on E. Passyunk. Wrote hundreds of poems. Both my son’s lived nearby in South Philly. We’d hang out at Lucking 13 at night, where Ben was the chef. Then the poets moved away. Ben and Gil left South Philly. Caught up in Occupy Wall Street, and Occupy Philly. In 2012 I moved to the Ox. For Woody Guthrie’s centennial birthday, I walked to NYC with the OWS Guittarmy. When I came back, I began to make art again–after almost 40 years. Each year since, has been more difficult. Not likely I’ll live another 16 years, maybe not another ten. Fifty-five years ago I sat on a second floor porch of our apartment in Wichita, daydreaming about what was to come… about to set off for Philadelphia on our Vespa 150 motor scooter. Late August, early September. Leaving Bass Lake at the end of the summer. It’s always been a season of endings, beginnings. This year… I think I’m running out of new beginnings.
No country for old men, unless rich and powerful (redundant), surrounded by sycophants and those who care for their every need (mostly redundant). I am neither rich nor powerful. I have wonderful friends, who, like me, are neither rich nor powerful, and in the struggle to survive, have limited time and resources. So, get to a certain age, and one is mostly left to hang (more gallows humor).
I should tell a story of how I came to be here. I lived on a 3rd floor flat with two men, one who ate Mom’s Meals, the other who thought cooking was putting bacon on a tray in the oven, thawing froozen food, or pouring jarred sauce over pasta they’d boiled. The second of two got it in mind to clean every surface of every possible utensil used in cooking. Being the one person dependent on doing my own cooking,
I protested — I can’t cook in a kitchen like this, I pleaded! With veins in neck bulging, and face red, he leaned over me (he being, tall, me being, short), and shouted I DON’T CARE!…at least he didn’t rip all his clothes off, like the last inspired move, because I’d come back two days early from visiting my dying uncle, because she wanted to have the house to herself!That is the moment I knew I had to move.
I don’t know what the end of the story is… but it’s come scarily close to being the end of me. Anyone want 40 or 50 paintings? … They’re physical objects in the way here….the one thing I thought I was doing that had some value.
Anyone want some free art?