Goodbye, Bobby

A man’s dying is more the survivors’ affair than his own.

Clock in Upper West Side, NYC
An old friend of mine passed last week.

He was the first person I ever met in college. Met him outside of the dorms queuing for one thing or another. He was from Virginia.

Never met an Asian kid from Virginia before. At that point, I’d never really been out of the City. Don’t think I’d even been to the Bronx or Staten Island yet.

We became pretty good friends through the years. Bombed my econ class because a group of us were playing cards late into the night.

Ended up going to the same law school, just at different times. We also ended up living in the same neighborhood so we constantly either met up or ran into each other.

But in 2001 we had an argument and stopped talking. It wasn’t a terrible argument, per se. Just the kind where both people’re irritated enough to stop talking for a while.

Your typical super-important argument about nuthin.

We met up a few years later at a wedding where I was a groomsman and he was the best men.

Me: Hey, your tie’s crooked. (fixing it)
Him: Ah, thanks. I was worried it’d be weird between us.

We sat at the same table, and were pleasant. We said we’d reconnect again but never got around to it.

That’s the thing with old ghosts; you always run into them in the big City. Figured I’d just run into him again one day, like I do the rest of the world. And we’d be cool again.

But I never did. Now, I never will.

Every time someone dies, I think of that Thomas Mann quote, A man’s dying is more the survivors’ affair than his own.

Right now, I’m on an email list filled with names I’ve not seen in years.

Some people are heading down to the funeral, some are sending flowers. My friends and I are sending an arrangement.

Can’t really imagine what his parents are going through. Don’t want to. When I heard he died, after the initial shock wore off, I thought of my own parents. I’d never want them to have to go through that.

What a thing to bear.

I wish I did actually give him a call. Or he gave me one. Or we did run into each other like people do here.

Life gets in the way. That is, until it gets out of the way.

I’ll add my not meeting up with him to my list of ten thousand regrets.

Goodbye, man. I’m so sorry to hear that you left us.

Me: Why would it be weird? We had an argument. People have arguments. We should meet up some time.
Him: Sure, that sounds good.

Location: in my head, back in college
Mood: sad
Music: Yesterday I got so old, it made me want to cry
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Goodbye Big Nick’s, you’ll be missed

Change is the only constant in life


I first moved into my neighborhood 17 years ago.

Back then it was kinda dive-y but I was younger and stupider then. Back then, the legendary P&G Bar – which you might know from the Runaway Bride or any number of other films – and the Yogi’s Bar were typical for the neighborhood.

Al Pachino’s Needle Park took place just a few blocks from my doorstep and the film the Warriors had shots all over my hood including the 95th Street Station exterior shots.

The Panic in Needle Park
The Panic in Needle Park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After Trump moved into the area and fixed up the pier and they installed the new subway station at West 73rd Street, the place really took off.

As you know, I don’t lament the passing of old New York all that much; after all, no one that was born poor wants to stay poor.

But last week, my old haunt, Big Nicks closed. Their menu was as big as a book and if you wanted a bagel, slice of pizza, foot-long hotdog, and a side of gyro with chili at 2:34 AM, they had it. With a Fosters beer, for some strange reason.

As an insomniac, wrote a lot of stuff there; a lot of The Men Made of Stone was done in front of greasy plates there.

That leaves me with two dive bars left in the UWS.

There’s this poem in Chinese I like that goes:

shao xiao li jia lao da hui, xiang yin wu gai bin mao shuai.
er tong xiang jian bu xiang shi ,xiao wen ke cong he chu lai.
少 小 离 家 老 大 回, 乡 音 无 改 鬓 毛 衰.
儿 童 相 见 不 相 识, 笑 问 客 从 何 处 来?

Basically, this dude leaves his hometown and comes back an old man for the first time in decades. He sees children playing and laughing – like he did with his childhood friends – but they’re not him, and they’re not his friends.

But they’re just like him and them when they were kids.

And they call out to him: Hello stranger! And it’s nostalgic and sad in the sense that he’s now a stranger in his own hometown – it doesn’t recognize him and he doesn’t recognize it.

I think one day I’ll leave here and everything will have changed and be like I remember it, but not.

Suppose that’s true anywhere.

More practically: Dammit, there’s no place else now to get a bagel, slice of pizza, foot-long hotdog, a side of gyro,  with chili and a Fosters Beer at 2:34 AM.

I wish some things stayed the same.

Not all. Just some.

In other news, went to see the folks last night. It looked and felt like spring.

Location: the UWS that’s changing too fast for me
Mood: busy
Music: Try imagining a place where it’s always safe and warm
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Scytales On the Dark Side

Imagine if we could send messages to ourselves

Him: It’s funny, isn’t it? How something like a song can snap you back to a time in your life?
Me: I don’t think I’ve heard that song in decades.

A scytale’s just a stick that’s of a certain thickness.

A scytale
A scytale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you took, say, a belt, and wrapped it around a stick and then proceeded to write across it, it would make a rudimentary code. While wrapped around the stick, you could read it normally but unwrap it and it would just be a jumble of letters unless you had a stick of the same diameter.

Spartans and the Athenians use to write to each other in this code. Somehow got onto the topic of codes with my wife.

Me: I used to write these coded letters to myself.
Her: Why yourself?
Me: (laughing) No one’d ever play with me as a kid. No one ever wants to play with the really fat minority nerd. So I just wrote them to myself.
Her: (patting me on the head) It’s hard being a kid.

This all came about because my brother called me to talk about that song above and our childhood in general. It was rough for both of us but for different reasons.

However, my one saving grace may have been my insomnia. Because it’s all very hazy. I just remember being lonely a lot but not really discrete things about it. I wonder if he had such a buffer.

In any case, I think my wife feels sorry for that version of me. And in a weird way, I do too. Because he’s me but he is not I.

But I remember that version of me sitting and listening to that song and wishing he could sing.

Sorry kid, 28 years later, we still can’t.

But we can do things I never dreamt I’d be able to do. And have the most amazing life.

Still, while I am very grateful for everything I have, I did wonder what it would be like if I could send a coded message to my younger self. After all, listening to that message was like him talking to me.

I’d send two, actually:

  • One would tell him that everything would be fine: Everything is the same but different. The acne would clear up, the fat would go away, and sheer terror of life would stop. Just stop.
  • Of course, the other would tell him to buy Apple stock when it was $7 a share like there was no tomorrow.

I’m no sentimental fool.

Location: on my way to other latitudes
Mood: pleased
Music: like a dream, make me feel crazy
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Elsewho

Dreaming of my possible pasts

© Roy A. Hammond/WLIW New York

Rain: Can I borrow your phone?
Me: (absentmindedly) Sure.
Rain: Here you go.
Me: Thanks. Hey – what’d you do?
Rain: Nuthin! So paranoid…

My mind’s elsewhere, and elsewho, again. At least it’s the weekend.

I’m in a 300 year old building in Passau that’s been converted to apartments. The ceilings are high with wooden floors and painted on the entire far wall is a pop art portrait of a blond girl crying. Honey and Katherine are there. We’d just gotten back from Vienna. A woman I love is there too. She whispers her nonsense word into my ear and I whisper mine back. We’re having an early dinner of pasta when Marvin Gaye comes on.

Honey shrieks, and jumps onto the table to dance when my girl pulls me up and says, “You too” as I laugh and follow. She smiles, turns back to me and says – (phone alarm rings, it’s 5:15AM in NYC)

Me: (sit up and look groggily at phone) Dammit Rain…dammit…

Fall back into bed and plot revenge against Rain. Sigh. Toss off covers. Flip on Ghosts of Goodbye and start doing situps as ghosts fade away.

Eins, zwei, drei…

Location: 19:00 yest, Malachy’s with Heidi and Buckley
Mood: sotted
Music: I used to go out to parties and stand around

There’s no place to hide

Location: 21:00 yest, ordering another roti in Jackson Heights
Mood: full
Music: remember when you used to pick out my shirts?

What do you think of those happy dreams where you wake up and it was just that – a happy dream? Is it better to have them so it’s real, if only for a bit, or not have them at all?

I’ve been sleeping very little these days and it shows on my face. But this week I dreamt of my possible pasts.

Once got into a stupid argument with No 2. I went off to class, then to my usual study place in the library and there she was. She drove two hours to see me. I guess I dreamt of it causa my brother visiting me. She’s married now and happy I heard. I’m glad. I was just awful to her. Awful.

S’bad enough I run into old ghosts on the streets. Now they’re visiting me in my dreams.

Should you need me this weekend, I’ll be the dude swimming in a vat of rum. Please don’t interrupt.

———-

Met a girlie a while back; I’m hoping to run into her again this weekend.

‘Scuse me darlin’, lemme cross?
I’m not your darling.
Huh. It’s early yet. Y’could be.

Comings and Goings

 

A buddy had a going away party on Saturday at one of my favorite joints, Solas and different people from different circles of my life met up there.

We ran into others like a Candyfiend – whom I also bumped into last week midtown, an actor from 72nd to Canal, and a Texan and her friend (like the hat?) I met at a party a week ago. Sometimes NYC’s a small town.

Lots of memories there. Before my time it was called Café Tabac and Madonna worked there. You know, I met Somena there, was there for dozens of parties, was slapped there and last saw Blue-Jean Eyes there.

Had my 30th birthday party at Solas too.

The coolest thing about Saturday night was that there were at least 10 people there for my buddy’s thing that were at my 30th as well.

Friends come and go. Some stay with you physically; some stay with you mentally. Some do both.

Have a safe trip, buddy.

Location: 7:15PM yest, saying hello at church
Mood: psyched!
Music: On my way to see my friends who live a couple blocks away
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Fancy meeting you here

I’m running into too many people I know

I’m away again.

After this past weekend, I’m actually slightly glad to be somewhere else.

I love my city, don’t get me wrong. But when you’ve lived in one place for, basically, your whole life, you’re bound to keep ending up at familiar places.

And running into old ghosts.

Him: So, are you a partner somewhere yet?
Me: Not so much. (pause) I’m writing, actually.
Him: Oh. That’s…cool. Are you and that girl married now?
Me: Well, she’s married. Not to me though. Kid any day now.
Him: Oh! (pause) Are you happy at least?
Me: (thinking) I’m happy in my head.

Location: 20 feet from the middle of nowhere
Mood: busy
Music: Who? I really wanna know Who are you?

Looks

 The man in the mirror

The show’s coming out tomorrow so I’ll post again this weekend or today.

Back in the day, my ex hated that mirror so I put it away. As luck would have it, I had just brought it out, dusted it off and put it up when she arrived last Sunday.

I spoke to the girl with eyes like faded jeans today who sent me back my jacket in the crumpled pink box in the picture. I’m disappointed because I thought it might be something but it turned out to be nothing.

We broke up twice before and each time, she felt I moved on too quickly. This time, I waited and made sure this is what she wanted. Yes.

We broke up because of an argument. I learned the hard way that it’s better to have honest disagreements than pretty lies. She wants someone who doesn’t argue with her and I guess that’s possible but I can’t see how real a relationship that could be.

Her past relationships have been rough on her and now I think I know why. Easy is fake; hard is real. Such is life.

I was going to tell her when I reconsidered. She would have just disagreed with me and that’s a losing bet. She’s not my girl anymore.

Me? I met up with a girl who’s leaving town. She loved a brown-eyed man on the other side of the world and I loved a blue-eyed girl on the other side of NYC.

We’re perfect for each other – except that we’re not.

With enough rum, we are and that’s good enough for the time being.

Looking back at all my posts this week, you must think I’m conceited. My friends always catch me staring at myself in mirrors. I’m not staring because I’m vain. I’m staring because I’m always surprised.

Because, in my head, I don’t look like that at all.

In my head, I look like this.

Location: @1AM, doing the Standard in some UWS bar
Mood: sotted
Music: gonna make a change, for once in my life

You’re kidding me / PB&J

My Ex stopped by and peeked into my fridge

A bachelor's refridgerator

Got a gig to go to fancy dinners and chat with rich people.

Him: You really don’t know? They want you because of how you look.
Me: (surprised) You’re kidding me. What about my resume?
Him: (shrugging) Didn’t even look at it. You’re meeting Ed Koch on Wednesday. Free up your nights, wear a suit and don’t bring a date. Oh…don’t get fat.

After a breakup, I tend to get hit on more. Even Gio noticed people looking at me tonight. I think it’s the lack of sleep, plus, I don’t eat much when I’m single. It’s nice but my hands are shaking again.

I’m usually the icebreaker of my friends. Some of them (not Gio) “love” the women I’m with but the moment I’m single, they tell me things like, “Oh, I never liked her,” to get me back in the scene.

Ugh. I hate that. I hate gossip folk.

My exes weren’t perfect but I was with them for a reason.

Speaking of which, The Ex stopped by unexpectedly on Sunday night to pick up some of her things.

For some reason, she looked in the fridge. All it had was protein shakes, rum and PB&J. She laughed when she opened up the freezer and saw the Mac & Cheese and all the veggie burgers.

Wish I could tell you something terribly interesting happened when she was here. She looked amazing. But I’d be lying.

You know, I could survive on protein shakes, rum and PB&J.

Maybe even just the rum.

Location: @8PM, my favorite dive bar w/Gio
Mood: irritated
Music: Then I’ll just be waiting here right here

It doesn’t matter

If you don’t know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter what road you take

Traffic sign in Flushing Queens, NY.

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree.
“Which road do I take?” she asked.
“Where do you want to go?” was his response.
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.”

Had quite the weekend because of the show but that’s tomorrow’s entry.

So I considered locking this blog and or not writing anymore, but then again, rum and women notwithstanding, I live a fairly boring life.

I’m surprised you’re still here.

Decided to continue writing as usual. Pretty much made all my choices and so much of my life is out there already. It’s like putting toothpaste back into a tube. Anyway, writing is for public consumption. Anything else, and you’re just a nutcase with a notebook. Here’re my thoughts:

  • Regarding potential women, we both know that my love life’s a train wreck all on its own, with or without this blog.
  • Regarding past women, there’s a reason they and I live separate lives. After some thinking, I’m assuming that since they want no part of my life, why would they read about it?*
  • Regarding employment, I’ve essentially not had a real job since 1999. Why start now?

While I’m writing about the show tomorrow, I gotta mention that Furison came and said that I was absurdly hot. This brings the total number of times, I’ve been called that to…1. She said other nice things about 72nd to Canal but, let’s be honest, I only saw absurdly hot and eye-candy mainstay.

Her comments on my pictures do shed light to this blog entry; oh well, it’s still not a bad way to start the week.

Not a bad way at all.

*Coincidentally, I just had a woman from my past visit me – I guess I’ll have write about that later too.

Location: 7:30PM Yest, standing in church by myself
Mood: surprised
Music: the finish line’s a good place we could start