Listening to: “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” – Bob Dylan
Talk about yer misnomers. “Wintry mix?” What is this weather, a delightful tossed salad with a few rutabagas tossed in for seasonal flair? A delightful mix tape to listen to on the Solstice? No. No. “Wintry mix” should be called “assy hell.” “Assy hell” would be vastly more appropriate to describe March snain careening at your face as you come up from the subway into the windy gloom of Dewey Square.
I know I haven’t written in awhile, as I have been both busy and traveling. My job sent me to New York and Philadelphia, to chat up our teams of writers there. It was good times.
In Philly, I saw the greatest drag show ever at a dive bar called Bob & Barbara’s on South Street, which included a variety of glitzy queens, a stripper dangling his barely-sheathed cock along a drunken birthday girl’s face, and hunky bartenders in Speedos serving up the “special”—PBR and a shot of Jim Beam in a tiny plastic cup. I sat on a bench in Rittenhouse Square and ate street-cart cheesesteak.
A sick but kind-looking man with a bag of medications and the lump of a catheter underneath his jacket asked me for train fare. He said he’d just been released from the hospital after kidney surgery, needed to get back Lancaster, and his car had been booted. He said he had HIV and he’d asked fellow black gay men for help and none of them would help. “My own people,” he said. He could have been scamming me, but I honestly don’t think he was. I gave him $2.50. His image sticks with me.
I stayed alone in a Westin, all expenses paid. It was my first time alone in an honest-to-god hotel room. I’ve been alone in sketchy hostels plenty of times (although you’re never really alone in hostels), but never in a nice hotel room. I started laughing when I walked inside, bounced on the huge white bed, spent twenty minutes examining the minibar, the “refreshment” drawer, the dual-headed shower head, the bathrobe, the Gideon’s bible, the view into the shopping court below. I realized I could’ve done anything in there, and no one would know. It was all about discretion. I felt like I ought to order myself a fancy hooker and a room service feast.
In New York, I spent most of the weekend wandering around Williamsburg with Rachel. We walked down to the East River, where real estate junkies had suddenly realized they could build condos that looked out on a perfect view of the Manhattan skyline. At the moment, it’s a big stretch of flattened grass. We stopped in a garden variety of trendy restaurants and bars and stretched out the day with wine and beer. I think if I move there eventually, Tucker will be alright. Lots of dogs, lots of green spaces.
And back in Boston now, busier than ever, wasting time that I don’t have on this blog. I saw My Name is Rachel Corrie a few weeks ago at the New Rep, and it’s really stuck with me. Not just in that it made me want to look further into the Israel-Palestine awfulness, but that Rachel Corrie was a very good writer. Also, that she really dedicated herself to changing the world as best she could and as best she understood it.
The part of the night that really sent me over the edge, though, was that Rachel Corrie’s actual parents were there. They joined in the talkback after the show, and the actress who played Rachel sat next to them, looking at them in awe, red-eyed, humbled.
I started reading her journals this week. She kept them for years–these go from when she was ten right up until her death by Israeli bulldozer in Gaza in 2003 when she was 23. Though some of it is very teen-angsty (albeit extremely articulate teen angst), a lot of what she wrote really feels like I’m hearing someone else rephrasing my own thoughts. If she hadn’t ended up becoming an accidental martyr, I think she could have gone on to be a very fine author.
Written when she was 18:
“I think my soul is nomadic. I’ve always stared upward at airplanes cutting white paths through the sky and wondered where they’re going. I’ve always turned my head a little to listen out of one ear to the people speaking in Spanish behind me on the bus. I’ve always stayed awake all night on the log silent car rides across Montana and Wyoming, watching the muscles of hills in the moonlight, watching the lights of small towns fade into darkness behind me, watching the infinite bald stripe of highway connect eastern horizons to western horizons. I’ve always been jealous of migratory birds.”
Which, in turn, makes me think of Angels in America:
“The oboe. The official instrument of the Order of Travel Agents. If the duck was a song bird, it would sound like this: nasal, desolate, the call of migratory things.”
O, pity us poor, poor privileged white folk, trying to do good in the world and always sinking back into useless self-reflection.
…..you got that that was sarcastic, right?
PS: You all failed my movie quotes quiz by not answering it. Failed. Shame. Shame heaped upon your heads. Tangental pseudo-religious shame.