I used to know you, long ago,
when we were guided by the soul.
I loved your honesty, and your faith in me.
So why did you have to go?
Some say the fall of many men,
Is their surrender to what’s given.
They have failed to see we don’t live life for free.
Love is the price we pay, but when?
Just love some more,
Then you’ll pull through.
Even if it seems the world has turned its back on you.
Love gives you strength you need,
I don’t want sympathy.
I will stand upon my own.
Now I am strong and unafraid,
Despite cruel and unkind things we said.
I will go on to see, what the world holds for me.
My love for you has set me free!
I loved some more, and here I am.
Now I think I know exactly where I stand.
It’s a warm place, I never knew.
The whole world breaks down to me and you.
Just love some more,
And you’ll pull through.
Never believe that the world does not love you.
Love gives you strength you see,
No need for sympathy,
The love that you have will set you free.
VAK – Los Angeles, 26th May 1988
The well looks dry.
hear the water,
still running beneath the surface.
You must dig deeper.
The water is.
Cool and clear,
while the mud is in our eyes,
must tear the soil,
to unearth that precious blood,
the life giving flood,
that cleanses the world unseen.
The light may burn,
when your eyes first open.
The darkness of mind,
Ashes of vanity scattered by the wind.
Saturate your soul till it bursts
its paper constraints.
Drink not for granted.
You may yet drown in your own ambition.
From far away I caught a glimpse,
A light my reason could not hold.
Haunting dark reality,
too bitter to accept,
too solid to deny,
Pushing me into far corners,
while the known and the unknown collide.
I dove into hostile waters.
Racing with sharks and other creatures of the depths,
I extended my fragile limbs.
With none to embrace me…
had turned all I loved to stone.
From the cauldron emerged a granite precipice.
Emitting eerie light,
it penetrated the darkness of my thoughts.
The noxious waves cast me upon that stony flesh,
to which I clung.
There I firmly planted the seeds which burst my skull.
Some distant day, to bear fruit.
Still that oasis showers me with razor rock.
other scavengers peck relentlessly at my back.
Trying my will in vain,
this too shall pass…
I have forged roots,
which neither stone,
nor vanity can daunt.
My roots reach the core of this world,
They drink from deathless springs which nurture through their trials.
I am but a part of this fierce,
flesh tearing womb.
I plunge my feet beyond the murky depths.
My hands soar to caress the stars, our neighbors.
My mind conceives my own existence.
Here I shall remain,
till others emerge from the cauldron.
Navigate the seething entrails of understanding,
imbibe the bitter sweet blood of life.
VAK – Athens 1993
The wicked tricks of a clever mind,
derailing the train of thought.
Making love to me with your diploma.
My mind skips a beat.
Confronted with your persona,
I won’t dance.
I hear another vision. Harmonious.
The longings of my deepest core.
I must dance alone,
along a blade of glass.
Slicing into the world of dreams…
VAK Athens, 1992
I don’t know her.
We never met.
My laughter falls in place of tears,
concealing amazement at vanity’s cruelty.
In this ghost city,
were words bullets,
corpses would grin from each cafe,
ignorant of their own assassination.
Words are bullets,
Ego speaks and the words strike,
spiritual blood spilled indiscriminately.
Life drains away,
VAK – Athens, 1989
About twenty years ago I read this amazing “little” book by Arthur C. Clarke titled Childhood’s End. I recall that the spine was deceptively slender considering the intensity of the wallops the story had to deliver on many levels. Then again any true connoisseur of cold war Sci Fi knows that Sir Arthur was a sage, a philosopher, and a prophet as well as an entertainer.
As a parent for the last 18 years, and a parent of teenagers for the last 7 years (daughter #1 got off to an early start) I now consider this work of literature and sagacity required reading for anyone under the age of 30 who is considering parenthood. Yes ladies and gentlemen, you have been warned!
The “Beatniks”, “Bobby-Socksers” and the “Hippies” are all now either great-grandparents, humanitarian volunteers, published authors or dead.
The “Baby Boomers” are by now either grandparents, or among the well kept, well read, well traveled and childless who think of Herod every time they hear a baby cry in a public venue. That placement in the annuls of history might have some perhaps unexpected perks.
For the grandparents, they get to enjoy their status as digital tourists. They have the pleasure of allowing their grandchildren to teach them things about the “new world”, while they share “faerie stories” about a mythical age before WiFi and hand-held mobile devices with live streaming. The childless on the other hand are generally annoyed by everyone and everything, while everyone and everything are/is also generally annoyed by them. As such a modicum of balance is maintained in the universe!
“Yuppies/Generation X”, to which I admittedly belong, is in a greater predicament. We were on the cusp of the tech breakthrough and the Silicon revolution. We learned Basic on the Apple IIe, we watched Dynasty, Dallas and The Incredible Hulk, we envied the first “car”phones (which were the size of the wireless radios used by troops in Korea and Vietnam). We were the first to be introduced to the concept of “Prosperity Consciousness”. We were the first to be given “easy” credit, to be told that it is possible to “Love Too Much”, and to be informed that sex is potentially lethal…
Is it any wonder we are paralyzed with terror watching our children grow up in a virtual world where “Grand Theft Auto” and “Mafia Wars” are sedentary hobbies, “relationships” are transactional, and “gratification” instantaneous. Even “Hannah Montana” (aka Mylie Cyrus) became trashy just to “fit in”… probably on the advice of her agents and managers… but still, ewwww.
Murderers and serial killers are glorified, while their victims are forgotten. Policy makers argue ridiculous points that really have nothing to offer humanity…
Getting back to those who are about to embark on their 30’s and are trying to work a family into their prospective schedules… Think long, think hard. Do not even allow yourself to think for a fraction of a second that there is an instruction manual. The rules of the game are changing every five minutes! Do not make the fatal error of believing you can keep up in the “virtual” arena! We who are all toast, salute you!
As it is Independence Day in the US of A, I thought it might be worthwhile to pledge allegiance to the teens, our children, our students, those who are inheriting the fruits of our errors and our successes, and upon whom the quality of our future lives depend.
If we don’t empower them, then who will? The “State”? The church? Which state? Which Church?
If we don’t empower them, then WE have no future.
May all make the most of this celebration to ponder and recollect. To remember, albeit briefly, just how wonderful the reckless pioneer spirit could feel between your toes…
What follows is a text I had e-mailed to Donald, my long time friend and collaborator back in June of 2012. The idea was we would each tell the story of our meeting from our own point of view, gradually documenting the development of our friendship and creative collaboration. Unfortunately he didn’t get around to it, or if he did but hadn’t told me then it is probably in a file on one of the NYPL computers which unfortunately I don’t have access to. Here, for whatever it’s worth, is the story of how I met that inscrutable and extraordinary character that I sorely miss.
A Personal “D” Day
March 6th, 1994… Melina Mercouri was a real woman, vibrant, talented, intelligent so her loss would have been a cause for sadness under any circumstances. What infuriated me about her passing was the cause – politics. The doctors said she succumbed to cancer… the reality is that any creative and sensitive being that is naive enough to believe they can actually beat them by joining them (e.g. by running for political office) will inevitably either sell their soul – or succumb to cancer.
Melina’s fighting days were over and that made me angry. I felt angry at her widower, Jules Dassin for not having been able to contrive a story good enough to excite the artist in her and pull her out of the bloody political arena before it was too late. I felt angry because even someone with her dynamism and celebrity proved to be no match for the relentless economic interests that drive the political mechanism.
New York is not a city to be depressed in – or perhaps it is the ultimate city to be depressed in. I had been receiving my own fair share of slaps in the face at various literary agencies so perhaps Melina’s passing provided a much needed opportunity to vent my own frustrations in the face of repeated failure. A more rational individual would probably have faced that dark mood by seeking escape via some light and uplifting entertainment. I agreed to accompany my aunt to a screening of “Schindler’s List” – maybe it was a subconscious attempt at psychological homeopathy.
By the time the film was over and we all managed to pull our stunned selves out of the seats and return to the damp cold of 2nd Avenue I was entirely numb, body and soul. The thought of returning to my aunt’s penthouse on East 64th presented certain dangers I sensed were best avoided: i.e. since my aunt had recently quit smoking the only place I could enjoy a much needed cigarette without her griping would be out in the biting cold on her tiny balcony 14 stories above 64th street. It was 01:30 I had to go somewhere that could provide me warmth, an astray without condescension, and a double-bourbon… and all that at ground level. Immediately the “Silver Star” came to mind, I knew good ol’ Kostas (aka Gus) wouldn’t let me down. I bid my aunt adieu at the corner of 64th and 2nd and continued alone toward the source of the soothing amber liquid my frozen soul was screaming for.
Kostas was engrossed in ESPN when I entered. Initially I thought I had the place to myself but as my eyes adjusted to the atmospheric dim lighting I spotted a curmudgeonly figure hunched over the far end of the bar. He had the home-court advantage of being a regular; I had the outsider’s advantage of speaking Greek so I could ask Kosta “What’s that guy’s story…” without him knowing what the hell I was saying. One thing was certain he looked just as cantankerous and irascible as my mood; as such I figured why not ask him to join me. If nothing else it would be a show of courtesy to Kosta – he could then serve us both without having to turn his back on ESPN.
It took the guy about 7 minutes to make up his mind, and he scowled at me as though that would somehow facilitate the decision making process. For some reason I found that hysterical. That was clearly not the response to the scowl he had counted on – and muttering various incoherent epithets he slowly moved down the bar. He didn’t sit next to me; he opted to leave a vacant stool between us. I found that humorous too – thinking to myself “Imagine the vibe I must be giving off if even a New Yorker is afraid to get too close!”.
(Having recently painted my house I had the opportunity to sort through old correspondence, snail mail Don and I had exchanged between 1994 and 2000 when I finally got internet at home. There are some pretty colorful accounts in those letters of Don’s take on meeting me, however due to language I would of necessity give them an ‘R’ rating… That’s a book for another time!)