Category Archives: hope chest (aka time capsule)

escape to new york

thirty years ago on a cold january night my grandfather went out to start the snowblower, most likely a cigarette dangling from his lips, and suffered a fatal heart attack.  i remember when my mother got the call and went pale and still.  we were in atlanta, then, i think.  back to new jersey we went for the funeral.  i was 5 going on 6.  at the viewing, i wore a dress she had sewn for me, long sleeves, blue floral, a matching fabric pouch made from the leftover fabric, a blue ribbon tied in the hair that is forever falling in my face.  i remember trying to find places to hide, familiar faces, there were so many in attendance…the ambulance corps he headed, the local police come to pay their respects, so many uniforms amidst the friends and family spread among the floors of the home.  we wore the customary torn black ribbons pinned to us, keriah, symbolic of the loss of the loved one and the mourners’ anger with god for taking him.  my mother didn’t let me go with them to the gravesite to say goodbye.  she thought i was too young.

i didn’t see much of my grandparents when i was little; we were always moving somewhere, farther and farther away.  but when my parents separated my mother and i moved back in with them and i spent the most time with him i ever would.  intuitively, i was drawn to him, the quiet, intelligent, wry man, who found excuses for excursions and got us both out of the house.  his home, my mother’s childhood home.  they still had the antique stores in those years, my grandfather and his brothers, and we two early risers would make our getaway to the diner, stopping first for pink hostess sno-balls and candy cigarettes for me, the paper for him. at the diner counter he would smoke and drink coffee and i would spin back and forth quietly next to him on my stool.  then i would go to the store with him, watch him open and go about his tasks, sit with a book and read, walk around and look at the antiques, ask about things.  i think the ride in the car was always my favorite part.  at night after my bath he would spread a towel over his legs, untangle and smooth out my hair as he dried it.  someone doing this today will still, unfailingly, calm and put me to sleep.

thirty years he has been dead and thirty years it took me to finish circling back to my first hideaway.  thirty years of stolen rides and long hair in my face and torn ribbons and sneaking sweets and life on the lam. thirty years it took for me to move to new york city, to come home to the place of my first adventure.  for my grandfather, sanford kahn, the first to hold my hand and lead me here, to teach me to take the time and space to learn who i am, to bring me to the place i love more than anywhere else in the world and have made my home. for my grandfather.



my new fix: this recording, “Escape to New York (in which we do whatever we can get away with)”

“In comparison to his photographs of Central Park, the images in East 100th Street are airless and cramped. The exteriors feel like interiors. Rarely do you see the sky, or the spine of the Triborough Bridge, that big animal, lying across the East River. The city resembles a room, a closed space, a closet. The effect is counterintuitive; in Davidson’s work, narrow alleys and low ceilings serve as reminders of the city’s size, of how much it contains, and conceals.

If you believe people do whatever they can get away with, you might imagine his portraits of people peering out windows or sprawled on beds to be portraits of lust and false-heartedness. Manhattan’s geography generates infidelity: ours is a capacious city, a vast island whose size permits isolation and therefore betrayal.

Davidson’s photographs remind us that people’s personal lives are mostly tedious. Everybody has dirty plates and families. Privacy protects us. Behind closed doors we shine our shoes and our personalities; we rest and then resume playing the roles of interesting people. We hide our worst selves, and our dullest: we would rather have people see us as bad than boring.”  Elizabeth Gumport, writing for this recording


love song

they say i have her eyes



sunday mass: we all shine on

“grain upon grain, one by one, and one day, suddenly, there’s a heap, a little heap, the impossible heap.” samuel beckett, endgame

which opens the ticking is the bomb, by nick flynn, excerpt below.

(aside:  i sat in my program director’s office, explaining my thesis proposal, and when i finished he smiled and asked me, “how well do you know the myth of proteus?”)

“proteus lives at the bottom of a steep cliff, down a treacherous path, at the edge of the sea.  from the top of the cliff you can see him, lolling on a flat rock, staring into the endless nothing of the sea, but to reach him is difficult.  you’ve been told that he has the answer to your question, and you are a little desperate to have this question answered.  as you make your way down you must be careful not to dislodge any loose gravel, careful not to cry out when the thorns pierce your feet.  you must approach him as quietly as you can, get right up on him, get your hands on him, around his neck.  you’ve been told that you have to hold on while you ask your question, you’ve been told that you can’t let go.  you’ve been told that as you hold on Proteus will transform into the shape of that which most terrifies you, in order to get you to release your grip.  but the promise is that if you can hold on, through your fear, he will return to his real form and answer your question.”

laurie anderson’s delusion at bam

just go see it.  a multimedia, swirling production of interwoven myth and politics and space and historicity and new york.  always, the city:  “it was the first time i pictured nyc as a really good place for a pilgrimage.”

i couldn’t help but think back, and i guess it’s safe now the anniversary has once again passed.  laurie anderson and lou reed, the queen and king of the mermaid parade.

never much cared for the man, not that impressed. but after the towers fell, it was his song in the back of the ny times magazine and a piece that ran in the austin chronicle by michael ventura, the only stuff that made sense to me or that i was able to absorb for quite some time.  everything else was smothered by the words of the reporter on the television in those first hours:  “you can see pieces of the building falling.  oh god, no, they’re people jumping.”

what else do i remember?  i remember that there was nowhere to go.  i remember i went to class, then work, and my friend kenneth came and sat with me all day, silent vigil.  we never talked about it.  i don’t know why he came.  i remember my boyfriend wouldn’t turn off cnn and the footage became a nightmarish, lurid soundtrack.  i remember fantasizing about being the fed up woman in the twilight zone episode who yells shut up at the cacophony  and freezes time.

later, then, this.  it became a prayer of sorts.  a meditation:

“laurie sadly listening”, by lou reed, published november 11, 2001

Laurie if you’re sadly listening

The birds are on fire The sky glistening

While I atop my roof stand watching

Staring into the spider’s clypeus

Incinerated flesh repelling

While I am on the rooftop yearning

Thinking of you

Laurie if you’re sadly listening

Selfishly I miss your missing

The boundaries of our world now changing

The air is filled with someone’s sick reasons

And I had thought a beautiful season was

Upon us

Laurie if you’re sadly listening

The phones don’t work

The bird’s afire

The smoke curls black

I’m on the rooftop

Liberty to my right still standing

Laurie evil’s gaunt desire is

Upon we

Laurie if you’re sadly listening

Know one thing above all others

You were all I really thought of

As the TV blared the screaming

The deathlike snowflakes

Sirens screaming

All I wished was you to be holding

Bodies frozen in time jumping

Bird’s afire

One thing me thinking

Laurie if you’re sadly listening

Love you

Laurie if you’re sadly listening

Love you

where to hang, where to hang…

soon to be mine for life