A notorious mayor of New York City once quipped,
“Great little town if they ever get it finished.” That was
James Walker(1881–1946, in office 1926–1932). Implicated
in a substantial financial scandal, he resigned and skipped town
- and the country – in the night with his fabulous Ziegfeld
Follies girlfriend and did not return until things cooled down.
At that point, his late political career qualified him to become a
successful record executive.
Today, I proceed across the once vibrant artery of the
once Greenwich Village; 8th street. Electric Ladyland is on 8thst.
That's where a different Jimi once lived. Today I quip to myself,
“Congratulations Mr. Beau James Jimmy Walker, It's finished.”
"La Commedia è finita!"
My reasons for taking that route to my spirits revival are
these; it provides a hypotenuse shortcut to my objective and,
I enjoy a visit now and then with the 50 years of memories and
ghosts that gambol before the altered, choking or empty stores
on 8th street.
Another near great American once wrote here about the rash
of 'vacancy' that plagues our Gotham, and Nation. The rash is
now a kin to leprosy. But, at the apex of my sojourn, I found
redemption at 'under 20$'.
Half way to home now, I sit in Union Square park, a fine 19th
century urban oasis. They used to have a gibbet here and
would hang juveniles in the Five Points times. To my right is
George Washington and Blueskin. To my left is the building
that once was Tammany Hall. This was the seat of power for
William 'Boss' Tweed(1823-1878). At the height of his powers,
he was the third largest property owner in NYC, it's most
powerful political figure and estimates of his 'skimming' run
between 25 – 200,000,000$, an unimaginable sum of money in
the 19th century. Busy boy I'd say. He died in the pokey on
Ludlow street. 'Magine that, and all by age 55.
As the lock-down(or the term you prefer) and
unemployment and Spring marched in in lock step, I found my
preferred spot, my fortress of solitude and succor became a
patch of park up by the river in the 60's. I've written about this
balm before. There are Willow trees and comfortable chairs and
all the sights of the river and the muted company of souls of like
desire, seeking the peace of this Eden.
Here I can read and write and write and read. What do I
write? Next question...
“whenever it is damp, drizzly November in my soul;
whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before
coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every
funeral I meet; - then I account it high time to get
to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for
pistol and ball.
Yup, 'Moby Dick' by Herman Melville(1819-1891, New York
boy), published 1851 – in England(?) as 'The Whale' in three
volumes - “incrementally” is what I calls it.
I'm reading it for the umpteenth time and ever the first time,
ever fresh and reborn, cerebral yoga in a damp November.
It is one of my go to novels, you betcha...
Couple of weeks back, I started reading reports about a
resurgence, a Renaissance of whales in New York harbor. Now
these are Humpback whales(Megaptera Noveangliae). Mr. Dick
you see, was the much larger Sperm whale(Physeter Catodon).
The river – not really a river technically until you get up to
Albany – is cleaner now that a certain battery manufacturer
who felt themselves entitled to use our river as their toilet,
ceased to manufacture their wares, here. The cleaner river
supports the small fish and crustacea that are just the thing a
Humpback would choose to eat.
The day is bright and cold, hat and gloves cold. The clouds
are Holbein clouds, low and heavy, well formed and blanketing
straight to the horizon. The water is choppy and the chop
reveals where the river(really a tidal basin) is shallow or deep.
I can't work a pen with the gloves and I find it too cold to read
and concentrate so I stare, happily.
To my left/south is Ellis and Bedloe's islands and the
Verrazanno. Straight across the river is the great state of
New Jersey; its towns neatly arrayed like chess pieces from
Jersey City north to Ft Lee where, they keep the George
Washington Bridge, however, no horse.
In a lilting panorama my eye moves across the water,
back and forth, repeat. In one of those famously sought after
moments of clarity, I realize. I'm hunting for a whale.
Moby Dick sleeps soundly below deck in my backpack but by
myself in the crow's nest, I keep watch for a spout or a fin.
Wonders of the Universe, I lower my head and weep. I might
though at any moment jump up and in an embarrassing
attempt at a Scottish brogue declare;
“Capt'n, there be whales on board!”.
The river came back. The whales came back(though I've
not seen one yet) and the krill and the menhaden came back.
Who knows what else? Wonder.
Great novels, great works commence revealing themselves
at about the third read, I'd say. Finish it the first time, let it sit
with you awhile and start all over again.
And again, it's not finished.
And NYC and this Nation ain't finished neither, no sir,
no ma'am, homey. Dig it.
We're coming back, bet your best horse. We got past toxic
criminal scumbags before, some quite capable.
The Firebird rises
A Whale breeches.
Phoebus shines brightly
keeps her promises.