Sunday, June 26, 2016


There's a church at the corner,
whole block actually, of
Broadway and 10th, Grace
Church; it's quite a sight, lots
of lyrical beauty, spires and
the rest. It was right there,
almost across the street, that
the poet Frank O'Hara lived.
He was writing furiously at the
time, quite nicely, and holding
down, as well, a big-ticket job
with the Museum of Modern
Art, on 53rd. No matter. That
church itself was always a
strange portal to me, to
another place. I don't mean
the 'church' aspect of it  -  the
religiosity of it was not my
concern. Rather, I mean the
physical location. A place of
human hallucinations, actually.
There was corner, a fenced
corner there, with a big, iron
fence and, at the corner, a
gargoyle-faced water fountain
spout  -  not a spray or a fountain,
just a water source, like for the
thirsty walker, or, if the head
went down into the trough, for
a thirsty horse to drink from.
It's still there, different now,
and unused. But in my day
there, I knew I had seen it in
a Charlie Chaplin film -  and
I was certainly no form of film
buff; I just knew, or felt, that
I'd somehow seen it, or, heck,
even more than that, been there
when it was filmed, when Chaplin
(I read about it later) set the shot,
set up the heroine, and the street
urchin upon whom she takes pity,
and the horse and wagon. Threw the
hay and gravel down into the
street for realism's sake, himself.
It was crazy, and in my time it
transgressed all the bounds
of physics. But I simply knew
it was all still there. In my own
active presence, it was a sort of
second life I experienced, the
placement of, say, dream-wish
with a reality-bleed. Anyway,
as it was, that became the sort
of ghost life I was living. It was
as  if I'd found the physical world
to be but a thin membrane, one
that I could get through, a thin
layer at a time, to bring myself
to where I sought to be. Each
layer, having a thickness (or
thinness) of its own, granting
me the needed allowances to
experience, walk through, and,
thus, influence them. This
was real, as real as anything.
I was a young kid, trying to
be an artist, whether that be
art, or writing,  or whatever.
Something was sending me
messages,  messages with
which to alter the fabric of
my time, and I was determined
to abide by them, and take
heed. That was where I was
at, August, 1967, and you
can scoff or call me crazy,
but that was my boat and 
that boat was afloat. If I
was crazy, it was while
cloaked in an invisible 
coat of such craziness 
which allowed me to get
away with it. Anyway, what
was I supposed to do? Walk
myself into the Northern 
Dispensary and tell them I 
was seeing things, hearing
 things, and time traveling
too, all at once, and then ask
for some aspirin? Or, maybe,
instead go back to one of those
Draft Board shrinks and begin
explaining to them what I 
was going through  -  a sort 
of combat and shell-shock 
fatigue while not even having 
yet set foot in their Killing
Fields? Yeah, that would get
me a pension really quickly.
'Oh, just hearing things, and
seeing things,  and the whole 
world is talking to me  -  all 
of creation  -  now hurry up
cure me?' I don't think.
My own personal factors were
bedded down and beat up. Like
getting that message, again, 'In 
a sense, all things could be called
fragments.'  The world was not 
whole, and we never saw anything 
whole. Entireities didn't exist, 
and all we saw were parts and 
fragments. The bits and pieces 
we allowed, those which fit 
our structures and our mass 
assumptions, even though
none of it was true. And then
what got really weird to me 
(you've got to remember, my
 mind was still trying all this 
out, and my personal sleepover
camp had merely gone from
Tompkins Square Park, outdoors,
with the other belt-faced humans
who night-crawled and inhabited
all this with me, the creepies, the
crawlies, to another form of 
non-shelter two blocks off, this 
being called a tenement apartment,
or something with a roof anyway, 
but a roof that wasn't above me, 
because all that was above me,
remember was Buffalo Billy Joe
and his space-cadet most lovingly
attired personal Annie Oakley, 
whom I really did sometimes think
I'd like to have in my clutches for
a few Texas-type hours). And I
realized too, 'here I was, weaving
my own magical web and setting
forth upon it as I wove it, and it
was holding me, not ensnaring 
me, and allowing for expansion
and growth outward. What kind
of spider-web was this?'
Grace Church has its own long
history, and one I won't go into now.
Its architect, James Renwick, Jr., here
truly did a remarkable thing, designing
a monstrous Gothic and deeply-spired,
as much to say 'inspired' as well, edifice
which seems both mired in its own
Earthly reality and yet, rocket-ship like, 
poised and set to take off into a deeper
space where the gyres of time and space
overlap and touch the gods. I still pass
it often and, seeing workmen around,
taking their breaks and lunches on its
walls and frontings, oblivious as they are
to anything of the thin tissue of that 'world'
around them  -  the 'real' world, not their
crap world of phone-play, sports, movies
 and food  -  have to take a moment to
think of the betrayal of everyday 
Humankind to the power and fabric 
of  the interiors they inhabit. It's
certainly not fair sides, I know that;
and if anyone of them ever fell, with or
without me, through that portal there
at the fountain by their feet, they'd
surely know of what I speak.
Scratch the surface of anything,
any of our worldly 'fragments' and
there's another world entire, 
still going on.

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