Tuesday, December 13, 2016


In many ways, looking 
back now, I can see how 
I was brought up in an
almost 'old world' way.
Just through the odd things
that came through; about
respect and reverence and
sanctity and listening to
elders and such. Quiet
light, in a large, dark 
room. As a youngster,
amidst all those visiting
adults  -  aunts and 
uncles, and the rest 
of the extended family 
groupings, I'd be told
to 'move away' or go
outside, as the 'adults'
would be almost 
beginning their talk 
about 'someone' or 
someone's delicate 
situation which, at
the same time, must 
be kept from the likes 
of me  -  the children.
Or, sitting down at my
aunt's piano, being told
to play low, not loud,
and with a 'delicate' 
hand  -  as if the music
resultant must be reverent,
or not be. The airmail 
envelopes that folded 
open, covered with
Italian, blue-ink
handwriting. The 
glass-globes, scattered
around, each with tiny
scenes of faraway forest
and country scenes. A
shake, and in silence all
would be engulfed in
snow. Adults, imponderable
in their dark and deep
conversations : the 
meddling hand of 
traditions and custom;
everything extolled by
I wanted to be separate, 
and single. Yet at the 
same time I wished to 
be part of everything. I
had gotten myself under
some sort of new, Walt 
Whitmanesque spell.
'I am a man, and nothing
human is alien to me.' All
that stuff. 'Every man is
all of man.'
Occasionally, people would 
die. It was not until much 
later in life, 1980, in fact,
when I actually saw a dead 
person; my own grandmother,
my mother's mother, that is,
laid out in her coffin. Before
then, even the idea of death 
was just something that 
happened to others. I 
never had much of a feel 
for it. My father had a 
few photographs, 
actually, of his own 
mother, in her coffin. 
It all seemed much 
older, ancient in fact, 
and from another time 
entire. However, I had 
visited and known her, 
a few times, in her 
asylum domicile. 
We'd visit, the spindly 
nuthouse wards, they'd 
let her out for a few 
hours, we'd picnic 
on a large wide lawn, 
she'd look all crazed 
and bedraggled. I'd 
pretend familiarity 
and that nothing 
was out of the 
ordinary. Then 
she was dead, and 
I never heard another 
word; just these few 
death-photos. Along 
Mulberry Bend, in 
NYC, where Chinatown
 now is, was once 
the most renegade 
part of old Five Points, 
with death and violence 
at every turn. Most of 
it's been taken down 
now, replaced with 
what's called 'Columbus 
Park' (it was once Italian, 
thus the name; now 
it's all Chinese). Anyway, 
there are three or four 
still massive and quite 
serious funeral homes 
right there on the 
one side portion 
of the Bend which 
has been left. Each 
with a long, Italian 
name. 'Bonstromatto 
Funeral Parlor', or 
whatever. These 
were never removed, 
and still do business. 
I don't know any 
more about them  - 
neither about the
clientele, nor who 
they service and 
under what tutelage. 
It's just funny to see  
-  old world stained 
glass, and fancy fronts. 
Like that piano music -   
quiet, in a noisy spot.
Trying to grow up in 
the middle of all this 
was quite difficult. 
To compound it all, 
I had the train wreck,
the hospitalization, and
then the recuperation. It
made people dote on me,
bring forth some sort of
special treatment. I never
much understood it. I
probably appeared to
them as something 
returned from the dead,
in a very unexpected
manner. No one quite 
knew what to do. I was
too young to really care,
or to attempt to put my
own feelings across  -  
people would just say I 
'wasn't the same.' The old
spark and vigor was gone.
I never knew, whether
right or not, what they
were meaning to say.
I myself used to walk 
around, at age 10, 
doubtful of my own 
existence, thinking,
'should I not have been 
dead? Have I returned 
from something in a 
manner I should not have?'
It became quite difficult 
for me to justify my own 
being. Death had left a 
ragged trail up and down 
my back, through the
middle of my spirit, 
and it barely had missed 
my heart. What was I 
to do now? Each time
my mother told the 
story, it seemed it got 
more fanciful. 'Oh, Gary, 
everyone thought he was 
dead. They dragged him 
away, limp; I thought I'd 
lost him. Then he was 
in a coma for a long 
time, and no one knew
a thing. What to expect.'
The story grew. I tired 
of it all, myself. If they 
wanted someone for 
their drama, why did 
it have to be me. Why
was I singled  out?
Misery. Misery. ('You're
back; OK, here's a life.
It's your; run with it.')
All my life ever was
was a piano in the wind,
heard at Fingal's cave.

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