Sunday, February 5, 2017


In about 1972 there
was a book written
by someone named
A. Alvarez. The
title was 'Suicide:
The Savage God.'
It was something
like that, and it was
written, in its way,
about the, or bouncing
off of the, suicide of
Sylvia Plath, poet,
who'd taken her own
life  -  head in the
oven, while her two
small children in
the room next over,
slept. Yes, the usual
bizarre circumstances,
poetry-style, all that
gnarling and gnashing
of teeth. He had been
a friend of hers, and
I guess being effected
by this death launched
him off onto this
academic study of
suicide. It never made
much sense to me, the
entire subject, but a bit
later, up in the wilds of
Pennsylvania, the idea
of the whole thing caught
me up, and, in Ithaca at
one of the university
bookstores that then
dotted the landscape,
I bought a copy.
(An aside : Ithaca,
the word, 'Ithaca',
whenever I was up
there, reminded me,
and wanted to make
me say, Ithacaca instead
- based on Machu Picchu,
in Peru, an old Incan
site of great importance
and much mystery  -
which too always
intriqued me, even
moreso once I
connected it with
inter-alien Gods
and space-travel  -
because it was located
at Lake Titicaca, as
Ithaca was at Lake
Cayuga). The book
was way out of
place, of course,
in my Pennsylvania
farmhouse. As was
anything of that ilk:
intellectual or academic
stuff. To wit, we often
played 'classical' music 
on our phonograph  -  
Stern-Rose-Istoman Trio 
stuff, Chopin, DeFalla, 
and the rest  -  but never 
let it really be heard or
get out (isolated far, as 
we were). A safe-house 
for 'strange' music, as 
it were. So it was too 
with this book. A study 
of suicide indeed. Of 
course, that all changed 
some too, after old 
John Harkness, aged 75 
or 80, took his own life 
by dangling himself 
from the end of a 
rope from the loft
in his barn. It was 
always difficult for 
me to fathom an 
old guy like that 
doing himself in, 
but he did. The 
modern world had 
cut him to the quick. 
He was like an old 
Amish type in his 
ways  - sour, determined, 
straight-to-task and 
no humor about it. 
John was tough, old 
American material, 
and it was hard to 
see him go. But, 
suicide's door 
opened a crack 
at that occurrence.
I've walked around 
ever since with one-eye 
open and checking for 
that. There have been 
a few more, suicides,
in my life, since then. 
But not me. Frankly, 
I can't be bothered. 
Alvarez had his 
way with the concept, 
pretty well. Now 
I'll need to go re-read, 
before flapping my 
gums over what he 
did or didn't say. 
But my point is 
(was) that certain 
things remain foreign
to one's own life, 
unless they're a real 
part of it from the 
get-go. This was not. Yet,
this whole 'savage-God' 
thing was always far-off 
from me. And anyway, 
as I saw it, John's 
suicide solved 
nothing, made it 
worse in fact for the 
survivors  - leaving 
behind a bewildered 
and broken old woman 
(wife) and his 50 year 
old or whatever daughter, 
just angry and frustrated 
about the whole thing. 
Pretty tough; even 
though he got a 
big funeral and a 
massive send-off. 
I think they even
named one or 
two things, locally, 
after him as well.
The thing about 
funerals, and weddings 
too, even up there, 
was that those were 
the two instances 
when most people 
heard classical music, 
and didn't even know it.
it. There was only so much 
of that crazy hearthrob 
country/western stuff one 
could take, and pop music 
itself was a joke. I used to tell 
people  that if they played 
a country-western record 
backwards, the guy gets 
his dog, his car, and his
woman back. They actually
th0ught I'd made that up.
So it was funny to have to
be reticent about being
found out for this 'classical'
 'music, out in the middle 
of nowhere anyway. 
But then some movie 
came along in which 
'Bolero' by Ravel was
 the main theme or 
something, and 
everyone soon got 
hip. Funny world. 
Or funny me  -  or 
as that old, driving 
blues song goes  - 
'now you funny too.' 
So Alvarez's book 
is there, sitting on 
my countryside shelf, 
among all the other 
folderol books I'd 
brought along  -  
which were mostly 
old volumes bought 
in Fourth Avenue, 
Book Row, NYC 
bookshops. This 
was way before the 
time of all the 
megastore, book-store 
super-selection stuff, 
like Barnes & Noble 
which those two 
Riggio Brothers 
stared later on, in  
a few years anyway. 
Fifth Avenue and 
19th Street, I think 
it was -  the first 
one I remember. 
I'd spend hours in 
there -   it was really 
huge, something new, 
the entire idea, portioned 
by section, remainders, 
seconds, new-titles 
no longer new, nice 
discounts. New York 
City, about 1978, 
really started coming 
around again with 
the book trade. It 
was nice. But, anyway, 
that was in the future
 at this time, I still 
had to muffle and 
hide my strange 
books. Or, I could 
just throw a copy 
of 'Pennsylvania 
Farmer'  -  a big, 
over-sized monthly 
magazine I subscribed 
to  -  over it. Learn 
about silos and feed, 
hay and manure 
and tractors. 
Yeah man!
 I used to like 
to make up words. 
Like 'how could 
you take your own 
life when there 
were so many 
weirdidities around 
you to check out and 
learn about? See what 
I mean? Even in my 
worst days, that stuff 
kept me alive, kept 
me from jumping. 
The preclusiverance 
of the ambiotic 
interest-level in the 
constantly protruded 
necklision of the 
strangliness within 
the frequensities 
of the real and 
authentic world.' 
So, what do you 
know about that: 
writers tell what 
must not be told.
Strolling down any 
street in NYCity, 
there were always 
girls. Girls in the 
city occupy a singular 
place in my theology. 
A perfect one-ness, 
in that there's really 
nothing like them. 
Bundled and battered, 
in Winter, by coats 
and scarves and hats 
and gloves, boots and 
wraps, it's a wonderful 
sight. The more that's
covered-up, the more
that becomes mysterious 
and intriguing. Even 
in 1968, that was true. 
That first Winter was 
so freezingly btter-cold; 
the Hudson froze over, 
great heaving chunks 
of ice, when they 
finally broke, would 
be seen making their 
way out to the harbor,  
with the noise and the 
groan of ice too. Creaking
and smashing, at 15 or
20 miles per hour. It was 
unique, and all around 
it was so cold. There 
was no chance for 
skin to even be bared, 
without the blueness 
of frostbite hitting in 
about 15 minutes. 
There were homeless
types all around there, 
living in the backs 
of trucks, mostly  -  
abandoned crates, 
rear cargo-section 
of broken down 
trucks, barrel-fires, 
anything to get warm. 
It never stopped some 
of them from their 
adventures in the
skin-trade, but that 
was their problem. 
There used to be 
a big trucker's diner 
down there  -  not like 
a highway truck stop, 
no, but I mean big for 
NYC, in that it was 
maybe three or four 
businesses wide, 
like 4 brownstones 
of width, with a 
glass front, and 
an actual parking 
area too. Playful, 
totally cliched 
waitresses, with 
the pencil at the
ear, the whole bit. 
Not too much New 
York about it  -  the 
truck guys would 
slosh in and get 
their grub. It was, 
unlike the Village 
Diner that I've 
written of previous, 
in other chapters; 
more just really for 
car people, or truck 
people, passing thru 
or passing along. Not 
real new Yorkers; 
and it showed. Like 
the Munson Diner  -  
used to be, up by 51st, 
at Ninth or Tenth Ave. 
That was a diner-car 
unit, one of those 
metal shells built 
for diner use, and 
by, finally, the 
mid-nineties it 
got purchased 
and was rolled 
away to Missouri or 
somewhere. People 
out there, in interviews, 
were getting all excited 
about eating in a diner 
that used to be in NYCity! 
Imagine that. If they only 
knew it was actually just a 
late-night hangout for the 
taxi guys and local whores to 
stop in and get warm while
streetwalking their wares. 
Yeah, that'd warm some 
Missouri hearts. That's 
right by the area at 
Clinton Park where 
they keep, and kept 
then too, the horse 
and carriage stuff  -  
maintenance on the 
wagons and all. It used 
to also be a motorcycle 
place, for years, called 
CamRod Motors. All 
gone. Funny how things 
change  -  it's not change 
really, it's more just like 
death. Except, 'things' 
and 'places'  -  isn't it 
funny  -  can't commit 
suicide, can't do it 
to themselves. They 
need us to do it
to them.

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