Bob Takes A Bow

[Source: Google search.]

“I’ve got nothing more to live up to.”

–Dylan

This is not going to be the usual Bob Dylan fan blog. I’ve something special to relate. More on that later.

I’m sitting in what is usually the warmest room in our home, the dining room. It must be the two sets of floorboard heaters if I were asked why I’m not wearing a fleece vest while I try to put together this post. The fact that my hands are as dry as the sands of the Kalahari doesn’t make typing very easy, but if I load up on hand lotion, the keyboard can get pretty gummy, if you get my drift.

When I finish this, I’m heading downstairs to the ‘family room’ where the wood stove is located. No TV tonight. Just a time of quiet (well, maybe I’ll take Alexa with me) reading and flame watching. It’s expected to fall to 8 F later but I’ll be prepared. Unlike six nights ago when I sat in Loge 4, Row D, Seat 34 of the Beacon Theater in New York City.

I was there for what is likely my twentieth Bob Dylan concert. Most of my readers already know that I am a consummate Dylan fan. I don’t follow him around like a few friends did with the Grateful Dead…traveling from city to city. No. I catch him when he performs at a location near me.

The very best concert of his that I have ever seen was back in the day (1973 or 1974) when he was touring with The Band. They played Nassau Coliseum. It was my first big-time rock concert. He commanded the stage.

Now a days, however, he can’t fill arenas so he plays smaller venues. The Beacon Theater is a beautiful space and with a little help with a pair of opera glasses, you can see his expressions…which are few.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Bob has been criticised for his ‘lack of attention to his audience’. It’s all true. He says nothing to the crowd, only a few words to his band and then leaves to roaring applause. Some fans are annoyed by this and feel slighted. I don’t. I feel that Dylan has more than given of himself. I mean, how much energy does it take to sing “Blowin’ in the Wind” for 9,700 times? I couldn’t do it.

But at the end of the show on November 29, six nights ago, he did something I had not witnessed in decades. After his last encore, before leaving the stage…Dylan stood before his band and bowed to the audience.

He’s no Mick Jagger or Tony Bennett, but considering my love for his poetry, music and his constant presence on the road (The Never Ending Tour), I’m pleased with small gestures.

Dylan doesn’t need the spotlight.

Now I have to go and start a fire.

[Photo is mine.]

 

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The Day Bob Dylan Dies

[Source: Google search.]

This is not an obituary.  It’s not a eulogy.  It’s a foreshowding.

I’m a sensitive guy.  I’m seventy years old and I cry at the final scene of Casablanca, several times during Dr. Zhivago, and at the end of Sleepless in Seattle.

I make no apologies.

But, lately, my generation (mostly the Boomers)  have lost more than our fair share of rock stars (or musical artists, if you prefer).  Music defined the Boomers.  We grew up with the Beatles.  Yet, years ago we lost George Harrison, John Lennon.  More recently,  David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Fats Domino…and more than I can remember or even want to think about because it saddens me so much.

I’ve seen him in concert, perhaps twenty times, and even if the show seemed “phoned in”, I still walked away from the theater or the arena with a deep respect.  Respect for a man who is spending his later years on a “never-ending tour”.  According to BobDylan.com, he has sang Like a Rolling Stone well over 2,000 times!

But, there is a date, as yet to be determined by the gods, when my ultimate favorite poet/rock star and Nobel Laureate, Bob Dylan will join his comrades.

Dylan (as of this writing on December 10, 2017) is seventy-six years old.  His death could come in three days, seven months, nine years…but the way our musical icons are leaving us so fast, I am dreading the day when Dylan’s number comes up.

Some morning I will wake up and read on the front page of the New York Times that he had died.  Some people who don’t know how valued this poet is to me will not understand why I will cry.

I guarantee that I will cry,  I will weep.  I will sob.  I will mourn.

My sadness will be blowing in the wind.

 

Here I Sit In Space #275 In The Rose Reading Room: Yet I Am Not Insecure

roseroom

It was an afternoon in mid-October.  The rain had fallen most of the morning so when I arrived at the wet slippery steps of the Main Branch of the New York Public Library on 5th Ave., the scattered metal tables were mostly empty and wet.  I posted a photo of the wet tables on Instagram.  It got a little more than a mild number of “likes”…I’ll settle for anything right now.

I made my way through security and up three floors to the newly reopened Rose Reading Room.  It had been closed for about two years (I lost count) because the ceiling in one part had collapsed.  In the years that the Rose Room was closed, I had to be content to write a chapter or a blog in a small but quiet auxiliary room on the second floor.

At least there, it was only a short walk to the Mens Room.  I could leave my laptop and notebook at my seat, which was harder to get than tickets to a Miley Cyrus concert. [ Hey, I meant the seat at the reading room not the men’s room.]

But, here I was at last…in what is arguably the most famous reading room in America.  It was stunning.  It was fabulous and it was breathtaking.  I looked at the ceiling mosaics and the endless rows of reference books.  It didn’t take my breath the same way that the Trinity College Reading Room in Dublin had done.  It was breathtaking because I was sitting in an oak chair that may have been the resting place of John Steinbeck’s bottom while he wrote The Grapes of Wrath…it was hard to tell.

I came in and saw the sign that said “NO PHOTOGRAPHS”.  I searched for a table that had multiple AC outlets.  My MacBook Pro was getting dangerously low on juice.

I found an ideal spot and quickly took a picture from my iPhone…before anyone would notice and come to drag me out and shame me in front of the scholars at work.  It was so quiet, you couldn’t hear a paper-clip drop. I made a slight cough when my iPhone clicked.  No one seemed to take notice.  Safe now, I turned off my “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” ringtone and settled in.

Checking my desk number, I saw that I was sitting at #275.  I plugged in my charger and took out my notebook, pretending to be studying something very serious.  Instead, I was wondering who had spent hours at #275 and what they are writing?

It could have been Faulkner, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Thomas Wolfe, Jay McInerney, Luke Sante or even Bob Dylan, who came here to read all he could find on the Civil War before writing “Beyond The Green Mountains”.

It’s safe to say that all the great American writers sat in one of these chairs at one time in their lives.  After all, it’s a well-known truth that everyone has to live in New York City at least once in their life.  Say what you want…it’s still the Cultural Capital of the World.  But I couldn’t get my mind off the fact that I was now sitting in one of the oak chairs.

And, so I sat…wrapped my scarf around my neck like a French intellectual, and began writing.  I didn’t write the Great American Novel but I wrote a blog called “The Blind Date”.

It got a nice reception on WordPress…but it didn’t get me the Nobel Prize.

That’s coming later.

 

Roadside Attractions From The Rearview Mirror

compassRose

I feel like I’ve driven half-way around the earth’s diameter.  Actually, according to the odometer on the red Ford Escape, we did indeed travel that far.

Our total distance driven, including side trips for sight-seeing, came to an astounding 13,589 miles!  If you’re into engine care and maintenance, that’s would be three oil changes (and filter, of course).  And, as we pulled into our driveway, we were overdue for a fourth change.

I walked into the kitchen and saw the calendar next to our Samsung refrigerator.  Take a look:

2015Calendar

That was our departure date, October 15.  I see it was a Thursday.  I took the calendar down (I was thinking there was something superstitious about leaving old calendars on the wall.  I only see them in Auto Repair Shops and they have Betty Page photos and the dates are around 1956 and the guys that work in some of these places often have seen times of hard luck).  It took me a day to locate the 2016 calendar I bought (20% off) at a Barnes & Noble store in Texas.  The theme is Circus “Freaks”.  Changing calendar themes from Vintage England Travel Posters to The Circus Sideshow must say something about my change in tastes.  The sideshows are vanishing from America…but there will always be an England.

Unusual things and marginalized people have always fascinated me.

Don’t ask.

So, here’s the new calendar:

AprilCalendar2016

In case you can’t read the dates very well, we got home on April 1.  I was so exhausted and sore from driving that I didn’t find anyone or anything to play a prank on.

But, the Tattooed Girl will brighten that corner of the kitchen until May 1!  This brings up an interesting thought…this sideshow girl was once considered an oddity…she made her living exhibiting herself in a circus.  At least half the baristas in the Starbucks I visited had tats far more artistic, exotic and erotic than our Miss April, 2016.

Culture changes…but, as I said, there will always be an England.

So, let me run the numbers.  Using the above dates, we spent 169 days out there…somewhere out there, driving, camping, hiking or just sitting on a beach.  This come out to 40.6% of a year.  Nearly 41% of a year of my life has just been spent looking at things.

We emptied the r-pod (we’re going to sell it, but it needs a few repairs first) and I piled our guides and maps and memorabilia on the floor.  Of course, I arranged everything to look haphazard and casual, but every pamphlet and sticker and book and CD is carefully placed to give you an idea what we accomplished.  I probably should mention that I couldn’t find most of the guide books and National Park maps and tee-shirts that we purchased along the way.  They’ll show up sometime in late July.

GuidesOnfloorFromTrip

I even re-highlighted my route on our Rand McNally.  Here it is:

Atlas

I’m aware that it’s hard to see clearly, but you only need to see the orange line and the green/blue line.  The orange line was our route to Palm Desert, California.  This is where we made a turn on a highway that was surrounded by wind-mills, and began to set our course eastward.  That’s the green/blue line.

Far be it for me to brag, but I do think we took in a pretty good chunk of the lower part of the Lower 48.

If you’ve been following the many blogs I sweated and struggled to produce for your entertainment, you will know that I did accomplish quite a bit more than just fill up the memory chip in my digital camera.

I became certified in sailing (any keel boat up to 30′).  I posed with Miss Sonoran Desert Queen (and she put her arm around me willingly and eagerly…as she thought of her long deceased grandfather).  I saw my first rodeo, an American child’s dream (if you were raised in the 1950’s).  I saw the graves of dead outlaws and B & B’s that were former brothels.

I drank Tequila in a bar in Juarez, Mexico…the same bar where Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean and Steve McQueen drank.  I tried to feel their spiritual entities, but looking for the nooks where they sat and kissed and drank, only led me to the men’s room.  We crossed the International Bridge from El Paso.  I looked down at the line of defense our government has built to deter (read ‘keep out’) illegals.  The trenches, fences, walls and razor wire reminded me of the Berlin Wall or the Maginot Line.  I was struck by the seven inches you unknowingly step across that separates two cultures that are so close yet so far apart.  I also did this on a day when I was in constant FB messaging with my son Brian.  I pleaded with him to dig into his iTunes for Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues”, so he could, somehow in the cyber-world, be connected with me as I walked across the border bridge…and he would, at that same moment be listening to:

When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez and it’s Eastertime too.  And your gravity fails and negativity don’t pull you through, don’t put on any airs when you’re down on Rue Morgue Avenue, they got some hungry women there, and they really make a mess outta you.”

We crossed the bridge.  Brian said he listened.  But it wasn’t raining and there’s no Rue Morgue Avenue in Juarez.  I did find a Mexican busker who sang Cielito Lindo for us, but no hungry women.  But, I’m not such a dreamer to believe that there are really no hungry women in Juarez…or hungry children…or hungry old men who sit and smoke and drink and think.

Sometimes facts get in the way of a good story.  For me, I have to immerse myself in a landscape, get my hands dirty, my mouth full of dust, get pricked by a cactus or bitten by a scorpion to fully understand where it is that I am standing. If I’m in Mississippi, I listen to Delta blues, if I’m in Texas, Bob Wills goes into the CD player.

Anytime on this trip, “Happy Trails” would be a welcome tune.

I drank a Lone Star beer at the Broken Spoke in Austin when Mariam, my friend William McHone and myself took lessons in the Texas 2-Step.  I even bought a pair of cheap cowboy boots for that night.  I didn’t do very well.  I have no sense of rhythm…only the desire to move around the dance floor to the sound of Texas Swing…and hold my honey in my arms.  I still have the boots, but I still can’t dance the Texas 2-Step.

I saw things that made me cry.

I saw acres of cattle, with no place to graze, penned and waiting to be herded to the killing rooms.  The miles I drove past these death-camps smelled of cow shit.  I wondered if it was their diet…or their fear.

I saw shanty-towns of the most squalid poverty and hopelessness.  I saw Native Americans reduced to playing “Indians” for the tourists…like me.

When we entered a National Park, I flashed my Golden Pass, which allowed us, as seniors, free entry.  I pondered the situation of an average family with four kids paying close to $100 to see the extraordinary landscapes that really belong to all of us.

I laid a flower at the grave of a prostitute in Dodge City, Kansas…a luckless young woman (somehow, I prefer the term “Soiled Dove”) who died from an infection caused by bar-room brawl over a cowboy, or was it Bat Masterson, or a banker, or a lover.

I placed another flower at the grave of an old friend of mine who died forty-some years ago.  He died and I lived.  We were hiking the same trail in the High Peaks.  I lived to return to his grave and place that Adirondack wildflower I had picked months earlier.  Now it was dried and withered from months on the road.  A flower from the mountains that were his last views of his life on this earth.

I saw an elderly man after he tripped on the curb outside a 7-Eleven.  He was bleeding.  The EMT’s were all over the situation.  But…was I seeing myself in fifteen years?

I saw a woman crying while she sat an outside table at one of the thousand Starbucks we visited.  She was alone in whatever sorrow had overcome her.  It took me days to get the image of her heartbreak out of my head.

I saw another woman crying in a bar.  She was with a male friend.  What happened?  Was she leaving him?  He leaving her?  I couldn’t tell, but the scene made me turn away.  I sat in her seat more than once in my life.

I cried one afternoon in the countryside outside of Dallas.  It didn’t have to do with the trip, directly.  I was driving to visit a large cemetery about fifteen miles southwest of the city.  I was listening to NPR and I sat up straight in the seat of the red Ford when the radio host announced that David Bowie had died.  I mulled this over for a few miles.  I realized I didn’t have any Bowie music on any of my playlists.  Then it happened.  They began a segment of “All Things Considered” with the opening riffs…the soaring chords of  “Let’s Dance”.

I didn’t dance.  I pulled over onto the shoulder and wept.  I wept for the lost talent, the lost beauty, the lost art…and another lost member of my generation’s music.

But, I saw sights of jaw-dropping beauty.  Rainbows that lasted over an hour.  Rock colors I never knew existed.  Canyons and valleys and washes and rivers, many that are famous and many that are unnamed.  Actually, I think nearly everything in the world has a name, I just didn’t have the right map.

When you travel, always have the right map.  It doesn’t have to be of any place you’re planning on visiting, but it’s good to have the map anyway.

There are maps of the wild and empty deserts of Arizona and California.  And, there are maps that exist only inside one’s mind.  These are usually the most interesting ones to use as guides.  Landscapes, towns, roads, Interstates, trails and horse paths can change with a sudden rainstorm.

But, the map that has your heart and soul and restless spirit as the compass rose…those are the maps to carry.

You can’t buy them on Amazon.  You were born with them deep in your chromosomes.

FinalPicAtEndOfTrip

Dear Moxie…

Moxie

So long, honey baby

Where I’m bound, I cannot tell

But goodbye’s too good a word

So I’ll just say “Fare thee well…”

–Bob Dylan “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right

Dear Moxie,

We’ve been through a lot in our short life together, Moxie.  But there comes a time when the best thing to do is to face the reality and know when a relationship has run its course.  I can’t say that our life together has been without discord, without anger, without frustration and without mistakes.  I can honestly say that I made most of the effort to make things workout…it was you, in the end, that failed me one too many times.  It was you who left me sitting in my car, in the rain, in the snow, at a strange crossroads in the middle of a strange and lonely landscape or left me in my car, angled halfway into a “one-way” street…and I was going the wrong way.  It was you, Moxie.  It was you.  I coudda been a contender, but you left me with no direction home, even when home was a cheap motel in Rutland, Vermont, or an RV park in Austin, Texas.

I know you tried your best…with what you had to work with.  I fully understand that you always thought you were following directions from the Heavens, and in your own way, you were.

It was a strange threesome, me, my wife and you.  When we first started bringing you into our lives, I, as a male, thought I heard a certain hint of seduction in your voice when you told us what to do.  But, over the years, that sultry quality has given way to a more mechanical, robotic voice…Moxie, you lost your passion.

Maybe it was the name you resented?

When we first had you in the seat between us…when we would leave our home for a long strange trip, we didn’t know what to call you.  You didn’t come with a name.  You were a voice without a soul behind it.  I wanted to give you a little bit of a tawdry history, make you a scarlet woman, a gypsy wanderer…so we came up with Moxie.

All Moxies are a little sassy.  No one names their librarian-to-be daughter, Moxie.  They named her Grace or Rose or Helen.  But, you were always a Moxie to us.

But, as I said, all things must pass.  Please don’t take this as an insult, but there are newer models available.  Sleeker and more savvy.  More feminine with a sexy voice to match.  More power.  Faster (although, in your day, you were plenty fast), but we need our new model with more memory and more color…more glamor, more bang for the buck and more bells and whistles for a man-of-the-road like me, who can fall into white-line fever at the drop of a toll token.

We don’t even have a name for our new model, yet.  But, it won’t be Moxie, so don’t worry.  You’ll always be Moxie to us…the only Moxie to have shared our lives.

I know someday, if things go south for us and time get tough, I’ll go back to looking for company in the honky-tonk  saloons, dive bars and all the gin joints in the world.  I may find myself on a ripped plastic covered bar stool next to you.  We may pass each other as I leave a juke joint and you’re just going in.  We’ll bump shoulders.  I’ll look down.  Will you speak to me?  Will the day ever come when you forget our relationship?  Will you be telling someone else where to go?  where to turn?  where to park?

I know this will sound harsh and cold and heartless, but your replacement has already made it to our RV bed.  It’s ready to go and seems eager to talk to us and lead us on new adventures along the highways and byways of our aging life.

Thanks for the miles you traveled with us, Moxie.  There’ll always be a place in our cigarette lighter to get a charge if you ever need it.

All you ever have to do is be a good gps to one man, one time, and you’ll make to the end of the road, babe.  I’d like to be able to exist without your services,  travelers relied on maps for centuries before satellites…but’s it’s a new complicated world out there.  It’s freedom I’d like to have.  After all, they say that ‘freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose’, but we all know that it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

Don’t think of this as the end.  Think of it as a well deserved rest.

Good bye and good luck, Moxie.  Sorry it had to end this way.

All our love and memories,

Pat and Mariam.

GarminUnitNew

 

Out On Highway 61

Highway61:Me

You leave todays newspaper unread on the table next to your front door.  A dozen flies buzz around the hole in your window screen next to the formica table in your kitchen.  They get in despite the wad of toilet paper you use to plug the hole.

You walk home from a bar.  You weren’t the last to leave, but the guy behind you locked the door.  The drizzle doesn’t bother you.  Who needs an umbrella anyway?  The pavement is uneven.  Pools of rainwater reflect the image that’s been buzzing in your brain all day.

Face it, she left you.

But you don’t really care.  You don’t care because you have the blues.  You haven’t been dealt with a royal flush in the Poker Game of Life. You only get jokers and they aren’t even the wild cards.

You got the blues.  And, where do you go when you got the blues?  You head to the birthplace of music in America.  You catch the Shortline out of Port Authority for that slice of real estate that runs from Memphis to Natchez.

You head for the Delta Blues Country of Mississippi.  Gospel, R & B, Rock & Roll and the Blues were born here and that is where you belong.

Cause you got the blues, man…

This is Elvis country.  This is Hank Williams country.  Somewhere in this mystic triangle, two roads intersected.  A poor black kid who couldn’t play the guitar went off one night and met someone at the Crossroads, probably around midnight.  There he traded his holy and immortal soul for the gift to play the guitar…not just any guitar…but the best Delta Blues guitar in the country.

Robert Johnson, legend has it, came back from the Crossroads and could out play any man or woman who cared to challenge him.  He paid his dues, though.  After sneaking out the back door of his house, he promptly went into the back door of another girls house.  His wife found out about his midnight rambling and put poison in his liquor.  He died after crawling across the floor, barking like a dog and foaming at the mouth.

That’s the way the Legend goes.  Maybe it happened.  Maybe it didn’t.  But, that’s what I heard and that’s what I chose to believe.

This is the Blues Highway.  On a map, it’s labelled Route 61.  But, magic happened here.  For some unexplained reason, the poverty and despair of the poor blacks gave rise to a form of music listened to all over the world.  It rose up from the wasted cotton fields and dried-out soy bean fields of Mississippi and Louisiana, filled with hate, prejudice, injustice, hopelessness and violence.  It rose up and became the songs of the chain-gangs, the cotton pickers, the old men on the rocking chairs of back porches who sang and hummed as they swatted at the flies and gnats and sipped cheap gin.

Sorrowful music that somehow gave hope to those who were tied to the soil.  The white rock and roll singers co-opted this music and made it safe for white teenage girls to listen to.

The Great Migration of poor blacks and jobless whites from the rural North, took generations of the folks north, north to the industrial midwest…usually Chicago.

Bob Dylan anointed this road by naming his album Highway 61 Revisited.

I’m on the Blues Highway.  I’m driving Route 61 North.  It’s a 4-lane divided highway for a few dozen miles.  They must have torn down all the juke joints and gin mills to widen the road.  A ghost sign of a long gone motel is here.  An abandoned car wash is there.  I’ll only be driving the section that is noted in my Rand McNally as the Natchez Trace Parkway, but the Trace seems to follow a zig-zag pattern, crossing Highway 61, at different points.  The town welcome sign for Port Gibson is unique.  It has a quote from the great enemy of the Confederacy: “Too beautiful to burn”–U.S.Grant.  Vicksburg is our next stop.  The clay bluffs rise on the eastern shore of the Mississippi just a they do in Natchez.  I had been to this town several times when I attended college in Monroe, Louisiana in the mid-1960’s.  I wonder how much it has changed.  I read somewhere that people of Vicksburg say that the parks, lawns and sidewalks are really graveyards.  The Confederate dead are said to lay in the dirt…the ones that weren’t collected after the Union siege ended on July 4, 1863, when the city surrendered and the dead of both sides were buried in mass graves in the National Cemetery.

Highway 61 has had a dismal past.  But, from all the blood, death, slavery, poverty and cotton…came the music of the saddest kind.

So sad, it can’t help but lift your spirits.  If you got the blues, you got to listen to the blues.  It’s the only cure.

We’re leaving Vidalia, Louisiana just a week or so before an expected flood.  They can’t say exactly how high the crest will be, but the cement pad that our little RV sits on will almost surely be under water.

I just walked over to the levee.  It was dry.  I didn’t see the good old boys drinking whiskey and rye…and this will not be the day that I die.

NatchezSunset

[The Mississippi River Bridge from Natchez looking toward Louisiana]

 

 

Between Patience and Fortitude

LibraryButtonCoat

Despite what my weather app informed me about this afternoon–that the temperature was heading toward the low 40’s, I’m still having the feeling that my wool jacket (more of a pea coat) is merely for show.  The cold wind slices through me like a Triscut dips through Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Hummus.

I’m chilled through four layers of silk, fleece, wool and thick cotton flannel.  There’s no cold like New York City cold on the second day of March.  Spring may be three weeks away on the calendar, but it’s ten thousand miles from where I stand waiting for the M3 to take me down 5th Avenue to the Main Branch of the Public Library.  To my back is the Plaza Hotel and behind my left shoulder is Central Park.  Perhaps that’s the source of the cold wind?  The snow-covered Great Lawn?  The ice of Wollman Rink?

No, it’s not the park.  It’s the never-ending frost that clings to my flesh and bones…and mocks me in my ear, saying: “It’s no use wearing clothes, Boy From The North Country.  I’m the cold that will follow and find you.  May as well be naked, my friend.”

I consider this.  A holding cell at a mid-town precinct has got to be warm.

Here’s the M3.  I’m saved from having to make any decisions.  I’m going to a special place in a heated bus.  I step off the coach into several inches of slush from last night’s snow fall.  I push past the tourists.  I’m standing on the third step of the library.  I climb the partially shoveled stone steps, passing between the two lions that guard this monument to culture.  The lions are named Patience and Fortitude.  Someone told me that they were named by Mayor La Guardia in the 1940’s.  The point being that in those trying and harsh times (WWII), those are the virtues that all good New Yorker’s need.  I didn’t have time to fact-check this (when he was the mayor) but the pamphlet says they acquired their names in the 1940’s so I’m going with that version.

FrontOfPublicLibraryLion

[Patience. Or is it Fortitude?]

I push through the revolving doors and find myself in the Astor Hall.  The architect who built this must have had access to unlimited white marble, for that is what I see everywhere I look.  On either side of the great room, sweeping staircases takes me up to the second floor.  I slowly climb the steps, sliding my hand along the foot wide marble railing.  What famous author had his or her hands on this stone?  I’m told that my favorite poet, Bob Dylan, came here to research the Civil War when he was writing a song called, Across The Green Mountains.  Maybe his hand paused where I am pausing.  Perhaps an atom of Bob is still embedded between the Calcium Carbonate molecules of the marble?  Then it occurred to me that he probably took the elevator.  I looked at the dark stains on the white stone.  When I get to the top, I dig for my bottle of Purell.  I make my way to one of the public reading rooms.  [The world-famous Rose Reading Room has been closed for nearly a year.  Apparently, part of the ceiling had fallen.]  I can think of worse things that can fall on your head while you’re sitting in the famous room and reading a boring book.  Like an idea for instance.

But, I’m not here as a tourist.  No, I am here to work on my novel.  It’s going to be a ghost story.  I plan on it being scary and tension-filled, like the half-time shows of the recent Super Bowls.  And, this is where I can get inspiration.  Most American writers of the last 50 years have been in these rooms.  Literary ghosts must walk these halls.  I’m sitting in an oak chair as I write this.  Who once sat here?  Norman Mailer?  Scott Fitzgerald?  Jane Smiley?  Jennifer Egan?

Yes, I’m sitting in an oak chair.  The table is massive and also oak.  There are four of these tables in this room (Room 217, if you ever make the trip.  See the guy behind the glass partition who is in charge of research?  I’m in the corner nearby.)  I look around the room and see many laptops, each with a bright white apple glowing from the silver lid.  Oh, there’s a Dell.  Poor devil.  I have a new MacBook Air and the battery life is 12 hours, but some of those less fortunate have older models.  They need to feed their computers with juice, so the library had positioned power bars in the middle of each table.  Some of these are so overloaded, I worry about an explosion.

WiFi MAYHAM ON FIFTH AVENUE!

I can see the Daily News headline now.  I just hope I’m in the men’s room when it goes.

I find my memory stick that holds all 13 of my completed chapters.  It slides into the USB port like…(I could use a dirty metaphor here, but I do have some standards.)  I’m going to write a frightening chapter.  I need to concentrate on building tension.

Then my inner critic peeks over the top of my laptop and with devilish eyes and a mocking grin says:  “Who do you think you are?  You can’t write.  This is crap.  You have no talent…go find something useful to do for society, like picking up litter on Staten Island or scraping chewing gum from the subway platform of the B train.”

He’s right.  I’m no Stephen King.  I’m not John Steinbeck.  I’m not even E. L. James.  I begin to unplug my computer, when I realize that I have a 12 hour battery.  I feel so independent.

I must have patience.  Good writing doesn’t come easily.  Just ask Nora Roberts.  No, I must plug along.  And, I must have fortitude.  I must kill the demon inside me that holds my fingers from typing a scene so scary that you will keep the lights on all night.

My fingers return to the keyboard.  I glance at the time display in the upper right hand corner.  They’re going to close in a little over 30 minutes.  Then I realize that I’ve spent all my time writing this blog.  Now I have to pack up and walk back to the hotel on 28th Street.  Only now, my load will be heavier, with all these words in the memory of my laptop.  They were only in my head before I sat down.

In a few minutes, I’ll head to the revolving door.  I’ll pause to open my shoulder bag to show the security guard that I’m not taking the Gutenberg Bible or the Declaration of Independence.  He knows me because I’ve been here before.  He’ll wave me out and wish me a fine night.  I’ll say the same to him.

Then I’ll stand on the third step, between the two lions, facing the rush hour traffic of 5th Avenue.  Maybe I’ll go behind the library and walk through Bryant Park.  I’ll watch the ice skaters.  I’ll try to turn my collar to the cold and damp.

Music will be playing.  I’ll put my ear buds in and listen to Townes Van Zandt.  Or Iris Dement.  Or Mary Gauthier.

I’ll walk down 6th Avenue to 28th Street and go back to my hotel room.

I’ll have a smile on my face as I walk and shiver, along the busy sidewalks.  I’m smiling because this time tomorrow, I’ll be sitting by a pool in San Juan.

The poolside, in the late afternoon, in Puerto Rico.  Now, that’s a fine place to write a scary chapter.

I’ll just need patience to stay out of the sun for a little while and fortitude to keep me from diving too often into the warm deep blue waters of the deep Caribbean.

CordsInLibrary

[Adaptors in the process of feeding. Watching them made me think of Guatemalen vampire bats sucking on a dead goat.]

AstorLobby

[Astor Hall]

PublicLibStairway

[Two of a thousand arches]