Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Where Does it All Go?

When something disappears, is dismantled, relegated to a scrap heap only the memories survive—or photos.

This is a photo of Gateway lobster during its last throes—you can hear the door closing and the latch barring the way of reentry.

Some photos simply trigger memories even when they stray from the photo itself. I can think of two people I've known in the past few years who died—one by natural causes and the other by fending off personal demons that became too large. Sometimes it's hard to realize that they are gone and what does that mean? The winter is gone and the spring replaces it, but with people it's different.

When I think of my cousin Bobby, I think of the sojourn to the Bronx to see the old neighborhood. And the old neighborhood is a shell, a graffiti shell. But the school is still across the way, but the trees are gone. But the handball court stood in its usual place. My father's gone, but the wall where he played handball stands. I recall the hard black ball and the gloves the men wore. Do people still play handball?

Where is my hula hoop and the double dutch jump rope? Did my jacks get lost or did I outgrow them? What happened to the Chinese laundry and the man who used the heavy iron to take the creases out of starched shirts? How about the butcher with sawdust on the floor, or the shoemaker who could hold nails in his mouth as he repaired shoes? Did his booths become wood for s stove? Where did my grandmother's ball of rubber-bands go?

If I haven't seen Coney Island's rides since I turned twelve, do they still exist. Has the wood rotted on the steeplechase? But somethings remain. Palisades , the Hudson River, the Grand Concourse. Did I really sit in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium or go to the Polo Grounds? Did I hear the Lone Ranger? Have some of the books I took out of the library been replaced by newer copies.? Do any children read Nobody's Boy and Nobody's Girl?

Time moves things and people . It creates new spaces. Sounds get lost:the sirens on a city street, the old man calling out that he sharpens scissors, the old clothes man, the sound of the truck, its sides filled with glass seltzer bottles. I can only remember the feel of the rocks in the Davidson River, or the cool water running over your blisters after climbing Old Rag, or the softness of a baby. What happened to my mother's Maj Jong group calling out "Four bam"? Where is the platter containing the leftovers —white fish, sardines , cold cuts.

Sometimes when I'm out walking in the morning my mind conjures up a different scenario: I'm walking to the bathroom at White Birches campground where the bugs are monster sized and not shy; I'm on a bicycle in Central Park; I'm walking to Fort Ticonderga where I'll take a picture making it look as if I am being shot out of a canyon, I'm on the roof of the Lewis Morris building sixteen stories above the ground

I'm listening to Pete Seeger singing freedom songs, I'm listening to Union songs, I'm listening to Joan Baez's anti-Vietnam songs and Peter, Paul and Mary singing 'We Shall Overcome.' And I'm thinking that we need to revive some of those songs for this new time. So at that point the past and present merge. Perhaps I'll find my skate key and ball bearing roller skates.


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