Manhattan: Village Vanguard

manhattan As I am recovering from the end of my relationship with Barb, music has had a heightened importance in my emotional life. I buy a cassette tape of John Coltrane’s 1961 Live at the Village Vanguard and I listen to it endlessly in my room on Pinewood.

I have the same table that Barb and I had when we saw Pharoah Sanders perform. Esperanza Spalding is unable to play her bass because of some sort of wrist injury.

I wheel Bill into his office where we scan his CD collection. He always picks out a few tracks he wants me to hear. Today he plays a song by Kenny Barron explaining that when the MS finally takes his life, he wants that song played repeatedly at his funeral.

Bill’s funeral is tomorrow. I play for Dee the song Bill had requested, explaining that he wanted it played continuously. She refuses to permit it. She always hated Bill’s jazz and hearing the same song over-and-over would be too much for her. As a compromise I make up a tape of assorted Kenny Barron songs, slipping Bill’s requested track in as every fourth one.

Manhattan: Bitter End

manhattan The bartender locks the door and offers us one last drink. I am talking to an older woman and Margaret is talking to a man further down the bar. The woman I’m talking to tells me an epic tale of misfortune. Her man left her and she lost her apartment. She has been living with a group of squatters in an abandoned building in Harlem but the building just burned down. She isn’t sure where she will be living now. She goes up to the juke box and plays U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

I walk in out of the rain. This is not where I’m meant to be. I watch the man and woman at the bar. I sip my beer. I look over my shoulder to confirm that the rain continues relentlessly.

We get back to our hotel in the wee hours of the morning. I wait until Margaret is safely in bed, then I leave to wander the uptown streets, looking for a way to let it go.

Manhattan: West Village Sushi restaurant

manhattan I am in the West Village sitting by myself at the bar in a sushi restaurant. The waitress comes up to me and says “A gentleman would like to compliment you on your chopstick technique.” I look over my right shoulder and acknowledge the middle-aged Japanese man with a smile and a wave. A while later the waitress returns with three additional pieces of sushi explaining they are a gift from the gentleman. I acknowledge the man again and only as I am eating the sushi does it occur to me that the gentleman is hitting on me. I leave with one last smile and wave.

She spots a man at the bar wearing a smart powder blue suit. This alone distinguishes him from the regulars in the tavern. She is going to approach him and strike up a conversation but her friend stops her. “Don’t you know who that is?” The man in the suit is Allan Legere, a serial killer known as the Monster of the Miramichi.

Manhattan: East Village

manhattan I live on Avenue C with a bed directly under the window that looks out on the street. I realize fairly quickly that I need ear plugs if I hope to get any sleep. Wyn comes from Boston to spend a weekend with me. I observe an odd pattern with Wyn’s visits. I am left almost teary every time. I come to understand that it arises from the tension between a great trust and intimacy precariously balanced against the fear that I will offend and alienate him.

I live on 126th Street in Harlem, near the intersection of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Trucks coming across the Robert F Kennedy bridge favour 126th as they enter Manhattan in the pre-dawn hours. That combined with a particularly noisy manhole cover jolt me awake every morning. Someone in the shared washroom left me a note suggesting I try Rogaine.

Realizing I will never be able to sleep through Wyn’s snoring I decide to create a makeshift bed in the hotel bathroom. In doing so I have indeed offended and alienated him.

Manhattan: Tompkins Square Park

manhattan Theo is a beagle who looks very excited to be coming to the park, straining at his owner’s leash. Once here, though, he seems rather timid. He never strays far from his owner, returning frequently after tentative forays to interact with other dogs. A dachshund in a red jacket seems intent on getting Theo in a headlock.

I return from school and can’t find Anuk anywhere. I ask my mother where he is. “Your father sold him. The deal was that you boys would look after Anuk if you wanted to keep him, and you haven’t been doing that.” Weeks later I am leaving for school and Anuk is there outside the house. He follows me to school. At the end of the day he is waiting for me at the school and follows me back home. My father calls the people who bought Anuk. They had not kept him but had in turn sold him to a nearby farmer. That farmer, when contacted, tells my father that Anuk had run off after being kicked by a cow. Despite being transfered to new homes twice, Anuk had found his way back to our house. My father returns Anuk to his new owner.

Smale is a Boston terrier who clearly does not know the word “come” even though it’s the only word his owner uses.

Manhattan: Central Park, Heckscher Ballfield 4

manhattan I often stop here on the way home from work and spend time watching teams in the Central Park Softball League, teams with names like “Scared Hitless.” There is one team in particular that I watch so often I know the personalities like one knows the characters in a favourite sitcom. There is only one woman on the team and she is their best pitcher.

I walk over a stone bridge, past the statue of a dog, around a tree. As I crest a hill I see a great crowd of people. Many of them are running. Most, but not all, are women. Many are applauding. Most, but not all, of these are men. I am mystified, confused. But then I start to see words. “Mother.” “Daughter.” “Wife.” “Survivor.” Something catches in my throat and tears begin running down my cheeks.

I suggest that the hospital could give my mother nourishment by IV. She asks “What would be the point?”

Manhattan: Metropolitan Opera

manhattan Because I’m afraid of her, afraid of her.
She used to be so sweet
So cheerful
But suddenly she began to change
in front of my eyes
It was similar to you
Irritable and pitiful
When I saw her in the morning after breakfast
with the scarred cheek
My love for her completely vanished.

A friend tells Julie that Margaret will retain her beauty as she ages while Julie will not age well. Margaret marries a man her father refers to as “the Poodle.” They move to Britain. The Poodle leaves Margaret when she loses her jaw to cancer and bone from her thigh is used to rebuild her face.