Midtown Sketchbook

The Empire State Building as seen from Bryan Park lawn

The long days are dwindling and the evenings growing cooler. Midtown remains the same: ever-changing.

The grass of Bryant Park

One last long day in the sun and grass of Bryant Park ends in the early evening dark glow of the Campbell Bar.

The Campbell Bar

Hope stays alive in anyone who has had a dream come true.

Your Honor

Sometimes we walk barefoot
into the forest
even though there are snakes in the leaves
and sometimes some people still
call you "your honor"
but we know there's no honor among thieves
In the haze of our days
when memory falters
and the nights hide the loneliest sins
We will carry our sacrifice
up to the altar
and look away when the slaughter begins
We were drowned on dry ground
And we froze in the fire
We were born as old women and men
We drank from a tank
That was dry, then was drier
And our enemies loved us much more than our friends

Charlie Watts

This one hit pretty hard. It was unexpected, for one thing, and for another he was one of the founding fathers of my musical development. After The Beatles, there were The Stones, as every schoolboy knows. The Stones were bluesier, dirtier, nastier, and a lot rougher around those edges that the Beatles had smoothed down to harmonious perfection. So much rougher that it would take something very strong and steady to hold together the maniacal energy of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Brian Jones. It would take Charlie Watts.

I love the American drummers Benny Benjamin, Clyde Stubblefield, Al Jackson Jr., Hal Blaine, and the twin-drumming threats of the Allman Brothers Jamoe & Butch Trucks, and the Dead’s Mickey Hart & Bob Kreutzmann, as well as more recent rock drummers like DJ Bonebrake, Chad Smith, and Tre Cool but that little island off the coast of Europe, in the 1960s, did something miraculous when it produced five of rock’s greatest drummers: Ringo, Moonie, Bonzo, Mick Avory (yes, Mick fucking Avory!), and Charlie Watts.

Sitting in the back of the bus on the way to high school, I would pull out my box and pop in a cassette that I hoped would make the day ahead a little easier to bear. Sometimes it was Quadrophenia, and other times it was Animals, but as often as not it was Hot Rocks.

There are times, like the one we’re living through, when the collective agonies of grinding through a pandemic, a war, and a culture determined to tear itself apart, can overwhelm even the heartiest souls. It is reassuring to know that other times have faced the same, and worse, and somehow come through it. Sometimes all it takes is knowing there are others who feel the same, who want to see the whole world painted black.

I see a red door
And I want it painted black
No colors anymore
I want them to turn black

I see the girls walk by
Dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head
Until my darkness goes

I see a line of cars
And they're all painted black
With flowers and my love
Both never to come back

I've seen people turn their heads
And quickly look away
Like a newborn baby
It just happens everyday

I look inside myself
And see my heart is black
I see my red door
I must have it painted black

Maybe then, I'll fade away
And not have to face the facts
It's not easy facing up
When your whole world is black

No more will my green sea
Go turn a deeper blue
I could not foresee this thing
Happening to you

If I look hard enough
Into the setting sun
My love will laugh with me
Before the morning comes

Adirondacks

The Adirondack Park contains 30,000 miles of rivers and streams. Laid end to end, they would circle the Earth at its equator with thousands of miles to spare. A few days ago I found myself floating in one of them.

It is a good place to let the water have its way with you. Or to cling to a rock and feel the water swirl around every contour of your body. And to be the place where water pools and the well fills up again after the drought.

This is the place for the other part of you. The part that doesn’t struggle. The part that doesn’t think. The part that can hear the brush of breeze against leaf.

There are things that can be learned, nestled in the arms of the mountains, that cannot be learned in other places. The clouds come close to share their stories of the history of storms. The wind waves at you from the tops of the trees. The wildflowers say, “It is OK to grow, wherever you want, however you want, as colorfully as you like.