The Presence of the Past

History is the process of the past negotiating its terms of surrender to the future.

Although the past cannot defeat the future, it will do, and is currently doing, all it can, to break as many hearts as possible in the present. Cruelty seems to be the guiding principle of those in power, in the USA and across the globe, as they confront the horror of knowing that their power will soon be gone forever.

church

This is nothing new. In 19th Century Europe, monarchies crumbled under a rising tide of democracy. In the 21st, with a little courage and devotion to honesty and justice, we might see white male privilege go the way of kings, kaisers, and czars.

See if you recognize our current situation in these words that Victor Hugo wrote in 1862:

The past, it is true, is very strong right now. It is reviving. This revivification of a corpse is surprising. Here it is walking and advancing. It seems victorious; this dead man is a conqueror. He comes with his legion, superstitions, with his sword, despotism, with his banner, ignorance; within a little time he has won ten battles. He advances, he threatens, he laughs, he is at our doors. As for us, we will not despair.

We who believe, what can we fear?

There is no backward flow of ideas any more than of rivers.

But those who do not want the future should think it over. In saying no to progress, it is not the future they condemn, but themselves…There is only one way of refusing tomorrow and that is to die.

He concludes that chapter of Les Miserables with this observation of the relative powers of the hopes of the future and the fears of the past:

The ideal…thus lost in the depths – minute, isolated, imperceptible, shining, but surrounded by all those great black menaces monstrously amassed around it, yet no more in danger than a star in the jaws of the clouds.

Temple of Hera2

I Never Knew Your Name

When I say I never knew your name, I am not talking about the one your parents gave you. I am talking about the one you gave yourself. You know the one I mean, the one that bubbled to the surface of your life on a hot summer night, like this one, when you were all alone in your room, feeling inexplicably sad but hopeful.

This name was not one that you had heard before, yet you instantly recognized it as yours.

Although at that time I was hundreds of miles away from you, and had not met you, and could not hear the name you gave yourself, I felt the reverberations of its echo.

When I am calm enough, I still can.
6

I fell in love with you again

woman
Through the sunlight on another woman’s hair, I fell in love with you again. I heard a soft sound like a flute – sharp breath passing over a tiny hole – and remembered the feeling of holding you in my arms when we were both young, that feeling of holding on to everything I would ever need.

In the swaying of another woman’s wrist, I fell in love with you again. So slight. So light. It swung so freely, as if a stiff breeze could start it flapping uncontrollably, but I understood, in some strange way, the hidden strength inside the long slender fingers trailing beneath it.

Words, to a writer
Colors, to a painter
Melody, to a musician
All are mirrors of a lover’s smile
Echoes of the sounds you made when I was still in you

CCF09232018_00000

Springtime Sketchbook

I don’t remember ever seeing as many flowers as I’ve seen this Spring. Daffodils, tulips, pansies, posies, hyacinth, daisies, and morning glories. You can’t swing a dead cat in this town without hitting one.

“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want—oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” 
Mark Twain





The daffodils have been especially brilliant and breathtaking. Madison Square Park alone has over fifty varieties of daffodils blooming in it. I only knew of one daffodil before reading the story of the 3 million daffodil bulbs that were planted in NYC after September 11, 2001 as a living memorial.


“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
Percy Bysshe Shelley





The removal of the Bank of America Winter Village from Bryant Park is always one of the highlights of the year for me. The new lawn is in and even though you can’t sit on it yet you can sit around it and breathe it in. We gather mid-day like animals around an oasis.



“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”


Ranier Maria Rilke

“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.” 
Ernest Hemingway

New Orleans Sketchbook

Bourbon Streetlight

New Orleans is like no other place on Earth. There, music is the currency with the greatest value, as it should be everywhere. The melting pot was bubbling in the bayou before it had found its way to most other places. The French, African, Spanish, and Native American influences don’t pollinate other populations the way they do the denizens of the Crescent City.












The first band we saw in New Orleans was the Royal Street Winding Boys. We landed at Louis Armstrong Airport late in the afternoon and after dinner followed the sound of Jenavieve Cook’s trumpet into in a place called The 21st Amendment on Iberville Street between Royal and Bourbon. About an hour in I was giving serious consideration to never leaving. A few days later we saw the band again with a slightly different lineup at the Spotted Cat on Frenchman Street, where I did this sketch of them:

The Royal Street Winding Boys

Dizzy

The bass player, Dizzy, was in both incarnations of the band and I drew him at The Spotted Cat.





















It’s a tough town to leave. Even tougher because it hasn’t left me. It’s the kind of town, like my own New York City, that you can’t help but take for granted if you live there, but if you don’t, you might turn an unfamiliar corner and catch a glimpse of the promised land.

Here’s a video of The Royal Street Winding Boys performing “I Found A New Baby” at the Dragon’s Den.

A Wrinkle In Time

 

A wrinkle in time that crosses a border
Increases disorder
Corrects the divine
Perfects imperfections that cross over the line
And wither on the vine
Turn water to wine and wine back into water
My son for your daughter
Your lessons for mine
Lets lessen our time with displays of disorders
That have outrun time
And cross the finish line without ever breaking the tape