Friday, December 4, 2009

Alien Summer / Knickerbocker Nights

A pair of entries spanning two days between Boston and New York...

December 3
No need to look far for today's revelation. Even the passing parade of Mass., R.I., and Conn. from a Greyhound bus window is merely more evidence of a strangely warm day in December. The surprise in the advent window today is the sun, staring down with an odd fixed stare (Sol, you OK?), making me sweat like a hothouse petunia. The rules governing Indian Summer don't apply. 63 degrees is plenty. Too much, even. The daze of reprieve is tinged with the unease of something amiss.

Meanwhile, the Boston Globe has finally run a story on moths, which somehow feels related. Winter moths (operophtera brumata) are everywhere, have been since November, fluttering in headlights, showing up in your kitchen, clinging to the car windows like tiny zombies begging to be let in. Harmless now, the article says, but wait until next year, when their offspring...well, off spring.

Is this the modern equivalent of the wild dogs running amok in the streets of ancient Rome? Being an almanacker means running the hand over the contours of each day without judgment, doesn't it? Do I kick the cuckoo out of the nest? Even if I know it rolled the true warbler egg over the side to oust the competition? No, the day counts. Summer in December is the day we got, maybe just a glitch, maybe in cahoots with the winter moths. Anyway, snow flurries are forecast for Saturday.

(Meanwhile, in the back of an Arby's somewhere in Connecticut, where the bus pulled in for a passenger pit stop, I think I caught a glimpse of real December. No advent surprise. Just brown sedge or some other kind of drab weed gone to seed. And bare trees. And brown bushes. And the steely bray of a dirt bike plunging down a trail in a nearby woods. It's a dark, dingy month, at least here, which it would be, sandwiched between November and January. And isn't it because it's so dark, so drab, so done, that we have given it this jingling, twinkling makeover? Wasn't Jesus actually born in March, and didn't they move his birthday to winter in order to displace the pagan revels of Saturnalia? Well, don't mind me, December. I'm just peeling away layers.
Your witness.)

December 4
Too many revelations, big and small,so let's just put them all in one window called New York.

• T-bone steaks and rare conversation at the Knickerbocker Bar and Grill around E. Ninth St. Eight guys variously in the arts, gathered here by our mutual friend, John, raconteur, writer-producer, in from L.A.
• Two Hispanic women in the subway, one looking older and more careworn than the other, with her toddler son in her lap. As she talks, the boy caresses her long thumb grasped in his small hand.
• Another passenger, muttering to himself, burdened with two huge bouquets of flowers and a mylar birthday balloon, which he doesn't always succeed in keeping out of the personal space of the faintly annoyed woman next to him. (Soldier On, Good Sir, to quote from the Hall's cough drop ads surrounding him.)
• A pair of topiary dinosaurs strung with tiny lights outside the American Museum of Natural History
• Inside the museum, an exhibit on the Silk Road, recreating the journey from Xi'an to Turfan to Samarkand to Baghdad, including a typical outdoor market with furs, fruit, nuts, aromatics (e.g., bdellium, or gum guggul), oils (patchouli, putchuk), and dyes; music; clopping camels and braying asses; and stories such as the Stonecutter who wished to be the sun, then a cloud, then the wind, then a stone, then (beset by stonecutters) himself again
• Back in Boston, on the Red Line subway, a woman sits down next to me who seems to be from New York. She perches in front of her large lucite handbag, crosses one elegant, tawny leg over the other, is wearing a maroon leather coat, black beret, and fantastic leopard-skin high heels. And she proceeds to spoon with deliberation sumptuous spoonfuls of whipped cream drizzled with chocolate syrup, from a venti container of some extravagant dessert coffee. Across from me is a kind of mirror me, a guy in his seventies, old Bostonian in leather cap and coat, giving her the eye. I catch a glimpse of her face. She's beautiful, of course, in a dangerous, noir, Kathleen-Turner, way. She gets up and gets out at Central Square in Cambridge. Other passengers murmur and laugh nervously in her wake. The old dude and I exchange a mysterious smile.


  1. these last few days (of advent discoveries) have made me so happy. I revel in your talent and your grand eye for all things human and natural. We should be talking self publishing at least...