Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans as Atlantis

Hurricane Katrina has struck New Orleans. Levees have been breached. New Orleans is below sea-level, and may fill up “like a bowl.” I’ve been to two conventions in New Orleans. In the early ‘70s, with the war in Vietnam still raging, The Committee of Small Magazine Editors and Publishers, or COSMEP, met at Tulane University. Afterwards, I visited with Darlene Fife at her apartment in the French Quarter. Darlene’s newspaper NOLA Express waged war against Nixon and the Establishment. Darlene hosted the conference; she embodied the counter-culture; initially she even refused to inform the Times-Picayune what all the long-haired hippies were doing in New Orleans. More recently, I was elected as a delegate to the assembly of the Modern Language Association, or MLA. In December 2001, I journeyed with Ben, my 11-year-old son, to the MLA convention in New Orleans. The World Trade Center was still burning. Security made Ben remove his shoes on three separate occasions. My guidebook was Christopher Benfey’s Degas in New Orleans: Encounters in the Creole World of Kate Chopin and George Washington Cable. I tried to find the streets and buildings Degas knew. The New York Sun today describes New Orleans as a “drowning city.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


I hear the train below in the subway station. We rush down the stairs, but the doors ping and then close. We are too late. Wait! An old man has stuck his cane between the doors. The doors wonderfully reopen, and we board. “Thanks,” I tell him. “Every cane has a silver dagger hidden inside.”

“It was a lucky stab,” he replies, smiling.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Sex and War

In the middle of a long automobile journey, I stop at a Denny’s south of Camp Drum. It’s 3:00 AM. The only other customers are at a nearby table. They’ve been drinking a little and are carelessly loud. He’s a soldier back from Iraq and will shortly return. He wants her to sleep with him. She might except for one thing; he’s already slept with two of her friends. The conversation goes on and on and as I pay I wonder, will she or won’t she?

Thursday, August 18, 2005


The current military imbroglio may be an oil war. The Neo-imperialist Republicans may have invaded Iraq and Afghanistan to put Iran in a pincer. I inherited a 1990 Lincoln Town Car from my father. It cost $50,000 new. It still works fine. That Town Car may have been the best car ever built by Ford. They said quality was job #1 in 1990. (Ford’s current plan: build crap and fuck the customer.) Although I have a studio in TriBeCa, my son lives with my ex-wife in a house a hundred yards from my two-bedroom apartment on Staten Island. It’s pleasant to spend days on Staten Island; you absolutely need wheels on Staten Island, and the Town Car suffices. But it’s a big heavy land yacht demanding high octane gasoline. For a while I used the huge trunk for storage, until I realized the added weight cost at the pump. The pump!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


My father spent 2001 dying. I would drive from TriBeCa north of the World Trade Center, up Highway 81 through Camp Drum, N.Y., to Kingston, Ontario. After 9/11 the WTC burned for six months. I smelled it everywhere, even in Kingston. I decided my clothes and shoes must be contaminated and started to discard. Finally the doc said it was sinusitis. Many TriBeCa people had sinusitis. My father died of a brain tumor 11/14. He had once stayed at the W.T.C. Marriott and so would watch the collapsing towers as they played over and over on television, but he couldn’t understand. In October driving back to New York, the local Watertown newspaper said soldiers from Camp Drum were in Afghanistan. Two days later it was in The New York Times. In September I had written Michael Wilding in Australia that US troops would be in Kabul by Christmas and Baghdad by Easter. I was more or less right but Baghdad has been, let’s say, problematic. I demonstrated against the invasion.

Monday, August 15, 2005

First Soldiers in Afghanistan

Two soldiers stand in the Staten Island ferry terminal in the place where, a few months ago, a Salvation Army Santa stood. I show the soldiers my press card. They glance at it but don't speak. They continue to scan the crowd entering the terminal. “You guys in the Reserve?” I ask. “You’ll have to ask the L.T.” one answers. These guys were serious. “What’s an L.T.?” “A lieutenant,” the taller soldier says. “In Canada we pronounce that word left-tenant.” “Is that because they have two left feet?” This guy is smart. “That gun is scary,” I say honestly. I peer closer. A second magazine is taped to the gun. These guys have seen combat. “Have you been to Iraq?” I ask. “We’re not authorized to discuss that.” Turns out on further discussion they trained at Fort Drum. The Tenth Mountain Division, based in Fort Drum, were the first U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Nervous Pandemic

A bad marriage is a joint disease. To worry is to fear the worst. Dream: Arab horseman with his sword mounts a jet plane, flies, slashes the twin towers.