Parade Season

each spring, as the parades
approached, many veterans
would need to update
their uniforms. a small percentage
are Vietnam Veterans
who discarded their awards
in disgust. an accumulation
of time altered their original
conscription, and now wanted to
participate.
and represent.

the veterans of World War II
did not have to confront
the decision their Vietnam brethren had to.
the Greatest Generation watched over decades,
as their uniforms were desecrated
by curious grandchildren.

“i need a belt buckle.”

“a regular web belt for work?”

“No, a Goddamn USMC buckle in all it’s glory!”

my father in law- who owned the Army Navy surplus store
i found myself working in
had bought 120 USMC Dress buckles
at a trade show years earlier.
there were still a few dozen
in our attic stockroom.

“hold on one minute, i’ll be right back.”

i immediately find a
boxed USMC belt buckle,
and head back down the
rickety stairs from the attic,
to the retail floor.

“how much do i owe you, kid?”

“on the house. it’s the least we can do.”

“awww, c’mon kid, i can pay you!”

“hey- didn’t anyone give you something for free today?”

he raised his head to look directly into my eyes.
i thought i could hear his train of thought.

“a free buckle? a free buckle?”

holding the small
cardboard box
he spoke eloquently

“You are making an old Marine proud.”

he then exits the store.

the sound is congruent
everyone in earshot
was aware of what we heard.

i race to the deck outside the store
as customers are dialing 911
on their cell phones.
when i reach his fallen figure, i ask “are you ok?”

he replied~
“yes, i am.”

a moment later, a police officer arrived as
the first responder.
he walked across the deck
that provides access to the store.

“have you been drinking today?
“no, no, no, sir…..”

“Stand Up….”

the officer plants his hands under
the arms of the Marine Veteran
and gradually brings him
to his feet.

“have you been drinking today?” the officer repeats his question, with
an edge of malice.
i was shocked at the lack of a level of subtlety from the officer.
perhaps they dealt with this “emergency” everyday.

and yet, i decided to speak out:

“hey, take it easy on him….”

the officer held the Marine in the same position and then
slowly craned his neck to look directly at me.

“i’ll let you know when i want you to talk.”

i thought to myself
i would oblige,
and remain silent.

a gathering of EMT’s, firefighters, and police
have gathered at the scene.
they all seem to look at me
with a coordinated
disdain.

“you couldn’t differentiate a heart attack
from a drunk old man?”

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Moon in Capricorn

Signs of Earth

CAPRICORN
featuring Model: Piper Meyers
Coogan Farm
Mystic,  CT   USA
Photograph by Michelle Gemma
new film picked up from the Lab:

120mm Ilford Delta 400 Pro film shot with Mamiya 7 scanned on Epson Perfection V600 Photo

from the new series: Personal Universe, an astrological study starring the model stable of Michelle Gemma (2017-2018)

https://michellegemmaphotography.com
https://michellegemmaphotography.wordpress.com/

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IRNP 🎵 🎥8x

Isle Royale Music-Only Edit

Here is a music-only edit of the Isle Royale footage – 8x speed, no voiceover

Posted by Victory Garden on Monday, August 6, 2018

💯OC, babe

Interested in seeing the actual travel videos? Let the moderators know!

Thanks for watching!

1999 Transmission: Asheville

I just recently drove out to the serene Appalachian outpost of Asheville, North Carolina.  Heather and I, two yankees in a Camry, pushed out from lowland tobacco fields of Chapel Hill environs, thru the first surprise snowfall of this mild southern winter, and found ourselves climbing round little Carolina hills upwards into the mountains.

Asheville is a tranquil, non-Starbucks kind of village.  Old angled streets hold together worn brick structures that house odd restaurants, damp pubs, and many antique shops.  All the taverns in the town sell Beamish stout. Some let you have a shot of local moonshine.  A peculiar town, more a city, and once a city.

Down in the crevices by the river that once fueled this town, rail tracks lead to storehouses and docks that continue to function.  The city contains no Gap or such, nor anything like them.  The only true presence of corporate white America are the many banks which center this city.  They are of course the largest structures in town.

The new industrial banking buildings, erected in the 1970s judging by their modern efficiency, are entirely out of place here, and like stark white bone, spine and spear the town through its center.  But the axis of penetration is inconsequential.  The only effect these structures has is to make the shadowed walk north of them a little chilly.  The rest of the town has settled into a calm sauntered pace, akin to more eastern and southern Carolina: folks sitting on benches laughing with paper bags full of drink.  Couples kissing in doorways.  An antique shop owner locking up with pizza box and waggy dog, ready to go home next door, upstairs. A damn nice town.

So out twenty miles on a sunny day, at Chimney Rock, I went up thru rock for stories and stories via an old crickety elevator, and stepped out up some stairways and trails up to the top of Chimney Rock, and asked Heather if she would marry me.  And she said yes after I could barely get the words out, stuttering and kneeling and crying and smiling.  Just damn glad for the blue sky and the cold air and just holding her hand beneath the sun.  We didn’t want to come down.  Other folks saw our wet cheeks and knew and smiled back.

How are we to those who have come before us, those who have tread the same surreal lands and cheered with wine and song.  This great shadowplay of ours is vast and illuminated.  We all have our own soundtracks, our own separate angles, glimpses of the sun.  And we all frolic in this new rococo reality of brilliant talkways and perfected machinery that makes up this end of century.

How are we different from those 100 years past?  Their internet was the new telegram system.  They like us were slammed with technology:  the light bulb, the auto, the telephone, the first recording of sound.

We are on the same cusp, coming around the bend towards the future, but are still merely in the rococo phase of the industrial revolution.

We are the twilight of the industrial revolution.

There is something else we must do, besides streamlining the physics of our industry.  There is a next step, there is a place after we perfect cell phones and credit cards and the internet.  A place beyond our fascinations with this magical technology.

Technology was magic to the flappers dancing to the new radio sound.  Magic to the boomer kid in 1962 constructing his own radio.  You’d tinker like a magician to make the magic.  And technology remains incredible as we create new sounds based on  pure mathematics, sounds never heard before, sounds Bach was pained to never have heard.  We forge the magic and forget that it is magical.  We miss the point, the spirit all drained out, as we commit to the final construction, the perfect device.  And then we discard it, and move on to next perfect device.

So where do we go??  What is the end point as we hone in on the calculus maximum of our industrial state??  What do you do when you have achieved perfection, when the last cut has been struck into the granite bust of our time??

We seem so close to somewhere else… post is post.

-Asheville, North Carolina, Autumn 1999

12/01/1989

Slow slow stillness leads me not to write. Comfort. Beer and all just non-stop. Last night Maura, Samantha and Maura’s flatmate Sarah, and I went out and only reached 3 pints maybe when Sam went to the toilet and threw her guts up. Maura followed when we reached the flat. Great beer, tho. Stella something or other, from Amsterdam, as all great things point to.

Boom shanka boom is the song for street walking and tonight even. “Daylight people ought to go home!”

In this crazy Frog and Firkin pub, a gay guy steals my beret, musses my hair, and Sarah feels like shit, so home we go. No tolerance to be found, but I am out with girls night after night and man for some guy talk! “Who is the hottest?” “Samantha” and all all all.

We (Maura, Sarah, and I) went to St. Paul’s today. Amazing. The main dome is about a mile high and has a painting of a higher level with angels and God playing in it. Great.
St. Paul's

I saw Fugazi the other night. Crushed in the crush. But eventually to the stage and my two (get that, two) souls to save from the crush of the pit. Two girls. I put all I had into not letting them feel the pressure of the crushing pit, but that was a kick fuckin’ ass show. And, now Friday, on Monday to see Mudhoney.

All drunk now. I saw Rich M. across the Ashes tonight. Hair all all, smoking what could have been a clove or jibber or Camel, and The Cure, New Order, Smiths, Siouxisie and Talking Heads played all night. I now know that I am no alchy as my last pound went to the jukebox and not the bartender’s boss, but I did steal this dude’s beer that he just let sit there, and even after confrontation I passed it off and left half of it dead laying there dead on the bar and left the place just because the second bell had rung, and I was too and still am drunk and there was no more music and he practically causing a scene.

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“There is a Light that never goes out”

SCRIPT  FOR  MICHELLE  GEMMA  PHOTOSHOOT

featuring Model: Alycia delosSantos   as my Leo for the forthcoming series: “Personal Universe” (an astrological study of the zodiac featuring twelve models portraying their sign)
today’s locations: House of 1833 in Old Mystic  and the Mystic Hilton in Mystic

“There is a Light that never goes out”

3 PM: arrive at the House of 1833:

You are my Leo goddess queen, and you are invited to the Mansion for a party and you are the honored guest.

We are going to get you dressed up in a fur coat ; in a beautiful vintage backless burgundy dress and you’re ready!

 

You’re ready for the honor,  for the party ; to celebrate and be celebrated!

You show up to the Mansion as expected: you stalk around waiting for it:: you go room and room and it’s empty:

no one is there: the fireplace is not lit.

You change outfits hopeful that the party is about to start:

we were just a little premature:: more stalking; as in leonine prowess::: “what is going on?”


— Nothing


So we go to the hotel for the party:

4 PM: arrive at The Mystic Hilton
There are lights there are people: there is a fire:::

 

You can dance
You can see people and be a lioness.
I keep thinking of the Smiths lyric:
“Take me out tonight
Where there’s music and there’s people
Who are young and alive
Driving in your car
I never never want to go home
Because I haven’t got one anymore”
So this is the triumphant realization of our arrival at the hotel:: we are seeing people and we are happy and at peace!

 

 

 

You have fun then at the end we wrap you in velvet swaths and you retreat to your den to relax and to dream:::::

“There is a Light that never goes out”
all Photographs by Michelle Gemma

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I Celebrate the Bear

Bare means naked, but to bear is to carry something. A bear is also a brown furry animal, but most people keep that one straight. If you can‘t bear to remember it all, just imagine a lumbering grizzly carrying a heavy load, and you’ll bear this knowledge with glee! If a bear bares his teeth, though, run! – the internet

One true friend and man of Mystic, Connecticut is the Bear. His name does not mean to endure, you do not bear the Bear, although it might hint his attitude and constitution both reflective of the cool endurance he was capable of. I once implied to him in a conversation that his death was immenent. He scoffed at me and said he would outlive me, and I believed him. So, although the odds were on my side, I’m somehow surprised that he passed first, and saddened.

Once, he handed me a coaster and winked. It read, “There are those who know, and there are those who know the ones who know, and there are those who don’t know” He looked at me and said, “Think about it.” So I did.

Bear is a beloved of Mystic. He is never afraid to start a conversation with a beautiful person and can change a room with his ease. His name cannot be called enough or answered enough for the satisfaction of Mystic. The town will be satisfied of him when the bridge is too tired to go up.

I see him with cheeks are full of red streaked beer drinking whiskey veins, and his eyes are sunk in thought above them, they are sheltered in some barracks of a glance. His hair streams behind like old broom straws. He doesn’t sit as much as pillars on a barstool.

Bear is a man who knows sainthood can only be possessed by children and bodies of water, and has given himself to be part of that mad sweet easy life that is rarely partaken in. He has a charm that has lately become rare. To see him walking down Holmes or Pearl Streets is to see time confused at the edge of his footsteps, because his presence, so constant to Mystic, has become timeless.

Bear, he is called Bear. It is because of is indomitable beer built round tummy and unyielding posture. It is the result of courage and guile and expertise at being a spirited human. It is because he leads the old horse of his sweet soul one more time to the riverside to converse and walk and drink.

His confidence in the goodness of a city is contagious. Yes, it is the fine reassurance of a friend and a gentle ear at the pub that sways our attentions back to him year after year. He is not the neatly packaged turmoil of the modern soul, but a beautiful old Bear, a little mangy, heart pounding out a march of sweet cunning disposition. He is always ready for the proper fight. Yet, he is an expert pacifist and gentleman.

The days of drinking coffee with John Lowe and Goose and Bear at John’s are long since over. In those foggy nineties days Linda would stop by, walking in her soldierly way, smiling gently, and join the table before going off to cook at the Steak Loft. She is the Tuesday night bartender at John’s. She has never rushed and never will rush no matter how desperate some maniac gets for a fifth gin and tonic. But, while Linda was on watch, curating a pace for the place, Bear’s glass was never dry. Except, when she was lost in a dream watching over the pool table. I blame him for some of the good nature of John’s Cafe!

Now John Lowe is dead. They have paved the road three times since he died and will pave him deeper into the past every year, sequentially in no particular order. That is the untraceable burial ground of an old pub owner. It is no different than any man’s nor worse.

And one would never know any of this if you didn’t spend half a lifetime listening to whispers of Mystic. The few times the old men speak before you become one; it is worth listening. Before they get paved over and redone as fire hydrants and new mailboxes in your present and sidewalks, and lose all their humanity; it’s worth noticing a word or two that comes out of their mouths.

The bar, Johns Café, now gone, still holds the old energy. The energy of a place that has dealt and taken the blows of those who blew into Mystic or never left it to begin with. There was simply too much spirit there. It wouldn’t dissipate with something so commonplace as death or pavement. It is because, some of the old faces are still there.

There is a copy of Drifting, by Stephen Jones that paints the old river men of Mystic in their glorious golden past prime. It is a book that tells of rowing stoves down the river in john boats and placing them in huts and feeding them to keep warm.

The ridiculous impulses of the New England Yankee to row deep into the night are divine.

There is a particular story by Stephen Jones about rowing into downtown Westerly after drinking Narraganset Beer in a Watch Hill bar, and then setting out for the sloop and instead of going into a nice warm berth deciding to row all the way to Watch Hill. This trip, a splendid little Heart of Darkness Light, ends in spasms of dawn exhaustion, raw hands and heart. Jones is the rarest of local narrators. He is a subversive scholar of a grand sort. He is the soul mate of Bear whether they know one another or not.

Up on the wall at John’s, there is a post card from Saint John signed by the crew of the Argia, the ship whose sailors always report for duty at John’s after sunset. But more importantly, there is a window tinted dark for privacy and refuge from whatever forces seek to bend Mystic. On the dark glass there are gold letters emblazoned with the words: John’s Café. All, or most, or a good part of this may be held together by Bear.

To see Bear at The German Club, rather than John’s café is a rare occurrence for me. It can be akin to seeing a bear at a picnic table. He is a four-limbed larger version of a man. Yet, he is the bartender at the German Club on occasion. The German Club is certainly in Mystic, but it is on the way out. At the German Club, Mike and Reid and Jimmy will be sitting there smoking cigs, and seriously considering, as if it was going to be a life altering experience, whether to take a Jello shot or not, which once it has been brought up, is basically happening. Those men in their sweet generous spirits are the very teeth of life, he who bite into Jello shots with glorious expectations, believers in the miraculous curing power of alcohol, mouths full of premium tobacco smoke. They are the unheralded deacons of the glorious rotting apple of capitalism. They are the seeds of a strange new third way. It is precarious. They subvert the buying system by living cheaply and within the resource of their community

Bear is given to wanderings, and it is healthy to his spirit, because when he returns to John’s Café, then he is refreshed for having been away. The beer tastes lovelier there he thinks.

While I was putting my back into selling beer, he was putting his into being human. When you are around someone who is being an authentic human, you know it. You can learn from it. People don’t realize there are Bears in Mystic. In truth there is only one, as irreplaceable as they come.

October 2001

October 2001

i was confronted
with the dichotomy
of the internet
in the late autumn of 2001.

the attack on America
had specifically affected the content
of our culture, and our national identity.
i attended a concert
by a prestigious English band
at the Riverside Church during the
October of that year.
in Manhattan, security was
prominent.

a week after the show, i found myself in a
bulletin board forum,
the early century precursor
to facebook, and twitter.
a topic caught my attention- the security
at the Riverside Church show, which many
felt was inappropriate.

i wrote to the forum in response
to the topic:

“hey, are you aware that planes flew into the WTC less than
two months ago? could that be the reason for
heightened security?”

member after member of the online group forum
savaged my interpretation of the situation.

“those searches were inappropriate!”

“they negated our personal space!”

“we are not the terrorists!”

“we have no stake in violence, why target us?”

following their compelling statements,
i continued to howl
the content of my rebuttal.
it was an attempt to defend my point of view,
while simultaneously
regarding criticism
as a necessary element.

the awareness was sudden, and complete.
i did not want my personal opinion
validated…

i wanted to be seen as
the smartest person in the room.

i immediately disengaged.

Panama Diaries, Part II

Small towns always have secrets. And Pedasi, Panamá is no exception. Guadalupe, the retired Spanish journalist who pretends to be my aunt knows where all the bodies are buried. Sometimes literally. Her investigative instincts are still strong.

She tells me of the rich, old Frenchman who owns a hotel in the hills made entirely of bamboo and who has a penchant for underage prostitutes. Now he is dying of cancer and gets airlifted by helicopter to the nearest hospital for treatments that won’t save him. The bamboo is cracked and crumbling, parts of his hotel tumbling into the turbulent sea.

She tells of the family who owns the most land in and around town. A twisted yarn of greed, pistolas, inheritance as devilish as King Lear. They make my neurotic Jewish clan back in New York seem almost normal.

“The grandfather put his sister in the mental hospital even though she isn’t crazy, so he could steal all her land and dinero.” Guadalupe tells me. “He calls himself ‘El Pato Mas Rico’ because he saw the movie with the rich Donald Duck.

The best antidote to your own fucked up family is someone else’s.

 

Some nights when the town sleeps, we drive through the empty streets out on a dirt road towards the sea and she points into the dark to a bridge where a tourist was found dismembered over drugs, the pretty low buildings I know are white washed and brilliant in the sun where an expat hung himself.

Bats swoop like skydivers in charge of their own destiny. An owl eyes me from a wooden post, preening in the spot-lit beam of our headlights as we pass.

“Owls are good luck.” Guadalupe says.

But I know they signify change, seeing through people’s actions to their true intentions, death.

In exchange for secrets, a room in her rose red casita surrounded by palm trees, and mango groves, her delicious cooking, I help Guadalupe work the land. A good way to occupy my dream-filled head and steer it away from thoughts of the past and my uncertain future.

 

I coat palms with calcium (now prohibido because narcotrafficantes use it to mix with cocaine), I chop off old brown fronds with a machete to help new healthy shoots grow, wishing it was as easy to rehabilitate my life.

Guadalupe’s firetruck colored lawnmower is the same model as the one my grandparents had. Pulling the cord, making the motor rev to life brings back lost summers in Long Island, a place I can ever return to.

Their old house in Great Neck is gone now. Summers of gin and tonics, barbeques on the sagging wooden deck, my first real love and I swimming naked in their pool while my grandparents were in Europe. Tequila drunk photoshoots and after smoking joints with laughing friends, our tan legs dipped in the water.

Before all that, my parent’s wedding held before the swimming pool was dug out of the ground, a green cartoon Tyrannosaurus Rex floatie I paddled towards my grandmother’s open arms in, watching my friend almost drown the summer we were eleven.

That pool now fills my mind. I see it as I last saw it: coated in algae, dead leaves floating on the dark surface, a murky lagoon hiding the corpses of drowned birds.

This tropical lawn is vast. A distracting sea of Emerald City green hierba that seems to sprout six inches with every rain storm. These are shoots that resist deforestation, that fight to survive. I am learning from them.

Butterflies flit all around me and the lawnmower’s blades chop off the heads of twenty cornellias at once, the weeds whose wispy white heads hold seeds explode in a million wishes floating through the tropical sunshine.

What do I wish for? That our problems didn’t follow us no matter how far we travel, for a chance at freedom, for peace with the past, for a beer and Wifi.

 

 

On my Spanish burner phone, the only device with a somewhat reliable internet connection, my younger brother emails from New York to say my grandmother has an electric wheelchair, she’s running for council in the senior center where she lives now, she has her “mojo back.” But I wonder how many secrets she’s still keeping from our family. I had a front row seat to the deterioration of my grandparents and how much they hid.

Here, Guadalupe and I explore hidden beaches. We drive over lush hills with the unique curves of peaks once covered by ocean, towards the border with Costa Rica. In an even smaller town called Las Cañas, we perch in a canoe and a local fisherman guides us to a deserted island.

 

We walk through waist high beach grass, picking marañon and mangos. Our arms fill with fresh fruit. Across the island is a nesting ground for sea turtles, a pure white empty beach curves away into water the same extra azul as the sky. Misty islands rise far out in the sea.

Empty soda cans, amber beer bottles and chip bags litter the shoreline.

“Que triste.” Guadalupe says.

“Sí.” I agree.

“A man rents tents to tourists on the other side of the island.” She  shares, “I heard he went crazy and sells drugs now.”

 

 

We collect as much garbage as we can. We spread towels and eat our fruit under the shade of a palm. I help Guadalupe, who at sixty-five has a bad knee, walk into the warm waves. We forget for an afternoon how destructive people can be.

 

 

 

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