AFTER SEPTEMBER
my book of poetry about September 11th, 2001...and after Available NOW at Amazon.com -click here
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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Uncle Stew.





My Uncle, my grandfather, and my father in 1943.





We put uncle Stew in the earth on Saturday Septemeber 30th. By the generosity of Cousin Dave we put daddy there also with pop at Fairview. They are all together. (My Grandmother Marion too. That's another story.)

I was privileged to be in the presence of an extended family I rarely ever see gathered in one place still in deep grief, as I think I am myself.  

Of course life goes on. But there is a deep emptiness now. One I did not know was there. Did not know could be there. 

My uncle had this affect on people. He influenced them just by being him. He was subtle yet firm and a natural at it like no other I have ever known. He had an authority about him. It commanded respect. And respect is what I gave him. 

He was responsible for me being a Boy Scout. He challenged me directly with: "You either be a follower or a leader. " 

I have walked the safety razors edge between exactly what that means, and how it applies to me.

How I apply it to life.

Mostly I go my own way. I do not follow others blindly. I think for myself. Trying with all my limitations to think critically and come to decisions that benefit the most people while being as true as I can to my values of honor, truth and justice. This is perhaps the epitome of "altruism." Yet, this is the gift, or the curse, my uncle gave me. 

And it was that important concept he challenged me with so many years ago which drives my attempts to make a difference today. 

He took me to work with him. But I did not work side by side with him like I did with my father. However, the ethic he passed to me was the same as my parents. Work hard. Do your best. A thing worth doing is worth doing well.


Probably the most recent fond memory was when we went to a ball game together. Me, little Stewy, Eric and Uncle Stew. He complimented me on my knowledge of the city roads. I Remember I got him a hotel room on Staten Island because it was getting to the point where he wasn't driving at night anymore. 

I always had a wonderful time with him. He always told me great stories which I used to fill in the blank spaces of a fractured past. He told me stories about my great grandfather Fritz, and of my dad.

My uncle was the rock of our family for me. I wanted to be there for him. Visit him as I passed through between work and home. Life intervened. Or death as it were. First daddy. Then aunt Joanne. Then Miss Jean. Then my mother.






When I was four...I cut my leg on some slate that dad had stacked in the side yard. My mother freaked. Immediately she called uncle Stew who came and rushed us to the hospital. As he carried me in his arms to the emergency room of St Vincent's, the bandage my mom had put over my exposed shin bone blew off, my mom went to retrieve it and I realize now I learned two important things. 


One, that my mother loved me with a passion I will never understand. 


The other that my uncle had a great amount of common sense as he said : "Let that go, Rose. It's dirty now. "


Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Rest In Peace Uncle.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

9/12 - September and After

           
Photo by Thomas Ward

On September 12th, 2001, we all went to work.Those of us who remiained unhurt physically. During a break from a bucket brigade on "the pile" I jotted down the following lines. They speak to a unity of purpose, an outpouring of good will and a reminder to us today that this spirit of 9/11 must not be forgotten.

Despite our turmoil politcally, America is about "we" not me. The United States is about "US" and not any one faction, family or clan. It pains me today to see people die in the land of liberty because of what ultimately amounts to selfishness and greed. 

What I remember about September 11th, 2001 is: Heroism. Unity. Trust. And an oupouring of support and grief from the whole world. 

I know it's unrealsitic to live in a constant state of "Kum By Ya". However, some would say that the spirit to do so is the Holy Spirit. We embraced it in New York City during 9/11, in New Orelans during Katrina, and now in Houston, Texas and all over Florida after Harvey and Irma. Why must it take a disaster, man made or natural, to remind people of what we are really all about?



9.12.01


I join a human chain that trails
Into the heart of ground zero

We pass remains 
Hand over hand, bit by bit
Atlas, Hercules, Achilles
Stand shoulder to shoulder 
With ordinary people like me
Moving a rubble mountain

It is a lovely day, bright with sunshine
Men and women work together
On this most privileged task
And I feel the somber touch of
Each sacred 
Smashed computer keyboard
Every length of twisted steel or
Bucket of smashed concrete
Passed from gloved hand to gloved hand
Once belonged to soaring monuments
Born in our youth

And now…

Today I work to find
Those trapped beneath 
Joining the effort to set them

Free.


Friday, September 8, 2017

My Old Man



My old man taught me how to be safe in high places so that I could eventulally come down and show others how to do the same.

September 8, 2017 Greenville NC

It doesn’t seem like nine years ago today that dad left home for the final time. I think of them both, mother and father, every day, but especially on a day such as this when I have moved so far on down the road of life without them. My late blooming ways puts me at peace, relatively speaking, here in my new home with my wife. I look around constantly and just think of how pleased they both would be. Of how blessed they made me. They taught me my life lessons. I finally learned them. Thank you both. Thinking of you, daddy.


Slater

Friday, May 26, 2017

Art Attack- The Story of a Painting...The Story of a Life






I am getting ready to move out of Brooklyn. We have lived in this Cobble Hill neighborhood since the year 2000. There are a lot of memories here. There are a lot of memories of New York in general where I have spent the better part of my almost 59 years. It's been, as they say, a good run.


The painting pictured here is mine. And it’s not mine. There is a story behind this painting. It is the story of New York. A before and after story. Before September 11th, 2001, and what followed.

Some may have heard of perceptual artist Paul Rebhan, who became somewhat infamous for smuggling a painting in to MOMA in the early 1990’s and hanging it in a gallery. Evidence of his notoriety archived in the New York Times, and an appearance on the Today Show with Matt Lauer, as well as other news sources positions him in the New York Art world before the death of Andy Warhol. He also, along with his friend and cohort Tony Noe, developed the idea of “Quiet Parties” where people gather and converse through writing notes. He is an author, musician, painter and all around agent-provocateur. Paul and I have been friends since our college radio days with WSIA. 

In the 1990’s he presided over the Harper Gallery located in Tribeca at the corner of Hudson and Franklin Streets. It was a time in New York City, and in our lives, where all seemed possible.

As time moves on, so did we. I moved to Brooklyn in 2000, he moved out of the Harper Gallery to explore the world. He entrusted me with many of his paintings. One of which he bequeathed to me. The one you see pictured here.

When he gave it to me, it looked very different. Deep blue back ground upon which he painted his world famous “Orbs.” Abstract representations of the human form containing nine elements. There were other colors beside blue and black. One color conspicuously absent from the painting was red.

As you can see, the canvas underwent a transformation of sorts where-by color and texture not intended by the original artist were added after the fact. That defacement was perpetrated by none other than myself.

The canvas was painted over shortly after we moved from Wyckoff Street to Court Street in the summer of 2002. Paul helped us move. I worked for the Department of Buildings by night. By day I was dealing with the horror and anguish, along with the rest of the world, in the aftermath of 9/11.

Like many New Yorkers, I was suffering from a combination of survivor’s guilt and post-traumatic stress. I needed a release, a catharsis, a way to express my sadness…and my rage. I had never done a painting before. My visual art was limited to photography, mold making, casting architectural sculptures, and performance art. 

In September of 2002 I was looking at the canvas my friend had given me. It reminded me of our days of Art Attacts and spontaneous performance pieces about love and sex. Days of seeming innocence. Now they were gone, and downtown Manhattan irrevocably changed forever. Having fun, being in love, sexual relations all seemed like things from a dream. And I was angry about losing my innocence. I don’t like when things leave me.



I have a problem with letting go.



So I went next door to the art supply store, KC Arts, bought a couple of tubes of Cadmium Red #5, and went to work. With a spatula, and some medical gauze, I fashioned the blood red impressions of the twin towers. I covered the rest of the canvas in red as well. Except for two of Paul’s elements which still show. All the rest of the texture in the painting belongs to Rebhan. Except the garish rectangles I used to deface his original.

When he saw what I had done, he was not pleased, and he immediately took back all the other canvas I was storing for him. No doubt fearing for their safety as well. My wife tells me artists re-purpose canvas all the time. That there are paintings under paintings. I never asked Paul if he had photos of the original, and I was so distraught back then I didn’t think to take any myself. Now I don’t want to bring it up again with him.

Soon, I will move. My wife never liked the painting in either of its incarnations. So I don’t know what to do with it other than donate it to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Provided this story could be told.

Retirement and moving away from NYC is about as big as it gets for me. I would like to leave something behind that moves people to work for peace.


Paul and I are still friends. I hope and trust we always will be.



Monday, May 15, 2017

Mother's Day 2017

My mother lies in state
This day
And everyday
Safe at last and forever  
beside her husband 

They share a semblance 
Of sleep
Together in their crypt

While my father
Is ash in a box
On my shelf

I have yet
To fully grieve
For grief is
No departure

From my moment
To moment experience 
Of life

I have always missed them
Especially when they were 
Here

Now I know exactly where they
Are. And it's as if...




Sunday, April 9, 2017

Greenville, April, Not So Cruel...

I have been very busy of late. Working on making time, spending time working on making a home in Greenville.  A place in Eastern North Carolina named after the revolutionary war hero Nathaniel Greene.

Green grass, green leaves and pine needles. Tar Heels and Tar River, National Champs of the NCAA.

Much has changed since my last post. Political shifts, Trump using the "powder" Obama saved for him. Bannon bansihed from the NSC. Is there hope for us yet? We will see.

Last night we went into Lil' Washington to see the ECU 5th Street Players production of  "New Brain" and it was absolutely lovely. A good solid piece of theatre produced, directed and performed by the talented and well trained students of East Carolina University's School of Theater and Dance.

Spring is sprining here. There is peace upon the flood plain.


Wake up

Awake!

Parts of me long sleeping
like temporary death.
Sleep as in a dreaming
of being.

Wake
to my dream of a talking
broad-sword
sounding out my lovers words:

“There’s Rosemary. That’s for remembrance.
Pray you, love, remember.”

Remember!

Remember.

How to move.
Move boughs and limbs long
frozen still
by winter’s chill.

Move upon March wind.
Slowly uncoil and emerge.
Stretch. Unfurl.
Breathe incensed scented air once more.

Be born.

Again, and again

And

Again, April.




Wednesday, February 8, 2017

#NoApocalypseInOurTime



Watching the news this morning about confirmation of an obviously unqualified Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education who bought her way to favor and the silencing of a courageous and out spoken Elizabeth Warren on the floor of the senate leads me to the statement: welcome to the 1920’s. When lynching was legal, Fascism and Nationalism were on the rise and we were heading toward WW II.



America is not a safer place this morning, and it is not a greater place this morning. My last post talked about a movement: #NoApocalypseInOurTime. There are people in power today willing the Apocalypse of the bible into existence. We must not let that happen.



We, The Human Beings among us, are capable of withstanding even the most brutal of natural disasters. This is how God works through us. I am not sure if that is how God created us, but I do believe that is how we have evolved. We are innovative, thoughtful, compassionate, and above all, generous. The Golden Rule is our guide. So we must thwart any attempt to generate a man-made apocalypse. That is the very root of evil: Hubris. The playing of God by men.



This is not one of my sardonic jokes. I am dead serious. I have always been attentive to politics, but mostly sat on the sidelines when it came to being active.



No more. I believe strongly with the election of Donald Trump we have let slip the dogs of war and there is only one logical end to the Bannon-led government, and that is a nuclear winter survivable only by those who are actively preparing for it. I am preparing for the alternative facts of human survival despite this blunder.

Do not confuse the Golden Rule with pie-in-the-sky naiveté . Treat others as you would have them treat you is not pacifism. If you slap me I will slap you back. Harder if possible so as to deter you from slapping me again. But I will not goad you into slapping me. I will not push you and dare you to slap me. I will ask you why do you want to slap me? What are the issues? How can we resolve this animosity?

Often times these questions reveal the true nature of a person. If theirs is a will for domination and supremacy, the mask of humanity slips revealing the ungainly monster beneath. The chimera at a dark soul's nadir. That is not the better angel of our nature.



#NoApocalypseInOurTime

#NoApocalypseInOurTime.