But people had gravitational pull, people accumulated, and the accumulation itself was, like science, a kind of momentum. Watching her sleep one of these nights when she’d begun to move things back in, staying up and tracing the lines of her small face, in a way he hadn’t done since the first year they’d known each other, he felt that she was the only person he actually knew in the world. This was not a romantic thought. Rather, he simply felt that she was the only option — every one else was an image projected on a screen, untouchable, ephemeral, unrelatable. Sometimes love feels like having driven past all the other exits on the freeway. Nowhere but here left to go. Nothing else available or even real. Not romantic, but a baffling disappearance of statistical options, a mathematical shortage. As though everyone else in the world had ceased to exist at all, so here he was, with her, not by choice but by apocalyptic circumstance.
a hurry through which known and strange things pass
And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.
"He knew that by this age these things no longer were unprecedented. Like the streets of the city that covered other streets, the buildings that had been many, many other buildings and been farms before that and hills before farms, nothing was untouched and they had all reached a point, an age, where the layers of dust on a surface made up more substance than the surface itself. That first somersaulting moment of falling for someone was now about a whole long series of someones, layers caked on layers, so that people were invented out of the history of other people and other people before them. He watched Sara walk in front of him with four other guys crowding around her, watched her birds-legs angle slightly together as they came down to her knees, and looking at her was a way of looking at Elise and Lydia and Joan and every other woman he’d so much as touched. She’d never stand out like a single word on a white page, contextless and purely herself.
But still to feel something for her was a rush of hope, as much as the seasons changing right at the moment when you’ve resigned yourself to believing they never will. Once again some random person, some girl who’d done some dumb thing to her hair and blown out a tire on her bike and showed up to a party, could become the source of all the air in the room for him. Despite all the past, despite the repetitions and the patterns and the knowledge, some stunningly stupid mechanism kept pumping hope back up the surface like nothing had ever happened to him at all. He lept over the railing and threw himself again into the cold water of infatuation, this time knowing he was doing it, this time making a choice or at least believing that he was.”
"to defend oneself against a fear is simply to insure that one will, one day, be conquered by it; fears must be faced. As for one’s wits, it is just not true that one can live by them — not, that is, if one wishes really to live." (never the wrong time to stop everything and read james baldwin. from "the fire next time.")
(more stuff about bad weather in another decade)
In some ways it seemed to pull the whole place back to the past. The island before electricity, before working telephones and air-conditioners and movie marquees and stop lights and subways, before noise and power. A dim memory of what it had been long before it lit up the eastern seaboard like a rotting beacon, demanding attention, chewing up all the air for miles. A reminder that this had once been farmland with George Washington’s troops stationed in the fields and rivers of uptown, green darkened nothingness stretching down to a trading post jammed into a harbor. The Lenape’s island before they sold it for twenty-four dollars. Silent, unconquered, and still capable of keeping its promises. For a moment the city turned and looked over its shoulder, as though it could take it all back and start over. While its inhabitants set buildings on fire, while its people stole cars and drove them through plate glass windows, the island simmered in its own lightless past. The borders glowed orange, the sound of glass breaking tore the edges of the air, and the city turned backyard. In the dark it felt as though the Dutch and the sailors and the Rockefellers and Boss Tweed and Robert Moses might never have happened, and there might never have been a city at all.
Posting stuff I’ve had to cut from the book again. will probably not keep this up very long.
In Westchester County, a good and beautiful town full of white houses and green lawns tried to sleep and couldn’t sleep. Worry and fantasy buzzed just below the level of real sound. Skin played thought like radio static. Nothing counts in a heatwave. Spaces took on the blurred diagonals of bad choices. People all at once remembered rooms they’d only ever half-seen, remembered skills they’d only ever half-had and never meant to perfect. The very young dreamed the worst of their own futures, and the very old remembered the best secrets of their pasts. Everyone wanted to think as little as possible. The town stretched to break out of its careful geometry, as though the hysterical weather refused to contain hushed and approved shapes. Everyone waited.
big nick’s is closing and I am upset about it
so here is a thing about big nick’s.
At the end of the day, anxious to talk themselves into an added-up perimeter, to vomit at one another the entire text and substance of each of their separate lives up until age twenty-four, they went looking for the bar that would be their bar, the bar that would be the setting for their grand friendship. They found Big Nick’s.
Big Nick’s was located on the corner of Seventy-Seventh Street and Broadway. It wasn’t actually a bar. It was their favorite bar. They had walked in after the first day of faculty meetings because it was the nearest open storefront that promised beer. It was very obviously a restaurant. Plastic booths of uncertain condition crowded the small room and in combination with the laminated signs screaming adjectives about every possible (and some perhaps impossible) food item made the place prohibitively labyrinthine. There were only three seats at the counter. One could, if one was murderously determined, drink a beer while sitting there, but these seats’ proximity to both the cash register and the plastic booth directly behind them made it essentially impossibly to actually sit at the counter.
Big Nick’s served thirty-seven varieties of pizza, twenty-four varieties of burger, seventeen varieties of sandwich, pasta in many types and very large portions, every fried appetizer invented by America and a few hailing from more exciting parts of the globe, six flavors of milkshake, an entire separate breakfast menu and yet another separate and equally large menu of greek specialities, not to mention soups, salads, muffins and other bakery items, ice cream sundaes and 24-hour-hour Sunday Dinner platters such as meatloaf and prime rib and a whole chicken in five available flavors of marinade. They also offered exactly two beers, both of them terrible. It was not now and had never been a bar. It was Will and Chapman’s favorite bar and they referred to it as “the bar,” representing the genre and concept entire. Most days at The West Side School ended with Will and Chapman at the bar.
They knew it wasn’t a bar, but it was the first place they had gone together, when the city was new to them both and they told each other valiant lies about how brilliantly they were each doing living in it. That fact was more important than that “their bar” was in fact a greasy all-night restaurant. They loved it for the moment it signposted in their lives, and for the excuse to talk in large gestures about how time had passed, how recent it all felt, for an excuse to feel that there were some things that the speeding-by months did not change.
Of course they understood that it wasn’t a bar, that was really just a pizza place-slash-diner with very cheap beer, but we love things by making myth out of them and a shitty diner is a bar if you keep saying that about it every day with enough conviction. Love is a choice. Love is always a choice.
Now he is dead, and I hope you don’t take this as mere sentiment or another antidrug lecture. I would just like to try to preserve some of the meaning of Peter’s life and death for those of us both in and out of the scene he immolated himself to emulate. I especially would like to direct it at a certain little Cleveland asshole who laughed when I went to CBGB’s the night of Peter’s death and told everyone about it. Because this kid’s death was not meaningless, he wasn’t just some fool who took too many drugs and so what because we all knew it was coming. Peter Laughner had his private pains and compulsions, but at least in part he died because he wanted to be Lou Reed. That certainly was not Lou’s fault; it was Peter’s. Though he was a casualty of the times, he brought it all upon himself. In a sense Peter reminded me of a character in an old Terry Southern story, “You’re Too Hip, Baby.” It was about a guy in the bohemian scene in Paris around 1960, who followed all the jazz musicians, poets, and hipsters around, took all the right drugs, did and said all the right things. Eventually he became so rigidly correct that another hipster dismissed him with, “You’re too hip, baby. I just can’t carry you anymore.” And there is something of that aspect of Peter in myself and almost everyone I know. Inasmuch as today I would not walk across the street to spit on Lou Reed, not because of Peter but because Peter’s death was the end of an era for me-and era of the most intense worship of nihilism and deathtripping in all marketable forms. (And perhaps just one more signal that the twin concepts of nihilism and the antihero have had it. What began with The Wild One and James “nobody understands me” Dean, ran with increasing vehement negativism up through the Stones and Velvets and Iggy has finally culminated in the ersatz jive of groups like Suicide who are not just oppressive and offensive but so boring that they lead you to think that it may be time to begin thinking in terms of heroes again, of love instead of hate, of energy instead of violence, of strength instead of cruelty, of action instead of reaction.) But I suspect it’s also the beginning of an era-the “new wave” can boast it’s first casualty, and given the predilection of this scene for drugs and general destructiveness you can bet there’ll be plenty more. It seems just too corny to say that you might prefer to give yourself over to life and the pursuit of positive energies. I recall sitting around my mother’s parlor with one of my old speed-shooting buddies in 1971, telling him I was going to try to give up drugs (of course I didn’t) and haltingly explaining: “Well…it’s just…I kinda wanna devote myself to life…” I was embarrassed. He laughed for fifteen minutes. Three months later he was dead. But if Peter Laughner died in part for my sins I tell you now that I will never take amphetamines again (all they ever make me write anymore is crap anyway) and if you wanna kill yourself you can too but stay away from me because it’s just too sad, besides which I haven’t got the time. Perhaps the best epitaph I could offer Peter comes from the conclusion of his own Coney Island Baby review: “Here I sit, sober and perhaps even lucid, on the kind of winter’s day that makes you realize a New Year is just around the corner and you’ve got very little to show for it, but if you are going to get anything done on this planet, you better pick it up with both hands and DO IT YOURSELF.” Good-bye baby and amen. You know what? I don’t care that he’s dead. That’s what I wrote in a letter to his sister-in-law after finishing the above, and then I went out and mailed it to her, but walking down Sixth Avenue something in the sunlight struck me, a glint in the leaves made me dizzy, the sounds and the feel of breath and being lifted me above myself right into the middle of the street, and I don’t know if Peter was looking down on me then but the sky was crying warm blood, and it may have been only that pounding in my veins at the ecstasy of being alive. See because when all is said and done I don’t care that he is dead, although I do feel a certain complicity, because other than that there would be only anger left, anger at life and anger at our blood that spills out of our weakness into troughs of uncaring. If I let myself get started I will only begin to rant and threaten those who glamorize death, but there is a death in the balance and you better look long and hard at it you stupid fuckheads, you who treat life as a camp joke, you who have lost your sense of wonder about the state of being alive itself, I AM OUT FOR YOU, I know who you are and I’ll shoot you down with weapons at my command and I don’t mean guns.
An ultimately this lance of blame must turn back upon myself, whom I have nothing to say in defense of, any more than I can honestly say I will never take drugs again because of Peter Laughner, which would only be a terrible insult to his memory. Realizing life is precious the natural tendency is to trample on it, like laughing at a funeral. But there are voluntary reactions. I volunteer not to feel anything about him from this day out, but I will not forget that this kid killed himself for something torn T-shirts represented in the battle fires of his ripped emotions, and that does not make your T-shirts profound, on the contrary, it makes you a bunch of assholes if you espouse what he latched onto in support of his long death agony, and if I have run out of feeling for the dead I can also truly say that from here on out I am only interested in true feeling, and the pursuit of some ultimate escape from that was what killed Peter, which is all I truly know of his life, except that the hardest thing in this living world is to confront your own pain and go through it, but somehow life is not a paltry thing after all next to this child’s inheritance of eternal black. So don’t anybody try to wave good-bye.
Lester Bangs, from “Peter Laughner is Dead” (New York Rocker, September-October 1977)
"I don’t remember this. I remember the soda and the bone structure and her obscene skirts and my large jeans. I remember the cabinets and the smudged glass doors beside them and I remember the bathroom with the yellow tile and the tilted mirror so shitty it might as well have just been a metal counter. I remember the sunlight from the parking lot and the dead grass between parking spaces. I remember her bony legs, knees emerging like a camera-paralyzed striptease, and I remember my shoulders and my hair and my intense discomfort with absolutely everything in the world.
And I remember him, though not any first moment, but I don’t remember a first moment with her either, and this is perhaps the indelible nature of the people who matter. This is perhaps what it means for love to be inescapable — these people’s place in and influence on my life has nothing to do with the labor of memory, try as I do to tame them into boxes through those very processes. They resist it because they do not need it; they are beyond it. They didn’t appear, and they do not belong to a past event. Rather, they are there like the progression of blood through systems, or the way I memorized my own name.”
and the poets wept.