I lost 3 old friends.
the world lost
& who knows how many to Covid ...
I met Tyson Sacco when he was a year old. I'd known his parents for 7 years at that time. I haven't seen him in many years. but his mother -- the painter Mary Ann Begland -- kept me informed of his progress thru life.
yesterday Tyson & his wife Vanessa saw my bench downtown. he was so excited he calld his mother in NY. she in turn calld me to ask if she cd share my phone number so we cd be in touch. & this morning they arrived at my place for a sweet visit.
of the many things that Tyson sd the one that made me happiest was a memory of being a boy & going to the mailbox to find my serial piece "Postcard Memoirs" & being excitd to do so.
Vanessa took this of us in front of a painting by his mother that I bought more than a half century ago.
James Dean is a wine
Sylvia Sidney a condom
Mae West a life preserver
we who love the movies
turn its stars
into what we need to survive
they can be more real
than some cousins
or drunken tricks
they follow us
from grade school
to assistd living
have a sip or moan
go to the movies
among the horrors of Covid is the distance friends have had to survive. I haven't seen Gary Sielaff in nearly 2 years. this weekend he became my first houseguest since the pandemic began.
it was a lovely couple of days of chatter & art & good food. this morning we went to the annual Modernism Yard Sale where he got a quartet of cups. I went purchase less. then we met up for brunch with a friend followed by the Revivals in Cathedral City. there this bowl caught my eye. by the time I was ready to leave I knew I had to buy it.
the writer in me wonders what stories are hidden in each. the artist in me begins to ponder pieces. the stylist in me considers a future of accessorizing.
there were 154 bracelets in the bowl. all but 13 were too small to be wearable for me. but I purchased them less as jewelry & more as material for art.
I first saw him in the first musical I ever saw on Broadway -- "Camelot" with Julie Andrews. a few years later our mutual friend Stanley Krippner arranged our meeting.
when Gerry moved to Las Vegas I arranged for him to meet my boyhood buddy T.R. Queen & they remind close til Tom's death.
I spent a couple Thxgivings with him & his dear friends at the Gardner family place on the Oregon coast.
in the 57 years I knew him Gerry provided many laughs & good company. his trove of show biz tales shd have been preserved in a book.
|Garold kicks with the legendary Marta Becket at her opera house. I'm behind them with my cousins Regina & Sal.|
I have a new chapbook coming out. "The Dead Keep Inviting Themselves for Dinner." limited ed. Between Shadows Press.
the editor/publisher is poet Tohm Bakelas. I just now learnd he lives in Denville NJ.
when I was growing up in Elyria we had neighbors named the Bosmenys. they had friends who lived in Denville. Clarence & Minna Steffens & their daughter Liz. the 3 of them came to visit & we got to know them. so the summer I was 13 we did a road trip to Denville.
the next summer -- actually Labor Day 1957 -- the Steffens came to Elyria. here I am with Liz & her dad in the backyard on Winckles.
in the album in which are the photos of that visit I note that they brought with them to show us movies they'd taken that summer before. so it appears as if I made my film debut in Denville. o how I wish that film somehow survives. I just did a search & found an obit for Liz Steffens James-Dunn (1942-2015).
but the Denville saga doesn't end there. in the summer of 1960 I was a "cherub" at Northwestern. my roommate was John Kennedy & he was from Denville.
& now Denville will appear in my bibliography. I love these circles that keep rolling thru our lives.
when I began to put things in "Billy's Chest" one of the first was an envelope containing a small carved dog that Jean-Claude had as a boy. in the many years since he gave it to me I enjoyd it on a shelf. but some time ago I put it in a marked envelope to protect its provenance. & it was a perfect candidate for my new piece because it brought a dear friend into this collection which represents my life.
I met Jean-Claude in early 1968 when he came to Kent to participate in the Creative Arts Festival. 2 months later I visitd him in New York where I saw the Open Theater try out his new play "The Serpent" before leaving for Europe & its public premiere. he was the most exciting young playwright of the day.
it's difficult to pick memories from a friendship of over a half century because there are so many. I remember that on the other side of one wall of his apartment was the wall of Marianne Moore's apartment. twice while visiting him I went next door to chat with her. & when an adorable cat was born at his place & was to come to share my life I named him Moore.
on my visits we went to see productions of Robert Wilson & Divine as well as so many of his own plays at the legendary LaMama & other venues. when he moved to Westbeth I stayd there. & of course there were all the visits to the family farm in the Berkshires. I always calld it Charlemont because that was the nearest town. & there's a mention of it in one of the early one-acts -- I think "The Hunter and the Bird." later of course it became known as Shantigar.
& he wd come visit me in Kent & Santa Fe. sometimes it was because of "official" commitments such as the Open Theater conference I put together & the exhibition "Van Itallie Hurrah" which I curated. but other times he was simply on the road. also we connectd in LA & Boulder & Cleveland.
over the years I publishd his short play "Take a Deep Breath" in my magazine "Toucan." he contributed to my piece "My First Movie" & performd an action in the Century Dimes.I remember how humbled I felt when he read me work in progress & askd my opinion. but our greatest collaboration was the deposit of his papers at Kent State. upon my retirement from the library he wrote "Alex saw how meaningful the preserved traces of the work and lives of chosen contemporary artists in related fields would become to those artists and for the future."
he was a man who cd feel & transmit joy. he was able to detect the worst in mankind but also value the best. he liked to surround himself with beauty -- whether handsome men or dazzling flowers.
& so dear Jean-Claude..... I remember us dancing at Stonewall before the historic riot. & for as long as my mind works we will go on dancing.
yesterday was Labor Day so my mind was dusting the attic of memory. I was thinking of Dad & unions & sharing a picket line with him when I was but wee. & of course his longtime employer General Industries. I have a brick I took from its rubble in an art piece I made in my atrium.
I did a search for GI & discoverd that for a 4-year period early in its existence the main building was ownd by Arthur Lovett Garford (1858-1933) -- inventor of the padded bicycle seat & manufacturer of car parts who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate under the Bull Moose banner.
Elyria is a small town. so its history intertwines. a couple of blocks from GI was Garford Elementary School where I began my formal education. I presume it was named for Arthur. & these days his mansion -- The Hickories -- is home to the local historical society. I once gave a reading there from Sherwood Anderson who lived in town.
the closest I got to Arthur was when I was 15. I took this picture of his nephew Homer Arthur Garford (1893-1974) who is buried in the same cemetery as my parents. he's putting air in the tires of his historic Lincoln L which had first been ownd by the chief of staff of Elyria Memorial Hospital.
|(photo by Tom Mahl)|
THE DAY AFTER
EASTERN HEIGHTS JUNIOR HIGH
WAS TORN DOIWN
no more classroom
where Miss Radachy playd Bach
on a portable record player
no more gymnasium
where we lined up
for polio shots
no more locker room
where Ed Buttle
gave me that compliment
no more hallway
where a pair of bullies
pushd me against the wall
I stash my past
in word envelopes
that fill a box
I call a book
which joins others
in the library that is me
that's what Bob calld
the photo he took
at breakfast at Elmer's
you have to look closely
to see me
reflectd in the window
the photographer is the ghost
but I don't have to look closely
to see him
just like his ashes
has begun scattering
in all his favorite places
& if he knew all this
he'd make that whoosh of joy
among the words that describe me is "archivist." but even for me some things have gotten away. particularly there are a pair that I keep hoping will surface.
I just watchd Miranda July's new film "Kajillionaire." it reminded me that when she was born I wrote a poem called "Ariel to Miranda" which I sent to her parents. every time I see one of her films I go thru files to try to find a copy. perhaps it's tuckd away in my papers at Kent. or will turn up in the Richard Grossinger papers.
then there's a letter I wrote to Jean-Claude van Itallie describing the nite Allen Ginsberg bangd on my door. I recall I once had a carbon copy (remember those?). but haven't seen that in forever. again maybe it's hidden away in my papers at Kent or will be among Jean-Claude's papers -- also at Kent.
it's been a long time since I opend my copy of "The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas." so when I did today imagine my surprise to find this written in the rear endpapers. altho I have no memory of it I suspect it was one of those exercises young poets do in imitation of those who went before. I recall writing an e.e. cummings knock-off & lord knows how many homages to Hart Crane. these pieces no longer embarrass me. they simply were part of the process.
when Kent State University was establishing its fashion museum I was the acting curator. I was thinking abt that today as the CDC announces that for the most part masks are no longer required. I was thinking that if I were still curator of a costume collection I'd begin immediately collecting the best of masks.
altho their primary use was a practical one that preventd infection many used them as a fashion statement. even significant designers creatd masks. they are an important part of our history & they are apparel. they deserve a place in museums.
using fabric designd by Kaffe Fassett
Palm Springs designer Cesar Julio made one of my earliest ones
this is a more recent Julio design
I've never found myself in any of the photos from those few days. but tonite I was watching a video of "Four Dead in Ohio." I'm not positive but it looks like me in the upper left corner. sitting with a pair of art profs -- jCharles Walker & Doug Unger. if so it was at an event leading up to the 4th.
Owen Masterson is a photographer & sculptor & filmmaker & writer & o yes..... rock star (remember the Yanks?). also a friend.
he took this yesterday at the post office which today is officially closed & waiting for the tribe to smash it to memory.
I think it's a damnd good photo.
|(photo by Estee Huff)|
as a child I loved the post office. I felt it was the center of communication just as the library was the center of information. to me these were sacred buildings as important to my development as our house & my schools.
when I moved to Palm Springs 5 years ago next month I had no house of my own at which to receive mail. I stayd at a friend's. so while looking for my own abode I got a post office box at the main p.o. downtown. I learnd later that this was once the p. o. box of actress Bonnie Bedelia whose film "Sordid Lives" is part of the city's history.
the post office opend in 1970 -- an example of "New Formalism." & it's officially closing at 3 this afternoon. the building is on tribal land & the local tribe will demolish it just as they did the historic hotel & spa. to honor its existence I knew I had to do a piece. I remember I had some address labels from my year as a box holder. I decided to put them on the postcards USPS gives out to send to friends & businesses. but when I came to the p.o. to get a batch I learnd that in this digital age they are no longer printd. my idea for the piece stalld. but then I rememberd I still had a cache of the envelopes I had printd for my mother's autograph collection. & this wd add another layer to the piece because Mom who loved mail wd be 100 this year.
then I recalld I had a sheet of the Marilyn Monroe stamps from 1995. I found the sheet & took it to town where I placed it on both her star on the Walk of Fame & the base for the returning & now controversial "Forever Marilyn." & then I put the stamps on the envelopes.
this morning I brought the 18 labels & 18 envelopes to the post office. I "performd" this documentation on the front portico for friends. then I went inside.I put the labels on the envelopes. in front of my old box -- #1525 -- I made a circle of the envelopes around myself (an homage to "85 Envelopes" which I did for Mom's birthday). after being photographd I scoopd up the circle & began distributing the envelopes.
tomorrow is moving day for the post office. it changes its address to Sunrise Way -- the thoroughfare off which I live.
thruout my childhood Easter was the dress-up holiday. looking back at old photos I'm always amazed at how well-dressd I was. I wonder when it stoppd being Mom picking out my clothes & when I took over.
|I was abt 5 here|
|another Easter another bowtie (with Mom)|
|I startd wearing hats early|
|still wearing bowties at 15|
one year ago today I walked out of Mario's with a pizza. came home & began my lockdown. for more than a year I've not been to a play or concert. I've not been in a grocery store. I've not taken public transportation or been in a car. the only human touch I've experienced was the 2 times women I didn't know administered my vaccines.
I've already written how I turned this challenge into a burst of creativity. I wantd to view this difficult time thru a positive lens. then Bob died & I suddenly got pissd off. Covid had robbed me of seeing a dear friend in the last year of his life.
so this morning my feelings are mixd. I plan to cautiously ease back into some socializing. & I'll keep on creating. this morning I tried to meld my poetry & art in the first of what I hoped wd be a new series. it didn't work. but then I wrote a poem abt that & abt Bob & abt going on.
I've learned much abt friendship & core values. I accept this not as a lost year but as a strangely rich one.
we are warnd abt meeting people online. I'm lucky. abt a quarter century ago I became part of a group that met regularly in a chatroom. in the early years of our chatting I met several of these men & a couple became great friends.
one of them I first knew as Malibu Boy. he cd be wickedly funny. but he was also mysterious. it turnd out he wasn't a Californian at all but a Texan. & because of the sensitivity of his job with the US District Court he kept a low profile & forbade use of his image on social media.
soon we began e-mailing daily. Bob called me his "greatest penpal." eventually he visited me in Santa Fe & I him in Fort Worth. we trustd each other & shared secrets. & we laughd. boy did we laugh. like any deep friendship there cd be prickly moments but we workd them out.
besides being one of my best friends Bob was one of my biggest fans. his last e-mail to me began: The Khashoggi poem was excellent. he was over the moon with "Covid Valentine" & wonderd if anyone wd find one of the hearts & keep it. & over the years he became part of several of my pieces ("The 1943 Pennies" & "Torn Together" & "Butch Series" & "Book of Java"). every time he visitd we had to shop at Trina Turk. so he put at the top of our to-do list for that next visit my bench in front of the store.
Bob retired last year. his plan was to divide his time between Fort Worth & Palm Springs. on his last visit we lookd at rental properties. & he constantly checkd the market. just last week he mentiond a unit for sale in my complex. but then the pandemic...
the kettle was on when an unexpectd call came last nite. I wonderd why I had no e-mail from him all day. in shock I went to the guest room he loved. there waiting for his next visit was a little box. from it I removed the Lucy mug I purchased for him just before lockdown a year ago. I put a tea bag in it & filld it with hot water. Lucy & I sat at the patio where Bob & I had laughd. it was a beautiful nite. even tho there were tears on my face I felt a smile as I lookd up at the stars grateful to have had such a friendship in my life.
|with Bob & his lifelong friend Lisa dining at Blue Bayou in Disneyland almost 2 years ago|