So funny to stumble on this while IM’ing an old friend– in HIS message box! I lost the Utube link to my film, but now it is found! This is a film I made back in 1997 in collaboration with Paul Spawl, Grant Wilson, and “Trainmaster” Lee, for a filmmaking class at UCSC. As always, NEOYJ!
my fiercest friends
spring to the fore for me
fearing I won’t protect myself
and I smile
so proud of their diamond fangs
snapping at the noses
that point my way
slapping down every potential
slight to what they see as my
I love their nutty methods of attack
the mad aggressive chatter
of pouncing argumentation
of course my style is to slide
under the threat and present no target
while laughing all the way
to the ladies room
but in this posture they feel
so they clang the charge
mount up their tallest horses
thunder down like valkyries to my aid
casting me as the palpitating princess
observing the fray delicate-pearled
and tickled pink to see them
in their wild splendor riding by my side
with those dangerous glittering eyes
The other day I brought out the old letters that Mom has saved since she and my father were teenagers in love. Most were written when Dad was serving in Korea. They are all in mint condition, as if she read them only once, then placed them gingerly into their envelope and just put them away. I have found these letters to be remarkable artifacts on many levels. From a personal perspective, they are funny, revealing, poignant, and sometimes cathartic, to read. Dad can no longer read them, but he seems to enjoy sifting through them, and he seems to recognize what they are– that they are letters he wrote to the love of his life a long, long time ago.
Long night with Dad. It was nice but also exhausting. He is starting to show signs of wanting to wander, so I have to keep him occupied. The oddest thing is, he gets both anxious and curious about seeing his (or anyone’s) reflection in the windows. This house has a lot of windows, and at night they are like black mirrors. He stares at them and cranes forward, totally puzzled. When we tell him, “That’s you!” he laughs.
Haiku for this Lifetime, by JRH
A planet implodes
It’s always hard to lose someone who was deemed too young to die. It is hard no matter how it happens– cancer, car accident. But it’s hardest when someone takes his own life. Suicide always brings on so many questions, and especially “Why?”
I never considered myself a “close” friend with William Mitchell, but that is only because I was not a part of his milieu – a group of artists who graduated at roughly the same time from the same college. He was in my twin sister’s group, and it was through her that I became known to William. For he sought me out first, and it had just occurred to me this week, as I laid in bed forcing my brain to uncover the memories I of William– that I met him before any of the others, before I moved back to California and ended up in Long Beach just after my sister had graduated. I met William in NYC, in 1984, when I was living there.
I had forgotten until this week, until I heard about the suicide, that I had met William in Manhattan. I was living my bo ho existence, an aspiring modern dancer, and I got a phone call, but I can’t recall where he had called me because in those days we didn’t have cell phones, so was I at work? I worked at the Paris Health Club, so it could have been that my sister had told him that. Or, I could have been at home that I got the call, I don’t remember. I only remember that I met him after I got off work on the Upper West Side, after 11:00 PM, at some nearby restaurant.
When I got his phone call I was instantly taken aback by his disarming voice. High pitched, with its lilting drawl (he was from the south), so unpretentious and sweet. He introduced himself as a friend of Kathryn’s and that he was in the city and would like to meet me, if it wasn’t an inconvenience.
I sat at a booth facing the door. It must have been one of the cheap places I frequented– probably the Cuban-Chinese place, name forgotten, but it could have been at a diner too. I forget just about everything, but I will never forget sitting at the booth waiting and then seeing William walk through the door, donning a fedora and his beaming smile. He immediately recognized me since I look almost exactly like someone he already knew, my twin sister.
I was actually surprised to see that he was African-American since his “race” didn’t come across over the phone in the least. Realizing internally that I was guilty of stereotyping, I quickly learned that William traversed all of the stereotypes anyone could muster– not only that he was a dark-skinned black man who didn’t sound “black,” but he also didn’t act typically “male.” He was uniquely, refreshingly and firstly human, an artist, and immediately a friend.
He sat down and we talked, but he didn’t talk about himself, he wanted to know about me, and he asked, without being prying, a multitude of questions. He didn’t talk much about himself, but answered my questions if I asked him. He was almost bashful, in a way, but brazen too, otherwise he would not have called me like that out of the blue. And from that point on, for many years, William called me on my birthday. Every year. I do not recall the last time he made that birthday call to me, unfortunately.
Anyone who ever met William would tell you that he had a way of speaking that set him apart from the crowd. He spoke with a politeness that you don’t see much these days, and with a tinge of irony that subtle showed he recognized the flip-side of everything. His manner was that of a gentleman in the timeless sense, as if he’d walked out of a time machine that had harkened from the previous century.
So, when I returned to California I went to Long Beach to stay with my sister. I met her boyfriend at the time, Ralph (now Rafael), Daniel Brice, and many other artist who had graduated from LBS. There were many parties, and William was always there, in the fray. He was a doer and a giver, and he participated and showed up and elevated at every opportunity whatever was happening in the moment with his warm and genuine presence and quirky, self effacing sense of humor.
It is heart wrenching to think he is gone now, so early, so young. I wonder what I could have done differently to help William through. In my own mind, I wish I would have been as kind towards him as he was to me, and had kept in touch, and not allowed so much time to lapse. I wish I would have called him on his birthday, at least once.
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