Orpheus in Hades’ Lounge

There’s a parking, a journeying outward. Up and out we launch past West End Mill Works, off on tonight’s adventure, beginning with an evening stroll. Graffiti marks the spot. Stream to one side of us, water rushing over rocks. Spotify shifts from Steely Dan’s “King of the World” to Jan Hammer Group’s “Don’t You Know,” voices and cars in the distance. Looking both ways, we cross the street and rush down onto a shaded path through a nearby park, crickets singing in parallax with Neil Young’s “Computer Age.” We turn off the song and continue for a moment in silence. Upon arrival to a crossroads, we ask of each other (like Ginsberg to Whitman in Ginsberg’s “A Supermarket in California”), “Which way now?” Looking up, we rise and step proudly toward pink clouds. Conversation turns toward Old & Used Books as we pass a graffiti-clad muffler shop. Bulldog with paintbrush arrives as comic relief — reality for a moment a goofy animal fable whodunit. We grab beers as day turns to night. Ginsberg’s “lights out” reverberates, hangs in the air after us having heard earlier in the day Let’s Active’s “Orpheus in Hades’ Lounge,” featuring hometown hero Mitch Easter.

Can Orpheus be told anew? We recall to each other the character’s many forms. Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus (1950), Marcel Camus’s Black Orpheus (1959). Also Jean-Paul Sartre’s essay of that name. And let us not forget Samuel R. Delany’s Lo Lobey, the Orphic protagonist at the heart of Delany’s 1967 novel The Einstein Intersection. Hoots is a Hades’ Lounge, is it not, with its red light hanging above its corner booth? So we think as we drink, glorying finally in each other’s presence. “What would happen if our Time Traveler were to stage the scene again?” wonders the Narrator, listening alone now, seated at the same booth many months hence. With “King of the World” still fresh in our ears, members of Steely Dan singing, “No marigolds in the promised land; there’s a hole in the ground where they used to grow,” we restate the refrain of Jan Hammer Group’s “Don’t You Know.” Amid Orpheus wailing away on his flute come the words, “You’re to know that I love you. You’re to know that I care.”

Monday May 6, 2019

We live in a divided city. Anger, extinction rebellion: but we can heal ourselves. We can love. Or we can yell, fail to sympathize. Sit in separate rooms. Gather round fires, with spell-check clutching at our words. We face difficult existential choices: we stand at a crossroads of the personal and the political, the underworld and utopia. But which is which? Gold-wrapped chocolate rabbits, or a universe of books? Stern military Boys and Girls Club discipline, or Isle of Lost Boys? Gender submission or gender trouble? Fear or freedom? Attempts to determine answers remain clouded by the rules of attraction, each potential orbit possessing its distinct push and pull — and in the midst of these, the shaman. But I don’t want another novel of the ice age. I suppose I’m more green than red. Yet I remain torn between the two — the picnic and the bonfire. It’s all right there, laid out in the symbolism of a dining room. Picnic basket, flowers, hand towels — or Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam.” The contrast leaves me feeling radical, but also radically indecisive. Which cross do we wish to bear? Life is, even at its best, no more than that question — or so it seems. We remain amid tests and halls of mirrors, sorting amid conflicting sense-data.