Newport Beach in Hindsight

“Here I am again, in this next memory,” says the Narrator. “On the beach. Only this time, it’s a new one: Newport Beach, site of my brother’s bachelor party. Imagine me in dialogue, in a sense, with the one who was there.”

Spacetime shifts here as the character reenters the memory.

***

“Well, what’ll it be?” wonders the Traveler. “If spacetime is reducible to a game of multidimensional correspondence chess, then what’s our next move?”

Rising in the sky above him there at the beach house, the new moon in Leo provides the Traveler a chance to ask questions. He communes with the moon, engaging it in silent dialogue, and sets his intentions for the months ahead.

A ghostly third figure joins him in the course of the evening. It shimmers into being like a hazy wonder there amid the rocks and the waves, and in so doing, intervenes in the Traveler’s thoughts. “Let us be careful what we wish for,” warns the Ghost, “as this is a powerful, wish-granting lunar cycle.”

***

“Warning taken, it was with great care that I made that wish,” interjects the Narrator from the future. “And in retrospect, I regret nothing.”

“Come sunrise, in fact,” remembers the Narrator, “and a commune of sorts assembled itself down near the shore. Members set out mats and, posing silently amid squawking seabirds, practiced yoga on the beach as I wrote.”

“Like the flapping of a black wing”

I record a voice memo, pleased as I am with the wordless sounds of cicadas and a niece playing with water in a toy sink in my in-laws’ backyard. Mood alters, though; weight returns the moment I consult Facebook. The latter brings upon its users an atmosphere of bad feeling. “Glunk” goes the sense-board. My father-in-law cooks up delicious pastrami sandwiches (red onions, pickles, provolone stacked on kummelweck rolls, the latter a regional specialty here in Western New York). Mood enhanced, I utter thanks to the chef. Eyes closed, I open them again onto Wells’s The Time Machine. The Time Traveler sees the Dreamachine flicker of day’s interchange with night “like the flapping of a black wing” (18). Days flicker past in much the same way here, as one scrolls through these Trance-Scripts. Take comfort, though, reader: for as the Traveler explains to those caught up in his journey, this unpleasantness of moving “solstice to solstice” merges at last into “a kind of hysterical exhilaration” (Wells 19).

Westcott Nation

The phrase “Lady and the Tramp,” like the title of the Disney film, sung to the tune of “Bennie & the Jets”: such is how I begin my morning. I wake to a lovely quiet hour in the tent, sun rising in front of me. There’s a conversation among crows in those trees there — the ones beside which I slept. It’s good to be back in Syracuse, camped in my sister-in-law’s backyard, listening to crickets and birds, music discernible from the park across the street here in Westcott Nation, a sister nation of sorts to the nearby Onondaga Territory. The Westcott’s persistence gives me comfort. To know better where we are, let us listen to Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. Kimmerer’s book has me wanting to enter into caring relation with the pecan trees in my yard — indeed, makes me want to honor all beings, including those crows parked in the branches above my tent. Geese, too — like those in the story of Skywoman. Kimmerer shares this tale: the great Potawatomi creation story. “Skywoman Falling” will pair well with texts I teach this fall, thinks the Traveler as he reads. We have been given this gift. Let us share it with others. Let us fit it in at semester’s end. Let it resonate with Silko’s Ceremony and Snyder’s Turtle Island and Butler’s Parable of the Sower. Kimmerer’s cosmology “places” all of the others. Skywoman transmits “original instructions,” tells us where we are, how we got here. It suggests as well what ought to be done. It sets us within cyclings of a vast cosmic gift economy: one that conceives and receives numberless generations of Skywoman’s daughters — for Skywoman is the Great Mother, bearing life despite the story of her fall.

Pyramids, Hideaways, and Hollows

It rains through the night, but we stay dry in our tent. I sleep comfortably and wake to a world of sound. Daddy long-legs spiders gather in the dry space between the breathable net of the tent’s roof and the tarp above. Breakfast is delicious: pancakes, sausage, Canadian bacon, maple syrup, bread made with cardamom and dates, purchased the morning prior by the author’s aunt and uncle from a farmer’s market in Bolton Landing. Tent goes tie-dye with the addition of a blue tarp. I reflect for a time on the pyramidal symbology of my surroundings: zippers, seams, poles all tending toward apex as we await windows of sunlight. Respite from the rain. Camping educates desire. In my case, it teaches me the value of nooks, coves, hideaways. My nephews lead me to a hollow formed beneath the roots of a tree, down near the edge of the lake. “Bookmark it, note it down, save it for later,” thinks the time traveler. “The image may be of use to us elsewhere in our journey.” News arrives soon thereafter: another inch or two of rain expected in the night ahead.

Under the Dome

Camping: a play starring mother, sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephews, aunts and uncles, Sarah and Frankie. Air mattress craps out, so Sarah drives into town to purchase another. I stay behind at the camp, in a camp chair beside Frankie as she naps. Sister orders pizza; brother-in-law and uncle handle boat and jet-ski. Domed tents go up amid leafy profusion: Coleman, Ozark Trail. ‘Tis the universe of Sears-Roebuck, L.L. Bean, and Whole Earth Catalog: temporary tools and architectures. But beside each tent sits a car, where in earlier times would have stood a horse. Nothing here is as I wish. No wisdom, no gnosis. No silence, no solace. No love ’til I sit with trees. Is the time travel narrative’s hero the one who stays or the one who goes?

BKNY

Little Red Caboose navigates among subways, choo-choos into Brooklyn. Stares out at gasoline alleys. The experience of the railroad platform is indistinguishable from the sights and sounds of the roads that run parallel. Barber Shop. Live Music. Juicy Cajun Seafood. Once aboard my train, I sit beside a window clouded over with sap and soot. An automated voice announces stops as I begin P. Djèlí Clark’s Ring Shout. “This station is / Rockville Centre.” “This station is / Jamaica.” I stop in at Catland Books to purchase supplies, but it’s a small shop with limited stock, and the alignment of the place troubles me. Fat Tony sets the tone as I walk an hour and a half west to buy books at Unnameable, body drenched in sweat. Highlight of the day, though, is a leisurely, meandering, late-afternoon bike ride around Carroll Gardens and Red Hook with my brother. We pause before the waterfront, relaxing in the day’s fading light, Ellis Island visible in the distance.

Curtains Covered With Anchors

Here I am, in another of these present-tense happenings and becomings. In this one, I become a godfather — or, more accurately, Sarah and I become godparents. The tale involves a bounce house, a ceremony, a gathering with family and relatives beside a canal. I go around doing what is asked of me for the sake of loved ones. Moments of sitting and listening bring no peace. Dipping back into Toni Morrison’s Paradise, I come upon the phrase “people lost in a blizzard” (272). Curtains covered with anchors is more how I’ve felt of late. Blue anchors, white background, pink trim. Morrison’s novel features a midwife named Lone who believes God communicates through signs to those who don’t play blind. “Playing blind,” writes Morrison, “was to avoid the language God spoke in. He did not thunder instructions or whisper messages into ears. Oh, no. He was a liberating God. A teacher who taught you how to learn, how to see for yourself. His signs were clear, abundantly so, if you stopped steeping in vanity’s sour juice and paid attention to His world” (273).

Venice Upon Oyster Bay

‘Tis suburbia, of a more intense sort than any other of the various elsewheres I’ve lived. Yield signs, flags everywhere. But also gardens, hydrangeas, bunnies. And some of the houses are quite lovely. Did I mention the bounce houses? Sarah and I counted no fewer than five such structures within a one-block radius of my sister’s house this afternoon as we returned from lunch. To live this way is to affirm castles on canals in some uprooted, replanted Venice Upon Oyster Bay. Despite reprehensible “Back the Blue” stickers on the backs of pickups and other bones one might pick with the place, why bother? Others have picked them clean, them bones, yet there they remain whether we attend to them or not. As do the seagulls, the waves, the motorboats. A cool breeze tickles behind my ear and down my neck. The wonder of a quiet moment. Thumbing the pages of Frank O’Hara’s collected poems, I happen upon “Autobiographia Literaria.” The poem reminds me of my own beginning, early stanzas equal to my own early sorrow. But with the affirmation of its final stanza, the poem arrives and I arise transformed, accepting both the good and the bad with equanimity.

Saturday May 29, 2021

We kick off the weekend relaxing beside a community pool in our neighborhood. Frankie loves it. After some initial skepticism, I too come to like it. It’s a bit busy, but Sarah packs us a great lunch. And in the afternoon, we gather gang-like for a barbecue in a friend’s backyard. It’s a good group; we all enjoy each other’s company. And the friend is a great host. For all who make events of this sort possible, for all who labor in their preparation and/or facilitate their happening, I give thanks.