Songs of the street: The Only Living Boy in New York

Like a favorite childhood friend walking into the room out of the blue, a song I had not heard in years came on with, “Tom, get your plane right on time, I know your part’ll go fine…” In the blink of an eye I am back in the comforting embrace of Simon and Garfunkel’s, “The Only Living Boy in New York.”  Moments later, I’m breathing in, “Half of the time we’re gone but we don’t know where,” a not inaccurate description of life for a homeless kid on the street. Songs can make for some mighty fine companions.

There is a large aloneness to manage when you’re on the street, doesn’t matter your age. True, when you’re a teen and almost every other teen you see on the planet has a family they live with, you’ve an additional sharp edge to manage; the only living boy in New York.

The background chorus of the song, tear-producing for me in this recent listen, is the sound of angels. Simon and Garfunkel recorded multiple tracks in an echo chamber.

The song was a refuge when I was cold, or hungry, or a walking stench from not having bathed in a few days. It was a refuge when I knew I was going to break night because there was no place to go.

When the song came on it would fill  me up and carry me its entire length, breaking into sweet-shuffle strides when the chorus played, sending miracle-chills through this dancer’s spine. Life!

For the length of the song, I was a free.

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Amatory movement

She

turns words

loose in me

gentle soft travelers

sent across all of her

being in deep amatory

movement wandering

her sweet configurations

in velvet darkness

feather tasting

undulating shapes

I’d believe

unreal if

I wasn’t

awake.

 

************

for a dream

Break for freedom – Day 16 (A writing pause)

Day 16  – Saturday August 26, 2017 (A writing pause)

9:26 a.m. – I home from my walk about two hours ago. It was a peaceful affair, sweatshirt weather, it was 45 degrees this morning early. I completed the entire walk in comfort. I am going to, for now, pause the daily briefs about the walks. No doubt I will be back reporting on how they are going, or how a specific one stands out, and why.

I will, you have my word, report if I take a single day off from walking, and what led me to do so. No doubt I will at some point, but all of me knows, now is not the time.

************

For Charley

Break for freedom – Day 15 (Chris Albee)

Day – 15 Friday, August 25, 2017  (Chris Albee)

Today is the first in a third week of solo walks for me. These walks would not be happening at all were it not for my late friend, Chris Albee. Chris died this July 20 at age 49 from a sudden, ruthless, fast-growing mass in his brain. I’ve known no one who exceeds Chris’s honor, humility, loyalty, and love for family and friends. For those of us with disabilities; it is well worth noting it would never cross his mind to experience any one of us as someone of less value or import than others.

These solo walks are the first time in more than three decades I’ve gone for walks in a community without, what for me, feels like protection, for more than 30 years, started when Chris was alive. I took my first solo walk on July 12. I told him what I’d done and I told him I’d done it because I was unable to climb inside him and join him in his fight, and I had to lash out at something, and I thought the crippling fear that made a solo walks feel impossible was a target in need of pulverizing. I also told him that were it not for him, I wouldn’t have tried. My voice broke a couple of times.

When I finished, his response was a muscular, loving, “Oh man, that’s so cool, Pete.” He meant it. He was my friend. In my heart, he always will be.

7:58 a.m. – Back home.

If you’ve been an athlete or dancer you know you can go into a task feeling great, sure you will dance beautifully, or cover a 20-mile training run with so much gusto you stop, legs astride, fists jammed into your hips, scowling at the reality the run wasn’t 20 miles longer one. Thing is, if you’ve been an athlete or a dancer you know damn well the aforementioned scenario is a load of rubbish. You never know what the experience is going to be until you’re in it. I felt great going out the door this morning, which may well explain why the entire was intensely uncomfortable; breathing and stride patterns felt out of sync, sweat poured like it did earlier in these walks.

How did I manage this? I accepted it, offered myself guidance-phrases like, Stay in the walk; if it’s uncomfortable, allow this discomfort, and keep going. And so I did.

I miss you, Chris.

************

For Joshua Albee

Break for freedom – Day 14 (the One Shot Club)

Day 14 – Thursday, August 24, 2017 (The One Shot Club)

6:23 a.m. – 33 years ago today I was held-up and shot in the head. Like it or not, it’s been something of a banner over my life ever since. I remember Jim Brady, the White House press secretary for President Ronald Reagan who was shot in the head during a 1981 assassination attempt on the president, drawing my attention to the fact both of us lived with injuries that, by their very nature (We both lived with bullet fragments lodged in our brain.), would get us attention, and we should use the attention to help others understand the reality of brain injury, and the merciless reality of gun violence.

Jim left this life three years ago this month. He was a good, loving, and courageous man. There are people alive today because of the Brady Bill.

Jim is not the only person I’ve known who has survived being headshot. Or, as my late friend William would say, “The One Shot Club.” William was a member, so too were Kevin, Tyrone, Donald. We all really and truly loved and cared about each other. One day, William, me, Tyrone, and Donald were standing outside in a small circle talking. Suddenly a big smile burst onto Tyrone’s face. “Hey, we’re all standing?”

This observation was followed immediately by all of us of us putting our arms around the shoulders of man on either side of us. We were all smiling, no one said a word. The reality Tyrone’s question brought to the fore didn’t require words. Had any of us said a word in those next moments, the spiritual beauty of the experience would have vanished. In short, we loved each other, our respect for each other was bullet proof.

8:01 a.m. – Home after cool, crisp, enjoyable walk. The walks are becoming easier. Anxiety down a good 80 percent. This means I’ll soon change the route again, and add distance. When you’ve reduced your opponents’ punches to weak jabs, go to the next level, challenge its harder punches, and punch back.

Here’s to every member of the One Shot Club, I love each of you with all my heart.

************

For Donald, Jim, Kevin, Tyrone, & William