Saturday, September 20, 2008

Back to Paul's country

Paul was thrilled to be accepted at the New School's jazz music program as a college freshman. He had always loved New York -- even as a little boy. He never minded the fast pace, the smells, the sounds. He thrived on them -- until he had his first manic break. After that he was certain people were lurking in doorways out to get him and his girlfriend. But, he couldn't stay away. We'd bring him back to California for hospital treatment and a short spell of quiet and rest, but as soon as he could he'd go back. Back and forth, back and forth, so many times I didn't keep count -- until he came home for good two and a half years before he died.
We go back to New York often -- it still attracts us. Maybe because Paul is still there everywhere

Another View of New York

New York City
Union Square, the lower East side
Paul’s country.
He blossomed there
He became a musician there
While he learned about the real world
Of cold fourth floor walkups,
Dealers hustling on street corners
Late night gigs, playing for tips in smoky bars
Fast walking just to keep warm
And a first grownup love affair with a girl named ________.

I went back there last month
No, he wasn’t there.
He’s been dead and gone almost two years now
But the reminders were everywhere.

The square where he first lived as
A freshman at the New School
In the tall skinny brick building
66 Park Avenue where the Jazz Department
Held classes and had practice rooms and jam sessions
And young musicians aspiring for fame
It was on the marble steps of that building
Where he first met the girl
With the long flowing auburn hair and piercing blue eyes
The love of his life.
No, she was his life

Beth Israel Hospital, just around the corner
That’s where they took him when he first went crazy
Almost ready to graduate
Getting gig after gig
Staying up all night,
Playing music, drinking Scotch whiskey
Hardly eating,
Smoking one cigarette after another
Ah, it was the life
Until his musician friend
Bill K died of a heroine overdose
And things were never the same again,

Avenue A where he lived after graduation
And recovery from his first break
Now teeming with young people
Bar hopping
Listening to music
It’s a happening place made famous by the musical “Rent.”
For me it was filled with old memories
Of my boy, Paul
And where his dreams would never come true.

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