That's what she sang, as she wailed, yes, wailed for her man, in unabashed heartbreak, she vows "sun's gonna shine in my back door some day," for in that wail is nothing but love gone wrong and troubled mind, the light and the dark places of the heart, and the sun's gonna shine, she sings it like hand waving high in a gospel choir, palm open, waving into the air above the head, reaching for the sky, reaching for heaven. She knows love may never come her way, she knows and yet she wails the affirmation like a prayer in church, "sun's gonna shine in my back door some day," if not now, if not in this life, if not in eternity, don't matter, she wails it like a hand waving high right up to heaven.
First snow of the season here in Astoria, falling gently outside my window. I listen to songs from far away, from cold mountains, sung by kind men. My heart beats in its sad home singing its own quiet tune.
Yeah, silly for a down and beat kitty to say, yeah, silly but true, oh it must have been fine for the ladies in the days of formal dances, meeting a fellow on the floor, to be touched in socially acceptable fashion, to fine music, to steps accepted and known by all, the waltz, foxtrot, tango, or earlier, the minuet, sarabande, grand waltz, ah, to meet a man on the floor, to move together for the first time, touching in breathless exploration, or in Western square dances of great intricacy, allowing bodies to move to the beat of the caller's voice, allemande left, allemande right, honor your partner, switching partners in reels and oh mercy, one may leave you wanting, the other leave you wanting more!
Important courtship ritual blown to smithereens by modern sexual revolution, oh the irony, rituals disdained, as false and brittle modernity papers over primal need with pompous sophistications, ah, the dance cards at the old balls, where one didn't know which partner would appear as the next song began, breathless anticipations, first contact, yeah that sends me, baby, just the very notion.
Funhouse mirrors, infinite images and who's to know which is real, drawn there by shiny reflections so easy to enter and difficult to leave? And there's freakshows of two headed calves and bearded ladies, luring easy marks with fascinating strangeness, cotton candy swirls of pink perfection so sweet to eat, high wire scares in the big top, white faced clowns with big red noses tumbling out of little cars.
And what is real amid this carnival profusion, oh minotaurs of mysteries, done went and lost that string, so wandering lost in circus of the heart, distractions of mad jugglers and painted wagons, thrown high on creaky rides with names like rocketship ranger and high dive heaven, stalked by roars of caged lions and tigers, victim of barkers offering commemorative china plates in exchange for bullseye hits, mercy, mercy, got no aim, but oh, ain't that a cute teddybear, wonder if that child over there will grab the brass ring from atop her painted pony, round and round.
The mad years growing up with you and your infinite imagination, freethinker, storyteller, flatterer, stupors of barbituates and prune juice and frowns we would imitate with glee, master of answering a question with a question, slippery character, allowing freedoms that verged into license, ah, your Russian melodramas left us unmoved, extravagant professions of love more for your sake than for our own. Traveled so young, from violence of Europe to midwest melting pot, you were a fighter when the gangs came around, got your nose flattened and flattened a few yourself, went swimming in January with fellow polar bear clubbers, a foolish life of doing not so much after big burnout in Acme manufactory, always reading and we never knew what you really thought or felt about anything, ah, pop you old dustmop, you went on and on how I would miss you greatly after you died, and I do miss you, tho not with the wailings you would prefer. I gave your eulogy and my brothers cried, the rabbi took a copy, I wrote it for revenge, you would have approved.
There was a time, a season, where we would play marathon Monopoly games, don't know why, it was a big passion. Choosing the little icons, car, train, top hat, thimble, dog, and then tossing the dice, going round and round the board. Endlessly fascinating, buying up properties, playing fast and loose with multicolored money, nope, rarely would I be the banker, being the youngest and all, and oh I loved the "chance" cards, never knew what you'd get, or lose.
One day as we were playing, I was winning, luck of the draw, I guess, and Danny, he got this look on his face, I knew something was going to happen. He took the board and turned it upside down, he said "I call it. I win."
Well he called it. And in those days you could call something and it would be so, like those magic abracadabra words. And I just sat there, bewildered, 'cause he called it, so he must've won. First time I realized the game could be changed! And really, he did win. For I've never remembered any other of those many many games, but I always remembered that one.
It's got a big welcome mat, one of those dun colored things, wipe your shoes if you've been out in the mud, just washed the floor, yes, come on in, have a drink, relax, there are any number of things to do.
There's music to soothe the soul, and stories to tell and to hear, there's quiet for reflection, freedom to wander and do as you will, there's food and drink, games for fun, riddles and mysteries for spice.
Everyone is welcome, who am I to judge? After all, you never know who'll be needed for times to come. There's journeys ahead, hard journeys and hard tasks, destinies and fates, so come on in, only please make sure to wipe your shoes on the mat, cause I just washed the floor.
I’m Kitty from New York City, I’m walking around midtown looking in the department store windows at wowed out mannequins in their fine couture clothing and all of a sudden a black and gold stretch limousine pulls up, a uniformed chauffer comes out, grabs me, and before I know it I’m in that big bad car and who should I see sitting next to me but Coyote!
You don’t know Coyote? Well I shouldn’t be surprised, but really, you ought to know him. Spent a lot of time over on that left coast, in the four corners region of these great United States bounded by the sacred mountains, Blanca Peak to the East and Mt. Taylor to the South in New Mexico; San Francisco Peak to the West in Arizona; LaPlata Mountains to the North in Colorado, hung out with the Navajos and helped develop their civilization. But oh, you know Coyote’s been around forever, I mean, man FOREVER! Like, since before anything!
So I figure I’d better enjoy the ride, because there’s no point in fighting such a powerful totem god. “What you want with me?” I ask innocently. “Oh Kitty,” Coyote says, “we’re going to Atlantic City! I’ve decided to teach you something about gambling.” And I say, “well okay,” cause I know Coyote is the greatest teacher of them all, bending boundaries, experimenting with the very cosmology of existence, and I figure well, it’s an honor, isn’t it, to be chosen to be part of his great curriculum?
Now we’re rolling along in this groovy limousine drinking champagne and eating big spoonfuls of caviar like gluttons, and in no time we arrive at the wildest casino this Kitty has ever seen! Alabaster marble mahogany silk satin inlaid ivory Persian carpeted, and in the center of the gambling room the biggest roulette wheel I’d ever seen!
I gather I’m gonna play roulette and learn how to gamble, but Coyote has different plans for me. I am going to BE the gamble, not do the gambling! All of a sudden I feel myself turning, changing into something … what’s this? I’m shrinking! In a snap Coyote has turned me into that little white plastic ball and the croupier tosses me and whee! I’m flying around the wheel and people are standing all round making bets. And I feel just fine and wonder where I’ll land!
But oh, it’s never that easy when you’re with Coyote. Cause just about the time I’m gonna land, a big hand snatches me off the wheel and I end up in someone’s pocket and next thing I know I’m back to being Kitty from New York City only now I’m in some gangster’s gambling pad waiting on tables for very little money and lousy working conditions and a really ugly uniform! -- and I’m not happy about this at all ! I’d like to just get ahold of that Coyote for one moment and then I’d really let him have it! This game was rigged!
But lo, once again I’m back on the wheel and the croupier is spinning again and whee! I forget to be mad at Coyote and am enjoying the ride like wild, oh it’s so fun to be spun! But once again someone cheats and this time I find myself in the Far East in some really divey horrible place of sin and squalor, and I don’t even want to go into what happened there, but let’s say it was quite a relief when once again, just as I’m feeling at the end of my rope I am transformed back to the wheel and finally, oh sweet Big Apple Mama, this time nobody grabs me and I land! I land just where I’m supposed to land, right on the slot and someone wins and others lose but I’m having the time of my life!
Then in a snap I’m back to being Kitty from New York City and Coyote and I are sitting at this giant midnight blue slab of alabaster bar drinking martinis and Coyote says, “Well, Kitty, how did you like gambling?” And I say, “well Coyote, I figure it’s not how you spin, it’s not how you fall, it’s just how you land!” And Coyote laughs his great big laugh, gives me a great big kiss and vanishes, leaving me with only a sawbuck, so I end up in one of those big busses with the blue haired ladies and finally get back to New York, but oh daddyo, I’ll never fear falling again or even being grabbed in the gamble, cause now I learned from the great Coyote and that’s why kitties always land on their feet!
Got a boogie woogie jones, wanna hear that backbeat, yeah, wanna drink bad liquor, dance to smeared beats and pounding rhythms under dim dim lights, wantchu, gotchu, oh wantchu, gotchu.
Got a deep down crave for maximum drive, why do those words swing me so, wantchu, gotchu, I gotta laugh, yeah, gotta laugh, wantchu, gotchu, move to the backbeat, to the swirl of darkness of an evening, oh daddy.
I hear the music even in the silence of a lonely room, even in bad moods and worn out solitudes, feel the rhythm, it moves me, moves my hips to swing and my shoulders to shimmy, gotta laugh, wantchu, gotchu, gotta party real low down, oh daddy.
Cold day in Astoria, steam heat hiss is a welcome sound, at last, at last. Thinking of warm Florida days, of breezes and ocean waves, bluegreen waters and open air breakfast, pink flamingoes and pastel houses, ignominies of American travel, homecoming, ah, it's cold today and the hiss is a welcome sound.
Preparations and packing, misgivings and anticipations, and now over, the relief, over, and emptiness, oh empty of thoughts and schemes, empty of confidence and will, the cycle continues, and the new moon is only two days away.
Just a scene, a glimpse, A large cave and in the cave a still pool of water. A woman stands at the edge of the pool, her face still, traces there of former cares and struggles, and of battles still to come.
But now still, contemplating the smooth surface of the water, empty of intent Moment of absolute reflection. Just a scene, a glimpse That comes to me Every now and then.
All the creatures pushing and shoving at the well, each wants their share, lots of fighting and cursing, and it is strange, astonishing, that one would think existence is limited, that there's not enough to go around, all that shoving, pushing, snarling, yelling, scheming, all of it useless in the face of such vast provision, no one gets one bit more or less than the other.
Pleasure is hoarded and treasures amassed in big king of the hill games, all distractions, all ephemeral cloud kingdoms, so easily dissolved in the face of spacious existence, eternal glee of giving with no thought or care for return, endless replenishment and ease, oh ho ho, the well is never to be possessed, always to be enjoyed, play the games as we will.
Living on the cheap in East Side Milwaukee student flat with other backward children, frantic to break free of quotidian and provincial surroundings, we played pretend with single minded furies of imagination, and yes one day, oh one day they transformed a very young woman, 18 years old she was, oh an egghead for sure, somewhat bent in the brain, wearing the inevitable 70s costume of workshirt and bluejeans, living somewhere in the vicinity of her head, not knowing there was a woman's body there, oh no.
And the flat was bohemian, or as close as it could get, artists lived there, and several mannequins graced the place, one named Jeanette, her costumes obtained from the Not So Far From Zanzibar second hand store, glorious relics from past ages of glamour, and one particular item a black lace corset, changed everything.
One night, bored, the artists persuaded the very young woman to play, and dressed her in the corset, two sizes small, gave a va va voom hourglass shape, curvy and sexy (cleavage she didn't know she had!) but then oh what to wear? For there was the ball to attend, of course, can't just go in a corset, oh at least not in those days. So a black dress was found, with padded shoulders and three quarter length sleeves, flaring skirt, oh Miss 40s, yep, oh and on with black seamed stockings and high heeled shoes, hair done up in wild style with a million bobbypins and red, red lipstick, the whole nine yards, oh and no one even recognized her, the boyfriend's jaw dropped, and off to the ball, a night of music and dancing and wild revelry, ah, the first transformation of many to come.
On a mild and windy evening, oh hearing the sounds of the night, sounds evoking stories, stories shared by two hearts, stories by the fire, oldest comfort known to humankind, oh on this mild and windy evening, I am here, yes here in my little Astoria brownstone apartment, but I am somewhere else as well, yes somewhere else.
On a mild and windy evening, I am sitting on a porch somewhere, not alone, no, there's someone with me, and as we listen to the sounds of the night on this mild and windy evening, we tell tales, grand and mysterious tales set to fantastical natural soundtrack of of wild creatures, tree frogs, great horned owls, creatures that fly and creatures that crawl. And we tell our stories, shared by two hearts, the sounds and sensations of the mild and windy evening intoxicating our souls like fine old wine.
Dunno why, oh just daydreaming, about a place, somewhere down on the Lower East Side, oh not as it is now all gentrified, but as it was back then, any time back then, seedy and honest in its humanity, the good and the bad.
And a place, a big kinda space, with a kitchenette to make food and everyone is welcome, but the guests are poor, the winos and the bums, the misfits and the downtrodden, they are the guests and they find a friend here, and there's music, too, a whole big corner stage with instruments already there to be picked up and played, there's old time gospel music sung by wounded hearts, there's jazz and country, and everyone is fed.
And I know everyone there by first name and they know me, I run the place, see ... and I'm no sap, just a hard worker, making good food and a good space for all this joyous sound and fellowship, no expectations or judgments, just gathering for nourishment, body and soul.
Walk in the door, you are welcome, you will hear music that is real and without artifice, join in conversation that is plain as fresh bread, see the sad beat faces of humanity, hear their stories and tell a few of your own.
And oh my indulgence, yes, to get up and sing every now and then, or tell a poem, not for any audience, but just part of the day's work, no matter who is there, long as there's someone to play the horn or beat the drum or plonk on the piano, oh that is what I see, when I'm daydreaming, such a place, a fine place.
Remembering, walking over snowdrifts, praying to invisible spirits, "oh let this be different." Cold day it was, don't remember the month. And yes, it was different, but not quite in the way I had asked.
Remembering way back, he wanted to say goodbye, going off to the army, I didn't want him to go, I was very young, six or so, I ran away, ran away to the shed, but he didn't follow, I didn't say goodbye, never saw him again, no, he didn't die, just never saw him again. That was different, too.
Remembering dark New York nights, big drama fights in dimlit after hours joint, I ran, oh but he followed, he sure did, kicked me right back to him, mercy. And still makes me laugh thinking of him, big dinner party in his Village lair, everyone there had been his lover at one time or another, but the food was good, so we all ate it, oh still makes me laugh.
Remembering the love letter, the post-hippie lure of sameness, quoting Paul McCartney song and oh, I was a gonner, just gone for that boy, now he's in San Francisco or some parts close.
Remembering the bars, though there was only one, but we still said bars, dunno why. Sitting there with my drink, lost in drunken reveries wondering who would stop by, oh eventually someone always stopped by.
Remembering millennial love affairs with sci-fi satellites and adulterous thoughts never spoken, marriage broken, youngmen tormentations, virtual passions, ah, the dance, such a dance, and here I am, suffused with memories as I wander through this mad life.