Four and Five Letter Words
I wake up bleeding.
I guess that’s the best way to begin. It’s important to know where your narrator is coming from. It’s important to know that he has the experience or credentials to deserve your time and attention.
You’ve got to know he actually has some skin in the game.
Anyway, I wake up bleeding. And it makes me wonder how much longer I can go on doing what I’m doing. Feeling what I’m feeling. And preaching what I’m preaching.
I take a shower and go to the fridge to retrieve the Red Bull I left there a few hours ago.
Maybe it’s cancer. The romantic in me wants to die young.
The coward in me wants to live forever.
After that, nothing.
I arrived too late to the party. Without an invite.
Everyone is concerned with being corporate and making money. Getting rich and comfortable and fat.
Everyone is concerned with not affecting the bottom line. They’ll move out to the suburbs and play house.
Nothing left to do but trash the place.
But I think it’s already trashed.
I go into Crown Fried Chicken to grab some food. In front of me, four deaf guys sign and pantomime their order.
The other patrons look at them, then back to me.
Which one is more of a curiosity?
After I grab my food, I walk down the street towards home, past the bars where all the young white hipsters congregate. With tea lights wavering in the breeze that comes slipping through the open doors.
Bars with names like Wolf and Knave. Four-or-five-letter-words that mean nothing.
But that’s where they go.
Down past the school and playground, across the street to the corner store, and past the laundromat where the proprietor tells me to come back in three days.
Some people just don’t want your business.
Others can’t stop from falling over themselves to get it. My coworkers worship money and can’t wait to make more of it.
I think, it’s better to go out and make something. Margins and profits will keep you alive. But after basic comforts comes a need to do something else, something worthwhile.
“You know when I offer to buy you a beer, I mean that I will pay for it and I won’t ever hold that over your head. You know that right?”
He says he does.
And I don’t want to be an enabler. I’m just starved for company.
And I could go out and try to meet someone. I could be on social media. Or hook up with someone on Tinder.
I could go out and try to find a friend, at least.
Or hang out in a bar with a four-or-five-letter-name like everyone else.
But that’s not me.
“Why don’t you do people’s portraits for money?” my clueless sister asks, circa 2012. “People need senior portraits and graduation photos. You could make good money at that.”
There’s no such thing as good money. Only sufficient funds to enable insane endeavors.
After that, nothing.
It could happen again, an underground art scene where one medium influences the next in real time, raw and uncut, the wellspring of opuses – maybe somewhere in Europe, like Berlin. But not New York. Not anymore.
The sun is brilliant on Saturday morning, as I climb steps out of Port Authority to walk to 6th Avenue.
People in costumes pause in their heating-up suits, peeking out from under giant oversized cartoon heads.
Someone, mistaking my camera for that of a tourist, panhandles for a photograph.
I keep walking.
“It doesn’t matter if you drink or you don’t drink,” I tell my friend, who fears he might be an alcoholic. “Because you’re still you.”
New York is just a place on a map. And there’s a lot of people here, and you figure someone in that mix has to be crazy enough to work with you, or crazy enough to see what you see.
It’s not the kind of place you choose for making your stand.
But the truth is, I’ve always been the way I am. And I was taking photographs in basements and barns and alleys long before I made it to New York.
And the party is already emptying out. The people you might have known have all gone corporate.
They’re all at the bar with a four-or-five-letter sign on the door.
And you’re the last one left.
Now trash this place.