I just need to acknowledge Edith Sitwell for this beautiful title before I go on, so thank you Edith Sitwell. I’d never even heard of her till 5 minutes before writing these words, but her writing is beautiful and I’ll look at more of it.
I read more of her words on the back of Candy Darling’s gravestone, which I visited, in Cherry Valley, NY Friday afternoon. Here’s a picture of that- and I’ve discovered that it’s paraphrased, taken out of context from a longer poem by Ms. Sitwell.
I remember Candy from Max’s Kansas City, she was one of the beautiful people allowed into the back room, I, was just a star-struck kid who was not.
I was in the area because I’d been invited to read at a literary event at the 204 Bar and Bistro in Sharon Springs, NY by my friend Tessa Lou Fix. I was flattered to be invited and said I wanted to come, but I had no way of getting there. Tessa is a master of getting things to happen, and she had a quick answer ready:
“Puma’s driving up that weekend and would love someone to come along to spilt the cost of tolls and gas. I’ll tell her you’re gonna call her.”
And that was it, I was going and my name was added to the flyer.
The event was called: “American Beauty, American dirt. A night of performance.”
I’ve done readings before, I thank my writing teacher Charles Salzberg for getting me hooked on that; doing that and liking the applause got me to the MOTH, and now I’m a bona fide writer who people want to hear and read.
The trip to Candy’s grave was just a side trip, time filler, but it was remarkable that for someone who’s never been to visit his own mother’s grave (I have no idea where it is) I visited four different gravesites in the past two weeks.
Last week the lovely Danusia and I visited Maggie Estep’s grave in the Cedar Park Cemetery in Hudson, NY but not before mistakenly going to the Hudson City Cemetery the previous day.
Besides the Candy Darling location in Cherry Valley there is a small graveyard on the property Tessa’s parents own in Canajoharie. We went to that one while exploring the heavily wooded area behind the house somewhere on their ten acres of land the day of the performance.
It is hard for me to conceive someone owning ten acres, someone points in a general direction and says: “all this is mine.” I was in some woods, and it was quiet and nice, if a little buggy; but different than walking down Broadway, which sometimes I think: “all this is mine” when thinking of New York. Sometimes.
It was fun staying at Tessa’s; it is a big house that according to her dad, Cleo, was built in three separate fits of building.
“1830,” he said pointing to the back of the house, “1850” pointing to the wing just off the main house where the living room and laundry room were located, and “during the Civil War,” he finished indicating the large dining room and kitchen areas. Upstairs was a maze of interconnecting bedrooms; they gave one to me and Puma that was through a second bathroom with two doors.
The small door is on the left.
You walked through a normal sized door into the small toilet and then through a half door you needed to duck your head to enter and then step down two wooden steps to enter. The room had four tiny slit windows and another door that led to yet another room. I did not investigate, not because Tessa said it was scary and there may be ghosts but because I wasn’t invited to investigate. I ain’t scared of no ghosts.
Tessa’s mom, Rhea, mom of moms kept everyone fed and coffeed, as well as supplying towels and directions around town and valley.
Puma wanted to drive up on Thursday to avoid the Labor Day traffic, so we had two days to kill. Besides the sight seeing we did I did a couple of saved up crosswords and started reading John LeCarre’s “A Most Wanted Man.” Haven’t read a novel in a while and it hooked me right away. I also wrote two poems, something I never do.
I had written a poem for the performance, I am inspired by Tessa and Puma’s dedication to the form and decided to give it a try. I wrote it last week and it’s called “Sordid Sex In Six Seconds.” Most of Puma and Tessa’s poetry revolve around sex and relationships, so I decided to give it a go. It is a microcosm of unusual sexual experiences.
I also read “The Door,” which is actually the very first piece I’d written in a serious writing class, but it has evolved and improved, and Danusia says it’s a very powerful piece. That’s about a drug overdose (not mine).
Saturday after a day of anticipation and rehearsal (for Tessa and Puma) we got in several cars and drove the few miles to Sharon Springs. By this time we’d acquired Paul, an actor and writer and another friend of Tessa’s that was to be doing a Noel Coward monologue. I rode with Paul and he expressed a little anxiety at going up first.
At the venue, a Fusion type restaurant with a big, airy open dining room (all white walls and authentic tin ceilings) we met another reader, a fellow named Stephen who’d driven from Ithaca for the occasion. I also found out that I had to double as the troupe’s tech, given the computer and slide projector to project the images Tessa wanted on the wall behind her as she performed. A fellow named Mark Hanlon was the MC and brought Paul up first. Paul did Noel Coward’s “I’ve been to a marvelous party” poem, then Tessa and Puma went up to do a duet thing that I was too busy figuring out how to work her computer and keep the images up to pay attention to and then I went up. People laughed at my poem, and that’s good, because sometimes-bad sexual experiences can be funny. Nobody laughed at The Door because near death drug overdoses are never funny.
Paul Heiner, me, Puma Perl, Stephan, and Tessa displaying her natural attributes.
Then Stephen went up and read some ecology-themed anti fracking poetry, then Tessa by herself again. And lastly, the owner of the bistro (who’s name I did not catch) went up with two others and they read some teen-aged love letters from the 50’s they’d found in some attic.
There were a good amount of people there, fifty or so and Tessa’s anxiety about nobody showing up was assuaged.
Before we started Mark had gone to pick up a guy named Charles Plymel, a handsome white-bearded old coot that wore a fancy striped shirt with cufflinks and carried a rather ornate walking stick.
Charles Plymel, beat poet and underground comix pioneer.
I had no idea who he was (I do now) and was amused by his efforts to take home Puma’s leftovers. (“Are you gonna eat that?”) He wanted a paper napkin to wrap the food in and was informed by the waitress that they don’t use paper napkins. She brought him a takeout box.
Paul went outside and didn’t seem to be engaging in any of the congratulatory small talk going on, nobody was approaching me either so I asked him what his plans were.
“I’m ready to go. Are you?” Indeed I was, so we loaded the computer and projector in the back of his Grand Cherokee and went home.
The next morning Puma gave me my share of what was collected in the hat, $10.
On the way back to New York later that day I gave her back the money, my final contribution to gas and tolls. I can’t wait to be able to keep the money.
Sounds like a good experience. Worthy of missing a wet BBQ. Until next time…
I love your story The Door. Danusia is right, it’s powerful; and you are right, drug overdoses are never funny.
I’m gonna send you Sordid sex in six seconds, Linda. Thanks for being a loyal reader.