Saturday, April 19, 2014

Closed Doors

I wanted to photograph the ghost doors but the gates that keep them captive were closed today.  I will try again the next time the gates are open on recycling day.  What happens if a ghost is thrown out by mistake?  Does it get recycled, too?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Today's Ghosts: The Doors

"A ghost a day" is trucking along.  This cold afternoon, I found a graveyard of century-old doors, stacked up in the courtyard.  The doors were splintered, paint-stripped, white, brown, speckled, mottled.  The crystal doorknobs were stripped.

When they were young, the doors covered rooms full of stories but now they stand outside, memorials to workers who came and went, got married, moved, had children, and died, here in Harsenville, in this building, 120 units, generations over and over again, full of hope with New York City in their eyes.

The sounds have walls; the walls had doors but now the music evaporates into the early Spring night.  The bassoon player and the soprano are gone, replaced by a man who coughs his guts out every morning and a couple who scream at each other, go quiet and scream again.  The windows are old and porous.  The ceilings ping the sound back to the walls.

Every morning Mr. B. trudges up seven flights of stairs singing a song in his robust, bass voice.  You can set your clock by him.  He is not a ghost and his song does not linger.  But somewhere, in the depth of the building, are snatches of songs sung by boys who died too early of AIDS in the time when no drugs could prolong life.  They laughed and their voices hang in the air around the laundry room and their jokes stick to the walls like old glue.

The hall in the basement is long and dark and winding.  One door goes to the boiler room, one to the workroom, one to another corridor that I have never been down.  Silent footsteps go down the long hallway, past a door that guards the room that for 30 years I have never seen.  Quiet, quiet, all is quiet in this land of discovery without doors.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Ghost a Day

Remember those square, stand-up "Word a Day" calendars?  I'm going to start a "Ghost a Day" calendar.  I'll stack up 365 ghosts, one on top of the other since they don't take up much space.  Then, as each day goes by, I'll peel one off.  The others will be dying for their turn.

Today, April 13, 2014:  Ghost of the Day is Eli.  Former neighbor.  Merchant Marine 40 years.  Favorite food:  Meat with garlic.  Cooking skills:  limited.  What remains?  Smell of meat with garlic on winter nights.  How long gone?  10 years.

Still cookin' somewhere, Eli?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Menu

Over the past year, I read installments of my short story, "Life Magazine Turns Ten," at Open Mic Nights at the New-York Society Library.  I was looking at the menu that inspired the story, thinking about F.M. Howarth.  I wish I could figure out where he went when he came to Manhattan to drop off his work or to visit with publishers.  But I get no clues from the menu (except that he went to Sardi's once for the "Life" dinner).  I get no vibe, no jiggly waves.  It was so long ago; doesn't he want anyone to remember him?

That's the way with ghosts -- they hang around the high corners of the living room pretending to be anonymous. Then they get nervous and anxious because no one is paying attention.  They move around and stir the air, puff in my ear, play a radio in a distant apartment that the painters left yesterday.

Ever notice when you don't have cobwebs in those undusted corners?  And you thought it was your Swiffering.

You won't see their tracks through the dust on your dresser.  Ghosts are far too light and clever for that.  Just check the corners.  I have to go look for F.M.