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you raise me up
you raise me up
It was a warm July day in 1999, when I first decided to explore an area of the city, known as “The Village”. I hoped to widen my circle of friends by meeting new people. “Village People”. Little did I know what was in store for me!
Quite by accident, I wandered into Washington Square Park. What a pleasant surprise. All sorts of people. And the music . . . excellent. Professionals for sure. Not the usual run-of-the-mill musician you encounter sprinkled around the city.
After enjoying a few songs with the audience, I gradually joined the group who was harmonizing to the music. Singing tentatively at first, I could barely be heard. “Sing louder!” they told me, “We can't hear you!” Could it be that they liked my voice?
Then it happened. I became aware of a presence behind me. But who was this? An attractive middle-aged man, swaying to the music. Exactly my physical type. Age appropriate, I thought, and he's kept himself in shape. Tall, with broad shoulders and a square jaw, he had a very masculine appearance. A hard look, reflecting a difficult life, was contrasted by angelic auburn curls that framed his face. Twinkling green eyes and a big smile sent an inviting signal. After exchanging glances, he sat down beside me. The chemistry was electric! He spoke and behaved appropriately, but something was puzzling. His clothes, though stylish, were very worn. What was wrong with this picture?
His name was Dominic. People seemed to know him. He seemed to know them. What a strange public park this is I thought, where everyone knows you by name. This is like stepping into another world. Reminicent of a three-ring circus, a different act performs under every tree. Any genre of music can be heard. A standup comedian on the left and a flamethrower on the right, are vying for our attention. In the midst of the general chaos, an acrobatic act is going through its paces. One of the acrobats screams at the top of his lungs, “DON'T LISTEN TO THE MUSICIANS, TURN AROUND AND LOOK AT US!!!” And many people do.
Everyone is accepted into the fold. From rich to poor. From mental patients both past and present, to ex-convicts and the homeless. Every ethnic group, race and religion is represented. People come from all parts of the world. It’s one big happy dysfunctional family.
But what about Dominic? Why was my attraction to him so strong? Several years would pass before I would have the answer to that question. It was as if I was being drawn into a relationship against my will. Against my better judgment. My new friend Dominic was a fixture in the park. He's one of many. There are guitarists, keyboard players, bass players, saxophonists, solo singers, doo-wop singers and harmony singers. A little bit of everything.
One of these folks is John and his group of musicians. John, a tall man somewhere in his fifties, is a retired investment banker. He loves to entertain the tourists. His wife of many years stays away, having long ago tired of the scene. Sporting a big toothy grin and baseball cap, John sings and plays for hours.
Alvin is another main character. A tall slim man, about sixty years old, he does splits as part of his act! A seasoned entertainer, his singing is punctuated with loud blasts from a silver whistle that dangles from his neck. Always wearing a bizarre hat and flashing lights, the crowd loves him!
All of Alvin's hats are his own creation. They're for sale, but only by special order. One of these hats is a large black record that sits atop his head. Two black cords that extend from either side and tie beneath his chin anchor this record. A black leather Aviator's hat, complete with Aviator goggles, is another of his favorites. There's a leopard print scarf that flies from the back of this hat, at the bottom. In all the years that Alvin has been wearing these creations, not one person has placed an order. I wonder why?
A new hat made its debut in the park recently. It’s a child’s safety helmet. The color is bright yellow. Alvin wears it perched on top of his head, since it’s too small to fit his rather generously proportioned skull. This makes it look rather tall, about eight inches tall. On the top, there’s a two-inch high red flashing light, which makes it look even taller. Emblazoned across the front, is the word KIDS in large black letters. A kid’s hat for the biggest kid of them all.
In the Sixties, right after High School, Alvin discovered the park. He still talks about how life was, “back in the day.” Once he made his way here from his neighborhood uptown, he never returned home again. Days turned into nights. Alvin's mother came searching for him. Mother Simpson was a formidable figure! She found Alvin sitting on the grass amongst friends. “Come back to us, she cried, we love you. Don't do this.” Then she hauled off and hit him on the head with her handbag. Alvin never returned home. In fact, he never leaves the Village, even to this day!
Then there's Kip, a great vocalist, who could easily do Broadway musicals. A short, powerfully built man in his fifties, his voice can be easily heard across the park. He's been singing in the park for years and has recently married for the first time. John set Kip up with several auditions for plays years ago, but Kip never showed up. He couldn't make it, he said, because he “had to do his laundry.” John eventually gave up trying.
Then there are the “regulars,” who come to the park every weekend, or even everyday. Some of these people come to enjoy the music, while others feel that they have some role to play. Vernon is someone who plays such a role. Though solid in build, his stature is short and his legs are bowed. Always wearing a large dangling earring in one ear and a scowl on his face, he has been positioning himself under the same tree for years. From this vantage point, arms folded, he surveys the scene, searching for “infractions of rules.” “Rules” which exist, only in his mind. Everyone has had a run-in with Vernon. Years ago, Vernon broke some rules himself! He was jailed overnight, for violating an order of protection, trespassing and disturbing the peace. John bailed him out, but the debt wasn't repaid. As a result, the two never spoke again.
Our resident Psychologist, Mel, sits on a bench, overlooking the activities. An elderly man, he uses a cane and wears a white Admiral's Cap. Some years ago, Mel suffered a stroke, leaving him a little “off”. Anyone who will listen can hear his analysis of others. The world according to Mel! I suggested to Mel that he shouldn't be disclosing peoples' personal business. His response was, “I'm not in my office and I'm not getting paid, so I can gossip as much as I like!” Mel once advised Dominic, whom he didn't even know, that Dominic could get a penile implant, if he needed one, since the operation has become so simple. This was said out of the clear blue and unsolicited. Bizarre!
Then we have the “Bench People”. These are men and women who fill the benches and watch others. They're a tight-knit group, who feel it's their job to critique the events going on around them. The characters the Bench People observe on a regular basis have been given nicknames, as have the Bench People themselves. Some of these nicknames are: “The Angry Lesbian”, “Gramps”, “Far Out Wong”, “Robot Boy”, “The Alien Space Mistress”, “Big R” and “Dr. Doorknob”.
One of these observations was made by a burly gent, Dr. Doorknob, who on a hot summer day entertained Big R and Robot Boy with his observation of me. “She’s been sitting in the same spot for hours. She must be wearing one of those girdles advertised on Spanish TV that lifts the butt. Those things must provide ample cushioning for sitting on the concrete wall all day.” Big R, an equally large fellow, and Robot Boy, an IQ challenged slender lad, were amused. Robot Boy, whose previously perceived talent was expertise at obsessive pushups and nothing more, has shown himself capable of embellishing nearly any story that he overhears with his own peculiar slant on the world. Robot Boy relayed Doorknob’s observations proudly and repeatedly as “Susan must be wearing Inflatable Bloomers,” instead of the girdle remark. Dr. Doorknob relates once watching a lesbian demonstrating the use of a whip in whacking her bottom. Doorknob regularly hangs around with Gramps, a burned out ex-doorman and master chess player, who spends considerable time philosophizing in the park with just about anyone. Gramps had a schoolboy crush on me for a time, which he blew up in his own mind. He even fantasized a “breakup”, which resulted in him not speaking to me ever again.
The Alien Space Mistress wandered by one afternoon, while I was engaged in harmony with four other singers. Before long, she poked her head into our little circle and joined in. Her “singing” was loud and distressingly off key. She also was intent on doing a manic rain dance display in which she decided to lift her shirt and flash us with the image of her lingerie-clad bosom. Thankfully, she wound down and the intrusion came to an end in short order. As she walked several feet away from us, one of our singers asked, “What the hell was that?” “She's mentally ill,” I answered softly. Remarkably, The Alien Space Mistress heard me. Without missing a beat, she whirled around, and looking directly at me, retorted, “And singing makes YOU normal???” The Space Mistress was a woman who many acknowledged had the potential for the most volatile display of all the mental patients in the park. Dr. Doorknob predicted that one day she would take off like a rocket for outer space from the center of the park. The Space Mistress was emotionally attached for a while to Far Out Wong.
Far Out Wong, is a short thin Asian fellow, who has taken seven religions and smushed them together in his mind, which has a giant hole in the middle. He claims that the Angel Moroni from the Mormon religion is hovering over him. One day the Space Mistress came up to him and attacked him like a sheep dog in heat. This relationship ended with her chasing Wong, and him shouting back at her, “SATAN, SATAN, SATAN!!” while flashing a peace sign. This same Wong has been known to try to catch pigeons in an attempt to kill them, but has had no success at this sport. One afternoon, my wheelchair bound friend Laverne relayed to me that she had been spat upon, for no apparent reason, by the Far Out one. Coffee was the weapon du jour.
Here are a few QUOTES FROM THE BENCH:
FIRST QUOTE: “SUSAN uses a PESSARY!” It turns out that a pessary is a female contraceptive device, worn internally. Dr. Doorknob made this zany comment to the delight of his little audience. Working for a surgical supply company affords Doorknob the opportunity to learn about many unusual devices. Doorknob then told the old joke about a woman who inserts a potato, for the purpose of birth control. After hearing this joke, Robot Boy relayed the pessary comment to all who would listen as, “Susan uses a POTATO PESSARY!”
SECOND QUOTE: While counseling a twenty four year old musician on techniques for meeting women, I suggested watching the courtship habits of pigeons. I mentioned that the male pigeon puffs himself up as he approaches the female, “talking” and doing his little dance. If she’s unresponsive, he approaches the next female and tries his luck again. Eventually, he succeeds. The young musician considered my pigeon watching suggestion, smiled, and countered sardonically, “I watch ANTS!”
THIRD QUOTE: “Tinkerbell” is a name we’ve given one of our mental patients, since she generally costumes herself with a short organdy ballerina skirt and shoes. This is accessorized with black and white bold horizontally striped stockings. A gigantic silver bow clipped to the top of her head tops off the outfit. All that’s missing is the magic wand. A young pretty woman, she broke a long silence one afternoon by suddenly asking me, “How often do you go to the bathroom?” After correctly guessing that she posed this question due to a urinary problem, I suggested she see a doctor. She excitedly asked, “ Can I DATE the DOCTOR?”
But what was Dominic's story? He was a professional singer, performing both in clubs and in the park . . . everywhere. We soon began a relationship, which grew slowly, but steadily, everything appearing normal. Then, just as we were becoming intimate, Dominic suggested that we spend a night and a day at my place. This was to be the first time we would spend an extended period alone together.
After picking me up at the park as planned, we walked to a restroom. He was to wait for me outside. When I came out, he wasn't there. He had vanished! After some time had passed and he was told that I was looking for him, he suddenly reappeared. Looking nonchalant, he offered no explanation. It was then that I realized that the night and day of togetherness he had planned was more than he could handle. After reassuring him that we could forego this plan until “we” were ready, he breathed a sigh of relief.
But why was this man so afraid of being close? Gradually, I began to learn the tragic story of his life. A foster child from the time he was an infant, Dominic was removed from the home of his mother, and alcoholic abusive father, and bounced from foster home to biological home like a ping pong ball. The abuse at the hands of his father damaged his hearing as well as his psyche. At age seven he was placed along with two of his sisters at an aunt's home. Suddenly one day, without explanation, he was told that he had to return home and was put on a bus. Back with his biological parents, he and his younger brother Carl ran wild in the streets all night to avoid crossing paths with their father. The family was so poor that Dominic had the impression people who wore eyeglasses must be rich!
Finally, the nights of running in the streets came to and end when Dominic and Carl, ages seven and six, were placed in a Boys Home. They would never see or hear from their family again. It wasn't long before Carl was adopted. Dominic was now completely alone. He survived being victimized by three older boys at age thirteen, which left him traumatized for life.
At seventeen, Dominic fathered the first of his many illegitimate children, leading a life that was going nowhere. By the time he spotted me in Washington Square Park, he had decided to look for something different, and I was the chosen one. He was extremely loving and affectionate, craving love in return. This was something I hadn't experienced before, although I'd had many relationships. Just what the doctor ordered, I thought.
Dominic and I enjoyed harmonizing to the “Oldies” together, laughing and holding hands. We were an attractive couple and all eyes were on us. They called us Romeo and Juliet. “Here comes Romeo and Juliet,” they would say. “There's a couple in love!” Dominic paraded me around, holding my hand and lifting me up in the air, as you would a child. He was showing me off to everyone.
But behind the scenes, there was a little dance going on. A back and forth dance. The relationship would move forward, then Dominic would take two steps back. He needed “space”. After recouping, he'd be back again, as loving as ever. At Christmas time, he told me, “I guess you’re my family now”. But as time went on, he became more and more anxious. Just the sight of me could set his foot tapping, obsessively. Finally, after an especially loving weekend, I got a call from him. He was ending our yearlong relationship. He had to, he said, because it was “too stressful”, for him. I was heart-broken.
Although we speak occasionally by phone, Dominic has never been able to return to the park. Not as long as I'm still there. He's been a part of the scene for thirty years. He recently asked me, “Couldn't you find another place to hang out?” Although four years have passed, people still ask about him. I've gone on to become a solo singer in the park, and the dysfunctional family carries on. The night of the big mêlée, for instance.
It was a Saturday Night and new talent was performing. Her name was Dalia. A woman in her early forties, Dalia had a full band in tow, complete with microphones and amplifiers. Dalia had grown up male, but had become female in adulthood. Six feet tall and strikingly attractive, she had a quick temper. More than once, she had menaced someone with her microphone stand.
After singing for some time that evening, Dalia invited others to come up and perform. My friend Lucy suggested Rita, our resident vocalist, should be allowed to sing. Dalia was unresponsive. The more Lucy asked, the more Dalia ignored her request. Lucy was persistent. As Dalia's annoyance grew, she closed the show, without allowing Rita her chance in the spotlight.
Then all hell broke loose. As three hundred people watched, Dalia and Lucy “got into it”. Dalia had limited tolerance for conflict. She ran towards Lucy, threatening to “Beat her up”! Lucy, a plump middle-aged grandmother, was hardly an equal opponent. As Lucy backed away, Dalia had to be restrained by three men. Then, Dalia stopped a patrol car and reported Lucy for causing a problem. The police called Lucy over for questioning. As soon as the patrol car left, Dalia took off after Lucy again. Lucy ran out of the park, in spite of a chronic foot problem, which caused her to limp all the way. People took sides. Nasty remarks were exchanged, as they argued into the night.
Dalia was a southern gal, but she seemed to lack the social graces folks are known for in that part of the country. She managed to antagonize so many people in her short “park career”. Soon Dalia disappeared from the scene, leaving for parts unknown. Rumor has it, she's gone to Germany hoping to be discovered. No one has heard from her since.
Then there was the night the music stopped:
About thirty people were gathered in a well-lit area. I was shooting the breeze with my friend Bill, when he pointed to my left and in a casual tone of voice said, “Look”. As I turned in that direction, my jaw dropped. There, right under the streetlight, right under my nose, was a young couple engaged in a sex act! The male, though handsome, was wasted on alcohol. He was sprawled out on his back. His lips and genitals had turned purple. The female's head was bobbing up and down, but it wasn't to the music!
An endless scream emanated from my lips in the hope that this would make it all go away. The musicians stopped playing, as we all just stood there, frozen in shock. Having never before witnessed such a public spectacle, no one quite knew what to do! As people considered options, a deathly silence hung over the group, a silence that seemed to last an eternity.
Jeremy, one of our favorite vocalists, decided to take matters in hand. A tall man of considerable girth, he puffed himself up even larger as he marched over to the offending couple. Tapping several times on the wall where they were perched, he bellowed, “WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? WHY DON'T YOU FIND A PRIVATE SPOT??” The couple was oblivious. As more people screamed out at the two of them, the female lifted her head and said, “We're having fun!” “Go somewhere else!” someone yelled. “You don't have to look!” she yelled back. “THERE ARE CHILDREN HERE!!” shouted Alvin. The couple finally left, leaving us to ponder what we had just witnessed. Jeremy, raising his index finger in great indignation, summed it all up: “There IS such a thing as ‘PARK ETIQUETTE’ ya know!!” The next day, the same female returned to the park, as if nothing unusual had occurred.
A short time before this public incident, Alvin had allowed the same female to spend a night at his place. He had made advances, but she had rebuffed him. She said, “Oh no, I don't do that!” A short time after this public incident, Alvin had tried to win the affections of an attractive blond as she listened to the music. While they were engaged in conversation, she suddenly turned away from him, and started coming on to me. He was baffled! Poor Alvin. He has trouble making sense of it all.
We’ve had some newcomers to the park, some fights, good times, and good friends. Dramas occur on a regular basis. Relationships begin and end. A few couples have even married.
And recently I've had an epiphany: The answer to why I was so drawn to Dominic and felt so much pain after our breakup. It seems that the slight feeling of uneasiness that I felt around my father, mirrored the feelings that I felt around Dominic. Both men were uneasy with themselves,which resulted in me feeling the same way around them. But Dominic offered the chance for it to all turn out “right” this time around. He seemed to offer the love and affection that my father was incapable of giving. This was “the hook” that bound me to Dominic. But in reality, there was nothing behind that affection. Affection was merely a tool that he used in order to gain the love he so desperately sought from me. Ultimately, Dominic wasn't able to love any more than my father. He was too damaged.
My quest to widen my circle of friends on that warm July day, back in 1999, had been realized. Actually, one might say, I got more than I bargained for. It would be nice to have a “special someone” in my life, though next time around, I'll be much wiser. I won't make the same mistake twice.
6/7/2006 6:08 pm
u raise me up!!|
6/8/2006 4:13 am
Hey, I really enjoyed reading your blogs. If you'd like to meet. Looking forward to meeting someone who's got some brains. Bye.|
6/8/2006 8:13 am
You really can write.
You have the longest and quite a meaningful write-out compared to many others I have come across so far.
Hope you consider writng short stories as part-time.
6/8/2006 1:37 pm
I think, since SHE never responds to comments ... is a bot. |
Until SHE comes out of hiding behind the scenes and writing from books to apease the Blog ... I have reservations on her reality.
NO one in Blogville goes around and NOT talk to anyone, come-on.
Even the REAL writers of this BlogLand doesn't MASS produce on a daily basis.
Get real here.
I can buy books like this at the store.
6/8/2006 5:58 pm
Yes. I belive u are correct. Maggie wishes.|
Having read other posts, I find U are strange... and are these your writings ?
6/24/2006 5:39 am
slt je voudrai juste ke tu reonde a ce com jorai une kestion a te poser si je pourai avoir ton adress|