Tag Archives: New York

#16: Rapunzel

Well it was forty-five
Past midnight
The bouncers had just
Ended a fight
You materialize
In the stage-light
Sit at the piano
And plink That’s Life

I swear you appear to be
A mirage to me
Wearing an Arabian dress
And rosary beads
With a pink guitar pick
Between your teeth
Playing like falling rain
Patient certainty

Then you spit the pick
In the palm of your hand
And stride over
To the microphone stand
Tune the house guitar
Strum This Land is Your Land
Singing your own lyrics
About Afghanistan

1.Hey Rapunzel
Come down
From your tower
Return to me
At this witching hour
Sing to me
Your song of tender power
I need you

You sing like a volcano
Erupting honey
Lyrics raw
Concerning blood money
Your closing line
Eurydice can judge me
You put me in tune
With my heartbeat

Well I approach the stage
After your set
You’re like lightening up there
What can I expect?
I’m just a thin white man
You could see as a threat
But you’re convivially curious
All you want’s a drink and a friend

Well we talk until
Its thirty past three
You, the bartender, and me
A holy trinity
I ask for a date tomorrow
Please be free
Let’s talk forever about
Religion, death, and comedy

2. Hey Rapunzel
May I have
Your address?
I didn’t get your number
And I must confess
Without your voice
I am under duress
I need you

Well her eyes turned down
And she calmly explained
She lives in a tower
And can only descend for a stage
If there’s no stage
She evaporates
It was the bargain she made
To reverse her fate

I ask Fred the bartender
If he slipped us some LSD
He said come on now
I’m a man of dignity
She left her tip
Said I knew you wouldn’t believe me
I always get your admiration
I never have your sympathy

She doesn’t say goodbye
Just departs immediately
And I’m still fumbling for an apology
Not thinking expediently
I’m trailing her silhouette
Shouting please, wait for me
And when I get to the sidewalk
I only see the indifferent city

3. Hey Rapunzel
I built a stage
In the middle of Washington Square
And now the skaters can’t skate
Nor can the folkies and junkies
Until you re-animate
I need you

She’s such a knockout talent
And she actually talked to me
But now she’s gone and I’m just staring
At this family of gutter leaves
Dancing and swirling
Then falling in the breeze
Performing for that moment
Before retiring for eternity

All these nights I search
But haven’t found her again
Walking uptown to down
From Silvana to the Bitter End
If I could have believed
Or made myself pretend
I know she was real
The prophesized amend

All the while dreaming
About us on a fire escape
Her hair between my fingers
Upon her back a starry cape
Then we hold each other close
And simply fly away
Above the bodies and the buildings
This city of love and hate

#14: The Truth About New York

Emotionally homeless
Drifting thru Central Park

Baseball bat in your guitar-case
Your lips on the tender dark

You were supposed to be
The new wave
Not another matchstick to save
In the world rock and roll made

They never
Told you
The truth
About New York
You never
The proof
About New York
You forget
What you never knew
Could be untrue
About New York

Ears turned toneless
By the Broadway jackhammer

The ashes of your new melody
Unceremoniously scattered

And you were supposed to be
A useful device
Sanctifying our vice
Inside candy lights

They never
Told you
The truth
About New York
You never
The proof
About New York
You forget
What you never knew
Could be true
About New York

Christmastime in New York

New York

A concrete palace of loving malice 
Cloaked in transience 
Themes of dreams interrupted by car alarms 
And invisible ambience 

Ice winter silver snow sliver 
Dances onto chilled flesh and marrow 
Then high summer sun frames foreign structures 
In Van Gogh shadow 

To realize in eyes 
Belonging to another tourist of the fall 
Where we were meant little 
Who we were with meant it all 


NYC Culture Beat: Volume One: Fiction Addiction Reading Series

by Matt Waters 

Mitch Levenberg read first, and the author shared a story about delusion. Featuring a desperate protagonist obsessed with a bank teller who ultimately may not even exist, his tale, called ‘Ellipses,’ fits within this literary gathering’s selected theme, that being ‘March Madness.’


The other works featured this evening will also concern characters driven toward unknown currencies. Intimacy issues, aging, death, sickness, and love decayed permeate through the spoken pages. But it is to the great credit of each participating author that the darkness discussed never seems inescapable. The besieged characters burst with humanity. And even if the gravest inconveniences of reality could not be overcome, in their assessment resided a small victory.


 The event is called ‘Fiction Addiction.’ It takes place on the final Tuesday of every month, at a bar called 2A. 2A is located on the southwest corner of second street and avenue A, and proud alumni of the space cadet program* may find it quite serendipitous that a bar with this name would be located at that exact location.


 The establishment has two floors, and the readings take place on the upper-level. There is a wide space in the front of the room, allowing for a pulpit and microphone stand, from where the literature mingles with spoken word. In addition there’s a sizable couch, which appears quite comfortable. That is prime positioning. Late arrivers may be relegated to the back, but it’s far from a raw deal. There’s a fully equipped bar, a decent number of stools, and the readings come through crystal clear acoustically, no matter where one ultimately lands. The space can be described as cozy, without being crowded. On a scale from one to general admission at terminal five**, with the latter representing an assault on the lounging soul, the comfort level is satisfying.




So, settled, and perhaps with a beer in hand, the true purpose of the evening may be explored. And that is, of course, to hear words forming narratives, and narratives becoming relatable, delivered by inspiring people. Talented young writer Christine Vines coordinates and publicizes this event, introducing the authors throughout the night.


 Relating to characters is not necessarily the most important task for a reader, or in this case, a listener. Being affected by their thoughts and actions is paramount, though if one looks deep within, even when weighing the actions of deranged, fictional people, we can identify our own delusions.


What often makes characters interesting is their refusal to reassess a plan. We can understand an initial thought, even a few false moves. But when a character sinks into a broth of their own derangement, the result, if delivered effectively, is engaging, as if witnessing a single car accident occur in slow motion, the details painstakingly analyzed and filed into plain manila folders for a later date.

In a strange way, feeling superior to a character could help us tap into certain personal attitudes that we may not be particularly conscious about, most of the time. That is quality fiction.


 And this what the aforementioned ‘Ellipses’ does so effectively. We can all relate to having a crush, or at least a fleeting thought about someone, a possible relationship for instance, which is so obviously unrealistic that it is dismissed almost immediately by our thought processes. Unfortunately for the protagonist in ‘Ellipses,’ all of his processes lead him further into a tunnel, where the light is teller number seven at the local bank, and their future together destined. The endearing aspect about this protagonist, and the way Levenberg presented this story, is that the character did not fit into stereotypical obsessive molds. At the climax, when his quest has proved futile, future revealed bleak, the character spirals into a demented type of realization, that he prefers the fantasy, to a reality where his only companionship is a goldfish. Before this fitting dénouement, however, Levenberg’s character thirsts for contact so basic that there was essentially never a chance for him to be disappointed by anything the teller did, or even did not do. Cognitive dissonance certainly applies, yet the effects of lowered expectations are undeniable. We see a character accepting meaninglessness. The ironic tragedy is that he applies meaning to a ‘relationship’ that truly was meaningless, in every literal sense of the word, instead of trying to get help or reconnecting with family.


Madness, though, is a self-fulfilling prophecy. When it becomes apparent that the bank teller was not real, the protagonist becomes unable to handle reality. The character had spent hours decoding a letter he believed from the teller, regarding his account, yet supposedly saying so much more, between the ellipses. The conclusion is brutal, yet honest, and the style in which the story was written invites the reader to eavesdrop on this troubled mind, not become tricked or even surprised by it. 




Ann Napolitano shared some personal history before reading an excerpt of her novel ‘A Good Hard Look.’ She had been working diligently on a book about Melvin Whiteson, a wealthy character seeking self-discovery within a period specific New York City social scene. On his quest, Melvin finds only continued disillusionment.


The rudderless nature of Melvin was affecting the overall narrative structure of the project. Napolitano was experiencing difficulty really digging into the story. Approaching a critical point where the project may have had to be abandoned, she suddenly received the inspiration to include one of her literary heroes, Flannery O’Connor, in the narrative. Melvin would finally find a purpose, in this new story, where he and Flannery cross paths in Milledgeville, Georgia, her hometown. Flannery had been diagnosed with lupus, forced to return back to family farm, after achieving literary fame in New York.


Napolitano had a personal stake in this story for a variety of reasons. She had read O’Connor while getting her English degree. At the time Napolitano was fighting an illness that would take her multiple years to overcome.  She related to O’Connor’s brave battle against lupus. In the face of death, O’Connor had chosen to chase greatness. Her life choices spiritually stirred Napolitano, and helped shape her into a novelist. Even still, Napolitano had never imagined that she would include O’Connor in a novel. She worked doubly hard on the project after this decision, and the book has received rave reviews. (Four and a half stars from consumers on Amazon.com, for instance)


In the excerpt she read, there was a particularly touching sequence where Melvin, the New Yorker, becomes stone-frozen fascinated upon his first sight of a peacock. In fact, he looks, ‘scared and disoriented.’ It was memorable imagery, and a reflection on all the different emotions that beauty can make one feel. How different people will react to something beautiful in different ways, nobody right or wrong. Their consciousness of the beauty matters more. That could be one of the drives behind ‘A Good Hard Look.’


http://annnapolitano.com/     (pssst. That site is awesome)

Paul Lisicky read three bubbling short stories that are part of a collection. The language that Lisicky employs while writing is quite interesting. It veers on the poetic, focusing on specific sights and sounds, as if the physicality of objects and settings possess some type of unified rhythm under the surface. The language is free flowing.


The first story was ‘Bulldog.’ The interior machinations of a loyal pet are examined. The bulldog is much smarter than he appears. He knows, with dire specificity, what his owner needs. The most fascinating lines involved a process the bulldog had mastered, whereupon he purified his owner, as she slept. The bulldog is much smarter than he appears, and he prefers it that way. His intelligence may stem from living completely, and totally, in the moment, which we as human beings struggle so mightily to do. The bulldog eventually leaves the owner through a crack of light. It could be interpreted that he has given up on the owner, choosing independence instead. Perhaps though, this bulldog, and all dogs, are so brilliant because they are aware of their freedom, and live for the glory in seconds that we casually dismiss. So, he does not need to leave the owner to be free, which could be why dogs do not leave us. He is free, already, and is such a good friend because he attempts sharing that freedom, instead of possessing it.


The second story, ‘Winston and the Ocean,’ was touching as well, because it served as a reminder about love. We actively complicate ourselves. The most important thing, however, usually stays the same, inside of us, through all of our lives. Love does not change its schedule; it does not seek escape through medication, over the counter or otherwise. Love is pure. It is the truest side of us. When we lose touch with that love inside, life becomes muddled and almost impossible to navigate without making serious errors in judgment. ‘Winston and the Ocean’ detailed the protagonist’s close connection with the water. He is a body-boarder, who genuinely loved the sea, ever since it had been his escape from a troublesome childhood. Winston finds his appreciation for the sea waning. After taking drugs, in an attempt to reconnect with his childhood, Winston instead is throttled by waves he probably could ride with ease, if sober. He drinks the saltwater. All the while, he is searching for the child he used to be, and the mother who didn’t give him all the love he deserved. It was a moving story, told kaleidoscopically, through a melding of the present and past.


Lisicky’s third story packed a similar punch. It also dealt directly with reality. ‘The protagonist in ‘The Visitors’ is Sr. Barbara. A progressive nun, to the point where she slipped condoms into the hands of passing-by sophomores on campus, the story begins as she confronts the cruel specter of death. In a manner befitting her iconoclastic viewpoints, the supposed pleasantries of dying, being surrounded by lifelong friends, for instance, are greeted with derision. For all her kindness, Sr. Barbara sees herself as replaceable upon her death, just another brick. The wonder of the story arrives when Sr. Barbara, upon reflecting, begins to see beauty, even in this seemingly desolate viewpoint. If beauty could be found in a dump truck emptying it’s contents, one of many powerful images in the story, then surely it could be found within her own life, and friends, and experiences.  And anger, too.




Meg Wolitzer read an excerpt from her book, ‘The Uncoupling.’ The focus of these passages involved Dory and Robby, two long married English teachers, who to this point had enjoyed a happy marriage, marked by passion. However, Dory is not immune to a spell sweeping over her New Jersey town, wherein women lose passion for being intimate with the men in their lives. A particularly hilarious section of this reading involved the two playing a sex suggestion game, the difficulties of maintaining an attraction to one partner for a significant (and sometimes endless) period of time underlining the witty observations and humor. Robby eventually buys a product called ‘the comfy,’ a bathrobe for two. This purchase represents an admission that the couple can no longer produce the emotional comfort they had previously attained with unconscious ease, before the spell touched their lives. In order not to leave the audience on a totally down note, Wolitzer closed with a happier passage from later in the book, where Robby and Dory are in a position to watch the comfy burn – but can’t. It’s nonflammable.




(For more on the culture scene in New York, stop by this blog in the coming weeks and months)


*I got my degree in 1987.


**Another article for another day 


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