I have a confession to make:
I love bull riding, real bulls, not mechanical ones. I mean, I love watching bull riding — you couldn’t force me at gunpoint onto one of those angry beasts! I love watching the beautiful, full-lipped young men in tight jeans and sharp-toed boots who straddle the backs of those enraged, murderous creatures. If I saw those boys walking down the street, I probably wouldn’t notice them. However, there they are, in their early twenties, breaking a delicate sweat, nostrils just quivering ever so slightly, with fear — or is it passion — glinting in their blue eyes. I see them on my television screen in close-up just before the gate bursts open, and I find my breast heaving as I watch. I don’t dare blink. I think to myself, “He’s so beautiful! Isn’t it just awful that he’s about to die?”
I love watching the bull buck him off while his spinal cord flails like a kerchief waved in the air until, in 8 seconds or less, he tumbles, possibly to be gored to death on the turf stinking of dung.
I tell you, it’s a guilty, sensuous thrill. In my heart, ugly though it may be, I thrill to the thought that I might watch his death any second. Thanatos and Eros are mixed, perhaps even more than Freud ever supposed in my psyche, clearly. Am I so different, I wonder, than all my New York friends and frenemies in this?
Bull riding isn’t their thing, I admit, but we all have a tingly thrill at the possible dramatic outcomes of brave endeavors. Think of John Glenn — today what he did has been done by hundreds of people, but when Friendship 7 took off, the nation was glued to its bulbous television screens looking at the impassive man wrapped in tin foil being strapped into either science’s womb or his coffin. We did not dare blink. Even the impassive Walter Cronkite, not given to fanciful rhetoric, said, “God speed, John Glen!” However, I wonder if even he, the unscandalous newsman, did not harbor a slight thrill at the thought of the peril he was braving. After all, Senator Glenn could have just been toasted by his own rocket fuel, suffocated in the shadowy well of space, or any other number of desperate ends. America knew it and watched, breathlessly.
Likewise, my fellow Americans, I see that in the past week or so, people who barely gave me the time of day, who might have grumbled about me before they knew I was about to marry and move South, they have given me little gifts, free things, big smiles, and I have had near-strangers, with a familiar moonish grin on their faces, tell me that they wish me, truly, every happiness in my big courageous move. I do not doubt their good intentions, any more than I doubt Cronkite’s with his prayerful good wishes, but I wonder — do they see thanatos in the wings, waiting for a possible understudy role?
Understand two things, those of you who are not from New York:
- Whenever a New Yorker vacates, another wants his or her apartment, his or her job, his or her place in line for, well, everything. The pressure here is unimaginable to those of you from small towns — everything, everything has an underpinning of competition to it. That’s why New Yorkers are feisty folk, on the whole. Hence, my going is welcome news to those who want an apartment, a job, or even not to wait so long in line at the bank or the check-out — whether they are in my line of work or my neighborhood or not.
- New Yorkers can never believe that anyone would actually willingly leave. After all, they have invested so very much energy to surviving here, leaving feels like throwing in the towel to them. And Mississippi? Paris, that they could understand. Los Angeles, a regrettable but imaginable destination. (See my poem “A Dozen Reasons Why I Can’t Write in LA” published in Adirondack Review for further information – the second poem on this page : http://adirondackreview.homestead.com/babson.html ) But Mississippi? That place contains nothing that made them move or stay in New York in the first place — Vicksburg has no opera, no ballet, no bagels, no skyscrapers, no bauhaus, no sushi, no tandoori, no tapas, no ticker tape parade for Yankees, no dim sum, no underground clubs — or at least I hope that’s so — there used to be an underground club — one I would never join — you know which one I mean. Anyway, what place in the US could I have chosen, frankly, significantly less like New York City? It seems like a dangerous departure. I must be going to outer space, like Glenn.
I attribute to this gushing good wish river to my apparent foolhardy bravery. I seem so beautiful now that I am about to die — that is, if looks could kill, if fashion victimhood were fatal. I think they always liked me — or in the case of my frenemies, spent happy hours hating me — and this is like a funeral.
Incidentially, those of you who live in NYC or will be there on Monday, November 30th at 7:30 pm — I am giving my last poetry reading in the city before leaving at The Nightingale Lounge 2nd Avenue at 13 street — it will be a wake of sorts, in fact, as people can get up and roast me, mourn me, or admonish me as they like afterwards. I recommend attending if you have a bone to pick with me. After all, I could be roasted by my own rocket pack, or Mississippi could float into the outer depths of the Milky Way Galaxy even more than it already is out of the orbit of those who circle each other in the chum feast of Manhattan.
You might be smelling orange blossoms for my wedding, or you might smell blood in the water, New York. In any case, I look up from my Mercury Space Capsule and salute. Those who are either about to die or to rock salute you.