Friday, April 25, 2003

chapter 3

So what am I supposed to do? There are a lot of things people do in their lives that perhaps they don’t really believe in or feel in some physical or spiritual way. I think it is the basic premise of the American ethos to do what you have to do regardless of circumstance. I stayed and worked everyday but after the attack the money was gone. It took several weeks to even get the company back somewhere near having anything to do. And it was not just us, all of New York, and eventually all of America suffered from this attack and the aftermath and the war. We suffered from the economic and spiritual hit, and we suffered from the retaliatory wars that followed. Things changed.

I guess I could have been more patriotic, but there is an issue behind patriotism that must include some element of perpetual divisionism and for me, such thoughts always lead to problems. I know that this sounds like an excuse, but really, I have been around in the world, and I have had great opportunities to do things and to see things, and I simply could not find exactly why there was the need to pretend that the Us was not indeed simply a part of the world, cohabitating with every other civilization on the globe and not living in a me or you death match. And even if you think that this is an excuse, I did actually stand my ground where there was something to do here. But anyone, given a chance to do otherwise in a difficult situation would at least consider basic alternatives. And inevitably, isn’t this simply the American way?

And all patriotism is in fact simply another belief. It is difficult to discuss the idea of beliefe. I suppose it is an inherent part of our lives now, that there are things that we simply must agree to know to be true even without any inherent evidence to back this up. Certainly even the idea of trying to live ones life with only imperial evidence to guide you is as much an impossibility as it is for people to live completely alone in the world. These things simply do not happen. But to be forced to believe without choice, without free agency, without even the basic freedom of thought to look and see and question these things that are handed to you, is there joy or relief to be had in this? Are we really so afraid of ourselves that we are proud to be ostriches, our asses in the air and our beaks in the sand? Certainly this is what we were fighting for, yes? Wasn’t this very idea the premise against which our founding father’s bade us commit our hearts and our minds? Weren’t we once ourselves those huddled masses yearning to be free?

But as I said, I worked. Everyday I went in and was there at the Internet cafй, whining to friends, radio on at 8:00 and ready for the first call. I started each day at 42nd and Seventh, and was there each and every day. It was the doldrums in those days. I invested a bit in tools for the bike shop; I saved as much as I could. I lived as small as I could, but there was nothing there any more. Where at one time, working in New York meant a great weekly jump in my bank account, now it meant only that I was working for feed and shelter. And I simply wasn’t happy.

There was an ironic moment Leaning against a mailbox at Times Square where, while talking to a fellow biker I admitted that I was sort of bored with the job. We both laughed at the thought that such a dangerous job as we did, a job sort of built around the idea of excitement could actually become boring. But it was, and there was simply nothing to look forward to.

I met some people and I made friends with a girl or two, but it was all pretty dismal. Every day or so there would be a call or two to head downtown, and everyday I would have to fight the security and the smell of the smoke, and everyday was more and more unhappy faces. The carnage of the wreckage had become the focal point for all of our lives. It was a physical representation of how all of us fortunate enough not to be in those building felt. But where was the inspiration? I begged my ex-girlfriend to even come here for a week, just to break up the redundancy, but she would never come.

In Poland they say that when a man is drowning he will grab for a razor to save himself. It is a wise philosophy. I was drowning in New York, and there was simply nothing o grab only any more. I had completely resigned myself to simply trying to run the string of rides as long as I could. But I was fooling myself. My body, perhaps anybodies body, simply cannot do the things one needs to do to keep the bike going day in and day out. And I was fudging a bit in a way that a younger man, one more interested in the ride and in the rush of the job. I liked to leave at five and not to stay on until seven. I liked to exit on Fridays and I saved my legs as much as I could. The job probably needed a less conservative fellow, but as I said I was there day in and day out, and I was always there at the bell at the start of the day. But after the planes, there simply wasn’t enough money there to justify anything anymore. And more importantly there was no people for me to hang my hat on.

After the New Years fiasco I was simply without hope. There was just nothing to look forward to in this life that I was living. I had a few dollars in the bank, and I had the tools for a shop, but I had nowhere to set it up, and not enough to move. It was a stalemate.

So when Sara called, I answered and it was without too much trepidation. And I am not sire that I had such a complete beliefe in the reality of the situation as I was grateful for the chance to do something I could believe in for a change. My feeling for the woman were real, but it was, as I suppose it always must be by some sense of reality, some fiscal reality, or at least an esthetic reality that would even allow for such an endeavor.

And I say these things simply because there were certain… imperfections in the moment that were easily beyond the simple issues of my age and experience (read: jaded cynicism): The woman was gay! Now we can argue the fact about nature verses nurture, and indeed I did grow up in the San Francisco Bay area, and certainly. Homosexual rhetoric is absolutely a part of my consciousness, but in more practical terms, I think I might have been stretching the boundaries of my own imagination to think that the woman could just cold turkey with me and become a penile receptacle in the time it takes for a plane to cross the ocean.

And I didn’t blame her, or even really care so much about her history. Well, that was not said correctly; I did care very much about who she is and what she did. I spent hours on the phone talking to the woman and hearing about her exploits in the vainglorious pursuit of love. And I was jealous throughout all of this, and not only because of my own feeling of imprisonment while I had to hear about them. I mean, I am actually a stable guy, or at least I think like one. I like boredom to a certain extent, at least as far as it applies to ideas of normalcy and especially family. So I simply did not agree with the ideas of flinging ones self into sexually ambivalent discos for the purpose of simply getting my body touched. I mean, I could see where there was a thrill, and I could see the idea beyond the desperation, but I myself am simply not that demonstrative.

So I sat through all of this while stuck and pining for some relief of my own in New York. Maybe it was the distance between us, or that we were playing these games with each other in the safety of a distance of several thousand miles of ocean.

At any rate however, there was some connection between us, and there probably still is to this day, though we have ceased to even send messages any more. But at the time, spending yet another day on the bike riding the streets for barely enough money to cover the cost of my vegetarian rice and bean dinner, The askance from Sara to come and to be there and to help and to live with her was a great and wonderful thing. It was more than a way out; it was a gift, a reprieve and a chance all rolled into one. Italy! Can you imagine it?

I talked to my friends at the bike shop and got some names of some firms there where I might be able to stay with the bikes. This was really turning out to be something. I packed up all of the things that I had acquired for the bike shop and locked in a crate and dragged this ridicules thing downtown to the office where I worked as a courier and dropped in the back room with the idea that it was going to follow me within some short period of time. I closed up the room I was in, made a gift of my TV and VCR (necessity in the life of a single anyone in the city) to the people I lived with bought a ticket and left. How easy was that?

Now, the period of time I have just spoken of was only about three weeks from invitation to riding the trains from Milan to Padua. And if I was thinking that all of this might just e a little sudden and ill thought out, well, there are always compromises to be made. But what I was thinking of was simply this: There was a thoroughly wonderful and talented woman, with whom I felt a great attachment, who was in some sense of need, who had asked me to come, and who just happened to have a flat and a house and a life in the hills of northern Italy. And that I had not seen her in three years, and that she was gay, and might actually have only been asking for a little phone time, or even simply a paid for trip to New York for a while, well, if it did enter my mind was shuffled away along with the lack of work visa, invitation or ability to speak Italian. These were simply obstacles to be over come, and I have never been a man to back down from a challenge. Love will find a way, and where there is a will there is a way, and this two edged razor was there to be grabbed and I was not going to miss an opportunity to do something this worthwhile. Desperate? You bet and proud of it. I mean, I was a New York City bike courier! When the call comes, I am ready to ride. The flight was from JFK to Amsterdam, and then from Amsterdam to Milan. I had a three-month return ticket and no particular plans to use it.