Thursday, April 06, 2006

New York Dreaming

Today I have been reading John Keats, and I am choked up with feeling.
I haven't read his poetry for years, but now a soft backed book of his words lies by the side of my couch, or sometimes up on the bed, or crammed inside an ancient plastic bag ready for work; a thing of awe in itself, even to look at, even just to know the worlds that reside within its tender pages. I am lost to his beauty, and crumpled by its glorious weight.

At the same time, I feel air borne. The night welcomes me in and takes my shoes off. I'm wrapped in a blanket, little and small, my feet, two brown birds perched at the edge of my computer desk. It's cold in here, I forgot to turn the storage heating on again, and so my hands search out warmth within each other, holding to one another briefly between each sentence I type.

I keep forgetting it is now spring, and I'm strangely mourning the loss of winter, which is often my happiest time, because then that I can feel free from the anticipation of having anything particular to look forward to, and can just enjoy the solitude, the quiet intense opening that slips by without almost anyone noticing.

Winter is for pleasure behind closed doors, soft insides, long woollen scarves and hugging your knees. It is for introverts such as myself, it is the excuse we long for to just shut the door and send the troops of life away.

But the daffodils are making me smile. From the bus yesterday I watched an entire family stealing huge clumpfuls of them from the gardens just up Lewes Road. They then proceeded to hand them out randomly to passers by, and to a perplexed looking woman standing at the bus stop, before marching up the road, a trail of yellow heads behind them.

Daffodils are cheap to buy and light up a room like the first of May. Unfortunately, tonight mine hang wilted in the vase on my living room table, their sad heads crowded together in some secret act of mourning. I should throw them out, welcome in freshness with a new ripe bunch bursting with life. But I feel attached to my dead ones, to my old ones, they are poignant and somehow regal, sad and they look like they are whispering about things I can never know about, in the hush of this room, when I have gone to bed.

It's eight days until I leave for New York. I'm feeling unprepared, and I like it. I like the fact as well that I simply can't imagine how it will be. It doesn't feel real somehow, like I am about to somehow slip behind the screen at the cinema, and find myself in some Woody Allen film, being neurotic and gesturing wildly, or else becoming a line from a Velvet Underground song, trying to score smack with Lou Reed up Lexington 125.

I've so many images in my head. I've been reared on New York mythology, and so my quest is to ride the Staten Island ferry, find myself in a bookshop entirely devoted to murder mysteries, and to stay at the Chelsea Hotel. I throw that last mission in casually, as if it were some passing desire. But the truth is, the Chelsea Hotel has resided in my mind for too many decades to not feel an incalculable pull of excitement when I think of it. Probably every artist I admire had stayed there at some point; it's been alluded to in so many songs.

And so for me "staying up for days in The Chelsea Hotel writing "Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands" for you.." has become legend in my mind. Jack Kerouac wrote "On The Road" onto a twenty foot roll of paper whilst staying there, "Naked Lunch" was completed there, Andy Warhol and all his motley crew used it as a base and made a film of it, Dylan Thomas staggered about there, and Sid Vicious stabbed Nancy Spungen to death in one of its bedrooms.

If I can't afford to stay there, I shall pace the streets outside, pressing my nose to the glass beseechingly: me a writer, a songwriter, a lover of music and words - a girl from England staring into the place that has housed all her greatest aspirations, all her wickedest and most sublime passions.

And this feels like the greatest thing to do - to travel across the world to not only meet the place I have dreamed of visiting for so long, but to meet a fellow writer, whom I have never met before; except in the dream time of words, through consonants and syllables, vowels and question marks, and the occasional voice on the end of a very far away phone.

I feel grandiose, silly perhaps, but I don't care. I'm doing this for me, and I'm doing this out of kinship with another writer, and to become a better one. I'm doing it for the love of the narrative that goes like this: two people travel thousands of miles between them, to meet in a far away city, to see the lights, to drink coffee, and because somewhere there is some understanding between them, the exact nature of which as of yet is still unseen; and to live, for even only a few moments, without big reasons, but just take up a pen and let a story unfold.

Little reasons, they cut through living with a more touching beauty, they leave a fragile trail of consequence, like tiny spots from a poet's cut, like stolen daffodils from a roadside park.

" I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
You were talking so brave and so sweet.
Giving me head on the unmade bed
While the limousines wait in the street.
And those were the reasons, and that was New York,
We were running for the money and the flesh,
And that was called love for the workers in song,
Probably still is for those of them left.
But you got away, didn't you babe,
You just turned your back on the crowd.
You got away, I never once heard you say
"I need you, I don't need you,
I need you, I don't need you"
And all of that jiving around.

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
You were famous, your heart was a legend.
You told me again, you preferred handsome men,
But for me you would make an exception.
And clenching your fist for the ones like us
Who are oppressed by the figures of beauty
You fixed yourself, you said "well never mind,
We are ugly, but we have the music".
And then you got away, didn't you babe,
You just turned your back on the crowd.
You got away, I never once heard you say
"I need you, I don't need you,
I need you, I don't need you",
And all of that jiving around

Now I don't mean to suggest that I loved you the best,
I can't keep track of each fallen robin.
I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
That's all, I don't think of you that often."

Leonard Cohen 1971 for Janis Joplin.


Anonymous said...

I really love this post. I love your whispering daffodils, discussing matters of importance into the night - I feel they care about you and share their concerns out of your earshot. I'm sure they're glad you're going to New York, saluting you as I do, looking on with nodding heads as you pack your many bags and take off. Off into the unknown... Damn, there's so much poetry in this that I can see through my closed eyes but can't quite form, the poetry of stepping out into something much bigger than you, honouring that which matters most.

Olivia said...

Davies, this rocks. I hope NY is fucking fabulous; I will think of you from my Sussex river. Mind you save some of that passion for our junket to France - it might not be the Chelsea but my god, there's going to be some debauchery going on!

suze said...

i'm just commenting because I love your photo. It looks as though you're stuffing a sandwich in your mouth, like I wish I could do to all those painfully skinny girls I see around the place..

theseus said...

absolutely beautiful