Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Aqua Mustang 16 - LIONS, TIGERS, ZEBRAS

In the spring of this year, 1986, I would ride my bike up to the Museum of Modern art. By this time I was in museums seeing my life in paintings every day.

This new bike was a Raleigh, an English racing bicycle. Before I rode it away from the store on 14th Street I had them change the handle bars from the bent-in attack-style racing kind, where you are so hunched over you see nothing but the road in front of you, to something like the bike with wide handle bars that I rode in Connecticut before I was old enough to drive. With the wide handle bars I can lean back and take in what is around me – the trees, the water. Sometimes when I am on the bicycle/runners foot path along the East River, sweating, puffing, downward looking joggers pass me. Sometimes I am up at dawn and circle Manhattan, up along the Hudson, then down along the East River. Sometimes there is a limousine waiting by the helipad on the Hudson for some mobster coming in from Atlantic City, a uniformed driver and a burly cat-eyed bodyguard standing looking at the sky. Sometimes there are still nearly naked working girls, some of them surprisingly pretty, on the look out for Jersyites who come through the tunnels. Sometimes on the East Side down past Stuyvesant Town on the lawns by the public houses there are, as the day goes on, Hispanic men setting up illegal outdoor casinos, like the illegal casinos at Italian street fairs except that here they are in operation every day in the year that the weather permits. Makeshift black jack and craps tables between stands with roasted meats and rum.

I stop just west of the museum, remove the front wheel and with a chain called Kryptonite lock it with the rest of the bike to a “No Parking” sign post. I hear a voice – sweet, with English overtones - saying “What a neat bike,” Fred. It is Gillian. We may not have met yet but like in all 12-step ventures we have heard so much of each other’s stories in fierce Manhattan ACOA meetings that we know each other better than we would as long-time friends, though we know each other only from a fairly public place, the wild Sunday night meetings in the Corlears School on 15th Street.

Gillian is seated in a canvas chair on the sidewalk. She has a sign, drawn with a girlish hand, that says


And she has laid a sheet on the sidewalk and on it is a huge array of wooden Africa fetish figures she is selling.

She asks if I a member of MOMA, which is something I have been meaning to do because I am here several times a week and cannot get in without paying full fare. I appreciate her interest. I go into the museum, retrace times of terror with Gorky, and as usual get great hope from the small Matisse bronzes of nude women reclining, and especially from his tall painting called “The Piano Lesson” where a boy who seems on a knife’s edge is at a piano, behind and above him a harsh sickly old women keeping track, but in his line of sight a bronze Matisse nude right here in the painting. I think I see the bronze girl stir and stretch. On the way out I stop to buy a membership.

On the sidewalk, Gillian and I exchange phone numbers, which does not have to be significant since people in the meetings routinely give each other their numbers.

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