Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lifetime Friend

A  L  O  H  A  !

"Keep true

 to the dreams 

of your youth. "

Friedrich von Schiller

Farewell Noodle  (what it is here: LINK )

" A loving person 

lives in a loving world.

 A hostile person

 lives in a hostile world. 

Everyone you meet 

is your mirror."

Ken Keyes

" You can't build joy

 on a feeling 

of self-loathing. "

Ram Dass

Every August I post a tribute 

to a great friend,

a lifetime friend,

 that I lost a long time ago.

I never fail to think of him during his birth month,

 and smile at his "issues" about sharing it

 with National Clown Month!

You were no clown Carl.
I'll never forget you.

I was 15 in a new neighborhood.

The High School I attended was a big, modern red brick factory, a "good" school. But I found it rather dehumanizing.

While the Beatles sang, and I attended the first Earth Day in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park, my school was run by crew-cutted, career educators who believed in instilling certain values in the boys and girls in order to stem the tide of psychedelic social rebellion that they abhorred.

Criticism had not yet been supplanted by "self esteem."

Then I met a boy 

who lived a couple of miles away

 and attended another school,

 where he was the butt of abuse

 for being dark and quiet 

with amazingly expressive brown eyes.

Carl's House, Google Street View

The bullys loved to see
 pain register
 in those eyes
and they called him 
The Mexican.

He was actually Jewish,
 with a grandfather who had escaped
 poverty, sanctioned abuse, 
and a forced 20 year stretch 
in the Russian Army,
 by leaving Russia on horse back;
 and who had a picture of himself 
smoking a hookah with some sepia 
Turkoman traders. 

"Fuck the Czar" he always began
 when asked about those days.

 I cannot hear anything about the Czar 
on the History Channel or anywhere else 
without muttering "Fuck the Czar" 
under my breath in tribute to the old man.

One time, Carl (my friend)
 tried to shock grandpa
 by inviting him to smoke 
some hash with us.

"Hashish?! He asked incredulously.

"You want to smoke hashish!? - 

Hashish you EAT!!!!!"

We laughed about that for years.

Heck, I still do!

We were both carrying some baggage, OK, 
full baggage-cars FULL of baggage.

We hid out together in his bedroom 
and he taught me everything 
about classic films, though people called them
 "old movies" then, 
and they papered late night TV 
clotted with commercials.

He showed me the classic movie goddesses and heroes.
We learned about history, sociology, and culture.
Together we gasped at Busby Berkley's choreography,
and Cagney's style.

We especially loved the film noir of the 50's
 which spoke well to the lingering, sooty
 Philadelphia that we lived in.

Our lives entwined.

Sometimes we'd drive to Chinatown
 in his mom's Mercury at 3 am for Wor Shu Op
 (Pressed Duck) at the old South China on 10th street.
 One night, Jerry Stiller (Frank Costanza LINK) walked in
 to get take out; he was performing in town 
with his wife: Stiller & Meara. 
Their kid, Ben, was in footsie pajamas - 
not comedy movies - back then.

Carl and I learned about life together. 
We grew up
 a bit.

"Your boyfriend's gay" 
my helpful parents pointed out. 

Eventually, Carl graduated, went to college,
 and moved to New York City
 as he had always dreamed. 

He was a professional sign language interpreter
 in the courts - learning everything
 about a fascinating reality.

He was free of his abusers,
 had respect, 
and had learned to respect

It was the best time ever
 to be a gay man:
The 1970's in Manhattan!

He was so excited 
when they asked him to be
 one of the first sign language interpreters
 to perform on the front 
of the Broadway Stage.

There he was in the playbill!

Chopinsky had been shortened to Chopin.

He was beautiful, sought after, 
and sharing the stage with Tommy Tune,
 Honey Coles and
in "My One and Only."
Just one of many productions
 that featured him.

During intermission,
 the hearing audience 
was buzzing about how they
 couldn't take their eyes off
 the guy signing.

And Tommy Tune 
was dancing at his peak then!

Then lots of guys started to get sick.

Carl's kidneys failed and he went on relief
 and on dialysis.
His outer beauty (so important to us then)
 dimmed - but his soulful eyes
 grew only richer and deeper.
I can close my eyes 
and look into them still.

I visited him before moving to Hawaii.

But we would always stay close.

So much of each other, 
so many memories and landmarks 
shared. . . .

Carl died in the AIDS epidemic.

A famed psychic 
once told me that two friends 
who have passed 
accompany me through life.

Perhaps I'll tell you about 
the other friend on another occasion.
But I know the one of them
is Carl.

We used to say:

 "If I close my eyes, you are still there.
There is more to our friendship
 than what can be touched or heard."

So true.

I often wonder how middle-aged me 
looks to forever young 
and handsome Carl. 
Some day we'll laugh about it.

If your friend(s) of adolescence 
are still in this world,
 call them today. 

Tell them Carl and I 

say "Aloha."

You can read more about our times here: LINK

A L O H A, True Friend