Born on a Thursday #47 – awake, alive

As I was cycling home, I realized that there are a lot of people who were pivotal in (saving) my life during that time (the 90s) in New York – and so many of those people who were important to my development as a writer and artist and loving human being, I will never see again. There I was, pedaling slowly up the mesa, into the sunset, with cars flying past me and tears streaming down my face.

I felt awake, and more alive than I have felt in a long while.

It feels like we are at dawn in the earth’s cycle around the sun. Light is breaking through on the edges of the horizon and creatures are stirring.

view from where i write (c) holly troy 2014The other evening, I was done with work, but not ready to go home (I’ve been this way for a couple of weeks now). Sydney suggested a hike. While hiking, we both felt the feeling of the earth quickening. By the time we were leaving the woods, the sky was a dark chalky blue and the moon was pale yellow. We talked about the moon and sky, love and relationships, sex and sexuality, creativity and creative process, survival, money, how we are valued and how we value ourselves (the usual for us).

This week I’ve been working too much on things that don’t matter to me. After Tuesday night’s hike, Wednesday felt flat – too much sitting and protocol, too much work for the amount of hours I am allotted and valued for. And then I saw that Maggie Estep died. Maggie was a poet, novelist, and spoken word artist. She was someone who was a part of my world when I lived in the East Village – on the periphery, yes – but still part of it. While she was able to express her rage, I was navigating my anger and sexuality quietly (and I still scared the shit out of men). I am grateful for her, for her ability to say things I tended to keep more private.

As I was cycling home, I realized that there are a lot of people who were pivotal in (saving) my life during that time (the 90s) in New York – and so many of those people who were important to my development as a writer and artist and loving human being – I will never see them again. There I was, pedaling slowly up the mesa, into the sunset, with cars flying past me and tears streaming down my face.

I felt awake, and more alive than I have felt in a long while.


Maggie doing her thing:

I still feel like an emotional idiot!

And I still hate being harassed (though it’s not as frequent as it was in NYC).

  1. RIP Maggie Estep (1963-2014) age 50

    “I HAVE TO WRITE because I don’t know what else to do with my mind, how else to make sense of the world and its inhabitants. For whatever reason, I have trained myself, for many years, to do this thing. And when I don’t do this thing, I get crazy. No amount of yoga, bicycle racing, rapacious sex, or buying things can take the place of writing. If I don’t write, I die.”
    —Maggie Estep (1963-February 12, 2014) age 50
    Last Friday, February 7, she participated in a panel & shared reading at Oblong Books & Music, Rhinebeck, NY (with Sari Botton, Chloe Caldwell, and Dana Kinstler), “Goodbye To All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York”

    “Until the Women’s Movement, it was commonplace to be told by an editor that he’d like to publish more of my poems, but he’d already published one by a woman that month … this attitude was the rule rather than the exception, until the mid-sixties. Highest compliment was to be told, ‘You write like a man.’ “
    —Maxine Kumin (1925-February 6, 2014) age 88,
    US Poet Laureate 1981-82. Above statement written 1983.
    She died a week ago—just last Thursday

    “What has made our nation great, despite its tortuous history steeped in slavery, are those who have persisted in honoring [individual] freedoms, starting with the Constitution and its amendments. It is this striving toward making those freedoms available to every citizen, regardless of race, creed, color, gender or origin, that makes the rest of the insanity tolerable.”
    —Wanda Coleman (1946- November 22, 2013) aged 67
    “unofficial poet laureate of Los Angeles”

     You would seem to have arrived at that time in your life, dear younger Sister Redroot, when many of your elder s/heroes and even some (more) of your own contemporary & near-contemporary cohort s/heroes are starting to pass from this Plane/plain.  I can assure you, from my perspective of a few laps ahead of you on this track, that this does start to accelerate very quickly beyond a point which comes far too soon for any of us.  There is a distinct loneliness, or at least increasing aloneness involved—aloneness from folks one knew longest & best.  But also a certain settling of the mantle on our own shoulders: it becomes more than ever our responsibility to “carry cultural/conscious evolution forward”—“all on our own now” as it were...as it is now and ever more and more shall be.  
     This is one reason it is so important—and of course wonderful!—to constantly continue to meet younger persons and to cultivate richly deep camaraderie with them.  For instance when, as a very young man in the mid 1960s, I got to know Dorothy Day (1897-1980), I was simply amazed/horrified to learn from her that in November 1917, the same month she turned 20, she had, along with forty other women, been imprisoned—where she was beaten and injured by male guards—for picketing the White House in peaceful protest on behalf of women to get the franchise to vote! Even though, as an anarchist, she declined/distained to exercise her right to vote (achieved three years after her White House protest and prison beating), dying at 83 without ever having cast a single ballot.  As a child of 9, living in San Francisco, she had survived the earthquake; 51 years later, while working for Civil Rights in the South, she was targeted by drive-by shooters from the Klan, but ducked just before their bullets struck, inches from her face.  
     We have to pass on the heritage of heroism like this to those who are still wondering what ridiculous trendy/obscenely overly-pricey brand of designer handbags and pants they want to be seen wearing, or which team will win the Superbowl, or which major will likely lead to the best future career income.  As Julia Buttefly Hill (turns 40 next Tuesday!) reminds us, if it wasn't for women (like Day) who risked their lives in earlier generations, women today wouldn't be able to legally and freely wear yoga pants or pants of any kind, anywhere. They'd be arrested and beaten. And without the generations of heroic women (and men) who went to prison and to death before us, black women (and men, and children) would still be slaves.  
     We have to continue to receive and further nurture the many gifts from our few surviving elder heroes, and even from our own contemporaries who are now starting to leave us in ever-increasing numbers, and carefully hand these gifts on to those rushing up behind us as we all careen together into the future.  Let's hope we have enough time & grace to do some creditable justice to what we have received and to what we also owe the younger heroes growing up among us.  
     I love what younger Sister Maggie (now gone just yesterday at only 50!) gave us, and what Sister Maxine and Sister Wanda gave us—such a rich, rich heritage.  So sorry to see them all depart, but our joy must now be in further nurturing and building upon their gifts as part of the heritage we expand and pass forward to our younger brothers and sisters, our children and grandchildren.  Rest in peace Maggie!—meaning, make em stomp and hoot and laugh and clap and cheer at your next gig, Wherever that is.  Same with you, Maxine and Wanda, and all you others stepping out these days on into the brighter dimensions.  They can probably use you There as well, to help move things along, poetically and otherwise.                       
     Thanks, veteran Punk Poet Diva Redroot Sister, for sending along this word about Poet Maggie's sudden departure—I hadn't yet seen/heard the sad news.  
     I'm glad she had moved on from NYC in the past few years, to a significantly healthier life-base in the small-town Upstate countryside.   
     It seems you have been thinking a lot lately about your early NY days in the East Village, yeah? 
     You must be staggered at times, as Maggie mentions having been, by many of the changes since your major time there.  Whenever I walk by Washington Square I think of Dorothy Day standing there silently selling her Catholic Worker newspaper from 1933 on—always for one cent a copy (even now!). Or tottering by in her youth, propping up a skunked Eugene O'Neil, and seeing him home before climbing into bed with him for a chaste sleep-it-off nap.  And I think back to those same days when young Shigetsu Sasaki (1882-1945), later Sokei-an Roshi, close friend of my first childhood Zen teacher, haunted the Square as a Village poet, artist, actor and dancer, co-creating & publishing poems with his younger bohemian friend, the already-not-quite-crazy Maxwell Bodenheim (1892-1954).  
     When I was a child, it was still possible, when in the Village, to be taken along by mutual adult friends, to have tea with e.e. cummings (1894-1962), the shockingly/disgustingly anti-Semitic poet who wrote such famously charming love verse.  He lived at Patchin Place then, a couple of windows over from the already reclusive Djuna Barnes (1892-1982) who had lived in her rooms there at PP since the 19-teens or 20s, I think.  Well into my adult years, it was possible to arrange to visit with her too—if, again, one had mutual long time “friends.”  I knew a neighbor who use to fetch important staples for her like cheap booze and Gitane cigs.  Neither of these living-ancient Village bohemian royals was particularly pleasant (& both reeked of very stale tobacco & worse) but the sense of immense living heritage was not lost on anyone, including themselves in their dotage.  
     Even in the years when I spent a little time in (& mostly out of) the City (60s-90s), there was sometimes something so magical about odd corners in the Village—enchanting echoes & redolent wafts of older creative times and people, all the way back to Whitman and beyond—something in the air that had been passed along in unbroken succession through-and-by generations of poets and artists and peace-&-justice radicals and other bohemians—including a few who turned out to be not only heroes but even achieved mystics & living saints (Sokei-an, Merton, Lax, Day, others) before they shuffled off to higher ever-fresher ground.  
     You could turn a corner, back during the 60s, on your way any morning to have your first coffee, and run into bohemian legends from the 'teens-through-'30s heading your way for their first cup also; in fact it was quite common!  As it also very much was then in San Francisco—a City/ambience I greatly prefer over that of NYC.  But the many multiple kismetic cultural layers were densest and oldest for that sort of thing in the Village, for sure.  After all, it hadn't suffered the earthquake and fire of 1906 that destroyed so much of the “Barbary Coast” City known to folks like Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), Ella Young (1867-1956), Jack London (1876-1916), and others who had once made that hometown of mine their chosen stomping ground.              
    

    This first Maggie video is the best of these links, but the other links are good, too:

    http://www.oblongbooks.com/event_GoodbyeToAllThat

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/popcandy/2014/02/12/maggie-estep-obit/5425053/

    http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-maggie-estep-has-died-20140212,0,5410769.story#axzz2tG5Cb2Gg

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    1. patrick – thank you so much for this. i must respond more deeply than with a thank you, but you know me, sometimes it takes a few days.

      http://rogovoyreport.com/2014/02/14/my-maggie/

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