This is an ode to you, my Holly:
You’re looking quite glorious this morning — all decked out in sunlight so bright it appears hazy; with your birds going bonkers in trees, as if they’re still coked-out of their little heads since 2 a.m., once you closed your clubs and bolted shut your dive bars. And if it weren’t for the frequent sirens (those fuckers woke me up today!), I could pretend I lived somewhere like paradise. Or the Greek Isles. But only until I step out — out and into — letting you hit me with your tales of humanity, my Holly, of which you have galore.
You weren’t so easy to fall in love with, my Holly; and it doesn’t really make me cool to fess up to it.
It is much cooler to dig New York. Because New York always treats you like an arrogant lover to whose skills in the sack you find yourself quickly addicted; confusing all that lust, and all those hormones — and its reeking fluids — for love. But when it doesn’t work out with New York, you are sure to find another brokenhearted with the same addiction. Then, you can all hang your heads over your drinks at a random dive bar — in Holly — and share your scars.
With you, my Holly, it’s different. You are much quicker to reveal your armpits and your glitz. You’re such an exhibitionist! But it took some serious hanging with you and more patience than I knew to possess to discover the pockets of those tribes and ‘hoods to which I didn’t mind belonging.
And so: This is an ode to you, my Holly!
To the jingling sound with which you tickled my ears yesterday, at one of your art spaces. It was so dainty and arhythmic, I was sure it belonged to a lovely, fragile installation I just had to see. But when I looked around for the source, I found it on the ankles of a tiny girl-child, in the arms of her Indian mother. So intensely was my stare, the young mother got startled at first.
“She’s lovely,” I said; nodded and quickly walked on by.
The woman relaxed and smiled. “It’s alright. She’s brown. She’s ‘one of us’,” she must’ve thought, of me.
It surely helped that you’ve found my skin color so perfectly democratic from the start: Smoothly, I become “one of them,” “ethnically ambiguous,” or just “not from around here” — depending on whom you ask. To my comrades visiting from Beverly Hills, I am “sort of white” — but mostly “spiritual”. Next to a brown man, I am his “hot Brazilian girlfriend”. But really, it’s the Chicanos and their gorgeous, curvy brown girls that dig me the most: Somehow, they know I’m not above their strife, not too far off from their survival. And the further in crawls your long summer — the darker I get — the more I become “one of them”. And it is just my fucking luck it’s more fashionable to be “exotic” anyway, around here. Around you, these days.
A balding, sadly aging museum guard with a blubbery body absorbed me with his wet eyes, yesterday. No way he could ever afford a girl like me; and if he happened to touch her, she could only tempt him from behind the screen of his computer. Or from a stripper pole, at a safe distance. When I looked at him, he freaked, turned away and adjusted his crotch.
“Don’t look now, mister,” I thought at the back of his clammy bald spot, “but you’re standing right in between DIVORCE and REAL HUMAN HAIR.” (They were signs that some artist found ironic enough to replicate and hang onto the wall that the sadly aging man was guarding — but for not enough money to afford a girl like me. The irony — worked.)
“She’s brown. She’s ‘one of them’,” he must’ve thought; and when I granted him the last profile of my face, he turned away and adjusted his crotch — again.
I am anonymous, like the hundreds of your graffiti artists that tag your skin with their marks. My markings are not as well distributed yet (my publicist sucks!); but I too prefer to blend in, moving in between your demographics, collecting my stories when no one is looking, often in the dark. And once the mission is accomplished, I walk away with enough surrender to not have to sweat about what’s going to happen to my work. Because, once I’ve found what I dig in life — humanity, of which you, my Holly, have galore! — patience comes as easily as breathing.
I am content with being your next Bukowski, hanging with you long enough to see your other layers (not necessarily pretty or dignified, but always relevant) and drooling at your girls: Yesterday’s stunning Filipino creature in a tiny, ruffly skirt with strategically placed beauty marks all over her face. The funky Harajuku girls who stormed past me with their fashions and smells and chatter, making me grin moronically and confusedly. The African princess on your subway with a wide wrist band of faded gold who played with the ringlets of her hair for the three very short stops. The young Mexican girl accompanying her awkward, unknowing boy who granted me a tiny nod:
“Aren’t you brown? You must be ‘one of us’!”
This is an ode to you, my Holly; to your being so many things, depending on where I look, how long I hang, and whom I ask — sort of like me.
You are sort of like me: democratic, and anonymous, and not above the strife. You’re “one of them” when I find you discomforting, “one of us” — when you reveal something I don’t mind poking. Or jotting down, leaving my mark.
Strangely, against all fashion, I’m into. Into you. I’m into your people. And as I continue to walk your streets — so strange, worn-out, used-up, repaired; tagged and marked-up; not necessarily pretty or dignified but always poignant — I offer my ode to your humanity, of which, my Holly, you have galore.
And so: This is an ode to you, my Holly…