Straight Outta Wilmington

It’s been a while since I’ve donned the ol’ pith helmet to engage in some good ol’ fashioned anthropology.  However, this weekend my erstwhile grief counselor and now lawfully wedded wife Caroline (pictured below) and I travelled up Highway 17 to Wilmington, North Carolina to catch her friend Edie Senter in an all-female DJ contest held before an Ice Cube concert.[1]

The only other rap performance I’d attended was a Ludacris show at a multi-stage street festival, so I was curious if Ice Cube might offer a more diverse subject matter than Ludacris’s narrow obsession with “bitches” and “hos.”

We had VIP tickets, which allowed us a perch above the groundlings and provided us with easy access to refreshments in a semi-enclosed area. Edie’s husband Dustin, a club owner and impresario, hosted us as we took in the sights and sounds of the celebration, part of Wilmington’s Azalea Festival. After the event, he took us to one of the clubs for some further late empire partying.

Dustin and I-and-I

The MC in charge, a fellow whose name I didn’t catch, provided some fairly entertaining tunes but suffered from that common malady of radio personalities, an unassailable love of the sound of his own voice.  In addition, he had the tedious habit of extolling the audience to raise the decibel level of their responses.

“I can’t hear you?” etc.

Anyway, I especially enjoyed Edie’s performance. Beaming 100-watt smiles while bopping to the beat, she clearly loves spinning,

Here’s a way too short snippet.

 

 

If there were a God, Edie would have won instead of coming in second, but the flawed Queen-for-a-Day applause meter reckoning had her ending up in second.

I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Cube and wish I had been familiar with his work.  When I mentioned to my 40-something pals at school I had been seeing the former founding member of NWA, they started gnawing their arms with envy.  Once again, this snippet in short and at a distance.

 

 

One last peek into the dangerous life of an ethnologist from the one of Dustin’s clubs.

 


[1]Even though I perform hip-hop under the stage name, Nilla Puddin’, I know about as much about rap as I do the regional cuisine of Lombardy.

In Populous City Pent

 

Far from our southern border where children torn from their parents languish in cages, the din of a Midtown Manhattan construction project is wreaking genuine havoc.

Think Noah’s Ark:

How for so many bedlam hours his saw

Soured the song of birds with its wheezy gnaw,

And the slam of his hammer all the day beset

The people’s ears.

But here, we’re talking jackhammers, pile drivers.

Dig this from yesterday’s NYT:

Ms. Brown, who has lived on the block since 1969, blames the cacophony in part for her new $5,000 hearing aids.

Her miniature poodle, Dorian Gray, has been even more affected: he’s taking Trazodone, a tranquilizer. (“One tablet orally up to three times daily as needed for calming during construction,” the bottle helpfully directs.)

[snip]

Apart from Dorian Gray’s anxiety, Ms. Kelly’s dog, Lola, now shakes even when the jackhammers are idle. The cat living at No. 66, Titania of the Greil, is “overgrooming” and fighting irritable bowel syndrome, while Meadow at No. 51 is a “nervous wreck.” Birds on the block have stopped singing, one resident complained.

Poor Dorian, no more languid lolling, alas.

The Alms of Palsied Eld

Consume my heart away; sick with desire

And fastened to a dying animal

It knows not what it is

WB Yeats

 

Gustav Klimt

Gustave Klimt: Old Man on His Deathbed 

One of the coolest speeches concerning the decrepitude of old age is the Duke’s contempto mundi screed in Measure for Measure, delivered to poor Claudio who has (to use guidance counsellors’ dearest cliché´) made a bad choice.

He’s impregnated his fiancée.

Not a capital crime, you muse.  Well, fornication hadn’t been until the Duke’s successor Angelo took over the government and started enforcing every law on the books, no matter how ancient or unjust.  Addressing Claudio on the eve of his supposed execution, the Duke offers some words of recompense for a life cut short (and a rather lurid peek into a future none of us wants to consider):

If thou [old person] art rich, thou’rt poor;

For, like an ass whose back with ingots bows,

Thou bear’st thy heavy riches but a journey,

And death unloads thee. Friend hast thou none;

For thine own bowels,[1] which do call thee sire,

The mere effusion of thy proper loins,

Do curse the gout, serpigo, and the rheum,

For ending thee no sooner. Thou hast nor youth nor age;

But, as it were, an after-dinner’s sleep,

Dreaming on both; for all thy blessed youth

Becomes as aged, and doth beg the alms

Of palsied eld; and when thou art old and rich,

Thou hast neither heat, affection, limb, nor beauty,

To make thy riches pleasant [. . .]

Yeah, but!  There’re still crossword puzzles, unread novels, Fletcher Henderson recordings, sunsets, that majestic roof fretted with golden fire, Shakespeare himself . . .

***

Nevertheless, I, too, admit I’d rather die than get shipped off to a nursing home.  Luckily, my late wife Judy’s parents avoided that fate as did my daddy and my mama (and both sets of grandparents). My wife Caroline’s father is still going strong alone at eighty.

Unfortunately, Judy’s grandmothers ended up in a “home,” and each trip down to St. Simons when Birdie and Gramma were among the quick included the resiquite visit to the motel-like care facilities where they languished.

Although the two women had been nothing alike before their relocation – Birdie a gardener and world traveler, Gramma sedentary, a knitter –  afterwards, their conversation consisted of the same broken record, a litany of complaints: stolen jewelry, bad food, bodily decay, a life not worth living.

Still, they appeared to be in much better shape that the wheel-chair bound specimens parked on the front terrace as you walked in. It was like something out of Brueghel or Bosch: skeletons, twisted into fetal position, oblivious, with open maws, or others, non-comatose, but wild-eyed and confabulating, living a hallucination.

08crippl

Breughel: The Beggars

 

Terrible to witness, but a brave soul must stare down horror if he or she wants to go wide-eyed and laughing to the grave.

* * *

No one –  no matter how successful or accomplished – can be assured that he or she won’t end up warehoused in some facility.

Among the famous names to have been shunted [at Motion Picture Country House] are Johnny Weissmuller, best known for playing Tarzan, and Oscar-winning actress Mary Astor who was remembered for sitting aloofly at her own dinner table.

The actor DeForest Kelley – Dr McCoy from Star Trek – spent his last days enjoying the picturesque palm trees and topiary. Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Oscar, for her portrayal of “Mammy” in Gone with The Wind, and director Stanley Kramer, who was nominated for nine Oscars, were also residents.

To think that Tarzan spent his last days cooped up in a Hollywood nursing home!  Gazing at picturesque palm trees and topiary ain’t gonna cut it for someone who swung through the jungle on vines.

Then there’s Samuel Beckett, who ended up in a Paris maison de repos.

About a year ago, after falling in his apartment, he moved to a nearby nursing home, where he continued to receive visitors. He lived his last year in a small, barely furnished room. He had a television set on which he continued to watch major tennis and soccer events, and several books, including his boyhood copy of Dante’s ”Divine Comedy” in Italian.

On July 17 this year, his wife died and he left the nursing home to attend the funeral. Late this year, after he became ill, he was moved to a hospital. There are no immediate survivors.

 

samuel_beckett

Damn, Beckett dies in a Beckett play.

***

Who better to have the last word than Philip Larkin?

Perhaps being old is having lighted rooms

Inside you head, and people in them, acting

People you know, yet can’t quite name; each looms

Like a deep loss restored, from known doors turning,

Setting down a lamp, smiling from a stair, extracting

A known book from the shelves; or sometimes only

The rooms themselves, chairs and a fire burning,

The blown bush at the window, or the sun’s

Faint friendliness on the wall some lonely

Rain-ceased midsummer evening. That is where they live:

Not here and now, but where all happened once.

 


[1]In my case, Harrison and Ned