Year-End Report: 2008
I gave up on the Rockaways house when the replacement architect told me it wouldn't be finished in 2008, no matter how hard I tried. After seven years of being strung out by architects' promises, throwing more and more money with no visible results, I screamed Uncle and instead purchased, probably at a price too high, so desperate was I to end the continuing Nightmare, a terminating knitting factory on the corner of Norman Street and Wyckoff Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens (11385), a curiously undefined neighborhood. From the east end of the Halsey St. stop on the L-train, look catty corner for a single-story windowless factory with graffiti on its walls. As everyone who needs to know knows, the L-train has become the spiffiest line in the NYC/MTA as it goes across 14th Street through Williamsburg to Broadway Junction (where it connects to the A-Train that goes to JFK airport and Rockaway beaches).
Only 22 minutes from Union Square, Wordship II, as it shall be christened, is no further away from downtown Manhattan than, say, the Upper West Side or Upper East Side. It also has cleaner air. My parents and paternal grandparents are buried only several hundred yards away.
This should be my terminal house with 5000 square feet of interior space plus 2000 square feet of mezzanine for my library and archive. The interior should be spectacular, beginning with a floor of my design entirely with words and display boards with my visual art. Journalists have already asked to write about Wordship II. The building is fireproof and very secure, with very few windows. One of the mezzanines has a caretaker's apartment with two rooms and a bath + shower where I can legally reside, which I'll call my Country Home (as an ideal retreat for someone who dislikes leaving NYC as much as I do). I expect to be sleeping there by March.
Meanwhile know that my 34-year-old apartment with 1825 square feet, by common consent the quietest loft in SoHo, is for sale (and partial renovation no doubt). A neighborhood broker promises to represent it once I clean it out, which is my principal present activity. Until that happens, please tell possible purchasers that Wordship, as I christened it long ago, is 200 yards south of the NYU library, 100 yards away from its pool and gym, around the corner from an Apple computer store, close to several subways, and smack in the middle of one of SoHo's most attractive residential streets with high-end furniture retailers.
The most likely customers so far have been an octogenarian couple who can no longer hack the stairway of their own building elsewhere in SoHo and provincial professors who would like to retire to downtown Manhattan (that is culturally richer than, say, uptown or Florida). Both of them appreciated my division of the space into a bedroom, a windowless back space (ideal for storing books or paintings), a front room roughly 22' square, and a dining space roughly 25' x 8' with no visible pillars. Until Wyckoff Ave. becomes my public address, consider using the old Prince St. PO Box, which I expect to visit at least twice a week; and should my email address change, know that the moniker of my eponymous website won't.
At Wordship II I'd like to institute a regular salon that would meet @ 5 pm. on the last Sunday of every month, initially with showings of my works that haven't been seen in years. Consider 25 January and 22 February. Should you want your email address on the announcement list, please let me know. These would be the best times for casual meetings. See where 20,000 books went, not to mention works of art by me and others. Especially because my visual art never found an effective gallery, I'll need to establish my own. Previously Earl of Wordship, I shall now also respond to Lord WhyCough.
My principal publishing project this past year has been small editions, produced mostly in my studio, of languishing texts, always on paper, but sometimes in clear containers. I hope to display these in the new space. Because a lack of workspace in SoHo kept me from completing too many projects, I expect that, once set up in Wyckoff Avenue (not "W. Street," which is in Brooklyn, please note), I'll devote more time than before to cleaning up my legacies (as I appear to have more than one-see below).
Since architectural incompetence was so egregious in the Rockaway house, I had to sue the architect who took money for a job he could not finish. He is defended by an insurance company that apparently assumes if it can postpone final judgment long enough I might die. Though a suit was initiated three years ago, with my lawyer working for a 25% contingency fee, we still haven't gotten beyond painful depositions.
The NYC summer was particularly hospitable to this beach boy with more sunny days (or fewer rainy days) than any other within memory. Most were spent in the Rockaways at Beach 60th Street swimming and bodysurfing in the afternoons. Having discovered recently that the notorious Ponzi-schemer Bernard Madoff began his adult employment as a Rockaways lifeguard, I'll be skeptical the next time one of my buddies in the high chairs promises to sell me some property in the sand. (After the newspaper publication of a photo of Barak Obama bodysurfing, he got my vote.) At the 50th reunion of my high school class we were more open and comfortable with each other Saturday afternoon in our informal school cafeteria than in the formal hotel rooms we rented for the evenings.
I've continued springboard diving, customarily three times a week, improving my elevation and form, training assiduously for the (Very) Senior Olympics in 2012. Once at the NYU pool, I have no trouble diving continuously for an hour, as flying stylishly is such a thrill. Only when I return home do I feel exhausted.
A few years ago I discovered in walking that my lower left leg would become somewhat numb after several minutes and then that this numbness was go away after several more minutes of continuing walking. Consulting neurologists I heard one doc judge that I had CIDP, a second that I had not CIDP spinal stenosis, and a third speculate about diabetes. (Blood tests proved this hypothesis negative.) Needing neither surgery nor drugs, I continued diving and neglected investigating this problem until applying for long-term care insurance two years ago. My premium was denied because the stenosis diagnosis appeared on one record. Meanwhile, the numbness occurs much less often. My current problem with the insurance companies is that the numbness exists only in my testimony. An MRI discovered only a visible constriction in my lower spine; but this is not uncommon. What to do? Forget about it?
I went to Castellon along the Mediterranean coast of Spain to open a John Cage festival with my classic polyartistry lecture. Recalling that my surname is derived from Castellanos, the ear speaking a truth that can escape the eye, I'd hoped to find someone who might have known my family before they got out of this town some 516 years ago, but no luck. There wasn't even a synagogue. On New Year's Day, 2009, I expect to open the annual marathon at the Bowery Poetry Club around 1:45 pm. with my classic silent poetry show.
Toward Secession: 156 More Political Essays finally appeared from Autonomedia, to less fanfare than I hoped, given my thesis; but in its pages I spoke about how avant-garde ideas (and art), which is what I make, tend to be better recognized long after their initial appearance. I've since prepared a sequel, likewise of previous uncollected pieces (including the extended memoir about Brown University that goes beyond others of its kind), that should soon appear as Skeptical Essays for the 21st Century. New booklets published by others included Simultaneous Translations (Arnold, MO: Cornerstone), Scram/Bleds (Columbus, OH: Luna Bisonte), and Po/ems (Rockford, MI: Presa). Thanks, Anthony, John, and Eric, as each is extraordinary. Thanks to the gallerist Holly Crawford, enlarged pages of Scram/Bleds are displayed until 17 January on both walls of a narrow space at the AC [Institute Direct Chapel] Gallery at 547 West 27th S, 5th Fl, North Alcove, open Wed, Fri & Sat, 1-6 pm.; Thurs 1-8 pm. Check it out if you can, and let me know what you think.
Only recently I discovered that my work has been acknowledged at some length in a great variety of histories of contemporary culture: Ronald S. Berman's America in the Sixties (1967), Ihab Hassan's Contemporary American Literature (1973), Robert Spiller's Literary History of the United States (fourth ed., 1974), The Reader's Adviser (1969 & 1974), Daniel Hoffman's Harvard Guide to Contemporary American Writing (1979), Irving and Anne D. Weiss's Thesaurus of Book Digests 1950-1980 (1981), George Myers' Introduction to Modern Times (1982), David Cope's New Directions in Music (1984), Joan Lyons' Artists' Books (1985), Tom Holmes' Electronic and Experimental Music (1985), Jamake Highwater's Shadow Show (1986), Columbia Literary History of the United States (1988), Eric Salzman's Twentieth-Century Music: An Introduction (third edition, 1988), Tom Johnson's The Voice of the New Music (1989), Robert Siegle's Suburban Ambush (1989), John Rodden's The Politics of Literary Reputation (1989), The Reader's Catalog (1989), Lydia Goehr's The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works (1992), Samuel R. Delany's About Writing (2005), Kyle Gann's Music Downtown (2006), Sally Banes's Before, Between, and Beyond: Three Decades of Dance Writing (2007), C. T. Funkhouser's Prehistoric Digital Poetry (2007), and Geza Perneczky's Assembling Magazines 1969-2000 (2007). Amazed I was when I put this list together. Need I add a list with subjects so various might be unique and then that I did not know most of these people before they wrote about me, though I've met several of them since. My works succeed and thus survive precisely because one or another appeals enormously to strangers.
To all recipients who have read so far, please accept my best wishes for the coming year.