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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Beat Street Year

Sometimes before you can move forward (happy new year!) you have to look back.
What happened in Ruby’s life this year (1958) in Greenwich Village--and on author's days? Just a few highlights I want to share:

1. Sophie and Ruby’s Paris dreams:



"...J’attends, tu attends, nous attendons, vous attendez… we are all waiting for Paris. But. I promise you. We’re not going to Versailles or La Tour Eiffel, boring! We’re going to live like Scott and Zelda and Anais Nin. And like Ruby says Gertrude Stein said, “I write for myself and strangers.” That’s what Ruby’s going to do."  --Sophie Tanya

2. Elena’s fiancĂ© Jimmy talks about how he got together with the woman of his dreams:


"I had to have something though, something I do that would impress her. I can cook pretty good, but her mom can too. I started lifting weights and I got pretty strong. But that wasn't enough either. Then I started filling out, getting older, you know, and she started to look at me more.

Still couldn't figure out what to do with myself so I started being nice to people. I mean extra nice, opening the door for ladies, giving bums my nickels, that sort of thing. Smiling a lot so they called me Smilin' Jim. And Elena started noticing. 

You're not like the other boys, she said, and I said, I'm just being me, Elena. And miracle of miracles, she started to like me.

Now and again I’d get in the boxing ring, for a little bread, if you know what I mean. Pretty girl don't come cheap, she wants to go out dancing, go to a different restaurant than the one her parents had. I want her to be happy and give her what she wants.

You gotta be tough in the ring, but I didn’t tell her I was doing it. Wanted her to think I was always nice, you know, listening to people’s troubles and buying their kids lollipops.

Then one night I'm in the ring, beatin' the stuffing out of some poor sap, and I look up and see her. Staring at me plain as day and I think, that’s it, I'm done for. Practically started crying right then and there. But when the fight’s over she comes over and I think, she’s gonna slap my face.  Instead, she throws her arms around me, shaking like a leaf.

I knew you could do it, Jimmy, she says in a whisper. I always knew you were holding back. I don't say nothing, just stare at her. And just like that, she kisses me so hard I’m nearly faintin’ in front of the guy I just knocked out."  --Jim


3. Ruby shares the last line of one of her poems:

In the Key of Heat

Sweet fleet beat of the street
Rising heat
From the white of the sidewalk
And the conga sound of the
Bonga bonga bongos
Every spring they sprout like toadstools
In the key of heat
Over Egypt and Khartoum and the
rain
In Brazil
Drum rain beating on the heads of
birds
And umbrellas while the sky goes
Clean white empty trumpet beating
RED out of the sky
And we’re moving into it or is the beat moving us
Every spring
In the key of heat
Sweet, fleet Beat Street

Waking dreams

--Ruby Tabeata
96 Perry Street, NYC
1958

Author days (2014):

1. Thirties movies did better by women than any other decade:


"...My favorites are the 1930s and 40s movies with sassy heroines—the reporter played by Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday, Joan Blondell in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and all the characters played by Katherine Hepburn.  Women in those films weren’t wimpy like they were in fifties films. Yeah, some of them fainted from time to time, but never the heroines.  And they weren’t all plastic-surgeried up like they are today.

As my friend Jennifer says, they looked like us—in better clothes."

2. Is art really a luxury?

"Two of my favorite lines from the Sondheim musical Sundays in the Park with George, framed as a conversation between husband and wife:
“Artists work, Franz. I think they work very hard.”
“Work is what you do for others, liebchen. Art is what you do for yourself.”

Yeah, sure. But I’m still wondering… how long do you go without those movies, books, etc. 

Week? Day? Minutes? You tell me."

Those are my picks for this year’s news. If you have other ones, let me know...