Death Proof


"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."
     - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

“I know, too, that death is the only god who comes when you call.” 
     - Roger Zelazny, Frost & Fire, 1989

"[…] Far more people actually kill themselves in psychiatric hospitals than they do in highly publicized or exotic places. Five to 10 percent of all suicides, in fact, take place in mental hospitals. It may seem strange that such high rates should exist in places specifically designed to protect patients from harming or killing themselves. But in many ways, it is no more strange than the fact that there are high death rates in intensive care units or on oncology wards. Psychiatric hospitals exist to take care of the most severely ill and those most at risk for suicide. 

A common reason for admission to a mental hospital is having attempted suicide, and attempted suicide is, as we have seen, the single best predictor of subsequent suicide. A substantial risk of suicide is also one of the few reasons people can be held in hospitals involuntarily. 

Although many precautions can be taken by medical staff to protect patients, there is no way, short of intolerable violations of privacy and freedom, to protect everyone. The line between civil liberties and preservation of life is a controversial one. Acutely suicidal patients are kept under close observation, often on a locked ward. Windows on such wards are usually unbreakable and unopenable, electrical cords are kept as short as possible, and ‘breakaway’ hooks and shower rods, designed to break off at low weights, are used. Patients are searched for sharp objects and drugs, and matches, lighters, nail polish remover, mirrors, bottles, scissors, belts, and shoelaces are removed from their possession."

"Physical observation of suicidal patients is intense, with levels varying according to the assessment of the suicide risk. In one-to-one observation, the patient is continuously watched and accompanied by a staff member even when the patient is showering or using the toilet. The physical proximity is kept close, sometimes no further than arm’s length, in order to allow a quick response in case of a sudden or impulsive move. Occasionally, a single nurse may observe two or three suicidal patients at the same time; if the suicide risk appears to lessen, a patient will then be put on five-, fifteen-, or thirty-minute ‘checks’ These checks consist of staff members monitoring the whereabouts and well-being of the patient on a frequent but not continuous basis."

"Were suicidal patients able or willing to articulate the severity of their suicidal thoughts and plans, little risk would exist. But this is not the case. Patients determined to die may present a clinical picture greatly at variance with how they actually feel or what they intend to do. They may move quickly and with desperate ingenuity. As nineteenth-century psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin wrote in his classic text, Manic-Depressive Insanity:

‘Only too often the patients know how to conceal their suicidal intentions behind an apparently cheerful behaviour, and then carefully prepare for the execution of their intention at a suitable moment. The possibilities at their command are numerous. They may, while deceiving the vigilance of the people round them, drown themselves in the bath, hang themselves on the latch of the door, or on any projecting corner in the watercloset, indeed even strangle themselves in bed under the cover with a handkerchief or strips of linen. They may swallow needles, nails, bits of broken glass, even spoons, drink up any medicine, save up sleeping-powder and take it all at one time, throw themselves downstairs, smash their skull with a heavy object and so on. A female patient by sticking in pieces of paper managed to prevent the upper part of a window, where there was no grating, being properly shut, and then threw herself down from the second storey in an unwatched moment. Another who was shortly to have been discharged, was alone for a few minutes in the scullery; she took a little bottle of spirit and a match from the cupboard, which had been left open through negligence, and having poured the spirit over herself set herself on fire.’"

"In the 1930s, Gerald Jameison and James Wall, at Bloomingdale Hospital in New York State, described the varieties of suicide methods used by patients in their hospital: twisted cords round the neck; two neckties attached to plumbing fixtures in the toilet; three handkerchiefs attached to the hinge of a closet door; a curtain tied around the throat and then attached to a window sash; cut throats from razors or window glass; and a cut femoral and radial artery with a piece of glass from a tumbler. (Sylvia Plath, who had been hospitalized after a nearly lethal suicide attempt, described in her autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, the guile attendant to suicidal thought: ‘A maid in a green uniform was setting the tables for supper,’ she wrote. ‘There were white linen tablecloths and glasses and paper napkins. I stored the fact that they were real glasses in the corner of my mind the way a squirrel stores a nut. At the city hospital we had drunk out of paper cups and had no knives to cut our meat.’)"

"Hanging and jumping are by far the most common methods of suicide used by psychiatric inpatients, and being under staff supervision is no guarantee against self-inflicted injuries and death. Psychiatrists Jan Fawcett and Katie Busch, in a Chicago-based study of patients who had committed suicide while in the hospital, found that more than 40 percent had been on fifteen-minute checks at the time they killed themselves. Fully 70 percent of those who killed themselves had denied, prior to the act, any suicidal thinking or plans. 

The reality of treating seriously ill and potentially suicidal patients is that difficult clinical decisions have to be made each step of the way. When should a patient first be taken off constant nursing observation and placed on fifteen- or thirty-minute checks? At what point can a patient first be allowed off the ward unaccompanied or given a pass to go home for the weekend? Prediction is imperfect, and patients who are desirous of dying dissemble."

"Research indicates that more than half the patients who kill themselves in psychiatric hospitals had been described by nursing or medical staff, just before their suicides, as ‘clinically improved’ or ‘improving.’ Indeed, nearly 50 percent of those who commit suicide while on a ward, or immediately after discharge from the hospital, had been assessed as nonsuicidal at the time of admission. The days early in hospitalization and those leading up to discharge are particularly high-risk periods for suicide. The time prior to leaving the hospital is often laden with concerns about rejection by family and friends, loneliness, a still turbulent clinical course (often characterized by volatile mood cycling and an exceedingly uncomfortable restlessness, agitation, and irritability), concerns about job problems or unemployment, and fears about being able to manage outside the hospital. Often caught in the dilemma of being too well to be in the hospital but not well enough to deal with the realities and stresses of life outside, as well as having to contend with the personal and economic consequences of having a serious mental illness, patients sometimes feel utterly hopeless and overwhelmed, and kill themselves. Hospitals can provide sanctuary and medical care; they can save the lives of many who are suicidal. But they cannot save everyone."

 

IMAGES TAKEN FROM "SUICIDE PREVENTION IN HEALTH CARE FACILITIES: ENVIRONMENTAL SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONS", PUBLISHED BY THE MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, STRATIS HEALTH, AND THE MINNESOTA HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION, OCTOBER 14, 2015; "PATIENT SAFETY STANDARDS, MATERIALS AND SYSTEMS GUIDELINES RECOMMENDED BY THE NEW YORK STATE OFFICE OF MENTAL HEALTH"; BEHAVIORAL SAFETY PRODUCTS (BESAFEPRO.COM

TEXT TAKEN FROM NIGHT FALLS FAST BY KAY REDFIELD JAMISON, 1999 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: NORVA PLASTICS; ACORN ENGINEERING COMPANY; WEIZEL SECURITY; "CHECKLIST FOR THE 'SUICIDE-RESISTANT' DESIGN OF CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES", BY LINDSAY M. HAYES, NATIONAL CENTER ON INSTITUTIONS AND ALTERNATIVES, 2011; "REDUCING BATHROOM SUICIDE RISK: YOUR FIXTURES MATTER", ANDREW1, VANDALPROOF.COM, NOVEMBER 16, 2014; "DESIGN GUIDE FOR THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT OF BEHAVIORAL HEALTH FACILITIES" BY JAMES M. HUNT AND DAVID M. SINE

Gay Ghosts III: Last Address


"With LGBT youth and transgender adult women of color as their primary targets, and the piers along the Hudson River on the west side of the neighborhood identified as ground zero, residents complained that their neighborhood had been taken over by outsiders whose threatening activities promised to bring down the so-called quality of life of the neighborhood. The primary stages for their accusations were the monthly hearings of the local community board and police precinct community council, city-sponsored mechanisms for neighborhood-based decision making. Overwhelmingly, residents and business owners demanded more policing and changes in land use policy under the auspices of securing safety. The key tools they hoped to wield were the retention of a curfew at the neighborhood’s waterfront, as well as the heightened enforcement of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s quality-of-life policies that target offenses such as public drinking, noise, and loitering. Access to public space and quality-of-life regulations thus became the focal point for political response, and counter-activists representing nonresident LGBT youth of color attended community board hearings and police precinct community councils demanding that they too should be eligible to give input and that their safety was also at stake.

The Christopher Street Patrol gained supporters among residents, officials, and some lesbian and gay activists despite the fact that the group’s position appears contradicted by what was then popular policy wisdom on the beneficial effects of the social tolerance associated with gay populations. The Gay Index, based in the research of demographer Gary Gates, was, by the start of the 2000s, a measure celebrated by city agencies from Washington, D.C., to Oakland, California, because it was highly touted as predictive of the regional success of high-tech industries. This argument had been publicized by the urbanist and policy consultant Richard Florida, who contended that a concentration of gay men—and, to a lesser degree, lesbians—reflects a region’s social 'tolerance,' which he considered to be a draw factor for the creative class of workers at the center of the (then) 'new economy.' In this formulation, gay space is, thus, an index of economic competitiveness in a global marketplace for business location. This understanding of gay space is just one held by Gay Index proponents; another is that gay people tend to live in neighborhoods with dilapidated housing stock and high crime rates. As Gates explains: 'It could be that gay and lesbian people are less risk averse. They’ve already taken the risk of coming out of the closet, so it could be that they’re willing to take more risk in other dimensions of their lives as well.' But what are the risks associated with these areas—physical violence or speculative investment? For many, housing location is not based in choice, and same-sex activity is not correlated with being out as gay. Can those deemed to be at risk—an epidemiological category that often includes those who are young and poor, or who are homeless, or who do not identify as gay when practicing same-sex sex—bank (quite literally) on these same risks?" [1]

"The 'canaries of the creative age' to which the title of this chapter refers, are, according to Gates and Florida, gay populations whose survival in urban regions is cast as an indicator of the 'last frontier' of social tolerance and diversity and the promise of a successful economy. Although for Florida acceptance of gays represents the far reaches of tolerance and diversity, his curious definition of the latter is absent of people of color. As Florida observes when describing the Composite Diversity Index of which the Gay Index is a part (together with the Melting Pot Index and the Bohemian Index), 'the diversity picture does not include African-Americans and other nonwhites.' He continues: 'My research identifies a troubling negative statistical correlation between concentrations of high-tech firms and the percentage of the nonwhite population.' Thus the vision of the Christopher Street Patrol, which primarily targets people of color in Greenwich Village, is not counter to the ideals of popular urban planning after all. As the saying goes, birds of a feather flock together, and some 'canaries' are understood to be guarantors of demise. The complaints made by residents demonstrate the contradictions of contemporary urban politics, in which one can celebrate diversity and cast tolerance as a new investment strategy at the same time as one assails those very features by naming the acceptance of people of color, transgender women, and people of low income as 'liabilities' of a neighborhood best known for its gay populations and bohemianism.

These are the contradictions at the core of neoliberalism. Since the 1970s, many of the central terms put forth by postwar urban reformers have been promoted by neoliberal city programs through a deft reworking of the ideals of community, participation, and safety in the service of initiatives set to dismantle Keynesian-infuenced New Deal and Great Society programs in favor of those guided by distilled free market values. Neoliberalism has reshaped U.S. cities like New York and San Francisco in ways that foster hyper-segregation and exploitation: the privatization of public services, corporate tax breaks, attacks on tenant protections, the expiration of mandates for low- and middle-income housing, public subsidies for private market-value construction, and the mass expansion of security forces are but a few of its policies. The skyrocketing values of real estate in urban cores means that almost all new claims to these neighborhoods are property investments and acts of racial dispossession. Indeed, the profits and punishments of these policies have been doled out along stark racial and class lines, and it is this very disproportionate impact that neoliberalism, as a set of ideological imperatives, has worked hard to elide. Yet the approach to identity and economy taken by the liberalism associated with earlier political and economic orders, such as that of the Great Society, is part of this historical trajectory. The focus on the individualized psychology of prejudice, the ideal of blindness to difference, and the goal of equality were part and parcel of the postwar liberal consensus outlined by Gunnar Myrdal that would set the stage for discussions about inequality that followed. As Jodi Melamed argues, ideas of 'race as culture,' the individually reparative rather than structurally transformative features of antiracism, and the devaluation of economic justice took form in postwar racial liberalism but continued to evolve in what she dubs the emergence of 'neoliberal multiculturalism.' Thus, in today’s cities, marginalized identities can function as markers of cultural value (as in the commodity known as lifestyle) but cannot be considered as vectors of exploitation." [1]

"Key to the gentrification mentality is the replacement of complex realities with simplistic ones. Mixed neighborhoods become homogenous. Mixed neighborhoods create public simultaneous thinking, many perspectives converging on the same moment at the same time, in front of each other. Many languages, many cultures, many racial and class experiences take place on the same block, in the same buildings. Homogenous neighborhoods erase this dynamic, and are much more vulnerable to enforcement of conformity.
 
AIDS, which emerged as gentrification was underway, is an arena where simple answers to complex questions have ruled. 'Keep it simple' only works if you are an alcoholic who doesn't want to take another drink. In most other areas of life, complexity is where truth lies. AIDS has been bombarded by simplification since its beginning. The people who have it don't matter. It's their fault. It's over now. Easy to blame AIDS on the infected, and much more difficult to take in all of the social, economic, epidemiological, sexual, emotional, and political questions. Even treatments have turned out to be combination medications, not a single pill that just makes AIDS go away.
 
The relationship of gay men to gentrification is particularly interesting and complex. It is clear to me, although it's rarely stated, that the high rate of deaths from AIDS was one of a number of determining factors in the rapid gentrification of key neighborhoods of Manhattan. From the first years of the epidemic through to the epicenter of the AIDS crisis, people I knew were literally dying daily, weekly, regularly. Sometimes they left their apartments and went back to their hometowns to die because there was no medical support structure and their families would take them. Many, however, were abandoned by their families. Sometimes they were too sick to live alone or to pay their rent and left their apartments to die on friends' couches or in hospital corridors. Many died in their apartments. It was normal to hear that someone we knew had died and that their belongings were thrown out on the street. I remember once seeing the cartons of a lifetime collection of playbills in a dumpster in front of a tenement and I knew that it meant that another gay man had died of AIDS, his belongings dumped in the gutter." [2]

John Brockmeyer, Ethyl Eichelberger, 157 York St., Staten Island

John Brockmeyer, Ethyl Eichelberger, 157 York St., Staten Island

"While, of course, AIDS devastated a wealthy subculture of gay white males, many of the gay men who died of AIDS in my neighborhood were either from the neighborhood originally, and/or were risk-taking individuals living in oppositional subcultures, creating new ideas about sexuality, art, and social justice. They often paid a high financial price for being out of the closet and community oriented, and for pioneering new art ideas. Indeed, many significant figures in the history of AIDS, like iconic film theorist and West Village resident Vito Russo, died without health insurance. So the apartments they left were often at pre-gentrification rates, and were then subjected to dramatic increases or privatized.

In my own building, our neighbor in apartment 8, Jon Hetwar, a young dancer, died of AIDS after our tenants' association had won a four-year rent strike that resulted in across-the-board rent reductions. After his death, his apartment went from $305 per month to the market rate of $1,200 per month. This acceleration of the conversion process helped turn the East Village from an interracial enclave of immigrants, artists. and long-time residents to a destination location for wealthy diners and a drinking spot for Midtown and Wall Street businessmen. Avenue A went from the centerpiece of a Puerto Rican and Dominican neighborhood to the New York version of Bourbon Street in less than a decade. I similarly observed the West Village change from a longtime Italian and gay district with an active gay street life into a neighborhood dominated first by wealthy heterosexuals and then by movie stars, as new gay arrivals shifted to other parts of the city. Now you have to be Julianne Moore to live in the West Village. The remaining older gay population is so elite as to have an antagonistic relationship with the young Black and Latino gay men and lesbians and transgendered kids who socialize on the streets and piers of the West Village. Organizations like FIERCE (Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment) had to be formed to combat harassment of young gay kids of color by wealthy white West Villagers. Gay life is now expected to take place in private in the West Village, by people who are white, upper-class, and sexually discreet." [2]

"Strangely, this relationship between huge death rates in an epidemic caused by governmental and familial neglect, and the material process of gentrification is rarely recognized. Instead gentrification is blamed on gay people and artists who survived, not on those who caused their mass deaths. We all know about white gay men coming into poor ethnic neighborhoods and serving as economic 'shock troops,' buying and rehabbing properties, bringing in elite businesses and thereby driving out indigenous communities, causing homelessness and cultural erasure.

While the racism of many white gay men and their willingness to displace poor communities in order to create their own enclaves is historical fact, gentrification would not have been possible without tax incentives for luxury developers or without the lack of city-sponsored low-income housing. That the creation of economically independent gay development is seen as the “cause” of gentrification is an illusion. We need to apply simultaneous thinking to have a more truthful understanding of the role of white gay men in gentrification. It is true that like many white people, many white gay men had a colonial attitude towards communities of color. Yet at the same time, it is helpful to think about why white gay men left their neighborhoods and homes to recreate themselves in Black, Latino, Asian, and mixed neighborhoods. It seems clear that heterosexual dominance within every community does not aid and facilitate gay comfort, visibility, and autonomy. The desire to live in or to create gay enclaves was a consequence of oppression experiences. Only gay people who were able to access enough money to separate from their oppressive communities of origin were able to create visible, gay-friendly housing and commerce and achieve political power in a city driven by real estate development. This does not excuse or negate the racism or the consequences of that racism. And these observations in no way negate gays and Lesbians of color living successfully and unsuccessfully in Black, Latino, Asian, and mixed neighborhoods. But if all gays could live safely and openly in their communities of origin, and if government policies had been oriented towards protecting poor neighborhoods by rehabbing without displacement, then gentrification by white gay men would have been both unnecessary and impossible." [2]

Coney Island Baby


"His taste is all right, but it is sometimes overwhelmed by his sense of publicity. He will become less and less glitzy. He'll listen to me."
     - Philip Johnson, "The Expanding Empire of Donald Trump", The New York Times, April 8, 1984


"'Oh, he lies a great deal,' says Philip Johnson with a laugh. 'But it's sheer exuberance, exaggeration. It's never about anything important. He's straight as an arrow in his business dealings.'"
     - Philip Johnson, "The Expanding Empire of Donald Trump", The New York Times, April 8, 1984
 

"HE made his presence known on the island of Manhattan in the mid 70's, a brash Adonis from the outer boroughs bent on placing his imprint on the golden rock. Donald John Trump exhibited a flair for self-promotion, grandiose schemes - and, perhaps not surprisingly, for provoking fury along the way.

Senior realty titans scoffed, believing that braggadocio was the sum and substance of the blond, blue-eyed, six-footer who wore maroon suits and matching loafers, frequented Elaine's and Regine's in the company of fashion models, and was not abashed to take his armed bodyguard-chauffeur into a meeting with an investment banker.

The essence of entrepreneurial capitalism, real estate is a business with a tradition of high-rolling megalomania, of master builders striving to erect monuments to their visions. It is also typically dynastic, with businesses being transmitted from fathers to sons and grandsons, and carried on by siblings. In New York, the names of Tishman, Lefrak, Rudin, Fisher, Zeckendorf come to mind.

And now there is Trump, a name that has in the last few years become an internationally recognized symbol of New York City as mecca for the world's super rich.

‘Not many sons have been able to escape their fathers,’ said Donald Trump, the president of the Trump Organization, by way of interpreting his accomplishments. Three of them, built since 1976, stand out amidst the crowded midtown landscape: the 68-story Trump Tower, with its six-story Atrium housing some of the world's most elegant stores; the 1,400- room Grand Hyatt Hotel, and Trump Plaza, a $125 million cooperative apartment. And more is on the way.

‘At 37, no one has done more than I in the last seven years,’ Mr. Trump asserted."

Fifteen years ago, he joined his father's business, an empire of middle-class apartment houses in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island then worth roughly $40 million. Today, the Trump Organization controls assets worth about $1 billion.

The largest and most striking properties were developed by the younger Trump and are owned by him individually or with one non-family partner. While his father, Fred C. Trump, is the company chairman and oversees the original holdings, the Trump Organization is unquestionably a Donald Trump extravaganza.

"HE makes that clear. At Trump headquarters on the 26th floor of the Trump Tower astride Fifth Avenue, he opened the door of a room furnished with a vast table.

‘This was supposed to be a board room but what was the sense when there's only one member,’ said Donald Trump. ‘We changed it to a conference room.’

Mr. Trump assiduously cultivates a more conservative public image now, a gentleman of taste in a navy- blue suit with discreetly striped shirts and blue ties, who weekends with his family in Greenwich, Conn. Last spring he forsook the Hamptons, his former habitat, to buy an estate in the conservative community.

His pastor, the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale of New York, avowed that he is ‘kindly and courteous in certain business negotiations and has a profound streak of honest humility.’

But Mr. Trump prides himself on being street smart and boasted that Brooklyn and Queens, where he was raised, are among ‘the toughest, smartest places in the world.’ Mr. Trump prefers the vocabulary of war and sports to document his exploits, acknowledging ‘I don't like to lose.’ Nor does he like to receive less than full credit for his victories.

‘He was a pretty rough fellow when he was small,’ recalled his father, who packed off his obstreperous teen-age son to the New York Military Academy in Cornwall-on-Hudson for his high school education. According to some of his peers in the industry, Donald Trump has not really changed much from those boyhood days.

His alternating skills of charming some individuals and riding roughshod over others has earned Donald Trump a reputation in some quarters as someone not to be trusted. He reneged, for example, on a promise to donate to a museum the Art Deco bas-reliefs on the facade of Bonwit Teller's - bulldozed to make way for Trump Tower. It was a sin deemed unforgivable by landmark preservationists. But the only negative comments about Donald Trump these days are given off the record.

‘Donald Trump became a controversial person and it worked for him,’ said the 57-year-old Preston Robert Tisch, president of the Loew's Corporation, and Mr. Trump's opponent on two bitterly contested real estate projects in New York - now a good friend.

‘He is one hell of a salesman,’ noted Francis L. Bryant, Jr., senior vice president of Manufacturers Hanover Trust, which extended the construction loans for the Grand Hyatt Hotel and for Trump Plaza, and the tenant financing for the cooperative apartment and the Trump Tower condominium."

"UNLIKE other real estate czars, notably the septuagenarian Harry Helmsley, ubiquitous in the city's development of office buildings, apartment houses and hotels, Mr. Trump does not syndicate his deals.

‘I don't have to,’ he stated flatly.

Backed initially by his father, Mr. Trump has operated as a lone wolf in Manhattan for nearly the last decade. He acquires properties through Trump Enterprises or Wembly Realty Inc. and has them transferred to Donald J. Trump so that he can personally take the huge tax write- offs from real estate projects rather than having them ‘wasted,’ as he called it, on a corporation. He also said he saves corporate and franchise taxes.

But to protect himself against the great risks in the building trade, he said, ‘I’ve bought tremendous liability insurance. After $10 million, it's cheap. You can get million of dollars of insurance for $500 in premiums.’

For major deals, he forges a partnership with a single gilt-edged financial institution or hotel chain. Holiday Inns, for example, is his co-venturer in the $200 million Harrah's hotel casino scheduled to open in Atlantic City next May, the largest gaming palace in the New Jersey resort.

‘It will be the biggest hit yet,’ he predicted. Benefiting from his successful track record, Mr. Trump was able to obtain a 50 percent share of the equity in Harrah's in return for a small investment in land, which he purchased before the referendum that opened the down-at-the-heels town to gaming - one example of his good timing, or good fortune.

The most striking evidence of Mr. Trump's entrepreneurship, however, is in New York.

There is the Grand Hyatt Hotel, reconstituted with a facade of mirrored glass on the skeleton of the Commodore Hotel adjoining Grand Central Terminal. Since it opened in 1980, it has been credited with reversing the deterioration of East 42d Street.

Then, of course, Trump Tower, a skinny bronze and glass skyscraper at 725 Fifth Avenue, atop the former site of Bonwit Teller at the corner of 56th Street. Its Atrium, a vertical shopping mall rendered in peach marble and bronze with an 80-foot cascade, is a showcase for 40 purveyors of super luxury wares such as Loewe of Madrid, Asprey's of London and the jewelers, Cartier, Harry Winston and Buccellati. Purchasers of condominium apartments - 91 are priced above $1 million - will start moving in later this month.

And Trump Plaza, the apartment building at Third Avenue and 61st Street, is scheduled for occupancy in 1984. Its least expensive unit is a three-and-one-half room apartment for $255,000.

Three years ago Mr. Trump bought the Barbizon Plaza Hotel on Central Park South and an adjacent rent-controlled apartment building at the corner of the Avenue of the Americas. According to Standard Abstract Corporation, publishers of daily realty reports, he paid about $13 million for this prime property to which sources now give a market value of $124 million.

Last June he offered to shelter the homeless in some of the vacant apartments - at least until he succeeded in getting the rest of the tenants to vacate theirs. He is reportedly about to sell the hotel to foreign investors.

2FD9465400000578-3387426-All_for_show_Though_Trump_pictured_in_2001_often_criticizes_Hill-a-66_1452117605695_1.jpg

Other plans are aborning. Mr. Trump is now concluding a deal to develop another site on the East Side, on the same scale as Trump Tower, in partnership with another leading financial institution.

Donald Trump thus appears to have followed the classic formula of the venture capitalist, using leverage and luck, and a third element peculiar to real estate development, namely location. ‘I have the best diamonds in the city of New York as far as location,’ he boasted.

To this formula, Mr. Trump has also added salesmanship, show business - and timing, riding the real estate boom of the last few years in spectacular fashion.

The Trump Organization, an umbrella for more than a dozen entities engaged in real estate and hotel development and management, consists of 45 key employees. Three are executive vice presidents: Louise M. Sunshine, who turned a formidable talent for raising millions of dollars in political campaign contributions into a skill at selling million-dollar apartments; Donald's 34-year-old brother, Robert, now supervising the hotel casino project in Atlantic City, N.J., and Donald's Austrian-Czech wife, Ivana, 30 years old, a former model and Olympic skier, who is in charge of design.

The secretaries address Mr, Trump by his first name. ‘Very little gets on paper around here. Donald does the work of 50 people in his head,’ said Mrs. Sunshine. He ‘never stops envisioning,’ she added.

A promotional slide show for Trump Tower describes it as ‘the ultimate vision of an elegant life seen through a golden eye.’ Flashes of model room settings appear amid scenes of Manhattan's glamorous restaurants, museums and theaters, while in the background the voice of Frank Sinatra belts out ‘New York, New York.’ The vision is Donald Trump's, though the word's are Sinatra's: ‘A No. 1 - king of the hill.’

The message is a clarion call to wealthy outsiders - foreigners or Americans from beyond the Hudson. The doormen's scarlet uniforms and white pith helmets - or high black fur hats in the winter months - evoke Buckingham Palace. Ivana Trump had them custom made in London.

In the lobby of the atrium a musician in black tie performs at a pink piano. ‘We try to give people a little show,’ said Mrs. Trump, a slender blond woman with aquamarine eyes. Her model's figure was sheathed in a white-and-black polka-dotted dress by Galanos. ‘The atrium is flashy but warm,’ she declared."

"The roots of the Trump Organization lie deep in the foundations of New York politics. Fred Trump, for instance, was closely involved with the Brooklyn Democratic organization which produced a New York Mayor, Abraham D. Beame, and a New York Governor, Hugh L. Carey, as well as lesser officials of strategic influence who were in power when Donald Trump mounted his invasion of Manhattan in 1974 and 1975, a low point in the city's economic history.

The tax abatement and other concessions he secured from government agencies were termed by Trump critics as both ‘outrageous,’ and ‘sweetheart deals’ - presumably awarded as political favors.

In the mid-70's, when plans were being laid for a New York City Convention Center, Mr. Trump began lobbying for a site in the West 30's, the vacant railroad yards of the bankrupt Penn Central on which he had secured an option in exchange for the promise to develop the site. Mr. Tisch's group backed a site on West 44th Street.

Municipal and state officials responsible for funding the project eventually swung to his side, and Mr. Trump collected $880,000 in commissions and expenses on the Penn Central's sale of the property to the city for $12 million. But it still rankles him that his offer to build the center at a guaranteed price of $200 million and to waive his fee, if it were named after his family, was spurned.

The project, since undertaken by the New York State Urban Development Corporation, has been plagued by cost overruns of $125 million and is two years behind schedule. Mr. Trump's inability to resist saying ‘I told you so’ by offering to take charge of finishing the center without fee, resulted in a verbal shooting match with the chairman of the corporation."

"DURING this same period, Mr. Trump parlayed an option to buy another Penn Central property, the nearly defunct Commodore Hotel, into a renovation project that resulted in the Grand Hyatt Hotel. It was made financially plausible by a 40-year tax abatement from the city - the first ever granted to a commercial property. The original option cost Mr. Trump $500,000.

As a hotel operator and chairman of the New York Convention & Visitors Bureau, Mr. Tisch objected to the abatement on the grounds of unfair advantage.

In retrospect, Mr. Tisch said, it ‘was right in what it did for that section of the city.’ But, he added, that the $200,000-a-year rental the city receives in lieu of taxes from the Grand Hyatt is equivalent to the tax bill for a motel on Eighth Avenue.

Since that skirmish Mr. Tisch and Mr. Trump have become close friends. They also buried the hatchet over another issue: whether or not to permit casino gambling in New York State.

Mr. Trump was gung-ho, having envisioned the lobby of the Grand Hyatt converted to gaming. Mr. Tisch believes he won him over by proving that the construction of gambling resorts in the Catskills (already on the drawing board) would have siphoned convention business from New York City hotels, and so Mr. Trump joined him as co-chairman of a coalition against permissive legislation. A more likely reason for the Trump turnaround is that his political allies, Governor Carey and Attorney General Robert Abrams, had changed their minds from pro to con on gambling and the likelihood of getting enabling legislation from Albany appeared nil.

The complexity of the 42d Street hotel deal and his cool derring-do in pulling it together before his 30th birthday won him the grudging respect of adversaries, and more crucial to his future plans, of the major lenders in New York.

Mr. Trump took his option on the Commodore, for which he would ultimately pay $10 million, less $2 million from the sale of its furniture and equipment, to line up a partner in the Hyatt Corporation, which was looking for a New York link for its hotel chain. He would build it; Hyatt would manage it; they would be equal partners.

He then turned to George Peacock, senior vice president of the Equitable Life Assurance Society. They had previously not done business, but Mr. Peacock had once been his guest at a United States Open Tennis competition.

Concerned about the Grand Central area (several office buildings were in or on the verge of foreclosure, and the city itself was facing bankruptcy), the Equitable, along with the Bowery Savings Bank and several smaller banks, promised him $70 million in mortgages once the doors of the renovated hotel opened.

‘So I took this commitment, which was a statement with 100 stipulations, to the city,’ Mr. Trump recalled. One of those conditions was that the financing be predicated on obtaining a tax abatement. ‘I said, “I will build you this incredible, gorgeous, gleaming hotel. I will put people to work in the construction trades and save hotel jobs and the Grand Central area will come around.” So the city made the deal,’ he commented.

Since there was no statutory basis for tax relief to a private commercial developer, Mr. Trump offered to sell the hotel for $1 to the Urban Development Corporation and lease it back for 99 years at a modest rental in lieu of taxes which the Commodore could not pay. Meanwhile, he could use the agency's vast powers of condemnation to get rid of undesirable retail tenants on the lower levels.

With these pieces in place, he obtained a $70 million construction loan from Manufacturers Hanover. ‘It was a leap of faith,’ the bank's Mr. Bryant noted.

Mr. Trump acknowledged that he was at substantial risk. He could have lost $3 million in option money, architectural and legal fees. ‘It could have been a disaster,’ he said. His father, he added, had taken ‘a neutral position’ and the son had won medals making money on earlier deals. But still, Mr. Trump said of the potential for failure, ‘I would have been embarrassed.’

After construction was underway, in 1979, the city's economy picked up, hotel rates doubled and he changed his plans. Instead of a moderate, $38- a-night hostelry, he would build a super-convention hotel commanding rates of $90 a night or more.

‘The whole economics of the deal changed,’ he says. ‘I got another $30 million from the Chase Manhattan Bank, so when the time came for me to put up equity, the bottom line was so good, I didn't have to put up money. It was timing. In another year, I wouldn't have gotten the abatement and no one ever will again.’"

“‘THE Hyatt really got us acquainted with Donald and that led us to the next big one,’ said Mr. Peacock of Equitable. The insurance company owned the land under Bonwit Teller and would sell only if it could get an active participation in an exciting project.

In 1974, Donald Trump had hired Mrs. Sunshine, finance director of the Carey re-election campaign, to help him lobby for the convention center.

Mrs. Sunshine said her political interest has waned, though this doesn't mean the Trump Organization lacks Democratic political entree - Roy Cohn of Saxe, Bacon, Bolan & Manley, and the firm of Shea & Gould are its litigators - or that its resources are not available to proper candidates of either party. Donald Trump supported Ronald Reagan in 1980 and has been to the White House several times.

It was Mrs. Sunshine who introduced Mr. Trump in 1975 to her friend, Marilyn Evins, wife of David Evins, a major stockholder in Genesco, the owner of Bonwit's. Through Mr. Evins he ascertained that the cash-hungry conglomerate might be willing to sell Bonwit's lease, which had 29 years to run.

‘Donald was the only developer who made sense to us,’ Mr. Peacock said.

The Trump-Equitable Fifth Avenue Company was formed, an equal partnership. Equitable put in the fee. Mr. Trump contributed the lease, two small units he acquired on East 57th Street, and the air rights to Tiffany's on the corner, which he needed for a zoning change to build a high-rise apartment house. The Trump Organization is sales and managing agent for the building, and Mr. Trump was able to put the family name over the four-story portal in colossal bronze letters - and two giant bronze Ts in the atrium.

Chase Manhattan financed his $24 million purchases of the various leases and rights, and the bank also formed a syndicate for the $150 million construction loan.

Mr. Trump expected that Trump Tower would qualify for a residential tax abatement. But after construction started, the city denied the exemption, estimated to be worth $15 million to $20 million, claiming it was intended to encourage low- and middle-income housing - not the deluxe apartments of the Tower. The city is now appealing a State Supreme Court ruling in Mr. Trump's favor last June.

‘I don't need this one,’ he said, ‘but it's wrong to hold out the carrot and then say, “Trump is not going to get it.” My psyche can't take that.’

He can, thus, add another star to the honor badge of the venture capitalist: for putting up practically none of his own money for an increasingly valuable equity interest in one of New York's most valuable pieces of real estate.

Anticipated condominium revenues of $260 million (85 percent of the 263 apartments have been sold) have effectively paid off the construction loan, leaving Trump Tower unencumbered by mortgages. The partnership retains ownership of the retail space and the 13 floors of office space, not yet rented, that are sandwiched in between. This commercial portion of the building is projected to yield rentals of $28 million a year.

Numerous New York merchants and real estate brokers expressed doubts that the Atrium tenants will be able to meet the lofty rents of $150 to $400 a square foot or to pay such capital expenses as the $3.5 million Loewe invested in building its three-level store. To cover the $1 million rent Charles Jourdan is paying for the first year, the store must sell $10 millIon in shoes and apparel.

Tenants do not know yet what the common charges or the real estate taxes will be. Such pass-on charges could possibly equal the basic rents, a broker said, predicting numerous lawsuits over interpretations of the 10- and 20- year leases. ‘The merchants will bear the risk of Trump Tower,’ he said, ‘and Trump will have a chance to weed out the ones he doesn't want.’

‘I only want the best,’ Donald Trump said. Holding out for ‘the great names’ fueled rumors that he was having difficulty filling his Atrium, which opened last February, half rented. ‘I took a chance that they would sign when they saw the building worked,’ he said. He won his gamble, though he conceded he gave ‘a little better break’ to a few of the hesitant.

From the triplex atop Trump Tower that he and his wife will occupy in the fall with their two children (Mrs. Trump is expecting their third child), he will be able to survey the metropolitan region, including those areas from which he maneuvered his ‘escape’ from his father's business.

While still at the Wharton School, from which he received a bachelor's degree in 1968, Donald Trump put into practice what he said he learned ‘by osmosis’ from the senior Trump. He began purchasing ‘little real estate pieces in Philadelphia and fixing them up,’ he recalled.

After graduation, he joined his father in Brooklyn and kept on buying - properties in Virginia, Ohio, Nevada, and land in California. Sometimes, he built, too. He had an eye for good locations and good financing: ‘F.H.A. mortgages 40 years out, and 5 1/2 percent interest’ taken over from owners desperate to sell ‘so we didn't have to put up much cash,’ explained Donald Trump.

He refinanced some of his father's older projects, swapped some in tax- free exchanges and, recently, has been turning others into cooperatives. For most of the period since he entered business, real estate and general inflation were skyrocketing.

After five years of such successes, Donald Trump was poised for escape. Or as some wags put it: ‘To trump his father.’

According to Harry Levinson, a Boston-based business psychologist who has studied family businesses, ‘The core problem of the entrepreneur in the family business is the unresolved Oedipal problem, trying to beat the old man.’ This is particularly so where the father has been very successful.

‘The son feels so inadequate and unable to compete with the father that he works out compensatory behavior,’ Dr. Levinson says. ‘He goes to the opposite and blows himself up to deny his feeling of helplessness. Particularly with an entrepreneur who has to fight through so many things, this compensatory self-centeredness serves him well.’

A record of successes ‘has made it very easy to do deals,’ said Donald Trump. ‘People want to invest with you.’ Inevitably, he is compared with the late William Zeckendorf, whose monuments include the United Nations and the Kips Bay housing complex in New York City, Century City in Los Angeles and Place Ville Marie in Montreal. Acclaimed a genius, he was finally forced to file both corporate and personal bankruptcy.

‘I used him as a model in a sense,’ Donald Trump acknowledged. ‘He was a great visionary but he wasn't fiscally conservative. Having seen the way he went down taught me to be overly so.’

Said Mr. Bryant of Manufacturers Hanover Trust: ‘Mr. Trump appears to be a wild man. He is not. Zeckendorf was spread from coast to coast. Donald stays home. He sticks to what he knows.’

Mr. Trump has been selling the properties he accumulated on his post-college buying binge outside New York and is co-oping 3,000 units in Brooklyn and Queens.

‘We've built up a lot of cash,’ he said. Cash to use ‘not necessarily in this business - I'm not married to this business.’ Associates say he likes both the communications and the sports industry, and he admitted to being fascinated by ‘the merger game.’ He does not find the takeover of a company he considers mismanaged to be daunting.

After the Government legalized private ownership of gold on Jan. 1, 1975, he jumped in and bought heavily. An ounce was then selling for $185. ‘We sold in the range of $780, $790. We did very well. It's easier than the construction business.’ he said."

"A speck on the horizon is Trump Village in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, a middle-income residential complex that is Fred C. Trump's most visible monument. It was built in the 60's with Mitchell-Lama financing.

In an office at the rear of 600 Avenue Z, a six-story red brick apartment house that was formerly the headquarters of the Trump Organization, sits its chairman, Fred Trump. He has no intention of moving to Fifth Avenue. ‘I don't get involved,’ said the founding father, tall, reddish-haired and dapper at 77. ‘As you know, Donald has a competitive spirit and I don't want to compete with him.’

Mr. Trump manages the 25,000 units of housing that constitutes the empire he built, and he boasts about his son, Donald. ‘He amazes me. He's gone way beyond me, absolutely.’

Fred Trump was a prodigy. His mother had to sign his checks when he started building in 1923 because he was a minor. The impetus for his large-scale projects came after World War II with Federal financing.

He and his wife, Mary, raised three sons and two daughters in a spacious house in the Jamaica Estates section of Queens.

The Trump children were indoctrinated in the Protestant work ethic, loyalty to friends and employees, and in positive thinking, as promulgated by the family minister, Reverend Norman Vincent Peale. ‘The mind can overcome any obstacle,’ said Donald Trump. ‘I never think of the negative.’

During summers and free time, the boys worked at Trump construction sites or the rent collection offices. ‘Not your normal kid's vacations,’ noted Robert Trump, executive vice president of the Trump Organization.

The eldest son, Fred Jr., died a few years ago. Maryanne Trump Barry, the oldest daughter, is an assistant United States Attorney in Newark and a candidate for a Federal judgeship. Elizabeth Trump is a secretary at the Chase Manhattan Bank. ‘It's a man's family,’ she said, when asked why she and Maryanne were not in the real estate business."

ALL IMAGES BY SAM HORINE EXCEPT WHERE NOTED; WORKS CITED: "THE EXPANDING EMPIRE OF DONALD TRUMP" BY WILLIAM E. GIEST, THE NEW YORK TIMES, APRIL 8, 1984; "THE EMPIRE AND EGO OF DONALD TRUMP" BY MARYLIN BENDER, THE NEW YORK TIMES, AUGUST 7, 1983; SEE ALSO "THE RISE OF AMERICAN AUTHORITARIANISM" BY AMANDA TAUB FOR VOX, MARCH 1, 2016

Pretty Good Year


"[...] But gifts are not the most important thing about Christmas anyway. Since we can no longer celebrate Christmas as generously and wastefully as in the past, perhaps we will remember even more its spiritual nature. Instead of giving outward gifts to our family, friends, and community, today we will express our love to one another and our faith in all that holds us together. We long for a golden bridge to extend to all those whom we love across the distant reaches, countries, oceans, and continents."

- Joseph Goebbels, Großdeutscher Rundfunk, Christmas Eve 1941 (translation by Randall Bytwerk)

Burned all my notebooks, what good are notebooks?
They won't help me survive
My chest is aching, burns like a furnace,
The burning keeps me alive

- Talking Heads, "Life During Wartime", 1979

LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING ABOUT AMERICA (2016)  DOWNLOAD

Odetta: Mary Had a Baby
Megan Kelly & Carl Higbie: Precedent, 11/16/16  
Elizabeth Veldon: The Early Christian Communities Refused the Phallic Symbol of the Crucifix
Saccharine Trust: A Christmas Cry
Beyoncé: Formation [LOTIC’S ELECTION ANXIETY/ AMERICA IS OVER EDIT]
Prurient: Christ Among the Broken Glass
Diamond Galás: Were You There When They Crucified My Lord
Michael Jones: Carol of the Bells
Max Riebl: Corpus Christi Carol
George Winston: Minstrels
Laura Nyro: Christmas in my Soul
Kara Kondo: Singing Christmas Carols to a Camp Guard (via densho.org, oral history archives)
Patti Smith: O Holy Night (Live in Rome, Christmas 2013, Drop of Life Foundation Benefit)
Carpenters: Little Altar Boy
Libera: Veni, Veni Emmanuel
Ryuichi Nakamoto: Prayer
arrangement for women’s choir by Jeff Smallman: Noël Nouvelet
Hammock: Longest Year
Tori Amos: Pretty Good Year
Odetta: Glory Hallelujah (Live at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, NYC, April 13, 2008; Garrison Institute’s “Satyagraha: Gandhi's 'Truth Force' in the Age of Climate Change”)

STILL (2016)  DOWNLOAD

David Sylvian: Praise
David Hyde/ The Harmonic Choir: Two Poles; Ascent
Collegium Vocale, Dir. Philippe Herreweghe: Remember Not, Lord, Our Offenses (H. Purcell)
Nine Inch Nails: Leaving Hope
Psychic TV: Always is Always
Andreas Scholl: When I Am Laid In Earth (H. Purcell)
Old Man Gloom: Christmas Eve Parts I, II, and III (Alt. Version)
David Hyde/ The Harmonic Choir: Ascending and Descending
Libera: Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep (solo: Tom Cully)
The Hilliard Ensemble: O Maria Virginei
Prurient: Greenpoint
David Hyde/ The Harmonic Choir: Arc Descents
Psychic TV: Prayer for Derek
The Durutti Column: Prayer
Ensemble Leszczynski, Geoffroy Vançon, Clémence Petit & Thomas Joly: Requiem for the Living: 1. Introit - Kyrie (D. Forrest)
Kate Bush: One Last Look Around the House Before We Go
Kate Bush: Lake Tahoe
Lumina Vocal Ensemble: Coventry Carol
David Bazan: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Perfume Genius: Never Did

SOME THINGS ARE MELTING (2016)  DOWNLOAD

Max Richter: Winter 2 (A. Vivaldi, M. Richter)
Psychic TV: Mylar Breeze
Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou: Presentiment
Moby: God Moving Over the Face of the Waters
Gustavo Santaolalla: Thin Ice
Hilary Coleman, Neil Davey: The Waters of Tresilian 演奏者
Sting: The Snow It Melts The Soonest
Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou: Homesickness
Depeche Mode: Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth
Ryuichi Sakamoto & David Sylvian: World Citizen (Looped Piano)
Harold Budd & Brian Eno: Still Return
Peter Gabriel: Slow Water
Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou: The Garden of Gethesemanie
James Ferraro: Coda (Let Me Burn)
Gavin Bryars: Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet
Prince & The Revolution: Sometimes It Snows In April

THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS (2015)  DOWNLOAD

Kevin Eulogizes Patti; Job 23
Grace Davidson & Max Richter: Path 3 (7676)
The Durutti Column: Agnus Dei
Annie Lennox: Lullay Lullay (The Coventry Carol)
Run The Jewels: A Christmas Fucking Miracle
Vangelis: Twilight
Arvo Pärt: Für Alina
Nine Inch Nails: Adrift and at Peace
Sting: Gabriel's Message
Kenny G: God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen
Nine Inch Nails: Ghosts I
Tim Story: The Luminous, the Dark
Oneohtrix Point Never: Grief and Repetition
Ryuichi Sakamoto: Choral No. 2
Unknown/ MUJI BGM X: Christ Child's Lullaby
The Durutti Column: Opera I
Annie Lennox: Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant
Arca: Gratitud
Wim Mertens: A Tiels Leis
Grace Davidson & Max Richter: whose name is written on water
Adam Václav Michna z Otradovic: Meditation on the Torment of the Son of God
Sting: Lullaby for an Anxious Child
Patti Labelle: O Holy Night

 

 

BLACK NATIVITY (2014)  DOWNLOAD

Zachary Waltman: Intro
Gretchen Carlson: […] And We Have The Tree Lighting Tonight
Philip Glass & Michael Nyman: String Quartet No. 3: November 25
Portishead: Machine Gun
Britten’s Ceremony of Carols: This Little Babe
Coil: A White Rainbow
MDZLEVARI: Christ Is Risen & Holy Apostles
Nils Frahm: La  
The Cambridge Singers (J. Rheinberger): Abendlied
Philip Glass & Michael Nyman: String Quartet No. 3, Blood Oath
Thomas Merton: December 10, 1968, Bangkok
Tricky: Passion Of The Christ
Coil: Christmas Is Now Drawing Near
Destiny’s Child: Opera Of The Bells
Nordic Chamber Choir (M. Lauridsen): O Magnum Mysterium
Coil: Magnetic North
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir & Paul Hillier (A. Part): Magnificat
XTC: Dear God
Philip Glass & Michael Nyman: String Quartet No. 3: Mishima Closing
Tori Amos: Winter
Mariah Carey: All I Want For Christmas Is You [EVERY LIVING CREATURE DIES ALONE EDIT]

LIBER DIVINORUM OPERUM (2013)  DOWNLOAD

William Blake: The Little Vagabond
Arca: Covenant
James Ferraro: CAPITOLINE WOLF
How to Dress Well: Idumea [Live in the Boiler Room]
Peter Gabriel: Gethsemane
Hildegard von Bingen / Anonymous: Vision I, The Fire of Creation I
Terre Thaemlitz: Canto I, Rosary Novena for Gender Transitioning
Judy Garland: 'Til After the Holidays [Live on "The Tonight Show," December 1968]
Geinoh Yamashirogumi: Ave Maria
Kate Bush: Snowflake
Ryuichi Sakamoto: Choral No. 1
Tim Hecker: Virginal I
Mediaeval Baebes: Salva Nos
Headlock: Coax
Hildegard von Bingen / Anonymous: Vision II, Wisdom and Her Sisters II
Michael Nyman: M-1, Song A
Kate Bush: Under Ice
Chilly Gonzales: A Minor Christmas Medley
Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Sylvian: World Citizen [I Won't be Disappointed/Looped Piano]
Final Fantasy XIV: Ul' Dah [Night]
Hildegard von Bingen / Anonymous: Vision III, The Fiery Spirit I
Mariah Carey: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Harlem Boys Choir: A Change is Gon' Come

 

CHRISTMAS, ALONE, TOGETHER (2013)  DOWNLOAD

James Ferraro: Stuck 1
Ryuichi Sakamoto: Solitude
Ryuichi Sakamoto: 23rd Psalm
Judy Garland: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Colin Self: Benedictus Elatione
Ryuichi Sakamoto: Father Christmas
Karl Biscuit: Hierophone
Enya: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Ryuichi Sakamoto: Harry to Hospital
Libera: Ave Maria
James Ferraro: Stuck 2
Karl Biscuit: Aux Confins Des Arrieres-Mondes
Vangelis: Rachel's Song
Enya: And Winter Came
Low: If You Were Born Today
Peter Gabriel: With This Love [Choir]
Bulgarian Folk Choir: Коледарски песни
Brian Eno and Harold Budd: The Chill Air
David Sylvian: The Wooden Cross
James Ferraro: Stuck 3 [Rats]
Haruomi Hosono: Edge of the End
Colin Self: Ingens Mutatio
Banjo or Freakout: Oh Holy Night
Low: Long Way Around the Sea
Geinoh Yamashirogumi: 陽は沈む
Mariah Carey: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Mariah Carey: All I Want for Christmas is Screw
Tori Amos: Our New Year

 

Gay Ghosts II: Safe


"Having a sister or a friend is like sitting at night in a lighted house. Those outside can watch you if they want, but you need not see them. You simply say, 'Here are the perimeters of our attention. If you prowl around under the windows till the crickets go silent, we will pull the shades. If you wish us to suffer your envious curiosity, you must permit us not to notice it.' Anyone with one solid human bond is that smug, and it is the smugness as much as the comfort and safety that lonely people covet and admire."

- Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping

"What’s noticeable about gay bars in the main is not their status as centers for public political organization but their anonymity. Equality also means the right to a space of one’s own, and gay bars represent a sort of separateness, or freedom from scrutiny, that’s available nowhere else in the culture. Unlike members of other marginalized groups defined by ethnicity or religion, gay people do not grow up in families comprised of people who share their demographic profile. There is, at first, no mother tongue to describe their experience of life, no traditions to bind themselves to the world. Gay bars are where gay people have, historically, found one another to learn that language and those traditions — and to invent them. Being gay is not a religion, but a place in which people come together to celebrate who they are in the face of life’s obstacles could be compared to a church."

- Daniel D’Addario, "The Gay Bar as Safe Space Has Been Shattered," time.com, June 12, 2016

In the children’s story of Ferdinand the Bull,
the bull gets off. He sits down, won’t fight.
He manages to walk out of the ring without that
sharp poke of steel being shoved through
his back and deep into his heart. He returns
to the ranch and the sniffing of flowers.
But in real life, once the bull enters the ring,
then it’s a certainty he will leave ignominiously,
dragged out by two mules while the attention of
the crowd rivets on the matador, who, if he’s good,
holds up an ear, taken from the bull, and struts
around the ring, since it is his business to strut
as it is the bull’s business to be dragged away.

It is the original eagerness of the bull which
take’s one’s breath. Suddenly he is there, hurtling
at the barrier, searching for something soft and
human to flick over his shoulder, trying to hook
his horn smack into the glittering belly
of the matador foolish enough to be there.
But there is a moment after the initial teasing
when the bull realizes that ridding the ring
of these butterfly creatures is not what
the afternoon is about. Sometimes it comes with
the first wrench of his back when the matador
turns him too quickly. Sometimes it comes
when the picador is driving his lance into
the bull’s crest–the thick muscle between
the shoulder blades. Sometimes it comes when
the banderillos place their darts into that same
muscle and the bull shakes himself, trying to
free himself of that bright light in his brain.
Or it may come even later, when the matador
is trying to turn the bull again and again,
trying to wrench that same muscle which he uses
to hold up his head, to charge, to toss a horse.
It is the moment the bull stops and almost thinks,
when the eagerness disappears and the bull
realizes these butterflies can cause him pain,
when he turns to hunt out his querencia.

It sounds like care: querencia–and it means
affection or fondness, coming from querer,
to want or desire or love, but also to accept
a challenge as in a game, but it also means
a place chosen by a man or animal–querencia–
the place one cares most about, where one is
most secure, protected, where one feels safest.
In the ring, it may be a spot near the gate
or the place he was first hurt or where
the sand is wet or where there’s a little blood,
his querencia, even though it looks like any
other part of the ring, except this is the spot
the bull picks as his home, the place he will
defend and keep returning to, the place where
he again decides to fight and lifts his head
despite the injured muscle, the place the matador
tries to keep him away from, where the bull,
sensing defeat, is most dangerous and stubborn.

The passage through adulthood is the journey
through bravado, awareness, and resignation
which the bull duplicates in his fifteen minutes
in the ring. As for the querencia, we all have
a place where we feel safest, even if it is only
the idea of a place, maybe an idea by itself,
the place that all our being radiates out from,
like an ideal of friendship or justice or perhaps
something simpler like the memory of a back porch
where we laughed a lot and how the setting sun
through the pine trees shone on the green chairs,
flickered off the ice cubes in our glasses.
We all have some spot in our mind which we
go back to from hospital bed, or fight with
husband or wife, or the wreckage of a life.
So the bull’s decision is only the degree
to which he decides to fight, since the outcome
is already clear, since the mules are already
harnessed to drag his body across the sand.
Will he behave bravely and with dignity or
will he be fearful with his thick tongue lolling
from his mouth and the blood making his black
coat shiny and smooth? And the audience, no matter
how much it admires the matador, watches the bull
and tries to catch a glimpse of its own future.

At the end, each has a knowledge which is just
of inevitability, so the only true decision
is how to behave, like anyone supposedly–
the matador who tries to earn the admiration
of the crowd by displaying grace and bravery
in the face of peril, the bull who can’t
be said to decide but who obeys his nature.
Probably, he has no real knowledge and,
like any of us, it’s pain that teaches him
to be wary, so his only desire in defeat
is to return to that spot of sand, and even
when dying he will stagger toward his querencia
as if he might feel better there, could
recover there, take back his strength, win
the fight, stick that glittering creature to the wall,
while the matador tries to weaken that one muscle–
the animal all earnestness, the man all deceit–
until they come to that instant when the matador
decides the bull is ready and the bull appears
to submit by lowering his head, where the one
offers his neck and the other offers his belly,
and the matador’s one hope is for a clean kill,
that the awful blade of the horn won’t suddenly
rear up into the white softness of his groin.

One October in Barcelona I remember watching
a boy, an apprentice, lunge forward for the kill
and miss and miss again, how the bull would fling
the sword out of his back and across the ring,
and again stagger to his feet and shake himself,
and how the boy would try again and miss again,
until his assistant took a dagger and stabbed
repeatedly at the spinal cord as the bull tried
to drag himself forward to that place in the sand,
that querencia, as the crowd jeered and threw
their cushions and the matador stood back ashamed.
It was cold and the sun had gone down. The brightly
harnessed mules were already in the ring, and everyone
wanted to forget it and go home. How humiliating
it seemed and how hard the bull fought at the end
to drag himself to that one spot of safety, as if
that word could have any meaning in such a world.

QUOTES CITED IN PASSAGE; POEM, "QUERENCIA," BY STEPHEN DOBYNS; INTERIOR IMAGES VIA PULSEORLANDO.COM, THE WASHINGTON POST, CLUBZONE.COM, AND YELP