RAY BREMSER MEMORIAL
COLUMN SEVENTY-FOUR, AUGUST 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 Al Aronowitz)
VI. TRIPTYCH USA
" 1997 Brenda Frazer)
I'm set to indulge in a little happiness, memory weaving and the magic of dances we did together. Yes, Ladies, life is tough, and hard to say "What have YOU done?" Our rambling, write it all down.
I took a trip " and not alone. Think of the morning's waking. Not those
mornings when the garbage monster clatters and finds me still waiting at the
window for the shadow at dawn of a restless poet returning. No! Rather mornings
when you wake to voices, statements, thoughts. And all the pigeons and sunshine
on church steeples are background to the comprehension of it. I'm here,
tomorrow's horizons have not yet brought babies and responsibilities.
in Ginsberg's apartment, New York Lower East Side, his household with its
poetic clutter. Each cupboard and sill holds collections, scribbles, tapestries
on the wall. The summer atmosphere outside seeps in, mixing with sounds from the
box, the phonograph. The vibraharp tone, piano and other delicate percussions
stash sound in the corners. The sleeping body of my husband I will touch and
we'll rise to go west, a couple of naked travelers, us, we'll be off today!
blank out of my mind, I go into a trance of pure joy, do I have to explain
again? Our philosopy? Love is something you can depend on. It is more worthy
than other kinds of security. It can be a way out of yourself and the
counterbalance to a hundred ills. It can be the reason to overcome hardship. It
can make things easy? No time to
explain, a consciousness change, drop the materialism and get right to it.
"We'll go to San Francisco and visit Wally Berman."
trip is an escape of sorts. Here's the plan. We'd already gone to Jersey
City the day before to check in with the parole officer. At his mother's
house, Ray's sister gave me a pair of shorts small enough for a doll. Of
course she didn't know our plan. Travel to the coast with only those clothes?
Ray whispers in my ear "You're beautiful, Babe" and I feel sexy. We
take the bus down Palisades Avenue to Journal Square where he reports at the
parole office, second floor above the street. I had to wait and be cool outside.
They didn't know yet we were married.
he came back out the worst thing happened. Two cops come walking , taking up the
whole sidewalk, and push us back into the dark hallway and make us take off our
shoes. Did we look too carefree? Too poetic? Would they send word on the radio
blooper to file our names? But finding nothing, they let us go. On the bus we
get playful with it, bouncing our anger around like kids. "Take off your
shoes!" "Yessir officer man, I'd wanted to go barefoot anyway."
And called them foot fetishists.
that was yesterday, now we're ready to go. The trip is more than a nose
thumbing at the entanglement of years. Even as we walk away, ride away across
the marshes of New Jersey. It is an attempt to do something, whatever we want.
We walk west by the compass and all the friends of our lifetime are doing
something too. And Ray's soft poet beard does not interfere although they?d
like to arrest us for it. Ours to be/be/be? a soul body tries desperately to
make something of itself despite what's been left. We walk away from that.
I suspect that I am part of the oppression he feels. The responsibility of having a wife. It isn't what either of us want, the only responsibility is to our love and to poetry. All of the restrictions are a
many of the writers
had made this trip
before us. . .'
weight we don't want to
bear. How could I show him that I was with him? But the poetry cut me off too.
His moods, the unwillingness to talk, the mysterious way he switched into the
writing mode, usually with a tense scene preceding it.
fears are nameless, I share with him a void of neither heritage nor tradition
other than what the law would allow him, not even a citizen. Then I?ll
renounce mine too. But all the while we claim a love for, a connection with the
land and with our society, but not like this, not the repressive side of it.
many of the writers had made this trip before us, and now we were together in
spirit. The literary thing to do, the front door of poetry in New York, the back
door San Francisco and communications very good between them. A patriotic
pilgrimage! We'll touch the land. We know little of real estate or family
relations, we leave to escape the heat, the name calling on the lips of street
children, the hustle and the insecurity. A simple wish for something better,
with the healthy restriction that we know we must come back.
of our events are episodes. The beach at Coney Island, John wakes us up and
takes us there for the beginning. I wade in the shallow part and as I shake the
sand and water off my hands the wedding ring, my only treasure, drops off too
into the eastern sea. The three of us walk along the beach, suddenly cold, and
smoke a joint. Then take off to drive the first 800 miles west to Cleveland.
arrive somewhere in Ohio, after driving all day, to a place where we have to
take a break. John was in a big hurry to get to his wedding. "Slow down
man," Ray said, "Smoke a joint?" We walk away from the car
through weeds and roadside trash, picking our way to a cliff of broken shale and
loose dirty pebbles where we lay for while, side by side, looking down at our
own two straight bodies. Green, brown, black is the view, Ohio late sun soda
drink afternoon. Me in my shorts and him in his field jacket. No photographers
and no audiences to observe that we have made the first move west.
Later John dropped us off
in a small town, maybe better for hitchhiking. We stayed there for two days in a
cheap motel until our money ran out. I made trips to the restaurant for
chocolate milk amid the stares of everyone. Back in the room we smoked and joked
and made love. Wishing for a fan in this flatland heat, we went to sleep after
looking in the phone book for a hip coffee shop John had told us about.
are we going and why? Most of the important things are nameless or imperfectly
described. The response to them is what life is about. The mind is a depth of
jumbled syllables and unconsciousness spews out complexities on the imagination
for material. The heart perceives innocently, leading the way.
best way to make love is to Coltrane, music, harmony, inventiveness, these
things we pick up from it. The best things are when he touches my legs, my
hipbone, my ribs and the ecstasy of his face as he breathes in. Make it? Make
love, make it clear. The best way to make love is with total trust. But those
things are missing now and I was uncomfortable, and in my youth didn't know
how to handle it. Would worry for awhile, and then gratefully accept whatever
reconciliation the lovemaking offered. The pilgrimage ideal sustained us.
Detroit and Chicago and turned south to Columbus. Doubts began to nag. Would we
make it? No money at all, except for the dollar or two that Ray often stashed
away for emergencies in an inner pocket. He always held the money and the
cigarettes, it was the beginning of my dependency on him. Relieve me of worry,
he would take care. But my betrayal was that I worried anyway. And his was that
he'd screwed another woman so soon after we married.
ride in a truck, a car hauler, 12 or 18 new cars all nested behind at angles and
we're laughing and becoming acquainted with our driver who takes a chance
against his road managers. He lets us pop down to the floor at critical spots
and then up again when clear. Our spirits lifted "Wow, we're all together
in place and mind, even though strangers, just human dots on the big land!"
Stop for coffee, sunset or dawn, a thin strip of light at the truck-stop.
Between the truck and a bush Ray cups flames, the smoldering away of our last
we've got now is the straight line road going west across the USA, our
country, all we've got is each other. We got a ride into town in Washington
Indiana late at night. Thunder strikes and we jabber incoherently about shadows,
curtains and window sills, people watching? Head for a park where we might find
benches to sit but it's a school instead and an open door with lights.
"Must be a watchman," Ray says and grabs my hand, pulls me back into
bushes under the eaves as the rain starts to fall. We try to sleep, two human
animals searching among the trees for the spirit of God, the rain is a tangible
gift, like money or food. Element of earth as body fluids in us " two of us
lying side by side. The rain comforting because nothing we could do. No
responsibility against that threat, like all the prior claims of jail or marital
fidelity. Lies " "Do you believe me Bonnie?" I never said no. Just
try to sleep.
we can't, and so jump across the grass ditches together onto the road through
town, our road west. A police car turns in its nose toward the porch planked
houses and takes us to the police station. "They looked suspicious,"
was the explanation. "Who does?" I wonder. Me in my shorts? Him in his
field jacket with marriage certificate folded along with poems just in case a
reading should occur "I just happen to have one here," he would say
whooping one out at the ready. But this time the marriage certificate served and
the police offered to let us sleep in a cell for the night. But we're headed
for the nearest intersection and coffee. Quick! "Thanks, but no
all night restaurant there, golden brown quiet lights and an extensive menu. We
notice all the dairy rich items as we sit and look at the white picket fence up
the front and night people come and go. Well past midnight and our no money cup
of coffee. The knowledge of police and their amplified network worries us.
back to the road and just stand there, not hitchhiking and sometimes I sit on
the curb. Looking back at the warmth of the restaurant. Big trucks going by in
the night, two or three, up the slope and over the road beyond, then tail lights
bright as one puts on the brakes and backs up, sounds his horn. Ray checks, a
ride anywhere. Into the slopes and banked roads beside river beds we ride the
night in a high cab that looks right down on the road below us.
The next day, another truck, a gas tanker, we had to duck down to avoid authority. Missed seeing the river, though I felt it, the change of terrain, the swell and drop off of the land to water level while
to do with
intercourse. . .'
we were sitting on the floor of the
cab. Dusty and hot, I'm longing for a swim. Crossed the Mississippi, miles
wide. Sister river to the Missouri and we cross something again, I get confused.
Bridges, kids on bikes coasting to the water. Mind of meditation rivers move,
happy in their own progress.
City. Ticky Ticky boom ticky boom boom " sound of music, a piano in the
distance. St. Louis, I think of Tom Sawyer as we walk through neighborhoods of
poor houses and two story porches. His arm around me reassures me. The long walk
through town fun, skip and jump like the kids in the street. We indulge in word
games, face to face, pushing and bullying, slap boxing the final hilarity. It
all has to do with intercourse.
walk through town too long, business route, no map, we didn't know. Ray says
"We'll go anywhere now, follow the truck routes, wherever the rides take
us." All afternoon and evening on the next ride the rivers wind, crossing
from north and south. Corn stands tall, sunshine after a short rain " God shed
the rain. Cornflowers blue by the road. The whole country corny as hell and
growing more so. Hopelessly tied to cities, and suburbs in cornball repetitive
lives. Heritage of America! Why this betrayal? I write this in tribute to
happiness. Against those who say we're unpatriotic. I write for innocence so
great that the memories remain lovely though painful fears came true.
evil feeling, I don't know why. Maybe it was the last few rides. One truck
driver had his hand in my shorts as I woke and the worst part was the sleeping
dream of it like childhood innocence of sex, unaccountable feelings. Ray later
got some money from him in lieu of making a scene. Then later we were barreling
along in a hearse, sitting on the coffin rails in back, the young driver says
"You got any weed?" and we shake our heads wondering if he's the
fuzz, but then he hands us a joint. Next ride even weirder, the driver wants to
sleep and so he lets Ray drive. I knew it was a mistake, Ray should have said
no. He has no driving experience at all and we careened dangerously even on the
straight road the car's weight shifting wildly under his steering.
Crossed the Mojave Desert with a trucker who broke open a watermelon half way across. When we finally got across the Mojave Desert, you'd think that the trip would be almost over. But we keep passing nowhere towns, Barstow, Tahachapi, Bakersfield. Small gas stations and unfriendly people who don't know better than to stare at me. I hope I never see Bakersfield again with its tinfoil atmosphere. We know it's California by the vegetable and fruit stands. No money to buy, but I didn't like vegetables anyway. Land of plenty? Where are the Drakes Cakes? ##
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