New York City summer. Hot enough for you? This is the topic of choice. Everyone in the city complains, whines. Always something. The Second Avenue subway, taxes. Wall Street is shaky. I vacillate between wanting the glassy towers of hedge-fund driven wealth to topple and knowing it’s us poor bastards that pay for it all in the end.
On my way downtown last night, one of these welfare mothers napping on the train. 5 kids all under the age of 6…two strollers, 3 huddled on the metal bench in cheap polyester basketball jerseys and shorts, chilling in the subway AC. Boys, all of them. Mother not more than 21—like a girl, pulling a hoodie over her chest. Maybe another life starting under the thickness of her over-stretched T-shirt. The middle-child of the huddle—the boy, maybe 4, his thumb in his mouth, stroking his other hand up and down on the back of his brother who serves as his pillow. The little miniature Michael Jordan, wanting a little affection—the sensitive one, needing the touch.
I caught some footage the other day of that orphaned hippo who’d chosen a 130 year-old tortoise for his mother…The whole world is moved by this…that giant amphibious toddler caressing an old shell with a shapeless heavy head, licking the rough hideous turtle-face with that massive baby-tongue in the dry Kenyan turf. Another one—needing the touch.
On the late-afternoon Upper East Side streets, an endless parade of nannies between air-conditioned spaces-- picking up toddlers from playgroup. Corporate types who never missed a well-dressed beat for pregnancy and the mess of childbirth-- coming home to their Chinese-born youngsters in designer toddler-wear—so far from home. What will happen to these privileged children with the perfect haircuts and SAT scores? We’ve not yet seen the adopted American-Asian population in rehab, collecting DUIs and ex-boyfriends and prescriptions. So far they wear their Spence and Chapin uniforms well, do not struggle with their weight. They excel at drawing, play their ½-sized violins with finesse. Their parents wear this well.
At work I keep thinking of the boy in the huddle—the one with the soft heart—the one that maybe cries more, gives his young mother a harder time, the one with the enormous thirst who pulled a short damaged straw. His little shaved head…his shiny brown-black little arm soft and smooth and needy in the little knot of brown limbs and red polyester. Maybe after a few years of unfulfilled hunger he’ll start to act out, look for the wrong kind of attention. Maybe he’ll be a rapper, be adored by millions; maybe he’ll put his passion into ball-playing. Maybe he’ll confuse his needs and become obese. Or maybe he’ll be a sex-addict. Maybe he’ll have to sell himself for the touch, fill his hole with a needle-ful.
Oh God, I am thinking—give this little boy a guitar-- something. All these people on the stage with me here.. using volume as their art…the Lost Boys of rock and roll. Up here—with the audience, the women, the affection… doing Summertime Blues for the Budweiser-saturated.. .. You Can’t Always Get What You Want ..and they forgot what it was they wanted in the first place. All dressed up, all wired…and nothing to say.
So as I ignore all the hustlers on the way home—all the hard-luck stories…the exhausted sweaty subway-guitarist who’s played ‘Landslide’ more times than Stevie Nicks… I keep my little Michael in my pocket. My prayer of the day—please God, or Oprah...let someone feed this child, let him weep…give him an ear, an extra pat on the head, a copy of Harold and The Purple Crayon.
Jesus. I think the heat’s getting to me.