Thursday, February 3, 2011



I’ve forgotten her name already, the name that appeared in rugged black as Bob pulled the charcoal across the paper taped to her grave.  Seconds ago it was a sunny winter day, now the light dims, snow comes heavy in seconds. The world seems very, very black and white as flakes tumble  and the trees behind the graves shake in the sudden wind. She was a spiritualist. She claimed she had a spirit husband that gave her very physical pleasure.  She was also a sexual reformer in the 19th century, jailed for a her book that prepared Victorian young ladies for their wedding nights and told them they had the power to say no and need not be “ravished.”  Imprisoned several times for her corrupting radical ideas, she took her own life rather than face another sentence. Her name, the one I’ve forgotten, buckles in the wind as the storm tugs at finished rubbing.   10 minutes later the sun returns.


Peter tells me playful ghost stories on the street.   He tells me to look up, then says  it’s always scary when you see a shadow pass the middle window of three lit windows in a row. I see the windows but nothing moving. Two blocks later I tell him to look up. In the 1st window of three is a cardboard silhouette of a man holding  a knife.

After seeing Passolini’s “Mama Roma” I dream an Italian beauty salon.  It’s the 60’s.  The woman in the chair has closed eyes, high piled hair, and a face so impassive she could be a hairdressing dummy.  Her blue eyes open mechanically as those of a robot. For two minutes she stares without moving. There is no recognition or focus in her vision. Her eyes close. Two long minutes later they open.  The hairdressers around her say solemnly. “She is the Spirit of Ages. She is about to wake from her long sleep.  See!  She’s blinking.”  Her eyes snap open again.


Mike asleep in the theater. After a sad birthday and an exhausting flight, his face has  regained its boyish gentleness. His eyelids catch light bouncing unevenly from the screen. They twitch. He's filming in his slumber.  Up above us, a gigantic granular Jellyfish pulses as if it swam from his dreams.

At night, a hole is the frozen Baltic, a black swirl in gray ice. Stepping into the water, looking up. The clouds above Helsinki, white against the black sky, as if the shock of the cold has turned my vision inside out.

A tan hip on the paisley hotel bedspread.  On the taught skin there is a long purple scar that matches the curving colors of the pattern beneath it. I want to ask the story. I want to take a photo. I do neither.

A big -eyed boy on the dance floor. The front of his shirt says "your mother is developer." He spins. The back reads " your father is fixer."

A stocky rocker and a fey boy with pinned up hair are standing, then  suddenly fighting on the floor. Pulled apart I see two lines of blood running in a ^ shape down his neck.

The members of "Pertti Kurikka's Name Day" have Downe Syndrome. Their music is simple and strong. The lead singer's facial expression rarely changes, even when he's sings about being in church and needing to shit.  Add it all up - the perfect punk bank.

Our hosts here are obviously witches. They have a knack for pulling strange and pungent potions out the air at parties – yellow, green, blood red drinks, tasting of herbs, berries, licorice, vodka, gin…. They delight in my easy drunkenness and share stories of drinking, sky diving, gun shooting, drinking, KGB activity in the Soviet era, drinking, and filmmaking in Lapland when the sun never sets.  On the way home to the hotel at midnight, Helsinki is all dark clean lines and glittering snow. The wind shakes the hotel windows as I climb into bed.  I dream  a gigantic crow sitting on the roof of the building across the street. It breathes out gusts of  black air and snow that strike the window.


Going home tomorrow if this new storm allows.  I watch  the snow thinking of Eddie giving us  of one his free form Muslim sermons in a Philly diner.  His swollen, damaged hands moved delicately as he  explained that each snowflake has an angel, a  personality. As the snow thickens, I imagine each flake is a tiny movie screen, each one showing a film that lasts the length of the fall from the sky to the ground, then flickers out on impact.