I still have my camera. And all my film reels. Like those new fancy DVD recorders could hold a candle to the old days. I don't have all my memories on DVD. A December Friday night, Christmas Eve actually, finds me here, in my loft, on the couch with my slide projector. I can hear the people who live downstairs in Mimi's old apartment laughing and talking, holiday music playing. Outside, New York snow falls, reflecting the multicolored city lights, and making the night just a bit brighter. Memories of the old days flash by on the screen, as I sit here, alone.CLICK
Roger and Collins sitting at the kitchen table, each with a mug of coffee, staring up at my camera with a look that says "Piss off." Roger is wearing those red and blue plaid pants. We buried him in them, with a copy of Musetta's Waltz and his favorite green guitar pick. Collins, I think with a grin. Ever the complicated philosopher. His shirt reads, "I don't know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve." Tolkein. To this day, I still can't figure that one out.CLICK
Maureen on her stage, with the cowbell. That was one memorable performance. All that "mooing." The cops were so confused all they could do was stand there. And then, of course, there was the Life Café afterwards…I laugh out loud, remembering when we all just randomly started listing the wonderful things about being a "suffering artist," and then the cops burst in, and Mimi, clad in full uniform, jumped off the tables and started dancing with the fat cop. He turned the shade of a rotting eggplant.CLICK
Maureen again, this time with Joanne, who is giving her a piggy-back. They're both laughing, and they look like they could be one of those black-and-white shots you get in a picture frame when you buy it. I feel a stab of angst. I never really got over her. I never though that anyone would ever look at me, a scrawny little Jewish boy with glasses who hid behind his camera all the time. She proved me wrong. For a while, at least.CLICK
Angel, in full Santa uniform, with her ten-gallon pickle tub drums. Mimi is half-in, half-out of the picture. She's laughing and attempting to steal Angel's "drumsticks," actually various pieces of non-dangerous silverware from my kitchen. She was what kept us all together, you know. When Angel died, nothing was the same again. Our little family was lacking someone with an unselfish heart, someone with unconditional love for everyone. Angel didn't believe in people just being born completely bad. "Shit happens, honey, it makes people bad," she used to say. She shared Mimi's view that you should live for the moment.
Speak of the devil. Mimi again, this time, at the "BreakingBackIntoTheBuilding Party." She's in the normal leather and lace, but she's wearing Roger's ugly old jacket. She's holding a bottle of cheap champagne, and, in the background, you can see the flare of Collin's and Angel's blowtorch. About a month less than a year from that day, Mimi had her near-death-experience. When Maureen and Joanne, with the help of some of the neighbors, finally got her upstairs she was barely breathing. Roger leaving, her daily fix, and the harsh New York winter had almost killed her, but she lived, claiming that she had seen Angel in heaven and he had turned her back. After that night, she lived to the ripe old age of twenty-four. Thanks for the extra time, Angel. I think bitterly.
Roger again, in one of the finest pictures of him that I've ever taken, if I do say so myself. He's onstage at the Life Café, where, incidentally, Mimi worked. Their multicolored lights are flashing off his red guitar, creating a glare, but it further enhances the image of the rock star in all his glory. His face is the image of happiness; the stage is where he belonged. This picture was taken before he knew he had AIDS. When he was in the final stages of his illness, he could barely lift up his guitar, much less play it. He wrote one song that would forever live on in the memories of all who heard it before he died at twenty-seven. One song glory, he always said.CLICK
Collins, in that coat. We buried him in that, too, right next to Angel. He was the most intelligent of us all. I mean, the guy taught Metaphysics! Or something to that degree, but it was something requiring great intelligence. He was a great guy. He truly loved Angel, when she died, it was as if a part of him died. He was still the same old Collins, but a light went out of his eyes that day. Though I must admit the rewiring of that ATM was pretty amazing.
Wow, end of the film roll. The end of an era. I ponder this as I walk to the window, and look down. The snow is still falling, and the tent city is gone, as is Maureen's performance space. Good old buddy Benny decided to build his virtual reality center after all. He still comes around some times, as do Maureen and Joanne, just to check up on me. The neighbor's music changes to classical or opera. Musetta's Waltz. Suddenly I realize that I'm not in any of the pictures. Am I just the documenter, the one who is supposed to be objective and sit back and watch life go by? The same question that I asked myself after Angel's funeral. I walk back to the couch, adjusting my glasses, because I can feel my eyes start to get hot and start to water as I remember everything. Then it all just comes flooding out. I sit on my couch on Christmas Eve, crying. Crying for my friends, and their lives that should have been so much more. Crying for those of us who still have to live with the pain of losing them. Crying for myself, for the memories that I captured on film, especially the memories created all those years ago tonight. The digital clock chimes midnight, and the power blows.
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