The Flat Earth: WheredaFFFhuck Did New York Go?
Co-Directed by Will MacAdams
The solo show that begins in the theater and ends at your corner mailbox.
© 2008 Annie Lanzillotto
Lanzillotto’s script was commissioned by Dixon Place and performed in the 2008 Hot Festival. The Dixon Place MONDO CÁNE commission is made possible with generous support from NYSCA, a state agency, The Jerome Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, & The Peg Saantvoord Foundation.
Traffic lights hang on a bench press on the stage. A white line is painted across the floor indicating that the playing area is “the middle of the street.”
1. The Blessing of the Rocks:Annie pours water over Manhattan Schist while spinning it in light
New York has a destiny of glitter! New York has a destiny of glitter!
2. The Absence of Red
I am vertical. Back on land. Walking. I walked out of Sloan-Kettering.
They gave me this list of shelters. I don’t know where to go. I just wanna go to my mother’s and rest.
My mother’s still alive. And she’ll still handwash my underwear and dry them in the oven.
–We got a word for that, If in you’re forties and you go back to living with ya mother
i Bamboccioni, I know, I know, everything sounds better than what it is, in Italian.
Even heart attack. Attaco di cuore. Even heart attack sounds romantic. Attaco di cuore. Attaco di cuore.
Annie swings stickball bat repeatedly whipping the air.
I grew up in the Bronx, playing in traffic on a one-way street named after a Saint.
I never knew what three miracles were attributed to him or what favors he leaned on granting. Stoop. Sidewalk. Street. You learn your lessons early. Stoop. Sidewalk. Street. That was the progression of my entrance into the world. When I was three, I sat on the stoop and watched the boys in all their freedom zooming up and down the block, peeling their t-shirts up over their heads and tucking them in the backs of their dungarees, whacking Spaldeens with their stickball bats, sending Spaldeens far into the sun. I was confined to the stoop.
At five I got to play on the sidewalk. Down the corner was the blue mailbox I’d climb and watch the dope addicts from the methadone clinic ebb and flow, mellow at high tide, erratic at low. One man sat under a black hat melting in a puddle of sunlight, “I’m Jesse James.” He’d spit and curse the mailbox.
At seven my mother allowed me to cross the street on my own, and to play in the street.
My brother came home from Viet Nam and my mother was elated, “Sure ga’head, play in the middle of the street!” That’s where the stickball game happened. In the middle of the street the lane of sky was so big. I knew I’d never see a sky any bigger than that. I remember the traffic light. Green was busted. So, I crossed in the absence of red —and hope I didn’t get killed. I ran across. Life felt like being in the middle of the street ever since. Crossing in the absence of red.
3. Benchpressing The City
Annie benchpresses two traffic lights on a barbell to exhaustion
Lady Mephistopheles! John McGurk! Blonde Madge Davenport! Big Mame! Rosie Gramatassio! Short Change Charlie! Eat em up Jack McManus! The Bowery’s got the greatest ghosts in the world! I call on them when I need courage and I need courage constantly. We all got RSS: Restless Soul Syndrome. What do I tell McGurk when he yells, “WheredaFFFhuck did New York go? The Bowery looks like Minneapolis!” When he says, “You got a body. Do somethin!”
I’ve reached the end of my cycle! It’s a New York City menopause. I gotta get out while I’m still standing. Five neighborhoods ran past me.
Annie swings stickball bat
2nd and 10th, Bank Street, Clinton Street where a stray wire whipped the building all night as we tried to sleep, 49th and 9th where the crack dealers were the most generous conversationalists, 121st and Columbus, Bedford and Barrow, 7th and Carroll. I paid two hundred grand man. I know what you’re thinking, that’s a bargain. Will somebody spot me?
After 13 years, one day, the landlord calls my name in the hallway. “Annie!” Now the last time he yelled like that he was pinned by a refrigerator on the second floor landing. “Whattayou crazy helping him?” my mother said, “you pull somethin, he ain’t paying for you.” “Annie gimme a hand, willya?”
“Joey, what are you kiddin? Why don’t you hire somebody?” And the Italian American answer of all answers, “Who’m I gonna hire?” I can’t get into the whole Italian American Mind here, just think of Giuliani putting Welfare recipients in day-glow orange vests with brooms off the curbside, “let them sweep the streets.” Think of Dantean allegorical justice, how hell is the inverse of our lives lived. This time Joey says, “Annie. It’s time. I’m getting to this building.” Joey had inherited eleven buildings and one by one renovated and brought them to market value.
I wanna take a Gooba Empowerment Moment.
Will someone hear hum the theme from The Godfather for me?
Yes? Thank you. (Audience member hums as Annie speaks)
What I wanted to say to him was, “Get the fhuck outta here, Joey. I live here, Mothaffhuckah, not you. You live in a gated community in Breezy Point, Joey. Fhuckin Queens got gated communities. What are we, Capetown? That’s wheredafffhuck New York went. Into a gated community. Get the fhuck outta here. And don’t tell me I’m taking food off your kid’s table. Get the fhuck outta here.”But I didn’t. (Annie signals to audience member to cut humming)
I says to him, “Sure Joey, no problem. It’ll all work out.” I ran on faith. I fell into the template of the first tenant landlord debacle on this island. I’m not gonna get into all that now.
Okay. Briefly, in 1626 Peter Minuit comes from wherever the Dutch come from, a young healthy diamond cutter new recruit of the Dutch West India Company. He likes the winds of the harbor, remember the Dutch used windmills to grind their grain, they had that right, he likes that our harbors didn’t freeze over in the winter. Imagine the balls on this guy giving sixty guilders, what’s that? Twenty bucks? Trinkets and beads and a blank piece of paper to sign to the first peoples uptown. I’d like to go to Amsterdam with twenty bucks trinkets and a blank piece of paper and buy Amsterdam. Go on! Get the Fhuck outta here. I know the paper was blank cause that’s what shyster’s do, ask you to sign blank papers and they fill details in later. You know anybody who’s been snagged by a lawyer in the INS lobby lately?
Now with Joey, I’m not comparing myself to a people who were genocided,and I’m not gonna pronouce the name of their tribe in my Bronx accent,
it’d sound disrespectful and nobody was holding a gun to my head – if anything I drink milk from the gun. Capitalism keeps me alive, pharmaceuticals keep me alive. If I stop taking Thyroxin I’ll slip into a coma in ninety days. Boom. That’s it. Gone. I drink milk from the ffhuckin gun. I run on faith.
Sure, Joey, no problem. I mean even the Bible has a Goomba Empowerment Moment. The Bible says
Annie signals to audience member to hum the theme from The Godfather
“What the fhuck are you worried about, look at the lillies in the field, they’re clothed! They live! If I give to them, oxygen, nutrients, soil, sunlight, clothing, uprightness and whatever, you think I’m gonna hold out on you? fagetabout you? Hah? What are you worried about? Fagetaboutit. Take it ease. Don’t sweat the small things.”
(Annie signals to cut music)
Annie it’s time. I’m getting to this building. Boom.
I woke up like Rip Van Winkle, without keys to anywhere,
only the revolution hadn’t happened in my sleep, gentrication did.
I stepped out onto 7th Avenue.
I noticed all at once; all the Mom and Pop shops were gone.
Even the local dog walker was walking in a suit and tie.
He hands me a new business card, “License Real Estate Broker.”
“What am I gonna do with this?”
New York was 100 million doors, and I had no key.
I realized I’ll never know New York.
Because you don’t know New York till you live in her streets.
And my body can’t survive that.
I’d get pneumonia. Boom.
Outside The Dutch Reform Church there was a sign:
“homeless is 3 nights sleeping outside.”
What Dutchman calculated that? I wanna know. Who makes these equations?
In a matter of hours I met two New Yorkers who summarized the arc of my whole adult lifespan in the city. On 6th Avenue, I meet this guy Achmed.
A New New Yorker. He was arrested in Egypt for being outside a gay bar and sentenced to three years. He had all this joy just to walk down the street and sizzle, to be FREE.
Whaddya like about New York?
“Everything,” Achmed said, “I love everything.”
God I remember feeling that way. I wish I could feel that way.
Then I met Kate, in the dressing room of Eileen Fischer where I was trying on a monk’s robe.
She comes up to me, walking with a cane, and says,
“That looks good on you. I can’t say that to everybody.”
What’s your story? You a New Yorker?
She says, “Yeah.”
So she says, “Australia.”
“Australia?” That’s one neighborhood I never thought to check out.
“So, why’d you leave New York?”
She gives me this New York answer.
“Why does anybody leave New York!?”
Aha. She’s right. We all got the same story.
We can’t afford it anymore. We get sick. Boom. You’re gone.
The first story I’ve found of gays fleeing the city was in 1647.
The Dutch were starting a tolerant society on this island, but how tolerant was it?
Being gay was a capital offense, punishable by death.
So this Dutch guy’s caught fhuckin his servant.
A white guy and a black guy.
The white guy’s name is Harmen Van whateva.
The black guy’s name is Tobias.
They get thrown in jail.
Now if it was 1647 and you were living in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam and you were caught: gay, –considered a crime akin to murder, what would you do?
What would you do? You’re jailed. Huh?
You’d run. They ran. Escape.
And where would you go?
They run to the Iroquois!
The Iroquois say, “We know what this is. You guys can chill out in the longhouse.”
Peter Stuyvesant is the guy in charge, not the mayor, but
you know, whatever they called it back then, he’s the man with the stick.
His big qualification was he had his leg amputated without anesthesia,
so they figured he’d have the guts to straighten out the colony.
I love anesthesia but if pain and suffering is a government job qualification many of us should be pretty employable, and high up the ladder.
Stuyvesant lives on a farm where St. Mark’s Church is and The Bowery,
they called The Bouwerie for farm, and it led straight to Peter’s farm.
Now, check this out, how today’s officials make decisions like this,
Peter Stuyvesant says of his two gay captives,
“Keep them locked up, and let’s wait till the rivers thaw in the spring,
then I’ll decide what to do.”
Imagine that. “Let’s wait til the rivers thaw then I’ll decide what to do.”
Not that rivers freeze anymore.
The Hudson is salt water down here and doesn’t freeze, but turns fresh up aways and used to freeze over.
That’s where the ice business happened.
My father and grandfather were icemen.
The river was cut up to fit in old ladies’ iceboxes before refrigeration,
and my Dad would carry the ice to every building,
up and down all the stairs, up and down all the dumbwaiters. Ice! Ice! Ice!
We know history follows the white guy.
We don’t know what happened to Tobias.
We don’t know if their relationship was consensual.
All we know is a lone Dutchman defies Stuyvesant’s order and takes off like a bounty hunter after the fugitives and finds them.
The longhouse gets burned to the ground.
The Iroquois sue Peter Stuyvesant for retributions for the contents of the longhouse, and win.
Harmen and Tobias run.
We lose track of Tobias.
Harmen Van whateva runs from the tolerant Dutch wrath out across the frozen Hudson River somewhere north by Albany.
Right, he runs toward New Jersey.
Out across the frozen part of the river.
There’s a crack in the ice.
through a crack through a hole in the ice and dies.
and that’s how that guy left New York.
Annie is on three phone calls, as the calls progress she gets tangled in elastic lines creating a web throughout the stage
007-95-424 Lanzillotto LLLA NZZZ ILLL LLOTTO
L as in Lion
A as in Adirondack
N as in No!
Z as in Zeppole
I as in Italiano
L as in Lion
L as in Lunatic
O as in Othello
T as in Terrific
T as in Terrify
O as in Organism
Yes. Yes. Scuse me? No. No. With friends and family. That one.
Homeless Sleeping with Relative. I sent in all the paper work nine months ago. New application?
You can mail the application care of Kindred
What? You can’t send it: care of? It’s gotta be my last name on mailbox?
ffffhuck! you’re telling me because I don’t have an address I can’t apply for low income housing?
My mother’s got my last name. Yonkers. 10710 That makes me lowest priority?
I don’t want to go to a shelter. I was 11215. I paid 10009. 10003. I don’t want to go to a shelter.
No. No. 18,000 What do you mean I’m too low for low income?
Why’d you raise your bottom income requirement? No.
I’m not blaming you, I’m just asking. I’m not yelling, it’s just my accent.
Hold on one second please. Hold on one second.
Hello? Yes this is she. Yes. I already have a scan scheduled with her. Why do I need a transvaginal sonogram if I have a pelvic one scheduled? I know they’re different tests. I know they’re different body parts.
audio up: Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major
Ahh! I hate it when Sloan-Kettering puts me on hold with Pachelbel!
Why can’t they play Joan Jett, something that’s okay to listen to when you’re sick!
Hi baby I’m on the other line with the doctor and the artist housing people and it’s circumlocution, circumlocution Cir cum lo ffhucking cu tion c’mon.
Yes Yes Cir cum lo fhucking cu tion. Only you would say that. Yes I wanna fhuck you. I can’t get into that now. I dunno. I tried to get a flight but the automated voice don’t understand Bronx accentand keeps booking me for Anchorage. Yes I want you to rub your shnozz up my clitoris. No, I’ll do the battery lick.
audio: Pachelbel off
Hi. What’s your name? Jen, hold on one second.
I will baby, I’ll call you back. You book the flight, your vowels are straight. Ciao.
Jen. Hi. Jen, Ask her what’s the difference between a transvaginal sonogram and a pelvic sonogram? I know Jen, ask her which test she wants. I don’t want to cancel it until I know cause her next availables not for six months, and my last test was bad and I can’t wait six months, Jen. Remind her that my ovaries are in different places.
audio: Pachelbel up for a beat
Ahh! Ask her which scan she wants and call me back.
Call me back. Okay, Ciao. I love you.
Hello. Hello! Fhuck. Hello.
No. I know HUD controls the income limits.
No. I’m not HIV.
Why do I have to be HIV?
I had cancers. Lower priority? No.
Late effects of treatment.
Fatigue, peripheral neuropathy,
cervical atrophy: my neck can’t hold my head up,
recurring chest infections, chronic pain,
can’t walk, can’t rest, can’t shop, can’t carry,
my hands get numb when I’m folding clothes, can’t button,
chronic cough, can’t think, can’t bend, cough all the time.
My GP is Dr. Maldonado, My lung Dr is Dr. Walker, My Kidney…
Ah! Can you talk to these people for me? Please?
You’re good. You don’t have the accent. You went to law school.
You know how to get things done.
Will you hold this line?
They’re saying I don’t have enough high risk behaviors to qualify for housing services?
Do I have high risk behaviors?
Aging’s a high risk behavior. You ever sleep with a tub of Flex-All beside you at night and mistake it for lube?
AHHH! Can you hold this line! Can you hold this line, please!
Just tell them I’m not asking to bend the rules,
I just want a place where I can legitamately live!
This music makes me suicidal! I have to do something! I can’t just be on hold!
I know, first, I’m gonna send an MP3 file of Bad Reputation to Jen@mskcc.org.
Dear Jen, This is 00795424. Lanzillotto. L as in Lion. A as in Abbondanza.
N as in No. Z as in Zeppole. I as in Interstitial.
L as in Lion. L as in Lancelot. O as in Orgasm. T as in Tomorrow. T as in Tremble.
O as in Om! Please play this file whenever you put me on hold. Thank you.
audio up: Joan Jett Bad Reputation, plays through next scene
5. Remapping The City
painting on a giant map of NYC
Here’s the New York I can live in.
First of all, I’m renaming New Jersey:
WEHE: West of the Hudson.
or STAMA: STAy on the MAinland
Here’s what the acronyms mean.
NOHO: NO HOmes here anymore.
NOLITA: NObody LIves here anymore who can tell a TAle about the neighborhood.
SOHO: SOrta HOllywood.
SOBRO: SOrry BROther, you can’t live here no more.
Clinton: ‘nuff said.
Here’s a New York I can live in. C’mon people, we have to be visionary!
- Dig up Canal Street, turn it back into the canal it was. Have gondola’s go from East to West. A water market. Vegetables on boats. Bring the water back to the people. The waterways were paved to cover pestilence. Dig it up. Let it breathe. Dig up the pond at Foley Square.
- Create a suicide prevention program at the old Suicide Hall. And The Hemlock Society. Both. That’s Dantean giustizia. Assuage the spirits at The Avalon. Blonde Madge Davenport and Big Mame.
- Governor’s Island becomes what City Island was in the 70’s. An island of crafts, smells of leather and ice-cream and fish. Fisherman. Good fhuckin rope. People who sing to you when they serve your ice-cream. And Martha Wilson’s “Queer Old Folks Home.” And a rainforest. Put a rainforest there. Breathe, earth, breathe.
- Tent City Camping in Central Park, an area reserved for run away teens and new comers. Tents. Water. Here you can rest. The Salvation Army with their hot chocolate trucks like they have at Veteran’s cemeteries.
- If 80/20 housing, what about 50/50? What about neighborhood percentages, if buildings. Who made this percentage. And if 50/50 buildings, then 50/50 neighborhoods.
- Plant Jasmine up and down the Bowery. Don’t make the lines for Welfare, and Soup, and Shelter outdoors. Make it red-carpet. It’s humiliating waiting outside buildings. Make something else…. something else… Have No-Income Buildings. There has to be someplace in the city to be horizontal. We can’t all be standing all the time. There has to be a street we can be horizontal on, get flat with the earth on.
- Doormans in the projects. Literally “open the door” men. Come home to a door swinging open before you, and a hug. Welcome Home.
- Five minute double parking outside every pizzeria. Okay that’s a personal bias.
- We gotta make a new Venice for the people. Do you know how Venice was built? Venice was built by refugees on the run from the Barbarians. It wasn’t built by the leisure class. Refugees fled to this malarial swampland and figured “nobody will bother us here.” They were right. They built a paradise. Castles on water. Now, we’re on the run. From soaring rents, from the city as dragon, from cultural disaster, culture being swept out to sea and out of our memories. Do you remember what the words were on the steps at Saint Mark’s on the recovery building? Do you? I can’t remember.
WheredaFFFhuck did NY go? Where do New Yorkers go?
You know how I know I’m a New Yorker?
I know I’m a New Yorker because I get anxiety at sunset.
If there’s not a bodega or coffee shop I can run to at eleven pm or one a.m.,
or if I’m stuck in the country somewhere where I can’t go out in a thunderstorm
and see someone casually roller skating by in a bikini,
I go crazy. I can’t deal. I get a rash.
I know I’m a New Yorker because my accent is a relic.
You don’t hear this. Where do you hear this?
I was born here,
You can hear it in me. Right?
You can hear the Dutchified good Bronx tones?
The Bronx was Dutch, man.
We still got the guttural tones.
Here it is. This is it.
Where can you here this? I’m a relic.
I’m not Dutch. You know me. Am I Dutch?
Anyone with a good job ran from this accent.
Tonight I give it to you.
Where can we go? What can we build?
- Ellis Island Hotel for Folklorists and Artists Internationale.
What are we gonna do for the souls of those who came all this way never to make it to the mainland? This is a Caucasian story. I’m Italian.
That’s what you’re getting. Three wards they were locked up in.
I’m not talking about the physical wards. I’m talking about
the violent ward, the idiot ward, the moron ward.
They’re still screaming. We need to go there and pray.
It’s like the Titanic over there.
The wards are locked and air tight, not even a rat or a pigeon lives there,
just suffocating peeling paint and rotting iron.
Italians they said, had no cerebral cortex, that we thunk with our spines.
My grandparents made it through to the mainland, to the Bronx.
We never got locked up across the ocean, only here did we begin to be institutionalized for one neurosis or another.
- Windmills. Greenhousing. Cars with solar panel roofs. Buildings with green roofs. Windmills. The Dutch loved the wind in our harbor. We gotta harvest the wind. Wind power!
- Group houseboats at all the boat basins. Many lesbian houseboats. Yes.
- Red Hook. There’s one holdout, Sonny’s brother. Across from Whole Foods, in his little garage. An Italian stalwart holdout. They offered him millions, more each year. Ahhhh. Honor the holdout.
- Visionary cultural grandiosity over Retail Entertainment! Get the visionaries back on the Freedom of Expression monument at Ground Zero. At Coney Island! We all need to be visionary! Keep The Red Megaphone permanently outside The Courthouse at Foley Square. That was visionary. 24 hour open mike. Long live the visionaries of The Freedom of Expression National Monument! John Malpede! Laurie Hawkinson! Erika Rothenberg!
- Coney Island. The pockets and the hearts have to join. That’s why business shirts have a pocket over the heart.
- Encourage the youth to get up on corner mailboxes and tell stories. Saddle up every corner mailbox.
- Every sidewalk has to spark and sparkle. So we feel the pulse of the sun.
6. Manhattan Schist
Annie smacks rocks together
New York has a destiny of glitter.
We’re built on it.
Born of it.
Born of glitter.
You see this?
This is Manhattan Schist.
This is why we can build high into the sky.
This is why we can build high into the sky.
This is why cranes thread the sky hoisting steel up into clouds.
C’mere you want to touch it?
Press it to your forehead.
It’s alive. Breathe it in.
Pass it around.
450 million years ago
The East Coast Slammed in the Atlantic Sea Floor
and the sand and clay
dove nine miles down into the very alive bone marrow
of this earth
where the sand and clay
mixed with quarts and feldspar and mica and hornblende
quartz and feldspar and mica and hornblende.
Mica, from the Latin “micare” to glitter.
Mica is atomically flat, and alive.
Mica loves water.
Mica seeks the sea.
Mica fostered life forms before cell walls existed
and thousands of degrees of heat
and megatons of pressure
Out of this glittering womb gets born the metamorphic rock:
the Glittering Manhattan Schist!
Here on The Bowery it’s 260 feet below the surface.
At Ground Zero and midtown it’s only 18 feet down.
That’s why we build there high into the sky.
It comes up downtown
and dives deeper in The Village
and comes up in midtown
dives down again
and surfaces uptown.
At 120th and Madison it’s three stories high like a whale
breaking the flat as earth sea.
In Inwood there’s caves.
Downtown we had rocky bluffs that were razed
and flattened from the 1700’s on.
It’s a skyscraper beneath skyscraper.
The strongest rock in the world
Let me tell you why I’m like Mica.
It’s great to go to Sloan-Kettering all the time
the past 25 years, I average 60 visits a year.
And the great thing about going to Sloan Kettering all the time
is they turn you inside out.
And when you deal with your blood and bile
and vomit and shit and chemo is a rope
and radiation is pulled through you
you turn inside out.
Your crust goes to your core, your core to your crust.
And you lose all your surface accoutrements
and when you got nothin left
you find your inner glitter
like the buried sun.
you find your inner glitter.
This Mica I believed in as a kid.
I stared into the sidewalks that sparked at night
you’ve seen them
the curb jumps up at you.
I followed the glittery spark internal light
like the buried sun we mistake for gold.
New York glittered wherever I stepped.
The Sun’s hands had a place to sit as if some Goddess
had spit on each stone.
Sparks fly into the night
like silver fish
the sidewalks pulse and buckle
and I could feel it. I ran over coursing waters hot molten belly
glittering womb that is home.
My home glitters.
Glitter is my home.
audio up: Joe Lovano’s sax O’ Sole Mio
So, did I ever tell you how Elvis ripped off the Italians?
Annie singing O’ Sole Mio mixed with It’s Now or Never
My heart was captured,
My soul surrendered.
I’d spend a lifetime,
Waiting for the right time
Che bella cosa, najurnate di sole
Ma na tu sole
cchui bell ohine
Kiss me my darlin
Be mine tonight.
O sole, O sole mio
One day, like a good diaspora Italiano, Rocco came to New York.
He’s this Italian guy I met in Nevada who I took to smoking cigars with, sipping lemoncello and squinting over the land into the mountains and feeling the wind and feeling like we lived in Italy. He was a pilot, as was I.
He flew private jets, I just flew single engines, with the thrill of course of turning the engine off and aiming for a fat cloud which you enter like a tunnel, closing your eyes and lifting your barefeet off the pedals, and screaming out of the foolish abandon of busting through clouds.
I told him to meet me in Hell’s Kitchen.
I figured we’d walk 5 neighborhoods in 8 hours.
Take our time.
We walked down 9th Avenue,
I started telling him what used to be.
How my Aunt Bella lived in the Port Authority and was a donut visionary….
How there used to be a trolley, a man on a horse would ride up 10th Ave and announce it coming. You can read “The Fortunate Pilgrim” by Mario Puzo, and did you know The Godfather was based on his mother? The Godfather was a woman!
I showed him where a guy used to live in a shift on the edge of the pier.
We walked down the west side, down the waterfront.
We walked the manicured pier in Chelsea.
This is the pier we used to make love on.
Before it was a pier.
When it was a slab of broken concrete dipping into the river’s wave
When the edges of the city marked the start of our journeys.
Now the pier is fancy, and the gay cruising spot is paved with fake wood
for the masses to hold hands on,
a safety bar to watch the river through.
C’mon! This is where I fhucked straight girls in the eighties
to that Earth, Wind and Fire cassette. That always worked.
Once I once fhucked a straight girl right here, in the front seat of a convertible.
She was becoming a social worker. Ah faget it.
I noticed Rocco’s feet are blistering in those mid-western sandals.
We sit on a bench near Christopher Street.
I give him my socks.
He says I don’t want your socks.
Take my socks. My father said in World War II, “We fought tree weeks, then traded socks and moved on!”
You know, right here, a couple years ago,
I got a 125 dollar ticket for “standing” parked with my sleeping puppy.”
“What are you doing here?” the policeman asked.
“Writing a poem, with my puppy.”
“no really, I’m writing a poem.”
Everybody thinks you’re embellishing if you got a Bronx accent.
“This is a no standing area.”
“What? When did that sign go up?”
No standing? This is our sanctuary!
I wanted to put a sign up like at a bird sanctuary…
go away, be quiet…
queers mating in peace, in the filthy frayed detritus edges of the city.
Leave us alone!!!”
I felt like old ghosts,
all I saw was what used to be,
and all the cranes in every corner of sky,
and how nothing made sense.
Rocco wanted to go to Little Italy.
I knew it would dissappoint him.
I could supplement it with finding a few characters, and visions of what used to be,
but c’mon, it’s a commercialization of culture, can I just say:
I HATE BUYING CULTURAL IDENTITY.
Rocco wanted his own socks. In SoHo I spot one real New Yorker leaning on a corner mailbox. This is it. Rocco’s big chance for a New York interaction.
Ask her I tell him. It’s like he forgets how to interact.
“Scuse me. You know where he can buy some socks?”
“What’s wrong with his feet?”
“He wore the wrong shoes for New York.”
“well, you can go here and there but there will be expensive, you’re better off walking back up this way and over there, and buying them there they’ll have all you want.”
A real New Yorker.
A cut-to-the-chase, tell it like it is, with no fear, New Yorker.
After a horrible nothing distinct ravioli, and a good cigar,
we walked up the East Village.
After Little Italy, I had to clear my head.
We head to Saint Mark’s.
On that blessed corner of 8th Street and 2nd Ave
There was Richard.
Thank God! I said… and threw my arms around Richard.
Richard, I feel like an illusion, like I’m not really here.
I haven’t run into a single soul I know, I feel like a ghost.
Everything I think is there is not. It’s all been replaced.
I don’t recognize anything or anybody. You’re the only familiar face I’ve seen all day.
Everything seems like it’s gone. I’m freaking out. And the Coney Island thing. How do you deal? Richard! Do me favor! Prove to Rocco that I exist.
Richard this is Rocco
Rocco this is Richard.
“Annie you gotta look at the new things,” Richard said, “look at all that’s new.”
Like what? I said.
“Like those apartments. Those are new.”
I looked up. But I couldn’t get a reflection.
I’m still trying to feel what’s new,
to hold his words, “Look at what’s new Annie, look at what’s new.”
A few weeks later, I got a call,
Richard was on his way out one night,
when he had a massive heart attack.
Attaco di cuore.
Night had taken him.
We were waiting for him to get out of a coma.
C’mon Richard. Everyone gets a second chance!
A chance at recovery! A miracle! An illness journey!
You got New York doctors. It’s hard, but you can do it.
We got the best medicine. You’ll have to learn to be fragile.
It’s not easy, but we’ll circle around you. We’ll read Greek myths.
You’ll find your way out of this abyss.
But the night never let him go.
8. The Clit Club
audio up: Devotion by Ten City
Richard loved to dance.
Clubs were our refuge.
The streets were hostile if you were gay the world was hostile.
The Center on 13th Street I clung to like a raft.
The Paradise Garage on Varick and King.
The Clit Club on 14th and Washington.
Entering the Paradise Garage, the whole sidewalk thumped.
All of King and Varick.
A long ramp with lights.
Everyone taking off their outer layers,
stripping down to bike shorts and a tank shirt,
somethin’ skimpy, so you can live in your sweat.
This was the place we could all be free.
As a butch in those days, I’d get spit on in the street by passing cars of boys from Jersey. Yes I got spit on.
Once I got spit at right on Greenwich street across from the Library that used to be a Women’s Prison that used to be a Mental Hospital.
This is the West Village. This is our green zone!
Of all places, I’m not supposed to get spit on in the West Village!
I needed Dyke Recognition.
I saved up eighty-two bucks.
I went out on the hunt for a leather jacket.
Up and down Orchard Street.
The merchants calling me into their sidewalk shops.
Lady, Lady, Miss, Miss.
I don’t want that, fem shape epithets, and waistbelts, shoulder straps,
I want something classic. Simple. I got neuropathy. I need a strong zipper.
I’m a fragile butch, so I need something tough.
I walk down Saint Mark’s Place, –to clear my head,
and there’s this guy in the middle of 2nd Avenue,
right in the blessed middle of the street,
holding a black motorcycle jacket with silver zippers up in the air.
I put it on.
Thank you Guardian Angels Working Overtime!
That jacket I wore for 15 years.
Then I gave it to Thomas,
My lover’s kid step-brother
when he was going off to college.
Thomas was alone in the world,
his Mom had passed.
“Here. Take this. This will take you whereva you need even when you don’t know where ya need to go.”
Here’s this fragile older butch giving a leather to this young motherless math whiz geek.
At first he felt awkward in it.
Then a few months later I got a phone call,
“Annie I started dating at Williams, and lemme tell ya, this is the “go to” jacket.
Giving it to him was big, a rite of manhood,
like a circumcision, or the opposite:
Here’s your new foreskin.
Sometimes I walked into The Clit Club with two motorcycle helmuts
and always walked out with someone.
But most often I walked.
Friday nights I’d head out on my own for The Clit Club,
I’d get as far as 8th Avenue, then I’d freeze.
I’d call a friend for help.
Hi I’m on 14th Street.
Can you come help me?
Can you just push me through the door of the Clit Club pleeeeeease?
Thank you, you don’t have to come in with me, just push me through the threshold.
Am I going to be okay in there? What do all those lesbians do in there?
The first time I was in the Clit Club
there was this giant ass dancing in a net on the bar.
I felt like my cunt could swallow the ocean!
Is this what freedom was?
Let Freedom Ring!
Can I’ve a beer?
I didn’t know how to get the bartender’s attention.
Can a butch get a beer please?
Scuse me, Fem, can you help me buy a beer?
Here, I’ll get you one too.
I had to dance.
I didn’t know how to dance.
I grew up in the Bronx.
I never learned to swim or to dance.
But I had older brothers, so I knew how to throw punches.
I boxed my way onto the dance floor.
Then I opened my fists.
audio: music out after Annie dances and lies on floor
9. Song of Incision
Walm the scalpel in your hands
Listen to the heart
Anesthetize til the eyes fil with infinite mortal flame
Cut the superficial layers of the skin
Cut down the midline,
Cut from the xiphoid process
Cut through the umbilicus,
Cut to the pubic symphisis
Cut deeper through subcutaneous fat,
Cut the abdominal muscles
Divide the fascia.
Cut into the peritoneum.
Cauterize, Sterilize, Tegaderms, all glorious blood transfer devices
Carrying hemoglobulinic love
Integuments wandering souls
Now wash the organs.
Cut and pass the spleen off the table. Cut the lymph nodes.
Get all the tumor you can find. Cut a piece of the liver
Laterally transpose and staple the ovaries out of the radiation field.
Cut the appendix while you’re in there, what the hell, she won’t need it anyway
Send it all upstairs to pathology.
Now Count Your Instruments.
Suture everything in reverse order.
Listen to the heart.
10. Speedbag Ave Maria
a speedbag appears overhead, Annie rises to standing,
punching rhythmically, singing Ave Maria
Ave Maria! Grazie plena.
Maria grazie plena. Maria grazie plena.
Ave! Ave Dominus! Tecum.
Benedicta Tui mulieribus. Et Benedictus.
Benedicta fructus ventris tui. Tui Jesu.
11. The Flat Earth
Ave Maria weaves with punching
My Bronx was the flat earth.
Paved by my concrete thoughts.
I pirate myself.
I play myself.
I buy fat speckled ham.
I chop the ends offa words.
My hands filled with blood do all the talking.
I am hungrier than you can ever imagine. Famished.
You I curse. I make deals with God.
My Saint pulls strings for me.
If you come too close — I’ll put a Scapular right around your neck.
I look you in the eye, pour concrete.
I flatten the earth everyday with my paved thoughts.
I get colonoscopies on Columbus Days,
I spit out french fries, white bread finger sandwiches,
Ritz Crackers, Cheese Whiz,
Don’t cook for me.
Don’t mispronounce my Fazool.
Don’t expand my world so my ancient greatness loses focus in mine eye.
I fall off the flat flat earth.
I flatten the earth every day with my paved thoughts.
I never saw eels in my bathtub,
never spread bone marrow on toast
nor marinated a head of any kind,
Never saw goat’s eyes cry
Never saw goats’ eyes
Never saw goats
Never saw boiling eyes cry.
Set sail! We got the cash. Let’s go for the gold!
Fhuck them. Fhuck the Flat Earth.
It’s round when we get there.
We make it round.
Take the core to the crust.
The crust to the core.
The core to the crust.
The crust to the core to the universal roar.
No land. Move on! Move on!
The wind has the rain turning in on itself.
Stars on reigns, shattered stars we fall fountains of shattered stars
as the seas rise salty around young Venice,
waters swelling in moonlight.
The sea meets our sails for a laugh.
And just where my charts end, heading South by Southwest,
the waters were fastened to the horizon
Ocean waterfall masts tackle sails skulls clouds
Ocean mouths tributaries arms legs and other decapitations
There was no Asia, only silence.
Ah! The red light, and with it, silence
As we fall
those too sick to hunger
those with mouths full
those with bellies full,
all my men with open mouths
all my charts are exact.
We fall off the flat flat gushing flat
burning earth interminably
pulling crust to core
pushing core to crust
washing heat from skulls,
bruises, bone, steel,
Accouterments of living, thrashed.
The sea undresses bloody night,
flying into a river of stone.
Bile Earth, Bile Mother
Tectonic Melt. Plates crashing
the earth unquenchable
Hungry Mountains Rise.
Bloody Melt. Blood Earth.
Breasts overlaying all we know as real.
Pave my veins.
I can spin out of control,
whip you off in a millisecond.
Summon my soul and she arrives on time.
Theres an eel in my bathtub.
I spread bone marrow on toast.
I am marinating a head
as we speak the goat’s eyes cry as I fall off this flat flat earth.
12. The Red
I never even wanted to live in this town, then I never wanted to leave it.
Sloan-Kettering was my first and last bed in New York City.
I was 18. They gave me a corner room on the 19th floor
overlooking the East River, Rockefeller Research Globe,
59th Street Bridge, watch the New York City
marathon stream over the Queensboro bridge
the skyline change from black to white to black again.
Up that high, you don’t hear traffic, or church bells,
you just see traffic lights sway,
and shadows of standing people walking straight paths.
If I am lucky I can come back tomorrow to listen to the bells.
Grandma Rose said, “Life is a dream” as her eyes floated into the light and time blurred.
I know how to wake up, sometimes startled out of the images of sleep
sometimes I ease into wakefulness with growing light or distant sounds,
sometimes I just lay there, remembering what it was like to wake up as a child,
watching my feet grow down the bed under the blankets as years passed.
Am I awake? Did I sleep? One thing is certain.
You were there in the night and morning light of black silk
that peeks out of your dress.
A string has pulled my heart spins.
The rest is unsaid.
I will leave the ground soon enough.
Summon my soul and she will arrive on time.
I am celebrating through the lament.
I see you shining a billion lights and strutting toward me.
I stare into your black dress gently like the certain future.
Imagine being placed like a small stone or star
while eternity spins around you?
One strong arm holds me in this light even now,
looking into your eyes is to plug into the electric socket of the soul
and to taste the oceans.
Hold me with one arm.
I am as light as the center of bread, il centro del pane bianco.
I will leave your strong shores but you will never leave mine.
Il tuo sorriso sara sempre sulla mia guancia.
Ti sento. Ti toco. Ti vedo.
Church bells. The song plays in full and is over.
Six o’clock. Red lights.
Traffic washing over bell song in waves.
It sounds like Ave Maria.
Ahh the red light and with it silence.
The red light and with it
The layer of tar all over the earth, peeling
the cement face mask of mother earth,
raw dirt combed for birds
to drop seeds in winds
to scatter all over the earth.
It is another moment now.
Evening now. And I must continue my way up the hill.
Remove my sutures.
Unclamp my belly.
Start the flow of my carotid gold with an 18 gauge I.V..
Let my spleen grow in a trashcan on the corner.
Sterile caps, tegaderms, all glorious blood transfer devices
carrying my life sustenance
hemoglobulinic love within cell wall integuments.
Osmotic love don’t give a damn inside bodies.
and wandering souls in racecars, airstreams.
Catheterize me, tournicate, betadine and shave.
Anesthetize me till my eyes glow with infinite mortal flame.
Syringe my core of marrow.
Take it to your bench in the sun with pine needle hair
My marrow wants to travel into the tunnel
from my long bones up my posterior ileac crest
up the spinal ladder out the top of my skull,
the hottest skull in the universe
and machine gun the stars.
13. I New York City, Vows
New York City is my lover.
My lover kicked me out for a rich girl.
one who could afford the lease,
the four fifty coffee
twenty dollar pie
50 buck parking spot
twelve dollar lilly.
A millionaire in a tattered sweatshirt
a millionaire with sexy fishnet holes around her clavicle
a millionaire with dispassionate content blue eyes who walked like the
sidewalk could rip open up but not swallow her whole
her spine was strung to Heaven
so if the sidewalk fell
so if the sidewalk fell
if the sidewalk fell
she’d stay right FFhuckin here.
You know what I wanna be?
You know what I wanna be?
Well, think of what you wanna be and it’s probably the same.
I wanna be an old lady in NYC.
I wanna grow old with you.
How great it would be to be an old lady walking the sidewalk dealing with the palimpsest of memories over the buildings and alleys and streets?
Remembering stories on corners
being 90, and taking night classes
going to free movies and telling the young people “Shuush.”
I wanna get married. I wanna get married to New York City
I want New York City to take me for life.
I, Annie Rachele Lanzillotto take you, New York City to be
my lawfully wedded
to have and hold
from this day forward
for better or worse
for richer or poorer
in sickness and in health
in good times and in bad
til death do us
I vow to stay passionate, to not get discouraged, to make culture, to fight the wholesale erasure of culture, to not watch idly with my Blackberry and my Clonazapam sippin latte and payin rent, as Coney Island gets washed to sea and to our memory,
I vow to write, to speak, to make performance.
I New York City
do evict you
from this day forward
to take your queer butch ass
back to Yonkers
sleep on your mother’s floor
outside my city limits
Go! North of the rivers,
Across the rivers
to the north
to the west
Go south if you want to, to Staten Island
pass the oceans. Backtrack your Grandmother’s steps.
For after one ocean there is another.
I release you and your lovers
Go find a lover with a lease
a lover with a deed
a lover who will build a house in the desert
on a houseboat
in a shelter
in a cellblock
go back to whatever cave you crawled out of.
I New York City
seek the rich, the healthy, the lucky, the three-generation white,
those who want to come to pursue a dream up my asshole
who will give me
all her energy
all I want
and who will love to be devoured
in the fire of my breathing eyes.
I New York City will give you seduction
beyond your wildest dreams.
I will give you your highest highs.
Your lowest lows.
I New York City
do take your fertile years.
do take your energy
do leave you penniless,
in wanting do keep you.
I New York City
do give you, New York Born,
and born elsewhere alike,
enough food stamps
I New York City will not starve
I New York City will have indifference enough to provide you your freedom to walk unnoticed. Benevolent indifference.
I New York City do not judge you,
do not I house you.
I New York City
will provide you with incessant fresh blood
enough strips of sunlight
to let you see night born of day
sunsets at the waters’ edge
a parade once a year
laws so you can sleep with your window unlocked and ajar
and in the morning seek retribution,
I Annie, I, New Yorker want New Yorkers
people with a peopled past
ghosts from days gone by
adventure and mischief,
visionaries who don’t forget nostalgia
and oxygen only enough sea level street air
to keep my mitochondria wanting more
I New York City give you night
when I dress in my finest shine
I will stand behind you for all your photos.
I give you heat through my sewercaps and grates
you can open up your cannellini right on my tar skin and iron.
I will give you the ways and means to cure yourself
But it will not be easy.
You must strive
you must find your inner trump,
you must beat out the rest, in traffic
you must cut others off,
for subway seats,
you must pay for metered time
time is metered,
twenty five cents for ten minutes
the clock smells your waste
the clock so unforgiving
you must pay to keep your heart beating.
I, New York City have all the medicines you need
I, the city vow to push you to not let you rest
to have curved surfaces so you can’t even rest
I, the city vow to leave you behind, relegate you back to the mainland
C’mon! We gotta balance the equation.
Send some lunatics back to the suburbs.
I am 15,000 acres.
I, New York City can’t hold all the degenerate artists homosexuals crooked teeth painters gifted fags
and all their ancestors in my wind
What do you want from me
housing all your life?
What? One lifetime?
If I give one, you’ll want four.
You must pay with your life, New Yorker.
If you want to feed me
you must pay with your blood
give me your unborn children.
You are walking.
What more do you want, New Yorker, than right now?!!!
I, New York City do banish you, New Yorker,
Go, take your accent and flee.
Not even your corpse has a place
within the walls of this city.
Not even your corpse has a place
within the walls of this city.
It’s okay my corpse doesn’t have a place within the walls of this city.
I, Annie Rachele Lanzillotto am not yet a corpse!
I am vertical! Back on land! Walking!
You can fall down around me. This is still my home.
On Schist I stand. I will glitter and go! That is the imperative of New York.
Glitter is my home. My home glitters.
My heart glitters!
Now Annie revs up the audience and instructs them to follow her downstairs, and out of the theater and to the corner mailbox for Act II.