EXCERPTS FROM MY MEMOIR
bathgate avenue and other scenes / 1st grade-4th grade / 3 ½ to 9 ½ years old
When I was very young, probably between 2 and 3 years old, while living in Paterson, New Jersey…where I was born, my mother was standing on the porch of our house smoking a cigarette facing the front yard with her back to the house. She had the cigarette cupped in her hand when I came running up to her. My height must have been perfect as I ran right into the burning coal of the cigarette with my eyes wide open. It missed my cornea and hit the white of my eye…everyone had an enormous scare. This could be the reason of my ‘burning vision’ and why I like the song “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.”
For some reason my parents had me skip kindergarten, I must have been doing advanced calculus by then or at least asserting my independence to the extent that they felt I was mature enough to enter first grade. My birthday is very early January and it made me the youngest in every class I was in for the rest of my education.
I would continually have severe bouts of ‘croup cough’ while living in the Bronx. It always gave me great difficulty with breathing and there was a time that I had to spend the day in my parent’s bed. They had a four poster bed and they spread sheets over the top and all four sides to get me fully enclosed at which point they would turn on a hot vaporizer with a dollop of Vick’s vapor rub in it to help break up my cough and congestion. Things were done and handled differently then, even the doctor always came to the house.
suburban values and other troubles…5th grade to 11th grade
We moved when I was going into fifth grade, at Holmes Elementary School, which I attended through sixth grade. Now, I’m not sure why everyone seemed to be so sexually precocious, but I had this famous 5th grade birthday party for my 10th birthday. My parents were working, so to supervise, my Aunt Clarice was our chaperon. She went into the back bedroom and basically left us alone. So after so many spin the bottle turns we came up with another idea. One girl would go into the kitchen and each boy would have about 5 minutes to do what he wanted and all the girls agreed and so we went at it, though there might not have been much to go for, still the excitement and idea was so risqué, we were all giggles, like we were in this ‘secret society’ together. Come the Monday of school, word got around and before I knew it, I was called into the office and my mother had to come in and a whole to do was made out it. Basically we all got a good chuckle and couldn’t really believe that everyone was so outraged by it, I mean it was good clean fun, just a little early for our age.
NORTH MIAMI BEACH
cars, sex and money…shallow values…11th to 12th grades
High School was kind of weird in NMB, there were 4000 students and it felt very impersonal…until I started getting to know the principal. He was a rather short man with who knows what set of problems and inferiority complexes that he took out on his students as power plays. He was called Dean Duncan and it would come to pass that I would be visiting his office about once a week, I wasn’t that much of a trouble maker, but mostly in my senior year when I was ready to move on…the current situation almost seemed passé. I’d be called down for truly inane banalities that made me cringe; I’d wear my shirt out or I didn’t shave for several days and I’d have to explain to this small minded idiot that I came there to learn, not to be disciplined by some non-existent fashion police…it’s not a parochial school, if I wanted to be in a constant uniform I would have chosen to attend a parochial school, not a public school. My mother used to have to come in all the time as I’d get suspended for 3 days just about every other week. One of the times, this consummate asshole, made my mother come, only to point out to her that my pants were so tight that it accentuated my ‘male package’ as he put his hand on my thigh to show her. I had to hold my tongue and my fist as I wanted to tell him FUCK YOU and also punch him in the face. What an utter prick! So this was the atmosphere I had to deal with in North Miami Beach Senior High.
Travels to Israel
Utopia: idealism, romanticism, Zionism, socialism, existentialism…17-18 years old
There was a lot of entertainment available on the ship; you could occupy yourself all day long if that was your shtick. It didn’t take too long to figure out which bar was the most fun to drink at and which bartenders you could jive with and which were more uptight. Remember this was 1963 and uptight was the social norm, for most. The ship was a microcosm of society. There were the very wealthy, the middle class and the poorer. It was also a bit like living in NYC where every few blocks was an entire different culture and ethnic display popping up. Here it was probably mostly the same ethnicity but nonetheless a sense of different neighborhoods. Every night there was some entertainment or other; singers, jazz, dancing or other entertainment. It was customary to get nicely and elegantly dressed for these forays of pleasure, which admittedly I enjoyed at times and indulged in to some satisfaction. Other times I would opt out depending on my mood or preoccupation with some thought or book I was reading. Besides the entertainment were the culinary delights. Every meal was looked forward to and sensually enjoyed, along with excellent and sophisticated service.
living in New York City / 18-22 years old
In order to sustain my financial situation, I had to work during the days and so going to art school at night was my only option. So it was the Art Students’ League of NYC that became my second art school, where I studied with Stephen Greene but was primarily left alone for 3 hours to paint, use the models or at times, nap in front of a blank canvas.
Stu and I decided to get an apartment together in the West Village, which was fantastic, I loved living in NY and all the richness of ethnicity that existed in so many several block enclaves as one walked around one of the most diverse cities in the world. These were the days of hanging out at some of the folk venues in the Village, where the streets were thronged with all sorts of characters transitioning from the beat generation into the new born folk generation, odored with revolution in the air.
This was when, during the winter we saw ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ for the first time and started astutely listening to Bob Dylan’s first albums and discovered Joan Baez, Dave Van Ronk, John Hammond, Koerner, Ray, & Glover and the full gamut of folk artists and blues artists and jazz artists that rocked and changed the face of this nation. Roland Kirk blowing three saxes at once on St. Marks Place and the Velvet Underground at the Electric Circus; listening to John Cage and his cacophonous sounds and non-sounds of ‘is this really music’ music. Hearing John Fahey’s open modal tuning for the first time and hanging out at Gerdie’s Folk City, Café Wha and all the tiny joints down McDougal St. and eating those delicious sausage, onion and pepper sandwiches served at the sidewalk grills all over the Village.
Hasn’t that always been the question when something went unfulfilled?
What if I married that first love…what if I finished school…what if I didn’t have children…what if I became rich…what if I was a rock star…what if I’d known hundreds of women or men…what if I was a teacher…what if I found the spiritual path…what if I remembered my past lives…what if I was mentally ill…what if I invented something…what if I traveled to all those exotic places…ad infinitum……
What if in some small way I was able to make a mark, a simple dot on the existence of mankind? What if we all DO make that mark, what if we realize how important we are in the nexus of interdependence? What if all this didn’t really matter in the scheme of things of the universe?
For me, I chose some paths that enabled me to fulfill a lot of these ‘what ifs.’ I wasn’t setting out to do that consciously per se, but rather I just set out and wound up doing so many things because I needed to, because I was moved to, because I chose to and because I could. As years encroached and responsibilities weighed me down; things and doings, adventures and boldness slowed down but still I kept moving forward…changing careers, starting businesses, teaching myself trades and always doing some design, painting, jewelry, photography, poetry and writings of one sort or another. Sometimes months even years would go by without any creativity being displayed until it built up and built up and like a volcano it would spew and I’d do 22 paintings in a month or enough jewelry to enter into fairs and shows.
The spiritual path has been the thread of my life upon which the various sizes, shapes and colors of pearls have been strung. And now as this life is moving toward a close…I’m looking forward to fulfilling the other half of ‘what ifs’ that I didn’t get to earlier. The bottom line, to use the vernacular, is that we don’t know when this life may be over, whether that moment occurs via old age, an accident, bad karma, ill health, self-induction, violently or suddenly. Because our demise will be, more than likely, a crap shoot…that is the reason we want to live our lives to the fullest, most genuine way with all the authentic presence we can display in all our waking moments; engaging with others’ basic goodness as we hold ourselves accountable in all that we do.
Hopefully this can be an encouragement to do it! To simply move forward realizing there are no mistakes, no wrong paths no regrets as we evolve and enrich ourselves, our surroundings and our circle of influences. This entire life is the most amazing classroom as we matriculate from pre-school to grad school to going from decade to decade learning and traversing our path that is the feast offering of our lives.
1/ Reflections: Filmed in gorgeous Spanish locations this is a good ‘serial killer thriller’ with a twin and DNA as interesting twists. Stars Timothy Hutton as Europol agent Tom Brindle who is called to Barcelona, Spain to track down a serial killer known as Pygmalion. (4 stars)
2/ Bending the Rules: A rather delightful comedic adventure ensues when a district attorney’s father’s vintage Studebaker is stolen and tries to get it back by turning to a corrupt cop that he wasn’t able to convict. The unlikely duo set out to find the car never suspecting it’s part of a bigger conspiracy. Stars, Jamie Kennedy, Adam Copeland, Jennifer Esposito and others. Entertaining…3-4 stars.
3/ Dead Presidents: A highly recommended action film, filled with coarse language and some gory footage from the Vietnam war, but displays the issues of ‘Black Americans’ involvement in the Vietnam War and their subsequent disillusionment with the status quo of social issues and civil rights coming back home in the 1960s. The movies involves the heist of old bills retired from circulation and readied to be burned. Stars, Larenz Tate, Keith David, Chris Tucker and others. (4 stars)
4/ A Dangerous Method: A great biopic film from David Cronenberg. Sabina Spielrein is hospitalized, as they then called ‘hysteria’ under the care of Dr. Carl Jung, who has begun utilizing Dr. Sigmund Freud’s talking cure with some of his patirents. Spielrein is highly intelligent and eventually becomes a psychiatrist in her own right, one of the first females to enter that field. The married Jung and Spielrein become lovers eventually, while Jung and Freud develop their relationship. A deep rift develops between them as Jund diverges from some of Freud’s theory. Stars, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender et al. (5 stars)
5/ Jesse Stone: Night Passage: Jesse Stone, a hard-drinking man moves to idyllic Paradise, Mass as chief of police. But it isn’t long before he is involved in one mystery after another. Stars, Tom Selleck and others. (3 stars)
AT LEAST LOOK AT IT
…there is a surge, resurgence, emergence, co-emrgence going on and about us, on exchanges, in daily life, on politics, in artistic endeavors, on romantic chances, in self-deception, on social media, in common bullshit…
“everybody’s looking for something,” even when they don’t know it / the levels and depths of unconsciousness among us is rated as ‘scary,’ how does the world function I sometimes wonder, what props up the utter deception, masks, fears, that leadmankind into such a painful existence?
we are on the brink, the rim, the edge, the razor’s edge of change, it is palpable, in the air, vibrating in cellular dimensions, auric vicissitudes changing rainbow colors all while decadence and death abound in this fecund foxhole of humanity / word bombs have their shrapnel and fallout and collateral damage isn’t even blinked at
ay, but there is good too, much to look forward to while letting go of the old BS that is necessary to move forward…
see you on the uptake…
HIGH STRUNG: film recommended to me by Wert and Laurie...Contains a somewhat familiar storyline but is developed nicely. Classical dancer in a competitive school meets subway playing minstrel, who is really well versed in classical violin. Downstairs neighbors are hip hop dancers and an upbeat story filled with romance and a down to earth gypsy quality that puts the snobbishness of some of the school's best performers to shame for their arrogance! Streamable on Netflix (4 stars)
A WOMAN, A YOUNG LADY, SARCASM AND OMG, PATIENCE…
A simple trip to Taos, NM with my lady and her daughter turned into a joy, a fiasco, fun and Help Me…
We are laughing in between moods of anger, annoyance, being shot down, utter silliness, and “Yuge” touristy shopping sprees. I would have to say that overall these will be happy memories with some key funny remarks, statements of the obvious and moments of brilliance, sanity and neuroses / in other words a normal day in any given relationship.
In my experience sarcasm is usually an aspect of intelligence and this young lady is quite bright along with her mom…we have the dynamic duo! I, on the other hand felt left in the dust as their humor escalated and crescendoed rather quickly while I often was feebly without words to counter (somewhat unusual for me). In any case, it was all in a fun modality without any real, ‘OH SNAP’ to it, well perhaps some (he said smiling).
One Sleepless in Taos night and some grumpies in the morning, just another story and mini hurdle to get over. Would I do it again, you betcha!
©stephen.futral / 16.august.2016
August 23rd, 2016
THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY
MOVIE RECOMMENDATIONS SEPTEMBER 2016
1/ Hotel: A collage of various odd characters converging at a grand hotel in Venice. There is a documentary film crew, who are following another crew filming a period tragedy. The producer and director engage in a battle of wills while the staff is conspiring against them all. Lots of symbolism and a sense of surreal acting. Stars: Salma Hayek, Lucy Liu, Burt Reynolds, David Schwimmer and others. (3 stars)
2/ What a Man: Alex a typical male ‘nice guy’ goes out of his way to accommodate his petulant and demanding girlfriend…so there is a complete surprise for Alex when he finds out she’s cheated on him and thinks little of their relationship and ends it. It is a film that tackles the ‘gender issue’ very well and sends Alex through various situations as he tries to ‘find himself.’ (3 stars)
3/ The History of Future Folk: Two aliens from the planet Hondo come to take over our planet but when they hear our human invention…Music, they abandon their mission and head to a tiny Brooklyn bar where they play as a Hondonian bluegrass duo. The movie has some delightful twists and worth the watch. (3 stars)
4/ The English Teacher: Linda Sinclair (Julianne Moore) is a 40 year old HS teacher in a small town in Pennsylvania. Her life is, in a way lifeless as she devours the thrill and drama of the books she reads. Her life becomes delightfully involved when a former star pupil Jason Sherwood (Michael Angarano) returns to his small town after trying to make it as a playwright in New York. He’s on the verge of giving up as he’s pressured by his father, Dr. Tom Sherwood (Greg Kinnear) to go to law school. Linda feels he shouldn’t give up and decides to produce the play for the school, with the flamboyant Nathan Lane as the drama teacher. Fun and well done movie. (4 stars)
5/ The Emperor’s Club: A sobering film about a principled but flawed prep school teacher played by Kevin Kline and a rebellious student (Emile Hirsch) whose father is a senator. The film spans a 25 year period where his students grow into situations that perhaps the teacher influenced. Well acted and deeply human. (4 stars)
COINCIDENCE IN CRESTONE
I’m sitting in the Crestone Artisans Gallery, doing my ‘co-op’ shift, there are several new people visiting town and I make them feel comfortable , and welcome.
There’s a cool breeze here, wafting into the house…so inviting after the oppressive heat, snowing cottonwood fuzz, yellow green pollen from the all the budding pinon trees covering everything inside and out and the voracious swarming mosquitoes.
Some older, white haired gentleman walks in and it’s just the two of us in the store while he’s perusing all the artwork, scrutinizing it actually. I ask him if he’s an artist and he tells me he’s thinking of moving here and would like to get into the gallery. He said he’s partially indigenous and that Hannae Strong told him he should move here, to come up from Taos where he resides now. I ask him if he’s familiar with Encaustics, I explain it and he looks at my works and says, ‘Futral’ ‘Futral’ that sounds awfully familiar, ‘Stephen Futral.’ I tell him my friends call me Ish, short for Ishwara. He immediately says, ‘did you know Swami Satchidananda?’ and there we went running off with one intertwined story after another, our paths never met but ran parallel. Friends with Peter Max, taking acid with Timothy Leary, student of Ram Das and taught Krishna Das the Bhakti Yoga chanting that he is known for now. Our paths even crossed with the Enlightenment Intensives taken place in the desert in California.
It wasn’t so much a reminiscing as it was a new discovering, a friendship of knowing of each other. His name was Surya Das, one I’d heard for many years back in the 60s and 70s.
The likeliness of me being on shift at the gallery just as he walks in is part of that ‘auspicious coincidence’ that seems to run rampart here. We connected on FB…
© stephen.futral / 25.june.2016
Moved to Crestone to build a body of art and to write poetry and a memoir
Artwork by Stephen Futral
2016 Copyright © Firsthought Studios