Edward Williams


November 2009


—–I hadn’t heard of this person who had just come in the living room, as we were all milling about, but someone was saying they were famous, and then I thought I saw people were looking over at this person and gazing at him, rather more intently than you would someone who was just, well, anybody. Well, so I went into the kitchen and I heard someone say, “did you see who just came in?” excitedly to another one of our friends, and I felt this tremendous tiredness suddenly, it was just a totally lethargy seized me. So I went upstairs, though our house was crawling with people, and I was the host–but I just felt I had to think about this way it appeared people were reacting to the presence of this famous person. I didn’t even know him, and when I went upstairs I felt like I was holding this persons fame in the balance, as I was considering it so assidulously, like it was up to me to confirm that, yes, it was alright to fawn over him and make him the center of attention; for I know, fame is attractive, that is unavoidable, and I am all for it as long as we make our own judgments, of course, in each case. But let he who deserves fame receive it, and let him receive it gladly, and pay back his fans by acknowledging them graciously. I was thinking along those lines. And meanwhile, downstairs apparently there were enough people who did know of this person’s accomplishments, just how famous he deservedly was, so that a general acclamation was underway. When I came back down they were already cheering this guy like he had won an award right there, or just given a speech. I thought for a wild moment it was me that was receiving this sudden recognition, as the cheering grew louder just as I descended. But I wasn’t even in the sights of these people, who all had their backs turned to me and were on their tip-toes, craning their necks to get the experience and actually be a part of this famous person’s new moment of . . . approbation!
—–But vicariously I felt it, what it would have been like, and I accepted that feeling with . . . approbation myself. Received and accepted, I said to myself, and approved of the possibility of such a transaction, myself to myself.


Cell Phone, Calling 1825!


—–Cell phone in use! The question is, though, where is this man?  The answer is, he is inside the Broad Street Aqueduct that goes over the Genesse River. He is directly under the street, or maybe the Rundel Memorial Library.  More stunning than that even, he is standing in the bed of the original Erie Canal! The canal was built in 1825, and needed this massive aqueduct to take it over the Genesee River.  Canal barges loaded flour from the mills along the river here, when Rochester was known as “the Young Lion of the West”. The same bed became the Rochester subway, when this downtown section of the canal was abandoned in the 1920’s.  Outside that half-moon window we can one of modern glass buildings of downtown Rochester. Another question is; what is all that . . .  artwork?  Well, some people, notably homeless people and renegade artists, know how to go through the fence two blocks up South Ave, and traverse this tunnel. The aqueduct walls are completely covered with spectacular graffiti. That answers many questions, or begins to.  Now, we should say, the person himself is Thomas Grasso, of the Canal Society of NY, and we’re taking a tour as part of a project for the World Canal Conference next year. And I am thinking, as I snap this flash photo with my digital camera . . . well!  I am not sure what I am thinking! It is something poetic, though. Something complex enough to contain these clashing images.  Some form of thought in which the impossible past is summoned, and can stand side by side, like in a reverie, with the super-real, though highly ambiguous present moment.  The present moment, in which we are equipped with all these devices, to capture and discuss . . .


—–I was headed across the back parking lot at Grana’s Restaurant, in the driving rain about 9:30, taking the back alley to the unmarked rear entrance, and I got there right at the same time as Kurt, a regular patron at the bar.  “Not everybody knows about this door,” I said to him, as we sidestepped the wind and rain, which can really pick up in that alley, and got ourselves standing at the bar.  I was just escaping my office for an hour and the sight of my notebooks spread out like, well, account books, on my desk, so I was pretty wordless, I even neglected to pour the beer in the glass, but I just stood there, hoping nobody would even start a conversation.
—–But Billy Grana, the bartender, came over and leaned his elbows on the bar like to talk with me, and I suddenly remembered the incident earlier in the day at the Lilac Laundromat.  I remembered it like it was a movie I had seen recently, the whole episode and it was like burning to be told. Well, you have to tell stories at the bar with dispatch, they have to be about as short as jokes, or seem like they are going to turn into jokes, and you should use quick short sentences and cast things off, with an air of joviality–though you best be criticizing the crazy world.  Like when you are in the bar you’re not in the world out there, but you report on how crazy it is out there.  Anyway, I gave the shortest possible version of the episode at Lilac Laundromat, more properly the parking lot outside there, to Billy Grana, and it went over so well he was saying like, “wow, that is really incredible!”  So I turned then to Kurt, a bigger challenge,  for he doesn’t talk much at all, or listen to much; and  I told the story of this incident identically to him—although he was fidgety and got distracted just a few sentences in, and I had to do like three stop and restarts to finally get to the pay-off ending.

—–Okay, I said, what happened was I out on an errand, and I parked my car in the lot beside Lilac Laundromat, which was completely empty, I mean so empty I could choose, absurdly, any space at all to occupy, and I went into the hardware store a few doors down the block.  I was in the hardware store only a few minutes when a frantic old man came running in and said, “they’re towing your car away, you better get out there!”  Well I said,  “what? that’s impossible, I just came in here! ” But I could see how concerned the guy was, and I charged out, ran back up the block, and it was true; there was already a tow truck hooked to my car, and these two highly sarcastic, unfriendly goons were grinning at me, triumphantly. And then when I protested, they said, “too late, buddy, you’re illegally parked.”  So I said, “you can’t do this!”  And they said, “yes we can!”  Stubbornly, I said, “I’m standing here, this is theft.”  But they just said, “you parked the car, and went into the wrong store, we’re taking it, stand out of the way.”
—–So, I told Billy–who was leaning close–I said, “no, you’re wrong, I never got out of the car!”  Then, I opened the drivers side door and climbed in behind the wheel.  So, yeah, the bigger guy comes over and he says, “what are you doing?”  And I said, “go ahead, tow it–  I’d like to see you tow a car with the driver in it.”
—–“Pretty funny,” the guy said.  And I retorted, “you’re the one who’s being funny.”  Then, I started the motor.
—–So now the one goon says to the other, who’d come over to see what the delay was, “Ah, he beat us, let’s get out of here.”  And I thought . . . hell, maybe these guys are almost human.  And then I watched them sympathetically, as they unhooked the tow truck; and I drove home. I never finished my errand at the hardware store, I told Billy Grana, and if the truth be told, I arrived home with my knees shaking—for that was a pretty bold maneuver!
—–Of course they are famous at the Lilac Laundromat for towing cars;  they actually watch the place, surely.  It’s a subject for discussion, it’s an example of the crazy world. I would like to say that when I got home, after this episode, I called them and complained, said they were terrorizing the neighborhood.  That I said, “you’re really creating the impression the world has gone to hell”, with these unruly tactics.  Why do you hire these bullies who watch the parking lot, and charge such fees?  Who cares, I would hear the staff assistant mutter on the other end.

—–Okay, though, now I have to say, the really interesting thing is that the episode didn’t happen exactly like I narrated it at Grana’s Restaurant.  Actually, I didn’t pull that stunt of getting back in my car, but just argued with those guys for a while, and ended up giving them an exorbitant sum of cash to unhook the car.  They had me, was the way it looked—it was pay this right then, or twice as much if they took the car–and I had to go get it at their lot, God knows where, with no car to even get there! The truth is I completely caved in to these goons, that is the way it really went.  And after I got rid of them, the spritely man, who was not that old, actually, who had run into the store to fetch me, and who must have watched the whole scene (come to think of it), commiserated with me for some time on the sidewalk. He was highly energized as he called them “bastards” at least five times. I mean, this guy was another story. Eventually I moved my car onto the street, still sort of shaken from the contact with the twp brutish towing fellows, older myself now it seemed than the guy who had come running after me . . .   And I parked the car, the valuable car, there, and I did finish my errand which was, actually, if the truth be told,  not at the hardware store . . .
—–For it wasn’t any kind of hardware store I went into, but A-Plus Sports Cards, to pick up a surprise basketball card for my son’s collection.  But you see that actual errand seemed to be entirely too elaborate, or too interesting in itself, and therefore likely to create a tangent, so I just changed it—at Grana’s, in order to narrate the towing the car story.   The part about getting in the car and saying theatrically, “okay, tow it with me in then!”, well I guess I dreamt that up while driving home, or something. I certainly didn’t think of that on the spot in while talking to Billy Grana, but I must have imagined it, heroically, so to speak, at some point before then.  So it was waiting like as a possible version. Which when used was in fact impressive, and convincing, and I got away with it.
—–I guess the main story here is . . . the story of how I told the story. And continued to secure the reputation I have to this day, as someone who leads a life full of odd adventures that it seems could only happen to him.

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