Authors: Bruce Bauman
ALSO BY THE AUTHOR
And the Word Was
Copyright © 2015 by Bruce Bauman
Production Editor: Yvonne E. Cárdenas
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The Library of Congress has cataloged the printed edition as follows:
Broken Sleep : an American dream / Bruce Bauman.
ISBN 978-1-59051-448-1 (paperback) — ISBN 978-1-59051-449-8 (e-book)
1. Families—United States—Fiction. 2. Rock music—Fiction. I. Title.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination
or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
To my Mom, Dad & Suzan
In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing
About the dark times
granmama salome, i am here …
Persephone? At last
why didn’t you come for me?
I sang for you nightly
i heard only silence
What do you know of me? Of your father, Alchemy?
Of your family?
auntie jay gave me a gift, the Book of J …
What? What is it?
the dreams of the savants
I said to myself: You are mad!
What’s the meaning of these waves,
these floods, these outbursts?
For Art’s Sake
“I am large, I
So sang my son. For so many of the multitudes, my son’s voice lingers and stirs a longing for a time that never was. He sang not only of himself but also of our family, because after him came my granddaughter, and before him there was me. In the beginning, there was my mother.
I spoke with my mother only once. She gave me a hat. A silly red hat. I’d seen her every year on my birthday. That stopped the day I recognized her, and long before we met. I will tell you more about that day later. I live outside the concept of linear time, but many desire a tangible guideline, so I will do my best and start from my newly bornday: September 21, 1966, when I was chronologically twenty-three, and the day of my first happening. I titled it
Art Is Dead
. The idea sprang from me while visiting Art Lemczek, whom I’d friended as a young girl growing up in Orient Point on the northeastern tip of Long Island. Art was a loner who used to do odd jobs on my father’s farm and sweep up in Boyle’s Diner in Greenport. His complications from diabetes had grown so debilitating after they amputated his left leg, he attempted suicide. Twice.
After I heard about Art’s second attempt, I went home to visit my parents. I drove over to his mouse hole of a rented room to comfort him. I found him balled up on his cot, wrapped in moth-eaten blankets, surrounded by paperback books and
s. I fixed some tea and lemon with a dash of rum. His morning favorite. He squirmed in pain as I helped him sit up to sip the tea. He began to reminisce, speaking slowly, often wincing when forming the words. “You remember the first time you helped me?”
“I sure do.” I steadied the shaking cup by placing my hands over his so Art could sip the salving concoction without spilling it.
During a predawn bike ride, when I was about ten years old, I found Art passed out drunk in the middle of Platt Road. I stopped and gave him some water from my canteen and sat beside him. Soon my dad, on his way to the farm, came by in his truck. After Dad finished giving me “heck” for sitting where I could get run over, he drove Art back to Greenport.
“Salome, you’ve always been kind to me. Never acted ‘afraid’ of me.”
“Afraid? Why? Because you growled at the kids who taunted you? I thought you were funny.”
“Me, too. Sometimes. Back then I hated myself when I was sober. Now I hate being alive. There’s no relief from the pain.”
I had a vision. You might call it coincidence—if you believe in another of those too-human constructs. I don’t. I explained my idea to him.
“Salome”—his voice, so soft and resigned, smelled like lukewarm oatmeal served with chopped bits of wet string—“I’d be grateful.”
Back in Manhattan, I approached Myron Horrwich, my mentor and lover. He was sexually skillful and taught me about the pleasures of face time—licking below the belt. Horrwich dubbed himself “a world-famous conceptual artist.” He had a concept about money, too—he conceptualized that he deserved piles of it. He was fifty-plus years old and still acted like a coddled prodigy. Entranced by his swirling, dilated pupils—unaware at the time that he laced his nose with droplets of belladonna—I explained my idea. Waving his elongated fingers through the air like a maestro, he pronounced ecstatically, “Brilliant. Let’s do it.”
We spread the word about an “outrageous extravaganza” in the underground grapevine using the
. Horrwich’s lawyers drew up papers that Art willingly signed.
On a late September afternoon, as our unofficial finale to the Avant-Garde Festival, we gathered in Central Park by Bethesda Fountain, soon to be made famous by the
crowd. The Fugs played. Psychic infusions abounded. Horrwich persuaded Xtine Black, a former assistant of his and not yet renowned, to photograph the event. We distributed handmade
ART IS DEAD
buttons to the two hundred or so people, including the innovators of the happening scene. I was introduced to Leslie Tallent, my first champion, who also aggrandized himself as one of the “five most prominent art critics in America.” Art sat innocuously by himself sipping a bourbon, his favorite afternoon libation. I’d bought him a gabardine suit from Korvettes. He kept smiling at me through his rotting teeth and giving me a thumbs-up that didn’t fully dismiss my doubts.