It’s a damp evening in mid June on the Eve of Bloomsday 2015 near a playground between 7th and 8th Avenue off 27th Street in Manhattan. It’s cloudy this evening. The streets are very quiet. Fifty minutes post-show in Manhattan and not one sob story for some change from a bum. You could probably get away with robbing a Dunkin Donuts on nights like these, the kind of nights where you feel spirits. On this evening I had Edie Sedgwick on my mind.
Maybe you could thank Dean Ween who earlier that night performed an instrumental rendition of ‘Superstar’ by the Carpenters. In the Heath Room at the McKittrick Hotel no less which happens to be located around the same Chelsea neighborhood where the inspiration for the songs ‘Just Like A Woman’ and ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ once levitated. She had that look. The perfect Sixties muse. One made for Manhattan.
Walking down a lonesome street in a crowded city. That sentence alone could be her life’s metaphor. To be loved by everybody and nobody at the same time. Knowing my current luck it is fair to say that it’s not good enough for her ‘Ciao, Manhattan’ ghost. What a great ending to another wordless evening running into that ghost would be. The kind of evenings that are meant for outlets like this. No, not tonight, as I opened the gate of the playground. There is not a soul in sight. Philadelphians have made an art out of urinating in public. We keep it on our own streets. My biggest fear every time I visit anywhere is getting arrested. That’s the kind of mindset you develop when you’re used to carrying illegal drugs on you. You’re a criminal. A bad guy. One of the kids that are always out back at the party.
I enter the playground and a light comes on. Motion sensors illuminate a path to the tiny public restroom which I enter and in a rare circumstance, fearing arrest, my bladder abides by the law. As I’m standing over the urinal there’s no cold chill, the type ghost hunters talk about, that gently touches the area where my neck meets my shoulder. Nope, not tonight. After finishing up, the lights in the restroom do not turn off and on rapidly like in an old horror film. As I’m staring in the mirror while washing my hands there’s no noises coming from the women’s room that I should be concerned about: no girl screaming or feet hitting the wall not even the sound of a forgotten foreign love song playing from an old radio that’s not plugged in. Nothing. I knew something had to be up. Slowly I crept the door open thinking about Edie, a couple months before her death, strung out sitting curled up into a ball on a park bench, those pinned-up hazy eyes with rings around them staring at the brake lights of cars rolling by, thinking about the kind of things people think about when they’ve been passed around and used for most of their life. Like when is it all going to finally come to an end. That’s the version of Edie Sedgwick’s ghost I’m meant to stumble upon especially on a night like this one. Maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll get to stare right at those “false colored eyes” that Nico sang about many years ago.
Slowly and with much anticipation, I open the door and look toward my left. The playground is still empty. Not even a squirrel in sight. Taking a deep breathe I quickly turn my head to the right but there is no spirit of Edie Sedgwick kneeling by the water fountain between the restrooms to greet me with a smile that could “break my heart in two.” Not on this summer night. At this point I’d be lucky to be accosted by a bum. If he’s old enough maybe the least I could get is a story about Edie from over forty years ago. Even a good made-up one could add a sense of fulfillment to this evening. But not even the lie of another human being was anywhere to be found on this Joycean night.
With nothing more than a stick of gum in my pocket, I headed back to Penn Station. There would be no alibi this evening, not that there’s ever a need for one. The thought of enjoying a wordless night on the town is nothing more than a thought. Similar to the setting around the Chelsea neighborhood that planted it in my head in the first place, lonesome streets in a crowded city. The bigger the town the harder this feeling of being lonesome can hit you. If you let it effect you it becomes contagious. People slowly start to write you off. Or better yet, forget about you. As the train pulled away from the station I hunkered down in my seat and put on my headphones. Then it hit me, this night in Manhattan did have meaning. For in this day and age, we have access to ghosts right in the palms of our hands. I looked into my phone and searched for this song, a personal all-time favorite. A suitable song for Manhattan, a place where most people don’t get what they want. More than other places. I was haunted by a digital ghost that came into my head through the setting of a foggy summer night. With a small sense of satisfaction, I watched this video all the way to Philadelphia and fell in love over-and-over again.