Wednesday, January 28, 2009
57 OCTAVES BELOW THE MIDDLE C BUZZED BY THE BEE
57 Octaves Below the Middle C Buzzed by the Bee (2006, Fifth Planet Press) was intended to be New York City’s first epic poem. Seeing as New York lacks a proper epic poem in its name, I thought I found my calling therein and geared up for getting down to tackling that cross. The conduit thereto struck me late one night/early morning getting out of the speakeasy I’d hit after my bartending shift on the Lower East Side of Manhattan when, unable to hail a cab (a combination of there simply being none and of no wise cabby willing to pick up a zombie, which I was at that state in the game) I found myself trying to flag down the giant red tourist buses dominating the streets at that hour on their way to Times Square to pick up their prey and begin their day. If only I could work on top one of those things my material for our epic poem would sort itself out naturally, or so I thought. When I awoke the next morning I walked down to Consumer Affairs, took the legendarily rigorous three-hour 150 question NYC tour guide exam, and scored 147 out of 150 -- finding myself unwittingly with the highest score in the entire City of New York (fact)! For the next nine months I gave three-hour tours three times a day all around Manhattan and Brooklyn while all along pursuing what I believed would be our missing definitive epic poem. However, by the time my pen began hitting the paper it was clear I could produce nothing so reverential and purely beautiful for such an epigeal eye-to-eye city as ours (Incidentally, culling material from tour buses filled with obese Middle Americans, Eurotrash, and wild Israeli’s fresh out of mandatory military service did not support the exalted word much either). No, a work worthy of Byron or Pushkin frankly would not befit our honest city. I offer you the jaunty 57 Octaves as the most appropriate result instead (it’s not a poem).
I then enlisted the illustrator Marcellus Hall to help redeem the project. He added forty accompanying illustrations to the book which function as silent reposes to my endless words that communicate the same NYC savoir vivre in drawings the extents of my yapping only struggle for.
*57 Octaves is featured in MoMA’s 2009 exhibition of illustrated books.