Saul Goldfarb’s Shiva
(The end of a year-long penance for both of us…)
I was cordially invited this morning
To remember Saul Goldfarb.
I don’t know who Saul Goldfarb is; or rather,
who he was,
and I don’t know if I would have liked Saul Goldfarb
or if I’d have been his friend.
But I know, this e-mail tells me so,
that the shiva will be in apartment 150 and 155,
which I’m told is Hal Cantor’s apartment.
It says they’ll be a crowd, and they want food,
and I must coordinate with Sarah Dubus
of the Friendship Committee.
Stan Peres tells me all this
via BuildingLink notification —
his office, his employ, a mystery.
I don’t know Stan,
I don’t know Sarah,
I don’t know Hal,
and you already know —
I didn’t know shiva about Saul Goldfarb.
The invitation to shiva is more news from nowhere.
I’ve avoided the news —
it’s been 1105 days!
I set out for 30 days… and I feel fine…
It’s the end of the world as we know it
and I feel fine.
I like it here.
The news of Saul’s shiva came through the intranet —
my building’s world —
and like so many of the world’s nascent islands
of floating plastics,
it’s more flotsam shot over my virtual transom,
and thudding in to my life unwanted…
You rarely see ten-dollar-a-night hotel transoms left open to strangers in hallways anymore.
The first time I noted a transom — and I would not know the name of this odd architectural detail for many years to come — was when Peter Bogdanovich showed me one in Paper Moon. I saw that film with my father at Twin Gables Theater when I was nine years-old. As I remember it, my father and I were often at the movies that year. We saw Sleeper, Papillon, The Sting, Day of The Jackal — at least one film a week each weekend, sometimes two.
We bonded over films and baseball in 1973. And he beat me senseless in 1973. It was the year of violence and divorce. This year returns to me now in moments when I least expect it. Meryl, my therapist, says it’s part of the swirl associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. All I know is, here it is, somehow, uninvited, reading about the shiva for Saul Goldfarb…
But back to apartment 155 and Hal Cantor. I don’t think I know Hal Cantor either. He lives one floor below me, on the 15th floor, and three apartments over, facing east, facing the harbor. There must be a sweeping view of downtown Boston from Hal’s balcony just off to his left over Mission Hill.
I may have run into Hal in the five years I’ve lived in the tower. But I’m not certain if he’s the man with the enduring smile. The man who calls me “chief,” and listens to Thelonious Monk songs at top volume while sitting in his Saab — the bass echoing up one level in the garage while I linger by the stairs — as Monk segues from the arpeggiated high notes to silence and then to a boogie woogie roll on “Epistrophy.”
If he’s Hal Cantor, I might have gone to Saul Goldfarb’s shiva, because that Hal seems like an interesting man. We might talk about Horace Silver or Alice Coltrane; or maybe about more challenging music — free jazz and improvisational music — Sun Ra, Christian Marclay, or Keshavan Maslak. Yeah, I’d invite that Hal up to my place and we could look northwest from my balcony: over Brookline Hills and Arlington Heights, and on a clear day maybe spot Wachusett Mountain. I’d have a breakfast stout, and he a cold porter in hand.
He could play the latter day father I never had, like my actual father sometime before 1973, before he disengaged, dissipated, and disappeared completely. That father — this Hal — would be interested in my films and my writing. He’d encourage me. That father — this Hal — would want to know about how I hosted and produced radio shows for 15 years. He’d want to know who I interviewed and photographed while I was a journalist in my twenties.
He’d ask, with interest, why it took me 13 years to graduate college and why I studied in six different fields, before I settled on English Literature and Creative Writing. He’d want to hear me read my published work and what I was developing now. He’d ask why this piece is a poem and that one’s a short story. He’d ask about the novel length work taking shape on my laptop. We’d talk about Samuel Beckett, William Burroughs, Kathy Acker, the contemporary excellence of Ottessa Moshfegh and Leni Zumas. Experimental literature and films… But no one’s father is that ideal, and I’m certain that Hal isn’t either.
Hal Cantor may be another man altogether in my building. Hal may be the man that barked at me once in the elevator. The older man with the hedgehog toupee, and hair darker than mine, was when I was 23, and still had hair. Yes, that Hal — that father — is closer to my real father when he was the Violet Bathroom Dictator — when he held court, as he spray-plastered two foot long strands of hair into a combover atop his head every morning, but that’s another story…
When that combover
Wasn’t “just right,”
A belt buckle rain
Might fall that night…
Let’s remember Saul Goldfarb instead.
“From the fact that everything is to die someday he draws the best conclusion… A writer has some hope even if he is not appreciated. He assumes his work will bear witness to what he was.”
— Albet Camus