History of the Night/Light Fund
The "catalytic agent" for creating NLF was 9-11, but it was the culmination of dozens of small events in my life. Little threads of Light that joined to beam against the Darkness. The "History" will be a collection of short stories clustered together.
There was a guy (Mickey Ruskin) in NYC who owned a bunch of bars/restaurants who loved to help artists.
The sum total of my life savings: $7.00. The gray sun had come and gone.
The hunger of spirit and flesh forcing me from my subterranean studio at 8 Bethune Street. The cross winds of Abingdon Square were quiet. Alone. The still chill of empty streets. Crossing Bleecker. No cabs on 6th Ave. Newsstands closed. Cats yawning and stretching in store-front windows. Honey light filtering through Irish curtains in red brick apartments. Washington Square: bare.
Entering One University Place. The dim light inside brighter than the cold cover of darkness that hooded the city. From the jukebox, "Chain, chain, chain... Chain of Fools." A couple sharing whispers sat facing each other at the corner of the bar. The mirror had little work to do, except reflect the back of a disinterested bartender who was squeaking a glass with a white towel.
From the waitress-end of the bar, a short hall opened to a dining area; art strewn cafeteria chic. The vacant tables looked like ice pads floating in the bleak sea of the North Atlantic. At the center of the back wall swinging doors gave passage to the kitchen. Chalk white light seeping around their edges framed the doors. Metallic tympanic gongs clanged from the kitchen. The cook was busy. I sat with my back against the right wall close to the kitchen.
A waitress: bra-less, black t-shirt, black pants, black flats, Dutch accent; brought me a menu and walked away. I had enough money for a plain turkey sandwich and a beer.
Her pen on a pale green lined pad recorded my request and I asked, "If it's possible, would you ask the cook to heat it a little for me." She smiled and said she would.
I was broke, but I'd be damned if I'd be poor. Even a forced faith in preserving personal tradition is the dignity that one pays to oneself. There would be tomorrow. Someone would need something. That meant another meal. The marginal money of Manhattan is the matrix of its culture. That is not why artists come to New York, but it is what allows them to stay.
The kitchen door sprang open in response to a choreographic hip thrust precisely practiced by seasoned waitresses. She was carrying a tray: a large plate stacked with steaming turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, string beans, and squash; small plates, one with an array of breads and butter and the other with a salad: a small bowl with homemade cranberry sauce; and a piece of pumpkin pie with a daub of whipped cream.
She walked to my table. Flashes of novacained numbness strobed over my face, stomach, hands, and then focused on my throat. Speechless. I looked up, but her face was blurred by pools of tears urgently being blinked away. She was smiling. She returned in a few minutes with the beer and the check: one turkey sandwich, one beer. The cook came to the door. A heavy set, short Asian man. We shared a single nod.
I remember eating that meal as well as I remember my own name and it is one of the reasons why I created The Night/Light Fund.
This is my America. This is my Manhattan. This is my family.
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