Excerpt from "The Fox and the Ocelot"
(a Valentine's verse fable in one act)
The Chelsea Hotel Artist Tour
Fox and the Ocelot"
(a Valentine's verse fable in one act)
(Excerpt: The Bear scene)
[ . . . ]
And she awoke alone, instantly aware
that the empty cave had dampened
and taken on a gaping volume,
a massive shape of black,
exceeded only by the mammoth odor
of overwhelming bear!
Bear: How now unlucky
who intrudes (traps her tail) upon my winter habitat.
Speak, Fox, or breathe your last!
Fox: Oh, what lonely
refuge a former truth
that an autumn passed in solitude
can vacate and disprove.
Bear: Fie! Ill-reputed
to be sly!
Be done dispensing riddles with a haughty grin
and convince me quickly why I do not kill you,
as soon as listen to your sophistry.
Fox (feigning deference):
My lip is parted and aching dry
as revulsion's adulating tribute,
such rank respect do you, Sir Brute, compel
by outlandish size and scent,
moreover by the hugeness of your foot,
which lies so artful bruising on my tail,
but removed could free me to some servitude.
Bear (smug): To what
humiliating end do I enslave you then?
Fox: Why, to add some tasty morsels to your diet.
Bear (scoffs): Hah!
A feeble argument and faint incentive
to trade your life for rodent entrail.
Fox: Do you discount
before you try it
a repast of dainty mouse or rabbit,
devoured as you sprawl about
the fetid squalor of your cave?
Bear: But twenty by
would hardly be enough and hard-procured,
with winter proximate and hence my nap.
This late, they would be sinewy and tough,
thus a pittance quite unworthy
of the interruption as I hiberate.
Fox: But if awakened
and you need to stave
some ursine gluttony however minorly remitted?
Bear: 'Tis not in the
nature of my long repose
that I should prematurely stir.
Fox: And thus the likelier
unless you post a constant sentry
at the entrance to your noxious grotto,
(attempts to slip past him, but he blocks her exit)
to discourage birds that would disturb
your bloated sloth so well-deserved
at a Summer's end spent typically revolting
most other beasts and fowl
in our nostrilly afflicted province.
Bear: No, Fox, I must
all other beasts, if I may gloat.
Fox: Oh, Bear, it shall
be far from me
to doubt the valorous authority
of your unfailing flatulence.
Bear: Nor I your cunning
flattery. Yet, withal
I do suspect you are too small of stature
and too slight of fighting skill
to see, much less to capture,
the odd adventurer on my hill.
Fox: Agreed. 'Tis an
argument I must concede
to the ferocity of your stench,
meaning to ascend the leafless tree
that stands just next your entrance,
the better to detect (attempting to exit gradually)
and rid you of the twitter
that else by useless nesting
would importune your reeking rest.
Bear (Retraps her tail):
Too clever, Fox!
Think you then that I know not
your woeful kind all lack the claws
to make an enterprise of climbing trees?
Though mine can make fast work of you.
Fox (arch): I duly
note the hirsute length and gnarl
of two at the extreme end of my person.
Bear (fierce): The
better to take the rending measure (stomps)
of all ten around your throat! (towers over her)
Fox (timid): Wait!
A minority among my species
are rich-bestowed with silver coats,
which, while truly fine as ornament,
preclude the owner from ascending trees,
whereas we more agile because less vain,
but inelegantly russet, have much facility
for which we are content. (regaining confidence)
What's more, my showy plume
could lend itself as warning banner,
unfurled to great advantage
to dissuade unwanted elements,
were it not at present trammeled
by a churl's too weighty paw.
Bear: You lie! If vanity
made for discontent,
why then my cousin,
being like too rich-bestowed in white,
should hate to gorge on fish in polar oceans
as much as I to ford an icy stream
and swat at bounding salmon, (swats over her head as she cowers)
too oft with mean result.
Fox: Aha! But has he
a tree to clamber up,
much less to rub against?
Bear: Agreed. I must not be incontinent.
Fox: No, please! Least
not while yet a burden
on my disheveled flag! (Distracted, he releases her.)
Bear: But if no tree,
then logically no bird
to perturb him while he sleeps,
and thus is he more fortunate indeed than I,
who perceive the slightest stirring.
(Ocelot growls low, perched in tree outside.)
Fox: Perhaps a rustled
on yonder peeling birch.
Bear: The same which
late you misdescribed
Fox: By a figure of speech.
Bear: What species
then of squawking pest,
for hawk and eagle do I so abhor
that I would separate them wing from wing.
Fox: Perhaps not squawk but growl.
Bear (Snatches her tail): A growling fowl?
Fox: You misheard the
bird, for I said . . . 'owl',
having caught a shadowed glimpse
of spotted black on golden hide,
or no that would be wing,
which would of course be feather.
But, Sir! If now you turn to look,
you sever utterly my quill,
which you will need to use as banner
and I in altogether subtler manner.
Bear (Distracted, releases
her): Cannot be an owl in fact,
if not leopard-spotted,
and an able predator in flight,
(gentle) so soft of feather
it makes no sound whatever
swooping to attack.
Fox: Be proud, Bear,
to be not duped.
Withal, this is no ordinary spotted owl.
(Aside) Nor ordinary leopard either on the prowl.
Bear: Which because
it preys by night
must sleep by day.
Fox: Right you say!
Thus, if it be an owl and cannot sleep,
what meager hospice this accursèd tree,
which, worse, but for employing my facility,
you would have to climb and occupy yourself.
Bear (Pauses): Oh!
What dilemma, logically,
wherein I need your help!
Fox (laughs): Now how
shrewdly you conclude,
and so astutely have you just removed
the former imposition on my flagging plume,
that I bid you, Brute, adieu!
© 1994 Maureen Holm
The Chelsea Hotel Artist Tour (92nd St. Y)
One Small Source of
by Diana Manister
Life and learning in New York City are considerably enriched by the lively schedule of events offered by the 92nd Street Y. Like the famous Cooper Union Forum, where everyone from Abe Lincoln to George Balanchine has appeared, the Y has featured its share of major cultural icons. When I saw e.e. cummings read there, he ended by throwing kisses to the audience which responded with many thunderous curtain calls.
The Y has tours for every interest, from a Frank Lloyd Wright weekend at Falling Water to a tour of Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery, resting place of composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein and the screen actress Lola Montez. Its January 14th tour of the Chelsea Hotel (222 West 23rd Street) provided a peek inside the Victorian landmark which The New York Times once celebrated, saying:
It was probably not by accident that Stuart Cloete had the hero of his science fiction novelette, "The Blast," find refuge in the Chelsea after atomic bombs destroyed New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art might have a more culturally prestigious address but the Chelsea, as one small source of the creativity that produces art, was a more human one.
O. Henry stayed at the Chelsea in 1907. It housed Titanic survivors in 1912. Dylan Thomas collapsed in his Chelsea room in 1953 and died at nearby St. Vincent’s Hospital. Arthur Miller lived there for six years, as did as the American Ashcan School painter John Sloan. A plaque in the lobby notes that Mark Twain was a resident, and that Thomas Wolfe had a corner suite. Other Chelsea dwellers included Eugene O’Neill, Virgil Thompson, Tennessee Williams, William Burroughs, Robert Mapplethorpe, Patti Smith, Janis Joplin, and Andy Warhol’s pal Viva.
The hotel has 250 units of one to four rooms. Three-quarters of the units are home to long-term residents, while the others are for visitors passing through. Purple-haired, nose-ringed residents mingle amiably with 3-child families and their dogs, and a Hercule Poirot look-alike in black bowler hat and overcoat, with a patiently waxed moustache.
The tour was conducted by the Chelsea’s assistant manager Jerry Weinstein, whose knowledge of the hotel is broad and deep. We visited the residences or studios of six artists, including that of Rita Fecher, who has lived and worked there for 26 years! And who wouldn't? Ceilings in the Chelsea’s apartments are so high that some residents have divided their spaces horizontally, adding a second level with headroom. Sunlight streams in through cathedral windows; working fireplaces with marble mantels provide Victorian ambience.
A highlight of the tour was the rare glimpse it provided of the open-air pleasure of the hotel’s roof gardens. A few lucky residents with access rights enjoy peaceful country homes overlooking Midtown. Mr. Weinstein led us through outdoor patios, complete with tricycles and barbecue grills, a forest of potted trees, fountains, grapevines and spectacular river views.
No Victorian hotel
would be complete without an aspect of Gothic horror and, again, the Chelsea
could not disappoint. On October 12, 1978, Sid Vicious, self-proclaimed
nihilist and 21-year-old bass player for the Sex Pistols, murdered lover
Nancy Spungen with a hunting knife in Room 100. (He killed himself four
months later.) After fans made its doorframe into a permanent shrine with
candles and flowers, the management merged the crime-and-shrine scene of
100 out of existence, though--like the 13th-floor button on an elevator
panel--never out of consciousness. The sights and sounds of that crimson
pre-dawn are probably still right here, every detail recorded on canvas--or
under that black bowler hat.