Friday, March 18, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 44.1 (Henry Miller)

Plexus by Michael_Kelleher
Plexus a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.

Miller, Henry

Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books.

I guess I never got to Nexus, as this is the last Henry Miller on my shelf. I know I read Tropic of Cancer after college, but not Tropic of Capricorn. I am hot and cold about Henry Miller. My feeling about him is similar to my feeling about Kerouac. Parts of his books are brilliant evocations of intense feeling and passion, but these are punctuated by long, listless passages that test my patience. I never quite feel like the waiting is worth it, at least not after that first or second burst of brilliance.

I am trying to remember a bit more of that summer I was reading Henry Miller. Aside from becoming addicted to a video game, my most vivid memory is of walking each day from my apartment on College St over to La Salle Park, which occupies the point at which Lake Erie becomes the Niagara River.

My route would take me down Maryland St. past Cottage, the first street I lived on in Buffalo, toward Niagara St. I don't think the supermarket at the corner was there yet, but neither do I remember what was. It was probably under construction. They leveled several city blocks in order to put it there.

Crossing over Niagara I'd continue past the housing projects abutting the I-190 to a concrete footbridge over the highway. The footbridge rises at a fairly steep angle upward, facing south, parallel with the highway, then pauses at a landing which was always covered with glass shards and often filled with puddles of water, turning right it rose again to carry you through a caged-in passageway (to prevent suicides and sabotage, I assume) over the cars speeding past, down an identical ramp to another glass-strewn landing and a ramp that let out onto a softball diamond.

A hulking brick water pumping station sits at the northern edge of the park. A circular road surrounds it. On the other side of the station, across the circular road, a promenade follows the shore of the lake all the way to the south end of the park, where luxury condos form the border.

I'd cross the baseball diamonds over toward the pumping station and find a bench on the promenade. My usual habit was to sit in the sun as the cool breezes flowed in off the lake. I recall Freud and Nietzsche and Henry Miller and being the main items on the reading menu that summer. Often I'd just put on my sunglasses and stare out at the water.

Several hundred yards out a round, brick building with a round, red roof rising to a cupola that houses a light, seems to float on the surface of the water. It's beautiful and mysterious. It just sits there, the only object breaking the plane of the horizon.

It eventually made it into one of my poems, despite my not knowing for many years what it was. Turns out it is a water intake. They draw the lake water in an carry in to shore to the pumping station in the park, where it is processed for drinking water.

From a website:

"The 1907 building takes in 125 million gallons of drinking water for Buffalo every day. Because the intake operates by gravity, the building is rarely visited.

Water rushes into the round brick and concrete building through grates and collects in a circular pool. The water drops 60 feet to a 12-foot diameter, mile-long concrete tunnel burrowed under the river bed. It ends up at the Col. Ward Pumping Station at the foot of Porter Avenue, where it is treated at the filtration plant and sent throughout the city.

Atop the red roof is a guard light for passing ships. Around the exterior wall is a balcony embroidered by curving wrought iron."

And from my poem, "Nachtmusik":


Look out
To that little round house

On a lake of ice.

Who is it isn’t there?
What place

Shall they take
In one’s heart?

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