Bob’s Bag

by Winfried Strathmann

I have had Bob in the bag since August 2008. Going on two-and-a-half years now while limping toward my own pond, golden or otherwise. More like a puddle.

His best and oldest friend had organized Bob’s cremation at some inexpensive outfit in the Bronx. He arrived at the memorial service at Trinity Place in Lower Manhattan on a sweltering Saturday afternoon in August with an ominous looking plastic shopping bag. Patrick, James, and I had bought some small containers into which we filled some of Bob’s ashes for people to take home. Quite a few did step forward to take some of Bob with them. Others were just curious, or dubious about the whole idea, or even turned-off. The ashes were a light grey brown color with small grey-whitish bone fragments mixed in.

When the service was over, Patrick, Jerry Foyster, John Sanders, and I drove to Penn Station by way of the Chinese Szechuan Restaurant on Ninth Avenue and 24th Street in Chelsea. There we talked about Bob, the moving memorial, what might happen to his fifth floor walk-up rent-controlled cold-water flat on Varick Street and the corner of North Moore, above Walker’s Bar, with the boiling or freezing toilet in the hallway, on which Bob spent hours every day because of the curse of his life, his irritable bowl syndrome. Who knows? Patrick is late for his bus to Albany. We scramble back into Sander’s truck. Good-bye. So-long. Somehow I wind up with the ash bags.

Patrick’s original bag was a silver-colored zipper bag stuffed into a small semi-translucent MOMA Design and Book Store bag stuffed into a smallish white, flimsy bodega shopping bag, which in turn was stuffed into the bottom of a “Garden of Eden – Temptation in Every Aisle” bag, now stuffed into an expensive leather duffel bag, bought by me in another life. Also in that leather bag is my long-dead mother’s correspondence (she died at the young age of 65) concerning her great, secret, and only love with an impoverished but apparently charming Englishman, whom she had met in England during her year abroad. Her mother had eventually put down her foot and had stopped this “dalliance with that hopeless pauper,” as she had supposedly put it. Also in the leather bag is a shopping bag full of correspondence with my own first love, who also died at a young age, in her case sixty-two. Bob is in the bag, surrounded by love.

Sanders, Foyster, and I agreed to throw parts of Bob’s ashes one day into the Hudson near his previously beloved Lower West Side neighborhood—at the end of his life destroyed by crowds with Wall Street jobs and real estate holdings and double strollers and TV screens the size of billboards in their lofts—and the other part of the ashes among the bones and  skulls under the big old English elm tree on the far northwest corner of Washington Square. He and I had sat in its shade a few times, and he wanted some of his ashes put there when the time came.

On a rainy day in April of 2011, Sanders, Foyster and I met in Washington Square and poured half of the ashes under the elm tree. A chess player wanted to know what we were doing. We told him. He seemed appalled, and remained suspicious. Later we took the no. 1 downtown local to Rector Street, drifted west, and poured the rest of the ashes into the Hudson. It was still raining. A stiff breeze blew some of the ash back at us and into our faces.

We decided to have a little memorial dinner at Bob’s favorite Vietnamese Restaurant on Baxter Street in Chinatown. On the way there, I stuffed the shopping bag, which had traces of Bob’s ashes on it into an overflowing trash bin on the corner of Lafayette and Canal.

We knew Bob would have approved.

  1. perpetua says:

    I do believe you memorialized (and continue to honor him) in all your actions!

    Liked by 1 person

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