Letters to The Editor, Feb. 25, 2016

Grateful to have had Dad

To The Editor:

Re “John Farris, bohemian poet who chronicled life on Lower East Side” (obituary, Feb. 11):

My dad was an anarchist. He could be rough around the edges, often speaking his truth without censure or care for social mores.

But to me he was more than John, the rebel artist. He was my father. I strongly believe that he loved his daughters. For the last 12 years of his life, we spoke at least twice a week. His voice was often gentle, he rejoiced at my son Richard’s journey with music, always curious to follow every progress and success. He always told me that he loved me.

He introduced me with pride to his friends, always highlighting that I was a doctor, and that his grandson was a great musician-in-the-making. He loved hearing Richard play the saxophone.

As a child, he would pick me up on the weekends and he would take us to the children’s art carnival in Brooklyn, where he worked, and teach us how to draw and play with instruments. What he believed in the most — art — he cared to teach us to love and understand. He also helped me to be open-minded.

Dad made me laugh. He had a playful, joyful side. He used to walk down the streets playing the flute.

My father was a survivor. He always found a way. Choosing to live on the margins of a social system he discredited and despised, he remained keenly observant and accepted the consequences of his choices. Mahatma Gandhi said, “To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonesty.” My father was honest. My father spoke the truth. My father was very wise.

I will never forget, in a pivotal and painful moment of my life, when he said just what I needed to hear: “What’s done in the dark comes to the light.” I felt protected and understood by my father.

I believe my dad hid his gentle side because he had been too hurt by life. He hadn’t experienced much love growing up, and he developed prickly, steel walls that could easily ward off human connection. He grew to enjoy solitude. But the few he allowed to get close to him (me, Andrew, Maggie, Dalton and Vanessa, for example) got more than his visions and creations, but experienced and knew his loving, gentle and sensitive side.

It was a grand gesture of love that dad left his apartment to my musician son. I am so grateful to have had an incredible, complex, genius, funny and loving dad.

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly,” Franz Kafka wrote.

My father, John Farris, did just this.

Chinyelu “Bibi” Duxbury


A fine tribute to Farris

To The Editor:

Re “John Farris, bohemian poet who chronicled life on Lower East Side” (obituary, Feb. 11):

What a fine, moving tribute by Sarah Ferguson for the poet John Farris. The photo portrait by Maggie Wrigley captures both an inner and outer beauty.

Cranky he was, but generous and charming also. My first real memory of John was when I read at the Life Cafe in 1983. During the open mic, a shy youngster gave a blistering reading of scatological oratory. It was fiercely innovative and successful but disturbingly nihilistic. I was moved. I was sitting next to John and as the audience applauded, he asked if I liked what I’d heard. I said that it was powerful indeed. And he said, “Why don’t you tell him.”

A year later I found out that the kid had overdosed. I’ll always be grateful to John for suggesting I compliment him.

Another time, I asked John if I could publish one of his drawings in Live Mag! I went over and chose a truly brilliant cartoon of a hearse and its entourage entering a cemetery. Above the entrance gates was the phrase: “The Scythe’s the Limit.”

Then his famous crankiness came out: Almost immediately he left a nasty message on my phone, hounding me to get the drawing back and accusing me of trying to steal it. I was rather put out. As soon as I could, I scanned the work and returned it. He was back to being charming and his petulance was forgotten.

Last time I saw him was at the Bowery Poetry Club. Everybody treated him like royalty, like the East Village royalty he was.

I’m very glad to have known him and to have had a chance to publish his work. His legend lives on. For some, the scythe is not always the limit.

Jeffrey Cyphers Wright


Amen for good coverage

To The Editor:

Re “Countering ugly rhetoric with spiritual sounds” (news article, Feb. 11):

Thank you so much, Villager. You seem to be the only press in New York City interested in shining a little light on the courage of these faith leaders to cross divisions others uphold, and to learn about and embrace each other.

We all in the East Village are honored by them, and appreciate you, The Villager, for devoting the time and space.

Anthony Donovan


Out-of-kilter pacifists

To The Editor:

Following the 9/11 attacks on our country, too many members of the peace movement determined to oppose their sister and brother citizens in the war against terror.

This was a departure from the probative approach of American pacifists after the attack on Pearl Harbor, after which we entered World War II. At that time, pacifists, in the words of the executive committee of the War Resisters League, took the honorable stand of pledging, “…under no circumstances do we have any intention of obstructing or interfering with the civil or military, or in [interfering with the] carrying out [of] the will of the government or [condemning] the point of view of those of our fellow citizens to whom war presents itself as a patriotic duty… .”

Today, on the contrary, all too many pacifists and activists are opposing the world people’s desire to defeat the Islamic terrorists who are endangering humanity with what the pope describes as “a piecemeal World War III.”

One example of the above are the dismaying protests at airbases, where pacifists, including some of the Catholic Worker people, seek to demoralize the decent pilots of unmanned aircraft — the drones. This is an ignoble departure from the W.W. II-era pacifist moral position of declining to obstruct or interfere with the wartime efforts to save humanity.

During the Second World War, the pacifist community in the U.S. resolved to act responsibly. They understood that the fate of the collective may not be tethered to the personal codes of living subscribed to by the pacifists. The fundamental recognition is one that should be borne in mind by the more out-of-kilter pacifists in our community.

Robert Reiss


Dug that daguerro photo

To The Editor:

Re “Just my (daguerreo)type” (photo, Feb. 18):
Fantastic photo. Beautiful church. May they never allow hideous glass towers to ruin its presence, sadly happening in so many areas of the city. See 56th St. and 23rd St. for new examples.

Larry Trepel


Bookstore’s final chapter

To The Editor:

Re “It’s a closed book: St. Mark’s Bookshop is going out of business” (news article, Feb. 18):

As a Villager for many years, I was as disappointed as many of us (and not all of them Village people) to see the bookstore close, move, open again and who knows what else in the immediate future.

I was actually taken aback to learn — via the New Yorker and The Villager’s update — how totally Mr. Contant “shunned ideas to change the business model.” Frankly, it’s probably rough to make it in the independent bookstore business. But what I remember is a grumpy man walking around his emptying bookshelves, totally ruining the good vibes of a bookstore I remember being an oasis in the past.

There were two to three bookstores in the area through the ’70s, so one could always go in and have his or her spirits lifted by looking at a new title, and even rushing to buy a book or magazine spontaneously.

But all I remember of the last days of the bookstore in my ’hood was my mounting guilt at not being able to afford the price, and hopping up to find the same book at the Strand for one-third the price! And why not?

Instead of bitching and grumbling, it seems to me, the owner, so well depicted in Ms. Minsky’s photograph — full of pride that he may be — would do much better in another business. In the meantime, there are a couple of new bookshops in the Apple, and you just can’t expect the march of times to roll backward!

Ruth Breil


Teen scammer trouble

To The Editor:

Regarding the slashing incident at Silver Spurs last Thursday: Groups of young people, clearly from the other boroughs, have been wandering the Village for years, selling candy, gathering signatures or asking for donations to questionable causes. Not only is it obvious somebody is exploiting them, but they seem to have little or no adult supervision. This isn’t the first time they’ve been associated with crime. The Sixth Precinct should have cracked down on these scams long ago.

Stacy Walsh Rosenstock


Not for the faint-hearted

To The Editor:

Re “Parking the car could really drive you crazy” (notebook, by Scott Oglesby, Feb. 11):

This was hilarious. I have never been to New York City and can imagine that the strength of character that I witness when I meet someone from there is sculpted from these everyday challenges. What about the snow? You must have a very large wine cellar.

Vicki Anastasion

E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to [email protected] or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 1 Metrotech North, 10th floor, Brooklyn, NY, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. Anonymous letters will not be published.

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