2004-2005: Promiscuity


Summer '04 to summer '05 was the heaviest year to be on the street in Aughts Philadelphia. There was an explosive energy around everything- and my emotions oscillated, personally, between euphoria and dejection from night to night. It wasn't just the Philly Free School Highwire shows; because the Making Time DJ nights had a large national and international following, and all the DJs worked at the Last Drop, just to be in the Last Drop at that time was to be in a realm so supercharged that we might as well have been doing lines off the tables. Adam Sparkles, who shared my name and birthday, ran the place with an iron fist. If he was laconic with PFS, it is because at that time he considered us competitors.

Yet, for many of us, the euphoria of success was counter-weighed by the dejection of living a life more excessive than I (or Jeremy or Abby, especially) had planned in our comparatively "salad" early Aughts days. Abs and I picked a weird moment to consummate our relationship, but there it was. The low point of the year for me was confessing to Mary Harju, who was no dummy and knew the score. Mary and I had been separated for over a year, but still. The one Philly Free School show Mary deigned to attend at the Highwire (at which we showed her Dionysus), she brought her sister Laurie, who was as blonde and pixie-faced as Mary but sharper about making her way materially in the world. She was essentially conservative, and had a way of making us feel like heathens for being artists. Mary's "husband" that night wore a tie-dye, and was truculent. Ruth, the third sister Harju (or Hariu, as they sometimes spelled it), was more handsome than pixie-faced, brunette, and wavered somewhere between Mary and Laurie. So, oddly, my most promiscuous time passed without much real contact with Mary at all.

Unsurprisingly, Mike Land was (or appeared to be) in heaven. Everywhere we went together, including the Highwire, we were treated like celebrities, because the Free School shows were big news- even the Philadelphia City Paper was in on them. It also didn't escape my notice that for these months, we were living the way the Beatles and the Stones were supposed to have lived. If Mike Land was a surprise and a superlative running buddy at a time like this, it is because he was good with euphoric moods, but also with dejected ones- he had a precociously developed appreciation of the human condition, and an empathy with pain and human suffering, which meant that (as, again, I was surprised by) he was no fair weather friend at all. I came to the conclusion- beneath the hustle and the good looks, Mike Land was a very old soul. Jeremy was crabbed and deficient this way and not someone to lean on; Abs, maybe. In the right mood, she could be a stand-up friend. It also never ceases to amaze me that it is here, with all this tumult going on, that Abby fulfilled her destiny and painted her masterpieces.


To Happy Valley


The State College townie kids, bound
to Happy Valley, got their kicks where
they found them, gave off an air of
ennui shot with doom (human life
having granted them no escape valve),
yet were accommodating to me. On
what it means to look around a small
town, and know that it is everything to you,
encompasses all you are, Lords over you
confining curses: to trip with these kids was
to understand these limitations, the magic
& the agony. Lisa smirked, skinny in her boots,
hair cut short but for the one fringe over
her left eye, & passed me water for the E high-

Lisa- after twenty years, the bathroom,
you remember, in The Coffee Cellar,
was all black, with a wide mirror.
Stoned, I dragged you (sweet sixteen) in there
to see if I could kiss you, wrapped in
black leather pants; you banged in
two-inch-high boots, tawny hair-fringe
there, over your eye. I got the kiss; we ambled
out hand in hand; wound up back in
again. You made me vow to you
something I can't remember. How
townie girls talked- I'd nod, get lost.
But the womb-space was complete-
we were safe, ascendant into space, hopeless-

Order & Discipline


So, you had me on your chopping
block that day; the City Hall court
yard blazed with summer heat. We
were over, that was it. You wanted,
you said, some order & discipline in
your life. Chinatown simmered under
our feet; I looked (futilely) for a GO
board; you bought some incense. You
turned quickly, I tried to kiss you; you
resisted; it was close. Two brains tried
to coalesce into one, about love & us.
Epochs passed; I've got order & discipline
right here, in these lines, Ruth. I trust
you understand. Much of the rest is dust.

Abby Heller-Burnham: Philadelphia City Paper, 2005


Adam Fieled: Conshohocken, Pa: September 2017


Your Move (Heller-Burnham)


View from River Walk, Conshohocken, across the Schuylkill