From the Island of Nonsuch


Raphael called the apartment The Legacy — it was one of the places in the world that cast light in all directions, past and future, on the real and unreal. It was never locked, and stuffed with a lifetime of detritus from Ira’s travels: writings, photographs, films, letters, books, toys, stickers, capes and masks, floor to ceiling, teetering on shelves, gathering dust, just received or about to be mailed off, rubber stamps and rubber ducks and God knows who you might find in there. Mostly Ira, skinny legs in boxers under his swollen belly, shouting at the Yankees on TV then bursting into old borscht belt tunes or telling stories about the time he bit the toe of a holy man in the Himalayas.

Ira’s son Raphael is one of my oldest friends, and whenever I was in New York I knew I was welcome to let myself into 8L, clear a strip of frayed carpet between the towers of boxes and books, and sleep there. The first time I stepped into this scene I found Ira in his spot on the sofa, Raphael rolling up one of his endless matchstick joints, his mom cross-legged on the floor counting out stacks of hundreds acquired through a deal involving the Everglades, a convertible, and a trip to the Upper East Side.

Raphael took a hit off his joint, looked at me and said: This is my family. We think we’re big time aristocrats.


The full letter: