End of the Year Letter to Friendsby Jonas Mekas
11:30 at night this 23rd of December. Tomorrow my
Message from Stan, on phone. Cancer is “terminal.”
That’s what they call it,
“They quit, gave up. Cancer too spread. doctors won’t
Message from Fred Camper: Stan broke, no money to pay
Walked to Anthology. Snowing lightly.
Paul Morrissey came. Leg stiff, arthritis… Hopped
up & down the stairs, on one leg, in a funny
What else is bad?
Eight Palestinians killed… Small type,
Last night we stayed till 1:00, Anthology’s
Now it’s late. The day gone by. Pip, Julius,
Fabiano, drinking at Dempsey’s, reviewing the
year. Not thinking about the horrors,
trying to be positive. But I am very skeptical
about it all, the world is so bad, I mean the
people, the whites, the jews, the muslims, africans
mexicans, russians— all bad bad
I am innocent, as I said last night. I only hurt some small
animals, as a child. But I have asked their forgiveness
so many times now, so many times, I’ve even cried
remembering what I did to baby crows, frogs.
I think they have forgiven me.
So I am innocent, I don’t think I have done any real
bad thing in my mature grown-up life.
I really feel so.
I don’t even know how to get angry, or shout,
it always shocked me, it shocks me when I hear high angry
No no no, I don’t understand any of it,
no, I don’t, I don’t.
But tomorrow is my birthday and I should feel
more grown up, especially at my age, I should know more
about the real ways of this world.
But I don’t.
The world passed me by, I missed it, I only heard
noise and I saw blood in newspapers and salesmen on TV
selling things I have no use for.
I only own two pairs of pants, some shirts, ran out of
socks last week.
So where am I? The ultimate failure, according to the
statistics and evaluations of real life authorities
in Terra anno 2002 — just before my birthday,
which is tomorrow /same birthday as Joseph Cornell’s and Louise
Bourgeois — Happy B’Day Joseph, and Chère
We all had a lot of music and dance and wine at
Anthology, and the Indians, the Uta Nation came and blessed
the avant-garde, they never did that for
Hollywood. And the Bear Boy sang a Uta Nation song in
our honor. And the snow was still falling
Espresso with Raimund. More bad news. Robert
just moved out of his Bleecker Street place, his leg
hurts too much, can not be operated, heart too weak,
moved into a room with an elevator, now looking at
New York through a twentieth floor window,
a great view, he said /supposedly/.
And DoDo is very very depressed, she said so on phone,
“I know that I am because my little dog recognizes
me,” said Gertrude Stein, it’s on my wall.
That much for all the philosophy of
Peter is in Brasil. He hates Christmas in Vienna, the
shopping. And P. Adams still doesn’t drink.
And Annette had three trips to hospital this year,
she just called, is back home, in a wheel chair,
“I wish you a better year, only one break, one
trip to the hospital next year, not three,” I said.
“No no no,” she said, “don’t say that…”
The snow melted. I spent three hours chipping ice
from the sidewalk, with Andy and Robert. Broke the
My eyes are about to close, it’s very late. But I
refuse to sleep. Go to the icebox, get some wine.
Wonder, I wonder where is Agnès, and Brigitte. And all
three Dominiques and three Danieles.
The mind is falling. Maybe I should watch TV.
Maybe there is something with Clint Eastwood or
Bruce Willis—some action, yes, some
action, that’s what I need right now—.
Talk with Stan. “I have accepted it, I am not
worrying about it any more. I am continuing
my work, now, scratching film with my nails &
spit. I have no problem with dying at
all. But it’s hard for the children as they watch
We played and danced into the morning at the Anthology,
all the lonely souls with no other place
to go New Year’s Night. It was really quite amazing
with all those musicians coming from the street
out of the Lower East Side night –
our own Free Music Philharmonic sort of,
we thought. And all had a great time & at
midnight we all went into the street and danced
and played happily, not minding the cold
Yes, life is going on. Forget the utopias:
life is here and now.
I suddenly wonder: where is Harmony tonight, what
crazy fantasies are fluttering around his amazing
head. Sebastian just called from somewhere in
China, somewhere near Burma and Tibet.
“Have you tried any dog meat yet,” I asked.
“No,” he said, “And I am not sure I will— You know
how they kill the dogs here, in the markets? In the
bags, with knives, they stab them, in the bags,
and you’ll never hear a more terrible bloody
cry like that of the dog dying, stabbed, bagged,
helpless, I don’t know how I managed to take it,” he said.
Pip came back, visited Stan. In bed all the
time, too weak. “They told me I should self-hypnotize
myself and face the cancer cells and kill them.
Which I did— I mean, it’s no big deal for me
to go into that kind of state—
I’ve done it all my life, working on my
films. So I faced them, I saw them, the cancer
cells. And I saw they were so beautiful, I couldn’t
kill them, no…” said Stan.
Later, Peter calls, from Vienna, just back from
Brasil. They still kill Indians there even now,
the gold diggers do. And then the diggers are killed
by the gold merchants. “I am resigning from the
human race,” he said. “I’ll do the same,”
So that’s that.
But this doesn’t mean I am giving up in what all those
before me, before us, those who were foolish like me
and some of you, of us, believed in and worked hard
to preserve in order that the City
wouldn’t be destroyed by gods— that is, as long
as there is at least one who believes in the not
believable, in short, in
Jonas, Jan. 3, 2003
JONAS MEKAS has often been called "the godfather of American avant-garde cinema."