Thursday, October 31, 2013
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
I stopped for a couple things and the grocery store today and ended up with 8 bags of essentials. I'm not being facetious. The cupboard was bare, so Old Mother Rucker needed to do the hunter/gatherer routine and fill 'em up.
So I'm hiking back up the hill all ape-arms and gritting my teeth. It was a cool, gray day and kind of damp and the smell of dead leaves came up all sweet above the expressway smells. The load was pretty heavy. No joke. There was a searing pain coming out across my shoulders and down in my arms and through my fingers. The bags were stuffed and banging the outsides of my knees despite my very best effort to hold them a bit away from me. That just intensified the burn.
It hit me at one point about a half mile from home. I had just spun my wrists from palms forward to palms backward to shift the weight. Time travel. I was back up in the Hudson Valley on the mountain and headed back to the house. I had been carrying the big Remington chainsaw in one hand, and the gas can in the other. There were two or three axes in a long sack slung over my back and bouncing off the backs of my thighs. I was cold, despite the jacket. I was sweating and the chill had gotten up under my sweater. My boots were soaked through and my feet were stiff and sore. My hands were screaming at me. Just drop it all right there. Fuck it. I do not want to do this. Why am I here?
Yet I wanted to be anyway. I could see my cousin through the trees about 100 feet ahead. Every so often he would disappear entirely. The dogs would run back and forth and around and every so often check in, like to make sure I was still coming. Briggs the Beardie... and Spike the big sable Collie, but he was getting old. A few others, but the memory is hazy. Frank wasn't carrying anything. I wanted to drop everything and leave it there just to spite him, but that would spell disaster. Frank was a bully and a half. He had his spells. Sometimes it was worse than others. This was one of the pain in the ass, big brother bully type of days. You did what he told you, or it would get a shit ton worse. A lot worse.
I caught myself catching a what the fuck sort of anger when the memory came on today, but then that part dissipated and I was in the woods, coming up the hill. There was the smell of the leaves and the fresh air, and then there was a point coming over the top of the rise when you couldn't see the house yet but you could here the other dogs. Always lots of dogs. And you could catch a whiff of the smoke from one of the fireplaces. At least one of several was going round the clock after a certain time of year. Stocking wood for the fire was a year-round job, and mostly I liked tending to it.
There was the smell of the woods, all damp and alive. There was that specific smell of the chainsaw -- the gas, oil mix that fueled it and the smell of the wood chips coming out the back with the exhaust. There was the feel of the axe hitting and cutting down through the wood... that shock from the spine down into the hands, and that shock would become a comfortable burn later on, warming up by the fire. And that comfortable burn was changing my body, and I could see the difference in the mirror as we picked up the pace of the woodcutting going into the autumn. I felt stronger as each day moved toward winter.
So these playful shoves come more regularly now and there is the knowledge that they used to be the historical bully that would tap me on the left shoulder, wheel me around and punch me. Lay me right the fuck out! They used to come with the force of the axe hitting the log... and now... like a playful older brother. Most days. I remain wary of the one that will catch me off guard and put me on my face. Or split me wide open.
Today though it was a welcome trip back there. I haven't thought about old Spike in years. He was a magnificent animal... one of those show ring heroes. I felt good today also to be able to revisit and separate the left shoulder stuff from the right shoulder stuff... the wheat from the chaff, as it were.
I felt... as close to settled as I've felt in a long time.
You remember the sharp burn of a 7 a.m. shot and you remember when it stopped burning and you remember when the rail burned up your nose and behind your eyeballs and you remember when that stopped too.
You remember when life had not only an edge but a bee-sting exhilaration that you rubbed at to soothe but secretly hoped it would keep happening because it felt like... like something. There was a time when you thought maybe it was a radioactive spider-bite that would change you and you would have mysterious powers and swing from buildings and all that.
You remember being shocked awake with a shout and you just started rushing and racing and moving and everything was rushing and racing and moving around you. Anything was possible in the chaos.
And things did happen.
And then things didn't happen.
For a really long time.
Then there are these mornings and you wake up and want the coffee to be hotter or something, and it feels like the world is old and you are old and that the very best you are going to do is to look like you are in motion. Like a long stream of pine sap that was steadily coming down the side of the tree until the weather changed and it stiffened in its path and stopped.
And you stop there and wonder how to get back up the tree and wait for warm weather and maybe start over. And then you fear that there are no more summers.
And maybe you wonder if that stream of pine sap has some different insight on its plight and is quite happy waiting where it is.
I don't quite know yet what to make of these mornings where I am immobilized by this or that dream from somewhere or sometime the night before or the night before that that won't let me go. Like there is a riddle that has to be solved before my feet are freed. A combination of numbers. Interpretations. These mornings where I require that short, sharp shock to just get up and do anything at all so that I'm not locked in place doing nothing.
And maybe that voice will come back in on these mornings and say, "This is the way." Maybe it won't. Maybe you get one chance to hear it because whoever said it is a kindergarten teacher that has to move on and help another child.
But I'm waiting, waiting, waiting for the bee sting, for the spider bite, for the hammer blow to the head, for the Dali image that will slit my eyelids and demand that I look. Waiting, waiting, waiting to the sharp, nostril stab of smoke from the housefire. For whatever it is that will run straight up my spine like a rat and bite...
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
"I forget to pray for the angels, and then the angels forget to pray for us...."
But I'm on my knees having ceded just enough. Having opened the door just a crack and enough to believe that I can hit my knees and speak and something is listening. I've no clue who or what it may be but I'm going to do it because I really have tried everything else. I'm on my knees in the dark and the dog has her wrinkled head pressed in under mine, and aside from our breathing it is all silent.
Mike the Dog says you will find it in the silence.
I ask for one thing, like most mornings:
Please show me the way. Please show me the fucking way.
And I'll be damned if a voice didn't come in low, and bass heavy and whispering just loud enough to drown me out. It kept repeating.
"This is the way." No emphasis. Just again and again.
"This is the way."
Still wondering how we let this happen. So I tap out my checking account three days before the next check comes. The machine asks if I would like another transaction. Motherfucker, I would LOVE another but it ain't coming today.
Then I get outside pissed off and I get this message.
Monday, October 28, 2013
Eating disorder? She's too thin. Like troublesome thin. Her arms and legs are birdy. Her skin, clear as day but sallow, is pulled too tightly across the high, Taino cheekbones. The tightness makes her smile, otherwise easy because she is quick to smile a genuine smile, just a little too strained. She smiles like she is afraid she's not making you happy. Like she really wants you to be happy. It's a kind smile.
It's her eyes that do me in. They are clear and huge and blue and they jump right out from the skin, which is yellow when maybe it should be olive. Her eyes are kind, like she's really invested in your being comfortable, like the kind of eyes that everybody secretly wishes their mother had. They are worried eyes more than reassuring eyes, but sometimes you just want someone to worry about you and maybe that's what gets to me. Or maybe it's the other thing they say...
"Please like me..."
The girl at the bank totally has a story and it's not a happy one and this isn't just in my own head. You can see it and feel it and when you go back in the glass cubicle with her and it's just you and her, you just want to start asking questions. You just want to know why she seems so sad. You want to know why she is just left of beautiful. There, but not quite there.
She digs at my heart and I think I love her but not really that romantic love. It's almost a parental love but bigger than that. There's that secret little part of me I keep squirreled away that wants to be like Jesus and put my hand on her shoulder so she will know. It's so easy for me to go back to that place where I'm hurting way too much for someone else and want to make everything okay, and then I start hurting because I know I can't and I will never, ever be that person.
I am not him.
I am not him, but there is that part of me that thinks maybe if I just... and of course there is no action to take. I am not him. I will not know this girl's story. I will not ask her and she isn't going to tell me. I will not save her. I cannot save her.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Nobody likes when one of their idols all of a sudden becomes mortal and dies. It's even more difficult if it's someone you've admired and/or adored since you were really young.
It might be just a little deeper though, if you were part of one of the first couple waves of kids who grew up on rock & roll. It would be the second wave in my case. It was My Generation. We really believed it when we shouted, "I hope I die before I get old..." But we didn't think we would have to because part of the whole deal was we really believed that the world was undergoing cataclysmic change for the better. The wheel was turning and things were looking good. Great things happened, and then...
Well then when it died we all had to swallow hard and accept that it wasn't going to be anywhere near as big as we thought it might have become. Then we held onto this little shred of hope that we secreted away in safe little corners of our rock & roll hearts and we prayed silently but fervently that there would be a revival. We kept looking for the next Beatles or the next Dylan or the next... something. We were like those bearded guys in Brooklyn wearing black hats and sure that the Messiah was just around the corner. Stopped for gas or something.
So when that little shred of hope starts to unravel and drop away thread by thread....
a little bit of each of us dies too.
Probably the good part. Part of the good part anyway like that Peter Pan bit of each of us that knows that growing up and joining what we knew at 12 made no sense was just unthinkable. But we were forced to stop thinking and just do it.
That's how I felt earlier today when I got the news on Lou.
RIP Lou... without you there's a good chance I would have been a fucking farmer.
"People ask me are you political Lou? Political about what? Gimme an issue I'll give you a tissue, you can wipe my ass with it."
"You bend over. I'll put the head in. If you don't like it we can talk about it."
"Fuck Radio Ethiopia Man. I'm Radio Brooklyn!"
And this was my real intro to NYC, 17 and painfully smalltown and trying to make up for it with grin and swagger. 6'2" and 140 lbs and awkward and somehow not out of place. Captivated by the scuzzy and dark, intoxicated by cheap glitz, cheaper drinks, guyliner and drag queens. Everything wrong and so right anyway.
Pretty much everything I ever affected... the stuff I took on as "cool," successfully or mostly unsuccessfully, I stole or borrowed from Lou.
He was one of those New Yorkers I hated because he knew everything and he knew so much more than me and you and would tell you so, and then again I loved him too, because he had so much love for everyone else that nobody loved.
And he represented everything about New York City I loved and I hated him for it because I thought I could never be cool enough to be part of "it." I mean, I was a hick. I grew up in overalls and big orange work boots like L'il Abner. New York wasn't just a place to live. It was a new identity. It was a prize. Call it a conflicted love affair.
Man, oh man... I am gutted.
"Manly men smoke Winstons," she says.
Mia is not manly. I always feel silly describing a woman, especially a naked woman, but Mia is decidedly not manly. She is the antithesis of manly. Small, but not delicate. Compact. Sporty? Mia is not a car. She is all these soft things. Five full senses of soft things wrapped up in this small package. Round in all the right places as they say, but not quite full woman, and certainly not a little girl. Her body fascinates me.
"Coltrane," she says as soon as the music starts. She knows her music. "Live?"
"Antibes, 1965," she fills in the blanks. She knows her music. "I love this. You know I love this," and her smile broadens.
"Yes..." and yes, I am mesmerized. She is beautiful. Even the ridiculous Boston accent is beautiful, but just with her. I am not in love. It is still more than love. I am mesmerized.
Her voice is lazy. It's always lazy. Not affect. Maybe drugs? I always go to the worse case. I remember when I first met her at a party and she and Adrienne sitting off to the left of me talking, both of them slow drawls and lazy haphazard gestures. I can't stop looking.
"What are you staring at," Adrienne glares.
"Sorry, it sounds like a scene from Valley of the Dolls," and that's mean yes, but the valium drones strike me as... something.
Adrienne tells me to go fuck myself, but Mia laughs and it sounds like bells.
What has she taken in today, aside from me and the dinner and the red wine, and the warmth of the red wine is still there. I'm listening to her talk about studying theory at Berklee and discovering 'Trane and parties and sex and her accent is giving me fits. Her breasts are small, like the champagne glass breasts that bad novelists write about, and I'm tracing her nipple lightly with my finger. I'm watching it start to grow firm and harden. The music is playing and her drawl slows a bit and then stops.
"Naiiiiiiimaaaaa," she breathes and smiles, and inhales sharply.
I watch her hips rise a bit off the bed, and there's just a hint of roundness in her belly. I wonder for a second how old Mia really is and realize I haven't asked, and just might, but then she rolls toward me and her leg goes up over my thigh and she kisses me.
Coltrane becomes part of the sex itself and it's weird how McCoy Tyner's left hand is rising and falling with us, and Jimmy Garrison's bass... yes Mia tells me who plays on everything... and Jimmy Garrison's bass is thumping along keeping time for us. We are perfect and we are running off some wicked riffs and we are a tight, tight combo, and there is no fade out and we end in shimmering cymbals in a club smoke haze and cocktail glasses making noise and light, lazy conversation.
Really exhale all the way, and then breathe in again deeply. Not like the shallow breathing you do when you're on the train and someone smells horrible and you need to breathe in and out but you don't want to take too much in. That same shallow breathing you have to do when the garbage truck or the bus pulls up next to you and it's smogging diesel lung burn stuff.
Before a man is not afraid for someone to pause and ask how he is? At least not so afraid that the first thought in his head isn't, "just what the fuck do you care how I am?"
Before the quiet on the inside matches the quiet on the outside?
How long must a man sit before that happens?
And before the panicked compulsion to run an errand before the world wakes up and gets crowded yields?
Saturday, October 26, 2013
English Poet Malcolm Lowry captures something here, and how I wish, oh I wish, I wish and wish that I didn't identify so profoundly with his narrative. It would be so wonderful to have never ever felt the horror of moving around inside your own burning, ill-fitting skin, every movement painful, even the softest of cotton sheets like a steel rasp, and minor annoyances gone tremendous, distorted and terrible. Never again should anyone suffer those moments when it appears God himself has decided to give you a little taste of a really shitty eternity.
These words, not exactly Emily Dickinson, hammered home this morning, somewhere in between knees on the bedside and coffee. They came as a welcome reminder of what could have been and what could be still should I decide to outsmart myself.
Were a drink not mentioned in the title, there are some of us walking about this mortal coil who would have known anyway. Lowry was just that good. He knew words. He sure as hell knew drinking. It's very clear here, when he was not quite 40 years old, that he knew very well he was sick. No denial there. This short stanza more aptly captures the entire experience than entire memoirs, or films. If you find yourself bored and watching The Lost Weekend sometime, skip to the end and then read this.
There is always talk about alcoholism, addiction and art and the inherent connection. It's been said that the artist's eye delivers such brutal clarity and truth that some anesthetic is required to get through. Some have boldly claimed that mind-altering substances and practices inspire art. That's tough for me to swallow.
People say that many a great writer has been plagued by alcoholism. I tend to think that many a great alcoholic has been plagued by writing, if you get my drift. There is no point in glorifying anyone's pain and certainly you don't have to be eloquent to be miserable. It might just be, and this is my leaning, that drinking and writing are in many ways the same. They are both grinding attempts to ensure that every last fucking story is told your way and your way only. Editors and interventions are the enemy, no? Well, no they aren't and they can both keep a knob-end from going off on a tangent. No writer or alcoholic is likely to appreciate the interference.
God though, how wonderful would it be to possess such economy of language and keen skills as to portray so much in so few words. That would be my goal in life. To very succinctly tell a story my way without killing myself in the process.
The internet has provided me with a growing network of writers and folks who are mutually supportive. We'll see what happens as it goes along, but the internet means that a career in the arts is portable. You can do it from anywhere. The only issue is finding enough money to bail.
4) Yah, that's the other issue. There are a few factors. It takes fewer and fewer people to sell content and sell advertising against content. Fewer than ever, despite that there is more content than ever. That means that those who can create content of any sort, whether it be words, or music, or visual art etc. are going to have an easier time getting paid.
BUT, the pay isn't going to be much. Not that it ever has been but there are more outlets and more opportunity to at least make subsistence, whether it be creative writing or journalism or op-ed, etc.
All this said, the most money I've made in the last few months was from carpet cleaning and other manual labor, and frankly the physical labor is hard on a body over 50, despite that I am relatively fit for over 50. It takes a day to recover for each day of labor. I remember now the older guys that I came up with and how they walked with crooked knees.
*** And these are the discussions taking place. It's everyone over a certain age and otherwise spans demographics. It starts with a specific complaint about THIS city, and moves quickly towards some other horizon. We are all looking towards something as of yet unseen. It was something I was really only able to put words to earlier this week. It's not so much about living in New York City, but the devastating spiritual toll of living in ANY city (click here).
Drunken meanderings from years ago are starting to fall into place. I recall telling many people, anyone who might listen, that human beings had not spiritually evolved to Industrial and Post-Industrial (or Space Age) climates. We were still, depending on the individuals, either Agrarian or Hunter-Gatherer. There is some genetic memory that creates a cognitive and spiritual dissonance that we don't even recognize. Some people move here to New York City (or London or Tokyo or Paris or any other city) and realize within a very short time that it's not for them. We laugh and say, "the city chews them up and spits them out." That doesn't appear to be the case. It's more like they took a taste and gagged and left the glass on the table. That's probably further born out by the number of us, who upon reaching a certain age, are simply done with it. There is a profound exhaustion.
That's not to say that people who are born and die here are all unhappy, but there is something in them missing. It's also not to say that people who are born and die in rural settings are all more spiritually connected. It's easy to take for granted the gifts around you and live entirely outside and unaware of a potential partnership with the ground and the air. God knows I've seen it often enough myself. I spoke in that earlier post though about having become aware of something that had been lost. Those of us who partook of that fruit and left paradise are looking for the path back.
Someone asked me last night, seemingly out of the blue, "Can you imagine leaving New York City?" It was out of the blue and in the middle of entirely another conversation (or maybe not). Sadly there was no opportunity to say, "Well, yes actually I have been..." and expound upon that further. No chance to bounce these thoughts off someone who knows me well.
I am understanding though, what Terence McKenna was saying about getting back into partnership relationships with the natural world. When I first read him I was more consumed with the inner workings of the brain. My interest was entirely focussed on unlocking internal things. The Earth Partnership part seemed more of an historical context for the other discussion. The connection that getting back to it... to ME PERSONALLY... reconnecting with it, didn't really catch. Here it is now, though.
It's important also that these thoughts not be misconstrued as a man running away from himself. I am entirely aware that you carry all your shit with you. This is more about running towards something. It's about running towards some greater unknown, and the exhilaration of mystery and discovery.
But it's not happening this week, so enough from me for the moment.
Friday, October 25, 2013
He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.
It's the combination of the video footage and the music here, because not to diminish the beauty of either, they may not have grabbed me if they were working individually. Not so early in the morning. What clicked here is that it is such an accurate representation of the sights and sounds of my early morning wandering with the dog. There are those pre-dawn moments when you get the city's version of "still." The machine has been heated up and idling all night, and their are engine sounds -- cars, trucks, planes and boats in the harbor that have all blended into this mechanical pulse. It's a dull throb, almost imperceptible, like the beginnings of a crushing headache that never quite hits full-on but it's been there for so long it just becomes part of life, as regular as your heartbeat. Every morning there is a point on this overpass when my gaze swings out to the west over the lower expanses of Sunset Park, Gowanus, Red Hook and beyond to the harbor and Staten Island and New Jersey -- I rarely even go to the Manhattan skyline anymore -- at first there had been that distinct no other like it two fingers salute, and then the hole where that was and now it's just really rather non-descript. But now it's the signs of life, like in the video clip here. There is the subterranean roar, and if you stand still and silent and blank out everything else in your mind you can feel the vibrations coming up through the rock and sand and pavement into the soles of your shoes. There are the smokestacks, like the city itself is exhaling into the sooty, chilly sky.
I always get this feeling that New York City is really alive beyond that corny poetic thing that people move here from Iowa and France and Russia to carry on about at poet cafes. It's more of a crazy science-fiction thing -- some huge beast like a huge whale that was torn to pieces and put back together not by doctors or veterinarians but by auto mechanics and musty basement tinkerers and medieval blacksmiths... something Il Bosco might have painted, and maybe did. And I'm standing on its crusty barnacle back waiting for the blowhole to do whatever it is that blowholes do and explode, and strange things will come up with the steam and I'll just stand there looking up and say, "awwww shit."
Thursday, October 24, 2013
I don't think I had made love at the time I first heard this song in 1978.
I hadn't made mad love.
I hadn't made shadow love.
I hadn't made random love.
There was sure as hell no abandoned love.
There were some sordid adventures, semi-clad and/or buck naked. There was... what's the word for it in English?
There was sex.
Fumbling weird, sloppy teenage sex. The kind that bruises even more emotionally than physically.
But no love making.
Funny though that the song rang so true in my heart and I had no point of reference for the feelings he was expressing. Call it foreshadowing because before another 10 years had passed I knew exactly what "accidently like a martyr" meant.
Maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophesy. Maybe I looked and looked until I found something, or some experience that evoked and matched the emotion.
Still the most bittersweet ballad every written.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
This is what Amazon suggested, based on my past purchases of the watch, a pair of sneakers, and a few poetry books, I suppose.
We came to this new place and put down roots and built on top of the previous generations and we put roots in the foundations they built. We became spiritually grounded and invested in this new thing that was happening here, from whence the cultural collisions became a true melting pot. We became the new indigenous people in this land; we became the New Aztecs, and we believed that this brightly colored place with it's sights and sounds might last forever.
It was foretold though that Bankers and Builders would come, just like Cortez came with his Soldiers and Priests, and tear it all down and build their temples with the bricks we had built ours with. We could have known for history that just as we replaced those who came before us, we would be replaced. And this piece of paper to forestall the bulldozers is just paper after all and what happens to paper? Rock, paper, scissors? Don't let anyone tell you differently. Rock always wins.
So I'm on my knees and my dopey dog has done what she always does and forced her mauve snout under my forehead. When I look up the first thing I see is her eyes and the system of concentric circles and furrows across her brow. She's one of those dogs that just looks perpetually worried, and maybe she is and maybe she should be if she's got to put all her faith in me to make sure shit goes right in her day. That has to be weird. And knowing that she depends on me and other creatures including a teenage boy depend on me, even on the days when I don't know if I can take care of myself?
That's really fucking weird. So I lower my head again and just ask one thing:
Please show me the fucking way. Please.
When I pick up my head again I feel the tightness across my forehead and I realize that my furrows are plowed as deep as my dog's. The "eleven," as someone I know and love has called it and smoothes out with her thumb between my eyebrows while she smiles, doesn't go entirely away now even at rest. It's just dug in there. Anger or worry or whatever. It's there for good.
And since I first found my vocabulary for feelings in the lyrics of pop songs, everything has to have a soundtrack. The tune that came to mind was Warren Zevon's Worrier King. He was writing my soundtracks from about 1977 up until a few years back when he stopped worrying and died. There is an identification there. He has been through all my dark places and he left his footprints there for me to follow, or maybe as a warning sign. Maybe they're not meant to follow because God knows if he ever got through to the other side, at least on this side of the membrane. This was the song though that came to mind as I was creaking up off my knees and wondering how it was left to me to take care of other living things. Surely this God person/thing/being has a wicked sense of humor, right?
"I'm hiding from the mailman. And I hate to hear the telephone ring."
Yep, been there more times than I can count and more than I care to admit even recently. Sometimes that mailbox opens up to rattlesnakes and the telephone brings hollering ghosts right into your home through the wires. That's the way it seems, anyway. I've heard that punches hurt less when you don't flinch, but that's going to take more practice.
"Worried about my bird. Worried about everything. Worried about when I see my subjects bow down to The Worrier King."
So yah, you find yourself in these situations where people have put their faith and trust in you and they're looking to you for guidance or to impart some special wisdom. They're looking to you for meaning. Tell us what it's all about. Tell us how to get through this. And you wonder what the fuck is wrong with them that they think so much of you in the first place. Yes, there are days like this, and it doesn't mean that I feel like this all the time, or that the feelings are real, but there are days when it all feels very real. They are fewer and farther between, but when they come, they come large and loaded for bear.
There are and will be days of despair and man oh man the clouds outside today got on my tits when I was out walking the dog and the damp settled into my clothes. The soundtrack took a turn and I started hearing Bobby Bare Jr. who sounds like he's crying in this song. I saw his footprints down there in the hole also and they were going around in circles, and yes, I did follow them for a while. That was closer to the end when I started thinking about crawling up out of the gutter. The weird moments were coming on faster and harder, and I was just talking about some of them recently with a dear friend and perhaps my most loyal friend that I tortured through those days. She had no personal reference for the degree of strange that my life took, waking up sick in strange places with big clots of dried blood in my mouth and unidentified physical and spiritual injuries... not that I did despite that I would stand up and do it all over again most days.
So anyway, what am I carrying on about? Self-doubt, I guess. It's just really really weird that after all the weird that you've been through and inflicted on the world, that things turn back around and you become the anchor for someone else. You become the maypole that the celebration is twirling around. You trust me when I don't always trust myself? That's rich! But let's do this then and we'll do it together and hopefully build something.
And I hit my knees again and just ask one thing: Please show me the way.
And from Camus, of all fucking people:
Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
There was a time when the Earth wasn't so crowded. There were fewer of us grabbing and clawing at patches of ground and living with the single desire to, at the very least, have a patch to themselves when they finally dispatch their body to the dust and go wherever. That's where men like Paa Joe came in, and their work would be the medium or vehicle by which the mortal stuff was delivered.
I've long since made the determination that I've taken up enough space since arriving here and I've no desire to take it up indefinitely... but should that change, I would seek out Paa Joe.
Hangover Monday. It was in the wee, wee hours of Hangover Monday and I was standing outside a 5th Avenue boozer in shirtsleeves and cigarette smoke. It was about 15 fahrenheit. Don't ask. Yes, I was lit right the fuck up. So was the woman I was leaned into, talking close and smiling every so often and turning to the side to take a drag off one of the Marlboro 100s I had nicked at $5 a pack from some gypsy that usually sells only sweat socks.
Summer, or Sunny, or Sunday or something was her name. She was sexy as hell in that blonde, tanning bed, you'll never guess I got this sweater at JC Penney way. No, that's not fair. She was cute, and fleshy and had dimples and a big, big smile that women who are not born in New York and haven't yet grown sick of men in New York can have for a bit. We were standing outside in the arctic cold laughing and smoking and pulling off a highball glass of Bushmill's, and it was Super Bowl Sunday, and we had not watched the game, and goddamn yes, I think I mentioned it was cold. My boy Emil was inside chatting up Sundry's friend who had just been rejected by an online dating perfect match from the digital realm. It was, all in all, a weird night for all involved.
Emil and I had decided early the previous week that we would be doing an Anti-Super Bowl Super Bowl Sunday. He was coming up for a poetry reading at a place near me. How much more un-American can you be than to not only attend but read poetry at a bar in Brooklyn that was decorated with horror movie paraphernalia and tattooed dope fiends? I was down.
We were well into our cups, as they say, before reading words that if I recall I made up that afternoon and were mostly an excuse to use the words FUCK and CUNT as many times as possible without being asked to step away from the microphone. I did make my 7 minutes. Emil had a feature and he read his and to his credit, even the dope fiends and the bar flies put their glasses down and took notice. When it was done and they were locking up we stumpfooted drunk and freezing to a place I knew for certain doesn't have a television. The post-game stuff would have been long over anyway, but keeping with the theme.
The second place was nearly empty, but for the bartender whose breasts were uncannily huge, a hipster couple who left shortly after, and Somehow and her unfortunate friend. The friend had been talking to some guy online who was to meet her there, well after midnight on Stupid Bowl Someday. I didn't think you would need the Psychic Friends Network to figure out what was going on, and I suggested to Emil, the bartender and my potential prey that this wouldn't end well. They shushed me and someone or another said something about the importance of being hopeful.
So the Mystery Date, whose name was supposed to be Richie, walks in and it's a coke dealer I know from the neighborhood. His name isn't Richie. It's Louis or something and he's slimy and well-spoken for a dickhead and they retreat to the corner for a bit and then he bolts. Portly Friend was a bit despondent and didn't really say what went down but it was something about never having actually seen each other. Louis was a bigger douche that I would have imagined, and awfully superficial for a drug dealer that still lived with his Mom.
So the five of us sat there doing shots and playing cee lo for a while. I'm already well into my Mister Smoothie routine. The bartender suggested we play a kind of truth or dare game. It set up like this. Each person answers three questions and then the other four vote. First you say something that is true about yourself. Then you tell a lie... or something like that. The everyone has to guess which is which. All I remember for sure is that on the third you say something that you believe with your whole heart and stake your life on.
So I was lit and decided I wasn't getting anywhere with this woman, and I laid it out as follows:
1) My name is MacGregor and my mother named me after her dead Scottish Terrier
2) I am 44 years old. (I think I was 43, but bear in mind the Bushmills.)
3) If she hasn't had three orgasms before you have one then you're not doing your job. (HAR)
Summer's laid out as follows:
1) I am originally from Southern California.
2) I left California after I got out of jail on a drug charge
3) A woman who is 33 should never ever fuck a man over 44.
Okay, so I was wrong. I was getting anywhere I wanted to go.
We paired off and were inside and outside and drinking and smoking and talking and genuinely enjoying each other. She felt good. Her hair smelled good, or at least I thought it did through the cigarettes and booze. I liked the way she kissed. It was slow and comfortable and no rush at all let's just settle in feeling kind of good stuff. Sex was a done deal and we hadn't left the bar yet. Everything was right. Sure, there was the logistics of getting back to my place and Emil staying there and work the next day and these messages on my phone from this woman I was seeing, and yes there was this other woman. The crazy one that I was actually really into, and there was this other one too that I didn't even really like but I couldn't say no, and I rarely said no anyway.
That's not why it didn't happen though. That's not why when we were standing out in the cold drunk and kissing and laughing I pulled away and made a half dozen excuses for why we would not be up in my bed as soon as we finished that round. I don't even remember the excuses. I just remember being really tired, and not tired because it was a long day. Just tired of the grind. And this Summer seemed nice and I wasn't feeling nice at all. It was like some part of me was in a room in the back of my head looking in the mirror and not really liking himself. I can see that little me in that room now but there were no words at that moment. It was just a feeling. Cold and sore. All I could taste was whisky and Marlboro 100s and some other sweet mixed shot thing we had.
It was like... why bring another person any further into all this? So I made an unorthodox call and since this was Hangover Monday after Super Bowl Sunday I figure I can throw in a shitty football metaphor and say I made an unorthodox call.
I punted before the 4th down.
She was okay with it. The other women were okay with it. Emil was baffled and disgusted. It was like he lost money on the game. It was what it was though and it is what it is. It's one time I can look back and say that I made the right call.
A terrier, on the other hand, is just out for blood. He's going to make a death run on that rat until it's cornered. Then he's going to nip it up in his teeth and flip it up in the air so he can grab it again from the right angle, at which point he shakes it violently up and down and side to side until the rat's neck snaps.
It seems I've spent far too much time this year wondering at what point my neck is going to snap. There have been too many moments when it seemed like it was only a second away. It has not been a rollercoaster ride. It has been a series of violent shaking incidents. This is, of course, largely in part to my own reflexive, knee-jerk reactions to various stimuli in my life. This is, of course, largely in part due to my letting my worst fears return and nest like rats up in my attic.
When I awoke yesterday I hit my knees, with my dopey dog snout first under my forehead, and asked simply for the veil of fear to be lifted, if only for brief windows of time to let the light in. I asked only for a brief respite from my own reaction, and not for my troubles themselves to be taken away. I'm told that is an unreasonable request.
Okay, I'll go with that.
I was out all day yesterday from 7 a.m. helping a friend with some work, cleaning carpets. Surprise, surprise this isn't a Spray N Vac endeavor and actually requires a good bit of sweat and muscle. I've already come to the realization in recent months doing similar things that age does indeed come in quantum leaps. My body does not leap to the demands of physical labor the way it once did. It creaks and groans and at times even screams. It takes a few days to recover.
Yet it felt good yesterday and I was grateful to have something to keep my busy and the company of friends who've collected a bit of wisdom about... about life things. We did speak about those life things too, mine and theirs' as we went about our business. We always do and it never fails to make me feel connected. That I'm not in this world alone. There are people on this path with me and they will stand beside me as long as I make an effort to stand on my own.
There came a point yesterday afternoon, and I didn't realize it until later on when I was at rest, that the windows of light I asked for opened. Weight lifted. Any metaphor for positive thinking you can conjure up happened. I was up on one of the higher floors of an apartment building by myself, operating a giant, mechanized scrubber. It moved back and forth, mostly pulling it's own weight, but it took some effort to steer. It felt a bit like guiding an immense dog on a leash. The vibrations came up through my hands, which were already feeling a bit raw from the sustained pressure. They traveled up through my wrists and into my arms and then back along my shoulders to my spine, and then upwards to the base of my skull, and down towards my backside. I became very aware of every muscle and tendon as they all worked in concert to manage the big bastard in front of me. I felt the weight shift from left to right and back again as my own weight shifted from foot to foot following it. A rhythm was established and I felt like part of the machine.
My point is, is that this is all I felt. Nothing else. Nothing else at all until later on when I was sitting on the train massaging my bruised hands and strained wrists and the other thoughts came back. Not as desperately. The terrier was not shaking me. It may again at some point today, but it can only snap my neck if I let it.
Sometimes you get exactly what you ask for, and it is good.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Is it narcissism?
Does it matter?
The New York Times says, “People are wrestling with how they appear to the rest of the world,” Mr. Thompson said. “Taking a photograph is a way of trying to understand how people see you, who you are and what you look like, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
(Click to read the entire article)
Any way you look at it, or look at yourself, it's an interesting phenomenon. I was loathe to put up a photo of myself at all, let alone one that I took myself. Then I noticed a lot of people doing it an awful lot. I still don't really know what to make of it and at first I did write it off as digital vanity, but I'm definitely willing to give it another go.
The selfie as a form of personal interaction in new media is definitely fascinating. It's never fails to jumpstart conversations both publicly and privately. The latter has happened so many times. A friend will put up a new photo and someone will e-mail or text me asking if I've seen it and what do I think, blah blah blah. I watch the "likes" stack up under a new profile photo on Facebook. It's weird. I mean, I'm not one of those people who gravitates towards disparaging conversations about things internet-related. The people that do are generally those that seem to spend the most time online. There is something about the whole photo/online identity thing that I can't quite put a finger on.
I recently, more or less, ended a long string of posts of my own face on Facebook. I would take at least one wherever I was when I was out. If I added a new photo gallery I would always throw in one of my face. There were some negative reactions. There were always positive reactions. "Likes" and compliments and such.
The thing is, and this was deliberate, every single photo was more or less the same. Same pose. Same angle. Same expression, usually what I would call blank but many people see as angry at something. Every one was more or less the same though. The closest anyone ever came to noticing was when they asked why I never smile. The fact is that I smile all the time, in and out of photos. Not THESE photos though.
This went on steadily for almost two years but nobody ever pointed out that it was the same photo. Look at the one above and ask yourself if it seems really familiar. Hell, I'm surprised anybody noticed that I ever changed profiles!
Okay, there is no real point to this... just an observation, and sharing an article.
We put art behind walls and call it a museum.
We put children behind walls and call it a school.
We put all these things we say we value most behind walls and call ourselves free.
How does anything continue to grow in a clay pot?
Certainly, if I were King of the World, which I'm certain I should be, I would have all these things outside somewhere together where they could nurture and inspire each other.
But if I may be serious or as serious as a man can be who has done a day's physical labor and is a man well beyond the years that physical labor leaves him un-phased...
I'm thinking a lot lately about this growing trend to put art outside and reshape and reconfigure our urban landscape. I'm seeing a lot of people creating public art, and availing themselves of public art. It's more of a compulsion than a trend. We reshape our internal world by interacting with the reshaping of our physical world.
I'm seeing a lot more people spending time in parks. Even small public spaces with trees or even potted plants. It is not to be seen by a fern. Again, it is a compulsion.
There seems to be a growing awareness, and this would mean I am not the only one, of the toll that urban life is taking on us spiritually. The monetary toll is huge. The race to meet that monetary toll is even larger. The spiritual toll is fucking profound! People appear to be battling against the concrete almost as quickly as it can be poured.
The logical question is why we even live her in the first place if we know it is robbing us of something big, even if we can't find a dictionary definition of what it is we are aware we are losing?
Yet at this point if we all ran off for the wide open, it would no longer be wide open. We have to build new internal architecture to bring with us. What was it Terence McKenna called it? The Archaic Revival. We would first need to relearn how to live in partnership with other people and the Earth itself, wouldn't we?
There is something happening though. I daresay it's not new. Thoreau was onto it in Walden Pond. Huxley spoke about Heaven & Hell 50 years ago and how many humans have some genetic memory of Paradise.
It's obvious though that we cannot recreate Paradise here out of steel and concrete anchored to huge pits in the Earth, using machines that choke the sky with smoke. So what we are witnessing here is people putting bandaids on axe wounds. And yet it is such a Quixotic endeavor, splashing color and whimsy across the inorganic brick death, you have to admire the futility anyway and love the people doing it.