Thursday, March 31, 2016

Time between stations


There was this thing with the old analog tuners.  You never knew what you might find if you took the knob delicately between your fingers and crept millimeter by millimeter down the dial.  It was a voyage of discovery on the overnight as you made your way up and down the numbers.  Anything could seep through out of the darkness, on a low whistle or hum, frequencies bent by clouds or sunspots came through the walls and ceiling like ghosts.  You had them for a few minutes, or an hour, and then they disappeared back into the ether, sometimes never to be heard from again.  There were songs you may never hear again, and alien voices, speaking in alien tongues... faint, static, whistle and magical.  It was a ride along an electronic interstate, all small towns and rest stops and brief encounters with strangers.

When I think of the word "radio" it is the first thought that comes to mind.  Maybe my brain is still analog but I spend a lot of time with my index finger and thumb on the controls, creeping in and out of old frequencies, some familiar, and others not so much.  It is still the stations between the stations, and the time between the stations searching for these signals that occupies much of my life.

My life itself, feels many days like a run up and down the dial.  There is a station I heard once a long time ago, something distant that comes in a bit clearer from time to time, when everything else is still and quiet.  It is a station between stations, in the time and space between stations.  It takes some concentration to coax it in, but if I just listen...

And life... There was then, and there is now, and there is what is yet to come.  My favorite moments of the day are situated in now.  Even the twisted insomniac hours between yesterday and today hold something somewhat magical.  The stronger signals pull from either side but if I just listen, and hold still...

There is the time literally between stations.  There is the space between going underground at Fort Hamilton, and breaking the surface to change at Fulton, and then on to 125th Street.  It is mine.  There is nothing to do but sit between here and there and listen carefully, to read, and to let go of everything that cannot be attended to on one side or the other.  Time... the best time... is analog, stretches of unbroken time when the signals from either end are quieted, despite the magnet pull.

At some point this time between stations, between then and next, will fade out and the frequency of what will come to be will take over.  For now though, I am here.  I don't know how long here will last but it is where I am, in my transistor radio life with the antenna pulled out as far as it will go.

Suffer for your art?


I wonder about this sometimes.   There has long been this association of art and melancholy.  They became inextricably linked somewhere back in time and madness, depression, suicide and violence are considered par for the course.

Apologies for taking the humor out of an innocent meme, but it is curious. Can creative people be happy people too?  Does getting deep into it preclude a well adjusted life?  There are countless essays from poet and... well... essayists.... promoting the value of sitting in one's loneliness to connect fully with 'the muse.' Rilke carried on for the length of an endless manifesto disguised as a letter.  He was far from the first. 
My guess is that anyone suffering all that much would gladly trade places with say, an accountant, were that at all possible.  That's just me, though. 

Again,  Apologies for butchering an innocent meme.  

What was the point anyway?  Is it about artists, or men in general?  

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Ghosts

"Superstition, bigotry and prejudice, ghosts though they are, cling tenaciously to life; they are shades armed with tooth and claw. They must be grappled with unceasingly, for it is a fateful part of human destiny that it is condemned to wage perpetual war against ghosts. A shade is not easily taken by the throat and destroyed.” ~ Victor Hugo

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Sprung?

Some bullshit verse about golden trumpets and Holland or whatnot.  The rain broke and a frenetic wind blew all the clouds away on the overnight.  The curtain in my bedroom levitated parallel to the floor for a good part of the night, with an occasional twist and snap.  Closing the window would have required pulling myself upright and slapping my bare feet on the floor.  Why wake the dog?  Someone should get a decent night of sleep and she seems particularly untroubled lately, for this week at least.  No dream shudders or war whoops.

What is wrong with me, one can only guess.  The nightmares come with my eyes wide open.  The Ghosts don't seem to discriminate, sleep or wakefulness the same to them.  Ghosts have been unfettered by time.  There are apparently benefits with having crossed over.  They are never rushed or late.  There is an urgency in their messages to me about time spent and time left but other than that they come and go as they please.  No deadlines, no alarm clocks and no walls.  What a life!
Meanwhile every night is Christmas Eve for this Scrooge.  The message hasn't stuck yet, maybe.  Maybe by tomorrow enlightenment will happen.  Maybe not.  It's all gotten boring.
 
Yet upon waking there is a cool breeze and food in the kitchen and daffodils are blooming, just like Holland but without the blooming Dutch.  It's really not all so bad.  Not at all.  The pain is there.  The ailments and aches have not subsided.  The blues, if anything, have turned a deeper blue.  Hints of slate and stone.  They've been blue forever though and there are certainly worse colors.

I think sometimes of the things that have brought me comfort.  It's sad that like chemotherapy kills a cancer, they kill everything else too.  It's just a slower pace, so everything gets caught up in a sort of foot race.  It's barely perceptible but one day you wake up sicker than you may have imagined possible, and then you miss the original pain.  Shit is funny that way.

Not haha funny though.
 
I think of The Sphinx and how she cocks her head to the side when I say something  is funny.

Funny?

Not haha funny.  Curious.

I see.

I wonder if she does see.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I need to figure out where our lack of communication is rooted.  It may only exist in my head.  Resistance if you will.  The whole process is annoying.  I am weary of trying to be understood.  I am exhausted by the effort to be heard.  To not disappear.  I find myself no longer caring.  I want to be unburdened the way the ghosts are, without of course being dead and gone.  Maybe there is a happy medium?  I am just tired of talking and grateful for the moments that I can float.  To be carried up on a wind like the curtain and just flap.  And be.  And settle.

A daffodil doesn't sweat the brevity of its moment of glory does it?  I doubt it.  Does it mourn that it stands still in rows of identical flowers that render it just one in a crowd?  Does it like its job?  Or has it just let go, understanding that it is the brevity that defines everything good about it? 

It is not special.  It is going to die.  All its companions will be gone too.

It doesn't care, does it? 

It has been released.

Sprung. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Google Image

Self-Doubt

Sometimes I Google phrases or ideas just to see how other people perceive them visually.  The results are mixed and usually widely varied.  This one was no exception.

No Nukes!

Three Mile Island

March 28, 1979, we pretty much knew we were fucked.  That's when we all looked at each other and said, "It can happen here." 

No more pretending, and we'll probably never know how bad this one was. 

Just another bloody rainy day...

Skittering around the rim of that sick, yellow light of a migraine pit.  Lights, camera, inaction.  One day I will navigate my life like a normal person.  Like I'm not the star of my own reality show, cameras always on.  It's a 3 - camera shoot so I have to be mindful, always at least one on me for the edit footage.

No shit though, I am sick.  One day, my sleep ship will come in.  Until then it's up at 3 am with Valery and Mallarme and that bastard Andre Breton.  It's photo blogs from Kenya and travelogs from Cambodia.  It's Facebook and Twitter.  I could live - tweet my final descent into...

Into what? 

Fuck this... nothing to say today.

Despite the searing heat in my head, my mood matches the weather.  Cold, gray and pissing rain.  I need to move beyond this graveyard shift career.  I have become an accountant, adding and tallying and adjusting my loss column endlessly.  It just seems the balance shouldn't be so dire and desperate, yet...

Paul Valery

“Latent in every man is a venom of amazing bitterness, a black resentment; something that curses and loathes life, a feeling of being trapped, of having trusted and been fooled, of being helpless prey to impotent rage, blind surrender, the victim of a savage, ruthless power that gives and takes away, enlists a man, drops him, promises and betrays, and -crowning injury- inflicts on him the humiliation of feeling sorry for himself.”

I find stuff like this in the wee, dark hours, as I'm shambling through late night gutters in my head searching for shiny objects in the muck.  Searching for treasures like this, but at the same time, wishing it weren't all true.  

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Insom... no... I really need a new theme.






































“Mario, what do you get when you cross an insomniac, an unwilling agnostic and a dyslexic?"

"I give."

"You get someone who stays up all night torturing himself mentally over the question of whether or not there's a dog.” ― David Foster WallaceInfinite Jest

There are, however, these small comforts, as you are for some strange reason, going into contortions about a shirt you wore to school in 8th grade... oh, what a fashion mistake!  Flip the pillow.  Stick a leg out from under the blanket into the cooler air.  Pray to deities you don't really, truly believe in.  Listen to the dog snore.  Masturbate.  Whatever... It's all there if you are willing, and you seek it out.  

A slightly belated happy birthday to Frank O'Hara


Ave Maria

Mothers of America
                                     let your kids go to the movies!
get them out of the house so they won’t know what you’re up to   
it’s true that fresh air is good for the body
                                                                             but what about the soul   
that grows in darkness, embossed by silvery images
and when you grow old as grow old you must
                                                                                they won’t hate you   
they won’t criticize you they won’t know
                                                                         they’ll be in some glamorous country   
they first saw on a Saturday afternoon or playing hookey

they may even be grateful to you
                                                            for their first sexual experience   
which only cost you a quarter
                                                       and didn’t upset the peaceful home   
they will know where candy bars come from
                                                                                 and gratuitous bags of popcorn   
as gratuitous as leaving the movie before it’s over
with a pleasant stranger whose apartment is in the Heaven on Earth Bldg   
near the Williamsburg Bridge
                                                       oh mothers you will have made the little tykes
so happy because if nobody does pick them up in the movies   
they won’t know the difference
                                                         and if somebody does it’ll be sheer gravy   
and they’ll have been truly entertained either way
instead of hanging around the yard
                                                                 or up in their room
                                                                                                     hating you
prematurely since you won’t have done anything horribly mean yet   
except keeping them from the darker joys
                                                                             it’s unforgivable the latter   
so don’t blame me if you won’t take this advice
                                                                                      and the family breaks up   
and your children grow old and blind in front of a TV set
                                                                                                      seeing   
movies you wouldn’t let them see when they were young

Saturday, March 26, 2016

In a perfect world...

There would be a counterpart to PTSD, called Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder, for those among us who live in perpetual dread that something absolutely terrible is about to happen.

Life on Life's Terms, via Patti Smith


I keep turning back to Patti when I want to hear someone who makes sense.  I can count on her for perspective.

Been meaning to quit...

Spring

It's not official until the trees say it is, and you know the have their own committee to argue the point.  Then you get the rogue shoots that disregard that decision.  There is one in every crowd.

I would like to stake my claim to always be that one, but that's not always true. Someone will jump the gun though. 

Always someone. 

Thanks, as always, to that one.  They are the ones I watch for.  So with all due respect and admiration, it is officially spring.  This is the rebirth I will celebrate for 2016, as I crawl toward my own resurrection.  

Friday, March 25, 2016

You gotta promise to keep it whole..


There's a problem feathers iron
Bargain buildings, weights and pulleys
Feathers hit the ground before the weight can leave the air
Buy the sky and sell the sky and tell the sky and tell the sky
Don't fall on me (what is it up in the air for?) (it's gonna fall)
Fall on me (if it's there for long) (it's gonna fall)
Fall on me (it's over, it's over me) (it's gonna fall)
There's the progress we have found (when the rain)
A way to talk around the problem (when the children reign)
Building towered foresight (keep your conscience in the dark)
Isn't anything at all (melt the statues in the park)
Buy the sky and sell the sky and bleed the sky and tell the sky
Don't fall on me (what is it up in the air for?) (it's gonna fall)
Fall on me (if it's there for long) (it's gonna fall)
Fall on me (it's over, it's over me) (it's gonna fall)
Don't fall on me
Well, I could keep it above
But then it wouldn't be sky anymore
So if I send it to you, you've got to promise to keep it whole
Buy the sky and sell the sky and lift your arms up to the sky
And ask the sky and ask the sky
Don't fall on me (what is it up in the air for?) (it's gonna fall)
Fall on me (if it's there for long) (it's gonna fall)
Fall on me (it's over, it's over me) (it's gonna fall)
Don't fall on me (what is it up in the air for?) (it's gonna fall)
Fall on me (if it's there for long) (it's gonna fall)
Fall on me (it's over, it's over me) (it's gonna fall)
Fall on me, don't fall on me (what is it up in the air for?) (it's gonna fall)
Fall on me (if it's there for long) (it's gonna fall)
Fall on me (it's over, it's over me) (it's gonna fall)
Fall on me, don't fall on me

Talk about the passion...


Empty prayer, empty mouths combien reaction
Empty prayer, empty mouths talk about the passion
Not everyone can carry the weight of the world
Not everyone can carry the weight of the world
Talk about the passion
Talk about the passion
Empty prayer, empty mouths combien reaction
Empty prayer, empty mouths talk about the passion
Combien, combien, combien de temps?
Talk about the passion
Talk about the passion
Not everyone can carry the weight of the world
Not everyone can carry the weight of the world
Combien, combien, combien de temps?
Talk about the passion
Talk about the passion
Talk about the passion
Talk about the passion
Talk about the passion
Talk about the passion
Talk about the passion


Moving on...

Oh Buddhas and Bodhisattvas abiding in all directions,
Endowed with great compassion,Endowed with foreknowledge,Endowed with divine eye,Endowed with love,Affording protection to sentient beings,Please come forth through the power of your great compassion,Please accept these offerings, both actually presented and mentally created.
The wisdom of understanding,
The love of compassion,
The power of doing divine deeds,
And of protecting in incomprehensible measure,
He is passing from this world to the next,
He is taking a great leap,
The light of this world has faded for him,
He has entered solitude with their karmic forces,
He has gone into a vast silence,
He is borne away by the great ocean of birth and death ..…

Oh Compassionate Ones, you who possess
Oh Compassionate Ones, protect he who is defenceless. Be to him like a mother and father.
Oh Compassionate Ones, let not the force of your compassion be weak, but aid them.
Let him not go into the miserable states of existence.
Forget not your ancient vows.

Insomnia, and every chink in my armor.

“The night is the hardest time to be alive and 4am knows all my secrets.” 
― Poppy Z. Brite

And 5am has seen the tears of frustration and has heard all my confessions.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Reconciliation

Reconciling a busy, busy head with nothing in particular to say.  It's as if a stiff breeze kicked into a leafy walk and the skeletal remains of summer swirled up into the air.  One final attempt to adhere to the trees and just maybe be green for a moment longer.  Just a chaotic, if grandiose display.  It's just the wind.  When you fail you will be carried any which way by whatever comes along.  And you will fail.  It's not tragic.  It's just the nature of things and if you're lucky people will watch you elevate with the wind and one last time you will hear ooooh and aaaaaah and you can pretend it is for you. 

Busy, busy head. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Insomnia

“In bed our yesterdays are too oppressive: if a man can only get up, though it be but to whistle or to smoke, he has a present which offers some resistance to the past—sensations which assert themselves against tyrannous memories.” 
― George EliotAdam Bede

But to whistle or to smoke... and I've given up both countless times.  Seems I picked a bad time.
















Mary Ann Evans

Climate Control

I can't bring myself to read on the train this morning.  It could be the book itself, a rather ponderous memoir by a dour Scandinavian.  An inability to identify with him or connect even as a voyeur connects, with his life and thoughts.  It doesn't feel like that though.  It could be any book, especially a memoir or autobiography.  It could be an old friend and a chance meeting on the train.  I am temporarily unable and unwilling to connect or even care.  I am tired.



It's no lack of sleep.  Not this time.  I crawled home from work last night, almost straight into bed, and fell into a dreamworld.  Straight in.  The last thing I recall before that last descent was touching the braille scabs on the back of the dog's neck, like reading her memoir, a litany of ailments and worries.  She always looks so troubled, like she witnessed something terrible and can't let go of the memory. 

What has been seen cannot...

I do understand, my sweet Jane.  I do. 

So there were dreams and not all of them good, but none of them new.  How strange when nightmares become so familiar that the cease to register.  When incomprehensible discomforts become the norm, and then turn to tedium.  Or maybe this is the beginning of healing.  A stage of recovery?

But what of the absence of any passion this morning.  No sense of connectivity.  How horrible that would be if this became the norm as well! 

There are inklings.  Things are catching my eye, just a bit.  Wee fragments of interest are skittering in the corners of my field of vision, like field mice.

Field of vision mice.

I am not dead yet. 

There are still too many people for my liking but my liking doesn't register with The Universe. People should spend some time watching themselves.  Keep the sound down and just watch. Running about like they all have some place to be. Skittering like the mice, picking up crumbs of time.  A minute here.  Thirty seconds there.  And at the end of the day they have always arrived at work five minutes late and full of apologies, and they get home at the exact same time, despite all their best efforts to be settled into their chairs before Jeopardy starts.

And their moods could certainly be better.  It's a bad time for the world when MacGregor Fucking Rucker is the most cheerful motherfucker on the 5-train.

And that's where I am today.

Somewhat too disconnected.

Schtum

Never feel in a rush to respond to a statement or question.  Always consider first that there may be no right answer.  Think about how many times you have wished you kept your mouth shut.

You Brute!



The appeal of Brutalist architecture seems obvious.  There was a future vision at some point, and it seems to me that the original architects would have identified with "Futurist" before "Brutalist."  Yet with not an ounce of subtlety or nuance, the designs almost bully the line of vision.  It's impossible not to look.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Climate - the proverbial emotional weather report

Putting up a quote on insomnia at barely midnight wasn't so premature after all.  I'd a hunch that it would be a night of visitations.  Go with the gut.  Go with experience.  None of this is new.  It was obvious what was coming down the pike, so after if and when are disposed of it just becomes a matter of who.

Whom?

This turned out to be a mixed bag, a melange if you will, of people, living and dead, from many of my various lives.  A woman from a recent job discussed dogs with an ex-girlfriend.  An old running buddy from 30 years ago burglarized a friend.  I woke up in strange beds with stranger matches and found we had been married for years.

What? You? Really?

What the fuck is wrong with you?

Then random and not so random violence.  Chaos.  Tears.  Waking up shouting.  Grasping desperately for something.

Then the radio to squeeze out the crashing silence.  Brussels is burning.  Blown the fuck up.  More news as it comes in.  Again, not an if, but a when.  We know who.

Whom?

Ask not for whom the bell tolls.  It tolls for thee.

It's coming and probably sooner than later.  But I never wanted to live forever, but I swear I heard people screaming and crying this morning.  I wondered what ever happened to my old friend Jean-louis.  I thought about the massage parlor trip, a group of mostly frightened kids and J-l in his monogram sweater breaking out buckwild with his corporate card.  The last I expected, but that was a lifetime ago.  What did I know about people?  So I sat and wondered what he was going through his mind. He may not even be alive to see how the whole world is shaking and baking. 

Who else is left?

At 4 I was making a mental list of people I walked away from.  I was punching names into Facebook and finding nobody. Where did they all go?  Where did I go?

At 5 I was looking at the dog and she was looking at me.  Frustrated and weeping, 30 minutes away from the alarm, wondering if it was possible that I could eke out 20 minutes and fool my body.

5:15 dry heaving again, pain somewhere deep. Maybe some manner of rebellion, my body saying simply, "No."

5:30 sweating and swearing on Coney Island Avenue with the dog.  Cool air drying the sweat on the back of my neck but farther down in my sweater it's still beading up.  Color me yellow.  I am kurious yellow.  Furious yellow.  What was it Fyodor said? 

I am a very sick man.  I think there is something wrong with my liver.

I wouldn't be surprised but this seems like a spiritual affliction.  I think I remember looking under my bed for the first time in more than 40 years.  Funny, right?  Not haha funny but curious.

Okay, happy face time. 

Stay strong, Belgium.

Stay strong, Chicago.

Big up, Brooklyn.

Reconsidering Bikram

Nude Yoga Girl

Humbling, really.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Insomnia

“The creak of bed springs suffering under the weight of a restless man is as lonely a sound as I know.” 
― Patrick deWittThe Sisters Brothers





Das Climate

Not so much to say.  There are still these odd mornings, so many years after, of waking up junksick and fevered.  Two hands gripping my innards and wringing them out like a wet towel.  Sweat and tight breath and sour bile taste.  A muscle memory sort of thing?  Who knows anymore.

I know it's a rough one when I can't laugh off Mitch's Monday morning inspirational message.  When it evokes anger as the text pops up.  Usually I just chuckle.  Today though?  Let's see if breakfast stays where it's supposed to.

And that's it. 

Feeling?

Cold.

Ice cold on the inside.

Frostbite cold in the pit of my stomach.

Tropical forest sweat on the outside.

Figure that one out.

Melancolia


My understanding is that, in Durer's time, melancholy was considered a virtue and the definition leaned more toward having a busy mind.  It was a trait that went hand in hand with being scholarly, or even possessed of genius.  Moving forward to the present, and we believe even a dunce capable of melancholy, despite lacking any capacity for deep thought.  It is not for me to decide where I fall on the scale between genius, scholarly and dunce.

Melancholy, however, is the mistress I wake too.  She kisses me on the lips as I'm leaving the house and ruffles my hair playfully and tells me, "Have a nice day, darling."  She chuckles, spins on her heel, and heads back inside while I trudge towards the train weighed down by the heft of my happy mask.  She will be waiting for me when I get home.  She will greet me at the door and get me settled back in to have a simple dinner and brood.  


It's funny how all that's needed for some semblance of happiness, or at least contentment, is the right amount of familiarity and intimacy with your discomfort.  That thought drags me back to my second answer on the Proust Questionnaire though:

2) What is your greatest fear?
That this really is all there is.  

Have I grown content with melancholia?  My instinct, or a hunch really, is that it could be possible, but my continued awareness of it, the way I might be aware of a pebble in my shoe, is a sign of progress.  No time to think about it though.  It's time for happy face.  

To remember what never existed

Claris Lispector

Chew on this for a while.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

God of the rich man ain't the god for the poor...

Rattling across I70 in the winter cold but the windows are open because we're sick green with last night. We've got nowhere to go but straight ahead because there isn't really anything to go back to.  No welcome mats thrown out or spare blankets on any sofas.  We've still got cash and a stolen credit card that nobody seems to be missing.  The Jayhawks are on the stereo and it sounds great even though one of the speakers has been blown forever.


Clouds
(Louris / Olson)
God of the rich man ain't the God for the poor
Autumn ending the state hospital's closed
Then wouldn't you know
Winos and office girls in the park
Wanted you alone to walk beside her
Wanted you alone to live beside her
It was mornin'
Better roads with light on them

Can your diamonds talk to you
Can you see them shine
Keep them hiding in your room
Can they guide you in your time
Can they guide you in your time

Windows were broken by your dear one's hands
Gates left swinging by your dear one's hands
An old book salesman asked if he could step in
The sidewalks you slept on held no rest
Gave away the money you saved in your trust
You're sorry now
Light hits you funny at the time

Can your diamonds talk to you
Can you see them shine
Keep them hiding in your room
Can they guide you in your time
Can they guide you in your time

The sidewalks you slept on
They're so broken, they're so broken down
I'll meet you there
I'll meet you there

Years before when the trees would start to bloom
You walked outside, wanted back in your room
What did you hope for
Turn the corner while you slept
God of the rich man ain't the God for the poor
Autumn ending the state hospital is closed
And wouldn't you know
Winos and office girls in the park

Can your diamonds talk to you
Can you see them shine
Keep them hiding in your room
Can they guide you in your time
Can they guide you in your time

Can your diamonds talk to you
Can you see them shine
Keep them hiding in your room
Can they guide you in your time
Can they guide you in your time

(Pedal Blue Music / Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.BMI)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Throw Me To The Dogs

Throw Me to the Dogs from Aaron Dunleavy on Vimeo.

A bit of short film brilliance. Art should be a hammer, not a mirror, and this one is a hammer.

Blood On the Tracks?

Probably, at some point.  If I follow this a spell, it goes to the docks.  Go the other way, God only knows.  Either way, I've been there.

A fork in the road

Now having passed the fork on a sharp left, leaning into the wheel, speeding with two wheels nearly lifting from the pavement, cartoon-like and only partly in control, in dire fear of going headlong into the trees... I paused briefly this morning outside the stables, and inhaled deeply through my nose.  I took in the sweet-sour smell of wet hay and the beasties behind the lowered gate.  I rode the scent back to another lifetime, one that I tried desperately for so long to erase, and almost successfully buried it.  Not that it all doesn't come back of its own accord, like those stories of caskets floating up through the surface during the hard rains, in bayou places like Louisiana.  That's how the stories go anyway, but the past does resurface, and usually at an inconvenient moment.  I am calling it all to the surface now, of my own volition. I am panning through it like a 49-er, looking for the golden flecks, and finding some... like the horses.  There were horses back then, and they were beautiful.  Magical, really.  It's easy to forget the magical moments when they're shrouded in fear and dread and hatred.  Taking the fork in the road, that hard left, seems to have brought me for now to a scenic overlook.  Everything is looking different from up here.  It's all still there, but at a distance it doesn't seem so foreboding.  There are bad memories for sure, but it looks like I might have walked away with pockets full of gold dust.  Fool's gold maybe but that remains to be seen.  There is time to have it tested, and it will be tested.  It has to be.  That's how things go.

For now I'm on an overlook, staring back into this vast, open space.  The rains can come and exhume what they will but I am above and beyond it, for now.  

I felt for a moment this morning, the way I felt on mornings back then, when I was alone on the side of the mountain, between the stables and the kennel, but I wasn't alone.  There were horses, and dogs, and chickens.  There was heaving, breathing, moving life all around.  There were trees, and birds, and beetles and mosquitos and snakes.  There was sky and air.  There was that peaceful un-quiet quiet you get when no other people are around and it's just you and the benign living things, doing the things they do.  Just for a moment this morning, outside the stable with the smell of wet hay and piss and animal, there was quiet.  

It's been a while, my old friend.  It's been a while.  

There were human sightings along the path:  A pretty woman in the elevator that smelled of lemon furniture polish, perhaps a wooden leg rubbed to a deep shine?  An Orthodox man on Coney Island Avenue getting out of his car singing the theme from The Munsters very loudly, BA BA BA BA BA BA, BA BA BA!

The world is no less odd from this vantage point.  

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Climate

It's a bit chillier today and the weather report says rain.  Nobody needs the meteorologist.  Just a window. You can look out and see it's going to rain.  If you're blind you, probably feel it in the air before anyone tells you. I want it to rain though. I do.

I'm pretty certain that, like the impending rains, nobody needs me to report how I feel today. The tears are coming at some point. It's a sure bet that anyone who looks can see it. As for the blind, they probably have their ways too. An uncomfortable silence or a hesitation before answering a question.  A crack in my voice. Labored, audible breathing. Stiffness.

Where this weather front is blowing in from is anyone's guess.  I've a few clues, but nothing solid. Nothing tangible.

Funny that the dog knows too.  She must have her own checklist, but she's on top of things.  She follows me from room to room.  She sits down next to me in the kitchen, back to me, facing the door as if she's going to block access.  I'm protected. Thanks, Ma.  I'll be okay.

This too shall pass.

Uptown Art

Park Ave. & 117th Street
This pair is one of a fair number inside the 125th Street station on the 4,5,6 Line. It's worth 
clicking on them to blow them up and see the detail. I respect that a fair
amount of money has been put into including art in the renovations of 
the train stations.  In a city where the government gets so much
wrong, it's nice to see that they can sometimes
get it right.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Proust Questionnaire Part 3

There was a long bit I'd conjured between my ears about my response to the 2nd question, "What is your greatest fear?"  My response came much too quickly and that might be because that question has been asked of me so many times.  It required going back to decide if my answer was too carefully rehearsed, pre-dating any knowledge of Marcel Proust or the questionnaire.

So in my head, I'd come up with windy explanation of my trouble with the question, but it occurred to me after some thought that my answer "that this really is all there is," is entirely truthful but not necessarily for the same reasons now as before.

Years ago I may have answered the question within the framework of religion.  What if this is really all there is?  What if there is no reward at the end of all this?  What if there is no heaven and no hell?

Well, what if?

The rewards I was seeking further down the road became less tangible, and maybe less "reward-y."  It was more framed in the idea that everything here is just so fucking pointless.

Now?  Man, that's a hard call.  Is this all there really is?  It becomes a question rooted in, or framed by my own satisfaction with my life. I've lived the better part of it on the basis of so many unsatisfied demands, and now the lion's share of it is... over.

My answer is honest.  It really is my greatest fear

Anyway, this even feels anti-climactic for me.  Feel free to not read it.  Take the survey though.  It's interesting.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Munch-y House


My affection for Edvard Munch is no secret by now.  There was that moment years ago, upon seeing The Scream for the first time, an awakening really, or painting or fine art communicated more than an image.  That it was its own language.  

I love this one.  The girl's features are more clearly defined than in a lot of Munch's paintings, but at the same time the features are blank.  Innocent?  Unspoiled? Or just blank, like she might be an empty vessel.

The dark figure next to her... her childhood leaving, or a new spirit waiting to fill the vessel?  Definitely more than a shadow.  

But that's this evening's Munch moment.  

The Proust Questionnaire Part 2


Whereupon your humble narrator completes the survey...

Only a few loose ground rules apply:

Be prompt.  That means don't take too much time to think about the answers.  I mentioned previously that I got hung up on the second question*, and I'll explain what the snag was at some point but it will probably not be the reason you think.  It wasn't that there was no quick answer.  No, in fact, an answer rolled out before I'd finished reading the question.  The problem was it didn't strike me until I saw it in writing that it was a stupid answer.  More on that later.

Be honest, or at least use as much honesty as you can muster.  Decades of experience in marketing and advertising taught me that even with anonymous surveys people would respond with answers based not on their actual behaviors or how their beliefs actually manifested in their daily lives, but how they wished to see themselves or be seen by others.  So just be honest, and being prompt may or may not help that.

Don't second guess until you've completed the survey and had a chance to digest it.  Even then, don't change answers right away.  Sit with them for a while.



So with no further ado:


1.What is your idea of perfect happiness?

No clear picture but a quiet afternoon with my dog and an empty stretch of road to walk.


2.What is your greatest fear?

That this is really all there is*


3.What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Fear


4.What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Fear


5.Which living person do you most admire?

Karen Armstrong for her willingness to dissect her faith and then go back and examine her loss of faith.


6.What is your greatest extravagance?

Shoes


7.What is your current state of mind?

Contemplative and melancholy


8.What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Intelligence


9.On what occasion do you lie?

When I am trying to obscure a truth about myself.


10.What do you most dislike about your appearance?

The gap in my front teeth


11.Which living person do you most despise?

Myself but only on occasion.


12.What is the quality you most like in a man?

Self-sacrifice


13.What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Self-sacrifice


14.Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Honestly. Specifically. Particularly.


15.What or who is the greatest love of your life?

A woman I spoke to every day for years but never met and touched.


16.When and where were you happiest?

My happiest moments were spent fretting the moment they would end.


17.Which talent would you most like to have?

Letting go.


18.If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Fear


19.What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Getting clean.


20.If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

A better, kinder version of myself.


21.Where would you most like to live?

Right where I am.


22.What is your most treasured possession?

My dog, if you can call her a possession


23.What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Not being able to sit comfortably in moments of happiness.


24.What is your favorite occupation?

Loading propane cylinders on and off trucks is the one I liked the most.


25.What is your most marked characteristic?

Willingness to re-examine a long-held belief.


26.What do you most value in your friends?

Kindness


27.Who are your favorite writers?

Dostoevsky, Richard Price, Ian Rankin, Hunter S. Thompson


28.Who is your hero of fiction?

I almost wrote Jesus, just to be a prick, but I'll say John Rebus from Ian Rankin's books.


29.Which historical figure do you most identify with?

The guy standing beside Via Dolorosa watching Jesus and wondering if he thought it was worth it.


30.Who are your heroes in real life?

People who give of themselves anonymously, expecting nothing in return.


31.What are your favorite names?

I have none. They are all the same to me.


32.What is it that you most dislike?

Cruelty


33.What is your greatest regret?

Not addressing my fear sooner so I could have lived a better version of myself.


34.How would you like to die?

Without petty words on my lips or selfish acts in my recent history.


35.What is your motto?

Believe in something bigger or more important than yourself, and just be kind.





Saturday, March 12, 2016

Happy Birthday Jack Kerouac

“I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn't know who I was - I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I'd never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn't know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn't scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost.” 



People may use happier quotes to commemorate the day.  There are plenty, all imbued with that sometimes childlike wonder that Jack was possessed of, but it doesn't tell the entire story.  Certainly there were few writers who were better able to recognize, experience, and express pure joy than Jack, but it wasn't all the time.  That isn't what grabbed me about his writing.

There are those who will argue that he was overrated, or not particularly talented, and they can have their opinions.  All I am saying is that if you were a young man, as I was, who had already experienced what he expressed in the quote above countless times, and thought you were alone in the world for having those feelings, and all of a sudden someone voiced them, then man... all of a sudden the world wasn't such a big, lonely, frightening place.  I found out there were others, and I went out in search of them, and actually found a fair number.  Together with these few, I was even able to find joy, and live in it while it was available to me. 

But first I had to know that I wasn't alone, and that's what Jack gave me.  

Behold The Proust Questionnaire

Gas station coffee and Internet Rabbit Holes... 

Trying on titles for a new blog, upon thinking of retiring this one with previous lives and resuming with one that reflects the present.

Maybe just Gas Station Coffee?  More to come on that.

The latest Internet Rabbit Hole was a series of Vanity Fair articles based on The Proust Questionnaire.  The best history of The Proust Questionnaire is here on the Open Culture Website, where you can actually read Marcel's original answers to what was essentially an elaborate parlor game at the time.



In the late nineteenth century, the confession book was all the rage in England. It asked readers to answer a series of personal questions designed to reveal their inner characters. In 1890, Proust, still a teenager, took this questionnaire, answering the questions with frank sincerity. The original manuscript was uncovered in 1924, two years after Proust’s death, and in 2003, it was auctioned off for roughly $130,000. You can see the original 1890 manuscript above and, if your French isn’t up to snuff...

Marcel's answers may or may not be illuminating.  Scholars of Proust have differing evaluations.  Some are dismissive and others find it illuminating.  I'm not ready to weigh in on that.  I'm too self-centered and my head, for the past 24 hours, has been stuck up my own ass in search of my own answers.  What started all this though was an article scrolling on my Facebook page that laid out David Bowie's contribution.  I'm more of a Bowie scholar than a Proust scholar and I'm of a mind that Wee David Jones was stretching his dry, clever schtick a bit far, but it's still entertaining.  

So this is a Part 1.  I'll just deposit the questions below and you can do what you will with them.  At some point over the course of the next few days I'm going to lay out my answers.  I started yesterday and got stuck on the 2nd question, "What is your greatest fear?"  It wasn't that I had no ready answer.  What poleaxed me and held me up was the realization that my answer, a stock response that I've warehoused in my head for years inside an armored box of justifications for the answer itself, made little sense.

But for now, The Proust Questionnaire:



1.What is your idea of perfect happiness?
2.What is your greatest fear?
3.What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
4.What is the trait you most deplore in others?
5.Which living person do you most admire?
6.What is your greatest extravagance?
7.What is your current state of mind?
8.What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
9.On what occasion do you lie?
10.What do you most dislike about your appearance?
11.Which living person do you most despise?
12.What is the quality you most like in a man?
13.What is the quality you most like in a woman?
14.Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
15.What or who is the greatest love of your life?
16.When and where were you happiest?
17.Which talent would you most like to have?
18.If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
19.What do you consider your greatest achievement?
20.If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
21.Where would you most like to live?
22.What is your most treasured possession?
23.What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
24.What is your favorite occupation?
25.What is your most marked characteristic?
26.What do you most value in your friends?
27.Who are your favorite writers?
28.Who is your hero of fiction?
29.Which historical figure do you most identify with?
30.Who are your heroes in real life?
31.What are your favorite names?
32.What is it that you most dislike?
33.What is your greatest regret?
34.How would you like to die?
35.What is your motto?