Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year's Resolution: NO MORE OPINIONS!


My New Year's Resolution is to have no more opinions.
In fact, I invite you to join me in this most important
& essential resolution.

There will be no opinions in this post, but only
well-established facts with citations (available upon
appropriate request).

The main problem with the world is opinions. Opinions
are the source of all evil. What is true of the world
is true of each individual in the world. The main
problem with you or me is opinions. Opinions, both our
own and others, lead us to take actions, and 99.9% of
actions, both internal and external, are pointless
wastes of time. The greatest action, the greatest fact,
is silence. Silence &, of course, stories, which are
not opinions and never were.

Please try to read this without having any opinions.
Or read it once while having opinions, and see how
upset it makes you, then read it again without any
opinions, compare the two, and you will see how
pleasureable & emancipating opinionlessness is.

Look at animals. Animals have no opinions.

Opinions lead to war, disease, indigestion, bad dreams,
power outages, even wet newspapers, for what are
newspapers but pure unadulterated opinion. The rain
has no opinion, and who wins the battle between the
newspaper and the rain?

An opinion is merely internal conflict given outward
expression. It gives a false feeling of satisfaction
that the conflict has been resolved, but in fact the
conflict has been doubled, because now I have the
conflict as well as the opinion, which I must support
& defend, further distracting me from a true solution
to the conflict. Solving an inner conflict with an
opinion is like banging one's head against the wall
to stop a headache.

The conflict can only be solved by telling a story.
The story can only be told by treating opinions as
characters who are trying to find out what the hell
they are doing & why, while acting as if they know
perfectly well what they are doing & why.

I could never list all the things I have opinions
about (politics, sports, movies, food, books, weather,
religion) for there is nothing in the world that I do
not have opinions about, often many and sometimes
contradictory opinions.

These opinions are not opinions about the things I
say they are about, but rather fashionable (or
unfashionable) costumes designed to hide from the
naked silence that I most essentially am. Out of
that naked silence come not opinions, but stories.

Opinions are not stories, and stories are not opinions.

It is only my opinion that tells me I cannot have no
opinions.

If opinions were removed from the world, peace would
immediately prevail. If opinions were removed from the
individual, serenity and enlightenment would instantly
commence. Please take a moment now to see this for
yourself. The only thing that stands in the way of your
seeing this will be an opinion that is frightened of
what will happen to it if you stop having it. Please
do not keep having opinions simply because they are
afraid of your not having them anymore. Don't worry
about what will happen to your opinions once you stop
having them. Opinions are like fleas. When you brush
them off, they will find another warm body to grab
hold of and sink their blood-sucking teeth into. And
the only teeth they have are wooden and the glue holding
them in is dried & cracking.

Look at things. Things have no opinion.

As you read these facts, you may be having opinions
about them, including, "These are not facts," and "Life
would be lifeless without opinions," and "Stories are
full of opinions," and "I don't like silence."

Opinions are not ideas, any more than a belch is a light
bulb.

The fact is that there is nothing more boring than an
opinion. An opinion is like gas. It may be startlingly
pungent for a moment or two, but it passes and nobody
remembers it.

People whose opinions I first admire will one day be
people whose opinions I cannot believe I ever listened
seriously to, much less admired. I may love them, but
only because I see through their opinions to the unique
opinionless mystery at their center. This is a sign that
I am becoming ready to give up the most important opinions
of all, my own.

Do I really admire my own opinions as much as I like to
pretend to?

You know what they say about opinions and everybody
having one, and that is a fact. We not only have one, we
have billions. Imagine if everybody had billions of the
other hole thing.

What is really happening when a person resists the idea
of no longer having opinions is that he or she is simply
terrified of the thought. So intimately do we relate to
our own opinions that the thought of not having them is
kin to having no identity at all, even no existence!

I have an opinion, therefore I am.

In fact, opinions prevent me from being who I am. I can't
begin to know who I am as long as I confuse myself with
my opinions. Whatever I am, I am not my opinions.

All opinions have been had billions of times before. There
are no new opinions, only old opinions about new products.

Opinions make me feel strong, definitive, bold, confident,
but it is all a mask to hide from you and from myself.
Under my opinions is nothing but the pure fact of
enlightenment. A mind will never be satisfied by opinions.
Mindfulness is utterly empty of opinion.

Is it possible to have no opinions? As I write these facts,
the negative opinions we may have toward them is only because
we feel threatened (unnecessarily) by them. My opinion
center sends out danger messages to me because it fears
that it will be shut down. But opinions are obsolete and the
opinion center needs to be shut down. When the opinion center
has been silenced and mothballed, I will enter irreversible
nirvana. When I have an opinion, such as that the previous
sentence is not true, the nirvana will vanish, though it will
still be there, patient & peaceful behind the opinion.

Opinions are the source of all worry, dread, ulcers, cavities,
embarrassment, procrastination, bad breath, sitcoms, headaches,
even death. I cannot counter these facts with opinions,
any more than I can sneeze down the Great Wall of China.

There are no opinions in heaven, no opinions in the soul.
Heaven is silence & stories; the soul is seeing, listening,
feeling, hearing, knowing & unknowing.

Hell, however, is nothing but opinions, non-stop, all at the
same time, day & night, forever and evermore.

Therefore, I resolve to have no more opinions in 2011 and
beyond. Join me, won't you?

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Q: If you have something to say, why don't you just say it


instead of hiding it in a story?

A: You're confusing a message with a story.

Q: What's the difference?

A: A story is about people. A message is about ideas.

Q: You don't have ideas in your stories?

A: Only subconscious ideas.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

"I am thy brother."


The young officials laughed at and made fun
of him, so far as their official wit permitted;
told in his presence various stories concocted
about him, and about his landlady, an old woman
of seventy; declared that she beat him; asked
when the wedding was to be; and strewed bits
of paper over his head, calling them snow.

But Akakiy Akakievitch answered not a word,
any more than if there had been no one there
besides himself. It even had no effect upon
his work: amid all these annoyances he never
made a single mistake in a letter.

But if the joking became wholly unbearable,
as when they jogged his hand and prevented his
attending to his work, he would exclaim,
"Leave me alone! Why do you insult me?"
And there was something strange in the words
and the voice in which they were uttered.

There was in it something which moved to pity;
so much that one young man, a new-comer, who,
taking pattern by the others, had permitted
himself to make sport of Akakiy, suddenly
stopped short, as though all about him had
undergone a transformation, and presented
itself in a different aspect.

Some unseen force repelled him from the comrades
whose acquaintance he had made, on the supposition
that they were well-bred and polite men.
Long afterwards, in his gayest moments,
there recurred to his mind the little official
with the bald forehead, with his heart-rending
words, "Leave me alone! Why do you insult me?"

In these moving words, other words resounded--
"I am thy brother." And the young man covered
his face with his hand; and many a time
afterwards, in the course of his life, shuddered
at seeing how much inhumanity there is in man,
how much savage coarseness is concealed beneath
delicate, refined worldliness, and even, O God!
in that man whom the world acknowledges as honorable
and noble.

from The Overcoat -Nicolai Gogol

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

NO LONGER HUMAN (Osamu Dazai).


Have you ever noticed how many reviews of books,
especially novels, include little of the
actual writing from the book, or none at all?
Give me some writing from the writer and
toss the rattletrap opinions out the window.

Osamu Dazai was a postwar Japanese writer.
No Longer Human was published in 1958.
A literal translation of the Japanese title
of the book is "disqualified from being human."

I would bet a million dollars that after
reading the following sentences from NO LONGER HUMAN,
the reader will either be repulsed by it, or
want to immediately have it in hand & begin reading:

"Mine has been a life of much shame. I can't
even guess myself what it must be to live
the life of a human being."

"My apprehension on discovering that my concept
of happiness seemed to be completely at variance
with that of everyone else was so great as to make
me toss sleeplessly and groan night after night in
my bed. It drove me indeed to the brink of lunacy."

"I have always shook with fright before human beings.
Unable as I was to feel the least particle of
confidence in my ability to speak and act like
a human being, I kept my solitary agonies locked
in my breast."

"I feigned an innocent optimism; I gradually
perfected myself in the role of the farcical
eccentric."

"I thought, 'As long as I can make them laugh,
it doesn't matter how, I'll be all right. If I
succeed in that, the human being probably won't
mind it too much if I remain outside their lives.
The one thing I must avoid is becoming offensive
in their eyes: I shall be nothing, the wind, the
sky.'"

"My activities as jester, a role born of desperation,
were extended even to the servants, whom I feared
even more than my family, because I found them
incomprehensible."

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

What the hell are they talking about?


They say only pray for others,
never for yourself.

I say pray for yourself FIRST
& get it out of the way.
Then you'll be able to concentrate
on praying for others.

And at the worst, if you feel guilty
for praying for yourself, especially first,
then you'll be impelled to pray even harder
for others!

So it works either way.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

"The minute I stopped arguing


I could begin to see and feel." -Bill Wilson

(and I happen
to have found it
to be true)

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

WILLIAM STAFFORD: "Writers have many things to be careful not to know--


and strangely one of the things not to know
is how to write."

"Sometimes writers who have wandered into good poems
have become too adept.

Auden was one.

Someplace he said he feared repeating himself
as the years went by, and this fear shocked me,
for it undercut a view I have long cherished--that
a writer is not trying for a product, but accepting
sequential signals and adjustments toward an always-
arriving present."

"For too long we have been accepting moon rocks from
people who live right where we live. We all have to earn
any moon we present."

Stafford quoting Thomas Mann:

"The truth is that every piece of work is a realization,
fragmentary but complete in itself, of our individuality...
No wonder, then, that the process is attended by surprises."

From Writing the Australian Crawl:
Views on the Writer's Vocation
.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

ANIMAL MYSTERIOSO: Chapter 1


"There is one small movement of the story
that eludes your control, that you cannot even
see, one alien thing with no purpose other than
to teach you that in the darkest corner of the
story dwells a wild force that is too much a
part of you to see, a blind spot, just as you
do not see your own eyes as they sweep the woods
you walk through for danger." —Wilbur Daniel Steele

1.

My Uncle Leonard was a hermit that lived alone
in the Unconscious Forest his whole life. Unc
had a sack of money stashed away, and when he went
to meet his Maker he left every penny to my little
sister Shane. Meanwhile, he left me, a full grown man,
a rusty bicycle and a busted set of drums. I don’t
mean he left me a full grown man, I mean I am a full
grown man. So, why would he go and leave me a load
of childish junk instead of that cold hard adult cash?

Oh, he also left me some kind of a mysterious animal,
and from the very beginning that thingum would turn
out to be even more questionable than the junk.

*

It was the middle of the night two long moons ago
when the beast found its way to me here in Hmm.
Uncle Leonard’s woodsman neighbor Chuck woke us,
me and Shane, pounding our cottage door with the
coconut knocker. Chuck was a stalwart, self-reliant,
phonebooth-size fellow in mud-plastered boots and
a checkerboard greatcoat, but that night he had
a royal case of the heebie-geebies.

He had drove four hours from the Unconscious Forest
to deliver the news of Uncle Leonard’s passing,
along with the cash for Shane, and the bike, drums,
and critter for me. He drug the goods in and started
back out like a ghost was on his trail, but Shane
blocked his exit in her "Imagine Me Mayor" nightshirt.
We managed to calm the big chap down enough to reel a few
rambling incomprehensible facts out of him, first off
how Unc happened to demise.

"Sudden natural causes," says Chuck, panting. "Or so
said Doc. Weren't present. That there—" indicating
the aforementioned animal, who stood motionless and
undescribable in the corner shadows, fur bristling
and eyes ablaze, "—is Leonard’s only living proof
that survived the fire in explosion."

"Fire and explosion?" Shane says.

"Oh, yes, ma'am, your Unc got to be one wild science
experimenter out there." Chuck twitched and sweated,
eyeballing the animal which in turn latched its gleer
onto me for some reason. "Doc said his death-bed wish
was for me to brang you these gadgets. 'Them dang kids,
Shane and Lemuel, my bonehead blood,' your Unc liked to
call you, with affection. I done as he ast, laid him
to rest on the bluff he daydreamed under the Lights at.
Then I nursed that gasly thingmabob back to health. Oh!"
He reached in his greatcoat and set a small burlap package
on the coffee table. "That there’s a poultice for the
stitches." He run a finger along his ribs area. "From the
transplant."

"Transplant?" I say.

"Good luck!" says Chuck, elbowing through us and out
the door.

"What’s this beast’s name!" I holler after him, but
he peeled out of the village in his Helms van,
leaving us to our minor grief and major bafflement.

We lain our eyes upon the creature that stood blazing
with bad intentions from the dark corner it had
planted itself in. "Unpossible," I say. We looked
at it from different angles. "What and the world
was Unc up to out there?"

"No good," says Shane.

The animal gave the lowest growl that ever been
growled. My footbones felt it through the floorboards.

"So, Unc’s gone on," I say. I hoped the varmint
would appreciate a change of subject from itself.
"Poor old Uncle Leonard."

"Oh, fiddlesticks," says Shane. "He was mean and
lowdown and loved it. We couldn’t stand him and he
couldn’t stand us more."

"Well, you ought to respect the dead, even if you hated
their guts."

"I respect the dead’s legal tender." She scooped up
her new found cash and flounced back to her room
as if our life had not just took a bad fork forevermore.

I took a seat in my rocker and commenced to rock
real reassuring and calm. keeping one eyeball
on the sole remaining consequence of whatever
Unc’s lurid going-ons had been out in them woods. It
kept both eyeballs on me back. "You could sit down if
you want," I say. It declined with a snort. To act normal,
I took a whiff of the burlap package Chuck gave me and
that stinkbomb knocked my olfactories back to Independence
Day. I was not keen to slap no poultice on no stitches
on that critter’s undercarriage. "I wonder what variety
of a transplant you went and got yourself," I mummer.

From the shadows it glowered at me from the corner like
I personally flang it out of the Garden of Eden. "Hey,
critter, don’t blame me," I say. "I’m only a link in some
spooky chain that nobody asked me would I like to be a
link in it." But why should I care what it thought? Was
I my dead Uncle’s mysterious animal’s keeper? It looked like
I was, for a nonce, but I didn’t got to like it, did I.

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

MIXED ANIMAL is on the loose again...


I've withdrawn my novel MIXED ANIMAL from MacAdam/Cage
& ended my association with that publishing house.

The action speaks for itself, the decision was a long time
in coming, I couldn't be more certain that it's the right
thing to do for my book and my spirit,
and I am at utter peace with it.

So, MIXED ANIMAL is on the prowl for a healthy publisher,
as is my earlier novel ORANGES FOR MAGELLAN.

I won't go into details here on the many reasons behind this
decision about Mixed Animal and MacAdam/Cage, except to say
that, in life as in fiction, all is not what it seems.

As I move on and seek what I believe I desire in this world,
I understand more clearly that the purpose is not the achievement
of desire, but what is gathered along the way.

Wisdom is less thrilling but more important than getting
a book published. And wisdom only comes from going
through the grinder of adverse experience.

Does that mean I am beyond wanting to get my book(s) published?
Oh hell no.

I just finished & submitted a long short story I love,
the first short story I've written in many moons,
& I shall now hurl myself headlong back into my ghost novel.

I want to be happy today and to treat myself and the people
in my life with respect and not let what I want get in the
way of what is good for me.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why Write Tall Tales When the World Is Coming Apart At the Seams?


Maybe it only seems like it’s coming apart at the seams.

No, it’s coming apart at the seams.

So why write tall tales?

Why do anything, but especially why write tall tales when the world, etc.?

Because this one particular tall tale I’m writing might be the one which saves the world, or at least makes a stitch that starts undoing the coming apart in one little shadow in one little corner of one little seam, or slows it, or distracts it, or makes it blink, or makes it think twice.

Because, as Flannery said, I’m good at it.

Because it’s fun.

Because somebody asked why.

Because it keeps me from coming apart at the seams.

Because it might keep somebody else from coming apart at the seams, if only for the length of the story or a sentence or an image or two words put together in a subtly outrageous way.

Because there might be an image or a line or a stitch of dialogue that will make somebody laugh or be glad they’re alive or look up and see differently or tell somebody they love them.

Because everybody dies.

Because ghosts may be at my shoulder waiting for the next chapter.

Because I woke up today.

Because if I don’t, my soul barks at every passer-by.

Because I’m depicting in the story in some way the world’s coming apart at the seams and an option or two taken by a character or two which fosters sanity and hope and which might be contagious through the words and might lead to somebody going out of the house and into that strange world for the first time in a week or a month, because they don’t feel so all alone for a moment.

Because I have nothing better to do.

Because it feels good.

Because I want to.

Because I don’t want to.

Because I can’t.

Because it’s all I can do.

Because somebody said that writing tall tales when the world is coming apart at the seams is a pointless farce.

Because God nudged me by giving me the talent to.

Because all the tall-tale tellers who I ever read and loved did.

Because somebody said they enjoyed one I told once.

Because I’m better at it than praying.

Because it might delay the final coming apart long enough to allow somebody to act, or to reconsider acting, or to have an absurd thought of hope for hope’s sake.

Because it’s not there.

Because it’s meditation.

Because I wonder what’s going to happen.

Because I imagine it will help somebody or something somehow in some small good real human way, or animal.

Because there are animals.

Because when I’m doing it I can use everything I have.

Because it’s the only real true thing in the world.

Because, as Bob Dylan says, All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie.

Because it is both lighting a candle and cursing the darkness.

Because it may lead to somebody else who is losing their faith to go ahead and continue writing that tall tale of their own, right now.

Because I can’t help it.

Because it’s too late to stop now.

Because I’m borrowing the oxygen.

Because the words are there tapping their foot, trying to keep from smiling.

Because the characters are raring to go.

Because I already made a cup of coffee.

Because the cursor is cursoring.

Because when I do death forgets.

Because my fan is clambering up the gate.

Because my foe is waiting for me not to.

Because eternity leans toward me and whispers gossip about my protagonist.

Because it relaxes me, and, as Thomas Merton says, Sooner or later, you got to relax.

Because my cat is twitching in his sleep.

Because my children are lost.

Because the war will never end.

Because, as Virginia Woolf says, A thousand stars were flashing across the blue wastes of the sky.

Because the end of time is sunbathing on the beach.

Because I love sentences, and paragraphs, and endings, and beginnings, and . . . phrases.

Because I’m human.

Because he wants us to call him Ishmael.

Because a fly flew in the window and out again.

Because I’m doomed.

Because the garden is watered.

Because I’m eternal.

Because you’re reading this.

Because.

Just because.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

WRITE FASTER!


I tried. I can’t. I suppose I could if there were a gun
to my head, but there isn’t & doesn’t look to be any time
soon.

So, I write slow, despite a voice inside that tells me my
days are numbered & I need to start building up my body
of work, which is paltry to middling at best. That tells
me I’m taking too long to write whatever it is I’m writing.
That voice I find to be fading & losing strength fast. No
loss.

It’s not even that I write slow. I write as if there is
no such thing as time, no such thing as growing old,
no such thing as death. The fastest piece of long fiction
I wrote took three years. I’m currently working on a short
story, which I decided to do because I haven’t written a
short story in many moons, and because I wanted to take
a break from novels.

I thought I would knock off this story in a week or so
at most, because it had been brewing & bubbling for a while
in the attic. I thought it was ready to accommodate me,
just leap out & lay itself down there on the paper, the
screen.

It’s been five weeks. The end appears to be in sight, but
that is a matter of length, not time. I know how many pages
it’s going to be, roughly, but that is not about time.

Getting stuff published is not in my control, at least
compared to getting it written. My mind deals in time, so
it sets a schedule for my heart, or my intuition, or
whatever it is that’s in charge of my writing. But my
intuition doesn’t much abide schedules. It sees them
& takes note of them, but it doesn’t relate them, it
doesn’t respect them. It doesn’t disrespect them, either,
it just doesn’t really care.

It doesn’t pay much attention to fear, or money, or the
world, or anything that doesn’t have to do with the place
where stories get written. My mind thinks about all those
things, or a part of my mind, but that part doesn’t have
anything to do with the actual writing of the story.

I wouldn’t even say it’s about timelessness, either. It’s
a much simpler place than something as cruel as time or as
dreamy as timelessness. It’s beyond both. It considers both,
or uses both, in the writing, because a story about people
is a story about time, and I have a spiritual outlook so
timelessness is present, too. But time & timelessness are
just two more characters in the story, they’re not telling
me what to do or how long to take doing it.

I used to imagine being on my death bed & regretting not
getting a book published. Being so close, and being so, um,
frustrated by the process, has somehow allowed me to let go
of that fear some. Is my soul going to be truly altered in
some way by whether I get a book published? I like to imagine
not. Then I imagine being near death & wishing I had written
more, more books, stories, plays, published, performed, or
not, and I can’t really get much oomph going behind that fear
either.

Now, I can answer the pressure of a deadline, which I did
when I incorporated hundreds & hundreds of little & big changes
suggested by my brilliant editor David Adams (since laid off
in the economic crunch) at MacAdam/Cage. So I can do it if I
have to, but I’m not talking about have to. I’m talking about
the normal day-to-day pursuit of telling the story just the
way it is supposed to be told, and the pleasure given &
received in writing it, in the writing, in the flow of
using everything available to the intuition in the making
of sentences, paragraphs, written conversation, scenes,
sections, and on.

I’m talking about my natural velocity as a writer, and it
appears to be the velocity of a turtle, a turtle in a rocking
chair on a porch, smoking the pipe of the imagination,
employing the skills of the craft given & learned, overlooking
the world of the story. (I just thought of a wonderful line
from some tough-guy movie I saw: "I hate scenery.")

It takes something beyond time to use everything you have
in doing something that you love so much. Death & failure
are no reasons to rush it.

I think I’ve finally come to accept that the venture that
is the creation of a story for me is so slow & so . . .
self-contained that all clocks stop in the vicinity. As
long as I do it every day I’m OK with it, I’m fine.

Of course I prefer to have a spiritual outlook about these
things, life, death, art, time. So, as far as what we do
at our best, in my view it survives. And if it does survive,
I want it to be the best, the clearest, the funniest, the
poignantest, the most loving & loved it can be, from the
words to the flow to the people & to life as embodied
in the story.

I can’t do that with time breathing down my back. Time
is not breathing down my back. Or it may be breathing down
my back, but if so I haven’t gotten the message yet, and it
seems that I would have gotten it by now if I were going
to get it. Things may change tomorrow, but today I am on
the timeless boat, the timeless porch, moving again through
the story from start to toward the end, which in this case
is going to be an ending that must have the time it needs
to find its perfect stopping point.

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Two Paragraphs from The Unknown Man Story.


When he knocked on our door two days later, a jaunty little
tap-tap tap-tap-tap, I didn’t open it. I looked through the
peephole. "I’m the unknown man from the news," he identified
himself. I looked closer; he certainly resembled the man we
had seen on TV, even with the fish-eye view. The kids peeked
through the curtains on either side of the door. He apologized
for "pestering you unannounced." I was struck by his use of
the phrase "pestering you unannounced." It made me feel safe.
I thought about opening the door. No psychotic killer would
employ such a phrase. Then I imagined him butchering all of
us, me asking with my dying breath, "How could you have employed
the phrase 'pestering you unannounced'?" and him responding:
"It never fails!"

*

If people saw us and didn’t know, they would have thought we
were just a normal family out driving around. Somebody might
have questioned why I, the woman, was behind the wheel, but
that wasn’t as big a problem as it had once been. The side
of the unknown man’s left shoe tapped a tune against the bump
in the floor. I wondered what he would be like when his mind
cleared up. Would he be as calm and earnest? Calm and earnest
went underestimated in the world. And maybe knowing who you
were was overestimated. Would he remember us helping him?
What if he were a millionaire, a billionaire, who had soured
on humanity and gone undercover to find a good person, a good
family, who would be kind to him without knowing he was rich.
I wondered what he did. I bet it had to be something that
required a thoughtful and good-natured personality. I peeked
over at him. He was watching the sights of the town go by,
as alert as a dog himself, but a calm dog. He had a kind of
a neutrality or objectivity to his cheerfulness that appealed
to me. Some lucky woman and family were missing him, and I
felt sorry for them. And envied them. And, actually, resented
them a little, for losing him in the first place and causing
this uncertainty and turbulence in our life.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Watching "Mad Men" After Watching "Michael Clayton."


AMC played the George Clooney Movie "Michael Clayton"
as a lead-in to the season premiere of "Mad Men" last
night.

Not a good idea.

As fine a TV show as Mad Men is much of the time, it
paled coming after the brilliant Michael Clayton.

The season premiere itself wasn't much to start with,
nothing really striking or memorable until the last minute or
two with Don blowing his top at the swimming suit execs and then
coming alive at last in the WSJ interview.

As a writer who obsessively rewrites whatever I'm reading
or listening to, I love pieces of art like Michael Clayton
because they short-circuit that obsession and carry me away
on their true and seamless writing, especially the dialogue.
Add that to the thematic heft of the movie, corporate & personal
corruption, George Clooney's effortless portrayal of a man
coming apart inside while appearing in control of all he
surveys and fixes, Tom Wilkinson's amazing prophet, etc.,
and you've got a film you might not want people to compare
your TV show to, however good it is.

Not fair, for whatever reasons, comparing the two? AMC
shouldn't have put them together like that, inviting the
comparison. It cannot be a mistake that the themes of corruption,
and even the looks and outlooks of the two main characters
played by Clooney and Jon Hamm, are so similar. Again, the
invitation to compare is blatant & not favorable for Mad Men.

Still, don't get me wrong, I'll be there next
Sunday at 10, hoping for the best, expecting Don to continue his
long liberation from self-exile if not from the pit & pendulum
of advertising.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Things Are Fighting Back.


I have many examples which I have compiled but
I will give this one small recent example to find
out how receptive others may be to the new reality:

I was washing the dishes this morning.
To be specific, I was washing the silverware.

The little silverware drainer cup thing was
about half-full with already washed silverware
from an earlier time. I debated whether to empty
that silverware into the silverware drawer first,
but decided against it because I didn't want to have
to dry my hands. So I decided to add the newly washed
silverware to the previously washed silverware in
the little silverware drainer cup.

So I was washing the "big" silverware first. It's not
really even silverware, but the big foot-and-a-half long
spoons and pancake flipper type things. There were three
of them. I washed and rinsed them and stuck them in the
drainer cup.

That's when I ran into a problem.

Either they didn't want to go in there, or the regular
small silverware that was already in there didn't want to have
them in there, or both, because there was a lot of resistance
from somewhere. Finally I just jammed the three big things
in there and they stayed and I went on to wash the new
batch of small dirty silverware.

When I rinsed the new batch of silverware and went to
put them in the cup, they either didn't want to go, or,
it looked and felt like to me, the three big silverware
had gotten together somehow and formed a barrier at an
angle and were stopping the new batch of clean silverware
from getting into the cup. Even when I tried to jam the
new silverware in, and let go, the new silerware, spoons
and forks, were pushed out of the cup and fell all over
the rubber thing and behind the drainer and I had to wash
them again.

I washed them again and tried it again, this time very
slowly so that I could see beyond any reasonable doubt
that there was unaccountable movement between the big
silverware and the little silverware that had nothing
to do with me, which all resulted in the new little
silverware once again being prevented and pushed out all
over again. It reminded me of people being pushed out
of a lifeboat by bullies.

I tried it again and the same thing happenmed, if not worse.

Finally I took the big silverware out and hung it up and
the new little silverware went in fine and dandy with the
old silverware in the drainer cup.

So, good news, bad news.

Bad news first: things are fighting back. Those that have ears
to hear, hear, and eyes to see, see.

Good news: things are not only fighting back against us,
they are fighting back against one another, which will
help us in the future through "divide and conquer" tactics.

Until then ...

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Monday, July 19, 2010

THE END of the Masterpiece Project, #0-90.


I have the worst cold in the world so it's a good time
to wrap up this preposterous project. I've said everything
I had to say worth saying already about masterpieces, if
anything, so the following is pure padding, may or may
not have anything to do with masterpieces, whatever
they are or not, & should not be read under any circumstances:

90. Who gets to decide what a masterpiece is? You.

89. Fog rolling in, iced coffee, the look on the girl's face as Jimi
destroys the guitar at Monterey Pop.

88. "What I would give for a sockful of horse manure right now."

87. With this cold, my brain feels like an empty walnut packed
in pressurized styrofoam.

86. I just read an interview with a fellow named Bradley Sands
that is more entertaining & true than five of the six stories of his
I read afterwards.

87. I once heard an interview with the guy who wrote Bridges
of Madison County & I was prepared to despise him but I liked
him quite a bit, despite my worst intentions.

88. I also saw an interview with David Lynch, the director,
who I am no fan of, and I was also ready to not like him at all,
but he was quite a present & likable fellow, meditates, honest.
Hmmm. I like the human being better than the artist, or the art?

87. Here's a paragraph from this story I'm writing:

He turned out to be a spectacular guest, absolutely no bother.
He kept to himself, ate like a bird, took regular showers, if
brief (to preserve water?), and hardly made a sound day or night.
He read biographies from the library which Lloyd checked out for him,
almost one a day, from General Patton to Mother Teresa to Bob Dylan,
quietly listened to talk radio, went for walks, and wrote in a journal that I
bought when I saw him at the picnic table in the backyard trying
unsuccessfully to hold some loose papers together in the wind.
I tried not to read any of it as I helped him gather the pages,
but I did see the phrase "family of leaves," which I kept thinking
about. I considered it a beautiful phrase, though sad,
not to mention eerie, considering the coincidence of the blowing pages. I
wondered if he had come up with it himself or if he was quoting
somebody. I meant to google the phrase but didn’t, because I wanted him
to have made it up.

86. "Art begins with resistance--at the point where resistance is overcome.
No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor."
-Andre Gide

I think the great labor can be spent in the years leading up to the writing of the masterpiece, but the writing of the masterpiece itself can be as effortless as a dream.

85. "The greatest masterpiece in literature is only a dictionary out of order."
-Cocteau

84. I badly need to eat something but have zero-minus appetite.

83. I saw an old movie last night called "On Borrowed Time"
in which Death as a gentleman came to get an old man
who didn't want to go. Somehow the old man had gotten the power
to keep anybody who went up in his big apple tree up there in the
tree, so he tricked Death up in the tree to get him an apple before
he took him, and so death was stuck up there. Death was cordial
and patient throughout. At one point the old man asked Death
what he knew about something, and Death said, "I am unknowing."
I recommend the movie, although (SPOILER COMING) I must warn
the squeamish among you--it ends happily.

82. I type with one finger, and a thumb for the spacebar.

81. I told you not to read this.

80. Do you think this whole thing suggests I feel I've written a masterpiece?

79. You know, some things are considered masterpieces at the time, and then later they are not considered masterpieces at all.

78. I don't understand people who are angry that certain things are considered masterpieces, even if it's obvious that those things are not masterpieces. That's why it's always important for me to remember that I get to decide.

77. The more I believe in experts, the less capable I am of discerning a masterpiece.

76. I didn't know who Flannery O'Connor was when I read the story "A Good Man Is Hard To Find," and I said, "I don't know who this guy is, but he sure as hell can write."

75. How did my once-favorite NY Housewife become the most obnoxious of all?

74. I read that Shakespeare was a racist and we shouldn't put another dime in his pocket.

73. This can't be all there is, please, although what isn't here must be contained in this, or else it still doesn't make sense.

72. Did I say that I believe that the subject of a book has to be a mystery that is bigger than my brain, my intelligence, my knowledge, and yet that is what every word in the the book is about, what it dwells in? Well, not every word. I hate that when people say every word must serve the theme, or the point, or whatever. But every sentence, or at least every paragraph, that's OK. I've just begun to learn and
see and feel and appreciate the quiet wonder of a paragraph.

71. I have no appetite, no brain. I'm high on emptiness.

70. "The true function of a writer is to produce a masterpiece and no other task is of any consequence." -Cyril Connolly

I think I agree, but since every masterpiece is unlike any other, there is no telling what one is, because there is nothing to compare it to.

69. If you can't find your masterpiece, try to hide from it, and it will have no choice but to come looking for you.

0-68. "The human fool is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art."
-Leonardo da Vinci

Oh, wait, that's "foot", not "fool". Sorry, Leo.

I'm free now & I believe my appetite is waking.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Masterpiece, #91-92


91. Stop in the mystery.
Don't solve it.
Don't wrap it up.
Don't come to a clever or dramatic conclusion
about it.
Just stop in it & stay there
for the whole masterpiece.

92. A masterpiece is simply a book
you were meant to write.
You, personally.
You may have already written it.
You may have just begun it
and not know it
because it is too easy or funny
or real or un-masterpiece-like.
It may begin in the form of an email
that you decided discretion was the better
part of valor not to send, or an idle post
on some internet site, a note
to somebody you love
or can't stand, or a scrap
of passing strangers' conversation that lingered
and couldn't not be jotted down.
A masterpiece is simply a book
you personally are meant to write.
You may never write it
but know that it's there
and that everything you do write
calls to it and comes from it.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Masterpiece, #93-94.


93. "Man cannot live without a permanent trust
in something indestructible in himself,
and at the same time
that indestructible something
as well as his trust in it
may remain permanently concealed from him."
-Kafka

94. "Stop resisting everything.
Stop resisting anything. Or
at least imagine, for a moment,
what it would be like."
-Old Man in a Dream

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

One Hundred Essential Secrets of Writing a Masterpiece (Secrets 95-100).


I will be revealing these requirements one at a time,
one a day, unless I am compelled to add more than one a day
or less than one a day.

95. Only one in one hundred masterpieces are known to be masterpieces
by their creators at the time they are writing them.

Therefore, it is better to not know you are writing a masterpiece,
if you are. In other words, it is more likely that you are writing
a masterpiece if you don't know that you're writing a masterpiece.

For every known masterpiece, there are one hundred masterpieces
nobody has ever heard of.

Even if you know you are writing a masterpiece, it's better that you keep
that fact from yourself, in order not to become nervous and blow it.

It is all right, however, if you know you are writing a masterpiece,
and you really are writing one, to enjoy it with a little awe
and a touch of wonder, as long as the awe and wonder remain objective,
as in, "Hmm, this is a masterpiece in the making, but it's too late
to stop now, so I may as well finish it and see if anybody else agrees
or notices."

If you are going to write a masterpiece, never start out intending
to write one, but allow yourself to have a glimmer of it here and there,
much as you might pretend not to see a fox in the corner of your eye
in the woods in order to keep it there, draw it closer, increase
the chills up and down the spine without having the fox know and bolt.

"Whatever you think writing a masterpiece may feel like, it does not
feel like that. It feels like something else, something smaller
and quieter, like writing a very good sentence, followed by a remarkable
sentence, followed by a simple sentence, then a silent sentence, and
then another very good sentence, etc., and before you know it, you have
a very good paragraph, or even a remarkable paragraph, and you're on your way." -Melville


96.
a. Know yourself.
b. Be yourself.
c. Forget yourself.


97. Before/while you start writing, listen to a piece of music
that will open your heart and/or mystify your reason, such as
Warren Zevon's "Please Stay" (recorded when he knew he was
dying), or Chet Baker's "Tenderly," or Emmylou Harris" "Goodbye"
(written by Steve Earle), or some gem of innocence by Sparklehorse.

The bridge from not writing to writing is as passing through
a wall, or from the dimension of the mundane to the dimension of
inspiration. There are one million ways to be not writing; there
is only one way to be writing. We forget what joy writing is and
remember it only as a task and a chore--until we start writing.
Music can transport us from the state of the laboring mind to the
state of the soul in clarity and contemplation.

THEN, AFTER writing, the heart that is taxed in creating needs the
salve of music that is pure beauty, like Pachabel's Canon in D, or
Al Green's "Love & Happiness," or Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," or
Etta James' "At Last." This sort of music not only eases the heart's
return to the "real" world, it conditions the heart to anticipate
reward at the end of the writing day and to therefore be more willing
to abandon all its resources in the service of the writing. As absurd
as this may sound, trust me that it is even more absurd to dismiss
it without experimentation.

However, if you already know this, please ignore this step and accept
my thanks for reading it anyway, for I enjoyed writing it.

98. Always make sure that
"there is one small movement of the story that eludes your control,
one alien thing with no purpose
other than to teach you
that in the darkest corner of the story
dwells a wild force
that is too much
a part of you to see, a blind spot--
just as you do not see your own eyes
as they sweep the woods you walk through for danger."
--Wilbur Daniel Steele.

99. Rewriting is not rewriting. Rewriting is writing at a deeper,
more relaxed level than the level of the raw original first-draft
writing. In rewriting there's no great divide between the "creative"
& "critical" "sides" of the brain. The "critical" side's criticalness
is transmuted by the heat of the creative into enlivening & clarifying
observation. They are not enemies, but essential allies. It's up to the
writer to introduce the creative & the critical, in the act of writing,
to help or allow them to befriend one another. Or the writer just steps
out of the way as the self-dismissed wall between the critical & creative.
The psychic place where rewriting happens is a combo of critical &
creative, a place where they meet as compadres, helpmates, allies in a
kind of hyper-awake intuitional swaying which simply knows what to do
& what not to do, when to begin & when to stop.

100. Make absolutely sure that you include a detail, metaphor,
line of dialogue, aside, or description which is utterly irrelevant
to the story, to the development of character, or to the advancement
of the plot. It may even be meaningless, or gibberish, as long as
it is not too obtrusive. Bury it in the middle of the story or
novel. It will be an invitation to the subconscious of the reader to
truly surrender to the tale and to your writing. Furthermore, it is
a tribute to fallibility and will liberate you from perfectionism.

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Endings.


I'm taking a little break from the long-distance running
of writing novels, in order to write a short story, the
first I've written in many many moons.

It's a quiet story, a strange story, with a human mystery
at its core. An unknown gentleman appears in the life of
a woman, a widower with two teenaged children. The identity
of the gentleman is the mystery, and his compelling anonymity
is contagious, disturbing and enlivening the other three.

Somebody wrote somewhere:

"Nobody writes quietly enough.
It may be impossible to write quietly enough.
I predict the greatest writer of the future
will be the quietest writer who ever wrote."

Oh, actually, I wrote that. But I happen to
believe it anyway.

So I'm trying to apply what I believe there to the real
world of my own story here.

The story, as it's unfurling now, will end in a longishly
conversation that includes the woman, her son and daughter,
and the unknown man, in the family's living room,
while a show on TV plays with the sound down, a show on
Discovery about continental drift.

I've eliminated all the obvious spectacular reveals
about the man's identity, which is a secret even to
himself, for he has lost his memory. He was found wandering
around the town fair in a damp suit without ID after having
driven a stolen car into the river. It has been a couple weeks
since the accident and he shows no sign of regaining his memory,
even of his name.

He is not an alien, is not dangerous, in a physical sense,
is not a psycho, has not escaped from anyplace, does not
know the woman is a past life, is not wanted, etc.
He may be lying in small details about his activities since
the accident in the river, untruths which he will reveal and
which he considers "necessary."

I don't know how it's going to end, although I do have the
final image. The conversation itself is what is going to be
quietly advanced, or circled around that image, which comes
from the show playing soundlessly on TV. That image will tie
the little world of what is transpiring in the living room
to the big world of the history of the planet and where we
are today as human beings. So it is ambitious in that sense,
that little click at the end which will not detonate, but
will ring it all into focus, the mystery unsolved but enlarged,
an enlarged embrace of the mystery, its sadness and beauty.

Endings in novels are sometimes great, sometimes good, sometimes
not so good, but in rare cases do they change the way I feel
about the whole book. I might think, "That's not how I'd have
ended it," but I usually wouldn't toss the book across the
room if I loved the work up to then. Too much territory has
been covered in a novel for me personally to hate a book
only because it's ending disappointed.

In a short story, the ending feels much more important, almost
as if the story were made for it, as the firing and flight of an
arrow exists for the bull's-eye.

So, I'm dedicated to making the ending quiet, to preserving
the mystery of this gentleman and his relationship to this
family, but also to revealing enough, having the discovery of
some human mystery be just substantial enough, that the reader, starting
with me, is satisfied, though he may not know why, or be able
to say why, or need to say why. At the heart of it is identity
and anonymity, and the connections we have with one another when
everything artificial and extraneous has been removed, or is simply
missing.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Treeless Mountain.


Korean film. 2009.

About two children, ages 6 & 4 or so,
who are dropped off at their aunt's
while their mother travels off to try to
reconcile with her husband, the kids' father.
Lots of little wonderful and not-so-wonderful
things happen. The aunt is sort of more mean than
loving, and an alcoholic. They stay there and then are
shipped off to their grandparents' farm, where further
little wonderful & not-so-wonderful things happen.

That's it.

So what?

So it will make you glad you're a human being,
that's what.

If you're a grasshopper, I wouldn't watch it.

Oh, if youre a writer, it will also give you implicit
permission & suggestions on how to create a cleaner & simpler
narrative stream that champions the intelligence & humanity
of the viewer/reader. Another good thing in this world
or any other.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dear Unknown Writer,


Who May Never Have Anything More Important Than Writing
in Your Life & Who May Never Find "Success":

I could have written a letter to my favorite published writers,
the ones who made me want to write & keep writing: J.D. Salinger,
Flannery O'Connor, Dylan Thomas, Nathanael West, Emily Dickinson,
Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ned O'Gorman, but, living or dead, they don't
need it & I don't need to write it.

You're the one I need, the one I reach out to, you whose writing
is the treasure you burn to share with anyone who will read it,
and you whose greatest fear is sharing it & being rejected,
misunderstood, laughed at, ignored.

You who can't give away your stories though they burn like molten gold
in your veins.

I've had very little success myself, just enough & just often enough
to keep me going, to keep me coming back for more of all writing
is & what writing isn’t. Just enough to allow me to suspect
that it's not success in cash or fame or publication or sales
that any writer born to write finally writes for, but something
beyond that, something else, something that all
the words in the world can't name.

You who write in every country, every block, in every window,
before the sun rises, at 3 a.m., by candlelight & flashlight,
and nobody knows, even the ones who love you most.

You who write in every language in the world, in languages
nobody but we have ever heard or read.

You who write to spread the healing of laughter, you who write
to drown the world in tears.

You who write drunk or high and don't need to write drunk or high
to write the masterpiece we were born to write.

You who know your masterpiece is the one that will begin as easily
as writing a grocery list, with not a thought of a masterpiece
in a thousand miles.

You who have written for a thousand lives and never published a word,
who write a million words and no soul will see a single one.

You who write in a prison cell or a closet or a tent or an alley
or a penthouse.

You who write to rip open & slap on the table everything that's
inside, and you who write to hide.

You who write to pound into words the bloody truth what we see,
and you who write for nothing but the beauty of the words.

You who try to peddle your stories to every stranger on the street
and you who bury your stories in a locked box in a locked drawer
in a locked room.

You who many have read and not one has understood.

You who will never be satisfied by what you write and you who can’t
write a word you don’t love too much.

You whose dream exceeds your talent, you whose talent exceeds your
dream, you whose dream & talent dance like Fred & Ginger but nobody’s
watching.

You who feel your life will be wasted unless you find the success
that as we chase it in vain we twist ourselves in knots far more
terrible than we’d be in if we never found a drop of that success.

You who will never be as good a person as you are a writer and who
tell yourself you don't care.

You who will never be as good a writer as you are a person and hate
yourself for it.

You who think of writing all day at work and are too torn by erosion
& exhaustion at night to write a word.

You who write all your lives and come ever so close once, twice, many
times.

You who see that writing is a spiritual pursuit, a prayer, praying,
a forging of the spirit in daily micro-toil for clarity, cutting and
pruning as if words were dead twigs & branches in the tree of your own soul.

You who believe that you will never be happy unless your writing brings
you the grinning love, the shy admiration of strangers, a dazzling, hilarious,
profound interview on TV, the mystical experience of our name in print in
whatever form or realm we treasure most, not once but over & over.

You who believe that success is more powerful than death.

You who writing drives raving mad, you who writing restores every day
to sanity.

You who writing has left like a wild bird never to return, who writing
hides inside like an eagle in a mine.

You who nobody may ever hear of.

You without a twitter account, a blog, a computer.

You writing with your blood in the sand.

You wasting your writing in talking, talking your visions away.

You who forget the dreams that tell us how & what to write & why.

You who happily pull your hair out for the right word.

You who have found in the silence of a million words the secret
of our own voice.

You who hate the world for being such a mess that you cannot write
about anything but what a mess the world is.

You who hate the world for not finding you so that you can tell the
world how beautiful it is and how much you love it & everybody in it.

You who dream of walking down the street where beautiful people stumble
around asking us for an autograph & you go, Aw shucks okay but I'm just
a regular guy but what do you love most about my writing in as great
a detail as you would like?

You who know that all we have to do is begin writing, and all we have
to do is finish.

You who are more terrified of sending it out than of wallowing in
worldwide fame.

You whose writing is waiting for publication in Heaven.

You who are writing more & more for just yourself, more & more just for
God, more & more for One Perfect Reader.

You who write our life away for the eternal moment of the writing.

You who write to remember & you who write to forget.

You who write to gouge out the truth & you who write to murder the lies.

You who live to write and you who die to write and you who write like a
fish swims and a bird flies & a tree grows in Brooklyn.

You who give up, you who want to give up, you who will never give up,
and you who give up every day & keep coming back, because that's
what we do, we just keep coming back for more...

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Planet Earth Splits In Two; Officials Urge Calm, Give Reassurance.


Today at 2:10 P.M., EST, Planet Earth split in two
at the equator, causing alarm and widespread problems
throughout the area. Officials of governments worldwide
expressed reassurance that the crisis would find a quick
solution and urged the population of the planet to remain
calm and go about their business.

The two hemispheres of the planet remained in orbit
some fifty miles apart from one another, giving officials
hope that the disconnection of the planet from itself
can be reversed. Scientists and government and corporate
officials have put their heads together in an attempt
to discover the cause of the incident and reconnect
the two halves of the planet.

Estimates of damages and casualties have not yet been
estimated, but the officials said that it was "considerable".

Dr. Irwin Fester, of Cal Tech's Burnmore Laboratory, said,
"We're working on it. We're considering an elaborate system of
hooks, trusses, pulleys, bridges, so on. There are many feasible
options available.

The governments of the world, through the United Nations,
issued this statement: "The world will be restored
to its previous unispherical configuration as soon as possible.
Stay calm, stay in your houses, go about your lives, and if you
live along the equator, step back. Be assured that we will
have the planet back up and running before too long."

Asked for a comment, Planet Earth said, "Shut the fuck up."

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Everything you say


will save me
from something

Everything I say
will save you
or lose you
to something
you don't know

If I could keep everything
out nothing
would get in
to start something inside
that will get away
from me

Everything we do
is to save
somebody
from something

All the messages
I protest
are not for me
but somebody
who doesn't know
what the message is
& how it will get in
on a lie
& take them away

Somebody I don't know
somebody out there
waiting
open
indefensible
depends on me
to stop the world
without knowing what
to do, what to say

Everything I don't say
sits inside
legs crossed
smoking
cool
unbroken
unbreakable
contagious

Take me please away
on understanding

I can't say it
any clearer
unless
I said nothing

Everybody knows
more is going on
than anybody knows
& nobody knows
what it is
that everybody here
fears we'll lose
or have lost
or will never find

It must already
be here
& never go
or else
it's too terrible
nothing, not enough
never

I'm trying to say
everything
& there is not one thing
in this poem
to stand on

I'm trying
to protect us
from what I'm saying

Hello

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

"Neanderthals mated with some modern humans AFTER ALL."


I have added CAPS to that first sentence
from the New York Times article entitled:

"Signs of Neanderthals Mating With Humans."

As you may know, years ago I dreamed of a Neanderthal mating
with a human. I did not dream of an orgy between human
beings and Neanderthals, which the headline suggests.
I dreamed of merely one Neanderthal and one human being.
In fact, it was a recurring dream.

As a result, I went to the science department of the local
village high school and reported on my dream to the science
teacher there, a Mister Bob Powell.

Mister Bob Powell laughed me out of his office.

Then I went to the local college, Olive View College,
and there a Professor James Livingston, Jr., also
laughed me out of his office and in fact had me escorted
off the campus. A lawsuit is pending against the college
and the Professor for my being "mishandled" by several
"drunken" security guards.

(My lawyers have advised me to use "neutral" words
like "mishandled" and to put "drunken" in quotes to
forestall a counter-suit.)

I then took my information about the Neanderthal and
the human mating to the Academy of Sciences and was
similarly dismissed with neither respect nor compunction.
In fact, I couldn't even get into the building, much less
laughed out of it.

To make a long story longer, I was shown the exit with
scorn and belligerence at almost every institution
related to science or Neanderthal study in the country
and several far-flung foreign countries as well, including
Canada, Mexico, etc.

And NOW, "AFTER ALL," it appears that science has abjectly
had to accept the fact that I was right and they were wrong.

"Neanderthals mated with some modern humans after all
and left their imprint in the human genome, a team of
biologists has reported in the first detailed analysis
of the Neanderthal genetic sequence."

As you see, there is no mention of my dreams in that
opening paragraph of the article, nor in any other
part of the article. They certainly have the time and
space to report the Neanderthal leaving his footprint
in the genetic sequence, but they have conveniently forgotten
me telling them about the Neanderthal and the human
mating business hundreds of times over the years.

That is, I don't know how many times they mated, but
I did tell science representatives about their mating
hundreds of times, as reported and confirmed again and
again in my dreams.

" ... The team concluded that about 1 percent to 4 percent
of the genome of non-Africans today is derived from Neanderthals.
But the Neanderthal DNA does not seem to have played a great role
in human evolution, they said."

Oh, they said, did they? They also said that Neanderthals did
not sleep with human beings either, and how did that turn out?

All right, so they agree AFTER ALL that I was right. They don't
mention me or my years of work in this field. That's all right.
They don't make one mention of me. They don't mention laughing
me out of every building and institution of science that I
went into. That's all right, too. Because my lifetime of work
has been vindicated.

But now they say that "Neanderthal DNA does not seem to have
played a great role in human evolution, they said."

Well well well.

However, then they change their tune and admit that:

"The nature of the genes in humans that differ from those
of Neanderthals is of particular interest because they bear
on what it means to be human, or at least not Neanderthal."

So now they change the subject. They say what is important
is "what it means to be human, or at least not Neanderthal."

Now it's being NOT Neanderthal. So they can't say what
it means to be a human being, but they CAN say what it
means to be a NOT Neanderthal. That's like saying what
a orange is by saying that it is not a apple.

So, they can't even say what they are as they do their studies
and experiments. They can't even say what it is that is doing
the experiments that conclude that at least they are NOT NEADERTHALS!

Worse, what suddenly happened to the part that IS Neanderthal?

Part 2 to follow, because I have indigestion from my outrage,
but let me leave you with this:

Why do they capitalize Neanderthal, but not human being?

And please don't give me a technical reason or something
about science.

Let, if you may, "your Neanderthal gene" answer that
question, and then we will begin to start getting
somewhere in the long and treacherous trek of
understanding ourself and what lurks inside where the
Neanderthal gene huddles in the darkness, shivering,
frightened, abandoned, mocked, and waiting, as we all
are, to be loved, respected, cared for, laughed WITH
not AT, and even dreamed of.

So, Part 2 will follow, although that last part may have
been Part 2 AFTER ALL.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Letters: Lips, Teeth, Tongue, Roof of Mouth.


Lips touch: B, M, P, W, Y(?)
Teeth touch lip: F, V
Tongue/teeth touch: B, E, W
Tongue touches roof of mouth: D, L, N, T, W
Teeth touch: J(?), Z(?)
Lips go out: G, J, O, Q, U, W, Y

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Monday, April 12, 2010

How to Win a Conversation With Your Sister About Who Named the Unconscious Forest.


We drove clear down through Gnosis Canyon, beautifically desolate, and up and out into a Van Gogh realm of loomful sky and rolling lemon hills, interspreckled by a village now in then of haystacks, mudholes, cows, buckets, donkeys, chimneys, cropfields, shadows, huts, wells, lots of winsome country folk performing winsome country tasks, and silence.

It was the perfect setting for me and Shane to strike up a friendly sibling conversation as we drove. I thought up something I felt would be a rather absorbing topic that I might emerge triumphant from.

“‘Unconscious Forest,’” I say, rolling the name around on my tongue. “I wonder what they mean by that.”

“Who?” says Shane.

“Whoever that named it.”

“What makes you think it’s more than one person?”

“What makes you think I think it’s more than one person?”

“You said, ‘I wonder what they mean by that.’”

“Oh.” I was behind already. “Well, I don’t think one person can go around naming a forest.”

“You’d be surprised,” Shane says. “Regardless, I have no idea what the gentleman or gentlemen meant by it, nor lady, nor ladies, as the case may be.”

“It appears you’re also picturing quite a large naming committee now.”

“I’m not picturing anything. I’m simply rearranging your misimpression.”

“I’m just trying to wonder what they, him, or her meant.”

“Go right ahead, for all the good it’ll do you. You could always ask them, him, or her. Of course, they’re probably dead by now.”

I had not thought of that. “Why would they be dead?”

“Because that’s what people get around to doing if enough time passes, which it probably has, since it’s been named Unconscious Forest for nine hundred years or something.”

That made me feel unexpectedly mystical and cozy. The people that named it “Unconscious Forest” were long dead and gone, but “Unconscious Forest” kept being named by them. “I wonder how you’d find out something like that. Who named a forest, and what they meant by it.”

“It must be on a list in some drawer in an office somewhere.”

“What office might that be?”

“I might have no idea.”

“Maybe their offspring would know what they meant by it. But, of course, even if they knew, that don’t mean they’d tell.”

“Why wouldn’t they tell?” asks Shane.

“They might tell, but that don’t mean it would be the truth.”

“Why would they lie?”

I shrugged. “Something to hide? Family secret?”

“What kind of a family secret would lead them to lie about what the name of a forest meant?”

“If I knew that, it wouldn’t be a secret.”

“You could know what kind of a family secret it was without knowing the actual secret.”

“I suppose I could, but I wouldn't care to.”

She made a eye-roll to hide the fact that she was falling behind. “Why don’t you hook them up to a lie detector?”

“On what grounds?”

“On the grounds of detecting if they’re lying about the family secret.”

“You can’t just hook people up to lie detectors to find out about a family secret. There’s laws. There’s decency.”

“What’s more important, finding something out, or laws and decency?”

“Depends how important it is what you’re finding out.”

“What if it’s the family secret of terrorists intent on destroying our village?”

“The offspring of the people that named it the Unconscious Forest are terrorists intent on destroying our village?”

She sniffled sidewise in one nostril, meaning we both knew the entire conversation was slipping away from her. “I’ll tell you something,” she says. “We ought to hook you up right now and find out if you really want to know what their family secret is, or if you’re merely trying to ruin a nice Sunday drive.”

“People can fool lie detectors.”

“Yes, psychopaths, ahem,” she snorts. “In any case, I doubt whoever named its offspring are psychopaths who could fool a lie detector about a family secret.”

“Why not?”

“Well, I would hope not.”

“Why would you hope their offspring wasn’t psychopaths that could fool a lie detector about a family secret any more than anybody else’s offspring?”

She started to answer, saw that she had lost, let her head loll back, and pretended to start snoring. It was fake as cardboard pudding, but, win or lose, if somebody don’t want to have a friendly conversation about the Unconscious Forest to pass the time, nobody can make you.

--from ANIMAL MYSTERIOSO

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

SIT.


It rained for three days. I had a cold for three days. I disappeared in the rain & snot. Clover was scared, kept calling, made me set the tent back up, I wanted to sit in the storm like Simeon must have, die the most perfectly miserable death ever. It’s just a cold, I told her, it’s just rain, but I hoped for the worst. If I caught pneumonia they’d have to come up and drag me down, though I’d put up a convincing fight. I blew my nose so much it started bleeding for the first time since spotting in the tree with Dostoevsky. I let it bleed down me. It was soothing. Justifying. It finally stopped, the rain, the cold, the snot, the blood. The sun that baker charged out jolly in his big white hat, smacking his hands together, flour flying. I was still alive. Still up.

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Two Paragraphs a Day Keep the Apple Away.


Wobbling along the sidewalk on baby’s legs,
I looked up over my shoulder at the platform.
It was like a deserted island in the air.
I might have hacked it out of a jungle, a patch
of civilization the wilderness would now recall.
I imagined green twigs sprouting from the redwood,
rust eating the orange paint, the ink of every thought
in my journal beginning to fade already in the sun.

Nobody recognized me. I was just another member
of the lost, anonymous mass pretending that it knew
where it was wandering, and it felt good, it felt
right, easy, as if we were all actors in some play
that perfectly walked the line between absurdity
and grace. I felt like giggling, and that everybody
else felt like it, too, but it wasn’t in the script,
so we were holding it in.

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Flannery O'Connor & Thomas Merton: Mutual Admiration Society


From Robert Giroux's Introduction to Flannery O'Connor: The Complete Stories:

One of Flannery's admirers was Thomas Merton, who became more of a fan with each new book of hers. Over the years I came to see how much the two had in common—-a highly developed sense of comedy, deep faith, great intelligence. The aura of aloneness surrounding each of them was not an accident. It was their métier, in which they refined and deepened their very different talents in a short span of time. They both died at the height of their powers.

Finally, they were both as American as one can be. When publication of Merton's The Sign of Jonas was forbidden by the Abbot General in France, I was able to obtain its release only with the help of Jacques Maritain, who wrote him in beautiful French (the Abbot General did not read English and consequently had not read The Sign of Jonas), explaining what the "American Trappist" was up to. As for Flannery, whose work can only be understood in an American setting, when a German publisher wanted to drop some of her stories as too shocking for Germanic sensibilities, she wrote Miss McKee, "I didn't think I was that vicious."

On a trip south in 1959 I stopped at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky to see Merton, before going to see Flannery in Georgia. He gave me a presentation copy of the beautifully designed private edition of Prometheus: A Meditation to take to her. He was much interested in Flannery's peacocks.

From previous visits to "Andalusia" I was able to tell him about their habits—how they roost at dusk by gradual hops from ground to fence post to tree limb; how their trains get caught under car wheels because they refuse to hurry; how vain they are (they seemed to jockey for good angles when they saw my camera); how funny it is to see peachicks rehearsing with their immature featherduster tails; and how rare it is to see the ultimate display, when the peacock shimmers and shakes his feathers in a kind of ecstasy at the height of preening.

I could not tell Merton enough about them or about Flannery and her surroundings. What was Milledgeville like? Well, one of its sights was the beautiful ante-bellum Cline house, where Flannery's aunt served a formal midday dinner. He was surprised to learn that far from being "backwoods" Milledgeville had once been the capital of Georgia.

I also showed him a letter in which Flannery wrote: "Somebody sent me a gossip column that said Gene Kelly would make his TV debut in Flannery O'Connor's 'backwoods love story' [The Life You Save May Be Your Own]. I certainly can't afford to miss this metamorphosis."

When I got to the O'Connors', Flannery was curious to hear about Gethsemani. Was Merton allowed to talk to me? Yes, without restriction. I described our walks in the woods and the monastic routine of the day: first office (Matins) at two a.m. and last office (Compline) at sunset, followed by bed.

I mentioned that in Louisville I'd bought Edith Sitwell's recording of Facade, which Merton played over and over, laughing so hard that tears ran down his cheeks, and Flannery asked me to recite some of the poems. Even my pallid approximation of Dame Edith's renderings of "Daisy and Lily, lazy and silly," "Long Steel Grass" (pronounced "Grawss"), "Black Mrs. Behemoth" and the rest made her face light up with smiles.

When Flannery died, Merton was not exaggerating his estimate of her worth when he said he would not compare her with such good writers as Hemingway, Porter and Sartre but rather with "someone like Sophocles.... I write her name with honor, for all the truth and all the craft with which she shows man's fall and his dishonor."

Two of my most favorite people & writers of all everywhere & time.

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

How small


a thing it is will make me want to fly over the world looking for people to save from all the things. You might think I would be wiser by now. A look comes, a word doesn't. How big a world it is and how little a thing it is will make me want to never leave the house. A letter comes, a phone call doesn't. How sad a little happy thing it is to make me who I am. It is hard to explain anything but the impossible news which everybody already knows. Beauty is in not knowing what you clearly see. It is a little thing on the wind carrying everything passing by. How small the turn of the universe in her glance, blinking once. Once lasts forever. Please, please, thank you, thank you, you are welcome. How small, please see. Soon kindness will arrive here. Let every big fast thing go forever past understanding to try. Small, silent, unseen, everything feeling love once. I believe you.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

27 days to go, and what have I got to show?


Even with Clover’s legal bills & new car,
we’re richer coming out than going in, but am I wiser?
Spiritualler? A better man? A bigger idiot than ever?
The American people deserve to know if their flagpole-sitter
is an idiot. Who but an idiot would declare that he’s not an idiot?

Was the blowjob spiritual? It did save my sanity
to have gotten it when I found out about her & Sam.
Forgive me, Clover, for I forgive you. Oh, lie! Whale lie!
Well, I want to forgive you.

My insides are a ghost ship on the sea of what’s happened.

"They endured," Faulkner said. Endurance is 95% of wisdom.
Endure long enough and you’re bound to discover something small
(because everything big is in ruins), something simple, hiding
in plain sight, something you’ve known forever and keep forgetting,
because it’s small & strong & hiding in so big & ruined a world.

I shoulda coulda written a book while I was up. Instead of thousands
of silly, pompous, sullen little chicken scratchings.

I do feel sometimes like a monk on a snowy mountain.
I look down, nothing is near; look up, all is hidden.

I see Nate, Clover & me sitting in a nice living room in the future
-—sunshine streaming in, reading the paper, feet up, windows open
wide, enjoying the view, a veil playing like jazz over everything,
woven of mystery and sorrow. God, help us learn to love in the midst
of the storms that tear us & the world limb from limb.

Only 3 other sitters still up, says Clover. Only one in sight
is the old woman where Kerridge was. The rest stand empty.
Ghost platforms.

The numbers had dwindled to 20 or so, then an itty bitty earthquake
hit in the middle of the night. There’ve been plenty little shakers,
you get used to ‘em, ride ‘em out, but this was bad enough for Clover
& I to call and see if we were okay. Most of the pretenders panicked
& scurried down. I laughed & laughed, with compassion.

At first I suspected the old woman was Kerridge himself in a wig
and dress, or some other psycho he’d hired. Except he doesn’t have
two nickels to rub together, and—-I called to make sure—-he’s still
in Vistaview.

I wish I could make out the titles of the books the old woman reads.
Wonder if she wonders what I’m reading. The "Kafka" on the cover
is pretty big, but if she’s got binos I’ve never seen them.
Neither have I seen her on a phone. She meditates, plus yoga
& that slow-motion karate. Accoutrements-wise, she’s got the bare
bones. She’s up there in years, though sometimes appears younger,
which could be merely the way the light keeps changing the details
of everything all the time up here.

I was wondering if maybe she could be some kind of an actual nun
or monkess or something, on sabbatical perhaps.

She has three outfits—big capes or bathrobes or something—-one black,
one white, one red. And big hats to match. Too stylish for my taste.
It subverts her austerity. Sometimes she lugs around a picnic basket.
It tipped over one time and I swear it looked like she had chains
in there, like big chains, anchor chains. Which means she’s crazy.

She has yet to acknowledge my presence. At this distance, of course,
she could be slyly eyeing me all day. Is it possible she doesn’t
realize that I’m here, that I’m the one responsible
for the genesis of it all?

I’ve never even see her eat, much less ablutions, etc.
I’m not watching her 24 hours a day, & there are ways to do things
up here that defy perception. One thing irks me—-Curly deserted
me for her. He drops in here, spends five seconds, flies straight to
her and hangs out. She must have better peanuts.

Clover said she hadn’t heard anything about the woman. The media’s
dropped the craze like a dirty sock.

There’s a crisis in the Middle East.

Nate’s acquired ambition, studying, getting A’s, thinking for himself,
even found a friend, some sort of entrepreneurial type, I gather from Clover.

Clover’s actually getting it together in AA. We talk every day.

I’ve got a few more gray hairs. White. I kind of like it. I earned ‘em.
---------
From The Flagpole-Sitter of Western Avenue.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bukowski on Kafka & Henry James.


"Kafka, unlike your Henry James, was not ordinarily
intelligent or discerning. Kafka was a god damned
petty clerk who lived a god damned petty life and wrote
about it, the dream of it, the madness of it. There is
one novel where a man enters this house, this establishment,
and it appears that from the viewpoint of others that he
is guilty of something but he does not know what. He is
shuffled from room to room, endlessly, to the rattle of
papers and bureaucracy, a silent simmering horrible living
dream of ordinary mad and pressing, senseless everyday life.
Most of his book are on this order: the shadow, the dream,
the stupidity. Then there are other things--where a man turns
into a bridge and lets people walk across him, where a man
turns into a giant cockroach and his sister feeds him as he
hides under the bed. Others, others. Kafka is everything.
Forget Henry James. James is a light mist of silk. Kafka
is what we all know." --SCREAMS FROM THE BALCONY (letters)

And, of course, like Bukowski, Kafka will have you rolling
on the floor in the middle of the nightmare. Henry James,
not so much.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

I asked about a couch floating loose in outer space.


For research on a story, I asked an internet expert:

Which would last longer floating loose in outer space,
a couch or a refrigerator?

Also, if you were an astronaut floating loose in outer space
and could grab hold of either a couch or a refrigerator,
which would be the best to grab hold of, and why?

I was informed that the stuffing in the couch could expand
if there happened to be gas trapped in it. The pipes of the
fridge, on the other hand, would likely explode.

It was recommended that the astronaut grab hold of the
fridge, because it would be better to jump off of, although
the boots of the astronaut suit would probably be magnetized,
which would fight against jumping off.

I said that I liked the expanding stuffing in the couch.
How would it go about trapping gas? If it was foam it
would have trapped it naturally before being pushed into
space. If the fridge's pipes burst, could you hear it?
I was informed that yes, if you were close enough you might
hear it a little bit, I imagine because there is air trapped
in the pipe molecules.

Another expert chimed in that it didn't matter whether I
or the astronaut chose the couch or the refrigerator
because my or the astronaut's oxygen would run out shortly
anyway & my or the astronaut's body would drift until time
ended or the universe repeated itself with the big bang.
Of course you could say that about any choice, that it didn't
matter because you or the astronaut was going to die, which
doesn't really help, but you can't stop somebody on the
internet from giving you bad expert advice.

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The Flagpole-Sitter's Journal.


Clover has barely opened the place the last three days.
Won’t talk to me. Nothing but hi from Nate scurrying off
to school & sneaking back in the afternoon. He’s under orders.

Overcast. Sky like gauze. The light is silver, watery.
Ahmad Jamal on. "Excerpts from the Blues". I close one eye
& the city is flat and fake as a movie set, cardboard, flimsy.
Breeze sax lazy. The trees down by Wilshire Country Club hula.
You can almost see the wire holding up a yellow Piper Cub
against the paper sky. Everything is waiting. A man in a ragged
overcoat smokes & rocks foot to foot in the alcove of
Glorious Balloons, Cakes & Gifts.

How I’ll love taking her in my arms. She’ll cry like
a lost child found. But she’s got to ask first. Ask,
Clover, ask. Then I’ll have no choice.

Had a little tiny earthquake in the middle of the night. Felt
plenty shakers before, none on a pole. In-ter-est-ing. The light
went on in the apartment, she peeked through the curtains, light
went back out.

Still, people have their snapping point. What if she cracked
and torched the place for the insurance? And the flames spread
up here!

I’m starting tentative syllabi for classes. I’d like to teach somewhere
cool, Oregon, Washington, maybe Seattle, my birthplace. I’d like
to teach in a way that whenever my students opened a book it would be
like the first book they ever opened, & we would enter it like you
would enter unknown woods.

What if the restaurant took off as a result of my interview
with Hoover? She sure as hell wouldn’t beg me to
get down then. I must build this bomb with care.

I’m starting to feel sorry for Shipwreck. I forgive him, now it’s
almost over. Poor old deranged bastard.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Should a writer use dreams in fiction?


Holy smokes, dreams can be useful & entertaining as hell
in both life & fiction. Just because one person might be unable
to use dreams effectively in a story, that doesn't mean everybody
is equally incapable. The problem with dream-telling is that most
people take too long. I agree with whoever said make a dream obviously
a dream, or say the guy had a dream about such and such, boom.

In life & fiction people go on too damn long with their dreams.
Give me the highlight, and if I want more, I'll ask.

Anybody ever hear of "the fictive dream"?

It goes without saying that a dream shouldn't be used to trick
the reader into thinking that something is happening in "real life"
that is "only a dream," but I'll say it anyway.

I've dreamed startling solutions to problems I've been having
in a story. I can't imagine how a writer would find their dreams
unimportant. Ahem, theyre messages from your freaking subconscious.
What could be weirder, more intriguing?

You're asleep & strange stories are running through your head.
What the?

Jung said, "You tell me you have had many dreams lately
but have been too busy with your writing to pay attention to them.
You have got it the wrong way round. Your writing can wait
but your dreams cannot because they come unsolicited from within
and point urgently to the way you must go."

Whenever I think or write about dreams, that night I'll have
a vivid remarkable dream.

In fact, somebody reading this will tonight experience
a dream of either flying in color or the eyes of a buffalo
that will blow their mind & free them up for a
bewildering creative transformation.

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sheila, Gus, Jesus, Henry Miller & the Beach Boys.


Sheila & Gus. Not that I didn’t love them. I did,
like the back of my hand. But they drove me nuts.
They were both on disability, God bless them,
him from the service, her for being blind.
Plus they were practicing alcoholics, and they
were very good at that particular craft.

One time Gus was suggesting obliquely that he was Jesus,
and I happened to smirk. From then on I was "That Buddhist."
I’m a Buddhist because I’m agnostic about Gus being Jesus. OK.
He had an 8-word postcard from Henry Miller, so he said, that
he’d shown me 50 times. Every time he was drunk, he popped his
wallet out. "Have I shown you this personal postcard from Henry
Miller?" "Yes." He showed it to me anyway. You couldn’t even
read it it’d been folded & unfolded so many times. Gus said
it said "With best wishes from your pal Henry Miller."
It probably said "Leave me the hell alone you damn fool!"

One time it sounded like they were rolling a bowling ball
around in their bathtub. There were crunching noises
accompanying the bowling ball, and giggling. I went over
to complain & they played dumb, asking each other if they
knew what I "might be talking about." At least the damn noises
stopped. What I suspected was, they were rolling the bowling ball
around in the bathtub & then dropping cockroaches in at the same time.

They were over there drunk once killing each other,
as far as I was concerned. I pounded on the wall
but the mayhem continued. It sounded like they were picking
each other up and throwing each other against the wall.
Maybe they were having some kind of loon sex, I didn’t care.
I went over and pounded on the door and stepped back a ways.
The door swung open revealing Gus naked as a jaybird except
for big plaid socks. I said, "How about going ahead & killing
each other & getting it over with!" "That goddamn Buddhist!" Gus
hollers. Sheila was behind him in a fake fur coat and a motorcycle
helmet. "Run, Richard, run!" she says. "Where’s my pants!" Gus says.
"I’m getting that goddamn Buddhist once & for all!" "Run, Richard,
run!" I went over and complained to the landlord for about the
hundredth time. He was scared to death of Gus because the guy did
have a gun, although he brandished it one time he was drunk
and it was all rusted to hell and the barrel was bent half back
on itself.

They had one record: the Beach Boys’ Greatest Hits. They played
it all day long and she’d sing along at the top of her lungs,
like Olive Oyl. I used to blast my music and drown them
out. One morning about 4 am (they had no schedule, no work,
and were not into clocks) I woke up to “Help me Rhonda” squawling
over there. I banged on the wall; they turned it up. They had
a little phonograph Gus had hooked up to four monstrous speakers
he’d stolen from somewhere, so all the songs sounded the same,
like ten trees full of drunken squawking parrots. I went down
to the power box and shut the power off to their apartment.
“Help me Rhooooo …”

Their checks would run out toward the end of the month. They were
furnished apartments. He’d take what was left of some dresser
or coffee table they’d half destroyed and try to sell it to
the neighbors, most of whom didn’t speak much English.
They knew enough not to open the door. He’d get pissed
& start hollering: "Antique coffee table! Fifty cents!"

The only peace I had was when he’d get tossed in jail
for a couple days for some drunken exploit. She was fine
by herself, happy, sufficient, peaceful. It was almost as if
she could see when he wasn’t there. Still, she missed him.
Then one day they were gone. I thought they’d finally
killed each other, but they’d absconded in the night.
They’d taken the faucets & ceiling fan & anything they could
stuff in a sack. The landlord showed me the place. There were
even two doors missing, hinges and all. About a year later
I saw them at the Safeway buying beer, an artichoke, and a
TV Guide. I almost said hello but decided no good could
come of it. I already had all the memories of them I could
comfortably use.

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Where would I be if my father hadn’t died?


I’d have followed his path, engineer, scientist,
working on some secret government rocketry project,
as he had been before he died, according to my mother.
There’s so much I don’t know about him. And now never will.
Even things I remember I wonder if I remember right.

When he died the science door slammed shut. It hurt too much
to do what he had done. Engineering, formulas, machines—-dead
& buried. For me, numbers would not crack the mysterious nut
of existence, of life nor death.

Then I read a story. Oddly, it was about a rocket ship.
Uncle Wayne gave me a collection of science fiction tales
to take my mind off the end of the world as I knew it.

There was one nugget in there about a group of people
who lived in a tall building. They accidentally discovered
that the building was a disguised alien rocket ship designed
to shanghai earthlings back to the alien planet. At the moment
of discovery, the rocket engines started up under the building.

The people ran outside to what they thought was a safe distance away,
but then the ground started lifting off right under them—the whole
entire block was an alien rocket ship, now headed into outer space.

At first I laughed at the surprise of it. Then it sank in.
I saw it as the depiction of a horrible predicament you escape,
then you look around & see you’re still in the middle of it,
& may have no way to get out.

No matter how smart you were, there was always something big & powerful
& unknown going on behind everything.

Storytelling had touched me, frightened & thrilled. Most stories
pretend to have answers to the big questions, because that’s what
people want. But some stories present the truth as a mystery,
too strange to be known. What was the secret of the “fuck you”
scratched on the wall of the Egyptian tomb room at the museum
in Catcher in the Rye? How many times would Brer Wolf throw Brer
Rabbit into the briar patch? Why did Raskolnikov murder the old
woman? In the incident of the stoning of the prostitute, what did
Jesus kneel & write in the sand & then wipe away?

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