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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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"What's that thing on your back?"

I always feel elated after a visit to the doctor
that turns out to be nothing. Regular visit to the
dermatologist today. She froze off four dealies (nothing
essential), including one slightly gross thing in the
middle of my back. We soaked in the sun in baby oil as kids
all summer long, so it's nice to continue to not find any

Every time I get back from the doc with a clean slate
I feel reborn. Just amazing serene energy. Course there'll
come a time (if I'm not hit by a bus) where a doc will say,
"Jesus Christ, what's that! Well, I hope you haven't started
writing any novels lately." But until then...

I was thinking a person could make some quick cash if they got
one of those dermatologist's freezing machines & went around
door to door freezing questionable growths off neighbors &
other strangers. You couldnt really do much harm. I mean how
many growths couldn't be improved by getting themselves froze
off? And it'd sure make people feel better, until it grew back.
And then you just say, Hey, what do I know, you need to get to
a doctor. I wonder what a good used dermatologist freezing machine
goes for these days.

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