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Blog Title Photo

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Noisy Place

I must loosen up and get my posture right! Also I'm not fully awake. What is the point of doing zazen while asleep?

A noisy sleepy mind!

The lake is enveloped by fog. The water is calm, motionless. Not even a ripple.


Long night, one dream salvaged:

I was in the mixing studio with Ismail. Suddenly I looked at the screen. There stood a giant airplane, shaped like a bird, but it had leather wings, like skin stretched between the long finger bones of a bat. I was aware that there was another airplane that I dreamed of all my life, that was built of feathers. I could choose which one I wanted to fly in.

The one of leather repulsed and disgusted me.

After that I could not sleep. For some reason I thought about the space program, Chuck Yeager, and John Glenn. Also for some reason I thought a lot about the chemical process for making soap, in the old days, first using wood ash to make lye, then combining the lye with various oils.

I wonder if the 'lye' in my dream had to do with any 'lies' in my life.

Ah, my dreamer sent soap, to wash my soul!


The wood in the stove burned out around one or two o'clock. The building went suddenly from being too hot, to frigid cold. My sweating turned to shivering. Towards morning I passed into a deep sleep. Now I am up, trying to begin the day's disciplines.

Writing. Zazen. Breakfast.


What spirit, other than discipline, or a mad sense of loyalty to craft, motivates me to write?

Czeslaw Milosz writes in his opening to Visions from San Francisco Bay:

"Each of us is so ashamed of his own helplessness and ignorance that he considers it appropriate to communicate only what he thinks others will understand. There are however times when somehow we slowly divest ourselves of that shame and begin to speak openly about all the things we do not understand. If I am not wise, then why must I pretend to be?"

What a synchronous gift to find these words at this time.

Never in my life have been so clearheaded about how unsure I am of everything. I feel ridiculously empty and out of answers!

The pattern that I thought organized my existence and the way I see the world seems more fragile than a butterfly's wing. The values I once regarded as rock solid, now seem useless lumps of wood, rotting back to the earth. How can I write? What can I write, what can I share? I have never been so clear in my lack of understanding. I am not wise, it would be pointless for me to pretend that. But how can I stand on one of my old soft stumps and read words to you which are not true?

Yet somehow words can be distilled out of any mental state, out of any point of being, or state of transformation  Ah, it just happens that now I am undergoing a great amount of suffering. I cannot say much about anything than what is happening inside me now. It is the only thing I am am sure of. As if in one night, all my old ideas deserted me, all the ways I used to think, are no longer there to confort me. I feel as if all the meaning wrung from my hardships of the past nine years had run away. All my conquering, which I built alone, is gone. How is that possible? And yet, since it has happened, I would find it difficult to go on living with these old bits of thinking and would not even want to.

If they left so suddenly, they must have been false.

What I wonder, turned them on their heels, and set them running?

Ah, I feel empty now. I don't feel immune anymore. Surely I will add, and build again. I suppose I will be more careful this time in what I take on.

I have been here before, once or twice. Each time I suppose it gets more difficult. I suppose it is all for the good, this cleansing process, this letting go. I thought it would happen on my trip to India, but it did not. Then I thought when I came back it would. But it didn't. Instead it rallied old energies. I built the airplane, and worked on the film. After that I was sure the collapse would happen. Like a waiter with too many dishes on his tray, I could feel it falling. I felt it falling in advance. I even planned for it.

Morning Zazen

Sitting has become easier. My crossed legs don't go to sleep as often.

Ah, but keeping my mind clear, that is very hard! Zazen is not easy.

Now I have a headache, from eating too many pancakes.


Yesterday I labored on the car. It felt odd doing city-dweller tasks in a place such as this. The tools are here, time is here, so I repaired a dent in my rear tail light. A Boston mishap, a quick turnaround became a minor collision after veering down a one-way street. A close one. Always learning.

Every so often I paused and watch the changing colors of the lake and trees. The few leaves seem to know everything that would ever happen to this world.

My work finished, I walked down to the Symonds porch and stood there, listening to the water lap on the rocky beach. I watched the day close, the way one watches a drama on stage. I saw the lavender twigs on the mountains pick up the orange and magenta glow of the setting sun. I drew in all the cool and scrubbed air that my lungs could gather. After so many breaths I caught a hint of woodsmoke. It must be my wood stove, which I could see curling pale grey exhalations from the top of the kitchen chimney.

I paused as I often do, by the set of wooden steps that I built fourteen years ago, leading from the Symonds lawn down to the water. They are nearly rotten, but have held together all these years.

I brought the picnic table which I built for them that summer out of the exposed air by the open fireplace, and stored it upside down at the back of the lean-too. I remembered well the moments spent concentrating as I built these things of wood.

One Symonds guest, L__, used to try to break that concentration by walking up and down the porch in her yellow bikini. I remember her sitting at the back of the lean-too while I explained to her what I thought should be done with the fireplace in front. She sat with legs spread wide apart. Every so often during our conversation, I saw what she wanted me to see. There wasn't much hair on it. It was very bare, and clean and firm. She taunted me with it, tried to distract me. I never broke down, though my voice faltered. I always kept it on the level of that conversation that we were having. Perhaps that's why she continued playing these little games with me.

One rainy night we drove out together to the gate at the end of the road to leave a key for some friends who were driving in. L__ didn't want to drive back right away. "Let's just sit in the car a bit," she said. I think we talked for fifteen minutes or so, then she had to pee. She opened the door of the truck, then said, "Come around and hold my hand. I don't want to fall over in the wet bushes."

So I got out and went round and held her hand as she peed.

She was twice my age. She even had children. I knew she wanted me to make a pass at her. Finally she relented and let me drive the truck back to camp.

All these memories, of people who were younger than I am now. Perhaps this is just what memory is, a repository of time, an imaginary flesh and blood album of photos, diary pages, old stories recounted. In the city, experience seems to move more quickly than one's own life. So it is difficult as an urbanite to note the passing of time. I always used to notice transitions to the countryside. Time slowed.

But with trees and leaves and snow as a witness, eternity becomes all too meaningful. It acquires an almost unbearable presence. Time whacks you on the head, as you move through it. Every moment becomes a universal birth.

I walked back to camp, heated up some stew and ate it slowly. At seven I walked over to the Brandreths and joined all the hunters that were there for a drink of cognac after dinner.


I see the sickly needles on the tamaracks and remember Monty Python's musings on 'The Larch'. Their leaves have turned a milky pumpkin color. At first I thought they were ill, perhaps they are also affected by the spruce blight. Now I realize this is the first time I've noticed a tamarack during late fall. They turn color and shed needles like a hardwood.

I'm very surprised to see that with all this snow, there are still some robins about. One of them found a bare patch beneath the big pine in front of the kitchen. If must be over the warmth of the septic tank, soil still soft, worms active. He stands there all day long listening for and pulling up worms. He must have a voracious appetite to be able to eat this much! I watched him for a solid hour, and he has eaten something at the rate of every minute or so, sometimes a large worm, other times just a little grub or beetle.

On my way to the boathouse for water he surprised me. He took a little break from his eating and was hiding to stay warm under the porch steps. As I descended, he flew out and seemed very startled. Sorry Mr. Robin. I must admit I was startled too.

Without the shouts of children and colored sails on the lake what is the the reason for all these buildings? The patient deer heads in the kitchen, with their red kerchiefs that Dad put around their necks watch over the long breakfast table, the lanterns, their wicks turned low. They'll watch another winter fly by.

Is it cruel of us not to take pity on ourselves for missing these moments? Somehow we create, but duck out on what we've created. We infuse these tokens with our own spirits, become responsible for them, but go missing precisely when they mature. What we're responsible for is not physical, it's some other quantity, that if neglected, perishes.

Could we be waiting be for something enduring, memories that last? If spirit is there is it only in the adorning aspect, the image, the friendly look, which we admire? The physical self seems as patient, as accepting, yet as dumb, as my car.

I put on some big ill fitting boots and trudged out in the snow to North Pond. The sticky snow was melting and sliding in white lumps off the branches. Every time a tree let go of a patch of snow the branches sprang up, as if glad to be rid of their load. Everywhere I heard snow falling, thump, thump, invisible ghosts converging on me through the trees.

The yellow sun poked out behind some clouds. The air between the trees drew a steady drizzle from the branch-tops. Bits of snow fell into the water of the pond, it made me think trout were jumping, and that fish are swarming near the surface.

How noisy the woods are today.

Clarence stopped by with some mail. We talked about winter fishing. Most of it was catch-up talk. He said the deer were in the height of their rut, all the bucks were running through the woods not paying attention to safety.

"If you see a doe go by, keep quiet and wait a half hour, chances are a buck will be right after her."

Early morning again, I'm stiff from zazen. Cold wet snow on the ground, cold wet snow falling out of the sky. Trees on Baldy Mountain, white with snow.

Hot coffee beside me, a fire burning in the stove. What were my dreams last night? I can't remember them now. No matter. There is so much foolishness in my life. I'd like to write about all of it but at this time I really don't know if I can accurately see what is foolish and what is not.

Wind blows snow from the roof, a white cloud swirls by the window.

Water to wash dishes and bathe with, is boiling.

November 4, 1983

The sky oozed persistent drizzle from a muddy layer of clouds. I tried not to think about the past or future, just focused my eyes ahead on the road.

The wet forced a heavy chill into my legs but my car heater for some reason wouldn't work. After just a few hours on the Taconic both feet and knees were numb. 

First stop was at the Martindale, a shiny stainless steel diner we know as "Big Chief". The rain kept pouring down. 

Shivering, I slumped into one of the booth seats near the window. A blast of hot air warmed my knees, a radiator beneath the table. The waitress took my order, a cheeseburger and coffee. 

Three salesmen with Southern accents sat at a nearby booth. They had been in Albany, on business, some kind of equipment convention. They talked about trucks. I kept hearing the term, 'twin diesel'. 

"Marty, he had five tractors last year, turned 'em all in for a pair of new twins."

After some time their bill arrived and there was some arguing betwixt them about who should pay it. The one that had talked the most ended up with the check.

"It all comes out of the same pocket anyway," he said.

The others were deferent to him, as if by paying for the burgers he had acquired another fleet of twin diesels  Then they all stood up, looking very uncomfortable in their suits and neckties. They stood by the register as the change was counted and the youngest came back to leave a tip. He put a dollar fifteen on the table. Then they all went out.

The waitress brought more coffee so I asked her what the pies were, but ended up getting powdered donuts to take with me in the car.

My associations with Big Chief have become almost philosophic. It seems that I go there just to prove some point to myself about a concurrent reality of places and events, knowing that if I sneak in there at an odd moment on a rainy day I will find life there, and that by intersecting that little bit of it I can somehow reconstitute in my imagination, all that has passed since my last visit. Checking in to a parallel path. This I find reassuring.

Some primal gene deep within.

By the time I reached Warrensburg, the day had gone. I bought vegetables, fruit, canned tuna and bread, filled up with gas, and resumed driving.

The trip sped by, strangely unmarked by events, or views of passing landmarks. The weather reduced experience to a cone of reality revealed by headlights, black roadway, falling raindrops, set to the music of the wiper blades. Night and rain limited my recognition of the passing world.

I followed a black thread, confident only that the route was correct. The rain turned to blinding whirling snow. I was a pilot, flying in zero vision. Giant snowflakes flew up at me like rare white moths. The car threw light ahead only a few feet. Occasionally the trunk of a birch would jump out of the dark, like a bandaged thumb.

Somehow I made it, stayed on the road, managed not to get stuck in the snow. I found the key and unlocked the door, and swung it open. I found a candle, and lit a fire. I went to the solemn black water of the lake and filled two buckets.


Now it is morning,

I look out but barely see an outline of mountains. Snow still falls, though lightly. All the kettles are on the new wood stove, full of water, clicking and boiling. They've struck up a tune with the fire. All else is still, and attentive.

I make coffee, have a bit of chocolate, sit down again Snow blankets the ground, makes the bare trees on the hillsides seem like the soft overlapping feathers on a duck's body. The rooftops are white with no definition, no tones of grey, no shading. They seem ready to jump off the landscape, but they are waiting. Waiting for what?

Design does not always relate to our intent, or to function.

The man who hurled a curse instead of a weapon, was he the founder of civilization? Was it Freud who said said this?  Against the yellow glow of the gas light all the slate grey world of tree bark and snow turns a deep ultramarine blue. Freud would be more interested in the colors of the world, not what that world is becoming.

I occupy my mind writing these small thoughts, aware that some other unexpressed thought must have taken charge, one I cannot yet put on paper.

Is the thing unseen more formed, but simply less noticed? Or is it unformed and unseen because it is not developed? Or is it repressed because it represents a threat to the order of the world. Dangerous, to the neat order of snow on shingles, or fog on a mountain.

Or are these little bits of idleness of no importance?

I strapped on my boots and went for a long silent meander to West Pond. Winter is preparing to put the earth to sleep. The trails are visible in light snow, but they are of no importance. The ground cover has died back, the woods are open. All paths are open.

It was near dark when I returned. I sloughed off my boots. Who heard them come off? I bathed in the tin tub with ladlefuls of hot water, from the kettles on the stove, then went for a roll in the freezing snow. The effect was not as strong as I'd have liked.

I re-stoked the fire, re-read old fragments of newspapers left in the woodbox. Cover to cover and one by one I consigned them to an ashy fate. 

The gas lights hiss and flutter. The stove clicks and purrs. My hand makes a sound like a little mouse, sliding back and forth across the paper. 

Is it better to write with longing and desire, than with the satisfaction of experience and achievement? 

Nothing kills mystery so much as knowledge. Do I love what I know, or what I dream of? 


My father has arrived, but a cold snowstorm keeps us stoking the fire in the kitchen for two straight days. Bored we try our hand at making apple pie. Cabin fever, I become locked into a spy thriller found on the shelf above my bed.

We share our table every night with Uncle Muff, also with Clarence and Lee Brandreth, and spend a lot of time listening to and telling tall tales. My heart is somewhere else, not here. My work routine and discipline collapsed when Dad arrived.

After two days the storm lets up. Lee Brandreth and I take our rifles for a slow walk over Panther Pond Mountain. I broke up small dry twigs of birch and spruce and we made tea under a slate ceiling of clouds, pregnant with rain. Lee wants to get a buck but I'm happy stooping on the wet leaves, holding a tin cup of hot tea made from melted snow.


The moon's daily period must be slower than that of the sun by approximately 1/30th. Since it waxes from right to left the sun is essentially racing ahead in relative terms across the sky. The half-moon theoretically rises at noon - then sets at midnight. The full moon rises when the sun is setting, sets when the sun is rising. All to be adjusted, and varies by season, latitude, local time zone, and adjustments for daylight savings.


What is the force driving Western Civilization? Is there some crux at the core of our mythos that pushes us to do what we do? These mountains will be bare in a half-century. Yes there are woods. The whole place is green in the summer. But the soil layer has been devastated by a century of heavy lumbering. 


I don't assume it should be self-evident, that life is better now than when we lived in caves. 

Mankind searches to purify himself, but wants to drive onwards, like the car in the rain. Our existence is in conflict with our technological explorations. As a result we have failed to osmose through our technological vanity, through our tough outer skin, and emerge like a new butterfly from a chrysalis.

If the individual may achieve kensho, why cannot the world?

A thought, like a wave, comes in, whispers something, then goes out.

A Note, an Observation

They don't strike me as men with values of their own. They recognize good when they see it in others, also dishonesty as long as they see it in others, but to their own behavior and conduct in this regard they are blind. They are more to be trusted with what they are in search of, i.e. their ideals, and ideas, than with what they have already acquired, or taken possession of and made their own. They are searchers.

They'll forfeit humanity to obtain their success. Good they'll do, once they have had a look around and have seen who will notice and how that will help their cause. Their morality is exploitive. 'Upon seeing goodness they in others, they'll import some quantity their own account so long as it is profitable. Theirs is a value system gained by mimicry. What they hear they'll repeat but only if it becomes a chorus. They disparage dishonesty in others, but to their own lies and deceits they are blind. They seem trustworthy with what they are in search of, but not with what they have already taken.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Quest-less Quest - Part I

Was he Vate, Bard or Knight?

I'm sure John sensed in me his same brand of Celtic madness, though his particular savvy was De gaulle, his anger Sartre, for the church.Cynicism? Bukowski, he used it to propel him into suspended hilarity, at the edge of the next outburst. His laughter could shake the earth and made up for the unease he carried around with him. Long grey hair, unkempt, knotted, a bouncy manic stride, deep frown. Everything John said made people nervous but fortunately his explosions of mirth came as relief.

If life seemed hysterically funny, I wondered what parts of it had been tragic.

John inhaled weed, destroyed Scotch and popped acid whenever he had the chance. Booze he complained "does little except uncurl my eyebrows."

His principal vice was tobacco. "Cigarettes help me think," he said. "If I have an idea, I have to run out for a pack otherwise I can't do anything."

I was thorough, but forgetful. John remembered everything and was sloppy.

He never kept a secret. I kept secrets so well I forgot them.

One day John invited me to join him on a quest-less quest.

The 'questless-quest' was John-speak for a journey without a goal.

A quest-less-quest has a beginning (in this case New York), a middle (usually a road-trip) and an end (a moment of summary to press home absurd point of history upon people John pretended to hate, but secretly revered.) Ultimately John was a moralist. Every task was a mission, and every mission had the same reason. The triumph of good over evil.

Though a ritualist (that would be the Celtic Vate from his Gallic past), and also an inveterate storyteller, which made him a Bard, most of all John saddled the role of Knight. He saw himself as a hero to the people, a savior, and a doer of manly deeds.

The epilogues of John's quests ended in dissolution, a sin for which he was quick to forgive himself. All knights and war-weary Crusaders abandoned their quest upon finding bright beaches and pretty lasses to pass the time.

One such quest was to have a drink at every bar in Georgetown. That quest was retired early by two lovely and determined women.

"Let's be serious about this. If we're going to win we have to fight unconventionally. And let's remember what crowd created this place. I mean, who's in charge really?

"We're the descendants of deer-hunting farmers, who knocked the crap out of the best trained army in the world."

When the babes were at his arm cooing for attention, these were the moments John made his extraordinary forays into history:

Return to Mott Street

October 10, 1983 - I returned to New York, drove the car, terrified, down the East Side Drive, careening, looming, lunging, steering loose, tires bald, headlights barely shining, motor about to quit, to a near stop at Houston Street and Avenue D. Where the junk starts, through that zone around Avenue B, trash dope, the streets menacing, ugly, doors locked, past 2nd Avenue to Mott Street, hardly a refuge, back home after fourteen months. Home sweet home.

I opened the door. An explosion of dirt, mold, depravity and un-exorcised spirits.

Piles of ash, rolling papers, and match heads. Ashtrays laden with needles rubber bands, razor blades, candle stubs, wax drippings, torn besotted issues of Rolling Stone had supplied paper for all sorts of demonic operations.

A nasty black wig that Joe, my subtenant, left on top of my refrigerator. It did not seem like a wig for a woman, but rather a wig meant to dress a man like a woman! Joe, I never knew! The whole place stunk. Cockroaches everywhere, dead cockroaches on their backs, plastered against the wall by their guts where Joe, had presumably whacked them flat with a magazine. In the crevices of the floor, live cockroaches laid cockroach eggs amongst cockroach corpses.

A really great pair of Sheffield steel scissors! The Mad Hatter would have been proud to carry them. What did Joe need these for? Was he taking up tailoring? I didn't imagine Joe on Saville Row for a living. Joe was a Brit, a black haired, well bred lad, exploring New York and all its craziness. Many Euros come to NYC these days, to eat up the scene. A would-be drummer. Up all night, he sleeps till late afternoon.

Hey, no complaints, he paid the rent up front.


August 1983, Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA

Religion usually locates Hell, underground.

So our fear of bats hold a clue, to the image of Hell, and of the Devil, our Patermeister of flapped wing:

     Webbed beast of Fire and slime.
     Boiled ire and cheated Time.

The year round temperature of most caves is constant.  - some creatures live both inside and out - some never leave.  Various commuters' bring the food in.

The Cave Salamander flees from light, to the caves during the day, leaves nourishment in the form of droppings, rich in nitrates,

For the the 'Cave Mouth Cricket'', life is short. He sings with a rasp, yet dies, just as fast.

Water has eroded Limestone Caves since the Ice Age - constant erosion, new caves forming, cave architecture's testament to this process.

The sparseness of life exposes a greater simplicity of living relationships.

Another commuter, the crayfish. Some stay, and lose all pigmentation.

The White Crayfish, white and blind, like Lear. Sent to wander watery steams below the earth. Never to see the sun.

No need to see, no need for protective coloration, no need for eyes, smaller, moves slower, needs less, asks less. Opposite of nature's plenty, the cave dweller makes do with less. Here there may be clues to man's problem of overconsumption. Man, like the cricket, lives too fast, moves too fast.

The Blinde Whitefish - inhabits inner depths of these blackest rivers. Food is extremely scarce - lives 10-20 years, reproduces only every 2-3. Uses energy with extreme efficiency.

A great order and discipline, in this "Hell".

Creatures here isolated from complexities of the ordinary world. Nature's own isolated laboratory.

Dead leaves drift in on an autumn breeze, are carried downwater. . . a slow energy return.

The dung of animals - gold rich petroleum to these, nature's hungriest beings.

Slowfood vs. Fastfood.

Lake Erie's algal life, a repast of polluted death, human phosphates and heavy metal . . all 'dung' of a sort, provides for a diminishing life-scale. Perhaps the life forms that clean up our industrial nightmare will take eons to evolve, and will flourish, long after we're gone.

For what is life but a hierarchy of those that process energy? We are all light beings, even the darkest most forgotten blind fish amongst us.

The live fast and die fast types put most of their energy into reproduction. [Fat Daddy's wives lined up at his recording studio for their weekly checks. The bleating of his kids, mommies with carriages and other rolling stock.]

The animal world reacts to attack in ways that are sometimes surprising and inconvenient.

Less entropy in the cave, means colder, simpler, slower, more disciplined relationships between individuals and species. There's a snake that has learned to dine upon the carcasses of dead bats, fallen from the canopy. Whereas other snakes dine on live prey, this one . . . has learned of an untapped bounty.

Soon it too will be blind.


Notes from de Touqueville, Democracy in America:

Moving on, leaving, splitting: Mobility is an American quality. Americans are "a nomadic people before whom forests fall." - "The American in the wilderness is the same man you thought you'd left behind in the city. To become rich he'd endure loneliness and endless misery."

Will Nature follow man into the world he is creating, or will man fall back into Nature's bosom and become compost. Have we a destiny of other worlds awaiting our destruction? As swallows that build their nests on ledges inside sewage treatment plants, like the Brown Bambit that feeds on the plastic wiring insulation inside the household television, or the cockroach that has found it possible to survive alongside man virtually wherever he builds a city. Will the rest of nature prove as adaptable as man himself, or, is man's adaptability mere illusion?

What resilient species will accompany us on our journeys into the future?

-:- Mutagens and carcinogens, antigens and anti-carcinogens,. We have only begun to to count the compounds and substances fabricated by the plant kingdom, or understood the purposes for which she makes them. (comments of a scientist describing a certain anti-inflammatory present in vegetables.)

-:- The best fertilizer for gardens: hay left to rot. Cellulose, makes nice loose soil.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Bambit Ramblings

[Was this a dream? I can't be sure, nevertheless I typed these notes in my journal after listening to a Nature segment on WNET.  The year was about 1986.

But today, in 2012, I simply cannot find a single mention of the 'Brown Bambit' anywhere! How could a species have simply 'disappeared'? Was this a publicity designed to encourage the masses to buy more TV sets? Who knows. I lay this in the drawer of Forever Mysterious, prose on the edge of dreaming, letters set in a line of words a page of lines, that don't spell truth, or fact, or anything real at all.]


The Brown Bambit (not bandit), lives (or lived) inside your TV set where it survives (ed) by feeding off the insulation around the wires. A cockroach that ate plastic!

[Thus it was reported in the 1980's. Does the Bambit now live inside my computer?]

Japanese made TV's, which might have lasted indefinitely, otherwise wore out, thus accelerating our balance of payments deficit.

A member of the cockroach family, the Bambit antedates the dinosaurs.

Man believes he can adapt to almost anything, but the Brown Bambit has not had to adapt!

It has the tools for survival in any age.

This is our tragedy. Homo sapiens in reality is the least adaptable. Our ecological insurrection has yielded a few pyrrhic triumphs which we may pleasure in, but alas, we're bred for one thing, getting the carbon out of the earth.

We're slaves of the plants, recycling fixed carbon, burning oil, gas gas, quarrying limestone, exposed to acid rain. Even mining and agriculture puts CO2 and methane in the air.

All good for plants trees and forests. Riparian forests temper the winds somewhat.

Me-thinks a bog of dry-ki and standing water grasses will make a nice home.

A phreatophytic water-place becomes a phantasmagoric wonder-clade.


I dreamt of a piece of golden topaz, precious, but terrifying.

The crystal spoke, and told me the following story:

I am living in the Duke's house, where the Duchess and I fornicate almost every day. For me this is very difficult to live with. I drink his juice in the morning, sit at his table at night, sleep under his roof. Often, just before I doze off, the Duchess comes running upstairs in her nightgown. She pulls it up and straddles me in bed, and encourages me to go ahead. The Duke must be in the shower. The situation is becoming desperate. One morning I find him listening attentively to my complaints about money. The next day amongst my things I find a package of new one hundred dollar bills. There are more than a thousand of them. There is no note, but the message is clear. Let me have my wife back. There is something tragic about this. I sense his love, but also his dependence on her. How had he raised this sum? Recently all his businesses were foreclosed by the banks. The sight of all this cash fills me with guilt. It stains the bliss and the delicate fantasy that Duchess and I have created.

I wake up, convulsing.


The Sandhill Crane

Stamina (is the) Ability (to employ)
Courage (in the face of) Knowledge
(since) Vision (requires) Discipline.

Monstrous neologisms - paper is so tolerant.

"Waste eating bacteria employ bipolar membranes . . . Ion exchange resins, to recycle chromium, on site waste cleanup, (incineration) . . .  . . . 15,0000 toxic waste sites in the United States . . . "

Is paper a bipolar membrane?

Yet the Sandhill Crane remains unchanged, after ten million years.

July 1983

Amongst the other junk found in the old garage - a box of blasting caps.

They were taken to the clearing, gingerly, by Muff and Winslow. Muff remembered how the lumberjacks kept dynamite in the old Symond camp, which was a barracks for lumbermen before Gardiner Symonds bought it. That was the mystery attic of his generation, a two story funhouse for kids surrounded by tall pines.

"Clearly they thought keeping the caps separate from the dynamite was a good idea! It was the safe thing to do!"

I think one of them held the box on his lap, reverently, like the ashes of a deceased. The other drove, carefully, over the rocks in the road.

Funny how you treat a thing when you know it's dangerous. Before that day it was just another wood box in the attic, and in the way.

"They're probably duds. Nothin's gonna happen!"

They put it on top of the target stand on the other side of the clearing which is filled with blueberries. The target stand was made of plywood and 2 x 4's. It's where everyone goes when they want to shoot.

So they shot at it. A bullet hit the box and the whole thing exploded. The blast decimated the target stand and made a loud noise and left a lot of splintered wood lying around.

Everyone was darn glad that over the years no kids had upset any cans of paint on top of them, or dropped a box of nails on them, or chucked them into the attic, which at that time was a catch-all for every other sort of junk that you find in an isolated place, including . . .

. . . trout nets, (for breeding trout fry), a railroad locomotive headlight (big enough for a child to crawl into), boxes of arsenic, scraps of asbestos cloth, stovepipe, firebricks, plumbing fixtures, bits of an old Waco biplane that Herb Helms' brother crashed on the beach after he came back from the war - words to his brother after he got to the station, all shook up with a bloody lip, and rang Herb up: "Hey Herb, ya know that new biplane we jus' bought?" - beaded panelling rescued from the railway station building, signs from the station, one small red "Western Union" sign, another larger "Western Express" sign, another of wood stencilled "Brandreth Station", shovels, peavey hooks, engine parts, a Model 'A' spare wheel, chipped enamelware, worthless moth-eaten bearskins, deerskins, beaver pelts, untold numbers of broken deer antlers, one deer head mounted spilling arsenic stuffing, rotten sails for a departed sailboat, fire-buckets, a parachute harness (no chute), a nineteen forties era chainsaw,  . . .

We nailed the wood panelling up inside the walls of my Dad's old studio in the meadow where it beautifies the building to this day.

The remaining junk went to the dump, was sold, or got shot at until it exploded.

Return from Paris

Back in New York City with an awful headache. Air thick with soot and humid. Perhaps this evening it will storm.

These are my first hours in America - I have been gone ten months. While all is clear I'll write my thoughts. Perhaps then I'll sleep, and the pain in my head will go away.

Last moments in Paris:

I made cheese omelettes for a last lunch with France-Aimee at my place on Rue Milton.

I was packed and ready to go when she came over at eight. All I had to do was fix the dinner. With the omelettes we had a tomato salad, afterwards some oranges and cherries. She insisted on seeing all the drawings that I made at Gare Austerlitz, so I showed them to her.

She was not wild about them. However when I showed her one of the watercolors I made in India she really responded. "I see genius," she said. To me this sounded like a silly stylization, like Pound who said, "Genius? I specialize in it." Somehow it was not flattering because it was not true, not the way she said it.

Earlier in the day I said goodbye to B____, watched his bald head go down into the Metro. He was on his way out to Maillet to visit his cousin Perrine, after eating lunch at his local hangout near Pont Neuf. That restauranteur took a great interest in my sketchbook after B____ opened it up to show him some of the drawings. B____ has a way of making a public demonstration about any piece of art that happens to be around, and I think he gets a sort of masochistic pleasure out of embarrassing the owner. He plays the role of professor saying, "This is quite good, but this one you see just doesn't work as well. Perhaps you should work it up again in color." I know B____ well, as a friend. His faults fascinate me, and over the years I'm able to see into their causes.

Then France-Aimee drove me to Gare du Nord, parked her car and went to look for a hand cart while I stood by my luggage. Typewriter, sketchbooks, sculptures, I stowed them on the train. As we had some time we walked together to the end of the platform. I felt a sudden longing to be there a few more days so that I could study and draw this place. The new Paris railroad stations had been a favorite of the Impressionists. Monet's famous canvas of Gare St. Lazarre was of a brilliant glass-roofed structure, filled with billowing smoke and steam from the new locomotives. Today at Gare du Nord, that giant hulk was nearly opaque, stained by years of grime and debris and bird droppings. Manet lived nearby, and patrolled these platforms often, the station bars serving beer, the bustle of women in their long dresses and gentlemen in their tall hats, strolling the boulevards of Baron Haussmann nearby.

The sun was just setting. An orange hue cloaked the high row of low-cost houses that overlooked the station yard. The ties between the tracks took on a deep blue-black. I imagined my father squinting at the source of light, to distill it's color, before jabbing his brush into the paint.

The towers and bridges were were a severe inky jet, in profile. More bridges crossed the tracks here than at Gare Austerlitz. These are realms where steel industry pushed an iron artery deep into the heart of the city. Yet Gare du Nord has an intimate setting. The blue metro trains were rumbling periodically over their steel constructions. I felt the pulse of the city as never before, precisely because it was quiet and forlorn.

Then into the scene burst a new train, one I had never seen before. It was orange and white and had two levels, two rows of windows and was built very high, even higher than the double decker buses. It seemed like a row of modern houses on the move, as if Manet's old boulevard of freshly cut sandstone had suddenly taken wheels.

France-Aimee told me she was very much amused by my love of industrial places, train yards and factories. We walked back to the head of the platform arm in arm. I confessed to her that I had wanted to walk arm in arm often before. She even said she would have wanted it too. We talked about the other night when I left. I had dinner with her on the boat, and she said she had not wanted me to leave. I asked her if I could kiss her on the lips and she said 'No' but I kissed her anyway. A little kiss.

She was smiling. "I have lots to tell you," she said.

"Well start now."

"No, not now"

"Then when?"

She's planned a trip to the US in August. Perhaps because I have so few expectations I anticipate seeing her again so much. I enjoy her company. I liked the feeling of her little arm crooked in mine as we walked.

We said goodbye without much emotion, except we had to tear ourselves away a little. We were more entangled than we realized. It kind of spun us both around, and cracked smiles on both our faces when we parted. She went walking off.

Immediately, almost nervously, upon getting on the train, my lingering attraction for France-Aimee transferred itself to a young girl sitting opposite me in my compartment. There were six passengers, all strange to one another. Her legs touched both of mine, and a long period of eye contact ensued that had me convinced that a great erotic train journey had finally come to me. She is a ballerina for the Paris Opera, and is only twenty-one years old. Some quality arose from her that was so needing physical contact that we indulged staring into each other's eyes, smiling and letting our faces become drawn with emotion. But only an hour after the train left Paris it stopped in Longueau and she got off. We both agreed it was a shame. Her parents live in Amiens, which is nearby.

I slept for the rest of the train journey, two of the other passengers, both schoolteachers, one from Tallahassee Florida who teaches college students, the other Irish, who teaches French to young children, argued their points of view about television, and home entertainment. The American boasted of the television sets he had in the house, the video tape recorders and all the tapes he has of old movies, which he likes to be able to watch whenever he wants. The Irish fellow said, "Who needs all that stuff? Doesn't it weigh you down?"

Stevo was in London as promised. We shared some coffee and danish, then he ran off to a meeting but before he left he gave me the key to his New York apartment and made me take twenty pounds.

It was one of the strangest meetings with a person so close to me, my own nearest brother. Such a short piece of time. Yet our bond was still there. Brotherhood, in Victoria Terminal, London, just as if it was in our little hometown of Woodbury, Connecticut when we were children.

For the remainder of the morning I marveled at the strangeness of life, and tried to pry loose its secrets as I recognized old London haunts from the bus window on the way to Heathrow airport. It was all there, the work, the long hours, the misery cashing those difficult checks of Ismail's, the walks on the weekends up and through the maze of city streets. My nights with Anna and hours spent bringing her to climax, and then our beautiful breakfasts after in her Chelsea flat. And the feeling of liberation that inevitably resulted, when she 'threw me out'. It was her cycle. She was a tigress who bites afterwards.

I beheld the detail in the bricks that I recognized I wondered if they are the same bricks, my bricks, my London, the same place where I was at so many other times in my life. It seems miraculous that a place can be so well remembered, and so much of it, when seen after a long absence.

I watched the movie during the flight home without sound. I had ideas, took notes, and slept. When I awoke all the stewardesses stood around smiling at me. They were laughing and smiling, asking me over and over, did I want some lunch? This made me wonder what I had been saying during my sleep, or what I had been doing. So I asked them and they said "Nothing at all!". I must have looked different after awaking, like some confused kitten. I never could explain it. For the remainder of the flight they hardly paid me the same attention. One of the girls was quite pretty, a blonde, with a short streak of grey hair near her forehead.

New York water is softer, more difficult to rinse soap off with, has a silky feeling, but smells strongly of chlorine. It's true what they say, the milk here is thin and tasteless.

What a city! I noticed most of all, the skyscrapers, a population of glass and metal giants, an island cluttered with towers. What made these New Yorkers into a race of tower-builders? I saw on one side of the road that lead towards Manhattan, rows of gravestones, on the other, miles and miles of factory buildings, industrial suburbs.

Technological life, physical death. The forces of matter and mind meet in New York, glass and steel and flesh, all collided, governed by some unworldly idea, hatched beyond the vision of any human being.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Raid on the National Attic with Dr. Factious - Part I

A smarter man I never met. Was he Bard, Vate, or Knight?

I'm sure he sensed in me a Celtic madness similar if not apposite, to his Frankish mien. John had the political savvy of Charles DeGaulle, with Sartre's hatred for the Church.

He was more cynical than Charles Bukowski.

I was forgetful - John remembered everything.

I was thorough - John was sloppy.

Me deadpan - Him spontaneous.

So John invited me to accompany him on a 'quest-less quest'. This was John-speak for a mission without a goal. A quest-less-quest has a beginning, New York invariably, a middle, (meaning a road-trip) and an end (some insane mission to impress a point of history upon peoples who require enlightenment.)

"Let's be serious. If we're going to win we have to fight unconventionally."

I wondered what 'win' meant. Victory? Impossible. A pair of Quixotic nay-sayers making journeys that prove nothing. Ah, but winning can take other forms. Adventure for the sake of it! There is the delicious fruit of a fight.

These were the moments when John made forays into history.

 The American Revolution:

"We mustn't forget we're descended from a bunch of deer-hunting farmers who knocked the crap out of the best trained army in the world."

or . . .

The Crusades:

"We're Templars. Don't forget it. You're a Templar. I'm a Templar. WE rode with Baldwin. We were sword swinging avengers. We took the the Holy Land from the Saracen. Let's not ever forget it!"

Point taken.


"Let's not forget who we are here. We backed De Gaulle and the resistance. Most of the French caved in to the Nazi. But not us. We, were Knights. We stayed in France after the Crusades ended. Were WE going to sit around while a posse of lying Krauts took away our women? No f-ing way! We sent the a-holes back to Berlin we did."

The Middle Ages:

"Who the fuck wants to return from the Holy-Land to a farm ridden by plague? Not my ancestors, and not yours either! Hell, we camped out in the south of France. The women there were beautiful. They let down their hair. That's why I'm part French. A Crusader who didn't want to be English anymore!"

Hilarious laughter.


Historical guilt overcame John. He became serious.

"I never saw ground action in 'Nam. I brought down 12 Mig's, got decorated, then slugged my commanding officer. They let me go but took away my guns. I spent the rest of the war flying recon."

John guffawed. "Hey, aren't you French? Partly?"

I told John something of my family's past: "I'm related to the painter Daubigny. My great-great-great grandfather watched a cousin get hanged by the Sheriff of Nottingham."

"Yes, he was a prick that Sheriff. Everyone in England knew it. He was one of the reasons we came to the New World! Twenty generations of that Sheriff, all pricks, just like the LA PD."


That first quest, to DC, was to provide footage for a massive video essay John was compiling in his crowded cupboard apartment at 302 Mott Street, four floors above mine. That video would re-inspire the Lost Generation, a diaspora of the now disintegrated Beats, and a hitherto undefined new generation of Yuppies, to take back the wholesome American liberties which had been squandered and lost.

Our Quixotic-dual rampage was to be upon NASA, the NSA, and the Smithsonian Institution. To John these emblems were remnant Bardic Halls, of fictive and poetic power, that wasted the creativity of our nation.

John assumed for starters that everyone was a genius, unless you happened to forget you were a genius, in which case you were an idiot and a sell-out. John's starting assumption was that 'WE' should get the Nobel Prize for Peace. I mean WE could invent dynamite.

"That shit's just nitro mixed with sea-shells!"

A hilarious bout of laughter and coughing ensued.

"Seriously, when we get there, let's not forget decorum. We'll set them right we will. But we'll be polite. But before we start swinging, I want to show them the piece I've edited." John tapped a file of incriminating damning evidence that would set the bastards in Washington straight.

For a moment I believed we were driving south to drink mead with the President.

We arrived in Marble Quarry, John-speak for the nation's capital. I parked my car in the Smithsonian lot after paying for the ticket.

"My mother used to have a lifetime pass. She gave millions. Bastards have no respect for inheritance."

At the information counter John demanded to see Gordon Ripley, Director of "The National Attic", as John called the museum.

"I'm sorry sir but do you have an appointment."

"No we don't but could you tell him that as one Knight Templar to another I'd like to give him an opportunity to star in a documentary about our National Attic."

"Excuse me?"


Story continues: Battle Lines are Drawn, Dr. Factious - Part II


You know the creatures living there,
you went diving for them in emerald pools,
jumping from rock to rock, scaling trees,

To sense their auras . . . the pulse from where you sat,
I sent my soul stirring beneath leaves, above the canopy,
cascading down needle sharp brooks,
and giant slow rivers.

A rocky brow overlooking mists,
A waterfall, where swimming's coolest.

So you knew that sand?
Dirt is what places a man.
The mud on his boots.

It has all happened, all the sand kicked about, since the beginning.

The mud.

The thought comes . . . a question
from the audience . . .
You can make it whatever you want . . . just call.

So the bits of sand become parts of us.
We are this Earth too.
And so I call to her . . . help me shoulder this thing . . it's heavy
I know you can help me if you decide to.

She knows I don't need her help, she made me,
and the lizard I carry as well,
that wriggles free . . .
experiences bliss, . . . but falls back,
into slavery.

So I ask myself.
That bliss?

Was it what she felt, when I was created?

Pablo Picasso, Vollard Suite


Wolf is howlin' through the night,
Water's boiling, outta sight.
Dylan's tickin' keeping time,
Blondie's dialin', number's mine.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Storm with Me

Let's storm off free on a sailing barque, we'll sing to calm our fears.
Dream with me through Arctic snows, wind howling in our ears,
Sleep alone in Manchuria, by a poem filled with light,
Wake aground on Pacific shores, waves lapping all the night.

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