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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.

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