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Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Quest-less Quest - Part I

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

I'm sure he sensed in me his Celtic madness. John's savvy was Charles De gaulle, his anger Sartre's hatred for the Church. John was even more cynical than Bukowski yet he lived a form of suspended hilarity, always at the edge of the next outburst. His laughter could shake the earth and made up for the unease he brought with him. His long grey hair, unkempt, knotted, his overly bounced-out manic stride, his deep frown. Everything John said made people nervous. Fortunately his explosions of mirth came as relief.

If life seemed hysterically funny, I wondered if other 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 so was sloppy.

Normally deadpan, John could also be riotously spontaneous. He never kept a secret. I kept secrets so well I invariably forgot them.

So 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.

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