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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Loons

Thursday November 24, 1983 - I drove my tenant Joe Jones, and the last of his drumsets across the Brooklyn Bridge in the mid-afternoon. We detoured by the boardwalk along Brooklyn Heights that overlooks the East River, and saw the Wall Street end of Manhattan, piled with buildings which from a distance look like so many tall boxes. The Brooklyn piers are fascinating to watch, crowded with diesel engines and railroad cars, tugboats moored alongside stacks of steel beams and lumber, an empty tanker bobbing high in the harbor exposing a giant pea-green underbelly, and bulbous prow. Across the water the ferry plowed towards Staten Island, pursued by a wake of gulls. The people with this magnificent view have all the toys of childhood at their feet, boats, trains, cars and trucks, all moving and active.

Joe's parent's live on a quiet street in an area called Park Slope. When we entered, two workmen were in the midst of stripping paint from the front door with hot air guns. They wore white cotton face masks, but we had a bit of a chat with them anyways. They both took a liking to Joe's rocker personality, and his British accent. "We'll go in and get you guys a spot of tea." They were Americans, and would have preferred coffee, but they liked him even more after that.

Inside the house we sat down and drank tea. I told Joe about Brandreth. He loves hearing about loons. Whenever I mention the word 'loon' to him he breaks out in hysterical laughter.

So I told him how they couldn't fly at any speed less than sixty miles an hour because they are actually a very ancient bird and their bones aren't hollow, and are actually very heavy to help them dive. How when the wind is calm and their bellies are full of fish they can't fly at all. How sometimes they land on ponds that are too small for them to take off from, since they have to run across the water for a long ways to build up enough speed to fly. They can be stranded for days waiting for a wind that can help them take off. But how once they are airborne they are like bullets and make a whistling sound that can be heard a long ways away.

"Loons love a moonlit night. They become loony! They call to one another and make the lakes echo with their beautiful calls."



When I told him how their hind feet are too far back for them to walk on land and all they can do is slither around on their bellies, Joe broke into uncontrollable peals of laughter. He sounded like a loon himself. I told him so, and that really cracked him up.

I also told Joe other bits of north woods lore, like how Clarence brings the snapping turtles that he catches to camp by dragging them backwards through the woods with a wire tied to their tails. It is interesting how the simple facts about wild creatures and country life can be strange and amusing to someone who has rarely ventured outside the city.

We brought the workmen their tea in plastic cups, then set off for dinner at a Lebanese restaurant around the corner. We made dinner last a long time once we heard there was going to be a belly dancer. She began dancing just as we were finishing our coffees. The dancer was sweet and red-haired. They said she was from New Jersey. I tried to imagine how such a dance evolved. A portable dance, as portable as the carpets that crossed the desert on the back of a camel, and were rolled out onto the dry earth as temperatures fell.

In this hot restaurant though, with tourists sitting in chairs, her talent seemed wasted. I imagined her beneath the moonlit sky and cold stars of a desert night. She came over to talk with us during her break, and I told her so - her reddish skin blushed sweetly. We spoke of New York and how easy it is to become closed in one's life, when the city is as vast and varied as many countries packed into one tiny continent. One may travel ahead or back in time or place, without ever leaving New York.

We wandered outside and stopped in three Lebanese shops specializing in Middle Eastern foods, putting our noses to the bins and barrels filled with dates, peppers, cumin, allspice, cumin, cloves, cardamom, anise, coffee, lentils, vast quantities of fennel, wheat, cous cous, corn, and nameless other grains of every hue and shape of kernel, all introducing in me the feeling, where have I been, why haven't I known of this all my life, a feeling of boundless fertility from our earth, where all this great produce is grown.

Then we made a stop at an Arabic bookstore where Joe bought a record and some magazines for his girlfriend Aida. Apparently he just moved into her place - it's off Broadway on Great Jones Street. We joked about the coincidence, "Great Jones".

"She's a real Arab, from one of the states on the Gulf." He confided to me that she's very rich, as if that were a problem. It sounded like he was much in love.  Joe added that her father would not be pleased if he knew they were living together.

"He'd string me up at dawn for sure." I told him about Paul Bowles. I kidded him. "Joe, you're loony. One minute after he meets you Aida's Dad will have you bound and gagged and left in the middle of the desert to die!"

We drove back to Manhattan and sat drinking tea at the Great Jones Street apartment waiting for Aida to come back so Joe could introduce me. I settled into an enormous leather upholstered chaise lounge and listened to the air hiss out. Everything Aida owned was lavishly expensive.

The phone rang. It was her father calling from the Philippines. When Joe put down the receiver he looked very upset. "Her father knows now. He's no dummy."

"Joe you'll be fine. Just tell him you love her. Every father likes hearing that."

"Mark you have no idea. He'll string me up at dawn."

It was getting late, so I left. I'd have to meet Aida another time.


Hug that Mountain

Man's problem is: he's trying to hug a mountain. He can't get his arms around it. Maybe if the mountain were an iceberg and he could bear the chill and if he hugged it long enough it might melt and become smaller.

So with past work. How to come to terms with it? How to reconcile all that effort. Redeem it in some way. Make it worthwhile.

A lost cause. Past work is dead, but if it inspires new work, then that new work is new work until . . . it becomes old work. . .

Life is now. 'Baby come over here. Let's do that loving right now! Not tomorrow, not yesterday. Now!'

I've been watching Chris Marker's films with Peter recently: Says Peter, "I think when Marker comes to a city like Tokyo he doesn't just start filming right away. He kind of hangs around and explores, then slowly a plan emerges."

Molly meanwhile is writing an article on artificial intelligence. "What strikes me most about most of the people in the field is how limited their experience is. Limited to mathematics, and computer science."

Peter again: "My movies of different places seem the same. I want to start noticing what's different, or special."

-:-

Mark Potter (Sr.)
It's the day after Thanksgiving.

It rained all night. Big heavy drops fell from the tree branches and landed with loud splats at the foot of the patio. The river rose about a foot. In the morning it was still raining, faster, finer drops, infinitely more of them. A deer stood in Farmer's field nibbling at the green shoots of grass that still grew between the rows of corn stubble.

Soon the rain turned to snow. For a while it fell as sleet, then little hailstones, that bounced on the pavement, then heavy moth-sized flakes that spun and fell and split apart.

Dad and I drove downtown to buy oil to fill his car with, then a donut and coffee at Phillips Diner.  I told him about Brunelleschi's method of building the dome that covers the cathedral nave in Florence.

We drove home through the snow and brought the electric heater down from the studio. We drove the car up onto two piles of boards, then I went underneath on my back and asked Dad to hand me the ratchet. The socket was too big. "Get me another one. About half that size."

Dad handed me another socket. It fit almost perfectly.

"One size smaller."

I loosened the plug at the bottom of the engine block and unscrewed it with my fingers. Warm brown oil fell into the pan and over my hands like dark deer's blood. I thought of Clarence gutting the deer he'd shot at Brandreth, the heavy liver and the heart, still pumping. The auricular chambers were blown apart by the bullet. The buck died quickly, even so it had managed to run a hundred yards before it fell over . . .

Outside, the snow turns into rain. I open the back door and look out. The warm brown earth pours a false scent of spring, even though the weatherman says the first winter storm will be on us before the weekend.



AIDS, Gangrene, and ART


-:-

 doormen polish brass moon valves

What are differences in dress? A New Yorker, a Parisien?

The black man  who owned the big blue float Cadillac who used to wait in front of 302 Mott Street doorstep for a place to park, is dead, of pancreatic cancer.

-:-



Paris poppy fields soporific

I remember Mr. Judson, the old farmer that lives near the house where I grew up. A couple of weeks ago he got mad at one of his cows and kicked it and stubbed his toe nail on the cow, actually broke it. He must of kicked it in the hock while it was walking. So he tied his toe up with a bit of shredded American flag that he was using to wash his cow's udders.

It got infected. He worked and ignored the pain. The infection got so bad his doctors took one look and cut his toe off.

Toeless old Judson got home and went out into his fields to dig postholes. Then his foot got infected. He dreaded a repeat visit to the doctors so he said nothing.

Finally the smell got so bad his daughter noticed and drove him to the hospital in Waterbury. It was the same daughter that had sunbathed naked next to the pond for one of my Dad's paintings. He had been painting pictures of the farm for years and when he heard that juicy bit he went wild, and imagined the daughter, Rubens-esque in her dairy-fed health at pond-side.

All fantasy. There's no time on a farm to sunbathe next to the pond. You'd be eaten alive by flies.

They cut off Judson's foot.

He was back at work a couple of weeks later driving the tractor. Then Judson caught his stump in the pedal.

His leg turned purple and green so the same doctors cut it off below the knee.

"They're whittling me away." he said. He got himself a four legged milking stool. All because he kicked his cow.

Just yesterday Dad reported that Farmer Judson hurt his other toe.

The old man wasn't home, but his son was there. He had just shot some raccoons that were raiding the corn. Their skins were hanging in the barn, covered with flies.

Here in the city I watch our building super Joe Terranova fling garbage into bags:

"They say I should be careful of the needles! They could be hidden and poke me! - I know, I know, what can I do if I get it I get it!" Joe kisses me on the lips, says he's glad to see me. Then his dog licks my hand, so he says "Better wash off, gotta be careful of that virus, they say it's from saliva or something!" He grabs a piece of paper towel that doesn't seem too used, from the trash.

"Here, use this."

Paranoia everywhere. Old Joe's not afraid. He had his share of little sailor boys when he was in the navy.

Our talk shifts to apartments. Money boom, the AIDS epidemic and real estate boom.

What seems separated by cause, is really so linked. We're all here on Planet Earth, eating, breeding, evolving, dying. Block after block of East Village buildings, burned out. Drugs and insurance fraud transform a city.

I watch the joggers, wearing out their bodies, quickly, their shoes, and the pavement. Bikes fill the street. Tons of jiggling wiggling flesh, alongside megatons of truck metal rolling, steel car frames rolling over asphalt.

"Hey Kitara!"

We kiss twice the way the Europeans do, then talked for a half hour on the street corner, breathing truck breath, talking about Joseph Beuys' drawings.

-:-

hot truck motor fumes fill cool morning air

I repress a deep yawn.

Conflict between two people if left unresolved must seek stability from a third or other parties who serve to prop up a kind of stasis.

Much of what we are, functions to bolster what otherwise would not be stable . . . . I listen to her and I am bored. Alcoholic family. depressed brothers and sisters? Yeah Beuys is a great artist. So fucking what! I like his work too - let's get on with life.

Is an artist someone who refuses to prop up others?

I imagine art as barf, propelled, by the force of an idea. Clean up the mess I say!

I want to whisper to her . . . "Kitara, let's forget Beuys. Invite me over. I'll wash the dishes in your sink! I'll find the heap of papers that you can't face and I'll burn them. Then I'll run my fingers through your hair. I'll cover your soft pale body with cream and then we'll make endless love.

"We'll stop time. I'll trace tantras over your naked skin. I'll tickle your nether parts until you explode. We'll go to the Alphas and the Betas. I'll bring you to planets where there are no artists, and no egregious landlords. We'll mumble sweet nothings about drawings of deer guts, as we explore our wiring diagrams of fat energy. We'll sweat and make ourselves into batteries.

"We'll light up the night."

-:-

Kitara goes her way, heavy footsteps, possessed, dogged, overloaded. She has too much on her mind. A lovely girl, demonized by her father undoubtedly, stalled in the tailwind of someone who will be forgotten, when just a few more of us are extinct.

We should be back on the plains of Africa, chewing blades of grass, waiting for the hyenas to finish the bones from last nights meal.

I'm content after my midday nap. Time to get the old ass in gear and run down a wildebeest..

What's an artist? A con man, who finds a language to win himself wealth and women.  What was the third 'W'? To quote Rubens: "I paint a woman's bottom so that I may stroke her dimpled flesh."  . . Maybe it was Fame, Fornication, and Fortune.

We're just horny hungry Homo sapiens, cruising for nooky.

What idiots these days carry the notion of artists as nice people! Particularly film-makers have encouraged this rap. The French are the worst at this. So what do we do? We ENDOW the arts!!

As if artists needed a helping hand financially. Generous but successful sufferers who through genius embrace charity. What a load of crap.

Here's a quote again from Flemish mega-success story Rubens:

"Each morning I kick the beggars and cripples off my door stoop."

Is this the kind of person you'd like to write a check to?

The man was a selfish brute! The first of the zealot capitalists. Eager to franchise, own, and devour. Bigger canvases. Bigger commissions. Bigger women's asses.

We're language recyclers, Enigma machines transmitting code to future generations. The painter or writer's tableau is a one-time pad for rendering the mysterium indecipherable. The object of the exorcism is to short circuit the bombes, i.e. code cracking machines, of those that would understand us.

Give society a stroke! A heart attack! An artist is a linguistic terrorist no doubt about it whatsoever.

Speak gibberish and get paid.

It just seems like gibberish. It is not possible for a simple human brain to devise a code that is not decipherable. Myths permeate all.

So, once art is understood it becomes language, and once becoming language it is therefor no longer art. Once comprehended, art is nothing but archeology, and the understandings about that artifact become history.  Poetic syntax therefor may be described as a linguistic modifier, an impossible radical that itself sprouts new language, like some venal virus loosened into the blood.

A spore.

"Take that bit of towel and wipe your hands."

Joe the old fairy, superintendent of our building thinks his dog can give me AIDS!

Blessed Joe. He was an artist - occasionally rescuing old vinyl records from the trash and painting on them, just like his sailor boys. A dribble of paint stops the record from playing.

Is love just a yearning for qualities that are needed to complete the Self?

"If you've got the guts to kill yourself you've got the guts to stay alive."
         Ernest Hemingway

Oh, the crap that gets quoted. Eons of eardrums, lulled to sleep by drivel.

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