Sunday, March 11, 2018

on being a cranky old man

ouch, every once in awhile it comes over me, especially in the middle of the winter. too many cold days. too much coffee. not enough conversations to take me out of myself. i find myself critical. especially of those i know best, impatient with other people's answers to the meaning of life. like now, i have to sit down and shake myself, give myself a conscious talking-to. 

no stranger to all this, i still let myself slip into the doldrums. much of it comes from not having a 'project,' nothing to work on, nothing to create. i have been focused on the thought of finally becoming a street performer. lorraine, in australia, kept convincing me to give it a try. even in katoomba, though basically tourist town, she could pull in twenty dollars an hour playing the harmonica. 

that's more than i've ever made. so i've acquired more harmonicas, a couple of american indian flutes, pulled my ukuleles out of storage, and read a lot of street busking diaries from new york city, winchester, england, and london, a couple of novels of folks on the road. amazing amount of information out there, and watched dozens of videos on youtube. and now i've decided it's too much work! still, i wouldn't have to be that good.

it would pay, at the very least, for trips around the world and i'd meet a lot of interesting people. the trouble is, playing music always throws me out of orbit. instead of becoming more gregarious, i become more solitary, self-contained. i stop looking closely around me the way i did taking photographs or writing plays. this is not a new problem. i've been an angry old man on and off my whole life. 

music, though, why does it have such a deleterious effect? i remember putting on recordings and dancing alone around the house, in my father's churches. i tried to make a guitar out of a cigar box. in those days guitars not everywhere. i did take piano lessons, trumpet lessons, singing lessons. nothing lasted. i simply didn't have the patience for practice and repetition. i just liked to improvise.

that hasn't changed but has it's limitations. i know i've been improvising a whole life and i really wanted the artist's freedom. process has always been more important than product. alas, i, and maybe most of us, judge ourselves by results and can't help being envious of what others have to show for their endeavours: fame, fortune, kids, products of one sort or another. i've always known we leave with empty hands, birth giving us a return ticket. 

transience is haunting, yet every time i look into buddhism i'm appalled at its denigration of the body. desire as a motivation has its faults, it comes and goes, yet while it's alive, i feel alive. my urologist just gave me some samples of viagra. maybe that will drive this crankiness out of me. or will it prove the buddha right and i'll even be more nasty...

Saturday, February 10, 2018

obligations as a source of existence

yes, limiting my obligations has been a way of life. no children, no career, no matrimony. at this point it seems rather strange. most of my friends have kept themselves busy. first school, then kids, then finding something to do after the house empty. though everybody loves a vacation, too much idle time weighs on one's hands. as has been said, "people yearn for an eternal life who don't know what to do with themselves on a sunday afternoon. "

true, i have had routines, many of them. in the greece of the 1960's i laid on the beach, drank wine, hiked the island, and chased women. this doesn't mean i didn't have bleak moments. eventually the romance of the famous and beautiful village of lindos on the island of rhodes wore off. the alleyways grew grim and the tourists tawdry. to re-stoke my fires i made for berlin. 

that's what i mean. in place of challenges on the job or in the home always shifting, i had to put my peddle to the metal. and without a little bit of difference in each day, i fall into desuetude. for the past month i've been shifting coffee shops. drinking caffeine, taking a few pics, and surveying the passing scene. plus, weather too gorgeous for februaryhas kept me going. i've signed up for african art history and history of art in the early 20th century. unfortunately they are both on tuesday, a long day of sitting.

and sitting is what i'm finding hard to do right now. four days ago i had a hydro-cele reduced. for those who care to know: fluid gathering in the sack around a testicle. starting as a chicken egg  grew into a goose egg. i decided not to wait for the football. the outpatient surgery a piece of cake. alas, now comes the waiting. i've never been good at standing in line. and especially not since i've found my power of reading reduced.

i got through about sixty years doing it. and as cicero said, always have a book with you and read everywhere. once i actually read a huge chunk of dostoyevsky and i got through coast guard boot camp reading thomas mann's joseph and his brothers, two thick volumes. in those days retreating to the library my action of choice. even today walking through a big library calms me down, like a ramble by the ocean. 

having missed being an artist, i shifted to photography and digital art. my site on the web has 35,000 pictures and over four million people have visited it: 
 so, i kept myself busy for fifteen years running around taking a making pictures, spending a fortune on upgrading my cameras. at last the gas ran out of that and i sold all the high-priced stuff and satisfied myself with a couple of smart phones. of course, i don't have the illusion of being a professional, which i enjoyed for a long time. 

i guess this is all about keeping busy so i don't worry about mortality. being cut into makes me all-too-mortal once again. i want to run out for a cup of coffee, walk in the nearby park, go to a movie. the time will return. someone said, success is spending time as you wish. i agree, but sometimes the minutes grow  longer, even as life grow shorter. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

is all art pornography?

i've always resisted this point of view. now i'm not so sure. john berger claims every classic nude created by men for men, women the plaything desired. i'd hoped art would add a subtlety not reduced to mere exploitation and desire. in the age of advertising every thing's meant to sell me something, and every work of art, at one time or another, has been used to do so.

what makes sex such a hot commodity? is it merely the inheritance of puritanism? human reproduction not sacred enough? i tend to think we live in a world so highly structured with goods, house, streets, jobs, we're afraid to move too spontaneously. it may cost us our jobs, our family, our reputation. and sex the most powerful tool to throw us out of orbit.

at this moment in time many men honored for their creativity and power being dethroned by women accusing them of sexual misconduct. in many cases the men condemned as guilty without any trial: their pictures pulled from museums, their images as movie moguls and fun objects of entertainment toppled from their expensive pedestals. 

and here's where a definition of prostitution might be useful, i.e. selling the use of your body for profit. and i wonder in how many cases these women gained work and stardom by doing just this, letting them be used to sell movies, cars, dresses, paintings? and historically, an argument could be made prostitutes create fashion, if not today's, tomorrow's. 

who was it said american men so obsessed with work the women have to entice them away? and one friend came back from working in africa, amazed at the sexualization of our whole culture. and how can art be separated from it? i suppose one could say art creates a sense of peacefulness instead of desire. or, as in the religious past, it lifted one's mood from the trials and tribulations of being human. 

and yes, it was used to put spells on people, to cure them or to kill them. and that hasn't really changed. unfortunately, by making all art pornographic, it's more alleviating aspects get lost. and then when one stumbles onto a genuine  porn sight on the Internet, one is stuck by the pure animality of it, the lack of finesse. is art this defense of our losing control of ourselves?

as a long-life lover of art, a wanderer in the great museums and galleries of the world, i can't helped being alarmed by the renewal of censorship. politics and morality take a lot of humor and fun out of life. to reduce the graciousness to mere seduction, what does that do to us? 

Friday, January 26, 2018

re-constructing the world every day

                                            "Consciousness is a form of logic."

sometimes it happens by itself. i have to simply open my eyes, stand on my feet, and it's all there, wayne's world. alas, it often slips away as my thinking (reason) kicks in. suddenly i despair of ever getting through the day. effort, putting on my socks, shaving, fixing breakfast, it all becomes a matter of WILL and i soon use that up. 

i don't always have a strategy to move on, especially if i don't have a plan. addictively, i can swallow a couple of tylenol. this my cheap way of escaping depression, despite the fact i don't know what it's doing to my liver. traveling, i discovered i recover upon taking a hot shower. maybe it's the pure pleasure of the warm water like a newly born immediately put in a basin and bathed. 

yes, i still take prozac and usually that takes the edge off, even if i've lowered the dose. and if i can get through to noon something else kicks in. consciousness has done its work and reassembled enough of the universe for me to feel safe. think about it: at night i give up reason. that's the main thing i have to do for the mind to reboot twice. 

and evidently my brain more active in slumber than in what i call waking. during the night  everything is thrown up in the air: elephants, dragons, ladies-in-waiting. golf-carts transform in to spaceships and other freudian symbols. i've heard of lucid dreaming, where the sleeper can keep a measure of control. unfortunately, i've never reached this divine state. 

one must be a god, i suppose, who never needs rest in order to keep everything in position, probably that's the power they have as gods. i have to let go, then in the morning put the table and chairs back together, i have to take everything i don't recognize and say to myself, 'this is the room where i live.' otherwise i fall into a form of stage fright.

an actor, suffering this condition, has to draw a small circle around herself and look carefully in it: her dirty fingernails, the split hair lying in her lap, the cracked glass from which she is supposed to drink. once she's grasped this tiny universe, she can gradually expand her vision, thus taking over the many floating impressions hitting her eyes.

hard for me to believe but four billion bits of information hit my eyeballs every second . i'm capable of perceiving forty at most. a person suffering schizophrenia can't do even this, overwhelmed by the treasure flooding the brain. there's no way out of it. i have to constantly form the life in which i can live. it's very tiring. sometimes i'd rather just jump off a bridge. and sometimes i survive by watching an ant in the dust. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Travel as an escape from time

finally, i know the face of my enemy: the clock face. just back from a month in australia and suffering the time between solstice and the new year, the dead space, i'm falling back into the abyss. can time ever be on my side? only in the case of sickness it seems, or maybe in a time of war. in other words when the dark clouds loom. 

otherwise, the minutes and hours rope me in as though i were a wild steer. i'm driven to make appointments for the dentist, to arrive at work on time, to submit to deadlines. ah, dead indeed. true, the ultimate fear of hitting a wall can motivate me to do an astounding amount of work at the last moment. as someone wiser than myself said, "A goal without a deadline is but a dream."

how can travel, then, be an escape from time? don't trains have to be caught, museums opened. banks in business? can these treacherous waters be successfully sailed without a watch! no, but being on the road and not constrained by duty, that's where the freedom comes in. vacations exist as a timeless space, despite beginning and end. yes, the termination has to be forgotten in the luxury of spacing out. 

and here we choose what to adhere to and what not. a journey of the best kind consists of our choices, not somebody else's. can there really be a working holiday? i doubt it, not for me. AND WHY DO WE WANT THE SPACE WHERE MINUTES DON'T TICK. they take us, those ticks and tocks, to an ultimate end. i still find it strange i am to die. it's very hard to imagine a universe without me.

and i think it's the human condition. as buddha said, 'try to find someone who has not lost someone.' can't be done. and aging seems to be a desperate attention to the time we may or may not have left. and we're around people obsessed with the same question. i see the worry in their eyes. and retirement isn't a vacation, having no end except the inevitable, simply a waiting game.

and what is sleep but death and the abolition of time. in the dream-state everything exists, side by side, morphing into opposites. i start the night male, as i fall asleep. soon i'm a prostitute on an empty street, suddenly picked up by three giant mice offering me a piece of cheese. if this isn't the beyond, i don't know what is. and isn't insomnia simply the fear of not returning? when i can't sleep, i find myself trying to solve the everyday problems of existence. 

yes, time and sleep equal death. yet, if we can fall into the right rhythm, i escape both time and death. that's the paradox. and any journey to foreign territory is the same. "Everything you ever wanted lies just outside your comfort zone." time, death, and depression, what can they be but pattern repetition, wearing out our ability to focus on what's near us. and science reinforces time, everything in it based on it. no wonder so many people come to hate science. 

what about art? can it do anything for us? hopefully, art takes us into a timeless space. the techniques and visions of art, when they work, have us floating free, in a brain wave of trance. art is a spiritual vacation. those who want us to be working drones fear art, downgrade it.'keep to the wheel', they say. no, if you want to defeat mortality, if only for a moment, go on the road, and stand before the mona lisa. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

how long does it take for things to become commonplace?

for me i guess it's anywhere from 20 seconds to three weeks. the first might be called 'buyer's remorse'. the minute i have it in my hand the long-for objects seems colorless and crude. it could be something simple, like an apple, or an outrageously expensive watch. the first i eat. the second? it only proves time isn't really valuable!

having come back from traveling, where i lived out of two small backpacks, i have a room and more 'stuff' than i wish. two extra boxes of odds and ends weigh me down. not only that, out in my storage space in the dark and the cold, contending with mice, a dozen boxes of photos and manuscripts drags me down with the past. toss them, i thought the other day. finally commit literary hari-kari. 

that ruthless moment passed, after all i'm paid up for a couple of months. i did just throw out six boxes of clothes and cameras. i've given myself permission to save a few books. two hundred boxes scattered all over berkeley four years ago, my contribution to intellectual slavery. and i've saved maybe four cameras. if i added up what i spent on photography in the past fifteen years i would cry.

over a lifetime what have i spent my money on? old vans, trucks, and cars. nothing less than ten years old. supplements and organic food, which saved my life when a car slammed into me in a crosswalk. books - thousands, and i practically stopped reading when i stopped writing. now i have my doubts about any knowledge i might have gained, though i'm looking desperately for a new passion to give me a sense of purpose.

clothes? very little, a matter of last resort and mostly visits to the salvation army. leaving sydney i thought it would be cold as hell in san francisco, buying two dollar shirts and sweaters at the thrift store, and throwing them away when the plane landed, the bay area experiencing summer weather in december and southern california on fire. 

i have frittered away any surplus currency buying on line. i beat myself for not being able to live as i did in my twenties, on nothing. now i treat myself saying, 'hey, this old body isn't going to last that long. comfort is okay!' and i used to think comfort a mortal sin. (part of me still does, yet i never regret a hot shower in the morning on the road, especially in third world countries. it keeps me from throwing myself into a mine-shaft.) 

yes, here at the end i ask myself what did i spend my money on? not a house or high-maintainance women, though i now think i should have showered the latter with luxury instead of being so cheap. no children, my family in debt the whole time i was growing up. that taught me having a family meant doing a lot of things i didn't want to do, and i'm sure my kids would have been drug-addicts and near-do-wells. alas, maybe all of that spending would have bought me happiness, while being thrifty just keeps me out of trouble. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

sometimes i wonder: what was that lifetime all about?

the first psychic i visited, gloria saches, said, "Everything speeded up. We're living six lifetimes in one." that certainly seems true for me and not very comfortable. the passions have come and gone. theater possessed me at least three times: when i was a child, dressing up in a toga, and giving speeches to kids on the block. later, at 18, determined to become a famous playwright, directing plays, doing a bit of acting. this went on for the longest time.

early thirties and i pushed it to the limit, working at uc santa cruz. unfortunately, by the end of the decade, disappoints in love undermined my forward drive. i retreated into writing poetry. one more theater period emerged in the 1990's, ten years of production, minor victories, finally satisfied i'd learned to direct and how to write a play. 

again, circumstances changed. the theater changed hands. i switched to photography, taking up the art i'd abandoned at sixteen. fifteen years of digital snaps, theater, dance, community events, stacking up quite a pile. let's google my name and see what's there: hmm, 35,000 pictures. those saved from taking approximately a million a year. 

alas, i ran to the end of that, selling off all the fancy equipment. i turned to the iphone and have been perfectly happy with it, snapping less and less, posting a few like a diary on facebook. francis bacon said his paintings, 'like the slime of a snail crawling across a canvas." there is a point when i ask myself, "so what?" i like having a record, yet does it add up to anything? 

other lives have been: music, taking singing lessons, writing a few songs. this too depended on a social environment, lookout friends driving for hours to eat corn on the cob. and this community dissolved, as each went their separate way. or travelling, forty countries collected, memories choice and sublime, lonely and bereft. all this mixed up with romances flickering out like fireflies. 

and the lifetime above in the photograph, a puppet-show with a partner, not looking particularly unhappy, yet if i include the expressions of the puppets, they do sum up a number of lifetimes. maybe it's true, a man lives by fits and starts, while a woman inhabits more of a flow. for most people i feel it's merely a matter of keeping very busy while life passes unnoticed. don't ask too many questions. as sachel paige said, "Don't look back. Someone may be catching up with you."

i like this picture. that was a joyful life for me.