Saturday, May 30, 2009

every age sees itself as modern

studying the history of photography, i find this discovery fascinating. look at those peculiar hats. and horses and manure dominating the street, what a concept (not to mention messy). yet those very people of 1850 paris experienced themselves in the present. nothing around them felt peculiar.

and so, someday, we ourselves will be quaint. that slick car, that dashing haircut, that swish of the hem, how outdated they will be.

the beehive haircuts of the sixties strike me as ancient and odd as the courts of the pharaohs, the linear art of the assyrians. and i was there!

i remember going into a local museum in willits, california many years ago. they'd a kitchen on display as though it were a stage for ancient artifacts. well, i can tell you, those very plates and spoons were used by my family in the forties. and that's not all, a black and white photograph of a california indian woman at her fire looked exactly like my mother, who was born in oakland, california, april 14, 1920.

one of the most refreshing of thoughts: we can believe whatever we want (as long as we don't force it on others): a final heaven, a return in another disguise, a black hole into which we disappear with all our appetites and memories. take your pick, whatever consoles you, it's yours.

i choose to believe nobody dies as long as we remember them. o yes, roland barthes felt every photograph a reflection of death. and one of my favorite, most desirable of females is a young woman in a long dress stepping off a paris street into a doorway in 1945, a photograph by robert doisneau. my immediate thought: she's beautiful and i will never meet her, she's most likely deceased.

decease and desist, must we really, as along as we have the photos, as long as our living room exists in a museum? who's to say time is linear, that it doesn't exist all at once? in our mundane way we travel point to point. yet last night in my dreams... perhaps everything in the universe exists now, in this very moment, and we can pick and choose?

what a shame photography didn't exist in the time of the romans, the hovels of the visgoths, the creamy marble palaces of crete! i think we would be much less afraid of time, more enduring in our loves, explicit in our passions. time may be a mere fiction. even if it is what makes us human.

yes, back on the lookout, i'm thrust into an ancient frame of mind. see the latest photographs at

and you might remember nature towers above us. we can never be sure our reality is the only one, and that's the way it should be.

Monday, May 25, 2009

career vs. a life

everyday i change my mind. tonite a career seems best.

what is 'a career?' first of all, it has to be a focused education. our civilization rewards experts. true, the economic changes can put you out of business. if you created articles of pewter, you can pretty much forget it, though a modern love of dragons, wizards, and dolphins has brought the mode back. still, it isn't what it used to be. given this, the expert, having learned how to be an expert, can re-tool, educate him or herself again.

of course, i don't mean simply college. golf, air-conditioning, gun-running, anything can become a career, dedication and single-mindedness do the rest.

and the rewards, in a worldly sense, can be enormous: fame, fortune, a name in the record books. most of all, you avoid the ambiguities, the messiness of human love, the uncertainties of emotional satisfaction. ah, you will experience them, however you've got an escape hatch, an escape clause.

i remember a writer visiting benny buffano, the sculptor, in his old age. the artist, eager to finish his life's work, ignored his daughter, also in residence. the scribe thought this cruel, insensitive, and outrageous. tonite, i consider buffano to have been wise. yet, i just heard an hour ago a friend's daughter had committed suicide. from my experience, she must have been very angry.

not to say my friend at fault. no parent can really be held responsible. our world is a dangerous place, from within ourselves and from without. and i don't know the facts. however i do know a parent losing a child the most devestating experience possible.

and it may be even worse if you've depended upon 'a life' instead of a career. what is a life? i would say, a constant adventure, a renewed sense of direction, a risk that human relationships will ultimately satisfy you. instead of focus, you have a field. you walk around india, you've five children, you change jobs whenever you're bored. you search for a sense of fullness, to realize every dream, every potential, even if imperfectly, and this is a given.

personally, i don't know where i lie. yesterday i began my forty-seventh season as a fire lookout. does that qualify as a career? certainly it's a limitation, but one without advancement. i did travel for forty years, writing all kinds of stuff, mainly thinking of myself as a poet. however, i never published except now on the web. discovering people wouldn't read what i wrote, i turned to photography. people will look at photographs. i just ran across a book maintaining the future belongs to the right-brainers, the visual.

hmm, i do consider myself an expert play-doctor and theater director. these i did learn and can do. hah, and now i don't do them! talk about sabatoging a career! that i certainly know how to do. that said, do the rewards and recognition determine a career? perhaps, yes, you have to have it confirmed, you've written a masterpiece, you've won kentucky derby.

what a mix-up! i would say i haven't sought satisfaction through relationships, considering them unstable and unreliable. a writer friend, david helton, once told me in greece, 'focus on your work, that you have control over.' but without my friends and co-workers, i'd walk down to the cliff and jump. having read much about self-destruction, i know a desperate feeling of isolation is the one constant .

i have such mixed emotions at graduation. here are this year's pictures:

is it the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end?

and at the county fair, mainly a working-class event, i wonder what kinds of couples are most happy? so often it seems to be when husband and wife fulfill what we consider to be traditional roles.

blindness, a feeling of security, pure luck. whether it's a career, or a life, it's a crap-shoot.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

fighting pirates

or being one, isn't it the same thing, the dream of an adventurous life? and isn't the importance of our wild escapades during sleep the fact that these too are life, that we will remember some of these episodes with more vividness than the stupidities of our waking hours? we live to dream, maybe that says it all, and when our imagination dies, we do too.

it's been one of those surprising days. every once in awhile i realize the life i've lived is not necessarily the one i would have enjoyed most. during morning coffee at barnes and noble i discovered an article in monocle magazine (and i recommend this rag highly, most unusual, it combines the world of design with the world of politics and development, nothing else like it). an article on the somalian pirates and their danish (believe it or not) naval opponents. and i thought, damn, i'd like to be out there pursuing outlaws on the high seas. yet i couldn't help feeling sorry for the offenders themselves, poverty-stricken ner-do-wells from a devestated country, merely attempting to survive.

so much for sympathy! actually, like most poets i wish i'd been a man/woman of action. now, the hero can't survive without the writer. all deeds languish in vain unless loftly, even ironic and condemnatory words lift the solitary gesture of defiance out of obscurity. to put it plain and simple, only the heroes with secretaries survive. and to be a handmaiden to fame isn't really glorious.

that said, i like a common youth of fantasies. i remember being in the basement of the edvard munch museum in oslo, perusing the painter's childhood notebooks. with rifle and pistol the erstwhile child doomed to become a desperate artist pursued cowboys and indians like a normal kid, drawing scenes of their exploits. i thought, 'at least he had this, despite his later obsession with death and screams.'

let us be common and everyday, let us fight off the great cannibals of space. going to trader joe's to buy wine, i decided to inspect the offering at the movie theaters. ah, star trek! a friend mentioned it in an e-mail, the continuation of a great traditon. so, i attended, sped through the universe, fought off the villain, identified with the defiant rebel who becomes the honored commander of the starship enterprise. why not? no wonder these movies popular, declaring the future possible while we all know we've a limited time. of course, this confirmed my decision to be a doctor on a spaceship in my next lifetime, medicine at the moment way too crude.

yes, a day when i surprised myself. after all, my pursuit of creativity is a mug's game. eventually it adds up to stringy muscles and a shuffling walk. no, no, do it while you can.

here are the wise floating down the river:

and children doing what they should be doing:

or perhaps fighting the deadly penguins

there's never a shortage of exciting things to do.

Monday, May 11, 2009

is childhood what it used to be?

i'm convinced many of the wonderful, surprising, and sometimes tragic things we do are attempts to regain childhood. the time we were protected and felt safe (mostly), where emotions pierced us like arrows and we had no defenses.

alas, the defenses came and we no longer felt we could feel! responsibilities, children of our own, making a living, these took a terrible toll on the freshness of our vision. experience became refried. once we'd done something, we could never do it again. truly, you can't go home again.

unless, there might be ways. now, the aforementioned parenting concievably (pun recognized) might be the true path. you get down on your knees, both to play and to pay for your children's education. and hopefully, you can brag about their progress - why else have children - and they become your delight. ah, grandchildren, unless you have to raise them, what a reward!

unless, of course, those little angels of yours become criminals, drop-outs, and drug-addicts. in other words, they can't bear to grow up (or old, the same thing?). the way of the outlaw keeps their sensations fresh as they renew them with adventure and alcohol, heroin and absinthe.

yes, these remain other approaches to recovering childhood. and many of us can't resist temptation. recently i met a nurse without a job and doing bouts of rehab. obviously, the available medicine cabinets drove her down the primrose path. very sweet, she didn't seem to have much will-power and the woman with her had a very hard face.

what am i talking about? who am i to throw stones? here i sit drinking a red, italian wine, pretending i'm hemingway in the first world war. those books i read at twenty make me want to be twenty again, when my parents were still paying the bills and i played at a thousand literary identities. remember, i ended up living in a berlin basement, the winter of 1966, due to my desire to be a roaming, international poet! writing a play about nietzsche. good gravy.

and it hasn't stopped. i keep watching the old, the young, and everyone inbetween. this week i took pictures in the park, on the river, at the thursday farmer's market, the camera a way to pursue the childlike. as my bones go their own way, bending and bending. if you wake up after sixty and you don't ache somewhere, you're dead.

here are the pictures from the past few days. i hope they help you remember what it was like, once.

some of these i've mentioned before, however many new ones added. enjoy.

Friday, May 8, 2009

so many memories,

why do they seem so valuable? i mean, i just thought of something totally insignificant. a magazine from the thirties.  traveling around the desert, i found a copy dedicated to maud adams, a silent film star. she'd abandoned the movies to teach at a small midwestern college. that seems irrelevant. i was out in the middle of nowhere. i returned from two years in europe. back on a lookout, i couldn't work seven days a week. instead, i roamed the mountains and the desert on my days off. 

in fact, i remember the bucket of blood saloon, virginia city, nevada. two sheriffs deputies were talking about a suicide that had happened during the night, her blood on the ceiling, the shotgun  leaning against the wall.
it reminded me of another conversation in the senator hotel cafe in  santa cruz, a fellow talking about cleaning up the shower after a friend had blown his brains out. if you've seen the movie 'sunshine cleaning' you know what i'm talking about.

again, it's a matter of these insignificant memories. i don't want them to disappear. they seem so valuable. despite their small moment. another memory, a house in new mexico, a tiny latino town where a family from new york had built their home. they said they'd gotten tired of everything being made up. the place built of beautiful molded adobe. yet they were strangers to the mexican-american settlement. 

these memories, they don't matter much, yet they make up a life. st. petersburg, russia, a tv  program, the life of marina tsvetayeva. i knew the story. too bad a visit to russia ended my romance with russian literature, long ago fomented by a visit to fort ross on the california coast and s semester of the language. 

i don't want to let them go. the cruise ship parked in the harbor of fiji. the kids making love in the bunk above me in australia. yes, it all seems so important, even though everybody has their own story. hoping a little bit survives. 

ah, cemetery photos at 

and a few of childhood's freshness. what a juxtaposition, these children next to the inevitable.

ie. the farmer's market photos. life beyond any photograph: