Sunday, February 28, 2010

spring, season of the witch

when i was very young, i used to dream about being captive of beautiful witch. everytime she kissed me, i grew weaker. i'm beginning to think that way about spring.

where i live the allergy/asthma capitol of the world. for twenty years, i'd no problem. then it happened. a couple bouts of bronchitis combined with april, and i came home one day after eating a couple pieces of cheese and suddenly i couldn't breathe. terrified me, to say the least.

exrays, inhalers, visits to half a dozen pharmacies. masks, humidifiers, for three weeks i really thought i could drop dead at any moment. lost twenty pounds.

then, past the walnut blossoms, the mucus stopped. i learned to breathe the right way. (for a month, everytime i'd eat or drink, i'd breathe in, choking myself. i realized we let a breath out after swallowing.)

of course, the throat a family achilles' heel, to mix metaphors. my father often coughed, especially before and after giving sermons. so much for the theory vocal tightness comes from not expressing yourself. hey, come to think of it, maybe he had to force himself to be religious! that's an interesting thought.

supposedly the adam's apple the source of will. when the energy blocked, it falls back into the lungs and inflames them. this too seems possible. all kinds of bad things happen when we don't tell the truth or let our emotions be expressed. guess it doesn't take freud to figure this out.

the asthma attack certainly exacerbated by my mother's death several months before. she'd used sarcasm to control us kids and i think i never could forgive her for it - who was it said all depression comes from not mourning the loss of the mother? julia kristeva in 'black sun', maybe?

for the analytically inclined, a good read.

so i'm trying to get back to normal: no soy, dairy, wheat, and god knows what else. lots of research on the net under phlegm aroused quite a few questions and answers. and robert burton in an 'anatomy of melancholy' (from shakespeare's time) discussed character types - self-help books nothing new - and one the phlegmatic personality. hmm, might be worth reading even today.

did you know soybean oil in almost every supplement? i found out this morning. i've a whole box of them, take them everyday. ugh, reading labels enlightening and disturbing. wow, i'm going to have be more discriminating.

but i don't want to stop everything. damned if you do, damned if you don't. if you look at these photos, you'll see the beauty that poisons us.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

when did the u.s.a. become a 3rd world country?

now i must make a disclaimer. as a poet and artist i'm hardly qualified to talk about politics. in fact, these roles demand a kind of perfection of life that isn't possible. and the political art remains what can be done under the circumstances.

that said, i'd like to ask a few questions (and give my answers, of course).

when ronald reagan elected, i shared an apartment in new york city with my friend susie. upon reagan's ascension, susie cut out article after article from the newspapers, delineating the programs the new president eliminated. from the beginning it was a revolution, one curiously unremarked by history. basically, he dismantled equality. as the leader of the house said, 'he has a heart of ice.'

why should we be surprised? as governor of california he closed the mental hospitals. you wonder where those indigent people you step over on the way to work came from? look no further. mr. reagan put the insane back on the street. so much for a caring government.

i read his early diaries and autobiography, where's the rest of me? well, that's one question i never could answer.

you wonder where the recent financial crisis came from? look no further. as he signed the bill deregulating the savings and loan, he did a little dance and declared delightedly, 'we did it. we did it!' yes, he certainly opened up the door to everything we've experienced in the past few years.

i haven't been able to find it, but posted in the university library at the end of his reign, i remember an article from the san francisco chronicle. it declared at the beginning of his tenure americans had never been so equal in income, at the end so unequal. our lack of historical memory might once have been justified. however, anything you wish can be found on the internet. after all, it originally established to exchange information between university libraries. thus, it remains a liberalizing force.

when the democrats left office in 2001, a three trillion dollar surplus existed. at the end of the next administration millions lost their jobs. so much for the myth of conservative money handling. how we fall for it again and again beats me. maybe i'm too much of an outsider, feeding on the bottom. crumbs from the table, i'm delighted to scoop them up and have time for my own thoughts.

i do know a couple of things. one is: running a big country is a lot different than running a small. and the other is: you can't found a society on a theory, that way the path to a totalitarianism. a big country a free-for-all, a free-fall. the best we can have is the freedom to succeed or fail by our own lights. and i recommend appreciating what you already have. when big sums of money are involved, trust nobody.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

the craving for grit

where does it come from? and do we like it only in fantasy?

i've been looking at the photos of brassai, a hungarian photographer who wandered pre-war paris, mostly at night, surprising people in brothels, sneaking up on public urinals, fascinated by street fairs. this is a wonderful book.

a friend of henry miller, there's the same kind of savior faire in his pictures, the love of grit.

now grit, like all great words, has two meanings. one is: you get riled up, focused, determined, and you do it (whatever it is). alas, the other association is with grime! sand in the axles, greasy spoons, dark alleys. and in some sense, both are true.

these old photos in black and white deliver us, temporarily, from the virtual world of image and color in which we live. they take us back to something basic. the tragedy is: we want to live in this reality only in imagination. we love big (huge, overblown) houses, fancy electric lights and bathroom fixtures, the creation of a desire to be royalty - an anthropology teacher in college said, 'we live better than any kings did before 1900.' yet our well-fed faces do crave those covered with lines, the feeling someone has lived through something, toughened up, survived. that's the charm of wwII in europe.

my first time in paris as a teenager in 1956 i reveled in the old cafes, the back streets. unfortunately or fortunately, paris at that very moment being spiffied up, the buildings being sand-blasted to tan and white, turning it into a backdrop for hollywood movies. (30's paris certainly a shadowy, grey place.) you can't take photos now as you could then. like my trip to russia in 1992, when the falling of the wall hadn't changed the set much, moscow reeked of stalin. i can't say i liked it, except as an artist everything so interesting. and grim, gritty. i don't say real, as this covers a multitude of sins. however, it taught me how basic and nasty life can be.

no, color doesn't cut it when it comes to grit. and believe me, russia at that moment a washed-out memory of imperial glory.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

"i had a good time dying"

or as timothy leary said as he was knocking at the pearly gates, 'senility is underrated.'

these thoughts popped into my mind as i sat in front of a wwII table of memorabilia being sold at a gun show by my former boss. i tried to convince him to ingest medical marijuana as he goes through ten months of chemo. yes, a severe case of cancer gradually eating him alive.

i could have told him about the writer aldous huxley who died high on lsd as the news of jfk being shot came over the radio, the nurses' ears glued to the speakers. but, no, a writer not a good example. now, if it had been General Patton. (my own connection with the Good War and childhood didn't even occur to me. however i did leave the fairgrounds disquieted by guns, guys in beards, women encouraging them in this macho pasttime.)

maybe later, when he feels like hell, he'll take my advice.

then, taking a shower this morning, i thought of a stand-up comic who loves being booed off the stage, who loves to annoy the audience. (laughing, he tells his cronies at the green stallion, 'i really died up there.') can you find delight in failure? i think so. it's probably the ultimate nirvana. finally, you've given up pleasing anybody but yourself.

here's a poem i wrote sometime ago to console myself.

Failure has gotten a bad name,

hanging out in all the wrong places,

joining gangs of hoodlums, wearing

leather. Failure doesn't know how

to improve his image, even when

we'd all love to love him. I met

Failure last night playing jazz

in a seedy bar. I said to him,

"Failure, you've got a problem." Failure

said, "I don't have a problem, I am

a problem, my own worse enemy.

Everybody tells me. 'Get a coat and tie,

clean up your act. Even if you can't

be a success, act like one.' Do you know

how much I hate all those successes

driving their fancy cars, going home

to wives and dogs, loving their children

because it makes everything go so

easily? NO, I'm not about to get braces

on my teeth. I have no intention

of getting a shampoo and shave,

let alone shining my shoes. Failure is its own

reward, it gets you out of the game.

Now I can play my trumpet like nothing

else in the world mattered. I can search

for the perfect note in the void, having

eliminated all superfluous sounds." Yes,

I left Failure leaning up against the bar

with a smile on his face, and I felt

ashamed of myself. I still wanted success,

to be like everybody else, though I knew now

the true price that must be paid.

actually, allergies have had me on the ropes for the past couple nights and days. ('it must be spring') can i truly take my own medicine?

here are a few pictures reaching out into nature for support, even if the trees and flowers toss poison in my path.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

in the interest of public safety

forget terrorism. the most dangerous thing you can do: climb in your car and drive to the grocery store. especially at night, on a two lane road. (85% percent of highway fatalities.)

i just did it, going downtown to check my mail. a mile of that happens on highway 32, a stream of headlights coming my way. any one of them could take me to my maker. a boeing 747 remains a haven of comfort by comparison.

safety, what is it really? i lived 42 years without health insurance, travelled all over the world. lucky? undoubtedly. but i figured to impoverish my experience for the sake of living forever! hey, that's the chance you take. if you live for the next life, this one's going to be pretty dull.

after the fall of communism, conservatives in disarray didn't know what to do. they'd used the fear of russia to maintain power for many years. fortunately for them, 9/11 came along and saved them. suddenly, a muslim could be planted behind every bush, a bomb in his/her shoe. instead of eastern europe, we inherited the whole islamic world as an enemy. if would be a joke, if it hasn't proved so tragic.

you know, last nite it hit me: afghanistan's a lost cause. the russians destroyed the civilized infrastructure. the taliban guerillas come from every direction. cut off the head of one leader, and a dozen new ones spring up. the warlords go with the winner. the heroin farmers undermine the rest of the world. (why don't the americans simply pay them not to grow poppies? they pay people in their own country not to grow crops in order to keep the prices up.) all this said, i personally don't want the taliban back in power. they've nothing to offer women but their chains.

finding safety has its limits. common-sense goes a long way. and so many eras in history desolate as eastern new jersey. even if our bodies were plastic, they wouldn't last forever. poor robots, running down. power supply! power supply! it's the voice of a child crying wolf.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

all the troubles of love (happy valentine's day)

come from not asking the right questions.

of course, you may ask of whom, etc. yourself first, the little red flags. don't ignore those rags waving bravely in the night. they may look like the white flags of surrender in moonlight and under the influence. we can be moved by ghosts and shadows.

i mean, questions always arise, i'm sure of it. yet we desire the 'perfect one' so much, we're leery of throwing too much light on the darkness. maybe we'll frighten him/her away? if i express any skepticism, perhaps the 'sought one' will fade like a violet, or break into a terrible temper and storm off to the next available bar to drown the sorrows, the lost magic.

so, we fail to ask them if they drink, if they have a husband or wife, to what kind of religion do they subscribe? and politics, never ask about it! do i dare scratch my nose? oh, god, what about the cheese stuck between my teeth? (a friend divorced his first wife cause he couldn't stand it.) my image as the highest of beings, can i let it be shattered?

hey, baby, you'd better let it be. sooner or later that pedestal will crumble. even the gods couldn't love very long, turning to human beings who had beautiful flaws. that's why in the classic movies the lovers quarrel first. they can't stand each other. cast barbs. scorns and arrows, that's all that shows up. until they get the negatives into an enlarger where they can be turned into positives.

every question you should ask, but refuse to, drives another nail into the coffin of your love. what if you can't stand her underwear? how about the graffiti on his neck? and the important things. does he/she clean the sink after ablutions? do you have to ask twice about the garbage? and that temper, have you tested it? will it turn violent? the sooner you know these things the better.

no, it's not hopeless. stay in circulation. i've just come from the flick about the young queen victoria.

right after an intense quarrel (they already married), out riding in a carriage, alfred throws himself across victoria's body to save her from an assassin's bullet. if the real couple half as feisty as these two, it changes my view of history. and i must admit, i left the theater believing in true love.
what better way to spend a valentine's afternoon? skip presidents, memorials, wars, and labor. this one should be THE national holiday. (remember all those cards you wrote in grade school and rejoice.)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

the big bang, or, who, exactly is to blame?

this evening i'm thinking about sex. thinking, that's as far as i've gotten. why does it seem so dangerous? i once read we fear its power, that it can bring down presidents. well, do we need more proof? clinton's cigar led to all today's troubles with the economy, war, and dreams of the future. for want of a match, the world was lost!

yes, i understand less about sex than i did at 14. at least at that age it consisted of dirty jokes in the junior high hallway. and women swearing in public? it just didn't happen. the first time i passed the door of a kitchen where a table of girls were swearing like sailors, it sent a shock throughout my universe. now, today, that certainly can't happen. everytime i walk down main street...

and i prefer this new situation. the liberation of women has freed us all. for what, i'm not quite sure. sex seems to cause us as much trouble as ever. we don't have a culture of rusty-coathangers and back-room operations. still, sex gets us in trouble. and i'm not really in favor of abstinence. between a rock and a hard place, that's where i am.

i mean, what a crazy world where the mighty fall when found out. a famous golfer gets caught putting into the wrong... you know what i mean. and the powerful can't even enjoy their status, which should put them in the realm of steady and various satisfactions. eisenhower had a mistress (who would have thought), not to mention FDR. and JFK plus marilyn monroe, that's a movie yet to be made. (was he killed for messing with a gangster's moll? that's one theory.) no wonder we bottom-feeders live in fear!

these thoughts come to mind due to photos by lewis carrol shown in class today. somehow he pictured little girls being seductive. (he told them stories while photographing - not the lewd kind, as we know.) he had the knack of making them want something from him. (later it's called 'highschool charm'.) no, it's not sex, but seduction. the promotion of desire to get something. and boy, do we know that one. every other billboard in america uses the alice technique. this works so well cause danger and satisfaction go together like a horse and carriage.

yes, i'm mixing my metaphors, the only way to approach this subject in a jaded land. work's much safer than sexcapades and most of us know it. yet, temptation is sweet and sin its own reward. and didn't america invent the big bang, whereas the ancient romans would have called it 'jupiter's orgasm' and been completely satisfied?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

falling in love isn't easy to do

not with facebook as your guide.

you see, the necessary ingredient for instant passion is illusion, or as martin luther king said, 'Nothing's so dangerous as a sincere ignorance and a contientous stupidity.' this applies in private life, as well as public.

or as c.g. jung so aptly described, 'We project the image of the perfect (anima or animus) onto a flawed being. Even mothers can't live up to it.' as long as we can fall in love with a character onstage or in the movies, we're safe. alas, we confuse the performer with the real person, who at home makes kites fly.

then, why do we do it, over and over? only passion, good or ill, can make us change, give up our comfort and bad habits, the job we suffer cause of the pay and hate, the wife or husband who would put us in the poor house if we attempted to divorce them. ONE NAIL HAS TO KNOCK OUT ANOTHER. that's what i have pasted over my door.

so what about the internet's most popular social site delivers us from the demons and keeps us rooted in the every day and desperate? ah, it's no secret, not any more. you have a flash of interest, your libido rises to the occasion. immediately you go home and look him or her up. (i'll use the feminine, since that's what interests me, but the sex doesn't matter. one of the funniest and truest and ultimately tragic books for the analytically-inclined is by the gay french critic, roland barthes: highly recommended.)

let's see, you've been struck by a bolt of lightning, cupid has trashed you, hidden in the mistletoe. and now you have that person sprawled before you (figure of speech), their pictures, often dozens if not hundreds, friends, family, parties, clothes, restaurant scenes, sacred and profane. it's all there. WHAT BAGGAGE THEY CARRY. in other words, they've a life. how can you love it all? they read the wrong books, see stupid movies, make a living in mundane ways, and have the desires of sheep.

no, no, i know it doesn't always happen. sometimes there's no picture, not even of them, no friends. what are they hiding? are they anti-social? this is definitely a person without trust and openness. egad, that's even worse than personal revelation.

and, of course, every once in a blue moon you like everything about them. they like rabbits as pets and so do you! they've read 'the mummy's curse.' my god, i thought i was the only one in the world. their greatest ambition: to climb mt. boro on bali with the one they love. ah, i did that, but by myself. here it is, THE PERFECT ONE. now you're tongue-tied around her (him), nervous, not yourself. you spill coffee on your pants, you step on her dress which rips when she tries to rise from the table. you blush at the touch of her hand and pull it back fast. all in all, you've become an absolute fool. knowing less, you could pretend she hadn't looked at your profile and seen right through you.

in the old days, anybody could have been a poster-child for your fantasies. not any more. the new world of ultimate disclosure has left us with reality. will the species survive? only mistakes have kept the world going so far. (i cut myself twice shaving this morning, thinking about all this. it's a good sign.)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

don't forget to experience the world

the way younger people are. i'm saying this to all my old friends who feel the world is falling into decay.

hey, voters 20 to 30 overwhelming rejected proposition 8 banning gay marriage in california. who are the intolerant ones here? though it means my own demise, i sometimes think the ancients need to die off. maybe there is an ultimate justice in the universal design.

of course, i want to say to my younger friends us old folks have learned something by being around for awhile. one is, as oprah says "I don't think of myself as a poor deprived ghetto girl who made good. I think of myself as somebody who from an early age knew I was responsible for myself, and I had to make good."

ah, yes, there is something of the bootstrap mentality here. there's good luck and bad luck. sorry, that's how it is. last nite i watched a great video, the city of god

and the burning documentary that came with it. born into a slum, you certainly don't have as many options. frankly, watching the films, i thanked my lucky stars, i thanked my parents, i thanked the place and time into which i'd been born. such movies give us perspective and, i hope, a certain humility.

or take the example of being born a dwarf. okay, it's not much fun starting out and it can get worse. i've just come from a moving production of

at the blue room theatre. (you can see dress photos at ) at the same time you do have to have 'attitude' to survive the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

what am i saying? basically, stay young. you've nothing to lose but the chains of the past. yes, this is why america keeps jumping back up. the world of invention and innovation. keep pumping that money into education and giving the young their chance.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

what did i learn today?

a fellow classmate described the creative process of salvador dali. the master would lie down with a spoon in his hand suspended above a glass. as soon as he began to drift into sleep, the implement would drop, waking the painter. and he'd note the images that had come into mind as he left this planet for the dream. no wonder dali blessed with a surfeit of imagery. whether or not you like his work, you have to agree he covered a lot of territory.

walking down the english department hallway, i ran into craig, a sixty plus student like myself. i learned he'd moved to new mexico, sixteen miles north of albuquerque. he returns to chico once a month to finish his master's. this brought back images of d.h. lawrence's grave, his ashes sunk in a ton of concrete north of santa fe so no one could steal them. i paid my respects years ago before my vw bus threw a valve on the way to the zuni reservation. spectacular country.

today, i learned that american daguerreotypes by southwark, hawes, and whipple incredibly beautiful and much more various than i had thought, not only portraits but much else, like the st. louis hat factory where mercury vapors drove the makers crazy and created the saying 'mad as a hatter.'

i learned a stiff walk on the way to class interrupted by a heart-attack glazed old-fashioned from starbucks can change impatience and petulance into a placid mood of acceptance.

and very unfortunately, i discovered it's the beginning of allergy season as chico transforms into the land of daffadils, even as the rain falls. i woke with a heart beating a tattoo of ominous and erratic proportions. this afternoon i gave all my diary foods, those with cheese like a frozen tamale, to a roommate. how i'll miss the yogurt, cottage cheese, and whole wheat toast smothered in cream cheese.

today, i learned again i cannot focus my interests (photography) without getting antsy and depressed. fame and fortune await those who do so. i simply cannot limit myself to one path of expression.

sunday, i did attend a woman's volleyball game. it's the one event at the olympics i truly enjoy.