Thursday, November 7, 2013

"Do you have a table of contents for your life?"

no, should i? it's not over yet, i hope. maybe soon? okay, i'll think about it. jesus, what am i in for now? every autobiography a pack of lies, making sense of the insensible. and what's interesting, after all, about a guy who spent forty years writing and traveling, and now doing art work? i have talked up a few love affairs, tried to make myself poetically larger than life: "i am the caboose blindly following history."

"Quit making excuses. You know quite well what to say?"

oh, i do, do I? you should be in my position under the heat-lamp, suffering all these staring eyes! damn it, damn it. okay, here's chapter one: DECISIONS I MADE EARLY. i know it's not very catchy. we can change it later. okay, decision #1: writer or artist? age thirteen. a writer needs only a pencil and a piece of paper, and an artist needs to be able to draw. besides, look at all the books i've read, starting with three a day the summer after third grade.

And decision #2?

never to have kids, buy a house, or get in debt. my family did all these things, my mother writing me she couldn't buy a candy bar and lamenting at the end of her life she'd never had a new car. quite a statement for an 84 year-old. yes, that drive across country, waiting for my father dodging bombs in korea, the ford woody used a quart of oil every hundred miles. you can read the whole story here.

I've read it, everything you've ever written, and seen every picture you've ever made.

ah, then i can quit. i do want to mention that at 17 i decided i either watch television or have a life. i chose the latter, and with a few exceptions, have stuck with it for 56 years. true, i seem to have a knack for catching the good stuff. in my mother's living room i watched the kids get shot at kent state. i did have a tiny tv temporarily at the lookout and i happened to turn it on when o.j. simpson cruising down the highway with a hundred police cars behind. 

9/11, the assassination of JFK, the Vietnam War?

granted, i did miss a lot. and it saved me a lot of fretting. the news mostly the attempt to read a crystal ball. the relief lookout, jack leahy, called said to turn on the tube. i watched the two planes hit and the towers fall. once, and that was it. the radio gave me much more a feeling for it, people screaming in the streets. remember, i was raised on radio and words create better pictures than pictures do. 


ah, another radio event. in the upper room of the presidio little theater, i typed slowly a copy of the matchmaker, the publisher wouldn't send it. later i found out it was being made into hello, dolly. the theater director called me from downstairs: KENNEDY'S BEEN SHOT. i ran down the steps and we listened to the first report - after ten minutes they said he was dead and some waltz music came on. very odd, don't you think? we cancelled the show.

And Vietnam?

look, it was the first and last war completely televised. i'd look in a store window and there would be g.i. carried off the field, his shattered arm hanging over the side of a stretcher. no one now can realize how open the reporting was, how disturbing the images. i talked with a helicopter pilot who hadn't been scared until he got shot through the foot. and with a corpsman who'd just returned and had to keep going to the men's room and throwing up as he told me what it was like to hear gunfire all the time.

Hmm, just as we thought. You tried to avoid living in your own time, yet couldn't do it, though you didn't father children, purchase a home, or get a credit card. 

so i'm innocent?

i stumbled on a large group of people dancing thriller in the square with thousands around the world at the same time. i still don't know what it was 
supposed to mean.