Friday, September 22, 2017

onliy happy when i'm reading





that summer after the third grade i read two books a day, mostly about heroes, blackhawk, daniel boone, kit carson. we'd left montana for california and i suppose i hid out from the separation, the feeling of hamilton dying as we left it, the life leaving the telephone poles and streets. all the way to the coast, through the idaho snow, i fretted and wouldn't help my mother, my father at army boot camp. 

i can't really remember the school in los gatos, how i managed to get through that spring. all i remember is a collie trying to bite me as i trudged home. stories and fantasies, the comfort of libraries, and later years spent browsing in bookstores. there'd come a time in my travels when i became exhausted by greek temples and byzantine churches and i'd look for a book to bury myself in. 

hmm, and for the last 17 years i basically abandoned books for taking photographs and browsing books about them. i read very little, yet i often felt happy with pictures. true, all my children's books illustrated and those never left me, whether it was winnie-the-pooh or wind in the willows. at thirteen i had to decide: would i be a writer or an artist. i couldn't draw anything realistically, so the latter seemed out of the question. 

starting out a journalist on the school paper, i was led up the garden path by the teacher in charge, who said, 'this boy has imagination.' i took it as a great compliment. i wrote writers at life magazine and the new york times. they actually answered back and were rather discouraging, the profession not glamorous! gradually i got bored the with the formulae of the press, the mechanical approach to expression. 

by the end of my college freshman year, i dropped the basketball court for historical fiction, discovered poetry in my sophomore year and didn't realize i was a child falling in love with it. yes, the practical say, write poetry when young, and get over it. i never did outlive it, though i haven't written any in a long time. reading poetry still calms me down, shifts my mind into a different pattern. i have to work to understand, and i escape the repeated coils of my everyday thought. 

now, again, i find making pictures not adequate, though i still take them. they seem so perishable, and they don't express complexity. writing takes me on a journey into someplace i haven't been. and now, with everyone having a camera, the process so simple, a picture has become a bit of sand on the shore, surely to get lost in the vastness. while a poem seems to be made to outlast time, if it hits the human heart. not easily done.

i look at all the poets online, and think, why am i trusting poetry so much? i decided today on my tombstone: "He Kept Watch." is that enough? while i'm looking and reading, i forget the future, which, though it may be more interesting than the past, may not exist. the essence of life is fiction, the tumbling consciousness of a complicated species. even memory is mostly made-up. rearranging the pictures doesn't change a life. 


http://www.pbase.com/wwp/virginia    Virginia City, Nevada

Friday, August 25, 2017

i live an hypnotized life





i hate to admit it but i'm often the victim of self-hypnosis. sometimes this is very useful, as when i have to deal with an authoritarian figure, a cop, or a teacher. i don't realize it in the moment. i am imitating his gestures, falling into the rhythm of his speech. this means i don't get a ticket or i do get a good grade. alas, when i walk away, i feel trapped in the body of that person. like an actor, i've adopted a new identity, which can be very annoying and hard to shake off.

or searching for my true 'self', i've spent years infatuated with a young woman. this started in the fourth grade and only ended a few years ago. at fifty i'd still make a fool of myself worshiping and chasing an angel i created. one was an actress. in fact maybe they all were, knowing how to laugh and motion in such a way, i latched onto the fantasy. each time, once i got close enough, the dream would be staunched by the reality, ie. the personality and solid body in the world.

this was great for writing poetry. i do believe the general rule in passion - everything grows in significance, stones, streets, trees. that's the reason love called a drug, and like drug wears off. this, no question, is a form of self-hypnosis: meditating on the face of the beloved until the vision takes over consciousness. various forms of possession, positive and negative the same.

for example, politics. i'm always amazed by crowd psychology. how circumstances and the skill of an orator can create a movement of nazis. all of this must be an outcome of tribalism. we like the power of identifying with the mob, and i like being protected by anonymity, looking and acting like everyone else, a result of a rigid and dangerous to my safety organizational state. to be kicked out of the group meant dying in the desert. 

trance and hypnosis easy to demonstrate. i fall into a trance on a long automobile drive. i go on automatic pilot, not aware of my surroundings. i may be listening to a book on tape, or whirling around and around in my thoughts, standing up to giants or seducing an amazon. luckily, if need be, i can shift into reality on the turn of a wheel. actual physical fear always wakes me.

i'm convinced most of us live in this hypnotized state, not waking up till one foot steps into the grave and we hear the monotonous sermon of the preacher, saying how great we were, and everybody loved us. and unable to remember what actually happened, we like to believe it true. i don't mind even being called an oddball, as i once was lying naked in a grave, dug in a field for a theatrical exercise. 


Friday, August 18, 2017

memories absolutely insignificant to anybody but me




yes, i regret losing all those childhood memories. around 25 they seemed to drop below consciousness, all the details. and why do i miss them? i guess it's the feeling of vitality, impulsiveness, emotion, everything on the surface, no defense against joy and tears. and yet, i hated the vulnerability of being a child. the slightest slight, an offensive gesture, any failure in the classroom or on the sportsfield, tore me apart. 

for example, being a bad boy in the fifth grade i got kicked into the sixth. one time, without knowing it, sucking on my ballpoint, i got ink all over my mouth. the teacher sent me out, again as a 'bad' boy, literally the youngest in class at the time. or, to placate me, he made me team captain for a softball game. stupidly, i told a friend i wouldn't let him play if he wasn't nice to me. of course, he ratted on me and i got kicked off the team. i remember watching the game from afar, bawling my heart out.

i've read high school particularly intense, so many negative events imprinting themselves. and supposedly, i can  relive those, they being specifically painful. the good times, like kissing a girl on a bridge as a train passed under, or making out on a hayride, those harder to call up. or the time i worked in a dime store, cleaning up, and growing more and more tired of the job until i got fired. why would i want to remember such things?

i'd rather recall making out with a german girl in italy under a sky filled with stars. or riding along the coast of turkey on a white ship and watching the sun drop into the sea. yet, i welcome all memories, even those filled with shame, like being paddled by the principal in front of the whole fifth grade class. or the night of the prom where i dated the queen and when we got back to her place, i was so tongue-tied i could hardly talk.

i presume the desire for all this flotsam and jetsam either has to do with my sense of identity, or the feeling of having lived. probably both. a 83 year old friend going into Alzheimer's said, "I don't want to lose myself." and at the same time the famous druggie Timothy Leary said, "Senility is underrated." and i've heard in china you're blessed if you have a bad memory. 

does this all have to do with the rage for mindfulness, living in the present? truly, that is tough to do. i have to be frightened out of my wits, on edge, thrown into the survival mode. at these times every rock gains a clear outline, i leave the trance of thought, of memory, in  order to preserve myself. otherwise, as einstein said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." fortunately he didn't live in brain of our present leader, as we all do.  



Tuesday, August 8, 2017

impossible to write poetry when i can't fall in love






ah, there you are, dream girl, the tomboys i've always loved. of course, i'm not sure what you mean. when i first encountered real poetry in college (ee cummings, wallace stevens, ts. elliot) i didn't understand what it was all about. for six months i read every book on poetry i could find. the puzzle pulled me in. and it wasn't till i read a book by elizabeth drew (now a washington political writer) did things fall into place:

                                  ALL POETRY IS ABOUT LOVE AND DEATH. 


wow, could it be that simple?

my brother would never read my poetry. he said he couldn't understand it. ah, what is there to understand? of course, i too was fooled, thinking i had to know some secret language. what could be simpler than this


that's what all poetry is ultimately about. certainly, it disguises itself as sex and war. in fact i just read a bit of "The Poetry of Sex". a poem by auden about picking up a guy and an extended description of giving and getting a blow-job, specific beyond anything i'd ever read! .after reading more poems in the book i felt free to look at everyone in the coffee shop as a desirinjg, tormented sexual being (i've always agreed with freud, alas) i had a liberated few moments. 

that's what poetry can do for me: change my relation to the world. it can make me playful, sad, aroused, amused. somehow reading life in shorthand i re-arrange my way of seeing, feeling, being. i feel sorry for poetry's reputation as un-masculine. too difficult to understand. a short poem can carry the key to events in the world. 

                                                   POLITICS

                                                    Elect a clown, 
                                                    Expect a circus

my friend Will summed up our time very neatly and i added a thought of my own:

                                             MEMO TO A BORED NATION

                                              Peace, prosperity, 
                                              boring. 
                                              "Life in wartime 
                                              is more interesting,"
                                              said the old woman.
                                               And now everyone 
                                               agrees with her. 

sometimes all i need is an image and i can calm down, escaping from my own vision of the world. like all art poetry gives form to the void. it's worth a little effort.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

THE LAST WALK OUT by David Helton (review Oct 12, 2014)





the tangled web we weave

(and after the humans are gone?)

i'm really having trouble being optimistic about the future of human beings. october doesn't help, a cold wind blowing out of the east, fire season coming to a close. soon i'll be plunged into the world of traffic sounds, students, death, disease. in fact the ebola epidemic just spreading out of africa. o boy, lots to look forward to!

"drive one mile straight up for an hour and you leave the atmosphere" i read this somewhere awhile back and suddenly this put everything in perspective. we (i) exist under a very shallow envelope of oxygen and filters calming down the heat of the sun. think: driving sixty miles on the ground, it goes by in a flash. and if we're in outer-space, no breathing without a suit.

common knowledge, common knowledge, so sue me! i do wonder what will happen to humanity after i'm gone. will the survivors reach the other planets, settle down to lives under artificial domes, eat regenerated, 3d printed food? if we're lucky. and at this point that's be best i can hope for. humans multiply like rabbits, every increase leads to a war for territory, not to mention the effluvia thrown into the air. yes, i'm banging my head on the wall of the future, not even knowing what it will be.

until yesterday. i bought an e-book.

voila', this guy, helton, is way ahead of me, thinking about the re-population of earth by the diaspora into the solar system. what might the conditions be? how could the idiots who fled into space still not be idiots on returning to earth? his hero, an immune survivor, Gibbous Moon, decides he'll end his days walking out into the wilderness. for better or worse, he runs into the aliens, who are now returned homo-sapiens, especially the religious fanatics who decide the earth belongs to them.

if this sounds both adventurous and philosophical - Tokien meets Ray Bradbury - it is, and often the misunderstandings very funny.I'm kind of blown away, actually, thinking of the complexities and how he got them across. someone said nietzsche made ideas emotional, and I think all the characters impacted by them, in the midst of everything else. in a sense it's a philosophical novel, and certainly addresses the issues important to conservationists. there's a bit of warfare and sex, and very appealing characters from the moon, mars, and titan, among other celestial bodies. they make any ideas discussed come alive, and there is a victory of sorts...it cries out for a sequel. what happens to the wonderful folks he's created? i'm dying to know, left suspended in space like them.

of course, nobody's settled off our planet yet and at the rate we're exploiting the planet and each other, we may not. i like having what's to come have something in it for our ancestors. hope isn't exactly what i'm after, but i'd like to see the kids get a chance

Thursday, July 27, 2017

on the evil of clowns




     "I began my comedy as it's only actor, and I came
       to the end of it as it's only spectator."
                                                                                   Antonio Porchia

this is something i know very well. (i should be sleeping. and here i am talking in my sleep. maybe my shadow side can come out only then.) when at sixteen, i started to be a writer, i thought of myself as a clown tumbling through the universe. an adequate image of a bumbler and improviser, never truly at home anywhere, with shoes too big always tripping him up, a crooked nose broken three times in childhood. i always wanted to make fun of what others loved, particularly love itself. 

and there's the essence of evil, if you need a definition. somehow the passions of people, the coupling, never worked for me, though god knows, i tried, list of attempts embarrassing. i realized my urge was to conquer, not to be a true mate. no wonder i ended up defeated. i fought the wrong battle. the performer in me, the clown, the one who could be the trickster, in life as well as in writing.

what makes the clown so evil? anger, anger at whatever stood in his way. rage at being beaten with a belt, made fun of in the boy scouts, the jester in class, always embarrassing the teacher whenever he could, the preacher's kid squirming in the front row: he wanted to be the one giving the sermon, not the father. how bizarre it was to see him after his term in korea. i'd been the man of the family for a year. and now as king i'd been deposed. 

the joker hides behind a mask of laughter, a smile too big, eyes too bright. what he wants is attention and revenge. his comic turns, like those of hopi katchina clowns, meant to be scathing. no wonder they scared the little kids into being good. no one really likes to be the butt of a practical joke. and trickster coyote couldn't help getting himself in trouble, sometime winning, sometimes losing.

and i always want to solve the world's problems with violence, especially by dropping an atomic bomb on a well-chosen target. or rubbing out an enemy, getting paddled by the principal in front of the whole fifth grade class. after that i learned to disguise myself better. unfortunately, the outrage hidden in the comedy runs through my writing like lightning. here's a quote from myself:

                             NICE GUYS DON'T WRITE POETRY. 

yes, in the circus world everything is topsy-turvey. i always knew i should not be a leader, especially president. i'd trick the populace into thinking i served them when i only served myself. best to stay in the shadows. yell fire when i had to, and pretend i didn't want sometimes the burn the world down.



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

it was all "A FIB"




once a hypochondriac, always a hypochondriac, they say. CG Jung maintains it's the result of being a mother's boy. alas, plenty of truth in that. i've never separated from the umbilical chord, an oedipus complexee for life. sometimes when feeling down and out, i yearn for the safety of the womb. except, it wasn't safe. my mother had an appendectomy even as i was growing ears and penis. yes, interrupted development, no doubt. 

so when i developed a pain in my throat, 1979, i traipsed around california to nine doctors. one finally said, 'oh yes, i read about that recently in the literature. acid coming up from the stomach.' i used antacids and psychic healing techniques. the ulcer disappeared in no time. now they call it GERD and everybody knows about it. 

my faith in doctors shaken once again recently. i'd developed what are called 'trigger fingers', once that catch at the joint and may get so bad the fingers won't open at all. first i consulted a plastic surgeon. this big mistake led to another one. he said i needed the whole arm tourniqueted and i'd have to be knocked out. EKG check of the heart needed first. and with that, the administering nurse said i had A FIB, short for an uneven heartbeat. 

oh boy, something bigger to worry about: a bad heart. a month later visited the cardiologist, took a tress test where they shot me up with adrenalin and took 3d pics. an echo-cardiogram. both showed i need help. a cardio-conversion scheduled, an electric-shock to put my proper rhythm back. in the meantime i consulted friends and the web. half my friends have the condition, some worse than others. beware of getting over seventy. 

the day came. i drove down from the lookout and arranged with a friend to drive me to the hospital. the nurses most kind. the main lady said, 'we'll do another EKG.' o come on, i'd already had five of them. they all showed the danger of clots and i'd been taking a blood thinner. she stuck the electrodes all over my body. once again i felt like frankenstein. only this time, she said, 'your heartbeat is normal. forget the IV and come back to the doctor in two weeks."

this is getting to be, i thought, a shaggy dog story. i told the doctor i thought i might be going in and out of A FIB. he said i could take another medicine to steady my heart. i said i didn't want to unless i knew it a problem for sure. (yes, it can give you strokes.) so they taped a monitor over my heart. i wore it for two weeks and sent it back. i haven't heard the result. who was it said, 'sometimes there's a good reason for paranoia?'

okay, what about the trigger fingers. my brother told me on him they used a local anaesthetic and nipped the tendon without more ado. i visited the expert hand orthopedic surgeon. sure enough, that's all i needed. no knocking me out. i'll be damned, the plastic surgeon will never know if he saved my life by going overboard. without him i'd never known about my jumpy heart, or i would have had a very painful unnecessary procedure. 

yes, back at the lookout, trying not to check my pulse  to see if it's skipping beats. so far when i have, everything's been normal. i cut way back on caffeine and suger. and i realized i'd been starving myself of water for years, not wanting to pee more than five times a night. evidently, that could have been the cause of A FIB. now i drink water everytime i get up under the stars. so far so good. i no longer feel listless and without energy when i get up. 

for me the body is way to complicated! 

Monday, July 3, 2017

making excuses for envy




after reading an essay by dennis palumbo on writers and their struggles with envy, i thought to myself, "Not my problem." yes, i don't envy shakespeare or rilke, jackson pollock or matisse, not even the great photographers: brandt and brassai. smugly, i said to myself, "i've done something as well as they." not in total, rather with my shotgun, hit and miss method. somewhere hidden in my mass of material lies a shakespearean phrase, a rembrandt portrait. true, i'd have to dig a bit.  

unfortunately, the endless processions of pride didn't last. i started watching lectures on classical composers, and listening to my old modern favorites: phillip glass, steve reich, and terry riley. i could feel something like pain, nausea, a feeling of lack, of failure. not because the sonata by scriabin not wildly inventive, the seascape of debussey not swooning and magical. no, rather due to their overwhelming sonorities, the fact they surrounded me, pouring music and feeling into every pore of my body, not just into my ears.

i remember a rehearsal of the new york philarmonic, shostakovitch's 5th symphony, the chills running up and down my spine. or many years ago as an advanced teen-ager, sitting in hthe living room and watching the darkening sky as tchaikovsky's symphony pathetique carried me on a magic carpet into an ethereal rhealm with no name. yes, i did listen to lots of other 78's: porgy and bess, oklahoma, brigadoon. the delights of broadway musicals were not beneath me.

that said, it was the monumental sounds of the great composers which turned me into a lightning rod. they took me over totally as the clouds flew by outside. and when i listen to their biographies, despite some pretty miserable lives, say the end of prokofiev's life or the struggles of a deaf  and love distraught beethoven, i still envy them, probably due to the fact i'd have to have started a musical career at age five. no, i tried piano lessons and couldn't stand practicing. the same with the trumpet. maybe if i'd have had a guitar. 

in the end i like to improvise too much. i noodle now with a ukelele and a recorder, i dream of mastering a digital program and making my own symphonies. even then i don't have the confidence i could rival a scriabin piano sonata, or a chopin prelude. the task feels too monumental, like climbing everest buck naked. 

ah, i assumed i'd escaped the green-eyed monster, reading books of wise sayings, toning myself down - no puns please - restraining myself to poetry, travel, theater, photography. hadn't i tried to cover all the creative bases and not think too highly of myself, willing to laugh when i tripped and fell? when i visited the apartments of beethoven, schubert, and rimsky-korsakov, did it cross my mind they might be greater than i? even in the rooms of strindberg and dostoyevsky, this didn't occur to me. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

performer in the hot seat






ah, it all makes sense to me now. and it's rather embarrassing. years ago i read a book on character types, and americans came out as 'performers'. guess this pretty obvious. i'm in the soup of movies, tv, news, singers, etc. like everyone else, addicted to drama. i'm easily bored. imagine that kid sitting in the front pew as his father gave sermons. gad, no wonder he squirmed, made faces, tried to draw the attention to himself. i even went through a phase of being the class clown, hard to imagine now. 

and at six, i'd gather people on the block, wrap myself in a sheet like an old roman and give a speech. whatever did i say? i have no idea now. all of it was instinctual. at five i told my mother i wanted to be an actor. "okay," she said, "we'll begin by memorizing the poems of winnie the pooh." wow, that immediately cooled me off. i didn't want to copy other people's lines. 

much later, since i wanted to be a writer, my mother suggested theater. "it's much rarer to do." a hundred plays and forty years later, i had to admit i didn't have the social skills for the occupation. i simply wasn't enough a smoozer, or big enough drinker.

oh, i did a few poetry readings, gave a few academic talks: 'the anthropology of love,' 'spaceship earth,' always over the top, performing some kind of character. alas, i'm a lousy rehearser. very lazy. and this undermined my endeavors. maybe now, watching a lot of ted talks and reading a book on how the speakers prepare, i might get better. no, drive and desire are everything. i read a book on how steve jobs organized his presentations. the whole logic of it went in one ear and out the other. 

i did finally learn to direct plays, and then lost interest. it boggles my mind even now. i turned to photography and shot a million pictures a year: parades, dance concerts, theater rehearsals, travels, private walks around town, circuses, fairs, and posted them on line. http://www.pbase.com/wwp  at first i tracked the number of clicks on my site. eventually i got over three million and wondered once again, what was the point?

so, have i had a career as an actor? i  realize the answer is YES. everything i've done has been a performance of one kind or another. i've been reading writers talking of writing as performing, and being on a fire lookout for 54 years, i've had a platform on top of a mountain. when i report a fire, at least 500 get the message. terribly dramatic. and even travelling an adventure on the great stage of the world. love affairs, college classes, drinking coffee in a cafe. yes, it adds up. 

as for purpose, meaning, accomplishment, i have to rely on my own applause. bob dylan said, "if you've spent the day as you wish, you've succeeded." those moments when i have had hand-claps rather unreal. accepting a prize, i strutted like a peacock. a few times i mastered the moment. otherwise, out of restlessness, i moved on to another venue. 



Sunday, March 19, 2017

can i catch up with myself?








that' s always been my problem. racing ahead to avoid falling behind. alas, the poor turtle is back there, panting for breath, while the hare zooms ahead to the frying pan. 

to translate: my heart suddenly fluttering and fibrillating. what a drag. i'm all set to have a tendon sliced in my right hand so the middle finger can move freely again. one small problem, i have to have an ekg to measure my heart rhythms, necessary cause they have to completely knock me out and put a tourniquet on my arm, stopping the blood flow. the electrical chart discovers problem. no operation till i see a cardiologist.

a month, i have to wait a month? blood could pool, clots form, and my brain go into underdrive. quickly, i'm able to consult a second opinion. alas, the doctor comes up with the same conclusion. she tells me 'not to panic'. that's going to be a wicked fight.  hanged tomorrow, what a judgment!

now it's a matter of calming down, or speeding up. have i done everything i wanted to do? three weeks in australia livened me up. true, at first i hated traveling. the first night i slept in a chinese airport, one of those hotel tubes. okay, i thought, this is an adventure. finally in sydney, the first night in a youth hostel next to the train station awful. what was i doing giving up my comfortable bed? why that guy in the bunk above me shaking? you can imagine what i did. 

after a better night at bondi beach, thousands of people on the cliffs, awaiting the rise of a supermoon, i felt more comfortable. in general i could understand the language, though fast-taking kids might as well be speaking chinese. very dramatic evening. alas, clouds hid the moon till it rose high in the sky. ah, a bit of japanese m00n-viewing. 

i took the train canberra. the lady next to me, a grey-haired grandmother, fascinating. she'd taken care of her kids' kids while the parent were in india, on her way to visit a new grandchild. she had to get back quick for church work, for voluteering with the demented. i felt like a black swan who'd never done anything for anybody. an inspiring person. 

downtown in the australian capitol i began getting my feet on the ground, falling in love with its museums. true, the whole town new and many designed with buildings resembling a shopping mall. that said, i gained an over-view of australian history and art. one bookstore owner, originally from denmark, told me the NRA originally did not want everybody to have guns and then THE BLACK PANTHERS got them. and of course, all hell has broken since. 

off to the blue mountains, only a couple of hours by train from sydney. gorgeous place, fantastic youth hostel. stayed a week and watched all kinds of groups come and go, a hot spot for chinese tourists, busload after busload. i loved the town, katoomba, and ache to go back. i've pictured the whole trip here: http://www.pbase.com/wwp/aus   true, a lot of the pictures boring in themselves, but if you watch it as a slide-show and let it flow past.





okay, i did chicken out and skipped melbourne and the coral reefs, grabbed a plane back sooner than i had to. i had a couple of panic attacks, my heart jumping out of my chest. maybe that's where the trouble all started. and when i got back, everything seemed to go out of whack. i'd walked six hours a day with no problem. in Berkley my hands, right knee, and left foot crippled up. 

fortuitously, perhaps, i cancelled a trip to Paris and lost big (for me) money. evidently i need to know about the heart bit. guess i'll chew my nails for awhile
and ask myself: have you done everything you wanted to do? actually, i have no regrets and enjoy classes in the history of photography and the cinema of the cohen brothers. if only the political scene were different! maybe i won't survive to see the mess.