Friday, July 20, 2018

Ecstasies Of The Forest


There are no pedestrians in the ecstasies of the forest. I give a good shake to a can of lather, press the button and hear the creamy lather hiss into the palm of my hand. It feels soft and wet.
I never know how to display my emotions. Some of them are relatively calm and normal, others are colossal and fierce. Enough, certainly, to frighten people.
Intensity is laudable in a rock star. In real life, people tend to avoid it. Incandescence doesn’t go well with small talk and wheat thins.
Intensity is easily mistaken for madness. And why wouldn’t it be? Is logic calm? Logic does, it seems, tend to be calm.
Fuck logic.
I was a young man in the sixties. Perfect time to attain adulthood. Like A Rolling Stone. Norwegian Wood. Jumpin’ Jack Flash.
Four months, a tiny pair of scissors, and a lawn mower are all you really need to produce a meticulous homage to the bacteria colonies that live inside humans. Everything has to be refracted through the prism of the imagination, or else it’s just another Mod Squad, a sitcom involving black volcanic rock and a sloppy array of puppets.
As a kid I watched Gunsmoke and wondered how Matt Dillon always managed to seem so sure of himself. He did not seem to have moral quandaries, ethical dilemmas. And if a conflict did arise, something freakish and unparalleled in the frontier weirdness of the American west, something that wobbled the needle of his moral compass, he consulted Kitty, the wise madam of the Long Branch Saloon who always conducted herself with poise and savvy understanding.  Such a romanticized vision of the American west seems very strange to me now. The frontier is gone, swallowed by Walmart and Amazon.
Consciousness rolls around in my head like an art gallery. I envision my head as a pumpkin with a candle flickering in it. A current without a river.
There’s a crustacean on the ceiling. I carry my hair around on my head. It’s a good place for hair. It’s not heavy, but it does get messy. I have a brush for such occasions. It has a handle and a forest of bristle. The bristle is bristly. It is steadily stubbly and thistly.
Elsewhere in the world someone may be teetering between life and death on an operating table. The mind hovers over the body watching the surgeon perform his critical work with acute attention.
What is a mood, a mood is a trapeze of the brain. The ghost of an exuberance. The immobility that sometimes occurs on a fast-moving train, or jet, or car on the freeway. It’s an odd serenity. Chimeras visit me in the quiet of the afternoon. The clouds are hungry for wind. The ocean stumbles onto the earth and a pork chop arrives at our table dressed in a tutu.
I have two sets of keys, one for the apartment and mailbox and one for the car. Often, when I think of the membranes and molecules of which I’m composed, it astonishes me that a single coherent identity emerges from that. Meaning isn’t limited to the brain. The mind, any mind, is larger than what appears. The more we think, the more we become immersed in a ruminant murk. The less we think, the more the objects and phenomena of our attention lose their names and become wondrous blossomings of amiable qualia.
The sky walks through my head. The taste of its mushrooms is ghostly and calm.
There are indications everywhere that reality resists the claims of empire. The universe does not necessarily conform to our language. Weather has its own grammar. Morning stirs in the shine of the knife. Consciousness is essentially Gothic. I feel the heat of the sun in my blood. I see an Asia of variability in the puddles of the street. A bee pollinating a mimosa. A shovel breaking the earth. Sunlight breaking in the shallows of a lake. The cinematographic tendencies of perception and thought are everywhere a fugue of blur and clarity, a chiaroscuro of movement amid a simultaneity of time, past, present, and future splayed like a bridge above a river.
I seek the fluidity of clouds. If sandpaper is a parody of Utah, then what is the value of X? Log on log is a logo of blaze. The brighter the fire, the deeper the darkness.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Strange Creature


There are no panaceas, but there are choices. You can meditate, do push-ups, or paint the blue sky yellow. Each experience is unique. Each brain a world, each world a singularity. There is wisdom in the fin of a fish, cartilage in winter, magnetotactic bacteria, grasshoppers sewing the air with the thread of a ferocious monotony. Words swarm around an ancient emotion. The mollusk opens its shell to the greatest degree of expansion, allowing the ocean to shape its shell into spirals. There is so much beauty that even the sensuality of sand appears to be solicitous of something transcendent in us, something like the luster of obsidian enhancing the lectures of the sun.
The zeitgeist needs a bath. There is something clearly wrong with a riot of unbridled consumption on a planet this small, this refined. Can an equation describe a waterfall?
The world is made of language. Biosemiotics. Ecosemiotics. Semiotics-a-go-go.
The alligator carries its text in the texture of its skin. The jelly pretends to be Luxembourg. The octopus is a naked mind. Turns out even bees share our sense of nothingness. So you see, the world is configured by a very soft voice, a feminine impulse toward care and perspective, lips unzipping a sentiment of consanguinity. Interrelationship. Contingency. Balloons.
I love the voice of Yvonne Elliman. Ruth Radelet of the Chromatics.
I once had more expectations than I do now. I feel lost, helpless, sad. The arctic ice is vanishing. Billionaires propose spaceships to Mars. It’s crazy. I need a rattlesnake to convince me of what’s real.
On June 27th, 2018, the temperature of Quriyat, Oman, never went below 108 degrees.
The potato crops in England have failed due to drought.
Drought in England. Rain in Spain. Murcia has had the most rainfall in thirty years, including snow.
Interrelation is the fundamental principle of the universe. But here in the U.S. it’s every man for himself. Look out. Here comes another 4 by 4 with a bad attitude and gun rack.
This is my Declaration of Symptoms. My shout to the spirits. My circus of words. My tribute to crows.
The weight of a thought depends on its density. Each supposition is put forward like a boat. Each word is the fetus of a larger meaning. Kelp, Irish moss, the drool of the sea. Peter Green with a piece of cheese in his hair.
Matter creates its form out of nothingness. A tree isn’t made of wood, a tree is wood.
My hands smell like an emergency room. I push the ghost of analogy into its final adhesion to reality. Emotions are powerful influences in human life. Our language contains innumerable ghosts. We assemble our identities out of bits and pieces of time and history, circumstance and biology, penitence and intent.
Pockets are inherently metaphoric. If I reach far enough into myself, I can bring out a crystal. I can show you a clam squirting water from its siphon. Psilocybin opens the cage. The hardest need to fulfill is meaning. Does a goldfish in a bowl aboard a ship feel the movement of the ship?
Language is a strange creature. Bring popcorn.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

This Thing I'm Doing


Time to write simply now, simple like Beckett, Beckett in his elder years. I want Beckett’s craggy old face, the eighty-something Beckett, a face of crags and crabs and wrinkles and runnels and ruts. The eyes of a hawk. The bristle of a thistle. The riddle of a scribble. Rumple of a shuffle. Simple dimples. Pickled ripples. Giggly tinkles. Piano keys in olive sonatas, refractive galactic galvanic octaves, emotions in notes, phrases in stages. Words in herds. Herd heard by the ears in an acoustic chew stick. The ear of the seer is here to hear. The stick is to chew. The chew is to strew the stew to the throat. And what’s a way to say swallow.
Time is a slime in the grime of a dime. A penny is plenty if you have more than twenty and a nickel to trickle into a meter when the cost of a space is softly and calmly valid. A salad of curb and chrome and asphalt and verb. A verb is either a noun phrase or a blaze of Motown. A verb is a word that expresses being and what does it do it does nothing if there’s nothing to do. Otherwise a verb must work its way forward through a sentence undulating in the nudity of a moment.
Change is either something that alters or is a gob of metal in the hand.
The modern quarter is 75% copper and 25% nickel. The profile of George Washington is on the obverse. An eagle is on the reverse. E Pluribus Unum is inscribed above its head. Why an eagle? Why not a pigeon? A sparrow? A turkey? A robin? A crow? A heron? A pterodactyl? A spondee? A trochee? An anapest?
I believe the image that best serves the object at hand is a dirigible. A fissionable pyramidal cetacean of the air. You might picture it as a hat, or a half sister named Render.
This can be a kitchen if you want.
Or a ramble through the ways and trays of life as it throbs in utter effusion.
When the whisper is whispered the engine is in session.
Let’s call it an explanation, a duration, a flotation, an elation of quartz. A piece of existence hard as a rock and soft as a sock. A piercing, a dispersing. An inquiry. A diary.
Let’s call this, this thing I’m doing, this activity, let’s call it a search. I’m looking for something. Not water, not a book, certainly not a job, nothing so simple, nothing so satisfying, nothing so brutally obvious. Let’s avoid the obvious. The obvious hides what it reveals. The  obvious is obviously oblivious to its own obviation. The secret secretes a sequel.
It is the transcendent that we want. That push toward the upper realm, as if we could lift ourselves up by our bootstraps and walk right into the sky and sit down on a cloud. Say hi to the sun. Caress the moon. Harness the stars to a slow religion. I’m happy with that solution. Call it ablution. Substitution. The world in writing. The world in letters. In feathers and sweaters. Would it appear as if I were more concerned with words than what the words designate? The meaning is not outside these words, but in these words, humming and drumming, whistling and bristling, bubbly like a pie, a dough containing cherries, a circumference of air, a radius of crust, an approximation of pi, intermediaries, libraries and wood.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

Adventures On The High Concrete


Yesterday, I went to Big 5 in Ballard to buy a new pair of running shoes. The heels of the old pair had worn out considerably. When that happens, my knees start to hurt. Big 5 is a big sporting goods store. They sell everything from fishing rods to shotguns to inflatable kayaks. Every time I pay them a visit, there seem to be fewer employees than the previous time. A lot of retail stores have gone out of business. Half of the retail spaces at any given strip mall are empty, the windows full of “for lease” signs. Seattle is too expensive. You must either be a nail salon appealing to the vanity of trophy wives and/or IT geniuses seeking the grail of singularity, or a coffeehouse serving beverages expertly engineered with precise amounts of steamed milk and vanilla extract. Like San Francisco and New York City, Seattle has become a city of assholes.
All the running shoes are mounted on the wall. Some are on sale. I look for those. My preferred brand has been Saucony, but my last shoes have been crummy. The insoles slide up and the fabric wears out too soon and my toes poke through. I choose a pair of Skechers. The sole is thick and solid with a distinct tread. I look for a clerk to go in the back room and find me a pair in size 12. Sizes in shoes vary wildly. There’s no such thing as a standard size anymore. For years, I’d worn a size ten. Then ten became absurdly too small. I felt like a maiden of the Song Dynasty hobbling daintily about with bound feet. Now I generally go for a size 12. The one clerk I’ve seen so far in the store who was standing conveniently in the shoe section has disappeared. I spot him in the gun section helping a man select a hunting rifle. I go to the counter and ask if there’s a clerk who can help me. The young woman gets on a mike and requests a clerk for the shoe section. I return to the shoe section and a young man appears from behind the door to the storeroom. I ask for a pair of the shoe I’m holding in a size 12. He returns with a size 12. They’re way too big. I feel like I’m wearing a cruise ship. I find another clerk and ask for a size 11. He disappears with a whoosh behind the swinging door and reappears with a size 11. They’re a tad too big, but I prefer that to a snug fit because my feet swell when I run. Half of my toenails are black. It’s easier to adjust to a shoe that is a tad too big than a shoe that is too tight.
On our way back to our car, R tells me that she spotted a couple of tweakers enter the store and ask where the golf putters were kept. I just got a glimpse of a scrawny old guy with a lot of white hair leaping out of the universe of his head who reminded me of the Ozark hillbillies cartoonist Al Capp used to draw for the Sunday comics, a series called L’il Abner. Daisie Mae Yokum, who was always scantily clad in a polka-dot peasant blouse and a cropped skirt, was a voluptuous knockout. She was madly in love with L’il Abner, who did everything he could to avoid her romantic advances and remain single. Oh how I envied L’il Abner. R’s theory about the tweakers is that once they lose themselves in the golf section they’ll find something to shoplift to sell later for drugs. Considering how few employees were available for help, my guess is that they’ll have a fairly easy time lifting flashlights and Sherpa boots. Unless, of course, they’re on the level and wandered out of a parallel universe of Sunday comics to go shopping for golf putters. I’ve learned over time not to invest too heavily in any of my judgments. I’d make a terrible security guard. But in this instance I’d lean toward R’s assessment.
Shoplifting has been on the rise in Seattle, which isn’t surprising, considering the astronomical increase in rents and the consequent rise in homelessness. Seattle ranks number 6 among U.S. cities for property crime. Income inequality in Seattle is pharaonic. Despair hangs in the air like a listless cloud of methane while IT workers stroll desultorily from their podments in glitzy glass and steel South Lake Union to a cubicle at Facebook or Amazon or Google.
After dinner and a movie (Gravity, with Sandra Bullock, one of our favorites) I watch a short video on YouTube in which Sam Mitchell from Austin, Texas interviews writer James Howard Kunstler. They share a couch in Kunstler’s living room in upstate New York, Kunstler in a pair of shorts, Mitchell in a colorful shirt and bulky cargo pants, his little dog Sancho cozily ensconced between them. Kunstler describes how the Internet has decimated the profession of journalism. Most things on the internet are free. No one pays more for writing, be it journalism, fiction, book reviews, movies reviews, music reviews, travelogues or articles on art and history. He once received advances for as much as $250,000 which provided him with a living so that he could pursue his career of writing. He could travel, do research, and eat. Unless you’re a celebrity or a former politician on the lecture circuit, the days of getting paid for one’s writing are over. This partly explains why the writing on the Internet is generally pretty lousy, fraught with shallow, poorly elaborated ideas, bad grammar and misspelled words. It’s a language junkyard. And while it’s evident that the Internet and digitalized media has played a pivotal role in this train-wreck, the neoliberal assault on education has also been a powerfully erosive force. It’s rare to find a capable, enthusiastic reader anymore. In a culture incapable of critical thinking and deep reflection, writing has ceased to have any value. You could probably rob a bank by threatening to read a passage from Proust.
The following day, I take my new shoes for a maiden voyage, a short, three-mile run around the top of Queen Anne hill. The shoes feel clunky and there’s a lot of margin between my feet and the interior of the shoe. I may have gone a tad too big. But I can always wear an extra pair of socks to get a snugger fit. And my feet do swell during the run. What feels oddest about the shoes are the heels; they’re very pronounced. The shoes have a very high stern. This feels good. I’m getting the proper support for that quirkiness in my anatomy, that tendency to pronate and come down hard on my heel. But for a while, it’s going to feel like I’ve got a pair of Spanish galleons on my feet. 



Monday, June 25, 2018

Unsettled


I got stung by a wasp. I was out running. It was mid-summer. Warm. A noticeable amount of humidity in the air. A sense of urgency, of crisis. Are there moods that inhabit the air like spirits? The wasp got me on my left thigh. Stung me through my running shorts. “What did you do that for, asshole!” Was he pissed against humanity? Intrusion? Stupidity? Habitat loss?
Life is complicated. Multi-layered. Everyone has this problem. Realities we intuit, realities we suppress. Realities we deny, realities we invent. And then, one day, unexpectedly, we get stung.
The best thing we can do for now is to keep the equipment clean. A few of us still tremble to see the sun rise. Rags are strewn on the ground. A helicopter thrashes its way through the sky. A mimosa reaffirms the quotients of prayer.
Magnetism sprints across my mind. It might be a good idea to oil the door. Is there anything better than floating? I’m lucky to have vertebrae. My wings beat against the ceiling creating a melee of words and fulmination.
There was no damask in the room when I arrived. The sun shined through the fabric of my parachute as I descended on the back of a hippopotamus. Most things finish by becoming absent to themselves. They mutilate logic. They create magicians.
Some of us continue to write, to put our words into forms that self-propagate and so overflow their template that they cease being effective instruments of description and become wasps of a larger reality than we originally suspected. Our correspondence runs to the lake and dives right in. It’s that kind of vibe, that kind of rapport I’m talking about. I’ve often felt that there is an overall connecting tissue. This might suggest a certain tremulous confusion but nothing can be further from the truth. The stickier the ambiguities, the larger the web. There is a world between us. But if you go to the end of the dock and look down, you’ll see what I mean.
You’ll need to focus, to be sure. But you’ll see it. It will be larger than you imagined. And its contours will be rounder, a little more undetermined than anticipated. You’ll wonder why you didn’t see it earlier, and why the inexplicable folds of its beauty continue to elude the most exquisite apprehension of its potential. Instinct with the beauty of uncertain light, the mists of the Adriatic move and mingle among the stone spires of Venice.
Sandra Bullock, meanwhile, goes tumbling through space. Jeff Bridges strums an acoustic guitar in a seedy motel. And in the fog at Angkor Wat a Buddhist monk lifts his arms in prayer.
It helps to be scrupulous, but not so punctilious that the phenomena get lost in the act of reflection. I’m not absolute about anything, nor am I always unequivocal. I can be fussy. It’s just that I’m not that heavily invested in an any ideology. There is always the possibility of almonds and walruses, I have a lot of feelings on this subject, I have a fondness for conjecture, but I won’t go to the dark side of the moon to bring shadows home in a basket when there’s a perfectly good bowling alley next to the pet store.
I’m not really all that platonic, either. I can tie the air into a knot and hand you a strawberry. I can do that. But I can’t prove the existence of cabbage. Nobody can do that, not without a word processor and a good lawyer. This is about metaphysics, though, isn’t it. We’ve given our minds an appetite for wanton leaps and an equal amount of smoke and mirrors in order to achieve what our senses fail to provide. Every philosophy eventually comes to discover its real limits. And that’s when it begins to breathe. When it begins to churn into actuality. The ears begin to see. The eyes begin to hear. The feet feel the ground and the insects go quiet. I’ve never seen such strange fungus, such iridescent moss.
There will be further amusements for our feelings. We know that now. We know it like the crumbling of dirt in our hands. We know it like the haunted look in everyone’s eyes. We know it like bone. We know it like loss. 


Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Act Of Painting


The act of painting suspends time, then explodes it in jets of color. The movement is played in one second, a flash of joy, the escort of hyaline nuclei. The representation of noise really becomes noise and the grotesque assumes the proportions of broken and chaotic sentences. This is painting in words, or what might be called gurgling. Textured being, forge of luxuries, the total evocation of the tactile. In this way, everything is organized and disorganized, dismantled and mantled, each sound a symptom of chromatic brocade, the disease of elaboration.
Sometimes it’s really objective, the first white background. I take notes. In fact, I aim for the perfection of gesture in the moment. The moment of painting is a spatio-temporal bubble. I watch the canvas that is a moment in time slow down and realize itself, gel, inspissate in goop, separate from reality. Gestate, beckon. Time doesn’t matter anymore. The essential is a coincidence with itself in a relationship blossoming into what the Greeks call kairos, a way of seizing the opportunity when it presents itself. The experience is there. Here’s the creation: a back and forth between languor and lightning.
Beauty pants for a woman. The scientific lipstick languishes for expression. The shelf is glass. The friend of my character creaks into view. I become a pterodactyl and begin sinking into darkness. Here is where painting becomes a little flame pillow. My soft shoulder is a beard of foliage. My almanac behaves like sleep. I’m frankly all for appliance, especially dishwashers, if they contribute a little intelligence to the sexual detergents of struggle. The tamarind has been splendidly embalmed in Peru. Wednesday’s business hangs out of the window like a thesis of thirst, a radically gnarled lawn.
My car is in the sparrow cave. I have a poetry coupon that can be redeemed at any gas station. It’s a language of combustion. It helps me to understand foreign realities. I can endure your odor, but please don’t plug yourself into another silly illusion. I can only take so much dementia. I need to comb my body. The scorpions have been frightened from the shore. The parcel kisses the music of the attic. I unpack the comforts of structure. I stroke the legs of a blind hippopotamus and find something in my being that yearns for recognition. This could be a music I can paint. The geometry of the hive affirms the journeys of the bees. The camel moves downstream on a barge. The painting becomes a crisis of sobbing revolt.
Shall we continue to regret the three-dimensional illusion in painting? There’s more than one way to simplify the credibility of the ovoid. Space is there to be shaped, divided, enclosed, but not primped into a frizzy nimbus. The literal must not be allowed to stomp its way into calligraphy unless the weather calls for a flat and linear handling. Don’t worry about the violent immediacy of the wallpaper. I think I know what it’s doing. It’s making itself more realistic by approximating a self-evident tautness for the sake of the public. We can relax it by academic softening. The plum is combing the helicopters. I’ve got a mixed feeling about the knife. Its intent is clear but the edge is scarily incisive. It’s a little too intractable, a little too blatant to be brought within the scope of aesthetic purpose. But what would that be, exactly? A more immediate surface? Yes. Let’s have more of that. The closet says a man is here. These are his sleeves and leather. Please, come see the eraser. It’s a small thing to lift it to your lips. The crime knot makes a coconut tree. Gelatinous iconoclast. Mouth oozing suns. 


Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Declarations Of The Ladder


Solitude and society must come together and succeed one another, to be green, to get green, to become green, to go on fasting, to go on learning, to go on going on. Solitude feeds the instincts with everything exultant. Because I don’t know. You’re alone. The world is by your side, stabbing the bureau. Clobbering it with light.
I know what to do. Hold this sentence a minute while I write it. Ok? Ok. I think it’s done. The crust is language, but the inside is totally shiny.
While someone is in danger of dying, I’m upset. But I try to take someone aside and explain it pedagogically, like an engagement ring. I get all sparkly and serious. Life is a whisper. We’re just whispered into this life and then we come out all goopy with blood and a doctor slaps our butts and then we spend decades trying to figure it all out. Or at least give it meaning. If you can find meaning, great. But a lot of us have to make our own meaning.
I’m on call two weekends a month. I accept it because I love what I do, otherwise I wouldn’t have struggled to stay in this very harsh environment, especially for the elderly. The bones are arthritic and the muscles are sore. But the benefits to be derived from achieving the religious goals of life or, in non-religious contexts, the search for ultimate meanings, is involved in the care of a person or a group or oneself, oneself in particular, and by that I mean the inner experience, the romance with existence which, by the time one is reaching old age, has become a constant web of sticky thread and concentrated activity, the structure of experience studied from the point of view of one’s subjectivity, which can only be escaped through language, but not any language, the language of ├ęclairs, the language of sloops on the open sea.
The research that I’ve conducted on crystallizing the ambivalence of the world over a specific area of practice so as to ward off fear and uncertainty, all that escapes us in our lives, has been achieved by framing. Take the car, for example: it has four wheels and an engine. This is what is known in phenomenology as a temporal awareness within the stream of consciousness. The frame is made up of the contextual aspects of intentional activities. If the light is red, we stop. We might take the time to change a CD or look at the car next to us. But when the light is green, we press down on the accelerator pedal and our life assumes velocity, our dependence on the quantum-mechanical systems to which we may belong lead us to assume some awareness for the conditions of our experience.
The rest is clocks and closets and Independence Day. That can have many meanings. But the elemental drift of it all will sparkle like rails in the Mexican sun when the legs find their ground and the dotage of dream and duodenum become our eyes, our vision, our silk shirt and extreme modesty focused on the sinuous movements of a rattlesnake as it glides under a rock.
This is when solitude becomes aesthetic. When the incandescence asleep in the house of our mind awakens to the gestures of the dark, the spin of the planet, the declarations of the ladder rising into the first glimmer of stars on the ever-elusive horizon. You know? Over there, by the barn. The red one, with the horse in front. The black mare with fire in her eyes.