Monday, May 27, 2019

On Exhibit

Welcome to my museum. If this is a real day with real people in it we should give insouciance a another shove because we’ll need it. I’m a mad little trumpet today, a feeling disguised as a sharp bright noise. I didn’t think the neurosis would’ve gotten this big and walked all over my nervous system in such heavy boots. Here’s an interesting exhibit it’s a string of domestic animals filling the space between my furloughs. Glass case with a perpendicular speech act and the face of Samuel Beckett at age 78. Lustrous horse and a gun made of goose bumps. It shoots real nibbles. This makes everything inglenook and perpetual, the way paper trembles under a load of words.
Words do everything. Including thrust into ridicule feeling discontented and logged. Prayer is a bright multicolored beetle connecting interrelated elements for food and posterity. Or it could be. It can be anything. This is a word and it can be anything. It depends on how you read it. The boat’s rudder will not be affected by your uniform. But the journey could use some old-fashioned navigation techniques, malleability and rubber.
If you ask me mysticism is celestial softball poker is a waste of television and matter is a form of energy periodically manifested as a tape measure.
Wicker fiction touchy fish that establish protocol for the behavior of water. Comical replication in a suitcase headed toward kettledrum olives. Is it literary to have more than one metaphor in your pants? Myriad virilities jiggled on a python patrol. You could say heat is a forearm frequented by shampoo. That would be masturbation’s model as it scrambles for soap. Or that caring is a landscape within the reach of novelty.
I’m particularly wiggled by ninety protoplasmic mops. One of the things I think we need to take seriously is musk-ox. There’s something very powerful going on. Why is it easier to imagine the end of the planet rather than the end of capitalism?
Avarice, in a nutshell. It explains everything. It explains heaven and fog horns. It explains patchwork and rain and the 9th letter of the alphabet which is just now inventing ice.
Merriment ensues. There will be licorice in our social conduct and root beer in our conversation. References in the act of determining fruit will be baked in semantic shellac.
How merry to marry a skirt. How merry to needle a toga. Together we will thread the air with rattlesnakes. Paleontological stars are perched on a backpack. An occasional nudge rewards my prison. Nearsighted recognition of a tadpole on a prescription for cough medicine the way I see porridge is large leaves and a renegade desire. I could leave now walk right out the door but instead I’m going to offer you a strong current of water and a ticket to our large stemmed glass parade. It begins at eight and soothes all substance by emitting little waves of sound and nomenclature.

Friday, May 24, 2019

By Implication

Implication is better than teargas. Implication can be used in multiple ways, whereas teargas has essentially but one application, which is making people scatter. Implication can be used in mining, philosophy, and ice skating events. Teargas is just good for crowd dispersal. Implication fails in this respect. I’ve attempted implying that people clear a room so that I may be alone, but it generally misfires. No one seems to know what I’m talking about. That’s when I like to bring out a canister or two of teargas. It’s pure magic. Everyone runs away screaming.
Implication can be injected into a conversation almost at any point. Results may vary, but depending on whatever it is you’re attempting to imply, implication works better than teargas in virtually every instance. Teargas is not conducive to conversation, but if it’s solitude you want, you can’t beat it.
Once, at a UN conference, I was in a bad mood. I wanted to be alone, but was too sedentary to rise from my seat and find a private room. I just lobbed a couple of tear gas canisters and cleared the room instantly.
The ensuing wars were not my fault. But if any dignitaries were unduly inconvenienced, I apologize.
Implication can, by undertone and innuendo, have a lot of imputation in it. Implication is folding. It’s reciprocal, sporadic, and casual. Implication may contain bromides, boll weevils, or venison, but it will always love you in return, especially when it waddles into a conversation like an artery and deepens someone’s gabardine.
What I’m attempting to suggest here is simply this: syllogisms are clunky. It’s almost always better to use syllogisms late at night or first thing in the morning. Off-peak hours are generally 8 pm to 7 am. Thus, when Aristotle begins in Book 7 of the Metaphysics to ask what makes a thing a thing, he narrows the question to apply only to living things. He doesn’t infer it. He moves it into the totalities of signification and intelligibility where it can be reached by spiritual insight, and then hammered into a piece of old gray wood, just like the revival guitar players. This isn’t explicit. But it’s implied.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Let It Rain

All these years I’ve tried avoiding pain when I should’ve been providing it a home. Happiness is fine. But it’s notoriously fleeting. There is always something giddy and silly about happiness. It’s a tease. Everyone wants to feel happiness. It’s an obsession. Especially in the United States. Positivity is exalted. Pessimism is condemned. It’s assumed that if that one is consistently happy and positive and brings a cheerful attitude to the abrasions of daily life one will become rich and in full control of one’s destiny. I’m reminded of the opening scene in Night of the Iguana of all the middle-aged women singing “Happy Days Are Here” again on the bus which is driven by a fatigued and afflicted Reverend Dr. T. Lawrence Shannon, played brilliantly by Richard Burton. There’s an evident undercurrent of deep unhappiness among the women but they put so much force and vigor into their singing that their zeal seems freakish, almost demonic, a toxic whitewash in its stubborn refusal to admit any dark emotion or untoward feeling reveal itself, particularly any natural or authentic energies that could ruin the artifice and allow a space for more genuine and therefore dangerous feelings.   
No one has succeeded in defining happiness, but everyone knows that as soon as one becomes aware that one is happy it evaporates. Worry sets in immediately that you can’t keep it, don’t deserve it, can’t use it to immunize oneself against the adversities of life.
If you Google happiness quotes you’ll get 14,142 citations, the vast majority of them completely inane and a few that make no sense at all. One which stood out is Mark Twain’s observation that “Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.” I like this because Twain isn’t pushing happiness as a sacrosanct condition conducive to the overall wellbeing of a culture but presenting it as a suspect state, the product, no doubt, of delusional thinking, of filtering out information that isn’t consistent with an attitude of triumphalist positivity. Because if you look at the human condition squarely and honestly you see it for what it is, a chronically insecure predicament of loss and vulnerability. The Buddhists are right: don’t get attached to things. Life is a state of continuous flux in which nothing lasts except the dynamism of change itself. Buddhists stress compassion, not happiness. And if you enter almost any Christian church you’ll see a man hanging on a cross with open wounds and a crown of thorns, sometimes unconscious, sometimes looking heavenward. It’s an odd paradox that the same culture that is so obsessed with this story of sacrifice and agony places such an obsessive premium on happiness.
So why not give pain a broad and open acceptance? I really like the mindfulness attitude toward pain. It isn’t viewed as negative or punitive or a crippling, stigmatized condition to be endured with as much dignity and stoicism as one can muster and treated with an armament of pain medication. Mindfulness practice urges the removal of judgment. If pain is experienced with less resistance and the kind of denigration and shame with which we color it when we’re locked into it subjectively, and begin to value it more objectively as a sensory phenomenon with no moralistic evaluation imposed on it pain – particularly chronic pain - becomes much easier to bear.
So give it a home. The harder you try to avoid it or end it the harder it is to deflect and evade.
Easier said than done, I know. Easy to be glib. Hard to be ingenious and breezy when you’re buried in black despair or feeling the stabbing pain of a cancerous tumor.
“Pain has an element of blank,” observed Emily Dickinson in one of her poems. “It cannot recollect / When it began, or if there were / A day when it was not.”
I vividly remember the day I fell and dislocated my shoulder. It’s been over two years and the pain is still with me. It was also discovered that I had arthritis in that shoulder. I’ve been experiencing intermittent pain there for some time. The fall so traumatized and aggravated the pain as to make it a permanent resident in my body. It has become so integrated in my overall sensorium that it now feels like a part of my identity. Pain can be so immersive and all enveloping that its defining features become lost and it becomes increasingly difficult to assign it a history with finite parameters and comprehensible data. It becomes a big blur. It’s like playing chess with an extraterrestrial.
Emotional pain is the hardest to describe. People who’ve never experienced clinical depression have no idea what it’s like. They think it’s a bad mood. Snap out of it, they say. Look on the bright side. Clinical depression isn’t just a bad mood. It’s a dimension, like the realm of the Upside Down in the TV drama Stranger Things, a subterranean domain of toxic mists and giant snakes and ravenous bipedal hounds. Once there, it’s extremely difficult to get out. You can see the world in which you once lived and led a life of reasonable well-being, loved ones, friends, familiar people. You can see them but you can’t interact with them.
The way out is through acceptance. You lean into it. Lean into the pain. Lean into the despair. Lean into the anxiety and accept it. Shake hands with the darkness. Get to know your inner demon. In Greek mythology, a demon – which comes from the Greek word daimon – was a tutelary deity, a divine spirit.
Nietzsche saw pleasure and pain as a false and unimportant polarity. He saw them as epiphenomena, wholly secondary affectivities “on which everyone conscious of creative powers and an artistic conscience will look down not without derision, nor without pity.” He saw suffering as an art, a discipline. “The discipline of suffering, of great suffering,” Nietzsche proclaimed, “do you not know that only this discipline has created all enhancements of man so far?”
I’m not sure I see it that way myself, but I like Nietzsche’s bravado and articulating an evident relationship between suffering and creativity. I do know that it helps immeasurably to bring a creative response to pain. Give it a mouth. Give it a pot and a calliope and a big fur hat. Give it a bed of topsoil and a load of compost and wait to see what grows out of that.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Inside Out

We all have an inside and an outside. Or so it seems. It feels like that. Out there is the world. Inside me are private thoughts and feelings. Feelings and thoughts that seem unique to me. Maybe not all of them. But a lot of them. My response to the world feels singular. It gives me a feeling of separateness. But I’m not. Nobody is. How could you be?
The world travels through us. As food. As water. As the air we breathe.
When we breathe, the air we inhale travels into the bronchial tubes to smaller air passages called bronchioles to the alveoli, tiny balloon-like air sacs, to red blood cells in the capillaries where oxygen is extracted from the general air and distributed throughout the body. The oxygen helps liberate biochemical energy from food and converts it to adenosine triphosphate (ATP), an organic chemical which provides energy for driving the numerous processes that give and maintain life. We’re intimately connected to the world. We are the world. We’re no more separated from the world than the hair on our head or the sensations in our skin or the fluids filtering through our kidneys and liver.
Our feeling of being unique and separate individuals is illusory. But a compelling one. Our thoughts, opinions, ideas, perceptions, feelings and dreams are private. We can share them if we so choose or we can keep them to ourselves. We can let them drift through our minds like clouds or haunt us like ghosts or lick our brains like Iggy Pop.
What are thoughts exactly? Do they have a reality? Are they edible like beans or tangible like spars? Are they heavy like clubs or brittle like stems? Do they produce flowers? Do they expand like balloons? Do they hold objects like trays?
No. They’re not real. They’re waves. Impulses. Electro-chemical signals. What gives a thought the feeling of being real is the attention we give it, the energy that we feed it, the language we use to create it. A thought can burden us and a thought can empower us. A thought can inspire a religion, invent a new mode of travel, or weave a mathematical construction postulating the origin of the universe. It can lead us to insights about a potential romantic partner or tumble around in our heads like a pair of socks in a dryer doing nothing at all except distract us from the purity of a moment. They create as many problems as they solve. They’re a weather of the mind. Epiphanies are lightning. Depressions are troughs. Intuitions are chinooks.
Thoughts may not have anything like a true reality but they do affect behavior and behavior can have real consequences.
For example: in the afternoon I run down a residential street lined with oak and cherry trees. The houses are fairly large, Queen Anne-style residences with fine brick-work and broad porches and dormers and crisply painted woodwork. The people that live in these homes are quite wealthy. This is Seattle. A single individual needs an income of approximately 72,092 dollars per year to live somewhat comfortably. The people on this street – unless they’ve been living here for 40 or 50 years when homes were more affordable – are quite wealthy. Bill Gates wealthy, no. But wealthy enough not to worry about doctor bills or car repairs. Comfortable enough to have a couple of kids and afford their education.
I come upon a man and his two boys playing basketball in the street. This is a relatively busy street. One or two cars can go by within the space of a minute. This is common. There is no sidewalk for much of the way and the road must be shared with all sorts and models of cars and trucks and vans. The man has set up a portable basketball hoop – blocking entry to a little path that leads from the street to a length of welcome sidewalk - and painted – that’s right: painted – a free-throw semi-circle into the middle of the street.
I find it difficult to ignore this encroachment on public space. “That can’t be legal,” I shout. “It’s not,” the man responds. But he’s decided to do this because people drive too fast on the street. If he and his two boys come out and play basketball in the middle of the street, he’s forcing them to slow down and pay attention to their driving instead of texting or watching videos on their phones. I agree that this is a common problem. But this isn’t the way to avert drivers from doing it. Out of frustration with the absurdity of what this man is doing, I submit my prerogative to call the police. This startles him.
“That’s aggressive,” he says.
His answer confuses me. Aggressive? How can calling the police to settle a dispute over the use of a street be aggressive?
The answer that leaps most readily to mind is “aggressive? How is that aggressive? If I -was going to be aggressive I’d punch you in the face.”
But instead I provide a more prudent answer: “if I was going to be aggressive I’d be shouting invectives.”
I don’t like my answer. It’s weak. It occurs to me hours later (as always maddeningly happens the best response occurs when it’s too late, which is why they French invented a perfect term for it: l’esprit de l’escalier) that what I could’ve said is: “aggressive? You call that aggressive? And painting a basketball court in the middle of a busy residential street isn’t?”
Nothing is resolved. Just an opportunity to blow off some hot steam in the face of a wealthy, entitled douche bag.
And no, I don’t care for rich people. They’re generally true to their stereotypes: selfish, arrogant, entitled, narcissistic, avaricious, self-centered and toxic.
A number of things may be gleaned from this. One, I’m not a Buddhist. I’m far too judgmental for that. Two, I’m not rich. If I was, I’d have significantly fewer worries and stand a far better chance of being a well-balanced, calm, rational, forgiving nature and going around smiling in the face of catastrophe with the generous, enlightened spirit of Thich Nath Hanh. Three, my antagonism toward the social environment of places like Seattle and San Francisco steeped in techno-utopian, libertarian smugness, is acute. Rage is a common component of my emotional life.
Sure, I’d like to be broader in my outlook. I’m not proud of my hostilities. They get in the way of enlightenment, whatever enlightenment is.
I’m assuming enlightenment is that ultimate, unswerving awareness of being one with the universe, including the rich. Seeing the good that is in Donald Trump. The potential for kindness in Mitch McConnell. The benevolence that leaked out of Hitler and found expression in his love of animals.
But I’m getting sidetracked as always by my obsessions with evil. The older I get the more I wonder about the nature of evil. Nietzsche’s masterful philosophical inquiry in Beyond Good and Evil does more to confuse me than provide any answers.
At least when I write I get an opportunity to get that stuff moiling and roiling and boiling in the private sphere of my skull out into the open where I can get a better look at it and wonder how many other people share these feelings. Which goes a long way toward mitigating it.
Lovely word, mitigate. From Latin mitigatus, past participle of mitigare, “soften, make tender, ripen, mellow, tame.” It’s a good feeling when it happens, when the hardwood pew of a principled ideological position softens into the cushy generosity of an armchair meditation.
“We are all the leaves of one tree,” remarks Thich Nhat Hanh. “We are the waves of one sea.” How do I get those words into my blood? I appreciate these words cognitively, but how do I embrace them so deeply that they’re more than words or thoughts?
Because in Seattle, a lot of leaves on that theoretical tree are rotting on the ground while a few at the top are getting abundant sunlight. And a lot of waves in that sea are choked with plastic while others are lapping the private shores of billionaires.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Self-Portrait In A Convex Pizza

The wedge of noise that I rattle makes everything sidereal. A gray temerity. An anonymous pagan. Here it all is: sandwiches, textures, wheels.
An impenetrable smack causes time to point. We strain to milk the ceremony of words smeared on the reverse side of a church.
What is time? Bewilderment. Closets. Symbols. Why does it move forward, never backward? Because it’s held in the hands like a bar of soap.
I am words. We are all words. Everything is words. I am words in pizza. I am pizza. We are all pizza. Pizza is the Tunisia of Geneva. Lolita’s amnesia is due to anesthesia, not pizza. The pizza was an arena of synesthesia due to the freesia in the magnesia. The pepperoni was baloney. “I am legend,” said Melissa, who was full of macaroni.
This time it changes the cynosure to a lyric. Until the thin science of subtleties finds its razor we will continue to sweep the floor. I’ll go get the horses. It’s time we got out of here. I smell the law at every turn.
The problem of looking backwards, towards causes, to see if we have done well is that it only confirms the ideas and concepts we had before. This only serves to check boxes but we learn nothing new. If, on the contrary, we invest in movement, things are always new. But who will formulate this goal?
I remember nothing of the path. The armadillos were a minor help. I noticed that I had claws and wings. Was this a joke? Or a new mode of life? The cat sat at my side. Her pupils were dilated. Completely black. I heard the clatter of metal as dawn crossed the mountains. That's when I started thinking about rags. Carrots. Mistletoe. Dreams of an after-life. Christmas in Budapest. Hegel’s aesthetics. The mesas of New Mexico.
I remember caves. Rapids. The sound of water roaring through subterranean chambers.
I remember membranes and amber, exasperations produced by gluttony. I know how to engage the world. What I haven’t yet learned is how to disengage with the world. I know what it is to stand in a garden while the ganglions of one’s brain hoist an idea of free will into cognition. Is there such a thing? Is it possible to powder the face and put on a wig and attend the ball without being recognized? Will anyone notice the look of Cubism on my face?
Certain representative planets offer some good breakfast deals. There’s that to consider, plus clouds and liner notes. Who does those anymore?
I like to wear necklaces of faucets. Old kitchen faucets. It goes good with my wallpaper. Go ahead. Bathe in the flow of events. Do what I do: hire a painter to defend what happens when the wrinkles deepen and the load gets heavier and threading a needle becomes the focus one’s existence. If you can sit still long enough, the result will give you power. The authority to occur at any time, postmarked and naked in the morning light. 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Intramural Outlaw Cookies

I’m guessing a dashboard cohesion. Let me introduce you to a nuclear peacock. Unlucky fecund checkers played by portico toys. The masseuse jumps through a geometry book. Fireside figurines obviating typewriter darts. Purple jets for a portable marathon wink. It takes three days to collect a sequence. Lonesome road on which an elf finds a radio whacking a furry garage in a song about macaroons. This is naturally phrased as a form of flimflam, which is always hasty to swing on an insinuation.
Horny smut infusing a delirium of wardrobe refrigeration. Titanic life of a bohemian vaudeville. It could happen to rawhide. Please muster a conduit and tell me what the introspection can confiscate. The brain moved sideways like a crab all the way to the side of the head and sat in a puddle of words throwing dishes at a thesaurus. A porthole sucrose invented itself in butter. The photography had a fierce climate in its knobby linen. We used it to care about a diagonal. Hornets of the underworld wielding gumdrop vaginas.
The moisture of an alibi stumbles into evaporation revealing wainscot and caricature. I taste the flame of a vision. The sweater swoons in its knitting blinking like a taillight on the back of a vicissitude. The weight of a door hides from the street. The moon is old and extracurricular. I feel leavened, as if about to clamber aboard a mountain and ride it into hysterics, places where the rock kisses the sky and the sky reclines in its sessions of sweet silent thought, dropping rain on the robots and making the mulct succeed at spring.
Paregoric garden for a misanthropic afternoon. The python is thick with punctuation. Semicolons hiss with courtly neuralgia. The montage reciprocates with a cacophony of luxurious wax. All the mirrors come together in a rebellion and vomit reflections on the floor of a greasy spoon. Today’s special is a halibut garnished with cowboys. History is a nightmare from which we’re all trying to awaken. The seismograph sponsors an inquisitive tentacle. It wraps itself around a coatrack, impregnating the day with a lisping vulnerability. I like the seats by the window. I can hear myself think. It sounds like the rustle of taffeta in a Texas brothel.
Intramural outlaw cookies overrule the mantel vortex. Pleasantries are always genealogical. I don't know why. Recognition is squalid. I prefer to be crinkled. There is wisdom in soup. We must sometimes look elsewhere to find the proper retort. It's not the weight of the insult that counts, it's the radioactivity of the zeal. Witchcraft is for babies.
The peanut is a perfect star. But the star is not a peanut. The star is a zip code. Aristotle states that happiness is the most desirable of all things. I can’t argue with that. The peanut is a perfect zip code.
A female movie star stumbles around backstage at a TV quiz show wearing nothing but a search warrant. Pencils subsist on graphite, thereby proving the existence of palmistry. Fingers are tabloids teetering on bobsleds. I see no reason not to clean the senses with a Hollywood premier. The longitude of an irritation is ransomed by a ginger snap, while a latitude requires chocolate. I also have a theory about sagebrush, but I’m saving that for a Beatles concert. I live in the past. The rent is cheaper and the landlord is dead.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Staples Steeples And Shabby Proposals

R and I went to Staples to have a guy check out my printer. It was on the fritz. It would either fail to set up because – as the machine alerted me in the little menu box – the ink cartridges were empty, or there was a seemingly non-existent paper jam. I very rarely print anything anymore. I think the ink had just evaporated. I’d gone to Staples earlier following a dinner at Chinook’s overlooking the docks and fishing boats at Fisherman’s Terminal. We had hamburgers instead of our usual fish and chips, which are now $23.00. Nineteen dollars on Monday. But the portions have been getting smaller. I spent thirty bucks on a new black ink cartridge and inserted it into the machine. No go. I did manage to get it to run briefly, but the printing was bad; every other line was faded. So I had a dilemma: do I spend another thirty or forty dollars on color ink cartridges and see if the machine still works or just give up and take it to a shop that does recycling?
I called Staples and spoke with a young man who said he’d take a look at it for no charge, but they don’t do repairs on printers. So I brought it in on an unusually hot day in May and the young man took a look. He grabbed a packet of color cartridges off the shelf and inserted them and printed the cover of a brochure. It looked pretty good. A few sentences had lines running through them. He inserted some device that cleaned the machine and ran it again and the print job came out looking even better. The colors were vibrant and the text was legible. So I spent another forty bucks on the color cartridges and brought it home and printed out some documents. There were flaws at first but eventually everything printed fine.
The young man remarked that the machine was pretty old and may not have much life left in it. The machine was nine years old. We live in a such a funny world now. When things get to be five or six or seven years old and they cease working we don’t find that strange. Nor does anyone look to have them repaired. We just toss them into the landfill, or bring it to a recycling center if there’s one available. The waste is colossal. Is this capitalism? Is this what capitalism wants? Stupid question. No need to ask. Yes, of course this is what capitalism wants. Built-in obsolescence so that people are forced to spend more and more money and equipment that’s not designed to last more than a few years. It sucks. No one values much of anything anymore.
Saturday. 11:01 a.m. I look to see what’s going on with Notre Dame cathedral and discover the hideous plans for replacing the roof and spire that were destroyed in the fire of April 15th, 2019. One, from designer Mathieu Lehanneur, would be a “gleaming, 300-foot flame, made of carbon fiber and covered in gold leaf, that would be a permanent reminder of the tragedy.”
Yes, and a permanent reminder of how crass, vulgar, and imbecilic our age has become.
Another ridiculous proposal, from Alex Nerovnya, a lecturer at the Moscow Architectural Institute, suggested “a roof resembling a diamond around a rebuilt Gothic spire.” It looks more like a greenhouse, but at least the spire more closely resembles the graceful lines and Gothic embellishments of the original spire designed by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc which began construction in 1845 and was completed in 1865. It takes time to do a good job. Cathedrals evolve slowly. There’s a reason for that. They embody the more transcendent values of a culture and are consequently liberated from the usual pressures of finance. The emphasis is on beauty, not money. God, not Mammon.
Emmanuel Macron moves in the opposite direction: this is a guy obsessed with money. He wants the cathedral repairs to be done in five years, in time for the Summer Olympics in Paris scheduled for 2024. Given these restraints and pressures, the ultimate design will be based on speed and ease of construction. It will look like a cheesy piece of space-age junk at a garage sale.
R says she will divorce herself from Paris if these plans go through. I feel the same way. It’s deeply upsetting to see this remarkable building so abused by the greed and negligence that has come to characterize these times. Notre Dame cathedral is the heart of Paris. It represents the higher aspirations of the human experience, a move away from the drearily pragmatic toward the sublime, which is often vigorously and pointedly non-pragmatic. “Like other beautiful things in this world,” proclaimed John Ruskin, “its end (that of a shaft) is to be beautiful; and, in proportion to its beauty, it receives permission to be otherwise useless. We do not blame emeralds and rubies because we cannot make them into heads of hammers.”
Is there anyone resisting Macron’s impatience and these shabby proposals for Notre Dame’s restoration? 
Yes: a group of restoration experts published an open letter in Le Figaro to Emmanuel Macron urging him to be more prudent and reconsider his proposal to have the work done in five years, stating that “these choices must be made in respect of what Notre-Dame is, more than a cathedral among others, more than a historical monument among others, by observing a scrupulous and reflective approach, one of deontological ethics.”
Deontology is a term from moral philosophy meaning obligation or duty. It espouses the theory that the morality of an action should be based on whether the action itself is right or wrong rather than the consequences of the action.
Macron, however, is a man well-known for his arrogance and patrician attitudes. It has taken months of vigorous protest against a militarized police force by the yellow vest movement to get Macron to budge even a little in his neoliberal economics shifting wealth to the upper tiers and impoverishing the lives of the working class.
I don’t think there’s a way to stress just how coarse, barbaric, and loutish this current age is. Can there be anything more ominous than a cathedral fire to underscore just how pedestrian and stupid everyone has become?

Friday, May 10, 2019


Drift. Engage a heaven. Humor Corot. Consider a crumbled year. Wear a house. The epilogue will have virtue if it’s effervescent. Therefore, luxuriate.
I is a dot. We extrudes. My candy glorifies the landscape. It has your obduracy. Your plurality. This is plunged in words. Play with the thought. Think about a lotus. Put it in an aggregate. Age is largely dribble.
This ceremony runs on pure redwood. Our cab is biased toward mingling. My gossip fails to detail the digestion of further particulars bearing on the planetarium spoons. There is a story about this called “The Arthropod’s Arthritis.” It stars Robert De Niro and Jessica the Sorceress.
The web is the result of a spider’s thought. The web is a thought. The strands are sticky, like words. Minds get caught in them.
Is this prismatic? Well, it should be. The mutiny is underway. We need every hand we can get. Including pertinence, cash, and back rubs.
The more you struggle the tighter the cylinder becomes. It’s braided, like most bathrooms.
Nocturnal emissions paint a happy picture of fire. The coffee is acting silly. It crawls around in my mouth like a violin. The usurpation is doing well. My tarantulas are completely binocular. A town in the Midwest has been flooded by a horde of descriptions, some of them wearing orchards.
Kineticism is exhilarating. You should try it. Move your arms. Move your legs. Move your bones. Move your blood. Let your bones and blood move you. Crack open. Empty yourself. Abandon all hope. Eat a pickle. Punish your sweater. Light a floor. Rain assertion on a senate.
Hysteria smells pretty. I wonder what the garage looks like. I hear the eerie cry of a bird flying over a desert. We’re surrounded on all sides by other dimensions. And quite possibly a lawn mower and boxes of Christmas ornaments.
My innocent dish, my smashed obligation, squat in this syntax and enjoy the distribution. If the verticality digests the horizon there will be thunder in our tea and aluminum in our tears. I have a flirtation with which to argue the yearning for heliotrope. It harnesses bats. The jump into clover. The harmonica’s flowers of sound.
My drift grows into stone. I can feel the metamorphosis about to begin. The urge forges itself out of enchantment. Pure enchantment. The way a stiffening turns almond, or a word sparkles with squirrels.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Flutter Of Invisible Entities

I want the Christmas trimming to drive into Easter carrying a load of dirt. If dirt isn’t prominent in this sentence, then it must be a moon. I feel the flutter of invisible entities. The fairy kingdom dancing around the big toe of my left foot. This is the one with the scab thrashing around like a shoe polish. I’m going to create a winter oil that whistles and a stubbornly slow desire that becomes monumental in its explanations. We all try to convince the world that our desires are worthy and require satisfaction. Much of life tumbles into these excesses. The quintessence of an abandoned fence is the scuff of the real on the dusty entrails of a derelict explosion. And guess what? It proves precisely nothing. Except that quarks are elementary particles and a fundamental constituent of matter, such as barley, or the cornfields of Iowa.
The kitchen sink tracks the night. It’s an old story told by an emissary from the back of the bus. The foliage in the bathtub rocks back and forth in maniacal nudity. The cathedral lights the world with stained glass and allegory. We open a drawer in which to place folds of candlelight. I’m going to see if the undertaker is still alive.
The novel focuses on the substance of the wall. I think the poultry is humming. Can you hear it? It sounds like chickenpox. I dig the redness of the magnet, the fresh laziness of the snowball. The jelly provides consciousness and the fire gives us personality. You can’t go wrong hemming a paragraph with muscle. The abdominals are peripheral to the way I might hug you. It’s how I lift things. Think things. Muscles like doing cartwheels. It’s more fully evident in the cold. I like to imitate snow. The power of it is in its profound delicacy. The way it covers the limestone formations of the desert and floats in our eyes is nothing less than sanguine.
The house is a sleeping disaster. The blue windshield adds a twist of stoicism. It’s nice, but the reptiles are agitated, and the reservoir is dry. Stoicism can only go so far. This is why we need flint. We need to sharpen our chisels. We need to carve some shapes out of the air. Make the invisible visible. The prohibitions are troubling. Who needs them? There’s always some discord in seeing a benevolent pope wave his hand over the crowds at Vatican City. The character of tomorrow clatters into being, bringing amusement parks and rides. The ghost of Marie Laurencin juggles spheres of color in a corner of the living room. None of us resort to abstraction at times like this. The mood is too wonderful to ruin with horoscopes and long division. We just sit back and signal one another with winks and nods.
The mimosa displays its knowledge of summer. We walk the lava through the cathedral singing Neil Young songs. The search for ocher offers us its own brand of speculation. Even the telescopes are paper. The carpenter has abandoned the kite and places the sauerkraut in the wind where it is eaten by daylight. The kite, meanwhile, mutates into a Gila monster.
I embrace the silence of granite. My trajectory topples the muffin. I never fully understood the Futurists. The carrot is a web of equations. But is the bull of oblivion a chasm in the wall, or a peacock strutting across my tongue like a planet? Is it sometimes emptier to say something when nothing needs to be said, or is it the overpowering fragrance of lavender that finally acquits us of our inarticulate demands? I just place the nouns where they’re most needed and hope for the best.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Legends Of The Mailbox

Think of a lung. This is where it all starts. Words. Breath. A membranous sac. Two of them. Nature does everything in twos. Two legs. Two arms. Two ears. Two eyes. Two lungs. Almost all. There’s the matter of the nose. A singular organ, mounted importantly in the center of the face, protruding imperially and irrefutably into the oceanic dominion of space and time like the bow of a ship, but with two little nostrils. Two little holes. One of them – the cavities around the nasal passage, a labyrinth of thin-walled chambers (labyrinthus ethmoidalis) interposed between two vertical plates of bone (nasal septum)  - is often clogged. If I’m in bed trying to sleep, the air begins to burn in the good one. The free passage. It helps to turn, lie on my other side and breathe through the other nostril, as soon as it opens.
Words are made of breath. Air is the central ingredient. It becomes breath as soon as it enters the lungs. It enters the aveoli (air sacs) and passes to the surrounding capillaries, which moves oxygen into the blood, and so nourishes the brain, which is always hungry for news and adventure. It becomes a string of words as soon as the mouth and tongue shape the breath into currents of meaning and the larynx gives it all a vibration and the cerebral cortex bothers itself with pertinence and meaning. The proper sounds. The proper structure. The proper weight and inflection. If you're lucky, someone might actually be listening. They may sigh with acknowledgment. They may nod vigorously in agreement. They may look quizzical, or irritated. They may concede to your desires, or slap your face. Who knows? People are weird. Their language makes them weird. Which came first? Human beings or language?
I believe that language shaped our destiny. Our physique. This whole bipedal operation. Two legs carrying us forward and backward and jumping to put a ball in a basket. It’s a belief. It’s a conception I have. A mindset. A position. A caboose on my train.
Who hasn’t been swallowed by a belief? You find it in all kinds of correspondence, at least from the past. People articulating beliefs in letters. Ideas, declamations, unicorns. A good word: correspondence. Meaning connection, alliance, accord. Exchanging letters. One imagines an inkpot and a quill. The lone rider of a pony express. A guy like Charles Bukowski delivering the mail on a hot Los Angeles afternoon. It seems dated. Obsolete. People don’t correspond anymore. Correspondence has gone the way of the dodo.
I miss correspondence. I miss getting letters typed on paper. I could feel the letters. The impact of the typebar on the ribbon indented the paper. When you held a letter in your hand you could feel the impact on the other side of the paper. I could almost read them like braille. Language was tangible.
Although letters were most often written by hand. It seems so quaint now. You could see the fetus of an idea evolve by longhand into noodles of wishful chitchat.
There are correspondences to all sorts of things. Externalized. Thoughts were materialized. They had substance and tread. Telephone cable and horse hair.  
I miss corresponding to salt. To bread. To the heat of an idea. To the things of this world. Phenomena. The slosh of water in a bathtub. Waves are sequential occurrences of energy. The same way an airplane venerates the air with the shape of its wings.
Shape is essential for the reproductive success of cells, and the obscurities of the Fun House. These include distortion mirrors, snakes, aliens with laser guns, flying pigs, and the tendrils of declension: noun, pronoun, or adjective. We get entangled in them all the time but you can’t assemble a semi-coherent idea without these instruments. Soliloquys make good house pets. But you’ve got to feed them words or they wander into darkness and are lost forever. An unkempt intolerance is sometimes better than a woeful compliance. Thinking makes the head speak. The words come out into the light of day and startle the houseguests. Does anyone want pancakes? Pancakes are the metaphysics of breakfast. But butter is the birth of meaning.
So much for the Fun House. It may not be fun for everybody. There is a sense of things that some people have, and many people do not. You know who you are.
There’s an area of the garden where I can feel my senses rise to the occasion and fill me with cadence. There’s a rhythm in the way the earth yields its luggage to the grip of our attention. We step back and consider the white chickens beside the wheelbarrow which is glazed with rainwater. So much depends on a curandero with a sparrow in a red sombrero. What I find in the past can sometimes be applied to crystal. We often get dappled during our ensemble. It looks pretty. Oh well. Here comes the night. I can see it striding over the mountains to the west. Its phantoms already walk among us, legends of the mailbox, the faint scent of heaven commingled among their letters. 

Friday, May 3, 2019


I wish. I wish for this, I wish for that. I wish death and war and diseases didn’t exist. I wish I had a silver buckle and a golden sleigh and a slingshot hat. How simple it is. How simple it is to wish. I wish I was rich and young and a highly regarded numismatist.
What is it to wish? It's desire. It’s a form of desire. A shade. A nuance. Not the full deal. Not a lust. Not a craving. Not an ardor or longing. Those are strong. Those have power. Intensity. Wishing is softer. Wistful. A fantasy while gazing out of a window. A woman braiding her hair in front of a mirror.
Why is it even worth mentioning? It's always a boost to the spirit to at least appear interested in life. Wishing is a confirmation that life sometimes lacks the right spice, a satisfying response to an elusive flavor. A debt paid in full. Wishing isn’t like that. It’s just a confession that this is what might make things better, but it’s not within the realm of the possible. Or it’s possible but is it worth doing? Not currently. Perhaps never. This is why people gaze abstractedly at the ground. Or the sky. Or the view out of the window. Which is quite often shrubs. Trees. Pigeons in a parking lot. Trash bins. A drunk cursing the traffic.
Wishing is a glass of wine. Ambition is thirty gallons of gas and a red Silverado.
Wishing is wistful and pensive and doesn’t hurt anybody. Ambition pleases the stockholders and puts 5,000 people out of work.
When desire doesn’t take itself seriously we call it a wish. When desire takes itself very seriously we call it Richard III.
Writing is feeling increasingly like wishing because we live in a postliterate world in which millions are captivated by a social networking service called Twitter in which statements are limited to 280 characters, which is death to literacy. Death to thinking. But a boon to wishing. Wishing is quick and evanescent and walks around with a glass of chardonnay admiring all the artwork on the gallery wall without being able to afford anything. Wishing is tweeting and tweeting is fleeting.
Let’s look at more granite kitchen counter samples when we leave the party. That’s wishing. Nimble and carefree. You can be starving and wish you had a slice of bread to eat but that’s not really wishing. That would be the wrong word for that situation. If you’re starving you’re not going to wish you had a slice of bread you’re going to be murderous and desperate to get something into your stomach. You’re going to be haggard and dangerous.
That’s not wishing. That’s staring daggers at a couple dining on Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Gras at Per Se on Columbus Circle in midtown Manhattan.
And wishing you could write like Chekhov.
You could be in jail and wish you could be invisible and had the ability to walk through walls. You could be in jail and so desperate to get out you carve a handgun out of soap. This is what the spectrum of desire looks like from a human perspective. On the one hand soap. And on the other a gun.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Monocle Of A Mockingbird

Flakes are sadder than knots. Snowflakes, for example. They fall mournfully from the sky. This isn’t an emotion they actually have, it’s an emotion I have that I’m giving them. Which has the greater reality? Snowflakes, or emotion? Why should things appear that they have any kind of emotion? Why should a flake appear sadder than a knot? Knots always appear angry. You have to fight them to get them loose. They secure things, but they also trap things. Knots, in and among themselves, are neither good nor bad. They’re beyond good and evil. Sometimes they’re agencies of good, and sometimes they’re agencies of evil. Which makes one wonder what’s actually good and what’s actually evil? Can something be equal amounts of good and evil? This is convoluted. This is a knot. I have tied you in a knot of words.
Our cat has developed an almost supernatural attraction to a library copy of Gravity and Grace by Simone Weil. She keeps sniffing it, rubbing her head on it and nibbling the cover. We had to put it up high on one of our bookshelves to prevent her from ruining the book. We can’t smell anything on the book. We have no idea what it is about this book that has so obsessed her. It could be worse. It could be a copy of Charles Bukowski, or Cioran. It seems oddly appropriate that our cat is so attracted to Simone Weil.
“All the natural movements of the soul are controlled by laws analogous to those of physical gravity,” she begins. “Grace is the only exception.”
That’s quite fantastic.
Gravity is an invisible force. It is linked to other forces, such as energy-momentum density and the curvature of space-time and my body reclining on the bed writing this.
Grace is a freely given power that exists outside the framework of a mechanical universe. It is supernatural. It is a twin to gravity in its universality and invisible quality. It is an opposite to gravity in its liberating capacity.
Is this what our cat senses? The smell of salvation? The balm of a divine presence?
There’s a frog on the kitchen window sill with his mouth wide open. He appears to be singing. But no sound is coming out. Why would it?  It's a ceramic frog. The idea is to put things in his mouth. Pencils, screws, a set of keys. Anything that is part of the community of things that serve a small purpose, fulfill a modest goal. I feel a cold draft on my hand and my arm. It's late April, but it's very cold. The polar jet stream is broken. It’s weak and wobbly because the Arctic is warming. The jet stream is driven partly by the temperature contrast between masses of icy air over the North Pole and the warmer air near the equator. Now that the air in the Arctic is warming faster than the air to the south, the polar vortex – all that swirling cold air – is reduced in strength. The diminished force of the jet stream droops and meanders dragging the colder air to the south. A trough of cold air squats over the Pacific Northwest. The kitchen window is open a crack to lessen condensation, water dripping down to the glass onto the wooden sill. The air speaks to my skin in the language of pure sensation. A song.
I listen to Éclairs sur l’au-delà, Olivier Messiaen’s last completed composition. It translates roughly as “Lightning Over The Beyond,” or “Bright Glimpses of the Beyond,” Messiaen poured it on thick. The work is scored for an orchestra of 128, including piccolos, flutes, oboes, English horn, two clarinets in E-flat, six clarinets in B-flat, bass clarinet, three bassoons, a contrabassoon, two trumpets in D, three trumpets in C, three trombones, two tubas, glockenspiel, xylophone, crotales (antique cymbals consisting of small, tuned bronze or brass disks) tubular bells and marimba.
Messiaen – who was appointed organist at the Église de la Sainte-Trinité in Paris, a post he held until he passed away in April, 1992 – was deeply Catholic. When asked what expressions he wanted to champion by writing music in one of many interviews with Claude Samuel and collected in a book titled Olivier Messiaen: Music and Color: Conversations with Claude Samuel, he responded “The first idea I wanted to express, the most important, is the existence of the truths of the Catholic faith. I have the good fortune to be a Catholic,” he continued,

I was born a believer, and the Scriptures impressed me even as a child. The illumination of the theological truths of the Catholic faith is the first aspect of my work, the noblest, and no doubt the most useful and most valuable – perhaps the only one I won’t regret at the hour of my death. But I am a human being, and like all others I’m susceptible to human love, which I wished to express in three of my works that incorporate the greatest myth of human love, that of Tristan and Iseult. Finally, I have a profound love of nature. I think nature infinitely surpasses us, and I’ve always sought lessons from it. I love birds, so my inclination has been to examine bird songs especially; I’ve studied ornithology. My music, then, juxtaposes the Catholic faith, the myth of Tristan and Iseult, and a highly developed use of bird songs. But it also employs Greek metrics; provincial rhythms, or “deçî-tâlas,” of ancient India; and several personal rhythmic techniques such as rhythmic characters, nonretrogradable rhythms, and symmetrical permutations. Finally, there is my research into sound-color – the most important characteristic of my musical language.

Messiaen was also an extremely methodical and careful ornithologist, painstakingly noting bird song, which he later incorporated into his composition. “It’s probable,” he said, “that in the artistic hierarchy, birds are the greatest musicians on our planet.”
“Personally, I’m very proud of the exactitude of my work,” he avows. “Perhaps I’m wrong…

…because even people who really know the birds might not recognize them in my music, yet I assure you that everything is real; but obviously, I’m the one who hears, and involuntarily I inject my reproductions of the songs with something of my manner and method of listening. All the same, I have to arrive at certain combinations. I’ll explain: it happens that one hears a soloist and, behind it (usually at sunrise), quantities of other birds living nearby. The ensemble might constitute a counterpoint of thirty to forty simultaneous parts! Well then, the epode of my Chronochromie for large orchestra contains a counterpoint in eighteen simultaneous parts, all of different qualities, rhythms, and modes; obviously I didn’t note down those eighteen voices all at once. I transcribed, for example, a blackbird, but I know that a chaffinch, a whitethroat, and a nightingale were singing at the same time; I indicate this on paper and note very precisely the song of this blackbird. Then the next day I come back to the same place to transcribe the nightingale, and so forth. Finally, after the event, I combine these five, ten, or twenty songs. So you see, the combination is realistic even if it isn’t exact.

Here’s something else I think about: the night The Rolling Stones woke Mary Clayton up to come and sing her part for “Gimme Shelter.” Pregnant, curlers in her hair, ready to go to bed. She gets a call from her manager: “there’s a group in town called The Rolling Stones. They need someone to sing.” So, two in the morning she goes to the studio in her silk pajamas and mink coat and a scarf on her head and sings along with Mick: “rape, murder, it’s just a shot away, it’s just a shot away.” They do a second one. This time she wants to blow them out of the room. And she does. She blows everybody out of the room.
In silk pajamas with curlers in her hair.
Birds have a vocal organ called the syrinx which is located at the base of a bird’s trachea. It doesn’t produce sounds via vocal folds like mammals. Sound is produced by vibrations on the walls of the syrinx (same word in Greek for the musical instrument called panpipes or Pan flute) and another organ called the pessulus (Latin for ‘bolt’), which is a delicate bar of cartilage connecting the dorsal and ventral extremities of the first pair of bronchial cartilages.
The nightingale produces far more notes than any other species. Much of this has to do with its neural biology. It uses its higher brain function – the cerebral cortex - to assimilate, invent, or embellish a song. They’re better at learning. Better at listening. Better at creating. Better at storing information.
Crows don’t sing, but I love them just the same. I like the crudity of their caws. I like that racket. That raucous funk of raffish insistency. Harsh, grating, calamitous. I like the way they take a position on the ground, tilt their head back, open their beak wide and let it all out: caw! caw! caw!
Crows aren’t musicians. They’re poets. They’re poets like me. I can’t sing worth a damn. I can’t make music. I can’t tell an octave from an octagon. I wouldn’t know what a semitone is if it was standing on my foot. I don’t know a C sharp from an E flat. A key is something you use to start your car or open a door. But I know that if you put your mind to it you can say something to make somebody’s head explode. I believe there’s music in language. Any language. Who needs melody when you’ve got thrombectomy.
Expectancy. Complexity. Open sesame.
The monocle of a mockingbird swimming in the ambiguity of a naked moment.