I got notice via email that UPS was unable to deliver Kerouac’s Lonesome Traveler, I presume because of snow. Seattle got five or so inches. Brilliant white powder & ice. Amazing to see people trying to drive. Awful risk. I see cars sliding down hills sideways. One wonders what would make someone crazy enough to get in a car and try to negotiate this enchanting but treacherous substance. I stuck my head out on the porch in the hope the message was wrong and the delivery was actually made, Kerouac’s Lonesome Traveler reposing on the milk box. Nothing there. No Lonesome Traveler. A crow across the street caught my attention, rummaging through the snow to get something on the ground that might be edible, flipping it away with his beak and wings. Several hours later I put on my running clothes and wait for R to get home. She arrives with a heavy bag full of suet for the songbirds which she hangs in a little cage from the limb of a nearby tree. I get my Yaktrax and pull them on under my shoe, a rubber framework that stretches over the shoe with little cleats on the bottom. They make all the difference in the world. Give me traction. Without them I’d be slipping and sliding all over the place. I get outside and the air is so cold it stings. I feel like I’m on another planet. But once I get going it isn’t bad. And by the time I finish a mile it feels warm as a balmy day in spring. I stop occasionally to toss some peanuts to the crows. They’re famished and extremely excited to see me. I toss the peanuts where the snow has gotten a little packed due to the feet of people out walking and sliding or in the streets where it has hardened under the cars that have foolishly dared to travel in this stuff. The cars with four-wheel drive do ok. Power is delivered to all four wheels simultaneously thereby enhancing traction. Traction is gold. It’s a genuine treasure when you’re driving or running. Fingers on my left hand stung like crazy. Think it’s because I wear two different woolen gloves, one with a closer knit, which I wore on my right hand. I put my left hand in my left pants pocket and let the warmth from my thigh warm it until the pain went away. Surprised to see so many people out walking, kids sledding, having the time of their lives. Wonder how many appointments got canceled. Seattle is paralyzed on heavy snow days. It’s because of the hills and fluctuations in temperature, snow melts and turns to ice. Black ice. You don’t see it. You just go sliding. Or take a spill. I hoped to get more peanuts to Louise, the crow with the bad leg, but she didn’t come out. I tried whistling, to no avail. Too cold. I just puffed out air accompanied by a tiny whistle-like sound that hardly qualified as a whistle. And went home and had dinner. Greek pasta. And a movie in which a young Englishman travels in time by getting into a dark room and clenching his fists. His dad, Bill Nighy, charming as ever, playing ping pong & reading Dickens.
Sunday, December 26, 2021
This is it: whump butter. Sparks. We jar a clank. Then canvas savor. The cloth lingering happens there. Fills thinking. We are sheer language. Infinite abstraction goes into Picasso. Moss at the easel bulbs. They form the blobs. Light comes to mindful marks through singing. Riotous shouts. We turn the parody technicolor. I drive behind constancy. Heat feeling. The muscles punish the table. Fly unofficially. Our oysters sneer. The octagonal hill gristle gets incandescent. A studio there is that tangles its bumps. And this causes sense. We smear harmonies on the circle. Pickles. Pockets the water. Then strikes medication. Hands. Do this: paint the absorption. We saw it universe Max Jacob. A milk wrinkles. Sweet indigo amazes us. Words do too. Spice and pepper prophesy slaps. It’s simple to endure a blaze. The punch twinkles diffusion. So this makes the steel travel through itself eluding cabbage. Cincinnati smokes below us. Our earth bursts. Morals toward air. I like a yellow riddle. Snow peculiarities. Follow the spirits to water. Don’t choke the bicycle. It represents us by wheel and puzzle. Gears beyond red. Effective buckles for belts that glow. Whatever explores itself on TV. Blow it into motion to make it hypothetical. Then come back and tell me what a poem is. Totems in the blood. Pointing at pepper inside the gnaw.
Thursday, December 23, 2021
9:37 p.m. Wednesday. December. Dark. Rained the entire day. I took a day off from running. R and I went for a short walk instead. I’ve always enjoyed walking with an umbrella. Like a portable home. Roof over one’s head, clickety clackety of drops on the fabric, in this case black, with silver ribs. We went to check on the crows, Louise in particular, who remained perched on a phone wire, the only crow there. She’s usually accompanied by two other crows, her family. We tossed some peanuts on the ground and walked a few feet away and I turned back expecting to see her come down but she remained, still as a statue, high on the wire. Why? I wondered. Why was she sitting like that getting soaked in cold December rain? She’s an enigma wrapped in a riddle, as they say. Later, after dinner and a movie (Fourteen Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible, not nearly as good or transcendent as the other one we saw yesterday, The Alpinist, whose central character is a young Canadian mountaineer with a real love for the rock walls and ice he negotiates with sublime concentration, the beatific focus of a Zen priest), I read about Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt in the Old Testament story of the Exodus and – curious about where God split the Red Sea so they could all get across safely with the angry Pharoah in pursuit, Yul Brynner resplendent in embossed gold & knitted brow, a scene I vividly remember seeing as a kid in the movie theater in 1956, Charlton Heston with his stern countenance as Moses holding out his staff, the salty wind catching in his beard, the sea splitting into two huge turbulent walls of water, which is supposed to have occurred “in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon” – I look it up via Google and discover that there is no archaeological evidence of where, or whether, such an event took place, but a possible location may have been somewhere along the banks of the Gulf of Suez. That seems feasible because it’s much narrower. I don’t care if it’s real or not. I doubt it happened. But it’s a great story. Perfect for the movies. Imagine some other 50s actor in that role, John Wayne or Clark Gable, had to be Charlton Heston, he’s the only one with the completely unironic imperious one-dimensionality to pull it off, though nothing remotely Jewish about him, could’ve been Paul Newman, who was 31 at the time. Five years later he’d be holding a cue stick and splitting balls on a pool table. I get up from the bed and plop some cubed bits of salmon in Athena’s dish and pop a cherry cordial into my mouth, sweet chocolate diffusing in my mouth with a filling of cherry juice and sugary corn syrup. Feel like a real hedonist. Takes the edge off things. We need a new sink. Can’t get sealant in the back without removing the thing. Garbage disposal went dead. We never used it. Gears must’ve somehow frozen. Hate the sound it makes. Easier just to toss food scraps into the compost pail. Let the molds & yeasts do their thing. Release nutrients. Convert it to rich black dirt. Grow more food. Such is the cyclical nature of things. Everything in balance. And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe, and then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot; and thereby hangs a tale.
Tuesday, December 21, 2021
It’s 9:20 a.m., December 21, 2021. It’s the winter solstice. I will be glad to see the darkness recede and sunlight dilate and expand broadly on the summits of the Cascades. This winter has seemed unusually dark. I attribute this to increased levels of CO2 in the air and the thickening of clouds, the kind of clouds that bring rain bombs, lightning and power outages. The effects of abrupt climate change. But enough about that. I listened this morning to three English vicars talk about Christmas on BBC 4, followed by an engaging monograph on desire. It was mentioned, as it often is, that we rarely understand the full meaning of our desires, and that often, when we achieve our desires, we’re still not happy. This always confuses me because each and every time I’ve achieved the object of my desire I’ve been extremely satisfied and happy. I can’t remember a time in which I desired something – a new coat, a place to live full of quiet and privacy, a comfortable bed, good food, the opportunity to get high, a book or a CD – that I haven’t felt glad, extremely happy to be in possession of that thing. What confuses me the most is hearing from actors and rock stars who’ve achieved immense success that they found themselves disappointed and depressed. WTF??!! I have never understood this. If I get a book published and it actually gets reviewed – an almost unheard of event in today’s illiterate world – I’m both ecstatic, and grateful. I carry a deep sense of satisfaction with me for days while it gradually dissipates and leaves me, once again, on the bleak rocky shores of frustration. And if – unimaginably – unbelievably – a book sold enough copies to bring in a life-altering amount of money – an adequate amount of money to allow R and I to live in a larger domicile with more privacy and quiet than what we now have, and access to healthcare and food security and a community from which we have not yet been excluded because of our low financial status – I’d feel nothing less than a deep abiding sense of pleasure and satisfaction. Desire is the chief motivating engine of existence. It is the reason we say and do things we might otherwise not do and say. But when the things one desires remain out of touch or unobtainable, the result is a slushy, amorphous sense of despondency called anomie, a word coined by French sociologist Emile Durkheim in his study on suicide and for which the Merriam Webster dictionary provides two meanings: “social instability resulting from a breakdown of standards and values” and “personal unrest, alienation, and uncertainty that comes from a lack of purpose or ideals.” I believe we have two pandemics going right now, Covid-19 and its many ongoing mutations, and anomie, the dazed, listless movements of a public negotiating streets of boarded up cafés and bars and retail stores. That cluster of tents we see every day behind the Gates Foundation. The homeless, as they are called. Exiles in their own country. Which has unraveled. Come undone.
Monday, December 20, 2021
I’m not against generating peculiarities. I do it all the time. Here’s the deal: a green light walks into a mind and sits down and knits a reason to go forward with one’s life. I intuit the club I use to inherit urination. And do so in the blue night of jute and potato. I’m wild about fur. Oblivion handsprings through my bones causing shadows and inevitability. We take our time by banging the airplane against the air until the apparitions settle at last on the totem. Our lingering sequesters the haste of plywood in the quiet of evening. Our wandering burns under the summons of the elect. We resist the authority of lace and convulse by pronoun. Our ties mark the presence of upheaval and widen to marquee our kicks. We find the appropriate amount of deformation below among the protoplasm and whippoorwills. It takes eighteen pounds of air to say blood. And forty-two pounds of propulsion to trudge toward the tower. My Picasso is framed in linen, and this makes for an art to be rubbed on the ribs until the burden of existence reveals its inner charms. There’s a lot of noise right now in the engine room. Can I say anything harshly revealing if I plug it into the wall? Of course. But it will gulp the play and leave Hamlet standing there like a frying pan weeping hot tears of bacon grease. I dream of a space floating toward the phantoms of the past and find all the ribbon I need in the drawer of a desk shoved far to the back where the shadows cluster and thicken into articulation. These are the contusions we must glue to the renegades of the northern prairie. We’re never ourselves until we open up to what isn’t us. We all had to endure the ordeal of birth. Some still carry the marks of a preternatural agility. Others sit in a corner stringing words together. Adaptability is one thing, improvisation another. Those who choose not to adapt choose to improvise. And here is where we find the steam to continue. Go. Shake hands with a demon. The plane doesn’t have a pilot. But it does have fur.
Saturday, December 18, 2021
Here’s the armchair I crammed with indolence. I did this in a moment of scratching. I can feel the pull of gravy whenever I’m feeling crustacean. I’m anchored, as always, in the empire of string. There are folds of memory I collect by acting resonant, and drop it all in a bucket I remember from a long time ago in a dream. This is a cause of Thursday. It’s moody to obtrude but I need to do this to overcome the dots that make me yodel when I’m feeling the fingers of interrelation in my pants. This is that very elemental grid that I need to rivet to words and make my work light up. Language happens when the lilacs bloom in the doorway and the speed of it thuds into neon. Logic is caustic. Avoid filibusters. The sensations we feel are often the very sensations we use to stimulate ourselves into miscellany. For it is there that the words become omnivorous and eat their way into meaning, which is full of protein, and process and daydream. I want this energy to turn into feathers. I will flutter all I know until it gets to be pleasing. I’ve got an atmosphere in my head. Do you? I think it’s normal to racket around like a quart of incantation. I can just about grasp the meaning of life as I merge into the next lane when I’m voyaging around on paper. Here’s what I do: I grease parables. I want them to move into viscera smoothly and break apart our assumptions of reality. My hand is trying hard to get these words to come out of hiding and do what words do best when they’re thistles or terse. They say water does it by acorns. It bends around our walking by the stream and culminates in banks overhung by willow. This is now new as nails. The trudge of my injuries slosh around in kerosene, lighting the night until it leans into us like a trapeze. I thought of cloth and flowed through my body, minding it like a hunch, and discovering transfiguration. The Corot is what bone murmurs. The immediate properties of consciousness are combed by yelling, and this makes everything opal.
Sunday, December 5, 2021
I got a shock plugging the hair dryer in this afternoon. It’s such an odd feeling, that sudden weird oscillation of current in my fingers, charged particles mistaking me for a utility. I’d just showered and wanted to dry my hair before putting on my hat and filling a bag with peanuts and walking up the street to feed Louise, the crippled crow I’ve been feeding on and off for nearly three years. She knows both me and R but never comes too close. Things would work out much better if she came close, as she has a tough time competing with all the other crows. She would learn that if she got a peanut or two by coming close when the others were still wary she wouldn’t have to compete. She could grab the peanuts and fly off to enjoy them in peace. When she’s on the ground she has to hop around on one good leg while the other dangles uselessly. Crows get very aggressive and nasty around a handful of tossed peanuts. They have bad tempers. A big crow once lost his temper right in front of us, wings outstretched, beak wide open, giving us a staccato stream of coarse well understood caws. I suspect animals have languages far richer than imagined. Whales and dolphins absolutely, but I’d like to hear what a cat is thinking, their behavior being far more complex and irrational than dogs. I’d be happy to know what our cat is thinking when she begs for food already in her dish. I remember getting shocked once before, when I was perched high on a stepladder in a building in downtown San José, California. I was installing office lights for a company that bought aged property, fixed it up, and opened its doors for commerce. It was August, 1972. And since it was summer I was on break from classes at San José State where I was enrolled as an English major. I was taking the opportunity to make some much needed money. My first ex-wife and I had recently returned from traveling in Europe, chiefly France. I was surrounded by a lot of workmen, electricians, carpenters, plumbers, painters, carpet layers and welders all busily employed at one of the many offices undergoing an intensive remodel. It was common to hear them joking about what a loser George McGovern was. They hated him. I tried to keep as invisible as I could and felt – as I have my entire life – completely alien. The number one song was “Alone Again, Naturally,” by Gilbert O’Sullivan. The Beatles had broken up and already felt long gone and a part of history. I’d seen the Beatles dressed up as mannikins in a London department store window display dressed in their early slim fit suits and Chelsea boots. It gave me a feeling of nostalgia. How funny it is to think of feeling nostalgic in 1972. Now I get nostalgic over the year 1992. Seattle still had most of its movie theatres, bookstores still sold books, there were numerous small restaurants to choose from, and nowhere did you have to wear a mask or show documented proof that you’ve been vaccinated. Most of the homeless were located in a small park downtown. The destitute wandering the streets had grown dramatically since about 1980, but it would’ve been unusual to see a tent set up indefinitely in a city park or city sidewalk. Now the encampments everywhere, and huge, bearing a scary resemblance to the encampment in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 911. One of the larger encampments, near Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, has taken over the area where we used to enjoy Wooden O’s Shakespeare in the Park series. I wonder if they’re still performing there. It would be interesting, indeed, to watch As You Like It among a bedraggled group of economic exiles.
Friday, December 3, 2021
It’s horrendous to be a novice, to be new at anything, particularly if there are people around, I was once put in a position of making change for a customer in a health food store and thought it would come to me, I’d seen thousands of people give change, it’s as natural as breathing, but no, not for me, I froze. But there’s another side to the coin and that would be novelty. Novelty is fun. Anything new is exciting. Maybe not a new moon, any new moon is just the old moon repackaged in its drift through sky, the palms of Tunisia swaying in a Mediterranean breeze. No I mean something shockingly new. When was the last time that happened? Was Covid the last new thing to emerge? It sure has disrupted a lot of lives. That’s not what I meant by new. Not what I think I meant. And now I wonder what do I mean by new. This sentence, for instance, is new. It’s never been written before. Maybe it has. It probably has. I’d better think of another sentence to use as an example. Let’s say this sentence has the icing of significance on it, it’s a completely new sentence, so new it shines, it cries out, it stumbles, it floats, it ascends from the ocean with a great reptilian head shooting flames as it’s two huge reptilian feet make imprints on the sand and its eyes (for we do not know its gender) shift back and forth looking for something to eat, to lift into its gaping mouth and chew, and now this sentence is totally out of control, it’s easy to see how its evolution flirts with the insularity of its reverie and the utter superfluity of its creation. So hey, cousin, let’s do something dangerous together. Go flying in a pterodactyl costume across the great fortitudes of kohlrabi in the gardens of screwdriver and succotash. For this is New Jersey. For this is happening for the first time. For this is a demonstrative adjective. And this is a Chablis in the hand of a derelict. And this is a woman at a bus stop saying nothing. And this is a shadow lengthening across the sand of Arizona. And this is Walt Whitman sitting down at a big mahogany table to sip wine and read a poem to a few people. And this is Mick Jagger practicing ballet at age 79. And this is a man in faded overalls pressing a seedling into a patch of dirt. Eternity convulses in your eyes. If depression were the clitoris of the brain I’d smile all day. And now my arm hurts. Those windows in the skin aren’t entirely natural, but the view is pretty, and the pulsations can make a sarong blaze with the murmur of embalming fluid. I believe that feeling can be expanded by a nice warm brain and if expressed in words a pretty world of Iceland Poppy Persian buttercup & black-eyed Susan blossoms on the grave of Jackson Pollock.
Wednesday, December 1, 2021
I went for a run on Westlake Avenue North yesterday afternoon. It was gray and misty with a light rain that eventually modulated into a soft, skin-tingling drizzle. I like to run on Westlake. I find it very calming to run along a lake. There are plenty of businesses along the sidewalk, most of which are devoted to boats and yachts, but there are also dental offices, insurance companies, psychotherapists, physical therapists, acupuncturists, chiropodists, beauty salons, architects, an injury law office, a Chinese restaurant housed in a colossal windowless cube covered in black tile called China Harbor, Seattle Scuba dive training, the Cone and Compass Ice Cream Shop, houseboat communities, a small business selling hot tubs, and – my personal favorite – Kenmore Air, providing seaplane flights & scenic tours. There’s even a dance school. A kayak and stand up paddleboard rental business caught my eye and I stepped into a puddle and felt cold water seep through to my sock. A little further down I came to a short stretch of train track between Boatworld Marinas and Signature Yachts with tree branches arching overhead giving it a tunnel-like appearance and had to quickly navigate an archipelago of puddles between the rails. Anytime you go for a run in Seattle you’re liable to get your feet wet, especially in the winter. No matter. One’s feet never stay cold for long since you’re carrying your own source of heat. You become your own furnace. And the nice thing about not belonging to a gym is you can run nearly anywhere; all you need is a little open space, some quiet streets or a well-kept trail. It's nice to get away from the upper Queen Anne neighborhoods. There’s been a lot of tension recently over the issue of feeding crows, a practice I began several years ago that escalated into a huge congeries of crows following me everywhere. Locals began to complain. They discovered peanut shells on their roofs and rain gutters. Some complained of peanut shells in their garden. When I engage with these people, however maniacal they may be and gnashing their teeth, I try to be polite and feign a degree of sympathy. I don’t want conflict, and choose not to argue, however flimsy their complaints may be. What roof doesn’t fill with fallen leaves & twigs? What yard doesn't become littered with windblown detritus? I think what really bothered them was the number of crows interacting with a human being. It disturbs them. It’s outside the norm, the vectors of control. So they make stupid excuses for not feeding crows. I can't stop feeding crows while they’re everywhere around me begging for a peanut. It’s too sad. So I decided to go down to Westlake where there are more ducks and geese than crows. It’s rather nice to be able to run like I used to and not stop to feed a murder of crows, or worry, as I go running down the street trailed by a swarming murder of noisy crows about getting the stink-eye from a property owner.