Sunday, August 31, 2003

This may well be the nicest day of the summer - tho stuck at the end &
in the middle of humidity, showers, overcasts, heat.  A day to take
a ride on Funky the Bike & sip coffee outside Dunkin' Donuts while watching
women arriving & leaving.  Which I'll probably do again later at
dusk. At least there are no strong hints of autumn, not the typical end-of-August
browns & grays.  

A delightful little wild grass sprouted - probably from bird seed - & grew to maturity from a crack in a windowsill, irrigated by the dripping air-conditioner for the apartment above me. Undistinctive at first, a week or so ago it pushed up a delicate center stem, which grew hair-thin branches, each with a tiny seed or grain at the end. It brings to mind rice, wheat, corn, all of which it resembles in some part. Some far distant ancestors of ours also observed a spirit-thing like this one, perhaps snacking on a handful. A few interesting weeds also grew in my outdoor pots, different from past years.

I may not own a small car by the end of 2004, but at least I'll be able to rent one from time to time. I'll also have a smaller, lighter bike; Otto Klemperer's Beethoven symphony cycle; a working printer (I can create poem-cards again); a new, smaller edition of Boardwalk sans extra poems but with a color cover; & a bridge! & imagine flash versions of some poems! Too much, I guess, to hope for girlfriend. I'll certainly never pray for one. Just how this will all come about is still a mystery. My tactics are debatable, but the longer-term strategy is sound.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

It's not unique in my life when a failed relationship precipitates big changes. Never before, though, has the "relationship" itself been such an exercise in self-deception & disappointed expectations. I think because my expectations were so reasonable & modest that my mind could not conceive of an available woman who would consider them unreasonable & immodest. This gal couldn't even find time to go to the boardwalk with me. What kind of boardwalk-lover can let a summer go by without at least one "fix?" Not a true believer.

More important, though, is that the renewed creativity - steady, non-neurotic - that began late last year, continues. The decisions I'm making now protect my websites - which were laboriously rebuilt or renovated over the past eight months. Plus I began this Blog - which I hope becomes the foundation of a book of the same name - & created a small webzine, The Pier. Along with the occasional archived radio program at WFMU, I'm quite content with keeping a reliable & accessible "fringe" presence for the time being, with being a turtle rather than a hare.

Was introduced tonight to tiny Patrick, Liz & Jeff Jotz's little one. A real cutie, Patrick had the usual baby giant head & was either boogieing to the Bruce Springsteen tribute band playing behind Union County Arts Center or doing something smelly. The baby looked liked it was growing out of Jeff's chest, with Liz pushing the snazzy stroller behind hoping to catch him when he was ripe & fell off. I guess it was Patrick's debut at a large city event, although he's already been to The Waiting Room, a friendly local tavern. Anyway, Liz & Jeff are clearly delighted to be a mommy & daddy. Jeff's invite to join his group for a beer at The Waiting Room stood for about five minutes until Liz nixed the plan, grabbed him by the earlobe & led him home. Before leaving, Jeff assured me that he would introduce Patrick to punk rock at the proper age (probably next week).

The artists I've known who have backed away from the artist life did so because they could not - for any number of legitimate reasons - give their all to it. What they share in common is the fact that they did for a time "give their all." This is very difficult to explain to those people who go through life wishing they could be artists. They wandered around the book department at Pearl Arts & Crafts looking for magic rather than instruction & inspiration.

Even if art is an avocation, one must make time for it, & within that time give one's all. A talented, trained "amateur," working within traditional modes, is capable of reaching a stage of development where "amateur" has little meaning. The pictorial watercolor scene is one example of this. So are photography & writing. Even little theater has its semi-professionals. Only in the realms of music & dance performance, public sculpture, & in experimental art does one find fairly distinct borders. Sometimes it's just a matter of chutzpah; marketing oneself as a "professional." Marketing is business. The purveyors of arts & crafts "how to" videos & books are mostly "professional amateurs" dispensing technique shortcuts. The late Bob Ross was a master at covering all the angles for making money at this.

If one is truly an "artist" at heart, one always makes time - a little or a lot, frequently or less so - to make some sort of art. Saying one has "no time to make art" as an excuse is like claiming to have no time to eat. One manages to eat all the same.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Why live an artist's insecure life without making art? Why start & maintain a full-time business that is incapable of growth & which provides bare sustainance & no security at all? All one's income disappearing down the black hole of debt & basic survival? It makes no sense to me.

When I was much younger, I was always disappointed, even angered, if an artist I knew opted out of the lifestyle for a career job & family. I saw it only as a loss to art & to myself. These were not dabblers or wishful thinkers, but gifted people who were creating wonderful, sophisticated things. They were educated & culturally cross-pollinated; the poets knew art, the artists knew music, the musicians knew poetry. Later, I came to appreciate the gains: being married & raising children in safety; driving a reliable car; owning a house. & I also discovered that the little blue flame, once lit, keeps burning. Although their art tapered off (but never completely), the creative vision remained, a way of seeing & experiencing. The frustration & anxiety they sometimes felt over not doing art could be as intense as what I felt about existing on the edge of a financial & emotional abyss. Their support & counsel became even more valuable as the years passed. In a sense, they never left art. & I've never stopped hoping that they will eventually wander back to a more active arts life, even if it has to wait until their kids grow up or they retire or move on to less demanding jobs.

For only a few artists I've known have been able to manage a dual career through their twenties & thirties without seeking refuge in academia. & if one goes into academia before enduring manual labor, or being poor, or punching a time clock, or carrying an M-16, one will likely not be strong enough to resist the power of orthodoxy, jargon, cynicism & bloodless detachment in that insular world.

[I attended a panel discussion some years ago at a large university poetry conference, on the topic of Vietnam War era poetry. Only one of the panelists was a Viet vet / professor. The others were merely doctoral niche "experts," clueless to their own absurdities.]

Even a struggling , aging artist moves forward; art is one's solace & one payment for sacrifice. One may suffer to make art, but making art is not one's suffering!

"There’s something very oppressive to people who don’t have a sufficiently strong and independent personality, and mind, to resist the blandishments and the “drying-out” process of the academic world." Composer George Rochberg

Monday, August 25, 2003

What a week. After fill-in on WFMU last Sunday & a nice trip to Seaside Heignts with friends Jim & Rose last Monday, things began unraveling quickly. Two months ago I had promised something to my landlord based on something a friend promised to do for me - a paint job. She didn't keep her word, so I couldn't keep mine, & now, to put it starkly, I'm fucked. She gets to walk away without any consequences to her own life. & she walked away very quickly when given the opportunity.

So why is it that I feel like a Symbolic Generic Male who stupidly made a target of himself for a woman's unconscious need to throw a man's life into chaos the way men did that to her decades ago? Yeah, watch me take this guy down, him & his fucking ego & conceited art & self-centered need to be loved & accepted. Well, mission accomplished, a mission she didn't even know she was on; like The Manchurian Candidate she was programmed to do it long ago.

There are people who unwittingly (yet in an oddly predictable way) have a capacity for unhinging the lives of others. I thought I had learned to recognize these dangerous qualities. How naive of me.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

The Rahway Homeless Journal

Outside my window an attractive but glum young woman, an immigrant from some Caribbean island, is painting the fire escape black. It's at least 100 humid breezeless degrees out there under the blazing August sun. She's not a professional painter. She just does her assignments. I'm wondering if she's covered by Workman's Compensation. In the parking lot below stands The Landlord in his fresh, blue "I sell real estate" shirt. He's wearing a tie. He's calling up to her in his peculiar, expressionless, nasal voice, "Can we get you an extension cord, maybe set up a fan." She declines. Blow hot air on her sweat & she's liable to suffer sunstroke without even feeling it coming on. "I have water," she replies. The Landlord walks away, whistling to himself. He always whistles. He's a happy man. There's a real estate boom in this town & he's finally making a lot of money. He wants to retire early. Since he's in his mid-fifties one could hardly say it's that early. Or blame him for the dream.

In that same nasal voice he leaves a message on my answering machine asking for the $200 or whatever it is I owe him, "like you promised," he adds. & I do generally keep my promises. Although I don't recall actually saying, I promise," to him.

Doing a fill-in show at WFMU a few weeks ago, for which I breathlessly arrived only 15 minutes before airtime (I usually get there about 2 hours beforehand), it occurred to me that I hadn't been late or had to make an emergency cancellation for a program since the mid-eighties. I couldn't even recall when it last happened. It was probably a rush hour traffic jam on the Parkway, I don't know. Bruce Longstreet, the station manager when I joined, appreciated DJs who were reliable clock-punchers (figuratively speaking). Current manager Ken Freedman feels the same, as does Program Director Brian Turner. As do all the hosts in the prior air slot. I can be a very responsible person.

So The Landlord is asking for this money, which might as well be ten times that amount for all the hope I have of paying it immediately. He's asking for it because he must. & because he's a Scorpio? Because he feels like pissing on me? "It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business."

Over ten years here in this box. My affection for these digs died couple of years ago. I can't afford to live here on a fixed income (SSD). My rent has been taking exponential leaps upward while the building itself isn't getting any better. The parking lot is unpaved & throws up clouds of dust not to mention exhaust fumes. I have a crazy man living above me who leaves the building only to pump gas three days a week, eavesdrops on my phone conversations & even seems to want to hear me fart in the bathroom. There's hundreds of sparrows living in the untrimmed ivy out front; no one needs that much bird chirping. The plumbing is not adequate. I have an antique gas stove that I turned off several years ago, it was so inefficient. The apartment wasn't painted for ten years until some inspector insisted upon it, & even then, I was loathe to let The Landlord's Paint Crew in here messing with my stuff. The parking lot is separated from 6 foot drop-off into Rahway River by a permanent temporary orange nylon fence - I'm amazed no one has backed a car through it yet.

I'm the acknowledged Unofficial Poet Laureate of this little city - a city I've come to like very much for its size, diversity, tidal river & general convenience. Now, with my eldest brother finally pried out of his dangerous neighborhood in Paterson & safely sheltered at a Vets Hospital, I also feel like taking a leap into the unknown. Perhaps becoming this city's First Homeless Unofficial Poet Laureate. I can even keep a journal of the transition & subsequent experiences. A daily e letter from whatever PC I can get to. Make arrangements to do live weekly reports over WFMU. Put my important stuff in storage, pay my website fee for the next year, & GO.

While my ubiquitous homeless presence around town won't bother an ex-Landlord (he resides in Pennsylvania), it will prove somewhat annoying for the police, who have more serious matters to deal with like fatal car crashes on Route One & violent domestic abuse, than rousing a harmless local eccentric (with a very small but loyal fan base) off various park benches, dropping me off in Linden, where the Linden Police will bring me to Elizabeth, where I take a train back to my Hometown. I can even be the first homeless person to fall asleep in the public new library. & that right has received the protection of the courts. I have until August 31 to decide.

Friday, August 22, 2003

My eldest brother is safe at last at Lyons Vets Hospital. His life had been in grave danger for years; he was suffering under a terrible, degrading poverty & was constantly threatened with homelessness. He's a Vietnam vet & he was at the farthest possible extremity before going off the cliff altogether. My sister saved his life. She didn't do it the way she wanted or expected to do it, but the goal was accomplished in the totality, if not in the details. The way I knew it had to be done. Weeks, months, years passed as his situation worsened. & why? His basic needs & wants are absurdly modest. He demonstrated how much he was willing to go without. He is a good, undemanding neighbor; eccentric, funny & intelligent & educated. Give him his deserved small space somewhere he won't get murdered if he goes outside after dark. Give him his rent, his food stamps, his cheap ciggies & take-out coffee & newspaper. Give him a part-time job in local book or hardware store, a bicycle, a good radio & let the guy quietly go about being who he is for the rest of his life. The people who encounter him daily will always say hello & stop to chat. He's that kind of person.

People cannot agree on the means to a goal until the goal itself is agreed upon.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Maybe the Big Blackout of '03 was a screwy experiment conducted by the Department of Homeland Security.
I'm not a paranoid person. I don't believe in great conspiracies; if there are such secrets then why is the world so imprecise? But the Republican Convention is coming to New York City next summer.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

"My sister and my daughter were killed by crazy men who hate women."
Amiri Baraka on the murders of his sister Kimako (in 1984), & daughter Shani this week. 8/13/03

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Why I endorse Arnold Schwarzenegger for Governor:

1. California deserves him.
2. Has an Austrian accent.
3. A talk show comedy writer's dream.
4. Almost limitless supply of recyclable movie dialogue suitable for political use.
5. He'll have to give at least a ten minute prime time speech at the 2004 GOP Convention.
6. His marriage to Maria is shaky & will get shakier when she begins acting like Eleanor Roosevelt.
7. Oprah read an Elizabeth Barrett poem at their wedding while Kurt Waldheim was a guest [Note to myself: file for possible haiku topic.]
8. Will promote more research into the connection between steroids & brain damage.
9. Want to hear Arnie's position on medical marijuana.
10. Want to hear Arnie's position on gay marriage.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

One of my "down" days, meaning I get up, do some stuff & go back to sleep - so unexplainable as to make me believe it's chemical. One can only hope for great thunderstorms - that never came here although the radar was filled with them going elsewhere.

Off to Dunkin Donuts, located in a gas station convenience store - with luck one is blessed with many attractive female customers in the 17 - 30 age range. "Girl watching" yeah.

My WFMU show Sunday/Monday over night began with the first movement of Bruckner's 9th. Mentioned my plan to Bethany Ryker, the lovely & talented 9-mid host, who exclaimed, "I love that music." As any knowledgable French Hornist would - in return for extremely difficult parts, the horns get to blow their brains out the unstopped bells. I don't think a young FMU DJ ought to be messing with Bruckner (provided he or she knows the composer) because there's so much else to try & learn. But a dinosaur like me needs to show up once in awhile with the message: Never believe this music is only hypothetically free-form. Like, you can but you won't. You can. Period. A search of WFMU programs turned up no other Bruckner on anyone's playlists.

Program archive, August 4:

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?