Sunday, March 12, 2006

Chaffin "Light"

If you care to notice, though few will, I have already revised the poem posted in the last entry. Some poems I’ve revised 100 times, appearing in successive publications successively altered, but I’m told Yeats suffered from the same obsession about his own works, though I would not dare compare my work to his. I now try to limit myself to five revisions per piece, though my as yet unpublished poem, “Message from Mexico” is undergoing its 30th, an exception to my recent practice perhaps justified in proportion to the suffering Kathleen, Kenyon and I endured in Mexico.

For what it’s worth, here’s a non-poem about writing poems that I sometimes share with my students:

how to write a poem


(the brain will mix it)

write it down
say it out loud

put it away for a month
say it out loud

put it away for a year
say it out loud

publish maybe

In posting a “new” poem I obviously violated my own advice. Still, verbal artistry is wonderful in this: one can continually alter former works, unlike a finished sculpture or musical recording, although painting in oils may allow similar advantages.

We have our eyes on a rental here, but until our butts are there ensconced I will say no more for fear of bad luck. For now our address is

P. O. Box 2436
Fort Bragg, CA

should anyone want to snail mail us. We have no phone. I already blogged about cell phone difficulties.

On to lesser things...

Our prospective landlord, incredibly, gave us the same quote about the Mendocino Coast that we’d heard about San Miguel de Allende: “This is the largest outdoor insane asylum in the world.” Whether due to crystals or a nexus of free thinkers telepathically attracting others, or mercury in the seafood, or tannins in the redwoods, or any other number of reasons, I don’t know. This signature quote does give us hope, however, that we may fit in and be of benefit to the community, as Kathleen and I each have four degrees of sanity. Both she and I have graduated from mental hospitals four times. To have your sanity so affirmed by the authorities is some comfort, especially when you meet so many people more deserving of a stay than yourselves. I mainly suspect they pass for normal out of cowardice, unable to confront their insanity and submit to treatment—spiders inhabiting the fringes of society, fringes on a mud puppy’s neck, like the overwrought turquoise and silver jewelry adorning nonagenarian pedophiles.

Did I actually write that? Never mind, I have four degrees of sanity.

I read yesterday (in The San Francisco Chronicle) that the chief neurosurgeon of an area hospital was arrested before a surgical procedure on suspicion of drunkenness, while crudely railing against the nurses. Abusive, he shoved a cop and would not stand still for the breathalyzer—which registered the presence of alcohol but could not determine how much because of his lack of cooperation.

All ye who fear the breathalyzer after a good party, heed the example of this neurosurgeon, who should know something about drunk driving from experience. (As residents we called the neurosurgery ward “the vegetable garden”— for all the comatose head-injury patients on life support. “Cabbage patch dolls” also enjoyed some currency.) So if they put the mouthpiece in and say, “blow,” squirm, squirm I say! Squirm against the dying of your rights! The worst you’ll get is resisting arrest.

On to even less important things. The legal tangles described in my last prose blog were untangled with an alacrity beyond belief; the government removed the levy from our account the very same day I called. The CSS officer said he went out on a limb for me since I had been sending generous support to my daughters in the absence of any court order. Sometimes good deeds do go unpunished. A miracle.

Perhaps our luck is changing.

We continue to rehabilitate Kenyon. He saw the vet today, who did not recommend X-Rays, believing his joint problems indicative of his age. But Kenyon is gaining weight and we’ve had him swimming nearly every day in the cold Pacific, good therapy for his joints. Unfortunately his eyesight isn’t what it once was, so I go through ten fetching sticks in a session. I plan to obtain a floating fluorescent object soon as a visual aid for his seagoing routine.

I splurged and bought Kathleen new hiking boots today; she claimed they helped her hip and back when we hiked to the beach for Kenyon’s session. Since she’s been nagging me about new hiking boots for at least two years, the expense was definitely worth the escape from her whining, self-pitying, constant verbal abuse. I couldn’t eat breakfast without hearing, “What about the boots?” These boots are made for nagging...

When she again claims, “I have nothing to wear,” I can now say, “But what about the boots?”

Among our other secret clichés we’ve added a new one—a “sign- countersign” device. Imitating Nelson of the Simpsons, one of us says “Hmm-hmh.” The other replies, “Hoo-Haw!” This links Al Pacino’s self-parody with the smartest show on television. Thus when we meet strange people, who seem to make up the majority here, we use our code to acknowledge when they say something really strange. Of course our code also warns them that we may be even stranger. Then every married couple has its peculiar private language, else it is no marriage.

(Aside: I can’t think of a worse movie I’ve seen in recent years than “The Informant,” where Russell Crowe and Al Pacino try to out-underact each other. Although Pacino begins with his usual frothy, alpha-male shtick, Russell Crowe’s understated performance dampens Pacino’s overacting below the Steiger counter level, making for an incredible collision of bad chemistry and worse acting. Anyone who can make it through the movie, which I couldn’t, is invited to be a stand-up guy and explain its merits on this blog.)

Geoffrey Rush, Johnny Depp, Edward Norton, Ian Holm, and other dramatic chameleons—the younger Brando, for instance—have my votes for best acting. But what do I know? In my academy ballot I voted for Kodak as best picture with Fuji as second choice.

Hey—we just bought a digital camera for $9.99! (I said we’d been splurging since the levy was lifted) and I may soon be able to add photos to this blog. “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Given that I can bloviate 2000 words in an hour before my back gives out, I suppose the word count, in my case, should be adjusted upwards.

So do I have anything of substance to say today? Just that we’re happy, happy for the first time in years. And what I mean by happiness is a general contentment in our surroundings and the hope of a home after protracted homelessness. Joy is entirely another matter, but happiness has to do, in my humble opinion, with the fortuitous concatenation of circumstances and personal preferences. I think Fort Bragg is the first place in my entire life where I have chosen to live intentionally; everything that went before had to do with finances, education, or propinquity to family. I spent fourteen years in SoCal just to be close to my youngest daughter, Sarah, while my soul continually longed for the north Pacific coast.

You can buy Dungeness crab here for $3.99/lb.! And the waves, the cliffs, the knotted Bishop Pines, the wind-twisted Monterrey Pines, the mammoth waves crashing on the dark rock bones of the continent, the gray whales spouting offshore—it’s a terrible place to live and I don’t recommend it to anyone, as my tastes in geography are contrarian. I love wind and hail and rain and cold and that green-gray sweet mother of us all, the ocean, with her thundering froth. So don’t move here, don’t talk about the Mendocino coast except in terms of dismissal and disgust. That we are happy here should only be interpreted with our four degrees of sanity in mind, as we seek a cold, damp habitat with no Costco, Wal-Mart, or even our favorite French restaurant, Jacques-in-z-Box.

So, a little fluff about nothing today. I had more momentous things to say but my back is giving out. I’m fond of physical pain, btw, because it helps stabilize my mood as a bipolar. When depressed I’m absolutely grateful for pain’s distraction; when manic I don’t have any and pay for it later. (Then in that state I can’t be bothered with sleeping, eating, or anything but my progress towards the New Jerusalem of my quasi-religious psychosis. As one friend remarked, I become “The Kentucky-Fried Christ.”) This manic side also distinguishes me from Kathleen in our degrees of sanity; she’s never been to a mental hospital in handcuffs, while I have twice. Then we do share going to jail in Mexico over our dog.

Kathleen just informed that once she was taken to the bughouse in handcuffs. I am in awe.

I should mention that I narcissistically googled “C. E. Chaffin” today and found 12,700 references, but was happy to see my blog listed first. As I do not advertise or promote myself beyond my anemic mailing list, this implies, I think, that my blog is getting more hits than any of my other writings. If you’d like to be added to my mailing list, please write me. My e-mail is available on this site. If too lazy to look it up in my profile, here it is:

All for today,

Dr. Chaffin “Light”


  1. Anonymous3:56 AM PST

    I think the Crowe/Pacino movie you are referring to The Insider'...not 'The Informant'.
    The acting in this movie is isn't 'under-acting' at all. Neither is it two guys trying to upstage each other by chewing the scenery and OVER Acting.

    Its a brilliant, suspenseful movie. Many people have discovered it over the years and the performances...particularly Crowe's are almost universally acclaimed by both critics and the movie-watching public. (I think you are one of the very few exceptions to this rule)
    Of course it isn't a movie suitable for people with ADD.

  2. Don't think this can be Norm, since he didn't sign his name, but to call (excuse me) The Insider's acting "superb" really puts a gulf between us in taste.

    Reminds me of when a performance poet told me "there's a thousand Shakespeares out there; he just got lucky because he was first."


    ADD I may or may not have. One daughter who suffers from it has accused me of it, but I've never been diagnosed. I am not the movie buff my younger brother is, but I know a predictable plot when I see it and I found the acting in said movie abysmal, a duel of natural narcissists trying to appear the opposite of their own natures in their roles.

    Pacino's a parody of himself, and Crowe's getting close, and Harrison Ford has also become a self-parody with his latest "nerd transformed into hero" movie.

    What does Crowe ever do but stand around and look serious and introspective? Nicholas Cage has but three facial expressions.

    Great acting? Watch Streep or Daniel Day-Lewis or Geoffrey Rush.

    Won't anyone come to my aid here agains "Anonymous?"

    Love the debate and thanks for commenting,



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