Friday, October 29, 2010

Chinese Brush Experiment

In instructing poetry students over the years, I evolved a teaching device called a "Chinese Brush Experiment," or CBE.  In it the student can only write forwards, never backwards, just as the skilled Chinese brush artist gets no forgiveness for his brush.  Whatever goes forward, stays, so that in a poem, one can only go back to change punctuation, spelling, grammar, and to push the envelope, I suppose--line breaks.  But not the essential text.  I propose the same exercise for my blog this morning.

And it is morning here, 4:22 AM PST.  I dozed off earlier only to awaken again to a burst of energy, which enabled me to get the wash together, take a closet door off in the bedroom, clean out a cabinet in the kitchen, take out the compost and do various other domestic tasks that happily consume my time at odd hours. 

We live in an apx. 800 square foot cottage, and it is my ambition to close out or modest storage unit, to have all worldly possessions under this one roof.  I am close to achieving said ambition, as storage is mostly empty now, and I need only go through the guest bedroom reducing possessions in order to accomodate things from storage I wish yet to keep, like my Simpsons memorabilia.

When the Simpsons debuted I knew television was marked forever.  The show was too smart, usually a death knell, but it appealed on so many levels that it's now gone on for over twenty years, the longest adult cartoon ever to grace our screens.  Not anticipating this, thinking that for the intelligence of the show its lifespan would be short, I began collecting Simpsons memorabilia early on.  I thought, like the famous Mickey Mouse phone, that any trinket I collected was sure to become a collector's item.  But Paah!  After twenty years all the stuff has no value, at least on E-Bay.  Because the show's still going on.  Yet I insist on keeping what I collected.  I used to think it would be my grandchild's college fund.  Now I think it's just God laughing at me.  But I won't give up the collection.

So I must make room in the guest bedroom for storage, and it will not prove too hard.  I'm just not ready to undertake it yet today.  Today I have other concerns, one of which is novel for a bachelor (my wife is away at present).  I plan to actually wash the sheets and afterwards put fresh sheets on our bed, something I don't think I've ever done, since as a bachelor I used to simply sleep on a futon with no sheets or in a sleeping bag on the floor.  Today will mark a first, I think.  In fact, since my spiritual transformation on August 23rd, I can actually see dust.  A man who can see dust.  A man who can see dust and changes the sheets on the bed.  This is not a miracle?  Women of America, rise up and affirm that for a man, a straight man at that, that this is indeed a miracle!

I've been working my way through Mozart's late string quartets and found a space in the KV 400s (ref. for Mozart fans only) where he tends to merge long sustained interludes in and out of another in a continuous unwinding, and it is quite hypnotic.  See KV 428 for an example.

I watched the World Series game last night with friends and one thing I like about watching baseball is that it allows for much conversation and analysis.  For the opposite reason I love basketball, because it allows for so little, given the constant action (save the interminable time-outs and free throws).  Thank God the NBA season has begun.  Go Lakers!

And, with nothing more profound to say, putting his brush away, he signed off.



Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rain and Rachel

It’s rained for three days. We’ve gotten over four inches on the Mendocino Coast (I capitalize “Coast” because we really do live in another country). The land was thirsty.

After mass at St. Anthony’s, where a special anointing for healing was performed today—nearly all parishioners were anointed, including me—I stopped by Gordon’s house and we sat on his porch and told each other the usual lies, afterwards inspecting his fine garden. He has a lovely house.

Coming home to my garden, I first admired the sculpture I bought yesterday, “Propeller Bird”—a steel composition with a pterodactyl-like head, small, shovel-shaped wings, long thin body, and a brass propeller for a tail that really spins—about four feet high. You see, while I went outside for a smoke yesterday at the Buddhist “Sit” (a free morning program aimed at letting others experience the practice of Buddhism) I saw garden sculptures at the Mendocino Arts center and fell in love with this one but thought it would prove  beyond my means, only to discover that it could be mine for just $110! Imagine my joy!

The sculpture has transformed my garden, given it distinction. All my statuary, the troll, the Santa-turtle, the pumpkin people, the four angels, the six frogs and two toads, make for a happy little kingdom—but now everything is put in a lower place next to this proportionately towering structure that differs in kind, not only degree.  And man, it’s heavy. The main body is done in a bar of 1” steel, which is wound in a circle three times halfway up to give the suggestion of a body. I wish I had a camera so I could save on this necessary descriptive logorrhea.

So after rejoicing in my sculpture (I named him "Jerry the Propeller Bird" and  he's right next to the ceramic angel, Gabriela, and not far from George the Gay Frog) and doing a little weeding, and making sure Scout went out to piss (he don’t like de rain), I came in and put Mozart on and began calling friends, but no one wanted to come over to play board games with me, so I had a good cry over my late daughter, Rachel, which the rain no doubt provoked; Rachel Elizabeth, the sacrificial lamb, mother of my only grandchild, taken from us too soon. 

She died on July 29, 2007, at the age of 29, from an accidental overdose, over three years ago.  God, it's hard to believe.  You think your children are going to live forever, or at least outlive you.  Not in this case. 

Rachel was my most gifted, most athletic, most beautiful, most intelligent daughter, and though my baby, Sarah, is an excellent singer and certainly a more polished performer than Rachel would ever be, I still think Rachel’s natural pipes were superior to Sarah’s, and that's saying a lot, because, believe me, Sarah can really sing--and even if she couldn't she has so much charisma no one would notice if she couldn't. 

Rachel never had what Sarah has so much, or is at least able to project: confidence. Somehow she couldn’t harden herself into an adult. She ran from feelings she didn’t understand, and the cruelty of this world puzzled her to no end, though she herself could be cruel, as she was to Sarah before she died. She put Sarah in one almighty bind and left her with a big bag of guilt, but I won’t go into the details—all of us have suffered because of Rachel, and later, because of Jacob and the evil machinations of his sick father, Vincent Wall, who deserves to be a lawyer (he has taken Jacob away to Delaware now, where he attends law school). This is a man who has done everything he can to permanently separate our side of the family from any contact with Jacob whatsoever, though he cares little for Jacob, as is obvious from how perfunctorily he greets him when I drop Jacob off after one of our monthly visits (last was in July). It must gall Mr. Wall that Jacob is the spitting image of his mother and will also likely attain to the size of his grandfather (6’6” and currently 230 lbs).

I wept for Rachel, for her inability to confront evil, for her wish that we lived in Oz, a place where even if you get axe-hacked into little teeny-weeny pieces, the pieces will grow back together and go on living.   I often called Rachel "Scraps," after "Scraps, the Patchwork Girl," from one of our favorite Oz books.  Scraps, like Rachel, was extremely intelligent with her cotton stuffing for brains, but she was also flighty and mercurial (like Rachel, Scraps sufferred from ADD--even in Oz).  Rachel was also a "Borderline Personality Disorder," a syndrome whose hallmark is lack of a solid sense of identity, something Rachel never quite achieved.  Yes, Oz is where that poor girl belongs, and she knew it, and she’s there now in the bosom of God the Father.

I shall not see Rachel until the resurrection, but the Day of the Dead, also All Souls Day, approaches, the most important holiday of the year in Mexico and also in our family as Halloween.   Even at 18 and 16, Rachel and Keturah liked to get gussied up in elaborate costumes and go trick-or-treating. Keturah has been particularly outstanding in this department. When it comes to projects, the Turtle rules!

Anyway, some say the veil is thin at this time of the year.  In the Mexican tradition, to attract her spirit, I will erect an altar to Rachel  with her favorite stuff on it--like Marlboro Lights and Oz trinkets and a couple of Twix bars.  Now what was her favorite drink?  Of course, Bob Marley will have to make a contribution.

All for today.  Let it rain, let it rain.



Friday, October 22, 2010

New Poem: Deal?

Chris Lott, in a Facebook post, said he missed the "poetry" of my blog.  I don't know if he meant mine, but here's a new poem I'm posting for his sake and I hope he comments as a result.  Oh the pressure!



I wanted a mind
not like a steel trap
but a platinum guillotine
the way my father taught me,
how to stick it to the sucker like a needle in the eye,
how to puncture the white underbelly of his pride
with a samurai ritual knife, how to disembowel
and afterwards stuff his own entrails with his flesh
and feed him to himself as sausage, sausage,
feed him to himself as sausage.

Early I learned
how to cut human pride
with a buzz saw in my hands
sawing away pretensions
to nobility without connection,
intent to expose the rotten infrastructure
of the Beast and its functionaries:
tie-wearers, thralls, desk jockeys
who feel they rule the world
happy in their ancillary bureaucratic power
like little Napoleons
watching one administration come
and another go
content in their G status
and the pension and wife and fireplace
and dog and braided rug
like a picture in Home and Garden
don’t ya know, don’t ya know?

I learned long ago
how to divide the corpse into equal portions
after slaughtering an ego,
how to arrange the corpse beetles
for a celebratory parade
in their velveteen tights--
three pair each, the nimble six-footed dancers.
And come the shiny cockroaches!
I dance on the graves of the proud
in patent leather shoes!--
but I digress.
                        I was fessing to my tendency,
learned from my father,
to skewer others emotionally
for entertainment’s sake
though I have tried to turn this gift
to therapeutic use with some success
but many complaints, to be honest.
Humankind cannot bear very much reality.
Why wouldn’t I be honest?
Who reads poetry anyway?

If I go slicing around
not caring whom I wound,
remember that I do it for the general weal
intent on one thing: to excise
the dead imitation from the living,
to rescue the eternal
from the temporal curse,
the thorn in the proverbial paw
of the proverbial God sacrificed to man.

Come, Lord Jesus.
It is the only hope for our blindness.
I see miracles every hour
and the world says I’m crazy,
that I suffer from delusions.
What if they aren't delusions?
I don’t think they are!
Hoo hoo! Ha ha!

I promise, Lord, if you come
I will no longer wound my fellows
with this vicious tongue of mine.
I will not do soul-surgery in public
and watch them bleed
even though it's for their own good.

I promise to be nicer,
more like Jesus,
more like you.




Tuesday, October 19, 2010


The way things are, if I don't post more pictures here I won't have as many options when I notify friends on FB that I've blogged anew.  So now for a brief exodus into visual notation.  Above, our friend Gordon Black cheering for the Lakers in the finals last year.  Then, my beautiful Kathleen.  Next, my grandson, Jacob, now 8.   Then a picture of me with my wonderful Martin Dreadnought Rosewood, "Rosie," lost in a song at my brother's house.  Then me looking mysterious on the Mendocino headlands.

All for tonight.



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Unexpected Light
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