Friday, March 29, 2019

Born in the USA=one writer's process





Yeah, says Chris Christie former Republican governor of New Jersey: it's a defiant song about , 'I was born in the U.S.A. and I deserve better than what I'm getting.' I think plenty of people didn't get what it was about, including the president of the United States."  

That would be Ronald Reagan. And later conservative George Will would praise the song. But it was a song begging for hope, pleading for justice.

“I'm ten years burning down the road
Nowhere to run ain't got nowhere to go
Born in the U.S.A., I was born in the U.S.A.
….
End up like a dog that's been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just covering up”

Not too celebratory.

The song went through many iterations. Upbeat, dark, a prayer. Springsteen kept coming back to it—not so much changing the words but changing the tempo, the chorus, re-arranging verses. This reminded me of a story I’ve been working on for a couple of years. I keep thinking it’s done and sending it out and it gets rejected and I come back to the ending and reshuffle the word deck. I know it’s there, the right ending, the sock to the gut. –It’s just about getting it right.


Born down in a dead man's town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
End up like a dog that's been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just covering up
Born in the U.S.A., I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A., born in the U.S.A.
Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill the yellow man
Born in the U.S.A., I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A., born in the U.S.A.
Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man said "son if it was up to me"
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said "son, don't you understand"
I had a brother at Khe Sahn
Fighting off the Viet Cong
They're still there, he's all gone
He had a woman he loved in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms now
Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I'm ten years burning down the road
Nowhere to run ain't got nowhere to go
Born in the U.S.A., I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A., I'm a long gone daddy in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A., born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A., I'm a cool rocking daddy in the U.S.A.
Songwriters: Bruce Springsteen
Born In The U.S.A. (Remastered) lyrics © Downtown Music Publishing, BMG Rights Management




Wednesday, March 27, 2019

My Child Went to a Muslim School


Our home school co-op was looking for space to rent. There had been several reiterations and reinventions of real estate that I’m not sure where this location fell in the chronology of her education. It was pre-9/11.

The space had formerly been a girls Catholic high school with an attached convent—so it occupies a huge footprint in the Lakeview neighborhood. And, because it was designed by a FL Wright apprentice it received Landmark status. Thus, it couldn’t be torn down—though today it would have been turned into condos.

There wasn’t much the Catholic hierarchy could do with the building—it was designed to be a school. So parts of it were rented out—to our home school collective and to a burgeoning French school, and to the Muslims. Of the three—only the American Islamic College continues to inhabit the space. They might actually own it.

This reminds me of the Temple of Minerva in Assisi which now is the church home of Santa Maria. Archeology is full of stories of one culture/religion/civilization building on top of the other. It’s why in ancient cities such as London and Rome city managers find it hard to build new subway tracks because they keep discovering another layer of who they once were.

Anyway, after the recent attacks in New Zealand the fact hit home—that if my child still attended classes at that location she’d be in danger—not that schools are the safest places these days. Just more in danger. Just like the Jewish school I walk past on Broadway is built like a compound and employs security. I often see armed guards around Jewish institutions.

I could empathize with the victims of the attack in Christchurch without making it personal—but it did feel personal. I was reminded that my child attended a Muslim school and it could have been my child targeted, my faith under attack.

It wasn’t; I was thousands of miles away. Nevertheless, it hit home. What a crazy, crazy world this is.

Image result for new zealand attacks

Friday, March 22, 2019

What We Leave Behind, flash series #6



On Nov. 20, 1970 Schuyler scribbles something about Erikson: Life of Gandhi. Possibly Erik Erikson, Gandhi’s Truth on the Origins of Militant Nonviolence (1969). A psychoanalytical perspective. Earlier that year during the summer while on GSHI Schuyler had penned a diary/letter to Joe Brainard, commenting upon a drawing Joe had sent based upon a photo captioned “Gandhi’s worldly possessions at the time of death” showing two pairs of sandals, glasses, a book, a spittoon, a nailfile, a watch, a bowl, a spoon. In a footnote Kernan (editor of James Schuyler Diary) writes that a various points in his life Brainard was known to suddenly give away all his possessions.
                  
Marie Kondo would be proud, I guess.

From his Diary, I can read that Schuyler loved shopping. He was a fairly flagrant consumer, perhaps an outgrowth of his psychosis. It covered over pressing financial insecurities and perhaps because he wasn’t “getting on” like some of his other friends such as Ashbery and Bill Berkson who taught at the San Francisco Art Institute and edited a literary journal Big Sky.

What would it be like to die with nothing? At the end of his life in 1991 Schuyler wished for his ashes to be interred at Little Portion Friary, Mont Sinai on Long Island. Towards the end of his life Schuyler through a relationship with Tom Carey Schuyler was drawn to the Episcopal faith—from Diary entry March 6, 1990

…On Sunday for the first time I was lay reader at the Church of the Incarnation at the early mass—Romans 5:12-19. Next on March 25th, then on Palm Sunday. Very happy about the latter, indeed.

Image result for little portion friary
Schuyler not exactly a Gandhi, was at a point of trying to see his way through, navigating a world of stuff and things where he would never have it all. In the midst of the James Schuyler papers housed at the archives of the USC San Diego Library is a box of notebooks labeled Little Portion.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A First, flash series #5



In May 1970 James Schuyler mentions Izaak Walton, Complete Angler, Walton Lives—biographies on Donne, George Herbert ,etc and Dorothy Wordsworth, Journals, 2 vols. in his Diary. Later on August 17, 1970 on Great Spruce Head Island, Schuyler quotes from the Memoir of Thomas Bewick. Thomas Bewick (1753 – 1828) English engraver, credited with reviving the technique of wood engraving. His Memoir contains absorbing descriptions of his Northumberland childhood—from Cambridge Guide to Literature in English

8/12/70 (a poem, which appeared in The Crystal Lithium)

In early August among the spruce
Fall parti-colored leaves
From random birch that hide
Their crowns up toward the light—
Deciduously needle-nested—
Among the tumbled rocks—a
man-made scree below a house—
a dull green sumach blade
slashed with red clearer than
blood a skyline blue red a first
fingertap, a gathering, a climax


Monday, March 18, 2019

Art Imitates Life



On August 22, 1969 James Schuyler was reading Boswell’s Life of Johnson, London: Oxford University Press, 1922.

1969 was a particularly stable and fruitful year for Schuyler. As a writer he was making inroads with two publications. Free Espousing Schuler’s first commercially published book of poems came out with Doubleday under the imprint Paris Review Editions.  A Nest of Ninnies the back-and-forth book co-produced by Jimmy and John Asbery. Each wrote alternating chapters, passing the manuscript back and forth over oceans, despite Fullbrights and hospital stays, the loss of friends and friendships for 17 years. I don’t think either thought it would see the light of day. The story if like a long evening of storytelling between friends, friends with wit and intelligence who both know dialogue. A tale derived from anecdotal observations of middle-class suburbia. Published by Dutton it was reviewed by W. H. Auden in the NY Times Book Review—destined to become a minor classic (was the satire intentional?).

Also at the time Schuyler was still living with the Porters and traveling back and forth from Amherst, MA where Fairfield Porter was a visiting professor at Amherst College to Southampton in Long Island to Calais, Vermont to visit Kenward Elmslie and Joe Brainard. Schuyler seemed at the top of his game. In a few year’s time he would be broke, suffering from mental breakdowns, and struggling with living independently.

Boswell’s Life of Johnson seems apropos for this time in Schuyler’s own life. It is a work between friends: Not exactly accurate, full of embellishments, conflated incidents, and condensed conversation.  From wiki:

On 6 August 1773, eleven years after first meeting Boswell, Johnson set out to visit his friend in Scotland, to begin "a journey to the western islands of Scotland", as Johnson's 1775 account of their travels would put it.[3] Boswell's account, The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (1786), was a preliminary attempt at a biography before his Life of Johnson.[4] With the success of that work, Boswell started working on the "vast treasure of his conversations at different times" that he recorded in his journals.[5] His goal was to recreate Johnson's "life in scenes."

This sounds a lot like how A Nest of Ninnies came about—a result of a car ride in July 1952 where Ashbery and Schuyler whiled away the trip weaving a story. From an article written by Ashbery which appeared in Context, no. 22:

The Making of John Ashbery and James Schuyler’s A Nest of Ninnies
Context N°22
James Schuyler and I began writing A Nest of Ninnies purely by chance. It was July 1952 and we were being given a lift back to New York from East Hampton, N.Y. where we had spent the weekend as guests of the musical comedy librettist John Latouche. Latouche planned to make a short movie starring us and our friend Jane Freilicher called “Presenting Jane,” from a scenario by Schuyler. A few scenes had just been shot, including a scene of Jane walking on water (actually a submerged dock on Georgica Pond); the film was never finished though Schuyler’s script recently surfaced and is going to be published soon. Now we were in a car being driven by the young cameraman, Harrison Starr, with his father as a passenger in the front seat.
Since neither Jimmy nor I knew the Starrs very well, we at first contented ourselves with observing the exurban landscape along the old Sunrise Highway (this was before construction of the now infamous Long Island Expressway). Growing bored, Jimmy said, “Why don’t we write a novel?” And how do we do that, I asked. “It’s easy—you write the first line,” was his reply. This was rather typical of him—getting a brilliant idea and then conscripting someone else to realize it. Not to be outmaneuvered, I contributed a three-word sentence: “Alice was tired.”
So as art imitates life, life imitates art, art imitates art. Life lived. Boswell and Johnson, Ashbery and Schuyler literary friends who have contributed to the world of literature and memoir—an inspiration to all who endeavor to explore the intersection of fiction and non-fiction.
John Ashbery and James Schuyler, Great Spruce Head Island, photo: Kenneth Koch


Sunday, March 17, 2019

New work out in Ink Sweat & Tears from the UK

Image result for kickstarter images


a little flash piece of 500 words--that I'd been kicking around for awhile

Kickstarter:

Jenna woke up and smelled the bacon and eggs her roommate was ruining on the stove top and retched.
Wow, that was a surprise!
She wadded up her waitress outfit abandoned the night before on the floor next to her bed and, not knowing what else to do, put the puke-coated uniform into the collapsible laundry hamper she’d bought at Ikea two months ago. She’d deal with it later.


to read more click on the link or go here:
http://www.inksweatandtears.co.uk/pages/?p=18625

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Silverness Yellowing



“Diary of a Fruit Farmer.” This article almost sounds like a joke, certainly a niche interest. But that was James Schuyler, where his head was at.

Aug. 7= He was reading James Woodeforde’s Diary, begun 1758 and continued until death, contains the minutia of daily life, with particular attention to food and drink, on Aug. 22 he mentions the above article from The Countryman, Summer 1938. While vacationing on Great Spruce Head Island the crew would take the boat over to Deer Isle and over to the Maine main land to Camden for groceries and for yard sales. I can imagine Schuyler picking up a box of decades old gardening magazine for ten cents. See “Used Handkerchiefs 5¢”

The three poems (written June  30, 1969), “After Joe was at the island,” “‘Used Handkerchiefs 5¢,’” and “The Trash Book,” are either implicitly or explicitly addressed to Schuyler’s friend Joe Brainard, an important artist and collagist. Christopher Schmidt in his thesis “Baby, I am the garbage”: James Schuyler’s Taste for Waste has a whole academic theory about language and trash among the New York School. http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/ijcs/ijcs1011-06.htm Mostly I find it humorous=used handkerchiefs, though I’m not sure why because I’ve bought used handkerchiefs at the thrift store at least once or twice in my life.

Then in searching the World Wide Web I found this:

In the Joe Brainard Archive
Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego Library
Box 1, Folder 2
Some Blue Gay Porn - Construction, 10 x 7 3/4 oval 1975

Four collages and one ink drawing on 4 1/2 x 3 paper stuffed in envelope with blue ink lettering and wash on front and blue-checked contact paper on back; placed in blue-bordered handkerchief; placed in blue-jean pocket mounted on plywood.

--and the juxtaposition makes me weepy. One man’s trash is another man’s art—mediated by the threads of these very special relationships. Finding treasure where others see only trash.

Used Handkerchiefs 5¢

Clean used ones, of course. Also a dresser scarf, woven with a pattern of pansies looking alternately to right and to left; a pillowcase full of carpet scraps; underdrawers of cambric with an edging of tatting; black—shedding jet and bugles—crêpe, as stuffed with dust and as damp, or as dry, as the wrinkled hand of someone too old to die who dies because to wake up this morning just slipped her mind; bent giant postcards; Mount Pelée and a fruitless wonderland of ice prisms, clear water-diluted color chunks: blue, pink, and green; sagging brown metal-threaded tapestry cloth within gothic arch of a table Motorola hiding a speaker from which once sped Flagstad’s more than melodious shriek and, over-enunciated as plumes wrapped in papers printed “Biscayne Farms,” once trotted, like a quick creek, the news that flaming passengers were falling from the Hindenburg, a voice that left itself a small puddle of kerosene on the linoleum; then there is your face, floating up the stairs, big-eyed into the trash-and-treasures loft from which, finally, dressed for tennis as you came, you go down again with a find in hand; a slab of undyed linen its silverness yellowing like a teaspoon from egg yolk, ironed with too coll an iron so the washing crush marks make a pattern over the weave and, above the thick welt of the hem, a cross-stitched border of spruce and juniper unstylized (unless style is simply to choose) in shades of drab that sink in, or merge from: the hand towel od today, embroidered forty some maybe years ago.
Image result for joe brainard and james schuylerImage result for joe brainard and james schuylerImage result for joe brainard and james schuyler

Monday, March 11, 2019

I’m a Mommy (of a baby orchid)



My orchid recently blossomed. This is a rare occurrence (perhaps because there is little direct light since my window ledge faces the inside of a U-shaped courtyard. At 12 noon is the best chance for sunlight. When that’s available. The month of March was dreary, being mostly cloudy. James Schuyler and I have that in common. We both live in small rooms in former hotels in a big city. So, yeah, a bloomin’ orchid is reason to celebrate.

This is my #2 installment in a flash series about the memoirs James Schuyler listed in his Diary (edited by Nathan Kernan). In July of 2017 I was on Great Spruce Head Island reading Diary entries from Schuyler—written on GSHI. On August 4, 1969 he was deep in the potting soil reading various gardening memoirs.

Letters from an American Farmer, J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, a collection of essays describing rural life in America, first published in London 1782.

Alpine Flower Garden, Wm. Robinson.

Poet and Landscape, Andrew Young, a favorite book of Schuyler’s, series of portraits of English pastoral poets as seen in their own rural settings

Historical Essays, F. W. Maitland, Cambridge University Press, 1957, first published 1888.

Rural Rides, Wm. Cobbett (1830)

The Farmer’s Tour through the East of England, Arthur Young (1771)

Garden Notebook, Constance Spry, 1950

(John) Richard Jeffries (1848-1887), novelist and journalist, celebrated the countryside of England in remarkable detail but unsentimental way. From Wikipedia: In December 1881, Jefferies began to suffer from his until then undiagnosed tuberculosis, with an anal fistula. After a series of painful operations, he moved to West Brighton to convalesce. About this time he wrote his extraordinary autobiography, The Story of My Heart (1883). He had been planning this work for seventeen years and, in his words, it was "absolutely and unflinchingly true". It was not an autobiography of the events of his life, but an outpouring of his deepest thoughts and feelings.

James Woodeforde, 1740-1803, rural English clergyman and prolific diarist. His Diary which was begun 1758 and continued until death, contains the minutia of daily life, with particular attention to food and drink. The Diary of a Country Parson.

None of these books sound thrilling. In fact if I was stuck on a remote island such as GSHI I would have Amazon drone-drop a box of mysteries—certainly not The Diary of a Country Parson. Schuyler’s interest in such archaic literature at first glance seems improbable. He was a cultured camp with a cosmopolitan finger in various aesthetic pots such art, dance, symphony, and poetry. He did indulge in popular films. He went to art openings, poetry readings, he wrote art reviews. The above titles just seem so far removed from the world of James Schuyler.

But he had a deep and abiding love of nature and flowers. See “Korean Mums.”

Except from:
There is a
dull book with me,
an apple core, cigarettes,
an ashtray. Behind me
the rue I gave Bob
flourishes. Light on leaves,
so much to see, and
all I really see is that
owl, its bulk troubling
the twilight. I’ll
soon forget it: what
is there I have not forgot?
Or one day will forget:
this garden, the breeze
in stillness, even
the words, Korean mums.

I am going to leave off here and enjoy my orchid, staring into its face.


Friday, March 8, 2019

The Autobiography of Charles Darwin and Selected Letters


The Autobiography of Charles Darwin and Selected Letters, edited by Francis Darwin, New York: Dover Publications, 1958. (First published in 1892.)

Schuyler had a New Year’s Day tradition of going to the Hazan’s (Jane Freilicher)—in fact one of his last Diary entries talks about getting dressed to go over to their soiree. On January 1, 1968 he wrote about starting Darwin’s autobiography. This notation eventually turned into the poem, “Empathy and New Year”. Here is a snippet:

Got coffee and started
reading Darwin: so modest,
so innocent, so pleased at
the surprise that he
should grow up to be him. How
grand to begin a new
year with a new writer
you really love.

It is the intimate simplicity that I love about Schuyler’s poems. I am given a glimpse into the interior of someone living generations past and dwelling in a landscape foreign to me. It is the mundane details that give me a landing place, a space to inhabit. I feel solidly anchored in New York City late 50s, 1960s, before displacement and the authentic got co-opted. When the Village was the village and the Chelsea Hotel was the bastion of washed up rock stars and writers.  

Though a book of and by Darwin seems like an ancient text it was likely more contemporary to Schuyler. The Journal was first transcribed and published in Life and Letters in 1887 but highly interleaved with other material. It appeared more fully in More Letters (1903). It first appeared in its entirety in English in 1959, edited by Gavin de Beer from a copy by an unknown copyist. The original manuscript was not re-discovered until 1962 and is now in the Darwin Archive, Cambridge University Library.

9
Jimmy Schuyler, Jane Freilicher

1965
oil on canvas

Sitting, listening to the snowplow blade scrape the street, Schuyler begins the new year ruminating on an expansive topic: the evolution of man. Bringing the world a step closer.


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Writers Beware/Be aware


Why do I do this? I often ask myself this.

*Not for money.
*Not for fame or glory.
*Not for world peace.

Marie Kondo and her method of sorting out old things or adding new things to your life is very popular right now. Does it bring you joy?

I’ve started to apply this philosophy to a lot of things—not just physical stuff in my closet, but the stuff rattling around my brain. How do I feel about my writing? It doesn’t make me rich. In fact, I mostly do not get paid. Yeah, my books receive royalties—but a big return can pretty much neutralize any expected check. At Other Writing here at my blog you can see a full list of publishing credits. The majority of those have promised NO payment. If I do get paid it is usually less than a couple hundred a year. The worst publications treat my work as “content”—meaning it simply takes up cyber space at their on-line journal or zine.

Ditto on fame and world peace. No one cares.

So why do I do this thing called writing and bother to submit?

I’ve had a particularly bad morning—as I work really hard to keep track of submissions. At Duotrope I mark if something is rejected or accepted and then officially withdraw the piece if simultaneously submitted (and WHY NOT DO THIS—life is short and I cast out many worms hoping to hook a fish).

Recently I had an acceptance and withdrew my work from 4 other journals. One got back to me—oh, we published your piece in our last issue—Oh really, how come I didn’t know about this?—And also we changed your words and the ending. –Really?!

This is so discourteous and unprofessional. Yes, I’m giving you my work, yes, I’m not getting paid, yes, no one is getting rich, famous, or achieving world peace. But this is not a license to take advantage of a writer. Not a content maker, but a writer.

I do this for me. If I boil it all down to the nitty gritty: I have a story to tell. I want to connect with readers. I want my work to be read. Along the way if an editor gets back to me and says “I love this!” That makes me happy also. If someone reads the work and comments positively. That makes me happy. But ultimately I have to make my own happiness. Struggling to get something onto paper, revisioning, and revising, the drudgery of making it feel right or at least righter, the administrative headache of submitting and corresponding with editors=I do this because of the hope of connecting my words to your eyes.

So, yeah River Babble you pissed me off. My words are not literary wallpaper to decorate your webpage. Please remove my story from your “page.”

--Now that I've got that out of the way--will start a new series based upon the obscure memoirs James Schuyler lists in his Diary edited by Nathan Kernan.


When I was at GSHI the summer of 2017 reading the Diary entries mainly written on the island I was confounded by the archaic literature he bothered with. 

The Introduction by Kernan explains that Schuyler though a sporadic diarist himself was a lifelong reader of diaries. James Woodeforde, Gilbert White, Virginia Woolf, and Dorothy Wordsworth. He enjoyed gardening journals, descriptions of the English countryside, details of 18th C. food and drink.

From Kernan:
It was a memoir, Logan Pearsall Smith’s Unforgotten Years, that awakened him to the realization that he too must become a writer: reading the book as a teenager, Schuler looked up from his backyard tent and saw the landscape “shimmer.” Schuyler quotes at length in his Diary from Henry Daley’s memoir, This Small Cloud, from Iris Origo’s War in Val d’Orcia and from Boris Pasternak’s Safe conduct, he extolls Charles Darwin’s memoirs for their “simplicity” and  “reticence of intimacy.”  . . . One of the characteristics of the Diary, as of Schuyler’s poetry, is the way memories seem to rise abruptly out of the fabric of whatever else is going on, like Proust’s “involuntary memories.”

Image result for writer sitting writing

Monday, March 4, 2019

Old Florida, New Florida, Lauren Groff



Florida
Lauren Groff
Riverhead Books, New York 2018



I am a capricious reader—of Lauren Groff. Her Fates & Furies infuriated me. I read it because it was mentioned in a group review of House Frau by Jill Alexander Essbaum, a good friend of mine. There was at the time a certain “wokeness” of reviewers about women and sex. I know, ridiculous. The idea was that these books should be grouped together because women in them were having sex.

Which didn’t make sense because had not one of the reviewers read Madame Bovary? Maybe they were put together because it was women writing novels about sex. Either way, even the categorization was infuriating.

Fates & Furies went on to be highly lauded: NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A FINALIST FOR THE 2015 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD
NPR MORNING EDITION BOOK CLUB PICK
NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY: THE WASHINGTON POST, NPR, TIME, THE SEATTLE TIMES, MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE, SLATE, LIBRARY JOURNAL, KIRKUS, AND MANY MORE

You can find my review here: https://memoirouswrite.blogspot.com/2015/02/day-10-all-way-to-key-west.html

Yet, I’m not easily thrown or known to give up. I’d been hearing good things about her latest short story collection, Florida, last fall—especially as hurricane season swung into action. I read an excerpt and heard something on NPR as Hurricane Michael was about to dash the Florida coast. As I read the unlinked stories I thought about my 2015 bike trip from Jacksonville to Key West. And, perhaps, because this Chicago winter has been so brutal, I longed to go back.

Thus, I began a reader’s journey through Lauren Groff’s Florida.

I was drawn in by the opening story “Ghosts and Empires,” where Old Florida is a character, a ghost. I especially loved the “I” protagonist, a woman not sure how to be emotionally available to a world that seems to be going to shit. Echos of this theme show up in “Yport.” A woman in self-doubt, contained by all that contains her. I could easily picture myself thinking a month alone with just my children sounded freeing—instead of in reality claustrophobic and exhausting, a bit lonely after a while. I’m always thinking travel will soothe my restlessness, solve all my problems with the hostile politics of America.

Most of these stories are melancholic. Flashes of Old Florida, the horrors of contemporary life in the subtropics of Florida, the dread of snakes, bugs, university life. “At the Rounded Earth’s Imagined Corners” we read the story of a man, a life in one sitting as seen through the lens of nostalgia.

Uncannily, Groff follows a prescription first laid out for me by Rebecca Makkai of the recent The Great Believers fame. She taught a class at OCWW where she lectured on the idea of combining 2 or 3 disparate things. Often something happens and we think, I should write about that. But, of course, we go on and never do it. Then 9 or 10 more things happen, and we continue to think, I should write about that. Until finally we jumble them all up into one story where a lot of weird things happen. It makes for an interesting read.

Groff does that in Florida, particularly in “Snake Stories.” Random stories about snakes, the fear of snakes, and family.

My favorite was “Above and Below” about a homeless woman. Probably all of us have passed a homeless person and thought if not for the grace of God that could have been me. We are, most of us, only a dollar or two separated from a complete financial breakdown, only a catastrophe away from ruin. Add on top of that family pathology and a smidgen of depression or bi-polar and we have a recipe for the slow slide into living in a tent in the woods and eating out of Dumpsters. Right now—the cries of humanity overwhelm us. They are not in the far years of the past, engulfed in Holocaust and world war, but in the descent or de-evolution of mankind into climate change, barbaric regimes inured to their own people, gun violence, epidemic suicide, on and on. We are slowly unraveling—except for some miracle that reminds of new life and the hope for creation. There have been times, such as when traveling in Florida on my bike where I thought I might veer off, make a sudden turn and lose myself and never go home. In fact, while camping one night in mangroves at a state park there was a woman in the spot next to me sleeping in her car with an odd assortment of stuff. I had the feeling, and overheard a phone call, that she had indeed dropped out. Her daughter was pissed. People needed her to come back, but she was refusing.

All at once we are no longer from above and below the earth, somewhere in between.

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Problem of Pain


What do we do when we get too old?

What is too old?

The Boomers are taking over, sucking the pension right out of the Millennials. We are taking most of the resources and leaving behind deficit, decay, and a planet in distress. So for the good news—

I like to write and listen to music and so I love All Songs 24/7 from NPR because it introduces me to MANY styles and new stuff. It helps me feel relevant. As if I can have an opinion on Brandi Carlisle and Cardi B. This is important in the journey to getting old, being able to have opinions and act like I know what’s going on.

It’s all an act.


So I’ve been discovering and rediscovering some old musicians such as Marianne Faithful and Paul Simon, who both in their 70s, have put out new work, their latest (last) album.

Marianne Faithful, whose biography, has so many re-boots that she truthfully shouldn’t be here. I won’t go into detail, because that would be impossible, let’s just say she doesn’t give up. Maybe gives in to addiction, her impulses, to frankly not the right choice. Yet, she has defied the odds. With her new album Negative Capability she has with her hoarse and cracked voice struck a chord. Her words can belong to all of us on the cusp, the brink of our own mortality. “In My Own Particular Way” is a song about vulnerability, about being old and lonely, of fear.

Send me someone to love
Someone who could love me back
Love me for who I really am
Not an image and not for money
I know I'm not young and I'm damaged
But I'm still pretty, kind and funny
In my own particular way
In my own particular way
Capable of loving in my own particular way
And ready to love
At last
It's taken me a long time to learn
In fact my whole life so far
So much rubbish I had to burn
So much I had to go through

You sense the pain, the regret, the transparency.

Send me someone please who'll love me
Someone who can see all my faults
But love me nevertheless
And we will love each other

If this isn’t the eternal cry of humankind, then I don’t know what is.

Paul Simon has recent come out and said he is done. Done writing songs. He has been a songwriter for 60 years—as long as I’ve been alive. I think I need to revisit Graceland—which is what he’s done.

Recorded in 1985 and 1986, Graceland was influenced by racism and apartheid in South Africa and featured Ladysmith Black Mambazo and other African influences. Now over 30 years later there has been issued a remix, the dance or workout tape version. Graceland: The Remixes pushes his monumental 1986 album into the realm of modern electronic music. It gives the opportunity to several contemporary producers to reimagine some old classics. I particularly love the Graceland Remix (MK & KC Lights).

It means you can teach an old dog new tricks, now we just need a better metaphor.