Thursday, December 31, 2009

The year comes to an end. Time for resolutions, getting rid of egotistical habits. But don't blame yourself, necessarily, but where it's due. It's the culture, a culture that creates a good deal of tension as it spins. So to let go of that tension and remember the Essence of the being that is within.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

There are the great masters of kindness. We could recognize them for their work in the same way, or rather better, we would Beethoven or a great architect. Such arts are offshoots of the ways of great kindness anyway, so that any living art shines and trembles with this inner life, as a child’s drawing does.

The work of the great masters is not always understood so well. The work is not as appreciated for the great art that it is, as it seems unknown by being so commonplace. It is commonplace, which is a good thing, in that most people are able to share kindness with each other and strangers and people with whom we exchange money for services, such as waiters and cabdrivers and teachers. But its commonness belies its importance.

Einstein had it, wisely, that space is curved by the gravity of meaningful objects. The Earth spins rotationally in space curved by the Sun. Kindness is that same law of gravity and curved space expressed in the affairs of the conscious beings of Earth. It is a law one may try to fight, but to no avail. (Substitute the term of kindness into Einstein's universal law and it is no more metaphorical than his original.)

The great masters of kindness live, shape their world, through kindness. They put out kindness, and kindness they receive, one way or another, each a unique and interesting story of how this works and plays out. They live through their acts, and shape the world in a way harmonious with natural law. (They put it to the test every day.)

A willful individual like Hitler or Stalin may treat the law of kindness and gravity as something to be tricked and subverted, as if to manipulate the force of kindness in one direction, toward one group of people at the great expense of another. By doing so, even in a slight way, he attempts to turn the law of nature completely upside down. His act is a moment of anger sustained, the same as trying to fly when one is not a bird. He may have concocted a great rational science, but the effort will fail out of a crucial heartless flaw. And from smaller acts of the same, less historically broad, sorrowful things happen too, no less insidious, a creation of sick beings and ill ways of treating life and nature.

People will poke around curiously over acts of kindness and all its arts. They will question and study the chemistry of it. They will look at kindness from the outside, as if they stand apart from its laws, as if they don’t get it. They want to be pessimistic rational journalists about it. They wish to judge everyone, and point out flaws (which is unkind to begin with). Focusing on anomalies, they cast a fog over the light. If they really had such questions, all they would need to do is to turn around and just be, simply, kind. And then they would know the beauty of kindness, and that to be kind is to receive kindness. They would step into the light and understand that the great masters of kindness create saintly worlds accurate to the greatest and deepest laws of That Which Is.

Yes, maybe it does sound silly and childish to say, far too simple. But art is full of examples of gesture of kind reach, useful for us especially if they are habit-forming, a lesson of understanding and sympathy, the basic great human traits that one shares not just with family but potentially with all. The art, however, points to a direction, the same direction that venerable religions do. Art recedes now and then, and reveals to us the act of the artist as a scientist comprehending the great laws of nature.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Everything has a magic to it. Fill a vessel of water and you get the happy sound of the notes of an octave. (Music reflects the order of Heaven and Earth, East Asian music philosophy holds.) This is why yoga works. Well, everything you can think of from atoms on up. Bowel movements, wisely guided public opinion, you name it. It's why back surgery isn't always so great.

So, if you do something for the right reasons, and in the right amount, applying some work, but maybe not too much so as to make it overly complex, you're going to wind up with something beneficial. (This is why wine is better for you than hard alcohol.)

It also applies to writing.

Now, in the spirit of good humor, lets take the phenomenon of The Da Vinci Code. I've not read it, and I'm not going to judge. Maybe I've seen an odd end of it on TV, or maybe one of those History Channel pieces working on the public obsessions with the book. Good for Dan Brown. He's a smart guy, his good old Dad, an educator, steeped him in code work, so his books are a spiritual tribute. Plenty of good reasons why the whole phenomenon is just so. He has bravely ridden the whole trip, and I doubt if it's been so easy. Bravo. Lots of information to be gleaned from them, though maybe not all of it true but rather serving the fiction of it. (To remedy any distortions of St. Sulpice, you might read a good book by Jean-Paul Kauffmann.)

But here's a code, and maybe the public grasps for it too when reading. Done for the right reasons, spiritual, writing is a very healthy thing. But if it's done with the idea of crafting a best seller for the market place, it begins to be a bit like selling doves in the Temple. Jesus wanted direct access to matters of the spirit for everyone, free, as he knew it was truly free, in need of no money changer.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

When you write something it's an exploration. It's a beginning of self-observation. It's the start of sorting through mental activity in your head and isolating a thought, a passing one, a steadier one, or otherwise. In a way to write something is to try on a voice, maybe to flesh it out, maybe to live in it for a moment, to recall an experience, maybe to see if it holds, or if it dissolves into something else.

On a deeper level, the things you write are an exploration of "I." Which is to say that the exercise is in viewing the voices of ego, observing them more carefully. It is an interesting process. Within the exploration of ego, you may well find many voices, an aggregate, as Buddhists say, of many selfish wants, needs and fears.

My hope is that getting them out on a page is a way of studying these voices, to see the implications of them as far as the personal ego-related faults we have within. Maybe to write down is a first step toward a broader perspective, hopefully a significant and deeper one.

Writing is a useful exercise.

To cut to the chase, the voices of ego and the many "I's" are selfish. And those voices are quite apart from the essence of our being. Free from such voices, the possibilities are, well, endless. Certainly broader. One no longer harbors any resentment. One is in touch with the selfless. One doesn't need anything but very basic functional stuff. Not to mention being free of vanity, fear, anger, and so forth. (It sounds too good to be true. Not to worry though.)

How many habitual errors must one go through to realize such? So many faults one must admit. Such are the beginnings of freedom. Freedom from selfishly wanting things in a way one doesn't need.

A writer makes a drama out of all this. But the ultimate aim is making that writing a useful exercise in sweeping away the superfluous and the distractions so as to find the eternal being. This is the measure of useful art. Maybe of great art, but to call it so verges on the egotistical again, or not.

One simply hopes, gains, the joy and the strength to continue on with the explorations, the ultimate goal being, with help, to eliminate all the ego voices, for which end we hope for Kundalini experiences of our selfless essence to aid us.

Once one begins, the mind develops. The mind sees what we observe as impressions, impressions which we are able to control to our own benefit and well-being.

This is Hamlet's effort, to observe the ego and personality from a distance, hopeful of banishing and disintegrating their hold before the race is over. Rather than simply being unable to make up his mind, his is an example of work we must engage in.

A long list of egos spill like cans of paint before the true prince of Denmark and his girlfriend. And the reminder, the perspective, comes from his father's essence, here a ghost, telling the truth of matters. Where does Hamlet look to a combat the egotism he sees so vividly about him? The Play. Art. Drama. Poetry.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

On Ted Hughes' Legacy

If anyone could have done it, it would have been him. On pagan and animal’s natural strength, Ted Hughes, Aquarian Poet, serves to bring poetry back into the fold of spirituality. Old Testament prophets have their visions and burning bushes, where Hughes has nature, the hawk in the rain, the jaguar, the fox cub. A Leo by birth, the later poetry of Birthday Letters and the related but more selective work Howls and Whispers have him coming to terms with the faults of his egotism, grievous enough, and also of forms of betrayal directed at a marriage. His work drags the sensibilities of the literature we meaningfully read back to the great primary example: It is no coincidence spirituality, like a Bible, is a written work, poetic, of the imagination, of metaphor, of faith rather than beliefs cut and dried. To mistake him for being simply egotistical would probably mask our own faults of the same. He has gone beyond that in his work.

Poetry, like gospels, is a good place to treat the consequences of life. Hughes includes us in the natural world, where we have our proclivities and habits, traces out a hawk's life for us for us to compare to our own, a world respectful of natural differences, of organic varieties of behavior.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


The influence of Saturn, ruling planet of Capricorn, according to Wikipedia, doesn’t seem a propitious thing. "Where there is light Saturn brings darkness. Where there is heat, cold. Where there is joy, sadness. Where there is life, death. Where there is luck, misfortune. Where there is unity, isolation. Where there is knowledge, fear. Where there is hope, skepticism and stalling." This is substantively a direct quote, abbreviated, from Wikipedia, under Saturn (Mythology): Astrological Beliefs.

I grew up never far away from the influence of my Sagittarius brother. Confident, optimistic, the normal rules for humanity little apply to him, as he was born smiling proudly. I did not know him as the balance that I needed so consciously, and when I went off on my own, I was less protected from my bullying pessimistic stuff, my own slow plodding seagoat way. I tried to carry on with the things of his ego, but they weren’t a good fit. In the absence of his great influence, I found a beginning to my callings, the quiet lonely works of writing and music that are ultimately a gift, a gift for the player, but also for the distant listener, another self, seeking some form of light in the darkness. I found those things to ultimately save me, by being innate talent or habits, in the face of all the misunderstandings life can offer.

Virgo, by contrast, her ruling planet is Mercury, force of intelligence, communication, a message bright and speedily delivered. Rings she runs around my poor cold planet set at the edge of the known solar system. The sun wants his light on everyone, but somehow, I don’t know, things can get messed up. Leave it to Capricorn to snatch defeat from the jaws of beauteous victory. It’s just the way the universe is, no one’s fault.

It is for Capricorn, Saturn setting us to be melancholic philosophers, scientists, writers and musicians, to go through the worst, most frustrating losses, the most lasting of sorrows, to earn, only through the hardest fight, a kind of wisdom that takes too long to gain. But wisdom nonetheless, something essential to share, and thus one's birth, to save in some small way humanity.

In pains I learned the senselessness of ego. The lesson stared me in the face, and I suffered from the work of pleasing people’s egos, though not my own, except through escapist pleasures and lusts of the private sort at the end of the night. I was trapped, in the labyrinth, a ridiculously long time. Dark stars pulled upon me when I went out of the house. Each person encountered, demanding the things I thought I liked so, hour after hour, I finally understood as my own inner demons, to be kept at arm’s length despite their charms.

The world, humanity, people, individuals, needs the lesson of limits, needs to know the senseless futility of the egotistical, the aggregate of demanding personalities within that fight each other for what they want. Forget all that, the lesson tells me. Go observe natural phenomenon. Forget all the overly-complicated terms of scientific theory, and come up with your own understanding of the essence of things. Invest yourself with the grace of self-observation to distance yourself from and ultimately defeat the myriad of claiming voices within.

I am a Capricorn. But the influence of the stars is through the ego stuff, through all the devils I let live inside me, to be pulled upon. Perhaps if I had less of an ego, maybe things would have been peaceful and happy. Even being a Capricorn, I’ll lose someday.

Maybe all true poets and music composers feel obliged to really learn something in spades before they feel honest enough to claim it, that the lesson is proper to commit to paper so as to share. There is a science to it, and so there must be experiments and theories and exhaustive testing for something somewhat accurate to emerge.

Beethoven, born Dec. 16, the traditional eve of Saturnalia, an honorary Capricorn, as is Lincoln, born Feb. 12, an Aquarius, traditionally ruled by Saturn as well. Shane MacGowan, born Christmas Day, a Capricorn. Federico Fellini, born January 20, as well. People who liked to have room for creativity.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cat versus Elephant

The cat and the elephant are relatives. One has fur, a long tail and tiny whiskered snout, whereas the other has a very short and almost insignificant tail (but to swish at flies), no fur to speak of, a very long snout to make up for it. The cat touches, announces, thinks and marks territory with tail, where the elephant does all this with a clever and tender apparatus up front. The domestic cat is small, the undomesticated elephant rather large. They pretend they don't know each other, but they don't bother each other much either. They stand about the same way, and their bodies, give or take, look pretty much the same, some differences here and there with the feet, but not much. (One stands around more, goes on proud daylight marches, where the other must sneak and prowl about cleverly, a burst of speed now and again.) One purrs and meows a tiny roar, the other trumpets largely as if with a klaxon, but really except for the matter of scale, there is not much difference. The elephant, larger, needs to be smarter, I suppose, but the cat, sly of eye, is fine with that. The bigger one, by some law of nature, is vegetarian, the smaller, a carnivore. Alike, yet different.
It's often frightened me on some deeper level to go and wait on people. People bring their egos, their collection of aggregate I's, in and throw them down noisily on the bar like a set of keys at the end of the day, announcing them all. Even the kind people. This is why people are so horribly confused when they come in, even if they might think they know what they want, all the inner arrogant voices piping their desires. I go off to work, the light brigade. "Into the valley of death, rode the six hundred." We have a few specials from the chef tonight.

My job is the find, to liberate in some way, the essence of a person, to call out the true part of themselves out of that labyrinth.

But of course my efforts must be flawed as I am providing them with what their egos are calling for in fits of pleasure and comfort seeking. And the focus on egos tends to take me down with them, as I am no stronger than they.

Beethoven's Ninth works for taking us through our egos, personified by the themes of the early movements, then finally, after the low strings somberly weigh them out for what they are one after the other, liberating that essence with the simple folkish Ode To Joy, then the quiet processional hopeful march forward, the battle never done.

Many people, though, are very sweet, their egos tame, and it gives one faith in the educational system and larger things native to humanity. I can't complain.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

author's note for Amherst College website

Lermontov knew the ephemeral quality of life. His take on human affairs is laden with distance as to how important they are. While his main character in A Hero Of Our Time is ironic in attitude, one hopes and surely knows that there are some things that are important, that are worth emotional investment. Who knows, maybe writing itself may be an appropriate reaction to life.

Anyone who has gained insight through the consciousness would consider writing as teaching, through the word itself but also by example as an act of consciousness. As I look at the world of publishing today, confused by it as I am, I am reminded of how this college was founded on charity, local farmers from the hill and valley land surrounding Amherst kicking in, with materials, effort, expertise. Perhaps they were motivated by youthful ideals, remembered in the books they had read, by the good influences on the imagination their own teachers invested in them. The effort may have struck them as something beautiful, something classical. Evidently they found pride in clearing the land and crafting bricks and building the first buildings of the College that is here today.

Life, yes, is ephemeral, in many senses. What we would write, even scrupulously attentive to real events would be a novelistic attempt to capture that which is reality, reality being ephemeral and thus subject to poetry and interpretation. This college, in the tradition of President Kennedy’s speech at the dedication of the Frost Library, is about the volunteer effort to bring knowledge and questions of learning to the forefront of daily business: "... but the men who question power make a contribution just as important." As Dickinson herself put it, the poet’s life, the writing to be done, ‘had stood a loaded gun in corners waiting.’ And it wasn’t the ‘admiring bog’ of the publishing world of her day that she concerned herself with too heavily, but the work of writing well and appropriately itself. Her appropriateness toward life is, in fact, one of our greatest models. How, therefore, could we criticize her, or treat her as irrelevant, naive, freakish, etc..

Writing represents an attempt to bring the internal states of the mind, soul and body into harmony with external events, so that we might have an appropriate response, as the farmers responded appropriately themselves to a call to raise not a barn but a place of learning. So is writing revelatory, mind-blowing, deeply encouraging, a taming of our savage wildness through careful consideration.

If one were to grasp the real purposes of writing, as a piece of writing is written consciously or not, it follows that a great energy would be released, a bringing together of intent with event, the spiritual with the actual, the practical. And if in a work one achieves even one moment of the beautiful time when things coincide, then that is something. From a tiny atom of something kind and appropriate beams out an energy and draws good things forth.

By virtue of being born, everyone deserves respect, a chance to be listened to. So may it be apprehended that one writes for the underdog, for the un-listened-to, for the local kid called upon to be involved, bringing honesty and sincerity to the overall effort and achievement of, in this case, education.

We know that societies are capable of inappropriate reaction to an event, as if to drop an atom bomb to eliminate a squirrel. Or, sometimes they do not do the things they should do. The focus on bringing the internal sense and the external event together coincident, balanced, aligned, concurrent, appropriate, works on all levels, from the tiny seemingly insignificant and perhaps embarrassing moment a novel might explore, on up to bigger more broader ranging things.

It takes a long time to know the beauty, the gentle heroic tenderness, the peace of the Essence that is a person. So we try to free the essence from the traps of egotistical concerns. This is the exploration of the novel. The sensitivity of readership allows us to understand the pains and suffering of humanity.

The farmers came together in some form of democracy to aid the college getting off the ground. Their acts of generosity pledged something of their sacred honor. So too, to this day, do we all in our own ways make our own contributions to the life of that college.

Perhaps it matters not so much whether one work is conventionally published to garner much attention, if it brings some questioning to the life of the college. Perhaps a simple farmer’s tale, of a kid from the surrounding hills, told with the simplicity of the countryside, not flashy or interesting enough to gain attention in a hyper marketplace, might too add to the intellectual and spiritual life of this college.

The character of those local farmers, amateurs at college-building, their names obscure to us now, we do not need to know about, nor about their particular human foibles, but that we might say that they were honest and forward-looking and sought to improve the local minds with earthly light. Nobly, they gave what they could, in accordance with their individual talents, and asked for little, if anything, in return. And so may we ourselves remember what’s important about ourselves, remembering their simple acts, the land cleared at the top of hill, making from cow pasture the earth of learning.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It would be wrong to divorce the purposes of writing with the ultimate goal of spiritual quest. Writing is a spiritual practice, an attempt to draw lessons from life so as to shed light on religious truths. Literature, professors should remember, is deep with meaning, and the ultimate seriousness of its attempts to delineate the deep mysteries deserve respect. To ponder the meaning of a poem is not a light matter, easily done overnight.

Moderners might sneer at the stuff of religion. Causes wars, one might mumble. We are too jaded to wait any longer in gardens on Easter morning expecting a risen Savior. However, the truth is that we have perfect divinity within, and it is anyone's humble duty to teach so, and this is what written works have been after since they came into being. Books as we know them. Novels, epics, poems. The modern short story.

Don Quixote brought us into the modern world of doubt and skepticism, a beautiful half-baked Christ no one in right mind would believe in, a courteous earthy disbeliever willing to suspend his disbelief by his side, as if so we could be made to laugh at ourselves in the act of belief and faith. Shakespeare, anticipating the coming rise and fall of the great empire, went in search of Buddhism in a time of political turmoil over belief's written laws. (These days we all live the beat-up life of Quixote, have our moments on the heath with Lear and clown.)

By law of symmetry an unexpected common wise-person, of real flesh and blood and no fancy story, will come out upon the stage of literature and claim again the ability to believe in that which is after all perfectly logical and healthy and all-round good. And so will the poor old wandering knight will be restored and recognized, as on the road to Emmaus, and literature itself shall be recognized as something wholesome and good for relationships and not just irrelevance.

A respect for the act of literature, be it reading, be it writing, the time has come for.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Whales are all about teeth and jaw.
They know what life can be like, happy and sad.
Out of all the great emotions to be found in the sea,
they keep quiet, avoid words, keep their mouths shut.
They make poetry with sounds.
They strain their sustenance out of the waters,
if they are of a certain kind.
The Sperm Whale uses his teeth in different fashion,
but with the same tight lip.
The sea is natural, offenses diffused in it,
equal to all its creatures, whereas on land
they are distributed less evenly,
passed down the line,
more individual things, unless of course
we're speaking of the divine.
For then it is the same,
as we have teeth and jaw.
And silence too, like the whale,
and poetry, made of sounds.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fitzgerald's Grave

It's a short walk uphill and south from the Rockville Metro Station, in a peaceful church cemetery that rises above Rockville Pike. Fitzgerald's grave. I got dropped off by second cousins after an early Thanksgiving celebration with my great uncle in Rockville Center with some time before the next. I called my mom. Rockville was deserted. A few cars in front of the Multiplex Movie Theater, the sky gray, overcast, balmy for late November. I crossed the Pike with the flashing Walk sign and began climbing the rise to the church yard. "Have you ever seen The Omen... you know, with Gregory Peck," I asked my mom. I found the gate in the fence next to the front entrance of the old church, let myself in. I walked out to the point, the statue of Mary rising above overgrown Arbor Vitae, and then back toward the church steeple. We were still talking when I came upon it. I set my bottle of Chateauneuf Du Pape down on the top of a headstone. "I found it," I told my mom.

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." The Great Gatsby. Across the marble tomb. I read it aloud to her. He was forty-four. This was a good year for me to come. Being stuck a writer, he rowed on at writing, and what endurance, what perseverance it must have taken. Against a current, a tide, yes, indeed. A writer, constantly coming to terms with life, experience, the past, with all that claims the mind.

From a headstone one gets a sense of the bravery life takes. Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald. The name suggests the Irish need (embracing America as they did) for the community that art, music, tales of living, the joys poetic prose itself brings, the bravery to keep on doing that when it is no longer rational or a good idea, as long as it is the truth. What can you do. "Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy," he said. He kept with him that burning desire for discovery, studying something carefully enough to be able to, if one had to, write about it, on through to the end.

A gravestone set lets you know that this person, these bones below, was real as you and I, just as full of grounded juice. You never know what to expect within, from yourself, when you stand before a grave.

The leaves are scattered about, the grass wet, windblown, verdant beneath them. Pennies placed carefully and orderly on top of the headstone, some heads up, some tails up according to some plan of homage and Abraham Lincoln's touch, holding in the wind, some withered bouquets of flowers, browned, like those pressed in books, still wrapped in wet plastic, one bunch having fallen from the tomb, a votive candle half filled with rain water above the pink red wax. Some empty tea candles in little glass cups, the ring of a bottle on the dark green marble (from Connemara?). Each gesture meaning something, from passers by who've gone out of their way out of a devotion. The gifts do not say why exactly they have been left. Just that "I have been here, to pay my respects, even though I did not know the man."

For a moment, surveying the scene, a stand of old trees darkened by an earlier rain, the cemetery yard ringed by an old black steel picket-railed fence, you felt the tucks and rolls of the land extending out into the periphery back before the shiny glass office building was placed just so, before the vast parking garage and high-rise office building down the hill were built. You found a sense of what it was like being the first human being laying eyes on primeval land. Gentler, the churchyard's touch upon its surroundings, a retirement community's seven story building rising at a safe distance from it. You get a whiff, in between the modern, a peek at the lay of the land as it rolls and extends away from Rockville, the Potomac pouring unseen in the wooded distance over Great Falls. Farmland, horse country. The steep-rising strong brick Federal farm houses of the Civil War era that dot here to Gettysburg, down to Richmond and beyond.

Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes--a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

Fitzgerald, prone to alcoholism, was beset with an armada of emotions, as Hamlet before him, and out of them he spun a magic and also a wisdom that pertains to this day.

After I walked around the little church, St. Mary's, the oldest Catholic church in Rockville. There is the new church, built in the Sixties, looking exactly as you'd expect it. A two-story dorm for the nuns, completely quiet, not a light on, a few icicle decorations on the inside of windows before black curtains. I came upon two rabbits, one male, one female, wandering and grazing in the green grass at the edge of little walkway. They kept calm, sensing the odd protection of a sanctuary, contrasted with further surroundings, a glimpse of the metro train's lit windows sliding past heading south just beyond the old red brick train station with eaves overhanging to protect the forgotten activity of comings and goings. No nuns to be seen. The parking lot, small, a sign for "Clergy Only," and "Priest."

As I walked away, texting, a man came up the Pike's sidewalk. "Can you help me out so I can get a goose?" He was carrying a soft clear plastic zippered case of pillows and sheets, it looked like, holding it to his chest. He stood and stared at me. Sure, man. I pulled out a few singles I had on hand for the Metro, handed them over to him. He said thanks blankly, indifferently, and I walked on, coming back to the present time.

Monday, November 23, 2009

In cat terms my cat lives alone. She’s a runty calico and doesn’t get along well with other cats, nor with dogs, as we discovered when I dog-sat my brother’s young lab bitch. (There were clear messages she, the cat, did not like the intruder’s presence, frightening down to the very core of cat’s bowels.) She is a fussy eater. And I agree, no one likes to eat alone. I’ve found she eats a lot happier if while she crouches over the bowl I stroke her sides, as if to approximate for her the presence of her litter mates nursing, or, if you watch nature shows, the lioness’ greedy competition pressed side by side, growling, at the opened flesh of the beast brought down in the hunt. When I brush her sides so when she eats, the purring is immediate and loud, and food that was unworthy minutes ago becomes juicy and rich again as the still-pulsing liver of fresh prey. Her face doesn’t quite emerge covered with fresh gazelle blood, but one senses a smile and general satisfaction as she looks around, as if to say, "I am very pretty."

You would understand my interest in the matter if you saw all the times I’m adding a touch of water and stirring the Fancy Feast she has licked about then turned away from, leaving me the unpleasant choice of what to do with the rejected, as we put too much stuff down the drain, balanced with the aromatic trash bins of a Washington summer. Maybe she just thinks she's hungry sometimes, after being out all night, takes a bite and realizes she's full. Who knows?

Opiate of the Masses

The Sunday New York Times Book Review Section has an interesting piece, the cover story, Stephen King’s review of a new biography of Raymond Carver and the recently available edition of Carver's stories restored to their original forms before the heavy hand of editor Gordon Lish. (The New Yorker had an excellent piece, including correspondence between Carver and editor, some time ago, along with observations by Tess Gallagher, and a bit of background on the editorial relationship that brought Carver’s work to light.)

Mr. King’s piece is in keeping with the kitschy way the Book Review seems to want to treat matters of human sensitivity, here using a sprinkling of white trash language, as if to claim that Carver’s own sensitivity must be placed, anchored, specifically in white trash American. The mannerism is as if to say, human problems only exist if they are placed within some story that makes them very recognizable. We only get sensitivity, the great capacity of humanity to love and understand, as a negative photograph, existing largely, maybe exclusively, in situations we’re already supposed to be aware of through viewing the news, thus our need to take interest in them. We get the story of the extremes of human experience, the political prisoner under the oppressive regime, the victim of addiction, incest, incredibly strange family situations, twists of poor justice, etc.. We don’t get too much in the Book Review of the poor humdrum run of-the-mill persons like you and I trying to get through life. We don't get too much of that person's sensitivity, which we might speak of generally as part of the innate poetic imagination.

So, I think it fair to say, poetry is something of the first battle lines of the human being’s sensitivity in the Post World War One world we inhabit of mass economy, mass forces, mass debt, personal insignificance to the broad forces of history. It doesn’t have to be poetry necessarily; it could be some prose reminder of what living life is like, without having to touch on some extraordinary situation where things are obviously happening, like murder or being tossed into jail or becoming a drug addict.

It is certainly fair to, through the biography of Raymond Carver, touch upon alcoholism and struggles that are perhaps a little out of the ordinary for a lot of Americans. It’s fair to relate his personal stuff—demons, we like to say, to spice things up a bit and make reading about something more obviously worth our time—to his manner of writing.

Mr. King, having been an alcoholic himself, has the right to bring in this experience here. And Mr. King is a sensitive guy. He really is. (Read his book on writing.) But of course he’s also not shy to suddenly bring out a knife at someone’s innocuous high school prom and have blood pouring everywhere and over everything. (Sells books. Gave him his first break. Took him out of poverty.) And so, as you must with Carver, King mentions the outsized struggles with his subject’s behavior under the effects of alcohol. He hits his wife “upside the head” with a wine bottle. Horrible, would be an understatement.

What a reader might have found interesting is, here in this piece, the AA meeting’s self-recognition of the abusers habit of ‘people pleasing.’ I guess it makes sense. The subject goes through great lengths to please other people, or pretend he’s doing so. And all along he’s not pleasing something basic within, and so he drinks, drinks in a great fit of not-being-able-to-take-it-any-longer and to now will seek his own pleasure, in effect just dimming the lights so he feels some form of pleasure addictively without addressing any real need. It shows a personal weakness, Mr. King tells us, rather quickly. Mr. King works his math: Carver’s personal weakness leads to Lish’s editorial abuses. Being a horror-story teller, Mr. King then focuses on the horrors of having such an editor, and we can’t blame him for this choice in concluding his own take on the general matter.

It’s a little scary, when you think about it. An individual could so bow to please the wishes and wants of other people, that he/she endangers the self, so that the self, left so alone and hurting out of unmet wants, resorts to the numbing of booze, indeed, drinks alone. With Carver, the writer, it is a strange story to fully reconcile. The writer brings us moments of heightened sensitivity that reek of caring for other beings, a sadness taken in upon seeing the grim fall of another person, an awful seizing fear when he feels swept along with a group of people falling. Difficult to reconcile the writer with the person who subjected his wife to etceteras of work, suffering, abuse, all the while he was writing.

And then he quit drinking. He pulled himself together. He got a little better about being aware of his own needs, we somehow get from off-camera. Or at least put the end to a destructive habit.

We all know the famous AA saying about fixing the things one can fix, and knowing the things one can’t, the granted strength to distinguish the two. (I should know it better, I guess.) There’s a certain poetry to it you have to like.

It would indeed be frightening to look back on your life and say to yourself, you bent over backwards to please others, and all you had was your bottle of wine to come to at the end of the day, and that though desperately wanting to succeed at family stuff and relationships you lacked something to carry through with it.

But you might also be able to say that your work, of writing and poetry, was work for the benefit of the human race, that you were able to bring the general reader to a moment of sympathy, empathy, understanding of otherness, of a moment in time, a feeling, a poetic comprehension. You might step back from Mr. Carver’s particular problems to take in something cruel and impersonal about modern life. About how we no longer recognize and care about the small things that defeat a person, but exclusively the big ‘serious news-worthy’ matters of awful history, oppressive regimes, the skewed ends of the potential of some and psychopaths to do evil. Despite the private details of his life, Carver was a writer reminding us of regular personal stuff, not the incomprehensible the modern eye seems bent on drifting toward, whilst numbing the eye with materialism and fashion. (No wonder the economy is so screwed up, for being unable to register the needs of people, decent jobs, affordable housing, not being ripped off by powerful banks and health care providers, etc., etc., etc..)

Shakespeare, writing in Elizabethan England, wrote of the same issues, particularly in Hamlet, I suppose. Such a thing is man, how capable of the finest sensitivities, and yet… Here we have that sensitive being so well fleshed out and fully inhabited. A telling drama unfolds, not unlike our own.

Is poetry the opiate of the masses then? A celebration of that which is no longer consequential to us?

Anyway, this reader, of Carver and occasional book reviews, wishes that Mr. King had explored some more of this 'people pleasing' tendency. Maybe I feel the need in particular because I who write must go and tend bar tonight for a living, which in some ways is the ultimate of the alcoholic pleasing others. The mind goes off on many tangents. How could a self-centered prick like Hemingway have come up with a sensitive moment, or is he just interesting to the reader who falls for selfish people? Why can't one have a conversation with the opposite sex about basic human stuff without being regarded suspiciously, 'you're hitting on me?' thus sadly derailing whatever intellect might have been brought along. Is 'people pleasing sensitivity,' or the greatest weakness? Some poets like their wine. Some overdo it, maybe, and some don't. Some, through life, gain a handle on what it is to be human, enough to be empathetic with fellow beings.

Mr. King puts Mr. Carver, the individual, in one of those boxes that organizations like AA are wont to. The weak person. But where does that leave us, if we are to broaden the picture out away from Raymond Carver? Are writers and poets, artists, musicians prone to be so? is there something incapable in them of dealing with everyday life without resorting to their own brand of naval-staring? Should they just shut up and move on and get along with it? But then where does that leave us in our estimation of the obvious usefulness of poetry, short stories, novels and the like, as far as our own being able to get through the day and retain our sensitivity and humanity? The approach of Mr. King, to lump Carver so, while it may be reasonably accurate, is not very reassuring.

Carver, a weakling, showed in his stories that people need help. Mr. King's review does leave us with a commentary on the quality of the help people actually do receive.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It's the finest addiction there is, writing a poem every day. It's healthy. You say one wise thing and a door opens to more of them.
I'd been looking at it the wrong way. You don't go and study poetry, you go and do it. Your friends will accept that of you.
Writing of any sort has a learning process, periods of doing studies. So if I were to write something putting myself down or being gloomy about something, it's simply part of the larger process. It's part of gaining perspective on something that is more meaningful, deeper.
And if you don't write a poem everyday then you get too worried about grocery lists and stuff.
Write a poem and you get that "getting and spending we lay waste our powers" thing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I would think there would be a reluctance when a real poet takes up the form. I'm being an ignoramus, but I'm not drawn to the floods of poets out there today, promoting themselves. I would think that if you're really drawn to it, you wouldn't have need of advertising the fact. Life proves to us how inconsequential we are. That we are born as babies is proof. Only those who would remind us of the underlying reality of our own insignificance beside the enduring cycles of nature play by the rules well enough to be listened to, though I know this sounds extreme.

That there are so many who write out there today seems part of the whole Big Bang theory, the drifting outward of all matter and Universes into the cold irrelevant depths of space, where ultimately even atomic matter itself falls apart and disappears. Where once there was but one Ernest Hemingway, today there'll be a thousand, and tomorrow ten thousand. Keats covered the bases of being Keats, if we could stop and listen; we don't need four million of him. But on the other hand, even that doesn't hurt, or matter, because it's all the same, and doesn't make a difference. Even our little solar system, that home of great significance here, having been born will one day fall apart. The sun knows this, and wanes in enthusiasm, and even our clouds thicken. And even because of the very great insignificance of this fact, it will take an infinitely long time, because ultimately even the end is insignificant, hardly worth mention. And what the hell, it keeps us alive today, and when the time comes we'll build a space ship, stock it with wine and music and people, and go off to somewhere else equally insignificant or maybe just vanish.

If you were to write, write about real things that happen to you, things that are important, that had their effect upon your life. Do it well, and then put it away somewhere. Then go out into the world and try humility. Be humble. Earn a Byzantine halo, a lotus position, an inner electric cross.

Lincoln's gone. Everyone wanted to be a poet, a rockstar, a leader, bust out with their own great opinion, their vanity as generals, back then in his day, but he was the main one who cared enough to think and figure how to say something useful. So they snickered at him and his own poetry, called him a baboon. Well, it is worth noting that many in fact did get his poetry, agreed with it, even in some form of suspension.

We all might try to sound like Lincoln today, but the world is as it is. But unless you really do get his strange philosophical basis, such as he earned from life's experiences that suited his karma, you'll be just sounding like his cadences, but hollow.

Learn from Lincoln the lesson of his life as he taught us with his life. From nowhere's river's bank he came, then rose, maintained honesty, and then, duty done, circumstances took him, the bed too small, in a room too small, to die in. Then there was the funeral train. A grand vault, overdone. Well, what can you do? You can't blame them for wanting the Memorial for him, a way to remember his virtue, two fine speeches, declarations, on either wall, Gettysburg Address, the Second Inaugural. Good. No doubt about it. But a quiet country graveyard, forgotten, a simple stone, either alone or next to the grave of a woman he'd loved as a young man who'd died young, he would have preferred, in keeping with his melancholic anonymous poetry. Good for a chuckle anyway, for him, now and then, leaves fallen in the graveyard. "Ha ha! I got you," he'd say, dead, and then noble silence again.

People want recognition. Human nature. So are there claims of self-importance in writers, of which I too am guilty of. But nothing really matters that much. The published... what? They are better than you?

A real poet worthy of the practice and the title would have a great reluctance to draw attention to himself. If a poem represents that learning about poetry, then it stands a chance of being okay. But you wouldn't be a poet of any merit if you chose to be one out of vain reasons and pride or feeling that you are great at it. You'd be a poet because life forced it on you, maybe not quite as dramatically as say, the brothers JFK left behind, but because you had not so much choice.

That state, you can feel free to paint, as how you anonymously slip into a bookshop on a Friday night, grab two volumes recommended by an old friend and mentor, and walk out alone up the street. I would think it would be a really odd feeling to be out on the sidewalk, still anonymous, and see your own book stacked in the window, promoted. You'd be reminded of how honestly you became a poet.

"The world has enough angst in it," my mother said to me yesterday. "Write about wine." I agree. I don't find real talk of poetry as angst, but rather nature, and life, and therefore, joy.

How did Vonnegut put it? My name is Jan Janson. I live in Wisconsin...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dying Gaul

Fool country boy,
Didn't you know?
It was best for you simply
to surrender
to their will.
Wave the white flag.
Yes, you tried to, maybe,
in your own way,
but it had too much rebellion in it,
or they didn't understand.
They didn't get your meek accepting
listening silence,
for the bow that it was.
You loved what they brought to you,
taught to you,
and you ever smiled in their very presence.
You were in fact the perfect student
with an ear that loved the poetry,
read it well, and also
everything she said.
Just that you had troubles
getting your papers in.
You held in things you wanted to tell her.
It was all tied together.

It's a Catch 22 anyway.
A glass of wine to ease the pain
of serving people
perpetuates the necessity to have to go on
doing so.
The waitress, pregnant, will leave early tonight,
leaving me to clean up
and count the money
all alone.
Lock the door.
Mount the bicycle,
and ride home,
to no one.
It's a nice ride home anyway.

I read a line from Larkin today.
It kept me company.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


oh, the ode to joy swelled in him.
it rose up his back, and filled his cranium.
a rising flooding wind,
(thank you dostoevsky.)
it made his hairs stand on end.
he played it to, within, himself,
over and over and over again.

achieving an expanse of imagination
equal to Berlin itself.

The greatest concert hall
and conductor,
verging on intimidation,
'should we try it?'
The meek do best.
Though, to Von Karajan's credit,
we might have some gratitude.

one two three four five
six seven
eight nine ten and one and four,
one two three four five six seven
eight nine ten and ten and more.

Four and five and six and seven
eight, nine, ten and nine and four.
one two three four five six seven
eight nine ten and one and more.

In and out, he knew it.
It kept him company.
He knew it as a statement of
something very important.

And yet, there is not a single record,
of the maestro humming this folk song
to himself.
He must have let it sit
under our noses,
as if indicated by the small hairs
on the back of his hands
or however else he could have gestured
to his fellow human,
not to care if less was thought of him.
Smiling, even at that.

One two three four five six seven
eight nine ten and ten and more.
Four and five and four and three and four and five and two and four.
One two three four five and six and four and
Four and five
and one.

Six, five and four!
Seven, six and five!
twelve eleven six and seven
six, eleven, seven, four and three and four and three.

ten and eight and ten and eight
six four or five six four or five
seven seven eight and eight
and ten and nine and ten and nine.

Freude, schoener Gotterfunken,
Tochter aus Elysium.
deaf to him,
a part of his childhood.

one two three four five six seven
eight nine ten and ten and more.
Lincoln sat on a Persian rug,
his legs folded,
almost lotus style.

The rug, it seemed to him,
and in the darkness,
the pattern seemed to him
like stars below him,
so that he felt like he were hovering
above the firmament.

Real Persian red,
with black,
and in the night, without light,
except candle flame,
like the black above.

They didn't have rugs like that,
back in New Salem,
or Illinois.
He sat there,
and sang a song to himself.
Of which we have no record.

But hovering above,
not really,
above the rug,
he felt good,
about his ideas, and who he was,
and where he was.

His thoughts,
unlike ours, were light,
agile, responsive as the axe
taking apart a good dry log, sinews force,
eye's good shine,
crinkle of a smile.

I am Lincoln.
I have been here forever. And will remain.
I've waited on people, in taverns,
and endure, equally, being President.
Many have died, because of me,
but here, on this rug,
I know why.
Persians have been making rugs,
just so I would feel
all that would be deprived of me,
the sense of floating,
stars and all the changing light and colors of
the firmament, residing below me.

His face shows him so.
It made him an easy target.
But coming up with things
was easy for him,
and his eyes were bright,
and he knew it, humbly,
and honestly, about himself.

His ghost now walks about.
He hovers very sadly,
How could people be so?
How could people be so?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Poets fuck up.
They use language differently.
They get misunderstood.
Poets speak from understandings,
From Children's books.
From Richard Scarry, Huckleberry the cat,
About a town, the people, professions, identities,
All pictured in the windows of a big house,
Amidst the sunny functions of a day.
Even the poet gets his own little upstairs window,
And you feel he is special.

They are hopeful creatures, poets, of the children’s book sort,
living within their simple
Happy understandings.
Remembering a book mom and dad read to them
When they were small and infinitely fresh,
Happy beliefs they do not part with,
Having no clue how to.

This is why Scandinavian countries get along,
Their happy children’s stories
And those stories a bit grown up.
Vintage Danish erotica style.
Dickens' hopefulness, Marx's thoughts.
Irish songs and tales process the day’s events, along with wine.
The stories we tell our children offer how we all can get along,
A fundamental belief in what’s good.
Saturday Night Life. A beer ad from an old Life magazine.
We’d be nowhere, or in Hell,
in a Police State,
without them.

But the shrewd adults, let’s call them that,
take advantage of the poet, most every time.
So are you victimized,
Outsmarted, your generous words dismissed,
If not thrown back at you.
They have kids, you do not.
They get rich, you get poor,
Even when you provide them the most essential service there is.
Good for them. Thanks a lot.
They cannot listen to the tale.
No one told them as well, when they were kids.
Not their fault. What can you do.

Fuck ups are chain events, one thing after another.
Because of this, that. Because of that, this.
Because of another, oh, then this.
Like Jesus’s life. Also a children’s tale,
But for all of us.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Why is it that tea made yesterday, while welcome upon rising to do yoga and the day, just isn't the same as fresh? Do the little caffeine genies and anti-oxidant angels fly away as the brew cools? Yes, fresh tea, is so much better, so much more soothing, so more cleanly to one's ills, causing a welcome burp, steadying the hand's nervous shake. (Sorry. Too much information.)

Mad Men ii.

Yup. I was right. The bloody foot from the John Deere tractor, guess what, was indeed a precursor to, as we all knew somewhere, a very bad sad awful low incomprehensibly unexpected jarring sickening day to even remember.

We have to say, Madmen used the TV coverage of the day, far more than one might have thought, and with great effect, and better than even the History Channel does. Where did they get all those clips? Usually you just get Cronkite, taking his glasses away, after looking up at the clock, the word, apparently official, from Dallas, ... But here we had the precursor, not just the newsflash something was up, but step by step, an ominous, President face down in the car, according to eyewitness.

How moving, though, the punch from the old black and white clips, somehow rendered here on real old TV sets so you can get an idea of what it was like to watch.

That is a real television achievement, truly. Where clips have been seen of the coffin being taken off Airforce One, the weird lights, the lift, jarring and enough to get all the personal point across, even before the dumb ambulance arrives with Bob holding Jackie's hand, everyone numb, awful, the metal quality of the box a body is in, death of vital force, here we got walked through, quite well, what it may have been like to be watching the tube that day, and the day after, and the day after that.

Not heard yet, where the drums tapping in the still air.

All of this is obvious. All of this we expected, somehow would fit into our plot of Ancient Rome and New York. It was done well.

Or, rather, it was simply shown. The coverage of the day capturing all that was going on. Moment to moment. Even Oswald, being shot, and the later commentary by news people.

The news is, in strange rare circumstances, just told to us, by people equally as shocked as ourselves.

The horrific really came across, perhaps leaving us more shaken the day after, the day after the numbness and raw tears.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Mel's an emotional guy. You can see it in his eyes.
He rants like a child, I'm sure, sometimes. (Well, we know that, don't we.)
He's a dad, to a new kid.
Wish him well.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I am too polite to come across with much more than the obvious in first meetings shouted over the DJ's records. Or maybe it's just my ancient value system, dull to modern ears.
But the world is over-marketed, to the point of being sterile, were it not for the inherent vitality that pops out in the creature.
A book gets judged by its cover.
"You're forty-four. Oh."
(Should'a lied.)
I drank too much anyway, after having been stuck with the great strain of working a bar on a holiday, my own personal bully, the booze sometimes, keeping my creative side stultified.
The night ends. Walk up U Street, finally get a cab in the pouring rain, one of the two wild and crazy guys.

To risk sounding like later Tolstoy, I have met the eyes of forty-thousand strangers, asked of them what they might like, waited on them. Washed their feet, if you will. If the salt of the earth loses its savor, what then? But I know it's not much of a life, for you, I mean. That I understand. Fair enough, your skepticism. And yes, I thought I was tougher than I actually am, that I could handle it, that I wouldn't get so sucked into it, or that it was a writing life, when really it wasn't so much. Yes, I should have been a teacher, of some sort. That might indeed have been more useful to people.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

It must be, as Buddha tells us, that nothing really is all that important, not such a big deal. Mildew grows on a shower curtain, eh, you spray it with something and wipe it down, scrub the toilet bowl with the scrubber, and life goes on, trying, at least periodically, to keep the bathroom clean. So we all evolve in our own way, in our little niche, and must admit boredom with things that bore us, and interest in things that interest us, though, as adults, we don't always have much time. I'd like to read about botany, or take a bike ride, but tonight I got to work, though I don't usually on Saturday, and I'm sure you have things to do too. It was worse dragging myself in yesterday, after only one day off, but in truth I'm glad I went. The twin sister of a girl I used to date, sweet little thing, came by with two friends, one who is a bit delicious, and we all had wine together, before the usual being left completely alone with the stereo and the lights, a bar to clean. (How clean did I leave it? Oh, yes, I remember lugging up some bottles, the malbec, the Sancerre, the Pinot Noir. Shouldn't be so bad when I go in tonight, though I have to do inventory with the boss.) Yesterday, I don't know, overly concerning myself with troubling thoughts, and I guess I got them through my system. Maybe it was watching Swamp Thing with Adrienne Barbeau on the stupid TV after I got home, cooked a burger.

Life is what it is, for us, the highly evolved, the social animal. So, take things easy, and don't get too stressed about them, and just let them, things, happen.

Friday, October 30, 2009

It hurts, you know,
Digging in the past.
Just a word I need,
Hold my hand just so,
And I’ll be alright, okay?

I don’t mean to say,
You were not fair,
Whatever it was,
The usual.

I know I’ve suffered enough.
Bringeth me your light,
Giveth unto me your wisdom,
And I shall be okay.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Note from Underground

I am a failure.
Completely, utterly,
Through and through.
There were certain events where my failures were
more obvious and pointed,
in particular a few,
that I can not seem
but to relive most everyday.

But there is too long and steady a string of them,
my prodigal nature, no one’s fault,
but my own,
Though one must admit, there were some bad influences
who didn’t matters help.

All that was handed down from generation to generation,
I was not smart enough to protect.
I was stupid, foolish,
Did not understand.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Down and Out in Washington, DC

Things don’t get better, they get worse. If you’re a writer, you’re really just a lonely creep who keeps odd hours, too shy, too down on himself to make an effort. You’re a traitor to your class. You should have been an academic, but instead you basically bit that hand that tried to feed you, and went off in your own stubborn direction that’s not going to get you anywhere at all.

Robert Frost, he had it right. You’re going to be walking alone in a dark wood a lot of the time, up a strange path, and guess what, it’s lonesome and it’s not good for your sanity.

So you thought you had talent. You thought you had all kinds of talents. You thought your particular talent at writing would be recognized. You thought they’d invite you back to teach, a retirement plan. You wanted to teach. You didn’t know how. You didn’t try. Except in some Jesus suffering way, turning the cheek, bowing, putting yourself through real pains.

But look at your life as it actually is. It’s nothing but fuck-ups.

You get so ashamed of what you’ve done with your life, you don’t even want to talk to anyone, old friends, pretty girls you wait next to for the light to change. Don’t even want to show your face.

Everything’s against you if you’re a writer, and you just have to make do with that. It’s an odd life. And why should anyone else listen to you? By what right, why should people bother to read you?

It is a lie, this job I do. For twenty years I’ve done it, just being plain raw nice to people, to a lot of people. But where does it leave you? It leaves you a pariah. Down and out. When’s it my turn, you wonder.

A college girl you honestly liked suggested you were some kind of a stalker, forget it, you’ll be fighting yourself the rest of you life. The voice that tells you that you’re a creep insidiously pokes at you. You do wonder, what did I do to deserve this? Was it me? Why am I afraid now of my own shadow? A bum, confused, hurt, overly sensitive, stubborn, weird, yes, but not a stalker, I’d like to think. Or do I kid myself.

Then some nice woman, a dermatologist attending to a scar, is remotely kind to you and you almost want to cry.

Saturday night, and this writer has to go to work. And even then, he’ll never ever get ahead.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Minuet

The NY Times book review had a recent piece about racist language in Hemingway. Being a sometime defender of him, particularly his nature writing, my initial response was that using terrible words was just being faithful to the cultural milieu of the day. If his uncle said, "damn squaw bitch," that was what his uncle said, bloody finger and all. Racism is cultural. Those were the times he wrote of, and he wrote with realism and accuracy and a good ear.

But. Yes, there could well be something in Hemingway that speaks of a lack of empathy, sympathy to those less economically fortunate, for instance. Let's take the character of Peduzzi, from Out of Season, from the In Our Time collection. We're with a young couple, newly married, a day fishing trip from the hotel. We get it a bit thick that Peduzzi is a drunk, irresponsible with money. He's an element in the story of misadventure. He is what he is. Maybe there is nothing particularly harsh about his portrayal, just the truth that he is so. And remember, that not all the waiters and the like Hemingway gives us are shitty drunks. (One tends a garden on his day off. One, in Venice, is an old comrade.) However, a Chekhov, a Carver, would have been a little more circumspect, and perhaps even given the story from the point of view of a Peduzzi, bring us a quiet moment that shows a dimension we had not expected. (Or perhaps, maybe, subconsciously, this was what ol' Ernie was up to, in this story, if you're feeling generous toward him.)

Maybe there should be, in the story-teller's voice, an acknowledgment of one's own faulted nature. But then again, the young gentleman in the story mentioned above, seems to be doing the same, that the whole thing was a mistake, something his wife didn't need to go through.

Maybe it's just a stylistic matter. Certain things we now find offensive, maybe very much so. But where is the finger pointed, by someone who uses such a word, given the seriousness of the effort required in crafting a short story.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Emily Dickinson and the physical roots of writing well

A writer pursues a basic thesis. It runs through the work, and makes the work worth study, at least to the intellectual satisfaction of figuring out a puzzle.

Writing is physical work. It comes from within. It comes from the body. It comes as physical energy. It rises from the deepest parts of the self, which are located in the body. Perhaps it is too obvious to say that writing is meditation, but it can be forgotten that words arise not so much from the cold logic of the intellect, but from a path within that seems to have a way to make sense of things, just like meditation’s point is a kind of energetic calm, a flow of breath that opens and fills both body and spirit.

It bears to mention those concepts that come out of yoga, the centers of energy placed at, if you will, different levels in the body, called the chakras. It’s worth a quick brushing up on the idea of tantric energy. It’s worth remembering too, not to embarrass anyone, that the root of spiritual energy is sexual energy. Margo Anand has written a fine welcoming introduction to the subject of tantric sexual energy to leave us Westerners un-intimidated about such arcane matters, The Art of Sexual Ecstasy. There is probably a lot of stuff out there worth a read, both within the yoga tradition and without, one would imagine. As we deal culturally with an odd mix of brazenness and shame toward such energies, it doesn’t hurt to read a bit about a different take, about the spiritual/sexual interface, about the benefits of such explorations.

My mother had the being-in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time kind of luck to take a class taught by Ted Hughes at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst the year his wife Sylvia Plath returned to Smith to teach. She read Wordsworth with him. She remembers a tall brooding gentleman with a long English overcoat, miserable to be spending his creative powers teaching poetry to a bunch of U-Mees, sweeping flakes of snow from his dark hair when he came in through the door frame. While not knowing what it was, my mom and probably every other girl knew the raw magnificent energy of the poet teaching them English poetry to be the raw unbridled force of sexual energy.

It makes just as much sense to regard his powers in such a way, obviously entwined with his character and the personal life, as the biography will tell, as to say anything else about them. Not that we necessarily need to read his poems in such a way as to look for nothing else but sexual metaphor, as the natural world flows through them heavily, fox cub, owl, crow, hawk in the rain.

Donne’s poems crackle with the energy more boldly suggested, more self-reflectively. Shakespeare’s tragedies hint, perhaps, of erotic longing and craving sentiments, as to know what would make the person whole again, less broken by slings and arrows.

Now what may we say, fairly, about the poetry of Emily Dickinson? Fair to call her transcendental? She was her own phenomenon, who bravely made up her own rules of how to communicate most highly. (Susan Howe renders this well in her book about ED.) Being a fan of hers, I think it fair to say that there was energy flowing powerfully in her. In her poems she finds a way to the same thing, oddly, Jesus was accused of, ‘speaking with authority.’ Here is someone who with delicacy, boldness and her own self-knowledge and authority of all things inside of her and therefore outside of her but taken in through the senses and the mind, channels the ecstatic energy of the sexual up to the highest levels the mind may attain, seeing and knowing.

And here, when we read here, I think we don’t just go, “good poem,” or “that line sounds good.” We have to acknowledge that there is something to her, that her way of viewing stuff is correct. She not only knew how to write, how to feel each word within, then sort them out and get them down on the special paper of her little books, how to put a poem together that sounds right, for She is Right. She was, her poems reveal, not a house divided against herself. "I find ecstasy in living; the mere sense of living is joy enough." She says it herself, and the Linscott edition of her selected poems and letters puts that on its first page.

I wonder how people feel about reading such a person. Here is someone who nailed the marketplace of the popular reader for what it is, an admiring bog fascinated with contemporary glitter. Of course that is a sweeping overstatement, inaccurate for the million varieties of exceptions, each of these with millions of examples. Here was someone who was content to remain in her little place and simply let her own beautiful energies rise. Like all things in nature, her writing would take care of itself if she took care of it. As readers are clerics over their choices of what to read, her claims of knowing all she knows may strike some as blasphemy, as they might prefer their own track of thoughts as to how to get through life comfortably and without complication.

Whether it is worth commenting on her erotic isolation we assume from the best we know of her, whether that keenly felt lacking, if it was that, and we might imagine so, was part of the engine driving her powers, one can't know. And maybe too one doesn't feel comfortable suggesting 'the self-pleasuring ritual' in association with her careful history and life, though various relationship stuff has been suggested.

We all want her to have a happy life, a fulfilled personal life. Maybe some would in their own minds dismiss her as a freakish nervous spinster who would have been fine if she had got some attentions. But reading her, I think one must disagree, in that there is a magnificent majestic rewarded contentment that comes of the page, someone who has found the right sort of work, the soul in the perfect body for it and living the perfect life for that talent to bloom, though still we all wish for her to find her eternal charming Prince of great light and kindly love for her. Maybe on the other side of the firmament, in that place one is called back to, we hope. There, her white dress to be pulled off.

A reader is left to be amazed by her, to care for her, to feel in touch with her, and maybe too to sense that she was a wonderful lover very skilled in all its arts. She preserves and protects all the tensions of desire, and perhaps the very stuff leads her work upward into the deepest matters of the soul and the nature of reality. Which is, after all, why we write.

The image we have of her, from the daguerreotype photo, seems to leave a lot of people with the sense of her as a plain jane. I've even heard the word ugly. But just as easily to get from this one image, is a young woman of poise, of a quiet sensual energy, her breathing and posture both correct and relaxed, rising above a firm shapely comfortable base.

Amherst College keeps a little lock of her hair under glass, along with a white dress of her style. Her hair, it may surprise, is just as she said once, in a letter to Higginson, 'bold as the chestnut bur.' (An ornithological note would have worked too, though the sound of her own choice is highly agreeable.) It deserves the adjectives of observation coppery, golden, a dancing red with lively shine, though words are not adequate to render the energetic glow of nature within the fresh colors of the lock and all its gemstone hues. It fairly speaks her name when you bend to examine it more carefully, and one is not surprised when tears come, as they do to lovers. One can’t help but walk away weakly, with a terrible crush, and with the heart’s feeling of having found someone who is one's perfect match.

But writers entertain such silly notions.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Shakespeare drew parallels out of his own experience as a creative. His works rely on it. Fleshing out in full view on the stage the life behind his artistic process, the characters in his plays are parables of what he went through to bring them there.

The characters of loyal son and daughter of fidelity figure nakedly and crucially in the important plays, Lear and Hamlet, you name it. The Cordelias and the like portray the artist's struggle with remaining true, loyal and active to the calling. They are fleshy and real to us. As one might predict, such characters are called into doubt, either by themselves or by others. These tensions lead the actions of drama. Othello gets messed with; the drama leads down a certain road. Thousands of battles, for self-respect, for justification, for to be heard, for to use good judgement, for to be convinced, for to have courage... So was Cervantes, the Bard's contemporary, involved in portraying similar matter in the original novel in a thousand shades, blows physical and psychic, both painfully real and painfully imagined.

Along the same lines, the clowns at the edge of the dramatic action, bringing us both ridiculousness and insight. Take the gravediggers, the service sector employee of the day. Now you're a gravedigger because you can't get any other job. You aren't qualified for better, and you have to keep at it to avoid homelessness, even as you sink toward it. One could guess that Mr. Shakespeare knew what it was like to live precariously, to room in shabby inns and squalid taverns, to endure a lack of certainty and security, encountering the bizarre. Rending all the while the human condition.

"... and the more pity that great folk should have countenance in this world to drown or hang themselves more than their even Christen. Come, my spade! There is no ancient gentlemen but gardeners, ditchers, and grave-makers. They hold up Adam's profession." Hamlet V: i, lines 26-32.

As the Bard tried to do himself. And here, perhaps-perhaps, the gravedigger's humor brings us close to the essential vitality of Shakespeare, something not lost on the low people in the theater's pit. As the stretch of a yoga pose leads the practitioner toward expanded ability to meditate, so do the events of life and all its ups and downs enable a higher perspective. Rather than eat from a tree of knowledge and claim we could know everything there is to know about the world and existence (which is how people end up wedded to the ill-suited) we gain through persevering through events, reaching calm and peace and wisdom.

So did his buddies remember him when they printed up his folio, a man of excellent good humor.

Monday, October 5, 2009


You know, it is a delicious grape, if done right.
A Cahors is probably my favorite wine, Malbec, back home in France, not far away from Bordeaux, inky and dark, blended with a little bit of Merlot, with many dimensions.
Elite Wines of Lorton, Virginia, has imported a beauty from Mendoza. Las Perdices, the Patridges. (Were they trying to gather the attention of Hemingway's immortal nature-loving spirit by naming it so?)
Rightly so is Malbec hot. Cahors. Kermit Lynch, the venerable 'old school-adventures of the unfiltered wine trail, has a beauty with a stunning bridge on the label, one the Tour de France passed by in recent years, I think. Didier, the genius of Charlottesville's Simon'n'Cellars has a stellar inky big boy, to bow to. Ed Addiss of Wine Traditions has a depth of Cahors offerings you'll almost want to drink by the wheelbarrow, and also some great lesser known wines from nearby, Marcillac, Gaillac, and other wild towns with their own local varietals that--while being snubbed by the big kings up there in Bordeaux by a, one must readily admit, a beautiful system of nomenclature that is exclusive and venerable--still have that beautiful care of making the grape reflect the terroir, the earth, the DNA, the smell and taste of all things in a valley or a region, such that the earth-feel translates to the mouth's wide range of senses...
Here's a wine that you pour down your throat and your whole blood system says "ahhh," quite happily too, as if it were bringing licorice, green tea, all the anti-oxidant power of lavender, thyme, oregano, a good tomato sauce-gravy. Even your spine has a fondness for it, as if to wag a friendly finger and say, I'll work you out in of kidney and liver in the morning, but in the meantime you are welcome to be anti-inflammatory.
Drinking, I know it's a downfall of half the race, but wine is pretty safe, and seems to have loads of benefits, even if there is the old dry feeling and the headache the next day. Wine is a teacher. Who knows what exactly it is teaching, but it is wise and venerable, and too many hairs are split over enjoying it, when it is, when it feels balanced in the mouth, just basically good old good for you.
It filleth the mouth, contenteth the shoulder, calms one in an hour of need. The belly knows if the weight of the juice is right, and this our old friend Malbec remembers from the French hands who loved and cared for it. With Malbec, you're going to be making a wine that feels right in the mouth, a tactile experience, lingering on back sides of the tongue with a finish like nice clean thread-count cotton sheets of a bed you are happy enough to flop into at the end of a day you've shared with another 60 million worker ants, or however many there are of us, particular legal codes and proximity to tectonic faults set aside. Malbec falls lightly like snow into the corral reef of the palate, and the palate is not far away from inner channel of ear, nor of that tickly part where the good old spine meets that floaty thing behind our teeth full of airs and mystery, hidden within our skull, but pouring out like a mighty ocean in blue sunlight, all the world a sandy beach or tempest rock, our conscious glowing, the brain itself, winged companion, infidel, disciple, xerox machine, tall ship, dog paw, stewardly stenographer, addict of all things healthy and the blizzards that whip up in the high howling winds of life to contrast the normal spoon-fed day that one must let go of.
God wanted someone to look back at the sunlight and water and the earth and the creatures and the vine and see from their own eyes the goodness of it all.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Meaning of Bartending

When I was young, I came into tending bar the honorable way, if there is such a thing. A knight has a squire, a barman has a busboy and bar back to help him and keep him company at the end of the night when all are gone and time for cleaning and restocking. I guess I learned through awe and observation and appreciation for a barman's work, by those I worked for. Johnny, Lawrence, Jennifer, Brenda, Jodi, Kathleen, Patience. Old Tom from next door.

But of course, I ask myself, the meaning of bartending. A young fool can think it's about the drinking.

Buddha, remember, was an ordinary man, like you and I, who achieved enlightenment. (Okay, maybe he wasn't perfectly ordinary, being an educated Prince and all that.) Maybe the questions he asked weren't so ordinary, either for the time he lived in, nor for the perspective he brought to light. Part of his point, though, was that if he could do it, so could you.

It is written in Buddhist texts that the people we encounter in this life by seeming happenstance are ones we have known in previous lives and incarnations. Think of it. My. Perhaps then it follows that this life presents an opportunity to remember old ties, to reestablish, to share the underlying fundamentals of the nature of reality, and maybe also to make amends for misunderstandings, for mistakes. A good friend of the bar where I work brought in an old Chinese saying, something like, 'you live long enough, you'll see your worst enemies float down the river.' (He says this in a jolly way, suited well to the literacy of the English, and in fact, he is a translator. He likes Bordeaux, if he has to drink French, though he would prefer Italian, a Barolo, as he lived over in Italy as a young man, back when such wines were local and inexpensive.) But we can do better than that, as they say.

It has its rich moments, it does, being a local barman. And last night, was one of them. My old buddy from college dropped in. He's working on development in an African country, so that they too can enjoy some reward for their toils, take care of children, have decent lives.

It does the creature good to have an old friend for company at the end of the night. You listen to happy and sad, of achievements and struggles, of learned lessons and new opportunities and the passing of some things that once were close.

And the next time, a stranger walks in, you bow before the wonder of what is possible, receiving down deep in instinctive ways of inklings of what a person can teach you. My 90 year old Polish neighbor would call this at its basis the love that Christians and Catholics as she attribute to the meaning of existence, and I know that she is right, because I have a deep trust of her, besides what I can figure out on my own, in my own confused way.

I sent an email to my mom elaborating on my friend's news and achievements. And she said to me that something I had said should go into a chapter in my wine book, The Meaning of Bartending. It's been percolating in notebooks somewhere.

No, you're never going to be rich, or be topdog, nor are you going to help people with the world issues that people so much need help in. But you will experience some moments where an equal plane is reached, when the realities of the nature of existence seem to hold there before you and a guest, when a light seems to shine from a heart and point the way toward some sense of satisfaction to be held at the end of the day, or night.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The animals of nature show us that learning is done in play. (Isn't that a fun part of PBS nature shows, kitten bobcats running and bouncing around, little wolves, fox cubs, etc., exploring a new summery world. Mammals have fun, and they also go and deal with life as an adult.)

However, society works by making it so that you don't want to look like an asshole, so that you do a lot of what everyone else does, buy things in plastic containers, buy a car, burn gas, make money, first and foremost, shun the weirdo so as not to be implicated rather than learning something.

Edmund Wilson, in To The Finland Station, brings us a history, the import of one notable person reading a Chekhov masterpiece, Ward #6, against the tableau of revolution. Page 432-433 or so, in my copy of it. The doctor of a pitiful mental hospital comes to identify with a young man who has a persecution complex, taken to a logical conclusion. And that person in Wilson's focus, talking about history, feels like he is there in Ward No. 6.

Chekhov, I'd recommend to anyone, and he'll make your hair stand on end if you give a shit about anyone or yourself.

In a bad mood, I think him useless, so defying my heart's wish that I later regain.

Friday, September 25, 2009


The world cycling championships are being held now in Switzerland.

Televised cycling coverage has improved here in the U.S. This evening we were treated to a a great showing by the home turf champion in the men's individual time trial, Fabian Cancellara. This year he came to win back his crown, and that he did.

I will admit, watching bike racing can be awfully boring. The commentators face a lot of open road, and little but time checks in the way of action. Riders are set off in a race against the clock at one minute intervals.

Finally, after a great showing by a relatively unknown American, Cancellara, in Swiss national colors, atop the same red Specialized time trial bike (or facsimile thereof) machine he handily won the Prologue of this years Tour de France in Monaco, rolled up to the gate. Standing about 6'1" or 6'2", he's a big fellow. "He's a strong man," a fellow racer commented with understatement during the Tour. He has some pretty big legs.

The crowd, obviously, was waiting for him for hours to cheer him on. With the Swiss champ on the road, things became exponentially more interesting for those looking at their TVs.

Power, fluidity, steady cadence, Mr. Cancellara rode to an authoritative victory. (VeloNews.Com gives it far more justice than I.) And to see, on the podium, a big happy gentle rider, easy-going, content, smiling with a genuine grin that had no "In Your Face" quality to it all, made a viewer happy, as he did the crowd seeing the medal awarded to him. Indeed, he knew he had more than a few seconds to spare as he approached the finish line, and gave the gathered crowd an extra long appreciative salute that seemed as much a rolling hug as anything.

There are some fine moments in sports, and this was truly one of them.

Hats off, brother. Hats off.

Mad Men

Did the John Deere riding lawnmower really need to run over the guy's foot?

We were introduced carefully to a Englishman with glasses who would manage the office, then to be told he was being sent away to the Far East. The new appointment loses his foot (in a bloody spray that one could only, in a grisly moment, take to be precursor to an assassination we all know about, either through memory or history, given the show's setting in the first years of the Sixties) and so he won't be staying with us, and we'll have the chap we know already. (Introductory writing classes tell us to keep things streamlined, to not introduce characters who won't later be essential to the plot.)

This viewer feels manipulated. As far as the show, it all makes sense, I suppose, and let's not be overly squeamish. But... The Elizabethans liked gore, by reference, more than show. (There is no mention of any fake blood at the time, even as much as they liked Lady MacBeth trying to wash her hands, and extravagant language incarnadine.) One comes away from Elizabethan drama and swordfights feeling better about himself, and coming away from the recent episode of Mad Men, well, I felt a bit shaken.

Still, the figures on my TV screen seemed to turn to something predicable, in the way of the characters of an old myth, which I hadn't felt before. Must TV life make things escalate with each episode? I don't feel as if the art of story-telling has been advanced by this new turn.

However, it shows a certain democratic vitality, and so we will suspend judgment and continue to view, even though one recalls an excellent nutshell description of the show Dexter by an old colleague I trouble from time to time. "Vile." Her word, not mine.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Joe Scar

Scarborough. Morning coffee.

He's ready to bully right from the first word. He goes on the attack in one sentence, puffs confidently. He looks, checking the other guests in this first sally. His eyebrows are raised. He is checking to see if someone might call his bluff, come out and tell him immediately the truths that he is guilty of refuting in gross error. He is checking to see if someone might not take his lead--all spin toward his own ends--and stand up manly and set the conversation right. He is very careful to, in his charming rational-sounding introduction, say just the right thing, just where he can start, and then in two sentences he is ranting. He doesn't state clearly what criticisms he is about to offer. He hides what he has to say, reveals little, and goes on the attack without looking back.

How MSNBC has employed him as a fair commentator is beyond me. He has been hired to deliver a message people like to hear, go "yeah" too. And even Mike Barnacle--well, I don't know the history of Mr. Barnacle and what he stands for--is, as the three other 'newspeople/guests', even as they 'try' to be 'impartial and fair' are all serving as props for Mr. Morning Joe-the-awakened-eye-opener of confidence and deep good sense, little more than a diluted ingratiating Yes Man.

The studied eye of Mr. Scarborough as he looks at potential opponents for someone who might offer a sound and practiced wisdom rather than a pointed opinion--check it out next time you're watching TV--is akin to many conservative rhetorical weapons that in the end decidedly serve special interests at the cost of the general public. The news is scripted these days, to allow for a lot of smoke that serves those ends opposite to the middle ground of thought and careful consideration.

Take down the opponent. Take down the opponent. Even if he would begin to reform a world of many systems that work inefficiently and corrupted for the sake of profits for few.

This is the voice that does not want change, does not want the possibility of changing out something that is gross and broken. All the while saying, 'we are defending your rights.'

Next time you see Joe, look at him. He's often berating someone who is a good man, putting the other down, in order to make himself aggrandized and better. It's a job, I suppose. Little more.

Morning Joe-ga/Yoga, a slow stretching toward the light of truth, they do not call it. That would require too much thought.

Health Care

A great friend put it to me this way:

You walk into a health care situation. Unlike a restaurant, where you order, after some thought and questions, in health care the server orders for you, "here's what you want." Ordered, is the most expensive thing on the menu. The $1500 bottle of Petrus, instead of the $40 Pic St. Loup.
In previous years the insurance companies would pay back out in medical care 95% of what they had taken in in premiums charged. Now, the insurance companies pay out about 55% in medical care out of what they take in.
As a worker you pay in for years and years, your whole adult working life, but then when you get sick, they are ready to tell you, 'oh, no, we don't cover that.'

Saturday, September 19, 2009


You know, these days you don't feel so bad about having that little bit of sentimentality that lets you equate the statement of an artist, i.e., that of revealing what life is like, with that of that poetic politician--such a bad word--who strives to be clean, simple, in a Jeffersonian way, i.e, reason of enlightenment forward, who has something to say about what is fair. Fairness, the implementation of that mystical good stuff of the founding documents, such as the right to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. (Provide for the common defense. Promote the general welfare.)

MacGowan has a great respect for JFK. And I think it would extend the other way too. Poetry informing policy.

As a legislator--we've all heard this criticism, and there's something to it--what did JFK achieve? The comparison to LBJ is obvious. What did RFK achieve? Again, a comparison. Inspiration, some great speeches--one would would say, in cynical mode--but what could he have accomplished?

For that matter, what did Lincoln accomplish? Well, my thoughts are that he helped promote the definitions of the nation, dusted off the good stuff of Jefferson, clear, clean, the stuff of Virginia Bill of Rights, Declaration, Constitution, and breathed fresh life into them, so that dusty ideas would take a hold, light up, in some brains of the citizens.

Martyrdom, no, no one likes that personally, but between Lincoln and Kennedys you have some guys who, maybe though not being so great in that arm twisting 1000 page slurry of compromises and promised fireplaces and parking spaces and telephone bravery of superhuman LBJ big and earthy stuff (leaving anatomy out of it), all that greasy corn pone stuff, you have, at least for intellectuals, something that makes a good nation still live and breath air and do good things and have life itself.

So, as we watch all them journal pundits bicker on Inside Washington, in the meanwhile, something sits here and there, in Archives, in Smithsonian, in public minds, in books on shelves for you and I to read, some good stuff that is sound thinking, not of any particular religious stripe (and Jefferson would have wished it so, and sat in his rotunda), but of real political geometry. As if to say, look, if we're going to do this, the implication is we must do that. yes, a war was fought over that. If we give it to some people, we got to give it to all people.

This makes me not feel so bad when I feel like I am pressed into glowy hagiography over poor Bob Kennedy shaking hands with people in all parts of the nation and saying some really interesting lines about the GNP (and what it includes.) It makes me feel better, and back in touch with some part of history, the feelings that must have existed if we were to speak of inspiration, that came from JFK Inaugural...

I think it is worth bearing in mind, that the greatest legislators weren't always the greatest legislators. That is the beauty of what happened here away from British soil how many score and how many years ago. Some dudes sat down and put down some good stuff that has made us strive and be upright and decent people, sharing people, kind people, thoughtful people.

And the ground trembles again when someone comes forth and has good ideas, can read into old words and not devolve them, but advance them, make them more inclusive, broader, greater, bring back their shine.

These days, there is such a magnifying glass on the details... You have to step back and look at the canvas. The broad Da Vinci /Giotto /Michelangelo /Norman Rockwell painting of the possible nations of the world as they exist un-Mubagied and un-Putined. (Not killing journalists with actual bullets.) (Maybe there should be museum day for all who work on Capitol Hill.)

There have been martyrs who in words and deeds have subtly and magically and beautifully helped define our country, any country, moral barometers and so forth. (In Western Europe, art and style and realistic living are so that basic agreements that weren't possible back in the day of the Pilgrims, have come to pass somewhat happily.) And one shouldn't feel bad to stop and kneel and pray, and be happy, just as we are happy to watch It's a Wonderful Life, you know, if some old lawmaker steps away from moralizing judgmental 'you are a sinner, whilst I am pure,' kind of crap.

So, who's going to go talk to Rush, the great hater? Obviously the guy is frustrated. He wants to be an artist? He should quiet down and go meditate. He apparently has some great concern to tell us. He should draw it up in some Constitutional sort of thing. What is it? One has the right to hate? To Bully? To wield negativity when people are trying to accomplish some basic balancing of rights and freedom for all? Rush, listen to me, go be Jeffersonian, whatever you have to say, draw it up in some 10 lined form about what we all need in order to get along better, be happier, live longer, have more freedom.

In the meantime, I, not paid as well as you, not having such sponsorship and weighty clout (I am skinny, Rush, where you are meaty... I do yoga and ride a bike and serve people food and drink and chit chat where you yell and shout into a microphone listened to passively and brained-washedly by bitter millions as they drive to work, radio on to numb the inner voices of their own cruel insistent non-ignorable fears, I drink wine and get naturally poetic--or not--where you are into the pharmacy's eithery speed and numbness) will go on hoping that we all have, through the efficient single payer that here is Medicare, that in Europe is an efficient state system, France, Germany, Switzerland, the PUBLIC OPTION, the right, yes, the right to Insurance, the right to good health. Imagine what that would do to the health/medical industry. They would become bloody DaVinci geniuses, think forward, go good work, not just zap your pre-cadavar with x-rays. They would solve problems of head and body and mind/body interfaces, through simple vitamins and instructions as to how to use your body. Think of all--Come on Rush, you are a positive guy, come sing this with me--Think of all humanity could do if they had some good basic feeling that their basic health was looked after. We've all suffered enough, don't you think, after 9/11, that we all might be blown to dust by some other hateful person... why must we negate ourselves in this basic need for maternal milk and peace? (Hmmm, it pays to think out loud, at least for some hearts.)

Yes, again, where are you, Rush, in terms of Jefferson and Declarations and Constitutions? I guess you're freedom of speech. Freedom to pollute. Freedom to poison school buses with the pornography of adult political hatred. Freedom to take deceny away from that said school bus. Freedom to make money from the sweat of other faces. I hope you are enjoying yourself. And I hope you are in good health, really. Take a walk. 30 minutes, every day. Do some yoga. It's good for you. Can you do that for the rest of us, since you're so concerned about the rest of us and our health? Go read Mark Twain. Be Huck Finn for a day, take a raft with an uninsured black man called Jim. Come to Washington. Sneak up on a monument and listen to the profound silence that is not hatred and chatter. Come read Lincoln on two walls, a chair in between with a man who thought about what he said before he said it. Watch Mr. Smith.

You give people the basic freedom of having health insurance, of not having to seriously worry about losing everything to some honest basic human fallibility of poor health, skin, guts, heart and blood and mind and disposition, (as happens to everyone in their crucial forties) and there is no telling what they can do. That would be a great economy, and no wonder all the previous bullshit built on huge money for very few, measly wages for the rest, has basically failed by all definitions of what a nation should be about. It was, it is, a Tower of Babel, and no fifty states goes anywhere without an equal playing field where talents come forth.

(Kanye West, did you see that, taking a microphone away from an honest artist and beautiful talent in her moment? It's not his fault. It's just a sign of the times. Disparity, conflict, the insured versus the uninsured. Kanye has been trained to take advantage, selfishly, of the great undemocratic Rushian inequity. I got a fast car, you don't. I got the microphone and the cognac in my hand and you don't. I can get my hair cut in this way and wear fine clothes where you can't. I'm big and loud and don't know how to respect other people. There is inequity, and I am happy with that, happy with basic inequality, because, hey, I'm successful and you aren't. I don't want us all to have a chance, because "I Made It and I am Beautiful and I am Better than You." My success makes me the arbiter of taste, and to hell the country upstarts.)

I can't find it in myself to find Shane MacGowan any less of a statesman than Jack, Bobby, Abe,FDR, Teddy R. They all know/knew life as it is.

(Cromwell was a public figure too. Big and listened to. Yeah, real decent guy to the Irish. If there's someone who has a self-styled nation, like "Obama Nation," it was Cromwell in Ireland and every now and then one should read and have some respect for history.)