Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I guess I'll close this year with a few last stray thoughts, which might begin with a thought toward chapels, like the kind you find on college campuses, or old New England towns, some, a strange vacancy about them.  What happened to the spiritual life that the eye still sees, somehow tangible?  The place of a higher purpose now seemingly ignored holds offices of  an academic department, the large chapel meeting hall itself a place where the presidents and trustees of the college speak a state of affairs.  Fine and well there might be the offices of higher thought and learning within, no doubt, but the ghost, the remainder, is left ignored.

In old New England towns they often lay vacant, rising above old cemeteries with stones few heed or remember, beautiful architecture, sometimes converted now for touristy things, candle or antique shop.  Spiritually, many have use still, but obviously toned down from the original lay out of the town and the pioneer spirits that wrought shape.  Many are, it seems, abandoned, like stranded ships amidst real estate markets.

A certain kind of spirituality invigorated such towns that dotted the map and connected the darkness of the hills and marshes and stretches.  It filtered down and touched most everything it seems, and even departing from the Bible itself, the spirituality informed the poetry and the thoughts of a town's inhabitants.

Young people crave wisdom, maybe too much, the wisdom found in falling in with bad types and the drunken.  I deserve damnation to hell fire and a millstone about the neck as much as anyone, for I have sinned.  I sinned and trespassed and acted like a fool.  I let chances for a good Old Testament kind of a life pass by, and I am sorry for it.  It was as if I met all the elements of an upright and decent life and failed to recognize them, letting neglect blast them away, leaving me to wander and find greater irresponsibility.  And I sometimes wonder if a stronger presence of a more directly spiritual life would have helped me find the proper way, brought me to more self-control and self-discipline.

But, still, one is left with wisdom, while trying afresh to be spiritual and spiritually upright, as hard as that is.  One is left with the wisdom of observing gluttons and wine-bibbers, publicans and sinners at close quarters.  One is left with the wisdom coming of his own mistakes.

I'd rather stay and read Proverbs than go in and tend bar one more night of this year, New Years Eve.



Au fond, at the bottom of it all, we all face the same spiritual problem.  Which is why we read the stories and texts of the religious canon.  The ego, the money changers, the illusioned, have integrated themselves into the temple, the personality;  it becomes necessary to purify, to get back to the wisdom of spiritual words.  And I suppose--lesson for the new year--as there is sufficient evil to the day, every day we can, we need to attempt the job we can to muster the spiritual.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I guess I just didn't take to the egotistical quality.  That was a large part of it.  To be a scholar, or to take the success of school and run with it, you had to have a big ego, one way or another.  (Look at the egos of the academy today.  Look at the egos of banking today.)

And that was never what I had learned.  I had learned that scholarship was more about finding a traditional way, in the way that my father, being a professor of botany, was far from being egotistical.  He knew the selflessness of real science.  He knew the perspective, the engagement, the equality of real teaching, even if he was not particularly celebrated for what he did so well, even as it was often acknowledged, his deep moral sense of the spirituality of the teaching classroom on the planet Earth.

But where I went, you could kind of smell it.  You did well, you went on and did well further, and then one day counted yourself a success and could look down on other people who had not done as well.

There was, of course, being a great school, still a lot of egoless intellect and art and real thinking.  There were great people who could still be real and let their guard down.  Along with the ambitious and the self-interested.  Some people just slipped into the tradition of the place, which allowed them an excuse, or a way around it.

And so I found myself gravitated toward things like Irish music, or writing whatever I felt like I needed to put down, things that never really had to be done with the kind of greedy professionalism, given what professionalism has become in many sectors.  I know.  People think they don't have a choice but to be a professional of the sort, meaning an exaggerated sort of person, their humanity distorted by the identity they claim.  Like the literary critic too self absorbed to engage with a honest student.

So I chose a line of work that got me far away from the big ego, and into a barroom, where I could not claim a Ph.D, but where doctors and smart people could come and talk and discuss interesting things, never held to a certain topic necessarily.


The problem with egotism, as opposed to something that is more of the soul, less of the intellect, is that there is distracting quality to it.  There is a certain psychological divorce going on.  And this is why we all feel weird now, doing something original, or sitting down and thinking on paper.  There is always the successful person looking over the shoulder, offering the comparison of their own rewarding life within to yours without.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

He cast out devils and could casually number how many in each person.  She had seven, he had twelve, and some even worse than that.  Basic Christian psychology.  It takes its base in the Buddha's wisdom on the nature of Self, on all the cluttering stuff of egos.  And it would seem that any journey of intelligence, that of those of thought and expression, would sooner or later come upon that sense, of the reality of people being that it is very easy for them to let in egotistical identities.  Interesting, from the Christian point of view, that these egotist selves that grow within are not just one, but numerable entities.

Of course, as Jesus said, you have to remote the mote, the beam, the dust, the stick of wood, out of your own eye before you can help someone else sweep out his or her own.  Perhaps, too, they can be like splinters, working their way to the surface.  Gradually, it seems, you become aware of them, in other people, in your self.  As you see them in other people, along with the pull that they have, you see the clutter of your own within.

It could be an embarrassing business.  The things you clung to, in your mind, may have well valued as a writer philosopher seeker of wisdom and truth and witness to deeper reality and the ways of the Universes, suddenly go poof, at least in the way you had defined the tensions caused by the ego selfish devil-genie within.  And maybe such things aren't so devilish, just a part of your atomic ticking, the set up for a transformation, so that like the poor madman whose legions have been cast out into the herd of swine, you too can sit there rubbing your forehead, saying, "Jesus…  thank you," back to the greatest form of normal you've ever experienced.  Maybe you had to chew on such things for the sake of ultimately working out your own balance.  And perhaps relief comes in additional forms in that finally you do not judge yourself for having made mistakes in interpersonal relationships, because as the ultimate truth shows anyway, that there is no fixed Self, no identity you have to fill in order to be a full human being.


Of course, the Christian story is not complete without that Christ running up against the great egos of the day, the powers that be both in the Roman Empire and those of the authorities of the local religious structure.  is it then that he makes what might be interpreted as a final gesture of being egoless, free from devils, free of selfish agenda, for if he had he might have saved himself, if possible.  Of course, being egoless does not entail being free of pain.

Monday, December 9, 2013

I am convinced more and more that it's the egos that people, maybe the entire human race, needs to shed.  Ego and selfishness, people "looking out for their own," soon comes misery, right at the hour of greatest accomplishment.

People do not mean to be so.  They do not intend to be such pains in the asses, but, because there is not that constant message out there, Don't Be an Egotistical such n such, they do.  Then the reaction, between individuals, each saying, I am This, or I am That, to put it into simplistic terms, and from the reactions back and forth a tiresome falseness, a room filled with a white elephant.  The Buddha explicitly points out the root of all suffering, but we don't know what he's talking about, such odd funny terms.

And this is what causes nothing to ever get done, as it all just goes off into this spin of egos, of self-important people.  (Obama strikes one as man of chastened ego, thus his relationship with Lincoln.)

Remarkably enough, there are real people, who still exist, who are, in a real practical sense, important.  This to me is something of a mystery, but, they are good people of humor and faith, and they are nice to talk to.


The Gnostic Gospels talk of Jesus picking up on hints of Buddhism.  Were his preachings an effort to reduce the egotism of Judaism?  Even the best of us fall into it.

What's my own ego?  Am I writer, or some has been, who blogs?  Or does the general picture one struggles along with not some basic picture of humanity, a creature who needs words...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

It's a feeling we might have more often than we'd like to admit, some of us anyway.  I will never fit in to DC.  No way.  Not going to happen.  Might as well admit it.  You just started seeing things pretty much the opposite way from the norm, and it seems you can't really go back.

You go back only when you've really acknowledged all that, which takes a good sense of humor, touched with forms of surrender to the facts.  No sense in trying to impress anyone.  Just like you're from a different planet.

Friday, December 6, 2013

And so I went up to pay my respects to his statue, there behind a Long Fence, while the media was gathering itself at 5 AM in front of the Embassy of South Africa.  Flashing lights along the righthand curbside lane of Massachusetts Avenue.  "That's a pretty good fist," I offered, to a guy there on the sidewalk between the chain link fence and the mud.   He was a radio reporter and he asked me so I tried to explain what brought me here, in my off duty time.  He was from the countryside, that was one thing.  He'd gotten an education and studied law.  He had a great moral sense, obviously, and knew the right place to make a stance.  He had a sense of the deepest deep moral issue behind it all.  He was able to withstand all those twenty seven years of imprisonment, and remain nonjudgmental about those who imprisoned him.  He had the same sense of any great democrat, along with our own tradition here in America.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Shane MacGowan in corner, strumming a guitar:

Oh, Kitty, my darling, remember,
that the doom will be mine, if I stay,
'tis far better to part though it's hard to,
than to rot in their prison away…

Lincoln, sitting silently,  chin in hand, leaning slightly forward, just like the portrait painted of him.

Enter Kennedy, walking in, as if to a press conference, but slightly slower.

Lincoln, after a pause, as Kennedy stops, as if to look around:

You too?  Well, that's okay.  I was kind of expecting you anyway.

Lincoln rises.  Reaches to shake hands.

You look good.  Welcome.

Kennedy:

Well, thank you, Mr. President.  I, ah, hear, uh, your ghost has been keeping in touch with the current matters.

Lincoln:

Oh, now and then.  It's hard not to.  I couldn't resist Churchill.  No one would believe a drunk anyway, I figured.  But you got there, and I could take it easy and sit in tree tops on April mornings feeling the swelling wind, or I'd go find a horse…  I liked the catafalque. I go over to Fort Myers sometimes, up on that field overlooking the mighty river, where they keep the caissons in the stables there.  To stand there in Virginia...

It's funny how things happen.

Kennedy:

We all have our night at the theater, Mr. Lincoln.  You were gracious to begin the tradition.

Lincoln:

I thought that was a nice touch, actually, not that we're in control of these things.  The timing, I thought, was fitting, and my death was proper enough.  I'd said what I wanted to say, or what needed to be said, pretty much.  It's hard to let go, though.

Kennedy:

Bind up the nation's wounds.  'Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray,' that was an excellent moment.  We took a lot from that.

Lincoln:

Helping out.  I figured I'd help start the pattern.  Say something great before you go.  Might as well.  Why the hell not.

Kennedy:

I agree with you very much, Mr. President.  It goes quickly, but, that last fine run, makes it all the sweeter.

Lincoln:

Look, here's your rocking chair.  They are a comfort aren't they.  I was sitting in one, you know, that night.

MacGowan, in a soft voice:

"Music is just music, really.  It's in the fucking water, it's in the fucking ground, it's in the fucking rain… it's in the fucking wind. Everywhere, really.  People just put it into boxes.  That's how I look at it."

Glass of wine anyone?  Might as well…  Hch, hch, hch, hch, hchh…

In a day, I'll be over the mountains.
There'll be time enough left for to cry,
so good night and God guard you forever…

Kennedy:

I'm glad we're all Irish here.

Lincoln:

It helps, I'd say.  Hell, we always were.  Thus, all our problems, fitting ourselves in.  Why we were great.  Why we ended up in a box.

That was nice you got to go there.

Kennedy:

It was a place to go say things.

Lincoln:

There's good things to do when you're President.  I felt like shit up at Gettysburg.  But it was worth it.  Funny how it all works out.

Kennedy:

Yes, I'd say so.  It all works out.

Lincoln:

So when did you realize it?  You kept an awfully good sense of humor about the whole thing.  Me, I just aged before the camera.  Ha ha.  I thought that was the thing to do.  As if I was sorta tellin', no, you don't want this damn job anyway.  You want it?  Hell, take it.

Kennedy:

And those generals… Jesus Christ.

Lincoln:

Yes.  Thank you.

Hey, they'll always joke… you know.  Kennedy's secretary, Lincoln.  John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald…  That they too in turn get shot…

But it is kind of odd when you think about it, all the parallels.  The geometry.  Euclid, old boy, he was right.  Two little freaks, integers.  Small men, just like always.  And you're own dead body smiling, as if to teach a final lesson, bowing out to the curtain.

Kennedy:

Yes, don't go to the theater.  The theater.  It is all the same, when you look at it, Mr. Lincoln, isn't it.

Lincoln:

Always liked your sense of humor.

MacGowan:

When I first came to London,
I was only sixteen,
with a fiver in my pocket,
and my old dancing bag.
I went down to the 'dilly
to check out the scene,
but I soon ended up upon
the old main drag.

Lincoln:

It is all the same.  Adjustment to the details.  And no one, that's the funny thing, no one can do anything about it.  Like it's the hand of God.  You go to Dallas for all that.  I go to Ford's.  I'm out diagonal on a too small bed across the street, you end up in that beautiful limousine and that hospital.

There ain't much they can do for you, though.  Cut your shirt open, put your head on a pillow.  Let the bullet fall out.  Whatever.

The rising up, I thought, that was…  you know, in a way it was just what I expected, looking at yourself, at the violent thing that did not change you, but just sealed you as a President forever.

Kennedy:

I felt it all in a dream, a long straight line, and then I was broken, and for a time I felt like there were monsters around me, grotesque people, looking down on me, or was it me, a nightmare, knowing I couldn't be fixed.  Then I found here peace.  Not of the hillside, but of the things I left behind and the way people will remember me, in their souls, just like you almost.

Lincoln:

I know, I know.

Kennedy:

It was a good ride.  I got my energy from the people.  I'd shake hands.  Sometimes, all the dirt, you know.

Lincoln.

Yup.  It is, exhilarating.  You kept a great sense of humor about it, like a kid sometimes, and by that I mean no disrespect at all.  I liked the way you'd nod at everyone.  Just like I used to.  They say, oh, what a hick, but really it's a sign of nobility, and you got to put up with a lot of shit anyway.  I 'd nod at that Whitman, bright eyed fellow, made me feel I was who they said I was, I mean in the good way, as President, and I'd bow back to the fellow.  Better than getting shot at, I'll tell you.

"How are you," I love the way you'd say that.  So warm, so gracious.

Kennedy:

Your hand was swollen, when you arrived.  You looked more like me then.

Lincoln:

Ha ha, that's sweet of you.

MacGowan:

I've been loving you a long time…

Kennedy:

I like the music here, Mr. President.

(both chuckle)

Lincoln:

They chided me over Antietam, Lamon playing the banjo for me, but as I've said, I like the merriment.  Otherwise…

Kennedy:

Yes, you'd want to hang yourself.  I felt that way too, often enough.

But I suppose, life is the banjo, Mr. President.

Lincoln:

That's true, too.  I guess I had that sense.  I always loved animals.  A pig stuck, a bird fallen, a cat going about it's business.  You learn a lot that way.

But I know, we both loved a girl at one point.  Well, you know how it goes.

Kennedy:

Yes, I do.  It kind of changes your whole life.  We really did though.

L:

It does, it does.  It hurt a lot, and I never forgot.

SM:

That's good.  Mind if I use that?  Hch, chch, hchh…

lights a cigarette

Still there's a light I hold before me,
and you're the measure of my dreams

L:

I guess that's when I became a poet.

K:

I, uh, don't know, exactly what I became, but I know what you mean.

L:

You do what you can do.

SM:

I've not come up with any new material for a while, at least they say so.

The Cadillacs stood by the house
and the Yanks they were within
and the tinker boys hissed advice
hot wire her with a pin.
We turned and shook while we had a look…

L:

You were very good about the poetry.  You always used that.
Mr. Nixon and I are not rivers frozen in time…
That was good.  I still get a chuckle over that.  Nixon…
Ah, but he's one of us, almost.
Well, there are a few, 'almosts.'

K:

Yes.

L:  But in the end, it's you and I.  Not even Washington.  We're the amalgam.  We're the blood flow.
History is funny stuff, I suppose.

K:

I'd want people to know, that in the end it's all an illusion.  Like it depends on what kind of dream you want to have.  Then you make it so.

L:

That's the most dignified way to go about it.

K:

And are we here, too, for a reason?  What do we do know?

L:

Well, I don't know.  I guess part of it is watching.  Seeing if there's anyone bright down there, then matching them up with people who'll help them.

K:

Like Bobby.

L:  Sure.  He'll take it hard, but he's the perfect man for it, I think.  We made him tough, appropriately, and not a conniver.  He's an honest type, like a good lawyer should be.  He'll feel it.  Then he'll read the Greeks, I suspect.

He'll get his own funeral train one day, sadly enough.  Before his time.

K:  silence

L:  We know these things up here, or mid here, or down here, wherever it is, the places where we dream in a deeper way.

But take comfort.  There's always the right person for a job.  Take Jessie Curry, chief of Dallas Police.  Could you find a better guy to stomach all that?  It's all a surprise.

History appoints its men.  Each to fulfill his roll.  And what can you do but be as dignified as  you can, I suppose.  Is that the way I always looked at it?  I don't know, not anymore, but I think that speaks of the ones who live on, if you will, that they were dignified, given whatever situation.

I mean, we all can be stupid.  That's just human nature.

SM:  Don't know what you're talking about.  Where's Ronny Drew?

A hungry feelin'
came over me stealing,
and the mice were squealing'
in my prison cell.
And the auld triangle
went jingle bloody jangle,
all along the banks
of the Royal Canal.

L:  Do you think anyone could ever really try to be a nobody? I thought of that sometimes.  But you didn't have that chance.  I could have slipped into nowhere pretty fast, quite a few times.

What do you make of that?  You're here now.  You know about such things.

K:  Well, I could have slipped, just lost, failed.  That's all, I suppose.  But I was good, and I kept winning.

L:  Saw that.  I saw that.  West Virginia.  I think that's near where I was from originally.

Is that a fault or a strength, now that I think about it.  What matters is that you're real.  Then you just stop feeling awkward about yourself, even if you are, as was I, an emotional cripple sometimes.

K:  I was a cripple too.

L:  You really let in that great sense of tragedy.  That was a great gift to the nation.  Greater a tragedy, or better fitting, than what happened at Gettysburg.  But you said your own words to make your own loss so well understood.  No one needed to say anything.

The people said it themselves.  They cried.  They cried and cried.  Then the bagpipes played.

K:  I'm not so sure people always give a shit.

L:  Well, that's how it always is when you present a new truth.  Some people try to get it, and can hear it, but because it's the world, and you're bringing them something out of the world, they have to reject it.  It's like a wave pattern on water, the heights of watery contention, the troughs of calm.  And you feel it in yourself.  Same damn thing.  Pay it little mind.

K:  Polling would confirm your sentiments.

L:  I like how you handle the press.  This press conferences reminded me of my baths in public opinion.

K:  They'll still say whatever the hell they want to.

L:  Well, well…  I got a kick out of what they wrote about my few words up there at the great battlefield.   But spiritual work happens in spiritual time.  And it must be done.  And if you think about it, politics is so deeply flawed if you think it can really allow itself to be part of the greater work.  Better to leave it to lesser men with their egos and their love of dealings.  The bigger matter is in the changes, like the whole system of democracy came about.

The thing is in the lining up, that spooky stuff, bringing it out into the real world, to not be distracted by all the material things as we obsessed over in our lives, the pork barrel, the move the capitol to Springfield.

That's the sense of humor.  You roll with the punches, but deep down you're really doing something, even if no one is going to even begin to understand it.  Almost better that way.

They'll all jump in on one side, as they see it, on one side of the worldly aspect of it, with the greatest zeal and fervor.  Abolition, Pro-Slavery.  The crazies pick up like it's their own selves, such that the war came.

Well, I hate to say it, but that's never really what it was about.  It was about something far deeper, and even I cannot explain it, not even.  I was just doing my job as a politician, an instructor.  A House Divided, that was the closest I ever came.  I knew I could not be divided against myself, and I figured that the same applied to the nation.

And I was human too.  I got pulled into it myself, the animosity, the self-righteousness… much as I tried not to.  And then we had the war to pursue.  Well, they started it.  Once it starts, you can't go back, and I had to see it all out to the end.

But, whatever I said or tried to accomplish, or the way I thought about it all, it all came out of a very deep and personal struggle.  I decided I needed to have faith.  And when I got the melancholy, or I couldn't think of what I wanted to say before a crowd of people, well, my deeper mind was telling me something.  I had to align myself with all the things that come from the Scriptures.  You know what I mean?  And the only thing I could do then, the final self-evident thing, was to apply it.

So perhaps I was a little over-zealous, but I don't regret that larger sense.

K:  So what were your faults on earth?  I cannot think of many, to be honest with you.   Compared to some of us… {flashing famous smile}

L:  Well, thank you kindly, but I was born a poor boy, one who wanted to read books and write things. My faults were in my ambition.  I was a lawyer, even.  Not that I am ashamed of that, but just some of the deals I might have made. But I was not mystical enough, until I began my path to the Presidency.  Still, it's hard to climb to the top of the pyramid and look out in all directions.

We all have our faults.  Maybe we should not be unproud of them, in the end.

But you didn't have a choice, really.   You were obliged from birth to be ambitious, and you took well to it.  And you were kind to people.

K:  Lawyers are necessary, if you want to accomplish anything in the world.

L:  Maybe so.  But I felt that need to have those portraits taken, so that inner ghostly thing might come across, so that they could see, bumpkin that I am, or was, that I wasn't an idiot, nor was I evil.  Just like you always came across, I think, with your real good spirit and your humor.

"I'll put it on in the White House on Monday;  if you come up there you'll have a chance to see it then."  That cowboy hat.  I was more of a hat man myself, but then I don't have your hair.  But you can't blame a man for playing the politics game.  You brought a lot of light to it.

K:  Thank you, Mr. President.  Part of my comedy was physical after all.

L:  Yes, I can see that.  I move slower than you do.

But there are reasons why I don't blame that man over there.  {gesturing to MacGowan pouring himself some red wine from a brown paper bag into a cup.}  He's found an access to the murmurings from the deeper reality.  If you don't believe in it, you're never going to leave behind or say anything that will be valuable in the long run.  You need to courage to go find it half way.

I used to not approve so much of drinkers, but they are kind people, often, as if they had a gift.

SM:  Some of us have the ability to see ghosts…  Hch, hch, ch, ch, hch…  Cheers.

K:  It is all a damn prison anyway, but you make the best of it, and then, right as you get the hang of it, boom.  Why is it that way…   Life is unfair.  Some enjoy perfect health, some less so.

But viewed from the long lens of history…  {voice rising, about to extend an arm, chin raised}
I almost feel like making a speech.

L:  That's good reflexes.
Goddamn.  I get so sad sometimes, without you guys.  Our most triumphant hours, and there we are, getting shot.

{turning away}

Funny how we all get old.

We're all bound to fail at everything.  You have to fail.   And then, when you have no other choice,  you turn to something.  Not some shallow thing, not another person's version of a story, not even necessarily any tradition, but something, barely definable, you've tested out in your deeper mind, something higher.

I wished it had all been not violent so suddenly, as the pace of the times seemed to require.  I guess that was one more thing, to give up to, to surrender to, to accept, to have to fit in, like all the rest.  Something hopeful.  Like the wind in springtime.

I guess you could be passive, and just absorb it all, writing your comments upon it, if you could live forever.  But alas, we don't.

{turns back}

When that girl died, and they put her in the ground, and then it was raining and raining, I couldn't take it anymore.  A part of me withered up, never to be alive again.  And I didn't think I would, but I made it through that, as if was some kind of training, for something.

I mean, I have to qualify that with being out here, with the fact that what we must do consciously on Earth is ego.  A part of me withered up, that sounds now like something a fool biographer would write. That's the good of being up here.

But I still think about her…  all the time, really, if you were to look at it in a way...

Jack, do you think that death makes us?  Makes us the great men in the collection of minds, whereas if we died of natural old age, had faded into irrelevance, old statuary, no longer a power, no longer the significant voice of the time, what we had done would have then seemed an ordinary business?  But we had died as some people, at least, were listening to us, indeed with their ears opening to us even, with us making advancements… You and I are alike in that…

K:  But you had been reelected.

L:  Damn fluke…  But it's true.

The odds didn't look so good for you, with your stance there on the moral issue, but there you were, working those Southern States--didn't they all end up in Texas, those fine Confederates--and with the same uncertainty, and facing the same hatred, doing pretty well.   You had that Presidential quality about you.  I had a Brooks Brother's long coat covering my sorry ass…  Oh, man, they had all the reason in the world to hate me, to call me tyrant and worse things.

Despite it, you were doing pretty well.  I was waiting for your Second Inaugural, I think.  But I guess, you know, it's something like they didn't deserve it, or could not have gone that far in their state of earthbound thoughts.  They cannot always receive our wisdom, little birds that they are with their mouths up reached.  You feed 'em what you can.

SM:  {aside}  There's that story, you know, Vishnu builds this great, like, almighty palace, thinking he's, like, the greatest, that this will be the most fantastic place, like, with great parties and great music, the finest chicks, good wine, a great house bands, The Roots, probably, and, like the highest of wisdom, and fucking books and learning, I mean, to go along with all that.  But, like, he notices he, even he himself, notices that he can't finish it, that he keeps wanting more.  This goddamn palace is never quite finished.  And then a greater God, even higher above him, comes down, shows up one day, and then, look out, there are all these fucking ants, fucking thousands of them, millions of them, marching in perfect order, in through the front door.  Like it was there place or something!    Hcchh hchh hchh…  And Vishnu says, like, what the fuck, and whoever the greater God is, says, well, my friend, each one of those ants once was a god king emperor building his own fucking palace, thinking it was something, some fantastic kingdom all measured to fucking perfection…  Hhcch, hch, hchh…  And, like, each one comes from another planet, another universe, another dimension, as the fucking Mahabarata tells you, it's all a mud puddle, somewhere in London, in the middle of nowhere.  So there's fucking Vishnu looking down at all these ants coming in the front door of his palace…  Chhh, chhch, chh, hhcch, chcch…

So you know, you just fucking know, whatever it is, it's all bullshit anyway.

London, you're a lady,
you're streets are paved with gold...

L:  I think what happens to us…  Well, it's like we get broken up, into some pieces, and that a piece goes into a lot of folks, but small regular normal folk, so that it's no longer the high and mighty who can possibly carry our fine thoughts and sentiments, not the congressmen, not the senators, but all the plain people, like those who good heartedly line railroad tracks or come into the great Rotunda to file past you in a casket on a catafalque, or watch you go by on a caisson.  It would have to be the regular people who carry such things like a truth or a flame, or something good and decent.  That's just math.  You and I were just strange, being so pushed forward the way we were, the way we had to be.  Our air of the presidential, that only happens at very strange times, Mr. Kennedy, wouldn't you agree.

SM:  I mean, that's the thing, that someone would say something and actually mean it, you know…
{getting snuffly}  That someone would actually give a shit, and like, the things they said would be like, like Irish music, hits you in the gut, means something, is said with all the emotional stuff, just like the things that people have always done, drinking, fucking and fighting, but, like applied, as it always is, to something deeply intellectual, not fucking faking it, but true, just like it took the black man to play the blues.  They wouldn't be, like, playing fucking blues out of a fucking teleprompter, not giving a shit like a bunch of fucking robots.  Their fucking guitars were like barely in tune, covered with cotton picking fucking railroad dust, and they knew the secret, that no one really gave a shit, but that because each fucking person realized that in turn no one else gave a shit about them, then they could fucking share this, like, guilty secret of liking this liberating music…  But it took, like, Muddy Waters, some guy who knew no one gave a shit…  And that's blues, that's rock n roll, that's Irish music, African music, whatever you want to call it.  Music, raw, played by people, not by computers or some fucking rating system, but by the heart….

L:  The basic matter before us all is that the personal judging of people is necessarily arbitrary and insensitive.  That's why we have to think of mystical things, unions and the like.

Behind the law, and its equality, there is brotherly love, and that applies to women too, strange creatures that they are, who give birth to us, love us...

That's what we all need.  That's what I need, even here.  Love, that is all.

K:  Well, I can't say that as a man I ever had much problem with the, ah, democracy of women…

L:  You old hound dog…  I like how they call it my bedroom.

K:  I had more time than you, Mr. President.  I didn't have to go listen to the tapping of the telegraph at night.

L:  Well, at least then I could feel I was doing something, not just sitting around waiting, unable to do a damn thing...

When we get up here, we see the great equality of all people and all things.  Less is there of the difference.  More how odd the whole thing gets, why sides must be taken, wars fought, hearts broken, for details, over details, small insignificant things, when all along, we all loved each other, God's gentle creatures who are led to layeth down in green pastures and by calm waters.  Why all the bloodletting of life?

K:  I liked to put that record on at night.  "Each evening from December to December…  Camelot."

L:  And I like that fellow's songs, the one who sees us over there…  There's something he's achieved too, no less, well…  this is heaven, so allow the possibility… than us.  In attitude, at least.  Because he doesn't care what we think.  He just plays his music, transcribes his songs, and that they are rough, therein lies their charm.

Friday, November 29, 2013

To write a biography of John F. Kennedy, you have to inhabit him from within.  You have to understand his experiences as partially universal, applicable to those of other lives, regular lives like our own.  You'd have to understand him on his own terms, by making your own sympathetic to his.  You could write about a few things and make long light of them.  Like the girl who broke his heart, marrying John Hersey, like his need for action and adventure, the proverbial PT Boat days.  You'd have to write about his adrenal system, as if through over-activity and too much push, he burned himself out, but how that push remained in him, aided as it was by medication.  You'd have to write of his own understanding of courage, how he'd walk up the steps of the three floor tenements of Watertown, ponderously, painfully, one step at a time, putting one foot up, then following with the next foot.

You'd have to follow him into your own life experiences, your own need to be, as he put, somewhere every day.  You'd have to see your own courage to show up and physically and mentally deal with things.  You'd have to understand your own need for words and books, whatever form of history you find pertinent.

The world is a disappointment.  That is wisdom.  In accepting that wisdom the mind rises to a higher understanding.  And no intelligent person can long ignore the fact of the grim nature of life, of the hopeless quality to worldly battles.  "Pain falls drop by drop upon the soul, until through the awful grace of God, comes wisdom":  Robert Kennedy quoting Aeschylus, as if to finish his brother's thoughts, before he himself was murdered.

But shouldn't you know all that, coming into it.  That's the mysterious thing, maybe, about the cracked negative picture of Lincoln, or that one with his head cocked, including his hands in his lap, as if holding a watch.  He seems to get it finally.  That's how he'd entered the whole thing in the first place, not wanting to be a house divided against himself and his basic sense of Biblical justice.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Oh Christ.  The long night of the bar captain, on that last night before the feasting holiday.

I don't know what's better, if the twitch in the muscle and nerves under the eye feels soothed by the old habit of three good glass of Ventoux and a good loud playing of several Pogues songs in the night bar after all are gone, including the musicians, including the last few people who could have made you nervous, or if it would feel better if, as instructions might say, you didn't drink at all.  I chose the music, I chose listening to myself recorded reading the Gettysburg Address, thank god, something creative after a lot of jee-ing and haw-ing, dodging and ducking…

For I could see how it might be calming, to finally release your own singing voice after enduring a singer who, yeah, it happens to all of us, ain't always quite on key.



Tuesday was full of light, despite the heavy pouring cold rain outside.  The sweet lady, when asked if anyone had made note of what happened fifty years ago, quietly, calmly, says, well, no I didn't watch any of the History Channel.  I was there, in the White House.  I remember what the clock looked like, she finally says, in her quiet voice.

It was an open White House, she remembers.  He'd come out and stand against a desk, and the young women, there were many, were very capable and competent and working in many significant positions.

She helped out with all the letters to Jackie.  That they loved his hair, one theme, in the letters of women to Jackie, or to themselves, after the great sick Mafia hit tragedy or whatever it was.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I find it somewhat validating, to read again through John F. Kennedy's health problems.  He took anti-histamines for food allergies (and some of them seems to have made him depressed.)  He had high cholesterol, probably from regularly eating eggs and bacon for breakfast.  Too much dairy, bad for type O blood, so the unsubstantiated theory goes (while it secretly remains to work for us.)  He had colitis, an intestinal inflammation brought on by eating grains never meant for certain guts.  Perhaps too with the adrenal insufficiency, a factor of a mis-intended diet back from the days of American white bread.

And one can feel the strange relief of validation reading about Lincoln and his psyche, his bouts with melancholy, finding Joshua Wolf Shenk's book on the subject quite real and believable.  Lincoln, by the way, was type A, I seem to have read.  His problems with what might be unipolar depression cut beyond the lines of blood type, across the human species, I would gather, by their inherent nature.  I find it validating to find a tale of Lincoln, to the gist that he needed to participate in the mirth and the merriment and the jokes lest he fall into an abyss of dark mood and hopelessness.  (That's a bartender's night, right there.)  Perhaps the dignity we attribute to his image is in surviving such storms, as we intuitively sense that.  His mind went through the dark nights and would tend to emerge with broader deeper insight, to be saved and then put into words when an occasion called for it.

Sharing such "problems" does not make one a great leader.  But somehow in the dark of winter night it is a comfort and a relief to ponder such things with a glimmer of self-understanding.  It helps with the self-blaming and the guilt, I would think.  It helps for accepting, as one first must accept, a kind of a life.  And maybe it gets better from there.



Within the history of John F. Kennedy is something of the history of humanity.  A man needs to live a bit in order to understand, to be able to walk in another's shoes.



In this day and age, people go to a trainer at the gym, wanting a focussed work out.  Is that the point of reading something, that it's quick exercise toward some kind of end of enhanced sensitivity for life?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Democracy works because it indirectly supports a basic reality.  By treating all as being created equal we protect the basic essence of the Buddhist observation that Self is, to a large extent, an illusion, a false representation.  No one, really, is a born monarch.  That would be a false self.  A person could act the part, and develop a marvelous personality to match, but in the end, the person is human, just like you or I.  There are many great ego trips to have:  I'm this, I'm that, there goes Tom Cruise.  Such things weigh us down.  Hitler was caught up in himself, in the picture of himself, creating a whole world order based on a false notion of self.

Democracy may work indirectly, and perhaps represents the extent to which thinking, bound to the practical world as it is, can go.  We can accept the logic of fairness, of all created equal and equal protection under the law, of the idea of voting for representative government.  But to go any further, to philosophically embrace what is coincidentally the main idea of a thinker and wise man from long ago, would invite chaos, it would seem.  And indeed, unenlightened people are bound to act selfishly, so, the thinking might go, you can never achieve fairness, right?  Which happens to be one of the problems, now that I think about it, of a democracy, as justice can get bent to those with greater resources, as assessing the power of any one vote for, say, the President, is a complicated matter depending on a lot of things (thanks to gerrymandering, Karl Rove's fondness for hacking voting machines, the money for big opiate advertising) even if the delegate system of the electoral college seems the best attempt there can be at national parity.

But there it is, a basic reality to be found out, that, as a poet put it, "I'm nobody -- who are you?"  Can democracy protect the interests of all who might realize that?

To go consider a corporation as an equal entity under the law doesn't agree.  Corporations almost necessarily have to have ego, simply in their structure, their need to make a profit.  Thus will they act to forward their own selfish interests for whatever reason.    The logic of Halliburton, enforcing clear cut goals.

Compare the corporation with the private citizen, who of course, being a human being, has a broad range of concerns and sensibility, with a  more immediate sense of nature and the environment we live in, who can sense healthy behavior.   The great democracy should be just that, steered by informed private citizens, reducing  egotistical acts.  Of course that would now be sneered at, taken as pie in the sky, belittled as childishness, 'who will pay the bills?'  And it would seem there is even no more infrastructure, like the town meeting, for much of that to even begin.  The structure, or course, is representative government, which now means raising money, primary, before all concerns and stances, which means lobbyists.

The great bargain of journalism, which aims to be, through a myriad of takes on different issues, egoless and truth-searching, is to allow within the ego of the corporate advertisement in its pages.  Ads can be, like Facebook, quickly overwhelming to the delicate reading mind sorting out its daily reactions and thoughts.  Is Facebook reducible being suspiciously like personal advertisement and branding as an inevitable consequence of its basic form?

But a democracy is effective to the extent that it offers protection and fairness to "the least of these," to the most selfless, to the meek along with the infirm and the poor.  And this leaves one to wonder if there is not some great center, a great intersection of those things we bundle up separately as art, religion, government, wellness practices like yoga, and science as well.  To do one well, the practitioner must expand across all of them, blending poetry with science, music with spirituality, hospitality with the rule of law, as if reconciling strange bedfellows.
I think sometimes I qualify as an anthropologist.  Some sit in rooms reading books piecing skulls, wrist bones and vertebrae together, and some expose themselves to the ongoing history of the world.  My work as a barman.

Humanity, this to me is obvious, was born with the ability of words and all the gift of communication with language.  It just happened.  It happened instantly, when people became people.  Strange as it might seem.  It's just a talent we have, and we healthily participate in it.  And from the beginning, there was lots of talk.  There was lots of being human.  There was community, there was openness, there were good things. There was talk of health and the sharing of food, to the extent that there was posturing and early forms of commercials, or at least, and better, the documentary, the story.

From the construction of history and politics we know, lots of stuff would have been immediately going on.  Tribal strife, empire's thrust, the confusions of the blending of the various breeds of humanity.  Vercingetorix being dragged through the Roman streets.  Racism, perhaps.  And yet, as any barman knows, all of that easily transcended with any neighborhood discussion, people put together.  The reestablishment of the basic understanding that we are all, quite remarkably, and amazingly, human, with all the gifts.

We deal, we follow, we cope with, we examine the crazy flower of history's doings, the ceaseless flow, one moment, one character, one group, one event ceaselessly flowing on, met by another.  Lincoln's moment, a big one, perhaps an ultimate one the becomes superseded, becoming the assassin's moment of history and the sorrow of the nation.

Friday, November 22, 2013

When I have a strange idea, I wonder how to put it.  It's as if they come as dreams, presentiments.  They come, and they have to be chewed upon, and then they need writing down.  They are thoughts that come one day, then they need to be put away, then slept upon, and then reassessed by the light of inspiration.

There was a time, long ago, when I was approached outside my dorm one night, by a fellow a year behind us basically challenging me to fight.  "We both know who would win," he said, and then he walked away.  I felt I had initiated the whole thing that had led to such an incident with my own fool behavior, and so I did not feel right pursuing it.  And yet I restrained myself, probably swallowed some pride, as he was an aggressive type who thought well of himself and probably talked a lot, all of it without really impressing me he was anything worthy or special.  For a long time I may have regretted not rising to his challenge, and from time to time, I must admit, it comes up in my mind.  How would I handle such a challenge, knowing that it would irritate my mind for years, whereas he would take more confidence from the meeting and go on with his life.  There are few people I do not like, and I might say, he would be one of them, from time to time.  And only because I am a writer, an American humorist, a fan of great people like Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain, I do address it.

It's a common problem of ego.  My deeper thoughts are that really, in the end, none of it matters.  You can tell yourself in your mind, oh, because of this, that happened, and because of that, further things happened.  But really, not much of it does matter.  It's all a great story of fiction that our minds tell back to our minds.

But this is an extremely odd thing for the intelligence to accept.  And because we mark now a strange thing that happened fifty years ago, a terrible event, one finds such things approachable.  What is the meaning of life and of life events, of the things that change us, of the things we wish went differently.

Dallas, November 22nd.  The stupid things of life.  The idiots.  The effect of them.  How to grapple with the fact that that 'leader of the free world,' who pretty much averted a situation of total nuclear war, who was a classy and humorous guy, ended up dead in mid stride and no more of his excellent words about what was happening at present in the world as far as events and worldly powers.

How to grapple with the basic fact of life.  How to accept tragedy?  What is that science, that math, that study of the things we must find to be unhappy and deeply disappointing and tragic.  How do we deal with it, how to digest it all.

What is it?  Is it that there tends to be a lot blustering in our lives?  Doesn't, in hindsight, the whole tale of drama seem a little overblown?

But then, try to be a Buddhist.  Try to say that the Communist world was benign, therefore not a logical object of suspicion, not having committed great atrocities, atrocities that, if you're reasonably lucky, you almost know directly of through a grand old neighbor, that JFK saber rattling was drama, it doesn't hold water.  Not at all.

And yet, the effect is in the reaction.  The reaction to the Cuban Missile Crisis is actually the basic message here, to be cool, to not get overheated into overreaction.  That was the gift of JFK, the 35th President of the United States.  To not get overwhelmed, or carried away with the superfluous, with the ego.

The proper reaction, it seems, is to be calm, and not get overwhelmed or beyond yourself.

That is the ultimate graciousness of the great leader himself, that of Lincoln, that of JFK, to be, even in the heat of things, circumspect, even when the voice tells you to press the button of things like war.



I suppose what's left are things like the words of the man himself.  He sought to defuse the tension of the Cold War.  We all breathe the same air, he said.  We all have the same hopes for our children, we all are mortal, we all have the same dreams.  Which is a pretty deep statement, when you think about it.  He let us see that other people cloaked in some blanket understanding were people just like us.  An insider who included the outsider.


He was, in my mind anyway, a kind man, who liked people, and he had that quality of wit.  Those are the things I find myself most greatly appreciating, his basic thoughtfulness.   And sure, a lot of that entered into the decision making process.  But a lot of that part of him, his aura, if you will, his magnetism, his charm, while appreciated, seems to be practically taken, by the historian, as something beside the facts.  The humor, the good looks, the smile, all of that seems to be finally taken as a pleasant side dish, sort of like Lincoln's charming folksiness, his gift for a story, his clumsy awkward form that somehow sustained so much strength and higher thought and the merging of poetry with public policy. "A house divided," he brought up, out of the good book, applying it, and made it apply like a ruler of truth to the situation.

And in the end, this is the fragile part, the part we cannot protect, the vulnerability we all have, as great as some of us are, as common as some of us are.  "The world will little note, nor long remember…"  The statesman, yes, comes and goes, and makes daily decisions that do effect the world, but a certain portion of that is something like ego, as maybe an Eckhardt Tolle might point out.  Do you really think there's anything in Vietnam that you really can do that is going to make much of a difference?  What comes of it is nothing but a huge tragic costly waste.  The same might be said of the Civil War itself, even if we don't want to believe that.  The world will go about its business, people will be people, economies will run as they want, exploitive as they may be.  Perhaps then it is the ego stuff that attracts the nut job, the lone assassin in his own unhappy world, stuck as he is with his own ego and self importance.

In the end, it's as if we see the humility, the friendly human quality of a 'great man.'  That's what we hold onto and remember, protect, keep safe, cherish somehow somewhere, as if they could be, in a way, part of our own lives, sitting in a room with us.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The profound difference is in understanding that in life as we know it, it's all about making things happen.  Somehow that does not occur to all of us, at least as we set out in life, before we become wiser.  Whatever happens in life, in the world, in this dimension, is made to happen and carried out by mortal beings.  It is not in holding on to the ideal and thinking about it all, but in doing.  This, not all of us understand, immediately, or by falling into bad habit.

This accounts for the victories of life, the relationships of work and love and life, and it accounts for the strange things too, like the crime of an idiot killing a president just because he could, because the individual was alone, no one paying attention, the happenstance of effective mortal equipment, as such equipment necessarily abounds, for good or ill.

The things that happen are the things that happen.  Those things are what we make happen.


I got to work on time.  The busboy, and the waiter were late.  Both left long before I did.  And I had stayed there late too the night before, changing out the menus.  That's how it's been this week.  Myself being the driving force, at least in the crucial set-up and the end.  And so I've been there 'til two, 'til almost three in the morning, even as people were gone by midnight.


There are morals and decency in life, but it is as much a matter of confidently grabbing whatever you can, taking advantage of whatever you can.  The louder wins over the subtler.

Which all makes you wonder, then, about the philosophical, the intelligent cultured renaissance life.  It makes you wonder, about the species, about its fate, about a lot of things.  Far away from Buddha's ficus religiosa, it is the selfish who grab things and hold on to them and then pile more on top.


We are taught to believe in ourselves as made in heavenly image, in God's likeness, a fine creature amongst all the fine creatures living on the earth.  We are endowed with moral sense.  We understand fine things.  We build, we construct, we create.  And in our naivet√© we might believe that what we create will be done well, close to some perfection.  We might think the nuclear reactor will be perfect and working and functional.  But then we realize.  What we do we make with human hands.

I suppose this is why some of us are writers, as if to remind ourselves what a perfect world might be, or how this one is not at all perfect, or about how it really ends up functioning with all the chips falling where they may.  And you're a brave person to do that, I suppose.


I know from practice that this week, unless I get in there and do it myself or be the driving force, things are not going to happen with ease tonight in a certain restaurant.  The bartender, the spark plug, the flood gate, the preventer of chaos.  And if he can do this with calm and good manners and graciousness in this imperfect world, more power to him.

Though I guess it serves him right for letting much slip away.

Lincoln had two pairs of spectacles, i.e., reading glasses in his pockets the night he went to the theater.

Friday, November 15, 2013

If I were to write a short story?
Well, I don't know.  If I were I suppose I'd write one about a group of Lincoln impersonators.  I guess that's the wrong word for them, but ever since Elvis, you know…  Imitators, is that a better word?  How would you fit in a word like 'inspired' and make it a noun to fit them?
What would they look like?  Were would they be?  How did they get there?
I could imagine some of them drove up Eleven Fifteen from Frederick, Maryland, across that great farm country, past the nestled hills just north of there, once you're past the flats, where one day you suddenly saw that it all was developed in an endless tract of townhouses, then you come to an Irish family restaurant with a shamrock and some vineyard and orchards where it's a beautiful stretch.
Maybe some of them came up from Washington, and some of them had worked in various situations, like the restaurant business, or clubs, or maybe they'd worked on the Hill at some point, or even a law firm, found themselves staring into a screen.  They might be slightly disillusioned by now, or some form of depressives, quietly dealing with their own talented psyches being squeezed into progressively weirder situations.  Such that to identify with poor old Lincoln was some sort of anchor.
Like for the guy who drove off the highway in Ohio, was it Ohio, checked into a motel after quitting his job, thinking of ending it all, but then strangely in that motel room thought of Lincoln and all he'd been through and the troubles in Lincoln's own delicate psyche…  The picture of perfect solidity and mental health can be a, well, like Kennedy's picture of vigor and good health, i.e., a bit of lie.
But they'd be guys like that guy who pulled in off the interstate, well, just like Lincoln was himself.  He had that tavern business, after all, a mercantile sort of thing, wasn't it, and it went bust, and left him deeply in debt.  And there was that time he got so melancholy that Speed put him up at his family's house, when Lincoln was barely moveable, just so down in the dumps.  It seems that wasn't the only such episode of that in the man's life.  That time, was it that time, they bled him and made him take mercury pills, dunked him in cold water, as if trying to exorcise a devil out of him?
They'd be guys who'd read Vonnegut at some point in their lives.  And maybe a few of them had given up at one point, and then somehow found that in somehow bringing the great man back to life they would be doing a good service.  What would they do?  Go and talk to school children?  Ride trains?  Mope around in a top hat or lay on a couch reading the Book of Job?  Performance art, of some sort, but, an occasional place to show up at, pretending to belong.
There are conventions of them, I think I read, in that good book by Joshua Wolf Shenk on the guy's Melancholy.  They come in all shapes, colors and sizes.  And maybe many of them feel that they don't fit in anywhere, and maybe particularly not to the times.
At Gettysburg, you really have to pull off the main highway, and get past the ridge line, so it seems, the same ridge that is Big and Little Roundtop, before you can really see the beauty farm land and the battlefield.  The cemetery is there too, not far away from where Pickett's charge reached a fence line by a rock and a tree that's tipped and gnarled and communes with the moon above the rocks it rises above.
What would the Lincoln impersonator's say to each other?  Would there be silence?  Would they speak of different drafts of the Address, or mention how it seemed somewhat appropriate that the old man wasn't feeling well after his trip up there, having a cold, one that colored his feelings about the whole thing.  What would the future for them be?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Now here's an interesting project, Ken Burns having distinguished people reading the Gettysburg Address, each to his or her own style.  Several are atrocious.  David Gregory's is read by, well, David Gregory.  Stephen Colbert's is absurd.  But each reading reveals the affects and ego of the individual, in a way one senses Lincoln's original did not allow.

Having slept on it, and watched a few more readings of the address, most falling in the two minute range, from professional politicians and actors and newspeople, to the amateurs, with a touch of the Shakespearean clown of the comedian, my sense of Lincoln's achievement is confirmed.  What he accomplished in his brief paragraphs reflects his own struggles, and it also presents a test, or almost a trap.  He knew, though he was not a big church goer at all, the words of the Bible, and he would had understood that psychology of Christ's, that indeed, there are 'beams,' or 'motes,' or however you'd want to call the things that get into our 'eyes,' that interfere with our sight.  And he knew, I'd gather, that, as Jesus said, you couldn't help remove the stuff in other people's eyes if you had the same in yours.  And so, oddly, the 'ego-less'--a fair term, I think--or clear-eyed writing of these words leaves some other people caught out in their egos, and they cannot help it.  They don't have the depth, because their own climbs to power have left them with egos that make it hard for them to see.

Having watched the second part of PBS American Masters on JFK, where he runs for the Presidency, it is clear that the man was a political master, a calculator, a shrewd judge, perhaps moreso than a younger man once gathered from reading Sorenson's Kennedy with a bit more glow and illusions on life.  Indeed, growing up, one realizes it all really is about politics, and you have to be on your toes constantly and not thinking of anything but politics really.  Enough with the high ideals.

And yet, here is Lincoln, and his speech.  And from the long lens of 150 years, as it settles, there is that quality, the representation of a life that had its costs, losing his mother early on, not having a good relationship with his father, etc., but that had its gains, gains of wisdom, gains of something we might call clear-eyed, psychologically balanced, a stripping away of ego.  And still, it's all quite remarkable.

People haven't changed. Their egos still come out when they present themselves as who they think they are, as who they are trying to tell us they are, really often quite falsely.  And it makes me wonder.

One hopes that one day the world would be without politics, that we could all agree on some basic things.


To my ear, Lincoln, who wrote every day, practiced a kind of mindfulness.  If he could sit down and write out a thought, a few words, an analysis of things, as if reading from his Euclid, if he could sit and ponder over a word, like the word 'endure,' and what 'endure' really means, both in the abstract and in real world real experience terms, he could  achieve something true.

And I know, back when I was a bartender, that small moment to write really meant all the difference in how I felt and what I could deal with.
It is a corrupting business, the restaurant business, maybe particularly for bartenders.  And because you've put up with it, or fallen in it, or aging in it, people are bound to think you're dumb.   And maybe they are right.  You were stupid to think that it's tasks were situated in an ideal behaved world, and that it would not effect your life outside the confines of its present hours.  You were a fool to think that every night wouldn't have its own complications, finding a full house, drinkers and hagglers at the bar two deep, on a night with only two parties on the books.  It wears you done, it leads you to crave a glass of wine, it leaves you up late calming down, a muscle under your eye twitching, a fitful sleep, a lack of desire to get up when awake.

Years ago I put on a suit.  I was off to talk to the fellows at the Department of History at Georgetown University about entering a Master's Program.  My mistake was thinking that due to my labor's in a restaurant, I was entitled to a decent lunch on a day off, a barbecue brisket sandwich.  Lawrence, the bartender, chuckled, poured me a tequila shot, and there I was, keeping him company the rest of the afternoon.

I wake up and think of the guy sitting with his buddy. They both ordered cassoulet, went out to smoke a cigarette, come back in, food arrives.  No, the guy, we only ordered one.  Okay, fine, I'll eat it, moving over to the corner to keep it in the oven behind the bar.  No, no, I'll take it.  Later at the end of the night another gentleman from a haggling culture takes exception to the second Cotes du Bourg being an '07 rather than the '08 on the menu.  (Mind you, we've been humping since 6:30, one five top strangely wanting round after round of tea, then everyone coming, unannounced, no reservation.)  I'm sent over, as a senior staff, to go talk with the guy.  "Well, if your serious about wine, the bottle should be free," the guy answers to my question of "Sir, what would make you happy?" after he is unimpressed by my offer of a small discount.  Fine, I say.  "This is our first time.  We'll be back," he says going out, palming me a twenty, which I ring up as miscellaneous wine and stick in the cash drawer, sensing the air was getting cold.  On top of that I sold some of the wine we are pouring for tonight's wine tasting, a nice old vines blend from the Roussilon, having opened a bottle since the chef enjoyed it the night before.

And so I sip my green tea, which exorcises the devils from last night out in the wash, the pushing and the pulling.
Yes, but we all know I love bar tending.  I just have to get there.  I work with the best, on all levels.

Monday, November 11, 2013

"Halfway along life's path, I found myself lost, in a darkened wood, assailed by beasts, unable to find the straight path," Dante tells us at the opening of Inferno.  I guess we all know the feeling, from time to time, being lost.

A writer is a person looking for faith.  And worse than believing in "a fairy tale" is believing in nothing at all.  This is the search, to find out what he can honestly believe in.  The task, to take from experience, to understand, to free himself from the confusion.  And so he must reflect upon himself and where he is in life and witness the lacking of faith within himself.

And at midlife, I found myself in a dark place, having personally facilitated a fair amount of bad behavior, having done a fair amount of it myself, the sin primarily of thinking incorrectly, selfishly, in my attempt to diagnose the ills of life and the way to live.  The sins were not intentional, but from being misguided.

Well, well… but we'd have to stop and define sin.  I don't believe that allowing people to get together over food and beverage to discuss and open up is sin at all.  I'd take that to be a good thing, even in many ways aligned with the basic Christian message of loving thy neighbor.

As a professional in the business I had fallen into in order to keep my on with my writing, I was supposed to care about the ins and outs of wine.  I was supposed to focus on salesmanship.  I was supposed to endure and keep the stuff coming, so that eventually people felt pleasure and relief.  There was good in it, I am sure, that of people meeting and sharing, and that was where the happiness was for me.  Coming along with that was some stuff that inwardly made me shudder, perhaps primarily the celebration of the secular world and its culture, its culture of consumerism, pleasure, leisure and a lot of things are not serious.  And when I fell into it, say, celebrating popular music or culture more than it needs to be, there was always a spiritual hangover, a reminder of my not being serious, my times as an idler.  In my prodigal blues, I wished for faith, perhaps in the way the generations who fought in WWII and before were steeped in, like the Catholicism of a New England mill town, or the Protestantism of a college town, or even Transcendentalism.  And somedays reading Eckhardt Tolle sufficed, if not a sifting through of the Lankavatara Sutra.

Sure, I learned about humanity.  I learned about myself.  I learned too much about sad things, like the violence of urban culture, scary things hard to stomach, deeply unsettling things.  And sometimes I would go home and try to wash them away through escapist oblivion, too tired, I suppose, to look at the problem directly of the lack of faith.

Perhaps ultimate realities are reflected in the tradition, the story of the Prodigal Son, who is all of us, or who represents our basic problem of taking what isn't ours, or however you might like to frame it.

Coming back from a visit to the beautiful place I where I went to school I felt something, had sensed that deeply behind it all, behind the science and the classrooms and the learning there was the religious impulse, and feeling it odd that I had fallen away from such things, I pondered what to do.  But was I a believer enough in the Christian story itself to make my fitting in a strong possibility?  Would I have to allow myself to be brainwashed, as that would seem to go largely against my father's Theosophical thinking and skepticism toward things like the show business of Rome?  Could I, for that matter, really be a Buddhist?  Could I turn myself into an academic concerned with religion?  And all the while, the job I was doing, though it kept a fig life of responsibility over my meager life, was unsatisfying in a deeper way, as if presiding over something meaningless, a treadmill.

So I was in some subtle form of pain, and realized I was a person lacking faith, and lost.  I felt stuck, and I felt cowardly.  I was perpetuating worldliness, drunkenness, the lack of answers, the distractions of life.  I felt the need as a sinner to be embraced by God's love, as silly as that sounds.  I felt the need, and in so doing I hoped to understand better the unhappiness of where I found myself, chasing after some meaningless goal, my own inadequacy to address that which I found important.

The problem seemed to present itself in a strange way.  By not having faith in something like the Christian story's specific beliefs, as any modern rationalist might, had my own life become something of a fairy tale, a story I was telling myself, that I could continue on with my job and the place where I was living and it all would work out, something I found increasingly hard to believe in.

Though my father was not a Catholic, and had refined spiritual sensibilities, there was a background of faith he was steeped in, and that seemed to be what my late generation was missing, not encouraged really to embrace a stiff faith.

The idle inconclusive thought of a writer with little to write about.


I wrote a long piece, in novel form, or is it long short story, about a young man going through a spiritual crisis, misbehaving, and utterly failing to comprehend the mild sort of courtship ritual he's in.  As we know from polar bears and the rest of the natural world, that ritual involves careful choice, and so of course might seem to be pretty brutal to some of its participants.  I suppose a spiritual outlook does ultimately color the effort, a kind of very subtle Brother's Karamazov sort of a thing.

But I wonder, who am I trying to impress when I go off to work to a restaurant to tend bar?  Am I trying to fit in with a crowd that tells interesting stories?  Am I subverting my deeper will?  Am I simply earning a paycheck in a lazy fashion typical of a modern slack artiste?  Was I trying to recreate a scenario?

What do you do after messing things up, completely failing at the courtship ritual, when you end up as if you'd gone through some shattering experience?  How do you avoid a French Foreign Legion emotional dead zone, which then itself becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, for then offering nothing of any substance for anyone else, no room for anyone else?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

I often wonder at how the first thoughts are fragile.  Probably because the vessel holding them is fragile.  My first thoughts are ones that acknowledge how hard it is and yet how much an abject failure a life can turn out to be, the disappointments of finding one's own faults, of being stuck with the legacy of a foolish juvenile's sense that life should be of pleasurable experiences.  That sort of stuff as the body rises stiffly and sadly to make tea and breakfast and clean the dishes from last night, recycle a few things.  Well, at least I've made it to a day off.  I guess I'm not doing too badly.  Some foil cuts here and there on the skin, and maybe the depression came of watching a strange movie based on a Cheever short story called The Swimmer, starring Burt Lancaster who's making an increasingly horrifying trip home stopping in the swimming pools of affluent Hamptons-like mansions, being stripped of illusions at each turn in each pool, late after work last night as I cooked rice spaghetti and drank my wine to sooth the hum.

So how to disentangle the thoughts you might have from that sense of a completely inadequate means of making a living, should have been a scientist, one that drags you down nightly into the wine, which is the same sort of pleasure-seeking that got you there in the first place.  Is this one of the peripheral meanings of Yeats' Second Coming, the "rough beast" that slouches toward Bethlehem?  I can't imagine Miss Emily Dickinson feeling so roughly as she cleared away some space to write a line or two.  Pop another astragalus, keep sipping your tea.

But why do the depressing thoughts come on the first day off?  Shouldn't you be happy then, cleared at last on the runway to catch the seeds of musings in bottles?  Why the return of hauntings, as if they too were cleared as the subject does not have to go make a wine tasting or a jazz night and dinner happen, not much to do but brood over a rug that needs the vacuum and the laundry pile?  Fragility of thought, fragility of mind, fragility of body and life's fires.  The illusions lessened, the body feeling punk, no wonder why we're drawn to pictures of Lincoln as he dramatically ages in the course of five years.

What is the wheat to be cleared from the chaff of such, of wishes you'd gotten down on your knees years ago and asked for help.  Some lifting thought on the nature of existence and on suffering, some enlightened transcendent thought that then becomes the guiding light?  When the golden light of evening is higher up in trees of heightened color…

Maybe the point is the symmetrical fragility itself, that each time we write out our thoughts we're making an inner journey quite similar to a Chekhov story.  In writing a poem we are bearing a pain, sweetly, privately acknowledging it, too stoic to share it but on the back of an envelope.


Where is happiness,
nay, I would not know,
and so I am
honestly
your friend.


Perhaps it is, ultimately, the reflexive seriousness inherent in the task of any higher form of communication.  One doesn't write to present a pleasing image on Facebook, but more to address serous stuff, like, say, being an outsider, feeling like you have nowhere to belong.  A Huffington Post list of great literature pertaining to the outsider puts Camus, L'√Čtranger, at number one.  That's where at least the work aspires toward, even if it never gets there, hiding out, not coming to terms with it, escapist fantasy.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

No words will get to paper today, no thoughts about the organic branding that takes time, nor about the meeting place of a bar where a piece of praise was delivered for a bartender's lack of the pretenses kept up.
In my mind, definitely, I cannot picture him sitting.  I picture him standing.  Of course, there is the picture, and he looks fairly relaxed in it, of him sitting in his famous rocking chair, and in it, he looks literary, shrewd, and adversarial, and circumspect, and of course, Irish.  And by the way, if you're tired and in pain, and your back and your lower back hurts and your pelvis is tightening, all the muscles that wrap around your lower spine seizing up, from all the movements of life and interacting with people and turning this way and that, a rocking chair really is quite soothing;  it allows the muscles to massage themselves, that back and forth, and honestly it makes a difference, if you can get into one.  So it is, one of those poignant pictures, when his chair, still with the cushions, is upside down and on a mover's cart, being cleared out of his office.

But one can remember him, well, as he showed up, so young, so tall, so thin, boney, with that very straight back and that beautiful hair, his shoulder blades, back stiff, but his body eased with that magnificent smile, a kind of glow of attention and that real care, that real rapport with people, and a voice that somehow matched, very early on when he was running for congress in Watertown, or Somerville.  There's a famous reporter's line, maybe Mary McGrory, capturing the excitement of seeing this guy walk past, an excited man shouting out something like 'look at him!  he's a purebred,' or maybe 'a thoroughbred,' probably referring the magnificent Irishness, the cleanliness of the man.  And this was back when he was new at it, a relative amateur, but he was so good, this amateur, his amateur made no difference, he just had it.

And that, fortunately, or rightly, is the image we have of him, punching the cold air with his breath and his new ideas, ask not what your country can do for you.  He's standing in his press conferences, hand raised, smiling as he wraps up one thing and asks for the next question, pointing.  There are all the speeches, really, the 'we choose to go the moon in this decade and do the other things not because they are easy but because they are hard,' or, 'in the final analysis, we breath the same air… (I misquote),' or the 'Mr. Nixon and I are not… (rivers frozen in time)," etc.



Some of us aren't meant to sit down, the way our bodies were made.  We're made to stand up right.  And this, I suppose, if you let that kind of a stance unleash itself, it naturally turns you into a teacher, a pedagogue.  Think of great speeches.  They weren't made sitting down, except for maybe Roosevelt, because he had little choice, and even stood too, on his iron braces, supported by crutches and the like.  Lincoln was this awkward towering figure, but when you read him, or his speeches, you feel him standing.  And, like that urban myth, of secretaries with corresponding names, and the same number of letters in their assassin's names and other stuff like that, don't go to the theater, don't go to Dallas, there's this vulnerability that comes when sitting down, really an awful vulnerability come to think of it.  Picture them as bemused as they sit, or eating, or joking with a good friend, or speaking with their wives.

Of course, he was sitting, like the duck.  In that position, he could smile, brush his hair along the way it was parted, wave sort of stiffly, his neck bunched down.  He couldn't talk, couldn't quip or joke in a way anyone could hear, and come to think of it, as far as I know, the very last words he ever spoke, or might have spoken, more or less, even, are not recorded in such a way as to be left to history.

But the power they brought, as they brought it, they delivered it all standing up, tall, straight, unbowed, their voices rising over audiences and minds.

Maybe none of us are meant to sit too long in chairs, upright.  Lincoln reclined on a sofa reading the Book of Job.  Kennedy read in the bathtub, getting his books wet, but the hot water a necessity to keep him limber.



It's not so hard to gather the constant pain he was in, that difficulty of breath weighted down by a serious thing no one else can feel, as here in this picture with the good doctor Calvin Plimpton, President of Amherst College next to him, who was concerned and checked Kennedy's hands for a clue on the Addison's Disease.  Is the knuckle swollen some, indicating an arthritic condition, on top of what had been down with spine, putting plates in, taking them out.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I further ponder the matter of trying to fit the round human beast into the square slot of mass population society.  Commenting on a NY Times piece about a Hemingway, my comment was roundly shot down by the thought that this whole blood type and diet business is "wacky pseudoscience at its worst… Where's the proof," to which I can only respond, "Well, if you're an O, try it and see if it works for you, as I know, on an animal level, it works for me."  (Perhaps it's the great simplicity of it that irritates people.  Need an organ donated?  Don't get it from your sibling with B blood, get it from the African guy who's also O, and that way it won't get rejected.)

Today, I attempted, at least, to return to an old habit, that of getting up without immediately looking at a cell phone's email in box, the news headlines, the texts.  Today, I felt a need to get up, eat breakfast, have some wake up green tea, all the while really trying to avoid the modern genie, even though I was greatly tempted.  I needed to feel again what thoughts were there waiting me to attend them.  I had to listen, I had to let them come, I had to drift a bit, think one thought, then allow it to prompt another.  Why, as it sounds rather crazy?  Well, I felt the need, as it doesn't help to just let them fester, all those thoughts of what you've done with your life, paths not taken, money not invested, time wasted.  The only way to get on top of such thoughts, some of them a little bit dark, is to buy yourself some time to be in the presence, to be, as another  NY Times piece has just amusingly explored, in a state of "mindfulness."

It helped the day before walking through the woods without reaching for my iPhone.  Yes, there are messages I wanted to send, reply, make a call, but since my Sunday night at work had been a mess, and since Monday Jazz promised to be no better as far as the reservation book was showing already, I needed some deep mental chewing.  I needed trees and the light I could find in the woods and the colors and the textures near and far.  It wasn't earthshaking, it wasn't huge, but it was a step.

Though it's viewed as a haven for the less bright, I would argue restaurant work can be complex, rapid fire, perhaps like working a convention floor.  Quick, on your toes, responding, talking, listening, all the while concentrating on the delivery system.  Multi-tasking.  Conversations when you can, checking in with people.  The dance with coworkers, work politics.  Customer relations.  And all of it, yes, you need your time to process, to sweep it all up and put away in balanced cubbyholes.

To continue on with wacky pseudoscience at its worst, to project out of my thoughts, I wonder what relationship the news bears to my situation, my processing of the work I seem fairly adapted to, of how I need to deal with my thoughts, which then sets how I will deal with news national and international and all the accompanying blips and beeps and headlines and mouse holes to wander into.  How does my mind, set in my type O system, process, cope, make sense of?

Well, okay, JFK was O, and he seemed pretty able to get up in the morning and read the newspapers.  He seemed really quite capable, to say the least.  Voracious, he was on top of things, and could say to expert aids, 'hey, did you see that piece,' inferring good pedagogy, a lesson out of a story.  We see him on his toes, magnificently, but also honestly, in his press conferences.  The man could quip, and deliver one liners, quite meaningfully.

But remember, he was very well-read.  He had his books, read in the tub and elsewhere.  He had the long sense of history as a lens, as a way to digest the current blip.



The way we absorb news, are able to absorb news, of course, it comes down who are, the kind of being we are, the way we respond, the things we find important.  I'd gather that has something to do with our chemistry, the way our bodies operate, the way our minds tend to work.

Could one create a theory of how a blood type might take news in, absorb things?

Monday, November 4, 2013

"DC is bureaucratic," a wise man says, who grew up here in a prominent family of intelligent people.  Stifling, he means.  The road map, Ivy League, law school, law firm, etc., it's what's expected of you here.  Don't wander from the beaten path;  you'll disappear, become irrelevant.  " It's different out in Aspen.  You can be who you want to be."  There it's not weird, the being tired with whatever you're supposed to be doing.  Connections are made.  People can do more, be more, branch out, get some respect for what they do, get some help.

But DC?  Nope.  You're stuck in your pigeon hole.  And no one is going to help you gain recognition for doing anything beyond the bureaucratic.

I'm feeling bitter anyway, as I finally apprehend this great truth that I've somehow been overlooking these years here.  The waiter downstairs, who's life is easy, the kitchen right there, opens the door five minutes early for the flood of concert goers attending Dumbarton Oaks concert series.  The youthful guy who manages on Sunday is out of town.  My busboy tonight is known in circles as "Lento Gonzalez," as opposed to his brother "Speedy."  You'll be fine," French waiter tells me earlier, when I tell him it's the night of the concert and we need to be staffed for it.  It's in the waiter's interests that we run with as little staff as possible, not to dilute the tip pool, the amount of tips the staff gains for every shift, day and night, upstairs or down divided by the number of shifts you worked that week.  The Point, it's called, this measure of how well we did in a certain week.  Properly, it is rendered in French, so sounding like 'pwahhn,' with the n silent, sort of like the word for bridge, pont, but with a w sound.  ("C'est quoi, le point?" I mutter sometimes.)  So, I know full well, as soon as I get there, my Monday morning, the day the clock changes and casts us into darkness, I'm being thrown under the bus.  And before I know it, at 5:25, a regular couple, blithe with concert to attend, are sitting at the bar, and so it goes, and by 6:15 the bar is full, twenty dining.  And so it goes.  The beginning of a disorganized ride, a pile of unclosed checks sitting in the darkness by the computer register, glassware, dirty plates, each act not cooperating.


I have a restaurant dream.  I'm supposed to go and informally help out at French restaurant friendly to ours, as if the boss said, 'well, go down and check it out, help out one night, see how it goes.'  I slip in to this restaurant, my dream geography placing it down on M, and I wander in its labyrinths, unsure of where the hostess is, where an office might be to announce myself in, restrooms, dining rooms here and there, staff coming to and fro, talking, but not enough to engage, and so, just as I've slipped in, seeing what it's like, I make an exit, happily, my consciousness saying, 'no, you don't need ANY of that.'  Not that they aren't nice people, the chef there and his crew.  (And oddly, in a second part of the dream, a rat follows me out the door as I exit past a waitress through the outdoor seating, a rat I can't seem to get away from, which then, in perfect English, accuses me of being insensitive toward her...  But that's a whole 'nuther thing for Freud.)  It's enough to make me feel a Fellini moment, one I've never seen, one having to do with escape.

I guess I am hampered by seeing things in too much complexity.  Even if it weren't for instances coming out of past memories.  The many-sided quality to people and things that makes it hard not to be sympathetic to them, for one things.  But generally, something like Hamlet's issue of being, perhaps too intelligent, maybe that's it, or rather, seeing too much, sensing too much.  And after all these years, having gotten nowhere, yes, maybe it's time to see a shrink, to narrow down the complexities and see things simply and clearly, wouldn't that be nice.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

I went to, and left, college under Reagan.  That's when the jobs started evaporating, bled away in trade agreements.  I went out into the world as the guts of American industry began its death spiral.  I watched as the cannibalism started.  Regular jobs left, replaced by those kowtowing to hi tech and the military industrial, software, telecom, biotech...   Bankers raided pensions, people's hopes for home ownership.  Our largest export now, I hear, weaponry.  Schools, the educational system retooled itself as a grim unimaginative factory to keep people up with those countries we'd cut trade agreements with, to eventually compete with the Chinese in their tech sweat shops.  Patriotism led merely to surveillance in a world perfectly suited for it.  My father, before he died, cried at the state of America.  G.I. Bill educated, a deep and firm believer in liberal arts, he understood just as anyone with sense might, details aside.

Friday, November 1, 2013

I guess at a certain point you get tired of apologizing for yourself.  (No one else does.)  I didn't get to go on in academia--perhaps the feeling was mutual--for reasons my father had long grounded me in, reasons alluded to, generally, in the Henry Giroux article below.  And quickly, yes, it is a slippery slope, when you leave that world.  Gone, the time and energy to really read as an intellectual should, for one thing.  Gone, the moral back-up and support of engaged colleagues, campus settings, college towns, along with the explicit sense of the importance of intellectual work.  Outside it, you're another widget maker.

I never made a lot of money, but I earned what I did make, and I put up with a lot, odd hours, waiting on the very low as well as the very high, a subsistence wage, a lack of retirement and a future and the security necessary to begin a family.  I still manage to sleep at night, but I'm in no more pretty a picture than a lot of people find themselves in now.  And before a certain time, or absorbing a certain general sense of things, I felt somehow it was all my fault.  I'd been handed the golden opportunities, and almost willingly tossed them away, almost with the zeal of a religious convert abandoning worldly goods to embrace the poor and low, albeit in a very undramatic fashion.

And over the years, I wrote a book, or at least something that looked like one, even as some took it to be plotless and pointless, no 'there' there.  I wrote a book largely about what it's like to find yourself out of the Garden of Eden--not that it is that--of a life in higher education.  I wrote a piece looking organically, at an experiential level, about the academy turning away, in its comfort, of its moral duties of pedagogy, an old guard preserving it, but amidst a general unstoppable erosion.  I wrote it with little encouragement, and it was a foolish thing to do, as we all know that time is money, and I spent years on it.

After it was done I looked around for some feedback.  A professor who'd been helpful, at least polite, bothering to read the few things I sent him and responding, seemed to lose interest, believing that memoirs should be kept private, not published.  The Kirkus Indie reviewing service I shelled out four hundred bucks for returned with a predictable corporate response as to what might sell, and gave away in its review its blatant bias about the purpose of education as the means for going out and getting a job in the more or less corporate world.  Why should I have expected anything other than that?

There was my father's praise before he passed away, which was all the confirmation over a decent attempt I needed.  Occasional readers would express approval and even sometimes praise.  But you write one book, put it out on Amazon...  Well, who wants to be famous anyway?  There is a narcissism in that anyway, the reckless inward look of the aggrandizing self-promoter.

Far from being welcomed back as something of a moral compass, no, it was obvious that in the eyes of the college I'd graduated from my book was out of the mainstream, therefore not a serious effort, maybe just because it hadn't been published in the mainstream way, the literary agent, the publishing house, etc.  Begrudgingly that I'd published something was acknowledged, as the book club proceeded to go through books feeding the general idea that their effort was mainly to serve the economy, shed light on how a law firm worked, or bow to the book industry itself with its thrillers and mysteries and crime novels.  Not much literary fiction.  And all of it related to the economic world and directly its entities.  My book?  No, too awkward, too weird, and maybe subliminally suggesting 'law suit.'


My reward, I suppose, for thinking outside the box, as a student, and later as a writer (self-taught), was poor grades, largely for thinking too much over things so that papers were late, the subtle insinuation that I was irresponsible, a stalker, a punk, a miscreant, a deviant.  No faculty dining club, a digestif after an impeccable meal with George Kateb (as Pritchard writes about in his memoir) for me, but rather a meal before a shift, reheating something late after a long night, a shift drink.

I did not set out by outlining a critique of modern academia and its corporate influences and the economic claims upon graduates.  I set out to tell a story, as I saw the story develop itself.  Later, if you want, you can take out recognitions of things.  You might see that college males are not the only ones who exhibit callous insensitivity in their behaviors.  You might see an assumption that white European ancestry straight males are suspect of something, blowhards, rants.  You might see the bias towards those who are going to intentionally go out and make a lot of money as being first class citizens, later invited, as lawyers and bankers, to be trustees, no matter the behavior of banks and law firms;  the bias toward a certain kind of intellectual, non threatening to the liberal post modern status quo, but far less adept at being what they are in the end supposed to be, teachers, not lecturers;  the seemingly ever shifting, yet ever static 'liberal' pieties that allow an academic community to ever justify their own place of privilege.

The artist's self-question needs to be disinterested, part of JFK's message at Amherst, if he's to serve society with his poetry, with his questioning of entrenched powers that be.  It was my thought to include Hunter S. Thompson along with Ernest Hemingway (both sensitive guys who can get dismissed as being drunks and louts, and not really the proper subject of academic study when compared to Dryden or Robert Lowell or Yeats or Joyce, even though they too are democrats and literary phenomena) and the treatment of modern reality, the prose pedagogically similar, in that they show the basic truth of life, like the need to preserve the nervous system and the benefit of a glass of wine when things get to be too much.

Among my influences, as it should be for many a writer, Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front.   With that book, of course, it's all caught on camera;  not just the societal assumption taught to good school boys, that it's sweet to die for one's country, the pieties of a teaching class fallen into selfish corruption, but a sustained trip to the hell that comes of it.  But there is that lasting element of being marched out, back and forth in formation, waiting for the real inhumanity to happen.  Here it's the blast furnace of war.  For us it will be trying to live off of Social Security, of jobs that just can't cover expenses, or dropping into artistic oblivion for not selling money-making art in a corporate friendly package.

No one can tell you, if you care about matters of education, that you are not an intellectual.  You will have to go and define it for yourself if you are going to be one, though, of course, it helps to read and be given an education in the first place.


Superfluous sketches:

I don't go out much.  I really can't afford it.  Chinese take out is a splurge, when I'm too tired at the end of the week to get to the grocery store.  I don't have a lot to write about, consequently, no Moveable Feast scene of meeting Pound out at a cafe.  I don't really know any Pounds anyway.  I'm too tired from my shifts anyway, and to go out to a real sit-down dinner is way beyond my weekly income.  Maybe not many epiphanies are had cooking bison burgers and smoking up the kitchen with PBS on in the background.