Friday, December 23, 2016


A friend posts a little piece about Marina Abramovic, ( her new book about making art, emphasizing the importance of artist things like silence, isolation, fearlessness.

Artists are born, I suppose.  They have the innate reaction for the silence, the watching of natural things, experiences of the world around them, stars, streams, moon, sky...  They know the processes of fearlessness, the artist's ways and habits.

But there is fear, of course there is, heavy enough to leave you anxious about everything, falling into a pattern.  Making art assuages that.  The activity brings one back to the purpose, when bravery deteriorates, returns one to simplicity. 

In a  practical striving town of high achievers, the self-comparisons can be difficult.  A sense of shame, to be avoided.

If one worries too much about the reaction others might have to art, then he is underestimating the human capacity to understand, to get the art.   Do other people always get it when you assume the mantle of artistry?  Can they accept your own unique effort, your own special blend, your unique metier?  Will they place you somewhere uncomfortable to you in their own schema of what kind of person you are, at the margins, even as you are a good friend to many people, genuine as anyone?  Credit you deserve for doing the hard work which lets you stay in the game of art, even as it threatens to take over, the time for art, for the normal healthy personal relationships we all need.

PBS show, a timely reminder, Van Gogh's Ear, how hard, in extreme cases, it can be.

In rendering art, in allowing it before people, it probably helps if you don't care about the reaction you might get, if you no longer feel you have to pussy foot politely, fearing something like being shouted down.

Maybe it's helpful to remember, that even if his art had been lost, Van Gogh's letters would be enough, perhaps of equal import.

The beast is nervous tending, anxiousness curbed only through physical effort (and exercise) and through the digestions that making art allows.  

There are people who get Van Gogh.  Good for them and their deep kindness.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

What brings me before this screen...

Write what you know.  That's why I wrote that book, a good friend points out.  I know that I am unable to put her out of my mind, I know I made a lot of mistakes back then, and I know the thoughts of those mistakes come to me steadily, in timely ways, and around Christmastime.  Yes, it was my own lack of confidence;  she was right about that in a lot of ways.  And yet, I resist, because the conventional wisdom does not quite go round the whole picture.  What else was eating at me then...  some sort of stubborn Capricorn thing, and I do believe in the influence of the stars upon us, upon wine as well for that matter.

The fates.  People talk like there are actions, that it's not all to be looked at fatalistically, but I do not know those ways, but rather have an instinct to ride things out, and hopefully be sensitive enough when the moods of people and things change, or open.  It's very hard to be serious  Easier to make light of things, be a comedian, sing like a song and dance man, an entertainer, keeping it light.

What can you say when you would send a book, a written work, to such a person, such a situation.   A Christmas card full of one's own errors, of human conditions.  It comes as a solace when a therapist tells you that at 21 you're still a child, that only by the mid to late twenties does the brain come into mature form.  By that time I was already out working, the dreary sort of job that keeps you in motion, keeps your mind from your own problems and sadnesses with its demand for you to be in the present moment.  Else you'd be zombied out by the thoughts of all the good activities you missed and how even showing up to work you're not fixing anything, but still going down the same foolish path as if it were an illness you could not shake, a state of brain chemistry.

I do yoga now and meditate.  My patience and goodness are largely wasted, but in the blank form of hospitality.

This writing won't do it, it won't fix a thing.  But still, you have to have faith even in the smallest effort, if that's all you can get to, dreary as it may be.  An exercise to go through.   Keep at it, and there will be better days ahead.

And on a cold night there will be some spiritual book to take some interest and solace in, or a way to take good care of the self, through nutrition or otherwise, or perhaps some thought on the purpose of writing in one's own non-commercial way.

One of those little blurbs you find on Facebook, Capricorns put on a brave face.  Bold literary experiments gone awry.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sketches category:

I got back to town after visiting my mom, the drive down, eight and a half hours, straight to work, good thing I stopped for my ritual double quarter pounder below Harrisburg, topping off the tank for the last stretch, traffic heavy in Frederick, the Beltway, River, Mass. Ave., Wisconsin, parked in the lot across from the Gaul, came in, fifteen minutes before the door opened, Christmas lights to great me, the cooler a disorganized mess of questionable stocking (not a single soda water left), get dressed, and then they're on me right at 5:30 while the downstairs guys stand around oblivious, leaning on the cooler, and as I get through my shift and finally done with it around 1, despite being a good host, the inappropriateness of my doing such a job, and how it ties into my psychology, the good unquestioning foot soldier, the one who has a hard time asking for the very basic things of an emotionally supportive life, though of course the customers are, in their own way, to their abilities and to their own adult responsibilities and attention spans for such people as I, helpful, and the busboy is good, even left to dangle as I am tonight, with the wine tasting, the twelve mom's in the back room, the bar full, regulars... the entertainer.

But yes, really, what am I doing here in glorified lackey land, the educated educator manqué, who does not now how to fit in, and again, getting ready for work.

And the recurring memory, to exorcise or exercise, of the pretty hostess from Chicago, many years ago, waking next to her after a Friday night shift, and having to go in to do the hard long Saturday brunch turnaround, she whispers, push, and my wildest fantasies are coming along, but the clock is ticking, and after only a brief little while, I have to go off dutifully to that lousy shift, people on you from the door opening til the relief...  The older guy, coming in for "coffee," but in addition, an "elmer," meaning Budweiser, and soon enough, "a 'dura," a shot of Herradura tequila, up at the bar, while the families and nice couples go past, down the step into the dining room.  And all the years I wasted there, the original Austin Grill.  What a lovely person she was, but I messed that up too.

What do I want, what are my needs...  What did I want to become?  I wanted to be a writer, sure, but how do you do that?  How do you do that, but by writing?

I liked the people, I liked the socializing, but to the heart, it was visible, "I don't want to be doing this."  I don't know how else to put it.  I wanted a scholarly life.  Sure, some exposure to humanity, but not the full on, do this particular job to try to eke out a living.  Was it that I felt bad for all those people who sat at the bar, publicans, sinners, drinkers, gluttons, working people as we all must work, the addicted, those lacking in faith and a sense of God's love for His creatures, in need of comfort.  And if I quit, having had to, burned by being too close to the fire, I'd then become a voice of reason.  Calm in the storm.  Of faith.

And simultaneous, you realize your own susceptibility to the problem of a physiology set-up for the disease that is manifested by drinking and cured through sobriety and proper nutrition.  And only you yourself can do this for you.  But after being taken as a wine expert, professionally, where does that leave you, you ask yourself.   What would I do for money, for a living?  How would all this not be construed as a major error on my own part.

You want to get down to work, but what work?

It wasn't all necessarily me.  The job, in other words.  A poor choice in a profession.

After which, you want to hide out.  Meditate.  Privacy.  A sense of shame.

It hurts, not having a social life, waiting on people.  What they say about waiters is that they are not living their own lives, as if they weren't trying.  And this may be true, in many ways.

And Christmas time, when you think you'd grow closer to meaning, accepting the job, more meaningless, more an absolute waste it appears to be.

Another sketch:

writing, the dirty sport...

It's late, it's raining, it's the end of a Sunday night, and one heads to the Safeway, for protein and supplies.  Epsom salts, mozzarella of different kinds at a good price.  1 AM, busy at work from the start, set up what one could.  In the aisles, brightly lit.

Through checkout, the gentleman at lane seven counter, put your selections on the conveyer belt, put in your phone number, he scans the bar codes, then back out into the rain, just above a mist barely, enough to make you wet.  A DC Police small SUV up ahead, an officer with someone, backing the guy under the awning of a men's clothing shop good value chain store.  And the guy has been beaten up, in a way one has not seen, this is not movie make-up, black eye, scratched, bruised, bloody, puffy, there, seen in a quick glance.  The guy stands there, oh well, just another day.  He's homeless, looks like, once decently bred, and now out in the night, beaten up, standing there, now oblivious to his own fate.  Brutal scabbed wounds, and he's just standing there, as it shrug, that's life.  His clothes, his cooperation with the police officer.

One gets the groceries back to the shop.  Prepares for the final leg back to the apartment.

That scene from Last Tango, Brando, in the news.  Even as a kid, even thirty years old and a kid still in a lot of ways, there was that deep gut reaction, this is fucked up.  The gut, this is very wrong, look at her reaction.  Very wrong, very weird, very unhappy, very sad.  Even a dumb kid, never seen it before, not coached in anyway, if anything coached to see the film as a work of art all the way up the end, a lesson, Brando character dying, shot, going out onto the balcony to look at the rooftops of Paris.  Endured to the end, but that scene staying with you.

And if you came up with that, saw that, a rape in film, then maybe the rest of your reactions weren't so bad.  And that girl you met, when you were young, the one you think about, and all your mistakes
therein, well, maybe it was the same good kid, sensitive to such things, like I suppose wild animals are, hurt by slights, charmed by friendship and smile and play, but it hurts, still it hurts, all your reactions...

But all I've done in adult life, seems to have been a great mistake, following upon the ones made in college, the bad track record with a person of opposite sex of mutual like and esteem, the mistakes of misreading, of missing, of being stupid...  Very very very stupid.

From tomfoolery they build and they branch into new mistakes, opportunities already gone, fading away, until you have no life, really.  A Hamlet Buddha, a guy in a restaurant.

Kabir's poem speaks to the deeper reality.