2 or 3, in a series of essays on what’s what! Big Bear, 7:32 am..at the house. Puppy peed on the carpet by the bed. I was out here trying to come up with something critical for school..to write about. It’s always like that, I guess, you need something, and right away you get it..He gets it! Earlier, I was looking out the window at the high hills under clear, pre-dawn skies..I don’t really notice them anymore. Still dark, I was sipping, by gulps, out of the cup, black coffee (cup says I’m the WONDERFUL DAD or something like that). In the twilight, I perceived the hills as though they might be solid dark clouds forming, as dense as the earth himself. Well, I guess that crossed the threshold into poetry. Sorry, I didn’t mean to go over that line. I’ve said elsewhere, everything is poetry, poetry is everything..just a question of if it’s good or not. Meanwhile, at least the cats are fairly consistent in their use of the cat-box, and that makes life a little more bearable when puppies go berserk. They’re good at laying around, cats are, and so I am, too. Cats are my model for clean behaviour. They have to be fed every hour on the hour; and they produce feces and urine, also, at regular intervals. Well, I knew I needed something for a critical paper..is it an amoeba or a placebo? (This seems salient.) My biggest fear, always, verging on genuine terror is I have nothing left. It’s always like this for the longest time until a superior, or at least equal force kicks loo=se the inertia. Then art can happen. Again.
Now that we got art stuff out of the way, let’s be serious for a minute. What is the value of time? yours, mine, ours. No man is an island. This works in secular philosophy and literature; as well, in theology. I’ve liked to be an island, from time to time, writing poems in the sand, or use it for a big canvas, sketching likenesses of ships passing in the vast expanses, billowing clouds of smoke..to express, –what? and for whom? I tried it for brief periods, taken in big chunks, over stretches of time (we’ll get to that, perhaps). Why did I want to be that, an island? Repeatedly! Because I’d had it with people and the whole bit about the social contract! they were always breaking their end of it, and the result, or outcome at the end of it all was we – me, my family, my self, and Eye, –Ay! ay! (oy) – had to accommodate the bureaucrats, and whims of their clients far beyond the limits of that social contract I spoke of. There was no balance, no compassion. In other words they overstepped their bounds! and onto my toes, my artist-poet toes. And they’re very sensitive, those toes. And who did it, who did that to me? Those shmoes! They have their little chores..to doo (them bureaucrats); and without us poets, they’d be out of a job..Boo-hoo!
It all started when I was a kid and fell in love with my nurses after the surgery to see if it was cancer, or not, one of my earliest memories (I still have the scar). I was 3, something like that..maybe two-and-something. It was a wonderful room across the bay, full of warm sunlight in the morning..and two nurses to play with. The feelings I had for them are impossible to describe (I can still sense their nearness). And there’s this little thing called sin. Another more specific legal term for that is trespass, “..forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” That narrows it down a bit. Here, I am getting a funny feeling I get when I am at a crossroads of contemplating an act of sin (working very hard, in this case, writing a paper that, finally, may not meet the given academic guidelines..pass the mustard). There is a ‘funny’ sensation it catches in my stomach; it is not unpleasant, quite the contrary! but something just doesn’t feel right. I desire to do a thing, I am in the contemplative stages leading to the actual doing of it; and the blood runs ice cold in my veins..are they my veins? I T is in this vein that we perceive we have a conscience – how convenient is that? Milton Berle, once, –or was it Marlon Brando? anyway, one of (them) was questioned closely about it, a grilling, in fact, on the matter of conscience, by LAPD Detective Joe Friday, temporarily in New York investigating a charge being pressed by Sid Caesar and his people, that the main suspect was stealing his material (in a mock-up of DRAGNET..including a dream dictated dance-sequence, and the whole she-bang). To the question of conscience, Berle, it was Berle! he replied, “Oh, that! I had that taken out when I was a kid!” Mr. Television may have invented TV..but sin got made long before that. Sin is no joke. And if not addressed, it eats at the soul like a cancer..which is a pretty good analogy, actually. Sin, as well, is a terminal condition, that leads to judgement, death. There is a remedy for that; however, I am experiencing that adrenaline injection that precedes the act, against God, against my brother..professor. This is a school paper, dammit, not a sermonette. So, to the business at hand.
When I was a kid, before the public school day began – the earliest introduction to our institutional way of life – I’d go on early morning fast-walks, sometimes, with my mom, and her friend Betty..Betty Bullock. She’d show up early, like SIX O’Clock, 5:45-ish, all raring to go. Often it was very foggy; and chilly! We lived over the hills in the back of the San Fernando Valley, so it was not uncommon. In fall there was fog. I was always inna fog. Betty was a part-time lunatic. (More on that later..perhaps.) After the walk I’d have breakfast, like French toast with maple syrup, and bacon in long, crisp strips..like at the KIT-KAT KLUB..or ‘Paris,’ –couple local Hollywood joints that wove tangled webs, and ads, in the LA TIMES, infamous scab-sheet for the southern basin..in the ‘Entertainment’ section. (Later, ?talents, like Bruce Springsteen, were to emerge from the local music industry swamp, post-classic rock era, creating a purpose for people like daily columnist penny-a-liner Robert Hillburn, –to write about them in articles and reviews, and create fake waves of hysteria about their keen social relevance with their poetries, and all, exciting stage chemistries and electrifying audiences, etc..and so on (perhaps more later..however, this: Given we had the Rolling Stones, DOORS and FREE, etc., etc., was a so-called ‘artist’ like Bruce really all that essential? did the title, artist, get created just for him? but this begs the question.)
So we’d be out walking, in zero visibility, and the icy chill on bare flesh would flash veins and arterial road-maps standing out red and purple against our pale, white legs, and arms, amid the..fog! Betty chain-smoked Pall Mall’s and was a talker..she couldn’t stop, everything,EVERYTHING! in each and every day was some kind of miracle. I think she got more like that the longer she self-withheld her prescribed medications, and went in cycles that soared higher and deeper, swinging wide, and then narrow until it became ripe for my dad, a local pastor, to give her a ride back to the big place in Camarillo, for some certain restraint and personal quiet time, with the experts..not sure what that all entailed; with the benefit of a ready media culture, supplanted by a wealth of personal experience, gained since those days to fill in the grey areas, it probably looked like this..you come out of your personal room, with an escort, and down the hall passing a man and a woman having a quiet discussion you can almost make out, get to the dispensary and are handed a cup and a pill under the window, and your day begins. In a worse possible scenario, they give a shot of thorazine to the butt; or in a way worse one, they place the rubber bone between your teeth, and administer the electrical currents..not so much fun as the currents that pull you in and out amongst the rocks with the swells, and their hosts of creatures, staring out, just a bit away from the white sands at Laguna’s shore, buttressed by a natural wall of solid rock, supporting PCH up high, looking back down on the tides, yonder; as drivers drive by..Divers’ Cove, they called the place. I think Betty had a deeply ingrained artistic temperament. And that was why her and my mom got along well. Her husband’s name was Bud Bullock, and something they did together, as a couple, was scuba-dive. I once saw them in the trunk of their car, when they had just got back from a drive to the ocean for that purpose, the uh, um the ah..tanks! You’re welcome. Anyway their marriage, as well, went against the rocks, at some point, and Betty moved to Laguna Beach near those very rocks..living with her mom. I visited her there, once, she was ironing something when I came in, I don’t remember what, I had a lot on my mind, at the time..somewhere around midnight (Whole Lotta Love was playing on a radio).
Art is a thing it’s like Star Trek, “There’s a thing out there, Bones..” So it is with art, one can just drop a name, and it conjures up a whole slew of associations..a name like Luis Bunuel, Or Jorge Luis Borges..or even, JORGE WASHINGTON! on his horse singing the Horst Wessel song..like a good nazi, a hoarse nazi..from shouting slogans in the streets.
But again, what’s the time worth? Yesterday, for example, I’m downstairs, kissing the wife Goodbye! off to work, and she says, “You’d better get back up there before the dog gets your breakfast. I left it on the counter.” How long’ll that take? (I wondered) And so, just like in Star Trek, the dog is in the kitchen, probably, reasoning in her mind, “There’s a thing..up there.” (It’s probable.) So I go..up there, with a certain expectation of a particular outcome, walk right in the front door and sure enough, here’s the dog, looking at me..a little weird, in fact, it seemed to me. Stepping smartly, I move along the counter, past the small-size sink – that’s a bit of a problem, in itself – and come to the plate sitting invitingly there in front of the coffee-pot with a piece of French toast on it, a little evidence of butter, and maple syrup, present..another glance at the animal, she is sitting, looking out the door. The moment of suspicion has effectively passed. Marxist economic theory aside, I quickly ingest the egg-impregnated and hot-grilled sourdough single slice of French toast lying tranquilly on the plate for an indeterminate space of time. But then, along comes this thing humans have called
which happens, also, in time; and so I imagine, –?What..what if there was more than one piece of toast on that plate before I got upstairs? Mary usually serves me two. So I go alongside and smell her breath..and, sure enough! I can smell the maple syrup, Gag! A tune comes to mind, You Only Live Twice, sung by Nancy Sin-atra, –or so it seems, –original! and with that, I Pull an eye-booger out of the cat’s eye, sitting here beside me on the couch. He always gets them, it, –he gets it! His ears, eyes, nose, lips and –toes! (some of them) are pink..like imaginations. So when we set our imaginations to sin, we get what we get. You get what you get..and you don’t pitch a fit. But to cases. I have made the honest? effort to bring all of the topics together under a big tent..in terms of poetry..big poetry, big tent. Because if we haven’t got our poetry, what have we got. (ZERO)
Zero. Ken Nordine, Mr. Son of Word Jazz talked about it, numbers, and the guy who invented ZERO “Think of it..nothing, NO thing!” And then he expounds on that, taking us to the usual Ken Nordine place (where they put the rubber bone in your mouth..Nordine, the golden-tonsiled voice behind all your commercials, LEVIs, phone company, etc., etc.). Another art time-and-space cruncher was a little film back in the 60’s called WHY MAN CREATES. Since I’ve seen it a few times, it’s less special for me, but it does a nice job of looking at things, things of the ages, starting at the stone age, skipping like a stone, over the advent of ZERO, la Age D’or, until it gets where it gets to be all about media, computers, and their various arrays of numbers, phone numbers, etc., filling our lives, our heads, –Confessions of ___ __ ____, until there’s no space left for anything else but coded storages of information held by the state inside the pyramid, for all its worth, discardable at the instant it’s conceived (here is where there needs to be abortions..of data). Art is an especially onerous topic in the aspect of what’s more important..to study creativity, or create? Must they be taught the social contract of the Sohoans? More significantly, must they embrace it..them? But this takes me back to the beach, and this island, that, I am, –carving my formulations in the sand, with a stick, or a barnacle, then in no time, no time at all in come the tide..you can set your watch to it. Is it so different, really, being the artist alone in society? (versus the desert isle)..like in “The Gold Rush” dream, waking dream, in which, in a brief moment, cannibalism is contemplated (on ‘Charlie’). .in all its hideousness (with a bit of comic relief). Cut to:
The Soho Opening! A platter of cheeses, some krackers..and a couple glasses of wine per attendee; unless one can, successfully..palm the bottle!
Mom passed away. I sang to her The Old Rugged Cross as she went..I think she heard it. She taught me everything I knew about art. My friend, too, passed away, months before that. He taught me most of what I knew about friendship. We were best friends..him and me; and Mom..we were all artists, each with our own peculiar strengths, together, balancing like squirts of oil paint on the pallet. Steve kept everybody’s satellite-dishes sorted out, if there was problems, Steve was there. He knew everything about everything! Then, I was spending a lot of time near the ocean, taking care of Mom. I had what turned out to be the last meal, with Steve..homemade pupusas, the marinated cabbage stuff that goes with..and salsa! the whole nueves yardas. I think, then, there may have been a little ice cream, following the main course, a wine ice cream recipe of my own invention, utilizing a dessert wine of Hungary, Tokaji, created from grape of an exclusive region one place in the world..in the plain at the foot of the Carpathian mountains, that enjoys a long growing season before the cold of winter hits. A rare delicacy! soaking in some dates, particularly sweet dates! medjules, and mashed together with some fine vanilla. Ice cream. We always traded cooking secrets, and created stuff together, steve,STEVE! and me. Steve was a wonderful friend. The best! That afternoon, he had made a point of getting together, he came to me. He’d recently been in an automobile accident, that left him with much pain, and very stiff. And after our meal, he said “Can I ask you a favor?” “Sure.” “If something happens to me will you take care of ‘Eli?” (Steve’s cat) “Of course.”
I came back up to Big Bear from Oceanside that week, after a few months had passed, and put the finishing touches to a poem about Russian stuff, and seagulls, and the pier..ICE STATION ZEBRA, From Pacific Beach to Ice Station Zebra. Poet stuff. I emailed the ditty to Steve, for his comments and suggestions, as usual..and didn’t get a response. Not usual. The next night he fell on the floor. Done. His cat (now my cat) probably was in a panic. No one came until the next day. His neighbor, and friend, found him, still, on the floor; and the cat ran out the door. I hadn’t visited him in three months. I was tired from spending all the time at Mom’s, helping her..time is a funny thing. You can make the Mona Lisa with it, or you can paint a soup-can. And then it’s done. DONE. After a while you don’t care so much, when you notice there’s blood in the feces; but then, later, you might. Steve gave some of his nice artifacts to me before he checked out. But I think the nicest of all was the gift of a cat..the gift that keeps on giving.
Time to empty the catbox (consider the Source).
ps: To one of my poetic submissions, Steve once responded, (something like): Why all the hate? Say something about the goodness of God. I miss Steve. Eli will always be Steve’s cat..because I supplied him that cat. (Rather, I persuaded him that the neighbors didn’t want the cat anymore, had evidenced no interest in said cat, made no claim to the cat, and that he, Steve, should not fret himself over any moral issues attaching to the notion that he would be alienating Eli’s affections from any person, or persons residing in that former household of his origin..and it was cold out there! with snow on the ground; and Steve had a real nice wood-stove in the living-room! for him, and da cat..watching the snow, and T.V.)