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Grabbing Another Fistful Of Fire Ants

27 Oct


O Street Studio


Martine—we had a vicious good time at your dinner party Saturday night. I was a dundering idiot with only a handful of one line zingers to my credit. 

Particularly liked the one about zeros not being worth as much as they used to be worth, and...yeah if we were all the same, we'd ALL be fighting for the right to be ourselves. End laugh track.

My own conflicted nature always rears its ugly head in these freewheelin' social situations where I set out to accomplish one thing and something else entirely unfolds. It’s quite difficult for me outside my own home sanctuary to remain laid back for any amount of tidy time. Like too much of a good thing I tend to find a way to be uncomfortable. Or impatient. For example. Due to the undetermined focus of our "professional" relationship, and some relentless competition with your love life, I found myself drawn into some frantic mode of “auditioning” for some "ephemeral" part in who knows what by the time the night kicked into overdrive. It felt silly and abrasive at the time, but I just carved out more of it as the night wore on.

Losing what little traction I wandered in with, I simply could not escape this compulsion to reveal more of the toothier "edges" of my "unbridled" personality, fast and without genteel context. Now, I don't feel special in terms of “genius” or “depravity”, but I do feel like I have operated under some rather interesting biographical circumstances which account for those nuances which of course can be both charming or boorish, depending on the color of the paint on the walls, and which for some stupid reason I think you should know about me as a quiver in your arsenal of representation, should this posture hold up under the weights and measurements I am piling high, like so many Philip Guston boots. The backstory hook, of course, is where the Francis Bacon's red meat hangs.

Standing out from the crowd requires a fetishistic story. At 52, I question if I can still depend on this "uncollected" story in any sort of effectual way, or whether time has truly passed me by. You hit it on the nose. I guess I AM a “somebody done me wrong” song, not by choice, damn it, because I seriously loathe whiners but I recognize that I am easily identifiable by these petulant thrusts of desperation. But who hasn't been done wrong on some scale? This scathing need to scratch and claw the invisible walls of my own bustling spirit just to remain “authentic” instead of consistently losing ground to somebody else more delicious and deserving than I am has conditioned me to calm these disruptive urges by imposing a state of constant work from which to redeem myself from these demons of fluster and failure, past, present and future. Translation: relaxation not related to work is the tool of my enemy.

Always competitive with no one in particular, but always self-manipulated by a reactionary need to fit into the social boat without making oafish waves, nevertheless I almost always find myself the contrarian, and with drink comes sinus roars and tinitus crickets leaving me near deaf except when I capture every syllable known to man and angel in a whiff, and the tendency to mumble or slur the beginning and ends of my words, except when I am in high boisterous elocution (the preacher’s spirit), another artifact of thick-tongued nasal and sinus infraction. You must notice how painful it is for me to relax. I am not cool, never have been. Even in my most self-assured times, I am a withering dandelion in a constant state of internal strife. Neurotic to the core, headstrong as a drove of blue oxen. A terrible combo.

Just for kicks, let’s try this Ray Davies lyric on for size:

          You've been sleeping in a field but you look real rested  You set out to outrage but you can't get arrested  You say your image is new, but it looks well tested  You're lost without a crowd yet you go your own way  You say your summer has gone  Now the Winter is crawlin' in  They say that even in your day  Somehow you never could quite fit in  Though it's cold outside  I know the Summer's gonna come again  Because you know what they say  Every dog has his day  You're a misfit, afraid of yourself, so you run away and hide  You've been a misfit all your life  Why don't you join the crowd  And come inside  You wander round this town like you've lost your way  You had your chance in your day  Yet you threw it all away  But you know what they say  Every dog has his day  Look at all the losers and the mad eyed gazers  Look at all the looneys and the sad eyed failures  They're giving up living 'cos they just don't care  So take a good look around  The misfits are everywhere  La la la la la la  You're a misfit  Afraid of yourself so you run away and hide  You've been a misfit all your life  But why don't you join the crowd and come inside  You wander round this town  Like you've lost your way  You had your chance in your day  Yet you threw it all away  Now you're lost in the crowd  Yet, still go your own way  This is your chance, this is your time  So don't throw it away  You can have your day  Yes it's true what they say  Every dog has his day

So Martine, dear and delicate friend, what am I grabbing for with this dweebish confessional? Well I suppose, Dylan's piece—IS YOUR LOVE IN VAIN—the song we played at our wedding, summed it up rather well, but despite those whizzing late hour best intentions we four stomped all over the final track because yes, the tenor of the night had certainly shifted, so the song fell sonorously flat on ears and fears alike...

          Do you love me, or are you just extending goodwill? Do you need me half as bad as you say, or are you just feeling guilt? I've been burned before and I know the score So you won't hear me complain. Will I be able to count on you Or is your love in vain? Are you so fast that you cannot see that I must have solitude? When I am in the darkness, why do you intrude? Do you know my world, do you know my kind Or must I explain? Will you let me be myself Or is your love in vain? Well I've been to the mountain and I've been in the wind, I've been in and out of happiness. I have dined with kings, I've been offered wings And I've never been too impressed.

The last verse doesn’t really apply but here it is anyhow:

          All right, I'll take a chance, I will fall in love with you If I'm a fool you can have the night, you can have the morning too. Can you cook and sew, make flowers grow, Do you understand my pain? Are you willing to risk it all Or is your love in vain?

Yep, Zundmanus, it’s like this. I’ve been reaching for the stick of fire my entire life. And rising up with a fistful of fire ants instead. Sure, we can be friends. I’d hate to lose you to the exquisitely balanced noise in my head.

But in a specific sense, I’m just not sure you are up to the task of managing my so-called career. I’m an awkward intelligence. You’re the pride of the party in the next room, a political maven who chases the next march, the next hero, the next will of the people. That’s your whipping post., your crucible, your bounce and your beat. I’m a two-fisted thumbwrestler dodging the heat. Or a horse thief.

Is this a bitchy kiss-off letter? ABSOLUTELY NOT! 

No f*cking waaaaay. I’m just schlepping around on the hoof of a writerly obsession after a strong and intoxicating prowl. 

          "Two by two he sent them out One to euphoria, one to disease For the earth gives no pardon To a nation on its knees..."

There’s no shame in sorting out conflicting interests, curtain calls, and the sticker shock of bold reality as it tightens its noose around the neck of our greatest laid plans. It’s the jailer called the nick of time we must impress. There’s you. There’s me. There’s a rope and a tree. So let’s be honest. My own need for a strong support pivot trumps my need for gesticular friendship, not because I have a surplus of friends, but because I rarely have any, and I am far too weary of being a voyeur to all manner of things in other people’s lives to mistake the differences at this late hour of my seating.

But plainly, I must build a platform from which to explode past all this garbage of soul. My own platform. Even if to encourage my own hanging. Not one among many. But many within one. The absence of this platform is a crippling horror to me, so I need to regain my focus again. With adaptive joy and rippling elation, I can probably do without that coveted niche in the social sphere, if that is the answer to my riddle, but ONLY if I cogently embrace an affirmative exile to the rigors of mundane studio life, completely and without regret, in an unaccommodating, isolationist exile concerned chiefly with the redeeming and compass solitude of work, turning my back to the cheers and jeers of an imaginary public. Yawns for the big whoop...

In any given scenario I’m that determined. I’m that jealous. I’m that vain. But I’m just as easily none of those things. All vigorous storms of personality are complex forces whipping around inside the skull of the dull facade. Grand schemes are fabulous rudders but are as toxic as jet fuel if left ungirded. If I am to perish in a frothing, tortured capitulation to society, I’d prefer to do so in the “act of working” rather than trapped in an inscrutably scruffy “act of socializing”, or as Neil Young might say, “It’s better to burn out than it is to rust.”. 

I blow. It’s what I do. Sometimes it’s a trumpet, To my sweetie, often a soft kiss. Sometimes I blow nothing but chunks. 

Splatz against your radar? I hope so. 

Are we tried and true friends, or partners on the plunge? Are we tied to rote rituals or do we demand a stake in the results? Is there anybody out there who can cut to the quick and tell me who I am, and not who they want me to be? Apparently, I’m just not ready for the ploughing. I need better, more intense or relevant work. I'm not interested in stringers. I want the big show. I'm not some dark soldier lying in wait to ambush the bride, but I am never far from frayed nerves and the panic of having failed the potential I was once certain was mine to exploit as warranted by my birth. Yes, MY BIRTH. And subsequent run of those lands of my forefathers, masquerading as a fool on an errand to explain time, and time alone. (Now that's a super-sized dollop of artistic arrogance if you're looking for one.) 

I need a reality check. With lots of zeros.

Good luck with the interview, Martine. Didn’t see Zool, sadly. He didn’t call. I figured he’d changed his mind, having read a few more lines from the Cull, and I waited too late to call him. We’re deadbeats at a political rally anyhow...

As always, 


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"Ignorance and virtue suck on the same straw. Souls grow on bones, but die beneath bankers' hours.""