Category Archives: Love

To Learn The Science Of Naming In Today's World Is Vicious

art-science
Art and Science
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I saw the seven words, then it finally registered with all the synchronicity of a lighted odometer turning over from all nines to all zeroes. This was it! The riddle had been solved! In ill-considered black and white here before me, written three days earlier, on my mother’s 48th birthday was the culminating stroke of this freaky name-change operation thing I had charted for months with soft sell handshakes and strange grimaces to any new person who happened to meet me.

And I took the name Gabriel Thy...

The Howell House was clean and active, even upscale I suppose one could say, secure and nearly two-thirds geriatric. My mother lived four floors above me up on the sixth floor of the 18-story building. She was on staff as the senior citizens coordinator and bookkeeper, and I occasionally helped her out with some of the more confined and colorful patrons doing odd chores for them. I was anxious to tell her of my discovery, although I could hardly expect her to understand the impact this fresh twig of myth and reality would have on me, Richard, the eldest of her seven children. It was her birthday and we were to have dinner together. I was bursting with excitement but I was understandably challenged by a mother's sense of her own naming rights—to bring the gift of reason to the dinner table that night.

How would my family, particularly my mother react to this news, a most suspicious tale ringing with tremendous religious overtones, or as others might prefer, smacking of superstitious or worse, some kind of dangerous demonic affiliations? Of course many people have changed their names with no other purposes other than enhancing one’s business, hiding an ethnicity, blending in, or sheer simplicity in mind.
As it was written on the page, the name—Gabriel Thy—was not given but was taken. This seemingly minor detail concerned me for a quite a while, not in a truly bothersome way, but as a nuisance, like a flapping scarecrow in a field of errors. Having taken this name was it no longer a gift? But when someone gives you a nickel, don’t you take it and perhaps slip it into your own pocket? Such were the subtleties of bible and literary scholarship, and so it was with my own problematic gestures.

I was thoroughly bewildered. The name was certainly an odd one, a very special one. I liked it, approved of it, but without a doubt it certainly had a very pretentious ring to it. I was not at all certain I in good faith could take it. And what would I do with it? The cornpone religiosity, the in-your-face God-component of the now prophetic name-change operation, self-fulfilling and otherwise, was obvious to me. But I was sure others would laugh me right off the sidewalk. What about those who already knew me as RSN—a right interesting vintage acronym already, particularly when pronounced Risen or risin as in...Christ is risen! How would my family, particularly my mother react to this news, a most suspicious tale ringing with tremendous religious overtones, or as others might prefer, smacking of superstitious or worse, some kind of dangerous demonic affiliations? Of course many people have changed their names with no other purposes other than enhancing one's business, hiding an ethnicity, blending in, or sheer simplicity in mind.

Having finished with ecclesiastical literature, about this time I had also finished reading, was presently reading, or would very soon be reading the herded vapors of Gide, Camus, Sartre, Kierkegaard, Miller, Darwin, Kerouac, Nietzsche, Castaneda, and Douglas R. Hofstadter, author of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, A Metaphorical Fugue on Minds and Machines in the Spirit of Lewis Carroll, the latter, a landmark ransom for me, among others. But I would not wholly give up the ghost. I clung to every shred of hope massaging my investigations that God would clear me for landing his understanding, that each and every one of the moderns were wrong in their denial of deity, dead wrong in their intemperance in disparaging the creative power from without, even as they worshipped the creative power within whether it be DNA or environmental advantages. Time and time again I found the writers complaining not against Christ but rather against the wretched incarnations of the church, its scavengerlike methods poisoning their minds against all of the burlier forms of theology and the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jesus of Nazareth. Still I persisted just as I persist today.

And by no stretch of time or imagination was this an easy task to discharge, seeing as I knew almost no women at the time and had little coin with which to persuade others that this was on the level, was no prank, no plot to appear artistic and sublime, nor merely a passing fancy. Yes neighbor, I was feeling tragically symbolic, alone but for the voice of God resounding in my head, just as intricately wrought analysis of my daily experiences had led me to belief.
I don’t remember my mother’s initial reactions to my telling the tale of the harbinger bringing forth her son a new name. Not then, not there. She in all likelihood, since I don’t specifically remember her response, sighed and said something along the lines of, “That’s interesting, son,” while thinking to herself that this was just a passing artistic phase or something or another and to follow form she’d share no words either of encouragement or of any personal horror. She’d always thought of herself as somewhat of a mystic, but was not easily persuaded that any such thing would rub off onto her children. So I use the words "not then, not there" simply because there was no mindjarring quarrel I recall from that Sunday night, and shortly thereafter, speaking both epistemologically and chronologically, things begin to shift into place with great importance.

The name was mine to take. That much was had been chanced upon, had been written, had arrived in a happy circumstance. There was no doubt in my mind that this was living theatre, that I had been given an emblazoned word of prophecy in Corpus Christi, and it was fulfilled here in Atlanta because I had stayed the course. But I also intuited that there were certain terms involved, certain measures and quotas to be filled, certain spiritual hoops to be jumped through in order to discern whether or not this was this real McCoy. Because it was my understanding that I’d come to this earth through the wondrous body of a woman, was named by that same woman, had bullishly married and was now irreparably separated from another woman once twice my age, it was preserved in my mind and reinforced by circular logic that if this name change was truly from God, my doubts could only be dispelled if endorsed by a woman. And by no stretch of time or imagination was this an easy task to discharge, seeing as I knew almost no women at the time and had little coin with which to persuade others that this was on the level, was no prank, no plot to appear artistic and sublime, nor merely a passing fancy. Yes neighbor, I was feeling tragically symbolic, alone but for the voice of God resounding in my head, just as intricately wrought analysis of my daily experiences had led me to belief.

I was working three hours a day downtown delivering pizzas and sandwiches on foot to the downtown Atlanta highrise luncheon crowd. I saw many faces and shared a quick grin or a few words of friendly chat, but my social importance was next to nothing. When I had a few dollars to spare I’d occasionally dip into a rather eclectic pub down Peachtree Street a few blocks from the Howell House for a pitcher of cheap suds, but knew only a few guys, the bar maid, and maybe one woman superficially at best. The happy hour crowd was always buzzing with a spattering of high profile cultural scooters including the nucleus I later grew to appreciate individually as an art curator, a couple of attorneys, an old hippie or two, a librarian, a couple of salesmen, a science fiction aficionado, a banker, a copywriter, an amateur actress, a faux cubist painter, a few struggling musicians, a chess champion, and a CDC technician.

The nihilistic era of the rude nickname had arrived in spades, the new epithet of the unsung, pacing the steamy streets and charlatanic nightclubs with the vengeance of a caged wolf, with little respect for anything, hardly sparing themselves. Visceral yearnings in youth were reshaping a new generation’s perspective on love and hatred, and the mad rush for mostly vulgar monikers had already begun in earnest.
This circle of soon to be regulars was still small at the time of the White Crow writing. All of them knew me as Richard, slightly weird and chalked up with an armload of library books. Keep in mind of course that when I introduced myself to someone, that was the last mention of a name-change operation, the line was dead until the next stranger was introduced. I didn’t go around like some enfilading riflemouth spraying people with some nonsense line in search of attention. In fact I was often quite self-conscious when introducing myself. Within a few days (three, four, five?) however I was to meet a young woman four or five years older than me named Kathleen Baker, a woman whose more delicate features were overshadowed by the liberal contours of her body. She weighed over 300 pounds, sang classical music with the voice of a monk, and immediately seemed to enjoy the nimble dispatches my wit invested among the afternoon mélange. Thinking again as I write this, perhaps I hadn’t told my mother of the Gabriel Thy transmogrification after all, not then that night of her birthday, for whatever reasons I now forget, because with each ascendant memory, in fact, as I am thinking about this concentratedly for the first time in many years, it seems that Kathleen Baker’s were the very first ears to hear the entire mess of fish from beginning to end, sans of course, the still confidential part about needing a woman to validate the transition (part of the test is to not publicly reveal all the details but to allow the truth to unfold according to God’s will and not mine), and that she energetically embraced the novelty of what she was hearing and resolved at that very first meeting to call me Gabriel, Gabriel Thy, enough said. And so in that unorchestrated off the cuff fashion this woman became the first person to know me only as Gabriel Thy, not Richard Nix.

Yes, that was it. She listened to my poem and she approved. Mother would learn only later, and now I recall another event which I shall get to shortly. That afternoon at the Stein tavern I did however note my apprehension at appearing far too pretentious for these cynical hobbyhorse times by dubbing myself Gabriel Thy. I was a nothing, a fledgling writer, a seeker after an illusive and much debated truth, caught within the mechanical web of all breeds and conjugation of fact and fantasy, and yet despite my busy faith and rote exhilaration, I could not call myself a christian because quite frankly I couldn't fathom exactly what the word meant anymore, if indeed I ever did. There were so many conflicting versions of the title that I just preferred to leave it alone, to let the scavengers pick the bones clean if need be.

Little did I know at the time that even as I in all seriousness was changing my name thousands of others were performing a similar operation. The nihilistic era of the rude nickname had arrived in spades, the new epithet of the unsung, pacing the steamy streets and charlatanic nightclubs with the vengeance of a caged wolf, with little respect for anything, hardly sparing themselves. Visceral yearnings in youth were reshaping a new generation’s perspective on love and hatred, and the mad rush for mostly vulgar monikers had already begun in earnest.

Names like Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious became the norming curve for acceptance into this thriving cult of nothingness. My own name mutation, void of applause or record deals, shock value or normalcy, was a serious matter, referencing everything I earnestly believed about the nature and signature of the Creator, flagging for all to observe, his will for me and mankind. To understand this name would take time for me as I experienced what surely would be a new direction in destiny. The easy part was over. Onto the Directed Path of God’s dotted line I was willing to sign, but where, and how?

My anxiety with these problematic questions did not evaporate with the introduction to Kathleen. I still begged in my spirit for more validation.

Pickles Love Cucumbers

I love you too...
my baby's so sweet she's rots my teeth,
the fig of creation, I find love to be such an awkward word,
but am only comfortable in pronouncing it,

in my case childless,

to this beguiled wife with whom I execute it
not unlike the notion of sugar water. Towards others,
those feelings and outreach is a reflex, but the word

LOVE itself poses quite a stumbling block to the poet long
preferring the word RESPECT, but hello, as signifier
knowing too how the American gangster culture
pretty much bloodied that word for me to boot,
so one if by wink, two if by blink...
and if it brings you happiness, sue me.

[ 2013, Lovettsville, VA ]

The Sporting Clues Of Walt Whitman

Crisp despair churns nightly, Virginia reels—
assisting so far (with the stern comfort of law)
knotted leaves of deciduous scale die brightly...

dancing the continental congress,
daring to forsake the soil,
a few handsome reviews
begin bubbling up.

Spring wheezes its way across western granite
due north of sad nations, but we praise
only the worst of it. Time's gunpowder
charm, the cracked chill of a lingering
spiked but righteous scrit.

Forests as dense with deer as these lines
climb trick mountain trails of a simpler age
where decay was just another quickening stage
where delay was just another sickening cage
mimicking the sting of death
drawn along party lines.

Roaring past juiced effects of American score,
feted wheels of justice properly seen
melt against fumed highway heat,
each grain hard throttled hubris
a philanthropic ride unto
the scarlet whore

where greatness is measured in cycles
where frankness is buried in game faces
where self-crucifixion is lost to wealth

and this sorry battleground, where art and politics
beat each other up, is cleared of all integrity,
and few are they who appear the wiser...

[ 2013, Lovettsville VA ]

Everyone Needs To Think, So Why Snip Off

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Body of Workers
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On 27 May 2010, at 09:33, Billy Asperger wrote:

I follow you regarding the craps hinted in the previous message. It's true that "you can lead todays lefties around by their dreadlock hair-extensions with the smallest tug". But at the same time we easily can admit that most of the people (doesn't matter whether they are lefties or whatever) really don't give a damn about the revolution a bunch of US had been theorizing (here or there).

I think what disconcerts me about the statement above is that it seems to take for granted a division between those who can "theorize" and the working class. If you are feeling a gap it isn't an intelligence gap it's a class gap; it's not about support for radical change it's over trust and sincerity in those who claim to know better what is good and bad and their good intentions to realize it. It's not because ordinary people do not or can not understand the workings and evils of the system it's because they know them much better: "intellectuals" more than often lack real knowledge of just what it is like to be born into trapped, exploited, cheated and abused neighbourhoods.

I'm working class and all the people I work with are working class (in fact at the moment every last one of them is black working class) and I can tell you a clear and certain fact—that I have heard more genuine insight, shrewdness and sincerity from the mouths of common people than from the pens of middle class and academic "vanguards of the working class", or from the white-people-with-dreadlocks brigade who are rooted nowhere and ultimately committed to nothing as a result.

But there is nothing wrong or pointless about "theorizing", though it's a word I do not find helpful. Discussion ought to take place to try and deepen understanding of how everything works. Those who can do it should do it—and take a clearer perception of conditions back to the communities in which they live and work. Everyone needs to think, so why snip off the activity of thinking, call it theorizing and divorce it ideologically and socially from its application in daily life?

I need to add though that not a lot of what takes place on lists like this, or seminars in colleges or in all the other supposedly intellectual theatres where this "theorization" is supposedly taking place...is anything of the kind. On the contrary it seems to be a battleground where people hone and refine the very things they claim to be against; find new excuses to obscure the truth and divert others from coalescing around it. It is class war over the spectacle. It would be nice to have genuine discussion once in a while but in the absence of true common roots or listserv mediation it isn't very common.

Asperger: "People are enchanted and mesmerized by "the apparent" of the spectacle and that fucking pseudo(?) "objectivity" is good and is enough from their point of view. They feel comfortable being trapped inside the great show of appealing-consuming-producing-exploiting and so on. The spectacular society is reassuring for their simple and mechanical minds."

I can't begin to tell you just how condescending and spectacular a cliché that is. Instead I'll say something potentially more interesting. Human existence is existential: there must be something to fill the void and to structure everyday life, and there must be an ideological framework, a worldview, only within which all words, phenomena, values and beliefs acquire a place and a meaning and a value. Worldview, and all the habits that stream forth from it, is as fundamental and material a necessity as food water and air. It's the way we are made.
Therefore ultimately there is no complete distinction possible between what is spectacle and what is situation; or what is recuperation and what is detournement and so on. There are only inherited models from which to construct models. Very little truth, if any, is ahistorical; all ideas, appearances, meanings and values must exist in a perpetual war over ideas, appearances, meanings and values.

What is eternal is the wisdom of good conduct—of seeing and revealing the truth in all its partiality, of understanding the common interest of fairness and distributing needs and opportunities with equity. What is eternal also seems to be that which I call "original sin" -- the tendency to imitate and repeat evils and errors, to reiterate imperfect worlds from imperfect worlds; bad habits of mind and behaviour that not having been perceived for what they are cannot be rooted out: "karma". Thus life is not really composed of true and false images nor even right and wrong values so much as right and wrong choices. From the existential point of view, to be free means to be condemned to choose between the good and the evil within alternative possible actions—endlessly. No wonder they fall back into the provided routines, spectacles and social clichés: it is so much easier to have something that tells you what to do than to have to face each and every moment in a cosmic abyss of uncertainty.

And these "theorizations" you're referring to are simultaneously an attempt to defend an Ideology of distorted self-serving de/perceptions at war with the attempt to add and revise it with new understandings of the truth. The fact is, the "Left" (whose name itself is as spectacular a piece of nonsense as you could ever hope for) has been struggling with the contradiction between its moral outrage for the world's underdogs and the fact that the underdogs will not meekly back them up in return ever since it robbed the working class of its politics, at about the same time it started robbing rastafarians of their hair-dos, the genuinely homeless of their squatters movements and so on. All the class rhetoric and fashionware and shrunken heads by which today's radicals identify themselves have been stolen from somebody else—as if by possessing their tattoos and music, hairstyles and footwear you could somehow take power over their souls and legitimize yourselves.

But white men can't sing the blues.

k

I Went To School With Bonnie Jones (Yellow)

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Bonnie's Dream
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From Bonnie Jones Davisson
September 27, 2009 at 10:58am

You are such an inspiration Gabriel! I will call you that because it suits you as you are. I am so sorry to hear about your mother's struggles. One thing my siblings and I did was to pamper my mother as she was - a true queen. In her latter months, we would go into the nursing home and just crawl inro bed with her, holding her close just to hear her heart beat. We are a very close family, and it was all because of her. She was our sun, and we were mearly planets made from her stardust.

Yes, David died in his sleep. His heart just stopped. He was a type A, head of the gyn. dept. in Thomasville GA. If I go, that's how I want to do it. I remember in one of my attempts at leaving ths Earth, I was guided by David for 3 days, as I spoke French the entire time. Strange what the mind will do. Mutt is simply that, a Mutt. I hear he also has heart troubles, but his boxing days were over a long time ago. He and I had an affair during his boxing days, but my true love was David. I sincerely think had Bobby not been around the two of us would have connected. Mutt has 2 boys—Hunter and Fisher—which speaks volumns as to Mutt's lack of sincerity and unimaginable ego. Were it not for his mousy wife, Robin, his sons would be wild and free, much like Luke's. Good grief! I have told you more buried secrets of my life than I have anyone else! Why do you have my trust so easily?

I have not been on Facebook much lately. I am preoccupied with my daughter's wedding. As a highly gifted child, she is rejecting all tradtitional ceremonies, and is insisting on wearing a pair of $400 knee boots under her dress - of which I thought looked cheap. Intervention meant going to Athens and visiting flower shops, which she finally conceded as beautiful, but is still stubbornly rejecting the cake, which I will do anyway. She will thank me when she's older.

I am also preoccupied with changing pain medication doctors and doing physical therapy. I am also studying with a Jehovah's Witness, of which I have 2 sisters who have practised the religion for over 40 years. Too much has come to pass that they have said would to ignore this religin as not being at least worthy of a second look. I also like the way they are always studying the Bible. Their worships on Sundays are not ranting and ravings, but actual talks by various elders who constantly refer to the Bible to support their subject of the day. I was amazed that in Genesis, it says that the Earth shangs in the heavens as if on a string. Why didn't the Pope KNOW that when the church banned Copernicus to house arrest?

Many exciting things happening right now. I will keep you posted.

Your friend and confidant,
Bonnie

Woman, oh, woman. Well, with every note, Bonnie, you come with both barrels loaded it seems. That's a good thing. Thanks for the update on the Daniel brothers. Tragic, in David's case. As stated earlier, I didn't actually know Mutt, and I had no idea that you bounced around with him at some point. I do appreciate your honesty. Very refreshing to find someone who finds redemption in detail, and craves loveliness despite the reckoning one's path in life often brings...

The story of your mother, of course, is a warming example of what family life can be. Cling to the memories, dear woman. Life is fleeting, and we make of it what we dare within the circumstances we may wrestle and the choices we can muster. Unfortunately, my family never quite measured up to those many ideals we sought, rugged individualists to the core, each of us, beginning with a hardcore alcoholic father and a mother of seven who never REALLY wanted to mother, but chafed an entire life craving to exude ideas of exceptionalism while denying her often troubled, even troublesome yet striving children the same. But after all is said and done, I guess she did her best, as did we.

But here we are, 24 fat and lean years later, still tied in knots, madly in love with each other, best friends forever, and rarely seen in public without the other except during the weekday when she counts the beans in her big office while I chip away at the art world. Her already elderly parents were scandalized by all the brute stylings of the wedding we planned ourselves (mostly me), and for that small over-indulgence I am regretful, but it WAS indeed a unique event.
I hazard to make any remarks about your daughter's choice of wedding apparel because you may be right. The boots may indeed look cheap. Cheap is a fashion choice with its place, its own context and subtext, it still must fit and flow.

I too, am strongly opinionated about fashion, although I am somewhat of a slob myself except when I reclaim the magic. Then I can't fail to strike an erstwhile artistic pose with compliments swirling. In another life, as the saying goes, I might very well have aspired to a life of fashion design. You may remember from high school some rather odd choices I wore to class. Checkered pants, golfer's attire. White shoes, perhaps. From junior high forward, my bold clothes tended to set me apart from the general population, a trait I still maintain to some degree.

That said, my tastes range from traditional upscale lines to street punk debonair. Without embarrassment I have all but dressed my wife for 26 years. Admittedly she resisted early on, but grew to appreciate the benefits. She of course now solicits my eye, and recognizes that I love quality with flair. She sometimes admits the truth that she exudes no taste whatsoever, if anything, maybe classic Tom Robbins cowgirl blues couture. So, if daughter's boots are shiny vinyl high kickers, I say, yuck to cheap, kitsch hooker glam. No way. But if they are matte black thigh high combat boots, with luxurious white quilt-stitched silk gripping her, she'd have my vote, as long as she matches it with a black silk headscarf appointed with red rose to regale her hair in something other than a stale 1950s-1960s bouffant that is so popular with the wedding planner set for decades. Of course, I'm presuming she has long hair, but even if she doesn't, a similar treatment would probably be agreeable. This is all fanciful speculation, of course. Can't quite kill the punk rocker aesthetic I wholeheartedly embraced I suppose.

OK. That was me in Project Runway mode. Please pardon me, if I've insulted you, Bonnie. Perhaps I should share. At the Sue & Gabriel wedding in 1985, no holds barred punk rock motif all the way, my wife and I boasted a square black cake with a pirate's skull & crossbones on top in mockery of all the scripted storybook marriages that then and now fail at a 50% rate. She called all over the city of WASHINGTON, DC for black roses. None could be found. Florists thought she was crazy. We ended up spraying silk red roses black. Nowadays, authentic black roses are found everywhere, roses actually bred to be black. Yup, we were part of a trendsetter generation, for better or worse. But here we are, 24 fat and lean years later, still tied in knots, madly in love with each other, best friends forever, and rarely seen in public without the other except during the weekday when she counts the beans in her big office while I chip away at the art world. Her already elderly parents were scandalized by all the brute stylings of the wedding we planned ourselves (mostly me), and for that small over-indulgence I am regretful, but it WAS indeed a unique event.

As for the Jehovah's Witnesses, I too, have extreme experience with them. But I will delay that deposition until the next letter.

Your friend in letters,

Gabriel

Time Of The Season (A Family Reunion)

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Family Spark
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Hey sweet cakes, when did I EVER love you? Beheld you with a certain ill-prepared fondness perhaps, but love? That's an overused and far too frequently misappropriated word. And besides, aren't you Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis? Just ragging. But you can be a lady sometimes, I know, I just know it.

Wassup? On our end of things, we've relocated the studio out to a large historic horse farm on ten acres in a stretch of the good life I call the throbbing nipple of Sweet Virginia. Five miles to Maryland. Ten to West Virginia. Some 60 miles outside the spin of DC. Awesome place, this farm. Will post pictures at some point. Still trying to sell or rent the city condo. Will sign with an agent this week I think. Suzy Blue brought out the papers this weekend, but we have yet to discuss the finer details.

So tell me, how's YOUR wretched deal going? Haven't heard anything new about you and the kids since Clyde swooped in and snagged the old man. Did you guys patch it all up? Was it all just a bad dream? Is this memorex or a badly scratched 78 RPM, thick and unbreakable? Is the Black Hand of Injustice really black, or is that just the shadow of doubt I read about in the tea leaves of the nightly news?

After a rough patch or so near the beginning, things are going okay for "The Chaz" up here. He just got his motorcycle bolted together again yesterday. Allan & family have been up here a couple times with Paige now being observed and penetrated at the National Institute of Health. That's a sad case of mistaken identity. But for the grace of God...

All in all, it's been family reunion tour of sorts for us. Not a bad thing, given the circumstances, the timing, and the hare.

Unfortunately, the grace of transitional power is not the only sensation that's left the building of late, as we are still strung out, and will be hobbled until the condo situation is rectified, and we shift our primary household out here in the fastest growing and richest per capita county in the nation. Despite all that, this definitely feels like the right move at the right time. The two loved ones seem to cherish it here even more than I do, but once I am together again with my books to surround and protect me (nods to Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel), I shall embrace the Blue Ridge winds with equal force.

Well, stick it to me, dear. It's the way this game is played. It's true, I never tell you ALL my business. But again, I'm sure you've held out on me as well...

Just thinking about the plural of gravitas...

GT

Twenty-Five Random Things About Me

spikedpunch
Punk Ain't Dead in 1985
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Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about yourself. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to "notes" under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)

1. I used to hang with Ru Paul in Atlanta back when HE played in a band called Wee Wee Pole, mostly at the 688 Club and the Bistro, both now defunct.

2. I was a brilliant child (one of the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging myself through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix…), then I bumped into the lads of 9353, and learned something else about myself.

3. Bob Dylan, Thomas Paine, and Henry Miller, in that order fascinate me to the ends of the intellectual spool, are my heroes, and oddly enough, both the Right and the Left claim them (well, Miller might not make the cut on the Right), and yet all are despised by both the Right and the Left when it suits them.

4. I hitchhiked from Atlanta to NYC to meet Allen Ginsberg with seven cents in my pocket because I had lost my whole $250 paycheck earned working a roofing tar kettle the night before dancing and boozing with a hole in my pocket I had sworn to avoid, all in celebration of my departure. I also met my future wife on that trip. It's a long story.

5. I was a literary poet when I came to DC. I then became a drunk, quit writing poetry in deference to my rocker friends and enemies like Bruce, Boyd, Vance, Gene, Jamie, Rene, Lloyd, Frank, Henry, Andy, Jack and so many more of that squiggle of spit-possessed renegades.

6. I grew up poor among the poor. My five siblings and I often slept in sleeping bags curled up around the only kerosene heater in the house built in 1865, later burned to the ground by an arsonist in 1972, along with many of my childhood treasures. My father collected junk Cadillac & Pontiac hearses and DUIs as if nothing else existed for him.

7. I once told Jesse Jackson I don't stomp the pavement for any cause. And yes, I shook Ronald Reagan's hand as he was leaving the Jacksonville Convention Center in 1972, as a Nixon delegate in the first highschool mock convention of its kind. My particular Florida highschool represented the state of Tennessee. Shirley Chisolm was also there.

8. I recall the Kennedy assassination in full black and white. I was in the third grade. I watched the aftermath at Darwin Gale's house while he was outside playing in the dirt with toy soldiers, our usual connivance.

9. I was married to a Jehovah's Witness twice my age, mother of three, when I was eighteen, four weeks after she smothered my virginity. What a dweeb I was! It lasted three horrific years.

10. With a nod to Yeats, I slouched in the dirty and dangerous coke ovens at Bethlehem Steel on Lake Michigan back when America was strong, though the steel industry was just then beginning to feel the coming shrinkage.

11. My grandfather regularly played chess with King Faisal Ibn Abdul of Saudi Arabia when he was a construction superintendent there in 1966. This king was later assassinated by his own nephew. Spud Woodward, my grandfather, left after six months of his two year tour seriously needing an adult beverage, of course banned over there.

12. I became a painter after reading a book.

13. I believe America is in deep shit, and I also believe we haven't a pooper scooper to our name as a nation.

14. If it weren't for money, I'd be a rich man.

15. I lost a 900 page novel manuscript among other fine washables when I accidentally erased it off my computer.

16. As a former Episcopalean acolyte and Eagle scout, well not quite, my family moved to a remote barrier island owned by the Carnegie and Rockefeller families when I was fourteen, effectively ending my scouting career at Life, anyhow, what was my point?

17. My family were among the original band of Scottish Highlanders to found the State of Georgia. Names like Mackintosh, Spalding, Kenan, Woodward, Atwood lead straight to me. Big effing deal some might say; I say it's all in how you present the information. Did I mention one of my ancestors traced my heritage straight to William the Conqueror, the bastard lord of feudalism? Thirty-one generations. I did the math. Lots of people are my cousins.

18. I have never been to college. But I am still a tool of my enemy, and I cannot visualize an escape.

19. Guns. Now that's something William S. Burroughs knew something about.

20. I either secretly or outright despise Marxists because I am right of center and am more generous with my time and my treasure than any "ever so concerned" Marxist I have ever met.

21. I realize that the line is being drawn in the sand even as I write these words and parse these syllables. There is no time left to write poems or paint pretty pictures. Now is the time for all good men and women to rise to the challenges our spineless leaders have injected into our collective bloodstream.

22. Twenty-five years with the same woman. Haplessly married, but unbreachably united. A story for the ages. Check out Abelard and Heloise.

23. I am either supra-confident in public (usually a byproduct of alcohol, of which I rarely partake these days), or timid and tragically neurotic and full of self-doubt. Ask around.

24. In the spirit of jolly old Saint Nix (one of my former namesakes), I am always making a list and checking it twice, determined as hell to discover who is naughty and who is nice.

25. My greatest shame is that few people who call themselves my friends have ever bothered to listen to my Internet radio station, Radio Scenewash, or read, much less respond to any of my blogs in the several years I have operated them. Such is MY life in the fast lane among the self-satisfied and the splendid.

Poem For Zool (Said and Done)

WHERE DO YOU WANT THIS KILLING DONE?
We speak with the language of war.
We laugh with the language of peace.
Knowing that all life is born of crisis,
punctuated by brief periods of solace,
we also know that after all is said and done,
we shall never cheat infinity, nor shall we
extinguish the mark of a single thought.

SHALL WE MEET AT THE GALLERY, IF I BRING FRIENDS?
We dance with the jubilee of victors.
We mock with the anger of Kleptos.
Mixing politics and art never batting an eye,
energized by duty and dreams from our youth,
we also know that after all is said and done,
we shall never cheat infinity, nor shall we
extinguish the mark of a single thought.

AFTER HARPER'S FERRY, WHY NOT A VISIT, THEN QUICK LUNCH?
We grace new fables with heavily nuanced figures of speech,
we spring along bouncy digits of man-made digital sound,
agreeing to violins, we love a glass of iced tea,
we matriculated to earn blue terrors in secret,
we also know that after all is said and done,
we shall never cheat infinity, nor shall we
extinguish the mark of a single
blind thought.

AREN'T YOU GLAD YOU ESCAPED FROM GEORGIA, AND THOSE PEOPLE?
We walk past more or less choices each year.
We run with the bulls into summer homes.
Knowing that all life is born of crisis,
punctuated by brief periods of solace,
we also know that after all is said and done,
we shall never cheat infinity, nor shall we
extinguish the mark of a single thought.

WHERE DO YOU WANT THIS KILLING DONE?
We speak with the language of war.
We laugh with the language of peace.
Knowing that all life is born of crisis,
punctuated by brief periods of solace,
we also know that after all is said and done,
we shall never cheat infinity, nor shall we
extinguish the mark of a single thought.

Grabbing Another Fistful Of Fire Ants

studio2
O Street Studio
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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, 

Gabriel

Parsing The Criteria Of Great Art

ancient-blake
"Ancient" by William Blake
samplex

Originally published on September 17, 1996

Landry wrote: This reminds me of an argument I had with my friend Brad who is a painter. He said that painting is art and writing is craft. What do you think?

Someone should kick poor mad William Blake up out of the grave. He called Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples the greatest ARTISTS the world has ever seen about the same time his friend Thomas Paine was facing the wrath of the English & American church leaders with his revolutionary AGE OF REASON, written mostly while sitting in the Bastille awaiting the guillotine for refusing to badmouth his friend King Louis, whom Paine held in high esteem for the king's much needed assistance to the colonies during the war against the English crown. Uh, now THAT reminds me of a peculiar intrigue Tom Wolfe's THE PAINTED WORD invoked with his fictional world reknown artist (this was a book about the NY painting scene where one's greatness as an artist is inseparable from the superior qualities of the particular THEORY of the art, brownie points for the thinker, nee writer once again, it seems) who while sitting in an unremarkable bar in an unremarkable mood suddenly had a great idea. He had only a glass of water and a paper napkin at his disposal. He quickly dipped and began etching, but just as suddenly as the idea had dawned in his mind's eye the world famous artist collapsed on his barstool and expired. Obviously his etching evaporated, but the question remained in Wolfe's assessment, was the idea that the now dead artist had expressed ever so briefly been that artist's, and therefore, perhaps the world's greatest work of art?

william-blake
William Blake
Blake did it all in a sense, a man of deep thought and adroit action like American contemporaries—with his large body of wood etchings, paintings, poetry, his literary criticism, his anti-clericism, his involvement in the politics of his day, his strange mystical nudism, his sagacious love for his wife, all tempered by his touch of madness, and yet he called Jesus the GREATEST ARTIST. This same Jesus who never wrote or painted a damned thing except to draw some line in the sand, and there are those biblical scholars who amazingly even claim this was an apocryphal tale (now famous as the "he who is without sin, please please cast the first stone" scene) they insist was inserted by later scribes. This viewpoint leads of course to the idea that ideas are the guts of art, NOT shapes, lines, colors. Paintings may certainly express an idea, or several, but one is never exactly sure what that idea is unless the artist is part of that Clement Greenberg (the NYC art don) regime boasting an idea per brushstroke...

So it goes without saying that I tend to agree with Blake that it takes everything you've got to create art, but then (to answer your question), can paintings lie, cheat, and steal the way words do?

GT