Monday, April 24, 2017

April 25

The days go by, and so much is so banal: getting things done, watching something stupid on TV. But then there are those moments, where your daughters tell you that you are the best dad ever, or you’re holding them, or making them laugh and it is anything but banal. I’m thinking this morning about something Sofia asked, “How did God form?” Something she said she’d been thinking about for a long time and had a feeling she would be thinking about for a long time to come. I posted this on FB and a rastafarian friend responded that God was energy that had always been here and always would. That makes intuitive sense, but also just makes the head spin faster. How could something just always be? It makes being alive so poignant somehow, the more you think about it. And I’m thinking about it extra hard because I’m listening to an esoteric book, “You Are The Universe,” which talks about many things, including different theories for how the universe formed, and especially how many perfectly precise “accidents” had to occur for us to be here, to form anything at all, to form DNA for instance, and how odd it is that we can reason all of this out. It just leaves you with a sense of awe. Hard to get any housework done when you stop and try to take in eternity. You feel so impossibly small and impossibly large at the same time. Like at some level the universe points to you as a culmination. And sometimes I feel like that, like I’m grooving with everything. But also I’m an idiot who can barely function in life, not to mention infinitesimally small in comparison to this city, let alone the planet and the billions of stars beyond us.

***

One member of my family was complaining about another member of my family, and I’m listening, and I’m wondering if all of this complaining is necessary. Suddenly I remember a line from a Trevor Hall song I heard recently, “Don't you carry stones in your bowl of light.” I like that idea, that any resentment or upset you carry is like carrying stones. But immediately after I had that thought a line from the song I was listening to, the Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, jumped out at me... “[there is] a time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together.”

Amazing timing. I’m a writer, so always fitting words together, stitching them into meaning, and it’s hard to ignore the precision of the timing of these words in a moment like this. I’m having a thought that is a judgment, “this person is complaining and these complaints are like carrying stones.” And the radio immediately answers me with, “there’s a time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together.” I’d never even considered these lyrics before. What the hell does casting away stones and gathering them together even mean? But now here they were, a clear and direct response to my thoughts: don’t judge the complainer. Maybe it’s time to gather these stones together? Maybe it’s time to do something about the problem?

It’s a good example of how quick witted and full of wisdom the universe can be if you are listening.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

TO BE SAVED FOR (FROM) THERAPY

panic attack?

not sure what this is?

not sure about anything.

my heart is beating fast. i'm afraid.

can't tell if this physical or spiritual.

the two conflate. can't tell if I'm afraid because of my heart. or that I can't feel my face or that I feel as if I"m dying, or if I feel as if I"m dying because I'm afraid. Afraid of losing of my family. 

Afraid of being irrelevent. Afraid of the anger of Genevieve. Afraid of disappointing her.  Afraid of being pathetic. Afraid of not mattering. 

Am I dying because I'm afraid or afraid because I'm dying.

Unbearably painful words from the woman I love. I honestly am not sure I could survive without her. People always think that and they're fine. But my body is rebelling. My face is numb. My shoulders. My heart is beating too fast. 

It ry to slow down my breath. No good. better. a little better. 

i open the computer and a cat sound is let out, from a cartoon the girls were watching, and I'm freaking out again. I'm not sound. I'm not solid. I'm not together. My wife is killing me, although it is not her, it is me, because I'm the master of my feelings. 

I need to write her a long letter telling her where I'm coming from. 

We are in dire straights. 

Like Mark Knopfler. 

Not funny.

I feel slightly better. 

I need to get stronger.

I need a job.

I need to feel self-esteem. 

I need to be loved.

My daughters love me. 

My wife hates me.

She opposite of loves me.

And I'm so sad for her. I love her so much that I'm sad for her for not being able to love me. 

I disgust her. And the part of me that she makes feel disgusting hates her for making me feeling that way. I'm responsible for how I feel, but how do I not crack under the gaze of her disgust. How do I just sit there and take it? 

My body is asking for something, but I don't know what I can do for it. Besides meditate. Besides somehow finding a real job, one that can support a family. 

I can't be the stay at home dad. the stay at home mom. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

The private things are public

These private things are public. And vice versa.

The way Emily took absolute care

for nobody.

Follow the rhythm, the little chot to triot,
the snow dope,
fallen branches inside startled asks, ask.

Awkward foundations.

Hat eaten in flower stem phlegm,
my forte.

Catch up in the not gang,
sun of a gland,
a forgotten land inside supper,
toddler anchor father feeling,
something arcane usurping the brain.

it's too easy to complain.

The answer comes with the refrain
the way we take it all in,
the way Saul took his salt.
Don't believe the witch of Endor,
Lay it down on the floor, Saul,
bring it up through the rear.

It's Saul, good.

Funnel several onions through opinions
about such and such
rich cousin in Chesapeak Bay,
a verbal abuse in non complete,
every issue, the late Ramiro Musato,
a track called Embara,
coming to the Oriental Theater November 8,
the radio took over.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

paley media center

Today I went with the fam to MOMA. While Genevieve checked out the fantastic Picabia exhibit (which I'd already seen) I took the girls down to MOMA's children's art center. But it was closed for some reason. What to do? I did a quick search and found out the Paley Media Center was just around the corner. I hadn't heard of it before, but glad we found it. You can go for free, for an hour and half, and watch anything in their library, which basically comprises the entire history of TV. Sofia watched The Powerpuff Girls, Lucia watched Strawberry Shortcake and I watched, first, Andy Kaufman on David Letterman, then the first Steve Martin HBO special (still funny,) then Martha Graham's Appalachian Spring from 1957 on PBS (She was 64 by then and could still move in such surprising ways, and with so much grace) and ended my session by watching a CBS News special from 1967 called "Inside Pop" in which Leonard Bernstein explains the new music to the older generation:

"As with so many of these pop songs, the implication is, and strongly, that this is not at all the way things ought to be. Just as the Beatles' song, "Paperback Writer," implies in its satirical way all the corruption of our lives. Their anti-hero, the paperback writer has written a book he's trying to sell and he sings, "It's a thousand pages, give or take a few. I'll be writing more in a week or two. I could make it longer if you like the style. I can change it 'round, and I want to be a paperback writer." In other words, prostitution. I'll do anything to sell that book. The implication is clear. In fact the message in most of these songs IS delivered by implication. This is one of our teenagers' strongest weapons. It amounts almost to a private language. But this use of implication produces another effect as well, something bordering on poetry. Many of the lyrics, in their oblique allusions and way out metaphors are beginning to sound like real poetry. And protected by this armor of poetry our young lyricists can say just about anything they care to. And they DO care. They care about civil rights, about sexual freedom, about peace. They talk about alienation, mysticism and drugs. The lyrics of Bob Dylan alone would make a bombshell of a book of social criticism. You know those ominous lines of his, "Something is happening and you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?" You know who Mr. Jones is, don't you? Us. And the lyrics of "Along Comes Mary" I have been informed by its author, 22 year old Tanden Almer, is not about a girl named Mary at all, but about Mary Jane, which is a literal translation of Marijuana. And a staggering piece of verse it is. But mostly they talk about love, as all songwriters have since time began. Only this time it's either a cool kind of love, or a frankly sexual love, or, and this is most important, universal love, a mystic oriental concept that is presumably available through meditation or withdrawl from the establishment or most readily, through drugs. Now what does all this mean? I think it's all part of a historic revolution, one that has been going on for 50 years, only now these young people have gotten control of a mass medium, the phonograph record, and the music on the records with its noise and its cool messages may make us uneasy, but we must take it seriously, as both a sympton and a generator of this revolution. We must listen to it, and to its makers, this new breed of young people with long hair and fanciful clothing. Perhaps by learning something about them, we can learn something about our own future."

Touching. And funny.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

garbanzo beans (of matthew's proper cake)

garbanzo bean (of matthew's proper cake) a la bean spasms 

Pointing Out The Moon
1.

Today Alex Cory visiting, we read Elizabeth Bishop's "Moth-man" on the 7, noting wherein she points out the differences between the real and fake moon. Then went to MOMA and watched the first 15 minutes of Enter The Dragon, in red stained glass font, Bruce Lee says the finger pointing at the moon is not the moon. Going upstairs and catching as much as we can of Picabia's catch as catch can moon. And then wandering over to Chelsea to watch Moonlight at the Angelika theater, so sweet. All so so sweet.

note perfet timing for Enter The Dragon. 4pm. "Accidentally" walked in the wrong door and it was the film department of MOMA and it was just starting. And it was perfect, sooo gooood. That's the kind of thing that happens if the cake is proper.


2.  Kith & Kin reading. Was deeply into the now of the music as we played for an audience of 21 at the SculptureCenter, with Bob Rosenthal reading his wonderful Ode to Agism. Then afterward one of the readers, Annabel Lee tells Tyler and I that she published Ted Berrigan's Train Ride, which is an important book for both of us. And Ted's son Edmund was sitting right next to us. Tyler even wrote a paper on the book in college.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

banksy chase

as submitted to the NY Times Lifestyle section
 
 
The Queens Banksy Chase

On the morning of Oct 15th, 2013 my wife Genevieve sent me a text, letting me know that Banksy was in the midst of doing a residency in New York city and that I should check it out. I googled and found out that Banksy was half way through a 31 day long self-imposed residency in NYC for the month of October. Every day of October Banksy was putting up a new piece somewhere in one of the five Boroughs. It was a project epic in scope, even for Banksy.

The day before Genevieve tipped me off, Banksy had made international news for the 14th piece of the residency, a prank he pulled off in Central Park. He set up a stand, among all the other stands, selling his prints for cheap, which were subsequently ignored by droves of tourists. Nobody knew they were originals, worth tens of thousands of dollars each. It was wryly funny and critical of the capitalistic culture of value, two qualities I'd come to expect from Banksy.

I was curious about where the 15th piece was going to be that day, so I began to google deeper. I found out that one had been done just that morning at 68th Street and 38th Avenue in Jackson Heights. It was within walking distance! I sprang into action immediately. I did the hundred and one things needed to get the girls ready to go out the door, got them both in the double stroller and rolled.

The girls are Lucia and Sofia, then ages 3 and 4. Little did they care about going to see a fresh Banksy, but they were always happy to go for a ride. I pushed the stroller up 39th Avenue to Roosevelt, then up Roosevelt to 68th. Roosevelt is directly under the 7 Train for approximately 75 blocks, which creates a very long tunnel effect. My neighbor Stephen Nickson calls Roosevelt Avenue a tunnel of diversity, as hundreds of businesses of all different cultural backgrounds line the blocks under the tracks.  This was the avenue we walked down for 18 blocks that morning in order to witness a a brand new Banksy piece.

We were still new to these environs. We had just moved from Boulder Colorado to Queens NY. After ten years in Boulder, NYC is quite a change, almost like living in another country. The skies are bigger in Colorado, and so are the vistas. The smells, sights and sounds are radically different. The people are much less ethnically diverse in Colorado, and they also operate on a much lower vibrational level, baritone, even bass. In New York most people are working tenor or soprano levels. New Yorkers walk about twice as fast as people from Colorado. It's exhilarating, but exhausting. But you build up the stamina, just like in Colorado you build your lungs to acclimate to the altitude.

The downside is no joke though. A NYC dentist told us that teeth grinding is common problem here. Stress is a killer. You have to learn to manage it. Time goes by quicker here, so you have to find ways to slow it down. Otherwise you will age much faster.

On the other hand, contrary to expectations, we found the people in New York to be more neighborly than those in Colorado. We knew more neighbors in the first two weeks of moving into our apartment in Queens than we did after ten years of living in Boulder. The density of people here creates countless small communities, entirely based upon proximity and need.

I quickly began to appreciate what Queens and NYC had to offer. Just prior to the Banksy residency I had been reading Jonathem Lethem's fresh-off-the-press novel, "Dissident Gardens," about Sunnyside Queens in the 1940s through to the 1970s, from back when it was a communist cell through to the folk, beatnik and hippy years. I was also taking walks and bike rides everyday, exploring even the graveyards. You could say I was steeping myself in Queens.

Three days prior to Genevieve's Banksy tip, on October 12th, I had gone with several of the gardeners I had met from the Sunny Gardens Community Garden, located behind our communal Sunnyside Gardens Park, to see Lethem read from "Dissident Gardens" at the Sunnyside Community Center. (That's a lot of community in once sentence.) After the reading I told the gardeners that they were the real Dissident Gardens, which got a good laugh. But it was true. Lethem was using Sunnyside Gardens in his novel as a kind of metaphor of defeat; the open backyards of the ideal planned community were now fenced in, the dream was long gone. But that's fiction for you. The truth is more complicated; far from gone, the socialist dream is still alive and growing in Sunnyside Gardens and the amazing park to which it was attached.

So now here we were, walking up Roosevelt with a stroller, as if dropped in a Lethem novel set in real time, about to see this fresh masterpiece from Banksy, in the middle of his already legendary month long residency in NYC. There was a palpable sense of history to the whole thing.

I pushed the stroller off of Roosevelt and up 68th. There was a little bodega on the corner of 38th Avenue and 68th and we could see some people crowded around the back, staring at the rear wall. Bingo! There it was, still fresh, still unmarred. It immediately shone with that mysterious aura of great art.

An hour later this art would be tagged by local hooligans. This was a recurring problem for fans of Banksy, because in the local tagger's eyes Banksy was stepping on territory. The local taggers were defending their so-called turf, which seemed petty to me, in light of Banksy's gift, but, on the other hand, it added an exciting element to the sport of the hunt, because it made it that much sweeter to get try to see the piece and get a good shot of it before it could be trashed.

We just made it in time, this time, but it was a close one. An hour later and this piece would be tagged by Topic, then Team Robbo and finally Problem Child. Problem Child! The local punk taggers add something indelible to a Banksy piece in the process of destroying it.
Over the next 2 weeks of the residency we would witness more fresh pieces just in the nick of time before they were destroyed, and three of those times we arrived even as they were being destroyed. It was a race between my stroller/subway skills with my toddlers in tow and the punk taggers. And victories were sweet.

The text of that first piece we saw on October 15 in Queens reads, “What we do in life echoes in Eternity." Next to the words there was the life size stencil of a man who is scrubbing the graffiti off the wall, erasing the word "Eternity."

The quote is from Russel Crowe's Maximus in the movie Gladiator, and it is a variation from the original by Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor and philosopher, which is commonly translated as, “What we do now echoes in eternity.” For Banksy, to take a pop culture quote from a cheesy Hollywood movie (one that happens to be both terrible and great) which is in turn a quote, an echo, from hardcore western world Roman history, is a mark of his style. In that way he is in the tradition of the pop artist, marrying the highbrow to the low, and consequently, the elite to the common, the rich to the poor.

At first the piece struck me as a simultaneous celebration of both the work of the artist, which somehow pushes out into eternity, and a critique of the critics who deface art. But as with most Banksy pieces the meaning of the work was even more layered and resonant than it first appeared.

This was a temporary piece of street art that was paradoxically about longevity, and that's why I loved the picture I was able to take of the girls standing in front of it, caught in that fleeting eternal moment. Somehow the girls looked as if they belonged in that scene too. The colors of their clothes even matched. I had extemporaneously captured a moment of their youth that spoke to eternity. It struck me that just by being alive the girls were erasing the foreverness of eternity, that our lives themselves, by being finite, were, paradoxically, small erasures of timelessness.

But it also occurred to me just then that, not unlike figurative art, the girls are a literal embodiment of something that I have done in life that will echo toward eternity, i.e. having children. I liked being able to frame this thought in such a perfect way. Later we framed the shot of the girls and gave it to my father as a gift. My girls are, after all, also an eternal echo of something he did in his life, echoes of an echo.

But there was another surprise twist to this artwork that unveiled itself only recently. A few weeks ago some Australian friends were staying with us. They saw the picture of the girls in front of the tag and recognized the font in which Banksy had chosen to write "Eternity."

They told us the story behind it. It turns out that Arthur Malcolm Stace, otherwise known as Mr. Eternity, was an Australian eccentric and soldier, a reformed alcoholic and thief who converted to Christianity and spread his message by writing the word "Eternity" in copperplate font with chalk on footpaths in and around Sydney for about 35 years, from 1932 to 1967. (The first tagger?) Later on Wikipedia I found out that in an interview Stace said, "Eternity went ringing through my brain and suddenly I began crying and felt a powerful call from the Lord to write Eternity." Stace was illiterate and could hardly write his own name legibly, but, he said, "the word 'Eternity' came out smoothly, in a beautiful copperplate script. I couldn't understand it, and I still can't."

He was breaking Sydney's laws, of course, and he narrowly avoided arrest about twenty-four times. Each time he was caught, he responded with, "But I had permission from a higher source."

It is estimated that Stace wrote the word around 500,000 times. Only one survives, found years later, poetically, in a bell tower above Sydney's Post Office. One out of half a million! But now there was another one, in Queens, as if from beyond the grave, an exact copy of the divinely inspired original script. Banksy is literally echoing Eternity.

Echoes are everywhere. Banksy's work echoes Stace's, i.e. "Permission from a higher source." The story of Mr. Eternity provides a rich allegory to this piece, but is so subtly presented as to be nearly hidden. It's for Banksy himself, first, an homage to his forebearer, Mr. Eternity, but it's for the rest of us too, an Easter Egg to be discovered later.

This quality of Banksy's work can also be seen in the way his overnight graffiti art stick-ups around the five boroughs that month became like hidden treasures to be stumbled upon and discovered by the the residents of the city. Whole neighborhoods were caught up in the fun. And on that morning a Jackson Heights bodega owner found himself in possession of a piece of art that was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, if he could only find a way to remove it from the building and sell it.

I turned the stroller around and pushed the girls back home. I remember that the fall breeze was brisk, but the sun was bright and lit up a thousand interesting faces on Roosevelt Ave. (Queens' faces are some of the most interesting faces on earth. Da Vinci would have a field day here.) It was an auspicious first day of the Chase. And the moment is still echoing now, will be for a long time, maybe even on into my children's children. Every day, for the rest of October, there awaited a new adventure from Banksy, which would take us on an incredible treasure hunt throughout the other 4 boroughs of NYC.

The last piece of the month, on October 31st, was also in Queens, and also within walking distance. We got there just in time to spy it across highway 495. It was Banksy's signature on the side of a building. At first it looked just like it was done in an old school Queens-style bubble letter tag, super simple and understated. But as you looked a little closer you could see that the letters were 3-D. They were balloons made in the shape of a bubble font, as if the bubble font had bubbled out, popped out into the shape it originally mimicked. It was a reverse tromp-leoil. This was Banksy both paying homage to the locals and one-upping them at the same time. It was also a clever way to sign the entire month long "residency," his love letter to the city.

I took a shot of the girls sitting on the overpass guard rail, the bubble-letter Banksy signature hovering between them in the distance, and then we looked for a way to cross the highway to get a closer look. By the time we made it across the highway and found the building the piece was already gone! In that short 5 minutes some kids had put up a ladder and pulled it down. Meanwhile the NYPD had arrived on the scene and caught up to the kids before they could take off with the partially deflated letters. There were several bystanders watching the show, mostly fellow Banksy chasers, some of which I had come to know in the last few weeks. The cops let the kids go, but they put the bubble-letter Banksy in the back of a police van. Presumably they still have it now. It's worth a fortune.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

passage from Tournier


'One day I say him finishing the portrait of a woman. She was neither young nor beautiful nor rich. But there was something radiant in her eyes, her faint smile, her whole face.

"Yesterday," Assur said to me, "I went to the Prophet's Fountain, the one fed by a wretched Persian wheel.  The flow is meager and intermittent, so each time it starts up there's a good deal of pushing a shoving. At the back of the crowd a feeble old man was waiting with a tin cup trembling in his hand, and there wasn't a chance that he'd ever be able to fill it. But then this woman, who had just filled an amphora with great difficulty, went over and shared her water with him.

"It was nothing. An infinitesimal gesture of friendship among the desperately poor -people among whom sublime and abominable deeds are done every day. What was unforgettable was the woman's expression from the moment when she caught sight of the old man to the time when she gave him his water and left him. I carried that face away with me in my memory, and then, concentrating to keep it alive in me as long as possible, I did this drawing. What is it? A fugitive glimmer of love in a harsh existence. A moment of grace in a pitiless world. That rare and precious moment when the likeness sustains and justifies the image."

"I realize that what I am after is quite a revolution. I sometimes wonder if a more profound revolution is even conceivable. That's why I'm so patient, because I understand what resistance and persecution artists have to contend with. There's very little hope of winning out. But it's that bit of hope that I live for."'  Michel Tournier, from The Four Wisemen