I declared Armistice between my cat and a solitary sock found in the basement just last week a meter maid and a stop sign a fair-weathered friend and his necktie a large body of water and a leaking tap in my apartment I even brokered a sit-down between a dog and its tail a truck driver and his flat tire an author and her muse I did all this for the good of humanity and yet
I am still sitting on the curb Waiting to for my invitation to arrive
Image - Paul Pretzer
What a way to go - to drown in a glass of champagne.
Looking from the inside out at the party, the band is playing an up tempo tune that you remember from your childhood, but it is muffled, distorted, from that sweet dry effervescence that once filled his heart and is now filling your lungs. The chatter of the party goes fuses in with the bass beats until all you can hear is the fermenting sugar going wild as it let loose in the rocket shaped glass.
The bubbles get into your eyes as you struggled to focus on a past love that was being wooed by dark haired socialites. Everything turns sepia; the old age of the grape shows its ugly side.
It was like a 1920’s comedy of errors shot in three days because of budget cuts.
The socialites are circling around your old flame like a cackle of rabid hyenas, showing their teeth and their tails to each other, jumping in the air like show dogs to the sound of her coquettish laugh.
You stroke with all your might but you don’t know which way is up anymore; you are suffering from a case of The Bends. You free-dive deeper “in-glass”, the tannins in your head are ready to burst.
For you there will be no great escape. You won’t have a chance to breath.
As you go deeper, your head is fizzy and dry, you see your old flame leave alone, her red train leaves a red wet mark on the floor. You become light-bodied and are beginning to ferment.
Finally you close your eyes, breathe in the tangy thick semi-liquid. Let your body float, carbonate.
Your soul, your dreams, your truth will be realized like those fleeting effervescence of a grape; through your rigor-mortis.
Yes, it’s weird how things turned out but the signs were there.
Stieglitz is not like me. Sometimes he can write five pieces in one go, typing hurriedly and aggressively, the clattering of the keys making a sound of verbose downpour, filled with references and lubricated puns, something between Edward Said and a CAT-Scan.
I could spend days, musing in bed, only to wake up three days later or in a different season all together. I couldn’t help it; my mind like a computer filled with leach-like viruses and despicable pornographic images.
His words were soliform, an entity of pure energy that hit the page directly, like the jolt a madman gets in an electroshock treatment. He is the “Man” among men, a true bureaucrat of language and form, a stickler for synonyms.
I was the intellectual-buffoon, a juggler of words, the high-rope walker of semantics and semiotics, the Svengali of syntax.
Once we were inseparable: weekends down the shore, dramatic readings of Beckett or the TV guide. We wore the same green checkered suit (He wore the jacket, I wore the pants).
But the job of the critic is to mystify the job of the critic. Stieglitz, like the Wizard of Oz, planted seeds of contempt in this Tower of Babylon in order to create the illusion that he is larger than the munchkins. But unlike the munchkins, he ceased to live in Technicolor.
Soon enough his parables came to serve as a deep insight into the psyche of a housewife ironing on Valium. He was the proclaimed prophet of plastic.
Today Stieglitz lives on the 25th floor overlooking some river or some municipal building or some tree.
I live in a hole in the ground or in the tree overlooking a large glass building
Poppy comes from Berkshire. Pippa comes from Buckinghamshire.
Poppy studied history. Pippa studied anthropology.
Poppy loves Christmas. Pippa loves Easter.
Poppy is catholic. Pippa is a Seven Day Adventist. That is why she doesn’t love Christmas.
Poppy works in a solicitor’s office. Pippa works in a barrister’s office.
Poppy is afraid of spiders. Pippa is afraid of staplers.
Poppy has two older sister and a little baby brother. Pippa has three sisters and an older brother who died of AIDS in 1991, before they knew about cocktails.
Poppy was once stuck in an elevator for three hours. Pippa was once a high jump champion.
Poppy fell in love once with a surrealist Spanish painter. Pippa fell in love with her uncle’s life partner.
Poppy wants to travel around the world and help women who were abused by their husbands. Pippa has no plans at the moment.
Poppy loves popcorn. Pippa does to.
Poppy was once late for work and in her haste bumped into Pippa who dropped a two hundred page legal document on the dirt road, its pages blew away and landed in a lake where a lonely secretary was eating leek and potato soup on an overlooking bench.
From time to time I would work at the Savoy Hotel. One night I worked for a reception for Canadian business men. They held the reception in the Pinafore Room. They said they chose it because of its historical significance.
And why was the Pinafore Room so special? It is said that once someone put a photograph of Churchill in it and it stayed there ever since.
In a fragmented moment we become fecund with wistful imagination. We become impregnated by the semen of doubt, or conviction.
Time, when it is flux, allows up a pensive gaze into our own contemplative mechanism; we become detached from the fantasmatic elements that construct our reflexive actions, leading to a kind of paralysis.
This paralysis, which is also known as void or, under religious hypotheses, ecstasy, expands our view of the fragmented, expanded time, in which he paralysis is not really ours, but the world.
This is in a sense of spatial time: imagine one in outer space going at three times the speed of sound. Not only is he detached from any spatial coordinates i.e. directions in vacuum manifest differently than in condensed space. He is no longer abiding by up/down, right/left binary oppositions. Instead, he can choose new definitions. It is not that he is changed; it is the world that is ceased to work, at its most simple and complex mechanism.
In this void two elements are manifested in a paradoxical manner: the first is the sense of feeling the “heaviness” of the void: as the airless expanse becomes more “palpable”, one can feel as if the space is dense, heavy, even though it is the opposite.
The second is a sense of elation in this space. Even though the space is limited and serves as an oppressive cage, one may feel that he is looking into eternity, feel himself revolving. This is of course unproven as the space can be as small as an atom.
With these two elements in play, one is both attached and detached from the particular space and time at the same instant.
It what makes our world go round; and what makes us revolve in the world.
1. If it's too good to be true, it must be a lady boy.
2. You are not a true carpenter if you still have all you're fingers.
3. Things we learned from movies #23: Jews always have Chinese take out on Christmas Eve.
4. By the time you get to the mixed nuts bowl at the bar, there will be no cashews.
5. People you can hit #15: People who say on 31/12, "See you next year".
6. Athletes foot does mean you work out to much; It means you should take shower.
7. Just so you know, through the course of their marriage, you're father asked you're mother to have anal sex.
8. Even though you're shoes smell like a dead vulture, you can't stop smelling them.
9. Even the pope partakes to Dutch ovens.
11. The only reason why Woody Allen makes films is to prove that even an uglier guy than you can get laid
12. Even Charlie Chaplin didn't have energy to watch silent films.
13. Yes, truffles taste like mud and socks.
14. Every person tried to imitate the characters in the signal light.
15. Yes, the reason you can't work you're computer is it was revenge by the nerd you used to beat up at school.
16. It's not a detective movie if the detective does not give in his badge and gun and gets drunk afterwards.
17. It doesn't matter how old you're TV batteries are. If you open the lid and twist them, they will work.
18. Even Elton John thinks musicals are too gay.
19. You were offered to be Santa at the office party. It is not because they think you're jolly; It's because you're fat.
20. Even Lewis Hamilton doesn't recognize anything when looks under the hood of the car.
My friend Marv eats books. He does not eat them for taste. He eats them to gain knowledge. He believes that by eating books he can better remember and store knowledge of those books he has eaten, as if by osmosis.
He started to eat books in college, when we had an exam do on Shakespeare’s Henry the V. He took a pair of scissors, cut up the text book into mulch, stirred it with some milk and ate the copy.
From then on, he was eating books regularly. He ate our county’s phone book, Webster’s Dictionary and the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, which took a week and two blenders. After that he would eat random books. For a while he was into the Russians. He ate a second addition of Gogol’s The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich, all of Chekov and some late 20th century writers like Vladimir Sorokin.
Then he went on to eat American fiction, biographies and so on.
Once I asked him if the subject of the book influences its taste. He said it didn’t, but more the book itself, for example a paperback has more sweet tones to it while hardback usually tastes like octopus or sandals. He also mentioned that he didn’t care for new books, because they use too much glue.
He ate his way through man’s greatest literary achievements, and the occasional “light” pulp novel or reader’s digest.
I do not want to get into digestive issues, but once he described his dejections as
being similar to Paper Mache.
One day he got a call from a newspaper that did a story on him and quickly enough he became a celebrity appearing everywhere: He went on Jay Leno and ate his cue cards; he came to a Michael Chabon signing where he got Michael to sign a book which he later devoured. He even came along to a high profile trial where he ate an international law book, to emphasis the case of the prosecution that the law is being devoured by our corrupt society.
One day he got a call from the Guinness Book of World Records, telling that he won the prize for bring the man who ate the most books. It comes as no surprise that when receiving the award, he ate the book, the certificate and his valet card, which made it hard to find his car at the lot.
After his popularity sore, universities and libraries banned him from going in. a few copyright lawyers tried to sue him as they contested that by digesting a book, it is considered editing, and that is not allowed.
With the advent of electronic book readers, Marv could eat five thousand books in one sitting. But after a while he had to stop eating them, as his doctor told him he was allergic to glass. It caused him internal bleeding.
Sometime later, Marv met a lovely woman and fell in love. He knew everything about love, but it was all cerebral. He couldn’t feel anything in his stomach. No butterflies, no palpating of the heart. Zilch.
So Marv ate her so he could really sense what love felt like. It was a few frightening weeks in our town, when Marv started eating people he had different emotions to. He ate his personal banker, which he hated. He ate his pastor, for he made him feel optimistic and he even ate his cousin who came from out of town unexpectedly and surprised him.
My friend Marv is now sitting in jail where I’ve been told he ate his hand, for he felt loneliness.
“In an empty Kasbah I lie, counting stars and flies, flies and stars. Only stray dogs keep me company as the sand passes over my face, in search of a land in which dunes are almost extinct.
(O’Hara died on the dune, at lunchtime).
I shout at the girl in the white vale (oh wait; it is only a Fata-Morgana). It was only a rabid hyena, prowling in the blazing sun, waiting for the Halal butchers to come back from their prayer in hope to get a rancid piece of old meat. A smell of peculiar incense tickles my nose. A familiar yet ominous one…”
Why do writers always write about writers? Is it because we know it is all a facade, so we try to mystify the role of the writer in order to escape judgment from our fellow man? Is it because we believe that the writer has the most potential of leading a life that is worth telling a story about? Or is the plane “write what you know” that some old unsuccessful sage advised us when we thought of perusing writing as a craft?
Jean Cocteau was right. A true artist needs to be like a high-rope walker, standing bone crushing distance from the ground, relying on his instincts and faith that he can do it. Or maybe it is more extreme. An artist should be as a boxer. He should sacrifice his body, his mind, his pride as the sensation the champion gets as he is knocked down by a young contender. In the ring the bluff is revealed. The evidence is the swollen lip, the broken nose, the ringing of the ears and the battered scull.
Growing up I used to be hooked on Jazz, which for a long time I considered to be exactly that type of art, putting it all on the line. My favorite instrument was the baritone.
Baritone sax is one of the elusive of instruments. Its sharp, low toot makes one’s body quiver as sound waves become thicker, creating micro-gusts as they float through a crowded cafe.
If tenor is king and alt is the prince, baritone is the knight on the dark horse, riding swiftly, leaving no mark but a trail of floating leaves. Seven baritones crumbled the walls of Jericho.
Their echo is still vibrant today, creating tsunamis, Katrina and the eruption of Eyjafjallajökul. I would imagine the sax turning into clay, the musician gets infected and metamorphoses into a clay figure, still, but the sound is still coming out, the Golem of Jazz.
I remember the moment I realized Jazz has died.
I stand at the back. My dark sunglasses make the cafe seem even darker. I relish the public darkness. My voyeuristic nature comes out behind the shades. Here is a couple on their first date. The guy is enjoying the free form cacophony. The girl doesn’t get it. There will not be a second date.
The baritone shouts. I understand what he’s saying. I don’t agree with it.
He is a young black cat, around twenty. A small beard and an empty look. Jazz is the epitome of Dao. Achieving oneness by being vacuous. “Who is meditating?” my college professor asked in our Eastern Philosophy lecture. If the point is to disconnect from ego, what is left when you succeed?
A friend is late and I get anxious. The gig is nearing a close. The drummer and bass are racing now. The drummer seems hungry. He has one foot off the set. His solo is un-inhibited and perplexing. If I had not see him beat the drums to a pulp, twisting rhythms and flipping tempos, I would assume that he had not played a day in his life.
The band finishes on a roar. The crowd, mid-thirties, mid-class, mid-city, are clapping and whistling. Some of them are steaming. The weekend is their time off the reservation, working 10 hour days in hijacked building in the old city center. Guild-halls and old monarch building were bought by international corporations and banks. Jazz doesn’t belong to hoodlums, fast ladies and smack-heads anymore. It’s now stored in a tempered glass display cabinet, a cerebral attempt at spontaneity, in up-class night clubs with two drinks minimum. One meaningful quote about the subject is attributed to Frank Zappa: “Jazz ain’t dead; it’s just smells funny.”
Under the awning I stand, smoking, staring at a black haired girl laughing.
I look at my watch, he is still not here.
Jazz is filled with ancient spiritual dimensions: Zulu, Gospel, West-African Voodoo, Klezmer, and Yoruba.
Its spiritual dimension has been lost in the race for acceptance, becoming academic instead of emotional.
Maybe I was being too romantic and nostalgic about an age I have never experienced, but as I stated earlier, it does not matter.