Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Here's Looking At You, Kid

As the Spirit of '76 approaches--
Still, in remembrance, Herbert Louis, as I said...

Herbie, you are a good brother. A bit extraordinary, odd even, but good. Born on Halloween in '38 within 24 hours of Welles' notorious "War of the Worlds" broadcast. Did that scare send Mom rushing to the hospital, only you, not I, would know, (and so would it ever be). I've read that Seabiscuit was victorious over War Admiral the next day, but you know that, too.

Do you remember the time when I was seven and you were eleven and you pushed me into the Duck Pond at the Bronx Zoo to see if little brothers could float? Your inquiring mind was active even then.

How about the time, a couple of weeks later, when you gave me my first cigarette and started my lifelong addiction to nicotine? I was told that you were conducting experiments at the time for the Department of Agriculture...for E.T. Benson was it?...studying the effects of tobacco on various living organisms, plants, and your brother, forinstance. You took me to the lab that they set up for you at the Botanical Gardens, you would be twelve in a few months. I still have the old corncob pipe that you had smoked in those days. A regular Huckleberry Finn, kiddo.

Herbie, do you remember when Castro came in and you guys fled Havana for Miami and then bicycled it up, you and Esther, all the way to New York City? The press clippings are around somewhere. I guess Es, or maybe Mom, saved them. You set up then on West End Avenue in that studio and I'd come over after work and we'd play chess and you'd beat me every game while reading the complete works of Ian Fleming. What a wise ass. I said, "Herbie, pay attention to the game," and you just snickered and pointed to the pile of paperbacks that you'd already tossed on the floor. Hansa and Goethe were poking their noses in the pile. "Pick any of those books, open it to any page. Just give me the page number."

"Doctor No, page 35!"
"Got any money you want to lose?"
"Just do it!"

"Running Head: Reception Committee
that it was a big American type taxicab and that there was no one in it but the driver. Then it was gone.
     The dust settled slowly. They sat for ten minutes saying nothing. Then Bond told Quarrel to turn the car and take the--time out--move my Knight to Queen 7, mate in 3--He said, I think that car was interested in us, Quarrel."--
     "Fuck you, Herbie."
     "Nobody likes a sore loser little brother."

Herbie, I know that now that you've retired you've begun watching all of the movies that were ever made, because you've already read every book that was ever written, but let me ask you, have you seen that Dirty Harry movie, the one where he warns a perp that, "a man has to know his limitations," yet?

You're just like him you know. Dirty Harry. You've got your personal code that you follow; you can't keep yourself from crossing lines. Always the Mathematician, first drawing the lines to follow, but then moving them when you feel that they must be moved. Quite a trick to be able to get away with that, but now we know, don't we, now we know, the truth, that is, don't we know, Herbie, now...about limitations, that is.

And Herbie, just one more thing, well two now that I've decided: First, I'll be talking to you, and second, here's looking at you, kid.

Your little brother,

Friday, October 24, 2014

What Al "Don't Make a Sisyphus" Camus Told Me Before He Died

Reflections on ModPo, Aloneness vs. Loneliness, and the Creative Urge

If History has taught me anything, it is that I know nothing of things future, and next to nothing about this moment. Yet not being accredited academically in the fields of Psychology, Sociology, or Art does not pressure me to disqualify myself as an able spokesman to reflect and report, credibly, from whatever depth of knowledge, experience and intuition that the past has deposited upon myself; gravity being the only force that can lay a thinking man low, and keep him there, and even then with visible exceptions to the rule.

I read once, at the tail-end of the book, The Pursuit of Loneliness,* that "One could also make this argument for art: if our emotional life were not so impoverished by the sacrifices we make to utility, we would not need art to enrich it, See The Glory of Hera,** pp. 463-464." The author of these words was referring the reader from Freud's, Civilization and Its Discontents*** to a work of his own for further clarification and perhaps emphasis, or possibly another reason, it doesn't matter. The important point is that what I had read would only be true, if I chose then, or choose now, personally, to accept its validity.

Fully more than forty years after reading the above quoted I haven't decided whether to accept it as true, but whether I ever accept it has no bearing on the unchanging line, but much to say about myself and that line's effect on me throughout the intervening years. I read it: therefore I am what I am: Popeye, the reader.

Since I was once asked to say something about what I think is the difference between the state of "aloneness" and that of "loneliness", I believe that the preceding example of my capability for slow thought processing demonstrates, effectively, how I came to accept, by strictly subjective means, that "Loneliness" is being without a companion, thus possibly lonely, devoid, or dejected, and is not the same thing as being in the condition of "Aloneness" which means being in a desired place, e.g., consciously meditative, contemplative, but in some way busily engaged in separation, by personal choice, from others. I cannot see why the difference isn't readily apparent, but anything containing the word "lone" seems to immediately spark unwanted sympathy from onlookers and listeners. What I have concluded in this paragraph is true only if, as I've said before, if I accept its validity by means of the TAPI (The Applied Popeye Imperative) and I do.

Now, Etta James, ("Metaphors be with you")**** to relate the foregoing riff with ModPo and the urge to create.

To begin, I will again quote from The Pursuit of Loneliness, "I would like to suggest three human desires that are deeply and uniquely frustrated by American culture:

(1) The desire for community--the wish to live in trust and fraternal cooperation with one's fellows in a total and visible collective entity.

(2) The desire for engagement--the wish to come directly to grips with social and interpersonal problems and to confront on equal terms an environment which is not composed of ego-extensions.

(3) The desire for dependence--the wish to share responsibility for the control of one's impulses and the direction of one's life."

Using the TAPI, explained above, I contend that ModPo counteracts, and indeed, alleviates these frustrations in varying degrees. These counteractions and alleviations are governed by my powerful, but entirely discretionary willingness to give and forgive, and my barely controllable feral urge to participate in acts of creation. This is what ModPo and I bring to each other. For better or for verse, Popeye, alone, must decide.

   *P.E. Slater,    The Pursuit of Loneliness (Boston: Beacon Press, 1970), p. 154
  **_______,     The Glory of Hera (Boston: Beacon Press, 1968), pp. 463-464
 ***S. Freud,    Civilization and Its Discontents (London: Hogarth, 1953), pp. 46-48
****A. Wolf,    Immersed in Verse (New York: Lark Books, 2006), p. 33

Friday, October 17, 2014

"The Tragedy of Macdeth"

by Francis X. Bacon
from ACT II
Scene I--A cavern. In the middle, a boiling cauldron.

WITCHES:  Double, treble toil and trouble,

Fan the flamers, prick the bubble,
In the cauldron boil and bake
Packwood's acne, Bobbitt's ache.
Lorena's shiv and Tonya's shank,
Constituents of Barney Frank,
Eye of World Trade Center bomber,
Midnight snack of Jeffrey Dahmer,
Distill our brew with earwig venom,
Compound with Amy Fisher's denim,
Teddy's poppers, Willie's toke,
Jonestown punch, Anita's Coke,
Janet Reno's rescue tactics,
Magic Johnson's prophylactics,
G-man's sting and he-man's stench,
Powder'd harlot, Liquid Wrench,
Jaws of Jersey City mobster,
Claws of Chappaquiddick lobster
(clutching in its briny clickers
Mary Jo Kopechne's knickers),
Possum's blister, maggot's wen,
Susan Estrich estrogen--
Macdeth shall thus the networks charm
To spin the news and spare him harm!  [Exeunt]


The foregoing: one answer to what can be said when

asked about the use and value of humor in poetry in
"The Age of Civility."

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Something to Crow About

The Merchant of Venice,
Act V, Scene 1

The crow doth sing as sweetly as the lark
When neither is attended, and I think
The nightingale, if she should sing by day,
When every goose is cackling, would be thought
No better a musician than the wren.
How many things by season season'd are
To their right praise and true perfection!
                                          --Wm. Shakespeare


Patchin' Solo o
Divertimento in d Op. 2

Yes, Dennis, rain can dew.

Glaze a wheelbarrow.
          I see it now.
See, too, an American Crow,
          Big fella,
High-wirin' after the rain.

White-tailed deer
Givin' me the stink-eye, and
Twitchin' their oven-glove ears at me,

Jack-rabbit hops, Once,
          Twice, and then
Ducks under my
          Glazy-day deck.
Heard no spring peepers.

Don't hear like I used to do.

Ways of Words

From Instructions of Cormac,
King of Cashel
9th Century,

          Be not too wise, nor too foolish,
          Be not too conceited, nor too diffident,
          Be not too haughty, nor too humble,
          Be not too talkative, nor too silent,
          Be not too hard, nor too feeble.
If you be too wise, men will expect too much of you;
If you be too foolish, you will be deceived;
If you be too conceited, you will be thought vexatious;
If you be too humble, you will be without honour;
If you be too talkative, you will not be heeded;
If you be too silent, you will not be regarded;
If you be too hard, you will be broken;
If you be too feeble, you will be crushed.

Late in the year, 1966.

A community center in Newark, New Jersey.

A large group of reasonably educated young people (in their 20’s and 30’s) gathered in a large basement room of the community center. About two dozen whites on one side of the room. An equal number of young Blacks on the opposing side. The Blacks stared angrily at the Whites. The Whites looked back fearfully at the Blacks. They had been charged, and also had volunteered, to be the subject of an experiment in which they would spend 14 hours in this particular room without food, without sleep, without anything, save dialogue between each other if they so chose to instigate it. They were told to say, or scream whatever was on their minds to each other, or forever hold their peace, [or piece], if they so desired.

I had been invited to witness this gathering of tinder, and partake in these festivities by a certain Professor Nameless [Psychology, Cornell University] under the auspices of a School of Industrial Relations that had solicited my labor union to serve up likely candidates for this exciting bake-off.

In all fairness, I did eventually get to go to the Cornell Club on New York’s Eastside to pick up a Certificate that indicated that I had demonstrated, for all intents and purposes, that in the Art of Communications, I was, at least, a passable specimen. All of this had transpired in the year before LeRoi Jones’ second marriage, and coincidentally, the year before my second marriage.

Also, in the coming year, 1967, the Eye of the Chimera would get seriously singed before the nation, and the world.

So how interesting is it, therefore, this less renowned Baraka “Incident”? His poem, the one under theoretical discussion in the video that I watched today, after reading the poem this morning for the first time in my still-charmed life, somewhat less interesting, but only somewhat less. Here is all that I otherwise remember about that long night’s journey into light.

JONES: “Do you know that I could kill you? I could kill you right now!”

KEEPERMAN: “Yes, but you won’t, LeRoi.”

JONES: “Really. And just why is that, pretty boy?”

KEEPERMAN: “Because if you do kill me, nobody in this room, nobody…and nobody outside of this room, nobody…but most of all, you, LeRoi, will ever know if you killed me because I was White, or because you were Black.”

Jones smiled, everyone smiled, everyone hugged. The next 12 hours were without 'incident', if I recall.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Doin' the NOLA 9

Hajnalka told me to add that she was at my side every step of the way, just so you know.

Landed at MSY.
Shuttled to FrQuarter.
Hiked through Bywater.
Swallowed Scotch on Bourbon.
Hoofed it downtown.
Cabbed it home.
Slept like baby.

The Saenger marquee shouted down Rampart
CHICAGO in big black block letters
As the St. Charles streetcar clanged
Louder for my attention, but still
I asked the ticket hawk, "the Band?"
"Naw, dawg, da Musicool. We got plenny bannareddy."

Walked St. Claude from the Bywater,
Two, maybe three miles to Bourbon
Passing lots of lots and lots of ramshackles with blown gutters.
Passed Meatshops, Family Dollar, Mickey D's
(Free coffee all this week only!) How'd he know I was coming?
Eschewed the RTA #88, being daylight and all.
Sticky hot daylight.
Passed a poorfolk's Parish Medical Office,
Covenant House and then...like a ray of sunshine--
Louis Armstrong's Archway entrance to Louis Armstrong Park.
A few feet from a 12-foot-tall statue of Satchmo
I booked a ride from a United Cabbie.
"Next Tuesday at 11am, right? $33 to Louis Armstrong Airport, right?
You got my number, right? You got my address, right?"
"Yeah, man, be cool. I be willin' if y'all be willin'. Dis N'Orleans not N'Yawk!"

Caught "Kid" Merv and--his?--quartet while
Parked on the coolest green metal bench. I'd
Return to this bench every morning at 10:30am
Every evening at 6:00pm.
The homeless guys got to know my schedule and
Stretched on adjacent benches. As if they knew
Their place was now my place. San Fran without the hills.
And Philly, and Baltimore, and Washington, and New York,
And Providence, and Hartford, and L.A.
Saw none at Gettysburg or Quebec.
Maybe I just wasn't looking hard enough.

Walked Magazine, five, maybe six miles--
Checking out the 30-room mansions in the
Garden District. 25-cent Martinis at the
Commander's Palace. Ate roast stuffed quail,
Had Brandied Bread Pudding with my 2nd Martini.
Strolled the Cemetery across the street on Washington
Trying to come down off a high-flying lunch.
(It would take 5 hours).
Trolleyed back Mississippi-side. Aren't the days
Getting hotter, longer? I'm getting thinner, but eating like
A pig and drinking like a whale.
Book passage while on the Riverwalk for the Natchez
Sunday Brunch Cruise with the Dixieland Band.
It has to be done once in every life, no?
Got gumbo?

No rain all week. But there was at odd moments

Guilty as charged: The conspicuous consumption of Andouille Sausage,
Alligator Sausage, Boudin, Etouffee, Crawfish File Gumbo,
Shrimp Creole, Red Rice and Beans, a Central Grocery Muffaletta,
A Johnny's Po'Boy, 8 dozen oysters (only 3-dozen were grilled
With Butter, Oregano, and Garlic), Beignets, and a liter and a half of 100 Pipers Scotch
Sucked through a catheter hanging from my backpack while hiking the Quarter.
No room yet for more Sazerac, Brews and Hurricanes--
Caught the NCIS New Orleans crew shooting a Halloween scene.
Glad I set my DVR! Missing Person of Interest, The Blacklist, and ModPo!
Copped my green bench at 6:00pm to hear "Kid" Merv blow some riffs.
Great listening. Eyeballed the tourist parade. What a friggin' plug-ugly
Nation we live in. (Me with only 3 teeth talkin'.)
Shiver my timbers mate,
There goes a Dude in a Jean Lafitte outfit, rapier and all.
And get a load of that slavegirl with him!
Who let them off of Bourbon Street?
I cannot describe Bourbon Street in less than 1,001 nights.

Rained today until noon. Boarded the Natchez. Don't eat the Ham.
Had 3 refills of the fruit salad and a Bloody Mary.
Tossed a fin to the Band to play St. James Infirmary, thought
I might need it after the brunch buffet.
Thought about Mark Twain while looking at the oil refineries,
And smelling gasoline as we churned up (could have been down)
The Mississippi. Twain liked living in Connecticut.
My favorite Yankee. God, it's friggin' humid here.
Just so you know, Long Island Iced Tea packs more punch
Than the Pat O'Brien Hurricane.
The rain tapers off and I stroll the Quarter. Check out Frenchman,
Royal, Chartres for the 3rd time. Bourbon for the fifth! No pun, really.
Did I tell you about the oysters at the Blind Pelican on St. Charles and Euterpe?
$3 a dozen during happy hour. Swear to God! But you gotta buy a beer.
Heard two concerts this week:
The U.S. Marine Band performing at St. Louis Cathedral, and
The Rhythm, Blues and Soul Concert at Louis Armstrong Park.
Two of the best concerts I've ever attended. And both free!
Bought some spices at the French Market to experiment
When I get home, because I nailed a 103-year-old Housekeeper's
Cajun and Creole Cookbook (the cookbook yo!) with more
Than 1,000 original home recipes at an Estate Sale
In the Garden District. Price $1.00. Lovin' it!
The coffee is free through September 29. Ain't life beautiful?

One more day. Home tomorrow night.
My heart beats furiously as I play with my maroon
Beaded necklace and stir the mint leaf in my Sazerac with my tanned finger.
Although I'm toast I leg the 10 or so miles to Tulane by way of Loyola.
Through Audubon Park, the closed Zoo, and back 10 miles down Magazine Street
To the Red Trolley back to my Green Bench.
I slip my last fin to "Kid" Merv and the gang as they play "When the Saints..."
I hug him good-bye and tell him to look me up when he gets to New York. He
Smiles and lights a Lark.
I picked up a Round Loaf of Herb and Garlic Bread at a fancy
French Bakery in The Garden District.
In the Quarter I slip into a crowded deli-cum-liquor store
And a slicer guy who looks smashed thin-slices me a quarter of
Mortadella, Genoa, and Provolone, he's got no Cappiocola,
So I pass on the ham (visions of the Natchez Dance in my head).
These victuals are my economy meal for my return Delta flight.
Saw a lot of statues, besides the ones at the Art Museum in New Orleans City Park.
Saw General Beauregard, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Satchmo.
A statue to honor Immigrants.
New Orleans is a great walking city and I did it justice.
I'm glad I was able to do it.
Warts and all, pound for pound, it warn't half bad.

Gone, man, gone. And, oh yeah--
Don't forget, Hajni was at my side every step of the way. Just so you know.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Across the Sea

The New York Times
Letter to the Editor
September 19, 2014
E Pluribus Unum, mates
The people of Scotland have stepped back from an abyss, and for this I give thanks, for their being not fearful, but for being prudent, and hopeful for a better future standing united. The political motivators that stir the passions of nationalism by division play a dangerous game that time and again fails to deliver but the stuff of nightmares to those who simply fancy a dream. Those who dream of separation, division, destruction are multitudinous, “the past is prologue,” as one great Britain wrote, and knowingly added this: "We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep." We of the United States, salute you, forever friends.‑-Cyberswamped=Reklektikos


Across the Sea

Took the High Road--
Took the Low--
Climbed all night to
Maine's full height,
Then I looked up, and up,
Across the sea,
And by God, there--
Along the Firth of Forth,
Lie still our own
Dunfermline still
Home to you and me.
Full Disclosure:
I'm not from Scotland,
But once, I rode an elevator
4 flights down with
Maureen O'Hara.
'tho she's surely Irish, so
Does that even count?
Say, did I ever tell you about
The time I bought Judy Garland
A Pina Colada in Times Square?
She passed on the hot dog
That I offered to buy for her.
Gee, she was shorter than
I had ever imagined.
Damn, that was a juicy hot dog.