Archive for category Essays

Like a Frozen Man Like a Dog in Siberia

I was reading delicately with a swift sort of consciousness. Consuming the words almost as if I am saying them aloud, which can only be done with the best authors, and who has time for the other authors? There are too many best authors.

Inability to proceed with meritorious selection, this is what makes me a tired loser. I was broiling the fact that when I put words together, the experience is not as productive as when I read them. I imagine myself with my mouth open, standing at the side of the highway, immersed with the visions of shiny plastic things zooming by, knowing that I will always be the witness and never be a shiny plastic thing.

Then I say I need dedication to a purpose in life because lacking that, those are the times I reel for things that can end the vacuum that sucked my soul out and spat it back into my face. I’m on the side of the highway and all of the people who do not want trash in their cars are throwing cans and bottles and McDonald’s cups at me, and their aim is perfect. I wonder how they never miss at life and all I do is get smashed.

That’s a normal day. My nightmares are killer. Last night, I was stuck somewhere in my backyard in the low parts of massive mounds of dirt, pushing an artillery cannon around because the big white worms who disappear on command and then show up on the other side of town were surrounding my house, and they told me that if I stayed there, I would pay with squashed guts and other stuff happening to my skull, but if I tried to escape my house, I would be shelled until all there would be is liquid flowing slowly down the street

So I thought I might close my mouth and mix a little writing into my life and see what happens. Strap me on to one of those plastic suburban vans with my fingers pinned by the sliding doors and watch my hair fly as I take a pen with my mouth and I write a story or I write a picture or I write about the thickness of disease that is inside of my head, or best of all, I write about all of the beautiful people who have the perfect aim in life and none of the dastardly chemicals that freeze a man like a dog in Siberia.

, , , , , , , , ,


Take Me to the Hospital for Real

I had an appointment with the doctor today. She is in a new building, which I think is beautiful in a subtle way, not that she’s there but the building is beautiful. I had to go to the top floor and wait in the reception area.

In the old building, I sat in a Psychology Department mail room in one of two chairs and said hi to all of the nice people who always glanced at me with a troubled look. (I like to think it is because I didn’t brush my hair, but I think it is because they don’t think I’ll make it – Luckily, they’re just students.) So in the old place, I always felt like I was at home in an old musty INSTITUTION, just where I needed to be but not locked in. The only disturbing thing was that they had a sign at the entrance of the Buddhist Garden that said “Under 24-Hour Surveillance – Vandals will be prosecuted.” I think if Buddha saw that sign, he’d vandalize the garden for the fun of it.

Today, I felt like I was going into an empty, sterile place dropped out of the 50’s (mind you I am not trained as an architecture critic – I just admire the stuff from afar), and I had a feeling that if I went in, they would take my brain out and freeze it, which would almost be as bad as a lobotomy, but more successful. At any rate, while having these thoughts, I noticed with peculiar delight the two “Do Not Enter” signs which must be the most ill-situated signs of all time, not due to the message to the patient, but because these signs completely ruin the feel of the architecture. If I were the architect, I would come over at midnight and rip them out with my Dodge truck:

Building Ruined By Street Signs

And the tallest tree in the background of this next shot, beyond the walking bridge (why do we need those anyway? In case it gets below 40 Fahrenheit?) is the one that I thought was dead like my spirit was in April, but both it and I are doing better:

My tree, Alive and Very Well

And here is the view I was afforded as I was leaving – I worked a lot of years in the twin tower on the left, but they disposed of me without so much as a wink, which tends to diminish my level of self-respect:

My Old Workplace, Haunting Me

And then there is this last view – If  it were two stories shorter and didn’t have that appendage on the right, I’d swear it was a high school building from the late 50’s, and I think, you know what that means? The 60’s are coming soon. Hang tight!

1950's but for the jutting on the right

OK, I’m no photojournalist, but boy was this building singing such a woeful tune to me today.

, , , , , , , , ,


Bad Writer Stopped Writing

I’m not on strike. I’ve been reading Sylvia Plath‘s The Bell Jar, and the writing is so damned good, I get overwhelmed and feel such a waste. I dream of communicating what’s in the heart as she did, and she thought it wasn’t a very serious book (HA!). She haunts me. She’s not the only one.

I try to learn from her. Every sentence is perfect. Every sentence makes me laugh or makes me cry. Sometimes I read a sentence more than a dozen times just to soak it in. In the end, I feel such a waste, like a gold fish in a shark pond, but I retain this love of writing. I cycle like this. I long to create, realize I can’t, spend great amounts of time with great art, and then get tired of not participating and long to create again. I’ll be back soon. Maybe tomorrow. I don’t know.

When I was in music school, one day my composition professor and I were having one of our modernism discussions and he asked me, “Have you thought about doing something else?” To this day, I find that hilarious in the obscenely funny honesty, but I always remember it with distinct sadness whenever I don’t measure up. I know that no one could measure up to Plath; there was only one Plath, but I just want to be decent. Well, I am doing something else. I have a day job, and I’m pretty damned good at that! They like me; I color inside the lines.

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,


My Day (this is getting out of hand) in Bullets

  • People were greeting me today.
    • The lady who lives alone was painting her house. She said “Hi” but she looked at me with a terrifyingly dark expression. I don’t know what she was thinking.
    • The speed-walking, handsome, young couple was scared of my dogs. My dogs wanted to lick them and get rubbed. It was at the end of the walk and the dogs’ muscles were sore.
    • The lady with three pugs had no control over her dogs. With all glowing respect to all of the wonderful pug lovers out there, these dogs were simply ugly as Detroit River water. One of them ran up to us like it was going to blow dog snot all over us, but Harry gave one of his alligator roars and the poor thing ran away with his tail between his legs.
      • My poor Daisy, she does almost everything with tail between legs. I think she’s anxiety-ridden about something terrible happening to her butt hole, and I really cannot blame her for her sensitivities. I think she had a bad butt event before we adopted her at the pound.
        • If you want to catch Daisy with tail up, offer her a treat or let her get into a wrestling match with little Pixie. Pixie is submissive with Daisy but that’s because Daisy acts and sounds as if she is going to rip poor little Pixie’s tummy out through a hole in her throat or straight through her tiny black ear.
        • Daisy plays gently but she sounds like a Tasmanian devil.
      • It is strange that many dogs leave the butt hole exposed. Thinking of this, I am grateful for my clothes.
  • If I really wrote my day in bullets, it might be thousands of bullets. You would think most of them would be boring as well as being stupid as hell, but they are the diesel engine trains running in and out of my sick little mind and they entertain the shit out of me, though sometimes in an inordinately depressive way.
    • Can you be entertained by depressive thoughts? Yes, Molly, you sure can be, but it is not the thing the normal person thinks of entertainment.
    • It is the snake pit of trails running all around telling me I’m the worst. Not entertaining, but it keeps me busy.
    • If the thoughts keep me busy enough, I don’t take dire action.
  • I know what refrigerant means; I know what recovery means; I know what systems means, but I have no idea what you do if you run the “Best Refrigerant Recovery System Company in the Heartland,” (especially since the truck was parked in a big field where all of the earth movers were going crazy). I also think I know what “Heartland” means, but I believe it is a grotesque misnomer for reasons we won’t get into in this forum.
  • One family in our neighborhood has about 24 feet of a L-shaped, white picket fence in front of a sparsely decorated porch and a smaller-L-shaped sidewalk that does not (the fence does not) have any white pickets. I don’t mind the missing pickets, but the missing pickets left rotting wood so the shadows of the pickets are there and they make me anxious. Something terrible happened when someone was fitful with anger. I try not to judge, but really, a quart of white paint and an hour of time would remedy this, but the fence occupies its worthless geography in this manner for years. I try not to judge because I should be judging my house. I have a scroll full of projects to work on.
  • Many have said that writers must be absolutely honest. Hemingway was most poignant, “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” Writers must be truthful or it won’t be good with the reader. That drives me like the severest challenge.
    • I’m not a writer, but when I sit down to write, I think about honesty before I write the first word. I like doing that. It’s a dare to me. When I’m honest, I’m vulnerable, so I need to feel comfortable with allowing people to laugh at me and be disgusted with me.
      • Dogs who lie on their backs with all four in the air, tummy exposed, are exhibiting their complete trust in the others around them.
      • Harry does this all of the time. I don’t think any animal ever violated Harry’s trust. Good for him.
    • Trying to be honest when one is writing leads to a terrible narcissism, but does one really know any truth aside from the one that is inside one’s own heart (sorry for the quaintish word)? I think not. I believe the rest of the world is a stage of deceptions that throws us in and out of boats full of chaos.
    • When my writing is not clear in some fashion, it is often because I am unwilling to be honest. (Fear creates the unwillingness. I don’t want you to be disgusted with me.)
    • After reading my poetry, many would say I am never honest, but this is honestly not true.
    • Until I started learning about true honesty with oneself, the kind that only happens when you dig so deeply into your heart, it hurts and you blubber cry, I had thought that I was honest. Now I think I am about 87%, perhaps more, but I am quite honest with others, to a fault.
    • I try not to hurt others and that’s when I become incompetent, with a horrific lack of honesty, throwing my moral compass in the bushes.
  • The earth movers at the school were moving massive amounts of earth today.
    • (They are building a new school behind the old school when the old school was just fine and they wonder why they can’t afford teachers and books.
    • At least our children will be held in beautiful prisons.)
    • Can you imagine the brains of the guy who invented the first earth mover? I am positive he was a crazy man.
    • I’m embarrassed that I am in such grand awe of earth movers.
  • On our walks, I dilly upon many oak trees. Most of the trees are soft wood trees with morbidly bizarre trunks showing the emotional stress of trying to live in America. But the oaks, oh my, they overwhelm me with a seeming natural perfection.
    • Oaks are stronger than anything man makes, but they are not stronger than F-5 tornadoes.
    • Sometimes, I feel myself approaching a sturdy oak, with a trunk diameter of perhaps three feet, and I hug the oak, it comes out of the ground, greets me with warm energy that flows deeply and seems to assure me that the tree will protect me from anything that life is about to throw at me (except for an F-5 tornado).
    • The oak doesn’t hug back but it shoots energy into me.
    • I can carry it upright, sideways or perpendicular to my path depending upon obstacles.
    • It’s whacked-out crazy to imagine I might be as sturdy as an oak by merely bringing the oak with me, but it gives me security like a blanket.
    • When I was at my worst this last spring, I had these continuous visions of the noose from a horizontal branch that was sturdier that you can imagine.
      • I don’t know why the sturdiness was such a core part of these visions.
      • I am glad they (the visions, the permanence of nasty game-planning) are gone.
      • I hope they don’t come back.
  • When I have a day off from work, that is when I dream about becoming a writer. I know better, but for a few moments, the reflection comforts my soul.
    • Buying lottery tickets is not a good game plan (speaking of bad game-planning) for comforting the soul.
    • If one did win, can you imagine not having to deal with the meaningless world?
    • One might escape the meaningless world for a much more dreadful meaningless existence.
    • If that happened, I wonder what I would write about.
    • I’d probably write about how I don’t contribute anything to the world.
  • Exercise is good for me. It fuels my imagination and makes me have crazy (good crazy) thoughts.
    • I wonder if other people have crazy and mad thoughts streaming when they’re walking.
    • I theorize that I somehow lose the stream of the plagues of “this American life,” and quickly, magically, I am alone in my own world where nothing hurts and where despair is a word that has been removed from my dictionary.
    • I’m not really a loner, but I love that feeling of being in my own world.
      • One time I took a substance that made me feel as if I were in my own world and that scared the tamales out of me.
      • Don’t get me wrong, it was a blast, but I was too scared to do it again.
  • When I listen to “Cassandra Gemini” from Frances the Mute by The Mars Volta, I am transported to this state of being where everything is heading for the final crash that permanently snuffs out the lights, or quite on the opposite end, I am headed for this massive peak to spend the rest of eternity sitting and breathing air that is like diamonds with a mind that is empty like the universe but more beautiful. It seems impossible that a piece of art could do both of these things at nearly the same time (within seconds, yanking back and forth), but it’s true for me. The words are not satisfactory, but they are the truest thing I can say about that piece.
  • It seems that I love art by artists who have also suffered from depression. Other art seems phony. I wonder why this is.
  • I love reading books but I love it so much, I always find four other books I desperately need to read while I am reading today’s book.
    • Thus, I have a lot of books going.
    • The resulting mental gymnastics is good for my aging, toasted brain.
  • Sometimes, after the good exercising (of the body, even if this is simply a vigorous [my doctor’s word for it] stroll) and after the panting has stopped, I love seeing how my dogs have arranged themselves for the mid-morning nap.
    • You can view the fact that they are living right.
    • I love that.
    • You can see that there is not one thing that is wrong in their worlds and that is absolutely magical to me.
    • Perhaps in this way, it is like watching a baby sleep.


, , , , , , , , , , ,


Adjusting the Schedule 100

Adjust the schedule. I wake up earlier than anyone and still don’t get to work on time. Good air conditioning, Claude. I’m compulsively against mornings, but I hate exercising in the evenings so it has to be the mornings. Should ban myself from the computer, from the books, just get up, walk briskly, meditate, hop in the shower, and then if there is time, go read a bit. Schedule the big shit first and all of the little shit falls in. We are hopelessly overwhelmed with information. In my job for sure, but in my spare time, so big shit first.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Impressions from Humankind and Nature

Looking south from Top of the Rock, New York City

This piece started as a poem, but I am not poetic enough.

I sit, incredulous at the sound of so many trillions of rain drops (and this, a very gentle rain). Closing my eyes, I feel hands crunching foil forever. That is the sound but foil isn’t so magical. The forms of nature that surround me are impossible to comprehend. The cycles of nature are perfect throughout some avenue. The tall and narrow pines are stretching for light. The bursts of Aspen trees, how the rain so perfectly, seemingly, offsets the sun. Or how the two combine, far more powerful than any of humankind’s creations.

Surveying:  Here in Branson, there are tiny hills, steep hills, steep foot hills, and man has tried to tame those with his town.  I’m short on education. I don’t understand the most simple engineering. Our A-frame cabin baffles me. How do they know that the roof will accept the weight of what shall fall on it, relying on that simple, disturbingly-thick log through the middle? Those sides of the structure should wobble back and forth but they stick in place because people have learned. I can’t learn what the people have learned. I can’t manage the physical surroundings of my world. (I can’t manage the mental aspects of my surroundings, but that is a topic for another day.) I count on people who have an education to build these structures, and you’ll see me with my mouth agape at even the smallest engineering concepts. Even things which most people comprehend with the most basic common sense are amazing to me. I sit here and wonder why it is that I cannot keep up with humankind’s engineering brilliance.

Humankind has straight lines of all of the types you will ever imagine, and then when they do those perfect circles, you have to be astounded at how those are created to appear to be so perfect. All of these things that stand that should not stand, in my mind. I see one of the country “opera” houses. It is towering with the front of a Southern mansion, with hundreds of beautifully-crafted, square windows that have lines of small wood frames cutting through at perfect 90-degree angles. Amazing height, columns that appear to be impossible to construct.  Most people might be flabbergasted at how stupid I am, at how these little things that man creates are impossible for me to understand. These things stand as miracles before my eyes, allowing my mind to wander over endless creations of man without ever being satisfied in having understanding.

Yet, I sit here with crinkling tin foil in nature’s surround sound, and I remember that as I drove through town today, the other thing that amazed me is how run down America is. If you open your eyes, man’s creations are crumbling all over, and maybe one piece in a hundred pops up as newly constructed, but how long will it last? When I was in New York City last month, instead of being struck, I was stricken at how that city looked like a modern-day collection of Roman or Greek ruins. When I looked just right, there were no people and it was the most un-survivable mess I have ever seen. I could see that we have failed to survive as a civilization as I saw the most rotten pile of creation ever known – Amazingly, in relative terms, a pile of garbage that did not take long to create. Even the brand new buildings looked to be very near death, perhaps because they were surrounded by death.  So as I sit here, serenaded by nature’s cymbals, it occurs to me that nature’s creation, regardless of its source, a god or some other spiritual, creative flow, is the most powerful, is the only one that seems to last, even after we have worked to destroy it. I am not any kind of environmental wacko, but it was merely frightening to me that no matter how much genius seems to be behind all of these structures that humankind creates for itself, especially the most monumental ones, the ones created to worship the power of our brains and accomplishments, are merely beasts that are temporary like a tiny speck of sand in the huge General Electric engines of a Boeing 747. They are dissipating before they are even finished, just as we are, it seems.

Yet, while I sadly watch it all go faster than it should, I do relish in all of the creature comforts which my brain is far too small for understanding – This computer, the air conditioning, the roof over my head, the heat, the medical care for when I’m broken. Yes, I will enjoy those for as long as I last, or perhaps for as long as they last.

, , , , , , , , ,


Why the Stairs?

Other places don’t have the stairs, so how do they, the stairs, become so powerful for us?

The first time, I used the front stair case. It was dusty and I wondered if I happened into an abandoned property, but when I opened the door, there were a great many people in the two rooms that I could see. It was casual, peaceful, non-confrontational, and people were smiling oddly. Honestly, it looked like a group of people who would never voluntarily gather together, quietly sitting in their Saturday rags.  Later I learned that the rags disguise gentle and hopeful wisdom.

I learned no one uses the front staircase except people there for their first time and some old folks who might prefer parking on the small town street with gentle sidewalks but no grass.

I go there a lot, and one of our powerful sayings is, “I might not make it up those stairs again.” I hear this washing, repetitive rhetoric, and I hear us trying to install a phony gratitude being that today, indeed, we did make it up those stairs. But that’s not what they mean by “might not make it up those stairs again.”

The back stairs are treacherous in the winter.  They are either slick with ice or so overwhelmed with salt pellets, they act as pans filled with uncontrollable marbles.

The stairs are powerful, and I wonder what the others do without stairs. “I might not make it in that door again”  does not inspire as well.

Each time up the stairs, I grip a certain brilliance that floats on the outside of my life, knocking hard, wanting to barge in. I let parts of it in, and when I walk down the stairs, the freedom strikes me like a lightning bolt filled with streaking blue roses.

I study anyone who is climbing the back stairs. They’re exposed to the back lot. You might not put any credence in this, but I know it’s true: Almost every time a person climbs the stairs, a protective halo gathers around the person, not really an angel’s halo, but certainly a halo of  powerful and beautiful love, and this regardless of how beautiful you might think the person is on the outside. These are non-discriminatory halos, perhaps only denying those who climb the stairs carrying evil motives.

Underneath all that I am conscious of during my entire day, on each day, I am sure there is this rummaging, perfectly rational fear of not making it back up the stairs. If I couldn’t make it up the stairs again, I’d hang myself from a sturdy oak tree.

The first time up the stairs, even though it was the front stairs, that was the beginning of my life, so as you might imagine, I love those freakin’ ugly, dangerous stairs.

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Medicine for Misused Humans

I wear my headphones. They help me grind through insanely boring work. People think I’m rude and I use the headphones because I don’t like people. Most times, I hope they’re wrong. When my headphones are off, all that I hear is insane, meaningless chatter – Meaningless because there is so much of it that it no longer sounds like English. I can only hear rising and lowering tones and then slow are then more rapid rhythms. Usually it is active recaps of last night’s network TV. I love random chance music, but I’d rather listen to my favorite composers instead. Sometimes I listen to Insane Clown Posse, and I hope I don’t sing along too loudly because those guys say a lot of bad words. I like my Pearl Jam or some Soundgarden. I like Bach. I love Brahms but when I listen to Brahms I air-conduct too wildly.

, , , , , , , , ,


The Congruence of Joy and Despair

Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich (Russian: Дмит...

Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich

In the old days, before the new era, better known as the new life, I would drink too much alcohol whenever I was sad, and I would drink too much whenever I was happy. I was always sad or happy, so you can observe my dilemma. When I look back with honesty, I realize that I was always sad, or never truly happy. I drank to rid my consciousness of despair – a never-ending task. And when I had happiness or some sense of accomplishment or pride, I poured massive amounts of alcohol on it to maintain my state of joy, which always ended the next morning if not far sooner.

Today, I was listening to Shostakovich which is a bit like saying today I got dressed, but it was my first and favorite Shostakovich, the 10th Symphony. This piece is filled with despair with all sorts of glancing touches of hope. (It was meant as a farewell to Stalin after his death, and the portrait of Stalin is particularly poignant in the fury and evil of the second movement. Stalin prevented Shostakovich from creating freely and the 10th is surely a long-awaited response to that state of being. Violations of Stalin’s artistic censorship were always punishable by death and Shostakovich was very close on at least one occasion.)

It occurred to me that I love Shostakovich more than any other composer because he speaks a language that penetrates to the deepest and most vulnerable parts of my soul. I especially love my Shostakovich whenever I am either sad or happy, and I am always sad or happy, so you can observe my dilemma. However, in this case, the dilemma is not killing me or sending me to the insane asylum in the gutters of Brooklyn.

When I am sad, Shostakovich sits with me so I am not alone as I shake my fist at the world. Shostakovich communicated in his music that dreary state of knowing you’re not good enough for the world. When I am happy, I hear in Shostakovich the tremendous victory and gift and blessing of breathing right now, and I hear the knowledge that no matter how far down the scale I’ve gone, I can hope for happiness and hope that there will be moments of joy and happiness other than the one that is felt right this moment.

When I’m listening to the 10th, oh my god, I want to play the clarinet, piccolo, trumpet, or trombone. Oh my god, give me a fucking clarinet! But I never learned any wind instruments, and I can’t learn now because it would not start off sounding perfect, and the imperfect squeals would send me into fits of depression. I do believe I could play the timpani, and yes, I would love to play the timpani or tuba, yes, tuba, with the Chicago Symphony, preferably conducted by Bernard Haitink or perhaps Riccardo Muti, while it plays the richest and most emotional version of the 10th ever to be played while Shostakovich cheers me on in a deeply happy sate but with a fairly dark frown on his face and his heavy-framed glasses blocking view of the fire of his spirit coming out of his eyes.

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Speak Clearly, Son

I love my father immensely. He is a spiritual role model. But sometimes, he’s not perfect. If I speak in broken grammar, he’ll get impatient with me, not mentioning the grammar until later but acting as though I am spitting out nonsense and impatiently waiting for me to say something that makes sense. And when he is impatient with me, I get pissed because I always try to be smart in front of Dad.

He, impatient, I, frustrated. It hurts when I think my father is disappointed because he thinks I’m in my 40’s and continue to be ignorant of my native language. He doesn’t mean it, and often he digs deep, finds loving patience, and asks questions to get me to elucidate my ideas. I’m left wondering at cause: he being an attorney or I being a layperson artist; he being wise, I, being an idiot.

, , , , , , ,


%d bloggers like this: