Jul 27, 2006
The chess master's mind.
Doctorow on the story as the basic unit of knowledge.
What books altered history?
Green Party doings.
The scripture of Ralph Reed.
The defeat of Ralph Reed.
Surreal Hiram Ohio.
Freak Flag, or when creativity is a trapping.
Australia considers terrorist book ban.
A history of solipsism and experience in American poetics.
What is Conservative culture?
Jul 25, 2006
Why Lennon? I wanted to ask.
She sat in the middle of the coffee shop on a Saturday like an unofficial art display. She bent over the white canvas stapled around onto the pine frame and the white paint and the black paint were puddled up on a palate. The palate was newsprint bent up as a bowl and balancing on the edge of the couch. She seemed somehow to be the middle or everything, a space of silent absorption. She seemed somehow to be the middle and in the middle of that was John Lennon.
Lennon looked out. He looked through round glasses painted black with white highlight glints. He looked iconic, in mussed hair and a t-shirt. Something looked wrong with his skin, the way she’d put it down, and I wondered how long this was before he died. He looked done like a Warhol as realism. He looked a pop poster pinned up on the wall but instead of airbrushed he'd been painted. He looked but his eyes were blank, drug dazed or fame glazed or dulled by something and he was lost to me. He looked like an empty mask, like some copy of a copy of a copy of a copy losing it’s shaded shape and I wanted to say, why Lennon?
I didn't say it, didn't ask because I couldn't without seeming to flirt and really I just wanted to know. The older guy with the stack of philosophy anthologies set on the high stool next to him had already moved down to the couch to ask her something. She sat silent and he talked.
I invented an answer. I remembered someone else's answer. I invented another. Then I gave up. To me Lennon means nothing. I don't know what she's looking at, smudging, brushing, bent over furiously. He means something to her and I don't know what or why and I can't get there from here.
Jul 22, 2006
(Note: this is post #1800)
I was waiting for you, but I had forgotten what you looked like. Not forgotten but didn't know because it'd been so long. I saw someone who might have been you but then I knew I couldn't know because it'd been so long. I needed to know so I could see you way down the street, so I wouldn't have to wait any longer than I could see. So I sat and stood and walked in circles and leaned against a wall and tried to concentrate.
It seemed like if I could concentrate then I'd know one thing, one thing to pick you out half way down the street. It seemed like I should be able to know one thing that would have to be true, that I'd have to be able to see from here. I remembered one day airplanes and the doors of the airport stepping themselves open to take you away. I remembered a river and a sky and I remembered seeing a car accident on fire and a camel crossing New Mexico. But nothing about you, nothing that was better than the accidental.
It was a cloudy day and the darkness didn't fall or settle or come down but seemed to seep out of everywhere, taking the light and thinning it and separating it from itself. It got harder to see and I squatted and waited. You said 6:15, which meant dusk in this north and I didn't have the time, here on the sidewalk, but this was dusk.
I remembered one day watching a dog waiting for a ball to be thrown and I remembered realizing that you weren't on the seat next to me. I remembered a corn field and a ditch and I remembered wet flowers on a tree and a bison with an Elvis hair cut.
If I had had a trumpet or a saxophone and could have played I would have played and people would have put money in my bag and I would have bought you coffee, when you came. If I had had a book I could have sat there and read my book there and I could have told you something interesting, when you came. If I had had a message and could have preached I would have preached there to passing people and then when you came I could've preached it for you.
But I just stood and sat down and walked around and leaned against a wall and I put a hand in my pocket and nothing was there, but I waited.
Jul 21, 2006
. I'm not very good at making new friends and neither are my friends.
. What if Rev. Jim Casey had lived until he was old?
. I never know how to coax out quiet people.
. You mention that to me because you think I think I'm good at everything.
. What if Lazarus had the last say, rather than Abraham?
. I take all of his objections - won't work, impossible, not reasonable - and say, yes that's precisely the reason why. He misses it.
. The idea that no one cares can liberate me to try.
. This is what it's like to be from a country that no longer exists.
. To love Y because of X is to love X.
. To find a solution is to excuse yourself. To not find a solution is to be paralysed.
Jul 18, 2006
THINK ABOUT IT! This is an example of bad stupid design/arrangement you! have to put up with!!
- seen on the side of a toliet paper dispenser in a book store in Georgia.
Jul 15, 2006
What are the odds that wasn't a scam? I said to my friend.
30, he said.
30? 30 percent, yeah whada you think? I guess I could go either way, a coin toss.
It couldn't have gone either way. The signs were there, the slightly off ion in the voice. I knew, or didn’t but decided not too.
There are two theories of begging, of bumming.
In the one the beggar tells a story about something horrible, something worse than has ever happened to the listener and can be imagined sympathetically and guiltily. He tells it simply, but not directly, leaving the horror as a blank spot in the story that has to be filled in by the listener, has to be supplied by them. The horror is a blank and the only horror too horrible is a blank horror and so the listener fills it, stops it, and makes it all go away.
In the other one the beggar tells a story about something common, something that happens to beggar and listener alike and which is the former's now where it has been the later's before and they are separated by almost nothing, see and the sympathy is as a bond against stacked-up common hole-deep horror so common it doesn't need to be explained.
If one was a scam and the other wasn't, then this would be useful.
Anything can be a scam. Anything can be true. So what do you do? Standing there as he starts, starts with a phrase a way to catch your eye away from passing and so he can say? You guess. You jump without knowing why and you try, later you try to justify it and say things were this way.
I guessed wrong. I knew it was wrong and decided to guess that way anyway. Hey truck driver man, he said and I knew it was a scam. Just a bottle of transmission fluid. Just $2.70, he said like he knew exactly and I knew it was a scam.
I have a whole case of oil and I'd give it all for a little transmission fluid, he said. Just a whole world and I'd give it for my soul, I thought. He said it to offer me something, an exchange, a reward, a pay off for a down payment now or maybe he said it so I could be generous twice, giving again and my sympathy and guilt would wash doubly away.
But I wanted the oil, not the oil but the substance of things hoped for. I wanted the oil sloshing golden inside the white plastic-capped can where I always am surprised it’s not dirty black, where I wonder that it comes up from the earth looking like honey. I wanted to find the oil left in the back of my truck where he said he would leave it not because I needed the oil but because I'd risked right. I'd know trust was okay, that faith worked out.
So? What, I had five dollars and he asked for it and I thought without time to think there were these signs it was a scam and on the other hand he offered me a sign that a little faith, a little unreasonable trust in the goodness of humans and even the humans who were so whatevered-over that they were begging were still, some way, trying to be good. I made the bad guess, the wrong bet, the guaranteed loser we named ourselves.
I gave him five and asked for a sign. Nothing came. There was no sign of redeemability and still, I threw away a bill on hope in him and me and us and so on. Let it go, maybe that's enough.
Jul 13, 2006
- Joseph McElroy, Women and Men
Jul 12, 2006
He woke up dry. The window was open and his motel pillow was wet with sweat and he woke up coughing. The air was dry and hot, already, and when he looked out the door at the parking lot that blurred into gravel that blurred out to pasture, he spat and thought he needed a glass of water.
Nick Calosi found a game. Because he always found a game. Even here, at the end. He didn't where he was but he asked for a game and there was only one going, but one was enough. He had played in Vegas and Reno. He'd played with soldiers in Saigon and millionaires on islands, hustlers in Harlem and cowboys in Mexico. For a while he lived in Rio de Janeiro. He played in Amsterdam for a year.
Now he was here.
The men said he could play and he nodded and they nodded and he sat down. Six men playing five card. It said Seven Horses on the sign but on a Tuesday out of season this was mostly just a bar. A few women in makeup and cowboy boots sat on stools. The bar tender leaned over to talk to them and behind him was a big long mirror discolored to look like it was old. The place was dark except for the faces at the table and the low lights on the beer bottle display and the light along the bar.
Nick sat down at the table and he started losing. Everybody loses, sometimes. Sometimes everybody loses bad. But even when you lose and when your losing so bad it won't stop, even then something will turn up. It won't be enough to turn the game around, to redistribute the chips, to save you, but still you'll get a hand. But Nick didn't get a hand and that's why the bar tender noticed.
He stopped talking to the women and they wandered away and pretended to have to wipe the bar down ten times. He was watching Nick lose. He watched for an hour and Nick had every bluff called, had hands turn up two pair, had nothing after nothing. He wiped the counter again and he got a round of beer for the men again and he watched Nick lose.
When they took a break for the bathroom and so Nick could get more money, from the car, the bar tender finally said something. He shouldn't have, but he did. Can't you see? he said. Can't you see the game is rigged?
Nick smiled at him, surprised. Of course the game is rigged, he said, but it's the only one in town.
See also I, II, III, IV, V, and VI.
Jul 11, 2006
Jul 8, 2006
Jul 6, 2006
The question, only, was this: how many would I light, how much paper would take fire, how much smoke would stink the air, before the nature of it all would change.
I thought maybe the change would be a shroud, an artificial night of pink fog blotting the world from me and me from the world and there I would be, just a strangely dancing shape that was totally alone.
Or I thought maybe the change would be a new air, this one denser and greener, and that when I breathed it in and out something would seep away from me and into the all around and the outside would come inside and the inside outside and the loneliness would go away.
The question, though, was not what sort of change, but just how long it would take, how much fire it would need. I believed in fire. I believed in smoke. I believed in change and I didn't care where. Change was for change and an order to fill. All I wanted know was the number needed. I was just the clerk serving change and I said, how many will you need?
I took a box and tore away the laminated cardboard tab closing off the end. I emptied them out into my hand, into a fist. I took the party-colored paper ends and I twisted. I twisted them tight into a pig tail of purple and red and green spiraling into each other.
I took a second box, and added them to the first, a third to the second, and fourth to the third. I held them, two in each hand, fist fulls, torch fulls, hope fulls. I took them and lit them, pushing the streamers into the short light of the candle, left then right, and then I raised the fire.
I waved directions to an imaginary airplane. I drew a disappearing map through a circle to a straight line. The sparklers sparked until they were nothing but colored fire, heat on my face and flying by bits to catch the hair on my wrists. The fire went up in the smelly smoke of disappearing paper making shapes of men look like trees and trees like nets.
How many, I thought, would it take to change.
Jul 4, 2006
"But I sat there that morning and listened to Ray sing through those speakers, "Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountains' majesty across the fruited plain." And it occurred to me as I heard Ray singing, that Ray wasn't singing about what he knew, because Ray had been blind since he was a child. He hadn't seen many purple mountains. He hadn't seen many fruited plains.
"But he was singing about what he believed to be."
- Al Sharpton
Jul 3, 2006
All fall down
Every few years they fall again. Every four years or so they call the bulldozers into the trees and every one by one is pushed over.
In the first May the trees get planted into holes and the burlap is cut away from their roots letting loose the wormy ends and muddy earth bits. In the second May they have fruit and they have fruit for another year or two and then the fruit's still there but they push them all over.
There are rows and rows of trees in the valley. The sun picks out each leaf and divides it into halves of light and dark. After the sun rises over the mountains and lights the faces of all the rocks it comes down to the trees and the shadows leave in rows and rows and as they day grows it changes into a middle shade. Between the trees the rows rise in furrows of undug dirt packed down slick and hard and the rotting oranges lay putrid on the ground going flat and swarm with flies. The bee boxes go up in the rows along the outside, separating one square orchard from another with the stacked-up hives painted up in gaudy discount colors.
The valley boys drive down the roads between the trees in pickups and the girls pause at stop signs to push back the tops of convertibles. Tourists stop to pick a bunch off the edge of the tree over the irrigation ditch of wet weeds, not knowing that the thin skins and small pores mean these May oranges aren't for eating. They're juicers, never coming apart in your hands in pre-prepared triangles and if you're going to eat them you have to let the juice slobber all over your chin. The Mexican pickers come by in pickups and vans and low riders, wearing cowboy hats and boots and long once-white bags slung over their shoulders. They carry ladders down the rows and tell jokes in Spanish and eat their lunches at the edge of the trees in whichever direction the shade is falling.
Then in the fourth May or sometimes the fifth May if the owner wants to try and wait out age, the bulldozers come. They come by ones, like a flock they come but you never see more than one hidden back between the trees, the yellow a flash disguised by the trees. The bulldozers start on some side of the field - it doesn't matter where they start so they start wherever they are - they start with a tree on the edge. The blade nicks the bark and the tree bleeds in sappy white and then the roots come up tight against the ground, creaking, grunting. You can't hear anything but the diesel flapping out of the engine pipe, flapping faster then slower then faster and the tank treads turn into the dirt and the blade pushes into the gnarl of the trunk and peels back the bark to the naked white wood.
The trees fall slowly. They fall one at a time and each one falls slowly, lifting up the weght of the root ball tangled with dirt and dead wood from earlier generations of ripped up trees. They fall with a tearing sound and the shushing sound of leaves and fruit and reaching limbs all falling down to die.
The boys and the girls and tourists and the Mexicans all drive by the next day and the grove is a grove of trees on their sides, scattered in haphazard shapes where they lay for a day in the mud and broken pieces and fruit rolling away. The bulldozer knocks them all down and then circles around the outside, stepping it off on caterpillar feet, and comes in on concentric circles pushing the trees into piles arranged in a spiral. The last thing, in the end of the fourth or the fifth May, someone takes a can of diesel and walks between the ugly holes and lights a fire for each pile. The smoke starts white and each pile burns up into the air and they drift together into one drifting pillar of smoke slowly moving into the corners of the valleys, looking like fog and smelling like fire and orange juice.