Sunday, September 15, 2013

Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 was a clogged up, fidgety, ejaculating bit of huffing that more or less reflects director Shane Black's film work so far, the principle examples being the homicidal idiocy that was (and remains) Lethal Weapon, as we the  painfully self-aware, winking-at-the-audience faux noir effort Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Black seems to content on being a hip Michael Bay, or an idiot's version of Quentin Tarantino. 
Tellingly, lead actor Robert Downey Jr seems distracted through out the affair, listless even; fitting for a movie about a super hero who depends on what is essentially a robot suit to fight improbable villains and moronically conceived threats to the world (or at least New York City, given that this is a Marvel property), Downey clicks into default selection of mannerisms, vocal inflections and registers and spastic body language. To be sure, the action sequences and the special effects are nicely rendered and deployed, but this leads us into the realm of "so what", by which I mean that it is harder to admire films for technical competence in genre required scenes--in this case, further destruction of urban landscape. All the sequences look good , the way motel room "looks good" or elevator music "sounds pretty". 
For the rest, Iron Man 3 managed to be nerve-rattling erratic and tedious at the same time, as in someone suggested, it seems, that they try for some of that Chris Nolan "darkness" the worked effectively in his Dark Knight trilogy; we have a Tony Stark who appears beset by Billionaire's Angst, the worst kind you can get, where in he seems to realize that nothing he can build or spend money on will give him peace of mind or happiness. Interestingly, one of Iron Man's most problematic villains, The Mandarin, is the looming threat in this movie as Stark/ Iron Man tries to quip his way out of his encroaching depression; created in the early Sixties, the Mandarin is a villain that collects all the stereotypes of nasty, slant-eyed Asian geniuses who have plans to enslave the West. 
In the film he is portrayed by Ben Kingsly, the Asian characteristics are smoothed out of his appearance--you really cannot tell what nationality, religion or culture the movie Mandarin represents--and align him vaguely with Bin Ladin and other terrorists who have historically complicated death wishes for The West. At this point we might have had an interesting, complicated villain to contend with, an evil man who's nastiness has a nuanced rationale. This didn't happen. In keeping with a movie that keeps your attention jerking from action scenes that are as senseless as Battle Bots being played with by meth heads in steel storage container and scenes that are dime store pathos, lugubrious and reeking like a man who's waited to long to take a bathroom break, the true nature and meaning of the Mandarin is revealed in a way that tells you that time and money were getting tight as a carnie's lips wrapped around a Marlboro 100.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Bitch slapping talent

 I agree that talent that does not "risk" something in the expression --the poet, above all else to be interesting and intriguing to an inquiring reader, must have the nerve to risk failure and have, as well, a casual attitude to the possibility that he or she might wind up being embarrassed--gives us mere professionalism. But too often the creed is risk for its own sake with a contemptuous dismissal of the idea of "talent" as being a cruel hoax perpetrated by a long-running gang of conservative, homophobic, racist, anti-woman punks; I understand and generally agree with the critique, but somewhere along the lines what used to be considered "risk-taking" turned into another gathering of stylistics which has woefully influenced a couple of generations of writers. I seem to remember that genuine risk taker, whether Burroughs, Artaud, Beckett, Joyce, Ginsberg, Stein, Joyce, had solid foundations in tradition; they had a knowledge of what they were transgressing, taking apart and reassembling. 

They had that thing one calls "an ear" for the language they loved enough to master as writers and loved enough to goad it to forms that sharpened our collective wits with it in mind to see the world in new ways and so change it to something closer to the truth. Criticism, of course, judges how well these writers and others succeed or lapse eventually of their careers. History is not always kind: Kerouac was tone deaf, puffed up and pretentious in his rants, Ginsberg when from being genuinely inspired by visions and the legacy of Blake and Whitman and the Bible and became, in time, a mere self-chronicler, while Burrough's perversions, distortions, realignments, and genre-jumping fictions remain lively, fresh, funny and sinister, the definition of the Edge so many of us want to flirt with. 

The point is that talent and risk, ie, experimentation, need to be reconnected in a meaningful way that can, perhaps, spare us from another generation of too -easily published poets who seem little more than children banging on pianos that have had the keys removed.I would agree with the general assessment of the risk/talent dynamic, but I would venture further and argue that we need to skeptical of anyone's say-so and disdain any set of world-shrinking absolutes. Cultural pontiffs--choice phrase, Ace--often enough start off as punks and wind up giving us revised histories of their salad day heroes by arguing at length that the music, the novels, the plays and the poetry they liked in college and early professional life didn't try to smash rules, break forms or set fire to the palace, but rather tried to return art and aesthetics to principles that have been dormant, abandoned, forgotten. Eloquent apologies for one's formative taste, though, does not constitute a defense of the starker, more brittle frameworks that have dissolved like so much sugar in the guise of avant guard impulse; I am all for risk taking and rule breaking, but even the nastiest, least comprehensible bodies of work created by suitably sociopathic experimenters there are things that catch your ear, your eye, your fancy as you read what's in front of you, there are measures of genius that find that one thing in experience, that issue that no one had engaged, that combination of forms, ideas and attitude that had yet to be combined that strikes you a get level as real genius. 

I think these elements are genetic, organic, a hard to phrase dimension of human experience that transcends, easily, the problematics of social construction and canon makes. This is why I tend to support subjective or heroic criticism--the critic less a tastemaker than as someone who gathers their responses knee-jerk and reasoned both and conducts an inquiry to his own first-person criteria as to what constitutes failure or success in a frame, in a line, in a string of musical notes.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge, reviewed. - Slate Magazine

Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge, reviewed. - Slate Magazine:

'This is of great interest, as The Other Most Important American Novelist, Thomas Pynchon, has added his comic paranoid spin to the 9-11 attack. Bleeding Edge, reviewed by  Slate writer Troy Patterson in a a prose style that is ,well , ejaculative, sounds like a dense, comic masterpiece in a minor key. Powerful historical forces interest Pynchon greatly, but no more than does small things that get caught  up in the galvanizing events of change.

Patterson's best phrase about Pynchon's fiction-- V, Gravity's Rainbow, Crying of Lot 49,--is the presentation of history as farce; while Invisible Forces and conspiracies unconscious of their own existence gather, mingle , galvanize and alter the fates of nation, Pynchon concentrates on the regular Joes and Jessicas in the streets, in the cafes, at their workaday jobs, trying to make do and contend with their own comparatively picayune disasters and passions. Whatever grand , destructive, epoch changing things that take place outside the doors of where they live or work are merely the contents of a weather report--rain, snow, earthquake, V2 raid or terrorist attack, everyone adapts their plans and coping techniques and continues as they need to, as they must. 

Don DeLillo,  the writer who shares with Pynchon my Most Important American Novelist assignation, wrote his 9-11 novel, Fallen Man, which seemed, sorry to say, a bit tired; the mixture of odd, random elements from the culture , as translated by television and internet, contrasted , continually against a cast of emotionally neutered characters trying to reconstruct their sense of  autonomy following the horrible events, does not convey the implied irony DeLillo has a master at . 

Loss as been a larger part of DeLillo's writing, the center of his magnificent poetic style, but following the sustained genius of  his masterpiece Underworld--the secret history of the second half of the American Century-- the further extrapolation of the subject on an event of such horrific violence that what is inexpressible eludes DeLillo, who is usually a man who can create a sense of  moods that otherwise defy language to  contain their essence.

 Short as it is, Fallen Man plodded with heavy feet. Pynchon, from the sound of Patterson's review, makes it sound as if the reclusive author contained and converted the energy  of  the hysterical response and decided to laugh, the joke being that despite the blows to our lives, our cities, our metaphysics of order and purpose and our rational attempts to reconcile horror against Grand Designs and Great Agendas, life, being life, goes on, it goes on. Pynchon finds the fact that the smartest among us don't get this and the activities we create in response to disaster is , at heart, a comedy. I look forward to reading this.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Are Andy Warhol's 15 minutes over? |

Are Andy Warhol's 15 minutes over? | Art and design | 

I've been intrigued by the idea that Pop Art was in fact Capitalist Folk Art, a form natural in its development as artists, naive in the most intelligent way, intuitively understood that the iconography and discarded wreckage of a consumer economy are the raw materials for art making. 

This point , of course, has been witlessly obfuscated by French critics and habitual theorists, the simple that the actual no longer exists and now there are only unceasing replications of a vague idea of historical imagery and design--but what geniuses like Warhol did was the basic Dada gesture; familiar things taken out their context, their coded assignations, and placed within a frame, turning junk and cheap manufactured left overs into aesthetic objects. I always preferred Walter Benjamin's essay 'Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction", as I think the same ideas are explored earlier in the age, with a cheery optimism and mystical poetics that is hard to resist.

Benjamin  was romantic enough that art for it's good sake was a good thing for the individual and for the culture as a whole, an element required for a beneficial, if violent transition, and was convinced that the mass-reproduction of art images to a mass audience , the masses, that had no easy access to museums , galleries, salons or college courses, would result in millions of us, perhaps all of us achieving a level of spiritual fitness and willingness to not just discuss the world, but to change it. Art revealed to the many empowers those multitudes to dream of possibilities and the methods of fomenting the change.

Benjamin, over all was convinced that art's principal function was to produce joy, which one can consider to be a heightened sense of awareness. Warhol was in line with this, though was not a polemicist, not an activist; he was an artist who like things, the things of pop culture, the things that get thrown away. He was intrigued by the elements of design in factory goods when they became tattered and torn around the edges. 

He was in love with the imperfection of the much circulated meme as it went from one copier to the next.While Warhol's art did force me, permanently, to be aware of how much economy, finances and manufactured consent formed my tastes--limited my options, so to speak--one marvels at Warhol's refusal to lecture, to opine, to get flummoxed by the confusion around him. He was a serene Buddha who gave us a mirror of our consumption who revealed, without rant or rhetoric, what's consuming us.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Wood Allen's "Interiors" and critical revisionism

Woody Allen’s Interiors: Revisiting Allen’s first Ingmar Bergman-inspired drama. - Slate Magazine:

Woody Allen's new film "Blue Jasmine" has been getting some of the best notices  for the director's late-areer efforts, a fact that justifies, perhaps, a reexamination of some of his other less fondly remembered, less discussed films. Allen, more than any American film maker, deserves a retrospective. Slate has argued that Interiors, his first straight on drama , no comedy, and a stylistic tribute to his hero Ingmar Bergman, actually rises above its reputation as a stiff and shallow presentation of depressed , well read white folks and is , indeed, a serious, inspired drama. Reading the article convinced that there are indeed nuanced themes that course through the decades of films Allen has written and directed since the  60s, and that growth from being an inspired slap stick comic with a library card to a more verbal, nuanced, cerebral film maker leads inevitably to a film like" Interiors".

 Still, I don't think it's anything near Allen's best work. In this case, the general consensus I read among long time Allen fans is correct, that the movie is a paceless, stationary    bore. The irony is that Woody Allen has done inspired parodies of other film directors through out his professional life and his mitigated his penchant  for genre tributes with a Burlesque crudeness,a low wit , that kept him from taking himself so seriously. At the end of the day it could be said that "Interiors" succeeds in being Allen's parody masterpiece,  mimicry and mockery  so dead on target that you mistake it for being the real article; it would more credible to argue that Allen's real intention with this film was comedy of the most subtle and perverse type, that which imitates the pervading , saddening stylistics of Bergman's  movie introspection to an obsessive degree, producing an effect of unreality, a critical distance that prevents the audience from engaging characters who really comprehend the psychology that motivates the shuffling movement.

This leaves the audience in a bewildering state of nagging "what the hell?", wondering if they should laugh or be moved by what they've seen. The joke , of course, would be the theories film goers would construct to make sense of the time they spent in the dark, growing listless, watching actors stare past one another. Even if this were the case, I prefer the simpler explanation: "Interiors"  was an important  transitional film for Allen to make, but that does not remove the fact that is a dull  transition that fortunately led to better work to follow.

Monday, August 26, 2013


 (What I should make clear is that I am not a practicing Christian , have the mind of an agnostic, and haven't much faith in theologies that pretend they have knowledge of what the end of history is like. I do appreciate the poetry of The Rapture concept, though, and meant only to create a "what-if" scenario, such as what would be like if this event occured in one of the many neighborhoods John Cheever might have attended cocktail and wife swapping parties at.I'm agnostic toward religion, not God. I've done my seeking and have found what I've needed. Needed today, to be even clearer.
A usefully spiritual life is a day-at-a-time thing, and this day, this morning I'll seek guidance for the day yet to come. Plainly, I don't think God is much concerned with getting the lot of us into Heaven as He is living good, useful , creative and and kind lives in this life, on this planet. If God is all wise and all knowing, He hasn't the time nor patience to set up our existence like it were a Game Show. -tb)


The mailman drops his parcels and
falls to his knees in the middle of the street
as a light comes through the clouds and
makes the commotions of the city radiate
gold tones like the frozen poses
of ancient photographs
found under the stairs of every parent’s house
that aging children have to close.
You see the mailman on his knees and wonder
why he’s praying, hardly aware of the increase in light
or the music that blares all the big band music of
trumpets and saxophones that disguise the grind of
passing cars, it’s such a shame that religious fanatics
are hired to deliver the mail, you think, so much depends
on what comes through the System, envelopes full of
what’s owed and what’s not covered by any plan
that can be written down; you run the water in the sink,
 you wonder where did the clouds go? 
There is no rain anywhere,
says the radio announcer,
and the light is tremendous all over the globe,
there is not a dark corner
 in any corner or nook on the earth,
And then the radio gives out to static, and the TV
releases itself to snow, the music in the street is very loud
and swinging hard to the left and the right and then right down the
middle as all the notes scurry brilliantly through the hedges
and up the driveways, into the homes with each reed instrument
improvising disembodied melodies that form their own sheet music,
That is a very loud set of speakers in that passing car, you think.
and the radio announcer cuts through the music and says something you
hear as that millions of people all over the world have just vanished in
plain site under bright light and big bang music, gone in a wisp and puff of smoke,
You look at your watch and note that it’s time for lunch,
the clouds have fallen over the city again, the sky darkens,
the shapes of the neighborhood take on their deep hues again, saddened
with history, dense in dumb witness to what never ends,
You stop, look out the window; you turn off the water you ran,
in the middle of the street, by itself, flat on the cement,
The mailman’s bag and his clothes,
topped by his hat,  kissed by a cool breeze.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Wow--Moby Grape
Their first album, Moby Grape, is on generally considered one of the best albums done by a Sixties American band, and with good reason, but I've got a soft spot for their sophomore effort, the much-maligned Wow. It certainly deserved some critical slamming sit received when it was released in 1968, as the band and producer had a batch of solid songs they wanted to gussy up, festoon and otherwise psychedelicize in the trend of over-produced pop wrought by Pet Sounds and Sgt.Pepper. Large parts were literally unlistenable--at the time of release, the band killed the "news-tolgia" fad of the period that not only had one song written and performed in the 20's style but which also required the poor stoner to get up and change the album speed from 33 and 1/3 to 78 rpm. The results were not amusing. Some songs come out unscathed, though, as with "Motorcycle Irene", "Murder in My Heart for the "Judge","Can't Be So Bad". At heart a good band gone bad from drugs, ego, and mental illness, but what they had, briefly, was terrific talent. Jerry Miller was one of the best blues guitarist of the period, bittersweet, and fluid in ways Mike Bloomfield never quite realized, Bob Mosely was a natural blues belter, and Skip Spence was an American Syd Barrett, fried before his time. Needless to say, I'm burning a disc of the best tracks and jettisoning the artsy remainders, which are unsustainable and hopelessly junked up with effects.

Tom Cruise autobiography: His recent movies Oblivion, Rock of Ages, and Jack Reacher. - Slate Magazine

Tom Cruise autobiography: His recent movies Oblivion, Rock of Ages, and Jack Reacher. - Slate Magazine:

It's not so odd that a number the plot points in Cruise's movies echo themes that appear in the confounding mythology of his religion. Certainly one could also harp on the Catholic themes in the novels of Graham Greene and yield a bounty of evidence ; we don't, however , tend to get bent out of shape over the religious overtones of the novels or their more sinister implications and instead prefer to enjoy a good yarn. Greene was good at writing good yarns. The main concern with Cruise isn't whether his movies have a subtext endorsing a controversial cult, but whether Cruise is consistently adept at choosing good movies to star in. Like anyone else in the public eye and who stars in movies, his track record is uneven, although his batting average is better than Nicholas Cage's. For Cruise himself, he is a puzzling man in terms of his public persona, but my principle concern is whether the movies he elects to make and release for my consumer consideration are the fully realized entertainments worth the ticket price. Or the rental price, for that matter.

Visionary Bombast

like the idea of Vachel Lindsay rather than the practice of  reading his work, or even listening to it, the often made apology of some of his defenders who maintain that his works are meant to be performed, not scanned in anthologies. As Lindsay was entranced by song and its subversive adeptness of slipping past a censoring intellect and infest and infect the soul with all manner of radical and subtle emotional stirrings, his work was meant to be exclaimed and dramatized for their power to be fully felt and fairly surmised. 

Fair enough, I say, but too often what I find in his work is the cadence of a creaky gate swaying in a steady wind, or a swing rattling on its chain. He seeks to grasp the moment of when he discovers the unchanging difference between right and wrong; he wants to create an emotional response in the reader that will not tolerate injustice nor stand for suffering; he wants the poetry of the period to influence the listener to cease with their odious doses of bad faith and to instead live genuinely, fully, not taking a breath nor another life for granted. All this is well and good, but to me it is hokey. His task was to  grant everyday things and ordinary lives a dignity they hadn't been given before, but in doing so he manages to add yet another thick layer of metaphorical tonnage that keeps us further from the metaphysical presence he is longing for.

 I have a difficult time even considering his writings the evidence of a fevered imagination setting up and alternative universe, of a sort, in his quest to unearth and reveal the true nature of the everyday. The Congo, I think, is racist bombast, pure and simple, an example of a well-intentioned progressive in spirit trying to pay homage the culture of a people whom whites kidnapped and subjugated with slavery; he comes off as condescending and half baked. I think he only added to the problem he wanted to remedy. There is a difference between VL attempting to write something he called a history of the negro race and Duke Ellington, a black composer and intellectual, taking ownership of his own ancestry , traditions and , most importantly, the stereotypes of his race and culture and creating some astounding art. Good though his intentions were, VL's poem is paternal , presumptuous and racist by attitude and application; there is the fundamental assumption that Africans and those of African descent were incapable of telling their own story. Ellington, along with a good amount of the work of Langston Hughes coming out the Harlem   Renaissance redefined the terms. VL's attitude is simply hard to sit through without a session of exaggerated defenses and hearty condemnations. Spirited debate is fine, of course, but it seems to me that Ellington's "jungle music" is the superior work of art becomes the genius, verve and timelessness of the composer and his singular orchestra's work puts one in the center of the music, not a field of footnotes and gutter sniping. The seeming irony of a black artist using the world "jungle" to describe his own music seems irrelevant at best.

I understand the interest Allen Ginsberg had in Lindsay, since VL would, at the time, be the closest America had to a William Blake. Blake, however, gave into his visions to the extreme and allowed them to cohabit with him in his daily life; there incredible things he maintained in his public life about his visions and his dialogues with angels that he spoke of  as a matter -of -fact.

The further evidence is Blake's work which is truly unique, ungainly in syntax, but completely unforgettable as to how the universe was structured, at the core, rubbing against the flesh of the god or gods that created the heavens and the earth. Blake zipped past the clichés and ready-made paradigms that available to him and created something from whole cloth. His work broadened and became denser as he grew older; he wasn't much interested in getting others to change their behavior so much as he was in creating a vivid sense of what it is everyone man, woman and child will have to face. 

He considered himself a poet of the Inevitable. Lindsay, of course. An intriguing intersection of influence and cross influence; you can see how Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs were attracted to Lindsay not just as a public poet , but a public visionary, someone who could capture the public's imagination with broad , sweeping movements of image and colorful narrative. Lindsay did, of course, argue through his career a series of conclusions informed by a firm sense of what was right and wrong in society and wrote in such a flamboyant fashion that he might seduce, persuade, cajole those attracted by his theatricality to change the limited way they came to regard the world. He desired to instill in his listeners (and readers) the notion that everyone has a humanity that cannot be reduced by economic oppression or removed by harsh laws. It was the idea, a powerful one, that the morally upright thing to fight for--fairness, justice, equality, democratic virtues--were self-apparent, or would become so once the best case was made with the most persuasive language only one who is touched by the muse can write and recite, compose and exclaim.

 Dylan and Ochs perhaps had an easier time, being songwriters connected with a host of progressive causes--civil rights, anti-war movements largest among them--and it was their skill at composing brooding, simple, compelling melodies to hammer away at their inspired rhetoric that kept their songs, their lyrics in the public mind. Much of the oft repeated support of his work, even at its most anemic ,is the puffery one suspects zealots contrive in a mission to raise the importance of a hero they've embedded deeply into the soft tissue of their consciousness. This is something that we find with writing about Dylan--so many elaborations and comparisons that the apologies are more nuanced than Dylan's actual work. All the same, there is a strong connection, an awareness, a deliberate alignment on Dylan's part with a tradition other than rock and roll. The claims that Dylan was influenced by Lindsay, the Beats, Whitman, or "the usual Modernist suspects" are far from fantasy. The influences are traceable, noticeable, conspicuous in a great many songs, like "Desolation Row", "Visions of Johanna", "Memphis Blues Again", "Gates of Eden"; surreal though rock and roll geniuses Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley may seem and have been in their work and personas, the aforementioned songs definitely came from exposure to a good number of modern poets, ranging from the Symbolists through Whitman, Eliot, Burroughs, Kerouac, Ginsberg. 

Those influences are in Dylan's work; how much he absorbed of what he read is the wrong question, but rather how well. Dylan, as any good artist would, took what he liked and what he found useful in musical styles and literary modes and made them his own. Dylan’s accomplishment, his singular bit of real genius, was blending Chuck Berry with his personal version of street level surrealism. Nothing like it existed in lyric writing before it--and I am not insisting that Dylan is the one who made song lyrics poetry, a notion I've railed against for years--and to diminish or dismiss literary influences in the creation of this body of work is, I think, short sighted. This is the kind of ruthlessness of the creative process no one really likes to talk about--it is the cliché of the amateur borrowing as opposed to the professional, who steals, who literally talks ownership of what he came across. VL is part of the circle of influences, more for inspiring a public persona and purpose than for direct influence on the work. Like it or not, VL did set the groundwork for what a public artist with literary/musical inclinations would be, and Dylan is among the generation of songwriters who adopted JL's conceit for their own purposes.
Along with Ginsberg, who desired to become a the voice of a perceptions that found expression before a conservative superego diluted whatever power might have been had in the first thought, songwriters who had grown up with Lindsay's work were inspired to write about things that were meant to resound beyond the music hall, wrote for his audience, which is valid on the face of it, but his temperament is closer to that of a songwriter than a poet on the grandest scale. It was, for Lindsay about what would sell, in a manner of speaking; his is also a cautionary tale against pleasing an audience too well, as there is the threat that will not let you change. And that is the frustration that kills a talent that has the potential to evolve.

Friday, August 23, 2013

22 things I forget to mention

Nothing yet to be made of the day but some wet hair clinging to the nape of the neck, coffee that's too hot to power down, a groaning neighbor regretting last night's play-making. I type a bit, reach into my pocket and come upon a to-do list of things to finish. It was folded a dozen times, it seems, each crease deep as wrinkles in an experienced skin.
I made the list a week ago.
Every deadline has lasped, every task is incomplete. I hate myself for some minutes, sip at the coffee, cringe at the cold hair teasing the wet locks adhering to the back of my neck.
Time to go.

Hair cut, short, bristles. Cold wind cuts through the spikey clump like a lawn mower taking out a large section of unruly grass. Chill of the night as the night sky falls over a line of roofs that vanishes against a black tarp of starless sky, replaced with strings of lights that burn like the head lamps of stalled cars on a strange road that curls around a mountain range no one has seen from the air.
Why did I get a haircut. Yeah, that's right. That woman on the bus asked me if I watched Jerry Springer.
No, I said, I don't.
Well, she said, breathless, breathless, you look just like Jerry Springer, and I got on the bus and you were sitting there looking out the window and then you turned around and I said Oh My God, there's Jerry Springer.
I'm better looking, I said.
And my god, she continued, you look just like Jerry Springer, and I'm looking for cameras and a microphone, but you said you don't watch Jerry Springer...
I've seen it once or twice, I said, but no, I don't watch Jerry Springer...
But I said, Oh My God there's Jerry Springer, but you said...
And so the woman who cut the hair wrapped the towel around my neck and asked me what she could do for me.
You know the kind of hair cut middle aged guys get when they're trying to hold on their fleeing sense of youth? Short and spikey, almost punk rock...
So you don't mind if it sticks up?
Nope, I said, let's bring it on home.
Number three clippers?
And a fine hair cut it is, I thought outside the store, feeling the bristles with the tips of my fingers. Strange to the touch, soft, and grey. Grey as the sky was that day. Wet. Drops. Rain. A downpour. Rain.

Tapping a finger on a hard counter top does make time move faster, nor convinces others in line that your cause is greater than the needs of the others in line. He looks at his watch, the third time in under three minutes and ponders what is at stake as the bank line crawls, inch by aggravating inch, toward an open window. Everyone seems calm, collected, even the children hanging on to their mother's hands are quiet , eyes wide and seemingly transfixed on a puppet show that is playing for them in a dimension on their eyes uncover. Tapping the folded paycheck and deposit slip against the watch he just looked at makes matters worse; now he knows what time it is, too late to ditch the line in order to be in the office on time, too late to even call a taxi , too late to do anything but wait.

Down time, and she thinks of the city that unfolds before her from the hotel window, and thinks of all the people and all their histories in the buildings she can spy from the writing table she sits at, people with families sitting at desks of their own or standing, running between rooms with important papers or calling some one with news of either business or of home life or maybe even plans to be made for when ever leisure time evinces itself, she thinks of lives trapped in jobs in careers or marriages or cars on the freeway going to the superbs after five or to the center of the insanity near the break of day, when the sun is still cold and the coffee is too hot to sip without a burn on the tender upper or lower lip that quiver at the thought of another day smiling to clienteles that are themselves people trapped in their concentric circles of routine, longing for a time when they might only have to stare from hotel windows in a city not of their residence, abstracting the lives of residents and keeping them at bay, at once, in the distance of a long fog that circles around the end of an imagined peer while small white and yellow lights illumine what remains of a visible coast line, vanishing toward Mexico, ah , she thinks, it's time to leave, ah, she thinks again, adieu, farewell...

five: Cloud Clearing Joy
On most nights after most days I stay sober long enough to make it without a drop to midnight, when the whole thing starts again, though I might nap for three or four hours about things that fill the emails and answering machines with an unaddressable fear of what waits beyond the next recognizable landmark, a school or burger franchise, a dread that creeps up behind the words and sends a tremble through the hand either holding a pen or motioning over a keyboard, a panic takes invades the language we use to tell the world, our friends, our bosses and lovers that we are ready, that I am ready for what  intensity this day and this day alone brings me,
I say, sometime before falling into dreams and in the half waking hours before the sun hits the roofs and sneaks through the folds of the drapes to fall on the bed where we pretend to be rested, our feet emerge from the end of the bed covers, a wind has found a crack somewhere in the insulation and sends a breeze through the room, words slur with the narcotic of nodding,
"This machine never sleeps, it's all waiting, again, the sadness and stresses of the bad coffee and miscounted change for the pastry, the news about all the missing children after bombs change the face of cities that don't have a chance against the results of advertising, there is no sleep, I think I would be thirsty but for..."
But for other dreams, perhaps, that I have where I am drinking all the time from endless streams from silver faucets, and I only become thirstier, hungrier, more aware of a world that still spins and complicates itself."
I don't know what any of that means, but this is another morning, it seems a good time to put on a shirt, clean socks, pants that still have a crease, thinking through the shave and the ride to work and the endless faces with an infinite selection of expressions to match the bottomless contents of their respective packaged miseries, of your face alone at home in a light that makes your entire head a sphere of such cloud-clearing joy that all such hours of slog and trod are worth the hassles with price checks, gift certificates, phone calls from amnesia victims , you offer me a soda and a steak, a kiss, something like that, that's what I think when I don't drink,
 and I find that I miss you all the more.

Joe Lavano and company are playing a sweet set of notes on the player, linked saxophone choruses that skip beats and chase rhythms that crack and break and then regroup in a wonderful, witty, winsome aparatus that configures each grunt and growl through the reeds into a continent of pitches, dialects, musical communities that keep their accents while the borders stretch and the dialogue gets more exciting, profound, the differences falling aside like clothes that are useless in the hot climate, where only similarities are noticed, distinct, memorable, a democracy of crazy time keeping.

I like my coffee in the morning with a newspaper from a work before. It's so stimulating to be always catching up with the news, to stroll up to head line rather than have it run me over with an urgency only neurosis can sustain. I drink the coffee, I rustle the pages, and find something satisfying that what I'm reading is no longer news, but history, over long enough to make sense in a world where mornings are an hour of warning shots saying beware of the day ahead, go back to bed, go back, go back…

Good morning, good morning, ah silly me, yes, a newspaper that is a week old, how quickly, how fast the days are enshrined in foot notes and commentary, our Instant Boswells have entombed is in print that is already fading and turned brittle to the touch, the microfilm is cracking as I turn the wheel in my memory of the graduate library looking up the major incidents of Bernard Shaw's great New York City adventure, I was yearning for coffee while in the stacks, a newspaper that at the time would have been one from the same day I woke up, that, a cup, a paper , and table on a patio to read and sip and opine into a nearby wood on a vacation that doesn't have a calendar to contain it, no work, no phones, just me and a cup, a paper and clear skies, and I might as well say, some birds to fly over head to cry out and leave their mark as my mind attempts to unmoor itself and drift with the eddies of current events, I wake up, yes, startled, an electric jolt, and shake my fists at the birds, five clenched fingers against the clouds, no good, I wish she were here, I look for a phone book, a phone, I wonder how it is she can get on with her life after the history we've had...

Sometimes I wonder if I was born or merely set aside in another dimension of newspaper grey and was launched into this world because what ever the case was running low on the premium designs.
Its a habitual thought, a shudder of doubt when staking hands or crossing streets or visiting people who and which are so familiar, so complete in intimate nuances and shared knowledge that they seem alien and strange, like specimens under glass in a museum I keep visiting for a lesson that just keeps turning the corner to the next gallery when my hard shoes hit the tile. Everything I looking for is just out of focus, short of the designs I see and have drawn.
Believing the world is seeing beyond the box scores and trusting what it says on the certificate; the biography has already been started, a page of facts that have gotten absurdly complicated, in love their own inventory of details that are pressed now in their uniqueness, creased and pleated, ready for rough waters I imagine await at the end of the map, where boats fall off and drift with sails full of solar wind until I wake up and yawn and scan the items on the table, the newspaper, the dirty bowls, someone else's pack of Marlboro 100s. The universe is reassembled, seamless as death itself.
Years ago I wondered if there was life on other planets precisely at the time when she left me, or asked me to leave, I wondered who else in this darkness knows this hurt as well as I?, and I stared for hours at her apartment\ as if trying to make the walls fly away, to lift her off the sofa, away from her meal , and bring her into my arms where I stood in the dark, next to a payphone, with out change to call out far enough to the wilderness where there is only wind and tall grass, maybe houses at the bottom of canyons that you see from jets leaving your home town before you enter the clouds that will drag on the wingspan, I would stare and the walls would stay where the carpenters intended them to remain, there was nothing to see, but I stared harder, right through the building, to the stars I knew were there, receiving radio waves, TV shows, thoughts of strong desire translatable only by action, hear me, hear me, who else shivers in a dark corner in unique misery, genius of articulated regret, who else speaks when no language gets the purity of the idea right, just right, thus forcing one to live in craziness, at the end of the alley, drinking from bottles I've pealed the labels from?
As usual , the stars don't answer, they don't say a word

In front of things adorning the lawns of our town, I abjure to squint of cranes and deers, jockeys with faces white as the walls of empty gallery stoic as they are in their enameled resolve,
Not here or there nor on any brush in sight can relief be spelled in a flick of the wrist , a motion that captures the tone and twist of a minute in this day when all the frustrations seemed they might just dissolve like thin sheets of sugar under warm tap water and just wash away, there is not a gesture that lets me let go of things short of releasing all fingers from around the neck of the idea that is old, inert, unable to be redefined or made new by new paint on old boards.
The doors of the houses are wide open , dogs whimper and yelp their routine protest about weekends out of the town, in the back of the truck, it’s broad daylight, the sunlight is spread like miles of smiling bed covers over the happenstance of my moods in this moment, the newsboy pitches my newspaper to the roof, again, it’s business as usual, a full schedule of things to do or lie about doing.
Should I continue with my walk to the beach in a constricted stride, suffering the thoughts of phone calls that seemed to be about everything that was never said until the night past and hysteria goes back to sleep, my mind seems a cave with deep, blurred echoes of what we talked about, the impossibility of the desire, the attraction to fires, bright lights at the end of cigarettes?
Damn these animals and doors, damn this daylight, damn the world and it’s orderly progression.

Not here or there nor on any brush in sight can relief be spelled in a flick of the wrist , a motion that captures the tone and twist of a minute in this day when all the frustrations seemed they might just dissolve like thin sheets of sugar under warm tap water and just wash away, there is not a gesture that lets me let go of things short of releasing all fingers from around the neck of the idea that is old, inert, unable to be redefined or made new by new paint on old boards.

My tie cuts off the blood to my head and my socks have holes in them that are as old as toe nails that continue to grow years after clipper ships found new shores to set foot on, you imagine water everywhere along with the music of pipes ringing during hot showers, you hear the streaming sirens of lost songs glide along your body, slide down your breasts, your hands find a motion that is fine for trilling along the unsaid syllables that fill the room with steam and then you discover and are dumbfounded by the fact that your panty hose vanished during the night and there's no telling where it went, now there is steam coming out of your ears, come, I say, and let's have our usual breakfast, black coffee and two cigarettes, any style.
Morning light crawls over the street as the fog recedes back to the corners of the earth that are invisible in the glare of spring and summer days.
"It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood" is song I hear coming from the next room.
A devastated newspaper is spread over the breakfast table.
"Nothing beats a great pair of legs" I say, and this gets your attention. You're walking around in your underwear, toothbrush in your mouth, feeling around the lunch counter for a pen so you can write a check to the School District to cover the cost of a class field trip to the Zoo. You tilt your head, and try to grin around the tooth brush.
"Nothing beats a great pair of legs except maybe a full house" and you laugh; grab the first pen that appears from a layered surface of bills and memos, and then yell "Emily, turn off the TV and put on your shoes, I have the check and I'll be ready in a minute."
The TV doesn't go off, and you go into the other room, and the yelling commences again, more threats, tears, the beams of the pitched roof raised with threats of no desert, movie or field trip if Mr. Rogers doesn't vanish from the TV screen, Emily stands her ground and you pull on a skirt, a hand made shirt, two shoes from the prop department, you're ready to go.
"Won't you be my neighbor...?"
Emily turns off the TV and sings to herself as she readies herself for school from a time zone only six year olds live in, she sings lyrics that have never been written and won't be sung again, she abides by rules that are correct, substantial and relevant only to this instance and then no more and never again, I can hear you drumming your fingers on the door, I can almost hear you tap your toes in those drama department shoes that are too small even for your ballerina feet.
I'll be at the hotel all day, answering phone calls from all over a shrinking world where everyone says hello and good bye in accents that sound like their ducking gun fire in towns baking under cruel desert suns or from penthouses or office towers that try to reach the sun and conquer it with incredible piles of theoretical money that catch fire in the glow of hubris,
All I can say is "One moment please" and connect everyone to Room Service, House Keeping, The Bar on the Roof, rooms where the guest hasn't emerged from for three days, or, sadly, tell everyone who wants to stay that we are sold out, every room has a paying customer, so sorry, no please don't threaten me, sorry, I cannot take your money, please understand, the rooms are all occupied, so sorry, please don't threaten me, lower your voice, sir and madam, please stop screaming,
I realize my joke has it wrong, so wrong, a full house never beats a great pair of legs.

Too many minutes have dropped off my watch in line at the movies buying tickets.
So many minutes are lost as the microwave beeps along it's growling, turning, chirping away, turning the food inside into something that's hot as guns in Duck season but unrecognizable as anything I'd want to put in my mouth.
The library shelves bear their spines with titles that allure and beckon from under their fine dust patina, but all I can do is wave them on, bid them goodbye, there is not enough time left in the week after all that fast food and instant coffee, so many rapid distractions keep me on my feet, spinning in the spot where I ought to be sitting, passing out when I ought to be absorbed in small print, foot notes, facts that didn't exist until I read them, but there is no time left after doing all the things that save us time, This is an affliction I don't have time for.
Could I have THE 24-hour flu instead?

The lust of italics is obvious, the wake of roses taken seriously, off-kilter are the fingers making a path through your hair, a new part where a comb finds the soul under the brain that keeps you wondering about the world,
Those nights, half asleep, a small fist raps your back, you say it wasn't you, but floorboards groaning the way they do in old houses that sag in fall, swell in summer, contract in winter, and all that's left for spring is laughter and fear when everyone goes out doors again after dark, testing door knobs, it wasn't you , you say, only the house or some such thing,
Shared chills or beads of sweat, the double “s” molding prevailed, every position and posture on the mattress a buried language of what wasn't said any of those times when working was more heartache to keep for an idea of love that seems to choke because nothing seems funny anymore, nothing weighs less than an unwanted ton, we change positions as if speaking too fast for court reporters,
"I hope I don't dream" you say. " or if I do, let it be of a big black wall with nothing on it, just blackness, blackness..."
The apartment is so quiet that it is the refrigerator that sings us to sleep, a high and ghostly whistle coming from it's deep frozen stillness. We drift off as headlights flash across the ceiling and car radios play music pulled from the air from other states, we drift off while the house sinks deeper into an earth that wants it all back.

She crosses the street after standing at the corner for minutes that seemed nothing less than hours. He watched ,thinking of lyrics to write. She stood at the corner, jabbing the button of the pedestrian signal box, looking across the street as if to see if perhaps a store she wanted to get to before they closed might have flipped the sign over in the door, from "open" to "closed". As if she could see through all that traffic.
I know, he thought, a song about a guy watching a woman trying to cross the street while he tries to imagine a lyric he might or might not write. The irony, he thought, or was it just laziness? All these bagels are cold and hard as tile. He lights a cigarette, dumps the match in his ash tray. The woman is across the street, and vanished into a parking structure.
"May I have another Latte?" he asks a passing woman carrying a tray to the cafe service station.
"I don't work here" she says without breaking her stride.
You and I have watched lightning exploding silently behind the dress grays of twilight and we’ve kept on saying that the world just doesn’t work anymore and then laughed, drank more rum, sang an atonal riff before a garbled, tongue clucking solo, and then watched the lightning again for hours while it lime—lighted the small patch of trees and the few blocks of curving intersections you and I called home and thought diseased when we had a good buzz while walking past displays windows in shops we couldn’t afford to browse in on the blocks getting torn down, buildings coming down and nothing left standing but firewalls and brick chimneys, the world didn’t work anymore around the sidewalks we walked, you and have stood in the rain nursing paper cups full of Pepsi and Meyers, sad to see the neighborhood go because some one was getting rich while we were getting drunker luxuriating in the melancholy that the turf no longer reminded us of why we were angry about being cheated and being different from the rest, our misery was a shadow that followed us that even the lightning couldn’t cut through and remind us again what it was we were drinking to forget.

There is only the other side of the road when you come over, the other side of the tracks even though we live no where near a train yard.
I bow to your good looks and great legs and the meals you’ll make before you even notice that You’re tired of the sound of my voice on the voice getting real close to the speaker, becoming a grainy whisper alone the wireless sky,  “Maybe we should keep our apartments” you say, “just so that both of us have some place to go, you know, if all this turns out be only a mess, a mess...”
You drop a fork in the kitchen sink as the water runs over the lettuce, birds alight and fly toward the sun that is going away, “I give in to you’re wisdom” I tell you, “Whatever you think is the right thing to do...”
Across the street is a million miles away and the bedroom doesn’t exist at this precise minute, my magazines stack higher than any man’s ever seen,
But not every night is heaven when there some things missing from around the house when I look around,
This side of the street seems to be sliding off the face of a cliff that is losing the earth that gives in a severe inch with each storms that comes from the south or the north, each blast of electric guitar, every plane you took up to know when there is only me in an empty room older than I planned on being, more alone than what the law allows.

What I’m not saying is that you ought to park campers on your front lawn, tire tracks deep in the mud that is slowly becoming merely mire with each rain that happens by.
Nor do I endorse leaving old couches and refrigerators in the alley three garage doors down or dumping in on empty lot where combinations of abandoned furniture and appliances can stare at the world that passes by them, mute as if in unending astonishment that anything comes to a finish..
What I am saying is that you don’t have to give away all your clothes because churches don’t fill the pews as do movie theatres or ball games during a series where so much depends on ball being hit by a stick that might fly over the cheap seats and into a window, into history that is.
Religion hasn’t been as good as the movies in decades anyway, and those kinds of ball games are rare , being , as it were, miracles true and factual, the only place where prayer makes sense and the game is more important than what any man or woman wants to with their appetites.
Find yourself a face to kiss and leave the Laundry undone just for day, wait until the net day off to sharpen the knives for battle (while I pray that day never arrives for that reason), stop for a moment and think about what you’ve been thinking about.
and when you’re confused enough, come see me, when I’ll put on some coffee and we can read each other from any book the house, my treat.
Twenty one: Lawn

It is just another day of lawn mowing in lethargic shoves, sweating under the arms under the sun's smarmy glare while the blades stroke and grab and cajole armies of sodden leaves to relinquish their height, their standing, their destiny for the good of the land, the glory of the hedges.

The smell of cut grass piled up becomes the legacy of the day, futures are based on what aromas filter from the back of the garage where blades of another kind turn to compost, break down into their essentials compounds and trace results, energy dons a new suit of clothes and leaves a trail for more life to come.

I stop pushing the lawn mower, lean on the handle. Pretty girls in summer dresses of bright, corpulent patterns walk by, hand bags and head phones waving free.

Part of me wants to wave back; part of me wants to be left alone.

The kid next door works on his car in the driveway. Engine parts are strewn about his feet.

The oil stains soak the cement. The leaves on my crescent hedge are turning brown as mud.

My mouth is dry and I crave water.
It's astounding what can happen when nothing is going on.

That's why I am not a painter; I never developed the art of not-getting-it-right. Rather, I'm still amazed of things in and of themselves, doing nothing, undressed of human perception or ideas, things just falling apart of their own accord unburdened with conceits of glory, glee or horrible, terrible, inconsolable sadness and terror.

An uncle of mine worked a farm his entire life and all I remember were several generations of farm machines left out in fields or behind sheds, rusted out and useless years after they rolled from the factory, and when I asked him about what he was going to do about them, he just laughed and said he planned to do exactly nothing because there was nothing to be done, no emergency to attend to.
"Those parts aren't hurting anything where they are" he said," I have a farm to run, not a garage.

My job is to make things grow, not go..."

Our fathers and their fathers knew something about things in this life running down, new things appearing as if out of the ether.

Swallowing hard, I push the mower onward in the path we've been blazing through the deep, molding grass. Onward, says the general, to where the sky kisses the edge of the earth/

twenty two:
Just tell the band to strike up a song that blends well with the color of a crowd whose faces blur in swirls across a whirling ballroom floor, high hats and tom-tom drums and cowbells filling the city blocks with locomotion that doesn’t stop until the clock hits the last minute of the last hour.
Everyone stops swirling to get their coats and then their cars to return to their homes and apartments that stopped seeming so extraordinarily alive with the things they brought to the rooms and hung up on the walls.
The music stops at midnight and the only thing you can think of now is how your feet hurt, how many hours to sunrise and the start of your term on the clock and in the customer’s face with service you know you wouldn’t hand your dog after the biggest mess he could produce on the rug you brought home from an enclosed mall.
But it’s late on the road, rain falls with an even temper, small fists bang the roof since the start of history, there are fields of applause your going through in the city on this drive, you drum the steering wheel as she leans against the glass, humming lightly, racing drums and quicksilver trumpets grow winged feet and chase one another from station to station to station on the AM dial.
She starts to sing something you don’t understand as the wheels seem to hydroplane over the asphalt, saxophone blasts a whole in the clouds and the moon is on you as you slow down the car coming to the apartment house,
Love seems to lasts forever in ash-silver light, you think, coming to the garage, the music cutting out and static going off like firecrackers on a string under the stars of a night full of train wheels singing along the rails with steel wheels
Clouds meander over the moon once more, the light is gone, there is only a garage full of tools and dirty boxes of unpacked stuff you never want to find.
Her eyes are closed, her head against the door, oh, to dance across the city in top hats, long sideburns, and long white gloves like we used to dream it would be always, this is what you’re thinking,

She sings a song without the words, nonsense syllables filling in spaces where lyrics used to be crooned,
“Do you know the words”, she asks, “do you know the name of the song?”
“Sure do” you said, switching off the ignition and tapping your forehead, “it’s up here somewhere, lost forever.”

Paragraph for lovers

There's nothing worth in noting that neckties and indexes of how swell the economy has gotten leaves us with nothing but a bad after taste of a hard sock in the jaw because the eyes drifted and lingered on anatomy that didn't belong to the head that was until the delivery of five in the fangs was craning its neck the way exotic birds with long legs do, averting the gaze so that nothing in the give and take and progressive accumulation of moments that keep on piling enough  until it all goes to waste will be set withing boundaries suggesting a frame, or   demand that the world get square and predictable, like a paragraph with an overkill of punctuation or a boy friend who was never quite a husband or a good lover but was keen to have around when the talk got serious like bent silver next to chipped plates.