Thursday, March 5, 2009

Double Dip (Not Skoal, Grizzly or Kodiak) aka Red Rose Speedway

So February was a long month and not filled with much promise - well as far as this blog was concerned. But for me, it wasn't a bad month. It was cold, sure; there was Valentine's Day, sure; the recession got worse each day on as if it were that first cup of coffee in the morning moving your bowels on cue - and in many ways and for many people it was. For me, as I say, it was an enjoyable month topped off by just seeing Grizzly Bear play with the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra at BAM on Saturday, February 28. My dog got to stay with me in my apartment for a month which really raised morale for me. It's hard to describe or really emphasize how much having a little furry pal to come to changes the dynamic of the living square you spend your time in when it is cold outside. The morning walk, the evening walk and everything else changed up my normal routine of waking up, not really wanting to work but being glad to be up and the sun is shining, coming home making dinner, drinking 60 beers listening to music and trying to write while the traffic of Grand Street goes by. This all leads me to something I am going to write about

It seems to be a common trait or at least accepted phenomenon in the climate we find ourselves living in, that climate being the year and the impulses culture propels itself with, that large scale issues out drive a simple pleasure. I know that even that sentence makes a person sound outdated or at the brink of being a codger or as the old say "youth is wasted on the young." However, with iPod touches and iPhones and how great the internet is at placing you into any place in time or on the planet you want to be - something as elemental or clean (well many times not that's why you bring the bags) as walking a dog can be lost. Internet, fast-paced TV, handheld devices are great at giving us the news and opening up small portals of the vastness of this planet - of the atrocities and injustices that occur daily, the differences in culture and pace of life. However, it is those clean motions and small enjoyments that lend the portal into the vastness of the universe. For as our news and immediate gratification through song let us see the differences in things, just walking a dog at a slow pace, underneath a cold sky that, even if you are in a place as polluted as New York City, feels like crystal because it IS cold and the sky is that damn blue and there is just a hint of the fact that there are stars up there and the silhouette of buildings turns the night into a contained barnyard, where planes from two different airports take their dips in the trough.

This is for art as well. The art I find myself drawn to and the art I feel compelled to create. The simple will lend to the profound - or rather the messy things that seem profound. A teacher from my college that I loved, that was much like a father figure to me tried to teach myself and many of my classmates of the importance of novels and art that leant to the exotic. He warned against the allure of exoticism that a text's subject could provoke in a reader, however at the same turn he found himself in that same allure. A novel about radicals in South Africa, or a novel about a crusade in 14th Century Albania FEELS much more important because we don't know those things in the most immediate sense. I do not know a thing about the suffering that goes on in South Africa or the suffering that went on centuries ago. I don't know a great many things about a great many people. However, that take on art or on your life is crippling. You might as well make the amputation at the start. For as much as we do not know the sufferings of those from another time or another remote place on this great planet, we do not know the sufferings that lie beneath our own skin or beneath the skin of the people who are closest to us. What is that strange look, that glance to the side a friend of 20 years gives you? What eternal message is that telling you - that is the message of mankind. The ritual of sharing one drink on a curb in suburban Long Island, of enjoying the company of a canine connects us to the vastness that is history and space, rather than being boring, it is all time, it is all things. The pain you feel relating to a garbage man on a cold day because you are damn glad you aren't him but you wish things could be better, but they aren't and that is the way things are, cut and clean and that man came to that just as you came to work a job in an office you don't want to, or come to make the decisions you don't want to make. That is where art is. Art is not in the exotic. Artsy is exoticism.

However, what of the civic life? You can't turn your head to your naval your whole life. A bottle rolling along a curb won't solve any economic problems. For me, art was never meant to answer our politics and our economies. All The Kings Men was a story about fathers and sons and about love between a young man and a young woman couched in a political mystery. The best art is meant to make us turn and evaluate our humanity, where we stand in the story of history, the history of people borne by mothers and fathers, forever separating ourselves from death by calling ourselves Kings and Queens, politicians, Presidents, lovers, artists when all we are left to approach is that initial cause, that word known to all men, which we have all forgotten and are forever seeking to find the answer to. Art was not made for "The Times They Are A Changing," "Ohio" is not even one of Neil Young's best songs. '64 Bob Dylan had to be murdered by '66 Bob Dylan who was then murdered by the press and people looking for '64 Bob Dylan, but that kind of art doesn't exist and was never made to - which is why Nashville Skyline had to be culled, to create that barrier. Even War and Peace, a book that is heralded as the story of Russia, is really the story of Tolstoy's youth, couched in a sweeping epic of wars and eras of Russia. Which is why it is a masterpiece, it cradles the fine line of the simple, of the way things are, and perhaps no one did that better than Tolstoy. It was either Joyce or Tolstoy who did it best. This is the way things happen, this is a man shitting in all its disgustingness and reality, but didn't Odysseus shit?

A strong example of the simple is Merriweather Post Pavilion. "My Girls" alone attests to the power of the simple. "All I want is four walls and adobe slabs for my girls." Politicians, stock brokers, pet shop owners, musicians, and the dead wishes of corpses all have that same desire burnt into their bones, in all of its manifestations. That album features the best love lyric of all time, "I want to walk around with you." What do you want to do more when you are in love, than to walk around with that person?

Anyway, you may say that this entry sounds like David Foster Wallace. I never read him. I'm just drunk and listening to Little Feat. Anyone else done that?

Here's Tom from From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt


It’s cloudy this morning but it’s still warm. I could’ve drove, but here I am walking to church. I didn’t ask anyone else because I know they wouldn’t want to go. Well maybe I should have asked Liza to go; she and I were the only two who would go with mom before…

Dad would come every other week or two weeks, he’d use excuses about the new receptionist or the people in billing so he had to lower himself to clerical matters on a Sunday. I knew he wasn’t working but relaxing. Not like the old days when we’d all go all six of us and stand there proudly in our khakis and polos and button downs and skirts and dresses.

I can see Saint James’ white tower as I walk up the hill. I check my watch. 10:10. I’ll be there just in time for mass. I’ll walk in and smell that initial blast of perfume and incense and then the wet of the water on my forehead, the cross, and then kneeling and sign again. Then I will sit on the wood of the pew and feel the heaviness of church. What will I pray for? Mom of course. What else could I possibly pray for? I’ll pray for her and for dad. He was bound to take this the hardest and he has. I don’t like to see him this way, lolling and drunk, zoning out and then laughing and cracking jokes like an imbecile. He is almost speaking his own language, though in a way I guess he always did that.

The tractors are moving over the dirt on the farm. What do they grow there anymore? It was always pumpkins in the fall. When we were kids, we’d take field trips and pick out the best pumpkin. It didn’t always have to be the biggest, you could get one with the best shape or one that would curve easily although that was tough to figure out and I don’t know if you could ever really direct that to a science. But we would carve them and have a school wide contest. In fourth grade I won for the grade with my carving of Mona Lisa. Maggie and James both helped me. Maggie did the vague outline with me using that small metal carver. She was always a great lover of paintings, especially Cezanne. And then James would help me carve out the rough and thick sin. It was tough work. We messed up twice and had to go back to get new pumpkins. No one noticed, though.

I hear a plane fly overhead and on my right a door slams and I can hear the echoing of a basketball bouncing. A young kid comes out wearing shorts and a t-shirt. He’s yelling, “Mark! Mark! Mark!” Mark is probably his brother or his cousin. It could be Deluca’s little brother or cousin. I don’t remember him having a little brother just a sister, and I don’t think he lived in this part of town anyway.

It’s nice to have siblings. I was always glad to have an older brother and sister and also a younger one. It makes you more well rounded I think to juggle all of those different interactions. I’d never give any of the fights and awful car rides back. In a way, I’m glad Mom died. Now we’re all back under the same roof. My brother is back and maybe I can tell him how much I hate him for moving away. I’m not really glad that Mom’s dead.

I turn onto the church drive below the overhanging trees and I can see into a sideyard with a little wooden swing set. On my other side is the second half of the church’s cemetery. We won’t bury mom here. Grandpa had a plot all set up out east. We will bury her there. I wish she were alive so much. Just so I knew that she would be around to help me with my problems, to help me explain how I feel when I’m stifled, frustrated and trapped on this Island. I know I’ll get away someday. The way Mom never wanted me to. She was a simple God-fearing woman at heart. But she was good with words in a way that I’m not. I bet she could’ve been a writer or maybe even a psychologist with the way that she explains things. Explained things.

The parking lot is nearly full. Families pull up in mini-vans, dads in leather jackets holding the hands of their kids. There are some frumpy mothers and also sleek well-kept rich mothers with nice neat tan coats and slim black and brown sunglasses. There are old people too; there are always old people at mass. Walking or caning their way up to the altar to receive communion in ivory white sneakers. Or the old dames like grandma when she lived with us with her big hats with bows and feathers and large pearl necklaces. The perfume of church is a mix of mothballs and incense.

I open the heavy white door and enter in. An old woman hands me the weekly flyer, which is written in maroon ink. I push open the lightweight light wood door and hear the large echo of coughs and whispered talk. The organ is playing low. I reach my hand over and touch my fingertips to the water in the iron bowl. I always forget the real name of the holy water holder. I cross myself and a little drop of water remains on my forehead. I can feel it. At first glance I don’t recognize anyone. I slide into a pew closer to the back. I look up at the wood ceiling that always reminded me of a ship. It’s wooden, curved, and highly polished. The wood just looks strong like a ship. Then my eyes fall on the cross. I pull out the kneeler and it squeaks and is made of blue padding like always. I feel the heaviness of church, but it has a different twist because I’m alone at mass for the first time in my life.

No comments:

Post a Comment