Month: November 2010

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ADVENT: THE WORK AND LIFE OF KENZABURŌ ŌE

FATHER AND SON

The liturgical season known as Advent–the four weeks leading up to Christmas–has begun. In a season where we celebrate a God who assumed human flesh and came into the world as a baby–poor, in exile, surrounded by scandal–I’m thinking of the work of the Japanese writer Kenzaburō Ōe. In 1994,Ōe was awarded the Nobel Laureate in 1994 for creating an “an imagined world, where life and myth condense to form a disconcerting picture of the human predicament today.”

Back in 1963, Ōe’s wife, Yukari, was pregnant. Doctors advised the couple that the baby would be severely developmentally and physically disabled, and urged them to abort. They chose otherwise, and their son Hikari was born. He was visually impaired, epileptic, and possibly autistic. He did not speak.
For a writer, a more unpromising son that Hikari could scarcely have been imagined. This is no sentimental, faux-tender call to pretend we adore the handicapped. We would not adore them nearly so much if we had to live with and take care of them. Ōe has written of Hikari’s abysmal oral hygeine, his bad breath, his immovable bulk, the years of laboriously accompanying him to the special school via bus and train–hours that could have been spent writing, producing–and then the same trip again in the afternoon to fetch him back.

And yet the most helpless, the least efficient, the most unlikely to carry on the family name–the Ōes went on to have two more children—became in some sense the unlikely “star” around whom the family constellated. In spite of terrible suffering and struggle, this developmentally disabled child, curiously, in unexpected ways, by virtue of a process that nobody could have imagined or willingly undergone even if they could have imagined it, became a perverse source of strength. Kenzaburō Ōe went on to write novels, essays, and memoirs around the central theme of his disabled son–this Great Fact, this “personal matter”–that has shaped his work, thought, and life. And though the story would have been just as “miraculous” otherwise, Hikari Ōe turned out to have an uncanny facility for music, and is now a successful classical composer.

Ecce homo–behold the man–said Pilate when Christ stood before him in solidarity with all the lonely, all the poor, all the unlucky, all the aged, the unborn, the deformed, the weak, the unwanted;  bloody, scourged, bound, wearing a crown of thorns, and above all, silent. It is Christianity’s most central tenet: that the individual is to be treasured. That a single act of love can and does save the world. That the fate of all mankind can hinge upon the awakened consciousness of a single soul—and that every soul therefore matters.

ECCE HOMO:
LOVIS CORINTH, 1925
Hikari’s awakening began when he heard a bird in the woods. There’s a silence around that moment, too:  the silence of indrawn breath, the silence beyond time and space in which we wait–for the next four weeks especially–without words:

Q: Your son became a composer. Your family—your wife, your children and yourself—in caring for him over time identified his ability to communicate. Tell us how that came out.

A: Until my son was four or five years old, he didn’t do anything to communicate with us. We thought that he cannot have any sense of the family. So he looked very, very isolated—a pebble in the grass. But one day, he was interested in the voice of a bird from the radio. So I bought disks of the wild birds of Japan. I made a tape of fifty specimens of birds—bird calls. There are the bird calls and a very flat voice, a woman announcer, says the names of the birds. “Tada-dada,” then: “Nightengale.” “Tada-da.” “Sparrow.” “This is nightengale; this is sparrow.” We continued to listen to that tape for three years. During those three years, when we played the birds’ songs, my son became very quiet. So it was needed to make him quiet. My wife must do her work, and I must do my work. So with the bird voices we three lived on.
In the summer when he was six years old, I went to our mountain house, and while my wife was cleaning our small house, I was in the small forest with my son on my shoulders. Nearby there is a small lake. A bird sang, [one of a pair]. Suddenly a clear, flat voice said, “It is a water rail.” Then I shook. Utter silence in the forest. We were silent for five minutes and I prayed for something, there on my head. I prayed, “Please, the next voice of that bird and please next the remarks of my son, if that was not my phantom or dream.” Then after five minutes, the wife of that bird sang. Then my son said “It’s a water rail.” Then I returned to my house with my son and talked to my wife.
–From an interview with Kenzaburō Ōe, 1994 Nobel Laureate in Literature

Listen to the water rail
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NORMAN ROCKWELL REDUX: THE QUEERS AT THE TROUBADOUR

Last night I drove over to West Hollywood to meet two of my brothers: Allen and Joe. Joe has a punk band, The Queers, who’ve been around forever and were playing the Troubadour. The show didn’t start till 11, which is a tad late by my lights, so we’d arranged to meet before and grab a bite. We met in the alley behind the club, in the dark. It’s been cold for L.A. and after the band set up, the three of us walked down Santa Monica Boulevard, past the fancy joints—Dan Tana’s (“fifty bucks for a plate of spaghetti, I bet!”), The Palm—and found a pizza place. Allen treated. I had a slice of spinach and mushroom, Allen had spaghetti and sausage, and Joe, who doesn’t like to eat before a show, had a Pellegrino. 

MY GLOBE-TROTTING BROTHER ALLEN
IN HIS TROPICAL WHITES

Joe lives in Atlanta, Allen lives over on the Westside of L.A., and I live in Silver Lake, near downtown. Allen has a girlfriend in the Philippines and goes over to Asia—Thailand, Vietnam—several times a year. The Queers have played, among many other places, Japan, Italy, and Brazil, and are booked next year for Russia. Right now, they’re on a U.S. tour: from here to San Francisco, Seattle, Spokane, Billings, and points east. “I don’t know how you do it,” I told Joe. “That five-day drive I made from West Virginia earlier in the year”… “Yeah, we were talking about that in the van,” he said. “We had to hand it to ya. I can drive forever if I have someone to talk to, but to do it alone…that’s a whole other thing.” That’s about as close as Joe will ever come to a compliment, and I took it as such, proudly.

THE ONE AND ONLY JOE-JOE 
So we all have a bit of wanderlust (there are five more of us, actually four since Jeanne died) but what we basically talked about for an hour and a half was the house at 108 Post Road in North Hampton, New Hampshire where we all grew up. “Remember when Mom tied Joe to the apple tree cause he kept wandering into the road?” “Remember the time that blind old Aunt Ned, who was she anyway, she wasn’t even related to us, ratted me out? I walked her right into the corner of that coffee table that night, the blind old crone.” “Remember when we climbed Mount Chocorua and we saw that poor shriveled up woman with her hands all clawed up?” “Remember that old Zenith you had to turn on and off with a pair of pliers?” “Remember the spaghetti sandwiches?…“Remember the fireplace?”…
We talked about our nephew Allen who lost his mother when he was 4 but for whom we have high hopes because—highest possible accolade and blue-skies-ahead sign in the King family—“he’s funny.”

THE NEXT GENERATION
So there we sat, around a little round table, with the punk kids coming in who were headed for the club, and had a kind of second Thanksgiving, and  that’s what life, and family, is. You suit up and show up, and it is something rather than nothing, and you are glad you made the trek.
Out on Santa Monica, the Christmas lights shone in the dark. We walked Joe back to the Troubadour, hugged goodbye and one more time, went our separate ways. I tried to take a picture of the  marquee on my cell phone—”The Queers, Kepi Ghoulie, The Riptides, The Perverts!”—but the backglow was too bright. 
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TO LIVE IS TO FLY

VINCENT VAN GOGH:
CORNFIELD WITH LARK, 1887
Happy Day After Thanksgiving, dear folks. I personally ended up partaking of not one but two feasts–thank you Julia and Aaron; thank you Maudie!–culminating in a plate of pumpkin cheesecake, butterscotch pie, apple bread pudding and a mountain of whipped cream, then came home, collapsed on the sofa, and watched part of The Days of Wine and Roses.

Still, I’m up with the dawn, as usual, me and the birds, pondering…

“We take a train to go to Tarascon or Rouen and we take death to go to a star. What is certainly true about this argument is that as long as we’re alive we can’t visit a star any more than when we are dead we can take a train. Anyway, I don’t see why cholera, the stone, phthisis and cancer should not be heavenly modes of locomotion like ships, buses and trains here below, while if we die peacefully of old age we make the journey on foot.”
–Vincent van Gogh, letter to his brother Theo

“[A] person who is ‘ravished’ has lost the calm security of self-possession, if only for a moment; he is, as we say, ‘moved’ by something else; he is passive. Plato repeatedly finds new ways to describe this state, in which one is deprived of self-possession and shaken out of one’s adjustment to the world. He speaks of wanting to fly up and being unable to; of being beside oneself and not knowing what is wrong; of ferment, unrest, helplessness…Lovers—we may read this in Aristophanes’ speech in the Symposium—do not know what they really want of one another; in fact it is evident that their two souls crave something else (something other than the pleasure of lovers’ intercourse); but the world cannot express what this other thing is, ‘of which she has only a dark and doubtful presentiment.’” 
–Josef Pieper, Enthusiasm and Divine Madness

AUSTRALIAN BALLET:
SWAN LAKE

“One of my greatest experiences! Lord God, that beauty! They circled over me for a long time. Disappeared into the solar haze like a gleaming, silver ribbon…That this should have happened to me, who have been for so long an outsider”…
–from the diary of composer Jean Sibelius, after seeing sixteen swans flying in formation over Ainola, his Finnish home

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THANKSGIVING: PASOLINI’S THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO SAINT MATTHEW

PIER PAOLO PASOLINI:
MARCH 5, 1922-NOVEMBER 2, 1975

I had a conversation not long ago with a guy who had very little use for “church.” “I go once a year, on Thanksgiving,” he said. “That seems a logical day to go. And I notice the people who profess to believe in God and to be so grateful barely show up at all.”

“Thanksgiving’s a secular holiday,” I finally stammered. “I think the idea is more or less to give thanks every day…”

Personally, I would like to give thanks this week for Pier Paolo Pasolini, the late Italian film-maker, because I just re-watched The Gospel According to Saint Matthew. Pasolini used real people in his film, including his own mother (with whom he lived for a time as an adult) as the older Virgin Mary. People with real emotions, ravaged faces, bad teeth. This is exactly what Christ would look like and act like. Intense but not fanatical. Fierce yet tender. On fire but contained. Possessed of absolute integrity but without the desire to retaliate, lord it over, or be vindicated.

Joseph discovers Mary is pregnant:

John baptizes Christ:

The music’s incredible, too: Odetta’s “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.” Bach’s Mass in B Minor. The Missa Luba, a version of the Latin Mass based on traditional Congolese songs:
 

Pasolini was part intellectual, part peasant. Part Marxist, part ad hoc Catholic. Gay without making a campaign out of it. Critical of the student rebellions because they were too bourgeois, critical of the police and yet somehow also on the side of the police. Knew that power always tends to the right. Sold his books on the streets. Was arrested for lewd public acts, was a constant target for the tabloid press, and was murdered in 1975, run over multiple times by his own car in an incident that has never been solved and may have been connected to blackmail, a jealous lover, or Communist-haters. And made at least one movie for which alone he should be awarded the crown of stars.

“If you know that I am an unbeliever, then you know me better than I do myself. I may be an unbeliever, but I am an unbeliever who has a nostalgia for a belief.” (1966)

“The mark which has dominated all my work is this longing for life, this sense of exclusion, which doesn’t lessen but augments this love of life.” (Interview in documentary, late 1960s)

From a New York Times interview, 1968: “I suffer from the nostalgia of a peasant-type religion, and that is why I am on the side of the servant. But I do not believe in a metaphysical god. I am religious because I have a natural identification between reality and God.”
“One should never hope for anything. Hope is a thing invented by politicians to keep the electorate happy.” 
And “thanksgiving,” if invented by the state, I might add, is a pallid, tepid facsimile of true thanks, which is shot through with reality, longing, and thus pain. “[Thanksgiving] is the natural expression of those who are not so stupid and so rude as to have forgotten that they are guests. Those naïve, medieval people—and they exist always in every generation, usually obscure, unknown, and even ignorant—who begin and end each day in that most beautiful instinctive human attitude, the attitude of the sensitive, courteous guest of God, on their knees with the head bent down before an ever-present God toward whom their hearts open like drooping flowers or like radiant flowers—they are the only people who really understand admiration and gratitude.”

–Katharine Butler Hathaway, The Little Locksmith (memoir of woman born with spinal tuberculosis who was strapped to a board and kept immobile for the first 10 years of her life)
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WHY ARE ME: THE RANDOM POETRY OF GOOGLE

[kiwifamilies.co.nz]

Ever since I started this blog, I’ve spent a fair amount of time searching images on Google. You can find anything up there: pepper trees, the paintings of Matthias Grunewald, headshots of Camus. Helpful prompts appear and you know that other people have been looking for the same things you are. I’m not sure how it happened–I may have been searching for Van Gogh’s “Wheat Field with Lark” and miskeyed–but the other day the first prompt that came up was: “What does a girls period look like?” Ha ha, I thought, the question of the ages, and moved on. But then I started musing on how instead of just typing “girls [sic] period,” the person had posed a question. I thought, instead of simply searching for an image, maybe people were asking a whole slew of questions. Either that, or people were captioning their images with questions. Or both. So I went to images.google.com and typed in “what” and the prompts that came up revealed a whole world. That is really, I have to say, in some sense my world. And I’d venture to say, in some small part, yours…

what does a girls period look like
what is love
what does my name mean
what does herpes look like
what does a miscarriage look like
what does lice look like
what does a trillion dollars look like
what does lady gaga really look like
what does a bed bug look like
what does a mucus plug look like
what does a positive TB test look like
what does a yeast infection look like
what does a girls private look like
what does a flea look like
what does a cavity look like
what does a brown recluse spider look like
what does a blood clot look like
what does a brazilian wax look like
what does a birth certificate look like
what does a condom look like on a guy

WHY IS MY ARM SO WRINKLED?

why does my mom turn me on
why does my eye twitch
why does kim zolciak wear a wig
why does my poop float
why does love hurt
why does sara palin wear thongs
why doesnt eminem smile

why does it always rain on me

why doesnt hello kitty have a mouth
why doesnt he love me
why doesnt alcohol freeze
why doesnt glue stick to the inside of the bottle
why doesnt she love me

why is there school
why is the rum gone
why is my poop green
why is a raven like a writing desk
why is lil wayne in jail
why is 6 afraid of 7
why is my poop white

why so serious
why fat people shouldn’t bungee jump
why me
why did i get married
why can’t i hold all these limes
why iranian women are so beautiful
why are men attracted to breasts
why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria
why are girls so hot
why are you wearing that stupid man suit
why did i get married too
why are we here
why are me

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WITNESS TO AN EXECUTION

A few years ago a friend turned me on to a radio series called Sound Portraits. There were shows on ghetto life, Bowery flophouses, and the guy who repairs the Cyclone on Coney Island. But the one that really gripped me was called Witness to an Execution.

Here’s the intro from the Sound Portraits website:

“Witness to an Execution tells the stories of the men and women involved with the execution of deathrow inmates at the Walls Unit in Huntsville, Texas. Narrated by Warden Jim Willett, who oversees all Texas executions, Witness to an Execution documents, in minute-by-minute detail, the process of carrying out an execution by lethal injection. Most of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice employees interviewed have witnessed over one hundred inmates be put to death. One-third of all executions in the US have taken place in Texas, since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977.

The voices in Witness to an Execution tell a rare story. Major Kenneth Dean, a member of the “tie-down” team, describes the act of walking an inmate from his cell to the death chamber. Jim Brazzil, a death house chaplain who has witnessed 114 executions, remembers inmates’ last words to him. Former corrections officer Fred Allen discusses his own mental breakdown, caused, he says, by participating in one too many executions.

Witness to an Execution won a Peabody Award in 2000.”

Listen, weep, and tell me Fred Allen is not by far the sanest one of that bunch.

And if you’ve a mind to, check out as well Tolstoy’s 1899 novel Resurrection, about the abysmal Russian prisons and man’s (obviously continuing) injustice to man:

LEO TOLSTOY: 1828-1910

From Chapter XXX, “The Astonishing Institution Called Criminal Law”

[courtesy of online-literature.com]

He hoped to find an answer to this question in books, and bought all that referred to it. He got the works of Lombroso, Garofalo, Ferry, List, Maudsley, Tard, and read them carefully. But as he read he became more and more disappointed. It happened to him as it always happens to those who turn to science not in order to play a part in it, nor to write, nor to dispute, nor to teach, but simply for an answer to an every-day question of life. Science answered thousands of different very subtle and ingenious questions touching criminal law, but not the one he was trying to solve. He asked a very simple question: “Why, and with what right, do some people lock up, torment, exile, flog, and kill others, while they are themselves just like those whom they torment, flog, and kill?” And in answer he got deliberations as to whether human beings had free will or not. Whether signs of criminality could be detected by measuring the skulls or not. What part heredity played in crime. Whether immorality could be inherited. What madness is, what degeneration is, and what temperament is. How climate, food, ignorance, imitativeness, hypnotism, or passion act. What society is. What are its duties, etc., etc. 
These disquisitions reminded him of the answer he once got from a little boy whom he met coming home from school. Nekhludoff asked him if he had learned his spelling.

“I have,” answered the boy.

“Well, then, tell me, how do you spell ‘leg’?

“A dog’s leg, or what kind of leg?” the boy answered, with a sly look.

THE PRISON CEMETERY AT HUNTSVILLE, TEXAS
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THE CITY: CAVAFY

DOOR TO THE FIFTH FLOOR “LOFT”
IN WHICH I LIVED FOR MANY YEARS IN BOSTON
BEFORE MOVING IN 1990 (OR WAS IT ’91?) TO MY CURRENT
EUPHORICALLY HAPPY LIFE
IN L.A. 
Sometimes I still dream of Merrimac Street, and the loft where I spent the darkest years of my alcoholic drinking, where I first experienced the deep, deep loneliness that formed me, where I got sober. The windows that gave upon the Lindemann Mental Health Center, a fortress-like nuthouse. The bathroom, with its bare hanging light bulb and communal sink, that served the whole welfare-hotel fifth floor. I slept on a mattress surrounded by bookcases filled with books owned by the gay couple who’d moved to Nashville–Matthew was an old friend–and bequeathed me the loft. Those books kept me company: Lawrence Durrell (“Somewhere between Calabria and Corfu, the blue really begins”…), Somerset Maugham (“Were the pearls real?” “If I had a pretty little wife I shouldn`t let her spend a year in New York while I stayed at Kobe”), W.B. Yeats (“When you are old and gray and full of sleep/And nodding by the fire, take down this book”….).  Frank O’Hara. Diane Arbus. Brassaï’s The Secret Paris of the 30’s and that photo of the “eccentric” woman in the bar I was afraid I’d someday become. Cavafy, with his theme of “fatalistic existential nostalgia.”

PHOTO BY BRASSAÏ
Fatalistic existential nostalgia has always been a theme for me as well. For a long time, I thought I might have made a mistake moving to the West Coast. All these years later, I know I have two places to love.

And as St. Augustine said: “Keep going along the road, never satisified. If you stop, you die.”

THE CITY

You said, “I will go to another land, I will go to another sea.
Another city will be found, a better one than this.
Every effort of mine is a condemnation of fate;
and my heart is–like a corpse–buried.
How long will my mind remain in this wasteland.
Wherever I turn my eyes, wherever I may look
I see black ruins of my life here,
where I spent so many years destroying and wasting.
You will find no new lands, you will find no other seas.
The city will follow you. You will roam the same
streets. And you will age in the same neighborhoods;
and you will grow gray in these same houses.
Always you will arrive in this city. Do not hope for any other–
There is no ship for you, there is no road.
As you have destroyed your life here
in this little corner, you have ruined it in the entire world.
–Constantine P. Cavafy

1863-1933, born and died in Alexandria, Egypt

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FIRE EAR

I have never claimed to be a photographer. But the other morning I was combing my hair after the shower when suddenly I observed the sun shining through my right ear in such a way that I seemed to have a burning  ember attached to my skull! The rest of me was the same dull opaque bag of flesh and bones as always, but my ear! My ear was like a fragment of stained glass! My ear was on fire!  In my ear, blood blazed and flamed!

What mysteries we are, especially to ourselves! What other strange treasures had I been carrying around all these years, and never stopped to notice?…

SENSORY CELLS FROM THE INNER EAR
(PHYSORG.COM, B.HARTMAN, T. REH, O. BERMINGHAM-McDONOGH)

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made
marvelous are thy works;
and that my soul knoweth right well.

My substance was not hid from thee
when I was made in secret,
and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect;
and in thy book all my members were written,
which in continuance were fashioned,
when as yet there was none of them.

How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!

–Psalm 139: 14-17

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EARLY TIMES

Friday I went to Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale for a memorial of Andrew Rafferty. I’d seen Andrew around for years. We weren’t close friends but we’d chat now and again, exchange pleasantries. When things got bad and he sat in front  of the Tropical Cafe panhandling, I’d give him a buck or two here and there, as many of us did. In and out of sobriety, he seemed caught in that shivering-denizen netherworld  that the rest of us knew we’d escaped–were escaping–for only a single day, a single second, at a time. You couldn’t look at Andrew without being reminded of your own extremely precarious hold on sanity, on the way the difference between light and darkness, despair and hope, life and death hangs by a thread: a kind word; a mind that, lightning-quick, by the sheerest grace, opens just long enough to “hear.” 
Cypresses stood sentinel.  The sun shone. The minister recited the 23rd Psalm. A childhood friend, Eric, sang a blues tune a cappella. Andrew’s brother Richard, who you knew had been through hell, stood up and thanked everybody and said he wasn’t really in any shape to tell stories about Andrew at the moment, and made your heart bleed for all brothers, especially the brothers of alcoholics. The mother was too sick to come so someone took a picture of us afterward, the green lawn a backdrop, some of us in dark suits, some of us in T-shirts and jeans, and some in 2-inch hemlines and 6-inch stilettoes because, after all, this is L.A. 
Andrew was so energetic, people said afterwards. He was witty. He was smart. “We all have our demons,” the minister had said. “You have yours, I have mine.” Everybody politely refrained from mentioning why we were there: Andrew had relapsed again and committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a train. 
For those of us who have grown up with, suffered from ourselves, and/or loved those who have suffered or are suffering from alcoholism, the pain sometimes seems infinite. Interesting that the antidote for pain seems to be not more booze and drugs, but surrender. Interesting that the “answer” is not an answer–but poetry. 
EARLY TIMES

Under an umbrella of Brazilian pepper
my mother drinks and dreams
draws deep on her Phillip Morris
floats smoke rings above her head
while clouds of insects 
halo a citronella candle.
Wax drips down rippled glass,
withered olives drop
pocking the pavement
around her patio chair. 
My urgent questions
drift off with the smoke,
ice laughs in her glass.
She stirs her bourbon
Early Times 
her drink. 
I grab the candle 
to smell the lemon deeper.
The pads of my fingers burn
against the boiling glass.
Painprints code my panic–
My hand in a glass of cold water
I listen for the click, click, click
of fresh ice
Early Times
after midnight. 
–Anne Kennedy, from a collection entitled The Dog Kubla Dreams My Life. 
(Reprinted with permission of Salmon Publishing, Dublin, Ireland, 1994). 
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ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT

Has anyone ever asked you that lame question,: Would you rather be happy or would you rather be right? To me, that’s always been a giant a no-brainer. I would rather DIE IN HELL and be right. OBVIOUSLY. Thank you.
DIERIC BOUTS THE ELDER:
HELL
CIRCA 1470

The extreme suffering of repeatedly butting my head up against a brick wall, and perhaps age, are leading me to very slowly revise my view. It’s funny, I had lunch with my friend Rip (RIP IS A PSEUDONYM) last week (at some horrible Mexican place where the food…oh forget it). Anyway, after being clean for a time Rip has now become a total pothead, and he was mentioning how you spend a whole ton of energy making a decision to get clean and sober, and then you spend a whole ton of energy making a decision not to stay clean and sober, and that once you’ve made the decision not to, part of the reason you don’t want to get clean again is that you don’t want to “lose” or “waste” or “let go of” all that energy. (You may have to be an addict to follow this line of thinking but if you are, you’ll recognize it and relate to it instantly, as I did, and welcome aboard).

So I recognized that line of thinking but I also kind of thought, Oh dear. Because it’s obviously, on some level, insane.
And yet the very next day I realized that’s in some way what I’m doing with my book(s). I have one book my agent’s been trying to sell for months, and another book that’s been bought and, as happens, it’s been difficult to get the full skinny on. And I have not in any way, shape, or form let these books go. I’ve done and am continuing to do all I can, but I’m not trusting that whatever is going to happen, or “supposed” to happen, will. Whatever is supposed to happen is what happens. My view is that agents, editors, the publishing world, the people who sell books, the people who buy books, and basically the whole universe and everything in it should all act according to my plan and if they don’t, I’m going to hold out till my dying breath till they do. Because I WORKED MY ASS OFF ON THOSE BOOKS. I OPENED MY VEINS FOR THOSE BOOKS. And what I’m seeing is: Good luck with that.
One reason this blog has been a giant relief/release/surprise blessing is that it is simply unbelievable to write a piece and more or less immediately send it out to the universe knowing that someone, if they’ve a mind to, will find and read it. Part of my angst over my work is ego-based, but another part is simply that I’ve worked hard on something and finished it and now I want to give the darn gift! I can’t wait to give the gift! Look!–here’s a book! Look!–I want to show you my essay, my story, my post! The generosity of my fellow bloggers, all you thoughtful, careful readers, how and why and that people respond have already revealed themselves to be part of an unfolding mystery.  And somehow I feel that the blog, and whatever comes of it, is going to lead me closer to letting go of some of my most ancient, seemingly hard-wired ideas. That you have to work really, really hard and there’s NO MONEY. That nothing ever works out FOR ME. That I can never, ever rely on ANYONE BUT MYSELF. (Again, you may have to be a driven-by-self-centered-fear addict to get this). Because for things to “work out,” whatever that means, isn’t what I really want. I want to be released from bondage. I want to dare to accept the gift of reality. I want to live, as they did in medieval times, knowing that the most seemingly mundane moment is shot through with metaphysical significance and weight. 
“For us, then, circumstances are not neutral. They are not things that happen without any meaning; that is, they are not just things to put up with, to suffer stoically. They are part of our vocation, of the way in which God, the good Mystery, calls us, challenges us, educates us. For us, these circumstances have all the weight of a call, and thus are part of the dialogue of each one of us with the Mystery present.
            Life is a dialogue.
            ‘Life is not a tragedy. Tragedy is what makes everything amount to nothing. Yes, life is a drama. It is dramatic because it is the relationship between our I and the You of God, our I that must follow the steps which God indicates.’ (L[uigi] Guissani)…[P]recisely because this You exists, circumstances call us to him. It is he who calls us through them. It is he who calls us to destiny through everything that happens.”
–Father Julián Carron
My books aren’t in limbo, in other words, I’m in the midst of a dialogue! A drama! My destiny! I’m having a relationship with God (if only, just once, He’d speak!) So just for today, let me want to be happy more than I want to be right.
And let’s hope Rip puts down the weed.
POSTER BY RAFAEL MARTINEZ