Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I have three fat scatter-shot notebooks that attempt to work out the "novel" I'm working on.

I'm closing in on the end of the third book: a chaotic black journal I first purchased in Santa Cruz on my thirtieth birthday that is one part diary, and two parts working notes for stories and a novel. That was the trip when we caught the dying butterfly, preserved it -- and found, via photographs, evidence of a disturbing trap lain by vagabond criminals in the garbage-strewn woods fringing the dried-out river.

The novel, itself, I realize is a shamelessly hyperbolic novelization of my memories. After all, when asked to write about yourself, you are asked to write about what goes in your head. You are asked, in essence, to write a novel.

Your whole life is a commentary on your own life. A memoir then is twice-removed from the commentary that occurred in the inscrutable heat of certain moments. The actions that accrue to fill your life are forever obscured by the language we enact to describe, expand, and rationalize these actions. Often, language itself -- as in when we say: I love you, or: I'm scared -- are our only actions. This makes writers of us all.

It is my attempt, as a first-time novelist, to ring out a singular cover story for all the paranoias and fascinations and failures of a life up to the point of an early thirty-year old's. For me, the best cover-story is something out of folklore. Of caves, and tunnels, and gardens, and hidden realms. This is best because it is the least likely.

Of course, for better or for worse, I have to take into account the recent calamitious changes in my own life that rest themselves upon daily-shifting plates of illusion and ambiguity. The plate tectonics of love which shift more timorously than any of the earth's bones.

I think the biggest betrayal for the "lad" of the novel is that his abiding love for life, and for the world, must constantly combat the constant dissolution of love and community and transcendence. Now, the latter is a phrase I wonder at. It's a big word used by early American philosophers to denote, well what? That nature will save us? That God is in the trees? I don't know really. But I think it might strive for: better than what we worry we actually are.

If, from the very beginning, you are led to believe that your passion for union will do you well and that, as a life skill, it is the one to cultivate at expense of all others, what happens when this passion is compromised at every turn by alienation, weakness and refusal? Well, that's reality -- in one sense -- and one sense among many senses, I suppose. Mine, this character's, a poor city-dweller's, a citizen of the current recession, a woman living in fear of an acid attack, a homeless man in the park fearing the intervention of a cop or a vigilante, a child fearing the violent appraisal of a failed father, a mother fearing for her general well-being. Amidst all this panic, the sound of a car alarm brings all the banality home to roost.

How do you act like an adult in a world hell-bent on its own destruction? Where are the adults in countries that are drowning in debt, and poverty, and tyranny? Where is maturity in a blind acceptance of ecological decimation?

That is the question, I think. To act like a child would be to acquiesce to a naivete that would be all but renunciatory. But to renounce life would leave you with -- what?

I suppose art strives to pose these questions and, failing to answer them, to pose other questions that are at least more hopeful in their potential answerability -- in life's battered continuance.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Early August

Three days now I've walked with a full bag of stuff through the city, strung out on bad sleep and bad noodles. My brown pants have mustard or hot sauce stains. I don't know how the things I love have settled in my old, old bag -- I've had it for years now, since I lived on Capp Street back when we lived next to the Buddhist temple which I was always too self-conscious to visit. Who am I, so nerve-stricken to breathe the smoke of a Buddhist space?

Past the garage of the crazed grey-bearded guy who slams his sack against a tree, whose garage is always a shrine to something I can't ever understand: old maps pinned to the trunk of his car with abalone shells, an old radio sounding off between two wilting candles, lawnchairs positioned between a fat, flame-shadowed buddha, friends of grey overalls who speak to him a weird lingo about anger and determination. He sometimes recognizes me, other times he doesn't. It's fine either way because I recognize him and I know I should walk past him and greet him.

"This is the time of the great undoing" -- so my radio goes. I'm in a house where I hear the squeak of a second story mouse and the revving of so many illegal cars and the sky is red and the flags gutter at the bondage castle across the rippling rooftops. And what I am is sad.

Three days now the sky is sodden with shale-grey clouds, damp and thick with heavy blue sadness.

I am sick with sadness -- but about ready to be better.

Hallelujah? Maybe. John Cale's is still the best version.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Memorial For Trouble The Cat

"Trouble" Behind The Capp Street Curtain

It's been months since I've been here. But I'm back.

An animal I loved died recently, in fact just the other day. My ex-girlfriend called me from the vet's office in tears and held the phone up to the cat so I could say goodbye. I tried the best I could to say farewell. She told me he licked the phone. "Trouble" was old and had eaten poison quite by accident. He is one of two animals that I've ever really loved. Minutes later -- or before, I can't really remember -- there was a tiny earthquake and the house shook and I went outside and talked to the neighbor about the big one. Then I borrowed an ice pack for a bike accident.

Here's some pictures of Trouble.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

An Oldie

I've been scouring my desktop, in an ostensible attempt to clean it up. I have a thousand pages of unrefined prose, 300 pages of a novel here, 200 pages of another there and meanwhile the scraps and scrimshaws of unfinished projects.

What to do? Well, I can plan the rest of my creative life with the detritus on my almost 5 year old MacBook Pro. For starters here's a piece I think I wrote a couple years ago for a theater project for my friend Niki. She convinced me to dance in her piece in a ladies wool bathing suit and to, as well, perform in a burlesque number where I'm given lipstick and dressed up like a woman. That was a high point of my enriching vulnerability. I need more of that.

The following piece has a lot to do with recent conversations. It's very long and unedited but I feel as a short essay it has promise. Might as well. I feel it contains grain of the themes that I've always wrestled with and will continue to, as my weakness is as instructive and guiding as what I misperceive as strength.


At eighteen, I kept a very embarrassing journal, or at least it appears that way today. It is the only journal I ever saved from my tumultuous adolescent years; I destroyed the other ones because they were mostly free-associating, beatnik wannabe jumbles of sexual fantasies and trivial dream sequences. Some of these destroyed journals included minute-by-minute breakdowns of elaborate autoerotic sessions not to mention photo collages that were snipped from either car magazines or stolen Penthouses. The journal I started at eighteen, however, had the fresh perspective of someone who was suddenly legal in every sense of the word and who had suddenly read a lot of books about mental and physical conditioning. Still, that journal is permeated with my frustrations with girls, with dating, with trying to get laid, only it is less about the things I’d like to do and more about how to get to the point where I can do those things with grace and grit. I am, after all a horny teen who needs to learn finesse. The hows and not the whats. It is infused with human potential theories, occult philosophy and the most obscure self-help rhetoric you can imagine, all in the service of screwing, which rarely, if ever happened to me back then. The love of my life (or so I believed at 18), Amy floats through the pages, short, pale, earthy in her figure with those upsetting green eyes and that heaving Irish bosom and that sort of demeaning, precocious laugh of hers which made her a favorite with her art and theatre friends. But towards the end of the journal she is dating a close friend of mine. Unspeakable rage and jealousy turns my language coarse and difficult. My cursive starts getting frantic, all over the page, instead of in the neat, tightly-packed rows as before. I write poems about the various ways she is torturing me. About how she plucks her own eyes out and distills an acidic broth from them that she drips on my skin, burning me all the way to the marrow. Drip by drip, she stings me with the bright, blinding green of her Irish beauty. She becomes a surrealist fantasy of unattainable desire. In chemistry class, she assails me with hands of zero Kelvin. At Irish club meetings, she undresses my ambitions and guffaws with endless cruelty. I had been reading too much Breton, too much Artaud back then. The body was only good for the hallucinations it produced. The body was only as good as the Muse that enslaved it. So I dragged mine through sleepless nights of overblown poetics and solo wine quaffing. She cornered me one day about my public displays of poetic yearning. She had her arms on her hips, those emerald vessels burning in her face, her skin as thick and formidable as whipped mare’s milk. I feel an atavistic rush—the knowledge that my manhood will be in direct proportion to how much a woman will humiliate me, upset me, turn my life upside down and denigrate me as a pitiful, truly repulsive acolyte. Is it guilt? Is it the Christ martyr complex inherited from my Catholic upbringing? Is it some early blossoming of homosexuality or my current S&M fascination? I bow to her, in faux reverence and she pushes me back with her arm, disgusted. At this level I can see where her sweater covers her bellybutton. Cashmere. Imported. Worn to clubs that she snuck into. Threads of violet fizz around the edges. My heart surges. I want to be enslaved by her. I want. . .I want. . . But she walks away and I slide to the ground, sighing.

Later on in the journal, there is a dream. I’m still in the habit at eighteen of recording my dreams, just not as many as before. In that journal, I write down only the ones that I believe are influenced by the events in my waking life. You see, I was looking for a logic to it all, a music of the inner spheres that would also help me in the sex department. The description of this particular dream reminds me of this weird kid’s film I saw once that was about secret agents: Cloak And Dagger. There is a scene, I believe, where a woman corners a young boy in an alley way and he drops to his knees as she prepares to shoot him. For a long while she just smiles while she toys with her pistol. There is a spirit of play in the air, almost like it’s just a game of hide n’ seek but more highly charged than that. In fact the viewer knows all along that this she-villain can never off the little kid hero because his imaginary friend who just happens to be a trench-coat wearing secret agent is going to prevent her from doing that. This boring foreknowledge makes it a kid’s movie. But when I first saw it, I was spellbound by this scene and more by the feelings the kid must have had, a strange fluttering of adrenaline in his solar plexus that was directly related to his domination, to his near death at the hands of this woman. At the time, I was probably bringing a lot of my own baggage to the table, baggage that I could barely understand or hope to articulate.

In this dream, I died. I died while asleep but contrary to the urban legend, I didn’t actually die. I woke up shaking, my vision pixilated. From a black car, I was kicked out onto burning sand around the hour of twilight. I’m not sure which twilight it was, whether the dusk or dawn variety but the desert was vermillion and indigo, the cactus and the canyon walls slightly orange and jackals lurched in the distance, coughing. The driver got out too, a woman with long hair and sunglasses and wearing a leather jacket. She dragged me by the hair across the sand. It was cold and massaging on my kneecaps. I was groaning to myself; she was silent. Finally we arrive at no remarkable place, just more sand, more dying reds and faint purples of twilight. Brandishing a long black, greased-up gun, she looks down at me through her sunglasses. I cannot tell if she is beautiful but she is certainly tall and limber. She points it at me. I feel helpless, distraught, not at all like the kid in the movie must have felt, not the cold, hormonal agitation, not the male Andromeda complex. The barrel is as cold as the sand against my forehead. It clicks, the bullet enters the flesh of my head. No explosion, just a mute entry. A slight crack and it brakes through, like a splinter in a peeled egg. I slope down on the ground, still conscious, still watching her, even as the bullet is swimming around in my brain, counting down the seconds until I die. Then in my dream, it goes black and I’m counting backwards to zero. The closer I get to zero the darker it gets. The numbers slow down. It is almost absolute night and finally we arrive and I have one last bit of commentary: “So this is it then. I’m dead. It’s a lot like sleep.” Four seconds or so of darkness, almost entirely quiet, then my eyes snap open. Brightness. Awake. Time to write this all down. Before something else happens. . . .

Thursday, April 22, 2010

April's On The Out

Panic in the air, a spice from the place where tax money goes, where hospital bills accrue, where lengthy introductions to bad people are made.

A T.S. Eliot April saturated with panic-spice.

Bad air, hazy, raw around the edges, and going from hot to cold within hours and people are having trouble breathing. Everyone is asthmatic and pale, encumbered by neuron storms of private worry and fret.

I climb the red hill beyond my house and mentally map the quadrants of the city spreading out before me. The view of the docks, and the Bayview and Hunter's Point is strangely gorgeous. The slow crawl of freight ships, permanently anchored it seems. I wondered: what if a freight ship was painted orange? What if the freeways were painted blue? What if they hung heraldic banners from the tops of the white cranes? All these wonders, not real now are being piecemeal inserted into the novel which will be a realist science fiction erotic shaggy dog story.

Distraction. I need to go somewhere and use this map there. Tropical countries paint their cities crazy pastels because no one cares. The verandas and porticoes of Vietnam look lovely in a South American jungle town.

I'm 230 pages into the novel and will have to go back endlessly and tweak and improve and slash and burn. It will be a monumental task of humility which I look forward to. I keep sending stories out and receiving promising rejections. I keep writing rambling asides for The Rumpus but so far this year has been like last year but with more rough spots. What will happen to make it different and more smooth?

By accident I got How To Read And Why by Harold Bloom, the notorious, lauded while at the same time loathed literary critic whose read EVERYTHING and thinks, interestingly enough that our country is a Gnostic one, not a Christian one.

I basically skimmed the whole book last night, which resulted in the fact that now I need to read some more things that I don't have and don't now have the time to read: like The Charterhouse Of Parma by Stendhal and the entirety of Leaves Of Grass and Middlemarch and I need to re-read Moby Dick and the strange sequel Pierre. And oh yes, more stories by Chekhov, and by Nabokov.

But you can read forever and feel like you've never read anything. Language is a good hiding place with many hollows and tunnels and caverns. It compels more hiding. I'm not sure what we're hiding from except for the fact that things never turn out the way we thought they would as children. Disintegration feels like it starts earlier than we thought it would. But decaying things can suffer a positive sea-change too.

Oh, and for fuck's sake, it's time I read Proust.

At least Swann's Way. Now I'm of to gallivant in the sun of Friday, my last day off before my work week, before we get a new housemate and have to buy new kitchen furnishings and learn how to live on even less than we have now.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sideways Motion In The Middle

THERE's one really mean-spirited crazy woman in the neighborhood, all decked out like a frantic church-goer in crosses and crucifixes who loves to rifle through our free box and who, unconscious of her own actions, loves to verbally abuse people but ends every tirade with the website of the evangelical organization that she somehow supports:

SHE came in the store today because it was pissing rain so we haul the free box in. I have to say she emanates a pathetic, angry negativity that at once I want to make go away while at the same time I abhor the conditions that made her so crazy and angry in the first place. Within five minutes she had suggested to a young girl in line she read a book about rape, because "that's what this world has in store for her", and ended this, of course, with the almost ironic tag: ""

AND then I saw a two year girl in the rain, on her knees, bawling and choking on tears for almost twenty minutes while the woman she was with, also sobbing, tried to make her calm down. She didn't calm down; she wailed and railed and everybody looked and commented and the rain came down and my stomach knotted up from something sour I hate earlier in the day.

AND the plaza in Warsaw where all the Polish citizens gathered to mourn the deaths of their leaders looked like something out of a dream.

I listen
to "minimalists" a lot lately, people like Arvo Part and Gorecki (sic) -- so-called "sacred minimalists" -- a harrowing backdrop of choral repetition is good for words to come up, makes the moment swell like a funeral march, or the slap of water against a sad, old cliff.

I feel caught in a web of trying, caught and flailing and haggling with my own motives, and remembering only one alibi which I would prefer to keep secret. An alibi I can hoist up when all goes sour and grim, and say: at least this makes the days digestible.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Notes Of Early April

April has proved the accidental rule of March and February. . .which is to say, a human like myself expressing abiding strength in the face of transitory reality, nonchalant cruelty, blows of fate that are almost anti-climactic because what else can fate do, being transitory, than strike at less than a moment's notice?

And when it strikes, you don't run, you fortify in the heat of the moment with the very heat that the moment provides. Which is hard and which is weird and which you have to do because that's what life is.

Tis been a year come May I've been a rugged worker at a small bookstore in San Francisco. What I love about this job is the constant face time with innumerable books I haven't read or even heard of until I find out about them from some enthusiastic customer. What I admire about the job is the multiplicity of tiny tasks that all coalesce in making the bookstore exist in the first place.

What I love, too about the job is the easy stance I find I'm taking, standing behind my old wooden counter, with folded arms and a gracious grin and with the patience of a favorite bartender as I hear countless and varied tales and asides from the regulars and the non-regular droppers-by who come by for some odd tome or some tall tale of San Francisco of yesteryear. I have collected many business cards, many the paper trails of cult allegiances. I have spoken to well-weathered folks with strong affiliations with fringe botanical fan clubs, historical societies, magic shops as well as the former employees of sheet music stores when the local economy was graced enough to honor such specificity who have now turned to dog walking businesses.

I have shared minor anecdotes with people en route to Haiti and Africa and Spain and the Maldives, with folks intent on preserving the local murals, with tattooed lesbian punks, with children who hate the murder of guinea pigs, with queer families who want nothing more than to raise their child as a progressive, poly-lingual visionary in a world that is, at the very least, downright terrifying.

It is an honoring job, at its simplest. In its essence, I know I am dispensing things that make people happy in the most edifying way. They can get overpriced food wherever they want but books this good and this well-priced are hard to come by in the city and so is the joy of discovering what you have wanted all along but were too conscientious to know it.

And part of the joy of doing this comes from the fact that the bulk of the used books that we sell, I, myself have purchased for the store from similarly enthused customers who read and read and sell back books for credit, hoping to find gems therein that I too may have purchased from their own unknown kindreds.

In a day's time I can watch with awe the tactile channeling of a history of ravens from an old Irish woman into the hands of a banjo-playing bird-watcher all because I made a decision to purchase and price the book according to the needs of the store as well as the needs of the customers. You'd be surprised how comfortably those needs fit together. This power is less than power; it's a humbling privilege that links me to other readers who themselves are champions of other worlds that are out there in dense city streets where people might slave away only to own a piece of written reality that they can put in their backpack and open with glee in the sun-drenched park.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ides of March

This year I did not dress up in a wedding dress and go barhopping. I took photos, trying to figure out how to illustrate certain novel segments, i.e. the sinister "Monica Barrett" character. . .

From the top of Bernal Hill today and yesterday, the city was all polished quartz and shining corridors. The breezes tasted good. I didn't have my camera.

But today was dreadful despite the "fine weather." No moon tonight. People out gathering in weird places, in large numbers, in dark outfits. The air tastes of sawdust and charcoal shavings. Everyone acts like I used to act and might still be acting. A strange loop? Am I stuck?

I've been reading dark and uncanny authors again, like Thomas Ligotti and Brian Evenson: initial impressions: the former I think has profoundly unsettling ideas that are executed somewhat hastily while the latter creates subtle, but unnerving miniatures that are executed with subdued perfectiveness.

I like the off-the-charts weirdness of Ligotti almost more than Evenson, but I think Evenson might be more of a writer's model. I think his sentences are slightly more exquisite. These are early impressions only and subject to change. I'm eager to find more weird fiction written by women. Shirley Jackson I'm getting back into. And I heard Kelly Link is good to.

Briefly: some of my writing on The Rumpus has gotten a little more exposure.

For instance, a rather rambling ode to the Poetic got the attention of The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan.

And some people are weighing in, despite initial confusion, on where they were during certain blackouts (i.e. power failures), especially the Santa Cruz blackout.

And lastly, because I'm now becoming more an active volunteer member, I did a celebratory write-up on Artist's Television Access, the experimental film art space in San Francisco: A.TA. for short.

Now back to figuring out what voice to use in the novel.

Monday, March 8, 2010

March Hail

This March day brought hail stones and insomnia and constant chatter about the weather which no longer feels like small talk but real talk that is about impending disaster. I learned first names finally and felt hands warm in my own.

All these earthquakes, the people say. A man with booze breath looking for puzzle books for his son. It was early and he was drunk. Later I found a stamped out cigarette by the kid's section. It smelled harshly even before I reached to clean it up.

And they ponder, are you east coast, or are you west coast. Have you known or have you not known? West coasters know nothing about weather. Real weather. I met someone from Olympia, Washington today and she had tattooed knuckles and pennies on her bracelet and the ardent desire for a part-time job. She had done indie publishing and micro print making. She was hectic and enthusiastic for every little thing. Have I not become that, I wondered silently.

My insomnia made me slow to explain but it was also bad dreams that made me slow. The kinds with private deaths in them, told by old flames, over unseen countries.

She said she wanted thunder and lightning, a dance-step of upset airs to keep her on her toes. Would we deliver, she asked. I wasn't sure, I didn't know. I covered up not knowing by hammering with my price gun at a stack of books.

People from other cities are excited to be here, I declared. And I would be too.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fragments From A Dark Night

I don't know what's been in the water these last six months but I feel contaminated by ill omens. I feel like I've been stuffed with graveyard well water. I'm not sick at all and presumably healthy, despite my nerves but life has a way of veiling itself in the most alienating of unrealities.

Which is funny because, when not busy with the dogged errands of living I myself deal in unreality, in fiction, in the poetic, the vague, suggestive and liminal, in the linguistic pyrotechnics of a feverish imagination which is my solely defining function. I believe in the power of its uselessness. I'm old enough to call it my only sustained faith. Yet I know that I am reverent of other functions too: sleeping, eating, loving and taking care of the bills and my loved ones, sometimes in the same hurried breath.

But the ravens are thick in the trees, familiars of a season that adheres to no timetable.

Based on my friend's experiences I don't think I'm alone. On the surface life couldn't be better and this colorful, teeming city I've called home for many years now is as loud and vibrant as ever.

What amazed me the other night were the ramshackle markets in the bad part of the Mission where the Chinese checkout women speak to their male underlings in an exhilarating mix of Mandarin, English and Spanish. I feel cursed for not needing to achieve that kind of necessity. It was musical and necessary. I guess I'm tired of what I want and more interested in what I need, insofar as said needs are directly piped into the needs of a burgeoning, liberated culture. A culture I create in my own fictional unrealities, that I idealize through words, thus cursing its potential to ever be real .

I'm afraid of our serfdom to the Internet. Our allegiance to the virtual, the instantaneous, the layered. I see beauty everywhere but it ceases often to serve a purpose. The ugliness, when I see it, is more utilitarian, forward-thinking and radical. The walls of my cheap temple quake.

We will, with the persistence of hypertrophied data, forsake the material that is the bones and enzymes of culture. I don't kowtow to words like civilization because there are plenty of those in existence where real life has been replaced by brute survival. No, a people is defined by what they express, what costume they wear when they go into battle. A people is also defined by their sufferings yes but more the songs they make in the midst of such.

I have now cultivated what an idealism of necessity might look like. I pay it lip service. I sign up for the classes and get the necessary books. The tools look good on my mantle. In keeping with my nature, I dream big dreams about it. We will all garden and have easy access to salads at a moment's notice. We will speak a pidgin of mixed dialects. Our art will be made and shown spontaneously without concern for money or advancement. The good guys will be the ones who, vigilante style, go and arrest the crooked bankers, the insurance company CEO's, the military mercenaries, the corporate whores, the sexists, the would-be rapists and the earth-cursing fundamentalists of any creed or currency.

What gives me hope is the pure noise of children in the playground, of cats roaming the streets at night. Of forgotten books revealed. Of accidental feasts entered into. Of schoolchildren taking to the street, as they did today, to protest their impoverished educational opportunities.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The feeling you get

The feeling you get from wanting to flesh out hundreds of pages of words until they make a certain amount of sense to you is of turning your back, forcefully, sensually and in some cases regretfully on what living is, which is hearts and mistakes, cavities and unmade beds. When you turn the aforementioned into words, you tend to perfect them with more lavish imperfections, or tone them down with more subtle parsings. Sometimes I mistake it all for adolescence but that's when Big Brother Super Ego has the upper hand.

Nothing quite brings you round to the glorious irrationality of your decision to play with words than reading the letters of writers.

In this case the letters of one of my favorite living writers, Samuel R. Delany, appropriately called 1984, the year the bulk of them were written and a deliberate homage to Orwell's timeless dystopia. Just got it in the mail today from a small bookseller somewhere out there in the bookseller cyberspace.

Published by the unusual small press Voyant Publications that apparently has a website only in Chinese. Flipped through only a few of the letters but it was humbling to read sentences along the lines of, although I shamelessly paraphrase and even, to some degree, invent: "Today I wrote for fifteen hours, drank coffee, went out walking looking for fun and then came back and wrote this letter around dawn. . .meanwhile the tax man is hounding me and all I have to eat is week-old chow mein I filched from the downstairs neighbor. . ."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Notes On The Inward City

I've been away from the blog, no doubt dispensing tidy tidbits elsewhere, none of which I can remember, but more than that, I've been laying pen to paper, in a big black book (not moleskine!)

for continual threads and bits and ejecta for the long fiction I'm working on. The long fiction is taking on the contours of a city in my head, full of more and more colorful and capacious denizens, especially as the parameters of the city I live in seems occasionally to shrink by the day.

I walk the pleasant five blocks to work, where I am five, six days a week, up a slight hill to a peaceful little crown of parkland with its view of industrial docks to the east and a red bald hill above my store and the downtown on my north west side. . .more often than not places of caffeine and cheap eats are also within walking distance. . .or we eat garlicky peasant food at home. I know people by name and face and their tendency to be drunk at noon, or just generally mute and peripatetic, like the old lady who just walks Bernal in aimless circles, occasionally stopping to smoke.

The shrinking outward city opens up the interior kingdom to more and more fevered immigration.

Sometimes the outward city looks exactly like the inward ones, like the other night when the fog seeped up from the ground like a B-movie and draped the struggling cypress, contorted like dancer's limbs, a vision of Hecate.

Living can seem a seldom-achieved balance between imagination and doing, even though the former is still doing and the latter can often be unimaginative.

The Long Fiction: the Uncanny is infecting it to an alarming degree, thanks to this really really invigorating "theory" book I re-found and am only reading now for the first time: The Secret Life Of Puppets.

A silly and misleading title, maybe, but its contents are just so wonderfully suggestive, almost as if the author Victoria Nelson is using criticism not to foster a comprehension of existing forms but to foster an exploration of nascent forms, or at least malleable forms, like the short supernatural fantasies of Bruno Schulz.

(More on him later. . .)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

V-Day brought to you by Nick Cave

The Ship Song

"Come sail your ships around me
And burn your bridges down
We make a little history, baby
Every time you come around

Come loose your dogs upon me
And let your hair hang down
You are a little mystery to me
Every time you come around

We talk about it all night long
We define our moral ground
But when I crawl into your arms
Everything comes tumbling down

Come sail your ships around me
And burn your bridges down
We make a little history, baby
Every time you come around

Your face has fallen sad now
For you know the time is nigh
When I must remove your wings
And you, you must try to fly

Come sail your ships around me
And burn your bridges down
We make a little history, baby
Every time you come around

Come loose your dogs upon me
And let your hair hang down
You are a little mystery to me
Every time you come around"

Lime Tree Arbour

"the boatman calls from the lake
a lone loon dives upon the water
i put my hand over her
down in the lime tree arbour

the wind in the trees is whispering
whispering low that i love her
she puts her hand over mine
down in the lime tree arbour

through every breath that i breathe
and every place i go
there is hand that protects me
and i do love her so

there will always be suffering
it flows through life like water
i put my hand over hers
down in the lime tree arbour

the boatman he has gone
and the loons have flown for cover
she puts her hand over mine
down in the lime tree arbour

through every word that i speak
and every thing i know
there is hand that protects me
and i do love her so"

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Noir Effect 2

Suspense and The Gangster at the SF Film Noir Festival were unforgettable. . .both starring Belita and Barry Sullivan. . .sitting in the dark balcony seats of the Castro Theater with the people who just want to be alone. . .stretch their legs out, settle their dreaming eyes on the ruby-glowing chandelier husk. . .drink their flasks, far from the suffocating pettiness of other people.
Fatalism looks so good on the big screen, in those long shots, those huge, looming shadows, the fast talking, the risque amorality.
Living beautifully and dying with panache.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


"To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic.

It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something.

If we remember those times and places--and there are so many--where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future.
The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."

--Howard Zinn

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Noir Effect Part 1

The last few days have been weird, in not exactly constructive ways.

Which falls way short of the urgency I want to express.

A word I loathe, because it lacks any sort of specificity and is aligned too maliciously with cliche: drama. Beyond drama, an encroaching wave of unreality that is dubiously indistinguishable from the weather.

And not just the weather we talk about because we're too tired to talk of anything else. The weather inside. The inner meteors. Clashing and fraying the nerves, exiting the skin in spoors of unease, not like breath but what we breathe when we're not breathing.

The gray-ribbed skies, the blustering wet winds have surrendered to general blandness, not even a condition but a general lack. And the psyche is rendered faceless, without affect or charge. I saw the hill-topped park, and the mutant-green bathroom light, a beacon for hybrid undoings, and wondered whether, despite the recent surge of cops in my neighborhood, I should walk that park in the circle it describes, every revolution of which I'd have come to a new half-hearted conclusion.

But no, such compulsion is an old urge.

Tonight, after closing down the shop, I walked the dark hills with the garret-crowned houses that are always yellow-bright and naked, towards a place where live jazz can be had for free, and you can eat a simple spinach salad digested with ginger beer. It's an old tired place I haven't been in for a while.

To hear it from the employees, you work 8 hours straight there without a break. Many a strong soul has been forced out to sling barbecue or pour coffee elsewhere. But they can't argue with the wine or the tinkling music or the occasionally-inspired soup or salad inspired by the bistro aesthetic.

A man I see always on the cafe circuit, because both of us like so many of us, are prone to linger in cafes where there's free music and decent coffee and not-bad edibles, was there, with his insightful bifocals, his non-descrepit black clothing, his usual glass of wine and bowl of soup and we nodded and talked briefly about cafes.

And then realizing we were talking about cafes, even comparing them in half-whining tones we kind of started, half-humorously to hate ourselves. To hate ourselves in front of each other. Surely, we said, laughing, we have nothing, nothing to complain about. And it was true.

A bowl of soup, a glass of wine, a dog-eared book of art history: this, I believe is his usual evening spread. Hearty, I think. Vivifying. The kind of triple-pairing that can bolster you for a long night of braving harsh lake-winds en route towards a distant outpost where questionable rewards are housed. In this I remember Oakland autumns, alone, with unsung songs inside of me when I thought the lake was a piece of rippling black silk.

Tonight was different. I hope it was because certain essential illusions have been pre-shattered. It's not a guarantee though.

The jazz was mild, and calming distraction as jazz, which has no acid inflections often is. The musicians took breaks to eat expensive sandwiches and talk about their varied cosmopolitan roots. One of them, red-faced and white-haired and charmingly gaunt, claimed both Scottish and Dutch ancestry, which meant he was prone to many excuses to travel to Europe and take the trains and boats there which take him to family and beyond.

The other, a Frenchman spoke of his alienation from his father. And then the American spoke, somewhat self-congratulatorily of being able to suffer any rodents for having lived in Thailand. Any conversation you happen to overhear, if you overhear it with your whole self, offers parts of the whole fiasco we are all implicated in. It's nice, in a way. Not distracting but focusing.

But I was busy writing a letter about my spiritual failings which, having said it here, sounds absurd. The man I wrote to is a Catholic. He knows I'm still a Catholic, if only in birthright. He is an old, old friend. He's worked the food circuit at the university, lost it all in Reno, hitch-hiked, begged, been betrayed and forlorn for longer than I have. Now I believe he is happy with a good woman, a good job, a good house. His faith is strong and buttressing. It's a live thing. The liveliest faith I've seen from a friend in a long time. I've seen his bedroom altar, I've heard his devotions on days of obligation.

And I wrote him four pages about the current weirdness, describing it not explicitly but in roundabout ways until I exhausted the letter with groundless aphorisms that point only to invisible places.

And I left him with a question, I left myself with it too: "If it's not the Invisible you're drawing from, then is it love?"

I don't know, however, what kind of question it is.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Repository Of Dream Shards

Could be the influence of Women And Men's delirious, fugue-like structure, cascading sentences that don't necessarily ramble but rush right along through their own memories (as if sentences can have memories of previous sentences?) but my dreams are less deep immersions in images that just scudding the surface of the deep, riding on a wave of endless words. . .

I wake with the echoe of long, disconnective paragraphs in my head. It's a breezy form of faux-delirium, something that might make the day feel louder, weirder. Even in my dreams I'm dictating the world's most unnecessary novel.

Could also be the copious pesto pizza eaten late at night washed down with a hot whiskey, ginger, cinnamon and bitters concoction after experiencing a butchered screening of the delightfully macabre and demonic 1920's Swedish silent film about witchcraft set to live, wonderfully eerie and dissonant music by a group called Dr. Prisoner: The Brain!

Here's another description of what I saw/experienced last night.

Put on by the wonderful people at Artist's Television Access.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Notes On "Women And Men"

This might not be the year where I blog that much. Too many longer projects.

But a few things to say in the interim.

Women And Men
by Joseph McElroy, of which I am only 200 pages in and which is 1300 pages long, might be the strangest, sustained piece of writing I've ever encountered. . .notes pending...but one image jumps to mind: broken circuitry of consciousness as if it's not a stream per se but composites of broken machines. . .

Some major "scenes" so far:

--a rocket launch in Florida during which a rogue newsman finds inspiration from a Chilean economist.

--another Chilean, but this time an opera singer, has a doctor that loves her so much that he smuggles, via a medicine man, a certain tapeworm for her so may she lose weight.

--a very formative Grandmother who tells stories to her grandson but not her own daughter who ends up committing suicide.

--various incarnations of inventors and fringe weathermen and hermit scientists, and generally a sense that the margins of society hold untold knowledge.

--a woman, the heroine of the novel, Grace Kimball, who is a part Native American, is thinking about her day Molly Bloom style (full of various asides, tangents) while masturbating in her Body Room in which she holds women's workshops.

--oh and the first scene, or chapter of the book, is a wonderfully empathetic description of a woman giving birth. However, so far this character has not made another appearance.

--a recurring image of the uncrated parts of the Statue Of Liberty sitting in the grass while a little girl, the heroine's grandmother is being serenaded with a Longfellow poem.

More Later. . .

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Local Paradoxes

To pretend you're immortal and lead the contemplative life, and think through things that can't be untangled without centuries of inquiry; but also to take action, to engage, participate, be enraged (as we should), and urge joy in spite of cruelty.

To urge mortality onto yourself and others. And in that limiting light, things done and undone shine harder for being rarer. Are harder. Are rarer.

To love selflessly; but while erecting fortresses that are yours alone; to be psyche and society; to embrace while fleeing for your life; to escape into the arms of the one you can't live without.

To be alone with the images in your head, to discipline them, to play games of domination with them; but then to make words centrifugal, even a force forgotten so you may dirty your hands with the uselessness of living.

These are some of my local paradoxes they I just now wanted to put on the page.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Things Early January

January is certainly off and running.
6 hours of writing and revising yesterday. After a 7 day, 50 hour workweek!

Watched the disturbing, audacious, brazenly over-done, but surprisingly not morbid film, Tideland (not morbid despite scenes of human taxidermy, and potential pederasty.)

Everyone's getting colds again. Others are quitting vices.
Still others are meeting and falling for one another.
Inciting jealousy, excising old illusions.
A funny line from a self-help book, "Mourning the life you thought you had. . ." Such things only make me laugh, cruelly and sadly maybe.

I'm arming myself against it all. Especially the colds: raw garlic helps.
I have a desire to spend one week in New York for no reason at all this year.
My eyes are sort of puffy.
My spirits are high, and getting higher. ()
It's 2010: it's already the FUTURE. This novel I'm reading, Women and Men is wildly difficult.
I'm augmenting it with a little research here and there.
I'm working on my on novel, hitting about 130 pages of rough shite.

Hmmm, this year I might makes this blog more concise, sharper, less updated so I can finish some big things.

Here's a good book I'm leafing through, written by my father's former English Professor at U.T. Austin and one of the finest exegeses of Blaise Cendrars in English.