Monday, April 4, 2016


I remember a while back writing of
Mark Twain saying, 'I remember
everything; even stuff that didn't
happen.' It was funny, pithy, a
nice quote. It gets the point across,
too  -  of his folksy stage-show
manner. You see, long before there
was an entertainment industry, the
likes of today's, with talk shows,
late night, media extravaganzas and
all that, someone like Mark Twain
used to just travel around, endlessly,
hall to hall, and do these revelry-ish
stage shows. He'd have a 'persona':
The folksy, wise-cracking, addled,
juniper-brained, almost slightly
drunk Uncle Cracker stuff. The old
steam-boat Mississippi River guy
who had changed his name, 'long
time back, to the nautical 'Mark
Twain,' (a river-depth chain term)
from the usual Samuel Clemens.
It all worked. His routines, over
and over, went on, developed a
little as they traveled, got changed
and fine-tuned, cleaned up, or not,
depending on the audience and
town he was about to face. This
world-wide traveling show was
mostly done alone, but sometimes
in tandem with a banjo player, or
someone in blackface, or a guide  -
some sort of joke foil. The idea
back then, the excitement was,
that 'coming to your town soon' -
live, staged entertainment. For all
those people out in the hinterlands
and the little parts of America, and
growing little cities too, Mark Twain,
the oral Mark Twain, performing, was
a really big deal. Like a nightly newscast
for the little guy  -  information, facts,
people stories, entertainment, music,
jokes, song and dance, goofy mistakes,
ribald jokes and cracks about things.
He made millions from these tours in
his day; pissed a lot of it away too  -
bad investments, stock losses, bad
investments, and bad inventions too,
and then  -  tired of it all he may be  -
he'd have to begin another one, to
recoup lost funds. One time, he just
went flat broke by backing some
letterpress printer guy's 'new'
invention that failed; some modern
typesetting machinery. There was
another quote I read somewhere too,
it might not have been by him, but
I liked it, even if it wasn't. 'He's
nostalgic, but not for anything that
ever really 'happened.'
It's all a lot like today's world for
me: I just don't any longer 'get it',
and never did. Everything's a bit
foggy and the only things that make
sense to me are my own stories. They're
real, all stuff that I lived. So, I don't
know that 'stories' is the right word,
but I don't care anymore. I go through
a mental file cabinet (now there's an
old reference too) and find slips of
paper, pieces of note. And anyway,
my head's, a lot of it anyway, still
on that corner of Bleecker and
MacDougal. And that's OK by me,
especially now, because there's no
place I'd much rather be. It's a
portal for me to step into some
other resonance. The streets say
they're the same, by name, by title.
But the look is all shot and gone,
things are all dead, often not often
even replaced, just there languishing
in a dead heap. The stickers for
today's world are on them, but
nothing I know of. (Here, let me
prove a point : 'the 5th Wave is
a typical example of the kind of
dopey junk that passes for literature
among today's unsophisticated teens,
who know everything about J. K.
Rowling and nothing at all about
Jane Austen. They must write book
reports from Classics Illustrated
comics...teenagers clinging to cell
phones and bottled water whose lives
are whipped into shape when they are
forced into unisex boot camps to defend
themselves against the alien invasion.'
Thanks, Rex Reed). The past.
Remembering stuff. You can take
anything you ever want, and twist it
all up and roll it all over, but it's still
the particle-matter of you. That much
can't be gotten away from. I know ghosts
and images when I see them, and I
don't hide from anything any longer.
You know how people now live virtual
world stuff  -  kinky, nutty, crazy, sexy,
violent. Fake. Let me emphasis that one.
Fake. Like bullshit disease in the head.
People wasting time, freaking out over
their God-given time on Earth and then
just wasting it. That's OK, I guess, if
that's what you want to do, and if you
just don't care, and if you really don't
have a God to answer to. Life's a real
paradox, so find your own way to deal
with it. But there's something else, over
you, and It doesn't forget either, and It
remembers things too, things that never
even occurred. It gets nostalgic, but not
for anything that really happened. I
never before called the God concept
'It'. Pretty weird.
Really difficult, in this looking back, not
to see the vast differences. Let's go back
to Jim Tomberg again. He and I, we lived
a real world : we ate and drank and did
our stuff, knowing full well that whatever
we touched was tangible reality, in our
grasp and possessed of all the potential
we could draw out of it. Things were
still defined. Jim was in some tight
situations, a few fights, all the sorts
of things that had repercussions and
ripples in the real world. We weren't
yet dealing with ephemera, nor the
more deep sort of intellectual and time
travel I later found myself in. I don't
know what any of that ever did to Jim.
He's gone, and I don't knew where to
or to what. For all I know he's got 6
kids and a farm in Utah. That'd be like
him. We never dealt with cultural
stuff, ever as we saw the world falling
away : the banal ascendancy of TV,
the fragmentation of public discourse,
electronic or otherwise. Communication
meant books and letters, maybe a
telephone, connected onto a wall and
screwed into place, wired and with a
cord. Where could you go with that,
and who'd ever want to? I know Jim
would have just rather'd to order a
drink, and be done. There was a time
when Life wasn't much  -  a pretty
much fixed narrative in which characters
played their parts and said their lines
while they did their work. The nutty
ones, the fringe characters, they were
always there, with their inventions,
their discoveries, the crazy ones
daring to sail around the world and
back (I don't think that makes any
real sense, but I like it). The world
was still a physical concept,
something with rocks and lumber
and fixed parameters. For myself,
I found ways, over the years, to just
become invisible  -  it took a long time,
and it was probably useless too. I look
about as invisible as a fire, but that too
helps. People just keep away. I found
that if you just stop playing the game,
none of all that matters. I don't need it,
and it don't need me  -  to parody the old
7-up slogan, 'You Like It! It Likes you!'
Yeah, there's the 1960's for you.
Nowadays, I'd rather run over a crowd
with a steamroller than be part of one.
And I certainly don't want no soda
liking me.
But anyway, that's the distance, and 
I've gone it, if you can say that before
the distance is over. The distance is 
actually always stretching before you, 
so you can't really achieve it. Once 
you do, it's done, and so are you, in 
those matters. Now, I walk along 
10th Street and I see the little markers 
and things they've put on all these
doors of old, dead famous writers and 
anarchists and revolutionaries and
all that, here and elsewhere; nearly every
street has something. Mark Twain. 
Eleanor Roosevelt. Emma Goldman. 
Sinclair Lewis. It all just goes on. I mean,
what's the point of all that : showing 
a marker on the house and doorway
of some revolutionary this or that
whom you've had arrested, imprisoned,
executed, or killed. Beats me. I've heard
about historical revisionism, but let's
examine this, maybe just a little more.
Hell, there should be a door-knocker 
or something at least, on 8West8th, just
for me and Jim being there. 'Renegade
brigands, fond of wine, women, and
song, who, in their long career towards
nothing at all, managed to cajole, scar,
stupefy, anger and confuse thousands.'

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