Sunday, July 31, 2016


I want to hear a different language
spoken; the one that twists and rolls
off the tongue : both awkward and 
smooth together, fulfilling all the
capacities of reason, love, and
understanding. It need not be
anything very difficult or
harsh. I just want to be
able to understand.


131. Leonardo Viet Minh
Any ideas? Any ideas at all?
I'd ask myself that each day,
standing in front of a blank or
barely started canvas. The art
world all around me was
careening with  : Abstract
Expressionism, Op Art,
Pop Art, New Pointillism
(that was something
dreamed up to describe
work by Larry Poons).
Everything around me
seemed exploding, and
there was a growing
overlap between all the
divisions and schools.
Structuralism, Negativism,
Negation  -  the names just
went on. And I didn't much
care. 'Action Painting'  -  what 
the hell was that?The Studio 
School specialized, or dedicated
itself anyway, in the early
days to but one thing. A
carry-over from the great
New York School Abstract
Art movement. All those
very grand people who went
into that entire mix. It was
totally cultural  -  people,
places, schools and
movements. As one.
I was with it all. Yes.
None of the names in any
way meant anything  -  it
was all journalistic blabber,
art-world press stuff. The
art magazines of the day
just trumpeted the best of
what they could accept.
Pretty limiting. The better
art coverage, the theory
and the ideas, were in things
like Artforum, and Avalanche.
You could come away stumped
or confused, yes, but you'd
have learned things too. The
guy next to me, in my studio
room  -  a halfway interesting
guy from Montclair, NJ, a
Jewish fellow  -  would spend
all day painting Vietnam Army
portraits  -  field soldiers and
uniformed men, with all their
pins and medals and sashes
and ribbons, uniformed and
hatted, staring straight out, at
the viewer. Precisely done, to
a ludicrous, almost photo-realist
degree, as it later became know,
and in the background of each
chiseled and perfect stare  -
vacant, stern serious and
emotionless  -  would be
scenes, scenes of helicopters
with people falling out of
them, or jumping, or being
perhaps even pushed, with
some in free fall, others in a
parachute drop. The reddened
tips of helicopter guns would
be seen blazing, fiery pings
on the ground, things flying,
people in a flip, or shot and
blown up. Yellowed horizons,
broken trees and forest, layers
of flame or burning napalm. I
didn't know, and it never really
computed with me, but this guy
went at it, straight-ahead and
constant. I never really got his
story. He'd go home a lot, to
Montclair, and then return. It
didn't seem as if he was
partaking any of the NY life
or living that was all around
us. More like he was always
just 'reporting for duty' to
transcribe these horrid, almost
other-worldly visions. It all
soon became pretty amazing to
me, and I had to not let it color
my own view of War or that
war  -  too vividly done and
it just became cartoonish; I
more wanted the war, as it
was, to remain for me black
and white, maybe at most,
a moire pattern. His work
was turning it all suburban.
I tried viewing this all as a
Dionysian frenzy, an
exhilaration he was trying
to portray, but I couldn't
get over the just-plain
boringness of it. Depressing.
Sad. All that was yet vivid
and raw to me, but seeing
it painted like that, almost
day after day, made me think.
Art is all about antecedents  -
what came before, what's
gone on. Caravaggio, Corot,
Delacroix, Rembrandt,
Velazquez, El Greco. The
list ran on. I'd spend my
solo nights buried in the
Studio School library, on
the floor, flat out with the
art books selected, of each
artist as I went along. Finding
the connections, the parameters
of each  -  who went where,
who did what, and how.
With brush, and with idea.
There wasn't any language
for this stuff, and I knew it.
And anyway, Art wasn't 
about words. Apparently 
no one else felt that way,
for they were writing 
streams of things about it.
All of a sudden the media 
attention given to art was
outrageous  -  I expected
Ad Reinhardt to be on the
Arthur Godfrey Show any
day, or to read a James 
Rosenquist essay in 
Commonweal. It was
all just that crazy.
I found out that when 
you're poor, you just go 
about doing poor things 
and you hardly even 
notice they're poor. This
was in effect not for just 
my NYC years, but my 
entire life afterwards. 
Paying fifty-five dollars 
to eat at some sit-down
restaurant was out of 
the question when ten 
bucks was still a quite
painful fortune. Besides,
what are you going to do,
talk with your expensive 
mouth full? No you're just
going to eat, and the company
you're with goes to hell, loses
interest, and nothing comes of 
it but an expensive burp or
a comment about something -
the bitchy waiter, to coffee 
wasn't hot, the pudding that
stank. Most of the good 
things in life are free anyway. 
I can walk anywhere I want,
and I really am Master of all
I survey.
In all this  -  and one of the 
really cool things I realized, was, 
within that guy's Vietnam paintings, 
all that steely anguish and solid 
staring, much like in the Mona Lisa, 
the real action, the real commentary, 
was in the far-background scenes 
they'd paint in. In da Vinci's case
it was the distant, bucolic scenes of
country and castle. In this guy's case,
the existential now moment of
the fierce and always on 
battle for self, and things
falling to the ground.


Make. A. Mental. Note.
OK. Here is the end of
all aiming. Or, here to 
be anyway. And also,
make no mistake about
it. Things are not what
they seem. Noted.


'Oh I am so sorry you have come
all this way for nothing; she's already
already left, wearing her red bikini.
Down by the cove, if you follow the
tidal path, if it's not now covered 
with water, you'll find her. She's
usually a very pleasant girl, but
I guess you never know. There's 
tiny cabana there, you can use it.
Others have. It's a fine place to
make love. Or out in the open
is fine too, over there no one 
ever sees, or even looks.'


When things are very neat, when I
have cleaned up, everything seems in
order and nothing out of place. I can
sing or hum most anything I choose.
In that respect, we are not like animals 
at all, for they can only sing the songs
of their own species.  Like monkeys
fly from trees, and mantis lovers kill
their mate. Is it too much for me to 
have 31 black pencils in place? I
use them all, in drawing, randomly.
The different tips and rounded ends,
as they wear down, each have a
different feel and draw a different 
line. It's all so strange to me. It
took me a very long time to realize
that a pencil sharpener is also
a pencil shortener. Wouldn't
you know?

Saturday, July 30, 2016


Half this crown is the harlot's host  - 
they're out there in the Route One Motel.
I singed their candle when it burned at
both ends, went up to Linden, and 
walked back again. For all that,
now, I've got nothing but time.
This elixir is a magic foil, she's
pleading with me to drink. I no 
longer ache, and I can breath again.
I ask, 'Now?' She says, 'When?'


When the fog lifted the dangers were
gone and the coast was clear again.
We carried our packages back uphill,
suddenly feeling much safer. I never
liked being down at the bottom anyway.


I have always been faithful,
physically; never much caring
to be bothered with the aspects
of the surreptitious, the lying or
the stealth of screwing around.
Anyway, it's not me, and I just
as well could never pin that
on another. All those poundings
and fluids, squirts and howls.
All that primitive pumping and
the jump to withdraw. Life just
isn't about all that. It's spiritual,
more 'virtual', a running context
of wishes and dreams and
aspirations. Everyone's got
what's needed for a fuck; but
so what and what good is that?
(Speaking of which  -  and I'm
sorry to use that word, but it's 
a descriptive  -  I was always
amazed, struck, right off, and
never able to get used to, how 
often here that went on and
how switchable were all the 
changing allegiances, like a
NYC musical chairs variant).
In some ways it's like being a
bra fitter  -  could be fun to do,
but who wants to and what's
that anyway?
Things and events, thoughts
and ideas have always sort of
meant more to me anyway
then have all those sappy
or sentimental blasts of the
heart and spirit. Those are
just 'used' to sell things, all fake.
It's nothing authentic, it's all
forced. Bring me right inside
of someone, get me that internal
connection, show me the things
and objects of a person's life,
their reverence for the world
around them, and then I connect.
Even now, I can look back
on the little 'vest-pocket park'
I wrote about yesterday and feel
the pulses of love for the captured
time and place it represents. It's
all true. Here's a quote : 'Michel
lived a purely intellectual
existence. The world of
human emotions was not his
field; he knows little about
it. Nowadays life can be
organized with minute
precision; supermarket
cashiers respond to an
imperceptible nod.' Isn't
that a great quote? I loved
it when I read it  -  it says
so many things, so lightly.
'Supermarket cashiers
respond to an imperceptible
nod.' Wow.
You still need to remember
where it was I 'came of age'.
I landed on those NYStreets
as a real rube, a know-nothing
caricature of a two-headed
sloth, dizzy and wandering.
I knew there were stars in the
sky at night. I knew water ran
in trickles. But that was about
it, the remainder of the world
was still foreign to me, and
still forming. Sexual enticement,
though all around me, was not
to be it either  -  the way in,
the new way. All those girls
at the Diggers Free Store at
264 e10th, and that apartment
kept down by 3rd street, they
were enough to drive me crazy.
I've told this before  -  they all
lived together, naked. I'd be
sent there with this or that
little package to deliver, and
these girls, regardless of who
it was at the door, would open
it and let the visitor in, and
they'd be sitting around,
walking, whatever, stark
naked. For a fresh boy just
in from Avenel, still shaking
the railroad dust off my head,
this called for some real
concentration. And then,
along the west side waterfront,
when that still existed  -  God,
so much of everything is gone
now  -  I got to know a few of
the working girls  -  the thinned
out, pathetic germs that ran as
whores over there. If you got
them on a day they could talk,
it sometimes wasn't so bad.
They had heart and stories and
feelings. But mostly they were
just blitzed  - straggly-eyed, as
if lost in space, dark rings around
their eyes, endlessly with cigarettes.
Saw a million of that sort  too,
funny to say, in my later Biker
years boozing and riding around.
Those kinds of girls were always
around -  half drunk but wanting
more, bleary-eyed, trying to light
a cigarette with hands that shook.
The distance between the two
wasn't far, actually. In time it
was as if the two overlapped.
1967 bleeding into the late 80's,
the culture of the motorcycle
bum taking it all over. Neither
of them would I have ever
seen, nor expected to see,
for instance, in that bookstore
or in that vest-pocket park.
Just worlds apart, too far, too
wrong. What was I thinking?
And for how long?
Yeah, what was I thinking, and
for how long? As it turned out,
I was actually thinking pretty
clearly, and for as long as I
chose. I'd quickly begun making
friends with a sort of hierarchy -
the newly-forming hippie
kingships and all that crap
around St. Marks Place.
Just like the bookstores,
just like the vest-pocket
parks, there was quite a big
difference between things :
people and space and time.
The world was so weird and
broken up about everything.
This was the time when you'd
actually hear two versions of
songs  -  I mean movement
music, rock stuff. There was
the usual, insipid three-minute
version that you'd hear from
all the AM music bobble-heads
spouting on between songs
about this or that ridiculous
thing, advertisers, voices
talking over the endings
of songs  - and then you'd
hear the 'extended' version,
somehow with all the solos
and drums, and no talking,
playing on FM band radio.
And you'd know you had
hit the big time  -  pay dirt,
the motherlode, the hot-seat,
where all the action was.
The counter-culture! It
was a weird and satisfying
feeling, almost like an entire,
stoner culture riding its on
crest. Noisy and profuse. The
opposite of everything else.
That hierarchy I made mention
of? It never got me anything 
but it was fun; better than 
beating around the streets 
with no laces and spitting 
up all the time. All the crazies
were always out in abundance.
And for so many of them too,
fame did follow. It was weird.
Like it's in the stars or something.
Pattie Smith got there about 
the same week I did, Debbie
Harry was working at some
pharmacy counter-fountain
somewhere nearby, Lenny 
Kaye, Sam Shepherd, those 
are just loose and random
 names; there were lots more.
My starfield, obviously, never
made the right conjunction,
but I'm still here anyway. 
And I don't know what I 
would have done with it 
if it did. It's probably
better this way, the 
way it all turned out.

8458. ATTIC OF MIND (this treasured house)

(this treasured house)
From another trip to the attic,
the things I can find. Marvels 
of lattice work, loving and kind. 
Rivals of glory, deep layers of
time. Just up here waiting,
and, yes, it's all mine.
The mental fortress
where I keep
my mind.


Now, consider the options:
I could have said I'd like them
'out', or nothing at all. How bad
a stranger than would I be? I've
watched you eating that orange for
five minutes, the whole last range of
this flight. What other would you have
me do? I'm so bored I could cry.
That landscape below us, yes, it looks
like Newark - you know, a real
hellhole now, not at all what it
used to be : jazz clubs in a row,
dark 1940's skies, all those bulbs and
lightbulbs on the signs. Jeez that was
great. We invented, right there,
what a 'hipster' is, as it's known today.
By Jesus, we were cool. You young kids
ain't shit, or if you are, it's just
fly-shit on some white waxed paper.
You get me, honey pie? You get
what I'm saying now? You dig?


Nature is repulsive, and
disgusting. With lions eating
lambs, as it were, so to speak
Perhaps man's mission on Earth
is to be here to destroy it, to 
bring it all to its terrible peak.

Friday, July 29, 2016


In the earliest of days in
Plainfield, for me, about 
1966, there was a lady who
ran the PM Bookshop.
I never knew what PM
meant or anything, but
it was a kind of magical
place, a lot like any of
those old Fourth Avenue
NYC bookshops. Cluttered,
dusty, eccentric. With the
hands-on proprietor always
there, keeping her slow
and steady knowledge
of inventory, sales and
availability always ready.
It wasn't 'literary' per se 
in any special way, a 
lot of junk too. But it 
didn't matter. There was,
back then, in that time  -  
and this was a fine 
example of it  - the sort
of bookstore that existed
before 'merchandising' and
layout and product pushing,
all the sort of thing the 
Barnes & Noble crowd 
got rolling. This lady 
was just always busy 
at books  -  she could 
talk them, about them, 
reference them, etc., 
but it was all immediate
and from her head. It 
wasn't yet an 'industry' 
where she'd need the facts 
and figures of sales volumes,
'product placement' movement, 
display and all that In a sort
of Van Wyck Brooks way, she
'represented' for Plainfield the
intellect. She kept the flame
burning. For books and for
knowledge. For the meager
tramp-wrappings of learning 
and study  -  and a place for the
scholar in a faraway outpost of
a place such as Plainfield. She
was noble, and the silly word
'bookseller' hadn't yet entered
the bogus lexicon of mass-selling.
My girlfriend and I would often
go there, when we didn't get to
Fourth Ave., for pretty much the
same reason. Sit about, look at 
books, find things, and sit in
the wonder of that world. The
lady was always nice to us, 
and you could still get some
real stuff for like a dollar. 
Pre-Raphaelite writings and
poetry, picture books of 
out-of-the-way things, any
old, crusty, dusty library-estate
book from old-timer who'd 
passed on and sold her his 
or her book collection. It 
wasn't like now, either,
for the books themselves, 
none of the glory covers and
book-jacket graphics and 
things as we have today. 
Most books were subdued
and quiet, as if they were
sobbing in your hands. Most 
everything was a real find.
Just outside the bookstore, to
the east of it, was a small 
wooded lot. The Johnson 
Administration, back then,
through the President's
wife, Lady Bird Johnson,
had underway a 'beautification'
campaign  -  to beautify the
roadways and town-spots
of America  -  she sought 
to have billboards removed from 
(mostly that failed, of course,
but they were reduced a little  - 
of course now they're light-boards 
and everything else and it's 
much worse), the sides of 
highways, etc. She wanted no 
visible junkyards and scrap 
piles visible from the roads,
etc. Shrubbery and trees 
planted. It was all just a form
of do-goodism, and everyone
knew it was crap (the advertising
and billboard lobby, for one 
instance, representing billions 
of dollars, and hefty campaign
contributions too). Nothing more,
it was, than the sort of things 
done by 'First Ladies'  innocuous
stuff, like the 'Eat Healthy' crap
of today's incumbent  - not, of
course, Bill Clinton as First Lady's
'condom campaign', but that'll be
next. (Good Old Boy' vending
machines in each third-grade
cloakroom). In Plainfield, that
same campaign had taken a 
small patch of land and 
woods and, in the name 
of 'beautification'  - and
announced by a little govt.
plaque, and turned it into
what was called an urban
'vest-pocket park'. Neither 
of us had ever seen that 
phrase before, so, (my 
girlfriend and I), we 
thought it was very cool, 
and we often would buy 
two or three books and 
just go out there and sit,
reading and looking 
through things. No one 
else ever seemed to use 
it, nor were we ever 
bothered That little park
(the bookstore is long gone) 
itself now, fifty years on,
has had two reiterations as
a renewed park attempt.
Fences, benches, nice shrubs,
etc., yet each time is failed.
As of now, it's pretty much 
a rubble-strewn mess again, 
with but the straggly remnants
of fence and tables and benches.
There was even a murder there
once since. There used to be a nice 
bicycle shop on that corner, as well 
as a pretty fancied-up toy store
across from it. Everything is gone
now  -  the bike shop is some 
Empanada/Somosa Restaurant
now, and the toy store  -  late a
computer store  -  is a ruin.
I pass there a lot, on or from
other places, and in my head
it's all like going to Greece  -
just a weird place to see and
remember ancient ruins and
It's difficult for me to sit
here and write of Plainfield 
now. It really once was a
proud and noble city. 'Queen
City' was the name given to it,
as some cities seem inevitably 
to do, calling themselves 
something bold and noble,
to personify their goals.
Plainfield was the first city
I actually saw destroyed. Just
watched it all decay to nothing.
I'm sure there are a hundred
more just like it  -  Paterson,
Rochester, NY, Reading, PA,
especially Newark, NJ, and the
Oranges, or Maplewood, or 
Trenton and Camden even.
It all happened quickly enough,
by the late 60's the downward
process had metatsized itself
into every pore and organ of 
these cities: riots, shambles, 
drugs, poverty, death, addiction,
and shambles. Industry all was
decayed, old housing stock
crumbled as whites fled, the 
1965 immigration quotas, all
changed, allowed all sorts of
newer people in. They flocked
to the inner-cities the whites had
abandoned  -  and all Hell and
everything else took over. You
could read about it n any book,
but in Plainfield, about 1966/67, 
I was able to see it all, first-hand.
There weren't no coming back.