Friday, September 30, 2016


So many times I have been at home
when all the best things happen : the
birth of an angel, the song of a God.
I only see them as a glow on the horizon,
nothing certain or definite or sure. Like
three wise men, but a different three, I
sense the approach : hobbled old men, 
barely walking along, with a horse and
a donkey in tow. They, none of them,
understand the other's language; a real
mish-mash trio this. Trying to count
stars, but getting it wrong; bad numbers
and a super-nova to argue over. Later
it would be El Cid. Cervantes, and all
that. This time, it's just three fools each
pretending to be wise. I go along; I like
charades, the play of shadows on a wall, 
the seven-hour performance by Javanese 
puppets of the Mahabharata. A tale of
envy and creation and woe; that's my sort
of drama  -  melted crayons in the soup,
scratched lines on the surface of dead 
heads. The skull factory. The ossuary.
Where lepers once worshiped their
own fleshy God; He who never lost
parts; He who started time over; He
He  -  the one who never got anything
wrong. Isn't that what we play for?
Pray for? Imbibe and get drunk for?
A land wiser than the living that's
done there. A place for all things.
With all things in their place.


There were a few siblings
at the seminary  -  3 or 4
years apart. The fellow I
mentioned yesterday, from
Plainfield, Joe Vouglas, and
his brother, 3 years younger,
Dennis. Then there were the
two Mosca kids  -  Paul and
maybe Jim, I forget. It must
have been, I always thought,
pretty funny to have two of
your kids in the joint  -  I
know that meant 'prisons',
from old movies, but who
cared. The households
these kids came from
must have thought, that,
maybe, having 'Lik-M-Aid'
for candy treats was really
wild stuff. This one younger
Mosca kid was a trip  - 'Pauley'
was the reference. There was,
once each year, in early Fall
(again pretty weird for a
schoolful of boys), a 'Talent
Show'. The usual stuff  - 
early guitar learners, a piano
or two, a small music group.
etc. No tap-dancing or ballet,
that I ever saw. This Pauley
guy  -  small, dark, Italian -
for two years in a row (then
he was gone) sang his most
emotive, almost horridly
sentimental and foppish
version of 'You'll Never
Walk Alone.' I mean to the
rafters. It was terrible, girlish,
weak-waisted. I don't know if
you know that song, or if it's
even meant to be religious or
what, but this kid played it for
all get-out. Blasting. A screaming
crescendo  - which is pretty
much all the song is anyway
a long crescendo. "When you
walk through a storm, hold
your head up high, and don't be
afraid of the dark. At the end
of the storm is a golden sky,
and the sweet, happy song
of the lark. Hold on, hold on,
with faith in your heart,
'cause you'll never walk
alone. You'll  N-E-V-E-R
walk alone!!!!" Use your
imagination anyway then;
this little punk Guido, 5'4",
dressed like a saint, blasting
out this stupid, trite song. I
always hoped the damn
lark would just poop on
him and fly off.
Anyway, this talent show
was pretty tired stuff. Early
on, each school season.
Personally, I used to think
it was a way for the priests
and brothers to get a good
look at the 'new talent' they'd
be dealing with that year.
Kind of a 'scan' of the most
active birds in the nest. I
used to just sit there, bored
as all get out. I played
the piano, OK, well enough,
pretty decently, but damned
if I was nervy enough to
get up there and show it
off. Eventually I did become
the 'page turner' for some
piano recitalist guy there -
John Banko, a senior then. I'd
sit next to him on the stupid
piano bench while was playing
Brahms or Rachmaninoff or
whatever, and I'd have to
read the music along with
him and turn the music
page for him so there was
no let-up. It too was boring.
John later died in prison,
sentenced in 2002, and
doing at least 18 years, in 
one of those priests-in-jail-
after-molesting- boys court
judgments. Yikes again. He
was from Milford, which is
North Jersey, some church
or other where he was Pastor,
but he died, oddly enough, in
the sex-offender's prison unit
at Rahway, about 1/2 mile from
my house now. Very weird.
This happened in three or so cases,
actually of priest-people I may have
known or crossed paths with.
It was always too bad, in fact,
horrid, and I won't say much
more about that. Creatures that
we are, we all live strangely.
Now, I need to take a minute 
here to say something, or 
maybe also to use this point 
to end all this seminary stuff.
I hold those years dear, I am
not bitter or vindictive over
any of this  -  and I just write
of it here because it comes 
through and I want to put it 
down. It's my story, and not
too many others would have it
to tell even if they did try to.
Really, I don't care two whits 
about any of it, and really didn't
then. It was all silliness, like
going to clown school. Fun at
the waffle stand, if you only
knew how to withstand it. 
There was very little to do 
with 'religion' and so many
other things were entwined 
and woven into it. So, as I
mention things, it's kind of 
with the detachment of 
distance and the distance
of writing. This is true. I'm
speaking real. Funniest thing
in the world  -  the last time 
I was there for a visit (the old
original buildings, ours, I had
been advised, were about to be
torn down). The place had become 
Camden County College now, 
and was modernizing and 
expanding. We walked in an
open door, for the theater and
auditorium. In the lobby, a
malfunctioning pretzel machine
ate my wife's dollar bill. She 
began pounding on the side 
of the machine. Someone 
called the cops. Security came.
Took us in, questioning us,
separately. Made us identify 
the vehicle we'd arrived in  -  
and then went out and checked 
for verification of what we'd 
just said said! Copied our
licenses, and said if we were
ever found on 'campus' again,
we'd be arrested. Believe that
shit? I said we were only there
because "I'd grown up here when
it was a seminary and wished to
see the old buildings before they
were gone." He chuckled, the
stupid rent-a-cop campus jerk,
and said 'It'll be a few months 
yet; don't come back.'
That all sure was strange 
scene, exactly as if I'd landed 
from another world, to this 
horrible, secular, world of 
warts and wrinkles and rules 
and regulations, and the people 
who do absolutely nothing
about life except follow them.
These were still, to me, all my
buildings  -  especially for that 
one with the cheating vending 
machines. For us to be so 
unceremoniously  tossed and
 turned out was a painful scene.
So, I'll leave it there (oh, 
you know I won't, right?).  
What it did prepare me for 
were the next two major 
hurdles in my life : the 
duplicity and stupidity
of local 'Government' 
schooling - high school, 
and then, in a bit, NYC 
itself. New York City is
a double ended battleship. 
At one end you have the
most avant-garde, supposedly
forward-looking and brash
phalanx of art and music 
and literature and thought.
While at the other end is the
most servile, old-line, and
all that old-world religious 
slavishness; leftover creeds 
and practices, and all that 
swirling cross-current
of ancient beliefs and 
manners. Pretty weird. 
I've often gotten by in 
life because of a knowledge
gleaned from knowing it 
and having seen it, from 
both sides. That's how it 
it was when I got 
out of 'the joint'.


Yes, my hamlet is Hankerberry Grove,
small town on the Eustace-Mare River.
Some king long back tried taking exile
here, but he sunk into the ground; the
area of swamp on the east end is deadly.
The shacks which once were there, from
the late 1800's have been preserved now
in plasticene, and tours are given for those
who are keen  -  or may be  -  on seeing
such a preserve Little ladies with handbags
come in groups and chatter; postcards
are served cold, on a fantasy platter.
Oh well, I guess it's all good enough,
and I really do like it here.


Just sitting here, and reading stories, that's
the way of this life now? My little train
set runs right out the backyard door.
With blue-jays and robins, I sit so
complacent. The blue-jays never
shut up, and the robins ceaselessly
run along the ground. I've given them
a new name : one for the bird-books
and guides. Presenting, 'the North
American Running Robin.' Things
really do sometimes run so out of
pattern. The touch, as ever, remains
with the flaming hand, the love
of all these things one sees.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


I was in the seminary library
one afternoon, early on maybe
'63, and I'd, I guess, walked 
out with mussed hair and no 
care either, from an earlier 
shower or something. One 
of the big, fancy guys, Joe
Vouglas, in fact, who was
from, I knew, Plainfield, 
NJ, the old Plainfield of 
class and money, not the
dump there today, he
motioned me over (a few
of then were sitting around
the newspaper and magazine
carousels), and he said to
me, 'Hey. you look like one 
of those 'Beatles'. I had no
clue what he was talking 
about. It took a little while, 
maybe even a day or two,
to find out what he meant. 
It's funny how that sticks 
in my mind  -  showing both 
really how cloistered we were 
(as cloistered as we allowed
ourselves to be, I guess. He,
obviously, wasn't  - so I just
disproved my case) and, 
more, how distinct and 
precise are the recognition
factors we live by. In a 
year or so the whole 
world would know 
what they were. Even 
me. It was unavoidable, 
and that's like the 
culture-wash that soon
was to swipe over 
everything. It would be 
more and more difficult, 
I saw, to remain aloof
and insulated from things 
you'd not wish to be 
mingled with. It was 
just soon to be the way 
things were. Cultural
imperialism, the banalities
of pop-culture and the 
advertising that went 
with it. It was all 
un-Christian; I knew.
I knew that already, 
and could see its effects.
Where did that leave me, 
I wondered? What chance
did 'Christianity' or the 
proclaiming of any set 
ethos of practice and 
belief have against this 
vulgar and rude onslaught? 
Why would I even bother. 
It baffled me how the 
oldest religion in effect 
that we know of, the
grand Judaic 'promised 
land and chosen people', 
with all their mumbling 
and scriptural dissertation 
and high-minded seeking 
and dedication, their cadres 
of yeshivas and Talmudic
dissertation, would be the 
ones to so actively and 
with little compunction 
towards right and 
goodness, 'always' be 
the ones to propagate 
the shuddering sleaze 
that was ruining everything. 
The crude and the gross 
and the vulgar, it was 
always and everywhere
under their name. I got 
no sense from any of 
this. Had I been on
a cold, high mountain 
somewhere, their fine,
disgusting exceptionalism
would reach me.  And 
they took pride in their 
destructive ways, as if 
their 'business' acumen 
and achievement was a 
high honor; as if the more
cheesy grandeur and wealth
they could amass from all 
this destructive work better
accredited them in God's
eyes. Their God's eyes 
anyway. The one they
now could not approach 
directly. As a 12-year old 
and up, I also could not 
understand the Christian 
premise, as presented  -  
based as it was on the 
jocular aside, always,
that 'Jesus was a Jew.' 
What did that mean? I 
thought he both fulfilled 
and then destroyed all
those silly old covenants,
those acres and layers of 
covenant and command. 
To me, it was undecipherable 
how all of this was just 
thrown onto me, without 
any expectation of my 
inspection or even objection.
I was just being told instead 
that 'Faith' had to do it for 
me, 'Faith' had to suffice. 
I didn't need to understand; 
God's ways and God's
doings were supposed
to be obscure. Maybe 
so; but no thanks. To
me that was the height
of indignation and affront;
treating me like chattel.
Some 20 years later, I 
worked closely with a 
printing client who ran 
an art studio dedicated
to Judaic sculpture, 
fund-raising wall 
memorials, in schools 
and hospitals, where 
5000 dollars buys you 
an inscribed leaf on a
fund-raising wall tree. 
All very business like 
and formal, with the
'Art' factor of it being 
far secondary. What the
clients wanted, sorry to
say, was vanity  -  the
glitz and name-recognition
that would get their name
shown. The Hollywood star
in the sidewalk treatment, as
it were. Whether 500 dollars 
or 50,000, they wanted that 
back for their money, the
rest be damned. Like gold
rings and gold necklaces,
like the vulgarity of their
big cars and fancy homes,
they became caricatures of
themselves, all around. To
my eyes, long ago, that's 
what religion had debased
itself to. To his eyes, the 
grand compromise was much
worse  -  he'd sacrificed a
lower east-side, NYC biblical
'scholar' career for that. We'd
talk endlessly over the minutia
of Chasidic and Talmudic
scholarship, the differences
between the sects, the various
Jewish cults  the ancient
infusions of this or that
doctrine which had influenced 
and infiltrated the Pentateuch
and the rest. It became the
wall of factors by which I 
reflected back on my 
almost-done deal. We
went over the destruction
of ALL the temples we'd 
once wished to live by.
Memory is an awfully
funny and unique thing. 
It's sourced by the oddest 
items : for Proust it was a 
cake, for others the tolling
of a river bell, a train, boat, 
or ship. Still others, the 
moan of a cow, the sound 
of a tractor. Any of a 
hundred different things
ringing memory  -  a small, 
a taste, the way something 
felt in the hands. Memory 
therefore is always old, 
brought in from behind 
us, while we ourselves
are always concerned 
with going forward, 
moving somehow to 
all of that which is 
'before' us,  ahead, in 
front. These things 
differ, and they 
constantly clash. Until 
we find our own ways 
to mesh them with the
world around us.
Somehow the very serious
play-game of organized ans
preached religion just stopped
speaking to me. I felt I needed
to be more than a 'functionary', 
one following order from 
somewhere else about matters 
of faith and spirit and heart 
and soul. That big, vast part
of me was gone, had lost its
mooring, was already running 
off. And I was just barely 14.
In the seminary, each of use
was given a 'Spiritual Advisor.'
He was supposed to be the one 
we turned to with doctrinal or 
personal questions about where
we were headed, what we were 
doing, hoped to do and the rest.
Mine was a pip-smoking creep
named Fr. Carlton Brick. Yes, 
you got it, Carlton Brick.
A propagandist, and one no
different from any of what you 
find today in any local government
or board of education seating.
Not an original thought, not 
even a blanche of creativity or 
reflection. Just doctrine, just 
rote, just the today. A command.  
-  streamline the means, get 
the 'doing' done, but never 
question it. Pave the roadway,
but never talk about the path
that once was there.
Boy, was I a problem child.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


In thinking about things, I was
always floundering or at-sea  -
how much of anything of this
was real or even meaningful?
I just couldn't often grasp things
and all of the church thinking I
was being exposed to was of
old and crazy stuff. I found it
very difficult to integrate any
of that into the contemporary
forms of thought and action :
old wars, crucifixion, angry,
confusing things, endless lists
of names and begets and begats,
which thankfully at least the
Catholic Doctrinal push never
much concentrated on; though
I myself liked it enough to sit
around seminary library hours
to wile away time reading old
bible chapters and commentaries
and such as my way of passing
time. No questions, just a true
puzzlement. Basically I had
no questions because I swiftly
realized it bore little import  to
the 'me' of that moment. 
The world. As presented to us.
Pretty senseless, yet that was 
the context we were supposed 
to view everything in. Genesis?
It seemed without purpose. Why
was it even there? Completely
gratuitous. The other bible books,
after it, as boring as they got
too, at least had supposed ancient
and Semitic laws and commands
and stuff in them, even supposedly
proclaimed by God from some
mountain that resembled a 
factory. Or a spaceport. To 
'guide' people along, it was 
said. I questioned that too  -  
'guide' seemed way too soft a
word to put on matters that
were more like fiery commands,
do or die stuff. Little choice.
Instead it's a scatter-bucket of
old tales  -  the Garden, Adam
and Eve, the Nephilim, the
Serpent, temptation, Eden, 
fall. Jacob and his 12 bizarre
sons: ('Cryptic Halakhic' it
was called in 'Jubilees', written
in the second century  -  meaning
that "although it has no overt
laws, per se, its stories contain
'legal' teachings in hidden form."
Alluding here and there to
Divine Commandments and
practises instituted with Israel's
ancestors long before the great
revelation of biblical lore on
Mt. Sinai. Embodiments in 
'persons' of the laws that were 
to be given later at Mt. Sinai
and to the crowds below. Well,
I guess  -  but why? And who
needed all that? Why could 
not someone just say what 
they had to say and be done?
Why all this mystery and 
obfuscation? Couldn't God's
'Mankind' have somehow righted
itself and moved on, produced
cultures and civilizations; as
actually DID happen all other
places  - eventually  -  all over
the globe. This might seem like
nothing at all - however  -  many
years later, in Elmira, NY, the 
way I was receiving information,
I awoke with a start one night,
in the dead middle of the night,
with these words resounding in
my head; words which  referenced 
this very thought : "The Bible is
a book written for those still
in the hole." !! Amazing. It
really did, at that moment,
clarify a lot for me. These
small, indigenous people, a
mere tribe, with no knowledge 
at all of the rest of the globe,
had somehow taken it upon
themselves that they represented
everything for everybody. 
How absurd.
Jacob? From Day One a creep.
He cheats his brother, Esau, 
out of his rightful inheritance 
as the firstborn and then tricks
his poor, blind father into giving
him a paternal blessing intended
for Esau. Then he goes to his
uncle's house, (Laban), and by
questionable means ends up
with his flocks (prime source 
of wealth then). He sneaks
away for his homeland, Canaan.
All this while Laban's daughter,
Rachel, steals her father's sacred
images, then hides them in her 
saddlebags, and lies to him so 
as to prevent discovery.  Later,
we read of Jacob's children  -
one sleeping with his father's
concubine, and another having
sex with his own son's wife. 
When the only daughter ends 
up being raped, her brothers
respond by invading the
rapist's town and killing
every man in it, then also
plundering all the town's
flocks and possessions,
including wives and children.
Then they seize their own 
younger brother, strip off
his clothing, throw him into
a pit with the intention of
killing him, relent, and sell
him instead to a passing caravan.
Oh, really? Interesting group.
Real ground-breakers and
fore-tellers of all those so
wholesome commandments 
and dictates to come. 
I actually found very little
relevance, in any of this, to
myself, and that began the 
first divide I saw with what 
I would have been supposed 
to be representing. The 
fulfillment and satisfaction 
of all that 'word made flesh'
stuff and the beginning of
John's gospel much later.
This was an arc of continuity, 
perfected and completed
without fail, which ends up 
with the crumpled ruins of
objection dead on a cross,
in full view of humanity,
taken down and released 
once more to his family 
and group, who bury him 
and grieve for His death,
from which he arises after
some time, and then leaves 
again. Palpitating stuff.
I found myself questioning
what was going on  - it was
1963. I had difficulty finding
a relevant relationship for
1963, or 63BC, for that 
matter, with this material.
Its assumptions, and even
the way it was presented,
made little sense.  I was
living, and had been living,
a completely alien world  -
Flinstones and Jetsons and
Twilight Zones and Lone
Rangers and the rest. 
Physicists saying really weird 
things, time/warp continuums 
and the rest, which all made a
jumble out of any , ANY 
sequential  or logical format 
to this life. Chaise lounges
and ranch homes with
patios. Fast cars. Aluminum
siding, libraries, amusement
parks, camp-outings and
pop music. Nothing made 
sense and it seemed as 
though people's minds
had little room for any 
of this, any. The old OR 
the new : Talk about 'being
in the hole. I guess what I'm 
saying is that I'd come to 
a point where, in spite of 
thinking I did, I was at a 
point where I knew 
NOTHING about what
was going on, what 
I was facing, or where 
any of it had come from. 
No 'what', and certainly 
no 'why?'
Somehow this ancient age
was facing off, one-to one,
the ancient age long ago had
before us passed : tribalism,
a barren fierceness, violence.
Much of it, confusing as it
all was, was still and at the 
same time current and very
old together. What was I
to make of that? Within this
continuity we were meant
to find challenge, succor,
peace, and mission. I was
unable to do so. My interests
had been turned and had
gone elsewhere; sensitivities
flayed and barren and raw.
All that politeness and protocol
and right-ritual of all these
churches, none of it added 
up. I sensed I was far too
personal for any of that. I
wanted contact and touch,
wit everything and everyone. 
Slave to king, Hitler to Gandhi.
No matter. There I was.