Sunday, September 4, 2016


Mostly, in my life, and
no matter where I was, I
kept to, or have always
kept to  -  current, no past
tense  -  a strict study
regimen. That's always
remained important
to me and, like writing,
a day doesn't go by that
I'm not engrossed in
something satisfying
enough to have me feel
that I have 'attained'
something that
particular day. Just
a habit. Others travel,
or dine out, or go to
the track or to ball
games. Because of
all that, there have
always been startling
things popping up for
me, things I enjoy
and which then lead
me, sometimes, into
other directions as
well. Like the click
of an Internet search
for 'cars', which then
brings you to 'wheels'
which then gets you to
'iron and steel', which
then gets you to the
'history of the circle'.
All like that, but way
before the Internet.
When I had nothing
-  back in those starter
days in NYC  -  I did
less of it, yes, but
then luck turned :
I had the NY Pubic
Library, the one with
the lions, at Fifth and
42nd, and better  yet,
I had the Studio School
Library and floor  -
whereon I spent lots
of my nights in the
'read until you drop'
club. My life has been
good like that. Now
I just have about a
billion books, and
simply get lost right
here  and with all the
time I want too. I used
to think 'Life' was harsh
and difficult, now I see
it's all pretty basic and
simple. Not much to it
at all. The complications
and sides and issues and
problems, they're really
all of your own making.
You just have to let a lot
of that go  -  it's all useless
drivel, and with bad
connections too. The
modern day, and all the
crap that runs the track
with it  -  you just don't
need. Jettison it now.
Clarify. Simplify. And
one really doesn't need
an opinion on everything.
People simply waste their
time and resources, and
I love to study :  I admit,
my farm years in Pennsylvania,
being amidst all those other
sorts of people, the simple
and the task-oriented, made
it more than difficult, For
over a year I simply stopped.
Then one year, about 16
months in, I simply said,
'that's it, had enough,' and
went back to my old ways   -
Cornell and Elmira, bookstores,
magazines, and art galleries.
The mix became much better.
I felt good. Studying again.
"The chain of events leading
to Adrianople documents the
barbarian-Roman conflict at
its extreme. Led by their King
Fritigern, impoverished and
vulnerable Visigoths crossed
the Roman frontier in 376 on
the run from the Huns, who
were also destined to engage
the Romans. Like all foreign
tribes settling legally within
the empire, the Visigoths
agreed to become Roman
subjects and servants. They
arrived, however, at a time
when harried Roman armies
had their fill of barbarian
migrants. Coming in numbers
and haste too great to allow
proper processing and
supervision by Roman
officials, the starving Goths
were offered 'the rations of
the meat of one dog for each
child surrendered up to the
Roman slavemarket'. The
result was a Gothic
rampage." Whoa! Stop
right there! The meat of
one dog for each child
surrendered for slavery,
Yikes-doodles, times were
tough indeed. Better be
a really big dog?
All that time in the
seminary, I always had
this strange, roving History
teacher  -  Brother Seymour,
Father Sebastian, I can't
remember, and it was all
the same anyway, those
names and people. He was
a little, yappy guy, with a
funny voice. He was sort of
short and a bit bent over.
They all wore the black
robes and beads and stuff,
so,  frankly, I never got to
see his legs or body to see
what the problem was with
all that bend and twist stuff.
Maybe it was just illusion.
He would go on and on and
on, walking with the history
book open on his palm, and
talk endlessly about all this
weird stuff I'd really never
heard of before. This was
History? He had endless
levels of detail about Clovis,
Frederic Barbarossa, that
King Fritigern guy, Goth,
Visigoths, Huns, Magyars,
the German deep woods and
forests, Teutones, Cimbri,
Varus, Hessians, the Baltics,
Swabians, Emperor Valens,
Romans, fights and battles,
revolts, duchies, counts, the
Roman historians, Tacitus,
Barbaricum, Germanicum,
Adrianople, Alaric, Sylvanus,
Arbogast, Stilicho, Atilla,
Athaulf, Galla, Vallia, the
Battle of Teutoberg Forest.
Detmold. Arminius. Henry the
Fowler and Louis the Pious,
You get the idea; he just went
on and on over a million of
detailed things in the earliest
years of basic AD memory,
or 'Christian era' stuff, or
whatever it's all called
now. I used to scratch my
seminary head, maybe
searching for a brain, and
just say  -  'what is all this,
how'd I miss all this before?
Who taught History anyway?'
And then one day it hit me :
astoundingly! These guys
were all Salvatorian priests
and brothers, from Wisconsin
but founded and operative in
Germany. They all came out
of that. This immense,
fractured, tedious history,
all this deep, fancy German
tribes and breakaway provinces
and all, was their own home
history. To them, it was
all like homesickness
itself! What a relief to me
that was  -  at the least, I
wasn't half as dumb as I'd
been worried I was. This
was all theirs -  they were
giving  it to me. I got
interested anew.
Clovis. Theodoric. The
Merovingian dynasties and
all their quarrels. All that
Holy Roman Empire and
Papal Rome and Augsburg
and Avignon  -  all that.
It was gold!
'Fearful of anarchy, they err
on the side of good order.'
That was a summation of the
Germanic peoples I read in
a book. That was them, and
they had me. Age? 11.
Well anyway, you try 
carrying all that around 
with you, inside your
impressionable head. 
See what it gets you.
I was zonk-ritzy-ribald 
crazy in a month and a 
half. My face and teeth 
were still hurting from 
having been rapped by a
train. My brain was still 
swollen, for pity's sake, 
both my legs in mental 
traction and here this huge
shovel-load of new input 
was getting jammed in 
in ways I never even 
knew of. Information
distant and from out of 
the blue. I should'a
been a cripple, on a 
hundred percent disability
forever, but here I was 
instead, wrapped up 
little a birthday gift in 
some horrid church 
chancel. What the 
very Hell did anyone 
want or expect out 
of me? I should have, 
by rights, been  another 
Charles Starkweather.
Getting to New York 
City, on my own and 
as I did, a few years later,
only intensified all this. 
I was certified nutso, 
on the move, prowling 
for anything. Then  -  
frying pan to the fire 
stuff  - I was dipped just 
as suddenly in the cold 
water of Pennsylvania.
Deep nowhere. Dirt roads. 
No exterior lighting, 
wild things in the 
woods, snacking
on squirrels in 
small-game season. 
I had stopped myself 
short, grabbing my
own balls backwards. 
It all sure hurt, but I 
came to a screeching 
halt, at least enough 
to clear and open
my head, a bit ajar, 
once more. Something 
seeped in. I'd 
stayed alive.

No comments: