Sunday, September 11, 2016


A long time ago, Joyce
Carol Oates wrote a short
story entitled 'Where Are
You Going, Where Have
You Been?' It was one of
those heavily anthologized
stories in English Lit., or
Writing, coursebooks. Back
in Elmira College we beat it
to death. I always liked it.
The rest of her work, Oates,
I don't have much pith for,
it comes and goes, gets
churned out, sometimes
dark, sometimes gothic,
severe. Whatever. But it
'caught the gloom' for me
of 1972, thereabouts, as
I read it. Funny, as it turned
out there was also a movie
back then entitled 'Badlands'
to which I always connected
it. Somehow the same, in
my mind. I don't know if
there was any connection
at all  -  in space or in time.
The conjunctive themes
of the two just seemed to
overlap. It could have been
coincidence; sometimes that
happens, the gestalt or 'that
which is' of the moment gets
picked up by a hundred things.
You begin seeing yourself
everywhere, as it were. Life
as a mental construction
starts resounding, getting
crowded with likenesses
and they all start banging
into each other. Isn't that
a curious thing? In
criminology they call
that 'copy-cat crime.'
(But then, in criminology
they call politicians 'innocent',
so how much value can
it really have?). In time,
I just walked away from
all that  -  the incoherent
babblings of academicians,
always going on and on
about the theoretical, or
some hunch, or some
unreal connection between
attitude and intent. After a
while it just becomes too
much, and it could drown
you, really, if you let it.
When I was in NYC, as I've
mentioned before, there was
a Hudson Hornet, about 15
years old then, a 1952 maybe,
or just prior, that sat at the curb,
derelict, it seemed, and
abandoned, but legal. It was
right in front of a church, I
forget which one, there are
two there in a row  -  Fifth
Avenue Presbyterian, and the
Church of the Transfiguration.
I think it was 10th street, not
sure  -  and also not sure but
I guess back then you could
park on the street like, and
just leave your car around.
I don't recall any meters or
pay-park systems, like we
have everywhere now. That
car, to me, became and was
more of a shrine to life than
was either of those churches;
it meant more, had more
holiness, and stood for much
more too. Even if it never even
moved. I'd go there (it was a
scant two blocks from the
Studio School) and just
commune with it  -  watch
how the colors had slowly
faded in different light,
offing themselves into the
next shade of what they
had been; the tires were
slowly settling. It's a funny
thing, 'relativity', in its most
simple forms. 'Relative' to
being porous, a tire is a
solid thing, but in reality,
a reality we don't see, even
a tire is porous, just atoms
and swirls and all that ranging
around presenting a face to
the world. In actuality, there's
space between all those
things, maybe a 'conceptual'
space, but no matter  -  and
what isn't conceptual anyway?
Those tires are constantly
loosing air  -  slowly as all
get-out, but with a certainty
stronger than God. I'd be
witness to all that, as the
car itself  just slowly sank.
Over the course of one,
cold Winter, the tires
went nearly to flat. Of
course, by relativity too,
flat ain't flat and round
ain't round, but what are
you gonna' do? If you
start thinking like that,
and demanding all those
false certainties, you
might as well go inside
one of those churches
there, with the rest of
the rich, and leave some
money behind, thinking
in your proud certainty,
that you're buying your
way into something or
other by that act. Otherwise,
you can stay with me,
outside, as I recollect
the other world.
Sort of like Creation itself,
no one ever took claim to
ownership of this car. I just
stared it down for some two
years It was like an altar. Or
a shrine. The Hudson Hornet
itself was already a sort of
mythological car  - Kerouac
and Cassidy and all that 'On
the Road' book stuff. Like
having ancient history, of
a sort, come alive for me  - as
if a sixth-grade Mr. Ziccardi
moment would get me a
papier mache 3-D map of
the old Mesopotamia, Tigris
and Euphrates river delta
civilization right there on
Fifth Avenue to view. When
I say, of course, 'sort of like
creation itself,' I mean no one
ever took claim to ownership of
this car, that's fairly incorrect.
Even if one 'took' ownership
of the car, one wouldn't have
'made' it. It's all actually a
quite different scenario. That's
where all that religio-philosophical
folderol comes in  -  usually 
leading you right back to the 
endless blat of academics again.
It used to be called 'arguing over
how many angels fit on the head
of a pin.' Now no one calls it
anything at all.
I used to stand there and think of
those Edith Wharton and William
and Henry James types, from that
era, who would have passed by,
in and out of, these churches, these
local streets. Early Fifth Avenue
here, in the Gilded Era, was quite
the place. All that promenading 
and public dining  -  quail and
pheasant under glass, etc. Only 
the very finest. Yes, please, my
goodness Mark Twain may
stroll by! And  -  since it was 
all gone  -  here the Hudson 
Hornet sat, outside of the
church of their God, Lucre.
It was a curious thing. Only
a few years later, in Pennsylvania,
would it again all hit me: Nature
versus Nature. That's exactly 
what the Devil is, the horned 
demon ruling our world. In 
the name of God. He takes
over people's minds, without 
them even knowing it. And
they then begin doing horrible
 things. One that comes to 
mind, out there in the deep 
and high woods, was the late
September or October period
of time called 'Small Game
Season' - a hunting season
when farmers and kids would
go out and  -  instead of shooting
deer and things  -  would have
a week or two hunting season 
for ground animals, birds and 
such, that they could kill. 
Wallop and kill, by the hundreds.
The Devilsh, and unknowing
perversion here was how farmers
would use 'Nature' to kill Nature.
Man is a cruel, foul beast. They'd
release, flock by flock, all these
game birds  - quail, pheasant,
gamecocks, hens, etc. The birds 
would effectively settle in a day  
or two, in all the cornfields, 
meadowlands and waterways. 
They probably, for a few days,
thought their little bird-lives
were really grand and they'd
found Paradise. Then the
farmers would come out, 
with their rifles and birdshot
and shotguns, and release their
especially-trained 'bird-dogs', 
usually coon-hounds or beagles
and other hunt breeds, and the
dogs would tromp through the
brush and meadows and stubble
and 'flush out' the now-frightened
birds. Which birds would, then,
in a mass rush, eagerly take 
to the sky, fluttering out in 
a rush to be airborn and away.
At which point any number of
hunters would raise their rifles
and shoot  -  you didn't really 
even need aim. The Bird-shot
would spray outward and 
spread. Taking down birds 
by the score. The 'trained' 
dogs (using here 'Nature 
against Nature', as I said)
would now fan the fields 
and pick up in their jaws 
dead or dying, bloodied 
and broken (having just 
fallen, in jittery flight, 
from the sky), birds, and 
return  them to their owner's 
feet, dropping them there. 
They'd been trained to 
retrieve but not chomp,
pick-up but not eat, the 
dead prey. It was all 
un-natural, from start
to finish. Gross and 
perverse, too, But why not. 
El Diablo was present.
The continuity of my own life,
over the years came to that sort
of summation: an end result of 
what I'd seen. In so many ways,
you are only what you 'decide' to 
be. We each bear our own and
personal mark of Cain, depending 
on what concept or assumption 
about  things we liked or adopted 
as our own. It's what gives life its
flavor, well or not. Like those
tattoo people you now see 
everywhere, stuck with their 
choices and endlessly
bound to repeat it too  -  
wearing foolish clothes,
Guinea tees, backless 
shirts, dumb looking workout
shorts, just so they can show 
off their tattoos; already spoken 
for and with demands of their 
own to be seen, for the rest of
their days : the people who get
them almost become meaningless
after them. Mere carriers of
another message.

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