Saturday, October 1, 2016


The big picture (there isn't one,
life is all made up of detail,but
I'll pretend), is that all my life
I've always had trouble with
authority. I knew it and there
was no sense in even trying to
tell me differently. Even as a
kid, parents talking to children
was always, to me, a form of
discourse I was not in with.
Conceptually, it was the
concurrence of both poor
assumptions and demands,
or beliefs and representations.
My mother would go on talking
on the phone. I'd say, 'What
phone? What do you mean
by that? There's no phone;
you've made that up.' Of
course, she'd be baffled. And
then (she was a hypochondriac,
always sick or suffering from
one imagined ailment or the
other), I'd crumple and fall
over dead. Play dead. Or
pretend some zombie-like,
jittery trance on the floor.
She'd freak, in her usual
'mother-freaking-out' way.
Then I'd get up and laugh
it off  and walk away. She
always drank cold coffee,
old stuff in a cup like for
hours, she'd be walking
 around with it. I'd leave
her there holding her
dumb, cold cup. She say
something like, 'Oh, you
burn me up. I don't know
what I'm going to do with
you.' Great fun  -  but, even
at age 11 it was indicative
of how I felt about things  -
all facetious, everything a
goof, nothing real at all;
a laughable fantasy. Way
ahead of my time, I was a
hipster, an ironist, and an
absurdist all before I was
12. Antonin Artuad had
nothing on me.
Authority was a joke, cruel,
bad, stupid, you name it. I'd
look at people and just shudder.
There was a 5th grade teacher,
Mr. Raisley. To me the guy
looked exactly like Barney
Rubble, on the 1960 Flintstones,
short, floppy, almost dumb
approach to everything. I
couldn't take anything he
said seriously. In the same
way as my mother  -  who
most certainly should have
caught on to this whole
stupidity shtick I did
about collapsing and dying
-  you'd think  -  after maybe
the second or third time,
but feigned a real surprise
 each time, perhaps
she was acting and I was
being played  -  so too did
Mr. Raisley manifest repeat
behavior at all times. The
same oddball perplexity.
All the time. The others
too, it wasn't just him, as
a 'teacher', but they pretty
much were all the same way.
As predictable as rain-spouts.
One thing I always disliked is
what I called 'repeat behavior'.
Totally dull, predictable actions.
Repeated into infinity; because
no one thinks, no one has an
original idea about anything.
Boy, did that annoy me.
I used to try an imagine the
railroads, when they first
came. Travel on fixed rails
- no alteration or variation
permitted - or possible. What
a surprise that must have
been for people used to
recalcitrant cattle and horses,
to wandering, to wagon drivers
who'd get sidetracked, or the
bar sots who'd get and stay
drunk long enough to get
them passably through
the fears of Injun country,
or wherever. Road ruffians,
pillagers, and wagon-thieves.
The trains came and everything
was set into place. People
began moving about by
clocks and time, schedules.
Routes and destinations all
of a sudden mattered. No
more fun. No more sidetracks
into the woods. No more
short-cuts or roundabout
journeys either. Repeat
behaviors, all of a sudden,
everywhere. Life for me
couldn't be like that.
I'd figure the when and
how and where and why
of what I was going to do,
as I pleased, and whenever.
I just couldn't stand authority
stepping in; and it's still
like that today.
So, lots of times I just
studied things, stayed to
myself. I couldn't take
much else, everyone gave
me the heebie-jeebies.
I'd be reading all sorts
of weird stuff, things I
really didn't know about
except for what I read  -
as I said all that Theater
of the Absurd, Theater
of Cruelty, stuff, Artaud,
Brecht, the crumbling,
destroyed edifice of old
Europe, and the huge
new void, with all the
ruins still smoldering,
of the cities and peoples
torched and destroyed,
those who fought and
who surrendered, bastards
and losers, winners and
the dead. It was everywhere,
like air  -  existential angst
and the re-branding of all
things. I had few dreams,
but plenty of nightmares.
Tennessee Williams, the
playwright, used to say
that writers and artists
had several homes : There
was the biological place
of birth; the home in
which one grew up, bore
witness, fell apart. There
was also the place where
the 'epiphanies' began  -
a school, a church, perhaps
a bed. Rockets were launched
and an identity began to be
set. There was the physical
location where a writer sat
each day and scribbled and
hunted and pecked and
dreamed, drank or cursed
his or her way into
something. But  -  and most
importantly  -  there was the
emotional, invisible, often
self-invented place where
work began. The mental
theater where the characters
played. That was home; and
he always wanted to get home.
"If you're a writer, you write.
If you don't, you're dead."
I'd have to say there's a lot
of reality there. Stuff I could
bite into. I was kind of in a
half-world wherever I went:
seminary, Elmira, Ithaca,
Columbia Crossroads,
NYC, and the rest after
that. Always searching
and striving, singularly.
BUT...One thing that came
from this, of equal importance,
was the idea of 'alone'. The
artist as 'Alone.' He made
a really good point, with
all of this, something to do
with loneliness, with the idea
of the writer feeling, at the
least, that somebody was
listening, that he 'mattered.'
I guess it had to do with a
sense of audience : "I needed
to know that I mattered, that
I was of some value. I needed
a 'witness'  -  Here is the
importance of bearing
witness. We do not grow
alone, talents do not
prosper in the hothouse
of ambition and neglect
and hungry anger; love
does not arrive by horseback
or prayer or good intentions.
We need the eyes, the arms,
and the witness of others
to grow, to know that we
have existed, that we have
mattered, that we have
made our mark. And
each of us has a distinct
mark that colors our
surroundings, that
flavors the recipe of
'experience' in which
we find ourselves; but
we remain blind, without
identity, until someone
witnesses us."
Now, that may all be
a bit dramatic, or juvenile
or needy or something of
those, but it strikes hard,
and with an authentic blow.
Take it from me, one lost
in the wilderness for a
very long time. When I
was 14, I really could have
used words such as those.
They would have been
like an electric shock
to my system.
Problems abounded. All
these wacky playwright guys,
like Tennessee Williams, they
were always writing up bizarre
and overstrung characters as 
their women. Nobody was sane
or settled. Blanche Dubois was
a complete wreck, the scene and
occurences of Streetcar were
overwrought and bizarre. It was
obvious, I thought, as a 'reading'
of a prevalent problem : many
or most of these guys were gay,
and they were still working
things out, personal Mom and
Dad issues, even when they 
were 55 years old. That's the
main reason I did eventually
move off from all that  -  plays
ended up boring me; all those
directions and fussy sorts of
information and scenery-settings.
I sought the rip-snorting, and 
the 'real', and the 'violence' of
the accidental.
Another perplexing conflict :
what's a playwright, or an 
author, except another 
'Authority' figure? They 
(I guess I like to say 'we'
here too), set everything up,
demand fealty to our scene,
tolerate no exceptions, and 
just keep churning out
absolutes. I couldn't get
to what any of that meant
or from where it came, but it
was pretty apparent to me.
I had to somehow become
my own worst enemy?

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