Friday, November 25, 2016


If my intentions were
never good, they were
never bad either. A friend
of mine's family, in some
crafty New Jersey town.
was putting up Joseph
Brodsky in his exile. In
1972 he was ejected
from the Soviet Union
forcibly, and needed
some real help relocating.
At that time W. H. Auden
lived at 77 St. Mark's
Place. He and others
facilitated some exile
lodging for Brodsky.
By 1987, he'd won  -
back when it really
meant something
-  the Nobel Prize
For Literature. You
could still see things
like that happening
back then. It was
pretty amazing. The
same sort of thing
went on, in Cavendish,
Vermont, when Alexander
Solzhenitsyn had all that
happen to him too. A
steady peak, a fiery
and subversive line
of writing was kept up.
Brodsky was the lesser
of the two, as he settled
in rather comfortably to
another sort of quasi-normal
American academic life;
teaching at Mount Holyoke
and all the rest. He even
became Poet Laureate of
the United States  -  which,
after the President, is sort
of like the silliest and
most very stupid position
ever imaginable. I kid
you not (no Billy Collins
humor here intended)
All sorts of things went by
me back then. I didn't even
realize. One time, up in the
Brill Building, which was
back then about 4 floors of
art galleries on 57th street,
I think it was, there was a
gallery retrospective going
on of some half-famous, old,
NY artist. A kid strolled by
wearing a football-logo coat.
On the back it just said
'Oilers.' Which was a Houston
football team. The artist guy
took it all in in stride, saying
nothing until after the guy
had left  -  whereupon his
painter-joke was to say,
'Well, at least he kept it to
Oilers.' I thought that was
really funny, and laughed
but good. In such a roomful
of stiffs, no one else laughed.
The painter, by the way, at
that time was some
conservative and finely
detailed constructivists  -
color, form and shape.
Maybe 50 then; I cannot
for the life of me recall
his name. All I remember
is how staid he was; not
one of those crazy NY
artworld abstractionists.
I'd been to other things
of this nature, and the booze
was usually flowing, the
artist and those around him
were well-lubricated, the
women were already
audacious, and the
art-game was but sport.
Not this on; it was more
like church, and that
jacket represented
someone who had
left their hat on.
What did I know anyway,
in truth, about anything
other than that which I
saw? Everything was
page one for me. I liked
it that way. I was spinning.
The flywheel was central,
and it kept me steady. As
long as I didn't lose that,
I could do most anything.
Back then, in his young-guy
heyday, it was Bob Dylan
who sang 'twenty years of
schooling and they put you
on the day shift.' Boy, that
rang true. As it turned out,
there'd be no way out of
that beleaguered crap for
me, or not for many
years anyway. I think
that was one of my first,
essential, mistakes.
I was unprepared and
I compromised. Essentially
I compromised my life
away. In school, kid-stuff,
no one ever tells you
anything real or substantial;
so I missed all those boats
I probably should have
caught, or tried to catch,
just by not being prepared
- my luggage wasn't ready,
my papers weren't
in order, my itinerary was
not set. All was disheveled.
Like Joseph, with his 'amazing
techni-colored dreamcoat,' I
was wearing the equivalent 
of a cover-garment with five
sleeves. Depending on 
whichever angle I turned,
I was still able, yet differently,
to get into the jacket. That's
not to say everything fit,
but it was easy to adjust. I
used to go around saying things.
Pithy type sermonettes, word
combinations I'd made up; like 
'Hitler was a nobody who
everybody knew.' It was my
way of coping. I used to think
I'd write a book of that sort of
content, hundreds of such little 
nuggets. What happened is that,
as one matures, it becomes
apparent that if there is no
context for things like that to be
part of, there's no reason for them
to be. My task was to live and by
living to build - CONTEXT.
I knew that early on. Before
long, all of life had become a
confusion for me. Time was
fleeing, and I was determined
I didn't want to be 'stuck' in 
place. That's what crazy kids do, 
that's why street movements
and anarchy and all those 
embroiled, angry obstructionists
are always young and untested
while they are screaming about
things. Even today, all those
Arab Springs and the rest of the
uprisings. Even 'Occupy New
York' stuff. In two years, it's over
and completely forgotten. Kids 
retain  nothing. There's no context. 
It's all vanity and bluster and 
a momentary bombast. All
my hippie cohorts and all that
crap from 1967 and 1968, except 
for altering at least a little the 
components of a shit- people-killing 
war, we did little and soon
enough everyone went on their
own ways. Perfectly to 
expectations. The guys who
only wanted to get laid, that's
all they ever got. The rich Jewish 
kids gave it up and became the
lawyers and doctors they were
always fated to be. The criminal
sorts stayed with their game, artists
to art, singers to song. And so on.
I plugged on. I dug and studied.
I went to wild places. My own
series of Chinatowns. The
rest? It all got turned upside
down and no one ended up
caring. Public relations and
all the media crap, just like 
Warhol; it heightened a sense 
 of nonexistence in those who
weren't 'known' to the masses, 
famous, or even half so. If
'strangers' didn't know you,
in that stupid context, it was
as if you didn't exist.

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