Sunday, December 31, 2017

10,354. RUDIMENTS, pt. 181

RUDIMENTS, pt. 181
Making Cars
I'd never been told much about
things from my father, in the 
short time I had anyway. He 
seemed always under a lot of 
pressure, whether to get things
done or to somehow surpass
some invisible goal of showing 
he was as good or better than 
other guys. (It never worked out).
It colored everything he did, and I
never figured it out. I couldn't think
why someone would want to live
that way  -  those were things that
just weren't important in my mind, 
what someone else 'saw' you as, 
or where you yourself were within 
some 'pecking order' of what really 
was your own imagining. Yet, to him 
that all was important, and it was 
pretty sad too, in the sense that the 
achievement being sought was not 
really anything special at all. It was 
all bargain basement stuff. When 
you're all caught up in the low end 
of things, every little extra clothespin 
means an advancement, yet to the 
'other' class to whom you're trying 
to show, another dumb clothespin is 
a really bad effort. These were all 
people together in the same strait 
of circumstances, no part of which 
really had glamour, gain or actual
achievement. It was as if the contest 
was in having a better Chevrolet than
 the next guy, but never breaking out 
to have a Buick or a Cadillac or Lincoln, 
to use a paltry example. So it was like
 a really bad running in place. 
Nothing there for me, treadmills 
were never my forte.
It didn't even matter, because 
I was always on my own orbit 
anyway, but I had to contend 
with what all that left behind : 
the television always being on, 
my father laughing at shows, 
comedies and cartoons, and 
westerns, always westerns  - 
where I guess the 'good' or 'best' 
guy always did somehow overcome 
hardship and contention and best 
the bad guy. Same story. I do kind 
of realize now that this is all a 
late-life reflection of my now-dead 
father, and not really fair to him. 
But, that's the breaks of this game. 
Life is action and action is chance. 
Getting stuck in psychological 
ruts is neither. Whatever the 
deal of this life, however it 
works, we are each born into 
our own peculiar set of 
circumstances, and I certainly 
never understood mine. I couldn't 
fathom why I was born into that 
station, situation, or place. It was 
all so weird. (Or maybe I just have 
an exalted opinion of myself).  I 
could never much see value in 
the things others held up as 
valued, nor could I ever quite 
view the absolutes by which 
they opposed everything. It didn't 
HAVE to be one way or the other, 
there were always shadings and 
mixings, blendings of approach. 
My world was much different 
than theirs, and his. There was 
an old philosophy joke I heard 
somewhere, maybe that John 
McLaughlin guy who taught 
Philosophy at Elmira. It was a 
little bit dumb, but I always 
remembered it   -   'The rich man 
built the log cabin he was born 
into with his own bare hands. 
And if the poor weren't born 
with talent (to build their own 
and rise out of it) well they 
should have thought of that 
when they chose their parents.' 
It's kind of an almost mean-natured 
cruel joke, trying to say that the 
people of privilege, though they 
were born in a higher station, still 
worked it through by their own 
hands and pluck, and if everyone 
else couldn't get to their station 
it was because they weren't 
good enough  - and tough on them.
The ancient Greek philosopher 
Epictetus (not really 'ancient, 
more about 55-100 A.D.), said 
'some things are out of our control 
and some are not.' He meant things 
other than what I am writing of 
('in' our control: opinion, pursuit, 
desire, aversion, and our own actions;
'not in' our control: body, property,
reputation, command, and whatever 
are NOT our own actions) and it 
never made much sense to me 
anyway, but I always figured 
doing nothing to be an action as 
well. So I always stepped away, 
and into DOING something to 
get out of the situation. I don't 
know if I had any control over 
getting smashed by the train and 
losing a big clump of time, but I 
do know my other choices were 
mine, and pretty much for the 
purposes of 'action' of doing 
something to remove myself, 
as a minor could anyway. 
Seminary, remaining alienated 
and out of it, taking off for 
NYC immediately after the 
untold misery of high school, 
art, the streets, the deep country 
isolation, getting away and hiding  
-  each of those actions were 
initiated by me, and carried 
through. (For one thing, I simply 
kept 'changing' my life) Jean Paul 
Sartre had it thus : when events 
go awry, we can say we had bad 
luck and leave it at that. Which is 
all well and good, I guess, when 
one's luck has already gone south. 
But that sentiment doesn't hold 
when there's still a chance for a 
decision to be made. Then, doing 
nothing is a decision. All we have, 
as humans, is the ability to act. 
We each have that, at least. My 
father's example just always 
seemed to be running in place, 
and never reflecting upon that, 
certainly never talking it over 
with me. His problem, as it is 
with most people, was repeat 
behavior. Over and over, the 
same course of action  - having 
kids, expanding thereby the 
house, need for space, energy 
and work needed for doing 
that, cost and expense, etc. 
Over and over. As the kids 
aged and grew, and he and my 
mother aged and, bit by bit, 
diminished, the hole kept 
getting bigger. But nothing 
was ever done about it  -  the 
same behavior(s) remained. 
Eventually it bests and wears 
down the human animal. Needs 
and necessities  - all those kids 
growing they want schooling and 
clothes and cars, vacations, etc. 
The next you know, the black 
hole of Calcutta's got you by 
the proverbial balls.
So when I finally did get away,
I was determined to make each 
of my new places 'New'. Or
nothing at all. The city worked
well enough for what I'd sought,
as would have, I guess, Chicago
San Francisco, or London or 
Paris. Those remain unknowns. 
The way life is, it seems the
pretense of control runs things. 
I was as opposed to that as I could
be. Social planning. Cures that
are worse than the disease. The
key assumption, sadly enough, 
that everyone walks around with,
is that when something goes
wrong, someone or other must
be to blame  -  that false assumption
wipes away the workings of fate
 and fortune, the workings of
'ACT,' which is what Humanity, 
after all is all about. No one 
'handed' Adam that apple, let's 
say (using a real crummy example);
he chose to ACT for it, and did
decide to take it on his own.
Even if it did get stuck in
his throat.


Murray and Martha were always fighting.
Over a this or a something of that. One time
I heard this entire story of 'the stupid man
who takes his clothes off at night and just
throws them on the chair for the next day
and then he can't find his wallet because in
carelessly throwing down his pants the wallet
came out of the pocket and landed under the
chair well enough hidden so that for two days 
no one knew or could find it. Things ended 
up crazy all topsy-turvy but do other women
have to go through this no they don't because
I've got a lazy husband who just throws his
clothes around and doesn't think anything of
it and just figures others will clean up after him.'
It was all a modicum of strange drama while
they were trying to run a store -  a small, ground 
level candy store with other things too and a
soda-fountain where kids would sit and drink
12 cent fountain sodas for an hour at a time. 
'Does my husband do anything to move those
kids along no not a thing they just sit there 
spending their 12 cents, 12 cents mind you, 
and never leaving. Does he tell them to move
along, no? Martha they're children he says
leave them be.'


It's not that I'm absent; I'm just not here.
The field has been cleared now of all us
Civil War dead; the piles of bones and
bodies. Antietam and Chickamauga too.
Removed now, because we represented
something other, something else. One
side of the other, a major craft. Simply:
we killed to see if we'd last.
People think they can alter their thinking 
by changing their minds  -  it's not true,
and it never has been. Everyplace one
lands is a soft-landing. Until you
convince yourself it's not.


I'd like to think that Ezekial had his
hammerlock and Moses had his torch,
but I'm not so sure of either. Some
shot-put guy came down, I heard,
from that very same hill, with a
really bad disorder. I just don't
know about things.
So now the table's set for New Year's
though I look around and see there's 
nothing new at all. Those same old
half-burned candles make the same
old light in the hall.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

10,350. RUDIMENTS, pt. 180

RUDIMENTS, pt. 180
Making Cars
One time a guy walked into a
room full of my paintings (I'd
done up the walls with my
hangings), and he said, 'I like
this; these are all mineral colors.'
I hardly knew the guy except for
that afternoon, and that comment
threw me. They way he'd just
blurted it out. Like an art critic
adept. It surprised me, and then
later as I sat around I began to
realize what he meant. I don't
and didn't often approach a
painting or a work from the
angle of color. I use color, yes,
of course, and it plays a role,
but I was always more interested
in line and content. Those colorist
guys and all their abstract swirls
and blotches  - I got along with
all that, but it was never foremost.
I saw what he meant; the reds and
browns and ochres in what he'd
looked at were all earth-tones and
soil colors. So I got to work on
checking out some color theory and
history  -  we'd been taught some
of it, but I needed more. Two things
I always kept in my mind about
the early Impressionists were that
they were the first to use tube paints.
Before them artists had always mixed
their own pigments, etc, in the studio;
but for their outdoor painting habits
and 'plein aire' work, they had needed
'portable' paints. And I guess that was
a bit limiting, but I don't know. The
other cool thing was that Sisley, or
one of those guys, was the first to
have, in a painting or two, rendered
smoke stacks  -  the growth of new
industry and 'civilization,' was then
transforming the landscape in 
startling ways, smokestacks 
The impulse of listing and cataloging
got started in earnest about then; I'd
guess from the packing and tubing
of colors for sale. The only colors
known were earth colors, minerals,
and the pigments of whites and 
blacks. In the Dutch Republic, 
1600's, began the collecting of 
shells, fossils, and insects, often 
displaying them in their home
'cabinets of curiosities.' That's 
kind of when and how 'color'
research began, as they found 
bug and insect secretions and 
such with peculiar colors and 
properties: 'Lead white' was 
causing the deaths of women
who used it to enhance their pale
complexions. 'Pitch Black' was 
created, just as it says, from pitch, 
black, and it caused a sensation by 
evoking 'the most fearsome shade 
of darkness,' a shade evoking our 
fear of dying. And in between was 
created an entire rainbow of 
colors. The first 'synthetic' color 
had, actually, been made 4,000 years 
ago and was found buried (statuette) 
in a tomb on the banks of the Nile. 
At a time when the only readily 
available pigments were the 
earth-tone colors made from soil
and clay, 'Egyptian blue' became 
the first 'synthetic/inorganic pigment.' 
(The process for 'Egyptian Blue' 
apparently involved a complicated 
process of heating chalk or limestone 
with sand and a copper-containing 
mineral such as malachite. The 
first of many blues were born. 
You know that old jazz song 
standard, 'The Birth Of the Blues.' 
Hmmm, I wonder).
There were lots stories like 
this, almost one for each 
color, worldwide; each
culture had its own cherished 
hues and meanings. When we 
look a something now, no one 
usually thinks much about the
explosion of colors we live 
with. All those rainbow hues 
of plastics and auto hues, tints 
and shadings, metallics and
washes. What a different world 
has been created. I often 
wondered about all that. Color 
is never much mentioned, except
the curious incident of Joseph's 
'technicolor coat,' of many colors,
as it was put. But also I wondered
what other message to us all 
was embedded in that episode?
Was there some sort of secret 
trying to be conveyed  -  maybe
about interpreting our world, 
or the vibrancy and frequency
of things. But I don't think any
of these artists got into that aspect.
In the 17th century, the English
philosopher Francis Bacon
recommended a gruesome remedy
for the 'stanching of blood' by
the use of 'ground mummy.' The
substance bitumen, found in 
mummies, had been used as 
a medicine starting in the first 
century. Expeditions were sent
to mummy pits to supply the
apothecaries  - who sold both
curative powders AND color
pigments. It was not then so
surprising that the rich, brown
powder also then found itself
on painters' palettes. The fine 
dust was mixed with drying oil
and amber varnish and used as
translucent glazing layers for
skin tones and shadows. Most
artists did not realize that
'Mummy brown' came from
actual mummies. And there
was something called 'Gamboge'
which was the 'color of old
ear wax, which was the solidified
sap from the Garcinia tree in
Cambodia (or Camboja, as it
was once known; thus the name
'Gamboge'). When the crushed
pigment was 'touched with a 
drop of water, these toffee-brown 
blocks yielded a yellow paint so 
bright and luminous that it almost 
seemed to be fluorescent.'
So, you can see how  -  by the
way I managed it  -  almost 
everything was totally interesting 
to me and I let very little get by.
What better place to be, for that,
back then, but New York City? It's
all somewhat different now, with 
the Internet and personal resources 
that everyone has at their disposal for
any sort of investigation or educating
on subject matter; but in these late 
1960's the entire world was still
different  -  paper and pencil 
different. You needed a singular,
task-oriented, mind, and you had to
stay with that. I found much of the
key to this being 'slowness' and
'deliberation.' Going about the task 
in an almost ponderous fashion,
seeking out one thing at a time.
They city was still like that then, 
and it allowed for such dark and
brooding eccentricity. Now it's all
transformed, nervous-breakdown
style, people all running about,
phones and chatter and communication
and junk; no one paying a mind
to anything, but 'having' everything too.
It's funny, how once the idle traveler
reaches the promised land, they don't
even realize they're there. Sure
all gives me the blues.


It had to be ten in the morning. Just Jimmy
Yacullo and me. Riding two bicycles to the
Almasi Garage  -  who was his uncle. There
were five or so big trucks  -  contractor and
land-fill stuff. Route Nine buzzed overhead.
We were pretty careful on the bikes, or
careless, what the hell. Riding highways
and main streets. There were countless 
ways of having fun, which ended up 
really as nothing so much as passing 
time too. Everyone was always giving
us food. It was a sight to behold.

10,348. DRAG-LINE

I wish I was in a Hollywood
movie, where I could walk on
clouds and always be groovy;
Where that hip little chick into
my tent would slip while her guy
was away with his thugs for a day.
We'd blitzkrieg the joint with
our love and kisses : eider-down
blanket and teapot dishes. Maybe
Paul Newman would sally on by,
looking for biscuits or bullets, and
some little girlfriend or other would
find him fetching and dear.
It's always like that in some back-lot
script -  the guy with the Alfa-Romeo
and that lady in furs. Three in the
afternoon cocktail breaks, to 'discuss'
the script, the three clowns on stilts;
the fire-lady, being rolled on a cart;
the circus movie being filmed at six.


Two men who drag lumber are working the
yard. A third guy with a fork life waits.
Outside the gate, a Benz work-van sits
steaming : large and white and powerful.
This is all beneath a Winter sun which
throws out light but not much else.
I've had it said to me about life's ups
and downs; how the bio-rhythms rule
us and all the ways we make things work.
It's not that simple, truly, yet everything
we do remains a choice. Descartes had
it that by thought he confirmed his own 
existence. I believe he had that wrong.
'I act, therefore I am,' seems to suit it 
better, sings as a better song.
We are a busy bunch, making things with
hammers. All those hidebound habits keeps
us on  -  but do we recognize the hammer
without the nail alongside it? Is the concept
one alone with each? Those two men now
dragging lumber, I think they sense the
clue -  they leave behind a drag-trail
on their dry and tired earth.

Friday, December 29, 2017

10346. RUDIMENTS, pt. 179

RUDIMENTS, pt. 179
Making Cars
Poverty led me to black coffee
because milk cost extra and had
to be refrigerated. I never liked
black coffee at all. Half the time
I never even liked coffee, especially
back then when coffee was most
apt to be dead, overdone and stale
diner stuff. Mud, commonly called,
tending to gray. In 1967 there was
no awareness of coffee at all, nor
quality nor roasting nor any of that.
Let alone coffee places just for the
drinking of. Everything was in urns,
kept hot and going stale all day long.
It was terrible stuff. Drinking it
black just made it all worse. The
only public awareness of coffee was
Savarin, Maxwell House, and this
concocted coffee-inspector guy on
TV called El Exigente. Supposedly
a happy but tough-assed mule-rider
who went through the fields inspecting
beans for quality  -  good enough for
somebody. I don't even remember
what brand. It was all a crock, an
advertising jumbo-campaign. And
they of course never mentioned the
racial and labor inequalities involved;
the exploitation, slave-labor conditions,
poor or lack of wages, and the cruelty
and dangers. I was living in pretty
much an equivalency to that, except
for the labor-slavery. Drinking the crap
in these restaurants and diners was the
same as drinking swill and calling
it lunch. Funny. I saw a cartoon just
the other day. It referenced that most
miserable of coffees, Folger's  -  some
supposedly high-elevation grown
African mountain coffee. Their theme
for a while was a song that went 'the
best part of waking up is Folger's in
your cup.' The cartoon  showed a guy,
waiting for his Folger's to brew as
he wakes up, still in his night clothes,
and the caption read 'the saddest man
in the world.' It was a reference to the
crummy coffee and his assumed horrid
expectations. I used to joke a bit with
my wife (not always a real appreciator
of my humor) as she dressed. It was a
bra joke. 'The best part of waking up
is my hand in your cup'. Oh well.
I admit I was kind of stuck. I'd spend
hours of days painting, in this space
the Studio School provided  -  pretty
much I could do whatever I wanted.
Select those artists I wanted, on staff,
to meet with and work with on the
days and times they came in  -  famous
guys mostly -  not Rothko or Picasso
level, but big-deal names nonetheless.
I got to know them, and about them,
and the times they'd come through;
stories and people. The cool thing
was to learn how not a one of them
was 'merely' what their fame and
reputation made them out to be.
They all had other interests too  -
amazingly, they shared. I think that
made my life right then, all the broader
and better too. Some of them also
wrote, little self-published books
and pamphlets, poetry, outlandish
stuff. Art, and not. Concept, theory,
philosophy. Warfare, anger and
angst too. These guys were major
insurrectionists in their way. David
Hare, Milton Resnick, all that
ex-patriot and Amsterdam
stuff; they each had stories and
histories. Philip Guston was
probably the strongest of them
as far as art-reputation, but
certainly not by personal character.
He was a big, bear-like happy
guy, and it was always nice to
spend time with him. He just
never seemed to have that focus
and fierce push of the other guys.
David Hare was distant and strange.
Milton Resnick was deep and severe,
but monk-like in his reserve and
intensity. Mercedes Matter was like
everyone's loving mother. There
was a lot of Jewishness going
around, but I loved it. In fact, some
time later, I was looking to 'convert' 
-  although that's not the right word
and I wasn't really 'converting' from
anything. It was more like joining.
But I never did, mostly because of
all that serious blood-line stuff.
There's a strange piece of different
genetics, I found out, in that strain,
alien stuff almost. I knew I didn't
possess that in the manner they'd
worked out -  a worldly, very
plain mix of brooding and
obsequiousness, on the one
hand making a slave race and
on the other hand making geniuses.
I don't know what I had, but
my strain was completely different
and it was to that which I answered,
not theirs, which was old, archaic
and twisted by comparison. I think
what attracted me were the 'similarities'
in at least the manner of acceptance
of things from 'beyond.' I was probably
a part of what they'd been waiting for
all their miserable and tortured years,
as weird and wild as all theirs was.
And I wasn't ready for any of that.
I'd also read that Jewish females
were crazy, self-possessed charmers,
always gushing with sexuality like
that were still in Genesis 6. That
seemed pretty true, though I'd
never find out  -  I just let
that entire thing go and remain
a mystery to me. Life had plenty
of mysteries for me, and I still
can't figure out a tenth of what
the heck is going on. Sex included.
It's all beyond me. I just figured
it was always good to be lusty.
A lot of this Art stuff got very
rabbinical anyway  -  secret readings
and meanings with reinterpretations
and ritual reverences and, almost,
secret words. Mystery abounded and
people had roles. There were 'parts'
reserved for this person or that person.
Mark Rothko had been a crazy zealot,
in both Art and religion, and the rest
weren't far behind. They all liked to
pretend they possessed that brash, worldly
strain of caring for nothing, but it was
all an untruth. Underneath, they were
answering to G-d alone and no other.
It was very strange, and sort of did
knock me over. There were plenty
of lessons to take from all that. New
York City, all along the lower east
side where i was, had plenty of
synagogues, in every state of use
or non-use, disrepair and damage.
Milton Resnick, among others, had 
in fact  purchased an old, abandoned
synagogue and that was his studio,
and his wife's too. He wasn't alone
in doing that. This area once teemed
with conclaves of Jews, every different
locale. Bialystok, Poland, for instance,
being one, had a synagogue of that
name (Bialystok) and to that the
immigrant Bialystokers owed their
allegiance. And gave it. All of that
permeated the area. The whole
world was turning secular. Girls
and boys were running around
with nothing or little on. Yet these
older folk were deep, deep in their
traditions and shawls and religion,
and stayed that way. it was a
delicate balancing indeed.