Monday, February 6, 2017


The poet e. e. cummings 
(who never used capital letters),
had written two things  -
not poems, just little quips  -
that I liked. The first one was
'The first and most exciting
sign that Spring had really
come was the balloon man.
First you herd his whistle
in the distance.' And the
other one was 'The difference
between a business man
and an artist is this : the
business man lives in a
world which is completely
outside him. That's his
reality. When that world
collapses, he collapses.
But the artist never
turns a hair. Why?
Because the artist's
country is inside him.'
Both, and either, of
those could certainly
make a person's day.
Or sure did anyway
for me. Cummings had
lived at Patchin Place,
nearby. At number 4.
Patchin Place was,
and still is, one of
those small gated
nowhere streets
that weren't even
really streets. Just
alleys or lanes to
nowhere, which
ran behind or
between other
buildings  -  servant's
quarters once, places
where the horses were
kept, carriage houses,
all slowly turned into
living quarters. In the
1940's, another great
American poet, oddly
enough named Kenneth
Patchen, lived there too
-  in Patchin Place,
as a neighbor of the
Cummings'. (He later
left there, and died in
the 1960's I think, in
Palo Alto, California).
No cars at all in this
iteration of Patchin
Place. It was, as I said,
gated, and only accessible
by foot. I always wished,
yeah, all my heart, to
be able to be someone
living in one of these
places  - Washington
Mews, Sniffen Court,
Patchin Place, and
there were others.
High time for all
this ended about
1924, from then
on it was all
downhill, with
automobiles  -  as
they advanced and
grew  -  taking over
everything and
most especially
screwing up and
despoiling these
sorts of little
places in the city.
Grace goes right
out the window.
Bam-boom, there
you go and wouldn't
you know it : I end
up in a 1949 birth
hole and get trounced
around to some
sick-ass suburb of
blight and frenzy.
It always led me
to the belief that
alternate life-versions
have memories too,
even the stuff that
didn't happen. I know
I had memories
of it all.
So I'd walk around
in a mad-mind
daze of my own.
 I owned this
place, and very
few others were
ever let in. I was
so in love with
the destitute and
the broken. It was
from them that,
in these walks
and musings, I
was able to draw
 my strength and
creativity, a real
which drew energy
from a form of
'resistance' to all
the globbed-up
mess I'd see before
me. And I was
always finding
stuff too, to bolster
my beliefs. From 1866,
I found, once, in
The Nation, an article
by some guy named
Bayard Taylor, a
poet and traveler
in these same depths,
a hundred years
previous. Amazingly, he
pu it thusly: "Everywhere
the same crowd of
unwashed humanity,
the same rags and filth,
the same stifling
atmosphere. The
men are either abject,
besotted, and reckless
creatures, or criminals
of a low and cowardly
order; the women are
coarse and hard-featured,
and having for the
most part their
mouths full of
vitriol and beastly
words." That was
so good.
I found myself thriving
on all that, convincing
myself that no 'present'
existed at all. If there
is no 'fabric' to the time
which we walk through,
or convince ourselves that
we're walking through,
then what we're doing is
walking though imagination,
which goes backwards, 
and forwards as well, but
which never really gets
to a now, which is always
rolling off of it in one
direction or another.
To put it bluntly : Fred
Flinstone or Buck Rogers,
though both of those pasts
and future too are false. 
Face it, theoretically it's
nothing we can ever grasp.
My conceptual goal was to
prove to myself that all
items are momentary, and
are chimerical as well.
We're all just here waiting
for the elevator, and perhaps,
or perhaps not, we get to
select that up or down 
button ourselves. I won't 
know until it's over, so 
bear with me. 
More than any of that,
what used to really un-nerve
me, or annoy me, were all
the do-gooders who seemed
always to be coming forward.
Not a bad word about anything,
all things being 'equal' to them
and without judgment. This 
city was full of them, some 
carrying signs. I always
stayed away, as much as
I could. But they were
there : ban the bomb, no
Vietnam, Johnson and
McNamara blow; a 
hundred variations on 
the theme. Like today. 
None of my friends
or acquaintances really 
ever cared about those
 things much. We 
were always on 
a quest for something 
else; and that's NOT
 like today, when 
everyone's together 
and caught up in the
same slough, as one,
 all claiming to want
the same thing. Why?
Just because they do, that's
why. The difference exists, 
because we lived in an 
adult world, then. 
Now it's all infantile, 
everything is infantile.
The entire world has
become a cartoon.
Bubbly, chubby, tattoo'd
people, reading kiddie
fiction as literature. 
Like a baby  -  
everyone cries, 
no one wants to 
be hurt or left 
out, no sensible 
reason for any of 
this is ever brought 
up except the broadly 
general 'reason' of
'who' you want to be 
with. Your new pal.
To look good. 
That's about the 
the end of it, which 
is the same as a 
do-gooder's end. 
Even old Henry 
David Thoreau, 
big-time idealist, 
peace-guy galore,
he had his say in
this muck. But first, 
I always found, or
I had to learn, that 
the best way to get 
your point across 
is to just go at 
someone, head-on, 
rephrase their 
question, turn 
it to argument, 
flip it back and 
present it to them 
differently. Then 
they suddenly see 
how stupid it is, 
and how foolish
they look.  And by
really even refusing 
to accommodate their
premise, you blanche
their question, right 
off. Like this quote, 
I found it from 
Henry Thoreau 
once, and it 
nearly made me 
spit up. He took 
a noble concept 
and reduced it 
to freaking absurdity, 
without ever realizing 
how foolish he looked.
Boy, if I was there 
I'd have given it 
right back to him, 
and shredded him 
good. It was such 
a weak, do-gooder 
point of view that 
it made me think 
he was either 
play-acting gay 
or just weak and 
never had lifted 
anything heavier 
than a book. Here's 
the crud he spoke : 
He was talking about 
the NYC Almshouse, 
newly created for 
the poor, and 
moved to new 
headquarters on 
Blackwell's Island, 
in the East River. 
The conditions just 
as quickly were
there found also to 
be squalid,  repressive, 
and harsh, not doing 
the poor much good 
at all. Thoreau  -  
somehow concerning 
himself with this 
issue  -  willing as 
ever to play the 
fool and make an 
unwelcome point, 
saw in the experience 
of the almshouse inmate, 
in 1854, a potential 
source of hope. "You 
may perhaps have 
some pleasant, thrilling, 
glorious hours, even 
in a poorhouse. The 
setting sun is reflected 
from the windows of 
the almshouse as 
brightly as from 
the rich man's 
abode; the snow 
melts before its 
door as early in 
the Spring. I do 
not see but a quiet 
mind may live 
as contentedly 
there, and have 
as cheering thoughts, 
as in a palace." 
Yes, yes, thought 
I, and get that 
man to his cloister, 
and quickly too.

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