Sunday, August 6, 2017

9809. RUDIMENTS, pt. 34

Making Cars
There might have been a time you
could have caught me dead drunk
myself, say at Peter McManus, on
17th and 7th, I think it is; or
McSorley's, or Hogs, or Sidewalk,
or  -  oh why should I go on. That's
what earlier life is for. We all have
our own nightmares and memories
tucked away in that kangaroo pouch
of heart we all wear. I don't regret
mine; no, actually what I regret is
this modern day and all its crap
and all its people.
If you remember, three or four
chapters back, that old Polish guy
with the concentration camp numbers
on his forearm, the guy I'd see each
morning at his corner, well, he never
spoke a word. If there were regrets
or problems, I guess he had absorbed
them all. Internalized the infraction,
in psychological terms, so as to make
something else from it all, whatever
it may have been, in  order to salvage
the life left. Otherwise he'd spend his
time, I guess, just mourning all that
he'd seen. It's a sort of nervous, creative
energy, in spite of all  -  and I'd be willing
to bet it was something he didn't even
know he had or was working with. I
had it too. It was, of course, completely
different from his, and by any comparison
I was a gutter-snipe compared to that
poor man. In my fashion, I'd awakened
one day, like a pilgrim lost, in some
other, magical land I'd only imagined,
or heard about, or dreamed. Nothing I
was brought up with had ever prepared
me for the cauldron of swirling vapor
I'd dropped myself in to; I didn't want
to burn or get scalded. My passport was
still punched 'Origination : Avenel.' And
to where I was going, it didn't yet say.
So, whatever time is, that time evolved.
Like a pliable form in a wind-tunnel of
experimentation, I slowly too shape; by
the buffeting and through the streamlining
of what passed over me, that was the
shape I began to take  -  fortunately for
me guided and watched over by, none
other than, myself! Guaranteed payout,
I was hoping. No mistakes and no bad bets.
What goes best with alcohol? Why, art, of
course, or so it seemed. Most everyone I
ever met, if not drinking then, needed about
ten minutes to be doing so. It facilitated
everything and made everything easier too:
bravado, carping, complaining. overtalking,
fighting, or brawling at least, loving, and
of course, it always made more drinking
easier. It made men careless and women
slipshod and easy. Art-babes and men with
sticks and brushes. How much American art
going on about me was really just the
resultant smear of Jack Daniels, I never
knew  -  though I could think of a few
painters who may as well have signed their
paintings in that manner. Also, and very
important too, it made Hamptons men who
aimed fast cars at trees perfect shot. A
bulls-eye each time. Death seals careers,
it caps achievement, it outs an end to doubt
and expectation too. Undertakers finalize the
last viewing, so to speak, while the gallery
guys do the same. But they think of it as the
first-viewing instead, in a soon-to-be-long
and growing second life.
One time I went up to Ithaca, New York.
Not drunk, I got there with two solid feet.
The rest of the world was on fire; I wasn't
Along the way I was reading Tocqueville,
one of these experiences he wrote about
of his visit all across early America. A
Frenchy's view of the new (old) continent.
Ithaca and that, together, had filled my head
with ideas of new things and what to do.
Whatever the late 60' were, at that point.
The weirdness of Ithaca had embraced it;
Cornell was a tinderbox, people were
rioting and screaming, and the crazies  -
black and white  -  had basically shut the
whole place down, learning be damned,
and up yours. If I felt like anyone right
there and then, it was Thorstein Veblen.
Anyway, Tocqueville's companion in this
travel had written (they were right then
traveling west from Albany : "I was saying
that the whole country is but a forest. I
might add that everywhere a clearing is
to be seen, which is rare enough, that
clearing is a village. They give to these
villages the most celebrated names of
ancient or modern cities, such as Troy,
Rome, Liverpool..." And Ithaca, all
28,000 people of it. A history professor
there, L. Pearce Williams, when asked
what he thought might be the first thing
Tocqueville noticed if he were to return
now (1968) said 'Totalitarian Democracy.'
He meant that America had been taken
over, and that underneath all those false
celebrations of diversity, individualism
and freedom, was a huge mistaken notion.
'Men's main opinions become alike as the
conditions of their lives become alike...
though any one of them could part company
with the rest and work out his own beliefs,
in the end they all concur, unconsciously 
and unintentionally, in a certain number 
of common opinions. It must be rare, in
a democracy for a man suddenly to conceive 
a system of ideas far different from those
accepted by his contemporaries; and I
suppose that, even should such an innovator
arise, he would have great difficulty in
making himself heard to begin with, and 
even more in convincing people."
I did used to sit around bars sometimes,
Jonathan Swift's was the best for this, and,
at their grand, old wooden tables, the places 
like Swift's anyway which were set up for 
those sorts of environments, and, nursing 
slow beer after beer, remain for hours, 
reading and writing. This was all, remember,
pre-laptop, pre- computer and smartphone
and ANY of that at all. I'm not sure what 
people do now, if they do anything of that 
sort at all, but all these bar-scene places, 
oddly enough, have mostly been replaced 
with coffee shops, sometimes even more
grand, and with writing tables and all the
other amenities, where people now sit for 
hours at large wooden table, writing and 
typing and otherwise Internet-communicating, 
with coffee after coffee. Same world, 
different world, who knows and who 
cares? (Well anyway, it's not really coffee
after coffee either; it's more like some 
crazy, sweetened, foam drink which 
may or may not even be tan or brown.
Frappa-Cappa Majoretto).
Lastly, thinking back over those (fine) times,
all those 1968 drinkers and bar-sitters and the
rest, me included, they were all 'singularities.'
Each was a one, enclosed and pretty much 
private, lost in space or heavy-out on their 
own endeavor, whichever the case may be;
inspecting, experiencing, and understanding 
the time and the world and the big, roiling 
city of the damned (but not damned city?)
by themselves. Not one of them was a joiner.
They rather squeeze you to death than be a
sort of whatever swoon you were undergoing.
That's why people drank. Nowadays, by a certain
form of contrast, everyone's a joiner, wanting
to do something grouped, massed, as a foaming
unit. Whatever are you going to get done that
way? Nothing really, except dilution and 
washing out. Totalitarian democracy,
as someone had put it.

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