I'm planning next semester's Rhetoric class fiasco. I've decided that our text will be the Necronomicon (pictured above), with a few grimoires thrown in as supplemental texts. If things go well, by the end of the semester we'll have overthrown the linear-machinist matri-world and reinstated Mama Gaia's Dada Pure Land Chicken Shack!
29 December 2008
I'm back in my bourgeoisie rented home here in the I.C., after a thousand+ mile journey to the Great North Woods with my family and dog (who is family). And five minutes ago Ma Mayor showed up on my doorstep, wielding an "official warning" that, if I don't removed the 4" of ice from my sidewalk out front within 24 hours, they'd slap a $50 fine on me "so quick it's not even funny." And so I said, "word," grabbed a bucket of salt and commenced to salting and chipping, hacking and cursing for the next two hours. "Eff this," I decided, emptying out the last of the toxic ice, "I'm going inside and listen to the new Dylan." Outside, the salt worked its mojo while ice calves sauntered down into the drainage ditch to the click-click of Ma Mayor's boot heels.
16 December 2008
13 December 2008
The semester is over & done with. And it doesn't matter that I have a tall stack of final papers awaiting grades, or 44 Final Grades to dispense. Somehow it all feels incidental, no big deal, a simple chore.
Going up again was really fun this time around. My story sparked lots of lively discourse about the old "dividing line between prose and poetry" and so on. Someone called my latest story "a failed experiment." Someone else said it was "impressive." Another person said "I hope you don't get lost in your own voice." And so on.
Afterwards, we all ate together. And I brought some homebrews and a giant salad with pine nuts. Around 8:45 p.m. or so, after my gut was filled with Bolognese, I said, "Gotta git, y'all" (as I tend to really miss Janelle & Ella when I'm away for too long). Something about being surrounded by all these young, vibrant, beguiling writers. It makes me happy for them, and also thankful that I'm where I'm at in life. (I was worried about this at the outset. I wondered, "Jesus, surrounded by all these young, vibrant, beguiling writers, will I feel useless and spent?" Answer: No. Not so much. Young geniuses don't appear that different from youngsters in general, whose time is a time of energy, but also a time of trial and error and more errors and still more errors. And it's all one big trial...ultimately, it's not that interesting.)
There are untold wonders in this little settlement of ours - wonders that dwarf anything I ever read in any book or poem. I'm glad we came to Iowa. There are many good things here, now that I stop to look around.
07 December 2008
Revisions, revisions, revisions. My latest story is complete & in the hopper for next week's (final) workshop. It's a weird story about a real-life lynching that happened in Mobile in 1981. I added some schizophrenia, a few baby alligators, a dude named "Country," and a son thirsting for a fatherly connection. The story ("Portrait") went through many revisions, iterations, and permutations. Finally, I distilled it all into something that flows and feels right. We'll see what the Workshop has to say about it next Tuesday. Until then, I'm coasting on an "end of the semester" vibe, and working on some poems.
03 November 2008
On this day in 1932, air was invented by Dr. Levi Stroheim. Prior to his discovery, which was entirely accidental, humans did not breathe. Our air sacs lay empty and shriveled inside our rib cages, like deflated mylar balloons. And then, one glorious afternoon, Levi Stroheim, while preparing a ham sandwich in his basement, discovered air. “My God!” he probably said, with a dab of 1932 mayonnaise hanging from his moustache. He inhaled his discovery deeply and, voila, suddenly he was breathing. Luckily for the rest of us, he decided to share his discovery with the world, first hawking “Miracle Aire” at the World’s Fair in little blue bottles. Then in free science symposiums. He hoped to secure a contract and patent, but it was too late. Air spread quickly, and soon everyone was respiring like mad, expelling carbon dioxide, which made the plants grow with great vigor and produce even more oxygen for even more breathable air. It was a veritable air renaissance. Human lungs, long a pointless appendage, were transformed into valuable apparatuses! All of a sudden, the world was inhaling and exhaling. The year was 1932. I was twelve years old, half-boy, half-goat, and had just gotten back from the War. This was also the same year I met Mathilde & had unselfish sex for the very first time
21 October 2008
I voted (early) today. Then I came home, worked on a story, & graded some papers. At one point, my downstairs neighbor (remember - I live on the top floor of a duplex) started rutting with his girlfriend. Her shrieks of, well, delight had no problem permeating the drywall and my skull. I listened, amazed, for a couple minutes, then turned on The Pogues.
My downstairs neighbor (one of 'em anyway) is a guy named "Bo," recently discharged from the ARMY. He now wears color-coordinated hip-hop outfits and a hat forever cocked sideways. His girlfriend, name unknown, is often seen traipsing across the front lawn at odd hours of the day and night, usually in skin tight hotpants, flip-flops, and a spaghetti-strap thingie...or whatever. She looks really young, so I've nicknamed her "Jailbait."
So, yeah, Bo & Jailbait were going at it and I was blasting The Pogues and the bowl of cereal I had just eaten was sitting grim in my stomach when I remembered - for whatever reason - that Bo told me he was a sniper in the ARMY. "I could take the wings off a horsefly at 500 yards," he never said to me, but he would say if my life was not an actual human life but instead a dumb movie about a life.
Sometimes a still life presents itself and you are there to witness it. Perhaps you are even there to photograph it. How many still life's are happening right now, unobserved? Unrecorded? Unsketched? Unphotographed? Quadrillions, I'd say, on this very block alone. Especially if you count microscopic ones. Fact is, a still life is a record of what happens when you're not around. And that reminds you of your death, which is why still life's are so annoying. And yet...there's something nice about not being around. The sun don't rise & fall on yr existence. And that's a beautiful-horrible thing.
Eleanor in a pair of cowboy boots that I once wore when I was her age.
Eleanor making a case for Westward Expansion.
Eleanor in search of bacon and libation.
Elanor not takin' any shit from the beourgeoisie.
Eleanor singin' them freedom songs.
Eleanor ridin' the rails from here to Chicago.
In Spokane they calls her Kid Supreme.
Ella, my heart if it were scrubbed clean of all imperfection.
Crazy Cub stomps left, then right.
Eleanor ain't tryin' to hear yr mess.
Eleanor stirs the hive of the gods with her eyes.
A few years ago, I got bit by the "political activism" bug. I discovered the radical Left, really, for the very first time and said to my man Paul, "I wanna learn Robert's Rules Of Order and shit, ya know? Make a stand, et al, etc." And the sun had set and it was Winter in Colorado and snowflakes were stacking themselves into blankets and embankments, incomprehensible to the impotent old human eye, set in front of the brain like a sparkling dumb diamond of recompense.
Paul did not smoke a cigarette, did not join me in that, but said, "Man, you chase that rabbit down if that's what you need to do." Meanwhile, his dog Ingrid, a sleek, fibrous animal of much wile and sideways cunning, scrabbled over the 10 foot privacy fence that separated one backyard from another, for the fourth time in two days. "Goddamnit, Ingrid," Paul said, then shuffled off into the neighbor's backyard, calling out Ingrid's name - "Ingrid! In-grid!" - while the snow fell on my Leftist ideals. By Spring, Ingrid was back, everything had melted and I was a pure American capitalist again.
This photo's for my man T.M., a fellow workshopper who knows what the tick-tock is and, along with his esposita, is raising a daughter of his own. More importantly, though, he knows what the tick-tock is and tosses off weird short stories about dystopic, toxic old men fighting gigantic roosters in tropical climes. Guy's on fire, reminds me of Ichabod Crane crossed with a young Hunter Thompson, and is working on his 3rd novel at present - a maritime war adventure of some kind. Part of the Workshop's Illuminati, mystery cult figure, fellow father afire in the Kali Yuga. And so never let me say I'm alone in this world.
It's tough to disentangle oneself from one's entanglements. Me - I don't know where I stop and my obsessions start. I assume that a golden cord of some kind ties it all together, but maybe that's just magical thinking. Either way, going up was fine, fun, and fruitful. So was coming back down. The fam atomic spent last weekend in Minnesota, which is beautiful this time of year. Got "away from it all" for a minute on the shores of Lake Minnetonka and now I'm working on a story about a man named Robert navigating the dead worlds of schizophrenia. It's important to know one's subject matter, after all...and I know crazy like I know my own mind.
03 October 2008
I "go up" today, which is workshop parlance for "today one of my short stories will be workshopped by various geniuses, including one Marilynne Robinson." In a way, it's easier to be workshopped than to workshop. Being workshopped means I sit silently while the class discusses my short story - its strengths, flaws, and inconsistencies. It also means I sit quietly and practice a kind of meditation on nonattachment to external validation...which ain't exactly a new practice for me. But I've never done it quite like this before. It's not Clash of the Titans or anything, but today the inner dilettante meets his inner/outer Rinzai Zen warrior monk...which should be interesting.
28 September 2008
Iowa mornings are beautiful. Even when I'm hacking up phlegm, wrapped in a blanket, standing barefoot on the cold concrete stoop out front, watching Stella take a long slow leak on her favorite juniper bush. I look up to the skies and squint - for without eyeglases or contacts, my world is a pointillist Mondrian's world - & I see various North Stars, moons, poltergeists of activity, sunlight tipping out from the East, and cloud fragments tinged celestial-menstrual redgold, trying to escape.
Later, as I bike to school, the sky has shed its skin and become a new sky. Nothing celestial-menstrual about it. It's an inverted lake now, bottomless blue, thick with invisible gods. It's an earthen sky. It's an atmosphere. It's untouchable air blowing arpeggios down upon this plant and animal world.
Teaching my two classes of rhetoric this semester has been an exercise in discomfort, mind-numbing oration, and the destruction of countless hours of valuable time (spent not writing, but course planning, paper-grading and other pointless tasks of the academia grindhouse). After an agonizing re-appraisal - and a particularly helpful fireside chat with a fellow writer who ran through the same gauntlet last year - I decided to lay down the actual factuals for my students today.
I told them: You don't want to be here; I don't want to be here. This class sucks. Big public universities are little more than breeding grounds for the (expletive) boring, middle-class, track-housing-dwelling automatons you're all destined to become. Up until now, I have been operating as more or less of an agent of the (expletive) conformation and heart-removal process set up to destroy you, which is just an extension of high school and all the other institutional forms of control that you've been passed through - like some kind of raw material - since you were born. You're excited to have made it to the University of Iowa? Don't be. This (expletive) school - like most schools - doesn't really want you to be empowered and excited about change. It wants you to clam up, color between the lines, spit back rehearsed answers, and endure the prolonged insult to the soul that is institutionalized education. The teacher-as-authority-figure's job is to enforce this process. As a result, most of you are pretty boring. You're bored and you're boring, and I'm bored with all of us, including myself.
It was a good day.
The last full moon, which brought us Autumn. Here in the North Country, the leaves are fading, turning, falling. There's a chill in the air. And amidst all the collegiate inebriatations and apple bakes inspired by the chiller temps, Halloween decorations have started to appear on windows and doors. Halloween's the hippest of all holidays, and it's also Me & J's wedding anniversary, so I dig seeing that. I also dig seeing Mama Moon in all her plenitude, gracing the earthlings with money shots of her Great White Belly, laughing above the power lines.
27 September 2008
We spent yesterday evening out on the town, so we could partake in U of Iowa's Homecoming Festivities, but mostly so we could see n' hear a still-got-his-mojo-workin', eighty-one year old Chuck Berry take to a makeshift stage downtown and rock out with the ancient riffs he perfected fifty years ago. We also got to see a quaint little parade. When the Veterans Against The War came marching down Iowa Street in the golden drip of sunset, people lost their minds cheering, roaring, amber leaves falling. Janelle & I were filled with a sense of actual hope for actual sanity in the world, if only for that majikal fifteen seconds. Same treatment, though, for the Johnson County Democrats, the Students For Obama, and the Save Iowa's Rivers organization. A sustained feeling of possibility spanned the crowd, in other words, which was an all-around proud finale to the first five weeks of the semester. Five down, ten to go...