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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

False Start Friday (Wednesday)

It feels a bit previous writing a False Start Friday here on Wednesday but there are three reasons for doing so. I wanted to take advantage of Suze's project before her December hiatus, so she can see it and perhaps respond before 2013 when we may expect the pleasure of her renewed company. Secondly, it's a very rainy Wednesday and my indoor fun has included perusing back-pages and old photos. Lastly, it is not always fun for me to find old photos. So many precious people I knew then are no longer with us and that makes me blue. Not the case with this pic. I googled everybody and they're still in the game.

This photo was taken maybe 1977-78. I remember riding my motorcycle (our family's second car then) downtown from work, about 9:30 p.m., to Barbara Crockett's Sacramento Ballet School, found her stowing tutus in trunks and indulging in a cigarette. Last I heard --April of last year-- she was still involved part-time with the studio at age 90. Barbara isn't detectable in the photo because she was bustling around in the background faster than the speed of light. Also found Evan Nossoff, photographer and performance artist, with his camera and lights set up. Beside Evan was Victoria Dalkey, poet, artist, journalist. Beside her was Jim Leitzell, artist and musician.

We were there to take promo shots for a performance in which we all figured. As I recall, it took place at the YWCA and my notes were sketchy.  I found some pieces I used that night that were neither polished nor final, qualifying as "False Starts", but they allowed great volume and emphasis on humor so I included them then and here:


Not to be outdone, she purchased a Renoir.
"Yes," I said from vista points in her gown. "Restoration can be tiresome."

And she fluttered and bossomed, remembering those frequent visits to the studio. I told her Renoirs need regular tune-ups.

"Every time I get mine back, something else goes wrong with it!" said the pillow man in tights.

El Presidente arrived in a three-year-old Picasso. "It's lemons in the still-lifes." He declared, "Traded mine in on this little number. Not a lick of trouble yet!"

I grabbed another drink and waited for the assassination, but wondered, is this about beauty or truth? Is that all I need know? Something voluptuated out of her gown. I sat a little closer.

"I grew my fingernails out just to scrape the crud off your teeth," she said breathily. Like a fool, I fell for it.

El Presidente stepped on my hand. "That's an old line, kid. Shouldna fell for it."

Or is truth beauty? I still can't tell. But I didn't notice El Presidente sticking pins in the map until his face appeared in the sky over California. I'm not sure what Renoir would say but suspect the composition suggested tragedy.

"He's right!" said an odd bulge in the carpet. It moved.

"Assassin!" we all cried and pillow man led us outside where we tied up El Presidente safely in the path of a glacier.

                                      CHAPTER XXVI, A NARROW ESCAPE!

           The ancient and cavernous sunset thawed from its frozen station.
           The young couple, motoring gravely on a slant of unfallen rain,
           heard the horizon begin to fry.
          "Must be Summer," said the young man as he lifted the young
          lady out of the auto just before it fell out of the sky.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


In the illustration above, I am at a gathering in the beautiful home of people close to me. It is spacious and likable. I like my house too but, from certain angles, it looks like it crawled out of a hole and is up to no good.  My home is small by comparison and sometimes out of whack, so I am happy and refreshed by this gathering. I post myself beside an open window and utter imbecilities.

Newly emerged from a protracted state of maladjustment (during which I saw specialists! Had procedures!) I resolved not to talk about it. I would not permit myself! I say instead:

"Basmati? Yes, I love all sports cars."
"There is a theory that hummingbirds drink espresso all night."
"Until television, I had no idea cats had two ears."
"From Barbie Dolls children learn to wiggle their heads until they fall off."
"After much thought, I voted for him because he's cute as a button."

Then I am alone, beside a window, pondering the origin of whack. Whack goes back, way back, before Miami Vice (in which Don Johnson played Jed Clampett), before fashion and confection fused, back to when our leaders shambled up to our holes, full of strange enthusiasms, and demanded marksmanship.

"You can't make us do anything," we grunted. "We're out of whack!"

Then we'd wag our hairy heads at them until they fell off.  At this point, I realize I have garrulated and a still, small voice from there or here taunts: "Oh great, what if everybody else was like you?"

To which I can only reply, there is nobody else like me --even I can't always do it.

You have to be in whack.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Word List 16

                                                   [Norma photo]

From the Latin, pluvia, pertaining to the action of rain. In this case, it is less a prediction than a demand  made by Norma with her garden slate, a pluvial demand. Her garden must have pluie, no later than noon! Her demands are always reasonable. I recognize this. The universe recognizes this. By late morning, her slate turned into an example of our next word.

A pluviometer is an instrument indicating the presence and intensity of rain. The slate will be cleared. Will she respond by dashing out to write "merci" upon it? No. This would entail a sweater, a coat, a hat, and she would complain of feeling "bunchy", so I think not. It is, after all, as much her universe as she is its, so no further niceties are required. We, all of us, are expressions in the the language of the universe: Nature. We say only what is needed --Bon, pluie-- or if we are ducks who speak Latin, "Qua qua!" (English translation...oh never mind).

Quaquaversal means dipping down from the center in all directions. Locally, one considers time passing through the universe in a linear pageant of one damn thing after another, but this is not generally true.  Things appear from a fog of virtuality by combination of observation and encounter. We navigate our ways through the plenum by interacting with clouds of massless virtual particles called photons. We receive no information about the universe smaller than a photon. The light from the campfire you sang "Kumbayah" around is now helping alien plants grow around Alpha Centauri and beyond. So,

Assume we move through time 
In all directions, like ducks
Sliding quaquaversally 
Down a sloppy knoll,
Each self-contained,
Abdominous and barely 
Brained, but together
Comprising a whole--
Who knows what for?-- 
But a whole, and a
Whole bunch more.




Thursday, November 15, 2012

False Start Friday

Suze at Subliminal Coffee has organized a project called False Start Friday. She says, "It's so writers can haul out their shelved stash." Image above is one I abstracted from her site. I use it to signal my back page, and I like the idea of bookstores with cats in them. Time was, finding a book was a regional experience. You can identify people from that era by their frequent use of the phrase, "time was."

Time was, I used to do readings in bookstores, and bars, art galleries --poems and humor for small presses. I remember writing a first version of this in '72, delivering another version at Los Olmecas Gallery in '74, a final version for a tv show in '77, so I guess it qualifies as a "False Start" that never emerged from a state of flux. I am happy to retire it to this blog. It's called Gideon and I no longer have any idea what it means.


It was morning and I searched for Gideon. Called his house and his wife answered.

"He's been up all night." She said, "studying for a hearing test."

It was time to track him down. Gideon once wrote his address on the backs of my eyelids but it was morning and the light was bad in there.

Knocked at the first door I came to: "Gideon home?"

"He is not here," cried Quasimodo from the bell tower. "He has risen."

Wrong house. I caught a bus headed south. When I arrived in Bakersfield I looked up his brother, Don.

"Don," I said. "Have you seen Gideon?"

"No but he called last night, allowed he was headed for Mexico to drink tequila for ten years today."

"Any idea why?"

"Said Catechism."

"Catechism? For what? In what city? The jungle? Border town? A fishing village? Where, Don, where?

"Not his keeper. Need a cage, cheap?"

I panicked and went straight to the police: "You can't miss him, Sergeant. His eyes are initials carved in ancient oak. His body twists the firmament like a planet gone mad. His hair is thunder turning above battles and, when the moon rises, his hands are white curling fog."

"As a matter of fact," said the sergeant. "A man of that description was seen hitch-hiking in the Mojave just this morning."

I came upon Gideon in the desert. He was prostrate in the sand and I had thought him dead until he stirred and whispered, "I thirst."

So I gave him my canteen and said, "Why, Gideon, in heaven's name why?"

To which he struggled to his knees and answered, "You know I'm only looking for a contact lens."

Then I too kneeled and joined the search.


Now that I'm posting this, I remember Willie was at Los Olmecas that night. I was surprised because he'd been working in Spain, Southern California, then Santa Cruz and I hadn't seen him in years, which reminds me searches for meaning used up more shoe leather back then. Or maybe that's just my imagination. Then again, maybe that's what Gideon was about.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Interview With An Author

I don't ordinarily conduct interviews with authors but found this one in my pajamas this morning. I took it as a positive sign and invited him to coffee on the back porch. He declined a cup of his own and proceeded to drink out of mine, which prompted my first question.

Geo.: Why on earth are you doing that?

Ibid.:  Earth, you say. If we expect any sustained happiness on this planet we must learn to make do with a well-used minimum.

Geo.:  And your definition of happiness is?

Ibid.: Well, as my book says:
"Why I am laughing:
My hearing's gone,
My nerves are shot,
My bucket is empty
And I hate these sandals.
There are worse definitions
Of happiness."

Geo.: An appropriate excerpt.

Ibid.: Not an excerpt. That's the entire text of the book.

Geo.: Oh dear, you've caught me out. I haven't read it.

Ibid.: Now you don't have to. Terrible coffee. I love it.

Geo.:  I make it myself. But let's move on to your pseudonym.

Ibid.: What pseudonym?

Geo.: Ibid., an abbreviation of Ibidem, meaning "in the same place". I take it, then, your parents were Latin scholars.

Ibid.: No, auctioneers actually. They named me with their two favorite words, words that promised profit and commission. My grandfather, however, was quite old and Latin was his first language. He lived with us and imparted much in the way of sage advice.

Geo.: Such as?

Ibid.: "Canis reversus ad suum vomitum." After which he would barf and have a good cackle in the chimney corner.

Geo.: Let's talk about the cover photo, shall we?

Ibid.: Yes, the photo was taken in 1972 but my publisher thought I looked a bit young. It was left with a retouching artist who spent the next 40 years aging my image. During this time, I revised the manuscript according to guidelines set out by Henry David Thoreau: "Simplify, simplify, simplify". Of course this invites one to cross out the two superfluous simplifys and just get to it. As a result, my manuscript was pared down from ten volumes to 26 words.

Geo.: And where may we find this book, Ibid?

Ibid.: On the blog, Invalid's Workshop, May 23, 2012.

Geo.: But that's my blog!

Ibid.: Indeed, shall we brush each other's  teeth now?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


I woke dreaming of Mary. It is election day. I thought of her pulling the plow while Grampa steered and I broke clods with my feet. It is 1955. I fall in front of her and hear my grandfather's voice.

"Whoa Mary! Ah cu  diabo!"

I see her giant hoof an inch from my face, stock-still, suspended.  She steps back and I see her concern. Time has stopped.

"Hello Geo."

I quote the title of the violin solo my eldest sister has been practicing incessantly for a month.

"Ave Maria."

"Your grampa is very frightened. When time starts again he will snatch you up and walk you back to the house. He will not say you fell, or that I nearly mashed you, only that you need a nap."

"Is Grampa mad at me, Mary?"

"No, Grandma will yodel 'mau menino!' as she always does but she really thinks of you as a monkey. Grampa never yodels, never gets mad. Grandma thinks he is a monkey too."

"I'm frightened, Mary."

At this point, Mary sang me a little song in her low voice that sounded just like Charles Trenet:

She said, "There are many worrisome things, Geo., but the world and the human heart can both go BOUM and send gremlins scattering. You'll see elections as parades of gremlins promising ends to mischief they've created or blaming others for not fixing it. That's when you try hardest to be happy and whole. That's what the song says. And, 60 years from now, you'll have had enough world and heart troubles to see the efficacy of this method."

"I don't know how to count that high, Mary."

"Little boy, you'll forget this dream just as you forget Portuguese, just as you learn English, French and Gardening. You are a citizen of the universe. I have advised you and, in  the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the horse is a symbol of the universe."

"You are the universe?"

"Yes, monkey, and be glad you're looking at my front end."

Thursday, November 1, 2012

My Scary Halloween Story!

Saturday morning I woke from a nightmare in which my brother Frank appeared to me and announced he'd been replaced by the Euro. Before evaporating, he remarked I looked feverish and ought to drink plenty of fluids. I rose to a weekend in the throes of a virus. After all the nostologic problems I have dealt with this summer and fall I was eager to undertake a normal illness, but this was a rhino-virus and I did not want a big horn growing on my nose --not again, anyway. It promised to be a virus from hell so, like most guys, I tried to ignore it. I coughed a little. I refrained from smoking my pipe. I drank beer.

Sunday I coughed a lot. I had chills. I got afraid of my bed. My brother reentered my delirium and said I had nose horns. I asked why he thought that was and he said, "This is a world that operates largely by coincidences, yet we must mistrust all of them." Then he rose through the ceiling, which is really just showing off. I got up and sat at the kitchen table all night long, reading Bertrand Russell and running out of beer. By 8:30 a.m. I was on the phone to Dr. Lee, my GP for 15 years who, for some supernatural reason, still looks 12-years old. He's 10 minutes down the road.

Dr. Lee prescribed a huge bottle of codeine cough syrup. It worked fine, suppresses the cough reflex.  I slept Monday night and had a healthy appetite the next day. What escaped me until later was codeine also suppresses other reflexes further down. So Tuesday I quit taking it. Now it is late Wednesday night and I have learned something no man is really meant to know: how full of poop I really am.

It has been a frightening Halloween. Norma cut this year's Jack-o-lantern out of construction paper and I drew a face that, despite the fact that my wife has begun coughing this evening, I hope expresses some cautious optimism. Best Halloween wishes to all.