Thursday, September 28, 2017

Wilder Shores -Belinda Carlisle

                God bless Belinda Carlisle! AKA Dotty Danger, first Germs drummer (lasted one day) – a punk priestess within the delightfully apocalyptic LA scene (1977, The Canterbury Hotel, Decline of Western Civ 101). Carlisle, co-founded the delightful post-apocalyptic all-girl-band The Go-Gos whose sugar-encrusted songs and videos affirmed a cheery hollowness Andy Warhol could have loved : “deeply superficial.”  Belinda then morphed into a “adult oriented” chanteuse who swapped out campy fun for designer lifestyles. It girl. Cosmo girl. VIP girl. Girl next door. French Girl. Even Artist girl. And of course Party girl. She awoke from one cocaine binge back in bed with a Dodgers bad boy as the new owner of a thoroughbred horse. Like all great Americans her arc from absurd success back down into wanton excess became fodder for a sobering tell-all comeback (Lips Unsealed, 2011).  Chock full of too much “common sense” and not enough depravity[1] or even simple life passages such as heartache, the reader can blame the book’s tactful remove not on some quaint idea of censorship but rather her spiritual awakening in India. And thus we come full circle (in the sand) to her latest release – Wilder Shores (due out on Friday, September 29th, 2017). Once again like a real Forrest Gump, Ms. Carlisle is at one with the Zeitgeist.
                Having already worked with Kundalini mantra-singing superstar Simrit - including a shared billed at Sat Nam Fest - Wilder Shores offers a full album of pop songs built from Kundalini yoga chants. Carlisle was introduced to Kundalini yoga 25 years ago and has had a “serious practice” for 10.  She credits the discipline with allowing her to control her wildly addictive behaviors around substances including cocaine and food. Nothing to sneeze at!
 Like punk rock, AOR and “tell-all” autobiographies, Kundalini yoga has become a pop phenomenon. Various programs have branded Kundalini yoga with a welter of encouraging success stories, merchandise, online chatter, changed lives, unmentionable ironies, curious indulgences: an outbreak of peaceful easy feelings.
A yoga practice with a focus on chanting, Kundalini first came to attention in “the West” at the end of the 19th century. Flourishing first as a bio-psychological philosophy it is now a daily practice for an ever-increasing large number of citizens around the world.
                As a bio-psychological philosophy (all the rage in the 19th century “West”, as found for instance in the radical connection of body & mind in Fredrich Nietzsche – “Has anyone yet written the philosophy of the stomach?”[2]), the Kundalini tradition has given “Western” post-Apocalyptic (WWII) thinkers a way of talking about the fine line, perhaps the imaginary line, between madness and spiritual awakening, or as one often reads – “bliss or nightmare?” Abyss or freedom?
Intellectually Kundalini yoga can be a bit of a New Age bad boy – the energies released can be overwhelming (a snake uncoiling from the base of one’s spine, memorably described in Gopi Krishna’s (1903-84) famed autobiography (Kundalini, Shambala, 1967).  People’s heads have been known to explode with lightening.  Seizures can occur.  Heat or pressure can overtake body & mind.  Resembling a psychotic break, this phenomenon can be called a “spiritual emergency.”  I am not aware that Belinda has experienced any of this; her madness was what Kundalini practice relieved. Her Wilder Shores are behind her rather than straight up ahead.
In the early part of the 20th century Carl Jung, had an “intuitive” patient with a “snake in her stomach.” [3] At first Jung wondered if she was schizophrenic. She was experiencing psychotic breaks with reality – not hearing her footsteps because she was walking on air, mistaking a brothel for a salon. The snake -- whose golden head would eventually come out his patient’s mouth – led Jung deeper into consideration of Kundalini and the snake as an example of “collective fantasy” – a theme Joseph Campbell picks up in his examination of Kundalini yoga as a “path to illumination.”
                Of course none of this is casually connected to Belinda’s newest product. Indulging my own equally entitled sense of willful disconnect, I have not listened to Wilder Shores for this review. Arguably reviewing the idea of her content without being prejudiced by the facts might allow me as a critic to share the proper space wherein Wilder Shores arises from.
                If 19th and 20th century thinkers’ “search for secret India” abstracted a varied, rich, ridiculous and remote tradition -- “The Orient in The West” -- Kundalini yoga is now a very present global phenomenon. Within popular culture it has regained its origins as an embodied practice. Chanting, striking poses and breathing all center upon activating the body instead of providing mere intellectual concepts As Carlisle states about the singing of mantras, "of which there are thousands" - “It’s not just singing, it’s a science” – meaning real causes activate real effects.  Composed in the relatively new written language of Gurmukhī (1500 AD), this former oral “language of the gurus” uses different sounds to hit “84 meridian points in the mouth.” “[The stimulated meridian points] in turn stimulate the hypothalamus which makes the pineal gland radiate.[4] When the pineal gland radiates, it creates an impulse in the pituitary gland. When the pituitary gland gives impulses, the entire glandular system secretes and a human being obtains bliss. This is the science.”
                As with all things popular the recursive feedback loop of phrases like “this is the science” can feel mindless or even creepy to the non-initiate. Somewhere along the way the song becomes karaoke. For example, the popular Kundalini school founded by Sihk Yogi Bhajan generates a surprising uniformity of information across numerous media channels despite being called a “sacrilegious hodgepodge.”[5] Teachers and students alike seem to cleave to the melody and harmonies with an unsettling uniformity. The instructions and goals are quite specific and programmatic. For an outsider the singing along appears to supersede finding one’s inner voice. As T.S. Eliot would say “One man’s hodge-podge is another’s tradition.”[6]
What might be cynically be called the marketing of belief and its mechanics, has greatly assisted the popularity of Kundalini yoga. The message, practice and goals are clear. If New Age spirituality has traditionally been a hodge-podge of traditions, Kundalini yoga evidences the re-emergence and interest in what used to be anathema: organized religion. Just as The Go-Go’s signaled a return from punk noise to identifiable structure, a kind of elevated Oprah verbiage (refined from various traditions into something like a pop song) demarcates Kundalini communities through homogenous theory and practice. So Dr. Jung, why is your pseudo-science any better than this?[7]  Why not listen to New Age music as if it were an intuitive gateway to God, or the Collective Unconscious?  If it creates belief and experience is it not real enough? If it allows someone to overcome addiction is it not good?  Is not my love of a field recoding of Taos Pueblo round dance singing merely equal to another’s predilection for Kenny G? Is one less authentic? Belinda? Is not the inauthentic the real experience by now? Like a store bought strawberry from Chile?
This album and the Kundalini movement can confront the listener with an old yet still fundamental question about culture in general – what is authentic?
Even discounting the claims to objective science, clearly a real need is being engaged by the Kundalini yoga phenomenon. Large gatherings in the US, Mexico and Europe alongside thousands of individuals in their homes on sheepskins evidence a remarkable sense of shared purpose and practice.  Conscious or not this is a collective.
Spiritual work in the age of mechanical (digital) reproduction is necessarily absurd. The aura of uniqueness (what Belinda finds in “punk” Simrit[8]) hasn’t been seen since the 1930s, that is, since it began to visibly disappear. The question thus becomes whether Belinda’s newest effort is an alternative or a reiteration of the problem of inauthenticity it seeks to soothe. Both. And this is a most modern phenomenon: that something is both what it is and is what it is not.[9] There is something about the way of our world which validates and invalidates anything that appears. Hallowed hollowness. The lack of peace, clarity and higher purpose – modernity – is reopened and healed by the realistically inauthentic. Truly disembodied and displaced pop song mantras which do not even have a peasant tradition to give them character are our folk music. No wonder the pure products of America go crazy. (To Elsie, William Carlos Williams, 1938)
And like an all-you-can-buffet, or a weekend in Las Vegas the hodge-podge feels real because it is. If Belinda’s album is inauthentic it is nevertheless all-too real.
Wilder Shores is a full length album of pop mantras plus an acoustic remake of “Heaven is a Place on Earth.” Before considering the music, note that these are not chants a la Simrit. Like Jung or Campbell, Carlisle has abstracted content from Kundalini practice for her own use.  The songs on Wilder Shore are not for practicing Kundalini yoga.  As Belinda tellingly posits, “If you were to put it on in the next room or in the background you would think they are pop songs,”[10]  She has broken up the repetitive (scientific) nature of chanting with a more verse /chorus structure. “I need to be me.” The mantra has been transformed into a pop song, just as punk or the Playboy centerfold (2001) was transformed into a statement about Belinda.  Despite the ever-present demonization of the ego, Belinda is in fact making the world of Kundalini her own. She is still punk whether she knows it or not.
Media agrees. With no trace of irony (awareness) the website states that Belinda’s recording are“ elevating Kundalini mantras” which is like thinking King James improved God’s word. Suffice to say, this album is not for attaining enlightenment nor chanting “Sa-ta-na-ma” for the proscribed 12, 18, 31 or 61 minutes. Instead, Belinda is offering company while one drives to the yoga studio or blends up a green smoothie.
The music itself is much as one might imagine.  (I am writing this review without having heard more than 60 seconds of YouTube snippets which should be sufficient.) It is neither here nor there. Thus listening or not listening to it doesn’t make much difference. What is the sound of one hand clapping?
For all the materiality that Kundalini yoga practice emphasizes, even a snippet of Belinda’s latest music reveals a sound as disembodied and displaced as any other contemporary recording.  As has been the case for many decades, pop music no longer seems to come from any actual place on earth. Once there was a Stax sound, or Chess, or Motown, or Megaphone which reflected both the technology in the studio (RCA’s room size plate reverb in Memphis) and the engineers. The digital revolution and “flat economies” of recording have erased all spatial reference.  While some projects do reflect a technical signature (Dr. Dre’s “sound”), in general the conventions of recording (even field recording!) have produced a generic room tone and gated community of pure digital silence between perfectly tapered sound waves. Listeners are at once displaced and reassured by the sterile warmth of contemporary recordings. The familiar contours of the sound production are everywhere and nowhere at the same time (especially with ear buds, optimized car stereos or “we got you surrounded” sound.) Listeners can feel at “home” with the music in any number of settings be it the grocery store or a transatlantic red third eye.  Presumably the standard digital displacement beautifully serves Wilder Shores which like many New Age iterations of “Eastern” religious impulses (including the perfectly smooth and pure tones of Simrit) seeks to transport listeners from the attachments of earthly concern to an amorphous space where the self, the ego, is dutifully lost.
The ego.  The “Western” version of “Eastern” bio-psychological philosophy and Kundalini yoga specifically, conceives the ego as the cover-all term for all earthly, “toxic” concern. The ego - logical, fear-based, harsh, burdened with baggage and inconsistent - is opposed to egoless creative, loving, neutral, intuitive and consistent consciousness.[11]  Here is the rub, to what end? What is being escaped and where are we finding ourselves?
Mark Epstein, MD, a long time practioneer and writer on psychotherapy with a Buddhist perspective argues(!) in his latest book (Not Giving Advice, 2017) that ego as identified with emotion has been stigmatized unfortunately. A misinterpretation of Buddha’s “mindfulness” has led to a demonization of all emotion. Even the kind of love that arises between two people can be felt as triggering, an unwanted “obscenity” because it simply is a strong emotion: one which pulls the individual from the heavens back down to earth.  Here is one of Epstein’s case studies:

As I got to know Claire, I found that she often seemed more comfortable with her meditative attainments than she did with her own history. She tended to use meditation as a doorway to an empty and infinite expanse into which she could dissolve. She liked to go to this place in her imagination and hang out there. It gave her a sense of peace but also a feeling of sadness. There was a desolate quality to it that I could feel whenever she spoke of it. For Claire, meditation was an alternative to everyday reality; it was a place she could go to get away from things that bothered her.
The richness of the interpersonal world remained something Claire felt unworthy of despite the best efforts of her mother and her meditation teacher. Her basic premise, disguised in her veneration of meditation, was that she was not real. She felt it in her relationship with me, and it is fair to say it had become an unconscious pillar of her identity.

This unreality is at the center of Belinda’s autobiography where she talks at length about feeling a fraud all her life from being “Blimp-inda” (chubby kid) to being a pop star who didn’t know how to sing. Not only did she feel like a fraud. She was one.  As anyone is whose social functioning defines their self - not only because the public subsumes the private self, but because the public self, unlike in earlier times, cannot be authentic, subsumed as it is unto what the French call Le Machine.  That Belinda "feels" or intuits that she has now had her fraudulent self transformed by the science of Kundalini complicates an already confused sense of higher & lower, inner & outer selves.  For if a new age pop collection of "elevated" mantras is just another groundless machination of Belinda Inc, the only change is that the very idea of an inner life has been finally vanquished by its valorization. Ironic.  Obeying the practice of Kundalini yoga thus both confirms her egolessness and provides a consistent way to identify herself as someone who truly has lost any sense of authentic self. Full of emptiness. Empty of interpersonal richness. At one with the world.  [Perhaps the lack of drama in her marriage (and autobiography) is not some quaint idea of discretion, but perhaps evidence of two people whose lives are more akin to two travelers on a cruise ship than two soulmates hashing through life's ups and downs.]
Like many an American Belinda finds enlightenment on a junket to India. The former Dotty Danger who branded her punk self with a garbage bag dress comes full circle (in the sand) years later at the Ganges where she “realizes” we are all just trash, our inner selves (egos) are “garbage” to be thrown out. Heartbreakingly, the nullification of the subject as evidenced in the concentration camps (Adorno) and the star making machine (and every day exploitation) becomes a dissolution to identify with. What is truly needed is to recycle and repurpose our bodies our selves.
In a deep irony Carlisle misses as she affirms her self as truly trash, is that the problem is not with the self but with a culture that no longer celebrates or provides the satisfactions of its citzens’ desires and will. America has not been of the people or for the people for a long time, certainly not since the advent of the military industrial complex. Our society uses and discards its people, as Belinda rightly felt in her pop days. “America eats its young” (George Clinton).  But daily struggle is not to dismiss the self, but to reassert it. To whatever degree Carlisle attempts to make Kundalini mantras her own, we might applaud her intuitive desire to “live your life” as a weak, unconscious attempt to affirm her individuality.  The irony at play in an earlier footnote can be seen in the pull quote by Belinda on Simit’s home page.
“The first time I saw her live I thought – wow she’s kind of punk rock.  I don’t know why I thought that, but that’s the element that drew me to exploring her music.  Her sense of melody, her energy, and her musicality set her apart from the rest.”
The individuality of Simit, what “sets her apart”, is "punk."  But Belinda does not make the effort to understand this. This lack of critical retrospection might explain why there is not more contradiction and conscious irony in the Kundalini movement in general.  While the ability to hold opposing ideas together at the same time is indeed a laudable capacity, the traditional thought was that this was done through understanding dialectics not turning a blind eye as to "why I thought that."
Homogeneity, programmatic inherently practice has its price. While much can be said about the loss of discipline (see the letters between John Coltrane and Ravi Shankar), the modern world ultimately finds whatever authenticity it can not by following rules, marketplaces or intuitions. The true Modern makes their own rules.
Insofar as Belinda never felt special or unique or worthy, seeing herself as garbage to be discarded (as she was and she allowed/encouraged her self to be treated within the industry), she finds a perverse sense of oneness with her fate by subsuming her creativity within a nascent tradition apotheosizing the eradication of the ego.  On this recording Belinda undoubtedly finally comes home – nowhere.  The hodge-podge (pastiche) of “world music” is inherently a loss of specificity and history. And rather than struggling like Benjamin or Williams against the dissolution of self within modern culture, Belinda and others have sought to make peace with their predatory environs by detaching from anger, frustration and outrage over say the burning of wheat.  Such emotions (along with potentially inspirational emotions rallied by the music of George Clinton or “To Pimp a Butterfly”) only bring you back into a post-Apocalyptic world which punk had already realized was unredeemable.

[The 1960s were] the last burst of the human being before he (sic)was extinguished.
                                                               Andre Gregory, My Dinner with Andre (1981)

Such “Eastern” (now “Western”) detachment is seen again in Epstein’s case of Claire:

Emotions still have a bad name in many Buddhist circles. When I was learning meditation, the emotions I was taught about most often were the obstacles, or hindrances, to meditative stability that are known to all those who try to quiet their minds. These hindrances are usually listed as anger, lust, worry, doubt, and fatigue, although “fatigue” is given the more arcane name of “sloth and torpor.” Who is it that is angry? Who is it that lusts? the Buddhist teacher wants to know. Behind each of these feelings is a sense of an all-important “me”—a person, striving to exert control, at the center of a mostly uncooperative universe. This way of working with the emotions, while incredibly useful at certain points, tends to leapfrog over the important and meaningful personal content bound up with such discomfort. Claire’s therapy is a good example of this. She wanted to avoid her uncomfortable feelings by whatever means possible, but this left her feeling unreal.
Emotional content needs a welcoming attitude; otherwise it will remain undigested, waiting to jump out at inopportune times. There is a tendency among Buddhist practitioners, and even among many Buddhist teachers, to lump all feelings together and to see the spiritual path as one in which “toxic” aspects of the self, like the emotions, are “cleansed” through practice. Through the eradication of such “defilements,” it is assumed, a state of quiescence can be reached, a state of calm defined by the absence of emotional disturbances. Claire’s view was very close to this one. It is reminiscent, in the language used to describe it, of the dynamics of toilet training associated with the Freudian anal stage, where the cleansing of one’s waste in the service of order and control is also emphasized. This way of practicing leads to a kind of paralysis, however. Rather than opening up the underlying flow of feelings that marks our connection to this world and makes us human, there is only retreat and routine. In the guise of openness, emotions are shut down. Feelings are pushed away. A kind of joylessness masquerades as equanimity.

My guess is that Wilder Shores will be a rather joyless (but evocative) affair. (One of the great pioneering East/West bands was John McLaughlin’s Shakti.  The opening piece on Live at Montreux (1976) is called “Joy.”  Recorded live with all the artifacts and specificity that a live recording offers, this piece is flat out mind-blowing.  Much could be said here about internalizing a different culture at an extremely high level – suffice to say it is on YouTube.)
True otherness has disappeared with Belinda because such depends upon a strong sense of self or ego. If the “East” has a tradition of selfless oneness, the “West” has been dialectical. Carlsile’s synthetic homogeneity prevails because actual mixing of historical reality creates disharmony, uncertainness, doubt and anxiety … psychological states which used to be lauded as “spurs” (as in punk for instance).  At the very least alienation from God, Nature or Society was considered part and parcel of the all-too-human “Western” struggle to hold Gods and people in conscious dialectical dichotomy.[12]
Like other albums such as Live Your Life Be Free and Real, Wilder Shores is so insanely mistitled as to approach unconscious profundity.  The shores of Kundalini as advertised are not wild at all.  Yet for the right listener, its saccharine waves of undulating electronics can with mindfulness present something wild … and perhaps by deeply mediating on the superficiality of this product initiates can begin to answer a question once poised as “is it schizophrenia or kundalini?”  A question perhaps better generalized as “what is the difference between insanity and sanity?” The sane still ask this question; they don’t package answers.
So put down that Beethoven bagatelle because Belinda’s album at this point in history has more for the listener to mediate upon than any product from “high culture.”  This is not some snarky inversion of values, but a fact: the trauma (whatever it might be – cannibalism, nihilism, factory food, incest, meaningless sacrifice) is of such unapproachable consequence that for thousands of people, they need to believe in a practice promising a final solution to distance them from their all-too-real pain. Belinda! Belinda! Please get up!
I remember when people used to stand up for what they believed in, rather than sitting down for nothingness. I remember when people used to sit down for integration not dissolution. Wilder Shores evidences the loss of our culture’s foundation built upon Greek tragedy (Simrit’s real life ironically recalls Greek tragedy). Wilder Shores is not even the wages of sin.  The practice and recordings advertise a way to dissipate, detach from emotion, and see if Heaven can’t be a place on earth.  By considering such “reaction formulations” as evidence of traumas clearly beyond articulation (within the subjective interiority of intuition) the attentive listener might be able to hear underneath all the polish and predictability (remember I am reviewing an “album” I have not heard) a profound unutterable suffering, the greatest suffering in fact: the suffering that is unable to feel that it is suffering. As Paul writes in Corinthians, it is only through suffering one knows God’s mercy. To not connect to and affirm one’s suffering, to “overcome it” (Buddha’s great mistaken goal) is to alienate one’s all-too-human self from God, from the truly Other. Carlisle’s “religious” album is in fact deeply profane, just as her earlier recordings profoundly denied her punk roots. For a heretic, she goes down all too easily.
As Nietzsche wrote in his lifelong resistance to the dangers of nihilism “Examine the lives of the best and most fruitful people and peoples and ask yourselves whether a tree that is supposed to grow to a proud height can dispense with bad weather and storms.” (Gay Science, 1882)  One wishes Belinda had suffered more. Nietzsche (who wrote surprisingly much about Buddhism, perhaps because of his mentor Schopenhauer)  offered a different kind of tension than the one offered by the Kundalini yoga movement: a tension which can be heard in early LA punk, Greek tragedies and certain esoteric religions wherein suffering is embraced not to be overcome, not to be let go of, nor to detach from, but to be amplified like some of the best tracks on “Return to the Valley of the Go-Gos” (the “valley” being a specific set of bio-psychological and philosophic concerns for those who know LA) .  The alternative to the “alternative” is to argue that “Earth is a place on Earth.”  Do you know what that’s like?
And insofar as listening to Belinda can bring forth such questions and thoughts, God Bless her. Like all great works of art (aren’t they all great), the opportunity to hear our own denial of our great suffering is perhaps of far greater use than any advertisements for its relief. Not only is there no poetry after Auschwitz (Adorno) or the Native American genocides, there is no pop music. True poems of the earth offer no relief only brief respites, the kind one might find with a lover perhaps, bittersweet glimpses of eternity embodied in the flesh which must pass into dust, which Belinda has never confessed to experiencing in her music or her book. When I listen to this CD which I pre-ordered on Amazon, I hope I will be inspired to go out into the world and have my heart broken once again.

99 Hooker, Ancram, NY, September 27th,2017 on the eve of Wilder Shores release.  99 has been practicing Kundalini yoga for 9 months at this point.

[1] We Got the Neutron Bomb, The Untold Story of LA Punk gives a better sense of things as does Jane Weidlin in general, see
[2] Paraphrase.
[4] Descartes, the great dualist philosopher who broke apart the body and mind wrote that the pineal gland was the seat of the soul.
[5] Dr. Trilochan Singh, “a prominent Sikh scholar and historian.”
[6] What Eliot actually said upon being asked why he chose Christianity instead of Buddhism, “Christianity was more culturally consistent” which is not unlike the Dali Llama’s admonition to Westerners about being wary of adopting foreign practices.
[7] The debate over whether psychology is more science or art is long standing. Here is a good article about this debate:
[8] ““First of all, I’m such a fan of Simrit.  The first time I saw her live I thought – wow she’s kind of punk rock.  I don’t know why I thought that, but that’s the element that drew me to exploring her music.  Her sense of melody, her energy, and her musicality set her apart from the rest.”
[9] “At the same time all individual reality has become social reality directly dependent on social power and shaped by it. It is allowed to appear only to the extent that it is not.” Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle,#17 (1967)
[12] “In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals. And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me.” Shakespeare, Hamlet.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Harmony (476 words)

From her parents, or her mother, perhaps the commune - she got the name Harmony. Like my unhappy friend Joy, Harmony’s name was a curse or at least an enduring rebuttal.
Harmony had hitch-hiked in from the dessert. She’d been mourning at the spot where the year before her friend had been dumped after being picked up by a trucker, raped, and killed. “She wasn't just killed. She’d been cut into pieces.” She’d been dropped in the dessert by friends who were irritated that Harmony hadn’t spoken during their three day trip to the spot. She would hitch-hike out. Strangely, the suspect in the case had recently driven his 18 wheeler into an Amtrak train, killing himself and “injuring dozens”.
“The police were closing in,” said Harmony.
I offered her bus money for her next trip. I had extra at the time. She didn't accept it.
Harmony was telling everyone at the table to “Fuck off.” Six of us were sitting under the pines, under the stars around my neighbor’s big homemade picnic table. People were creating weird cocktails with gin, Aperol, moonshine, wine and tea.
Harmony told her story of being in a disco in China. A man had appeared and gave her a drink as she danced. She knew better. She drank it. Luckily her friends saw it and put her in a cab. “Good thing. No one gives a shit about you in China.” Harmony woke up the next day in the hostel with no memory. I said “You know David Tudor says everything eventually resolves into Harmony, just the way anything that repeats once has rhythm.”  She reached across the table, held and squeezed my hand. She rolled under the table. I was scared she was going to try and blow me. She touched my thigh. She came up next to me. Amid the chaos of the night, everyone drinking, we kept talking. “In the deprivation tank there was no silence only the whine of nerves, the murmur of the cardio-vascular.” “You’re the only one who fucking understands. Fuck these cunts.” Harmony swung her arm in the dark. I’d had enough. I stumbled into the woods, tripped over a log splitter in the dark, cut myself good and limped home alone to bed.
            The next morning I went over to the neighbors.
            Where’s Cacophony?
            N and J laughed. N said “She walked off the mountain in the middle of the night after making a big scene.”
            “Fuck. This is probably the best place for her right now.”
            “Not with us.”
            “Not with me,” I said.
            N smiled. “You two were talking up a storm.”
I was so glad we hadn’t fucked. “I don’t think she heard me.”
            “She can’t hear much.” N was making breakfast. “I know that commune scene where she grew up. Too much free love, too many old men.”

Saturday, July 4, 2015

I dreampt a perfect story in a 17 hour stretch. The only words I'll ever have are the ones I've known before.

Three times I woke and worked to remember it. Slept in the bath until the water got cold; my son's bed where she'd left a canopy of printed fabric & Christmas lights; and the firmer, nicer half of our bed untouched for five months. Less a story, rather perfect proportions moving. A lava lamp! For real :) All the shapes morphing, each intense color and shape shifting accompanied by the human virtues: death, joy, boredom, love ... flowing instead of blurring. Now I've forgotten. A Christian cartoon: three kids (white, yellow, brown) squeaking through the Stations of the Cross. "How does He do it???" He is Jesus. Terrific headache. "Emergency contact?" Now? My brother. Tears explode. Staff concerned. Cool it. Remember Mingus self-imprisoned in Bellevue - "Just needed rest." You pissed on that place. Fetal position (of course), she wheels me to the CAT scanner. Soft sobs. Finally laugh out a workable cliché "Nice driving." Her kind eyes. A projected loop of heaven blows across 16 panels. I loved the end, the separation. The sky went up or my bed went down. My problem with words: I often believe they mean something before living them as in "letting go."

Friday, April 24, 2015

I always loved Stephanie, the idea of Stephanie

Wrote "W"s on each ass cheek. Bent over & spelt "WOW" with her asshole. Nights with my sister full of smoke, drink, dance, laughing. And crazy stories: Dad baby-sitting Stephanie in Cleveland porno houses. The tattered Mission "tranny" karaoke where we used to dance, kissed. In NY, Stephanie called. "Sunday's a date!" Then I canceled - a friend said Sunday was his only free night. "Stephanie can we reschedule?" "Sure."  They knew without knowing they wouldn't. Sunday had been their night. Months later, returning from rehab she overdosed. His sister called. Penn Station. Bought ice cream, cried, ate slowly.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

We finally had the right Swiss Army blade and gob of Vaseline to split open the atom Jimmy had plucked outta dem dare frog eggs. Power-up dat fucking piece o' shit solar TV, Dad bought from that Vietnam Vet at the Woodbury Flea Market. Finally some awful, hilarious K-Pop where the albino cock-less wonders with mad eyebrows dally-dance with well-tapered tit-forward steaming piles of vanilla shit representing duh female form. So gloriously false and mesmerizingly horrible in our plucky tree house. The reality would pass the rest of my life as nostalgia forever at odds with its ever-arriving presence. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015


Radio Shack™ "pillow speaker" from earphone port - white plastic idli of sound. 14. First time - Knocking on Heaven's Door™. Mysterious. Magical. Kids asleep. Parents downstairs. Dishes done. Distant Dave Brubeck. Then LA. Can't think of a tattoo. Stained glass? Guns & Roses? Stylized stylized. Ohhhh yeah baayyybeee. Life in the Everywhere Studio. LA Guns in the ground. Cold black cloud coming down ... yet ... what thou lovest well remains. Dylan, 32. Me, 25. Don't cry tonight, there's a heaven above you. What's bad is good; what's good is bad. Anything without victory has a chance ...

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I was walking with a friend and

his floppy Springer Spaniel. John was a second father to me in high school, a preacher, a vet who would die too early - Agent Orange. John might talk about jogging into a tree because he'd been mesmerized by the clouds.
                "I've always liked cloudy days myself," said I.
                "Why is that?"
                "Too much light gives me nothing. I like the unfair shafts bringing my attention to some sapling or that corner of the basketball court where trash and leaves have accumulated."
                "I still think you might become a preacher."
                "Like you?" I said.

                "Ha ha, no, like you."