Monday, September 3, 2012

31




The summer opened early with an Easter walk, a high-surveying bald eagle, and a snake lying inert but wakeful in a wooded path.  We took a road trip through New Mexico and the Arizona desert, bursting with the anticipation of clean air, real silence, and wide open landscape.  Up through Nevada, in Vegas with AK, on vacation from vacation in Lake Tahoe, across to the Redwoods, up the Oregon Coast, then connecting again Portland to Seattle to the Northwest's Olympic Peninsula, we rode in a friendly dark green Ford we called just Taurus.  

Berlin was full of storms and strange winds, the climate shift seeming to be at hand.

We escaped for a dream in the Baltic Sea.  That was August.  The dream and its after.  Its after going by not too quickly but without the enwrapping sea air potion.  We decided to move in together.  The romance of moving shelves, daily toast, wine and familiar news anchors, metaphors and nicknames now with long histories and permutations.  

I have an odd sense of being back on the Earth, looking at colors, opening up human situations like new forgotten worlds.  There is a lot of work to be done, these next few months.  Friends and I rediscover each other through a different thickness.  The feeling of being in life, less a bird or a critic.

It's September already.  We'll sneak this one in under a lie ("31"), just to say that August this year was not forgotten.  It was a twisting ride through gentle hill country, the road itself more dramatic in its angles than the actual land covered or the substantial yet well-paced progress of the journey.  Already it is fall.  A beautiful summer, one must say, has put up its gently flaming wall behind us.






Thursday, September 1, 2011

31

video

August was water, I let it pour past.  There was some middle I remember when nothing could be done.  I thought of the "dog days."  I missed the group that I'd been performing with in late July, and I felt caught between a year of relative freedom and ease and an upcoming entrance into another long bout of school and work.  A good friend's father died, a great man who lived a long life and helped a small town in New Jersey maintain its life and commerce.  I went back to that town for the memorial service with another good friend who just happened to be in town on vacation.  We ate ice cream and took a familiar walk.

The rest seemed like paperwork, lots of signing up for payrolls and health insurance and courses and what else I'm not so sure.  At times it felt like they'd maximized the printing out of forms while minimizing the sharing of information.  This is my first experience at a public university; that familiar feeling of government bureaucracy, with all the severely guarded turfs, bothers me.

I will be busy in the autumn, and sure enough it is here.  Hollywood has turned the movies toward the serious.  People bustle in a different way.  These past few days there has been the palpable sense of realization, of goodbye, on the streets.  Summer was fast.  There was a hurricane, a crazy few days of everyone huddling inside, prepared for the worst.  We here in the city were spared, though the suburbs were hit hard.

I went to the beach, I saw a lot of movies--indoor and out--with AK.  We drove upstate just in time for me to come down with a bad cold: while everyone went swimming, I laid in the sun with a white cat, watching tiny bugs in the grass that I'd forgotten to pay attention to since childhood.  I should have written more to you, August.  As it is, I'm not quite ready for the busyness of September and the wicked sharp turn of another winter.  Maybe soon the birds will collect as they do from their disparate summers, telling manic loud tales for a day or two before deserting us for warmer climes.  All that easy time of summer seems somehow too easily gone now.  A tricky month, September steals in like a Virgo.

video

three little songs:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

8



Another August 8.  I have a strange feeling today, a broad emotion, not unbeautiful finally after many recent days of anger and angst and fear and all those terrible small emotions that have filled me like a charge, like an extension of static electricity from a computer.  Quite literally, I've been captivated enough by the news of the USA's debt crisis and attending worse political crisis that I am under the undue influence of too much light from the computer screen.  Now, finally, it's like the skin of that emotion lifts and I find underneath it what I've been waiting for: a more serene and quiet speaking.

Tomorrow I play Stephen Spielberg in conversation with Andy Warhol and Bianca Jagger in a video made by an Austrian artist.  The dialogue is all about how I (Stevie S) swallowed a transistor when my father presented it to me and told me it was the future.  I miss my own father.  That feeling of the man who could come home and tell you how it all would be, how it was, how the world (that great place waiting for me that I imagined so thick with order and schematic) was, and how it changed.  I spend my mythic time now (I mean the time we always devote to figuring out symbolically our place in existence) deconstructing a lot of that authority, finding less comfort there, seeing how distorted those old tales made my thinking.  And then every once in a while, smarting with wounds that are the particularity of my experience, I want to be absolved of difference, I want to have a father again in the old way, from a place of universal uncomplication.

This August, against my romantic impulse, I stayed in New York.  To do bureaucracy, the digging in, the paying of bills, the not being absent.  To make a life more firmly here, not fly away with all that action's attendant confusions.

So I feel today, tonight, like I did when first I was a kid and thought of the peculiarity of Augusts, when the summer begins to remind me of a lion contemplating a burning sunset.  What was this lion for?  What long walks will stretch out?  In August, I find the equivalence of yearning from life and yearning from the other side.  Like here we ghosts and mortals tango, waltz, and do our little flying acts.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

(enero, 31)

(y enero en BsAs)


(el frío en nueva york por fin y de repente me convenció a tomar el viaje al sur.  los primeros días acá, me sentí como mis huesos, helados, estaban lentamente abriendo otra vez al verano.  horacio me acompañe en mi costumbre de gran gira de los parques de palermo, donde los cisnes reciben las turistas y los ciudadanos.)
(fue un otoño dificil, lleno de decisiones y sus consequencias.  dormí bien acá todas las noches, afuera de mi departamento y la nieve.)


(me encanta lo que hay de lo provisional en argentina.  como un amigo me describió la plaza de mayo  como sólo una vision de ciertas personas, no tanto un ejemplo de aesthetica nacional.  siempre pienso que permiten acá que las aceras tengan algunas grietas; que no hay la fealdad de demasiado manteniamento ni demasiada crueldad de abandono)


(en new york, quizás, la estatua es para el ego, la libertad, mientras acá la libertad es para el espiritú.)


(llegué, mis huesos descongeló, comí de la parilla de juan y maru, y mis pensamientos, también congelados en mis huesos, se fueron a caminar.  planes del futuro sin gravedad.  fui para ver una obra que se trata de los últimos 10 años, la memoria, y el cambio en esta época cuando por fin faltamos un narrador, un archetypo humano.  hablé con un pintor sobre la vida artistica, la vida, la balance entre otro y sí mismo.  terminé con el libro de patti smith que se trata de su amistad con robert maplethorpe.  y ya soñe en mis caminos con volver otra vez, con otra vez escapar el invierno.)


(encontré una mañana de paseadores, otra vocación que he considerado.)


(y a veces, a una distancia la vida es así.  en los últimos días, me enfermé un poquito del estómago.  quizás a causa de un viaje por bici en una parte de la costenera muy (pero muy) sucia, quizás a causa de una cena en un restaurante muy turístico.)


(hoydía esta locura del vuelo al opuesto extremo del mundo: a un invierno helado, al trabajo, seguro, que no todavía parecerá abstracto.  que en los pies de las estatuas, los gatitos siempre se sueñen bien.)


video





Monday, August 9, 2010

8


In honor of a visit, this post will be all-Paris.  With a slight diversion to August.

KD came to town, fresh from Damascus and Warsaw.  The gardens were fresh after a rainfall.  We sang a song inspired by the nearby avenue.

August settles in, the Parisians have left, one can't find a croissant in the middle of the day in a normal neighborhood.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

5


As I look at it again, the above reminds me of a production of King Lear.  Trees are amazing things; wiry strange moving shapes sticking into rock.  I'm glad this one has a little help.

Today I was alone with sleeplessness and the almost finished novel.  I overstayed my welcome at a cafe where I sat for a few hours doing video chat.  I was amazed at the employees at the French post office, how energetic they were, buzzing out from behind their desks, quickly and efficiently doing things for patrons.  I once again was struck by indecision in front of an array of pastries.  And every time I'm on of the public bikes (Velibs) zipping around the city, I'm half taking in the sights and watching for hazards and half mentally singing the praises of the Paris city government for being so amazing.  It's ridiculous, of course.  I know next to nothing about the Paris city government, except that they've implemented (I think it was them, anyway) this amazing Velib program and the mayor (I think he's still mayor) is a two-term socialist gay man.

Gertrude Stein, I think about a lot here.  I spied through curtains at her old house (it was a living room.)  I thought of the French, related to her writing, what are the French, what do they look like, what is their fame like?  It would be fun to have a compendium of descriptions of all the races of human beings that have come and gone.  Like the Gauls or the Huns or I wish the Homos and the Neanderthals had posed naked for each other in cave figure drawing classes.  Some of that chronicle of human categories now defunct would be very sad, but at the level of abstraction, it would be interesting.  Maybe part of reminding us how fleeting big important seemingly permanent things (like a group of people called the French) are, how abstract they really are.  I was thinking in this regard about the big American news today, which is that we might be pulled whining out of our regression by a judiciary who could uphold the right of all adult citizens in a democracy to make the same kind of contracts with each other as other adult citizens of the same democracy are entitled to make.  Gay marriage (maybe) again legal in California.  America, once the standard-bearer of the notion of free rational choice over the inertia of history and the state, now teetering towards something we might call the third world in that regard, behind Argentina, Canada, and a host of other nations in terms of where people might want to go if they want their personal sexual and legal decisions left up to them and not the state.  Can we imagine the American economy will thrive if we've given up on seeing what newness and variety we can create in human relations and culture, if we've decided to disallow people from loving and investigating the mysteries in their souls?  America would have to become a dull factory nation, not one where people can imagine, design, and propose.

It's much friendlier to think that America, too, can be a land of expressive trees, freed by new tools (sorry Neanderthals, you never knew what it was like to live in a world of mass-produced rectangular tree carcasses) to build more complex, interesting shapes.  If resting in a park on a nice summer afternoon, wouldn't you rather the people around you be fulfilled, supported explorers, intriguing in their internally nuanced attractions, delights, and understandings, than repressed, angry multiple choice boxes attempting to fit into binaries, obsessed with being units of social utility whose actual utility is now, again, and probably forever, in question?

--

And now a throwback to summer '01:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

4

video


Vanity of vanities
Emptiness without meaning

I went to mass at Notre Dame on Sunday evening, the one given by the archbishop. The above phrases were two translations of the same verse from the beginning of Ecclesiastes provided as the liturgy for the service.  The first was in English (which had the same transliteral meaning as the provided French), the second I've translated from Spanish.

Anyway, it reminded me of starting a blog.  Partially because I couldn't understand the archbishop when he was speaking (my French is about as good as being able to nod and think in response, yes, it almost sounds like you are speaking some kind of Latin), I spent some of the mass hearing the word "Vanité" repeated quite a lot while watching the tourists circulate in the aisles outside the nave.  The archbishop was discussing the theme of vanity (or emptiness, si te gusta) in three small sections of very disparate texts.  The visual metaphor seemed strong: we, the gathered for the mass, inside the ship of reverence and tradition, could see reflected back at us the gaze of fleeting, baseless journeyers.

The tourists, for their part, did an adequate job of wearing the same faces that they might have worn a half hour before at the zoo or at the re-enactment of an authentic French village dancing celebration along the Seine.  They were excellent tourist dopple-gangers, perhaps a bit reverential themselves to the idea of religion as it was there transpiring or even a bit shamed to be sneakily not revealing themselves as naked Catholics at heart.

There were so many more tourists than people inside the nave, though the nave was well-peopled.  I imagined it would be difficult to be an archbishop in this situation.  It would be like being David Copperfield (the magician) with more people checking out your backstage, production facilities, and general relationship to your audience than people actually there to see you do magic.  Oh, there's that incense trick again, the one from 12 centuries ago; what, no lasers?

He seemed like an earnest man, the archbishop.  He smiled a lot in a way that made me think of going to dinner parties with him or taking a conversation-filled walk together.  It was pleasant and surprising.  I could feel, perhaps, the stress of trying to keep a ship sailing even as it sails through what looks like a land of pleasure with happy denizens swelling its banks, denizens who are somewhat bewildered at the shipgoers' serious sense of mission.  Such efforts remind me of Canadian geese.  Though they are much maligned, I think Canadian geese have held together a separate aesthetic with remarkable rigor in the modern world.  Everywhere their very particular brown and black and white, their sharp lines and triangles, their mystical swimming, separation and coming together again.  Canadian geese never have the problem of a Catholic archbishop: as they (the geese) fly on in perfect holy communion with light disappearing beyond ground, they needn't worry about their formation being slightly broken because a few geese are thinking it might be more interesting to stop in at Eurodisney then continue toward the sacred evening reflecting pool.

So I felt with the priest (I imagined, comprehending his words only slightly better than the call of the geese) a sad, loving complaint to the gathered and the tourists about the need to remain observant of an old connection to meaning and humanity.  And I felt with the tourists a few of the thousands of other motivations for being in that spot at the same time.

I thought the next day at a few other sacred tourist destinations that tourism was in service of speed, primarily.  Also in service of democracy, maybe, of making sure that anything that accumulates great beauty or importance is relatively immediately (within a few generations) and forevermore guarded, invaded, possessed, and watched by a gigantic mass of people whose job it is to simply make sure that they can have access to those storehouses of value or vista.  Being a slower person than all that--I did, after all, just confess to having long serious thoughts about the aesthetics of Canadian geese--I turned again towards the liturgy of the archbishop's mass to articulate a complaint.  The last of the three textual excerpts in the liturgy had been an account of the great truth-sayer Jesus parabolically railing against a wealthy mill-owner investing in a larger storehouse for his bumper crop rather than sharing his excess wheat with others.  Why were the priests of Western sacred traditions, whose long study and meditation time has been itself the result of a gigantic bumper crop, not greeting the tourists, not helping them to have a slower, more meaningful experience, appreciating the wealth of symbolism and expression that surrounded them?

One supposes, perhaps, that holding open the doors and having a man come out from a cave at several appointed hours to speak openly to an audience from which none are forcefully excluded is enough, or all that can be wisely done.  Still, it seems, at these French sacred sites, and again at the Vatican, there are among those filling the roles of tourists plenty--if not most, if not all--who would like something more, who don't disdain knowledge, who do not know they've been invited in, who do not even know that there is a difficult road that cannot be photographed down which one may find St. Peter holding keys, or Mary saying come in anyway, fool, it's cold and I have a secret.

The kind of tourism that simply by sheer number of people participating makes the mass of each particular nave into a kind of spectacle, that makes one wonder if we aren't slowly discovering that perhaps we don't want large stone structures forever but instead rapid provisional plastic expression bubbles, it does signal a new era, I think.  At least a new teemingness of humanity.  The question is whether teeming is what we do in the absence of something else to do (the old story about sex and raising children to avoid boredom and existential boredom; the new story about viral youtube videos replacing dedicated, disciplined, loving cultural/community work) or whether we have something new to discover about what existence is for and where we will go from here, the old place now sufficiently the site of a crowd.



--

I've decided on a daily format for this experiment in the blog-o-sphere, a picture, a text, a song.  Please expect nothing fancy, edited, or autotuned.  Though apparently, I do take requests (see below for the fulfillment of the first, lightly ironic I have to assure any of you potentially kind listeners.)