AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

30 June 2021

Listen.


We are food for worms lads. Because, believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold, and die. 

Now I would like you to step forward over here and peruse some of the faces from the past. You've walked past them many times. I don't think you've really looked at them.

They're not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they're destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable?  

Because you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. 

Go on, lean in.

Hear it?

John Keating, from Dead Poets Society

Near.


We are to shine as the sun, we are to be given the Morning Star. I think I begin to see what it means. In one way, of course, God has given us the Morning Star already: you can go and enjoy the gift on many fine mornings if you get up early enough. What more, you may ask, do we want? Ah, but we want so much more—something the books on aesthetics take little notice of.

But the poets and the mythologies know all about it. We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses and nymphs and elves—that, though we cannot, yet these projections can, enjoy in themselves that beauty grace, and power of which Nature is the image. That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods. They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can’t. They tell us that “beauty born of murmuring sound” will pass into a human face; but it won’t. Or not yet. For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy. At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. 

C.S. Lewis, from "The Weight of Glory"

Done.


Done and done.

Beethoven, Sextet for Horns and String Quartet, Op. 81b

Performed by members of the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Marko Letonja ...

People.


Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all other forms of that have been tried from time to time; but there is the broad feeling in our country that the people should rule, continuously rule, and that public opinion, expressed by all constitutional means, should shape, guide, and control the actions of Ministers who are their servants and not their masters.

Sir Winston Churchill, speech before Parliament, November 11, 1947

29 June 2021

Ssssssssstones, "Saint of Me"

2:45 ...

Intercessors.

In her series, Tea with B, historian Bettany Hughes discusses the need for superheroes with Neil Gaiman ...
Communal storytelling is one of the things that makes us human.  The acceptance of story, the delight in stories and, of course the idea that we can be better; that there are intercessors between us and the darkness.

Excellent.

An excellent book ...

Colin Hay, "If I Had Been a Better Man"

Listen.


When you listen to someone, you should give up all your preconceived ideas and your subjective opinions; you should just listen to him, just observe what his way is. We put very little emphasis on right and wrong or good and bad. We just see things as they are with him, and accept them. This is how we communicate with each other. Usually when you listen to some statement, you hear it as a kind of echo of yourself. You are actually listening to your own opinion. If it agrees with your opinion you may accept it, but if it does not, you will reject it or you may not even really hear it.

Shunryu Suzuki, from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice

Glorious.

What a glorious world! Things can't be all bad if there's a Colin Hay documentary out there ...

Waiting for My Real Life ...

Although.

Tintoretto, Summer, 1555


NOTHING TWICE

Nothing can ever happen twice.
In consequence, the sorry fact is
that we arrive here improvised
and leave without the chance to practice.

Even if there is no one dumber,
if you’re the planet’s biggest dunce,
you can’t repeat the class in summer:
this course is only offered once.

No day copies yesterday,
no two nights will teach what bliss is
in precisely the same way,
with precisely the same kisses.

One day, perhaps some idle tongue
mentions your name by accident:
I feel as if a rose were flung
into the room, all hue and scent.

The next day, though you’re here with me,
I can’t help looking at the clock:
A rose? A rose? What could that be?
Is it a flower or a rock?

Why do we treat the fleeting day
with so much needless fear and sorrow?
It’s in its nature not to stay:
Today is always gone tomorrow.

With smiles and kisses, we prefer
to seek accord beneath our star,
although we’re different (we concur)
just as two drops of water are.

Wislawa Szymborska

Insipid.


And what about your mind
Your insipid record collection ...

Happy Birthday, Hay


Colin Hay was born on this day in 1953.

"Are You Looking at Me?" ...


Making a Vegemite sandwich ...

27 June 2021

Weller.

Paul Weller, live in Hyde Park ...


Impiously.


When a man seriously reflects on the idolatrous homage which is paid to the persons of kings, he need not wonder that the Almighty, ever jealous of his honor, should disapprove of a form of government which so impiously invades the prerogative of heaven.

Thomas Paine, from Common Sense

Because.


... because you're worth it.

Mac.

25 June 2021

Happy Birthday, Paiche


David Paiche was born on this day in 1954.

I'm grateful to Kurt for many things, among them, introducing me (probably on the same day) to chicken nachos and Toto.

"Rockmaker" recorded live at Cork 'n Cleaver  ...

Roger McGuinn, "May the Road Rise to Meet You"

Premiered.


Igor Stravinsky's Firebird Suite premiered on this day in 1910.

Stravinsky conducts the New Philharmonia Orchestra in 1965 ...

Dreaming.

Wyeth, Thin Ice, 1969


I do an awful lot of thinking and dreaming about things in the past and the future - the timelessness of the rocks and the hills - all the people who have existed there.  I dream a lot. I do more painting when I'm not painting. It's in the subconscious.

Andrew Wyeth

Compensate.


In the days of thy youth seek to obtain that which shall compensate the losses of thy old age.

Leonardo da Vinci

24 June 2021

Hang.

"Hang care!" exclaimed he. "This is a delicious evening; the wine has a finer relish here than in the house, and the song is more exciting and melodious under the tranquil sky than in the close room, where the sound is stifled. Come, let us have a bacchanalian chant—let us, with old Sir Toby, make the welkin dance and rouse the night-owl with a catch! I am right merry. Pass the bottle, and tune your voices—a catch, a catch! The lights will be here anon."

Charles Ollier, from "The Haunted Manor-House of Paddington"

The Kinks, "Attitude" ...


The euphony transformed me and inundated my soul in a roguish countenance, the likes of which I had know well in younger days. Such impishness soon drove out the complaints of the day. 

Umberto Limongiello

Stop.


Bamboo swizzle sticks with the knot on the end.

Look.


You can tell me that I’ve got no class
Look around you'll see who’s laughing last
Don’t give me speeches ’cause they’re oh so droll
Leave me alone, let me rock and roll

The Church, "An Interlude"

John Hiatt with the Jerry Douglas Band, "All the Lilacs in Ohio"

Limits.

Otis, Thomas Jefferson, 1817


I abandon politics, and accomodate myself chearfully to things as they go; confident in the wisdom of those who direct them, and that they will be better and better directed in the progressive course of knolege and experience. our successors start on our shoulders. they know all that we know, and will add to that stock the discoveries of the next 50. years; and what will be their amount we may estimate from what the last 50. years have added to the science of human concerns. the thoughts of others, as I find them on paper, are my amusement and delight; but the labors of the mind in abstruse investigations are irksome, and writing itself is become a slow and painful operation, occasioned by a stiffened wrist, the consequence of a former dislocation. I will however essay the two definitions which you say are more particularly interesting at present: I mean those of the terms Liberty & Republic, aware however that they have been so multifariously applied as to convey no precise idea to the mind. of Liberty then I would say that, in the whole plenitude of it’s extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will: but rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will, within the limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add "within the limits of the law"; because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual.

Reggae.

Stewart Copeland examines the word, "reggae" ...

Merry.

Blake, Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing, 1786


SCENE I. A wood near Athens.

Enter, from opposite sides, a Fairy, and Puck

Puck
How now, spirit! whither wander you?

Fairy
Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander everywhere,
Swifter than the moon's sphere;
And I serve the fairy queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green.
The cowslips tall her pensioners be:
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their savours:
I must go seek some dewdrops here
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.
Farewell, thou lob of spirits; I'll be gone:
Our queen and all our elves come here anon.

Puck
The king doth keep his revels here to-night:
Take heed the queen come not within his sight;
For Oberon is passing fell and wrath,
Because that she as her attendant hath
A lovely boy, stolen from an Indian king;
She never had so sweet a changeling;
And jealous Oberon would have the child
Knight of his train, to trace the forests wild;
But she perforce withholds the loved boy,
Crowns him with flowers and makes him all her joy:
And now they never meet in grove or green,
By fountain clear, or spangled starlight sheen,
But, they do square, that all their elves for fear
Creep into acorn-cups and hide them there.

Fairy
Either I mistake your shape and making quite,
Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite
Call'd Robin Goodfellow: are not you he
That frights the maidens of the villagery;
Skim milk, and sometimes labour in the quern
And bootless make the breathless housewife churn;
And sometime make the drink to bear no barm;
Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm?
Those that Hobgoblin call you and sweet Puck,
You do their work, and they shall have good luck:
Are not you he?

Puck
Thou speak'st aright;
I am that merry wanderer of the night.
I jest to Oberon and make him smile
When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile,
Neighing in likeness of a filly foal:
And sometime lurk I in a gossip's bowl,
In very likeness of a roasted crab,
And when she drinks, against her lips I bob
And on her wither'd dewlap pour the ale.
The wisest aunt, telling the saddest tale,
Sometime for three-foot stool mistaketh me;
Then slip I from her bum, down topples she,
And 'tailor' cries, and falls into a cough;
And then the whole quire hold their hips and laugh,
And waxen in their mirth and neeze and swear
A merrier hour was never wasted there.
But, room, fairy! here comes Oberon.

Fairy
And here my mistress. Would that he were gone!

Enter, from one side, Oberon ...

23 June 2021

Full.


Drink water from the spring where horses drink. The horse will never drink bad water. Lay your bed where the cat sleeps. Eat the fruit that has been touched by a worm. Boldly pick the mushroom on which the insects sit. Plant the tree where the mole digs. Build your house where the snake sits to warm itself. Dig your fountain where the birds hide from the heat. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time with the birds – you will reap all of the days' golden grains. Eat more green – you will have strong legs and a resistant heart, like the beings of the forest. Swim often and you will feel on earth like the fish in the water. Look at the sky as often as possible and your thoughts will become light and clear. Be often quiet, speak little – and silence will come in your heart, and your spirit will be calm and full of peace.

Saint Seraphim of Sarov

Excellent.

An excellent album ...

Excellent.

An excellent documentary ...

Imagination.


It's later on a Wednesday, the sun is going down
I'm standing naked by a swimming pool, there's no one around
My imagination wanders back, red dust is always there
We lay together in the jungle, and love was in the air

As I dive into the water, both time and motion freeze
I'm hanging there suspended like a feather in the breeze
Below is your reflection, like an image from the past
But I can't be sure if it's really you, because you're wearing a tribal mask

Roger Glover, from "The Mask"

Black Uhuru, "General Penitentiary"

Black Uhuru, "Bull in the Pen"

R.E.M. "Green Grow the Rushes"

Not.

Black Uhuru, "What is Life"

Stay.


But go easy
Step lightly
Stay free

Everything.


FOR the CHILDREN

The rising hills, the slopes,
of statistics
lie before us.
the steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.

In the next century
or the one beyond that,
they say,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.

To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:
stay together
learn the flowers
go light

Gary Snyder

22 June 2021

R.E.M., "Nightswimming"

Nightswimming, remembering that night
September's coming soon
I'm pining for the moon ...

Lou Reed, "The Power of Positive Drinking"

Adam & The Ants, "Stand and Deliver"

The devil take your stereo and your record collection ...


So what's the point of robbery when nothing is worth taking? 

Happy Birthday, Kristofferson


Kris Kristofferson was born on this day in 1936.

As soon as you learn to never give up, you have to learn the power and wisdom of unconditional surrender, and that one doesn’t cancel out the other; they just exist as contradictions. The wisdom of it comes as you get older.

Kris Kristofferson

"The Hero/They Killed Him" ...

Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, "And You And I"

Mac.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Starring Danny Kaye, from 1947 ...

Strength.


18.
A mighty pile of wood the God then heaped,
And having soon conceived the mystery
Of fire, from two smooth laurel branches stripped
The bark, and rubbed them in his palms;—on high
Suddenly forth the burning vapour leaped
And the divine child saw delightedly.—
Mercury first found out for human weal
Tinder-box, matches, fire-irons, flint and steel.

19.
And fine dry logs and roots innumerous
He gathered in a delve upon the ground—
And kindled them—and instantaneous
The strength of the fierce flame was breathed around:
And whilst the might of glorious Vulcan thus
Wrapped the great pile with glare and roaring sound,
Hermes dragged forth two heifers, lowing loud,
Close to the fire—such might was in the God.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, from "Hymn to Mercury"

Trust.


Love is weak when there is more doubt than there is trust, but love is most strong when you learn to trust even with all the doubts. If a thing loves, it is infinite.

William Blake

21 June 2021

Happy Birthday, Davies


Ray Davies was born on this day in 1944.

The Kinks, "Where Have All the Good Times Gone" ...

The Church, "Tristesse"

The Police, "Bring on the Night"

Gone.


And when the wombat comes
He will find me gone ...

The B-52s, "Legal Tender"

Learning to print ...


See, if kids don't learn cursive in school, they'll learn it on the street.

Burning Spear, "The Wilderness"

Imperfections.


It is said that there are four kinds of horses: excellent ones, good ones, poor ones, and bad ones. The best horse will run slow and fast, right and left, at the driver’s will, before it sees the shadow of the whip; the second best will run as well as the first one does, just before the whip reaches its skin; the third one will run when it feels pain on its body; the fourth will run after the pain penetrates to the marrow of its bones. You can imagine how difficult it is for the fourth one to learn how to run!

When we hear this story, almost all of us want to be the best horse. If it is impossible to be the best one, we want to be the second best. That is, I think, the usual understanding of this story, and of Zen. You may think that when you sit in zazen you will find out whether you are one of the best horses or one of the worst ones. Here, however, there is a misunderstanding of Zen. If you think the aim of Zen practice is to train you to become one of the best horses, you will have a big problem. This is not the right understanding. If you practice Zen in the right way it does not matter whether you are the best horse or the worst one. When you consider the mercy of Buddha, how do you think Buddha will feel about the four kinds of horses? He will have more sympathy for the worst one than for the best one.

When you are determined to practice zazen with the great mind of Buddha, you will find the worst horse is the most valuable one. In your very imperfections you will find the basis for your firm, way-seeking mind. Those who can sit perfectly physically usually take more time to obtain the true way of Zen, the actual feeling of Zen, the marrow of Zen. But those who find great difficulties in practicing Zen will find more meaning in it. So I think that sometimes the best horse may be the worst horse, and the worst horse can be the best one.

If you understand real practice, then archery or other activities can be zen. If you don't understand how to practice archery in its true sense, then even though you practice very hard, what you acquire is just technique. It won't help you through and through. Perhaps you can hit the mark without trying, but without a bow and arrow you cannot do anything. If you understand the point of practice, then even without a bow and arrow the archery will help you. How you get that kind of power or ability is only through right practice.

If you study calligraphy you will find that those who are not so clever usually become the best calligraphers. Those who are very clever with their hands often encounter great difficulty after they have reached a certain stage. This is also true in art and in Zen. It is true in life. So when we talk about Zen we cannot say, 'He is good,' or 'He is bad,' in the ordinary sense of the words. The posture taken in zazen is not the same for each of us. For some it may be impossible to take the cross-legged posture. But even though you cannot take the right posture, when you arouse your real, way-seeking mind, you can practice Zen in its true sense. Actually it is easier for those who have difficulties in sitting to arouse the true way-seeking mind that for those who can sit easily.

Shunryu Suzuki, from Not Always So: Practicing the True Spirit of Zen

Delbert McClinton, "Givin' It Up for Your Love"


It's sandwich time.

Asia, "Roundabout"

Sincere.

Summer.


The introduction to Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury

JUST THIS SIDE OF BYZANTIUM: an introduction

This book, like most of my books and stories, was a surprise. I began to learn the nature of such surprises, thank God, when I was fairly young as a writer. Before that, like every beginner, I thought you could beat, pummel, and thrash an idea into existence. Under such treatment, of course, any decent idea folds up its paws, turns on its back, fixes its eyes on eternity, and dies.

It was with great relief, then, that in my early twenties I floundered into a word-association process in which I simply got out of bed each morning, walked to my desk, and put down any word or series of words that happened along in my head.

I would then take arms against the word, or for it, and bring on an assortment of characters to weigh the word and show me its meaning in my own life. An hour or two hours later, to my amazement, a new story would be finished and done. The surprise was total and lovely. I soon found that I would have to work this way for the rest of my life.

First I rummaged my mind for words that could describe my personal nightmares, fears of night and time from my childhood, and shaped stories from these.

Then I took a long look at the green apple trees and the old house I was born in and the house next door where lived my grandparents, and all the lawns of the summers I grew up in, and I began to try words for all that.

What you have here in this book then is a gathering of dandelions from all those years. The wine metaphor which appears again and again in these pages is wonderfully apt. I was gathering images all of my life, storing them away, and forgetting them. Somehow I had to send myself back, with words as catalysts, to open the memories out and see what they had to offer.

So from the age of twenty-four to thirty-six hardly a day passed when I didn’t stroll myself across a recollection of my grandparents’ northern Illinois grass, hoping to come across some old half-burnt firecracker, a rusted toy, or a fragment of letter written to myself in some young year hoping to contact the older person I became to remind him of his past, his life, his people, his joys, and his drenching sorrows.

It became a game that I took to with immense gusto: to see how much I could remember about dandelions themselves, or picking wild grapes with my father and brother, rediscovering the mosquito-breeding ground rain barrel by the side bay window, or searching out the smell of the gold-fuzzed bees that hung around our back porch grape arbor. Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.

An then I wanted to call back what the ravine was like, especially on those nights when walking home late across town, after seeing Lon Chaney’s delicious fright The Phantom of the Opera, my brother Skip would run ahead and hide under the ravine-creek bridge like the Lonely One and leap out and grab me, shrieking, so I ran, fell, and ran again, gibbering all the way home. That was great stuff.

Along the way I came upon and collided, through word-association, with old and true friendships. I borrowed my friend John Huff from my childhood in Arizona and shipped him East to Green Town so that I could say good-bye to him properly.

Along the way I sat me down to breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with the long dead and much loved. For I was a boy who did indeed love his parents and grandparents and his brother, even when that brother “ditched” him.

Along the way, I found myself in the basement working the wine-press for my father, or on the front porch Independence night helping my Uncle Bion load and fire his home-made brass cannon.

Thus I fell into surprise. No one told me to surprise myself, I might add. I came on the old and best ways of writing through ignorance and experiment and was startled when truths leaped out of bushes like quail before gunshot. I blunwas somehow true.

So I turned myself into a boy running to bring a dipper of clear rainwater out of that barrel by the side of the house. And, of course, the more water you dip out the more flows in. The flow has never ceased. Once I learned to keep going back and back again to those times, I had plenty of memories and sense impressions to play with, not work with, no, play with. Dandelion Wine is nothing if it is not the boy-hid-in-the-man playing in the fields of the Lord on the green grass of other Augusts in the midst of starting to grow up, grow old, and sense darkness waiting under the trees to seed the blood.

I was amused and somewhat astonished at a critic a few years back who wrote an article analyzing Dandelion Wine plus the more realistic work of Sinclair Lewis, wondering how I could have been born and raised in Waukegan, which I renamed Green Town for my novel, and not noticed how ugly the harbor was and how depressing the coal docks and railyards down below the town.

But, of course, I had noticed them and, genetic enchanter that I was, was fascinated by their beauty. Trains and boxcars and the smell of coal and fire are not ugly to children. Ugliness is a concept that we happen on later and become self-conscious about. Counting boxcars is a prime activity of boys. Their elders fret and fume and jeer at the train that holds them up, but boys happily count and cry the names of the cars as they pass from far places.

And again, that supposedly ugly railyard was where carnivals and circuses arrived with elephants who washed the brick pavements with mighty streaming acid waters at five in the dark morning.

As for the coal from the docks, I went down in my basement every autumn to await the arrival of the truck and its metal chute, which clanged down and released a ton of beauteous meteors that fell out of far space into my cellar and threatened to bury me beneath dark treasures.

In other words, if your boy is a poet, horse manure can only mean flowers to him; which is, of course, what horse manure has always been about.

Perhaps a new poem of mine will explain more than this introduction about the germination of all the summers of my life into one book.

Here’s the start of the poem:
Byzantium, I come not from,
But from another time and place
Whose race was simple, tried and true;
As boy
I dropped me forth in Illinois.
A name with neither love nor grace
Was Waukegan, there I came from
And not, good friends, Byzantium.
The poem continues, describing my lifelong relationship to my birthplace:
And yet in looking back I see
From topmost part of farthest tree
A land as bright, beloved and blue
As any Yeats found to be true.
Waukegan, visited by me often since, is neither homelier nor more beautiful than any other small Midwestern town. Much of it is green. The trees do touch in the middle of streets. The street in front of my old home is still paved with red bricks. In what way then was the town special? Why, I was born there. It was my life. I had to write of it as I saw fit:
So we grew up with mythic dead
To spoon upon midwestern bread
And spread old gods’ bright marmalade
To slake in peanut-butter shade,
Pretending there beneath our sky
That it was Aphrodite’s thigh…
While by the porch-rail calm and bold
His words pure wisdom, stare pure gold
My grandfather, a myth indeed,
Did all of Plato supercede
While Grandmama in rockingchair
Sewed up the raveled sleeve of care
Crocheted cool snowflakes rare and bright
To winter us on summer night.
And uncles, gathered with their smokes
Emitted wisdoms masked as jokes,
And aunts as wise as Delphic maids
Dispensed prophetic lemonades
To boys knelt there as acolytes
To Grecian porch on summer nights;
Then went to bed, there to repent
The evils of the innocent;
The gnat-sins sizzling in their ears
Said, through the nights and through the years
Not Illinois nor Waukegan
But blither sky and blither sun.
Though mediocre all our Fates
And Mayor not as bright as Yeats
Yet still we knew ourselves. The sum?
Byzantium.
Byzantuim.
Waukegan/ Green Town/ Byzantium.
Green Town did exist, then?
Yes, and again, yes.

Was there a real boy named John Huff? There was. And that was truly his name. But he didn’t go away from me, I went away from him. But, happy ending, he is still alive, forty-two years later, and remembers our love.

Was there a Lonely One? There was, and that was his name. And he moved around at night in my home town when I was six years old and he frightened everyone and was never captured.

Most importantly, did the big house itself, with Grandpa and Grandma and the boarders and uncles and aunts in it exist? I have answered that.

Is the ravine real and deep and dark at night? It was, it is. I took my daughters there a few years back, fearful that the ravine might have gone shallow with time. I am relieved and happy to report that the ravine is deeper, darker, and more mysterious than ever. I would not, even now, go home through there after seeing The Phantom of the Opera.

So there you have it. Waukegan was Green Town was Byzantium, with all the happiness that that means, with all the sadness that these names imply. The people there were gods and midgets and knew themselves mortal and so the midgets walked tall so as not to embarrass the gods and the gods crouched so as to make the small ones feel at home. And, after all, isn’t that what life is all about, the ability to go around back and come up inside other people’s heads to look out at the damned fool miracle and say: oh, so that’s how you see it!? Well, now, I must remember that.

Here is my celebration, then, of death as well as life, dark as well as light, old as well as young, smart and dumb combined, sheer joy as well as complete terror written by a boy who once hung upside down in trees, dressed in his bat costume with candy fangs in his mouth, who finally fell out of the trees when he was twelve and went and found a toy-dial typewriter and wrote his first “novel.”

A final memory.

Fire balloons.

You rarely see them these days, though in some countries, I hear, they are still filled with warm breath from a small straw fire hung beneath.

But in 1925 Illinois, we still had them, and one of the last memories I have of my grandfather is the last hour of a Fourth of July night forty-eight years ago when Grandpa and I walked out on the lawn and lit a small fire and filled the pear-shaped red-white-and-blue-striped paper balloon with hot air, and held the flickering bright-angel presence in our hands a final moment in front of a porch lined with uncles and aunts and cousins and mothers and fathers, and then, very softly, let the
thing that was life and light and mystery go out of our fingers up on the summer night air and away over the beginning-to-sleep houses, among the stars, as fragile, as wondrous, as vulnerable, as lovely as life itself.

I see my grandfather there looking up at that strange drifting light, thinking his own still thoughts. I see me, my eyes filled with tears, because it was all over, the night was done, I knew there would never be another night like this.

No one said anything. We all just looked up at the sky and we breathed out and in and we all thought the same things, but nobody said. Someone finally had to say, though, didn’t they? And that one is me.

The wine still waits in the cellars below.

My beloved family still sits on the porch in the dark.

The fire balloon still drifts and burns in the night sky of an as yet unburied summer.

Why and how?

Because I say it is so.


Ray Bradbury
Summer, 1974

Your hymnal is here.

Fire ballons afloft in Thailand.



Basic fire balloon how-to is here.

Imperfection.


Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else.  Life is like stepping onto a boat which is about to sail out to sea and sink.  Enjoy your problems.  Nothing we see or hear is perfect. But right there in the imperfection is perfect reality.

Shunryu Suzuki, from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice

Bach, Keyboard Concerto in F Minor, BWV 1056

Maria João Pires performs the Largo with the Orchestra of Paris, directed by Riccardo Chailly ...

Happy Birthday, Kent

Kent, The Quadrant, Moby Dick, 1932


Rockwell Kent was born on this day in 1882.

I think the ideals of youth are fine, clear and unencumbered; the real art of living consists in keeping alive the conscience and sense of values we had when we were young. 

Rockwell Kent

Choice.

20 June 2021

Everywhere.


I sit up late dumb as a cow,
which is to say
somewhat conscious with thirst
and hunger, an eye for the new moon
and the morning’s long walk
to the water tank. Everywhere
around me the birds are waiting
for the light. In this world of dreams
don’t let the clock cut up
your life in pieces.

Jim Harrison

Gipsy Kings, "Djobi Djoba"

Other.

Bottecelli, Birth of Venus (detail), 1486


AFTER YEARS

Today, from a distance, I saw you
walking away, and without a sound
the glittering face of a glacier
slid into the sea. An ancient oak
fell in the Cumberlands, holding only
a handful of leaves, and an old woman
scattering corn to her chickens looked up
for an instant. At the other side
of the galaxy, a star thirty-five times
the size of our own sun exploded
and vanished, leaving a small green spot
on the astronomer’s retina
as he stood in the great open dome
of my heart with no one to tell.

Ted Kooser

Deserve.


Too lazy to peel fresh? You don't deserve to eat garlic.

Anthony Bourdain, from Kitchen Confidential

Wandered.


Hollywood is not a kind and gentle place, but it's where my work takes me. On the first day of a recent meeting, we worked fourteen hours, a reminder that the place doesn't necessarily dollar up on the side of frivolity. This schedule continued for several days, until 1 felt like one of the well-known, three peeled throats of Cerberus, exhausted, fluttery, my imagination a mud puddle rather than a mighty river. To put it simply, I wasn't getting enough to eat. My partners (Harrison Ford and Douglas Wick) own the sharpish features of the underfed, features that any phrenologist will tell you reflect an interest in money and power rather than in the fruits of the imagination.

Anyway, in the middle of a serious point, I slipped into an out-of-body experience and was swept away to New York City, tracking myself as I left the therapist's office where I am treated for the usual obsessive-compulsive disorders. My first stop was the Ideal Lunch & Bar on Eighty-sixth Street, for a quick boiled pig hock, then on to the Papaya King hotdog stand on the corner of Eighty-sixth and Third for a quick frank with sauerkraut and mustard, down Third to Ray's for a slice of pizza with eggplant, then over to JG Melon for a simple rare burger and a double V.O. When I came to, I discovered that I had been talking with incisive brilliance and the meeting was over, which proves that even ghost food is better than none. Unfortunately, I don't have any of the notes.

The point is that there's no snack food in L.A. on the order of New York's. I ate very good dinners at Dan Tana's and at Osteria Orsini, where my table was presided over by the best waiter on the West Coast, the fabled Igor. The last night I agreed hesitantly to Chaya's, doubtful that a restaurant that “hot” could also be good. The meal was splendid, again highlighting the fact that I have never had an accurate intuition (raw-tuna salad, a pasta with peerless squid and slivered jalapeños, a small grilled chicken with a side of garlic the equal of any I've ever had, pommes frites, and a whole bottle of Château Montelena just for me).

Despite this grand send-off, I arrived home in a palsied state—tremors of exhaustion, near tears, that sort of thing. My wife noted a burnt-rubber scent coming out of my ears, firm evidence of my brain's drag racing with itself in film country. To set the brakes 1 wandered for hours in the woods, looking for morels, but it had been a dry, bitterly cold spring, and the mushrooms were scarce. At one point I walked three hours to find four morels. I did, however, gather enough to cook our annual spring rite, a simple sauté of the mushrooms, wild leeks, and sweetbreads. Regardless of this tonic for the body, I fired off inconsolably angry letters to no one in particular and lightly spanked the bird dogs for minor infractions, until I gave up on domestic life and packed north to the cabin, with three cartons of books on Native Americans and John Thorne's Simple Cooking. Native Americans are an obsession of mine, totally unshared by New York and Los Angeles for the average reason of moral vacuum. Native Americans are like good poetry, and it is particularly banal that we are dying from the lack of what both tell us.

Jim Harrison, from "Consciousness Dining"

Paul Weller, "Up in Suze's Room"

Bowie, "The Pretty Things are Going to Hell"

Who to dance with on a Sunday night?

Paul Weller, "Shadow of the Sun"

Excellent.

An excellent cookbook ...

Michael Franks, "Antonio's Song"

Eliane Elias, "Desafinado"

Commis.


Nine out of ten English chefs have their names on their chests. Who do they think they are? They're dreamers. They're jokes. 


Just ask yourself how many chefs in this country have Michelin stars and how many have their names on their jackets. 


We all wear blue aprons in my kitchen because we're all commis. 


We're all still learning.

Marco Pierre White.