Mar 28, 2010

'Why don't you sit down and watch this,' he's saying. I glance at the screen and shake my head. I don't want to watch a Komodo dragon take down a water buffalo. It's the problem of having children late in life. Your last son is 15; you're four times that and the resilience is just gone. The metaphors are just too much. Not every day, but today. How to explain. The bite on the heel, the unfairness of that alone, that metaphor alone, and then the poison working through, a kind of insemination, a poison to bloom. I suppose, and then the buffalo limping off, grazing on and on, for a week or more, and all the while Komo-dra is tracking, waiting, for the return on investment, a Komodo derivative, a reptilian asset swap, without any conscience, wouldn't that be a vacation? — to be in such a mindless state — and then when Buffalo Death starts dancing in the nostrils, half a dozen more dragons appear, tongues flopping like spent dicks, moving closer with the assurance of continents. And so I go back down into the garden, to look still again at the hanging baskets and the squash and the struggling lavender. It's a pitch-blue sky, not enough breeze for a kite made of random thoughts. You could rummage through an attic full of beautiful days in the last five years and you couldn't find a match for this one. And yet that thought of the dragons coming around, slitering after your heels, waiting on the rocks, and you have no idea, you're just another animal in the kingdom.

Mar 25, 2010

You don't notice it really. You're just living along. It's in the background, like crickets. But once in a while you hear that brownish color of angst, with the red arm band. Whenever I hear that, I go right back up to Lowe's 86th Street, off Lex, to one Saturday afternoon in 1960. I was 12. "Mein Kamph" was playing. That was my introduction, my overture. My mother had mixed feeling about whether I should see it. 'Alright,' she said finally, 'but it's going to be very sad. You have to expect that'.

Years later she told me a Jewish lover had persuaded her to let me see it. In fact, that I should see it. No matter my age. He'd been in the war. He'd seen the camps first hand. He'd known people who had perished.

So off I went, up in the reekin' rocket to 86th Street and boyo paradiso. Maybe Nicky was there that day, after his Saturday morning lesson with Arlie Furman.

Miss. Furman was our violin teacher and an interesting character then in Manhattan music circles. She played Town Hall in 1964, although she had to halt the performance briefly due to dizziness. The truth is, her nerves were shot because she could barely survive the screech of middle earth students. She could inhale half a cigarette in one drag; it was the only way to bear such a racket and incompetence. She spoke in a deep-G voice, coughed like a consumptive, had a horrific temper, but equal humor, and could decimate a child with a wave of her head. She was one of those violinists whose head became disembodied when she played, rolling and snapping and marching along. In the 30s, she met Fritz Kreisler in Berlin, and if I'm not mistaken studied with him briefly. She had a photo of the two of them on her piano. She could tell stories of the 1930s in Europe.

Or perhaps that day we'd just come from one of Leonard Bernstein's Young People's concerts and afterwards a snack in the Russian Tea Room. Was it Peter and the Wolf, perhaps? It was around that time. Which is to say that my sense of evil was completely abstract, expressed and only made real by the sound of those ominous French horns announcing the wolf's slinking arrival.

Or maybe that day we'd been playing football at the bottom of dog hill on 79th Street and 5th, next to the Met. And maybe it was the day Henry got me down and let drool bubble on his lips and threatened to drool in my face if I didn't say, "I am a mother fucker". "It's just words," he said when he let me up. "Don't you see that. It's just words." Henry was the wise man and the wise ass in our group.

Whatever the particular segue the best of any weekend was going to 86th Street, our Mississippi River full of Indian Joes. Eighty-sixth was not as naughty, or decadent, as 42nd, but sometimes it seemed like it. The Lowes was dark and plush, thick with the scent of popcorn floating in butter, the sound of fizz and in 1959 the particular eroticism of Curse of the Undead, about a vampire gunslinger and the beautiful brunette who became his victim and then accomplice.

Even counting "Mondo Cane", which opened a couple of years later and didn't have nearly the perversion we hoped for, Mein Kamph was much different. That we immediately set aside. I did. It was a window by itself, with a view that was instantly authentic and hypnotic. And after all, the war had ended just 15 years earlier. Plus the black and white film, itself, the storm gray tone running through every scene. The music. And the rhythmic yelling of Hitler himself. I drowned in it. It was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen. Even at that age the evil was so apparent, so obvious. I never forgot those scenes of the brown shirts, in their hunting lodges, their sentimentality towards dogs and children, and then killing each other, and finally killing Jews.

And then you saw the bundles of hair and jewelery and the showers where they gassed the people and how people climbed over each to get to the top of the room for the very last wisp of air, and the bulldozers pushing bodies around, all entwined, arms and legs moving like people half asleep. As powerful as Night was, or Diary of Anne Frank, or Sophie's Choice. Or "Schindler's List", for that matter. Or any number of other descriptions, it was that one film that forever imprinted the lure and horror of the Third Reich.

Times film critic Bosley Crowther wrote at the time, "No wonder this film, with its reminders of the way in which the German people fell for the bombastic build-up of Hitler and his Brown Shirt party in the dark depression years, with its pictures of wartime excesses and unbelievable persecution of the Jews, snapped open the eyes of contemporary Germans and left them glassy and aghast when it was shown to them last year."

These days those scenes have much less currency. They've become neutered by imitation and repetition. And all the while the real memorists are receding. Other than those akin to Elie Wiesel how many people are left who were there, who could tell you first hand. And the context is gone. There's no proper translation. Unless you can hear through it....


Sean Hannity's dog died this morning. It was a terrible thing he told a caller. At 6 a.m. Sean found the dog bleeding from the mouth. It was the end of a long illness. He realized he would have to put the dog down but maybe it could wait until the weekend or even next week. "Then I realized," he said. "I couldn't be that selfish." The caller was sympathetic. You don't realize how much you'll miss them until they're gone, she said. She had a Brooklyn accent. Sean said he'd been getting calls all day, people saying how sorry they were. The kindness of people in a real crisis is unbelievable isn't it? Of course one of those calls was from Mark Levin who has written a couple of books about dogs and will weep on a dime, even with that distinctive yellow venom running out the side of his mouth. Sean can turn on his own dime and when he finished with the caller from Brooklyn he went right back to his script — he always reminds me of one of leaders of the mob in the Oxbow Incident. And always the subtext is, "we gotta band together and get rid of this nigger."

Mar 22, 2010

“We are bound to let whatever light we have shine,” said the president.

It was not the morning news in Fearopolis, where the yellow presses were all awhine and gog with other stories. “What we need to do,” said the Gollum, “is get rid of these bastards.” El Rushbow actually used that word. “These bastard democrats." "Run them out of town," he went on. "Every last one." He sounded like an exterminator from the old west. The Terminex associate in Boot Hill.

He is the Gollum-Lector, the Fr. Coughlin of Palm Beach: his thinning hair brushed back Hannibal-style, the fat cheeks, skin the color of a dirty colon, the demeanor of a neuter, the voice coming from nowhere, not attached to a brain but to some other reddish nerve leading out his tail bone to a tiny LED light.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to hit you between the eyes,” he said and went on to lay it all out: how your premiums will go up not down, how the radicals will be choosing your doctor, how the fact is there will still be preconditions, and no you won’t necessarily be insured, and how your Medicare is problematic. On and on. "This is all a sham, you’ve been lied to, now you’ve seen the statists at work, this is exactly what I’ve been telling you, these people know no bounds. They have no humanity, no souls, you’re all in for a horrible death. When the fat black lady bureaucrat sings, you’re history. It’s the end of America as we know it. It’s the end of you, as you know it."

The Gollum-Lector paused.

* * *

Of course health care legislation had a hideously painful birth. Especially with the toe-headed Stupak switching sides at the last moment, to get his “me-time”. What sanctimony. “Hey Bart,” I yelled at the TV. “Cool down. It’s not like you have to have a baby.” And still the House was standing in applause. As though abortion were the real issue. Beware of big government getting in your health care pants. Except on the question of abortion.

And so what if 59,000 nuns said the bill was okay as far as they were concerned. And God knows, they are concerned. On the other hand, what are they but women, and lesbians at that. And what do the nuns do? They work with the lost and unfound, the sick and the poor. And what does that add up to but a hill of beans. Nuns and the poor, what possible constituency should have less of a voice in endorsing health care? By all means mind the Bishops. By all means mind the men in black robes, with the little solid-gold cross bumpy on their hairless chests, following their cocks and See, like fops after their Dachshunds.

Meanwhile, the next morning David Sanger, Chief Washington Correspondent for the New York Times, gives his measured judgment. It’s always important to qualify in Washington. You never want to be ‘wrong.’ Beware the scold. His message is that Obama got His but at the cost of a post-modern, post-partisan dream. The country will never be the same.

The Times is always two beats out of rhythm. Like when Merlin Olsen tried to sing dowap with Deacon Jones, Lamar Lundy and Rosey Grier. With the Gray Lady it had to be Hillary; Obama had no chance. He was too inexperienced. Then on the health care bill they said, ‘Obama, don’t be too ambitious, just get what you can get.’ Step by step, kid.

Which is nor'easter slang for, ‘don’t be too uppity, nigger.’

He’ll get his dream. Some if not all of it. After all, where are the Republicans going now? Further right? Down Reagan row. Down Mark Levin lane. Downtown with El Rushbow. No. They'll have to come back to the center. They'll have to come and play in his park. They’ll have to do his bidding. Sooner or later. And he’ll eat them alive and they’ll have to smile as he does it and they'll be like live gophers down the egret's throat.

* * *

So it was not about big government or little abortions — and what an irony that was, taking up the mantle of abortion for the people you most denigrate and despise. And it was not about your grandchildren’s grandchildren having to pay off the debt for altruism. That was all the Gollum-Lector’s ‘thedeology’ but no one really thinks like that. If they did they would never have bought houses they couldn’t afford, and run up credit card bills they could not afford to pay back. Nobody really cares if their children will be in debt. Who ever heard that in America? Until now you never needed a future in America.

No, that was all nonsense. The truth is closer to racism. Think of all the people who would do anything to bring this man down, who can’t stand his brilliance, who can’t abide his humanity, who will not stomach his success or forgive him his pride. Who cannot endure the shame they feel because of all that he is and all that they are not.

But in the end it’s not even about him, the great community organizer, or racism. It’s about the end of old times, white men and women, churches and government house. It’s what what Henry taught me years ago. All the institutions are crumbling. The pews are all but empty. The place is all a crackpot. There’s nothing to hold on to.

Not to mention the new ennui. The old desolation is once more up and running. In the ugly overhead light of now-this-minute there is no relief from it. But different than before and as difficult to describe as it is insufferable. It's closer to loneliness than boredom. It's less intellectual than emotional. It's the feeling that you can't go back to where ever you thought you could go back to.... It's about losing the humors and humor itself. And sure, it's about aging and shopper failure and relationship fatigue. It's about being tired of everything and not being able to imagine the future. It's about the furrowed fear and imaginable pleasure of dying in late afternoon traffic, being in the company of fellow drivers and yet on your own, and when you're passed on, against the window, and your car hits the car in front, it's all a gentle passing and the driver is on headphones anyway, and after a quarter mile he may notice you don't seem to be playing your role and then everything stop and ambulances come and folks were delayed and everybody thought you just went to sleep.....

That's the question. As everybody knows and says, the answer is to redefine community. If you can see that far, if you can imagine it.

Mar 9, 2010

In reaction to a December 9, 2009 post about a strange thread in the fantastic life of Dr. Suzanne Caadium, I received this anonymously written comment today...

"I've known this woman personally for over a decade and she is a brilliant person. A true story of success. Had a child at 15 and managed to put herself through Stanford. She is trained in psychology/psychiatry so you can imagine the devastation and internal dialogue and anguish when you realize you are schizophrenic. It's hard for those around her to admit the disease as well - though we must. She will not get better if we are blind to it."

Caadium, if you'll go along on a flight of fantasy, is close to cadium, which is a spelling variation of cadmium, which is a soft, malleable, ductile, bluish-white bivalent metal, similar in many respects to mercury and zinc, except that it forms more complex compounds.

Think of the properties of mercury. And what is Zinc, if not an essential element, without which people grow sick. Therefore, you could say Dr. Caadium is herself a kind of human compound, very complex and mercurial, yet malleable, and without which the world is a dreary, gray and unhealthy place.

Mar 8, 2010

But what if Sandra Bullock, who should not have received her award, had come up on stage and said, "I am overwhelmed by this honor.... I am stunned, and I am very thankful. It is a dream come true. And to all those who helped me to this point, I deeply thank you. But you know if this is to mean something really, it should go to someone else this year. I don't know who that is. I only know that some other nominee deserves this more. I am not made of this mettle." And then had she offered some appropriate theatric, handed the statue back to a handler and walked off stage. That would have been better drama, during a ceremony that seems like so many other ceremonies and institutions and individuals these days, a vague approximation of something, a replica event, an impersonation, a disingenuous little thing, one more 'dey cart before dey horse', one more spectacle in response to, one more example of a culture so ready to react but not to act.