Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Employment History Of A Reincarnating Jew

I had a job
prying gold teeth from corpses
I had a job
digging graves for thousands
I had a job cleaning shit from train cars
then one day they shot me
in the back of the head.
At least I had a job
until I was dead.
Now I'm with the living
don't know how it happened
these jobs vague memories
stuck in my DNA.
I have a job cleaning bathrooms
that aren't even dirty
I deliver flowers to lovers
I must have been promoted.
If death is fleeting
and so is life,
It's the soul that holds all memory
of many lives and deaths: how is it
that I recall voices I've never heard
places I've never been?
Perhaps I'll live again then move on
and I'll have a job. If I'm righteous
some day I'll be The Memory Keeper
and tell an epic story
like the Book Of Judgment 
about which the Rabbis sing.

Monday, March 5, 2018

The First Time I Cried In Ten Years

Rahsaan Roland Kirk in all his glory

When I was sixteen years old, I was passionate about Jazz.  Passionate! 
My passion for jazz was so crazy that I left home the day after I graduated high school   I was going on a quest.  I had two hundred dollars in my pocket when I stepped onto the  ramp of I-80 and stuck out my thumb. My plan was to hitch hike from St. Louis to New York City,  in order to find a musician who may not want to be found.  I had to talk to him!  I had to meet him!  Ornette Coleman had liberated my creative vision.  

Word on the jazz grapevine was that  he was "taking a sabbatical".  In the jazz world this is sometimes shorthand for kicking a bad habit.* When jazz players take breaks from their careers it can mean they're in rehab. I was hip to drugs: I was an all-grown-up weed smoker.  Whoopee. I didn't  understand addiction the way I would understand it in another ten years.  I didn't know why so many musicians fell down the abyss of heroin.. I would know, later in my life.  Oh, I would know, I would understand, far better than my sixteen year old self.

 This is all in my novel, "Confessions Of An Honest Man."  It's a three dollar e-book and more people should read it.  End of promotion.

I wanted to share an experience I had this week, an experience entirely related to my love for jazz in the 60's. First, let me tell you that I can't remember the last time I cried.  It could be eight or ten years. That's a long time to have a Pandora's Box of emotion  locked up inside my soul.  This part of my life has been one of silent agony.  There have been times when I wanted to die, but I am resolved to not be a suicide.  I saw a therapist for several months.  I managed to squeeze out a few dinky tears.  It wasn't the catharsis I'd hoped for.  It was better than nothing.

I first heard Rahsaan Roland Kirk when I was fourteen.  This was in 1961  I was crazy for Roland Kirk. (the Rahsaan name came later). The moment I heard his record I was so smitten that goose bumps climbed up my spine.   Wow!  This was a musical three ring circus with elephants and zebras.  It had midget cars out of which climbed dozens of quarreling clowns.  Roland Kirk was technically masterful, innovative, insane and very funny.  Roland Kirk was a grade A bona fide original

Thanks to streaming sites like Spotify I can listen to anyone I care about.  Rahsaan has been gone for thirty years, but his albums are still here and I settled in for a visit to my past, to the passionate sixteen year old  who couldn't get enough music.  I was listening to an old standard, "I've Got Your Number", from Kirk's superb collaboration with Benny Golson.  It's an amazing album, as good now as it was in 1964. I was sitting in my chair in front of my computer and I started weeping.  This was a real shoulder-heaving sob session, a huge catharsis.  My spouse saw my hand covering my face, saw my body lurch..

 "Are you crying?" she asked gently.  "It's all right, boo," I said, "it's good, it's very good." 

The music came through the speakers and I felt as if the sound of Rahsaan's saxophone was tapping at my chest, as though it held a key to open my heart.  It got through to me.  All my frozen emotion came welling up.  I saw my life in its difficulties and frustrations.  I saw myself at sixteen, I saw what an extraordinary person I was.  My New York quest was lonely and unlikely to succeed, but I found Ornette Coleman by the craziest accident.  I was getting on the subway at Forty Second Street.  There was a man getting into the next car, a black man attempting to carry five or six instrument cases.  I rushed up and tapped him on the shoulder.  I wanted to offer my help.  I knew from his knit cap and his attire that he was a man of Jazz.  So, this stranger turned around  There he was.  Ornette Coleman.  I had spent the last ten days searching up and down Manhattan looking for this man.  "I can carry some of these horns if you..." and then I realized who it was and I stuttered, "You..you're Ornette Coleman!" We got on the subway together.  Hardly anyone else was in the car.  It was headed downtown. 
I hadn't rehearsed a speech or anything. I told Ornette how much I loved his music and how profoundly it had influenced my own work.  I told him how far I had traveled.  He gave me his phone number and the rest of my experience in the world of avant garde jazz unfolded, just like in my novel. 

That was a long time ago.  In the present, the important thing is that I regained connection to my emotions.  I'm a psychological person.  I know what it means to be shut down, to have no feelings, not even feelings of love.  It's an inner act of self-preservation.
It's a response to trauma.  It's better, more joyful, to feel sorrow and love, to be alive to emotion.  I accepted being numb.  I didn't recriminate myself.  I allowed the numbness and the mental torture to unfold and do their job.  Pain is always telling us to change things.  "Change things!" pain screams, and so I began to take action.  I began changing my life, one tiny bit at a time.  I'm feeling more creative.  Art worked its magic on me; it healed a child who was in mourning for a man who seemed to have failed.  Music helped me revive the most important part of myself.  Here I sit, right now, at my computer, sharing this personal and private story.  I'm grateful that I can, grateful that I'm alive when a few months ago I thought I would die of sheer misery.

I'm still here.  

Ornette Coleman in 1960

*I never saw any evidence of Ornette Coleman using drugs.  He was taking a sabbatical because his music had incited a furious controversy and that scared away promoters.  Ornette couldn't find work. He passed at age 85, world famous and widely respected as one of music's most important innovators.

Friday, January 5, 2018


Souls that shine
souls that blind
souls that rest
and souls that are best
left untouched.
Souls everywhere. 
Souls of deepest glory.
Souls of foulest depth, 

Souls indifferent to
their soulness
souls imagined to
be blest,
souls in all the world
souls in the universe
by the trillions
that dance in mighty starshine
that grovel in filthiest muck,
souls know not where they are,
souls that have traveled far,
souls abound, souls all around,
all these souls
are in motion,
moving forward, moving back,
striving for a glimpse
blind to the whims
of the wind that towers above
the souls in a realm that
shines, each soul has a time
to chose where it will go.
Souls can turn to stone.
Souls can be perfume.
Souls can rot.
Souls can survive,
souls can revive,
from exile,
for the isle of souls is placed
amid the gleaming thrones.
There is a cell where souls slumber.
A well where souls go deeper.
A ladder that souls ascend;
a tiger that souls defend.
A choice that souls make
in a time when souls shake.
Which way will I chose for my soul?
Which way will you live for your soul?
Which way is forgotten by the soul?
Who is the master of his soul?
Who is the soul’s slave?
Who can define what a soul is?
Who can decide what their soul is?
When can I see my soul
in all its raiment?
I want my soul to begin
being a soul.  Now.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Does My Writing....Suck?

Maybe my writing sucks.  Maybe it's that simple.  Maybe my writing is trite and boring. I must pose this question if I'm to be rigorously honest: Am I that bad?  My books, are they not worth reading?  They don't sell.  Not even a little.  They just don't sell.  I did some marketing.  I won an award and a beautiful review from Writer's Digest. I was reviewed numerous times, and reader response glowed with love. It didn't help.

Has this huge effort been my escapist fantasy? 

I don't accept that idea.  But I wouldn't, would I?  Otherwise how did I put in the decades of practice, the repetition, the  rejection?  A compelling artist needs to work at the craft passionately and beyond reason.  A hundred drafts of one page? I've done that as a matter of routine.  I've  re-written each of my books five times, ten?  I've lost count.

This epic failure is a case of falling through the cracks.  I may be the Van Gogh of modern writers.  If you thirst for vivid emotion and wild color, it's there in my stories. The catalog of books on Amazon is bloated by a million titles.  Why should anyone pay three bucks to download a bit of my life's work?  How do I get the attention of readers, of my natural audience?

My books are wonderful books.  If you value originality, skill, vision and perception, you should read what I've written.  Read "Confessions Of An Honest Man". It's my autobiographical novel.   When my book placed in their competition, the editor from Writer's Digest wrote "I don't usually read this kind of book but I feel better for having read it. I will carry this novel with me for a long time."

Read any of my books. If you get bored, you're not my audience.  I write for artists, therapists and their clients, boomers who used acid, the curious, the addicted, the recovering, the failed, the intelligent and the sensitive ones...and I don't suck.  In my modest human way, I'm glorious.

"Confessions Of An Honest Man:" the link.   Confessions Of An Honest Man

Monday, December 11, 2017

Car Disasters of 2017 or Bad Fortune Cookies


            I was driving sixty miles an hour on Southbound 101 when the car abruptly died.  It was my nightmare fantasy come true.  My  trusty '98 Jeep just  stopped.  The radio went off, all the gauges slid to zero and I was coasting to a halt in a busy freeway lane.  I tried to restart the car.  I had no lights, no nothing. Not even the emergency blinkers. 
            I was terrified.  Vehicles were hurtling towards me at seventy miles per hour and they had no clue that I was dead in the right lane.  Should I get out and run for it?  Should I wait here?  I didn't know.  It seemed more honorable to stay with the car, to go down with the ship.
            A Highway Patrol car materialized behind me, its lights flashing.  Forr the first time in my life I was pleased to see Law Enforcement flashing its lights at me. The officer walked briskly to my front window.  He gestured to me to roll down the window. 
            Problem is, I can't roll down the window.  Nothing works. 
            "Put it in Neutral, sir.  I'm going to push you to the shoulder."
            Thank god thank god the gear shift works.  The CHP officer squares off behind me and bumps my fender with his big front pusher bar.  The car moves!  Oh! 
            There's another CHP car about two hundred yards upstream from us, slowing traffic by weaving across the freeway.  I get to the shoulder and the officer appears again.  He shouts at the closed widow.  He thinks I'm a moron. "Have you got Triple A, sir?"
            "I do.  I do. I do." I feel like I'm getting married.  "I do I do", I stutter, my nerves shattered, my forehead bathed in perspiration. 
            "Call 'em right now.  What's wrong with your vehicle, sir?"
            "I don't know, it's been running fine and then, suddenly, whammo! Dead.  D-
           " Do NOT exit the vehicle unless supervised by your tow driver.  Stay in your vehicle!  .  If this was tomorrow I'd write you up but I'm feeling generous today" .  I'm praying the policeman doesn't notice the passenger side front mirror, because it's taped on with duct tape and is not glass but a piece of reflective plastic whose images are distorted  beyond recognition.
            I call Triple A and wait for the tow truck.  I get texts every few minutes relaying the progress of my rescuer.   When the tow truck arrives it conveys me to Bowens Automotive Repair, a garage that I picked at random off the internet.  The mechanic does his tests and I absorb the diagnosis: My alternator is shot.  The car needs a new alternator.  Price tag: Five Hundred Dollars.
            I have no choice.  I call my partner to pick me up and drive me home in the other car.
            The Other Car.  The '96 White Chevy Blazer.  It was once a luxury car.  Leather seats.  Key fob operated remote lock/unlock.  We haven't driven it in four years because it doesn't start.  I would presume its got a dead battery but I swapped another battery into the car and it still didn't start.  So, maybe a blown starter motor?  Bad solenoid, frayed ground wire?
            The Jeep has always been our go-to car.  I haven't had the money to repair the Blazer. But now I must buy a new battery.  If there's something else wrong with the Blazer  I'm wasting my money but I follow this handy rule:  If the car doesn't start, and the battery doesn't charge, replace the battery.  Maybe the swapped battery was dead, too. 
            The moment of battery replacement is fraught with tension.  Will it, won't it...start?  I connect the new battery, turn the key in the ignition and....hallelujah!  It starts right away.  Oh, what a relief.
            I drive the Blazer to work the next day.  We've been using the Blazer as a storage bin.  Its rear is filled with linens, dishes, books, tools, all kinds of stuff  loaded up to the line of sight in the rear view mirror.  If we put any more stuff in there, I won't be able to see what's behind me.
            I drive to work.  I work.  I prepare to drive home.
            The driver's side tire is flat.
            Shit!  Where's the spare?  Is it underneath all that storage?
            No.  It's under the chassis, riding beneath the rear wheels.  The problem is that the tools for jacking and removing lug nuts is underneath the dishes, the linens, the books.
            And there's a trick to getting the spare to come free, a trick that I don't know. I've been using a sledge hammer to whack at the wing nut that constrains the spare.  I whack it and the nut turns but it's not coming free.
            I begin to unload the stored goods in the cargo compartment.  Maybe there's a special tool, something to help me understand the spare tire conundrum.
            A motorist rolls up beside me in the parking lot.  He's driving a Blazer.
            "Are you stumped by the spare tire riddle?" he asks.
            "Totally stumped." I admit, raising my shoulders.  The back of my t-shirt and pants are black with asphalt and tar.  I don't know this, yet.  I can't see it.
            The Good Samaritan emerges, opens his rear hatch and pulls a variety of jack stuff from a compartment.
            "If you take this to a pro tire shop they won't know what to do either.  It's the great Blazer Spare Tire Riddle."  It turns out there's a hidden slot next to the license plate.  When my new friend inserts a blade-style tool into the magic slot it turns a cog and the spare tire DESCENDS on a cable until it hits the ground and I slip it off the wing nut.  There is no thread.  There is just this clever but now-obscure arrangement.
            Flat tire off; spare tire on.  Drive to the tire place.  Spend $120 to replace the spare.  Okay, the car runs.  As I drive, I see the one thing THAT I MOST DO NOT WANT TO SEE.   The dreaded SERVICE ENGINE SOON light comes on.
            I hate those lights!  Hate em!  They utterly destroy my peace of mind.  They are the manifestation of worry on the Material Plane.  As we all know, The Material Plane is dominated by concerns for automotive hygiene.  If you don't got transpo,  you don't got shit.
            I try driving the Jeep.  I'm too scared by the friggin' SERVICE ENGINE SOON light on the Blazer.
            The Jeep takes me to work the following day.  I detour through Novato and prepare to drive to Petaluma.  I'm going "the back way" because north-bound 101 is a parking lot.  It's always a parking lot from 3 to 7 P.M. five days a week.  What is this insane life we live?  Why do we spend four hours a day sitting in automobiles?
I'm heading for South Novato Boulevard when a giant cloud of steam erupts from under the hood.  GIANT CLOUD OF STEAM!  NOT GOOD.  NOT GOOD.

            I pull into the parking lot of the last shopping center before I embark on twenty miles of rural winding roads.  I buy a jug of coolant and I fill the Jeep's reservoir with the gooey green stuff.  I wait twenty minutes and I attempt the drive home.  The Jeep runs, somewhat jerkily, and I spend the next forty minutes of back-road driving in a state of profound alarm. 
            I make it.  I'm home. 
            I know a little bit about cars.  That kind of volcanic eruption of steam can indicate a water pump has gone bad, or the thermostat has failed, or the radiator is toast.  Or all of the above.
            My neighbor, Mike, knows about cars.  "I'll change your thermostat," he says cheerfully.  Mike is attending AA meetings and has just got his thirty day chip.  That's not an issue for me.  It just adds to the air of tension: Mike struggling to stay away from drink.  His wife has quit smoking and is on Day 27.  My neighbors are deeper in poverty than we are.  No wonder Mike eagerly volunteers to change my thermostat.  Mike is all over the place helping people. 
            I purchase a thermostat.  Mike replaces the old one in about ninety minutes.  He doesn't want to charge me.  I give him fifty dollars.  The new thermostat works, the Jeep stays cool.
            I didn't want to mention this before but it just happens that the Blazer's registration is due in a week and I know, for a fact, that SERVICE ENGINE SOON means that it will not pass the smog check.
            Nonetheless, I feel safer driving the Blazer and I take it to work the next day.
As I'm coming home on North Petaluma Boulevard I hear a sound like a very large motorcycle cruising up on my driver's side.  Wow!  That's loud!  I look to my left and I see no motorcycle.  There's no traffic at all.  But the Blazer is crunching and flubbling.  It sounds like a propellor blade being demolished by a potato masher.  The Blazer is behaving as if it has the hiccups.  No question: another tire is flat.
            I get over on the shoulder to inspect the damage.  Holy Shit!  The tire is literally shredded, it's nothing but four inch strips of rubber hanging from a punctured black matrix of nameless stuff.
            Call Triple A.  Second time in three days.  An hour later the big yellow truck pulls up.   A toothless rail-thin old guy gets out, grinning happily, and tells me that my tires are sun-damaged.  They've been sitting for too long and the heat has soaked the oils out of the rubber. They're all about to blow at any second. I need to instruct the tow truck man how to get the tricky spare out from under the Blazer.  Once the tire is changed I drive straight to the tire place and get four more new tires.  That's "OW!" four times.
            There are days when nothing goes right.  When to touch a machine is to wreck it.  Or when one makes an error due to a lapse of attention that causes a ten foot fall off someone's deck into a bed of blackberry bushes.  I'm having one of those days.  I put on the coffee.  It's a stove-top espresso maker.  I wait for the boil, wait and wait.  I smell something burning.  Uh oh!  I take a pot holder and lift the coffee maker.  Oh man!  Oh man oh man! I forgot to put water in the bottom part of the Vigano stove top coffee maker.  Now the rubber gasket has melted and scorched the threads and the coffee maker is a casualty of Morning Mind Mush.  In spite of the damage, my partner is greatly reassured.  My error is comforting to her.  She thinks she's "losing it".  Now she knows she's not the only one who's "losing it".
            I must locate a smog shop, a Star Certified Service Center, one of those in cahoots with the smog-fighting money-sucking bureaucracy of the DMV.  I pay for the smog test.  The Blazer fails.  How much, I ask, will it cost to fix it so that it passes the rigorous standards of our state's air-quality guardians?
            The Blazer needs a tune-up, a forward oxygen sensor, a rearward oxygen sensor and a catalytic converter."That would be about nine hundred and fifty dollars," answers the mechanic, whose name, Kelvin, is stitched onto his dark blue jump suit.  Kelvin's wife/receptionist is named Tran.  They're Vietnamese.  
            How many times have I said "shit" or "fuck" in the last three days?
            "Kelvin," I ask, "is there some kind of discount for the poor and the elderly?"  I have been poor my whole life.  The 'elderly' part occurred while I wasn't watching, about three years ago, when my left hip began to feel as if a strong man was applying pressure to it with a vice grip.
            There is, in fact, a program for the poor and the elderly to pay $500 towards smog repair.  I get the papers downloaded and send in the application.  A week later the grant arrives.  Five hundred of that nine hundred fifty dollars will be paid for.  Hell yeah!
            The smog repair takes two days.  I wait eagerly for Kelvin's call.  At last the phone rings.  "You passed your smog test," says Kelvin.  I'm so happy!  I'm thrilled.
I had needed a victory, any victory, a small victory, whatever, I'll take it.
            "But there is a problem, I'm afraid," says Kelvin, and my heart takes up residence at the ends of my toes.  I can feel my pulse down there, bumpity bump, pulsing up through my toenails.
            "A...uh...problem?"  Fuck!  Shit!
            "I think your water pump is about gone."
            "You think, you THINK.  Is it gone or isn't it?"
            "I don't know.  There was a pool of coolant under your car when I came in this morning."
            How much does he want to repair the water pump?  Well, you see, one should also replace the thermostat when one replaces the water pump.
            HOW MUCH?
            Four hundred seventy eight dollars.
            Stop everything!  HOLD THE PRESSES!
            I'm not stupid.  I check online and a water pump plus a thermostat costs about sixty bucks.  My neighbor, my pal my buddy Mike will do any automotive task for fifty dollars, gladly.  The work boosts his self esteem and it keeps him out of his RV and away from his jonesing wife.
            The Material World is a challenging place.  Our current model, this 21st century science fiction hip-hop deodorant-peddling appearance-worshiping stage set is peculiarly complex, is like a cross-word puzzle without a solution.  No one wins in the Material World.  All endings are bad endings.  If I'm lucky I will die quickly and without indignity.  If I'm lucky.  Meanwhile, as I wait for the denouement of my life, I must endure and meet the challenges thrust into my face by the invisible spirits of Destiny.
            Is the cup half full, partially full, partially empty, or totally empty?  The Highway Patrol Cop did not write me up.  The guy in the Blazer showed up as if dropped from Heaven.  I got a five hundred dollar grant from the DMV. The battery in the Blazer started the car.  The Jeep still runs.
            The cup is the cup.  Whatever's in it is what I've got.  I may as well accept that fact.  It's all those things, partially full, partially empty.  Life is blessed and sublime and life can be unspeakably vile.
            While I'm at it, I should check my credit rating.  I might want to purchase a recent model used car.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Lost: One Male Libido


This libido (center figure) was last seen on December 31, 2016.  It is approximately ten feet tall, six feet wide and four feet deep.  It has between twelve and twenty horns of various descriptions.  It's covered in long brown fur and has eyes all the way around its cylindrical body.  The number of fingers, tentacles and hands it may possess are unknown as it can sprout extra limbs at moments of high stress.  It is not very intelligent but possesses a wild cunning that can catch pursuers off guard.  If you see this libido DO NOT APPROACH IT.  DO NOT ATTEMPT A DIALOGUE.  IT IS NOT AMENABLE TO REASON.  Call the local sheriff's department, dial 911 or email me at artsdigiphoto@gmail.com.

 There are commonly available and well known techniques that calm this libido but I discourage their use except in extremely dangerous situations.  Under proper conditions this is a highly trained and valuable libido.  I am reluctant to cause it damage or harm. You might call it by one of its names: Thor, Zeus or Johnny.  This tactic may backfire, however, for if it is Johnny and is called Thor or Zeus it gets very upset.  Likewise if it is Thor and is called Johnny, etc.  The best approach is simply to say, "Hey big guy.  How's it hangin'."  It has been trained to recognize this as a non-threatening mnemonic.  It may trigger my libido's desire to return to its so-called master.


REWARD OFFERED: I will give you, free of charge,  my guaranteed technique for healing all stress, depression and emotional trauma.

SPECIAL CAUTION: Do not mistake this libido for the so-called Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti or Skunk Ape. It is not a primate and is immune to veterinary drugs. Rather than seek out police or Forest Rangers it may be more useful to find an old shaman from the Chumash or Miwok tribes. A qualified shaman will likely be more useful in the safe return of this treasured libido.

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Bankruptcy Blues (from The Road Has Eyes)

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