Who watches the watchmen?
I’m starting to write near midnight on Dec. 29th. I’m not sure how far I’ll get. What I need to fight against right now is the urge to stop writing—or, as the case just a moment ago was, to not begin writing—and close this laptop down and try and go to bed. What I need to do here is to keep drinking this drink and keep moving my fingers and postpone crying so that I can put down some of what I’ve heard tonight. And what I’ve seen and done. Let me take these things in reverse order. Maybe I’ll get to finish that previous point I said I’d make about music and religiosity. Because guess which album I’m listening to. You have exactly one guess.*WHAT I DID TODAYNot much. Yesterday I picked up Arrested Development on DVD and today I watched a whole mess of it with Kris. Here’s why this show’s great. It has the fastest-paced writing in television, with the possible exception of Family Guy or The Simpsons. Also, there’s a resonance between the characters of the Bluth family and the Lobko family. A brief recap for those who don’t know the show would go something like this: George Bluth (Jeffrey Tambor) is in prison for carrying out Enron-scale fraud with his Bluth Company holdings. There are four offspring. Gob (pronounced "Jobe"), the oldest, a magician blackballed from the Alliance of Magicians (which he founded) for accidentally revealing certain magicians’ secrets. Lindsay, a gorgeous fair-weather activist. Michael (played by Jason Bateman, who, some of you might remember, started out on The Hogans) (FN #1). Buster is a man-child and perennial graduate student, a hysterically pitiful mama’s boy who’s given to panic attacks and only began sitting in the front seat of cars six episodes into Season One. Here’s why I’m fascinated with the show: it trumps even Seinfeld in Seinfeld’s ability to set out minor events and develop them into absurd, yet logical full-blown scenarios. It has a lot of fast-paced banter, and that’s always fun, but what sets the show apart (among other things) is the way that passing asides and barely-referenced references recur and develop later within the same episode – and when this happens with a few or a half-dozen references, an episode begins to seem complexly braided indeed. It makes these absurd plausible is another, slightly different way of saying this. Here’s also why I enjoy it. There’s a way to loosely map these characters onto our own family. Melissa = Lindsay (beautiful, a canny shopper, v. sharp when it comes to understanding others), I = Michael (straight-laced, the fall guy, trying to keep things together), Gob = Jon (seeking patriarchal approval, rebelling when said approval seems hard to come by, fond of tricks, a little black sheepy), and Bailey, our Golden Retriever, = Buster (I mean, you can’t even give this dog an ice cube without the dog acting up with a case of what we call “the hiccups” – a sort of effusive tongue-action that’s part nerves and part adverse physical reaction. It looks downright dipsomaniacal. Could I talk about anything insignificanter than this? Considering circumstances? *I’m dealing with that wanting-to-stop-writing feeling again. What’s better to do? Work through it or give into it?When I was running up Knowell Rd. yesterday – the 3rd leg of my standard 5ish mile run here in Camillus – my thoughts went something like You’ve gotta do the hard thing. I may’ve even said something out loud to that effect. And I do believe that. Part of me however simultaneously and oppositely is aware that doing the “easy” thing in these trying days is actually obeying the prescriptions of the heart and the body. Are these really the days to be reciting in this self-goading fashion that old chestnut about “The spirit [being] willing but the body [being] weak”? Because I do sometimes use that as a way to tell myself No, you’ve got to make the body as willing as the spirit, or the spirit as willing as the body. I’ve been this way for a long, long time. It’s sort of in my blood by this point. Thus the daily poems, thus the novel quotas, thus this blog, thus my fondness for running—one of the most masochistic of all sports/hobbies. So my default mode is to push through and past whatever would be easier. *WHAT I SAW TODAYDad pulling up to the house in Jon’s black Nissan Frontier. He’d been in Colorado retrieving Jon’s worldly possessions. Which included. o Scores of DVDs, some of which were “borrowed” from me. These were packaged in a green shoulder bag and a black heavy-duty garbage bag, the kind of bag that’s so sturdy it has quilted-style stitching on it. o A PlayStation 2 w/ controllers and games, packed in a spiffy Targus carry case. o A sturdy black plastic bag teeming with boots and shoes. o A translucent plastic Tupperware-type container about as wide as your armspan and about 8 inches high. This contained Jon’s dress shirts and ties. Some of which were mine, but were originally Dad’s. So many of the ties in possession of members of this family were first Dad’s. It’s funny how clothes circulate. Clothes typically go up the geneological tree towards Dad: shirts, jeans, jackets, hats. But ties have only travelled down, towards the younger of us. o A safe. A Sentry v330. Portable. Weighs about 50 lbs. There are some of Jon’s documents inside. We have the key, but not the combination. It falls to us to open this safe. Part of me doesn’t want to farm this work out to a professional. Wants to leave the safe unopened until we figure out how to open it ourselves. * I can’t even begin to write about materialism as I see it now in the aftermath of a guy like Jon’s death, Jon who loved stuff, Jon who had recently bought all manner of new consumer goods such as a flatscreen computer monitor, an Olympic weight set, a Sony Vaio laptop computer, some of which were destroyed by his hand, some of which have come home now to be—what? redistributed among us the survivors? Sold? Mothballed in the basement?—and none of which were able to bring him the happiness he was looking for. Capital. Goods. Stuff. Items. Purchases. Belongings. The weight room here in the basement of the Camillus house just teems with his stuff. Clothes. Boots. Shoes. It is one of the most grotesque and heartbreaking and beautiful rooms full of stuff I will probably ever see. *WHAT I HEARD TODAYWhat I heard today was too gruesome to share, I think. And too personal. Things to do with what Jon was like on a daily basis, and on a week-to-week basis, with his rising and falling morale, his rising and falling goodness to E— his girlfriend and companion. To do with the precise timing, place, and dynamics of how Jon killed himself. To do with the composition of his face and the forensics of etc. Here I run smack into more unforeseen issues of honesty and its ramifications. *HERE COMES APPROX. 7 HOURS OF SLEEPAnd now it’s the next morning. Here is the problem that eventually got the better of me last night. What is more important: to share or to withhold certain, ah, distasteful and / or nightmarish (literally) facts and images? To parse this question out into subquestions:What would be the good in sharing these facts and images with others? Would such sharing aid in the grieving of others? Would it aid my own grief to sort of offload some of the burden from myself onto others? And moreover, what is the moral obligation involved, if any? To present any and all images and facts I come across in that aforementioned spirit of 100% honesty, 100% of the time. (And naturally 100% of anything is going to be a dicey proposition: I know that.) So one might argue that there’s a moral obligation to oneself to share if it is going to help one process. And one might argue that there’s an M.O. to share if it might help others process, even if at first it comes as a shock to them.But oppositely, what would be the good in withholding certain informations, facts, and images? Well. Doing so would safeguard several things and people: a) my brother Jon and his reputation, which might be injured with certain revelations, b) his immediate family, which might be similarly injured , c) those in Jon’s immediate day-in-day-out circle, and d) you the reader, who might not want certain images that I now have in my head to transfer into your head. This question is akin to one that like Life Magazine photography editors and war documentarians probably have been asking themselves since the development of their respective mediums. At which point does the public representation of a horrific fact cease to benefit anyone or anything? And, crucially, what effect does this have on the Honesty Issue? Well, its effect is clear: that honesty and propriety are different forces, but are not enemies. Honesty and propriety must not be at loggerheads (FN #2), is the truism I see the reality of, now, these days. But the cessation of benefit issue is a murkier one to try and answer.I realize that this question is completely bound up in the nature of this online and intrinsically public forum I’ve selected, and that the question would be rendered moot if only I were to select—if only for a time—another medium for contending with some of the facts I’ve alluded to above. But. I have come to depend on the public nature of this medium as an outlet and a nexus through which I connect with friends old and new and family members and the whole great cloud of human connections in which I’m floating. In which my family’s floating. And by their own claims, some of these friends have proclaimed that there’s been a cathartic benefit to this forum’s public nature. That these writings aren’t about me or the Event so much anymore because they’ve begun to apply to larger experiences. That, in effect, It’s Too Late To Stop Now. This post has become way too meta… way too about itself. This isn’t going to hold true for subsequent posts, I promise. Still, this issue needed investigation. I’m not too psychically blocked to realize that I spend this much time on the issue halfway-deliberately in order to avoid dwelling on the very images and facts I myself have been discussing the merits and demerits of possibly sharing. Realize that as I ask these questions, I’m not really looking for a quorum to vote on the issue and instruct me. Rather I’m trying to nose out a protocol for future situations of this kind, and more generally to share—aha!—some of the mental processes with which I’ve been wrestling. *FOOTNOTES W/O MUCH IMPORTANT INFORMATION, OR, COLOR COMMENTARYFN #1. I have the thoroughly useless life skill of recognizing actors and actresses from previous obscure TV pilots and / or Films the Eighties Forgot. If ever you vaguely recognize an actor or actress and can’t place him / her, ask me, and I’ll probably be able to nose out the answer you need. FN #2. “At loggerheads” = in conflict. A colloquialism much in favor at the New York Times these days; I guess I picked it up by osmosis. Ever notice the repetition of certain phrases in a certain newspaper, even when the articles in question aren’t authored by the same writer? It gives me the image of a vast smoky newsroom in which reporters are kicked back in roller-chairs playing a half-hearted, one-handed game of catch with Koosh ball, saying like “How ‘bout ‘butting heads?’ ” “ ‘Butting heads’ won’t do, won’t do. How ‘bout ‘at loggerheads’?” “Loggerheads, eh? That’s gold, Jimmy, gold!”
It is time to start having a tumultuous biography
A singer named Joseph Arthur has been chorusing the word "Freedom" at me for a while now. (Thanks, Courtney.) Granted, I've had the song on repeat for some time, and that has something to do with it. But freedom is what I have. I feel a little bit, I imagine, like Jon did after getting out the Navy, which he came to hate. (Nothing against the Navy itself, I'm sure. At least not at the present time, from where I'm sitting.) But check it out: friends of mine have been clamoring for me to visit them. I have offers to move to all parts of the country. I could go a) to Connecticut, b) home to Syracuse, c) to Las Vegas, d) someplace completely unforeseen. This afternoon I thought for the first time about embarking on a cross-country trip w/o any firm destination in mind, a Find Wil Trip. When I come right down to it, I'm not tied to any one place or thing or vocation right now. Grad school for a PhD and the life of an academic is way off in the future. Selling books and music is lame and boring and wasteful when I consider my degrees and educational exp. I realize that such a trip might be a rather indulgent option right now. I'm not married to the idea. But its romance is more than a little seductive. Crossing the country on my way to and from Oregon, I never allowed myself much time to stop and smell the cultural roses. In my defense, I did set near-records in cross-country travel time; my best was 58 hours from Camillus, NY to Eugene, OR. Besides, as the title of the post indicates, and as I remembered this afternoon, I am a poet. And poets have tumultuous biographies. Lord knows that Jon's given me a start on this, has given me a lot of tumult to start with. I'd rather have him back than have this tumult. Obviously. But as is, I now have the idea in my head to allow myself some more poetic license, if you will, in writing my own bio. Not so tumultuous as, say John Berryman's. Because Jon went the way of Berryman in the end. Huh. Weird coincidence there. But I don't want a Robert Frost-style bio, either. I want one of my own. I want to slalom those two lives, and do something new. Join the Vegas School of poets, perhaps (this amounts to a shout-out, Jeremy - take note and appreciate!).
I am so comfortable right now. I hit on the idea of outfitting this office chair with a tri-folded blue blanket, which has elevated me a crucial inch or two, and in the small of my back a pillow is nestled, so I am completely upright and tucked into the desk and the laptop. There's a candle on my right, a fan blowing at my feet, a double vodka cran at my immediate left, and Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here is playing on my fantastic headphones. I re-remembered this afternoon, going through a box of Dad's old records, that he has this album on vinyl. Vinyl. Also in Dad's surprisingly-awesome collection:
o Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks
o Led Zeppelin, Zoso (a.k.a. Led Zeppelin IV)
o Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti
o Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy
o A whole lotta Peter Gabriel-era Genesis
o Rubber Soul (I mean, Rubber Soul!)
So many of you have mentioned in personal emails that you've been reading this site, and enjoying it, and even benefitting from it in profound ways. I'm trying my best to keep up with emails, and will get to you soon if you've emailed me, but I just wanted to take a quick moment to thank you all a) for reading and b) for telling me that you're reading and benefitting. I would have a harder time sitting down to write if you all hadn't told me such things. I would have a hard time indeed convincing myself that writing these posts and pasting them on the Big Brick Wall of the Internet was worthwhile. I would have a hard time thinking that such posts were anything more than self-indulgent attempts to validate the thoughts and weird feelings and outright struggles I've been having with the Event and its aftermath. Thank you, in short, for convincing me that what gets posted here goes beyond its author and reaches you. You keep me going, you do, you, the person reading this.
I want to talk about two things here. One is sincerity. The other is music and its potential for religiousity and holiness.
One. I was in Penn Station on Sunday morning, Dec. 18th. I'd gotten the news about Jon the previous night. I'd called Amtrak and spoken to a woman who helped me change my ticket from Dec. 24th to Dec. 18th. No problem. That all went smoothly. Kristin is with me. We have a bit of drama getting to Penn, as the Manhattan-bound trains in Brooklyn's 36th St. Station were suspended for a bit: a man had had a seizure on an R train. That was at about 8:50, and I had a 9:45 train to make. But, condensing here, we made it to Penn at about 9:25. I went to a Quik Trak computer terminal to print out my ticket. The data stored in the computer had my ticket as being for Dec. 24th. Recall that I'd changed this ticket the night before. I become, let's say, a little concerned. We go to the Amtrak ticket area. There's a line of about 20 people. Way more people than could be processed in the 15 minutes I would need them to be processed in. I leave my baggage with Kris and go around to the front of the line. I address the first 10-12 people in line. I say something like this: "Hi everyone, I'm very sorry to ask this of you, but I have a 9:45 train to catch [recall that it's about 9:30 now, and that I'm not a down-to-the-wire kind of guy AT ALL], and I'm trying to get home because I lost my brother yesterday, and I would be very grateful if you allowed me to hop in front of you... is that all right?" Words to that effect. And the person at the head of the line was an early-20-something in a red ballcap, the height of a lacrosse defenseman, definitely a college kid. I look at him by default because he's closest to me. He says, "Listen pal..." in a manner that I have to describe, given the circumstances, as skeptical. "Listen pal...", and words to that effect. He steps past me. I'm just about ready to cry. I look at the rest of the people. They all make conciliatory "Go ahead" and "By all means" sorts of gestures. I thank them all and scoot to the open window, which is down at the far right. I'm helped by a very understanding woman who treats my emotional breakdown (I broke down) with grace. It seems that the ticket agent with whom I'd spoken on the phone entered all of the proper information but had neglected to change the date and OK it in the Amtrak system, or whatever. So I got my ticket and boarded the train. Kris relayed, however, before I boarded, that the other people in line, whom she had had occasion to hear once I'd gotten their approval and gone to the ticket agent's window, had been discussing me and my situation. One man said this: "Well, you never know. He could be telling the truth."
Two. I've been calling the B_____ store here at the Carousel Center in Syracuse, NY to inquire about the possibility of transferring from my Columbus Circle, NYC B______ gig. Transferring between B______ stores is reportedly a major cinch. And as such, the idea was to transfer home and work in order to keep busy and save up some $ as the family got its feet back under itself. And technically speaking this is still a possibility. But listen. I'd told a few people at B_______ that I worked at a B_______ down in NYC and was thinking about transferring home to Syr due to a death in the family. OK. Anyone who's read more than one post on this site knows that I am striving to be, if I am not already, a 100% honest guy. That I am striving to shed any guile or duplicity or knack for hiding Who I Am and What I'm About from anybody. I may not always volunteer facts about my life, but I never mislead and I'm learning to volunteer said facts. I'm striving to live openly and hide nothing. OK. So. Yesterday I finally get the Syr B_______ General Manager on the phone. I give a short recap of who I am and why I've been calling him, and I'm not sure how much information he has regarding my situation from the notes he's been given by his subordinates... and here I trail off with a higher, inquisitive note in my voice. "Yes, I did get those notes," the GM deadpans, "and quite frankly I'm dumbfounded that you would share that information with anybody." Here the GM begins essentially to reprimand me, at some length, at the bad-business nature of my honesty and forthrightness. He informs me with no little passion of my profound error. He advises me that "for future reference" I should avoid sharing certain choice elements of my personal life from a professional point of view. The conversation proceeded from there once I - also dumbfounded by this point, for v. different reasons - apologized for sharing said information and wouldn't have done so if I had even once considered that it might become an issue in this way. It wasn't an issue, the GM said, it's just bad business, and for future reference I should et cetera. He asked if I liked the Columbus Circle B_______, asked what I was into and what I'd been up to education-wise, told me that the Music Dept. could use someone who knew music (whatta concept) and here I found myself talking about what I've helped accomplish at the CC B_______ in NYC with the Music Dept. there. (None of which is bunk. I do know my music and I have helped that Dept. increase the amt. of weight it carries. But still.) And the GM by phone call's end did offer me work there, and seemed genuinely jazzed to meet me and work with me. Halfway-attractive visions of supervisorship began to formulate in my mind. But those first 3 minutes of the phone stuck with me more than the other 7 have.
OK. Now. I understand that the GM felt placed in a potentially difficult situation in that, since he knew that I had experienced a death and was hoping to transfer, he might have felt an implicit obligation - not an actual one, of course - to help me out. To give me what I wanted, in other words. I understand that from his point of view, I may've seemed to be throwing around the news of my situation - i.e. the news of my brother's death - as a tool or weight in order to get what I needed. But for him to so take me to task, for him to assert that I was that wrong in my honesty, makes it seem as though he believes that I was purposefully sharing the fact of Jon's death with strategically-selected people in order to earn some crucial job-related leverage. His taking-me-to-task implies that he believes I am capable of such a thing. Likewise, the line situation in Penn Station tells me that the ballcap-wearing kid and - to a lesser extent - the more credulous people in line believed at least in part that I was lying. That I could have been lying about my brother's death in order to get to the head of the line. Or in the GM's case, that I could have been sharing the truth to some crucial personal gain. Both of which imply that the line people and the GM believe that the average person - i.e. me, for all they knew - was capable of and probably was carrying out the base, blackhearted action of lying about / using the fact of Jon's death in order to get something.
And that's the upshot. That's the most distressing part of these twin experiences. That other people, strangers, could assume the worst from another person. The Penn Station people come off worse in my estimation because they don't have any professional context by which to justify their doubt or their critiques of what I know to be my simple presentations of self and professions of fact. The B_____ GM I'm sure is a very good guy who was just conveying a businessman's POV. (POV = point of view. Fiction writer's shorthand. Handy in other contexts.) It's such a strange thought for me: that my whole new dedication to being 100% open 100% of the time would lead to critique, doubt, and indictment. It might illuminate a funny fact about human nature, though. We want to be told the truth, of course. But if we're told too much of the truth, we either lose interest, think that the speaker is mentally off, or begin to doubt that it's the truth. Yesterday at lunchtime I caught 15 minutes of so-so stand-up on Comedy Central. Laura Kightlinger (she reminds me of you, Keri B., mannerism-wise) was comparing New York people to L.A. people, etc. etc. It wasn't very funny, honestly. But she tried to hang one bit on her observation that New York people will share the most intimate details of their lives - which I don't find to be true at all - but anyway so she was standing in a deli and a halfway crazy lady behind her struck up a conversation about her favorite bagel flavor, the protocol of placing an order at that deli in question, and that she hadn't had sex in a decade. And that made me think that certainly there's a sort of over-the-top unsolicited forthrightness that puts people off.
Jon is not a bit player in these reflections. In my eulogy, I began by talking about elaborate lies and the difficulty of getting to the truth about the guy Jon was. Jon's own relationship with the truth is something I don't quite have a handle on at the moment. He liked sarcasm. It wasn't the hipster's "Am I serious or not? If you have to ask me to find out, I pity you" kind of sarcasm. It was a deliberately transparent sarcasm, one that was more intent on getting to the telltale laughter at the end of sarcasm than in sustaining the sarcasm. I think he would share my indignation, and maybe even my disappointment, that other people could think these things of me. Could think these things of anyone. Then again, Jon was a cynic, and didn't expect the best from other people. I suppose that in him, in his tendency to indulge irony as little as possible and his cynicism about the intentions of others, one might be able to locate a fundamental aspect of the human: being trusting vs. being skeptical.
But I don't want to be skeptical anymore. I don't want to be doubted, ever. I don't want to put myself in a position where I need to worry about how honest I'm being. I don't want to withhold anymore. Once I told my cousin Edward's wife Jodi that I very much liked the Frost quotation about speech being a water pump, and one should remember to retain all of the water in the well for creative purposes. I want to believe in an infinite draw of water whereby I don't need to prioritize sharing myself with others and putting words into the shapes of poems and the pages of novels. I don't want to tell the truth and have others doubt me. I don't want to keep anybody out ever again. I realize that this is probably impractical. I don't care. I want to know other people and I want to be known. I realize that there's a difference between the issue of honesty / sincerity and the issue of constant openness. I realize that we can't go around making best friends of strangers. I want to work against that realization. I want to tell as much truth as I can about myself and how I see things and listen to other people tell about themselves and how they see the world and believe them, as well.
A ghost of Christmas present
So I finished writing last night and - sorry for being repetitive but it's the truth - was listening to Sufjan Stevens's "The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us!" again and again. Maybe 3 times in a row. I was tired from answering emails and writing last night's post. I was facing away from the door, which was slightly ajar. I had only the one lamp next to the desk on. At the bottom of the landing to the stairs, another light was on. I'd been just sitting there, listening. Started crying. (It's sort of happening again. It's an interesting process when you're conscious of its beginning. How the physical reaction of it centers in the very center of the torso. Anyway.) I'm sitting there last night facing away from the door. Something about the words and the melody really fed the whole crying process; I rather got into it. Oh, you should know that I'm wearing headphones. Pretty good Koss headphones, if you ask me: they're that oversized head-hugger style. They're not technically noise-cancelling, but they cancel a lot of ambient noise all the same. You should also know that despite my family's house being located in the v. v. rear of an especially quiet suburban wooded glade, we all still practice extreme caution with regard to home safety and latches and locks. It reaches comical levels if you ask some people. The door at the top of the basement stairs even has a lock on the inner side, which was installed so that if some intruder were to enter through the water well windows that lead into the basement - I know, ridiculous, but still - then that intruder would have an additional barrier in trying to get into the house proper. I'm trying to describe all of this so you can understand some of the pertinent attributes and attitudes and memories and originating conditions that were affecting the things coming into my mind last night. So last night, sitting there, crying, listening to Stevens's "TPWotPIOtGU!", facing away from the doorway which was ajar and could have quite easily be opened w/o a sound, the issue of sound being moot anyway because of the Koss headphones I was wearing, I didn't quite believe that an intruder was going to come in. In fact, what happened didn't have to do with an intruder per se at all. But it became a very tangible thought that there could have been one behind me. It became very important, also, that I not look behind me. If I looked behind me, the very strong sense I had of somebody behind me would either have been proven or disproven. If proven, it would have been bad for obvious A-Film-By-Wes-Craven type reasons. If disproven, it would have affected me adversely for reasons you can probably anticipate. You can probably see where I'm going with this. As I was sitting there, listening, willing myself to not look behind me at the place where I sensed a person or presence could have v. easily been, I had a vivid impression of Jon looking at me. There wasn't really a background to the mental sight of him. It was really more about his eyes and the set to his face, which was slightly taut of brow as though he was trying to understand something and was about to ask a question of me. It was the older Jon, w/o any hair such that his eyebrows seem extremely pronounced. Now. Does this amount to a Jon-ghost sighting? Let's consider.o I'm staying in his old room in the basement.
o I had spent a few minutes rearranging the framed pictures on the shelves down here in order to clear space for some Jon paraphernalia, which included an old PC joystick - the Flight Stick - which Jon and I used to play through X-Wing and TIE Fighter, which are still 2 of the best computer games ever, IMHO, and an unsharp old Ka-Bar military knife which I believe had been my Dad's. These two items now sit displayed in the center section of the room's western shelves.
o I had just finished writing about him and my anger towards him for what he'd done. Which makes it especially easy to imagine that he'd been listening or reading over my shoulder unbeknownst to me. Because parts of last night's post have the sort of tone of one preparing an argument before trying it out on the person for whom the argument's been designed. I was, like, lecturing him in absentia, and it's therefore easy to assume that he happened into the room as I was practicing this lecture, i.e. he heard it before I was ready for him to hear it.Arguments against?o I tend to equate chance alignments of music and mental sentiment with epiphany and/or insight. Given 3 cups of coffee and the right angle of sunlight and the right song, and given a little bit of poem- or novel-related success, and I will feel like the Golden Child himself. (Another odd reference - where do they come from?) But maybe that's all epiphany is. Maybe that's all ghosts are: very strong impressions that stem from the chance combinations of an individual's sensory data and thoughts. Ghosts might therefore never have objective realities, only subjective ones. Gad. I need to get back into my philosophy texts. Because this sounds a little like Berkeley, doesn't it? That as we are the thoughts of God, little sprites flitting around in His brainspace, so too might Jon have been - last night anyway - a sprite occupying my brainspace, my physical space. Here, let's brush up. Okay. Yes: "We can't think or talk about an object's being. We can only think or talk about an object's being perceived by someone. We can't know any 'real' object (matter) 'behind' the object as we perceive it, which "causes" our perceptions. All that we know about an object is our perception of it." - Wikipedia entry on George Berkeley.So much if not all of the whole persisting notion of ghosts has to do, I think, with guilt. I was thinking along this line when I was dozing my way back to consciousness this morning at around 9 AM. I seem to remember having all manner of insights, but I can't quite reclaim them now; I seem also to remember composing a whole poem in my head, and that's obviously completely gone too. But back to ghosts and Berkeley. I'm glad for the notion of other living people not being dependent on others' perceptions; otherwise, it would seem to have led to an absolute solipsism, and while said solipsism leads logically to God - i.e. all thought has its first cause in God - that's just a little more than I want to pledge my allegience to this morning. And his claim that perception minus thought, especially language, is the scientific ideal and the end toward which we should all bend our energies, well, that's very definitely something on which I turn my back. Probably this all isn't an actual implication of what Berkeley's philosophy holds; probably there are hairs to split that would soften my stance toward all of this. Still. I like the attention paid in B.'s philosophy to pure perception. He seems to take it farther, i.e. to mean that this absolute subjectivity of perceptions must logically terminate in a comparison of those subjective impressions, and as a result that there's an eventual equilibrium or parity between our various subjective impressions, and that from this comparing of personal notes on our own individual subjective impressions comes the basis for true objectivity, i.e. the reality on which we build our daily lives. Which of course we all have to have in order to live. It solves nothing w/r/t Jon and the Jon-ghost I quasi-encountered last night. In part, because I was alone and no one can verify it. In part also because had someone else been down here with me, and had the other person's presence been innocuous enough to allow the same thoughts and impressions and sensations to gather in me as they had last night, even then, there wouldn't have been any way for the other person to verify Jon's presence or whatever you want to call it.But then I think that my ghost argument is a logical fallacy. That a) ghosts are generated by the subjective mind and b) therefore they can't be detected by others, which proves a) that ghosts have only a subjective reality? What kind of daft logic is that? When I come right down to it, nothing has disproved the possibility of actual ghosts except Adult Common Sense. Which fails us all the time, Adult Common Sense does. I suppose that the whole "ghosts = subjective, personal mental impressions" is just the simplest way to affirm / confess to last night's experience; it was the way to explain last night's 1:30 AM phenomenon without sounding flighty or off. But I've got to conclude here that my own rationale isn't sufficiently airtight to disprove the possibility of an actual Jon ghost.
Too much coffee and too little poeming, noveling, running. I'm going to address these three oversights.
The dog will always be restless
Recently consumed:o a plate of steak & eggs left over from this morning's Christmas breakfasto a few stone-ground wheat crackerso a miniature chocolate phallus w/ gonads... wha?? Yes. Sent to our family at this time of holiday cheer by, I believe, the Manfredos? Hey, I needed some chocolate. This was good chocolate, and besides I'm comfortable enough with my sexuality to eat such things. *It's just about 11:30 on Sunday night, Christmas night. My inbox has been steadily filling with emails from so many of you. I've been unable to keep pace with emails in turn. It pains me that this is the case. But know that I am working on the Communication Project with diligence. Kind of like grieving Jon - he would laugh at that word - it will be a marathon endeavor. * I thought about bringing Jon down here to his old room and setting him on the desk as I wrote. I didn't. But I wanted to and here's why: because Jon was more absent than he was present, today, this Christmas. For that to make sense, I'll have to explain. Of course he was absent. I think we were very aware of that fact, to say the least. But that awareness was sort of tacit and largely dealt with in quiet / individual ways. For me, Jon was most present today when I looked at the picture of Missy and I on the stairs, and tried to figure out where Jon would have been, had he not made the mistake he made. I think he was present for Dad when we four and Baba and Pa were enjoying our post-prandial desserts and there was an extra slice of Fuji apple - I began to think about the dents in the main courses and desserts Jon would have made, had he been here. I suppose that what I meant by the absent / present comment above was that there is a difference between a present sort of absence, and an absence that is just an absence. I'm not advocating - at least I don't think I am - that we sit around and think only of Jon's ways of opening presents and tormenting Bailey and such, that we commiserate at length on videos and old pictures of Christmases past. But the scarcity, in myself anyway, of brainspace clearly delineated to Jon himself - what he sounded like, what he would have been up to today - struck me as curious and worrisome. I don't want this process to be about some vague-but-heavy Sadness; I want it to remain Jon-centered. To a certain extent, the process can't be divorced from Jon, obviously. Still, I suppose that I'm beginning to fear that the process will begin to move away from Jon himself and toward a non-Jon-centralized Sadness. The more I write, the more I realize that I'm simply describing the mourning process. Nevertheless: I don't like it. I'm not ready for these subsequent steps. That isn't quite accurate. I'm not ready to feel ready. I don't like the prospect of moving on, not yet. It's only been eight days. * I've written 4 poems in the last 2 days. The first is one of the long iambic pentameter monologues Robery Pinsky and Campbell McGrath have been inspiring me to write for lo these past many years now. The latter 3, however, are completely different than anything I've written. If they have forebears in the poems of a previous poet, that poet would be John Ashbery. Take a look at his poem "For John Clare" to get a sense of him. These poems aren't tied to any one place or voice or idiom. They seem to be realizing in a more extreme way those attributes of, well, disruptive juxtaposition than my other promising work. In my good poems, I always strove and strive to make unexpected leaps between very different subjects and ideas, and to make them similar and related through unconventional means I still don't fully understand. Sometimes I'd articulate the difference / similarity between, say, the Road Runner and sexual pursuit via a flight of high-falutin' rhetoric. Sometimes I'd articulate that difference / ultimate similarity via a third image or likeness, and chain the images and ideas that way. The point is though, in such poems, no matter how many disparate elements I throw in there, everything always aligns in my mind as I write. I basically know where I'm going. If language and its possibility is a map, such a poem is the line I'm drawing with a highlighter. In these last 3 poems, however, I don't know where I'm going. These poems are like spinning a globe and putting my finger out to stop it. Wherever my finger stops is a line. I spin the globe again and get another line, except this time the globe when I open my eyes is of Mars or some other planet. Nothing ties the poem together as I'm writing. By the time I'm done, something ties it together. I've tended to notice this tying-together element just before the poem closes, so I have been noticing it and acting upon it. But by and large, there's an unharnessed ranging between philosophy, straight reportage, personal reflection, image, omniscient 3rd person speculation, rhetoric, slang, colloquialisms... they go everywhere. Which might turn out to be another way of saying they go nowhere. But they are helping. I choose to believe they're helping because - imagine this - there is a one-to-one connection between my feeling inspired and my writing something. Those who know me know that I have long made my writing my work. That means waking up at a certain time, making coffee, and writing a poem. With the addition of the novel, it's meant meeting a quota of words every day after the poem. I'd been lucky or diligent enough with this system over the years to jettison the idea of inspiration or emotional catharsis - that, or else I've come to formulate an idea of inspiration as something that only begins to take shape after and not before I've begun to put words down. It's been a good system and I think it's treated me OK: no "burning out" as of yet. I'm heartened to say, however, that I've been grabbed by certain lines and images over the last 48 hours and have had to put them down. * Here's the running set list of songs I think I'll put together for Jon. The order is not set. Built To Spill - "Else" Shout Out Louds - "Very Loud" Sufjan Stevens - "The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us!" Meat Loaf - "Bat Out Of Hell" Aimee Mann - "Just Like Anyone" Bob Dylan - "I Was Young When I Left Home" Sigur Ros - "Glosoli" This list is too me and not enough him. Those who knew him, and maybe those who didn't - any suggestions? * So much more to put down. Anyone want to pay me to write this blog? I can think of worse forms of employment. * I am angry with him. It's not as though I'm furious with him. That would be inaccurate. I'm disappointed in him and want to tell him that. My angry disappointment doesn't feel like it's about me, although I am disappointed and angry that I won't get to know him now. Won't get to know who he really was, much less who he was on his way to becoming. More than that, my d. and a. revolves around the fact that he did this thing and didn't really understand what he was doing. Although I can't be sure, his note makes it sound as though he was convinced that it was the right thing to do, i.e. kill himself. I won't aggrieve him by airing his words; Jon was v. v. private. But he referred to an unallayable sadness or emptiness in him when he thought of life without his girlfriend E-. My d. and a. centers on the fact that Jon didn't realize - with all due respect to E- - that no woman's really the source of such apparent grief. That there's no relationship sufficiently life-defining that its end must mean the end of one's life. That he was letting himself be duped by feelings he should have known better about. Realize that I'm not questioning Jon's love for another person. Realize that I am questioning, and indicting, Jon's apparent inability to distinguish his feelings of sadness from the rest of the spectrum of feelings. He felt a profound loneliness and extrapolated from it such that it seemed like the only way life could possibly be from that time onward. He was a young guy and I suppose he hadn't had the experience to know that the cliche about the only constant in life being change is true. That George Harrison didn't title his best album All Things Must Pass just because it had a clever ring. Now, why did I bring up George Harrison? Weird. *
All of my powers, day after day I can tell you, we swaggered and swayed ~ Sufjan Stevens, "The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us!"
Merry Christmas, Everyone!
So, yeaaaaah... Last night wasn't so fun. Today has been much better! But you don't have to take my word for it. *The living room, a.k.a. the Pink Room, where the family gifts typically go. In latter years Santa's been delivering to the living room rather than the family room. The Jon collages are on the couch because that's where they happened to be - they aren't meant to actually place-hold.Lobko family tradition dictated that no Lobko resident under parental age was to descend the stairs on Christmas morning until Dad had gone done, affirmed that yes Santa had come - oftentimes accompanied with effusive comment to this effect, i.e. "Wow! Look at all the presents! Geez louise!" - plugged in the trees, turned on some music, and then filmed the trees at some length. Only then could we three kids galumph down the stairs, directly into the camcorder's purview, mind you, and begin ripping open gifts. Even that, however, was regulated to a one-at-a-time-so-we-can-see-what-you've-gotten rule. Despite my having taken up in Jon's basement room, we conspired to recreate the effect here, with Bailey. Jon always professed hating this, but he hated waiting for the order to descend with such artful passion and indignation that you knew he secretly loved it, that is, the waiting.Mom with some intriguingly cut underoos. They, umm, haven't quite been finished being stitched together in, umm, a very important area. Moving on! Sister Missy with a far more tasteful garment. Happiness reigns!There's a photo of Dad opening this gift, in which his expression is mightily confused. I'd wanted to do a little before-after comparison as in 1) What's this / 2) Ah! A Stolichnaya-related trinket! It's a Christmas tree ornament.In 90% of the gift-opening photos taken today, Bailey's head is pointed at whatever's being opened. Melissa resists her charms!Melissa with her new Dell laptop. Technology is cute.True to form, Mom made homemade cinnamon rolls this morning. You start with typical bread dough - bread flour, water, a little sugar, an egg. You roll out the dought into a flat pancake shape, brush it with egg yolk, sprinkle a cinnamon-sugar combination on top, roll up the pancake, and slice it into cinnamon roll-looking spirals. Bake @ 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Pictured here is the glaze, which is the last step. The glaze - the sweet glaze - is just powdered sugar and orange juice, actually.Application of the sweet glaze. No smart-aleck comments, Rosie or Dan H.!Mom with a representative sample of baked awesome. She is not on the market!Mama and myself. I'm wearing my favorite present: a shirt given me by Melissa. Fits like a glove.