Month: April 2014

The Art Crazy Old Man Knows I Am A Phony But Tells Me To Keep Painting Anyway

The Art Crazy Old Man

Or Kurt Vonnegut: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be”.

Or the art crazy old man himself: “I have been in love with painting ever since I became conscious of it at the age of six. I drew some pictures I thought fairly good when I was fifty, but really nothing I did before the age of seventy was of any value at all. At seventy-three I have at last caught every aspect of nature–birds, fish, animals, insects, trees, grasses, all. When I am eighty I shall have developed still further and I will really master the secrets of art at ninety. When I reach a hundred my work will be truly sublime and my final goal will be attained around the age of one hundred and ten, when every line and dot I draw will be imbued with life.”—Hokusai Katsushika

Sunday in the library I checked out a photo book about Picasso. Pictures taken of him at leisure and work in 1956. A mess of canvases and sculptures in every room, painting on the walls, dripped paint on the floor. His mansion had twenty foot ceilings and huge doors at the end of one studio opening out onto a balcony of palm trees. “La Californie” was the name of his hermitage in Southern France.

There is a brief passage in the book referencing his time in  Montmartre, when he lived in poverty, painting. Somehow still able to acquire materials without the financial support of credit cards and/or a sugar mama. I think poverty in 1905 was a world of difference from what we call it today. He must have made modern starving artists look like rich dandys sacrificing a week of television and a bowl of chocolates for art. Or, God forbid, cell phone service! The photos of him as a rich millionaire painting in a mansion juxtaposed with my imagination of a poor Parisian painter holed up in some cold January flat over a hundred years ago, instruct and educate like nobody’s business. His wealthy genius in 1956 appears unchanged over 50 years time. He looks just as poor to me, but rich in determination and singleness of purpose. He eats, sleeps, voids excrement, laughs and paints. There is no stopping him. The art crazy old man.

I mention Picasso’s sameness to my wife this morning over coffee. I asked her how differently would we live if suddenly Jeff Koons got cast inside one of his poodles, and Ron Throop went viral throughout the acquisition dreams of bored billionaires. “Our coffee would get better. Other than that,” she admitted, “nothing”.

Last month I helped hang a show at our local art association. One of the helpers, a member my age, asked me what I do for a living. “Paint,” I said. “I am a painter”. It was more difficult for me to get that truism past my lips than if I told him I was an untouchable scouring latrines with my socks.

Picasso’s Picasso. Throop is Throop. We have nothing in common, besides the old man on the rock in my painting. My path for the rest of this life is to pretend like Picasso. It won’t hurt anybody. It won’t even help. Maybe, if I just work harder and dream longer, Rose will taste a better sip of coffee with her next husband.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Here Is A Music Box. The Turntable Is Broke. Can I Have One?

Music Box

Our town is so devoid of art venues. I need to display this music player at a show in June. There is a screen printing shop in operation by the river in the process of convincing me that there are no other galleries worth art’s time. The proprietor offered the space to me. I am over-obliged, and here is why.

It’s a huge space, dark, maybe dank, but full of life, youthful, unpretentious, and dreamy like rock n’ roll at seventeen. The owner, Glenn, has the right idea. He prints shirts and stuff, and offers musicians and artists a gathering place. In five years he will be able to boast saving egos, marriages and perhaps even a life or two. In the last two days he has hosted pro bono art on the level it must be raised to, if humanity is to carry on for another thousand years. On Friday there was a performance art gig organized by my friend, the college gallerist and his buddy, the sculpture professor. Last night, a benefit for another teacher-artist who had a heart attack a couple months ago, but as adjunct, was uninsured. Last month another artist friend, and also a teacher, set up a sumi ink station on the floor during open mike. My wife and I had a date with our daughter. We got to be ageless and stroke newsprint paper with fat bristle brushes.

Zink Shirts® is the Island of Misfit Toys, and Oswego artists, Santa’s not-forgotten poor girls and boys. Small town middle-aged men and women mingling with inspired youth not yet crushed by the weight of vanity; themselves ready to become misfits, but most will lack the courage to remain, and move to the big city and struggle to make art for the artless. I plan to teach them at Zink not to bother—to just “get a job and someplace to live”. To make art their living, whenever possible. If a big break comes, take it, but give back to Zink Shirts®. Every town must have one, a meeting place to feel. The counting houses posing as bars, restaurants, and hip and hop retail have played host to the twaddle of finance for too long. They don’t want to know anything about you past your money. It works for them, and the people suffer for it. To me American towns appear twisted like the gangrened insides of a moaning zombie, rather than the healthy paradise such incredible wealth could provide. Walk up the main street of my town on a late April afternoon. Pottersville.

I am a 47 year old father and house-husband who paints. I have been applying my vanity to the undeserving New York “art” scene for several years now. To hell with the gallery wizards and witches. Their coven on Manahatta brews soulless international bunk to don the palaces of millionaire twits. The business of art. Ha! I call it the undertaker of happiness medicine. My healing place is wherever I feel ageless at the moment. For dinner, the culinary arts. For family, time without appointment. For freedom, my art to pull me back to love. For society, a place like Zink Shirts, where I can stand proud, a fellow failure in solidarity. Glenn has a loading dock, and behind the dock the bands play in “The Dark Room”. On Friday night I played dead there on stage while my friend laid a quilt and dried sticks over me. A flute played and he joined in with an Irish round drum. I was able to keep still for the performance even though I got a charley horse in my shoulder.

Flashback to 1983 under the trestle with my best friends. Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill, an eight-pack of Matt’s Beer, and the girl on Cypress Avenue. Another night of performance art at Zink Shirts®.

Thank you Glenn.

Now from the Sunday morning music box. Play it loud:

That Feel by Tom Waites

Cypress Avenue by Van Morrison

And one more so you don’t go back to sleep:

Stay With Me by Faces

The Neurotic Dreams September In April

Erich Fromm

And so come the days and nights of my autumnal dreaming.
It is the best season. I was telling our new American friends at breakfast about the wonderful sights, sounds and smells mixing up the air of late September. Rotting apples, cool, tropospheric oxygen, the great Lake Ontario turning over, the rustle of leaves, the indifference of shorebirds—rarely do the people of my town shed even a tiny old prejudice for this exhilarating season.
The same human-made facades, factoids, and dedication to “going through the motions” never interrupts these wild natural changes which have motivated all life since the axis tipped our planet into time.
We are inertia. We have stepped out of the natural cycle and therefore abandoned our right to nature and lifetime. Two hundred years ago, verily each new morning came with its own season. Weather mattered. The days’ sunlight was all light for the fuel-less poor. Nature and superstition was medicine and cyclic with each new moon. Gratitude was universal, for life alone was celebration before the advent of antibiotics and the indoor toilet spoiled this species septic rotten.
So all places in the temperate latitudes, my town included, have a natural cycle that hasn’t changed much in ten thousand revolutions around the sun. How has evolution visibly affected the raccoon’s nature since the time of Zoroaster? Different shedding pattern perhaps? Increased saliva production? Either way, the unnecessary raccoon receives no consideration from the species that matters most to all the rest, by virtue of its once in an earth time extreme negative consequences. No imaginary gods have ever possessed our power to destroy. We have gone from top of the food chain, to top of the mountain and erupted our hot lava all over the mass of life. Not a regenerative cure either. No strong comeback in sight for the multitude of existing species. Not while we are left comforting ourselves year after year. The humans are anti-fecundate. Our lava is pure poison, creating lakes and rivers of quicksilver, lead, cadmium, wet boxes of macaroni and cheese…
So for the record of the future, before the mortal gods diarrheaed up the universe good and proper, I compare the following account of the physical and intellectual activity of the man of today (who thinks he is a god), with the man of two centuries past, (who possessed a healthy respect/fear of the supernatural). Both had profound effect upon their selves, families, and the real world at large. I will argue that an abrupt change in comfort level brought about by the defeat of the supernatural has sped up evolution in the species too fast and way too far.
When in a billion years some evolutionary descendants of the bird and butterfly become literate in the ancient human languages, they shall discover this account of the fall of man, more succinct in its specificity than the gore of nuclear war, ecological catastrophe, and total economic collapse. This is the doom at a micro-level, brought to you and yours by the planet’s original sin—blind indifference to human greed and issues of entitlement.
Let it be known to all and sundry that the sun rose above the rooftops this morning and I climbed out of our big bed to tell a tale about my disconnection to the natural world. Kinney drugs and easy listening music sent from above to shower the shampoos and vitamins with good feelings. Howls of the September wind gust against my west window. I will go for a walk about town today to exercise my heart. I wanted to walk west ten miles to the beautiful land we purchased on credit. Our border turkey got mauled by a wild animal last month. Maya discovered the mutilated pile as she ran over the hill to play with some of her favorite things. Wine is good for the heart they say, which is okay, because they must know that the Inca are the ancestral keepers of all Chilean grapes made in France. And just look how playful the shadows dance across the faces of the natural Inca savages, roasting cavies on a stick. Four glasses of water to deter the threat of cholera because those smart-ass Indian laze-abouts knew enough to keep the water supply higher than the cesspools.
Charles Dickens didn’t know. Friedrich Nietzsche doubted plenitudes of germs coexisting on the shitty thumb of his wipe hand. So let’s study and debate his deep thoughts. And tell sentimental tales by the firelight of all European shit-stinkers of old. Pizarro was astonished by his plate of potatoes and roast cavy on a stick. So he killed everybody. Our doctors of history study ancient killing sprees of sociopaths to secure a sound future of status and Tide detergent. The scent of mountain laurel sends a current of ecstasy through the good doctor’s veins. Delusions of grandeur? Perhaps. If he could still hold a dream of historical monsters while clad in llama leather, and roasting his dinner of skinned cavy on a stick.
The walk will begin at the 1940 cement path wanting for human feet, poured lovingly by talented screen-door dreamers of a more innocent time, when some crafty Japs and Huns of the earth were getting bored with all their stuff too. The beautiful, spreading white clouds of the September sky. Harvest time is here. I’ve pulled some red onions that I started from seed. Tobacco hangs dead and drying in my summer kitchen. I can’t wait to get chickens when we move out to our beautiful land. Them, and the Internet to keep in touch with fluctuations in the manic international barometer.
I go to the NOAA Hurricane site whenever I need to be reminded of how we long for clan creation, post-natural, or man-made disaster. I am very lustful at 45, and racking homemade country wines, I still don’t have the power to spank my kids with a stick, knowing very well that I’ve encouraged them to trust in creatures that look like them. Even the sociopaths, who are everywhere outside of some rural communities in Africa and South America.
The September morning for a man of my height, from this spot two hundred years ago, would begin in a mild adrenaline rush to secure a food source, since an animal or man snuck up in the night and stole his leather bag. The walk that would follow would somewhat mimic the morning time of the wolverine or beaver watching from a safe distance as the big thing on hind legs prowled across the meadow.
The sociopath among the commoners did not yet exist, for the birth of refrigerator magnets had yet to electrify a memory bin in the brain to collect the insane knowledge of laminate flooring and the logo colors of professional football teams.
In fact, fellow sociopath, let’s just take a break from the coffee-time prose and imagine the rest of this guy’s September day—the morning, afternoon, and evening before arriving at a most difficultly obtained comfort provided by a wife and children, who, once again, praise god, were not slaughtered in their sleep by other wild men practicing survival.
Grab another cup of Ethiopian coffee, or glass of Argentinean wine, set the book down, and muse about the rise and fall of the human empire. Our innocent man of the past will make it back to his family, with just a minor bruise and a scratch. No infection will develop, and he got word that the tribe is setting up winter quarters three days’ walk away.
Hallelujah! His family is free for the time being. They shall sleep easier in the coming months, with only minor adrenaline-induced dreams of food and drink procurement.
There.
Did you feel an enormous weight lifted from your chest? Did you gaze out the window at the September sunset and imagine the purity and strength of heart in the man who has never known Cheerios? What wonders would have occurred for our race if this survivor of the forest got a grasp of the germ theory and modern plumbing before the advent of anything manufactured by more than a few pairs of human hands! Perhaps some ecstatic, private life out of early twentieth century, northern Norway?
No. I go on a walk espousing the virtues of Nobel dynamite. It’s good for my heart. It’s even better for apathy, and a long life at any cost. The sounds of my September morning are replete with the machinations of the industrial dynamo. One can strain an ear to hear the joys and sorrows sung by non-thermostatically controlled men of two centuries ago. A quiet hum from some friendly ghost in the quivering leaves. A diesel motor running at the stoplight. Behind the wheel sits a creature who deserved the wrath of smallpox, cholera, and bubonic plague, but got a dose of sentimental entitlement instead. It thinks someone or something should care that it passed kidney stones last December.
Earth needs a vicious Cortez of the animal or vegetable kingdom to covet the shores of our species. Some force must bang us back to the beginning or the end, whichever behooves deciduous trees the most.
For it’s either the host of them coloring a September breeze, or an army of these diesel truck idiots burning them to the ground.

Best American Painting For Week Ending April 24

Lemons and Lavender

It’s title and specs? Lemons and Lavender. 2014. Acrylic on canvas, 48 X 36″.

You can have it for free after fusing the conviction within me that I should keep painting into old, old age and beyond. Also, I will need money. What does the best American painting this week go for on the rat fink market exchange? Geeze Louise, we give Q-tips a recognizable number. Someone please price fix my work, and thereafter, rub a thousandaire’s nose in it, to make a sale to save my sanity.

Lemons and lavender are words from Henry Miller in Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch. Twilight Sparkle is walking away from princess castle and being violated by Clear Channel’s paid for goons. Their aortas are flower snakes with halitosis tongues. They are singing songs about how to make her horse butt thong-ready for the boys of my culture who by now are the most degenerate creatures earth has ever known.

Poor Twilight. She’s only nine, going on ten.

This is one of the best American paintings produced this week, from April 18th through the 24th. I used to submit my posts to the MoMA Tumbler site, and to their credit, the curators with eyeballs and self-made opinions posted a couple last summer. Then the director had them move their site which no longer allows peon submissions.

I think their director needs to have his nostril hairs pulled and mis-plucked by the tip. I want to see his eyes well up with pain tears. His decision has let the best American painting this week go to his greatest competitor, the MoBA (Museum of Basement Art). The curators there are only too happy to lean another masterpiece up against the wall for the cat to pee on.

Get it? Pee on.

 

How Just One Week Can Silence A Tree

Tee Out My Window In Fall DSC05442 copy

The same tree a week apart.

Thoreau wrote, “Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate”.

To take his meaning to heart, I must be in a roller-coaster relationship with myself. Yet then I get wise eventually and consider the source. Thoreau had no one to love or be loved with, no children to raise, no mornings to wake up in slight terror of the dependency of his growth on another. Mrs. Emerson would give him a cold turkey leg if he cleaned out the chicken coop whether he waved a fist at the sky that morning or not. No other human being really cared about his emotional fluctuations, unless they instigated new behavior from the ax he carried into the woods. Thoreau was a bachelor who nobody needed. So he was only a philosopher in part. One can’t think out people problems if one is not among the people. Can’t be a father or a mother if he was never a parent. And remember, Buddha, who was a father, abandoned his wife and child to befriend someone else’s buffalo boy. That living might deliver a kind of lizard wisdom, but no human philosophy worth sharing among my kind.

So the financially unsuccessful painter’s life wreaks havoc sometimes in the mind of the man who irrationally clings to traditional roles handed down from generation to generation. What’s new in this modern world? Me and the family eat and sleep, one of us found a job and a place to live. I know how to cook, paint with acrylics, write, fold laundry, sift cat litter, care for parakeets, a wife and children. I am not the tree in the paintings above. Metaphorically, I am more like the weather, and the tree represents those affected by me. It tolerates my presence for both the good and bad I bring today. Stay temperate over long stretches of time, though, or lose their trust. No hurricanes. No tornadoes. No blow-downs. But no southern California either. For Pete’s sake, you’re an artist, not an accountant.

New morning. Warmer. Light breeze.

And this New Morning.

Rather have the Dylan spring dreams than the Reed winter ones below:

What’s Good?

 

 

Cheese Ssgot A Pool And Everthin and Local History

Cheese Got A Pool And Everthin

The woodchuck can’t stand history. He’s going for a swim. You should too. The following post can be shared as a history term paper for anyone still doing term papers.
Presently I am studying local history books to obtain a clearer understanding of our past. I want to get it right. So, I have spent the last two afternoons reviewing some scholarly works about the initial growth and inevitable decline of our fair city. One thing keeps popping up in my mind while reading over their careful words—probably more so because the birds are chirping and spring is caressing more body parts than what my mind can control. What I wonder is this: Have any of these scholars ever aroused a member of the opposite sex? These authors have published dry, authoritative books. I know how difficult it is for me to write clear, grammatically correct sentences passionately, especially when I feel the need to get some angst off my chest immediately. I loathe the words that cloud my meaning and put rules and limits to my desire. I am a bad writer. I too often wonder why I have chosen word arrangement to help make my art manifest. Perhaps genetic connection to the yankee masochist lifestyles of my forebears. I seek constipation. I need to feel the acute pain of squeezing words out onto paper, otherwise I would not be able to justify my work. Still, I know that the more serious my writing, the less joyful my manhood, my sex, and my rise and fall of personal happiness. History, local history to be sure, should excite in the mind creative ways to improve one’s sex life. Most other explanations, I believe, are a type of depraved mental masturbation. One can place himself into the imaginations of dead people, what a man ate, how he ate, and the enjoyment he got out of eating. It is fun to put a life into ghosts. More fun to give them an imaginative sex drive. But man, if you just read the garbage I read at the library… It’s as if the living, breathing men and women of yesterday were walking, talking wooden beams, thinking only about money and never moving a muscle to sweep away the layers of dust collecting in their skulls. This cannot be true. And why I never respect the work of scholars. Unimaginative bores. History is only a game, folks. It should be as sacred as you hallow the dirt wherein their skeletons lie. We are 21st century men. It’s bad enough that we are so lonesome, frustrated and undersexed… But to bring the dead into our thoughts while we live with reproductive enthusiasm… Depraved.
For two days I’ve bombarded myself with the insanity of what scholars think is human. The fearful won’t dare make history their own. They research only what is written, and what is written on the pages of Oswego’s history is enough to make a young buck desire sleep instead of food. The philly to turn against the colt, the colt to leave the fat, dripping nipple alone… Yes, it is well known throughout the kingdom that the story of mankind depresses animals to death eventually. You may wonder why it is your dog will not read. But I know mister that if he read a single word of your book, he’d lose the stretch in his back and the warm pops on his tongue that give him freedom of movement and the delicious desire to lick himself clean.
Even the animals are wise to the need of why history must be avoided. Man is specie-centric to the point of flagrant stupidity. The animals have been laughing at us for quite some time. We know it too, which makes this business of history an even more ironic and embarrassing affair. The university professor, eager with an idea to write about nineteenth century architecture in Oswego, wakes in the morning with a dead man’s house opening its doors to her brain. The brain is a fungus smothered with an incestuous family of fat parasitic worms. It hops up the lake stone stairs marking the caller’s path to the non-existent mansion. A squirrel with a nut sits on a stone where the wrought iron fence was once attached. He takes a curious look at the brain while it waits for the invisible butler to answer the knock. Too beautiful an autumn day for a brain to call. But it does anyway. It makes every attempt to ruin these beautiful days. The most obtrusively rude organ of the body, the brain. “Yes, madam?” The butler asks the brain.
“I’m here to see the master of the house.”
“He’s counting his matches madam. He’s up to a 149,546,760 at last count.”
“Matches. How odd!” Replies the brain.
“Each match is worth .01% of one penny, madam. We have an elevator and I am a dumb waiter because of the matches. The mansion is built on matches and dead Irishmen making matches for money madam. So will you please go away and take that filthy body with you?”
“Well, I’ve never!”
The squirrel drops his nut and runs off in terror as the brain leaps up into the body of the professor. The brain in the body gets into her car and rides off dreaming about Turkish pillows and camel leather toilet seats in a bedroom of a house that does not exist. Neither the body nor the brain see the squirrel leaping into the road in chase of a round nut rolling in the wind. “Kalump-thump.” Squirrels on tree branches and sidewalks turn to witness the hit and run. They are wise to the stupid evil your lazy history causes. The brain in the woman rides off into the sunny morning. “How amazing,” she wonders… “Matches made all of that.” And the squirrel’s last breath is wheezed in the road. There might remain a remnant of his carcass left when her book comes off the press.
For the life of a squirrel, the passing of a day, and the teeny titillation from another rude brain, the following is the professor’s creative account of a once in a lifetime visit to the ghostly match kingdom:
“By 1906, the Diamond match factory hired 500 workers and manufactured 150 million matches per day (two matches for every person in the United States).”
Facts about nothing. I am stopped in the head right now. I can’t think straight. I am a poor historian. Also, I am incredibly horny these past few weeks. My wife’s hormones are focused on baby care. It’s not her fault that I exhibit the stallion’s flehmen posture anytime she gets too close to me in the same room. My lips shoot up past the gums. I show my teeth, and I might even be grunting. But she’s a mare with foal, and I best be careful, else a hoof in the mouth is the only piece of her that she’ll give willingly. So to divert the loins to the subject of creative history, I’ll write the story of this old house.
Out of the folder of records obtained from the real estate agent, was a map of our neighborhood in 1875. All the houses on this street were blank squares. Except for ours, which had “SAL” written on it. Saloon perhaps? Yes, why not? It’s 1875, and their are tall ships at port, and sailors on the prowl. There are working men getting rubbed the wrong way for the six thousandth time, and slutty Oswego girls, just like today, giving sex for drinks, but plenty of drinks first. I’m sitting in the kitchen/dining room of what was once, 125 years ago, behind the bar on a Friday night. Good business this Friday in summer. The sun just set itself down for the trillionth time and there’s a city full of thirsty men. Ah, it’s a blessed bygone era when wives are kept and abused coolies, and husbands are free to do as they please. If the worker gets caught cheating on his wife, she keeps her mouth shut through dinner, and asks for a new hat at bedtime. If the woman cheats on the man, she gets beaten to death and arrested soon afterwards. The role playing world of 1875. The men work for money and drink. The women slap the kids and bake. Oh yes, and a good chunk of the world dies off early because nobody is taught how to properly wash his face and hands.
Here we are at Throop’s saloon, me an da boys. Aye, it’s a roody noyt dis soommer. All day long we set at they docks unludin’ loomber in ure wool pantaloons. Me an Jack, we bean to Flangee’s bar oulready. Aye, un ware tahnked full abrew. Dis life is a pacer, ware tinkin’. Aye, an eats a good ting to da polite bubs o society dat weave refraned froom blowin up da whole show, yaknow. Ha, lookee dare. Aze tat Mayster Condee? Aye dey reech fat baysterd. Hey Jack, lookee dare. He’s taken to yer seester. He best be a watchin’ out, cause Ize got me ize owner. Ah goad damnit! Sheeza laufin’ with em. Ah damnit, now sheez blooshin’. Holy mudder a Mary Jack, Abbey’s walkin’ out da door wid dat fat ass. I’ll kill em I tellya, if he even tinks a-touchin are wid his grasy fangers. Ah shoot up jack, ya parevert! For da lard’s sake, man, sheeze yer seester.”
West fifth street in the summer of 1875. The lawns are freshly trimmed and the street dust has finally settled. The crickets in the brush play a happy tune nobody can hear. The buzz of a million wet manure and piss drunk flies drowns out any chance for a peaceful moon rise. The night is hot. The servants leave their master’s houses, wide-eyed and ready for whatever the night has in store. Some walk up to Throop’s saloon. Some go home waiting for their husbands to come back from Throop’s. The children from the big houses play games in the road. If a dirty Irish or Italian boy skips by, the rich kids call for the nearest butler to chase him away with a stick. The sun’s gone down and the moon is up.
Compared to the shacks set up around the rest of town, these mansions are enormous palaces. The gaslights are lit. The mosquitoes are out happily spreading disease. Master Condee and Abbey, hand-in-hand, have turned the corner and are heading toward his four story palace at the end of the street. He made his fortune in textiles. He’s the richest man in Oswego, but thinks himself no stuffed shirt like his millionaire neighbors. He’s got a rise in his pants for Abbey, and is starting to pant slightly while they push through the thick night air.
“Aye, mayster Condee, yashare know ow ta make a goil laugh!”
“Thank you Abbey. It’s one of my secrets. Let’s not tell anyone.” He brushes his hand across her ass.
“Mayster Condee, please, no.” protests Abbey.
“Look, you Irish whore, I’ll fire your pretty ass right now if you don’t let me look under that dress.” He takes hold of Abbey by the shoulders, shakes her up a bit, and throws her down on the grass in front of the Lewis House.
“Please Mayster Condee, no!” He falls on top of Abbey, muffling her cries for help with one hand while climbing up her dress with the other. A voice calls out from the Lewis House.
“Hey Condee, quiet down. Jesus Casanova, give the girl a break!”
“That you Bill?”
“Yup. C’mon Condee, leave the little vixen be.”
“She’s Irish Bill, come have a feel.”
Bill Lewis puts his finger to his lips, gets up from his porch chair and walks across the lawn to where Master Condee and Abbey are struggling.
“Well, okay Condee. She sure looks pretty good. I’ll bang her if you promise to keep the screams down. I don’t want Alice to hear.”
The two millionaire Oswegonians begin the rape of the Irish girl Abbey. Suddenly the millionaire’s heads are cracked open with wooden bats swung by two figures standing over them in the darkness.
“Well lookee dare Jack. Deez tings have anoother use now dontay?
“O Patreek ya play da game o baseball bater dan any man I seen.” Jack bends over to help his crying sister get to her feet.
“Did da peegs getcha Abbey?”
“No brudder. Dat fella dare, he come close dough. I taught he was un nice man. He said he would take me out of da factree, an give me a jewb washin’ his cloothes. Aye da peeg!” She kicks Master Condee’s bleeding head.
“Yo jack. Let’s take deez bastards away.
“Ware to Patreek?”
“Aye, down to da docks. We’ll send em out ta sea nailed to da hull of da next tug. I tooed ja ya shadn’t let em taker outta Throop’s.”
That is the most concise history of the nineteenth century in Oswego that a living man need remember. There were tall people, short people, Polish people, Irish people, stupid people, smart people, violent people, gentle people, horny people, dirty people, weak people, strong people, rich people, poor people. There were parasitic people who spent their lives enslaving people with less means. And there were people who let them. Nothing has changed. Except today rich or poor, everyone is exactly the same. Especially here in Oswego, where rich, poor, young and old alike share the same respect for bad history.
Man they’re all just too white for me. This city is so old. White old. Every face is so god damn pale and old. The women who stay here, the younger women with children, artificially tan to hide their white oldness. These brown-faced women with light hair, they’re all so old already. And their voices! You have to be an outsider to hear the Oswego dialect. A phenomenal tongue. You would leave thinking of the depressed white planet, Oswego, and everyone almost dead with just a few more stingy breaths to breathe. Even the children are sad and their depression takes on new and interesting forms of mental derangement. They’re white too. So white and dirty. Sometimes it’s almost too much for me to bear—Wait. I’m jumping ahead of where I want to be right now. I’m already at the Walmart when I should have limited the first twenty or thirty pages to Oswego’s rich and colorful history. But no, it’s not going to be that easy. This old whiteness. It is all encompassing to a sensitive man. What the hell am I doing here? Cold March winds, and I’m out walking an empty downtown night with my face buried into the collar of a thick red plastic coat, made in Paraguay. Oh God, please bury me head first in the hot marshes of Paraguay! Let only my feet stick out for the sun to tan. It’s a different sun in Paraguay, I know. A happy sun. A sun of the four seasons. A dangerous, exciting sun. The natural born brown children crawling through the tall grass are thankful for civil things like laughter and cooked suppers unexpected. They play around the white man’s feet stuck out of the ground. God must have put him there. Imagine their thirty cents a day went into sewing the coat laying beside his feet. Each is truly happy that a day worked is another yam purchased. How proud a thing the human being should be.
This afternoon I became infected with the 24-hour bug of Oswego. It can turn a proud man against himself in a day. Make him want to butcher the art of French cuisine and open a corn dog stand and deep fry in fat for kids. The bug in the brain. It’s built every business downtown. It took over operation of The Palladium Times and shows itself in the photo of a hockey player on the front page of section two in every winter issue. The thirty-six hair care studios have the bug. Artificially browned women with dyed blonde hair gossip about whose husband is screwing the baby-sitter. All are either reformed or presently smoking coffins and alcoholics. Oswego’s bug is inevitable and true. It’s disease is widely accepted and recklessly encouraged.
I tell you that, once infected, no matter how free in thought and step he once thought he was, the proud man of this city must re-decide each new morning whether or not to step in line with the rest of the white brigade. At all times in Oswego, there is an internal battle being fought, one with effects more damaging than any petty skirmish played out by cowardly soldiers of the past. The men who played shoot me for pay at the fort across the river—they alone knew the joy of a bullet in the eye. Man the whole town in the nineteenth century stunk like dirty animal ass everywhere. If I was a young farmer spending my Saturday evenings watching my mother wipe the brown grease off her belly rolls, I too would jump at the chance to fight the British. I would wonder out loud what the taste of lead was like, fight hard, and die glad without any prior knowledge of the statue to be erected in my honor a hundred and seventy-five years after my death.
Honor me? For being a farm boy full of holes? Jesus, if the stupid fools only knew what I was really made of. Lookyhere… Girls my age were scarce in 1814. Dad looked the other way the day I pressed up against our cow. It felt good, and I did the same for Dad. “Ma’s belly stinks, son,” he would tell me, while dropping his trousers. Then crazy Willie came by the barn that night to tell us the British were cannoning the fort. “Aw Dad, lemme go an fight! Please?” And Dad kinda felt sorry for me cause when he was young he had Indians to kill and squaws to play cow with. So he said, “Sure son, you go play with crazy Willie. But cha can’t take my musket.” So I went to the fort and the fellas there made me Colonel cause I didn’t bring a gun. They said “You’ll be our fifth Colonel. Don’t expect to live long. There’s a cannonball with your name on it, farm boy.” But I didn’t care. I didn’t mind dying. And so that night a cannonball knocked my head off.
But then jest the other day I was bobbing my head down from the clouds, as I do now and then, and there was some old hag who looked just like my grandmother with spectacles on making a speech by a statue. She was talking about me! Said I was an unsung hero of the War of 1812. Wow, that shore made me angry. She said it was people like me who made life sacrifices so that people like her could waste their lives away dedicating statues to illiterate cowfuckers. I got mad right then and there cause my ma always told me that to lie was sin and sin was death. So I undid my trousers and started to pee on my own parade. Shoot, I didn’t die for her or anyone else. Liars and thieves I tell ya. So I pissed on her until she finally stopped talking to pose for her portrait beside my statue. And then when everybody went away I let the sun back out.
Now I smile from my home in the clouds whenever I see a drunk taking a leak on my statue. Once a guy stopped to read the inscription beneath the stone carving of my dying self. He laughed so loud that the fish stopped swimming to listen. I knew that he knew me better than any old hag without life in her blood. I knew that he alone would tell the real history of Oswego.

Standardized Testing Is For Yella-Bellies

Standardized Testing Is For Yella-Bellies

I attended my first school board meeting last week. This year our daughter has entered school (7th grade) and I was curious how a superintendent thousandaire would manage a 78 million dollar budget for a town of about 19 thousand. He had five big screen flatscreens set up in the cafeteria to present his Powerpoint. Cuts. Always cuts. Slashings and mashings. Money. Always money gained by austerity. 2 million. $762,540.00. Custodial positions, theater manager, technicians, one teacher from each discipline, the alternative education school, all standing in line at the chopping block. They wait patiently for a small time hack accountant to determine their fate, which never arrives with a positive back-slapping these days— never a “great job Mr. or Ms. Math,” or “Fine work Charlie Tech,” now the kids are ready to play adult in the new age. Thank you for your service. You are number one”.

No. More like, “Your job is tenuous at best. You’re lucky to have it. Me and this board of dumb yokels whom I can lead blind (mostly because of my suit and paycheck) dangle your job security always a day out of reach. We don’t give a damn about your credentials nor dedication. By law you can’t even strike. Ha-ha. By golly, even a ditch digger can strike!”

No, Mr. Superintendent wants to fire them all. He is the new guy with the big ideas. His initiative for the 2013-14 school year was a goal for improved attendance. Each kid with perfect attendance would get a desktop printed certificate at the end of the year. Little Johnny can have pneumonia, but come to school anyway to cough a hardy virus all over the classroom. When the superintendent gets a head cold, he stays home to watch rerun episodes of Breaking Bad. He has sick days and personal days and vacation days written in to his contract. Tater tots and USDA slightly approved ground beef for the little scholars to assuage the hunger pangs and hold each struggling immune system at the “my eyes are open sometimes, so I must be alive” level.

Big ideas. Here is one.

Fire administration. Obtain retired accountants and financial planners pro bono with the caveat that the new budget scraps everything besides teachers, materials, janitors, cafeteria workers and bus drivers. Keep the classes diverse and interesting.  For lunch, serve a fresh green salad, brown rice, slice of cheddar cheese and an apple, and have buses stop only at designated pick up points.

There is so much to write about on this subject. I must end my primer for the day. I see a book building.

I’ll leave readers with two anecdotes to strengthen the argument for school board tar and feathering.

My father’s school district has fired the last two superintendents. However, the contract for each was a guaranteed five-year pay plan, even if the job was terminated. The first was let go after one year. The second made it for two years and was fired. Both are still getting full pay from the district. And the tater tots are still constipating the kids.

My friend the music teacher worked in a district south of Utica. The superintendent there resigned after sexual harassment charges were brought up against him. My school board soon hired him to principal one of its elementary schools.

He hit on the teachers there.

And resigned after several complained.

Now he is the superintendent of schools in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Insulation. Don’t tell anyone.The education mafia. My locals, my yokels. All of them high on their own cheeseburger power trips.