Henry Miller wrote his smut book Opus Pistorium at the request of some Hollywood pervert at $1 a page because no one on earth would pay him for the truly inspired work that was pouring out of him at the time. It was published after Miller’s death, so Henry was saved the humiliation of confronting the public with this particular loathsome writing.
Well, “rainy days” has some bad writing, but very good art. To me, the final critic, it has passed the test of time. All it lacked was an international distributor, and a population of 20 and 30-somethings who were passionate about the intangibles of life while experiencing early-onset existentialism. The books is good at feeling, and that is what good art is, period. You don’t believe?
You don’t have to. I’m not sellin’ it, and nobody’s buying it.
I do hope though it brings sufferers less suffering. This was an ordinary life at the time. Maybe I could be one of the lucky ones who got to keep his sanity while the rest of humanity struggled embarrassingly for wealth and then recognition.
On Rainy Days The Monk Ryokan Feels Sorry For Himself
by Ron Throop
Introductions and pages 1-20
Preface to second edition
I have always wanted to have a preface to a second edition. Here it is. There are very few changes from the original publication, besides a better proofread. This was meant to be a book of feel. A very rare find eleven years ago. Even moreso today. I remember sending copies off at my own expense to obscure bookshops in cities across America, hoping to be read by anyone, by chance. I would sneak them on the shelf at my local Barnes and Noble time and again, until I was threatened by a representative in New Jersey. I cannot recall the particulars of the threat, but it must have been good. I got scared and stopped the practice. I shelved it at the college library next door after the librarian refused to circulate it. Every couple of weeks I’d go back and find it gone, to which I would put another in its place (right beside Thoreau). It must have made her crazy angry.
“…The present time disgusts me, even to describe. It is sufficient merely to endure it. I wanted to make a book with new mountains, a new river, a country, forest, snow, and men all new. The most consoling thing is that I have not had to invent anything at all, not even the people. They all exist. That is what I want to say here. At this very time when Paris flourishes—and that is nothing to be proud of—there are people in the world who know nothing of the horrible mediocrity into which civilization, philosophers, public speakers and gossips have plunged the human race. Men who are healthy, clean and strong. They live their lives of adventure. They alone know the world’s joy and sorrow. And this is as it should be. The others deserve neither the joy nor the sorrow. They know nothing of what they are losing. They think only of adding to their comfort, heedless that one day true men will come up from the river and down from the mountain, more implacable and more bitter than the grass of the apocalypse.”
“Most of the young men of talent whom I have met in this country give one the impression of being somewhat demented. Why shouldn’t they? They are living amidst spiritual gorillas, living with food and drink maniacs, success mongers, gadget innovators, publicity hounds. God, if I were a young man today, if I were faced with a world such as we have created, I would blow my brains out. Or, perhaps like Socrates, I would walk into the market place and spill my seed on the ground. I would certainly never think to write a book or paint a picture or compose a piece of music. For whom? Who beside a handful of desperate souls can recognize a work of art? What can you do with yourself if your life is dedicated to beauty? Do you want to face the prospect of spending the rest of your life in a straight-jacket?”
Copyright© 2002, 2014 by Ron Throop
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: No, Congress is stacked with lawyers, which makes the whole lot very, very bad.
All rights reserved.
This book is dedicated to
Rose with her dinner plate.
She continues to separate the tiny pieces of sautéed onion from the buttered brown rice. I could leave the onion out, but then she would have nothing to never complain about.
(Keep reading. It’s a purposeful double negative)
My dog is driving me absolutely crazy this morning! Trying to ignore the incessant barking and chewing up of his sheet rock cage is impossible. Yet I have to ignore him if I want to get these letters polished and sent. Who am I? I am a Frenchman. I write this letter to you in English because you know only one language. I know a hundred. I even know dog talk. He’s quieted down now. I think all puppies are crazy!
These letters are open ones that I send to you from my country farm in southern France. Open for anyone to read so my name is not chosen by your secret service as a name to eradicate. I do not want American fighter jets spraying my farm. I am told that if I publish my letters to you, without actually addressing and sending them, then I won’t be extradited and sent to one of your luxury prisons to watch TV. I like it in France. I want to stay here and sow lentils and beans. I am not dangerous. I am quiet, but lately I have been losing sleep. I cannot sleep at night, and my wife was wondering if it’s asthma. No, it is not that. I am very disturbed over the recent history of your country. How do I mean, “recent?” I would say from your revolution until the present day. I am nervous and losing sleep and French farmers are not supposed to get nervous, nor lose sleep. My face is red and hot, and I keep waking up to find the moon in a different window. My wife snores softly. She is a woman. How could she possibly understand? That is why I have been writing these letters to you, in secret. You are a man, and the President. We have a President of France, but nobody cares. He comes to your bank often, and ends up leaving with a McDonald’s. That pleases enough of us not to make any difference. But I cannot lose any more sleep. I am upsetting the farm. Just yesterday morning I forgot to milk Aubrey the cow.
During these nights of insomnia I have been sitting down at the kitchen table scribbling my thoughts to you. I write with my pencil, a loaf of bread, and strong coffee. I am a native of France, and a patriot. My family has worked this land since before the days of our revolution. I am a peasant farmer. I made this table myself. Yesterday my wife got out our horse and cart and drove to town. I knew something was wrong, for she never left the farm before without me. I had time to make a yeast dough, look over our accounts, clean the barn, feed the dog, insulate the house, change the water, and sweep the floor. When she returned, her dinner and I were waiting at the table. She wasn’t hungry. She had a bean crepe at the Taco Bell in Manosque. I asked her what is a “Taco Bell.” She laughed a long time, and then asked me to sign her separation papers. I asked her what were “separation papers?” She did not laugh. She told me. Then I put her in the root cellar.
I want my wife back. I do not expect her to survive our winter at a constant two degrees centigrade. So this morning I got out all my scribblings to you. I must hurry and put them in order. If I can convince her that you are a monster and I am a human being, then I might get her to stop this foolishness. If she remains firm, and refuses to change back into a French woman, I will have to hire Antonio’s wife to do the sewing and cooking. And, I will have to build another root cellar.
A New Baby In America
Why Democracy doesn’t work.
The same everywhere
Last week I wanted to try prison. Now I don’t know.
All too often I am having flights of daydream that take me to the essence of life. I see the light so to speak, and promise myself to get to it. Always later. I can have news radio turned on while driving up my street and hope that by the time of my death, I possess nothing besides a small cabin in the woods and a bushel of ripe apples resting in the autumn sun. There is too much stuff. It is difficult to remain aloof of things. But a single smell can show me the truth. Stuff doesn’t have a smell comparable to the washing of dead leaves. Yet, when the right smell comes, stuff overwhelms it, and so many things get in the way. Is that not true despair?
It’s a feeling of ripping your clothes off and running, or staying dressed but keeping nothing. You want a world of people, but you want them to be exactly like you. Nobody cares. You begin believing in squirrels.
Last week I would not mind going to prison. I welcomed the thought with an open mind. That was last week. Then I watched a movie about a man in prison. If he wanted visitors, he had to stand in line naked with other prisoners, while uniformed guards sat at the front of the line forcing each man to turn around, bend over, and spread his butt cheeks apart. If that is what prison is like, then I won’t go. If that is prison, then I agree one hundred percent with murder. Any man who gets paid to inspect assholes cannot possibly respect his own human heart. So who should care if his heart stopped beating? We kill our food for standing in a field. We slaughter, chop, slice, dredge the meat in flour, splash it with wine over high heat, and call that dinner. We have no respect for hearts outside our own species. Armed robbery or asshole inspection? You tell me which man is more proud. Prison is a nice place to sit alone for hours and wonder.
These foggy mornings at the start of Indian Summer… Oh, my inspiration! My most natural lust! The first leaves to color are dead and stripped naked along the roadside. Three crows stand in the shape of a triangle, waiting. They must be witches. Squirrels forage. Life moves. The wind blows the leaves off the curb. They swirl around the bird’s tiny feet. In the morning haze this scene appears ethereal, so much better than human. Whatever the crows are thinking will not be profound. They are positively not whispering the song “Reunited” by Peaches and Herb. Each might wish that she was a very big crow and that I was a worm. You would think autumn could make us hungry. By 7 a.m. I should have scrounged enough nuts and pears for the week. I could fill up the rest of this journal with “Ha, ha, ha, etcetera.” I am six feet tall. My spine is straight enough. My big hands could easily wrap around a crow’s throat; maybe even an eagle’s. I can count. My brain is tremendously active. I can speak. I am so ashamed of my careless waste of manhood.
My Ford is Lord (to the tune of “Empty As a Frog’s Stool”)
Daddy’s got a big truck, big truck, big truck
Daddy’s got a big truck,
He’s sad, he’s fat, he’s old
I’m gonna drive his big truck, big truck
I’m gonna drive it
to the Ford truck store
They’re gonna loan me thirty grand, thirty grand
They’re gonna loan me
My Daddy won’t disown me
My wife will be so lonely
My dog will even bone me
My kids will always stone me
for a big truck, big truck
My kids will always stone me
I wish somebody’d kill me
in my big truck, big truck
I wish somebody’d kill me
in my depreciating Ford.
I am reading to Rachelle about the European explorers. Bartholomew Diaz, Amerigo Vespucci, Christofo Columbo, Balboa, Cabot, Cabral… What names! Great, brave, potentially consumptive men who really knew how to murder. The book might read, “…and the stark naked natives showered Columbus with exotic fruits and flowers, brilliantly plumed birds, and golden arrows. He and his men were in awe. This might be the lost Garden of Eden. The beauty was spectacular, the inhabitants peaceful and happy, food and drink plentiful. Europe was such a hard place to live in with all its disease, poverty and ruthlessness. It would be difficult to think of this new found world as anything but a paradise.”
What the book might hint at but refuse to show in detail is the sardonic look on Columbus’ sweaty face while he rapes a young island girl. She came aboard to deliver an armful of flowers. No mention of the chief’s disgust of Columbus for emptying his shitbucket overboard. No words about the offensive smell of the Europeans, nor the slaughter of any man over fourteen who could not deliver his bell of gold every three months. Did it matter that there wasn’t enough gold on the island to fill four bells? No. These were Tainos, naked and stupid. Put on this planet to wait forty thousand years for an anus-scented mad man to arrive on their beach demanding the impossible. And of course, to rape, plunder, and murder with the kind of obsession which only the most serious religious persons can muster.
So teach them. Instruct our little Columbus’-to-be on the virtues of fear. Give our future explorers and murderers of the soul an early education on what happens when a man kills because he will not understand. Why not create a holiday in his name? A day to Columbus, to Washington and Lincoln, to veterans of foreign wars, why not to Hitler, de Gama, Popes throughout the ages, tomorrow’s American president, the serial killer who boils bones?
This morning I will ask her which stars in the night sky she would search for in the event that she became lost on a sea voyage to Greenland. Moments ago I was out in the dark marveling at the moonlight shining through the autumn leaves. I saw Orion the Hunter and gave to it my silent admiration. This will be my patron constellation. It must be so tired of men who look to it for gold. I will always give my wonder and praise to the mystery of the unknown. The simple question of a star. What is it?
Now where do the dead creeps of old Europe go after discovering what has already been discovered? To obscurity? One would hope so. But that isn’t the case. Today their flesh rotting disease blows into my living room via the Illusion Winds. Into my home? How come? What do Columbus’ twisted, sick thoughts have to do with our pancakes and maple syrup for breakfast?
“Today we went ashore and met with a band of natives. They had a strange habit of clasping their nostrils shut and making sour grimaces at my men. Fernando offered their leader an iron ball. The chief smiled, but did not appear sincere. Then, after a dramatic display of nose holding and hopping up and down, waving a hand back and forth under his nose, their chief vomited at Fernando. I had the entire band arrested immediately, attempted to convert their heathen souls overnight, and killed every last one upon discovering they could mutter only a ‘goo-goo’ in the name of Jesus Christ.
Still no strait to the Indies.”
Before dawn I am an explorer too. There is a part of your brain that instructs itself to stop where it is, and search for the moonlight through the leaves. At this simple moment in time it accepts the wet grass, the soft breeze, the zillion stars in the pre-dawn sky as the starkest reality. I want her and everyone to be a poet. People have got to bury history in a deep hole. Cover it with dirt that is ancient but never mentioned in books. Love and superstition must regain their rightful thrones. Fifth graders know all about the European explorers. They have listened long enough to your candy-coating of arrogance and prejudice. Homework for Rachelle next week: A pre-dawn exploration through the woods. Listen for running water. Sit on a rock in the water and wait. What do you see?
That is a proper lesson plan for exploration. Bury the Spanish, Portuguese, English, and French. Their forefathers do not deserve a respectful heritage. Cross off their history. Make it a blank, a blotto. We are devoting too much time to death.
Angst this week. Heavy without explanation. Stress.
The wind is a fierce lion. Watch out for the old trees! It might be their simple pleasure to drop a limb and crack open a human head.
Got a phone call from Tony last night. He let it ring twenty times like he used to when we were friends. Friends. Ha! Now I couldn’t tell you who that condescending freak show is. In five short years he has destroyed our friendship. One that I swore would last a lifetime. He talked about my books like my mother used to… “What’s this about having sex with cats Ronnie?” I felt so quiet. The most quiet man on earth. An aborigine holding tightly to my blow dart, tiptoeing across a wide open plain hunting nervous kangaroo.
“You must be in love with me. I never knew. I’m quite flattered.”
No Tony. Once you occupied a kindred spirit log blocking my path to peace and happiness. I thought you were an artist, a gentle soul, a man. I stopped at the log to eat from my loaf of bread. You talked with me like we understood each other perfectly. I was easily fooled. I put all my faith in you. I finished my bread and rose to leave after watching two playful squirrels run past our log and up a tree. “Would you like to come with me my friend? No? Fine. I hope to meet up with you soon. So long and farewell!” Five years pass and I am sitting in the tall grass of an autumn day. Where are you? What are you? How dare you call and upset my constant! O God I got a life so rich and supreme! I am a humble pilgrim with holes in my shoe and the Russian winter rapidly approaching. My idea of happiness is the urban man crapping his pants at the fearful thought of it. I got up from the log eager to pursue the sameness of my dream. Why didn’t you tell the truth? Why, after so much energy spent covering up white lie upon lie, why do you still call and expect me to talk back carefully? Are you that stupid? Is sophistication that naive to assume everyone else is a phony too?
I was your best friend. I was the calm center of your insanity. I was the reason to live in a world where no one cared about you. I accepted every deviation and never questioned your sincerity. Now I admit I am no longer able to give. But you can watch me and learn. Oh you expensive piece of shit! That is condescension, shot at you from a knowing heart. I won’t play humble anymore to a sophisticated hamster. I know that I know I am a man. I have a sameness and a simplicity that balances on a log over rapture and ecstasy. I, my old friend, am perfectly sane.
Who am I writing for?
Maybe just one man. Someone will get this book by chance, or mistake it for a murder mystery to read on a windy day, by the lakeside, near a tree, in a barn. I write for the aspiring poet. Not the word-picker, but the feeler. I write for the man and the daughter he loves. For the working man who uses his nose, ears, and eyes, as well as his hands, to feel. I write for dogs and cats and only the unknown human masters of life, who would never waste their precious time reading a single word I wrote.
I write for the woman who lays in bed content and overflowing. I write for the cook who can expand his heart with just a small exertion of his will. He drops a cardamom into his shirt pocket, and works the rest of the night in India, oblivious to the imprisoned monkeys surrounding him. I write to prove that the world is wrong. I write not of hope but of truth. My mission statement: “Humble your ass now Jimmy. Not to men. To animals. To birds in the air. To the small innocent children. (Not all of them are innocent. Some will grow up to be a president.)” I write because I have to. Because I paint sloppy and will not kill. I write for the memory of poets. I write to perpetuate freedom’s hope. What does that mean? I write to be clear, to be understood, but seldom am I either of these things. I write knowing everything I write is useless to the useful.
Goodness me, “teach them about anger.” Finally I sit down to rest and dream, comfortably, with music swirling leaves in the air. A windy afternoon. The door wide open. Leaves running without legs or arms. I am an angry man. But I say this without guilt or repentance. I am glad to be angry. I am fortunate to be on this road. Such a glorious day to be at war with men. The forest road is long. The day is done. I stop at an inn to request a bed. The Boiling Cauldron. Oh, look around this room! There are some very shady characters casting mean looks my way. That guy has no teeth and grasps and ax handle, ready to strike. The one by the fire sharpens his knife on a stone. Everyone takes turns spitting on the dirt floor after giving me their hardest look. I have no fear. One loud snarly “Boo!”, some frantic confusion, the big door slams, and the room is emptied. I’ve been recognized. They know me. The jokers are afraid. I tell the keeper, “Forget the bed, I’ll sleep under the stars.” By now the whole world must know my honest, very dangerous intentions.
I hate you. I love you. But first I must hate you. And hating you is no light affair. I am standing still with my eyes fixed, watching your every move.
A beautiful morning! I love the fake dying of nature. The wrought iron fence, the dark before dawn, the cold moon… A temperate autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. Today I feel like a runaway pilgrim, a converted infidel. I left the hand-folders and head-bowers to follow the partridge and the stag. No more imaginary wildness! No refinement. I need to kill.
At work I read cookbooks to pass the time. One that I am particularly interested in is the Joy of Cooking by Rombauer and Rombauer Becker. These women are old world homemakers who know how to cook their catch. Jesus, they still strangle their ducks for aesthetic purposes. Strict meat eaters, with vegetables used to aid in digestion. The book was first published in 1931 and shows everything. How to skin squirrel, can hearts, prepare the woodchuck and the bear for
Women who cook for their men. Men who hunt for their women. Read the following passage about wild birds. Imagine the juxtaposition of your sterile plate of hot plastic goo with their timeless poetic arrangement of food.
To a large extent, proper care, immediately after shooting, determines the ultimate excellence of flavor in wild birds. While the bird is still warm, the neck is split and the carcass bled. Check the neck for any undigested food and remove.
To tenderize and improve flavor, it is necessary to hang many wild birds, specifically partridge, prairie fowl, ducks and plover, grouse and hazel hen—unless they are to be roasted. How long to hang depends first on age. Old birds can be held longer than young ones. A second consideration is the weather. In muggy periods ripening is accelerated. The third and most important is personal preference. Some hunters go to extremes, holding a bird until the legs stiffen, even until head and body part company…
We all have to eat. I am an apprentice chef. There are moments while washing the factory chicken when I feel a rage pulsating at my fingertips. I want something to strangle. I feel an urgent need to pluck, to tear, to use my incisors with their original raw intentions. I want a rainy fall morning with light just dawning and the barrel of a .12 gauge, cold in my hand. Rain turns to snow, I am not the feeble, whiny, Winnie-the-Pooh hunter who will shoot and miss three times before finally bagging a kill. He picks up death carefully while his friends watch and laugh—the hot breath from their lungs has scent traces of Listerine. These are not men. Inside I know they’re crying over the senseless death of the bird. Their loveless wives are back at home with the children, pouring pasteurized milk over sugar cereal and dreaming of macaroni-and-cheese for lunch. The hunter’s confusion is a constant, silent startle inside himself, like a thousand frightened partridge taking flight from the cover of pine and powder.
The neck is split and the carcass bled. That natural beauty is forgotten.