art business

My Silver Dollar Campaign Updated

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“I’d Rather Rendezvous With This Sexy Italian Newt Than Wait Around Here For Tasteless Billionaires To Win Again” 2016. acrylic on discarded press cleaning sheet, 7 x 17″ (In private collection of a friend)

Repeatedly, I suffer bouts of intense self-doubt that usually presages a light epiphany of sorts. I get a new idea or a reaffirmation of a past philosophy, and all is set back right with the world. Always temporary though. Another self-doubt monster will invade my pshyche in due time. It never fails to torment again and again.

Last night was bad. I won’t go into it, because the good idea that transpired has charged me back onto a positive path.

For some unknown reason, the life of my great grandfather sprang into my mind this morning. Henry Throop lived in the central New York area all his life. He was born in 1880, raised in Lebanon, N.Y., attended Colgate when it was still a prep school, went to Cornell to study civil engineering, married, and settled in Syracuse, where he worked as a railroad engineer, and then on his own as independent engineer/contractor until his death in 1956.

I use his life often in writing and conversation to juxtapose today’s culture to the one of a hundred years ago. Was it a better time? Who knows? I can say with certainty that Henry was a very mature twenty-something year old. He kept a journal—observations and day to day life for the most part, and also an expense account book, showing where every penny went. This morning’s idea was to use this account book to revolutionize the way I intend to sell my work.

My Silver Dollar Campaign

I have had it with business and art. It doesn’t work. The moment the painting gets offered, haggled, denied, etc, on the market exchange, the entire culture of the thing created gets violated. I lose all semblance of its original innocence as soon as the money door opens. Only once have I made a painting thinking about money, or a sale. Here it is:

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“My Heart’s Desire Is That One of You Is Drunk Enough To Buy This Painting” 2014. Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 16″

I was invited to a rock concert with some friends where there would be a section of the parking lot cordoned off for vendors. I painted this the night before, and had it sold before we finished putting up the tent.

It is stated in my great grandfather’s account book that on September 14, 1907, he purchased the following for one dollar:

2 loaves of bread
1 dozen cookies
toothpicks
paper
salt
chestnuts
peanuts
pound of butter

and a haircut…

A dollar in 1907 had the spending power of about $25 today, without the haircut (some small luxury to prove how contemporary inflation experts always seem to get it wrong). So, about $40 today would buy these goods Henry bought in 1907. A dollar was a dollar and it purchased what forty more dollars could buy today.

I love the silver dollar because it has an ever changing value on the money market. For several years I have watched its value move between about $15 to $35. And it’s just a dollar! It also feels good in the hand, and I bet many of them in a small pouch attached to my belt (a lá Rimbaud), would feel even better.

Henry’s items I listed above are worth any one of my paintings. No one is buying the luxury items I have made available. So I have sweetened the pot in order to avoid the money exchange problem for the rest of my life.

I will amass silver coins!

From this day forward, any one of my paintings not hanging in a gallery can be bought for a silver dollar. Not what a silver dollar will buy, but exactly one, shiny silver dollar. I don’t want to barter anymore. I want to jingle coins in a pouch. I have set the value, and it is universal. Any size. Any painting not in a gallery. Of course, the buyer must pay for frame and also shipping on top of the silver dollar. I have some very big paintings. If they were purchased, I would have to charge a handling fee. (Quite a bit of work goes into hiring a tractor trailer to pick up at a residence). Frames, shipping and handling could be exchanged in paper currency, however, the painting itself—always just one silver dollar.

Now imagine the creative time we could have. No more of that embarrassing “real” money exchanging hands. You can stop at the local pawn shop on your way to my studio and deal with the proprietor. He or she will certainly have silver dollars to sell you in trade for the paper money. Get it. Heck, get two, and stop by to pick out any painting(s) you want. If framed, I will price it fair, and you can give me the paper money that I will spend on groceries, or a dress for Rose at the second hand shop. I will mark your name, painting, and date of purchase in a little cardboard envelope, and if I make it to seventy-five, cash in on retirement fried eggplant sandwiches once in a while, thinking of you and our shared human experience.

(Please note: I can only accept silver dollars, and not paper money of what a silver dollar is currently worth on the pretend money market. I made the effort of the painting. Now you can go the extra mile to pick up the actual silver dollar).

Please think about this, and spread the idea far and wide. There must be some painting that you like for such a fair price. Think of birthdays, upcoming holidays. I am just so exhausted from these encounters with the self doubt monster. It’s time to kill the money.

Several of my recent paintings can be found here. I look forward to jingling coins in a pouch.

Ron

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Winter Lessons Drowning Girl by Roy Lichtenstein Ron Throop

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Left: Winter Lessons by Oswegonian Ron Throop /Right: Drowning Girl By escaped Oswegonian Roy Lichtenstein

A post from March 2014, to introduce Oswego to those arriving from Hyperallergic:

Wow. Yesterday I read a 2004 article on Roy Lichtenstein, a very famous painter of the late twentieth century. I already knew that he taught for a couple years at the state college in Oswego. I also read in a biography that his wife hated it here. The winters were tough and she began to drink like a fish. My elderly next door neighbor said she caused quite a stir at the faculty wives’ club the night she wore colored stockings. I never knew what a great failure Lichtenstein was the day before he started painting comics. He was an abstract painter who loved Picasso and Cézanne. His paintings amassed unsold in the basement.

Yesterday I read with laughing eyes the early tale of Roy. The parallels are enough of a story to keep me plugging away at my own failure. I quote at length.

“Roy would say, ‘I know any minute someone’s going to come and shake me and say, Mr Lichtenstein, it’s time for your pills, and I’ll be back in Oswego, in a wheelchair.’ There was a touch of Lichtenstein’s characteristic self-deprecating humour about that. But also a sense that he had been, as she says, “very lucky to have been where he was at a given moment”.

Roy knew, like all painters do, that success is a crap shoot with a 1,679,616-sided die. Only a wise, self-deprecating Oswego artist would admit to this.

“But the teaching post he held in Oswego from 1958 to 1960 was a low point of his career, very far from the wealth and art stardom that were his within a couple of years… At the time he got the job in Oswego, Lichtenstein had been working as a painter for nearly 20 years, and achieved almost no success. Bruce Breland, a colleague of the time, remembered that Lichtenstein ‘had shown in New York—with no results. He was showing paintings and they were going stone-nowhere.’”

All my paintings also going cement-nowhere in the basement.

“Lichtenstein did a series of part-time jobs—window dresser, draftsman, furniture designer, painting dials on instruments—while his wife, a successful interior designer, was the main breadwinner. Lee Csuri, sculptor and wife of another old friend, remembered that in the mid-1950s, ‘Roy was very despondent about what he was doing. And feeling he was nowhere. His painting of that time was abstract expressionist, but it was very muddy’”.

Yahoo! My wife is a graphic designer, the bread winner, and my feelings of despondency on a good day have me yank off just enough mustache nose hairs to goad me to the next chore.

“Then in 1958, he got the job in Oswego. But as Avis Berman, a researcher into Lichtenstein’s life, concluded: ‘Living in Oswego was disastrous for the Lichtensteins. The winters were brutal and Isabel lacked fulfilling work, and began drinking in earnest.’ So at 37, Lichtenstein had a dead-end post in the sticks, a wife who was rapidly becoming an alcoholic, and a studio full of paintings no one wanted to look at. Then his luck began to change.”

Oooh, I can only hope.

“As Dorothy Lichtenstein tells the story, ‘Roy was always trying to get back to the New York area, and in 1960 he was able to get a job teaching at Rutgers University in New Jersey. And there was a group of interesting and lively people there, including the artists Alan Kaprow and George Segal. Roy had a feeling that if he’d still had a job teaching out in the boondocks, he might have done his first Pop work, but not carried on. He felt there was something that comes from response and encouragement that fuels you to go further than you might in a vacuum.’”

Response and encouragement. Roy had a feeling. Ron has one from time to time. He expresses it, and in return receives the appreciative song from a cricket stowing away under a stair in an abandoned Oswego factory.

“But there might have been another trigger. As Chuck Csuri, Lee’s husband, recalls, Lichtenstein’s son David came home one day from school and complained: ‘Joey’s father’s a policeman, and Henry’s father’s this, and Virginia’s does that. And you’re an artist and you can’t draw.’ Roy said, ‘Oh, OK.’ So he got out a canvas and drew a comic-book image. The result might have been Look Mickey, with Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. In it, Donald is fishing, and says, ‘Look Mickey, I’ve hooked a big one’. And a big, new idea was exactly what Lichtenstein had got hold of himself”.

That is all the parallel I need. Back in 1998 Roy’s spirit must have hightailed it back to Oswego, and flew up my nose.

Now to focus on the work and the big break which is sure to come at fifty, using the logic of arrested development afflicting the middle-aged in the 21st century. I shall keep at work, seek escape, and let my mustache hairs grow into my mouth.

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The Everson Vs. The Memorial Art Gallery

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“The Everson vs. The Memorial Art Gallery” 2013. Acrylic on press cleaning sheet, 15 x 7″

From Last Communion:

Two feelings today. First individual. Second communal. In the second I fix museums. In the first I fight despair.

I am weary of thinking. S.A.D. covers me like a fog at this time of year. S.A.D. with financial worry is a toxic cloud sizzling acid into my frontal lobe.
Depression? I don’t think so. It is what any man, of any culture, of any time feels when he possesses creative energy and spunk but has no waiting outlet for his expression.
“Keep it to yourself for six months mister, then in spring we’ll be committed to the same routine, and not have time for you then, either.”
Lows like this always bring me back to Henry Miller. He is the artist whose legacy champions the driven failure. He is the dreamer’s Jesus, and Tropic of Cancer the New Testament. Forty-four year old man coughing up green gobs in a Paris artist ghetto delivers pure hope to the future neurotics inhabiting modern earth. Nihilism with warm bread and salted butter. Joy as a routine of failure. Happiness with no expectations. Scratch that… At least one expectation… Dinner!
Most houses of present day claiming to represent the artist are supermarket chains stocking their shelves with glossy Keebler® products. They have lost sight of the man and woman as artist. “Give us the output that PBS wants to see. We don’t care about your thoughts. As long as you supply us our boxed Toll House® cookie crackers—stale or fresh, it doesn’t matter. And you better dress well. And be approachable. And portfolio a resume that looks corporate like accounting…”
Oh Jesus, Henry, they’re taking away art’s right to failure, to jugs of wine, to 3 a.m. coffee, wild plans for the future, close friendships, and sleep as a favorite pastime for lovers. They are accomplishing the death of art in the cruelest manner to the artist. With silence! With form letters. With business. With pedaling works door-to-door, alone, in a car. Individuality and avarice. Now artists tap in like cable TV to a corporate model for communication. Twitter. Facebook. They’ve gone public. Promoters, promotees, a sculptor I just met telling me in a sports bar how his friend needs to show more in order to build his resume—
These are weapons wielded by the enemies of art. Soldiers paid by anti-creative institutions. Bootlickers of art history PhD’s. The temporary gatekeepers. Thank you Jesus Miller. Again.
Now to keep to my subject promise of finding creative ways to slaughter the corporate model that has usurped art in America.
Christie’s is a pig sty, and the people who work there are rats who feed on pig drippings.
The Everson Museum is a Syracuse treasure, as is the Memorial Art Gallery of Rochester. But they have lost their way. They are mirroring their favorite soda brand (“pop” in Rochester—so you can tell which city I advocate for). They are seeking identity in a sea of exactly the same thing museums. Each a division of Keebler® trying to outdo its sister product with the “individuality” of whatever a cool million can purchase this year for the collection. Brand identity. The new thing. Like the new normalcy of networking. Concepts verbatim from page 2 in the corporate charter.
We smell a rat.
There must be three hundred or more museums of equal size across America. And they all cry poverty in the sense that attendance is down, upkeep is up, and it just feels like so few are interested in the arts these days. The Cincinnati Art Museum spends 1.8 million on an 18 x 24″ Georgia O’Keeffe and Johnny’s mother is opening up a can of SpaghettiOs® for breakfast so his stomach won’t rumble at school today. Johnny likes the Cincinnati Bengals but the Bengals corporation wants to whore their “anything they can” on Johnny. So Johnny gets a Bengal helmet for Christmas this year. The Bengal business model was a success. The linebacker got three million. The art museum an O’Keeffe. Avarice can easily find its connections in Hell. Just plug into the bottom line.
So my idea is this: Bring local art to the status it has deserved since Barbara the Neanderthal iron oxided the cave wall with a horse. Today it’s like museums around the world would be jonesing for a slab of that rock.
“France has a lot of ‘gaul’ to keep cave art in its own caves, especially when we’re willing to offer thirty million a cubic yard.”
All the artists in the Syracuse area, represented by the Everson Museum, can enter a yearly juried competition, like in January, when creatives are locally the most desperate. Same for the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester. Each museum chooses ten of its favorites for the juror, who is from out of state and has no bias toward either city. She is invited to stay at a middle ground no-man’s land along the I-90 corridor. Clyde, for instance. The host museum will alternate each time the two meet to fight. The juror judges the work, both staffs sort it out, and the top three out of five of the total twenty declares the winner museum. There is a show in summer at the home of the victor. And it receives more hype than a dead O’Keeffe, born and raised in Wisconsin, ever deserved.
Local artists become the art stars of their own communities. Now the Everson can challenge Munson-Williams in Utica next year. The Memorial Art Gallery can take on Albright Knox in Buffalo. In a five year period, several cities can duke it out and declare a champion institution for that region.
So when the Jones family from California visits the Everson they will be shone a room displaying Syracuse’s artist cream of the crop. I know the work will be just as inspired as any from van Gogh, Picasso, or that internationally adored, anal retentive metal sculptor, who, by virtue of some corporate art Gnostics, sits atop the sculpture throne in America, even though he was born in Natchez and hates the snow.

An addendum

“On My Own Time” is an exhibit the Everson hosts every October. It is a show where participating businesses send the top two or three judged pieces from their employees, who all have a hobby called “art”. Just to give you an idea of how screwy things are in our culture these days, I cannot even well express the insult dagger that drives into the very heart of humanity, which is all things art. But it does, and it goes deep. My friend, a marble sculptor who has shown at this venue the past two years, does university teaching on his own time. He spends hours searching for stone, dreaming the stone, cutting, carving, and sanding the stone. And he has something to say that he can never say while hobbying at his day job, which always pays him on time for work that is one part inspiration, three parts stultifying. And he is lucky to practice the art of teaching. To receive his certificate for “doing art” even though he doesn’t have to do art, can be a rewarding result of herculean effort. Along a similar vein, the poor janitor, who works at the same institution on his own time, scrubs dried vomit off of toilet seats in dormitories. His non-art is all stultifying. He is a photographer snapping photos in the bright light of day, from mountaintops in the Adirondacks. This makes him forget briefly that his culture and society expect him to pull hair out of clogged drains in order to take pictures on his own time, and never the other way around.
The show costs ten dollars for guests. It’s catered. And my friend for his piece, which took him over a hundred and fifty hours of time to perfect, leaves with a show book and a desk top printed certificate.
Every time the Everson acquires another fifty thousand dollar piece of someone else’s culture, they figuratively ram a can of SpaghettiOs down little Johnny’s throat, and likewise remind the community that art is for the dead, just keep at it on your own time. The Everson needs our ignorance to fill its coffers. Like Walmart. Like Pepsi. Like McDonald’s and the Cincinnati Bengals.
My friend the sculptor is an artist and a teacher. Everything he does is on his own time. The problem is that the thieves of our culture want to snatch pieces of what is ours for themselves.
The Everson and Memorial Art Gallery should exist because they are our community treasures. But they need to wake up and throw open their doors to a new vitality. Keep the stuffy tomb rooms of worldly historical art. They have their story. In my opinion they should be restocked with the art of dead central New Yorkers. I would want to know what a painter living on Midler or South Geddes was up against back in 1923. Looks pretty good. Yeah, yeah, Picasso was in Paris painting a gargoyle. And Woodrow Wilson harbored no regrets after sending thousands of human beings to unecessary slaughter. Jesus my dear Henry Miller, are they ever going to cut out this worship of dead kings?

Serial Installment #5 of “On Rainy Days The Monk Ryokan Feels Sorry For Himself”, Pages 79-103

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Buy now to avoid inspired rant of yesteryear.

Is it time now for a climax? Yep! You Betcha! Followed by twenty or thirty more pages of practical nonsense. Anyone who can read that far will either be a close relative or a better pessimist. It’s not difficult to see that I am crazy. I actually want, more than anything, to be content. That should make me crazy, because I see it and have it in raising a small, very close family, in the midst of poverty. Selfish, selfish poverty! Because I am vain enough to want to publish small books, I feel that to be an end, when really it is only a means to get back to a beginning.
Clearly I am not singing man’s praises. You can say that I am writing to save myself from disease. But that is not true. Before I said that one true word is enough. It isn’t enough. I lied. Yes I lie, I cheat. I am a coward too. O God, all the beautiful men who were so careful. Those beauties who left us their perfect writings, those wonders who were so clean and misunderstood, but lay in bed night after night convinced of their immortality. They practiced their immortality. Man, they were more phony than I could ever allow myself to be.
You see, I am a living man. I pity mankind in the same way I might feel sorry for myself. Do you think that I would not want to write an entertaining book? My God, I’d give anything to be able to produce a thrilling novel or a book of poetry that sings so sweetly about life and living. But most importantly, how I pray that I could have the gift of knowing my own strength. To be like Walt Whitman, peddling my knowledge door-to-door. Or a Thoreau in the forest singing my praises “as lustily as chanticleer in the morning…” God no, I cannot write like that. I am no great man. I am such a mixed up confusion of this and that, that I wonder if I am a Throop, a Ron, or a crazy idiot.
These are not confessions. I know myself, and myself is not me. I am what all of mankind is right now, and isn’t it a sorry state of hell man is? I mean we just have to kill morality. We are too dangerous now. I am not talking about the half-men; there are plenty out there so terrified enough already. They know who they are. You can bet they didn’t read this far. They got to the shelf and picked out something from Diderot instead. He wrote well. He spoke French. He wore a wig, which is some big difference to seek on a Sunday stroll through the bookstore. Anything is better than what you are at the bookstore. No, I write for the man I am, which is what some of you may be. I do not know if it’s a level below or beyond, but I am precisely not the ex-con talkin’ jive about why I ain’t allowed to vote. I am not him, nor am I the billionaire CEO, kicking the tile in one of my twenty-six marble bathrooms. I am nobody but I am everyone. I don’t give a constipated hope about man. I hate my neighbor. I don’t fear him. I hate him. The only thing I fear is the loss of freedom to shit in my own crooked pine wood bathroom, if I should strangle my neighbor because he never introduced himself to my family. Yes, I would kill him for buying a snowblower and wasting the morning cleaning the snow off a sidewalk that he will never walk on! Yes, I would kill him, if I was desirous of murder. But then the freedom to hide to pick my nose, and be as vile as every man hiding, is lost. And I am thrown into a prison to live beside things which I consider better dead than alive. Why? BECAUSE THEY WEREN’T SMART ENOUGH TO STAY FREE ENOUGH TO LEAVE EVERY SINGLE MAN THE HELL ALONE!

February 9

Dreaming is fun. I like dreaming. To be at a slumber party in some unknown room, and all your friends are there, some of them digging your music, is just a wonderful way to stretch through the five and six a.m. hours. To pee in a toilet and wipe some clear, caramel-like substance off the seat, and get a wink from the doctor in the room, who says, “It’s all right, no one ever did that before…”
And then suddenly you’re in Los Angeles joy-riding with Marie, looking for proof on a billboard that Roy Orbison wasn’t as ambitious as Dick Clark. Then you’re chastising Dick for being so fame-hungry, and Roy’s life is now very beautiful and sad, but oops! Is this Sunset Boulevard? Hop in! We’ll take a turn here in our ‘74 Plymoth. This might be the road that winds through the hills to the ocean. There’s some kind of fancy private club—there to the left! Let’s go round this bend to s— Oh my God, the ocean! There’s no shore! A massive wave approaching and we’re floating. The old Plymoth Fury is falling into the ocean!
Not if I can help it! I turn the car around with my feet and steer back around the bend. We park at the country club and step out into the bright California sunshine, stark naked and dripping wet. We go inside. There are people dining, and any second we might get chased through the halls and rooms. So we’re clothed now and standing on the curb with Rachelle and baby Jane on some hot, garbage-stink street in the city. Marie wants to eat there across the street, at some greasy spoon. “Are you kidding? We’ll be killed! A band of hooded hoods gather around us, but appear to pay no attention while they talk about how the landlord’s done them wrong. We walk from inside of their circle toward the ocean like a moving illustration from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The road we turned up before is straight ahead at the end of a line of magnolias and weeping willows. Suddenly we are in the country club talking with my arch enemy, Marty, his son, and a doctor. Marty is laying down a blanket so I don’t get my ass wet on the chair. I walk over to the window looking out for the lights of Los Angeles. I know it takes seventy-two hours to get home driving straight through. I bet we can do it in two days.
I hear an announcement on the radio. Then I taste my breath and feel the weight of waking up in the dark as old as I am.

So, leave us your dreams, proud working men of the 21st century. They have got to be more fantastic than the life you’ve formulated to fit the exact same life as everyone else passing by in a car. Sit at the stoplight, idling in your safety seat, and stare out at them. Count them. Surely they are very different than you, no? No?
No.
Maybe in the manner which they leave their beds and end up in a car. There may be some slight difference. But everything else is the same. That is, the clock alarm might be set to a disc jockey saying “ass” rather than “Azerbaijan.” News radio is modern rock radio is 90‘s pop radio as long as the entire population of the planet can differentiate between these three things. You in the Mercedes, and you in the ‘84 Ford with the muffler dragging, can and shall be satisfied with one of these stations, whether you tune in from Knoxville or Nagasaki. The barely literate scum bag holding up a convenient store will sing along to the same hip hop radio sound that the high school boy was singing five minutes ago, before he was shot to death for fifty dollars and a pack of Starburst. (You know what that is too, don’t you?) Our barely literate dust-brained murderer sings the “Hey, mother fucker…” song while merging onto the freeway. He gets lost in the music. He doesn’t hear the siren screaming up from behind. The cops were listening to Brittany Spears on Radio Disney when they got the call to chase a dangerous suspect. They like Brittany because she’s got a hot ass. When that particular song is playing, they imagine their dirty beards pressed into her navel. Sometimes they get inspired enough to abduct a barely literate street girl and rape her in the back seat of their squad car.
Oh well, they got him. Five to ten years sentenced by the judge who drove into the courthouse parking lot, listening to a story on NPR about Israel’s election. He didn’t think about the Congo, until it’s president got machine-gunned off his leather chair. It had to be a machine gun or it wasn’t news for NPR. Actually, no news comes from Africa, India, Iraq, Bolivia, Iran, (name forty or fifty other countries of dark-skinned people), unless significant numbers are dead from famine, disease, disaster or fear. The news is for Caucasians about Caucasians, and Jews are light enough to pass for Caucasians tanning in Florida. So it’s necessary to learn about the terrors in Tel Aviv, even if the Pepsi vending man still follows the same pick-up route through Jerusalem. Jesus Christ, good Pharisees and Allah, it’s all about money. Don’t you dare get in the way of that. Not even if they’re bashing each other’s skulls in. The judge likes to “get the news” before he dons the noble robe for a long day of playing God to goof-balls. Yes, the judge is brain-washed. And so is anyone who turns on a radio for pleasure. If Togo fights a civil war over the debate of forced female circumcision, then the judge will want to listen. He’s wild about the women of Togo and their special-looking labia. (He heard that story too on NPR). Yes of course the judge is a pervert! Did you expect anything beautiful to be born out of his status-seeking existence?
The barely literate scum bag is in prison now, eating Apple Jacks for breakfast. (You know what they are too, you damn robot). He listens to Christian radio because it will look good for the parole board. In the prison yard standing with a friend, our wiggling bag of scum laughs and laughs and laughs. “Yo mane, dare sendin’ in a whitie today mane, to in’view me in ma cell. A pubic radio show, some seriesshit man ‘bout prison life. Ize cansay whatever ize want to— muttafuckas shit dat’s right. Dey call me Joe and Ize cansay stuff like ‘Ize like to kill people,’ and ‘Ize don’t feel no ‘morse.’ Stupid muttafuckas. Say mutterfucka, waz fo suppa? Deyz givn’ us dat cheese shit man I don’t like dat shit. Makes my shit stay up in my ass.”

What is wise? Are wise men extinct? Emerson thought he was wise. He had a national following. And for good reason. His hundred and fifty year old wisdom still holds true. But it will never be enough until taped on the end of a stick, and sent running amok in a world gone wrong. Here, read it:
“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood. All is riddle, and the key to a riddle is another riddle. There are as many pillows of illusion as flakes in a snow-storm. We wake from one dream into another dream. The toys, to be sure, are various, and are graduated in refinement to the quality of the dupe. The intellectual man requires a fine bait; the sots are easily amused. But everybody is drugged with his own frenzy, and the pageant marches at all hours, with music and banner and badge.”
Sorry Ralph, but now our world has become night and day. That lazy bean-sowing friend of yours, Thoreau?  He was right. But only part right, because he couldn’t keep himself away from men. And worse yet, he wrote about why he stayed, or couldn’t stay away from them. What business was it of theirs? Still, I wish that in your life you were half the man Thoreau was. Writing a whole lottocrap about self-reliance and letting them applaud you on and off their crude, manure-stink stages. Ah, go to the Devil Ralph Emerson! We need to be like Thoreau in his extreme. A man today must come to that end, or he’s simply no longer a “man” beyond the biology. No difference of heart or mind can separate him from our meanest citizen alive, unless he flee to the woods and remain out of sight of everyone. Retire in obscurity to befriend the raccoon, or revolution in the streets. I tell you it’s got to be one of these two things. Shake imaginary hands with the river rat or war with any population of men who cannot value the life of you or the river rat.
Lies, lies, lies! Emerson was right. I just changed Janie’s diaper, and understood the world of men to be a crying helpless baby wet and shitty with saffron colored digested mother’s milk. I tell Marie that the baby is lucky that this is a world without Doctor Spock. Otherwise, she’d be singin’ freedom songs from her playpen cell. And then I start to dance around the room with Janie singing, “Rocka my soul in the bosom of Abraham..,” I change the words a bit to make the situation more humorous. “O rocka my soul in the bosom of mommy…” And then, “Spit up my soul on the bosom of mommy…” Falling back into an even deeper, more plush pillow, I tell Marie about my fifth grade music class, when I imagined a slave baby being rocked by Abraham Lincoln, not the Abraham of Issac. I didn’t know the Jewish story. I had Alpha Bits for breakfast and waited for the yellow bus to take me to school. Then I played jump up and down with my little friends while the bus driver listened to the latest reek of news to blow in from the Middle East.
The situation is much more precarious than that. What does this ‘banner and badge’ crap even mean? The sots are easily amused… In 1847 the sots went to Fourth of July picnics. They were amused by a parade and the noisy bangs of Chinese exploding paper.
Folks, you must juxtapose. I like that word because using it properly, might drive us insane enough to make a difference.
So let’s juxtapose.
In the year 2002, how are the sots amused? You tell me. It must be understood that two to two billion people do not matter much if just one man or woman over fifteen years of age, has heard, and understood an utterance by a civilized human being.
Living in society means pajamas after thirty, slippers after forty, mother’s milk in infinite varieties of processed foods, local taxes, far away taxes, shoveling the driveway, watering the lawn, “the right way,” “the wrong way,” anybody’s way but your own way. Even the most expressive person cannot create without some major help from society. The painter must purchase the paint and flush the toilet. The writer writes at a desk and turns out the light. The dancer twirls on a stage, and rents a movie for later tonight. The musician bought a folding chair. He goes over the score while smoking a pipe and cleaning between his toes. It’s a piece by Beethoven because people in the twenty-first century have no idea how to play their own music on a log. God forbid that there is a fool somewhere who would take up the violin solely for enjoyment! No, for that he must succumb to a life of Beethoven and sweeping floors in a dentist’s office. Nobody gives a hoot about him or his violin, until he comes to the concert hall, dressed in his pajamas and slippers, reading a symphony that Beethoven wrote in his head while peeing on a wet log.
What good is a Beethoven? Any sot today can buy a CD at the world’s biggest mall. That is not beautiful. How can that be beautiful? Whistling “Erotica” from beginning to end while searching for toothpaste above the tampons, next to your favorite hair shampoo, is a destruction potentially wrecking more devastation than a nuclear bomb. The reason there are nuclear bombs is because of Beethoven. It’s all his fault. Not the man’s necessarily, but his music. How shall I prove this to you? Who do you think Beethoven wrote for? Us? Do you really believe he cleaned his stinky toes and washed behind his ears in anticipation of our appreciation for him? The notes go up and down to the rhythm of his boots avoiding piles on a street walk from piano to pie maker. He wrote for Claus and Heidi, his father and mother, Napoleon, any German lake, fish in the water and birds in the sky. Now the same man buying—(Listen, it’s always buying from now on. Nobody makes beauty. Sometimes we might put it together, but we must buy it first, already assembled or in pieces.) Now across from the man buying a Beethoven box set, stands another man in his pajamas holding an Eminem CD. For those of you reading in the year 2030, Eminem was a shrewd criminal brain who gained fame at the age of twenty for sipping his mother’s milk from a slipper, while rapping, “When the cops weren’t looking, I raped a pickup truck. And when I got through with that bitch, I rammed it up a duck….” Beethoven and Eminem. Finally! We are beginning to juxtapose.
2002. 1803. Emerson had his high thoughts about illusion. He would be the first to say that Beethoven was drugged with his own pleasure of music. And he’d be right of course, in 1845. Ludwig would be the intellectual type who required a fine bait. Besides the fiddler at the dance, the sots knew themselves to be the gifted music-makers. Music was made by the sots themselves. If they felt the urge coming on to sing, they sang. They laughed and cried in song, thought in song, stirred cornbread batter in song. They sang their songs. They alone were the living creators. Which of them was strong and lucky enough to climb over the Alps and get an okay to come inside out of the rain to hear Beethoven and his friends go “da-da-ta-da” with a score of washed musicians playing with their polished and finely tuned instruments? Maybe a thousand people in the world heard Beethoven while Beethoven was alive. And I promise you that the ears listening were the richest most uncreative morons of the early nineteenth century.
Don’t you see? Beethoven, like Emerson, existed in a higher state of sotdom. He wrote for music students and professors of music who had an “in” with the right paying society, the princes and princesses.
Now juxtapose Emerson today calling on Eminem and his mommy at their city house on a street. “What!” he will wonder inside himself while walking through the ugly of a Detroit or Cleveland, “Society has come to allow this thing and its mother Beethoven’s freedom?! Oh my God I am so sorry I did not see this coming. New York was bad. London was worse, but they all got theirs with a dish of the smallpox. I was so wrong to pursue my own illusion down such a straight and narrow path. What kind of philosopher was I?
Henry was right. I was wrong. Did that boy just say, ‘Yo fukamudder, washyoumakin’bigshit’boutRalphie?’ Did he just say that? My God, what is it?”
“Ma’am,” Emerson asks, “Did you make it?”
“What?”
“Did you make this thing?”
“You mean my son, mister?”
“Yes if you are not so ashamed to call it that.”
“Well, I gave birth to it, and it was such a sorry-lookin’ thing when I done it. But it was tough raisin’ him. His Daddy worked overtime most the time at the plant, and little Em here started calling me fudderfupper at a real young age. I dunno, two, three. We partied a lot those years. We thought that was something’ though, so we bought him a ‘Sing along with Beethoven Mini-studio’ at Montgomery Wards, and he just looked so smart singing ‘slap da bitch,’ and ‘bust ya face,’ that we thought genius like that should bypass maturity and concentrate solely on being stupid and ugly. This is a free country, ain’t it Mr. Emerson? You see, I know where you’re getting at, coming back from the dead and all just to interview our boy. You want to know how nuclear proliferation, and sick, twisted anomalies like my son here can happen in such a short time after hard tack and gathering fuel for the fire. What amazes you the most, and it’s no small thing I’m sure mister, is that some simple-minded daddy of two, and husband of one, can know about little Em from so far away in the February of a cold winter, upstairs in an old house that was built during your lifetime and only two hundred years after man had to dress up in a deer suit to get dinner. I agree mister, that is amazing.
“Yes madam. But tell me, where does a quiet, unobtrusive philosopher catch wind of such foul stinks like your son here? No offense.”
“Mister, the only offense I take is what little Em dishes out. He probably heard about him at his job—he has to have a job, mister, if he wants to live in society—And anybody who works today knows about Eminem. My boy has made quite a stir! Or, he might have heard them talkin’ about Em on the radio. National Public Radio most likely. Especially if your quiet man wears an old-fashioned Irish cap and has day and night dreams about money.”
“Dreams about money? We had a lot of that in my day too Madam.”
“No mister, not quite like us. It’s not the same thing.”
“How so?”
“Because I think if you was poor back then, you darned socks and sweaters and starved a bunch. Sometimes you might have thought it’d be nice to have money to stay alive, but you also dreamed about Africa’s wild elephants or sailing on a green sea in search of anything besides socks with holes in ‘em. Now money ain’t like that anymore. Even having a bunch of that can’t help us.”
“Why, is the cholera still a killer.”
“No mister. But my son is. Would you like to buy his CD? He makes ten thousand dollars every time he says ‘fuckdabitch,’ on live television.”
“No thank you madam. I think I’ll go start a fire in heaven. Maybe ravage that little Alcott beauty, stick a vein, or piss on the world. I thank you dear woman for creating that useless piece of horse crap of a son of yours. Good bye.”
“Bye mister. Watch your step on the stairs. Little Em leaves his Matchbox cars there all the time. I tell him not to, but he just laughs at me until I start to cry.”
What is the truth about Beethoven? Was he civilized? As civilized as today’s average monkey? He had to dress up in a heavy wool coat and walk to the concert hall if he was to hear one of his peers conduct a concert. That was his illusion. Snowflakes falling, an intricately carved cane donated by an admirer, and a musical walk down a busy street. The movement of many people. A pig in a box. A horse sneezing snot while trotting by. Firelight. Beethoven was every other man and woman, but different with the gift of concentrated illusion. He had a purpose and was praised for it. He had everything everyone had, plus one big thing: The desire to express thought, dream, history, happiness, madness, peace, beauty, and the galloping animal world of the black forest, through music. Beautiful music! Intoxicating music. Music to sooth the beast in us—not the beast to make the music—which is what happened not long after the death of men.
When did men die?
You tell me mubbafucka.

February 10

We are in the midst of a winter hurricane. The downstairs door flew open in the night. Winds are striking the walls and shaking the windows in their frames. All we are left to fear these days is the weather. There should be tanks riding up and down West Seventh Street. Bombs could be dropping from the sky. Freedom is gone, so let’s make the most of it. Arrest me.

February 11

Went scouting the library for magazines to send my poems to. Each one that I picked up read like not one of these fat doves accepts the existence of a single McDonald’s. What a pile of beautiful fairy shit! I hate the English language most of all because it is so full of ways to beat around the bush!
I remember the clown at Woolworth’s like it was yesterday
and my mother held me in her arms
and pulled my blue hat down over my eyes…
A hundred bucks for that? Who the hell reads this crap on purpose? When Friends is on at seven and it’s quarter to, and that god damn fucker in front of him is only going forty-five! Pintos and cheese, soft tacos and sour cream, I’d like to pull the poet’s intestine straight out his asshole, dangle it in front of his eyes, hold it up against a wall, drive a fat nail through it, carve “liar!” up and down with a blunt butter knife, until it falls onto the floor in a mangled pile… Then he can tell me about his blue hat at Woolworth’s, and his mommy’s gentle hand playing pee-pee with him in the tub.
Oh Jesus Christ, what has become of us? Every Journal or Review that I picked off the shelf would only accept previously published poets on query. Each poem came with a list of credentials. Dr. Cornelius Imasad. Professor of American Literature at the University of Minnesota. Published in The New Yorker and Georgia Review. Dr. Imasad divides his time between the Greater St. Paul area and the warm plasmic lining of his mother’s uterus.
“Who did you kill with your bare hands, and why?”—That would be the first question asked to our submitters. Our quarterly would be page after page thoroughly stained with the blood of the poet’s own heart. No library would dare subscribe. Each issue comes with a neat little World War II explosive, because our editors believe that is when the human race should have cut itself off from existence. We do not recognize humanity after the year of our last happy child, 1…9…4…5, ready or not, I’m gonna blow the tiny heart out of your body!
This quarter our chief editor’s talented daughter submitted some fine material. It’s a play in one act about a court of justice trying the crime of misuse of a singular verb with a plural subject. She will play the part of the judge because her little friends voted for her instead of Mira, who tried so hard to say one clear word during her audition. Mira has a speech impediment, but that did not affect the children’s final decision. They voted her out of that part because she couldn’t make them understand a single word she said. Mira was not offended. She knows what she sounds like when she talks, and took a lessor part because she also is a gentle, soft and truthful creature. BECAUSE THIS TINY WORLD OF GRACIOUS CHILDREN ACCEPTS HER HEART AS TRUE AND BEAUTIFUL, NO MAN SHALL EVER HARM HER. Their poems, plays and stories are the truth that is spoken with every gesture. Our editors want them. We publish their true tales about the death of man. Only those grown-up poets, playwrights and writers who tell their tales through the eyes of living children are accepted into our quarterly.
Myself? I write to kill any man who would make a bomb to murder this beauty. And so should every poet. Anything else is just another firecracker contribution to the supply shed of my daughter’s murderers. If poets were true, which they are not, they would write witness accounts of civilization’s cruel and brutal slaughter of their babies. This would make these poet-warriors very dangerous, because after the word comes the deed. And the deed is a mad fury and rush to tear out the bowels of the lying, careful word picking professional child-haters lurking in moneygot universities.
We must write about our beauty. The real stuff. Not the professional toy box tears that give the fat poets more time and enough money to buy another cheeseburger. Juxtapose our real beauty with the sham that they are making of it. Then write anger beside our beauty. It has to be this way, or we shall all perish.

February 12

Last Night in India

Last night in India the power went out
The blackness just got blacker
if you can imagine that.
You can’t
So I’ll tell you
They froze to death.
Some soldiers marched into their hut
Kicked a body out of its bed
and assumed the whole village dead.
Everyone was wearing hats.
Thirty or forty people frozen
They stopped counting at lunch.
Lunch happened and they stopped counting.
The government got a wire.
The international press was having lunch
So the news never got outside
the frozen Indian village of dead people.

But Sita did.
She crawled out from beneath
her mother’s embrace
crying and screaming, upsetting the tiger
who was prowling the village for lunch.
He leapt toward her door with a roar
and a hungry guttural growling
his coat rippling with hunger
Sita walked out screaming
but when she saw the starved tiger,
stopped her tears in their tracks down her cheek
and began to sing the lullaby
her mother sang while she froze.
Now this tiger was very moved
calmly waiting a long moment
even sitting his haunches back on a ground stone
while her lullaby sang careful and slow.
Then he leapt onto Sita
eating her very quickly
from her tiny head to toe

What?
You thought the tiger would
take Sita by the yellow scruff of her sati
carry her to his cave high up the mountain
nestle her in his warm softness
for many many cold nights to come
and teach her the tiger’s strength and courage and beauty—
What?
Why should the tiger clean up your mess?
He’s a wild animal
But so heavenly beautiful
in truth
that the least I expect from him
is still a whole lot more
than any human would do.

Prove to me otherwise
and I will sing man’s praises.
Until then I sing for the tiger
the dumb hungry moose,
the puppy, the cat,
the Sitas in my life—
who know no lullaby but hunger
and warmth and play…
The earth is a wild ball
Let us walk upon its turning
devouring evil
which can only be a human thing
because they know how to spell.
I tell you
the only evil in the universe is human made

February 13

The Perfect Unsurpassed Beauty of The Ox Creek Calvary 4-H

It will take me a while to get to the point. Beauty is obvious, when it happens to the beholder. However, the world beholds nothing until I declare what will be beautiful. Is this not what poets and prophets are called to do? It must be the lure of democracy, television and union paying jobs which persuade Americans to decide for themselves what is beautiful. Most of the time they are wrong, simply because beauty cannot arrive at the door like the newspaper, everyday, at exactly the same time. Anyway, even if it did, it would just get used to perform some degrading afternoon chore, like wiping maggots out of the garbage can, or picking up a winter of what the dog left in the backyard.
Usually it takes me a while to shove beauty down a throat. I lack the necessary skills of a writer. I am not a writer. I am a beauty-copier. Last night I witnessed a show of human perfection. Since it was physically impossible for me to squeeze the 4-H farmhouse meeting into a ball small enough to fit inside a mouth, I promised myself to take in the perfection quietly, as a shy, unobtrusive bystander, and later use the weaker persuasion of words to shove beauty down the infidel’s throats. When magic happens, nothing and no one can duplicate its meaning. I said that I was a beauty copier. Which means that I am an artist—translated, “the great fool” in the mystical tongue. Only perfection has the sense to leave magic well alone, and I am quite a distance farther from perfection than your greatest illusion of infinity. So as always, I digress. I tell you, it’s a whole lot better than cooking French fries.
That being said, and most likely, misunderstood, please join my daughter and I on a cold winter night’s drive through the country.

Getting the Best Results From Choking a Blind, Spineless Grown-up

Well, legally you can’t break his back, even if in the long run it proved to be the more humane thing to do. So I would like to open our discussion about knitting squares with… Oh wait wait wait! First the Pledge of Allegiance and 4-H pledge. Laurie, could you hold the tiny flags please?
“I Pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States that would kill me…”
All the girls and the one boy pledge their allegiance, without the least bit of thought about the meaning of the words. Why should they question this allegiance? Why think for themselves? The mommies and one daddy have their right hands on their hearts too. They pledge. And so shall the children.
This is the first sad revelation of the meeting. Nothing could be more defeating of hope than this display of tiny hearts giving allegiance to the United States Army. This is the beginning of societies’ dementia. The children! How can the loving parents allow this horror to happen? How can we expect the following 4-H pledge to hold any weight, a pledge which is so much more true to their hearts than the first madness they are taught to recite? The 4-H pledge respects their rights, but more importantly, their dreams. The pledge to country is provided in part, by their parent’s paranoia. It is they who give the state power to lure their child into pledging her heart to the devil’s own symbolic flag. It is they who press their six-year-old to memorize war cries before her mind is ready to consider the actual horrible significance of those words.
Ironically, the 4-H pledge follows the Pledge of Allegiance. Why is it of second importance? It’s a 4-H meeting, and not the Boston Tea Party. Does anyone know the definition of “allegiance?” Whose hell is this anyway? You brainwashed jingo Johns and Judys! They are learning about the horse’s digestive system and helping each other prepare for their presentations on Saturday. Now the soldier parents march their babies’ vulnerable hearts across the entire country, pledging allegiance, as if come a declaration of war, the little girls tore off their retail clothes for cooler camouflage, and tossed aside their nifty four-color pens to be replaced with automatic weapons. What else does the pledge of allegiance do besides will them to gaily run out the door holding hands through a mine field?
For the organizers of this wonderful institution to ever gain my respect, and it alone is worth more than a library of written law, the first pledge to the United States must be eliminated from the program. How cruel to mix up the children’s horse dreams with nightmare enemies of state. Children giving their allegiance to a flag? Dementia. Why not a pledge to the Tennessee Walking Horse, the Palomino, the Lippizaner? Why are they here at 4-H anyway? If there must be a pledge to the U.S.A., make it be to their parent’s mutual, acquired fear of their government. It might be a better truth to have their little minds start believing in.
To truly pledge their heads to clearer thinking, which is the first line of the 4-Her’s motto, Mr. or Mrs. President of 4-H has got to scratch out the flag brainwashing which jump starts each meeting. If children were truly allowed the freedom to think clearly, they might grow up to be morally strong, individually wise women and men. Those kind of humans dissolve all dishonest institutions, a United States included.

February 14

I pledge my head to clearer thinking
my heart to greater loyalty
my hands to larger service, and
my health to better living
for my club
my community
my country
and my world

Where was I?
Oh yes, perfect, unsurpassed beauty.
February in farm country. If you are one to want both trees and stars to preserve their quiet, and moonlight to remain a practical benefit for roof building, please join my daughter and I, as we ride the frozen, dead corn hills of Cayuga County in our smart little German car. Rachelle reads by battery powered lantern light, while I steer, accelerate, and stop my brain’s many distinct illusions. By this hour on Monday night I am usually frazzled silly. My day began before dawn and went non-stop before getting behind the wheel to relax.
It is quite a distance to the clubhouse. Twenty-five miles south of our smarter routine of staying at home, eating a scrumptious feast of a dinner, and slowly pulling our tired bodies up the stairs to bed. In winter the nest is enough—for me. But it’s not just me, is it? In fact, it’s more for them than me, shouldn’t it be? God how scary if the opposite were true! Raising children has got to mean more than that unconditional-love-until-death piddlybunk two housewives discuss over coffee and toast. Their little devils play together on the floor, rudely hoarding toys and growing up in fear of everything.
Raising children is slavery. Call it any name you like, but I know its true name is slavery. And yet it is the highest form of love and bondage potentially attainable by man. That precisely is its virtue—a complete devotion to a god of his own spirit, depending on how awake and persistent the slave be. Tell me, what mythical, untouchable god enjoys a fraction of the sacrifices we bestow upon our children? What Buddha, what Yahweh, what angry volcano deity outwardly possesses more divine right than your own son or daughter? And which force would you prefer to keep the most healthy and alive if you were called on to care for both?
If the children only knew their real power! There are plenty of opportunities for our masters to abuse us. A good slave knows how to watch his tongue and behave, else his master turn against him. Or maybe I keep to myself this amazing good fortune. I know my master would never take advantage of me. Not on her life! I am an alert slave, ready to perform every duty before it can be noticed undone. I am on a constant watch-to-action. That is the difference between a good slave and bad one. The better the slave, the better the daddy, and the more happy and more lucky as well!
The clubhouse is an old, abandoned four room farmhouse set alone at the top of a hill. Fallow fields stretch a mile out to the tree line. It’s been a long time since this old house has seen any cheer. What a joyful place! Without 4-H, it probably would have housed another round of poor, greedy dirt farmers.
We turn into the front yard right on time. We’re always on time. It’s one of my constants. Good slaves keep an eye on the clock. My master is a very poor judge of time. Back when I was a young master, I knew by heart every second’s tick. The networks programmed their shows on the half hour, and I programmed my daily life to fit the network’s schedule. Long ago, before 4-H, children watched television to learn about time. When Rachelle was born, I took control of the TV for fear that time could be such a waste of my master’s energy. She would know when it was time to play, time to eat and time to sleep. I would tell her. I know that now she is better prepared to greet the many dangers of the day— but only since I have bared the burden of time in my brain.
In short, we always get to 4-H exactly on time. We gather our things and go inside. I bring my manuscript along so to keep my head buried in words and my eyes focused on anything besides people. I am afraid of people. Mostly grown-ups. No, I am afraid of every grown-up. It might take me two years to warm up to the most determined man or woman seeking my acquaintance. You can see that I am practically without friends. Like the child, I am so very shy when called upon in public. But unlike the child, it might take me a thousand times longer to approach a potential playmate. Personally, that is a great disappointment in my life.
But just look! All of Rachelle’s friends are here! Laurie and Georgia, little Constance and Emily Smith. Their smiles are enchanting. Envisioned in the wrong light, they may appear drunk and uncaring. Not so. I believe “carefree” to be a more appropriate word. “Wild” might be a better one. In its meaning one shall spy the bleak desert chasm separating the bright sun of their true hearts, from the cold, black, acquired knowledge trap which the crafty grown-ups have set.
The wild ones remembered the rough drafts to their presentations. Next Saturday will be the real thing. And although that kind of time pressure would drive me to the limit of my neurosis, the children aren’t nervous at all. They revel in the present moment. Again, you see, it is my duty to take on my master’s worry. I twist my guts inside-out so that she may live her days peacefully—this is a tacit bond I share with the other slaves in the clubhouse. We are servants attending to our master’s whims; mere porters, coachmen, drivers, cooks, launderers, groundskeepers, room cleaners, and tutors. Oh, but we better watch out what we teach them! A good slave is very careful. If he wishes to keep his master’s trust and attention, he will constantly be on guard of his own dangerous mouth and deeds. So, “the mouth is the gate of woe.” Yes, but any slave worth his indenture knows that the moat of action boils before the gate of woe. Say whatever you wish good slave, but the master knows the falsity of words spoken before deed. Some poor slaves find out too late, and are banished from their children’s kingdom. Expecting deeds before dinner, the master got steadily poisoned with words all day long, and gradually, over time, had stone walls built to keep away the phonies Mom and Dad.
The mothers and fathers of 4-H have come this far, which means their children still love and respect them. That’s reason enough for sincere congratulation. These kids are different. They are kind, compassionate, cheerful, gentle. They have so much not in common with the children outside of 4-H. There are physical and even some mental similarities to be sure. That is, Emily of 4-H can be forgetful as any child. But it is in her forgetting where might be concealed the kindest gesture. Last week Laurie had the flu. Emily made her a heart-shaped card at home, but forgot to bring it to Monday’s meeting. Emily did not forget that the little bald girl who she saw in the store hasn’t any hair because she is dying. Nor did she forget that pulling off the little girl’s hat and laughing at her bare scalp, might make her cry real tears.
The other child forgot. There is a cruelty like that in some children.
Not in the Ox Creek Cavalry 4-H.
Why?
Because in the beginning, long before 4-H, their slaves were truly that dutiful.
But this is not the time for parental back slappings. We know we’re good. We paid our ticket to this show of beauty. We spent a lifetime tending our flock, raising our delicate flowers from seed, cultivating our pleasant gardens of Eden—You get the idea. No, actually, most of you have no idea what the hell I am talking about. But there will be another day to comment on the steady pointer rise on the doom meter. Few will seek my books, except maybe to burn them. Who wants to read a story about his own sick heart? But in the unlikely case that you read with some relish the exposé on the cruelty you pass on to your child, please understand my intentions first and foremost were to scold you. I can get right to the essence of the sour inside that makes you the greatest faker and liar. I know that the cruel child exists because of you. And to be ignorant of the awesome responsibility you and I have to this species, to not possess the instinct of gentle perpetuation, which, god damn it, evolution, or at least God, should, by all purposeful intent, have brought us to thus far—to care not about the developing perfection of your child, (and there is a human perfection to aspire to, I know), at least not until you can enjoy all the pleasant frillies that false living has to offer first—this my dear enemy, is the worst of all evils. It is the unnecessary black, infinity of the universe. Our children and ourselves possess all the universe we need to know. Because you ignore that truth, Mr. and Mrs. Slapdoodle, is precisely why humanity is wrong, and why so many parents can’t find the time to participate in 4-H.

Serial Installment #4 of “On Rainy Days The Monk Ryokan Feels Sorry For Himself”, Pages 63-79

02.09.01dads_bananas

Or, you can avoid eye-strain while taking advantage of summer shade, and buy book now in its entirety.

January 22

Snow and wind last night. This is a great humility in Oswego, to live and be covered in snow and ice. It puts technology in a corner of your playroom, with the colorful balls and figurines. A man’s life in winter hasn’t changed significantly in sixty years. Oh sure, the phone rings and he can pick it up and walk anywhere with it, but that’s not much. He can have a thousand channels of TV, but so what? The wind howls and his garbage can cover flies by the window. The snow turns in violent circles under the street light. The man will have to sit and wait despite what new “toy” he has to play with.
Chicken for din-din. The oven uses gas, as it did sixty years ago, but now it can clean itself. No it can’t. That’s a distortion. He has to clean it. But the oven has a timer, a fancy built-in instant read thermometer, digital clock, professional BTU’s, and an endless inner light to illuminate the carcass… Yet it still does not possess the necessary robotics to take itself to the store and bring you back a chicken. Nor can it sliver the garlic, poke tiny holes in the breast of the bird, and insert the slivers for you. Oh but it’s shiny and pretty and brand new! Technologically advanced. State of the art (Strange to label the most artless monstrosities and tiny black plastic boxes as “art”). A good technological advance would be an automated device invented to inject a serum into a man’s brain immediately upon entering his vestibule on a cold winter’s night. A drug to make him think that time improves a man’s outlook, that advances in science and technology open old stubborn, painted, glued and screwed shut doors of happiness. That air cleaners, DVD, Surround Sound, the Internet, computer station, stainless steel dough mixers, microwave ovens, snowblowers, and riding mowers, to name just a few beautiful shiny new things, are not only really fun, but fill up the empty places to overflowing. A drug to wear off by morning, because I believe the sun still possesses some magical powers of rejuvenation. (Most men still dream in the early morning, without TV).
Unfortunately, no such drug-injector exists at the present time. They’re still working on the light sensors. It won’t matter how tipsy a man is when he stumbles past the door late on a winter’s night. He’ll be quite satisfied with the television, an invention of the 1940’s, to sooth the growling yawns of his inner, sleeping animal.
Wait. Now here is an example of technological progress. I just got up from the table to use the toilet. I plugged the toilet. I searched every room for the plunger that has been hiding in this house since 1958. Without a remote control finding beep, I found the tool, brought it to the bathroom, and jabbed it into the toilet to upset the dam. The stool broke free. I sighed, and came back to work.
Now this isn’t Tolstoy. I’m not genius. God does not write through me. The plunger is enough. Because of technologies’ stubborn advance, the aspiring modern American writer types with the same genius and sense of purpose that Tolstoy’s great, great grandchildren use to club-hop and cocaine snort their typical Friday night away in Moscow. There are no young geniuses. One would think that time-saving devices would help in the output of more works of fine art. True, there are plenty more artists today struggling with a car payment. Modernity can boast of great strides in art. Particularly in the field of abstraction. The age demands easy expression, some abstraction being a short-cut with paths that widen in equal proportion to the artist’s knowledge of The Brady Bunch. Had Tolstoy the opportunity to view an episode, he might have come up with a creative way to carve out and cook his own spleen. The sculptor of today who possesses a clear vision of Bobby Brady’s favorite t-shirt can produce a masterpiece out of the stale beer cans, twisted wire, crumpled nudies, broken glass, and empty quarts of oil strewn six feet high, found in his Uncle’s mini-landfill of a back yard. He’ll call it, “The Final Destruction of the Soul,” parade it across the country, from one artless museum to the next, settling in at night with gobs of take-out, TV, and perhaps a point to make about Tolstoy’s Russian madness, during the commercial breaks of course.
Every single artist my age who was born in America has heard of The Brady Bunch. The juxtaposition of that piece of embarrassing information with Tolstoy’s worn, calloused, and bleeding feet is the best lobby I can offer for the dire need we have of constant, repeating improvements in technology. The slim chance of survival that the artist has today remains to be seen in the complete destruction of creative spirit among his contemporaries. Because the artist is drugged silly by the supposed ease of modern life, rarely has he the strength to stand alone against technologies’ invisible army. The ironic battle cry of “We just want to make you more comfortable,” often proves to be their final, victorious charge against the American artist. The white flag is raised from the chair, the dirty litter box, while on a dog walk, or upon arrival at the front door, after picking out a four course meal tonight with the eight dollars the artist found in his coat pocket. Three of his favorite syndicated shows are on after dinner, and he’d really like to get this piece finished before Laverne and Shirley.
What options beside madness and suicide are there for the man who is true to his art?
This: He must do his absolute best to avoid as much gadgetry as possible. Unfortunately, avoidance will give him neither strength nor courage. It might bring him sanity, provided there is one like himself fighting inertia in the same town, and they have the lucky chance to meet. For art to endure at least another century, the artist must scrap everything holy in America. Presently, and probably indefinitely, toys are the most holy. He must start with the toys then, and toss out at least one a day. Oh yes, and he must always do the exact opposite of his neighbor. Not the easiest program to follow! What began as a quiet personal, monkish struggle, will end in a declaration of war against man and his technology.
Oh but woe to the simple artist, for the enemy has an endless supply of ammunition from an ever-expanding arsenal of weapons. It has an army, navy, air force, and marine corps of square-headed men with very powerful G-12 processors. It has the popular backing of nearly every man and woman on the planet. All domesticated pets as well. The house dog is taught to turn on the master who changes his diet from an egg yolk on kibbles to “go out and kill a rabbit you lazy mutt!” No, there is no chance in open combat for the man whose life is dedicated to art. He will avoid his enemy guerrilla style. The sane artist must retreat into the jungle to practice his future strategies while living the life of a rainforest hermit. He’s a lone warrior now, one who doesn’t love a soul connected in any way to making his life easier. He likes the hot, steady rains of the jungle, and an occasional hurricane to humble his growing dependency on technology. He might take for booty a pair of sneakers to protect his feet from the sharp forest floor and raid an unlucky troop of tourists using his path to the waterfall. However, he will not hastily assume that his enemy is everyone. No, it’s not wise to combat with any joker holding a wireless. These days, even a promising young painter will be carrying one of those! When the hermit steps out of his hut in the hot morning ready for confrontation, any human being he spies will be carrying some little gadget to play with. Along with American TV, technology has invaded all remote spots on the globe. When he leaves his hut looking for a fight, the artist must take along the same advice given to Marsha Brady by her father Mike when she needed the courage to give an oral presentation. He told her to imagine the audience in their underwear. The artist must go a step further. For his war to be won, he must rip off the underwear and make every body naked. Stark naked and stupid, just like the day they came into the world. First he strips off their clothes and sets his face eye to eye with each captive. He is looking for the same sign in everyone. There is only one difference which separates the artist from the technological man. No matter how fat, thin, pallid, pimpled or pussed the enemies’ body, the artist soldier focuses his entire inspection on the eyes. Nothing can separate him from his enemy quite like the eyes.
For my outlook to improve at all, I must see hope’s death hiding in their eyes!

January 25

We must abide then with the major advances in technology made during the last half of the last century that make men faster, stronger, more idealistic, optimistic, healthy-faced, and preening with glowing red cheeks from this constant game of internal tag between desire and satisfaction.
What, you mean to tell me that your new car doesn’t do those nice things to you? So, you can’t tell the difference between the crisp, clear melody of the CD surround-sound system and the crying, screaming agony of your own heart’s lying to itself?

Let me tell you, this morning I know my writing to be a useless, very selfish form of torturing the ones I love. Any day now, my child will be born. How can a man be so blind and so cruel? I love you Marie. To touch your lovely skin where the insides ache is my duty. I scream and spit at the man who can cover up all of God’s most joyous occasions. Let this also be a point made to anyone unfortunate enough to read this. Ronnie Throop hates himself as good as the next guy…

February 1

ON JANUARY 27, 2001, BABY JANE THROOP WAS BORN TO OUR SMALL, GLORIOUS HOUSEHOLD. EACH NEW DAY I FIND MYSELF TO BE MORE ALIVE THAN THE LAST.
Marie is a remarkable woman. Her labor was quick and relatively free from doctor intervention. Janie has a strong neck, healthy lungs, mostly a cheerful disposition, and roving, inquisitive eyes that follow me around the room.
Good God! I write about the luck and joy and fortunate bomb of birth like some university professor. I must be too stupid to live! I love baby Jane. I am a marked man!

February 2

The problem with writing, then, is that I have already quit my night job. I pretend that I need to write a million more words before I can put one true word to paper. Nonsense. When my brain is alive as it has been this past week, I should be quite able to turn on the faucet and let the images and feelings flow. More than anything I need to tell the truth.
On Monday while driving Rachelle to her horse riding lessons I had a very clear vision of a contemporary American home and neighborhood. Now I’ve forgotten most of it. The gravest error of writing is that I will try to recapture the images anyway, probably because I need something to do now that I have quit my night job.
We have no souls. The Protestants and Catholics of 16th century Europe had big fat Christmas ham souls. We eat a pile of dead, flea-bitten, Bubonic rats off our platter. We are not pleased, and never content. We have no belief, no moral code, no fear of something greater than ourselves. One should be able to walk into an American neighborhood any which way he pleases, and that might be called freedom but it ain’t no soul that I can see. While driving down the county road, every home’s inside was unfolded to me. So many rooms! So much space! So many things to fill up the space. And the sameness in the space was remarkable. Each house shared not only the same staples— TVs, sheets, clothes, shoes, and food bought from identical stores, but kept the same personal touches as well. The cookie jar, knitted sweater, shotgun, goose and flower drapes, the children’s toys, the motor oil—these and much, much more were exactly the same stuff bought from a similar place. And although the outsides and insides of these pretty country estates were exactly the same thing, or kept so damn well close to it as not to matter, I could not detect even one tiny soul to share a sameness with. These unfortunate dopes hadn’t a soul anywhere. In the garage? Nope. Just a bunch of same stuff and a sport utility to keep warm and bright. In the basement? Nope. Just a brand new laundry center washing the same socks, underwear, and Starter sportswear. On the roof? No. In fact if you turn over a shingle, it reads, “Ha-ha, we’re the same thing too, dingle-butt!” On the tire swing in the yard? Nope, Goodyear. The tree? Yes, but never affiliated with the dopes. Okay, okay, no soul. I get the picture. But do you really care? You’re comfortable. You like your car, your dough mixer, your books, the computer that cost you an arm, a leg and a soul…What are you getting at hypocrite that we haven’t got to already via the weak, bloated pulse of our own sick hearts?
Jesus Christ, don’t you get it? I am the same soulless prick as you!
Pray tell us why you feel different then.
Because not a day in my life goes by when I am not disgusted at a human or humanity. There, happy?
Sure, whatever. Hey, how do you like the Audi Ron?
In sixteenth century Amsterdam Lars and Mindy were devout Protestants inhabiting active souls in a household at 1313 West Faer Street. Their neighbors, Pope idolers, Charlie and Joan, had busy souls too, and kept a hundred candles lit in their abode to prove it. One morning Protestant Lars got out of bed, coughed blood, walked through the cold over to Charlie and Joan’s house, smashed their stained glass statue of Jesus Christ’s mother’s friend’s donkey, leapt into the couple’s bed, and cut up his neighbors in a crazed fury. Then, after setting fire to their home, walked back through the cold to Mindy, who stood waiting for him in the doorway with a hot bowl of oats and sheep’s milk.
Our daughter baby Jane was born this past Saturday. Yesterday my mother picked up a back issue of the local paper, so that we could cut out the headlines and paste them into little Jane’s baby book. Oops, Janie was born on a day when the headlines were coughing blood.

January 27, 2001: Man Pleads Guilty in Murder Trial

(APP) Associated pissants and pilferers. Did you know that there are degrees of murder? One, two, and three? If you kill one, it might be dropped to two. But if you look like you’re truly sorry for sticking that old lady in the gut with a sharp piece of glass, it might even drop another degree. How do we know if you’re truly sorry? We don’t. So wear a sharp suit in the court young man, and the judge might take pity on your non-existent soul, and issue a sentence for manslaughter although you pulled the eyes out the back of her head, and chewed on them.
The lawyer representing the killer has no soul. The judge playing judge has not a smidgen of a soul, After work he picks up his little girl and squeezes her. He is lying. He loves something not his daughter. The father of the killer has no soul. So what if one balmy day nineteen years ago he had sex with a woman, and then fed the product of that affair sugar cereal every Saturday until it was old enough to kill. Does that give him the right to pretend he has a soul when a woman is dead with cut glass stuck in her forehead? No it does not! The reporters, the courtroom audience, the secretary in the room next door… They have no souls. The people in the street, out in the cold walking by? No souls. The good folks in their cars passing people on the street? Nope. Why? Because an old woman opened her door last May thinking the boy was polite enough, and she might like another subscription to Good Housekeeping. Sure, but there wasn’t a soul in the vestibule, so he invited himself in to have a look-see for himself. Nothing there, so he killed her. The coroner who found glass shards in the roof of her mouth—he doesn’t have a soul. The cops that came to call, and saw her lying there in a pool of blood. They will never ever, even if they were bunnies with badges, have a soul. And without a soul, one cannot develop children with souls. Not first, not second, not even third degree murdering souls. Not one of you nips reading this soulless babble has a soul. You might hope that the priest at the funeral service has a soul, but you don’t hope, because you know deep down, in your bottomless empty pit of a heart that there isn’t even the tiny, starved bird of a soul trying to break free.
The boy was nineteen. The boy could not possibly become a human being. That is what it has got to be now. Every Homo sapien shall be born with a soul. However, soon after the soulless mother or father touch it with their trembling soulless hands, the soul disappears, and with it, its humanness. I know this to be true. The entire courtroom should have been set on fire that afternoon. All of their soulless bodies should have sent billows of smoke up into the winter sky. Because there isn’t a pope or priest out there who believes in God, death is the only sword I can wield. How could that old lady’s children not annihilate the house wherein sat their mother’s murderer? Why did they rise from their pews in the house of law, see all that dirty money exchanging hands, the smiles, the lying tears, the grease on the chin of the lawyer who could actually stomach a burger during lunch break, and not run up to the man who cut up their mother with glass shards, hold him down, and ram a burning torch down his throat? How could her kids stand up and vacate the building without leaving a courtesy bomb in a basket with a bow tied around it? I don’t dare say that I write for God. I am a scared little punk just like you trying to make a comparison between the sixteenth century murder for a belief, and the inability for Homo sapiens of the 21st century, who can’t believe enough in God to play God when their own mommy is slain because she opened a door to buy a magazine.
“We are more humane in this age,” says the President, says the working man, says the soulless father and mother who don’t believe because they are so afraid. No, God damn us, we are spiritual cross-dressers, who can’t muster enough humanity to construct even the tiniest moral code. There is no God. You know there is no God. The fear that you have because there is no fair God, makes you helpless. You fear the man next to you, who might send you to a prison where inmates swear a lot and have sex with the same sex, if you decided to meet that nineteen year old retard who killed your mother face to face, with an eye to an eye; or Jesus at least some kind of similar avenging attitude, other than “It’s out of our hands,” or the even more pitiful, “How can he not show any remorse?”
Why doesn’t he show any remorse? Because inside he is laughing an imaginary head off! Inside he has got a thousand sardonic smiles stuck all over his body. Inside he walks up to you laughing at your mother’s death with a thousand smiles. He knows that in the end you will agree with the jury to feed and clothe and keep him warm for fifteen years to life. He knows it. You know it. You might go home and do your taxes tonight to prove it. But you won’t do anything about it because God does not exist and you’re so incredibly afraid my sorry little soulless orphans. Oh fellow spiritual degenerates, why not form a circle around his tied down body and jab it with tiny little cut pieces of glass? Secretly you want him to beg for mercy, to plead and scream his sorry ass off for mercy. We can let him beg, even make it look like he may get off the hook, wait a couple hours so he can think about his crime, then launch upon him like a pack of starved, wild wolves, tearing at his flesh with our own, very useful incisors. Afterwards we shall wash up, step outside into the bight sun, clap our hands together and sing Hallelujah! Then of course, by all means, go back to work or play, and mourn the wrongful death of another innocent soulless creature whom some of us happened to love enough to kill for.
It has got to be this way. We believe it. We just don’t know where to begin. I’ll tell you, the early years must be dedicated to acquiring humanship. And the few, the very few, who graduate, those receiving the understood blessing and carefulness of being alive, they alone are in the running for soul reacquisition. Those with a soul will teach by example. If the priest happens to possess a soul, he will direct the funeral service for the woman who was murdered by cut glass on a march to the prison, and bomb it. If that isn’t enough, and the people still cannot see, he’ll march them to Albany and bomb the houses that say it’s okay to kill—just be prepared to eat and sleep for free, fifteen years to life. If that doesn’t work and the soulless monkeys come to arrest the priest, don’t fret a bit. There’s a good chance that he will be captured in a state that kills their undesirables humanely—with gas, electric shock, skin peeling, esophagus stuffing, brain bleeding…. But your soul-stuffed priest probably won’t care. He’ll hang himself long before they can agree upon and organize the proper manner of his execution.
She would have bought the magazine, really, and piled the issues on the table of her soulless home. There are civil murder trials. Pretty neat, eh? I might be misunderstood, but I love that slain woman like my own mother. Cruel and unusual punishment? Please God yes! Enough to make up for the slow, but firm advancement of civil cowardice over the years. I beg of you, dear Lord Almighty, please bring back the braver souls of yesteryear.

February 3

No more thinking! I love my children, my wife, my family. I’m afraid of my own mind.

February 4

Quote for today:

“If one quarter of the American people are today living on a level of subsistence far below the norm, there remain nevertheless a hundred million who enjoy comforts and advantages unknown to men in any period of the past. What is to hinder them from revealing their talents? Or is it that our talents lie in other directions? Is it that the great goal of American manhood is to become the successful businessman? Or just a “Success”, regardless of what form or shape, what purpose or significance, success manifests itself in and through? There’s no doubt in my mind that art comes last in the things in life which preoccupy us. The young man who shows signs of becoming an artist is looked upon as a crackpot, or else is a lazy, worthless encumbrance.”
—Henry Miller

I am excited that it’s Sunday. Rachelle comes today. School will start up again. We will bake sweet treats, and I can go back to normal
thinking.
Yesterday lost in the dreamy haze of newborn glee, Marie, my mother and I talked about my idea to beg a simple living. First, let it be known, we are very happy people. The cold February, the unemployment, the very simple mornings and even simpler gray afternoons, have made baby Jane’s first week of life a post-womb bliss. This is happiness. It’s also very rare, and confounds my mother often to the point of distraction because she’s never known a couple to be so cheerful while in the wake of financial ruin.
Anyway, I feel good enough this week to talk to her about begging. Why not? Sponsorship has always been the artist’s plight. Why should I be ashamed to ask my fellow man for five cents a day? It’s the 21st century and the economy has never been so fat. Just a nickel a day. Five pennies. A dime to secure me for two days. If I could acquire say, forty donors spread out across the United States, perhaps even the richer countries of the world… Forty people each sending me a nickel a day—then that would be enough incentive to quit the hate mail I send out to the non-existent addresses of disinterested Americans. For two dollars a day I might even concentrate on creating something beautiful. Practically fourteen dollars a week will be enough to silence my criticism of everything that cost more than fourteen dollars a week. I could concentrate on beautiful writing, like something straight from Jean Giono’s mind, although not nearly as well-written (I know my limitations). Detailed descriptions of the countryside, brilliant colors of the sky, animals with strong limbs, a kind gesture from a human being. The money would help pay for two simple meals a day, arranged by my own two hands of course, and an hour or two to walk about the town meditating on my next book. This I would do for five cents a day. It used to be two hundred a week. Now it is five cents a day.
Of course I would gladly accept more. Generosity would not go unappreciated. I would dedicate the rest of my books written before death to the forty original sponsors of my plight.
A nickel a day. Thirty-five cents a week. What, do you expect me to live on less than that? After our afternoon inspirational, my mother sent me to the store for steaks. “Nice big juicy sirloins for Marie and me,” she said. Fine. And I didn’t even consider the cost, at least not until this morning, after the buerre rouge, the sauteéd mushrooms and pearl onions. The spicy black beans simmered in garlic and olive oil. Then I wondered about money. Why should it bother me that each steak costs five dollars and I’ve been planning the last few meals out of a pot of black beans? It’s her money. She earned it. Why does it matter that her son just spent an hour giving her a lecture on the virtues of begging, and that even the paltry sum of a nickel a day, thirty-five cents a week, $18.20 a year would keep the budding American artist not only humble to the very core, but deliriously happy because out there somewhere, is another contemporary as foolhardy as he. Why is it that she can give Price Chopper Supermarket a two dollar profit on the purchase of a steak, simply because they supplied the cut piece of cow, but that it breaks her heart to know her son seeks a five cent profit for his artistic endeavors? How can an artist’s own mother not sense his reoccurring frustration and outrage?
Because Ron Throop, you sniffling idiot! She can eat the  bloody steak!

February 5

In the morning I can have no worries. Is it this way for everyone? Most of my writing happens before dawn. That has got to account for the cocky child in me. It’s quite a different story in the night, when my mind is a heavy, overloaded glutton suffering the ill-effects of a fat illusion diet ingested throughout the day. This morning I awoke on a warm, sandy beach. The tide was high, just tickling my toes. The east was light. I sat up, feeling clean and new to the approaching day. A pelican stood in the sand watching me. A blue heron caught on an air wave cruised silently by, and the thoughts in my head and myself were the same. I was a me not separated from my thoughts. However, when I proceeded to get up and act (I thought I’d wade up the shoreline for adventure), the clear-headed thoughts chose to stay behind and made their cozy secure homes rooted down into the sand. Every few waves I turned to look back, so as not to lose sight of my fading thoughts.
Further down the shore, my body yearned toward the sea. Since the sun was up and birds were singing, I felt brave enough for a morning swim. I fell into the warm waves, and pulled myself over one, then two. The water was changing shades of green and gray. I knew this was the best way to live, and looked back to my thoughts for agreement. But a crowd of feeding seabirds blocked my view of the shore. No matter. I had plenty of time to get back to this morning’s light.
Suddenly a whirlpool grabbed hold of my toes and pulled me out to sea. Far, far away from my original thoughts. Then I panicked. Going down, coming up. Believed I spied the shore when it was just a head full of air and water. I guess then I must have died, and heaven was a glorious dawn on a warm, sandy beach with the light in the East, and a pelican wondering about me.
I simply woke up to think about another day.

What are these illusions that in the morning are virtually non-existent, but by early evening drown you in violent whirlpools of confusion?

Where do I begin? You see, this morning I feel happy and free. The world is an infinite exploration. I awake with a blast of anticipation, excitement, belief, wonder, hope, joy, real strength of character. I can even have positive thoughts about begging. And unlike the evening, the thought stays true, and keeps itself clear without the illusion of other people’s feelings getting in the way. A current reality I am dreaming up is to attach a wooden box to the side of the house and cut a slit into the top. A collection box wanting for nickels. I imagine donors walking to the artist’s home, not for the artist’s sake necessarily, but to knock themselves out of agonizing routines. This morning I am certain that joy will come to the man delivering a nickel, whether it be to God, the hungry old woman, the Children’s Aid Society, or to yours truly. In bad weather the nickel donor can take up a staff and obtain an old sock to stuff his nickels in. Already his life has improved tenfold. A walk across town on a nickel delivery might turn enough envious heads from inside their cars to really make a difference. “Hey, isn’t that Mr. Howard, the shop teacher? What is he doing walking through the snow? Why isn’t he in his car? Where can he be going?”
Mr. Howard finally came to his senses, picked up his dinner plate, and threw it against the wall. “Freida, where’s the coin jar?” he said, and then wondered why he didn’t know where the coin jar was kept. From that realization he moved on to the next obvious one. He was near invisible to the people in his life. His loved ones saw right through him. Sure he kept his toothbrush in the holder beside the others, but the big question now was: Would they stop brushing their teeth if his toothbrush was gone? Sure, being a shop teacher earned him a pile of nickels, but even that couldn’t keep Freida from thinking about her gorgeous foot doctor—the blonde, blue-eyed Adonis with the incredible hands. Son and daughter were touched by Dad once long ago, when he played touch football with them and Buster in the yard. They pitied him for putting on a show. Suzy was five, Tommy was six and Buster was the puppy Mr. Howard bought with a fist full of dirty nickels.
Now he takes another look at the home which he hath provided. “Why aren’t we begging for nickels?” he wonders. “Man, we all got it too easy. How is it possible to appreciate anything? And thoughts…! My God, what do they matter? Thoughts, dreams, they are nothing in a home overflowing with nickels. Why did I not see this before? I guess it’s okay to teach other people’s brats how to cut factory wood and tighten bolts, as long as my own brats say, ‘Thank you father,’ and ‘I love you father.’ But they never do. And Freida puts that god-damned plate of food on the table every night. I don’t know, but she might have spread ten toxins on her body to give it that shine today. I wouldn’t stop to count because the days and nights are ripping by and I have nothing to show for life but a house stuffed chock full of nickels. When Suzy and Tommy open their mouths to speak, nickels pour out in a stream. Freida’s a walking sheet of noisy nickels. I got nickels falling out of drawers. Buster won’t take another treat for going outside. Now he hoards nickels in a pile by the garbage. This morning I was late for work. It took twenty minutes to clear the nickels off the driver’s seat. Since I heard about the man in town with a begging box, every turn I make confronts me with a wall of nickels. I never knew I had so much until the other guy made a complete ass of himself. Now I cannot will the nickels out of my mind. I have to rid my thoughts of every last nickel!
So Mr. Howard takes up a staff. Yesterday it was a broken branch fallen after a west wind. Today it is a staff. He stops at his car to pick nickels out of the ashtray, and drops them in a tube sock. He ties a knot in the top and walks out into the street swinging his sock.
“Where the hell do you think you’re going?” yells Freida standing in the doorway.
“I am going to the artist’s house to drop these nickels into his begging box.”
“You are like hell!” Freida screams. She’s in a rage. Her eyes are hot. She feels the heat behind her eyes getting hotter. She shakes her body and waves her fists at her husband. She curses. She stamps and screams. Mr. Howard returns her fit with a look of almost cheerful indifference. This gesture makes her livid, beside herself with a red hot hated for her husband. Her temples are flaming. The heat starts to melt her eyes and suddenly her head explodes. A blast of lava-hot nickels erupts out the top of her head. They land whoosh-whoosh onto the frozen blacktop, shooting bullets of steam into the cold sky.
Mr. Howard walks up to his wife lying in the doorway, steps one leg over her prone body, pokes his head through the door, and yells up to the kids to bring him down another sock full of nickels. “And clean up your mother,” he says. “I’ll be back in a few years.”

You must have no idea about your status as a non entity. That is the greatest illusion, is it not? You’re not that important. So stop fooling yourself. You need me. I need you to provide water, light, heat, razors, toilet paper, food, certain types of entertainment, practically everything out there necessary to sustain life. Jesus, I’m an artist, not a mountain man. Of course I need the newspaper editor. Once in a while I must pretend to look for a job. Sure I need the grocery clerk to arrange cabbages, the farmer to milk the cow, the nuclear engineer so that I may flip switches for electric light. You need them too. Then what use am I?
I am here (alive and breathing) to put the original thought back into your copy-cat brains that the artist is no more an anomaly than the shop teacher, Mr. Howard, the butcher hacking meat, the stone mason picking up rocks and putting one on top of the other, the assembly line worker at the cereal plant making sure each box is sealed with glue. Listen, we are all useless! The more so if we actually think that we contribute to the whole. “I perform a succession of meaningless labors until the end of my day, everyday, until retirement, or death, or death in retirement. I do this for the good of society. I am needed. It is needed. We are needed.” No, that is an untruth. Nobody is needed. The world will keep turning without a single human being left living on it.
That is a depressing thought. So what? The whole will always smother the importance of a single man. The whole is the most silly illusion, yet because it has been allowed prominence for so long, it boasts as being the most dangerous illusion of all. Deadly. We believe in the whole because that is what the whole wants, but what we need in order to keep ourselves from empty space. It is a feeling of being a moon rotating around a center. The moon is dead. The center is a sphere possessing air, light, dark, life, hidden caves, and tall green forests. Giraffes and lions race across meadows of yellow and blue flowers, tiny creatures swim in a cool water stream catching the sun’s ecstatic ray dance. The center is one man. One individual man. And yet it is also the whole. The illusion is the whole, but it is really just one man, one immense population of many “one mans.” Every creature inhabits that center at birth. The grand illusion is an entire life, spent dedicating a better part of it to reaching a cold, personal moon which does not exist. The moons are out there. They are very real, and yet nonexistent. So much the better for them to be spared our luckless souls. As a whole we aspire to become a frozen clump of inert rock, nickel-hoarding non-entities. Each individual a whole, needing just a nickel a day to eat and dream up things like cold, personal moons.
Oh fellow non-entities, empty your coin drawers, boxes and jars! Become an artist. Explode a lonely moon!
Words are so wrong. I read what I write and it doesn’t make sense to me.

February 8

Your House Is a Fat Whore Shitting in the Street

My fingers smell like urine
My baby coos in bed
My dog stands at the door
He’s smarter in the head
What we say we know we know
You know it isn’t known
That crap about the light of day
reap what we have sown

A plumber on my road
has four llamas and a spa
A house with twenty rooms
and soul for bacteria

He’s sneaky and he’s dumb
a dangerous, rowdy hood
He’s smelled his ass too many times
Would lick it if he could

The truth is my dog
just waits to wag his tail
He’s real to himself
unlike the human male

He sleeps and dreams and whines
when he’s hungry or he’s mad
and not like the lonely plumber
will cry when he is sad

The depressing truth o man o man
Is that you’re not a dog
my buddy waits before the door
and I won’t make anymore stupid rhymes to honor his most selfish beauty.

From this day forward I will be a child. I am beautiful and not-knowing. I have a mommy and a daddy and a step mommy. They take care of me. My homework is real. I’m doing a presentation on healthy alternatives to common sugary soft drinks. I have dreams. I don’t want to kill. I have a picture book about my favorite singing group. On each page there are empty spaces for me to write information about myself. The saddest day of my life was when we had to bury my pet rat named Slick. We carved her name and the years of her life in cement poured in an upside-down metal can cover. I can lay in the grass for an hour. The taller the better. But Daddy can think of nothing else but when to mow it. Even when the day is sunny and hot and we can go to the lake. I don’t want to be like my Dad. I am happy with my dreams and playing. Daddy is wrong.

Serial Installment #2 of On Rainy Days The Monk Ryokan Feels Sorry For Himself, Pages 20-43

1:030012

September 23

“She said, ‘Somewhere, there’s a far away place
where all is ordered and all is grace.
No one there is ever disgraced.
And everybody there is wise,
and everyone has taste.’” —Lou Reed

The obvious question: Where is heaven?
Here are some answers from a booklet some smartly dressed Witnesses dropped at my door. They left in a hurry when I told them that I already love God, and don’t need a donation, thank you. I think their book is too confusing. If you want to convert the modern mind, don’t use words. Words are no longer productive. Laxatives and trickery is smart marketing. Over the last hundred years, diarrhea is the most effective way to get God’s name called out loud. Sex is somewhere in the middle. Joy is at the bottom, tied with finger slicing and toe-stubbing.
Anyway, here’s an excerpt:

Page 1: Wally’s (God’s) Witnesses
Q: Where is heaven?

#1 Under your feet, asshole.
#2 What you see at the exact moment you wake up
#3 In the blue house across the street
#4 “Acklebantinklebicow!”
#5 Oh God! My toe, my toe, my toe!
#6 Wherever the dog sleeps.
#7 Forget it. Unless I can smash your face with this shovel.
#8 Behind that cloud.
#9 Sleeping.
#10 Definitely not in Bob’s garage.

• Free laxative

Page 2: Wally’s Witnesses

Take laxative before reading…

Do you love?  Then you are in heaven. Hold on tight. Let no one harm your love. We are strangers at your door. We do not love you. The man next to me standing in his sharp suit has a dog he loves more than anything. Before he gets dressed he sits at the table with coffee and stares into his puppy’s big brown eyes. He will outlive his dog, his father and mother, maybe his sister and brother, all of your family, the dog’s family—Oh my God, not my babies! Oh my God! Excuse me, but I have to go to the bathroom…
Hold on tightly to your love. That is heaven. Let no one come and take her. Heaven is the child wrapped up in your arms. Heaven is her safe keeping. But it’s all up to you. God is your enemy. He put the evil bastards on earth. He created these sorrowful storms. He killed the two skunks we drove over on our way to your neighborhood. He darkened the skies that drenched today’s crusade. He threatens us with fire and brimstone. He murdered Job’s family. He will murder your family!  My wife and children are at home unprotected. Oh, what am I doing here? Oh my God, why am I dressed like this? Steve, give him the Lord’s poem and take me home. Jesus, my stomach… Brother, can I use your bathroom?
We are all in this together. Where is heaven? Do not let anyone hurt her. Stay out of the car. Don’t fly in an airplane. Wash your bodies. Cleanliness is a smart way to keep God and disease at bay. Eyes wide open. Constant openness. He’s gonna get ya! No chance. No heaven. We need a new word for that dream. Earth. Laughter. Helplessness. Art. Beauty. Everything under the sun except car parts. Skin. Where is heaven? Leave us alone. Say, “I love you,” roll over, and turn off the light. You can not get away.
I’m sorry about my friend. It must have been the tacos we had for lunch. Here’s a piece of a poem about why you should push me outside and kick my ass immediately:

…O let the print
of her hurrying sandal
be unrecorded in the
meadow’s thousand deaths
yet upon his heart
it has signed the angel’s
name. For him the
distance of the world
is never less than when he is forced to think
how all he loves must soon be taken away

—Kenneth Patchen (from Heaven on Earth)

September 24

The rain is keeping me indoors. I love the face of forced laziness! Walk throughout the house today. Make an apple crisp, and waste an hour to smell its baking. These are the cool days when boys stop talking and just do. What do they do? Well, if they want to be men, they do nothing at all. Just throw on a flannel shirt and read a good book under the light. A good book damn you!

Here’s what I want all of you to aspire to…

Sunday, September 23:
The Day the Artist Clipped His Toenails

Frank lived with his family in an old logger’s camp at the base of Mt. Hope, two miles in from the highway. The road to his cabin could not be traveled by car. He had to walk to get food and mail. It was 1943, a year when all of America came this close to eating their human kill. Frank wanted nothing from the outside but food and mail. He was patriotic enough for the U.S. Postal Service, and fond of Sam, their mail man.
Frank’s wife and child were content and peaceful. He often thanked his lucky stars for that stroke of good fortune. They kept their dreaming personal, that is, the daughter walked the dog around the lake while the wife calmly waited for the landing of the loons. The days were magic. “To be human,” he often thought, “was too beautiful for words.”
Frank painted a thousand watercolors of the mountain. That was his art. Portraits of the mountain in the seasons. Mostly of the rain and snow, when his model was barely visible through the fog. Nobody bought them. Sam, the mailman, would reassure him. “Really, these look a whole lot better than a smiling Jap.” Most of the time, on his walk back through the forest with his bundle of mail and milk, Frank would come to his senses and push the sorrow out of the way.
Meanwhile, the whole world was at war. Sam told him about the murder of his sons and nephews in the Pacific. It made Frank sick to his stomach and once, he threw up at Sam’s feet, over box elder and wood rot. “Isn’t everyone sick Sam?” Frank foolishly wondered. Sam sighed. He tolerated Frank’s questions because there were only two men left on his route. The other guy was an old WWI vet, who sometimes shot rock salt at Sam, imagining him to be Kaiser Wilhelm, the mailman.
Sam shrugged his shoulders, “It’s war Frank. It’s ugly, but it’s war.”
The summer of ‘43 passed just like the summer of ‘42. White flowers and the fresh green leaves of lazy July. The geese sounds in the gray overhead mingled with the hopeful smell of dinner in late September. This was the artist’s simple routine. NOW, stand Frank’s calm melancholy up against the wide-eyed fear of your only son ten thousand miles from home the second he spies a flash of light from the brush, and the next second when he sees his mommy kissing him good night. He’s dead. Do you understand? Oh boy, here I go again. You gave him life and now it has been taken away. Who took it? The President? Yes. The mayor? Yes. You? Yes God, you. You horrible parent. You rotten human being. You devil’s devil. You no longer possess the instinct to protect. What kind of mammal are you? Why aren’t you tearing the flesh from your son’s murderers? How can you justify this? Is your child a rabbit? Did you make love to his father who was a rabbit? Can you squeeze out a hundred more of these before you die? Mother sends her child off on a train whistling straight to his grave. What a cute face. Showered and shaved. What an ugly thing a bullet does to his precious face. But war is ugly, and that’s a fact. And thank God almighty your son was murdered, Mrs. Smith. His sacrifice really slowed Tojo and Hitler’s advance. Yes ma’am! That’s what the letter says, so it must be true. “Morning mom. Wow pancakes, thanks!” No. He’s dead. His happy face had bullets shot into it. The letter gives thanks for your son’s life. They dragged his dead body over the bloody wasteland, tossed him into a used coffin, and dropped him at your door. And tomorrow if Mr. Pres. says we’re going to the Middle East, then let’s go. Hurry up! Yes, by God let’s go! It’s got to be more exciting than listening to those silly bird calls and waiting. Just waiting. Always the endless waiting. Acquiesce. Give in to the power of your elected leaders.
Frank? Where’s Frank? Why bother with Frank? Oh I am so sick and tired of stories. I wish Frank was a glowing hot steel ball shoved up your colon.
So instead, I clipped my toenails.

September 25

Last night work was very slow, but I made the best of it. I am the highest paid cook, so I better contribute once in a while, even if they put me at the fryer where the most capable heart and hands in the dirty restaurant are at the mercy of a tub of hot oil. I pureed some California strawberries and heated them with cream and sugar. Some gelatin, milk, and banana liquor… A dash of salt. Strawberry-Banana Panna Cotta. Then a slow, deliberate chicken stock that I maneuvered between heat sources, so not to disturb the ornery cooks who become violently possessive over their assigned stations. “Don’t boil,” I told the stock. But the stock already knew. I tell it to teach the others. They boil all their soups and stocks. Especially Covey—he’s the best at ruining the possibilities of food. The cooks are guilty. They come to work and expect money. “I’m here. Pay me.” They gamble or read gun magazines. They think about beer and coffee. Television for a day. Not an egg-thickened sauce. I say, “one bubble to the top of the stock every four seconds…” You hope that is enough. It is a gentle thing, the stock. No. Even the sous chef hates living. He dips his tongs into the pot and stirs with a fury.

September 27

Grabbed the homemade astrolabe off the table as Rachelle was walking out the door with her mother. Quite an instrument! Within seconds I had our latitude. 43 degrees. Just above and exactly below the line where all the polite, unconditionally sad people wait. Oh Screw it! Just words. I feel. I awoke in the cold dark, got out of bed, stood on two feet, envied my sleeping wife, and began the routine. First I peed for quite some time. “A lot of water,” I thought, “for a six hour sleep.” Then I came downstairs to begin the day. The pig, the cats, the coffee, the dog, the writing, the oldness I feel on top of my eyelids. What is happening?
It’s all bad.
What is?
Everything
except silence
tears
laughter
and a gentle voice.

I am not telling the truth. I have no idea why I am here. I like maps, my child, my wife, cooking, picking herbs, housework, cleaning horse stalls, driving with coffee, getting up before dawn, home schooling, reading (sometimes as little as a paragraph a day), listening to music, eating. I like football in season and the romance of the past. I would like to know what the hell is going on. I need to know beyond a doubt that to like these things is good and enough. That to try to like more might make me explode. I would like to believe in God so I could put an end to all these things. I would expect a universal, undeniable assurance, acceptance, and congratulations for cutting myself down all the time, and making about as much noise in life as an amoeba on a log in a forest out of sight.
I love imagination. Ah, but it can be so disappointing when we know where we are going. I need to get there with poetry, yet there might not be one person on this planet who has the same desire. Yes, that is depressing. Yes, that opens up every new and old door to anger. Yes, I feel like some dirty trick has been played on me. I never wanted these poems in my head. I did not expect to think wrong or right. I never thought until I began to think, and now for the time being everything is ruined. Even the simplest chores like eating… Without God there cannot be hunger. Without God there is no satiation. If you expect the morning to be there, then you do not know God, and you will be suffering with me until the end. This includes everyone waiting.

Little ball in space
go the other way today
These thankless wretches!

Rachelle and I read about Sweden. We were both fascinated by the pictures. Marie took the day off from work and drifted off to sleep while staring at a Sami girl standing on the ice. Our baby is inside her. On a boat the little girl and wild animals sleep. They drift down a clean water river. The gray fox and the brown bear watch from the bank while waiting for their fish dinner. The trees are tall and old. The sky is blue and arctic cold. These Swedes are very beautiful.

September 28

When cats get asthma, they are very stoic about it.

You want magnanimity, eh? Here’s a refresher course for the low low price of fifty dollars. However, we are not responsible for what the hordes of toothless overweight morons will do when they get a hold of these papers. We suggest practicing gifts of kindness and gentle manners on your cats and dogs at least five hundred times over before attempting a beginner’s loving kindness routine on your first human infant.
With Magnanimity Again you will learn the lost ancient art of being human, (or was it just a spittle dream?) Chapters on trust, goodness, grace, tact and beauty are sure to make improvements even to the most psychotic and perverted intelligence. And there are over fifteen thousand colored pictures to keep the brain awake enough to read. “Can’t kick the cat or spank the dog, hold the fish out of water, or even swing the guinea pig on a string. Not unless they’re being really nasty and cumbersome.”—from chapter two, Don’t Kill With Your Bare Hands.
Order now, and for just $29.95 you’ll receive the Helen Keller, Look, Hear and Talk Like Me Ball. A small state-of-the-art electronic device that sets under the tongue or in the ear, and, with a charge lasting up to seven hours, will get you through most complicated societal encounters. You won’t be able to hear your colleague when he leans over and whispers, “I’d really like to have sex with your wife, but her pubic hairs are too long.” You wouldn’t see him either, or talk back, even if you wanted to articulate, “How does this feel?” while carving “scum bag” into his chest with a boning knife.

I had a very bad night at work. I don’t want them to read, write, make tasteful jokes, ask how my child is doing, toast my good fortune, say words like “splendid” and “happiness.” No. All I am saying is that there are children with cancer, emaciated mothers feeding their babies lead-soured breast milk, and the incredible fleeting beauty of sunlight’s shimmer dance on your wall. There is still hope. Because dying things aren’t cracking “jokes” about pubic hair, I want these sick bastards to die, or to be dying. It is incredible how taken for granted breath is. Just a small head of kale forced into the mouth, a firm nose plug, five minutes watching his eyes pop out of his head, and then a roll-over into the cold river. I don’t care if I am discovered. Magnanimity doesn’t mind prison. Just $79.95 and I can have them all killed? Wonderful. With a Look, Hear and Talk Like Me Ball I can eliminate my enemies of the human race? Good show! Simply splendid! “I should get a promotion for this!”

September 29

Asthma. The first morning of the heat switched on in the house. Winter hates me.
I will begin this day with a letter to another hack writer, some other young failure, who might be just as confused. I will drop it in the mail on my walk to work this afternoon.

Dear writer,

I don’t know you. I know very few outside of my beloved family. I have two friends, Kevin and Pat, but they are suffering from our disease too. They do not make attempts to contact me via the soft spot. My heart’s feeling is very strong, and I am aware that the world is crushing me. My art is wretched. Nothing I write is useful. I am a good cook, but asthma wants me to copy a rabbit’s diet. I am thirty-three years old, married, rich enough, and a father of one, and one on the way. Where are you?
My hope is that you are in need. Did you write from the heart today? You probably didn’t show it to anyone. Do your parents wonder what went wrong? Did they send you to college to become a millionaire or a man?  Do you work in a factory next to TV monkeys who get their art feelings while driving by car dealerships? Are you getting up at five a.m. to hack out words because you see a richer, more abundant life?
I don’t mean to bombard you with personal questions. But I do feel the need to get personal. I must seek a colleague. Such a huge country and I do not know even one poet. Yes, I am shy, but isn’t everyone? Why not? I don’t want to be completely shut out. God, it’s so wrong to write for nobody. I laugh at myself so often, sometimes out of a false humility, other times because laughing is better than thinking. How crazy to be humble at the pursuit of your own desires. Humble to the point of crying out, “Oh to hell with who you think you are, Ron Throop! You think you are better than everyone else, eh? What about your family? How are you going to feed them? Do they want your anger, your contempt of strangers, your persistent god damn bitter questioning of everything?”
So I begin to distrust my own creative intuition. Why? A feeling of being the only line cook left in the world, working alone inside his hot kitchen, cooking creative dishes, and serving them to no one. He must be crazy. “Pick it up on the point Marie!” he calls. But Marie never comes. Food? What is that? We don’t need food you freakish waste of time! My contemporaries are overly satisfied, gluttonous blobs almost stuffed dead of nourishment. Jesus, don’t you think they’ve had enough already? Now they must eat their own fat to survive. My neighbors do not want me. I am not useful like the bad cook who might feed them one night a month with a cut piece of cow, powdered potato mix, and a dirty salad. To the blobs that is useful. But who wants to read long menus of scatter-brained confusion and anger, especially the disillusioned poet’s very personal flights of distorted, disturbed, sometimes demented confusion and anger?
You, I hope. Can you help my career? Give my confidence a boost? How about a letter a day? Some morning exercise to get the juices flowing? How pleasant to know that someone else strives to create lobster soufflé for beings who fleek saliva at the mention of Burger King. It’s a comforting feeling to know that another shares that insecurity. I can cook you a fat partridge I choked myself. How about some small, round potatoes cooked in the bird’s own fat? We’ll meet at the table and discuss our future plans. A novel? Ah, phooey! That’s a Whopper with extra cheese. Why waste your energy for those saturated fat-in-the-brain pigs with shoes? Pass the snails. How about this for a cover..? A picture of the blue sky and forty or fifty gigantic blobs with canned raviolis pressed into their slime chasing me down a hill…

October 1

Fruits and vegetables on the tablecloth. On this cool hazy morning I shall execute the perfect dog walk. I know my themes are repeated over and over. If I do this enough times, I might end up with five or six perfectly picked and placed words to explain the entire horror show of modern life. Drive slowly by beauty walking through the leaves. Songbirds sing along with her and the wind in the trees. Coax beauty into your van with a false smile and caring. Then pull the door closed and slap your devil face back on. Proceed to carve her up while she cries out for love and compassion and gentleness.
Today I live for the shes in my life. When their eyes open wide, I will clean, bake, play. I will kick right into gear for love. Yesterday in bed with Marie I let her have it with the angst. I cannot be so selfish to forget about her. She never blames anyone. The child inside… Both imaginary and literal.
But get a load of this…
Further on I promise to write about my chef. I have been wanting to do so for over a year. There is so much meat on his bones. Spoiled meat for the starving to pull from the garbage. Writing about him will not change the world, nor improve one bit the days and nights of the most poor and neglected human being. But it will show my grandchild what I was up against, the blockheads I had to fight just to get my hour a day, maybe two, to do the things I was born to do.
It would also be fun to write about some of the other characters who work with me into the night. The shared pulse of no-life, therefore no poetry or love. The death of life standing upright, propped like an Irishman at his funeral, usually with whiskey and a sham of a good time. Human beings ruined from the top down. Exhausted. Pooped out. Circumstance has nothing to do with their miserable lot in life. They are able to eat and pay rent for less than a forty hour work week. That’s a job. The strike babies of the last century were fooling themselves. This cannot be the hopeful result of the brotherhood of man. These spineless animals? But yes it is! Their own grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A club on the head for an eight hour work day? If they didn’t strike, they were mere slaves. Who really wanted to stop work at five p.m.? What did those lazy buggers give back for that luxury? More bars. More men-only games. More spousal neglect and abuse. More children ignored and made to wait to grow up miserable like Dad. Nothing has changed today. A thousand revisions of tried and true cover-ups and alibis. No better love. No better devotion. No better humility or caring. Death to compassion. Death to passion. A concave curvature of the spine. Three hundred years later and we’ve developed the freedom dreams of captive horses. My sous chef puts on a heavy flannel coat—wait. Rachelle just woke up. She stands next to me asking if I’ll clean up the dog’s vomit. Time to keep my promises. I will catch up to my reading public later.

October 2

My sous chef puts on a heavy red flannel coat. It’s a cool autumn day. A pumpkin patch in the neighbor’s yard. Crows on the mowed lawn. Crows on the porch. One crow eating grease out of a can hanging from the portable grill. My sous chef bought a pellet gun at Walmart. He’s twenty-two years old. Crows and squirrels eating. It might take three or four close shot pellets to penetrate a layer of crow skin. It stuns the bird. He flaps in the yard crying. Reload and point it a foot from his wide open eye. Fire!
What kind of father made him and kept him?
Sous is a French word.
Of course man is evil.
When I was eight or nine years old I aimed my BB-gun at a fat bumble bee resting on a peony. I pulled the plastic trigger and petals exploded into the air. Last night I picked up a pincher bug and put her in the garbage can. Over the years I have killed a battalion of mosquitoes. Because of malaria in the tropics I pretend that it is war with the mosquitoes. I won’t harm a spider.
Last night I quoted Kenneth Patchen to him after he justified his backyard crow massacre. “They were noisy,” he said, “while eating the grease off my barbecue.”
“There are no proportions in death.” I replied. I should have quoted myself, and followed that line up with, “That means your precious pale hide is covered with crow feathers. Your daddy and mommy are crows. You are pecking at the grease of the world and creating a nuisance unknowingly to a thousand living things a minute. How many pellets to penetrate your thick skull? Do you see why it’s not a tragedy if a hundred crows ate your brother? What the hell is so god-damn human about us? If to be human is to be merciful, caring, or just a little bit careful at least? Romantic love and the slaughter of cows. How do we make love with such bloody hands?
Today is a school day. We have a hundred apples to bake and books to read. Rachelle my sweet baby child, reveal your true cruel heart. There are happy squirrels running to and fro. I intend to teach you how to rip off their hides with boots and your bare hands.
I love my innocent babies. I am a daddy crow.

October 4

Was it this day Marie was told to remember? Something would happen to change her life forever. Her mother bought her a psychic and the psychic said…
She told me that she loved me five years ago today. Yes of course I remember. A gray cool weekend in New York City. How cocky I was back when I smoked a pack a day. How strong and durable and hopeful. How ignorant and wonderful! An aspiring painter-poet wanted to court the girl of his dreams. I was dreaming about her for over a year. One day lived full and unforgettable is fuel enough to transcend a lifetime of disappointment. To be a failure in love, to stay in love, making backwards adjustments whenever necessary, to acquire and then release yourself of the burden of everything… To go back to nothing—that is my greatest hope for us. To be content with a poverty that moves with nature. Do we understand that first love is the only true love? And I mean love, not safety, not comfort, not money. No lovers are free if two cannot spend all their money today, right now, and finish their first cold autumn night together slurping soup on a bed. Where are we going if not backward? Forward to death? No! To smell the autumn evening with you by my side. Look, that’s the moon. That is enough! For our lives to be everlasting, we must remain poor and glad and eager.

October 5

Am I rich enough to stop for longer periods of time, to sleep at least an hour into the sunrise?
I need a massage of the lungs. Asthma is stealing my breath away.
And the getting up before dawn to write. What good is that torture? Write it down in a big black book. Oh, but the first sentence never looks good on paper. Handwriting for Ron Throop is such a cumbersome task. Too bad! The big black journal moves with you. One is not forced to write at a table in the dark. Nor made to get up at dawn for lack of a better time. Write by the river, in the grass, from the teahouse. Most important of all… Write nothing if it’s time to be a better human being.
Time to be a better human being.

I have beside me a wife, daughter, a living yet unborn child, a dog, two cats, and a guinea pig. This is immediate reward. This is a very personal public. I want their love and happiness. I want mine too. But theirs must come first.
Last night on our walk to get cat food and coffee we bought a scratch-off lottery ticket “just for the halibut,” as any seafood line cook might say.
“This is a spit in God’s face,” she said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“We’re already so lucky. Why do we push it?”
I cannot write the memory of last night’s walk home. But no span of five minutes was ever so beautiful. No walk more great, more poetic, more heroic. We came home with cold cheeks and sleepy eyes, and pushed our bodies together to keep warm on a cool night. I picked up Thoreau’s journal and read a few entries. A great man. A great thinker. Writing so beautiful and flowing. Writing. Words.
Beautiful? No.
Just an Immortal? No. Dead.
Am I immortal? So far, yes. At least until I die. I will sing my lover’s praises. I will sing my families’ life, our days and nights. But most important of all, I am singing for us, the wife, daughter, unborn child, dog, two cats, and a guinea pig. As far as I’m concerned we are the song of the world.

October 12

I have asthma. I wish I had an easy breath, one that could be forgotten. We’re convinced that I am allergic to our cats. The doctor told me to get rid of them. Human beings aren’t really humane are they? A good movie to watch, if just for the courtroom scene, would be Dr. Dolittle. His defense for himself and the animals is a true rhyme. A good chapter to read to find out how weak in the spine man is would be “Higher Laws” in Thoreau’s Walden. I think I’ll read that today.

American Football’s Popularity Rising In Equal Proportion With Mass Infant Circumcision

Why do it
After listening to those glad humming sounds?
Why slice
after the giggling,
The evening tummy rubs,
The bouncing rides..?
Surely these jolly moments might preclude
the beginnings
of ecstasy outside the womb
You know,
actually a happy, gentle, caring child.
That’s all us boys dream of
even after they snip off our foreskin.
Happiness
Wisdom
Strength to stand up for the uncircumcised
For the whoosass in the lunch line
To fight for his honor
To let him know in no uncertain terms
that sure you’re pissed off
that the first thing they thought of
after nine months of sweet dreams
was cutting up my dirty little pee-pee
and Frank and Sal’s and Dave’s
dirty dick
Now we’re all nuts
having the potential to murder too
because after circumcision
they didn’t stop and hug us and give us dolls
We played with trucks, footballs, and guns
And looked down into our shorts
always in the know
that something was wrong
Very very wrong
So incredibly wrong
that’s it’s no small wonder
each of us hasn’t thought
more than once about
hanging from a tree.

How out of place do you feel?
The circumcised watch Monday Night Football.
Little boys push a backhoe
Little girls color horses on the floor
Girlfriends and wives
think about hair and skin products
and improving the smell of the house
I mean
how do you look on the couch?
Do you stare at them and wonder “how
can their movements be so pure and innocent
after they’ve done this to my prick?
How can they want me?
Where did hope go?
What is a man?
What is money?
What is a job?
Why am I so selfish?
How is it that all of us know what football is?
That angry player just said “Mother fucker”
These are pigs who have nothing in common
with me
and yet everything is sadly the same since
we’ve been cut back to expose the head.
Football. TV. The Presidency. Paying taxes and the garbage bill. The company. Health insurance. An entire row in the supermarket dedicated to dog food and cat shit. The Internet. The 40,000 dollar truck. The 10,000 dollar used truck with rust. A stereo. Video games. The radio. So many shirts and pants.
I want my foreskin back. I want to be different.
I want at least twenty feet of foreskin
to make up for the difference
of years of not knowing what I am.
I want to be a man

November 27

I think I might begin writing again. Long month of many happenings. The tooth fairy flies happily through the faraway clouds and different sun of childhood. Ask me about it tomorrow. I need to teach.

December 3

Boy, am I filled to full! Birthing classes, a healthy baby, demi-glace in beans, and a tall stack of school subjects to organize, pancakes, recipe writing, reading Huckleberry Finn to pass a cold morning with my daughter… And an apartment to build in the back.
A frigid day. This business is my fire to tend to, my stock to feed. There is no neurosis. There is a selfishness reigning supreme over our emotions. It is an early 19th century Christian world. My fire, the cow, the children, cooking to survive, sewing to keep warm. I’m going to make you understand my position. Everything prior to this was a feeling out of the situation. I can show you crazy. I can easily point out the insanity of you and your friends. But I would rather raise sane and happy children. You don’t know me. You never will. You can’t find me. Yes I am famous, but I am also invisible and fleeting, thriving in a world of my creation. This is a France of the past in an absolutely cheerful and carefree future world. Honest, good, wondering, creative children make up my village of grown-ups and babies. I swear this poet’s heart has the power to categorize you, to condescend, to label you and your friends as old chickens in the yard behind the barn. Is anyone hungry? If you hope and pray not to become dinner, step out of the lie, as a chicken, and we shall feed you feed, and care for you as a pet, and love you like our own. But as you are, you are nothing more than me, or the bark of some old, dead tree, fallen deep in a cold forest that you haven’t torched—yet. There are no proportions in life, or in death. Our sameness with tropical sand creatures and the beaver damning a small stream running out of the Hudson Bay should be as obvious to you as your own skin. Why then is it not? Why so blind? Here is a nineteenth century primer for the eternal man inside you who should have as much of a concept of “century” as the hungry fox stalking the snowbird.

January 2

Beany the dog ruins all potentially happy mornings because his nose is attached to his ass. I stood outside in the cold for a half hour while he chose the perfect square foot of snow to soil. Yet because I let him look, I must be a good man. That should cheer me up.
Over the years my grandparents had dogs for love and company. Probably very delicate prima donna mutts like Beany, who were also careful about the placement of feces. But they had land. Beautiful land! Trees with tall piles of snow fallen on their branches. Intense quiet. Fluff. Pine green and cloud white. The blackness ahead, The unknowing. Yet a friend with a nose like healthy human eyes in broad daylight. A happy soul willing to take you along on his morning walk. Time to meditate. To be quiet. To dream. Who am I?
How can I help give my beautiful wife the happiness we all seek? What is a perfect day? What will my grandson grow up wondering? Someone wants to hold my hand. My dog loves me. How many more mornings like this one? I used to skate with her when we were young and didn’t care. I don’t want to burn garbage. Won’t answer the door today. I will stay dressed in my pajamas. The most useful gift I ever received was a pair of slippers. No one knows who I am. My dog lives for these morning walks. What have I ever given worth a dime of happiness to another soul? Everything has a soul. My dog deserves more than this. I want to play for the rest of my life. I just don’t know which game.

Oh your beauty is so upsetting. I am mad because I can’t take that photograph and fold it into a shape sharp enough to poke into the chest and through my heart. I want you here, where I can never get. I have no control. I will always be less than fully alive.

January 12

My life is a flux of noisy Spanish colors. From the front porch I see the Northern Lights blazing fantastic colors. An invisible crowd of strolling men, women and children are speaking Spanish. “Azul, verde,” whispers a faceless voice. Oh, Spanish! Those are deeper colors than blue and green. The only way an American can be persuasive with his voice is to say blue green lake, wait a few days, write several thousand pages trying to explain to another man the madness of “blue green lake,” and then promptly go into despair, bash his own skull on a big slab of granite, and wait for the slow tide to cover his dead face. But if he could understand and speak the language of those many things which trouble him!

The beautiful changing colors.
Working in America
The Weenie Omnipotence of Doctors
My Mother’s Friends
A Book on How to Make Better Tips
A Book on How To Quit Your Job

But first I’ll begin with a love song to my daughter.
It’s her eleventh birthday!

It is in your eyes
that thing keeping me alive
What’s behind your eyes—
You are singing from your eyes
what you see in the leaf
what you stir into eggs and honey
what you touch on your barbies
when you lay them in bed
how you ask when you are happy
how you ask because you trust me
I don’t know and I don’t care—
The real meaning of a man
is what you say it is
Everything has to be what you say it is.

Once again, I’ve quit employment. I have no one to talk to. John stopped at the house yesterday and bullied us with his vile and confused gab-a-lot. I swear to God there are no men! Here’s a Laundromat poem of the twenty-first century. I want everyone to go to hell.

Why Do I Quit?

Oh, very smart question
to be asking yourself in a Laundromat!
Isn’t it obvious?
No?
“That’s such a nice purse!”
That’s such a good answer.
“That’s such a nice purse I want to die,”
I could say,
and the zombies walking by,
my bulging eyes just miss them.
Oh the minutes here tick tick tick tick
by you the man
who swears he’s the only man left
willing to shed these clothes and quarters,
this car, your car, more clothes and towels,
a pair of underwear for each day, socks, pants, houses,
the agonizing, tortured thought of sockspantshouses…
You can buy me a wardrobe
I might thank you
but I don’t care
I’ve never been moved
I’ve never had anyone to thank
Nothing makes me happy to live
Nobody is smart or bright alone
and if a thousand people think you’re good
I WANT YOU ALL TO GO TO HELL!

I need a man and woman to cuddle up across the room
two heavy wool shirts
washed last August not last night
He must be a fine goy
with Scoottish aukcent
He has to be a Scoot
It’s much more manly to be a Scoot
NO, IT REALLY IS. I’M NOT WANTING TO BE FUNNY.
The sheep know him
They know his hands
A man will be judged by the look of his hands
We must look at a man’s hands
We have to stop reading
Jesus Christ
I should just leave a bomb somewhere.
Cuddle up with my wife too
and Jack and his wife
Oh the smells of our women in the kitchen
the wind howling against the pane
the empty black freezing night
a thousand miles of sea and storm
Nobody anywhere but here
Not on Mars, not in the city
WE ARE SCOTTISH MEN ON A HUMBLE FARM
We are unlikable ornery pigs without money
So not here
So sad here
where everyone is alone with expensive stuff.
Go through your house counting every thing.
It will take a year I promise
You are not Jack Scot
You are no good
They made you this way
needing nothing times a million
and a Laundromat littered
with stubbly boys in hot fluffy coats
wide-assed from pizza and sitting
short-necked from pizza and sitting
Little soft boy lips
voices like zoo animals with human heads,
pizza and television
Good God
Christ
Popes and Kings
and pus-lipped
hunched back
peasant men,
Hard useless quiet monsters
THERE ARE NO MEN!
I’m running out of paper
Even the mass-murderer has plump titties
Say,
if we move this camera in for a close-up
maybe the god-damn sops will believe every word we speak.

It’s a Mexican Christmas
by Rachelle Throop

When I was young and happy the world was a ball. Every morning I awoke with a troop of small helpless animals just like me, and we’d pray together, and whisper softly words like “joy,” and “sweet,” and “love”. We would lay together in the sweet grass, the leopard, the muskrat, the bunny, the squirrel, the wolf, the myself… I was so happy to be alive. I wrote a story and it was very important. I read it to my family at Christmas. Five miles into the forest deer stood in the snow that fell from a sky that went on forever, black and cold and empty way up into itself. I love you. I don’t know what it means to be sad. I have no heartache.

¡Hola! Welcome to Mexico. Now I know we’re not really in Mexico, but let’s pretend we are. Outside it’s warm and sunny, flowers are blooming. I’m going to tell you about all of the Mexican holidays, that come at Christmas time.
Flowers are blooming. There is a child nestled safely in my wife’s full belly. Yet I have no idea what that means. I am afraid for her. I don’t even pretend to know that a child is with us always. We have been making love with our baby listening. Any day now a child will be born. I have the calm piece of mind to write my thoughts because I am a scared piece of shit. Everything in our lives should explode with wonder. Science, man, the universe… Children should fight the last crusade. Bite the hand that feeds them. Then maul the hand and eat the rest. They should be merciful and band together and kill us. Then have a tea party.
I am so much in love with the child in me who has been beaten, mocked, and left for dead. I am a scared little boy because I grew up and there is nobody out there older than me. Please help.

A Poem I Wrote For the Kale and Cantaloupe

The saddest part of knowing you’re dying
is hearing Squeezebox on the work radio
I’m so in love with you…
Picturing her thinking that when she looks at you
Feeling that from her eyes when
life was a blazing sun
Knowing that you knew once
life was a blazing sun
maybe in another life,
but knowing nonetheless,
Hearing The Who’s Squeezebox,
I’m so in love with you…,
and having no erupting thought
beyond that of making a pretzel.
Boil a pot of water
All creation rolled up into a pretzel
I’m so in love with you…
Oh I can stand here in a white shirt all night long
mocking life
cutting up, dishing out, scraping off life
It’s the stream of bullets shooting into my mouth—
I can’t hack away enough the thought of
you being so in love with me.

Oh yes to God my love of my life, my every second’s
hope and prayer is for you to always be
so in love with me.
But more important than anything ever
is for all men to go on living
passing on to a higher plane
with a wise and cheerful blessing
that will not come from a true heart
until I’ve lived the rest of this life
so in love with you.

Last night Kevin called to talk to me about my latest quit at the restaurant. He’s a good friend and a good man. In fact, we could become men if we tried a little bit harder. But that’s neither here nor there…
We talked about my crazy boss who hasn’t come out of his house since June. I compared him to Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life. He really does push buttons and expect the best. I have always pitied him, until the inevitable moment when he has pushed me too far, and I am unable to make a measly paycheck because even I, the poor Chinaman, can see him laughing at my ancient pride. I up and quit, more to punish his audacity, than to defend my ancient pride.
But it comes. Ten times now. Because I am an artist, and an artist can live on bread alone. No, I mean live on bread alone! So any one can see how that confounds the businessman. Especially when the artist is working amidst a creative stream and the money rolls in and the boss is getting a real pretty steak put on an ugly plate. Even more so when that artist lives alone among men in a small community of fat-jowled, dental plan, “Geez I can stay this way and even get worse until I get my twenty years in” state workers and factory men who have no ancient pride or modern pride or any pride that would have them abandon that shiny new truck payment. I help empower the businessman who sells creativity by making beauty a cheap thing from a minimal food cost.
So I quit. I hate making people money. I would like everyone to quit so the boss could cry for his mommy. Kevin likes this idea deep down, although, ever since we became friends, he’s played the devil’s advocate all too often. There is some embarrassed presence blushing within Kevin that makes him bow before the man with more means. Two winter’s ago, during a snow storm, the boss called him out to the bar and told him to get a broom and brush off his car. He didn’t ask me because he knew I would have slashed his tires. Not that Kevin doesn’t have any pride. But it’s precisely that Chinese acceptance that makes such a timid America. It never sits well with me. I was born. Isn’t that enough right to rule the world?
Anyway, most of the cooks got laid off because the boss is losing money fast. Even the chef got tossed. That was a huge loss for me because he alone was making my work life livable. Come in at four. Leave at ten. Six hours to think about work. But take the chef away, and the cheap artist will do the same thing for next to nothing. That’s what the businessman who’s falling apart thinks. Now triple the effect of that destructive philosophy because he won’t come out of his house for six months. Bad business. Now he hasn’t anyone besides the flaccid-jowled, “I gotta keep gas in my car and coffee and cigarettes and a six-pack a day habit” restaurant workers without any sort of benefit plan, and the boss has a very nerve-racking summer ahead of him.
Of course we could benefit, all of us, the boys and me, by forming a guild to protect ourselves. Mr. Potter doesn’t have to be the only devious planner in Bedford Falls. But I have never known a more pitiful people than American men. Look at them yourself and wonder why the persistent slave mentality. All for two hundred bucks! All for our little world not to fall apart! And we think that our measly two hundred dollars held it all together…
No, we could never organize because it is so much safer to be a poor coward than a poorer hero.

January 13

So Kevin called me the other night, half drunk, and gave me a subject for a book that would make money. He admitted that it would be no literary challenge, and that it might even be embarrassing to write, but any publisher would take it immediately because of the mass market opportunity. Will they ever learn? Just because I know bread, that flour, yeast, a little honey and water make a loaf worth eating, if all goes well in the process, it does not necessarily follow that I would have success at creating the perfect shit white bread that Americans love to squeeze between their filthy fingers. I have about as much chance of writing a book entitled “How to Make Bigger Tips” as Tim Johnson at the Wonder Bread Factory has of baking the perfect French country loaf. If he works at Wonder Inc., He’s never baked a single loaf of bread in his rotten, degraded, strip mall-minded existence.
Man, I want all of you to be this simple! Right now, mimic the life I imagine and together we shall skip through a deep friendly forest and be friends to ourselves, each other, and all living creatures. Let us organize to destroy what is so unnecessary in our lives. History proves that humanity, when inspired toward a common cause for the greater good, is earth’s most capable destroyer. No more empty words. No more happiness if it has to remain merely a word for the rest of our lives. If everyone, even poor old Helen next door, lit their drapes on fire, and scooted the family and the pets out the door; if every neighbor did this right now… And ripped wires out of their standing machines. If men pulled their shirts off and women flipped off the old homes that kept their lives full of radon and misery; if each neighborhood mass huddled together in one giant ball because the night was cold and the stars were out, and everyone came this close to a terrifying death, then that would be the best way I can think of for making bigger tips.
My unemployed chef came by for coffee yesterday. The first sunny day after a month of snow. He told me that he went over his finances at the kitchen table while thinking of suicide and the fear of tomorrow. He’d be all right with his unemployment insurance, that is, his house, utilities and truck would be covered. It was food and fuel he could not afford. Not without some other income.
We should all have our legs sawed off for being this stupid.

New York City Anchormen Are So Stupid They Can’t Count

“The NY Times Must Think Sanders Is Talking In My Daughter’s Aquarium” 2016. Acrylic on press cleaning sheet, 17 x 7″

The painting above is for sale for 1 silver dollar.

Went to a rally this week with a friend. The huge convention room made the crowd look smaller than it was. I spent a few minutes doing some statistical math, counting out a hundred people in a pie wedge, and then multiplied that number by equal slices. Turns out I came very close. I know this because our upstate policemen aren’t as mathematically challenged as New York ones, and seem able to count. Their numbers matched mine.

Now last night Bernie Sanders packed Washington Square Park in Manhattan. There were hundreds of officials to count, probably even a few university statisticians. I watched the CBS local video clip covering the rally and the anchor gave the official police count at
11, 000. The campaign and all other news sources estimated 25-30,000 people. And I don’t think they were even counting the perimeter of people bending their ear on the way home from dinner. Nor the residents in surrounding tall buildings opening their spring night windows to get a whiff of some progressive fresh air.

So these college educated anchors and anchor affiliates do not know how to count and rely on official police estimates? Who is the latter’s “official” precinct counter? I intend to vie for his position. I have always wanted to set up studio in Manhattan. Obviously I am a better counter than their present employee. Or, I can anchor for the local network, if it would like to begin a revolutionary movement and report the news.

There were 25-30,000 people in Washington Square last night. And one very stupid New York City Police department.