From far away I caught a glimpse,
A light my reason could not hold.
Haunting dark reality,
too bitter to accept,
too solid to deny,
Pushing me into far corners,
while the known and the unknown collide.
I dove into hostile waters.
Racing with sharks and other creatures of the depths,
I extended my fragile limbs.
With none to embrace me…
had turned all I loved to stone.
From the cauldron emerged a granite precipice.
Emitting eerie light,
it penetrated the darkness of my thoughts.
The noxious waves cast me upon that stony flesh,
to which I clung.
There I firmly planted the seeds which burst my skull.
Some distant day, to bear fruit.
Still that oasis showers me with razor rock.
other scavengers peck relentlessly at my back.
Trying my will in vain,
this too shall pass…
I have forged roots,
which neither stone,
nor vanity can daunt.
My roots reach the core of this world,
They drink from deathless springs which nurture through their trials.
I am but a part of this fierce,
flesh tearing womb.
I plunge my feet beyond the murky depths.
My hands soar to caress the stars, our neighbors.
My mind conceives my own existence.
Here I shall remain,
till others emerge from the cauldron.
Navigate the seething entrails of understanding,
imbibe the bitter sweet blood of life.
VAK – Athens 1993
The wicked tricks of a clever mind,
derailing the train of thought.
Making love to me with your diploma.
My mind skips a beat.
Confronted with your persona,
I won’t dance.
I hear another vision. Harmonious.
The longings of my deepest core.
I must dance alone,
along a blade of glass.
Slicing into the world of dreams…
VAK Athens, 1992
I don’t know her.
We never met.
My laughter falls in place of tears,
concealing amazement at vanity’s cruelty.
In this ghost city,
were words bullets,
corpses would grin from each cafe,
ignorant of their own assassination.
Words are bullets,
Ego speaks and the words strike,
spiritual blood spilled indiscriminately.
Life drains away,
VAK – Athens, 1989
About twenty years ago I read this amazing “little” book by Arthur C. Clarke titled Childhood’s End. I recall that the spine was deceptively slender considering the intensity of the wallops the story had to deliver on many levels. Then again any true connoisseur of cold war Sci Fi knows that Sir Arthur was a sage, a philosopher, and a prophet as well as an entertainer.
As a parent for the last 18 years, and a parent of teenagers for the last 7 years (daughter #1 got off to an early start) I now consider this work of literature and sagacity required reading for anyone under the age of 30 who is considering parenthood. Yes ladies and gentlemen, you have been warned!
The “Beatniks”, “Bobby-Socksers” and the “Hippies” are all now either great-grandparents, humanitarian volunteers, published authors or dead.
The “Baby Boomers” are by now either grandparents, or among the well kept, well read, well traveled and childless who think of Herod every time they hear a baby cry in a public venue. That placement in the annuls of history might have some perhaps unexpected perks.
For the grandparents, they get to enjoy their status as digital tourists. They have the pleasure of allowing their grandchildren to teach them things about the “new world”, while they share “faerie stories” about a mythical age before WiFi and hand-held mobile devices with live streaming. The childless on the other hand are generally annoyed by everyone and everything, while everyone and everything are/is also generally annoyed by them. As such a modicum of balance is maintained in the universe!
“Yuppies/Generation X”, to which I admittedly belong, is in a greater predicament. We were on the cusp of the tech breakthrough and the Silicon revolution. We learned Basic on the Apple IIe, we watched Dynasty, Dallas and The Incredible Hulk, we envied the first “car”phones (which were the size of the wireless radios used by troops in Korea and Vietnam). We were the first to be introduced to the concept of “Prosperity Consciousness”. We were the first to be given “easy” credit, to be told that it is possible to “Love Too Much”, and to be informed that sex is potentially lethal…
Is it any wonder we are paralyzed with terror watching our children grow up in a virtual world where “Grand Theft Auto” and “Mafia Wars” are sedentary hobbies, “relationships” are transactional, and “gratification” instantaneous. Even “Hannah Montana” (aka Mylie Cyrus) became trashy just to “fit in”… probably on the advice of her agents and managers… but still, ewwww.
Murderers and serial killers are glorified, while their victims are forgotten. Policy makers argue ridiculous points that really have nothing to offer humanity…
Getting back to those who are about to embark on their 30′s and are trying to work a family into their prospective schedules… Think long, think hard. Do not even allow yourself to think for a fraction of a second that there is an instruction manual. The rules of the game are changing every five minutes! Do not make the fatal error of believing you can keep up in the “virtual” arena! We who are all toast, salute you!
As it is Independence Day in the US of A, I thought it might be worthwhile to pledge allegiance to the teens, our children, our students, those who are inheriting the fruits of our errors and our successes, and upon whom the quality of our future lives depend.
If we don’t empower them, then who will? The “State”? The church? Which state? Which Church?
If we don’t empower them, then WE have no future.
May all make the most of this celebration to ponder and recollect. To remember, albeit briefly, just how wonderful the reckless pioneer spirit could feel between your toes…
What follows is a text I had e-mailed to Donald, my long time friend and collaborator back in June of 2012. The idea was we would each tell the story of our meeting from our own point of view, gradually documenting the development of our friendship and creative collaboration. Unfortunately he didn’t get around to it, or if he did but hadn’t told me then it is probably in a file on one of the NYPL computers which unfortunately I don’t have access to. Here, for whatever it’s worth, is the story of how I met that inscrutable and extraordinary character that I sorely miss.
A Personal “D” Day
March 6th, 1994… Melina Mercouri was a real woman, vibrant, talented, intelligent so her loss would have been a cause for sadness under any circumstances. What infuriated me about her passing was the cause – politics. The doctors said she succumbed to cancer… the reality is that any creative and sensitive being that is naive enough to believe they can actually beat them by joining them (e.g. by running for political office) will inevitably either sell their soul – or succumb to cancer.
Melina’s fighting days were over and that made me angry. I felt angry at her widower, Jules Dassin for not having been able to contrive a story good enough to excite the artist in her and pull her out of the bloody political arena before it was too late. I felt angry because even someone with her dynamism and celebrity proved to be no match for the relentless economic interests that drive the political mechanism.
New York is not a city to be depressed in – or perhaps it is the ultimate city to be depressed in. I had been receiving my own fair share of slaps in the face at various literary agencies so perhaps Melina’s passing provided a much needed opportunity to vent my own frustrations in the face of repeated failure. A more rational individual would probably have faced that dark mood by seeking escape via some light and uplifting entertainment. I agreed to accompany my aunt to a screening of “Schindler’s List” – maybe it was a subconscious attempt at psychological homeopathy.
By the time the film was over and we all managed to pull our stunned selves out of the seats and return to the damp cold of 2nd Avenue I was entirely numb, body and soul. The thought of returning to my aunt’s penthouse on East 64th presented certain dangers I sensed were best avoided: i.e. since my aunt had recently quit smoking the only place I could enjoy a much needed cigarette without her griping would be out in the biting cold on her tiny balcony 14 stories above 64th street. It was 01:30 I had to go somewhere that could provide me warmth, an astray without condescension, and a double-bourbon… and all that at ground level. Immediately the “Silver Star” came to mind, I knew good ol’ Kostas (aka Gus) wouldn’t let me down. I bid my aunt adieu at the corner of 64th and 2nd and continued alone toward the source of the soothing amber liquid my frozen soul was screaming for.
Kostas was engrossed in ESPN when I entered. Initially I thought I had the place to myself but as my eyes adjusted to the atmospheric dim lighting I spotted a curmudgeonly figure hunched over the far end of the bar. He had the home-court advantage of being a regular; I had the outsider’s advantage of speaking Greek so I could ask Kosta “What’s that guy’s story…” without him knowing what the hell I was saying. One thing was certain he looked just as cantankerous and irascible as my mood; as such I figured why not ask him to join me. If nothing else it would be a show of courtesy to Kosta – he could then serve us both without having to turn his back on ESPN.
It took the guy about 7 minutes to make up his mind, and he scowled at me as though that would somehow facilitate the decision making process. For some reason I found that hysterical. That was clearly not the response to the scowl he had counted on – and muttering various incoherent epithets he slowly moved down the bar. He didn’t sit next to me; he opted to leave a vacant stool between us. I found that humorous too – thinking to myself “Imagine the vibe I must be giving off if even a New Yorker is afraid to get too close!”.
(Having recently painted my house I had the opportunity to sort through old correspondence, snail mail Don and I had exchanged between 1994 and 2000 when I finally got internet at home. There are some pretty colorful accounts in those letters of Don’s take on meeting me, however due to language I would of necessity give them an ‘R’ rating… That’s a book for another time!)
Bad blogger, bad! I got home from work, paid bills for an hour and a half, then it hit me: I hadn’t contributed to my blog for 79 days… Were I any more lax I would be ex-lax!!!
Why is it that we allow ourselves to become so embroiled in routines, whether of our own design or imposed, that we unconsciously pull away from those activities that actually provide us enjoyment? Why is the futile sense of urgency with which everyone impregnates their business so communicable? Why is it that the more stress we feel, the more determined we seem to be to osmose everyone else’s stress as well?
Sure I often go on about how we must create the time for the people we love and the activities that we find fulfilling… “Thank’s Dr. Swill, now can we see you shove that microphone up your…”. In theory, everyone’s a genius on some level, right? According to the laws of attraction if I could only manage to obsess sufficiently everything I want would just manifest itself in my life, right?
Unfortunately I am utterly untalented when it comes to single-mindedness. I seem to (dys)function in a constant state of mental chaos, like an emotional and intellectual Hydra with my various heads all pulling away from each other in pursuit of seemingly unrelated endeavors.
I am the embodiment of “Too many Chiefs and not enough Indians” on an individual level. So many heads, each brilliant and special in its own unique way of course, all jockeying to monopolize one poor ol’ dogsbody. It’s bloody exhausting!
That said, this nonsense must stop. Writing makes me happy, or perhaps simply suspends disillusionment, either way however it most certainly improves my demeanor. As such I have a moral and ethical obligation to myself and to those poor souls condemned to dwell with me, to engage in that solace as often as possible.
Perhaps I will make that my New Year’s resolution – to stop feeling guilty about my creative needs and just do it!
Time and money are both very peculiar concepts. Neither is in reality something tangible. Bank notes and coins are to the concept of money what clocks and watches are to the concept of time – props in an abstract theatre of social agreement. The assignment of value can often be as erroneous as the assignment of blame – just a projection of subjectivity. I think I can understand now why Heraclitus spent the last years of his life laughing at everything and telling everyone “Love… Love” (Αγαπάτε…Αγαπάτε…), if you suddenly realize just how ridiculous most social canons are such a reaction is inevitable.
So here I am (and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one), dancing around in a vicious circle of frustration, because I never seem to have enough time or money. Never possessing a satisfactory quantity of two entirely intangible concepts is the epitome of absurdity, or at least it should be considered as such. So why do I do it? Why do I continue to piss and moan? What is it I REALLY mean when I pine for those elusive and incorporeal commodities?
“If only I had more money there are so many things I would do!” Such as? Maybe I need to focus on at least one of those “things” with serious intention, in order to allow the resources for its realization to materialize. If I won’t bother to invest the thought – I can’t expect others to invest the resources.
“I wish I had more time with my family.” But what time I do have I spend arguing with them about how little time I have, rather than making every effort for that time to be joyous so that ALL of us will work harder to eke out a bit more time for each other every day.
Maybe, if I remember to set human and humane priorities rather than a plethora of over ambitious goals that are physically impossible to reach simultaneously, time may not seem to fly by with such ruthless haste. If I allow myself to enjoy moments without succumbing to my ego’s insane efforts to make me feel guilty all the time for not being more “successful” or more “motivated”, I might just discover the inspiration that will provide the motivation that will make my efforts more effective in creating my own personal definition of success.
It just dawned on me that on August 17th my fledgling blog had its first birthday. I haven’t been as active a fairy-blog-mother as I would have liked but I have managed to post at least one entry per month so I’m not going to start beating myself up about what could of or might have been. I think I’ll just be grateful that I have those posts as snapshots of my journey these last 12 months.
My introduction to blogging actually came in March of 2012 via my Iguana Books author page , March 6th to be exact, commemorating the anniversary of meeting my late friend and co-author Donald Schwarz. I came into my stride though through this humble blog, perhaps feeling closer to it as it has been entirely my own creation. What it is going to become when it grows up I have no idea.
Loss can make us appreciate some things more, but it is no guarantee that we will magically become “different” or “better” people. “Life changing” events do not necessarily bring about improvement and in some cases may actually reinforce existing fears, insecurities and prejudice. We are the artists that color our lives. Events may force us to pause occasionally but our circumstances and even the other people in our lives reflect OUR perception of the world, no one else’s.
To see the beauty is a conscious choice. To concentrate on the cultivation of a positive approach to daily life is an exercise in good health – sound mind, sound body. Why should we be so anxious to assign value to “things” when they only evoke a fleeting sense of satisfaction? Joy springs from allowing ourselves to fully experience the miracle of being alive. Time and money have their place, as props, but we mustn’t let those concepts direct the show!