Friday, August 30, 2013

Robert Crumb

You must thank the gods for art, those of us who have been fortunate enough to stumble onto this means of venting our craziness, our meanness, our towering disgust.
-R. Crumb

What we kids didn't understand was that we were living in a commercial, commodity culture. Everything in our environment had been bought and sold. As middle class Americans, we basically grew up on a movie set. The conscious values that are pushed are only part of the picture. The medium itself plays a much bigger part than anyone realizes: the creation of illusion. We are living surrounded by illusion, by professionally created fairy tales. We barely have contact with the real world.
-The R. Crumb Handbook by Robert Crumb and Peter Poplaski

The fine art world and the commercial art industry are both all about money. It's hard to say which is more contemptible: the fine art world with its double talk and pretensions to the cultural high ground, or the world of commercial art trying to sell to the largest mass market it can reach. A serious artist really shouldn't be too deeply involved in either of these worlds. It's best to be on the fringe of them. In general, if you want to be a success and make the money, you have to play the game. It's no different in the fine art world, it's just a slightly different game. Essentially, you're marketing an illusion. It's much easier to lie to humans and trick them than to tell them the truth. They'd much rather be bamboozled than be told the truth, because the way to trick them is to flatter them and tell them what they want to hear, to reinforce their existing illusions. They don't want to know the truth. Truth is a bring-down, a bummer, or it's just too complicated, too much mental work to grasp.
-The R. Crumb Handbook by Robert Crumb and Peter Poplaski

I took some bad acid in November of 1965, and the after effect left me crazy and helpless for six months. My mind would drift into a place that was very electrical and crackly, filled with harsh, abrasive, low grade, cartoony, tawdry carnival visions. There was a nightmarish mechanical aspect to everyday life. My ego was so shattered, so fragmented that it didn't get in the way during what was the most unself-conscious period of my life. I was kind of on automatic pilot and was still constantly drawing. Most of my popular characters—Mr. Natural, Flaky Foont, Angelfood McSpade, Eggs Ackley, The Snoid, The Vulture Demonesses, Av' n' Gar, Shuman the Human, the Truckin' guys, Devil Girl—all suddenly appeared in the drawings in my sketchbook in this period, early 1966. Amazing! I was relieved when it was finally over, but I also immediately missed the egoless state of that strange interlude. LSD put me somewhere else. I wasn't sure where. All I know is, it was a strange place. Psychedelic drugs broke me out of my social programming. It was a good thing for me, traumatic though, and I may have been permanently damaged by the whole thing, I'm not sure. I see LSD as a positive, important life experience for me, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anyone else.
-The R. Crumb Handbook by Robert Crumb and Peter Poplaski

I was taking LSD periodically, every couple of months. I was in a strange state of mind, influenced by these visions. ... I was trying to draw it in my sketchbook, and that began to coalesce into these comic strips that were stylistically based on grotesque, vulgar humor comics of the thirties and forties. ... All of those characters came out of that crazy visionary period that I couldn’t shut off. It was spontaneous, but I was so crazy, I was really out of my mind, it was like schizophrenia. It was like what produces art by crazy people in a madhouse. Anything could be an influence, anything I heard. I was in Chicago in early ’66 and the radio was on, there was some tune playing, it was a black station, and this announcer said, That was Mr. Natural. I just started drawing Mr. Natural, this bearded guru-type character in my sketchbook, it just came out.
"R. Crumb, The Art of Comics No. 1", The Paris Review, Summer 2010, No. 193


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Turned Out

There are two pit bulls wrestling out front. Each time they bark, their owners scream at them. There are four adults and nine kids all sprawled out on the dirty sidewalk. The kids are rolling around, drawing with chalk; the adults are sitting in lounge chairs talking and yelling. The Rosie building reminds me of Jacob Riis photographs of NYC tenements except this picture has a distinct and repetitive sound track.

I took a walk with Lily and ran into a woman I know from down the street. She was on her way to pick up her medicine at the CVS in the Stop and Shop plaza. We walked a few blocks together talking about how great it is to have stores within walking distance. We part. I think about how irritating the neighborhood noise has become. I don't want to live in the suburbs or the country, I need the city, but I wish the city dwellers were a bit more considerate.

I came home and opened a can of tuna fish while my cat and dog watched me closely. I threw in a few spoonfuls of freshly cooked kidney beans and a blob of mayo. I turned on the radio. I had forgotten how important classical music is for drowning out street noise and for fending off thoughts of doom and gloom. It works especially well when accompanied by iced coffee.

The sun came out and my neighbors strung their daughter's colorful clothing up to dry. It turned out to be a good day for laundry. The street is quiet now and I am grateful.


Last night a police car stopped out front just as I was taking Lily out for a walk. A blond woman wearing a red shirt leaned over her fourth floor porch yelling, "Officer, it was me who called." The officer went into her apartment building. Just as he did, a man crawled out of the second floor window onto the flat roof and jumped down onto the sidewalk. He walked very calmly crossing the street and disappeared behind a row of tall shrubs.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

X.J. Kennedy

The tremendous fun of writing in rhyme is reeling in whatever it is you've caught and being surprised by it.

- X.J. Kennedy

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Machine Elf


Linda Hogan

There are ways in, journeys to the center of life, through time; through air, matter, dream and thought. The ways are not always mapped or charted, but sometimes being lost, if there is such a thing, is the sweetest place to be. And always, in this search, a person might find that she is already there, at the center of the world. It may be a broken world, but it is glorious nonetheless.
― Linda Hogan, The Woman Who Watches Over the World: A Native Memoir

Celebrity Elephants

When I asked him why there’s such a fondness for elephants in Kerala, a dreamy look fell over his eyes: it’s because they’re like the sea, he said, always moving and endlessly alluring.

If I resign from the ministry, I will be known as an ex-minister, he said. But there is no ex-artist. An artist is always.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Laundry Day

I just counted them, there are 24 pairs of white, gray-toed socks hanging on the porch clothesline across the street.
A composition in itself, Philip Glass played in socks.

Aunt Gloria

This morning my cat leapt onto the kitchen counter as I was warming milk for my coffee. I thought of my Aunt Gloria who gave me my first cat when I was nine. She was a shiny black cat with a two inch tail. We named her Midnight. She was super sweet and loved to rub up against us and she loved to be petted. I saw photos at Grandma's of Aunt Gloria when she was young. She was so beautiful. She had an amazing smile like Grandpa, and glorious wavy red hair. "So troubled," my grandmother would say. Aunt Gloria would scan the newspapers for cats that needed homes and adopt them. She fed her cats even after she had stopped feeding herself. She was found dead and emaciated in her apartment full of cats.

Populated Solitude

I woke up and looked out my front window and saw the family from the happy house walking down the street toward downtown. Just as they arrived at the Rosie building the guy on the top floor was dumping a bucket of soapy water off the porch. He wasn't intending to harm anyone, he was just oblivious to the people walking below. Luckily the family moved out of the way in time. It was comical but sad.

My parents worked hard to get out of their childhood ghetto in Brooklyn and move to the affluent suburbs of my childhood where the lawn was not for playing on and porches were not for sitting on. Hardly anyone walked down our street except occasionally kids walking to school. Our home was a fortress of control. I did not want that life. I still shudder imagining even a moment of it.

This morning I walked by the benches at Saint Germain Manor to say hello to the elderly folks who love Lily - Lily's fan club. I was told that Joe, one of Lily's biggest fans, had a stroke and was in the rehabilitation hospital. How's he doing? They said one side of him is paralyzed. Will he be back? Yes but he can't drive anymore. He's such a sweet guy. There are six Lily-loving characters that sit in the shade, in the cozy spot under the beech trees where two benches face each other and there's always a breeze. I look forward to seeing them each morning when I walk Lily. I miss them on rainy days and when the weather gets too cold for them to be outside.

I need a life of solitude to work, so I crave the permeable boundaries of city living. At any moment I can step out and walk around the neighborhood with my dog and life is exploding, bursting at the seams in both quiet and loud ways. This is a comfort to me although sometimes I can't retreat far enough from the shouting, sirens, and chaos of urban poverty. On those days I walk to the community of small houses that line the pond. I enjoy the contrasting tranquility. It is a vacation for me yet I am glad to return to my home. In an urban environment you don't need a car or lots of money to be entertained or reminded that there's a big world out there. You can just walk down the street and be in the world populated by other people.

I am grateful for this - no matter how engrossed I get I am reminded of a bigger world when I step out onto the street. As much as I dive in to my work, I also need to swim to shore to be reminded that I am not alone.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

This is Our Neighborhood

Last night my husband and I went for a walk and halfway down our street I noticed it was unusually quiet. Normally at this row of tenements people are hanging out on porches with babies and dogs, overflowing onto the sidewalk. I saw a neighbor that lives in the cottage across the street and said, "It's quiet tonight." "There was a fight, you know the little bird of a woman who lives across the street?" she said, pointing. "She was beaten by her husband and went running down the street screaming 'call the police.' She's gone, we haven't seen her since."

Where is this lovely woman and her adorable child and their beloved dog? I liked her kid with big brown eyes and black eyelashes who would hop off the porch in spite of being partially paralyzed, wearing a brace on his left leg. He'd come over to see us, leading with his good leg, and tell us not to be afraid of Princess, his gray and white pit bull. Lily and Princess would greet each other, affectionately sniffing each other's snout. Sometimes it was hard to understand what the boy was saying because half of his mouth was paralyzed. His right arm was stuck in a bent position like a wing with his little brown fingers curled up but he hopped about moving his other arm freely, telling us stories, petting Lily. We fell in love with him and enjoyed saying hello each day. His mom would look up from her phone and smile from the porch. I hope wherever she is she's safe with her child and their dog.

This is our neighborhood and to some degree this is every neighborhood. Human struggle is everywhere whether it takes place in raw exposed battles or neat and tidy concealed ones. I have been thinking a lot about trusting and having faith versus fear and the desire to control. When I struggle I realize it is my fear that drives the "control" bus. Einstein said, "The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe." The real challenge for me, and the more freeing and frightening one, is to embrace my deeper struggles on the page, on the canvas, and between my ears, to tune into that friendly creative universe, sink in, and let go. To answer the call. To follow the path, the one lined up within my spine that belongs to me.

Bernie Schachner

All it takes is a credit card for an idiot to buy a boat and kill people. But if it weren’t for idiots, I wouldn’t have a job.
- Bernie Schachner

Surrender Dorothy!



If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.
- Proverb

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Apology

A colorful plastic toy keyboard had been sitting in our driveway for the past few weeks. My husband suggested that we should throw it away. Yesterday I spontaneously decided to find out who it belonged to. I walked over to where lots of young kids live at the third house on the big shared parking lot. "Is this yours?" I asked holding up the keyboard. A man said "Yes, the toy belongs to my kids." A woman was on the phone on her stoop. The woman said "Get away from me!" looking at me and then at the man while still holding the phone to her ear. "She is the lady who yelled at me." I went up to her and said "I am very sorry." I continued, "There was no good reason for that and it was very wrong." She said "My kids like you and your husband, Santa Claus. I see you but you look away." She demonstrated, turning her head and tilting it back. I wondered how that could be, since I never knew who I had yelled at. "Please accept my apology," I said. I took her hand and looked her in the eye. She continued, "I didn't do anything wrong, I was just looking for my kids, you would be worried too." "I know, it was wrong," I said. "Sometimes the noise in the neighborhood sets me off." "Yes, it's a very bad neighborhood, bad stuff is always going on," she replied. I objected; "No, there are a lot of good people, and it is the little relationships that make us feel that this is home." "True," she said. Like this moment, I thought. We can mend this, and turn it into something good.

"I didn't know who I had yelled at or if you lived here or across the street in the red buildings. I didn't even see your face. I was having a bad day. It is not my usual behavior and it was wrong. Please accept my apology." I clasped her hand again. "I was not in my right mind. I was even cutting the grass with scissors." I said, laughing. "Yes, I remember. I told my mother 'the lady who yelled at me was cutting the grass with scissors.' " Then we both laughed. "I accept your apology. We can laugh about it now." And she smiled.


I was in a loft participating in a photo shoot about weddings. I was selecting things to wear and which objects to have in my particular photograph. There were vintage wedding items like the black and white wedding couple dolls that were once placed on cakes but these were very old and made of fabric, not plastic. I found a skirt as tall as my shoulders. It was decorated with an image of acrobats, elephants, and umbrellas. A circus skirt! A tattooed arm along the wall of the loft caught my attention. It belonged to one of three bodies of young women on the floor near the fire escape windows. I went over to see them - they were like mannequins, but sleeping. We were told that they were prostitutes who worked in the alley. Except for their tattooed arms their bodies had no flesh or skin. They seemed to be made of wooden blocks, like wooden dolls collapsed in a heap.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Kurt Vonnegut

Writers can treat their mental illnesses every day.
-Kurt Vonnegut


I happen to part the curtains at the very moment
a man is being held by the arm, by two people, two stories up.
He is straddling space with a pick-axe over the thick black wires
to grab a shaggy winter coat that had fallen on the line
above the traffic.

It is August.

I take my dog out for a walk.
A tall man in a back yard is facing the side street as I walk by.
The arc of urine catches my eye. I look away.
I turn the corner, notice
the boys leaning out of the barber shop window to watch him.

I go home and hold up my falling down house by working on a painting.

Two new tenants have moved in across the street
each with two pit bulls.
They sit on the porch and angrily try to reason with their barking dogs
while ignoring their children, except for Arianna,
who is everyone's alarm clock in the morning.

Ilya Kaminsky

Interviewer: Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poems?

Kaminsky: Yes. Otherwise, why bother? But then, my idea of breakfast has changed also. And, I like cats now! Next question.


Sunday, August 04, 2013

Susan Baur

When a heart embarks on its greatest adventure, it’s the adventure, not the destination that counts.
-Susan Baur

Susan Baur

In my last years of training, I worked at a large public hospital and there took care of--or more accurately learned from--a paranoid schizophrenic who believed that he and I were both dinosaurs. Dinosaurs, he taught me, stroll for hours through the hot summer fields behind hospital buildings looking for half-empty cans of Coca Cola, cigarette butts, and naked women. They eat pumpkins which they break open with their enormous feet. I adored the Dinosaur Man, as I came to think of him. Perhaps my affection was influenced by my recent divorce and the death of my father, for the Dinosaur Man’s loneliness seemed to match my own in that sad time. Or perhaps it was the strange tales he told which caught my imagination. In any case, I wrote up my accounts of our meetings every day, and when I got my degree, turned my notes into the book Dinosaur Man.
-Susan Baur

Winston Churchill

The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are
likely to see.
- Winston Churchill

Thursday, August 01, 2013

New Painting

New painting Tour de Zéde. Have a peek here.

Kurt Vonnegut

Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
- Kurt Vonnegut

Rainer Maria Rilke

Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast. Be happy about your growth, in which, of course, you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend.

Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust.

And don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.

- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Graham Greene

So much in writing depends on the superficiality of one's days. One may be preoccupied with shopping and income tax returns and chance conversations, but the stream of the unconscious continues to flow undisturbed, solving problems, planning ahead: one sits down sterile and dispirited at the desk, and suddenly the words come as though from the air: the situations that seemed blocked in a hopeless impasse move forward: the work has been done while one slept or shopped or talked with friends.
― Graham Greene, The End of the Affair

Katherine Mansfield

The mind I love most must have wild places, a tangled orchard where dark damsons drop in the heavy grass, an overgrown little wood, the chance of a snake or two, a pool that nobody fathomed the depth of, and paths threaded with flowers planted by the mind.
― Katherine Mansfield, Katherine Mansfield Notebooks: Complete Edition

I Dreamed

I dreamed I had given birth at a midwife's house. Then I went home. There were several women from the area who gave birth at this midwife's home during the same week. Two weeks later I am at a party at her house. I put my hands on her shoulders and look into her eyes. "I want to see my baby." She said "I don't know if there are enough crepes." which in the dream meant blankets to wrap the baby in. Is this woman scheming or in love with power? There was a uniformed police officer at the party and I called him over to a corner of the room along with a few women to explain that I gave birth to my first child and I haven't seen the baby. He listened and then went to use the house telephone and someone was on the line. I woke up.