An excerpt from a letter written this evening, concerning 'OUFF' Ouff! The nasty quality of air inside of the Paris metro is beyond imagination at times. Would a swim inside the intestines of a decomposing rat be more inviting? That’s a close call perhaps. But take a sniff and I think you might agree. Yes! Years ago I recall that some of my stops in India were remarkably gaseous too. But noooo. These days, in poodle town, the parfum of piss and puke pervades far beyond poetic consideration. I don’t believe that even Edith Piaf would be inspired to write a song about it. And today, if she dared to trill her pipes down there, under yesteryears pavée, for only ten seconds, she would certainly have that to regret. Indeed, the allure of taking the metro still drives a certain character - the kind with suicidal ideations no doubt. Apart from them, it offers its more stable day trippers and those forgotten souls, transients who seem to have taken-up permanent residence only twenty feet from the third rail, the type of odeous belly one might read about in futuristic sci-fi thrillers. But who needs to read about it when you can purchase a ticket to inhale the experience, en vraie? Okay, you’re probably asking yourself, 'Why hasn’t he considered bus transportation?' Well, 'he' has. For city outings, I have also considered sporting a ten pack of barf bags along with my last will and testament. It’s that awful. Look, time is not only money it is all that we have.
The notion of having to pace around a bus stop for typically thirty minutes - one can never be certain in France as the Swiss and time itself are typically scorned at - in anticipation of a sardine wagon, stuffed with Betty Boop and Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs t-shirt wearing tourists, quickly slings my imagination the other way, to more grounded options, like hoofing it. If I do and if I’m lucky, I’ll end-up with summer sweat on my brow but in the cool of a chapel or the Notre Dame Cathedral. At least there, one can pray in god’s pew. That would seem to be the better way to go, right? Instead, however, I usually opt to save my sole and toes in a more soldierly way by descending into the putrid petri dish of gay Parigi. Admittedly, it has been my regular choice. I own up to that responsibility and in truth, contrary to my earlier statement, I am not so confident the conditions of today’s metro would cause 'The Little Sparrow' to chirp a single note of regret, still.
I suggest concerning oneself more with the vintage of the wine than the region of France from whence it originated. With the mere price tag of 3 euros or even less, a 2013 or better yet 2015 bottle of fermented grape juice should neither disappoint during consumption nor the following morning. This assessment has been repeatedly tested and proven.
I will build a wall to protect it from vermin and thrive to my heart's content. The lush soil of my ever-sweet garden shall be extraordinarily fertile, boasting of only desirable things, what I like to see, to touch, to taste.... to dream about, as I did back then. Blood red strawberries, for instance, shall be plump with promise. Comparing it to a convincing statesman would glean a chuckle, perhaps, however, that would be a most unfavorable comparison to something so genuinely sweet and giving. No, they shall be terrifically tender. Soft and trustworthy like Vladamir's unforgettable, paling blue eyes. My deceased cousin's soul-sheltering eyelids guarded against not only the sun's rays. They saved him from the cutting shrapnel of memory and the sanctity of a six year old boy's keen curiosity. From Krakow he brought his garden of love, wisdom, hardworking know-how and frightened family. From there, he also packed his will to share and care for others less fortunate, those who would also barely evade the borders of doom.
With modest shoulders and pride that overlooked his now plentiful turf that perched over the limits of Sedan, as German Panzers once did, he demonstrated the grace of generosity in mentoring his little American cousin, a boy unstarved, who enjoyed yearly summertime visits. It was in the hardest of ways in which Vladamir came to discover that country, a little over thirty years prior. It was in the gentlest manner, however, that he taught this fatherless six year old how to plant, to harvest, to grow as one with the earth. What he imparted, was special attention to the nuances of pure notions and simple things. The sort of awareness that one inhales when kneeling and kneading into soil. Even after lunch, when they would set-out to feed the rabbits and dig alongside the worms, clean and proper attire was marked as a consideration for the boy to not or ever ignore, for there were always neighbors watching, gossiping, waiting and wanting for something to go wrong. Indeed, moreso than today perhaps, impressions mattered back then. Hence, a shirt's top button was never to be left undone even whilst riding on Vladamir's scuffed up, pale-blue mo-ped, up to le beau jardin.
As the youngster imagined the palette of fragrances awaiting him there, he clutched his cousin's waist side and suit coat as they zipped through the eerie labrynth of cobbled stone streets, piercing through the frequencies of war hardening history. The engine's motor was loud but could not entirely bury the roaring vibrations of echoing Heinkel bombers. Even their shadows could be felt as they loomed over teetering bygone buildings. Boarded shut from tresspassers and tme, sullied structures conveniently abandoned as monuments, forever tumbling into the annals of defeat. The twenty-minute ride would take the duo past the city cemetery and over slim dirt roads, flanked on both sides by whispering fields of forgiveness. As the perfume of bountiful berries grew more potent, the boy's mind would clear from the din and smoke below. In substitue, the light of youth, would resurge and usher him back to joyful faith and purpose, in Vladamir's garden, in the hills of the Ardenne, overlooking Sedan, where in May, 1940, the gardens of France were lost. E
Staying awake longer. Into the longest hours. This feels right, sometimes, to accompany time on a slow and then slower walk. Traversing over, under and around all the other times. Crawling by their windows. Still looking. Still Open. But they too shall shut and be... still. As the other siblings, tick and tock. Sisters and brothers. Conjoined yet constantly pulling, pulling apart, at the fragile seams. It seems that ticks prefer to race. By choice, tocks do not. Running to choose. Freely. It is a choice to run. It is a choice to not run also. From that which is front and center. In the heart of the matter, where the stitches of time do not resist or fray. Instead, patiently, they wait. Without resisting. Craving. Only accepting and anticipating something anew. And somewhere else than what is no more a... new. Where ticks and tocks rewind wildly, wandering as a herd, lost ponies, together, lost as one. Instinctively, halting in unison. Unknowing of how, why or why not. Suddenly, not needing to. It is a choice to need. But not the only choice. There are many. And so, for the last longest hour, tocks are left alone in the desert of icy silence, without a tick to count... to count on. It is left searching in a vast prairie, in winter's blistering wastelands, a white drape over a forgotten hole. Alone to accept something anew to come front and center, to redeem and revive... whilst suspended over the frozen hands of tim e.
Someone, a longtime friend, has been acting very distant towards me. Why? No idea. There was a time when I would shut the door on such a person, for such behavior. After all, what did I do?
How is it that an individual can become uncharacteristically incapable of describing that which gives rise to such an unforeseeable shift of confidence and compassion - friendship? Reason is impossible to solve such a mystery. Only a sorcerer's cauldron can brew the antidotal concoction for mankind's poor communication.
This new way of seeing, a place I have come to know, however, has no doors or windows. There is no thing and no purpose to protect or prevent. In the open field of unknowing, the sky is clearer, the air is fresher and smiles stretch wider with eyes un-shuttered.
IN CHARLIE'S PARK
Today I sat on a bench in a park named after Charlie Chaplin. I went there after I visited the cemetery where he is buried.
On the bench, I watched a number of children playing, perhaps a dozen or so. They were running and tripping, exploring, laughing and making simple yet undistinguishable sounds. I tried to bring myself to recall such song, such play from those tender days, seemingly eons ago but found it too difficult to do. My memory's refusal rattled me a bit and so 'sister sadness' quickly came to take a seat beside me, on the brisk green pine. Fortunately, however, I managed to deny her prodding provocations.
The present was of far greater interest as it offered assurance, the kindling of certainty, just enough to hold at bay the woe of another winter's day. As the seasons grind more and more slowly up the ever-winding hill, an ashen sky can squash a mending mind with little effort. Still, as the slide, the swings, the monkey bars, the other climbing thingamajig and the surprisingly still lush November turf were all being put to the test with glee, these tired eyes awoke. There were a dozen infants of the monumental age of four, no more. From the playground’s periphery, a few parents held their dutiful watch, while others plunged into the scene with overflowing pride, fearless with unbridled joy. Effervescent air filled each of my breaths as I sat in audience to the unfoldment of the impromptu play. Suddenly, the heat of hours, minutes and less, extinguished and dissolved into the ether as the exhilarating authenticity of it all whisked my consciousness to the unobstructed view of my youthful yesteryear, the highest of all balconies.
When I returned, the parents and children were gone. While facing a boasting tree and the brisk of dusk, I found my legs tightly wrapped around the wood, my brotherly bench. There I was, alone in Charlie’s Park but for the echoes of a saintly sunset and those once faint souvenirs of innocence.
The following reflects numerous conversations, almost to the precise wording, that I have had with citizens of France over the course of many years.
Q: Are you British or are you American?
A: I am human.
Q: What do you do for a living?
A: I used to be a producer now I work as an artist.
Q: Ooh, but what type of artist?
A: I take photographs, I write and I paint.
Q: Oh you paint. But what do you paint, what style?
A: Abstract Expressionism mostly
Q: And you are Franco-American? Ah, but were your parents French?
A: My mother was from France, with Russian and Polish roots.
Q: Ok, but your father, what was he?
A: He was from America with German roots.
Q: So, do you have both passports?
A: Yes, I have dual-citizenship. Excuse me but why is it so important for you to know about my parents?
Q: Because I must know who I am speaking to. I need to know if you come from aristocracy.
A: (end of discussion)
I was just writing a new post, an homage to Glenn, David and Prince when suddenly the screen blinked without warning. Every word, every sentiment, every notion of what I knew and felt immediately vanished. In that fraction of a fraction of an instant my idea and sense of existence went poof. How appropriate.
Gentlemen of creativity, of courage, of compelling complexity, of kindness and sexy kool, good night from ground control. Thank you for playing your parts the way that you did. Lord knows, you went above and beyond. And maybe that's why.... But, how could anyone have asked for more?
All we hoped for was that you would stick around so that we would never cease to dream of doves, rain's magic, tequila sunrises and space like we did back when. A short order for such giants of good or so we wanted to believe. Yes, earth's terrain changed when you arrived and again when you left. You showed us mountains and brought us to their peaks, above the clouds, over and over again. For this parting moment, however, how can we not feel dazed, lost in the shadows of a desert cavern? Who shall show us how to soar once more? Where shall we go to lean tomorrow? Will you somehow continue to muse and infuse us with tittlating tonics filled with notes, riffs, lyrics and intoxicating choruses? Or are we now simply left to bow and witness man's silent fate? No! As the atoms of your artistry continue to ripple up and down our arteries, your magic that served so much meaning will stir us, eternally. The fire of man's faith is what you fed. You not only rocked our feet and souls but our minds too, leaving us happier and stronger each and every time. Your visit demanded that our innate sense of freedom, the joy and peace that glows within, never dims.
Still, even as our stunned breaths plunge past our aching guts and buckling knees, we manage to light a sage smile for we all know that the greatest concert ever awaits us all!
Her name was Zita. We immediately befriended one another in 2009. Our meeting, in a medieval village in the south of France, was nowhere near a coincidence. A fiery light had been sent to me on one of the most difficult, weak moments of my burgeoning creative quest on the European continent.
Earlier that morning I decided to walk away from an artist residency program that I had worked and prayed so hard for. I shan't delve into the details here except merely to say that I needed more than my two giant blue suitcases to lean on that afternoon.
Under August's sun, beads of sweat slipped over my forehead and neck like the tender touch of a thoughtful geisha. Suddenly, the broken wings found lift as I quickly fell into Zita's zesty and occasionally zany aura. I found her cheery cheeks and yiddish giggle singing of compassion, contentment and eventually, endless accounts of Austria's golden art age. When I learned that she had studied painting with Austrian artist, poet and playwright Oskar Kokoschka, my moistened eyelids blinked twice. In that instant, those hapless and hopeless clouds, over only my head, flew far into the distance, far beyond the rich vermillion rust of the Estérel mountains. OK was one of the three legedary painters to lead Austria at the turn of the 20th century. Although I looked more toward the works of Egon Schiele, this common ground was sure and yet mysterious enough for me to stand straight on, enough to pump some lost breath back into my listless lungs and unfolding spiritual journey.
Reminiscing over tea and cookies was one of her favorite ways to pass time, along with reading, laughing and of course painting. At the age of 99, Zita left the azur sea and sky of the mediterranean for another setting surely more sumptuous. One where infinite canvases, colour and inspiration awaited her, along with her adored husband.
So happy that I came upon our photo this ev e.
You are as independent and strong as I could help you become. My work is finally done. I am no longer responsible for that and you don't have to be concerned for that responsibility either. Such freedom for you and I. Although I miss you, the patterns of our daily existence together, knowing that I can fly, soar higher, without all the heaviness of fear that I have had to bear and negotiate makes me so extraordinarily happy. Yes, I am an eagle, released back to my nature, an immense place like America's West. E
When one recognizes a part of self that is unfamiliar or has been denied or forgotten, they have benefitted from a work of art. The rest is something els e.
I've missed a lot of things this year, places, events, parts of myself.... I've missed birthdays and anniversaries. I've missed cultures and languages, some that I have known and some that I wish to. I've missed countless opportunities and a number of goals on that growing golden wish list. Above all, what I have missed the most has been the chance to be with each and everyone of you, longer, closer and more meaningfully.
As the page of this calendar soon turns, however, I can say that I tried my darndest and am at peace with that. For in the end, when the scale settles and finds balance, the genuine measure of 'gold' is in the realization that nothing is lacking or lost. This is a high and cheery toast to the missing, for they keep us giving, growing and going for mor e.
Today I received a FB message on my iPhone that reminded me of what I was doing one year ago. It came as a bit of a shock to me. The message included an image that I had posted on my page back then. It depicted a medium sized, cardboard pizza box and a bottle of red wine poised on a worn 17th century French wooden floor. The setting of the photo was in my just moved into living/dining room. The place was extremely cold and sparce on the night I took the picture. The house was located a couple hours north of Paris, along the frigid flow of the river 'Seine' and only a two minute stroll to one of Claude Monet's former homes. Even though winter was biting outside and the heater was busted inside, that crumbling stoned abode somehow managed to craddle me. Like a simple, handcrafted quilt or the wings of a mother's love, wrapped around her five year old son and his restless dreams, this tiny fantasy village-house embraced my ever-searching soul. There, for that moment, I felt safe and sure of who and where I was. Still, I cannot deny that a ghostly fog of uneasiness and uncertainity, concerning where I was going or where I might be one year from then, clawed my stomach.
The fissure that I sensed between myself and America had magnified over the years and especially that first night spent with my wife. On the bare floor we sat. Comforted by heavy coats and hungry hearts. Two hopeful doves shivering scared yet daring to smile in their almost black, broken and virgin nest. Yes, a long distance that still had me swimming, even after eight years of expatriation, in the frighteningly frigid ocean of fear and doubt. Those hellish holes that riddle us all from the inside-out, leaving a man crippled with eyes that dare not to see and feet that dare not to discover what lies ahead. 'Should I have left?' 'Should I have gone back?' And, of course, 'Should I continue to stay?' That was the chorus that would have never ceased were it not for the cold pizza and cheap vin rouge.
Indeed, like a drunken chef, I was apt to cook myself to a crisp if it were not for the blessings of bumbling ideas and seemingly mundane distractions. Those cooling drops from heaven that erode our crippling conundrums and give rest to our mechanical minds. 'Did I like that pizza?' and 'What might I like for dessert?' Oh, how I have grown to cherish such lighter introspections. However, as I continued to gaze further into this immobilizing image, on my impact-resistent, charcoal-colored smart device, I recalled the building's breath, the golden light that pulsed all about her wrinked walls, without a spark from the chimney. So strange yet soothing. So rich and comforting was the moment. Then suddenly, kaput! The phone's battery failed. Like a lighthouse beacon, memories of the '77 blackout flashed and in an instant that peaceful pizza box and wine bottle went poof. Violently, I was jerked away from a paradise of peaceful emotions to the prison-like purgatory of remembrance.
Except for the two beings on planet Earth, the medieval house had nothing in common with the stage I regained consciousness in. I was sitting in a booth inside of a Subway restaurant, conveniently positioned inside of a Walmart. Hunger can drive a person to do unnatural things. Here I was, an emanation of God, lounging inside of a fluorescent box, inside of another. Could it take anyone watching me on a flat screen more than two seconds to determine what country I was in? Or, has the factory concept been carbon copied enough to leave a foreigner unsure these modern days, scratching his head, hat or even turbin? With my eyebrows raised, I cautiously lifted my head from staring at the dead device and surveyed the surroundings. I could hear nothing from the outside except for this one question that echoed over and over inside my head, 'Am I safe?'
I finished this piece yesterday. It does resemble the image I posted earlier but maybe it is not so evident. Call it a first cousin. The process is what engages and draws me further and further into the unknowns of abstraction. I love this genre, language, outlet, reason.... Years ago, when I began learning how to draw, I realized that representational work would never fill my creative bucket or spiritual quest. Although I could have probably excelled far more, I decided to focus on a style or practice that stepped far outside of 'the box'. Something that spoke a language that was truly indiviidual and infinite in possibilities. I don't spend much time with drawing anymore. Copying the works of Schiele, Picasso, Degas and even Durer were challenging and fun but it is creating from the inner-eye that more wholly serves my curiosity and I believe purpose. Really, the finished images are a manifestation of so much more. They are by-products of the things I have studied, experienced and deeply care about. They are representations of what my soul has seen and is called to say. Where is all of this taking me exactly? That's a question that bounces between my ears every morning over a warm bowl of steel cut oatmeal. After today's work, I am happy to say that I think I might be getting closer to understanding. Some peculiar events have taken place during my recent sessions that pull me even closer toward the light, something... Overall, this creative pursuit has had the character of a very long, eight year in fact, road-trip filled with hair-raising twists, turns and dreadful dips, as well as dazzling ascents. Yep, it's been and continues to be a 'fascinating' search the unknowable. It has been an ocean voyage worthy of every exhausting, blind, scary and lonely row along the way.
May you find strength, peace and joy in the work.
There is a critical mindset that is necessary to accomplish any task, endeavor or seemingly out-of-reach dream. A decade ago my company worked for a Fortune 500 company that insisted on 'can do' perspectives and proposals. During the course of our business relationship this was one thing that was never ever negotiable. Fortunately, I quickly learned to adopt this attitude and successfully transfer it to my employees and vendors. As the head of a new company 'on the block', I was not fixed on ideas of what was possilbe or impossible. No, I do not believe that ignorance always yields bliss but it admittedly helped in this case. That and the power of 'CAN'. Solutions, not problems, became my fascination and even addiction to the point where I became hungry for the next hurdle. Friends, colleagues and I often raised our eyebrows, literally, as we witnessed the accomplishments unfold as a result of thinking differently. The types of victories that my company enjoyed were truly unbelievable yet undeniable. How was it they we consistently won jobs over veteran and prized competitors? Well, experience certainly had nothing to do with it. Sure I kept knowledgable, team players around me but even they were amazed that projects, far-fetched proposals, were being realized.
All this to say that with sure, undoubting eyes, one will see the unimaginable. And, by the way, all your wishes will manifest instantly and exactly to order... not! Remember this universe is rather, um, big. Think of a unicycle beside a semi-truck. The latter and larger takes a whole lot more energy and time to maneuver. Depending on the location, etc. that truck may need to roll over onto the curb or even take out a mailbox or two. How the truck changes direction may not be so efficient or graceful, but it will eventually turn and move in the desired direction.
Going gridless takes time too. This state-of-being refers to and offers not only the possibility of walking away from the weighty shackles of the physical realm but also the sometimes painful psychological one. Depending on an individual's aspirations, the application of the term and to what degree, can vary greatly. Remember, the grid does not exist if there is not any light shined on it. An individual can dim-down the intensity ten, twenty, fifty percent or more. It just depends on how much and what that person wants present in his or her reality. There certainly are benefits to being 'on the grid'. It offers a physical and mental reference point. It suggests security and some might say sanity. Just remember, what is seen by others and how much you depend on them rests on one's conscious choice. In contrast life 'off the grid' takes a lot of getting used to and inevitably carries a certain price to pay. That said, there can be tremendous benefits as well, even if the dimming is temporary or not so significant.
I believe that all beings should strive to exist on different planes of perspective. Only when such a philosophy is put into action, however, does it enable individual and universal growth. So, yes one CAN imagine their future and dreams, bright or dark, small or big, on or 'off the grid', however, they uniquely define that. Whether it's an integrated or independent lifestyle you seek, simply recognize that each person is given her or his own dimmer and that it will never turn on its own.
From the moment we are born, every single lesson we experience, no matter how significant or seemingly insignificant, is for the sole purpose to discover the nature of lov e.
This is an excerpt of a letter recently sent to me from a French college student.
'Me, I'm start to prepare my exam and I don't know what to do next year for my studies but I know that I have so many dreams for my future.'
The following was my reply with some embelishments.
The most useful thing that I have learned not to do is to not 'sit on the fence'... to not spend extraordinary energy and time drowning in 'the soup of indecision'. This is a waste of breath and what was once hearty, good soup. Make a choice. In fact, pick the option you feel is the hardest, the most challenging. People will become inspired and love you for this. The likelihood that they demonstrate it is even greater. More importantly, however, you will love yourself even more. We don't need to worry that our decisions are the right ones, the best ones, the perfect ones. All circumstances change. All desires change. Modulation and modification are the means of the magnificent mind. And this is why life is imperfect, beautiful, always and forever good. As long as you are curious and take action, with good intention for yourself and others, never can you fail, lose or miss out. Living is similar to when someone aims an arrow at a target. After pulling back on the shaft and releasing, she or he can usually count on some aspect of the measure not going as envisioned. Perhaps the arrow misses by a lot or just a little, either way the sensation of surprise overcomes the ego, at which point the imagination is unleashed and lanced back-up into the sky of potentiality- territory of happiness and all origins. And, just to keep us even more alert and grateful, in the bizarre and rare case, things do seem to go 'perfectly'- perfect for the sake of imperfection.
The Desperate Resort to Desperate Measures
To all those who reached out to me after yesterday's saddening event in Paris. Thank you thank you. It is comforting to know that people care.
Yesterday’s events were shocking and distressing to all, Parisians especially of course. At the time, I was not far away in the Marais. Still, in the safety of where I was staying.
Freedom of speech, of expression, is a complicated subject. Perhaps I don’t see the matter so clear-cut 'black and white' as most do. There is enormous moral responsibility and compassion that should be exercised with this important and powerful right. One that is integral to the evolution of all humankind.
What comes to mind...
'The pen is mightier than the sword', coined by Edward Bulwer-Lytton for his play Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy, 1839:
True, This! -
Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanters wand! - itself a nothing! -
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyse the Caesars, and to strike
The loud earth breathless! - Take away the sword -
States can be saved without it!
May all beings live in peac e~