usc – 23

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The fools wearing flag pins took a bat, hit a hornet’s nest, and out came ISIS, the furies in modern form.

Ever since, the halogen climate of fear, the occupation of monster dens overseas, voices whispering report the suspicious, too much metadata for the analysts to analyze, drone operators suffering from PTSD, assassination by presidential pen, boys, the forgotten at black tie dinners in Washington, tottering about Central Falls with faces, limbs blown off, are the fashion.

Will it ever be normal again? Probably, it never was: normal.

What Hannah saw in Eichmann looking vaguely respectable in his glass booth, a flavor of evil, which is the absence of style, persists like stupidity itself.

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usc – 21

PICS2 2579Not so long ago in Big Bone Lick, Kentucky, the skeletons of mastodons arose. The Native Peoples declared to T. Jefferson, always a curious man, the creatures live on in regions west where white men never walk. When he had the resources, T. Jefferson instructed his boys – see what’s out there, then make it ours.

In the journals of William Clark, a leader of the Corps of Discovery with Meriwether Lewis, one encounters monstrous bears, tribes of men continuously at war, bizarre customs, Little Spirits eighteen inches high armed with sharp arrows “always on the watch to kill those who should have the hardihood to approach their residence,” landscapes stupendous, a prime example of the human need to know.

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usc – 20

sundayTo some, Walnut Creek is paradise.  Nestled in the rolling hills beside Mount Diablo, the green spaces that have not been paved over or built upon glow in the strong Northern California sunlight, casting off the dream like atmosphere of Tuscany. The downtown is filled with the best coffee, superb chocolate, donuts that won’t make you fat. Conjoined with these amenities, the weather will never tax you. The climate is Mediterranean; hot and dry in summer; wet and navigable in winter; perfect for growing rare and fickle plants. And yet, there is an immense fly in the ointment, for Walnut Creek is above all dominated by the automobile. Highways – roads carrying on two and three lanes in each direction shiny pod like vehicles – the natural component parts to detached houses – are ubiquitous, and during the day the disturbing hum of traffic, of many thousands of wheels turning simultaneously, reaches a feverish pitch.  Not only that, sprawl architecture – the sort of construction Frank Gehry characterized as pure shit – is constant, superimposed over the noise. In short, paradise is no more.

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wo – 71

IMG_8803Traces of the Wild West remain, like the 4 quarts of Yukon Jack at the counter of the corner store with a hand written note, 5 dollars and out the door, stuck above the bottle. On the label, a mountain man in a bear skin coat faces the implacable elements. No doubt Jack London, a writer who once slummed about these parts, would feel at home.

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IMG_8962On the sidewalk pristine as a dove, a white porcelain toilet sits abandoned beside a fire hydrant, conjuring what one might call unintentional art.

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ms8In the early morning hours, crows and sex workers keep company, their voices calling, warning, joking, offering encouragement (never surrender) to their brethren.

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usc – 19

pouissinSam Wagstaff, the uber American, had everything including a cerebral lover with a refreshing attitude towards sexual acrobatics. That was a lucious kid from Floral Park, NY, Robert Mapplethorpe, who led him from a self imposed exile from which he was never lonely, into the mineshaft.

Sam Wagstaff’s instinct for the beautiful, strange and overlooked gave the art of photography peerless direction.

Solemnly under oath, friends declare they last saw Sam Wagstaff much reduced from that nasty virus that carried off so many of the best emotional nonconformers, dragging a bundle of sterling silver down a sidewalk in Manhattan, his eyes blazing forth from the withered edifice, undefeated.

I have only loved three things in my life. Robert, my mother, and art, Sam Wagstaff said before he expired and left his ex, also wasting into a skeleton, a pile.

One wonders what he thought of Poussin.

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wo – 68

IMG_8751The man on the bench sits hours not moving, day after day, the days becoming years. What does he do while he does that which he was born to do and does passionately? What Emerson would call one’s vocation as opposed to a job. He’s thinking how thinking is the most pleasurable of human activities. Better than sex with the most desirable lover, staring at art by Picasso, eating an entire pizza covered in cream, jumping out of a plane with a parachute, sleeping in Paris with the heavy gold curtains drawn, outlasting one’s enemies. That’s why he can sit motionless. He’s thinking – life is the only Heaven you get to visit.

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usc – 18

gothicIn the journals of Edmund Wilson from the 1940’s, the author now nearing fifty appears confused by how life can get bumpier the longer you stay.  After the descent of his great love, St. Vincent Millay, into melancholy and booze, he worried he was close to a “crack up.”
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And yet, his voice emerges as among the few questioning whether his countrymen had gone too far in bombing Berlin, the German people, to cinders, calling the Japanese animals on the radio; the tactics of Goebbels, he quipped while seated comfortably at the Princeton Club, a gin martini in hand.

Despite nagging doubt, paroxysms of lust, frequent hangovers, the customary Devils which obscure the stars, he noticed deer tracks sharp deep divided footprints in Wellfleet, minute changes in tide and weather, sat with George Santayana in Rome, feeling a sacred awe in seeing the philosopher a shell of faded skin and frail bone but incandescent in which the power of intellect, the color of imagination, still lived and gave out……..their vibrations and rays…”, traveled the world to absorb the latest – snapshots of Mussolini and his mistress dead; the disposition of the British now that they’d lost their Empire; how filthy the children were in Naples.

As it turned out, his powers – those of the finest American mind of the 20th century –  were just getting underway.

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