Smokey and The Bandit

What are you now ? The por­tion left to sleep is
cry­ing in your sleep. They want to take your leg.
Your oxime­ter chirps behind you. Behind me,
Ban­dit steals a kiss from the Frog.
Ssome­how we smoked and snorted
our way into the same bed, moth­er and son.
If the Snow­man and Fred saw us like this
they’d chew each oth­er to the bone.

Fear Baby

Alan fled New Brunswick and his peo­ple there ear­ly last spring, fled their ven­omous cui­sine and their aim­less hump­ing, their fid­dle­heads and their home­made maple rum that inflamed even the old­est of turds to fits of pri­apic square-danc­ing and, lat­er, rut­ting against the cor­ner of the bar ; he fled his moth­er, who had con­vinced her­self it was her shy­ness and crip­pling pas­siv­i­ty that drove Alan’s father to walk into the sea, and who, after hav­ing found the need to “ideate” a new life for her­self, sat down one evening in Feb­ru­ary, shut her eyes, and imag­ined a dar­ling baby, “a beau­ti­ful baby all my own” (Alan found that par­tic­u­lar­ly galling), a baby not made of skin and bone but of fear and anx­i­ety, bun­dled and swad­dled just like a real baby, ten­der and needy just like a real baby, the idea being that car­ing for her fear baby would help her come to terms with her weak­ness rather than let it shame her as it had all her life, which seemed to make sense to Alan, except after a few nights of this, he found his moth­er in her chair, red-faced and groan­ing, her hands crush­ing each oth­er in her lap, and it didn’t take a genius to fig­ure out she was chok­ing the ever lov­ing shit out of her fear baby, which now she was call­ing Alan ; but most of all, he left Monc­ton because Veronique was­n’t ever going to come back.

Heat Nap

I fell asleep for a bit this after­noon and dreamed that I got a call from my agent. James Fran­co had request­ed me per­son­al­ly to teach him bird calls, specif­i­cal­ly Cal­i­for­nia shore bird calls, which appar­ent­ly were my spe­cial­ty. I was skep­ti­cal, not sure I could deal with a dilet­tante try­ing to learn in a week what had tak­en me my entire bird­ing career, but I took the job. When I arrived, James Fran­co was sit­ting on a met­al chair in a poor­ly lit con­crete bunker, in an orange t‑shirt and brown pants, whistling like a lunatic. Uncer­tain if I should inter­rupt, I start­ed to set up my play­back sys­tem, which involved reel-to-reel tape recorders, a Super‑8 movie screen, and cock­pit head­sets. Fran­co stopped me. He didn’t want to learn how to iden­ti­fy birds by their calls, he said. He want­ed to learn to whis­tle like the birds. I told him that wasn’t my thing, and he said, “David, we have to learn to speak to the birds. They’re nev­er going to learn how to speak to us.”


What does it mean when you dream you’re at a gallery open­ing watch­ing a video instal­la­tion of Madon­na in a night­gown and tear-stained make-up slap­ping a young, blond, naked Alec Bald­win with a gun ? (One mon­i­tor is a wide shot loop, one a wide slo-mo, one a close-up of the pis­tol nip­ping Alec’s stamen.)

Ask­ing for a friend.

The Odds Are Not In My Favor

I start­ed run­ning today. I’m not a gam­bler, but gun to my head, I’d say the odds that I con­tin­ue run­ning in the com­ing days are as close to 0 as as my ass is to the ground. Oh, wait that’s my stom­ach. “So you’re say­ing I still have a chance…”

Not real­ly. I’m 54. I haven’t run in 15 years. I’m what­ev­er word comes after “mor­bid­ly” in the obese con­tin­uüm. (My vote goes to “Mor­bid-Pro”.) Also, I hate run­ning, and I have an arthrit­ic knee, flat feet, and neuropathy.

So, I’m kin­da hot­shit, is what I’m saying.

Tonight I ran like this : one minute run, then one minute rest. Repeat that sev­en times. The good news ? On the last rep, I actu­al­ly ran two blocks before I gassed out.

The oth­er good news is I have done this before. When I was in my ear­ly 30s I decid­ed to start run­ning. I was in ter­ri­ble shape then too, and I start­ed the same way, increas­ing the time by one minute every week and slow­ly decreas­ing the walk­ing. And it worked. I was run­ning three miles a day in two months. At one point, I was up to sev­en miles a day.

So I know this can work, which does­n’t mean it will. Espe­cial­ly when I don’t real­ly care if I can run sev­en miles. Or three. I just want to be able to run and hike as eas­i­ly as I ride a bike.

Because as out of shape as I am when it comes to run­ning, I have sur­pris­ing­ly decent cycling con­di­tion­ing. After not rid­ing for three months (thanks to the holy trin­i­ty of crap­pi­ness : ill­ness, weath­er, and ill­ness), I got on my bike and was back to rid­ing 15 – 20 miles on my lunch hour rides in a few days. I want to bal­ance things out : glutes and quads, not one or the other.

Plus my cycling goals now are so time con­sum­ing. 100 miles a week, 50 mile rides once a week, 2500 feet of climb­ing a week, etc. That’s hours of rid­ing, which I would love to do, but I don’t real­ly have the time. To reach a huge run­ning mile­stone, all I have to do is run twelve min­utes with­out walk­ing. One mile. If I could do that, I’d call the Queen and take her to lunch — it would be a big­ger accom­plish­ment than rid­ing a century.

It’s not going to hap­pen, but I’m post­ing this just in case.

A Brief Life of Bruno Schulz

As a boy in a part of Poland that is now part of Ukraine, Bruno fed sug­ar gran­ules to house­flies so they’d have enough strength to sur­vive the win­ters. Lat­er, he want­ed to be an artist. He went to col­lege, but he was shy and thought lit­tle of him­self, so he had noth­ing. Some friends pitied him and found him a job as a school teacher. He didn’t like teach­ing, but his stu­dents remem­bered him as an awk­ward man who nev­er­the­less trans­fixed them with sto­ries every day from bell to bell.

He wrote sto­ries as well, but he didn’t think they were good enough to pub­lish. Nonethe­less, in 1933, at age 41, he trav­eled to War­saw with the hope that Madame Nalkows­ka would help him. As a favor to a friend, she agreed to give him ten min­utes of her time and let him read a few pages of his col­lec­tion to her. She kept the man­u­script for the day and phoned him that evening to say she would be hon­ored to help him pub­lish his col­lec­tion, The Cin­na­mon Shops. Five short years lat­er, he received the Gold­en Lau­rel Award from the Pol­ish Acad­e­my of Literature.

In 1941, the Ger­mans forced the Jews of Dro­hoby­cz into the Ghet­to. Schulz escaped the camps, how­ev­er, when an SS Offi­cer, Felix Lan­dau, admired his work and retained him to paint murals in his home. Lan­dau had a vio­lent rival­ry with anoth­er SS Offi­cer, Karl Gun­ther ; one day, Gun­ther walked up and shot Shulz dead, say­ing, “There, I’ve shot your per­son­al Jew.”

[This is a dis­til­la­tion of David Gross­man­’s fine “The Age of Genius” from the June 8 2009 issue of The New Yorker]

The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work,

and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.

The mind that is not baf­fled is not employed.

The imped­ed stream is the one that sings.

– Wen­dell Berry

Something from Anthony Burgess

We prob­a­bly have no duty to like Beethoven or hate Coca-Cola, but it is at least con­ceiv­able that we have a duty to dis­trust the state. Thore­au wrote of the duty of civ­il dis­obe­di­ence ; Whit­man said, “Resist much, obey lit­tle.” With those lib­er­als, and with many oth­ers, dis­obe­di­ence is a good thing in itself. In small social enti­ties — Eng­lish parish­es, Swiss can­tons — the machine that gov­erns can some­times be iden­ti­fied with the com­mu­ni­ty that is gov­erned. But when the social enti­ty grows large, becomes a mega­lopo­lis, a state, a fed­er­a­tion, the gov­ern­ing machine becomes remote, imper­son­al, even inhu­man. It takes mon­ey from us for pur­pos­es we do not seem to sanc­tion ; it treats us as abstract sta­tis­tics ; it con­trols an army ; it sup­ports a police force whose func­tion does not always appear to be protective.

– From The New York­er, June 2012

The Long Goodbye

I copied this poster for Robert Alt­man’s The Long Good­bye from a tweet by Cass­ian Elwes. It’s one of my favorite films, an irrev­er­ent ada­p­ataion of Ray­mond Chan­dler’s nov­el. The poster is by Jack Davis, the great MAD Mag­a­zine car­toon­ist. I like how the poster uses the MAD for­mat to make itself hip and to poke fun at itself at the same time. The movie itself has none of this snarky com­ic tone, but it does­n’t mat­ter. The poster cap­tures the film and the era perfectly.