A SEMI-AUTOBIOGRAPHIC COMIC OPERA
By Michael Winn Myrow
To a passing flautist: Your attack trapped me in it’s delicious grip… and once I’d stopped and listened, I was lost and found that the ability to say and hear, I love you, forever, is learned quite early on.
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ALL STORIES ARE INTER-RELATED PLOTS AND EVENTS.
(The author is not responsible for things taken out of context.)
I. THE GESTURE
Taken and away,
you possessed, I denied,
you divisible as star light,
pulled pearls in pressed lips,
you surrendered to warm,
salt taste of love…
“glass in the ass you can’t go wrong
but there’s something about cold steel”
II. THE EMBRACE
Adrift , floating on a vagrant current driven south across the bay by a breeze flowing over Pt. Loma from OB. I don’t trust this whole setup. Greed and fear where I expect generosity and the opposite when I’d anticipated greed. It’s upside down. Fees for love and free sex? Strange as are some things I imagine, still stranger things happen.
Much stranger things. I’m reminded sometimes by something I see in a shop window, like a door opening in the periphery of my vision, transporting me through a wormal of time into that moment when I was there but only pretending to be present:
…mine, a yellow Geo Tracker and beside it, a “milano red” Honda CR-Z/ex. We know the Tracker driver, having seen the world through his eyes, noticing whatever gets his attention, which is the chaos of minutely changing environments, while he apparently rationalizes the cacophony of chaotic experience sufficiently to make it seem to him, at least, entirely predictable, like Jay Ward’s Boris to Natasha. Eetsalryet, natashah! To himself, he seems prescient. He really is.
As you look through his eyes, down into and through the passenger side window of the milano red car, there is a woman of an available age, whose legs are shapely long, whose reddish brown hair tumbles from her forehead as she moves in response to music he can’t hear. As if this thought cued a camera, imagine if through her eyes, you can see her hands tap the steering wheel notice in the periphery, him watching her, and a quick glance up to his face. See again now through his eyes, her face, her head nodding in time with something indistinctly heard now over the sound of the engine, her eyes meet his for an indistinct mili-instant. Are you the one?
Through her eyes now, notice him looking at you, his mouth slightly open. He sees her window open as their eyes meet again. The signal changes. She says, “you don’t know the half of it.” The Honda slides forward, you see through her eyes, a fast sequence of his eyes, face and features, his profile, head, shoulders, framed by the window in the yellow Tracker, then through her right side mirror; while his view of her is a profile for an instant, and gone leaving a sensation like the aroma of sterling rose*. Through her fast receding rear window, he sees her brown hair reddened in the late afternoon sun through the rear quarter and back windows of the color saturated red Honda. “Oh.” She purses her lips and her fingers skip a beat.
*Music Cue: Act 2 Improvisation
Leaning back, my legs stretched forward, over the sides, drifting in the latitude of contemplation across Shelter Bay before a forest of nude white and silver masts against cold blue; a story unfolds in my imagination just like the rolling clouds above me form, reform, appear, congeal and disappear. I jot notes down with a mechanical pencil on three by five cards I carry in a pocket of my Stearns vest. Big cold blooded mega yachts, held like bulls in liquid stalls, tethered by ropes to wharves they could destroy without effort, prows thrust forward arrogantly toward the bay, tight-jawed, restless for release.
“Attessa” in real gold foil is hammered into letters on her stern. Crowned by an elegant flying bridge, curves of brushed steel appear to bind it, flowing around the edges like tendrils of a metallic vine.
Quietly slipping across the shipping channel, moving with the rippling tide, before me a grebe appears, one red circled eye looks back before it dives without a sound back into the bay. Sun beams fly from bright shiny chrome on the sparkling white, blue and grey giants from a dystopian future, through a warp in time looming above the dock. Pilings repeat a strange coughing, alien song.
“Blue is the color of my true love’s blood.”
“Would you trade all your misunderstandings for Attessa?”
One Thousand Suns (Branching story in play, retorno dal segno).
“That misunderstanding, right there: that we think that past means immutable. The fact is that past only exists in imagination, hence, in this universe, the past is mutable. In some other universe, people can do re-do’s in real time and are unconcerned about the past. Forgiveness isn’t necessary since there’s never anything to forgive. Didn’t like the way that turned out? Do a re-do. People kill each other over whatever happened in the past, not about what is happening now. Since it’s possible to alter your experience of the past by imagining it in a new way, I can assure you that, for $50, if you give me your misunderstandings, I can give you a new past. For instance, one with the Attessa and everything she entails.”
In the stern, Jeanette, the Italian deckhand. Her mother, from Petersburg, named her after the heroine of a play by Jean Anouilh’s that takes off on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Julliette. Jeanette waves.
Who knows from Jean Anouilh in this country? But just the idea of Romeo as Fred and Juliette as Jeanette is curious and the way Anouilh brought it off perfectly defined French romantic fiction, of course.
Two men, dressed in identical dark blue coveralls, work on the foredeck, the shrill voice of a tern, sitting like a punctuation mark on the otherwise unbroken line of mahogany on the gunwale, echoes decrescendo mingling with other sounds bouncing around the bay. One of the two men is Jeanette’s fiancé, Fred. The man she is fated to be unfaithful with drifts in a small kayak beneath the bow.
The harbor is vibrantly alive, a school of fish ripples the surface nearby, a red-eyed grebe pops up beneath the bow.
North winter wind flows down from the hill above Shelter Bay, chills my nose, a shiver ascends my spine to the back of my neck but it isn’t from the cold wind. Shaking my head, I cast away the thought that all meaning could end for me at any moment and now would be perfectly, precisely the right moment. “Not now. Not now.”
Music Cue: Run fast… Now!
In a rapid sequence, the Milano Red Honda and the Yellow Tracker wend their separate ways through Pt. Loma accompanied by an extended cadence by Schubert, deceptively ending on the tonic 9th, as in an aerial view of the two cars converging from different directions through a maze to almost meet at an intersection, around a corner from each other. Crossing the intersection on foot, we’d see the two drivers approaching a corner, unexpectedly meeting.
Whatever is around them at this precise moment, evaporates.
He and she are apologetic in their own ways and she is slightly annoyed, while he’s in a daze. They talk at, over and around each other, he mid-word, she mid-phrase and he wonders what feels so familiar and she hears herself thinking that physically running into him isn’t making her hot so it must be something in the air. Their eyes meet, no blinks. Kids bawl at each other in a nearby schoolyard.
For scientific and social purposes, we categorize mental proclivity and statistically determine the category in which a person falls based on how they respond to stimuli. For those, whose unusual behavior doesn’t seem to threaten children nor violate inviolable customs, there are categories like, introvert vs. extrovert, out-going vs. introspective, optimistic, energetic and so on. Extremes of each of these attitudes and the behaviors they engender, can be uncomfortable, described using words like, schizophrenic, bi-polar and so on. A schizophrenic is only recognized by what they do. Not understanding this, I hired a schizophrenic lawyer. Of course, she wasn’t responsible for her acts, since, after all, she’s schizophrenic. I doubt that she would get away with that in Sicily which would suggest there are fewer sociopathic psychotics in Naples.
Communities are formed around shared intolerances.
Man’s Voice Loses Contact With Brain (or v.v.)
The headline in the UT this morning displayed, Marines Poised to Respond to Sudan most likely in that newpaper’s boldest type, the one reserved for the political hack jobs that Manchester’s specialty. An image of poised marines floats in my imagination, followed by a U.S. flag on Iwo Jima. Assuming the Marines respond with guns, that’s their forté, in Sudan, which is far from here (out of sight out of mind), I don’t feel the idea of people killed, maimed, orphaned, terrorized, horrified, instead my brain supplies images of victims of the holocaust. Sudan’s turn. Weapons used are assembled here, presumably of parts made in China.
Poising to respond may get you laid . It’s a good story.
I am hypersensitive to sexual, emotional and sensual triggers and will have trouble speaking about them even in a situation in which I hold all five aces and to capitalize on this, I’ve learned to create a misdirection by a shift in apparent directional correlation, i.e., by adopting a view of physical intimacy with another as unnecessary.
Misdirection: “Masculine” must be an oxymoron.
On the next page of the UT, a headline states that scientists have now proven that people who live with a spouse are healthier and live longer. I’ve noticed before that mainstream media in my country appears bent on a mission to prove this by promoting conclusions of scientific studies that favor the position and downplaying evidence against it. It is status-wise “better” to be married or at least, hooked up. Loners are losers. (Statistics of married men succumbing to diabetes, cancers, alcoholism, obesity, effects of resignation, suicide and domestic violence suggest otherwise.) Obituaries are about people who are married because unless someone benefits from printing an obituary, why print it? The deceased could care less. This leaves and impression that married people are dying like flies. But this may be misleading. Maybe, the vast majority of deaths are of those who leave no or few survivors. The UT is highly positional.
The benefits of intimate relationship, if there are such, are counter-intuitive because, when you want people to slow down, if you increase their experience of pleasure, they slow down to enjoy it–the artichoke syndrome (more complex, however, for those for whom pain is ecstasy).
We have huge population centers connected by highways, on which millions of serially organized metal boxes are contained in a system in which only one vehicle may pass any given point at the same time. As a result, the efficiency of this system moves towards zero when a road is filled with cars hurtling around each other, separated by a stripe of white or yellow paint or two and the only pleasure for people in these boxes might be, conversation on a telephone, perhaps an erotic massage or fantasizing driving in a race or other daydreams and in any case, not paying attention, increasing risk. Children of those who were conditioned by this transportation system are more prone to road rage even without driving. In theory, driver-less cars will allow a future generation to play video games, read, talk or text, screw or meditate and their children may be less afflicted. The car of the future is equipped with a bed.
I enjoy slowing down and being, wherever I happen to be. Would I choose to be enclosed in a metal box with glass windows in the middle of thousands of similar boxes containing strangers, each in their metal and glass boxes? No? But I do. It’s better than being in a box without glass windows and with no one around. Thus, we have intimacy: a friend or pocket rocket resolves this.
It’s been Jeanette’s pleasure to help resolve this for countless men and then one day, she meets and falls in love with Fred and then, sigh, he with her. She didn’t expect it and he didn’t believe it.
In the process of surviving traps deployed by a brother who, like a karmic curse left over from a former life, aimed to embarrass, defeat and discourage me as soon as he realized he shouldn’t have let me run in front of a trolley car when I was eight, I developed a habit of self-deprecation. My mother, who was by nature a practical joker, did not feel grateful and happy at my birth, since I was en utero when she left my father and wasn’t looking forward to having me around. Knowing in her heart that I was the innocent party, yet, she couldn’t disguise her disappointment and she saw in me, my father, who she despised. My brother and I continued in our passive aggressive relationship until I told him to show his cards or piss off. But the psychological scars of our relationship, which continued through most of my adult life, resulted from his interfering with my sexual relationships. Since he was the older male in the household and some bonding took place, his behavior became the model of a successful adult male. My father and he were both assholes of the first water. In consequence of this, I understand and give credence to the beliefs of C. S. Lewis in his preface to The Screwtape Letters, that a champion of evil exists, an entity as redoubtable as God.
As a child, I sometimes despaired of living, momentarily stunned with fear, terrified. Fearing I’d flipped out, which might have exposed his behavior, my brother backed off and in the process, I learned I can experience whatever I like at will, regardless of circumstances.
Communicating about experience requires more than description. If its raining, I can, if I wish, feel dry and, if I do it properly, I’m not wet in the rain. It’s analogous to woodwind players who can inhale while playing a note, producing uninterrupted tone for minutes. There are implications for this reveals something about the essential nature of human being that can’t be analyzed and designed into the structure of a machine–why a cyborg will always be nothing more than a complex abacus, which according to C.S.Lewis, reveals the “contest of the evil One with Him”. I’m a theist but dogma of any kind is dogma but give Lewis’ devil his due.
When I’m in my kayak groove, I am the kayak’s arms, ears, legs and eyes and sense of gravity, the paddle an extension of my arms and shoulders. Maneuvering in rough water requires skill and resolution, I feel the weight of choppy seas on the polyethylene hull as against my own skin. It was designed by longboard surfers and it likes to surf. I ride the wakes made by boats in the channel. I stand aside and let them pass, then fly across the sloppy water behind them to catch the outgoing wake, riding the energy.
Image of two large vessels turning in the bay, like dinosaurs, behind them the buildings on the hill are like the scenery around a toy train.
Close your eyes and notice the sounds you didn’t hear with your eyes open as your focus changes from one sense to another, then imagine watching concurrently running motion pictures that project alternate views of the same moment, let your attention shift among several perspectives of any scene you remember. Exactly the same circumstances yield different experiences, even that of your state of mind about whatever it is that you’re aware of in any moment. Roll time forward or back and switch between different experiences. As you become more practiced, when you wake up with someone and are surprised to find it’s your spouse (or not), it cultivates strength of character or the ability to lie convincingly.
If I’m unique, what are these people?
The protagonist of this story was wired to be romantic at birth, like Dionysus, the bull-headed bastard child of Semele who has a hard-on for every living thing because his existence reminded him of this cuckold, Zeus, who he had to admire, yet feared and hated and of his progenitor, Cadmus, who as a mortal was a nonstarter, a loser. Not thoughtless in his actions but forgetful due to all the wine, pot and revelry he used and something was nagging at him, even when he was standing absolutely still. He’s mindless about his never-mindedness and says things with a lazy candor that is really tactical.
No one wants to know their future. Feelings of pleasure are associated with what we’d like to hear, which is approval.
I fear hearing the truth about myself. Meanwhile, I’m prescient, an inherited trait, related to empathy. My brain trips over logical fault.
While I’m not looking, my wife is doing whoever she can. Why? That is the way she is. Admirable.
Music Cue: Clarinet Duduk
At an intersection in Pt. Loma, he stops the yellow Geo Tracker for a pedestrian he sees through the dusty windshield, approaching to cross the street. The walker, a gray haired man, energetic yet relaxed in his walk, dressed in black, has a cleric’s collar. The cleric looks into his eyes before stepping off the curb then laughs with him when he sees the driver’s eyes and that he holds his hands before him, over the steering wheel, in prayer, “Namaste”.
I started thinking seriously about dying after I was, by a quirk of fate, not drowned. The timing of a receding wave allowed me to recover consciousness. The force of gravity drained the blood from my legs into my brain after I fell, supplying oxygen that began to revive the brain as I lay facedown on the surf. The physical system came on line first empowering an automatic response that moved my arms and legs to push against gravity lifting my shoulders and butt so that on all fours, with my head hanging just above the returning waste, my lungs and head drained and coughing, I sucked in cool, fresh air.
I’d been warned about this heart valve and what it meant shocked me. I saw no future for myself and a few years later, having let everything go and nothing better to do with the remainder of my life, I reasoned I might end it quietly. I also believed this resignation was not only common and acceptable but also expected of me.
But it didnt make a lot of sense. Does one decide to get old and die? An anti-climax. For a while, I lived toying with choosing to opt out and then I heard something that awakened the idea to distinguish a kind of gesture of my life in some durable, satisfying way.
The stars must have been similarly aligned on the morning Don Quejano awoke transformed into Don Quixote. I trudged the gravel covered road from his RV to the office of Hidden Pines RV Park & Campland with a check for the next months rent in my gloved right hand. As I lifted the hand that held the check to my landlord, he said, “You’re a parasite, wasting space, all you do is take. What good are you? What do you contribute? You’re good for nothing!”
Bi-polar alcoholics have a knack for saying the exactly perfect hateful thing and it was so un-called-for that it put the question. Surreal. Gears ground in the subterranean vault that was my conscious mind. This was a sign and even before thinking about it, I took two steps back down the stairs to the gravel, placed the check in my shirt pocket and had mentally gone over everything I’d need to do to leave within an hour of returning to my motorhome and I left within the hour, without knowing where I was going but knowing that I was about to do the absolutely rightest thing I’d ever done.
Being neither a pot user nor in the business, nor an alcoholic, nor religious, nor very social in a conventional way and almost without a sex drive on Cymbalta, and for reasons of cultural style, I’d made no deep connections with people I met in Mendocino County. There are many people there who are putting in their time until it’s over. Resignation looks like bliss; nothing your driven to do, nothing you need to do to satisfy yourself except to wake up in the morning.
[the generator story.]
(Many doctors view patients as a maintenance project and try to cut their losses. Even the high end cosmetic surgeons who work on people that exercise and eat well, trim into their 90s. Every population shows some age and economic stratification but in cyberspace, the world is age stratified to the max and not economic stratified. Resignation is the hallmark of the common view of aging. Some make an art of resignation and start early. Some commemorate it with music for the crematorium, practicing the stooped walk and hypochondriasis that characterizes interpretations of age, carrying on traditions of ham actors, illustrators of periodicals, comics and vanity novelists. Alas, Polonius, stabbed through the arras without a second thought. Prospero, on the other hand…)
Pausing on the bridge at sunset for a last look over the Noyo River, indelibly printing the image in memory, I contemplated the gesture that is my life. McCullers’ Mortgaged Heart, Dostoevsky’s Eternal Husband and Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night) all suggest possibilities for such a gesture. What would it be? All three?
I haven’t really wanted to engage with people again, per se, but I began to study music composition and motion picture and theater history, connecting the dots between the staged play and reality common to all literature. I’d read enough of the masters to know what they were up to. Now I read more voraciously than ever and I find I’d forgotten nothing, which surprised me because all this experience is there in my memory, as if in boxes, with lids on them and I can only lift a lid when I want to know what’s in the box.
A literate gesture requires a literate reader. I suddenly felt a kinship with authors I loved, as if I’d lived with them, held their hands, been seen by their eyes and seen their faces. I’d encountered them when very young and now I find a truth in their works that I can translate for the next generation. I am a medium. That is my gesture.
It shall be noted, Don Quixote never waxed more eloquently and en inglés, which raises the bar for a man who isn’t from Toledo.
Virtuous application of knowledge of nature in media is called, art, to be distinguished from kitsch. Art is the concern of my muse and since writing and composing employ distinctions of exquisite specificity, my muse is a demanding, voluptuous mistress.
I was delighted when I found my plan requires voracious reading and stopping the Cymbalta and testosterone replacement lifted my sex drive to that of a young primate and thus compelled, I ran into a muse with a webcam online, who encouraged me as much about loving as many others as I care to, just because.
A post (Quixote at the Orgy)
A composition (Ecstatic Dance)
Music Cue: Ending
It’s dark in the kitchen, where I’m putting away the silverware after dinner, the guests are gone, she embraces me from behind, I put the forks in their slots or approximately so, and turn around to face her as we sink to the floor in each other’s arms, our faces nestled into each other’s necks. “Statistically, I died fourteen years ago.”
“I know,” she murmurs into the nape of my neck.
I came back to San Diego, literally dragged back by fate. San Diego is in a part of Mexico called, California, where the cartels have agreed to tone it down. On the south side of the border fence (a disgusting abomination of the Bush-Halliburton administrations), San Diego is known as Tijuana Norte. There’s the constant inconvenience of the U.S. Naval and Marine bases tying up the best waterfront real estate. The USN has been the best customer of prostitution of all kinds, everywhere in the world.
Two years back I said I’d compose music and write plays. It’s a long time since I’d created 5, 10, 20 year goals. I wrote those goals after I did the est training, which was another one of those times when I felt nothing made any difference. I had a technical reason for living in LA at the time. I’ve always believed that I am the world’s greatest dramatist but felt it uncomfortable to admit it to myself much less say it out loud. As a result of this, I’ve lived my life under protest, which should not reflect badly on that place, for it could be Chicago, London. My accomplishments show my talent and ability but constrained by modesty, not before as autonomously.
As I got back into life, life came back to meet me, halfway, but that was ok with me and life, as usual, couldn’t care less.
One day, I learned something and realized that an older brother, had interfered in my life in an unforgivable way and it must have been because I’d previously forgiven him, and so I decided to say goodbye to him for life and I did. He said he couldn’t care less. A few days later, I received an email from a man with my father’s family name, telling me that he and his sister are also children of my father’s. Perhaps, when I was unable to tolerate an unsatisfactory sibling, the universe rewarded me with as many decent siblings as I could want.
It’s also ironic that I didn’t see the value of having two fathers until I was willing to accept the perfection of them both. It is because of both of them that I see what I see how I see it, feel what I feel and the way I do about everything. I’m indebted to my two fathers, Master Chief, Warner “Ed” Winn and Samuel Myrow. I don’t know if they ever met. Anyone in the navy knows what it means to be raised by a master chief. Only a Myrow knows what it means to be a Myrow and every one of Sam’s kids lives with that peculiar legacy.
Currently, I’m writing and producing four plays and a screenplay, including several pieces of music. I’m developing these things in broad daylight, online, in public, right here. They are available for you to read, see and hear, preferably upon your registration if you wouldn’t mind but that is up to you. Please, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have anything to tell or ask.
In the year
when my life began, articles had not yet appeared in scientific journals about psychological stress as the primary source of physical illnesses that vary based on genetic vulnerability and environment. People didn’t talk about sex practices beyond a sense of scientific wonder about psychotherapy and the way relationship relieves psychological stress. Few autobiographies or biographies include much if anything about the sexual practices of their subjects and exceptions are written in obtuse language; to be “read between the lines”, unstimulating.
My desire for you makes me indifferent to everything else. I breathe, you move behind me, I feel your eyes on me as you pass, your scent infuses the air…
When another lover calls, you leave, I wonder if life is worth living…
Then I remember…
Music Cue: Lyrics Below:
I love who you are
for what you are is mutable,
mysterious as scent of the wisteria,
You are moments of forever,
each a sufficient lifetime
every second embraces
yesteryou and anticipates tomorrowyou.
Go. I surrender and await your return.
see through my eyes, feel the autumn’s chill on my skin, inhale the cool aroma of pine and sage, recalling memories from their past now frozen in time. We don’t feel most of the beauty around us.
Below is a portrait of my mother’s family that was made in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where they lived when she was 16. The portrait was made not long before her father, Jacob Lebow, died of a pneumonia. Looking into their eyes, I feel who I am for them as their legacy. Look carefully. Five are looking directly into me in this 1927 photograph; five who placed their hearts and sacred trust into my hands. My Aunt Loretta is looking at the flash, which the photographer holds in his hand above his right shoulder. My grandmother is looking at her lost dream of life. (But she did escape death at the hands of her neighbors in what is now, Czech.)
Previously, that is, before my statistical death, I didn’t understand my responsibility to their legacy and didn’t return their gaze. The expression on my maternal grandmother’s face in the photo above sums up a skepticism I felt. I’m comfortable now, with no doubt about my ability to at least see that which is before my eyes so I can return their gaze with my own, equal recognition and acceptance. I own this power. It is who I am.
The shift in my view finds its parallel in my appreciation for the expression and outlook of members of my father’s family as well; people, who for the greatest part, I’ve never known and mostly never met.
People either know who you are or they don’t (and money talks). I’m sensitive to inauthenticity. Gross lies communicate a truth and in-between is dangerous territory. From Sam Myrow, I inherited a thirst for woman and seduction by intention, to excite with a look. And from his ancestors I also obtained an intuitive musical ability, married to my maternal ancestors gifts of the myriad distinctions available in language, form and color.
In ten years time, I shall be as focused on the immediate as I am now, albeit with some new participants, audiences and technologies. My purpose demands that I constantly re-engage with new professional, artistic and personal relationships with both individuals and communities; constantly adding to my knowledge and experience, enriching existing relationships with those with whom I work and play.
Safe and Sound (lyrics)
Madelon met my anger,
by honoring me,
I thought it inauthentic
but she persisted
out of her mind perhaps
to desire my attention…
like thin air, she slipped
past rage and despair to touch my heart,
which in its loneliness, burst-
a zillion sparkling splinters…
And I, not knowing, gathered
them carefully into my hands
to lock them up, where they belonged,
safe and sound.
Echoes of desire
Music Cue: Safe And Sound Music
(The second part (love song) is now a brief sketch.)
Caveats & Rules (Important!)
This web page is an innovation in autobiographical fiction in that it includes links to scripts, designs and planning for a complex media project (Five in Five) as well as the play, Fast Cars & Slow Orgasms from which “Novel 2” derives and a screenplay, It Was Only Sex (formerly, I’ll Do Anything For You; formerly, Dances With Kayaks or American Aboriginals) and other works posted in real time as they are created. Copyright protection applies to everything on this website, including music, original images and words. Please, request permission. If you feel anything is incorrectly attributed, please advise.
A protagonist in this story has a name I myself was known by when my name was changed to Winn, the surname of the master chief my mother had married. I was not only consulted about this marriage but I only found out about it when he showed up at our apartment in Philadelphia, on leave. Remarkable, when I think about it, the fact that I can remember so much detail from my childhood and I do not remember my mother speaking to me about Ed. He just showed up.
I felt from the way she asked me to sign the legal papers that my mother hoped to get rid of anything that reminded her of my father, Samuel Myrow. I used the name, Winn, for a long time. It was difficult at times, when being introduced and people question me about my provenance until I became adept at making up a story the questioner might enjoy. There is no true name of anything or anyone since truth is an outcome of something. A rose by any other name might smell different since perception is in the mind of the beholder.
Experience fuels imagination and self-image is interpretation. Despite the Superior Court of the County of Los Angeles, which sanctified the change of legal name from Myrow to Winn, the self I am cloning here for the sake of virtual immortality, is not a name.
We know Cervantes because of his creation, Don Quixote. We wouldn’t know Cervantes’ name were it for Don Quixote. As in that case, here I am, the author, rather than the protagonist. It’s usually the other way around, as with Felix Krull, this character of my creation has taken over my life. I know him. In his world, I am God. To comprehend my power over him and what shapes my views of him, we share traits given by common genetic code. I write with candor and integrity here about things I might be embarrassed to share with anyone I don’t know well. I feel this is what Dostoevsky and Cervantes did that produced their extraordinary masterpieces in literature and I anticipate pundits and opinions of academics and other would-be biographers and plagiarists.
“Michael Winn is a poster child for survival of childhood alienation. Must we go further? The motherfucker is guilty. Lock him up. Feed him to the pigs. What-ever. But wait! Guilty of what? Why, he’s guilty of being Michael Winn and that’s enough for us, hold the reins while I string him up.”
From this point on, unless otherwise stated, his voice is the voice of the author. I take my leave and retire.
How I was born is a mystery to me, my father wasn’t around at the time. When I asked my mother, from who I either inherited or absorbed a caustic sense of humor, she said something about Outpost Drive near their home on Lookout Mountain Avenue (or v.v.), in Hollywood. Conceived in Hollywood, I was delivered in Chicago by caesarian section in an operating theater of Chicago Lying-In Hospital, where I was first incubated and nourished from a latex nipple. My mother had left my father and was entrained to Philadelphia from Hollywood. Perhaps, disillusionment and betrayal affected her mood, for she detrained in Chicago, where I was saved and she survived but without part of her sexual anatomy, which is another matter she refused to speak of later.
Two weeks after birth, when we arrived in Camden, N.J., this extraordinary woman, my mother, unable to put a household of her own and care for me at the same time, gave me to my married aunt, which was quickly interrupted by her husband on account of her husband’s insistence that my mother take Sam back. If you know my mother, you know this was less likely than electing an honest republican to congress. So I was after a couple weeks, returned to my mother, who was assisted by her mother and otherwise on her own resources to earn a living and care for two small children, thus had little time for me. I now regard my uncle’s stupidity as having as bad an effect as had my father’s willingness to risk my fate by marrying women, which it was his fate to do four times. This kind of parenting leads some to be Adolph Hitler, Dick Cheney and ordinary mass murderers.
My brother, older by 3 years, although bonded with our mother, must have suffered psychological trauma of a disappearing father that I’m sure explains his personality. Unfortunately for me, he was the adult male in the household and a ruthless sibling rival at the same time. He wasn’t thinking of the effects this would have on me and for some reason she put us for a short time in a Dickensian board and care home, where the other children had no family, had learned to say to each other, “we are orphans”. Only if it happened to you would you understand what it means for a child to be told to consider himself without parents or perhaps, anything? My brother convinced me that eating or drinking would be deadly and so I didn’t. The appearance of a hunger strike by a toddler led to leaving the place. My brother is resourceful and intelligent, he is likely to know the right path our of town. He stayed with my mother and I was taken to a more humane boarding home, where I felt so alone that I cried till exhaustion overtook me and detached me from feeling.
Our mother did her best to survive in a less than perfect situation, her affection for me, when available, was authentic and never withheld, if apologetic. Empathy for her gave me strength to survive by placing her under my care, which became the default for my relationships. I had neither knowledge nor experience and was forced to rely on intelligence and intuition and so developed a myriad resources for exploring the unknown. Thus, I’m comfortable with the unknowable unknown and I fear the known.
When I was three years old, I was living with my mother in my grandmother’s flat above her men’s clothing store on Kaighns Avenue in Camden. My mother worked days at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. My grandmother occupied with the trade, I wandered out into the streets, where I discovered I could board city buses unnoticed by the drivers. The marquis above the windshield of a bus that stopped at the corner near the store read, “Crosstown”.
The bus roared and rattled, exhaling half-burned diesel in a perambulation of the town of Camden, before crossing the center of the city back to 4th and Kaighns. I was fascinated by everything that appeared in its dingy windows as well as people getting on the bus, dropping coins into the glass box by the driver, through which he could see the correct amount before spinning them around to drop sorted into their proper slots. Passengers moved aft, sitting in open seats or hanging from straps as the bus lurched back into traffic. I kept a low profile in the last pew wondering about them as they got on and off the bus. I did this everyday until one day my mother apparently came home from work early. Distraught at my absence, she was amazed to see me climb down from the bus under the watchful gaze of the driver, with who I was by now on a first name basis. Her conversation with the bus driver was the only time in my life I witnessed her unrestrained wrath.
Alienating circumstances of birth and childhood are not unusual in urban culture, so common in Shakespeare’s and Cervantes’ time as to be not worth mentioning. In cupidic, capitalist political cultures, without communal ownership of children, its more likely. Since, we have no communal ethic about nurturing children we don’t consider our own, the idea that it takes a village to raise a child is nothing more than a nice idea. Meanwhile, how many of them grow up feeling unworthy of love?
Its not my field but alienation must be present for suicides as well as the reality that leads others to become mass murderers and to take comfort in authoritarian structures like the military yet its ironic that, in response to acts of random violence and crime by alienated people and the gangs they form to gather a sense of belonging, our society attempts to protect victims after the fact through the justice system, with justice administered by other alienated people who have joined a sanctioned gang, called, the police. This approach sacrifices more victims every year than the total of ritual sacrifices in archeological history.
Today, it is the fashion to cash in on revealing oneself as a participant in taboo lifestyles and exaggerated forms of mental illness: My Life As A Depressed Transexual Misogynistic Prostitute, written by doctor of cardiac medicine and tantric sex consultant, Elizabeth “Fran” Gerbelheim, MD, Phd, DCM, etc., founder of Polyamorists Unanimous, LLC.
In my coming out, however, I’m giving a voice and a face to something far more universal and shameful that affects everyone in this culture, no matter what sex games they enjoy or fear. I am declaring my sense of alienation in this cultural wasteland, far more personally than Cocteau’s safely distant, Imposteur, more excruciatingly topical than Ionesco’s Hermit, more down-to-earth than Thomas Mann’s Felix Krull, more honestly self-deprecating than the narrator of Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground, more exasperated by years of silence than Carson McCuller’s Antonapoulos and infinitely more complex than Nathaniel West’s Homer Simpson. In doing this, I’m sacrificing everything to free the alienated character from the stranglehold of self-conception.
In classic literature, we are moved by the tragedy of alienated protagonists wounded, dying in their traces, their voices stilled… There, I refuse to go without a struggle.
Furthermore, in view of the fact that most potential readers (assuming the future finds its way back to literacy from the current idiocy of pablum media and there are still readers) have no access to capable psychiatric medicine beyond SRIs and such, I decided to find my own way about alienation without the support of psychotherapy. Those who are uncomfortable coming out about something as simple as sexual orientation couldn’t tolerate the stigma of alienation because for them, their community defines their identity. This is ironic when the highest value of the community is independence. How many times have I seen the would-be alien on the street corner, holding his flimsy cardboard? He’s a pretender, someone who pretends to be left out, when he is very much a part of it.
Today, anyone who feels insecure about their grasp on reality can buy a certificate by taking Cliff notes courses offered at community colleges or, providing you have access to the internet, one of the popular accredited online university scams. Intelligent, well- informed psychotherapy is impossible to find even if your medical insurance pays for it, which is unlikely in America. However, to get this kind of support means admitting to a stigmatizing mental weakness that becomes public knowledge at the drop of a litigation attorney’s mercenary scruples, and you’re eventually outed one way or the other.
In lieu of professional psychotherapy some people find shoulders to cry on or company-loving suffering in addiction groups, religious organizations or with homeopathic practitioners, all of whom may actually attenuate your experience of alienation and may keep you from offing yourself for awhile. And if you enjoy listening to touching stories, sincere affirmations of love and hugs at AA meetings or if religious rituals get you going, its easy to find a soft warm blanket but no cure. I offer here a cure for the malaise such that you will never again take comfort in the big sleep, because you will have no need for it.
The hardest part is the easiest part as well: to surrender into the unknowable unknown. Only then can you recognize the angels that came to you with surprising regularity. You can tell who they are because they are the ones that never want anything in return. These angels are almost everywhere and though they often take the form of human beings, sometimes they hide themselves within other species of both animals and plants and strangely enough, rocks, bodies of water and thin air.
Latest Post (Quixote at the Orgy)
Fact or Fiction
This is a gallery of digital cave drawings, observations from which you might gain insights. They will be important to digital archeologists some day, assuming the species survives its enchantment with technology. If reincarnation and karma so elect, I may come upon these words and ideas myself someday…
“Why should I leave this green-floored cell,
Roofed with blue air, in which we dwell,
Unless, outside its guarded gates,
Long, long desired, the unearthly waits,
Strangeness that moves us more than fear,
Beauty that stabs with tingling spear,
Or Wonder, laying on one’s heart
That finger-tip at which we start
As if some thought too swift and shy
For reason’s grasp had just gone by?”
-C.S. Lewis, An Expostulation (Against too many writers of science fiction)
I aspire to write, not in the style but with the same outlook as Carson McCullers’ but with the mad depth of Dostoevsky, clear fantasy of Eugene Ionesco, imagination of Kurt Vonnegut. My personality is like Gene Wilder’s had he suffered a tad more abuse as a child. My vision of theater is like Peter Brook’s if he had the political sense of Jonathan Swift, the desperation of Jean Genet and the dramatic pride of Richard Wagner. My soul as well as hers was validated by Virginia Carr’s biography of Carson McCullers.
My past and present projects evolved from many directions, some quickly, others over years. When stopped from going for what I really wanted, I have served others in projects over which I had no feeling of ownership and sometimes honestly felt were poorly informed. In my process, there are times of organization in which sketches are “penciled in” and times when scenes rain down to fill an outline, headfirst, flopping around on the page like fish out of water until calmed into sensibility. There will be typos. A story is emerging on these pages, at first, naked and rough hewn and it may grow, transform, morph in time and space, move away and come closer, even disappear entirely.
“Stories, like music, blossom in the soul.” — Carson McCullers
Latest Post (Quixote at the Orgy)
I. The Silence
During the summer of 2009, for four and one half months, I lived in a forest, several miles from the nearest town, at the confluence of two tributaries of a river that drained a watershed that encompassed about fifty square miles of mostly redwood forest, with a scattering of madrone, fir, bay, tannoak and a variety of other species consistent with a second growth sequoia forest. Living with me in this forest, was my dog and companion, a very large for his species, un-neutered Pomeranian, who knew himself as Bear and a great mountain lioness that occasionally allowed me to see her crossing a rutted logging road 50 yards ahead of me and gracefully disappearing into the forest again, extending the full length of her body to ascend a vertical hillside.
Growing up, I was never in touch with the geologic characteristics of my world. In my undergraduate days at Long Beach State College, where I mainly read literature, philosophy and history, competed for the school in inter-collegiate forensics and wrote and produced radio plays, I was required by some rule of the university, to take as “elective” science subjects. On a whim, I decided to study geology after walking out of a medieval literature class unable to stand from laughter inspired by images evoked by medieval poets, when I drew cartoon of them peopled with classmates, instructors, parents and others in my life. I was astounded to discover the texture of my real geological world both topographically, in terms of the natural and archeological history, present and future of the place, and effects on physical substance created by the elementary principles of the physical universe that Einstein talked about. I was an “outsider” a liberal arts geek among science and engineering geeks, I absorbed science subjects before I got the impact of the alienation of modern urban living from our underlying natural habitat: that urban living tends to makes people aware of nature as memories, images, sunset photos or the mysteriously mutating shapes created by lighting, a nature present in an ice storm or suddenly impacted by a mountain overlook and so on. I didn’t realize how the daily focus of urban existence had trained me to experience nature this way, nor did I suspect that intimacy, as part of my nature, would be included.
Mostly, I only felt her presence. Once, when I entered a clearing, an old logging outpost known to locals as “Poison Oak”, my heart skipped a beat and brave as he was, Bear looked to me for reassurance. From the forest floor I extracted a solid branch about seven feet long and four inches thick. Choosing one of the younger redwoods in a typical regrowth circle around the stump of a harvested giant, I swung the stick against the trunk to make the entire length of the tree produce a low-pitched percussive sound that reverberated in the valley of the river. With a slow regular cadence, I repeated this, as Bear sat silently watching nearby. With all my heart, I prayed she’d hear my till-the-death commitment to stand beside my friend. Then I put down the stick signed to Bear that he should follow and quietly walked out of the camp and down the road without a backward glance. I knew exactly when she capitulated, that she respected my relationship with Bear as she would her own cub, that she accepted our presence and from that moment on, granted us our space in peace. Then I knew her as an ally I trusted and I respected her needs as my own, which was important because my job in the forest that summer was to oversee, for CalFire, the deportment of every human being that camped for days, weekends or weeks within a 32 mile perimeter, upwards of 250 people every day, for four months. This density meant that it was possible to see and speak to no one if I so desired.
(Narrative centered around the City of Fort Bragg in Mendocino County.)
“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned…” William Congreve, Zara, Act III
A series of events precipitated my writing this history. One morning, two years after I’d left the forest to live among urban village dwellers at Pacific Beach in Tijuana del Norte, I woke up realizing that on a previous day, I’d spoken to a woman near my motorhome, which I’d parked at Campland By The Bay. I didn’t recognize her as the lover I’d been in love with. Does fluid bonding end when the form of a relationship changes? Perhaps, it remains until another set of perceptions attaches to that site and if we don’t hook up, it remains in stasis. The theory of polyamory is based on replacement therapy. Her appearance hadn’t changed since I’d last seen her, which was in the garden of my home, six years previously on the occasion of my mother’s wake. A sad affair. She was in tears, I was in shock.
I didn’t realize that it was was my former lover that I’d spoken with until the following morning, when the look of confusion I’d seen in her face awakened me. The last time I saw her, I participated with her in cheating on her husband. But I didn’t think of him this way at the time. At the time, she was still mine and he, just another side road she had taken. When I found out later, when she told me who he was, I left but I didn’t forgive her for involving me in doing exactly what I most disliked about her. Thinking of her now, in the dawn of memory brings up images of our first meeting, road trips, conversations, glimpses of her eyes, watching me, parts of her body I enjoyed, arousing me. I feel the touch of her fingers on my face and back, the friction of the little cotton socks she wore to bed against my skin, her scent, quiet breathing, melodic laughter, voice and rhythm of her speech, her red-painted toes, fine hair, brushing my forehead as she leans over me, sliding her labia onto my penis drawing me in with her breath… Did she know I didn’t recognize her? She’d know why I’d have a neurotic reaction of amnesia or at least, prefer not to acknowledge her for she watched my world fall apart, even gave a little nudge…
I have a good memory, you need that to write, even from imagination since it takes longer to write something than to think it, you’re alway ahead of yourself. For some reason It seemed inconceivable that I wouldn’t recognize her. I would have let it go but the idea nudged me into thinking about why I’d prefer to not recognize her. I began to write these thoughts into my journal and then, unbid images, feelings and words we’d spoken to each other bubbled to the surface in dreams.
Sometimes, I imagine a reader. A landscape is like a love poem. Sometimes, I can’t write without imagining a reader. Other times I am myself my reader. Talking to myself about this, I imagined my former fiancée and it felt like challenging fate or at least putting my hand in the fire. I went out in my kayak. I took a long, hot shower, made a cup of hot tea, sat in the passenger chair at the front of the motorhome and, looking out over the bay, I began to reveal in writing, the experience of forgetting her and things I’d “forgotten” began to show up, as if illuminated behind a scrim. There was much I’d buried away.
My kayak buddy, D, laughed at me and said “She’s not worth remembering, letting you go, she doesn’t deserve being remembered.” Although our friendship isn’t intimate and we both identify as cisgender male, D describes himself as bisexual. I empower only my sexual response to women. We share a sense of humor and a love for being alone on a kayak in the ocean. It is natural for him to empathize with me and to flatter my ego. I think he sees us as a celibate couple, while I see us as good friends. But he was dead wrong about how things in the past can imprison us until we’re able to understand and forgive.
I held myself responsible for failing with her, as if I wasn’t good enough. My inability to talk about sex wasn’t addressed. I was unable to ask for what I wanted or talk about what bothered me and my resistance to communication about jealousy made it impossible to end the relationship. I identify with McCuller’s character, John Singer in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, a man who is unable to speak and everyone loves him because he listens.
It wasn’t her fault that I’d survived childhood abuse by burying past experience. If my brother ridiculed me for masturbation and locked me in a dark closet when my mother had left us in the care of our grandmother had been isolated incidents or there had been some healthy avenue of communication, these incidents wouldn’t be foundational. Only when I saw how my brain had excised S from my conscious memory, did I understand the mechanism by means of which, I protected myself from emotion that memories of past experience would evoke and that I chose to follow a thread that reveal these sacred memories meant I had no idea what would show up when I lifted the veil and of course, I wondered if I’d distinguish what had
“No use crying over spilt milk”, she said, which since I would then try to imagine this, thinking, “what are you talking about, mother?” and I was told this meant to put the past behind and focus on the future. This analogy messed with my head. “Tomorrow is a new day!” And so I survived my brother by suppressing embarrassing memories and became good enough at it to not even recognize a woman I’d loved and admired when she stood in front of me, with her mouth open and sounds coming out. When I saw this, it was like suddenly becoming aware I’d been under a hypnotic suggestion, as if Svengali had said, “When I snap my fingers, you will open your eyes and you will remember everything…” I asked my doctor for a referral to a psychotherapist. Instead, he pronounced me healthy as a horse and prescribed viagra, regular tests for STIs and daily applications of testosterone.
The incident with S happened while I was writing a screenplay about sex that was scheduled for submittal a few months later. Writing narrative requires intuitive thinking and subconscious resources. Ideas often come to me as I awaken in the morning or in dreams or day-dreaming, when I’m voyaging on the ocean in my kayak, far from shore. In the screenplay, I’d created several characters, one of which is the ex-wife of one of the male characters and he runs into her in an online webcam chatroom. I hadn’t thought about S in creating this character that I drew from a webcam model I met on MFC.
In a play, you must have conflict. As I wrote the conversation between the webcam model and her ex-husband, I began to remember incidents in my relationship with S and I saw things I hadn’t paid attention to at the time and recalled times when I’d accepted her outright lies at face value, as if a post hypnotic suggestion had rendered me unable to see. I was curious to know if I’d seen some of these things or perhaps, imagined them.
Thinking back to the beginning of our relationship, I recalled that just a few days after our first thrilling night of wonderful sex, about which she later said, “I felt like you owned me,” I dropped by her house at the wrong time and was was greeted at the door by her son, who was casually friendly with me when he was young, no doubt out of pity.
“I wouldn’t go up there now, if I were you.”
I assumed, incorrectly, that they’d had another argument. “Why not?”
“Oh, I just wouldn’t, but suit yourself.”
I went up the carpeted stairs of the two story condo and knocked softly on the bedroom door, which was locked from the inside.
I heard her voice say something inaudible then louder. “Can you wait just a minute?”
“Sure.” A few minutes later, her voice called to me again. “Ok.”
“I would but the door’s locked.”
“No, it isn’t.”
She was under the covers in bed when I came in and welcomed me with open arms. I started to remove my shoes.
“Is something wrong?”
“Would you please, do me a favor.”
“I’d really appreciate if you could go to the store and get something for me.”
“Of course. Whatever you want.”
“Are you sure you don’t mind?”
“No, I don’t mind. What do you need?”
I recall details of this incident, her momentary glance at the closet door that should have given the man hiding in her closet away. It wasn’t that love had blinded me, it was that my brain wouldn’t allow me to see what I would not want to see. A snap of Svengali’s fingers.
As things seemed to get better between us, this habit of deception continued as she took more and more advantage of my weakness, eventually, risking what should have been impossible deceptions, perhaps, curious to see just how far she could go or how easy it was to lie to a man who trusted her. She introduced me to a man she described as “Uncle Johnny”. Now I know Johnny was her mother’s boyfriend, when she started doing him, and the reason that the father of her first son demanded a DNA test. Perhaps, he had been her first experiment. Her lies were destructive. To challenge her, I’d have to admit to myself exactly what I didn’t want to know and this had the effect of distancing me from my own feelings and experience.
Now I wondered, why did she want to hold onto me, wouldn’t let me go, emotionally, not even after she had married another man? What did she get that was worth the harm? It didn’t occur to me then to imagine that she was as much in love with me as I was with her.
One bright, sunny afternoon S came into my house, slamming the door, shouting, “your brother is a bastard! An asshole!” The brother, who had locked me in a cabinet, I’d now compare poorly to a pit viper but how did she know since I never mentioned it? When I asked why she was at his house and what had happened, she said “its not important” and changed the subject. She’s adept at distraction. Now, when this incident emerged from my memory, I sent an email to my brother, who lives now in Seattle.
“Dear J, I’d like to know what happened at your home that afternoon, between you and S. Why did she come into my home, shouting, “your brother is an asshole!”
After a few days, he hadn’t answered my email, so I repeated the request. We don’t communicate that often and he’d usually respond within a a day or two.
“Dear J, I trust you are well and everything is ok? Would you, please, tell me what you remember about what happened between you and S that day. It’s important to me.”
Another week passed, then I received this terse response, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Don’t bring it up again or I won’t open your email again.”
I was reluctant to call S. I didn’t know what I’d done to justify her hostility but I was well aware of it. But I was determined to clarify areas of my memory it seemed were blocked, regardless of emotional pain. So I dialed her number and she answered.
“Hello, S, this is Michael.”
A long moment of silence.
“What do you want?”
My throat and chest constricted. I felt small. I heard my thin voice, not being straight about my feelings.
“I’m trying to understand why I didn’t recognize you the other day. You could tell me about some things that might help me sort it out.”
“We have nothing to talk about. You’re not in my life.”
Rejection compressed my skull, my face, drawing my shoulders in to my chest, like a noose around my throat. Struggling to breathe, I struggled to defend what remained of my heart, while at the same time, it didn’t occur to me to imagine that her struggle was identical to my own, that she loved me and since I couldn’t imagine that, I was completely lost. Reflecting on it, she could have said it, right there, and put an end to our estrangement but neither of us understood this.
“I know I’m not in your life now,” I said, “but I don’t know why you’re angry.”
“That’s none of your business now. That opportunity is over. Done. Gone.”
Momentum carried me on. I had no hope so argued from reason and fairness, which was my forte.
“It is my business. You can tell me something that’s important to me. You owe me that.” This in fact was much more true than I understood at the time.
“Ok, like, what? What do you want to know? Make it quick.”
I stopped breathing, literally. Triggered again into anger by her anger. I couldn’t think. I came from an impossible place in which I had no cards left to play, completely at her mercy, thrown to the ravenous wolves. Instead of asking why she hated me, which I was reluctant to hear or even acknowledging how sad I was about not recognizing her when I saw her or how much she had meant to me, I thought only of the issue that led me to call her and my brother’s response had already loaded a real or imagined bomb about an intimate relationship she’d had with him, which was a most hurtful betrayal.
And, in perfect time with this, she said, “What do you want to know?”
“What happened at my brother’s house, the day you came into my house cursing him? At the time, you said, ‘never mind’ and changed the subject. What happened with him?”
Silence. I waited. Her words were exactly what my brother had written to me in his email, warning me off a week before.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
She enunciated these words as if reading from a copy he had sent to her, thereby adding exclusion to the experience of jealousy. She prides herself on remembering details.
Speaking into the maelstrom of my emotions, she said, “I have something your mother gave me that I feel should belong to your daughter. If you give me her address, I’ll send it to her.”
My dignity lying about me in tatters, regretting that I had called, nothing left inside but frayed emotions, she gave me the choice of maintaining a connection, while torturing me with the idea that I meant so little to her that she preferred to return something to my daughter, an offense to fairness. The obvious idea that her only motivation stemmed from her love for me that I hadn’t acknowledged escaped me and like a bull in a corrida, I lowered my head and approached the toreador’s up-raised hand.
“After five years, you’re returning something?”
“You only think of yourself,” she said.
“Your mother stole $35,000 from me, why not return that to my daughter?”
After I calmed down, I re-dialed to tell her to keep whatever it is my mother had gifted to her but her husband answered and proceeded to make prideful if unpleasant noises.
Then I deleted my brother’s contact information from my address book and all our correspondence, stopping at erasing his photographs for possible historical purposes awaiting the day of his death but the subconscious process of writing the screenplay brought up incidents involving him, showing up in dreams or when thinking about male characters in the story, I saw distrust, not affinity, had shaped my view of men in general. I recalled that recently, he’d said to me, “we didn’t have a childhood.” He didn’t remember what he’d done. He says he has no memory of his childhood, a convenience, I’m sure.
Understanding what had happened with my brother and S that afternoon peeled back a lid over other events involving her, some pleasant but most not. I’d suppressed all the experiences involving her infidelity. After I made a list, I saw there was practically no place we ever went together, where she wasn’t afraid her cover would be blown. But until I allowed myself to see what had happened, I couldn’t begin the process of forgiving myself. It was not until I saw how S had been involved with my brother in the assisting the suicide of my mother, who was approaching her hundredth birthday, when she died, that I understood finally what she and my brother had hidden from me.
If you are interested in S and would like to know her, I would as well and you understand my attraction but not why she was attracted to me, nor why she didn’t just go away, wouldn’t let me go, not even after she married, nor why she was close to my mother. I could have been anyone else. It wasn’t personal. It was genetic. I understand there are sex workers, called tantric consultants now, that are serving specifically those who enjoy submission and role play. But what is submission? What is role play if not the fashion industry. For S, cheating in a relationship was merely payback for experiences with older males in her own childhood. It isn’t coincidental that my mother’s love for me was tinged by her hatred of my father. She was perfect.
Jump to: Don Quixote at The Orgy
III. Hello, This Is Your Memory Calling
I admit that I was pre-occupied writing the screenplay, when I saw and didn’t recognize the former lover. I can recall the moles and freckles on her skin. A few months later, with the first draft of the screenplay submitted, a problem in the rewrite compelled me to unearth the history leading to my leaving Del Mar and the relationship with S. It was the motivation and character of the male protagonist in the play that seemed hidden from me. In that history, an absurdity about the circumstances of my mother’s death begged my attention: the county coroner had written in block of the certificate for cause of death, “cracked pelvis”. My mother would appreciate the humor. Who dies of a cracked ass?
On the other hand, the fiasco that was called my relationship resolved into a complete dual reality. After the surgery, I had drifted that far away. Before the surgery, there was merely confusion, after there was depressing certainty.
In the all to foreseeable future, an earthquake of stupendous proportions rocks Southern California activating on all major faults. Downtown San Diego is shaken into liquefaction. Near the western end of Pt. Loma, opposite the peninsular end of Coronado, pipelines carrying aviation fuel from storage tanks above the submarine base to Lindbergh field burst apart sending millions of gallons of fuel into the bay where it ignites.
A coal dark cloud of half spent petroleum turns day into night, droplets coagulate making the air over the city into a volatile cloud. Two tugs try to maneuver two nuclear submarines away from the burning docks. San Diego bay is a growing island of aviation fuel, reaching out toward the pleasure boat marinas and the remains of the wharf downtown where are docked the harbor ferries, two huge cruise ships and the USS Midway, while opposite these vessels are docked to enterprise class carriers.
A strange this is happening, water draining out of the narrow mouth of the harbor mouth in a current 15 to 20 knots, carries, blending together the vegetables stirred in a stew, the two tugs and submarines, piers and dozens of yachts large and small in a headlong rush towards the Coronados. Ships hung briefly on quays before they collapsed into the mud floor of the harbor over which a few fish floundered in puddles. Buildings close to Shelter Bay slide into the an empty barren valley of mud over which the bridge to Coronado still arcs without its ramps.
The wave crests 200 ft above mean sea level, throwing burning fuel and most of the vessels kidnapped minutes before by the sea, catapults all into the glass and steel structures that formed the skyline. Coronado, inundated, the ruins of the famed hotel floating toward Guam. For a good view minutes, before the water began to move the other way with nearly as much force, there was a chance for some of the lives that floated there and for footings of man buildings that, as the water receded, allowed them to lean to precarious angles, some falling into flaming brine.
A nuclear submarine brought in by the wave, ploughs into one of the ammunition storage bunkers on Coronado, beginning a chain reaction of munitions explosions, releasing rockets and torpedoes in the direction of the submarine base, San Diego, Chula Vista, Rosarito and Guam, some equipped with automatically armed heat-seeking targeting devices , guiding them into helicopters and ships attempting rescues.
The electrical grid is in a shambles, water mains are cut, sewers leaking waste, highways and roads unusable with great crevices and crumbling bridges and pavement. While public safety employees wrestle with the problem created by the unwalkable approach to development , local people who had no expectation of immediate assistance clean out markets drugstores and the stocks of arms and ammunition found in gun dealers and eventually, police stations
Within one week, amidst numerous after-shocks, residents in rural areas and neighbors in middle class neighborhoods in Chula Vista, La Mesa, Scripps Ranch and other places,are building armed defensive perimeters but they can’t withstand the numbers of better-armed marauders, who, rather than war against each other, seek to add uncontested territory and thus accrete into larger groups that systematically liberate everything of value within them and eliminate anyone in the way with impunity.
A similar political development occurs in and around Tijuana and Tecate, which is much better organized, composed, as it is of those who detested the previous system, glad to see it dismantled. Eventually, except for pockets of stoners and sex fetishists who could care less, there are two groups, one on each side of the border fence strategizing organizing. What to do? What to do about water? What to do about food? Etc.
As the U.S. military assembles an expeditionary force at Camp Pendleton, with the intention of reclaiming the military presence in San Diego, an after shock off the charts opens a fissure off San Onofre and the shut-down reactors both roll down into the submarine canyon, from where they begin to vent a plume of cautionary steam. The military evacuates Carlsbad, Oceanside, Camp Pendleton, San Clemente, Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano. Coastal North County takes a hit off a bong.
Acting independently, at San Ysidro and near Jamul, the dominant forces in San Diego and Tijuana begin to dismantle what remains of the border fence after the earthquake. When the leaders of the two groups join hands, they complete the destruction of the border fence together…
I hadn’t understood my brother’s involvement with my mother’s death plan. Of course, she wouldn’t inform me about it, I wouldn’t have let her go, she wasn’t in pain and had forever been a chronic complaint but I knew that to be talk. I didn’t know that she had arranged with my brother to give an advance directive to a hospital, that should she show up there, they would know to call him and not me although I was her official health advocate, she lived with me and he was in Seattle and took no responsibility for her, except apparently for her death. And in any case, at this point in my life, because I knew she wouldn’t be with us longer, I’d let her become the most important person in my life.
So it is that one day, when she cracked her pelvis, I couldn’t understand why she was so frantic about not going to the hospital for treatment. The reason is that she had planned to go at a time of her choosing and hadn’t allowed for an accidental fall. I understand now that she planned to do this without telling me but not until after meeting with S for a last time. She’d never been reluctant about medical treatments before and her resistance was inexplicable. When I asked her why it was such a problem for her to go to the hospital, instead of telling me truth, she said it was because she had a lunch date with S the next day but there was no reason why she couldn’t leave the hospital and they could lunch at the hospital. It made no sense for I suspected nothing. An obstinate woman, she was willing to die rather than tell me the truth and she just hadn’t thought it through.
When a resident physician said to me, “your mother is tired of living,” I thought he was rude and callous. What would you think? She had all her marbles. I understand how death can seem a reasonable alternative. I’ve been there–in Spades. As I get older, I’m getting more comfortable that it may be an attractive choice especially opposed to the slow death so many people choose with cigarettes, drugs and alcohol. But I have long wanted to ask Ernest Hemingway and Marilyn Monroe, who both made a clear choice about the quality of life.
So I had no idea what was up when a nurse called me at three in the morning and told me my mother had left her bed and was frantic and trying to get home. Possibly, she decided that she didn’t want to die at the last moment? When the nurse asked me for permission to give her a medication to help her rest, I wondered why on earth she should call me about something so obviously simple. Of course, why not? I didn’t question it. “Are you absolutely certain?” she said. She didn’t tell me that she was calling me after she had called my brother because she noticed that she was legally obligated to call me as well since I had signed the admission forms.
The nurse said, “are you sure you want me to give her this medication?”
“To help calm her nerves? Yes.”
My brother and S both knew about my mother’s plan but I’m not sure that S knows I wasn’t aware of it. I was the guardian and advocate of my mother’s well-being. I took care of her. She lived on a property I rented for her and paid for. When the hospital then told me she was dying, I was puzzled when I called my brother that night and asked him to come be with us and he said, “I expected that. No, we’ve already said, goodbye.” What? It wasn’t worth his trouble? I was losing the person who had become the most important relationship in my life. He was noticing the time.
The following morning, in response to my demands, the hospital made some blood tests to identify what was happening to her and an endocrinologist told me openly that the drug they’d given causing her organs to shut down. A physician friend told me to ask them to give her an antidote and to my relief, she returned to life but only for a few hours. My friend explained that the body doesn’t metabolize the toxin before the affect of the antidote wears off but for awhile she was back and we spent some quiet hours together.
Her last words to me at the hospital that night were, “I’m sorry, for the hell I’m putting you through.” I didn’t know what she was talking about. What was she putting me through? I had no idea. When she died, I called my brother as I left the hospital, his lack of emotion contrasted sharply with the feeling of loss as I left the hospital in shock. He had “too much to do” and didn’t show up at a memorial I held at our home.
S said, “did you know we were to have lunch together today?”
A lunch date? My mother was dead! A misunderstanding.
I didn’t recognize S that day but the reason troubled me although the riddle of my mother’s death was solved. I’d felt responsible for her dying by medical incompetence. I was puzzled by my brother’s apparent indifference, insulted by the inexplicable anger S showed me. I’m at least informed now, that my mother had set this up with her typical obstinance, and when she pulled the trigger by cracking her pelvis, obstinately refused to either tell me or to go back on a promise she’d made to herself. She really did die of a cracked ass, just as the doctor wrote on the Coroner’s Report. Rest in peace, mother, you know I love you and you love me. God is good.
IV. Shifting Gears
As I started to write this, I imagined myself to be the author of my own works and I supposed Miguel de Cervantes to be. Attributing the story of Don Quixote to Cide Hamete Benengeli was more than a theatrical convention. The story is always the same. I didn’t know I would write a truth I didn’t know when I began.
Memories are not interpretations of recollections of events that included emotion, anticipation, judgment, rationalization and motivations, for all of these things are interpretations of experience we recognize in sense images. Decisions about a remembered event, made at the time, leave us with a synthesis of what was there, what happened and something imagined should be there in places out of sight. Reality remembered is reality experienced through these filters of interpretation. Everything we believe we have experienced is but one of all possible views, the particular view our brain allows based on a plethora of irrational considerations. I can’t authentically assert any view but that brains record what is true for us and there’s more to learn from what I don’t remember than from what I recall. This makes me curious to look beneath, around and between my own stories.
Cervantes explained, in his introduction to his novel, that he found the history of Don Quejano’s transformation in a dusty manuscript found in a Toledo bookstall, an account written by a Moor named Cide Hamete Benengeli. We know Cervantes by his invention of Don Quixote, yet he attributed his story to a source who is the kind of person who could have walked in places he might have seen.
I stumbled into a conundrum out of which I could not logically climb and only get the best of by acknowledging the hand of God. There’s no explanation for many things that have happened to me. On five occasions, I should have died. Cervantes’ attribution of Benengeli was more than a convention of his time by means of which he distanced himself from potentially dangerous ideas. For thousands of years writers have written stories about people who felt their lives were ordered by fate. No one can say our destiny is not cast at or before birth: Mann’s Felix Krull, Cocteau’s L’imposteur, Melville’s Ahab, Ionesco’s Hermit. The Mahabharata.
We do not see it because we are confused by the power of economics. Obsessed with indoor plumbing, orbiting satellites, fast cars and living better electrically. Genius is sometimes profitable but profit requires patents and copyright, which attributes invention to circumstances. But the reasons why we do this and not that? Fear this and love that? Why we are individually as we are,? That really is in DNA. The reason that leads to innovation, though we appear to be motivated by practical needs that have nothing to do with how the world shows up for us, is located in a notion of ownership; the kingdom of heaven shows up if we can just let that go.
Imagine: Of all known tangible beings in this universe, only you are privileged to see the universe, privileged to see stars as stars, something hidden even from the stars.
We are also privileged to see It. Maybe other creatures see It as well but we haven’t yet found a way to learn from them, what they know of it.
In the universe, only you feel the passion of existence, exquisite in the apprehension of mortality.
Suicide? Ultimate resignation. It’s a simple misunderstanding..
The obstacle is convenient explanations.
In the innocence of earlier times, before scientific reality was invented, our fantasies of God in the image of man were given names: “the Christ”, “Allah”, “the un-namable” in support of political hierarchies. Misconstruing symbols for things to which they allude, sects and cults (political organizations) invented fantastic histories of demons, heaven, gods and hell, while in peer-reviewed studies, engineers began to describe in detail, the “elegance of creation”, algebraic epigrams as sacrosanct as other religious symbols. (Stephen Hawkings now sees the value of assisted suicide.)
In truth, personal consciousness begins with genetic inheritance influenced by the community in which the individual becomes aware of itself and is then modified by experience. To get out of prison, we are told, Cervantes wrote and sent the first book of Don Quixote’s adventures to his publisher. Any notion of copyright was heresy then, since God creates, not man and, when other writers published their own adventures of Cervantes’ fictional character, Don Quixote, to protect his franchise, Cervantes had to write the second volume of adventures, and in doing so, he could not attribute this to Benengeli, which meant that Don Quixote spoke for himself, beginning by denouncing the “liars” for their false histories. Quixote, himself the invention of Quejano, possibly the invention of Benengeli, acts in life. This innovation gave us the novel and cinema derives from the novel.
It is not necessary to anthropomorphize a god to see how privileged we are to see the immensity of existence. I didn’t plan to be here or to write this. Fortune provided the opportunities I followed. The talent for art is a gift. At times when I thought to direct my life, to choose the person I’ve become, I would envision my future self and set goals. Always, unrecognizable opportunities showed up and pre-occupied with such diversions, I declined other opportunities that better fit my undeclared desires. What of them?
A painting evokes the world of its subject; a painting is a fiction. I’m the fiction given by my particular being and experience, including failures and successes: all of it makes it possible for me to see and feel the passion of existence as I have; as I do.
V. Site Navigation
You can find sections of this page in the links in the next paragraph. Above right, you will find links to articles. If you find a heading for a section, chapter or story not yet uploaded, there should be a by-when date. I may address it earlier on request.
I Came Back, Habitat, Co-Habitants, Political Values, Myth, Misdeeds, All Politics Is Local, Core (Cultural) Values, Objectives In Media, Activities & Inspiration, Sexuality, Earlier Priors, Current Artistic Proclivity, Spiritual Convictions, Schedule/Timeline, Talent & Experience, Provenance, or Getting Personal.
To go directly to: The Current Project
To go directly to: Southwind Odyssey
Dedication & Acknowledgement
To to my 10th grade teacher and mentor at Excelsior Union High School in Norwalk, California, Mrs. Juliette Levitsky, who, because she saw the seed of the person I became and supported and nurtured a talent of which I had no awareness at the time. And to Dr. Jack Healy, head of the Radio & TV department at California State University at Long Beach, who was the second person to recognize and support a gifted student who never believed he was gifted and knew for sure he was not worthy, and finally, to Dr. Peter Carr, who opened a door for me to the worlds of Ionesco, Exupery, Brecht, Camus and Joyce, Sterne, Cervantes and that universe of imagination known as literature. But most of all, to my mother, whose last words shall ring, forever, “I’m sorry. I apologize for the hell I’m putting you through. I do love you. Very much.”
Title: I Came Back
Logline: Never turn your back on a log line that sets you free.
Act 1, Scene 1
Sierra Tango Niner, this is Foxtrot 24, would you please, come in.
Sierra Tango Niner, this is Foxtrot 24, would you please, come in.
Sierra Tango Niner, this is Foxtrot 24, I’m feeling kinda down tonight
Would you, please, come in.
Sierra Tango Niner, it seems like years since whispers
Last touched each other’s ears,
Finger tips electrifying neurons in the skin,
Shooting stars. Oh, won’t you please, come in
Foxtrot, this is your Sierra. It is dark out here.
Foxtrot, this is your Sierra, I know not where.
Foxtrot, can you hear me, I can’t bear
Not hearing, seeing, feeling, I’m so blue.
Foxtrot 24, tell me, will we dance
Again beneath November’s moon?
Will it to be soon. Will it to be soon.
Sierra Tango Niner, if you’re out there, please, come in.
Sierra Tango Niner, if you read me, won’t you please, come in.
Sierra Tango Niner, it’s sad to see a universe of stars,
They’re looking all alike, bright shiny lights.
I miss your voice, the gesture of your hair
Brushing my chest, your breath upon my face.
Sierra, are you there? Are you still there?
Foxtrot 24, I am waiting for you here.
Foxtrot 24, this is your Sierra Niner, I am waiting.
Foxtrot 24, this night is longer than the longest day
But if I wait for you forever, it will not matter
There is only you, my love, only my desire…
Foxtrot, this is your Sierra, if you hear this, don’t despair
Foxtrot, I am yours, forever, let the stars repair
Your broken heart and sew my gratitude inside.
I began to write this when I came back from a 5-year journey
along the Pacific coast in a 1973 Southwind motorhome, staying in little towns, from where I hiked the local terrain, acquainting myself with climate, horticulture and other inhabitants. Click “Southwind Odyssey” to see the tour.
I turned the rig south when I awakened from a depression I’d slipped into when I passed out while running on the beach in Del Mar and fell into the sea, not quite drowning…
Constriction of my aortic valve had reduced oxygen supply to my brain as I ran deprived of oxygen, my brain put me to sleep while running and I staggered half asleep into the sea and fell forward. Some seconds later, I woke up on my hands and knees. Water streamed from my nose and mouth and I recognized nothing. The cry of a tern passing overhead began the return of recollection, that accelerated to a sudden impact. It felt like being struck awake into a depressing reality. A few days later, a surgeon replaced the calcified aortic valve with my heart’s pulmonic valve.
The Yamomami, who live along the upper Orinoco River are not immune to depression but its unlikely among them because their values make alienation within a community virtually impossible. Reading Lucretius, I wonder that citizens of ancient Greece were similarly protected. However, depression is typical in the small towns into which I’ve strayed, some as large as Santa Maria (125,000) and Fort Bragg (c. 15,000), CA, and Aberdeen, WA (16,000) and many smaller places in between and beyond, places where writers like Gogol and Kafka would have found rich material for their stories.
How alienation grew within me following the drowning epiphany is understandable if you apply Emmanuel Kant’s remedy, “purity of the heart is to will one thing”. The world around that singular commitment shows up in stark relief, conjures the mythical nature of community, as the Yamomamis culture does purposefully. Unless we respect the myth (those who play well with others are rewarded), seems absurd. I didn’t belong, the context is like the reality of patients in Oliver Sacks’, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.
Whether in a magnificent redwood forest or among people in a close-knit town, I feel alone, yet my interest in others is extraordinary, more tolerant of outcasts.
Everywhere I’ve gone, everyone I’ve met enjoys me and in some cases, they are depressed and many are attenuated by religion, alcohol or other pharmaceuticals, often a co-dependent relationship. Then, there are their children.
Regardless of circumstances (see heading, “Getting Personal“), I was a happy child when I was the age of this little girl (sweet little Ava, who I met in Hoquiam, Washington). Optimism is a forewarning of later depression, fanciful ideas empowered by imagination, even when the worst of all imaginable outcomes is flapping its wings at you. I stayed afloat, perhaps by the grace of God.
A period of severe depression began with the confrontation with my mortality on the beach the day when I fell unconscious into the sea but it deepened rather than being ameliorated by relationships through the surgery and after.
On the right here, there’s a picture my father may have made of my brother and I, when I was three or four years old, when I didn’t know he was my father nor any experience of what “father” means.
My only sibling at that time, was the aforementioned brother, three years before me which made him the older male in our household.
Our mother, having little time after working nine or ten hours was unaware he had convinced her that I lie. On one occasion my right eye was permanently injured. I learned stealth and distrust from him and decided to hide my talent. I felt, however, that I could never win.
In the second grade at the WASP Simon Muhr Elementary School on Germantown Avenue in North Philadelphia (the Italian Irish Catholics had their own school on Broad Avenue. Avowedly Nazi teachers at Muir accused me of day-dreaming, my mother knew better than to scold me but having to deal with it upset her. She couldn’t explain to the anti-semites about distinctions they didn’t comprehend, like telling a cat about differences between Beethoven and Bach. I was expelled from Simon Muhr and transferred to Gillespie Jr. High School, which was in the “negro” neighborhood, the boundary of which was a couple blocks away. In this school, I was the sole “white” student among a thousand dark-skinned boys who were also much older. I suppose this is why I developed affinity for black people in general, while at the same time, inheriting the language of racism common to urban Jews in America.
Only one person has ever explained my gift to me, Kenny Drew and I didn’t listen.
Dizzy Gillespie introduced us in Copenhagen in 1970. I couldn’t understand how an expatriate black jazz pianist from NYC could say how I’m different in the way I am.
Kenny said. “we like you for your sense of fantasy!”
Dizzy agreed. They both knew me artistically from a feature documentary called, Lard and Grapejuice that I made in collaboration with Anne Webster and Larry Miller about the Isla de Puerto Rico and its past and present residents.
Both Kenny and Dizzy have now passed on and I’ve expressed my talent in a variety of situations and so now I can see the distinction Kenny Drew had made. It looked to him like fantasy but actually, I just describe things I see more than I imagine them. Gertrude Stein made a comment about Picasso that describes this. She said he saw and drew things as they are rather than as the community might inform us, which is more typical. This perception is like autism on a deeper level. The following scene excerpted from The Man Who, Peter Brook’s adaptation of Oliver Sachs book, gives a feel of the experience.
The Man Who: Frontal Lobe 1
A PATIENT is sitting at a table, staring fixedly at an unlit candle. He takes a match from a box beside him, lights it, blows it out. He as bout to light it again when the DOCTOR who had been observing him puts his hand on his arm.
Doctor If you please, don’t light the candle.
Patient Very well
The doctor takes away the matches.
Doctor Do you know where you are?
Patient In hospital.
Doctor You know why your in hospital?
Patient Yes, my son had an accident.
Doctor Your son?
The doctors places the matches close to the patient.
Doctor Wasn’t it you I examined yesterday?
Patient Yes, you fiddled with my ear. I feel much better now. Thank you.
The patient lights a match and moves it toward the candle.
Doctor Didn’t I ask you not to light the candle?
Patient Excuse me. (He blows out the match.)
Doctor I’m going to tap twice on the table, like this.
He does so. The patient at once begins to copy him.
Doctor Wait. I’ll tap twice and you tap once. Yes?
Doctor I tap twice, you once.
Patient Once, yes. (He taps twice.)
Doctor Very well. Since you prefer tapping twice, you’ll go on tapping twice and I’ll tap once. Clear?
Patient Quite clear!
The doctor taps once. The patient also taps once. The doctor makes various gestures, crosses his arms, his legs, stands. The patient does likewise. The doctor puts his hands together in prayer. The patient does likewise.
Doctor Now tell me, why have you put your hands together like this?
Patient Because you asked me to.
Doctor I never asked you anything.
Patient But you did it.
Doctor Yes, but I’ve never asked you to do what I did.
Patient But since you did it, it was obvious.
(Peter Brook’s adaptation allows you to identify with the patient.)
Act 1, Scene 2
People raised in “low income households” in the U.S.,
find it difficult to see unlimited possibilities for their lives, unless this is nurtured at home. I know because I was one of them and for a while, I developed homes that are affordable for about 400 families and met quite a few that way. They would love to live like models in television sitcoms and they are certain they can’t be like them but adopt the values of the models as if they could afford it and judge themselves accordingly. It is only the extent to which they do this, how they judge how they are doing on the success scale that differentiates them from others who have more or less. The world of TV melodrama is uniformly reiterated, not only in narrative fiction, but also, in the uniform, style and manner of speaking about events in news programs. Media reflects a mad mad world.
De-selecting out-of-hand any ideas, words or images that might associate the sponsors’ name with a negative or controversial thought makes censorship unnecessary. As long as a spade can never be called (or shown as) a spade, there is nothing to censor. What remains is a set of values that place economic power above all else, which is consistent with a world in which Horatio Alger is worshiped and at the same time, cut off at the knees.
The myth of money perpetuates its archetypes in media: entrepreneurs are fashionable. To be homo- or bi-sexual is fashionable. It is fashionable to have been poor but not to be poor. Departures from norms of fashion are ridiculed, we want our heroes dressed and groomed. The young in the U.S. are for the most part raised on narratives about demi-heroes, the language and style of whom, peers expect each other to adopt. Something is working to produce an accelerating ratio of mass murders per capita in the U.S.
Looking at similarities of perpetrators rather than their differences, its possible to see a problem in character formation across the board, rather than individual breakdowns. A single incident of mass murder should be more than any community to absorb and yet, media has been reporting crimes of all kinds with a veritable glee of schadenfreud. As a nation, we pay a fortune for policing and prisons and the result is more mass murders. We could do something about this. It isn’t that we don’t know what to do but that there’s no economic benefit from doing anything sensible for those responsible for public safety. Mass murders, prisons, etc., are profitable for the justice industry, which, since 9/11, also happens to include the best-armed and politically protected segment of the population.
We don’t know everything about our brains
but we know from studies done with people who have suffered brain damage, that it is unlikely that anyone at anytime will see anything they didn’t expect to see. It is as if we are normally in a kind of dream of our lives and it startles if we arouse a person from this dream by showing them that something is not as it appears.
When I was making movies with Larry and Anne, I saw something that has been verified by neuroscientists doing studies with the brains of people who have suffered brain injuries. Mental illness looks like something else when you change the frame rate just as time-lapse photography shows you something you can’t see in continuous recording. The intentionality behind the schizophrenic mask of an attorney I hired a few years back, after recording her at 100 fps and projecting at 10 fps, was revealed by slowing the vibrating mask of her presentation to reveal anger and self-loathing she was hiding. More later…
Where I take risks of emotional vulnerability by feeling with intensity that others can’t tolerate, it flash feeds creativity and fantasy is just another way of saying invention but I’ve watched people live lives and die focused on conserving what they’re able to put together, I create something when I need to and challenges become opportunities. I work under pressure. Ethical issues of this capacity concern me and I’m always afraid to fail.
So far, I’ve used this talent in every medium. I attended a middling school which has since become important n the U.S. Only children of wealthy families go to such places; families who can afford to send them to places that nurture talent (whether or not they possess it). The fate for children of less affluence are ridiculed when they don’t conform to the ideals of their many many untalented peers. “Stipends” are available for some but the talented males of poor families are supported in their ambition by peers to become DJs and their parents, often beaten down in life, don’t believe in fanciful possibilities.
Before the drowning incident, I had managed to affect a respectable lifestyle despite my difficulty. During the incident, something happened in my brain. I was unable to distinguish who I am from what I do. The brief period of amnesia that followed my near drowning, had been brilliant and crystal clear, it was as if my eyes had been honed like perfect lenses and not only did I perceive colors in a greater range but also, I was disabused of everything I had absorbed in to my brain. It was just as ecstasy began to envelope me, upon remembering my history, I was stunned, emotionally.
To say our society shamelessly worships money is trite and meaningless. Society is a kind of evil necessary to the success of the species and the nature of society, as a system of complex relationships is also the arena in which art evolved. Society is, however, irrelevant and unnecessary to the actual production of art. Cave drawings exist for us as art but for the people who made them, they were something else. Art is a byproduct of the innate need for experience of relationship, society a product of pragmatic needs.
For a long time, I believed material success would make me feel whole and complete and happy. Money is power that flatters the ego but leads naturally to avarice, rather than satisfaction. When I nearly drowned, my garage was stuffed with things acquired simply for the pleasure and power of acquisition, mostly unrelated to any need. At one point, I thought I’d be happy with a life partner, like a wife and I felt better with a girlfriend in my life but this didn’t resolve the underlying problem that unless I’m producing, I have no outlet for my creativity, I’m unhappy and producing something is far more interesting than producing nothing, girlfriend or not and she then shows up as an interruption. And if she doesn’t respect my nature, she’s relating to her imagination rather than me. So it was.
If you believe in material success, after a while you become unhappy when you have every reason in the world to be glad and everything around you reinforces the dichotomy. So, you take yoga classes and chant, do the Landmark Forum, ride a bicycle nonstop for five days, run a marathon, parachute from an airplane, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. To no avail.
Ever since I was a child, when things appeared hopeless, the idea that I could end it all–that there was an escape door from life, was a comfort to me. First it led me to religion. After checking in and out of many of the Christian sects and the Buddhist routines, as a child, the one that seemed the most interesting with the least bullshit was Hebrew and so I began studying for my Bar Mitzvah at a synagogue in Philadelphia. I’m terrible at learning languages. Its hard for me to rote memorize. It hurts. Fortunately, I was relieved of my Bar Mitzvah goal when some of the Orthodox Jews, who objected to a kid, whose parents weren’t part of the congregation, attempted to blow up the synagogue along with the rabbi, when he refused to deny me access. He left and so did I.
Suicide is proactive (which makes it an oxymoron) and before I’d get to suicide, I get to apathy. When pain makes life seem not worth living, there are other ways to escape. Some drink, some shoot up, some form codependent relationships. I found pleasure in giving away everything and in destroying art that I’ve created, like an angry god. Eventually, I’d give up my home and all my relationships, they were all chattels I could live without. If I identified with material things, I’d at least dismiss these extensions of myself.
But these material extensions of myself that were not me had misrepresented who I am and so I saw myself as failing to fulfill my deepest aspirations. And though I accepted praise for accomplishments of this made-up self I’d invented because I wanted to be loved and respected, I regarded these accomplishments as child’s play in a hierarchy of vanity, measuring my worth by the quality of an automobile and my home address or in proportion to the authority of a position in a network of sycophants.
Typical views in this world include, “I’m doing the best I can to survive in a less than perfect world” and “I live in a perfect world and there are obstacles to my experience.” They are equivalent since the first is the pretense of the government worker and the latter is the relationship of the exploited to the exploiter. These people are not necessarily bad-natured, however, they are all consistently self-serving although it may not always appear this way, depending on how they define “self”.
To those who haven’t known me in the context of my entire history, I’ve appeared snobbish, weird even schizophrenic. Since I’ve performed some complex tasks, I’m respected though I have no interest in past work except to learn from it. However, beyond the horizon of all before it,
Act 1, Scene 3
I knew she was trouble when I saw her first; before I met her, it was in a dream…
and I knew she wasn’t meant for me, when I fell in love with a woman who graced me with her beauty and exquisite presence. I didn’t want to fall in love with her. I knew it wouldn’t work out but I fell for her.
We thought of ourselves as a couple though I was the only one in town who didn’t know she was a prostitute. I certainly didn’t think of her this way and so it was unthinkable. I didn’t know the word, polyamory.
In all the time we spend together, she said only a few things to me that were true but it was impossible for me to understand them. The first one was, “I’m more like a man than a woman,” by which she meant, she was an unethical slut. The second was, “we should have become friends before we had sex,” by which she meant she hadn’t trusted me as one trusts a friend and the third was, “I felt you owned me,” be which she meant our first sexual experience with me was transformational and if it had continued, we would have remained a couple. Why it did not continue is critical to the plot of this story.
On the other hand, in this sense, she was the perfect mirror for me, for in point of fact, though I prostituted my talent, I was polyphobic. I didn’t look at her this way since I couldn’t see my own fears and moral judgments around sex. So, in the area of sex, while she knew what she was doing, my conditioning around sex and relationship was a set up for disaster. It was not that she was unethical not to tell me, however, because her feelings for me were as real as mine were for her, we were on different pages. People must have assumed I knew and didn’t care, since everyone else in town was aware of it. How do you tell a friend his girlfriend is a whore? I wouldn’t have wanted to hear it.
This plot has the makings of a Christmas movie. There’s a similar story told in Brooke Magnanti’s book, Secret Diary of A London Call Girl. Ms. Magnanti wrote it from the prostitute’s point-of-view and though she is sex-positive, she made an idiot of the man who saw himself as her significant other. Though my ex- made an idiot of me too (in spades), however, unlike Brooke’s boy, I was more of a whore than she was.
Men like me, who are by nature more sentimental than Brooke’s boy, as well as those who or selfishly brutal are emotionally vulnerable in this situation simply because our brain chemicals trigger it–it’s automatic, we can’t anticipate it. Its irrational. As in my situation, Brooke’s boyfriend was unaware of her profession and he wasn’t amused when he found out, even though it was after they were no longer a couple.
Recalling my girlfriend’s behavior now, for instance, that she takes pride in choosing the most expensive item among any given collection of items offered at a store, rather than the highest quality, all symbolic but it paints a picture. Thinking of her one day, I imagined the girl in Fast Cars & Slow Orgasms, who has migrated now into one of the five novels included in the 5 in 5 series.
My “mistake” with my ex- was an almost paralytic response to her Gracie Allen-like duplicity. All that was ever needed was telling the truth but she was dealing with a man who was afraid to be with the truth, clinging to a fantasy, which is an absurd response to a woman who is an artist at playing on the vanity of men, who also keeps a careful eye on the balance of all accounts, emotional and otherwise. But, as I said, I was under the influence of brain chemicals and my particular brain is hypersensitive.
One of the residents here, who is moving away this month, describes himself as an ironworker from which-uh-taw, is the brutal quiet type. His bedroom adjoins mine and with his frequent female visitors, I’ve never heard so much as a grunt. He told about his failed marriage, that he came home from work to find his wife had emptied their house in Walnut Creek and left with a man she’d been seeing. He said she took his Gibson Flying V, his clothing, all the furniture, stereo, TV, even the fridge. My ex-girlfriend’s schizophrenic mother, who is a lawyer, stole all the money in my account. She’s a joke on the California Bar because they can’t disbar her because they can’t hold a crazy person responsible and they can’t discriminate against the mentally ill.
The drowning incident exacerbated my relationship with the prostitute. I was concerned about imminent demise. The future of everything I’d planned, including the fantasy relationship had evaporated; the bucket up-ended. I felt sick when someone said, “you can’t take it with you”. People who had plans made me sick. Did they not see their meaningless, empty lives were coming to naught? The idea that I could be psychiatrically imperfect on top of the death sentence was a little much. Besides, why seek treatment if you don’t feel unwell?
I always wake up optimistic. Morning runs on the beach left me able to read the Neocon terror sheet posing as a newspaper called, The San Diego Union Tribune, without wincing. In May, 2006, a business partner colluded with a Chicago Title Escrow officer to steal the entire proceeds of a long escrow, leaving me penniless and within two weeks of that, my mother died and shortly after that, I lost my home. By then, the prostitute had married and birthed a child that, given the time of our conjugal visit, could even have been mine. When I asked about it, she pled only that she loved her husband and I should back off. As I packed to leave with my dog and my mother’s cat in an old Ford pickup truck I found on Craigslist, a doctor friend gave me some Provigil and another doctor added Cymbalta to that and off I went, “North”, with no particular destination in mind. I was “homeless”.
Act 1 Scene 3
My first memory of depression…
…as an adult was when my dog was killed on a highway near my home outside Copenhagen, where I was then living with my 3-year-old daughter and her mother. This led to our separation a few months later and our eventual divorce.
Another dog, who died in my arms under a redwood canopy in Jackson State Forest, led me out of depression, stopping Cymbalta and and declaring a future I could live into, addressing depression head on. As the SRIs left my system, I began to allow the painful memories and feelings of failure to cycle and I saw things as they had happened and began to understand what happened to me. Soon, I was driving South to San Diego, stopping for a year in Santa Maria on the central coast; reluctant to return and confront my past.
Santa Maria was an eye-opener. 80% of the population there are from Latin America, mostly villages in Southern Mexico, generations of field workers and their descendants.
Cymbalta restrained my ability to feel related but I saw beauty, which I wrote about and I constantly made pictures, intuitively, knowing these reminders could be useful to me if I survive…
Some words I wrote and images I made are on pages of this website. I launched this website before I was drowned. Perhaps, unconsciously, I knew how things turn out. These pages contain glimpses of people, places and nature that are now familiar to me. Many articles haven’t been published here yet. I’m constantly rewriting posts, plays, screenplays and music, most derived from notes and images of experiences, some briefly described further on and in work in progress, described under Current Project, below.
In addition to observations of the tour,there are also comments on topical events and essays from studies in music and mass media and I’m also writing a memoir, which you need a password to read: [Portrait of the Artist, M. Ellis Winn]. (Writing this memoir has been difficult since I’m often embarrassed thinking about my lack of judgment. I’ve been naive, like the character, Chance, created by Peter Sellers in the movie, Being There.
Just as my ex-girlfriend didn’t tell me she was a prostitute, I withheld myself from her so we both made the same kind of mistake, strangely enough, out of love. My mistake was the result of thinking I was someone I was not, while hers seems more pragmatic, she served herself first and never understood who I am, preferring to relate to her inventions. When, during one of her sustained absences, I took the opportunity to leave her and began a healthier relationship with a woman who might have become important, she was jealous and intervened and I, out of love and loyalty, allowed it. Her weakness stemmed from her inauthenticity otherwise, it had nothing to do with me. It made matters worse that I had lost touch with the most important part of my identity, that I am an artist. I was pretending to be someone or something else and since we must imagine ourselves in love to be in love, my creativity had been compromised.
While my promiscuous girlfriend was unaware of the importance of my creativity, she also looked at everything in terms of her own objectives. I speculate that, if she hadn’t been my girlfriend, if instead, I had been one of her clients, our relationship would have been less one-sided. The dysfunction was a product of the kind of relationship we suffered. Never marry a woman if you wouldn’t pay for her services. Or never marry a woman, for whose services you could pay with a clear conscience.
As an artist, my creative focus resembles autism. Per Jerzy Grotowski:“Why do we sacrifice so much energy to our art? Not in order to teach others but to learn with them what our existence, our organism, our personal and unrepeatable experience have to give us; to learn to break down the barriers which surround us and to free ourselves from the breaks which hold us back, from the lies about ourselves which we manufacture daily for ourselves and for others; to destroy the limitations caused by our ignorance and lack of courage; in short, to fill the emptiness in us: to fulfill ourselves. Art is neither a state of the soul (in the sense of some extraordinary, unpredictable moment of inspiration) nor a state of man (in the sense of a profession or social function). Art is a ripening, an evolution, an uplifting which enables us to emerge from darkness into a blaze of light.”
Even when my work hasn’t been a typical objective of art, I have gone about it as an artist. My attention is riveted. When I was in the relationship with the prostitute, my profession was definitely not the kind of work I aspired to. I had cofounded a nonprofit corporation that built and managed homes for low income families. I took pride in building homes for the poor but as an artist in life, I also saw this as profiting from their poverty. My salary allowed me to live in a classy seaside village. They lived in apartments in less desirable parts of town. Now, when all is said and done, many children have grown up in safe, decent apartments and my ex-girlfriend is doing well as a result of the support I gave her when she needed it. If her schizophrenic mother hadn’t taken advantage of my depression to steal every penny I had, perhaps, I’d not feel nauseous at the thought of either of them, for I have benefitted because I survived these phenomena. And I came back. Besides that,
All that anyone has to say is given by and taken from others, whether or not sources are known or attributed or appreciated, art is informed by observation and nature in its infinite manifestation is there to observe, including, human nature. Art is a matter of observing nature and faithfully recreating that which is observed (my relationship with the prostitute, no exception). On the forest floor that night, I realized I’m an artist, which is a spiritual calling. The thief (formerly known as schizophrenic lawyer) relieved me of the moral burden of the material reward of my work by stealing it and its karma as well.
Picture a ranch-style, stucco 3-bedroom, 2-bath, 1970s style house with a garage on a street above Mission Bay, with views, where there are no intervening houses to the west over Pt. Loma, San Diego, Coronado even to the Pacific Ocean. I’d never have bought this house here when I could have afforded to. I was and still would rather buy a house like this in some other place but the only other place like this in the world is South Africa and native African women so far haven’t attracted me yet. I’m not unwilling.
At 9:56 p.m. every day in the summer, we and people in houses in the hills extending in an arc, like a giant crescent from Birdrock in the Northwest, East to Clairemont Mesa, continuing South past Linda Vista, swinging back West again on the South side of what was one before the end of a great river delta flowing from hills forty miles east at Mission Hill and in the summer, every day, every one of us feels the vibrations in a variety of spectra, with bright colored light, reverberating bass and whistling winds. SeaWorld explodes itself above Mission Bay or perhaps, its the ejaculation of that tall cylindrical tower with the color that, moving up and down, in time lapse photography looks like it is jerking off and scattering its ungodly semen over Mission Bay.
Until dredged by real estate developers in the middle of the last century it was one of the largest wetlands on the southwest coast of North America. Our middle class neighborhood was named Baypark by the developers. Its the kind of place where people know almost nothing about their next door neighbors and nothing whatsoever about those who live two or more houses away in any direction. God bless America. Maybe this was different in the beginning, when residents were at the same stage of life, raising families of two or more children, going to the same schools. Today, parents line the street in front of the house with their late model sedans and minivans on weekday mornings, bringing the little white kids to St. James, a Catholic school at the end of the street.
I’ve been in this area since 1978 though I’ve gone away twice for extended periods, the climate and the Pacific lured me to return. The place in no way makes you think of the name of a saint. Every place has predominant traits, like a human personality. What attracts me most is the sexual zest of the women here. “America’s Finest City”, San Diego, has the personality of a Navy whore. As whores go, San Diego is a butch bitch, not a belle de jour but you know what to do to keep yourself intact here and you can see why men, and not women, are the cannon fodder in cultures, like this, where people are lynched and police are often called to protect victims of those who’d police if they only had a badge.
Unless you stay home, you will see at least one police cruiser every day. There are left turn lanes and left turn signals at every intersection, where there’s a traffic signal and there are a lot of them. About once a month, a police officer shoots and usually kills someone who they perceive as challenging their authority, usually a delusional or depressed homeless person wielding a stick or scissors. Several times every day, very large and noisy helicopters, powered by jet engines, rattle windows in their wake as they parade the coastline between the Navy base on Coronado Island, Miramar Naval Air Station and Camp Pendleton. There are nuclear reactors on ships in the San Diego harbor. Munitions and large tanks of volatile fuel are stored near the harbor entrance. Flags everywhere. San Diego is a company town and the company is the U.S. Navy.
The commander of the local military base in San Diego is acknowledged publicly as the “Navy Mayor” but the wink and the nod here is not a euphemism. It is a fact that has made it impossible for the civilian population of the place to exercise planning and control or do anything that is not first vetted by the military power. A myth promoted throughout the U.S., attributed to promotion of the U.S. Constitution as if it is, like the tablets Moses brought down the Sinai hill or the words of Mohammed, a religious totem, is that everywhere, municipalities, states and national government operate on a democratic political model described in Constitution. Fascism is believed to be an affliction of sects and foreign regimes. These superstitions are promulgated in the training of teachers of elementary schools, in media, and they are fortified in electoral campaign rhetoric, more strongly by the right wing, which is feared by the left wing.
I know of no studies that compare towns, cities and states in America with regard to their relative degrees of authoritarian predisposition. San Diego, however, is decidedly falling on the fascist side of the equation, even compared to a place like Los Angeles. The frequency of incidents like the murder of a young black boy, Trayvon Martin, by a racist white moron with a gun and just a little authority in Florida and the fact that we have now the largest prison population in history of the world are mentioned in the media as if such things result from individual criminal behavior rather than the authoritarian mindset of municipal governments that are inconsistent with Constitutional law. I recall TV coverage in 1995, when a man borrowed a tank from the National Guard armory on Kearny Mesa. The city watched as he drove the tank with middling skill around town, side-swiping the occasional parked car. When he ran out of gas, police executed the unarmed man on the spot, with a bullet into his head, on television. No one said a word.
Women have been running San Diego for many decades, a natural consequence of its domination by a military hierarchy of men whose identities invested in the sexual/social role they play, how they look is important. To grow old with a woman, you must play the part. I am amazed when I think about my father who left behind four families of children as a serial monogamist. As for me, I was traumatized by abandonment as the second of his five (or is it 6) sons and I had developed a need to be abandoned. That’s the past.
So I’ve taken complaints about inequality of wages and opportunity for women with a grain of salt. Its all relative. Capitalism is commitment that ensures that the whales’ share of risk and grief about everything except birth is born, with cupidity, by males. Media bleeds ink when a female catches a bullet, when I learn about the men who shot them, I wonder about the story behind it. We have the largest prison population in history, mostly men. Prison means something more than a state business that keeps a percentage of people working in rural places like, Lompoc. People who “go postal” are almost always male, which possibly helps, since women can be so efficiently focused.
This citing of statistics reflects neither misogynism, nor misanthropy. I’m not forgiving of domestic violence carried out by angry men but given the expectations men learn and the general range of intelligence and education, I find it understandable if unfortunate. In my view, every dog, man, mouse, bird, palm tree, woman, dolphin, spider, whatever, deserves its unique self-expression. Limbic responses aside, categories like age, youth, trade, class, race, sex, gender choice, status, morals, intelligence, and so forth mean no more than do the variations in the chromosomes of a mutt, while body odor, ethics and toilet habits matter to me, regardless of anything categorical about an individual. I’m an ethical slut.
The way men see the photo on the left, is lascivious. They will want to defend her honor. Inked into the skin, her authenticity is advertised, published in this way, her surrender is fully realized.
The way a woman sees this photo, however, is completely different. She identifies with the vulnerability of love in her complete surrender.
Personal values are revealed in forms we desire and since we now adapt our core values from media and they change with fashions, body ink provides stability.
Perhaps, I’m the only person you know that wou move into a drug house operated by an ex-convict in an ostensibly middle middle class neighborhood spread out upon the mesa overlooking the swamp now known as Mission Bay. There are two house mates and I agreed to share the house without a lease, completely at free will before I’d really met T, since R has the lease on the place, I sublet in a sense from R, who is either the most remarkably law-abiding, straight up remodeling contractor or that and he plays undisclosed other roles. I go out with them on occasion to events that R’s girlfriend must attend on account of her being the Executive Director of READY, San Diego, a sanctioned social network for local members of the town’s chapter of the Republican party. That in itself might have informed me about the convict, given Nixon, Cheney and Bush.
R and T, 63 and 58, respectively, are the two men with whom I share a three-bedroom, two-bath ranch-style home situated on a ridge of a west-facing mesa, looking out on Mission Bay, along with a troop who show up in ones, twos, threes and occasionally, fours at varied hours, once in a while some of them spend the night. They fall under the classification, T’s friends. I’m not privileges to know anything about the nature of their business, whatever it is, it isn’t noisy and I’ve never heard so much as a grunt or a low moan, creaking bed springs, all of which can I be explained away but who knows?
R is the current holder of an official title as the world’s kneeboard surfing champion and several mornings each week, he leaves the house before dawn to drive across the border to Mexico, where he surfs with his buddies near Rosarito, returning to house for a few minutes to change clothes and take some tools from the garage before heading out to a worksite. As an independent contractor, he repairs and remodels houses. His significant other, who he’s been with for 15 years now, lives in her own home, some distance away. B is highly organized about every part of his life. This shows up in the regularity of his food supply in the refrigerator, that he insists on locating a recycling bin for bottles and cans on the window-sill of the bay-window by the kitchen table and that the one night he spends at his girlfriend’s house is always on the same day of each week.
T describes himself as an ironworker, currently unemployed, but the garage is half full of tools for any conceivable purpose you can imagine and surprisingly, he appears to be actually knowledgeable about their use since this includes repainting automobiles, rebuilding engines and fabrication of practically anything. This talent is offset by his equally apparent inability to organize such that, when the object of his focus is interrupted (and it always is) in the middle of a task, he abandons things just as they are, with tools and parts randomly scattered and if before returning his attention to that task, he happens to start another, unrelated task, he is interrupted in that also so that, eventually, the world outside and around the house becomes a mine field of power tools, electrical cords and sundry tools and materials. The nature and quality of the interruptions also adds a dimension of experience to the interior of our home.
On any given day, T will have at least two but its usually three female guests although it appears that the total number of them may be only 12 or 15. I haven’t tried to account for them but try to remember their names since, although, they differ in height, hair color and so on, there are striking similarities. For the most part, they look like they might be former strippers, now in their forties and past their prime, with reasonably good figures, some more attractive but the predominant feature is large breasts, some extreme. Most seem to know each other and at least once a week, two or three of them are here together, mostly in T’s room, which in itself is interesting because, but for the spa, T never entertains people in the public area of the house.
I’m curious about T’s relationships with these women. Responding to a question about it, T said, “all of my women have a relationship with a boyfriend or they are married” and he also said they are not allowed to show up here without first calling him. I often see him repairing their cars in our driveway and helping them with other repair projects. Frequently, he will begin a project, for instance, today he is replacing a brake line on his car in the driveway, and then drop everything as one of his girlfriends arrives for service.
T seems obsessed with cleaning floors, carpets and pavement and polishing his turn of the 21st century, blood red Range Rover. I woke up to the sound of a loud electric motor at 3:00AM on the morning of the first night I slept here. Opening the thin, hollow core door to the hall, I saw T operating a large rug shampoo machine, industriously cleaning the carpeted hall outside my bedroom door and the living room. Unable to return to sleep, I watched as he covered pathways in carpeted common rooms and passageways with transparent film. A few days later, I awakened to the sound of T bleaching and scrubbing the tiled floor of the bathroom, which he did with a foam covered block on the end of a broomstick, bouncing it against the cabinets and he scrubbed energetically. Another time it was the kitchen. Four times in the first two months I was here, he has steam-cleaned the paving in the driveway. I stopped counting. He hoses off the patio area and paving around the spa two or three times a day. I think its remarkable that this obsession for floor cleanliness doesn’t extend above the horizon Responsibility ends where floor meets wall as he seems completely unaware of the greasy paw prints he leaves on cabinets, walls and doorjambs, since his hands are usually darkened from the projects he starts in the minefield of his casually deposited tools and materials in the garage and he has no conscience about how he disposes of environmentally hazardous materials.
Otherwise, my housemates are just like anyone else you’re likely to meet in San Diego. I’ve started a lengthier exploration of T’s character in Chapter 17.
A business partner introduced me to a Del Mar political leader, telling her that, unlike the two of them, I am for the rights of the many vs. those of the few. I knew it would be useless to argue. When I first came to Del Mar, it was a progressive, liberal place, famous for opposing nuclear power plants and banning nudity at Black’s beach. The poverty of the many is preserved in the design of a capitalist society and the good people of Del Mar blocked the development of public transit because it would make it easier for the poor, who live in the south (Tijuana), to visit Del Mar.
This partner didn’t understand the integrity required f0r an artist so he imagined an explanation for my attitude that is the opposite of his values. If I don’t examine how my values and chemico-mechanical brain form my opinions, I’d not see my opinions any better. Variations in outlook, manners of expression, sensibility, suggest relationships would improve if we not assume too much about each other. I’ve comet to view individuals as if families are as different as species, although physical parts seem interchangeable, the brains make them startling in their dissimilarity.
Many categories are, like “bureaucrat,” pejorative assumptions. Saying a person works in a bureaucracy is a useful warning. Bureaucracies carried out the holocaust, methodically legitimizing the conversion of the the property of Jews to Aryans and transporting Jewish families to death camps and killing them. Those who orchestrated and carried out the Jewish solution in the 3rd Reich, have avoided by slight of speech being called to account for it and kept their jobs into the new regime.
Sometimes, when I’ve wanted to zip up, pay the bill and get back to composing, writing and day-dreaming, a public employee with a modicum of authority, who views clients as interruptions, sees me as an intellectual, smart-ass, semite if I am less than respectful. I’m not as tolerant of their behavior as I need to be when I view government pension plans here as predatory given that the cost of it has reduced the value of social security and bankrupted the enterprise of local government
Among other aspects of American political life about which I’m less sanguine (aside from the ignorance and greed of most government workers who are, on average, under-educated), is the myth of the middle class. Based on their balance sheets, quality of life and opportunities, people who think of themselves as middle class are in poverty but the problem with desiring the prerogatives of middle class lifestyles leads us to take employment in trades and activities that we know are not good for anyone. These are the families who are moving to the Dakotas. The army appeals to their children.
With militarization of local police in urban population centers, the reluctance of economically deprived citizens to organize political action is understandable.
The disparity in opportunity for the growing numbers of people without property or a stable income, healthcare and other things that reinforce self-worth is compressed by migration into urban populations as the quality of life for those who come to the city suffers, which further motivates them to earn a living working in unsustainable, environmentally obscene enterprises, like fracking, official warfare and MacDonald’s.
In the smaller towns I visited, like Santa Maria, cash transactions and bartering reduces the impact of corporate profit-taking and taxation that affects those on the boundary like solar flares. People in these rural places live more simply and inexpensively, less affected by the capitalism that dominates urban areas and has no priority for taking care of people. Bureaucracies are the mechanism that holds all this together with economic glue.
Bureaucracies make things work in San Diego just as they have in every regime in which those who have no other options for an income are willing to do anything to feed their families, even to be uniformed to kill their neighbors and take the risk of being killed. The top six of the eight largest employers in San Diego are public agencies that employ 90% of employees of all eight employers. Since this is a capitalist economy, it is small wonder that, other than government contracts, there’s an economic depression here. Other places I’ve visited are less well-off since they don’t even have the military money.
Capitalism is the U.S. national religion, propped up now by the global influence of Google et fils. When I left town in 2007, the bureaucracies’ end run around the Gann Initiative, using bond financing, which projects the costs of entitlements onto future generations and hides salary increases in private “pension plans” began to upend local governments. At the federal level, since Vietnam, Congress has been using Social Security and Medical revenue streams to finance wars and military development. Gann prevents bureaucracies from raising property taxes and when growth of tax income from urban growth faltered, the Ponzi Scheme crumbled. Funding pensions requires tax revenue that was also supposed to repay bonds, leaving no money to maintain infrastructure. Bondholders were up a creek. Meanwhile, the officials who did well for themselves overseeing this debacle hid in their yachts, abetted by the silence of newspapers and other local media outlets that were bought up by development interests that had also profited from the business.
While I was away, a downtown developer (alleged to actually have read real books), a known neo-conservative who keeps a low profile about it, bought the only mainstream newspaper in San Diego. His first adventure as a publisher has been to assassinate the character of the only progressive democrat the city has seen in the mayor’s office in more than 30 years. Ironically, the besieged mayor wasn’t a gangster, crook nor sexual deviant. His detractors accused him of being rude. Cartoons in the newspaper, however, are tinted with veiled anti-semitism (he’s Jewish). The paper is the only mainstream English language daily newspaper serving a population of nearly 6 million people. Now that the legally elected mayor has been deposed by a campaign of harrassment, carried out via multiple daily attacks by his newspaper, his neoconservative philosophy is clarified by articles glorifying the inspired work of building developers in Las Vegas and local media and technology developers focused on the minds of the very young. Its a real circus here.
Fewer men would go postal if we got rid of Hollywood. Fat Chance.
What mysterious worlds might show up if we could magically disappear Hollywood, Burbank, Culver City? That’s a fascinating day-dream.
De-mythification: 1) Myth of the Native American holds that nature, including our species are accommodated by spiritual hosts. Research should be done to explore a genetic reason for why their music is as unimaginative as it is, however.
Pre-Colombian culture on this hemisphere referenced a great (paraphrase of “mother/father earth, etc.”) spirit whose view of the world the (paraphrase for family of man) human tribes are lovable idiot children and though this seems a sweet fantasy to comfort children and those confronting their mortality, it fails to see that, as a naturally occurring phenomenon of the universal law Einstein was trying to decipher, human beings suggest a real possible outcome to it all. I wonder… what were all these (native) people thinking? Were they not as curious?
De-mythification: 2) Happiness. Prostitutes must have the best opportunity to be happy since they love their work and give pleasure for an amount they stipulate and the etiquette is that their payment requires no discussion.
You might include spouses, where the marriage is based on mutually acceptable quid pro quo but since quid increases and pro quo fades over time, there’s a constant negotiation to keep things balanced, whereas, a pro is quickly out and quickly in and it doesn’t matter that one man’s pleasure is often enough another man’s wife. You pays your money and you takes your time. No obligation to have a good one. Having a successful relationship with a prostitute is complicated except for clients but I’m still voting for pulling the plug since relationship is a distinction of human being. “If love wasn’t blind, there’d be no children,” said my maternal grandmother.
De-mythification: 3) Paranoia. A species defined by relationship must fear the unknowable, thus, we are wired to be afraid of those with whom we don’t feel related. Aside from the fact that there are those who look, smell, talk, walk, smile, grunt and fart differently, agoraphobia is a default state in human hardware, attenuated only by relationship, alcohol and other drugs. (Agoraphobia is not likened to malware.)
When I chose to avoid dysfunctional relationships, not realizing the implicit oxymoron, the experience of alienation grew. The functional opposite to dysfunction is functional. You are a functional human being. Functional. Then you die. What’s your function? Relationships are thus easier for less complicated minds. Until they aren’t.
When I ran into my ex-, the prostitute, in an unexpected place recently, I didn’t recognize her. I felt her presence like an emotion that didn’t fit the situation. Selective amnesia? Memories, images and sounds, meticulously archived in cavernous banks of biological RAM, no doubt accumulate the equivalent of psychic dust of narratives about events, places, fears, loves, betrayals, past relationships, stories, plays, dreams. I’m overwhelmed by all this and its understandable if subconsciously, I’d rather not disturb the dust but if I don’t look when I’m awake, they disturb my sleep. When I meet someone new, when feelings for them arise, the memory dust blows in quantum gusts and carries me away.
The children of my past are thus never abandoned so I quiet them down by fixing them in a narrative. For example, discussing rekindling our romance, a pregnant Kathy Wilson said to me, “too much history, oh, well…”
Have we computed lifespan potential of a human being based on the capacity of the brain? When a person dies at 50, 70 or 100 years, is the memory bank full? We have the brain storage capacity to last at least 200 years without having to dump anything in the trash. Instead of dumping, file sizes are reduced by cross reference so there need be no repetition of similar experience. Stupidity is achieved by over generalization, the norm as with mechanical RAM, new directories are created and nothing forgotten. There are no limits. Its all priorities.
Ergo est ibi psychoanalysis. Well, I’m here. Amidst fear. Courage. Curiosity. You are here. And look around… Musical Interlude: F# Minor Improvisation
“No higher power is going to punish us for our misdeeds if we get away with them. Knowing that, you have to choose a just life or there will be chaos, and so many people don’t do that that there is chaos…”
–Woody Allen (Crimes & Misdemeanors)
De-mythification: 4) Misdeeds. In Woody Allen’s view, misdeeds are like intonation on an E-flat clarinet. A clarinet player may hear a fault when other players don’t but choosing a just life is really a political issue. Who chooses “a just life”? Chocolate or vanilla? Just?
Sherlock Holmes Faces Death – 1943
EXT. MORNING AUTOMOBILE DRIVING IN NORTHUMBERLAND
Watson (Nigel Bruce) is at the wheel, driving a convertible away from Musgrave Manor. Holmes (Basil Rathbone) is with him, riding shotgun. (They have just finished wrapping up the Musgrave murders that were motivated by a Crown Grant, dated 1539, thus making Sally Musgrave the inheritrix of 80,000 acres, including farms, shops, towns and factories. Inspired by war-time altruism, Sally burns the document…)
MUSIC: Mildly triumphant, Handel-like.
Just the same Holmes, you let poor little Sally throw away a fortune.
My dear fellow, I had nothing to do with it. The girl, more power to her, acted on her own.
Grand gesture, one she may regret.
I don’t think so, Watson. There’s a new spirit abroad in the land. The old days of grab and greed are on their way out. We’re beginning to think of what we owe the other fellow, not just what we’re compelled to give him. The time is coming Watson, when we shan’t be able to fill our bellies in comfort while other folk go hungry, or sleep in warm beds, while others shiver in the cold. When we shan’t be able to kneel and thank god for blessings before our shining altars while men and women anywhere are kneeling in physical or spiritual subjection.
You may be right, Holmes. I hope you are.
And, God willing, we’ll live to see that day, Watson.
MUSIC: Swell with fade.
is a phrase that reflects the natural order of the universe, the evidence for which Einstein felt compelled to prove mathematically. Its also why there are no absolute misdeeds and also why I write and love music. While, I admire Mr. Konigsburg (Woody) and enjoy his ironic sensibility, it is for political reasons that I’m in love with Carson McCullers, who wrote with such modest precision, the truth of it without trying or needing to be funny. Perhaps, it is because I’m like her, that I do not pull the plug.
Carson said (I’m sorry, I forget when) that, although her plays and novels include comedy, what she does, the truth of it, isn’t comedy, the humor arises from the souls of characters and predicament, as does love and pity. George Bernard Shaw, Gilbert & Sullivan, Miguel Cervantes, Charlie Chaplin, Ruth Buzzi, Gilda Radner, Gene Wilder, Mel Brooks, Steve Allen, Lenny Bruce, Richard Lord Buckley, Jonathan Winters, are great comedians. Carson is in another league, by way of comparison.
I’m a satirical writer. In music composition, I’m like Carson and also, when making “films”. Films are like paintings or children because they’re impossible to finish to my own satisfaction. Dogs, cats, birds, I love; and plants and planets and children (probably because I wasn’t given a childhood in this life). Carson believes in life. She had a childhood. We’re both fond of Schubert. We know each other–Schubert, Reeves, Carson and me. We’re like Singer and his Greek friend put together. (Tattoos would be redundant.)
If “misdeed” has any relevance, its not about God’s or another’s judgment. Judgment of God is the last hope of those without hope but misdeeds are important to dramatists and comedians (of which I’m one or the other), so a word about misdeeds: A misdeed is when you feel you have betrayed your own values and you rationalize this by saying those you damaged must have deserved it, which is a second misdeed, preferable to the original misdeed, since it is lie, which isn’t a venal sin, while the misdeed you lie about may be heavier to bear: adultery, for instance, lying or theft. You take comfort knowing no one sees your thoughts; they may know them but they can’t prove it.
Looking at the glossy picture of the happy couple, above, would you say that they grew to loathe each other over betrayal of trust? The problem was, they couldn’t take responsibility for their history without acknowledging it. Ten years later, I’m able to pinpoint the moment our separation began. It was such a tiny thing, seemed so small at the time that I felt it would be foolish to say anything about it and because I withheld it, it was like a snowball rolling down a hillside eventually becoming an avalanche of distrust.
We were at a Landmark Education seminar and during a break, instead of waiting in the line to use the womans’ restroom, she boldly walked into the mens’ which was also packed and went into the one of the stalls saying she’d grown up with two older brothers and was used to this. Unfortunately, I wasn’t and I felt dishonored when I saw one the man closest to the stall, watching her through the space between the door and the door jamb. Although it was his lack of conscience to invade her privacy, her attitude toward it was flirtatious and I felt she had put me into a situation I didn’t want to be in. It was such a childish impulse but it wasn’t about decorum at all, it was somehow about my dignity. I told myself it was silly and not worth troubling about and never mentioned it to her but the feeling infected me for the rest of the day. I didn’t want to think about it, so I didn’t. Instead, like a tiny splinter it was a constant reminder.
Only a construed misdeed can be the source of disease. Acknowledgement of betrayal of your own values, however can be beneficial for the betrayer if not the betrayed.
De-mythification: 5) Karma. The law of karma implies that you do good by punishing yourself to resolve some previous error.
People forget that they drink to forget their self-judgments. A misdeed is a confession to yourself naming a specific betrayal of your own values. Confessing the betrayal to yourself is a way of validating that you’re really a good person or as Robert Ito said to me one day, you’re only “doing the best [you] can to survive in a less than perfect world.” (Treating conscience as something like an appendix).
To deal with misdeeds, some find it helpful to invoke faith in a higher power, regardless of God’s apparent indifference in such matters. This is easier than explaining the pretzel of your values, when you can feel better thinking of yourself as being considerate, while cheating, since you’re really a good person deep down. If not for the value, there’d be no betrayal. A misdeed is necessary when honesty is painful. No blame, no pain; no value, no shame. (Schizophrenia is a psychological pathway to ignoring conscience.)
De-mythification: 6) Values are the message that is the medium. Feelings of shame and embarrassment are based on values. Embarrassment is public shame. Modern North Americans adopt their core values to win approval of those, whom they perceive to be their peers, notably, characters in their favorite TV shows. For example, innocence isn’t cool now. Victims feel shame while perpetrators rationalize perpetrations by explaining, “they/he/she had it coming anyway”. Professionals at blaming their victims are called lawyers, and lately, doctors. American urban police and totalitarian dictators are runners-up at this blame game but its a facility through which all people mature and in which so many get stuck that its become a popular melodramatic theme.
Do you remember choosing your core values? Did you miss school that day? Do you remember being shown alternatives and consent to some? I remember not being able to comprehend a need for ten commandments. What’s the significance of ten? Where’s the magic in the number, ten? Ten is almost a verb. I remember seeing a movie with Charlton Heston playing my Hebrew namesake, Moisha, standing on a gritty hillside in Palestine in his repulsively dusty sandals, holding hunks of granite into which Hebrew letters have been carved. Papyrus, linen, silk or wood even would do. There’s was nothing immutable about granite in 1956, when that movie came out, a decade after Hiroshima. “Thou shalt not kill” was so incongruous with all the war movies, the Korean War and 12 years later, the infamous My Lai Massacre by U.S. troops in Vietnam rubbed that in.
In public school, when I came to California, the flag was being treated as a religious symbol. They knew better in Philadelphia at the time. The “pledge of allegiance to the flag” I first experienced in a classroom in Rivera, California seemed bizarre. The piece of cloth on a stick with an eagle on top looked a lot like Mussolini’s fasces. Later, when I heard our Congress had added “under God” to the pledge, although not practicing religion, this felt like exploiting the name of the divine, that same feeling I got from listening to the Christian Sunday School teacher talk about “baby Jesus”.
The golden rule seemed sound but this was in stark contrast to social conditions of racism, poverty and coal dust everywhere in Philadelphia, where I lived with my mom and maternal brother in an apartment on the border between Irish Protestant and Irish Catholic neighborhoods, a narrow buffer zone at the time, between the black neighborhood and more racist Italians.
I recall no discussion of sharing in the 3rd grade at Simon Muhr Elementary and as the concept later applied to sex, it was too confusing to consider since I’m not into anal and sharing is a core value, unlike my love of Schubert’s music, I don’t remember choosing.
Now I know that Americans all over the country have been adapting our core values from media, which means our values change with fashion. Adolescents won’t see this until the next batch of young emerges into adolescence, when they will feel their values are losing traction, no longer, current. “Old school” is the euphemism exemplifying this transition.
We strain to reflect cool core values as characterized in media and fear being embarrassed by our shoes. Fashions fascinate youth, while the significant values that determine their lives fly under their radar until they awaken to their irrelevance, as did Jim Bowie’s Major Tom, and David Byrnes’ persona in, Stop Making Sense.
Core values are the necessary background for all narrative conflict so the fact that they are derived from media is a double-blind. In the middle of the 20th century, media all but eliminated tradition as the source of values. This shift parallels the timing of the involvement of the “intelligence” community in local, regional and global government. Not that a strategy existed but core values are the heart of good story telling.
When mainstream mass media is committed to present values not offensive to sponsors, although people in the industry may talk free market, when content can be unacceptable if the values modeled are not supportive of the sponsor’s agenda, that is absolute control of what values will be promulgated so it is unnecessary to proscribe by censorship. As a consequence the U.S. population learns at an early age to value only that which supports the privileged enterprise of the sponsors.
An entertaining panel of writers I saw discussing the 101 Best TV programs at the Writers Guild of America West in Hollywood made no mention at all of the relationship between politics and the values rendered in their stories. Its interesting to see how core values of the capitalist mystique are still consistent with sponsor sensitivities in fringy content like “Breaking Bad” and especially the mystique of rap and its derivatives.
Are these television writers living on a different planet? Who writes the TV shows for that planet, the one where they must be living? Not Ron Howard, he’s in Hollywood.
Not to single him out. It isn’t his fault and he probably knows better, now.
In view of increasing violence against strangers, in view of studies by David Reisman and others in the 1940s and 50s, failure to acknowledge the nexus between the work of these media writers and the culture that results from the values promulgated by these parables seems bizarre if not duplicit. Writers were the only people on the panel or in the hall.
Its not that people who see guns used in TV shows go out and buy and use guns, albeit some must; nor are guns used on people as a result of TV program depictions. The value condones relationships that can be and are resolved with gunfire.
The Spider Woman – 1943/44
EXT. DAY CARNIVAL IN FRONT OF SHOOTING GALLERY.
Watson and Holmes walk away after Adria and her gang are led away by Inspector Lastrade and his crew of Scotland Yard detectives.
Remarkable woman. Audacious and deadly as one of her spiders.
Audacious? Stupid, I’d call it. Fancy trying to commit murder in a place like this. All these people about.
That’s where you’re wrong, old boy. In an isolated place, a cry for help or a single shot might very well arouse the curiosity of at least one casual witness. But in an arcade like this, people are bent only on pleasure and will instinctively disregard any deviation from the normal that doesn’t immediately concern them. Yes, Watson, Miss Speding deserve credit for picking the most logical spot in the world to commit my murder.
Oh? How is that?
In the middle of a crowd.
I’m the author of a book on advanced technology (Architectronics) and several scripts and funding proposals. When I awakened on the floor of a redwood forest that night, when, Bear died, I knew I was going to begin to seriously apply myself to music.
Since then, I’ve read and learned more about writing and media from studying and practicing music composition, orchestration and arrangement than I imagined was possible and I was a published author, respected for my writing talent. How was I to know how this works? Those I knew, who understood music, like Dizzy Gillespie, for instance, were unaware of the relationship between composition and writing. Carson knew and described this phenomenon. Today, if anyone asks me how to learn to write stories, I’d say, its not essential to be able to play them but if they understand how Bach’s or Shankar’s inventions are composed, they’d know about composing with words.
Harmony, rhythm, melody, instrumentation, tuning, orchestration, reading and writing in an abstract, conceptual musical language is mind-expanding.
The thing about a musical composition is that it is complete, clear and indescribable. Either there’s a ring of authenticity about it or its fish-wrap. Simply put, most published fiction is fish-wrap and movies made from fish-wrap don’t overcome this problem, despite the quality of acting or production values. Garbage in, garbage out. In popular music, the lyrics differentiate between garbage and collectable and since the language of lyrics is simple, direct and vernacular, the key to this is in the implicit value statements. Eleanor Rigby is an artifact of poesy. How does it feel to be in her situation? She’s heroic.
Heroes like Eastwood, Schwartznegger and Stallone are not Jimmy Stewart. They have different values that guide their actions and from them, a generation learned how to dress, who(m) to marry, when to smile, how to pad your bra, wear your hair, the way you want to smell, everything we believe we should say and think and that which should be unthinkable, whether we’re for or against Obama, Bin Laden or Assad, which brands represent how we care to be seen, music we like to hear and the appearances of people with whom we are seen, who we perceive as having similar values to our own. Your mind has been made up for you.
The medium is the message and you’ve gotten the message.
If the values of heroes changed, your core values changed corresponding to values in popular TV programs and John Stewart’s jokes.
TV sitcoms, NFL games and current movies show what broadcasters think you care about, how you see yourself and why. You choose your core values dependent on media. There’s no authenticity in your core values because they are all absorbed from media.
Not necessarily news media, not didactic principles but implicit in the choices made by protagonists with whom you identify. Studies in the 1940s and ’50s were funded by the U.S. and other governments to determine how people in Germany, France and Italy were manipulated by their governments into doing WWII and the holocaust. When the bureaucrats, advertisers and politicians saw this, they found they could put it right to work in commercial television programming.
The results of these studies find profitable application on Madison Avenue. The phrase, “a sucker is born every minute”, has taken on a world of new meaning. You live in that world. Social values adopted from media fluctuate with fashions so something may be a misdeed at one time and not at another time and feelings of guilt or shame associated with specific acts are only indirectly related to the acts. Your shame may be confusingly personal when you feel absurd about recycling packaging, while fracking the Dakotas.
You now may feel guilty not because of violating your social values but because acceptable acts conflict with your reptilian brain’s values, which rule responses forcefully at a deep level in conflict with social values. The values of the reptilian system of human brains have been there for hundreds of millions of years.
When I saw that I’d committed enough misdeeds in the sense of implied values of loyalty, fidelity and consideration, almost to the point of looking for a religious conversion, I didn’t see how this stemmed from a predictable confusion between reptilian vs. social values, both of which are reflected in media to which I’ve been exposed. In response to this confusion, I gave up trying to keep up appearances.
Besides the internal conflicts between values of my reptilian and social brains, everyone in this culture, over 7 and under 90 years of age, is similarly afflicted with this dichotomy and constantly rationalizes conflicts in personae, wanting to appear “good and honest” and “sane”, while selling-out here and there and everywhere.
When, on the forest floor that night, I abandoned the cobbled-together quilt of pride, pretense, shame and ambition, I accepted that everything I’d done, for the previous 25 years at least, was a vain attempt to live according to middle class values seen in media and that prior to that time, I had measured my success in life by simple material wealth, including what I expected of my daughter and parents.
I hadn’t pursued my love of music and nor writing, I’d passed up opportunities to live my dream in favor of dreams that weren’t mine, betrayed the values of my reptilian brain as well as the mishmash of Judeo-Christian-Buddhist traditional values by choosing not to be who I am authentically. Had I been supported in my art by my childhood environment, as Carson was, I would have experienced earlier success but as a sailor in the U.S. Coast Guard, I learned the aphorism, “if was a skiff, we’d be halfway to Catalina” and turning to music and writing this late in my life, I find myself on the precipice of discovery at a time in life when most other people my age expect to experience decline and many do.
De-mythification: 7) Aging. Its mostly a lie more than myth. We only age physically.
Distinctions I’ve recently learned to make in music about harmony, melody and rhythm increased capacity to all senses, heart and soul, regardless of age. Beethoven brought out the 9th Symphony when he could barely hear. Comparing the story arc in Buxtehude’s Courant Zimble with Eight Variables in A Minor and seeing lyrical qualities of Enesco’s Romanian Rhapsody #2 in D, Opus 11 use linguistic and observation skills developed because of my recent focus on music. Logically, there’s an intersection of syntax, rhythm, melody and harmony when I distinguish the rhythm and harmony in Carson’s drawl as an elegant expression. Carson McCullers interest in music and writing struck a chord.
Activities & Inspiration (Just a thought…)
Most days, I go a few miles in, out and around Mission and San Diego Bays on a kayak. Out there, away from traffic, most people and their pets, I hear silence between the sounds. I can identify things by their direction, velocity, scope and mass and I imagine sources. A word or several floats offshore, perhaps spoken in anger, excitement or surprise escapes the coastline or a radio in a car crossing a bridge broadcasts a fragment of a popular song and a pair of terns quarrel around a piece of a fish…
Sound design for media starts at both infinity and the infinitesimal and depending on the finesse allowed by time and experience, I define and locate sound events that create the palette for an image. I listen and observe, make notes for stories and music, gulping sea, wind and clouds, connected with planetary elements that have been here hundreds of thousands of years.
You can hear magic everywhere. Just attenuate the noise of human activities. Floating in the tide, with my eyes on the horizon, I recall voices of past relationships, thoughts and words of people with whom I’ve been close. I see then what I hadn’t paid attention to at the time or that I heard and didn’t care to or was afraid to acknowledge.
I carry 3 x 5 cards and mechanical pencils in my life vest to make notes about how things were or felt and look like in retrospect now that I know how things turned out: who hid what from whom and why. The subtext of conversations stands out and whatever it was I wasn’t paying attention to at the time is suddenly clear.WARNING: Any institutions or individuals using this site or any of its associated sites for studies, projects, or personal use-you DO NOT have permission to use any of my profile information or pictures or postings in any form or forum both current and future. If you have or do, it will be considered a violation of my privacy and will be subject to legal ramifications. You are welcome to ask permission.
Note re Reasonable Self-Constraint. I don’t like looking at or listening to things I find tedious or offensive and while I can’t regulate anyone’s taste, not to mention, behavior, I sometimes judge their actions. If, for instance, the husband of a county supervisor has finagled his way onto the county water board to promulgate policies that benefit his land development colleagues, while she pretends to be Ms. Green Sustainability, I feel this should be reported, but without judgment. “Just the facts, m’am.” I have been remiss in the past and I’m more careful about it but it’s hard when a dog I know is in the race.
These Pages Contain Stories
Sometimes About Sexual Relationships
Note re Highest and Best Use of Your Time. If your curiosity about my stories is honestly prurient, you may find quicker rewards by giving your attention, for instance, to my friend, Bambi, who never fails to stimulate my imagination.
Caveat: Balancing talent with a protective ego, I’ve frequently chosen to be a resource for those who wanted to get something done, in other words, I’d help make it happen and they’d take the credit and most of the reward. If Bambi and I do not differ in this respect, it’s only because of what people wanted to get done. Like Bambi, that was all I could deliver. Bambi is an E-ticket ride in her genre.
Art is not my business. If you are familiar with the ideas of authors of fiction and prose of every age and culture, artists, composers and performers, film directors, educators, social scientists, biographers, publishers, playwrights, philosophers, physicists, contemporary leaders, biologists, psychoanalysts, photographers, theaters, festivals, and you mostly know these things from suggested reading lists and Cliff notes, you are no doubt qualified to teach at the average university but most likely have not been my reader. My camera faced out when I should have been looking inwards. Stories, like music, blossom in the soul. I haven’t written popular music. “Genre” is a euphemism for media made by people for whom music and narrative is a “business”.
Turning the camera and looking inside, stories bubble up from the subconscious in incandescent streams for me to feel and try to describe. I’m uncomfortable with emotional risk. I don’t mind other risks (but for a terror of heights that makes my toes tingle when I’m standing on the roof of a tall building, no matter how far I stand from the edge). I’m comfortable when I can measure the risk and understand how to manage it in the situation. Emotions make a mess of risk assessment but the vulnerability I feel is in correlation to my capacity for invention and fantasy.
Last year (Summer 2012) I wrote scenes for a play I call Fast Cars & Slow Orgasms about a woman who tells her husband she has done it with his friends, all of them… at the same time. (A new take on comic relief.) “Why not, it’s efficient, you like me because I’m efficient”. Before I could finish it, I began a screenplay that I had to finish by last May, called, Dances With Kayaks (I’ll Do Anything For You) Naturally, the woman and her husband showed up in the screenplay. She took it over. The woman is imaginative. Everyone likes her. The character of the husband was less well-drawn and publication waits while I’m working on that.
The story is based in part on my ex-girlfriend, the prostitute, who never failed to tell a lie if she felt the truth might serve her less. On the other hand, anything she spoke in anger I could depend on being the opposite of truth so it was only necessary to irritate her to get hear truth. For instance, “What happened,” I asked her recently, “at my brother’s house the day you came in here, cursing him?” “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.” And then she told me that I have my attention on myself. I saw the opposite has always been true. I prefer the skeptically amused honesty of my friend, Angela.
During the next 15 weeks (completing by December 31), I’m writing and designing an audio/visual symphony called, Five Novels in 25 Minutes. It consists of 5 five novels in multimedia form, to experienced in a total 25 minutes at a modern theater. I’m not publishing the project for now as practices of a proposed venue govern this.
But I will post about progress on Twitter [@MElliswin] and Facebook “M Ellis Winn” as well as in a shorter form in this page and in longer form at a link in each post, as above.
De-mythification: 8) Desire and Jealousy: A woman seduces men that can’t be in love that isn’t possessive.
Neither anticipation nor consummation is possible for a man to imagine without also exciting territoriality. It isn’t only psychological, it’s chemico-mechanical brain activity that floods the male brain with chemicals during intercourse that evoke an interest in both guarding the henhouse from other dna (vanity, since female primates have for long been able to subvert the best efforts of males). This and good fortune has men staying around to help care for offspring.
But when you’re depressed, territoriality is of no importance and after nearly dying on the beach and then again, in the recovery room after the heart operation, I fell into a morass. I was interested in nothing. I was dying in the foreseeable future. My future was death. This was a dead end future. I wasn’t interested in sex. It was in the nature of things that having as a girlfriend, who didn’t let me know she was a prostitute removed a certain possibility from my circumstance, for at least, had she tried to arouse jealousy for instance, rather than hiding her activities? God only knows.
In the chaos of desire and orgasm, rationality is abated and your fear of flying grounds you. The screenplay I wrote last summer is about three men who escape from a prison for mentally ill criminals. Its a parable of this fear. It begins with a speed boat competition between 12-year-old girls accompanied by their mothers. A guy is sleeping in his SUV in the Ski Beach parking lot, facing Crown Point and an attractive woman of 35 or so rolls by on inline skates, shouting at her daughter.
In the above montage, which I created for the entrance to the web radio theater, there are 46 men and 15 women, reflecting the gender ration of the professional culture of the ’30s and ’40s, when radio narratives flowered in America, which is also the subject of the graphic and ideally each of these images would be links to their related recordings.
When I was for a short time in the City of Stockholm, I met a painter, called, Mads. As a painter, he’s very much like El Greco with modern subjects. He talked to me about the hell of his marriage to a younger woman, who played the role more typical of the man in their relationship. A feminist idealist, she screws who she wants, when she wants and because of his love for her and his responsibility for their child, who was sleeping in a stroller during our conversation, and to his household, he tolerated his despair over her behavior but as the result of it, his art was exquisite. He asked me if it was worth the suffering and I said I didn’t think so. My approach, in comparison to his seems now like a cowardly self-deception.
De-mythification: 9) Virility and Sexual Stamina.
I’ve not had the opportunity nor have I been curious about being used sexually by ten or fifty women at a go. I’m confident that, with viagra, a voir dire of cohortsand a supply of psilocybin mushrooms and modafinol, everyone will have a good time because, when I’ve desired a woman sufficiently we were equal to the task. When my interest has been purely libidinous, we never knew each other, just enough to enjoy getting into bed and off. Imagination is essential so it isn’t a matter of stamina, even for Stanley Kowalski.
All I ask now is that good efforts be respected. Lina Wertmuller’s film,Seven Beauties, describes the predicament of honor. Ms. Wertmuller reminds me of Anne, my daughter’s mother. They have a similar sense of humor. We might prefer today to leave each other laughing.
San Diego Radio Theater was the last professional work in media, before I left Del Mar for the wilderness. To be honest, I threw myself overboard, this was not altruism. I had little time to produce much radio before I was evicted, penniless, having been defrauded by a partner and then robbed by the attorney I hired to recover, however, I wrote some nice adaptations of Cervantes and produced Lucille Fletcher’s radioplay: SorryWrongNumber-SDRT-08170
When I returned to San Diego, I re-launched the radio theater to prepare for production of Fast Cars and Slow Orgasms. An audition notice with Actors Alliance of San Diego advertises a radio adaptation of the play.
Prior to the radio theater, I wrote a business plan and funding proposal for an offshore passenger ferry service in Southern California that was funded with a $5 million grant from CalTrans. It was a good idea for reasons other than those for which it was funded. Like my friend Bambi, it was an E-Ticket ride. I’ve written for things like this a lot.
Confidence in my own ideas was suppressed by the absence of an encouraging father and mother (she had her hands full making peanut butter sandwiches) and an older brother, who defaulted to the ethics of a snail. When I had anything to say, I was ridiculed or otherwise punished. Not only did I grow to not believe in myself, I didn’t trust myself.
Carson McCullers said of her living competitors, “I have more to say than Hemingway, and God knows, I say it better than Faulkner”. I agree. So do I. I couldn’t admit it before. How do I know this is true? Certainly not because I haven’t failed sometimes.
“When we are lost what image tells? Nothing resembles nothing. Yet nothing Is not blank. It is configured Hell: Of noticed clicks on winter afternoons, malignant stars, Demanding furniture. All unrelated And with air between. The terror. Is it of Space, of Time? Or the joined trickery of both conceptions? To the lost, transfixed among the self-inflicted ruins, All that is non-air (if this indeed is not deception) Is agony immobilized. While Time, The endless idiot, runs screaming round the world.” – Carson McCullers, 1948
I’m in awe of Ms. McCullers. For her, I reread Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, James Joyce, Isak Dinesen and Baudelaire.
Before my exodus from Del Mar and the subsequent forty months wandering in the wilderness, during which I learned to listen when mortality came upon me, I despaired of learning what I could say to add anything of note to the morass of words and ideas, given the fleeting glimpses I’ve had so far into the immensity of space and time. Then I learned to write on faith, knowing that though it doesn’t matter, it remains when I’m gone. Like Simon Rodia’s spires in Watts, perhaps it will be discovered and like Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia cathedral, become a beacon in the screaming rush of time, the essence of being.
McCullers and Messiaen fit together in their finesse of harmonic and melodic lines; the ends of their pieces can have no other beginning yet no evidence of this intention is revealed until the culmination, when nothing could be any other way, which is what makes art possible, that we go back and get it right… there are many bison on the walls of caves. In an outline for The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, which Carson wrote about the novel after it was published, she said,
“…the characters cannot be described adequately without the events which happen to them being involved. Nearly all of the happening in the book spring directly from the characters. During the space of this book each person is shown in his strongest and most typical actions.
“Of course, it must be understood that none of these personal characteristics are told in the didactic manner in which they are set down [in this outline]. They are implied in one successive scene after another–and it is only at the end, when the sum of these implications is considered, that the real characters are understood in all of their deeper aspects”.
De-mythification: 10) Kitsch.
Intellectually-challenged products of mass media can’t see it, since its invisible to them, like the air they breathe, but video games are really machines that work by mechanizing a players’ sensibilities to a resolution well below that of an insect brain’s ability to finesse. Not the fractal edge of a mosquito wing or blade of grass, not the capacity for experience and emotion of relating to a human persona.
De-mythification: 11) Artificial Intelligence: the oxymoron that distinguishes oxymoron.
I’m making fun of human sexuality, desire and relationship. Not melodrama unless satirical. Never tragedy. Maybe mystery, if sex and desire are involved. In music, although I feel no constraints, I feel the pull of autonomous classical music like gravity.
If you have an interest in performing or producing theater, motion pictures or music or if you’re an attractive woman with a desire to please and a sense of humor, get in touch, cast a line over the rail.
For a long time, I pretended God is wrong. I felt this is an oxymoron but what could be more absurd than human existence if not God’s? What is He thinking? We get along better now, though I do despair of Syria, mass media in general, the U.S. Congress and possibly 99% of government employment and things like tornados. We’re on the same page, less alienated, if not embracing. I owe this to the love of a dear friend, the dog, and I’m hopeful that in relationship, under God, that is, there’s still a future.
Just as Carson said, “Christmas is parents”, religious myths and images are fantasies of communal life and stripping all of this away, the evidence of spirit that remains is as much a product of the laws that govern the universe as are any workings inside microbes that compose our individual organisms. As Lucretius put it, “nothing from nothing ever yet was born”.
The idea that quantum mechanics provides a nexus between our feelings of divine presence and a phenomenological view of a world we know as the universe isn’t new. Einstein speaks of this as well as Kant, Heidegger, Bohr, Wittgenstein, some might say, Lucretius, and the idea haunts philosophies of stoics and pragmatists. But it explains dreams and your current mood, music and possibly motivations of serial killers.
Magic is logic the audience doesn’t see. How can we see quantum mechanics at work with the misdirection of thousands of years of traditional religion assigning false cause and now, the economic priorities of scientific enterprise negotiating boundaries of faith? What might we be if we knew ourselves not as highly trainable animals that have evolved as we have simply because that’s what the rules of the universe game allow, that the joke on the universe is that superlative to the fact that we are each an iteration of a species we are calling, homo sapien, we are also individual, aesthetic bolts of psychic energy and that self-reflexion is the by-product, not the cause of consciousness?”
I’ll finish scripting and organizing production of the work originally titled, Fast Cars and Slow Orgasms later this year. There’s a chance I may die or go to Hawaii (Philadelphia or Oakland are unlikely) and I may produce sequences from the screenplay or something for a thesis for a master’s degree in music for media.
If you’re interested in the play, screenplay or composition (or have other talents), please, email: email@example.com. Two other stories are emerging: one is of the Norcal odyssey, hints of which are captured in posts and pages on this website and the other is a true tale of unrequited love, both of which led me to find myself in music.
My gift has worked when intuition merged with rationality, an existential balance. In a world in which pragmatists win and love is chaos, I try to find logic in chaos. Carson McCullers wrote about the process, in her article that Esquire published in 1959:
“It is like a flowering dream. Ideas grow, budding silently, and there are a thousand illuminations coming day by day as the work progresses. A seed grows in writing as in nature. The seed of the idea is developed by both labor and the unconscious, and the struggle that goes on between them.”
For a while, I made documentary films. It wasn’t difficult. You just record what people do and say and show it to them. For this reason, when I made a commercial for Lego they weren’t happy with it. Home Savings & Loan was thrilled to show a film I made for their development partner to a legislative committee investigating deceptive practices after KCET-TV in Los Angeles refused to broadcast the film. As it turned out, the Chairman of Home Savings’ was also on the Board of Directors of KCET.
Current focus: writing, producing and composing.
I Wouldn’t Blame Her is my remix of Gilbert & Sullivan’s aria in The Mikado. One isn’t what one does. I edit things, it’s part of writing and producing music as well as movies. I have always loved and felt grief over loss and danced, so in this sense, wouldn’t it be fair to say, I’m a sad dancing lover who edits sound or a lover who is, sadly, editing a dance? Some things I’ve been previously accountable for writing and for producing and in some cases, directing:
- Program for at-risk youth in San Diego
- Working Arts Foundation, nonprofit for music in public school curricula
- Olympic Plaza, c. 1982, (“most intelligent building in the world”)
- Architectronics, published by Mcgraw Hill 1987
- City of _____ ____ (incorporation of a coastal town)
- Educational, Commercial, Documentary and Public Service features and other media
- Radio plays (Sorry, Wrong Number)
- Newspaper stories [published collection will be posted shortly]
- Nonprofit housing development (400 homes for poor families in San Diego)
- The Wave, a high speed offshore passenger service in Southern California
- Music compositions
Talent seems to be hereditary, whether in science, math, artistic or rational thinking but it flourishes only when nurtured and in many cases, it isn’t. Biographies of writers and composers show that work reflects nurture: Lula Carson Smith, for instance, Wolfgang Mozart, Olivier Messiaen, Charles Darwin, Bernard Shaw, Gilbert & Sullivan.
My ancestors presumably came to the Mediterranean and Central Europe from the Indian subcontinent, by way of Persia, Egypt, Crete, Carthage, Alexandria, Babylon; making their way as linguists, musicians and artists, useful to attract and manage trade and commerce, religion, astrology, education and other concerns of government administration. My progenitors no doubt included linguists, image and music makers, rabbis and other story tellers. I have a need to imagine them into existence because my bloodline was all but wiped out in the German Christian pogrom known as, “The Holocaust”. (Pogrom is a euphemism for sanctioned taking of property of Jews by Christians. Similar atrocities involving other types of ethnic differences are called “massacres” or “ethnic cleansing”.)
Families that survived the Holocaust, having lost everything, evaporated into exile from their homelands in a process known as, “diaspora”, which is another ethnically specialized euphemism, this time, for migration following dislocation and forced exile. My grandparents self-exiled due to the officially sanctioned persecution of Jews in and around Europe between 1902 and 1945. (See Reinhold Brinkman’s & Cristoph Wolfe’s “Driven Into Paradise”.) Presumably, the ancestors of the recent exiles had been forced to vacate the Iberian peninsula in 1492 and so on. Theft by Christian mob.
As a result of publishing some this information about my father, a sister and brother, who I’d never known to exist, contacted me and provided information about my father that I’d never known, some of which I’ve now included here, including his photograph.
My mother, Ansie Lebowitz, left her husband, my father, Sam Myrow, during the last month of what would be called “my gestation”. From some comments of my mother’s I was left with the impression that, when she refused to validate Sam’s claim to the U.S. draft board that he was a married man supporting a wife and two children, Sam had to avoid the draft by other means. This may not be true but I don’t fault him for that in the least. How my father accomplished this hasn’t been explained to me, however, when I met him 35 years later, he was called Sam Costello.
Unfortunately, my mother both loved me and identified me with this man who she felt had egregiously betrayed her by having an affair with an employee of her in-laws, the Mills Music Publishing Co., for whom Sam worked around the time I was conceived in Hollywood. Their argument had nothing whatsoever to do with me except that when born, I had no father and my mother, who had no time for me since she worked 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, while my brother, a few years older than me, was both the older male in our household and a rival was predisposed to be a selfish viper.
When I met Sam Myrow for the first time, 35 years after I was born, at the bar in the Holiday Inn in Belmont, California, my father’s sur name had indeed become Costello and I learned at this time that there were siblings, some named, Myrow, some called, Costello, who didn’t know they had another relative.
It was true that Sam’s brother, Joseph, had helped him get the job with Mills when Joseph was courting Irving Mills‘ daughter.
Joseph wrote some nice songs, I like, for instance, You Make Me Feel So Young, whichFrank Sinatra popularized.
My mother looked with irony upon my interest in music but had no interest in supporting this and for one birthday, she actually gave me a sliderule, a fascinating instrument that I never comprehended.
Later, when fate put me into conversations with Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and Dizzy Gillespie, I found they knew more about my familial connections than I.
It’s a small world. Joseph Myrow’s son, Fred, who wrote and conducted film scores, like Soylent Green, is the only Myrow I’d met before this year. I met Fred when a mutual acquaintance asked him to help with music for a street festival I produced in Los Angeles.
I’ve long imagined that Joseph’s family viewed me as the prodigal offspring of Joe’s prodigal brother, (double prodigiality!) who brought shame upon the family. Now it seems, they didn’t know I existed and the fact that they didn’t care is excusable since the only thing my mother told me about Joe Myrow was that he didn’t pick up after himself, when he was camping in their living room, ostensibly before his fortunate marriage. My uncle’s housekeeping issues were resolved by marrying a woman with the resources to support housekeepers.
At the time I met him, Fred was the director of the LA Actor’s Theater and he died not long after that event, relatively young and I wonder that he inherited the same bicuspid aortic valve that nearly killed me and would have, had I not been assisted by Stephan Schneider a German doctor from Halle, who I’d serendipitously met at a Landmark seminar, who saved me from the deadly alternatives offered by Blue Cross Insurance and a fatalistic “general practitioner” I’d been consulting.
I wish I’d known Fred better. He seemed similar to me in ways I noticed when I met Sam at the bar in the Holiday Inn. Wherever Fred and Sam are now, I really wish they could enjoy my new work.
Portrait of The Artist (About M Ellis Winn) is a somewhat autobiographic novel that is currently password protected, while truth checking. Some of my current fiction is also in this web location, in various stages of incompletion. The password may be available if you request, with a nondisclosure statement. Portrait contains some revealing insights and questions about a series of unexplained deaths in and around Del Mar, California.
Note re Education. There were and possibly still are enough anti-semitic people teaching in public schools in Philadelphia and Los Angeles to validate rumors of economic support for Nazis in the U.S. during WWII (as well as neo-Nazism in America, now). Those who attend synagogues instead of church are tolerated better these days, rather than routinely not included. When I developed homes for poor families in California for a nonprofit I co-founded with Robert Ito in San Diego, it was common to find clauses in deeds to property prohibiting habitation by Jews and Negroes. (Japs were so far out of the question that they weren’t imagined in sufficient strength to prohibit them in property deeds.) Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Americans were watching the gassing of Jews in Europe just as people today observe the daily slaughters in Syria. Overt xenophobic behavior now focuses on Islamic semites. Jews and Christians have found common cause.
Why take it personally? I graduated from California State University at Long Beach in Radio and Television Production; currently I’m working on a masters in music and sound design for media at the Art Academy University in San Francisco.