Monday, March 30, 2009

Confessions of Your Friendly Neighborhood Asshole.

Earlier tonight Anise and myself went to a neighborhood place to get a burrito. There was a guy begging outside the door. He asked if we could buy him a taco. I said no, sorry, we couldn't. Once inside, I looked up at the menu and saw that tacos were only a couple bucks. I certainly could have bought him one. But there was something about his desperate, whining insistence that made me not want to buy him a taco. Maybe if he had had a different voice, a different face, had been a woman I would have bought him a taco. I don't know. But I didn't like the feel of him and didn't want to buy him a taco.

The other night I was walking home after renting a movie and I was stopped at a corner, waiting for the light to change. Beside me stood an older man with a walker. He was holding on to the walker and leaning back really far, in a strange sort of way. It didn't seem like the walker should have been holding him up. But he didn't ask for help, or seem to be in any trouble, so I didn't pay much attention. A moment later he fell to the ground, nearly taking me with him.

I helped him up, which took a while, got him back on his walker and helped him make his way back on to the sidewalk. Even this took quite a few minutes. I finally got him settled and he seemed to be okay, and started making his way with tiny, nearly imperceptible movements forward. A literal snail's pace. He said he only had a few more blocks to go. The way he was moving, a few blocks would have been three hours, at least. But he wasn't falling over, so I left him there. There was a part of me that felt I should have called him a cab or something, but I just headed home. I had things to do.

In theory, I truly want to be better and kinder to my fellow human beings, but in reality, more often than not they just make me nervous and generally uncomfortable. Most of them I just want to get away from, especially if they are in need. I am just not good with people. I mean, I'm not a complete asshole. I do assist random folk in need as long as it does not inconvenience me too much, or if they are somewhat attractive. One thing I do is give away money to strangers perhaps more often than I should. Giving money away I don't mind so much, even though most months we barely make rent. Assuages some of the the guilt, I suppose.

There's the few lines from Barfly:
"Do you hate people?"
"Hate them? No, I just seem to feel better when they're not around..."

I remember a friend telling me about a time one evening when he was in a parking lot and saw a man that had seemingly fallen out of his wheelchair. My friend's instinct was to pretend he didn't notice and keep going about his business, but there was someone else that saw that he saw that the man had fallen out of his wheelchair, so my friend felt the social pressure to go help the man, even though he really didn't want to. He felt anger at being forced into an uncomfortable and awkward situation when he just wanted to go about his business. I understood this and I felt for him.

This, in turn, reminds me of a time years ago; some friends and I were drinking at the Hotel Padre(RIP) in Bakersfield, and there was a guy in a wheelchair, a Vietnam vet, if I recall correctly. Or he said he was. He was loud, obnoxious and kept begging drinks. And then he "danced" in his wheelchair for the rest of the night, spinning around, and popping wheelies and whatnot. I remember not being particularly happy with his presence.

When we left the bar it was raining, and we were very drunk. I was driving us home, and just a ways down the road from the bar there was the wheelchair guy, his chair tipped over off the sidewalk. He was spilled out into the gutter, rain pouring down upon him, the wheels of his upsidedown wheelchair slowly spinning. My friend pointed him out as we sped on by, both of us laughing uncontrollably, tears running down our cheeks.

Moments later there were sirens and coplights in the rearview and I ended up spending the night in the drunk tank.

The point, Bill, the point?

Can't rightly say.

Good night.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Coming Soon to a Theater Nowhere Near You

So, a little while ago myself and a coworker decided we would make another Jaws sequel. Because, you know, it's been a while. And we wanted to do it before Rob Zombie got around to it. Since we have no budget for such an undertaking, we decided to feature only dead actors in the film. Splice together pieces from old films to create our new masterpiece. And, to appeal to the kids, we figured the shark could talk. With Roy Scheider's voice, of course.

We imagined the opening scene: Just as dawn hits the all but frozen sea of Antarctica (or somewhere really cold) a ship smashes into a giant iceberg, unknowingly awakening a mammoth prehistoric shark with a savage hunger for revenge on humanity. Or something like that. That's about as far as we've gotten, but I did design a poster for the film to whet the public appetite:

In other somewhat related news, have you heard about the new Three Stooges movie in the works? It's not a biopic, but a modernized re imagining of the classic characters. Starring (and I kid you not) Jim Carrey, Benicio Del Toro, and um, Sean Penn as Larry. I'm not lying. I swear.

Good Night.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I Have Been In Darkness Before...

I'm writing a poem around the concept that life can be beautiful, fulfilling, and completely meaningless all at once. Not a new idea, I know, and I suppose a fair amount of my poems touch on that philosophy, but it is a way of thinking that is close to my heart.

I often hear the argument that god is needed to give life meaning. A heaven or a hell, some kind of afterlife. Without god, the argument goes, people would have no moral compass, existence would just be a meaningless journey to death filled with pain, madness and suffering.

Well, I got news for ya kids: that's life in a nutshell, god or no.

On the other hand, if we are lucky, and many of us aren’t I know, but if we are lucky, we are given our share of decent moments in this life. Hours, weeks, years of existence on the earth without an abundance of pain, perhaps some joy scattered about here and there, and, if we are very lucky, a bit of love. The meaning of it all is the simple fact of it.

I do not believe that most of the good people do is born of a belief in god, rather from a feeling of empathy for our fellow human beings. The golden rule, you know. We are good to each other because we are each other. That Dostoyevskian concept that if one of us is suffering, we are all suffering.

Most of those who claim a belief in god don’t live their lives in a more godlike manner than the rest of us, very often just the opposite. They can be as nasty and ugly as they want as long as they pop into church once or twice a month, or repent their entire lives on their deathbed, if given the chance. And they fear death just as much, if not more so, despite what they claim to believe.

An interesting aspect of being an unbeliever-you’re not supposed to talk about it, just keep it to yourself, for fear of upsetting the godlike, the elderly, the faint of heart. Just nod and smile when the god stuff is being passed around.

But sometimes one gets tired of nodding and smiling, and I want to say, I do not think you really believe what you profess to believe, and if you do, I firmly believe you are in error, and if you don’t truly believe it, you are a fool for pretending to. In short, we all need to grow up a bit if our species is ever going to reach its full potential.

We are born, we live, we die. I think the only honest way of being is to admit we don’t know what happens after that. I imagine we get back to doing whatever it was we were doing before.

Okay, I’m done. For now. Thanks for reading, if you’ve read this far. It’s all a jumble, I know. But spewing a bit of it out might help me to sleep a bit better.

I’ll leave you with a much loved (by me, anyway) passage from the introduction to the book, The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthie. I’ve never actually gotten around to reading the book itself, but what I read of the introduction was enough to make me take it home. The author is speaking of his lifelong love of animals, and rejecting the idea of an afterlife reserved solely for human beings:

“If it is true that there is no haven of rest for them when their sufferings here are at an end, I, for one, am not going to bargain for any heaven for myself. I shall go without fear where they go, and by the side of my brothers and sisters from forests and fields, from skies and seas, lie down to merciful extinction in their mysterious underworld, safe from any further torments inflicted by god or man, safe from any haunting dream of eternity.

The night will be dark for there will be no stars overhead and no hope for a dawn, but I have been in darkness before. It will be lonely to be dead, but it cannot be much more lonely than to be alive.”

Good Night.

A Band I Love

The Apartments are a wonderful band from Australia. I honestly don't know anyone else who knows or cares much about them and that makes me profoundly sad. So I thought I'd use the mighty power of blog to share them with some people who might give a damn. Or might not. But share I shall.

The band is basically singer/songwriter Peter Milton Walsh, and whatever musicians he decides to surround himself with at any given time. Walsh was a member of an early incarnation of the Go-Betweens. The Apartments came into being in the early eighties as a post punk outfit with a couple of good singles. They broke up very soon and reformed again a few years later.

They never made much of a dent here in the US, though I understand they have a big cult following in in France. Their biggest claim to fame is a song included on the soundtrack to the John Hughes film, Some Kind of Wonderful. The film was pretty much Pretty In Pink all over again. But not as good. Hmmm. I guess that's not much of a claim to fame. But have you ever had a song in a John Hughes film? Didn't think so.

This Mortal Coil also covered their song "Mr. Somewhere" on their Blood album. The original version is better.

The essential Apartments album is Life Full of Farewells from 1995. I never tire of it. It's a world of it's own...sad, sweet, melancholy chamber pop to make you swoon and dream of people and places long gone. Perfect & beautiful. If you have an ear for the sublime you might want to give it a listen.

Walsh quit recording and performing some years ago after the death of his son. He unexpectedly got a band together and played a few shows in Australia in 2007. Whether he plans to continue to perform or make new music I have no idea. But I can hope.

Thanks for reading. That's about all I have to report in the wee hours of this Wednesday morning. I am sleepy now. Good night.

Monday, March 23, 2009

For Those Few Who May Be Interested

Some updates on where my work has recently appeared or will appear in the near future:

A poem (Adrift) has been posted on the latest update at Silenced Press.

A few recent pieces have been posted at Scot Young's excellent Rusty Truck Zine.

The (somewhat) legendary Lummox Press has been publishing their Little Red Book series for a decade now, and to commemorate this milestone they've released The Long Way Home: The Best of the Little Red Book Series 1998-2008.

In addition to some of my stuff, the handsome volume includes work by the likes of A.D. Winans, RD Armstrong, Alan Catlin, Lyn Lifshin, Glen Cooper, Todd Moore, Rob Plath, Bill Shields and plenty of other wonderful folk. I implore you to give it a look.

I'll be reading along with Harmon Leon, Kris Saknussem, Debbie Kirk, MK Chavez, Melissa Hansen and Paul Corman-Roberts at the Cherry Bleeds Literary Happy Hour on Friday, April 3rd at the Knockout Room here in San Francisco. Come on by. It will be fun, I promise. Poetry goes down much better with booze, I always find.

A few upcoming projects:

I'm working on an anthology with Lummox Press that will include work by myself as well as MK Chavez, Christopher Robin, Father Luke, Hosho McCreesh, Christopher Cunningham and Miles J. Bell. The volume is tentatively titled The Crooked Road (I think), and may be out sometime this summer.

The Hunger Season, a book of new poetry, is due out from sunnyoutside in the fall.

And lastly, my previous two books are still available for the buyin':

Words For Songs Never Written

So Much Is Burning

Thanks for reading and please forgive the self promotion. A lot of folk in the independent press put a lot of time, love and money into creating beautiful things (books, websites, etc.) that 99.9% of the population doesn't give a fuck about. I feel it my duty to do what I can to spread the word.

A good night to you.

I blog therefore I exist.

Look world, I have a blog.

I don't twitter or text, and I still don't own a cell phone, so let this be my concession to modern forms of communication.

Until recently, MySpace served well enough for my sporadic desire to communicate in cyberspace, but most folks these days have all but abandoned MySpace for Facebook. Facebook serves well enough for stalking old highschool crushes and as yet another form of email, but most of it is a jumbled mess of stuff I can make little sense of. So, for the time being, this will be my outlet of choice for drunken ramblings and the occasional pome.

A blog. Why, Bill, why do you need a blog? Do you really? ( I asked myself today as I sat in the sunshine of Union Square drinking wine and looking at the tourists and the beautiful people go about their business.)

I imagine (I answered myself) I'm starting a blog for the reason most people start blogs. Another thing to pass the time as we wait for cancer and heart attacks and for the rest of our teeth to fall out. Something to amuse ourselves as we wait for earthquakes, bombs and plane crashes.

A desperate flailing about for attention and validation. The need for others to convince myself that I exist.
To reassure myself that my little cries into the void are being momentarily heard by someone, anyone.

Welcome, welcome. Come as often as you like. O, the fun we will have.