"The stars are threshed, and the souls are threshed from their husks."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Splendid Isolation

I'm locking myself into an undisclosed Central Valley Hotel Room until Sunday. I'll be out of contact.

Monday, March 26, 2007

You've Been a Good Old Wagon, But You Done Broke Down

I am so very tired of being William. I'd like to resign.

For Sale: One William, 1980, usual wear and tear. White body, brown trim. Tends to die in idle, but good at high speeds. Just rebuilt the teeth. Needs new glasses.

Make me an offer.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

You have not said too much

"We say 'far away'; the Zulu has a sentence word instead that means: 'where one cries mother I am lost.' And the Fuegian surpasses our analytical wisdom with a sentence word of seven syllables that literally means: 'they look at each other, each waiting for the other to offer to do that which both desire but neither wishes to do.'"


"The world that appears to you in this way is unreliable, for it appears always new to you, and you cannot take it by its word. It lacks density, for all in it permeates all else. It lacks duration, for it comes even when not called and vanishes when you cling to it. It cannot be surveyed: if you try to make it surveyable, you lose it. It comes--comes to fetch you--and if it does not reach you or encounter you it vanishes, but comes again, transformed. It does not stand outside you, it touches your ground; and if you say 'soul of my soul' you have not said too much. But beware trying to transpose it into your soul--that way you destroy it. It is your present; you have only a present only insofar as you have it; and you can make it into an object for you and experience and use it--you must do that again and again--and then you have no present any more. Between you and it there is a reciprocity of giving: you say You to it and give yourself to it; it says You to you and gives itself to you. You cannot come to an understanding about it with others; you are lonely with it; but it teaches you to encounter others and stand your ground in such encounters; and through the grace of its advents and the melancholy of its departures it leads you to that You in which the lines of relation, though parallel, intersect. It does not help you to survive. It only helps you to have intimations of eternity."

--Martin Buber

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I hate California

Me: Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Pub customer: Please. It should be 'Happy Genocide Day.' I mean, he liked wiped out an entire race. I can't believe people celebrate this murderer.
Me (in my head): I don't hit women. I don't hit women. I don't hit women.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


I was making a frightened rabbit's run out of the valley, rattling down small roads through the desolate miles, northward. My first exploration of the lower San Joaquin Valley, the arable lands of Fresno and Tulare counties, had ended in disaster. I thought the Sacramento River Valley had shown me horrors sufficient to my task, that I was now inured to the spiritual torpor induced by miles and miles of monoculture. I had witnessed the mass melon grave. I'd seen pickers resting under the machinery, the only shade for miles. I thought I was ready.

But in the citrus groves extending from Lindsey north to Exider, and then on every side of Reedley, Orosi, Sanger, and Selma, I encountered a new terror. Every orange on every tree spoke to me of its destination, and I traveled with them through time and space. I was driving down pale dry orchard roads but I was also an invisible attendant to every breakfast table across the country. The cataract roar of millions of glasses filling with juice, the shriek of every spiral torn peel, the thunderous applause of teeth against pulp--the hive sound of that simultaneity increased with the hailstone clatter of unpicked oranges falling against the hard lifeless ground. In searching for the edges of bounty, and I stumbled unwittingly into bounty's core. Flee! I pointed the car west and threw up clouds of dust to obscure my retreat. Mercifully, the citrus groves eventually gave up the chase, but instead of their terrible globular monotony, I had driven into a dust-riven hard plain of emptiness, a peach pit pressed flat. The only break in the agriculture of the apocalypse was the smell of molasses and manure from innumerable dairies of Holstein milk and misery. Land o' lakes my sweaty ass.

The towns along Colorado Road remain a blur, San Joaquin, Tranquility, Helm, Ingle. Signs began to appear shortly after for Mendota, the Cantelope Center of the World. What I needed was a thriving little downtown with a dark bar staffed by a pretty woman with a community college education, a kid or two, and a piece-of-shit ex-husband in Madera, but the sewage disposal centers along the Fresno Slough augured poorly. Mendota may be a nice town, but I saw only the paralytic immobility of its streets, the invalid stare of boarded-up shops and the usual broken-window ruin agribusiness brings to its devotee cities and sped past towards Firebaugh. No hope there either. I took Avenue 7 ½ towards the Buttonwillow Drain on a whim, crossed it, despaired, and backtracked to Highway 33 north a broken man.

I turned off 33 onto Volta Road to avoid Interstate 5 and crossed a road named Badger Flat. If I could make it to the Past Time Club in Gustine, I'd be home safe. Not that there was any escape. The valley may be the fuel of this ugly civilization, but the Cities of Enlightenment along the San Francisco Bay are the engines, and their self-righteous bubble life is only made possible by the heedless predation of rural places. Broken, I thought, every god damned thing under the sun is broken.

No bigger than a flea on the enormous dachshund of the valley--only four small blocks by three-- with roads of an ancient pavement covered over with sand, Volta, Unincorporated, arrested my deranged flight effortlessly. This place, I thought, breathes its own air. A gang of little brown boys rode bicycles lazily down the empty streets, steering one-handed around potholes and chickens. The setting sun made everything bigger and slower to leave the senses. In the yards of houses variously upkept grazed goats and an occasional head of cattle or two. Nobody's chickens ranged everywhere and roosted in old cars resting on cinder blocks. Cats with speakeasy attitudes strutted from slanting light to long-shadow. The boys rode by again, taking no heed of me, shouting to one another in English and Spanish.

Time, it is said, has stopped in a place like this. The sentiment has always bothered me, but I hadn't, until that lazy dusk in Volta, thought it through. Time, it seems, rather than measured in hours, days, or years, has come to be measured by material goods, the implication being that contemporaneity, and therefore relevance, is a luxury item, a marker of class. These old Chevrolets and Buicks still run, these old individual houses still sheltered, and a well made thing, be it wall or saw, should last a century or more. Agriculture itself is something civilization places behind it. What a clever way to ignore entire places and peoples, to place them outside of time itself. But what an impoverishment of currency, to find it only in the infant tantrums of new technologies and fashions.

From where I was leaning, Volta looked like it was on the cutting edge. It was the animals, naturally, and the humbleness of its size. Were Volta incorporated, laws would prevent the residents from keeping a goat or two in their back yard. But animals are a great benefit to the poor, and by the poor I mean mankind, for it is only in the necessity for food, clothing, company, and vocation commonly called poverty that we are known to one another. Should the oil run out, should this luxuriant civilization wreck upon that or any other iceberg, we'll bring the animals back into our lives. For their meat, their milk, their fur, wool, and hides, for their bones, for their warmth, company, and for the unique, unspeakable knowledge of ourselves found in their eyes. They provide for our every necessity, and we owe to them the greater portion of what we call human. It is a comfort to me, the odds that they will return to us, though we scarce deserve them.

Overheard in My Head

"Why should I name a car? When it dies I ain't burying it."

Monday, March 12, 2007

Red Cat 'Till I Die

Hungover, my hands still crusted with whole-wheat, never bleached, never bromated lasagna pasta, helping my second oldest friend move up a flight of stairs, and realizing the toothache I'd been entertaining for a week thought himself family, I endured the schlep and emerged mucky-eyed as any infant in the mid-afternoon. I showered, napped in same state, and woke a poor dice throw later refreshed and ready to be defiant if the circumstances arose.

I bought an album about a red cat in the thirties who befriended Lefty Mouse and Rev. Tom Toad. They went around agitating for the unions and the workin' man. Cat's name was Buddy.

One cat. One vote. And one beer.


Sometimes one wakes and realizes he's been brought by misery or accident near the solution and he's got to stumble to conquer.

I knew that Pegasus was the wrong book store. Black Oak was the right one. Moe's is a Sabbath of his own. He needs not me nor me him in such ciphering.

There were poets reading at Black Oak. I could have easily replaced the Byatt I lost when I lost my bag-but that dogged my hurtin head and I can usually read a map all right. A bald man tall and a cute blond small. They'd workshopped together. I felt like the usual asshole and as usual didn't care. I resolved to find a new way to read outloud.

For months I've been looking for a cheap edition of Tristam Shandy. Gold gilt three foot tall faux-hide bound edition for twenty five dollars. Nothin doin. But the introduction was by Christopher Morely.

I have a 1918 crush on the man.

After a brief and perfunctory sojourn into the Judaica section I looked in the M's for Morely hisself and found a signed edition of John Misletoe. I bought it anyway.

"The old mulberry by the ruined arch, the prostrate mock-orange tree below the cricket shed, the tall pines by Chase Hall, the feathery clumps of of pampas grass, the copper beeches, the fallen flukes of mapleseeds, all such became a part of one's innocence. In spring there was the constant drowsy whirr of the big lawnmower, drawn by a horse who wore huge leather slippers on his feet to spare the sod. Nor he, nore the rhododendrons, nor anything else in that perfect picture were in vain. One had an idea of peace. It would not be until many years later one might divine an almost ominous loveliness in some lights and shades. Under the copper beeches , in Pennsylvania's reckless sun, there is a lustred shimmer that knows no argument...rambling in thos groves you will sometimes be aware that the woodlands of Penn have never been wholly won back from the wilderness. Whatever that visitor may have said, those are not the tame trees of "an English nobleman's park," they are still forest timber, and sometimes the voice they whisper is not of Penn but of Pan. "

I read this and more in Triple Rock until a clandestine and nascent cold unveiled itself in a trumpet sound of abundant and clear mucas. I found the path, but had broken the brush such that any and all could follow.

Nah. You don't know Hank Williams like I did.

There is a little red arrowish dog who swims through the low air in our pseudo-adobe apartment complex. His owner is a sway-backed skinny brunette with an old Beemer adorned with a bumper sticker that says "Bio-fuel for the Revolution."

This warm hurtful morning I let my cat, the Cat-a-Push, out into the concrete yard he has grown into and owned against a mighty Red-Tailed-Siamese Resistance.

Leaving my citadel among citadels I ran across the dog-thing lapping up the inches towards our slinky hero and the Pushkin, 'ero of ages, ribboned under my door and inside.

Sway-backed girlie's boy-thing: "I would have thought the dog would have been more scared than the cat."

Me: "My cat isn't scared. He just hates to get his hands dirty."