Monday, January 25, 2021

How Am I ?

Thanks for asking. Or was that just me wondering out loud in my daily assessment? Considering all the body parts I would give myself a high grade. Of course, some are growing weary and others are sloughing off altogether. Then again I understand a million or more cells have recently been added. Welcome, have a piece of fruit. Don’t ask how many planks in this architecture I’m walking around with.

I just Googled that question and see there are 206 bones and 600 muscles to say nothing of connective tissue and assorted organs humming away. Fortunately they all quietly take their rightful place but some are loudly asking for attention with itches, cramping, inflammation or burning as in the neuropathy in my toes. Others may be silently plotting my overthrow with nefarious deeds. How are you, spleen? Getting enough love? What’s happening kidneys? At least my lungs and kidneys have good company with their twin.

How amazing, this specimen we are!  With the Stay-At-Home order my face is slowly disappearing behind a shrubbery of hair, not only covering the east, west and south of me but, to the north, my eyebrows have now joined the crop on my head. I am now a bushy beast with an opening at the mouth and a protruding proboscis. The hair on my head looks like an untended garden as if I’m a client of Albert Einstein’s barber. What used to be a clean-shaven fallow field is now a bumper crop of random seedlings. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a dandelion sprout up any day now.

Remind again me why are we are upright? Between my several auto-immune disorders and side effects from the medications I'm being brought to my knees. I have a distant memory of walking on all fours. Imagine getting shoes for our hands or gloves for our feet. It would certainly relieve the strain on my back. I’d just have to remember to avoid those gravelly roads. I could even learn to love bananas while swinging from trees.

Admittedly, I’ve never been much of a nature-lover. I’m hopelessly a big-city guy. I don't remember even having any stuffed animals as a child. I never met a tree I felt an impulse to hug though I do admire the spectrum of their dying leaves. Nor do I feel any love for crocodiles or snakes. However, I’m now ready to make amends and proclaim kinship with my furry cousins. There are worse ways to spend my next incarnation.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

A Bit of Wisdom, A Bit of Folly

Love is a verb. It is how we meet and care for one another. A dance of anticipation. Mattering like nothing else. But more than transitive doing it is intransitive being. Watching the squirrel. Listening to the Bolero. Sharing cauliflower souffle.

God is a question………..and that’s not a bad thing. Though it isn’t a word in my vocabulary. An interrogation of the unknown. What we wonder.  The imponderable. 

Poetry creates silence….even as it sings. The poem blesses and it curses. It leaves a residue. It has tiny apertures for the reader to enter.  It goes beyond rhetoric, beyond all those words dead from exhaustion. Or it uses those words in new ways to reinvigorate them. It makes me wish I wrote them.

Morning is an exclamation point. The time when all those vivid dreams vanish. Maybe the melon ripened overnight. Maybe it hasn’t yet. The possibility of an intruder. How strange the banana looks all of a sudden from this angle. The eastern sun printing a bouquet on the wall. A chill different from the evening.

I’m growing a beard. It feels like a crop on the arable soil of my face. It has been in wait all these years, regularly mowed but now sprouting. Maybe I look like Sigmund Freud. If I leave it alone I’ll resemble Walt Whitman.

I just read a novel I greatly admired for the first 75 pages. Then it seemed like a one-note story. The author teetered brilliantly on the verge of the apocalyptic. As it went on it became more menacing and more unreal. I got bored. Why isn’t the human predicament enough without lapsing into dystopia? I regard that as a failure of the imagination.  Virginia Woolf didn’t need a comic book to explore the vast interior landscape.

Am I alone looking forward to the baseball season?  It restores order or at least the illusion of permanence. My metaphor for life………..precision (the infield) mingling with randomness (the outfield). The lesson of living with failure (the best team loses sixty games a year). I like to pretend it matters. Stats and the X factor. Slumps and streaks. Ultimately the triumph of the inexplicable.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

How Did It All Begin?

January 6th 2021, another day of infamy. I would have thought one was enough in a lifetime. That other, so named by FDR, was called sneaky; this was naked in broad daylight with ample warning. Of course, we’ve had many such infamous days during my brief candle.

But how did it all begin?

This attack on the People’s House of Congress could be seen as a continuing act of incivility in our most deadly conflict, the Civil War. Ironic that the Capitol was largely built by slaves and now defiled by White Supremacists. Our War Between the States has never ended. Reconstruction soon became deconstruction for Blacks. Descendants of plantation owners, southern farmers, merchants and working people kept their hatred alive for the past century and a half against descendants of those in bondage. Today’s lynch mob of the ignorant, aggrieved and gullible has been uncaged and is now feral having been legitimatized by our most ignoble of Presidents.

But how did it all begin?

We were founded as a country of Europeans in flight from persecution and conscription as well as those seeking a new beginning heedless and unconstrained of rapacious behavior. Along with White opportunists came Blacks in chains. We thought nothing about displacing and eliminating the indigenous people.

But how did it all begin?

When our ancestors came out of Africa some settled the western part of the Eurasian land mass. Didn’t Europe look west to the Americas after Greece went east to Troy and Cain was banished east of Eden? It has always been thus, barely contained

Most of us have at least a modicum of introspection with displays of empathy, forgiveness and love. But there are those among us who are loud and quick to anger with a muscular mindset. Their reptilian brain cedes autonomy to an authoritarian figure. Enter Donald J. Trump, delusional, pugnacious and pernicious; we have seen the consequences.



Monday, December 28, 2020

Vision 20-20

Maybe history will record 2020 as the year Planet Earth was ravaged and made to pause in our rapacity. Some learned to turn inward and consider that vast terrain.

Rather than end the calendar with a chronicle of all the dread and woe I’d rather talk about someone who breathes a different air. I’m speaking of my wife, Peggy. Even with her shortness of breath (SOB) there is no shortness of breadth.

Her embrace is open wide. There are no bounds, no restraints. She sees the same awfulness on the newspaper and T.V. but manages to transform it to a different realm. The lost bridges are traversed, fallow fields, planted. Even death with its unfathomable chill is dismissed by love’s constant shawl.

.For the past eight years she has written a poem every day, with few exceptions. In 2013, with a fractured hip and nine weeks in rehab she had 52 poems published.  But the poem is merely the product. Poetry is not some acquired talent with words. He poetry is an expression of her being, how each day is lived with gratitude, reverence and wonderment.

The heart, lonely hunter that it is, also orchestrates its own chamber music. Peggy’s heart is beating with atonal sounds, arrhythmically, Schoenberg composing, Charlie Parker on sax. They call it atrial fibrillation. The discord wears her out.

In Peggy’s world being a hunter is not enough. She is a finder. Look down, the pebble is a nugget; that skeletal tree is about to combust. The world is always on the verge of a new stanza.

As her body declines her spirit sings Handel’s Hallelujah. The cardiac organ and her creative juice exist on different planes. The poem which is Peggy’s essence shall prevail.

+with a fractured hip and nine weeks in rehab she had 52 poems published. But the poem is merely a product. Poetry is not an acquired talent with words. Her poetry is in her being, how she lives each day with gratitude, reverence and wonderment.

The heart, lonely hunter that it is, also sings along with its chamber music. Peggy’s heart is beating its own atonal music, arrhythmically, Schoenberg composing, Charlie Parker on sax. They call it atrial fibrillation. The discord wears her out.

In Peggy's world being a hunter isn't enough. She is a finder, Look down, the pebble is a jewel, the skeletal tree is almost ready to combust. The world is on always on the verge of a new stanza.

But her spirit sings Handel’s Hallelujah. The cardiac organ and her creative juice exist on different planes. The poem which is Peggy's essence shall prevail.



Saturday, December 12, 2020

Shameless Self-Promotion

It’s coming round the bend. No, not the vaccine or the moving van for our deposed wannabe monarch but my new book, The Bus To Elsewhere. It may not cure Covid but studies have shown that among those reading my previous four books of essays there were no new cases of diphtheria, ague or dropsy.

Reader’s discourse became more scintillating. They had fewer incidence of busted shoe laces, paper cuts and lost car keys. They found themselves in shorter lines. Fewer socks disappeared from washing machines and scam calls diminished between midnight and three A.M. They also had a zero, zero, zero, point three percent better chance of winning the lottery, particularly if they bought a ticket.

I’m told that readers keep my book in their night-stands which tells me it serves as a way of catching up on their sleep. This doesn’t surprise me since many of these pages were composed in my hypnogogic state.

The book covers the period between 2016-2018 when all the lights went out. We suddenly lived in a country of moral depravity with a degraded public voice in a disfigured landscape and malice aforethought. The scourge of Donald found a habitat in my psyche. His toxic air fouled every inhalation. I could only hope that Peggy’s muse might float over to me as I stared at the blank page.

Trump seems to enter more essays than I’d like even if for a line or two. His presence seeps through the walls of my mansion like a miasma.

The Bus To Elsewhere is my journey out of these dark times. My wish  is for the reader to find some resonance with my reflections, ruminations and rants. My impulse is to leaven the sturm und drang with a dash of wit, levity layered in with the gravity against which the tyrant has no defense. I’m attracted to the absurd, the human comedy.

As it is too late to use as a turkey stuffing it comes at a perfect time to order from Amazon as a perfect stocking stuffer. The pages have a high fiber content but may not be entirely edible. In fact, at over 300 pages the book would fit only in Big Foot’s sock.

You may wish to buy 2-3 copies in case you leave one on the trolley or in the back seat of an Uber. If you’d like yours inscribed don’t let me stop you. Due to an essential tremor along with a motor neuron neuropathy I can no longer write except my name with great effort. Write yourself what you’ve always wanted to hear and I’ll scribble something resembling my signature.

I know what you’re thinking. What chutzpah to expect people to spend money, approximately the amount for a Chinese chicken salad, on a book of scrupulously composed blurts which you may have already read but forgotten. I don’t disagree. The alternative is for me to stuff them all  in a bottle and toss it off the Santa Monica Pier….and then throw myself. Or you can splurge and save a chicken.'

Just go to Amazon and put in,  books, then Norm Levine,"The Bus To Elsewhere"

Good words to you and thanks.





Sunday, December 6, 2020

Random Thoughts on Hunkering

Here we are hunkered down. I never expected to be hunkered. Nothing has prepared me for this. Up until ten months ago I doubt if I’d ever used that word. But I’ve come to embrace it.

Hunkered has a dank, down-in-the-trenches feel to it. It’s low-down and dirty. You don’t just hunker, you hunker down as in sunk or dump, even slam-dunk. Kerplunk!

I’m now in my subterranean laboratory hunkered and bunkered with a bubbling cauldron looking for the elixir of life. A vax

Monks were hunkered; they called it cloistered. Not a bad place to be during the plague with a direct line to God in one of his tantrums.

From the depths of the well you can best see the stars. Whoever said that I’ll take his word for it.

Hunkered harkens to muck and mud. Mississippi mud as in Huck Finn. It's all hunky-dory with me.

You don’t have to be a hunk to be hunkered. We’re all in this together huddled and bubbled six feet apart.

I take it back. With almost 188 years between us, everything has prepared us for this. Peggy and I rather enjoy the hunkering-down. Reading, writing, watching, reaching out to friends moves the clock just fine. We ain’t going nowhere.

I only unhunker to the laundry room or the trashcan. If I ever throw out our clothes or wash the garbage it's time to leave this orb.

Drunks do it. Spelunks do it. Even educated punks do it. Let’s do it. Let’s all hunker-down.

Archie Bunk does it. Folks in a funk do it. Even genetically modified skunks do it. Let’s do it. Let’s hunker-down.


Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Thank You, Now Please Leave

December is the month to look back and ask, what just happened. Now that he is packing his toothbrush it may be time to list all the accomplishments of the Trump regime. I thought this would be a good way to preserve the pristine blank page but there are some benefits when I thought about it.

First is the extent to which he has concentrated our attention in the way a terminal diagnoses focuses one’s mind. My deaf daughter’s vocabulary seems to have doubled as she emails me in well-rounded sentences with anger and dread in equal parts. 

It has been a four-year bonanza for comedians. What will Randy Rainbow and Sarah Cooper do without Donald to parody? We thought Dubya was a gift to late-night talk-shows but Trump makes Bush look like Stephen Hawking.

I can think of no person in recorded history who suffers by comparison. Perhaps Peter and Catherine were called Great coming after Ivan the Terrible and Vlad the Impaler. So, too, Andrew Johnson and Warren Harding now seem like benign incompetents next to Donald J. Trump.

It has been a negative lesson in Civics. America had an opportunity to see the function of government by its very absence. The vacuity and dysfunction demonstrated the noble role which the federal government could have played in saving lives and preserving our environment.

We have been witness to a certifiably failed human being. It’s a rare moment in history that mindlessness is on full display. Reckless and feckless acts combined with ignorance and arrogance have never been so nakedly revealed in public office.

There have been more than 16,000 books written about Abraham Lincoln. I expect the subject of Trump to become a growth industry topping that figure. I can see a creative burst coming in print and performance art trying to make sense of these past four years. CRISPR scientists will ponder what genetic defect accounted for his behavior.

Out of this darkness we might gain a new appreciation of our democracy along with an assessment of its defects. Eventually he will become less of an exclamation point and more of an asterisk in the grand chronicle.