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.