Monday, March 28, 2022

Majority of One

One of the reasons and possibly the only reason I liked Bob Hope as a kid was the way he crossed the line from standard comedy to bring in current events. His humor was topical, but barely.

Even then there was something in me that didn’t love a wall. I smell trouble with anything divisive or exclusionary which separate people. Nationalism keeps cartographers busy with different inks but also breed wars.

If I had my way I would abolish states; start with three or four districts and call it at that until we learn to grow up. We are a nation, not a confederation. After that we can just settle for a hunk of landmass known as North America. 

Of course I don’t expect this to happen this afternoon or even the day after tomorrow. It is my idealized wish.

I suppose we must endure each ethnic group and sub-group reclaiming their identity. I see this as a stage out of colonialism but I envision a day when mankind finds its common humanity in spite of its differences. I am not calling for a broad leavening into one enormous mush. Paradoxically, the preservation of certain identities can lead to universality.

In the same way, specificity in a poem often strikes a chord felt by everyone. I dismiss categories which divide poetry from prose. In literature I often find more truth in fiction than non-fiction. Novels fabricate themselves into wisdom while essays  inflate, distort and indulge in redundancies battering the reader into submission. (Sort o like this.)

Did I spot a Reuben sandwich on the menu of a trattoria and Chinese chicken salad at a Jewish deli? Bring me the fusion menu.

Let us also erase the artificial border between entertainment, sports, business and the minefield of politics. Actors, whether on the stage, screen, halls of Congress or playing field, running around in colored underwear are all in the cast of this great human drama. For a brief time, they have a platform. If their image can sell cereal their voice can move minds, at least until the day when they return to chopped liver like the rest of us. Of course, we can always turn a deaf ear to their pleas.

It was a good nigt for deaf ears as Coda was the Academy’s choice for best film. This may serve to build a bridge between the deaf and hearing worlds.

I know, I know, the Ukrainian border with (or from) Russia asserts their sovereignty. True enough only because the bully country has devolved into unconscionable ways. Let us not regress into global tribalism. Can not individuation coexist with the universal and us and them thinking become just us.

One day, before our orbiting piece of dust withers away, we must put away our squabbles and regard ourselves as brothers and sisters looking after one another, citizens of the Planet Earth as custodians. A majority of one people.

Friday, March 25, 2022

The Emergency of Spring

No anthem this, of bombs bursting,

emerging vertically, from sky down

in a darkness at noon

while bulbs frolic in an uprising

of daffodils on a distant desert floor,

resurrect their dormant paint,

wild dresses of tulip and hyacinth,

a pageantry pushing up through

an upheaval of earth as buildings fall

with children huddled, like buds petal-closed,

their unlived lives. Will there

be yeast enough to raise his conscience?

Can a real garden overthrow

the fiction of borders? Will this clash

of opposites bring an insurrection

with joined hands?





Sunday, March 20, 2022

89th Anniversary of Myself

The person I once was is still me.

                                    Helen Bevington

Don’t make a fuss. It’s only a number and the wrong one at that. What we call our birthday is not our day of birth but rather the anniversary of that occasion. Furthermore, if mindless men in red states prevail, we will suddenly become nine months older than we thought we were. Happy fetus.

I have total recall of my days as a fish-like substance in that embryonic sea. I sensed there was trouble ahead during the last six months of 1932 and first three of ’33. The thought of eating apple sauce out of a  Dust Bowl was not appealing at all. Eleven days before my first breath I announced myself.

Peggy was soon to turn twelve. She lived in Manhattan but came to stay here in L.A. with her uncle just in time for the Long Beach earthquake of 6.4 on March 10th. That was me getting ready for the big swim down the canal. We always regarded that day as an omen though it took almost five decades till we felt the earth move together.

Birthdays are a fiction of the calendar. I suppose I do contain each of my eight-nine years, some a bit more than others. The chronology doesn’t always behave. At age nineteen I was thirty and at forty-eight I was finally, nineteen. My preference now is to be of no age which is to say, every age. The twenty-first of March used to be the first day of spring but the vernal equinox seems to have undergone a celestial makeover along the way .

Peggy never learned how to act her age and I hope to refuse also. When she was my age she was half as old, still in her prime at the century mark. Is that possible? Yes, it is. Here's what I have come to know. The best times are those outside of time when hours fly by unrecorded. Creativity and loving defy all measure of the clock. 

As for infirmities, I can't think of anything more boring to talk about. So I won't. I never realized how many body parts I have and they're all out of warranty. 

Did I ever tell you about the time I… Yes, you did, now be quiet. When all my stories have been told and shamelessly embellished it may be time to look out the window and marvel at this bush I have scrupulously overlooked now bursting with clusters of rhododendrons or that stump across the street the result of overzealous pruning. The coral tree has lit eleven red candles which I shall not blow out.

As a blogger I babble along with the proverbial brook though now and then I feel more aligned with the hush of it all. I have already told the world what to do and did they listen? No, they did not.

Celebration seems uncalled for as long as new wasteland is being created every day by unconscionable acts. Russian protestors are being hauled away for carrying signs that say nothing. Some silences are louder than words.

I have now lived longer than Mozart, Keats and Stephen Crane combined proving there is no divine plan in the allotment of years. My footprint barely registers but perhaps it’s O.K. not to succeed as long as one does it with an open heart.

I'm taking comfort in the words of A.K. RamanujanYou can count all the oranges on a tree but never all the trees in a single orange. Who knows what juice still remains under the rind?

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Modern Man

Marc Antony: Where is Cleopatra?

Servant: She is in bed with Laryngitis.

Marc Antony: Damn those Greeks.

Yes, damn them, they bequeathed us modern man and look at the mess we’ve made of things.

Let us say it all started with Odysseus. No God, he. Mortal and nothing less. Emily Wilson, the great classicist translator, says he is a complicated man. (To say the least). Frank says, a man of many turnings. (Much better and lyrical). He cannot be contained in any word or phrase.

Of course, Odysseus (Ulysses) is an invention of Homer. Homer had the advantage of being blind which (in Greek myths) meant he saw into hearts and around the bend. If I were to invite Homer to my fantasy dinner party, I’m not sure If one man would show up or a legion of troubadours and bards with prodigious memories.

I contend Odysseus was Everyman, the entire aggregate of Greek men in all their passions and follies. In the Odyssey he is alternately punished by Poseidon and saved by Athena. Yet he emerges as man, alone, without providential intervention. He is without a moral compass, a cork on the waves given to expediency without any ideology other than survival. There are no moral imperatives to guide him. No sense of the greater good nor any ethical standards other than looking out for number one.

In the telling of the myth, he is beggar and thief, liar and good son /father/husband. He is resourceful and inventive yet pugnacious, duplicitous and treacherous. He is Hannity, with no regard for truth and Donald, pathologically narcissistic; also Hillary, Rachel, Bernie and Barack.

Leaders of this world are largely ancestors of Odysseus guided by nationalism still speaking the language of power and self-interest not yet recognizing our custodial role sharing the survival of this planet.

On stage today we are witness to a cast of players with both Greek-old tantrums and benevolence. Zeus and his brethren are long gone. Strange (or is it?) how Jesus and Zeus share most of their letters... and scramble Zeus he becomes the Suez Canal joining continents of thought.

He is the nerd fiddling with his algorithms as well as Mr. Fix It who could put it all back together from a handful of dust after we blow up the whole damn thing.

Why do we still read the Odyssey today? Maybe to see the soft clay we are made of. We go to it because it is the ultimate journey. Going home. The reception says everything there is to say.

Odysseus returns to Penelope because he needs the feminine principle to make himself whole. Menelaus dragged Helen back but he was too far gone. Warriors require the other to recover their humanity. Eros is the creative life force. When will the patriarchy ever learn?


Thursday, March 10, 2022

The Reign in Ukraine

Optometrist: Better now or now?

Me: Now

Optometrist: How about now?

Me: About the same.

When power is the lens through which you see the world then the flip side is fear of power. So much for binary vision. Imagined threats incite preemptive strikes. It’s all the same eyes.

Putin wears these glasses. In order not to be attacked and swallowed by NATO he erases Ukraine from the map. Get me the cartographer on line one. He hit me first, Mom, or was about to. What would mother Putin think of her little boy now?

Is it subversive to say all this carnage could have been avoided? Nothing could be worse than this humanitarian crisis.  

A less muscular approach might have proposed Ukraine as a demilitarized state with full self-determination as a sovereign democracy. This, I submit, would have granted Putin a saved-face and let Ukrainians live their lives as they see fit. Is that a lens too rosy?

Now it seems too late. Or not? There appears to be no path out but some form of the above. Of course, Ukrainians will forevermore be seething at the wanton destruction of their homeland. Putin will likely be overthrown having fallen out of favor among his henchmen. There is no shortage of tyrants to topple and denounce him. Move over, Vlad the Impaler.


Monday, March 7, 2022

The Shape of it All

Living under the Trump / Putin shadow for the past five years has changed my perception of the geometry of history, if indeed, there is one. I used to think, in broad terms, of a bumpy, irregular but nevertheless linear progression. It now seems more cyclic.

An argument could be made to demonstrate both progress and regression. For every act of higher consciousness there is a counterweight of democracy’s failure. Unarticulated and misunderstood fear of accelerated change has led to angry dislocations. Those amorphous grievances have found a home in mindless mobs and incipient fascism, American style.

If the Repugnants had their way we might revert to 1912 when Senators were elected by State legislators, there was no federal income tax nor did women have the vote. The party of suppression and obstruction could become the party of unraveling. 

Yet Russian truculence and the carnage in Ukraine have been met by universal outrage. Implicit in this condemnation is the sense that we have moved on, that nations just don’t behave like that anymore. Yet they do.

Furthermore, many of us, having lived through the insanity of Hitler and Stalin, wonder if this aggression is not a reenactment of the devastating war we witnessed eighty years ago. History, like barbequed beef, repeats itself.

Advances in technology are indisputable even if their consequences are barely understood. The geometry in that area is certainly onward ever upward.

However, given the fragility of our planet with deranged actors and unthinkable weaponry, I am thrown out the straight vertical into the morass of a squishy, monstrous circle leading back to ancient territorial destruction.  

I would like to believe Trump's demagoguery and Putin’s bellicosity might be the last gasps of inhumanity but I need more convincing. My jury is deadlocked.

As a kid we used to watch movies with no regard for when they started. Realtime history seems to be on that same continuous loop. Enter at any point and walk out when it gets to feel familiar.



Tuesday, March 1, 2022

The Day Putin Crossed the Border


A kindergarten bully knocks over a small kid's blocks.

The clock on the walls runs counter-clockwise.

Isaac Babel turns over in his grave.

Lefty rubs out his neighbor for being his neighbor.

A burly man at the beach kicks sand in someone's face.

Every tyrant is looking for his Sudetenland.

A guy spills his water, blames his waitress and grabs her.  

The reign in Ukraine is mainly on Vlad’s brain.

A slumlord evicts a family

Stalin, from his mausoleum, applauds.

Ivan the Terrible is less terrible.

The ruble sinks in the rubble.

A passenger abuses the flight attendant because he can.

The U.S. invades Grenada.

A murder of crows executes a hummingbird.

Walmart closes down Main St.

The piranha swallows the goldfish.

Trumps cheers him on.

Tucker cheers Trump. 

The rest of us hold our breath.