As the story went according to my boyhood friend Mike, his neighbor M__ H__, a 'second lead' in one of the second-rank studios, entertained ladies quite a bit, and Mike would peek out the window, sometimes with binoculars, to get a load of who the new invitee was.
One day a young lady exited early one morning when Mike happened to be in his own driveway near the front lawn. The actor banged open his screen door and started playing with his penis, calling out to the girl by name and imploring her to come back.
Our adolescent circle didn't drop this story for weeks, howls turning into pushing-and-shoving laughter and imitation, then simply to the coded winks of those in-the-know.
Decades later the incident took on different meaning. Things connected up in my head. When he had called her by name -- Stella -- he must have been aping Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire.
I should also wonder whether my adolescent friend actually just saw M__ H__ tear at his T-shirt.
Most desirous is a world with four Seattle Augusts.
Seattle itself, though, has only one.
It also has 2 Novembers and 2 Februaries, 3 maritime Junes, a month-and-a-half of Aprils scattered over 4 months in what's Springtime, half-a-month of July 4 sometime around mid-September, and 2 months named High Grey, noted for their afternoon dawns.
Almost always cool. Ten days of hot. Snow strokes, petite-mal seizures of white. A dozen days of bad, bad ice driving spread in unpredictable clusters over as many years.
The illusion: a great actor sits on a stage after being honored by the organization arranging for his appearance and the showing of several new films.
Grateful and humble, he does his best -- and it really is good -- to entertain with conversation the critic chosen to review for everyone in the actor's presence his many strong film roles, the conversation that critic brings on stage through note cards.
Such an actor! He's got wonderful anecdotes dealing with some choice roles, an aesthetic toward his craft that he conveys with words fluttering and gliding along his hands, and a sense of presentation: where the misplaced mic should be corrected to, how to maneuver discussion to bring out most effective commentary.
Most of all, in the audience one person, off to his left, some dozen rows back, at a side aisle, that one person laughs in honest abruptness, applauds hands at high-head level, displays his own hands, too, at or around his own face, both white in a dark audience. Those hands. They also interlace and thoughtfully point, they hold pensively to earlobe, they unconsciously stretch, the thumbs like butterfly wing points.
At the laughter, at the white-handedness, at the occasional um-hmm of agreement with an intelligent stage statement, the actor, Ben -- Sir Ben -- looks far enough to his left so that the audience member knows that he, he especially, has been noted and has gratified the great man, has given him what he acts most for.
Even when the attention's undivided, it's divided. And when it's whole, it's partial. And when it's full, it's depleted.
Isn't this the story of the category of categories? There's some sense of 'border', verge. An outside to the inside, a beginning before which we refuse to see there's something, and an end after which there's no confessed continuance. Self-containment.
What bounds me is me. I encapsulate the stuff of myself. The world I've seen I've seen, the day I've lived I've lived, the others I've known I've known.
Accuse this of being solipsistic, and what can I retort but J'en m'accuse ! And if the French is wrong, the judgment's based on la diccionaire que jai l'ecrit !
Arrest me, but know that it's on the basis of my own guilt and personal self-condemnation.
Is there any national politician in America, who, when asked about 'the greatest philosopher', would not respond: Jesus?
The poor second speculated upon, but never actually chosen, is Socrates.
Never, ever, would we hear Plato or Nietzsche, the two poets among the philosophers, who also have uncomfortably undemocratic associations, anachronistically linked to 20th Century fascism. Such bad reps are cruisin' for a bruisin', just asking for a 'swift boat' attack.
Marx? Well, more a 'political economist', but, of course, a communist. Machiavelli? Half the same charge -- political theoretician -- and in addition, strictly an opportunist, a schemer.
Voltaire? Way too clever, too anti-Establishment, vehemently anti-clerical -- a debunker of religions.
Sartre? Double-breasted, film noir version of Voltaire plus Marx.
Forget any 'technical philosophy': Descartes, Hume, Whitehead, Wittgenstein, Ayer.
No anchor, no 'Mother', no heart, no 'San Diego', no 'Jane Doe', no dragon, no green-black-red fading, no whole-shoulder motif, no 'ankle accent', no crying Christ, no 'barbed wire' armlet, no indelible eyebrows, no 'group affiliation' name with a pistol and secret sign, no pseudo-concentration camp numeral, no Corinthian flourish at the small of the back, no enslavement insignia, and no SemperFi.
Some freckles, flesh-tanning discolorations, hair pattern, slackening skin. Just that.
Claiming as much of my title as 'Nature Boy' as I can in good conscience do, the book goes out.
What vainglory to proceed yet one more time with work finding no apparent resonance.
What chutzpah to characterize a genre, to handle what's taken there to be dead tendril and claim to resurrect it, to resuscitate its green, to draw the gardening shears from the stone, as it were, to wheel the kingly barrow, to sculpt for kings as might a Capability Brown.
O, Modern World! You've taken a poor man's son and treated him as a prince Trained him for decisions and an art, but not recognized it since.
Build it the way you want it, but watch out -- it slips and slides:
1) You've got this only.
2) You've got only this.
3) You've only got this.
4) Only you have got this.
5) Only, you have got this.
What puzzlement of construction! How elastic the meaning becomes as the qualifier ducks and bobs! How worlds can be said to change and minds light up with the traipsing and high-stepping!
With one, there's no question at all but that your possession is singular. With two, that sense carries over, but resting on 'this', its substantiality rather than its isolation is emphasized: it is 'something', at least.
Three begins to demean the fact of possession itself. You've 'got' it all right, but that's all one can say about your relation to it. That relation may be very fortuitious. It may be virtually empty.
Four brings a sense of singularity to you, yourself. Perhaps a pride lucky or earned, or in comfort of a secret knowledge.
Five provides a sense of exception. Everything else in the world may be the way it is for good or ill, but, in any event, whatever the situation, however the universe wants to turn itself, it must take into account the 'fact' of your having or having obtained this.
Surely, I haven't tapped the meaning out. I don't feel I've drunk this to its bottom. Only, I feel you're done.
The invisible, and thereby quite portable, hand mic lies close to the top of my bag of tricks, so when the space is small enough -- interior to an automobile not yet started let alone on the road, a shower stall with its curtain of water, and of course, the interior of my own skull -- that small space engineers itself for great sound, something worth recording.
Under those proper conditions, the drama, sensitivity, and lyrical tang of my voice, while certainly not professional, holds and conveys a modest portion of emotional 'truth'.
My 'natural key' is that of Frank Sinatra (". . .In the wee small hours of the morning/When the whole wide world is fast asleep/I lie awake and think about the girl/And never, ever think of counting sheep . . ..")
This day I began spontaneously to entune " . . . In this world/Of ordinary people/Extra-ordinary people . . .." It struck me right away that my 'natural key' is also that of my newly-installed garage door opener.
The guy -- forgot his name (Jason?) -- who, with his wife, runs __________, the poetry bookstore in ________, chatted with me once a few years ago about some national luminary -- forgot whom -- being shepherded about here by some local luminary -- didn't know him, but visualized 'rich-casual', 'agreably-take-charge', 'academic-charming'-- both of them reaching [the bookstore] to look around and pick the Jason's brains.
The national guy was editing that year's Best Poetry of _____, and wanted to sample places around the nation, get views from 'experts' like this specialist shop owner, Jason -- nice guy, still forget his last name. What this team of ferrets sought were people of a certain age (youngish, with 'mileage left' to them) who had gotten published (not self-published, but 'juried'), perhaps, two books.
As a bureaucratic in enough ways myself, I understand 'threshold tests'. That these automatically ruled me out (as such sequestration always seems to have done) stung. But, then, I'm not sure what I could expect from an Eastern Seaboard 'establishment' if even local Jason -- he, of whom it can be said I still can't place the last name -- if even his local, friendly store has diplomatically remained silent about not placing any of my ('non-juried') chapbooks among the several local ('non-juried') chapbooks nevertheless residing inconspicuously, but proudly, on its shelves.
The broader (and, fairly said, 'objective') issue is how art, human activity meant as (a) spontaneous, authentic response to experience; (b) inventive rehandling and transforming of tradition; and (c) revelation to humans, nooked, frightened, baffled, fooled, and despairing, about what human life means -- how that art gets forced to lose its higher and lower frequencies, becomes a 'smart muzak' to puff up the self-image of those fortunate enough to have afforded an education and place in the social structure that values well-being 'with a touch of sobering sadness overcome by trial and meditative embrace', perhaps seasoning itself more, sobering its well-being against 'an awareness of the anger out there over inequities that need redressing'; OR how that art blows a speaker coming out as a bullhorn cadence rant from the street.
I know, I know -- any critique made from these keyboarding fingers or these silver-worded lips, my 'prophesies' -- smack of sour grapes, a woe-is-me by the untalented loser. But looking over blogs -- what's shown there even more than in the standard poetry world, is the vacuity of ideas, the superficiality of treatment, the occasional facility with words having little sense of their own power save to advertise immediate ego needs and avoid any 'reach', any complicated 'flavoring' beyond the vain breath mint.