Herbie Mann Comin' Home

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Cool And Bitchin Halloween

I remember Shindig.  

I remember (a living) Karloff.  I remember "The Monster Mash".  

I remember Pendleton shirts and Fairchild mocassins.  

I remember talk of 'cherry' cars and 'power sleds'.  

I remember the way back to NHHS so well -- How well do you remember? -- I remember it so well that last summer when I went to Los Angeles, walking down memory lane, I found the quad as open and square as always, but infinitely smaller; all the teachers not only gone but having no institutional record of their having ever taught there; three times the surrounding traffic; and the public phone ripped from the cafeteria's exterior, a ghost mechanism cold above the blacktop's chewing gum scars.

I remember enough about high school even though I don't want to, since one day when I'm least expecting it, a physician, testing me, may ask for details.



When we were very young adults, C said to me, Marriage is a trap.

Of course, being who I am, I argued against that, turned her mind away from such youthfully unjustified cynicism, became affianced to her, and the two of us had a marvelously close relationship -- friends and young, experimenting, clumsy lovers -- until, eventually, we broke up, each of us feeling the tidal pull of attraction to and from others.

Years passed.

I started a 'Christmas card' relationship with her in our 30s, then solidified it during a vacation she took out here with a man she was sweet on -- a witty guy, what I myself would consider 'friend' material -- just before she was turning 50.  Great time, the four of us.

They got married, her first time.

A while later -- couple of years -- he, a younger man, the truest one of a string of younger men, a type in whom she had come often to show interest, he was discovered in flagrante delicto doing the deed with a woman, likely a flame-haired hottie more his age.

The divorce lingered long, made life all sour, and she lost much of the wealth she had inherited from her favoring 'maiden' aunt, including the Florida house.

The savage bitterness, in almost insane outbursts, held over into her dealings with all men, even me, though I had been nothing, really, beyond a distant 'old friend'.  

What oracle had it been, then, back then at the start, to orient her, to govern her choices, to juxtapose her appetite and her aversion in such a way as to make inevitable a 'tragic fall'?  Whence fate?

Marriage is a trap.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Et In Arcadia Ego

Bones to ash in an urn, 

Or headstones, head wood

Over the undergarment flower spray --

A vestige vestry -- place to atone for showing up at all.

I'm morally slow -- so-so -- not grasping the adoration,

This note-taking, this shorthand, this history,

This heart being three-thirds full of itself,

Our artifact, our self, our true love

Our dot, dot, dot


One Choose One

Institutions raw

Manners fall like summer fur --

Man guts shrink in fear

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I'm No Nostradamus, Man

Time machine:  1966.

My (then) fiancée's mother, after four of us had greeted and said goodbye to him, said of a family friend's son, John Jr.'s idea to generate a business by [fill in this enthusiastic, commercial blank] is remarkable!  

He's such an enterprising young man!

That last was such a throwback phrase to the 1920s -- even the 1890s! -- that I cringed, repulsed, living in that about-to-be counter-culture moment of long hair, torn jeans, communes, peyote, Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, junk store sofas, dogs named 'Funk' wearing bandanas, and women in granny dresses who didn't shave their legs.

I did not foresee -- yes, call me naive:

1) The reactionary tide of tax revolt, Ronald Reagan, and their beleaguering of sensible environmental, communication, electoral, and medical regulating or infrastructural funding; 

2) Politically poisonous religious fundamentalism either exhibiting from the public roads 'dead baby' photos or chanting 'anti-Satan' rhetoric at -- if not targeting commandeered airplanes toward -- the Land of the Free; 

3) Techno music, techno glass-and-metal furniture, techno people; 

4) Real estate inflation; or, likely not really last, 

5) Entrepreneurial 'blue sky' adventurism that would lead to mortgage bundling and faster-than-light movement of reckless investment paper.

I hesitate to think about what I don't foresee next.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Project Blue

This late morning, still cold, blustery, wet

Wanting a harmonica, wanting to be fit

To measure-out Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,

And then find rest, having in my art, that.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hey, Pop! The Real Mid-Century 'Look'

Buoyant, crass, optimistic, richer than anywhere else, innocent of its arrogance, arrogant about its innocence, 'modern' with a 'T' for tasteless, fast, practical, goofy, criminal with a 'B' for brass knuckles, an 'S' for switchblade, and a 'C' for cement overcoat, commercial, blandly religious, conformist to the point of bigotry, classless but racist, democratic but rigidly institutional, forthright yet hypocritical, stupid yet innovative, proud of a be-wigged history yet seeing history as a 'future', Constitution-thumping yet run by social prejudice whose every legal construction and interpretation stank of exegetical cavil.  And The Creature From The Black Lagoon, in 3D.

Ah.  The 50s.

It's great having come this far away.  It is.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Le Chateau French

Three bachelorettes sit with us in good standing.  The one who orders veal first meets with the waiter's fussiness insisting upon calling it veau, then with Eugenia's vegan glare.  No one argues; she carries the wound to the loo and never comes back.  The rest of us surround the celery and olives, in conversation all, no longer judgmental having developed a 'right mind'.

When I peer into a water glass as if it were a distressed mirror, I read her future as she reads my mind and turns to any of the others, her interest anywhere else but in the bridal finery and bonbons of my gaze.  I eschew all thoughts of protecting the fabric of the comforter now serving only the putative purpose of color-neutralizing a room.

Bridling as sensitives, we live in this cinema, belong to this film, rehearse these lines, the standards of the plot.  Action.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Safe Place

Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics.Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics. Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics. Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics.  Not going to think about politics. . . .


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Star Struck Dumb

See, you, too, that away which

Catches the eye in its night sparkle?

Why, we must differently in or at

In ape rhythms, tree distances.

I can do but guess up at what

Constellates out there, dead relatives.

From under a bit can some word up to

A moment of quasar -- imagine it!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Half-Hour Home

A real inclemency about it

Night just this side of frost

Foot full down on the car pedal

Headache -- a prisoner amok --

Tearing through the skull halls

Mauling hostages with jail glass --

This cold transmogrifying

All known music to loud brass:

A dissonant cry, a wanting to stop me.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Trinket

Found it lying on the beach while the wind was kicking sand up.  Pocketed it.  No one could tell me what it was.  No one claimed it.  Shoved it in a drawer.  

Girlfriend finally said yes.  Got the job. Won big money.  Best tables in New York.  On Letterman, his pal.  Produced more shows than Merv Griffin.  Main house now in Malibu.  Speaking to the waves each night.  Who do I thank?  Who's going to take it back?


Dream Quest

Waking up with a tattoo when all you did the night before was drink some hot cocoa after watching re-runs of House and Garden TV.

America's November

Holding out hope:  voters with opposable thumbs and upright posture.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Knaves and fools, hypocrites and weaklings, manipulators and gulls.

Is this another indictment of 'the world'?

Or a moment of self-examination?



At the party, Chopin nocturnes in my head,

Someone snuffing-out candles of a cake,

Confident, uncasual men, decision dons

Intent on business, parley at the bowl of punch.

Needing air, I duck past cupboards in the kitchen,

Ledge over the top of the Dutch door,

Finding a summer pellicle of cottonwood

Like snow on the electric walkway bulbs.

My loafers, then my socks, grind at the gravel,

Smudge against the custard of the milkweed --

Away from the unconcern by those indoors,

Mock-identical with nature, here I'm hushed.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Sentence Fattening, True Largesse

Follow Faulkner: 





All in a page-long sentence.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Curve Of The Learning Curve

S between S

Embarassed motions

Thankyous and thisisyours

Leavetakings and neveragains


What Music They Make

Office mumbling from a bad video

Watched by a tasteless colleague:

Smart mind in dishonest act

Art with the rhythm of Perfidia

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Old Guy Walking

Time almost to lie down as a corpse

Ears closed to the music shop

Visors over eyes, gauging theologians,

Retrofit for a deck chair in the shade

Fahrenheit seeping to a zero

Body's tired still becoming body

Wants the rest of things


Oil Change

Early enough no others there

Early enough the bad songs play down low

Early enough  no bad-behavior trash TV

Early enough I'm in and out


Sunday, October 10, 2010


I've dreamt about this woman, in her storefront,

Hollowed-out office shell on the first floor,

And anxious once again to wend my way

Peek at her place, empty except for a junk piano.

Middle-aged, gothic, ballerina-thin, this wraith,
Watch her again on her feet, arching up,
Reaching into the high-set, arc-lit nook
For inventoried goods, for offerings my way

With a promise of a sparrow, Katherine
Hepburn, plain nickels, dimes, a celestial map,
French words, leaning towers, beads,
Chowder, bubbles, child head of future kings

Rattan and stone, twigs, yellow feathers
Bingo discs, springs and blocks and portraits,
Apothecary powders, small, rare eggs, 
Dehydrated peaches, targets, roots,

Sullen nests and blood spots, winding wire,
Toothpicks and a clapboard storage bin,
Corked flasks and the Goddess Isis,
Handbill, parakeet and string, smooth frames.

Things not there -- but more for that:
Lauren Bacall, a Bakelite grill, owl eyes,
Sticks, The Palazzo Pink, old carpet wedge,
Stoppers in a cabinet, wire barriers, soot

Medici and mah-jongg tiles, shadow
Collages, shadows of collages orbiting sun,
Bric-a-brac inside the fold of dreams -- she's
Offering in her turn my way, her adagio --

Text of a romance, fireplace, matches to burn
An architect's schematic, pool house, transept
Smelling of chlorine and sky, The Café Mar,
Money news and a shaving brush, number 12

Sunlight wet as an after-rain, copper rings, a vow
Renting a boat in Prague and going all the way
A marriage of the mind of her black corneas
Extended pen, and the history of what's next.


Four Brothers

Here's the Four (no gender requirements):  

Weetabix (pulverizable wheat rafts)

Grape Nuts (pellet-shots of barley)

Kashi Autumn Harvest (woven wheat floats)

Great Grains: Raisins, Dates, and Pecans (muesli-esque)

Plus yoghurt

Plus raspberries

Every morning the energy of a stage show.


An Economic Analysis, Or What

Defenders of the necessity for teaching things at a steep 'learning curve' likely faced their own when it was exploratory, leisurely, and loved.  Now they promote because they profit greatly or bask in their own self-achievement from having undergone the test and been found able.

Praising women for their ability to 'multi-task' serves similar purposes -- continuing to exploit female gullibility with an insincere pat on the head, and irritating male pride into 'proving' no woman can show up a man.

Divide and conquer.  More for less.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Credit This One

Here's one:  Adrien Brody.

In The Pianist, he's Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Jew in Nazi-ruled Poland, a man socially restricted and marginalized, his family sent off to their death in camps, he himself for years hidden in Warsaw. 

No film can handle the reality of such powerlessness and brutality.  This film, by Roman Polanski, himself a boy in Warsaw then, suggests the accidentalness, the luck, involved.  The world around is being destroyed.  It's Brody's sensitivity and quiet that holds his sanity in place.  

And it's his music (not to be blithe about the mega-death of that war) that suggests some kind of transformative value to it all.

We're still working that out.  Hence, the actual Szpilman performing for years afterward.  Hence, Polanski with his deeply ironic cinema.  Hence, the much younger Brody channeling that experience for us.


The Low-Down Lab

Getting the arts

Down to a science

Buries both

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Shaving my grey face

Wiping the basin skin out

Fall rain washes road

Dark, Two

In first reading -- memorizing! -- some Theodore Roethke poems, I had no idea he was crazy.  Let me soften that.  He was suffering from schizophrenia of a kind.  

None of the poems say that to me.  They're observant, grounded, solid.  No extravagance, no wildness.

That idea held throughout my reading of 'In A Dark Time', housed in a volume where critics laid out their 'takes' and Roethke had a last say.  I remember nothing written by any of them on the issue of insanity.

So, even when the poem itself reads, What's madness but nobility of soul/At odds with circumstance, I take that as a comparative expression, as something nearer to what we, the sane, might imagine than what he means us to understand by the poem.  

He pushes on, then, soon, to what might be the start of a transformation, pressing the membrane of 'circumstance' to find more room:  

A man goes far to find out what he is --
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

Was I instructed at the time to liken this to Teresa of Ávila, to Juan de la Cruz?  Somehow my memory connects these.

Roethke's last stanza:

Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill.  Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

This so obviously wants to read as a mystic experience.  Do we reduce it to neurology?  

Whether or not such experience might not occur if certain medications were present (or would occur if certain others were), should we eliminate the 'phenomenological authenticity' of it?

Our history is filled with myth.  Our lives are fuller for it.

There's always a price.  We can settle the bill by selling our bodies as meat.  We can also contract to pay it as adventurers to the end.


Craters On The Far Side Of The Moon

Reading my fortune in pixels -- and coming up with a blank screen.

Unintelligible graffiti on a urinal splash guard:  the secret language of the anonymous -- remaining so.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Passive Activism

Irked as I am by the ignorant political din going a bit of the distance to eliminate any civilized sense of how democratic institutions should operate,


I do respond to contribution requests from:  the congressional group, the presidential group, state candidates, out-of-state candidates, and special pleaders.

I'm afraid to tote the money.  My best guess -- this shocks me, so I pass it on -- my best guess is that the amount so far (!) exceeds the per capita GDP of over 20 African countries and maybe ten elsewhere on the globe.

No fooling. 

And I consider my donations to be 'defensive':  to stop those who want to stop what I don't want stopped.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Life In The Day

I'd give a Benz to have a pocketful of it,

That quieter mind, the circumambulation

In a large garden patch walled in by stones.

My rage would be falling to the ground

Scattered under work boots of the builders.

Read-up the literature of offices -- all mankind unite

In carrels and modules, cubicles and desk rows

Meeting up on the treadmills doing cardio

Seizing at the prime architecture of self

And a lunch of pork bun and orange soda.

I know too much about the proliferation

At my disposal -- scat music for the ears,

Digital van Gogh, ululations of a world.

My mirror is democratic;

It talks back in terms I understand.

They won't put me away.  I'm too valuable

As an example of the 60 percent man:

Forty of him you don't want to be.

They'll mint me a place with clean drywall

And a view of the pool and ample TV.

The sphere of my acquaintanceships

Will hand out tickets to game shows.

Women with permanents swizzling mai tai

A madcap clip of us grin on the local news

Calling a bingo count, never in imbalance.


Dark, One

When you 'do' poetry, it's a matter of writing and reading and reciting aloud, too.

When you 'do' poetry in writing,  that means you produce it or you write about others.

Being an analyst or critic -- even an appreciator commenting a bit -- carries risks.  

For one, there's seldom full agreement on anything, in no small measure because it's hard to establish anything worth saying that doesn't involve weighing subtleties or taste.  A casual position you take may deeply offend either the writer or another reader.  

It may put you in a world of polemics radically far from the poetry itself.  Academic departments and personal reputations stake out territory.  Even outside the professional area, egos always hang in the balance.

Another risk is being flatly wrong.  Misreadings happen.  Things fly far over one's head, sometimes, and observers evaluate analysts as well as poets.  It's your dignity lost, you goof!

With that as minimal preface and humble, innoculating defense, let me catch a bit of Emily Dickinson's  #419 We grow accustomed to the Dark.

Into the poem, she ends: 

And so of larger -- Darknesses --
Those Evenings of the Brain --
When not a Moon disclose a sign --
Or Star -- come out --within --

The Bravest -- grope a little --
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead --
But as they learn to see --

Either the Darkness alters --
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight --
And Life steps almost straight.

Are we dealing with contemplative seriousness or depression?  Are we solving a metaphysical problem or coming to grips with ailment?  Not sure there's a solution given the word 'almost'.  

Right.  We can adjust, we can learn anew.  But 'darkness' isn't handled, necessarily, isn't finished-off or tamed.  When we think so, we may just be convincing ourselves that it's changed when in actuality we've changed.  

This could be a kind of 'making-do'.  This could be a 'caving-in', adopting the other side as one's own, making the best of a bad thing.  If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.  Calling defeat victory; diminishment, growth. Deceiving oneself in order to 'move on'.  Making league with forces sinister because that's life.

Maybe without fully admitting any of that.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Last Laugh

D says (with Tony Curtis dead),  

They die off one-by-one, in threes, as we grow old.

We've talked on this before, noting that our parents 

Said the same to us, and they're now gone.

What happens when D does go, or I disappear in the dust?  

Survivors will tell on until the last pair of ears go deaf

And the young ones fly to their mating and their wars.

Eventually, none of what was known is known at all.

This is why we joke.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Any Women Reading This?


Why America doesn't put Mike Leigh on its shoulders and carry him from city to city handing out official keys to important rooms puzzles me on a daily basis.

Yes, he's a Brit, not a Yank, but he's one of the finest film directors in the world.

Do I overstate here?  No.

This guy finds what's distinctive in our routines.  Why what's common isn't.

So, women.  If you haven't seen Happy-Go-Lucky, do it today.  

Well, rent it or queue it today.

Life getting to you?  Watch this film.