“. . . Street urchins make more than me. Water tastes funny without cups. . .”

"Flowers," by Joe Brainard

“Flowers,” by Joe Brainard

Michael Rohrer is a poet. A published poet. A respected poet. A poet whose poetry I happen to like. And not only because he is gay.

I’ve been reminded by a couple of friends lately the stated purpose of this blog (as opposed to my serious blog, Sumnonrabidus—my pidgin Latin for “I am not crazy”—which has been around for a long time) is to write “a light-hearted look at my experience of getting old” (see “about” above).

See “about” above.
See above about.

(I think if I were a poet, I could make something quite lovely out of “about above.” Say it over and over and see what happens to your tongue and your mind.)

I’m pretty sure I don’t “get” Michael Rohrer’s poem, “Jangling” completely. Starting with the problem that poetry.org says it was written by Rohrer and Joshua Beckman. I wonder if they are simply two poets who put poems in the same book and then say they both wrote all of them or they work together on writing poems (which doesn’t seem fair somehow) or if they are lovers/partners/married and Rohrer thinks he has to put Beckman’s name on his work, too (I hope he’s not that “co-dependent”). Rohrer is also a blogger whose work I read quite often.

“Jangling,” by Matthew Rohrer and Joshua Beckman
Money cannot find me.
I try to be reasonable but money is horridly banal.
Money, blow and blow is what I think about you.
Street urchins make more than me.
Water tastes funny without cups.
How far will I go?
Jingle jingle jingle.
Despite holes that compromise living rooms, friends visit.
Money money and more holes to look into.
You are dangerously close to falling.
The money said nothing.
The neighbors called up to us, “Your whole system sounds cockeyed!”
They suck the life from each other and we pay the bill.
Money always whispers,
“You pathetic humans don’t know my true name.”
I know my own name.
It is something exaggeratedly French.

Chaos? by Joe Brainard

Chaos? by Joe Brainard

 

So I like the first line. “Money cannot find me.” It’s true. Whatever I do, money seems to slip right by me without even noticing I’m there. “Well,” you’re probably saying, “anyone who writes so disparagingly about capitalism shouldn’t care whether money finds him or not, so stop being hypocritical.” You’d be right in saying that. I think capitalism (at least as it’s played out these days) is gross. Terrible. Unspiritual. And designed to keep the poor at the same level of poverty they’re at while making the rich richer by the day. Alice Walton, don’t you see, needs the money. I’ve been to Crystal Bridges. I’ve seen what too much money can do to a person. (That’s a cheap shot because I actually loved Crystal Bridges and can’t wait to go back. Oh, yes. Alice paid for it. The whole thing. Doesn’t absolve her for anything, but it’s a great place.)

Joe Brainard isn’t one of my favorite poets—because he wasn’t really a poet. But “I’d walk a mile for” an exhibition of his art (you get that reference only if you remember when cigarettes were advertised on TV).

I think Joe must have been my kind of guy, and I must get back to Ron Padgett’s memoir of him. I don’t mean he was my kind of guy because he was gay or because, if he were still alive, he’d be about my age. No, I can tell by the picture of his studio he and I had something in common. He obviously was inspired somewhat by living in (immediate physical) chaos. I, on the other hand, just live in immediate physical chaos. He was a successful gay artist. I am a gay dilettante, not quite successful at anything.

Here’s the deal. “Street urchins make more than me.”

And that bothers me a little. It’s a conundrum. I think our national religion of capitalism is inhumane and (I hate to use the word because I don’t want anyone to say it about me—especially about my being gay) sinful. But here I am about to retire (in less than a month), and I’m not sure how I’m going to continue to pay the rent until—when? like my father until I’m 97?—I die.

I try to be reasonable but money is horridly banal.
Money, blow and blow is what I think about you
.

So on the one hand there’s this gay poet (or these two working in tandem?) writing cleverly about money. And then there’s the really clever gay artist writing about “life.” And I think he’s got it about right. I don’t know when he wrote, “I suspect that each of us is going to wake up some morning to suddenly find ourselves old men (or women) without knowing how we got that way. Wondering where it all went.” Was it before or after he learned he was dying of AIDS?

And I think he’s got it just about right here, too. “We are all a bit fucked up, and here lies the problem. To try and get rid of the fucked up parts, so we can just relax and be ourselves.”

Money, AIDS, poetry, art for Matthew and Joe.

And for me, so much more stuff I can’t even begin to list it. But I want “To try and get rid of the fucked up parts” so I can just relax and be myself. I don’t know how to do that yet. Never have. But if I figure out the paying the rent part, I’ll keep you posted on how I learn to relax and be myself.

There. Is that “a light-hearted look at my experience of getting old?” It’s about as close as I can get, most likely.

“Life,” by Joe Brainard

When I stop and think about what it’s all about I do come up with some answers, but they don’t help very much.

       I think it is safe to say that life is pretty mysterious. And hard.

       Life is short. I know that much. That life is short. And that it’s important to keep reminding oneself of it. That life is short. Just because it is. I suspect that each of us is going to wake up some morning to suddenly find ourselves old men (or women) without knowing how we got that way. Wondering where it all went. Regretting all the things we didn’t do. So I think that the sooner we realize that life is short the better off we are.

       Now, to get down to the basics. There are 24 hours a day. There is you and there are other people. The idea is to fill these 24 hours as best one can. With love and fun. Or things that are interesting. Or what have you. Other people are most important. Art is rewarding. Books and movies are good fillers, and the most reliable.

       Now you know that life is not so simple as I am making it sound. We are all a bit fucked up, and here lies the problem. To try and get rid of the fucked up parts, so we can just relax and be ourselves. For what time we have left.

More flowers by Joe Brainard

More flowers by Joe Brainard

 

 

“. . . his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.”

The unknown citizen does not have to be ignorant.

The unknown citizen does not have to be ignorant.

For days now I’ve been trying to write a piece about education. You know, the purposes, the grand design, the hoped-for-outcome. All of those high sounding ideas that all educators and most selfish and amoral “conservative” politicians and their followers want us to think about. Who’s left behind and who’s not. Will we use the STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) test or some other means to beat teachers into submission?

Beating teachers into submission seems to be the most important desired outcome of education (both public and private—although it’s a bit less obvious at the Hockaday School and St. Mark Academy). How can we beat students into submission if their teachers aren’t servile?

I had never heard of Stephen Leacock until I came across the poem “Arts & Sciences,” by Philip Appleman. Leacock was, according to Wikipedia, a Canadian social scientist, educator, and humorist. One has to be a humorist to be an educator in America these days. If a teacher really thinks there’s a job to do that resembles molding young Americans to think, to understand society, to be ready to take their place as responsible (or at least not gullible and idiotic) citizens, then the teacher needs to get into a profession where they might be allowed to make a difference.

I’m being forced to retire at the end of this semester (I was depressed and angry about it for about six months, and then I realized I will no longer be in any way responsible for the train wreck we call education in this country, and I can hardly wait—in fact, if someone offered me about $15 to do it, I’d call the department chair this morning and tell her I’m not coming back).

It is unconscionable that a teacher of first-year (remember when we had a system of nomenclature that made sense, and we called them “freshmen?”) writing should be the one to introduce a brilliant young woman—in one private conference—to Miss Havisham, Steam Punk, and Dracula. And this college teacher is really a musician (PhD in organ literature) masquerading as a writing teacher. Which he is able to do because he knows about Miss Havisham and other things only peripherally related either to playing the organ or teaching “Discovery and Discourse.”

Any brilliant 18-year-old young woman should already know about at least one of those subjects. And it’s not her fault. At least she—I know because we have since had a chat about Great Expectations—is curious enough and has been given enough freedom to want to know. Very few students are.

One idea of which I am absolutely certain is that education has nothing to do with training the “work force.” It has nothing to do with the United States’ ability to compete in the “global economy.” If we were educating young people, preparing them to be citizens in a free country, we would not have to worry about training the “work force.”

I have no suggestions how to make sure kids get educated (or, for that matter, adults who don’t know Miss Havisham) so they understand anything other than how to pass their time in grubby jobs (even Mayor Bloomberg—with all his billions—was in a grubby job, then another grubby job, and now back to his original grubby job of being a “robber baron”) doing mind-numbing things (if they weren’t, how could Ted Cruz ever have been elected to anything?) in hopes of elevating their grubbiness to the point of being part of the oligarchy of grubbiness that runs all the other grubbiness in this country?

Monument to the unknown citizen

Monument to the unknown citizen

I shouldn’t complain if I don’t have a solution.

By the way, can you make a connection between Visi d’arte (yes, preferably with Maria Callas singing) and rewriting an essay? (Visi isvision.”) Try Re-Visioning rather than rewriting. That’s what all “authorities” writing about education need to learn to do.

We don’t need to revise our thinking about education. We need to Re-See the whole bloody process before it’s too late (or is it already? ask the NSA or Rush Limbaugh).

Two poems that say all of this far better than I can.

“The Unknown Citizen,” by W.H. Auden

(To JS/07 M 378
This Marble Monument
Is Erected by the State)

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a
saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn’t a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his
generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their
education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

“Arts & Sciences,” by Philip Appleman

“Everyone carries around in the back of
his mind the wreck of a thing he calls
his education.” —Stephen Leacock

SOLID GEOMETRY Here’s a nice thought we can save: The luckiest thing about sex Is: you happen to be so concave In the very same place I’m convex. BOTANY Your thighs always blossomed like orchids, You had rose hips when we danced, But the question that always baffled me was: How can I get into those plants? ECONOMICS Diversification’s a virtue, And as one of its multiple facets, when we’re merging, it really won’t hurt you To share your disposable assets. GEOGRAPHY Russian you would be deplorable, But your Lapland is simply Andorrable So my Hungary fantasy understands Why I can’t keep my hands off your Netherlands. LIT. SURVEY Alexander composed like the Pope, Swift was of course never tardy, And my Longfellow’s Wildest hope Is to find you right next to my Hardy. PHYSICS If E is how eager I am for you, And m is your marvelous body, And c means the caring I plan for you, Then E = Magna Cum Laude. MUSIC APPRECIATION You’re my favorite tune, my symphony, So please do me this favor: Don’t ever change, not even a hemi- Demi-semiquaver. ART APPRECIATION King Arthur, betrayed by Sir Lancelot, Blamed the poets who’d praised him, and spake: “That knight’s nights are in the Queen’s pantsalot, So from now on your art’s for Art’s sake.” ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM I couldn’t do Goyas or Grecos, And my Rembrandts had zero panache, But after I junked all my brushes, My canvases made quite a splash. PHILOSOPHY 1. Blaise Pascal Pascal, reflecting tearfully On our wars for the Holy Pigeon, Said, “Alas, we do evil most cheerfully When we do it for religion.” 2. René Descartes The unruly dactyls and anapests Were thumping their wild dithyrambic When Descartes with a scowl very sternly stressed: “I think, therefore iambic!” 3. Thomas Hobbes Better at thinking than loving, He deserved his wife’s retort: On their wedding night, she told him, “Tom, That was nasty, brutish – and short!”

You might have to die for asking too many questions

You might have to die for asking too many questions

“. . . as if We had come to an end of the imagination. . . “

Trying to make sense of the morning. Early. No one else is awake at 5:30 AM. Not another window is lighted. It’s never clear when the day begins for my neighbors. Then abruptly lights

. . . if I went up and knocked on their door, they would be frightened. . .

. . . if I went up and knocked on their door, they would be frightened. . .

come on to the right, a floor above. I suppose if I went up and knocked on their door, they would be frightened and/or offended. Who knocks at the door at 5:30 AM? Just to see who lives there. I don’t know anyone who lives on that floor. I’m reminded of The Bald Soprano.

[The doorbell rings again.]
MR. SMITH: Goodness, someone is ringing. There must be someone there.
MRS. SMITH [in a fit of anger]: Don’t send me to open the door again. You’ve seen that it was useless. Experience teaches us that when one hears the doorbell ring it is because there is never anyone there.
MRS. MARTIN: Never.
MR. MARTIN: That’s not entirely accurate.
MR. SMITH: In fact it’s false. When one hears the doorbell ring it is because there is someone there.
MRS. SMITH: He won’t admit he’s wrong.
(Ionesco, Eugene. The Bald Soprano. E-Portfolios. City University of New York. macaulay.cuny.edu/. n.d. Web.)

“Experience teaches us that when one hears the doorbell ring it is because there is never anyone there.” One of my favorite lines from all the theater I know (which isn’t much, and from the plays I’m familiar with, I can’t quote many lines).

One of the first poets I became familiar with was Wallace Stevens (1879-1955—he died when he was only five years older than I am now). He was, when I was in high school, one of the grand men of American Poetry—Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Robert Frost Medal—all of the honor reserved for very important poets. None of that mattered to me. I loved “Peter Quince at the Clavier.” Memorized it once.

Just as my fingers on these keys
Make music, so the self-same sounds
On my spirit make a music, too
. . . and so on.

For a long time I had a stanza from his “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” as a signature on my email.

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.  

At 5:45 AM is the blackbird whistling or just after? The other day I discovered a Stevens poem I don’t remember having read before, and it has been haunting me. I am told I should understand that

. . . Stevens evokes the outer in “Plain Sense” by imagining not simply the absence of any construct, but the absence of the faculty that creates the constructs. Paradoxically, though,

Inflection or innuendo?

Inflection or innuendo?

the imagining of the absence of the imagination is itself a powerful expression of the creative activity of the imagination . . . (Whiting, Anthony. The Never-Resting Mind: Wallace Stevens’ Romantic Irony. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996.)

When I comment about such dense scholasticism, I do not mean I think it has no value—au contraire! I understand the necessity of that kind of analysis. It keeps the interest in and understanding of literature alive in the hearts and minds of the people who shape our understanding and even awareness of literary works. If Mr. Simpson at Omaha Central High School in 1962 had not studied Stevens twenty years before, I would not have read his work, and you would not now be reading it (perhaps for the first time).

“The Plain Sense of Things,” by Wallace Stevens.

After the leaves have fallen, we return
To a plain sense of things. It is as if
We had come to an end of the imagination,
Inanimate in an inert savoir.

It is difficult even to choose the adjective
For this blank cold, this sadness without cause.
The great structure has become a minor house.
No turban walks across the lessened floors.

The greenhouse never so badly needed paint.
The chimney is fifty years old and slants to one side.
A fantastic effort has failed, a repetition
In a repetitiousness of men and flies.

Yet the absence of the imagination had
Itself to be imagined. The great pond,
The plain sense of it, without reflections, leaves,
Mud, water like dirty glass, expressing silence

Of a sort, silence of a rat come out to see,
The great pond and its waste of the lilies, all this
Had to be imagined as an inevitable knowledge,
Required, as a necessity requires.

And there it is. The poem that imagines “. . . not simply the absence of any construct, but the absence of the faculty that creates the constructs. Paradoxically, though, the imagining of the absence of the imagination is itself a powerful expression of the creative activity of the imagination. . . “

It’s difficult for me to ponder Stevens’ words. “Yet the absence of the imagination had itself to be imagined.” Is that the same as, “Experience teaches us that when one hears the doorbell ring it is because there is never anyone there?”

It’s hard to imagine the absence of imagination, yet experience teaches us that when the doorbell rings there is never anyone there. If we simply rely on our experience, we will know inherently that there is—or will be—an absence of imagination.

After the leaves have fallen, we return
To a plain sense of things. It is as if
We had come to an end of the imagination,
Inanimate in an inert savoir.

When the leaves have fallen (at the end of the time of growth, of fruitfulness) we see things plainly. Our imagination is at an end, and we have only an inert, unmoving “knowledge.”

. . . all this
Had to be imagined as an inevitable knowledge,
Required, as a necessity requires.

I’m ready to imagine the inevitable knowledge. If I’d written that ten years ago, I would not have let anyone read it because it seems too formal, too stylized, too phony as if I’m trying to be old and wise and poetic or something.

The fact is, you get to be 69 and you understand there will be an end of the imagination. You must—I must, at any rate—try to imagine it in order to make it last as long as it will. And to keep in mind that I simply don’t know. In a way it’s all guesswork and absurdity. “Experience teaches us that when one hears the doorbell ring it is because there is never anyone there.”

When one hears the doorbell ring it is because there is never anyone there.

When one hears the doorbell ring it is because there is never anyone there.

I didn’t have time to write anything this morning, and that makes me crazy!

Frantic. That’s a fairly apt description.

Steampunk, anyone?

Steampunk, anyone?

I have to leave home in an hour. My paper grading is finished. I am more or less ready for class. We are going to discuss how Robert Louis Stevenson’s short story “The Body Snatcher” does not fit Flannery O’Connor’s definition of the “grotesque.” Hint: O’Connor says everything in a grotesque story could possibly happen. The writer of the grotesque, however, leans away from the “probable.” That is, it’s possible Parker’s tractor could explode when he isn’t paying attention and runs head-on into a tree, but it’s not probable—especially that his burning shoes would go flying off him in order to complete the image of the voice from the burning bush, “Take off your shoes; this is holy ground.” No one these days writes anything nearly as bizarre as O’Connor did.

Stevenson had to rely on the “other-worldly” to make his story grotesque. The corpse of an old lady turns into the corpse of a young man whom the body snatchers knew and whose body was dismembered and dissected by a medical school class. Right. Nowhere nearly as grotesque as Sarah Ruth beating Parker nearly senseless because he doesn’t get her Christianism.

So, you see, I’m ready to lead the discussion in my classes. I’m actually going to have them pair-up and write a debate on the question, “Stevenson’s story follows O’Connor’s definition of the grotesque.”

By the way, how much Steampunk literature do you know? Just thought I’d ask my (obviously erudite and educated readers). There. That’s O’Connoresque. The writer of the grotesque will leave strange gaps and skips in the narrative that most writers would fill in. Is this a short story, an essay, a frantic bit of hypergraphia? Doesn’t matter. What logic did I leave out (skip) in getting from a debate about Stevenson and O’Connor to Steampunk, the definition of which most of my readers don’t know (gap).

I’ve been writing something that I think can only be called a Steampunk short story, but I don’t think I can ever finish it. And a poem with the image of the water-faucet in my bathroom as a stainless steel bird. That’s how far from the probable my thinking is today.

I’m just glad I’m not Peyton Manning this morning.

Joanie loves Chachi (and her box is clean)

Joanie loves Chachi (and her box is clean)

His frenzy (the noun form of frantic if you write it correctly) must be worse than mine. He’s lost the prerogative of deciding whether or not his opponent should die in the gladiatorial ring. That’s not so bad, of course except that his opponent won the right to decide that about him. I suppose that’s a bit ghoulish for what actually happened yesterday. The only real physical disaster ensuing from the “game” is most likely a concussion or two. But who’s keeping track of the senile old (at 45) former football players running around? All that will happen to me as a result of my frantic morning is that eventually it’s possible (not probable, thank you Flannery) that I could end up in Zale Lipshy’s mental health unit because no one wants me to be out on the streets when I’m in the middle of a rapid cycling mode. Which I guess I am because the cat litter boxes are already scooped out, my lunch is packed, the papers I needed to read are read, and I’ve got a plan for my day which will probably not be followed (followed by whom? I’d ask a student who wrote that passive sentence; does your clause have a subject?).

I just now started to put the coffee grounds in the cone without the filter and caught myself just in the nick of time (how does time have a “nick,” anyway?), and that was because I was pouring the milk (Silk) onto my Grapenuts at the same time because I have to eat something before I take my meds so I won’t be dizzy all day. And all of that interrupted by running into the bedroom (well, the sleeping area—this is, after all, a loft, and I have no “rooms” per se) to see if I really should have done laundry yesterday instead of waiting around to hear Renee Fleming sing the national anthem (at least she sang only the official notes, even if she stretched the rhythm a bit here and there). And, no, I don’t have a shirt to wear.

And all of that frenzy/franticness is the result of my waking up about an hour later than usual and not having enough time to write anything before I have to go to class. And that will leave me about crazy all day long. At least these days I can immediately look back on the last hour and remember what I’ve been doing. I’ll bet there’s hardly a person alive (there’s no person alive) who has ever seen me at the top of the cycle. You, if you know me in real life and not just here in cyberspace (does anyone know anyone in real life anymore or is it all cyber? are you a cyberanyone to me?) probably would be a little surprised to see me running around like this wishing I had time to write something.

So now it’s too late, and I have nothing written although I had a lot I wanted to say about the Super Bowl and about the fact that I’m going to hear Bernadette Peters live on Thursday night, and I’m reading Joe by Ron Padgett, and lots of other things. But now I have to find something to wear and try to make myself presentable.

My public awaits.

I wonder what SMU students think when I come into the class room feeling this way. No more coffee for you, bud.

Not a thing to wear

Not a thing to wear

“. . . an efficient instrument . . . to keep the population peaceful. . . “

Everyone in the country (perhaps in the world) who has a TV or is connected to the internet knows today is Super Bowl Sunday. I almost missed it. Or, rather, I tried to watch a day early.

The applause meter says kill the loser

The applause meter says kill the loser

Besides the obvious, that I don’t understand the concept of football—I understand more of how the game is played than I like to admit—the centrality of these three hours in America’s imagination baffles me almost beyond words. No, beyond words. I simply don’t get it.

But this is not a rant against the Super Bowl. A well-reasoned discussion is already available.

When the movie Gladiator (starring Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix) was released in 2000, I became morbidly (I didn’t kill anyone) fascinated by the concept and history of gladiators. My partner wanted to see the film, but I refused. If I think about gladiators to this day, I am sickened at the idea that a crowd large enough to fill the Coliseum in Rome watched a sword fight to the death—if the loser was not actually killed in the fight, the crowd had the prerogative to decide whether or not he should die. Sort of a first-century applause meter (remember “Queen for a Day”?).

If I remember correctly (I’m not going to start the ghoulish research again), gladiators lived to an average age of about 27, and 1 in 4 died—were killed either in the combat or by vote of the crowd—in every show. The killing of persons, slitting their throats if they had not died in the combat, for the entertainment of the crowd was the norm for Monday Night Munus.

Jerry could not convince me to see the movie even though I thought Russell Crowe could be forgiven almost anything because of his role in The Sum of Us.

This is not a rant about the similarity between the Super Bowl and gladiators.

Last semester I was leading a “make-up” class for 11 members of the SMU football team who had missed class because of an out-of-town game. One of them had been injured in the game, and in the discussion of his incapacitation I asked how many of them had had concussions, either in high school or at SMU. Seven of the 11 said they had.

Even that is not the subject of a rant this morning.

On the CBS sports webpage devoted to hyping coverage of the Super Bowl (even though it will be on FOX, of course—all bread and circuses events seem to be there) the links at the bottom of the page to sites “You may also like” are almost uniformly to reactionary websites. One, for example, reporting that Piers Morgan was put down and embarrassed by a Fundamentalist Christianist preacher when he asked the preacher to tell him where Jesus mentions homosexuality.

Even that is not the subject of a rant this morning.

The Super Bowl is not—as everyone knows—the purview of any government. It is the terrifying apex of private enterprise. MetLife Stadium. Why is the stadium the MetLife Stadium? (We all know that’s because everything in America is for sale.) And why is this afternoon’s game called the Super “Bowl?” It is a ridiculous name. The fact is, when we think about it, we can’t think of a more fourth-grade-sounding moniker than “Super Bowl” for this multimillion-dollar spectacle. It sounds like something an elementary school kid calls the giant container for the six pounds of cereal he eats every morning or the name of a strange, toilet-themed comic book superhero (1).

The circus tent.

The circus tent.

Ivaniszn goes on to detail the fourth-grade manner in which the fourth-grade name was concocted. (Read his story; I’m not going to repeat it.) It’s intended to indicate all of the college “bowl” games are nothing compared to this one, this championship game between the titans of football. But since the game is not played in the Orange Bowl or the Rose Bowl or the Cotton Bowl, why is it not called the “Super Stadium?”

Here’s my two-cent’s worth about it. The entire enterprise is so trumped-up, so manufactured out of whole cloth, so much a non-event that everything about it must necessarily be phony. Starting with the name. The game is “a mechanism of influential power over . . .  the population, and thus a political strategy . . .  [it offers] a variety of pleasures such as . . .  sports competition. . . It [is] an efficient instrument in the hands of the [advertisers] to keep the population peaceful, and at the same time giving them the opportunity to voice . . .” their fanatical support for their chosen team (2).

It’s hardly fair to equate the Super Bowl with the Roman “Bread and Circuses.” But given the fact that the huge megalithic corporations of the country, of which the NFL is one, have almost equal power with the government (or, does the depression of 2009 indicate they have more?) is it not at least an interesting thought that the Super Bowl is “a mechanism of influential power over” the population?

The circus barker?

The circus barker?

As you watch those elaborate, memorable, funny, “artistic” commercials this afternoon, think about the “mechanism of influential power” you are supporting. And go out and don’t buy a single one of the products advertised. Right.

The mechanism of power is the attention of the entire country garnered in a way that even the government cannot accomplish and that the Roman Emperors would have coveted. Join the masses. Join the bread and circuses. Participate in the gladiatorial games. Is keeping the population mesmerized any different from keeping us peaceful?
__________
(1) Ivaniszn, Robert. “Super Bowl 2011: What’s in a Name? The Origin of the Term ‘Super Bowl’.” Bleacher Report. bleacherreport.com. Feb. 4, 2011. Web.
(2) “Panem et Circenses.” Imperial Fora of Rome. capitolium.org. 2008. Web.

Old white male seeks old male (or female)

    A certain inability to sort.A certain inability to sort.

       If I needed to write a personal ad (where? match.com? eharmony? one of those gay hook-up sites?), how would it read?
(Do I need to say I’m having a little fun?)

Old white male in Dallas, TX, seeks old male (or female) for intimate relationship.

in·ti·mate
adjective

1.      associated in close personal relations: an intimate friend.
2.      characterized by or involving warm friendship or a personally close or familiar association or feeling: an intimate greeting. very private;
3.      closely personal: one’s intimate affairs.

(Probably not female although marijuana has been legalized in Colorado, so we know miracles do happen.)

Me:

Old (69) and quite possibly getting older (if genetics have anything to do with it). Living alone and used to say I like it that way, but I’m not so sure any more. Average height, somewhat overweight, mainly gray hair, brown eyes, have had no “work” done and it shows.

Bookish (at least in theory), musician (also in theory—pun intended); about to retire from long but non-illustrious career as college and university professor (music and English); former church musician (50 years); so politically liberal it’ll probably scare you (if communism weren’t in such ill repute—and hadn’t always been instituted by megalomaniacs—I’d probably be a communist except there is no culture outside Scandinavia that is egalitarian enough to make it work, and I hate winter). I don’t hate the super wealthy—I think of them the way the Catholics and Southern Baptists think of faggots, that is, a clever 21st-century judgmental version of the disingenuous “love the sinner but hate the sin”—but in the most general sense of human compassion I love them; however, I don’t like sniveling little self-centered, mean spirited anti-social people who are as poor as I am, so why should I love the super-rich when I loathe—absolutely loathe—their accumulated wealth?

But it’s none of my business that the super-rich have all that money while I wonder if I will end up a ward of the county when I’m 90 (or much sooner—next year?) because I have no money left. They can’t help it that we live in a society that believes with all its deluded little heart that capitalism is a good idea—that Jesus of Nazareth was somehow issuing a command not simply making an observation, when he said, “The poor you shall have always with you,” because even in his day there were a few super-rich and everyone else suffered. In fact, I feel sorrier for the super-rich than for the street people down in the Main Street Garden. At least the street people know what is truly important for a human being—finding the next meal. Alice Walton and Thomas Perkins have never experienced reality. They have no idea what either hunting or gathering is all about. (I lived once “paycheck-to-paycheck” and can tell you it’s no fun.)

Well, I certainly got side-tracked, didn’t I. That’s to be expected because part of being me is also having Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, one symptom of which is an inability to concentrate which looks ever so much like ADHD to the untrained observer. And I also suffer from get a kick out of living with Bipolar II disorder. All of those things together give me a unique inability never to get anything done, to be totally unable to sort and organize, to be over-emotional and live in a world of dissociation. Which is better than being so rich I don’t have to think about anything. I’d rather be depressed and confused than totally out of touch with the realities of the life of Homo sapiens.

You:

A few famous people manage 70-year-old attractiveness

A few famous people manage 70-year-old attractiveness

Physically at least attractive if not a knockout. I know that’s difficult at 69, but I know a couple of people like that. Of course, they’re boring narcissists, so watch out. A few famous people manage 70-year-old attractiveness. Whether or not you are capable of a sexual relationship is entirely a matter of chance. One of those things like having a Fluellen cupcake after dinner: nothing could be better, but it certainly isn’t necessary. Your mind has to be as interesting as your body.

You must be able and willing to talk about your terror of death (even if you believe in heaven and hell—which might be a deal breaker, anyway). You have to be honest. And if I bring up the subject, you have to be willing to talk about it either in the most academic way quoting the Early Church Fathers or Socrates or Frederick Buechner or in the most visceral way quoting Shakespeare or Madonna or someone who knows more about dying than you and I do. On the days I want to tell someone I’m afraid of dying and nearly immobilized by the thought of not “being” (human or otherwise), you must not freak out about it, but be willing for us to comfort and challenge each other.

You have to be willing to experience as many new and different things as I am. I have no idea what ballet is all about, for example. But if you want to go to La Bayadère, I’ll go with you, if you’ll see La Soif et la faim with me.

You must like Harbor Sweets. You must be interested in early twentieth-century gay fiction. You must have a few trips to strange lands and foreign peoples left in you (my choice or yours).

You must be, if not in agreement with or willing to be active in, at least able to hear about and not be upset by some out-of-the-mainstream political ideas (and activities not proscribed by age). You must not be frightened by my membership in some pretty radical organizations.

Even a politician can be a hottie.

Even a politician can be a hottie.

Of course, your main characteristic is that you can read all of this and have fun getting to know me and not think this is TMI or too weird.
A little fun, except for the second paragraph of “You.” That’s dead serious (no pun intended).

sum link for other blog

“Which way does your beard point tonight?”

The other day driving home from my (surprisingly for an old man) regular exercise at the Landry Fitness Center at

Which way is his beard pointing?

Which way is his beard pointing?

Baylor Hospital (I walk in the “therapy” pool) I heard Krys Boyd on her “Think” program on KERA Radio say to the writer she was interviewing, “Since human beings can logically expect to live seventy years . . .” I have no idea how that sentence ended.

Logically expect to live 70 years! I’ve been here for 69 of the 70. Is it time for me to be preparing to shuffle off this mortal coil (Hamlet)?

When my Grandfather Knight died, I walked through the parlor of the funeral home where his body was in place for “viewing” at the moment my uncle (my mother’s brother) said to my father, standing by the casket, “Well, Glenn, we’re the older generation now.” Both of them were younger (my dad by six years and my uncle more) than I am now. I’ve been part of the “older generation” since my dad died two and a half years ago.

Funny thing about that. Almost everywhere I go, I am the oldest person there. By default I apparently am part of the older generation. I’m not sure if my dad or uncle ever thought much about being the older generation of our family. They both reached old age—my father, as I’ve said here many times, lived to be 97.

Subject shift.

This morning standing briefly in front of the bathroom mirror, I noticed my beard. Seeing myself with a beard after many years of shaving completely or allowing only stubble to grow on my face was a surprise even though I’ve had the beard for several months now.  Even more of a surprise is taking in, seeing and understanding and remembering that my beard is an old man’s beard. Mostly gray, but with this odd patch of brown almost as dark as it was thirty years ago.

I could, if I shaved around it very carefully, leave a brown moustache.

The scraggliest President

The scraggliest President

Don’t ask. I have no idea why I’m thinking about my beard this morning. Well, yes I do. I meant to ask a couple of friends last night where they get their hair cut. I need to find a barber who knows how to shape a beard. Not simply cut it. Shaping a beard is a fine craft. The guys at Super Cuts don’t know how.

When I was a kid (my apologies to a blogger I read yesterday who said one shouldn’t tell personal stories in their blog), my uncle (gay brother of my mother and of the uncle at my grandfather’s funeral) gave me a boxed set of plastic figures of all of the Presidents (up to Eisenhower, who was President at the time). Playing with those figures, I not only learned to recite the names of the Presidents in order, but also learned to identify each of them.

Many of them I recognized by their beards. My favorite was Martin Van Buren. He looked somehow wild and unkempt. Chester A. Arthur had a scraggly beard, too, but I was not nearly as enchanted by his.

Allen Ginsberg wrote,

I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking
among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops?
What price bananas?  Are you my Angel?
I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you,
and followed in my imagination by the store detective.
We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy
tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the
cashier.

At first I thought this somehow belittled Walt Whitman. Ginsberg was only 29 when he wrote it. Brash young thing. But as I contemplated, I realized the poem is a fond—no, more than fond—picture of the “lonely old grubber” who helped Ginsberg find his voice, not among lofty ideas and magnificent natural wonders, but in the ordinary. At the grocery store.

It’s not so bad to be a lonely old grubber. Walt Whitman had a scraggly beard, too.

In Leaves of Grass Whitman answers the child who asks (in part 6) “What is the grass?”

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

I’m not sure I understand the image of the grass “darker than the colorless beards of old men.” Ginsberg’s poem continues as an obvious ode to Whitman’s influence in his own work.

      Where are we going, Walt Whitman?  The doors close in a hour.
Which way does your beard point tonight?
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and
feel absurd.)
Will we walk all night through solitary streets?  The trees add shade
to shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be lonely.
Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automo-
biles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher. . .

We are the older generation now

We are the older generation now

Human beings can expect to live seventy years. I am the older generation now. Ginsberg’s question for us old guys, poets, Presidents, or me is “Which way does your beard point tonight?” Whitman answers that the grass, new sprouts of grass are new life.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death;
And if ever there was, it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.
____________________
I urge you to follow the links to the Whitman and Ginsberg poems below so you have something worth reading instead of my disconnected thoughts.

A Child said, What is the Grass, by Walt Whitman (scroll down to number 6)
A Supermarket in California, by Allen Ginsberg