Breakout

After testing positive
for Covid-19,
after sitting in quarantine
(without symptoms)
for 11 days,
and catching a cold after that
after being confined
to the flat for another 5 days,

I feel like a tiger let out of its cage
as I pace the streets,
the red sun
crawling up my back,
my shadow spilling
over the cobblestones, my feet kicking
up the autumn leaves
and leading
me along the glittering
canal, and more leaves in the air
falling into the waters
and the light & everything
so beautiful

I am ravaged
by a sense of euphoria
and a consciousness of power
by the ascending movement of life
I am ravaged

and everything
and everyone – the boule players,
the human statue man,
the German
Rastafarian flowergirl grandmother,
even the fat
accordionist
with the dirty paper mask
tugged under
his chin –
  is beautiful.

11 Mag Berlin – First Issue

I am 50% editor of an online magazine called 11 Mag Berlin, and today, on 11/11/2020, we have released our first issue. If you have a moment, take a look. If you have more than a moment, read it straight through, I am sure you will find it well worth it. I’m very happy about the stuff we got to publish.

https://11magstaff.wixsite.com/website

A Thought That Occurred to Me While Drinking & Scrolling

Because of social media, people now more than ever seem to be in a raging war against their own irrelevance. Some people seem to be winning the war, and some haven’t won one battle, despite having been enslaved by their online identities for years. I fall into the latter category, but in the end, there’s no difference – the war, no matter how well you do, is a losing one – everyone ultimately is irrelevant. Even Shakespeare will one day be forgotten, and not only that, once you’re dead, what’s the difference if when you were alive you played the role Shakespeare or a B-list celebrity or humble cleaning lady? You will be dead – you will have drunk the waters of Lethe and won’t know either way.

So why do we fight so hard for a little bit of ephemeral recognition? Why not instead embrace your anonymity – fall in love with it even – and see where all that redirected energy takes you? What could be wiser than that? I can’t think of anything, and yet I can’t do it myself. Not yet, anyway. Not for more than a few minutes and then it’s back on the old hamster wheel.

Trump, Politics, Mythology & the Eternal

IMG_5475

Entry from April 13th, 2018

Gross-out, bodily function, body-shaming humor, the objectifying of women, violence, bloodshed, the glorification of guns and money – when I think of the kinds of films and TV shows that have been successful the past quarter-century, it becomes obvious that Hollywood is no less guilty than Fox News for cultivating the soil that would give birth to the shallowest, most deranged dumb-dick ever to strut and fret its way across the world’s stage – I’m talkin bout Donald J. Trump. When I wake up every day, the first thing I do is check my iPod to see the latest happenings with his administration. Then it’s onto YouTube, and Twitter, and the BBC, and the German newspapers. I don’t like it, but in another way, I love it. It’s like cigarettes. I think about quitting every day. But then I think if I quit, I’ll miss the most important part of the reality show, that which everything’s been building up to since that famous and symbolic footage of Trump on the down escalator with his vapid rent-a-wife to announce he would be seeking position as leader of the free world.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

By now, even Trump knows the down escalator was apropos and that he made a massive mistake, but his bloodpride and child’s mind won’t let him do anything about it. Besides Humpty Dumpty, he calls to my mind Phaeton of Greek mythology, who without any skill, experience or know-how, borrowed his father Helios’ magnificent sun chariot and lost control of it,

Again, the culm and smouldering smoke did wrap him round
about,
The pitchy darkness of the which so wholly had him hent
As that he wist not where he was nor yet which way he went. 

~ (Ovid, Metamorphosis – Golding translation)

burning up half the earth, and was himself destroyed by a thunderbolt.

The day I quit paying attention to politics, I tell myself, is the day the thunderbolt bound for the flame-colored Trumpian fleece will first appear – hopefully by that time he won’t have already burnt up everything on earth to save his own hide. Mal schauen (we’ll see), as the Germans say.

Anyway, after I am done with my dose of politics in the morning, I turn on classical music and the chattering of the pundits leaves my head. Angels of peace fill the room. I can almost feel my spirit expanding. It’s art my spirit craves, not politics, not news that’s already old news when it’s a day old. I seek the eternal. The story of man, of the earth, of man’s wholeness on earth and the imagination. That which is unchanging under any form of government – democracy, dictatorship, oligarchy. The truth of mere being, the language and impulses of the human heart, genuine feeling, man’s harmony with nature, anything that forgets to get dated and is so true and soul-satisfying that no one ever talks about it – that’s the real news of the day.

Monday, November 2, 2020. Berlin.

Monday, November 2, 2020. Berlin.

I am now in my 8th day of quarantine since flying into the city. It’s been 7 days since I tested positive for Coronavirus, but am still not feeling any symptoms. In 5 days, I can leave my cage. I haven’t seen the sun since I left Florida. I haven’t seen my son Alfie in 6 weeks. I haven’t had a haircut in 5 months. I haven’t had a drink since last Thursday, and tomorrow we find out if Trump or Biden will win the election. I don’t think I even have to bother saying who I voted for. I look forward to the day when I never have to say the name Trump again. Just typing in the word and I feel a rising in the gut and a queasiness like I’m going to puke. The great thing about German politics is it’s not puke-inducing – it’s too boring to be. You know someone’s doing something right in the political realm when things are dull, and I am hoping to be dead bored the next 4 years, redirecting as much of my attention as possible to art, poetry, philosophy & Eros.

“Our concern about public affairs is mostly just philistinism.” Laurence Sterne

The Queen’s Gambit

I haven’t seen it, but I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about the new Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit. I worked as an extra on this film about a year ago, and was going to write something about the experience, but never got around to it I guess. It was a 2-day shoot. The first day I had to be there at 5 a.m., which meant I had to wake up at 3:45 a.m. That gave me 15 minutes to shower and drink coffee and get dressed, and an hour for travel: the location of the shoot was at the Messe Berlin, on the other side of the city.

I was involved in 2 scenes in the film. In the first, which took place outside what was supposed to be a Las Vegas casino, I was to escort an old lady along the front of the building toward the area with the water fountains. The reason I was escorting an old lady is because she was standing next to me when the director was pairing people up. “Ihr zwei,”’ he said, just like that we were a couple. She could’ve passed for my mother, but instead I think she thought she was playing the role of a cougar, which was fine with me, though a little uncomfortable I must admit. We did the scene about 7-8 times, and each time after the director called cut, she’d keep holding onto me, embracing me tightly and feeling me up as we tooled back to our original places. Then we talked about Yokah. In English, it’s pronounced Joker, as in the film, but we were speaking in German, and she kept saying Yokah, Yokah

 In the next scene, I was among a huge crowd of extras ringed around the table that the two main actors were playing chess. I doubt the camera caught me in this scene but maybe it did. I forget exactly where the cameras were. Oh, there was a scene where I was near a bar too, but it was bullshit, the cameras were miles away and the fake cigarettes were worse than 305s, the off-brand cigarettes my crackhead mechanic used to buy because they were 2-for-1.

Anyway, in the 2-day shoot, I only did about three or four hours of work. Most of the time I was talking to the other extras or reading and drinking the free coffee which was a lot like the cigarettes and the tea and the gruel from the trough that called itself lunch.

Taste is one pleasure you’ll never satisfy as an extra. Taste in the clothing you are made to wear is also a diminishing return.

Boynton Beach Inlet

the sea is bright green, almost
mystical in the sunlight
as it moves beneath me
a tugboat with tires on the side

drifts quietly past the jetty
a dragonfly whispers in my ear
something
nothing and somebody’s

fingers weaving palm fronds
into roses and daydreams
as the sun-ravaged old man
whose hair is a white flame

wanders offshore with his
cast net, a gull distinctly
cleverly cries
bluefish like little pieces
of silver mind leap outside the breakwaters

and below my feet, the sea
is playing mournfully
her deep and timeless nocturnes

One More Before I Go

When I come back to this place
the biergartens will be hibernating,
the trees in their anorexia
will stand nude and quivering
in the forest, the gloomy skies of November
will ring with church bells and sighs
of angels.

When I come back here,
it’ll be as if to another city
in another hemisphere, the dark northern light
having driven the laughter
from the streets, having replaced it with moaning
afternoon sirens, with people with faces grim
as earthworms in the rain, melancholy Monday
morning faces shriveled and sunk
deep in their collars,
as in an Edward Munch painting.

When I come back to this place,
it’ll be as if these soft September evenings,
the blue grasses, the Dionysian ivy
climbing up the building sides,
the guitars floating from the dusky willows,
all of it was a dream, and the reality
of the city was never anything
but the nebulous dark mists of inward gazing
November.

The Rise and Fall of Captain Kirk

Captain Kirk had been sleeping with the drunks in the sawgrass behind Nat’s Den, a biker bar on the railroad tracks in Boynton Beach. Then I hired him and gave him a home in the back of a cube van that was parked on my property. This seemed to be a significant upgrade for him, especially after he outfitted it with a sofa and a dresser and a little TV. He’d gotten the items during his late-night wanderings through the neighborhood, crawling over people’s garbage heaps while high on crack.

I don’t know when he slept. He’d always be waiting for me when I got in in the morning, cheerful and anxious to blubber about nothing. I didn’t like talking first thing in the morning. I’d set him to work on the lawnmowers, the weedeaters, the stumpgrinders. He wasn’t a very good mechanic but I was barely making it, and he was affordable, and always friendly to the customers, so I kept him on, helping him save enough money to buy a Winnebago which I secured for him through a friend. The Winnebago, though somewhat old, was in near perfect condition when he got it, but he smoked his cheap 305 cigarettes in it, burning little holes in the carpet and upholstery and curtains and eventually filling it up with piles of detritus he’d scrounged on his 2 a.m. wanderings. Pretty soon, it was stuffed beyond capacity – you couldn’t even walk in it – and the overflow spilled out into the yard. That’s when I discovered that much of what he’d been hoarding had not come from trash cans around the neighborhood, but from my own trash cans.

“Captain,” I’d say. “I threw this away for a reason. It’s trashed.”

“I don’t know,” he’d say. “I think I can fix it.”

Of course he couldn’t. He didn’t even try. But he kept collecting my garbage, and soon his spillage was all over the lawn. He had everything out there: track lighting, torn-up leaf blower engines, mannequins, Halloween masks, dry-rotted hydraulic hoses. In a word, anything that struck him as remotely salvageable or sellable or shiny, which was pretty much everything under the sun. In the end, I took to smashing everything into little pieces before I threw it in the garbage, knowing that if I didn’t, it’d turn up in the lawn the next day, and I’d probably trip over it.

Then came the blowout: the morning I began violently deposing his mess and he freaked out, chasing me around the building and out into traffic with a 7-foot bull float pole. It was the closest I’d ever come to being murdered but we somehow made amends and it was only after that that he started tidying up his little space, selling or discarding as much as he could bear to part with.

It must’ve crushed him though. He lost his ambition to work for me shortly after that. All he wanted to do was lounge in his Winnebago smoking crack and watching movies.

I shitcanned him. He knew it was coming. He probably wanted it. He sold his Winnebago and downgraded soon after to a teal riceburner which he had no license to drive. He mainly used it as a storage facility. Then one of my customers offered him a job painting a newly constructed house in Fort Pierce. He was also allowed to sleep in the house overnight, but the house had no electricity, so Captain Kirk brought a generator to the job. The generator, incidentally, was thrown out by me six months earlier because it wasn’t worth fixing, but Captain Kirk resurrected it somehow. It was the only thing I ever threw out that he resurrected, and he set it up in the garage and closed the garage door and ran a cord from the generator to the bathroom down the hall and plugged the cord into his little TV and sprawled out on the newly tiled floor watching late-night reruns and drinking Colt Ice and smoking crack until the fumes crept into the room and carried him away.

Patio Furniture Salesman Blues

I tried to like them, I really did. I wanted to respect them for being my elders. I even tried to feel something like compassion for them, but those feelings would begin to fall off the moment I’d catch sight of them in the parking lot.

Having descended on the place from the most exclusive golf and tennis court communities in South Florida, they’d climb out of their luxury sedans in their white linen summer outfits and their fake tans and their designer tracksuits, scowling like dung beetles.

My job was to sell them patio furniture. But because I only worked there on Sundays and Saturday was a big drinking night for me, I was rarely in top form. Still, I tried my best to be cheerful. “Hello folks, is there anything you’re looking for in particular?” I’d ask. Sometimes they’d just ignore me. Other times, they’d grimace, as if it was the dumbest question in the world. “Yea,” they’d say. “Patio furniture.”

The difficult thing about selling patio furniture was that a transaction would often take two or three hours. This meant that for two or three hours you had to ingratiate them, and be their servant, ignoring all the rude and belittling remarks they’d level at you because you were their inferior. You were inferior because they had more money than you, and you wanted some of it. You were also inferior because you represented the lie they’d been buying their entire lives: that an object bought could finally make them happy. They of course knew this could never happen but they couldn’t break the habit. To do so would be to admit that everything they’d based their identities on, everything that made them superior to other people – was false, and therefore they were false. They knew this, but didn’t want to know it, and so they had to blame someone, so why not the patio furniture guy?  “Excuse me, Sir! It’s too hot in here. Will this sling match my shabby chic décor? And how does this chaise lounge recline? It’s chintzy. C’mon, Sir. You’re not helping us here. Do you want the sale, or what?”

It eventually got to where I didn’t care if I got it. I also didn’t care much about being cheerful anymore. It wasn’t worth it. I was hungover anyway. I just wanted them to leave the store. I especially wanted them to leave if they’d arrived just after I’d picked up Taco Bell, which was often the case. It’d be sitting in a bag in the back room, four beef hard-shell tacos, the shells growing soft, the salad growing warm and soggy. It’d be sitting there festering as the customers – my superiors – took their sweet old time test-riding every swivel rocker, sifting endlessly through the color swatches and berating me for not measuring up to the ideal salesman-messiah.

Then, invariably, they would leave without buying anything and I’d return to the back room and my tacos, now cold and mushy and falling apart. Nevertheless, I’d wolf them down before the next customer would arrive to demonstrate to my impressionable twentysomething self how miserable you can be after discovering you spent your whole life chasing an artificial dream.