Archive | Verbals

“Watchful Eyes”

Verbal Alteration
Year: 2010

Under
Watchful Eyes
We pretend the Machinery
Will clean up the Remains
Of our Freedoms
Lost Forever
To the Systematic
Fire.

We Burn your Money
And
Weep with your Love.

Cold Cure

The machine grinds away churning the night into writhing hallways of smoke, sweat and indifference, pierced by the rapid fire strobe of distant memories flashing on the back of our collective retina. Memories that keep us here, even as we stumble through the back alley exit, numb to the cold, numb to the sight and sound of the neon machine engaged in a timeless battle with the wind and the rain and the darkness of night.  Candy coated electrical conduits transmitting the disease.  Infected.  Stage 6.

Waking in the gutter, shirtless and void, no cure in sight, we fix our blurred gaze on the sliver of crescent moon hanging low on the vertical horizon as the sun prepares to slip sideways into the light of day.  Our long lost senses slowly return to their frostbitten homes amongst our synapses, and an inescapable reality envelopes us;

Cold.

It has become our enemy, gripping and shaking us as we wrestle into our still-wet wetsuit, 20-grit with sand from yesterday’s ocean.  The frozen darkness of pre-dawn has not yet revealed the reason we put ourselves through these paces, but we can hear it in the distance, like a machine grinding away, churning the remains of the night into swirling walls of water, salt, and stoke.  The sound stirs memories that keep us alive, and keep us coming back for more.

We stumble out the back of our van, insulated now from the cold, nearly tripping over the shirtless guy in the gutter.   Where’d he come from?  Back to the van for a blanket and a bagel and what’s left of our morning coffee.  We throw the blanket over his wretched frame, stopping to see that he’s breathing, leaving the food and coffee beside him, hoping he’ll figure it out.  We make our way across the sand as the first light of day dawns, the moon hanging even lower now over the rhythmic horizon, soon to be immersed in it’s daily cure.  Just like us.

Traveling Light

Now let me get this straight, I’m supposed to want what you’ve got?  Ain’t no wagon big enough to hold all the worldly possessions you offer, the shine and pop glittering off your leadbolten chains sunk and anchored deep in the molten core of the earth. No offense, friend, but I’m aiming to travel a little lighter than that.

Everything I own is packed up here, ready to go wherever life is still fragile and not yet covered with concrete and steel.  Boxes of unsettled memories, most of them mine, some of them borrowed, but that’s just fine.  I trade them on the roadside to strangers and friends alike just to feed my family. I got kids that call me Pa and a wife that loves me true and a newborn baby with eyes so blue they make the ocean cry even when the sun is shining, so it don’t bother me none that my tarp’s been leaking and my lung’s been rattling.  You call me poor, but I am rich. Richer than you anyway.  Your mountain of worthless money can’t buy what life has given me freely.

And you still say I’m supposed to want what you’ve got?  You step out from behind your polished black veneer of tinted glass to hurl spit and fire at me, threatening with scorn that I should dream your dreams for you?  You wonder why I stand unmoved as you command me to sign the dotted line and exchange what I’ve got for your drunken dream?  A cup of clean water for your barrel of poisoned wine?

Your dreams are nothing to me. I am the undreamed, my friend, and your stillborn dream will be left on the road unmourned where it will be trampled by the masses you dreamt of trampling.  And as for me, when all the words have been spoke and all the dreams undreamt, I’ll ignore my leaking tarps and my own rattling lung just long enough to smile on my kids and hold my wife close and jump in to the cleansing ocean of my baby’s eyes one more time before I have to travel even more lightly on.

Life is Poetry

While  driving home from the gallery the other day I was contemplating what to do about a recent spell of slow art sales, when I heard a commercial on the local radio calling me a “famous artist” or something like that, right as I was driving past the local food bank where a desperate looking man sat on the curb wearing a t-shirt I designed for our local high-end organic food market years ago.

Life is poetry.

Death is Unoriginal

There is nothing creative about death.  Destruction and decay follow the course that’s been laid from the foundation of the world.  Turning life into death is the natural order of things and always has been.  Tune into the program nightly and witness the procession of fast-food destruction served up on microwave-safe trays for public consumption on a global scale.  Pass the ketchup.  The armchair graveyard is never satisfied.

The crushing weight of seven LA freeways cannot compare to the tragedy of the needless speeding of Death’s Process.  Recklessly darting from lane to lane while shrieking a mournful howl across all 8 lanes, Death’s Process hangs one hand out the window flipping a wretched bird to every hopeless soul who by birth, design, or foolery lacks the horsepower to keep up with the flow of traffic.  Confined to the right lane, where they await a forced exit, cut off forever, these legions of hopeless are unmourned by the onslaught of a constantly accelerating culture.

Standing on the side of the highway, breathing in the concrete vapor of exhausted lives it’s a terrible and tragic fleeting moment when you connect the dots and see the wreckage spelled out in slow motion.  Parents weeping for children ripped from their arms by needless disease.  Children stranded, orphaned, and worse because we all had important things to do the day we saw them on the side of the road.  In this moment, delicate as the fluttering wings of a butterfly, the rush slows to a walking speed, the city evaporates and there is nothing but barren fields of earth.  Welcome home.

The TV is dead and gone now.  A new vision has sprouted from it’s earthen grave. Why live another spoon-fed day when we can go to the kitchen ourselves and cook up a thunderstorm with the fruit of the suddenly fertile earth? Feed the children, comfort the parents, take them all in to your own broken heart and listen for the sound of the wind and rain beating against that thin veil separating you from death itself. Life is not what you ever expected.

Ain’t Dead Yet.

When some folks find out that you are an “artist” it’s always funny how quick they are to point out that your art won’t be worth anything until you are dead.  They’re not being mean about it, and they say it many different ways, most often just innocently referencing famous artists whose work became immensely valuable to collectors years after their passing.   But the reality is most artists work never appreciates in value after the death of the artist… it just all gets bequeathed to some unsuspecting heir to sort out and save a piece or two and the rest gets offloaded to a thrift store and that’s that.   That’s what I expect of my art after I’m gone anyway…  and I’m fine with that.  I’d rather my art have it’s value in the present moment.   If you enjoy it now, it’s worth enjoying and that’s more important than piles of money that have no value in the hereafter.

 

The Unexpected

It happened again the other day.  Cruising up the coast for a surf, minding my own business, getting passed by a speeding funeral hearse, and in one instant flash, the course of my life was altered.  No, it wasn’t an accident, at least not of the car wreck variety. It was more of an accident of mind, and it’s been happening a lot lately.  Apparently I never read the life-as-an-artist handbook that warns of all the dangers of inspiration.  I worry that if I keep this up, my creative license may get revoked.

Inspiration is a tragic fleeting moment where a new vision sprouts from the shallow earthen grave of a bad idea.  Often times I cling to the rotting corpse out of desperation, not knowing where else to turn, ignoring the funeral procession, refusing to wear black.  But I play the fool.  Death itself was made for bad ideas. There is nothing creative about destruction, decay, and death.  Turning life into death is the natural order of things.  Do nothing, and you will have played your part in the unmourned dance.

The tragedy of inspiration is that often the lifeless idea is the safe idea.  And when inspiration comes gently fluttering in with the breeze, behind it lurks the force of a thousand waterfalls not to be resisted.  Life itself blasts out a soul-splitting bass-line from the speakers of the funeral hearse.  Get up and dance!  Mourn if you must, but get up and move!  When death turns into Life, it’s never what you expect.

It’s often not what anyone else expects either.  Always surprising, at times embraced, but more often rejected, true creativity has no other path than to walk through these rusty gates.  The lock’s busted, the gates swing freely in the wind, creaking out a strangely melodic tune.  Welcome to the graveyard of bad ideas.  Here you’ll find the world’s best artists dancing on the graves while Inspiration herself does donuts on the graveyard lawn with the volume turned up to eleven in the funeral hearse.

The Middle Ground

Mid-Morning

Mid Morning

The cold wet earth patiently endures the rare warmth of a sun-filled winter morning.  Beneath the surface of barely dry ground, the long memory of the Aleutian storm track lingers in the form of watery laughter in the face of the fiery sun’s futility.  It’s a battle as old as time itself, and there is no middle ground.

On this morning the sun declares it’s promise loudly, a promise of better times to those who’ve endured a long bitter season of soul shattering storms.  In this morning light there is also the promise of simple things. Joy and laughter and bicycle crashes.  Coffee and beer, skin and frivolity. These simple things may well fill the day and yet the first promise will remain unfulfilled. At the end of the day, profits will still be reaped from an illegal purity, just as it’s always been.

The sad truth is that the promise of hope that this day proclaimed to those who walk above the ground will soon be broken. Take your shoes off and stand in the bare dirt, listen with the soles of your feet, and you will hear the wisdom of the earth as it prophecies the patient endurance of coldness, and the water that by noon tomorrow will be falling from the sky once again.

 

California Gold

 

“Welcome to California.  Now get lost.”

Getting lost is an easy feat in the old city of one way streets and construction work dead ends, where the 2 a.m. limousines cruise the darkened streets and the drunk Russian couple leans out the window and invites you to their apartment for crepes and cigarettes and possibly no return.  Nothing to do but surrender to the waves of the pulsating neon narrative rewriting itself in the shade of this towering symbol of prosperity. The Golden Gate.

In truth there is nothing golden about this Pacific sea-faring gateway to the land of wealth and opportunity.  The gate itself is actually red.  The color of caution and rage, a warning shot to all who enter here seeking gold that it will not be easily gained.

Its been this way for a long time here.  Territorial disputes. Warring tribes. Warring nations. Blood-soaked ground.  Quick wealth seekers with gold dust in their eyes. Out of work dust-bowl refugees with only survival in their eyes.

Fast-forward to Silicon-chip greed gamblers. Buy-and-sell-for double real-estate mass-ponzi schemes. Grow-your-own-money-tree under the sheltering shade of medicinal legalities. Securing investments to disrupt our collective social engineering experiment with a handheld bet wagering ever higher stakes. In each of these manifestations of wealth-without-work mass mentalities, the winners are few and the collateral damage runs high.

The Spanish galleons seen on yesterday’s evening news were listing heavily from cargo holds full of dreams to be sold. They still circle the bay today, docking in the dark fog of modernity, selling these dreams to the corporate midnight brokers. They rebrand them and sell them for double on these beautiful streets of ancient brick as the smell of roasting coffee awakens the city daily from these plastic dreams that have been broken and left us broke.

Just like all the other scared souls afraid of losing what never really belonged to them in the first place, there are two things these merchants know very well; first, that broken bodies heal faster than broken dreams, and second, we are not in their dream.

Just how its always been…   “Welcome to California. Now get lost.”

Eureka – Finding California

The Land- part 1

Home.

Deep in the anxious nowhere of Los Angeles,  an old home stands in solemn opposition to the thousands of fleeting glimpses of a rushed humanity that bombard the busy thoroughfare just beyond it’s front steps.  Out on that street there is no longer any memory of the past, it’s been rewritten as a vain attempt at remembering the future. What comes next is all there is, or more accurately, all there will be then, for there is no longer any now. There’s no time for that sort of luxury anymore.  Not out there, anyway.

The old home is a different story though.  There’s plenty of now to be had here. There’s shade everywhere, as anything that grows out of the ground has been allowed to just keep on growing.  A huge tree stands in the yard next to the house.  Kids bikes lean against the tree, rusting into permanence at the end of the dirt driveway.  You can stand still here and see time pass.  The joy of now.

Stand on the porch and wait for a pause in the traffic, so you don’t inhale the future’s fumes, and take a deep breath.  Oranges.  The past here smells like oranges.  Acres of them.  As far as you could see in any direction.  Grandparents of today were once children here who drank fresh squeezed orange juice because that’s all they had.  They laughed and screamed and rode their bikes in every direction as far as they wanted down the dirt roads between the neighboring orchards. On hot summer days, though, this would get old and they’d complain that they were bored. They would wish that something would happen here, and figuring that it never would, they imagined a different life beyond the orange trees.

 

Drink Deep

For the ordinary soul who owns not a boat or a plane, the only way there is by your own two feet, one step at a time. Unless you are the ordinary soul’s dog, in which case it’s more like your own four feet, two steps at a time or something like that. In other words you’re just gonna have to hike. Eight miles. On sand and cobblestones loosely piled up between vertical mountains and the deep blue sea. Only at low tide. Higher tides and the surge of large swells will submerge that little eroding sand bridge to which your feet (or paws) will hopefully remain planted upon.

One such surfer and his dog endured that hike in the late spring one year, after a season of heavy storms, which swelled the creeks and brought with it a series of rock shattering swells and a fierce longshore current that removed all but the most stubborn sand deposits. Oh sure, they scored some quality surf, but it was a ride they took on the hike back that would define the trip.

It was one of those days when the low tide wasn’t really very low. Combined with the somewhat unruly and large swell, these were not the optimum conditions for attempting this hike. But since boatless , planeless, and now foodless ordinary souls and their dogs tend to need to get back into town once in awhile, they really had no choice. The day was getting late. Only a mile or so to go and then it happened.

The ocean seemed to calm a little, and the air became quiet. There was no reef or sandbars on this particular stretch of sand, just deep water. Taking a check of his surroundings as an alert surfer will do when the ocean changes her tune, he knows he’s in a tight spot. Sheer crumbly cliff greets his left hand, the big lulled ocean his right. Up ahead about 60 yards is a somewhat higher sand berm he’s been heading toword for the last ten minutes. So close, but with the forty plus pounds of gear on his back, it’s a good minute or so away, even at full speed. The swell is running at a 17 second interval. He grunts and picks up the pace, but no sooner than he became aware of making that decision, he sees the deep water welling up on the shore.

Seeing the futility of racing this impending wall of water he braces for the worst. He sees his dog running for high ground and as he digs his hands into the course and cold sand he watches the first surge of water envelop his companion of the last seven years. A second later it’s his turn. Larger than he had anticipated, the oncoming whitewater makes quick business of uprooting him and tossing him shoreward into the cliff. Then comes the rebound back to sea. Like a rolling stone he is pulled off the beach, barely getting a gasp of air before going deep into the drink. Being dragged to abnormal depths by the pack on his back he wrestles himself free of it and begins the task of exiting through the large shorebreak.

Finally making his way up the beach, he stops and looks for his dog. Scanning the shorebreak for any sign of life, he finds none. The ocean gives and takes away. As if to cruelly punctuate that thought, he spots his pack rolling up with the next surge. Quickly dragging it up the beach and making his way to the higher and drier ground, all he can think of is that nothing in that backpack is worth anything next to his old friend. The beach is broad and wide the rest of the way, so there is no need to hurry now. There is time to sit and wait. To hope and pray for a better ending to this bad dream. A good hour he sits and almost dries out, never taking his eyes off the shorebreak, scanning for any sign of life. But there is nothing. It’s almost dark now, time to go.

Emotionless, he finishes the hike to his truck. The warm beer that awaits him there brings no joy or satisfaction this time, just a little more numbness to wash down the plateful he’d just eaten. He heads to the overlook as was his usual custom, just to stare back up the coast and put the period on the last sentence of this chapter. The sun is down, just the dimly lighter western sky illuminates the thoughts he is lost in. Just as he turns to go he hears a faint noise that penetrates the walls around him and brings him full force back to the here and now. Even from this distance and through the constant sound of the crashing waves, he knows that bark.

He hollers back and saves some beer for his friend.

Pure Joy

1-shaping Nothing about it was easy, even from the very start. Sharpening his carpenter’s pencil, as he always did before tracing an outline on a fresh blank, his knife slipped a deep gash across his thumb. Blood dripped bright red onto the snow white foam covered floor.  After a makeshift bandage and a sip of warm beer, the shaper began the task of carefully bringing forth beauty from the blank. He knew where he wanted this one to go and each skillful pass of the planer would reveal a little more of what he had in mind all along. He was in no hurry to finish this one. Slow and sure, that was his method, right on through the shaping and into the glassing where he laid on its deck, right across the wood stringer, these two words, printed in red, PURE JOY. Those two simple words would have their impact on each subsequent rider, flavoring their expectations and ultimately shaping their experience of this board.

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