Heart of Light   (2016Aug08)

Monday, August 08, 2016                                       3:03 PM


“’You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;

‘They called me the  hyacinth girl.’

-Yet when we came back, late, from the hyacinth garden,

Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not

Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither

Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,

Looking into the heart of light, the silence.

Oed’ und leer das Meer”

—  (from “The Waste Land” (1922) by T.S. Eliot)


I know that all you working stiffs hate the start of the work-week, but I’m enjoying the beautiful weather and my good mood. The sun is shining. I’m free as a bird—and I’m a grandpa now, too—it’s really too sweet. Claire is, I presume, enjoying her beautiful granddaughter Seneca and spending time with her Jessy, and Big Sen.

I don’t know for sure because, when you’ve been together for 37 years (36 of them married, end of this month), two weeks away from the sound of my voice is the best vacation Bear could possibly ask for. So I don’t call. I’ll see her in two weeks. Besides, there’s no news here to report anyhow—unless you count the fact that Spencer and I haven’t starved to death without someone to look after us.

I always start to really love the summer when it’s just about to end. It seems so cruel that all the beautiful plants and flowers and all the leaves on the trees will all fade and fall. Soon I’ll have to close the windows—sacrificing fresh breezes for warmth—I think that’s the part I hate the most. Sometimes, in winter, I open the bedroom windows for as long as I can stand it—just to get a little re-oxygenation.

But temperate climate is where it’s best—yes, you get winter, but it’s harder to live in temperate climes, so you don’t get the profusion of jungles, insects, and creepy-crawlies of various kinds that make the tropics so claustrophobic. Winter is like a broom that sweeps away the ephemera that can only live in the hot sunlight—herding the irresistible force of Life into a dignified annual cycle, rather than an eternal riot of birth and rot—what Joseph Conrad called the “Heart of Darkness”.

But we still get a taste of the easy life, every summer—just a tease, but enough to fuel our dreams through the long winters. I love having all the doors and windows open all day—especially on breezy days, when the whole house breathes with the weather. Those flowers which haven’t already done their business are at peak bloom, blousy and vulnerable to wind—the last fireworks of nature’s annual explosion—so beautiful, and so sad, for their grandeur means the end is near. As they should correctly say on Game of Thrones, ‘Autumn is coming’. Right? I mean, who has Winter without first a Fall, for crying out loud? Why don’t the Game of Thrones people ever say, “Fall is almost over.”? That’s show-biz, I guess.

I’m going outside—all this talking about the outdoors has made me restless. See ya.

Hey, Where’d Everybody Go?   (2015Jul11)


Saturday, July 11, 2015                                                      10:16 AM

There are tides in the ceaseless shifting of society. Thus while one form of solitude is to be without companions, another form is to be disconnected from those tides. There are those on the autism spectrum who cannot gauge the tone of a roomful of people or the mood of a crowd. There are non-Christians who feel somewhat excluded by the ‘Christmas season’. There are little old ladies in Pasadena who don’t think to wait for the morning rush-hour to end before they slowly wend their cars to the Piggly-Wiggly.

Then there’s summer. How isolated we feel when we spend an entire week working in a near-empty office—the herd went on vacation and we missed the signals. It’s worse when our neighbors have all vanished—leaving only lawn-maintenance crews and renovation contractors, to insure that our solitude won’t be a peaceful one. Even the inter-web goes quiet in the depths of summer—leaving the few shut-ins like me to chatter amongst ourselves until society gets back in gear.

I’ve always had a horror of being left out—which is sad, seeing as I’ve never been ‘in’, as it were. And I have proved through experience that chasing the wave is a loser’s pastime—if the tide of events doesn’t carry you with it, you’ll find it’s always one step ahead of you. And for the innately excluded, history becomes an attractive pastime—after all, history is all about the crests of the waves of society—and they stand still, waiting to be closely scrutinized. We’re still not a part of it—but we can become expert in what we missed—something the present stubbornly refuses to allow us to perceive.

History is a sad consolation, however—we don’t know what’s going on, but after it’s happened, we can offer all kinds of theories on why it happened. The studious may have a deeper understanding than the intuitive, but that understanding only comes from being an outside observer of events. And explanations, after the fact, have a limited value—certainly nowhere near the power of those who have the alacrity to dance in time with the music.

Here we find a dichotomy that transcends the debate between the educated and the ignorant, the serious versus the superficial. Even among the ‘enlightened’ there will always be disagreement between those who have an inkling of our motivations and those who simply motivate. Entrepreneurs, for instance, are too busy succeeding at Capitalism to question or examine the system itself. Meanwhile scholars may have insights into Capitalism that go unrecognized by the players, simply because such scholars have no dog in the fight.

Beyond these philosophical differences, we have the daily confusion of stray people who go up the down staircase, who drive the wrong way down a one-way street, or who simply stand still in the middle of a busy Midtown sidewalk. Society could use an orchestra conductor—someone to keep us all in rhythm with each other. But leadership of such totality inspires visions of egomania, tyranny, and corruption. Still, there are chamber groups that perform without a conductor—how do they reach consensus? Such groups should be closely studied—they succeed at something we all need to learn.

Yet if society could learn to intuit its movements, shifting with the precision of an exultation of larks—that would just leave us, the out-of-step children, even more isolated. It seems that society is always begging for improvement—but any change always raises the specter of excluding some group, or restricting some impulse, or just taking the fun out of life. So we go on, an imperfect society, dreaming of a perfection we don’t really want. By wanting to exceed our humanity we court the inhuman.

“More Things In Heaven And Earth, Horatio…”   (2015Jul01)

Wednesday, July 01, 2015                                                12:00 AM

Today as I tried once again to make the perfect playlist I was eventually lost amongst a directory of albums in My Music—an eclectic music-lover’s senior-level over-profusion. In a lifetime of seeking out and collecting every possible type of music (though I don’t enjoy every type of music I’ve found) I’ve accrued a collection too diverse and frankly just too large to be encompassed in a single playlist. It haunts me.

It’s also an apt metaphor for my intellectual life. I’ve learned enough history that any part of it resonates with the echoes of similar eras, similar fears, similar crimes—even victories that have to be won again and again. Hook that onto my semi-awareness of current events and now, all the news reports send me into spirals of hope, dread, exultation, and despair—but mostly into extended musings on the tragedy of human nature.

My sheet music collection is stacked all about my piano—thousands of incomplete attempts to learn the music of a hundred or more composers. Then there are my piano recordings—I’ve uploaded over 1,700 videos to YouTube over the past several years. There’s no way I’m ever going to get that organized—or even get a vague sense of what the whole mess amounts to. This writing I’m doing right here—just the most recent addition to tens of thousands of pages of random, disorganized essays, poems, memoirs, anecdotes, and other involuntary effusions of erudition—although it could be described differently, depending on the reader.

I don’t see how anyone could enjoy it more than I do—it’s pretty egocentric, in the main. And even I don’t care for a lot of it. It’s not easy to write something worth reading—and I’m too OCD to simply delete my failed efforts. I’m an autobiographical hoarder—and the result is a mass of writing from which no one will ever extract a polished diamond, as Ezra Pound did with T. S. Eliot’s original manuscript for ‘The Waste Land’. My writings are destined to be merely a waste land—strictly lower-case.

If you’re not me, it’s kind of funny. All my life I’ve heard people talk about how you have to focus on one thing to ever get anywhere. I’ve ignored that bit of wisdom and here I am, at 59, running right into a brick wall of infinite beginnings and limitless unrealized efforts. It turns out there’s a reason why eclectic-minded people are usually a little screwy—being unfocused is a poor survival strategy—hell, it’s a poor strategy for anything—so you have to be a little crazy to go there.

I never get bored, at least. I do get confused however—but it’s a nice sort of confusion—the world is so big, so varied, so infinite—it’s like being stoned without being stoned. Not that I could speak to that.

Now here are two videos. One is very silly, because I just sing the word “Hey” over and over. The other one just has a silly title (a la Papa Hemingway) but the playing is serious, for me at least.

Sherryl’s Gardens (Just To Be Fair) (2015Jun26)

Okay, this time I’m giving credit where credit is due–Sherryls’ got the green thumb. Harlan, however, makes an appearance towards the end of the video (see yesterday’s blog about the Big Tree across the street).

A Sunny Day (2015Jun05)

Friday, June 05, 2015                                               1:59 PM

 A Sunny Day   

Laughter light and lyrical rides on the birdsong air.

In amber sunshine bumblebees are bumbling here and there.

And pots of tea, and sandwiches of cucumber and salt,

Are laid upon the shining lawn—an emerald without fault.

You can’t hold back the tide of troubles—bother not to try—

Embrace instead the happiness of days when nothing’s wrong

Don’t worry at your worries—better far they far-flung fly

Life is short but summer days luxuriously long.

Laughter bright and beautiful—the butterfly takes wing.

In golden sunlight flowers bloom, and in the breezes swing.

Well, that’s all for today. Here’s videos I haven’t gotten around to sharing with you yet:

Garden Pix (2014June22)

We had three trees taken down this past week–two of them courtesy of Lauren and David Coats of Terrapin Tree. (Highly recommended!)

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It’s harder to see the other stump (above, by the roadside) which the Town of Somers removed–since it was on their part of the right-of-way.

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This puppy took three days to disassemble without damaging the fence (or the house!)

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But the rest of our boxes are doing pretty good..

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We always do good with lettuce.

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Blueberries are blurry and green–but they’re comin along…

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And, of course, we have the usual random blooms and greenings….

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Th-th-th-that’s All, Folks!

Telstar (Original Recording – 1962)


Monday, March 31, 2014           10:04 AM


What is it about this Tornados track that makes me play it again and again?  It could be that it was inspired by a dream Joe Meek had. It could be that the inspiration for the title was the launching of the first Telstar Telecommunications Satellite launched into orbit on July 10th, 1962. Did you know?—the Telstar (or ‘geosynchronous-orbiting satellite’), or rather the idea behind it, originated in an Arthur C. Clarke story! The science fiction and the rocket launchings of the 1960’s broke my childish mind into fireworks-like dreams of flight, exploration, and technology. If you are interested in learning more about the song, watch “Telstar: The Joe Meek Story” (2008)—it is an excellent film and a real slice of history, painlessly presented by a very entertaining director.


Judging from the dreams it calls up from deep in my memory, the AM radio playing on the dashboard of my parents’ station wagon while we drove home from Jones Beach, I heard it at a time when I was happy in the way only children can be happy. One of five siblings, I was usually rolling around in the back of the wagon, avoiding the back-seat infighting (and the ensuing parental yelling).

Those trips to Jones Beach were happy, but they were full of fear, too. The waves could sometimes become (to my young eyes) skyscrapers of water, looming above, letting me know I’d be crushed and rolled and dragged over the rough surface beneath the water. I often wondered whether I’d be let back up again before my breath gave out.

Sometimes there was sky-writing!

Sometimes there was sky-writing!

And there was separation anxiety, too. Jones Beach was huge, disappearing into the horizon in either direction, thousands of families and friends laying out the towels that made the space temporarily their own. All the new ‘portable radios’ were tuned to the same AM station (Cousin Brucey) and the songs followed along wherever one went.

There were regularly spaced Life Guard Towers every hundred yards or so. If the waves tumbled me too far along the shore I would be faced with a beach that looked exactly like the one from which I had walked down to the surf.


The only difference would be that my family was nowhere to be seen. This was a tricky little trap, for me at least—if all my siblings were in the water (which was always) I’d be looking for our blanket and cooler—not much to go on in the ‘Where’s Waldo’ world of Jones Beach in High Summer.

Plus, if I chose to go the wrong way, the result was getting further from my goal instead of closer. In the end, my mom usually had to yell at her confused, lost-looking little boy from her place beneath the Sun Umbrella. O, yeah. I forgot to mention, almost everyone had eight-foot-tall sun umbrellas—like patio umbrellas, but with a big spike for sticking it into the sand.


But aside from all that, I loved Jones Beach. Ice cream and hot dogs and soda never tasted so good—even if the line at the Snack Concession was stupendously long. The sand was perfect for sculpture and construction—and the ebb and flow of the tide made everything transient—even if it wasn’t kicked over by some other kid.

But just imagine it—the TV was full of ‘space race’ news, the beach was full of joy, and the music coming out of all the radios was futuristic and new—but none compared to “Telstar”. We have become overly familiar with synthesized sounds—in the 1960s it was unheard of except for “Telstar”. To hear in the music itself the sound of electronics—it was a Pentecostal experience, but for the ears instead of the tongues. From that point on, I was less and less interested in acoustic music (and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone in that) and more and more craving the sounds of synth.

And that was actually a logical progression—one of the draws of rock n’ roll was the electrified sound of the guitars and the reverb, wah, and other effects added to the players’ or vocalists’ amplified sounds. But nothing says Synth like a keyboard.

I remember playing Wendy Carlos’ “Switched-On Bach” for my family, expecting them to be as enthralled with the sound (and the idea) as I was. But my Uncle John said it sounded like Alvin and the Chipmunks playing classical music. Everyone roared with laughter—and I was nearly in tears. What can I say? Music has always been very important to me.

The things music can do never cease to amaze me—it can make a chill go down my spine; it can make the hair on my arms stand up; it can bring me near tears; it can make me jump up and start dancing; it can make me laugh, sing along, howl along (if drunk enough), and even make me stare into space, lost in the wonder of it. I haven’t been to Jones Beach in decades—but music can still take me there.


Two – fer (2014Mar14)

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