Thursday, May 12, 2005

Sometimes it seems like I'm living in some kind of isolation ward with this computer my only outlet to the world. I have friends around the planet, few of which I have actually met but nevertheless I consider them all friends. The people who live in the houses nearby all have their schedules and patterns and it hardly ever seems the right time to pay visits. This is the curious reality of a wired-in, chronically ill house-husband. People don't like to ask you how you are when they know the answer is "in pain" and they don't like to ask about the family when all too often it includes the latest nightmare involving my son. So then the talk might pass to the television programs so many people like to watch, but somehow it seems that watching people conive and lie their way to big cash prizes, or eat worms and set themselves on fire, or the terribly funny sit-coms which involve married couples insulting each other non-stop, mostly about their intelligence or sexual prowess just doesn't have much to interest me. I've become a stick in the mud, a wet blanket, an outsider. So outside is in when you're talking about the internet universe. For instance if my back is acting up and I can't sleep I know someone in Pakistan is wide awake, or an Australian artist might want to chat about wood firing kilns. This tends to make me think of the monitor as the window to my neighborhood.

Ye Gods, my father's face stares at me from the mirror.

But I can hear my mother's voice when I sigh and remark that the birds seem to be having so much fun chasing the butterflies.

We are products of our own imagination.

The thing that pisses me off most about this back crap, aside from the constant pain and isolation, is that I would really like to build a stone wall, or do some more blacksmithing, or even slide into my chainmail and helm one more time and show those young sword and shield twerps what a real mace man can do. Seems kinda early to shift gears down to the "old guy" mode when I have so many great ideas that require something more of an intact spine. I keep fantasizing about a powered exoskeleton like Iron Man wore. What a great idea!

My sister keeps sending me articles about the artificial disc that has been approved by the FDA but there are some caveats about that. First off, of course, is that like the epidurals that did me no good, there is always a slim chance that something would go terribly wrong and then Dad and me would be able to have wheelchair races around the nursing home. Then there is the idea that the FDA also approved those drugs that made deformed babies and stopped the hearts of those guys looking for relief from arthritis. FDA approval to me merely means that some back room deals were cut and money was passed to a secret bank account, but then, I am very cynical.

Then I look at Furlinghetti, the little black and white cat who's body has gone over to the enemy and is even now growing new tumors on her belly. She's out back watching birds, chasing chipmunks and by and large just being a cat. So I ought to be able to do my art, weed my flower beds and by and large just be me. It has been said by many a person that I like to hear my own voice. That is to say I talk too much. Perhaps my dirth of local friends has more to do with my prattling on about politics, medical blunders or even just herb gardening. Curious that a great mind as myself would have a better chance at gaining new buddies by shutting the hell up from time to time, but it's an idea with merit. Maybe not everyone wants to hear about how the Koreans modified their tunnel kilns about the same time the Norse were exploring the Silk Road and wouldn't it be interesting if the kind of wooden framed houses the Finns built were not merely similar to the Japanese homes, but copies of them? I can't for the life of me figure out why someone would not want to know all about my time spent in a redwood stump while panhandling around the Bay area. Hell, it was fascinating the first dozen or so times I told the story! Short term memory loss has ramifications I never thought of, or if I did I quickly forgot.

So it's not so much of a whine, I hope, when I remark on my worldwide network of faceless friends. It's something that brings me hope and I often think the world would be so much better if it was a Law that people should go to other countries and share meals as often as their work schedule permits. It used to be a Code that if you broke bread with someone, or shared salt even with them that you could not harm them. What a great idea! I say let's start a mission to bus Americans to Sudan laden with baskets of 12 grain bread and bottles of vitamin enriched spring water. Then, when the people can get off their cots and pull on their tattered clothes they could come to America and parse themselves off to local familes and share their crusts of bread, toasted grubs and rusty cans of water from a local runoff. Maybe we'd be less inclined to call them gooks and shoot their babies. Maybe having been homeless and starving myself once or twice gives me a bit more insight into how hungry people live. So when the neighbor boy says we should nuke a country because They aren't like Us I say he should go live with Them for awhile and see how he likes having one hour of electricity every other day and no clean water, thanks to American bombs. But I digress.

The thing is that I think this internet thing, should it catch on, could be our window into the minds of Them and a window for Them to see Us as we really are. My mother was no Mrs. Cleaver, she worked hard every day of her life, in ofices and even on the factory floor. And we all know how unlike Dad was to Ward Cleaver. Goddess, I hope I was never like the Beaver! Instead of financing football stadiums we should finance entire family exchanges, spending a month each in twelve different countries as part of our one year hitch in the service of the world. How could we nuke a city where there is this great little market that sells silk cloth for pennies or has a cabaret where the dancers leap from table to table and the beer is warm but delicious? I think it would work too well and that's why they charge so much for passports. The Powers that Be don't want Us to get to know Them. We might find we like each other.

I wonder what kind of music Mozart would have made if he had had access to a sampler and a synthesizer? Or if he had heard Dave Brubeck or B. B. King? What a concept. We need time travel, too. I want to escort JC himself to the prayer services that our beloved Bush attends and explain what the man has been doing in the name of Christian conservatism.

Actually, that would be too rough on JC, he was always a sensitive boy. Better to bring Moses along. Now, he would kick ass!

Well, this is about as long as the old back will let me sit, so I guess it's back to the kitchen to add the mushrooms and carrots to the veggie stew. I'll end this thing with a bit I sent to an overseas friend I encountered trying to get some help on my sad little Amiga. The man not only helped out, but we chatted over several emails and became something like friends. He was remarking that he wished he was more creative, as in the way I do sculpture and such. I told him:

"Try to think of yourself as if you were your own father. Ask yourself what you would want that child to be, to do, to feel about himself. Then make the effort to give yourself permission to try. Those outside influences are invaders! You, as your own father, should stand in the way and protect yourself as your child. You block those influences while the child within you finds out what gives you the most joy. Then follow that joy. Personally, I love art. I always have. My father used to tear down my watercolors from the wall declaring that they were dreams in the clouds and I should get real and learn a trade. Funny thing.... now Dad is 84 and sickly and he told me a couple of years ago that when he was my age he wanted to be an artist, but he didn't think he was good enough because he looked at the museums and then at his poor work and decided to do something that he could earn a living at. So for 60 some odd years he was a miserable worker, drinking late at night and generally not a very happy man. He wanted to spare me the disappointment of trying to be a Picasso and failing. But I wanted to be a William Shirley and I couldn't fail at that, so after all this time I am making art and yeah, I don't sell anything to speak of, but my house is filled with things that could not exist if it hadn't been for my two hands. So I suggest that if you have something you enjoy doing, even if it doesn't meet the standards of the masters, do it. Just do what you love and don't worry about how good it is. It'll be good enough for your grandchildren or maybe some archeologist a few hundred years down the pike. Make yourself smile."

Not perhaps too insightful, but honest at any rate.

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