Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"The Plum in Mr. Blum's Pudding" Poems by Tosh Berman (Published by Penny Ante Editions) out in November

Cover image by Alex Chaves

Proud to be re-publishing a poetry collection by our dear friend — TamTam Books publisher and writer — Tosh Berman. Originally published in 1990 by “Cole Swift & Sons” (Japan) as a small hardcover edition of two hundred copies, this new edition of The Plum in Mr. Blum's Pudding acts to preserve this work and features an introduction by art critic and curator Kristine McKenna and an afterword by Ruth Bernstein.

Out in November

Ordering available now: http://bit.ly/1pYHuot
 — with Tosh Berman.

The Plum in Mr. Blum’s Pudding is Los Angeles native Tosh Berman’s first printed collection of poetry. In 1989, Berman left the United States behind, moving to Japan after learning his wife's (artist Lun*na Menoh) mother was ill in Kitakyushu. The Plum in Mr. Blum’s Pudding was penned while both rapt and lost by this transition. Gracefully toiling between the quirky and earnest, these poems describe the liminal space of the foreigner caught between the strange and the familiar. The result is surreal and unclassifiable, a book of love poems overshadowed by isolation and underscored with curiosity and lust. Originally published in 1990 by “Cole Swift & Sons” (Japan) as a small hardcover edition of two hundred copies, this new edition acts to preserve this work and features an introduction by art critic and curator Kristine McKenna and an afterword by Ruth Bernstein.

Review copies are available from Penny-Ante (info@penny-ante.net)

August 19, 2014

August 19, 2014

I don’t drive motorized cars.  What I do drive is a soapbox derby car, that was made by a child that lives on my block.  It resembles the car driven by Fred Flintstone in the animated TV series “The Flintstones.” I live very close to Farewell Drive in Silverlake, and what I do is get in the car, and little William pushes my car down the hill.  Only a few times have I hit a parked car to stop myself from going into the traffic on Glendale Boulevard.   What I do is I pretend to write a note from myself, and I put it on the car’s window wiper.  It usually reads "Sorry," signed little William.   I don’t want to give little William a bad example.  The fact that we do this when it is nighttime, gives me an extra thrill.  Because there is always the danger that a ‘real’ car will come upon and hit me.  I wouldn’t say that I am brave, but more suicidal as I get older.  A sensible person would wear a helmet, but I refuse to wear one, because I actually like the feeling of the air hitting my face.  I never timed myself, so I haven’t the foggiest idea how fast the soapbox derby car goes down the hill, but it feels magnificent.

To give myself a dashing look while driving the ‘car, ’ I usually find jewelry from the Coco Chanel collection.  For years, I have consistently had an obsession about her life.  What interested me is her relationship with the Nazis during the occupation.  She was highly right wing, and basically a racist.  Oddly enough she wasn’t that fond of the homosexual.  She was quoted by her friend Paul Morand when she stated “"Homosexuals? … I have seen young women ruined by these awful queers: drugs, divorce, scandal. They will use any means to destroy a competitor and to wreak vengeance on a woman. The queers want to be women—, but they are lousy women. They are charming!"

 That type of political philosophy goes well with her career at the time.  I personally don’t follow those traits, but for some idiosyncratic reason I do think of her when I’m racing down the hill.   A lot of times it is the skill or vision of the Creator, but often it is just plain ‘very’ dumb luck that one gets in a position to do what they want to do.  Also the fact that she was a drug addict till the day she died has some appeal to me as well.

I never asked why, but it seems little William comes out to play only in the nighttime.  I never met his parents, or even know if he a pair of adults that look over him.  When I take my walks during the night, I can see him on his driveway working on his soapbox derby car.   It looked pretty impressive, and I loved the fact that he added the number “12” to the side of his car.   “12” is an interesting number off-hand.  For instance a dozen means 12 of something as a sales unit and there is “12” zodiac signs in astrology, and there are 12 basic hues in the color wheel.  Also there are 12 people who are designated to sit on a jury for felony trials. On top of that, I also collect 12” albums.  I thought Little William was very clever using that number, and when I asked him why “12?” He said that he just turned “12” the other day.

Over a short period of time I asked if he could make me a car that fits my size.  He said yes, and within a week or so, he finished the project. I felt a tinge of embarrassment in my relationship with little William, because there were no other adults (besides yours truly) around us, and I didn’t want to be seen as exploiting the dear child.  For his work, I gave him a vintage 45 rpm single by Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas called “Little Children.” It was a song that haunted me as a child, because I have the impression that the singer, clearly an adult, was giving me sweets to keep a secret.   A secret for a child is a scary and precious promise.  So I think giving Little William this record was in a sense, my way of communicating with him that this car he built for me should be a secret among the two of us.

We meet up on an occasional basis, but as soon as I started to work on my book regarding Coco Chanel, I started to focus on not only my relations, but also how friendship or even “casual relationships” can cause such damage outside of that partnership.  My little car represents freedom that I had, but now as it sits on my driveway, it is more of a museum piece.

Monday, August 18, 2014

August 18, 2014

August 18, 2014

There are numerous ways of looking at one’s life, and it can be measured by the objects one owns, or their sexuality.  For instance, I’m a pussy hound.  Why? That is the million dollar question that I simply don’t have an answer for.  I think the main reason is either a life where one sleeps through the day, and just function whatever is in front of them.  For instance, you wake-up and make a cup of coffee without thinking of it.  I say 90% of my life is on that zone.  The sexual aspect of one’s life are mere moments when you see a woman, and it jabs one into another existence.  An inner-life comes out of you and all of a sudden you’re in a world full of color, and it has absolutely no meaning.  It’s a zone you’re in that has no rules and it is all about the sensuality of the moment.  Each woman is different.  There is no such being where one is exactly like the other.  So if you’re having sex with one, it is totally different from the other.  The truth is that no individual is like the other.  And that becomes obvious when you’re fucking a series of women.

The great thing about a book like “Lolita” is that the intellect is there, but here the British professor of French literature, who has a guideline in life is totally disrupted by the presence of Charlotte’s flirtatious daughter.  All logic is launched out the window, and there lies the problem for our hero of the novel.  Or is the true hero Clare Quilty, the drunk and sometimes incoherent shadow figure that floats into the narrative like Satan looking for a lost soul.  Nevertheless one has to disguise their desires nowadays.  When I was a teenager, all my girlfriends were mostly going out with much older men, and to me, it was more common to know a beautiful girl in school, is clearly dating the questionable male that is waiting outside the campus with his car running.

Sex is passion, but it is also about details.  As they say, the devil resides in the details.   I recently read Alain Robbe-Grillet’s last book, “A Sentimental Novel, ” which is about a professor having a S&M affair with his daughter.  It struck me as being ‘sick, ’ but also I found it attractive because it is ‘sick. ' Usually the older man, who is obviously a pervert - is also a very educated and well-read person.  To dwell into such depraved sexual practices, does one need to be an educated and smart person?  Being a filmmaker and writer, one can easily go into the darkness of one’s sexuality and address those issues.  The problem is the case that the reader or audience member may have trouble either in dealing with those issues, or at the very least, being very judgmental in such an obvious fashion.   I have always been attached to a specific photograph of Robbe-Grillet’s wife Catherine.   It looks like she is a little girl. Yet her expression is totally adult-like, and I feel I’m being pulled into a very precarious position.  Roman Polanski is such a man who has dealt with a bad hand, where he suffered greatly through the loss of his wife and childhood (due to war). Yet his work comes alive with the sensual aspect of living.  In fact to live is the ability to accept and further one’s adventure into the world of sex.

If I had one role-model in my life, it would be Jack Pickford.  He was the younger brother of Mary, and it seemed his life was spent on drink, drugs and a passionate addiction to sex with women.  His first wife was a wild number named Olive Thomas, who had a thirst for the carnal life just like her husband.  Both were talented actors, but according to a source close to both of them “they were more interested in playing the roulette of life than in concentrating on their careers.” She died under mysterious circumstances, and he had two further marriages, that of course, ended up as a failure. I was taken by him, because I wanted to expose myself to all the harm he has done to himself.  The loser is always more romantic than the winner, and it is usually those who lose, that we remember their presence more.  The taboo is what keeps us in line, and to go against the grain is the thrill some look for.  I have fallen for the passion of my times, but I now walk in various shopping centers and imagine what the girl tastes like, and in that small world, in my imagination, I find a certain amount of peace.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

August 17, 2014

August 17, 2014

I have consistently been emotionally drawn to men like Monty Woolley, who was a close associate of Cole Porter’s, but was also a well-known actor - but for me, the very vision of the man is strictly through a series of photographs.   If I was going to grow a beard, it would be like Monty’s facial hair.   The thing is one has to pass through a lot of time and trouble to keep the beard trimmed and neat.  The one thing that I don’t like about my body is the hair.  Too much hair on my legs, arms, torso and worst of all, the back.   Also I have a thick beard.  Technically I probably need to shave twice a day, but that’s too much work for me. I tend to shave every two or three days, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t like how I look with a three-day beard.  In fact, I don’t like how I look period.

I’m approaching 60, which is old.  People say 60 is the new 40, but that is a lie.   The first thing I noticed is my neck.  My neck looks old, but my face continues being youthful.  Lately I have been using a lot of cream on my neck area, including my hairy shoulders, hoping to stop the aging that is taking place in that part of the body.  As time marches on, I find myself losing my self in step, and it is hard for me to go back in line to march for a better world for me.   On the other hand, Monty Woolley looks old, but I suspect that he was born looking old.  I tried to find images of Woolley without a beard, and it was impossible.  I assume that he was born with a full beard.  Nevertheless, I do have at least three men that I look up to in a physical fashion sense, and besides Monty, there is the pop singer Kevin Rowland and the Jazz singer, writer, and Surrealist art collector, George Melly.  I’m struck by them because they are not technically handsome (such as yours truly) but have a strong sense of style, that overcomes ugliness or any human defectively traits.   So though I do have an aging neck as well as a hairy body (with the additional middle-aged fat as well) I figure I need to bring more personality to my appearance.  The thing is all throughout my life, people always compared me to celebrities.  In fact, I was often mistaken for certain public figures.

When I was 21, I went to see “Taxi Driver” at 20 times in a movie theater.  I even adopted his look, not shaving my head mind you, but the checkered button-up shirt, Levis, and the beat-up jacket he wore through the film.  It was my uniform that year, and I pretty much wore that on a regular basis.  The thing is people began to mention that I look like Robert De Niro, which was complimentary at the time, but then people began to approach me like I was the actor.  Not only that, but famous actors who actually worked or knew him.  They would come towards me and say “HI Bobby.” They always had a weird look on their face when I told them that they are mistaken.  Also I remember going to the Whiskey to see The Screamers, and someone behind me said “that’s Robert De Niro!” I looked around to see where De Niro was, and then realized that this guy was just talking about me.  I had to leave the area because he was sort of creepy and his friends were about to approach me.

As I got older, I was compared on a regular daily basis to Martin Scorsese (I think due to the eyebrows) and the now late Robin Williams.  Which I didn’t like to be compared to, due that he had a hairy body like mine.   A lot of homeless and street people approached me on the public walkways, saying that I looked like those two guys.  It was strange, because I couldn’t see the resemblance at all when I looked at myself in the mirror. Especially for Scorsese. However, on the other hand, so many people have commented on what they think is the resemblance between me and the great film director.  It is like they are willing themselves into thinking I look like this figure.  

Lately it is now Peter Sellers.  Here I can actually see the resemblance, I think due to the glasses I wear, as well as the facial shape of our mouths and eyes.  Time-to-time, I have been called upon to send a photo of me for maybe an article or a need for a bio of some sort.  Since I don’t like any of my own photos or portraits I usually now send a photograph of Peter Sellers.  The funny thing, is that very rarely do I get anyone turning down the photo - even those who know me quite well.   I never felt I was losing my identity, probably because I have spent my whole life thinking about being someone else.  For instance, Kevin Rowland, Melly, or Wooley.  No one ever mentions that I look like those gentlemen.  Which, at the end of the day, brings me a sense of sadness.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

August 16, 2014

August 16, 2014

As a poet, I have two role models, not due to their writing, but mostly due to their lifestyle.   French poet Jules Laforgue and Los Angeles poet Charles Bukowski.   When I wrote my first book of poetry, that was published around 25 years ago, I pretty much just wanted to describe my interior as well as exterior life I had at that time and moment.   The thing is, or the problem, if I can be frank, was that my exterior life was interfering with the peace and quiet of my interior life.  At the time I had a strong love for Impressionist painting, and I somehow wanted to portray that element in my poetry.   As my wife once pointed out to me, she always felt that Impressionist painting was due to poor eyesight from both the painter as well as the viewer.  I don’t know if that is true or not, but in my case, I think my reading of impressionist poetry and painting was fuzzy at the very least.  More likely due to the excessive drinking at the time.  This is where the influence of Charles Bukowski kicks in.

At the time I was writing my poetry, I always sat in front of my Underwood typewriter with the blank paper staring back at me, in fact, I could say that it was actually mocking me.  Nevertheless I only had two albums at the time, and it was consistent soundtrack to my series of poems.  Bill Evans’ “Sunday at the Village Vanguard” and Kevin Ayers’ “The Confessions of Dr. Dream and Other Stories.” Again, I love the music by these two artists, but what impressed me is again, their lifestyles.  The fact that Evans was a heroin addict and looked so incredible, especially in the late 50s to early 60s, and Ayers…. A man who ran away from success whenever he can and when he heard a wine bottle being opened on some sunny beach.  So with the combination of Charles, Jules, Kevin and Bill, I was in excellent company.  But still, the page remained blank in front of me.  It was at this time that I realized that I have to listen to my interior world, and if I must use the images and sounds of the exterior world, then do so.

A poet is required to pull things out of their imagination and life to produce their work. It is not all that far off from Felix the Cat, who had a bag of tricks, where one can make the bag into an airplane, a car, or a flying carpet. In fact, among those above, Felix is a major influence on my writing - again, due to the image of that specific kitty cat.  When I am stuck on an idea or frustrated with a line in my poetry, I have a tendency to get up and walk around my typewriter.   Usually with my hands behind my back, head down, deep in thought - which is a movement that Felix made famous in his cartoons.  I felt that if I imitate his movement, it will somehow inspire my work.  The writer Aldous Huxley was quoted regarding Felix that “what the cinema can do better than literature or the spoken drama is to be fantastic. ”

Right now I’m attempting to write my first poem in 25 years.  I basically write on a round white table in my living room in Silverlake, and I have a portrait of Jules on my left side and Charles on the right side of the MacBook Pro.   Felix is gone, but I always have an image of him in my mind, and sadly I lost the vinyl copy of Kevin and Bill’s album many years ago.  So that too, needs to be from the memory.  Which by the way, is a perfect tool to use for jumping into the imagination and see what can be dragged from the murky waters.  Wish me luck.

Friday, August 15, 2014

August 15, 2014

August 15, 2014

I love power.  But it is as an artist that I love it.  I love it as a musician loves his violin, to draw out its sounds and chords and harmonies.  The illusions in life are plentiful.  Because when you get down to it, a throne is only a bench covered with velvet.  I rather trust my vision, because I find it that imagination rules the world.   As an artist, I find one must change one’s tactics every ten years if one wishes to maintain one’s superiority.   I’m surrounded by fear, ever since I was a little boy.  I always felt that my world was going out-of-control, and I often felt like a tiny paper boat in a raging storm in the Pacific ocean.  To control one’s fortunes I realized that the winner will be the one who controls that chaos, both his own and the enemies.  In my social circle, I don’t fear the people who disagree with me, but those who disagree, and are too cowardly to let you know.  Due to that, I have to take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, I must stop thinking and go in.

For many years I have been addicted to various types of alcohol, but I realized even that was a prop of sorts, to separate me from my thoughts and actions regarding the act of sex.  I have very little interest in anything except for the sexual act between a man and a woman.  Some years ago, I was a commercial photographer, and I specialize in color images.  I just had the ‘touch’ to make the reds “redder” and the blues “deep.” I can reproduce a blue sky as if it was an endless ocean.  One can smell the moisture off my photographs, but alas, I’m also focused on my female models.  I don’t do fashion photography but more of architectural or product placement type of images, but I always add a female to the composition.   Without a doubt, every female that I have used in my work, I wanted to (and please excuse my language) fuck.  But even that I realize it is not really about the sex act, but more of an aesthetic than anything else.  I like being aroused by the woman.  Especially when I place her in such a manner in my photographs.  I like the idea that I’m selling a product, and it does go on billboards, magazine ads, and so forth, but what I’m really focusing on is the woman.  If you look on the surface, it reads the product, but my main interest is the woman holding or using the product.

Around this time, I lived my life in a precarious situation.  Any money that I got from my work, I would spend it all as quickly as possible.  Buying drinks at the most expensive bars was one of my favorite activities at the time.   I never was good at picking up women in a bar because I feel that wasn’t an area of strength on my part.  Instead I would relay on another male friend, who is trying to chat up a woman or two.  Usually I frown at the thought of their techniques, but as one says “never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” Often they tried to use me, because I was a commercial photographer, and sort of hinted to the women that I perhaps can give them a job or do a photo shoot for them.  Such small minds with big dicks!

They disgust me, because they don’t acknowledge the moment of appreciation.  Their objectivity is to get the woman in bed, which for me is not the essential part of the seduction.  What I like is to control the emotional landscape through my photographs.  I never did anything obviously erotic, but eros is plenty in my commercial work. As a photographer, I’m a dealer in hope.  So when I match the product with the appropriate face, or body, a connection is made between the product and the female.  Whatever she was holding or drinking/eating becomes a sexual fixation for me.  Many find this impossible, but that is only a word to be found in the dictionary of fools.

It has been noted that all my models look like Sylvie Vartan.  To be honest, there is some truth to that, but I think it is mostly that I like strong blondes, because they have a sense of power that is good for the product on hand, but also it triggers my imagination in the sense that I feel like I’m making love to them, not only due to their beauty, but also to their strength.   No wonder I was exhausted after a shoot!   I now spend my time looking for work here and there, but alas, my sense of pleasure leads me to areas where currency isn’t used.  So nowadays, I just live on my wit and sense of shame.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

August 14, 2014

August 14, 2014

Very few people know this, but I’ve been writing westerns, or in my term “horse operas” for the past 30 years.  My best selling title is “Nothing But a Drifter, ” which is about a drifter who comes upon a father and daughter that is running a small cattle ranch.  He is hired at this ranch, but must deal with the jealousy of another neighboring rancher, due to him being attracted to the daughter.  Things now come to a head, with the father fighting with the daughter, and her sensual attraction to the drifter.  Add a Cheyenne attack and bingo, you have a “horse opera.” I wrote for various mass-market paperback publishers, such as Ace and Fawcett Books.   Although I wrote westerns, I was very much interested in writing science fiction novels as well.  My biggest (and best selling) title is “Always The Black Knight.” in some of my other titles I tried to match Science Fiction with the Western - specifically “Martian on the Range.” unfortunately that was my worst selling novel.

 I got into writing when I started editing a series of folk music fanzines, such as “Caravan, ” and “Gardyloo.” I hand-printed the zine and went over to Izzy young’s Folklore Center.  It sounds weird now, but a lot of the folkies during that time period loved science-fiction writing.  I think a lot of it is due to the utopian feeling that was out there, and we had to imagine that such a paradise can only exist in the outer space.  But in our hearts we just wanted to make it work here on earth.  I believe that this is why I wrote westerns as well.  For sure, there was a conflict in my soul regarding the outer-space and life on earth, as a western.

Some of my books were translated into French, and I had quite a large readership from that country.  I studied French throughout my life because I had an interest in the connection between American folk music to the French chanteuse scene that was taking place in Paris during the late 1950s.  Around this time, I was approached by a French publisher to translate the Lucky Luke comic series for the English speaking world.  I had to translate the stories by René Goscinny, which deals with the cowboy known to “shoot faster than his shadow.” While I was translating Goscinny’s script for Lucky Luke, I was interested that he based a lot of the narration on factual events that took place in the wild west.   The French are geniuses at conveying a foreign narrative and to make it have a sense for the French reading public.   For me, I just thought they were great adventure (and funny) stories, so yeah, it was successful here in the States as well.

Very few people know this, but with respect to my westerns, the book covers were actual photographs and all were taken by the photographer Terry Richardson.  I met him through his dad, Bob, when Terry was a teenager and was into being a punk musician at the time.  Years later, I was surprised when he took up the camera, just like his dad.   I never had any direct dealings with him, because I had nothing to do with the design or any say on the book cover designs for my novels.  All of that was decided by the publisher.  But beyond that, Terry had a sixth sense in choosing the right image for the cover. I don’t think he even read any of my books, but he just riffed off the titles, and bingo, there’s the cover.  For one, he always chooses a beautiful girl (of course) for the image of the book.  I should know better, but I always found his images of women a turn-on.  I always felt bad afterwards, but what can I say.  One surprising fact is that I didn’t know Terry’s step-father was the musician Jackie Lomax.    I’m a huge fan of his album he made for Apple Records, “Is This What You Want.” It’s a strange small world after all.

Through my connections with Izzy Young, I was able to combine my interest with the science fiction literary scene with music by Pierre Schaeffer.  I always felt his music would be perfect for a science-fiction narrative, and I started a record label, with Izzy helping with the distribution, that was an album of Pierre’s music, but with a story by yours truly attached to the package.  It was the only writing I did for my own pleasure.  The album package was beautifully made, with the text making an appearance as a book within the album sleeve.  Originally I wanted to have Terry take photographs as the illustrations for my narrative to be added to the package.  But sadly it was already too expensive.   The albums, were privately pressed by me, and in a limited edition of 1,000.  The title of the book/album is Orphée 53 ("Orpheus 53"), which is based on an opera by Schaeffer.  I think this project is my masterpiece and even though it won’t be seen by the great masses who purchased my westerns, I’m still honored that I can do such projects under the nose of my illustrious public out there.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

August 13, 2014

August 13, 2014

San Francisco is a wonderful town full of nice people, but the hills and the architecture drive me insane.   Ever since I was a young boy I had a hard time dealing with hills or deep inclines.  If I walk up a hill, I would feel someone is pushing me to the ground.  If I was walking down the hill, I feel like I’m free-falling and I can’t control my balance.  I not only get this feeling while walking on a hill, but also in moments of great stress.  It had a profound effect on me in that I feel I have to avoid San Francisco as much as possible.  Also staircases give me a significant problem as well.  Especially if they’re grand staircase or if one has the capability to look down and see the various floors attached to the stairs.  The look of depth is a horrifying death to me.

I went with a couple of friends to San Francisco not long ago.  Elizabeth and Steven invited me to go with them, because they wanted to check out all the spots that were in the Alfred Hitchcock film “Vertigo.” They both knew about my fear issue, and they said that it was necessary to go with them because for sure they can cure my illness.  I had my doubts about that, but also I found myself being slightly attracted to Elizabeth, and I didn’t want to shame myself in front of her, so I said yes.

They picked me up in the morning and we drove up the coast, which was scenic, but also I started to feel a knot in my stomach, that wouldn’t go away.  I tried to fall asleep in the back seat of their car, but just as I was in the process of drifting into a sleep, a vision would come to my head and jolted me awake.  Yet, I kept my eyes closed during the entire trip.   When Elizabeth touched my leg, I opened up eyes and in front of me was the main character, Scottie’s apartment, located at 900 Lombard Street.  It was eerie, because the apartment hasn’t really changed at all.  Steven wanted to knock on the door, but Elizabeth tried to pull him away.   I refused to leave the car.  I was beginning to regret this trip and my stomach ache became worse.  Steven did knock on the door, where I suddenly closed my eyes.  As I peeked, I could see there was no answer, which I thought “thank God!” But then Steven tried to look through a window, and I thought “Oh no.” Luckily no one was there, and it was decided that after a late lunch we will go to Fort Point, which is underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

At first Elizabeth and Steven wanted to walk on the bridge, but I couldn’t do it, due to the space that seemed endless to me.  It made me physically ill to assume that I would find myself in the middle of the bridge, which is 4,200 feet long, and I won’t be able to either go forward or back.  Also looking down towards the water was a no-no for me as well.  We eventually ended up at Fort Point, which is the famous scene where Madeleine (the lead female character) jumps into the waters, but is saved by Scottie.  Elizabeth wanted to be in the exact same location as Madeleine before she jumped.   I had to admit that there was something erotic about Elizabeth’s obsession over this film, and watching her play herself, yet under the influence of Madeleine was a sight to behold.   Steven was out of the car and telling Elizabeth to “jump, jump.” She didn’t. I kind of wished she did, because I want to see if Steven would jump in to save her… or not.

We stayed in a large hotel near Union Square, and I had a hard time falling asleep due to the thoughts of going to the Mission San Juan Bautista the next day.  Also I was clearly having thoughts regarding Elizabeth, and I wasn’t sure what that meant to me or anything else.  Fear and eros seem to go together in my world, and I never could figure out what’s the connection is between the two.  I also felt strange because I’m so much older than the couple, that I couldn’t imagine why they would want me to go on this trip with them.   Nevertheless I was deeply scared, but also totally turned-on at the same time.

When we arrived at Mission San Juan Bautista, I was surprised to see it looking smaller than what it is portrayed in the film.   I have heard that they re-built the mission in a Universal Studios back lot, but I’m not sure about that.  I have a hard time telling what’s real or not real.  I’m one of those people who go to a movie, and totally accepts whatever is on the big screen in front of me.  I don’t go to doubt, but I go to accept the images and narration.  It doesn’t seem proper for me to question the filmmaker’s intent, because I don’t as an audience member that is my role to do so.   I did walk into the entrance with Steven and Elizabeth to the grand winding staircase.  I couldn’t even look up, because the knot in my stomach was so painful to me.  Both of them ran up the stairs screaming their head off.  Steven was first, and kept telling Elizabeth to follow him.   They were yelling at me as well, but I could only make it to the third step, and I just felt this emotional wall in front of me where I couldn’t go further.   It seemed like it took forever till they reached the top, and Steven and Elizabeth both started to drop objects on me from that immense distance above.  I think it was a car key that hit my head. Nevertheless it sort of hurt, and I was compelled to stay in place till they came down the stairs.

I didn’t hear anything.  Then all of sudden I heard a sound of two objects hitting the ground outside the door.  I yelled out their names, but I only received silence.  I walked outside, but with my eyes closed.  I walked blindly to the car, got in with the key that they dropped on me, and sat in the back seat.  I decided to stay there till they come back.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August 12, 2014

August 12, 2014

Throughout my life I always wanted to be elegant, like Alfred Lunt dinning with Radclyffe Hall at the Stork Club, but eventually I end up in a party quoting Sam Fuller  “Film is like a battleground: love, hate, action, death… In one word, EMOTION.” The truth is I used to believe that the cinema was the ultimate art, and I think it was in the 20th century, but now it’s a shadow of what it used to be.  For me, it’s music and of course the written page.  What I find fascinating is watching contemporary films hitting against the concrete wall over and over again.  It is like a moth that is attracted to the flame, either it is too stupid to realize that it will get burned to death, or it is an act of suicide?

The beauty of the cinema was the theater itself, and the tacky sodas and candy sold at the counter.  My parents said to me that there were bats flying near the ceiling at the Chinese Theater on Hollywood Bouvelard.   This little (non) fact made going to the movies into an adventure, and there was a slight chance one’s life will be altered forever.  For instance, I remember seeing “Taxi Driver” for the first time on Hollywood Bouvelard (always the same street), and walking out and seeing a fleet of taxis in front of the theater.  Was it a William Castle type of publicity, or just by chance?  I suspect it was just happenstance, because what I saw in the theater, changed my life, and that is exactly how I saw the “real” world.  Either by the hook or the crook, the world was transformed by another medium, the cinema.

The way we see films really changes the perception of that work.  It’s very difficult for me to watch films on TV, computer or the phone.  Although the medium has changed, cinema pretends that the format doesn’t matter, when in fact, the medium is the message.  I tend to like to go to the cinema in a different country or culture.  When I was in Mexico I saw a Cantinflas’ film “El analfabeto” (The Illiterate), and what I found interesting is hearing that Mexico’s reigning illiteracy (70% in 1930), and "Cantinflas is the illiterate who takes control of the language by whatever means he can".  The ability to alter a situation or culture I think is pretty null, when it concerns the movies.  What I think are my favorite films are all from YouTube, and it is mostly acts of violence, for instance the citizen of Gaza being shot down by a sniper.  That type of footage seems to kill the imagination where it is very difficult for me to believe in the choreography of Michael Kidd, along with Gene Kelley.

What I do know, is that I can trust the cinema of Ron Mael (Sparks), because I see the images through his music, and the same when I read a book by Radclyffe Hall.   Also I find it interesting that Alfred Lunt, as an actor, chose the theater over film.  He realized the difference of the cinematic world, with its close-ups, montage, and other visual trickery, that it can’t replace the fake realism of the grand stage.  I often dream that I am walking through Broadway and seeing the glamour of the lighting of the live theaters, and knowing that I will eventually end up in a broken down movie theater with a sleeping projectionist.  Despite the fact that I wish for the grand and elegant life, I will settle for the cheap cinema.  All my friends go there.

Monday, August 11, 2014

August 11, 2014

August 11, 2014

The only thing I like about The Dave Clark Five is Denis Payton, their tenor and baritone sax player.  It’s easy to find Dave Clark recordings on I-Tunes, but of course it is preferable to find the recordings on the original vinyl.  There is one outstanding track of the Five called “Time, ” which features Payton as a solo player.  I don’t know much about this tune, but it almost sounds like a Stan Getz song - and it has to be one of those pieces that were made in great haste as a b-side to some smasher-o a-side.  Nevertheless it’s not easy to locate the sounds of the Five, due to the control that Dave Clark has over his material or to be more precise, the music of the Dave Clark Five.  One wonders why someone would want to hoard the music to such a great degree, but perhaps it is something that is very precious to him.  Or maybe he feels he can drain more money out of the dying music business.  I always suspect that he pretty much stole his sound from the great Joe Meek recordings from the early 60s.  The sad thing is the case that the work becomes a shadow of an era, instead of what it naturally is - a piece of music.

The control of one’s image by someone else is a very natural thing to be done.  Whatever it is your work, or worst yet, a family member, it’s an uphill battle because you want to do the right thing, but sometimes you are only getting in the way of what is interesting about that person.   Peter Folger, who was part of the Folger (coffee) family spent a great deal of his time protecting his daughter, Abigail from the damning articles or books about the Tate-LaBianca murders, which resulted in very little information about her and her life.  Which is a shame, because it sounds like she was a very wonderful person.  I rather know her as a living person, than as a dead victim, who by all accounts was at the wrong place at the wrong time - or maybe at the right place that was intruded upon people who were clearly wrong being there.  Nevertheless I found it interesting that she had an interest in the arts -especially poetry and the theater.  She was a debutante from San Francisco, who wore a bright yellow Christian Dior gown that she had purchased in Paris some years before the debutante ball.  The interesting thing about her was her devotion to the issue of civil rights as well as the art world.  She took a job at the University of California Art Museum in Berkeley as a publicity director.

In 1967, Abigail moved to New York and found a job as a clerk at the Gotham Book Mart on 47th Street.  When I worked at Book Soup, I met the most amazing people, that I still remain in contact with, and some went off and became huge stars, writers, or … dead.  Nevertheless each one had a profound effect on my life, and I just try to imagine what it would have been like to work with Abigail at the Gotham.  Would we discuss Frank O’Hara, or maybe she liked French poetry.  I imagine her more of being a fan of the New York School of poetry (whatever that is).   The thing is there is very little information about her.  We don’t know what her taste in music, books were and yet we do know that she was devoted to the art form of literature and music.   All we know are the facts, such that she met the author Jerzy Kosinski at the bookstore and he introduced her to Wojciech Frykowski, a fellow Pole, and a bit of an adventurer.  The perfect boyfriend for this New Yorker, who can only communicate fully to each other in French.  Frykowski wanted to move to Southern California, hopefully to work with his good friend Roman Polanski, or at least hoping that would happen.   Abigail decided to move with him to Los Angeles, where she wanted to be a social worker.  Of course, things didn’t work out well.

I want to know more of Abigail as well as Denis Payton, but alas, due to a certain amount of controlling one’s history and the passing of time, it now becomes a world of shadows. As I have stated before, I ‘m OK in that world.  I got the Dave Clark Five’s very rare album that came out only in Canada (of all places) called “Instrumental Album.” It has the Payton sound of sax sounding like metal against metal.  It’s raw. I find it beautiful.  There are certain instrumentalists who totally dominates a sound, and the only other person who can do that is Jah Wobble, with his bass on PIL’s “Metal Box.” In memory of Abigail Folger and Denis Payton, whose  birthday, I’m celebrating today.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

August 10, 2014

August 10, 2014

Real estate never has been an interest for me.  Therefore the worst form of nightmare is being dragged into a game of Monopoly, which seriously I never cared if I win or lose.  It is nothing but just to pass the time. The only thing I like about the game is the design of the board, and its play money, plus the “chance” cards. The risk is always taking the chance, and I think real estate is all about planning, and then taking a chance that a specific neighborhood will move towards your direction – financially speaking.  There is something about the great depression in the United States which inspired people to play with ‘imaginary property’ that they don’t actually have.  Charlie Darrow is the inventor of “Monopoly,” but there were other people at the time playing their own version of this game, or at least with the subject matter regarding losing and gaining property.

“The Landlord’s Game, ” patented in 1904 by Elizabeth Magie, is the inspiration for “Monopoly.” The oddity of the game is that it demonstrated the economic ill effects of land monopolist and the use of land value tax as a remedy of them.  So in a sense it is very much an anti-capitalist game, while “Monopoly” is about being greedy and making yourself wealthy through one’s greed.   What I find interesting is how board games reflect on life, and even writers like Guy Debord, became devoted to the board game and actually invented such a game called “Le jeu de la Guerre (A Game of War).   More likely he wanted this game to be just as popular as “Monopoly,” but I think that is impossible due to the animal-like desire for land and how much wealth can come from that property.   The horror show aspect of real estate is the fact that it often destroys creativity and a form of currency.  Art can be defined as cinema, literature, dance, theater, and visual - but I also think real estate is an art form as well, with respect to retail shops and how it affects a neighborhood.

“Monopoly” and “The Landlord’s Game” are both fascinating.  The latter exposes the corruption of the landlord, while “Monopoly” exposes a need to obtain wealth at all costs.  A board game basically imitates real life, because life and politics are nothing but a board game, but played out in real time, with real results.  I’m sure the Israelis are looking at the Palestinian issue as a board game.  They must have a large table or a computer screen, where they can map out the territory and imagine it as a 3D image, where they can enter and then disappear by will.  The same for Iraq and any other country involved in a military narrative.  Then on top of it, they monitor reactions from the media - both from social networks to TV talking heads.   As well as presidential elections or when there is one side fighting against another side.   All of it is deemed to be a board game.  The problem is one gets sucked into a set of rules of not of their own making.  There is this and there is that.  Surely there must be a third option?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

August 9, 2014

August 9, 2014

Lately I have been isolating myself from the world that is out “there.”   At first, I would go to the woods every weekend, and then it would be four days out of the seven, but now as much as possible I try to stay in my cabin, that is not that far away from what would call civilization.  When I go back to my backyard, I can see the city lights, which are beautiful, but one can only notice such beauty away from the city itself.  Over the years I have built a small farm to grow vegetables, and I try to eat from this land as much as possible.  I’m not a meat eater and I truly believe one should eat that is green and came from the mother earth.   A good friend of mine, Wojciech Frykowski, who is an actor from Poland, told me “the highest form of self-restraint is when one can subsist not on other animals, but of plants and crops cultivated from the earth.”  He is totally correct, and by total instinct on my part, I always trust an European on such matters.

Since I don’t have a telephone at the cabin, I can only be reached by mail, sent to my post office box in West Hollywood.  Wojciech wrote to me that there is going to be a small gathering at a home he’s staying in at 10050 Cielo Drive, which is not that far away from my cabin.  I’ve been there many years ago, and it’s an interesting home built by the architect Robert Byrd for the French actress Michèle Morgan.  The house was constructed in 1944, and Morgan gave the residence up, when she moved back to France in 1946.  The legendary actress Lilian Gish moved in with her mother, while she was working on the film “Dual in the Sun.”  Aftewards Rudi Altobelli, a music and film industry person purchased the property and rented it out to Cary Grant and Dyan Cannon (their honeymoon nest in 1965), Henry Fonda, George Chakiris, Mark Lindsay (of Paul Revere & The Raiders), and Terry Melcher (son of Doris Day) and Candice Bergen.   When that couple split up in early 1969, the house was rented to Roman and Sharon.

I never met Roman, but Wojciech told me that Jay, my hairdresser (when I can afford him) will be there, and I always enjoyed his good cheer and company - so for sure I would try to make it over.  Also Wojciech wanted me to meet his new girlfriend Abigail, who I heard about from my other “Polish” friend Jerzy Kosinski.  He met her when she worked at the Gotham Book Mart on 47th street in New York City.   He was the one that actually introduces Abigail to Wojciech, so what a small world.  So I was just a little curious to meet her as well, since she is close to both of my friends.

Another weird coincidence is that I was looking for someone to build me a stereo system for my cabin and a friend of mine Bill who is the caretaker at the Cielo Drive told me about a kid named Steven, who is a electronic geek, and could built me a system for a little money.  I hired him, and he is a fascinating kid.  It appears that he was in trouble time-to-time with the law, due that he stole electronic parts to build radios and equipment of that sort.   I used to see him at his nighttime job, which is the Jonas Miller Stereo on Wilshire Boulevard.  Some people live lives that they themselves don’t find interesting, but Steven is so into electronics and stereo equipment, I just find him to be the Baudelaire of stereos.  He understood the unique work that makes up a sound and therefore a stereo set-up is a very subjective listening device for a customer.  I know nothing else about him, because the only subject matter he’s interested in is electronics, especially when it involves sound.  He’s perfect!

The truth is when it was now time to go to the party tonight at the house, I chose to stay in my cabin.   As I get older the solitude becomes more important to me.  I just refuse to be in “need” of the companionship of others.  For me, self-reliance can be both spiritual as well as economic.   I also don’t drink anything stronger than green tea, so it’s hard for me to go out with friends, because they do drugs, drink and that is not my scene anymore.  I just like to go in my backyard in the middle of the night, and lay on the grass and look up at the stars.  That’s plenty of company for me, and I really like the stars.

Friday, August 8, 2014

August 8, 2014

August 8, 2014

After a night of serious drinking, I woke up not with a hangover, but with incredible insight into my blissful state of drunkenness.  First things first, I reached for my turntable and put on side one of André Jolivet’s “ Chamer Music for Oboe and Cor Anglais.” I’m very fond of “Serenade" (version for oboe and piano) which is the first cut.  It lures me into a state of writing, which is incomprehensible after last night’s adventure with the bottle.   One of my favorite and inspirational drunks is Dr. Bob, who was the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous with Bill W.  I think what impressed me is that his expertise was Colorectal surgery, and throughout his life as a doctor he had to overcome his drunkenness as well as being sober for operations.  He tried various methods to stop drinking, but failed. Sometimes he could stay on the wagon, but it was usually too difficult for him.  When he met Bill W. that seemed to change his life.  Oddly enough, he was provided with a few drinks by Bill W. to avoid delirium tremors and the next day he had a glass of beer, to settle his nerves so he could do an operation.   That was his last drink, and he didn't drink from that time till his death at the age of 71.

I always wondered if my alcoholism came from the fact that my father co-wrote only one song, and that one song was written with and performed by Jimmy Witherspoon.  It’s called “Lush Headed Woman.” The lyrics go like this:

“I got a lush headed woman, and she stays juiced all the time/Gonna quit that woman and get me a square cause lush headed woman is no where” (lyrics by Wallace Berman)

Which actually is good advice not only for one’s mate, but for yourself as well, if you’re a lush headed man of course.   The thing with me, drinking is just an art form of sorts.  I’m rarely a sloppy drunk, and only a handful of times have I regretted to drink in public.  For instance I have this one painful memory of talking to a girl that I had a deep crush on like forever, and finally I had a chance to sit with her at a dinner party.  As I was talking to her, and I was smashed, I accidentally hit my glasses off my face which caused it to fall into someone’s soup - will not just be anyone, but her husband at the time.  I tried to hide my embarrassment by acting silly, but it was obvious to everyone that I was out-of-it, and not surprisingly, I wasn’t invited back to these people’s house again.  One of the pitfalls of public drinking!

Nevertheless I don’t go out to drink anymore, due to above situations, and especially in front of women that I admire.  Beautiful woman plus me drinking is bad math.  Now, I pretty much stay at home to focus on the writing of my novel, as well as working on a collection of poetry that will be hopefully will come out by the end of this year.  Other then that, I’m trying to focus on writing about a great Los Angeles clothes designer by the name of Rudi Gernreich.  He’s famous for making clothing that is unisex, and even designed men’s underwear for women.  One of the things that impressed me is his thoughts about the human body and how one sexualizes it.  It seems he came from a culture (Vienna) that was comfortable being in the nude, and that there should be no shame regarding one’s body.  His first job in Los Angeles was washing bodies before an autopsy at the morgue of Ceders of Lebanon Hospital.   I think after a job like that, one can do almost anything.  For me, discipline is everything.  I love to drink to escape the discipline that is life.  But alas, I need to put myself in a prison of my own making to do what I have to do - which is to write.