Sunday, November 30, 2014

November 30, 2014

November 30, 2014

One thinks that being a writer one would want to have the largest audience or readers possible.  This, of course, is totally understandable.  But to be honest I actually prefer a smaller readership.  I like to get paid of course, but so far that hasn’t happened.  Nevertheless, I don’t know why I write.  I suspect it is to leave something on this planet when I’m gone and buried, or my ashes dropped off in the Shibuya street crossing in front of the station.  Also, as much as possible, I would like to make my residence into a museum devoted to… me.  I have a lot of good friends, but I think my record and book collection speak more of me, than any human being I know.   I have met fascinating people, but I spent more time choosing the right book or album for my library.  Also I’m quite aware that all my writings are on computer, and not on actual paper.  So I plan to write first on the computer, print it out, and make a lot of markings on the manuscript, so people out there can see my work in progress.  Technology makes everything neat and precise, but the ‘real’ world is quite messy.   People don’t go to museums to see neatness; they go to see the drama and tears of the making of that art.

So I wrote a will to express my desires to have my collection intact after I pass away.  “I give and bequeath all the remaining works of art executed by me in my collection to an American city that will agree to build or assign and maintain permanent quarters exclusively for these works of art and assure their physical survival with the explicit requirement that none of these works of art will be sold, given, or exchanged but are to be retained in the place described above exclusively assigned to them in perpetuity for exhibition and study.” I thought it was best to have the museum in America, because the text will all be in English. I’m paranoid that my work will be mis-translated.  I have approached various universities around the country, and so far, most of them have told me “we never heard of you.” Which is accurate at the moment, but I think that’s such a so short-sighted thing to say to a writer, no?

Acting in accordance with my count, I have 2,752 books and 1,434 albums.   I imagine that at the very least if I can have a room that is 1,000 feet by 1,000 feet, and have a couple of display cases for my manuscripts and correspondence (which to be honest will have to be print-outs of my e-mail), I think it will make a very nice and permanent exhibition.  Also perhaps over the years, from the collection of fees collected at the door, as well as the hopeful (future) home of my collection, they will be able to collect funds from the non-profit world.  With the funds, I’m hoping that they can invite scholars to come and give talks about my writing as well as my collection.   Perhaps even a panel discussion or two.

I think, looking back now, the most fascinating aspect of my writing career is actually the lack of such a career.  I’m sure scholars will be scratching their heads over this one for years to come.  Basically I stopped participating in the literary world due that it wasn’t of my making.   Some claim that I couldn’t get my books published, but that’s not the point here. The specific point I want to make is that I live here and this is my world.  Therefore there must a representation of my world.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

November 29, 2014

November 29, 2014

A chorus girl is not a chorus girl in my hands.  I take her, and I multiply her by the hundreds.  My sense of eros is not sleeping with one, or two, but hundreds.  And when I sleep, I mean deep penetrating sleep.  I never want to wake-up from the dreams that I formed half-awake.   There are some who bring poetry to a pretty girl, but I bring pretty girls to poetry.  It’s the least I can do, and if I can do it in a large warehouse in Burbank, with me on a camera crane, many feet up,  looking down into these great beauties, and present that series of moments to you, dear reader, then I did my job properly.

Some are used by the movie studio system, but speaking for myself, I use the movie studio system for my precise work.   I need the system to do what I have to do.  In fact, the problem is when I’m not working in the system, I have a tendency to fall off the map.  As long as I’m in the studio and I have my girls in front of the camera, I’m perfectly OK.   Otherwise, and out of the studio, I’m a mess.

Behind the camera crane, yes, but behind a driving wheel, I recommend that you get out of my way.  When I’m on the open road, and then finding that road ain’t that open, well, people will die or get hurt.  California State Route 1 is my destiny and anyone who is there at the same time as me, better buckle-up, because it is gonna be a ride to the very end.

Three people were killed and five were seriously injured.  Heck, even I was hurt, and I was the driver!  All-in-all, Ada Von Brieson, her son William Von Briton, and Dorothea Daly died in the crash.   What happened was there was or is a line dividing the highway, and I somehow either lost that line, or it disappeared, or something like that.  Which is ironic, because my day job is to make sure the girls are in line and they stay in line.  Yet, I somehow failed myself in this type of choreography.  I’ll never be able to see a landscape again that is made from my perfect designs - instead I see the crushed metal of the cars, the twisted bloody bodies on the pavement and I think to myself, that this is the other side of my personality.  My fear of dis-organization, chaos, dis-order, anarchy, destruction… it is truly me.  My fear is my aesthetic.  If I can take a group of beauties and form patterns, it is almost like a math problem.  1 + 1 = 2.   But if something disrupts the formula, then I go totally out of whack, and that ain’t a good thing, believe me my brother and sister.

I only exist when the world is found to be in disorder.  My skill is to put some sort of design or order to the landscape, that is our world, or the world I want to make.  I can’t do that, without the assistance of the Studio System.  Without it, I’m a drunk driver speeding on the Pacific Coast Highway.

Friday, November 28, 2014

November 28, 2014

November 28, 2014

November 28 is International Window Shopping Day.  It’s “the activity of looking at the goods displayed in shop windows, especially without intending to buy anything.” Without a doubt, this is my favorite holiday.  There is nothing more profound, or beautiful, than leaving one’s house around dusk, and wandering around an urban shopping area to look at window displays.  To be absolutely honest, I have never seen a bad window display.  Even the “bad” ones have a certain amount of soul and spirit, that I find truly moving.  Due to my phobia of being contained in a box-like room, for instance most museums and galleries, I much prefer my art-viewing to be outside among the masses.  Saying that, aesthetically speaking, I don’t like official “public art” or so-called graffiti works.   My art-viewing is basically window displays from everything to the local record store to the most luxurious department store.   It’s very democratic in that you can be poor, rich, middle-class or totally insane - and yet we can all enjoy the spectacle that is the window display.

Although I prefer window displays in larger urban areas, many small town shops are also quite pleasing to the eye and soul as well.  Maybe your small town, if you live or visiting one, may have a block that is focused on retail shops - this too can be fantastic.  When I travel, I usually go to the same cities. London, Tokyo, Paris, New York City, and of course Los Angeles.   Each city has their own aesthetic with respect to window displays.   It is almost as if the entire city has a fingerprint, and of course we know that each fingerprint is unique and special.  If you blindfolded me, and kept me in a dark room for a few days, and then eventually let me out and place me in front of a display window (with no text on display) I can guess what city I’m just by the display.   Saying that, with respect to the five cities above, I really don’t have a favorite.  Each one has a unique and special presence.   All good and a total win-win situation.  As Stefen Zweig wrote:  “Time to leave now, get out of this room, go somewhere, anywhere; sharpen this feeling of happiness and freedom, stretch your limbs, fill your eyes, be awake, wider awake, vividly awake in every sense and every pore.” Window shopping opens all my senses to another world, and displays often express a world that seems similar to the one we live in, but of course, it is not.

For me personally, a window display doesn’t make me want to purchase something, but it does make me admire an object or how that object appears in conjunction with the rest of the window dressing.  The bigger department stores have a whole narrative working, and in a way it reminds me of the Kabuki Theater, in which you see a landscape in front of you, with no real point of focus.   In holidays, specifically Christmas, there is a narrative being played out.  My favorite was Macy’s window, where a little boy awakes, to discover Santa Clause coming into his room.  There is something that is both touching and erotic at the same time.  Perhaps alarming as well.   Nevertheless it was animation done with puppets, and if you get close to the window, one can marvel at both the technology as well as the crafts(wo)manship of the work.

I don’t have a preference when it comes to objects in a window.  A book can just be as fascinating as a hammer displayed in a hardware shop window.   What one sees is a curated way of looking at the world, and as a viewer I can walk by and look at the display as either sales merchandise or a window entrance to someone’s soul, mind and heart.  Walter Benjamin in his book “The Arcades Project” commented that “Something different is disclosed in the drunkenness of passion: the landscape of the body… These landscapes are traversed by paths which lead sexuality into the world of the inorganic.  Fashion itself is only another medium enticing it still more deeply into the universe of matter.” Clothing always has an erotic presence, and it's amplified when placed in a public window.  I’m a voyeur, and there is nothing like a public window to satisfy my desire.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

November 27, 2014

November 27, 2014

My very first song that I remember singing to myself, while watching TV was this:  “It’s Howdy Doody Time/It’s Howdy Doody time/Bob Smith and Howdy too/Say “Howdy do” to you/Let’s give a rousing cheer/‘Cause Howdy Doody’s here/It’s time to start the show’So kids,let’s go!” I would sing it at the top of my lungs, and I can could even feel it in the pit of my stomach.  Ironically the TV show didn’t give me pleasure, but more of a horror, due that I found Howdy Doody slightly sinister. Nevertheless my grandparents gave me a slightly smaller version of the Howdy Doody doll.   At first, I didn’t want to open the package, because it had a nice picture of Buffalo Bob holding Howdy on his lap. On the package, there was the phrase in small print: “Say kids, what time is it?   Then in big print: “It’s Howdy Doody time!” Once the package was opened, the spell was broken, and the doll became mine.  It was no longer his time, but my time.

I placed the doll on my rocking chair that faced my bed in my remote bedroom, quite away from my parents’ room.   As a procedure and since I was a nervous sleeper, I would say goodnight to the doll.  Also I would make sure that it would face me, in fact, the way I was positioned in bed, I could look directly in his eyes.   Either my father and mother would turn off the light after falling asleep.  I never liked to have the lights off before I fall off to sleep, because I was petrified of the dark.  Once the lights were out, I felt I was entering another world. In fact, my bedroom seemed to change its mood, or took a life of its own.  I noticed the shadows, caused by the tree that was in front of the back porch lighting would sway if it was windy outside.  It didn’t exactly scare me, but I was thankful that I was in a covered bed, full of blankets, and therefore I could hide my eyes.

I have often woke up to the sound of the chair rocking back and forth.  Once I’m fully awake the sound stopped.  I could barely see it in the dark, but I could make out Howdy Doody’s eyes staring at me.  I went back to sleep - but this happened maybe three or four times a week.  I would never leave my bed in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, because I not only found my bedroom scary in the dark a.m. hours, but also I was fearful of Howdy.  I always had the feeling that the doll was alive, but never sure.  I would notice little things like maybe his head would be tilted in a certain direction, when it should be facing the bed.  Or even once, I found his leg crossing his other leg, which I thought was impossible, due that I always placed Howdy on the chair with his legs straight out.  I would never obsess about it, but I have to say the thought of it was in the back of my mind.   Thinking back now, I think I was suffering from a mild version of “pupaphobia” which is a fear of puppets.  I never told this to my parents, or any grown-ups, because I was embarrassed about my fears.

One rainy afternoon, after many days of hard rain, we had a mud slide, which totally destroyed our home.  What was once a structure became splinters, mud and nothing else.  There wasn’t even a foundation. In fact the house was built on the side of a hill with stilts facing down the hill.  If we were in the structure, especially me, we would have been killed.   My bedroom would have been the first to get hit by the mud and rocks.  We were fortunate that all of us (the family) was out that day.  The tragic thing is that we lost everything in the house.  In fact, we were basically homeless, and if it wasn’t the kindness of our neighbor, we wouldn’t have a shelter over our heads.   A few days later that neighbor came up to me with something in his arms.  He brought me closer to him, and he said “look what I found on the hillside.” It was Howdy, but a very battered Howdy with one of his eyes missing and also his left hand.  This always bothered me, because I’m left-handed, and for some reason I thought this was a bad sign.   I wanted to throw the doll away, because I felt my entire life went down that hill, and I didn’t want to have this ‘object’ to represent the only toy or object that I owned and what survived in my life.  Nevertheless the adults around me thought it was a good luck charm of sorts.  So the one-eyed, one-handed Howdy was cleaned-up and placed in a chair by my sleeping bag in our neighbor’s living room.

Now that I’m 60, I still have this doll.  In fact, I place it on a chair facing my bed.  At this point and time, besides my mom, this doll has known me for the longest time.   I would like to think that my last sight, before dying in my bed, will be looking straight at Howdy’s face with his one eye gone.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

November 26, 2014

November 26, 2014

“A writer never takes a vacation.  For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.” Which makes me a bit of a bore.  I know I should take an interest in other people’s lives or at the very least, pretend that I’m interested in their lives.  The truth is I find my world absolutely fascinating, because … well, me.   My work is basically focusing on the one thing that I know, or I “think” I know.   Surely there is not anyone out there in the world, who could write a full bodied biography on yours truly.  Therefore it is my responsibility to write, and to write what I know of - which again, is basically, me.

My entire life before I started writing, was to please others.  As the boyfriend I had to tell the girlfriend that she’s the one, and when I worked for my various bosses, I told them that they were the one, and I had to consistently bite my lips so I won’t tell them my true desire.   The only time where I felt at home, was when I read a book.   Reading text on a page is probably the most satisfying series of moments in one’s life.  The relationship is pure.  The writer and the reader.  Eventually as a reader, I decided to promote myself as a writer.  Now, for the past three or four years I read nothing but my own writings.

I have two books out now.  I read them many times.  I try to imagine myself as a reader, who doesn’t know me.   Would I still like the books?  Surprisingly I do!   “I’m almost never serious, and I’m always too serious.  Too deep, too shallow.  Too sensitive, too cold hearted. I’m like a collection of paradoxes.” Which I think makes me unique in today’s world.  Everyone is so black and white.  Truth or lies.  Left or Right.  Soldier or terrorist.   Everyone has a role and they play that role as if it was a vehicle going down a straight highway from point A to point B. As for myself, I like to explore the mystery and the paradoxes that are truly me.  Even though I have been thinking about myself for numerous years, there are still things I don ’t understand.

I often feel that language alone does not describe my world.  My basic struggle every day is to provide a description of my condition, but I often feel limited by my knowledge or use of language.  “Without language, thought is a vague, uncharted nebula.” When I walk down Waverly Drive, I think of what is it about the street that makes it so unique.  The only thing I can think of is that it is because I’m walking down this specific street.  Me being at a location makes it significant.  Without the “me, ” then it is just a street or location.  “I’ve always been suspicious of collective truths.” The only process I can truly trust, is what I see, and then there’s the art of writing down what you see - but can one ever do that?  “Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask, “Is life a multiple choice test or is it a true or false test?… Then a voice comes to me out of the dark and says, ‘we hate to tell you this but life is a thousand word essay.’”

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November 25, 2014

November 25, 2014

Seppuku (“stomach-cutting”) is a ritual suicide by disembowelment.  Traditionally only the samurai can do this act of suicide.  Mostly it was used voluntarily by samurai to die with honor, rather than be captured and perhaps tortured to death.  The noteworthy aspect of this practice is that it must be done in front of spectators, and the act of Seppuku is to put a sharp blade into one’s abdomen and moving the blade from left to right in a slicing motion.   For me, this is difficult because I’m left-handed, and it seems more natural for me to move from the right to the left.  Nevertheless, rules are the rules, and I must follow them.

I have always been attracted to the Right than the Left.  The reasons are I hate chaos and firmly believe that there should be an order, and within what limitations there is direction, hope, and freedom.  The Left to me seems to be based on emotion, while the Right has the logic - and it is hard for me to break away from what I find logical in a world that is truly illogical.  The indifference of the suffering and those willing to accept fate as a wind from the East, West, South and North  - I feel can be changed by a certain amount of will and passion.   For this reason I joined the Tatenokai.  It is the Shield Society that is devoted to traditional values and justice.  I used to write and work for a college journal, “Ronso Journal," but it faltered due to lack of readership and therefore finances.   The best thing working for the journal was meeting Yukio Mishima.  I never met a famous man before and his charm, personality, and determination almost over-whelmed me.  It was at this point, that I decided to join the Tatenokai, and devote my life to the man as well as to this organization.

Through Mishima’s connection we were able to train with the armed forces, and eventually Mishima commissioned a tailor to make us uniforms.  I never wore anything other than clothes from a department store or from the mall.   To have a designer measure my body in such great detail, made me proud to be part of this group.  Once the uniform was finished, Mishima told us that we must put it all on at the same time.  We were like children opening up presents at an orphanage.   Once we put the uniform on, Mishima made us appear in front of a huge mirror.  Our beauty shined through the clothing.

Of the ninety members of the Tatenokai, there were only four of us who were close to Mishima.  We were Hiroyasu Koga, Masatoshi Koga, Masahiro Ogawa and yours truly.  Mishima brought us to a meeting and we were told not to tell anyone about this meeting.  It is there, that he told us about the plan to take charge of the office of a general and make our demands for traditional values.  He asked each one of us if we are prepared to die for the cause.  We all said “yes.” He then let us know that we must prepare for death through the act of Seppuku.   We looked straight at him with tears in our eyes and said “of course.” He then took a knife, cut his index finger and squeezed out a bit of blood in a glass, and told us to do the same.  We did, and each one of us drank a sip of the blood in that glass.  This was the bond that couldn’t be broken.  We swore that we would not say anything to anyone about this meeting.

Eventually Mishima pulled me aside to tell me that he wanted me to do the honor of beheading him.  I said “yes of course.” A month later the told the rest of us that it will be him and me and the other two must remain alive.  Of course, they were disappointed.   I then ask Hiroyasu if he would behead me when the time comes.  He said yes.   The performance was set!

Throughout my life, I have never done anything of great importance.  Now, this will be the final act where I clearly stand for something.   I never felt more alive.  Once a decision is made, I can feel the pressure coming off my shoulders.   The happiness I felt that morning as we left for our appointment was intense.  I was extremely nervous, but I also know that there is no turning back, and going forward was something beatific.  Not only do I understand, but I truly embrace what Mishima told me in that “perfect purity is possible if you turn your life into a line of poetry written with a splash of blood. ”

Monday, November 24, 2014

November 24, 2014

November 4, 2014

Depression is a bitch.  As well as a bastard.  Nevertheless nothing is worse than waking up and realizing that someone or something enforced a steel framed dark cloud over you.  The weather outside my window is beautiful, but with my little friend “Depresso, ” here by my side, it seems to mock, more than to please me.   I would laugh, but it’s too painful.   Lately my life does not appear to have a beginning, but just a long delayed ending.  It’s akin to being in quicksand, and you’re sinking slowly.  You try to grab an object to pull yourself out, but it seems that object, structure, a limb is greased with oil.  I just slip back to my place in the mud of shit.  Nevertheless, it is Monday, a day of the week that doesn’t have that many fans, and I just have to get on with it.

“Develop success from failures.  Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” Since I’m at the bottom today, and I’m in the position to gasp for fresh air, I need in order to remind myself that once you’re on the bottom, there is nothing lower than that - except death.   Also today being Monday, I had to live on six or so days of misery to get to this point.   The last six days I have been dodging and running away from “Depresso,” but he always catches up with me on Monday.   In the Netherlands, it seems more people commit suicide, or call in sick, or even worse, surf the Internet on Mondays.  I think my source of depression is the fear of wasting time.  Time is money, and therefore I do not have money.  And “Depresso” always remind me of that fact.   I just have to keep in mind that “most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” The big question right now, am I one of those people who can keep on trying?

The hours drag on, and I’m too anxious to be bored.  I feel the day can exist without me, and that alarms me the most.  I sit here and have a cup of coffee with “Depresso,” and it seems he wants to embrace me with his arms.  I can’t bare the thought of “Depresso” touching me, especially to be trapped in his hold.  I know he doesn’t exist as a person, but somehow making him into a 3D figure, it becomes more real to me.  Otherwise I am just facing a huge void.   I can feel that void sucking me into its entrance, and once entrapped in that non-world, what will become of me?  I obsess about the silliest things.  When my neighbor Forrest J. Ackerman passed away, I was concerned about his collection.  What will become of it?  It only made sense when it was put in place in his Los Feliz home. If it was sold, piece-by-piece, his collection will become meaningless.   The thought of spending one’s life in obtaining objects, books, and …well, stuff and then what happens when you die?  I have a full music and book library, but it’s only significant when the collection is intact.  Once removed, it becomes just another item.  It is only important when someone attaches themselves to that object.

“I begin with writing the first sentence - and trusting to Almighty God for the second.” My life is from one sentence to another.  The fear of not coming up with that sentence is deathly to me.  “You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so.  For I must remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind.” Since I can’t change my fortunes, I can only write, and hopefully write myself out of my despair.   “Remember, today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.” So perhaps all of this will pass… or not.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

November 23, 2014

November 23, 2014

I like sweets, but I tend not to like the taste of sweets.  Instead, I like to look at sweets.  For reasons I am not totally clear on, the visual aspects of certain foods, I greatly admire, but I have no urge to eat them.  Instead I like the image of food much better than eating that food.  If you wonder what my favorite film is, I with all honesty would have to say a Burger King commercial, where they show in detail, a sandwich about to be eaten.  I can’t even remember the actor/model who is about to bite into the sandwich.  Or if it is taking place on a real or imagined location.  My only focus is on the sandwich itself.  I’m the commercial wants that effect, but also, I have no memory where that sandwich came from.  Burger King, McDonald’s, In N’ Out - all of them are the same to me.  I can’t imagine I would go to a fast-food place to eat anything, and I have no urge to see these foods in real time.  No, I prefer the photograph or even painting of food than the real thing.

If you’re on Facebook or Instagram, one can’t avoid the pictures of people’s meals before eating it.  I would like to say these images are spiritual, but they’re more about consuming than anything else.  Or is it even that?  Wouldn’t it be better to show an empty plate, which in turn, strongly suggests that the eater really loved that meal?  So why are photographs of food or a meal before it is eaten?  On one level, I can see it as a journal for the eater - he or she can look at the picture and be reminded that they had that meal at so and so place and time, but what does it mean to the viewer?  

The best sweets are the one’s that look the most complicated to make.  We admire the skills and how that plate of food is made.   The portion has to be just right (usually in America, at the very least, there’s a lot of food on that plate) and the setting should be seductive as well.  As a viewer it doesn’t make me hungry, but I guess a touch of jealousy does come into the picture.  Not only are these images pornography of sorts, but it also a statement that “I’m living better than you, because look at this food I’m about to eat.” In essence not that far off from a model/actress in a porn film being interviewed about her sexual habits before being fucked by the photographer.   There is something creepy about seeing a young girl being used in such a fashion in front of a camera, and I feel the same way at looking at someone’s image of their meal.  I too want to have sex with that girl in the film, in that same exact situation, but I can’t. The same as when I look at a picture of someone’s decadent desert, I can’t eat it due to health issues.  It is almost like the photographer is going out of his or her’s way to show off that they can eat this dish of food, while you sit there and fantasize about it.

I’m a fan of Wayne Thiebaud’s paintings of various sweets.  On one level, it does make me desire to reach out and taste the painting or drawing.  On the other hand, there is something so cold about how the food is displayed in such a fashion.  It is almost like the ice creams and cakes are stand-in’s for a photograph of the Nazis in Nuremberg.  One is totally seduced in the image of a series of soldiers lined up so perfectly and so many.   Why they are there, and who they are - doesn’t make much sense, except in the visual experience of having such perfect sense of order in front of your eyes.   Food photography, from the viewpoint of a professional photographer, artist, or even more seductive, by an amateur image maker with Instagram, exposes the need for a moment or two of perfection.  I don’t think Thiebaud’s paintings are about fascism or even order, but that is how I view his work.  They’re beautiful to me.

Ironically enough I also admire the images of his daughter Twinka, who posed many times in the nude for various fine art photographers.  Like the images of beautiful food, I too have a visual need to look at her. I don’t need to know her, and even though I feel erotic feelings for her, I surely don’t need to penetrate her. In any fashion or form.  Nevertheless the eros that melts off her skin onto the viewer’s gaze is such a wonder.   On a different level looking at her images, I feel that there is a landscape that is not logical or restricted, with respect to the images of food.   There is a specific logic when you see a painting or a photo of a desert.  You can taste it if you have the imagination to do so.  I don’t think it serves any purpose beyond that the food is there, and perhaps it is used to mark a specific time in one’s life as well as for its location.  In a nutshell, Twinka gives me layers of meaning, that is hard for me to penetrate (no pun intended) -yet, I’m drawn to her beauty and the way she exposes her sensual body.   Food is also sensual, so I guess at the end of the day, we should just accept that for some, a plate of food is bliss, as well as a photograph of Twinka Thiebaud.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

November 22, 2014

November 22, 2014

November 22 stays in my mind of course because of “that death,” but also there was another death that day in Dallas, Texas - The death of J.D. Tippit.  He was a police officer with the Dallas Police Department.  His initials were believed to stand for Jefferson Davis, but alas, the truth is the J.D. Didn’t stand for anything in particular.    He married his high school sweetheart, they had children and he shortly worked for Sears, Roebuck and Company in the installation department, but then was laid off.  J.D. and his family moved to Lone Star, Texas where he attempted to farm and raise cattle.  The farming world didn’t pay off so he resolved to go to Dallas and became a police officer.  His salary at the time of his death amounted to $490 a month.   He also had two part-time jobs: worked at Austin’s Barbecue restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights and at the Stevens Park Theater on Sundays as security.  The theater mostly attracted a sizable Hispanic crowd, so he studied Spanish from a language book that he got from the local library.  He was willing to learn the language so he could understand what the customers were saying to ward off any problems.  On November 22, he left early, leaving his wife before breakfast, who besides being a full-time housewife and mother, had a job babysitting neighborhood’s children at their home.

He did his patrol in his assigned area Oak Cliff, which was quiet that morning.  Most of the police action was in downtown Dallas, due to the President and his wife coming to the city.  After his morning patrol, Tippit went back home to have lunch with his wife.  She made him a sandwich and fried potatos on the side.  He usually has an hour lunch, but wanted to get back to duty in case there was any trouble due to the President’s visit.  He admired Kennedy and both he and his wife voted for him. J.D. wished he could see the President, but at the some time he was relieved to be working at his regular assigned area.  For a cop, there is usually that tension when someone important visits the city, and there could be trouble due to crowd control or “one nut might try something.” So he ate his lunch quickly and went back to his patrol.

One of J.D.’S nieces went to the corner of Harwood and Main in front of Titche-Goettinger’s department store to get a glimpse of the President and his wife.   She saw Jackie and President Kennedy as they drove by, and she commented that “it was like I could have reached out and touched them.  We were standing right on the corner.  They looked like gods and goddesses.  It was almost unreal.” Seven minutes later President Kennedy was dead.

An eyewitness, by the name of Howard Brennan, said he saw the gunman and gave the police a description. “White male, approximately thirty; slender build; height five feet, ten inches; weight 165 pounds…” Police Dispatcher Murray Jackson realizing that he was draining Oak Cliff of available officers ordered Tippit to move into the central Oak Cliff area.  “You will be at large for any emergency that comes in,” said Jackson.  It was an inside joke between Jackson and J.D; sometime in the early 1960s he needed assistance to arrest several ‘unruly teenagers’ who didn’t want to be arrested.  Tippet was the first to respond, and since then he always joked with Jackson that he had to “come to save his life.” J.D. acknowledged Jackson’s joke/request with a very dry “10-4.” That would be Tippet’s last radio transmission.

About two miles away from the Texas School Book Depository, on a residential street in Oak Cliff, J.D. saw a nervous looking man walking down the sidewalk.  What was common practice than with the police was to pull over and chat with the person through the passenger window.  A police officer wouldn’t necessary leave the car.   The figure in question walked up to the passenger window to talk to Tippit.   For whatever reason, J.D. decided to get out of the car to talk to the suspect, and in doing so, either by habit or training he rested his hand on the butt of his gun in the holster.  Once he was out of the car, the suspect immediately shot him three times in the chest, and then when he was on the ground, shot him directly through Tippit’s right temple which killed him instantly.

Later that night, Attorney General Robert Kennedy called Marie Tippit (J.D.’S wife) and told her they were “extremely sorry and wanted to offer their deepest sympathy in this time of grief.” Marie told him on the phone “to express my concern to Mrs. Kennedy and tell her I certainly know how she feels.” Kennedy then mentioned that if his brother didn’t come to Dallas, her husband would still be alive.  Marie told him “But, you know, they were both doing their jobs.  They got killed doing their jobs.  He was being the president, and J.D. was being the policeman he was supposed to be.” A few days later Marie got a letter from Mrs. Kennedy: “I feel like we were somewhat responsible for your husband’s death because of the fact that he was killed by the same person.” In that same letter she wrote “I hope you’re not bitter toward us because of what happened, and if there is anything I can ever do, well let me know.” Marie didn’t know how to answer that.  Her husband’s best friend wrote a note letting Mrs. Kennedy know that Marie received the letter, and that both Marie and her late husband loved the President.  He then wrote (on behalf of Marie)., “There’s no bitterness, we just have a very lonesome feeling.  We love you and always have loved the president. If you want to do something for me, well send me a portrait of your family.  Just a picture from everyday life.” Not long afterwards, Mrs. Kennedy sent a photograph of the Kennedy family at Hyannis Port, framed in a beautiful gold leaf.

The inscription below the photograph read: “For Mrs. J.D. Tippit - with my deepest sympathy - and the knowledge that you and I now share another bond - reminding our children all their lives what brave men their fathers were - With all my wishes for your happiness, Jacqueline Kennedy. ”

Friday, November 21, 2014

November 21, 2014

November 21, 2014

“Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” I “must not fear daylight just because it almost always illuminates a miserable world.” Mere hours before my appearance tonight at the Skylight Bookstore, I feel nervous and uneasy.  On the other hand, I must put that aside, and concentrate on what I’m going to do tonight.   The main focus tonight is my book of poems, and I’m presuming that I’m going to have to read some of the work from that book.  Events like this, are both a celebration, but it is also a stop in time, where one reflects on what they did - and on top of that, sharing those views with an audience in front of you.  To calm myself, I project what will happen later tonight.  The event is at 7:30 PM, but I imagine it will really start at 7:45 PM. I will see people I know and I haven’t seen for awhile.  What they don’t know is that I’m totally lost in my thoughts.   The sense of failure or being embarrassed in front of an audience is a deep and bottomless fear.  The imagination can draw up the worst images from the dregs from your worst nightmares.   Of course, there are those, who wish that I will fail tonight, so they can just use me as a subject matter for their dinner engagement.

On the other hand, perhaps I’m thinking too much.   Especially about myself.   What is the worst thing that can happen tonight?  Surely Skylight Books will exist no matter how well I do or not do tonight.  The audience who will see me is seeing a free event (unless they buy the book).  A lot of my friends will be there, and I imagine they want to see me succeed.   So it’s a win-win.  Unless I really mess up.   The problem is that I will be in front of an audience that will be listening to me in great detail.  Not only that, but more likely will be focusing on my clothing as well as my nervousness.   Some may even be turned-off by my arrogance, not knowing that I’m that way, due to my crippling shyness.  Often when someone reads from their work or from a book, the audience tends to drift off, thinking that what they will eat for dinner later that night, or maybe my appearance reminds them of an old boyfriend, and so forth.  I may lose half my audience through their daydreaming.  Therefore I speak to a full crowd, but maybe only 30% are paying attention to what I’m saying or reading.   So I should really concentrate on that 30% - or should I think about trying to get the 70% back to my work and reading?   Can I even do that?

Voltaire, a man who I greatly admire by the way, commented “the more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.” The thing is, I want to hide this fact from my audience tonight. It is taking place in a bookstore, and not just any bookstore, but one of the best bookstores in Los Angeles.  So many smart people are here.  Surely they will be aware of the fact that something is up.  Clearly they will look behind the curtain, and notice that I’m a total fraud.   How can I hide this fact?  Or should I be totally honest with my audience.

Ruth Bernstein will be asking me questions.  I haven’t the foggiest idea what she will ask me.  I just have to presume that it will be about my book.  But then again, what happens if she asks me a personal question?  Should I give her an honest answer?  And the bigger question is: Am I honest?  Is honesty good? “I honestly can’t characterize my style in words.  It seems that whatever comes to me naturally, I write.” It seems “life obliges me to do something, so I write.” It is really out of my hands.  I think I’ll be OK tonight, and if I just think of The Hawk (Coleman Hawkins) playing “September Song” and just go with the flow.   At my age, I have always gone forward, and never look back.  The fear I have is being trapped in front of the car lights, and forcing myself to see my life passing me by like a bad montage in a b-Hollywood film.  I just have to remember “I don’t know where I am going, but I am on my way. ”

Thursday, November 20, 2014

November 20, 2014

November 20, 2014

“Aw!  Don’t embawass me!” My partner-in-crime Lenny the Lion would say that, and the children would go wild.   From an early age, I was fascinated with obtaining the skills of being a ventriloquist.   Ventriloquy is a work of stagecraft where one can make their voice come from a specific direction or place.  I originally started out with a cardboard box and pretend that there was someone in the box.  He would say to me (and me doing the voice of course) “let me out of the box!” I was really skilled in ventriloquism, but I lacked the talent to make a narrative or tell a joke.   So over-and-over again, I tried to work out a bit where a man or this voice is trapped in a cardboard box.  At the time, I myself felt that I was stuck in a box.  I wasn’t proficient in any sort of work, and school was something I did as a pastime - mostly throwing my voice in girl’s lockers in the hallway.  It didn’t win me any dates, but it did get me attention that I craved for.

I read up on the history of ventriloquism, and originally it was a religious practice in ancient Greece.  They called it gastromancy, which at the time they thought the sounds coming from the stomach were voices from the “unliving.” The ventriloquist would communicate with the voices in his stomach, and sometimes it was used to predict the future, as well as talking to the dead.   In the 18th century, Ventriloquism became entertainment.  The most famous ventriloquist of the period was Joseph Askins, who did dialogues “between himself and his invisible familiar, Little Tommy.” Over the centuries, the years, the decades, the usual act is between the ventriloquist and his or her’s dummy.  The dummy is being a human being.  What I did, and what was original at the time, was to have an animal as a dummy.  So I was the first one to make an animal character who can speak.  My invention, Lenny the Lion, became not only my pet, but after a while my best friend.  As I got more famous, and started to do more shows throughout the U.K., I started to have full conversations with Lenny in the dressing room as a practice to warm up my voice.  Over time, I found myself in deep and very serious conversations with Lenny.

Since he was a beast, he had some interesting insight into the human psyche.  Over time, Lenny had a deep understanding of me, and I would like to think, that I too, had a profound effect on Lenny.  It’s obvious that our relationship will not disappear with time.  In fact, time will make our bond stronger.  When I sleep at night, I usually put Lenny on top of a chair facing me.  One time, I was awake when I heard his voice - it was nighttime, and the room was very dark.  But usually from the bathroom night light I can make out Lenny - even though he’s in a shadow.  But I had the feeling that night that there was someone else in the room.  It didn’t scare me, because it seems Lenny was going to take care of the situation.  But what I thought I saw was a man dressed in a coat, scarf, and hat.  The thing is I couldn’t make out his face or his voice.  It seemed like it wasn’t coming from his body.  It took me awhile, but I then realized that Lenny was throwing his voice into this figure.  At first, I thought the figure was a dummy, but I sense this ‘person’ was moving around.  I sense life in this blank human being.   He was sitting on a rocking chair by the entrance of my bedroom, and suddenly he got up from the chair.  He came upon me and put his face close to mine.  What I saw was a face with no facial features.  It was flat, and there was no sign that he had eyes, mouth or nose.  I sort of saw his ears, but even that, I’m not sure.

The next morning, I woke up looking at Lenny, and he didn’t seem to be move from his spot, and there was no trace of the “Blank” man.   I asked Lenny if someone was here last night, but he told me he slept soundly throughout the night.   I felt Lenny was lying to me, and this of course, caused a certain amount of heartache for me.  From then on, I knew I could never trust my partner-in-crime.   I did question him more about it, but he told me that I must have had an awaken dream, and I just imagined all of this.  Yet, despite the fact that sounds practical, I got the feeling that he wasn’t telling me the truth.

My stage costume on the last tour was designed by Emilio Pucci.  I usually work in drab theaters, so I felt a bit of color and glamour would be good for the act.  The change of my costume seemed to perturb Lenny, and he would make cutting remarks to me when we were alone.  We never brought up sex in our conversations, but all of sudden Lenny was calling me a sissy-boy.   Him, a lion, calling me a sissy?  That was a new one for me.   Nevertheless our tour together is an endless one, and somehow I’m going to have to learn to work with Lenny, or not letting him bother me.   What disturbs me the most is the wonderful intimacy that we have together, and now it has been shot to pieces, because of the appearance of this “blank’ man.  Chemistry is extremely important for a relationship.  One should not take these matters lightly.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

November 19, 2014

November 19, 2014

I served as an assistant to the photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe, and I don’t think I ever held a conversation with her beyond her telling me to get a certain hat from the wardrobe department or to bring her coffee or water.  When she is shooting in a studio, there is a certain amount of calm that she demands on the set.  They say when you work with someone, that is when you know them best.  But in this case, I think that is not true.   Louise was always a mystery to me, and when I see the finished project by her, she still remains a figure that comes and goes in my life.   When I’m not doing anything on the set, she expects me to be quiet.  I pretty much stand behind her, handling the extra film and delivering the drinks. I just have to read her body language, because verbally she doesn’t talk to me.   She is usually looking in the lens of her camera, and Louise would dart out her hand towards my direction, meaning I should hand over the film to her.   My other responsibility is to deliver the models for the shoot.  I would have to pick them up, and then drive them to the studio, which was located on West 34th Street. 

I have always been fascinated with fashion photography, not because of the clothes or even the models, but more in the juxtaposition of these figures in the landscape.  It doesn’t have to be a real world, but one that ‘hints’ that there maybe another dimension out there - somewhere.   Even if the shoot is a real and iconic location, it is still transformed into something else.   It’s magic, and working with Louise I still don’t know how she does it.  I think because I see an image for what it is, but she sees it as an entrance way to a better world or where one can pinpoint their desires.  On one level, it exists to sell the merchandise, but I truly do believe that it is more than that. 

The one person I remember picking up for a shoot was the actor Clifton Webb.  I had to go to his hotel, the Algonquin, and I waited for him at the bar.   He came upon me, and he was in a bad mood.  I felt I knew him, because I’m a fan of his work.  I imagined him being prissy, and I wasn’t disappointed in the ‘real’ Clifton.  He got in the back seat of the car, and didn’t say a word.  When I brought him up to the third floor of the studio, he immediately sat down and waited for Louise to provide him with some direction.   The thing is Louise told me what she wanted Clifton to do, and then I would tell him.   I always hated to be the middle person when two people were working together.   Sometimes she would have me instruct the models, after telling me in great detail what needs to be done.   Communication is a tricky thing, because the way one reads information from the other, can be totally subjective.   Louise would often get mad at me, because she felt I didn’t relay the correct comments to the model or at this specific case, to Clifton. 

The thing is with Louise and her work, I feel what she conveys in her photographs is nothing specific, but more of a mood.  Her use of color is revolutionary and this is something only Louise can do - so I’m hopeless in that situation where I try to convey her ideas and skills into something concrete.  As you can gather, I didn’t last long in this occupation.   I never do.  Everything I touch, or do, has the desperation of failure attached to it.  When I see Louise’s photographs, it reminds me of a world that I very much wanted to be part of - but alas, I can’t. My other big attraction at that time was watching the Dick Cavett Show.  He always had great guests on, and to me it was always the best of Manhattan.  Of course filtered through Hollywood, but still, it was an indication of sophistication - and again, just my mere moments of touching such a world - but never grasping it to hold forever.   Oh damn…