The talk we had between us is etched upon my brain. Conversing is like horse-shoes played while waiting for a bus, say in southeastern Oklahoma or time spent watching paint dry or visiting Algiers. Fine. I’ll take my boots and latch on to a new idea, one that clouds my room. Ramma-lamma-ding-dong. Anyway, the truth is, you tear me up with laughter. I laugh until I get it right. The door stretches out forever, as we’ll be gone into the ovoid horizon with Agonistes. Can you blame me? I started out at the end. But don’t get me wrong, my friend, no, I blame you not at all. For I am an old, disheveled crustacean, and my days are ordered and posted in effigy. For if not you, the chances are that I would take a powder and wind up like the devil or Dr. Frankenstein, planning for the end of days and thinking, Ain’t that fine? Dig that sonic asylum, that newfangling death star, that acrimonious battey on yon senses, yonder lies the mizzenmast of cornucopia, of Fellini excess and antipodean profundity. But you and I, we’ve been through that and know it isn’t true. Yes, we’re like a tenor solo that makes me think of Oklahoma.
“Ahhh…those memories of Sonny Liston,”, I thought, as I slid on my crankcase-soaked jeans on the linoleum once again and, getting up, stammered to my kitchen to fix coffee. The journey would be a hard one – yes, many hard miles, on hard gravel roads. Of course, I hyperbolize. The journey to my kitchen was much shorter in reality. I had conjectured that the state of my life was as it really existed but it appeared not so as I imagined that its wider definition which really included everything that had been and was currently whether or not I observed it or comprehended it was a still further definition which included everything I’d thought existed or every would and any philosopher or mathematician that I ran into who had dimbly and atavistically chanelled Aristotle or Plato or Wittgenstein could’ve made a distinction between thought corresponding to my reality and my coherent abstraction (thoughts of things that are imaginable but not real) and what I could ever rationally think. Sonny Liston, my memories of him, had become a kind of shibboleth. Yes, yes – I know – shibboleth is not the right word. Mantra. Are you happy now? Can I now use shibboleth, and you and I now know that it’s not the right term, but can we use it as a kind of password for mantra?
“Yes, yes – I think I understand,” I said, but I really didn’t, really, my mind clogged ambiguously and cogged jaggedly and intermittently and haphazardly – yes, haphazardly, the onlookers reported to the authorities later, when they, the authorities, were taking their statements in the sadistic dusk, that growing darkness of the gathering madness, the spectacle too much for words, yes too much, too much. There was this one spectator, a pig-faced man, overweight, with circular sunglasses, sweating profusely even though it was quite cool, who gaggled verbosely to all in earshot, drawing grotesque analogies and gesticulating in a way most repulsive and repugnant, as if he and he alone were fit to characterize the happening as if it were his own little private fiefdom, like some petty despot Leopold in his nauseating Congo, enslaving and torturing the natives, squeezing rubber trees shamelessly and avidly like some gluttonous drunk, visioning his bureaucratic hell like it was a charm that could be controlled by he and he alone. The truth is, I had no motivation to understand all this jabbering gibberish – no more than a turkey is motivated to understand why his head is about to be chopped off. OK, I’ll admit this analogy is a bit severe. Bur decapitation *is *severe in its finality, in its *closure*, in its zero-sumness. I don’t thing *zero-sum* makes a whole heap of sense here, but you get my meaning, my* gestalt*. I am irritated to the point of criticality at pettiness, especially when it comes to the kind of burgeois bureaucracy that we’re subjected too much too often in our over-regulated, dumbed-down society, a society where pablummy infotainment passes for culture, where *American Idol* has replaced Dostoevsky. You get my point. Where can I get some napalm?
It happened before I knew what hit me. I was on the outskirts of town, the sun dying in late afternoon, the sky a gray-purple. It happened so very suddenly, with such gale force, with such ferocity and velocity and, well, with such cataclysm, such momentum, with such vituperation, with such lightning-like alacrity, with such mongoose-quick whipsnap teleology, with such endemic force, with such pedantic voltage that it pooled the blood suddenly into my hypothalamus with such acceleration, with such gathering intensity, that a feeling of dread was not even a possibility. But dread is a waste of time; dread is for fools. But we cannot afford to be foolish. I knew someone who tried being a professional fool, and all it got him was an MBA from Harvard Business School. Now he’s the CEO of IBM, and is he *happy*? For what, after all, *is* happiness? Can it be measured, like angels dancing on the head of a pin? I say it can, and this is proven by research, published in the finest of peer-reviewd scientific journals, the type read by guys smoking briar pipes at their Mensa meetings. They say that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. They say all things shall pass. They say time heals. They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway. They say patience is a virtue. They say a lot of things. But who *are *they? I think they are aliens, or holograms of ourselves minus our souls, our spirits – that which makes us human and humane, not mewling, vengeful beasts who spend *way *too much time in the house of pain, being wantonly vivisected by Dr, Moreau when he’s not playing pinochle or skeeball or some other game that nobody plays anymore. My reaction was more an atavistic reflex than some emotional reaction. It reminded me of the time when I was in California when the Arab hit me with an umbrella. “You are just like my wife!” he hissed, as he whacked me over the head. It reminded me of the time I broke his finger when I punched David Nussbaum. It reminded me of when they told me to be quiet and I wouldn’t shut up. This was back in ’62, the summer that Marilyn Monroe killed herself. It reminded me of many things, most of them ugly and visceral and all too palpable. I recalled people that were dead now, Jim and Hunter and Richard and Ellie and Santo and Irwin and my father and Jane Winsor. You see, my memories of Dr. Moreau caused my hindbrain to do back-flips and loop-de-loops, and pinballed into a seemingly endless cascade of distorted, fun-house visions of *Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein*. Hell, I can’t explain why this was. Perhaps my analyst can. But he’s on sabbatical in Iceland – or so he says. You see, Dr. Praetorius can’t be trusted. He is shamelessly unethical and disingenuous. Of course he is – would I be treated by any other kind of shrink? He practices a particular dark type of voodoo that he learned in Sierra Leone when he was a war correspondent for the peace corps. Then I looked down at the sidewalk and up at a hawk chasing pigeons.
———- Forwarded message ———- From: Jon Sarkin <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Sun, Sep 14, 2014 at 9:18 PM Subject: To: michael digregorio <email@example.com> The door flew open to the sound of a boot breaking wood and glass. I knew immediately that this was not a good way to start my day. The intruder, I deduced, was not the bearer of good tidings. As I prepared for the sound of the boot breaking my jaw, a very specific thought, I recall, ran through my brain. It was like a cataclysmically spiking fever in its suddenness and relentlessness, and, although its imperation was admixed with the kind of noisy urgency that’s found in folks who’ve nothing better to do than plead with people to follow them on social media: e-mail me @ firstname.lastname@example.org! follow me on twiiter @ #getalife! instagram me! pinterest me! etsy me! listen to me on i-tunes! call me on your i-phone! text me! be my friend on facebook! my space me! see my website! see my vine! i don’t know why this flashed in my mind as i awaited the boot to strike my face. it didn’t really seem to matter. at this point, i was gone, really gone, what with the harrowing, nightmarish week i spent in Elko still acid-etched on my head like a rabid wolverine lunging wildly at anything that moves. Does an animal in that state have any neuron that is not on adrenaline-stun, driven, riven haywire like the smell of burning hair or machinery overcranked, smoking a bluegray smoke that spells impending disaster and cacophonic, atavistic disaster. What the hell am I talking about, just stringing together babbling gibberish so that I don’t have to face my bleak future, writing this crap in an obsessive-compulsive jag, waiting for my boot-heels to be following. Yes, friends, the smoke-rings of my embered brain leave a smoking crater of macerated ideas, withered (and withering) concepts, disjointed prophesy, decayed innuendo, deconstructed meanings, lost chords, meaningless syntax, functionless workings, meandering arguments, losing debates, short-end-of-the-stick logic, irrational paradigms, elliptical patterns, and a sort the tie-dyed, patchouli-oily, earth-shoed Aquarian insanity that one might see at Dead concerts circa 1970. Ha-ha, kids! The dream is over! It seems like a dream that we *even* had some sort of dream in the first place. What were we thinking. Because of the dream’s nature, I fear we had no bloody idea. But now we must face *reality*, whatever the hell that is. Me, I’d rather fight than switch. Again, I digress. How many more times? But back to the boot about to crush my mouth. I think I know what this was all about. I knew it was a bad idea to deal with Savage Henry, but I really had no choice. I was out on parole from Chino, and my prospects were limited, dead end. I knew Henry from the old days, and habits like stealing cars die hard. A friend of Henry’s Diamond Dave, was doing a dime at Chino at the same time I was there, so like a fool I looked them both up when I was in Elko. OK, I traveled to Elko for the expressed puropose of hooking up with them. Like I said, I knew the idea of working with them was foul, but my better judgment went out the window, disappearing with the west wind like so many geese. Jesus, did I just say that? Or did I just *think* I did? Flashbacks are impossible to lose – I guess that’s why there called flashbacks, They’re always gnawing at your sinews. Just when you think they’re gone forever, the remissions erupts into a fulminating wart of psychic queasiness. — Jon Sarkin jonsarkin.com
———- Forwarded message ———- From: Jon Sarkin <email@example.com> Date: Wed, Sep 3, 2014 at 8:37 PM Subject: To: michael digregorio <firstname.lastname@example.org> as i arrived at my studio, i saw cefalo standing in front of the caffe. a pleasantly unpleasant fellow, possibly unpleasantly pleasant. is there a difference? do i have to choose? is this what it’s come down to? cefalo would never understand this semantic hairsplitting. or perhaps he would. the more atavistic one is, it seems, the more proclivity he has for nuanced wordplay. for example, i forgot my keys, and when i went back into the house, i saw my turtle reading “war and peace.” i can’t say i was all that surprised, but what *did *was that he was wearing my wife’s reading glasses. how did he put them on? — Jon Sarkin jonsarkin.com — Jon Sarkin jonsarkin.com
———- Forwarded message ———- From: Jon Sarkin <email@example.com> Date: Wed, Sep 10, 2014 at 8:38 PM Subject: To: michael digregorio <firstname.lastname@example.org> It really didn’t add up. No, it came to nothing, a bad deal gone down. I was thick in the gravelly gruel of my circumstance. Man, I was down-in-the-mouth about my happenstance. After perusing my options and nursing my broken-toothed luck, I still felt snaggled and fractured. I had this nimbulus, cold-cocked, landlocked feeling. I had no semblance of firmity. I felt small-changed into this bleak and bleary existence of malapropisms and poorly-seeded puns. Friend, I must recount my luck-lost and haggard, muffled exhaustion, the stupid idiotic after-shards of nonsensical soliquies echoing in my mid-brain – my clotted agonies, my unresurrected, unredeemable, passionless, guttural, speechless, ineffectual prayers. Would they ever be answered? I guess Faulkner thought they would not. “I,” he once said, “give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire. I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to a man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.” I thought about this and then I didn’t any more. Faulkner wasn’t anybody but just some drunk who got published. It seems to get published you must be a drunk. I know there are exceptions to this theory. It’s not even a theory, no, not really, just some crack-head idea. But aren’t all ideas like this? My friend Bruce Newton is really a crack-head, so all his ideas are crack-head ideas. Admittedly, Bruce isn’t a great example of my thesis. He lives in a shotgun apartment on Main Street, above Virgilio’s. His apartment reeks of cigarettes and bacon grease. There are burn marks all over his sofa. His cheeks are grooved, and his eyes have the burned-out look of burnt-out light bulbs. But Bruce is my friend. Yeah, I trust him as far as I can throw a toilet bowl, and he stole my television, but I make friends with dead-end losers like this. I’ll bet Faulkner met some characters too. This is the devil’s bargain in Edge City, friend. You pays your money and you takes your chances. You belly up to the bar and roll them laughing bones. You bet the farm and put your bottom dollar on a long-shot. And when it comes in last, bubba, you roll up your shirt sleeves, dust your trousers off, and get back on the horse, and ride into another town and start the damned scam all over again. — Jon Sarkin jonsarkin.com
———- Forwarded message ———- From: Jon Sarkin <email@example.com> Date: Thu, Sep 11, 2014 at 11:02 PM Subject: To: michael digregorio <firstname.lastname@example.org> When I’m done with one of my cross-country trucking runs, hauling, let’s say, auto parts from Atlanta to Seattle, I like to kick back, put on Iannis Xenakis (he was a Greek composer/ music theorist/architect-engineer who was commonly recognized as one of the most important post-war avant-garde composers, and pioneered the use of mathematical models in music, such as applications of set theory, stochastic processes and game theory, and was also an important influence on the development of electronic and computer music, as well as integrating music with architecture and designing music for pre-existing spaces as well as designing spaces to be integrated with specific musical compositions and performances) at full volume, and read about *quantum transformation theory *(not to be confused with *transformative quantum theory*. Admittedly, this confusion is pretty common, but, although the differences between the two may strike one as nit-picky, I can assure you that, upon closer examination, they are quite distinct. For example, just yesterday I was talking to my friend Jack Liberis. Jack is an organic farmer who lives in Lowell, Massachusetts, which, incidentally, happens to be Kerouac’s hometown. Anyway, Jack is way into this stuff. Before he got into organics, he was a full professor at MIT, specializing in quantum theory. He got canned for showing up drunk at one of his lectures and throwing up on kids in the first row. I don’t know. Yes, being wasted on the job and puking on students *is* uncool, but shouldn’t he’ve been given a warning or something? Given mandatory time off to get his act together, or sent to some drying-out facility. OK, the dude had a booze issue. But the guy was tenured and all. He’s still bitter about being kicked out of MIT. One time when I brought it up in a way I thought was very diplomatic and sensitive, he threw such a damned hissy fit, that I feared he would expire of apoplexy! That’s the last time I ever went near the subject, I can assure you.), which is an early version of quantum mechanics, which allows each particle to have its own relativistic wave equation for the electron, and was the first successful attack on the problem of relativistic quantum mechanics. When the Xenakis is over, I then like to walk to the garbage dump behind my house, among the tires and rusting microwaves, thinking about the predictions I heard on CNN about what the planet will look like by 2200 – how Florida will look like the Great Barrier Reef and the Great Barrier Reef will look like Lookout Mountain, Georgia and so forth (I like to think about this kind of stuff – I really do. It gets my mind off my problems, or my *imagined *problems. Like me thinking I’m surrounded by phonies. I hate phonies, always wearing shorts when it’s too cold to wear shorts. Don’t they own a pair of long pants? And they always seem to be wearing fanny packs and an Australian Outback hat. What’s with the hat? Why can’t they wear a baseball hat or something that doesn’t make them look like a total doofus? And they always have this geeky-looking wife who I can tell is like a total phony, the kind of woman who is always talking about how chicken is on sale. I hate people like that. People who carry dental floss in their pocketbook so they can flosss after every meal. They make me sick. There should be a law against carrying floss in your pocketbook.) , and I also think about the existence of matter–antimatter annihilation and arbitrary quantities of quantum divergence in classical point particle theory combining advanced and retarded waves to eliminate the classical electron problems in quantum electrodynamics. I also remember my friend John Archibald discussing the Vancouver Olympics. “What’s with those skating costumes the men wear?”, wondered John; “Why is *skeleton* called that? If curling can be an Olympic sport, why not bowling or shuffleboard? And where can I take biathalon lessons?” I then think about the truck I must drive from Bellingham, Washington to Baltimore on Monday with my load of glass for the new tank they’re building for the aquarium. Perhaps John Archibald thinks aquarium improvements should be an Olympic contest as well. On the walk back home, in the February rain, my thoughts turn to my cousin Linda and her proposed formulation for an alternative description of light, which eventually leads to thinking about Dick Feynman’s point particle formulation of quantum field theory, and what’s for dinner. — Jon Sarkin jonsarkin.com
———- Forwarded message ———- From: Jon Sarkin <email@example.com> Date: Fri, Sep 12, 2014 at 10:02 PM Subject: To: michael digregorio <firstname.lastname@example.org> It is October, as you know, and the leaves are turning gold. It is beginning to get dark earlier. The sun arcs lower each day and when it sets in the western sky I can sometimes see a kind of faded purple mist with ragged bands of orange and then the air feels chill. In the night chill sky stars seem to ride proudly up into the heaven over this town and when I walk by the graveyard late at night I feel poignant and my poignance is wordless. Does this make any sense? The dandelions are now brown and faded yellow, not the bright yellow of summer any longer. Some mornings before the sun comes up I walk up the hill behind my house in the frosty dark whistling a tune I made up. Sometimes suddenly without a warning I feel quite light-headed. When I do – I did today – nonsensical phrases pop into me, like “cheerful winking” or “hived life”. This as you can imagine is quite disconcerting! It is times like these that I feel a numb hunger for all the words and sentences yet to be uttered. It’s like some distant road bending around its curve. Again, do I make sense? Every lonely hill, every shaft of light, every numbed mind, everything seems to fumble from my brain like a child fumbling with blocks or with little things. The autumn light is growing feebler these days and as it does my thoughts seem to gather out of the wreckage of little things. I’m afraid I’m not making any sense. I am chocked with unconnected ideas. But all of them fit together for me, yes, a little jaggedly – more discontinuous than I’d like – but my world has shown and taught me that I can no longer remember what the great stars of my former memories – the lights that swung over the hill and the wind and the sounds and the music – shall not come again, no, they shall come back again. Where are the snows of yesteryear? This whole thing reminds me, in some ineffable manner, of friend Tony, who lives, or rather *lived*, in a bookstore under a man-hole. What happened to him is a cautionary tale, or would be if I was the kinda guy who proceeded with caution, but I throw caution to the wind, and not just *one* wind, but the legendary four winds, and not only this, friend, but also a subterranean place where the sun never shines, where my snowdrifting memories of Tony, who jumped off a cliff, and, although you’ll not believe me, but I saw this with my own to eyes, was transformed in mid-air into some kind of bird – an osprey I think it was although I can’t say for certain as my ornithological acumen isn’t as sharp as it once was. But it was never that sharp. I never learned to tell one bird from another. I wish you were here to enjoy this beautiful weather with me. It is August as you know and things are just at the beginning of death. It is so wonderful to be in this cloying, choking humidity with the haze growing hazier and the sun’s heat stroking down and the intense scorch-warmth going insane, crazy in the sunlight and the big hot solar fire in the earth’s fireplace while Patti Smith sings “Because the Night.” I see a lot of Pakistani bombs on TV, yes, because I watch it a lot more now, more than I should, more than is good for me, yes. I fear that the darkness that comes will come too soon, and all the flowers will die from freezing. Oh, God! You should have been with me yesterday when I finished my coffee and went to my studio with a fierce kind of joy in my heart because I was proud to be an American on a day like this! If felt like a goddamn paradise! You remember that bliss you felt when we were soiled by relentless flashbacks and ghosts too foul to name? Oh no, don’t ask why. You could have been president, but your road was full of forks, shape-shifting agorithms too difficult to mention. I only refer to this under duress, and the penalties for disobeying this directive are a little too severe for even me. Today, I saw this gent wearing an ascot. To my surprise, he asked me for some spare change. It’s not every day you see some dude wearing an ascot who is also a panhandler. I was about to address this contradiction, but when I looked him in the face, closely, I noticed he was Andy Kaufman and I realized that he’d hoaxed his death. Typical Andy – wearing an ascot and hitting up strangers for money. I gave him a ten dollar bill, and as I did, my thoughts drifted to the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. For some reason that I can’t quite put my explaining finger on I never think about Hiroshima but only Nagasaki. I could expound upon my Nagasakaean musings, go on and on, but I think you get the picture. You can connect the dots, draw conclusions. The world is full of grandiose ideas and petty men. I, on the other hand, am full of petty ideas, for I am a grandiose man. A contradiction you say? If I listened to you, friend, I wouldn’t be in this hole, this ditch, working for the city of Memphis digging excavations to build God knows what. And if he did, would it make any difference? Would it be in my obituary? What will they say at my funeral – that I was a kind man, a wise man, that my dialectical materialism (or my material dialeticism, depending on one’s vantage) amounted to a hill of beans in this crazy, mixed up world? No, I guess I’ll take the fall for the whole reeking lot. And as the weeds grow through the pavement, as I almost can hear the creaking sound they make, I think about the time I saw the Grand Canyon. It makes no difference why. I just do. Can’t one just think about stuff without having to analyze it? That’s the trouble with this world, pilgrim. Too much thinking and not enough reading of fine, boilerplated print. If I were king, I’d make it mandatory to eat meat loaf everyday. Vegetarianism would be outlawed. The penalty for disobeyance would be listening to Dan Fogelberg for the rest of your days. Only a brain-froze cretin would choose this fate! I wonder what it’s like being Dan Fogelberg. Imagine waking up each day, looking in the mirror, and thinking, “I have to spend the rest of my life as Dan Fogelberg, and no amount of meat loaf can change that.” I don’t know. I guess there’s worse things than being Dan Fogelberg. Maybe I’m wrong. I’ve been wrong before, but I’ll never admit it, just like the village idiot who thinks he’s the smartest guy in town, or Santa Claus dressing up as Idi Amin for Halloween. It gets weirder, bubba. When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. Does this make sense? Am I geting through to you? Are you on my frequency, my wavelength? Do you have a scintilla of understanding as to what all the brouhaha is all about? — Jon Sarkin jonsarkin.com
———- Forwarded message ———- From: Jon Sarkin <email@example.com> Date: Sat, Sep 13, 2014 at 7:21 PM Subject: To: michael digregorio <firstname.lastname@example.org> What becomes of the brokenhearted? I was there too. Convention – triggered by linear thinking, which is the way most of us think, i.e., one follows two, and day follows night, convention supposes that my first two sentences (“What becomes of the broken-hearted?” and “I was there too.”) are somehow connected. There not, really. Oh, I guess they are, in the way that all stream-of-consciousness is always somehow linked, but in terms of direct, logical sequence, decidedly they are not. But what *does *become of broken hearts? When I was driving from Wyoming to Iowa in 1980, I stopped at a rest stop and saw this guy who was obviously homeless, just wandering aimlessly out in the middle of nowhere in eastern Wyoming, like a tumbleweed. This image, this guy being as random and inchoate and *wild *as anyone I’ve ever seen, has stayed with me. Images like this sear into my brain. For most, I think it’d be a throwaway image. But for me, it isn’t. Why is that? Now I don’t think it’s my destiny, my fate, to figure this one out. It’s like being at a dance when a song that doesn’t move you comes on, and you think, “I’ll just sit this one out.” Ideas are like that, yes? Sometimes I think that ideas are pushed into the future by the pressure of now – how intense and progress-choked and info-glutted the present is – and one of the reasons that ideas are so hard to grasp is that they are constantly out of our temporal grasp. Fitzgerald: “It eluded us then, but that’s no matter: tomorrow, we will run faster, stretch our arms further, and one fine morning….and so, we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Can I put it any better than that? Fitzgerald realized that even *he* couldn’t, and it drove him and everybody around him crazy and the sequelae of his life after *Gatsby* are a tragedy. I guess his life became the tragedy of his prediction: that he could never catch up to the Icarus-like goal that he set up for himself. I guess this is our way, eh? To never fulfill the promise we made yesteryear. Oh well. You can’t have everything. People who try are cautionary tragedies, and their obituaries leave one head-shaking at the absurd, almost surreal folly of the sad trajectory their life takes. — Jon Sarkin jonsarkin.com — Jon Sarkin jonsarkin.com