The Rick Blog Annotated Part Eight 2/4/21 to 2/22/21, “Not About the Movies”: #writing #poetry #essay

The Rick Blog Annotated Part Eight 2/4/21 to 2/22/21, “Not About the Movies”: #writing #poetry #essay

2/4/21: Heading Back From the Wild #poetry

That photo is of Hal Holbrook and Emile Hirsch in the 2007 movie “Into the Wild”

Hal Holbrook, the actor who surprised me when he died

I didn’t realize the impact he had upon me

Hal Holbrook is an archetype in my mind

He is the civilized soul of America

He is what America can be

He is what makes it worthwhile to participate in this society

The best of us and in us

Not only because of anything he did

But because of what he was

and is

Heaven may be the images that we place in other people’s minds

We give other people a screen on which to project meaning

Eventually we are forgotten by everyone

Even a prominent actor like Hal Holbrook will one day be forgotten

by everyone

But we leave traces on the other lives that we touch

And those traces influence those other lives

And those lives leave traces

and so on

And all of our choices

and the results of our own becoming

in our finite lives

and the finite collective memory of our lives

run into a river of consciousness

Mankind’s destiny is in our hands

We can escape society for a time

Withdraw and become outlaws

reflecting on our nature and nature itself … writing poems

reflecting on all that is false and imposed upon us

all that alienates from nature

our own and the world’s

nature

… writing essays

Spoiler alert …

the hero of “Into the Wild”

played by Emile Hirsch

dies at the end

At first I thought that he never made it back to civilization

The outlaw path is a dangerous one

I thought our hero did a courageous thing

Measuring himself and nature

and by a process of comparison

understanding society’s blessings and limitations

Preparing himself to return

Probably as a lawyer who writes

But he didn’t make it …

Judy Garland didn’t make it

Dead at 47

killed by the burden of dreams

destroyed by the rainbow

She left the trace of longing

John Belushi didn’t make it

Dead at 33

A cultural sensation

of a very short lived culture

A moment of freedom

when fathers were exposed as fools and felons

and excitement was the meaning of life

Emile Hirsch’s character died of a misunderstanding

of Henry David Thoreau

He was a Thoreau fundamentalist

Hirsch’s character went into the wild of Alaska

Thoreau went to Walden Pond in Massachusetts

Not far from his mother’s house

Hirsch’s character died of being young

of being unprepared

Where would we be if we only did what we were prepared for?

We’d never learn anything

Outlaws make mistakes

glorious and sometimes fatal

They leave the protection of any tribe

They make their own campfires

and then they return

dead or alive

and bestow that trace of their existence

on a society of varied persons that don’t know they need it

How can you know what you’ve never seen before

and society expands just a little bit

Judy Garland bestowed a yearning for something that doesn’t exist

John Belushi showed that a martyr should carefully choose what he sacrifices his life for

Belushi, the patron saint of the Me Decade

Bloated blue corpse at a party

Aborted destinies …

Our destinies are formed where the heart’s desires meet the world’s needs

It is not enough to worship nature

or plumb the depths of your own authentic self

or commit yourself to the service of mankind

or be observant of all of the demands and limitations and opportunities of society

You have to do all of the above

to see the job through to the end

And in order to do all of that you have to be lucky

I’ve been saved so many times

by my parents

and my friends

and my nature

and nature

and the goodness of mankind

the kindness of strangers

and even by society

a good piece of public policy here

a kind boss there

Sometimes what seems lucky is a curse

Belushi and Judy Garland were ill-served by their commercial success

They could have been even greater artists

If struggle would have kept them more tethered to the earth

They were always special

and ordinariness is needed to stay tethered to reality

Hirsch’s character was a genius

Genius is always limited

Idiot savants

Brilliant about a few things

clueless about everything else

Brilliant about a flame’s beauty

Unaware that it burns …

I’m waiting for Hal Holbrook’s scenes

I am hoping he pulls this whole thing together

He’s a guy who made it back from the wild

That’s what his trace in my head says anyway …

Sean Penn directed this movie

It has an actor’s love of moments

and a poet’s love of moments

Eternity was easy for me

Experience had to teach me about time

God, I can’t believe it that I made it to 65

I’m a time stamped success

Love, money, home …

Creating

Dreaming of doing things …

The game has slowed down for me

like a veteran quarterback

I take no credit for my success

I could easily have died in the wild …

I still visit the wild

Sometimes for years

But I am never far from Thoreau’s mother’s house …

and I always come back …

When does Hal Holbrook come on?

Here he is …

Holbrook

and his part in the movie

went into the wild

of grief and drink

and came back

alone

but connected

self-sufficent

self-determined

an artist

acting … and leather engaving

actor and part …

a world of metaphor

mystical eternity alights on the productions of time

Wisdom

Honestly facing his own sadness and weakness

Committed to empathy, and compassion

Open to love

Not lonely

Open to the meeting of two solitudes

“When you forgive, you love … and when you love God’s light shines upon you”

Hal Holbrook’s big line in the movie

My father was betrayed by some asshole

and he forgave him on his death bed …

I don’t forgive

I accept and transcend

and God’s light shines upon me …

Other people’s sins

and my own

are like the weather

You just have to deal with them

It’s hard

and the trials aren’t handed out equitably

I never had a drunk driver kill my wife and children

I’ve never had to transcend anything like that

But I know some people have

and I’ve gotten over things

Was some of my past writing bitter?

No — the words were the process of a transition from bitterness …

What a wonderful trace Hal Holbrook left for me

Judy Garland and John Belushi bequeathed me cautionary tales

Hal Holbrook left me the future

What good are any of our gifts

if they aren’t used in the service of meaning

and generously shared

with one another …

The movie’s over …

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/6/21: Inception (2010) — Hollywood, You, Me, Us and the Burden of Dreams #poetry

This is an experiment

I restlessly troll Netflix

Late on a Friday night/Saturday morning hopefully on the downslope of the latest pandemic

2:40 am

after dozing 5 hours in a lounging chair

Sleeping in a light fleece jacket and my leisure pants

I dreamed that I was living in a white room in a complex of white rooms avoiding the white nationalists who lived in the other white rooms

Dream logic

I had been watching the news

The white nationalists invaded my white space

the blank void

and I could handle it

They didn’t scare me

I wake up in my chair

Empty

and watch more news

which is just a recapitulation of the news that I heard before I dozed off

When the final news program ends

I resort to Netflix

The virtual Cineplex

and I have a golden ticket

I can wander from screening room to screening room

all disappoints

Seabiscuit is the myth of how America overcomes adversity

when it is only half America

it annoys me that the story avoids the murderous fear

Next!

Superbad reviewed turns a good memory to a bad one

Juvenile humor no longer amuses

an irritating reminder that I am no longer juvenile

not that I want to be young

It’s just bothersome that what used to be fun isn’t fun anymore

What was once a dream, is now a bore …

Past delight present boredom

Inception (2010)

This movie is mildly interesting

I’m trying to recreate a feeling that I had when I wrote a piece about the comic book flick The Avengers

and surprised myself

writing about time, memory and our universal dementia …

I wonder if re-creation is kosher

Why not?

I don’t like this movie, this Inception, much

It’s a noisy movie

Unrelenting noise

and its showy

a waste of a lot of money

It looks like a director had a big success

and was given an unlimited budget to come up with whatever he wanted

I don’t like Inception

but I admire it

The director was unrestrained

and instead of a scholarly consideration of dreams

the film is an attempt to recreate the experience of dreaming

and to direct the thoughtful audience’s attention to the nature of dreaming

and movie going

I don’t even bother to follow the dream logic of the script

which I am certain parallels some more conscious reality

of somebody

I don’t care about somebody’s reality

I care about my own

Dreams reality movies

the collective unconscious?

None of its real

(not even reality — you can’t capture it … how do you hold a moonbeam in your hand? At least The Sound of Music dream had Nazis in it, which made it better than Seabiscuit … America’s nightmares come from denial of darkness when its awake)

So what is it?

Dreams movies myths

are things to deconstruct

We love looking at our perceptions of ourselves and the world

and transcending them

We fear looking at our perceptions of the world

and hold fast to them

For every Seabiscuit there is a Plot Against America

For every white nationalist dream of danger and fearlessness that I have

there is the slightly anxious empty feeling that I have when I wake up

Inception is about (partially) the manipulation of other people’s subconscious minds

through movies and maybe other means

and in so doing it attempts to free the viewer from susceptibility to such manipulation

if the viewer is awake

The goal is the unification of the conscious and unconscious mind

To make our soul and our temporal reality

congruent

all fear and distraction and ideation is traversed

action movies comedies horror films

all entrancing

all ultimately debunked

returning us to the empty space

the empty white room

the blank screen

at the Cineplex

on my laptop

Google:

People also ask:

Is white the absence of light?

White is all lights combined, but is the absence of color (in paint). Black is all colors (in paint) combined, but is the absence of light. The former is called additive color and the latter subtractive.

The serene peace of my writing is interrupted by an angry memory

I am at the movies

alone

The story has ended and the credits roll

I sit in silent reverie

transported beyond the movie

the movies are one of my churches

writing is the other

where I dream my way to quiet

and calm

and hope

and antiicpation

and freedom

where I reacquaint myself with my love of the unknown

Alone in the public

I was enjoying a peak experience

Minding my own lack of business

and the cleaning crew entered the theater

and one pimply kid

a seventeen year-old authoritarian trainee

willfully disrespected my solitude

Hit the back of my auditorium seat recliner

and communicated to me it was time

even as the theme music still played and the final credit had yet to roll

And the reality that I still have such waking dreams

annoyed and hurt buy the jealous assault of a future insurrectionist

tells me why I dream

We bear the burden of our dreams

they can’t be analyzed or disciplined away

they repeat themselves like the movies

over and over again

their variety is only gimmickry

The villains, the heroes, the lovers, the clowns

the coming of age(s)

the realizations of the meaning of life

the noble deaths

the punishment of immorality

the lust

the thrills

the boredom

the change overlaid upon the constant

the constant is that empty space

that nothingness from which all of our something reifies

something out of nothing

the only thing that changes is our perception of the process

It’s impossible not to be humble in the face of reality

and the necessity of our dreams.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/6/21: Manchester by the Sea (2016) — What Trump Supporters Could Have Been #poetry

Manchester by the Sea was made in 2015 and released in 2016

Just like Donald Trump and the mainstreaming of QAnon and the rest of the fascist bullshit …

Manchester by the Sea is a tragedy of the ordinary white working person

Trump and QAnon are the farce of same

Manchester by the Sea is delicately and fiercely written

and beautifully and honestly acted

Trump and QAnon is craven lying bullshit

as if you didn’t know

Manchester by the Sea is about an ordinary man who goes through grief

goes through it

we are required to do that

Morality isn’t sanctimony

It isn’t tsk tsk

and it is the opposite of being perfect

or even good

morality is being good after you’ve been wrong

that’s what morality is

It is what that character in Manchester by the Sea goes through

like a search party in a snowstorm that lasts decades

Amazing Grace

was lost but now I’m found

But morality isn’t the forced smiles of a congregation

it’s not the condemnation of the weak and the foolish

Morality is what this character goes through

owning who he is

who we are

a fallible person

walking a tightrope

unconscious on the edge of despair

You have to go through it

you hurt people

you follow impulses that have unintended consequences for other people

and then you care about those people

you try to fix it

you work hard to be more careful next time

you stand by your fellow fuck ups

you make hospitable space for them when they offer their confessions

You have to deal with both who you are

and what happens to you

and all the impacts on other people

You don’t spend time thinking about yourself

rather you spend your days reflecting on the impact of your words and actions on other people

There is no vanity in living a life of art

and/or living a human life

You atone

At-one

You atone with the world

When considering you, it’s not just you …

You have to

It’s not optional

It’s either that

or a trip to Fantasy Island

and storming the Capitol

The hero of Manchester by the Sea makes no excuses

His problem is that he blames himself too much

Art is the brutally honest love for the imperfections of the world

The paradox of our imperfection and the perfection of all things

Humans are born the most innocent of all animals

Babies have to learn everything

The only thing that comes natural is learning

We learn from experience

We get fed a lot of bullshit

because the world is perfectly fucked up

then we have to sort out the shit from the real

it’s complicated and hard

The hero of Manchester by the Sea bravely makes himself a danger to himself instead of other people

that’s a big mistake but it’s a noble one

He’d rather implode than ever hurt anybody again

The hero is the opposite of a narcissist

Narcissism is laziness run amok

Being human is so tough

and bullies bray about how strong that they are

they compensate

they know that they are wrong

Jesus said “Father, forgive them know not what they do”

Jesus forgive me because I think they know

Is that my arrogance?

I am always reflecting

wondering

trying to get to the bottom of things

Is that because I am an artist and a writer

Is it just my nature?

I think not

I think its human nature

and I think free will means you either take the cross or not

I think we all can be Jesus

we aren’t the people he forgives

I think of the basketball player who pretended he was snoring in my college American Lit seminar

he knew that English class was a thing

something to consider

he just didn’t need it

he was going to get rich and famous playing in the NBA

so fuck sensitivity

the unexamined life is not worth living

yeah, as a matter of fact they aren’t lived at all

One may or may not study the humanities

but humanity is a required course

if you want to be one

a human that is

Trump and QAnon?

Something happened to them alright

It wasn’t

political or economic or racial

It was psychological and historic

Narcissism and envy

The hero in Manchester by the Sea cares for his nephew and mourns his losses

and faces his pain

YOU HAVE TO GO THROUGH IT

no concrete happy outcomes

not about outcomes

about transformations of the soul

like any good story

Manchester by the Sea has a lot of humor in the screenplay

because humor is human

The only humor in Trump and QAnon is when the rest of us make fun of them

They want so much to be better than human

Better than the blacks, better than the libs

Better than everybody

The Master Hicks

Fucking hilarious

So needy

They demand that we see them as superior

because they are so inferior

hahaahahaahaahaaaha

and they threaten to kill us if we refuse to bow

and they know we are laughing at them

these idiots that don’t know anything want to run everything

these frauds want to hold our wallets

and when our knees buckle

and our torsos shake with laughter

they come after us

with lead pipes and poles and guns

and scary Facebook posts

What to do with these malicious morons?

They should watch this movie

The problem is they would never go to see Manchester by the Sea

and if they did they wouldn’t sit through it

not enough sensation for them

this show is beyond them

you have to be human

or want to be human

to work through this show

Too bad

If they could watch it

Manchester by the Sea

would show them an heroic vision of themselves

a real beauty in their struggles

The movie shows no victories

no happy endings

just human life

sad, painful love

and the wounded solace of understanding

It would make the Trump QAnon people feel a little good about themselves

their real selves

if they would watch

but like I say they never would

They are too ignorant and self-involved

to access art

or humanity

They could be beautiful like the characters in this good movie

We get to be beautiful — and they don’t get that

Instead they need the fucking sensation

frauds to themselves

they elevate their emptiness and call it full

(Manchester by the Sea goes knowingly into the emptiness and waits … that’s what humans do)

The fraudulent fullness of:

the harsh jokes

the profane screaming

the beatings and death

the insults

and threats

They choose to be ugly

The human being knows when it engages in perversion

but becomes addicted to the sensation (reprise)

and stops being human …

I don’t like to criticize people’s physical appearances

I’ll describe how people look but normally I won’t blame them for it

But sometimes it is an apt thing to do

when people turn into something else

Lincoln said that a man gets the face he deserves by the time he is 40

I don’t know how old Marjorie Taylor Greene is

and I don’t want to look up her age

because I am afraid I’ll run across a picture of her

and I can’t take it

She is the ugliest

most repugnant

disgusting

repulsive

woman that I have ever seen

She looks oily

and dirty

she has a face as square as the pan we make brownies in

the one I scrub hard with Brillo to get all of the shit off it

Her voice makes me feel like I just took an anti-psychotic drug

and it feels like little rodents are racing through my nervous system

She has turned herself into a kind of inhuman creature

Trump is ugly too

but I am a straight man

so I am kind of indifferent to how he looks

but when the Devil assumes an appearance approximating a woman

it freaks me out

We don’t have to be perfect

We can’t be perfect

Manchester by the Sea is about the extremely imperfect

but we can’t be

that

we can’t be what Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene are

we can’t

people who choose that

renounce their humanity

We live we die we fuck up we get sorry we bear shame we understand we forgive we comfort each other we feel compassion for other people’s pain we try

we try

we try to make things better

we suffer the pain of understanding

we don’t do what these former fucking people do

these post-humans

I don’t write with anger

or hate

or rage

or frustration

I write with wonder

what do we do with these creatures

I don’t write to dehumanize them to legitimatize cruelty toward them

Oh no

The first steps are obvious

we have to defend ourselves

we need vaccines and masks and social distances

to protect ourselves from these people who have mutated into deadly viruses

but what do we do with them after its over

Will it be possible to help them become people again?

Will Marjorie Taylor Greene ever be a woman again?

I know what I can do for myself

Seek out things like Manchester by the Sea

and try to write them myself.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/7/21: Julie & Julia (2009) — How Born Writers are Made #poetry

First comes the early promise …

most likely to succeed at something

Then comes the wandering and confusion …

who am I, what can I do …

Next comes the crisis of confidence

and the descent into under-employment

Politely running errands

powerless

observing those in power

then comes the hurtful insults

Silent rivals who envied the writer become vocal

bitterly asserting superiority against the person they never felt that they could best when they were young

The painful wound follows

The agony demands change

But what what what?

True friends, partners, family and lover reveal themselves

They see who you are

and they coax you out of your shell

They listen to you

and repeat back every word that you say that identifies who you and what you are meant to do …

You stand warily at the precipice of commitment

and you jump

You naively tell your dream to a few of the wrong people

and you learn to defend yourself

and when to retreat

You finally realize that the best way to achieve your dream is to start doing it

You start a blog

and stick with it

You don’t need a publisher

You can just write

So you write

and develop your gifts

and eventually your writing gets good

A small dedicated audience keeps you in the game

You have a worthy audience

You would never dare ask them for money

The writing and the reading is an act of friendship

The best friends tell you that you are ready to be published

The smartest help you make it happen …

Some of you might teach along the way

Some of you might perform

Publication, teaching and performance

but the foundation of it all is your writing

and the foundation of your writing is your life

A writer is an adventurer

The adventures can take place in faraway lands

or the privacy of your home

It doesn’t matter

Your restless dissatisfaction is the energy source of your peace and satisfaction …

I met the writer/director of Julie & Julia, Nora Ephron once

I was cast in “Heartburn” her first time being “published” in the movie business

She was warm and nice

Her movies are about success

and I have always distrusted that

but that is my problem, not Nora Ephron’s

I have had the misfortune of knowing too many people who pursued career success at the expense of their humanity

and not observing closely enough the people who made their humanity the source of their success

I think Nora Ephron was probably one of those

I didn’t know her well enough to say for sure

Julie & Julia was Nora Ephron’s last movie

She died three years later in 2012

Bitter sweet is the most honest flavor

Tragicomedy is the best theater

We pursue our victories

bravely

in the shadow of the ultimate defeat that waits for us all

Nora Ephron knew that she had a rare form of leukemia when she wrote and directed Julie & Julia

She told no one except those most intimate with her

Because of my distrust of success and by extension the successful, I often wondered if Nora Ephron was a cynical audience pleaser

Studiously avoiding even mentions of failure and death in her work

to keep her audience of suburban professional women happy

as they forgot their troubles with shopping, dinner and a movie at the mall

But

No, I didn’t really know Nora Ephron

But I know that she was kind to a young actor with a very small part

which she knew was important to him

when she was trying to make good in what could be the greatest break of her career

and she kept laughing and dancing while she was terminally ill

and maybe she felt that failure and death were personal matters

and no one else’s damn business

and maybe she knew better than I did that her audience knows they are going to die

and have bellys full of failure

and what they really need is

encouragement

they need to know what is possible

they need to identify with women who created the lives that they wanted

that there are wonderful people to love and marry

and fine friends who wish you the best

and that you are good at things

and your biggest dreams

if grounded in physical reality

the fulfillment of your deepest yearnings

and useful to other people

are possible

Now that is a fine moment of a born writer fully evolved

and very well made.

Years later I reconnected with a former friend who also had the acquaintance of Nora Ephron

She thought ill of Ephron

but my former friend was of the type that opted for the success without the humanity

It’s a funny world.

Writers make choices

and they often are disguised

in Technicolor.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/8/21: I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020) — Portrait of the Blocked Artist as an Old Man #poetry

Charlie Kaufman is a surrealist of the subjective point of view

The setting of his films is the unsettled psyche

An individual’s mind in Cinemascope

A mind projected on a screen

or digitalized

and streamed

Streaming of consciousness

Epic views of microscopic events

Thoughts and feelings made cinematic

ripples in a person’s conscious and unconscious and subconscious and pre-conscious seas

All of the layers of human existence are fair game

our perceptions, our realities, our empathy. our lack thereof, our wounds, our blindness, our emotions

and what lies beneath them

“Inside Out” (Disney/Pixar) on steroids and for adults

Kaufman made an animated cartoon about a psychological disorder being penetrated by love

Cupid’s arrow lances a psychic boil

or at least the process begins

in “Anomalisa”

“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is live action

“live action” seems a funny way to describe Kaufman’s films

To be or not to be

Is that really the question?

It is for Kaufman’s characters

For us all?

Too?

Kaufman’s movies are told in a peculiar and challenging way

a distinctive voice

but the movies are easier to follow once you know who you are dealing with …

Isolated intellectual janitors are big on Netflix this season

The chess master mentor custodian of “The Queen’s Gambit”

and

the high school maintenance man

who is the host of the archetypes

animus, anima, mother, father,

and the arts, poseurs, ideas and pontifications:

Pauline Kael, John Cassavetes, the canon of the American musical theater, David Foster Wallace, Ron Howard, Dairy Queen and some writers and visual artists that I never heard of …

in “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”

The conceit of this hypnotic movie

where set pieces are connected by long drives through a snowstorm

of near zero visibility —fogged windows and blizzard conditions, presented with an air of resignation,

an acceptance of mortality,

a shoulder shrug at the notion that disappointment is the primary emotion attending the human condition,

the conceit of this hypnotic movie,

is that every character and every allusion to anything

exists only in the mind of a sad, alienated, lonely, elderly man

speeches taken from film criticism, screenplays of famous commercial films, books of poetry etc.

and the memories of a person who rarely or perhaps never did a thing that he wanted to do

never kissed a girl

or sang a song

or wrote a poem

or did anything more than the requirements of bare survival

cleaning other people’s toilets

invisible to others except when he was the object of their ridicule

a man

weighed down by regret

locked in his adolescent bedroom

is it fear or inertia?

who condemns himself as a failure

a life of consuming books and paintings and DVDs

and remembering every human interaction that never happened beyond his imagination

remembering every rejection that he survived

how fast he was discounted and dismissed

he didn’t have to say a word

he looked at people and he heard the words form in their minds

“Go away!”

Humiliated by his strangeness

Staring across diners at pretty, young waitresses

Averting his gaze when they look back at him

Feeling like a sex offender

Having once imagined an ideal female partner

but now too old to even keep the thread of his own imagination

exiled for so long from his own masturbatory desire

he can’t even recall what it was

that he liked in a woman

trying to imagine warmth and connection

grimacing in a constipated way …

He listened and watched so many writers and actors and singers and dancers

and now as an old man he has no opinion about their work

He is just an old man happy to listen to anybody

He recalls their creations

and is grateful for the illusion of company

He’s not there

and they aren’t either

He can’t be provoked anymore

He can’t even connect to an image in his mind

The spectres in his mind come and go

The center doesn’t hold

but something is there

one thing is left

the pain is there

the dead don’t feel pain

His soul is pain

that’s all …

No wonder he is

thinking of ending things.

I knew a man in Rochester …

I was friendly with him

We met at the bagel place in the strip mall

He wore a jacket that was a little too short

and a tweed cap

He was nice and sad

He told me about a young woman

who worked at the Worldwide News

behind the cash register

He said that she was so pretty

She could have had a job as a receptionist at one of the big law firms downtown

He didn’t have intellectual interests like the protagonist in “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”

but he had his avoidances

the stock market

the sports page

the news

movies

He told me that he wanted to be a pilot when he was young

He told me about old time record stores

where you went in a booth and listened to a side before you decided if you wanted to buy something

An old lady walked by and said, “he never did anything like that”

I suspected that she was right

He was a watcher

He heard about those stores

Always wanted to go to one

Never did

I don’t think he ever broke apart like Charlie Kaufman’s victim

The old man in Rochester wasn’t an artist

Kaufman’s guy was

What is more pitiable than an artist who has never acted on his or her impulse

who betrays his own essence

or worse never understands her essence

not oppressed like closeted gay people in the old days

who were shamed by the general culture

the blocked artist is the victim of an existential malaise

something beyond social or psychological oppression

a mysterious illness

deserving of great sympathy and largely misunderstood or ignored

Rochester man was just an ordinary introverted guy

who felt life passed him by

and the feeling became a self-fulfilling prophecy

“Don’t let your mother ruin your life” he told me

He didn’t know my mother

“Find a nice girl and make some money”

The lonely Rochester man was a simple man and he had simple answers

answers that he could keep track of

He just couldn’t reach his promised land

I don’t know why — his malady is as sad as that of the failed artist

If an unhappy person reaches old age

even he or she knows that there is no one to blame for their life of regret

except themselves

and that is just not fair

Some babies go to Limbo

and some old people go to Purgatory

through no fault of their own

Eleanor Rigby and Father MacKenzie

where do they all belong

Nighthawks

A Carmelite monk in a bare apartment drinking himself to sleep

Lives apart

Nature has miscarriages

Children die of cancer

some beings never come to term

Rochester man must have passed away by now

I’m sure he died alone

having connected with one or two of his final healthcare workers

in a way that approximated friendship

The Rochester man was the epitome of Thoreau’s famous “most men”

who live “lives of quiet desperation”

He was only a cousin to Charlie Kaufman’s blocked artist

who knew how to love women and write and paint and sing and form intellectual treatises

but never did

but both suffered

because …

everything doesn’t come to term

and that that doesn’t fully grow deserves our sympathy

Charlie Kaufman wrote a screenplay about suicide

I wrote a poem about compassion for those who never get to enjoy the parts of life that we love

and an admiration for their heroism

The woman with down’s syndrome rides her bike to her job at McDonald’s

and has a social life and a career

The people who can’t access their desires and attractions and their essential natures

still have their imaginations and interests and glancing connections in rehab centers and coffee shops

and maybe that is something to celebrate too

Do people live lives of quiet desperation or live all of the life that they can handle?

I think it is the latter

The suicidal impulse is in the imagination of the screenwriter, not the heart of the janitor

Somewhere an old person about to die

turns her face to the sunlight coming through her hospital window

and is grateful

and somewhere a disappointed person who knows that their dreams never came true

gets up in the morning and has coffee and a bagel

Books need edgy chapters but the good ones end somewhere else.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/14/21: Cracked Up — the Darrell Hammond Story, The World is a Trauma Center #poetry

When I heard that John Mullaney was taking a job on the writing staff of the Seth Meyers TV show, I wondered why

Mullaney started as an SNL writer, but had moved on to an independent career as a stand-up, actor and writer with a distinctive personal style

Why write for someone else?

Then I saw that Darrell Hammond was a victim of childhood trauma and I got it

Oh that’s why Darrell Hammond is the studio announcer for SNL after many years of starring on the show

Mullaney checked into a rehab center shortly after the Seth Meyers job was announced

and that is the first lesson of life in the worldwide trauma center

Kindness

Lorne Michaels, the producer of SNL had seen too may premature deaths on his show

John Belushi, Chris Farley, Phil Hartman … there must be others — meteors fragmenting on the way to earth

Michaels decided that there was two things that he could give “his” people when they were in trouble:

Work,

and a kind of protective support —

Good doctors

Money and other resources

and time

Time, we all need time … we the people of trauma, need time to process what has happened TO us

So those are the first two lessons of life in the worldwide trauma center

Kindness and time.

Darrell Hammond’s experience is the world’s experience

The documentary about Darrell Hammond provides answers for the world

Atoms look like solar systems

Lesson 3 — forgiveness

People get abused and fucked up

Darrell Hammond’s mother cut his tongue with a steak knife when he was a little kid

He remembered the blood all over the kitchen floor

And then she kept it up

fingers jammed in electrical outlets

Cold and distant stares …

Consistent abuse

An unnatural relationship

an absence of maternal love

Hammond dreamed about a little girl

a little girl who unnaturally had the eyes of his mother

a little girl being abused

and when Hammond woke up

after several years,

he forgave his mother

He saw that she had suffered in the very same way that she made him suffer

and

after several years,

Hammond forgave himself

he didn’t suffer from mental illness

he suffered from “mental injury”

Trauma

So all of his anger and inability to maintain intimate relationships

his drinking and drugs

and his habit of cutting himself

all of his self- destructiveness

is forgiven

Hammond is not ashamed of himself

Our personal problems are nothing to be ashamed of

we all do the best we can …

even the most feckless

and the worst of us …

competence and morality are the tools with which we repair the world

and that repair job is a collective project …

evil is something outside of us …

people aren’t evil …

people get captured in evil’s sway

and have to be rescued

we are all called to save the world …

Darrell Hammond has a kind of sad, detachment now

and a paradoxical twinkle and joy

What an unlikely heir to Francis of Assisi

A nightclub impressionist

from a lower middle class neighborhood in Florida

We can only love the world to the extent that we understand the world

and none of us understand that much

but Darrell Hammond has done a nice job

He is sad about what he has lost

but he doesn’t blame himself

He doesn’t blame

Period.

Lesson 4 — therapy

If you are injured, you have to rehabilitate yourself, and you can’t do it alone —- as in all things, there are people who know more about how to deal with the health concerns of trauma, mental and physical, than other people — and you have to be open to their help

Lesson 5 — storytelling, we the people of trauma, the human race have to tell our stories

Our secrets have to be released

We are in a conspiracy with our abusers against ourselves

Covering up their crimes

until we break away

It’s a brave thing to do

and it hurts

but the clearer we get about what happened

the better we feel

To heal the wound, you must address the wound

and treat it tenderly

The truth really does set you free

Our stories save us and save others like us

free us from our pain

That’s why we tell them and listen to them

Good stories are

miracles

and miracles are commonplace

They are told every day

Lesson 6 — art

Some people make art

Some people consume art

Ultimately the experience is the same

The transformations for the artist and audience

are identical

Art goes beyond therapy

Therapy heals us

tends to our wounds

Art transcends the necessary psychological and biological

and addresses the existential

First I was happy

Then I was injured

Then I got angry

Then I failed for years

Alienated from the world

Then I went to work

I met some good people along the way

Then I stopped being ashamed

I understood that something happened to me

and that I hadn’t done anything wrong

Then I started telling my story

and elevated it beyond therapy

though I appreciated all who cared for me when I wasn’t fully capable

The story spoke honestly about who had injured me

and what had injured me

and my journalling became art when I realized that what happened and happens to me happens to the world

To everybody

Darrell Hammond is a perfect storm

Abused more horribly than most

Blessed with a talent that allows him to powerfully communicate

Positioned in a privilege world where he was allowed elite level care

Good doctors, good jobs, good friends

But those superlative conditions are beside the point

We all are called to do what Darrell Hammond did

Be born in inoocence

Bleed

Suffer

Figure it out

Tell our stories

Forgive

Ourselves

and our abusers

and save each others lives.

You have to go through it

There are no quick answers

Only the people in the greatest pain

like Darrell Hammond

like me

like you?

Finish the job

If we don’t process our pain

we are self-destructive

and hurt other people

forever

we have to break the cycle

How can we not be compassionate?

Everyone is living on a ring of hell

victims of trauma attack new victims of trauma

The best are the drunks, the sad sacks, the failures

the ones who cut themselves

as opposed to the bullies

I don’t know what brings a bully redemption

oh yeah, I do

they have to be brought low

for their own good

Brought low by our true stories

and forgiven.

I wrote a piece awhile ago about feeling sorry for Donald Trump

The piece disappointed several of my readers

but it was a good impulse

The samurai defends himself without anger

I hated Trump when I started writing the Rick Blog

I hated him because he personifies the personal qualities of many of the abusers in my personal life

Fascist business people

Persecutors of my peculiar poetic type

I have pages and pages and pages about how they are

But the world has turned in my direction

at the same pace that my soul has turned in the right direction

The world is not putting up with my oppressors’ shit anymore

and demanding something new

The trauma has ended and the treatment has begun

and ultimately

after precautions are taken to be sure that they can’t hurt us anymore

and the truth is fully told

and they are held accountable

we have to understand what happened

to them

We have to have Darrell Hammond’s dream

see the fascist bullies as little girls with Hammond’s mother’s eyes

and forgive them

and ourselves, again

Then we can just see that bad things happened to us

because bad things happen

Instead of wishing revenge on our enemies

Payback

No

Instead we can simply solve problems

and get on with our lives

Last lesson from this movie

The need for good partners

Creative collaborators

Darrell Hammond took his pain

and with the help of doctors and friends got better

still maimed — that never goes away

but better

and then with the help of a good editor made a book

and with the help of a good director and other theater artists made a stage show

and with the help of a good documentarian and her crew made a movie

and in concert with all of these friends and co-workers

and audiences

and with an understanding of past hells that he doesn’t have to live in

Created a life

I think America and the world is doing the same thing

America and the world are getting better

not from optimism

or escape

but by simply

simply

dealing

with the

complexities

of our collective trauma.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/16/21: Howards End (1992) — An Object for My Personal Meditation (like all of the other movies) #poetry

You know that all of these pieces about movies are really about me, don’t you?

You know that all of my writing that you read is really about you, don’t you?

We all see different things

intention seems like folly

I see things in Howards End that its creators probably took for granted

It represents so much of what I want

Hipsters might laugh at it and call it middlebrow

Young people might think it is terribly old-fashioned

to the point of inaccessibility

Those criticisms and reservations may even have merit

Surely they do

In a way

For some people

But they are not what I see

The first thing that I see is the audience which existed in 1992, and I think exists today (you’re reading this aren’t you?)

that doesn’t have to be flattered in any way

An audience that comes to hear the artists out

Before I started writing, I talked a lot

The talk charmed some people, and got on a lot more people’s nerves

But that is all an artist wants to do

He or she wants to share all of these thoughts and feelings he or she has inside of him

and he wants to say it in his or her particular way

He or she wants to breathe

to share their view of the world

The artist doesn’t want to manipulate your out of your money

He or she loves you, you know

He or she pays all sorts of attention to you

and wants the same

But he or she wants to be honest

wants to be real

not to make you agree

or defer to his or her ideas

or be showered with your admiration …

Not for anything vain as all of that …

We live in solitudes

We are all alone

That’s what I think

and we warm each other with words

Communicating who we are to one another

and recognizing ourselves in the mirror

We don’t have to save the world;

by living in the world

by participating

we make the world perfect

Artists just need someone to talk to

and so do audiences

We get to be consciously alive

we don’t have to work on the assembly line

or be put together on top of it

and sold in a showroom when we are done

Movies are popular art, and so is my writing

By popular I mean movies are accessible

There are no prerequisites

you just start watching them

Accessible

that word again

Howards End is accessible

but the audience has to work a little

A good audience listens actively

engages the piece

When the artists try to make something in a way that their audience finds interesting

They lose the soul of the piece

It either interests a person or it doesn’t

The artist doesn’t have to think about it

TV commercials grab your attention

but who really listens to them

Commercials share information

and stimulate desire

You can’t sell a soul

That’s why art traditionally has such a difficult relationship with money

Art can generate money

but the trick is to get it in front of the people who want to hear it

not to sell people who could care less

like serious movies that look like comedies in the Coming Attractions

and then piss off the suckers who get a challenging evening when they wanted a laugh

I don’t think Merchant Ivory planned a thing to sell an audience

But Merchant, the producer was a genius at finding the people who would love what they made

I love the collaboration

Merchant did the art business

Like an art gallery owner

not like a car dealer

Ivory directed the movies

Hired other great collaborators

Great writer

Great actors

Great composers

Great cinematographer

Great art direction

Great everything

All of the perfect parts

a collection of masters

Exquisitely rendering their separate and distinct tasks

Singing their soulful arias of their visions of the world

all harmonized by Ivory

and sustained in all of their material needs

by Merchant

Even their names are perfect

Merchant is a classy word for buying and selling

Nothing corrupt about it at all

And what is more pure

than Ivory

Art has to be sincere

Art has to be authentic

It doesn’t try to be pure

It just is

or its not art

and God knows not to be superior in any way

Just to be

to be what it is

The world needs the unadulterated soul expressed

The Soul is here

It can’t be ignored …

The soul dies

People die from being ignored too

We need the truth

It’s not optional

We have to know the way that we are

Masses of people live being pushed to and fro

Never understanding the forces that determine their lives

Never aware that such forces even exist

We need to engage the mystery from which we come, live in and go back to …

Art doesn’t transform us

we transform naturally

It is our consciousness that transforms

The more we know ourselves

and our predestined roles

The more we serve the world

The world is an artist

and we are its paints

All subtly different colors on an infinite spectrum

Mixing and contrasting with one another

Once we understand that

we stop wasting our time

Howards End takes it’s time

No anachronistic music on the soundtrack

No scenes of the Napoleonic Wars scored with covers of Bill Withers tunes

Maybe the director guides us past visual art and symphonic music with the reverence and civility of a museum docent

But I like that

I like civilization

I like reverence

I like creator and audience respectfully encountering strangeness together

The strangeness of a bygone historical period

The strangeness of art

We are given an opportunity to access

but we have to take it

Howards End was marketed like every movie has to be

But in an expert way

The movie itself isn’t marketing

The story comes from the soul of a great writer

Not survey cards from test audiences

I used to love the Merchant Ivory movies

I never saw this one before

but I got to see several of them at the Paris Theater in New York

Off of Fifth Avenue near the Plaza Hotel

A neighborhood of great aspiration

at least it was in those days

A confident pursuit of beauty and power

A great neighborhood for Merchant

and Ivory

I had a romantic view of New York City in those days

It never really existed

this dream of wonderful art and responsible wealth and power

I saw the actor James Spader waiting for the light to change near the Paris Theater once in the eighties

Just at about the time that he decided to go exclusively for the money

and he looked like it — like his art was just his path to the auto showroom

kind of smug and selfish and a little mean

He wasn’t paying attention to the city at all

or the people in it

He was focused on something else

all Merchant and no Ivory

and my dream of New York City ended

for the City

but not for me

and I still think it’s possible

As a matter of fact I think it si the time for my dream to be real

I think people are desperate for it

And I live in a kind of anticipation

a hopeful feeling buoyed by something greater than reason

The soul and the world turn toward each other

and when they are both ready

They embrace …

One time Francis Ford Coppola was waiting in line outside of the Paris and in front of me

The Godfather and his other movies seem like they emerge from a frightening chaos

Frustration is followed by an explosion

and the result is a surprise

a relief

a miracle.

Coppola is a daredevil on the edge

of art or disgrace

fortune or ruin

Masterpiece or disaster …

I love Francis Ford Coppola movies

Like Orson Welles he is a fat indulgent genius

Genius is fat and indulgent

It isn’t moderate

It takes discipline

but it is a discipline of another kind

A discipline that requires obedience to all of genius’ unreasonable demands

all of its excesses

Genius

fashions a generous world

a world of operatic feeling

a free and thrilling place …

A place beyond all fearful and arbitrary boundaries

Welles and Coppola, fat martyrs who sacrifice themselves to assert the world’s glory

The glory that most people are too timid to see

let alone acknowledge

Merchant Ivory appeals to something else in me

I like their films’ civility

Their order

Their social structures

however imperfect

and at times the social structures are monstrously cruel

The characters are tragic

and I find the whole thing reassuring

hahahahahaha

at least they have a structure for their suffering

The characters belong to civilizations

most often Great Britain, but France, America and India too

that tried to make something out of nature

Nations as

Grand epic works of art

Culture is where the soul meets the material world

Merchant Ivory films are so cultured

Not missing the dark bits

or the light

The struggle to make something of this damn thing

this world

this life

come to think of it

the same glory and failure of Welles and Coppola

of us all

told in such a controlled way

How beautiful and wonderful and sad

The Remains of the Day is one of my favorite movies ever, and it is so beautiful and wonderful and sad

The characters’ sadness in The Remains of the Day is a much more preferable state than the deranged feeling of the last episode of the recent hit TV series, The Queen’s Gambit

a show that had all of Coppola’s tormented fury

and Welles’ desperate innovation

and all of Merchant Ivory’s precise and ordered artistry

in all elements of its film making

for the first five installments

and then ends

THUD

with the pulse pounding triumph of The Karate Kid

with what people who aren’t thinking

think is a happy ending

The Queen’s Gambit gives up

Coppola and Merchant Ivory never quit …

This poem is a message in a bottle

a piece of yearning and fulfillment

notes on a blueprint

all the art that we can make out of the natural world

What’s more real

The concrete of the Paris Theater and the Plaza Hotel

or the grand dream their creators wanted it to be?

Our true dreams have nothing to do with desire

Our souls are seeded

with the future of the world.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/17/21: Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) — Things Change, What’s Next? #poetry

Francis Ford Coppola did a sequel to his pal George Lucas’ American Graffiti

From high school graduation to the high school reunion

and time travel

to the past

Peggy Sue Got Married ,

the past

Memory

even for the bitter

or confused,

is in Technicolor

with a Golden Oldie Soundtrack

written as a literary short story in the idiom of a sitcom

With a future All -Star cast

Coppola doesn’t have a directorial style

He creates a style to match his material

Coppola made The Godfather about an alien family blocked from full participation in the American Dream

That movie is darkly lit, tragic and operatic

Peggy Sue is about people who feel entitled to all this country has to offer and get disappointed

a serious story told in a light-hearted way

The Godfather is Italian – American

Peggy Sue Got Married is just American

The American myth that even us outsiders claim in some part of our soul

The pain of the Corleone family was that they were told not dream that dream

So they murdered and stole for the right

to be disappointed

The American Dream never works out for anyone

(it also always works out)

Because the dream is a young person’s dream

and we get old and die

The Chicago Tribune says that the Second City was sold recently for $50 million

To a video game manufacturer

Video games?

Second City has done shows on cruise ships in recent years

Cruise ships?

When I was an actor at Second City

in the 1980s

around the time of Peggy Sue Got Married

I thought I was part of the most influential theater of the 20th Century

A revolution in acting and writing

Bringing art to popular culture

It was thrilling

I thought my mentors were the greatest American artists of the 20th Century

and I was doing something brilliant and meaningful

None of it was true

except the dream

art was part of the chaotic mess that was Second City

Art, the minority owner who was eventually bought out

Commerce muddied every Second City palette

The shows weren’t that good

They were steps toward video games and cruise ships

not Eugene O’Neill

Second City was art in the beginning

And those founders who did the art were still around

But they were semi – retired

The real thing was in their workshops

time travel

not in the present performances

that were compromised by the crass audiences and agents and TV casting directors and advertising executives

who wanted sales technique on the stage where I pursued art

It was a ridiculous mistake on my part

a romantic, young, innocent deluded mistake

The right heart at the wrong place and time …

Oddly, I feel no regret

Life is lived through a strainer

the runoff and detritus disappear down the drain

The gold remains.

The Tribune article also mentions that the teachers in Second City’s Training Centers are going to unionize

The American Association of Comedy Instructors

A Union

for that shit

those awful classes

that have nothing to do with the workshops with the founding artists of my dreamy memory

those present day classes are playing party games on a cruise ship

Eugene O”Neill?

Are you kidding?

Charades and shuffle board is more like it.

The current Second City has nothing to do with me

strained and down my drain.

I drift away from my fellow Second City alumni who post photos on Facebook from decades -old shows that they were in at Second City

All that nostalgia

Unprocessed dreams?

Maybe

or maybe the other alums never had my dream

that’s closer to the truth, I reckon.

A mystery of life is our fate to spend at least some time with people with whom we don’t belong

We belong where we don’t belong

No one understands a country better than a foreigner.

The alumni hold onto one dream or another

or just don’t want to think about it at all

and attach their dream or indifference to the corpse of Second City

the alumni delude themselves

They tell themselves they are doing the Dream

or having an easy good time

while they play video games on a cruise ship

I guess it’s OK if all you want out of time is a pleasant day

A few want something more

but the others get in their way

Social clubs are fine

but they’re not for me.

I called myself an improvisor when I was at Second City and for years after

A large part of my identity was “improvisor”

Not any more

I now identify as “writer”

Change is an assembly of gears

the individual soul and the world mesh

People and things are never fully revealed

until their obituary is written.

Second City’s obituary is done

On the same day that part of my past is processed

Where does the dream go now?

What’s next?

Peggy Sue Got Married is about a woman who processes her past

The real person is revealed in youthful innocence

Outer frustration and regret brings her inner reality

to life

A PBS producer, a nice guy

told me somewhere in the 1980s that I was

“too sincere to be an actor”

That memory hurts at first and then is liberating

when I recall it in this context

Peggy Sue gives insight similar to that of the PBS producer to the other lead characters in her story

as she struggles to understand herself,

Just like writers do.

Peggy Sue is a story of a conscious mind coaxing the unconscious mind into the waking day

Our lives are dream interpretations

We “dream the future” as Peggy Sue says

She mines the past to retrieve what has value

Our lives have a constant

That never dies

What is real is our love

What is real is our aspiration

when things don’t work out

when our best efforts fall short

when we are betrayed

by ourselves

and others

when we got it all wrong

naively seeing greatness in something mediocre

the constant remains

We are the constant

the false steps and starts are just process

you are just working things out

It is the poetry in your heart that is your life story

not the whorehouses that you thought were Cinderella’s Ball

What’s next is what always was

you were right all along

Life is a process of learning how to make yourself congruent with the specific place in the world where you are meant to be

That’s home

and that’s

What’s Next.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/18/21: The Words — How to Succeed as a Bad Writer By Really, Really Trying (2012) #poetry

All you need to write is good enough health, good enough money, time, friends and people who love you

When I taught improvisational acting 1000 years ago I used to say, “Your audience will find you”

I had something different inside of me

Jeremy Irons plays a true artist of a writer in this airport novel of a multiplex romance marketed to women who find poetic types to be romantic

Bradley Cooper plays a sensitive young plagiarist

who is trapped by his desire to be a great writer and to be a huge commercial success

The movie seems to think that those two things co-exist

That what is great will always sell

Eventually

But one cheapens the other

Just like the occasional good acting and dialogue in this picture is pulled down by all of the shit

Marketing overwhelms art

Marketing is stronger than art

The way death overwhelms life

Life always ends

Death just keeps rolling along

Art is pure — it’s life

Business is dishonest — it’s corrupt intention

The plagiarist feels guilty

The artist struggles …

The life is the thing

The art is just the report

Of course the artist is obscure

even when everyone knows his name

The artist is obscure to himself

He writes what he doesn’t know

The mature writer is past so much bullshit

no longer a problem to himself

Come on,

To be famous

To be published

To be envied

To get rich

Mainly, mostly

to be recognized

to be seen as a successful person

in the eyes of others

To be what you desire to be

a great this or a great that

like him or like her …

Immortal in the public imagination

(until you are not, but hey it’s the sensation isn’t it … acclaim is a temporary thing … then its on to the next thing … people want to cheer and different teams play in the Super Bowl every year … old achievements go in history books and museums … in some instances fame becomes infamy … it’s all just perception, clear or cloudy …. Saviors become demons … heroes are exposed as frauds or even worse, merely human … mixed bags … we want myths … we want to believe in black and white … we want value to be an easy thing to grab onto … we want someone who went to the Promised Land ahead of us to show us the way, to show us its possible … we want to be saved … we want to be disappointed … we want to feel superior to that and who we have honored … we want the excitement of finding new people and things to admire, we call that progress … we want escape … we want an idyllic perfection … we want something more than food. clothing and shelter … we want the money, fame etc. but we want to tell ourselves that somehow it is more important and deeper than all that … we like to bullshit ourselves … we want soulfulness made material and in so doing we degrade the concept of “soul” … then the predictable happens, and we ignore it and keep churning along … on a hamster wheel of self -deception, ignoring reality and calling mass delusion “reality” …. over and over and over … old Best Picture winners turn into kitsch or trash … no one is exempt … not even the Founding Fathers … success is just a split second thing … wise or foolish respect for something worth a lot, a little or nothing — time and perspective will always tell if you go the other way … I decide the value of my life … no one else … I choose my words and deeds … no one else … the pursuit of success for its own sake seems to me to be a form of slavery … my point isn’t to be successful — it is to share who I am … to reach each and every person that I am meant to be with … )

Success had no value

that’s what I say

except …

that it brings resources to

connect the words to the people they are intended for

people that the writer can’t possibly know

as he writes on the outer edge of his existence

word by word inching into his unknown …

The real writer is too smart for any publisher or producer that he knows of when he is writing (writing is always a leap of faith … deeper, farther, farther, deeper … )

The real writer has no instinct for self-promotion

The real writer needs partners who handle the business aspects of his work

The real writer just writes

and has faith that his words will …

a writer talks seemingly to himself

with the faith that someone else is out there

who will appreciate them

who will need them

They always show up

in handfuls or by the thousands

I think the need for success for its own sake

automatically makes the work done to achieve that success

suck

and the person who is so driven to be a big deal

an asshole

That may seem simplistic, but in my experience

it’s always true

I think success

is an idea made up by salesmen

“The Art of the Deal”

blasphemes art

It calls manipulation creativity

It’s a big bullshit lie

I think a culture that worships success for its own sake

is no culture at all

Honesty, truth, knowledge

count with me

Power for its own sake

Not so much

But here is where it gets complicated

The world needs value to be recognized

the world doesn’t have to keep traveling in its sorry way

and some people who are really good

and their work which is really good

Get recognized

The question now is not

How do they do it?

The question is

How does it happen?

How does anything real happen?

You live your life in a true way

and you are open to what comes your way.

Success is a red herring

It’s pursuit deflects you from what you are meant to do

If you stick with who you are and what you do

it becomes something else and takes you places

Stick with who you are

Bradley Cooper’s character in this movie

is conflicted between success and art and personal ethics and integrity

It’s a phony conflict

It’s no contest

I don’t give a shit about making it

I just want to do it

all aspects of it

including sharing it.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/19/21: Hello, My Name is Doris (2015) — Seize the Day, You Old Introverted Bastards! #poetry

Are you old and introverted?

You can have fun and sex too

and whatever else you want

Free to be you and me muchachas

Go for it!

The director was in some sketch comedy group on MTV — ugh, oh no …

His parents were professors in the classics or something like that … that’s good …

He directed “The Big Sick” — oh that’s a good movie …

When I used to read a lot I would go to bookstores and walk up and down the aisles

and wait until a book vibrated and radiated light

and then I’d take it off of the shelf

and if a force field developed between the book and my face

I’d pull the book toward my eyes

and if it smelled good, I’d buy it

Then I took it home and read it …

I’d walk to the subway (if I was in New York), thinking about the book

I started reading as soon as I got into the subway car

and I wasn’t afraid to start one book while another one was in progress

I was in my late thirties and into my forties

That’s when I read a lot

I don’t read much now

Now is my time to write

I’ve digested enough written words

Now I excrete them

I guess I was what you would call “introverted”

But I didn’t feel introverted

I just felt like reading

It’s a waste time to worry about society’s issues

I never did

So they brought me up on charges

and I’d be forced to make my case(s)

Eventually I’d issue my ruling

and be on my way

Until another cabal of they came along

followed by the eventual trial

and disposition of the matter

They always have a problem with nothing

Why can’t a man in his thirties and forties always be reading a book

I wasn’t avoiding anything or anybody

I wasn’t intimidated or even afraid

or scared (afraid plus nervous)

I was spending time with interesting people

these writers

I was engaged in an earlier phase of my own life’s work as a writer

I was dead to the world and alive inside

I was doing something

It didn’t matter that the knuckle draggers didn’t (couldn’t) get it

An extrovert is someone who will do or say anything without inhibition

and not one word that they say, or action that they take, is of any use or interest …

The Texas power grid (and its stated rationales) is the handiwork of extroverts …

Real kisses are preceded by shy and awkward gestures

Real work is approached carefully

Gingerly

after great deliberation …

Extroversion is the idolatry of product

The misnamed introversion is the grace of process …

Extroverts go everywhere and are never anywhere

Misnamed introverts can sit alone in their room and be everywhere …

Like God …

Extroverts ask few questions and are very decisive

One bad decision after another

Misnamed introverts wonder about everything

and generally do the right thing

Extroverts are nihilists

They’d get angry to hear that

They’d like to think that they believe in many important things

but they actually think like cave men

Me eat

Me shit

Me cold

Me hot

Me fuck

Me get away from saber tooth tiger …

Misnamed introverts think essences are things to be observed

and that meanings are revealed

slowly and suddenly

Misnamed introverts see themselves and the world as beautiful mysteries …

Looking within is the path to the inner reaches of outer space and the outer reaches of inner space … you can’t actually see the outside without looking through the inside … misnamed introverts engage the world thoughtfully and tenderly; extroverts thoughtlessly bump into it, devoid of language, howling at shapes and colors, without manual dexterity — punching mindlessly or slapping with open palms

EXTROVERTS ARE THE ONES WHO ARE FEARFULLY SHUT OFF FROM THE WORLD, WHO ARE AT WAR WITH THE WORLD; MISNAMED INTROVERTS TOUCH THE WORLD, MAKE THE WORLD THEIR PARTNER AND CHANGE THEMSELVES AND THE WORLD SIMULTANEOUSLY … SOCIETY GETS IT ALL WRONG, LEADERS ARE OUTCASTS AND THE ID IS CHOSEN THE MAN OF EVERY YEAR … BUT NONE OF THAT MATTERS BECAUSE INDIVIDUALS REGARD EACH OTHER WITH SYMPATHY AND APPRECIATION AND CREATE ALL THAT REALLY MATTERS IN QUIET, ODD VENUES FAR FROM THE BEATEN PATH …

Oh yeah … this movie …

(I hope you know that the ideas in my writing aren’t from these movies … before the pandemic I used to go to movie theaters alone and meditate and think while the movie rolled on … I was writing, you know, notes in my head … I’d carry a pen or pad or a laptop and I’d write down my words as soon as the movie was over, or before if I couldn’t hold it anymore … I’m just doing this now … these aren’t reviews … I don’t want to insult most of you but this note is for those of you who don’t get that … I also hope I didn’t insult the readers who don’t get it … as a misnamed introvert I can report that you are all strange creatures … I have to spend a lot of time thinking to figure out what you are like at all, and even after all of that work I could very well be wrong, but at least it gives me a construct so I can deal with you … I feel like 90% of you are great, and that I have to be circumspect with the rest of you … and I don’t think that is an irrational fear … I don’t want anyone to fuck this up for me … this writing … this is my home and I want no invasions … thanks for understanding)

Doris in the movie starts overcoming the ageism and the conformist persecution of individuality

I had the opposite experience … I was free and the villagers came looking for Frankenstein

That happened in a lot of villages

But both Doris and I got to the same place

We grew deaf to the world’s mean foolishness

and clearly heard its omnipresent symphonies of love and good feeling

and harmonized

Joy and sympathy …

I have been called old off and on since I was thirty

I’ve never felt old for a minute.

Life is a new thing

until the very last minute.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/19/21: Affliction (1997): Doing Things Right #poetry

In the 1980s, a guy at NYU got me a free pass into the Creative Writing Program there

can you imagine — someone did that for me — handed me something worth tens of thousands of dollars

and I don’t remember his name

A girlfriend that I had at the time thought he was gay

He wasn’t

He didn’t have an agenda

She did

She wanted an excuse to cut me loose

She didn’t need one

She was a cold “visual artist”

Who did things right

she followed all of the recommended steps in her painting

and in her career

It was my time of exposure to people who did things right

Russell Banks was my creative writing teacher at NYU for a couple of months

I quit the program

It wasn’t for me

Russell Banks wrote the novel that was adapted into the film “Affliction”

He wrote “The Sweet Hereafter” and some other good work

A proper body of work

A proper literary career

He did things right

I’ve got nothing against doing things right

But when you do

you don’t come up with anything new

I was a refugee from a legal career

I couldn’t detect a difference between legal files

and Russell Banks’ fiction

or my ex -girlfriend’s paintings

I couldn’t detect a difference between legal careerism

and literary or art -world careerism

I was on the other extreme

I was living on friends’ couches

and unashamedly eating in soup kitchens

I was a couple of years from a nervous breakdown

Wildness was slowly turning into rage

My eventual psychiatrist

who used to be a Navy shrink

Dr. Viener

I remember his name

He taught me more about writing than Russell Banks ever did

and loved me more than that girlfriend

Who never loved me at all

I have no idea why we were together

I guess we just wanted to have a non -romance and an angry break -up

I needed someone to hurt me so i could get on with my desired project of avoiding intimacy with women or anybody else

and she needed to get a brief of justification to get rolling on her useful lifelong habit of cutting people loose who were of no use to her ambitions …

Russell Banks just thought I was doing things wrong

and would never get them right

and he was correct in his assessment

he really wasn’t interested in me

he knew that I was in the wrong place …

the insight was mutual

and eventually I went away

Banks wrote stories about marginalized people suffering

but never connected — I don’t think — the suffering to creativity

The creativity belonged to him

Not the characters

Their pain was the raw material of Banks’ creative satisfaction

and to a properly lesser extent

the fodder for his recognition and awards

Banks saw pain

but he didn’t see its redemptive qualities

Just like the society that rewarded him

The limitation of Banks’ writing is that he never got outside of society

He chronicled suffering

He painted portraits of empathy

and left it at that

I think that — I really don’t remember

I just know for sure that what Banks was doing was not for me …

I see Banks type every word of the novel “Affliction”

I see the director story board every shot

I see the actors neatly prepare for their roles

and rehearse their scenes

Every moment of the film

every word

every image

every emotion

is chosen

Meticulous and precise

So much exertion to understand what happens

and then report

their immaculate findings

The affliction of the title is the wound of an adult man who was abused as a child

I admire this movie

in spite of its stiffness

It’s so focused

A masterpiece of attention

protecting itself from all strangeness and surprise

It’s important to study wounds

but I want answers

Maybe Russell Banks was trying to figure something out for himself with his writing

He had questions

I just follow along and wonder

I used to have these sweet Irish friends who sentimentalized sadness, loneliness, failure and death …

Banks fetishizes same

I think suffering is Banks’ gilded cage

He can’t afford to quit suffering

It’s how he made his name

And that old girlfriend has spent her life hanging pictures of dead things on the wall

and Dr. Viener

and the U. S, Navy

gave me answers.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/22/21: A Quiet Passion (2016) — Ogres Avoided and Dragons Slayed, Paradise Preserved #poetry

Reminder … my poems about the movies are not about the movies …

Slay the dragon “Thou Shalt”

If you are an artist you were born happy

and possessed of a sure footed balance in the pursuit of the sustaining and expanding of that joy

Happiness never escapes criticism

Misery loves company

Cowards wish to hamper the bold

It makes them feel better about themselves

The story of the crippled poet is a rationalization

for those who have failed as human beings

The artist is born ancient

The hard won wisdom of all of the past ages of mankind

are natural endowments of the newborn artist

Immaculately conceived

in a moment of un – conflicted love

by all that is pure and innocent in humanity

The artist’s parents saw Eden at the moment of orgasm

and then returned to their confused and fallen natures

The art child remained with (at least) one foot in eternity for all of his or her days.

An artist is a proverbial “old soul”

beyond desires for achievement and success

The process is the purpose

The careerist never really does anything

Only the artist can create something new and needed and appropriate to the moment

The artist takes what comes and is where or he or she likes

He or she may joust with the ogre achievement and his wife the bitch goddess success

But eventually he

or she

simply walks around the ogre and the bitch

They remain dissatisfied with the artist

and throw fists and insults his or her way

fists and insults that once brought great pain

now bring sad smiles

The artists’ accusers suffer in prisons

and claim that they live in mansions

Is dishonesty a symptom of addiction?

Is mankind drunk?

Does the human race think it is on the road to fulfillment

while it reels in a stupor

mistaking desperation for joy and passion

while self -destructively bringing itself harm

and destroying its future

before being finally sick and hungover

broken and waiting for death

terrified by the truth

unable to face the reality

of its abdication of responsibility

it’s choice of murder suicide

over love and life?

The artist is denied support by his or her critics

who jeer “who do you think you are?”

“What gives you the right to be alive?

“To love?”

The critics will give no support

but the artist is safe and secure

carried by unseen hands

a dollar

a friend

an audience

an idea

they all arrive

when needed.

The Lord is my Shepherd

I will not want.

The artist follows the authority of his or her soul

and that soul relays to the artist

the Will of God

and God furthers his or her purposes.

Enough with past critics

I’ve processed them all

My anger was from an invasion of boundaries

How dare they tell me how to live my life

How to work

How to be

It was an invasion

a perversion

a kind of abuse

the bosses, the cliques

Society is a bad father

Bullying his children to do his will

Society tells us its hectoring is for our own good

but really

like any bad father

the motivation is the father’s pride …

The artist’s rebellion turns into integrity

The bad father’s sin

paradoxically serves God’s purpose

The sin is a forge

which shapes God’s vessel.

Like Emily Dickinson

I want some approval before I die

Not approval for performing society’s immoral missions

It’s cultish worship of death

Approval for my work as the world’s equal

In dialogue with the world

Life is constantly procreating

I want part of the world to acknowledge my love affair with it

And I am certain that acknowledgement is near

I have always received the job, the money, the friend, the love, the experience that I have needed

precisely at the time that I have needed it

My consciousness rolls forth

my dreams and my waking mind are one

I know that my chance is near

I am speaking of something far different than achievement or success …

Emily Dickinson suffered

She contained herself

protecting her gift

never leaving her family home

frustrated by her obscurity

and her lack of intimacy with a man

but fierce

in her poetry

All that sacrifice for art

Only after her death did Emily Dickinson’s writing reach wide audiences

Her sister found Emily’s body of work after she died

and the sister shared it.

While she was living, she shared her work with a few friends

and had a relative few poems published

Emily Dickinson wouldn’t compromise a punctuation mark in her poems

As you can see, she is one of my heroes

I intend to have the satisfaction of recognition of my work while I am living however

I ask God for what I want and need and he gives it to me

God listens to me

Emily Dickinson needed someone to share her poems

so do I

she couldn’t do it herself

nor can I

I don’t know how

I can’t write them and disseminate them at the same time

But I will not do what Emily Dickinson did

and hide my writing in a drawer

only to be found by my next of kin at the time of my passing

Someone will find them long before then

I am sure of this

My prayers are answered

I publish them on a blog

two birds with one stone

Sharing with the friends that all poets need

The kind and open souls who listen

and …

just as importantly

my words aren’t hidden

The worldwide web is not a drawer

The poet must be solitary and alone

(An artist is a hemophiliac — intense sensitivity creates easy bleeding … an artist’s partner must love the artist and be wise to the cruelties of the world — an artist’s partner must protect the artist and surgically transplant the artist’s words only in the regions of the world where they will not be rejected, for the sake of the artist and the world)

and his or her words

must be far more outgoing.

I write this poem as a prayer of abundance

I know my partner is walking toward me …

There are people whose art is planting the seeds of artists in other fertile souls …

Art doesn’t compromise

in order to fit in …

Art travels on odysseys

in search of where it fits …

Poetry fits in the open fields

beyond the silos

Each social grouping builds a silo

hierarchies and power structures

that have disdain and indifference for all of the other hierarchies and power structures in the other silos

business is a silo

the professions are silos

art institutions are silos

academia is a silo

families are silos

social cliques are silos

silos, silos, silos

all different

feeling superior to all others

but in essence the same

abstractions

all claiming to be better than nature

and better than God

all full of shit

In the fields beyond the silos

solitary persons wander

occasionally gathering in groups

and warming by a fire

It is near those fires

that my writing will be read

My words will resonate in the solitude of a thousand hearts

and all of those hearts will vibrate toward one another

in humming harmonies …

If you don’t do it this way you never create anything you never come up with anything of value …

I never wanted a career —- I pursued this from the beginning.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas  

2/22/21: A Quiet Passion (2016) — Ogres Avoided and Dragons Slayed, Paradise Preserved #poetry

2/22/21: A Quiet Passion (2016) — Ogres Avoided and Dragons Slayed, Paradise Preserved #poetry

Reminder … my poems about the movies are not about the movies …

Slay the dragon “Thou Shalt”

If you are an artist you were born happy

and possessed of a sure footed balance in the pursuit of the sustaining and expanding of that joy

Happiness never escapes criticism

Misery loves company

Cowards wish to hamper the bold

It makes them feel better about themselves

The story of the crippled poet is a rationalization

for those who have failed as human beings

The artist is born ancient

The hard won wisdom of all of the past ages of mankind

are natural endowments of the newborn artist

Immaculately conceived

in a moment of un – conflicted love

by all that is pure and innocent in humanity

The artist’s parents saw Eden at the moment of orgasm

and then returned to their confused and fallen natures

The art child remained with (at least) one foot in eternity for all of his or her days.

An artist is a proverbial “old soul”

beyond desires for achievement and success

The process is the purpose

The careerist never really does anything

Only the artist can create something new and needed and appropriate to the moment

The artist takes what comes and is where or he or she likes

He or she may joust with the ogre achievement and his wife the bitch goddess success

But eventually he

or she

simply walks around the ogre and the bitch

They remain dissatisfied with the artist

and throw fists and insults his or her way

fists and insults that once brought great pain

now bring sad smiles

The artists’ accusers suffer in prisons

and claim that they live in mansions

Is dishonesty a symptom of addiction?

Is mankind drunk?

Does the human race think it is on the road to fulfillment

while it reels in a stupor

mistaking desperation for joy and passion

while self -destructively bringing itself harm

and destroying its future

before being finally sick and hungover

broken and waiting for death

terrified by the truth

unable to face the reality

of its abdication of responsibility

it’s choice of murder suicide

over love and life?

The artist is denied support by his or her critics

who jeer “who do you think you are?”

“What gives you the right to be alive?

“To love?”

The critics will give no support

but the artist is safe and secure

carried by unseen hands

a dollar

a friend

an audience

an idea

they all arrive

when needed.

The Lord is my Shepherd

I will not want.

The artist follows the authority of his or her soul

and that soul relays to the artist

the Will of God

and God furthers his or her purposes.

Enough with past critics

I’ve processed them all

My anger was from an invasion of boundaries

How dare they tell me how to live my life

How to work

How to be

It was an invasion

a perversion

a kind of abuse

the bosses, the cliques

Society is a bad father

Bullying his children to do his will

Society tells us its hectoring is for our own good

but really

like any bad father

the motivation is the father’s pride …

The artist’s rebellion turns into integrity

The bad father’s sin

paradoxically serves God’s purpose

The sin is a forge

which shapes God’s vessel.

Like Emily Dickinson

I want some approval before I die

Not approval for performing society’s immoral missions

It’s cultish worship of death

Approval for my work as the world’s equal

In dialogue with the world

Life is constantly procreating

I want part of the world to acknowledge my love affair with it

And I am certain that acknowledgement is near

I have always received the job, the money, the friend, the love, the experience that I have needed

precisely at the time that I have needed it

My consciousness rolls forth

my dreams and my waking mind are one

I know that my chance is near

I am speaking of something far different than achievement or success …

Emily Dickinson suffered

She contained herself

protecting her gift

never leaving her family home

frustrated by her obscurity

and her lack of intimacy with a man

but fierce

in her poetry

All that sacrifice for art

Only after her death did Emily Dickinson’s writing reach wide audiences

Her sister found Emily’s body of work after she died

and the sister shared it.

While she was living, she shared her work with a few friends

and had a relative few poems published

Emily Dickinson wouldn’t compromise a punctuation mark in her poems

As you can see, she is one of my heroes

I intend to have the satisfaction of recognition of my work while I am living however

I ask God for what I want and need and he gives it to me

God listens to me

Emily Dickinson needed someone to share her poems

so do I

she couldn’t do it herself

nor can I

I don’t know how

I can’t write them and disseminate them at the same time

But I will not do what Emily Dickinson did

and hide my writing in a drawer

only to be found by my next of kin at the time of my passing

Someone will find them long before then

I am sure of this

My prayers are answered

I publish them on a blog

two birds with one stone

Sharing with the friends that all poets need

The kind and open souls who listen

and …

just as importantly

my words aren’t hidden

The worldwide web is not a drawer

The poet must be solitary and alone

(An artist is a hemophiliac — intense sensitivity creates easy bleeding … an artist’s partner must love the artist and be wise to the cruelties of the world — an artist’s partner must protect the artist and surgically transplant the artist’s words only in the regions of the world where they will not be rejected, for the sake of the artist and the world)

and his or her words

must be far more outgoing.

I write this poem as a prayer of abundance

I know my partner is walking toward me …

There are people whose art is planting the seeds of artists in other fertile souls …

Art doesn’t compromise

in order to fit in …

Art travels on odysseys

in search of where it fits …

Poetry fits in the open fields

beyond the silos

Each social grouping builds a silo

hierarchies and power structures

that have disdain and indifference for all of the other hierarchies and power structures in the other silos

business is a silo

the professions are silos

art institutions are silos

academia is a silo

families are silos

social cliques are silos

silos, silos, silos

all different

feeling superior to all others

but in essence the same

abstractions

all claiming to be better than nature

and better than God

all full of shit

In the fields beyond the silos

solitary persons wander

occasionally gathering in groups

and warming by a fire

It is near those fires

that my writing will be read

My words will resonate in the solitude of a thousand hearts

and all of those hearts will vibrate toward one another

in humming harmonies …

If you don’t do it this way you never create anything you never come up with anything of value …

I never wanted a career —- I pursued this from the beginning.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas  






2/19/21: Affliction (1997): Doing Things Right #poetry

2/19/21: Affliction (1997): Doing Things Right #poetry

In the 1980s, a guy at NYU got me a free pass into the Creative Writing Program there

can you imagine — someone did that for me — handed me something worth tens of thousands of dollars

and I don’t remember his name

A girlfriend that I had at the time thought he was gay

He wasn’t

He didn’t have an agenda

She did

She wanted an excuse to cut me loose

She didn’t need one

She was a cold “visual artist”

Who did things right

she followed all of the recommended steps in her painting

and in her career

It was my time of exposure to people who did things right

Russell Banks was my creative writing teacher at NYU for a couple of months

I quit the program

It wasn’t for me

Russell Banks wrote the novel that was adapted into the film “Affliction”

He wrote “The Sweet Hereafter” and some other good work

A proper body of work

A proper literary career

He did things right

I’ve got nothing against doing things right

But when you do

you don’t come up with anything new

I was a refugee from a legal career

I couldn’t detect a difference between legal files

and Russell Banks’ fiction

or my ex -girlfriend’s paintings

I couldn’t detect a difference between legal careerism

and literary or art -world careerism

I was on the other extreme

I was living on friends’ couches

and unashamedly eating in soup kitchens

I was a couple of years from a nervous breakdown

Wildness was slowly turning into rage

My eventual psychiatrist

who used to be a Navy shrink

Dr. Viener

I remember his name

He taught me more about writing than Russell Banks ever did

and loved me more than that girlfriend

Who never loved me at all

I have no idea why we were together

I guess we just wanted to have a non -romance and an angry break -up

I needed someone to hurt me so i could get on with my desired project of avoiding intimacy with women or anybody else

and she needed to get a brief of justification to get rolling on her useful lifelong habit of cutting people loose who were of no use to her ambitions …

Russell Banks just thought I was doing things wrong

and would never get them right

and he was correct in his assessment

he really wasn’t interested in me

he knew that I was in the wrong place …

the insight was mutual

and eventually I went away

Banks wrote stories about marginalized people suffering

but never connected — I don’t think — the suffering to creativity

The creativity belonged to him

Not the characters

Their pain was the raw material of Banks’ creative satisfaction

and to a properly lesser extent

the fodder for his recognition and awards

Banks saw pain

but he didn’t see its redemptive qualities

Just like the society that rewarded him

The limitation of Banks’ writing is that he never got outside of society

He chronicled suffering

He painted portraits of empathy

and left it at that

I think that — I really don’t remember

I just know for sure that what Banks was doing was not for me …

I see Banks type every word of the novel “Affliction”

I see the director story board every shot

I see the actors neatly prepare for their roles

and rehearse their scenes

Every moment of the film

every word

every image

every emotion

is chosen

Meticulous and precise

So much exertion to understand what happens

and then report

their immaculate findings

The affliction of the title is the wound of an adult man who was abused as a child

I admire this movie

in spite of its stiffness

It’s so focused

A masterpiece of attention

protecting itself from all strangeness and surprise

It’s important to study wounds

but I want answers

Maybe Russell Banks was trying to figure something out for himself with his writing

He had questions

I just follow along and wonder

I used to have these sweet Irish friends who sentimentalized sadness, loneliness, failure and death …

Banks fetishizes same

I think suffering is Banks’ gilded cage

He can’t afford to quit suffering

It’s how he made his name

And that old girlfriend has spent her life hanging pictures of dead things on the wall

and Dr. Viener

and the U. S, Navy

gave me answers.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/19/21: Hello, My Name is Doris (2015) — Seize the Day, You Old Introverted Bastards! #poetry

2/19/21: Hello, My Name is Doris (2015) — Seize the Day, You Old Introverted Bastards! #poetry

Are you old and introverted?

You can have fun and sex too

and whatever else you want

Free to be you and me muchachas

Go for it!

The director was in some sketch comedy group on MTV — ugh, oh no …

His parents were professors in the classics or something like that … that’s good …

He directed “The Big Sick” — oh that’s a good movie …

When I used to read a lot I would go to bookstores and walk up and down the aisles

and wait until a book vibrated and radiated light

and then I’d take it off of the shelf

and if a force field developed between the book and my face

I’d pull the book toward my eyes

and if it smelled good, I’d buy it

Then I took it home and read it …

I’d walk to the subway (if I was in New York), thinking about the book

I started reading as soon as I got into the subway car

and I wasn’t afraid to start one book while another one was in progress

I was in my late thirties and into my forties

That’s when I read a lot

I don’t read much now

Now is my time to write

I’ve digested enough written words

Now I excrete them

I guess I was what you would call “introverted”

But I didn’t feel introverted

I just felt like reading

It’s a waste time to worry about society’s issues

I never did

So they brought me up on charges

and I’d be forced to make my case(s)

Eventually I’d issue my ruling

and be on my way

Until another cabal of they came along

followed by the eventual trial

and disposition of the matter

They always have a problem with nothing

Why can’t a man in his thirties and forties always be reading a book

I wasn’t avoiding anything or anybody

I wasn’t intimidated or even afraid

or scared (afraid plus nervous)

I was spending time with interesting people

these writers

I was engaged in an earlier phase of my own life’s work as a writer

I was dead to the world and alive inside

I was doing something

It didn’t matter that the knuckle draggers didn’t (couldn’t) get it

An extrovert is someone who will do or say anything without inhibition

and not one word that they say, or action that they take, is of any use or interest …

The Texas power grid (and its stated rationales) is the handiwork of extroverts …

Real kisses are preceded by shy and awkward gestures

Real work is approached carefully

Gingerly

after great deliberation …

Extroversion is the idolatry of product

The misnamed introversion is the grace of process …

Extroverts go everywhere and are never anywhere

Misnamed introverts can sit alone in their room and be everywhere …

Like God …

Extroverts ask few questions and are very decisive

One bad decision after another

Misnamed introverts wonder about everything

and generally do the right thing

Extroverts are nihilists

They’d get angry to hear that

They’d like to think that they believe in many important things

but they actually think like cave men

Me eat

Me shit

Me cold

Me hot

Me fuck

Me get away from saber tooth tiger …

Misnamed introverts think essences are things to be observed

and that meanings are revealed

slowly and suddenly

Misnamed introverts see themselves and the world as beautiful mysteries …

Looking within is the path to the inner reaches of outer space and the outer reaches of inner space … you can’t actually see the outside without looking through the inside … misnamed introverts engage the world thoughtfully and tenderly; extroverts thoughtlessly bump into it, devoid of language, howling at shapes and colors, without manual dexterity — punching mindlessly or slapping with open palms

EXTROVERTS ARE THE ONES WHO ARE FEARFULLY SHUT OFF FROM THE WORLD, WHO ARE AT WAR WITH THE WORLD; MISNAMED INTROVERTS TOUCH THE WORLD, MAKE THE WORLD THEIR PARTNER AND CHANGE THEMSELVES AND THE WORLD SIMULTANEOUSLY … SOCIETY GETS IT ALL WRONG, LEADERS ARE OUTCASTS AND THE ID IS CHOSEN THE MAN OF EVERY YEAR … BUT NONE OF THAT MATTERS BECAUSE INDIVIDUALS REGARD EACH OTHER WITH SYMPATHY AND APPRECIATION AND CREATE ALL THAT REALLY MATTERS IN QUIET, ODD VENUES FAR FROM THE BEATEN PATH …

Oh yeah … this movie …

(I hope you know that the ideas in my writing aren’t from these movies … before the pandemic I used to go to movie theaters alone and meditate and think while the movie rolled on … I was writing, you know, notes in my head … I’d carry a pen or pad or a laptop and I’d write down my words as soon as the movie was over, or before if I couldn’t hold it anymore … I’m just doing this now … these aren’t reviews … I don’t want to insult most of you but this note is for those of you who don’t get that … I also hope I didn’t insult the readers who don’t get it … as a misnamed introvert I can report that you are all strange creatures … I have to spend a lot of time thinking to figure out what you are like at all, and even after all of that work I could very well be wrong, but at least it gives me a construct so I can deal with you … I feel like 90% of you are great, and that I have to be circumspect with the rest of you … and I don’t think that is an irrational fear … I don’t want anyone to fuck this up for me … this writing … this is my home and I want no invasions … thanks for understanding)

Doris in the movie starts overcoming the ageism and the conformist persecution of individuality

I had the opposite experience … I was free and the villagers came looking for Frankenstein

That happened in a lot of villages

But both Doris and I got to the same place

We grew deaf to the world’s mean foolishness

and clearly heard its omnipresent symphonies of love and good feeling

and harmonized

Joy and sympathy …

I have been called old off and on since I was thirty

I’ve never felt old for a minute.

Life is a new thing

until the very last minute.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/18/21: The Words — How to Succeed as a Bad Writer By Really, Really Trying (2012) #poetry

2/18/21: The Words — How to Succeed as a Bad Writer By Really, Really Trying (2012) #poetry

All you need to write is good enough health, good enough money, time, friends and people who love you

When I taught improvisational acting 1000 years ago I used to say, “Your audience will find you”

I had something different inside of me

Jeremy Irons plays a true artist of a writer in this airport novel of a multiplex romance marketed to women who find poetic types to be romantic

Bradley Cooper plays a sensitive young plagiarist

who is trapped by his desire to be a great writer and to be a huge commercial success

The movie seems to think that those two things co-exist

That what is great will always sell

Eventually

But one cheapens the other

Just like the occasional good acting and dialogue in this picture is pulled down by all of the shit

Marketing overwhelms art

Marketing is stronger than art

The way death overwhelms life

Life always ends

Death just keeps rolling along

Art is pure — it’s life

Business is dishonest — it’s corrupt intention

The plagiarist feels guilty

The artist struggles …

The life is the thing

The art is just the report

Of course the artist is obscure

even when everyone knows his name

The artist is obscure to himself

He writes what he doesn’t know

The mature writer is past so much bullshit

no longer a problem to himself

Come on,

To be famous

To be published

To be envied

To get rich

Mainly, mostly

to be recognized

to be seen as a successful person

in the eyes of others

To be what you desire to be

a great this or a great that

like him or like her …

Immortal in the public imagination

(until you are not, but hey it’s the sensation isn’t it … acclaim is a temporary thing … then its on to the next thing … people want to cheer and different teams play in the Super Bowl every year … old achievements go in history books and museums … in some instances fame becomes infamy … it’s all just perception, clear or cloudy …. Saviors become demons … heroes are exposed as frauds or even worse, merely human … mixed bags … we want myths … we want to believe in black and white … we want value to be an easy thing to grab onto … we want someone who went to the Promised Land ahead of us to show us the way, to show us its possible … we want to be saved … we want to be disappointed … we want to feel superior to that and who we have honored … we want the excitement of finding new people and things to admire, we call that progress … we want escape … we want an idyllic perfection … we want something more than food. clothing and shelter … we want the money, fame etc. but we want to tell ourselves that somehow it is more important and deeper than all that … we like to bullshit ourselves … we want soulfulness made material and in so doing we degrade the concept of “soul” … then the predictable happens, and we ignore it and keep churning along … on a hamster wheel of self -deception, ignoring reality and calling mass delusion “reality” …. over and over and over … old Best Picture winners turn into kitsch or trash … no one is exempt … not even the Founding Fathers … success is just a split second thing … wise or foolish respect for something worth a lot, a little or nothing — time and perspective will always tell if you go the other way … I decide the value of my life … no one else … I choose my words and deeds … no one else … the pursuit of success for its own sake seems to me to be a form of slavery … my point isn’t to be successful — it is to share who I am … to reach each and every person that I am meant to be with … )

Success had no value

that’s what I say

except …

that it brings resources to

connect the words to the people they are intended for

people that the writer can’t possibly know

as he writes on the outer edge of his existence

word by word inching into his unknown …

The real writer is too smart for any publisher or producer that he knows of when he is writing (writing is always a leap of faith … deeper, farther, farther, deeper … )

The real writer has no instinct for self-promotion

The real writer needs partners who handle the business aspects of his work

The real writer just writes

and has faith that his words will …

a writer talks seemingly to himself

with the faith that someone else is out there

who will appreciate them

who will need them

They always show up

in handfuls or by the thousands

I think the need for success for its own sake

automatically makes the work done to achieve that success

suck

and the person who is so driven to be a big deal

an asshole

That may seem simplistic, but in my experience

it’s always true

I think success

is an idea made up by salesmen

“The Art of the Deal”

blasphemes art

It calls manipulation creativity

It’s a big bullshit lie

I think a culture that worships success for its own sake

is no culture at all

Honesty, truth, knowledge

count with me

Power for its own sake

Not so much

But here is where it gets complicated

The world needs value to be recognized

the world doesn’t have to keep traveling in its sorry way

and some people who are really good

and their work which is really good

Get recognized

The question now is not

How do they do it?

The question is

How does it happen?

How does anything real happen?

You live your life in a true way

and you are open to what comes your way.

Success is a red herring

It’s pursuit deflects you from what you are meant to do

If you stick with who you are and what you do

it becomes something else and takes you places

Stick with who you are

Bradley Cooper’s character in this movie

is conflicted between success and art and personal ethics and integrity

It’s a phony conflict

It’s no contest

I don’t give a shit about making it

I just want to do it

all aspects of it

including sharing it.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/17/21: Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) — Things Change, What’s Next? #poetry

2/17/21: Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) — Things Change, What’s Next? #poetry

Francis Ford Coppola did a sequel to his pal George Lucas’ American Graffiti

From high school graduation to the high school reunion

and time travel

to the past

Peggy Sue Got Married ,

the past

Memory

even for the bitter

or confused,

is in Technicolor

with a Golden Oldie Soundtrack

written as a literary short story in the idiom of a sitcom

With a future All -Star cast

Coppola doesn’t have a directorial style

He creates a style to match his material

Coppola made The Godfather about an alien family blocked from full participation in the American Dream

That movie is darkly lit, tragic and operatic

Peggy Sue is about people who feel entitled to all this country has to offer and get disappointed

a serious story told in a light-hearted way

The Godfather is Italian – American

Peggy Sue Got Married is just American

The American myth that even us outsiders claim in some part of our soul

The pain of the Corleone family was that they were told not dream that dream

So they murdered and stole for the right

to be disappointed

The American Dream never works out for anyone

(it also always works out)

Because the dream is a young person’s dream

and we get old and die

The Chicago Tribune says that the Second City was sold recently for $50 million

To a video game manufacturer

Video games?

Second City has done shows on cruise ships in recent years

Cruise ships?

When I was an actor at Second City

in the 1980s

around the time of Peggy Sue Got Married

I thought I was part of the most influential theater of the 20th Century

A revolution in acting and writing

Bringing art to popular culture

It was thrilling

I thought my mentors were the greatest American artists of the 20th Century

and I was doing something brilliant and meaningful

None of it was true

except the dream

art was part of the chaotic mess that was Second City

Art, the minority owner who was eventually bought out

Commerce muddied every Second City palette

The shows weren’t that good

They were steps toward video games and cruise ships

not Eugene O’Neill

Second City was art in the beginning

And those founders who did the art were still around

But they were semi – retired

The real thing was in their workshops

time travel

not in the present performances

that were compromised by the crass audiences and agents and TV casting directors and advertising executives

who wanted sales technique on the stage where I pursued art

It was a ridiculous mistake on my part

a romantic, young, innocent deluded mistake

The right heart at the wrong place and time …

Oddly, I feel no regret

Life is lived through a strainer

the runoff and detritus disappear down the drain

The gold remains.

The Tribune article also mentions that the teachers in Second City’s Training Centers are going to unionize

The American Association of Comedy Instructors

A Union

for that shit

those awful classes

that have nothing to do with the workshops with the founding artists of my dreamy memory

those present day classes are playing party games on a cruise ship

Eugene O”Neill?

Are you kidding?

Charades and shuffle board is more like it.

The current Second City has nothing to do with me

strained and down my drain.

I drift away from my fellow Second City alumni who post photos on Facebook from decades -old shows that they were in at Second City

All that nostalgia

Unprocessed dreams?

Maybe

or maybe the other alums never had my dream

that’s closer to the truth, I reckon.

A mystery of life is our fate to spend at least some time with people with whom we don’t belong

We belong where we don’t belong

No one understands a country better than a foreigner.

The alumni hold onto one dream or another

or just don’t want to think about it at all

and attach their dream or indifference to the corpse of Second City

the alumni delude themselves

They tell themselves they are doing the Dream

or having an easy good time

while they play video games on a cruise ship

I guess it’s OK if all you want out of time is a pleasant day

A few want something more

but the others get in their way

Social clubs are fine

but they’re not for me.

I called myself an improvisor when I was at Second City and for years after

A large part of my identity was “improvisor”

Not any more

I now identify as “writer”

Change is an assembly of gears

the individual soul and the world mesh

People and things are never fully revealed

until their obituary is written.

Second City’s obituary is done

On the same day that part of my past is processed

Where does the dream go now?

What’s next?

Peggy Sue Got Married is about a woman who processes her past

The real person is revealed in youthful innocence

Outer frustration and regret brings her inner reality

to life

A PBS producer, a nice guy

told me somewhere in the 1980s that I was

“too sincere to be an actor”

That memory hurts at first and then is liberating

when I recall it in this context

Peggy Sue gives insight similar to that of the PBS producer to the other lead characters in her story

as she struggles to understand herself,

Just like writers do.

Peggy Sue is a story of a conscious mind coaxing the unconscious mind into the waking day

Our lives are dream interpretations

We “dream the future” as Peggy Sue says

She mines the past to retrieve what has value

Our lives have a constant

That never dies

What is real is our love

What is real is our aspiration

when things don’t work out

when our best efforts fall short

when we are betrayed

by ourselves

and others

when we got it all wrong

naively seeing greatness in something mediocre

the constant remains

We are the constant

the false steps and starts are just process

you are just working things out

It is the poetry in your heart that is your life story

not the whorehouses that you thought were Cinderella’s Ball

What’s next is what always was

you were right all along

Life is a process of learning how to make yourself congruent with the specific place in the world where you are meant to be

That’s home

and that’s

What’s Next.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/16/21: Howards End (1992) — An Object for My Personal Meditation (like all of the other movies) #poetry

2/16/21: Howards End (1992) — An Object for My Personal Meditation (like all of the other movies) #poetry

You know that all of these pieces about movies are really about me, don’t you?

You know that all of my writing that you read is really about you, don’t you?

We all see different things

intention seems like folly

I see things in Howards End that its creators probably took for granted

It represents so much of what I want

Hipsters might laugh at it and call it middlebrow

Young people might think it is terribly old-fashioned

to the point of inaccessibility

Those criticisms and reservations may even have merit

Surely they do

In a way

For some people

But they are not what I see

The first thing that I see is the audience which existed in 1992, and I think exists today (you’re reading this aren’t you?)

that doesn’t have to be flattered in any way

An audience that comes to hear the artists out

Before I started writing, I talked a lot

The talk charmed some people, and got on a lot more people’s nerves

But that is all an artist wants to do

He or she wants to share all of these thoughts and feelings he or she has inside of him

and he wants to say it in his or her particular way

He or she wants to breathe

to share their view of the world

The artist doesn’t want to manipulate your out of your money

He or she loves you, you know

He or she pays all sorts of attention to you

and wants the same

But he or she wants to be honest

wants to be real

not to make you agree

or defer to his or her ideas

or be showered with your admiration …

Not for anything vain as all of that …

We live in solitudes

We are all alone

That’s what I think

and we warm each other with words

Communicating who we are to one another

and recognizing ourselves in the mirror

We don’t have to save the world;

by living in the world

by participating

we make the world perfect

Artists just need someone to talk to

and so do audiences

We get to be consciously alive

we don’t have to work on the assembly line

or be put together on top of it

and sold in a showroom when we are done

Movies are popular art, and so is my writing

By popular I mean movies are accessible

There are no prerequisites

you just start watching them

Accessible

that word again

Howards End is accessible

but the audience has to work a little

A good audience listens actively

engages the piece

When the artists try to make something in a way that their audience finds interesting

They lose the soul of the piece

It either interests a person or it doesn’t

The artist doesn’t have to think about it

TV commercials grab your attention

but who really listens to them

Commercials share information

and stimulate desire

You can’t sell a soul

That’s why art traditionally has such a difficult relationship with money

Art can generate money

but the trick is to get it in front of the people who want to hear it

not to sell people who could care less

like serious movies that look like comedies in the Coming Attractions

and then piss off the suckers who get a challenging evening when they wanted a laugh

I don’t think Merchant Ivory planned a thing to sell an audience

But Merchant, the producer was a genius at finding the people who would love what they made

I love the collaboration

Merchant did the art business

Like an art gallery owner

not like a car dealer

Ivory directed the movies

Hired other great collaborators

Great writer

Great actors

Great composers

Great cinematographer

Great art direction

Great everything

All of the perfect parts

a collection of masters

Exquisitely rendering their separate and distinct tasks

Singing their soulful arias of their visions of the world

all harmonized by Ivory

and sustained in all of their material needs

by Merchant

Even their names are perfect

Merchant is a classy word for buying and selling

Nothing corrupt about it at all

And what is more pure

than Ivory

Art has to be sincere

Art has to be authentic

It doesn’t try to be pure

It just is

or its not art

and God knows not to be superior in any way

Just to be

to be what it is

The world needs the unadulterated soul expressed

The Soul is here

It can’t be ignored …

The soul dies

People die from being ignored too

We need the truth

It’s not optional

We have to know the way that we are

Masses of people live being pushed to and fro

Never understanding the forces that determine their lives

Never aware that such forces even exist

We need to engage the mystery from which we come, live in and go back to …

Art doesn’t transform us

we transform naturally

It is our consciousness that transforms

The more we know ourselves

and our predestined roles

The more we serve the world

The world is an artist

and we are its paints

All subtly different colors on an infinite spectrum

Mixing and contrasting with one another

Once we understand that

we stop wasting our time

Howards End takes it’s time

No anachronistic music on the soundtrack

No scenes of the Napoleonic Wars scored with covers of Bill Withers tunes

Maybe the director guides us past visual art and symphonic music with the reverence and civility of a museum docent

But I like that

I like civilization

I like reverence

I like creator and audience respectfully encountering strangeness together

The strangeness of a bygone historical period

The strangeness of art

We are given an opportunity to access

but we have to take it

Howards End was marketed like every movie has to be

But in an expert way

The movie itself isn’t marketing

The story comes from the soul of a great writer

Not survey cards from test audiences

I used to love the Merchant Ivory movies

I never saw this one before

but I got to see several of them at the Paris Theater in New York

Off of Fifth Avenue near the Plaza Hotel

A neighborhood of great aspiration

at least it was in those days

A confident pursuit of beauty and power

A great neighborhood for Merchant

and Ivory

I had a romantic view of New York City in those days

It never really existed

this dream of wonderful art and responsible wealth and power

I saw the actor James Spader waiting for the light to change near the Paris Theater once in the eighties

Just at about the time that he decided to go exclusively for the money

and he looked like it — like his art was just his path to the auto showroom

kind of smug and selfish and a little mean

He wasn’t paying attention to the city at all

or the people in it

He was focused on something else

all Merchant and no Ivory

and my dream of New York City ended

for the City

but not for me

and I still think it’s possible

As a matter of fact I think it si the time for my dream to be real

I think people are desperate for it

And I live in a kind of anticipation

a hopeful feeling buoyed by something greater than reason

The soul and the world turn toward each other

and when they are both ready

They embrace …

One time Francis Ford Coppola was waiting in line outside of the Paris and in front of me

The Godfather and his other movies seem like they emerge from a frightening chaos

Frustration is followed by an explosion

and the result is a surprise

a relief

a miracle.

Coppola is a daredevil on the edge

of art or disgrace

fortune or ruin

Masterpiece or disaster …

I love Francis Ford Coppola movies

Like Orson Welles he is a fat indulgent genius

Genius is fat and indulgent

It isn’t moderate

It takes discipline

but it is a discipline of another kind

A discipline that requires obedience to all of genius’ unreasonable demands

all of its excesses

Genius

fashions a generous world

a world of operatic feeling

a free and thrilling place …

A place beyond all fearful and arbitrary boundaries

Welles and Coppola, fat martyrs who sacrifice themselves to assert the world’s glory

The glory that most people are too timid to see

let alone acknowledge

Merchant Ivory appeals to something else in me

I like their films’ civility

Their order

Their social structures

however imperfect

and at times the social structures are monstrously cruel

The characters are tragic

and I find the whole thing reassuring

hahahahahaha

at least they have a structure for their suffering

The characters belong to civilizations

most often Great Britain, but France, America and India too

that tried to make something out of nature

Nations as

Grand epic works of art

Culture is where the soul meets the material world

Merchant Ivory films are so cultured

Not missing the dark bits

or the light

The struggle to make something of this damn thing

this world

this life

come to think of it

the same glory and failure of Welles and Coppola

of us all

told in such a controlled way

How beautiful and wonderful and sad

The Remains of the Day is one of my favorite movies ever, and it is so beautiful and wonderful and sad

The characters’ sadness in The Remains of the Day is a much more preferable state than the deranged feeling of the last episode of the recent hit TV series, The Queen’s Gambit

a show that had all of Coppola’s tormented fury

and Welles’ desperate innovation

and all of Merchant Ivory’s precise and ordered artistry

in all elements of its film making

for the first five installments

and then ends

THUD

with the pulse pounding triumph of The Karate Kid

with what people who aren’t thinking

think is a happy ending

The Queen’s Gambit gives up

Coppola and Merchant Ivory never quit …

This poem is a message in a bottle

a piece of yearning and fulfillment

notes on a blueprint

all the art that we can make out of the natural world

What’s more real

The concrete of the Paris Theater and the Plaza Hotel

or the grand dream their creators wanted it to be?

Our true dreams have nothing to do with desire

Our souls are seeded

with the future of the world.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/14/21: Cracked Up — the Darrell Hammond Story, The World is a Trauma Center #poetry

2/14/21: Cracked Up — the Darrell Hammond Story, The World is a Trauma Center #poetry

When I heard that John Mullaney was taking a job on the writing staff of the Seth Meyers TV show, I wondered why

Mullaney started as an SNL writer, but had moved on to an independent career as a stand-up, actor and writer with a distinctive personal style

Why write for someone else?

Then I saw that Darrell Hammond was a victim of childhood trauma and I got it

Oh that’s why Darrell Hammond is the studio announcer for SNL after many years of starring on the show

Mullaney checked into a rehab center shortly after the Seth Meyers job was announced

and that is the first lesson of life in the worldwide trauma center

Kindness

Lorne Michaels, the producer of SNL had seen too may premature deaths on his show

John Belushi, Chris Farley, Phil Hartman … there must be others — meteors fragmenting on the way to earth

Michaels decided that there was two things that he could give “his” people when they were in trouble:

Work,

and a kind of protective support —

Good doctors

Money and other resources

and time

Time, we all need time … we the people of trauma, need time to process what has happened TO us

So those are the first two lessons of life in the worldwide trauma center

Kindness and time.

Darrell Hammond’s experience is the world’s experience

The documentary about Darrell Hammond provides answers for the world

Atoms look like solar systems

Lesson 3 — forgiveness

People get abused and fucked up

Darrell Hammond’s mother cut his tongue with a steak knife when he was a little kid

He remembered the blood all over the kitchen floor

And then she kept it up

fingers jammed in electrical outlets

Cold and distant stares …

Consistent abuse

An unnatural relationship

an absence of maternal love

Hammond dreamed about a little girl

a little girl who unnaturally had the eyes of his mother

a little girl being abused

and when Hammond woke up

after several years,

he forgave his mother

He saw that she had suffered in the very same way that she made him suffer

and

after several years,

Hammond forgave himself

he didn’t suffer from mental illness

he suffered from “mental injury”

Trauma

So all of his anger and inability to maintain intimate relationships

his drinking and drugs

and his habit of cutting himself

all of his self- destructiveness

is forgiven

Hammond is not ashamed of himself

Our personal problems are nothing to be ashamed of

we all do the best we can …

even the most feckless

and the worst of us …

competence and morality are the tools with which we repair the world

and that repair job is a collective project …

evil is something outside of us …

people aren’t evil …

people get captured in evil’s sway

and have to be rescued

we are all called to save the world …

Darrell Hammond has a kind of sad, detachment now

and a paradoxical twinkle and joy

What an unlikely heir to Francis of Assisi

A nightclub impressionist

from a lower middle class neighborhood in Florida

We can only love the world to the extent that we understand the world

and none of us understand that much

but Darrell Hammond has done a nice job

He is sad about what he has lost

but he doesn’t blame himself

He doesn’t blame

Period.

Lesson 4 — therapy

If you are injured, you have to rehabilitate yourself, and you can’t do it alone —- as in all things, there are people who know more about how to deal with the health concerns of trauma, mental and physical, than other people — and you have to be open to their help

Lesson 5 — storytelling, we the people of trauma, the human race have to tell our stories

Our secrets have to be released

We are in a conspiracy with our abusers against ourselves

Covering up their crimes

until we break away

It’s a brave thing to do

and it hurts

but the clearer we get about what happened

the better we feel

To heal the wound, you must address the wound

and treat it tenderly

The truth really does set you free

Our stories save us and save others like us

free us from our pain

That’s why we tell them and listen to them

Good stories are

miracles

and miracles are commonplace

They are told every day

Lesson 6 — art

Some people make art

Some people consume art

Ultimately the experience is the same

The transformations for the artist and audience

are identical

Art goes beyond therapy

Therapy heals us

tends to our wounds

Art transcends the necessary psychological and biological

and addresses the existential

First I was happy

Then I was injured

Then I got angry

Then I failed for years

Alienated from the world

Then I went to work

I met some good people along the way

Then I stopped being ashamed

I understood that something happened to me

and that I hadn’t done anything wrong

Then I started telling my story

and elevated it beyond therapy

though I appreciated all who cared for me when I wasn’t fully capable

The story spoke honestly about who had injured me

and what had injured me

and my journalling became art when I realized that what happened and happens to me happens to the world

To everybody

Darrell Hammond is a perfect storm

Abused more horribly than most

Blessed with a talent that allows him to powerfully communicate

Positioned in a privilege world where he was allowed elite level care

Good doctors, good jobs, good friends

But those superlative conditions are beside the point

We all are called to do what Darrell Hammond did

Be born in inoocence

Bleed

Suffer

Figure it out

Tell our stories

Forgive

Ourselves

and our abusers

and save each others lives.

You have to go through it

There are no quick answers

Only the people in the greatest pain

like Darrell Hammond

like me

like you?

Finish the job

If we don’t process our pain

we are self-destructive

and hurt other people

forever

we have to break the cycle

How can we not be compassionate?

Everyone is living on a ring of hell

victims of trauma attack new victims of trauma

The best are the drunks, the sad sacks, the failures

the ones who cut themselves

as opposed to the bullies

I don’t know what brings a bully redemption

oh yeah, I do

they have to be brought low

for their own good

Brought low by our true stories

and forgiven.

I wrote a piece awhile ago about feeling sorry for Donald Trump

The piece disappointed several of my readers

but it was a good impulse

The samurai defends himself without anger

I hated Trump when I started writing the Rick Blog

I hated him because he personifies the personal qualities of many of the abusers in my personal life

Fascist business people

Persecutors of my peculiar poetic type

I have pages and pages and pages about how they are

But the world has turned in my direction

at the same pace that my soul has turned in the right direction

The world is not putting up with my oppressors’ shit anymore

and demanding something new

The trauma has ended and the treatment has begun

and ultimately

after precautions are taken to be sure that they can’t hurt us anymore

and the truth is fully told

and they are held accountable

we have to understand what happened

to them

We have to have Darrell Hammond’s dream

see the fascist bullies as little girls with Hammond’s mother’s eyes

and forgive them

and ourselves, again

Then we can just see that bad things happened to us

because bad things happen

Instead of wishing revenge on our enemies

Payback

No

Instead we can simply solve problems

and get on with our lives

Last lesson from this movie

The need for good partners

Creative collaborators

Darrell Hammond took his pain

and with the help of doctors and friends got better

still maimed — that never goes away

but better

and then with the help of a good editor made a book

and with the help of a good director and other theater artists made a stage show

and with the help of a good documentarian and her crew made a movie

and in concert with all of these friends and co-workers

and audiences

and with an understanding of past hells that he doesn’t have to live in

Created a life

I think America and the world is doing the same thing

America and the world are getting better

not from optimism

or escape

but by simply

simply

dealing

with the

complexities

of our collective trauma.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas


2/12/21: Horrible Bosses (and Pathetic Peons) 2021 — Fascist Republican Edition #poetry

2/12/21: Horrible Bosses 2021 — Fascist Republican Edition #poetry

A delightful new comedy is being simulcast on all the channels

The Second Impeachment Trial of Donald J. Trump

I can’t stop smiling

A dedicated reader asks the Rick Blog if there is some sort of training school for autocrats

What is she wondering?

Dictator Master Class?

Continuing Tyrant Education?

Do despots use Zoom to share stories and compare notes?

Dear Oppressed in Tennessee,

Authoritarians are born not made

What happens on the national level is no different than what we experience in our own lives

in all aspects except degree and scope

Macro mirrors micro

Totalitarians are like every bad boss you’ve ever known

and let’s face it,

all bosses suck

What a ridiculous idea

“I’m in charge!”

Oh, blow it out your ass

Authoritarians are born not made

and peons are too

All men are not created equal

All men are created with a predilection to be masters and slaves

or be free

All men are born with the right to be equal

but free will is involved

You have to choose equality

You have to decide to assert your equality

and then act upon your decision.

Dearest Oppressed …

All bosses are assholes

All peons are saps

Everyone fares better in an atmosphere of equality

I am watching an impeachment comedy

Before, when I was not free

the show would have been a drama

But bosses become ridiculous figures

when you don’t participate in the boss dynamic

All Emperors have no clothes

The guy who has the money

the gun

the title

the fame

the enthusiasm of the group

or the mob

that guy

the would be boss

has no power over me

or you

or potentially you

because I hold a truth to be self-evident

and you might too

or you might potentially hold that truth

that all men are created equal

and endowed with inalienable rights

including

life

liberty

and the pursuit of happiness

So, Oppressed in Tennessee

the negation of self-evident truth is how a boss certifies himself, and is the foundation of the peon’s subservience

and the assertion of self-evident truth is how a free person disqualifies the boss from maintaining power …

Now let’s turn our attention to what skill set the tyrant engages in

He need not take any courses

What the boss does is so basic, so primal, so fundamental to the human animal

that he doesn’t have to rehearse actions or matriculate to a certain facility in fascistic adroitness

So what does the ambitious tyrant do? What are the keys to his success?

MENDACITY

Well, I’ve never had a boss who wasn’t a liar. Have you? I didn’t think so.

They make big promises

the peon relies on the promises

and has his or her heart broken.

THE CULTIVATION OF SYCOPHANCY

The boss always requires underlings to genuflect before him

or engage in some other ritual that reassures him that he is in total control

He demands flattery.

GREET ANY CRITICISM IN ANY MATTER, PARTICULARLY MATTERS INVOLVING MORALITY, ETHICS AND LEGALITY WITH RAGE

If the boss’ lack of morality is ever challenged

in an innocent remark

or by justifiable confrontation

(and the boss’ lack of morality always should be challenged

there is no enterprise controlled by a boss that is ever righteous)

If the boss is called out

he responds with a temper tantrum

every time.

MANIPULATE PEONS WITH FLATTERY

The boss flatters people to get them to do his bidding

He creates an atmosphere where his seal of approval is the world’s greatest treasure

and the peons do all manner of horrible and unsavory things

and violently compete with one another

to win the boss’ elusive rewards.

HUMILIATE UNWILLING OR UNABLE PEONS AS A MEANS OF MOTIVATING OTHERS IN THE GROUP

Enough said. The flip side of flattery.

FOCUS ON AMASSING POWER AND IGNORE DEVELOPING COMPETENT FACILITY IN DEALING WITH THE SUBSTANCE OF WHATEVER ACTIVITY THE BOSS AND PEONS ARE ENGAGED IN …

Bosses are paradoxically as stupid as peons.

The choice to be a boss

and the choice to be a peon

are ignorant choices.

Bosses are good at taking control of fields of action

They are terrible at doing the actions required by the fields

Dictators are as incompetent as they are indecent.

Peons are lemmings racing to their demise

Following the incoherent directives of the boss

Ironically clinging to the boss for personal security

as he leads them to their unhappy ends.

So, dear old Oppressed in Tennessee,

we have one last chapter to consider in our anatomy of bosses

THE RICK BLOG CHAKRAS OF BOSSES AND PEONS (AND THE FREE)

These chakras are the source of all actions of bosses and peons

not faith, not belief, not theory or ideology, not reason

rather

biology

Boss and peon are animal urges

impulses from the earliest stages of our evolution as a species …

THE GENITAL CHAKRA

Bosses are motivated by, and motivate peons

by the sensations of their private parts

they call their advertising, motivational speaking and other forms of pornography “Communications” “Connecting” and “Creativity”

when actually those activities are dry humping and cock teasing

leading people by the balls and the bushes

promising cum

achieving it only occasionally to keep people engaged

Sensation

feeling big large huge satisfied

Life as a constant hunt for orgasm

Thank you boss …

sensation to sensation to sensation, life reduced to only the plane of physical feeling — erections, anger, hard laughter, the swell of physical dominance in one’s chest, the air of superiority … nothing matters except how it makes you “feel” feeling not even elevated to the level of emotion … simply physical feeling … the will to power over others is as basic an urge as ejaculation or defecation … no different than a fox terrier strutting with a dead mouse in her mouth that she caught in the basement … engaging in a prancing parade furnished not by training, but engrained in her by instinct …

man and woman are potentially more than nature, keep that in mind as we move forward …

Next comes

THE STOMACH CHAKRA

the source of most fear and satisfaction …

Better put food on the table

You don’t want to starve to death

You will kill for food

Hoard food

See food as a limited resource

The desperate chaotic scrum to survive

the Boss is the Great White Hunter

He will favor you and give you sustenance

in return for your fealty

(Of course, he always welches on the deal — he’ll renege on your pension and reduce your wages — if you want physical security, you better get it yourself or from someone who loves you, because the boss is a vampire, a leech that will suck you dry — look at the shambles that his loyal leeches are living in —- hanging by their fingernails on the edge of the world)

The next chakras are not accessed by bosses and peons, only by those who transcend or want to transcend their merely animal natures, those who listen to mysterious inner and outer voices that whisper to them “there is something more …”

THE HEART CHAKRA

The boss and peon don’t love. They only know lust, fear, hate and greed. If you access the heart chakra, you have moved beyond the boss/peon dynamic. Now the Impeachment is

Comedy.

Those who love are gods on Mount Olympus peering down on the caprices of fools. Lovers are ready to lean down from the edge of the clouds and help bosses and peons up to the heights, but they can’t do it for them. Bosses and peons have to discover the love that course in them as part of their body chemistries. At that moment of discovery, the bosses and peons cease being bosses and peons, and begin the process of becoming human beings.

THE MIND CHAKRA

Once you have a heart, you care. Once you care, you wonder. You want to know about who and what you love, and figure out how to go about loving them. This leads to critical thinking and creativity. Bosses and peons are masters and slaves. People of the mind and heart are masters that make masterpieces.

Finally,

THE SOUL CHAKRA

The last chakra exists over one’s head

beyond even the heart and mind

the soul is the place where the individual realizes that he is simultaneously a specific entity

and also part of the All

He or she participates in the Power of Creation

and has no need to believe in an illusory power that only belongs to oneself

or one’s boss

It’s not that the individual doesn’t play his part

and she is the crucible of her words and actions

but her consciousness of participation in the universe

and her consciousness of her existence reflecting the unity of the universe

are just matters of her perception

The reality is ultimately a mystery

The Blessed Quintuple

The Father

The Son

The Holy Spirit

The Virgin Mary

and Mary Magdalene …

the Crucifixion

Adam and Eve

Easter Sunday

Pentecost

the Ten Commandments

the Declaration of Independence

the Constituition

the Civil Rights Movement

Lincoln

FDR ….

international readers and those not educated in Catholic schools and churches fill in your own scriptures and histories

I am an American who was educated in Roman Catholic schools and churches

No one ever encouraged me to be a boss

No one told me that I was just a peon

The heroes of our democracies

and the sincere lives of the saints

reached down to me from the clouds

answering my eager stretch toward them

and they pulled me up

they pulled

and I balanced my feet on the clouds

the clouds had all of these levels

and I still climb into the eternal and limitless sky …

and what do I find?

Equality

Decency

Existential Certitude in the Creative Intelligence of the Universe

Democracy

Justice

Love

Excellence in mind and heart

These are ideas

that turn into concrete truths

NOTHING ABOUT BOSSES AND PEONS

what a joke!

Faith becomes experience over time

what you thought you just believed

becomes what you know

Faith proves itself to you

Bosses and peons used to upset me?

Ridiculous …

This shit is funny!

Note — Oppressed in Tennessee is a fiction. I made her up. I know nothing about chakras. I used my uninformed image of chakras to set up a structure to lay out what I wanted to say. I made up my chakras. If you want yoga, consult a yogi. The inception of this piece was my wonder at my light hearted response to watching the impeachment hearings. I’ve changed, and the change has been percolating and brewing long before the First Trump Impeachment, but now my transformed self reacted with a grace and cheerfulness, that I haven’t noticed as clearly before. This is poem about a peaceful moment …. an old enlightenment that has matured in my soul chakra revealed itself in my mind chakra, and voila! Hah!

The world cannot interrupt my peace with its folly. Can the reverse also be true?

As Trump says, “We’ll see what happens.”

Hahahaahahahaahaahahaahaahahahahaahahahahahahaha!

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/8/21: I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020) — Portrait of the Blocked Artist as an Old Man #poetry

2/8/21: I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020) — Portrait of the Blocked Artist as an Old Man #poetry

Charlie Kaufman is a surrealist of the subjective point of view

The setting of his films is the unsettled psyche

An individual’s mind in Cinemascope

A mind projected on a screen

or digitalized

and streamed

Streaming of consciousness

Epic views of microscopic events

Thoughts and feelings made cinematic

ripples in a person’s conscious and unconscious and subconscious and pre-conscious seas

All of the layers of human existence are fair game

our perceptions, our realities, our empathy. our lack thereof, our wounds, our blindness, our emotions

and what lies beneath them

“Inside Out” (Disney/Pixar) on steroids and for adults

Kaufman made an animated cartoon about a psychological disorder being penetrated by love

Cupid’s arrow lances a psychic boil

or at least the process begins

in “Anomalisa”

“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is live action

“live action” seems a funny way to describe Kaufman’s films

To be or not to be

Is that really the question?

It is for Kaufman’s characters

For us all?

Too?

Kaufman’s movies are told in a peculiar and challenging way

a distinctive voice

but the movies are easier to follow once you know who you are dealing with …

Isolated intellectual janitors are big on Netflix this season

The chess master mentor custodian of “The Queen’s Gambit”

and

the high school maintenance man

who is the host of the archetypes

animus, anima, mother, father,

and the arts, poseurs, ideas and pontifications:

Pauline Kael, John Cassavetes, the canon of the American musical theater, David Foster Wallace, Ron Howard, Dairy Queen and some writers and visual artists that I never heard of …

in “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”

The conceit of this hypnotic movie

where set pieces are connected by long drives through a snowstorm

of near zero visibility —fogged windows and blizzard conditions, presented with an air of resignation,

an acceptance of mortality,

a shoulder shrug at the notion that disappointment is the primary emotion attending the human condition,

the conceit of this hypnotic movie,

is that every character and every allusion to anything

exists only in the mind of a sad, alienated, lonely, elderly man

speeches taken from film criticism, screenplays of famous commercial films, books of poetry etc.

and the memories of a person who rarely or perhaps never did a thing that he wanted to do

never kissed a girl

or sang a song

or wrote a poem

or did anything more than the requirements of bare survival

cleaning other people’s toilets

invisible to others except when he was the object of their ridicule

a man

weighed down by regret

locked in his adolescent bedroom

is it fear or inertia?

who condemns himself as a failure

a life of consuming books and paintings and DVDs

and remembering every human interaction that never happened beyond his imagination

remembering every rejection that he survived

how fast he was discounted and dismissed

he didn’t have to say a word

he looked at people and he heard the words form in their minds

“Go away!”

Humiliated by his strangeness

Staring across diners at pretty, young waitresses

Averting his gaze when they look back at him

Feeling like a sex offender

Having once imagined an ideal female partner

but now too old to even keep the thread of his own imagination

exiled for so long from his own masturbatory desire

he can’t even recall what it was

that he liked in a woman

trying to imagine warmth and connection

grimacing in a constipated way …

He listened and watched so many writers and actors and singers and dancers

and now as an old man he has no opinion about their work

He is just an old man happy to listen to anybody

He recalls their creations

and is grateful for the illusion of company

He’s not there

and they aren’t either

He can’t be provoked anymore

He can’t even connect to an image in his mind

The spectres in his mind come and go

The center doesn’t hold

but something is there

one thing is left

the pain is there

the dead don’t feel pain

His soul is pain

that’s all …

No wonder he is

thinking of ending things.

I knew a man in Rochester …

I was friendly with him

We met at the bagel place in the strip mall

He wore a jacket that was a little too short

and a tweed cap

He was nice and sad

He told me about a young woman

who worked at the Worldwide News

behind the cash register

He said that she was so pretty

She could have had a job as a receptionist at one of the big law firms downtown

He didn’t have intellectual interests like the protagonist in “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”

but he had his avoidances

the stock market

the sports page

the news

movies

He told me that he wanted to be a pilot when he was young

He told me about old time record stores

where you went in a booth and listened to a side before you decided if you wanted to buy something

An old lady walked by and said, “he never did anything like that”

I suspected that she was right

He was a watcher

He heard about those stores

Always wanted to go to one

Never did

I don’t think he ever broke apart like Charlie Kaufman’s victim

The old man in Rochester wasn’t an artist

Kaufman’s guy was

What is more pitiable than an artist who has never acted on his or her impulse

who betrays his own essence

or worse never understands her essence

not oppressed like closeted gay people in the old days

who were shamed by the general culture

the blocked artist is the victim of an existential malaise

something beyond social or psychological oppression

a mysterious illness

deserving of great sympathy and largely misunderstood or ignored

Rochester man was just an ordinary introverted guy

who felt life passed him by

and the feeling became a self-fulfilling prophecy

“Don’t let your mother ruin your life” he told me

He didn’t know my mother

“Find a nice girl and make some money”

The lonely Rochester man was a simple man and he had simple answers

answers that he could keep track of

He just couldn’t reach his promised land

I don’t know why — his malady is as sad as that of the failed artist

If an unhappy person reaches old age

even he or she knows that there is no one to blame for their life of regret

except themselves

and that is just not fair

Some babies go to Limbo

and some old people go to Purgatory

through no fault of their own

Eleanor Rigby and Father MacKenzie

where do they all belong

Nighthawks

A Carmelite monk in a bare apartment drinking himself to sleep

Lives apart

Nature has miscarriages

Children die of cancer

some beings never come to term

Rochester man must have passed away by now

I’m sure he died alone

having connected with one or two of his final healthcare workers

in a way that approximated friendship

The Rochester man was the epitome of Thoreau’s famous “most men”

who live “lives of quiet desperation”

He was only a cousin to Charlie Kaufman’s blocked artist

who knew how to love women and write and paint and sing and form intellectual treatises

but never did

but both suffered

because …

everything doesn’t come to term

and that that doesn’t fully grow deserves our sympathy

Charlie Kaufman wrote a screenplay about suicide

I wrote a poem about compassion for those who never get to enjoy the parts of life that we love

and an admiration for their heroism

The woman with down’s syndrome rides her bike to her job at McDonald’s

and has a social life and a career

The people who can’t access their desires and attractions and their essential natures

still have their imaginations and interests and glancing connections in rehab centers and coffee shops

and maybe that is something to celebrate too

Do people live lives of quiet desperation or live all of the life that they can handle?

I think it is the latter

The suicidal impulse is in the imagination of the screenwriter, not the heart of the janitor

Somewhere an old person about to die

turns her face to the sunlight coming through her hospital window

and is grateful

and somewhere a disappointed person who knows that their dreams never came true

gets up in the morning and has coffee and a bagel

Books need edgy chapters but the good ones end somewhere else.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas