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#334: Buckley, travel logs, fake plastic stumps & Rome revisited reading Pirandello

Dear Internet,

Back on our janky laptop. Will be travelling a lot these next 2 months so probly won't bother to synch back to the mothership until 2014 or so ...

Speaking of travel notes (in a sense what this often is), made the cover for Stanley Crawford's Travel Notes, which we are in the process of resurrecting ... wasn't much to do besides scan the original 1966 cover (by Lawrence Ratzkin) & add the frayed rough-cut edges to make it seem like a book on the cover of a book ... albeit spineless.

Travel Notes by Stanley Crawford

"new" cover for Travel Notes by Stanley Crawford (forthcoming 2014)

As we write this Crawford is up in Mass. He is coming down to NYC after but by the time he gets here we unfortunately will be gone.

Travelling to visit places is easy, visiting people on the other hand ... it seems increasingly difficult to coordinate schedules, to make two flight paths intersect in space & time. Used to be a time we all just hung out & dropped in on one another unannounced. It seems the cell phone is corrupting the instinct to fly casual. Now you have to make plans, coordinate with air traffic control.

The last time we saw our brother, he showed up on our doorstep in Tucson unannounced. We were there but had to leave early the next morning for Mexico, along the border (where we were working a geological gig). J got to see him for a few days but by the time we got back he was gone. And then a week later he was dead. In retrospect we should've known this meant he was coming to say goodbye, perhaps we should've quit our job & stayed with him ... but we didn't & everything is what it is.

Obviously this is on our mind because this is what we've been working on all week (his "SSES' "SSES' 'SSEY") ... transcribing his journals & writings. We digitized some slides of his art but they are on our other mothership computer, but here's a piece that already exists online in your Internetted portfolio ...

Travel Notes by Stanley Crawford

untitled sometime in the mid-80s

... back from the days when he actually painted, before an apartment fire burned all his art & everything he owned except his underwear & cowboy boots & he then turned to conceptual art ... objects. If he had journals or writings from before this fire they were lost (the above is a photo of a painting (on a door, which was his shtick in this period) which burned, so only the photo, that someone else took or had, remains). All we really have to go off is journals & writing from 1989-1997.

On the homefront, the pair of peregrines are back, hovering outside our window searching for prey. After a summer-long absence. Must be a seasonal thing. The leaves continue to change, perhaps almost completely changed.

A few nights ago saw that movie about Jeff Buckley, focused on the time period around when he was asked to perform at the tribute concert for this father. It's an interesting story for sure & hard to criticize the dramatized execution ... I mean, how do you play the complex & conflicted character of Jeff Buckley? The dude was so fucking awkward & far from eloquent, how do you pull that off? Guess the guy did an okay job, he was more likely hired for his pipes & looks.

We've always had this fascination with Jeff Buckley ... maybe because we can relate. Maybe he reminds us of ourself, or our brother. We don't remember ever talking about Jeff Buckley with our brother ... surely he was on his radar as our brother was obsessed with Elizabeth Fraser & we remember Tim Buckley coming up in conversation because This Mortal Coil (& Elizabeth Fraser) covered a few of his songs & we were like who is this guy?

... not that we can relate to the bit about having a famous father & having to live up to such expectations (our father sold small airplane insurance) ... but we can relate to the abandonment. Our parents split up before we were born, though it was our mother who abandoned us for south of the border (some S.O.B.!). We lived with our father (after a few rounds of kidnapping back & forth across this border), but you could say he had long since abandoned us emotionally. He'd abandoned even himself. In our self anyway, we see the Buckley-like traits (the flighty awkwardness, saying silly inappropriate things (whilst brooding up inside), the conflicted juxtaposition of taking yourself too seriously in your noncommittal to take anything seriously). Our brother was not lacking in social graces, but he was plagued more by this drive to «find our father» knowing full well it was an exercise in vain futility.

«Don't be like the one who made me so old
Don't be like the one who left behind his name
'Cause they're waiting for you like I waited for mine
And nobody ever came...»

Jeff Buckley was born 5 days before we were & he died less than 2 months after our brother, in similar circumstances ... not necessarily suicide, but ambiguous suicidal behavior. Both Buckley & our brother's deaths may have been accidental, but their behavior wasn't. Why was Buckley swimming with his clothes on? Why did he use heroin knowing it killed his father?

In the end it was our brother who turned out like Buckley, in his bootstrapping searching for what our father was searching for (though in the case of our father, the drug of choice was alcohol (& some valium) probably because it was legal & acceptable by society's standards). And now we are searching for our brother searching for our father ...

In the end it is not just this searching that kills us, but the drive to please others, this idea of success, in the eyes of others. But we are just 1 in 7,000,000,000 that feel the way we do. But not everyone says anything because they can't write, or play guitar, or at least they don't think they can. But anyone can play guitar. «And if London burns I'll be standing on the beach with my guitar. I wanna be in a band when I get to heaven.»

Humans are fucked for the most part. There's just too much too humanly process, humanely. The other day we revisited Close Encounters of the Third Kind & we were also reading somewhere about how there's 20 billions planets out there like our own, harboring similar conditions for life or whatever & they (the other 6,999,999,998 idiots) are asking, why aren't they sending messages into space?

Why? Because this compulsion to communicate into the unknown is the albatross we wear. Of the billions of species on our own planet, we are the only ones who feel so inclined, that harbor such vanity. And we are all fucking miserable because of it. We would rather be a goat eating shrubs on the side of a cliff. You might think they're crazy but they don't ... & they don't give a shit either what you think.

We're rambling now, through a trail into a forest we don't know where it goes. Up a cliff to lick salt. You have to wonder if most of the time it's the audience that is fucked. Watching, waiting for the goat to fall.

But nobody wants to admit it. Everyone is sedated, brainwashed. The problem with making art or writing under the influence is that the next day you have to wake up & read what you've done. Writers & readers need to be in the same state of mind & it goes both ways. Ever been to a Dead show not on acid? We have. Erasing things is too easy these days. Used to be you had to burn something, now a simple keystroke suffices. Ditto publishing. This sort of access is not healthy.

Supposedly Radiohead was having problems figuring out Fake Plastic Trees & they took a break to catch a Jeff Buckley gig & when they got back to the studio Thom Yorke nailed it. But y'all Internet knew this all ready. This is the problematic beauty of it, that we are all part of the same conversation all talking at once. As we were saying, is this sort of access healthy?

«It wears me out. It wears me out.»

Saw a sad news story yesterday about a sister who hung herself from the same tree as her brother. But that's not the sad part, the sad part is that the surviving family decided to cut down the tree ... as if it was the tree's fault! Now they have a stump to remember their offspring by instead of a perfectly good tree that must've been chosen for some reason.

Besides "SSES' "SSES' 'SSEY" & the cover for Travel Notes, did another round of edits for Brandon Hobson's book this week, which also deals with substance abuse & the depressing search for siblings & parental beings. It's getting close ...

Input-wise, we read Asunder by Lopez & Dream Of The Wolf by Scott Bradfield  ... both are fine writers (apparently, we've published both), but we've been in a sort of funk lately with short story collections ... or story telling in general. Short stories often feel like exercises to us, not the real thing, a way to showcase a writer's talents. Like painting a bowl of fruit or a landscape. They're okay here & there in magazines, but we expect more from books, beyond just painting pretty pictures to creating a standalone art object. This is what we are grappling with with our brother's book—he has all these disparate stories, the challenge is how to weave them together into one story, his story.

And now we are reading Undici Novelle by Luigi Pirandello, which are short stories (11 of them as the title would imply) but we are reading them for a different reason, to brush up on our Italian. When we were learning Italian we remember someone (our tutor) telling us that the concept of sarcasm doesn't exist in Italian, to say something but mean something entirely different depending on how you say it (like saying «yeah, right» meaning «no» & this person looked at us puzzled like why would anyone do that, say something but mean something else? Well Pirandello is proof that at least one Italian employs the use of sarcasm, not to mention healthy doses of irony. His primary concern in fact is this failure to arrive at the truth in interpersonal communication & how this eats people up inside (as they swallow or bite their proudly vain tongues).

Rome—Nov 10, 2013

A few posts ago we said we never felt longing or nostalgic for places anymore. But now being back in Rome, after being away for almost exactly a year, we must admit our heart sunk upon arrival. Not that we don't feel that a bit when we are away from NYC & come back—when the taxi comes over the bridge or tunnel & hits the streets of Manhattan—but that feeling lasts for but a minute before we are used to it & take it for granted (though occasionally we are in neighborhoods, like lately we have taken to running in the Sugar Hill neighborhood further up in Harlem, that feels more like the old, real New York).

jaded street

Rome on November 9, 2013

The initial feeling of surprise—the sight of sampietrini, nasoni & orange walls, the Tiber, the details you see that tell you you must be in Rome—again only lasts but a minute before you are already used to it ... like cashed in déjà vu ... but it is laced with something else, perhaps a tinge of regret even. We still can't believe we lived here for two & a half years. Even when we lived here we pinched ourselves every day, now this is more like kicking ourselves for ever leaving. Every corner you turn you still can't believe it. But it's complicated ... it's a love hate-hate thing as described well in this Italy breaks your heart piece in the NYT.

«I’ve been startled by it. Also spooked, because I arrived here straight from our government shutdown, and I’ve observed Italy’s discontent through a filter of America’s woes, processing it as a cautionary tale. Italy is what happens when a country knows full well what its problems are but can’t summon the discipline and will to fix them. It’s what happens when political dysfunction grinds on and on and good governance becomes a mirage, a myth, a joke. Italy coasts on its phenomenal blessings rather than building on them and loses traction in a global economy with more driven competitors. Sound familiar? There’s so much beauty and promise here, and so much waste. Italy breaks your heart.»

Rome has a new mayor & a new pope, but otherwise not much has changed. In the taxi the driver went on about the dysfunction, the new mayor is good but ... Rome is so mired in such tangled bureaucracy that it's hopeless, he said (something to that affect, in Italian), as he throws his arms up or shrugs his shoulders & says «bo» ... like what are you going to do? But when Romans do that shrugging bo thing (if you have spent any time here you know exactly what we're talking about it), there's a certain endearment, as if they are proud about it. And it's this resigned pride that is the saddest part. That & the tired way in which they say it like they are tired even of hearing their own voice voicing the same complaints but are too stubborn to admit it ... or perhaps have repressed any recognition of how tired they must sound.

Speaking of the new pope, we've recently watched all of The Borgias & although Jeremy Irons makes a good pope, unfortunately it's not even filmed in Italy (but Hungary) so they are missing most of the key details that make Rome Rome. Not to mention it's a scandalous distortion of truth, which is fine if you make up names, but the real Borgias are rolling over in their grave ... whether it's deserved or not, who knows.

We arrived yesterday, took a short nap since didn't sleep at all on the overnight plane. Then walked around thru & to some of our old haunts, then along the river back to Ponte Sisto (nearby where we are staying) to watch the starlings, who are here, though not quite up to full glory (as expressed in murmurations).

starling shit

evidence of their being (& J striking a pose next to a 500)

Met friends, one a longtime Roman ex-pat that was the last person we saw when we left Rome (he drove us to the airport in fact) & another a friend from NYC who also arrived just yesterday, only he is staying on for at least a half-year stint. So an interesting mixture of reminiscing & advising the green kid on the strange ways of Rome. Went to San Calisto for a few bottles of proseco, then to our old favorite Da Teo for dinner (and earlier we had carbonara & buffalo mozz & prosciutto at a trattoria near our hotel) ... there's certain things you just can't have anywhere else, or that just don't quite taste the same unless you are here, down to just the pasta ... why is it they can't be replicated, is it really 'in the water'? Puntarelle (which is in season) is another thing ... but for the reason that it simply doesn't grow anywhere else except nearby to Rome.

Anyway, we won't bother you, dear Internet, with more photos & what not as surely we bored you enough during our years here ... & frankly we plan on just wandering & eating & reflecting without a mind to capture anything, especially when it comes to the starlings ...

  >> NEXT: #335: Rome unfiltered (64 scenes you may not have noticed the first time around)

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