Above The Snow
An artists rant about a day in the life of noisy
The artists life is not a matter of quiet
desperation. Quiet desperation is for Murphy, and
Murphy was an optimist. It is either a matter of noisy
desperation or of fabulous riches.
Quite obviously, I have gone around that infamous bend
in the road from which they say there is no return; or
perhaps it is only that life is merely non-Euclidean.
Perhaps god is not a geometer after all. When I look
back I cant even see that last of many forks in the
road where I took each and every wrong turn. They must
be back around the bend too, in some past life where
everything made sense and mindless joy could be had
from any tree just for the picking.
Ive got to get doing what it is I actually need to be
doing instead of what I actually am doing. Although I
can barely find the time to do about 1/20th of what I
should be doing just to make my crafty little Artist
Book projects, I also ought to be pursuing the
desperate need to spend about two years on ancillary
marketing tasks just to hope for some small chance to
break even, (on materials alone, naturally, and, at
something less than lotto odds) or perhaps to even
make some money in the two to five years following the
completion of those tasks and just moments before
passing on to that great recliner in the sky. No doubt
the astral recliner is also broken. Lifetime
guarantees are not offered in heaven.
Yeah right, making money, what a concept. Fat chance
and slim odds come under the heading of free market
forces. Money would only spoil me. I need the pain to
know I am alive. I need the madness to keep me
producing. Otherwise, I might actually get something
done I really do need to get done, and that would
upset some vast cosmic plan. I dont make money
because I do not have the time to make money. I dont
have the time because I dont have any money.
Thats called free market equanimity, or economic
Calvinism, or the fundamental laws of social
Darwinism, or all three of the above..
I will pass on a secret not found in the King James
version: All is not vanity. All is trivia. I do not
believe you will find this tidbit in the DaVinci Code
either. In fact, you wont find much of anything in
the DaVinci Code, not even a plot and certainly
nothing approximating truth.
In order to sell artist books I need a real presence
in the photography, poetry and publishing markets. You
know, buyers in one market are generally not smart
enough to evaluate art unless some other buyer in
another market has already bought it. Largely
speaking, I am so far below the markets radar that I
am in stealth mode. So, even though I am managing to
make a few token books, I am not making the really
important books, the ones I want to be on the self
before they scatter my ashes in the Hermosa Beach
sewer system. With any luck, my ashy remains will clog
the system for a day or two before heading out into
the polluted waters of Santa Monica Bay.
I am not selling the books that I do make like
flapjacks at an IHOP Easter sale because I have no
time to do those pesky ancillary tasks that would
increase my market presence: that is, marketing for
trade books, marketing photography, marketing poetry
and taking marketing sales trips. There it is in a
I cant even keep up with deleting all the spam that
someone worked very hard to send to me. You would
think that I at least owe them the kindness of a
reply, but I find that mostly I dont need it, dont
want it, and cant use it. But spam is more that just
a clog in the bandwidth. Although I cant recommend it
as nutritive, being tasteless, without fiber and just
empty calories, still it does offer something to do
with that first hit of morning caffeine. There comes a
time in the life of the serious artist when even a
virus, a Trojan, a computer worm, or even spam is a
Something to do is not exactly what I dreamed for in
life. But for gods sake, at least let me have nothing
to do for just one afternoon. I dream of free time. I
aspire to boredom.
Currently I am doing none of things that I ought to be
doing. I do not have the time to exercise, take care
of my health, maintain vehicles, fix widgets in the
house, replace the kitchen sink, make Flos home more
than my mess, have a social life or go to the movies.
I do eat out, fast food largely, because it saves time
and there is no one there to correct the error of my
ways. Because my health is so poor and because I am
old and exhausted, I take about an hour a day to rest
up. Otherwise I am even less effective than I am
expected to be. I call it rest, when actually it is
more like an involuntary coma. If you find me drooling
in the recliner and I am not responsive to sharp slaps
and loud yelling, then pull the plug on the TV. No
heroic measures please.
At night I merely drop into a semi-aware alpha (or is
it beta?) state that most Yogis and Lamas delude
themselves into thinking is nirvana. Actually it only
one step above clinical brain death and is too be
preferred to most peoples lives.. If I am lucky, in
my evening state I can plod my way through some
mindless manual task that is doable sitting down. But
not if it requires any arithmetic above four fingers
or more concentration than flipping the channels.
I barely have time for fetching beanie-weenies from
the market, laundering my stylish wardrobe, charring
hamburger patties, cleaning the commode and the
feeding of cats. My idea of radical socializing is to
chat up some mentally dysfunctional person passing by
in their walker in the hallways of Pacific Inn
Assisted Living. I never go to polite gatherings, not
invited to political rallies, parties, schmoozing,
readings, lunches, dinners or cocktails. I mostly talk
to deranged cats and psychotic children and act as
knee pads between bickering adults..
Fodder for the old artistic canon for sure and food
for thought indeed.
I made a list of things I should have done in the last
two years but have not even started even in my best of
future intentions. These things should have been
finished while Flo is still making an income. Flo
should also be allowed to retire and pursue her own
career interests and to stay home to supervise me, but
so far we cant afford that, and so she is also
swamped and not doing the avalanche of critical tasks
related to her voice-overs. The do-list reflects only
the initial effort and does not even take into account
an ongoing yearly effort. Other than making my few
token books I have not even started on the following:
Significant Book Projects: each year (not including
marketing): 6 months per year
Marketing For Trade Books: 4
Photography / Poetry / Artist / Fiction / Prose
Submissions, exhibitions, contests, magazines,
publishing, grants, prizes, teaching, conventions,
seminars, mailings, a web site, promotional materials
Marketing Photography: 4 months
Sales, gallery representation, magazines, trade books,
grants, prizes, exhibitions, teaching, conventions,
seminars, mailings, a web site, promotional materials
Marketing Poetry: 4
Submissions, readings, magazines, making books,
selling books, finding publishers, grants, prizes,
teaching, conventions, seminars, mailings, web site,
Marketing Sales Trips: 3 months
Total months behind: 21
What I need us one of those million dollar McArthur
genius grants, which apparently have nothing to do
with genius and, like bank loans, you can only get it
you dont need it. When your dreams never come true
you might as well waste your time on big dreams.
And that is why there is reincarnation. So idiots and
poets can be many, many lifetimes behind instead of
mere years and decades behind. This is analogous to
increasing the Federal Debt Limit. There is some
analogy here to Reaganomics but it escapes me after 2
in the afternoon.
And this do-list is just scratching the surface. It
does not even include the largest endeavor of all, the
creation of new work: photos, writing, concepts and
other obsessive artistic compulsive behaviors. This
do-list is way beyond the mindless stuff that wakes me
up at 3:30 in the a.m. and forces me to get out of bed
or else face the horror of just laying there, staring
up at a ceiling I cant really see in the dark and
that needs painting anyway and amuse myself by
considering the best methods for getting off the
planet. There is always that next life to get farther
behind in: a sort of a Karmic Company Store.
I do not seem to be able to find any way to convey the
magnitude of all this, or how desperately it needs to
get done, and how little of it I am able to do. It is
pretty easy to convey how little the world cares. I am
perpetually amused that movie stars and basketball
players have such an easy time of it. And without a
genius grant too boot. I am left completely frustrated
trying to communicate even the littlest bit of the
avalanche. Much easier to take a nap: more productive
too. I can always bitch more effectively when well
rested. The best part about a nap is waking up and not
remembering who I am or where to find the do-list.
Often, I need extra caffeine to recover from a nap.
Often I tape the do-list to my forehead before a nap.
But then I have accidentally look in a mirror in order
to get on with the day.
These are things I ought to be doing before I end up
living in some dumpster. I am not talking about one of
those stylish dumpsters like the better kinds found in
Beverly Hills. I am talking a run-of-the-mill,
behind-the-local-Dennys dumpster. I really have no
savings, no retirement, no income and no prospects. I
dont even own my own super-market cart to collect old
pop bottles and store my moth eaten wardrobe in.
I just assume our house will be stolen by the medical
extortion racket we call health care and by the Bush
economics that will save me from Osama Ben. My whole
life just might pay for one swanky meal out for Dick
Cheney to Osama to lunch. Like the American Dream, I
have also been outsourced. The ironic part is that it
was Toyota who outsourced my job to India, so I cant
afford a car made by poor workers in Georgia, who
cant afford a car made by evan poorer workers in what
remains of Yugoslavia. There is theory that maintains
that the Bosnian genocide was permitted in order to
remove automobile competition such as Yugo. In any
case, our house is like a well full of water with no
bucket to pull up a drink. Whatever its worth, it
just does not do us any good now, when it might
actually matter. It might pay for that last half hour
in the crematorium oven before clogging the sewer
If I could get a decent toehold in my markets, I might
have a chance to earn my own way, at least until I am
no longer physically able to produce, a little
end-game which is also not so far off. I am following
in the footsteps of Pop, slowly declining into
potato-hood. One day. I will sprout and they will bury
me in a Pollo Loco potato salad. Every year it gets
harder to stand up straight, hell, just to stand up is
a daily triumph. The only thing a mangled leg is good
for is a disabled parking sticker. That, and fifty
bucks, will get you a cappuccino in Shanghai.
It took thirteen years and a lot of wasted time being
employed to pay for that mangled leg, so I guess Ive
earned the right to park where others dare not go.
Worse, I think there is no escaping the conviction
that I have wasted my life, as well as the lives of
others, on something as totally useless, as totally
trivial, and as totally idiotic as art.
It should be remembered, in the case of my actual
demise, that the city of Hermosa owes me one last free
trash pick up. Just bag me and roll me out on any
Wednesday morning. Do not let them get away with
adding a tax bond to fund my final disposition
But in fact, like the American Empire, it is already
too late to correct the error of my ways.
The reason I am writing this rant is because there
might be someone out there who is able to grasp the
avalanche of work I am not getting done, let alone not
doing all those other little life maintenance jobs
that normal people seem to find the time to get done.
Maybe someone will pat me on the head while I am
drooling in the recliner and say There, there. Its
going to be all right. I do love a really good
religious lie. There really is nothing quite as
satisfying as false hope.
So far, I do manage to respond to critical emergency
needs relating to living long enough to see tomorrows
sun rise through the morning smog; the broken toilets,
grinding brakes, leaking roofs, sick cats, crashed
computers etc. But I dont water the trees. Hell, I
dont even go out and look at the trees. I have two
standard operating modes: overwhelming, frenetic,
desperate activity or a simple tail spin into mindless
exhaustion. I thought I would just try to explain why
I cant seem to get even the simplest of normal things
done. But I am just too wiped out to do a really
Ive got to take a nap.
I havent got the time to worry about how I have let
everyone else down.
I wake up at four in the morning knowing I have let
That, in itself, will usually get me out of bed.
One cat is screaming to decompress her constipation on
the floor. One cat is screaming for a morning skritch.
One more cat is screaming for chow.
Ive got to get the tea water boiling, if only the
water distiller worked.
I wish I could go back to bed, but we are out of
Ive got to pay Moms bills and I probably couldnt
Cant even seem to get done what I need to do to
scatter Pop in June, let alone indulge in the grieving
process. No time for big salty tears buddy, just get
your ass in the saddle, grease up the elbows and apply
your nose firmly to the grindstone.
Ive got to carry Tinker the arthritic cat to the
bedroom for her day long nap.
Ive got to make the sixth trip to get Mom moved in
and settled down.
Flo is in the kitchen alternating between grumbling
and crying because she does not have time to fix
breakfast or pay our own bills.
Ive got to fix the recliner which is still laying in
pieces on the front room floor.
Ive got to find the keys to Moms house in Inglewood
that I lost someplace obvious.
Ive got to do something to fix my ripped out
shoulder. I lost my shoulder cutting down four massive
trees to save Pauls house from the tax collector. I
do not have time for pain. At last, I can now add
lumberjack to my resume.
No time for cooking either, so we drive by six greasy
spoons that are either not open or too crowded. At
Hawthorne and Torrance we find a Spires complete with
House Steak and Eggs. Across the street is the
Taekwondo shop for people who badly need to beat up
other people, or for people who are afraid of people
who badly need to beat up other people.
I wish I had time in life to worry about who was going
to beat me up. I wish I had time in life to learn how
to beat up other people who badly need to beat up me.
I wish I could afford to worry about getting Botox
Ive got to get the prints back from the University of
Arizona. They hung them on the wall, but I never had
the time to go to see it. I spent most of that year
driving to doctor appointments for Mom and Pop. Then
Pop went ahead and died anyway. I suspect that Pop was
even more sick-and-tired or it all than I was.
Ive got to put a garbage can full of dead chicken and
herring down for Rumtum the cat, unless he is already
to full of rump of mouse.
Ive got to write the book about Dick Miller. Dick is
the only task really worthwhile doing just now.
Ive got to make Jim Lorson a copy of Stone.
Ive got to ship the Calendar Of Women to Jack
Ive got to select pictures, write poems, design a
book, make a book, get some granite, have it
sandblasted and get everyone organized for Pops
Ive got to order more checks for Mom. This time with
nifty stage coach on them.
Rumtum is blinking his eyes in a post-dead-meat
Ive got to take Mom to Vons for that disgustingly
gooey nut loaf. For Mom, anything disgustingly sweet
is natures most perfect food.
Ive got to replace my cane that I left in the
shopping cart at Costco which some public spirited
citizen promptly took home. We saved five bucks by
shopping at Costco. I lost fifty bucks replacing the
cane. Who says penny wise is pound foolish?
Ive got to get the distiller working. Either that, or
Ive got to go to Vons and buy a thousand pounds of
Somehow, Ive got to avoid tornados in Kansas,
hurricanes in the Gulf, earthquakes in the Hindu Kush
and being poor and black in the Sudan. It is best in
life, they say, to avoid men riding camels and
Ive got to find what issue of Parenthesis I have some
article published in and get a copy so I can read
whatever it was I wrote that is going make everyone
mad at me. Too late now to care who is mad at me.
Ive got to consider taking the time for a shower this
week. I fear that some folks may take me for being a
might rank, or even homeless.
Everything is trying to kill me. The news last night
informs me that I am in immediate peril of an untimely
death with carbon monoxide leaking from furnaces I
havent paid some professional serviceman to inspect.
This tidbit follows news about a cat giving birth to a
mouse. I am not sure I believe the bit about the
The idiot that runs the world tells me I am in
immediate danger of Osama knocking on my front door
with a legitimate gripe, a bad attitude and an
I am supposed to die within moments from things
crawling in the refrigerator.
TV ads inform me that I am long overdue for that
massive coronary, testicular cancer, that pesky stroke
and a really aggravating headache.
H1N5 is on the way, flapping our way along with
buckets of duck shit and air born HIV. Even ordinary
flu nearly kills me. H1N5 will probably be a friend to
Ive got to get some more vitamin pills. No telling
what herb is the magic bullet. Every morning I open
five tea bags and make three cups of tea. I open two
cans of chicken and herring cat food plus the kibble
vat and make thee kitty breakfasts. Then I open 24
different vitamin bottles, some on an empty stomach
and the rest with food. Vitamins have not made me rich
and famous. They have not made me energetic and happy.
They have not made me skinny. They have not made me
young. And they have never stopped the flu; bird,
swine or otherwise.
People keep sending me emails about the Bird Flu being
nothing more than an evil conspiracy. I guess they
pulled their heads out of where the sun does not shine
and buried them in the sand instead. Probably a more
satisfying olfactory experience. They mostly subscribe
to the dont-worry-be-happy school of Buddhism.
Ive got to get on the bicycle before I can no longer
hike up the front porch steps. In two more weeks I
will have to crawl from the Van to the Recliner. But
only after Ive fixed both the van and the recliner.
No telling how long I will be able to crawl.
Rumtum is on Yellow Alert now. There must be something
furry lurking in my cardboard box collection that
requires immediate disemboweling.
Ive got to bind three copies of Desert Patterns.
Ive got to get to building the patio enclosure so I
can decompress my work space and not get even more
Ive got to get the two new laptops up and running and
a usable sound booth built so Flo can work on her
voice-overs at home, so she can retire and so she can
supervise my eating habits and so I can record a
truckload of poetry that no one wants to hear.
Oh no, said Alice, it neednt come to that.
Ive got to get the web site built and running at
godaddy.com. And, Ive got to make it appealing and
Then Ive got to make a related PR CD Rom. And, Ive
got to make it interactive. Then Ive got to mail it
Ive got to talk to the lawyer. I am not sure why, I
just know I have forgotten something that is
life-and-death critical about taxes or Moms finances
or selling real estate.
Ive got to get the back-ordered birch casters for the
cabinet weve made to replace the front room coffee
table that is in the way of everything. Then Ive got
to fight with Flo about not being able to use it.
In case youre wondering, I will lose.
Ive got to get Mom finally moved into Pacific Inn and
make enough visits to be sure she is happy in her
Human Warehouse. This is called elder care. then she
can decide to move back home.
Ive got to activate Moms ATM card and deposit her
Ive got to get the real estate people moving to sell
the house in Inglewood before Mom goes broke at the
I think Ive already done the taxes. Imagine that?
Well, someone has to pay for the war on terror. And
yet, I find myself terrified most of the time, mostly
of the people who say they are protecting me from
terror. Go figure.
I already fed the cats, took my vitamins and checked
the emails. Lots and lots of spam.
My back hurts because I dont exercise.
Ive got to get Flo up and running without undue risk
to life and limb; mine that is.
I wish I had a check to deposit. But I dont.
I dont exercise my back because it hurts.
Ive got to plug up the wall behind the sink to keep
the mice out of the trash.
They should stick to my cardboard box collection, so
beloved by Flo, where the little rascals belong and
where Rumtum can easily disembowel them.
Ive got to select pictures, make pages and finish one
bound copy of California Landscapes.
Ive got to scan images, write poems, translate
Archilochos, design pages and finish one copy of In
The Silence Of The Gods.
Ive got to deal with the Torrance Courthouse about my
latest brush with the law. The traffic extortion
racket, in collusion with the insurance racket and men
with guns, is chasing my sorry ass through the
badlands of the DMV and the jurisprudence system.
Ive got to get the recliner fixed before it breaks my
back. Its a case of do or die; its either the
recliner or me. In any case, my back is not a happy
camper. I cant fix the recliner because my back
Rumtum the cat is on Orange Alert now. Certainly there
is a mouse scurrying about in immediate need of three
hours of torture followed by being eaten alive, which
my fearless elected officials inform me, is now quite
the fashion. Rumtum, at least, does not document his
atrocities with snap shots.
Ive got to get the tape-to-DVD recorder set up to
make Mom copies of home movies. Mom misses her life.
Who can blame her. When Pop died he left a hole that I
cant fill with any number of shovels.
Ive got to send a copy of Desert Patterns to John
Randle in England.
I wish I could go to a movie. But they just dont make
them like they used to, I can no longer understand the
dialogue and I cant afford the popcorn anyway.
Ive got to take out the trash.
Someone stole my parking spot across the street. At
least I wont get a parking ticket on street sweeping
Somehow, Ive got to get to the Ansel Adams gallery in
Yosemite. Ive got to replace the book they havent
sold in the last three years with another book they
wont sell in the next three years. I had to cancel
twice. First we got the flu, then we had to take Mom
to the ER for a fun-filled weekend. I have snow chains
and four wheel drive and no place to go. By the time I
get there the snow will be a muddy slush and the
pictures wont be worth the processing.
Ive got to explain to the whole world why I am such a
lazy, shiftless neer-do-well.
Then Ive got to remember to eat lunch. I ought to eat
steamed veggies and boiled chicken, but a belly bomb
from Carls Jr. will have to do.
Ive got to fix the flat tire on the van. There is
nothing as much fun as laying in a cold drizzle, on
greasy asphalt, busting your knuckles on lug nuts.
I came in this afternoon to find Rumtum munching on
the last half of a mouse. No one plays kissy-face with
Rumtum. God knows where that tongue has been. It is
imperative to take the time to clean and disinfect the
Im worried I have forgotten something that I am
supposed to do this morning.
Turns out the flat tire is not reparable. Ive got to
buy a new tire to move the van in time to not get a
ticket on street sweeping day.
Good god, look at the time.
Oh well, its been nice chatting.
Ive got to get busy now.
When you are surfing the avalanche,
you would be well advised
to stay above the snow
and in front of the wave.
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