Archive for the Free Pile books Category

The Wizardress of Ensorcellment

Posted in Free Pile books, Literary, Philosophy?, Special People, Sushi, The meaning of life, Therapy with tags , , , , , , on October 31, 2008 by Admin

Anaïs Nin, inadvertent comedienne and ensorcellress both; “sensuality is a secret power in my body,” she once said. But since she said it, it’s not such a secret anymore, now is it? One critic called her “A major minor writer”. That critic was obviously wearing anti-ensorcellment venom.

Anais Nin and Henry Miller

Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller

And don’t get Gore Vidal started on the topic of the word ensorcellment. Because of their seemingly love-hate relationship they sniped at each other in later years and, much to her chagrin, he modeled the character Marietta after her in his novel Two Sisters, whose “favorite word is ‘ensorcelled.’ She cannot write a book without it. Unfortunately I cannot read a book that contains it.”

By the way, Gore made for some pretty great quotes. Did you know… he was once engaged to Joanne Woodward and she broke up with him to date Paul Newman? but they remained good friends all three forever after so it’s all good.

There is not one human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise. – Gore Vidal

The more money an American accumulates, the less interesting he becomes. – Gore Vidal

A narcissist is someone better looking than you are. – Gore Vidal

Anyway, back to Anaïs.. Continue reading

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

Posted in Free Pile books, Literary, Philosophy? with tags , on July 3, 2008 by Admin

Milan Kundera“I invent stories, confront one with another, and by this means I ask questions. The stupidity of people comes from having an answer for everything. The wisdom of the novel comes from having a question for eveything.”

– Milan Kundera, From the Afterward, “A Talk with the Author”

EXCERPT From The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Milan Kundera:

“When Thomas Mann was very young, he wrote a naïve, intriguing story about death. In the story death is beautiful, as it is beautiful to those who dream of it very young, when it is still surreal and enchanting, like the bluish voice of far-off places.

A young man, mortally ill, gets off a train at an unknown station. He walks into the town without knowing its name and takes rooms in the house of an old woman whose forehead is covered with eczema. No, I do not wish to go into what took place in the rented rooms. I only wish to recall a single minor occurrence: walking around the front room, the ill young man had the feeling that “in between the sounds made by his footsteps he heard another sound in the rooms on either side – a soft, clear, metallic tone – but perhaps it was only an illusion. Like a golden ring falling into a silver basin, he thought…”

That minor acoustic event is never developed or explained in the story. From the standpoint of the action above it could have been omitted without any loss. The sound simply happened; all by itself; just like that. The reason I think Thomas Mann sounded that “soft, clear, metallic tone” was to create silence, the silence he needed to make the beauty audible (because the death he was speaking of was beauty-death), and if beauty is to be perceptible, it needs a certain minimal degree of silence (a perfect criterion of which happens to be the sound of a golden ring falling into a silver basin).

(Yes, I know. You haven’t the slightest idea what I’m talking about. Beauty has long since disappeared. It has slipped beneath the surface of the noise – the noise of words, the noise of cars, the noise of music, the noise of signs – we live in it constantly. It has sunk as deep as Atlantis. The only thing left is the word, whose meaning loses clarity from year to year.)

She is standing across from 6 long necks with tiny heads and flat beaks that open and close noiselessly. She does not understand them. She does not know whether they are threatening, warning, appealing, or begging. And because she does not know, she feels immense anxiety. She is afraid something will happen to the golden ring (that tuning fork of silence), and she keeps it tightly closed away in her mouth.

Tamina will never know what they came to tell her. But I do. They did not come to warn or scold or threaten her. They are not at all concerned with her. They came, each one of them, to tell her about themselves. About how they ate, how they slept, how they ran up the fence, and what they saw on the other side. About how they had spent their important childhood in the important village of Rourou. About how they saw a woman in a knitted shawl over her head. About how they swam, fell ill, and then recovered. About how they had been young, ridden bicycles, and eaten a sack of grass that day. There they are, standing face to face with Tamina, telling her their stories, all at the same time, belligerently, pressingly, aggressively, because there is nothing more important than what they want to tell her.”

From The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Milan Kundera

Meandering in tibial, fibulacular and other memorium

Posted in Confusion, Free Pile books, Literary, Special People on June 16, 2008 by Admin

Top image: My old and favoritest apartment, at The Peerless, at 1315 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA; looking from the foyer through the living room and onto my beloved little deck over the back alley where Elisabeth would give us all tarot card readings. Sometimes we’d go across the street for drinks at Play it again Sam‘s and if the line for the bathroom was too long we’d run across the street [6 lanes and some subway tracks, which was a lot faster] to use mine. Women take forever in the bathroom.The Peerless, at 1315 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, where I lived for 2 years.

I wake up between 4 and 5 most mornings (not on purpose) and I think (also, NOP). By 8 am I have not-purposely thought for hours. Lately this is where I not-purposely think aloud. This morning I also purposely scan. All of these images, save for those of Mr. Butch, cavalierly and purposely borrowed from sites cited below, are scanned from my collection (tattered box) of polaroids, snapshots and from prints from my BW Photography classes at Montserrat College of Art and, later, The New England School of Photography in Kenmore Square. A perusal of my images will show a reckless do-si-do with contrast and tone I suppose.

hennock, who owned the little sub-street level variety store a few doors from my apartment at the Peerless.

Another book from the free pile that I read this week (in addition to that excerpted in the post below) is Drinking, A Love Story by Caroline Knapp which brought back so many memories of various nouns experienced during the nearly 15 years that I called Boston (proper, that is, as I always stubbornly managed to live and park in the city and not on the outskirts till the last 2 years when I began a process of extricating myself, which I only see now) my home. I used to read Caroline Knapp’s column in The Boston Phoenix regularly – it was mainly why I sought out a copy, weekly, rather than wait for one to land in my path – and marvel at her frank and candid self-assessment in the thinly-veiled form of her fictional character Alice K (“not her real initial”).  As I read I felt a sort of limited lower rung parallel to some of her exploits as she frequented the kind of highbrow and pricey places I’d been to one or twice, as the guest of a friend or on some other such special occasion outing.

Caroline was one of a handful of Boston luminaries and characters that were at the front of common perception during the time which I lived there.Broken leg--before and after shots

Images: Left, Prophetically clowning around; Right, later – Not so funny anymore

A broken leg would inadvertently bring me to the periphery of many of these people. Oh the memories of trying to navigate rare forays to events at the opera and the museum in crutches (bad–> people in tuxes knocked me over a lot if I was between them and the champagne; people at the museum often brushed past me to cut in line for the exhibits that had limited space, meaning friends had to always catch me by grabbing a handful of my sweater), and then navigating the crowded neighborhood bars (good–> inebriated college students would helpfully clear a path for me and insist that I cut the line for the bathroom). But this is not that story.

Atop the tiki god pyramid, Martha\'s Vineyard, ca 1992 ish

Caroline wrote of drinking regularly at the bar at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel (I had been to the bar there once and had also been to a snooty wine taster there), eating at Biba (I ate there twice and had an acquaintance who waited tables there – a very highbrow waiter type who got some measure of satisfaction from waiting at only the most expensive and elite joints and who literally sniffed at customers he felt beneath the establishments he presided over and who gave the uppity waiter cold-shoulder-silent-smack[!] to people who did that thing of putting an s at the end of proper names of places, i.e., Biba‘s, Serendipity‘s and so on. Why do people do that? Biba was simply called Biba. Oh, tangential, well.), eating at Pot au Feu (ha! I guess if you did the s thing it would be Pot au Feus or Pot au Fuse) in Providence where I’d eaten once with my friend Charlie (who could make a cup of coffee in his french press that tasted like Paris) while he was at culinary school, and the like.

Hennock, in his store on Commonwealth Ave, Boston, ca. 1992

She spoke of drinking expensive wines and cognacs (I tried such things as a guest at wine tasters with my Sommelier/Concierge/Drag Queen neighbor when he was too mad at his boyfriend to bring him), spent time at the family summer home in Martha’s Vineyard (I went there twice), went to Brown (I drove by it once), and wore expensive shoes (I often taped pictures of expensive shoes to the wall in the back of my closet and would imaginarily ‘consider wearing them’, and then opt for the ones from Budget Plastic Shoe World). We’d lived in some of the same neighborhoods like the North End – although the similarities ended at the neighborhood line as I used the word ‘fabulous’ more loosely in describing the places I rented (never bought) – and we covered a lot of the same terrain unsurprisingly, as Boston is both big and small.

In 1991 I looked at her a few times from about 20 paces. She looked nice, poised, yet unapproachable. She was, after all, famous. I had broken my leg in 2 places, cleanly shearing through both tibia and fibula, and hairline fractured a few ribs in a spectacular skiing accident in which I sailed off a cliff and into a few small trees at Attitash, in an attempt to avoid 2 skiers suddenly encountered as I rounded a sharp turn on an expert trail I’d been skiing all day with friends.

They were standing, just standing there in the middle of the trail, totally blocking it, looking downhill as if (obviously) in over their heads and trying to find a safe route down. Skiers will know this phenomenon; ski patrol friends often told tales of the daily lectures sharply and redundantly doled out to inexperienced skiers about the safety considerations of standing on the side of the trail rather than in the middle and heeding the symbols suggesting the skill level required to navigate trails, with things like black diamonds. I’d been skiing for 18 years at that point and was a good skier, not a great one, and a cautious one, my days of getting lit in the woods with friends and then screamingly skiing through the branchy, off-limits and dangerous terrain, long gone and a fear of velocity and spectacular accidents having taken over.

This is my right leg on ski accident.

This is my right leg on ski accident. Click for larger view. Although, it is sort of nauseating.

Anyway – after a morphine-filled week in traction with snow-filled trash bags covering my body from the waist down to reduce swelling (I thought this ingenious) and heating lamps aimed at my upper body to keep me warm (like in a hair salon, while getting a perm) and a subsequent 3 weeks learning to navigate life in crutches including bathing, climbing stairs, and carrying things in my teeth from the fridge to the counter, I returned to work where I was feted with a big welcome back party with signs and cards and bagels and cream cheeses, which after lunch turned into a massive layoff party with haggard bagels, choice exit wisdoms, and crusty cream cheeses, to which I was also, sadly, invited.

My boss felt bad so he made some calls and got me a short term freelance job doing paste-up at The Boston Phoenix. I couldn’t drive because I had this huge brace on my leg (image above) to keep it in place while it healed, with the help of a 14″ titanium rod inserted through the center of the now vacuumed-out tibia, and said brace was so big that I couldn’t make it only press one of the pedals of my standard transmission at a time. So I took the bus from my apartment in Oak Square (at that time an unfashionable and somewhat dodgy neighborhood) to Kenmore Square and crutched the whole 6 or 7 blocks past Fenway and to the offices of The Boston Phoenix. I was afraid. I was keenly aware that anyone could just walk up to me and pluck one of my crutches from under my arm and I’d be instantly immobilized and have to sit on the sidewalk and wait for help. This was before cell phones.

That first day I got off the bus and immediately Mr. Butch came up to me and said, “I will walk you there, where are we going?” and thus began a daily ritual in which Mr. Butch met me at the bus and walked me to work, all while sharing random insights such as “You are a child of the moon, your leg will heal.”

I felt safe and I felt slightly cool because only the coolest people in Boston actually knew Mr. Butch, although Mr. Butch was so cool that he did not discriminate, and I felt honored that he even talked to me, let alone walk me to work each day. Some days he was waiting for me at 5 when I got out. I wished I could let him live at my apartment but he’d not have any of that.

Mr. Butch was a fixture in Kenmore Square and he stood in front of The Rathskeller every day for a few decades. He was extremely tall and thin with wild ear-length dreadlocks, which stuck out more sideways than the long ones do. He looked like a fireworks display. Everyone knew Mr. Butch. He chose to live on the streets. Friends helped him and tried to get him into residential places but he wouldn’t do the detox required as he chose to live his life of alcohol and weed and the streets. He was always happy, as people are who live the life they want rather than the life they feel they should. Local shopkeepers gave him food, he slept in friends’ band practice places, on their couches, in ATM foyers. He sometimes wore signs letting everyone know what he needed, like food or money – my favorite was when he’d wear a hand-lettered sign that said “I NEED WEED” – and he seemed to be well taken care of. He was happy. I mourned the end of that freelance gig because I would have no reason to take my daily walk with Mr. Butch.

At the Phoenix there was a mixture of suits and jeans types. There was the very big editor of the sleekly-cool magazine who would sometimes wander into the art department with his wild curly hair and mustache, expensive cowboy boots and largeness, trailing smoke behind. Sometimes he’d drop an ash in my general direction.

Hennock on the roofI lived at 1315 Commonwealth Ave in a building called The Peerless. Lots of buildings in Boston had names. I befriended a neighborhood variety store owner, Hennock, who also had dreadlocks and who once ‘hired’ me to shoot him for his CD cover. Hennock told me about growing up in Jamaica or Trinidad (I forget exactly) and how he respected trees and rocks and how his dreadlocks felt physical and emotional pain. I liked different shots than he did. He could not understand why I would shoot him from the back for one image, which I loved. We shot on a roof to which he had access in East Boston and I was scared. My friend Kenny helped by always standing behind me because I feared backing up too far. I had to shoot the sky separately and double burn it in. All of my images would require loads of darkroom finessing and my friend Belinda and I had long talks in the dim and eerie light while we dodged and burned. Sometimes we sang songs. I had her over once for banana daiquiris and then we were going to go see my boyfriend’s band play at The Kells but the bananas weren’t yet ripe enough so after just one we felt too ‘unsettled’ to go out.

Hennock, outside his store, comonwealth Ave, Boston

After that I worked at a very hip record store. It was the early 90s, there was a recession and the papers were full of stories of former CEOs selling their houses at a loss and waiting tables. Work was hard to find. Homelessness increased, people were desperate and scared and a posted job opening meant like 5000 applicants. A woman in the next town won like 5 million in the lottery and the papers were full of soundbites the next day of her saying “I totally plan to keep my job and I am going to buy my parents a bigger house. But money hasn’t changed me.” Readers and those of us on the verge of homelessness collectively groaned and wished she’d either open up that job for others, or just shut the hell up, with her 35 million dollars and her parents’ new house.

ElisabethAt the record store everyone was in a band except me. I had gotten the job through my beautiful and delightfully lovable and kooky roommate Elisabeth who always wore hats and was a self-proclaimed ‘scenester’ and knew just everyone. At the record store everyone wore either goth attire or jeans and cowboy boots. I stood out I guess. I admit to wearing mascara and lipgloss then. It was pointed out to me at least once that I was ‘mainstream’. Years later I was a bridesmaid at Elisabeth’s wedding. All the bridesmaids rented a house at the cape where the wedding was held and I ended up mediating a few incidents as I was something of the mainstream outsider. One night the most tattooed of them, who wore Doc Maartens with her bridesmaid dress, commented on my underarms so I was forced to admit to the whole house that my neighbor, whose descriptive title by now read “Sommelier/Former Concierge/Electrologist/Drag Queen, had traded with me; design work for treatments a la his new electrologist hair removal business. She replied with apall, “It’s so permanent, what if you want that hair back?” Not to be I-Told-You-So-ish but to date I have not wanted underarm hair back, BTW, and remain timidly and permanently tattoo-free, a thing which is also fairly permanent.Mo Ringey Self-portrait

Image: Self-Portrait, in front of The Peerless.

————Zzzzzzzzzzzzip! This is rambling way too long. My memories have taken over the zoo. I am going to scan a bunch of pictures from my black and white photography class at Montserrat and stop rambling now.

Epilogue – Mr. Butch died last year when he crashed his scooter into a telephone pole in Allston. Caroline Knapp died in 2002 – two months after a cancer diagnosis and one month after her wedding. One of these days I will go back to The Peerless to see if Hennock is still in his store.

Addendum: Boston memories part Deux posted here.


Mr. Butch Boson Globe obit

More Mr. Butch

Mr. Butch, Wikipedia

[sic] That’s what everyday is like

Posted in Free Pile books, lessons in Art, Literary, Philosophy?, Popular Culture on June 15, 2008 by Admin


From IT HURTS: New York Art, from Warhol to now, by Matthew Collings

New York art, from Warhol to nowChapter: Need for discipline, Essay: The culture of art

You can’t just say anything you like. You have to join in the official discourse. There are discourses for everything. But with art the discourse is incredibly tortured and unreal, and you have to get to know it over many years. At first you can’t believe the phoneyness and unreality. It’s like a bad film, set in the art world. It’s so extreme you feel sure everyone is joking, and that suddenly they’re going to admit it. (For mad people, of course, that’s what everyday is like.) But they never do, and actually their laughter at the occasional joke you might make about the discourse and the need to maintain it more or less 100 percent at all times, however absurd it gets — just to give your aching mind some relief — is always uneasy, and you learn not to make them after a while. You go along with it even though there’s a permanent uneasy feeling and you know you’re playing a role.

Innovations in art often seem to be about calling the bluff of the discourse. The new often feels satirical almost. The discourse reels, then adapts. The new often feels solemn.

The best barometer of the grotesqueness of the changes in discourse is the collectors. Because there’s something about their nature that makes the buckling and straining of the changes the discourse is going through show more clearly. They’re like a parallel universe to actual art, but one where everything is a little out of joint. In art, the moves make sense, the system makes sense. But when collectors say how moved they are by the new moves, it all becomes absurd. They go from being deeply moved to finding stripes beneath contempt and being deeply moved by video instead.

…Everyone knows a Serra fell on someone once and killed them in the 70s. And in the 80s another one fell on someone else and they were badly injured. It adds to the seriousness. Obviously if a Richard Prince psychiatrist joke on a piece of paper fell on you, it wouldn’t make any difference.

…It was reality again and I was at a party in a loft. There were a lot of mustaches, white T-shirts, work boots and overalls. Todd Haynes was in charge of the music. It was all Glam Rock selections because he was currently editing The Velvet Goldmine, his 70s Glam Rock film. Suzi Quatro came on. Devil Gate Drive. Ha ha, some lesbians were saying. This is the music we liked when we were twelve!


The great critic David Sylvester is an admirere of the new Serras, and I was recently on a television discussion programme with him in London when he attempted to eulogize them. But unfortunately as he was gathering steam the artist Tracy Emin, who was also on the discussion panel, which was being transmitted live to give a sense of breathlessness to the ocassion, stole his thunder by announcing in a frankly drunken way that she was going home now to phone her mum.

bye everybody, she slurred, terrifyingly, for a live TV station. And then she staggered out of thr lighted space of discourse and into the chaotic darkness. I’ve had a really brilliant night out — fuckin’ excellent! she called from the void of non-discourse, to the dozen or so critics in their chairs, and to the half-million or so TV viewers. This is a parable of how you can never control the discourse.

Forgot about arrest

I forgot to ask Stella about the stable of racehorses he runs and and what it’s like being a millionaire, and about when he had a phase of buying Ferreris and other fast expensive cars and speeding in them and the time he was arrested for that.

There goes the neighborhood

Jeffrey Deitch made so much money he used to live in Trump Tower. Before that he lived at The Gramercy Park Hotel. But then he had to move because there was an old woman who lived there too, on the same corridor, who was dying. And she used to leave her door open and he would see her naked on her bed on his way to his room for the evening.


… Is Yoko a good artist? No one can tell. She’s too legendary. She was one of the Fluxus artists. They made ephemeral art and films and weird music.

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