That’s how it started. I should have known better. Now I’m drunk and alone. I stayed up for days in Chelsea hotel writing “the door was opened and the wind appeared” for her. After I printed it and mailed it she left me. Three hours later. One is the loneliest number in a new car dealership in Ho Chi Minh City. Sammy Davis with an open container. Drinking is an emergency exit for a dismantling species.
My early success blew my brains out. It popped me into another abyss and another type face, a merry go round font smudged from breeding. I didn’t mature as a human in all directions. I was crazy. I remember exactly when I lost my mind. Chuck “JS” Mills and I had just dropped acid and we were in line at the Holland Tunnel.
“Y’know, Chuck, I decided that I’m just gonna go completely out of mind.” He started laughing as if it was the most hysterical thing he ever heard. He looked at me seriously and it was his turn to dead pan, to invoke, to threaten and cajole.
“Me? I feel like the blind nigger from Star Trek”. That was my old friend Chuck “JS” Mills. Once, on a snowy drive between West Virginia and NYC, he glued a votive candle to the dashboard of the huge beige Impala. After lighting the flame he surprised me by super-gluing a black matchbox car of a similar make right next to it. He spun his head like the ermine in the Da Vinci painting and nodded with the mirror shades glistening: “we need all the help we can get.”
The outsider with special powers pumped up on the screen to indicate universal reverence, the submission to the larger goal. But he’s still an outsider. He’s still marked with a sign that indicates he’s not part of the dominant paradigm.
I was raised Catholic, the most magical of the officially approved religious structures that sprung maggot like from the corpse of the Roman Empire. I was born in Margaret Hague hospital in Jersey City. At that time I was circumcised incorrectly. A half inch piece of skin was left and I have to clean it out periodically. Almost immediately I was scarred and mutated by the oppressive society. I wanted to go back to where I came from and my parents said I screamed everyday.
I don’t believe in karma because it implies an orderly universe. I prefer chaos, disorder and the possibility for absolutely anything to occur. A universe constantly unfolding, rolling and changing.
Perhaps I disbelieve in karma because the personal ramifications are too heavy to comprehend. It’s an easy write off.
But Lord Harry Krishna implied that once you leave this planet, well you just might be coming back. So if there is Santa Karma, I’d like to work it out on this plane, the plain of jars. I was on junk in the late nineties and I saw the marshes next to the NJ Turnpike turn into the plain of jars. Giant’s Stadium turned into a huge stone column. The field of vast funeral urns stretched from Alphabet City to Center City.
Why do I live in the past? Why am I making what happened before into the present? That is, why am I making a psychic hurt a full frontal assault on my senses? After snorting Oxy everyday for a year I can feel my brain starting pickled. I desperately need a friend.
The darkness on the edge of town is psychological. It refers to the places on the border of the personality that one goes to when the core is removed. When I’m drinking and strung out I’m a megalomaniacal prick that no one wants to be around. Twenty years ago I was accurately called “Kid Caligula”. The guy that called me that, the legendary West Virginia scenester Paul Bearer, is mad at me cos of an anti-Semitic rant I made to him twenty years ago. But wait, was that last weekend?
And he has every right to be. I’ve done so many things that I’m ashamed of now. “Shot gun shine, shame about it: so sad, goddamn- goddamn shame about it.” One night at an Inbred gig at the Underground Railroad, Paul told the crooner Bob: “Jim’s turning into Aleister Crowley right before our eyes!” I was on ET and I was wearing a feather boa.
ET is from the family of DMT. It’s an ecstasy like drug that lasts for five days. You were there right? That was the summer I made out with the Nazi Hunter in the cemetery. I remember walking down the tree lined street with her arm in mine. She just hung up on me. “Jim I’m not going back to that place.” It was shrill and heart felt. The cemetery in Morgantown was where the darkness on the edge of town became marked on maps.
I’m regrouping. I just got into town about an hour ago. Things were as I left them: in piles, in mounds, in strange gatherings suggesting a signal to aircraft. It meant that no matter how far I drove I was still behind or beneath the wheel. No matter how much coffee I guzzled, no matter how many cigarettes burned the nub of my knuckles I was the only one laughing at the jokes I once played on myself, against myself, towards myself for myself.
“You put yourself in these situations to give you something to write about-and it’s all just really nasty. You revel in your using, you glamorize it. You use your bi-polar illness as an excuse to et high. I don’t know, I’m just numb right now.”
I’m boxed in these days, trapped in a self-constructed cage. But I reflect that I’m at this stage for a reason, a good reason and if I was HERE I’d never be able t’get to who I am or who I’m supposed t’be without passing through these days, and we’re passing through these days all right...
I wake up with feelings of shame and repulsion as I drank most of my money up again. The old line “revisionist history will vindicate me” doesn’t work with bill collectors. It doesn’t work with my long suffering friends.
I went out to get some beer and I encountered about ten people dressed like Santa Claus. One of the Santa’s began shuffling backwards making choo-choo arm mills and contact with my eyes. I said hello and he continued the white menstrual show: “And he knows who has been naughty, and he knows who’s been nice- and I know you, you’ve been naughty this year.”
For once I was speechless. All I could make with my lips was a resigned, no kidding.
Who the fuck is this guy? Did I fuck his girlfriend? Did I take his last beer? Did I tell him his band sucked? Who the fuck is this Santa Karma Claus?
It was like he knew I was digesting a particularly cutting edge email I had received from a friend regarding some of my recent behavior. Which is characterized as antisocial according to the manual of psychoactive disorders. I’ve got to calm down. I’ve already lived a great deal longer than I thought I would, and the reckless abandon I’ve lived with has gotten me this far, and pretending to be the wickedest man in the world is starting to wear thin, even I can’t take myself anymore.
The beauty of being a writer is the ability to break back into silence when the time comes.
The next night I bought a six pack and a pint to remind myself that other writers started this way and just fuck it, the post office is getting to me.
I was cranking the Blind Willie Johnson and Luther Blissett, the conceptual artist with a cornucopia full of tricks screeched into the driveway. He was carrying a six pack and he shook his head at the morbid twilight soundtrack. “Jesus Christ, Jim, this feeling sorry for your self and drinking all day is just stupid. And this fucking music-jeezus” He cracked open and frosty and threw in a CD-R.
He was right of course. Suddenly Iggy was singing “I am the passenger”, which is a song I’ve gravitated towards cos I identify with the idea of just being a spectator. Just passing through and observing or just hearing about what I’ve done, did, said or fucked, or fucked up.
“What the fuck’s up with you? I’ve heard more than usual shit. I mean really, are you like, okay? You’re not going back into the psych ward are you?”
-What do you mean you’ve heard shit? Like what?
He drew a smoke and squinted. “Mumbler told me that you called your girlfriend a cunt at his house the other night.”
I was on the defensive but I knew it was true. I wasn’t very proud of that moment, my old lady is a beautiful girl and an incredible friend, but that night I was being a prick and I had to pretend to play cool. When confronted with unpleasant reality I always slip into persona.
-Well you can blame that on Capricorn Records.
“What!?!? Christ Jim! You’re worse than I thought, so now it’s Capricorn Records’ fault! What does that mean?!?! Capricorn Records! Your fuckin’ nuts, can’t ya just admit it? You push everyone away that loves you. I swear, Capricorn Records!”
We drank in silence and listened to a bootleg of the Blues Explosion playing “Son of Sam”. Which segued into Royal Trux’s beautiful “Back to School”, the last song I ever saw them play. (Of Montreal recently covered it). The tape started playing ‘don’t go back to Rockville’. I broke the stale cigarette twilight and my girlfriend’s white husky Koda raised an eyebrow as I spoke.
-Yeah you’re right, I’ve treated here terribly. I feel horrible about it, I really do. There’s not much I can say. She’s my old lady though, I love her, y’know that.
“Well why don’t you show it some time? This wickedest man in the world act is just stupid, but that’s right, that’s right: you’re not being an asshole: it’s all homage to Crowley.”
-Well it is!
Blissett batted his hand down at me incredulously, “Oh just stop it. Just stop it. And turn this REM shit off, okay, it’s depressing.” He was right, they sounded worse than Air Supply and I stood up. The radio started “truckin” and it seemed appropriate, we looked at each other and sang out: “what a long strange trip it’s been!” and it broke the ice between us. I spoke first.
-Y’know the last time I saw Mumbler (who hates REM personally) I asked for a cigarette and he sorta threw it at me and I couldn’t understand why. He musta been pissed about how I treated my girlfriend, shit, he’s a good guy.
“Well that’s my point: you’re alienating everyone. Especially people that already love you and you can’t afford to that, I mean who wants no friends.” He it let it drop and he let it hang. Then he asked, “And where’s your incredible Royal Trux book? Where’s the masterpiece?”
I pointed to the pile of paper near the hard drive and he smirked.
Great, it’s bad enough I get email from friends describing what a prick I’ve been but now I got friends coming over and telling me. I’m smoking one more cigarette before I crash. When I see my psychiatrist on Thursday I’ll get some type of write up, some type of piece of paper to cover my still employed ass. Eleven errors at the top of the season, when teams have quantitatively modified their defense. And a west coast friend said she just got the text from Saturday and wanted to know if I was okay. And I half wonder what it was I said. Another woman I’m in love with (and have been for years) said “Jesus Jim, you okay?” It was probably angry and most likely it was insane. A peek inside what’s left of my mind. A three fingered peak, all the words, all the pages, it has to start somewhere.
I’m trying to figure it all out; it all means I’m not living up to my obligations. I have obligations to write, to describe and to document. When I was on junk in NYC, I dreamt I was going from walk up hotel to hotel to score. Finally I entered a room and there was Mr. Mojo-Risin’ himself with a full beard and a beer in his hand, he pointed to a long necked Bud on the wooden table and gestured for me to sit down. “You’re not livin’ up to your obligations.”
She was painting before some windows overlooking Marietta Square and I was telling her that I live my books. That if people were going to say I was crazy I was going to be crazy. My writing exists as a magickal record. My visual work was an example of the text. I feel that physical representations of my writing makes the sentences come alive. In my larger visuals blood, semen, spit and hair are introduced as a way to make myself one with the piece before the final lamination. Certainly there’s a magickal intent with the pieces, with all aspects of the work from the recording textually. The words prove that at this junction I am alive and this is what I did said when, where.
There’s never been any separation between my life and my creativity. All are intrinsically linked. When people read my writing it is important to me that they merely read it, not whether they think its literature or the like. The same with my visual work.
Scrimshaw chapter when, now, then, later. Time is a large map. This week is a turning point in my life. Right now I decide whether I am going to manifest my destiny or allow fate to happen. What exactly is remorse? What is regret? I could pretend to have both but it would be false. Or I could pretend to have one and fake the other.
I just want a place to write. Things have gotten so bad that I do not know where to begin. There’s no need to describe it, I’ve been here before. I owe a dealer $480 and my first and only option fell through. That means I’ll be paying it off in weekly increments. That means I can’t go and cop and get anymore on credit. I have to quit snorting Oxycontin everyday.
1 am, one clock or something. The connection just weaved and sputtered out of my driveway. He was robbed at gun point at a casino in Biloxi. They got a yard and $800 worth of downtown.
Agoraphobia means fear of the marketplace as directly translated from the Greek. But in shorthand in means afraid to go outside and afraid to be around people. If this is the case then my home should/would/could be spotless. The focus of my next art piece, my continually unfolding pre-sent art piece should be about the need to do something.
I didn’t think you were your lecturing me. I thought you were expressing your fears that I’m on the freeway to death. You were saying that at one time you felt close to me and now you feel far away and helpless. I have to remember that the character I play and jim are two distinct entities. My friends and I are tired of watching me die. That’s why I feel so alone; I’ve pushed everyone away. Since I decided that I was going to live it has made things easier. I have to change everything about me. I have to be the real Jim for perhaps the first time in my life. You hit the road square on the pavement when you mentioned “performance piece”. Yes, a great deal of my life is about me setting up scenes and watching what happens in order to give me something to write about. Being a writer is all I ever wanted to be. No I can’t do it without creating an image of the suffering artist. Yes I can do it without substances.
Get give garnish glimmer. Am I supposed to feel guilty that I sold my cd collection for drugs? Six years of clean living gave me a few shelves of cultural artifacts. I was dope sick and I needed money. It was means to an end. I even got to the untouchable stack of cds. My need was greater than holding onto these things. My books have no resale value in this neck of the woods. This is a good thing because my library is actually moderately valuable. What is remorse? What is regret? I could pretend to have both but it would be false. Does my character have a picture? do the photos of me that survive reveal anything?
I have to have a writing project going on. I’m interested in making my new manuscript totally theoretical. Meta-journalism: totally about writing and promoting neo-neoism. “Scrimshaw”. I want to make sure that it’s correct. I want to get back into criticism as poetry. I think the most intriguing part of criticism today is non-documentation. The idea of site-specific pieces disappearing. Removing date stamps from everything. I might start attributing authorship to an anonymous collective: the neo-neoist alliance. Scrimshaw is a document describing what I’ve done that day for my art career. Just a plain document. Just names, no dates, no hyperlinks, a mailing list to avoid repetition.
I always do things halfway now. too stoned to finish, too broke to mail. Pathetic. If I don’t change anything, the same patterns continue. Scrimshaw: the only symbol of this poem is to be itself. Poetry is a creative act that involves the transference of some type of glyph that inspires. It’s not necessarily words on a page but a life activity. A life activity that captivates and inspires. Self documentation is an anti-activity. If something created is so ‘important’ and so ‘interesting’ won’t someone else want to write about it? Poetry not disguised as art theory but as theory itself. Poetry means letting things follow their own design. Letting ideas and shapes assume their own logic. Scrimshaw is about writing on the bones of the white whale. It’s about the large carcass that is art history being chopped up and placed in museums. Each bone is precisely weighed, minutely measured, completely photographed and infinitely studied.
Scrimshaw is a painstaking etching on ivory or bone and it is one of only a few indigenous American crafts. It was practiced for centuries by the Inuit and other native groups along the Northwest Coast. In the early 19th century it was adopted by the Yankee whale men during two to five year long voyages. To use the time during the journey they started carving on the filtering device in the mouth of the whale that looks like a comb: baleen. And of course they used the teeth and jawbones, which littered the decks of the ships. In fact the teeth were a commodity; they were part of the pay, and often traded to shopkeepers in port for goods or services. The origin of the word is obscure; the most interesting etymology is Dutch, translating: "to waste one's time".
If I use the idea that my life is a journey in search of the white whale and I’m writing an auto-hagiography called ‘scrimshaw’ it seems obvious. My writing extends out, my brain weaves waves that radiate then beg into sentences, into evidence that I’ve embraced chaos and madness. But this time the electro-stimulation, the micro-currents reveal that the radio is broken. Not so much cries for help but examples of a nervous system pushed to the limit. Modern, no, post-industrial communications have made my current insanity an electric lattice that presses against my soul like a huge dill pickle like a delicacy under glass.
If I look at myself dispassionately, if I step backwards and I evaluate my actions I have to conclude that I am insane. Fortunately it’s not a permanent condition. The fulcrum of my present disorder is my underlying opiate addiction coupled with my nascent alcoholism. When these things are under the straight up, when I’m hiding under my soap box, I have motive and opportunity. Instead of focusing on my idea for this file I’m just going to display it. Scrimshaw is a book about writing other books and trying to achieve some success as a writer in the constant now of the 21th century. It’s about being a writer in early 2010 where the market place is simultaneously saturated but entirely accessible. The literary marketplace is in fact so accessible that even the roads are crowded with goods. The goods have a one click retail value. An ad drifts along the side of a page.
Words exist to foster motion. Moving images that we shape one frame at a time. Does it give you discipline to listen to a song called discipline? Do you acquire it by osmosis or creative reinforcement?
Did the separation between life and art finally dissolve? Everybody seems to be creative now-everyone has a blog-the Yankees in the World Series turns into a 12,000 photo mono-blog. Another excuse for an art piece. More art for an excuse piece.
The book I’m writing now is called “scrimshaw”. I can’t believe I’ve done anything this afternoon. I thought a great deal. I realized the miraculous appearance of a stack of money to pay the dealer was truly miraculous. When asked about his belief system, Dylan said “I am a true believer.”
I’m excited about “scrimshaw” because I’m going to make it without any plot but with plenty of characters, I’m going to make it flat. Instead of the tedious “how did I get clean on my vacation?” “Scrimshaw” is about writing and publishing but it’s really about writing. It’s really about mapping activity and leaving it at that. It’s really a secret manuscript that will remain an internal document.
“So it’s all about you man. It’s all about you.” Creativity looks like a personal ad in an age of digital reproduction. Creativity looks like a blurb on a social not-working site. I wrote an internal document about an external project and how with so many changes going on it’s necessary to use a new name. The first name I wanted to use for the new piece I deleted from blog spot so that means it’s gone forever. And I why did I delete the blog forever. that’s top secret. But it turns out that if I switch some of the words around it sounds better. More mysterious-more a sense of “play” or more a commercial, attention getting ploy. The sense that the word: assembly starts with A so it’s at the front of your Akashic phone book of clicks drags and mosquito newspaper clippings pasted to the shells of centipedes. “So it’s all about you man. It’s all about you.”
Joe Gould’s masterpiece, “the oral history of the world” did not exist. But Joseph Mitchell’s “Joe Gould’s Secret” did. That piece is a beautiful story about how a man and a project defined each other. Joe Gould was the most famous unpublished writer in the Village in the thirties forties fifties and sixties. He claimed to have written a much rejected compendium of all the conversations he heard in his entire life. Anyone that wanted to look at it was put off by the same handwritten notebooks that told the same stories over and over. Joseph Mitchell found out that Mr. Gould’s lifeblood-the reason for his remaining alive was the legend of these books. But what if he did write the oral history of world? what would it have looked like?
A friend of mine is on a morphine drip at a downtown Atlanta hospital. He doesn’t need the Oxycontin pills they’ve been feeding him. I drove down and when the nurse was out of the room we made the exchange. I got a five milligram capsule and a forty milligram pill. I swallowed the capsule and snorted the pill. Now I’m pretty high.
then I think about my hateful text messages last Saturday. to people who do not want to talk to me. anyway, by these long strangulated cries for help. a friend said that I surround myself with delusions but I look at it like a ritual, like a performance. the village shaman takes on the pain of the community. My insanity for lack of a better word. My behavior becomes defined as ritualistic-in fact it becomes ritualistic because I say it is. When necessary I factor in the factor of my chemical imbalance which...is just another excuse. Pulling a manhole cover over my life. Trying to live differently and trying to stretch things out. Trying to reach different parts of myself.
Using my life as source material, retelling the whole story like a long unfolding well read carpet. I pretend to be a paparazzi foto-graphing myself on the blood red carpet-starring myself, directing myself.
I have a commitment to write this book, I shudder cos I wonder if THOTH is pissed and then I know that he is. Ke-rrist, the century is beginning and I’m a colossal fuck up with no one to blame but myself...