Archive for December, 2013
* in an alternative universe
for Carter Camp
My grandparents were “removed” by jackbooted thugs when the cavalry came into our village and forced us at gunpoint to leave our ancestral lands and walk to a prison in Oklahoma. They rarely talked about it but all the old folks of our nation spent the rest of their lives yearning for what they had left behind and what they had lost. In fact that yearning still lives inside me too. As a part of the cost of “manifest destiny.”
Too many Americans think the native genocide in this country is “ancient history” but my Grandmother and Grandfather were alive when our nation (Ponca) was torn from their lands and “removed” to Oklahoma. We lost a third of our people on the long march and the ensuing concentration camp. We were reduced from a thriving people of over 3,000 to around 400 by the end of the century. The final solution damn near worked. But genocide takes many things from a people besides all the lives. My nation still suffers its effects today in many uncountable ways.
The Americans shot several million rounds at me when I led my people at Wounded Knee in 1973. I shot back at them and never considered my citizenship any factor, we were fighting and both sides were trying to kill the others. Two of my soldiers were killed but no one ever objected to it because they were Americans. I was targeted in an up close assassination attempt and damn near got whacked, if I had been I doubt anyone would have said anything.
The only possible opening for a statement like this is that I detest writing.
A gentle exit for the old year with a trio of songs from Fred Neil. Not generally acknowledged as one of the titans of music, but long a favorite of mine.
Neil was a Florida boy with a rich baritone voice, a unique touch on the 12-string, and a fondness for songs melancholy. Some of his earliest tunes were recorded by Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison; he shepherded callow youngbloods David Crosby and Bob Dylan through the Greenwich Village folk-music scene (Dylan backed Neil on harmonica); he inspired talents as disparate as Jerry Jeff Walker and the Jefferson Airplane. Neil recorded four albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the world took no notice. Afforded a modest living through steady royalties generated by Orbison’s cover of his “Candy Man,” and Nilsson’s cover of his “Everybody’s Talkin’,” Neil left Woodstock and environs in the early ’70s and retired to southern Florida, where he spent the rest of his life, until his death in 2001, aged 64.
“[His retreat] was rightfully deserved,” said Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner. “He was treated rather brutally by the music business, and he was a gentle soul.”
Like many in the music trade, Neil spent time as a narcotics person—see, for instance, “Cynicrustpetefredjohn Raga”—but he left that world behind, too. “Fred went in until the water was up to his neck,” said friend Michael Mann, the film director, “and then he got out.”
Neil spent the last thirty years of his life with The Dolphin Project, which he established with Richard O’Barry on Earth Day in 1970, and which is “dedicated to abolishing the billion-dollar dolphin slave trade.”
Something had to come from something and the thing in question was forever—an infinite cloud of restless dust as far as T. could grasp. When he first started brooding on the matter of creation, T. realized immediately that the human brain was so constructed as to be absolutely unable to make the slightest sense of the whole. As we start and stop so, for us, the cosmos must start and stop. But he could also see that his own reasoning was crippled by the built-in limitations of a two-lobe human brain, with its peculiar hang-up on beginnings and endings when it was change that was the nature of nature. But just as he felt he was on the verge of grasping the whole, everything seen and sensed fell away. Back to Go. “We ask all the wrong questions.” T. pressed the button that summoned up the string of light which represented their small planet’s brief life as a sphere. “And that’s why we keep getting all the wrong answers.”
“There was a man, born the son of a Virgin . . . ” Father Lamy was dogged.
T. Was equally dogged; and annoyed. “I was confirmed by Bishop Freeman himself in the cathedral and I knew then that everything to do with that story is not only useless but designed—only your heaven knows who or what did it and why—to keep us from finding out anything that we actually need to know.”
“Perhaps we don’t need to know the things that you think that you—for now—want to know.”
—Gore Vidal, The Smithsonian Institution
“I would like to go to the Lion’s Gate,” Raziel told him.
Approaching the end of the Via Dolorosa, almost at the Lions’ Gate, above the shouting he heard a voice he knew. It was the voice of Adam De Kuff speaking from the upper quadrant of his interior universe, strong, unafraid, joyful, thoroughly delusional. Raziel shouldered his way through the ranks until he saw the man himself.
He wore what looked like an army jacket that fitted him so badly its cuffs stopped a little past his elbows. He had hugely baggy army trousers and untied muddy boots whose laces coiled around his ankles and twisted underfoot as he shuffled passionately from one end of the bench to the other like a dancing bear. There was a kippa on his head and a white scarf tied around his forehead like a turban and he crooned at the top of his voice.
Raziel kept trying to force his way closer to the old man. He had the notion of taking him away from there, before the thing failed utterly, before all spells and mercies were suspended, before whatever grace that had touched their pilgrimage was withdrawn and the violence and raw holiness of the place overwhelmed everyone.
De Kuff himself understood only that he was in the place he knew and loved best, the scene of his successes, the ancient Serapion and Pool of Israel. All that day he had been trying to reach the souls within himself as they weaved in and out of his consciousness. He had begun to think that everything he had ever believed about soul and mind was wrong. There was no way to exercise control.
But there at the Fountain, his souls were manifest and his heart was full, and in the completeness of his joy he had no choice but to tell about it. It was necessary to tell everyone, anyone, no matter how distressed or distracted they might be by politics or by the illusion of separateness and exile that burdened everyone. He felt elected and protected by God, ready to support the Ark in the holiest of places. He used the metaphors that were employed in this city, although, in a way, it might have been anywhere.
“Call me as you like,” he explained to the angry crowd. “I am the twelfth imam. I am the Bab al-Ulema. I am Jesus, Yeshi, Issa. I am the Mahdi. I am Moshiach. I have come to restore the world. I am all of you. I am no one.”
There were screams of terrible passion. “Perish he! Death!”
People began to throw stones.
“Death to the blasphemer!”
De Kuff opened his arms to them. For a moment those who were advancing on him stopped. Raziel, shouting, shoving, tried to get through.
“You don’t have to listen,” Raziel said to the crowd. “It’s all over. Rev,” he shouted to De Kuff, “it’s all over! Another time, man. Another soul. Another street.”
The men who were taking hold of De Kuff, pulling him down as he tottered on his bench, also laid hands on Raziel.
“I tell you, ” De Kuff informed them in his restrained Louisiana drawl. “That all was once One and will be and has always remained so. That God is One. And faith in Him is One. And all belief is One. And all believers in Him, regardless of sect, are One. Only the human heart divides. So it is written.
“See? Do you see?” De Kuff asked the men who were pulling him down. “Everyone’s waiting. And the separateness of things is false.”
He went on declaiming, using the images, the reversals, the metaphors everyone knew, expounding the souls, raising their voices, until the great holiness turned to fire and he lost consciousness.
—Robert Stone, Damascus Gate
Bobby Dylan is the most unusual dude I have ever known. You can’t really ever understand him completely. He is so much like a kid in a way. But you don’t think that when you’re around him. You think, “That son of a bitch is doin’ numbers on everybody.”
Once one’s eyes are opened to the thing, it becomes increasingly clear that the number of people, places, and things that are mucking with humans, teasing and tormenting them, yea, verily, that number is without limit.
First came the extraterrestrials who have foisted pseudo-humans upon Americans as if they were Real candidates for the presidency. Then there was whoever created an insect as big as a human hand. Now: Bob Dylan.
Dylan has always been something of a trickster. Most people figure this out eventually. But when in the autumn of 2009 he released the CD Christmas In The Heart, the thing was so cruel and unusual that nobody knew what to say. It was met mostly with stunned silence.
Only now, a couple years later, is the outrage starting to find its voice. Snatches from the work are appearing this holiday season on various and sundry radio programs, with commentators asking WTF?
Take the song embedded below. The backing musicians are bad enough, but Dylan himself sounds like a tubercular wino in the midst of a phlegm seizure. The man has smoked about 87.5 billion cigarettes in his life, and you can hear every one of them in this song. He had to know how bad it sounded. But he released it anyway. Why?
When asked why he recorded a CD of Christmas songs in such a “straightforward” style, Dylan replied: “There wasn’t any other way to play it. These songs are part of my life, just like folk songs. You have to play them straight too.”
He is lying. He didn’t play this stuff “straight.” He is messing with our minds. Again.