Lou Reed died yesterday and I cried today. I was thinking of something I wrote for a poetry slam after Bradley Nowell died, “When an artist dies, Satan smiles.” Upon reflection that seems suspiciously close to “I saw Satan laughing with delight / The day the music died.” It’s not that Lou Reed died. I hope he had a good passing. But he was an artist once. He brought something new into the world. In Ursula Le Guin’s book The Word for World is Forest, those who are bringing something new into the world are called gods—while they are bringing something new into the world–so someone might say, “I was a god then.” I have observed over the years that if an artist sees that something is worth doing, and that he can do it, he will do it, regardless of consequences. I think that is the difference between artists and entertainers; an entertainer worries about coming back tomorrow night. Maybe I cried for the price that artists pay. But, no, Vincent van Gogh has already reassured me about that. In his last letter to his brother Theo, Vincent said, “My own work, I am risking my life for it, and my reason has half-foundered because of it….that’s all right.” Maybe I cried for the wonder of a world “that hath such people in it,” or is it that it hath so few such people in it.
Do clothes make the man? For many years I made my living as a college professor. My classes were known for a high degree of activity, interactivity, creativity, and laughter. People brought their friends to see the show because I was not one of the professors who wore a suit and stood behind a podium and recited his lecture, or read it off the PowerPoints. Rather, I took part. I demonstrated the Buffalo Dance, ran the video camera, mixed the paint, moved the furniture, held the fire extinguisher, and whatever else needed to be done. For this kind of performance art, one needs clothes that are designed to facilitate movement, not those that are designed to restrict it. Think about it, suits were originally the mark of the ruling class, for precisely the opposite reason, to demonstrate that they were not required to do any physical work. Ease of movement was for the workers, and they wore clothes appropriate to their need to move unrestrainedly. So did I. Continue reading
I met Paul the first day I moved into the neighborhood. I was unloading the truck by myself and a burly fellow walked across the street and introduced himself as Paul; he asked if I needed any help unloading. I did, but Paul was wearing some kind of brace under his shirt. “No,” he said, “it’s not a back brace; it’s for something else.” After he helped me get the washer and dryer in the basement, we chatted briefly. I complimented him on his front yard garden; in addition to quantities of the normal vegetables, he had a peach tree with peaches on it. I had seen these in Georgia, I told him, but never so far north. We also talked about the heat and the growing season here. It used to be better, Paul said, but lately the weather had become increasingly erratic, with unnatural hot spells, even during the winter, and late freezes. Continue reading