The Conversation Continues
|Welcome to Page 40 of my ďforum.Ē The subject matter here is anything to do with literature, books, reading, and writing, with a little philosophy thrown in, as well as other tangents and revelations that spring naturally from ďintelligentĒ conversation. To participate, send an e-mail. Thatís all there is to it. When I receive your message, I will add it to the bottom of the newest page ó unless, of course, it is rude or crude, in which case I retain the right to not post your message. The same goes for blatant advertising. Pertinent recommendations of reading material and related websites, though, are welcome within the natural context of our conversation. We all have plenty to gain from each otherís knowledge and experience. So, whether you are just reading or actively participating, enjoy your visit. I will post new messages as soon as possible after they are received. Be sure to check in often for the latest responses.|
To add a message, click here, or on any of the ďJoin ConversationĒ links scattered along the right side of the page. Iíd rather you use your real name, but you can use a screen name if you prefer.
To return to Page 1 of the forum, click here. For Page 2, click here. For Page 3, click here.
For Page 4, click here. For Page 5, click here. For Page 6, click here. For Page 7, click here.
For Page 8, click here. For Page 9, click here. For Page 10, click here. For Page 11, click here.
For Page 12, click here. For Page 13, click here. For Page 14, click here. For Page 15, click here.
Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 20 Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24 Page 25
Page 26 Page 27 Page 28 Page 29 Page 30 Page 31 Page 32 Page 33 Page 34 Page 35
Page 36 Page 37 Page 38 Page 39 Page 41 Page 42 Page 43
To return to my December 2002 Barbaric Yawp interview with John Berbrich, click here.
To read our original 2001 interview, click here.
William Michaelian: ...which pale, of course, to those contrived and concocted by the mind, and which find their way into the Yawp.
John Berbrich: Nice segue. Actually I mailed yours yesterday ó all of them.
William Michaelian: What? You mailed my woodpile? Or my intriguing life-forms. Either way, Iím amazed. By the way, I got a kick out of Bill Clingerís recitation at the Hookah Lounge. Iíll have to watch the rest of the videos you posted.
John Berbrich: Yeah, Bill did a fine job, especially since it was his first time. The camera batteries wore out just before I went on, so you wonít see me. At least Nancy claims the batteries wore out. It was a good reading, w/ a wide range of styles & subjects presented. Too bad you live three time zones away. You would have a good time at these poetry shindigs.
William Michaelian: You think so? I can be pretty gloomy, you know. Downright miserable, in fact. Everyone always looks so cheerful. What if some of that were to wear off? Then where would I be? My image would be ruined.
John Berbrich: Ah, Willie, Willie. You are such a worry-wart. Poetry generates positive energy. Gloominess is allowed, of course, but so is humor. And you are so egocentric. Your fans will still adore you, even if you modify your position on world phenomena. I mean, theyíll consider it a transformation, a period of artistic growth in the Master, or something. Donít worry so much.
William Michaelian: Cheer up, in other words. Look, I already told you I was trying to improve my posture. Now you want me to improve my mental outlook as well. Where will it stop? And just so you know, Iím as cheerful as I am because of poetry. You should have seen me before.
John Berbrich: Well, at least youíre going in the right direction. I donít recall mentioning your posture, but yes, you do tend to slouch. Especially at the bar when ordering up another round of beers. But youíre really rather generous, so whatís to complain about? Hey, sit up there, will you? Chest out, back straight, & all of that. Now....breathe like you mean it.
William Michaelian: So now my breathing is insincere? I slouch at the bar to keep from falling off the stool, mind you. But youíre right about my generosity: awhile ago, I mailed you a check for fifteen thousand dollars. I seem to recall that I owe you some money, but I forget how much. I hope this covers it. If not, Iíll send you another check in the morning.
John Berbrich: I think another check, a big one, might cover it. And be generous, Willie; itís one of your finest qualities.
William Michaelian: I appreciate that. I should probably mention that the bank told me to stop writing checks, due to various ďdiscrepanciesĒ in my account. But Iím sure one more wonít hurt. Besides, they didnít say when I should stop.
John Berbrich: I hate it when banks are so vague like that. I mean, you can take the word ďdiscrepancyĒ in many different ways. Remember, Willie, itís your money; you should be able to do what you want w/ it, when you want to do it. Banks. Bah.
William Michaelian: Exactly. But the thing that gripes me most is that they insist I maintain a balance. Can you imagine? A balance? In this day and age? How quaint.
John Berbrich: Balance certainly is an outmoded concept. Ha! Hilarious just to think of it. Tipping things over ó thatís where the fun is! And thatís where weíre headed ó into the maw of the carny house freak show.
William Michaelian: My feeling exactly when I saw the cover of the new Yawp yesterday.
John Berbrich: Oh yes. Kind of tells a story, doesnít it?
William Michaelian: That it does ó all the way from Burlington to Myrtle Beach, with Three Dog Night and some hockey games in between. Using tickets was a great idea. All aboard!
John Berbrich: Weíve got ourselves a new printer/copier. Really duplicates those images beautifully. Itís a real pleasure to work w/ decent machinery. Now weíve got to come up w/ a cover for April. Thatís Nancyís project.
William Michaelian: I see. So itís kind of a his and hers thing. Monogrammed covers. Just how substantial is this new machine? Is it some newfangled tabletop model that also makes coffee? Or a brooding floor model that dares you to turn it on?
John Berbrich: It is on a table, but the thing weighs over 150 pounds. So donít drop it on your foot. It doesnít make coffee, but it does make beautiful copies. Well, maybe it does make coffee ó I havenít read all of the instruction guidebook yet.
William Michaelian: How can I drop it if I canít lift it? What Iím looking for is a coffee machine that makes copies. Donít ask me why. Meanwhile, it looks like youíve put together another fine issue. Iíve read a fair portion of it now. But you never really know about the Yawp until youíve smoked a copy. I intend to do that soon.
John Berbrich: I hope you donít use a filter. We try not to censor anything.
William Michaelian: Come on ó do I look like a filter guy to you?
John Berbrich: No, you donít. It was just a dumb joke. Sorry.
William Michaelian: Cough. Hack. Apology accepted. Then again, youíre the guy who goes around imagining roadside joints.
John Berbrich: Yeah, but there was no filter. Honestly, hasnít that ever happened to you? Havenít you ever mistaken a lollipop stick for a joint? Be honest.
William Michaelian: Well, like you, Iíve come upon discarded lollipop sticks swollen by the rain. But unless my memory has failed me completely, and Iím not saying it hasnít, it happened when I was young enough not to know what a joint was. I did think, though, that they resembled cigarattes, and if Iíd had matches, I would probably have tried to smoke them.
John Berbrich: And wondered why adults were smoking them. They do the darndest things, those parents.
William Michaelian: Yep ó theyíre hardly ever reasonable, like us kids. Oh, wait. Weíre parents too. My theory is, though, that one should try to smoke just about anything that can be rolled, or stuffed, or otherwise inhaled ó dry pine needles, dried and crumbled grape leaves ó a personal favorite... I suppose Iíve told you already that when he was a kid, my father even tried dried horse manure ó once. Seems like weíve talked about barn biscuits before. If we havenít, we should, at least briefly.
John Berbrich: Okay. Barn biscuits. Up here the Amish call them road apples. But tell me more about your fatherís experiment.
William Michaelian: I knew youíd be fascinated. First of all, he would never have smoked a road apple, because the term ďroad apples,Ē at least in our family lexicon, is reserved for ó how shall I put this... newly deposited material. Barn biscuits have been around for awhile, and are thoroughly dry.
John Berbrich: So he would grind up these barn biscuits & then roll íem & light up? And smoke them? A thoroughly brave man.
William Michaelian: Correction ó a thoroughly brave boy. He was about ten or twelve at the time. Heíd been picking up cigarette butts on the roadside and smoking them for some time already when he tried it. And found it rather ďharsh.Ē Of course he was already inhaling by this time. But this was during the Depression. The horseís poor diet might have influenced the outcome.
John Berbrich: Well, to maintain the family tradition, you should find a healthy modern horse & try the experiment yourself.
William Michaelian: Or get a job at the State Fair, or a race track, maybe. Still, that wouldnít be the same. I prefer narrow country roads. I guess thatís why I finally joined Facebook. The call of the wild.
John Berbrich: Oh no. Youíll be starting your own sheep farm any day now. And filling out lists of your favorite TV shows & what you would wear if you lived in the 13th century & the 50 best books youíve never read.
William Michaelian: Doesnít that sound just like me, though? Hey, wait a minute ó you sound awfully well informed in this department.... Oh, by the way, I meant to show you an amazing drawing. Take a gander at this.
John Berbrich: Wow, that woman can really draw. The picture makes you look solid & kinda mean. Certainly formidable. Could be an author in a remote century, sitting in a garret or a dungeon, your face illuminated by a flaming torch. Youíre wearing scratchy wool, & I can hear people outside calling sheep & tramping through the mud. Someoneís preparing gruel for supper & thereís a religious earthquake about to start shaking things up somewhere to the east. But youíve got your literary & philosophical work to do & canít be bothered w/ these mundane happenings. Am I
William Michaelian: Closer than you might imagine. Because now I have a confession to make: this is actually based on a photograph of my great-grandfather, Lev Mikhailovich Wilstoy, an obscure writer and philosopher who babbled and wrote nothing but gibberish the last three decades of his life. He was so hard to understand, in fact, that some say he was a precursor to Joyce.
John Berbrich: Probably taught Joyce everything he knew ó or thought he knew. Probably invented facebook, too. Say, speaking of facebook, what did you think of Julie Ann Augustís story in the latest Yawp?
William Michaelian: Oh, I thought it was quite good, not to mention eerie, coincidental, and prophetic. In fact, Iím pretty sure her WasteBook is what caused me to sign up for a Facebook account. And those levels, like Obsessed Planter, Addict Plowman, and Suicidal Agriculturalist ó I could really identify with those. The names, I mean. Because I actually lived those lives back in my farming days. But I would never spend more than twenty-three hours a day in front of a computer. I have my limits and my priorities.
John Berbrich: Thou art a prudent man, Willie. Personally I donít see the attraction in owning flocks of fake sheep & fixing long strands of faux barbed-wire fences. Of course, itís better than being a real farmer & having real sheep to look after. So thatís something.
William Michaelian: Oh, is it now? Really, I think there should be some sort of online Bonanza game, where people get to mend virtual fences and pretend theyíre Hoss or Little Joe Cartwright. Or maybe there is. There could be shoot-outs and hangings, and as you navigate Virginia City and environs the fake background changes just like it did on the real show. And the updates could appear in your inbox: ďUh-oh ó John Berbrich just stepped in something! Looks like Hop Sing is pretty mad!Ē
John Berbrich: That sounds like a dumb game. Hope I got a lot of points for stepping in that *%#^*!!! Iíll have to call you outside, pardner.
William Michaelian: Iíve been called worse. Much worse. Okay, so it was a lousy idea. I know you prefer ideas that can be turned into movies. Or maybe I should say films. That would be more stylish. Any filming going on in BoneWorld these days?
John Berbrich: Although Iíve heard plenty of talk about it, there are no cinematic productions underway in BoneWorld at present. We do have plans, however ó big plans ó which at this point have led nowhere. We want to start off w/ a moderately short film & work up to really short films, even tiny films. But nothing yet.
William Michaelian: Well, maybe there is something, but itís so tiny you canít see it. A microscopic film. So. Interesting. You have in mind producing a series of short short-shorts. Iím guessing that by ďtiny film,Ē you mean a minute or less.
John Berbrich: That sounds about right. This would be an experiment, making these short-short-shorts. A great way to learn about editing, dubbing in music, & so forth. These could be deeply philosophical films. Or brief comedies, the soul of wit. Or a history of the world, compressed into 60 seconds.
William Michaelian: Sure, if you think you need that much time. How about filming great endings? Endings that make you feel like youíve been absorbed for hours in whatever led up to them.
John Berbrich: Not a bad idea. Weíll call it ďJumping to Conclusions.Ē Reminds me of a book I once read about, I think written by Italo Calvino. Each chapter was the first chapter of a terrific novel, but of course all you get is the first chapter of each one. I guess the reader is expected to continue the stories on his own. Sort of a participatory literary adventure.
William Michaelian: Iíve thought of doing that very thing myself. First chapters, first paragraphs, last paragraphs. Maybe even a book of prefaces to unwritten works.
John Berbrich: Why not? How tantalizing. The author cooks up these seductive suggestive literary wonders that the reader can never get to unless he gets busy & starts writing. A marvelous method to use in a writing class, perhaps?
William Michaelian: It certainly sounds appealing. Writing a preface, for instance, would be a great exercise to get the juices flowing. Or writing a last paragraph, and then having everyone in the class dip into a hat and write a short story that culminates in the paragraph they pull out. Another thing Iíve thought about is writing a story that begins at the ending and ends at the beginning. I never did figure out if it was theoretically possible.
John Berbrich: You mean like the guy dies on page one & is born at the end of the book?
William Michaelian: Well, in simplest terms, yes. Then again, if you wrote something like Ulysses or Finnegans Wake, I guess it wouldnít matter.
John Berbrich: I suppose not. Hey, you could have the guy die on the first page and on the last page. The story sort of loops around....
William Michaelian: But what if the guy doesnít die at all? What if he doesnít want to die? And what if the guyís a girl? Not that I mind the idea of looped fiction. Or maybe circular fiction would be a better name.
John Berbrich: Doesnít matter if itís a guy or a girl. Maybe start in the middle of the story & work forward & back simultaneously.
William Michaelian: Now cut that out. You know I take suggestions like that seriously.
John Berbrich: Exactly what I was hoping for! Youíll be locked into this project for months. Meanwhile I can drink all the beer.
William Michaelian: Except that I require beer in order to tackle such projects. So your brilliant plan just might backfire on you.
John Berbrich: Okay, fair enough. Weíll split the beer, you write the story, & Iíll proofread it. What could be more fair?
William Michaelian: More fair? How about we split the story, forget the proofreading, and focus on the beer.
John Berbrich: Thatís a better idea! Just donít start singing, okay?
William Michaelian: Deal. But I just thought of another technical problem. How do we determine the exact middle of the story, if we donít know where the ends are?
John Berbrich: Thatís easy. The middle is where you start. Then you write a word in each direction, then another, then another, then another, until youíre done. That way the book comes out even. Make sense?
William Michaelian: In a strange, mathematical way, yes. So what youíre saying is that an arbitrary middle leads to a conclusive beginning, but not until you reach the end.
John Berbrich: Youíve hit it, Willie. I suppose that you could select a word at random from the dictionary, then choose a word that would lead logically to that first word, then pick a word that would logically follow from those first two words. Keep repeating the process. It would have to lead somewhere. And then when you were finished, youíd be done. Weíd both be done. Simple, really.
William Michaelian: I have to admit, it sounds simple. Except for the logic part. But logic has never stopped us before. I suppose in theory you could even begin with punctuation. But I think we should actually test your idea. Why donít you choose a word, and then Iíll supply the next, and then you supply the one after that, and so on, and weíll see what we have once weíve strung a dozen or so together. Now, I guess it will be up to me to choose whether I put my word before your word or after it. But once I decide, then you will have to do the opposite, to ensure that the original word retains its middle status.
John Berbrich: Yes. We must maintain balance, & symmetry. Okay, letís start w/ ďdog.Ē
William Michaelian: Very well. And before dog, let us place the word slumbering.
John Berbrich: Okay, so now weíve got ďslumbering dog,Ē an excellent start. We havenít really discussed punctuation yet, although you did mention it obliquely, in your sagely manner. I think weíll place a period after ďdog.Ē Like that. And start a new sentence after ďslumbering dog.Ē w/ the fine word ďBefore.Ē So weíve got ď...slumbering dog. Before...Ē
William Michaelian: Oh, my. You know what this reminds me of already? A chess match. And Iím terrible at chess. I also have a checkered past, but thatís another subject. I wager his ó to wit: ďhis slumbering dog. Before...Ē
John Berbrich: Okay. How about the sturdy favorite ďthe.ď So we have ď...his slumbering dog. Before the...Ē Riveting prose thus far. But do you see the problem developing? If we continue w/ this procedure, youíll be writing all of the before words, & Iíll be writing all of the after.
William Michaelian: True. But is that really a problem? Because, in a sense, every word I contribute also comes after every word I contribute, and every word you contribute also comes before every word you contribute. Not to mention the fact that you contributed the first word ó which means that the word I contributed came both before and after the word you contributed. That said, though, if youíd like to contribute the next before word, be my guest, and Iíll gladly contribute the next after word. The choice is yours.
John Berbrich: I think in the interest of fair play, since it is your turn, that you should select the next after word. Then Iíll handle the before, youíll get the next before, & so on....
William Michaelian: The funny thing is, I would never have thought of that. Very well. Behold: ď...his slumbering dog. Before the door...Ē
John Berbrich: Writerís block. No, wait. ď...ignored his slumbering dog. Before the door...Ē
William Michaelian: Intriguing. So now Iím supposed to add something before ďignored.Ē Letís see.... How about this: ď...he ignored his slumbering dog. Before the door...Ē Eh? Notice that the ďheĒ isnít capitalized. That would have been too easy.
John Berbrich: Right. Letís see: ď...he ignored his slumbering dog. Before the door slammed...Ē This is going great. Weíll have a couple pages by the end of the year.
William Michaelian: Well, letís not think about that. In fact, letís not think at all: ď...he ignored his slumbering dog. Before the door slammed and...Ē
John Berbrich: ď...bottle; he ignored his slumbering dog. Before the door slammed and...Ē Can I change one of mine?
William Michaelian: Ah, already cracking under the pressure, eh? My thought on that is this: after weíve finished a hundred pages or so, then we can go back and edit what we have, one word at a time, patiently reversing the process, making sure that we each edit the otherís words. Or we could simply quit altogether, and marvel at this new portrait instead.
John Berbrich: We can quit if you want, but I really wanted to hear more about the slamming door. And I wonder what sort of dog it is. Anyway, your portrait is quite awesome, although you seem to be rusting a little. The colors are really vibrant, giving the painting life. Are you worthy?
William Michaelian: Of life? Or the colors? I mean, really, what are you saying? I think youíre just used to seeing me in black and white. But deep down, Iím quite the colorful character. And thatís what the artist captured. Unless those happened to be the colors she had on hand, and she was out of black and white. Anyway, far be it from me to slam the door on the slumbering dog. I just thought Iíd give you an easy way out if you wanted. Shall we continue, or is there something else youíd like to discuss?
John Berbrich: Nah, the spellís broken. Hey, be careful. Today is April Foolís Day. And Iím never sure whether itís April Foolís or April Fools or April Foolsí. Know what I mean?
William Michaelian: I certainly do. And for me, it causes great suffering and angst. As does the way apostrophes are dropped and added these days. ďShe emptied the bottle; he ignored his slumbering dog. Before the door slammed, they were wondering what they should do to celebrate April Foolísí Day.Ē
John Berbrich: Nice couple of sentences. But ďFoolísí?Ē
William Michaelian: Sure. I wanted to cover all the bases. What ó did you think it was a typo?
John Berbrich: Of course not. I figured that you were just being creative. But Iím simply trying to ascertain what foolísí means. Itís not really a possessive plural....This isnít a trick is it? If so youíve caught me.
William Michaelian: Trick? Nah. Iím too simpleminded for that. What if we add an apostrophe after the F? Then it would read Fíoolísí. I kind of like the look of that. Try saying it out loud.
John Berbrich: Oww! I hurt my tongue. This reminds me ó years ago I read a sword & sorcery novel. I canít recall the name but it included an evil wizard named Ool. He was pretty bad as wizards go. Rhymes w/ drool.
William Michaelian: You mean dríool, donít you? By any chance was it Ool of the Belfries? Ool, the evil wizard who tormented people in churches, appearing in disguise as a gravedigger one day, a caretaker or a priest the next.
John Berbrich: Well, now that you mention it, he may have been a good priest disguised as an evil wizard. But it all turns to haze in the distance. Thereís a tiny spider crawling on the computer screen. Spinning the worldwide web?
William Michaelian: Or, as everyone likes to say these days, ďThereís an app for that.Ē Maybe you should start a little company, Barbaric Apps. Your first app could be updates from BoneWorld ó a steady stream of updates from you Twitter account, your authorsí accounts, and so on, blog entries, readings, walking the dogs, shoveling snow, you name it.
John Berbrich: Sounds fascinating. You mentioned Barbaric Apps. We receive a number of submissions addressed to Barbaric Yamp. And just the other day I got one made out to Barbaric Yarp. That was a first. I'm not sure what a Yarp is.
William Michaelian: Thatís a great one. Theyíre both great. I guess Yaup would be another possibility. Or Yalp... Iím going through the alphabet here... I guess thatís it. Unless you like Yaxp, or Yayp, or Yazp. But the real question is, have you ever published something by someone who got the name wrong?
John Berbrich: The name that comes to mind immediately is Mark Spitzer. He sends to a different variant every time, like Barbarian Yap or something. But heís doing it on purpose. In fact, we recently received a homemade postcard from him made out to Barbie Yawp. Thereís an image.
William Michaelian: Barbie Yawp, with Ken dead in her trunk. Yep, that Spitzer is quite a character. Iíd expect that from him.
John Berbrich: Yeah, quite a character. What really annoys me is when the envelope is properly addressed, but the cover letter is made out to someone Iíve never heard of whoís the editor of some obscure little journal. I mean, thatís really inattention to detail.
William Michaelian: So obviously the person has a big pile of stuff heís sending out, and has an assembly line going on his desk or kitchen table. And at the very moment youíre opening his package, some other editor across the country is reading a letter addressed to you. I guess this is the kind of thing you talk about at those editor conventions youíre always attending. Isnít the next one at the Russell Hilton?
John Berbrich: Yeah, & as soon as they build it I promise weíll hold a huge convention & weíll talk about all those little irritating things that make editing such a fulfilling activity. And Iíll invite you, as a sort of special guest star. And weíll hire a band, a couple of them. W/ an open bar, well stocked. And dancers. Sounds like a good time, canít wait.
William Michaelian: You do sound thrilled. Russell will never be the same. Of course, it probably wasnít the same before. And then you have to wonder: the same as what? Can something be the same as itself? As Groucho Marx said in A Night at the Opera, ďEverything about you reminds me of you. Even you.Ē
John Berbrich: Sounds like something you would say. But, Willie---I saw these amazing photographs tonight. This is the truth, Iím not kidding.
William Michaelian: I believe you, I believe you.... Well? Arenít you going to tell me about them?
John Berbrich: Calm down. Okay. We were at a special function at the Russell Library. The town historian had these old photos, three of them. I donít know where she got them. They were old sepia-tinted black & whites from 1911, a year the winter was so cold that Niagara Falls actually froze solid. Apparently at the time there were houses right near the Falls. The residents were accustomed to hearing the constant roar, but one morning awoke to silence. The pictures were unreal.
William Michaelian: Oh ó those photographs. I think Iíve seen them before. Are there people out walking on the frozen falls?
John Berbrich: Yeah. It was unbelievable. Iíve been to the Falls once. The power of the water is tremendous. I canít begin to imagine what a long cold winter that was.
William Michaelian: Thatís because you keep going back inside, and sitting by that miraculous wood stove of yours. Some winter evening, try watching Doctor Zhivago through the window from your front porch. Then youíll imagine it. But certainly the Falls didnít freeze solid ó or did they? Wasnít the water moving underneath? Itís a poor comparison, but I saw pictures once of the Willamette River in Salem, frozen solid and with cars parked on it. It was back in the Thirties, I think. Or maybe I just dreamed I saw it.
John Berbrich: Well, there was some spray shooting through the ice. Anyway, it looked pretty solid. I guess back in those days, lots of waterways froze up tight. Still, these photographs look like they were taken on another world.
William Michaelian: Imagine being the first person to see it. You know, something strange happened early this morning. I dreamed I was reciting ďO Captain! My Captain!Ē The rhythm was still there, but someone had changed the words.
John Berbrich: Changed them to what?
William Michaelian: Other words. But of course I canít remember them now ó except for one, oddly enough, which was ďdead.Ē Like maybe, Our fearful trip is dead, or something like that. How far is Niagara Falls from Long Island?
John Berbrich: Oh, a bit over 400 miles. Two extreme corners of the state.
William Michaelian: Yes, but which is farther away ó you, or the Falls? Wait. That doesnít make sense. Or does it?
John Berbrich: That depends upon exactly what you meant. If you were asking which is farther from Long Island, my house or Niagara Falls, well the distance is pretty similar. Is that what you meant? Or did you mean which is farther from Oregon? In that case, the answer would depend upon your route, I guess. But if you travelled in a straight line across the USA, assuming you could find a straight road, then you would find that Oregon was closer to Niagara Falls, &, when you arrived there, still maybe four hours from me & my case of beer....
William Michaelian: In other words, I would need to turn left and follow the signs to your case of beer.... As if I knew what I meant. Donít you, occasionally, after saying something, wonder what you really meant by it?
John Berbrich: Well, yeah. And then someone answers you, but you really donít know what question theyíre responding to, so you have no idea what sort of linguistic quagmire youíre floundering in the middle of. This is when weird facial expressions might help.
William Michaelian: Iím an expert at that, all the more so because often when I say something people look at me at in amusement, astonishment, or horror. But I never quite know if theyíre reacting to what I say, the way I say it, or how I look when I say it.
John Berbrich: Well, if your drawings are any indication, Iíd say that the look on your face might elicit an ambiguous response.
William Michaelian: Oh, theyíre an indication, alright. Thereís a reason I refer to them as self-portraits. Do you know, more and more often, Iím surprised that when I glance in the mirror, I look remarkably like something Iíve just drawn. By the way, I broke a crown this morning.
John Berbrich: Yowch! You look like youíre beside yourself w/ pain.
William Michaelian: Well put. And notice that the hair, such as it is, is shaped somewhat like the top of a tooth. Anyway, Iím not in agony, but I do feel like someoneís hand is inside my face, feeling upward in search of my left eyeball. Hereís hoping I can wrangle an appointment to get this fixed. I just hope my whole head doesnít have to be removed. Itís always a bother trying to find a suitable replacement.
John Berbrich: It does sound quite tedious. But not to worry ó you should be able to see a dentist within six months.
William Michaelian: Good idea. Iíll let it go until my next check-up. Or better yet, let Dollface take care of it with household implements. She can work wonders with an egg beater.
John Berbrich: That ought to work fine, plus itís the economical way to go. Youíve got to consider your cash-flow in times like these. Unfortunately, if it needs to be yanked, I wouldnít expect much from the tooth-fairy.
William Michaelian: I saw the tooth fairy at the bus station just the other day. Pretty sad. She had been molested by some disgruntled kids and was giving up the game, she said. When she asked me for a dime it broke my heart. Then the door slid open to the loading area and a big old Greyhound pulled up and gasped. You know how buses gasp, that sound they make of hydraulics and loneliness.
John Berbrich: Thatís a very poetic way to put it. And thatís a great name for something, Hydraulics and Loneliness. But buses can surprise you. Just when they sound like theyíve uttered their final breath, the pedal goes to the metal & off they go w/ a surge of power. I love traveling on buses but havenít been on one for years.
William Michaelian: Me either. But on a bus I get the feeling that Iím literally passing through time, as if the landscape were time itself.
John Berbrich: Willie, man, you are on a roll today. Thereís your next poetry chapbook. Take a bus ride all around the USA & write poems about the trip: the different towns, the passengers, the changing landscapes, all that. I like it. Or prose if that suits you. Yeah, I canít wait to read it.
William Michaelian: Well, weíve got the title, so all I need is a ticket. I assume youíre willing to finance the trip. I promise to sleep at bus stations or on park benches to keep the cost down, and bathe in streams and public fountains. Of course, after a while they might refuse to let me on the bus. Or they might refuse to let me, period.
John Berbrich: Well, no matter what happens you can write about it. Thatís what itís all about, right? Even if they throw you in jail for a month it will still be worth it.
William Michaelian: Quite true. Well, all I need, really, is a pad and pencil, and of course a stack of Barbaric Yawp T-shirts so I can do a little advertising. I think itíll do you a lot of good to have me out there working on your behalf.
John Berbrich: Well, thatís the essence of teamwork. By supporting the other, we support ourselves. You know, weíve talked about making some BoneWorld T-shirts, but like so many other things, havenít actually done it. It is entirely necessary to self-promote. You cannot simply stand around looking absolutely gorgeous & expect to be discovered. If you want to be discovered. As though one were an unknown land somewhere: ďOh, someone please discover me!Ē
William Michaelian: Well, Iíve said it before ó this society turns everyone into a salesman in one form or another. Uh-oh. I just thought of a problem with the T-shirts. My beard is so long that itíll hide the message. Now what?
John Berbrich: Simple. Cut your beard or wear the T-shirt backwards.
William Michaelian: Simple, he says. Cut your beard, he says. Or wear the shirt backwards. You might as well have said, ďSimple. Achieve a state of complete enlightenment,Ē or, ďSimple, pull your life up by the roots.Ē
John Berbrich: Okay, how about this. Hold your beard straight out in front of you (this may require Dollfaceís assistance). Now, split the beard into two separate (but equal) halves, starting at your chin & working out. Then twist each half behind your head so that they join at the nape of your neck. Do not, repeat, do not strangle yourself. Have Dollface secure them together w/ some string or duct tape. There. The BoneWorld T-shirt will be emblazoned unobscured upon your chest & you havenít had to cut even a centimeter from your whiskers. Like I said, simple. Plus youíre making a fashion statement.
William Michaelian: Now you see, that makes sense. Except for the duct tape. Which brings to mind another important question: how many households, do you think, have a ball of grocery string on hand these days?
John Berbrich: That depends. What is grocery string?
William Michaelian: Grocery string? Maybe you know it by another term. Common thin white string.
John Berbrich: Oh, common thin white string. Yeah, I know what youíre talking about. Why, do you need some? I donít have any.
William Michaelian: Well, if you donít have any, as practical and well supplied as you are in common everyday useful items, then Iím sure millions across this country are in the same dire situation. Dire, and yet they donít know it. Suffering without a clue. No, we have some, thanks. Havenít needed any for years. But weíll be using some as soon as the T-shirts arrive.
John Berbrich: Wait. Maybe we do have some common thin white string. Nancy will know. Let me go wake her up.
William Michaelian: Oh, by all means. Whatís she doing in bed at this hour anyway? The sun will be up in a couple of hours.
John Berbrich: She was a little groggy, but I think she said that the string is in the pantry ó or was it panties? I let her settle back into her dreamworld. So Iím not sure where the string is, or if we really even have any. But you donít need it anyhow? So I was looking for it why?
William Michaelian: Why? Because of your insatiable desire to know, thatís why. So, I see thereís some catching up to do in the realm of weird hat poetry readings. That one you had on ó just imagine Washington crossing the Delaware in that beauty. A good wind and it would have lifted him clear across, thus changing the course of history.
John Berbrich: You probably couldnít see it, but I had written the names of dozens of big-name poets ó Homer, Frost, Kerouac, Pope, et cetera ó all across the top of the hat w/ variously colored pens. I canít believe I didnít win for best hat.
William Michaelian: Obviously, the fix was in. As soon as I get a chance, Iíll study the competition, and then see if we canít get that decision reversed. Or better yet, weíll create a new award for the most astonishing hat. I could see the writing in the video, but I couldnít read it. Where is the hat now, and what is it doing? Does it have a day job? Does it give interviews?
John Berbrich: The hat is about six feet behind me in my office, leaning up against a couple of boxes filled w/ old papers. Iím not sure just what to do w/ it. Itís too big to simply leave lying about, but yet itís far too much of a work of art to burn in the woodstove or throw out in the trash. Perhaps we can arrange an auction ó maybe on your website!
William Michaelian: Hey, Iím all for it. Do you think we can raise enough to buy another six-pack?
John Berbrich: Get your accountant working on it. I could go for at least a case. Itís a really nice hat, very comfortable, & the opening is adjustable according to skull size. Did you watch all the videos?
William Michaelian: No, but my accountant did. And he said, ďWhat on earth is wrong with these people?Ē I think he was jealous of the hats. Actually, heís out of town. Tax season just ended, you know. His office is closed, boarded up. Iíll watch them all, though, donít you worry. I want to see the people who voted against your hat. I want their names, and I want to know where they live.
John Berbrich: I donít know where hardly any of them live, so I canít help you there. What are you planning ó to sue them or congratulate them or what?
William Michaelian: Oh, I thought Iíd rough them up a bit ó you know, make them read some of my poems.
John Berbrich: Great idea, you old thug. Make them buy some of your chapbooks.
William Michaelian: Exactly. Let the punishment fit the crime, I say. Speaking of chapbooks, I just made a short post about one I received in the mail this week. Itís a really fine batch of short poems by Mark Jackley, beautifully produced on an old foot-powered press in Sebastopol, California.
Take a look.
John Berbrich: Oooooo. I like that ďFebruaryĒ poem. Funny thing is a couple of months ago I received a book in the mail from Jackley, entitled There Will Be Silence While You Wait. Itís a perfect-bound collection of poems published by Plain View Press in Austin, Texas. Havenít had a chance to read it yet but it looks good. Coincidence?
William Michaelian: I wonder. I suppose I could ask him, but that sounds awfully easy. And of course you know how I feel about crows. Granted, ďFebruaryĒ doesnít adhere to the crowku form. But what does these days? Do you have his other book handy? If not, donít tear the room apart. Just curious.
John Berbrich: Yeah, itís right in front of me. Iíve been staring at it for a couple of months. We published Mark back in 2004 which I suppose is why he sent this volume. Hereís a poem, chosen at random:
I imagine it being eyeballed
by a carp slowly
trolling the bottom of
the Rappahannock River,
blinking in the cold
a lure that for some reason
no longer shines.
William Michaelian: Now thatís a cheerful image. Still, itís quite nice. And you say there are 2004 poems in the book? It must be awfully thick.
John Berbrich: Well, somehow the publishers managed to fit it all into 79 pages, without squeezing I might add. Iíd emulate their technique, if I could figure it out.
William Michaelian: Hmm... one approach would be to make a really big book, say three feet by five feet. Almost as big as your poety hat, in other words. Or they could be printed on a scroll. Imagine going to a bookstore with aisles and aisles and walls and walls of scrolls lined up, with only their ends showing from their cubbyholes, with a little label above for the title.
John Berbrich: I believe thatís what Jack Kerouac did while writing On The Road, typing on like a nearly endless roll of paper, man. Great idea, really. Weíll have to have some of those rolls & scrolls in the Junk Poem Shop. In fact, thatís what weíll call that section of the shop: Rolls & Scrolls. We could sell buttered rolls, too.
William Michaelian: A weakness of mine, hot buttered scrolls. Rolls are good too. And Iím glad to hear you mention the Junk Poem Shop. Of all the ideas weíve had, I think that one is nearest and dearest to my heart. That, and Paddy Dignamís Hearse. What were we drinking back then,
John Berbrich: Anything we could find. But wasnít it mostly stout, all rich & dark & foamy? Itís all sort of a blur now.
William Michaelian: As it should be. But youíre right. I think it was stout. A logical choice for Ulysses readers.
John Berbrich: Of course. Everything we do is logical.
William Michaelian: Including reading Ulysses?
John Berbrich: Iím sure we had a good reason.
William Michaelian: The only one I can think of at the moment is to be able to say we read Ulysses. I guess thatís good enough.
John Berbrich: Not many people can honestly say that. What strikes me as odd is that quite a few people seem to prefer Finnegans Wake. Iím still 1/2-way through & donít seem to be able to proceed another inch.
William Michaelian: My God, that was years ago that we were reading that. Or it seems like years. I remember it took me six months to finish it. But it was a pleasure all the way. You must have let yourself become distracted. Or maybe Iím just more attuned to gibberish.
John Berbrich: Honestly, Finnegans Wake was work. I really enjoyed Ulysses & have considered reading it again. Someday I shall. But for right now Iíve got to retrieve the old snow shovel.
William Michaelian: What a strange, cryptic remark.... Oh, I see ó it really is snowing. You know, Ulysses wasnít exactly a picnic. But it was a feast.
John Berbrich: I have some powerful memories of Ulysses, almost as though they were experiences of mine in real 3-D life. The images are clear & potent. And it really is snowing ó some of the schools have shut down for the day.
William Michaelian: And itís almost May. Well, weíve been having heavy downpours. Yesterday morning I was caught in one on my way home from Goodwill. Could barely see where I was going. That was also a 3-D experience. Sounds like the book made quite an impression on you. Oddly enough, the scene that pops into my mind at the moment is Bloomís visit to the outhouse.
John Berbrich: Hmmmm. Sounds like the kind of dream where you need to get up soon & use the facilities. But in the dream youíre looking for a bucket or something, or a relatively private corner.
William Michaelian: Wait. Are you saying Joyce had a dream like that and wrote it into Ulysses? Or that I did, and remembered it into Ulysses?
John Berbrich: Both. Howís that for synchronicity?
William Michaelian: Marvelous. Besides, itís quite possible. Really, I canít count the times Iíve written snippets of dreams and daily happenings into stories and poems.
John Berbrich: I know what you mean. When leafing through my own work, I can usually recall how each individual piece was originally inspired. Quite a process ó reshaping experience into something one can read. Or, even better, that many can read.
William Michaelian: With any luck. Reading through old stuff, which I donít do very often unless Iím looking for something, Iím amazed how those original moments of inspiration come rushing back. Itís not unlike looking through an old family album. There I am again, in my pajamas, six years old, on Christmas morning, kneeling by a new train set.
John Berbrich: I never did get a train set. I donít think I really wanted one. My cousin had a train set in his cellar spread out on what I believe was a ping-pong table. This was a pretty extensive arrangement, w/ buildings & all, & we jazzed things up by organizing train wrecks. That was fun.
William Michaelian: You sound like Gomez Addams. My train set was a simple round track my father attached to a piece of plywood, and an engine and three cars that were quite small, but extremely heavy. You could have broken a window with one of them. With two, you could have held up a bank.
John Berbrich: Do you still have them? They might come in handy ó if we need some quick cash when weíre building the Junk Poem Shop.
William Michaelian: What do you mean, if? No, sorry to say, the train part is gone. But we still have the plywood in the garage. Back in 1971, my father and I used it as a watermelon sign. Hereís a picture of it. Be sure to click on it to see it full-size. The part thatís hidden says ď1/4 mile.Ē
John Berbrich: Thatís a really cool picture. And what a stroke of luck ó if we grow watermelons to help finance the Junk Poem Shop, well, weíve already got the sign. If we can dig it out of your garage.
William Michaelian: Things have improved only slightly since it was taken. One of the kids took our massive old couch a few weeks ago, but then everything else just sort of closed in on the space. But if we can climb over things to that back wall, thereís a non-functional Hammond organ we can stand on to wrench it free. Although I must say, others have tried, and were never seen or heard from again.
John Berbrich: Sad. I do have one question though ó where do you park the car?
William Michaelian: Oh, thereís a tiny narrow slot just inside the main door. I was very strategic about it when we were moving. Unfortunately, we canít get in or out of the car, but it saves on gas. Could you use a dining table with six chairs? A chest of drawers, maybe? We have one with and without a mirror. Thereís also a bookcase full of kidsí books and puzzles, and I think a microscope set, maybe a few decks of cards. Oh ó and a washer-dryer set, and an upright freezer ó as opposed to a recalcitrant freezer. You know how those are. Chairs, card tables, fans, antique toasters...
John Berbrich: Got íem, got íem, got íem, got íem, got íem. Sorry, we already have enough of all of those items. Itís amazing how much absolute junk one accumulates over the years. We are planning to rent one of those gigantic industrial dumpsters in June & fill it. Sounds like a party.
William Michaelian: We went the dumpster route before we moved. The stuff I mentioned is good stuff. I do wish we had a record player. We have a lot of great albums. But back to the dumpster. Itís amazing to see so many things out of context and in such a jumble. Like a heap of one-eyed teddy bears and broken lives.
John Berbrich: Aw, donít start me crying. I have a record player & itís not for sale. Most of our junk is not in good condition. Old clothes & ancient furniture. I hate throwing out clothes, thinking that some poor person will wear them. But no one, not even a homeless person, would don these duds. No, Iím afraid Iíll have to be strong & toss them in the dumpster. Another thing I hate is broken machines. Do you want some? You look like a tinkerer.
William Michaelian: Well, itís like this. If you want me to have them, then I want them. But not because Iím a tinkerer. Thatís the last thing I am. If something doesnít want to work, I offer it a few encouraging words. If that doesnít help, I swear at it. And if that doesnít work, I either break it into smaller pieces, or I call in an expert, or I move it to the garage. But that doesnít mean I canít appreciate your junk as works of art. By the way, do you have anything in a size ten-and-a-half? My feet are killing me.
John Berbrich: Have you tried talking to your feet? That sort of foot-aggression can turn extremely hostile. Or perhaps you harbor some sort of guilt over the way youíve treated your feet in the past ó running around barefoot on gravel & so forth. Iíll check for 10 & 1/2s next time Iím out in the barn. Iím inclined to think that we might have some. Weíve got everything else out there.
William Michaelian: Exellent. And youíll be glad to know Iím not particular about style.... Ouch! Well, maybe a little particular. And no, I havenít tried talking to my feet. Is that something you do? Does it help?
John Berbrich: Well, I donít have any problems w/ my feet, but I donít talk to them either. So itís really hard to tell. Actually, I canít think of any of my body-parts that I talk to. Let me run a quick inventory. * * * Nope canít say that I talk, scream, whisper, or shout to any of it. So I donít know if this helps you or not.
William Michaelian: So you admit I need help, then. Youíve been pretty kind about not mentioning it so far. But now it seems the whole world must know. Meanwhile, you sit there, Mr. Well-Adjusted, no aches, no pains, no body part conversations.
John Berbrich: Look, everyone knows you need help. Itís obvious. Even the elves in your closet know. You think theyíd say anything to you? Nah. Wanna know why? Well, so do I, cuz I have no idea. But listen, being all well-adjusted isnít just gin & lemonade. I mean, when people think youíre top-shelf, you know, well, itís a different attitude. Remember that Ben Franklin said that he was proud of his humility. Itís that sort of thing.
William Michaelian: I see. Yes. You know, thatís just about the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. Why couldnít you have told me this before, say about ten years ago when it might still have done some good?
John Berbrich: I tried to, but...well, itís just that you always seem so comfortable the way you are. You know how when you have a leaky pipe, & it leaks only a little, but your wife insists so you go down to the cellar to fix it & by the time youíre done the leak has gotten a lot worse & now you need to buy a sump pump? Itís that kind of thing.
William Michaelian: So my life is a leaky pipe in the basement. Thatís not only revealing, itís downright poetic. In fact, itís a great title for a self-help book.
John Berbrich: Good idea. I can think of some great chapter titles: ďPipe DopeĒ; ďJoint CompoundĒ; ďTrap.Ē When do you start?
William Michaelian: Wait a minute. Why do I always have to write the books? Shouldnít you take a turn once in awhile?
John Berbrich: Trying to weasel out of it, eh? It was your idea. And now youíre trying to twist the entire conversation. Thereís a word for a guy like you, you know that?
William Michaelian: Okay, then. If thereís a word, letís hear it. But keep in mind, all I said was that itís a great title.
Ed Baker: noooooo
if I can but get a word in edge-wise
and in-be-tween all these Buddha Beers...
(a proem I wrote many full moons ago:
what if suddenly
you discovered that
the center has no circumference?
then, quick, tell me, where IS the beginning, middle, and end? and, how does one
punctuate ..... it?
William Michaelian: Oh, Lord. John, I give you the one, the only, the inimitable Ed Baker.
John Berbrich: Friend of yours?
William Michaelian: Well, Iím still trying to figure that out. Ed operates as sort of a haiku conscience, popping up out of nowhere with his mini-fits of wisdom, kind of gnawing at your brain until his thoughts become yours, and yours flutter to the window and mock you from the sill.
John Berbrich: Sounds like some sort of psychological parasite. Perhaps that explains your recent, um, mental & emotional conundrum.
William Michaelian: Recent? How kind. No, my problems were there long before Ed. Long before his beard, even. Really, I think my conundrum, as you put it, is somehow related to you.
John Berbrich: Really? Well, that makes me feel sort of important. I guess weíre all pieces of a big puzzle, eh?
William Michaelian: Yep ó a big leaky puzzle, and it too is in the basement. In fact, thatís why you stay down there so long. Trying to find the right size puzzle wrench.
John Berbrich: The right size puzzle-wrench. I wonder what Ed Baker would have to say about that. I suppose he could compose a haiku on the spot, 17 syllables of wisdom & insight. Ed? Ed?
William Michaelian: There. You only have fifteen syllables to go. I should mention that Ed is very unpredictable. He could return any minute, or three years from now.
John Berbrich: The anticipation is killing me. Okay, where were we? And why do you have that puzzled look on your face?
William Michaelian: Are you trying to be funny? I always look like this. Uh... donít I?
PG: I read all the way down here, right past the old horse biscuits and all, only to find Ed Baker, who I just ran across a couple days ago and co-ri-sponded with a bit. A nice man, unless youíre a big fat fig rat. Then, pow! What are all these poets doing everywhere? God, weíre like silverfish ó beautiful, numerous, and hated by the boring. (actually, iím not a big fan of them [silverpoets] myself, but iím far from the boring ó i moved). I have little to add at this time...except: A leaky pipe beats a jammed-up poo-tank any time (you should see whatís dripping off the bottom of my trailer, and the amazing huge snails there) and: what if the circumference had no end? Then, weíd always be turning the corner, and things would always be looking up.
Ah, the eternal hamster-wheel of the Buddhaís rounded brain.
Off to take my pills ó
William Michaelian: Well, weíre taking ours, and you see the good it does. In the meantime, welcome to the toilet zone. Weíve been here for years. I guess it shows.
PG: Mmmmm, pills. They actually are a very fine thing. Iím going to ask the nice doctors for more of them, I think. I had no i-dea pharmaceutical science was so capable. Although every now and then I am afraid they will stop me writing, which I just started doing properly again a few years ago. So far, they havenít. Although not a poem in sight today ó becalmed, and today the day to start the sleepy kind pilz (schizotypal bipolar ó I get three kinds pilz: brakes, tires, and fuel additive). That, or I burned out my poemizer at last. Thereís no smell, though ó usually when that happens thereís a toasted-ballast smell feeling.
Thanks for the welcome. This whole re-insertion mission re: art world is been fun so far. So many pomes and potes! And other stuff! How does it all come out in the end! Canít wait to know. Actually, I can.
I made the poo tank work. I pulled the poo-hose off, and a foul dreeble came forth and said unto me Ďgo and barfí. I ignored it, replaced the potty-slurper tank-nose-trunk-hose (down in the huge central septic, SnuffleUffagus lies, mammoth-like...rotting....hungry), went inside, and toggled a little button faintly marked PUMP (knew it was for something!) up and down. It went blurfy spuffle spuffle at last, and lo!
I can shit again. Gods, what a rousing tale (rushes off...)
William Michaelian: An enlightening soliloquy indeed. Now Iím wondering what Mr. Berbrich, my longtime cohort and partner in crime here, will make of this drama, complete, as it is, with stage directions....
John Berbrich: Wow. I donít know about all this poetry stuff, but if I have any plumbing problems Iíll know who to call.
William Michaelian: A comforting thought. In fact, it would almost be worth having the problems just to have them solved with the proper sound effects.
PG: The sound of a plumbing smell continues....
Problem Sound Effects Record Side C: The Slithering Turd
F*ckjuddery. Thatís how I would describe the synaesthetic experience of lifting the hot, clean exterior of the poo hose and hearing the wet, papery rustle of a hot bustling bum trout head town, down to the secret lake where all the Sesame Street characters wait.
Stay tuned for side D: The Smell Of A Poo Snail (rendered as a poetic intrusion)
Kidding. I would never dare. I tried for a haiku on the topic, but the computer sensibly destroyed my work, forcing me to write this displeasing segment of my involuntary morning epic. The computer has also become insane due to bong water, but what can you do. At least itís letting me type today. Sometimes itís all 1ís and down arrows and suddenly making the mousewheel alter the resolution in barfmaking lurches.
The poo snails are beautiful. Maroon and classically discus-shaped, they are huge and majestic. There on the bottom of my house where the smell of the sea resides.
John Berbrich: Do you eat them? The snails, I mean.
PG: No, not yet. There are still some cornflakes left. In fact, Iíve even given over smelling them to local users.
William Michaelian: As Iíve maintained for years, corn flakes are the key. Meanwhile, I cracked up today and bought an entire twenty-five-volume set of Encyclopedia Britannica from 1892. Spent sixty bucks on it. Lucky I sold our old van for $300 the other day.
PG: I used to play a video game as a child called Odyssey: The Compleat Apventure (I have no idea why they did that to the title, what can I say) in which a trade item, quite expensive and apparently worthless, was labelled ďOLD BOOKSĒ (a wonderful game, by the way ó worth a few hours if you can find it). Usually, these would be worthless moldering heaps of extremely heavy junk once examined, but once in a while a screen-twisting magical scroll would slip from between the leaves, allowing you to transmute nearby rocks into gold (or nearby henchmen into steaming corpses, as per scroll ó you had to just hope).
So donít think I donít know what youíre up to. Beware, henchmen. As soon as he finds the scroll, ó well, temptation always got the better of me, even if I really liked the henchmen. 1892! Lord, those must be odd encyclopaediae?pl?Sp?. How to move them sans vans? I must have tasted one too many snails tonight. By the way, howís the leaking pipe?
And how much gold did you get?
John Berbrich: I didnít get any. Willie?
William Michaelian: Well, I just got them for a little light reading. The thought of gold never occurred to me.
John Berbrich: Okay, well, letís test the new encyclopedia set. What does it say about, oh, Babe Ruth?
William Michaelian: Yes. Letís find out. But while Iím retrieving the necessary volume from the stack, I want you to have a look at what weíre dealing with. Okay. Now, from the stack on the left... ah, here it is: Vol. XXI, ROT-SIA. I like that. ROT. Here we are ó at the bottom of Page 110: RUTH, Book of. The story of Ruth, the Moabitess, great-grandmother of David ó wait. Wrong Ruth. Hmm. Thatís odd. It jumps from Ruth to Ruthenians, see Slavs; and after that thereís an entry for Ruthenium, see Platinum. And then Rutherfurd, Samuel. I wonder. Maybe I should be looking under B. Hey, wait a minute! I happen to know, of my own knowledge, that Ruth was born somewhere around 1895 or 1896. You tricked me.
PG: I think the scroll would be under SCRO, tum te tum, letís see....yes, thatís right. Babe Ruth ó is that some kind of a horse? (blames EVERYTHING on the pills quickly). Iím in love with my own work. Did I say? Those are nice encyclopedyay. My ex had a set like that looming in her ex-office in a huge moldering leaning wooden case on wheels. It was awful. But sort of cool. Do they have pictures, or are they all difficult?
John Berbrich: All kidding aside, thatís really an amazing find. Think of all the famous people that arenít in there, & all the people that no one now remembers that were. Tennyson & Whitman both died in 1892. Robert Louis Stevenson in í94. Did they make it? Well, Iím sure Tennyson did.
William Michaelian: Remarkably, Tennyson did not. And neither did Whitman. Stevenson, Robert (1772-1850), civil engineer, was the only son of Alan Stevenson, partner in a West Indian house in Glasgow.... but no Robert Louis. Which brings up something funny that happened to me today.
PG: Ars longa ó even longa is dictionary prejudice. My 1973 Compact does not contain the word Ďgizmo.í I would guess due to its palpable American-ness (the word, not gods forbid The Big Book). Perhaps these American en-cycle-o-peeedyas (dyae in the UK) ditched all those soft whutchy Anglish poets aní writers (and Whitman) in favour of some big strong guy like Frosty Thoreau or Davy ďOwl Creek,Ē um Henry. Or whatever their names were. Possible explanation? That, or they really thought those guys were minor-leaguers. Just like everyone thinks now about me. I mean, when you look at that, it all makes sense. Most cannot feel the impending doomstorm of celebrity coming my way ó if they could, Iíd have film-makers and encyclopaedists (like fast-moving podiatrists) all ovah me.
Or possibly all of history post-1900 is a huge concocted lie played by actors. Iíve had that thought often enough for it to have become true.
John Berbrich: Lifeís a big reality show. Get over it. I am curious though ó if big wheels like Tennyson & Whitman didnít make it to the í92 Britannica, I wonder who did. Just thumbing through the pages (carefully), Willie, can you get a feel for the popular & most extensive subjects: Politics? History? Architecture? Biblical topics? What did they fill all those thousands of pages with?
William Michaelian: You donít ask much, do you? First of all, I need a ladder and forklift just to go from one volume to the next. But at a glance I see maps and diagrams, the kind youíd expect, columns and pillars, continents and coins, ancient personages, plant life, articles on the big names from the Old Testament, a long section on Political Economy, pottery, Clemens Alexandrinus, but not Samuel Langhorne. Itís hard to get at the right volume at the moment, but Iím assuming Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War made the cut. But maybe I shouldnít, because in 1892 the dust had scarcely settled on each.
John Berbrich: It would be interesting to compare the 1892 edition to subsequent editions & see which entries are added & which ones disappear. By the way, I have a complete 1966 Britannica set. Twenty-three volumes, plus a two-volume dictionary & a gigantic World Atlas. And get this ó the edition is dedicated to Lyndon Baines Johnson & Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second. Does yours have a dedication?
PG: Reality shows. I havenít had TV for a while (making me living dead, if life is a Ďprogramí). Do you mean that one they used to call Fortunaís Wheel?
Bob Barker as God. Know it. Now he should be in your 1982 (dyslexic young oaf, thatís all) Brrittannicca. He must be at least nine hundred years old. Any rumours of his death are simply laughable. There are such things as unchanging laws in this ShowTime Universe.
Now for some reason the Deja Voodoo # ĎCoelacanthí is stuck in my head. I havenít heard that for fifteen years or so. Still got the vinyl, but no good vinyl player. I think that oneís off the record ďCemetery,Ē but I donít think any extant copies are likely around.
Iím goin down to the cemetery/see alla my old friends from high school/they all died in a football bus crash/wrapped around a parkin meter/
(youíll have to imagine Van Herkís broken licks and DeWaltís barbarous thumping for yourselves ó i canít upload my braaaaainnnn..(fading howl)
William Michaelian: By gad, sir, you are a character. No dedication. But thereís a four-page Prefatory Notice by one T.S. Baynes, which I shall read by and by. But at a glance it seems to set forth the purpose behind their approach. ďThe extensive changes in Physics and Biology,Ē blah-blah, ďPassing from Natural and Physical Science to Literature, History and Philosophy, it may be noted that many sections of knowledge connected with these departments display fresh tendencies, and are working towards new results, which, if faithfully reflected, will require a new style of treatment,Ē etc., etc.
John Berbrich: Hmmm. Sounds as though the universe is changing, slowly transforming from a Noun to a Verb. By the way, thatís one of my big theories. The cosmos was in the past considered a noun, or collection of nouns. Now verbs are in, & everything is energy & conditional, tentative & protean. Everything is wiggling ó you canít grasp it anymore.
William Michaelian: Iíll tell you what ó thatís just the theory I was looking for. All science, all knowledge, the entire universe and its multitudinous parallel constituents, seen, unseen and otherwise mysteriously aligned, reduced to simple parts of speech. It explains everything. And it was right there in front of me all the time.
John Berbrich: Yeah, itís a pretty simple theory, yet itís one of my favorites. Back to your Britannica; is Charles Darwin in there? If not, then I give up. Darwin died in 1882 so there should have been ample time to squeeze him into the í92 edition.
PG: All the world as Word, and parts of speech as people. God the Philologist instead of God the Barker. Much better. Know it like a flower, baby ó pistil, stamen, episteme. Iím in need of coffee. If Darwinís in there, let the poor bastard out. The universe turns on crystal bearings, yes it does, and he could see the edges of the gears sticking out. I need coffee. Ew! My cream is all lumps and bubbles. Drink it anyway. I deserve it. Chumble it up and spit flecks of it through my moustache as I clean up other folkís messes in the laundromat. Good luck with those encyclopeedios. Maybe thereís a book in íem. Hollow out the middle and put it in.
William Michaelian: In fact, it might fit where Darwin isnít: ďDARWIN, Erasmus (1731-1802), man of science and poet, was born at Elton, in Nottinghamshire, on the 12th December 1731.Ē But this is interesting, from near the end of the article: ďDarwinís mind was in fact rather that of a man of science than that of a poet. His most important scientific work is his Zoonomia (1794-6), which contains a system of pathology, and a treatise on generation, in which Darwin, in the words of his famous grandson, Ďanticipated the views and erroneous grounds of opinions of Lamarack.íĒ Famous grandson. Hmmmm. Wait. There is (and my back is killing me) an extensive article on Evolution, and deep within that article is a small section about Charles Darwin. Among other things, it has this to say: ďMr. Darwinís later work, in which he applies his theory of the origin of species to man, is a valuable contribution to a naturalistic conception of human development.Ē
PG: I think thereís a dinosaur named after Darwinís dad. Knew the punk was just an extension of the old manís pith. O, god, who issued me my poetís licence? I return the language chipped an banged up enough to give birth. How these guys found time to write all that stuff way back then when they had to stitch and hem the very ink they worked with, I donít know. Imagine writing all that (Zoonomia) in two years! That Erasmo guy could arm-wrestle Jared Whatchamacallit and Stephen King at once. Diamond, thatís whatchamacallit. I wonder if he was any good as a poet. Oh! I guess he was. Or at least quite interesting. Rosicrucian sylphs. Hereís a link to The Botanic Garden at Google Books ó itís...interesting... Actually, I think I like the prosy bits best.
John Berbrich: Funny thing about the word prose. I got it wrong on a high school vocab test. The look of it, the sound of it ó I thought it meant love poetry. The word starts w/ P & includes three letters from poem. Plus thereís a rose in there, a frequent symbol of romance or love or something. ďMy love is like a red red rose.Ē Anyway, I got it wrong. Surprised my teacher, since I was decent at writing limericks.
PG: Erasmus D. was confused at first too ó he started with a proem, then apologized. Erasmus D. ó what a great MC handle. How íbout a new one for me, too ó DJ P-Rose. O Yah. Watch out, Iíll start rhyminí. I have a feeling John Buchan may actually have made fun of the olí Botanic here ó I always thought the poet character in Huntingtower (i may have that title wrong) was mocking the sorts of self-possessed nim-noms that have always littered the field (some flower...) with his little book Whorls: The Poems Of John Dorkwood (names have been changed to protect my sieve of a memory from overstrain), but as I recall the poetry demonstrated from it (within the novel) ó I think olí J.B. may have been having a little mock at Erasmus D. here. DJ P-Rose...so perfect. A rose is a rose by any other name until you go surfing one. Surfing Rose? Welll...it seems the truly excellent Butthole Surfers (a band from this coast) have somehow gained popularity amongst the very trustafarian losers clogging the Muse-wheels these days (hello, Poetry Foundation!). And yet...they all seem to think the bandís work and lyrics abstract. Which they arenít. Not one of them has any idea what the name of the band refers to (which goes to show, since theyíre all my age or younger, that they just donít get out much). There will be a quiz on this material.
John Berbrich: DJ Pete Rose. Cincinnati Redlegs. Big trouble for betting on ballgames. Yeah, I like it.
William Michaelian: That guy always bugged me. I mean, sprinting to first base after a walk ó that, to me, is totally irritating. Oh ó and thereís no way I could pass that quiz. Unless, maybe if it were drafted in the form of a drinking song.
John Berbrich: I quite agree. Charley Hustle annoyed me, too. And I like that drinking song idea. We may not pass that quiz, but it would be a lot of fun to try. Might have to take it a few times until we passed.
PG: Hmmm....Iíve never written a drinking song. Oddly enough, I was thinking of drinking. Perhaps later Iíll (does not make very bad and worthless rhymes or puns). Anyway, Iíll do my best. I canít promise you my homework will be completed or unmarred, but I do have most of a very large and cheap bottle of Chilean wine waiting around for the afternoonís glow (or glum ó but this new dose of the upsadaisy pills is rather good enough so far). I can almost taste the sul(ph)(f?)ates. You know, if you binge on that South American stuff, itíll cure your various bodily fungi like a radioactive mineral spring. Amazing, really. And I will try to invent a drinking song. I may just listen to ZZ Top instead, weíll see. Apparently, Billy Gibbons was one of Hendrixís favrite young guitarists. I certainly enjoy his work, especially over mugs of cheap wine. Re: P.Rose ó I was thinking of a rose by a completely other name ó hence the recollection of the band who could have been called Jefferson Starfish. (hits self in teeth for bad and terrible pun). Do I get graded on the quiz if I drink enough to sing?
William Michaelian: Well, I think it depends on whether or not your singing makes us drink.
PG: If only i had audio ó yes, i think youíd need a drink. Iím an Irish tremolo, with bassoon overtones and an Elvish lurge.
John Berbrich: You mean you have that pelvis thing going? Oh, Iím sorry ó you said Elvish, I thought you said Elvis.
PG: Iíve failed in my limerick-writing. I did manage to drink some of the wine and listen to music. I did not sing (that I recall ó trauma can erase). I composed a limperick and a quiz, both of which have been declined by the publisher (me), as they are horrid and best displayed upon the inside edge of a large dark jacket, along with samples, ampoules, packets, and powders. Perhaps if I drink near an active Internet connection, Iíll make the mistake ó but sober, Iím afraid those tykes will have to stay home with the rest of the monstrous brood.
Imagine the Elvish Elvis. How...taste-destroying it would all be.
Hope the day smiles upon you all. So far, Iíve missed an important appointment by mistaking the day and had a lot of truly bad dreams, real stinkers (a wealthy, sinister brother with one strange eye is one of the standouts ó either I was going to do him in or he me, but either way i have a feeling he knows too much...). Another tea and into the fray with me.
William Michaelian: You see, I just thought it was a typo. I thought you meant Elvisish, or maybe elfish, since it sort of rhymes with starfish, a word which, on closer analysis, might be thought to mean ďsort of starving.Ē
PG: I did shay elvish. And his brother.
John Berbrich: Would that be dwarvish ó the brother, I mean? I think weíve all had too much to drink ó or not enough, perhaps. Same result. Dull & tiresome. Speaking of drinking, Bloomsday is but a few weeks away. Are we planning something special?
William Michaelian: I donít know. Are we? We could make a movie, I guess. Or would we have to finish the other one we havenít started yet?
John Berbrich: I really think that we should just leap right into the new project. A new movie sounds like fun to me. So what are your ideas? Whoíve you got lined up as a co-star? Plus music, we need a top-of-the-line soundtrack. And weíll be filming in which exotic locations this time? I assume this is all planned out.
PG: Will there be camels? A film should have camels, trained or untrained. I may be able to help in terms of star power. You see, I have a trailer. All stars need trailers on-set. We just have to leave the door open and wait. Then, when they venture inside, seeking cosmetics...wham! Lock íem up til they sign something thoroughly unfair.
William Michaelian: With those credentials, you should be the business manager. By ďin which exotic locations,Ē I assume you mean ďin which bars?Ē
John Berbrich: Exotic bars, yeah. And PG is right ó camels would definitely add that extra-special something to any film. Instead of car chases we could have camel chases. Wouldnít be as exciting, perhaps, but Iím not sure itís been done before. Ground-breaking, thatís our lodestar. Oh, & howís this for a provocative title: One Hump or Two?
PG: A pack aí camels. Iíve heard people say that alpaca and llamae arenít related to camels, but I was actually pursued through the maze of Machu Picchu by a pair of monstrous llamae (not the holy men, but the unholy and endlessly evil beasts themselves), and I can tell you, if theyíre not related to camels, they would at least keep the set very busy with their raw malicious genius. Actually, it makes a good B-movie premise....Alpine Maze Of Death ó Everywhere they turned...one of the llamas (okay, I got tired of the silly plural) was there. Soon, they realized it was a plan. But was it a plan to trap them...or to completely fleece them? Hmmm. Well, maybe itís not such a good premise. But llamas and camels, i tellya, whatta combination pack. Where was I going with all this? I have no idea. Iím going to visit the big city across the water (I live on an island just outside a very, very small town) and possibly sin my head off in an A&W; restaurant. Quadruple Mama Burgers, here I come. Unless they have the Uncle Burger on special. What strange and incestuous beef we eat up here in Canada. Do you have the holiness that is A&W; down there in the colonies?
William Michaelian: Yes, theyíre housed in log cabins and protected by the FDA, or the Department of Agriculture, or whoever keeps track of bovine growth hormones. I once saw a milkshake cross the street near one on its own.
John Berbrich: A&W; ó you mean the root beer? Only kind I know. Must be West Coast stuff, interbreeding w/ beef & all. Actually thereís a llama farm not too far from me, maybe 20 minutes. They just seem big & clumsy to me, the llamas. Maybe farm isnít the right word. After all, theyíre not growing llamas. Maybe a llama compound, w/ very tall fences. I donít know what they do w/ them, the llamas. After they grow them.
William Michaelian: Maybe it should be called a llama collective. A&W; the rootbeer, yes. But a lot of the A&Ws; Iíve seen are also burger joints. You donít have them in the East? They always have llamas at the state fair, with little signs on their stalls that say, ďCaution, llamas may spit.Ē Llama cigarettes. That would be a good brand.
PG: It (the llama Ďfarmí) should be called a llama concentration camp. And they should be re-educated there. If you can teach deathless evil new tricks. One thing that was pretty cool, though, I admit, was seeing them herded with huge feathered sticks (near Cuzco in í89 with my Dad). They are scenic beasts.
John Berbrich: Man, thatís a good name for a rock band, Scenic Beasts. Or at least a punk outfit. And the first recording: ďCaution, Llamas May Spit.Ē Could make millions.
PG: The best band name in all creation, I did not create (rather surprisingly). It comes from a long-lost CBC contest ó the purpose of which was indeed to create the best band name ó and the winner (I donít think he got first place, but he was definitely the winner), some dude out East, came up with this unstoppable lazarus of a thing (you will never escape it): Coprophagic Voice Mutation. If only there was an album to not listen to, day after day.
William Michaelian: Ugh. I had to look that up. Shouldíve left well enough alone.
John Berbrich: I once read about a rumor that Salvador Dali was a coprophage. Only a rumor. The word cop is a modern derivative.
William Michaelian: You mean, like, the Keystone Coprophages? I donít know how much more of this I can take. Dali, eh?
PG: Wouldnít ďRefectorĒ be a great title for a stuffy public servant? Anyway, as you say enough of that (except now itís planted in your mind like a poo seed). Iím all in a tizzy because an old friend might come up to see me ó I hardly ever get visitors (gee, what could it be?). I hope she finds her way here OK ó my direction-giving is worse than a magnetic weathercock in a thunderstorm. Ow, geez. I do seem compelled to inflict literary injuries upon others again today. I mean, good lord. What kind of worse-than-a-stormy-night tripe was that? Ah well, even crashing your bike helps you learn to ride. Oh no! There I go again! I should open a fridge magnet manufactory. Or are fridges all plastic? Mine apparently runs on compressed ammonia. Now that is scary. These trailers have alien technology in them. Over and out into the light until I check my e-mail in the gleeful hope of a visitor ó and happy days to you both (and the silent multitudes who are either too awed to speak or unspeakably censored, although if Mr. Michaelian lets me run myself out rope here, I canít imagine where the bottom line must lie (kidding ó I rock ze qwerty like doms rule subs mmmmmmmm subs i am so hungry now!). I hope a lot of people are happy today, and nobody gets killed that doesnít absolutely have to. I took out a woodbug I didnít mean to today while sweeping, and felt like such a heel. Talk to ya ó Peter Greene (Iím more than just two letters! I even have numbers attached to me!)
William Michaelian: Very well. Magically, henceforth, you shall be Peter Greene. And no, no one has been censored, except for one person years ago who, after being given ample rope, decided to hang herself with it by being rude, after which I personally locked her in the cyber basement, just below where weíre sitting now, only to be attacked afterward in private and called a ďmisogynist bastard.Ē No kidding.
Peter Greene: re: miss labellist: You could put ďMBĒ for short on your personal embossed-type cards and people might well think it a nice respectable degree. I try not to be rude (do let me know if I am, please), but often seem to just rub people entirely the wrong way. Itís because thereís troll blood in my family (not those awful little internet ones ó i put up a poem on the difference some while gone). We like things that bother or even upset others. Real misogyny, I think, must be quite rare, as you couldnít easily breed for it. Rudeness, sadly, is fairly common, so much so that itís easy to fall into bad ways oneself (shouldnít that be, like íoneísself or onesíelf or ó no, no more dwarvish trix). Aw. Dwarvish Trix. That is such a good advertisement that is playing in my head now (axe whistles in a deadly arc, decapitating fleeing child: I told ye trix were for dwarves! Arrrrrr!). You would have to be familiar with the old ďTrix Are For KidsĒ ones that got engram-burned into my head by the TV set as a child. Later in life, I really found the skinny white advertising rabbit who was ďCuckoo For Coco PuffsĒ funny, as my peers stood about outside workplaces, in bathrooms, and under bridges doing ďCoco puffsĒ (a little cocaine stuck into the end of a cigarette and smoked) on their breaks. I had better go do something useful. Happy day-remainder to all.
John Berbrich: Hope your woman-friend finds you in a timely fashion. I seem to recall that guitarist Peter Green was one of the founding members of Fleetwood Mac. He left before the bandís popularity grew to ginormous proportions. But his name lacked the terminal E. Green was a member of the band back around 1970 when I saw them at the old Fillmore East. That was before the girls joined. They were more of a blues jam-band then. Very satisfying, but little commercial potential. And Willie, thanks for the explanation regarding those strange noises Iíd been hearing under the floor. I thought it might be that your elves had gotten out of the closet again.
William Michaelian: There might have been some elves down there when I locked the door. But it was dark, and I had to slam it in a hurry. Speaking of music, for the last little while, Iíve been listening to early Bob Dylan on Ordinary Finds: Man of Constant Sorrow, Donít Think Twice, Itís Alright, Boots of Spanish Leather, To Ramona, Love Minus Zero/No Limit ó well, you get the idea. May 24th is his birthday.
John Berbrich: Hey, that was yesterday! Thanks for the links, I love those old pictures. Black & white photos have a certain something about them. So Willie, what are you reading these days? Have you made any progress w/ the Britannica?
William Michaelian: Just finishing it, in fact. Other than that, Iíve really been jumping around lately. A little Brautigan here, a snippet of Shakespeare there, Twain, Nabokov, Dickens, Jules Verne ó basically whatever happens to catch my eye as I pass through the room. And then there are my daily web travels, where I encounter the great, the good, and the atrocious, all in a matter of minutes.
John Berbrich: Technology is wonderfully democratic that way, mixing things up, giving all levels of mediocrity a level playing field. Not like your old Britannica, which is so exclusive you canít even find Tennyson, Whitman, or Charles Darwin amongst its pages.
Peter Greene: Re: Peter Green: Yes, a name Iím pleased to share and even exceeed. Quite fond of his work. Re: Democracy, mediocrity: Iím a Gene Roddenberry Socialist on the matter. When we all have enough (food, freedom of action, fusion electricity, peace of mind, toilet paper, but not those ^&*^&*^* beanie babies mind you) ó then, and only then, will humanity be truly driven to excel at a personal level. When success is not measured in beanie babies, baby. Re: Bobby: I like early Dylan a lot, and I also liked that countryish stuff he did. He certainly is an odd duck, at least to interview. Re: Old Britsy there: Why not scan and upload some of the articles into WikiPaedeia? Just for a snort. Re: elves: Damn things. Seen any? Lost them all, and Iím short a dwarf or two, har har. Talk to ya soon ó must go type and proofread todayís miniscule bits for the blog, and then make tedious phone calls to the people that issue me all the elf pills. Good day, gentlemen ó I hope it finds you well.
John Berbrich: Goodbye, Peter...Peter...drat, heís gone. Willie, have we ever talked politics before? My problem w/ socialism is on a purely practical level ó it requires too much government control & intervention. And I always wonder ó who is watching the Watchers?
William Michaelian: Peter? Do you think we might have imagined him? Such things have happened here before. Oh, well. Time will tell, I guess. Who is watching the watchers. The watchers of the watchers, I guess. Watcher watchers. Watcher doiní after work? Nothiní? Well, then, why donít we go out and have a belt? As I recall, we did mention politics briefly, probably a year or two ago. And what we came up with then was that any system would work if people were honest.
John Berbrich: Yeah, I think youíre right. And if the people arenít honest, no system will work. And probably the only way to keep people honest is to scare the daylights out of them.
William Michaelian: Send them all Yawps, I say.
Peter Greene: Sheeof, a person gets presumed va-po-rized íround here so quick youíd think there was something to inherit. Is there?
John Berbrich: Geez, it could be. Probably just something in the heir.
William Michaelian: I know the heir in the basement isnít too fresh.
John Berbrich: I thought the problem was that she was fresh? Oh, you mean that kind of fresh. Of course, of course. I totally see where you are coming from now.
William Michaelian: Well, I figure weíll give it another ten years, then maybe weíll venture down there. So ó since you brought it up, what are you reading these days?
Peter Greene: Reading? You guys, too? And I thought it was a dying art. I just slurped down (for the umpteenth time), with relish, mayo, and a hell of a lot of admiration Moorcockís conclusion to the End Of Time trilogy (The End Of All Songs). Thought I was a poet ítil Moorcock introduced me to Wheldrake (many years gone). I still possess none of his works, and get them only in excerpt, and they still blow me away (Wheldrake ó Moorcock, Iíve got a shelfload, i love the Mayflower covers such cool art). Other than that, itís mostly proofreading and (with arms trembling at the weight) looking stuff up in my exís Big Book (a lovely 1973 OED Compact). The Jehovahs left me a bible, but after the first few pages I got tired of it. I think it may be a bad translation. Certainly less fun than I remember it.
All this heiry talk puts me in mind for some reason of Tom Lehrerís bit ďI Hold Your Hand In Mine.Ē Dead ladies in basements, I guess, are artistically a universal thing.
I thought this morning I might be in for a big hiatus, but then poems happened. I feel deep gratitude for that. Perhaps prose will start to happen again, too.
Talk to ya all soon ó P
John Berbrich: Reading? Just finished a book of Selected Poems by Rene Char, edited by Mary Ann Caws & Tina Jola. This is a lovely bi-lingual New Directions hardcover, but I just could not get into the poetry. The list of translators is impressive: Samuel Beckett, W.S. Merwin, William Carlos Williams, & others. Seems like Char would start w/ an interesting image & then veer off into something random. So I found good lines to pick out but the poems didnít seem to make any sort of coherent whole. Now Iím reading California Writers by Stoddard Martin, sort of a critical analysis of Jack London, John Steinbeck, & the Tough Guys ó Dashiell Hammett, James Cain, & Raymond Chandler, plus a few others. Itís interesting reading although I think Martin is a bit picky.
William Michaelian: Do you mean picky in that heís trying to impress the reader with his knowledge?
Peter Greene: I remember reading Dashiell Hammetís The Thin Man and quite liking it long ago. It seems to me that an unruly number of poets are translators. I guess itís work well suited, and poems donít usually pay so well. Unfortunately for me, I only speak 0.897 or so of a language (combined), and so can barely translate myself (mere inches). James Cain is a great name, plume or no plume. What a seller. There is so much to read...W.S. Merwin looks interesting (looked him up in Minitrue Online there).
John Berbrich: Picky in the sense that he gets after Steinbeck for being macho or politically incorrect in the days before there were such things. Also he doesnít much care for Steinbeckís novel Sweet Thursday because it is a romantic comedy, when I found it to be one of the happiest books Iíve ever read. So what if itís not heavy ó we need some romance & some comedy. And by the way, Merwin is worth checking out.
William Michaelian: I do like those Raymond Chandler novels, by the way. Still havenít read Sweet Thursday. But as much as I like doom and gloom, Iím with you all the way when it comes to a little well written lightness. The same thing happened in a book about the Beatles I read a few years ago. I donít remember the name of the author now, or the title, but from beginning to end he clearly favored Paul McCartney, and rarely had anything kind or worthwhile to say about George Harrison. He was unable to judge them on their own merits ó which is exactly what he was claiming to do.
John Berbrich: A shame. I suppose it is difficult to get beyond oneís prejudices. Iíve read only one book by Chandler, a novel called Playback. I enjoyed it pretty well. Hammett Iíve never read. It turns out that he wrote The Maltese Falcon, a book that Martin is crazy about, & was made into a great film. He does make it sound interesting & quite exciting. And Cain Iíve never read either. And Peter is right ó James Cain is a great name.
William Michaelian: Peter is right about a lot of things. Do you still make notes while you read? Itís a habit I never got into.
John Berbrich: Yeah, I do. About two nights each week I sit down & write a few notes about what I read that day. Could be a random poem, the book Iím working on, a magazine article, anything that seems significant enough to record. These are short entries. I might comment on an authorís style, the plot of a novel, or an unexpected connection Iíve made between one book & another, like due to a certain similarity of subject or angle, one author may have influenced another. A couple of months later this makes for interesting reading, as Iíve usually forgotten most of it.
William Michaelian: I know that feeling. Meanwhile, do you find yourself writing your notes with an eye toward publication, or are they meant entirely for yourself? Wait ó before you answer that, take a look at this new photo.
Peter Greene: @John B.: I have occasionally wished I was organized enough to do things like make coherent notes. All writers are supposed to be inveterate journal-keepers, letter-writers, and filers of files. I am much, much more of a piler of piles (and with this appalling couch that could become a very bad pun ó I have sat the bottom clean out of it on my Ďofficeí end). I have begun, in recent years, to take the extreme liberty of marking up my own books with various scrawled things. I know what you mean about the meaning fading out of the ink on those things. Perhaps future historians will get some fun out of mine ó most of it makes no sense to me unless I happen to be thinking the same thing as I read the same pages as I did then (ooog that construction is making me ill), which happens with disturbing frequency.
Disturbing Frequency. A dog-whistle for the mind. Free title, up for grabs and a quality product. What itís for, I donít know.
William, I like the picture of you deep and desperate behind chairbars. Not that I am a cruel man. Itís just a good photograph. Your photographing relative of the initial V. is good at the camera thing. In camera. The place to be these days. Wish I had one to be in, secretly deciding with my little eye.
Too many thoughts, and Iím allllllll thumbs today. Frickiní metho-tri-meprazine. It does make my typer fumbly. However, it keeps the poemizer from blowiní up in flames nearly as often. I may risk running it at Prose pressure after a while (and a couple more short Moorcock novels I found lurking wonderfully on the ex-house-shelves ó always gets me fired up, being in deadly awe of another author ó i love to watch someone rock out before i go do my clumsy ballet steeplechases). Happy daze to you all. I certainly hope to attain one after getting some work done. There is a nice old half-bottle of something very cheap but deep enough for a relationship waiting for me to finish todayís paltry publishings and plot my next move.
John Berbrich: Well, drink up! Nothing like wetting that dog-whistle. And Willie, it looks as though theyíve finally caught up w/ you. You need to affix a sign to the bars, ďPlease Do Not Feed,Ē or something. Perhaps theyíll keep you in the next cage over from the llamas & you could spit at each other all day. Thatís all Iíve got for right now.
William Michaelian: Yeah? Iíll make a note of it. How about, ďCaution, Willie May SpitĒ? But certainly you must appreciate the artistic brilliance of that shot, the sheer profundity of it, the hollow statement, the angst.
John Berbrich: Yes, of course, all of it. Quite impressive. And to answer your previous question: the notes are entirely for my own amusement & edification. I canít imagine why anyone else would care to read them.
William Michaelian: Well putting it that way, now Iím really curious. Maybe you should donate your notebooks to one of the local colleges. A whole course, perhaps an entire major, could be built around them. It would also give you room for more books.
Peter Greene: Re: Spitting contests, and chawiní players, and llamas: Eughk. Eughk eughk e you gee h kee. Regarding the historical pondering of writerís notes (it looked better as ísnotesí, but i changed it back anyway) : it seems to me that boxes of stainy old books full of embarrassing wreckage are always being donated to collections and stuff by happily famous writers. So Iím just thinking ahead to the day of my obvious recognition (hah! just what is an obvious recognition?). And both (all) of yours, by genírous extension (after all, these mere chats will be golder than Salingerís underwear one day, mark my words). Now ó off to compose the next Iliad! I love the way Homer always writes in excellent meals for wandering bards. Thatís the way we like it. Where is the ancient Greek hospitality of today? Of course, there was the occasional beating and crippling of a beggar for sport. In fact, I bet a lot of people got eaten by domestic dogs in those days. Poets included. Good thing my fountain pen is all eighth-inch aluminum and nibbed up for combat. You could stab an elf with the thing. For dwarves, I keep a Mag-Lite. Wham! Short little helmeted little gold-forging devils. Thatíll teach íem. Hit íem right in the nibelung.... Re notes re: Ah! William, I see you anticipated me as I typed. But John shouldnít donate the suckers to a mere college. I plan to have my illegible, torn muck put on the next Voyager mission for aliens to read, with a copy on permanent display in the Vatican (which is already filled with lots of other busts).
William Michaelian: Well, itís good to have a plan. By the way ó did you say, Eughk eughk e you gee h kee? So few are fluent anymore. I know Iím not. But I recognize authenticity when I hear it. I believe youíre right about this Conversation. Itís my own feeling that this is what killed Salinger, the knowledge that we were far more interesting than he was. I remember one of the first things Odysseus did upon leaving town on his next adventure at the beginning of Kazantzakisís mighty sequel: he knocked up a young maiden. The elves must have been in the wine cellar.
John Berbrich: But thatís just the sort of thing heroes do ó or did, at any rate, in those halcyon days of yore, as they were called. Will anyone, ever, call these days ďhalcyonĒ? I suppose so, depending on what happens in the future. Yeah, & I have to agree w/ both of you sods about this Conversation. Iím not sure about JDís underwear, but Iím sure thereís a bottle of rye about. Willie, mein host?
William Michaelian: Be my guest ó itís right behind that steaming leg of lamb. And that olive tree. And those shields and spears there. Donít mind the suitors.
John Berbrich: Thanks. Say, should we slay the suitors before or after we eat. And the fragrance of that lamb, wafted to me on a light breeze courtesy of Aeolus, beneath the kindly sunshine of Apollo, adjacent to this grove of Diana, is making me drool w/ hunger. Got a fork?
Peter Greene: Oh, you have hit my mutton button. Thereís this pasta-y stuff called youvesti (sp?) I had once in a great little (by which I mean cheap and small) Greek place in Vancouver. Gods, the richness. I want things ó things aplenty.
Never try to write when youíre hungry. I bet Homer felt the same way. Iím sure Odysseus there knocked up his maidens on a full tank too, farting fulsome ferocious as he futtered (devolves into incorrect things involving butter, editor has struck them right off the page to the floor, for which purpose alone he keeps a team of copyists and an old thermal-printing IBM typer), and sent the job lot back as Ďrevolting, yet compellingí). Apparently a funambulist is a rope-walker, which I discovered while making sure that Ďfulsomeí did indeed have a whole bunch of nice things about it that one normally doesnít feel for any farts but oneís own.
I think these probably are halcyon days. The ones. Near halcyon (in my little Oxford Encyclopedic, a sadly inadequate but at least liftable edition), I found the pretty little thing Ďhalationí, which is the effect of light sneaking out into a picture during photographic processing. What a nice concept, and gone with the technology into the Smithsonian assuming we are not all, as I sadly assume, to be buried with it under a sheet of ice for aeons after the plagues take us all.
At least Bill Gates and Walt Disneyís head will be left, in their glittering pyramid (modelled, at Gatesí immortal, nano-enhanced insistence, after the hokey Superman house in the one with Richard Pryor, who should sprint flaming into this fantasy and melt it now, as I have to go to the doctorís soon and hear what the photos of my busted insides reveal, as well as be lectured about my grease-like blood.
Talk to ya later ó if the doctors let me back out again.
John Berbrich: Funny you should mention flatulence. Not too long ago I read a quote from W.H. Auden, who said that most people like the look of their own handwriting the way they like the smell of their own farts. And good luck w/ the doctors.
William Michaelian: Yes. And now itís my turn to say Eughk eughk e you gee h kee. On the other hand, probably some of the best writing has been done on an empty stomach, or the certain oncoming threat thereof. Not that War and Peace was written by a poor man, mind you. But thereís something to be said for lean and mean.
Peter Greene: Well! The radiologist came back confirming exactly what Iíd been complaining of for the several (four, actually) years since my surgeon butchered the job of patching me up ó namely, that it didnít work (he failed to close a nasty little inguinal hernia in the most delicate of regions). Now, sort of deflatedly vindicated (you give up after realizing what a pack of hounds these people are), Iíll go to the other surgeon in the area and see if he does any better. Hopefully they havenít agreed to get rid of me in some kind of pre-arranged Ďaccidentí. I have tried to be polite with them over the years of our hateful relationship, but have failed (you give up....wait, iíve been in this clause before). Anyway, events press. I may be a little less of a frequent forumicator for a bit ó I have a lot of catching up to do, and have found myself running out of time to write. That always means I mean to write something, so if I seem quiet...please, donít vaporize me. Leave that to my chirurgeons (sounds like a huge, chirruping sea-bug: a chirrurgeon monstrolata surged forth, legs a-clatter!).
John Berbrich: Well. Peterís been gone for only like five seconds, & already it seems so sad & so quiet. I know that if he were here heíd gladly share one of these dark brews w/ us. Cheers, Willie!
William Michaelian: Thatís just like you. First rye, then this wicked dark stuff, back and forth, back and forth ó no wonder weíre having so much fun. Our breath could vaporize Mr. Greene. Ahhhhh.
John Berbrich: Poor guy. I wonder what horrors heís undergoing now? Hereís looking at ya!
William Michaelian: Mudín yer eye! Even in the past tense heís present.
John Berbrich: Let me think about that one. Oh yeah ó I see what youíre getting at. Hereís lookiní at ya!
William Michaelian: Yep! Scotch and soda, mud in your eye. Baby, do I feel high, oh, me, oh, my. Do I feel high. Ah, whereís the Kingston Trio when you need them?
John Berbrich: Why doncha crank the Victrola & see what happens. Is that the one where the little dog sings into the megaphone?
William Michaelian: No, thatís the one where heís hopped up on steroids, wears sunglasses, is covered with tatoos, and has his masterís arm in his mouth. Actually, we have a Victrola.
John Berbrich: Does it actually work?
William Michaelian: Actually, it actually does. Or it did twenty-five years ago. Havenít checked lately. We found it in the house of my grandfatherís crazy cousin after she died, along with some cockroaches big enough to carry a small child.
John Berbrich: Iíve often wondered about this: do you need to crank the Victrola at a particular speed in order for the record to play properly? I mean, does the rate at which the turntable revolves depend upon the speed of the crack, uhh, crank? Does it even have a turntable?
William Michaelian: Okay, while I take the hat and the ukelele off the lid and pry the thing open, you might get a kick out of this note about Among the Living.
John Berbrich: Sounds as though the guy liked the book. I am pleased to see that Among the Living is still attracting attention & provoking such comments after all these years. Some books have staying power, & it looks like that book is one of them.
William Michaelian: Hard to believe itís been ten years already. That goes back almost to the infancy of the MuscleHead imprint. Okay ó so I took a picture, kind of a lousy one, Iím afraid, of the old Victrola. I even put on an old 78. ďTea for Two.Ē The needleís still intact. The record sits on a nice felt turntable. The crank engages, but I couldnít bring the machine to life. But as I understand it, after a certain number of cranks, the wind is enough to carry it through to the end of the record. Also, thereís a tiny dial where you can change the setting from ďslowĒ to ďfast.Ē You can click on the image for the full-size view.
John Berbrich: Wow. Itís got the little dog & everything. That crank is so cool. I believe that weíve discussed this before, but I prefer technology where you need to participate physically somehow. And turning a crank is marvelous. First off, crank is a splendid word. And I wonder if you hear that ratcheting sound when you turn that crank. How pleasant not to hear an electronic beep-beep-beep.
William Michaelian: So true. And it does make that ratcheting sound. The end of the crank doesnít merely slide into place. Itís threaded, and so it screws in. Another great crank is the one used to make homemade ice cream. And letís not forget the crank on early automobiles.
John Berbrich: Iíve never cranked an early automobile. Have you?
William Michaelian: No, I havenít. No wonder it wouldnít start!
John Berbrich: Aww, Willie ó such a joke-meister! Listen, if you want to start that old car, youíve got to be pro-active. Forget about all of this team-building group committee sort of thing that they try to teach now in what passes for our schools. Go out there, all alone, & grab a-hold of that crank, give it a good hard twist, then stand back. I wonder what sort of noise the motor will utter as it splutters to life?
William Michaelian: Ah-oooooo-ga! No, wait. Thatís the horn. Best of all, you could turn those cars on their side and fix everything with a wrench. Oh ó youíve got to see this. Youíre gonna love it. I promise.
John Berbrich: Yo! Those strawberries look good enough to eat.
William Michaelian: Strawberries and dream ó the cream dessert. Or is it the other way around? Either way, itís quite the wonderful surprise.
John Berbrich: Willie, now you need to write a Dream cookbook. Use your imagination.
William Michaelian: Oh, sure. There you go again ó you have the idea, but I have to do all the work.
John Berbrich: I knew youíd say something like that. Come on ó since itís my idea Iíll split the royalties w/ you 50-50. Deal?
William Michaelian: Well, I donít know if my agent will approve. But since I donít have an agent...