Ice Friday: Raymond Carver’s “At Least”

I want to get up early one more morning,

before sunrise. Before the birds, even.

I want to throw cold water on my face

and be at my work table

when the sky lightens and smoke                          

begins to rise from the chimneys

of the other houses.

I want to see the waves break

on this rocky beach, not just hear them

break as I did all night in my sleep.                                    

I want to see again the ships

that pass through the Strait from every

seafaring country in the world—

old, dirty freighters just barely moving along,

and the swift new cargo vessels                              

painted every color under the sun

that cut the water as they pass.

I want to keep an eye out for them.

And for the little boat that plies

the water between the ships                                   

and the pilot station near the lighthouse.

I want to see them take a man off the ship

and put another up on board.

I want to spend the day watching this happen

and reach my own conclusions.                               

I hate to seem greedy—I have so much

to be thankful for already.

But I want to get up early one more morning, at least.

And go to my place with some coffee and wait.

Just wait, to see what’s going to happen.  

Being Smart Isn’t Intellligent

We bald apes have always struggled with existence. Being aware that we are finite has made us depressed and self-serving. Ironically, it is this pattern of selfishness that has put us on the brink of self-extermination – consuming, hoarding, discarding – dragging every other earthly creature with us.In other words, as much as we want to blame Trump, Brexit and NASCAR, it’s each of us, every individual, who is to blame for this slide into the mediocre abyss where moronic agendas prosper. Indeed, as fervently as we might proclaim intelligence, the sad truth is we’re merely smart, if that. Clever enough to assess, post and download, we don’t know how to think about the purpose of any of it. To paraphrase, Ben Jonson’s Volpone, rarely do we allow our “conscience get in the way of our wit.” Further, as Cixin Liu posits in The Three-Body Problem: The relationship between humanity and evil (stupidity) is similar to the relationship between the ocean and an iceberg floating on its surface -both the ocean and the iceberg made of the same material. That the iceberg seems separate is only because it is in a different form.

Rather than intelligence, what we should look at, like it or not, is how good we are at being stupid. As sad as it is, that seems the naked truth.

Dennis Hopper’s “The Last Movie”

Like Micheal Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, critics have attacked and mocked the excessive ways of Dennis Hopper’s The Last Movie. Rather than focus on the film – the imagery, characterizations and experimental structure – they honed in on the sensational stories of orgies and cocaine consumption because that’s what sells. The truth is, while Hopper’s film may be flawed, it is seminal – directionless, faded and disturbing. Under the tutelage of Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky, Hopper constructed an experimental narrative – including a title card flashing missing scene as if we are watching a rush – continually reminding the viewer of what this is – just a film.While it’s not earth-shattering genius, neither was Easy Rider nor even Midnight Cowboy or Apocalypse Now for that matter, but it’s genuine and a far cry from the processed images of today, all seemingly rendered from a rendering of a rendering. Personal and real, The Last Movie itself will be rendered soon enough. “Love is everywhere.”

Waking Through Six Layers

I was naked, of course, and late for class, when I was passed by a running figure, a boy who had died years before, and then another, his friend, someone I thought was still alive. I woke myself up and walked down a steep stone-lined avenue, searching for his friends, and then woke myself up from that. I was in bed and asked my wife for the phone. She gave me a calculator. I woke myself up from that and explained my anxiety to her about whether the other boy, Nick, might be dead. I was moving too slowly and woke myself up again, now exhausted and confused about where I was. The phone was working and the search engine. But I was still asleep and woke myself up again. I waited a long time before finding out. There was no news.

When I’m Writing Right

The thing swells up, tit-tattering, a power almost in my control, the front edge out, a clean, pure thing, like it just might be everything I can know. I follow, sliding rails, clearing gaps, a mad chase into the mountains, a blur until I am still, inside of it, just taking dictation, and then think that, like I actually know. And it is gone.

Ice Friday: Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice”

SHYLOCK: What judgement shall I dread, doing no wrong? / You have among you many a purchased slave, / Which like your asses and your dogs and your mules / You sue in abject and slavish parts / Because you bought them. Shall I say to you, / “Let them be free, marry them to your heirs! / Why sweat they under their burdens? Let their beds / Be mades as soft as yours, and their all their palates / Be seasoned with such viands?” You will answer / “The slaves are ours!” So do I answer you: / The pound of flesh which I demand of him / Is dearly bought, ’tis mine and I will have it. / If you deny me, fie upon your law! / There is no force in the decrees of Venice. / I stand for judgement. Answer: shall I have it?

Too Many Spongy Black Fungi

It was the black fungi’s texture more than anything that was intimidating – and the volume – but I like mushrooms and so ate them all while working on a screenplay about taking psilocybes at a Grateful Dead concert and expected to go on a massive involuntary trip. But it wasn’t like that

I just felt wonky and, after reviewing a few more pages, drifted off to my deep-jungle Carlos Castenadian dream-past, escaping savages in dugout canoes only to be cornered, the spears and arrows raining overhead, and then sunk by a polar bear at which point I decided to wake myself up, not wanting to be mauled, roasted or whatever was to come next. I lay in the cold stillness to consider how much we were ahead of that, that I shouldn’t be so concerned with the extra demands at work, just be happy for what I have, even if a tribal chief of the worst order was at the helm of the country, and felt like that on my way to work, until a wave of exhaustion hit me and I wrote this instead.