I have had a new book out since March: A Spring Without Mulch or Writing in the Time of COVID.* Zero sales (I think), which is par for the career course I am on. Still, sometimes I get desperate for some stabilizing delusion—it’s what keeps me upright forking free food into my mouth at a fine dining restaurant. Many of you reading this have experienced the adult satisfaction of getting paid for your food. Please, do not ever take for granted your good fortune. Last night my wife and I sat at the computer searching for an anniversary weekend getaway to the Green Mountains of Vermont. Any hotel with yesterday’s shower slime disinfected cost over $200 a night. Myself and a million other stubborn painters and poets could not foot that bill with total income received since New Years Day. I could pay for tent camping—that’s sustainable once a year at $15 per night. However, sciatica will vocally protest hard ground beds with loud howls in the night, and a living husband should never bring tears to his wife on anniversary weekend, when the moon is high and s’mores nearly paid for.
So in America, it’s a routine humiliation being creative professionally. How dare us hoard all of this degrading good fun! I accept the reasoning. Low wage work exists so salaried positions can save for sailboats, and on wedding anniversary, afford the floating islands with fresh raspberries and drizzled caramel. Career opportunities (higher wage work) build a middle class bubble that must protect its fragile membrane else succumb and burst with the realization that capitalism is maniacally insane. Society can be stark-raving mad and still produce efficiently. Lockheed Martin® in Syracuse designs and builds radar systems to make nuclear weapons delivery more likely. It employs both wage and salaried workers. Many will order the filet mignon on anniversary night, cause “Hell baby, we only live once. Order the damn steak!” Cow parts were fast-grown in howling misery on Nebraskan CAFO plantations. 100,000 gentle beasts cud chew while wading in shallow lakes of high fructose corn feces. Back at the big house, middle managers interview prospective employees to screen if they’re good enough to work in Hell.
And nearly everyone always is.
The infamously tolerated capitalist, Jeff Bezos, whose Daddy once beat the snot out of him after being presented his son’s crayon drawing of a spaceship, intends to lift off this Tuesday in a replica erect penis he messaged to his girlfriend while sketching blowjobs on the wall of his golden bathroom. What a dreamer!
A subsidiary to his fortune publishes and distributes my books for a cut of the action. So every diatribe of mine that gets purchased helps to subsidize the mental masturbation of a very rich pervert. There isn’t any irony to lose. Actually, this might be karma in action. You see, if I don’t make a dime, then perhaps the universe accepts me as one of the dwindling true animal representations of a species that came to be in 300,000 B.C.E. To make oneself more blotto before reincarnation (re-naturalization) might have been the best reaction all along to the violent busyness of a world gone wrong. And I was making such a fuss about not belonging! Maybe it’s good medicine to be shunned. Heck, I’d rather be an herb-worshiping witch living close to the bone on the outskirts of Puritan Salem than a Salem Puritan with an overdose of lead in the marrow. Sometimes I just need to think (write) things out in my head (into word processor) to realize how glorious life is, no matter the shame game played with the haughty, arrogant forces responsible for such blatant socio-economic distortion.
Jeff Bezos is the disease that infects every economic strata of society. You either spend an adult life catching it, or declare your immunity, like me—bow the head, hold out the hand, and let your provider spouse make the damn anniversary plans.
*Dear friends, family, and financial supporters who are friends and family,
Please do not purchase this book (or any other). I want to give it to you, with a note of gratitude inside. Thank you for the years of good will and enthusiasm for the little bit I accomplish with feet still above ground.
Every one else, however, seek out the painters and poets near you. For their sake (which is often a precursor to your sake), once in a blue moon, consider rewarding them for their stubborn contributions to a culture that you so willfully fall asleep on every night in a Netflix® oblivion.
I promised a pitch. Here are songs I wrote for promotion:
Now for another anniversary story written seven years ago. Same theme, different villain:
Joy—It’s What’s In The Head
Marie and I celebrated our crystal anniversary on Thursday and I was able to carry the weight of good feeling into the weekend. Just barely.
Five years ago we bought land in the country for the price many Americans would pay for a Toyota 4Runner. 16 acres surrounded at three cardinal directions by 1400 acres of the county nature center. Just a few humans every couple of square miles. The cool cloudy day of our anniversary was good medicine. Marie suggested that I paint her, which I did on a piece of 2 x 4' luan. It will be hidden in the basement until our teenage daughter is not that grossed out by it—probably forever. I drank expensive local craft beer followed by local Finger Lakes Red Wine (dry like my humor, thank Dionysus). We picked blackberries, cooked dinner over the fire, and went for a rare bugless walk at dusk, to finally fall asleep with sunset still marking the tree line.
We can’t afford the land anymore. It’s paid for, but our debts in other places not nearly as valuable, are bearing down on us. The “for sale” sign has been up for several months without any takers. Lucky for us, for we’re getting cold feet—especially after a crystal anniversary cementing silver and golden ones to come so long as our bodies can hold out that long. I am a stubborn creative fool hiding in happy failure. I have arrested development, a youthful optimism that is challenged day after day—not without realization. I know what culture I am up against, and sometimes it thinks me to be a village idiot. A damn lucky one to be sure—a wife to subsidize his gross maladjustment, children who respect and love him, and yes, even a dumbed down culture that thrives in a super economy, where the daft painter can purchase expensive supplies on easy credit.
But geeze Louise, just stop for a day and assess the treadmill. The status house, the wealth lie. Lately I have been sitting on my life “Indian style”, that is, with adult lifelong conviction that we are all living on the “Res” in one way or another. Supposedly, after shelter, food, clothing, fuel, and modern medicine, we are educated to free our minds, find our place, and flow helpfully in society. In my extended clan of the past or future I would fit in as one of the radical-clowns, one to see the black and white of the situation, react to it, voice it, color it in the proportion that I see fit, and send it over to the wise council for deliberation. However, this reservation is casino corrupt. It silences many good Indians with humiliation that is usually enough to set them on a path to unrighteousness, to unlove, to uncourage, to unjoy.
I am getting off track. I want to write about the writer and painter as radical-clown. But first, to clarify my position above... A distant Indian relative of mine said it best:
Not long since, a strolling Indian went to sell baskets at the house of a well-known lawyer in my neighborhood. “Do you wish to buy any baskets?” he asked. “No, we do not want any,” was the reply. “What!” exclaimed the Indian as he went out the gate, “do you mean to starve us?” Having seen his industrious white neighbors so well off—that the lawyer had only to weave arguments, and, by some magic, wealth and standing followed—he had said to himself: I will go into business; I will weave baskets; it is a thing which I can do. Thinking that when he had made the baskets he would have done his part, and then it would be the white man’s to buy them. He had not discovered that it was necessary for him to make it worth the other’s while to buy them, or at least make him think that it was so, or to make something else which it would be worth his while to buy. I too had woven a kind of basket of a delicate texture, but I had not made it worth any one’s while to buy them. Yet not the less, in my case, did I think it worth my while to weave them, and instead of studying how to make it worth men’s while to buy my baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of selling them. The life which men praise and regard as successful is but one kind. Why should we exaggerate any one kind at the expense of the others?
Exactly! Hence, the Indian in the country, weaving his baskets.
After a near-perfect anniversary celebration I had the usual rush of “fear in the financial future” that afflicts all of the unmade artists of the world. It is the downside of happy delusion, and I think a very needful sorrow for the creative mind to be up against. Without it, there can be no fight, and it is the fight that can bring you back to right-thinking. The next day I decided to bring some self-published books and lessor paintings out to sell along the land’s impressive road frontage. Businessmen always ask about road frontage before buying. Very important consideration. It can make or break what seems to be a sound business plan. Anyway, the seasonal Renaissance Faire is a quarter mile up the road and brings an enormous amount of traffic past our country property on weekends in summer. We let our friend Dan sell his tie-dyes there, and he does quite well. Last year I joined him three times, about 25 hours of retail work, and made 40 dollars total. I sold one book and two paintings. (Actually, just the two paintings. I threw the book in for one customer because I was just so damn happy to sell a painting.) In comparison, Dan made about $400 during the same period.
I imagine the Ren Faire to be a good random sample of local Caucasian consumers. The bad history, horrendous detail, and several thousand turkey legs call out all strata of our class society—the college professor as well as the successful Quicky Lube technician. Dan gets about 2 customers per hour on average, with at least one purchase, maybe a t-shirt or a onesie. A hundred dollar day is nothing to sneeze at. So, the Indian businessmen would work with Dan’s model, improving upon it, making a mint for the family and clan. The Indian radical-clown however, after failing with his business model, does it again for good measure.
And ho boy, does he succeed at repetitive failure!
Not one customer. 500 cars drove by, all headed to the same place, to spend money on the same stuff. SUV’s and Audi’s. F-150’s and RV’s a-plenty. 75% of the cars driving by cost about what we are asking for the land. Perhaps 75% of riders in the cars could name this year’s American Idol winner, and 75% would ride off a cliff if the last bag of Cheetos® on earth was leading the way.
I had a memorable anniversary. I love Marie. We will keep the land, grow our debt, and live as free as we can in a super economy on the American reservation. I am the radical clown who makes joy in the head. I’d say “Pleased to meet you”, if you ever got out of that pathetic rusting cage-on-wheels to interact with a radical clown.
Thanks for reading!