“Phoenixism” redesign & reconstruction

To the handful of you who may have noticed…I’m in the midst of changing the layout of this blog.

Sorry for the Alaskan winter whiteout look, that will change. Gradually. Many of my old motifs are gone, but they will return. Piece by piece.

It’s called starting from a blank slate.

Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: Chapter 3: Impressions

Chapter 3 is the chapter in which this novel takes a turn for the mysterious and lunatic.

Whereas chapters 1 & 2 followed a roughly understandable, albeit peculiar, storyline, chapter 3 introduced a new surreal vibe. Philosophical musings, dotted with whiskey and gray skies, are paraded for us, the reader.

When I first bought this book, I was under the impression it was a philosophical tract. In fact, I found the book on the philosophy shelf at Borders. The first 2 chapters were thoughtful and inherently pensive but nevertheless they could hardly be called truly Philosophical in the academic sense.

In the third chapter, Pirsig throws off the gloves off and comes out ideologically swinging.

In a gloomy buildup, we watch as the Narrator and company head into a small town just as rain begins to fall and the race begins. The town promises to provide shelter, warmth and dry from the onrushing storm, the layers of gray which sink and hide the outline of the town from the distance. And the rain falls harder. In an effort to make haste, they step on it and fly down the road at 90mph in the face of all good reason. There is a cresendo affect as you realize that this may not be the safest route. Once lightning begins striking the land around, you know it’s not the safest route. One of the lightning strikes lights up a farmhouse and a water tower…and appears to provide an epiphanous moment for the Narrator because he suddenly ratchets down the speed.

…and then in the brilliance of the next flash that farmhouse…the windmill…oh my God, he’s been here…throttle off…this is his road…a fence and trees…

Thus begins a chain of events which put the Narrator through an overwhelming series of deja vu incidents. The mysterious “he” remains a mystery.

Many of the references are so oblique that the reader must accept that chapter 3 will not answer, only ask. All one can do in such a situation is continue reading while weathering the storm of bizarre and esoteric references while storing them for future reference.

The sense the reader experiences early in the chapter is one of familiarity, of a previous unspoken occurrence or period of time in the Narrator’s history, and that the act of entering this town’s city limits is a “homecoming” of sorts. Or more appropriately, the discovery of a trail, an electric presence, left behind by the recent passage of someone known only to the Narrator.

They disembark and check into a hotel where they have dinner.

Afterwards they retire to the courtyard where they rest and share a bottle of whiskey. This puts Chris in a campfire mood and he begins talking about ghosts. Therein begins the true essence of this chapter. Like any good author of philosophy knows, the best way to bring a philosophical subtext to life is through dialogue. Give the character something to say, a speech, which clearly explains the author’s philosophic message. And that the Narrator does, at first hesitantly…but the whiskey works wonders.

Chris asks his father if he believes in ghosts.

“Do you believe in ghosts?”
“No,” I say.
“Why not?”
“Because they are un-sci-en-ti-fic.”
The way I say this makes John smile. “They contain no matter,” I continue, “and have no energy and therefore, according to the laws of science, do not exist except in people’s minds.”

Is the Narrator being facetious?

Ah, but now the Narrator blames a multitude of factors (the whiskey, fatigue, and the wind in the trees) for the loosening of his rigidity.

“…the laws of science contain no matter and have no energy either and therefore do not exist except in people’s minds. It’s best to be completely scientific about the whole thing and refuse to believe in either ghosts or the laws of science.”

Chris relates how one of his classmates, an Indian child, believes in ghosts, and the Narrator laughs, changes his skeptical tone, and says he was talking about European ghosts, not Indian ghost. Chris asks for the difference.

“Well Indians sometimes have a different way of looking at things, which I’m not saying is completely wrong.”

The dichotomy revealed that whereas past generations viewed ghosts as real and endowed them with the quality of existence. The scientific point of view has replaced much of that “primitive” superstition, bringing with it its own brand of knowledge and supposed wisdom. In spite of this, modern man still has his own ghosts. And here the Narrator equates belief in ghosts with belief in atoms. He tells Chris that modern man has his ghosts and spirits also:

“Oh, the laws of physics and of logic…the number system…the principle of algebraic substitution. These are ghosts. We just believe in them so thoroughly they seem real.”

The Narrator begins to tackle the puzzle of the greatest unseen natural force known…gravity. He wonders if gravity could have existed eons ago, in the time before light and matter and the universe, or as he called it, before the primal generation of anything. If the laws of gravity, in the absence of anything, could have existed as we know them today.

“Sitting there, having no mass of its own, no energy of its own, not in anyone’s mind because there wasn’t anyone, not in space because there was no space either, not anywhere–this law of gravity still existed?”

And the Narrator tells us that if indeed the law of gravity existed, then it has in fact passed every law of nonexistence there is; and conversely, it lacks the scientific proof for every trait of existence needed to prove that as well. He presses the issue and concludes that if examined deeply enough, the only possible conclusion that anyone could logically reach given the evidence is that the law of gravity did not exist before Isaac Newton. And he takes it even further:

“And what that means…and what that means is that that law of gravity exists nowhere except in people’s heads! It’s a ghost! We are all of us very arrogant and conceited about running down other people’s ghosts but just as ignorant and barbaric and superstitious about our own.”

And if you think this is where the Narrator lays it all out, you are wrong. He continues like an engine without the ability to shut down. He calls human scientific assumptions to task. He deliberates over the belief that scientific principles are ascendant. He persists in deconstructing and whittling away at all reason and logic until he’s left us only slivers of barely recognizable facts which have been so excised of reality that they appear irrefutable on the surface. If something is questioned continuously in the face of all known factual evidence, eventually you’re left with a prime fact which can not be reduced further, just like you can’t divide the number 11 by any whole numbers.

The Narrator concludes:

“Laws of nature are human inventions, like ghosts. Laws of logic, of mathematics are also human inventions, like ghosts. The whole blessed thing is a human invention, including the idea that it isn’t a human invention. The world has no existence whatsoever outside the human imagination. It’s all a ghost, and in antiquity was so recognized as a ghost, the whole blessed world we live in. It’s run by ghosts. We see what we see because these ghosts show it to us, ghosts of Moses and Christ and the Buddha, and Plato, and Descartes, and Rousseau and Jefferson and Lincoln, on and on and on. Isaac Newton is a very good ghost. One of the best. Your common sense is nothing more than the voices of thousands and thousands of these ghosts from the past.”

The conversation wraps up uneasily and everyone goes to their room. And the reader is left with the trail of relativistic destruction left behind by the Narrator.

As a reader, I disagreed entirely with his skepticism. I’ve never been able to parse out reality so easily. When the question “if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?” was asked, I always answered, of course it does. Even as a child I felt this strongly. I’ve instinctively believed all my life that certain laws and characteristics of the physical world are immutable and irrefutable. I’ve never doubted this. I believe our planet is a physical body which obeys laws of physical science…physical characters which exist in and of themselves and depend on nothing for this very existence other than the simple equation which is a blueprint which justifies their reality.

If every man, woman and child (and animal) on this planet suddenly vanished and you were left with a large, blue planet, a very empty planet, but a planet known as Earth (or what we called it in our human language which is our invention), the clouds would still drift and leaves would still dot the ground and the sun would still shine. These are intrinsic traits embodied in the physical model of the planet. The fact that no one exists to call gravity gravity does not mean rocks will suddenly start flying upwards into the heavens. We are mere inhabitants on a large mass and the laws of nature surround us and coax us and prompt us…we do not flaunt them because we do not control them, we do not own them. Our scientists have learned to harness many of them and control many outcomes, but the laws never change.

The Narrator indulges in some strange semantic relativism and he would have you believe that the act of naming natural laws brings them into existence from nothing. I cannot accept that, ever. Of course the law of gravity pre-dated Isaac Newton. Was Isaac Newton floating through the sky like a feather only to come crashing down to earth with his apple when he penned the concept of gravity?

We are an intelligent, sentient race with the ability to name. We name everything. And yes, human language is an invention and in that sense, all scientific query is invented…that is, the human concept is invented, but the physical law exists outside our minds and our reality. We are observers and interpreters; the laws of science transcend all level of our existence.

This is the scary contemplation, and that which is most troubling to the most virulent anti-spiritual atheists…that the world is direly impersonal. That gravity is a known and measurable variable. We can call it anything we want in our very limited and finite perspective.

I appreciate the Narrator’s reference to ghosts and his skeptical appraisal of the self-aggrandizing modern scientific eye. We do have many ghosts as a modern society and the laws of science are not the playing field where we should be testing that observation or belief.

Wireless is for pussies

I came into the wireless game very late.

As much as I consider myself soundly immersed in the flighty nature of technology and its flavor of the month disposition, I’ve always had a deep mistrust of “wireless” as a concept.

I’m all about wired; about wires and cables and cords. I have a sense that such connections are stronger and more resolute. Wired walks the earth stoically, it persists because it does not ask for a different path. Wired is persistent and it knows what it wants and it knows how to get there. The path is laid out. Wired is masculine; it’s tangible left-brained reality marked by visible boundaries. Nothing can deter a hard signal except for a pair of wire cutters.

Wireless…I can’t shake the feeling that it is weak and capricious and defies the good sense of natural laws. Wireless is invisible and imposingly fluid and unworthy of confidence; swayed by the slightest blip in environmental stability, it is not to be trusted. It’s convenient but lazy. Wireless will find another easy way out when the charged atmosphere gets tough. Wireless is feminine.

So it wasn’t until last year that I finally joined the old-school wireless revolution.

Comically, I bought a laptop which was very current and gadget-marvelous about 4 years ago. Which in computer years is about time for life support. So it was refreshing and kind of exciting to finally flip on the blue LAN light for a change and surf on the laptop…with the router an incredible 10 feet away!

And here my laptop has stayed. Despite the fact I can walk this damn computer anywhere in this apartment and out to the balcony, I prefer to keep it planted here in the living room tethered by a wired mouse, AC power, and a cable running into my Bose radio so I can hear the annoying computer sounds in blaring hi-fi. And for those nostalgic moments, I use the desktop which is hard-wired. My good ol’ steady HP desktop, the Silverback of my cyber kingdom. When I need a steady signal, some grounded surfing, I go to that. When I want to upload at length.

But tonight…I was adventurous. Maybe it was the turkey, or the birthday cake, but I was compelled to throw caution to the wind and take my laptop outside. I unplugged all the earthly wires and carried the damn thing to the patio.

And check it out…this is L.A. and most people would find it humorous that temperatures in the high 50’s might be construed as uncomfortable. And take it from someone who never wears jackets, but after sitting out there a few minutes, the calm warmth of my apartment began to call me back to wired paradise.

Also, I don’t have any seating out there…I don’t own lawn chairs or patio chairs…I sat on the stairs. Nothing to sink my back into. Typing on a laptop while you’re fully erect (wow that sounds gnarly) with the computer on your lap is not comfortable. And toss in the gentle cool breeze which started to chill me down once I’d been out there a few minutes…yup, wasn’t happening. Fuck Forget this wireless bullshit. (Potty mouth edit)

BTW,..the keen-eyed observer will note the lawn chair in this photo. That lawn chair is older than this computer and eaten through at the bottom. There is a no ass rest. That chair is better suited to a bad Frankie Goes To Hollywood music video.

An ear-shattering Moment in Time

Wiltern Theater, Los Angeles
November 24, 2009
7:30pm-after midnight

a Moment in Time
stretching an entire evening
more bang for your buck, not just a little 3 minutes train moment, nope
tonight was concert night
my son —- will be a rock star, his humble childhood goal
didn’t we all
have those
i was going to be a famous baseball star!
we went, drove, arrived too early, and waited in line
for a concert
the looks on faces, Wolfmother? they ask who are they? Do not many people know
Wolfmother how could it
At first, foreboding
Like walking into a room full of harsh strangers
Been so long
went to a rock concert
those were the days!
back in my 20s I spent almost every week for 5 years
at a concert
killing my eardrums thrashing moshing drinking not sleeping
was that only 20 years ago?
and I remember distinctly laughing at parents who brought their children to the concert
back then
not laughing as in LOL
but laughing, smirking, finding a sense of irony and twisted humor in that

and now it’s me
I am the parent
and bringing my future rock star son
and standing in line
and everyone seems like such a … kid
but thankfully Wolfmother attracts an older crowd
geriatric by the standards of the typical concert-goer. but older nevertheless and I don’t feel so out of place. standing in line waiting make some small conversation with a couple of dudes behind me
who are musing about Denny’s restaurants that serve
beer, told them about the one in Hollywood that actually has a bar. now that is LOL

Finally in we go! 7:30 doors open and the wild crowd is allowed to enter,
me, carrying in the printout from the online order. used to be we walked in with tickets, real tickets damnit, little piece of thick paper with printed itinerary that you
could keep for ages. or lose.
Also carrying some ridiculous overpriced shit I bought
from some Hare Krishna’s earlier. stickers and a booklet which i threw away but really should
have read
and maybe found further enlightenment even though I feel pretty fucking enlightened, thank you.
Some things have not changed they still pat you down make sure you are not carrying
a Desert Eagle or AK-47. The usherette chick with a funny ass-in-the-air walk guides us to our
seat which are wrong as we later find out when some guys try to sit down where we’re sitting
so we move down to our correct seat
aisle seats awesome!
opening bands really good or is it my absence from the
concert scene for so long
that makes every live performance
it’s all great even these opening acts from bands i never heard of like The Heartless Bastards love their twangy countryish
lead singing chick, she has great lungs awesome man i’m gonna
look that
expand my
musical collection
move aside stuff in the ipod
move over here comes the bastards

intermission, then we walk down, throngs of people, give —- 40 bucks and make him
buy the shirt
he has trouble
relaying what he wants cause it’s so loud
he has to keep repeating
the parental urge to step in and do it myself
life’s lessons
speak up!
we walk away with a brand spanking new Wolfmother concert shirt and
i remember all the shirts i bought
so many wore them all the time that was my
concert shirts
and jeans
and bad hair
but i was like 22
you could put your body through the blender at that age
and still look 22
44 looks like 54 even if
i don’t sleep right
so much time flies
and now
i’m the parent
who brings his child to a concert and looks elderly in comparison
as the music
the amps bursting with heart-stopping bass
the smoke
the lights
the long hair
it’s all the same
for the most part
except now
cell phones all over the crowd all over
and even
during the break
you can text your message to appear on
the screen
for all to see
progress or is that what it’s called progress?
texting bullshit?
i miss 1985 sometimes

and i watch
the future rock star
at his first concert
he points out the guitars
and their names
and explains distortion pedals
and amps
and bass amps
and this and that
and all this stuff
i never knew back in the 80s
cause i just wanted to rock out and party and had no concept of musical-ism. nope i never knew jack about music, the mechanics
but —-
he takes it seriously
and i think there is wonder in his eyes
and tonight he may be smitten and pursue this as a dream
like the first time
i went to a baseball game in 1973. smitten with a dream
smitten is perfect. A goal which sustains you a passion we all must
have that
for health,
mental health.
life is important and must be taken care of you must buy buy buy houses cars wives clothes but you must
also enjoy
that which you cannot buy
passion is free and i’m glad
at his young age
he’s found one
and the music is loud and our ears buzz
i warned about the buzz the semi-deafness you’ll
experience after a loud concert
these concerts are strange
cuase i never
saw concerts sober
all my concert memories
enjoyment is clearer

the familiar concert stench
after buying the t-shirt
the stench of pot ah yes the more things change the more they stay the same!
people brought cameras they brought leather jackets they brought joints!

And as the night passes and the encores begin at
11:30 I tell —- we have to leave
after the next song
is a school night
for both
him and I
and my normal bedtime being
10 or 10:33 zzz now it’s getting a little late
and we must pretend
that you were not out this late
for the sake of
your educational well-being
my blog and all it’s millions of reader (LOL) do
you think
any of your
teachers could read it
and KNOW :(
very little homework was done because you were partying with
the adults and wrapped up
in your passion which unfortunately includes no exams or quizzes or textbooks or chalkboards? It’s hard to argue with that
for your passion is certain to lead to escape from the rigor
of mundane tasks
but it’s a lesson we all learn
the hard grinding way.
Eventually life grabs you by the nuts and you have nowhere to go
Sacrifice the fight sacrifice the dream sacrifice the lofty loftiness
come down
and toil with the rest of us
who lost the dreams
for this is
the crowds
the lights
the noise
is it reality
it’s spectacle and fanciful

but alas
we wish
to never trample on dreams
especially those of our children
so we nurture them on…good-naturedly.

The first encore song complete
we leave
and leave the crowd
and amps
and hair
Out into the
cool night air
of Wilshire and Western
And I realize, strangest of all
I enjoyed this!
I rediscovered something here this night filling in the shoes of long-ago parents I chided when I was the age of their son
and reversed the role discovered
that elation and satisfaction
is not far behind,
a job well-done.

Someone’s first concert ever and the cycle begins
And someone rebooting the second leg of the cycle
with a new perspective
and tonight
a night of introduction and rebirth.

At home, quiet, late, ready to go to bed
past midnight by now
it’s November 25.
my birthday
synchronicity once again
for when we learned of the concert we flew ahead and knew this was the perfect venue and time and learned that it was November 24, the
before my birthday
and now
here in the dark ticking of the apartment and the midnight hour has passed
and my birthday dawns again, symbolizing something anything, rebirth

The Moment

And the first few minutes
of my 45th year
are spent in quiet contemplation
of all that is grand and perpetual in this life
The buzz of the concert still in my ears
I’m on a cusp…