Tuesday, April 12, 2011

C'est la vie

I have finally lost my mind, once and for all.

I have a friend that I've mentioned here many times.  He has been a mentor to me since I was about 16.  I dropped out of high school for reasons that I won't go into here or now. But he was a teacher at an alternative high school that allowed for the enrollment and advancement of students like myself, as well as others that needed a high school degree in a different fashion, for any variety of reasons.    

He was my science teacher at first, then literature, then video production. There might have been other classes he taught as well but those were the ones I remember. The ones that stuck with me and affected me most deeply.  

He used to bring books of poetry into science class and read from them.  Strange and unexpected verse, illicit subjects dealt with in a very straight-forward manner. He encouraged us to not shop at the local (and mostly useless) book stores. But instead to drive the 2 hours to Gainesville and shop at Goerings. A college book store very near The University of Florida campus. So I did.  This is where I first bought books by Bukowski around the mid 1980's, among other books, but those were the ones that jumped out at me, as he suggested they might.

I was a young, arrogant, pain in the ass.  I would challenge his authority in class, make fun of him, questions his facts, interrupt his lectures, etc. But I would also listen, as much or more than anybody else there. Eventually I would contribute productively, though admittedly it was mostly just to show off.  As I said, I was arrogant and young.  But I would search out his classes and take them specifically. Somehow we became friends.  The moment that I realized it had happened was once when he asked me to help him move a washer, or dryer, or refrigerator, or some large appliance. I had a truck and he needed help. He offered to pay me.  I was glad to help and we made the arrangements.  When we were done he offered me money and I tried to decline but he insisted.  That is the way that I remember it anyway.  But then after forcing the money on me he handed me a book.  It was Cormac McCarthy, "All The Pretty Horses."  He had written an inscription in it thanking me.  So, I read the book. You can figure out the rest.  I learned how to more gracefully acknowledge admiration for someone.

There was a passage in the book that I have tried a few times to appropriate, but have been woefully unable to. It is the moment that John Grady Cole encounters his destiny and the description of that awareness.  It was so simple that there is hardly any way to imitate it without stealing it.  One day I hope to. I would not be the first to steal from McCarthy, or Bukowski.  I have stolen from my friend throughout the years as well.  A part of who I am, and even what I have rebelled against (including him), has been through my imitating of him.  Having known him for more than 25 years now this aspect of our friendship has been a part of what has allowed (and sometimes forced) me to grow up. But also it has been a way of gauging that maturation.  He has never been one to let me forget what I was like when I was just a loud-mouthed kid, long before I became a loud-mouthed adult.

Well, there are many other stories to tell in that regard, but that is not the purpose of this post.

He writes to a site of his own daily.  It is an interesting site and one well worth reading (www.cafeselavy.com).  There are two women who comment on his posts quite often.  I made the mistake of confusing and merging these two women to make an amalgam of awfulism.  That was my mistake and I admit it. It turns out that one of them was deeply skewing my perception of the other.  The one that I had an aversion to was named Lisa.  She uses my friend's site to variously post her own work and criticize his.  Her work is dull and uninspired. It is the type poetry and thought that most young writers keep hidden, and for a reason.  But his site emboldens her in this regard and she trots out her insipid poesy whether it relates to his post or not.  I sometimes wonder if she has realized that she herself is not actually the author of the site. In addition to these substantial weaknesses she also lacks humor, though she is probably writing a poem about how funny she is as I write this.

It seems to me that he has tried to hint to her that her sometimes barbed criticism of his work is not welcome, but that he is also thankful to have the readers that he does.  After she criticized the subject of his photography he posted image after image of the very thing that she seemed to dislike most. He would drop sometimes subtle and sometimes unmuted hints at the effect that criticism has on an artist. She would encourage him to, "fuck em" and march right on with her boorish "insight" into his work and how it could be corrected and improved, sometimes with response-poetry, sometimes with almost motherly advice on how to live.  Though don't let this last observation skew your perception of her too deeply. She has also referred to herself in the comments section as a "word whore", etc.

I couldn't take it any more.  There was a post from yesterday that was titled "Critics."  It seemed to me to be directed at her, if not exclusively then at least partially.  It addressed how "... people are manipulative and always seeking to make the world in their own image, some much more aggressively than others."  Then it went on to state that it is easy to defend the work of others but not as easy to defend one's own.  What greater invitation could I ask for? I won't trot it all out here, but if you follow the link above and read the post and the subsequent comments section then the story is told more fully there.  

I am certain that it is not over.  Lisa does not respond well to hints.  I can only assume that direct written confrontation will elicit a response poem that is a confused farrago of assertion and dismissal.  It will attempt to correct my criticism of her, unsurprisingly.  She will go on stalking my friend. As all evidence works to support the mind of the obsessed.  

But I will rest easier knowing that I tried, and will hopefully think twice before posting any more poetry on this site.

April is the cruellest month....