I got your letter and package with the T-shirt under strange circumstances. In the morning I had been in Mendocino; I went into the bathroom at the Sea Gull. In a flash of ancient habituation I almost took off my belt as I locked the door, a reflex action, you might say. I sat on the can and thought of wild and crazy days in the past, days never to be repeated (some of the people are now gone, and also, the environment that fueled and shaped our behavior is gone), things are different.
When visiting with Rex the week before we had talked of old times and just how different things were. We talked of fishing and how it had been; of everyone who was gone and of the changes around us. But also, we talked about how a certain style of response to the social environment is changed; there is no one to slightly misunderstand the lady on the radio swap-shop, magically transforming her offering into a "rib cage for a small mammal." Ultra-Brite toothpaste is fixed; it cannot mutate into "Vulture Bright." Of course Rex and I are here, but, as regards that style of response, we are anachronisms. "Dinosaurs" comes to mind. We are, however, "dinosaurs awaiting re-discovery." I know that many things in the social pattern, even very unhygenic ones, perpetually resurface.
When I arose, that morning, the morning of my visit to the can in the Sea Gull, with a sense of lightness and as an ode to the past, I wrote a piece of graffiti, in giant, Paleolithic letters:
When I got home, in the afternoon, to Branscomb, I found your package; I opened it, and found there the T-shirt with the logo "Eat the Rich." Sensing an extra-sensory manifestation, I took off my shirts, jackets, etc., in front of the Branscomb store. It was a cold day, and some loggers on the porch of the store watched in fascination as I put on the new T-shirt.
"Skinny, ain't he," one of them said. Wearing the shirt, I beamed in their direction. I turned so they could see the dinosaur-like creature on the back, and when I turned again, one of the loggersa two hundred and fifty pounder, with no teeth and hair like red wire, nodded his head solemnly as if he had "received the transmission" from a Zen koan. He said: "All right."
That was a pleasant day, I thought. I wore the T-shirt for two weeks. Now I have it washed, waiting for another favorable opportunity to wear it.
It is winter time here. My wife has taken my daughter and they are in New York, "seemingly living there." My son Joseph is here with me. We have rabbits, house-keepers, small plants started in the solar window, and an abundance of projects.
I had a one-man show at the Mendo Art Center. Most of the show (photography) was naked women, with transparent bodies through which protruded water, rocks, trees, clouds, etc. Got a great response from the show.
Two days have elapsed since I began writing this "letter". I'm back in Branscomb after a whirlwind gaunt (no, it's not mis-spelled) to Fort Bragg. I decided to get back into "business" as a way of re-couping my losses from the straight carpentry jobs I have been doing (it seems to cost me more to do these jobs than I earn).
"In the White" for a week. The phone is ringing off the hook. It's a neighbor's wife, she wants to know if she can put another $60.00 on her tab, and will I please not mention this to her husband. Last time she was here she wallowed around on the floor for half an hour telling me how much she loves him, how she could never leave him. Meantime her clothes are coming off in the hopes I will be persuaded to part with an extra half gram. Nasty Stuff.
You see, if you ask for a letter like this, you have to take the bad with the good. The personal with the trans-personal.
Women: I'm sitting here (it's one a.m. in the morning, I'm alone) and I'm answering the question you posed: "What evil substances have you in their grip?" I'm in the grip of my "inner chemicals". those substances that have been in a chronic state of misbehavior since a little girl (I was five, she was six) said: " Would you like to go out in the woods and tie me up?"
I'm looking around the room at the work left over from my show: women. People really responded to it. Here on the wall is a picture of Raquelle-you should have known Raquelle in her prime (circa 16-18 yrs)-she is twenty-one now, an exotic dancer in some monstrous clap-trap of a club in San Jose. Anyway, the picture is surreal; done with negative and positive together to make a texture that looks like stone more than skin. She is transformed into a sculpture of a woman. She is half Indian or something, Tainter lives with her little sister now. Enough of this, I'm tired.
However, one more thing about Raquelle, her father was a biker and all her early social environment revolved around that mad scene. As I am falling asleep a song by Bob Seeger comes on the radio: "Fire Lake"
"Who's gonna ride that chrome three-wheeler,
Who's gonna make that first mistake,
Who's gonna wear those Gypsy leathers,
All the way to FIRE LAKE?"
"Who wants to break the news about Uncle Joe?
You remember Uncle Joe, he was the one afraid to cut the cake.
Who wants to tempt old Aunt Sandra,
Joe's run off to FIRE LAKE!"
"Who wants to play those eights and aces,
Who wants to take that long-shot gamble
And head on out to FIRE LAKE?"
7;15 am: I hear the door go bang as my son leaves for school. He knows I had a late night, and he has to take care Of himself. I almost wake, then I sink back in to a drowse. I am immersed in a dream about a Chinese Acupuncturist; an ancient, Buddha-like character, who is poking needles into me. As he pokes, I jump. He says: "Not to push! If You not push now, You get well"
Most of the dream floats away. I'm left with some lines in my head:
"The Chinese Dentist and the English Queen,
They are both partners in the same machine"
I get up at nine feeling fresh as a daisy. No trace of a hangover. The sun is golden, flat across the trees on the ridge. The Madrones are turning to fire, etched against a sky, with a few fleecy clouds-like orange paint scumbled over a rough canvas.
I sit at this typewriter. It is very peaceful, as if for an instant, all the wars (the ones in the world, and the ones in me) now have shifted and are going on in another dimension; I am standing outside of it looking on, and, like the old Chinaman, wishing they would not push so hard. I am in this kind of hair-trigger serenity, a filmy dream that feels so tenuous it would go away if I sneezed. I'm watching the human drama unfold, and feeling that everything that has happened is justified in some indescribable way. Justified. Nothing in me has been destroyed except my illusions. My inner world is intact; I can see that fact, now that I am completely alone.
Somewhere inside me stirs an animal, a beast of prey. By what I had considered the better part of my nature, I have been betrayed endlessly. And the underbelly of life glows with an unholy light.
I am happy this morning; this letter is to you dear Wolf.
© 1995 by Robert Spotswood
Lyrics from "Fire Lake" by Bob Seeger
"the Chinese Dentist and the English Queen" from "Cat's Cradle" by Kurt Vonnegut