Searching for Peace (mindlessly)

Sky and Pole

I’ve searched for a lot of things in my life. Some of them I found. Some, I realized I would never find and abandoned the search. Some searches changed course when I realized that what I was searching for wasn’t really what I was trying to find, but another path into the search. It’s kind of like mindless writing…the stuff I teach my writing students. It goes like this…you start writing about something, mindlessly, without thinking, without judging or revising or changing your mind about anything…just letting it all pour out in a pure state, the unadulterated truth because you don’t have enough time to lie to yourself…you have to keep writing whether or not you like what’s coming out.

“Hey, Biff,” said the fox. “I tried mindless writing once.”

“How did that go?” I said.

“I learned a lot about myself,” said the fox.

“Like what?” I said.

“Like…you know…stuff,” said the fox.

“You revised stuff as you wrote, didn’t you, fox?” I said.

Well…” the fox tried to say.

“Whatever you got out of it, you really didn’t get out of it,” I said. “You censored the truth.”

“I’m a fox, Biff,” said the fox. “My truths are simple.”

“Tell me one of your truths,” I said.

“OK, Biff,” said the fox. “I exist.”

“How do you know that, fox?” I said.

Because you just asked me, Biff,” said the fox.

“Confirming your existence through me is existence on pretty shaky ground, fox,” I said.

“Back atcha on that one,” said the fox.

“Sometimes you talk too much,” I said.

“I call it mindless talking, Biff,” said the fox.

For once, the fox made me laugh. But I think this talk of mindlessness could be the next portal in my search because, to a degree, we all tend to lead our lives mindlessly, some more than others, maybe to the extent that they never have a clear thought throughout their lives. And I wonder about this…where it comes from…why we do it…where it’s taking us. I remember listening to a woman talking at an environmental meeting years ago, telling us how we need to be more mindful of the things we do that pollute the air, the land and the water. She made some interesting points, like separating our garbage so that it could be…you know…when company comes over they can see how environmentally correct you are and run home immediately to separate their own garbage. She talked about composting, car pooling, eating local produce and all sorts of neat shit that made us all want to do the right thing and save the world. After the meeting, I was standing outside with some friends talking about how we were all really impressed and were going to start separating our garbage and buy hemp clothing. I saw her leave the building looking so earth-friendly that my heart burst like breaking water as she walked to the parking lot where she got into the biggest most gas-guzzling SUV I’d ever seen and drove into a brighter future for all of us.

This is what we do. On the one hand, we talk fervently about things we believe in; on the other, we do what we are. And we don’t even notice. We do just enough of the things we believe in to keep ourselves convinced that we are who we think we are and ignore the rest. It’s like ordering our lives in a cafeteria: “Let’s see…I’ll take three helpings of compost, a ladle of phosphate-free dish soap, a side of bicycle for riding to work, the marinated extra large anti-fracking sign and, for desert, the latest lithium-powered cell phone…with an extra helping of shrink wrap, please.”

“Hey, Biff,” said the fox.

“Yeah, fox?” I said.

“What does all this have to do with searching for peace?” said the fox.

“It’s the search for the search, fox,” I said.

“You mean…mindlessly writing about mindless stuff?” said the fox.

“Bingo,” I said.

“You play Bingo?” said the fox.

“No, fox, I knit,” I said. “Now…if you don’t mind…”

When it comes to our beliefs, we partial package ourselves, but there are people living the full package out there. I know a few of them. They live in the woods. They generate their own electricity. The use handsaws and dowels to build their homes. They grow their own food. They trade with neighbors for things they need and can’t make. They watch stars instead of television.

“Sounds like a good way to live, Biff,” said the fox.

“I suppose it would be,” I said. “Let’s take a walk.”

“Where to now, Biff?” said the fox.

“One of the craziest places on earth,” I said.

So the fox and I spent the next month walking through barely snowed provinces and states and into places hot enough to barbeque a snowman and finally arrived in Texas, home of the coal rollers.

“What’s a coal roller, Biff?” said the fox.

“Just look over there, fox,” I said.

The fox looked in the direction I pointed, at a half ton truck with what looked like two small chimney stacks rising from the bed. A blue Prius approached from behind, closing in on the truck. When the Prius was about twenty feet from the truck, two huge black plumes spewed out of the chimneys, covering the little car in a thick black cloud of smoke. The Prius swerved madly with brakes screeching and pulled over to the side of the road as the truck continued down the highway, the sound of crazy laugher rolling out of the windows.

“Biff?” said the fox.

“Yes, fox?” I said.

“What was that?” said the fox.

“That was coal roller, fox,” I said.

“You mean that was deliberate?” said the fox.

“’Fraid so,” I said.

Coal rollers…our latest expression of a world doomed by the things we don’t want to see, the package with last year’s expiry date. They’ve declared war against the environment and anyone who’s trying to save it. There are thousands of them. Thousands.

“Not much peace here, Biff,” said the fox, dodging a bullet from a 45 sticking out the passenger side of a passing truck.

“Close call, fox,” I said.

“Why I’m a fox,” said the fox.

Damn animal made me laugh again.

(To be continued. Somewhere else.)

So, Biff,” said the fox. “You really knit?”

“No, fox, I don’t knit,” I said.

“Didn’t think so.”

Searching for Peace (getting ready for the next trip)

wine-2

“Hey, Biff,” said the fox. “Wake up!

“Wake up, Biff!” said the fox.

“WAKE UP!” said the fox.

“Hey, fox,” I said.

“Uh..um…wha?” said the fox.

“You were dreaming.” I said. “Telling me to wake up.”

“Oh…yeah,” said the fox. “Too much eggnog. Where’s the worry stone?”

“Taking a shower,” I said. “For a year.”

“Was I really that gross?” said the fox.

“New record,” I said.

“So, Biff,” said the fox. “Where to now?”

“Under the surface,” I said. “Remember the garbage heap?”

No way was I going back to the garbage. I could still smell it steaming and splintering in my soul. But I didn’t have to go back. I had to get to the source of the garbage…the source.

“And what would that be?” said the fox.

“Well, fox,” I said. “I was just about to know that when some furry animal interrupted my thought train.”

“Sorry to be such a burden, Biff,” said the fox. “But maybe you should just try thinking a little harder. Like you do in coffee shops.”

So the fox did it again. Something in the fox said.

“You mean, I actually…” the fox tried to say.

“Are you sure…are you really really sure you shouldn’t be hibernating?” I said.

“Biff…” said the fox.

And suddenly I had a thought.

“Shh..” I said.

“Biff,” said the fox, “don’t you ever shh me again. I really hate that.”

“Fox…be still…I have a thought,” I said.

“It better be…” the fox tried to say.

“Why don’t you go and apologize to the worry stone?” I said.

(NOTE: Notice how many times I say “I said” and “the fox said” and, my favorite “the fox tried to say”? I tell my writing students not to do this shit…but it just seems so appropriate in this place. Know what I mean?)

“It was that gross?” the fox said.

“It was sad country music played backwards with large women and men wearing jeans far to low from the beginning of the crack as they danced on the heads of screaming hippies. Reminded me of my past,” I said. “Go. Go and apologize to the worry stone.”

Damn. Writing at home without a coffee shop around me is so weird. But that’s OK. Saw something of FB that made me chuckle today. A picture of Christ who, apparently, just wanted to go out and party, but everything was closed for his birthday. Hey, God…stop tormenting this guy. He is actually cooler than you. Yeah, you know what I mean…Old Testament. Ever read it? I mean…you turned people into salt. WTF? But…hey…I went to church last night with a friend and saw the other stuff you can do. Focus a little more on that part.

Oops…wine bottle’s empty. One eggnog left. Need sleep.

“Hey, God,” I said. “Ease up on him. Ease up on us. We’re only what you’ve made us. Tomorrow, I’ll let you know what we’ve made of ourselves. Not pretty.”

“BTW…God…I sang last night,” I said.

“YOU SANG!” said God. “In one of my churches?”

“Yeah…and it felt good.”

(To be continued…maybe forever)

“The worry stone told me to fuck off,” said the fox.

“Wanna watch some Fight Club while I finish that last eggnog?” I said.

“Yeah…what the hell,” said the fox.

“Language?” I said.

“Yeah…look who’s talking,” said the fox.

Searching for Peace (the path of the worry stone)

Stone

So, what’s a worry stone, you ask?

“I know what it is, Biff,” said the fox.

“Fox…I’m talking to my two readers,” I said. “Are you sure you shouldn’t be hibernating?”

“Foxes don’t…” the fox tried to say.

It’s a stone, a polished stone. Mine’s light ochre with striations and fissures that make it look like something from a cave wall just discovered by a team of archeologists looking for the Cup and not finding  it,  and one of them says: “Shit. No Cup here.” And another one says: “But, hey, look at that wall.” It’s smooth and concave on both sides. Some are circular, but mine’s oval. What you do is…you rub it. With your thumb. This is a sensual motion that relaxes you and causes all your worries to evaporate. I’m not really worried about much though. I just like rubbing the damn thing and it beats sucking on my thumb, which I’m told helps to relieve anxiety as well.

“Hey, fox,” I said. “Sucked your thumb lately?”

“Foxes don’t have thumbs, Biff,” said the fox.

“Just joking, fox,” I said. “Where’s your sense of humor today?”

“You tell me, Biff,” said the fox.

Anyways…I have a really big worry stone. So big that, maybe I won’t lose this one. I’ve lost a few of them, including my favorite…one that I bought it in Salem, from a witch. I swear that stone was filled with magic. Sometimes, I’d rub it very lightly and the world around me would dissolve and I’d be walking down a city street in someplace Europe and it would be a lightly drizzly night with the sounds of festivity emanating from the windows of buildings that had escaped a history of wars and our will to destroy everything of beauty that we’ve created. And I would always have a book in my hand. Not sure what it was…just…a book. I never felt alone at these times. There was a female presence. A beautiful woman, either a few steps ahead of me or a few steps behind me, playing hide and seek with my head. It was fun. It made me smile.

Sometimes I’d think about this thing called peace while I was walking down that misty Euro street, smiling.

“Hey, Biff,” said fox. “We finally getting back on track?”

“Yeah, let’s do that, fox,” I said. “Let’s get back on track and find this thing called peace. Let’s see if this worry stone can take us there. And….tell you what, fox…you rub the stone.”

“Biff, I don’t have…” said the fox. Well, trying to say.

“Got a nose?”

“Biff…you really want me to rub that stone with my nose?” said the fox.

I’m not going to describe what a fox looks like rubbing its nose on a concave ochre stone because I don’t want either of you to wake up in the middle of the night screaming like I will for the rest of my life. But it worked. I was sitting on top of a garbage pile with the smell of all humanity’s refuse searing my nose apart. There were clouds below me and the garbage spread for thousands of miles in every direction. The air had an orange tinge and looked, in some places, like I could stick toothpicks into it and they would hang in the air like grotesque decorations in an absurd room in an absurd play written by someone’s who’s brain was hanging in the air. Everything was here…everything we want, everything we crave until we’re done with it and shit it out like the burger and fries we ate last night.

“Thanks a lot, worry stone,” I said. “Just what I need at Christmas.”

“Biff,” said the worry stone, “You let the fox rub its nose on me.”

“Sorry ‘bout that,” I said. “I had no idea how gross that was going to get.”

“The phlegm, Biff, the phlegm,” said the worry stone. “Now, take a look around.”

And this is what we’ve done. In all its grandeur and hopelessness. Cans and cartons and yesterday’s tablets and enough plastic to wrap forever into a non-biodegradable past and fleets of cars and trucks rusting into the air and tires staring from the bottoms of translucent pools and…

“Do I really have to look at this, worry stone?” I said.

“Where does it come from, Biff?” said the worry stone.

“From people,” I said.

“But how, Biff?” said the worry stone.

I thought about this. And I thought about it a little more. And then some more. I thought about it from different angles and perspectives. And then I pondered. Yes…pondered. Do any of us do that anymore? Do we even look at things anymore and actually see them? Do we know our realities, our lives…do we actually feel our presences without having to dress up in the next high resolution app-loaded fifty-thousand mega pixel phone that will confuse our lives until the next one comes out? But the worry stone was right. This is the surface, the product of something deeper.

“You got it, Biff,” said the worry stone.

“Can I take a break now? It’s Christmas. I need beer, wine, sushi.”

And I was suddenly at Read’s Coffee Shop with a white cup that seemed to have emptied itself. And a worry stone that’s, thankfully, silent. And I know where I have to go next.

“Where’s that, Biff?” said the fox.

“Under the surface, fox,” I said. “But not today. Coffee cup’s empty. Head’s empty. Might drink some eggnog and rum.”

“When did you start drinking eggnog, Biff?” said the fox.

“Recently, fox. It’s not bad,” I said. “By-the-way, fox…”

“Yeah, Biff?” said the fox.

“Merry Christmas.”

(To be continued. Until I find it.)

“This is turning into a lot of to-be-continueds”, Biff,” said the fox.

“Kinda like life, isn’t it, fox?”

Searching for Peace (a story about pizza) (and peanut butter) (on hot dogs)

Hot Dog-2

“So, Biff,” said the fox. “Where are we off to now?”

“I’m not sure,” I said. “Any suggestions?”

“You’re asking moi for advice, Biff?” said the fox.

“No, Fox…I’m asking that crack in the wall behind you,” I said, with great relish. And mustard. And peanut butter. (I worked with a guy, a long time ago, who put peanut butter on his hot dogs. Gross.)

“I’m sensing a lot of animosity in you lately, Biff,” said the fox.

“It’s Christmas. It brings out the worst in us,” I said.

“I don’t think you really believe that, Biff,” said the fox. “I know how much to love to stare at the decorations and be still with your soul when everybody else is in bed.”

“Not putting a tree up,” I said.

“OK, Biff,” said the fox. “You want moi’s suggestion?”

“Kind of interested in what the crack in the wall has to say,” I said.

“I’m going to ignore that because I know you don’t mean it,” said the fox. “So…let’s go to the beginning.”

I thought about this and it occurred to me that maybe the fox had an idea. So, I rubbed my new worry stone and presto…I was at the beginning. And…oh shit…

Yesterday morning, I woke up and decided it was time to search for peace. It had to be somewhere. I started in the kitchen, looking inside jars and bottles, under the table, in the cabinets and down the drain. I didn’t find peace, but I found some leftover pizza. Yum.

“That’s where this search began,” I said. “We’re right back where we started. Shit. I was expecting something a little more esoteric, something like universe’s exploding into being, ancient columns stretching into the red timeless sky…you know…shit like that.”

“Hey, Biff,” said the fox. “You know as well as I do that it’s always a good thing to return to beginnings when the story starts hitting too many potholes. It keeps the boat straight.”

“Fox,” I said. “I have no idea what that means.”

“Hmm…me too,” said the fox. “Try reading it again.”

So I read the stuff I’d written a few weeks ago and it occurred to me that this whole thing had started with me finding pizza. I love pizza. It’s one of those things that can adapt to infinite tastes. Almost like a canvas or an empty screen, and you create a new one with every mixture of and combination of toppings.

“Biff! You’ve got it!” said the fox. “Life is pizza!”

“Yeah!” I said. “Pizza! Pizza is PEACE.”

And suddenly everything made sense. Life is pizza. Pizza is peace Really. Think of it. How many possible toppings and combinations are there for a pizza? Salami and pepperoni, mushrooms and cheese are just the beginnings. I’ll bet some people would eat peanut butter on a pizza. (Gross.) (Not that I mind people putting peanut butter their pizzas. I know people who put it on their hotdogs.) (Still….gross.) I rubbed my worry stone a little more and I was suddenly standing on a plain of pizza dough. It spread, golden and moist into every horizon. It spread beyond the horizons, oozing into the viaducts of infinity. It spread across an ocean of possibilities. It was as deep as the earth. I was standing on the past, present and future of all the…

“Did you hear that, Biff?”

“Yeah, fox, I did,” I said. “I don’t know what it is, but I don’t like it…interrupting my pizza dough reverie. There it is again.”

The fox looked up. I looked up. The sky was deep blue, stretching into…you know…the horizon thing. But it appeared to be split right over us, a giant gash in the sky, something like when you see war movies with some guy lying on the ground with his stomach sliced open and his intestines spilling hopelessly out of his body. Something like that.

“Holy shit, Biff,” said the fox.

“Ditto that, fox,” I said.

It gurgled out of the gash in the sky in spits and spurts at first and turned into something like vomit from the bowels of hell. It was every pizza possibility of all time: pepperoni, salami, chedder cheese, mozzarella cheese, peanut butter, bananas, ham, pineapple, tomato sauce, anchovies, bacon, hot peppers, goat cheese, red onions, ground beef, chicken, apple, tuna, roma tomatoes, zucchini, hot banana peppers, feta cheese, parmesan cheese, sliced wieners, chicken beaks, orange slices, pomegranates, moose meat, pork chops, vitamin pills, lost souls, late trains, overdue promises, missed chances, long goodbyes, passings on the sidewalk of something that might have been beautiful, the color red spreading over a symphony of regret, guilty eyes rising like moons of darkness in the blue sky, songs from the beat of drums around midnight fires, whispers gliding through hot breezes, fingers losing their grip around a thread of truth, minds blazing into full realizations, sorrow spilling like sweat across the keyboard, joy sinking into the skin like the roots of a tree searching for a last outpost of…what?

I was sinking in toppings. The fox was sinking in toppings. Drowning in toppings. Awash in toppings. Battered and bruised by toppings. Kicked in the stomach and bashed over the head by toppings.

“Hey, Biff,” said the fox.

“Yeah, fox,” I said.

“Pizza analogy didn’t work,” said the fox.

“No kidding.” I said.

“What now?” said the fox. “And better make it quick…I’m drowning in pizza toppings.”

“The middle?” I said.

“You’re still searching for peace?” said the fox.

“Nothing better to do at the moment, fox,” I said.

“But, Biff…it doesn’t get any better than pizza,” said the fox. “If we could just get a menu and order a few less toppings.”

“I like my new worry stone,” I said. “Maybe we’ll let the stone find a good place in the middle.”

(To be continued. Without pizza.)

(And peanut butter.)

“Aw, shit, Biff,” said the fox.

“Language, fox,” I said.

“Yeah, look who’s talking,” said the fox.

“I didn’t hear that.”

Searching for Peace (yeah, still)

Balloon

“So, Biff,” said the fox, “you’re really taking this search for peace seriously. Do you really think this search is ever going to end?”

“The only time we don’t finish the search is when we give up on the search,” I said.

“I don’t think that’s true, Biff,” said the fox. “I know lots of people who searched and searched for things and never found them. I mean, what if you die before you find what you’re looking for?”

“Then your search is over,” I said.

“That’s a pretty grim take on life,” said the fox.

“Life is grim, fox” I said. “But I’ve always thought there was glimmer of hope somewhere in it. A pinpoint of warmth in all the coldness we create and surround our lives with.”

“So that’s where you’re searching next?” said the fox.

“Yep,” I said.

So I set off in search for hope. I went into a place with broken windows and ceilings and walls devastated by time and uncaring. In dark corners, the floor vibrated with the movement of things that would disintegrate in sunlight. I heard the labored breath of the half living and saw their eyes, clouded by the half tones of worlds they could never really escape to with their bodies so painfully entrenched in their lives. I called out: “Is there any hope left in this place?” I held my breath and listened. A layer of silence drifted down from the watermarked ceiling and choked the half living deeper into their half worlds, far beyond making any kind of sense out of my question let alone the answer. I wished them all a Merry Christmas and I went somewhere else in search of hope…that maybe peace could be found in that fertile soil we keep throwing cigarette butts and bullets into. Curtains surrounded a bed and the smell of death’s approach permeated the air with the stench of roots into the living world rotting and releasing fiber by fiber. A voice faltered from behind the curtains. I heard the sound of a great inhalation of air displacing the impossibility of such a breathing in. I sensed a wellspring of courage stirring up from a vortex the size of a pinhead, gathering momentum and assurance in the certainty of one last message: “Nobody finds hope. It finds you. Just like the end of a story.” And the vortex evaporated as the inhalation exhaled into oblivion. The stench of the roots drifted into itself and disappeared. I said, “Gee. Thanks for the clarity. And a Merry Ho Ho to you.”

“Little harsh, don’t you think, Biff?” said the fox.

“I think I’ve just been lied to,” I said.

“Sorry to say this, Biff,” said the fox, “but that sort of had the ring of truth to it. Like something you would write.”

“No, fox,” I said. “I would never write something like that. Hope doesn’t look for us. It’s the most uncaring thing in the world. It flies by us, ignoring us, until we reach out and grab it and make it care. And maybe that’s why my search for peace seems to be taking me further away the harder I look for it.”

“Hey look, Biff,” said the fox.

“What?”

“I think a balloon of hope just floated by your ear…grab it!”

“Fox,” I said. “You’re so fucking weird.”

(To be continued…until it’s finished)

“Aw, c’mon, Biff. Just chalk it in and give it one of those questionable existential endings you love,” said the fox.

“Not this time, fox.”

Lookit Me In Snow Shoes….

Snowshoes So…there they were on my feet and the fox said:

“Why don’t you go into the woods and take some pictures, Biff.”

“Good idea, fox,” I said. “I think I’ll do just that.”

So I went for a walk in the woods. And I saw this… Snowshoes-25 And this… Snowshoes-22 And I started thinking…it’s kinda pretty out here with the snow and the trees. In the city, you don’t see something like this… Snowshoes-19 Or this… Snowshoes-17 And definitely not this… Snowshoes-14 “Sure looks pretty, Biff,” said the fox. But I thought you hated winter.”

“Well, things are different now, fox,” I said. “I have snow shoes now. And I can take pictures of things like this…” Snowshoes-19 And this… Snowshoes-13 Saw two really big deer, but they saw me first and obviously didn’t want their portraits done. Maybe if I’d had an apple with me they would have smelled the apple and wanted their portraits done. But I didn’t have an apple and they must have thought I was just some scary bald guy with a camera. And then I came across a stream in the woods…

And the stream said, “Hey Biff…you can take my portrait. And you don’t even have to bribe me with an apple.”

So I went all portrait on the stream… Snowshoes-9 I guess it was about this time that I started realizing something odd.

“That streams don’t eat apples, Biff?” said the fox.

“Everybody knows that.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be hibernating or something?”

“I’m a fox, not a bear,” said the fox.

So…as I was thinking…

“Winter?” Snowshoes-2 “Yes, Biff? said Winter.

I love you. Snowshoes-26 “What are you laughing at, fox?”

“Everybody knows that streams don’t eat apples.”

Searching for Peace (continued, again)

trees-3

We all have oceans of unfinished stories and we can’t escape them. The pages are given to us the moment some tough little sperm creature bashes its way into an egg and starts a journey that releases ink onto the pages. Given this, some would say our stories started with the first of these meetings a thousand worlds ago…and that we’re all part of the same story with each of us contributing our own sequels to a Grand Telling with all the voices of every storyteller through the ages brave enough to exit the womb. And this makes each of us a storyteller, continuing an epic with the stories of our own lives…the same story…from infinite perspectives. And I can’t believe that peace can’t be found somewhere in that common denominator of the epic. So I opened myself to the telling, to the voices, to the daily finishing and finishing and finishing of each chapter in each story in each voice…and I heard a voice resounding through the ages, crossing the potholes of time and the waterslides of the temporal universe. It was loud enough to shake the ground and rattle my soul into thinking…this is so fucking cool…peace has to be somewhere in this voice. Problem was…I couldn’t make out what it was saying. The words were disjointed and slurred. Confused. Desperate. And just a little bit pushy, like a drunken panhandler stepping out of the boundaries of politically correct begging. But who was I to judge a voice that could rattle my soul and shake the ground?  I opened myself to the voice, to all it’s blustery bits of verb and noun and split infinitives, none of which could arrange themselves in my ears in such a way that I could scrounge a shred of coherency from that jigsaw puzzle of verbal diarrhoea, and I was beginning to think that peace was a bit confused about how it should sound. That’s about when the sound stopped, the voice died away, leaving a miniscule pattern of laboured breathing. I waited a few minutes, listening to the laboured breathing as it gained a slight rhythm of stability. And it occurred to me that it was finished. It had delivered its message I all the entirety of a unfinished movie. So I said the only logical thing that came to mind:

“Could you repeat that?”

I sensed a vile exhalation of disgust and the voice evaporated into someplace where I’m sure nothing made sense.

“That was weird, Biff,” said the fox.

“Yeah, not exactly what I expected,” I said.

“What do you think it was?” said the fox.

“I’m not sure,” I said. “But I have a feeling that peace is beyond any arrangement of words into a story.”

“So…” said the fox.

“I think peace is the story,” I said, “and when I find peace, I’ll find the story.”“So?” said the fox.

“The search continues,” I said.

(To be continued, once  again.)

“Awww…” said the fox. “Not again. You can’t keep…”

“Think of it as…an adventure,” I said. “A story unfolding…chapters winging it mindlessly through the days.”

“In other words, you really don’t know what you’re doing,” said the fox.

Does anybody?

Searching for Peace (continued)

fisherman in water

I danced on the ferry that carries the dead across the River Styx in hopes that death couldn’t get any worse than life. I danced until my arms and legs were ready to fly away from my body. I danced until my head spun and my eyes popped out of their sockets. I danced for a hundred years as the dead were ferried to another way of thinking about themselves. I danced a fevered search for peace but peace was just a one two and a one two three away somewhere in the mantle of the earth maybe? So I scoured the rock and iron intestines of the earth but peace was somewhere else. Maybe in a song, in the cadences and rhythms, the ebb and flow of sound arranged in meanings that touch the darkest heart in a way that’s different, soothing like coming out of the acid rain into a hookah bar. I opened myself to the vibrations of song through the centuries and physical distances of the world and I heard gurgling up from the bubbling stew of life…a 21st Century ballad:

My burger’s got E. coli and it’s gonna take me down
My girlfriend’s got ebola and she’s wearing a black frown
My doggie’s got the canine flu and his piss is turnin’ brown
There’s a germ on my finger tip
Doin’ a flip
He’s really hip
A sensational hit
In a world where everyone’s sick
And I got the I’m-afraid-to-eat-touch-drink-smell-or-fuck-anything-cause-it’s-all-out-to-kill-me blues

Maybe it isn’t in song. Maybe something similar to song, and what would be similar to song? Maybe a nice long swim across the oceans of the world would reveal peace. I swam into the Atlantic and down and around and into the pacific leaving a giant fishtail in my passing that got me on the five o’clock news in a dozen countries: ‘In today’s news…giant fishtail looking for peace. Good luck.’ It was like immersing myself in a timeless bowl of alphabet soup. Every algae and herd of plankton had its own meaning. Every current and weather front had its own voice. The depths and shallows emanated their own heat even if only the thermal singularity of a single cell exchanging energy with the world around itself that somehow creates a balance long enough for peace to show itself in that natural relationship between all things. Just as I was becoming certain that peace was a breast stroke or two away, my mouth filled with the taste of something foul and unoceanlike. It was both gritty and slippery and tasted like the sludge from all the world’s sewage. It was plastic, leagues and miles of plastic, a pregnancy of industrial effluent gestating just under the surface of the water. I pulled myself out of that demonic water and walked across its surface to an island that I was sure had no name and had never been seen by human eyes because there were no beer cans on its pristine beach. I walked around for a while, letting the sun dry my body as scabs of congealed plastic dropped from my arms and legs. I thought about peace as I walked. I wondered why it was so damned hard to find. It was something we talked about so much. The leaders of great nations met often to negotiate it. Enforce it. Impose it. So why was it so hard to find? Maybe I could find it in the documentation of nations. In the treaties and deals and lofty words of legalese and bureaucratic precision. Maybe peace was hiding in an appendix or footnote in some well-meaning testament to the frailties of living together in a world in dire need of mutual acceptance and tolerance. And less fucking plastic. But peace wasn’t in any of the documents in the libraries, in the vaults of classified documents, in the classifieds of the latest scandal sheet. It was often defined in terms of bringing it into being and enforcing it, but in all these schemes and plans and dialogs, peace was three definitions and an endless negotiation away. Right where I couldn’t find it and, apparently, where no one else could find it.

But I wasn’t going to let that stop me.

(To be continued.)

“Aw, c’mon, Biff,” said the fox. “Finish the story.”

“I have unfinished stories that I started three or four years ago, fox,” I said. “One story took me ten years to finish. A story will only finish when it finds its ending.”

“But, this could go on forever, Biff,” said the fox.

I hope not.

Searching for Peace

Yesterday morning, I woke up and decided it was time to search for peace. It had to be somewhere. I started in the kitchen, looking inside jars and bottles, under the table, in the cabinets and down the drain. I didn’t find peace, but I found some leftover pizza. Yum. I went to the backyard and looked through the grass, in the spaces between fence boards, under the steps, inside the lawnmower’s gas tank, in a deserted robin’s nest and under the eaves. Where was this stubborn thing called peace? I went through the house, stopping to look inside the umbrella holder, and into the street, looking inside garbage cans, on the sunny side of telephone poles, between the lines of advertisements on passing buses and trucks and in the sound of a dog barking from somebody’s basement. Where are you peace? Come out! Come out! I walked into the city, checking freeways and ditches along the way, and a pond in a small plot of farmland trapped between housing developments and a mall. In the city I checked out two blocks of sewer and questioned a family of rats who suggested I Google it. Which I did. Lots of confusion, but no peace. I took the elevator up to the top of the tallest building and climbed to the top of the spire and though the view was impressive, I couldn’t see peace anywhere…not in the banking district in the threads of thousand dollar suits and imported high heels, not in the cardboard beds in the slums, not in the exhaust of an eternity of cars, buses and trucks, not in a sliver of light on a mountain top about a thousand miles away. So I went to the ocean and looked under seashells and into the eyes of sharks and cod and things so deep in the ocean they lived on the absence of light and none of them could tell me where peace was. I walked into the middle of a battlefield carrying a white flag and spent a horrifying hour ducking bullets and shrapnel and I asked one of those passing bullets where peace was and it said, “Ask the guy who’s trying to kill you.” So I asked him and he said, “Go to that place where they have all those poppies on graves. Now…before I kill you.” So I went to Flanders Fields and yelled, “WHERE CAN I FIND PEACE?” About a thousand voices whispered, “We fought for it, but this was the only peace we found. Good luck.” So I went to a farm. I mean, where else? But the farm turned out to be thousands of cows in cages with tubes embedded in their bodies and they said as one, “As long as you can find us, you’ll never find peace.” But this wasn’t going to stop my search for peace…no matter how true their voice was. Peace had to be somewhere, ready to come forth and be seen. WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU PEACE? Just on a hunch, I checked under my finger nails. Nope. So I went into the jungle where I’ve been writing a poem about for about two years and it was just as scary as the poem so far…where everything is food to something else and I asked this presence with “fur-lined mandibles thrashing in the hot monoxide air covering the jungle’s plastic-littered hide as hooded shadows with earphones and guns glided over clenched fronds and mushrooms with poisonous colors” and it said, “C’mon, man, look at these shadows. You won’t find peace here.” But I knew it was there somewhere. It had to be. It was a word. It existed. But where? I jumped up into a cloud and talked to a goose heading south. We had a great conversation about all its friends who’d been shot out of the air while flying away from the cold. “My friend,” said the goose, “you’ll have to look deeper than the surface.” And it flew away. Yeah…needed that. I mean, I just looked under my finger nails. Where is this thing called peace? I jumped clouds for a while, looking for peace in contaminated water droplets but found only another reason to use my bike more often. So I jumped onto a train rumbling through a lonely stretch of prairie and asked fields of wheat if they knew where peace was but they just rustled in the wind waiting to become bread. I talked to a prairie dog and really wasn’t satisfied with anything it said, stuff about underground tunnels being the way to go because there was lots of peace down there and I don’t thinking he quite got it. But I checked it out anyway. It was dark and peaceful, but really confining and the peace I was looking for wasn’t anywhere to be found. Even if I could have seen it in all that darkness. I thought, maybe I’m doing this all wrong. Maybe I shouldn’t be looking for peace…maybe I should just wait for peace to come to me. So I went to that sliver of light on the mountain top and waited for peace. It was cold, but the view was nice. I waited a long time, about a hundred years while war after war raged all around the beautiful view from the mountain top. It raged in ruined cities, scorched farmlands, in the poisoned wells of schools where women’s eyes cannot be seen in public, in heads falling from the shoulders of innocent people, in the factories pumping out a continuous stream of food for the beast, in the dark heart of everyone’s failure. What could I do? I checked my fingernails again. Nothing new there. I tried reading great books. Watching great movies. Attending great plays. Listening to great music. Lurking around great paintings. But the loneliness of their message broke my heart and I still hadn’t found peace. I jumped off a bridge straight into the River Styx and it reminded me of a story I started once and never finished that went like this: In the old days, there was a river called Styx with a ferry that carried the dead from the horrors of life to the horrors of death. I read somewhere that the sheer volume of dead from astronomical population growth in recent times led to impossible line-ups at the ferry, forcing many of the dead to turn back. They were the ones who, through some misplacement of heart, had not been given tickets for the ferry and would have spent the duration of their afterlives trying to argue their way aboard. On their journey back, they learned how to dance. So I tried dancing.

(To be continued.)

“What?” said the fox. “How does this story end?”

“Well, fox,” I said. “I’ll just have to dance a little more until I find that ending.”

And I will.

(NOTE: I want to dance with someone by this door. In winter.)

Door

Who Is Will’s Father?

Went to a bring-your-own-food-and-share-it party at Lloyd Salomine’s place on Saturday. It was a small crowd of artists, writers and film makers. Mostly artists. Lloyd’s place is so perfect for these get-togethers. I’ll take pictures of the place next time so that you can see what I mean. Like, low lights, art, a hallway that should be a bowling alley. Art on the walls, records…vinyl records…mood. His place permeates art.

“Sounds like a perfect place to discuss art, ” said the fox.

“Nope…we talk about just about everything else, fox,” said I. “Like the condition of the world and what we can do about it through our art.”

Biff reflects on what he’s just said.

“OK, fox…we talk art. The practical application of it.”

“Told ya,” said the fox.

“Fuck off , fox.”

So, at one point, Caine (with whom I share a studio) and Tara (with whom Caine and I share a studio) are at the far end of the bowling alley, and for some reason, wondering who William Forrestall’s father’s name is. They’re both consummate artists, but what’s his father’s name? We went through the alphabet. We tried situational remembrance positioning. We prayed to the gods for the answer. We counted sheep. We scoured phone books. Searched the web. Sacrificed three sheep. But we couldn’t find the answer.

It was hopeless. Alcohol could have had something to do with this, but we weren’t in a judgmental frame of thought. We were just caught up in an existential moment of not-remembering. And I’m sure the two of you can understand this.

So…we slapped each other on the heads…Zen style or maybe more like Three Stooges style…and waited for the Porridge of All to contact us.

That happened around the time that Tara saw a poster on the wall that was there the whole time we pondered and killed sheep. This is the poster beside us as we Three-Stooge-slapped madly….

1

Go figure.

And here are the people…

Caine (artist)

Party-2

Dawn (artist)

Party-5

Michael (artist)

Party-6

Marilyn (artist…with a passion at the moment)

Party-7

Josephine (writer)

Party-8

Dawn (again because she’s so much prettier than Michael)

Party-9

Tara (artist)

Party-10

Llyod (film maker and writer)

Party-11

And no pictures of me. (Writer and photographer)

Lesson learned: If the mind fails you, look around outside the mind.