Farm Blog 2019, part 43
Wild turkeys in my yard. They are everywhere.
The blog is ending. Time’s up and I’ve run out of things to say.
The last few days of August are always the same. The weather here in Wellfleet switches to fall, it’s cold in the morning and I need a sweatshirt. As I wait for the day to warm up (it will), I think about what comes next. I’ll be back to work in a few days, meeting sixty new freshpeople who will become my art students. Three hundred plus days before my next long break. Here we go.
I’m ready and not ready. In fact I’ve spent a few moments over the last few days writing up curriculum plans and approaches to take. I’ve never done that before in August. I’m pretty sure I can teach these kids with my eyes closed. Which is the problem. Who wants to spend their life with their eyes closed?
I just finished reading Michel Houlebecq. The book featured an immensely successful artist, who quits making art every time he finishes a body of work. Either he has just made his last photo, or his last painting, even when they sell for fifteen million dollars. Part of me feels this way too. I’m done. I’ve made a few thousand paintings. The last two thousand are from one series. How many more do I need to make?
None. I don’t need to make any more. Nobody needs them, nobody is asking for them, nobody really cares all that much.
What comes next? I have the idea and a few pages of notes for the animated film I’ve wanted to make for the past three years. Big project that I actually care about. Will need lots of time, some money, maybe a staff of fifty people to help me. No idea how to make that happen.
I’d like to write.
I’d like to be somewhere where I can help make a difference: Palestine?
I can’t do any of these things if I keep my teaching job.
It has been a good, long summer. I will keep great memories of Nova Scotia. I’ve learned a little bit about how to be your own best friend. I’ve begun to learn to listen to the sounds of nature, to enjoy alone time. I’m getting good at it.
Next summer is only ten months away. I hope to continue this blog. Thanks for reading.
Farm Blog 2019, part 42
The best part about being here in Wellfleet is having the time to read. When I’m here I can read all day — in the hammock, on a lawn chair, on the porch, at the beach, in bed. Everywhere.
In the past few days it has been six hundred pages of Jonathon Safran Foer (I am Here), Kiese Laymon (Heavy) and today Miriam Toews (Women Talking). Three extremely different books, each beautifully written.
All three made me think a lot. Foer, about being Jewish, about Israel and Palestine, about being a parent, about divorce, about who I am as an artist. Laymon made me think about race, about power, about ownership of language and about being driven to the point of destroying yourself. Toews, wow! She made me think about me too, about abuse and finding freedom while remaining moral.
A few things learned about writing. 1 — write what you know. You will find an audience. 2. Make up your own language. By the third chapter, they’ll figure it out. 3. Step outside what is normal and be a little nutty. It’s writing, not homework. 4. Make your reader happy, angry, sad, confused, curious.
Next is Michel Houellebec (The Map and the Territory.) France’s most celebrated and controversial writer. The first two words of the book are Jeff and Koons. So he has already made me angry. In the second sentence, he introduces Damien Hirst and they are both dressed in black. I hope this gets better fast.
It does. Much better. Here’s an example of great writing of Michel Houellebecq . . . he knew publicity photographers, fashion photographers and even a few war photographers — although he’d met them doing the work of paparazzi, which they did while more or less hiding it, since it was generally considered less noble in the profession to photograph Pamela Anderson’s breasts than the scattered remains of a Lebanese suicide bomber; the lenses used are, however, generally the same, and the physical requirements almost similar: it is difficult to avoid the hand trembling when you shoot, and the maximum apertures can only make telephoto lenses with very high magnification. (from The Map and the Territory)
What it takes to be a great writer: ability to see everything for what it is, to be able to see the whole picture and tell it without concern about insulting anybody. You’re not insulting, you’re just telling it the way it is.
I had this book with me all summer and kept putting it aside, thinking it would be too much work to get through. Happily, it’s not, and I think I am enjoying it the most of all I’ve read.
Farm Blog 2019, part 41
This blog continues from my porch in the Wellfleet woods, looking out onto blue sky, trees, birds, a bunny, a bug, all at peace.
Peace is what I need to think through while I’m here. It is unusal for me to be here alone, but I will be here by myself for the next six days. So here I am on the most gorgeous, quiet piece of land imaginable. The most gorgeous ocean is a five minute walk. The most gorgeous pond is in my back yard. Om shanti.
Really I don’t think I have to “think through” peace. There’s nothing to think about. What I need to do is to experience it. I need to slow down the pace, lose any expectations I have of things happening. As I write now, I pause and hear a bird chirping. If I listen closer, I can hear the wind, just barely audible. Now there’s a buzzing, I think there’s a big bug inside on the porch. Two more birds calling out to each other. Man, peace is loud!
Farm Blog 2019, part 40
Back in New York for a night. Yuck. But I did have a good bagel for breakfast this morning. One of life’s great little pleasures. It was also nice to feel at home with my native New Yorkers, none of whom were born here. At Zaffi’s diner this morning, an older Jewish man was chatting with his waitress. He smiled and told her it was a day of lluvia.
I was reading Arthur Danto last night. His book, “what art is,” is enough to make any artist crazy. I don’t think it’s a good idea to let philosophers talk about art. Writing about it, even worse.
Danto is so caught up in the history of old white guys and what they thought. Plato, Socrates, Heidigger, Kant, Freud, etc. How many billions of people have been alive? Are there really only eleven men smart enough to make us think?
I’ll try here. Art is:
1. Something made by a person that makes you think or feel something profound.
2. Something made by a person that, when viewed, touched or heard by another person, awakens the senses
Over time art changes. It changes every day. New ideas, new materials, new ways to take in what is being made. That’s what is so good about art, it is always changing.
Farm Blog 2019, part 40
I left Parrsboro yesterday morning at 6, a long drive ahead of me. I decided against breaking the drive up with a motel stay and an all you can eat dinner at Steak and Shake. My destination was friend Cessy in Branford, Connecticut, ten and a half hours from my little Parrsboro home.
The return always provides some kind of shock. In past summers the return from Nebraska has been awakening. I think last summer I remember being back in New York and spending two hundred and sixty dollars before I even put my key in the door.
This time it was the road that slapped me in the face. I drove the first three hundred miles in pure peace and beauty. The drive through Nova Scotia is spectacular. At six in the morning, I was the only car on the road. The road is a single lane, it curves past small farms and rocky coastline. You practically cry. New Brunswick offers a two lane super highway with no other cars and pretty wide open space.
The border crossing was the opposite of Mexico. A nice young kid asked me if I had a nice time in Canada and welcomed me home. He didn’t check my trunk for drugs or illegal aliens.
From the border, there is a ninty minute drive on a small, windy road through Northern Maine, also carless. So far, all good. Until it wasn’t . About three hundred miles into my drive, I was reminded that I live in a world of people. And cars. Lots and lots and lots of them.
And fuck Google. My sweet little map lady kept telling me, in a soft friendly voice, that I was approaching a slow down. Each time (and there were about seventy-five slowdowns) she reminded me that I was still on the fastest route.
And so my ten hour drive to Connecticut became thirteen, then fourteen. I had plenty of time in the car to think things through. Judith had sent me a bunch of listings for houses in Parrsboro. Ten rooms, ocean view with my own private golf course. Weigh that against a one bedroom looking out on the Williamsburg bridge and sanitation trucks, alternate side of the street parking suspended on Wednesday. Kind of a no brainer.
If I were a true Parssborian, I would plant blueberry bushes on the six acres behind my house and I’d trade in my VW Golf for a small truck. Could be a lot worse.
Farm Blog 2019, part 39
Harvey has suggested more than once that I sell my stocks and buy a house someplace beautiful. Wouldn’t it be better to have a beautiful house than a few slips of paper that say I own .000000000000000001 percent of Apple? I really don’t even own any of Apple, just a part of the apple stock nonsense.
Over the past few years I’ve thought it would be nice to own a house, to have a little land and a back yard, maybe even a garden. A few extra rooms would be great too. I can envision a nice big studio with room for all my creative bullshit.
I’ve been in New York over thirty-five years. I’m stuck, and I get more stuck every day. Plans to move to Seatlle were cancelled about thirty years ago when Eve decided to take a job offer in New York. We also turned down a chance to move near D.C. when Ever was offered a job with AOL. Didn’t happen. A year in Barcelona, 1988, and another year in Wellfleet, 1992, are my only escapes.
I should probably take a class in closure. There must be a trick to saying goodbye to things and really leaving them behind. I’m sure there’s some Buddhist approach that sounds good on paper.
There are some really pretty pieces of property here in Parrsboro. I could buy three houses and still leave a few bucks in my stock portfolio. It’s as pretty as it gets here. What’s missing? A good place to buy bagels, sushi, home delivery of the New York Times. I guess I could do without.
Farm Blog 2019, part 38
One day left here in Parrsboro, time to back the bags.
I don’t do transition very well. Leaving is difficult. Sadly, this is the result of my mother’s premature death when I was a kid. Forty-six years later, I still have a hard time saying goodbye.
Twenty five years of therapy (Is that a quarter of a million dollars??!!!???) and I’m still not healed. Why should I think I can be?
This summer I read a lengthy biography of Primo Levi. I also read Jersy Kosinski. Two men who led incredibly rich, exciting, productive lives, who took their own lives, most likely because childhood trauma never dissipated.
I’ve succeeded at living a pretty exciting, adventure filled life. Lots of fun, lots of love, lots of creative projects, lots of living. I’m pretty sure I’ll see things to the end. I love being alive, even when there are long moments of pain.
So for now, I’ll pack with a heavy heart, wave goodbye to a peaceful, beautiful place, knowing that I’ll have plenty to discuss in therapy.
Farm Blog 2019, part 37
These photos are from my time in Palestine last year. The two guys are sitting in a little café in the center of Ramallah. Ramallah is a great city, bustling with lots of street life and people running around. Lots of good street food. It’s the political center of Palestine. When I was there, I never saw an Israeli military presence, but I’m sure they are looking. The two men in the photo don’t look like they care so much.
It’s hard to imagine what it must be like to live in the West Bank. What does it feel like to be an occupied people for over seventy years, to have your homes taken away and to be stuffed into a ghetto? If you have a peaceful outlook, how can you remain peaceful? How can you not lash out at anybody who represents your oppressor?
Farm Blog 2019, part 36
I don’t understand depression. Why, when I have so many nice things in my life, do I experience these waves of dread. I’m on a two month vacation, in a beautiful place, everything paid for, my own golf course a three minute drive. I’ve got great books to read and good creative projects to work on and I’ve even made a handful of nice friends here in Canada. But I wake with a heaviness that will take a few hours to subside.
Is it that I don’t really understand what sadness or happiness really is? What is a state of mind? What does it really mean to feel something? I really don’t get it.
At my opening, though most people were supportive and enjoyed my work, there was one comment that bugged me. A woman who owns an artist’s gallery and collective in town said to me that I must be in a dark place. I don’t know the woman, but I’ve been by her storefront gallery, which is filled with pretty pictures of birds, flowers and a few abstractions that are ridiculously simple and boring. Pretty art, at best, art that is made by people who want to express love and creativity. This is art that makes a purposeful effort to ignore three quarters of the world.
Yes, as an artist I am steeped in the study of real people in real places with real struggles now. Here and now. The pictures are heavy and sad. Some are scary and depressing. To me it is important to make these images the focus of my work. This is what art is about.
I enjoy working with these images. They don’t depress me. Something else does, and I don’t know what that is. If anything these pictures are inspirational. In all the difficulty and struggle, there is color, human interaction, movement, life.
Today’s art includes images from the Mexican-American border, Gaza, New York, and Syria. Oh boy!
Farm Blog 2019, part 35
People in Canada are talking about the recent killings in the U.S. It’s on everybody’s minds. Nineteen deaths? Or was it twenty-nine? Who’s counting?
Seems like there are two solutions, one of which can’t happen. Either we get rid of guns or we help the people who are crazy enough to want to kill innocent people. Now we know getting rid of guns aint gonna happen. Americans love guns. You’ve seen the bumper stickers: “My wife, yes, my car maybe, my gun never.” How many leftists posting sad messages on Facebook about the tragic killings grew up on farms and rural areas with families that shot guns? They learned to shoot before they learned to multiply. It’s in their blood.
And so the solution is mental health. We need to heal the million angry white kids who want to be noticed. Get them real psychological help. Figure out how to integrate them into society in a way that will make them happier, more connected, more positive. Make them see that killing others isn’t a solution to their loneliness.
Then two pictures here are from Bethlhem. I took these photos when I was in Palestine, a few years ago. Banksy turned the wall into an art piece. His approach didn’t work. The wall is expanding, more settlements are being built on Palestinian land, the occupation continues, no progress is being made.
Read the notice on the second photo. This is pasted on the wall that separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem. What do you do if you’re little brother is shot and killed? For every person’s life taken in these senseless ways, so many others are personally affected. Do we all know someone, love someone, who has been murdered?
One thing is certain. The wrong people are running the governments. We’d be much better off if our political leaders were seven year olds. We’d have a world of fun and games, ice cream and peace.
Farm Blog 2019, part 34
Very little on my mind today. A week left here in Parrsboro, time to wind down and gear up for what comes next, two weeks in Wellfleet, the prettiest place I know. My life is good.
I like Canada a lot. People here are extra friendly. The land is gorgeous. The pace of life is pleasant. There is very little stress. People who own guns don’t point them at people.
This town is filled with Americans who had had enough. Maybe I’ll be one of them one day.
Farm Blog 2019, part 33
The word of the day is “aquiver.” Definition: in a state of excitement. And there were two examples given. The first, “I was all aquiver when I heard the news that my favorite movie star was in town.” And the second, “he combination of the thrilling news and the icy chill had me aquiver.”
Hmm. I don’t have a favorite movie star, but if I did, I don’t think I’d be acquiver when he or she came to town. I mean, I guess I’d fell okay about it, but not aquiver. Second, I find it strange that someone would make any kind of connection between thrilling news and an icy chill. Acquiver? Nah.
When I got a call from a MOMA board member telling me they wanted to give me a one person exhibit next April, I was completely acquiver. That same day, I found out a lottery ticket I bought a month ago was a fifty million dollar winner. Man was I acquiver.
And so goes the word of the day. Now it’s 10:20 on a Sunday morning, and the rest of the day is before me. I have three small paintings to work on, some writing to attend to, a good book I’m reading. Lucky Bill.
Farm Blog 2019, part 32
Four hundred billion years ago, the plant pictured here got smushed and settled into the earth. The earth got covered up, then covered again, then again and again, for a few billion years. Then some big things happened and the earth shifted, tipped, tilted and finally settled to what it is now, a huge rock cliff overlooking the Bay of Fundy.
The Joggins fossil cliffs were pretty neat. What look like rocks from afar, look like rocks up close, but the rocks are embedded with fossils imprints and all kinds of hints at the many billion year history. There are grey rocks with skinny peach colored lines snaking through them. Judith, who accompanied me, said they might be the trail that some insects made as they marched through the earth. Remember that rocks are earth that has petrified over many millions of years. At least I think that’s right. We saw some petrified tree trunks, which were basically trees that have become stone. Very cool.
As you walk around the cliffs you start to think about time. What is a billion years? What is a second? Most significantly you realize how unbelievably small you are. Miniscule. A speck. A blip in time that won’t add up to much in a few hundred million years. Compared to the dinosaurs, we humans have lived a second. And look what we’ve managed to achieve in that second.
As incredibly intelligent we humans are, look what all our intelligence has created. We smart people pollute the planet, over heat it, poison it beyond repair. We build guns and bombs that kill innocent people. We build nuclear weapons that could destroy us all in an hour. We incarcerate people just because they have crossed a land border. We separate children from their parents, traumatizing them for life — because we can. We strap explosives to children and send them toward an enemy. Enough?
What comes next, after our extinction?
Farm Blog 2019, part 31
I feel like taking the day off. I mean really, isn’t this my summer vacation? There are lots of pretty places to visit here. This is the geological epicenter of Canada. I’m not sure what that means, but I think the rocks are older here and people come from all over to see them. The Joggins Fossil Cliffs are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Their website caption says “Rock. Solid. History.” Apparently these rocks predate the dinosaurs by a few hundred million years, give or take a few million. Wow!
This is a good time to take a day off. I installed my show yesterday and that allowed me to take a breath and reflect for a minute on me, where I am, where I’m not. This show ain’t MOMA, but it’s nice to see the work up, like it means something. I don’t know who will come, but I’m pretty sure a few handfuls of people who have never seen my work before will become enlightened.
I’ve promised myself that I will make a real effort this year to find some representation in New York. I’ve made that promise before, actually I’ve made it every year for the past thirty, but who’s counting. On a positive note, a good friend has mentioned me to Claudia Rankine, who is curating a show about borders and refugees. What an honor it would be to connect with her. I’m crossing my fingers.
Funny how small the world is sometimes. Just a few weeks ago Ms. Rankine’s article in the Times generated a lot of talk. She appeared on my radar screen and a few weeks later, she has appeared again. I think she teaches at Yale, so maybe we’ll bump into each other at Pepe’s.
Farm Blog 2019, part 30
I almost forgot to write my blog today. For the past month it has been my morning ritual, but today I lost the Parrsboro routine and returned to New York mode; busy, busy, busy.
I had a plan to install my show this morning, also needed to go to see a framer who lives a few miles out of town. Golf at 7 of course, so I really had to make it all happen. It wasn’t hard to go back into do it mode. Once you learn that, you don’t forget.
And so my day went like this: Wake, shower, brush teeth, take meds, breakfast, coffee,
golf, second shower, to the hardware store to buy mounting tape, to the framer who lives by Diligent River (and, besides framing has a three thousand acre blueberry farm!), back home, second cup of coffee. And it was only nine-thirty, still an hour before installing the show. So I worked on the three paintings for today. Then to the gallery to install the show, then to lunch with Harvey, the gallery owner. Harvey asked me what I wrote in the blog today and I realized I hadn’t written. And now I have.
Well, the show looks really good. Funny because I thought the work I’d been doing here was pretty lousy, but on display it looks okay. I kind of realized I’ve done a lot this summer and that feels pretty good.
And so, the words for today: keep on keeping on.
Farm Blog 2019, part 29
I haven’t exhibited my work for over two years, since Gallery Ehva shut it’s doors. The work accumulates and I do so little to get it out into the world. I don’t feel good about this. Let’s just say, it’s an issue, one that costs me a few hundred bucks a week in therapy.
Judith and Harvey, who have become way more than just art hippies, run an art residency here in Parrsboro. They have a gorgeous exhibition space and have offered to show my work. Exciting! Tomorrow I’ll install the work I’ve done since coming here at the beginning of July.
The show will be appropriately titled TODAY. The majority of this work are paintings of people on the move, Syrians and Latin Americans looking for safety someplace else. A heavy topic, especially here in Parrsboro, where the other galleries show seascapes and flower gardens. Let’s shake ’em up.
The opening is Friday. We’re about a dozen hours from New York. I’ve got room here if you’d like a place to stay. It’s a beautiful town with fantastic ocean views. And a links style golf course waiting for you.
Farm Blog 2019, part 28
Sixty years is 21, 840 days. 524, 160 hours. 31, 449, 600 seconds. I guess that makes me pretty old. You’d think after all those seconds, I’d have figured something out.
Let’s see. I can tie my shoes (kindergarten), catch a ball (first grade), make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (second grade), light a match (fourth grade), clip my toenails (sixth grade), drive a car (tenth grade), pay my rent (age 23), answer an email (late, age 37). I can do a few other things too, but the big things still elude me.
Things I will die not knowing:
1. What happens to me when I die.
2. If there’s a god.
3. If the Jews and the Palestinians will ever find a solution.
4. Whether the glass is half empty or half full.
Farm Blog 2019, part 27
Tomorrow is poetry night at Main and Station, the art space run by my friends Harvey and Judith ( the art hippies). I think it’s an open mike kind of thing, everyone is welcome to read either their poems or a poem of their liking.
At the Art Farm readings I usually read a few blogs I’ve written about the farm. They usually go over pretty well. Here, I’d like to read something, but I have no recent poems to read. The blogs have been too depressing.
Yesterday, I found a book of poems in Harvey’s book store. American Negro Poetry. Wow. The book was published in 1963, so I guess that justifies the title. I showed the book to Harvey and he said he didn’t understand why that word was so bothersome to people. I wonder if he’d like to be called Blanco. I mean really. In thinking about the history of that word and all the words we’ve used to refer to “those” people, it is rather disturbing. Negro, black, African-American, person of color. And then there are the really derogatory words: nigger, darkie, spook, pickaninny. So many words to identify a person, rather to point out that he or she is different.
I often cringe when I’m walking on the street in New York and overhear two guys calling each other “nigger.” It’s so sad that the worst word possible is used to refer lovingly to one another. But I understand it.
Back to poetry: I have a lot of trouble understanding poetry. I love language and enjoy reading poetry, but I am often clueless about meaning. Is it me, or is it that poetry is less about meaning than the sounds of words meshing.
The first poem I wrote as an adult happened in the middle of the night, about thirty five years ago. I was sound asleep and woke up with words in my head, words that seemed important enough to write down. Usually, it was Eve that was up in the middle of the night, but now it was me, and I grabbed a pencil and wrote this down:
They tore me an office mustard.
Always sharp, but never flustered.
Running through the muck,
Admired by the office boy.
Not quite Ginsburg, but pretty damn creative. What the hell is an office mustard?
In the Negro poetry anthology, I found a few great poems by Leroi Jones, who of course became Imari Baraka. Also, there are a few great ones by Richard Wright. One begins like this:
I am nobody
A red sinking autumn sujn
Took my name away.
I’m going to try to write a poem today for tomorrow’s reading. I’m thinking it will be a Bill in Parrsboro poem. Not sure if anything rhymes with Parrsboro.
Farm Blog 2019, part 26
Yesterday I Googled “people fleeing Yemen,” “people fleeing Syria,” “people fleeing Latin America,” and “people fleeing The Sudan.” Don’t ask me why.
As you’d expect, photojournalists are there with their five thousand dollar cameras capturing every minute. This is reality TV times a million. I wish there was something I could say that would matter, but there’s nothing to say. That these photos don’t move nations to take real action is most troubling. But isn’t that how history works. The ovens of Auschwitz weren’t turned off till seven million had been killed.
On the radio today, it was reported that the President of Mexico is trying to create twenty thousand jobs in Honduras. This is to keep the Hondurans from coming to America. You know where this brainless idea started. And if you do the math, 20,000 is a tiny fraction of the population that needs to leave.
Farm Blog 2019, part 25
Did I say that painting is hard. It is. At least it is for me. Just getting the paint out of the tube and onto the palette is a chore. For me everything is messy. The palette is too close to the painting and my brush hits colors I don’t want which makes me have to wipe paint off and repaint sections. A real pain in the ass. If I’ve done a drawing with twenty figures in it, I’ll paint one or two and then panic about having to paint eighteen more. Feels like it will be an eternity when really it’s usually less than an hour. I do like painting trees, that’s fun. You just smush some green and there you go.
Lately, in the middle of a painting, I stop being careful about color and just start mushing together greens, blues and browns. Most of what I’m painting is a dirty mess, so it actually makes sense. These are people out in the desert, dressed in filthy rags. Everything is a shade of brown.
Did I say I love finishing paintings. I do. I feel pretty good when the work is done and the thought is expressed. Today is day twenty-five here. By this afternoon I will have made 75 little paintings since getting here and two larger pieces. Not bad. They say it’s a process. Indeed, it is a process. I’m a hampster on a wheel, round and round.
Farm Blog 2019, part 24
I hate the word juxtaposition, yet my paintings too often juxtapose. The one here is pretty obvious. A few dozen penniless people fleeing their home pass by somebody’s sixty thousand dollar SUV. The people haven’t bathed in two months. The car was recently washed.
As an artist, I look for something to say. What do I see? What is the world I live in like? There’s lots of beauty, yes. But when I look around, what impresses me most is the disparity between people. Sometimes it’s the next door neighbor, who has ten times as many things as I do, or the one across the street who has that much less. The guy who owns the company you work for doesn’t make twice as much money as you do. He makes three thousand times more. At least. And you, the one with so little, has everything compared to the people in the picture I’ve painted. And on and on.
The photo on page two of immigrants at the border is positioned a few inches to the left of a six thousand dollar watch for sale by Dior. Turn the page and there’s a Tiffany bracelet, a steal for seventeen thousand dollars. That picture is just to the right of some Syrians fleeing.
You get the picture. Juxtaposition. Still, I hate that word.
Farm Blog 2019, part 23
In an email from Marguerite, who is in Genoa, she said that the people there don’t think about climate change. Their city is ancient and, though crumbling, it works fine for them. No reason to think about it.
In New York, our time is spent reading, talking and worrying about climate, immigration, sexual politics, money. It gives us stress, ulcers, fits of rage. Marguerite writes from Genoa that she doesn’t understand why she doesn’t live there. But she doesn’t. She’ll come home in a week, unpack, do a laundry and start the worry. I’ll leave Nova Scotia and do the same. My blood pressure will rise ten points by Tuesday.
My current series of paintings are about movement. Walking. I’m taken by the photos of people who flee their countries and move across lands. In Syria, the Sudan and Latin America they walk. They carry what they have left, which is practically nothing. I am reading a book by Kim Thuy, a Vietnamese who left with her family and made her way to Canada via Malaysia. Her family, and others who had had wealth in South Vietnam, hid gold in clever places. Today’s millions don’t have ten cents.
I don’t see the day when I’ll kick back on the beach and say “fuck it, who cares.” Though I can do very little, I’ll always care.
Farm Blog 2019, part 22
I was in the woods with friend Judith yesterday, foraging for mushrooms. Parrsoboro, heavily forested is a mushroom paradise. Another new experience for me, I went along happily. I even wore shoes for this woods adventure.
It had rained the day before and the woods were grey, quiet and wet. I think this is one of the first times I’ve walked in the woods without an already carved path. It was great fun stepping in and around the brush, trees, roots, sticks and whatever else grows there. Every so often you’d see a few dots of orange. Those are the mushrooms we were looking for, chanterelles. There were lots of other big white and grey-brown mushrooms with spotted tops. Judith told me that those were basically poisonous, though some cultures liked to boil them and use them for spiritual quests — yeah, yeah. We left them alone.
It’s fun to pick mushrooms. The peace and quiet of the woods is a quick cure for a bad mood. I think I was walking in and around bear homes, but the bears were elsewhere. The only animals I encountered were flies, one in particular who was following me everywhere.
Sauteed with oil and garlic, I ate a bunch with dinner. Yummy.
When the shit hits the fan and the banks shutter up, stores close, panic and chaos takes hold, I will know a little bit about how to forage for my meals. I can now collect dulse (seaweed) and mushrooms. I’m a great oyster fisherman. At least it’s a start.
Farm Blog 2019, part 21
Finished this painting yesterday then went to a little dinner party at friend Judith’s and Harvey’s. Such warm people, they have made my stay here so much nicer.
Again, the party was me and a half dozen Canadians. Harvey and Judith, the art hippies, Jim and Genevieve, two artists from western Canada and two others who are rock people — a geologist and a palentologist who have come to Parrsboro because of this areas wealth of fossils and stones. Parrsboro was a big dinosaur hangout back then.
This was the second dinner party I’ve been to here where I was unable to speak. Mostly the conversation was rocks and other scientific things I am clueless about. Sadly, I am the world’s least knowledgeable science guy. I don’t know what happened, but I missed out on all the lessons on all the things that make up our world, how they work and how they help each other exist. Did you know that mushrooms and trees like each other? The mushroom can dig down deeper into the earth than the tree roots and I guess there’s stuff down there that the trees want, so the mushrooms get it for them and give it to the trees. In exchange the trees give the mushrooms something they want. It’s a nice deal for both. I learned this last night from Judith, who, beside being an art hippie, is a serious science mind.
So, rock talk, and there was lots of it, is way beyond me. As far as I’m concerned, there is very little difference between fifty million and two hundred million years ago. One rock looks pretty much the same as the next to me, it’s hard and mostly brown. It’s kind of amazing how someone can put years into the study of rocks, or the digestive system of an amphibian. But they do, and they learn a hell of a lot about the world doing it.
New York party talk is so different. We are clueless about science and animal life. We know about our cats and our dogs and how to kill roaches. Nature is at least one hundred miles away. Some of us get to see it on weekends if we have a car and a country house. Our dinner table conversations are about books we’ve read, the famous people who’ve done stupid things to make front page news and, of course, the asshole in the White House. We talk politics, Canadians talk nature.
It’s not normal for me to be so quiet at a dinner party, but I learned a lot and am happy to have met these interesting, very different, people. Canadians are super. In my next life, I just might study minerals and live in Alberta.
Farm Blog 2019, part 20
An American congresswoman is hated by millions because she was born in another country and wears a head scarf. In France and Canada you can’t wear a yarmulke or head covering to work. Of course a Make America Great Again cap is accepted everywhere. It’s ridiculous.
I read Claudia Rankine’s NY Times Magazine article yesterday. She tapped a white man in front of her and politely told him that he’d cut in front of her on the airport line. He made some disgusting comment about Black people being in first class. She smiled politely. She should have hit him in the head and told him get the fuck behind her.
Enough already. If you want to wear a hat, wear it. If you want to pray to your god, pray. If an asshole is an asshole, tell him he’s an asshole.
Farm Blog 2019, part 19
Took the day off from painting and writing yesterday and went to a professional golf tournament in Halifax. Don’t laugh.
I’ve made a new friend here, an old timer named Brian who found me on the golf course last week. He’s a local, having lived her all his life — seventy three years — but he’s been golfing all over the world. He caddied for Jack Nicklaus in 1968! He’s a total character, my kind of guy. He invited me to the tournament and so I went for the adventure.
The ride from Parrsboro to Halifax is gorgeous. Endless quaint old houses, green fields, trees and a sweeping coastline. Brian knew every site and filled The golf tournament was long and pretty boring, but it was fun for me to see the game played so well. As you know from reading this blog, I’m a good golfer. I hit the ball long and straight. But these guys at the tournament are in another dimension. They have the same swing that I do, they are more or less the same size as me, but they hit the ball one hundred and fifty yards farther every time. I don’t know how they do it. The word on the street is swing speed. Which means they swing faster than I do. But I can’t for the life of me understand how they can possibly do that. It’s a true mystery.
Well, what else can I report about the golf? These golfers are the up and coming kids. This is the level of pro two steps below the real golf tour. So these are mostly kids in their twenties who are trying to make it big. They are mostly kids from places like Decatur, Georgia, Allen, Texas, Pensacola, Florida and Poplar Bluff, Missouri. A few from Canada and one from Norway. They were all dressed like golfers from three generations ago. As a group of twenty-somehtings, you’ve never seen a more conservative looking bunch.
I don’t really care that golf looks so conservative and nerdy. I’m kind of glad it’s not hip and trendy. I would hate for golf to become what everything else has become. I’m kind of glad that most people in my world don’t ever think about it. I’ll keep it as something I do that has nothing to do with the rest of my life.
Every summer my blog includes one entry about golf. I hope this one wasn’t too dull.
Farm Blog 2019, part 18
Fifty years ago today, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. He took a giant step for mankind.
Where was I? July 20, 1969, age 10. When Armstrong landed on the moon, I was in the dining hall of Camp Takodah in Keene, New Hampshire. A black and white televesion about the size of a large dinner plate was wheeled into the mess hall and we watched the landing. I couldn’t see anything.
What do I remember? I remember Bill Allen who was supervising during dinner. He was missing the ring finger of his right hand. At one point he raised his hand and held up three fingers to indicate how many extra desserts there were. Someone asked whether it was three or four. Strange that this is what I remember from that day.
What do we remember? When Kennedy was shot in Dallas I was four. My memory is the TV. It was on for four days straight. I remember my mother crying and I also remember seeing Jack Ruby shoot Osawald. All in black and white.
After MLK was assassinated, during a day off from school, I remember having a séance in Caroline Day’s laundry chute. Four or five of us huddled into the little box and held hands and tried to bring back Martin.
I was doing construction in a penthouse apartment when the World Trade Center was destroyed. Doug, the apartment owner, came into the room I was working in and told me a plane hit. I shrugged and went back to work. He came in again and told me a second plane hit. I was puzzled, but I went back to work. It took me a few more hours til I realized something serious must have happened. So I left and went to Leo’s school. He and his friend Blair, whose mom worked at the World Trade Center were the last two kids in school. I took them both home and wondered if I was going to have to tell Blair his mom was dead. Six hours later, she appeared, unharmed. She had been late for work and ended up caught in the mayhem.
Farm Blog 2019, part 17
I’m pretty much all alone up here in the north lands. My dinner company has been the NY Times online. My dinner table entertainment for the past few days has been Jeffrey Epstein and now the Donald and “go back to where you came from.”
Hard to stomach the news today. I have nothing interesting to say about Epstein. Lisa Miller, who grew up around the corner from me, wrote an excellent piece about this fiasco. So many big time important liberals who allowed this to happen and didn’t make a peep. In the first few articles about him, reference was made to Epstein paying the young girls hundreds of dollars for their services. Wasn’t he a billionaire? Hundreds? Why not thousands or hundreds of thousands. If he’d really paid up, he might be free today. Stupid, disgusting piece of shit. Jail will be too nice a place for him.
I like the fact that Ilhan Abdullah did exactly what the Donald told her to do. She went home, to Minnesota, and was cheered by thousands. Facebook tweets are once again comparing the Donald with Adolph. Lots of similarities. It’s time for fifty thousand of us to just walk into the White House, pick him up, and toss him out.
Humor piece of the week is el Chapo complaining that he isn’t being treated nicely in jail. Pobrecito.
Farm Blog 2019, part 16
Israeli soldiers at Gaza. Is it okay to say it’s fun to paint barbed wire?
When I look at this picture I am reminded of who these soldiers really are. Most are children. The Israeli army is one small step away from the child armies we read about in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Kids.
You see them in training wherever you are in Israel. Hundreds of kids in a group, in uniform, learning how to shoot guns and take orders. Last week they were playing video games and licking lollipops. Now they are indoctrinated soldiers with a mission to erase the Palestinians from existence.
The training is successful. The first few weeks in the Israeli army is like summer camp. There are campouts with tents and bonfires, songs and ice cream. Remember, it’s coed. I’m guessing there’s lots of flirtation and sex. The important thing to learn is that you’re a team member. You quickly learn to give up your personal dreams and join the team and believe in the mission. You run, jump, hop, skip and breathe together. A few of you will be shot dead by the enemy before your nineteenth birthday.
I wish there was something good to say about all of this.
Farm Blog 2019, part 15
Where were you in 1985? Facebook sent me this photo today, I guess to remind me how old I am. It’s interesting to look back at pictures that were taken un-posed. These tell a lot.
First, we’re not smiling. Well, Jon is smiling, and he looks awfully good. The rest of us are looking way too serious, especially since we’re hanging out in someone’s swimming pool, a day off for all of us. If I remember correctly, we’re at somebody’s wedding. I don’t remember who it was that was getting hitched. I wonder if they’re still together.
In the photo, there seems to be a pause. Nobody is talking, which makes little sense, considering the fact that most of us in the picture are real loudmouths. Tamar looks extra pensive. I think I might be getting ready to say something. I’m looking at Chris, who is wearing as silly a shirt as I am. It’s possible that I’m about to ask him where he bought it.
As for my shirt, look at my buttons. They are little metal birds. I think I should take a fashion hint from this and make a little change in my wardrobe.
I miss the good old days. I miss Chris’s stunted laugh and Jenny’s smile. I miss thinking it’s important to make it to the party to see my friends. I miss the Talking Heads and King Sonny Ade. I miss my 150 dollar rent for a 7000 square foot loft in Williamsburg. I don’t miss cigarettes! Thanks for the memories.
Farm Blog 2019, part 14
Go back to where you came from.
Did he really say that? Is he really our president? Am I really alive?
I’m eight hundred miles away from home, living in a town of about twelve people who spend most of the day watching the tide go in and out, and in and out again. When you are here, you really don’t want to be reminded of this bullshit. And yet, who can stop it?
The thing that gets me most angry is that this motherfucker is so calculating. He knows that when he says something that outrageous, he can use it to win more votes. He knows he’s only pissing off forty eight percent of the voters. Well, actually it’s more like fifty-five percent, but they don’t live in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania or Florida. He knows what he’s doing. He even looks into the camera, shrugs and says, “a lot of people like what I say.” And he’s right. They live in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida
NY Times writer Charles M. Blow made it very clear what is happening in our country. “We are watching a very dark chapter in this nation’s history unfold in real time.” Yes we are.
Farm Blog 2019, part 13
Photos from Jerash, Jordan. High style. This is an intense part of the world. Somewho, Jordan lives in relative peace, though it borders Syria and Israel. A few million Syrian refugees live here, as well as a million or more Palestinians, who have been here in settlements for nearly eighty years.
The American political focus these days is our own border with Mexico. Trump plans and cheers about deporting thousands of “illegals” as thousands more wait at the border for entry. Newspaper headlines are here at the border as the tragedies in the Middle East disappear from our attention. And yet, it is still there. Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Gaza. It’s not going anywhere.
My friend here, Judith, sponsored a Syrian family here in Parrsboro. She arranged for funding for a year for a family of four, who is now five, as the mom gave birth this past Spring. She helped save five lives. The family has moved to a nearby town, bought a house and their children are happily enrolled in school and loving life. Wow!
Admittedly, I am an ignorant American. Can we do that in the US? Can we sponsor families? Can we give them a home and a safe life? Why don’t I know this? I think it’s time to find out.
Farm Blog 2019, part 12
I offer six new small paintings. The top three are from Deir Al-Sour province, Syria and the bottom three are from Sang-e-Masha, Afghanistan. I admit that one thing I enjoy when I make these paintings is knowing the names of the places I am painting. I simply love the names of all these middle-eastern towns and villages. When I finish each, I note the town name on the back of the painting. To date, there are nearly 2,000 paintings, and so I’ve documented life (and death) in many, many places. Which is what I’m trying to do with this work — show the world today.
I know how heavy and sad this stuff is. I can paint it, but I can’t really talk about it. Sadly, I can’t really become involved in a way that will help the situation.
For sure I am focused on a small part of the world. Yes, there’s lots more out there. Home Depots and Targets, golf courses, swimming pools, people at dance parties, mouthwatering plates of food, Christmas. And a world of beauty — beaches, plants and flowers, mountain peaks and gorgeous sunrises. I’m leaving these for another artist.
Farm Blog 2019, part 11
The above photo was taken in the desert near Petra, an ancient site in the south of Jordan. I was there six years ago with Steve. Petra, a world famous ancient site was just that, well preserved old rocks in the form of architectural wonders. When you see it, you’re in awe for about one minute, then you walk for miles with a few hundred tourists with cellphones, water bottles and desires to stop and “take” coffee.
The man in front of the truck was with us in a desert escape some twenty or thirty miles from Petra. Also a tourist destination, but this was a lot more fun. Here you get a hotel room in the form of a large tent and a mattress, with miles of desert around. Dinner and some local music included. It’s as close as you’re gonna get to being Jordanian if you’re here for just a few days.
Still, nothing beats travel. When you can step out of the tourist trap and look, you can get a real feel for life. I remember being awed by the vastness of the Jordanian desert. It’s hard to imagine people living there, yet they do. Just beyond your view of rocks and more rocks, there are little houses and rocky dirt roads. They seem to lead nowhere, yet the local inhabitants move around much like the people from your own neighborhood. They drive cars and trucks, carry cell phones, stop for coffee at the local café, which could just as easily be playing Jimi Hendrix or Emminem as some local oud music.
Travel allows you to get an understanding of the connectedness of people. Here we are in one world with one huge population. We are fully aware of the divisions — geographical, political, racial, economic, social and cultural. As much as we want to pretend they don’t matter, they do. They mean everything.
One thing interesting about travel is that when you come home, you realize you have learned something about yourself, which is interesting because you’ve done that by spending time with the other.
Forty years ago, in 1979, I spent three weeks in Morocco. When I left, I wondered if I’d really be there. It had seemed like a dream. I hope to find more places like that.
Farm Blog 2019, part 10
Dinner party last night with friends Judith and Harvey and eight others. It’s kind of nice to come to this tiny little town knowing nobody and, within a few short days, I have friends and a place to go at night.
Last night, the party consisted of me and ten Canadians. Six were locals, none of whom were born in Parrsboro. Two were fellow artists who are here at Judith and Harvey’s residency. Two others, a young couple from Montreal, had just met Harvey yesterday. They are currently on a two year hitchhiking trek across North and South America. They are documenting their trip, blogging and making videos. Their mission is to learn about people who are trying to make a difference with ecological ideas and projects. They are here in Parrsoboro to meet with people who are doing a turbine project, which happens to be next door to Harvey’s house. Harvey met the two and invited them for dinner and offered them a place to sleep while in Parrsoboro.
All this says a lot about the people I’m meeting here. Nice and friendly barely expresses it. Harvey seems to be a rescuer of lost souls. He finds people who are currently lost, gives them a home, a job, a chance to redirect their focus.
Much of the conversation last night was about places in Canada. The ten guests come from all parts of the country, from little towns near bigger towns surrounded by big landscapes. They all seem to know a lot about everywhere in the country. The talk is upbeat, positive. The words beautiful and gorgeous are in every sentence.
I spent much of the evening listening and thinking about how different these people are from my New York people. All the sarcasm and criticism, all the critical analysis is missing. I’ve felt this to some degree when I was in Nebraska, but the Canadian version is beyond that. I wonder if being here a few more weeks will allow me to return to New York with a real smile, one that lasts at least til mid December.
Farm Blog 2019, part 9
6 word strings
1. Canada, oh, still, truck, tree, oh, truck.
2. blister, cream, pastiche, plaything, croissant, thirst, jump.
3. background, past, was, then, logic, stamp, proceed
4. clandestine, verbose, dictionary, thesaurus, pestilence, parsimonious, smarty pants
5. Canada, oh, my, search, meaning, understood, gotcha
6. art, panic, easy, mix, time, lost, gained, over and done with
Farm Blog 2019, part 8
The above picture is from the piece I’m working on now. The piece consists of 24 views of the photo taken by the Mexican photographer, Julia Le Duc. Surely this is one, if not the most harrowing photo taken in a long time. This picture says everything about the migration story. Ms. Le Duc is a crime reporter and she has said that she has seen a lot of bodies. So for her, taking this photo was a day’s work, though I imagine when she took it, she knew how significant it was.
How can I work with such a photo? It’s easy really. I am attracted to the pictures that matter, the ones that are most profound. I am part of the genre of artists that find meaning, and even beauty, in these moments. I think back to Guernica, The Third of May, Burial at Ornans. I feel good being in this company.
The only problem is that the paintings I’ve done here are not very good. Something is missing and I have to figure it out. Damn, painting is hard sometimes.
Farm Blog 2019, part 7
I’ve been here a week now and I haven’t written a sentence of the screenplay I want to write. Not even a word. I have no idea to how to get started. If I sit down and open up my computer, I only stare at a blank screen. I have some notes, but actually they are lost to me now, because they are on my other computer which I can’t use now. That’s another dumb story. A few days ago I decided to clean my keyboard with just a little soap and water. Oops. Keyboard stopped working. Will I ever learn? The keyboard has been sitting in rice for three days, but won’t work. I’ve sent for another from Amazon but I think Amazon thinks Nova Scotia is near Jupiter. Three calls to them have gotten only the promise that it will get here one day.
And so, no notes, a blank screen, an idea. How to start? I’ve never written a screenplay before. I imagine it’s best if I envision the picture and come up with the words that go with that. One picture leads to the next, words follow. Simple, right? Apparently there are programs for screenwriting which must help you organize it all, like a storyboard.
This morning I was listening to a radio report about Nxivm, the creepy sex/self help cult that was funded by Bronfman millions. It’s hard to understand how people can actually build something that big that involves so many lost people. Imagine allowing someone to make you put a fake cow udder over your breasts, humiliate you, and then giving them your credit card to charge you for your involvement.
By the way, who won the home run derby?
Farm Blog 2019, part 6
It’s not very often that, at my advanced age, I get to do something new. Yesterday, I had that opportunity. What began as a regular day, me writing my blog and then getting ready to do some artwork, was interrupted by a knock on my door. Judith, the woman who is renting me the house had stopped by to see if I wanted to go dulsing with her. I didn’t know if that was a kind of dance or a new drug. She told me that dulse was seaweed and she was going to pick some from the ocean at low tide. Being an avid oysterer, I love low tide activities, so I happily went along.
The tides here in the Bay of Fundy are known to be the greatest in the world. There are huge shifts from low to high tide. I wasn’t sure what that really meant. We drove about five miles to get to the entrance to the bay. Low tide meant miles of low tide. A giant rock was a mile in the distance. They called the rock an island. I was with Judith and a few friends, each well into their seventies. For those who don’t know — that’s me — dulse is a rust brown seaweed that grows wild on the ocean floor. It attaches itself to small rocks and often hides underneath large pieces of kelp. Some people love to eat it, dried, like potato chips. You can also dry it and turn it into a powder, which I guess you sprinkle onto certain foods. Of course it’s healthy, rich in iodine and anti-oxidants.
Dulsing was fun and easy. You walk in the cold low tide, water at your ankles, and pick up the dulse and put it in a bag. Soon the bag gets heavy, because of all the water. Eventually you fill a bag and drag it slowly back to shore. There you empty the bag and lay each piece out to dry. This takes a few hours. We spent the afternoon on the beach, life was easy.
At one point we took a little jeep out to the rock island to watch the tides meet. When the tides starts to come in, it comes in quickly from both sides of the rock island. This is quite an experience. You stand in ankle deep water and suddenly the water is up to your waist in literally about five seconds. Mother nature at her finest.
In the end, I don’t much like eating dulse. It is salty like the sea, but it ain’t an oyster. Apparently it’s an acquired taste, so maybe I’ll give it another try. I think I have enough for a few years.
And so, a big plus for a fun new experience. I went dulsing. I am a dulcer. I dulced.
Farm Blog 2019, part 5
Last night the town of Parrsborro celebrated the first Saturday of July. It’s an annual event where the majority of the town population comes to Main Street. The street is cordoned off from traffic — two orange cones on the corner of Main and Spring — and a few hundred people line the sidewalks and stand in clumps on the street. There are a few tables set up, one offering a raffle to win ten pounds of lobster. Hot dogs and hamburgers are available. In front of one store, a six piece rock band, average age of each musician is seventy, are playing. And that’s it. Actually the one thing of note is that people have parked their cars on one side of Main Street on an angle. This is to remember the old days, when people parked this way. I’m not kidding.
Parrsboro is a small town. There isn’t much money here. It feels like most people have been here forever, their grandparents and great grandparents were here too. To me, everybody looks alike. I’ve met a few locals and they love to talk. They know their town history. Three fires that took out big chunks of Main Street. A plane crash landing just up the road. The plane was damaged but nobody injured. The pilots stayed in town for a month while the plane was repaired, then they flew it back to New York. I met a man named John, who told me how he taught math for thirty five years here. When he found out I was an artist, he told me about how he engaged his students by having them make geometric art pieces using mathematical formulas. He told me that the kids who struggled the most with math did beautiful work with his art geometry lessons.
Now it’s Sunday. The street is empty. I imagine many of the folks from last night are in church. It’s a life.
Farm Blog 2019, part 4
The photo here is from Israel. This is just a few miles east of Jerusalem, near the line dividing the West Bank. It looks like this for miles in every direction. Stones, rocks, rubble and little else. Which makes you wonder what they’re fighting about. Of all the beautiful land on this planet, why here? Why is this the holy land?
I’m trying to write a story about this land and the people who fight over it. Truthfully, I am probably not the one to be doing this. It’s not my land. My connection is life long, but a bit contrived. Are all Jews connected to this place? If we are, how do we understand our connection.
My first associations with Israel and Jews come from second grade. I learned about planting trees in Israel and watched a movie about the Holocaust where I remember seeing a bunch of black and white dead bodies shoveled into a grave. That same year I made a dart board and drew a face of an Arab on it and brought it into Sunday school. The brainwashing began early.
It’s now fifty years later. I’ve travelled three times to Israel and Palestine. I’ve met and talked to people on all sides of the issue. I’ve seen Israelis protesting Netanyahu next to other Israelis waving flags and demanding the destruction of all Palestinians. I’ve met Palestinians who show me nine documents in their wallets that they need to leave their towns without being arrested. Every time I leave Israel, I wonder why is there so much anger. Why so much fighting over a bunch of rocks.
I’m going to try to start writing today. I don’t have a first sentence yet.