Letter to David
Dec 2, 1989
They put the leg back on - a 22-month-old leg that had been ripped off at the knee by a barn-cleaning machine, packed in ice by paramedics, and shipped to the hospital along with the little girl. And the wall comes down.
Comaneci wants to stay here (but isn't her hometown wall coming down?) and we say okay, after shipping sailors back because there was no evidence that they would be persecuted in their homeland. And the wall comes down.
No naked sunbathing in Kissimmee, Fla., says the TVA - not ready for that? not after showing jurors 13 minutes of 'Deep Throat', not after acres of tits on tv?, not after penetrating sex in Michele Pfeiffer/Kurt Russell/Mel Gibson/Clint Eastwood/Jeff Bridges/Kim Basinger/Rob Lowe/Jessica Lange/Jack Nicholson movies?, not after Tina Turner hip gyrations tongue twiddling recline two-deep on the couch music videos all cleavage and butt and stilleto-in-the-pillow obvious symbolism on MTV?, not after politicians/bureaucrats/executives/movie stars fucking underlings and each other (in more ways than one)?, no no no no nudes on the beach just 1-1/2-square-inches of plastic bikini wet t-shirt contests round-heel soap opera episodes on and on and on and on, and no flag-burning either! And the wall comes down.
You know, I thought, several times back in Engineering school (yes, I did think once in a while, then), that bridges are built with insufficient knowledge about the way structures really work (that's why we put 'safety factors' of 5 or 10 on everything). But if we could just know how to include all the relevant factors (no matter how small) into our equations, and if our models were only accurate enough, and if all relevant conditions could be measured with sufficient precision, we could build those sons-of-bitches with more realistic amounts of concrete and steel, save money on materials and labor, build more of them for the same cost, ... Well, it looks like maybe our equations are NEVER going to be adequate for such a task - and not because of our limitations in measurement and calculation, but because of the very nature of the thing we are trying to model! Talk to Lorenz. Think about the weather! The slightest deviation from our most precise measurements may cause astounding and totally unpredictable changes in our expected results. Will we be looking, in the near future, for a modelling tool to REPACE MATHEMATICS? What a thought! Science has depended on mathematics as its basic tool for 450 years. And look what it's brought us to - Those incredibly beautiful pictures of Mandelbrot sets and Julia sets and bifurcation models, showing little replicas of themselves as we magnify each portion again and again (kind of like the medievalists' 'homunculus' stored in every sperm all the way back to Adam) and these are supposed to represent the REAL world which our linear mathematical models could only approach on a short-term basis. And the wall comes down.
Simon Sparrow preaches with his art the same way he preaches with his tongue - with the fire of the Holy Spirit reaching out to suffering humans. Eugene von Bruenchenhein built his tiny throne of chicken bones (a few steps beyond cracking the wish bone, eh?). Magnifying glasses are handed to visitors at the Brittingham Gallery, so they can read the tiny tiny inscriptions in Norbert Knox's arm-wrestling Christ. Lambs used as missile launchers aimed at a mosque from a church. And the wall comes down.
Mammograms are now available in mobile mammobiles parked outside your job for your shopping convenience. And TV Lenny will GIVE you a $240 VCR if you buy a $790 entertainment center for only $190. I've got several shelves full of notes from decades ago; I cannot part with them - it would be like cutting off fingers. So I try to get them all into the computer, where they take up less space and are more easily found when I want them. And the wall comes down.
Women still complain about the guys who come on to them like they are a piece of meat, call them 'broads' or 'chicks', hustle them into bed with slick talk, and have all the sustainability of a dog turd in the rain on the Beltline during the rush hour. So who do they end up going home with, sharing a drink with, yielding their bodies to, fixing dinner for, shunning the 'nice, sensitive' men they say they want for? right - the guys who come on to them like they are a piece of meat, call them 'broads' or 'chicks', hustle them into bed with slick talk, and have all the sustainability of a dog turd in the rain on the Beltline during the rush hour. And the wall comes down.
Schwehr dropped the kids, teachers, and parents off at the school for a swimming class and waited 2 hours in his school bus. They got in the bus and he drove off, yelling at them over the bus's pa system, swearing, cussing the Indian treaty rights conflict, calling every captive body vile names, threatening to drive them into Lake Monona. Then he turned down the wrong street so he could sustain his tirade before getting them back to their school. The nightmare of every school bus driver, that one day soon he would crack and just dump everything - kids, bus, and all, into the lake. I remember that first day on the job, the afternoon after a blizzard, poised on the top of a Kettle Moraine hill between 2 sheer 12-foot-high walls of drifted snow, ready to plummet down the ice-glazed road with 40 screaming kids behind me endlessly shifting the center of gravity, imagining that big yellow can rolling over and over and over all the way down that hill and into the frozen lake... And the wall comes down.
LSD is back. And those pubescent little shitheads don't know the first thing about how to use it. Of course. Why should they? after a generation of druggies who think that the only purpose of dope is to shoot it up. Coke, crack, and pills spoiled it all for real LSD users! Now they are jumping out of windows again, or rolling in paranoid fantasies of being squashed in a juicer. And the wall comes down.
Just another brick in that wall. Just another link in that chain. It ain't nothin', boy, to make you ill at ease. It's just a little thing, it ain't gonna destroy you; it'll build your character; it'll let you puke with a sense of satisfaction. No man ever became a man without a few bricks to carry and stumble over. (And how do women become women, pa? Well, son, they give the men their bricks to carry 'cause we're the men.) So right shoulder arms and dress right dress, men, all your lives to the grave; there ain't no more manly thing to do you jist do what y' hafta do Pilgrim.
And the wall comes tumbaling down. The inmates swarm out, the outmates swarm in, the ones on top of the wall fall down. The hammers whack off chunks to be sold as $10 Christmas presents for the bored. The oranges and tvs roll across the border and the land rises an inch relieved of the burden. Yes, the wall comes a-tumbalin' down. But look, folks, look - the bricks are still there! The goddam bricks are still there. Just like the Martians machines in 'The War of the Worlds'. We blew them away with our best - the hydrogen bomb dropped point-blank on their nest from a Flying Wing! And when the dust clears, they come out blinking green and red; they're pissed now, because they're using that heat ray again. 'Nothing can stop them! They keep right on coming!' And what was it that joker with the beard said? It would take the Martians only 7 days to conquer the world - 'the same number of days it took to create it', she replied. The wall comes tumbling down, but we haven't burned the bricks.
Yes, it still tickles my cockles remembering the sheer joy on your face when you unwrapped last year's gift - ALL ABOUT COWS. So this year I attempt to maintain that glow by humbly duplicating the effort with . . .
The ALL COWS CALENDAR!
But do not open before Xmas!!!
Suns rose suns dove the blackbird I saw no more the sky roared by in great swirls of purple gold white and bright bright blue the wind kicked my feet with little grains of sand and thru it all the bristlecone pine just sat stoically on its hump not even rattling its twigs.
Then the rain came I knew it came but I did not move I let it come I let it soak me thru to bone. I sank in the puddle that filled around my ass. The world was a water molecule and I just a dust mote floating in it serene for I was in my element in my food in my sustenance safe inside my whole world.
'The rain falls down on Last Year's Man.' I didn't care anymore I was tired of these ghosts infiltrating my world maybe if I ignored this one it would just go away after all, I had to resort to blathering on about my own frustrations in order to get them out before, after yakking with them just seemed to keep them hanging on. 'An hour has gone by and he still has not moved his hand.'
The crazy image shot into my head of my once-best friend hanging on a cross my ex-love-of-my-life girl shaking her Old Glory tattooed tits in the shower my existential buddy's face emerging from behind the gauze cloud that tore symmetrically from the center ripping my crazy dream apart of man pushing baby carriage down psychedelic streets with bombers overhead dropping soundless puffs of destruction. He was sitting with his back to me humming at the window the window in his one wall that was bare his old crummy paint-flaking wall fronted by a brown-painted clinking steam heater the glass was cracked and dirty but the view was 4 in the morning with music on Clinton Street a wine bottle drooping on a lace-covered table a guitar stained red with beaujolais he wasn't wet he was dry as a bird's toenail behind his one bare wall humming like an asshole while I drenched to the point of being dissolved in my water molecule world 'I don't need wine!' I shouted even before his arm completed the motion of swinging that dingy bottle up to me 'I need rest! I need something soft and round to lie down on! I need to be released! I want my last temptation to be my first but after I lay my head down for to sleep and pray god my soul to keep I want all the champagne to squeeze back in the bottle all the light to go back home to the bulb and every sinning underdog soldier in the night to lie in the bosom of Abraham! I want it for me and for the world! but all I see is all my ships burning like paper in the gasoline-soaked ocean all my silver seeds bursting before the peak of their arc and sinking in fireflies of tissue to the sea I see every swastika-embedded heroine tempted by the clarinet every bull-blooded adonis trapped in the cave strangled in golden thread all my blue-eyed angels fired in the clay and I wanna be done I wanna go home and sleep with myself alone in the night before the grinding light of day can drain me of my blood.'
He nodded, still humming like an asshole 'Tell me about it!' He put the bottle carefully on the grimy table picked up the guitar banged out a few way-out-of-tune chords 'I'm tired of the war aint gonna fight no more take my suitcase in my hand drive my Ford to the broken land fill my promises up with hate suck it up on a million dollar plate get high!' Hum hum hum de dum hum yeh
he bangs an open chord and stops it with his palm cackles like a crone reaches for the bottle sucks up a mouthful swishes it between his teeth swallows with a metallic grimace 'you paid me all your quar-ters' bang C-chord 'you sang me all your' F-chord 'diiimes your' C-chord 'sixteen ca-rat' E-minor ripple 'Hsih Tzu' F 'saddled with your' B-minor sustained 'criiimes'
A blue raincoat walks by.
'I axed him you know.'
My eyes burned. I wanted always to write like that to scour up from the bowels of my soul the undigested raw guts of my prey I wanted to play it to chords and cast it like pearls in the swineyard I wanted to cut my fingers to the bleeding bone on those steel strings make all the world puke in wonder make all the world go mad in three-four time lynch me lynch me make me pay for my crimes
God was merciful in his harsh test of Abraham but I -- I slaughtered Isaac you know I set him on fire at the top of the hill I sent out for some pillars and Cecill B. DeMille he died happily ever after. God you know is not quite the creature you think him to be he's full of surprises and all we can ever say is God! it's interesting! Now Joan of Arc too was bent on slaughter she set herself on fire God never set himself on fire it was always somebody else to burn he only sometimes lifted the torch just as it was about to singe the wings of the fly and then you see the fly falls down on all six knees and praises this creature who saved him from the blast so who needs his hell I sing about the hells we make. My hell is much more interesting.
I wasn't ready for this I wanted to strangle him but he was right if only he could wait till the right time to tell me all this
The skinny guy came up suddenly like he just opened a door and walked in only there weren't no door there just the dunes and the bristlecone pine and the rain and the asshole humming and poesying in his walls that were bare but he just strolled in, with a slight limp as though favoring a pain in his back 'This guy' came through his nose 'man, he's known hell all right but what the hell is it? What kind-a hell is it, that's got no pain? This guy enJOYS his hell because he created it on his own with no help from nobody and, buddy, nobody's lonesome for him! He's just another honky-tonkin' buddha walkin' across water to get to the pisser. Leonard' he turned to face him now 'you don't hafta go so far to take a piss! You jist open up your fly an' let go you dimwit! Now you wanta talk about yer hell you don't jist piss it out you live in it you ache in it you grab up about all the courage you kin ever hope t' get and you jist l-e-t i-t r-o-l-l!'
Leonard just sat there with that shit-not-me grin swigging from his grimy bottle I couldn't see that it was anywhere near being used up yet and he hummed a little and he diddled a little on the guitar strings and he cocked his head one way as though catching some angel words and then another to catch some devil words and he never once looked up at the skinny guy but finally he just said 'Hank, you're damn right and I have to apologize for Nancy so long ago she just made a fool of herself when she shot herself you know that kind of thing gives a bad name to all poets like me because we're damned if we do it and damned if we say it and damned if we just look cock-eyed at it and all my farts in a bottle are just so many gallons of - well, farts and who's gonna buy that but you'd be surprised '
'Hey, no I wouldn't I wouldn't be surprised at all '
'All right you'd be stand-offish but Luke, man, Luke was a fart in a bottle '
I sat in my mud puddle listening to these farts blowing in the wind half singing half talking in my coma 'Far away on a hill to the sunny mountainside many years ago we parted my little Ruth and I to the suuunny mountainside'
Well, you've done it again! Another PAC feels the golden Levenson touch. I can tell all my friends that I knew this guy way back when he was just a chaplain's assistant in 'Chuca. Of course I knew his potential back then; he published my poetry, didn't he? (Remember that big ole oak tree I drew for your mag? That was a CHRISTIAN tree! Fooled you, didn't I. ... No, I don't think I did. ...)
I haven't opened the camshaft yet. I figured it was a Xmas gift, so I want to be surprised on 12/25.
We assume that the physical equations we develop are smooth - that they describe smooth transitions between states. The equations may well act that way, but the physical system they are modelling may not. That is, the system may seem to follow the model quite well, so we assume the equations pretty well describe the system. But what we miss, is the occasional measurement that doesn't fit; and then we usually discard it as being in error (though we have no proof of that), or a misjudgement (ditto), or due to the system being perturbed in an unusual (and inconsequential) way.
But what happens when we really examine those 'anomalies'? What happens when we look at them in non-standard ways and try to make sense of them, instead of passing them off as trivial deviations? Why, we build a time machine, of course (or something equally 'impossible' and fantastic).
Let me explain. Two subatomic particles are created in a collision, each identical except that they have opposite 'spin'. As these particles fly off through space, they get farther apart. After several billion years, they are close to being at opposite ends of the universe. Now, quantum theory says that we cannot know a particle's position and spin at the same time - that measuring one leaves the other in a state of probability, not certainty. So we have 2 particles, which we know have opposite spin, at opposite ends of the universe. If we can measure the spin of one of them, then we know the spin of the other. But, since the spin is in a state of unknowability until we measure it, then by measuring one particle's spin we have caused the other particle (clear across the universe) to settle into a known state of spin. We have violated a principle of relativity!
Now, what if we approach this problem, not from the viewpoint of 2 particles extremely far apart, but from the viewpoint of the measurement itself. What is happening when we measure the first particle's spin? If you plot the 'knowability' of the particle's spin versus the closeness with thich you are measuring it (your instrument getting closer as time passes), you will find that a singularity occurs (and it is, apparently, sudden, not an extension of the gradation of measurement) precisely at the point at which 'knowability' becomes 100% (or as close as our physical devices can come to it). And this singularity precisely concides with that singularity in space-time that causes space to be 'wrinkled' and crunched like crepe paper along the time axis. The second particle, which is still immensely far away in pure distance terms, is now only a stone's throw away across the wrinkles in space. The measurement caused space to wrinkle up so that the spins of both particles become established by the one measurement. When the measurement is finished, space unwrinkles and the particles once again have the immense vastness of space between them - a subatomic tryst succumbing to a momentary passion and forever after wondering what that ship was that passed in the short short night.
So, how to build a time machine? Simple! Cause space to be wrinkled in the time axis. Then, any portion of the universe you want is just an eyeblink away.
Probably a similar thing could be done to explain dreams - or even order them up to your taste!
Oh, I want you I want you I want you
On a chair with a dead magazine,
In the cave at the tip of the lily,
In some hallway where love's never been,
On a bed where the moon has been sweating,
In a cry filled with footsteps and with sand.
Take this waltz,
Its broken waste in your hand.
This waltz this waltz this waltz, this waltz,
With its very own breath of brandy and death,
Dragging its tail in the sea.
-- Leonard Cohen.
Best, of course,
- Lone Coyote Calls