Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘James Joyce’

On Christmas night at the early hour of 6PM, I slipped into bed, sipped from my well-steeped cup of cannabis tea and opened my computer. My thought was to make some sort of plan for the remaining six days of the year. Not so much a to-do list as a muddle-about-file which I could, now and then, dip into without too much difficulty in order to pass the time while waiting for this arbitrary section of my life to dribble on to the next.

The first thing to pass through my mind was Joyce’s opening line to Ulysses: “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.”

Stately Plump Buck Mulligan

I haven’t the slightest idea why it did. Except perhaps, to encourage me to contemplate why I would consider ending the year pondering the opening line of Ulysses. Perhaps, having not yet consumed enough tea made such reflection worthwhile. Maybe, my subconscious was attempting to jump-start the evening’s descent into irrelevancy.

The second item to suggest itself as a subject worth ruminating on was the first thing I read on my computer after opening it. Under a heading entitled notable events on history on this day, I read: “1194 Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, King of the Romans [Germany], Sicily and Jerusalem, born in Lesi, Italy.”

That was something I felt was of little more consequence. Or, at least, I generally considered that someone who in his time was referred to as “Stupor Mundi” (Wonder of the World) was someone of greater consequence than “stately plump Buck Mulligan” and his shaving utensils — Then again perhaps not. Fredrick later in life was also referred to as “The Anti-Christ.” Nevertheless, I still felt, someone who held suzerainty over most of Medieval Europe, was of more consequence than a fictional med-student with flamboyant grooming habits — Then again, perhaps not.


Nicholas II — Stupor Mundi

“Stupor Mundi” was clearly not fictional, although his adventures and the stories about him rival that of any character inhabiting the world of fiction. As to why I would consider intentionally including the contemplation of one or the other or both into my remaining six day’s of 2018, I have no idea. Perhaps it is because it is a mystery requiring a solution and that always pleases one’s consciousness. Perhaps it does not. Maybe it just has something to do with the cannabis. Take chess, for example, it has always appealed to me as a worthwhile way to cut two or three hours from one’s life. On the other hand, cocaine, cannabis and a host of other things, I think would do so as well, without requiring your consciousness to leap from the chair in which it had been dozing and actually exert itself entertaining you.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Most of my life I feared my tendency to become addicted to certain obsessive behaviors. That is why, for example, I rarely kept liquor or dope in my house although I freely indulged in them outside. For the most part whenever I would recognize (and recognition is the key since, like most people, my first defense was usually denial) the addiction I would quit. For example, when I was in my early teens chess obsessed me (I was not particularly good at it but I was addicted none the less). I would play day and night. When I recognized the nature of my behavior, in panic I quit. Since then I only play now and then when social circumstances made refusal difficult. Perhaps that is one reason I tend to quit jobs and relationships as often as I do (the obsessive tendencies, not the chess).

One passion that I never really quit is reading. During my most recent bout of mania, I read about six or so hours a day. What’s worse is that I am not even comfortable or relaxed while reading. It would be nice if I had, say, a recliner to lie in where after a few moments I could fall into asleep and drool. Instead, I sit at the edge of my bed or on an uncomfortable kitchen chair engrossed with whatever trashy novel I may be reading. LM, whenever she comes to cook or clean, finds it bizarre to see me sitting rigid and unmoving for four hours or so at a time.

It surprised me then when, following weeks of worry that I was sinking into addiction, I found an author whose books for some reason satisfied me enough to halt my frenetic reading and to wait for his next effort .

By no means can this author be considered great or even semi-great. He is simply someone who writes a fairly interesting story with an easy style and has a mind like a junk yard. I like that a lot. I love authors that can comfortably integrate those bits and pieces of things found in his own mental junkyard into his tale.

James Joyce in 1888 at age six. Possibly in Br...

James Joyce in 1888 at age six. Possibly in Bray, a seaside resort south of Dublin. The Joyces lived there from 1887 to 1892. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perhaps that is why I always liked James Joyce despite his so-called “difficulty.” I always thought he was more boring than difficult. I enjoyed how he would pull things in from almost everywhere in literature, hide it within his story and challenge you to find it. Now, why he would hide things like that I never really understood. If someone found a carburetor from a 1956 Mercury in his junk yard, why would he hide it or call it something else unless he was trying to trick or play a joke on someone. I know Joyce is said to have once commented that if something took him 10 years or so to write he would want the reader to spend the same amount of time trying to understand it. How’s that for self-indulgent bullshit? I suspect Joyce was a bit of a poseur.

English: James Joyce Tower and Museum and near...

English: James Joyce Tower and Museum and nearby other buildings in Sandycove, Dublin, Ireland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He must have felt quite insecure walking by the Martello Tower along the Strand with its grey water and overcast sky (The sun does not shine very often in Dublin, the Strand is the pits and the tower an unimposing dump). I have a feeling it was not just the lack of sunshine and the dull grey colors of the landscape that set him to brooding. I think he was depressed because he knew that in just about every pub within a mile or so from where he was walking there would be several people dead drunk with their heads down on a table, an empty glass of Guinness or half and half beside him who, upon being shaken awake, could rattle off at least a dozen or more stories and tales far more interesting, poetic and inventive than Joyce could ever dream of.

Read Full Post »

My approach to traveling is somewhat like my approach to life; it is not arriving at your destination that is important but what happened along the way.

For example, assume that I depart from San Francisco intending to

A Ignudo, Sistine Chapel

A Ignudo, Sistine Chapel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

travel to, say Rome to visit the Vatican and see the Sistine Chapel. If that is what I efficiently did and returned home equally efficiently, I for one would be unsatisfied indeed.

If on the other hand I were to depart on that same voyage and along the way be diverted by circumstances outside of my control or through my stupidity and thereby facing perhaps danger, or passion, beauty or tedium and return home without ever getting to see Michelangelo’s frescos (the chapel would probably be closed anyway, for repairs or for some obscure holiday), I would consider my trip a success.

I guess, one could consider it something like Buddhism, but from somewhat the opposite viewpoint. Where Buddhism urges one to withdraw from perception’s unreality, Papa Joe suggests you revel in it.

When I look back into my own life, anytime I single-mindedly pursued a goal and overcame many obstacles to achieve it, I almost always came away dissatisfied, became depressed and soon decided to spend my time doing something else. On the other hand whenever I was diverted from my path, or failed to achieve my goal or found myself hopelessly lost, I often was overjoyed. Why? Because there was so much experience, so much pathos and so much joy, and, oh the stories…

Yes, of course there were things that to this day I wish never happened, but they did and the exquisite, if odious, memories of the experience accompanies me like tattoos on the skins of generation Xers.

For those males of a certain age, some of you may recall that time when you were a kid and in you imagination played the announcer of your life. “The great slugger stands at the plate. Here comes the pitch. He swings. He misses….” Or, “Here is the world famous runner running through the woods. Will he break the record? Oh no! He trips. He falls. Will he be able to get up, finish the race and break the record? Stay tuned.”

Well, I still do that. “Here is the aging hero walking along the side of the road recalling past loves, triumphs and failures. Out of the corner of his eye he spies a small yellow flower, stops and contemplates its beauty for a moment and then walks on, crosses the street, the freshly painted striping glowing so whitely in the sun it hurts his eyes. Suddenly he remembers he forgot to buy that bottle of milk. Should he return to the store or proceed on toward home? He stands there at the edge of the road, like the brave Ulysses on the beach contemplating whether to return home to the aging but loyal Penelope or spend another night in the arms of the beautiful Calypso?”

Speaking of Ulysses, Homer’s account is not quite how it happened. It actually occurred something like this:

One night the short, bandy-legged, scraggly bearded young man named Ulysses, who lived in a subdivision on a small island in the Adriatic, left the home on a cull-de-sac he shared with his wife, young son, various hangers-on, and a pack of dogs, telling everyone he was going to the store to buy a carton of milk, or an amphora of wine or new sandals or whatever. Now twenty years later he stood on the corner of the block down from his old home, broke, hungry and older. He contemplated the excuses he would have to tell his wife explaining his long absence. He concocted stories about ships and strange wars, jealous gods, wooden horses, one-eyed monsters and to cover up the long periods of time he spent living with a succession of comely young women, he fell back on the tried and true excuse of philandering husbands of the time, bewitchment.

On the other hand, the also aging but still zaftig and supposedly loyal Penelope wanted no part of the smelly midget bastard’s return. She had happily spent the past 20 years screwing the Mexican pool boy and every young stud in town. The assholes return would only mean she would have to give up the good life and return to working on that Goddamn loom. Besides, she needed an excuse of her own to explain why for the last 20 years the same old piece of cloth hung on that machine with no further work done on it since he left. She told all her boyfriends that she would choose one of them to settle down with when she finished weaving the cloth. They were so stupefied with the thought of getting into her toga whenever she lifted it for them they forgot all about the status of that rotting rag.

She believed however, that she would need something better to convince the crafty asshole of her unbelievable 20 years of fidelity. She decided to elaborate on the story and planned to tell her returning husband, if unfortunately he should ever return. She would tell him that she weaved at the loom all day and every night she tore out what she had done during the day. If the simple and unbelievable story had worked on her lovers why wouldn’t this expanded version work on that scheming lying bastard Ulysses?

Nevertheless, she still was surprised when the testosterone poisoned dwarf suddenly and unexpectedly showed up at her door and started killing all of her boyfriends and the Mexican pool boy as well.

Sadly, Penelope was forced back to working all day at the goddamn loom and at night diddling herself while the drunken scumbag lay snoring among his dogs after buggering some prepubescent boy-chick.

As Holden Caulfield would say, “Crummy.”

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: