Obama, Facebook Loons and a Daydream

Argot de Molina, by Mark Ari

There was a lot of reaction on Facebook to my expression of a personal conviction that President Barak Obama is by far the best choice to lead our country for the next few years.  There was a lot of support.  Some respectful dissent which I, in turn, respect.  And some pretty crazy shit.  Selected or twisted so-called “facts,” that are often nothing like facts.  Weird constructs developed to make the world fit into a peculiar mindset. 

I don’t take them down, those comments.  Mostly I don’t, and I struggle a little with that.  After all, it’s my wall.  Not a radio talk show.  Not a street corner.  I’ve no obligation to give others a place to vent whatever it takes for them to meet some private need in whatever yap and banter suits them.  They can write on their own walls.  They can find an audience for themselves.  Surely, there is one out there. There is always that. Or they can talk to themselves, if they don’t already.

Do they think they are being read by others as they read themselves, or do they suspect that’s not the case, rationalizing it away with the notion they have some greater brainpower or vision beyond all those otherwise intelligent, educated, well-intentioned folk who cannot grasp or handle “the truth” because of some terrible infirmity of blindness? What magic of cognitive dissonance is this? Do they imagine the rest are the ones chained to the wall of Plato’s cave, and not themselves? What terrible pressure is it to own the last period after everyone has gone away, shaking their heads.

I leave those comments up as illustrations.  They make an argument, though not any intended one.  I think it’s good to see it.  It represents something real and powerful that can be pretty easily discerned.  No further commentary needed.

So, fuck a duck.  I’m feeling good.  Optimistic.  Even if I’m the only person on the planet feeling that way for the moment.  Rare enough these last years. I’m not going to squander it. I’ve been daydreaming.  Almost all day—and O, man, how I love to daydream.  I was once known for it.  Internationally.

Today, in my dream, 20 or 30 or 40 other folks and I are marching through the streets, just like we did in Seville back in the day, as they say.  Guitars, flutes, and tambourines, cardboard boxes and cowbells, metal pails and plastic ones and broom handles—anything a person can carry to pluck or blow on or pound against something hard.  Singing.  We’re singing.  Palms slap flamenco rhythms, bottles of tinto passing, great hashish clouds swirl with our toned breaths.  Only it’s the streets of Jacksonville instead of La Alameda.  And we’re heading for the polling stations.  That’s right, baby.  And it’s Cheryl Wheeler’s  “Your God” we’re bellowing to brick face and allyway and one another, laughing as we go.

Remembering Bruno Schulz

ON November 18th, we remembered Bruno Schulz, the writer and artist murdered by a Gestapo officer on November 19, 1942.

The Program

1. Intro. (Mark Ari)
2. “Who is Bruno Schulz” (written and directed by Robby McChargue; Performed by Robbie McChargue, Chris Williams and Chris Valade)
3. Historical Perspective (Dr. Charles Closmann)
4. Painting unveiled (Kristen Knapp)
5. Reading 2 (Mark Ari)
6. Butoh Dance (Created and performed by Ashton DeVito)
7. Reading 3 (Mark Ari)

Remembering Bruno Schulz from UNF Videos on Vimeo.

Ten Years After

In 2001, The Ari Files was a weekly column I’d kept for several years.  When 9/11 happened, my son, Noah, was going on three. Kezia, my daughter, had just turned one.  Jan and I were in a tough spot financially, so I picked up some classes at the University of North Florida.  I was on my way to teach what was my first fiction workshop there when I saw folks gathered in front of a TV screen in the public area of the building where the class was held.  Through the spaces between shoulders and heads,  I watched a clip of a plane smashing into the towers. A part of me didn’t believe it was real.  Another part instantly knew it was.  My brain couldn’t buy it.  But all the flesh and blood–it was like falling through myself.  Just falling. And I didn’t know I was crying until I heard the sound of it.

I know I musthave gone to the classroom, but that’s all blank now.  I don’t know what I said, what I did.

That night, I took down The Ari Files. I’d wanted to write something, but couldn’t.  So I just took it down.  And it stayed down for nearly two weeks. The following is from September 23, 2001.


Words and One Eye Open

Some folks have written me to ask why The Ari Files has gone dark.  I’ve thinking of two, a couple of pals–a Canadian and a Staten Islander–who thought I shouldn’t just clam up, that I should write something about what I’m feeling.

The Canadian had lived for some years in New York City, long enough to become part of a neighborhood.  That’s how you become a New Yorker.  That’s how she gets under your skin.   Once you’ve got a neighborhood, you’ve got the whole town, and you take her with you for the rest of your life.

New York makes you a part of her.  The timing, the tension, rubbing bellies in narrow green grocer aisles; breaths shared, mouth to mouth, over meek distances in crowded trains and elevators and laundromats; the confluence of streams of humanity bunching up on street corners and sliding, headlong, up and down sidewalks in human eddies; words spoken or left in the bubbling stir of thoughts behind blinking eyes; all the living and some presumed dead languages of humanity escaping from tongues and through ears to cling to the sides of buildings and on window glass, making dunes in the panes; words mixed with carbonic soot and just as black.  Black.  The color of the deep and distance and the unknown.  The color of poets in leather jackets or cotton Ts.  The black of boots and berets and moons beneath tired eyes and asphalt.  The black of Homburgs in Williamsburg and Borough Park.  The Lower Eastside black of fishnet stockings and hip tight skirts and dyed hair and painted lips and fingers and toes.  Ebony Jazz.   The black beard of dockside Romeo dropping fishhooks into the inky Narrows.  The glossed lampblack empty nucleus of an open eye through which everything may enter and beyond which everything is revealed, including the wonder of ultimate unknowability. This black pools in the pores of your skin.  You carry it with you.  It gets into your blood.  It stripes your soul with a brush dipped into a concentrate of richly mixed humanity.

My Canadian friend took the terror planes in his belly.  Just like the rest of us.  The Staten Islander lost a dozen of his people.  Oh God.  The scent of dear flesh blown from bones onto the air in fire and chemical smoke. Screams and tears rush into the hollows of charred periosteum.   Eardrums shatter.  Silence, desperate leaps.  There is no air left in the world.

Everyone is missing now.  Everyone.   What words could there possibly be?

We need time.  To catch our breaths after a blow to the windpipe.  To let cohesion return to the mind.  To let sadness have sway. To squeeze rage out of our rag hearts and let it drain into gutters.  To bury our dead.

What can I say?  Watch your back.  All this sadness and rage: we’re going to be crazy from it for a while.  You’ll have to sleep lightly now.   And keep an eye on that guy over there wrapped in a flag.   I think he’s looking for trouble.  Better keep one eye open at all costs.  For safety’s sake. I’m talking about the neighborhood here.