Painting becomes repugnant sometimes so I pull back guiltily, socialize, take to the roads. I seek out those I love, I look about, play guitar like a ne’r do well. I clean up the hard drives, ditch redundant files. There’s a cafe I like in a little city down the highway. There I can catch up on all the stories, see in the flesh the faces I’ve tracked a long time only on Facebook. The cafe has history, character, over the past twenty years I’ve been a little part of the ebb and flow there.

I live in my hometown and in the last years it has given itself over to box stores, chain stores, restaurants you can find anywhere and it has spread itself over its own outskirts so that massive parking lots can be accommodated on cheap pastureland outside the old town. You can’t walk anywhere. In off seasons the merchandising counselors  in the auto supply store have to go out and shift their cars around so people driving by on the highway think the place is busy. Really. In summer, family units crawl all over the place, tugging on one another’s arms and poking at bargain goods, cottage necessities.  They mill around at little concerts and amusements in the newly contrived park, entertainments carefully bland so as to offend no one, but not amusing anyone very much either.You can say you’ve been there, that you’ve done things on your holiday, that it wasn’t so bad.  Top forty hits from the last forty years play in all the shops reassuringly. Tis the good life.

Everything in the town is geared to extracting money from the summer hordes and everyone visiting looks a little weary, badgered, suspicious. There really isn’t a place to sit at a table and linger watching and there’s  no one to watch with anything but evolutionary disdain. You watch people walk around pretending the financial crisis, the war, whatever, hasn’t effected them personally. They try to live up to the brochures. I confess I like the bald headed utilitarianism of the place, the bear faced scorn for anything not deemed as family viewing. The jingoism amuses. I live an an old neighborhood connected to no main highway and much as it ever was, not even a corner store alight at night. Unrejuvenated. I’m not crazy about being there, but it is safely familiar. I tread the paths of my childhood, skirt the thorny rosebush as ever to reach my door. I can’t complain. I paint there.

I have a couple of close friends with whom I plan a complicated but cheap tropic retreat. Gauguin on a shoestring. Outa here, piss off, g’bye. Shove it all sideways. Heard myself saying the other night and stepping out the door “I’d rather die in Jamaican Ghetto hard and fast under a machete blade than rot bickering with CBC radio or agreeing about the issue of the human right to be peanut free in school.”

I have a friend I sleep beside sometimes in the country.  I feel a kiss on my shoulder in sleep now and then. Both of us so open and so guarded. Furtive and blatant. Restless and blessed. Balanced I guess. How you distance yourself before you part and how you get the bends moving from your world to that touch. I have small areas of kind abandonment. There’s a man tends bar in second life some nights I’d like to rest my head on his knees sometime if real time allowed. Things you won’t find on your global positioning device, won’t find in an advertising tableau.

If you keep your ear to the ground and mind your p’s and q’s, you can find people. You have to be nice to everyone. You have to support the troops, as the banners proclaim, and understand you’re not supporting them by suggesting they were sent into war by misbegotten morons, that they’re just being used. Not that. You listen to a lot of stuff people just pick up on the radio, reiterated blather, they’re eager to fit in. Hardly ever do you hear anything fresh or new. It’s either top forty or government funded. Chat shows to the right and left of the political scale so everybody knows what attitude to strike at lunch in the game of balancing opinions that passes for dialogue.

Summer. The green eruption of it from the ice. I had a dream last night I went down in a well and up some stairs, back in time as I did so, climbed up into the original canopy forest up home.  It’s pretty lush here in suburbia though, the Shirley poppies bolt upright. Feels like Louisiana on the tree-lined backstreets, a little rain, every day. Smell of crack whiffing out of a black window downtown the other night, smell of lamb out of the next. Monitor lights. Christmas lights. I walked till dawn, down through the industrial section… a few plastic lawn chairs wonkily arranged in an out door smoking alley for workers, brick walls. Just a few people working the night shift, hardly worth lighting the place, felt like. Good studio place for a disillusioned German artist with a glue gun to hole up and work out the angst of a generation. Right now the architecture’s still devoted to juice drink packets. What makes more sense? You tell me baby.

Photo 228

6 Responses to “The Terrible Sea”

  1. Such eloquently stated and well-articulated cynicism, it’s hard to fault your logic but impossible to cheer the determination of so much seeming pessimism. When you speak of entering the well, is it like tumbling down the rabbit-hole, or stepping through the looking-glass – or, is it more like delving into one of Escher’s insanely wrought pieces, those that explore his own mind with details unparalleled by any lessor mortals daring. All these thoughts and more flit through my mind upon reading your latest treatise and I find myself tiring easily and wanting to crawl into the nearest hole, pull my life in after, give up straddling the abyss – at least for a time – and settle for that for now. Or not.S.E.Ingraham said this on July 30, 2009 at 11:00 pmReply (edit)
    • funny thing is I’m happy as a clam these days, sharon- on a pie chart, this block would be a sixth part… but a part of the round. There’s always been that part though, muttering away, and I take notes when I like the weight and conviction, motivation, tone, of the muttering. Jigsaw pieces is what the notes most resemble, and I piece them together over time. Mostly in the morning…six o one now. Or very late at night. Its alone stuff…”I know these battles… deep in the dark when the spooks of memory rattle” a song goes sort of.Long time ago I wrote a poem about a midway that turned during revision into a novel I hope to work on again this next fall, and the voice that writes this stuff here also writes that narrative, and the painting illustrates that narrative. That’s about as close as I get to defining or explaining what I do ‘artistically’ , explain to myself, let alone to you, and I only do so because you understand such things. Thank you for that too.We do a bit of dancing and wilding, running the dirt roads up here, my friends and I, and the character who writes this stuff here likes that kind of thing… he does the dancing so he isn’t without joy. We have excellent djs. I’m too old for this kind of thing but I have a few years left of it if I keep working out… theres that kind of running rampant and indulgent wild because it is good, and life is short ahead and totally worth the pleasures if you just have the nerve to meet the obligation to enjoy it. Grief running under it all. Twist of sharp hope in the chest for a younger lover’s life after I’ll be gone. I’m totally lucky.

      about the well-dream… I don’t often remember sleep’s dreams any more but I lucid dream sometimes before sleep… I have a sort of counntryside I roam in, familiar, places to go, people to see. This dream was odd because it took place in an “actual” place, near here, on a farm where I used to play with other wilders, long time ago. I knew the well because we used to perch around it… it was in a granite grotto of sorts… but now it was empty and I just climbed quickly down a ladder into it, easily, and back up some stairs I found, cut in the rock, and back in time to what preceded lumbering. Very matter of fact. I met someone there, things happened, some of it confounding, but I have a sort of dream interpreter, Tommy the punk drummer, and he clarified the thing with a snap of his fingers next time I got into the city.

      its silly stuff all this, come the revolution I’ll be the first to be shot, and it looks pretty dumb on a grant proposal, but nevertheless that’s how it goes. Send me some poetry or links to it please. Bill got good word on all his tests today so things will be better there. Caro and the kids go camping sometime in August. Will you be passing through this summer? Nights are lovely on old hunter street in the summer. Be nice to hang around. later. rock.

      redneckarts said this on August 6, 2009 at 10:41 amReply (edit)

  2. Thursday August 6.2009In my inbox a link to Rock’s Terrible Sea continuation – I go there and am swept up in a fantasy of youth and wilding, lovers and punk drummers named Tommy who are also snap dream-interpreters. Irrationally, I wish for my own well to fall down. Dancing and wilding reminds me a little of the Psych ward but in a good way…At first wilding hits me like a punch in the gut – took me back to Central Park’s wilding when it was a term coined for those punks that swarmed that woman; used, abused and left her for dead. Sho’ nuff like the blacks, Rock reclaims the word and it has its pure meaning back, at least for me, and my blood runs all crazed and I remember, at heart, I have always been a wilder too.

    So hey, Rock – that’s the abstract of it – this is the reality.

    I am trying to distract myself as I contemplate becoming a grandmother later today. There is a surrealism to this event beyond my ken, as I am known for saying, too often. How can it be possible that I not only know the date and hour when Jack will put in his appearance but have seen his videos while he cavorts in utero? Involuntarily have fallen in love with this being not yet born – you gotta love a kid that opens his eyes and tries to focus through the amniotic sac – and, stays perfectly still when his Dad puts on schlock (read any music his mother and I aren’t fond of) but gets down, as soon as she puts her ear-buds on her abdomen and lets fly with James Brown, Ben Folds or Imogene Heap, say…ahahaha.

    I appreciate your attempts to explain your artistic self and especially your happiness quotient vis-a-vis the pie chart analogy, although, I must confess, the happy as a clam reference has always puzzled me, most clams I’ve met seem inordinately down
    in the mouth…
    I am thrilled to realize I misinterpreted your pessimism tho’ that was, as the young say, my bad.

    As for explaining artistry, there is no explaining it, I don’t believe.

    As I grow steadily older, I realize that what pleases me artistically is very personal and that’s going to have to be okay. If it happens that it sells or is posted somewhere and ends up being appreciated by others, then my art or whatever has connected with others and that’s rewarding, there’s no getting away from it. I guess for most artists, or many of them (us) – being able to express some facet of the human condition or connect in some way, is one of the reasons we do what we do. It takes some of us – me for sure – a long time to realize that it can’t be the only, and certainly not, the main, reason for doing it. There is no denying, however, the real satisfaction that comes from writing something that you learn has moved someone to tears or laughter…so there you go.

    There is little chance I will get back east this summer which grieves me. A tiny chance if we go back to sell my father-in-law’s house (he’s living with one of my husband’s sisters now and the house is just sitting empty in Toronto…) – but the love of my life may go on his own.

    Our daughter is having our grandson by caesarean section so will need a lot of help with Jack (he already weighs well over 9 pounds and she’s not at term!)so even if Terry goes back east, I may be grand- mothering here – I’m not complaining, just wishing I could clone myself sometimes.

    You mentioned something about Bill and tests? Has there been anything to worry about or is this just routine? Or am I putting you on the spot? I haven’t talked to Caro for some time and should really get on the blower. It’s funny how seldom we are in touch and yet I feel like she is one of my dearest friends.

    As are you sweet man – and in many ways I hardly know you…

    FYI – two of my more sentimental poems are archived on If I remember, I’ll try to send you something a little meatier when I think of it.

    Take good care. Wild on.


    S.E.Ingraham said this on August 6, 2009 at 5:18 pmReply (edit)

  3. This is for Sharon and Rock both
    The tests were my 4 1/2 years cancer free as well as a stress test as a follow up to angioplasty surgery in early June from a couple of mild heart attacks,just to get you up to speed, Sharon.
    As for the back and forth above, it’s good to see this exchange between the two of you as it’s familiar from my own conversations with Rocky and from those who’ve overheard some of the chats we’ve had and also taken the observations we discuss as pessimism.
    I think we, as a society, have been conditioned to think that anything that isn’t instantly recognisable as “positive”/life enhancing to be pessimistic, with the negative conotations the term implies. What’s been forgotten is the quality of skepticism, which is the questioning of everything in life as opposed to the blind acceptance of what any/everybody offers as opinion or fact either privately or publicly, and it is, to me, precisely this quality that is necessary to even attempt to make sense of the condition known as life let alone art. The lack of will to challenge orthodoxy is what leads to developments such as the box stores that have invaded Rock’s hometown (and yours and mine) because people have become passive observers of their fate in life rather than active participants. The act of sheer will required for avoiding the entrapment of conformity becomes too onerous for most folks, understandably, but for the artist it is necessary to stand apart from the confines of accepted wisdom without straying so far as to be unintelligle to any but oneself. Because as Sharon said, part of the reason we make art is as a form of communication with others. It’s not the only reason, to be sure, but it’s one of ‘em.
    I think that’s also why we tend to like the wilding — taps us into a more unmediated state of being, reminds us that we’re still animals even though we pretend to be always civilised, gives us a connection with the rawness of life in physically and psychologically undiluted form. And what is art about if not taking the raw materials of our surroundings and giving them significant form ?

    Bill Batten said this on August 7, 2009 at 2:13 pmReply (edit)

  4. Thanks for this. Love you both.redneckarts said this on August 8, 2009 at 1:06 amReply (edit)
  5. And months later I am back here re-reading this and thinking what an insightful reply this was Bill, wondering how you’re doing; have been thinking about all of you lately. Caro and the girls sent the baby some very cool things…guess that got me thinking about the whole Eastern contingent…S.E.Ingraham said this on December 6, 2009 at 5:48 amReply (edit)

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