Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Once Upon A Time

A Meditation On Seeds

Kurt Vonnegut a favorite author of mine once used the invented word “karass” in his novel “Cat’s Cradle” to describe a group of people linked in a cosmically significant manner, even when superficial linkages are not evident and with some amount of dry humor applied to this theory I often wonder both looking back and in the present tense if myself as a writer of this blog and it’s readers have shared a certain “karass” as much as I consider the readers of this blog as acquaintances I have never met. Some I know better than others. Perhaps this is more evident in the friendships that develop in our lives over time. A long time reader of this blog asked me within the confines of an e-mail why I did not insert more of myself as a person into the content, which I thought I had done by the act of writing it whereas he was asking about myself as a person.

And so with having this “karass” term stuck in my head lately I thought an exception was due and this post resulted as I am writing it for the sake of ( as always) entertaining myself and hopefully in doing so, entertain others as a recess from other more pertinent realities. I think of this term of karass as revealing to oneself as to the friends one finds in life, accidentally or otherwise says more about ourselves than we could summon as a self description.

1957 was the year of the Civil War Centennial and on the playground between lessons, the boys reenacted that conflagration armed with their imaginations as well as the marketed toys intended to foster this role playing. A Johnny Reb cannon that shot plastic cannonballs was one I recall amongst other props such as hats, swords and rifles to name a few. On the playground you were either in the Grey or Blue camp andmock battalions, generals and foot soldiers raced from one end of the playground to the other. I was in the Grey camp not having a clue what the Confederacy stood for, and my choice was driven by a tv show called “The Grey Ghost” whom I thought was cool. Yah! We would charge back and forth and kids would pretend to die. Any kid who did not participate was fodder for recruitment and this is when I first encountered Ed.
In the heat of these “battles” I ran up to Ed and asked “What side are you on!?”
Ed smirked and non plussed and calmly said “I am a conscientious objector.”

After the thrall of battle wore off, Keith and myself would wander around the playground and played a role of disinterested observers commenting on this or that. Keith like myself were round pegs to the square holes of childhood, Whether it was winter or summer, he wore a tattered brown parka, white tee shirt and baggy pants and when something interesting caught his eye, he would pantomime using a hand ranked cinema camera as if he were capturing all on film. Perhaps not surprisingly Keith became a homicide detective and subsequently died of a heart attack or so I heard.

In fourth grade I encountered Ed once again when our class was summoned to the lunch room where all the tables had been put away. We were told that Ed was directing a Shakespeare play.
I could not make heads or tales of the plot or what the dialog meant and swords were brandished, speeches given and costumes made out of sheets were all a part of this extravaganza. A school day anomaly if you will.

At the same time having discovered reading I became a readaholic, having become immersed in poetry, dictionaries, encyclopedias..all of this new world dazzled me, more so than than even drawing which I had always obsessively produced as a sort of personality quirk. There must be twenty or so old photographs of me here or there always at a card table or a “tv table” scrawling away at making reproductions of this or that in my own crude way. This came to a tipping point when a teacher put a note in my report card and on my way home I opened it as I suspected it was some unimaginable kind of bad news. The note suggested to my parents that I be enrolled in an art school, although as I was told by them this expense could not be afforded.

It was then in fifth grade our class was assigned to split up into teams and write an illustrated story and Ed and I were selected to be one of the teams and I soon discovered that Poe was a shared taste and we set off to write the most macabre story we could summon between us.
I soon discovered Ed was a fellow “artist” and we soon began going over to his house to collaborate on our horrific project with glee.

This project soon evolved into nearly weekly cartooning sessions where we would each work on a strip and then reveal each others work with the suitable goofy voices and theatrics that accompanied the characters. His main protagonist was Uncle Snort, an alcoholic host of a kiddy show whereas mine was an alien character who always failed at human disguises always finding himself in a jam. His name was Fungus “Smith”.

These days I spend an hour or so off and on writing a blog about the anomalous and when the rare moment of ambition beyond this hobby surfaces, I contribute magazine articles here and there, or by request, bang out contributions to surrealist anthologies.
And Ed? One of our past times in that small Midwest town was to walk along the railroad tracks that divided the empty grasslands and vanished into the horizons to talk of the atypical goofy things kids talk about. One of our imaginary creations was a railroad named after ourselves that would take us on adventures, exotic places, and the great unknown beyond the confines of what we knew. A life of wandering and exploration. These days I explore inner worlds and Ed is now Hobo Ed the proprietor of a coffee house and an advocate of third world development through a respect of the natural ecology, via his other profession as a blender and roaster of those beans grown there.

All stories have a beginning a middle and an end, an arc some would say but like Vonnegut, I suspect such things are more like a continuum that lacks any definition other than the odd “karass”of circumstance, or better yet, a transit of contingencies meshed at the intersections of enfoldment yet like branches seeking out sustenance...we wonder as we wander.
Art as life or life as an art creating this or that as living threads...


  1. Hi bruce!
    I sm enjoying reading your blog as always and will add more thr next time I am on my regular. Puter
    Right now I sm on s do called smsrt phone and csn barely read my own typi ng!@
    A wondetrf ul story snd fabtastic blogs lately!! Not that this was evrr diff err rent
    With you!
    All the best to you

  2. Devin
    Im glad you enjoy them. The morning blogging when the spirit moves me keeps my neurons occupied in retirement as a form of exercise. It beats my former role doing multiple reconstruction projects in as many states and all the challenges that presents as well as the traveling.
    I do think that myself and others do form a sort of loose community by asking ourselves what this is all about. Just as many don't indulge in this in an overt manner but keep it in a low profile in relation to life's errands.
    Its been some time since I heard from you so it's good to know all is well with you ( I hope)...

  3. thanks so much for your kind reply Bruce and I am doing alright it has been a very sad kind of year in a way but I also think I'm learning a lot
    I hope you are doing great as well and
    hopefully between three and eight days or so when I get my laptop back I can add some better comments under your subjects here

    and perhaps an email
    one thing I am happy about is that at least with the phone I can catch up on your blog posts as I am quite behind on them I think

    okay my friend take care and I hope to be back in touch in a matter of days here
    all the best

  4. Hi Bruce,

    Thanks for the memories. Those train tracks never left me either, and every bag of coffee I roast has a vintage photo with some kind of tracks on the bag. Your wanderlust coffee roaster. Walking further than the day before, drawing longer than the day before, all the coded ways we evaluated the world around us - just kids having fun on one hand, but then and now cornerstone experiences of the lives we were building. With all sincerity, I owe a lot to you and those times, two square pegs who found plenty of ways to inspire and support each other. So keep the faith, baby, as Adam Clayton Powell was always saying, about the same time.

    Best, Ed