Friday, January 31, 2014

a shroom of one's own

I wish I still had the notebook I kept in the winter of 1974, when I was nineteen, unemployed, living at home, at a loss. I was alienated from my father's ministry, which wasn't, in my opinion, revolutionary enough, and whose central doctrines no longer made sense to me. My father was a Baptist minister. Our congregation was very small and composed of white working class people of various ages. The church building was next to Cabana Colony, an instant housing development built in the early sixties, although much of the actual ministry was conducted at our house. It was a family ministry. My mother and sister played piano and organ at services when we sang from the Baptist Hymnal. My father played trumpet and autoharp when he played the songs he wrote. I often accompanied him on guitar. My sister Betty, my cousin Cathy and I had expanded the practice of spreading the gospel to include antiwar demonstrations, aquarian explorations, and guerilla theater confrontations with the Palm Beach County power structure.

I didn't smoke pot until I was out of high school, in the fall of 72. I thought school was a brainwashing factory and I felt estranged from Reality. I was looking for a way to cure my alienation with cannabis and psychedelics. I read some Carlos Castaneda, R.D. Laing, Ram Dass.  I first tried psilocybin the year before in Tallahassee. We picked mushrooms in a cow pasture near town. Back in West Palm Beach, which had a lot of cow pastures full of mushrooms, and among the various dope dealers I'd become acquainted with I could easily obtain the tools for the mind-altering experiments I read about. I kept a journal during this period of identity breakdown and breakthrough. 

I was piecing my own doctrine together, a scavenger dharma bum. I conceived a plan for a happening, a vision quest. I would spend a night alone in the pine and palmetto woods west of town. I put up my tent in my brother-in-law's cow pasture and built a campfire. I organized the space according to the four directions, borrowing ideas from Black Elk Speaks and a book on peyote use in the Native American Church. I also had the Evan-Wentz translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead (with Jung's "psychological commentary") because Leary and Huxley and those guys used it as a guide for acid trips. I awoke an hour before sunrise and smoked a joint and ate the mushrooms I had picked earlier, fresh from cow pies, maybe praying over it as a holy communion -- This is my body broken for you, flesh of the gods, etc. I tried to read from the Book of the Dead -- NOW YOU ARE EXPERIENCING THE FUNDAMENTAL CLEAR LIGHT OF REALITY -- or something, until the Trip started to move its own way in my head -- or maybe it started moving in my bowels when I was squatting on the ground, closely observed by a cow who sees cows defecate all the time, but not people, and it watches me like -- is this a man?--  he builds a fire like a man but shits like a cow? Like one of us? Hilarious in a Mister Natural sort of way but then 

sun rising, the world struggles to awake, groaning as in childbirth, as  Saint Paul says, waking to the daily angst and war of survival and absurdity and suffering and existential strife and am I transformed into that which I ate? This is my flesh, God's flesh, reduced to a subvegetative state and nothing more than a fungus on the ground, in the mud and cow shit, groaning in the abysmal muck.

Then I am on my feet and walking deeper into the woods for a million years through prehistory searching for a Way through and out of this wilderness and its suffering and snakes and unknown predators and bits of memory messages blown out of my neural files, words forming and disappearing in the surrounding ether before I can read them, like an audio visual collage I'm walking through and I don't want to go back to Nature I want to escape Nature and its struggle and suffering and all these ghosts of ground rattlers and other animal spirits, so I evolve and humanity evolves imagining  a civilization to go home to, so I had to get out of this swamp and  back to the city. 

And I went to the trailer where my sister lived. It was on a lot adjoined to the pasture they leased and that they were letting me camp on. So I get to the trailer as the family is waking up and getting ready to go to work or take the kids to school and all that workday trap I was a fugitive from and I couldn't connect with their reality principle of work and submission to the system and I saw them literally turning into cattle before my eyes like a transformation in Ovid or Homer. YOU'RE ALL TURNING INTO CATTLE !! I cry as I rush out to the car so I could escape this prison camp cow pasture and get back to town and find my Way. 

So I get in the Buick Skylark. It is Mom's car when she isn't at work and mine when she is, and I start to back out and straightaway I'm stuck in mud and hopelessy bogged down. So I borrowed Betty's car because I was desperate to get back to town and out of the woods. Her car is an old white station wagon covered with Bible verses -- FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD, etc., a mobile folk art agit prop for Jesus, and I laugh at this crazy vehicle I'm flying as I descend from the skies into Palm Beach County, out of the glades and past golf courses and new growth of gated communites in gleaming concrete and now I sense another dangerous transformation in my shapeshifting, now I am turning into an internal combustion engine or part of the engine, part of the car I drive -- I'M A MACHINE HEAD !! I yell. Mechanized Man!! Worse than a cow! And I was passing the first instant golf course community of West Palm Beach on the highway out of the wilderness and I SCREAM with all my lung power, howling into town like a teenage werewolf. I drive into North Palm Beach turning the dial to sorry early 70s AM radio stations until I finally hear TIME HAS COME TODAY by the Chambers Brothers -- 

"Now the time has come - TIME - There is no place to run - TIME - I might get burned up by the sun - TIME - But I've had my fun - TIME - I've been loved and put aside - TIME - I've been crushed by the tumbling tide - TIME - and my soul has been psychedelicized - TIME - has come today"

I drive to my friends' apartment in North Palm where they were trying to live a simple life modeled on Freak Brothers comic books.They weren't there but their female roommate, the crypto-girlfriend sleeping with one of them, was waking up, and I told her I was tripping on mushrooms and asked her if she wanted to smoke and could I hang out until I got my head together and so forth and she said it was cool so I roll a joint and I am pressing the marijuana in the banana-flavored EZ Wider with my finger tips and I have been doing this for Eternity, eternally pressing the crumbled leaves in the paper carefully trying not to let the stems break through and tear the paper and trying to even it out, forever and ever. 

Then I am in the room alone in a still moment a perfect space time bubble exquisitely afloat in infinite now, etc.

And then we sat in the common room and she put on a comedy album -- The Child's Garden of Grass -- based on an informative and funny manual for pot smokers and meant to listen to while stoned so they could mess with your heads, and we are listening to this skit about the aphrodisiac qualities of weed where the male and female get high like we just did and maybe we begin to send subtle sexual signals to each other but I can't tell if she is really sending these signals to me and laughing because the scene on the record was the scene we are in, or was I projecting this and the atmosphere got increasingly tense like the possibility of sexual intercourse with a real live girl was at hand but she was my friend's crypto-girlfriend, I think, and so we didn't Do It and I have to leave.

So I go to the door and step outside and there is a Goodyear blimp in the sky not far away and I call to her, It's the Blimp! It's the Blimp! the Mothership! -- not sure if I'm hallucinating this, until she comes out and confirms that, yes, Far Out, the Blimp is in the Sky right Now and watches as if it Knows.

I went home and saw Dad in the kitchen and I fear I look big-eyed with drugs. I'm dirty and reek of pine smoke and cannabis and sweat, a stoned prodigal son -- this is what I see when I look in the bathroom mirror. I lock myself in my room and put on a Sun Ra record and write in the notebook I burned later that year.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

pretty sketchy

test pattern

basket case


microcosmic mess

Thursday, January 23, 2014

art stooge

notes from January 15 to January 22, 2014

a mighty super-ego is your god

Now you are experiencing the fundamental clear light of reality

(you've got to get) over and (you've got to get) under

art stooge -- nyuk nyuk nyuk

shape shifter
mask with masking tape

Monday, January 20, 2014

New Directions in Geezer Groove

Audio Artists at work. 

                                         Alice Malloy, Frank Coelho, Scott Williams, Ed Potokar

                                         Chris Butler and Paul Badger

                                          Paul Badger

Missing from these blurry cellphone pictures -- Mark Schaaf and Michael Suchorsky and me.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Session at NYNoise

Recording session at NYNoise today with the Audio Artists. I will be providing most of the verbal content through my vintage 1954 Swan Vocal Apparatus. Craig Bishop invited us to do this. He and Rick DePoli are old friends of the band. I hope I don't screw it up.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Lazy Ass Lazarus

notes and sketches 1/6/14 -1/13/14

San Bizarro Lazaro

watercolor  11" X 7 1/2"

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Opening for Lori's show is tomorrow

January 10 6-8 at McKenzie Fine Art, 55 Orchard Street

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Response from David Amram

Response from David Amram on the Gregory Corso post:

Dear Lawrence

Thank you for this excellent reportage which 13 years later really captures a moment in time

Gregory always commented on "cutting out the crap of "Beat" mythology.

Real life was interesting enough, and the egomania and narcissism starting in the 60s (when a billion dollar a year corporate entertainment industry designed to rip off dollars from a younger generation deemed "youth culture" became the arbiter of what was relevant and what was now supposed to be hopelessly out of fashion.

This  was always distresing to Gregory, because in spite of his crazed public appearances, when he assumed the street thug personna of a stoned out dead end kid, he was grounded in the classics 
and an old school intellectual who wanted to have his writing appreciated for its own value, not as a member of a non-existant "movement"
Like Kerouac and many of us, Gregory just wanted his work to speak for itself.

Gregory achieved that, snd today a new generation can read and be moved by his remarkable poetry and not have to wade through any dumb scenes which distract from the value of what any art that lasts has to offer, uplift, to foster creativity in others and to celebrate life.

Your piece was so refreshingly honest, I know Gregory would have loved it. And I will look forward to reading more of your blogs, as a new member of your senior-bopper fan base.

all cheers and stay creative

David Amram 

Encounter with Gregory Corso

I’ve been reading Gregory Corso and finally beginning to appreciate his writing. Sometimes it takes me so long to see what is right in front of me, to recognize what should be familiar. I never met Corso. I sort of met Allen Ginsberg in the eighties, but that was more of a missed encounter and a missed opportunity to play back-up when he read in Cleveland. I'm still bummed out about that. In the early nineties I saw William Burroughs at a restaurant in Kansas City. I'd been told that he ate there at a certain time on a certain day every week when he came in for his Methadone treatment. I had considered showing him a poem I had written using a cut up method, but when I saw him I didn't want to bother him. This sort of non-encounter with writers and artists I admire is a pattern with me.

The following account is based on notes I took about a memorial service for Gregory Corso that I attended in January, 2001.

Corso died a week ago and we are burying him today. I am not literally digging any dirt, I am not even attending the burial, but I was at the memorial sevice this morning at Our Lady of Pompei in the Village. Marianna said to me that her brother was going to play at the memorial and I should go. "It’ll be fun," she said. I said, "They’ll put the 'fun' back in 'funeral'." 

So I went to the church on Carmine and 6th Avenue. There were people gathered on the steps and I recognized Ed Sanders, who I'd met years ago. I didn’t say anything  because I didn’t want to be dogging celebrities who’d come to mourn a friend. Sanders sat a few pews ahead of me. I turned around and saw -- I’m pretty sure -- Debra Harry a few pews behind me and then I knew this was a big deal, an Event, and I sat  there in the pew and I wondered why I was there, and why I am Here, and I also wondered why the corpse was There.

Corso was in a casket in the center aisle. Maybe the key to where Here is was There in that casket -- the Where and the Why of Here --why I am here, in this church. Part of it was to meet Amram, to shmooze. But I couldn’t do it --shmooze -- it wasn’t  the place. What is it to bury a Poet in the Church? Do the atoms of his substance change the soil? Does the dirt sanctify the corpse, or does the corpse sanctify the dirt?  What is it, I wondered, to bury his poems in the doctrines of the Church, the paintings of Heaven and Hell and Last Judgment, the Eucharist, the Resurrection? Live and die in your art.

Amram accompanied a female singer I did not recognize. It was a traditional hymn, I think. The organ played and Amram played a kind of flute. The priest spoke, saying this is an unusual congregation, and got a laugh from the old beats and hippies, and middle-aged punks. He called Gregory a free spirit, made in the image of God and the Holy Spirit, and said each of us is free to do what God wills for us, and it is only for God to judge how we did that. 

While the priest was talking a woman with dreadlocks came in and caused a disturbance, arguing with a man as she pushed him out of the church. We could hear her screaming at him outside. The priest said, "Don’t worry about that, I told you this is an unusual congregation."

Corso’s roommate -- one of his old roommates -- got up and delivered a eulogy, saying Gregory was the easiest person to live with he’d ever met, although unpredictable. This friend of Corso, whoever he was, had long gray hair tied in a ponytail. He said he met Corso in the 70s when he’d invited him to appear on a cable TV show he had. He asked Corso to autograph something for his wife and Corso wrote, “Will you suck my dick?”  I guessed this guy only told the story to let a bit of the free spirit of Corso loose in the Church. 
Amram spoke a little and said that Corso had been baptized in this church, it was his mother's church, and he said that many of us came from all over the world to be here in Greenwich Village, but Corso was from here. This impressed me somehow. Corso had gone to jail when he was a kid, and taught himself literature in jail, and became a poet. He was befriended by Ginsberg and Kerouac and Burroughs and later on knew Patti Smith and Ed Sanders. This was as close to the NY scene as I’ve been -- the imaginary scene -- the literary fantasy beatpunk daydream. Here.

That unknown woman sang again, a song about a strange boy who came and taught her the importance of loving and being loved. Nature Boy.

As the pallbearers carried the coffin out I saw that Debra Harry was weeping. I lagged behind as the crowd left and noticed Amram was next to me. I told him I worked with his sister and he said she mentioned someone she knew was coming, so he was expecting me and looking for me. He said I looked familar. He said, "There are a lot of familiar faces."  I made a remark about it taking a lot of people to bury someone. The remark seemed idiotic as soon as I made it.

It wasn't until later, much much later, that I learned that the "unknown woman" who sang Nature Boy was Patti Smith. I didn't recognize her face or voice at the time, only in memory.

Here is David Amram remembering Corso:

Here are tributes to Corso by Ed Sanders and Robert Creeley from the Woodstock Journal:

Saturday, January 04, 2014

December - January selected notes

 roots in wall
 intestinal fartitude
 stray elephant

make marks

Friday, January 03, 2014

Cleveland holds the secrets

 Cleveland, you've gotta be tough. When I was an art student there two of my roommates were in a band called Redness, which had as many as eight or nine members. This was in the late seventies, when Northern Ohio had given the world Pere Ubu, Devo, The Dead Boys. Redness was mainly art students and former art students, and included two bass players (my roommates Scott Williams and Perry Kopchak), several percussionists. guitars, a trombone blown by Regional Art Terrorist Paul Badger, and homemade electronics that sometimes made them sound like a lunatic video game parlor crashed by a garage band of desperadoes. They had actual songs they composed, (like Blind Me Wet, Little Debbie, Gran Turismo, and crowd favorite, Cream Rinse) and rehearsed in our apartment at 1961 Ford Drive. They played regularly at the Euclid Tavern, across from the painting studios, and I became a fan.
Late at night, after doing our studio work, Scott, Perry, sometimes Mark Schaaf, and I would drink cheap beer and improvise on a cassette recorder with found texts. I was still trying to play guitar in those days. This after hours amusement was kept separate from our school work, our Serious Art.
After we graduated some left for grad school or New York. I stayed in Cleveland and studied philosophy and painted and wrote and occasionally performed with other former Redness members, George and Chester, sometimes Mark, in a band we never named. Like, we played one late late night college radio show on WRUW hosted by Catherine Butler and asked listeners to phone in suggestions for a band name, but no one called, because probably no one was listening. We also did an unofficial guerrilla performance at the Hessler Street Fair from the second floor balcony of the apartment on the corner of Hessler and Ford. America is packed with interesting musicians and artists who never move to New York. Most of the interesting artists and musicians who
become successful in New York came from Out There, from Cleveland and Elsewhere. It seems that the art world Out There should thrive, and that artists and musicians (and writers and filmmakers, etc) should make a living and achieve satisfaction without moving here and bringing their offerings to the gods of New York, and many probably do. I was trying to find a way to do so, to keep it real, but I kept making it difficult for myself. I have kept in touch with some of the people I knew in Cleveland who were involved in the music and poetry scenes. Alan Grandy and I worked at Tommy's restaurant in Cleveland Heights in the mid-eighties. He had a band called (without capitalization) the terrible parade. Alan got me to listen to the Velvet Underground. Although I got Lou Reed’s Transformer when it came out in 72, I didn't really listen to the VU until I was in Cleveland among those musicians. Also, the Stooges. AG turned me on to more current music, as well. The Feelies, Wire, Young Marble Giants, Replacements, Meat Puppets, etc. He gave me a some mix tapes. One day he asked me if I'd be interested in driving another band, Death On A Stick, to Columbus for a gig because their regular van had broken down. I had a 77 Dodge painted eleven or so shades of orange which had been my parents’. Orange shag carpet, CB radio.  I said OK. DOAS opened for the Butthole Surfers that night. Their bass player, Marky Ray, played lead in the terrible parade. Death On A Stick struck me as a stripped down Redness, sort of, dada punk. I was very impressed when I saw them play, and preferred them to the "BH Surfers" (as the marquee listed them). The Surfers were also impressed. We passed a joint with them in the green room, and they claimed DOAS was the best opening band they’d had. Death On A Stick was a power trio with a great drummer named Dangerous Dave Norris, Marky on bass, and anarcho-guitar genius Andrew
Klimek. I believe Paul Strachen played drums at the Columbus gig. I drove for both bands, the parade and Stick, for a while, Cincinnati, Dayton, Cleveland. Watching them made me want to try performing, and Bhob and Kristen -- The Backyard Mechanics For Language -- gave me some opportunities and this is how the Semiotic Liberation Front became the legend it is today. Scott and Mark and I formed the Semiotic Liberation Orchestra to play at an event in Tremont called Recurrent Irritations hosted by Bhob (Luigi Bob) Drake and Kristen Ban (Tepper). Scott and Mark came up with some music that opened and unfolded the collage rhythms of my original and found texts that I thought were only graphic but the music gave them breath. We also played at the Cleveland Performance Art Festival, or was it the Sound Festival? at Cleve Public Theater, anyway, our names were on the poster, under hundreds of other names, at the bottom, and Karen Finley’s was on the top, the star on the tree.  We played a third time at CPT, and I ran out of the theater and left Cleveland and drove the orange van to Kansas City, where I did a lot of writing and painting and driving and striving and I wrote and drew something called Crawl For Your Life that evolved into Are You Running With Me, Ground of Being? a poem I started to record with Scott in his painting studio in Long Island City, but we never finished. We eventually joined forces with some former Redness people Ed Potokar, Tegzes, Badger, Schaaf, ( and ex-Lou Reed drummer Michael Suchorsky) in ex-Guyette Alice Malloy's basement in the Catskills to form a band called the Audio Artists and did a great performance at Here on Spring Street early in 1997, where I read some selections from Are You Running, and I finally decided to move to NY and bookstore job at World Trade Center. Lovey Dovey Frank Coelho climbed on board and became essential. We continue to record, and once in a blue moon, play in public, sometimes as "Audio Artists," sometimes Art Bum Dinner Theater. The relationship between this activity to our Serious Art is ambiguous. Scott’s plein air cityscapes and landscapes (he’ll be showing them at Sideshow this year) seem to have no connection to his music, but I feel that the different things I do -- drawing writing performing sculpting -- are on a continuum. We have families and jobs and so on, and are not part of the Brooklyn/Queens music scene. Recently, Chris Butler, veteran of the Akron/Cleveland punk new wave nexus  -- he was in Tin Huey and The Waitresses -- started participating in Audio Artists sessions. We will be doing a recording session this month and maybe play in public.

Brooklyn is my home, but Cleveland holds the secrets to my stunning success.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014


Now I am married
and I am good.
She sells her drawings
and I wash the dishes,
and boil the oatmeal and lentil soup and ravioli,
and I call it cooking.
I try to keep track of the bills
and the forms and I worry
about money, and
she works in her studio and
she writes and she draws and she paints,
and she's the queen of my world.
Long live the queen of my world without end,
amen amen amen.

"Did you post this on Facebook? Now they'll think I do nothing all day.
(now I am married, now I am bad)

Lori's show at McKenzie Fine Art opens January 10.