Wednesday, March 19, 2014

from March 1994 notebook

"Dispute over sacred ground stalls construction of Lawrence highway."
Kansas City Star

Who do you think you are not?
(describe your negative space)

3/2 Wednesday 6:14 AM 
This week I'm training a new driver. He seems OK. Yesterday he told me he heard that William Burroughs eats breakfast at a certain restaurant on Thursday mornings when he comes to KC for his methadone treatment. If we happen to be in the neighborhood tomorrow morning maybe we can drop in.
I've been neglecting my dream journal. What was I dreaming this morning?
Reading D.T. Suzuki about the "sanctity of menial labor," according to zen. Try to keep THAT in mind today. The zen view of labor as "religion," balancing meditation or putting it to work, is a good view but difficult or impossible to achieve as an "employee," where one's labor is not integrated with the rest of one's life. The kind of work may be the key. Can you practice work-zen as a store clerk, delivery driver, dishwasher, designer, salesman, etc.? On the other hand, the success of my "art" may depend on my being able to use all my work experience somehow or in the way I think of it. I mean, that it is an artwork that comes out of my everyday life.
My stupid little books form a context for the paintngs I do. I should not think about making paintings that are understandable. If I understand a painting, at least one other person will, and that's enough. Market concerns, "professional" artworld career concerns, are irrelevant or harmful. Everytime I worry about making something that can be in a show, or that might be sellable, I end up making shit and getting lost from the work.

Its 1:00 and I'm on my lunch break, sitting in the truck in the alley. The juice bar next door has discarded a big sign which reads "NUDE DANCERS FREE LUNCH" and it is broken in half and leaning against the dumpster. Maybe I'll take it home. Today is a sunny, slightly hazy, cool day. Took off my coat. I'm a man in black. Black sweater and jeans.
Does zen painting have anything to say to me? I'm eager to start painting again. Not "big" paintings. I think small paintings are more challenging to do. Big paintings are like loud music, maybe (compared, say, to Erik Satie piano pieces). I want to do Paul Klee size work for a while. 

3/5 Saturday 5:59 AM Dreamed I was going to have dinner with Gorbachev (and his wife and daughter). I see Gorbachev catch a housefly with his hand and I joke that this is a typical Russian thing to do. I mention that I've seen this happen three times recently on TV. Now I'm worried I've made a faux pas and I try to explain. Gorbachev, Raisa, and their pretty daughter and I are in their car. Gorbachev is driving. I think of saying, "Americans wouldn't catch the fly, they would just be embarrassed and then they would be embarrassed for being embarrassed."

"Because the spirit and the body die, we are eternal." I interpret this to mean that completeness is possible because we have a beginning and an end. Death closes the circle. This would mean that the Void is wholeness. Return to zero, beyond loss and gain, birth and death. Satori is the sudden insight of liberation -- nothing has changed. 
I'm just using words, making marks with a Bic pen. This "doctrine" of death has not freed me from anxiety and sorrow.

3/10 11:05 AM I stopped at that restaurant a couple of hours ago and saw W. S. Burroughs. As I was parking the truck I saw a man I recognized as James Grauerholz, his manager, come out and buy a newspaper. I went to the counter and ordered coffee to go and looked around. I saw Burroughs sitting in a booth looking like a feeble, elderly man. He was wearing a cap. The beat godfather, the George Burns of the avant-garde. In fact, he reminded me of Groucho in his later years. I didn't talk to him. What would I say? "Gee, Mr. Burroughs, your cut-up method has meant a lot to me."

3/14 7:47 AM Ive been doing some abstract drawings using squres, triangles, circles, and cubes. Basic elements put together in a sort of creation/destruction (or generation and degeneration) story. The beginning or end of the cosmos. I like using these "basic" shapes for improvising. Next drawing I will start from the center with a seed-image or archetypal figure, and work from that. I also want to try starting from the periphery. Draw a circle and work inward, borrow tantric images, use negative lines.

10:46 AM a strange chore for the boss.
I go to KCK to the Wyandotte County Courthouse and the County Surveyor office to pick up a legal description of a parcel of land Luke (my boss) claims was sold to the Indians by his ancestor - great (great?) grandfather - for use as a cemetery. The area is now the site of a political, legal money dispute. All I know about it is the little Luke told me and the cartoon inthe KC Star that joked that the Indians only consider "sacred land" to be such until they find a way to make a profit off it. In this cas, I'm told, they want to put a bingo hall on the land after they move the graves. The legal description I pick up says simply "indian cemetery". Luke believes that the original agreement was that it would remain a cemetery. The talkative guy at the surveyor's office said it may not be possible to get any other papers on it since Kansas was a territory when Luke's ancestor sold the land. He said the Wyandot tribe bought it from another tribe who supposedly bought it from Luke's ancestor. The reason this is a big controversy with non-Indians is there are a bunch of Union soldiers buried there and a lot of people don't want the bodies moved.

Does a living person "need" to be remembered after he/she dies? After I die I no longer "need" to be remembered, but maybe the living need to remember. But they also need to forget and put the dead in their place, the place of the dead. They moved Quantrill (the Confederate terrorist who led the raid that burned the town of Lawrence, Kansas, to the ground) a year ago, after deciding he was buried in the wrong place. They seem to have trouble keeping their dead buried in these parts.

3/19 40th birthday.
Drove to Lawrence and to Haskell Junior College (the Indian school) and looked for the sacred circle earhwork we heard was there. We had a guidebook that said it is on the south end of the campus. You park on S. Perimeter Rd. and walk to it. This is what we did. There was a teepee set up near the circle. Probably the sweat lodge. In the center of the earthwork and at each compass point were  stone circles for fires and short (2 1/2 feet?) square stones which visitors apparently use as altars or something, leaving offerings of pocket change, keyrings, a can of cat food, whatever. Tore a drawing out of my sketchbook that had circles, squares, triangles and put it under the cat food.. We take snapshots of each other, trying to find angles where you could get an idea of what the whole design of the medicine wheel looks like, but the idea behind an earthwork like this is that the totality cannot be seen at groundlevel (that is, as they were originally conceived, before aviation) by any human observer. We are in the design but can only get a sense of the whole by reconstructing it mentally. This circle was made only two years ago on the 500th anniversary of Columbus getting lost. The original lost tourist, losing himself and America.
The land on which this circle is located is now the site of another dispute between the school and the government over plans to build a highway through the wetlands, which the Indians consider sacred. There are many tribes represented by the students at the school. Some of these use the land for worship. 
Wind and dry prairie grass. A lit cigarette would have been dangerous. I don't know who uses the place for worship, if only Indians use it, if traditional ceremonies are held there, if local hippies also have neo-pagan rites there, if the offerings were vague superstitious acts (like tossing a coin into a fountain or part of a formal ceremony or a private spiritual practice), but there seemed to be a serious or even natural expression of trying to connect with the cycles of life, to identify the microcosm of the self with the cosmic order, to put oneself in tune.
The prairie wind, the singing insects. We thought we saw something in that tree. Are we being watched? No, nothing in that tree, but we are spooked.

Let's leave the lost tourist the at the center of the universe with his camera. He has no idea where he is but he's trying to catch something he can glue in his book of scraps. 

On my fortieth birthday, twenty short years ago, Lisa and I drove to Lawrence, Kansas and visited the medicine wheel earthwork at what is now named Haskell Indian Nations University that they made in 1992 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the European invasion of Turtle Island.


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