Sunday, July 07, 2013

Tweedle-dee Dee—he’s on his hands and his knees

My Papou does battle with the spirit of Robert Johnson (as I said once before)
Saying, “Throw me somethin’, Mister, please”
“What’s good for you is good for me”
Says Tweedle-dee Dum to Tweedle-dee Dee
So today maybe a coherent post. I've been working on a series about Bob Dylan and plagiarism, my ongoing thesis that Bob Dylan stole every line of “Love & Theft”--also his only album with the title in quotes on the cover, and itself a theft of another title, the academic book Love & Theft:Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class. Last week, doing research, I learned from the definitive Bob Dylan trivia and fan forum, (taken from “Desolation Row”--the place where “everybody is making love, or else expecting rain”) that my long-held thesis is commonplace. JohnnieRay says, “Just my contribution to the 'every line in “Love & Theft” is stolen from another source' myth.”

It's just a myth, and you can read my contributions here [Dylan], and last week Bob did battle with the spirit of Robert Johnson, as did my Papou in the above photograph. Robert Johnson stole from the devil at the crossroads—you know that old legend, surely: he went to the crossroads, the place where the devil visits, with only his guitar, and when he got there he traded his soul for the ability to play. And Bob stole from Robert Johnson, and the American working class stole from black culture it attempted to “control and repress” by using blackface minstrelsy.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.
But maybe what we also hand on along with misery is art, and artifact.

A brilliant article by Robert Cohen in the Believer, an issue of which I haven't read cover to cover since my commuting days on the Chicago El, says it better than I ever could:

The Hebrews ripped off the Canaanites. Virgil ripped off Homer, Dante ripped off Virgil, Mathew and Luke ripped off Mark; Shakespeare ripped off Plutarch, Eliot ripped off Shakespeare, Dylan rips off everybody, and—my sweet lord—George Harrison ripped off the Chiffons. And so it goes.”

He ends: “...still impelled onward, I would argue, by the same old longings, the same old methods.”

Friday, July 05, 2013

Into the eye of the storm

Bad, blurry photograph taken to legitimize my existence to you, dear reader, thus proving that I am, in fact, at work

During the second week of my (genuine, not textual) solitude here, I have committed to putting a new plant in the ground each day, no matter that we're already into July, no matter that I am unable to commit to a place enough to be sure that I won't be in Laos when these things fruit. Or, more likely, that they'll freeze in the middle of fruiting, which breaks my heart every year, and every year I plunge headlong right back into it. Nevertheless: I am planting.

Today I gave in and went to the greenhouse, where seedlings are half-price, which means I am late but not hopeless. The greenhouse, a tubular structure with sheeted plastic flapping in the breeze, was empty save of robust seedlings. I took what I wanted and left my cash beneath a pen near the door. That's a small town for you.

This fall, at least, we will have cucumbers, squash, and peppers, those warm-weather vegetables I always procrastinate starting. And I came home and dug the cucumbers right into the ground. I have so much more ownership being the only one responsible for doing everything—even taping the hose where the lawnmower ran over it, even skewering the sprinkler into the ground, even missing the roots and frying leaves of my plants this morning, despite knowing better. If I don't do it, it doesn't get done, and if I do it badly, that's only my fault, too.

So every day I go dig something into the ground. I use a trowel and s three-pronged pitchfork that probably has a fancier name to dig out weeds. I am combating my tendency to work for twelve hours one day and do nothing for eleven, when I know, truly, that it's better for my soul to work an hour a day for twelve days in a row. Consistency is the magic, ephemeral spell.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Thunderstorms within your purity

Arugula, lettuce, radishes, and radish greens

Dinner tonight is more or less the garden's first harvest. Arugula, lettuce, and radish piled high on a bed of grocer chicken and tortilla. Someday it'll be my chicken, my wheat (unless the catamaran gets to me first). The first week I was here, the vast quantity of what remained to be done immobilized me, but this week I've been attacking the wild in manageable chunks.

Every single day past the equinox always feels too late, even February when I could be starting beet seedlings, and in fact it's never too late. I still have all of July to plant late crops, and every day I can hack away at another corner, and harvest enough to eat. In December I can harvest jerusalem artichoke and kale (unless the catamarans get me). So for the last three days in a row I've had dirt under my nails and deer flies biting my ears.

I can't explain how happy it makes me to have brand new plants in my body for dinner. As always I'm also towing around a trail of guilt, as for anything good I accomplish I experience simultaneous pride for my accomplishment and guilt for my pride, but then if I abandon my farm to weeds I feel guilty about that, too. The psychologists of joy attest that gratitude is linked to joy—but I feel guilt rather than gratitude: guilt for what's good, for showing off, or being cheesy, or bragging.

Well: arugula vitamins banish guilt with their peppery verve.

I think sometimes about how we old sailors have managed to swallow the anchor so thoroughly, the old adage about sailors who leave the sea. They swallow the hook, and we've beaten ours into a plough-share. It's the same kind of nesting, the digging of the hoe into the dirt, the way an anchor buries itself in sand—but there's a feeling that the earth is swallowing us too, as we dig our roots into it, or struggle to get away. The dark ground is a blank slate on which I paint with tools, nesting seedlings and making rows, and the future is, too—blank, unknowable, and potentially delicious.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Bridgewater, Maine

Cat and dog love each other

Well, the rain beating down on my window pane
I got love for you and it’s all in vain
Brains in the pot, they’re beginning to boil
They’re dripping with garlic and olive oil
--Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee
It has been raining here almost constantly on the days when there are not deer flies buzzing around in the sun.  If that sounds like complaining it's because it is and also an excuse for everything that's not planted, everything that's not done.  The thing they don't tell you about farming (or maybe they do) is what hard work it is.  Maybe that's why everyone wanted to get out of it.

Which makes me--or maybe it's K.'s continuing adventure across the Atlantic, where he lost his rudder and two sails and ended up stranded adrift amid the gulf stream, essentially--more on that when I have more details--spend all day looking at Wharram catamarans on the internet.  Here.  I'll show you the one that made me fall in love, years ago:

I don't know why that particular photograph made me fall in love, but who can explain love?  And all my love for all of the Wharram cats in southeast Asia is all in vain, as Bob Dylan so elegantly quoted himself quoting Robert Johnson singing to Willie Mae.  My grandfather used to eat brains with garlic and olive oil, but I can't help thinking that the brains in a pot reference is to Macbeth, because everything comes back to Macbeth.  Brains with garlic and olive oil are what Greeks eat for Christmas.

Maybe I've been alone with my cat and dog and garlic scapes and boat searches and Dylan for too long.  I want the rain to stop.  I want to get on a train with a suitcase in my hand and ride and ride.  I want to find a catamaran and beach her amid ruins and then sail wing and wing away.