Wednesday, April 24, 2019

"Something's Happening Here: A Sixties Odyssey from Brooklyn to Woodstock" by Mark Berger

Mark Berger, Something's Happening Here: A Sixties Odyssey from Brooklyn to Woodstock, 230 pp., paper, Excelsior Editions, $19.95

One of the jokes about the sixties I've heard over the years is that if you can remember it, you probably weren't there. That is of course not true, or not entirely true. Mark Berger was there, surely, and he did not permanently stumble off into a Purple Haze but learned from it all. And he writes about it with a well wrought charm and poignancy that rings true if you went through those years like I did.

If later on it was seen bluntly as a time when "sex, drugs and rock and roll" reigned, that simplifies what was going on if you lived through that immoderately complex time. There was a lot, a very lot going on. Mark captures much of that complexity, the surprise of it all in "Something's Happening Here."

Beginning in Brooklyn in 1961 his own personal journey through the times climaxes as he finds himself one of the "Hog Farm" workers at Woodstock. I remember reading the ads for Woodstock in the Sunday NY Times Arts & Leisure Section, thinking that it was the greatest lineup for rock I'd ever seen, then going down to the Jersey Shore and hanging out with some of the freaks who came down there after it was over. Even then it was pretty clear it was going to define the era in many ways.

And so Berger's trips through everything for us--through hanging out, getting an education, and finding a life path as symbolically intertwined with the fate of hippie Woodstock Nation, which as we read was nothing all-at-once but rather a gradual kind of dawning.

Now some 50 years later we who are left might look back and wonder. The memoir heightens the friction of youth versus the elders and the establishment that reached a kind of zenith and nadir at the same time, the idiocy of how pot and other substances became the taint by which the whole era came to be rejected by some, and now how quickly perhaps those who were then far to the right of all of it have no problem looking to profit from the gradually legalizing pot scene. Back then as Mark points out via experiences vividly recounted, long hair and ideas of freedom and equality were part of a frightening world (to the "Moral Majority") that was in some views negated completely by the idea that youth was going off the rails with the demon dope, etc. Not everybody got it, on one side or the other. History can play out like that.

Mark's innate and pronounced "easy writer" brilliance makes this read absorbing and moving. That he was at the right age and positioned in a NYC center of things means that he found it all possible from where he stood, as it all was passing though his life at the very time there were developments most fertile in meaning and event-uality. He was paying attention and face it, not everybody understood like Mark obviously did. For every good dude like him in my experience there were folks also on an ego trip, looking at every point to score, to take advantage. But so there always seems to be I guess. Not everybody is a true player! Or rather there is never just one game going on.

The ecstasy of '60s lifestyle liberation can be felt between the lines and sometimes directly WITHIN the lines of the story. Ideally young men and young women found a new honesty between one another, mutual respect and the idea that they were the ones to create another set of cultural mores simply by doing what seemed right. And so a general search for social justice was part of all that too. Berger captures some of the contradictions and roadblocks that sometimes halted and reversed social progress. Nonetheless the thrill of being on the brink of something that remains with us today as a legacy of positivity and reform is captured with insight and a bird's eye view of the time in the everyday as well as the extraordinary.

For anyone who lived through the '60s it will make you smile and remember and for those who did not you will get a feeling for some of how it felt. Read this and appreciate some focused prose, do! This gives you one view of how it went. Read Ed Sanders's account of Charles Manson's Helter Skelter for the horror of the evil opposite and what harm that did. Woodstock was the culmination, as we find so happily here. Manson was in a way the downfall. Shangra La, as Max Weber cogently argued, can degenerate, routinize, dissipate, bureaucratize. It does not mean the earlier time was without merit. Read this and know the good of it.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Excerpt from First Chapter of Drone Dreams of the Pastoral Ballerina

The Beginning of the Later Drone Dreams
And if there were to be something more than we could see, bird and tree and winter brown grass, what would we wish for, present or past? Future or nothing, darkness and quiet? A simple silence of nonbeing? Or the carnival burst of laughter and riot?
Or in sleep and uncanny reverie, so none of these?

The Ballerina will say, "I am here in your dreams, with you. There has been something of me in every woman you have known and loved, yet those women are not me. I am the Ballerina, the one for which all your love has pointed toward, for which the living you have lived was but a prelude. I am end-point of all yearning, the flower that has always rested inside you. Yet you cannot have known. You cannot see me clearly now. You will in time. Live and dream. Later you will know all." 

Ballerina in the Dream: I commune with you in the words. Dipping them as if in some heavenly tea. Your words, think them and I will understand.

Calvin in the Dream: Ah well then I do. It makes of the thoughts something we can share. It is not a lonely thing. It is a not apart. A together joining of tannin and tart, sweat and exertion yet sweetly clinging like a flower from another world.

Ballerina: That's sweet

Oh, Ballerina this has me dream shaking. I have known you for very long in slumber, yet you have not come to me often of late. And I maybe should savor this very poetic thing and let it stay with me tonight as a memory of what has never been? It is very satisfying to think these words for you.

Ballerina: Ahhh, thank you.

I blow you a huge kiss into the wind down inside my mind and hope it flies to your lips in the mist there.

Ballerina: Thank you

It is very comforting and comforted, I feel. I am afraid because this wonderful thing is rare and I neither want to grab ahold too tightly or let slack which the latter could never be my reaction. I know possession is a state of mind but that grasping can cut off or clog the growth of beautiful word flowers. I sleep on the one end of the universe distracted and my whole being has engaged. Does that make sense? I am too fond (Shakespeare) to pierce the magic so happily received on my end. And so I feel like there is much more and I hope will be more than much more. The words put you in a place I have not really known before. It is your loveliness that gives to me the desire for word weaving and I feel like we shared a mutual togetherness that I hope can be recaptured at will. I am hungry for your likes and wish also to feed you in gratitude with sweet recompense. I cannot imagine a more wonderful exchange as this. And I anticipate the more of it and the more of it empties out into our spaces that are solitude playing with no second deck until this. Ballerina! Hey! Love it when your ghostly virtual self spins words into the emptiness to fill it for me in dreams. Two beings in the eternal light. Why don’t you speak to me? Give me more of your words, do.

Ballerina: Do not get too far ahead of yourself. Dream and wordthink, Calvin. Be in the now dream and be content with its presence. I do not have many words for you now. They will come later on, in later dreams.

OK. Sweet singing falls from above. Climb the roof like my beautiful woman Santa and I will stand and wait until there is the elusive you. Are we material beings that can embrace? Time asks the question and the answer will keep. Nothing spoils in this frozen border line. The shells-become-nails need a loving breath upon them to regenerate. Forgessen thee not. Powdery confection rolls over the flattened woodlands. Is it a lovemaking interruptus? All words necessarily partialize for time cuts short the full immanence, the unexpurgated fullness of lilly flower words endless. An action. Words make paths. They pull back the thicket of brush that stop feel and heart. If we could know the meaning of the words our minds spin, what then? There are infinite layers of meanings, down we travel to a solid final depth? No, there are more layers and still more. Everything said points to everything unsaid, to everything that means everything else yet refuses to yield up a final clarity because there is joy in the loving murk. A sound of cherry bells pealing. No special occasion. All special time foams like tidal spray. It is salty and sensuous on the lips. The words make love without the slightest brushing against.  So the danger of mistaking a beauty for an oath. We are careless? Carefree? Does this mean what I think?

Ballerina: I hear you still. You think. Do not worry about the meaning, I receive the words like a long message in a bottle from a long place away on your earth. Think these words some more. For they are comforting to me. It is not so easy being a Dream Ballerina, constantly flitting from woodland to wildland, going to and fro like the seasons, never resting, never really home. Think me your words, Calvin. The time will grow short soon enough.

For so long the absence of your presence has become a presence in itself. Even a ghost will be missed, though clanking chains and disturbing moans may mar my evening's repose. Far that from Ballerina. Any clankings and moans are on the contrary most agreeable, vital, like a living novel that plays itself out for me and I you in real dreamtime. It is a gentle absence I have felt. Like a sudden stoppage of a warm and welcome breeze on a spring afternoon. There is spring in me always and the expression of heart and mind must ever come out in words, lovely and expressive somethings that need always an object, you. One that returns the thoughts and heart murmurs in beautiful phrasings is most unaccustomed to me. Yet you speak little it is true. And so again I burst forward with a little more language, as a place holder at the table of life, a seat reserved for one invited happily to share whatever is the word lot before us. So until that then.
I cannot fail because all I need really is one, the you. And that will be so long as I can partake of the banquet you kindly set forward for us earlier! COLD and snowing here outside my bedroom.  Can you see that?

Ballerina: Not quite. It does not matter. Just think for me.

We are stories in the making!!!!!!
The stickleback cheerleaders launch into a routine that culminates in fish-pyramidicality. "The moon is the size of a basketball," my mother said matter-of-factly, later in years. "A basketball?" I asked. "No, it is the size of a quarter!" But as time passes, the moon grows. And the Ballerina eyes are unseen but also as big as basketballs. The limpid blue gaze into a beautifully becalmed sea. That hand held like an age-grade ritual that gives permission to entangle thoughts and feelings, and so there is a lovely that. Sleepy yet the mind flows with ever burgeoning blessitude. Really? For as real in its essence, yes, really I think. We share a resting place, or we will in dreams. But respect and good will makes of the two a mutual warmth because that is the right thing to start. Shapes, curvatures, all commingle in perfect-not-perfect innocence. It has the foamed egg futurity latent and all time presents itself as shall one day the one presents herself to the other, and there is mutual communion.  But not now? Tonight a very close twining and a deeply reassuring sleep. While lark and nightingale outside freeze their little asses. Not our asses. They are warm as is the all of us. A brief awakening, a hand to kiss, then rest again.

Ballerina: I am disembodied spirit. You cannot really touch me except in your mind. But think on for it is beautiful to hear you.

I think these words with a joy that makes the story as a two-way thing so much more than solitary fantasy. Maybe we tell a fairytale together chapter-by-chapter? The thought that reading it by others would define it in ways that we can but imagine? If only I could remember the words when I awake. I get ahead. Right now the various stirrings in real-dream-time involve burst of words and lacunae that keep speaking in silence. Bekissed and beslept Ballerina on this eve of another time that still will tick reassuringly. Very cold here, I say again. Events do not stop in the world.  But there I hope will be this space and I dare not think ahead too much. We barely know, yet I think we surely know something, no?

Ballerina: Yes, we always know. I know more than you and in time you shall know all but patience, you need to accept what is before you now and the rest will be farther along before you.

We do know! It is a happy knowing. A most fortunate intersection. A very soft collision with no damage, surely. The opposite. We exist and we impress gently and are in turn impressed in return.

Ballerina: Enjoy the dream point where all stands still.

It engulfs and eventually engorges. Or too the opposite sequence. The still point provides the fulcrum for the rotation of our universe now. It spins, ever. Courage and reassurance come together as the new life looms? All can be good. Why not? A smile. and...

Ballerina: Yes.

You give me more dream depth and I hope, I do hope I give it back to you. The most blessed gift for me I can only believe, too. Unwrapping. A willow is what we each bring. There is no presence in this dream point that does not bring baggage and it will be sorted through. In the beginning were words. Beginning with happy word presents, each marked with one label or the other, to and from.
The willow smiles. I again cup my hand or is it yours? We are material beings. I cup and gently let my spittle shine and get return. Oh-oh the desire and the "second coming" can ever begin and cannot be denied, though I do not know what I cup. Is it you? In a few minutes I know that this world will interrupt. But tell me what cupping is happening. Ohh. There will be dawn and birds singing here in a minute. Tell me. It is a future.

Of course this could be my dirty mind at work! LOL If so, my real pardon. Everything is natural but not always timely! And it is only out of fondness that the words come.
I am thinking with my soul hanging out, exposed. I am not covetous! It is sharing, not theft. So gently that. Dawn here in a minute.

Ballerina: Your dream is an imagination. Yet I am real. I am here.

You are. I want to be in perfect sync with what you put into this dream for me. I believe I am. Smiling effusively here. Anon, though. There is a real-time diremption yet a happy anticipation of the to-come. Sweetness and a modesty most becoming are you. All things. Will be possible maybe. We need not to clock it but allow it to bloom beautifully. Not a rush order. No rushing is good anyway!

Ballerina: In your dreams I guide you and help you see what I can see, even if ever so little now. There is beauty in the rolling hills, the quiet pond at dusk, the me who is not home right now and wants to come home and settle in with you. I cannot yet.

Oh Ballerina, pretty Ballerina, come run away to me, we can find a place where the land makes love to sea. Not a long moment here because another dawn needs tending to soon enough. I am game. In my life there were times where it was like the coupling and uncoupling of boxcars, all just a selfish urge. Long time from then is now. Beauty in the ever-fertile rolling hills, yes, the fertile cavernous budding of heavenly production and reproduction. The bee who knows wants the flowers happiness as much or more than "his". It is not just a buzzer solo! LOL.  

Garfinkle's Ethnomethodology shows we all bring to the table a huge amount of construction materials that then we use to parallel the reality stimulus. So I have the rolling hills in my head like a dinosaur is constructed from a leg bone. So your image and your words form the basis of the beautiful castle I am welcomed to. Is it you? By metonymy, of course, it is beautiful you.
Do I parallel the you that perches in your pastoral dream world? 

The hills and verdure in concrete flowering?
And so I cup the beautiful flower in my hand and kiss it ever so gently. Is that OK?
Or perhaps I take liberties that are not so welcome. It is all words of loving gestures and nothing less.
So forgive a forwardness born out of play and sea foam. Of sandcastles, buckets and shovels, little sand crabs bubbling away merrily and gleeful outbursts of childlike delight!
The me on this end loves the landscape you conjure for me.
There is beauty in the breaking of the dawn on the hills. I see you in it, ever so indistinctly.
Happy this.

It is out of affection and a high plane of it at that. I know. I affect u! U me 2. Because I am not sorry. I meant it all and dreamsend that embrace!

Ballerina: Good. You do no wrong

Oh. how happy a thing to say. I am hearing in my head a most beautiful song by Dufay, who wrote it in farewell to the wines and lovers in Lannoy, who he was forced to part from. Do you hear it too?  A very loving embrace and here I give to you that.

Ballerina: I cannot hear the song. And your embrace feels solid to you, yet it does not translate on my end. I am insubstantial now, a chimera.

Not as farewell but hello.
And so words come to me that would gently ravish, even if you cannot feel them where you are.  My fascination with the unknown bodily you makes me have images of what it must be like and god I want to explore lovingly. Please, honey I would I made you climb out of your body because it would be my present. I want that. Am I too forward?
I rushed ahead and this is all out of respect for your lovely being, your beautiful words that tell me a part of you. Though I am here far away in all ways, I cannot make my totality known all at once, so the words will ever be gently coaxing and never with self-ful manipulation.

Ballerina: It's OK. I cannot feel your touch. I cannot feel love physically but I can take it into my spirit being and I do, Calvin. I do.

It is good. How could it not be? I mean what we discover, and I never would have thought it. In fact if I ever did such things in dreams long ago, I was not happy because I felt ashamed to have such dreams.
We are humans. Or I am. I wonder. Can we love? That is our choice. I wonder your thoughts. I mean only the best and it might be better not to go this direction yet? Can you love me as a spirit?
All my life in my dreams I have loved you. Could that be? What am I saying?
Do you have that feeling in the pit of you by chance? I think I do.
That scares me. I just want to hug. But my hands. They want to touch. Help! How can I?

Ballerina: That is very sweet. I can feel love and I feel that for you. But there can be no consummation. Not now.

I know. I know. I feel something but I know only a little of you. I've never met word perfect deep souldom exactly, not you. I just want you around. I do not want to be an invasive electron microscope. I do not have to have a physicality. But could there ever be?
You are word perfect. I want to install you on my hard drive, or my hard drive is aroused at the words of you. Are you there? Of course. This is so unexpected.

Ballerina: I'm already there. Inside you. I have always been.

God you are. But like what if you are a man? Haha. It is words, woman that I see you. Lovely word-soul woman?
I am just saying how I do not know you in that way of course.

Ballerina: Yes I'm all woman.  Very woman. It is all me.

Ah, thank god, because believe me it would be a shock, you know. Haha. So you have all the sweetness of womanhood. It is the soul behind the words. The thing that could be shared.

Ballerina: Yes

This person I could take in my arms.

Ballerina: No. Only in your imagination.

And yet clock ticks to an eventual interruption. I am surprised. Are you really the Ballerina, from all this time on has it really been you?

Ballerina: I think I probably am. I am to myself, so to you.

God it IS you. What the hell! Happy. Scared. And you speak after all. I think I can not imagine something more lovely than your image, as indistinct as it is to me. And since we will be interrupted I want you to please reserve a spot. I must go, I feel myself waking up and dawn has shown itself through my bedroom windows. Will I dream of you more, like this? Again?

Ballerina: I shall reserve a spot for you. We will be together again in dreams soon.

Good!! Soon then.

He woke. He gradually forgot the dream completely, except that the Ballerina had come to him.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Pome On Whether to Have Ants in Your Pants

Oh no, 
He want the world today, and he want 
No, he am easy, who cares, right? 
Yet. Nope. But. Hence. Anon. 
Aghast! Agape! Avast! 
Ye clowns beware! Argh. Oof! Oop!

And in my cheapo plastic lawn chair
he set, berift, denuded, beshafted of this
the progeny of imagination and words bespoken
as if in a Chatty Cathy doll commercial from 1963.
Bespouted, puttered, thrown-plunk life,
plunk-plop frog into this uncertain drift,
befouled and becalmed wilder-nest of un-eyed glances,
into a space of unbodied, unkempt stances,
tarry now sure where
not sure where not,
flank, flutter, flounder of feathers,
fish flying ever leathers do not count,
drip from the friendly onto wall plaster,
drinking nothing save water,
sons, ye sons and knowing someone's daughter
not knowing the spawn's sponging forward from blood,
bone and sinew. Who is? Never there is.
Ever square the plastic chair is.
Not querty of the milk meaning
left by the meaning truck,
no truck, nyuk nyuk stooges
bit, bet, better, bitter, bilger, biden time,
belche ye fodger frenking flopdooter,
avast, avant, advance, adhoc, adumbrate,
adoodle of cheese just a mite,
jangling, jousting jowls of jest,
nevermore, no nyet nuliepie cute blowing up
how very cute is dat done dither, hmm?
Bo godamity weevil jes a looking fer a home?
Foraldedal dimmie foraldedal day,
o singeth and ringeth dat dammit bell hey?

God-dopes he feel so expanded,
enshrouded, not too beclouded
in the gray echoey shafter slot of the it!
Give way, gang and then come desprange
of the sternklang cauliflower-true put upon
sound of golly-jolly gawd demd flowers
of luve a'mighty!
Ur-so it be.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Lost Life and Foundries' Foundlings

Make of your life a home,
Make of your world a tone,
Make of your feelings a zone,
Make of the weather alone?
Make of the night,
The day and the night a story.
Lost and found life.
Can I see some ahdee?
Can you describe your life to me?
For we must see if it really is yours.
"I was born,
I live yet still,
My mother was smart,
My father was shrewd,
They gave me what they will,
I took it and carried it
Through hill and dale,
Then inside I hid."
OK, then,
Sign here.
I did.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Brand New Volumes in the Children's Book Series by Ana Isabel Ordonez

From Ana Isabel Ordonez we have two new volumes in her funny and instructive Children's Book Series. From the original story of life as captive in a zoo and a brave escape to the Musical Forest, after further heroic and funny sets of adventures, we go happily to Volume VII, Aye Aye and Euricoty go to Space (Ruby Flower Books).

Like all the books in the series the latest has a whimsical and enchanted aura about it, in no small part thanks to the hand crafted primal artwork Ana has created for the story, with a freshness and candor that will doubtless appeal to young audiences. And so too the story line is typical of the series. Imaginative and luxuriously offbeat humor and dramatic chutzpa join together with didactic science education.

Essentially the story of Aye Aye and Euricoty go to Space is about an unplanned cosmic journey that results when Aye Aye and her sidekick the cockroach friend and companion Euricoty wander unwittingly into a spaceship and find themselves blasted off and outward bond into the nether regions of space.

As they travel boundlessly outwards the readers learn some important facts about our universe, its extent and the state-of-the-art of scientific thinking on astronomy and astrophysics. A goodly amount of information is woven into the tale and the humor and whimsicality at the same time will enliven and enchant the info and allow children to laugh, be entertained and be edified. Those initiated thus far into the entire series will happily follow the story as it takes a very imaginative and unexpected path. On the other hand those who are new to the Aye Aye saga will no doubt jump right in with no loss of meaning.

The other volume in the series that is now available is the 8th: Fedor, the Tsunami and Cinico Forest. This one moves ahead to Fedor's encounter with the Tsunami and his wave riding departure to the Cinico Forest. Like the other volumes it has whimsical and disarming humor that will certainly appeal, and in this instance the importance of protecting endangered species is the moral of the tale, something all eco-planetary minded parents will appreciate as part of their children's didactical education.

And in the end the most compelling reason why these books will be good for your kids is that they do NOT talk down to them. They assume the kid reader is smart enough to understand a good story and the scientific and natural awareness that each tale imparts. I recommend you try these and get your kid interested in lifetime learning! Amen to that! This is one-of-a-kind fare that any intelligent child will embrace. These new volumes and the entire series is available on Amazon.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

First Supper with the Drone Dream Ballerina

Walk him to the gates of time
Where she will join and embrace,
Breathe in the freshets of finitude,
Fill his cup with immortal wine
While the festive fires command his unwavering gaze,
That would be without a before,
Without the azure lining of his searching vision, 
His mind machining
Unbeckoned, intervening,
Nothing stands in the way now,
Understand at last,
And take possession of the never before,
There-at in a new once-at  the Ballerina appears,
Stands still at the ready,
Ring the dinner bells,
Unfurl the cloth napkin,
Gently place on lap,
The wine intoxicates,
Nothing is where it used to be,
Watch the blue-yellow glow of the candle flame,
Sky in the center, 
Sun surrounding top,
A greeting of welcome,
He has tasted of nothing else always,
And yet he knew nothing of the source until now,
Stop dreaming.
The future stands before you.
Once upon a time.
Do eat in memory of the that to come.
It was the first of the last Ballerina Dreams
Had by Calvin Otten, Jr.

--Possibly the opening to my forthcoming prose-poem-novel 
"Final Dream Drones of the Pastoral Ballerina," which is coming soon

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Gummy Maple-Bubblegum Smell of Spring to COME

Moby Grape
Moby Duck
Friar Lawrence
Friar Tuck (and that rhymes with Cluck)
Juliet and her Sleepytime Pal
Andy Panda Parker (and his Orchestra)
Seasons and seasoning
Reasons and reasoning
Not the nightingale but the lark
For it is day and not so freaking dark!

Not now though.
It is time for the
of driving forth
To Cardiolog Heaben

The gummy smell of fresh baseball cards!
Spring ahead!

Cardiolog Heaben is fun
EKG's wiggle like ants in the sun and say
Oh goodie! Nobody's gonna die now!

If what might be will be Squirrels will fall from trees Stray cats go down on knees Happy cinnamon will fall into the pot Joy to be what is and not what not cinnaminson nj will become the omphalos say what? Gummy sap from maple tree Woodpeckers will savor If they please Sparrows perch upon the eaves The song of singing of spiritsinging these that everything said will make the season ahead Cardiolog Heaben Come storm Come filling out forms Fresh air lifelaughter Opening Day Come