These random thoughts are dedicated to my grandfather who showed me at a early age the street of the beautiful chalets where the Austrian princes wintered with their lovely ladies.
Once upon a time a group of musicians and myself were fortunate enough to play for a very rich king who lived in a very fine castle. At the end of our performance the king was so pleased with our level of play that he ordered all of our instruments to be filled with golden coins. The tuba player made out like a bandit, and there I stood with my piccolo.
Sad is it for those to whom the first waves bring nothing but wrecks. Tomorrow shall be beautiful the wretched man said just before he disappeared beneath the sullen waves.
She came at me like a angry diamond and it was then that I first became privy to the wild grief of abandoned women. It was like a lugubrious cloud that floated in the wake of my dreams and temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and the short sighted elations of pretty petty men, but it was all right because it was a frontier town on the edge of a remote wilderness and I didn’t know which masks where appropriate as I sailed from harbor to harbor in a leaky stolen boat with a wide brim hat on tipped at a calculated angle to keep the sun from scalding my dreams.
There was this quaint little village off the coast of Baja Mexico about one hundred and fifty miles north of San Cabo that I had sailed to for two years in a row. It was very nice. It matched a recurring dream that I had had three nights in row. I was in a foreign port and it was very late at night. The sky was very dark but the hills behind the town were all glowing like the sun was blasting down on them at high noon. There was a yellow dog on the other side of the street. The whole scene was bathed in a strange clear light. The streets were deserted except for the mangy yellow dog.
In the dream I was looking for someone to give me directions to the street of the toy makers. And somewhere hiding in the shadows were sly old men who were charting my progress like the branch office with piles of gold and casual violence in the aftermath of late summer evenings.
Because in my dream I was seeking out the street of the toy makers I had always assumed that the strange foreign town was European in origin. I had always had this wonderful image in my mind of little old men with infinite patience who made clever wooden toys that were really works of art. Their lives were so steady like the prosperous little burger-masters all tucked away in their cozy little hamlets against the snowy back drop of enchanted Alpine mountains. While I sailed through seas of forgetfulness knife fighting with gypsies until dawn and having my way with their daughters.
But it wasn’t Europe it was Mexico and even though the village was totally enchanted there was no street of clever toy makers. I did meet a girl who I called the daughter of the Brujo. She was seventeen and had a beauty that anyone could see, her voice was soft like water falling over rocks. Her first words to me were “you were born without a heart” she said this as she was backing away with her hand over her mouth her and her eyes filled with horror.
Greedy is his heart for her heavenly song blinded are his eyes by her dazzling light burned is his face by ten thousand passionate notes lost is he who hears the siren’s song And desolate is he whose heart does not respond
Sometimes I feel like this child of a witch stole my life, I’m all hollow inside I hide in plain sight, unable to reach out to people closest to me.
My life has always felt like an unanswered question a string of blue empty autumn afternoons waiting for something to happen. And still I toil in the obscurity of lugubrious grey leaden skies.
Walk through life more beautiful than anything stand in the sunshine of life and be a lover of all things that make you strong
I stayed there for months. I would free dive and spear fish which I would then trade in the market place for fresh fruit. I went SCUBA diving for the first time. I went with the two brothers of the daughter of the Brujo. They put a weight belt on me and strapped a beat up scarred old SCUBA on my back and threw me over the side of my own boat. I straight away sank down to the bottom in a hundred and ten feet of water. As I sat on the sea floor I wondered if this was the best way to learn how to SCUBA dive. But it was Mexico. I have often wondered since if she told her brothers that I was born without a heart and that they should take me out and drown me but like I said “it was Mexico”.
She washed my clothes and help me trade my fish for exotic fruits in the marketplace she also never stopped glaring at me. The second year that I sailed down was even more intense. She looked into my eyes in the middle of the marketplace while I wondered if this was the way beautiful things happen. I was totally unprepared for what happened next. I met her father and we had very strange and awkward adventures in the distance hills. He never spoke a word to me and like his daughter he never stopped glaring. One time he dropped a rattlesnake in my lap and walked away. She laughed and said he was testing me to see if I was worthy, testing me for what, and if the snake had bit me would that have meant that I wasn’t worthy? But I reframed from saying anything at all since in that part of the world silence was the better part of conversation.
The third year the rich people discovered my little village by the sea. But like I said it was really nice for a year or two.
You would think that death would take a long time to claim someone, you know like there should be some warning. I always thought that I would die in Paris a thin old man in a proper black suit sitting on a park bench in front of a easel working on a lovey little landscape. It would either be in the early spring or late autumn and the forecast would be for rain the next day.
I would be sitting on the bench in the late afternoon sun and I would doze off and not wake up. People would be passing me by and lowering their voices so as not to awake the dozing old man. All of my affairs would be in order and everything would be neat and proper.
But it was not like that at all death came for someone very close to me instead and snatched her from this life it was so quick and so unexpected. It left me stunned and gasping for air.
So I did what men have done since time immortal I went down to the sea and ventured forth in a small wooden boat. Many days later I figured that I was about a thousand miles out to sea and about five hundred miles south of San Diego. I was drifting and it was so pleasant. The days were balmy and warm in the morning the sea would be like a sheet of glass. And in the late afternoon a slight but steady breeze would come up and I would hove too by sheeting in the Mizzen sail and back winding the jib. The wind would press the boat down into the sea and she would be so steady until I was able to work on fine highly detailed pencil drawings and practice the flute for hours.
Each day blended into the next and it made me really wonder why I hadn’t thought of this before. I was always headed somewhere each time I left the harbor, even this time I had been headed to Hawaii. But two days out I realized that I really didn’t want to be there, on an island with a bunch of jerky tourist, so instead of going somewhere I went to nowhere. To be all alone on a wide blue sea. Somedays I would play a lovely little Bach minuet on my silver flute, or I would sit on the back of the boat and play the cello for hours, if it was really calm then I would work on pencil drawings but if it was too rough for drawing then I would work on a story that I was writing. Of course the story was about love death and eternity and other things that I know absolutely nothing about.
It all stared when I was dozing off down below around mid morning. I could hear their voices this was the third day in a row that they had come. When you don’t hear the sound of another human voice for days on end then every sound takes on a special meaning. The hull of the boat was acting as a echo chamber for hundreds of dolphins. The sea was very still without a ripple but even so I still threw two hundred feet of gold line over the stern, just in case. I always did that when ever I went swimming in the open sea. That way if the wind did come up then I didn’t have to try and catch the boat all I had to do was get close enough to catch the rope trailing behind.
At first we were just swimming around the boat. I would take a deep breath and go down about thirty or forty feet and they were all around me. I lost my human hood in the joy of the bright blue sea. When you get a couple hundred miles out to sea it changes color. It is a deeper richer shade of blue this happens because when you get about a hundred miles from land there are particles of sand in the sea that change the color.
I had no idea that we were drifting away from the boat I was swimming strongly and I had the illusion that I was keeping up with them but in actuality they were swimming much faster than me, but there were just so many of them until because there were always dolphins beside me I felt like I was keeping up.
But then in one moment of clarity I turned to get my bearings on the boat and it was just a tiny speck on the horizon. Then I had to make a choice because I felt at that moment that if I kept swimming with the dolphins that I would just morph into a dolphin. At that moment I wondered how many men how many wise and strong men had lost their wisdom and their human-hood in the joy of the wide blue sea. To seek death is to seek nothing. This is not the true way.
I seek the four universal truths on the eight-fold manifestation path. I seek the four conditions of the solitary bird.
He doesn’t seek company not even from his own kind
He doesn’t have a definite color
He flys to the highest peak
He sings very softly
When I turned and started swimming for the boat it was so far away until I believed that I had no hope of reaching it it was just about noon and in the early afternoon the wind came up and if I hadn’t caught up to it by then then I would die all alone on the wide blue sea.
In my youth I had been a swimmer. That was before I injured my body with cigarettes alcohol and beautiful women. But even in my prime I had not the endurance for long distance swimming I was a sprinter. Fifty yards and after that I was done. When swimming long distances in the sea my trick was to roll over on my back and do a kind of elementary back stroke this would allow one to catch one’s breath. But in this battle the only way I was going to reach the boat again was to swim as fast as I could for as long as I could.
Years later I still groan with pain from the absolute horror of it all.
I thought about what would happen if I didn’t make it. Who would find my boat. It was a pretty little ketch forty five feet long with gleaming highly polished teak rails. The whole interior was teak, whole old growth teak forest had been plundered in the making of my yacht it was one of the many glaring paradoxes of my life.
Who would board my boat and fine my antique silver flutes, my hand made cello, who would find my collection of fine pencil drawings and watercolors. Who would fine my collection of jade brought from the sea floor off the coast of Big Sur fifteen hundred miles to the north, who would fine my hand carved walking sticks, and my hand made bow and arrows. All any of us get is a glimpse of this fleeting transitory world. I will be dust on the side of the road maybe the wind will blow I will get in your eyes you will rub me out and say “gee it sure is windy out today”.
The wind had come up and the boat was getting further and further away. I kept swimming because I felt that this was my last act and that it should be done well. If this had been a movie then a dolphin would have offered me his fin and carried my back to my ship. But the moment that I chose life over death the dolphins kept on swimming like they had some place they really had to be and they were running a little late.
I had had my head down swimming hard for about twenty minutes and when I brought my head up I expected the boat to be completely out of sight but instead it was bearing down on me. The wind had shifted.
As long as the south wind blew blew I drove my ship ever northward. In late October I found myself sailing through the straights of San Juan Fuca and into the inland sea. I had decided to spend a year spend in the great northwest pacific rain forest.
During the whole of a cold rainy grey day in October the sun’s rays were weak and feeble without the ability to impart warmth. I was tied up to a dock in Maple Bay on Vancouver Island. It had been weeks since I had seen the sun it rained everyday.
I was a long way from home. Home being a half way house on a one way street in a grim industrial complex on the east side of Detroit. But even on the Eastside there where places that were overgrown and unkempt. Where the wind would blow the cold slanted rain against the cracked window etched by the fading light.
I wonder where the beautiful daughter of the Brujo is now I wonder what she is doing this minute I wonder what she would say to me right now about this weak anemic sun who’s feeble rays fail to impart warmth. She would probably say “no more will I come to these cold northern towns.”
I remember adjusting my rose tinted pimp shades as the morning sun broke from behind the clouds. I was walking down the street snapping my fingers to the beat of a unheard drummer. I was looking for my reflection in every store front window but I didn’t need to for I was impeccability dressed in my silk, moehair wool worsted continental to the bone three hundred and fifty dollar walking suit, with a very large artificial diamond stick pen in place, cigarette in hand. I had arrived.
But even then I knew somehow that I was different than all the other young players from the third estate, for the blood of the noble Moors ran in my veins even though I had squander my father’s gold in sinister market places and surrendered my mind to the fruit of the vine. I would later find redemption when I studied classical fencing and seamanship, under the brutal tutelage of grandfather. And I also came to have some small amount of skill with a throwing knife which I kept concealed up my sleeve for this is the true weapon of choice for a harbor town player. But in times of peace and prosperity I have been known to trim the hedges and water the flowers.
When the mist rises on the riverside and autumn leaves come falling lightly down under distance grey October skies be nice and think of as my boat drifts against the jagged shore oh my dark and sultry love
I remember sitting in a all night greasy spoon after the party was over and all the beautiful people had gone. I was talking with a girl who’s father sang on the radio. Maybe I was over doing it because she stopped me in mid sentence and asked me “what is the worst thing that you have ever done”.
You think people don’t know. But they sit in the late afternoon with their clothes drying on the line and they know you walk on glass splinters talking to yourself as you drop sand on your shadow and repeat words you don’t understand at the edge of the city.
So I told her that I killed this kid who used to be my best friend. We used to shoot birds with a ancient BB gun. I remember the blood drops spreading on the snow and the glassy eyes glazing over in death. He was glamorous or maybe he wasn’t really glamorous but I did romanize him because he was half Indian he had eyes like a cat, he lived with his grandmother who was very old she was just a little girl when the horse soldiers came and destroyed their tribe’s autumn harvest and drove them into the cold grey walls of Ft. Stills. But even though she was just a little girl she still remembered the dark brooding of defeated warriors.
He cast shadows in the world he was spooky he knew about ghost. He turned himself into a snake and tried to bite me. When a man has an enemy like that he kills him if he can.
“We were playing in his backyard when the big boys came and starting instigating a fight between us. I didn’t want to fight because I loved him well, but they kept at it until he hit me in the face and made my blood spill, so I started crying I wasn’t really hurt, I was just thinking about the time furnace broke and I looked up at the cold November morning.
As I struggled through my tears of rage and frustration trying to take off my coat he hit me again and again, every time I would undo a button he would smash me in the face by the time I got my coat off I was ready to calmly kill him the same way we kick cats off of the curb into the dirty snow, but his grandmother came out and made a speech about how long she had waited for the arrival fine young men to create a new world based upon ancient memories. And even now you can see her standing on the corner in the rain watching all these pimps of luke warm seasons easing past the filthy snow.
It took me two days to stalk him down but when I did I just threw him to the ground and stomped him about the head, for his betrayal. The next day he ambushed my little brother on the way to school stole his lunch money and cruised him hard damaging his face. He had boot marks on one side of his face and sidewalk burns on the other side. This time it took me over a week to track him down. As soon as he saw me he took off running and I was running right behind him flowing easy without effort the way smoke flows over land. I wasn’t in a hurry I was running because evil was abroad and it must be confronted. We were connected the prey and the hunter, between those two a special relationship exist. The advantage is always to the hunter.
Running through the streets of the city of the future dodging Father Divines hustlers lucky to find shiny white shoes on sale But it beats advertising cemeteries to my good colored friends or working for the freelance pallbearers and the imaginary fat man
It felt like we were the only two people in the city, at one point he ran up on Katrina Iavana’s porch she was a witch from the old country she had a humpback and a dark mustache she was a lascivious woman old and close to death, he tried to get into her house but she was frighten and wouldn’t open the door I ran up on the porch after him I grabbed him and threw him over the high railing and he landed head first in the poisonous flowers I made eye contact with old Katrina she knew that death had come a calling, only it wasn’t for her this time. He took off running with his broken collar bone rattling in the wind. He finally came to rest in a alley leaning against the chipped brick wall of Ol Man Rutherford’s corner store panting and starring with a blank gaze. I grab him in a headlock and my bony arm cut off the blood supply to his brain. I didn’t let go until I felt his ghost enter me. His grandmother sits staring out the window at the dark end of the street she is really old now. All of this happened when I was eleven years old on the Eastside of Detroit in 1961 across the street from the railroad tracks.
All the gold and diamonds of the crown I wore they had always hated. The fight of enormous proportions to settle ancient property disputes the new wine and social graces kept me far enough away to keep from serving a hated master.
I was awakened by the sound of voices gently arguing back and forth. It was my father and my grandfather. My father was saying “go ahead and take him if you must he’s just like you”. My father was short dark skinned and very muscular and even though he was very gentle and soft spoken there was something about him that made men fear him. My father played it straight and narrow and survived with my mom who was a stone cold fox, on the east side of Detroit by holding down a factory job. While my grandfather on the other hand was an enigma. He was very tall and graceful lithe like a great cat and in spite of the fact that his manners were very polished there was something infinitely cruel about him. A man so cruel in fact that they called him “The Turk”. Something had gone down between him and my father because his name was never mentioned in our house.
Hey I’m Little Wille Armstrong Jones
reach out for me baby
All sharp in my new suit
Watching the night swing in
I’m living with the nice lady
The white lady With the Snow White hair And the ice cold lips
When I’m sad she comes to me With a thousand smiles she says “Hey Little Wille Take anything you want from me”
Remembrance for Little Pee Wee
He was cooled by a cop’s warning shot
But he forgot the time and he forgot the place
He forgot that all cops carry guns with triggers
That blood will spill and flesh grow cold
So they scribbled on a little standard note book pad
Name: Little Pee
Next of kin: Unknown Occupation: Unemployed Cause of Death (be specific): Resisting reality in the form of a 38 caliber revolver held in the hands of the arresting officer, on Dexter Ave across the street from the Bar-B-Q Joint in the heat of the afternoon sun.
But hey I’m Little Willie Armstrong Jones Reach out for me baby.
My aunt who everybody called Lady Mary revered my grandfather she was always telling my brothers and I stories about our grandfather who was reported to be descended from the Moors of Venice. My father hated her filling our heads with what he called fairy tales. I don’t think my brothers and I really believed Lady Mary, but I for one loved her stories. What I really loved was the concept of being descended me from a really strong people instead of the stigmatism of being descended from conquered weeping whining broken people, who stood in doorways drinking cheap wine in brown paper bags and calling themselves the last of the bluesmen.
She told us that there was once a court jester in our family tree who rode into battle with a prince who’s last name was Talifero. Had this jester not been present to render service above and beyond the call of duty and actually save the Prince’s life. Then my life would have been vastly different. In exchange for this service he was given the title of Duke Talifero a heredity fife was also bestowed upon our family along with the with the title. Within two generations all of the lands had been lost at the gaming tables along with the title.
One of my ancestors could not bear this shame and decided to go to sea and seek his fortune. He set forth in a brigantine brig made of dark woods. He was a competent sailor and a more than able bodied duelist. At one time he was known as the King’s Falconer for he would sail his boat to the shores of Norway climb the rugged sea cliffs and capture young peregrine falcons he would then sell them to the nobles in Europe and the Middle East. It was said that he dressed to the point of excessiveness and that he was the type of man no father would trust his daughter with. When he would fall upon hard times then his clothes would become faded and ragged, but his under garments were always spotless and his swords were made of the fineness steel in the world. His name was Alderberon Talifero.
My mother was half Cherokee Indian. Which made me one quarter native son. She totally turned her back on all things tribal. Her father denounced her saying that she was like a caged witch full of malice and regret that lived as a scavenger feasting on the crumbs of power that fell from the table of forgotten ancestral deities.
The Turk was a peerless sailor he had a forty foot sailboat. And when he took me from my father’s house we went down to the sea and ventured forth on the face of the deep.
Down by the Seashore
Down by the seashore the sea breeze came up and grains of seasand were in the wind. The lovely little ship was the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen. It was a double masted ketch built along the lines of the elegant clipper ships. Her rakish mast had been sanded and varnished till they gleamed and glowed with an inner light and life of their own. Her scrupulously holystoned teak decks reflected the fine craftsmanship and good taste in ship building from a bygone era. Her bronze work flashed like gold and her white hull shone like a fine silk robe. She looked like a ship that had been on a shelf in a glass case only recently and delicately placed in the water, where she would dance upon the waves like a high strung thoroughbred steed. But when the wind was upon her she would dip her polished toe-rail in the sea as a quiver ran up the fine nerve of her rigging and the wind would moan as she flew across the water like a dark bird of passage, Her name was Deja Vu.
Under the bronze skylight my grandfather sat at a rosewood table, writing a letter to an old and dear friend. “Deja Vu” leaped from wave to wave sailing to windward like a witch. With the wind on my face I was at the helm and like the sea I was in a wild and frayed mood.
Somewhere off the Coast of Africa the fog lay heavy on the jagged coastline as the waves broke hugely on the rocks. The Turk gently guided “Deja Vu” along the boulder faced cliffs. His keen face was a mask of unbending intent, his eyebrows bunched together, his nostrils flared as he brought the helm over hard and “Deja Vu” leaped like a demented thing and flung herself down towards the jagged rocks as the wind howled and the cold grey sea broke in fury all around. Then we were sailing up a calm fiord. My grandfather said “I have to meet a man” We were always up to some type of shady business.
I once again remember hearing my father say “he is just like you” as we were leaving. My father was shuddering both at the cruel thing that had made him and the cruel thing that he had made.
It wasn’t until years later when we were in some foreign harbor town and a menacing scoundrel insulted the hot little tramp my grandfather was with that I came to realize the true nature of The Turk. We were in some back alley cesspool in front of a harbor town dive and my grandfather and I were getting ready to enter a seedy club, when a big burly ruffian called the young thing hanging on my grandfather’s arm a “whore”. Nobody saw my grandfather move it just seemed like there was a ripple in the fabric that time is made out of and the man dropped to his knees with his throat cut. His eyes were glassing over, he was bleeding out.
Nobody saw my grandfather move nobody saw a knife in his hand he didn’t have one drop of blood on him the blood had actually squirted the other way. Yet I was sure that my grandfather had just killed a man in front of twenty people and these twenty people were now his witnesses that they had not seen anything. I really wanted to ask my grandfather why he had killed a man for calling a whore a whore, but then I thought better of it.
I always wanted that power to be able to move that fast. It wasn’t just the speed with which he moved it was almost like he was able to control what everybody saw by submerging them into his waking dream reality. We all saw what he wanted us to see.
I’m also knife fighter, it is not something that I proud of. In spite of the fact that I think of myself as a swordsman I’m under no illusions that it is pretty much a dead art with no real application in our modern society. You would look pretty ridiculous walking around with either a Japanese katana or a European rapier on your side. Where as a knife on the other hand is something that you can always have with you and it has in fact save my life on numerous occasions. To be a knife fighter is a skill that is very practical in the lawless reaches of the northern wastelands.
Knife fights by their nature are ugly affairs, vicious and brutal and should be avoided at all cost. In the region where I hail from Conant Gardens on the Eastside of Detroit a place which is legendary for the quality of the knife fighters it produces we have a saying “if one man pulls a knife then someone is going to get cut but if two men pull knives then there won’t be a fight”.
They may pace back and forth with their ugly faces raging with insults and false dignity but they will never never close within striking range.
One of the first things you learn as a knife fighter is that if you are in a knife fight you will get cut. The winner will be determined by the person who is able to dictate where they will take the slash, and then choose where they will deliver their cut.
I learned this training trick from a Russian fencing master who had fought real duels in the hills of Hungry with calvary officers. I don’t know if these duels where to the death or just for first blood, he didn’t say. But he was a killer and he had the smell of blood about him.
I have fought over sixty duels with sharp swords some for first blood others were the last man standing type of affairs.
The first thing that you learn when you have your back against the wall and your opponent is totally on the attack is how to hold your eyes or where to focus. You cannot not watch the blade it is moving way to fast for you to comprehend. If you stare at it for to long then you will become frighten and confused and unable to act or react, which is a deplorable state of affairs in a do or die knife fight. The blade becomes a force of nature sometimes it almost becomes elemental.
Musashi the 16th century Japanese sword saint was the first to break down five different moods of sword fighting into corresponding elemental elements that have a similar vibrational frequency in nature. They are: Air, Earth, Fire, Water, and the Void.
But at the end of the day even though you might be traveling the path to enlightenment it is a total paradox that such a cruel path can lead the soul unto enlightenment. What is even more of an enigma is the fact that some who follow the way of the sword actually go on to become healers.
At first glance this paradox seems really strange but upon closer examination it makes perfect sense. When faced with a worthy opponent you are always probing for a weakness and as you learn to see deeper and deeper into your opponent’s mind you also become aware of how to heal the weaknesses that become apparent to you. In fact a really good swordsman will become one with his opponent in much the same way that a gifted healer would.
I lost my first three knife fights. Each one is a story that is etched into my mind’s eye by the scar tissue.
Antimony of defeat
I had won the fight and beat my enemy down with pure rage so great was my anger against the outrage that he had perpetrated against me. He had filched from me my good name. He who steals my gold has that which was mine yesterday, his today, and yours tomorrow. But he who steals from me my good name has robbed me of that which enriches him not and leaves me truly poor indeed.
After having beaten my adversary down and left him bleeding and groaning in a alley off of Linwood and Burlingame I turned my back to walk away. At first I thought that he had punched me, but then everything went white and I collapsed. He had stabbed me in the back and collapsed a lung.
The second incident involved a tactic that I now call the hidden blade. In most fight situations before the fight can really take place both fighters have to gather themselves. They do this by talking trash and trying to instill a sense of defeat in their opponent. But what happen in this fight was while I was talking stuff he struck with a really small blade that was hidden in his hand. The blade went in just above my collar bone and it must have struck a artery because I saw this fountain of blood squirting out and I remember thinking is that my blood just before fainting. As soon as he struck he took off running, I never had a chance. I remember laying on the dirty ground surround by trash watching my blood soak into the ground. When I got to the hospital I had loss over six and a half pints of my blood and was very close to death from shock.
And the last fight that I lost I was wrestling with a person who was attacking me with a knife. My grip slipped and the blade cut my hand down to the bone.
The one thing that I realized in all three of these encounters was that I didn’t have a knife. The only thing worst than bringing a knife to a gun fight is being the only one in a knife fight without a knife.
But even though I had absorbed these three harrowing experiences I still didn’t carry a knife. I didn’t really start carrying a knife all the time until I was in my mid thirties. By the time I was twenty I was pretty scared up, but to me each scar was a story and a lesson.
From the age of twenty until my mid thirties I carried a walking stick, you would never see me without it. It was my preferred weapon of choice. With proper training it was just as deadly as a knife and it was not against the law. It is the perfect weapon for a urban warrior who wants to be able to savagely defend himself and not do a day in jail.
My grandfather told me that sometimes you run into a man who is faster and stronger than you and it is it would appear impossible to beat him. When that happens then you must cut him slowly by joining your spirit with his you must merge and flow your movements with his and once that is accomplished then you must step a little to the side and cut slowly and deeply.
It is very important to get off the direct line of an attack. Your opponent can run faster forwards than you can backwards. But once you get off of his line of attack then he must stop to change directions and at that moment when he is at a standstill then you must attack slowly and strongly.
If I must trade cuts then I want to present my forearm with my thumb facing me and my baby finger facing outward. This presents the bone of the forearm. There are no veins or arteries and that area is also devoid of nerves so you can take a fairly deep cut there and still keep on fighting although if you receive enough cuts to the bone itself you will subtly go into shock so the trading of cuts is something that you only want to do once or twice in a fight.
The trick is that once you have closed with your enemy you must strike something vital. I prefer deep cuts to the neck, once I have taken a cut to get inside. The neck is a bundle of nerves veins and arteries. The whole neck is a pressure point. Where as trying to cut the body and strike something vital can be random and ineffective leaving your opponent free to inflict grievous bodily injury upon your person.
Such as tell me not sweets That I’m unkind or from the nunnery Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind But to war and arms I fly
A lot of what my grandfather taught me as a sword fighter ports over into the world of the knife fighter. My grandfather was about seventy five years old when I first started training with him. He had been to Russia and he had fought on the Russian front as a bayonet fighter in the Siege of Stalingrad in World War ll. He was an unusual negro.
My grandfather would say things like “you are too strong, if you show this man how strong you are then he will be afraid of you and he will focus on his defense making him harder to hit. But if you fake weakness and hold your sword off point and feed him misinformation about who you really are as a fencer then he will become embolden and rush in for his easy victory. Then at the last possible moment after he has committed to a line of attack then you parry rip posts and he dies with a surprise look on his face.
He would say things like respect your opponent don’t try to kill him straight away first you must play cat and mouse with him enjoy the conversation through interaction you can come to know your opponent. It is almost impossible to hit a worthy opponent straight away he will see you coming and defend easily against your obvious attack. You must learn to camouflage your intention and then when your opponent’s confusion has reached critical mass then you attack. You must first cut your opponent with your eyes and then follow through with the blade and cut deeply.
Now that the old world is crashing around me and it is raining in early spring. I like to sit and draw in warm well lite places. Bus stations, college cafeterias, pubs and out door cafes.
A dark dismal cold spring day in late May I
decided to hold up in the library of a small town on the edge of the Wisconsin
Dells. Just as the library closed it started to rain very hard and stupidly against the window. I remember thinking its five o’clock in the evening it just don’t get no worst than this.
My tent and sleeping bag were soaking wet. I asked the librarian for directions to the greyhound bus station. I thought to spend the night there and continue my trip in the morning.
I really didn’t want to be alone any more. It was raining pretty hard when I walked down the library steps in the cold darkness. I had started out a month ago in Detroit riding my Italian ten speed bicycle to South America. Now just two states away from where I started and I was cold lonely and broken.
I had been working on a landscape pencil drawing all day in the library. At around noon the librarian who had a strange and haunting beauty she would stare you right in the eyes without smiling or blinking and if you looked away first then she won by default. She was young and fine but she dressed down and tried to hide her reflection, she had suffered I could see her open wounds and I was offended by them, she had approached me and asked me “did you draw that”? I started to just flip her off, but when I saw how fragile she was I felt empathy.
Like the time I was riding the 12th street bus and this girl looked at a picture I was drawing and started weeping for all her hurts which were also my own I wonder where she is now.
To grow old drawing trees in a library in a small middle American village on the edge of the Wisconsin Dells is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.
I spent the night shivering in my rain soaked sleeping bag. The next morning I went back to the library as soon as it opened and started drawing she wasn’t there it was some old woman with snow white hair. I was gravely disappointed, I was still working on the landscape of yesterday, when she came in in the early afternoon. And then the sun came out.
I couldn’t the break the silence but maybe she could, but as I was slowly walking away all I heard were the footsteps of emptiness following me softly. But like I said. To grow old drawing trees in a library in a small middle American village on the edge of the Wisconsin Dells with a sweet little rainbow like her is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.
I spent the second night shivering in my rain soaked sleeping bag. The night was still and bright, and the cold had moderated only enough to allow the meadows and the stream to be wrapped in mist as the soft twilight descended. Corn was being planted. From the trees came the song of birds as the mist rose over the county side. The night lay in quite repose, and the hillside was shrouded in the chaste silence.
It was this crescendo of emptiness that would haunt me until the end of days.
The cold stillness was as absolute as the stony hardness of midnight that stalked me, for the sun brooded in silence somewhere other than here. Under the brightness of the glowering sky was imposed a muteness far more fraught with the foreboding than the darkness of the night.
I wanted to tell her that she was really beautiful but I knew that if I said that she would become uncomfortable and feel that I was objectifying her. So instead I said “I see you”.
She said “not to change the subject but do you think that Pushkin should be given dignity in purgatory?” Then she said before I could answer “I can’t talk about that right now could you call me later and when she wrote down her number on a scrap of paper her hand shook a little.
We would go to the library together early in the morning while the stone bench in the park was still cold and wet. I would spend the whole day drawing from books of the old masters. The beautiful summer days passed and autumn came cold hard and early. Three weeks later she was dead it was a fast acting cancer. I was numb with shock.
I left today, it was quite unexpected. A shabby circus came to town and I fell in love with the music played by a raggedy gypsy girl who played violin. I told her I thought she was amazing but I was really jealous of her skills. When she looked directly into my eyes I knew she saw an imposter. I asked her it if I could play music with her sometime? I hadn’t really meant to say that it just slipped out. She said no. I said “please” She nodded slightly. And her eyes were like snake slits. We got together the next day. The music was all wrong I was all over the place she had discipline I had none. I was a free spirit she wasn’t. Our music was strangely haunting and beautiful. She liked it but she didn’t want to. After I had created distance between us by walking slowly and sullenly away. I said “come here”. She said “what do you want”. I said “you”. She said “what do you want with me”. I said “I want to make your dove cry”. She said “no way”. She became agitated when I sucked her tongue. She wanted me to do it again but I was dark brooding and full of grief..
I spent two nights with the shabby circus playing my flute with the raggedy gypsy girl who played violin on the third day I went back to the house to get my things Lenore was not dead. I kept telling myself, I knew I was behaving badly. I don’t deal well with grief. I had just decided to leave when Lenore’s father knocked on the door. At first I thought it was her and my heart gave a me a jolt of fear. But then her father stepped in and he had a voice was full of sorrow anger wrath and regret. For some strange reason he blamed me for her illness and sudden death.
‘It was a few months ago when you broke into my daughters heart and defiled her”. He stretched his scrawny neck forward and with twisted lips and in a guttural voice like a cawing bird, he cursed me. “May you be accursed on this earth, without rest or sleep! ”
Your poisoned heart will overflow with yearning and your bread be as a scorpion in your mouth! May your eyes rot and your pride putrefy between your legs! I wish misfortune on you! May you shrivel up like a mangy dog and your corpse ooze from the holes in your coffin! Calamity on you!”
I wanted to say that I was innocent that I had in no way betrayed his daughter, all I did was kissed her in the moonlight early one morning that was heavy with frost. The snow stretched for miles under the feeble, spectral moon from the western sky. It lay with a bluish cast far out over the meadows and arched over the hills in nebulous whiteness. It was impossible to distinguish the darkness of the shadows.
I had not the slightest desire for the gypsy violin player, I had admired her from a distance. I had marveled at how she didn’t play it safe and just make pretty correct music she took chances even when there was no need to. She hit impossible notes time after time, she would never bury herself away in a small Middle American town and surround herself with dusty books written by old dead men. And with that realization I had felt a awakening a quickening a stirring from a deep warm, and pleasant slumber. Sudden seeings which make you more than you bargained for, but a coward on earth unless you claim them.
It was so cold that the snow crunched loudly underfoot, and fingers tingled as if touched by dripping acid. But through the frozen death of the meadow crept the stream, black and open and incurably alive. Her eyes were all I had.
And that was how I came to be a dark prince traveling under a curse.
Long were the days since departure for I had wanted to stay in that perfect little village of pretty red brick houses and the church with the steeple bell tower forever.
I followed the shabby circus to Lincoln Nebraska. When I got there I joined the circus.
I played my piccolo with the raggedy gypsy violinist who had studied classical music at some Music Conservatory in Europe. We provided mood music for the different acts sometime we would just wander around playing in between the tents. She was angry and sullen and at first she dance circles around me with her lightening quick arpeggios, but then I started using tongue thrills and street rifts and our battles became somewhat epic every night. I was very quick and I could use pomp and foolery to keep her from over powering me. And since we were just playing for a bunch of hicks I came out the apparent victor even though I knew that I was no match for her. I think that is why she despised me she never called me by my name she would always call me “the thief” or “the impostor.” And she never spoke directly to me she always spoke through another person.
I think we really hated each other even though we never declare open war. I was really scared of her dark flashing moods and that made me hostile and aggressive. She loved Bach. So I would murder Bach every chance I got. I would change the timing on her I would drawn out notes and make them long and pretty without warning and I would never play it the same way twice. But I could never shake her she was always right there on point. The crowd loved our explosive battles when we would climb the scale trading high pitched rifts until it would seem that one of us must surely bottom out. And sometimes in these clashing crescendos and anti-climaxes as we struggled against each other’s will we would come together in the very highest reaches of our instruments.
I found her aloof, I was intimidated by her classical background. She dressed in what appeared to be rags but somehow she looked like faded royalty. Like she might be a countess traveling incognito. And even though I played music with her every night I never once spoke to her nor she to me. She was a just ragamuffin with skills putting on airs.
So I was totally a taken aback when she gave me a Great Bass Wooden flute for my birthday. I had no idea how she even knew it was my birthday, and I wonder if this meant that I had won our high pitch screaming battles. That where so hard on the ears. The Great Bass is such a mellow sounding woodwind. When ever I played it she would play the cello. It was just as deep warm and rich as the violin and piccolo where shrill and piercing.
I knew I shouldn’t ask her but I couldn’t help myself it had been bothering me for days then it just came out one day after we had played a really intense session for the acrobats. I asked her “how did you know it was my birthday?” And she replied “your grandfather told me.” The year was 1973. I hadn’t seen him for five years.
She laughed she cried, she wept she carried my child all through the winter, and when he was born in the spring and she saw that the sight of him made me afraid then she turned her face from me.
It was around that time that I left the city with its cold catacomb like corridors where the bent backs reap but from a shrunken harvest.
She found me drunk and weeping in the dark under the stairs when I thought no one was watching. And it was over. She left today. She said she could not or would not compete with a ghost.
The only thing that I know for sure is that I know nothing at. I once journeyed to a place where the people thought themselves wise. But then in the course of causal conversation they showed themselves to know even less than I. And I knowing nothing at all thought it was amazing how their tongues could continue to distribute misinformation about the nature of understanding by activity demonstrating a profound propensity for dissimulation of diametrically opposed ideologies. So then out of vindication of truth I pointed out to them that while I knew nothing at all they knew even less than I.
Of course this made the ragged rabble very angry and they sought to denounce before the crowd by saying “beware of him for he is one who has the unique ability to make a weaker argument over come a stronger one. And so powerful did they argue against me until I myself was almost totally convinced and would have been so completely had it not been for the fact that I know that not a word of what they spoke was true.
They say that I’m a elegant speaker, but as you can see from the coarseness of my clothes and the crudeness of my manner that I’m hardly what you would call an elegant speaker unless what they mean by elegance is one who speaks the truth then yes I must admit that I have a elegance after a fashion.
I was brought before the Impiteous Tribunal and they said of me that up I went and down I came without my eyes. I was therefore doomed to dwell in the cave of darkness among those who have no measurement by which to gage the distance of their shadows. And if someone of flesh and blood someone like you or I were to walk pass the mouth of that cave those who dwell in darkness therein would say it tis only a shadow mumbling in the wind. But the only thing that I know for sure is that I know nothing at all.
I spent whole the morning at the edge of the forest, in the early afternoon I did battle with the tyrannical mass media mind controlling six eyed cyclops. I will probably be eating cyclops meat for a month. I really hate fried cyclops meat.
My grandfather the man so cruel that they called him ‘The Turk’ was a study in paradox. Not only would he not eat the flesh of dead burnt animals, he would not partake of any food that had been placed in the fire. He used to say to me.
‘Rejoice and be happy for you have been invited to dine at the table of your
Heavenly Father who loves you truly. And when you eat at the table of your
Heavenly Father you will find forgiveness good cheer and prosperity
will follow you all the days of your life. Your cup of good fortune runneth
over and you shall drink the dew of the dawn from the cupped petals of the
flowers and rejoice with the birds over the colors of the rainbow.
Eat only of the food that grows in the garden.
But when you dine at the table of Satan you shall not find forgiveness; you will instead find an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and all accounts rendered shall be paid full in blood. So therefore I say unto you verily do not eat food that has been scorched by the fire, nor partake of the flesh of slaughtered animal corpses lest their blood turns to poison in your blood. You must think of your body as a temple for the living God and the food that you eat is an offering to the God that dwells within.
So therefore I say unto you eat not the flesh of dead things lest you become like a tomb, beautiful from afar but far from beautiful. For it is full of abominations within. And believe me also when I say unto you that your Heavenly Father loves you so that he has sent three angels to serve you. They are the angels of the air, the angels of the water and the angel of the sun. If you hold fast to the center and break not your fellowship with them they will serve you well. And lastly I say unto you pour not over the dead words of dead prophets written in dead books, for I say unto you verily that the word of God is a living word spoken to living men’.”
The blood gore maim, skin under your finger nails and hair between your teeth I can see that you have been eating the burnt dead flesh of rotting furry little animals again. My grandfather would always say that to a man just before he killed him.
The pain was just absolutely horrendous, I had the worst migraine headache,
it was coming in waves of throbbing agony. Technically I was within the
boundaries that my grandfather had set for me. But the dark destructive streak that
had haunted me through out my early years still threatened to undo me.
Bushara the Beautiful used to laugh at me and call me “he who travels the path of The Forlorn Warrior” She would tell me that “most men avoid their destruction like the plague whereas I let mine in through the front door”. It was the summer of 67 Eastside Detroit and she had just got a
new car, I wonder where she is now with her soft stepping beauty?
If it is true what men say that death is like a gentle sleep
Then it must also be true when they say that eternity is as a single night
I had been making progress. I was trying to separate myth from possibilities
in the ancient teaching of the Kung Fu masters. I had dropped out of
High School in the 10th grade to pursue a course of independent studies. At the age of 35 I attended college for 15 years and left without obtaining a degree. Like most men of my time I wanted power. But unlike most men of my time the path that I traveled was totally different.
If I had to state the one most contributing factor that has led me right up to the edge of my untimely demise I would say that it is unmitigated greed.
And by that confession I don’t mean the desire for gold even though I will under duress admit that gold can be most seductive. I think that my undoing lies in my lust for life, and it is towards that end that I sought to find ways to hold back the ravages of the onslaught of time.
You will be an old man cast down lying still for a moment preoccupied with your inner world. And then your beard will turn gray your hair will disappear, and your sharp knees will stick up in the air. You are all wrinkles now for your flesh has wasted away under the skin. And suddenly the piteousness of your old age will be framed in a black smelly mist. There will be a glimpse of grey yellowed legs, and then the coffin lid will slam shut as earth rains down on it between the pallid gleam and the snow-bank earth.
Time is a Curse like an animal eating away at me from the inside. Gradually moment by moment. I feel like a house falling into ruins. Time will disfigured me so completely that I won’t even recognize myself. There will nothing left of the strong, vigorous healthy young man from only a moment ago. Carefully, viciously time will slowly, so slowly turned my dark hair into white, time will take away my smooth skin, my muscles, my teeth, the body I used to be so proud of. Time will leave me with despair in my soul and my body will soon be going the way of all flesh. Yes time will quietly, and cruelly, pull me to pieces, bit by bit, slowly destroying my whole being, second by second. And everything I do will be full of death. Every step I take brings death closer and closer. Nobody ever comes back from this. I’m totally in love with life and being truly in love for the first time I’m expecting far more joy and less pain.
Cold fear grips me as I feel time trying to over take me, time is getting into my head. I realize with a horror that time is not a man born of woman time is not something that I can fight with a gun or a knife and kill. Time wants to utterly destroy me I feel the room spin and I almost blacked out as I hear time’s curse reverberating in my mind’s eye. Where are the guardians of the thresholds when you really need them.
Yes, the earth will reclaim its own. It will fling you down and stretch you out on its hard frozen crust. You will smack the ground hard like a tree whose roots have rotted away.
For some reason I was lured to the Orient, the land of mysteries and secrets. I studied ancient Chinese herb-lore and made the most wondrous discoveries. I would then prowl the back streets of China Town with my herbal list and fidget under the scrutiny of wise old Chinamen who dealt in more than just herbs. But I had no interest in snake bile or the gall bladders of tigers. It was the herbs, the power plants that held the allure for me.
And around each plant there was a shift of myths and legends that I had to
shift through. Sometimes I would cross-reference medical journals with the
active ingredients and I was able to bring about a merging of Eastern and
Western ideologies. But many times I would be left on my own. Many of the
herbs were poisonous if taken in too large a quantity or if mixed with other herbs. I usually had a precise theory that I was working on to bring about a desired effect so my searches were not as haphazard as one might think. I also followed certain principles that I applied to all plants that I deal with. The main one being that under no circumstances do I boil, steep or in any way heat any herb. I feel that to heat it is to change its natural chemistry and it also destroys many of its subtle nutrients. And so it was in this vein that I made many wondrous discoveries. But when things went wrong they went very wrong.
It was with one blend in particular that I was able to achieve the most
astonishing results. It took me a long time to get the proportions right.
When I would miss I would get the most intense migraine headaches that I had
ever known. What I had started doing was collecting herbs from three
different continents. This gave me a tremendous sense of superiority over
all of the ancient folk lore from those continents because the local shamans
did not have access to herbs from other continents such as combinations from
South America, China, and Africa. But herbs from all of these continents
where at my finger tips. One of the things that happened was that it left me in uncharted waters as far as following a precise formula of herbal potions.
So now in the year 2006 on the eve of my 57th journey around our sun I have put together a system of herbal elixirs that work beyond my wildest belief.
Like a lot of my inner city urban dwellers my first experience with a power plant was the smoking of marijuana. I also dabbled in heroin and morphine. Coke never really did anything for me and by the time that I was 21 I had stopped doing all of the common drugs. Between the ages of 22 and 23 I learned to refrain from smoking any kind of power plants. And for the most part I shied away from the hallucinogens such as peyote and mushrooms after a few initial experiments. These types of power plants are good for having visions and seeking levels of enlightenment, but I have seen that they have a very debilitating effect on the body over time. The herbs that I sought functioned within the body on a whole different level. I was looking for herbs that allowed the blood to assimilate more oxygen, herbs that would
enhance the assimilation of B12, and herbs that would balance out the secretion of the glandular systems. And now at the age of 57 I have found that although herbs and power plants can and do play a major role, the best
way to deal with the whole body is through a nutrient-dense diet that has a very low level of toxins presents, and that is also very easy to digest. A diet that is rich in enzymes, raw omega fatty acids, trace minerals, and vitamins. The theory behind this being that if the body receives all of the building blocks then it will rejuvenate and regenerate on a cellular level.
But certain types of power plants are so seductive that once having tasted of their power it is hard not to be seduced by them again and again. This is the demon that I now wrestle with. These herbs seem to have aligned themselves with the dark side of my nature. So when it is power that I seek such as going into battle or when I wish to project my will beyond my normal capabilities then I go to a cupboard that I keep under lock and key and start blending herbs that were collected from three different continents.
My friend looks at me with such distain until with just a sharp cut from her eyes she can bring about a feeling of defeat and degradation. I was addicted not to the herbs themselves but to the power that they brought me. I had the feeling that no matter what I was doing if I partook of some herbal concoction I would do it better. She practiced Yoga everyday and it was her belief that power should come totally from within. And she frowned on my reliance on power objects, like my jade amulets, and hand carved inlaid walking sticks. She felt that these things weakened you, because you sent your power into them but if for some reason your power object was lost stolen or destroyed then you would be at a decided disadvantage probably when you needed your power the most. She felt that my power herbs drew all of my energy to the surface so that I could access it at once but once it was expended then I would require days to recover.
And I hold within my hands
Grains of the golden sand
Oh how few yet how they creep
From my fingers to the deep While some sleep and others weep
Oh but that I cannot clasp
Them but with a tighter grasp Oh but that I cannot save One grain of sand from the pitiless wave
I had just got back to the Detroit after spending a year in Asia.
My grandfather came to me in a dream and he cursed me, he banished me to live in the cities amongst the eaters of flesh and fornicate with the dog women always in heat.
He had never forgiven me for my breach of etiquette. The year was 1968 through a old and dear friend he had brought about an arranged marriage for me with this friends lovely daughter. For me it was love at first sight. My grandfather was always leaving us alone on the boat so that we could eat from the same side the dish and drink from the same side the cup. After a night of whirlwind passions I had seduced her with prejudice after which I told her “I love you”. To which she replied “if you really love me then why did you make me your whore?” The next morning when I came up on deck Moongee was gone, my grandfather had rigged up a net and hidden her over the side of the boat. He then convinced me that she had taken her life because she could not live with the shame that I had visited upon her honor. He then ordered me to get the hell off his boat. We were about 1,000 miles north by northwest of San Francisco. So that was how I came to be all alone on a wide blue sea in a 8ft sailing dingy. I walked the streets of Berkeley and Oakland for three days and then I joined the army. After two months of training I shipped out to Korea everybody else in my company went to the Nam. I got out in 1970. And moved into a small apartment on the Westside of Detroit. I had decided to make it as a artist.
It was around this time that I met Wilbur Riser who was a master artist.
Detroit was undergoing a type of Renaissance. It was a time for artists and
musicians. Detroit was also a major art market with more Black galleries
than New York or Los Angles. There was the Gallery 6 that was run by Charles
McGee, and the Kumasi Mart that was owned by Henry King. I was selling
paintings out of Zampty Art Imports which was on Woodward down the street
from the Detroit Institute of Art, in the Wayne State University area.
There were a few artist on the Detroit scene who I greatly admired. One was Benny White and the other was Wilbur Riser. Wilbur was a classically trained artist who would take on one or two young artists at a time. Wilbur actually accepted me as a student and I was to work with him for over two years. He made me put down my colors (I was working in oils and watercolors at the time) and start off drawing.
“When I pondered on reflections of bygone days and when I remembered the delicate shadows of my childhood it was trees that March through the corridors of the years in an endless procession. Being from a place of deep snow and endless winters I first attempted to capture the profound mood of autumn in the essence of watercolors.
It was only in later years that I discovered that my predilection was for drawing. It wasn’t that I was considered to be talented. I don’t think that question ever arose. I drew because I had no choice. It happens that way sometimes. If what matters in a person’s existence is to accept the inevitable consciously, to taste the good and the bad to the fullest, and make for oneself an individual, incidental and inward destiny alongside one’s external fate, then my life has been neither empty nor worthless. At times,when I was younger, I wanted to be a magician. And if I were a magician now, I would not resist the temptation to trace my life back through moods to my earliest memories.
No matter how many points of departure I encounter I always return back to the clearing in the forest beside the swift moving stream, and though it changes in the moment, it is always the same eternal question of why did you stay away so long? And never a correct answer, except maybe the realization that we need to look at trees more closely”.
The main medium that I worked in was ballpoint pen and pencil. These
drawings which I would do four evenings a week in his studio under his
watchful eye focused on gesture, proportion, and rhythm rather than complex
tonal relationships, and the study of a single pose from a model for a
minimum of six hours. I also began to copy the drawings of the old masters.
This was to acquaint me with the sight-size method and standard of proportional accuracy demanded by the old masters’ academies. It also gave me the opportunity to develop facility in the use of the pencil and pen and introduced me to the language of drawing, which includes seeing flat shapes of tone based on the planar relationships of form. I then tried to apply these lessons to the two dimensional world when working from the figure each day.
When the shapes, contours, and shadow lines of the drawing were relatively accurate, which often took weeks of careful work, then he would have me turn to value. He believed that to achieve the greatest sense of luminosity, it Is necessary to use the fullest tonal range possible in any given medium. He therefore set models against black cloth, and I drew the key lines by establishing the tonal relationship between the deepest darks of the background, the form shadow, and the light mass. I then identified the shapes of the tones in the light mass and grouped them in families depending on whether, based on their planar relationship to the light, they were dark, medium, or light halftones, which at this point often gave the drawing the look of a topographical map. In the final stage of the drawing, I would carefully study the transitions between halftones and edge condition, whether hard or soft.
Drawing from live models was a humbling experience for me at first. I began
to realize the complex dynamics of light on even the simplest forms in the
most controlled circumstances. Model drawing becomes therefore an incredible
laboratory for isolating and talking about drawing ideas and for
transforming yourself into a draftsman. We would have many discussions that
would range from an analysis of the specific accuracy of marks to much more
philosophical rumination on such topics as the nature of shadow and light.
To Wilbur the act of seeing is intimately tied to understanding the effect of light on a form, its orientation to the light source, and the honing of one’s intuitive feeling about the relationship between shapes and tones. His teaching seeks to strengthen me in my ability to see, think, and feel, that is to imaginatively identify, almost at the tactile level with both the object being drawn and one’s own drawing.
He describes his method as one of transposing rather than transferring
impressions of the three dimensional world onto a two dimensional surface.
The word “transpose” comes from the world of music, where it refers to
writing or playing in a different key from the original score. As he taught
it in drawing, transposition became the ability to evoke a true harmony of
the three dimensional world on the picture plane at any given scale and
within any given tonal range. Understanding proportions through shape,
making and describing tone through as he described it a compression of value
would achieve this goal.
After loosely establishing this method, I would begins to work from the inside out; that is, to further develop the drawing by beginning to build shapes on the inside of the envelope.
In the final stage, Wilbur taught me how to bring tonal gradations to the drawing, modeling as it is traditionally called or as it is more commonly referred to by him, turning the form. When beginning to model, one places oneself, figuratively speaking, at the termination of the shadow, with pencil or pen situated accordingly on the drawing, Imagining oneself as a little bug on the form he would then proceed modeling tonally from dark to light up and over the forms, feeling as if one were actually traversing the surface of the object. The exact orientation of where one is relative to the light source. Given that no point is in the exact location as any other, to be sensitive to this nuance is one method among many for achieving a true fullness of form and the particular tonal harmony of any given subject. He would also emphasize conceiving the form in space; that is making tonal decisions based on the comprehending rather than copying.
Like the last rose of summer left to bloom alone All of its lovely companions have faded and gone When all of the wild birds of wonder have arisen and flown Only winter’s dreamers will walk the snowy gardens alone And though it’s true I know not why The thorns may live but the rose must die
Her name was Tak and she was bright and shiny like new paint and she laughed a lot, but easy laughter in a woman is a dangerous thing.
Woman is flighty like a – Feather in the wind, She changes her voice – And her mind. Always sweet – Pretty face, In tears or in laughter – She is always lying. Always miserable – Is he who trusts her, He who confides in her – His unwary heart! Yet one never feels – Fully happy Who on that bosom – he does not lay!
Little things meant a lot to her and she was always over reacting. Sometimes her eyes were bright and shiny and her laughter was a little shrill and brittle, but then there were other times when she would be soft and lovely and wholly given up to me.
Those who have choices will always choose
The choice that leaves them none
You can only love that which you can lose And when it’s gone it’s gone
I remember one warm summer night when we were riding our bicycles and she saw something on the ground, it was the wing of a dove it looked like it had been torn off for the end was all bloody and there were some tendons hanging out. I was repulsed and I admonished her to drop the wretched thing. She replied that she wanted to take the feathers home to her mother.
And then just for a moment I saw her eyes glittering in the dark and I noticed that her teeth were just a little too big and she saw my fear curl around the edge of the night. She laughed and threw the horrid thing away. I had to keep reminding myself that she still ate the flesh of dead animals, and all of that would change as soon as I had my way with her. I took her once against the fence her eyes were closed and she was deeply agitated the moon was clearly visible at the dark end of the street as the wind blew through the wild ass trees.
She was the breath or a drop of rain Grain of sea sand in the wind Or warm vibrations flowing Through the groaning years
Her mother was a deep season witch at the time I didn’t have the sense to be afraid of her but now that I’m older I understand the reason why that old woman sees what the blindman will never hear.
Let there always be bright colors and laughter between us.
My grandfather The Turk taught me how to sail. He was old school. I learned how to shoot a sun shot, put a reef in the main and run under bare poles in a hurricane without turning turtle or pitchpoling. I also learned how to sit in one spot for two weeks because we had no wind. And just read books.
Was nary a wind nor motion ’twas like a painted ship on a painted ocean And all the boards did shrink Water water every and nary a drop to drink
I don’t know which one takes the most game to survive inner city Detroit or harbor towns. Harbor towns are deep because everybody is always going and coming with no questions asked. It’s not like that in the suburbs. As soon as you move in the widow from across the street shows up on your doorstep with a cassoulet and greets you on behalf of the block club.
But in harbor town there are always shady deals going down you could just disappear and no one would ever look for you. My grandfather was a smuggler for sure but to his credit he never smuggled drugs. But he was not above smuggling gold. I remember once we melted gold bars down on a beach in Indonesia and then using a lost wax process with a sand mold he cast the bars as a anchor which he then painted a dirty white with brown rust streaks and tied it onto the front of the bow spirit in plain sight. We made a handsome profit off of that trip. He had a lot of dealings with a lot of underworld people but to the best of my knowledge he never ran alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. He really like buying gold in a country where it was cheap and then sailing to a country where the price was much higher.
We ran a bunch of diamonds once out of South Africa that was really harrowing, he was betrayed by an old friend. Money makes people do strange things. Another time that stands out vividly is a running gun battle in the Caribbean.
This power boat came out of a cove and opened fire on us they were to far away to do any damage and I went below and got the 30.06 with the telescopic sight and tried to lay a few warning shots across their bow but just as I squeezed off the first shot the boat dipped and I saw a guy crumble on the deck. It was then that I started to understand why my father had a problem with his father. Grandfather tried to played it off like it was a random incident. But I was pretty sure that they had marked us. It seemed very personnel. The Turk was a man of many dark secrets.
Well the time has come my friend to speak of many things
Of wooden ships and fearless men and those who would be king
There are 30 swords outside the wall and 70 more within And I cried out to the captain sir “I do not think that we can win”
“Relax” cried the captain “and never fear again For they are just a hundred swords While we be seven men”
Then there was another time off the coast of South Africa that he put me in a position that I will never forgive him for. He thought that two black sailors in a gleaming forty foot yacht would arouse suspicions I mean it was 1966 so he got this ex KGB agent to front as though the boat were his. Everyday before sunrise he would leave and row to shore he was dressed as a African farm worker. He would then return after dark. He was gathering diamonds that had been smuggled out of the mines by the mine workers.
I had never trusted Karpov right from the start I just got really bad vibes from him. His eyes were flat black they had no reflections nothing it was like they suck all the light out of a room and out of your soul every time that he looked at you. He was very well educated and spoke four different languages. At the time I was reading the Russian classics and we would talk for hours about Tolstoy and Pushkin and how Ann Ryan was just a propaganda tool for the west. His words never reach his eyes they would just be staring at you the whole time while his mouth was moving and his words flowed out like water. I had set up a little test. I had glued a hair to one of my grandfather’s draws. I had then went to sleep, when I heard him up on deck a few hours later I went down and sure enough the hair was broken, he had been searching for the diamonds my grandfather was gathering. I knew that I was going to have to kill him I also knew that I was no match for him. My grandfather had set the whole thing up as a kind of contest. It was at this point that I really wished …
When my grandfather got back he never asked what happened to our shipmate it was just like he never existed.
Here is there, high is low
All things can be undone
What is true no two folks know But what is gone is gone
The French Alps
Another time that he got me in way over my head was off the southern coast of France. Years ago when he was still a young man his best friend had fought a duel and lost his life. He had grievously wounded his opponent but what does that matter if you lose your own life in the process. My grandfather blamed his fencing instructor. When someone lunges at you with a sword so sharp that it only takes six pounds of pressure to send it right through your body then the first thing you must do is eliminate the danger. You do this by parrying your opponent’s sword, then when the coast is all clear you strike hard with a riposte.
Kev my grandfather’s friend was so passionate until he would lunge at the same time that you did and because he was so fast he could actually reach you with his point before your point reached him. In the fighting of this duel that is just what happened so Kev took eight inches of steel through his heart while his opponent was only seriously wounded but went on to recover.
My grandfather blamed his fencing teacher so he decided to challenge him to a duel. The Turk showed up a few months later at the school which was located in the French Alps in a chateau which was in graceful state of decline. The fencing master was supposedly some type of descended French nobility and even though it was never really verified everyone called him The Count. He was a fine man to look upon well over six feet tall and he walked with the debonair grace that only a elegant fencing master can have no matter how flawed his style.
The duel was really cruel it took place in the fencing school in front of not only his students but also his children. My grandfather kept inflicting little cuts and wounds upon him while at the same time taunting him. At the end of him giving as he put it a lesson to the fencing master, because that is just what he was doing he was talking the whole time saying things like “now I shall demonstrate parry riposte and then a new wound would appear across the chest of the debonair fencing master, but instead of walking away unscratched he chose instead to slaughter him in front of his students and his two young children. This was The Turk at his best.
So off the coast of France The Turk had received a letter from the son of the debonair deceased fencing master demanding satisfaction for the insult to his family’s honor. My grandfather pleaded ill health and wrote a letter in response asking if it were all right if his beloved grandson were to fight in his place. Upon receiving a corespondent stating that this was a satisfactory arrangement and that honor would be satisfied he then decided to fill me in on the details of my first real duel. His last words to me were make no mistake this is to the death after which he said “go with god.”
After a journey that took many days I found myself in the heart of the French Alps and as according to a pre-arrangement upon arriving at a large alpine lake I was approach by an old man who seemed to have been waiting for me. He then took me down to a small dock where there was a beautiful wooden sail boat. This represented the last leg of my journey for the Old Chateau was on the edge of the lake on the other side. I really felt like I had journeyed back in time everything had such a fairy tale quality to it, and had I not been on such a dark mission I would have been totally enchanted.
Pale Winter Sun
There is an old Gypsy over there
His bones are rattling in the
He is mumbling in the sun
About the places he has
Like smoke from a fire
He’s in the autumn of his
His joy turns to sorrow
between his laughter & his
The Return of the Dark One
It felt really strange to be sailing on a lake and to be away from the fury of the howling sea as I looked around I could see that I were sailing up a wide lake whose dim banks were just barely visible through the mist and fog that lay all about. The pretty little sailboat glided soundlessly through the still water, ghosting along through this timeless forest of forgotten mementos like a phantom of the night.
As I sailed by a little cottage in the forest at the water’s edge an old old woman with one eye looked to the window and frowned saying under her breath “Aye ‘tis the Dark One. He has returned.
The boat drifted close to the shore and the tall stately trees of the forest came down to the water’s edge and dropped their golden leaves upon the dark waters.
My boat glided soundlessly across to the far side of the lake and gently nudged a wooden dock whereupon I lowered all the sails and jumped over the side and tied her fast. Then I stepped onto the dock and walked up a twisting stone path that wound through the forest at last coming upon a castle in ruins. Huge stone were scattered everywhere. Many were covered with moss and cracked with age. There were staircases that went to nowhere and there were chambers on the second and third levels that had no stairs at all only piles of crumbled stones. Many of the rooms had only two or three walls and some had no ceiling while others had no floor and in its stead clover had been allowed to grow wild.
The garden grew in profusion, wild and unkempt. One whole side of the castle was covered with vines which had sent their tendrils through cracks and windows alike. At the back of the garden the forest began and from the highest chamber in the tower one could see the savage desolate grey sea in the distance. On warm spring days deer and other forest animals would come into the garden and drink from the fountains.
There were a series of pools at different levels which were joined together by waterfalls, some of which had been channeled to run right through a room going in under one wall and emerging from under another on its journey to the sea.
It was even rumored so the old man had told me, that the forest was enchanted and that in its depths lived the mystical unicorn and that dragons rode the wind but, no one could claim to have really seen one and as far as I was concerned it was only a legend.
I was wearing a grey traveling cloak and my knee high boots gleamed dully in the early morning sun. My young eyes were bright and drinking in the quaint charm of that forgotten place.
From a chamber in the high tower a young girl of sixteen autumns watched as I approached along the grey stone path, her thick raven black hair falling in a cascade down to her waist, her eyes jet black, her skin glowing golden in the morning light and with her rose tinted cheeks and full red lips she was a picture of innocence. Her window was open and she had just caught a beautiful rainbow colored butterfly that had landed on one of the flowering vines outside her window, but as I approached she ripped the wings apart and let them flutter down on the breeze to land at my feet. “When she retreated back into the shadows of her chamber a very shy smile played upon her innocent face. Her name was Lisette.
She was darker than I would have anticipated somewhere along the line she also had the blood of the Moors running through her veins.
The Jugglers and the Clowns
They’re spinning round and round
They never make a sound
When then come into town
Demon born and darkside bound
Fighting a real duel is much different than being in a brawl. In a brawl you don’t have time to prepare yourself it is in the moment. But a duel on the other hand usually that’s place at a prearranged time in this case I had two weeks before I had to face my opponent. That span of time between when you know you will fight and when the actual fight takes place is where the duel is actually fought in your mind.
Knowing that you could die a violent death the next day slows you down and fine tunes details. As I was walking through the countryside I came to really savior all of the enchantment of walking through autumn in the French Alps.
I walked through the over grown garden and from a long stone building at the edge of the garden I could hear the sound of swords clashing a fencing class was in session. There were only three full time students, even though the weathered sign at the gate leading onto the grounds of the chateau announce the Royal Fencing Academy the school like the chateau itself was in decline. It gave new meaning to the term decaying or declining
Aristocracy. The class was being taught by one of the older students.
I sat in the upper tower of the Chateau as the wind moaned through my room. One wall was broken down and the ivy had sent it’s tentacles creeping in amongst the scattered broken stones. In the background, over the tops of the forest trees the savage grey sea beat with a dull roar upon the distant rocks and loneliness was an aspect of the land. The ceiling was supported by huge oak beams and the rest of the chamber was rough hewed stone. A huge fireplace ran the full length of the wall and in one corner part of the roof was missing. In winter snow would pile up in the corner and melt in the spring. A pile of leaves with a tiger skin on top served as a bed for me and save for that, the room was empty, stark and barren.
A lad of about thirteen came out to greet me and it was plain to see that he was also descended from the Moors, and even though he was almost as dark as me he was bright and shining like new copper his name was Adagio.
I regret that this stupid duel has to take place, I was very young when our father was killed by your grandfather but from all accounts my father was a fool, but unfortunately Andre was much more attached to him than I was and he cannot forgive the slight against our family name.
Lisette awoke with the sunlight streaming in through her window and a gentle breeze ruffled the light pink silk of the canopy over her brass bed. Her chamber overlooked the garden and upon looking out the window she was pleased to see that all the fog and mist had vanished.
“Oh, such a beautiful morning,” she gushed with all her youthful intensity, “Never has there been such a morning” And her laughter was a fine thing like silver bells it made you want to hear it always. She was in love for the first time.
After dressing, as I went down a long winding staircase I could hear someone playing the piano faintly and by following my ears I came to a beautifully furnished room with a large fireplace in which a cheerful fire danced. Sitting at the piano was Lisette who smiled when she saw me.
I stopped and looked around the elegant chamber. There were old paintings of haunted moonlit moors in antique frames on the wall and in a glass case in the corner was a collection woodwinds and old sliver flutes. A fawn walked over to the window and pressed it’s wet nose against the glass, but when they looked up again it was gone, and with the piano’s silence, gone also was the particular sound of anguish.
Voices in the distance
Reflections on the water
Like lucky boys a humping
With diamonds for the daughters
The next day I met Andre. The first thing that I noticed was that his left hand was wounded, a sword thrust no doubt, so he was returning from a duel in which he was wounded. But to me it was a stupid wound that results from poor form. His left hand should have been arched over his head with fingers curled like he was holding an apple but instead he must have had it sticking out from his body to receive such a wound. As far as I was concerned he had already lost our encounter.
When Andre saw the troubled look on my face he surmised that I was concerned about his wound, but he laughed it off saying “don’t worry monsieur I shall wear a glove so you won’t have to be troubled by seeing blood which you have not drawn”. To which I replied I will always be troubled seeing the blood of such a noble youth whether I have drawn it or not”. I had already told Lisette that I had no intention of killing her beloved brother it was merely my intention draw first blood and retire.
We crossed swords at dawn Lisette was sitting on the stone bench in the court yard she had been crying, there were a few students present acting as his seconds. I could see that he was really angry one of the students had told him that Lisette and I were sleeping together, there was no way that I could tell him that nothing had happened that we had just talked late at night and fallen asleep. So once again he felt that he was avenging his family’s honor. He felt so betrayed it was affecting his judgment.
The moment we crossed swords I could see mistakes he was making. Sure enough his injured gloved hand was sticking out from his body so if by chance he did parry my blade then my sword would glide pass his body and hit his hand again.
And just like his father before him if you lunged he would also lunge without a parry. So it was my intention to draw him out with a series of false attacks and then give him a opening and when he attacked I would parry riposte. He also had another really bad habit of attacking in a straight line from really far out. He should instead have attack low and then went high and then back to low so by the time his blade reached me I wouldn’t know where the attack was really going to land.
After years study and practice you notice all of these things without ever really even thinking about it. But the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. I was still way out of range I was making my false attacks when he just lunged without even extending his arm, my sword went right through his heart he died on the spot. I have often thought about it and I can’t shake the idea that he committed suicide. Because he felt so betrayed by his sister.
Things happen so quickly after that until they are just a blur in my memory. I know that to Lisette it must have looked like I intentionally slaughtered her brother, but the truth was I was just as stunned as she was.
She had instantly picked up his sword and attack me so ferociously until I had to keep giving ground she change her stance twenty times in a flash, her footwork was a thing of beauty, she was a much better fencer than either her brother or her father.
I had no intention of impaling her with cruel steel, I tried to hold my ground because I was unsure of how much room I had left. Our swords clashed over and over again her eyes were blazing and I knew she had every intention of killing me. When I just couldn’t hold my ground any longer I took a step back and she did a Flèche which is a all or nothing move. You actually leap into the air in order to close with your opponent it is pretty when done right. It is a lot like when the bullfighter fixes the bull just before delivering the coup-de-grace death thrust. But the bull must be fixed or else he can charge when the matador is totally vulnerable.
It is the same with the Flèche movement you must catch your opponent flatted footed, I like to use a double disengage this cuts down on my opponent chances of parry riposte. I saw her coming and after I had parried her blade she continued to run past me I turn just on pure reflex alone and lunged. She was suppose to for the sake of form parry as she ran past my body after having missed her Flèche attack. But true to her bloodline she didn’t and because she didn’t do what every first year fencing student learns she took two inches of my steel in her lower spine. She would never walked again.
Oh how I suffer behind my dark glasses under the canopy of my love
The postman’s is squatting behind the liquor store shivering at his crimes
Twenty years later a friend who was passing through the region and knew the story told me that she was still teaching fencing even though she only had two students. He told me that she had actually trained a gold medalist and that her voice was brittle shrilled and harsh like the bark of a wounded dog.
I still see her as a beautiful young animal pacing and raging with a sword in her hand, instead of a sad old lady in a wheel chair staring at the dry withered leaves blowing across the courtyard in late autumn.
Passage Summers of Low Smoke
Young girls will wander when they are
Early flowers are often frozen by
And like those flowers they to shall
With the passage of time and the sparkle of
I’m walking down Woodward Ave beneath the green tops blurred lights and wires under the moon. It is snowing in the middle of winter and there are flowers dying by the window in a cracked pot I haven’t had a vision in 19 days. Tuesday went to a party on the Westside where Harvey Jenkins reminded me of another incident that happened in the Spanish lowlands, he had arrived with a ugly girl from DC who sang very well.
Everything was still pretty much the same, the pimps were still hanging out around John R and Brush bending so cool.
I didn’t fit in not that I ever had but now I really didn’t fit in. I found myself hanging out with a lot of young vets. I told lots of sea stories in bars and on street corners like when my grandfather traded a bunch of ancient 22 rifles to these Indians in South America. And then two years later we sailed back to trade with boxes of ammo. The tribe was suppose to use the rifles for hunting but instead they used them to settle ancient tribal disputes.
So on the journey back to their village which included a seven mile journey up a mangrove river we found our way blocked on the return trip and we came under fire from poisonous arrows, darts and spears. We had to shoot our way out. I had the 30.6 with the telescopic site and every time I shot is saw a Indian fall. It was absolutely horrible. My grandfather took a poison arrow through the shoulder.
I couldn’t help but, say karma. I could see the arrows floating at me as if in slow motion it was so easy to dodge them thanks in part to my grandfather’ a relentless training. Every morning right as the sun came up I had to do a thousand cuts with a variety of swords and knives. My grandfather didn’t want me to become fixated on any one weapon. At first the swords were so heavy I couldn’t even do 50 cuts now after two years I could whistle through two thousand cut and not even be breathing hard. I was very proud of the long tapering rippling muscles that bunched up on my arms and ran as a deep grove down my spine.
When we had gained the open sea my grandfather looked pale and ashy grey I didn’t think he was going to make it. But then he went down below and brewed up a nasty concoction of smelly herbs and slowly very very slowly he crawled back into the world of the living from death’s domain.
We were afraid to go through the Panama Canal because we didn’t know if we were wanted men because of the shootout, there were a lot of dead Indians back there in the jungle. So we turned right and headed for the Cape Horn. A fierce gale blew out of the west right on our nose for 27 days, the waves were over 80 to 90 feet high and we sailing over a hundred miles a day just to make two miles easterly. I could only cat nap The Turk was still indisposed but doing much better some of his color had returned when we rounded the horn and drifted along the coast of Chile into the bright blue Pacific the largest ocean in the world. By then I had just about forgiven The Turk. I kind of liked him being totally helpless and depended on me. He was such a dominated male. His son my father didn’t stand a chance against him, he was broken at a early age.
Japan was known as “the Land of the Rising Sun” and Korea was known as “The Land of the Morning Calm” after my grandfather had ordered me off of his boat and I had sailed for a week in a 8ft sailing dingy to San Francisco I had joined the army and shipped out to Korea the year was 1968 I was 18 years old. My best friend was a pimp from Flint Michigan named Austin. The army didn’t quite know what to do with me since I had joined I was able to pick my job and I had opted to become a Personal Specialists, my first job had been as a clerk typist in a small office which was known as The Field Fortifications Office there was one general two colonels a Korean Major and a captain. I had a security clearance and I spent the whole day siting at a desk typing letters and telling sea stories and playing chess. The general actually knew my grandfather he had used him to smuggle stolen gold out of a country where he had been stationed, he called him a fine old chap.
I noticed that the captain used to just flip through the signature blocks and sign them on the bottom without actually reading what he was signing and the general would do the same thing. So one day I type up TDY orders assigning Austin and myself to one month of training in Seoul Korea. And when the orders went to battalion and then came back approved it was the end of me doing any real form of organized labor in the Army.
Austin and I used to design clothes and have them custom made for a fraction of what they would have cost us back in the world. Being from the underworld culture of Detroit we used to dress very conservative in dark suits but we would give the suits a little touch that made them differ from the ordinary style of Brook Brothers. I loved do asymmetrical collars on otherwise very conservative suits that were made from really fine materials. I remember having this really gorgeous full length cashmere coat made it was double breasted and charcoal grey I used to wear it with a white silk scarf a open collar high boy white shirt with cuff links and rabbit lined black leather gloves. The whole outfit would have cost me twenty five hundred dollars back in the world it only cost me two hundred in Korea.
There was this officer’s club that Austin loved to hang out in. At that time it was against the law to be out of uniform at anytime weather you were on duty or not. We didn’t care we would dress to impress and go and hang out in the offices club which was really a high end whore house. It cost five hundred dollars U.S. just to get in. We would pay the five hundred dollars each and then tip the door girl a hundred dollars.
I wanted to sit back in the corner and keep a low profile but Austin was just the opposite with his flashing smile and winning ways he would soon have a crowd of people around him dazzled. He was a natural born storyteller. The officers couldn’t place us even though we were just privates the lowest rank in the army because we had so much money mostly from black market deals. After spending years sailing from harbor to harbor smuggling everything from blue jeans to diamonds with my grandfather the Korean black market was just a conditioned reflex for me.
Another thing that we loved to do was hire a kimchee cab for a day we would get a young driver and pay him very well and then we would spend the whole day riding around getting high and checking out the countryside. Sometimes we would go so deep into the back country until crowds of village people would form circles around us and touch our skin to see if our color rubbed off. Austin had learned to speak fluent Korean and he always carried cartons of cigarettes and candy which he passed out freely. His whole thing was to dress very well travel around to as many places as possible and win the hearts of the people. He made his way in the world through his charm.
One night he suggested that we go up to a place called the Turkey Farm on the DMZ that is where all the black guys were stationed. There were fire fights up there from time to time when Joe would come across the line. It was nothing like what was going on in the Nam’ but still people were being killed. When we first came into Kimpo Airport we were all laughing and patting ourselves on the back that we had gone to Korea instead of the Nam’ then was saw a cargo plane being loaded with stacks of coffins and our young faces fell and you could hear a pin drop in the ensuing silence.
So the night that I wish to speak we were going up to The Turkey Farm to visit Smokey a friend who Austin had gone to high school with. Smokey had played football, in high school and he was on the verge of being drafted by the NFL. He was huge at least 6’7” his arms were bigger than my legs 270 pounds of muscle he was the type of person that you couldn’t stop looking at he made everyone else in the room feel small and diminished and like a lot of guys who have that overwhelming physical power he was very gentle and soft spoken.
He was really glad to see us and he was on his way to pull guard duty and he asked us if we wanted to come. Austin said yes for the both of us I really didn’t want to go because I felt that we were overdressed and I did to want to mess up my cashmere coat hanging out in a foxhole on the D. But once Austin had said “sure” then I couldn’t back out without looking like a culture snob which in fact is just what I was due to my grandfather’s influences.
We had been smoking some really powerful grass. It was from India it was light brown and had a really mellow beautiful taste we were listening to Hendrix when all hell broke loose. Smokey was on the fifty caliber machine gun along with this brother name Amos who had done two tours in the Nam’. In a fire fight your life expectancy on the fifty is about five minutes. The fifty is such a awesome weapon of mass destruction until the other side will draw straws to go on a suicide to take you out.
I could see the rounds coming in on us Amos got hit with the first volley and then Smokey got shot all across the chest. Blood was squirting out of his chest. Until then I had no desire to kill anyone and now I just want to kill everybody. Austin was on the fifty caliber machine and I had picked up a M-16 and we were directing fire into a hold in the barbed wire where we could see Joe coming through cross the line. I had hated how in basic training when we were being taught to fight in the Nam’ that they had to take away the enemy’s humanity he wasn’t a human being he was Charlie, he wasn’t a North Korean fighting for his homelands he was Joe Chink so that made it easier to kill these non-humans and I had sworn that I was not going to kill anyone who was just fighting for a better way of life. In the whole time of my tour I didn’t run across one solider who was gave a rats-ass about either Korea or Vietnam.
They were fighting for the GI Bill so they could go to school or buy a house or some had been given the choice of joining the army or going to jail. Now here I was in a fifteen hundred dollar coat that was now covered with blood shooting men who were entangled in the line under the glaring light of a flare. I could see the bullets coming in on us every fifth round was a tracer. They had zeroed in on us, I could see the bullets hitting Austin and myself nothing could have survived that barrage of bullets I felt like the bullets were passing right through us, and that was when it happened. Smokey rose up blood was still pouring out of him and his eyes were flat black with no inner light and he said “give me my gun and get the hell out of here” and that was when the fear came over me. This was a dead man talking Austin and I both fell back and Smokey got back on the fifty and then he screamed at us “I said get the hell out of here” and then we turned and ran like broke dick dogs. I wasn’t scared of Joe I was scared of a deadman talkin. I looked back once and I could see the tracers coming in on him and for every round coming in on him I could see another tracer going out and the only thing I could say was “God dam solider on motherfucker solider on”.
I went back the next day with Kevin who was a company photographer every time someone got killed whether it was a car accident fire fight or otherwise he went out to take pictures. It looked totally different by day. I was looking for Smokey I saw about fifteen dead North Koreans they were all tangled up in the barbed wire in no mans land. And I saw this one young black guy who looked like he was asleep only half his body was gone he was a real good looking dude you could tell he must have been a hell of a ladies man back in the world. But there was no sign of Smokey I knew he had to be dead the way he was center shot all across his chest. That was when the haunting started.
A really strange thing happened 17 years later, in 1985 I was on State Street in Santa Barbara California and I saw Smokey walking down the street he had on army pants and very dark sunglasses he wasn’t looking to the right or the left he was walking really fast and the street was crowded with yuppies couples shopping and enjoying the good life. And now they were scrambling to get out of the way of this huge fast moving black man. It was like looking at a bowling ball scattering bowling pins in a bowling alley. And I was on the other side of the street jumping up and down screaming “soldier on motherfucker solider on” with tears streaming down my cheeks. This is how it all broke down in the court of the Crimson King.
It wasn’t my first encounter with Smokey, in 1973 I had ridden my ten speed out to Berkeley from Detroit and I was hanging out with my friend Peter Lee. Peter and I had been on the Highland Park swim team when I was 14. I had won city and state championships. After swimming in high sea and bodysurfing 30 waves it was one of my favorite pastimes when my grandfather and I would get caught in wind storms when the sun was bright and shining in midday. He would take all the sails down and throw out a sea anchor. We would then trail a 200 foot line behind the boat and play in the storm like dolphins. I would get up on the top of a thirty foot wave and then scream down the face of it swimming as fast as I could. So on spending a summer in Detroit I joined the ymca swim team and it was like child’s play swimming in a pool.
Peter Lee was in Berkeley attending the metaphysical school for Sorcerers. It was very expensive and people came from all over the world to learn ancient shaman magic. That was how I came to meet Wetback. Wetback was a shaman who had studied down in Mexico and he was suppose to be the real deal. So I went over to Peter Lee’s house at the appointed time and instead of meeting a old white haired Don Juan type of Indian shaman it was Smokey. The reason that they called him Wetback was because when he took his shirt off his back would glow with a really strange light that made it look like it was wet, when in all actuality it was bone dry.
The eyes were different they were flat black, they allowed no light to escape. He looked right through me and gave no sign of recognition. He was even bigger and more muscular than before. He had muscles on top of muscles, he was rippling like a pond of water in a light breeze. He was literally glowing with light everywhere except for his eyes they were so dead. I was studying him hard looking for scar tissue from the bullet holes. But no way anyone could have survived being center shot multiple times with heavy fifty caliber machine gun bullets.
The first thing that I noticed about Wetback was that he moved impossibly slow. It was hypnotic watching this six foot plus intensely muscular person move with such fluid slow motion grace. He would instantly dominate any room full of people anywhere without saying a word. If was a fact he made people very uncomfortable. Dangerous by default. Beautiful women would just come up to him and start talking and he would not even acknowledge their presents in any way. He would just stare straight ahead with his dead eyes. I was convinced it was Smokey I was horrified and fascinated at the same time.
I wanted his power to be able to sit perfectly still in a room full of people and totally dominate through sheer will power and focus. He had the ability to suck everybody’s energy or maybe it was a gathering of forces that he then seemed to store within himself. Peter Lee said Wetback was evil, that he had traded his soul and his time on god’s green earth for the power of the darkness. Peter Lee said that he was the closest thing to a vampire that we would ever meet. I think that Peter Lee was frighten of Wetback and the power that he commanded with so little effort.
I once tried to gain direct access into the mind and the workings of this strange being but he saw me coming and stopped me with his will. I had said that I wanted to study Kung Fu with him. To which he replied with affected politeness that he wasn’t accepting any new student at this time. Then in another really deep voice he said “it’s out there stumble around. If another man thought it up so can you”. And that is exactly what I did for the next 46 years. He started me off on such a journey of self discovery into the realm of personal power until even if I live for a thousand years I could not even scratch the surface.
One day out of the blue he asked me how was my grandfather doing. He was staring at me really hard and I was very uncomfortable. And before I had time to really think I said that my grandfather was a preposterous old fool. To which he replied “that my grandfather loved me well and that I should only have fine words for someone who held me in such high esteem.”
I wanted to say that if he held me in such high esteem then why had he abandoned by setting me adrift in a small boat on the open sea. But I reframed from saying that since I already knew the answer and instead I started weeping softly into my hands. To which he replied that he used to weep also before he learned to live as a warrior. Now he no longer feels happy or sad for people. Then I looked directly into his eyes and I saw that night in Korea and the machine gun bullets were flying like rain, and he was dripping with blood. Then in sheer panic I turned and ran. We had been sitting in Peter Lee’s living room. Peter was across the street waiting for him to leave. Peter Lee was rich and he had the finest herb collection in Berkeley. Peter collected herbs from all over the world not just pot but other strange herbs that shamans have been using for ten thousand years.
Wetback would come over and literally inhale vast quantities of Peter Lee’s rare herbs. Peter Lee was powerless to stop him because Wetback would always give Peter Lee some vital piece of information or knowledge that would help Peter Lee unlock some barrier that was blocking his path to power. So when I fled Peter Lee’s house in a state Peter Lee was standing across the street. He grabbed me by the arm and said “now do you see what I mean? Wetback is the manifestation of evil on the earthly plane”.
I wanted to tell him that I thought he was this brother who died in Korea up on the “D” but the sheer terror wouldn’t let form the words in my mouth. Did he really know my grandfather or was it just a shot in the dark?
But Peter was right he would drop these little gems of knowledge on you that would unlock the universe in strange and very personal ways. Like one day he said to me “You have a good body you should get every nickel out of it.” I had ridden my bicycle from Detroit to Berkeley and I was in excellent shape. But still I didn’t look like Wetback. He had muscles on top of muscles he looked like a perfect sculpture of a Classical Greek god. So I told him that I workout everyday. To which he replied “I’m not talking about warming up I’m talking about busting your ass.” He was right from that moment on I starting increasing my daily routines. It was so hard at first, but then over time I noticed that I was getting bigger muscles it was almost like I was growing layers of strength. I was slabbing up and starting to look like Wetback.
He looked like a total thug. I used to see these huge gansta brothers in Detroit who had done hard time in the joint, and after ten years of pressing iron they were huge like monsters, which was the main reason that I carried a gun everywhere that I went because even though I was over six feet tall and muscular in my own right I would have been no match for them in a fight. Carrying a gun is a funny thing. It gives you a certain energy and other people can sense it and treat you with the type of respect that gives you standing in the crowd so you don’t have to use it.
But in all my travels in the underbelly of Detroit I had never met a brother like Wetback. He had real knowledge. He was celibate. I once saw him make a girl faint just by looking at her. She started fidgeting got real nervous and then her eyes rolled back in her head and she passed out right there on Peter Lee’s living room floor. Peter Lee was very angry and also frighten. He said that Wetback was sending him a message about the no girls thing. After Wetback left Peter Lee told Sharon her name was Sharon that she had to go. She had come all the way across the country to spend time with Peter Lee and I thought his treatment of her was rather harsh. So I caught up with her and she turned her clear blue eyes on me and the spell was instance and complete. She was so intensely beautiful I had the feeling of falling from a great height and I looked around for something to grab onto to support myself.
We went to a place on campus that was actually a forest with a stream and a little wooden bridge. I played a really sad song for her on my flute and she once again turned her clear blue eyes upon me only now they were full of tears. And she said “thank you, you are very kind”. Once again I felt the ground spin and I became very frighten and I turned and ran away. That was my first real encounter with a witch.
A year so so later I was in Berkeley and I ran into Peter Lee and he asked if I wanted to go visit Wetback with him and I said “Ok” and when we get to this three story house I remember thinking to myself that “wow Wetback has really come up in the world”. He looked even bigger and more menacing and while we were talking I could hear the sound of weights being lifted and dropped shaking the whole house. Then after about ten minutes this six foot woman comes out of the bedroom that was serving as a gym. She was thick and thin. And just like Wetback she had these really beautiful rippling muscles, but in spite of her powerful body her face was very young and innocent. A little too young and innocent it was like this powerful creature had put on a mask of empty youthful beauty to disguise her real face which probably would have been totally frightening considering who she was keeping company’s with.
Peter Lee started to smirk thinking that he had caught Wetback in a falsehood. I myself starting thinking “my how the high have fallen”. But then Wetback who acted as if he could read our thoughts said “I told her she could come here and train but that she had to leave her pussy outside”. Peter Lee couldn’t keep the shocked look off his face. He had always considered Wetback to be utterly ruthless and this last statement of his, merely served to confirm his original assessment of how utterly devoid of any type of human emotions Wetback was.
I took a closer look at this creature who was technically female. Even though she was beautiful I could not pick up a trace of sexual energy emanating from her powerful thick and thin curvy body. She had taken all of her sexual energy and turned it into pure power. There was nothing new about this the concept it is interwoven all thought recorded history. It was just my first time coming into contact with such a powerful young witch who had been able to Transmute her power in such a way. The possibilities were endless and devastating.
Then I made a tactical mistake. When Wetback introduced her to Peter Lee they just bowed at each other. But when he introduced her to me she reached out to shake my hand and I was drawn in I because I want to touch her. The moment I place my hand in hers she tighten up with a grip like steel trying to crush my hand and make me show pain. I studied her face very carefully and it was a mask of innocent. There was not a trace of the cruel game that was being played out in her eyes.
But the hand squeeze game was my zone. I had spent years on the ship with my grandfather hauling up anchors, and snatching down sails at two o’clock in the morning with the rain coming down sideways. I had to climb up to the top of the mast in storms to retrieve a halyard that my grandfather had purposely let go of. I had had to drill every day doing a thousand cuts with a heavy old sword, and my grandfather had drilled into me the importance of having a strong grip. So when she started to play that game with me I gave it right back to her in spades. I squeezed just hard enough to let her feel my power. I could have broken all of the bones in her hands easily, but instead after I let her know that she had no victory in me I let her hand go and said ” I’m please to meet you”. It was at that time that I saw two things in her eyes one was respect and the other was relief that I had not shamed her in front of Wetback.
As far as I was concerned she was just as ruthless as Wetback and whatever feelings of love or admiration that I might have felt for her vanished she was just another power drunk witch full of caged malice and inherit evil. I don’t care how much she was able to make her face look like a Barbi doll. I saw a hint of a smile flash upon Wetback’s face that was about the closest he ever came to giving me a compliment.
Peter Lee was all excited saying that that was a major victory. Peter Lee was upset with Wetback because a few days earlier Wetback had came over to his house and inhaled all of his herbs that he had just gotten from some strange country in Asia and in return he had told Peter Lee that Mother Nature was a savage bitch. And she tried to put everybody into a bag but once you declared yourself a warrior then she would become very angry with you and threaten to throw pain at you to which he would reply “bring it on bitch.
Peter Lee was offended that Wetback had called Mother Nature a bitch. Wetback was a hard man, sometimes he would tell stories, and like the man the stories were hard, but there were facts in them for the careful. One time I went to visit him and he said. ‘Dragon Apache would ride his horse hard for five miles, then he would get off and run with his horse for ten miles get back on a ride his horse until it drop dead he would stop and eat the raw flesh of his horse and then keep on running the Dragon Apache were bad ass warriors.
It seems that Wetback had been introducing this chick to thugs and she had been squeezing their hands until they begged for mercy then everybody would crack up. That was one of the things that I liked about this warrior business. Warriors laughed from the bottom of their bellies. They shake with laughter and weep years of blood. I got a chance to see this first hand. A few days later we were over at Wetback’s house and some two hundred and twenty five pound muscle head was over there and as soon as he saw Canyon her name was Canyon his eyes filled with lust. He had just gotten out of jail and he had been working out hard he was just as big as Wetback, but he lacked the force of vision that comes from true knowledge regardless of what corrupt ends it is put to.
When Canyon grabbed his hand and got the drop on him by squeezing first he really put on a show. He dropped to his knees he started begging and pleading for her to let go of his hand, There must have been about thirty people in the room and once we started laughing we couldn’t stop. The funny edge of the world was being hurled at us with unbelievable force. I wanted to try and grab the higher moral ground and say this was a childless display of power and I”m really disappointed in Wetback and this senseless display. But the truth is that it was really funny, and so I just gave into the laughter and was swept away.
Another thing Wetback once said to me that I took to heart was that we wanted to drag a huge stone up to the top of a mountain and then he would carve upon the stone the follies of mankind and he would the use the stone as a pillow and have gentle sleep.
One day on the corner of Haste and Telegraph about four block from the university I saw Mike Walker. When I had first gotten back from spending a year in Korea, after my grandfather had kicked me off his boat I was still depressed and in culture shock at odds with living in Detroit
And really just missing my grandfather. I was the artist in residence at one of the oldest black theatre companies in America. Concept East was in a old abandoned 42 room high school on Woodward and Harper. My fine arts studio was in the old math room. I had a brand new Italian ten speed bicycle that for me was the preferred method of transportation.