Posts Tagged ‘metaphysics’

Gordie Howitzer

LIFE IN THE HOCKEY IMPERIUM:
ST. JOSEPH, GORDIE HOWE AND THE BARBER’S PART

THE REAL IDEAL 

I had true modest heroes, well suited for a good life. Catholicism provided the fabric and measure. My elders were cut from the very cloth of St. Joseph. He was a family man and carpenter.  A Workaday Joe.  And, most of all, a servant to a higher authority that he didn’t question.

Such background saints mind their rank. They’re God’s jobbers from start to finish. In the family fold were such worthy Joes as Stan Jarzoski: a former US Army scout who landed on Omaha Beach and stalked behind Nazi lines until V-E Day. A strapping 6 footer, quiet as a prayer, he worked in the field of death even as he pushed a lawnmower. Then for every true light there was a stray shadow. Like my Uncle Art who was a closet homosexual, a self-taught painter of lurid scenes, and a butcher in my dad’s shop who only arrived drunk when sobriety was needed most during the holiday stampedes.

There you go: hero and drunkard balanced to turn the eternally unfinished wheel of parish life. But it’s too quaint. What about about the haloed giants, taller than church steeples, visible from afar? Gordie Howe was such a landmark Joe. He was a monumental model of Christian piety who, when the puck dropped, became a hunter-killer-thriller with tufts of otherworldly grace.

All the locals loved Gordie. He was the real ideal.

THE PAGAN-CATHOLIC HOCKEY CALENDAR  

In sportswriter’s terms, Howe had a dominant presence on the ice. In boy cosmologist’s terms, Howe had much, much more. He had numinous presence, a legendary presence, a muscular-mystical presence in the flatlands of SE Michigan where the sewage from the steel-mils seeped into the swamps of Lake Erie.

Howe’s fame was the same on the Canadian side of the shipping channel where my sober uncle owned a tug-boat company. Tugs are the St. Joe’s, the brawny and dutiful seconds, of the Great Lakes fleet. Furthermore, gulls are angels if you’re privy to the backwater animism and nature worship written into Roman Catholic legalese. Strange but true! As far as life goes, I had to start somewhere. I started in the cradle of Pagan-Catholic-Borderline stuff.

Tugs and gulls were hyper-real. So were whispers in the wind and specters on the water. So was my loneliness. Incubating as a baby-faced Joe in a crystal blaze of winter, I had a hunch. Uh-oh. I had a badly heated, angry adolescent hunch that my dear childhood heroes were letting their wives, priests and politicians do all the talking. Of course, that’s what real men-of-action do! But still. What about the reflective child, not the usual narcissist, who sees his face in mirrors of ice? It has a cold-cold attraction. And while every hoary Joe knows that cabin fever is bad, only a few very disturbed Joes know that cure in the open air, sparkling with light at the nadir of winter, can be worse.

Call it what you want. Psychological disturbance. Psychic disturbance. Maybe a fairy tale blend of both. But even as a minor rube with my balls shrinking in the cold, I had a big hairy hunch that my folks needed a hyper-voice to speak to the world and speak for themselves. It happened one day! Yes, it happened one ordinary day in the ordinary life of an ordinary Joe walking a fresh carpet of snow. I suddenly had a hunch, quite disturbing for a Child of Jesus, that my folks needed a borderline Wagner to chart the rolling mists, crackling ice-flows and razor-backed currents of the Detroit River in January. The site-specific haunt! The metallic Rhine Jr! The steel grey soul-scape for Gordie Howe’s hammer arms, Red Wing jersey and flashing skates.

It was too much. It was an aesthetically sound but morally iffy glimpse into the Sacred Heart of Time. The magnification of Creation’s core pulse, wherein avatars are beat into shape, was a-okay for a religious kid. But the exaggeration of my own creative impulse was as problematic as egomania in the Renaissance. Let me put this in proper Catholic terms. Every Pope with a scepter knows that heresy is a truth taken too far. And every altar boy at a pisser knows that if you shake it more than twice you’re playing with it. What I’m saying is that it was fine, within customary limits, to see Gordie Howe as seasonal hockey god. But it was very, very touchy to see him as was seasonal hockey god who was dormant in summer when there was an abundance of florid glee and birds ‘n bees in the bushy air. A cyclical Wotan! Yes, I saw Mr. Howe as a cyclical Wotan, with local accents, who appeared in the dead of winter when all was lost.

Very, very touchy. A synthesis of real poetic genius to retard the instant I put it in words! No wonder, in drunk’s terms, I didn’t know whether to shit or puke. Now, as a learned hick, I can defend my awful silence with Rilke’s line, “For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror”. But as a kid I was dumbstruck by the timely synchronicity. I just didn’t have the lyrical spit for Howe’s redressed avatar’s fit into the Church-Hockey-Astropagan calendar. Staring into the heavy northern heavens, I only had the vision. It meant something.

TROPHY  EUGENICS AND THE BALD TRUTH

Yes, I had true modest heroes. Easily overlooked between the ends of NYC and LA. From the heights of a Shyster’s jet: an underwhelming land for an underwhelming people! A pale settlement for goyim! A static pool of yeoman nobodies with purely economic fluctuations between good debt and bad debt.

My country within a country. My cold and hearty people. Furthermore, my overlooked species of inbred White Country Folks with no more hyprid-vigor than a lean hillbilly iron worker crossed with a stout Irish-Catholic wench. That’s God’s Plan for agile defensemen and power forwards. Every rutting Joe knows. So does every dear girl in estrus. Only the town barber knows, as a comber of truths, that it’s also the non-Nazi secret of Trophy Eugenics in the Hockey Imperium.

Howe Holycard IIThe Hockey Imperium, for those on the inside, is a Medieval State of Mind that religiously rules from lower Michigan to upper Ontario. A subconscious Holy Roman Empire with shrines, banners, spires and festive tournaments. My mono-culture! Maybe evolved. Maybe devolved. Maybe timeless. Most certainly a custom-made Pucktopia of spirited sport in glove: city, state and regional jousts with trophy of virgins, if you’re lucky, in the bleachers. Like anything else in life, it’s all hooey until the moment of truth. My brother is testimony to that. He played goalie on a championship team that asserted authority, like deputized knights, all along the frontier. He renewed the dynasty. He upheld the realm and family standard. He verified the lore like a saintly enough Joe on a mission that was much, much larger than himself. True to his calling, he nailed it!

Too much Medieval chew on my bib? Too much gah-gah from the cradle of Dark Age élan? Just take the high moral arc on the Rainbow Express between NY and LA. Just look down on my homeland as a hotbed of neo-Klan and trigger-happy militia. A dysgenic fucktopia of pogromatic hicks! Papists, bible-thumpers and cross-bred racists! Then you can trash, even White Trash, my boy-to-man travelogue.

THE CRITICAL CRISIS 

 Now for the critical crisis. Not the usual crucible in the so called “Multi-Cult”. That’s marquee code for race mix-up. Preached by pulpiteers who’re born to rule: inbred intelligencia, sticky IQ fetishists and embedded reformers at a price.

God bless ‘em. The righteous fuckers have, at least, an ongoing class. A hip allegiance to their own rich stock. Furthermore, I’m not privy to Grand Design outside the Hockey Imperium built upon the remnants, lakes and ponds, of the Ice Age. I’m geo-teleptically limited. So I can’t be 100% sure that there’s no treasure at the end of Rainbow America’s overarching, messianic and tutti-fruity arc. I luv-luv-luv anyone who really believes that lore. But I have enough problems with my own Pagan-Catholic proof. Which, as my brother knows, is nailed in the living.

Trust me, I tried be the strong silent type. But at the first blush of crisis I saw fairy dust in the powdered snow and gold lamé gowns in the scavenging carp. Wagner was in the leaden grey clouds but something else was in the skirts of snow. A fluffy-fickle soulfulness! A girly-girly joy in the bosom of Winter’s Hag. All of Mother Nature colder than a witch’s tit yet, no heresy intended, “redeemed” by majestic-angelic kisses in flurries. Uh oh. This was a mated peek into the Sacred Heart of Time. Which is to say I was showered with a motherlode of bridal laundry, streaming white veils with silver stitches, at Zero Hour when all was lost. Thanks but no thanks for the glimpse into the cosmic wheel! There’s been a mistake! For one thing, I wasn’t ready for the executive poet’s vocation to see the Nature of Woman as more than pussy and, within that nascent study, to see any stout homegirl as more than an incubator of agile defensemen and power-forwards. I lacked this. I lacked that. I had no maturity, even, to fuck-up! And so I froze, painfully dumbfounded, in a swirl of laced sugars that you’d have to be a Mozart, a buck sissy, a real Olympian amongst all kinds of flakey flakes to master.

This wasn’t normal. It was miraculous at best and cruel at worst. I’d been given a very big job without blue-prints. With only a model failure, Uncle Art, to provide range in the werks that mocked my intestines. Mea-culpa. I’m so sorry. I’ve never recovered from the Pagan-Catholic-Poet’s epiphany. If only my critical crisis had rushed me to the threshold of Social Justice work. I coulda-woulda-shoulda been a slick New Age Joe bringing the Human Family to my hometown! And I’ll be the first to admit that there’s much to be said for going wide in the well-rounded world instead of going deep-deep-deep into your own cold interior.

No such luck. Instead, I was fated to receive the miracle heft of Virgin Mary flurries and war-cloud Valkyries that buried Uncle Art. No wonder he didn’t know, given a glimpse of super-beauty, whether to shit or go blind. Sure he was a homo. So what? You’d have to be a spiritually spent shrink, a techno-humanist-clinician connecting dots on a godless chart, to say that his critical crisis was “penis” as such. Please!

Uncle Art was called to be an artist. In curator’s terms, he was called to be a painter of local color. In cosmologist’s terms, he was called to be a wizard with a provincial palate. More than a craftsman and less than a saint, he was given to be a psychic medium. A wand smith. A wand smith with a tuft of wet XXX hairs at the far extreme of his brush with an eternally recurring canvas of pure virgin potential. That was the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega, of his sorry life.

It was too much.

SQUARING THE WHEEL 

Uncle Art heard the call deep inside the crotch of fate. He tilted like a half-hearted sport with a sorry thrust and guess what? He made his non-splash in the common pool and/or bum toilet. Put plainly, he died as both a failed Joe Normal and a failed artist.

Howe Family III copy

No guts, no glory. No raw heroic effort, no epic-operatic tragedy. That’s the cold-cold law of Pagan Nature that’s worked into Roman Catholic mythos. Furthermore, to release Uncle Art from the afterlife of burning slander, very few men manage to “Square the Wheel” of parish life. Very few men succeed as Regular Joes and Stellar Joes at once. Like Gordie Howe. He was a shy Canadian farmboy who, moved by destiny, got his start at Olympia Stadium in Detroit. He became a hockey god. He realized his towering 360 degree genius for pretty goals, borderline cheats and ugly brawling.

And Howe let his wife, an astute reader of small print in hockey contracts, do all the talking. Everyone loved Gordie. Everyone, in the milky white bosom of the Hockey Imperium, loved the Howe family. They nailed the evergreen dynamic.

                                                                              THE BARBER’S PART

I’ve tried to convey the spirit of my grooming along the shore where the smoke stacks padded the clouds. And where the local color faded under the dead-weight of winter. If you don’t get my hyper-drift? If you think that I’m mythologizing too much about cold-grey horizons downwind from Detroit? Then talk to a starving deer, a young buck, at the edge of an ice-pond at sunset. He’s knows the legendary chill of winter in the sticks. He’s a living symbol of the haunt.

The town barber, for his part, remains a shapeshifting constant. In backwater poesy, he’s a super-animated anchor whose job is to be as deep or shallow as the guy in his chair. In fair language, he’s a two-bit shrink who diagnoses heads within the limits of the hippocratic oath and frontier codes. In all cases, he’s tempered by seasoned knowledge. He knows that, like timeless masterpieces, one can hardly say what makes his fishy mono-culture whole. There a single congenital spiral in the lakes, rivers, swamps, and air. You’re born into it. Customer A says a soulful prayer to primordial shore gods after shooting a deer for venison steaks and trophy antlers. Customer B blushes with venal pride, exquisitely mean, after shooting a rogue squirrel with a .22 rifle, through a steel reinforced milk chute, who dared crawl down the rusty chain to raid his wife’s bird-feeder hanging from a lilac bush outside her kitchen window. And so it goes.

Inside the tinted door of Gino’s Barbershop, not at all transparent in the Liberal Democratic way, there’s a deeply seated commerce in individual styles within the local fold. Sharing a mirror, Gino puts every man’s prize pagan cowlick in place with a final dab, after all, of Christian Morality. And that’s that. See ya soon!

Gino has solved himself and more. He’s squared the Wheel of Parish Life in his own modest style. He’s a model man even as he ruptures the template and yaps like a diplomat’s mistress. Who cares? Go for it! Show us how! He’s been groomed through the generations since his great-grandpappy drew first-blood on a pink ear. Gino has aced the proofs! He has a barber’s license, an ex-Marine’s license, and a full-blooded Italian’s license to magnify touchy feelings like Paganini or Caruso gone North. Not bad work if you can get it! And the barber get’s it right.

Boy oh boy. Man oh man. As far as my life goes, from start to finish, I can’t say more. I just hope, with all the sincerity that a rambling Joe can muster, that I’ve nailed it.

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This piece first appeared in Counter Currents Publishing 

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This commentary is a response to The Paintings of Julius Evola on the Aristocrats of the Soul blog.

evola_composizione_dada

Julius Evola “Composizione Dada” 1920

 THE CINNABAR’S ART

Evola intended to create jolts as a Dadaist. In support of his method he referenced  Lao Tzu whose riddles created circles in logic through which inifinity was glimpsed.  

But  Lao Tzu’s infinity was governed by the Tao.  Evola’s paintings, like Dadaism itself, leave me hanging. There is no support.  There is no evidence of a guiding Tao or omphalos or eternal spool from which temporary threads of variable color and texture flow.    

Evola’s  paintings accomplish a disorientation that lacks the toxic sweetness or foul wit of advanced decadence.  His color harmonies are  thoughtful.  They are evenly tempered while the geometries are radically agitated. One gets a sense of a man with a healthy, as opposed to a sick, imagination. If the paintings are mildly decadent, it’s  because they lack the clear organizing principle of Tao. Furthermore, there is no sense of natural and supernatural hierarchy in life’s paint!  Which isn’t to say that Evola’s paintings lack professional command of color, shape, volume, depth and moment. It’s just that they are, like the man, unfinished. 

The paintings were done at an interregnum in Evola’s life. The hyper-plasticity fits.  So do the razor lines that float or tilt or rise inside the frames. One gets a sense of a former artillery officer who really is, “… conjoined with the upsetting of all logic, ethic and aesthetic categories, in the most paradoxical and baffling ways.”  Meanwhile, Evola is yet to resolve the rupture in perception that is Dada’s battle cry.  That irresolution, if one is being very hard on oneself, is the decadence. All in all,  the paintings don’t lack beauty and/or depth; they lack a willful personal order placed upon a timeless Supernatural Order.  A combination which ultimately suits Evola’s Roman metaphysics more than the sublime sweetness of Tao.  

Personally,  Evola’s doctrine of “The Absolute Man” has been a difficult study.  I’m a little  disappointed that Evola’s paintings don’t help me see it.  They lack a dominant symbol of the singular and the many.  But it seems that the metaphysics of unity, whether in stationary meditation as a priest or in dynamic action as a warrior, were a post-painting study. The paintings, I’ll repeat, show a very healthy imagination at work during an interregnum. Their vitality is irreproachable but their mature message isn’t expressed on the canvas as a painter. It’s expressed on the page as a writer.  Evola steps into a different square.

Perhaps, like the multi-lingual Guénon who selected between languages for the one that  best described the concept at hand, Evola chose writing over painting as the form best suited to his meaning.  In this, he was the mercurial yet binding cinnabar.

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Looking for Przybylski

Looking For Przybylski

or

Born Into This

This book is tops in its league: the no-checking and no-fighting hockey league for oldsters. Ex-cops.  Ex-firemen. You’ll either love or hate how the book plays out. You’ll say, “This is the Master League” or “This is the gramps’ league.”

As a bona-fide Przybylski from Detroit, I had to give it a critical reading.  My dad thoroughly enjoyed it.  As for myself, not being a member of The Greatest Generation with its coast-to-coast politeness, I have questions about the detour around “The Race Issue”. How can someone write about a Detroit Polack without a mean stink? Especially as the quality of life declines and the things that don’t cost money, like a safe neighborhood amongst the working poor, are methodically destroyed in the name of social progress.

Yet  Frederick may have more old school codes than politically correct codes governing his work: a gentleman never brings-up a problem that he can’t fix.   So Frederick has his main character, Ziggy Czarnecki, proceed on the plane of a handy-man.  The book maintains a jobber’s, one task at a time, consciousness.  Death is the only nag that isn’t shrugged-off.

Still wanting the book to be tougher, I consider the difficulty of writing about race with moral integrity.  Because the liberal vision of moral integrity demands acceptance of “the other”, while the conservative vision  of moral integrity demands ethnic and cultural self-preservation. Poles tend towards the latter. Gore Vidal said that Poles were unfit for American democracy due to their affinity for a tribal chief. Which, others say, is why Polish-Catholic polities had to be dispersed by bussing in the 1970’s. If this logic points to a timely conspiracy orchestrated by declining WASPs and ascendant Jews in the post-Kennedy era? It’s nothing compared to the timeless conspiracy orchestrated by the Gods of Fate.  A true Pole, in the bottom of his beer glass, would see the destruction of his parish by Civil Rights ideologues as a fated replay of the destruction of Poland by Nazi and Commie ideologues. The bad news is that this long view makes Poles funereal in their metaphysics. The good news is that it keeps them hushed. A Pole looking from the still depths of his beer-glass into the onrushing mirror of the bar would NOT think, “It’s the  Jews, WASPs, Blacks, Germans, Russians, Turks and Huns.”  He’d think, “It’s us.  We are,” as Bukowski’s poem says, “born into this.”

Legendary pain, legendary fatalism and legendary self-sacrifice. The Polish soul is muted in Frederick’s  book. Yet opaqueness suits  Ziggy Czarnecki who’s a retiring guy. Furthermore, it was a fellow Polack from the parish  who betrayed Ziggy’s numbers running biz in the 1950’s. In as much as it happened at the apex of Zig’s life, his obsession with the snitching Pole is  A-1 legit. The treacherous Przybylski, and not the treacherous “other”,  is the proper focus of Ziggy’s  desiderata.

Still, as Ziggy blows off the stink on his road trip to find Przybylski, there could’ve been more odors from the bowels of the race. It’s not enough to pass booze, cigarettes, kielbasa and pierogis under the reader’s nose. There could’ve been more inner-fumes released as Ziggy openned his heart, like a flower, to the Western panorama with its uplifting spaciousness. He could’ve delicately questioned the American Dream with hostile Blacks in Detroit and an all too civil cuckold son in California. At least Frederick creates  the polarities of Black deprivation and White satiation. But not enough is said about the “progress” of Ziggy’s son from an inbred  Detroit Polack to an outbred Boobus Americanus in southern California. Ziggy mourns his debased Old World lineage. Then, at the moment of resolve, he sighs with the shrug of eternity.

The good news is that Ziggy is 100% through making value judgements on others. The bad news is that he’s  forfeited his own existential criteria as a goddamn Detroit Polack for making value judgements on anything.  He’s a husk filled with human sympathy and a pater-familias with no remnant of gonads. I must admit that  it captures a type.

Frederick does a masterful job with Ziggy’s daughter-in-law. The hot-wife of his nice and soapy son.  Her brisk modern character is fueled by her lust to be the best. To live fully. To have cinematic sweep in L.A.  She’s the modern antithesis of  Ziggy’s rustic Polish wife.  Colorless and bouyant as the moon, Ziggy’s wife is his rock. She casts a merciful light across his dim soulscape. It’s a delicate view.  Frederick does a lovely job with the otherwise faithless Ziggy, post-Catholic and post-redemption, turning in desperation to his timeless bride. Ziggy reveres the always adapting but never changing woman he married. The love is raw. It’s true to his birth. It “stinks” of a residual Catholic piety and fidelity that Ziggy’s can’t escape.  All in all, homesickness is the core ferment underneath the racing quest to find Przybylski.

It’s a good book.  It’s written with a gentleman’s reserve.  But the formality that is its strength is its weakness.  As a proper liberal, Frederick writes too much as a  Universal Human Being and not enough as a goddamned  Detroit Polack.  This is my #1 complaint.

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love-beaker4
An inferior version of  The Pagan Fire was published in Metropolis.  The editor was a good-guy.  I rewrote it for him three times, but that wasn’t enough.  So after getting spanked by a female critic who goes to the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League School, I’ve rewritten and republished the piece here.  Hopefully, dear reader, it’s finally as coherent as it is crazy.  That, combined with truth, is the grail.
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 THE PAGAN FIRE 

                           

You see these kiddies who leap from sidewalk-square to sidewalk-square. Everyone knows the stakes: step on a crack and break your momma’s back. And then you see these homeless magi who conduct the cosmic clockwork from a park bench. The sunrise. The sunset. They’re also deeply staked. They know that all it would take for the world to end is one false move. Like crossing left-leg over right-leg, or breaking their daily pigeon feeding routine.

Its funny and not so funny. Personally, I have rarely flattered an artist or a comedian by calling him “crazy.” When you have mental illness in your blood-lines, you develop an insider’s concern.

Imagination is like fire. Only the controlled-burn serves a sane purpose.

Okay. Okay. I live in a rooming house in Philly. I’ve got stories of drifters who found their way back to “reality”, and drifters who succumbed to their haunt. It’s a place for men on the bubble. One could even say that it’s a place for men straddling worlds: the realm of Newtonian physics and the realm of pagan metaphysics. Let me break it down. You have the dominant daily realm of cause-and-effect that makes business and The Golden Rule the “working” mentality. Practical thinking! The Modern Way! Then there is the ancient realm of woof and warp, fickle-fates, and divine humors. That is the pre-Modern way. Even learned Philadelphians, men of science, appeal to the latter when buying lotto tickets, betting on horses or playing an inspired game of poker.

Well, I had a hunch the night before the roaring fire. It led me to YouTube videos of lions devouring wildebeest calves, and then hyenas massing-in-force to drive the lions from their kill. A lesson in merciless nature. I thought about it at yoga class in the morning. I know. I know. I was supposed to be dovetailing into an urbane Judeo-Christian idealist. Lions lying down with lambs from the Old Testament, the meek inheriting the earth from the New Testament, and All of Creation converted into Eden’s long lost twin. But I kept thinking that maybe Nietzsche was right. Maybe we’re not living in a Moral Universe and maybe love can’t rule the field. Maybe the dominant force is Will to Power. Which like fire, can serve or get out of control.

Too much heavy thinking. I was taking a post-yoga nap when the fire alarms rang. Do you ever tire of tech’s stimuli? Do you ever pull the covers over your electro-shocked head? When I finally left my bedroom, there was black smoke lacing the air. Ashen negligees streamed like ghosts in flight. I walked against the current. I went towards the source. I experienced a slow-motion rush as time swirled in a bubble. Meanwhile, the corridors and doorways pulsed as prime archtypical forms: passageway and threshold.

When I stepped into the ol’ cigarette puffers room at the aft end of the rooming house: flames dancing on the bed and blankets, and flames traveling atop the dirty clothes stuffed between bed and walls. Flames that weren’t scary because they were large. Rather, flames that were scary because they were liberated from any kind of man-serving purpose, accelerating with wild abandon, and hypnotically beautiful on their own fierce terms.

Well, this was it. This was the danger foretold by YouTube videos. I might as well have been looking into the jaws of a lion or hyena. There was no moral appeal. There was no petitioning for mercy. And though my physical life wasn’t in danger because I had ample time to flee, my metaphysical life was in danger along with my yoga-mat, my library and my altar that takes me back to the future of Paganism. Maybe a television is your centerpiece. I’ve constructed an altar using the Secrets of the Parthenon: Sacred Geometry, Divine Ratio and all that esoteric engineering that synchs the material and ideal stuff. My altar: a manifest table of visual harmonies that have, at least, therapeutic value. Music for the eyes and a plum composition to contemplate before facing the goddamned mirror. The Big Issue: is it me or the Modern World that’s nuts? Ha. Ha. Not so funny when flames are threatening a pal’s similar, but different, chapel: sports calendar, VFW magazines and beer bottle sentries atop a television with a tin-foil antenna. No mercy. No pity for any man’s stake.

And let me say this in deference to the ol’ Roman Catholic doctrine: the fire was pure appetite. Pure lust. Pure gluttony. Pure self-immolating fire, if you’ll excuse the redundancy.

I fought the fire and the fire won. My deputies were a buck-naked drunk who’d been warned against smoking in bed, and a 50 year old idiot savante with foggy eyeglasses, crumbs in his beard and pee-stains on his tennies. My fraternity. My clique of rooming house insiders. We beat the fire down twice but it continued to travel underneath the surface of things while smoke, the silent killer, poisoned the air. I left for a breather. I returned to get a blast of fire-extinguisher spray in the face. Perfect slap-stick comedy under extreme pressure. It took a cop to pull us away from the madness and, another silent killer, the tug of lost victory. Like gamblers, we wanted to stay. Keep trying. We almost had fortune in hand!

After a round of interrogations on the street, we landed in a Red Cross Shelter in West Philly for a month. They treated us well. I got post-traumatic counseling. The social worker suggested that I write about the burn. Well, okay. I’ve had trouble sleeping. When I turn to the right I’m an hero who contained the dragon until the firemen arrived. When I turn to the left I’m an infernal priest who merely molested the fire, beautiful as it was, with a promiscuous glee. Either way, I survived with questions intact: am I an abysmal loser or the master of my own tragic-comic fate?

I did good? I did bad? I’m on the bubble when it comes to defining reality. And I’m not talking about the Metaphysical vs Nominalist rub between theologians and scientists. Neither am I talking about the Heart vs Mind rub between artists. Or the Lucky vs Good rub between sport fans. I’m talking about the abnormal vs normal rub that blisters deep inside myself.

Happily, fate has put me in my place. I’m back in the rooming house where everything and nothing is understood. There’s a smokey mindcraft here, always on the verge of inflammation, and it feels like my home in the world.

Fire Crown