Ahh, beauty.

Hey Les. Long time, no etc.

I surfaced in Rome at the end of September (don’t ask). I needed to reconnect with la vita bella. I owed myself an immersion after a long, long period of self-denial (again, don’t ask). Not to say I was after any swooning, Stendhal Syndrome effects; I just felt sorely deprived of beauty. And where better to rejuvenate—beauty inhabits the language, the food, the people, the everyday life of Italy. We know, we’ve been there.

My place was near the Galvani/Zabaglia bus stop, and I was ambling one evening around piazza Orazio Giustiniani. There was all kinds of hubbub, more than the standard Roman white noise. Something about a festival. Another art-photo-extravanganza. Wandering into the midst of it, there in front of me was our friend Alec. His work, I mean. Some darn fascinating pictures in that exhibition; seems he got a commission to photograph the city of Rome. But had his own Stendhal moment and bailed. “Too beautiful,” he said. Can’t say I blame the poor blighter, landlocked Minnesotan that he is. Regardless, he found some things to suggest the beauty he couldn’t address head on, and it’s all gorgeously fascinating and attractive in a Ten Commandments, “thou shalt not” kind of way.

I wasn’t swooning, but I was mesmerized. There’s some sexy stuff in Alec’s show, some almost startlingly so (a nod to the late great Larry Sultan, who we know Alec admired). Some more subtle, though your average 10-year-old ragazzo would probably get the figs and kumquats picture. Some pretty sloppy beauties, though still gorgeous, like the “pale” men, one who seems on a 3-day-bender and the other zonked out in a smoke-filled car. Or that awesome Gabriella, hair like snakes on Medusa’s fearsome head. Snakes (including one impossibly knotted one that ends up looking like a heart), smoke (issuing from a woman’s mouth like a tongue), temptation—ahh, the lustful beauty of it all.

I left full of questions. Is la bellezza truly in the eye of the beholder? Or is there universal beauty? Maybe it’s all in the translation from life to photograph. Good makeup artists and stylists can do wonders, can’t they Les? Bail out a photographer who’s lost his bearings? Worth thinking about.

And for the life of me, I can’t figure out all the pineapples.





Ciao bello.

Totally unrelated.

Les, I would love to know what algorithm Google Image Ripper uses to connect my presence on the LBM Team with theater production stills. Will associative wonders never cease?




p.s. Happy Bonfire Night!


Macho pulp.

Hey, Les.

Picked up a rich piece of LBM fiction. Here’s a gem from it:

“Bob,” she said, “I love you so and want you with me, but you are lying to me, and you are lying to yourself. I can hear it in your voice, and if you don’t get it settled in a way that satisfies you, it will suck the pleasure out of the peace you’ve earned. I know you. You are samurai, dog soldier, marine fool, crazy bastard, marshal of Dodge, commando, the country-western Hector. You are all of those things. They are your nature. The girls and I are just where you park when you’re not warring. You love us, yes you do, but war is your life, it’s your destiny, it’s your identity. My advice, old man, is win your war. Then come home. Or maybe you’ll get killed. That would be a shame and a tragedy, and the girls and I will weep for years. But that is the way of the warrior and we have the curse upon us of loving the last of them.”

A guy could Google it. If you need to find the source of this pot-boiling he-man fantasy self-justification. Check out the author photo.


Winner takes all.

Hey, Les.

Glad you liked my package. Damn that rain; it was clear when I dropped it off at 3 a.m.

Liked Alec’s entry on America, the get-rich/skinny/smart/laid-quick-with-no-effort nation. Left a comment for the masses there on the NYT. Hooray for democracy!


Men in the dark.

Hey, Les.

Long time no scribble. Pardonnez moi, svp. Many changes in my life over the past few months.

I’ve found a new cave. It’s near the water, not too high up, high ceilings (can you say “cathedral”?). Northern exposure, and in a bit of a valley, so there’s not too much direct sun. But that’s jake with me.

I was reading Paul Auster again. I know, I know. But the title—Man in the Dark—spoke to me. I won’t labor the narrative details, but it’s about a man divided between two worlds, two ways of life. One was prompted by recollections of violence, a race riot, about which the narrator says the following:

That was my war. Not a real war, perhaps, but once you witness violence on that scale, it isn’t difficult to imagine something worse, and once your mind is capable of doing that, you understand that the worst possibilities of the imagination are the country you live in. Just think if, and chances are it will happen.

The country we live in is comprised of the worst possibilities of our imagination. Now, that’s a thought to either keep us hunkered down in our dark spaces, or make us confront the darkness to dispel it while denying the abyss, the Mariana Trench of our imaginations. Which way do we go?


OG (forgot how to sign my name, it’s been so long)

Dreams teem.

Hey, Les.

That Roman cave reminds me of my dreams, which of late have teemed with illicit and debased liaisons. I’m drawn to those eroded human figures on the columns, caryatid and telamon, degraded shadows of their full-bodied selves. Barely capable of breath, let alone any other engagement. Doomed to become less and less, Les.

Cheerily yrs,


Hey, Les.

I heard a new song on the radio this morning. It had special resonance for me; I was just about to sit down and apply for last week’s unemployment compensation. The song by Rufus Wainwright is called “Going to a Town”; the lyrics go like this:

I’m going to a town that has already been burnt down
I’m going to a place that has already been disgraced
I’m gonna see some folks who have already been let down
I’m so tired of America

I’m gonna make it up for all of The Sunday Times
I’m gonna make it up for all of the nursery rhymes
They never really seem to want to tell the truth
I’m so tired of you, America

Making my own way home, ain’t gonna be alone
I’ve got a life to lead, America
I’ve got a life to lead

Tell me, do you really think you go to hell for having loved?
Tell me, enough of thinking everything that you’ve done is good
I really need to know, after soaking the body of Jesus Christ in blood
I’m so tired of America

I really need to know
I may just never see you again, or might as well
You took advantage of a world that loved you well
I’m going to a town that has already been burnt down
I’m so tired of you, America

Making my own way home, ain’t gonna be alone
I’ve got a life to lead, America
I’ve got a life to lead
I got a soul to feed
I got a dream to heed
And that’s all I need

Making my own way home, ain’t gonna be alone
I’m going to a town
That has already been burnt down.

I have to say, by word and wan voice Rufus nailed me this morning. My applications were online, for three different positions at Wells Fargo banks; I was imagining myself a teller, a personal banker, and even an agricultural controversial claims analyst. Anything to get me out of the cave, you know. But so bloodless—no meeting with an interviewer, no soul to the exchange, which felt like filling out a marketing survey.

Am I tired of America? Yes and no. I’ve been riding the wave of economic stimulus and unemployment assistance through the duration of the jobless recovery, so I’m grateful to the America that supports its displaced members. But I’m pissed to be one of the members of a society that gives rise to arrogant megalomaniacs like Madoff and Petters, pissed to have been found guilty of my own ambitions, pissed to have been found wanting in the midst of entrepreneurial capitalism run amok. Tired of feeling at war with my world, tired of my country using war as a means of public relations. Tired of feeling alone (sorry, Rufus, that arrow missed its mark).



Troglodyte lodgings.

Hey, Les.

For your global itinerary:

  • Les Hautes Roches, Rochecorbon (“From $252 for a double.”)
  • Alexander’s Boutique Hotel of Oia, Santorini (“180-degree views of the Aegean Sea.”)
  • The Laleh Kandovan, International Rocky Hotel, Kandovan (“Rooms once hid residents from invading Mongols.”)
  • The Caves, Negril (“All-inclusive rates start at $798 for double rooms during high season.”)
  • Cuevas Pedro Antonio de Alarcón, Guadix (“Once sheltered those fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. Now they house half the town’s population.”)
  • Kelebek Hotel, Göreme (“Views of—and rooms carved out of—the rock formations known as ‘fairy chimneys’.”)

What are self-respecting, miserly, monadic troglodytes like you and I supposed to do when word like this from Afar* starts getting out?

Somehow, though, I think the panoramic views place isn’t doing the cave thing quite right. Caves that “make you feel like you’ve taken a vow of chicness”? No, thanks.


* “Sleep Like a Rock in a Cave.” Afar 2, no. 1 (March/April 2010), p. 47. Thanks a lot, Amy Cortese. You can keep the Italian place for yourself.

From RWE’s “Self-Reliance.”

Hey, Les.

You up on your Transcendentalism? This is from Emerson, and I found it moving, today:

Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him.

I feel like so many are caught in the bind of admiring, and seeking to emulate, what someone else has created. Seeing success, and thinking it takes only a set of procedures to accomplish it. A sequence, set and named, more than a bravely, unwittingly followed interior agenda, something moving you forward that can hardly be identified, quantified, or labeled.

What do we learn from teachers, except to ignore their lessons? Or, rather, to ignore the model they set, for it worked for them in the unique circumstances of a life’s evolution and is unlikely to yield similar results if tried in another context.

Oh, where have I been today, to be thinking these thoughts…mucking about in the hills of suburbia, where so many lives seem to emulate each other.