I definitely will write about this.
I was reading an article the other day about the philandering of Newt Gingrich. It’s hard for me to imagine who would want to philand with him. He’ll never make People’s beautiful people list. Power and money, and maybe charm in certain circles (not mine), seem like the only possible draw. I can’t really see being that drawn to power. Power can be the most repulsive characteristic in a human, at least the kind of power that intoxicates that person to pursue it for the sake of having more.
Gingrich’s ex-wife Marianne mentioned that he was a sociopath, and that, his do as I say, not as I do take on life, especially public life, would be his undoing. The article was in the Huffington Post, and emphasized how unimportant family values have been in this zealots quest to put the rest of America on the right track.
The idea that Newt is a sociopath is interesting, but not surprising. It might be a compatible trait for someone in public life. Directness or honesty is political suicide. It’s not a partisan issue. It’s in a democracy’s makeup. Maybe that’s why the faux honesty of someone like Rush, Bill O’Reilly, Beck and the rest have become so popular to many, because they appear to be vitriolic and to be taking a stand, instead of the ratings whores, and careerists they are.
I’m going to drift, not deviate, but drift onto a subject that has so far seemed like the thesis of my blog. My father. I do plan on covering plenty other topics later. Right now he is a focal point. I’m working on an installation, that I’ve mentioned in a previous entry. My father was a rogue, but he was an informed rogue. I remember how someone a couple of years back mentioned how history will bring the truth to light. That comment sent my father into a tirade about how history gives time for rebranding. He talked about how Broward county is named after one of the biggest dumb asses in Florida history, Napoleon Broward. “Jesus Christ that dumb shit tried to drain the Everglades.”
He was also infuriated by the public memory of Ronald Reagan as an avuncular man who straightened out the economy, and how all the covert wars, and the sending in aggressive (he encouraged the aggressiveness) National Guard members to take care of protesting college students (when he was governor of California) was forgotten about, or how in the midst of straightening out the economy, the mass deregulation may had a major detrimental long term effect on the economy.
I think dad was on the right track. So I guess I don’t want him to just be remembered as a rogue. He was a critical thinker, who did his homework. He could be loving, and conflicted. His duality was more evident than most peoples. The charisma was always there, or at least the strong personality. He was one of the most charming people I’ve ever met, and he could be equally as unpleasant. He probably did far more philandering than Newt, but never took a self righteous stand about family values. Praise the Lord.
I’m getting ready to have some lunch. There is a pile of asphalt on my family’s ten acres, Six pallets are waiting for me in Metrowest. I’ll drop the pallets off at the City Arts Factory this afternoon. The asphalt will be ready to go Monday. I’ve been doing some video editing. I’m picking up some sod tomorrow. The purpose of all this? I’m not exactly sure. I have some ideas about the purpose, but I’m not obsessed with the purpose. I want to build a temporary monument. The monument is dedicated to the anecdote about my father stealing a car. I mentioned it in a earlier post. The monument is an abstraction. An abstraction is as close to truth as I can get, and as close as anyone can get. The terms non-fiction or fact, are unsettling to me. Interpretation is more fitting.
Dear anonymous. Ladies man? I’ve felt like I was in love many times. Maybe I really was in love a few times. I guess I’ve lost all of them, but that’s okay. I’m always ready for the unexpected.
Last month Providence’s former members of the famed Fort Thunder collective, Lightning Bolt played a great and predictably manic show at Will’s. A little earlier around dusk another manic happening was taking place at the empty laundromat next door. The band SSLOT played an unsolicited, barely announced show. It didn’t last long, someone called the police, but maybe if the police had stuck around they might have enjoyed watching the three drummers let loose. SSLOT is Greg Leibowitz, Jameson Lynch and Stephen Silber. They have some occasional guest appearances. I think Randall Lyons may be a member now.
About a month after my father parted company with this world, we (me, and the previously mentioned relatives and my brother) arranged a service for him. I had pictured it being improvisational, with a loose framework. It seemed fitting.
My aunt Helen brought pamphlets, like they used to give me in church. She works for a church, and it is a focal point of her life. When I first looked at the pamphlet I thought it seemed too detached, and generically spiritual and not in any way a representation of who I believed my father to be. I also thought it represented who my aunt thought her brother was or at least who she may have hoped he was. Either way, I thought about how we both may have our own interpretation of who he was, and what is a fitting goodbye. I was more interested in keeping it honest, knowing that if there is any afterlife, or ghost activity he could be looking down, up or making eye contact with us, thinking this is bullshit. I didn’t want that. I also didn’t think it was that important to disagree. It doesn’t change the fact that he is gone.
When I was a kid my father used to invite Jehovah’s Witness’, and other zealots into his house, while they were making the rounds, saving souls. His intent was not to listen, and it wasn’t a case of not knowing how to say no. He was very comfortable saying no. He would pull out his Bible that he had studied from cover to cover while he was doing time, and go to whatever page his guest would go to, and challenge their interpretations, and explain to them that it’s all about interpretation. He would tell them this passage may seem self evident to you, but nothing is self evident if you are a good student. He explained that God wants you to really think about every line in his good book, and to really understand it. He would try to get me to be an accomplice. I didn’t feel comfortable in that role. It seemed a bit aggressive, at least passively. Without fail the person would leave quietly, maybe mumbling, but always visibly uncomfortable and defeated.
Around seven years ago or so, his addictions had become such a problem, that nobody in the family trusted him. We had little contact with him. Unless you’ve lived with an addict you might have trouble realizing how irrational it all seems, how unromantic, and heartbreaking.
Somewhere along the line he started going to a church called the Church of the Lost and Found (I didn’t make that up). He continued to go there until he died. His beliefs were never completely clear to me. When I asked if he was a Christian, he would say, “I have my own way of looking at the world.” I think that was always apparent. He mentioned that he needed something to give him discipline, a place to go where the outlet wasn’t an outlet that would get him in trouble. I didn’t really care what his beliefs were. I was just glad that he was distracted from his previous distractions.
An Important reason for picking that church, was that it was a congregation where his problems were the norm. He always talked about how he enjoyed the theater of personalities in the church, and there was just enough chaos to keep it interesting.
He may have stopped using some of the illegal substances, or at least it appeared he did, and he said he did, but he continued to drink cocktails all day long and swear like a sailor. He did have a place to go, that wasn’t threatened by a police raid, or the unpredictable behavior that surrounds that sort of activity.
I don’t know if that explains my acquiescence towards my aunt or not, but it was nice to have peace. We joked how his death had really brought the family together, and his life many times didn’t.
We all agreed to read different parts of the pamphlet as we stood on the dock of the Banana River in New Smyrna, the wind was blowing fairly hard the day of his wake. He wanted his ashes thrown into the water in New Smyrna. He seemed to have some sentiment about that. We have all been going there since we were kids, and now Julie and her family live there, and so does my cousin Leslie and her family.
Everyone took a communal sip from the cap of the Stanley thermos that my friend Alex had given me. Alex was excited about giving it to me when I told him that my father used to drink screwdrivers with fresh squeezed oranges and cheap vodka in thermos’ like that every since I can remember.
My brother threw the ashes from the plastic urn that looked like something that would hold giant index cards. I guess it was the economy urn. Some ashes blew back in his face. It was suggested that the smart ass ghost of my father had done it. I’m not ruling anything out.
We finished the thermos as two fisherman continued to fish from the dock, occasionally looking back at us.
A few months ago I was in a music video with Anna Kerlin. I played her father, she just told me that she was pregnant. I reacted like a father, alarmed then consoling. In this video we discuss the making of the video, and how we would have made the video.
I think it’s probably reading material. I always bring a book, magazine, newspaper or something with me. If I don’t I get restless. I also like to have a pen and paper.
Last September I was sitting at a Cracker Barrel in Ft. Lauderdale with my cousin Julie, her daughter Cheyenne and my aunt Helen enjoying a hash brown casserole on the suggestion of someone in that group, I don’t remember which relative suggested it, but it worked as comfort food.
My father had passed away a few hours earlier. He’d been in the hospital for a couple of weeks. He had congestive heart failure, emphysema, cirrhosis of the liver (this wasn’t diagnosed previously, but wasn’t surprising either). We also think he was having alcohol withdrawals. He was belligerent, until he was medicated. He slept most of the last two days of his life.
One of the women in the hospice, mentioned to us that several attractive women had come to say goodbye to this respectable looking old man. He was seventy four when he died. I consider it a miracle that he lived that long. His lifestyle, drugs, lots of alcohol and he ate whatever he felt like eating, should have put him down a lot sooner. He said his secret was that he was guilt free. He would talk about how the French smoke, drink, eat, love and look great and live long, because they aren’t as guilt ridden about it as Americans are. He also used to say, “pass the ulcer onto the other guy.”
The comment about the women visiting amused me, and the others that knew him. Julie said to the woman at the hospice, “Tommy (she called him that since she was a kid) was the consummate bad boy, all the way until the end.”
While we were nibbling on hash brown casseroles and drinking sweet teas, I looked around the Cracker Barrel. I noticed all the manufactured Americana. I thought about how my father would hate being here. Once when I was a kid we passed a shop. The sign in front of the shop said bric-a-brac. I asked my father, “what is bric-a-brac?” He said, “it’s another word for crap.”
He was intensely interested in history. He loved world history, American history, Florida history, and deconstructing all of these. He questioned nearly everything, and was suspicious of what passes as tradition or authenticity. As he said often, “an expert is from out of town.” He was not impressed, but he would give credit to those that could back up what they say. He was a rogue, but also a critical thinker. He did make plenty of bad decisions that seemed self-destructive, but was always on point when it came to the theoretical or hypothetical.
We had been sharing lots of stories the past few days. Aunt Helen seemed a little shocked at how wild her brother had been. She also seemed amused.
Julie who is now around forty years old, told me how she had idolized my father when she was a kid. He rode a motorcycle, he had long hair, he was irreverent, unreliable, and didn’t appear to have any visible means of support, but he had money (he was a pot smuggler at the time), and he was fun.
When Julie was fifteen, our grandmother Edee (my father’s mother) rented a condo on the beach in New Smyrna for the Summer. Julie wanted to go see Edee. Julie lived about three hours south in Ft. Lauderdale. My father also lived there. He offered to take her to see grandma. My father said to Julie that they should take the backroads. My father would tell her a little about old Florida.
Julie said the ride was great. They took seven hours, on a trip that normally be three. My father told amazing stories about the history of Florida. He was always anxious to point out where brothels once stood, and any other historic points of vice. Julie talked about how they stopped and ate boiled peanuts.
I could picture the scenario as she told me about it. I’d been on those trips with him. He always knew about some place that smoked mullet, bbq, served cold beer, etc.
Julie got a ride home with Edee (we all called her that). Edee was no slouch. She was a journalist, who had been all over the world, and she was a definite character.
After Edee and Juie got home, they found out that my father was picked up on a backroad by the Highway Patrol. He had been driving a stolen car the whole time.
I’ve been working on sort of a memoiresque book for the past three or four years. A lot of it involves my interactions with my father. The working title is Memoir from a Selective Memory.
I’m doing an installation at the City Arts Factory in Orlando. The opening is August 19th. It will be up for a month. I’m working on the idea of doing deconstructed scenes from my life. The stolen car story is the inspiration for this installation. I’ve done one other scene from my life, that was displayed in Tampa in 2005 at the former Covivant Gallery. It was based on some on dreams about an ex-girlfriend, and finding parallels between my love life and the Kennedy assassination investigation. Neither seems to come up with a conclusion.
My father was never very interested in conclusions. He preferred the search, the questions.