Sunday, February 13, 2011


It's the 12th day of February and I think this is only maybe the second or third time so far this month that I've had internet access. My iPad keeps me posted on sports scores and I can look stuff up, check email and some other basics but I cannot write blog posts on it because it doesn't support the Blogger software. Can't watch any sports games on my favorite site for that either because the iPad doesn't handle most video applications.

Being limited has actually helped me be a little more productive in a way (getting back into my books heavier and finishing up my studies for the big Dali-Joyce essay I keep talking about) but it's been frustrating because I've often been bombarded and overwhelmed with ideas for new blog posts and I can't channel that properly. I'm left making notes to myself basically saying "write a post about this!" and then I just move on forward past 5 or 6 other ideas. It's as though I'm a passenger on a traveling train of thought and I've come to my stop but can't squeeze my way out. And the train just keeps going along to the other stops. More passengers come onto the train at each stop and the train car is getting overcrowded and uncomfortable, bunched up. And I gotta pee! Get me off this thing!!!

Now that I've finally managed to relieve the building pressure and get back to my Building Roam, I find that I'm overwhelmed with so many things I want to do and see.

I'm in a totally new city (for god's sake!) and I spent a week traveling across the whole Southwestern quadrant of North America.

I've had a new post all about astrology sitting unfinished in my drafts here for 2 weeks now and been dying to share it with the world. I'm still gonna finish it up (hopefully tonight) and get it out there but I've since piled up a Jenga stack of ideas on top of it. Plus, in the past couple weeks so much crazy, noteworthy stuff has happened in my life that I've got all that to talk about.

*   *   *

As I type this, the rows of teeth on the sides of my mouth are aching badly. During my last week in San Diego (I left on January 30th) I had five cavities filled. After somehow avoiding being stricken with even one single dental cavity for my entire life, I had seven of them spring up just in the past year. There are two possible reasons for this: a terrible case of acid reflux I've had for a while now, and the absence of fluoride in the California water---whereas New York's water has lots of fluoride. Either way it sucks. (Plus, I've been under the impression fluoride in our water is a bad thing anyway. Didn't the Nazis purposely put fluoride in the water to make people more docile?)

The cavity-correcting experience was, I guess, not so terrible compared to other more complicated dental work one could have (having my wisdom teeth removed by a shitty dentist years ago was a nightmare) but it was still pretty horrible. I absolutely hate going to the dentist. There's virtually no way I can accept having someone strongly poking and scraping around my teeth with sharp metal instruments. Just typing the words makes my teeth hurt more.

They gave me plenty of Novocaine and I even requested Nitrous gas for the session but I was nevertheless squeamish when the dentist, a petite young Vietnamese woman, really flexed her muscles and dug into small sensitive points in my mouth.

At one point the pain and discomfort was so unbearable, and the Nitrous gas so intoxicating, that I somehow managed to move my consciousness to a lower spot on my spine. It felt as though my center of apprehension was no longer in the center of skull but around my belly area looking upwards at the open-mouthed head that had other people's hands working inside of it. It was pretty awesome, maybe a little freaky. Reminiscent of my experience with Stanislav Grof's Holotropic Breathwork a couple years ago (that's a whole 'nother story to tell for another day).

I kept thinking throughout the process that having these things in our mouths, these calcified exposed bone-like structures, is in many ways a burden. I don't want these stupid things if I have to maintain them and have doctors operate on them like this. The whole thought of teeth and dentists just seemed so strange and distant to me at that time. I should mention that my lack of dental insurance and the thought of having to pay over a thousand bucks for the whole thing contributed to that line of thinking.

Two weeks later, the results have been weird. I know everybody's been getting fillings for years and years, my siblings were getting cavities filled when we were all very young and continued to do so throughout their lives but this is something totally new and unfamiliar to me. Two weeks after the process, I'm shocked that my whole set of teeth aches every time I eat something. It really sucks but I guess that's how one's mouth feels after having 5 teeth excavated.

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My last post, written hastily in the chilly (it was 15 degrees outside and the building wasn't well insulated) hotel room of a La Quinta in downtown Austin last week, drew attention to Frank Delaney's awesome James Joyce birthday poem (or "rap" as he called it) and I found myself awestruck last night as I listened to it for a second time, especially the final verse. I was so struck by it that I felt the need to copy down the lyrics and I'd like to share them here.

I think Delaney, who's been doing a great job appraising the jewels in Ulysses' treasure chest for many months now in his weekly podcast, sums up very well the brilliance and appeal of this relatively unread writer who is nevertheless considered the greatest of all time by many of his readers (me included).

Here's what FD has to say about it (and please pardon my creative indentation).

Frank Delaney’s “James Joyce Birthday Rap”
[Verse 3]

Ya know, I often meant to find someone who’d draw me a horoscope
of the stars the night that Joyce was born,
does someone with a telescope
view unusual constellations, see cosmic abnormalities
that would explain this genius birth?

there were no formalities,
                                    no comets crashed,
                                                no planets fell
And yet,
some force was present
some flashing light
some brilliant flame from some uncharted heavens
                                                that shot to earth
and on this baby’s formulated finger,
                                    giving gifts of passion and compassion that would linger
and consolidate until this master knew that he had seen us
            as an artist should,
                                    then wrote it down
            and that’s what was his genius.

He wasn’t born into a house of artistry and intellect,
            his father was a bombast who found it hard to get respect
Yet Jim,
from the time he went to school and then to college,

astounded all around him by the way he soaked up knowledge.

These are well-known facts
about his brain, his great capacity
but the fact is: he’s remembered chiefly for his great opacity
            that’s not why I’m drawn to him
and let me use this day of his to summarize his power for ME
the reasons why he always is the writer I return to
the novelist of primary choice.

To begin with,
            it’s the sound he makes
                        the gliding brilliance of his voice
It’s as clear as any bell
            with the bright led light of crystal
Every word he used inspires me
            he’s the writer’s
            starting pistol
And he’s FEARLESS in his concepts
I mean, just look at the degree
            to which he stretched his framework
                        to fit on Homer’s Odyssey

And next, just think of how he can describe
            a street, a house, a man
without ever giving details,
                        can you do that? who can?
In a sentence, you’re there with him
                        embracing all his references
and in that same damn sentence there might be 30 references
                        and all of them relevant
            with teams of meanings towering
Come on now…
Name another writer
                        whose gift is as empowering
            and the concept
                                    and execution
            THAT’s what makes Joyce shattering
He’ll have this big idea,
            (and I say this not to flatter him)
he’d then find the way, the PERFECT way
            to write it.
THAT’s why we need to warm to Ulysses and not to fight it;

the writer seen in all his power,
                        the literary artist without peer.
For me, it’s finally that one gift of bringing to us here
            all human life put on the page
in language rich and creamy
            he’s the man who showed us that a character can be dreaming
                        while living out his real life
            and often so precariously
so that EVERY page of Ulysses is “to be, or not to be”

and that’s also because he didn’t just call on Homer
            in fact,
            to call it Ulysses is kind of a misnomer
because he also framed it
            against Shakespeare’s Dane
                        Hamlet, prince of Denmark
                                    who was a royal pain
and Stephen, the brooding, suffering young man in Ulysses
is traveling across
                                    a different kind of seven seas
He’s on an inward journey
            and thus the point is taken
that Homer’s hero Odysseus (and here don’t get mistaken)
            isn’t just a sailor                                   
                        he’s a traveler of the psyche
and THAT’s the point of Joyce’s work,
                        however unlikely.
He’s saying that all the movements of our body through the universe
            are metaphors for our mental ships,                       
                        amazing and diverse
And each and every one of us
            though ordinary, IS unique
It’s a brilliant piece of thinking,
            he really means the meek DO inherit the earth
but we must do so by choice.
                        What a wonderful message.
Happy Birthday James A. Joyce


  1. PQ, I saw that post and passed it along to the Finnegan group, and one member said she is going to listen to those Ulysses podcasts while she's riding on her stationary bike.

    We're at a fruitful time with Joyce ourselves, so your highlighting those last lines of the rap makes sense to me. A glimmer is coming through, anyway.

    It's hard when you can't keep up with your own ideas, but it's a better place to be in than the reverse, I guess.

    I'm looking forward to what's been waiting to come out.

  2. Thanks, Seana. And I really appreciate you directing traffic over here from your blog. Also, I'm glad you've started to unravel the Marshall McLuhan thread. That article you posted looks extremely interesting but I'm steering clear of it at the moment because it's too much like the essay I'm trying to write right now on Joyce and Dali. Don't want to feel daunted.

    Posting in a coffeeshop right now but FINALLY getting internet tomorrow and then will try to catch the blog up with the rapid flow of ideas for it. Plenty of other ideas I'm trying to manifest too.