Things we’ve saved and saved and SAVED. For all the stupid reasons you or I or anybody saves things. You can’t take them “with you,” not all, not any, but chances are what’s left is but a micro-fraction of the total heap of shit that in the course of a life has passed through your prehensile puppy paws. Gone is that copy of Zap Comix number three, and gone is the radium-dial Howdy Doody watch, and the actual puck Frank Mahovlich scored goal number 489 with against Toronto and gone gone GONE are all the silly goddam STAMPS you once fervidly “collected,” only a fool would hold onto that shit, and you’re no fool, neither am I.
But you’ve kept the tattered squirrel hanky, right?, that old snotrag your mom hand-painted for your sixth (or was it seventh?) birthday, and the yellow plastic space helmet from 1953, excellent plastic like they don’t make anymore—hard, not very flexible, like you think would be brittle, but ‘tain’t brittle—with a brim like on baseball caps—this is one dizzy helmet! Or if YOU haven’t kept ‘em, I know I have.
And oh, speaking of plastic: records.
As they always had previously, the last time I played the eponymously titled Revolutionary Ensemble (Inner City 3016), somewhere in the early ‘80s, the sparrows nesting in the vent above my living room gas heater responded to it. In the notes to that album is a poem about symmetries in music and nature (“The trees joyously wave their branches in rhythm with the wind”), and here was evidence in my own frigging home: birds don’t just sing, sometimes they listen. As I was obsessed with cacophonous post–‘60s jazz at the time — following the death of punk-rock, it’s what I played even to wake up in the morning — it was nice to see the birdies share my preference, and for this particular alb they chirped like banshees. Chirping with, not against — although y’never know…this was four or five homes ago.
Dunno how they’d’ve felt about Swift Are the Winds of Life (Survival SR-112), an earlier recording by the Ensemble’s violinist, Leroy Jenkins, with Rashied Ali—I never played it for them. All I know is Justine Carr didn’t like it, and neither, not really, did I. Certain installments of Leroy’s playing have struck me as shrill and toothy without real bite, neither shark nor bulldog teeth (like you get with Ornette Coleman’s fiddling, for inst, or Billy Bang’s), at most maybe greyhound teeth—and ”romantic” in the annoying sense of hot & bothered yet austere—and this outing was one of them.
In 1976 or ’7, to persuade Robert Christgau, my bag-o-wind editor at the Village Voice, to let me write about jazz (he considered me a “rock-identified critic”), I did a non-rock “think piece” in which I claimed, among other things, that increasing the aural input of jazz around the house will enliven (for example) your dreams and sex acts. With the latter in mind, just to test the premise with album X, I fucked and ate Justine—my number three or four all-time love object—with a side of Swift Are the Winds spinning…which probably didn’t prolong my tenure. (The piece never ran.)
At the absolute height of my collectional zeal, bloated by too many years on the promo-album dole, my LP stash numbered in the THOUSANDS. Three? Four? Five? I now own, well, hundreds—many, most, almost all of which I never play, probably will never play. True—many or most are scratched, warped, caked with beer, wine and fingerprints. But even among those eminently playable, there isn’t that much turntable action. (I also have, oh, at least a thousand CDs—so what’s new? My acquisitiveness appears undiminished.)
Thousands down to hundreds—for all the fine and stupid reasons I or you or anyone periodically tosses stuff. Every time it seems like I’ve hit rock-bottom, nothing left to toss, it turns out there’s another item or five to weed out. In any case, it feels mandatory to regularly check the stack, and rarely if ever is playability, alone, a criterion. (It’s far more neurotic than that.)
Hundreds; how ‘bout we go for fewer hundreds?
Retaining…tossing…merely FUSSING WITH.
Even with a drastically shortened stack, an unending chore.
In the fall of ’66, I embarked on a simple mission: to expand the palette—the text—of philosophy as dealt at American institutes of higher etcetera by slipping massive references to rock-roll psychedelic drugs, pop art, biker films, and other contempo-cultural wigouts into term papers, classroom discussions, and the Q&A’s which followed lectures by celebrity academics—a reasonable goal, no? My mistake was in believing such a hoot would play the hallowed dungeons of the grad school at Yale, where the Mayflower fucks who ran the show would’ve shit in a teacup before letting my atheist-jew contagion defile their ivied walls.
I didn’t fare much better with my fellow philosophy students. In the waning weeks before my expulsion became final—already on probation, I could smell it coming—I’d invite these dullards up to my room, offer them pot (they’ d decline), and put on some sides. Though I had everything by the Beatles, Stones, Dylan, Byrds, Love, most of the Kinks, the first Doors—it was the spring, by now, before the SUMMER OF LOVE—all they would sit for was “I Feel Like Homemade Shit,” on The Fugs First Album (ESP 1018). Those who had heard it before would tell newcomers, “listen—here!—he’s saying ’shit’!!”—underneath all the mock country harmonies and copious yodeling—then the newies would grill me, “Is this illegal? Could we all go to jail for this?” What a pack of cheesepuffs!—these jackjills who today teach our kids, or yours (I don’t own, excuse me, have any).
In his Metaphysics, or was it Physics?—‘s been so long since I read this crap — Aristotle speaks of four causes, none of which’re all that close to how we think of cause these days, something on the order of that which produces an effect, result, or consequence — they’re more like parameters of responsibility or even (in an old-fashioned legal sense) liability. Actually, one isn’t too far off: efficient cause, i.e., whatever the hell brings a thing or event into being (for ex.: a maker or parent). He’s also got formal cause (the form, shape, structure of the whatsit), final cause (the use or goal it embodies), and the most seemingly no-big-deal of the bunch, material cause (simply its matter).