Sunday, December 17, 2006

Where is the sky?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

City Lights

At the corner of Columbus and Broadway,
I always see a big man,
white beard, distinguished,
sitting on the corner, as if on a throne.
I have been told he is an ancient god,
a Zeus or Thor,
who has forgotten his own name.

One night I watched closely.
He was staring down Columbus.
I turned and looked.

Full moon in night sky
burned like a hungry eye
through misty low clouds.

The city a fabric of light,
folded with grace over hills.
patterns spelling out a poetry of
hieroglyphic symbols

The moon drifted slowly
toward the edge of the Transamerica Pyramid
aircraft in pattern
moved across the night.
Does he dream of the sons of Daedulus?

Thursday, December 07, 2006


On that last night,
as the temple of the stars burned,
as all those
photographs, notes to lost loved ones, secret wishes,
hopes to rise above failure, bitterweet memories,
tears , fears, and dreams,
turned to glowing ashes,
and rose up above to the night,

the last four great tree trunks of the structure,
held together by tracery of timber,
held out long against the fire,
until finally,
after what seemed like an eternity,
they slumped together
and fell down together
into great burst of sparks.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Small Ponds

In June of that year, I drove out of the city, circling, serpentine, circuitous, on the Columbia River scenic drive. I rise, I fall, and double back, through pine forest, past cliffside and after time, stop at an overlook, gather my pack.

To the engineers and pioneers and settlers who saw the wild beauty of this valley, as they penetrated her, pierced her, the valley was a place of infinite quality. And of this came strange vision. The circuitousness of the old scenic drive was propitiative prayer to nature, in its curves like an erotic poem following the figure and form of a wild love.

But now eroticism has been exchanged for domination, and the noise of auto traffic and shunting trains fills the valley. I look at the heavy traffic below, on 84 the newest road, gouged straight at dredged rivers edge, and the two railroad tracks, that confine and rule the ancient word of the river like parallel chains, and see how the valley has become a place to get through, quickly. But I will approach the old stillness here, upon Rowena plateau overlooking the Columbia, at Tom McCall Preserve.

The flowers are in bloom, color everywhere. I wander across the plateau, among small ponds, swales, mounds and native grasses. The stony scablands are filled with Columbia Desert Parsley, Broad Leafed Lupine, Yellow Bell, Balsam Root, Grass Widow, Shooting Star. Blue and purple and yellow and white. More flowers than I can name. In pattern and relationship, unique to this place. Fortunate thin soil too stony to farm, and a view once too distant for replicated habitation.

I walk past the grasslands and oak, to the edge of the plateau,, sit on the rimrock, from top a cliff I watch red tailed hawks and turkey vultures spiral in the open air beneath my feet. Across the river, the mirror of the formation I sit on, is naked topography pealed back, 8 layers of thick basalt, each a repeated cataclysmic flow of lava, from when the earth broke open 12 million years ago.

This gorge was carved twelve thousand years ago, scoured to the bedrock in the ice age floods when Lake Missoula broke. The glaciers dammed Lake Missoula, until in their icy weakness they fell, and the lake tumbled and roared out, hundreds of miles per hour, scouring everything in its path. And the glaciers returned and the lake built up again, and broke again, they say a hundred times, cutting through stone like a mile wide hydraulic jet, charged with abrasive of boulders and stone, destroying all in its path. Later, a few thousand years ago, an eruption of Mt. St Helens leaves four feet of ash. This is the ground on which the flowers grow.

I meditate upon the topographic disasters as cataclysmic purity; first, landscape for hundred of miles of flat, glowing dull red thick sheets of lava, which then cools, and leaves the earth as seamless flat solid stone. Then the earth surface white, crystalline, covered miles deep with sheets of ice. A great blue lake, flooding the earth, pinned in behind the ice. And then the ice breaks and the flood is unleashed and the stone is cut. The great emptiness of geologic time, marked by million year apocalyptic clock ticks of cataclysm.

Below in the gorge, the two railroad lines, and three highways, and the dammed river, and the Sunday drivers, and the noise of traffic and rail and barge, are only the most recent and most minor disaster.

A barge moves upstream on the Columbia, a train moves on the tracks towards Pacific shore. Small rain comes down here, dark clouds above the bluff. It rains hard across the river. I can see patches of blue sky to the west.

I sit and watch gusts of wind cross the tops of yellow grass patches filling a swale. A motion subtle and beautiful. Light yellow brown patch of wild grass; lightness shimmering in the breeze. Muted golden and silk, made visible motion of wind. Austere and abstract, a beauty of basic elements, yet in interplay almost irreducibly complex. A beauty as of mathematics; its Navier Stokes equations describing fluid dynamics in a few simple symbols, but with solution as the motion of wind on grass, unsolved by man. I watch a few golden brown small moths over the swale, managing to somehow flutter through the unsolved complexity.

Red winged blackbirds call around a couple of ponds, the bright orange patches on their wings like flying neon. Ponds like hidden jewels, a Persian paradise, a garden; water, hidden, hemmed in on all sides by trees., cupping water lilies and cattails. Big drops of rain splash down to the accompaniment of the croak of frogs.

I head up, back across the highway, towards the overlook. There are strange cucumber like pods scattered on the path, gnawed into by animals. The sign warns of rattlesnakes, ticks, Poison Oak. The path up is lined with scrub oaks dressed with moss and lichen. Desert parsley has gone to seed in the highlands, and looks like a strange alien bush.

I take my time to the top, take in the view, then set out to return, but foolishly head down contrary to the way I came. I struggle downhill through a narrow overgrown path, using gravity to push me through wet brush, arrive at a break in the forest, and realize that if I were to continues I would be miles away from my destination. I must struggle back up to the point. For every step I took down, I must press back up. The branches of the low lying shrubs scratch me, press against my face. My legs grow sore and I sweat and pant.

I finally regain the summit. I lean my head back in my exhaustion and close my eyes and feel the drops of rain hit my face and taste the sweat washing off. I open up a can of herring and taste the sharp saltiness and the mustard and drink of my flask down deep with water in my thirst and hunger. I feel in the bottom of my sack and unwrap some small crushed chocolate bars. My strength returns. As has the sun.

I can smell the sweet air. The drops of rain on forest leaves are glistening like diamonds in the direction of the sun. The sky has transformed from overcast grey to Cumulus and Cirrus in blue. The sun shines on the Columbia, so strong that the river, in its big curve, has become bright, shining, golden. Upstream, East, almost invisible, from a small wooded island, a luminous band moves almost straight up in the sky, the left half of a rainbow, it arches almost straight up, from an island. A ghost shadow of transparent color.

I watch tiny canyon wrens take great arching curves through the wide space of air over the valley below, and I head down again. If my journey was to be plotted on a map the line down would pass back over itself, the route leading to the summit would be doubled by the curve down, but my path will not be the same, everything is changing.

I pass down round a switchback, and below, across a mountainside field, seen in profile, two startled mule deer fix me with their stare, then turn, leap in effortless arcs, over the fields of wild flowers, until their white rumps vanish in the underbrush. I can hear the birds; talking, making music. For a moment, emplaced in solitude, I think of Charlie Parker; Ornithology. The music of the wild here in this place being created and heard by no one except for myself, who is here by chance; a music that will never be repeated, this time and place unique.

Time passes. The sun sets. I will drive back in darkness.
As I follow the highway, I contemplate cataclysms to abstraction. Will mankind’s mark on the face of the planet suffer into deep time as these flowers hard scrabbling for temporary purchase on the surface of an implacable earth, or do we aspire to volcanic cataclysm, will we shape the earth like a lava flood? If I could speak the language of the birds would they tell me?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Borges: The Golem

The Golem
Jorge Luis Borges
Translated by James Honzik

If (as affirms the Greek in the Cratylus)
the name is archetype of the thing,
in the letters of “rose” is the rose,
and all the Nile flows through the word.

Made of consonants and vowels,
there is a terrible Name,
that in its essence encodes God’s all,
power, guarded in letters, in hidden syllables.

Adam and the stars knew it in the Garden.
It was corroded by sin (the Cabalists say),
time erased it, and generations
have forgotten.

The artifice and candor of man go on without end.
We know that there was a time in
which the people of God searched for the Name
through the ghetto’s midnight hours.

But not in that manner of those others
whose vague shades insinuate into vague history,
his memory is still green and lives,
Judá the Lion the rabbi of Prague.

In his thirst to know the knowledge of God
Judá permutated the alphabet through complex variations
and in the end
pronounced the name that is the Key

the Door, the Echo, the Guest, and the Palace,
over a mannequin shaped with awkward hands,
teaching it the arcane knowledge of
symbols, of Time and Space.

The simulacrum raised its sleepy eyelids,
saw forms and colors that it did not understand,
and confused by our babble
made fearful movements.

Gradually it was seen to be (as we are)
imprisoned in a reverberating net of
Before, Later, Yesterday, While, Now, Right, Left,
I, You, Those, Others.

The Cabalists who celebrated this mysterium,
this vast creature, named it Golem.
(Written about by Scholem,
in a learned passage of his volume.)

The rabbi explained the universe to him,
“This is my foot, this yours, and this the rope,”
but all that happened, after years,
was that the creature swept the synagogue badly.

Perhaps there was an error in the word
or in the articulation of the Sacred Name;
in spite of the highest esoteric arts
this apprentice of man did not learn to speak.

Its eyes uncanny,
less like man than dog and much less than dog but thing
following the rabbi through the doubtful
shadows of the stones of its confinement.

There was something
abnormal and coarse in the Golem,
at its step the rabbi’s cat fled in fear.
(That cat not from Scholem but of the blind seer)

It would ape the rabbi’s devotions,
raising its hands to the sky,
or bend over, stupidly smiling,
into hollow Eastern salaams.

The rabbi watched it tenderly but
with some horror. How (he said)
could I engender this laborious son?
Better to have done nothing, this is insanity.

Why did I give to the infinite
series a symbol more? To the coiled skein
on which the eternal thing is wound,
I gave another cause, another effect, another grief.

In this hour of anguish and vague light,
on the Golem our eyes have stopped.
Who will say the things to us that God felt,
at the sight of his rabbi in Prague?

Jorge Luis Borges – 1958


Read the original (in Spanish)

Here is the voice of Borges reading The Golem, with footage from the film The Golem: How He Came Into the World directed by Paul Wegener, and with the music of György Ligeti, from Argentinian filmmaker Leandro González.

In 1965, Gershom Scholem dedicated a new computer at the Weizmann Institute at Rehovoth in Israel. At his suggestion, it was named Golem Aleph. Here is his dedicatory speech. The Golem of Prague and the Golem of Rehovoth.

Purchase Borges: Selected Poems


My Best Work is below. Take a look.
Experimental Portraits (Visual Art)
Epistemic Purchase (A poem)
the god of new york (A hard story)
Eagle Creek (A hiking essay)
The Time Factory -SF story and video

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Epistemic Purchase

You walk out under gunmetal grey stratus;

Dusky footed woodrats nest rock outcrops,
orange velvet algae and lace lichen drape ancient Cypress,
crows harry a red tailed hawk,

Seals bask on sea stacks;
In kelp, otters,
In coves, Sea wolves; lobos,
And the spindrift charged wind.

In wet forests, by the beautiful
red fly agaric, amanita muscaria
I decay to moss and broken bark,
while you step over fallen logs and find
your path has become a stream, returning to ocean's edge.

The beds of white quartz sand,
In brown sea shaped sandstone curves a nude figure,
Hunched conglomerates of chaos and stone, and
granite headlands: trees cling to them like eternity.

(note to myself)

At 5:37 pm on January 9th, 2005
dusk sun comes out,
at western horizon.
For a moment it's as if time stops and the surface of the sea is a
crumpled sheet of silver.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Beautiful People

Kisoro district, Uganda


Nightfall - A short play

Chime or bell sounds at uneven intervals
A is sleeping on platform
B comes over and shakes him lightly.

B: Wake up, wake up.
A: I dreamed I was laying in the snow, but it was ashes.

Two Seattle Haiku

Rose red strip of sky
Cuts horizontal against
Space needle at dusk.

Below wire cut sky
Brick facades, passing people
Glow in the dusk light.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Eagle Creek

From the creek, a slope of cedar and mossy maple. Fractured sunlight through tree branches in forest. Rise up above creek - over moss coated scree. Arched walls of chasms yellow green. I am in fascination with cliff side vertical gardens of moss and fern, wildflower and lichen. A complexity within my span. Dark green, gray green, blue green, lemon green, olive green: moss. Flowers the size of a pin. Intensity of blue, white, purple, red. Drops of water fall glintsilver on moss covered rocks. Bees hover like moving sleep.

Curving fronds of black stalked maidenhair ferns. Alder, bleeding hearts, Columbine. Wild Iris. Red Paintbrush. Blue Lupine. There are few birds here. I do not know why. I have arrived too late for Trillium. I will not press on to Wahtum lake.

I peer onto cliff face, half lit, half shadow, and look close at one of the mosses that cling to it, I don’t know its scientific name. I see yellow dust collected below, surmise it spores. Odd shade of green unique to itself. Shape, interconnected circles like venn diagrams, indication of cycles of growth. This patched life has been here many seasons, in sun, in rain, covered by snow in convulsive January storm. Under night and day, darkness and light. Close touch its life in nature, the insects that might gather upon it. This is one bit of moss, I circle with thumb and forefinger touched.

Next to it another moss, another kind. A fern. Cryptogamic flora. A single blue wildflower. I stand back, carefully, wary, aware of precipice, and take in all that I can. A thousand species of plants and insects, moss and lichen cling to this shear wall. All is actual, as opposed to art, artifice, this existing, on its own, not for man’s purpose, but through and for its own ancient crafts and devices, acidic secretions, evolved chemistries, symbiosis, contingent histories, many understood through science and craft, but many simply and impossibly unknown. On a steep cliff, overlooking a chasm in rock, and the sky above, and the creek tumbling down to great river, the river which travels past my home to the North Pacific. The world spins a great blue ball in space, half in light, under sun, half in darkness, under stars.

Straight white patches of ash. Rockslides. Clamber at cliff edge on columnar basalt. Bridge over deep narrow chasm, geological fault that pierces the thick layering of volcanic cataclysm. Once the deeps opened, and mantled this region with lava. And in contorted layers of time, the rock cracked by tension. But I have stayed too late. The inevitable descent will be through darkness.

The sun withdraws from the valley, as if with the snapping of a spiders strand, a windblown arachnid sprung from connection with tree limb, spiraling, drifting. The valley and all contained slide with the earth past last arched angle of sun, spinning all towards vortex of darkness. Limbs of moss covered trees appear like human figures. The music of the rushing creek, inevitable orchestra of motion and erosion, forbids deep silence, but darkness will consume the gorge. Deep water turned dark black, foam of streaming luminescent white, in last breath of small light, I must return.

My narrow path descends deep under cliff ridge and moonlight. I am immured within cedar and moss.

When acid sun comes on to tongue

We face outward from a warm room, watching night transform the snow wrapped features of streets and buildings into geometries of street lamps and lit windows traversed by the red moving lights of automobiles; travelers in warm enveloped worlds crossing from one destination to the next.

We dress in warm clothes and mittens, a double layer of socks, heavy boots, thermal underwear, and down jackets., insulating our bodies against the clear and brutal Wisconsin winter night which will soon surround us.

We head out toward the shore of a frozen lake about six blocks away, passing through the late night deserted University grounds that curve in a crescent around its shore. The frozen lake is patched clear windblown ice and crusted snow. We walk out, toward the center, crossing a ridge of buckled ice.

A network of fractured and refrozen cracks in the surface of the lake, and the patches of snow and ice, mimics a map, and we walk along its highways. This map is the place itself. Each route followed and each destination or intersection is the product of event, occurrence, turbulence in the lake water beneath, wind blowing the snow in particular patterns and putting weight on the surface, the heat of the sun and the cold of the night, freezing and melting. We follow a ritual of direction and intersection with the full confidence that through this ritual we will reach a non existent destination., arrive at a point of event.

Above us stretches the Milky way, a band of foam in the black tear scarred sky. Around us stretch the lights of the city of Madison, like a string of pearls. And the wind blows slowly, over the surface of the lake, and we are iced on the crystal wind blue past our minds, and I lay on my back in the snow, and feel the clear acid as it rushes through my brain, and feel the dissolve into sky and the planet spinning through space, into the black of space and i melt into the ice the ice melts and the lake melts in a burst of heat and rush. As the planet spins through space and I a dot on its wheel.

On the border line white ice between dark and cold water, and dark and cold space, ringed by city lights and stars, I breath, the blood flows through my veins and arteries. My flesh on a framework of skeleton a warm body my fingers moving beneath the gloves, back crunching on granular snow. My body in the world travels through my nerves to my brain, as I tongue I taste I touch the acid sun.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Friday, September 22, 2006

Canted, angular, oblique

Arriving here was difficult. 10 miles up rough bouldered dirt road, deadfallen trees block the rutted road; winter blowdown. Drove around; offroad. Messed up a plastic piece on the underside of my car – went a little too fast, got a flat, changed it in the hot sun. Then a two mile walk, uphill through pink June Rhododendron and strangely beautiful white Beargrass, fir trees, moss covered basalt outcrops. Up switchbacks traversing the side of the steep hills, along ridgetop, back into forest and then, in a clearing, at ridges end, I found a kind of paradise.

This was an old fire lookout tower, at edge of ridge, in a clearing, built up over rocks up twelve feet on solid wooden beams. I climbed up, and saw the door was latched. I reached out, and unlatched the hook.

It was a pure bare space: a table, a few chairs, swept wooden floor, a cast iron stove, two iron framed cots. This fire lookout has not been in official use since the 60’s, but the people who have stayed here have left books, bags of rice, some bread, food, pots and pans, few blankets, unmatched utensils, a pair of binoculars, a star chart, candles, a harmonica.

On all four sides were shutters, covering the windows. I opened up the shutters, propped them up with wooden supports I found under one of the cots, and as the lookout was filled with light, it became part of sky, part of forest, part of mountain.

You can see Mt. Adams, St Helens, Mt. Jefferson, 3 Fingered Jack, The Three Sisters; The volcanoes of the Cascade range. On Mt Hood; stark snow covered white against the landscape - Palmer Snow Field, Steel Cliffs, Mississippi Head, and Crater Rock. A lenticular cloud.scrapes the top of Mt. Hood.

Today in one day it has been cloudy, overcast, and then a thunderstorm But now the sky becomes clear; clouds dissipate with liquid and hesitant drift. I have only prepared for a day hike but I realize, I must spend the night.

As the earth spins the sun down low in sky, I sit on the platform, barefoot, I have taken off my hiking boots, my socks are drying on the rail. I watch light shift and change on the curving forms (a sensuous morphology) of the tree covered Cascade hills. Subtle shadows of green in dusk light. Interplay of light and shadow and shades of greens. The sun becomes orange fire behind the trees.

I chop some aspen logs, throw in some broken cedar shingles, and make a fire in the cast iron stove I take a pan, open up a can, and make beef stew.

Stars are coming out now, Jupiter is visible in the west, a hands breadth above the horizon. I see something strange in the west; hovering where the sun set, a thin crescent new moon, so thin bright it is like a curved sliver, carved of bone white china. The thinnest first edge of moon, it sets an hour after the sun’s orange fire burn.

I am writing this by candle light. Burning aspen logs and old shingle that used to shield this place. I read a book of poetry I found in the bookcase. I write in my notebook. I play desolation angel on the harmonica late into night.

Outside, arching over Mount hood, or the dark mass of where Mount Hood should appear, from North and Mt. Adams, to the Three Sisters, is the Milky Way, densely spangled with stars. Stars full of sky, sky full of stars.

I read through all of the log books. “Came up in mid winter, January 8th, snowshoeing in over the snow drifts.” Someone who was a ranger here in 56 has come awash in memory. He writes “It’s all coming back to me like the twilight zone.” Jack Hues, 73 years old, writes proudly that hehas been here more than 50 times. The entries speak of what was seen: woodpeckers at dawn, the mountain covered with fog, bobcats, eagles. Two women write of how they were lost in the snow, calling for help on cell phone, until they saw sanctuary rising out of the fog. I read some wild stories of smoking pot and drinking whisky. One diary entry reads “3 girls, 2 guys, wild sex.” Others write of solitude, serenity, of the world closed in by fog. I see pictures, children’s musings, poems, love letters, and I read in the notebook where to find a spring – I did not bring enough water.

It must be close round midnight. The Milky Way has risen until it is like a spangled banner over the world straight above. I take the binoculars and see so many stars, look straight deep into galaxies center.

As I looked up at the galaxy, I thought about the path of the sun across the sky, the plane of the ecliptic, and I looked up at the angle of the milky way, the galactic plane. And I had a realization; that the solar system is at angles with the galaxy. I had always without thinking thought that the solar system was aligned with the galaxy, there was a reflexive symmetry in their positions. I suddenly realized the sun and its planets revolve and rotate canted, oblique round the galaxy. (I looked it up later, about 62 degrees) I had always supposed we were on the same plane, I had been mistaken. They were not aligned on the same plane. Oblique, not transverse, not longitudinal, not parallel, not perpendicular.

I put another log in the fire. It was cold out in the clear skied night, but warm inside. Lay down on the thin mattress, pulled up an old woolen blanket, and went to sleep.

In the morning, I was up before dawn. The sky became pink to the north, and not for an hour or so of soft light did the sun burn up past the right side of Mt. Hood. I made coffee on the stove, which I had kept burning through the night, and sweetened with lumps of brown sugar. Smoke my last cigarette.

I climb to the edge of the ridge, stand on and outcrop, and watch over a forest valley to the south. I look at Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Broken top. I don’t even know how far I can see. Hawks spire over the ridge, I hike down to the spring: it trickles out of moss covered rocks, in clear brightness. Carry 4 gallons back up the hill.

I spend the morning breathing the air, watching the glaciated face of Hood, looking at birds, studying the landscape, writing in my notebook.

Happy to be in a place so crazy beautiful. A place that seems to come out of the imaginations of the old beat wanderers, a place where they turned into desolation angels. New York, Denver, Mexico City, San Francisco, Morocco, Big Sur, Paris, and the Cascades, the stations of the beatnik cross, The beatnik bodhisattvas wandered, searching for kicks, enlightenment, satori - to leave the world behind, to look into themselves, into the mountains into the sky, into themselves in their holy yearning burn for the fire and ice of crazy beautiful existence. And they wrote, like me. I write in my notebook.

It drifts to the afternoon, and I am seeing the first people I have seen since I got here. Hikers pass through. It must be time to leave. I sweep the floors, close the windows, take a large bag of trash to carry back down, latch the door gently, and leave.

As I hike down, through switchbacks, past Beargrass, beneath ridges of rhododendrons. I can’t help but think about my misconception about the alignment of the solar system to the galaxy. I had traveled through life under misconception. I had believed in alignment without thinking, and was mistaken. There is no alignment, the path of the earth around the sun, and the solar system around the milky way; the relationship of the ecliptic, to the galactic plane, as my own path through life must be, is not aligned, it is canted, angular, oblique.

james honzik

Thursday, September 21, 2006

the god of new york

I lived in New York City for 10 years, from 1986 to 1996. I have not been back. I have no plans to go back. (rationally, I know it is better now - murder and aids and crack have all gone down - human tragedy that wears on the soul) I have about ten short stories - all true, as is this one, about my time there. They are hard to write. (thanks to Walt Curtis and Ben Fisher for edits and criticism)

the god of new york

When I first lived in Manhattan I used to hang out at a bar on the lower east side or the east village or whatever you want to call it. The place was on First Avenue, between 9th and 10th street, and was called Downtown Beirut. It was a dump, it was a dive, a hole in the wall, a long and narrow shotgun shack, just wide enough for the bar, bathroom in the back, one Pinball machine, a video game, and a jukebox.

Looming over the patrons, attached to the ceiling, was a huge papier-mâché effigy, six foot head, with hands extended; a grey apparition flying through the bar. Every one called it “god.”

Downtown Beirut was owned by a neighborhood Polish family. The matriarch of the family, in her 70’s, would on occasion show up and look as strange as everyone else, conferring with the bartenders, counting receipts in the backroom. I don’t think they trusted their staff.

When I first started going there against the back of the bar was a classic liquor rack, from lower tier to upper tier, from bottom shelf to top shelf. A panorama of bottles backed by a wall to wall mirror. It had been a display of Bukowskian beauty, but the owners, believing the bartenders had been dispensing a too liberal supply of buy backs, had purchased a machine that hooked every bottle up into a glass and plastic computerized octopus. The tubes snaked from the bottles to a liquor dispenser, like the IV drips in Frankenstein’s hospital.

Downtown Beirut was next door to the Village Idiot, which had a clientele worthy of its name. You’d open the door and you would see a crowd of people standing in a circle around a big curly haired, wild eyed hippy, who had a quart to his lips. They would be chanting “chug, chug, chug.” I never went there.

Beirut had a better class of customers. The regulars were an interesting mix of lower east side characters. There was an old painter who came in and locked himself to the pinball machine and was said to have studied under Hans Hoffman. There was a tall creature from Belize who was a nurse, and nursed her drinks silently at the bar. I always thought she really was a woman, but everyone said she was a he. No matter. She never spoke much, smiled into her drink. When I got my ear pierced she noticed. Smiling, without saying anything, she gave me one of her earrings.

There was a midget named Mannie who fell in love with every woman who came into the bar. There was musician from Texas who was heading his way downhill, who made a living walking in front of cars. Every time I saw him, he limped more and more. He caught AIDS, ended up infecting his girlfriend. Two Satanist auto mechanics, one who was most proud that the lines in his hand made a natural pentagram. He would tell the story of how he showed his hand to a fortune teller. Her jaw dropped in shock. One of the bartenders, moustached and tough, played in a rockabilly band, Carolyn, the chief bartender, had green hair, and played in a punk band. GG Allin had covered her band’s song “Beer Picnic.” She was smart, had been on Jeopardy, but came in second. There was a tough cute girl from Brooklyn named Sherry, a couple of artists from Canada, musicians, painters, losers, lovers, squatters, a yuppie or two, an occasional tourist, lots more. I was a regular.

I usually hung out at the front of the bar, on the ledge on top of the radiator. You could look out the window at the street life passing by. With the drug dealers on the corner and the cold winter wind blowing, outside it could be a war zone. The dealers kept up their chants, the litany of pharmaceutical possibility. “loose joints, loose joints.” Methadone, tuinal, Methadone, tuinal.” But inside it was warm, sitting on the radiator.

One night I had gone out to make a collect call from the corner. The operator said “we can’t do collect calls from your location.” “My screen indicates you are calling from a prison” “All long distance calls through the phone are blocked” I held up the phone. “Listen,” I said. “I am on a street corner in New York.” “I am not in a prison.” She finally let the call through.

Everyone came through there. There was this scary tall east side woman who would mask or veil her face and was emaciated - anorexic. I would always see her looking masked and haunted like an omen , a silent apparition walking the streets alone. You could only see her eyes. She came in once, with a big, brown paper wrapped package. She sat down and unwrapped the brown paper and string. Her family must have sent it to her. She unwrapped it, went through it, and said, in the only words I ever heard her speak. “it’s nothing but food.” I made up a story about her, that her family knew how fucked up she was, anorexic and lost and haunted, and loved her and wanted to help but they couldn’t and didn’t know what to do and sent her this food.

So they pretended it was an artist bar, and every month or so they had a new art show. They gave the painter two free drinks a day, as long as their show was up. That was the story with god. The looming sculpture had been installed for just a short time, as part of an art show, but they kept it up there until the bar closed. They just needed to spray it with insecticide once in a while. It had become infested. It had been created by an artist from Toronto. He had been getting his two free drinks everyday for years, as his payment for creating god. Eventually he became an alcoholic. He moved back to Toronto. I wondered to myself. “Is that the price you pay for the creation of god?”

Sometimes we had wild times. Once an artist friend and I were cajoled out to Long Island by two women offering us Jack Daniels and a good time, which was had by all. They drove us out there, but in the morning we woke up, in Long Island, trying to figure out how to get the heck back into Manhattan. They just laughed. The bus, to the LIRR, to the subway. It took us two hours to get back.

But mostly I hung out there for the companionship, to cut the loneliness, to act like I had a place to go and reason to be there.

I would sometimes sit at the bar, and read my stupid poetry, and try to get someone to listen to it. Sometimes they did. I still remember a skinny black woman with dreads named pebbles. I read her my desperately bad poetry. I think it was about a giant vacuum cleaner that sucks people in to die. I think she got it. She sang a song to me, quietly, sitting next to me on a bar stool, looking into my eyes. For a moment it seemed the world had stopped.

So one day I was hanging out at the bar and Sherry shouts down the bar “My wallet is gone. That bitch grabbed my wallet.” The girl who had stolen the money was slight, dark haired and spoke with an accent. Sherry followed the thief back to the bathroom, kicked in the door. Sherry pulled her out and started pushing at the girl, and a crowd gathered, and they stripped off all of her clothes, looking for the stolen money. So she is standing there, naked, cowering, being pushed, hit, screamed at. All of a sudden someone noticed that her body was covered with purple patches. “Karposi’s Sarcoma.” “That’s AIDS.” Someone shouted. “Don’t touch her.” “You could catch it.”

The crowd went through the girl’s knapsack , and threw the contents on the floor. I noticed a French English dictionary. She had been living in New York long enough to catch AIDS and be a junky, but she still needed work on her English. Sherry never found her money. She said, “The junky must have passed it off.”

If you ever are stuck in New York and need to steal, if you are infected with AIDS and need to get drugs to cut the pain, get a friend in on the deal. Pass off the money quickly, that’s the way it is done.

The crowd kept humiliating her, spitting at her standing naked, shaking in the back of the bar. I said “isn’t this enough?” Finally they let her go. She pulled her scattered possessions together, got her clothes back on, went outside, and to the corner. I followed her out. I think this is the part of the story where you have to say that the person who was humiliated had dignity about her and that she was smiling, laughing with a dealer, She had passed the money off, and was probably going to buy crack or dope. I just looked at her, with her story going through my head. She looked straight at me. It wasn’t exactly like a smile. She said something. It sounded like mercy.

I guess this young woman had come to New York, capital of the world, from France, expecting to find love or sophistication or art, came in following the beacon into JFK International like a moth, took the wrong path, got infected with AIDS, ended up with dirt junkies and crackheads, stealing purses, and eventually would die alone in delirium in a hospital bed for indigents.

They eventually closed the bar, moved it down to Houston Street, started having live bands. But I never hung out at the new one, and after too long left New York for good. But I wrote this story about the old place. It ends like this.

The god of new york hangs over the ceiling of a lower east side bar, it is made of papier-mâché and chicken wire, and at night its dreams are the rats and cockroaches that scuttle through its skull.

james honzik

While you are here, if you want, you could look at my best work.
Experimental Portraits (Visual Art)
Epistemic Purchase (A poem)
Borges: The Golem (My translation)
Eagle Creek (A hiking essay)
The Time Factory -SF story and video

Video - The time factory

Here is a video I created, based on part of my metallic sf novella.

Performance footage filmed at the Owl Parliment by David Acevedo - plus footage from the Internet Archive, altered, and shaped by me.

Video - David Acevedo: We are all dreams of the same being

I filmed this with David Acevedo in Forest Park, Portland, Oregon. It is one of the largest city parks in the United States, and for all practical purposes, it is in my backyard. David is a poet and writer (and Shakuhachi player) from Harlem.One hot summer day we walked up the wooded canyon, (wild trout live in the stream!) with completely different video planned, but this is what we ended up with. I cut up David's poetry, and flute playing, recombined them, with the green footage. All the sounds were recorded in a small chamber at the base of the ruin. This was a perfect day, something hard to describe, the moss and ferns and vegetation, the sound of birds and water, hanging out with a good friend. A day when life was good and I tried to capture it with sound and image.

Video - Zhalih: They Call

I was driving all over the state of Oregon for my job, photographing storefronts. Every so often I would pull out my own camera, catch a little piece of footage- the surf along the oregon coast, birds flocking in a nature preserve, water reflecting on the Williamette river at night.

Zhalih wanted to do a video of her work so I combined this footage with what I took of her on a photo shoot - we spent an afternoon walking around while she danced and posed and I laughed.

Video - Zhalih: up to you

My newest video - the max line (I was bicycling home at sunset - the colors were glowing), the steel bridge in portland (filmed from Walt Curtis's favorite spot on the Willamette), oak bottoms - a wetlands where I was hanging out with my friend Katie) and another video shoot with Zhalih (we hung out in the Northwest Industrial area, she climbed over piles of debris in the rain.

Zhalih's music again - it's a beautiful song.

Video - Oceanic Inversion

My friend Vahid had to speak at a conference in Santa Cruz and I drove down with him. I dropped him off, and spent a day at Point Lobos, one of the most beautiful small parks in the United States.

This time I had my video camera and took the footage.

When I got home, I took the footage, messed it up, fucked up the colors, and combined it with a sound sculpture I created from temporally distorted and filtered sounds of concrete and steel.