Visible Origami – January 19, 2011
Dog Poet Transmitting…….
We dogs have a saying, “May your nose always be wet.” Some of us are show dogs. I’m a show dog. I love it when you show me the way.
Years ago, some friends and I were lost in Beverly Hills, or somewhere like it. There was no one on the streets to ask for directions. At one point I saw a man come out of a house and walk briskly down the street. I had the car pull over and got out of the car and went after him. I was calling out, “Sir! Sir!” Finally he turned around with an annoyed look on his face and I saw that it was Henry Fonda. I didn’t show any recognition and just asked him for directions. He couldn’t/wouldn’t help me so, I just turned around and walked away. I could feel his mind turning over the improbability of what happened as opposed to what he expected.
Years later in Maui, I had gone to the Intercontinental Hotel in Wailea for their breakfast brunch with my girlfriend. It was off season and it was also that time of day, I suppose, because there were only a few people there. While I was sitting there and eating I looked up and saw Jeff Goldblum staring at me. When he caught my eyes he gave me a hard look that said, “Don’t you dare come over here and bother me”. He was sitting with a very attractive, young Hawaiian lady that he had obviously contracted with for the night. I looked back at him and shook my head, as if to say, “Why the Hell would I want to do that?” I ignored him for the rest of my meal.
Another time I was in Foodland in Kihei late at night. There were very few people there and when I came into the vegetable department I saw Alice Cooper looking at some fruit. He’d brought his fairly extensive pot belly with him and he looked up and saw me and glared at me the same way so many celebrities do. I shook my head again and went right past him. The thought occurred to me to go to the cashier and say that I had seen a man in the vegetable aisle that had snuck a melon under his shirt. I didn’t do it and I regret that.
Another time I was in Lahaina and saw Dr. Wayne Dyer in a bookshop (probably checking out the placement of his books) and he saw me and glared at me and I laughed and shook my head again and said, “Big deal” and walked away. I’ve always wanted to get one of his ‘kits’ but I managed to demur. These days he dresses up like David Caradine lite and he looks like he means business, accent on ‘business’.
Once in a small diner in New York City, I was having a cup of coffee when Roy Scheider came in with a gym bag in his hand. He took one look at me and went right out the door. Another time I was in my girlfriend’s shop in Woodstock when Joe DiMaggio came to the door in a camel hair coat. He opened the door, saw me and away he went. I’ve got lots of tales like this. I won’t mention the positive encounters because I’ve only got so much space here. I can hardly make a dent in the negative encounters. One thing I take away from all of this is that people really have an exaggerated opinion of their own importance and conversely, that I have an interest in it.
Sometimes I sit around and think about things like celebrity and success in a ‘what does it get you’ fashion; pros and cons and the like. I think about the sports heroes; movie stars, rock stars, politicians, new age gurus, artists and what have you. I think about how they have this exclusive sense of the value of their contributions and never seem to realize that there are hundreds of thousands of people with talent, some of them even have real talent but, no matter what, there’s always something terrifically unique about them. Most of the time I would be mortified to be someone like Dr. Dyer, or most anyone else. If I woke up and found out I was someone like this, I would have to give away everything I owned and spend my life working in selfless service to make up for what I had become.
In rare cases, celebrity is a blessing because it allows people to see a decent human being at work, denying personal responsibility for his or her talents and successes. Most of the time, it’s a curse and it pursues the celebrated like flies and furies. They want to be famous but they don’t want to be bothered by the people they got famous in order to impress. I was in Planet Hollywood one night with some friends and Arnold Schwarzenegger came out of the back room with an entourage of bodyguards; he looked a lot shorter and smaller than I expected and he was moving at a great rate and looked scared shitless. My friends and I discussed this afterwards.
To see the absolute vacuity of these times you really need to attend a Hollywood or ‘in’ NYC party. It’s like watching hypnotized zombies; something out of the ballroom of The Overlook Hotel, wishing there were more mirrors in the room. Charity balls are best because then you have people whose only celebrity is that they have money, political or social influence and the kind of sternocleidomastoids needed to wear a lot of jingly shit around their necks, as well as a clueless capacity to wear things that make you look like a jumped up martinet. I’ve seen just enough of all of this to know I don’t want any part of it.
When I was younger and had visions of being a name poet and a recording artist, I always thought about the impact of the message and how much it meant to me that people would hear it. I never thought too much about poncing it up in any big way. I’d been around those people already and I couldn’t understand why they behaved like assholes so often, when they didn’t have to and when people would have loved them so much more if they hadn’t.
I was fairly well known at a younger age in smaller circles and one time a publisher I knew brought me up to Alan Ginsberg and said, “Alan, you’ve got to meet this fellow, he’s a terrific poet”. He treated me very, very badly with something more than dismissive contempt (he didn’t even know me) and I said, “You really are a very small man, aren’t you”? That didn’t go over well. A couple of months later (heh heh), someone else tried to do the same thing and Alan was waving his hands and saying, “Go away! Go away!” I laughed so hard I had to leave the room. I could be really cruel here and mention some personal things about the man but I won’t. I used to read accounts of him with important people and it always amazed me that they hadn’t met the fellow I had, or maybe they did. That’s the thing about celebrities; they tolerate a lot in each other because the downside of doing otherwise can be severe.
I know a lot of stories and I suspect that a good portion of them are true and I will tell you; celebrity is a cross to bear and a responsibility that very few shoulder. Then again, I’ve met some real celebrities and they are as humble as the dirt and they shine like the sun. In the ordinary world they don’t seem to notice that there are two kinds of celebrities, or the fact that they are mostly only aware of the one type. I could tell you some very funny and tragic stories but that would be the wrong thing. I suspect I already regret what I said but these are just illustrations toward a larger point. People don’t know when they have it good. They just don’t.
I understand the need for celebrities. We like movies and music. We like to read books and enjoy the force and power of ‘the muse’ as it works ‘through’ someone. A lot of us even enjoy the arrogance of those who deny the existence of the muse; to their great misfortune. I’ve seen her abandon many a denier in search of greener pastures. If you should become celebrated then you have a duty and it is not to yourself. It is the duty to show people what they so rarely see, your humanity and awestruck countenance in the presence of something so much greater than yourself.
We are all celebrities in the making, just as we are all stars in the sky someday. If you shine for yourself you will not give off very much light for very long, because the source of the light abhors that but it does wait and watch to see what you will do, when adversity comes. If you do not shine for yourself, you will shine forever.
These are dark times and most people have little clue as to the possibilities of a human state, nor how rare it can be and how difficult to win back. It doesn’t matter where you are at this point or what you may have done so far. It doesn’t matter what mistakes you have made. At any point you can change your course. It may not be easy, especially at the beginning but its been done many times, whenever someone comes to the point where they can no longer stand the lies and the hypocrisies it takes to go on as they have. There is probably no more critical time to think about this than now… especially now.