Apr 292014


“Whenever I’ve tried to free my life from a set of circumstances that continuously oppress it, I’ve been instantly surrounded by other circumstances of the same order, as if the inscrutable web of creation were irrevocably at odds with me. I yank from my neck a hand that was choking me, and see that my own hand is tied to a noose that fell around my neck when I freed it from the stranger’s hand. When I gingerly remove the noose, it’s with my own hands that I nearly strangle myself.”

—Fernando Pessoa from The Book of Disquiet

Marie moved to the Bay Area on her own. Her friend had offered her a place to stay, in a big fancy mansion owned by a world-renowned, wealthy male artist. The artist was friends with Christopher Walken, who was sitting there at the dining room table when Marie arrived. So Marie had a late lunch with him while her friend went out to run an errand. Marie was immediately drawn to Walken’s magnetic sexual energy. They sat on the couch after they ate and pressed the soles of their bare feet together. His feet were tinted orange, like he had a liver disease, hepatitis or something, and he was pretty old and frail but Marie wanted to have sex with him anyway. He had somewhere to be, though, so Marie took a raincheck. After Walken left, Marie realized that her friend, who had invited her there, had not returned. She had said she’d back in a few minutes.

Marie explored inside the mansion, which had a bizarre vibe. All the bedrooms had multiple beds and mattresses, and bunk beds, like it was a commune or a cult or something, but there was no one around. So Marie started getting scared; maybe she was going to be expected to have sex with a cult leader or the famous male artist or something in order to stay at the house for free. And where was her friend? Marie tried to settle on an unused bed and a place to put her suitcase. She was thinking maybe she would be safest in the top half of a bunk-bed in a corner of a room on the third floor, but the top bunk was pretty high, abnormally so. What if she rolled out while she was sleeping and fell to the floor?

Then she looked out the window and saw that the back yard was full of hot tubs and a big swimming pool, but she only saw men out there. Lots of them, with beards and long hair. It was some kind of mineral-bath healing center. Marie shivered. No, this was not going to work for her. Then she remembered that she had plenty of money, and she could afford to stay in a hotel until she found her own place.


Apr 222014


“Inch by inch I conquered the inner terrain I was born with. Bit by bit I reclaimed the swamp in which I’d languished. I gave birth to my infinite being, but I had to wrench myself out of me with forceps.”

—Fernando Pessoa from The Book of Disquiet


IB: Have you seen the movie City Lights? It’s Charlie Chaplin.

AG: I don’t think so, not that one.  I have seen others.

IB:  Well, the idea is that he’s a tramp, his lovable trickster character. So the tramp gets a poor blind woman to fall in love with him while he’s the tramp. But he makes her think he’s a rich man. Then she can suddenly see—she gets an operation—and she can see what he is. A tramp. So that’s the last line of the movie, “You can see?” It’s really loaded because he knows she won’t be interested in him, once she finds out he’s a tramp.

AG: I think that last line is so sad, that maybe there was some real empathy for that plight in life of someone who is afraid of being revealed for what they really are or for what their real roots are.

IB: Yeah, I read a Charlie Chaplin biography, which is how I got interested in his films. His mother was a whore and—well, you know, I think she was a whore—maybe I shouldn’t say that. That’s a terrible thing to say. Maybe she wasn’t a whore, she was an actress. But she was penniless, I mean, they were penniless, his dad was an actor, his mom was an actor, they were sort of involved in London burlesque, at the turn of the twentieth century. They were penniless. Charlie Chaplin was so poor as a kid, he was eating from the garbage, that kind of poor. Just begging for money on the street. So he really was raised that way. And then he became a big star, a big actor in the burlesque around London, in London theatre, comedy. Maybe it wasn’t burlesque, actually. Maybe it was vaudeville.

AG: There was a thin line between vaudeville and burlesque.

IB: Yeah, I am getting them mixed up. It was vaudeville. They were doing plays, comedy sketches.

AG: Vaudeville was considered theatre, at least by the people who did it, an art, and making a living of doing your art. But soon they found it was burlesque that was paying. And so there was a lot of overlap and that’s why the burlesque acts were funny, because they would have shticks. You know, they might peel themselves open like a banana. And they wore these big outrageous costumes, but really it was just revealing their body parts in the end.

IB: I don’t know why I started off by saying Charlie Chaplin’s mother was a whore, maybe she was just an actress who fell on very hard times and was starving. She went crazy and was taken away to the asylum while Charlie stood there and cried and it’s just crazy, really the most tragic childhood.

AG : I’m thinking maybe they can keep themselves, you know camouflaged or disguised enough to pass for being lovable, but that there is something at their core that you know, if they are ever discovered they won’t be loved any more.

IB: Yeah and then there is the look on his face–the facial expression that he makes at the end of the film. When he kind of looks at her— uh . . . You can see now? (Shit!) 

And it’s this brilliantly loaded look; I can’t actually describe it.  It’s just of one of those masterpiece moments.




photos of Pablo Picasso by David Douglas Duncan, from the book The Private World of Pablo Picasso, c. 1958.