Four Songs. Movie by Barry Chern
Merde. Pour un moment j’ai pense que j’avais trouve mon viel ami de quelques jour, Jean Paul Boissier. Mais, peut etre il est mort.
Back in the mid-70’s I was living in a crumbling Civil War era mansion with a lot of people, so things would occasionally happen in spite of my near autistic state. (I still live in this house in my dreams, trying to reconcile the background knowledge that we were driven out when it was torn down for OSU hospital parking space.)
Somehow, we ended up with a hitch-hiker from France staying with us for awhile. Why he was in Columbus, OH I’m not sure, but he found the right place if you had to be there. Turned out he was a songwriter, and at some point he undertook to teach me a couple of his songs. I still have them as they were written down and annotated in an old notebook, which I have to search through all my old notebooks to find whenever I try to learn them again. Somehow, between his very little English and my even smaller French he explained most of the images to me. Ah, je vois, ce n’est pas une lyric ordinaire. It took some similes and hand gestures, vraiment.
J’ai mis le feu, I set the fire, you know, the fire in the skull, like when you get sick… faiset mes poubelles, you know, garbage, [gestures of digging through something with one’s hands.]
I guess that took up most of our indoor time, I don’t think I ever got to teach him one of my songs. Well, I hardly could teach them to myself around then. I don’t remember much else about his visit. Some black hashish rolled with tobacco, some walking in the sunshine in the big field behind the Hospital Cafeteria, some passing the guitar back and forth, some big smiles.
I proclaimed my intention to write an English translation of the songs and he was all for that, then he could be a big hit on two continents. But, he didn’t keep in touch and I didn’t know how to reach him. I always pictured myself going to France one day and looking around and there he would be playing on a street corner. I let the time pass as if shutting my eyes tight enough would leave me where I was with all possibilities still intact. A couple years earlier, I would have just grabbed my backpack and hitched along.
I did end up learning and sometimes performing that one of the two songs, and finally a couple decades later I achieved a singable English version. Well, I guess I’m still working on it. Not quite satisfied. In recent years I looked for him on the internet a few times, with no success. Last night (early this morning) I was laying in bed sleepless again, and a long FaceBook chat in French with another non-French speaker led to my thinking about the song, failing to remember all of either the French or the English version. After a few hours I got up again, opened a beer and put the entire first line of the song into the Google box and there was a video result right at the top of the page. There could be a lot of “mis le feu” songs I supposed, but in the summary I could see the lyrics going on… those same ones that I thought I might be the only one who knew. …le seule solution…” It was a slightly different version, in 4 instead of waltz time, piano instead of guitar… but this is the song. (not really a video, just an audio recording with a picture of a fire to accompany it.) And that led to a whole page of videos of songs by Paul Boissier. (I guess they dropped the “Jean” at some point.) Damn, I thought, the sucker went and became functional in society. This led to finding both a Facebook and MySpace page, and I was excitedly getting ready to write to him when I read in the blurb on one of them something to the effect of (loosely tryanslating and from memory): “Gone too soon, before the inevitable national acclaim. They went on: Paul Boissard a marqué toute une génération de musiciens et poètes picards.”
I also found video and articles about a 20th anniversary celebration in 2007 for a collective cabaret named La Lune des Pirates, after one of Jean Paul’s songs. One of the nights of the anniversary was a Tribute to Paul Boissard. I guess that he had but to personally hand a song to the right person (here and there) to have it cared for and kept alive. No record company or publicity machine required.
I can’t find info on why he may have died. Later, I found on the main page of his DailyMotion site where they say he died some 20 years ago. This may have something to do with why the photos look pretty much like I remember him. But, I guess he made his mark. He lived.
et moi? “Maintenant, je reve sur des cendres… “-
Yesterday was the 5th anniversary of the death of my father, Harold Leonard Chern. In some ways it is hard to believe that it has been that long, as it kind of stopped the world it seems. These things must take longer to process than you expect. He was 94, but would have been 95 that year, so he’d be 100 this year. That was what he wanted once he had gotten past the landmarks of age 72, by which time he had expected to die because every other male in the family had, and his then sprouted goal of seeing the year 2000. Various things had pretty much let him down the last couple of years, though. His body was dried and shrunken and his living conditions in the nursing home were easily as feeble a remnant of what he had once built up. But, if you asked him how he was, lying in that bed barely able to move, he would say “couldn’t be better.” (Both he and my mother had fewer complaints as the end of the fall approached than when they were in their prime.) Enlightenment, drugs, humor, attempted staving off of plug-pullers; it’s complex sorting out what that meant or what inspiration I can draw from it. I often (tonight) feel like I’m still doing it just for my parents, and that someone is watching and judging me as I do an increasingly poor job of carrying out some final commissions. (one of my father’s last admonitions was to remember that I’m “important”. But, was that just to him, and what if he is gone and doesn’t need me any more?). I then think at least I might carry them to their centennials, and light that ‘soul candle’ in my mind.
Warning: the below story may make you think about heated cow urine.
Indian Yellow. Not, at first blush, what I would have expected. And, yes, when yellow blushes it appears orange. Not that I was expecting anything until I happened into a couple of tubes and was surprised and intrigued. But, my study of paints has mostly concentrated on essential single pigments, and it turns out the original pigment has not been available for over a century, and its origins are still mysterious and controversial.
The name had me thinking it must be some variant on Indian Red, thus an earth or a synthetic replacement. But, the only thing they have in common is they originally came from India. (And, another first tendency of mine was to think America.) Another surprising first impression was how different the colors from different manufacturers are. But, on reading about it in a color mixing book, I was informed that current versions might in fact be completely different substances or mixes from different sources, the original pigment having allegedly been banned around 1908. (Current advertisements usually start with coy phrases such as Gamblin’s ” This color has been prized for hundreds of years.” Yes, the color, not the pigment.)
Long dream, one of those ones I returned to after half-awakening several times. It was terrifying but wildly magical, so I couldn’t help wanting to see what happened. Well, hell, since everything was in the process of being destroyed I wanted to stick around in the hopes there would be a good twist. It was just about looking like there might be, and I wouldn’t have gotten up but a stink-bug started buzzing in the window above my bed, and I knew it would soon be finding its way INTO my bed, and trying to cuddle. I keep telling them, I’m not into them in that way. Jumped up with more verve than usual for the last 20 years, and the details of the dream were already vanishing. Wish I could get a DVR for these things. I’m going to write what I remember here, looking for pen and paper will just let more escape. could be long even though a fragment.
Fragments. Foreign guy of unknown ethnicity on the road giving me some sort of cryptic predictions and sense of mission. Later more or less back in a best-case version of my ordinary life, in a cluttered rental puttering about poking at the thousand unfinished projects. Little girl who comes through the window (followed by a pet or a random stray maybe?) Woman who may be a parent tasks me with hanging with her, other important things to attend to. but there is a sense that there is something urgently important and also not that easy in keeping the girl safe. The girl is just totally fun and whacky and doesn’t think anything of crawling up on the roof and/or other dangerously wrong fun. But with a way of making it right by feeling it is. Mysterious couple, maybe self-representing as guardians. Ready to take custody. Too contained, too rich, too smart. Turn out to be involved in some grand evil scheme, fundamentally deconstructing reality (or illusion, depending on your belief system), or at least the threads of the weave that make it sometimes bearable, sometimes enjoyable for us. After some melting and reconstituting, precipitous hanging, a couple changes of residence… I don’t know, bunch of shit happened. Finally escape was necessary for a small band of allies, some method that further played on my fear of heights… balloon? top of a very tall truck or yak?… much of what had been going on was explained by the girl as she told us she realized that it was her irrational imagination that was able to reverse the destructive events, just because of the strength of her belief in things reforming. But, as she explained this it became clear that she had suddenly become mature enough to express it to us in words and thus too mature to have the power any more. By this time we were passing through a landscape with little life and mostly broken architecture and sidewalks. Foreign guy from beginning of dream passes us driving a busload of dead, broken and bleeding Mexicans. Looks pretty hopeless to me, but he is going on with grim determination and I know he has best possible repairs in mind. The girl is starting to lose it, succumbing to weeping nostalgia: “I wish we could be back in that place” and I see a picture of that bottom half of a house with the porch on front where she crawled through the window in the first place. As she starts to dissolve into it, the older woman, now holding her hand, suddenly becomes intent and as she gives me a knowing look. I know what she’s thinking. And I can feel that it may be true. The girl is becoming irrational and going back to early childhood, and if everyone can let go enough it will become true and the magic will be able to work again…
For some reason I kept hearing about poetry on radio and TV today. Went and looked in the occasionally lugged along legal pad, and sure enough there was a scrawl from just about a year ago I guess. so I typed it up with just a little second-draftism and here it is being shamelessly squeezed into the inter-tubes. Possibly part of my seasonal cycle.
so, then it was fall for awhile – (let’s call it Fall.)
not just the leaves, something, things, else is falling
Maybe longer than usual, I hear but
here we are so close to the end seems like nuthin’
Last good day, maybe, probaly falling falling
Last good day of this round who knows
if it will go around again
I see it falling chalk dust falling
behind the lake
Sure it was so beautiful, those few moments
When I got out
Heartbreaking at sundown,
hue saturation so cranked up
the crinkle of the vegetable kings’ violated borders so sharp and rough
even these old eyes can feel.
The bleeding heart of clouds, bleeding sweet wine
(for all the good you bleeding hearts do us untouchables)
the overacting of the leaves’ death dance in stage makeup
the tiny flush of rose from within dark draperies.
life shrouds floating around that young woman across the street.
Does she see the sky like I do, also sticking a tongue out to try to catch a drop?
does she see how I see the sky?
How sweet would it be to be walking with her at this moment.
(oh? Like I always say, good to be alone at a time like this)
What juicy world juice we could pass back and forth.
I bet it could make this paper sack I carry my senses in seem like a velvet purse.
But no, not now, most of then and and then neither;
Mostly just a few flashes in the darkness. and whiteness.
Now it’s the white again, falling down across
Just the first light coating of pastel.
I see it filling in as I reach the lake
so thick with family funflies just the other day,
now all wide open & clear – guess that’s
how the landscape goes:
First the people , pfft, gone,
then the rest slowly faded
as the whiteness falls..
layers of chalk, or maybe it’s that asbestos-laced talc I used to
shake onto the litho stone
drying the ink; now that i think…
That looked like this – the image gradually disappearing-
but the little horizontal block now raised on edge and
stretched from edge to edge.
and my skin separates and stands up
white, white, white
preparing for when it floats up to
meet the snow.
Before the talc sinks in the grain
gets coated by dust and soot, ink and earth rising around the flakes.
here it comes, here it comes
comes the gray, darker darker
lovely charcoal smudges hover over
the cloudy folks in the shiny street.
today on the heading out bus, looking down to the end
wasn’t raining but the sky looked damp, straggling clumps of leaves losing the last of their yellow, leaching
“It’s turned to soup,” I thought.
(belatedly allowing the escape of this post from the last 4th of July series.)
So, the startled masses on FaceBook are wondering, “what’s all this talk about the Founding Fathers and the Post Office, Barry? We thought you were some sort of Anarchist or something?” Well, it may be proving to be true that one becomes more Conservative with age. I sometimes feel myself leaning from Anarchy toward Socialism.
To some degree it is the passing of my parents and a lot of thinking back to things they had to say during my childhood that prods me. They were great believers in the system which I came to see as hopelessly trashed by the time my intellect got the best of me. (around age 16, that is.) Little could I imagine just how much more trashed it could become, and how purposefully this was being implemented by so-called patriots, by the time I was ready to enter my dotage.
My parents believed someone was fixing things and looking out for the general good. Occasionally they would make some reference to the weird and scary stuff that went on when they were kids. They believed because they had been brought forth from the Depression with the help of public works and bank regulation. They had been saved from tainted meat and bad patent medicines by federal inspectors. Yes, my parents believed the country had been delivered forth from debtors’ prison, slavery, bank failures. (they also came of age in a culture being enriched by folk-singers and previously unheard from ethnic groups. Too bad the artists were mostly quashed as a bunch of commies and lowlifes…)
The G.I. Bill was going to help all their fellow veterans get out of their tenements when they got home from their part in the effort that stopped Fascism in WWII. Well, set it back a bit, anyway. I came to feel that the spirit of the enemy flew into our system at the end of the war; you become what you fight and all. A few more bits of history filled in the truth that fascism was here all along. Its entrenched forces in this country just kept on their friendly American masks waiting for a couple generations down the line to have forgotten certain things about ‘the good old days’. Waiting for our parents to die and us to forget and our children who never knew. Waiting along with the greedy bankers, farmers and snake oil salesmen those who would take your money by hook or by crook.
Well… they’re baaaaack.
By now, it is clear that Congress and the Statehouse are fully in the pockets of the Crooks, and this new batch of alleged outsider/maverick/reformer/tea-baggers is right in there with them. They are functionally a wholly-owned subsidiary of GlobalEvilMegaCorp, either wittingly or unwittingly. And, from what I’ve seen, I’m not taking any bets on any great presence of wit amongst this lot.
I still have a fair amount of sympathy for anti-government sentiment. (For those who don’t know, what I dearly wanted was to find a way out of here entirely to some new, small, self-sufficient sane and sustainable culture. May you get there eventually.) But, when it comes down to cases, the only part of the government these people who want to destroy from within are really against are the parts that help the people. Well, thems is the parts we needs. Being stuck here by default (yes, de fault of my own weakness) amongst all these other people who are likewise pretty pitiful and helpless, I have to admit we’re in a pickle without support for teachers, arts, fire departments, mail delivery, roads and bridges, relief from extreme poverty and hunger and homelessness, support for development of new forms of energy, clean water… hell, any water… air… … well, I’m too choked up to continue.
Of course, when I think or speak of politics, as I infrequently do (although the frequency, Kenneth, is increasing with the pressure) it is from the point of view of someone who is actually living in and concerned with the activities of a Nation. In other words, I assume the viewpoint of that
fictional character I play on the streets in that dreadful daily “reality show.” For, as you may well know, in one of my inner chambers I see no place for myself within this society. And, I still have a definite leaning toward Anarchy as my preferred form of government if I were to join a Nation. I understand that it is a largely impractical leap from the current state of affairs, but I see it as an evolutionary movement and ultimate goal of mankind. One day, if there is one, I imagine us living in a society where all the diverse practical matters which go into the functioning of such a conglomerate might be overseen, directed and carried out by people who are at least knowledgeable about the particular subject and, in a real utopian dream, interested in it. Rather than what we have now, no matter which form of organization went into convening the government (or industry): control of everything by people who are primarily interested in control. People who have learned mostly (and in some cases it is all they know or care about) how to work the system in order to feed their inner need for power. I guess there must have been some need for these skills somewhere in the past in order for that craving for power to be so built in to our makeup, just as there was once that great need for fat and sugar and such a scarcity and difficulty in obtaining them that led to those substances triggering such a massive pleasure response in our brains. But, we need to get some viewpoint aside from our self-gratification (I suggest prying only a small percentage of our attention away, let’s not go overboard) in order to face the facts that we are not living in the world of 35,000 years ago for which our bodies and brains have evolved. Desserts can be had at the grocery in dangerous quantities for very little expenditure of calories; and the people in power are more and more unsightly pimples on the fair face of our civilization. We can logically apply moderation to those cravings.
So, this impractical Anarchist has always had a hard time with politicians of any stripe, and thus in the people involved with organizing whether it be the Revolution or the Rotary. The alternative was to try to envision a suitable way for a cultured 20th century ape to live with less dependence on a hopelessly mucked up system. I did come up with a good plan, but having been unable to put it into action I live essentially chastened and, as mentioned earlier, in a world which I do not truly believe in. So, I have a certain amount of sentiment (an ugly ingredient in any stew) in common with the current wave of “anti-government” Hoo Ha. However, I daresay few if any of the people involved in this new ‘movement’ have given much, if any, thought to how they would function without the support of the government they supposedly are through with. They have (even) less of I plan than I did, and for the most part even fewer of the skills of self-sufficiency. (Astonishing, since I had virtually none, and to this day only some.) They are merely sopping up the thoughts trickling down on them from the wealthy and powerful beings controlling all channels of education and communication. Thus we end up with the odd spectacle of the downtrodden salt of the earth spouting a viewpoint that is really coming out of a billionaire’s mouth. For, I can truly imagine that many billionaire’s might say to themselves, “government services? Who needs them. I can buy better for myself.” All they really need is to keep enough police on the payroll to keep the rabble out of their neighborhoods.
this was tonight’s FaceBook status, which will give you a good idea of why I should just keep to myself. This is not really written, it’s ejaculated. If were to come back and re-write, maybe I would put in something about how beautiful the stone and the grain and complexity and the beauty of the drawing upon it and the magic of it’s transmogrification and transmission were to me. though, if the images couldn’t do that, though, what use are mere words.
And then, years later… There’s a bit of hand/eye activity this year, although the hand hurts and the eye is dim. I share a few recent pages here (all the while feeling that showing the sketchbook is akin to showing one’s knickers.) Perhaps will dip and swim through the archives someday. I see that the pages are not showing well in the previews… please click on them a couple of times to see clearly.