Sketchbook – Vol. 1 Part 2 – Chapter 6

Still in my late 20’s (in the late ’70s). A LOT of writing, saying it all, back before these truths and lies had become self-evident and then I didn’t see why I should keep writing it. And my hand didn’t yet hurt too much to hold the pen. Then, finally, evidence of attempted graphic composition: what would become my second lithograph.

When I was completely unmoored, at 28 years of age. Never to quite return.


Sketchbooks V.1 (’59-’80), Ch.1: “childhood”

Here I begin the documenting of my hardcover sketchbooks with the first few pages of the first book I was given as a child. There are no dates, but I think it must have been about age 9-10. I think I was generally inhibited by the seriousness of the format, as it only sputters along for a few pages every couple of years. By my early teenage years I was already mostly disrupted and sidelined by feelings of despair and futility. Even though I drew constantly on whatever was in front of me, doing it on purpose raised too many questions of importance and “what are you going to do with that?” Then there’s a final couple pages here as an “adult”, say 16 or 17. The next section will begin a decade later when I found this book and began using it again, deciding I might as well work on these useless skills I had been plagued with all my life since I couldn’t stop thinking about it and everything else had crashed and it was one thing I could just do. I wrote and drew in many volumes fairly steadily for a couple of decades. Then, it all started sputtering again, and a couple more decades later I’m still struggling with long silences.

(Click any image to open gallery w/ slider. Note: in lightbox currently in use, in a computer browser there is a ‘zoom’, but it kind of resembles a ‘close’ button sitting in the upper-right corner. The ‘Close’ button is actually on the lower right.)

Finding and losing an old friend.

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.]

J’ai mis l’feu by PaulBoissard

Current state of translation

the other song: Lili Boule de Gomme

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… “-

Paul Pages:


Color Entry

Indian Yellow.

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.)

The story goes that for centuries the only source was a remote village in India whose location, materials and methods remained a mystery. And, it is certainly plausible that remote villages are aided in remaining mysterious when their industry involves heating urine. The balls of pigment were said to be made from the urine of cattle who were fed only mango leaves. however, the mango diet was not nutritious and maybe poisonous. This made the cattle sick and they were miserable and kvetched to other deities and did not live long.
The first few things I read repeated this story. But, the wikipedia page has a sketch of some research by Victoria Finlay published in 2004 that calls it into question, there having ever been only one written source, and no evidence or memory in the village itself. (I will let you follow the link below to get the details and citations.) One guy wrote a letter; would this be the first instance of someone writing home a story that glorified their exotic explorations and unique discoveries with a tad of invention and embellishment? And even the generally accepted story about an investigation and subsequent banning by some British art society seems to have little supporting evidence. Other guesses about the composition of the pigment originating from the period of its existence included gall stones of various beasts, and plant matter ‘saturated with magnesia and boiled down’.

Night Music clips on yootoob

Surprising music show, maybe the coolest ever, even. And in the ’80s, of all places. I just happened to think there might be better clips on the internet by now than I could find on my couple of moldering video tapes. And sure enough, here’s
one treasure trove:

And the preview, some Funky Chicken. (I thought Rufus was my ‘celebrity sharing a birthday’, but all his bios I’m seeing now say a day earlier). But there’s so much more. Pharoah Sanders. NRBQ. Loudon. Toots. Bootsy. And, People who weren’t even alive.

Happy Birthday, Pete

Pete Seeger, 90 years old today. His generation (including my parents) seem to have the market on longevity (while my generation is dropping like flies, already); but not even that many of his fellow WWII survivors were out standing upright and playing the banjo in the freezing cold of this year’s January. Let alone doing it in front of the President-elect, in the city that tried to throw him in jail 55 years earlier.

Pete testifying:

The testimony:

Here’s one place playing some music for the occasion:
I don’t have the time or strength to write the book on Pete right now. Heck, that would mean catching up with what he’s been up to, when there’s no one who could even keep up with him. There was a very nice biography on him broadcast on PBS last year, and it showed me many things about his life I had either never heard or forgotten over the years. I guess he never much focused on telling us his own story, except as it related to his telling of other people’s stories, and their telling of their own. By the end of the movie, I was saying, “I take back any of the nasty things I’ve had to say about Pete over the years.” Not that I ever stopped being his fan, but I certainly saw some weaknesses between when I got into the whole earlier folk movement in my early teens, and when I learned so much more about the more rootsy original versions that inspired it. Not that I would take kindly to any ignorant punk putting him down. But, sure, Pete’s blues weren’t that bluesy. His easy-going approach to other languages turned ‘mbube’ into ‘wimoweh’ in most of the world’s mind. he would choose ideology over aesthetics repeatedly.
Still, I see now, he is authentic as any of those sources. He has been the most whatever the heck he is that anyone could possibly be. He got every drop out of it. Unflagging effort, unsullied virtue, untiring seeking and sharing. Love, peace, justice, universal brotherhood of man. School drop-out, hobo, protester, cabin-building rural independant… if it weren’t for his shunning of drugs, alcohol and free sex he would indeed be the prototypical hippie.
One of the most amazing and mysterious things about his history is his effect on popular culture. he has spent most of his life not only not pursuing fame and commercial success, but attacking the very concepts. And yet, he keeps coming back to the ‘top of the charts’ decade after decade. Talk about the weeds cracking the sidewalk.
I guess there should be some mention of the star-studded spectacular, though I’m not that hot on it. He’s spending tonight at Madison Square Garden with Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder, etc. and certainly not that happy at the prospect. “I’ve already had too much publicity”, he says. But, it’s going to raise a lot of money for his pet project of keeping a sloop sailing the Hudson, raising awareness for its’ cleanup. He had this idea a long time ago; and it happened.