Sunday, December 25, 2011


Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

Abe Lincoln
I have nothing to say. Almost.

We all got together to go someplace and then decided not to go there. So we went someplace else.

Trombones and trumpets playing with a pipe organ. Everything is tubes.

I have a large bowl of coins sitting on my desk.

Don't display relics.

Air vibrates through the tubes and makes sound.

I lost my watch. Almost.

When I accidentally knock over the bowl, the coins spill on the floor and then I have to pick them all up and put them back into the bowl, one by one.

Don't display ruins.

Our blood vibrates through our bodies tubes.

Where did we all go, I wonder?

A pipe organ is all tubes. Think of that.

I don't collect pennies, almost.

I used to carry a card in my wallet that said "Keep you big mouth shut"

When something costs $9.98 it's easier to give her a $10 bill than to count out 98 cents if there are people in line behind you. You get 2 pennies in change to put into your bowl.

Maybe we went dancing. I don't remember.

I pick them all up, all the thoughts, ideas, facts, figures, hopes, dreams, fears, regrets and put them back into the bowl, one by one.

Don't display errors.

At the bottom of the ocean there are creatures who live in tubes.

Most of the coins are pennies.

No, I think we all went home.

I found my watch. It was also on the floor.

Yes. I think we all came home, one by one.

Display love.

The Vagabond
Posted by DB at 10:41 AM 2 comments

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mailing the leaves

Dana Bate

A few years ago an actress friend of mine, Lily Knight, moved from New York City to Los Angeles. She wrote that one of the things she missed was seeing the beautiful colors of the Fall foliage season. So I thought it would be nice if I collected some of the beautiful leaves and sent them to her.

I avoided the blanket of colors on the Lion's Park lawn, as tempting as it was, and left the leaves that were still on the trees. I went instead to the only patch of wilderness I know of here in Bristol Borough. It starts from the banks of the Delaware River and runs alongside a marsh land, all of it protected by the Nature Conservancy. There isn't much to it but it's big enough to have a hiking trail through it and it's lush with plants and trees.

I entered near the river at the edge of Lion's Park and soon found myself surrounded by tree limbs and large bushes of many varieties reaching out their branches to greet me with their colorful wares. I soon filled my bag with what I was looking for but kept walking. There are occasional lookouts where one can stop and view the marsh beyond, see the birds playing and listen to them.

The whole journey took about a half an hour but it was a pleasant walk in the forest. Back home I stuffed the leaves in a plastic bag. put it in a box and mailed it to Lily. A bit of Pennsylvania Autumn was on it's way to sunny Southern California.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Light The Lights

Do we stand in our own light wherever we go,
And fight our own shadows forever?

Edward Bulwer-Lytton
"I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see."
(Robert Louis Stevenson)

Years ago I knew a photographer who told me one day that she had mounted an exhibit of her pictures at a photography gallery in lower Manhattan, and that they were self portraits. I thought that was intriguing so I went down to see it.

It was a nice big gallery with some beautiful pictures. In one large room there were films and videos. One of the videos consisted of people cavorting around in very active and suggestive ways. But the video screen was very small. I went over to it to see what they were doing and as soon as I stepped up to the screen the image changed to a very lonely scene. I shrugged and walked away, and as soon as I did the original scene returned. So I stepped back and again the video changed to the lonely scene. It seems there was a switch which would change the video whenever anyone came close to the screen.

In another room there was a very large print of a photo taken with a camera obscura. That's a technique in which one frame of film is exposed over a period of time. In this case the film was in a box with a pin point lens using ambient light. And what the artist had done was to set up nine chairs in a row and put a model in each one of them. Every ten minutes, from one end or the other one of the models would get up and leave. At the end of ninety minutes the only model remaining was the one in the center. The resulting photograph showed her, very clearly, and those on either side of her gradually becoming transparent as your eye moved along the surface of the picture.

Finally I found my friend's self portraits. What she had done was to go all over the city on a sunny day and take pictures of her shadow, on the sidewalks, on the grass, up against a wall and so on.

I could have said "Hm" and left the exhibit simply having spent an entertaining two hours. But those three exhibits, the changing videos, the slowly disappearing models and the shadows, all pointed toward the same thing and I had to think about it.

There's an existential carpet there. But is it a magic carpet, does it fly or is it only to sweep confusing hair balls of thinking under. "Cogito ergo sum." I once knew a philosopher who paraphrased that Cartesian axiom by saying, I think therefore I am, I think. Carefully setting under the carpet for today the possibility that I may not exist in the form in which I think I do, is the fact that I am a thinking creature irrefutable evidence that I exist? It can be a fearful thing to face one's own thinking if it is honestly and conscientiously done. Where do my thoughts come from? Are they a product of the passionate love affair between imagination and reason, are they the product of some phylogenic process, are they the intellectual merchandise of some tyrannical brain seeding, are they (heaven forbid) mental weeds which grow out of nature's chaos to fill a vacuum? How many of the thoughts that twirl and bounce around in my head like a bunch of lottery balls can I claim to be my own. The fewer of those there are the more transparent I have become and the earlier I have quit the scene.

What is the reluctance we have for facing the clear light of reality? Is it fear, indifference or ignorance? It doesn't hurt to turn one's attention to ideas and experiences greater than one's own. It shouldn't hurt to explore the open fields and mountain tops of one's own thinking. Why then do we habitually look away from the light and define ourselves by our own shadows when we could let ourselves be defined by the brightness that is hiding in us like a prehistoric creature in a cave?

I grew up in a threadbare family; no father, a difficult and demanding mother, a brother and sister who were a whole decade and more older than I. I suffered a great lack of the feelings and experiences of a family life. Hence I tried to make a family out of whatever theatre company I was with. I tried thinking of them as my fathers and mothers, my sisters and brothers and, eventually, my sons and daughters. Of course it didn't work. They all had families somewhere, and other lives. When I retired it was my destiny to live alone and lonely. But it was also the time to start learning about, understanding and appreciating myself. The party is going on, the games are being played and the crowd may be fun to be with, but you won't find yourself there. You will find yourself in the vast, bright, mysterious, secret and sacred cathedral of your own mind.

DB - The Vagabond

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sanctum Sacriligium

I care not for a person's religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.

Abe Lincoln
I am the beggar on the steps of the temple asking for and living on alms. There is no bench between here and the market. There is one stone about knee high. I sit on that to rest with my groceries at my feet, my cane in my lap and mutter out loud to myself as an old man should. Those who pass by think there's a crazy old man sitting there. And they;re right. I sit in the cave staring at the shadows on the wall. I am one who knows they are only shadows that others call realities. As with others before me and after me I try to interpret those shadows.

I am a caricature, a cartoon, a shadow on the wall that resembles an old man with a cane who mutters to himself and never goes to church.

I will remain on the steps and not enter the temple because I've been inside and I know it is a magnificent and beautiful chamber of hypocrisy. Inside is preached the negation of life, the removal of the vital forces of existence, the degrading of the innocent, the veil that covers true holiness,. The great door of the temple is an invitation to enter the sanctum of false security, to relax into the arms of unreason, to join in the celebration of a paradigm of delivery to an unknown source and to emerge cleansed and purged of the need to affirm any responsibility for ignorance and wrong doing.

Humanity is dressed in white robes of purity which cover up the sweat of true worship if there is any.. I no longer listen to what men in pious robes or everyman costumes tell me what God thinks, says, does or doesn't do. The simple fact is they don't know. They are staring at the shadows in the cave like everyone else. Concepts of God change with the flickering decades.

They can hang the Ten Commandments on the wall if they want to, but a plaque on the wall is not going to save anyone. There is no less paganism today than there ever was. Once outside the temple people go about worshipping the old gods of money, power, medicine, war, litigation, vengeance, hatred, exclusivity, status, prejudice, bias, ignorance: subtle sorcery, beliefs and practices of every shape, size and color.

One may get to heaven by being good. Good is what we are supposed to be. But leave me the freedom to try to be better than good. Don't coax me to accept your faith. Don't pray for my immortal soul. No one has the right to do that. Don't quote scripture to me. I've read it over myself many times. I wonder how many pious pseudo deists, including the ones in the robes, visit the fatherless and widows and keep themselves unspotted from the world.

I will practice my religion, if I practice any, at home, away from the candles, choirs and cheering mobs. And I know my dog and cat, if I had them, would prefer it that way.

DB - The Vagabond

Monday, April 26, 2010

My Old Friend

A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.

Chinese proverb
For me, one of the most poignant moments in all of grand opera is in the last act of Puccini's "La Boheme." Four men live together in a cold attic apartment in Paris. One of them, Colline, decides to go out and sell his overcoat to buy medicine for his roommate's very ill girl friend in the hope of keeping her alive. He sings a short but sad farewell to his coat, the friend who has kept him warm and whose pockets always carried the poetry and philosophy that he loves. "Addio. Addio."

It brings a lump to my throat every time I hear it.

A few times in my life, for various reasons I have had to abandon my library. I love books and I hope that wherever mine have ended up they are loved as much I loveed them. But there is one book I have never parted with. It sits at my elbow when I am at my desk. If I go anywhere for more than a day it goes with me in my back pack or suitcase. It is one of my dearest friends.

I bought it brand new from a bookstore in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1957. It's almost as old as I am. I paid $6.50 for it. You can barely read the price, written in pencil on the inside. I wrote my name underneath the price in red ink which is still quite visible.

It's a small volume, very small considering what it contains. It's 7 1/2 inches by 5 1/2 inches and 1 inch thick. In all the bookstores I've been in over the years, I've never seen another copy of it. It was printed by Oxford University Press in 1947.

It is in very threadbare condition due to age and use. I've taped the inside of the hard cover to the pages, but the tape on the outside spine is coming loose again. The pages are very thin India paper and fortunately I haven't torn any of them.

What is it? It's my complete Shakespeare. And it is complete; all the plays and all the poems, including all the sonnets in one small volume. Shakespeare is a divine gift to the human race, and no matter what English professors and stage directors do to it, it remains a rare treasure, recognized the world over.

This book has been a continuous inspiration to me for 53 years. I need a magnifying glass to read it now, but, so what? Falstaff, Lear and Juliet still come alive whenever the book is opened. I would never part with it. If, heaven forbid, I had to move suddenly this book would be one of the first things I would grab.

I love it. It's my old friend. It's the garden in my pocket.


Thursday, April 22, 2010


Vagabond's Law: No matter how hard you work or how much you get done, you will always have more left over work to do tomorrow than you had today.

Fashioning The Infinite

Somewhere in the heart of experience there is an order and a coherence which we might surprise if we were attentive enough, loving enough or patient enough.

Lawrence Durrell
A few days ago in this journal I posted an entry entitled Behind The Wall in which I said that I know there is a meaning behind the words I write and that I keep writing to discover it. I know I didn't make myself clear. Comments came back to me saying that words mean one thing to one person and another to another person. That's true, of course, but that is not what I was hoping to put forth.

An artist draws inspiration from the universal bank of ideas, which is eternal and infinite in its varieties, as numerous as the stars and as vast as the distances between them. What the artist makes of those ideas depends partly on his talent and skill, partly on dedication and hard work and partly on the need to seek and find, to expose or not, the unknown reality of the existence of those ideas, the unheard sounds and unseen colors.

When searching through the universal mind of ideas and creations trying to find the reality of all realities, we artists are poor tailors, cutting out patterns and trying to fashion together something that fits. It never does and that's why we keep trying.

I know that what I write has a greater meaning and a greater purpose that isn't mine. Musicians know that also. There is no end to what can be discovered in music. In a certain way music is what all art is trying to achieve.

But as science is trying to discover the universal law of physics which will explain everything, and medicine is trying for the universal panacea, the door remains not closed and locked but undiscovered. Once the opening is found, and the genius can step out into the unknown, unheard and unseen, art my disappear or take a new form, science may also, but we will know that all of our efforts to find the truth and understand it, from the simple drawing of a flower to a monumental Russian novel were never done in vain.

Durrell is correct. The first important step is to pay attention, to carefully read the words, really listen to the music and really look at the painting, realizing that you are looking "through a glass darkly."

Next comes the love. "The mightiest space in fortune nature brings to join like likes and kiss like native things" says Shakespeare. The courage of honest desire to find the light and share it no matter what it may be is requisite to understand what is written. That honest, humble affection can't help bring a greater coherence into one's experience.

It is the nature of truth to reveal itself, especially to the waiting, expectant mind. The hidden secret truth of the universe is harder to find because it is so complex and so undefinable and yet so simple. The paintings, poems, songs and dances are merely the outward shapes and patterns of the gown. They are invitations for the immortal truth to visit us.

The patient, persistent search for the truth behind the truth will never end. It can't.