Jim Carroll - Les Wiseman Remembers - Patti Smith Weighs In
Saturday, September 19, 2015
|Jim Carroll - Photograph Alex Waterhouse-Hayward|
was a day of melancholy, anger and depression. I left home and walked to the
nearest refuge. The refuge was the Oakridge Branch of the Vancouver Public
Library. I brought my umbrella. The persistent rain added to my melancholy. It
takes just a few days of a Vancouver rain in the fall to make one forget all
those days of sunny heat. At my age I am already turning on the heat at home.
stop at the library is always their reject book bin. It was fairly empty except
for one book that stared at me. It was Jim Carroll’s posthumously published novel
The Petting Zoo. When it came out in 2010 after his death on September 11, 2009
it was panned by most critics.
I plan to
read it. If you consider that I was charged $0.50 for it and after you
read Patti Smith’s Introduction (A Note to the Reader) you will understand that
my purchase was a steal.
library I went to Oakridge Mall and sat in one of their comfortable red single
chairs and watched people go by. My melancholy became one of alienation as I
found myself feeling I was living in a foreign country. One of my plans in a
near future is to stay a few weeks in Patagonia to perhaps relieve this
home protected by my dark blue Vancouver Umbrella Shop umbrella wondering what
kind of omen (if any) was finding such an odd book in what really is a
mainstream public library going through a demographic change which might
explain the massive unloading of such good books. Below is Patti Smith's intro to Carroll's novel.
|Jacket illustration - Raymond Pettibon|
monastic seclusion of his room, Jim Carroll, with a prescience of his own
mortality, reached out and drew this novel – his last work – from the nucleus
of his mysticism and remembered experience.
The Petting Zoo unfolds with a series of fated events. The
artist Billy Wofram is so profoundly moved by the paintings of Velázquez that
he finds himself irrevocably altered. Stumbling from the Metropolitan Museum of
Art into an eddy of avalanching absurdity – a defunct Children’s Zoo, the Aztec
façade of the Helmsley Building, the bowels of a dysfunctional mental ward – he
diagnoses that he is no longer in sync with his former self. His descent and ascent, so candidly observed,
are reminiscent of René Daumal’s A Night
of Serious Drinking, as our narrator reels from numbing cocktails to the
nakedness of his mischievous soul.
The poet is
the aural lamplighter. He projects himself within the labyrinth of Billy’s
burgeoning consciousness as he seemingly adjusts to the most outrageous turns
of fortune. Jim’s mythic energy is at once laconic and vibrating; his bouts of
meandering humor are punctuated by undeniable common wisdom. Whether the
discourse is with a Chinese psychologist, a Hindu driver, or an extremely
loquacious raven, these Socratic dialogues slide pole to pole, from uncanny
clarity or a realm where digression is an art of the first order, the
multifarious zone of the nod.
died at his desk on September 11, 2009, in the Inwood neighborhood of
Manhattan, where he was born and raised. His diamond mind never ceased writing,
even as he read, scribbling copious notes in the margins of his books, the
references of his life, Frank O’Hara, Saint Francis, Bruno Schulz. He was
without guile, disdainful of his beauty, red-gold hair, lanky body, abstract,
bareheaded, empty headed. Yet he was athletic with singular focus, netting his
prey, able to pluck from the air with exquisite dexterity a rainbow-winged
insect that quivered in his freckled hand, begetting memory.
catastrophe of loss, the loss of a true poet, is so pure that it might for many
pass unnoticed. But the universe knows, and no doubt Jim Carroll was drawn from
his labors and the prison of his own infirmities to the distances of the
Smith, May, 2010
JimCarroll Les Wiseman
I remember lying in bed listening to some evening CFOX radio
show. It was keyed to new music and was cohosted by Jerry Barad who, I believe,
worked at Quintessence Records and maybe had some financial interest in it, as
well. Barad went on to become COO of LiveNation. His role in 1980, was hepping
listeners to new product at the record shop.
He led into a cut by The Jim Carroll Band off its debut
album, Catholic Boy. He told about how Carroll was a New York underground
writer and poet. Then he played People Who Died.
It was terrifying. It was the bleakest, darkest most macabre
song I’d ever heard. It was a litany of people who had died and the various
ways they shuffled off this mortal coil.
Teddy sniffing glue,
he was 12 years old
Fell from the roof on
Cathy was 11 when she
pulled the plug
On 26 reds and a
bottle of wine
Bobby got leukemia, 14
He looked like 65 when
He was a friend of
I mean, Holy hell, what the heck was this?
G-berg and Georgie let
their gimmicks go rotten
So they died of
hepatitis in upper Manhattan
Sly in Vietnam took a
bullet in the head
Bobby OD'd on Drano on
the night that he was wed
They were two more
friends of mine
Two more friends that
I was no wilting lily of the valley; Lou Reed’s depression
fest, Berlin, was my favorite album, but this Jim Carroll guy was beyond the
pale. He wasn’t just down, he was the voice of total devastation and evil. He
was celebrating these deaths.
Those are people who
They were all my
friends, and they died
I lay in bed, terrified. I don’t think I slept a wink that
night. But, next morning, I know I was at the door of the record store the
minute it opened to get my hands on a copy of that dark moist thing.
Postscript 1983: AW-H and I were in Manhattan and Lenny Kaye
asked us if we wanted to go the Danceteria and see Jim Carroll read his poetry.
Spectral Jim came over and joined our conversation that night. He was pale and
as cold as the grave. I bet the guy pissed ice cubes.
If like me you are wondering what Wiseman's above 30 means here is his answer:
TheVenerable 30 Les Wiseman
- 30 –
The 30 means your
story is done. It was particularly important when sending material by telegraph
and modem. It is still important today and you will lose marks on job tests if
you do not use it. It also lets the editor know that the writer intends the
story to end there. Many times I’ve had a story that just ends with no rhyme or
reason and I’ve had to call the writer and say, “Hey, I don’t think I’ve got
the ending to your story. I don’t have the 30 page. What was the last sentence
of your story?” They tell me; I see it and then I have to launch into an
explanation that their story doesn’t have a kicker. It just ends. Using a 30
shows your editor that they are dealing with a pro. Plus, in the modem days, I
dealt with a number of editors who didn’t receive my entire story, yet printed
it anyhow, with no discernible kicker. (Yes, Times-Colonist weekend editors I’m talking about you, you frickin’
morons.) I’d say, “Did you see the 30 at the end?” They’d say, “No.” And I
would shriek, “Then you should have known you didn’t get all of the story,
shouldn’t you, you amateur low-rent subliterate pudknocker!!!”
These days, email
is fraught with dangers, though mostly human error and many a document can get greeked
or corrupted and editors need to see what they can make of it. In order to do
that, they need to know where it ends. Plus, I like the sound of tapping out -- 30---. It sounds a bit like the opening of Louie Louie. It also means another damned piece is finished. A sweet sound for sure.
People who died
Patti Smith talks after this and a known stellar groups sing People who died
Friday, September 18, 2015
In 2007 the once mighty Kodak brought back from usage retirement the word discontinuance.
They then began to stamp the products that they were rapidly removing from the market with that unnerving expression. It was in 2007 that the mighty owners of Rochester, New York decided to ax the wonderful Kodak b+w Infrared Film which I purchased in 35mm cassettes. The beauty and wonder of the film is that results were not always sure. There was a dangerous air of unpredictability. Those photographers who liked the film then resorted to having camera technicians remove the built-in infrared blocking filter of their digital cameras. It made unpredictability not so and quite a few lost interest in that exercise.
Yours truly still has about 30 rolls of the film in his freezer. He (me) is waiting for that ideal paragon of female beauty to appear upon the horizon. Until then I can only dream and hope that the paragon does not appear after this man is issued his discontinuance.
Three Intimacies - Sex, Eating & ...
Thursday, September 17, 2015
When my Rosemary and daughters Ale and Hilary arrived in
Vancouver in our Mexican Beetle ( it was of a prescient colour, arctic blue, to
events that would shock us in living in this northern new land) we moved immediately to a
townhouse on Springer Avenue in Burnaby. It was close enough to Vancouver (not
that much traffic at the time) and the same to Coquitlam’s Mallardville where
our daughters would learn French.
There was a girl that lived in the compound called Moira.
She was high-spirited. Our daughters would disappear to Moira’s house after
school. At 6 Ale and Hilary would arrive back. In the beginning I asked why
they had returned. Ale’s answer was, “Moira was about to have dinner.” I
thought this strange as when Moira was in our house we always invited her to
have supper with us.
I had also observed in the MacDonald’s on the corner of
Boundary with Lougheed Highway that people eating (and in particular those
doing so alone) would furtively look
around as they ate hoping (I believed) that nobody was watching them do so.
In another occasion the young higher official of the Bank of
Montreal, Willingdon and Hastings Branch, and his wife invited us one weekend
for what was defined as “after dinner drinks.” This, to this Latino felt odd.
I came to the conclusion that while only a pervert would
want to be watched having sex Canadians considered sex and eating as something very private and intimate. In my youth in Buenos Aires I had observed many couples in my neighbourhood practicing what the Brits call tremblers. They were oblivious to my prying eyes.
In the last few weeks as our house has been listed I have
observed a third very private situation to be added to sex and eating (a
corollary would be the embarrassment of having someone open your bathroom door
while you are in that place where the King is always alone). This happens when
people want to view your home (never a house, home sounds more intimate).
Your friendly real estate agent informs you of the fact
through texting. A time is revealed and the agent is to arrive 15 minutes
before. We are to turn on all the lights in the house. We have not eaten for
hours before so that the kitchen will look immaculate. I refuse to shroud
Pancho de Skeleton who in life-size casually sits in the dining room Windsor chair.
Rosemary says that potential buyers might be superstitious. Our friendly real
estate agent covers Pancho with a sheet. Rosemary instructs me to open up the
baby grand piano. She says that potential buyers will be impressed. In my discomfort
to all this I suggest I might go to a nearby London Drugs to buy an Atlantic
Monthly, and a couple of Vogues to put on the living room coffee table.
|Lauren & Pancho|
We are whisked out of the house (not quite so gently). It
seems that potential buyers are not to see what we might look like. The house
we are selling seemingly is not occupied by anybody.
Routines like reading the NY Times in bed for breakfast are
eliminated. I must scrub this or that.
So then eating, sex and selling a house must be done without
But then there is that other side of the coin. The house we
have purchased (near Lens & Shutter on Broadway) had three nude paintings.
One was in the living room. It must be of a local artist as the two female nudes
are surrounded by exfoliating Arbutus. In the bedroom (imagine observing
someone’s bedroom, almost as intimate as going to a party and looking into your
guest’s medicine cabinets as per Franny and Zoeey) there were two more nudes. This is not your average Canadian home.
All I was able to get from that owners real estate agent was
that his business was installing home fire sprinklers and that he was
All the above somehow brings to mind the story my pension
mate in Mexico City when both of us were attending Mexico City College in 1963.
He was a retired US Marine Corps colonel who had fought in Laos and in
particular assisting the Montagnards as a military adviser. He told me that
once in a patrol they went past a couple having sex in the jungle. While the
man was busy at it she was munching on a fruit oblivious to him and to the
That Wondrous Tatra & the Straight's Fall Arts Preview
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Space in print media is limited. On the web the real estate
Since I am an all but retired/obsolete/redundant magazine
photographer and sometime writer I can take advantage of that real estate with
my blog. I can write what I want, write at whatever length I want, put the pictures
I want (within my standards of contemporary aversion to showing bits and
pieces) without fear of an editor, art director or some unbearable fact checker thwarting me. That’s
because I am all the above including that of “publisher”. I use those double
quotes because I am old-fashioned and I don’t believe that anything can be
truly published unless the results can stain your fingers.
Today’s Georgia Straight (which does suffer from limited
space in its printed form) features five of my photographs that represent the
Straight’s annual Fall Arts Preview. They are of five pairs of artists, representing
music, comedy, dance, acting and the visual arts. Every year I choose a theme.
This year’s theme is not explained so I will do so but at length. I think the
circumstances behind the use of that 1948 Tatra motorcar are interesting. Space in the Straight prevented them (perhaps?) from explaining the theme.
My journey to Tsawwassen (where the Tatra resides) began in
1961 when I saw Phil Karlsen’s espionage
film The Secret Ways with Richard Widmark. At the time and for many years I
indulged in my pre-literary/un-highfalutin taste in novels. I consumed all of
Alistair MacLean’s thrillers. I will
point out here that at least 16 of Maclean’s novels became films (The Guns of
Navarone is the most famous of them).
The Secret Ways featured (I noticed!) a big, black aerodynamic
car that like a killer whale had a prominent dorsal fin in its rear. I fell in
love for the car but never saw another in my life until I met up with Gary
Cullen’s 1948 Tatra a couple of weeks ago in Tsawwassen.
|The centre headlight|
The Tatra has been in my mind for a couple of months ago as
there was a lengthy spread and article about Cullen’s car in the Vancouver Sun
(alas the pictures have been taken down!).
Then this happened:
I had to find a connection between Andrea Stefancikova’s curves
and knowing that she was born in Bratislava, Slovakia I compared her to
the wondrous Tatra made in what used to be Czechoslovakia.
A week later I received a phone call from the Straight’s
Arts Editor, Janet Smith giving me the Fall Arts Preview and asking me what my
theme would be.
If you have gotten this far you will be able to connect the
But there is more.
Gary Cullen’s talents included a recent past of repairing
mechanical cameras (not digital ones with those unromantic circuit boards
shrouded by poly-carbonate plastics). In fact his onetime establishment,
Brighouse Camera Repairs in Richmond repaired my Mamiyas.
When I went into Cullen’s house I noticed a glass case with immaculately
restored German cameras. One of them was made in Dresden which after the war
became the Russian Occupied Zone. The Exakta was one of the first (if not the
very first) single lens reflex plus for reasons that nobody has ever revealed
to me had its shutter release on the left hand side of the camera. Great for
left-handers but if you were not a southpaw that would mean that you would have
to focus with the right hand.
With Cullen I concocted the private joke of including the
Exakta in some corner of every one of the photographs for the Straight. What is
its significance? It was the camera model used by Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window
to spy on the mysterious man on the other side of his apartment ( Raymond
Burr). Cullen informed me that the long lens mounted on the Exakta VX in
question was a Kilfitt Fern-Kilar f/5.6 400mm lens.
One pair of artists could not make the trek to Tsawwassen.
These were artists Fiona Ackerman and Steven Brekelmans. In Ackerman’s web site
I found this
which gave me the justification to include a mirror (my guest bathroom
mirror) in the photograph. In Brekelmans’s site I found this
. I asked Brekelmans
to bring one of his wooden gold bars to use it as a base for one of Cullen’s
antique models of his Tatra.
All along besides the terrible problem of navigating around
that Deas (George Massey) Tunnel my standing frustration was the fact the
Straight has always insisted that the photographs used to illustrate the Fall
Arts Preview must be vertical. The Tatra as seen from its side is very
But for this assignment I had an excellent assistant, Cullen’s
wife Karoline. She seemed to know at all times where I had deposited my camera
or light/flash meter and warned me of many mistakes I almost made but she
caught them in time.
The shots of a the dancers presented me with a problem. I needed a different angle from the one of the comedians. I thought the dorsal fin would be a good place but I could not do that twice. On the first shoot, my friend Paul Leisz (a former resident of Tsawwassen) came along. It was he who suggested the suicide door angle. Before I had arrived I had come up with the idea that I wanted von Riedemann barefoot. Leiz's idea worked just fine with that.
For the night shots I asked Cullen if we could turn on the
car’s three headlights (the center one turns with the steering wheel). To his
dismay two were burned out. But our persnickety Tatra owner produced two brand
new but antique bulbs whose brand name was Tesla (the old Tesla, the Yugoslavian
electrical scientist). In the dancers' photo the light coloured car in the background is Cullen's own Tesla.
Of the Tatra Cullen sent me this:
The Tatra is a "1948 Tatra T87" Built from
1936-1949 in Czechoslovakia. Technical design by Tatras Hans Ledwinka,
streamlined body design by Paul Jaray (who did the aerodynamic design for the
German Zeppelin Airships). The car was tested for wind resistance in the
Zeppelin wind-tunnel. Tatras were the first serial produced scientifically
designed aerodynamic cars.
|Photograph - Karoline Cullen|
The Tatra goes to California
The Tatra goes to Alaska