Psychoanalysis Of The Plant - 12/05

Plant, originally uploaded by levari.


unexpected poem

(for some of us)

"There are
frivolous moments
time of year."

-Judd Trichter


Famous Gambler, 2007

Famous Gambler, 2007, originally uploaded by levari.


Famous Gambler, 1937

famous gambler, 1937, originally uploaded by levari.

Profile - 3/07

Profile Of A Girl - 3/07, originally uploaded by levari.



...My soul would sing of metamorphoses,
But since, o gods, you were the source of these
bodies becoming other bodies, breathe
your breath into my book of changes.



Staring At The World Through His Rear View


Los Angeles @ 3:13 (down on low)

Los Angeles @ 3:13, originally uploaded by levari.

"Los Angeles, come to me the way I came to you, my feet over your streets, you pretty town I loved you so much, you sad flower in the sand, you pretty town."

- John Fante, "Ask The Dust"


the subtle, quiet policy of scorched earth

Unroll our history and,
yes, it's true:
we have lost much country
in each other,
to each other;

more than can ever be
much less written down

(even if old Homer
was still around.)

Slashed and burned the landscape out mercilessly,

ripped the dogs from the porches
and the babies from their cribs
as we marched through,
no regrets/no remorse,

sometimes continue to,

(for this is all animals with our stripes
ever know how to do.)

But somehow,
through all our battered hands
and sutured, unbleachable selves;

through all these useless, no longer fitting feet
we have left in our wake

we have yet to surrender
an eye lash, a toe nail,
a bone, or a dawn

to any of them.

Boulder, Colorado - 11/07


Withdraw - 1994

Withdraw - 1994, originally uploaded by levari.


Girl At The Counter

Girl At The Counter, originally uploaded by levari.


Kitai 2/07

Kitai 2/07, originally uploaded by levari.


"For while the tale of how we suffer, and how are delighted, and how we may survive, even triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn't any other tale to tell, it's the only light we've got in all this darkness."

-James Baldwin, "Sonny's Blues"


Percy and Max

Percy and Max, originally uploaded by levari.



Kyle, originally uploaded by levari.


The Clock Was Red

The Clock Was Red, originally uploaded by levari.


my tribe

megan's in the bedroom
drawing and watching TV,

brian's in the garage
dreaming impossibility.

junk Man's in his bedroom
re-painting again,

jeff's banging on the backdoor
just trying to get in.

danny's on the telephone
trying to calm Jake,

adam's in the bathroom
thinking about the money he could make.

liz went to New York City
and she ain't ever coming home,

now kyrsten drives around L.A.
singing to herself alone.

judd's in his apartment
noon on Tuesday
trying not to think.

lee's lying on the couch -
he hasn't moved in five hours -
drawing humming birds
in invisible ink.

max is with Natasha
trying to make love last.

marko's with everyone
high again
floats on past.

mazzi's pouring coffee

mike's at the gym
rehabbing his blown out knee.

beau's busy wiping the bar down
watching the world get by,

you wonder who will be the last of us
to call the bet
finally say

Los Angeles - 8/02


Autumn Pages

Autumn Pages, originally uploaded by levari.


Pipes' Ping

it's supposed to be winter and
i'm officially tired
of all their
grand gestures,
symbolic meetings of solidarity,
rallying cries,
and statement games.

right now
i want the forgotten,
the never noticed,
the pushed aside,
the beetle's wing,
the offscreen,
bob marley's toe,
the surrendered,
and useless shadows
at 4 o'clock.

it's supposed to be winter,
my biology's
for a long overdue hibernation
behind closed doors
with you:

what we
see, feel, smell, taste
and nothing else
for a while;

and down blankets,
and snow,
and windows
from frost.

tonight i turned the heat on for us,
listened to the pipes' ping
for a while,

i was waiting for you
somewhere else.

Los Angeles - 2/15/06


Envelope After Phone Call

Envelope After Phone Call, originally uploaded by levari.



The pigeons calling to each other from roof to roof.
The Lubavitch children playing secretly behind the dumpsters.
The shattering of bottles across the street at dawn.
The sirens and helicopters and spotlights shining through windows all night long.
The ocean and its waves that somehow don't break.
These the sounds of our routine, sleeping and awake.

I admit that I have little memory for dates, anniversaries, birthdays, or all of those unforgettable moments...

I have no memory but
for the sounds of sounds,
another morning I've been given again,
and somehow you

I found.

Los Angeles - 1/22/07


The Double Flame

"The dangerous nature of poetry is inherent in its composition and is a constant in all periods and in all poets. There is always a schism between social and poetic expression: poetry is the "other" voice. The voice beneath."

-Octavio Paz


The Tripping


No, her driving
and him in the back seat
trying to make sense of the map
on that one lane road
just as it is starting to rain...

This is the journey,
the journey they had both been anticipating
for weeks,
waiting for without ever admitting it
to each other.

I'm talking about how
it all comes down to
him wanting some strawberries
from the bag in the backseat
and from there, well, it just goes...

First the innuendo, then the accusations
then the stories of each of their
mutual abandonments,

finally, the silence and the fear.

Then her saying she has to use the bathroom,
and him saying there's nowhere to stop,
that they'll just have to push on.

And then,
not able to hold it,
she begins to pee in her pants


Her jeans and the seat
are seeped
in the wetness, but
she just continues confessing.

She will not stop confessing.

Would you please stop confessing, please?!

He doesn't want to know
the list of
and exact locations,

only because he can't match her
sin for sin--

he has nothing to confess to her...
sin for sin--

In their love
he wasn't innocent
only without mystery,
without secrets,
without myth nor shadow
(so much worse.)

This ride
the pavement
the rain
her words
all of it is just happening,
all of it mixing together
and he can't tell anything
apart anymore;

not the road nor the wheels,
not the sky or the ground,

not the rain, nor the air,
not him or her...

And how did a joke about
strawberries turn into this?

He grabs her by the shoulders-

he tells her to look at him,
his face, his eyes, his lips,

to study it
every detail
to study it

because you only
get one chance
to try and tell the difference
between each other.

He asks her
if she remembers him
if she remembers her.

She stares back as the rain
blasts against the wind shields,

the white streaks
of the headlights
of the pounding
semi trucks
coming right at them...

You stare at me and begin to move
your lips, but I can't hear what you're saying
between our heaving chest.

I can feel you breathing through my skin

L.A. - 6/10/06


The Big Hold Out

How long can
all this speculation
go on,

all the maybes,
the perhapses,
the we'll just wait and see(s?)

All the buying,
and the selling,

the negotiations
for some supposed space
like it's our most precious

How long can we stare
at computer screens
always waiting,
always on,

always telling us
who we are
or who we are
supposed to be?

How long can we stand
to watch each other
plastered to our seats

thinking we're moving
when we're only drifting
farther away?

How long until it feels
like this is ours
and not some interview
you've seen a thousand
times before
on late night TV?

How long until I find you,
the you who can make
this real with joy, pain
and everything in between,

make me finally accept
the transience of me?

How long until we surrender
and let ourselves age and decay,

bloom one last time,
then finally fall away?

Please, can someone, anyone
just tell us
how long until this hold out ends,

and the subways start running

12/27/05 - Brooklyn, NY



"Let's be new people."
"Let's be new people, completely new people, people who don't know each other and never did. We'll have no past and no future, nothing, it'll be like we just met right now."
"That would be very difficult."
"Because it would mean I've broken into your apartment."
"Stop it, I'm being serious."
"Is this even possible?"
"I don't know. I never tried it with anyone before."
"Neither have I."
"Do you want to try? It'll be like a game. We'll just, just start over."
"I don't know, man. There's a lot of history. It's not like you can just forget..."
"Sure, we can forget. Maybe we could forget. You know, I know I could forget."
"You never remember anything anyway. Ever since I've known you. You can't remember where we went to dinner the last time we saw each other."
"That's not true."
"Then where?"
"Okay, I have a lot going on in my life, I can't remember exactly where or even when, but I remember. I mean, I remember, the gist..."
"The gist?"
"The spirit. The spirit of our last meeting."
"Ah yes, the spirit, that would be hard to forget, wouldn't it?"
"And that's just want I want to do. That's what we should do. Just for a little while."
"A little while? There are many, many spirits to forget, in this case. I think it might take more than a little while."
"I could. I would. You could too."
"It's too easy for someone like you. That's what I don't understand. How can it be so easy for someone like you?"
"Someone like me?"
"Someone so smart and funny...How can you choose to forget, to ignore, not just this, just, everything?"
"It just is. It just is. That's all. That's it. Like a zebra. Like a zebra having stripes. These are just my stripes. It's just the way I am. I'm smart enough not to question it. It's just how I am. How I was made, decorated."
"Look, I admire your stripes, the stripedness of them, but I don't understand them or where they come from and I certainly don't want them hanging up on my wall."
"I should hope not."
"Most people would. Most people would take one look at a girl's stripes like yours and the first thing they'd do is get out their knife and skin you up good. Skin you up so there was nothing left of you underneath, just the stripes on top. Would you like that?"
"It sounds like bliss. Momentary bliss. But bliss. But not you, right?"
"No, not me."
"Why not? Don't think you could catch me?"
"I'm afraid I would."
"You never know. That's why we play this game, right?"
"I'm tired. Must sleep. I'm leaving tomorrow. Early."
"C'mon....Please! Try. For me."
"Okay, what time is it?"
"Ten of twelve."
"Yeah, for like, I don't know, a half hour we'll be strangers, okay. Tabula Raza. And then I have to go to bed."
"It doesn't have to be like that, y'know, so practical all the time. You were always so practical."
"Well, you know me."
"Yeah, I do."
"So how do we do this? How does one, or two, begin to forget?"
"It's amazing, five minutes ago, when I first had the idea, it was perfect, I swear I could have written a dissertation on how two people can disappear completely together, but now, I really don't even know anymore."
"I assumed there was complicity."
"Between you and me. An innate complicity. But there's none, is there?"
"I don't...
"I don't know what I was thinking with you...You don't even know me at all."
"I just don't...
"You dummy. You're so dumb, you know that? All I've ever wanted to do is forget, and all you've ever wanted to do is remember.
"Those are my stripes."
"Well, you can only hang out in between for so long before one or the other breaks."
"So which one of us is it going to be? Who's going to break?"
"Guess we're going to find out."
"I guess so."
"Well, it's about time."
"Would you shutup and turn out the light?"

Atlanta to Los Angeles


akhmatova - 1924

akhmatova - 1924, originally uploaded by levari.

Alexandrian Society - 6/23/07

The ancient Alexandrian Society every day played a game where in they convinced themselves that they were condemned to death in order to make their every day observations more poignant.

In their minds images appeared in the memory as vivid fragments: Their memories do not proceed in sequence but run after one another in a jolting wave, a stream of images - once forgotten eyes, someone's light blue dress, the voice of a passing stranger - because the concrete fragments carried the perception of imminent death, readers would associate them with important moments in their own lives...

Mikhail Kuzmin - "The Collected Poems of Anna Akhmatova"


"Keep away from fantasy. Shake off the image..."

-Sam Shepard, "The Tooth of Crime"



scraps found in pockets at dawn...

you stare through the window
at the end of the hall -
the bunches of blood roses
against the blue wall...

wake up dead for all you had shouted,
all you will never say;
wake up dead and badly rhyming
day after day.


phones die
people pry
cats cry

on occasion

even lovers try
we always lie
no one can say why.

(language comes early,
and without any mercy.)

phones pry
people still die
cats always lie

(that's the secret of their strut)

lovers almost always try
even after prying through each other's lives.

on occasion - I assume - someone knows why.

(language came early,
my only mercy.)

-Brooklyn, New York

Williamsburg, Brooklyn

...is like Berlin Light.


Hop Scotch

Anything you can't walk away from, run away from.


Tragedies of The The Technological Age - Vol. 7 (What He Said)

"These days
You could get away with murder.

It would be easy,

For all our so-called technology
I just as soon figure
Nobody's really watching anyone else
at all.

We think we are, but we're just staring at
a TV show, a football game, a magazine cover
all the while imagining ourselves.

We think we're looking,
but we're just dreaming
our lives away.

That guy over there?
You could kill em' durin' a commercial break
we don't even know how to see each other anymore."



Hanging, yellowed notes and epigrams:

scribbled reminders
of meetings and moments,
of pleasures and hedonism.

Quotes by the known
to you (and perhaps me,)
the unknown.

Those carved, fountain lines,
your elegantly restless handwriting;

there were so many words
lining those mirrors and walls
they often reminded me
of leaves falling from trees

as they blew around
that room
in the last autumn breeze.

But more than
ink and paper,
were your talismans,

totems in miniature
to protect you
from ever
losing yourself

I will never know if they worked.

it's so quiet
on this coast
relentlessly jutting
towards Africa,

and only now,
staring out
at waves
I can never know,
do I finally realize
how little
pleasure and hedonism
there was
for you,

the fading ballerina
of my ocean mind.

Frigillana, Spain - 6/07



The fearless mistakes of tonight,
the shameless facts of tomorrow.



from the unwritten history

#113 - silence has killed a lot more people than bombs ever have.


Visiting Day

Don't you know by now
your kind is better at wanting
then you will ever be at having.

This is your gift and your tragedy
that you chose and did not,
your fault alone and
can never be your fault.

(blame the generation before, and the one before that, and the one ad infinitum...)

This, you, is nothing but an animal nature.

But you cannot know this, can you?
Otherwise it would be different,
and for it to be different would mean
that your time is now.

But, no, your time is not now.

Soon enough, yes, but not quite now.

So don't know yet.

Not yet.

No, not quite yet...

Be patient and perhaps there will still be some time left?

No promises.



Self and Other

For better or worse you are what you do, but in private not public.


Autumn Cleaning

I've realized that the sudden loss of faith is not only important but necessary. Without it I would never clean my apartment.


Western State of Mind


no matter what you have gained,
or what you have lost;

no matter what you do,
or do do do not do;

no matter what you try,
or what you fear;

no matter who you are with,
or who lives in you
realer in their absence
then they ever did
in your every day life;

no matter what you gained
or finally lost...

every once in a while
you don't look away
and allow yourself to understand
that the so-called soul has vacated the premises,
the concept of "unique" is just another childhood lie,
and all you really are now is







In Rememory (Mythologize)

In Memory, R.G.M. - 1974-2001, originally uploaded by levari.


Things i've Seen This Week

Tarred up walls.
Plastic, useless fingers that are trying to be flesh, useful fingers.
A Child's elbow banging against a locked car door window (from the inside.)
Dogs that run away.
The text message that said he really is going to play Carnagie Hall.
Apartment door hollowed out where the lock should be.
A man asleep on a bench with one eye open.
A balloon (happy anniversary!) someone forgot that was trapped in a doorway.
A brown leaf banging across the sidewalk in the wind.
Some letters I needed.
Relief on her face as we sat on the floor paging through her portfolio.


The Garden

We mostly
away time
by dreaming
of bodies pressed
together all day,

and then these same bodies rising,
walking through corridors
of the photo album
the museum;

down long hallways
and out into the open air
surrounded by the crowds
who are forever
searching for the food
to replace

deep inside
we know
that there are
we are supposed
to have seen,

even if we once
they can
only be known


There's little to be done about this.

So for now
we just walk
with the crowds,

let them carry

begin to
melt and mix
as it always was
as it always should be;

passing through
and over shaded, unmarked

that are supposed
to be
our history.

Philadelphia - 2/16/07


A Little Nabokov For These Hot Days

On days like this it's best to get lost in the shade, and Nabokov's shade is as wonderous as it comes. My relief to you from nature's discomfort (wherever you are) in the ocean of literature...

The greatest opening of a novel written in the English Lanuage:

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms, she was always Lolita."


[I was] born in 1910, in Paris. My father was a gentle, easy-going person . . . a Swiss citizen, of mixed French and Austrian descent, with a dash of the Danube in his veins. I am going to pass around in a minute some lovely, glossy-blue picture-postcards. He owned a luxurious hotel on the Riviera.

A Swiss citizen . . . that dash of the Danube . . . those “lovely, glossy-blue picture-postcards”! That Rivieran hotel! That eye for the minute detail! Details that render everyday boringness, ironically, beautiful; or do I mean ironically beautiful? “This capacity,” Nabokov said, marveling (not for the only time) at himself, “to wonder at trifles—no matter the imminent peril—these asides of the spirit, these footnotes in the volume of life are the highest form of consciousness.”


I recall one particular sunset. It lent an ember to my bicycle bell. Overhead, above the black music of telegraph wires, a number of long, dark-violet clouds lined with flamingo pink hung motionless in a fan-shaped arrangement; the whole thing was like some prodigious ovation in terms of color and form. It was dying, however, and everything else was darkening, too; but just above the horizon, in a lucid, turquoise space, beneath a black stratus, the eye found a vista that . . . occupied a very small sector of the enormous sky and had the peculiar neatness of something seen through the wrong end of a telescope. There it lay in wait, a family of serene clouds in miniature, an accumulation of brilliant convolutions, anachronistic in their creaminess and extremely remote; remote but perfect in every detail; fantastically reduced but faultlessly shaped; my marvelous tomorrow ready to be delivered to me.

Nabokov - "Speak Memory"

Nothing more to say; Nabokov says it...

Quotes taken from Roger Boylan's "Nabokov's Gift" The Boston Review


Unborn - '03, originally uploaded by levari.


City Boy

...The ocean rolls away into the horizon as gentle and blue as sadness itself. It is so silent here except for the buzz of flies floating around me, attracted to the sweat. The aroma from grass and flowers and pines infects everything. I sit on a rock my bare feet on fresh soil. I look around and it's as if I've come to the place where all the natural environments - desert, forest, ocean - converge and enter each other into one single element. I can literally watch as everything changes with each moment...

This campsite is definitely surrounded and I need to get out of here now.

Big Sur - 6/95

Wet Down The Street

Is it a memory
or just some movie
you once rented
on a Tuesday night?

Is it history
or just a lie
you once told
to cover your
tracks in an
interesting way?

Is it fact
or just something
you keep shouting
really, really LOUD

Is it love
or just guilt
dressed up in
its sunday best?

Is it a dream
or are you still waiting
to finally be able to sleep?

The rain stopped
the Santa Anna's
have blown in
clearing the sky,
leaving it crisp,

Why is it
I'm always
and expectant
the day after
the first storm
of Autumn?



twittering machine

twitteringmachinen, originally uploaded by levari.

thank you...



totem, originally uploaded by levari.



Vision, originally uploaded by levari.


Wisdom From A Master

If you drink you're going to die.
If you don't drink you're going to die.
Better to drink.

-My Zeyda


R.I.P. Max Roach - The Greatest Drummer of All Time

MaxRoach, originally uploaded by levari.

It seems every day another trailblazer of the power that was 20th Century art is leaving us behind. For those who are curious - and perhaps have never heard it - Max Roach's "Garvey's Ghost" is an incomparable and unsurpassed drum solo in the history of music. You can find it on the "Red Hot on Impulse" album available for download on I-Tunes.

I was fortunate enough to also see Roach play once while I was in school in Massachusetts and his power and daring, even in his seventies, was awing. Roach is not very heralded now by pop culture standards, but without him there would be no Funk, R and B and Hip Hop as we know it today. Dare I say John Bonham and others would not have been the drummers they were without him either. Roach was a giant step, fearless, opening up drumming the way Brando opened up acting. Simply put: There is before Max Roach, and there is after.


From the New York Times

Max Roach, a Founder of Modern Jazz, Dies at 83

Published: August 16, 2007

Max Roach, a founder of modern jazz who rewrote the rules of drumming in the 1940’s and spent the rest of his career breaking musical barriers and defying listeners’ expectations, died early today in Manhattan. He was 83.

His death was announced today by a spokesman for Blue Note records, on which he frequently appeared. No cause was given. Mr. Roach had been known to be ill for several years.

As a young man, Mr. Roach, a percussion virtuoso capable of playing at the most brutal tempos with subtlety as well as power, was among a small circle of adventurous musicians who brought about wholesale changes in jazz. He remained adventurous to the end.

Over the years he challenged both his audiences and himself by working not just with standard jazz instrumentation, and not just in traditional jazz venues, but in a wide variety of contexts, some of them well beyond the confines of jazz as that word is generally understood.

He led a “double quartet” consisting of his working group of trumpet, saxophone, bass and drums plus a string quartet. He led an ensemble consisting entirely of percussionists. He dueted with uncompromising avant-gardists like the pianist Cecil Taylor and the saxophonist Anthony Braxton. He performed unaccompanied. He wrote music for plays by Sam Shepard and dance pieces by Alvin Ailey. He collaborated with video artists, gospel choirs and hip-hop performers.

Mr. Roach explained his philosophy to The New York Times in 1990: “You can’t write the same book twice. Though I’ve been in historic musical situations, I can’t go back and do that again. And though I run into artistic crises, they keep my life interesting.”

He found himself in historic situations from the beginning of his career. He was still in his teens when he played drums with the alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, a pioneer of modern jazz, at a Harlem after-hours club in 1942. Within a few years, Mr. Roach was himself recognized as a pioneer in the development of the sophisticated new form of jazz that came to be known as bebop.

He was not the first drummer to play bebop — Kenny Clarke, 10 years his senior, is generally credited with that distinction — but he quickly established himself as both the most imaginative percussionist in modern jazz and the most influential.

In Mr. Roach’s hands, the drum kit became much more than a means of keeping time. He saw himself as a full-fledged member of the front line, not simply as a supporting player.

Layering rhythms on top of rhythms, he paid as much attention to a song’s melody as to its beat. He developed, as the jazz critic Burt Korall put it, “a highly responsive, contrapuntal style,” engaging his fellow musicians in an open-ended conversation while maintaining a rock-solid pulse. His approach “initially mystified and thoroughly challenged other drummers,” Mr. Korall wrote, but quickly earned the respect of his peers and established a new standard for the instrument.

Mr. Roach was an innovator in other ways. In the late 1950s, he led a group that was among the first in jazz to regularly perform pieces in waltz time and other unusual meters in addition to the conventional 4/4. In the early 1960s, he was among the first to use jazz to address racial and political issues, with works like the album-length “We Insist! Freedom Now Suite.”

In 1972, he became one of the first jazz musicians to teach full time at the college level when he was hired as a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. And in 1988, he became the first jazz musician to receive a so-called genius grant from the MacArthur Foundation.

Maxwell Roach was born on Jan. 10, 1924, in the small town of New Land, N.C., and grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. He began studying piano at a neighborhood Baptist church when he was 8 and took up the drums a few years later.

Even before he graduated from Boys High School in 1942, savvy New York jazz musicians knew his name. As a teenager he worked briefly with Duke Ellington’s orchestra at the Paramount Theater and with Charlie Parker at Monroe’s Uptown House in Harlem, where he took part in jam sessions that helped lay the groundwork for bebop.

By the middle 1940’s, he had become a ubiquitous presence on the New York jazz scene, working in the 52nd Street nightclubs with Parker, the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and other leading modernists. Within a few years he had become equally ubiquitous on record, participating in such seminal recordings as Miles Davis’s “Birth of the Cool” sessions in 1949 and 1950.

He also found time to study composition at the Manhattan School of Music. He had planned to major in percussion, he later recalled in an interview, but changed his mind after a teacher told him his technique was incorrect. “The way he wanted me to play would have been fine if I’d been after a career in a symphony orchestra,” he said, “but it wouldn’t have worked on 52nd Street.”

Mr. Roach made the transition from sideman to leader in 1954, when he and the young trumpet virtuoso Clifford Brown formed a quintet. That group, which specialized in a muscular and stripped-down version of bebop that came to be called hard bop, took the jazz world by storm. But it was short-lived.

In June 1956, at the height of the Brown-Roach quintet’s success, Brown was killed in an automobile accident, along with Richie Powell, the group’s pianist, and Powell’s wife. The sudden loss of his friend and co-leader, Mr. Roach later recalled, plunged him into depression and heavy drinking from which it took him years to emerge.

The personnel of Mr. Roach’s working group changed frequently over the next decade, but the level of artistry and innovation remained high. His sidemen included such important musicians as the saxophonists Eric Dolphy, Stanley Turrentine and George Coleman and the trumpet players Donald Byrd, Kenny Dorham and Booker Little. Few of his groups had a pianist, making for a distinctively open ensemble sound in which Mr. Roach’s drums were prominent.

Always among the most politically active of jazz musicians, Mr. Roach had helped the bassist Charles Mingus establish one of the first musician-run record companies, Debut, in 1952. Eight years later, the two organized a so-called rebel festival in Newport, R.I., to protest the Newport Jazz Festival’s treatment of performers. That same year, Mr. Roach collaborated with the lyricist Oscar Brown Jr. on “We Insist! Freedom Now Suite,” which played variations on the theme of black people’s struggle for equality in the United States and Africa.

The album, which featured vocals by Abbey Lincoln (Mr. Roach’s frequent collaborator and, from 1962 to 1970, his wife), received mixed reviews: many critics praised its ambition, but some attacked it as overly polemical. Mr. Roach was undeterred.

“I will never again play anything that does not have social significance,” he told Down Beat magazine after the album’s release. “We American jazz musicians of African descent have proved beyond all doubt that we’re master musicians of our instruments. Now what we have to do is employ our skill to tell the dramatic story of our people and what we’ve been through.”

“We Insist!” was not a commercial success, but it emboldened Mr. Roach to broaden his scope as a composer. Soon he was collaborating with choreographers, filmmakers and Off Broadway playwrights on projects, including a stage version of “We Insist!”

As his range of activities expanded, his career as a bandleader became less of a priority. At the same time, the market for his uncompromising brand of small-group jazz began to diminish. By the time he joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts in 1972, teaching had come to seem an increasingly attractive alternative to the demands of the musician’s life.

Joining the academy did not mean turning his back entirely on performing. In the early ‘70s, Mr. Roach joined with seven fellow drummers to form M’Boom, an ensemble that achieved tonal and coloristic variety through the use of xylophones, chimes, steel drums and other percussion instruments. Later in the decade he formed a new quartet, two of whose members — the saxophonist Odean Pope and the trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater — would perform and record with him off and on for more than two decades.

He also participated in a number of unusual experiments. He appeared in concert in 1983 with a rapper, two disc jockeys and a team of break dancers. A year later, he composed music for an Off Broadway production of three Sam Shepard plays, for which he won an Obie Award. In 1985, he took part in a multimedia collaboration with the video artist Kit Fitzgerald and the stage director George Ferencz.

Perhaps his most ambitious experiment in those years was the Max Roach Double Quartet, a combination of his quartet and the Uptown String Quartet. Jazz musicians had performed with string accompaniment before, but rarely if ever in a setting like this, where the string players were an equal part of the ensemble and were given the opportunity to improvise. Reviewing a Double Quartet album in The Times in 1985, Robert Palmer wrote, “For the first time in the history of jazz recording, strings swing as persuasively as any saxophonist or drummer.”

This endeavor had personal as well as musical significance for Mr. Roach: the Uptown String Quartet’s founder and viola player was his daughter Maxine. She survives him, as do two other daughters, Ayo and Dara, and two sons, Raoul and Darryl.

By the early ‘90s, Mr. Roach had reduced his teaching load and was again based in New York year-round, traveling to Amherst only for two residencies and a summer program each year. He was still touring with his quartet as recently as 2000, and he also remained active as a composer. In 2002 he wrote and performed the music for “How to Draw a Bunny,” a documentary about the artist Ray Johnson.


Tragedies of The Technological Age Vol. II

No boy
will ever again
the thrill
it once was
to steal
your first
from the
drug store

and then

peddle away
in broad
with the secrets
of the universe
into your pants.


Suspended Animation

Shattered into stiffness.
Broken into frame.

Constructed centuries and generations,
at first it was an innocent game.

The sculptor had his assistants
strike the plaster from the cast
and set what remained
atop the city's steps.

Now you believe
you could be anyone
because you are no one

all at
the same time.

Korea Town, Los Angeles - 5/23/05


The Come Down

I've been on a writing jag lately. I'm always writing, but this one is very different. I'm experiencing something I haven't in many, many years wherein I can spend eight - ten hour stretches strapped to my desk just tapping away, or re-tapping away, as it were (this is what most of writing is for me) on things that haven't quite taken form yet but seem to want to. Notes and papers piled everywhere, bottles of juice, lighters, cigarettes everywhere, the whole place is a mess (I forgot how my housework goes right out the window when my one track mind gets going on a bigger project.) I have no idea if these labors will bring me to anything substantial, but the ride has been interesting and it's nice to know that I'm still capable of "returning" to this state of being when it's called for and I have the time. Although I wouldn't want to live in this way all the time, sunlight is important(!,) I've been taking more conscious notes on this strange process of reclusion and "creativity" than I was ever capable of before, and not judging myself too harshly for the strange idiosynchrocies that come with working for longer stretches.

I'd like to write a little more about this, the actual process of writing, the day to dayness of it when you're really in it, as I haven't seen too much written about it, but perhaps I haven't searched hard enough. I'm not talking about the bending of words to meet your needs, visions, ideas, but what you do in the between time, when you're not quite ready to write or rewrite, but you're not ready to shut out the light and turn on the teley.

I think one of the things that I'd most like to write about is the actual transitioning out of the writing mind set, especially after the longer stretches I've been running lately. I guess I'd call it the "come down..." This is so very difficult for me, always has been. It seems that hours after I "retire" my mind's still blowing at about one hundred fifty miles an hour, continuing to run its race. I'm seeing possibilies, opportunities, things I missed, sections to switch around, sections that can be cut...And, of course, all this thinking burns you for the next day's work.

I know others go through this, and I'd be interested to know how people "transition" out of their own writing/creative mind and back into the world. Me, I haven't figured it out yet (obviously.) Dare I say this is why a teacher once told me that the greatest occupational hazard for a writer was alcohol, and no, that's not a cliche? Have there ever been any studies done on this phenomenon of the come down. I've read where the Greeks referred to it as a tunnel, and it seems the farther in you go, the harder it is to come out.

Just some thoughts and a reminder that I'd like to write more about this transitioning between regular life and so-called creative life...Is there really a division? Does there need to be?

guess if I want the dishes done and the bills paid...


R.I.P. Thomas "Tangier" James, 1941 - 2007

Arguably the greatest "unknown" Jazz trumpeter who ever lived, I was deeply saddened to hear this news. Saw him play once when I was seventeen at two a.m. in Philadelphia's Ortlieb's Jazz Haus...He was obviously suffering from years of horrible addiction, but for the few people who were there, he was unforgettable.


From L'Express

Thomas "Tangier" James, Jazz Trumpeter, Dies At 66
By Damon Gryka

Published: August 7, 2007

Thomas "Tangier" James, known as a "the trumpeter's trumpeter," passed away yesterday at his home. Mr. James, 66, had been suffering for sometime with heart trouble, his wife said.

A bridge between the be-bop tradition of Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, and the World Music influences that emerged in the late 1960's and 70's, Mr. James, a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, recorded with Jazz luminaries such as Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus and Hugh Masakela, as well as James Brown. He is widely regarded as one of the last great trumpeters of his era.

Said music critic Nat Hentoff in 1989, "Although little known outside of jazz circles for most of his career, his major achievement is that he opened up music to a whole new generation, he fearlessly took his influences from his travels and created an unmistakably unique sound."

Thomas Nelson James was born in Philadelphia in 1941 to Etta and Reverand Thomas James Sr. In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer he remembered, "I was a troublemaker, typical preacher's son, no direction, just another kid destined to be a dime store hustler on the streets. Then, one day after my father kicked me out of my house for Lord knows what, I saw a trumpet in a hock shop in my neighborhood. I don't know what it was, but I had to have it. I went home that afternoon, cleaned up my act and started working after school to buy it. Six months later I did, and the first time I put the horn to my lips, that was it, I was done."

In 1962, he attended and dropped out of The University of Pennsylavania after less than a year. "Nothing against them, but they try to can you up, stick you in a box and ship you out. It just wasn't for me," is all he ever said of his music education.

Mr. James travelled extensively through Europe, the Middle East and Africa throughout his life picking up musical influences almost everywhere he went. His nickname "Tangier" was given to him because when asked where he had dissappeared to, it was said he almost always replied, "Tangiers." Ironically this was one of the few places James never made it to.

Mr. James, who never led a band of his own, began his career with the late pianist Bobby Timmons. The two artists' midnight shows at Philadelphia's Ortlieb's Jazz House, just before Timmons death from alcoholism, have become legend within the jazz world, the two sometimes playing for five straight hours with no break. There is no known recording of these shows, a fact which has only added to the myth of them. Said James in 2002, "I don't know if they were all they were made out to be. I was so young and Bobby, he was so free. He was just doing what he was born to do, and I followed his lead."

But nothing would effect Mr. James' music as much as his friendship with the cult sculptor and multi-media artist, Elias Myers. Mr. James once said of Mr. Myers, "When I saw his work for the first time a whole new world opened up to me musically. Maybe it was the fact we were working in two different mediums and there was that distance between us. There was no competition. He (Myers) could get more feeling in a piece of plaster than most people could get in a football field. I wanted to play music like he sculpted, every note a life and a death by any means necessary, and that's what I always tried to do."

But by 1985 James had largely disappeared from the music scene and many believed him to be dead. After battling addiction for nearly two decades, Mr. James re-emerged to live what has been called a triumphant re-birth over the last three years. His music has been sampled by many hip hop artists including Jay-Z, Wu-Tang Clan, and Kanye West. In 1995, in one of his last interviews, Tupac Shakur acclaimed the rhythms of Mr. James trumpeting as a direct influence on his vocal style.

Mr. James last concert was recorded this past Spring over three nights in Brussels at Jacques Pelzer's Jazz Club with Andre Vida, Ravi Coltrane, and J.D. Parran who said of James, "I wouldn't be the musician I am today if I hadn't heard his recordings as a young man. (James) lived to have his redemption and he cherished every minute of it. He'll be missed as much for the person he was as his mastery of the music he gave his life to."

Mr. James commented last year, "The explosion of digital music rescued me from the void and introduced me to a whole new generation. Without it, I don't know where I'd be, certainly not here. I have many, many regrets, but what's happening to me now, I wouldn't trade it for anything."

Mr. James is survived by his wife, Joan Farber, and his five year old son, Elias. A private memorial will be held at James' home in Philadelphia on Sunday.


Rescue The Dead

11/19/05, originally uploaded by levari.

To love is to be led away

into a forest where the secret grave

is dug, singing, praising darkness

under the trees.

To live is to sign your name,

is to ignore the dead,

is to carry a wallet

and shake hands.

To love is to be a fish.

My boat wallows in the sea.

You who are free,

rescue the dead.

"Rescue The Dead" - David Ignatow


II - 12/06

II - 12/06, originally uploaded by levari.



HOME RUN king, originally uploaded by levari.

creature of my age...

now you stand




on the mountain



Melodious Funk

Melodious Funk, originally uploaded by levari.

Timothy Leary: Did you take the LSD I gave you?
Melodious: Yeah, man, I took it last night.
Timothy Leary: And how did you like it?

Melodious cleans his fingernails. Without looking up...

Melodious: You got anything stronger?


Kate Coe Plays The "Pass The Blame Game..." And Then Takes The Moral High Ground

First Kate posts this on Fish Bowl L.A. web site at 10:40 this morning. Somehow she manages to blame both The New York Post and Google(?!), by implication of course, for all the shitty reporting...

From Fishbowl L.A.

Tuesday, Aug 07
NY Post Will Correct Theresa Duncan Story

The New York Post will be running a correction to their Theresa Duncan/Jeremy Blake story by Cathy Burke, after she gets done figuring out which quotes came from where. The LA Weekly got credit for quotes from the Washington Post,and so on and so forth.

FBLA wonder why Google doesn't have a quotes feature? So much easier.

NY Post on Theresa Duncan/Jeremy Blake

Posted by Kate | 10:41 AM | Newspapers

Then, in what I'm assuming was later in the day, she posts this letter to (http://modernkicks.typepad.com/modern_kicks/2007/08/follow-up-there.html to the blogger) for misinterpreting her article in the Weekly.

"It's a bit harsh to say Theresa Duncan lied--she did write some wonderful things that could have been or should have been true. I think she knew that fiddling around with her resume and age--rude facts--would bite her in the butt."

That's great, Kate. And nobody else has ever fiddled with the "rude facts" of their resume and age before. Funny thing is, as far as I can tell, the only reason it's coming back to "bite her in the butt" is because you decided to smear it all over the internet for the world to see after she was dead.

Kate goes on:

"But she did admire the poetic and the theatrical, and I think, at least at first, she wrote about the wonders in the world, not the horrors."

Glad you think so after you stabbed her corpse in the back. How would she write about that? But it's okay, you knew her (kind of? maybe a little? met her and old Jer once...or twice?) What does "know her" mean, anyway?

Kate goes on some more:

"I didn't hear much about the stalking and the conspiracies from her, and until I started on the story, I really didn't know how much was true and how much was embellished. Quite a bit was embellished, but she was a very good writer. Her blog inspired many people."

What an underhanded, passive/aggressive pile of shit.

I was going to let this thing go, but wow, Kate, wow! You are some piece of work.

So tell us, Kate, what exactly is your vendetta against this dead woman, and how exactly do you sleep at night? If there's any justice in the universe, Ms. Duncan is haunting your dreams.

An Open Letter To Kate Coe And The L.A. Weekly

An Open Letter To Kate Coe and The Editors of The L.A. Weekly
RE: "The Theresa Duncan Tragedy"

Dear Kate, et. al.,

Like many I've been following the tragic story of the double suicide of Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake since the news broke of her death, and then, just as tragically, his own just ten days later. One reads their story with deep regret for two people who were obviously extraordinarily talented - Blake through his breathtaking visual art and Duncan through her witty, acerbic and intuitive writing, especially on her blog, The Wit of The Staircase (http://theresalduncan.typepad.com/).

Admittedly, it's hard not to become a complete voyeur when news like this breaks. "How could two such incredibly gifted people who seemed to have it all cut short their lives like this?" is only one of the many questions one asks. Of course we search for clues and want answers, lets' face it, more for ourselves and our momentary entertainment then for them.

But after reading your article of 8/1/07 (http://www.laweekly.com/news/news/the-theresa-duncan-tragedy/16942/?page=1) I must ask you, Ms. Coe, at what point does public interest go over the edge into a very public character assassination after the fact?

I don't know that I believe in the concept of bad taste or moral high ground, but really, I wish you'd let the two have their peace and not follow up this article with even more personal details about their relationship and/or supposed mental health issues that the world does not need to know now that they are gone.

What did we learn from your article exactly? That like most highly creative people they were both sensitive, troubled and disappointed in their own unique ways; that she didn't always tell the autobiographical truth, but tended to mythologize herself (she lied about her age, my God!) that she could be difficult to work with, that he loved her deeply and may have entertained any delusions she might have held rather than shot them down point blank...

Yeah, and, so...?

What are all these sordid personal details adding to their tale, and what about their families who are having to endure their tragic deaths and, at the same time, have to read this unsubstantiated hearsay smeared across media web sites all over the world that link to you?

Let's call a spade a spade here: your article is sensationalism of the worst kind because it's dressed up in the worst pretension known as "cultural importance," not to mention the fact neither of them is around to defend themselves against many of the accusations from the people quoted in your article who seem to have their own motives for telling "the truth" about the two of them now that they're dead.

Ms. Coe, I can only hope somebody waits until you're at your most vulnerable to interview your rivals and enemies, quotes them vigorously on every flawed detail of who you are while they simultaneously go digging through your closet so the world can see what gets pulled out.

I just hope they do it while you're alive so you can suffer the indignity in real time, and not in the afterlife.

With All Best Wishes,


Homage to Antonioni

I watched a lot of his films as teenager. I had no idea what I was watching, although I loved the house blowing up at the end of Zabriskie point.

Blow Up? Confusing, but the women were beautiful and David Hemmings sure seemed to be having a good time for a guy who was growing more paranoid by the minute.

La'Ventura, loved the clothes - and I'm a sucker for black and white, sunglasses and smooth hair - but how could these people be so unfeeling and narcissistic to simply not care that their "friend" had virtually disappeared without a trace?

The Passenger, what an idea. A spiritually dead international reporter fakes his own death, takes on the identity of a dead man in his hotel room, and later finds out he's become an arms dealer. Jack Nicholson is the coolest thing on two legs and he's got Maria Schneider along for the ride...But it seems to go nowhere.

Much later, I saw "The Eclipse." Fascinating images, slightly boring, Alain Delon and Monica Vitti, what a couple. But again, what the Hell was going on? A series of events that rang flat and uninteresting. This was only a few years ago when I saw The Eclipse for the first time, so I can't blame my non-response to total mental immaturity. But that was it for me. Antonioni...whatever.

And then I ran into Martin Scorcese's "Two Voyages To Italy." At some point he covered Antonioni, and in particular, the ending of Eclipse, that, because of him, has become one of my favorite endings of any work of narrative, along with Fanny and Alexander, I have ever seen or read. I'd also include Tim O'Brian's "The Things They Carried," and Hemingways's "The Sun Also Rises" in that list.

Just some context for the ending of Eclipse: throughout the film we follow the affair between Delon (a stock trader,) and Vitti (who knows what she does?) Their relationship turns the whole concept of Hollywood coupling on its head. Their's is a cold and unfeeling meeting. We long for hot steamy passion, they're so fucking beautiful, like the Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie of their time, but we never get it. There's some stuff about Vitti breaking up with her ex-fiance reminscent of Godard's apartment scene in "Contempt," the Italian stock market crashing and Vitti's mother losing a boat load of money, Vitti's ennui at the impossibility of connection (there's an unbelievable scene of her and her two girlfriends playing in her apartment, pretending to be African tribesman, and then Vitti lamenting that when she makes love with a man, most of the time, she feels nothing. The friend I was with, a woman, at hearing this monologue suddenly blurted out, "How does he ((Antonioni)) know so much about women?!)

And, finally, the affair ends, "not with a bang but a whimper." We are left for almost, what(?) ten minutes with shots of landscape, empty of life, stolid, cold and rigid. Beautifully composed yes, but somehow drained of beauty.

And that's it. Fade out. The End.


Then, by pure accident, about a year later, I watched Scorcese analyze the film, and, without him, I don't think I would have understood anything nor ever gone back; this man would have made a great teacher. As he explains, in paraphrase, these shots are of all the places that Vitti and Delon visited, went to, shared together. Now these places are devoid of them and they will never return. They are simply spaces, perhaps a map of the past should they ever choose to look, but lifeless and dead without them. And they will never look. And so those spaces are simply, spaces, beautifully voided; they know no history nor will anyone else, ever.

Take Los Angeles. In spots, especially at night, it is reminiscent of Antonioni's landscapes in its sheer alien emptiness...An urban desert of its own, if you will. On top of that, with the real estate boom, rising rents, etc., over the last eighteen months I've seen so many places closed down, changed, boarded up and demolished. Places that I used to go to with some of the people I've been involved with, whether it was years or days, whether these were fulfilling affairs or not.

But you look around and you see these places, the places you used to go to, and now they are different, changed, gone for forever. For the places that do survive, have you ever tried to go back to these spaces you once loved with someone that you are involved with in the present? It's never worked. It's like trying to re-capture a magic that could only exist once, or, worse, an attempt at re-writing history. To me those places are haunted, never to be the same for the chemistry between you, that one you first shared and discovered that space with and that particular time in your life, created the specific and uncopyable energy of that space in your memory. For me that cannot ever be recreated, and the space cannot ever be resurrected into another no matter what I try.

This is a very specific human emotion we've all experienced or will experience, I think. These haunted feelings in a space of the past, the true ghosts of our lives. Antonioni identifies this quiet longing for the past in space, and, through his poetic gifts, somehow captures this emotion. Perhaps it is age and a little experience (another word for our losses great and small) but gone from his work is the unrelatable and austere landscape and emotion that was inaccessible to me. Now his images are filled with meaning: longing, loss, and passion never to be fully claimed or owned but for a moment in the kaleidoscopic tapestry that is memory. A memory that, as it inevitably grows longer and longer, seems to fade away more and more except in dreams.

And so, because of Scorcese, the door opened into Antononioni's work, and I see more and more truth in it as I get older. This quiet surrender to loneliness in so many of the people he captures; there are the ones who have fought against the loneliness, and the ones who never fought, but they all seem to end in the same psychological/emotional place. A specific type of human being, yes, but one I see all the time...sometimes in the mirror.

Find his work cold, look closely, Antonioni is one of the geatest chroniclers of what it is to be alive, try to connect and fail, we've ever had. The "coldness" in his work is is simply the denial of sentimentality in his observations of our illusions and loneliness. His poetry is the truth his denial of this sentimentality allows for.

His work is by no means pretty in the conventional sense; fashionably existential, perhaps, but pretty, no.

His work is an autopsy of being human in our age, and quietly bloody in its precision. Like the great poets, Antonioni was a surgeon of the soul on his own terms, with his own language.


The Haunting

Let me come to you tonight.

Let me come between the sirens,
between the clouds,
between the earth and the moon.

Let me come to you between
the bodies of
your lover and you.

Let me come to you
between your lonelininess
and your sleep.

Let me come to you between
your memory
and your forget.

Let me come to you between
your dreams of what was
and your regrets
(of white)
what should have been...

your chains and your skin,
your desire and your sin,

don't be afraid

Trust me one last time,
even if this is the
last breath
of your faith.

Let me come to you
wherever you are
in this endlessly

the only thing
we ever had
to call ours.

Let me come to you
one last time,

I promise
I'll be done with this

and gone
for forever

by dawn.

No trace.



Mr. Bergman and Mr. Antonioni

I must admit, the deaths of Bergman and Antonioni have stifled me. Strange in a way considering they both lived incredibly productive and long lives, and yet, on some level, I feel as though I lost two of my grandfathers, and if not grandfathers, then favorite uncles who were very different but gave me so much. The Prince of Passion and The Prince of Cool...

I've read a lot about these two over the last couple days, a lot of recollections, synopses, surveys, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc...And, well, they've been interesting, and have said mostly nothing that I can relate to on any personal level. They use words like "trailblazer, " "personal," and "art film," but mostly, I don't know, it's all heartfelt and most of it could probably be said about any of the masters of that era. I don't want to be unduly harsh as I'm still trying to get my head around their deaths, but I can only say that for those who don't like either/or, one or the both, it took me a long, long time to fall in love with both, only in the last couple of years, but when I did I knew it was forever.

I didn't "get" Bergman until about seven years ago. I had tried to watch some of his films like Persona and could never be patient enough to sit through it...Like a lot of people who have and continue to shit on Bergman's work, I found it pretentious, boring even torturous. The only reason I kept trying is because some filmmakers I liked sang his praises. I was ready to all but write him off when back in the winter of 2000 Sherman Torgan decided to show "Fanny and Alexander" over two nights at the New Beverly Cinema here in Los Angeles. Fanny and Alexander, what was that? I had never even heard of it? "What the Hell?" I figured I'd give Bergman one more try and if I couldn't stand it I'd walk out and never look back at the guy again, write him off as another critical fraud.

And then I was sitting in that run down, half empty theatre with a couple of friends, the lights went dark, I heard those first notes of Schumann's mournful violin, and the film faded in on young Alexander Ekdahl as he moved through his empty house, calling for his family who were not there, and, perhaps, never really would be.

Was this a dream? Was it reality? As I continued to experience the film unfolding, instead of this question of reality vs. dreams being answered, it was only amplified and reinforced up until the last sliver of the movie, where Alexander's grandmother reads from the introduction of Strindberg's "Dream Play," for the last time calling into question all we have seen and felt, and yet making the work even more heartfelt in the questioning, for isn't this the eternal question of life?

"Merrily, merrily, merrily - Life is but a dream..."

Has there ever been a better ending to a film that wasn't "clever?"

That was it. It was over for me. I looked at my friends and I don't know...I was awe struck, even if to them it was just another film: Mostly okay, long, some of the characters, especially the reverand, too much...But me, I was so enraptured and related so fully to Alexander's imagination that I returned the next night to sit through the 3 plus hours again just to make sure I hadn't fooled myself. I was, of course, even more enthralled. After that night I crawled back over Bergman's work as best I could, slowly trying to see every one of his films I could get my hands on, and even more slowly trying to understand all that I missed. This was before DVD so a lot of the films were very poor pan and scans I was watching on a twelve inch TV, but when I turned out the lights the mystery and the magic endured the circumstances of my poverty.

Somewhere along the way I became convinced that films were art and that I wanted to be a part of it. (I'm still trying to figure out if this was the right decisions or if I really did arrive too late for the party.)

So what was the the essence of life distilled into Bergman's films? All of this has been well gone over by the critics over the years: blood, sugar, sex, magic (as the Red Hot Chili Peppars once so aptly put it,) not to mention loyalty, betrayal, adultery, death, love, intimacy and everything else a human being can experience. All of it there. All of it sculpted out and so specific in the small world he created. All of it waiting to be discovered again and again.

Memory: While their father is dying Fanny and Alexander are in the kitchen with one of the old maids. She is writing a letter to her friend in China, reciting it out loud while the other maid is not listening, caught up in her own world. Finally, the old maid finishes writing the letter, slips it into it's envelope and hands it to Fanny. Fanny proceeds to lick the ends of the envelope and hands it back to the maid who seals it. I swear I've had this same moment with my own grandmother. Just that small nothing moment so carefully observed, so real, so true...Only someone who knows can create a detail like that.

Then, in 2005 The Los Angeles County Museum of Art had a Begman festival. Every Friday and Saturday night for a month they showed Bergman's films from the Late 1950's to 1960's...To see films like Shame, Persona, The Magician on that beautiful screen in all their glory...The one that really did me in was The Virgin Spring. The Virgin Spring. God, The Virgin Spring. A film Bergman later renounced for it's ending, he believed it was false, the smallest redemption offering too much light. But to me a masterpiece of acting, writing...humanity. I wept at the end. Speechless. No other film, let alone work of art has ever done to me what that dark little film did to me. Smiles of a Summer Night? I laughed as hard at this film as I did at Caddy Shack it was so funny and true. Shame? One of the best war films I've ever seen? Persona...I have never, ever seen anything like it in my life, and yet, we all feel we've lived those moment, been the one who refuses to speak as well as the one who cannot stop speaking...

And, like a gift, these films came to me at a particularly poignant time of my life, a time where I was wounded and open, suffering a destruction of my own making in the sense that I felt I was living my own Bergman tragedy, all be it without the subtitles, but with just as beautiful and passionate a woman as any found in his films. Those films were terrible and comforting, I don't know how both at the same time, but that is magic.

I could dive into the culture war, modernism vs. post...But it all seems silly to me. One either believes art can be redemptive to the spirit or one doesn't. Call me a modernist, a sentimentalist, call me any ist you want, but I believe there is a spirit and the greatest art of any era simultaneously proves it and continues to redeem it, if you're open to such an experience.

Bergman was a magician. It's the only word. A magician of humanity.

I'll try to write more about Antonioni in the next couple days...But for now I'll leave it with this:

Ingmar Bergman, thank you, thank you, thank you...Forever.


Lust - January, 2004

Lust - January, 2004, originally uploaded by levari.


Ode To Los Angeles

Driving L.A.
from the ocean
east into the city

and back again
at 4:19 a.m.

No cars on the road,
no copter blades in the sky,
high and peaceful -
the phone is finally off -

No one screwing you
and no one you're trying to screw
in broad daylight -

just don't let us,
the descendants of the
forked tongue fool you;
the real vampires sleep just fine
at night -

and as the
empty streets blow by,
the memories of you
fade out and in,
for that single moment,
I disappear,

and the only
thing that ever
really mattered,
matters now
like it never should
have stopped:

the street lights
dotted green
as far as the eye
can see

and the


Blazing the trail
to everywhere
I long ago forgot.

Los Angeles - 7/25/07


R.I.P. Sherman Torgan, Owner and Operator of The New Beverly Cinema, The Best Movie Theatre In The World - 1944 - 2007

Thank you, Sherman, for everything. Your run down little theatre has given me an education a livelihood and sometimes even a home in this mad city.

You also let me pay in change when that was all I had.

I will never forget you.


Sherman Torgan, who turned an adult movie house in Los Angeles into the New Beverly Cinema, an arty repertory theater that screens classic, independent and foreign films, died Wednesday. He was 63.

Torgan suffered an apparent heart attack while on a bicycle ride in Santa Monica. He was pronounced dead at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, said Jeff Rosen, a longtime friend.

From the time "the Beverly" opened in 1978 with a Marlon Brando double bill — "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Last Tango in Paris" — Torgan did everything from plan the programs to work the box office.

His limited budget didn't allow for flashy decor. He said he would rather keep ticket prices down than redecorate. Currently, general admission is $7, less for students and senior citizens.

When Torgan took over the theater, he and friends tore out the runway that had been used for erotic dance acts and replaced it with seats. Over time all of the theater's 300 seats became battered, and the projection room was "held together by spit and glue," said Rosen, who sometimes was the theater's projectionist. Torgan acknowledged that the place was "a little rough around the edges."

That look was part of the appeal for Torgan's clientele. Famous film directors and actors turned up unexpectedly to see the movies. Francois Truffaut once attended a screening of "Mildred Pierce," the 1940s film noir starring Joan Crawford. Eva Marie Saint was once in the audience for "North by Northwest," the 1959 Alfred Hitchcock thriller that featured her and Cary Grant. "She said she hadn't seen the movie in years," Rosen recalled.

One patron, actor-writer-director Quentin Tarantino, organized a Grindhouse Festival at the Beverly this year. The festival title referred to the movie houses that used to "grind" away their projectors, showing three features in a row. Among the many "deliriously bad films" in the festival, Times arts writer Geoff Boucher noted, were "Autopsy," "Jailbait Babysitter" and "Chinese Hercules."

Revival, repertory and second-run movie theaters — the Vagabond near MacArthur Park, the Fox Venice near the beach — came and went, but Torgan's New Beverly Cinema remained. The rise of multiplex theaters, the increasing number of classic film programs at Los Angeles museums and the DVD industry cut into his business, but film buffs, students and people in the movie business still sprinkled the audience.

"A lot of people got their film education at the Beverly," Rosen said.

Torgan was born in Philadelphia on June 18, 1944, and moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1960s. After graduating from UCLA he moved to San Francisco, where he worked as a location scout for movie production companies. He returned to Los Angeles in the mid-'70s to be nearer the studios.

He and two friends, Martin Ford and Donald Rappaport, opened the New Beverly Cinema in 1978. A year or so later Torgan took it over, Ford said in an interview with The Times this week.

Many patrons recognized Torgan on sight. He was slim and wiry with a dark beard and a full head of hair in the early days of the theater, when he was in his 30s. Later, he shaved off the beard but always kept his weight down.

In recent years his son, Michael, worked with him at the theater.

Programming has been canceled through the weekend. Further plans regarding the schedule will be announced on the theater's website, www.newbevcinema.com .

"The theater was Sherman," Rosen said.

Besides his son, Torgan is survived by his wife, Mary, and a brother, Marvin.


You look into the set of eyes across from you

and do not notice

the color,
the hue,
if they blink,

or whether they match the blouse
so carefully chosen,

Only that they do not look away,


Is it
the sheer bravado
of that gaze

that makes your mind spin,
your palms sweat,

that makes you look around
to see if anyone else has noticed?

Is it
the total fearlessness in
this girl's 1000 yard gaze
that makes you wonder?

Is it
because she doesn't know
how to smoke yet

no matter
how hard
she tries
to inhale?

Is it because her book is unmarked

though she clutches the pen in her hand
as if waiting
for someone to tell her
it's okay
to begin?

Is it because this is who she is



All you know is

right now


Take everything,


or, at least,

she thinks
she can.

Los Angeles - 12/22/05


L.A. - Spring, 2003

L.A. - Spring, 2003, originally uploaded by levari.


Never Sent To Spain

Every day they were there.

For weeks
I came home
in the afternoon
pretending to have

any sort of purpose
other then smoking
and working as
a telemarketer
in that dingy
23rd floor office
in Grammercy Park.

I was sending out
color-coded tickets
to free screenings
of new TV shows
to retired couples
in Pebble Beach.

When I came home
the two of them
were always sitting
on the top stair
whether it was
raining or sunny,
warm or cold.

They looked about
fourteen years old,
and though I rarely
saw them touch,

nor even hold hands,

the obvious feelings
they were trying so
hard to hide
from this city
and each other,

the fact that two kids could
find one another,

was only one more sign of my utter
incompetence and despair.

I hated them for this,
hated their guarded happiness,
hated his Jets
hat cocked perfectly
to the side,
his bleached white
turtleneck beneath his
Sprewell jersey,
and the gold link
chain he wore proudly
over top.

I hated her hair in tight braids,
hated her clear pale skin,
hated those expressive,
ancient, blue eyes,
and that
slightest trace of unbleached,
black down
above her lip that only
made her more mysterious
to him.

I hated the luxury
and patience
of the game
they played
with their youth.

I don't know what they talked about,
their language was neither
English nor Spanish
but something in between,
and even when I tried to do
my "private eye" thing

I was totally unable to penetrate
the secret of their fascination
with one another.

Sometimes, though, I caught him
getting up and mimicking
somebody, a friend
or mutual acquaintance,
a member of his family
or maybe hers
(I imagined all this.)

Sometimes, when she looked away,
wouldn't give him the time of day,
he'd break into a funny little dance
that was all elbows and knees.

I half recognized this dance
as if it was a dance I could have once
danced for someone a long time ago,
and I often wondered if he made it up on the spot,
or saw it somewhere on TV.

She would try
her best not to,
but she'd finally
then act all pissed off
that she did,
whine three words,

"O.K. Enuffff. Stoppppppp!"

And he'd quickly sit back

adjust his hat back to that
perfect angle, and
turn his face back to stone
as the silence of the
city returned.

Sometimes, though,
in the late afternoon,
when she thought
no one was looking,
she'd lean her head
on his shoulder and close
her eyes.

Always he'd let her.

I'd watch them from across
the street,
stand like that for minutes,
just watch them.

one day
three weeks ago,
right after my career
as a telemarketer
was unexpectedly
for sending
the wrong color tickets to
the wrong retired couples in
the wrong city,
the two were gone.

I haven't seen
either of them
on the stoop,
in the streets,
in the park, or

The stairwell is empty
when I return and
when I leave.

I no longer
have to wait for
them to endure my
one more time
as they part
their two sets
of bony legs
for me to
step through.

They no longer
have to pretend
not to notice
me as I take
the garbage out
or run to the bodega
for my cigarettes...

I don't know
how much longer
I can take it here,

and I dream
it was there first


New York - 1/99



The bandits attacked
in the woods.

They took nothing,
merely cut out
the eyes
of the children.

They did not touch
the adults
who lay
in fear

pretending not to see.

the only painters
work in time
with no apprentice.

The poets?

They draw secretly,
using the teeth
of the dead for pens,
pull them
out one by one
after composing.

The sounds of her
rage across paper,

a foreign language
can be spoken but
never felt.

Her secrets are greater than yours,

and her emptiness
more than you
could ever be.

In black and white
I watch
her flicker
she weeps

The cries
of our neighbors'
love echo
between windows


Los Angeles - 10/27/06


Spoiled Rotten

Never had to fight a war

(bought your way out
just like you born your way in),

but lucky little rich boys
still get to declare one



The Joke

When you're poor and a failure
you're just another
pain in the ass...

When you're suddenly
you've become
an iconoclast!



China Moon

summer moon yellow night restlessly dreaming movement in her forever chair watching the screen flicker what is never there summer moon coward night coming for us i wish wouldn't let go money that slips through fingers turning into bills piled on the floor spiders fall from the ceiling instead of walking through the doors summer moon fearless night she breathes you in and memories out only to be drank in again, gargled and spit like my home like my home like everyone i've known like the house i was born in so far away from summer moon day becomes night i shake rise anoint thy self mythologize when you dare to sleep for me




when I was a child
for reasons I still don't completely
understand (is it because I was sick
and alone came so easy, or
is because
there was nothing left to do)

i made a deal
with somebody
or something,
anything out there
i could not name
that might be listening...

(i never believed in God
or anything that could be

there was no
to names
in me at all)

the deal i made
in fourth grade:

i'd trade everything
for the moment
of my fingers,

for whatever form
that moment

all of it,
and promised
to live by this vow
no matter where
my fingers drove me,
what corner
lit or unlit,
to what people
cruel or shy,
criminal or priest,
to what street
in no matter
what part of town,
to what checking account,
to what family,
to what lover,
to what death,

what death
what is death

if not
the moment
of my fingers...

and i've alway lived
up to my
end of the deal.

(it was never feet,
it never could
be with me
for there is
no negotiating
with feet)

now this moment
of my fingers,

i don't
know if
i made the right
choice or not,

if I've won
or lost,

let alone
how many
real moments
of my fingers
there have been,


how many
there is
left to be...

it's just that
street lights are bleeding
across the sky tonight

and I'm no
longer fearless
with death

i can see
my fingers
are only the bones
of my ancestors
the earth,
and only ever were...

end of poem.
end of youth.

6/4/07 - Frigillana, Esp