"The task of genius, and man is nothing if not genius, is to keep the miracle alive, to live always in the miracle, to make the miracle more and more miraculous, to swear allegiance to nothing, but live only miraculously, think only miraculously, die miraculously." - Henry Miller, from The Colossus of Maroussi


March 30, 2002

Another shitty day in paradise. Awoke this morning terrifically hung over. Sound like an oxymoron? I am. I mean, it is. Or rather, they are. The two words terrific and hangover. There's nothing good about a hangover. So why did I use that word? Who knows. Probably because I'm hung over and haven't a clue what I'm saying. I am, in fact, quite out of my mind. And as the definition of insanity goes, that is repetition of the same behavior with the expectation of different results, well, then I am insane.

Okay, then. Now that we have that established, last night was more or less worth the pain now being suffered. Cocky Rocky McDoogle McFam dropped by about nine with the lovely Ms. Voodoo Dolly. We had earlier planned on going out on the town together. By the time they arrived, I had decided against a night of partying, much preferring a quiet evening in with Henry Miller's Colossus of Maroussi. But old Cocky Rocky has a way about him, as does Voodoo Dolly, and with the two of them in town for just a short time, he from Berkeley, she from Bisbee, and them sitting in my house acting as though there was no question that I would give in and go, well, I gave in and went.

Six hours later we had hit about as many bars. Things were just getting hopping at 3:30 a.m. at Snake & Jake's Christmas Club Lounge right down the street from my house. But I was burnt, and though Rocky was talking beignets and chicory coffee, his usually intoxicating enthusiasm had apparently beat him to bed. Back at my house alone and tired, I peered down at Colussus splayed open on my pillow and wondered what Henry Miller would think of the secret little plan his book was hatching in my head.

The book is the only one of Miller's I've ever read that isn't chock full of sex. There's no sex in it at all, in fact. It's about Miller's travels in Greece in the late 1930s, or perhaps even 1940, as it was published in 1941. Either way, Miller's fanciful, dreamlike descriptions of the Greek Isles both then and in ancient Greek times is troubled by a dark undercurrent of pessimism. Why the darkness? Two words: Hitler's Germany. Or one word for that matter. The word. The name. That infamous six letter scourge of the alphabet (think: alpha beta) that is Hitler.

Suddenly it occurs to me to wonder how many German children, all of them now in the twilight of their days or already deceased, once bore that name and in great shame or fear of retribution had it changed.

Anyway, back to Greece, Miller stands on the Island of Crete, once the Kingdom of Minos, looks out across the ruins of Knossus and says:

"Knossus was worldly in the best sense of the word. The civilization it optimized went to pieces fifteen hundred years before the coming of the Saviour, having bequeathed to the Western world the greatest single contribution yet known to man -- the alphabet." And then, with his classic sarcasm and this Hitler-induced pessimism I mentioned, Miller adds, "Today the magic has gone out of the alphabet; it is a dead form to express dead thoughts."

Actually, that's mostly pessimism. The sarcasm appears a page later when a barely literate Greek peasant proudly shows Henry his one precious memento from America, a farmer's almanac. "Here in the very cradle of our civilization a dirty baboon hands me a precious monstrosity of letters -- the almanac."

I love reading Henry Miller. And I love that book. Ironically, I found it in a grimy flea market book "shop" (if you could call it that) amongst stacks of pulp fiction and other trash paperbacks. I took it home to Jill's and my trailer home in the little shitfuck, tornado-ally, Texas town of Harker Heights. There, I devoured every word, as a junk-hungry addict would hungrily consume every spoon-scrap of their beloved poppy paradise.

Harker Heights sat stupidly on the perimeter of Fort Hood, our nation's largest army base and Jill's Nature Conservancy employer at the time. I'd lie awake at night simmering on sweat-soaked sheets and dream of Greece whilst 18-year old boys fired rocket launchers into nearby hillsides shaking our tiny trailer in an oft-all-night earthquake, a regular "Surplus Ordinance Fire Sale!"

Henry Miller's Greece. It is the only Greece I've ever known, really, having never paid a whole lot of attention in world history classes in high school or college. It's magic lures me still. As recent as three months ago I thought I'd just pick up and go there at long last. Instead I came here to New Orleans, an equally necessary fulfillment of a dream. A dream now-fulfilled.

Magic. The miraculous. The magic and miraculous-ness of words on paper. And so we come full-circle, to the quote at the top of the page and to that little hint I dropped earlier about plans hatching in my head.

Tomorrow is Easter: a kind of "hatching" if you will. Jesus was hatched from the Egg of Afterlife! Hatched, snatched, scritched and scratched. Yesterday Good Friday. Today Hung Saturday. And tomorrow all our sins of drinking are forgiven (if I don't drink tonight, that is!). Eeeeez-stir. Ease-stir. Easter! Bunny! Funny! Send me your money! All right. I've done it again. Gone and got all boustrophedonous on you. Aha! A word Microsoft Word 97 doesn't know! Yeah, Henry (for that is Miller's word, not mine)! Robert Stock would be proud.

The plan hatching in my head started the other day when I received an email from Welsh friend Dany Willis. It seems the ever-resourceful little travel bug Dany just landed a job at the University of Heraklion. "The University of what?" you ask. Why, the seaport town of Heraklion, Island of Crete, Greece, naturally. It seems he's building them a web site of all things, that he will be there all summer, and he has a spare room.

Need I say more?

RSM


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