July 29

In the new Braque biography there is a wonderful passage that tells how whenever Picasso visited Douglas Cooper at Cooper’s house in the French countryside, the Chateau de Castille, he would go to the bedroom and stare at Braque’s “Studio VIII” over the bed. Asked what he thought, he would only mutter to himself, “Don’t understand. Don’t understand”. I do not remember this in John Richardson’s book about his early post-war years with Douglas Cooper, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, but I do remember the part where Picasso comes to dinner at Cooper’s and takes out the fish bone during supper and plays it like a weird musical instrument on the side of his plate. God, he sounds like a pain in the ass.

The book repeats Braque’s well-known put-down of Picasso that he used to be a good painter and now he is “merely a genius.” Braque has all my sympathy. There is talk in the book about the French term, ‘metier’ that I believe has to do with one serving one’s trade. In painting terms, this would mean being interested in the craft of painting, not in a subservient way, but not to suborn it to one’s ego. This is what is going on in the world of art, that all is being suborned to a concept, on one hand, or to one’s ego, on the other.

I went to see David Lynch’s “Inland Empire” a few nights ago and was taken with how he was present in every frame of the film. I have been reading “Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things” by Gilbert Sorrentino, where the presence of the author, a very fictive presence, keeps busting into the narrative so you think that a story is not actually being told, though it does move along, and the film does the same thing, there is actually a story taking place but most of the movie consists of the character walking around inside of the narrative, finding holes and alleyways in it. The point being that Lynch has his métier, he is a craftsman as interested in his medium as in his ego.

I have rejected most of the work I have done here except for a small painting and a very big one that has an interesting chastity, I don’t know how else to describe it. It must come from looking inside these churches and from looking at all the Swiss hard-edged painters.

I like the fact that Braque treated Francoise Gilot, Picasso’s wife, like a fellow-painter.

“Say to yourselves: I am going to work in order to see myself and free myself. While working and in the work I must be on the alert to see myself. When I see myself in the work I will know that is the work I am supposed to do. I will not have much time for other people’s problems. I will have to be by myself almost all the time and it will be a quiet life.” Agnes Martin

July 28, Saturday. I am going to Paris for two weeks on Monday. I fell in love with someone the first time I was there. Almost twenty-five years ago, I hope that I don’t feel compelled to go into that one, too. I have been living partially in the strong memories of the time when I was in eighth grade, maybe it has to do with the beginning of adolescence. It so happens that I have access to a library of Beatles recordings on my computer and have been playing them, especially the early stuff, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” up to the Rubber Soul album. The two things that stand out is how they are all some kind of love song and how stirring they are, and what an amazing singer John Lennon is. Another memory that continually seems to entwine itself around the others at every turn is my father’ incessant criticality, I don’t know how I survived it.

On my paper route, I delivered about 35 Daily News, 6 or 7 New York Times and about as many Herald Tribunes. The Tribune’s Sunday magazine was “New York” that spun off into a separate entity later in the decade after the paper folded. It already had a lot of the important writers of that era publishing in it, and it was where I first found out about Andy Warhol, Pop art, happenings, and experimental film and theatre, everything that was going on across the bay in Manhattan.

What must have happened that year was I found out that someone that was attracted to me could be someone that I wanted to be attracted to, and on a different track, I must have decided in some unconscious way to be an artist, that is, I decided that to be interested in what I was interested in was all right. It doesn’t mean that I immediately accepted it, but that time may have been a where the tipping point was reached.

The previous year my mother took me to Manhattan to the Museum of Modern Art and to the Met. A public school friend from a few doors away came along. He was from Greece and had come over with his parents and older sister when he was young, but still had the trace of an accent. We dressed in our black raincoats and orlon sweaters, our open collared button-down shirts with dickies tucked in around our necks, and combed our hair down on our foreheads, feeling sophisticated. I remember very little about our time in the museums, except that my friend took the large paintings of nudes at the Met more in stride than I did, I had to make some silly jokes. What I do remember is standing in front of the museum and seeing two boys around our age looking over at us, with derision in their eyes. I looked them over, and was able to see for the first time, that one could get a real modish haircut, not a standard shaved around the ears one that you altered later, and that they were wearing better quality raincoats, and shoes, and sweaters. These two kids, probably from that neighborhood on the Upper East Side, were looking at what we had put together from Korvettes. I could feel the clothes on me cheapen. Who knows if they had ever seen anything like us. I had never seen anything like them before, or had any idea that the world had such things to offer. I was outclassed, quite literally, and I never forgot it.

“Europe was the great American sedative” Henry James

“Traditional attitudes towards the natural environment make Indians, like the Japanese, more disposed then Americans to pursue happiness modestly.”
Pankaj Mishra

“The life of an artist is inspired, self-sufficient, and independent (unrelated to society).
The direction of attention of an artist is towards mind in order to be aware of inspiration.
Following inspiration life unfolds free of any influence.
Finally the artist recognizes himself in the work and is happy and contented. Nothing else will satisfy him.
An artist’s life is an unconventional life. It leads away from the example of the past.
It struggles painfully against its own conditioning. It appears to rebel but in reality it is an inspired way of life.”
Agnes Martin

July 26. I have been on the verge of meeting the local world-class artist Roman Signer who is from Appenzell, where I am told that up until recently only men voted--by raising their swords in the town square--who has a big house in St. Gallen. I can’t receive phone calls, so when he had to cancel our last appointment, he drove up here to leave the message that we would have to reschedule. I found his house on the way back from the ponds one day.

The mid-summer quiet of this small city keeps bringing me back to life on Staten Island at the time when I was at the end of grade school. It is as different here from that place as it could possibly be, but it’s like riding through a cleaned-up memory of it, without the bad air from Bayonne, the enormous swaths of tinderstick houses and thick, invisible blanket of sexual repression. The ponds, like the swim club on Staten Island, is dominated by children and adolescents—the former making noise and the latter engaging in their first social and mating games. I actually pass by a public pool that is more like the place I went to--packed with people and deafeningly loud—but I prefer to remember it as bucolic, like that time in my life that was anything but that, except internally and in retrospect. The houses are bigger and older here, as are the trees, and the emotional war that began in my childhood and adolescence so long ago has ended.

The summer that “Satisfaction” was number one on the charts and was played once an hour on WMCA radio, I was 12 years old and had been noticing girls for over a year. It seemed that I went from a desire for toys and playing army to an interest in sweaters and records overnight, the next maturation of significance didn’t take place for another thirty years, when one day I could no longer abide rock and roll and figurative painting, remarkably similar, that. But that is another story.

I worked for my fathers’ construction company on Fridays that summer, but it did not overwhelm my time at the pool, where I would sometimes talk to the girls that were in the other class in my school, St. Clare’s, where the grades were segregated by sex. We would, a few male friends and I, make forays to where the girls hung out and make shy and bold conversation.

I have always found it easier to talk to girls, now women; this is where that began. With the girls I could talk about the Beatles and the Stones, and they showed me their pictures, taken with brownie cameras, of the Beatles at Shea Stadium the previous summer--little blurry specks on a fuzzy field. I had to talk about the Yankees and the Mets, of which I had no interest with the boys. An attraction developed with one of girls. At this time and place this mostly consisted of hearing from the others, when she wasn’t around that Chris, that was her name, liked me. The visits to their area of blankets and folding chairs began to have a heightened quality because of her presence. I remember that Chris had pale blue-gray eyes and blond hair that was cut just above her shoulders, and she was good at letting it fall over one eye, in the Mod way. She had pale white skin (was this possible, in the pre-skin-cancer-conscious age of the deep tan?) and long legs. She wasn’t tall.

Staten Island was overwhelmingly Catholic and there were six children in her family, not unusual. I remember her having to take care of a younger sibling, sometimes. I don’t remember her mother. Her father was one of those men who went up and down the aisles of St. Clare’s during Sunday Mass and took up the collection, shooting a wicker basket attached to a long pole down in between the benches through row after row of seated parishioners. I seem to remember graying temples and an out-of-date suit. I don’t think he was a fireman or a policeman, as were about half the fathers of members of my class--a father seemed to die in a fire almost once year, the surviving family’s picture would appear on the front page of the Daily News—he was probably a white collar worker in lower Manhattan. A good many from Staten Island died on 9/11. But this was long before that,when the tip of the island was made up of stone buildings, one stared at a cliff full of windows arriving on the ferry, and the Beatles took the train from the still extant Pennsylvania Station to Washington on their first American tour.

Chris once said, “My father is very handsome,” defiantly. We hardly ever spent a moment alone, but there was something about the admiring energy between us that was new to me. And she was new to me. Where did this person come from? I guess this is what is meant by ”noticing”. We were not, in this clique, completely unsophisticated. We were already cynical and pessimistic. This was probably a part of the Catholic education of that time where one spent eight years with nuns who knocked you down over and over if not physically then by reinforcing the idea that you shouldn’t think too much of yourself. This was internalized into not being too impressed with anything. This is an exultant, traditional Staten Island attitude, accompanied, oddly, by a warm cordiality that is perhaps a result of a life spent running from christenings to weddings to funerals.

There was one point that summer where Chris got interested in someone else, someone from public school that was, in fact, a friend of mine. I remember looking across the crowd at an open-air party at the swim club one Saturday and seeing her looking up at him and being all absorbed attention. I was warned about it, but there was still the shock of it, like a hunger pang with humiliation attached, heartache.
Within a short time, it must have been long summer, she had lost interest in O’Brien--that was his name--and I was rewarded with her attention again.

That fall St. Clare’s changed its policy and made the classes co-ed. Chris was assigned to the other eighth grade, but I would see her in the schoolyard. At one point she said to me, “I like you” and I was floored by the directness of it, we were all habitual ironists, (I had a black raincoat and being that I was Joseph I called it my “coat of many colors”) I managed to say something like. “I feel that way about you too.” But I could never get her to meet me anywhere, not for sex or anything, we were nowhere near that, but for time to be with only her. I would drop hints about when I would be at the public library but she never showed up.

I would go home after school and be with my neighborhood friends who went to public school, by seventh grade they were in junior high where classes changed all day. They would talk about what girl they know “gives” and what they “got off” their girlfriend, and would want to know if I got anything off mine. I was getting information that was of absolutely no use to me in my crowd of that moment. In late November Pope Paul VI made a visit to NYC and all of the students in the catholic schools of the diocese were instructed to go to Central Park and line the roadways that his motorcade would pass through and we would get blessed.

Chris had on a green tam and a matching coat that day. Her blond hair stood out against it. I was next to her on the rope line and put my artificial-leather-gloved hand over her knitted wool-gloved-hand and she did not take it away. One of the nuns saw us and glared at us.

Then Christmas came and in January I got pneumonia. I read John Hersey’s “Hiroshima” and every book the library had about nuclear war. The Young Rascals “Good Lovin’” went to number one. I missed a lot of school. When I returned Chris was interested in someone else, her hair was longer and even blonder and she had a dark red hat and a matching coat. I remember seeing her as if at a great distance. At night, under the covers, with radio I would think of her when Nino Tempo and April Stevens version of “Stardust” played on my transistor radio. I had no way of identifying what the feelings were that I was having. I did not know or want to talk about it to anyone. But I remember watching her for the rest of that year. We never spoke very much after that.

My family moved away at the end of that school year and half a lifetime went by until I was in the Adirondacks, a place that I knew since early childhood, a few summers past and I woke up with the most vivid memories of Chris, the flood of feeling was so strong I had to tell D., who was next to me, that something very strange was happening. For that day and the next I was possessed by vivid memories of her, I was speechless. I went over the past and considered that I must have been in love with her and had never “processed” the feelings.

I speculated that the nun must have thought that there was something unhealthily serious going on. There was no one else in the class that had been paired off, at least in the way we seemed to be, and maybe Chris was told to stop paying attention to me. Maybe she just went away. Distant memories become stronger as short-term memory gets weaker in old age, which I am not in yet, and this incident in the Adirondacks was isolated. A few days later I spent a lot of time searching for her online--one really expects this magic box to turn up everything--but I couldn’t find any references. Not that I would contact her. After a few days the whole thing faded, like it was a virus.

Sunday July 22. Pay particular attention to the things that you hate, they most likely contain ideas that you are almost ready to accept. Ten years ago I read some of Alan Bennett’s diaries and couldn’t stand them or him, now I am doing something similar. Then again, I didn’t like his attitude; he was too good at making withering observations on the pretentiousness of some figure that you happened to like. Two, I remember, were at the expense of Philip Larkin, describing his self-sequester as a librarian in the provincial town of Hull reminding him of the Monty Python sketch where Greta Garbo would ride through residential neighborhoods in an open car with a bullhorn exclaiming “I want to be alone.” Or another one where he said that Larkin has gotten more spiritual points for living in Hull than Dr. Albert Schweitzer ever got for living in the Congo. Very, very funny.

This is another attribute that my father had, cruel cutting remarks that were undeniably hilarious. He could tell you something about yourself that was brutally undermining, but it was so funny that you would be crying from its humor and humiliated at the same time. It’s a quality--if it can be called that, sarcasm is actually a form of anger, I have learned—that I could use if anyone would let me. English writers often snipe at each other but New York artists act like a bunch of lawyers these days, so careful and kind around one another. As it is I try to keep my mouth shut and smile but I am no good at it. I am in a business that has a strong social element and it is to my disadvantage that I play it so reluctantly. The old man ran his own construction business. He could shoot his mouth off to anyone and it didn’t make a lot of difference as long as the bid came in low enough. But what I do involves a lot of politics and I can’t get myself to do anything I don’t want to do and I am stuck with me.

I rode my bike through the very quiet Sunday atmosphere in St. Gallen, and after I stopped at the pond and did more laps than usual I went further across the mountain above the town where Sunday walkers--couples, children—were strolling through the woods and walking along the trails that reveal the panorama of the Canton with Lake Constance in the distance and the Austrian hills beyond. Further on was a vast 17th century mansion with a windily bowing roof and a long row of tiny dormers, nearby, of course, was a little restaurant in exactly the right place where people had ice cream or wine and looked at the view.

I feel a bit like the character played by Sylvia Miles in the film “White Mischief” about the decadent Happy Valley English in Kenya. She would get up and take a shot of heroin and look at the gorgeous landscape before her and say “Another goddamned beautiful day.” This temporary dip in mood may be because there has been some news.

Josephsohn has good days and bad days I am told. And just a few weeks ago he was sitting across from me dining alfresco.

I got an email from Gallery Quynh in Ho Chi Minh City. Quynh has spent the past four months renovating and then re-renovating their new quarters in a former furniture warehouse near the French consulate. The site is now, suddenly, scheduled for demolition next month. This is how it goes there, where there is no transparency in government, no understandings in how to run businesses, and no right to recourse, to demand one’s rights in a courtroom for breach of contract. The landlord probably just wanted to keep the rent going as long as possible and either didn’t know or held back the information on the property.

Watching Ozu’s “Record of a Tenement gentleman” the scenes of Japan after the war made me miss Asia, already! It is about a woman who takes in a stray young boy. The boy wets the bed and the woman has to hang her old futon on the line to dry it out. It was the most inspiring object I have seen since I left Phnom Penh.

My girlfriend has emailed me that she does not want to continue. There have been backs and forths for weeks and I knew something was up but I was waiting for it actually to be stated. One needs that, to hear it. She was supposed to come over the beginning of August but that’s it. This is the end of a long relationship that has been sporadic at best for three years or so but very steady for the five before. We only recently attempted to try it again. We never really seemed to get along during the long period we went on. It was a constantly frustrating, puzzling situation. I had the best evening in the studio I had had in a while after I got the email.

July 19

I have a new pastime where I take a chair at six and sit by the river right behind the studio. It doesn’t get fully dark here until ten PM. It’s an obscure view but not a bad spot to read. I cannot stay up at the ponds where I swim for too long and read there because it’s too distracting and noisy. The river spot is for reading harder things: philosophy, theory, James. I try to make it to the river. I take my bike every day with sun to the ponds.

And I have stopped indulging myself in every available gelato, croissant, torte, and chocolate bar I cross and concentrate on the cherries, raspberries, peaches, charcroute rouge, fresh fish and vegetables that are widely available. With the exception of the place I was taken for dinner on my birthday, prepared food here is very good but undistinguished. The ingredients are great, though, the cheeses, yogurts, etc. They have the hardest working cows in the business. Their contentment seems to seep into the culture, it’s like all the edges have been rounded off of things here, I feel like I am in a retirement village, that I haven’t taken off my pajamas since I got off the plane.

After I have gotten something done in the studio I don’t go near it for days. I keep spending time in there, but I hardly touch anything. I go through these work cycles where I can’t get anything done that works, and spend much of the time looking at things that I don’t like and eventually reject. When something comes along that I don’t reject I take lots of time looking at it half expecting it to turn bad, which it often does. If it stays good I don’t seem to want to disturb anything in the studio for a while. Perhaps I am afraid that I will wake it up and it will get angry and make me unhappy, like it’s a sleeping father on a Sunday carpet.

I just finished reading a contemporary novel called “The Welsh Girl” by Peter Ho Davies. I had seen a capsule review in The New Yorker and noted it. I don’t know why. Then as the English bookstore in Zurich was closing, everything is always closing before you expect it to here, I grabbed a copy of it that was displayed because I needed something to read on the train. I read it more slowly than I expected to and though I will most likely not keep it, I hardly ever hold on to fiction after it’s finished, I felt an admiration for the writing.
It took place almost entirely in a small town in Wales during World War Two and switched off chapter by chapter between two characters, with a third occupying mostly the prologue and epilogue. The prose was calm, clear and almost colorlessly transparent. Certain contemporary observations were made about war, racism, language, and at one point I felt that it was a little too confidently film-ready. If there was feeling, sex, violence, anger, it was dealt with factually as it turned up. This was perhaps because the narrative was always conducted through the interior of one of the three characters each that had no one to talk to about what they were going through. Of the secondary characters there was one who seemed a device for comic relief but he deepened as the story progressed and was one of the minor surprises. The writing had no distinguishable style, it held so close to the story and its characters. It also gave Rudolph Hess a few cameo performances, which I suppose was something of an accomplishment. What I came away with was a sense of satisfaction that was very different from being impressed.
The book was not an experience so much as it was a fully and quietly articulated place.

I am slowly moving away from the fairgrounds

of the world

And I notice in myself a distaste

For the monkeyish dress, the screams and the


--from “Eyes” Czeslaw Milosz

“Perhaps the true society will grow tired of development and, out of freedom, leave possibilities unused, instead of storming under a confused compulsion to the conquest of strange stars.

It is not man’s lapse into luxurious indolence that is to be feared, but the savage spread of the social under the mask of universal nature, the collective as a blind fury of activity.”

Minima Moralia, 156 Theodor Adorno

Wednesday, July 18. It has been sunny and warm and my journal writing hours have been replaced by time spent taking my bicycle up through the small city into the hills beyond where I swim. The spring and stream-fed water was noticeably cold, and from it I am getting a cold again, or at least cold symptoms. But I can’t stop myself from going every day. I measure how good my summer is by how often I get in the water. I mentioned this to one of the Sitterwerk people and she said, “Well. I guess an excellent summer is when you are sick of swimming.” I don’t exactly understand local humor.

I had a dream last night that my Josephsohn piece that I have worked on endlessly was being replaced by a short review by someone else, an American sculptor who doesn’t write. I found out about it when the news was delivered to him while I was bent over tying my shoe and the editor didn’t see me. The dream woke me and I got up from bed and emailed the editor to see how the piece was going. The Armleder is much easier, and has been almost fun to write.

I had lunch with an American, Mark Brandl, another painter who also writes about art. He has lived in St. Gallen for a number of years and he said that the jail Armleder was put in for being a pacifist was like an institutional hotel and he sat around on Ikea furniture and made drawings. “It wasn’t like being in prison in Texas.” We sat in an outdoor restaurant in a plaza that was the center of a new bank complex. There was a competition, and two Swiss artists, Pippolotti Rist and Olivier Mosset, got commissions to do projects, Rist covered the area with a red rubber carpet, some that formed outdoor couches (it is certainly the lounge era, another idea that does not interest me) and suspended some white abstracted egg shaped spheres overhead.

The facade of the most interesting building, (that looks a little like Markli, but I have been unable to find out who it is,) is cast concrete broken up by windows framed in wood, a brutalist technique, a counterbalance of materials that Louis Kahn was fond of. There are grill insets between the windows; Mosset’s solution was to vary the patterns of perforations and used every Mercedes color available for the painted metal. I have been back to admire the building a number of times.

Going through the library shelves shortly after I arrived I came across two books on the painter Ferdinand Gehr, who was a Catholic and did a lot of work in churches around this part of Switzerland. The paintings in the book looked very good, early on, in the thirties he was quite the modernist, painterly bright colors and no shading, flat shapes, some almost Etruscan-looking decorative touches. He was a friend of the Arps; Jean owns some of his work. I saw several of his paintings in the St. Gallen Kunstmuseum today. Earlier in the week I went to a church in St. Georges, a small town up the mountainside from St. Gallen where I swim, to see Gehr’s work there, which I heard about from Brigitte Schmid, who interviewed me for the newspaper. Gehr, who died in ’96 at 100, (I remember when I mentioned him to Josephsohn he said, “I want thirteen more years, too.”) apparently did all the church decoration in several styles.

The side walls are frescoes done in a Puvis-type naturalism in powdery colors, the wall behind the altar is neo-cubist, with figuration towards the middle and a sandy, liturgical abstract pattern for most of the rest, in endless subtle variety, and then there are the stained glass windows, the best modern figuration in stained glass I have yet to see. But these damn churches are creepy. Something from my youth makes me very uncomfortable in them. I did not spend many happy hours in Catholic churches. But I am still surprised when this reaction takes place.

And I have been looking at a few Brice Marden books, drawings, mostly, and workbooks. I have always seen all his work and have a few books on him but have been wary for a lot of reasons, being so artistic, for one, though Jake Berthot is like that, too. But what ultimately gave me pause was that he was incredibly good but too uptight, I thought. I just did not think he came up to, say, Sigmar Polke or Per Kirkeby or George Baselitz, or Markus Lupertz or Claude Viallat or Howard Hodgkin, his European contemporaries who were less constrained, less afraid of materiality. Now is there a European who has reconciled painting and minimalism as good as Marden? Federle, he’s the same generation, maybe a touch younger. And, of course, Palermo, nobody’s as good as Palermo.

So I am going to have to go to Berlin and see this Marden show because I was in Vietnam when it was at the Modern, and he has gotten under my skin and is helping me do my work here because I have discovered what he does: he locates a problem for himself and then tries to get out of the tight spot that it is. I have been moving so slowly here, there are only two paintings after five weeks that I am at all happy with and one drawing, maybe two if the one I am working on holds up. If nothing else, Marden’s work speaks to the person working in his studio, the work is about the nature of working, among other things. It’s like the way Leonard Cohen writes songs that are so conscious of the activity of writing songs. And you can feel the work behind the words, or, more accurately, the pleasure in experiencing the crafting process.

Saturday, July 14. Bastille Day. It has mostly been raining for three weeks except for the weekend I had in Basel. I have moving my computer over to the library building to write about John Armleder, putting in two hours a day, treating it like a job, which it is, though my admiration for the work is increasing. I was in Zurich yesterday talking to one of his gallerists, Susanna Kulli, who said that he has amazing energy and concentration, and treats everyone the same, whether an assistant or museum curator, “everyone likes him, and it is how he has been able to get so much accomplished.” This is a talent that I have heard much about in reference to contemporary artists, being people persons. In interviews he talks about being shy and sensitive, and was surprised that he had spent seven months in prison for avoiding Swiss draft conscription.

But I also remember Shirley Jaffe talking about being in Paris in the 1950’s and witnessing an art movement that a group of painters and critics dominated and everyone took it for granted that they were the important artists of the era. “And now”, she said, they are all gone, nobody’s heard of them. Not that I think he is just a passing thing, how do I know? I have no claims on having an overview or of even really understanding the nature of contemporary experience.

July 8

Sunday. My birthday. 55. I am just getting started. I hope I am just getting started. Quiet earlier this morning and sunny then clouded over, looking like rain, it rained most of the week, now sunny again and the tractor across the creek is working the field. Most of the trash from the festival was gone by Tuesday afternoon; you would have hardly known it was ever there.

A problem this past Wednesday. A couple of the kids, well, they are in their 20’s and 30’s, but are like kids, in a nice way, from the foundry were in the large studio next to my space cleaning out a paint sprayer with thinner and it ended up going on all afternoon. The whole building filled with fumes and I got a headache and was feeling woozy, and also had some psychological effect. I got in an angry panic, not knowing how it was supposed to be handled. Katalin wasn’t around, she was out doing errands in anticipation of her and Felix’ vacation to their house in Amalfi, and I could no longer stay in the studio because of the fumes, so I went to see Philip, who had talked to me about photographing the Rondinone in my studio a few weeks earlier.

I saw him over in the workshop and told him that the fumes were killing me over in the other building and he said they were about finished. It went on the rest of the afternoon. By the time Katalin returned I was beside myself and started yelling when I saw her. I wasn’t yelling at her but letting off steam but she took it personally, she feels responsible for whatever reflects on the residency. I said something about being driven from the one home I have within five thousand miles for the second time in a week, the festival was the first time, and that didn’t help matters.

The worst part was that I felt out of control of myself. From the apartment painting I had done when I was younger I have lost all physical tolerance for these kinds of paint fumes. I seem to get an immediate reaction, and it seemed coupled with a feeling of being on some kind of nasty drug. This doesn’t seem to be in the realm of the local behavior, getting emotional in this way, angry, confrontational, and I had to apologize to Katalin and talk to the others about my physical reaction to the fumes. I felt sheepish about it, but took care of it quickly. Perhaps it is for the good

I also learned that there is not a hierarchy in the foundry, that everyone seems to work things out without an exactly in-charge person except, I guess, for Felix. The guys who were creating the fumes said, why didn’t you just come and tell us? It made me wonder if I naturally look for hierarchies, or assume that they are in place, or project them, the remnants of living under severe authority? The situation also made me angry. I thought I was not being considered. This was an odd reaction because I am being treated very well, very carefully. I got an email last night that Sitterwerk is taking me to dinner for my birthday but being that Katalin and Felix are away the librarian, Marina, is taking me. It’s pretty sweet here.

I went to Zurich yesterday and visited Le Corbusier’s final house, which I didn’t particularly like, but because of that it was easy to look for what might interest me, such as the combinations of architectural and sculptural space that also encompassed aspects of large scale painting. There was also the play of shadows and light, including reflections from the decorative pool on one side of the building that threw patterns on the underside of the architecture. This is a conceit that now enthralls me whenever I come across it. I never knew it existed before I noticed it at the Alhambra two years ago.

The Kunsthaus had a Fischli & Weiss retrospective and I already knew most of the work and I never found them so interesting other than the studio cause-and-effect film “The Way Things Go”. There was another film where they put on animal costumes and drove around and looked at things and it made me wonder about how we represent animals in humorous ways. Reading the later works of J. M. Coetzee, especially “Elizabeth Costello” you get indoctrinated into some of the attitudes of animal rights activists. It made me wonder if Fischli & Weiss animal dress-up act might not look like an “Amos n’Andy” routine in the future.

There was a large room at the museum full of big horizontal paintings. I have been trying to make horizontals so it was good to see them. There were three Polkes, a Katz and a Kiefer, which I ignored, as I usually do. I had just come from looking at a big painting by Robert Delaunay, who always stops me cold. No one ever seems to mention him. His contemporary, Picabia seems to be everywhere. It was what was then called a mural-sized painting, I know several of them, the Guggenheim takes theirs out now and then and the Beauborg usually has their mural-sized Delaunay on exhibit.

In the Picasso biography, he and Jaime Sabartes, disdained all the “academic” cubists, like Gliezes and Roger de la Fresnaye, but Delaunay, I remember, they took seriously, he was doing something, they thought. To my mind they are the most exhilarating paintings of that era. Well, there is Matisse but the ultimate Matisse exhilaration is the cutouts and tapestries, which come in the late forties and early fifties. Analytic and synthetic cubism may be a lot of things but it is the opposite of exhilarating, freeing, yes. Analytic cubism is sometimes compared to jazz, but it is not, I think, comparable to the jazz of the twenties. I think you have to wait until the early sixties for all that heroin-tinged hard bop that was recorded on Blue Note to find the hermetic, urban, intellectual/visceral soundtrack for the discovery of cubism. Johns ‘55-‘65, too.

The Polkes were almost thrice as big as the Delauney, but they were completely contemporary in that they were just big, like Home Depot is just big, there is no scale at all, no proportion, you may as well be walking around in virtual space. Polke is one of the great artists of our time but he is not about internal scale, for these paintings he just moved the opaque projector further away. The Katz, on the other hand, was doing its inimitable thing, with beautiful airy brushy space. Funny how he’s for the ages, really, you almost don’t need to render a judgment on him because you know he’s not going to go away. I used to think that about Serra, too.

I picked up a copy of the International Herald Tribune while waiting for the Zurich train yesterday and noticed on the back page that there was an exhibition of 99 paintings and gouaches by Serge Poliakoff at the Jewish museum in Munich. The last day is today. It was one of these birthday messages, it seemed like it was meant for me. I could have gone, it’s 3 hours by train, and was set to, but after pounding around Zurich I couldn’t put myself through another day of it. I was always drawn to the Poliakoff’s I’ve seen. I read online how he was friends with Delaunay and was interested in stained glass. But I wanted to be in the studio, or just around here.

I have a horizontal painting that is bugging me, I can’t figure out if it’s a keeper or not, what it has to do with what I am doing. This is an old-fashioned artistic problem, many of the artists I know don’t have this internal art critic, and many others have this very contemporary problem of having to be careful of what they are doing because they are doing so well. I been told more than once that “You know, I don’t know if I am doing any good work or not, I sell everything.”

Once again, thunder and rain has arrived. I thought I might ride the bicycle into town and even go up the hill to take a swim, but now I am lucky I didn’t. It is just far enough, over half an hour and mostly uphill, that I would have been stuck in the rain, which is not warm enough to enjoy. Katalin said that the nature of the weather here is that if it is a hot one day a rainy day will soon follow. Josephsohn is reported to be doing fairly well. The stroke has left one side of his body slackened, but he is aware of what is going on, wants to see his friends and although he has months of physical therapy ahead of him, he has informed the practitioner that she will need to see the films on him so that she will know the movements he will need to do to continue making sculpture.

I have been allowed to take one of the smaller Josephsohn half–figures from the foundry and it is on my writing table here. It is overcast and 4:30. I get picked up for dinner in an hour. I can look out and see green foliage. Summertime, but it hasn’t been that warm. I have been wearing a sweater indoors for two weeks now, though the days I was in Basel and Zurich it was warm and sunny. I am now writing an article on John Armleder, the survey/installation I saw in Boston. I have given myself two hours every afternoon to work on it. I take my materials over to the library and work there, which is where I went when the fumes got bad.

There is no emotional compensation to having 50,000 art books at your disposal when you are in a bad mood, I have discovered. I think perhaps another library, one full of literature, might provide some distraction, but books full of art don’t, any more. I can here the river outside, and the squawking of some birds. Sometimes the foliage parts and there is some movement in the fields through the trees, once I looked up and there was the rear end of a cow switching flies. Church bells are heard regularly, the hills soften them but they are a presence, a lovely one.

It cleared and early this evening Marian from the library took me to Appeznell, another Canton with an eccentric reputation, it was the last place in Switzerland to give women the vote, but has the best music. Roman Signier, who lives in St. Gallen, is from Appenzell. We drove up into the high hills and then walked up some more, and over a bluff the Massif was before us on the other side of a dark valley: high cliffs, grey stone outcroppings. Over to the left, past the plain where the Rhine flowed, the Alps went on and on, getting snowier in the distance where the Austrian Alps began. I remembered the romantic poets came here to contemplate the sublime. Freidrich came here to paint.

After a very good meal back in St. Gallen I am back in the studio trying to figure out of this painting is any good. I have been looking at Augusto Giacometti’s (Alberto’s cousin) stained glass in the choir of the Grossmunster in Zurich, taking pictures of the books in the library, buying postcards of color works by Johannes Itten, trying to understand what I am up to. Not a bad birthday, peaceful, a little lazy: a Sunday birthday.

July 3

Returned from three nights in Basel yesterday. The city depends on visitors for its trade fairs and museums and is a destination for business and cultural tourism. In this regard, it even has a central agency for booking Bed & Breakfasts which I took advantage of, arranging one eight days previous. A thick envelope arrived a few days before I left for Basel with the contract for my two night stay, a map of the city and a free pass for all public transportation, which is given to all visitors when they book a room in the city. I walked through a working class neighborhood near the train station and as I approached a large park, turned left onto a shaded tree-lined street and found the address. I walked through a drive that went under a park-front apartment house from early last century and into an open car park, there was a two story U-shaped building behind, 145 Gundelingstrasse. I went up flight of stairs and greeted Mrs. Tschudi, a woman in her late sixties. I was shown the bedroom that appeared untouched from when an adolescent, artistic daughter had been in residence, and lay down for a nap. As quiet as it was in the neighborhood, under the large old trees and flowerboxes, Mrs. Tschudi first engaged in a rather loud conversation in German with her cat outside my window and then answered the telephone and spent about twenty minutes speaking at the same volume. I gave up on the idea of taking a nap, but beyond that, I couldn’t help thinking that there was a territoriality being established, that I was being told that even though I was a paying guest, she was going to go about her house audibly in charge. I wondered how old the daughter was now and how often she visited, and thought about the early mornings of my adolescence when my father would noisily begin his day with the radio at high volume, long before his children needed to get up for school. It was a clear message that we were not to be taken into consideration, because if we were, it would amount to some kind of capitulation. I thought there might be something of this, some kind of resentment, attached to Mrs. Tschudi’s behavior. My own history with my father’s authoritarianism made witnessing the Vietnamese government’s manipulation and repression of its artists particularly painful and sad. The personal is political and vice versa.

I was supposed to meet the artist Daniel Gottin at the B&B at two but with no nap coming on, I changed plans. As I got up and ready to go out, Mrs. Tschudi got off the telephone, so I used it and called him to set an earlier time. We met by the train station and walked to an outdoor restaurant behind the Kunsthalle, where I had Vitello Tonnato under the generously spreading black limbs of the large old trees. We later went to his studio. Enroute, he showed what was to be the single most valuable thing I saw in Basel, St. Antonius church, a modern cast concrete building, rather brutalist and ahead of its time (c.1925) with a tower as tall as that of the Munster, city’s preeminent cathedral. We had drinks overlooking the Rhine, where a lone swimmer was pulled along downstream by the swift blue current. Minutes later she walked up past us, soaking. She was about Mrs. Tschudi’s age and appeared to do this every day.

Later, I met Felix and Heidi. I had heard about European people like this, i.e. intelligent, educated, haute-bourgeois or maybe just comfortably well-off professional/business people with genuine love of what is now called high culture. We sat in their large, lush garden behind their modest house, probably a few hundred years old but simultaneously modern, and had a few snacks and then Felix took me through the house and began to describe the meanings of the art they had taken possession of. He had very clear things to say about each, and also described where and why it was placed where it was. I had given them my catalog shortly after I arrived and Heidi had later mentioned one painting that she thought I would particularly like. At dinner I learned that she was a social worker and he studied law but had spent his life in the insurance business and was now retired and on the board of the company. He had a range of interests, including philosophy and astronomy.

The part about the insurance company explained how clearly he spoke, and how he would always meet my eye and wait for silence before he spoke, and did so most seriously and intently, just like an insurance man. The lecture continued after dinner, as we went through the rest of the collection, and my reservations about the whole odd (to me) event gave way and I came to feel that it was an honor to listen to him and would be to be in the collection.

The collection leaned towards monochromes and they had the inevitable Marioni. There was a terrific Rudolph De Crignis, a really lovely blue square, and Heidi was right, I liked Pierre-Andre Ferrand, they owned two of his paintings, one had a small square of unprimed jute with hole in it. The stretcher was carved or milled on a special form so that it bowed top and bottom. It made the center of the support slightly concave. Ferrand lives in Geneva and Krakow and is a devout Catholic. The hole in the painting signifies the wound in Christ’s side from the crucifixion. They gave me his catalog, which contains an essay about a Russian philosopher living in Germany who explains modern painting in terms of the Passion of Christ, all painting was one painting, put through torture, scratched, cut-up, singed, burned, made laughable. I was so taken with the work that I am considering making a trip to Krakow.

I got back to the flat around eleven-thirty and Mrs. Tschudi had gone to bed. I let myself in and put out the hall light as I was instructed. In the morning She had a very large breakfast prepared for me with fruit, croissants, eggs, toast cheese, ham, air-dried beef, a pitcher of orange juice and coffee. I was wary of her, and didn’t continue our morning conversation very long, the day before had set an unfortunate tone and I sensed she wanted to talk and felt affronted that I didn’t.

The first museum I went to was the Kunstmuseum. Most of the special exhibitions in town were of Americans and were all artists I admired but wasn’t overanxious to see, which in some ways is a plus, because one can get something unexpected from them. There was a show of Marden drawings that featured the working watercolor studies for the stained glass in the Munster, the Basel cathedral. Only three artists were invited to make proposals, his was chosen and then it was decided that the original glass was restorable so the Marden designs were never executed. I want a stained glass commission to the point where I am considering building a chapel, so the Marden studies were of value to me. I was in Vietnam for the retrospective, and I could still see it if I choose to go to Berlin. What is so attractive about Marden is his seriousness. Those drawings are full of deep regard for Cezanne and Newman and Li Po. Such a rare quality nowadays when artists seem to be modeling themselves after Eddie Haskell.

Upstairs was a Jasper Johns exhibition called “An Allegory of Painting 1955-1965”. It was a way of walking through those first ten years again, and one of the interesting things was the photographs of him painting in his loft, which I assume was in Coenties Slip where he lived in the fifties, it was still that early in his career, and how the ceilings were low, so that the drawing “Diver (For Hart Crane) ” which was not in the show, was only a few inches above the floor. The drawing is seven feet high and six feet wide and in the photograph it almost goes to the ceiling, which must have been only eight feet high. There is amazingly articulated space in that drawing, and the fact that he achieved it in that cramped space, and that there was such breadth in it, is extraordinary. Looking at the targets again, I thought of them as being like Zen exercises, the Cage influence, so that he was trying to think of something to paint that was nothing, that was blank; he could paint and empty himself at the same time. There was one very impressionist yellow and green target that he owned that was as pretty and as empty as a high school cheerleader.

His famous irony comes from the acutely self-conscious theatricalization of the gesture, how he makes the gesture an object, rather than an expression, by attaching objects. Then those rulers, scraping, measuring, punishing, but lovely how the paint splashes up onto the edges of the them and the attached raw wood, like islands. There was another small heavily waxy painting that he also owned I have never heard of or seen before called “Painting Bitten by a Man” that reminded me of Paul Thek. Also, a rainbow-hued handprint made in Tokyo and a vertical painting, ‘Slow Field” that was pretty, too and full of surface light. What stopped it from being too much was its delicate draftsmanship and weird detachment, because Johns is an expressionist, a schizoid one. I know of no other artist whose work makes you feel like he is watching you watching him make the painting. A drawing called “Edisto” appeared to be improvised around the impression of the bottom of shoe.

Johns acute self-consciousness has led him to become deeply invested in trompe-loeil: drawn illusionisms and tucks of strokes underneath other strokes, it’s all amazingly virtuosic, (which is how I felt about a lot of the Marden drawings too, but not the stained glass studies) and in this way the comparisons to Cezanne are slightly off because Johns undermines the modulation of surface that Cezanne sought through Johns endless illusionistic puns. He literalizes the digits of the mark into typography, true, and is constantly combining and switching mediums to do this, but I came away being taught something, as always, but not feeling much. The “Watchman” painting was probably the best thing in the show, because it was blunt and dark and unfussy.

Elsewhere in the Kunstmuseum was their world-renowned collection of Holbein paintings, the master of the face, and two paintings by Adrien Brouwer, the funniest painter in the history of art. In his poem “The Card Players” Philip Larkin might have been looking at Brouwer:

"Jan von Hogspeuw staggers to the door
And pisses at the dark.
Outside, the rain
Courses in cart-ruts down the deep mud land.
Inside, Dirk Dogstoerd pours himself some more…”

I sat outside in a side street of the old city and stared at the side of a church, read from John Updike’s “Self-Consciousness”, a series of essays about himself, his childhood, his psoriasis, adulteries, social-climbing, phobias and in “On Not being A Dove” his personal experience of the Sixties. I have come to admire his writing style while barely liking him, which I think makes him a very good writer. I have not forgiven him for a review of the new MOMA or his other art writing, which I will not go near, but these personal essays and the novels where he portrays what he knows well. I have read “Couples”, for example, three times.

I finished my mineral water and salad with poached fish, had an espresso and some dense nut cake, a local specialty, and decided to go out to the Foundation Beyerler, a trolley ride into some pleasant countryside. I have heard oohs and ahs about this place from a number of people. It’s another Renzo Piano museum, with a canopy style roof and natural light.

I got off the trolley and across the road from the museum was a public park with a temporary stage set up and a terrible rock band was blaring away like the idiots that they are. Apparently when one raises a child it is to be expected that they will spit and dribble their food all over themselves when they are being fed. It’s something they eventually grow out of. In western society at this point in time, people need to hear really loud stupid music until they’re about fifty or so, and then one hopes they will grow out of it. Until that time, much of both commercial and even more rarefied forms of contemporary culture will aspire to this condition in the hopes of appealing to this feral sense of pleasure.

The infantile bass line continued inside the temporarily blighted museum, and I walked into a room that had a three-panel “Water lilies” on one wall and a long couch across the way. I looked over its length (I am thinking about making some horizontal paintings) and at the dry brushstrokes and thought about how this was the Monet that was such an influence on Jake Berthot back when. I went up to it to take a closer look at the brushstrokes and an alarm beeper went off. As I continued passing through the other rooms of the museum I could occasionally here it getting tripped again. There were gardens and paths surrounding the building and the rear of it faced a big cornfield. As is common with most new museums, there was a long corridor with couches in order that on can look out on it. The new Boston ICA has the same thing where you can look over the harbor. All of the smaller paintings in the museum were under glass; including those in the retrospective of fearless Edvard Munch, a much better selection than had been in NYC.

One could not take advantage of the countryside with the music blaring through it, so I went back to the city and decided to perform the errand of picking up a book on the poet Robert Lax that was a publication of the Tinguely museum. The building by Mario Botta had the obligatory glass porch looking over the Rhine. Though there was not much there of interest to me, I wanted to pay my respects to the artist; after all, I had come to his museum, so I went up to the third floor. The guard told me I could start the sculptures, I said, “Yeah. I know”, and I pressed my foot on the floor button and looked at “Lola T. 180-m Memorial pour Joakim B.” a memorial to Joakim Bonnier, a great friend of Tinguely’s. The sculpture as assembled from pieces of the racecar that Bonnier died in. I stood there and tried not to somehow like it, which wasn’t possible, but sympathize. I looked at the animal skulls turning, the urns flanking either side, the dancing wooden cross in the middle, and the praying kitsch figure on the track moving back and forth in the rear and could only relate to the impulse to memorialize the dead with one’s art, which I have done.

There was time remaining to go to the Kunsthalle, and then I had another meal at the restaurant under the trees and went to see “Ocean’s Thirteen” a movie I would have never seen in NY but I didn’t want to spend the evening listening to Mrs. Tschudi.

I headed out to Schaulager on Sunday morning. The invented word “Schaulager” means viewing warehouse and it is an art open storage facility for a foundation with an exhibition program. There was a Robert Gober survey that had a lot of work from the past three decades and included two of his installations, one they owned and was permanently installed in the basement. I was glad I got there early, there was only a few people in the exhibition spaces and his work requires some calm, I think. I had included one of his litter bag sculptures in the first show I curated at Apex Art and I had noticed that he had signed the book at my show so I wanted to look the show over, though, like the Johns, I was not inclined to. Once again, because Gober is such good artist, like Johns, and his work is like Johns’ in many ways, it was time well spent. I thought about his debts to Edward Hopper and to Donna Dennis, but mostly about his Catholicism, which of course I could relate to. The sinful aura of the body, it strangeness and forbiddenness is everywhere in the show, including a piece I had never seen of children’s legs on a hearth. The urinals that are like baptismal fonts, and the covered chair with the hand-drawn flower patterns, it occurred to me, was Buddhist—a lotus throne.

A number of early works from the seventies were included and the drawings were astounding, in the style of naïve line drawing and finger shading from high school art classes, but immensely sly and observant. Views out the window on the city, cigarette packs, a bottle of Ivory liquid where he brings out the bridal, wedding dress shape, a drain rack of dishes with the cup handle pinched around a prong. I kept slowing down more and more, watching the visual rhymes appear, the teeth on the boy on the large Farina Box looking like the sinks, the inks are enamel like teeth, etc., entering the waking dream atmosphere.

Then I remembered the dream I had the night before. Scott Caan, the actor from Ocean’s Thirteen, who I also saw in something else and plays vulgar jerk in both, is in my dream and somehow puts me under so I can get a haircut. When I come to, my hair has been dyed jet black and slicked back in some awful punk way and my eyebrows have been replaced by little steel bb’s with steel hairs coming out of them. I know I can grow my hair back but am upset about the plastic surgery. The dream must have something to do with feeling victimized by ubiquitous rock and roll culture. Haircuts in dreams are symbolic castration.

To return to Gober, thinking about the urinals as teeth and the cribs as jails, and then going downstairs to see the Virgin Mary statue and the flowing water and the early sculpture of the church with the roof open titled “Prayers are Answered” that he is, in fact, looking for God. The visual correspondences he continues to find are a form of Gnosticism; the search for a distant all-powerful force through observing mysterious coded emanations.

I returned to St. Antonius and it was open so I spent time looking at the interior, with all its stained glass and cast concrete, which informs my painting more than looking at paintings or contemporary art. Then I strolled around ancient Basel, walked by the Rhine some more, looked into the Munster, where the Marden stained glass would have been very effective, it has an interesting austerity. Then went to the Kunstmuseums annex for contemporary art where I watched a twenty-two minute video by Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson called “East/West” where she challenged everything he said, and he, very drunk and stoned, told her she didn’t know anything and was going back to California where people were real.

That evening I returned to the Beyerler where I had purchased a ticket for an evening of string quartets. I sat in a small audience, of about one hundred and fifty people over fifty and thought “I am down here with Ravel and Beethoven and Newman and Rothko are above me in the galleries.” Most of the quartets were made up of students from the International Music Academy of Switzerland; I was in very good hands. It is under the direction of Seiji Ozawa, who impishly conducted the assembled string orchestra for the final Bartok “Divertimento fur Streichorchester”.

The next morning it was raining I had a friendly chat with Mrs. Tschudi. She told me I should learn German and thought I was English because I speak so well. As I got on the train to Zurich, a kid flopped down in the seat across from mine, threw off his backpack and applied roll-on deodorant to his underarms by reaching in through the neck of his shirt. Later, I couldn’t stop staring out the window. Upon my return to Sitterwerk, I was able to watch a casting being made of a Josephsohn half-figure. They even put flowers around the opening of the mold before they pour in the liquid bronze. I am going to borrow a small Josephsohn to keep here in the studio. It’s good to be back and I am already at work.

“I admire Pasolini's humanity and I certainly would feel lucky to achieve in my life one-tenth of what he did, but I am, quite sincerely, allergic to the grandiosity of the artist-as-public-conscience as well as the artist-as-pop-star, these are roles that require a certain degree of self-delusion and a great deal of relentless self-promotion.” Gary Indiana

June 26. It has been close to chilly here for almost a week and I have temporarily stopped swimming in cold ponds, as lovely an experience as that might be. This is mostly because I have a cold that has gotten so bad it kept me up through most of two nights. Then a good nights sleep last night after a trip to the pharmacy. I asked the English-speaking pharmacist for cold pills for daytime and for nighttime. I was brought a Swiss product that combined both in the same package. The nighttime capsules were dark blue and had a tiny yellow crescent moon on them and the daytime capsules were white and had a little yellow sun. One can buy the same combination in the US, but if you lose the box, and don’t remember the color-coding of the capsules you could become sleepy all day and up all night.

This is one of the ways that Europe can be satisfying: situations that are considered; thought through, and why being in Southeast Asia was just harsher than the US but not so different. There is the same lack of integration of the social fabric. Still, the more I travel the more I like the US. This has a lot to do with simple familiarity, and missing it, as much as I couldn’t have picked a better place to recuperate, if that’s what I am doing, than here.

The article on me came out in the local newspaper today and the rough translation sounded pretty good. Whatever it said “Der amerikanische Kunstler Joe Fyfe” is happy with any print that makes him sound like someone whose paintings one would want to buy. The studio photograph is rather dramatic and borders on being broodingly lit. I look like I might lunge at the camera. Der Romantik Kunstler. There is finished and unfinished work behind me on the studio walls and on the floor.

I am going to Basel tomorrow for a long weekend, hastened out of the region by “Open Air St. Gallen” the rock festival being set up right over the river from here. I can already see through the trees that people are arriving and there will most likely be some unwanted bass pulsations coming through tonight. I am on the last day of my piece on Josephsohn. News came on Saturday that he had had a stroke. He is at present out of intensive care but there is no saying yet how severe it is. He is aware of what I being said to him, and it is entirely possible that a full recovery may come about. I hope and pray that is the case.

So it has been about five days of sitting around nursing my cold and changing words in the piece. I don’t know if I have ever gone over 3500 words so many times before. I did a version last October and then it sat all winter when I was away. Being here brought new information and I have been working on it all month. I sent it to my editor last week. He said he couldn’t get to it for a week or two so I went back to work on it and I have been revising over and over, it’s like molding clay, it is only now that the process is beginning to feel like it has a plasticity.