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Notebook 2006

Date: 2006

I have been here
for oh so long

I haven't been there
for days

Somewhere nice
Should I pay the price
But could I stand their ways?

I can't run, but I can skip
and you ought to see my pushups


In the play
of dominance
the wrong are
always remembered

In the play
of authority,
the lesser are
always reminded

is reminding
the lesser



"Of all things, brown!" Is what they all said after I had painted my room brown. Even at an earlier age when wax crayons were the joy of my life, I colored with brown by outlining all the black and white illustrations with brown. Finally there were no brown crayons in my color set. "Just use black, it's the same thing!" But black is not brown.

Umber, the peau de soie of brown, is an uncommon word pulled out from the heavy baggage of unused words. Amber is a word one would say openly and with ease. Anyone would say amber, perhaps because its a sort of jewel and a person's name. It is difficult using the word Umber in general conversation.

Using the word Umber I can go into all kinds of discussions. There is a Raw Umber and there is a Burnt Umber which are particular colors, one being warm and tinted with red, which is Burnt Umber, and Raw Umber is tinted with blue and or green.

Brown was always settling and had a quality like no other color. In my home town there was the Brown Shoe Factory which I thought only made brown shoes. At that time no man wore black shoes. Black was for members of an orchestra, sailors, and ministers. Leather is brown, and welcomes brown dye. Earth is brown. Brown can have a tint that goes warm and a tint that goes cool.

Brahms is brown filled with all colors.

Black is not brown, they are the darkest colors.

Brown is down. When all colors are mixed together the results should be black, but it isn't black, it's brown. As a child I colored all the black lines of my crayon color book brown before I began filling in the other colors. There was a shoe factory in my home town and it was called the Brown Shoe Factory. I thought that this factory made only brown shoes. No one wore black shoes except when dressed for an occasion. Black shoes were only worn by members of an orchestra, sailors, and clergy. I didn't know the Brown Shoe Factory was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Brown of St. Louis.

In pigment, basic brown is raw Umber. This color is made from earth originally from Umbria in Italy. This color can be heated and burnt into bricks and that color turns out to be burnt Umber, a red chocolate wet color. But it's Raw Umber I find necessary when painting.

There were movies printed in sepia in my childhood (and) they were shown on Saturdays when I went to a double feature. They were usually cowboy films. It was Sunday when the black-and-white films were presented and they seemed to be more truthful. My Dad went with me on Sundays and suddenly technicolor appeared on Sundays. A full color film. Reality went away again. Technicolor was forced and over registered and I lost my atmosphere of sepia and sepia dreams.

In New York, I rented an apartment on Avenue B. It was on the top floor of a six-storey tenement building and had a kitchen, where one entered, a second room the same size as the kitchen, with two windows looking out on a fire escape, then a small room on the other side of the kitchen which was a bedroom. This bedroom had a window in the wall through which one looked into the kitchen and, when lying down, the ceiling light. The kitchen was painted the typical off-white found in public housing, and the room with the windows and fire escape was painted a rosy pink with some drawings and smeared graffiti on two walls. The drawings were typical pencil drawings of a male profile always facing left, the type of drawing which shows up in bus stations. I've seen them in Chicago, Indianapolis, and Washington D.C. It's a strong cartoon-like image with no experience behind it, like tattoo designs. The graffiti was large and mostly read, "Mr.King," "I am the King," and "King of the World." There was something unconvincing about all this and (it was) a great relief to paint over it with white paint. It bothered me greatly that the rosy pink paint was not applied all the way to the ceiling, but only as far up as a person could reach. The ceiling was white gray, which continued down the walls, then covered haphazardly with the roller application of rosy pink. As a painter, I found it a delight to paint over it.

The small bedroom had a shelf and a horizontal well-placed pipe under it which held clothes hangers. As I lay on the bed looking through the window at the kitchen light I could see another window. It was small and so high on the wall I had to stand on the cot bed to see through it. This window had hinges on the left side and opened like a door. When all the lights were out in the apartment, I could see a slight glow of light washing the back wall of this little room. It was easy and comfortable lying on this cot, looking at the ceiling with the timid wash of light peeping into the room.

There I began thinking of how I enjoyed the room and the timid window light high on the wall. If the room were a darker color the light would be brighter. I painted the room Raw Umber. I painted everything, the window frame, the shelf, the pipe on which I hung clothes, and realized a great reward when I lay in bed in this darkened room with a glow of light near the ceiling. Here I decided to stay in New York and continue my life as an artist.

I moved to West 74th Street, to a seven-room apartment which had two bathrooms. The rooms varied in size, and I settled for the largest room to be my studio. There was a bedroom and as I settled the move I painted the bedroom Raw Umber, ceiling, doors, and even the door knob. I was again in a raw umber sepia cloud.

Raw Umber makes shadows. Raw Umber is cool and slightly dusty. It was originally made from ground earth from Umbria in Italy and remains abundant there. In small towns in Umbria, in hardware stores, there are wood bins containing this brown dust. It is a finely ground dust waiting to be mixed with water to become paint. I have lowered my hand into this dust and squeezed it and like wheat flour it squeaks. It is easy for the hand to descend to the bottom, there is no resistance, just a world of fine dust, the true raw umber. In other bins there is sienna, both burnt and raw. As a child there were times when a part of a covered shed would be boarded off to make a storage space to hold rye grain. It was a large area holding a truckload, and the rye grain was stored until the time when it was hauled to be ground and mixed with fodder then fed to the cows in winter. I could slip into this storage which was at least four feet deep and plunge down under all these rye grains, pretend swimming, hide, and be in an ocean of grain. This is what I thought of upon discovering those bins of pure raw umber, just a thought, just a moment of swimming and lolling in a vast storage of raw umber dust.


There is no July
where sight passed through green glass

with a Renoir dapple

I have no July
it's already gone by
taking the daffodils

I saw it pass
through the green glass
of light flickering
now and then

I know it saw me
waiting there
for it to light up the trees
I heard it tightening the corn
solidifying crops
and felt it before it was here
and as I ran out to welcome
July I saw it disappear