Dad was a World War II vet, heading for North Africa as a teen, escaping his cop dad/ head of security at Mare Island shipyard and schoolteacher mom and the Barbary Coast shipyard town for a wider world (on the troop carrier, young and excited, reading the Russians? Biography of Nijinsky?), stringing communication lines across North Africa. Jumped off telephone poles when shot at, broke his ankle. Fond memories of recovering in a desert tent, Arab camp women (prostitutes, I assumed).  So in his last years at the convalescent facility, they framed a picture of him—blasted white by age, by alcoholism—by his bed, captioned, “US Army 1942 – 1945, Rank: Tech 5th grade, stationed in Africa.” I carried the box of his ashes from that Northern Calif. town and tossed them in three parts—one at the foot of a big tree above the General Grant tree in Sequoia National Park, another third in the Pacific surf at the mouth of the Golden Gate on a bright windswept beautiful day (then crossed the Golden Gate into S.F. and checked into a hotel, read at City Lights Bookstore), the last third under a citrus tree in my backyard. Some of course swirled around my vehicle driving across Calif. Dad named me after a 15th century Japanese Zen painter, and I grew up around art ideas, looking at art, thinking things like, “We have artists in the family.” But, really, dad was a failed artist. I used to think that you could not fail as an artist—because every artist, writer, creative thinker, fails sooner or later. So even if you have nothing to show, success remains incipient, because you have survived, so I used to think that as an artist you are really that much more alive—you have done something, created something as an artist. The creative impulse remains alive within you, like DNA. But maybe that’s not true. Because a countervailing force—his alcoholism—worked to erase that creativity and every artistic idea and ideal he held in his life, till at the end, nothing was left of it. Recently, someone asked me what’s left of his paintings, where are they? “They all got thrown away, somewhere along the way,” I said. Long before that, he had disappointed, debunked and destroyed everyone’s faith in him, his promises, or his “art.” It’s true, my sisters kept a couple paintings. One sister chopped up a painting into small pieces, which she framed. That’s what I think of Socialism.

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