February 20,1997

Dear Terence,

  how went the conference in Mexico? Am about to embark on a road tour myself soon. Enjoying the state of motivating semi-angst as my paranoid (or is it realistic?) part estimates the disasters which might attend the launching of my blood and bones into material space. Going to try and co-ordinate it with Cyberville by issuing regular road reports. That might solve the problem of what to do with all that excess nervous energy after the gig. Debrief!

  It's been seven years since I performed my solo show onstage. Re-establishing old neural pathways to the guitar and re-learning repertoire has been a full time occupation. One interesting thing about a long lay-off is that there's a chance to retrain old habit paths and take a different approach. One reason I stopped doing it was the feeling that development had become encrusted with habit. Entropy. A singing stone. Established paths between memory and reflex become "safe," and safety leads to stagnation. It's hard to avoid accumulating a repertoire of moves which have proven successful, and thus avoiding risk. On the other hand, a risk successfully taken becomes, in turn, a part of the bag of tricks. Stage Darwinism. As with anything having to do with the law of entropy as regards human habit, formulating the problem in personal terms is the only workable way of remaining conscious.

  Stage presentation is a mix of attitude and metaphor, assuming that content is metaphoric. Attitude inclines an audience to acceptance or rejection of the metaphor(s). Never mind "real." Real is some kind of breakdown in the process - a microphone on the fritz, a busted string, a fire in the theater. But the audience is very concerned with the metaphor of "the real." They require a beginning, a middle and an end. Stage context. The audience has a feeling of multiplicity, although they are truly only multiples of one. Some mighty subtle alchemy in that set of circumstances. But the performer, or band, or corps de ballet, is also only one - albeit a different one than the one of the audience: the "presenter" of the metaphor through the agency of attitude, as distinct from the receiver of the metaphor. A dissonance is created when a member of the audience decides to switch roles with the performer and draw the attention to himself. For a musical presenter, that would amount to catcalls - whereas a presenter such as yourself, one who encourages discussion, is involved in a more byzantine interaction with the audience.

  From what you've told me, it sounds like you're often involved in situations where someone attempts to move the power of presentation from the stage to their own seat. I would think that grasping the structure of the audience dynamic in a theoretical way, keeping that in mind along with the actual subject of discussion, would aid in retaining the modicum of control which leads the audience to adoption of the metaphor under discussion, hopefully enlightening them to the nature of metaphor AS metaphor, rather than allowing the talk to degenerate into picking apart the metaphor itself. Obviously, every metaphor is vulnerable and attitude has as much to do with defending it as does adroit argument.

  Theorizing on what an audience "is" is one of my favorite on-the-road hobbies. It can be one sympathetic individual through whom you address the rest of the assembled persons, or it can be the self-projection of a hostile aggregate waiting for you to make one wrong move then pounce! Or you can see the crowd qua crowd. But one thing is certain - both sides of the stage crave acceptance, the grounds leading to a sense of mutual respect and unity of purpose which is the desired outcome of performance art. You might even say it's real.

  Not telling you anything you don't already know! Just articulating for the record. Hope this burgeoning Spring finds you percolating with health and new ideas. So far the only word that seems to fit 1997 is "vivid." Personally, it's like busting out of a thirty year cocoon hungry for adventure. So much happening at once. My experience seems to fit your metaphor of the cultural endgame to a T. Useful, that.

As ever,

31 Mar 1997

Dear RH-
It has been some time since we have talked. Lots of water under the bridge and the world just keeps turning beneath our feet. Since last we talked I have been to Australia. It is, as the locals seem eager to tell you, "All desert." Nevertheless you can see blue gum forests that seem to stretch endlessly to the horizon. And some of those Acacias are reservoirs of DMT. This is all being studied by freaks and ethnochemists in the broad and deep Australian underground and soon they will startle the world with the details. But it is clear that the Aboriginals have known for some time about all this, like since the beginning. Since I was in Sidney with some time on my hands, I looked at and educated myself concerning opals. Australia has the world's best. They, more than any other stone, seem to bring home the truth of Huxley's observation that our human fascination with jewels and cut stones is a reflection of our
nostalgia for the psychedelic experience. They are like visions and hallucinations and reduced to a gravel spread before the mind's eye. Mere silica in the same sense that we are "mere carbon".

  Then I came home, hung around for ten days and then got a flu that seems to have hit everyone around here. It peaked just in time for the Heaven's Gate brouhaha and while I was reading Ben Okri. His new novel "The Famished Road" The man writes so well of hallucinatory African village life that after you read him you have to check the soles of your shoes.But the flu combined with a media frenzy and a suppurating literary stylist left me spent.

  Now in a couple of days I am on to the mainland for a five city tour that will take me to Seattle, Boston, Manhattan and Atlanta among other sites. The spring dash to the mainland for money. I am hoping that it will be dogwood time in Georgia. And after that a real rest, not just a couple of weeks but three real months without having to travel or face the public. Can paradise be more than this?

  I imagine that your life can not be anything less than equally complicated. If it is not one thing then it is another. While touring I will stop and see my father, he has had a pacemaker installed recently and is not finding it a very comfortable experience. I welcome the feeling that life is battle as long as it is accompanied by the feeling that I am winning. Life is good but all projects move with maddening slowness. Still, I tell myself, this is simply rearranging the furniture.I am here, I have the books, have the connection. Presentation and highproduction values will have to wait just a little bit longer. And definitely there is a silly season of some sort in full cry. Heaven's Gate indeed! Raises that question that is raised by all weird shit: Who writes this stuff?

  Anyhow I hope that life is treating you well and that this somewhat gnarly missive finds you fit as a fiddle.



April 22, 1997

Dear Terence,

  hope that Georgia dogwood was in fine bark when you hit the mainland. You're right about the complexity generated in these parts. Not sure which hat to take off the hatrack some days, but it's a grand perplexing time full of second chances and double takes. Dormant abilities awake in response to .reasonably daring and detailed decisions. Protecting the center becomes more than a meaningful concept and acquires the status of operational necessity. Casting my fate to the winds and expecting to spend the rest of this existence chasing it down with periodic shutdowns for rest, repair and recharging. You mention: "I welcome the feeling that life is battle as long as it is accompanied by the feeling that I am winning." That seems a cogent statement to which I gladly subscribe. Can only add: "Don't shoot until you see the whites of their eyes!"

  You wrote: "Heaven's Gate indeed! Raises that question that is raised by all weird shit: Who
writes this stuff?" My take on it is: Heaven's Gate showed what people of strong faith living in isolation can convince themselves of. Most (all?) religious groups try to impose a stricture to avoid association outside the faith except for business necessity. Very important to lose all sense of proportion and relativity in order to fully actualize obsession. Whole nations have been known to indulge. From Kamikaze to Jonestown to Heaven's gate: some kind of neural susceptibility in the human psyche plays at the same pool table as the appropriate faith we need to counter stark existentialism. Our strength and our weakness as a species is the need to believe in what is not quite demonstrable outside of faith, opening the door to sacred and secular power ploys that take advantage of this basic need. Totalitarian governments do it for "the people," monarchies for The King, religions in the name of holy writ and racial gods. All demand human sacrifice as token of true belief. Expect we'll need aeons of evolution, achieving major modifications in the brain, as a species, before that glitch is ironed out. To some degree, I think that the problem is inherent in all of us. Is it part of the natural selection process? Once that question is raised, the only answer seems to be: what isn't?

  Certain outlaw minds seem to suspect that chemicals, specifically tryptimines, may hold some part of the answer: chemicals that act on the brain in such a way as to make the nature of the "script" more evident, regardless of who wrote it. Leaders, who have an interest in assuring that those they lead continue to be easily led, can be expected to differ. Could end up in anarchy. Actually, there's more chance it would end up in democracy: another frightening possibility. Can you imagine the reign of terror that would ensue if large groups of people were to end up loving their neighbors as themselves because they realize that their neighbors ARE themselves? (I think this situation is technically known as the Second Coming.) So it's Acacia trees in Australia, is it? Who'd have thought. Those jokers!

  Hope your tour is going well. Mine starts in a week. Regardless of the stress, there's no question that this is an important time to be out in the world doing what we do, with as much company as possible. Would seem wrong not to. The times are too perilous. As usual.

all best,