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SPERLONGA WRITERS RETREAT JOURNAL – DAY FIVE

I am falling behind on my intention to post daily about my writing retreat experience (lost in the wilderness of Social Media, marketing, SEO, Bots and Billions like me trying to be heard—sticking to my goal matters only to me). It is a dream—I am writing hour upon hour. Which mirrors the why of writing. Do you write for publication or do you write because it is impossible not to write—impossible not to hope you can bring a new perspective to the discourse? Change not only your narrative but to resist retrograde failed resurgent narratives, fantasies that circulated in the dark holes of fascists, racist, white supremacist to enthralled to Christian crusades. Do you write not to save yourself, family, friends, but the country but the world from the nihilist seductive hateful racist cultural flame spares no one especially not the child playing with matches. We are easily led by false prophets promising exceptionalism and world supremacy. Despite billions upon billions of Bibles printed, bought, preached we still believe the distortions of the words of God and Jesus and Allah used by power hungry greedy “religious” and political leaders.

I am with Bill Mahar religion as practiced by Christianity, Judaism, Islam, even Buddhists in Myanmar, is bankrupt. Stoking the fears of the faithful ignited most past wars. Homer’s Iliad may be an exception in that the mythicized account of Helen’s beauty inspired the Trojan War when she left her husband or was abducted by another man. Of course, Helen was viewed as a prized possession and legacy, so the war in the end still was about power, land, and the favor of gods and goddesses. The main excuse for war, of course, is conquest. Religion is a cloak, the Marxian opiate, a land grab on the afterlife secured by death in the glory of war (also from Homer’s Iliad).

There is no glory in war, to be a warrior is to be a state-sanctioned sociopath, a mass murderer. But first, the state, reinforced by craven religious leaders, state religion, and state media, must define patriotism in nationalistic slogans taught in state-sanctioned textbooks, reinforced by media, entertainment and the best form of subliminal brainwashing, consumerism.

How else can we learn to define our neighbors as friends or foes except through massive campaigns of reinforced messages? Marketing. How can boys and now girls taught to play nice kill women and children? War breaks the warrior and our military men and woman are warriors broken physically and mentally. Their state pawns used to recruit the next generation of warriors. We are a warrior nation no less than Spartan, no less than Nazi Germany. But unlike Germany, we never stop to reassess our history. Yes, there will always be Hitler imitators. The world is teaming with them now even in the country proud of its legacy of defeating Hitler, Nationalism, Racism, Anti-Semitism, the systemized rounding up of groups of people the state declared “undesirable.”

Fascist Nationalism was defeated!

DEMOCRACY WON! 

Can somebody please tell me why the United States Congress is scarifying our freedom—everyone’s freedom including White men and Evangelicals for Authoritarian Dictatorships that have failed throughout history as recent as the older white men and women whose fathers and grandfathers fought and died in World War II to defeat the very Nationalism they now support?

We were the good guys! The Nazis and Fascists were the bad guys! We wore the Stars and Stripes! They wore the Swastika! What did the fuck happen to us? What happened to the Republican Party? One answer is the “religious” right (wrong). The craven abuse of the once silent minority that is now the boisterous White Evangelical and National Rifle Association. They like Hitler turned the tables on their Frankenstein creator’s arrogance. The Republican Party made the same misguided mistake the ruling Weimar Party made thinking they could control the monster. The Republican Party lost control and has been co-opted by the Christian-Evangelical Right, The National Rifle Association, The Freedom Party, The Freedom Caucus, White Nationalist Supremacists, and Donald Trump. History repeats itself and Democracy gets agita.

There must be a broken connection somewhere to be able to look in the face of a child and see a deadly enemy.

Since September 11, 2001, our government has turned its people, US, into heartless wraiths. Donald Trump is no accident. He is the fulcrum in the plot to destroy our Constitutional system and replace it with a One-Party, Oligarchy based on the Putin model.

And if that is over the top and baseless why doesn’t the Republican Party defend the Declaration of Independence and Constitution they once wrapped themselves in. Why are unborn embryos and unlimited access to assault rifles more important than our founding principles hundreds of thousands have given their lives to defend uphold and preserve?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

The only possible answer is craven greed! A plot by whom for whom? Do any Republican Senators truly believe their ill-informed—misguided policies are for the good for the country? What do they know and when did they know it? Why do they want to starve children physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually? What deformed master race delusions have they brewed to gum up the works of every democratic institution set in motion since the end of World War II? Are they just geriatric bitter old white men and women? Once the Republican Party purported to have ideals. Small government and low taxes but each time they get the gavel the Republican Congress bludgeons the deficit. Are Republicans at heart anarchist?

The Republican Party has repeatedly endangered every institution set in motion since World War II. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and a whole host of Nixon career bureaucrats and Neo-Cons mixed and stirred the attack on the World Trade Center. The lethal martinis and elitist cocktail chatter to take over the office of the presidency. The presidency slipped out of the Republican’s slimy grip with Barack Obama simply put they got sloppy inside their incestual bubble. But, Fox News, Right-Wing Radio, The Tea Party and gerrymandering along with the Supreme Court Citizens United decision to allow a handful of Oligarchs to deluge local and state races with campaign millions and with an assist from Mega Churches, Putin’s Russia and Social Media they won it back. Trump is all that was needed to seal closed and cement the door shut.

And so, I am reminded of another reason that drove me to flee to Sperlonga, to escape the disgusting display of racist hate and populist ignorance of the present White House occupant. Donald Trump is not in himself the danger to the United States and the world. The Republican Party’s inability to lead enables the travesty Donald Trump perpetrates with every Tweet to destroy the country.

The Civil Rights Movement and the anti-war protests against the Vietnam War succeeded in creating a more liberal equal country. Jim Morrison sang Five in One Baby, One in Five. They got the guns but we (still) got the numbers.

We still have time to stop the slide down the slippery slope to an Authoritarian Nationalist Racist Country. The voting has begun despite your age, race, color, creed, gender and party affiliation, the time is now!

It would not matter if Trump, the Oligarchs, the Republican Party, put a million dollars in each citizens bank account. It would not matter if unemployment dropped to zero. It would not matter if World Peace breaks out. All those are great shiny objects that even authoritarian dystopias employ. Lipstick on a pig.

Nothing matters except the very ideals the United States was founded on by flawed idealistic men at the start of the Democratic Experiment.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Meaning:

Freedom from Discrimination

Freedom from Racism—Sexism—Islamophobia—Homophobia

Freedom from Anti-Semitism

Freedom from Fear

Freedom from Hate Mongers Preaching Hate

Freedom from the Danger of Hateful Speech

Equal Opportunity

The End to For-Profit Healthcare

The Right to the Best Possible Education

The Right to Job Training for the 21st Century

Safe Schools

Gender Equality

The Right to Say No

The Restoration of Income Balance

The Right to House—Cloth and Feed Your Family

The Right to Excellent Housing

Freedom to Make Your Own Life Choices

Freedom from Religion

Freedom to Worship How and Where You Chose

Freedom to Drive—Walk—Sit—Live While Being Black, Brown, Man—Woman—Child—Transexual—Homosexual—Gay—Lesbian—Muslim—Latino—Undocumented—Asian—Indian—Native America

The Right to Human Dignity and Respect

Freedom to Marry the Person You Love

Freedom to Live in the Body You Want

Freedom from Overreach by the State

The Right to Trial by Your Peers

Freedom Predatory Bail and Fines

Freedom from State Institutions

Freedom from the Corrupt Private Prison System

Freedom from Social Media Selling Your Privacy

The Right to Humanely Trained Police Force

Individual Equality with the State and Corporations

The Right Worker’s Rights and Safety

The Right to Job Safety

The Right Individual Dignity

The Right to Community and Social Services

The Right to Share in Corporate Profits

The Right to Succeed

The Right to Help When You Fall on Hard Times

The Right to Clear Labeling

The Right to Clean Drinking Water and Air

The Right to Government and Corporate Transparency

The Right to a Piece of the Pie

The Restoration of Human and Civil Rights

The Right to a Dignified Old Age

The Right to Affordable Humane End of Life Care

The Right to be Free

The Right to Liberty

The Right to the Pursuit of Happiness

The Right to Define Individual Happiness

Freedom from Gun Violence

The Right to Chose

Freedom from Zealots and Fundamentalist

Freedom from Political Abuse of Social Issues

This is what is being stolen, threatened, and suppressed. This is what is on the ballot in November.

 

SPERLONGA WRITERS RETREAT JOURNAL – DAY FOUR

When one runs away from home (the drudgery of daily existence) to seek adventure or at least a place to write uninterrupted by (the drudgery of daily existence) one learns many things. Or to be more precise confirm what you already knew. Things that define the drudgery of daily existence get amplified to the level of longing.

Nostalgia, longing for something actually rooted in the desire for an imagined place, object or person or objectified place or person. If we are as quantum theory suggests strings or coordinates of space and time or as biology suggests cells or as digital algorithms would prefer us to be—maybe not having an imagination is sublime if that imagination causes dislocation.

If I could at this moment return home with three clicks of the heels of my ruby slippers would I do it? And once there how much happier would I be, for how long would I not be nostalgic for this place and this time? I know without a doubt having my cats about would thrill me, feeding them, washing their bowls and cleaning their litter would not. I know for certain I would not able to write for hours distraction free. I also know having to think what to make for dinner and the before and after bits of preparation (ordering on Seamless.com) plating and cleaning up are not what I miss. So, what do I miss? I miss my often annoying partner. What would I miss? I would be nostalgic for the large terrace, the sound of the sea. The clumps of ancient buildings sort tossed together like building blocks, the vegetation that at the moment is attacking my over-saturated histamines. I never even considered the pollen I ran from would follow me here in spades (something to say about fate).

I have adopted my husbandish’s (domestic partner of 26 years) picadillo. We met around the time he became a Baal teshuvah—a secular Jew who returns to traditional observance (sort of). He will not eat shellfish, treif. Over the years due in part to his influence I have cut out most shellfish or bottom dwellers like octopus that to my surprise are very popular in Sperlonga along with calamari, tiny clams and mussels. What comes first the traditional local foods or the tourist influence? Wine is another shocking oddity. Here in Italy of all places, wine is served by the glass or the bottle, no carafes or quartino served in New York or the brilliant two size millimeter glasses served in London or Berlin.

In soma—in short as the Italians say and tonight I am making this quick since I find another thing I always knew to be fact at least for me. I can either write or blog. I am not capable of doing both daily. I have been writing or more to the point revising my manuscript as planned. Nothing can beat that. Before I arrived, I added a repeating event to my iCal. REMEMBER YOU ARE HERE TO COMPLETE WOMAN MAKING MANUSCRIPT!!! Yesterday after reading an article on The Beat Generation in the New Yorker, I added a quote to my daily reminder from an essay by Louis Menand on Jack Kerouac. “Kerouac did not create the published book in a single burst of inspiration. It was the deliberate and arduous labor of years.” I’ll let that sit for now.

 

 

SPERLONGA WRITERS RETREAT JOURNAL – DAY THREE

Slowly I lose my enchantment with Sperlonga. Perhaps I may not visit again never mind buy something here. Aside from my usual fickle seesaw between of rising and dropping discontent/contentment my aversion for crowds may be the reason for this recent swing. Sunday although less than the day of the Festa della Repubblica there were certainly a lot more people than today Monday when I finally catch up with me journal entries.

Families packed in the beach with many lovey children, toddlers and new fetuses in utero that I find it impossible to believe the supposed population crisis reported in United States and here in Italy unless the only babies counted are white and they seem plentiful. The manufacture of strollers and car seats must be a booming business unless the products are reused since the space between each new child does not exceed two years. Gestation appears to be less than nine months among many siblings even counting multiple births.

I am no doubt lonely with this overdose of solitude. I thought digital – cellular always in touch would abolish at least change the sense of loneliness I experienced when I lived in Rome when the digital age was not a glimmer in any eye except perhaps sci-fi writers. Neal Stephenson presented the concept of tablets – 3-D printers – manmade islands and video billboards in The Diamond Age published in 1995. He had the glimmer of the near future in his vision set in China or some far Eastern land. In my analog world even, my iPhone did little to relieve my loneliness on a solo visit to Rome in 2009. All that I thought would fill the emptiness of separation from my cats and hubandish fails to fill the early morning, late afternoon and bedtime gaps. The solitude of writing cannot be escaped.

I started the new book “Album” of Roland Barthes previously unpublished correspondence and essays. His circle included the French Intellectuals of Literary and Feminist Theory almost forgotten into today’s anti-intellectual political environment. He knew everyone from Foucault his close friend to Kristeva and Lacan—most impressive (for me) was his friendship with Michelangelo Antonioni. Intellectual in the present global Nationalist/Populist political climate ranks among the top of the state enemy list for propaganda to infatuate the masses with the concept of Exceptionalism.

No one seems to want to be reminded of critical thought. Consumerism—the brain as a depository for reproduction rather than creativity but this is just one link in the recycled human condition littering the vortex. One of hotel’s two lifeguards nailed it when we spoke. He said New York City lost its soul. He said the same about Rome. The word for soul in Italian is anima derived from Latin to mean breath, vital force, spirit and of course, soul sold for connectivity—worth trillions on the Nasdaq to social to Facebook selling our likes, Google our searches limited by their SEO ranking pimped to algorithms. We are AI even the digital immigrants cannot escape the vast web.

Mad Max may be the only possible scenario to rescue humanity in a post-apocalyptic reboot where god reigns his wrath down on the men who created him in their image then lost the thread of centuries of striving albeit limited then as now to a privileged few in all since Classical Greece—the Roman Empire—Middle Ages—Renaissance—Romanticism—Enlightenment—Modernism and Post-Modernism.

Besides I am nauseated from breakfast. I need to eat an amazing salad for lunch. My self-imposed solitude wears on me today. I woke yesterday morning from a nightmare I cannot remember except for the confused deaths. I should have written it down, but I was too dazed.

 

 

 

SPERLONGA WRITERS RETREAT JOURNAL – DAY TWO

The second day I seemed to adjust to my present time zone. I woke early went down for breakfast. I do not mind being alone among the families. I do miss the cover of being a couple even a contentious one. I have already proven my sovereignty to travel alone – to move about without the crutch of a partner or friend to hide the dreaded human condition contained within separate bodies. The more one rejects solitude the heavy the burden of group logic. It is not that I am lonely it is that I am without purpose. I have nowhere to go, nowhere to be, the only schedule is the Italian timetable for restaurants. breakfast eight to ten – lunch one to two-thirty – dinner seven-thirty to, I am not sure since I have not been hungry at dinnertime after lunch of marinated anchovies and spaghetti with clams. I had a miniature baba pastry for dinner around ten. The restaurants were still busy Saturday night on the national holiday of Italian Independence.

I do want to go home, back to my cats and apartment and partner although we rarely spend weekends together. I like this that is different from what he wants. He is content with the same while I am chronically restless in my discontent. There is no getting around my awkward outsiderness.

I cannot slip on the adaptable chameleon skin. As in Rome when I lived there for a couple of years and visited alone for nine days I submit to loneliness. Shades of my short influential life in Rome shadow Sperlonga’s beauty. My eye can find nothing wanting in its surroundings. The sea is blue with rippling waves that catch the moonlight in clear crests. Old town on the mountaintop, I have not yet made the climb to visit, is a perfect backdrop for darting swallows. The semi-tropical shrubs with thick succulent leaves – the palm trees and flowering bougainvillea and yellow blossom vines growing on the old fortress walls and between terraced pines and trees too far off to identify. The large terrace outside my ample room with a view of the piazza on one side and the beach on the other. This town gives no cause whatsoever for sadness.

The one thing causing me distress is the task I set for myself, to complete the manuscript. My pen mimics a graceful swallow flying across the page, but that damn thorn punctures holes in my engagement. It clams up like a poisonous mollusk lurking in strands of al dente spaghetti mingling with healthy open vongole offering tiny plump pockets of perfectly cooked flesh.

The story is alive, writing itself in my mind until I try to pin it down to itself then it shrinks from commitment. It runs away like a bare bottom toddler resisting a diaper. Is it trying to tell me it’s done, it was great fun, but now it’s time to move on. That would seem to be the message since no such lethargy has stopped me from writing about writing the manuscript to where I can send it out to find its fortune. Maybe its impatient with being held back.

Now I am happy and content. I do not even feel my usual Sunday evening blues. The perfume of the privet hedges cleanses my nostalgia. I would gladly sit in this spot on this chaise until I must go back into the room to charge my MacBook at the only outlet over the a/c unit. All is fine as long as my fingers press out new thoughts. But, running bottomless eventually leaves a mess for someone more responsible to clean up usually at great expense.

 

I sounded like a boastful American when Laura explained the Festa della Repubblica I replied July 4th is bigger. Instead, I compared the large groups of kids to Spring Break. After I woke from my stupor, I realized Italian kids and adults did not drink themselves boisterous. They had wine with their meal – maybe followed with a digestivo. No one walked around with bottles of open beer, drinking shots until they fell into the sea or vomited excess. Not one kid, not one adult celebrating Italy’s post World War II Republic abused the holiday as the reason to get drunk. The most drama I witnessed was between two young women who began lunch holding hands that later appeared by the facial expression of the one facing me, devolved into a spat. No one yelled. The kids roamed about pleasantly interacting, not shouting as excessive drinking impaired their hearing.

Americans need to get over their “exceptionalism” – check their credentials at the door with the gatekeepers – venture out into the world with respect for those that share the planet. I need to learn how to fa niente – let go and live in the moment free of imposed markers. Is this my personal deluded American exceptionalism to strive, to want, to never be content?

SPERLONGA WRITERS RETREAT JOURNAL – DAY ONE

I am here – in Sperlonga, Italy on retreat – sola. The intent is to write. The subject is the manuscript, A Book of Repeated Beginnings: Woman Making. A book-length lyric essay that juxtaposes, history and memoir with literature to explore recurring cultural patterns. Historical zombi pennies that always show tails up.

This is fucking crazy, how did I come up with this plan driven by discontent (my default mode). Desire pushed by curiosity irritated by anger and resentment wanting to escape – to flee – what I find too sad to leave behind. The stronger pull is to write in solitude away from the distractions of daily drudge. Did I need to travel so far away as Sperlonga, at such great expense?

Yes!

Yes!

Yes!

I had to prove I can still seek out adventure although the manufactured risk is minor created in narrow confines amplified by comfort prodded by the anxiety of baggage real and created by my obsession with the logistics of transporting my baggage. The fear that after an overnight flight as I dozed into deep sleep from the swaying of the train some-thing might go missing.

Emotion held back, dammed up by the busy beaver’s constant endeavor, threatened to break to swamp me in the deluge. The past months since February, on the last night, already feeble, mother sank to the floor in her rosy box of an apartment. She fractured her hip. The anesthesia sent her down the rabbit hole tattering the remnants of tentative normalcy. Her declining engagement with life until three months edging on four turned her into a statistic. Only her innate body anchors her ghost dancing on the liminal rim. When I speak about her it is in past tense. Everything she was did not survive the fall. She cannot walk. She needs total assist in daily life activities, reduced to sleep arms bent at the elbow. Her body mass shrunk from not eating except puréed mush in shades of gray and orange accents spooned into her toothless mouth. Her dentures too large.

We were never the ideal representation of the mother and daughter relationship, except at the end of the spectrum. My entire life I never heard her poetry. She possessed not rhyme nor reason, only the insatiable need to find her lost father in disappointing men. My father the direct opposite of her the Mafia Don worked long hard hours as a laborer. Then he went – pushed out. She must have fallen for his good looks. He is still handsome at ninety-three. His great smile and personality. Head-over-heels she tumbled into bed where fate sealed our family’s lot.

____** ____

This is how love poems are written…

                       At a distance from the beloved

you are

                                                 Only in separation can I possibly discover our

                                                                       Inseparable bond

____** ____

And here I am sitting in the plaza next to the Hotel Aurora, on the first night in Sperlonga at a restaurant waiting for dinner. I hit a rough patch this afternoon.

Difficulty in the beginning

Great success.

It was that liminal time of the afternoon between things. My head woozy from cross-Atlantic travel about ready to split, ready to buzz, to spin out of control. I dozed lightly half asleep I pushed out of bed to take a quick walk on the beach. The tide in the narrow strip of sand crowded. In and out under the moon’s influence, adjusted daily for to the curve of the earth rotating on its axis in space and time makes experience.

This day, two rolled into one began yesterday. Part one began in New York flowed seamlessly into the early morning arrival at Fiumicino Airport. The possibility of seeming ridiculous struggling with oversized luggage. The only bumpy patch resolved on the way to the airport last minute on the drive to JFK  in the rain overwhelmed with the idea of finding myself pinned face down under the weight avarice I reserved a taxi online adding prodigality to my transgressions.

I cannot indulge in this favola again. The cost of these two weeks can only be resolved with a completed manuscript.

 

PAPER INK WRITER and DISCOVERY

I am very much a paper and ink writer. The liquid ink flowing on the page materializes thought. I write with a fountain pen, not as an affectation. The letters move organically across the page in plowed ruts where weeds strangle sprouting possibility.

This morning I received the print issue of the Weekend New York Times. I stopped delivery of the weekend print issue out of environmental guilt. Trash suffocates the globe – children live and work on it. Their survival depends on and is threatened by toxic trash heaps. I went through the sections, ambivalent until I opened the Sunday magazine.

The tangibility of manifest presence of material objects feeds my awareness of my physical temporality. My hand moves the pen across the page my being in the world interacts with the many forces supporting my existence, a very different experience from my fingers clicking keys. The cursor absent from the thought process liberates my mind to dally. Read more

BALTHUS – DANGEROUS TIMES WHEN THE PENDULUM OVERCORRECTS

The Nazis did it. The Taliban did it. Isis did it.

I say no to the petition to remove the Balthus painting from the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art is subjective and almost never should be censored. I’ll go out on a limb to say to never. To censor is to silence. We are on the slippery slope of authoritarian control when works of art – literature music and dance are labeled degenerate.

Women must not.

What begins with one picture may lead to a battle of subjective perception and selective designation of expression. Art controlled not only under the constraints of the patriarchy but also straight-jacketed by self-righteous approval of other women.

The time for the women’s revolution is now. Read more

BREATHE FREE PRESS ESSAYIST WRITERS RETREAT

June 3–13, 2018 WRITER RETREAT in SPERLONGA, ITALY

The perfect retreat to write. Sperlonga presents writers with innumerable possibilities. The slow pace of a town immersed in antiquity. The sound of the surf to quiet distractions. Inspired concentration.

Get Published on breathefreepress.org

All participants have the opportunity to publish their retreat work on breathfreepress.org.

Get Published in Print

Your Sperlonga writing published in Essayist Retreat Anthology will showcase the participants work in print.

Please submit your writing sample to join a supportive community of peers working to complete, develop or begin a new project.

Read more

The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro by Frederick Douglass-A speech given at Rochester, New York, July 5, 1852

David Remick’s essay, “AmericanDiginity on the Fourth of July” in The New Yorker led me to search, read and post Frederick Dogulass’ speech in its entirety. One Hundred Sixty-Five Years after Douglass gave his speech Raoul Peck made the documentary I Am Not Your Negro based on James Baldwin’s unfinished work. Unfinished is an understatement.

Mr. President, Friends and Fellow Citizens:

He who could address this audience without a quailing sensation, has stronger nerves than I have. I do not remember ever to have appeared as a speaker before any assembly more shrinkingly, nor with greater distrust of my ability, than I do this day. A feeling has Read more

TRUMP the CATALYST for LITERARY RESISTANCE

The catalyst for breathefreepress.org. was Trump’s election to the presidency of the United States considered at the most powerful office in the world. A revelation with a “sudden” biblical force saved my personal ecosystem from collapse. A rebel since my teen years I hold two concepts “dear:” freedom and equality.

I grew up in the aftermath of World War II with the ideals of the US founding documents.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [hu]man[s] are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Read more