Monday, January 31, 2005

my blue and green flag of peace

This is my blue, green and black flag of peace. I offer it to you.


mabel window
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
Here is a glamor shot of Mabel in the window.

Cafe on Avenue A

Cafe on Avenue A
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
The column next to my chair in that cafe. If you just look closely at things they lose their identity, and often become beautiful even if you did not see it before.

yellow wall

yellow wall
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
Surangama writes of his fight. I read it and am chilled, because I recognize all too well his situation. I can't write here about my battles in any specific way, but I might do it in the future. I have scared myself. That is why I paint walls, like this beautiful yellow wall. It is a defense.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
The sky above me, yesterday afternoon, was veiled by the web of tree branches. One of the most beautiful sights.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

E. 9th Street

E. 9th Street
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
I remember this block in the old seedy days. I am always amazed at the East Village lately, but not impressed. I preferred it back in the bad old 1980s. But lots of people feel that way, I think. So I am not claiming any great originality here. The streets still have some of the same shabbiness to them. But if you look closely now you won't see crack vials lying on the streets. And there were not so many little shops everywhere.

Cafe on Avenue A

Originally uploaded by madabandon.
It was a long slow day. Visiting Hiroshi. Had coffee on Avenue A. Bought books at Saint Mark's Books. Ate takoyaki on E. 9th Street. Earlier, I dug my car out from the snow.
tuna face
pomona's close-up

The light is nice today, so it is a good day for Tuna and Pomona to have their pictures taken.

color field

color field
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
This painting is an older one. I did it in 1997, I think. I can't remember exactly, and I rarely date them, although I should.

new painting

new painting
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
This is a recent painting, although I have done two small ones since. It is 48" tall and 24" wide. I am almost finished a new one. Maybe they are landscapes, but I am not sure. Vertical landscapes, perhaps.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
One day a few weeks ago I was so exhausted from not sleeping at night that I fell asleep in the afternoon. Y. took this picture of me sleeping with Pomona and Tuna. I wish I were sleeping now, but as usual I woke up shortly after 6 am.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

wet, continued

mabel has a bath, continued
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
Mabel doesn't really like having a bath, but she behaves herself anyway.


mabel has a bath
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
Mabel had a bath.


blue wall
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
The sun is shining.

I am listening to Utada Hikaru sing "For You." At least half of it is in Japanese. I don't understand the words, but I can sing along anyway because I know the lyrics. Can I perform a song convincingly, if it is in a language that is largely incomprehensible to me?


Friday, January 28, 2005

thank you bao. i am lucky to know you.

window glass
Dear Jonathan,
Here is your horoscope
for Friday, January 28:

'Enraged' might be too strong a word to describe your feelings, even if someone pushes the right buttons. Then again, if it's someone who knows you, it might not be all that far off. Count to ten.

Wow. I hope not.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
I don't like hot weather, but this morning I took Mabel on a long walk; she didn't have a long walk yesterday because it was so cold and I was busy, and it was clear that she wanted one. But this morning was so cold that all I could think of, while we were walking around windy Brooklyn Heights, was summer warmth and sun.

rothko tribute

rothko tribute
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
One summer I arrived at Yaddo and was given a studio that was used not only by composers but by visual artists. The painter who had had the studio before me had left a small canvas and some paint behind as a little gift. So I made this painting using what she had left. It is my little tribute to Mark Rothko, and is obviously derivative. But I like it anyway.


Green is my favorite color, I think.

I wish that I could sleep past 7 a.m. No matter what time I fall asleep, no matter how late, I always am awake by 7. So during the day I get very tired. But I like the morning. It is so quiet...


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

a poem

I read this poem in the NEW YORKER, and I was stunned by its beauty:

(Yehuda Amichai, translated from the Hebrew by Leon Wieseltier)

Now, when the waters are pressing mightily
on the walls of the dams,
now when the white storks, returning,
are transformed in the middle of the firmament
into fleets of jet planes,
we will feel again how strong are the ribs
and how vigorous is the warm air in the lungs
and how much daring is needed to love on the exposed plain,
when the great dangers are arched above,
and how much love is required
to fill all the empty vessels
and the watches that stopped telling time,
and how much breath,
a whirlwind of breath,
to sing the small song of spring.


A little time spent sorting through your belongings, having a garage sale or putting a little effort into your home will pay off. You'll feel better about your life and your future.

Too bad. I already did.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
Sometimes, if I am in a bad mood, I just hang out with Mabel for a while. It is impossible to resist her cuteness and her beautiful personality. She is a very special dog.

my furred ones

tuna on his bed

mabel in the snow



Alarmed at the growing hypomanic storm, I did what I sometimes do, and took clonazepam. This knocks me down (and knocks me out) and so now I am going to sleep. I have a concert tonight (my student jazz ensemble) so I need to be awake. It was a little difficult teaching, what with my racing brain.




Originally uploaded by madabandon.
Well, earlier I wrote that I was in a good mood. But it is on its way up. Elevated, as they say in DSM-IV. This means that I must be careful. I tend to blurt things out, to talk too fast, and my mind races, one thought hurrying to obliterate the last. Watch out...


My piece CIRCLE uses the folksong "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." This song was a rallying cry during the civil rights movement in the 1960s. I often use existing music in my compositions. I started to do this about ten years ago. I don't often spend much time analyzing the reasons why I do things in my work, which is vastly opposite my tendency to analyze me life in excruciating detail. I believe the creative process should remain a mystery so that it continues to be a challenge. Too much understanding of it might cause my creative urge to dwindle. Or am I superstitious?


view of a bridge

Originally uploaded by madabandon.
I have been in a good mood the last three days. The snow helps. Last night I went swimming. Usually I go during the day, but I found, last night, that swimming in the half-light (the pool has a roof of windows) was even more peaceful, and it felt like I was swimming even more strongly. I swam so hard that when I finished I was high for a few hours from all those endorphins flooding my blood.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
This is my oldest and dearest friend. She is a brilliant person, perhaps the most intelligent I know. She is also one of the few truly altruistic lawyers I've encountered, using her ferocious legal mind in the service of helping poor and disadvantaged people, selflessly, while she could be making scads of money in the private sector. We have been through quite a bit together. I love her dearly. This picture makes me smile. She and Mimi live in a huge stone house in a part of Philadelphia that feels like the country. It is a refuge for me, and they are Mabel's favorite aunts.

Monday, January 24, 2005


B posted an entry about his brother. I read it and it really touched me. It also reminded me of what I know is the essential goodness of B's heart. And I think that his brother is lucky to have him.

Then I think of my family, and how I can't discuss my struggles with them. My bipolar disorder seems to annoy them, maybe, or scare them, or make them feel powerless. I am not sure which, since we never talk about it. In a recent conversation, my brother remarked that I had sounded "down" for a while. I replied that I sounded that way because I was depressed. He asked why I was depressed, and I tried to explain that there was no simple reason, there was no cause that I could pinpoint, that it was just a regular thing for me (which I thought he already knew). At that point I had to end the conversation because he was cold and did not express any kind of understanding. All he had to say was "it's ok." That would have been enough.

I love my family very much. But I feel removed, for so many reasons. And I am sure they love me but they regard me as some oddity.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

ciao baby

Originally uploaded by madabandon.
Here Mabel is looking serious. When she is not smiling, she looks like a miniature chow-chow. Many people ask me if she is a chow puppy. But her tongue is not black, like a chow's. There is a chow in the neighborhood who looks like a giant Mabel. One day I will get a picture of them together, maybe...


The war, since before it even started, has made me sick with disbelief and utter revulsion at our government and its actions. Frequently I read something about it that brings back the horror and anger that I feel head-on. I just read this in the NEW YORK TIMES:

In March 2003, reports of suicide-bombing attacks on American soldiers had reached Sgt. Rob Sarra's Marine Corps unit in an Iraqi town called al-Shatra. A short time later, soldiers saw an older woman walking toward them with a small bundle. The marines, fearing that she might be a bomber, called to her to stop, but she kept walking.

"I was looking at her, and I thought 'I have to stop this woman,' " Mr. Sarra said. "So I fired on her, and then the other marines fired on her."

"When we got to her, we saw that she was pulling out a white flag," he said. "She had tea and bread in her bag. I kept thinking, 'Was she a grandmother? Was she a mother?' "


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
The snow stopped. We took another walk. The salt hurts Mabel's paws, so sometimes I carry her.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
Normally you can see Manhattan (the Empire State Building and environs) and the Brooklyn Bridge from my bedroom window. Not now, though, because it is snowing too hard. This picture makes it look more benign than it is. I love the snow, though. I was born in a blizzard. The storm started yesterday at 11:40 as I was walking down Court Street with Yoshi. Yoshi was not wearing socks, just his converse chucks. He is from Yamagata where it snows all the time in winter. Later I cooked and was drinking some wine and smoking, but our peaceful reverie was shattered by a radiator in the living room which started spewing steam and water all over the place. So I was up throughout the night emptying trays of water, until I finally figured out how to shut off the (broken) valve.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Depression Glossary, part I

*denotes items of heightened relevance

Acrophobia – fear of heights.*
Alienation – the feeling of a lack of relationships or loss of relationships with others.*
Anhedonia - a decreased ability or inability to experience pleasure or joy.
Automatic Negative Thought (ANT) - an unpleasant thought which is automatically triggered by a situation and results in increased anxiety and avoidance and decreased effective coping.*
Anxiety Disorder - a disorder characterized by unrealistic irrational and disabling fear or anxiety. Includes panic disorder with and without agoraphobia, agoraphobia, obsessive compulsive disorder, social phobia, post traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and specific phobia.*

Bipolar Disorder – a mood disorder in which the person experiences both manic and depressive episodes.*

Compulsive – used to describe thoughts or behavior that are driven by anxiety.
Cyclothymia – a mood disorder characterized by alternating episodes of hypomania and depression.*

Defense-Oriented Response – behavior with the primary purpose of defending the organism against harm.
Demoralization – the perception and feeling of being ineffective, and unable to solving problems, or control the current situation or the future.*
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)
– The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of American Psychiatric Association (APA). The current version is DSM-IV.
Drug Addiction – psychological and physiological substance dependence.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
– an anxiety disorder characterized by chronic excessive and persistent worry about a number of issues such as family, health, or finances, when there is no obvious threat present.*

Housebound – an inability to leave one’s house. Common in severe cases of panic, agoraphobia, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Can also occur in social phobia.*
Hypervigilance – extreme sensitivity to cues that may signal presence of feared object or situation.*
Hypochondria - an exaggerated concern about bodily processes and the possibility of having various diseases.*
Hypomania – a temporary mild to moderate elevated (manic) mood.*

– problem with falling asleep or waking up resulting in lack of sleep and fatigue.*
Introspection – the process of observing and reporting on one’s thoughts, feelings and inner experience.*

Melancholic Subtype
– subtype of depression that involves a loss of pleasure (anhedonia), sleep problems, changes in eating appetite, motor agitation or retardation, and feelings of guilt and worthlessness.*
Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP) - a relatively benign cardiac condition involving a heart valve abnormality. MVP has been associated with autonomic nervous system dysfunction and some anxiety disorders in which case it is referred to as Mitral Valve Prolapse Syndrome.*
Mood Disorders – problems characterized by disturbances of mood that are are intense enough to cause suffering and maladaptive behavior.

The Evil State

I call Pennsylvania, the state of my birth and where I lived until I was eighteen, the "Evil State." There are numerous reasons. The first, and most basic, is that the letters E,V,I and L are found in the word Pennsylvania. This is not true of any other state. Also, Pennsylvania is like an anomaly on the east coast. With the exception of mostly-liberal Philadelphia, it is conservative, repressive, and provincial. It is, as I always say, a part of the midwest that has somehow finds itself in the east. If you don't believe me, go and spend some time there.

I still go there relatively frequently. My sister and her family, with my three wonderful nephews, live there, as does Cristi, my best friend, and Mimi, her regal and wondrous partner.


Your heart puts a spin you never imagined on events you never predicted. You can't find the words to explain what it means. Maybe you don't control everything, but a little random action can't be all that bad, can it?


Maybe bipolar disorder is actually the most elemental human state, if we define "natural" as something which reflect forces of nature. For as we have seen, especially with the recent tsunami, nature is unpredictable, violent at times, at other times nurturing and peaceful. Its patterns and conduct can, overall, be seen as reflected some sort of cosmological balancing act. Too many people? Disease or natural disaster takes care of that. too much pollution? Kill the polluters through the fruits of their own deeds. So the bipolar person is a more pure human; those who are "normal" have, through evolution, become more removed from the primal world.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Fly On the Wall

How could you know? I would not have told you.
Only if you looked deep into my one ravaged eye,
seeing flat black that turns away, admitting nothing.
Might this have told you what words could not? I don’t expect it could.
I am shy. I would not meet your gaze head on. Instead I turn my head.
I would not be so foolish to reveal, at our first meeting,
that I am not what I seem. I am bound in netting
that sets only part of me free. The rest stays, wrapped and warm.
A man, after all, does not let his armor give away weakness:
a twisted knee, a flawed shoulder, some shortness of the breath.
It is my candor that allows me my secrets.
I mean no harm. I have a generous soul (inside of its shell).
I can not blame you, or you or you, for if I were not as I am
I would do the same. So I keep listening. A sweet voice sings
“Schlummert ein...” I am being slowly reeled in,
strings wrapping tight around me and soon
I will no longer be in danger of falling.


Some twenty years before I was born
my mother was five years old. Her first cousin, then
fifteen years old, in Hungary, was put
on a train with his father, his mother
and his young brother. They went to Poland, but
they did not know then where they were going.
Maybe they knew, once they arrived, that they had gone
to another country. But when they arrived
my mother's cousin saw his own mother
and his baby brother shot dead.
And my mother's aunt, in Hungary, took a train.
When she and her husband got off the train,
her two small children were taken from her
and gassed. Soon her husband died too.
My mother's aunt came to America. She
married her dead sister's husband. She had two more
children, a boy and a girl. I remember once seeing her bare
forearm, a line of blue numbers tattooed on her skin.

One night, when I was a boy, five years old,
I was mad at my parents and I said,
in the way that children do,
I hate you. I wish you weren’t my parents.
So my mother and father took me upstairs,
to my room with the pale blue walls
and blue-and-gold-flecked linoleum floor
and the five-foot-tall styrofoam dinosaur.
I don’t remember who got the suitcase
but my mother began filling it with clothes.
My father brought me my coat,
then led me out to the car. It was a
white Rambler station wagon with wood side panels.
It was cold, late fall or maybe winter.
We drove to Delmont Avenue, along the edge of
those dark woods. “Where would you like me
to drop you off?” he asked. I began to cry
and he drove me back home.

When I wake up in the morning,
and I put my feet on the floor and find
my glasses so that I can see, I check:
how am I? For I can tell in just a few moments
if I am dark or light, high or low;
so my mood speaks to me.
I take four pills. Three of the five-sided ones,
lamotrigine--like the name of an addled
drag queen--and one ranitidine. I feed the
dog and my two cats, and I make coffee.
It is dark outside, for I am an early riser.
I can’t sleep late, no matter how I might wish to.
I look out at the Brooklyn Bridge, and note
the time and temperature sign (courtesy of the
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society). Then,
with my coffee cup, I walk down the two steps
into the dark living room and wait,
sinking down into the worn-out sofa cushions.



Last evening I was accompanying a trio of cellists in a performance of Karl Popper's "Requiem," an odd and beautiful piece. It was one of many chamber music concerts at the school where I teach. I have a beautiful piano at home, a Steinway with a wonderful sound. Steinway pianos are capable of a huge range of color. They are harder to play than a Yamaha or Kawai or Baldwin, because one has to have a good technique to extract the sound from them; otherwise they can sound shallow or thin. But the reward for good technique is obvious. The piano I played last night was a concert grand Kawai (that is the largest size of piano, nine feet long). But it was a seriously flawed instrument, and had a hideous sound. So at the first point in the piece where I had a solo passage, I almost recoiled physical from the keys, so awful was the tone. But a professional musician should not give away such things, so I acted as if it was emitting the kinds of sound I am used to from my own piano. It was also flat in pitch, which made it very difficult for the cellists to tune. Oh well. The audience seemed to love it, anyway. That's one thing I have found: things that we musicians find troubling--bad acoustics, wrong notes, missed entrances--usually are not noticed by the audience.

hands at work

Thursday, January 20, 2005

my religion

(Well, since you asked)
I do not believe in heaven. Perhaps
it is because of pessimism
or the fact that I am Jewish.
No doctrine leads me. And it is not due
to a lack of imagination. What
I live through on earth is enough.
There is heaven and hell, if you use
those terms.

Simpler to welcome heaven.
Free from decision.
But I require understanding:
I think I understand
and so I don’t believe. No, I am
no simpleton nihilist. I worship nature.
Earthquake, volcano, plague, tsunami,
flower, predator, rabbits, fire and ice:
my faith.


I read the blogs of several individuals. Of the five, three (me included) often write about the pain of love, the torment of love, the legacy of lost love, the agony of having loved and lost. Two of the blogs are written by objects of love, but they never have written about loving.

vertical landscape, continued

vertical landscape, continued
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
More and more I wish to devote myself to painting. It is immediate; composing requires third-party intervention (the performers I write for) and I find it increasingly frustrating. Although I made music and drew and painted equally from an early age, I think my ideas are being realized better through visual means lately. Now I need a gallery, so I can sell more paintings...but I am no hustler, and I lack the energy to go around and sell myself.

Things I Want To Do When I Am Depressed

Swim (if I can drag myself to the pool)
Sleep (if I can take enough drugs to make it happen)
Erase Time (until the depression lifts)


If I could just channel the torment of the past weeks into the piece I was supposed to finish months ago, not only would it be finished, but it would be a good one. Not easy, but worth the trouble.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

A List

Things That Are Hard To Do When I Am Depressed (in no particular order):

answer the phone
make small talk
leave the apartment

fact checking

Depressed persons have low self-esteem. Whether the low self-esteem engenders depression, or is a product of it, is not known. My guess is that there is a synergy. Both drive each other. The depressed person reads rejection in the smallest of gestures, in the ordinary exchanges that mark our days. For example, if the depressed person plans to meet a friend, and the friend cancels, the reason given is only an excuse. The depressed person can not help but regard the cancellation as a reflection on him/herself. "If I were not a ____________, so-and-so would not have cancelled." Fill in the blank: loser, down-head, bummer, drag. Some people, not depressed, exude self-esteem. Confident, sure of themselves, they fill entire rooms with their prideful energy. Most people radiate toward those who give off power, and it is not possible for a depressed person to give off power. Most people shun the company of depressives. Who wants to spend time with someone who has such a bleak visage, such sadness, such heaviness? So, another synergy: depressed people become lonely, and loneliness feeds depression. Maybe that is why so many artists are depressed. Artists give off power through their creations, not through themselves. Think of Rothko. Mild-mannered in public. Tortured by depression, he kills himself at the height of his creative powers. But look at his paintings. They radiate strength and heavenly beauty. They are lighter than air. They suggest eternity.

I hear that there is a bar, or club, or some such thing, on the Lower East Side, called Rothko. When I heard that, I had to laugh.


Words...are convenient, a handy shortcut to meaning. But too often, words limit and deny. For those of us who are better trained, we need only one and we can pierce together the rest. We look for blood in the whites of your eyes. Anger, sadness, all of the emotional extremes register there first, a red spider web, a tangle of red rivulets. They all start there and then wash down your face, coloring your cheeks, your neck, the valley above your collarbone. For the subtler details, we consult the dark, round pools, lighter at the shallow edges and darker in the centers' deep, where light collects and falls inside you. Lies, you should know, always float to the top, foreign objects that, for most people, cause considerable discomfort and pain. There are some who are able to still the shift from side to side, calm the spasms of the irritated lids. A skill, I am afraid that you are either born with or not. The origin of a liar is the same as that of a lie: one breeds another. Shame is often mistaken for one and the same, but I know it is different. Shame is heavy-hearted and does not float. It prefers the deep, where it disrupts the steady balance, tilting the gaze, forward and down. The lids behave differently as well. They are slow to open, slow to let anything in. Shame often passes for a sudden bout of exhaustion, a sleep that will not be delayed. It affects the whole body, slowing down speech, bloating limbs, until paralysis is a constant threat. Shame, I can assure the more toxic of the two.

Monique Truong, THE BOOK OF SALT

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


One day in Chicago I was walking back from the lake, west on East 57th Street, under the IC tracks toward the University. It was August. A few days earlier there had been a terrible dust storm: orange thick dust filled the air in the heat, and coated every surface. If you left your windows open at home, everything inside was covered with fine brown silt. But that was a few days earlier. Now, the air was hot and dry and the wind was blowing from the east, toward the prairie. As I walked past Powell’s a bug flew into my left eye. I felt it and my reflexive response was to put my left index finger into my eye to flick it out. This entailed taking off my sunglasses. I could not see, because my right eye, the one without a bug in it, does not see much.

Putting my finger in my eye did more harm than good. It seems the bug, in its haste to escape my probing finger, crawled under my lower eyelid and into the warm space of the eye socket. The pain was excruciating. I did not know what to do. Cynthia, who was walking with me, hailed a passing taxi. We went straight on 57th Street to the emergency room of the University of Chicago Hospital. By now my eye was closed; I had to be led through the door, and I was in agony. I don’t remember how much time passed before I saw some a doctor. I don’t think it was very long. The doctor put drops in my eye to make it numb, and then extracted the bug. It was a large wicked-looking bug with mean wings. No wonder it hurt so much. I had to keep that eye covered, which meant I was functionally blind for a day or so.

I never liked living in Chicago very much, but I did sort of like the weather. The cruel howling winter was an adventure. The torpor of summer, and the wild storms that blew in over the lake, made every day unpredictable. Spring was so short it was utterly negligible, though. And autumn, normally my favorite time of year, was like some sort of cold monsoon season. My apartment was on the third floor of a run-down building not far from the lake. I had a porch out front, and in warm weather I would sit in a particular low-slung blue chair. From this angle I could not see the parking lot of the Hyde Park Food Co-op; I could see green treetops, and in my imagination, the lake that lay just out of sight beyond the trees (the third floor was not high enough for a lake view). I called it Barcelona, although I had never been to Barcelona. Because to me it felt like I was far away, sitting in that blue chair, gazing over the grey-green treetops that wavered in the hot sunlight. Barcelona, as seen from a seat on a balcony, in the heat of evening. The balcony was off the front room. In winter, the snow blew through the window-frames of that room, and formed drifts in the corners. And one summer, it was so hot, and I had no air-conditioning, so I would sleep in the bathtub filled with a few inches of cold water.

in vermont, 2002

in vermont, 2002
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
that was in White River Junction. We went to VT for a week. We stayed in a house on a farm next to a meadow of flowers with a path leading to a pond. At night the sky was so full of stars.

field music: for christina

field music
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
my former student died on saturday. she was a brilliant, creative and effervescent girl when I taught her; I had known her since she was small, and I will never forget her. she had a magical soul. she was gifted with one of the most naturally beautiful voices I had ever heard, and would have been an extremely great singer. she sang bach and mozart, and she loved to sing jazz. she was a gifted painter and writer. she was so full of excitement for life. almost a year ago, in college, she had a skiing accident and had been in a coma ever since. I will never forget her, and the news of her death--I just found out today, when I went in to teach--has made me so sad. Christina, I can still hear your voice. You sing, an angel.

Monday, January 17, 2005


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
It is night. My throat hurts. Outside it is very very cold. Cloaked in many layers, I walked Mabel and I shivered. The streets are empty, only a few hurried walkers going home. No one strolling and chatting on the phone, or having a leisurely cigarette. Mabel loves the cold. It makes her even more energetic than usual. She prances and looks for things to eat. I stand behind her, holding her leash.


(this is for Y)

Betty Carter sings:

Sometimes I'm happy,
Sometimes I'm blue.
My disposition
Depends on You.
That's how I am,
so what can I do?

I will leave out the rest. It is irrelevant.


I love this song, Burning Hearts, by My Favorite. Click on the title when you get to the page if you want to hear it.

vertical landscape

vertical landscape
Originally uploaded by madabandon.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.


I read my posts and I try to view them from a detached perspective, as if I were not me. And in doing this, I am struck my how bleak they are. Yet the pictures are beautiful.

So I wonder: if this is my way of seeing the world, one that contains such despair and such beauty, what do others see? I imagine that I scare most people away, once they know me. On the surface I may seem agreeable enough, perhaps more "serious" in manner than most people are (and this makes some people uncomfortable). So, I become lonely, because I drive people away. Yes, I have a few good friends with whom I am not afraid to voice my fears. So I am lucky.

And when I look at my history and my life so far, I realize that I am fortunate in many ways. I have had great gifts: my education, the generosity of the places that gave me opportunity that I would not have been able to afford otherwise; the good luck in my career, so that my music was recognized and applauded enough to allow me to continue. So I am not complaining about circumstance or wishing for wealth or fame or fortune. But I have always been sad, ever since I can remember. This does not mean I can't experience happiness. I have had many happy times. But that is because I know sadness so well.

I am just wishing for lightness.


Will I never recover from the injuries of the past? It seems to me that, from earliest memory, each new injury has left an open wound. Each new blow resonates in all the previous ones. The cumulative effect, then, is geometric in its expanding intensity.

This seems like a hopeless point of view. I agree that it is. I try to change it, but I seem to be ramming into the same wall over and over again. Like when I was a kid and got migraines and sat, banging my head against the wall, because banging my head against the wall made the pain of the headache recede.


It was a Thursday, late August, 2003. We were going to a concert by Bjørk at Keyspan Park, a ball park, which to me seemed an unusual place to hear music. I had not seen you since July sixteenth, five weeks earlier, when we met for dinner. Yoshi and I used to listen to a song by P.J. Harvey in which she sings “you said something that I’ve never forgotten.” That night in July you did that. I had originally planned to go to the Bjørk concert with Yoshi, but he had gone back to Japan. But back to August. I thought I knew how to get to Coney Island but we ended up in Brighton Beach. It was a humid evening. The sky was grey.

We realized Coney Island was in the direction we had come from. We started to walk along the boardwalk. You were walking fast, as if you needed to get away from me (we had not talked on the Q train). I was sweating from the heat. When we got to Keyspan Park it was filled with people, and we found a spot near a fence. I drank a beer. The concert was great. I felt so giddy, I danced by myself. Afterward we joined crowds of people heading for the W train, and we entered a crowded car. We sat apart from each other so it was hard to talk. Halfway back to Brooklyn Heights you called me, on my phone, though we were only ten feet apart. You said you would go straight to Manhattan. I was going to Brooklyn Heights. I hesitated then said ok but you had already hung up your phone. I got out to switch trains at DeKalb. The station was empty. I had to wait a long time for a train. I was shaking even though it was stifling in the station. Later at home I realized that I am normally unafraid of empty subway platforms. The next day, I drove to the mountains. Leaving New York I got lost. It took me two hours to get to I-80 although I had driven the same route countless times before.

Ich habe genug

I can not stop listening to "Ich habe genug," from a Bach cantata (BWV 82). Over and over again. I can't get enough. But "Ich habe genug" means "I have enough." It is a small step from that to "I have had enough." One is about contentment, and the other expresses the wish for contentment. But if I wish to be content I never will be. I have to stop wishing in order for it to be so.

prayer at night

The chimes began again the half hour. I stood in the belly of my shadow and listening to the strokes, spaced and tranquil along the sunlight, among the thin still little leaves.

(William Faulkner, THE SOUND AND THE FURY)

tree at night

Sunday, January 16, 2005

(eucalyptus) variation

eucalyptus variation
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
Today was odd. It started with a flurry of activity, scheduling a meeting time and place with the woman from NPR. Then into manhattan, chelsea, where, caffeinated, I spoke to her for about 45 minutes. Then back to Brooklyn; I was going to go buy a new iPod, but I thought I would wait until next month when it is my birthday. Then at home, feeling restless and dissatisfied, I went to the grocery store, cooked some chicken soup (prevent the cold I feel I am getting) and took a nap. But all afternoon I felt some agitation and nerves. Unsettled, but not in the mood to wander. This blog can absorb a lot of time, which is both good and bad. Tomorrow I will swim.


I call my cat Tuna by many names.tuna Q

Baby Debbie, Pinky Yo, Pansy, Candy Yo, Rabbit, Tuna Happy, Fatty Banny, Sandy Pip. Baby Milton, Chingo, Sandy Kathy.

I wonder if he thinks I am whacked.


Rilke said that the artist must "go into himself." Total introspection is crucial to creation. I agree. This requires solitude. But what if, in going into myself, I find the loneliness unbearable? This is what seems to be happening to me. And if I were truly alone, I would not stand it. That's the pathetic truth, at least right now.

National Public Radio

I was just interviewed by a reporter for NPR. We met in Manhattan, at the edge of Chelsea. It took some wandering before we found a quiet place where she could record our conversation. The subject was inderal, which is a beta-blocker, a drug that I and many performing musicians use to quell the physical symptoms of nervousness. Inderal really works, but some feel that there is an ethical dilemma (like steroid use among professional athletes). I was articulate for the most part, but when she asked me to give a quick description of the kind of music I write, I was at a loss. Someone help me. If anyone reading this has listened to any of my music, I am open to any suggestions.

It was flattering to be interviewed. It has happened before but it always gives me a little lift. Then, her questions finished, I walked back out to the cold street and got on the subway and was just another ordinary guy riding to Brooklyn.


field music

If I had gone out last night, I might still be asleep now. But probably, I would be awake, since I can't seem to sleep past 7 a.m. unless I stay up all night. Even then, my cat Tuna, and Mabel, impetuous, wake me for their breakfast. Walking Mabel, it smelled like snow outside. Mabel prevents me from becoming too much of a hermit. She gets walked throughout the day, and to do that I have to leave this apartment. Before I got Mabel, if I was depressed, I would avoid leaving, except at night. So I think she keeps me healthier. Last night Y. asked me if we could do some E and I did not have any, and am wary of it (bad thing for me when I am depressed) and there are so many memories that go along with it. But it would be fun. Maybe soon.

Saturday, January 15, 2005


There are some things I wish that I did not know.


Nghiem writes that "we (he and I) are binary archetypes of human frailty." I write that we are like twins, not identical twins, but twins all the same.

If Nghiem and I met, would we have anything to say to each other? Or would I be too wary of him, and he of me, because we know too well the fear and risk of real exchange? And, maybe, questions would not need any answers, because we would know the answers already. He has a stray eye, like mine.



I wrote this piece in 1996, when I was ill, actually quite ill. I did not know I was so ill, even though I felt absolutely horrible all of the time. I was afraid to go to the doctor. Also, I was in a strange place, an artist colony north of Chicago, where I had been given a residency. I had a deadline, I had to finish the piece, and I did finish it in time. As soon as I had finished, I left and went back to New York, not using my allotted time at the artist colony. When I came back to New York I got even sicker, and ended up in the hospital. When I listen to the piece now, I am reminded of how I felt during that time. I wonder if a listener, listening, can sense that too. I am happy with this piece, but I do feel it has an unbalanced, disconcerting quality to it.

I did this painting the previous summer, in 1995, when I was in Maine on Swans Island. There, I could paint outside. I had my cats with me. Tuna did not like going outside, but Pomona loved it. This is a partial view; the actual painting is taller than this.


a story

I just deleted this story, the true story of my mother's illness and death. I thought it was too sentimental and too maudlin. I have not thrown it away. I have only removed it from this blog. Perhaps one day I will post it again. But maybe not. It is enough for me to have written it, for myself. To remember everything.

I just returned from the Noguchi Museum. It was peaceful and the sculptures so incredible.

I have already posted this picture of my mother, but I am leaving it here, a ghost of the story that it accompanied until a few moments ago. My mother would have liked the Noguchi Museum.



Originally uploaded by madabandon.
If I were truly honest, I would respond (to anyone asking me the question "how are you?"): Every day I wake up and feel smothering agony. I have made a promise I do not think I can keep. I have seen great beauty, and tried to create it myself. I have loved with the greatest power I have, and it was not enough to save me. I am overwhelmed with the darkest thoughts. I am a skilled actor, smiling and appearing fine, but it has taken a toll on me and I am exhausted. I have tried to fix myself: I have seen doctors, taken pills, meditated, tried to "change my thinking." I feel tremendous relief and understanding when I read about others who took matters into their own hands, who could no longer live on this earth. I am ashamed that I feel like this but I can not deny its power over me. I never want hurt anyone I love, but sometimes I am sure that I will. I wish that I were not like this. I wish things were simpler. These are my honest answers.


more and more I feel that living is like being trapped in a jar and the irony is my life probably seems enviable to many. If I could describe how I feel in a few words, or many words (that is what I try to do here) but like Ana Mendieta all I can do is imprint myself somehow, like a thumb pressed into the sand and then let the impression slowly fade away the way memories of significance do. Memories fade until those things I remember clearly are "insignificant," not symbols or signs but just a taste, something I saw once, a glimpse of someone's hair. If you fall from the 34th floor, is your body pulverized beyond recognition? Ana Mendieta's work foretold her fate. She made what is tangible intangible. Music is intangible, always. I should become intangible. Like this photograph, I fade from sight.

Friday, January 14, 2005

this is why I don't believe in god

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (AP) -- A woman angry with her 12-year-old daughter for having sex forced the girl to drink bleach and sat on her until the child died, a police detective said.

The girl's 9-year-old brother was forced to watch the attack, Detective Warren Cotton testified Thursday in a preliminary hearing for Tunisia Archie, 31.

Archie is charged with capital murder in the asphyxiation death of her daughter Jasmine. If convicted, she could be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.

Cotton said Archie, who has been jailed without bond since shortly after her daughter's Nov. 26 death, told authorities she was disturbed because "her daughter told her that she was no longer a virgin."

She said she poured bleach into Jasmine's mouth and the child vomited, he said, then sat on her until she stopped breathing, Cotton testified.

Archie forced Jasmine's 9-year-old brother Jacorey to watch the attack and "told him that if he shed a tear that she was going to kill him, too," Cotton testified.


I read T's post today and all I can do as I read and re-read and use my flawed and shallow French and try to translate but I realize that yes I know the feeling he describes so perfectly and how odd and scary and upsetting and perfect it is to read about it on this blog which is linked to the other blogs which describe some strange sort of circle and which reminds me that we are all caught in the same kind of play, whether we admit it or not, whether we know it or not, whether we play or don't play. And all I can think of, for some reason, is Molly Bloom saying "yes yes yes" in the swirling magnificence of ULYSSES which I used to read once a year, but have neglected now for some time.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
just a few minutes ago. outside, the cold wind is howling.

self-portrait on cloudy day

self-portrait on cloudy day
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
yesterday morning


Today's horoscope:

Just how do you fit into this world? You have a surprisingly broad perspective for one little cog spinning in a vast machine. It's easy to blame the guilty, but you should work on giving credit where credit is due.


Ann Patchett, who was a great friend of my friend Lucy Grealy, who was herself a brilliant writer (AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A FACE), wrote a book called TRUTH AND BEAUTY. It is a memoir of their friendship. Lucy died. She had become a heroin user, maybe an addict; she and I had lost contact as her drug habit progressed, not by intention but by circumstance. But I loved her in a way that I can't describe (and so many people did love Lucy). There is one passage in the book that I return to again and again, although it makes me unbearably sad. It recalls a conversation they, not long before Lucy died (an overdose? no one knows for sure):

"I'll get over this," she said. "We'll look back and call these the heroin years. We'll say,`Do you remember when Lucy was a heroin addict?'"

"We thought it was very serious," I said.

"We thought she was gone for good," Lucy said, "but then something happened, no one ever knew what it was, but one day she straightened back up. When you look at how wonderful her life is now, you can hardly even believe it was really her."


My soul itself may be straight and good;
ah, but my heart, my bent-over blood,
all the distortions that hurt me inside--
it buckles under these things.
It has no garden, it has no sun,
it hangs on my twisted skeleton
and, terrified, flaps its wings.

from Rilke: "The Dwarf's Song"

Now I remember the dream that woke me last night: I was living in a house, near an ocean. The house was two storeys, and on the second floor there was a wide porch facing the sea. There I would sit. I had Pomona, one of my cats, with me. People visited; there was coming and going. And then, on a sunny day, the house simply collapsed, fell to the ground. I was sitting on the porch when it happened. I woke up as it fell, before I could hit the ground.

I used to have a recurring dream. In this dream, which varied in location, I might be standing on a corner talking to someone. Then, suddenly, I would fly away, just like a bird: up into the air, higher and higher, until the ground's details gave way the the bold large shapes of landscape seen from above as through an airplane window. I understand that dreams of flying are a sign of good fortune. I have not had one of these dreams in a long time.


So with much noise and activity N. made dinner (very good) and we ate and were laughing and laughing. I had put on Bach cantatas with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson--such a voice!--and had to stop eating so many times just to listen. Then the Bach was too much for me and I had to shut it off. And then we played music; writing a song, Y. playing guitar, piano for me, singing and drumming for N., and then listening to Nina Simone. I went out to walk Mabel. It had not yet begun to rain so she was happy to trot up the street and sniff at the odd bits of trash on the ground. Wet paper is her top choice. Then I went back inside and felt as if, were I a balloon, I had just been deflated. All the intense energy that had filled me for the day vanished in a puff and I could barely keep my head from falling on the ground. And so I went into the bedroom. I shut the hall door and the bedroom door to cut off the light and the music and the voices, and I got into bed and I took my trazodone and I put the pillow over my head and with my Tuna lying next to me purring I fell asleep.

Of course, the sleep did not last--I can't sleep through the night--and there I was, 1:45 am, standing in my kitchen in the dark, watching the time and temperature alternate, glowing in the dark, courtesy of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.

And I kept thinking about Bach. To me Bach's music is as sublime as anything I could ever imagine. It is technically perfect, but then so is Mozart's and still Mozart to me never sounds nearly so human as Bach's. How can it be so wrenchingly beautiful, so joyful, so sad, so alive, and so perfect too?

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Round And Round

Here I am and I don't know why
I spin so ceaselessly...
(patti smith)

I met Patti Smith at a party at my brother's once. She was very pale and she did not smile. But her eyes smiled, cryptically. She shook my hand.

I was shy and did not try to have a conversation with her.

Today on the subway, going to the pool, I started to cry. There was no particular thing or thought that made it happen. My mind seems to be on some trip of its own and I am just going along with it. I will try to be careful. I will hold on tight. There are friends here, at my apartment. N. is staying until she leaves for Marseille. She and Yoshi are cooking dinner and enlivening things. That is good.


Originally uploaded by madabandon.
A strange sensation. I am watching myself. My thoughts are utterly clear, not muddled as they often are. And yet, I am watching myself think these thoughts; I feel detached and omniscient. I can explain things clearly. Words come easily, in fully formed paragraphs. Is this disassociation? I believe that's what it is called.