Monday, October 06, 2008

A Wolf in a City's Still Morning

Is It Hammers Hammering or Poor People Pounding Their Heads Into Walls?
I sit in an early morning stillness that is devastating. It is so still the sounds of this city are glaring invasions of my contemplation. Noise loves stillness. It wrecks stillness. Demolishes it. And demolishing sounds are a part of the noise that smashes the fragileness of the stillness in which I sit. It's like a burglar cracking a window and invading your privacy--and this noise fracturing the stillness in which I was taking private moments to think is an invasion of my privacy, too. What privacy? An unanswerable question. For all I know those police helicopters that make so much noise when they hover over your neighborhood are shooting infrared visual devices into my apartment checking to see if I'm a terrerist! I'm guilty of something, aren't I? There are enough laws and rules and regulations put on me, surely I've broken one of them?

I was up early trying to sort and classify a collection of the coins of Chach I own. You know Chach? You know Chach if you know me. Do I know Chach? Not really. Nobody does really. The reference work I'm using is in Russian and I don't read Russian very well at all. At all. Not at all, I could say though in just trying to read it I've figured out jots and tittles of what I'm reading about. Like Chach is Yaya, though I know that's just Chach in the Cyrillic. I once hung with a Russian coin dealer and he pronounced it "Chach." He was from Saint Petersburg and my wife who's now deceased and I were once on a plane going to Saint Petersburg (it was still Leningrad)--to Paris first, then a connection to Saint Pete on an Aeroflot--we got to Paris and stayed at the Hotel Colbert and our room overlooked the Seine and Notre Dame and our room had Napoleonic furniture in it and the big Imperial-size bed faced the window that overlooked Notre Dame and rather than going to Saint Petersburg, we stayed in Paris and made out like bandits--we both hated Parisians--smug assholes--neither of us spoke French and we had le miserable time--Fuck the French, I was screaming as we hopped an Air France back to New York City.
Hotel Colbert
And this Russian coin dealer later long after my first attempt at getting to Saint Petersburg
told me he was going to join with an American travel agent to take a group of coin collectors to Saint Petersburg where he'd take us to the Hermitage and we'd go through their fabulous ancient and medieval coin collections with some Russian experts--and I was especially interested in seeing the Hermitage Sogdian coin collection, which included the coins of Chach--coins, by the way, that are just now reaching the USA after the fall of the Soviet regime who were adamantly uncooperative when it came to sharing their archaeological finds, which is how most of the coin hoards were discovered, while digging up the Samarkand area of Uzbekistan, then the bread basket of the Soviet Union. Plus, this dude said he'd take us to his home and his mother would cook us a typical Russkie dinner, accompanied by vodka, of course. He told us when we got to the hotel in St. Pete where he'd book us we'd be met at the desk with big slugs of vodka and that everywhere we went, including his parents's home, we'd have to down at least one slug of vodka per every member of the family or friend of the family we met. I got to figuring by the end of our first day in Saint Pete, we'd all be drunk as the Russian peasants shown in a Pudovkin film. "And the next day, same thing over again?" I asked. "Well, of course," he answered. Seven days in St. Pete and every evening we'd be sloshed with vodka.

Sad to say, this visit to Saint Petersburg never happened either. The Russian coin dealer had a heart attack and got out of the coin business and I haven't heard a word from him since (ten years now).

I tried to pour over my Chach collection in the still of this morning. I have 30 Chach coins--and I tried checking them against my Catalog of the Coins of Chach (Каталог Монет Yaya) and found it very difficult. My coins are hard to view. I use a 10X loupe to look at them but still these coins are nearly 2000 years old and they are of bronze, poorly struck (they used moulds on some and hammered others), containing hard to see the portraits--the Chach had kings--the language used on their coins is Sogdian--and it's hard to read the Sogdian legends you need to know to guess at which king it might be--and then you need at least enough of the tamghas (the ancestral dynastic signs of local rulers)--Chach had its own tamghas, 9 different ones to be exact, or as exact as I can be using this beautiful reference work sent to me from Tashkent by V.D. Shagalov, one of the catalogers.

It's a tough business trying to catalog these damn coins. It's a tough business trying to sell them, too. Coins I paid over $100 to $200 for back during the days of the Soviet Union are now selling on eBay for $10 to $20 a piece. This is due to hoards of Chach coins being released into the coin market by the Russian now-Capitalist state. Trouble is, the Russkies are notorious deceivers and a lot of fake ancient coins are coming out of Russia these days, including the coins of Chach. You've got to have scales that give you weights in grams and you need a degree in metalurgy to see if the coin you have is of the right weight and of the proper metal. This is especially true of gold and silver coins, though most Chach coins are bronze. Chach has portrait coins, heads of their rulers, then some busts of their rulers, then some of their rulers with their wives (two-faces Chach types), then there are some with a "running beast" on them, said by Russian numismatists to be a snow leopard--and in the mountains of this area is the natural habitat of the snow leopard--and some Chach coins show a horse with a moon sailing above it, and some Chach coins show a camel, and some Chach coins have their ruler sitting on a throne. There are 7 groups of Chach coins with 3 to 8 different varieties within those groups--39 types in all, if I remember correctly.

Chach, according to Shagalov and Kuznetsov, was first mentioned in history in 262 AD "in a victorious inscription of Sasanian ruler Shapur I on Kaaba Zoroastra, in which his possessions were extended up to [the] Sodg and Chachstan mountains.

"Etymology of its name is not clear. Chinese chronicles reproduced it as Shi or Chzheshe, have identified it with [the] term "stone", [or] stationing the Stone Tower close by. It was expressed [in] an opinion [of a Uzbek historian] that name possession [Chzheshe] was sounded [pronounced] as Chachan and in early Arabic times a [the] full-length name was shortened and Arabs started to refer [to] this region to [as] Shash instead of Chachan, replacing [the] sound 'Ch', which is lacking in their language by [with] 'Sh' and shifting respectively [arranging the] letters.

"Chach was part of a [the] state [of] Kang-Yei from II B.C. to III A.D." [from Shagalov & Kuznetsov, A Catalog of the Coins of Chach, Tashkent, 2006].

I am now taking a break. The stillness is back. I'm listening to Bernstein conducting the NY Philharmonic in Charles Ives's "Central Park in the Dark," a scary sort of adorable piece of Ives's musical continuing present. Break time. Take 5. I'm being undertaken by Mr. Ives.
Mister Ives--he once lived just over a few blocks from me on the East Side of NYC--so did Mark Twain and Herman Melville--and Teddy Roosevelt.

Mister Ives thought more-than-highly of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the other American Transcendentalists--Thoreau, Hawthorne--and a great writer Hawthorne is, too! And Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote so clearly about "conservatism" and "reform" to the point these studied men worshipped reform, and Mister Ives was a reformer of American classical music, transcending European music and developing, practically inventing, a classical music that was almost purely purged of European musical structures and norms. Mister Ives went to Yale and studied music and composition not so he could write copycat European crap but so he could write out the original music that zoomed throughout his head from the time he was a teenager until he became a wealthy insurance man--starting Merrick & Ives Insurance Company in downtown Manhattan--it later evolving into New York Life--when he had the time and money to write out his music into various forms--5 symphonies, 2 piano sonatas, several orchestral pieces and sets, 2 string quartets, 6 piano-violin sonatas, 3 quartertone piano pieces--and many, many more--114 songs!

And I sit here among all this ancient coinage--I have thousands of these coins--and this money is still valuable after 2000 years or more and yet our money today is nosediving like a Mafia-goon fitted out in concrete overshoes nosedives quickly and efficiently to the bottom of NYC's East River, a cesspool river--the tide rushes in and slushes the East River up to its origin and then the tide goes out with the power of a flushing toilet. Wall Street today later--and I am now sitting half-assedly calm in the stillness of today's evening hours--tanked 350 points. No one seems concerned. The noise of overconstruction continued on throughout today--construction workers thick as ants on the 72-story unneeded hotel going up on Sixth Avenue that I can see out my window that faces west--and even on the small plot next to me, there are workers out there, a couple at least, blasting iron rods into the ground--and then after the construction noises died down--the young twentyish dude who lives in my building's penthouse started playing his music awfully loud, though now things are so still I can hear myself thinking.

What am I thinking? I'm not thinking really and if I am thinking I'm thinking like a writer. What would my character do in a book situation where he or she were about to lose their income--where he or she is an older worker--say even retired--going broke--losing everything--pension stolen--no healthcare--no healthcare and facing such stress--stress unknown by some people until just today when they checked their Fidelity accounts and found the bottom had dropped out of your invested pension monies--your invested SS payments--your capital worth--going down the toilet with the big boys--the Goldman-Sachs bandits now in charge of 700 billion dollars!

My landlord who owns this building doesn't seem worried at all. He's well-financed by foreign money. Yet, I heard a woman from Europe saying there were runs on several banks in Europe today--people are withdrawing their cash and looking for other methods of exchange--like gold, silver, fine art, classic automobiles!

Not to worry, Nutjob McCain, truly a true nutjob, too, tells us. He and Sweet Sarah of Alaska will tame Wall Street when they get in power; why, John "Nutjob" McCain, the Maverick, will put us back to work, save the economy--is that a Milton Friedman mask Nutjob is wearing? Milton Friedman's economics has come home to haunt us. Even Milton before he died admitted his "trickle down" economics didn't work--why, it started fucking up our economy the minute Ronald Raygun Reagan, a movie actor, accepted Friedman's hoodoo economics as able to make the rich even richer! Note, too, that Arnie "Nazi Daddy" Swartzennegger is a Milton Friedman true believer, too. The economics of the University of Chicago "free-market" (Rightwing Trotskyism) champions is a failure, based on utopian dreams, dreams of a great class war where the rich totally take over the world thus controling the work force, production, location of production, wages, wholesale prices, then retail prices--the WEALTH of the world STOLEN and in the hands of the Global Marketplace! We're doomed unless CHAOS saves us.

I am garbled and worn by now. I'm silly lonely tonight. My howls are for love not war.

for The Daily Growler

Special From Mrs. L Hat and Rolling Stone:

There's a distance between the two men that belies their shared experience in North Vietnam — call it an honor gap. Like many American POWs, McCain broke down under torture and offered a "confession" to his North Vietnamese captors. Dramesi, in contrast, attempted two daring escapes. For the second he was brutalized for a month with daily torture sessions that nearly killed him. His partner in the escape, Lt. Col. Ed Atterberry, didn't survive the mistreatment. But Dramesi never said a disloyal word, and for his heroism was awarded two Air Force Crosses, one of the service's highest distinctions. McCain would later hail him as "one of the toughest guys I've ever met."

From Rolling Stone
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