Shattered Wig #28

Shattered Wig #28
Coming In November!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Letters From Pappy In Chengdu - Episode 1: Another Kidney Stone

Mark "Pappy" Hossfeld was a huge influence on the Baltimore arts scene of the late '80s and early '90s. He co-founded and did most of the hands-on managing of the BAUHAUS (which he wanted to call The Astro Chimp Impact Crater) on Charles Street then and hosted his own monthly reading/performance series there called The Punch House. Each month he would read a new chapter from a novel he was working on, Dona Juana, and have various musical acts and readers of greater or lesser perversion perform along with him.

When the BAUHAUS crashed as almost all Baltimore artistic ventures did back then he moved back to his roots in the South to get a masters degree and from there he has fled even further from us, now teaching in Chengdu, China. As the Baltimore arts scene now flourishes wildly, in particular the writing scene, I often think of him and how much he would love what's going on. Shattered Wig Press would love to put out a book of his sonnets sometime in the future and hopefully he will get here soon to meet all the new bright lights at Publishing Genius and Narrow House and the i.e. and 510 series.

Meanwhile he is being the poor man's Graham Greene and producing lots of new poems, stories, drawings and the beginning of a new novel. He is also a hell of a letter writer. I plan to start peppering this blog with his missives from Chengdu and his new works, which he sadly doesn't send to anyone but us, magazine wise.

And where better to start with his letters than a great nightmarish one detailing his latest kidney stone, a curse he shares with another great writer of black humor, Blaster Al Ackerman. So did the stones come before the black humor or the black humor before the stones???

Dear Roop – So sorry for the long delay, but between my old body, the boiling soup of this Chengdu summer and the work schedule I took on this “holiday,” I have been barely dragging myself along the floor this past month. Renee was here for a month, which, while certainly the best step-father / step-daughter reunion yet, completely took over our time. During her last days here, I thought I felt a kidney stone coming. I’ve had so many I’ve begun to think myself something of an expert, self-diagnosing the bejeebus out of myself. I went to a traditional Chinese doctor at a small market in the south of the city and he made me up a strange package of sticks and weeds that I made into a potion after two hours of boiling in a cauldron, straining and stirring like a Shakespearian witch (my wok was filled to the brim with this weedy, swampy looking shit). He also instructed me to hold my hands behind my head and hop 20 times every time I had to pee. You can imagine how much fun Maureen and Renee had with that one. I like this doctor a lot. He’s a real weather-beaten old guy, lean and bony with skin that looks like it has been smoked like the plucked ducks you see hanging off old farmhouses. He’s very spry too, demonstrating for me somewhat excessively the intricacies of the pre-urinary hop.

The concoction was actually pretty tasty, very similar to pot likker and would have gone nicely with cornbread, but it did absolutely uncanny things to my poor brain. It was like very strong weed without the pleasurable parts and infringed terribly on my motor control. I’d have to sit down after a few minutes of mere standing and the pre-piss hopping became downright dangerous. So, after a week of this, I started to reconsider the whole kidney stone business and concluded I had a urinary tract infection and put myself on a schedule of antibiotics. After a week of antibiotics, I was still as miserable as before, but by now I had started my summer school schedule which was 6 days a week at the other campus, waking up at 5 am to get to a grueling, intensive, I-am-a-crazy-foreign-monkey-for-you (is that a Prince song?) “teaching” schedule. Teaching English in China is an ever-increasing sacrifice of personal dignity for the sake of an artificially depressed currency. The school is far more interested in the various ceremonies of the session, parading the foreigners in front of various dignitaries in varying degrees of personal degradation: wearing strange Chinglish T-shirts, making speeches about what is or isn’t going to happen anyway, leading bored children through ridiculous competitions in singing John Denver songs, etc.

So, the first day of class I arrived with extreme discomfort of my nether regions combined with a vicious Chinese flu, which lasted for ten days… The huge stone then passed (I added a good yelp for dramatic effect, then invited my wife to come see what I had done in the toilet – she’ll never forgive me) to remind me that “first thought is best thought,” etc.

So, now I’ve slept – I slept almost all day Saturday – and I see that this email is rather dick-focused. Let’s move up the old cadaver. As to the “earwig” poem, it’s one of those experiments I do from time to time – many folks do this, probably you too – in which I take a foreign language text I can’t understand and “translate” it; in this case, it was a letter from a 17th century Dutch sailor. I love Dutch. It looks like the dialect from some fantasmagorical E. C. Segar character out to sink Popeye and Olive Oyl on the snotty sea. There’s something dank and phlegmy about written Dutch, though it doesn’t sound all that bad. Anyway, no allegory or satire involved; no aesthetic axes to grind. I’m almost incapable of that now, anyway. Working on something about someone named Dr. Wen which I hope I can get presentable by fall, actually gonna draw some – my neighbor went back to the states and left me his scanner!

So good to see you with a stone fox and dropping hints of marriage! What’s that mean to this increasingly nastifying world I peruse from my perch? Hope? I thought we all put that puppy down after November. I hope it’s hope. I must say, America from afar isn’t very inspiring until I see wonderful things like Wondolowskis in love.

Love is all around you quoth the Troggs

Your paps.