Sure, life can feel like a circus performance. Today under the big top, I give you the first few pages of Leopold Courting Rose, my 2013 book of love letters to the world who became my wife. It is the best treatise on love you will read today, and the painting above, the visual counterpart of living circus lore. Pay attention. Both Lena and I are experts!
Leopold Courting Rose
COPYRIGHT © 2013 by Freeflow Publishing
Cover design by Ron Throop, illustrations by Ron and Sophie Throop.
All rights reserved to couples in poverty who have hope, comfort and discovery.
The text used throughout this book would torture even the most amateur graphic artist. The font is American Typewriter and that’s exactly what I was for the majority of these letters and poems. Suffer through them, and remember that the object of this torturous type actually agreed to marry me. All you have to do is read it.
Climb Mount Fuji
But slowly, slowly!”
“It was the door called death which always swung open, and I saw that there was no death, nor were there any judges or executioners save in our imagining. How
desperately I strove to make restitution! And I did make restitution. Full and complete. The rajah stripping
himself naked. Only an ego left, but an ego puffed and swollen like a hideous toad. And then the utter insanity of it would overwhelm me. Nothing can be given or taken away; nothing has been added or subtracted; nothing increased or diminished. We stand on the same shore before the same mighty ocean. The ocean of love. There it is—in perpetuum. As much in a broken blossum, the sound of a waterfall, the swoop of a carrion bird, as in the thunderous artillery of the prophet. We move with eyes shut and ears stopped. We smash walls where doors are waiting to open at the touch; we grope for ladders, forgetting that we have wings; we pray as if God were deaf and blind, as if He were in space. No wonder the angels in our midst are unrecognizable…”
“It is commonly thought that of all people, lovers behold one another in the most unrealistic light, and that in their encounter is but the mutual projection of extravagant ideals. But may it not be that nature has allowed them to see for the first time what a human being is, and that the subsequent disillusion is not the fading of dream into reality, but the strangling of reality with an all too eager embrace?”
I want you so wholly, Ron. This heart beating in my chest betrays me. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if it would just lock itself away from the rest of me, leaving me indifferent to all but myself? Alas! Your phantom haunts me when my mind should be elsewhere, and I slip into fantasy. Standing at attention, my every nerve waits to be met by your touch, your gaze, your smile.
You call yourself fool. If you be a fool, then let’s be fools, two.
Two years of regular letter writing suddenly ceased. Why? A simple twist in our life’s pattern. Fate, however, had nothing to do with it. Seasons still changed on time. Birds and worms continued to do what human beings have no idea what they do. The letters stopped because we got a house bought for us the day we were engaged. A nice gesture, even if it was the worst mistake. A good deal too, if one was willing to put his life on contract. An indentured servant to an inanimate square. Actually, two squares. It was a big house.
The floors were old and sinking. I went down into the basement to jack the joists up. My back and lungs broke, but most unfortunately, my heart sank.
However, that is not the story I have to tell.
No, I am writing about courting, but strictly in the imaginative Japanese style. The days of slow cooking, long walks to nowhere, and the pungent stink of moss and pine—even if they existed only in dreams. Days of peace without worry, and nights taking hot baths and eating soup and bread. The love-making lasted from the wonderful night she let me walk her home—I tore a rose from its bush and gave her the flower and my blood—until the first day I learned how to use a cat’s claw crowbar. For two years I kept to a regimen of letter writing that if left unchecked for a man’s lifetime would not only fill fifty volumes of useless love scribblings, but certainly keep her desire and longing at a healthy constant. At least that was my heart’s hope. Because what a man should desire, provided he wants to take a mate, is a never-ending sixth grade playground of the mind. You want her. But try to remember when you wanted her more than anything in the world.
Almost every day, for two years, my letters to her arrived. So many letters. If I hadn’t a stamp, I’d draw my own and postmark it from the teahouse, which was wherever I happened to be alive at that moment. From the leaky hovel on West Fourth Street, or resting in a tree’s shade on the riverbank, Rose was sent a piece of me whether she liked it or not. Each letter bearing my mission statement: Our lives are a very compelling
story… And then a stream of words about “love, hope, sex, and dirty dreams” from a man who felt and did not care.
I think she liked them. Unless it was her desire all along to make me a carpenter slash plumber slash electrician, designing and constructing her house and my tomb.
I wrote letters. Dear Rose, … Love Ron, Tim, or “Gary the Wanderer”. How easy to leave a love letter a day. Just one. Ten minutes or two hours of my time. The critics may snicker and complain. They might jump me in a back alley and bludgeon my skull. They can laugh, laugh, laugh and ignite me in a pool of gasoline. But just one letter delivered, left in a book, secretly, or openly tacked to a door, is a determined reminder to ourselves that life has something more to say. That it will always get the last laugh no one denies. Yet to pretend that you’re one up on life, that it will not continue for the rest of them without you, is a game worth losing over and over again. I have always been a first rate loser. What is a truck load of sheetrock, two boxes of screws, and a promise of a month of back-breaking labor going to get me? No doubt in this letter-writer’s mind, an unhappy, hopelessly neurotic spouse who might just hate me behind her lovely smile. Yes, pretty painted walls to replace the letters. Decorative crafts to stand out stark, and our love-making gone to sleep. Bills get put into a bill drawer, or stuck in a rack made strictly for that purpose, and nobody hopes for
Ah, but a letter? Two letters? How about fifty thousand? Where the hell did I think I was going? I still have an immense debt to pay to her. I have more than an inkling of admiration left for her body and heart. Letter writing, gift giving, shoot!—just patient, loving thought to the person you hope to spend the rest of your life with. So much more than art, than job, than money. Wind and sun and love—all are still incomprehensible. It’s cowards and devils who are finished with those things. The
number one reason why home center trucks clog our city streets, and electric drills sound off the summer morning. A walk over mountain, bridging stream and boulder with your staff… Frighten grouse, friend of deer. The forest is drenched with last night’s rain. What’s that in your pocket? Another scroll letter, or a tube of spackle? A bag of herbs or a box of money? Do you hate yourself that much, or are you actually glad to see her sad face?
Why Love Letters?
Who is Leopold?
Curse this political world! Last month I signed up for a free online course in social psychology hoping it would sedate my inner anxiety fool, and get me thinking about other stuff besides doom and gloom. Over the past ten years or so I have let the wrong people in. Unknowns, rabble-rousers, political cry-babies. So much in my mind not of the family and clan has focused its attention on strangers and their woeful struggles. I deemed myself the silent Sally Struthers’ spokesperson for civil liberties (of others), individualism (of others again), and freedom without war and atrocity (others again and again).
Silly me. I have always been free to speak, individualistic more so than Henry Thoreau, and anti-war with an internal, red hot passion. Seeking it for others? Why? It already exists. Don’t tick off the King in a super economy, and one will be showered with gifts and glory unbeknownst to the Gods and emperors of yesteryear. I can speak or write any blasphemy under the sun as long as I can prove no child molestation. I can walk out this door and keep walking to Utah, provided I keep myself looking a cut above meth abuser. And war? Don’t need it. Don’t have to join up. There are millions of neglected children jonesing for a chance to be loved by anyone, even a sociopath sergeant or general. I am not one of these millions of fools. So why attempt to be their social pastor? Especially if I’m not getting paid for it? Amazing freedom in the western world. But little wisdom. Even though all religions and philosophies swear the latter leads to happiness. Our freedoms are apparent, and they have made us very sick in the mind. Nero, for all the power he possessed on a diminishing empire’s credit, was just an insane freak of nature like a Rupert Murdock or Barack Obama. Not
happy. Never secure in love. Yet it seems all the non-political commoners dress up to be like them, and would become them if they won the lottery. The common men who stop to admire a jet ski on display at the mall, and the women who consider purchasing the latest issue of People magazine with a dead Patrick Swayze on the cover. These folks are certainly not happy in their ignorance, which is never bliss, but rather chimera. Also, wrong acceptance of careerism and its habits of middle age has blown our happiness path to smithereens. No wonder so many are plagued with regret and night sweats of bitterness.
So why did the political world move into my brain and push out the wisdom-to-be that I swear was thriving in my younger years? Maybe this course I am taking in psychology will shed light on the social/anti-social animal I have become. Maybe it will speak about first love or second love, the born again feeling that arises when energy is directed at discovery, and bliss becomes everyday reality through the auspices of blind love for another human being. Probably not. Love is never taken seriously at the college level (although every single university affiliate has fallen to its power). Still, I would think it a doctoral track more necessary to happiness that physics or English literature. What else needs to be discovered in order for the “good life” to be realized? John Donne’s snuff habit? Another dimension of reality that we’re told we can never see (perhaps heaven)? What specialization need we focus upon now that cholera can be defeated? Have we in the western nations not enough potable water, clothing, shelter and fuel? I would argue that all we lack is proper distribution of these necessities. And that can be fixed overnight by determined revolutionaries in love. Sack a congress lobbied to corruption with rotten tomatoes and “We are the World” mantras.
I think that this college course will uncover some awful truth about modern humanity. That is this: We
eagerly make efforts to go against the grain of the heaven on earth existing before our very eyes. It will show by experiment that humanity has always been subject to groupthink and group censure, from caveman times to the atomic age, and that this was necessary as far as groups go. Geese form a “V” to fly south. People arrange a militia to fight other people who covet their stuff.
But we moderns have made the blunder of taking social conditioning way too far, and have ignored the wonders of love, art, and beauty, which in older times the royal classes gravitated towards in their grateful acceptance of good fortune. Who in Jacksonian Democracy could foresee an Iphone with every volume entitled “me” in its Library of Congress-sized memory reading room? What Japanese noble of the Kamakura Period would not mutilate his own bowel after realizing he forsook his only son’s wisdom education for a shiny red Ford F350?
Unfortunately my free social psychology course will not lecture me that the above modern condition is abnormal psychology chomping on steroids. It will not instruct me on wisdom, nor on how to find it, nurture it, and use it to achieve happiness in this life. No, it is a social boo-boo to voice a strong opinion against the mountain of crap our society drops on us day after day. Normalcy is to be
authenticated after 8 years of intense tunnel vision university study before society even allows an educated guess at what might be wrong with it. And then it won’t have credence without publication, which will only come if approved by an editor, himself overeducated to the point of fearing his own vocal opinion without first undergoing five years of proper research and testing.
But love? No degree necessary. And we think we’re very good at it, yes? We have experienced it, studied it, woke up eager to practice it, mainly during the courting stages, when it was as important to life’s mission as finding a career and establishing oneself an accepted player in society. So what happened? Why no mention of love promotion in the press other than hitting the 50th anniversary mark? Awards are many but private to be sure, credentials boxed up in the basement, photographs nonexistent to present-day visitors to the marital abode. Yet it was one of the three or four most significant moments in the life of every human being. It has been relegated as a social taboo to communally recollect and organize hard copies of examples of falling in love. A kind of embarrassment, almost a mild shame that prevents each and every one of us from “yawping” our love out from the rooftops.
I have a hypothesis to share with the social psychologists. By virtue of the 200,000 year old struggle for survival, modern well-fed human beings, who have no immediate threat to their existence, haven’t the slightest idea how to process the ecstasy of courting after the mate has been won. A species-wide denial of poetic joy that practically everyone has experienced pervades.
I would argue that by covering up real memories of courting happiness to the extent that they exist on par with other childhood rites of passage, like losing teeth or leaving the familial nest, we have denied ourselves and loved ones a published account of what could very well be an example of burgeoning wisdom.
So we forget about early love to make room for the tough, grown-up stuff, (ex., career, child rearing, keeping a clean house, grocery shopping, finding hobbies), and no periodic reference to the good ole days can be used to repair broken dreams. Hence dissatisfaction with our wife or husband, the seven-year-itch, and recycled ideas of how great life would be if we could just “get away”.
Separation in the mind, if not actualized, is all too common. And divorce becomes an option, since all reminders of why this girl or guy moved you in the first place, have been buried and lost to time.
I believe we all possess this poetry of love’s beginning. I think it is a course worth deep study, if only to research why its virtue has been lost to all and sundry. I have brought up these old letters and poems from our musty basement on the eve of my wife’s 40th birthday. Lately I have been feeling the overwhelming strain of practicing a repetition of days toward cliché goals. Security, conservatism, wealth, retirement—all notions I would have smirked at when I was in my twenties looking for answers to “why” and “what for?”. Then I started chasing Rose, and during the process, saw opportunities arise and abilities executed that I thought could never be. Not quite feelings of invincibility, but close. More like insight into the power of dreams to encourage positive action with another human being. That is I dreamed of a day, maybe a picnic and a movie, woke up and arranged it, and then experienced it with her. Success! Tenderness. Lovemaking. Sleep. And the promise of more. I already had a five-year-old daughter, and her well-being was much improved day-to-day as I courted Rose. The creativity, optimism, hope, excitement of new love was carried over to the nurturing of my little girl. There was no neglect, nobody pushed aside so abstracts like “job security” or “personal success” could make room.
So why did those feelings of wellness and “all is right with the world” ever fade away?
Now is when Leopold enters the concert arena.
The other night while doing dishes I made Rose laugh out loud as I explained to her my concept of Leopold. He is Bugs Bunny on the cover of this book, and can be found in action on Youtube or Vimeo. I told her that for once in my life (and hers too) I want the world to shower the praise on us that was given to that “wrascally wrabbit” when he was imitating some maestro of the time, real or imaginary. A necessary feeling to pull us out of the
repetitive funk we find ourselves locked in. To spend it all on just one night! A suite booked at the Plaza, reservations at Daniel, a private car with driver, black disco dress with sparkles, tickets to the opera at Lincoln Center, where Rose and I conduct music for the worn and weary.
We had this feeling one time not so long ago. Every letter I sent to her was a promise for a night like this. And Rose was all about reciprocation, even if it was not literary. No doubt, we both believed wholeheartedly in each other and had faith in the future. I do not doubt that you, reader, have felt the same many times not too long ago…
So, what is the theory we can test? How do I institute this landmark study that will get the comfortable masses to recapture romantic love without relinquishing the urge to relieve social pressures in their every day lives? That is, how to find wisdom in love again, and save for retirement? Well, for starters, I wrote and edited this book. My private hope is that Leopold spends it all on one night to reinvigorate dreams which he believes were visionary in their wisdom. Of course none of this effort will matter if Rose is not convinced, and vies for austerity because the pay is never enough, keep working. John Lennon was about forty when “Starting Over” was a popular song on the radio. Those lyrics are poetry of what this book is trying to recapture. Also the following, written when I was feeling a little bit Leopold thirteen years ago:
Say, What’s Cooking In Oswego?
A plate of truth and a bottle of blood?
No, no numb skull, far from that!
There used to be fishermen here
but baby perch wiggle tougher
than our men do nowadays.
I think they kept chickens
back in the 1800’s
She already had an egg
and a log on the fire
Whisk the egg with two fingers of sugar
and a dash of salt
Mix with yesterday’s milk,
pour into flour
then a pan on the fire
Eat with your hand and smell
her dirty apron and stinky toes.
There was one poet here in 1936
He went nuts
Walked up to his old Aunt Beasel
raking leaves into a pile,
and punched her square in the eye.
She kicked his ass of course
right in front of Joe and Mickey
and even their pet rabbit seemed to be laughing.
That was all of him
He took a bus to New York
Got a job washing dishes at Delmonico’s
Got rich, lived rich, died super-rich
with nothing at all.
What’s so wonderful about New York
that ain’t happening here in Oswego?
Well, now that everyone’s a sissy
(Joe was a truck driver
Mickey got a restaurant),
Now that even the cock swaggers down the street
terrifying the plump little bib drippers we’ve become
It’s nice once in a while to forget
about manhood, womanhood,
Aunt Beasel’s hairy mole next to her eye…
It’s good to forget about our legs and arms
and things like where water comes from
Now that we’re self-proclaimed half truths
and walking lies
why not enjoy life to its fullest plate of food?
And what’s cooking in Oswego
is only fitting for what Oswego cooks up.
Our restaurants mix powdered demi-glace,
deep fry their hairy ninety-five cent broilers,
Some chefs I know
should just piss on your plate
One place thinks rigatoni in Italian means
“looks and smells like Great Nana’s big toe”
At least in New York we can still pretend
that all life left is imagination
and get a king’s meal at a fair price
and window shop and make ourselves
smell real good for dinner.
“Good evening Mr. and Mrs. Throop
May I take your coats?
Chef Beasel saved a perfect egg for you tonight
You look so good, smell so sweet
your arms are bare and beautiful,
your neck perfeect
Right this way
Right this way
Right this way
Let this book be a reminder of what I believe makes the best humans in a comfortable world. Spend it all, and let the chips fall.
25 feet from the garden