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Naked poets and Folie à deux

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Daedalus Howell/Index-Tribune

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Those of a certain generation may recall Herb Caen, the erstwhile San Francisco Chronicle columnist who anchored the Macy’s ad next to his daily forays into what he called “three dot journalism.” I never met Caen but my mother, when a bank VP, retained his services as an on-call personality. This was during the rollicking ’90s when on-call celebrity earned a five-figure appearance fee to cameo at a company party. My, times have changed. The last time I profited at a party was when someone sent me on a beer run at the I-T holiday party, then promptly locked the doors.

Caen didn’t know how good he had it. No one did in the ‘90s. For example, this column earns me the same dough the Chron paid when I last filed for them a decade ago. Rates in this market had peaked. I’m not complaining. Given the state of the industry, it’s a small miracle and frankly, since words are free to anyone here in the U.S., my markup is criminal.

And since I’m in in a felonious mood, permit me to steal from Caen himself as I attempt a bit of three-dotism myself. It’s not an homage. It’s because ellipses are easier to type on a Chromebook than my beloved em dash – literally, three periods versus CTRL+SHIFT+U+2014 …

Sonoma County’s own cartographer of the NorCal soul, Jonah Raskin, forever changed the local lit scene last week when he doffed his clothes whilst performing his poetry. The 71-year-old was cheered on during the BUMP Wine Cellars event. The striptease was, in part, inspired by Allen Ginsberg, about whose “Howl” Raskin wrote the brilliant history “American Scream.” I found a bit about the nude Beat in Michael Schumacher’s bio, “Dharma Lion,” that recounts Ginsberg showing down a heckler by showing him the goods.

“… Allen left the stage and approached him. He accused the man of wanting to do something brave in front of the audience and then challenged him to take off all his clothes. As he walked towards the drunk, Allen stripped off all of his clothing, hurling his pants and shirt at the now retreating heckler. ‘Stand naked before the people,’ Allen said. ‘The poet always stands naked before the world.’ Defeated, the man backed into another room.”

Raskin wasn’t challenging anyone — more like whipping them into a frenzy of adulation. In fact, before his briefs came off, a female fan inserted a dollar into the waistband thus making him the highest paid poet in Sonoma.

…For me, “two is coincidence, three is synchronicity.” I mean this in the Jungian, not The Police, way. Today’s synchronistic phenomena came courtesy of Mick Foley, the World Wrestling Entertainment legend-turned-author and raconteur.

First came the emailed press release for an event at which Foley will appear, called Eternal Con, which purports to be a Long Island-based comic book convention but sounds like a synonym for “endless scam.” Next, I spied a poster for the wrestlers’ upcoming August appearance at Petaluma’s Phoenix Theater, at which he’ll apparently unleash a “blend of wit and wisdom, wildness and warmth…” and presumably other words beginning with W.

Finally, I was at Treehorn Books in Santa Rosa, perusing the used stacks only to find Foley’s toothless grin beaming back at me from the cover of “Foley is Good And the Real World is Faker than Wrestling.” I’m not sure if that’s even grammatically correct, but then, he’s a New York Times bestseller and I’m not (thus he handily wins the “descriptivist” versus “prescriptivist” linguistic debate). Now, I’m inspired – nay, compelled! – to score an interview. I’ll print it here if it transpires.

Meanwhile, whilst researching “Foley,” I discovered this: Folie à deux (French for “a madness shared by two, or shared psychosis) is a psychiatric syndrome in which symptoms of a delusional belief are transmitted from one individual to another.” And so it begins …

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Daedalus Howell keeps a living archive of dots, em dashes and eternal question marks at DHowell.com. Follow him on Twitter @daedalushowell.