Actor, poet, frenetic wild child and the natural leader of this band of hooligans. Orphaned as a small boy and raised by his aunt. Moved to California in 2017 accompanied by Jude Moonlight where he fell in with an odd assortment of characters and has since been leapfrogging from the backseat of his car to the old movie theaters on the fringes of town, from the bars, cafes and pool halls in and around the city of angels up the golden coast to the cliffs of Big Sur.
Occasionally he makes trips to Spain, which he claims to be his mother country, though this has yet to be confirmed or denied. He began these trips somewhat recently. His first was with a girl he knew, way back when, to Madrid and later into Toledo, the historic capital of the old Spanish kingdom.
I am not exactly a conventional musician, you know…
I couldn’t tell you anything about theory.
I can’t even read music. No,
I’m just like this wild man of the woods
born of the swamp, singing
if not screaming to the heavens
and sometimes to my people
and I’m gonna use whatever
I have on me to be able to do it.
No! Ok I’m not exactly sure, but I’m inclined to think not since it’s removed face-to-face confrontation, a core component of meaningful conversation, from our everyday lives. That’s not to say we were generally good communicators anyway, even before ten or twelve years ago.
Still, I do think social media has aggravated many of our common weaknesses, such as vulnerability to ego, an unwillingness to be wrong, and not listening.
The same can be said for texting but I’ll get into that, as well as social media, some other time. What’s more interesting to me, and likely more important for the sake of cultivating a more prosperous society, are those weaknesses I just mentioned. Besides let’s face it, social media isn’t going anywhere. It’s prevalence in our daily lives is unlikely to change anytime soon. Nor should it.
No, what I think ought to change more immediately is our handling of it, so that it’s presence in our lives isn’t quite as relevant, or at least so it’s less damaging.
To do that we’re going to have to get a better handling on how we have conversations with each other, independent of the platform we use to do it.
All anyone needs to do these days is go on YouTube, and look at the arguments people have with one another in the comments section following any political post. If just the thought of doing that made you cringe just now, you’re not alone. I feel the same way. “Who are these people?!”
That’s just it. They’re us.
While YouTube in particular can seem like a cesspool for vitriol and hate, we can’t be so quick to righteously distance ourselves from them, because at the core of those forums, I think, lie the same fundamental problems that dog even the most diplomatic among us. Ego.
That my friends, is one pesky son of a bitch.
Now let’s just imagine, for a moment, that ego didn’t exist in the world. What would it look like?
Are you smiling yet? Keep trying.
Alright that’s enough. Maybe you didn’t smile. Maybe you’re not the smiling type, and that’s ok. We still love you.
The point I’m trying to make is that most of us go into our conversations and arguments as though it’s a contest. But that’s just it. It’s not a contest. That’s an illusion perpetuated over the last thirty years, with the rise of cable news and programs that pit one person against another like two swordsman representing their warring tribes.
The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.
-Leonardo Da Vinci
We don’t owe our allegiance to our ideology. We owe it to the truth. Granted, the truth is something more abstract if not multi-dimensional, but it’s universal. Thus, the aim for each participant in a conversation cannot be winning, which naturally pits one against the other. The aim must be to arrive at a common truth, which requires working together.
When that happens, we no longer care about being wrong. We’re no longer terrified at the prospect of losing an argument, and why should we be? Really, we don’t lose at all. If you find that you’ve come around to embracing another person’s point of view, you didn’t lose, you just discovered something that you’d overlooked before. You’re a wiser person for it.
There’s nothing to be bitter about. You’ve simply worked together with someone else at uncovering a broader truth. That’s something to celebrate, not scorn.
Finally, when we lose the unfounded fear of being wrong, a third thing happens. We are more able to listen. We’ve removed ego, fear, insecurity, bias and judgement from our point of view; and so we can more adequately listen to the person in front of us, with respect and a clear devotion to something bigger than ourselves.
This might sound like an oversimplification, but it’s really just a small change, a slight shift in our thinking that can make a monumental difference in our society–let alone in our personal relationships–the more people follow through with it. If we remove our ego from the equation, and step out of our own way, we no longer have one hand tied behind our back in how we communicate with one another.
This, I’m convinced, is the essential core of a healthy country and a truly self-sustaining democracy.
P.S. for those of you who made it this far, thanks for listening! Here’s a token of our appreciation.
I saw windmills in the distance obscured by thick morning fog, looking like ominous giants way out there watching me every step of the way. Dinosaurs on the move, born again and rising out of the Texas swamps.
But then I was still in the plains. This was West Texas, just outside of Amarillo. I had music playing that morning. Elvis Presley. He was crooning one of my favorite songs. Milky White Way.
I stopped at a cafe about 80 miles to the south. The place was nearly deserted except for the lady and gentleman who ran the place. I think they ran it anyway. I think they were a married couple too. I only assumed these things by the way they carried themselves around the shop, and the way they spoke to each other, not in any good or bad way but one that seemed like they’d been doing it for many years.
They asked where I was coming from, and where I was going. I’ve had so many conversations like this over the years, it’s crazy. I don’t mind it though.
I like meeting people from across the country. It makes me feel closer to it in a way that I guess few are able to experience as often. So I count myself lucky.
I’m coming from California, I told them. “I’m headed toward Shreveport.”
“Ah well,” the lady said. “That’s a long way from here. I think you’re gonna need some coffee.”
She smiled then winked at me. The man strode in from the back room to say hello. He rested his hands onto countertop and then took a long look out the window.
“Yes please,” I said to the lady.
She went into the back room to roast me a cup. I asked for a medium since I knew that I did indeed have a longer drive ahead of me. The truth was that I hoped to make it a little farther past Shreveport if I could. The car I was driving was actually a lease, one that needed to be returned in Florida because the back seats were still there. I needed to get back to Florida before the deadline, with enough time in between to get it cleaned and in good shape before I turned it in.
The sooner I arrived, the better; but I didn’t want to push myself to the point of exhaustion either. The last thing I needed to was to get all run down and suddenly become twice as vulnerable to Señor Corona.
The lady came back from the office with a medium cup of coffee. I thanked them both very much and wished them a nice rest of the week.
“You too,” said the man. “Be safe out there and enjoy Shreveport.”
I tipped my hat to him and went out toward the door as two girls walked in, saying hello to me and to the man and woman at the counter. The four of them repeated a different version of the conversation we’d just had. The girls walked over to the coffee table by the window and signed what looked like a visitor’s log, where they likely wrote down their information and where they were traveling from and their email address and all those details.
At the front door I noticed a sign I hadn’t noticed before, or rather about twelve different signs each pointing in different directions from a wooden plank. Each sign had a different town or city, some in the United States and a few others throughout the world, from Amarillo and Santa Fe to Rome, London and Cairo, each with the corresponding number of miles between the city and this coffee shop.
I smiled and walked out the door. I started the car and continued south by southwest, heading toward Shreveport.
Art belongs to the people. It always has and hopefully always will.
It’s an important relationship, essential to the human experience. Still it’s most consistent threat comes in the form of the intellectual asserting their expertise and implicitly suggesting some greater understanding of the art than the average person, even though we all have eyes and ears.
It’s a role that really shouldn’t exist unless it celebrates the work and it’s potential value to society. If the work itself is no good then why talk about it at all? Wouldn’t it just add more noise to something that isn’t worthwhile to begin with?
Conversation and debate, more so than criticism, should arise from the ideas suggested by the art, and not dwell on whether the work is any good. Any real complaint or criticism, then, would still manage to stimulate further discussion instead of stifling it.
“Never use a long word where a short one will do.”
I can’t help but notice how these critics are a lot like some religious leaders who take a universal experience, plainly accessible to everyone, and suggest that their perspective on it is somehow more credible than our own, that they are more aware of its complexities–even though these are typically complexities of their own creation.
Most of them have never made a film, written a novel, composed music, or contributed anything to the field in which they claim expertise. What they have done is invent a vocabulary, spontaneously and without any great need for one, a lexicon uniquely tailored to the craft, to a collective experience, that only further reinforces the illusion that they understand it more deeply than we do.
Jargon complicates the experience for the layman, reserving it for the elites who invent the language, evidently to perpetuate their own sense of self-importance.
In the late 1940s, William Faulkner criticized Ernest Hemingway for his terse style of writing, his limited choice of words.
“He has no courage, has never crawled out on a limb,” Faulkner said. “He has never been known to use a word that might cause the reader to check with a dictionary to see if it is properly used.”
When Hemingway heard about the criticism, he had his own choice words for Faulkner.
“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.”
Very often I’ve met people who find art overwhelming, even intimidating, just like they do poetry and certain types of music, like jazz or classical, because they feel it goes over their head. They get discouraged by their seeming inability to figure out what the artist is trying to say, as if there’s some great big point to it they cannot grasp.
Ultimately it’s a product of our own making. We’ve cultivated a whole industry that assumes the right to decide for everyone else what is good and what is bad, even though there has never been a science in determining something like that, and suggesting otherwise only reinforces the idea of there being some secret language to understanding it in the first place, a language reserved only for the esoteric few instead of the many.
There is no big secret, or code, or convoluted way. The language is universal. There is only the reaction, our own individual connections to the art, every bit as legitimate as the reactions of the self-proclaimed scholars.
I emphasize this because, in this magazine, we’ll be talking about music and films and painting and all kinds of art that we enjoy here at Quinby & Co. We’ll be talking about why we enjoy it too.
We will never be talking about something just so that we can give it a bad review and shoot it down. If you hear any kind of criticism, it will more often address a specific point we feel the work in question is making, one that we feel has broader societal and philosophical implications.
If anything, it will try and stimulate debate not on the merit of the work but on the larger points that we have interpreted from it. Most often, it will be a conversation over ideas. We are not experts here, but we are passionate about telling good stories that resonate with people, about the tradition of telling stories and understanding why, since the dawn of man, we’ve even bothered to do it all.
To that point, we’d like to emphasize our belief that any work of art that stimulates such discussion is still, at the very least, something worthwhile. Something worth experiencing. In our humble opinion, it makes for a significant contribution to the times in which we live.
Note from the Editor: Cal Corso. Actor, poet, frenetic wild child and the natural leader of this band of hooligans. Orphaned as a small boy and raised by his aunt. Moved to California in 2017 accompanied by Jude Moonlight where he fell in with an odd assortment of characters and has since been leapfrogging from the backseat of his car to the old movie theaters on the fringes of town, from the bars, cafes and pool halls in and around the city of angels up the golden coast to the cliffs of Big Sur.
Occasionally he makes trips to Spain, which he claims to be his mother country, though this has yet to be confirmed or denied.He began these trips somewhat recently. His first was with a girl he knew, way back when, to Madrid and later into Toledo, the historic capital of the old Spanish kingdom.
I’ll let him take the reigns from here, since I think he might be able to tell the story better than I.
Why thank you, Ren. Now let’s see…where was I?
Oh yes! Now I remember. I’d just come in from Madrid, on the train which leaves out of the Atocha station at the edge of town, or close to the edge of where I’d typically run around in Madrid, between Plaza Mayor and the Royal Palace to the west, the Paseo del Prado to the east, the Reina Sofia museum to the south and the Grand Via to the north. The Atocha train station sits at the southeast corner of this domain. It’s the heart of the city. El Centro. Easily walkable by day and night, anchored in its center by the Puerta del Sol.
Anyway, I only start in Madrid because that’s where I started way back when; and while it is the heart of Castilla and the La Mancha region, at least officially speaking, the true heart and soul of Spain, at least for this humble pilgrim lies in Toledo.
Why is it, for me, the heart and soul of Spain? Well for one thing, I’m one of those old-fashioned cowhands who thinks that to truly get to know a place, you have to dive into its history. As I mentioned, Toledo is known as the Imperial City and once served as the capital of the old Spanish Kingdom. It’s long history of steel-working and sword-making date back to the Roman Empire. In fact, today you can purchase some of the finest steel blades produced in all the world.
I might have even pictured myself as some valiant knight just once or twice, between every glimpse of medieval architecture as I walked the town’s narrow, labyrinthian alleyways. By the way, I’ve always been a good navigator, and I got lost almost every time I walked from one end of town to another. Not that I minded in the slightest, since each time I discovered something new. A cafe, castle, cathedral or chocolatier I hadn’t yet seen.
The real crux of the matter is this, most of what you see there has been around for many hundreds of years, and when you imagine the old kingdom rising to prominence from this city perched on a hill surrounded by the river, as a moat surrounds a fortress, you can’t help but get swept up in its beginnings and visualize those knights and soldiers walking beside civilians up and down the streets every day.
Now yes, my ancestors do come from this part of the world, it’s true; and you might have heard that I was orphaned as a young lad and so maybe there’s some part of me that’s always seeking to better understand where I come from. Maybe lineage is more important for me than it is for others, and with that comes a deeper appreciation for history. But I’ve never been one to remember dates or any one king or queen’s name.
In Toledo, I was far more caught up with simply being in a place that was, and still feels very much like the heart of Castilla, the heart of Spain. Maybe it was the surviving architecture, or maybe the people. Maybe yet, the prevailing sense of quiet whenever I looked out over the rooftops or turned down some secluded street corner that lent itself to something bigger, and older, than what I could see with my own pair of eyes. In any case, it wasn’t something that I intellectualized too deeply or even thought twice about. I just felt it. It hit me the moment I first set foot in town and in some ways, it’s stayed with me ever since.
Few places in Toledo left so great an impression on me as one particular point near the Alcazar, the main castle on the west end of town. As you pass through the main courtyard there, beyond the statue of Cervantes and down the stairwell descending toward the ravine, you’ll find a pathway leading to an overlook with a view of the bridge crossing the river.
I wrote a sketch not long ago when I was there.
from the city
an outpost, abandoned
dry, graffiti on the walls
I stand, try to frame
the sky at dusk
and the river…
the bridge of cobblestone
the whole world’s waiting
from the gaping canyons, high
to the European sundowns
as the mighty knights cry:
Welcome to Toledo, brother
in the shadow of the dawn
we are but ghosts, old
soldiers, still at night
you might hear
& your shoes are torn
you’ve got no sword,
you’re like a man
without a name
yet in your heart
your family mark,
know we’re with you all the way
“Carry on, dear son,” I hear
“I am ever at your side.”
so I take my shoes and ride in the night
‘Neath the stars
of the Spanish skies
I can relate to that old painter El Greco, the Greek who decided to set up shop in Toledo, where he lived and worked for the latter half of his life. Much of his work can be viewed throughout town, in various cathedrals and also at Museo del Greco, in the Jewish Quarter, on the opposite end from the Alcazar.
My own favorite El Greco painting is actually in New York City, but still it’s a view of Toledo, as the name indicates. I think it honors much of how I personally feel about the city. Toledo, a place so closely tied to the surrounding land, river and sky that all seem to be one singular force, some kind of phantasmal city where the ghosts of knights reside, keeping their vigil, still honoring an age-old devotion. Even in death.
There’s a monastery close to the El Greco museum. San Juan de los Reyes, it’s called. Saint John of the Monarchs. I pictured myself living there, as a monk. I figured if any city allows for a life of humble living, of quiet study and reflection, it’s Toledo. Not exactly a rambunctious town, but certainly one where you can take a pause, a moment of silence, and reflect on those who’ve come before. In this city, after all, it’s like they’re never really gone.