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John Palcewski's Journal

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The hanging flower pod in my courtyard made me feel uncomfortable because it was still another example of how little I actually know about the world. Growing up in Ohio, and then New York City, I had never actually seen a banana plant. I thought it was a tree, but learned later it’s an extremely large herb. Naturally I did a photographic study (see earlier LJ entries, below).

When I first saw this strange thing, the excellent science fiction movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” came to mind. The pod, I thought, was very much like that film’s invasion of alien life forms. Or, I thought, it was an evolutionary anomaly. Natural selection gone haywire. A display of living surrealism, excellent material for Salvadore Dali or Heironymus Bosch.

The image is nightmarish in the sense that something perfectly natural appears bizarre, at least to me. But it’s bizarre only because of my ignorance. Banana harvesting is an ancient human practice. Evidence in the Western Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea suggests that banana cultivation there dates back to at least 5000 BCE. Eons ago.

I value self-examination and have spent a great deal of time on it, but in this instance I don’t think I want to know exactly why the sight of this plant disturbs me so much. But maybe in a week or two I’ll get around to it.


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No blossom I'm comfortable with, either.

Looks like a case that's broken open, slick with blood and spilling questionable contents.

Oddly enough, I had a similar moment with an 11th grade biology class film portraying a bamboo forest. It was the strangest green. The bottoms of my feet went numb. I felt slightly disoriented for hours.

Hmmm. In my high school biology class we were required to dissect fetal pigs. We all got one to slice and dice, and I wondered where in hell they all came from. The stink of little piggies in embalming fluid, I can still smell it. The outlaws in the schoolyard spoke of sherm sticks, which were cigarettes soaked in this same formaldahyde. They said it was not a good idea to drive and smoke one, because it's lot like being totally drunk on acid and meth at once, and lasts several hours.

It bothers me for some reason too. I'm sure if I sat here and meditated on it, I'd come up with a reason why.

Thanks! Good to hear that maybe it's not just ME. Ha ha ha.

(Deleted comment)
Yes, Youngstown. Go buckeyes!

As for the banana, I find it utterly fascinating that after decades of directly confronting--NOT running from--lurking demons, there apparently still remain deep in my psyche some unaddressed traces. Sexual? Almost certainly. Nothing else has that kind of lasting power.

But the great triumph of the artist is that, by means of writing, painting, or photography, we may at last shape the things that have shaped us.

The moment I felt a twinge in my gut in the encounter with that god-awful alien pod, I immediately got my camera. I refused to be acted upon, i.e. being a passive victim. No, I immediately acted upon IT.

Hurrah!

I wonder if I'm just disturbed, myself. I find these sorts of things fascinating. (I spent several months trying to figure out if I could grow that bright green cauliflower that grows in fractal spirals, one year...)

I grew up in Ohio, too - in the 'burbs of Cleveland. Now I'm in Indiana, which seems to have even blander landscapes than Ohio did.

Hm. *tilts head to the side* For me, it's the unbelievably *bright* red of the inside of the banana pod. Like looking into some creature's chest cavity. I'm left to wonder What Lurks Inside that sack. Also, it looks vaguely pornographic, even more so than the usual run of plants.

Speaking of disturbing, have you seen what a durian looks like when it's half-shelled? That moment is branded in my memory as 'Alien Yellow Fetus'. *shudder*

More Than Disturbing, Eh?

Ha! I see the durian esthetic transcends the visual. From a quick look at Wikipedia:

Its odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from miles away.

Comparisons have been made with the civet, sewage, stale vomit, skunk spray, and used surgical swabs.

The fruit is extremely appetising to a variety of animals, from squirrels to mouse deer, pigs, orangutan, elephants, and even carnivorous tigers. While some of these animals eat the fruit and dispose of the seed under the parent plant, others swallow the seed with the fruit and then transport it some distance before excreting it, the seed being dispersed as the result. The thorny armored covering of the fruit may have evolved because it discourages smaller animals, since larger animals are more likely to transport the seeds far from the parent tree.





that's a big banana blossom. we have them at the local garden. and once out of curiosity, i bought a can of Banana Blossoms at an Asian Market, followed a recipe to the letter, but ick, didn't like it one bit.

The Sins of Our Fathers

(Anonymous)
Or are you simply trying to create a metaphor for a subversive and illegal act committed by yourself some 40 years ago? Your quote 'bizarre only because of my ignorance' is particularly ignorant: you are attempting to validate your experience as being 'okay' because it's been practiced for thousands of years? So has human sacrifice. Or child molestation. So, your big question is 'how do I make people love me again and not think I'm a big fat child molester?' Can't answer you there, pops. I do find it particularly interesting that you ripped the pants off a particular writer for being a drunk/ex-drunk and writing about it, glorifying it as you said, at the expense of the victims. Perhaps you should heed your own writing.

On another note: I recently found out that my father is not my father, and that my real father is an ex-drunk Pol from the mid-west. Small world, eh?

Re: The Sins of Our Fathers

Subject: Re: The Sins of Our Fathers
I can only imagine how devasting it must have been to learn your father really isn't the man he claimed to be for so many years.

Now on to the creation of bizarre banana flower metaphors. In July 1999 Victoria, the victim of my subversive and illegal act 40 years ago, confronted me via email and without hesitation I fully and completely acknowledged my crime, repeatedly apologized for it, and then spent a week or two of lengthy telephone calls and emails and IMs examining every aspect of our involvement in 1967, when she was 13 and I was 25.

Victoria told me, yes, the sex was consensual, and in fact was actually encouraged and set up by Leila, her own mother, but it nevertheless WAS statutory rape because of her age. She also said that it wasn't the sex that had traumatized her, it was instead the fact that I blabbed to Leila that I didn't think Victoria was a virgin, as she claimed. My blabbing betrayal, Victoria insisted, destroyed her childhood. Again I apologized, accepted responsibility. Finally she accepted my apologies and said she forgave me. I didn't ask for her forgiveness; she gave it willingly.

Now this drug dealer and drunk is a man who "accidentally" shot and killed his best friend in a dope deal that turned bad. He subsequently fancied himself a reincarnation of Bukowski and wrote a series of self-absorbed stories that glorified his drinking and drug dealing to school kids, thus subjecting his multitude of victims to a replay. Now, this drug dealer and drunk never has gotten around to directly addressing the issue of shooting and killing his best friend, because that doesn't quite conform to the troubled but lovable drunk persona he so assidiously attempts to portray.

Until a Vanity Fair fact checker asked me to confirm that I had slept with a 13 year old AND her mother, I never wrote a word about or otherwise attempted to exploit my experiences with New York bluebloods in New York in 1967. Nor a word about the lengthy correspondence I had with Victoria. I had no illusions that telling Phil Recchia at the NY Post the whole story would result in my being loved by anyone. To the contrary, I get posts from people who are quite skilled at forming absolute moral judgments on the basis of extremely limited information. They know all they need to know.

In point of fact, I am not big and fat. And I can prove it.

Re: The Sins of Our Fathers

(Anonymous)
I did not know that about Steven Hoadley, although I cannot say I am surprised. I just did a search on him, to check out any writing, and stumbled across the somalit site that had an editors note that Steven checked out of this world on 27 March 2006.

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