Burning Down the House

Bulwinkleland, California

5333 Manila St., Oakland, California, 1975 - 1991

All call and response captions actually occurred during

the sixteen years The Thrilla on Manila existed.

Thanks to my x wife for allowing me the freedom to

create the Thrilla on Manila. What else could he do?

Pain, dears, is frequently invisible. We all wear a mask.


"Have you ever been to Burning Man?"

I am the Burning Man.

"If you didn't want to be on television then why did you do this?"

Asked by a television reporter, a local talking head , who wanted

to plaster my private world on the destroyer of all worlds, TV.

'Where did you find the time to do all of this?'

You'd be surprised what you have time for if you don't watch television.

"What's with the flag?"Asked by my dear old artist friend, Brian Edmonds.

The flag reminds me that I get to do what I want to do. Its pretty

and it waves to me when the wind blows.

"Where did you find all of this?"

I found it on sale up at Payless.

"Is there any left?"

No. I bought it all.

"Are you a Folk Artist?"

Am I a Folk?

"Do you own your own house?"

No. My landlord lives in Oregon and he has never seen this.But I keep paying him every month.

"Have you been to school?"

Why? Does it look like I have?

"You should show your work."

I do. Anybody can see it. Right here.

"What does the City think of this?"

I don't know. I never ask them what they think. I am not sure a City can think.

"What is the rough brown finish on everything?"

Plastic. A special brown plastic.

(It never stopped surprising me how few people knew what rust was).

"Why do you have a flag?"

It's pretty and when the wind blows it waves to me.

"Do you have any children?"

I did to but they all died playing in the sharp, rusty steel. Sad.

"Do you really get your mail here in this pipe?"

Yes. Thats why I put it here.

"Where do you find all your scrap?"

There is no scrap. I am a welder. Welders don't know from scrap.

"What do the neighbors think of you?"

What do I think of my neighbors?

"Why is everything welded together?"

Because if it wasn't, people'd steal it. Now it is too big to steal.

"You should go to Santa Fe!"

No, you should go to Santa Fe.

"I am surprised to hear that you are married."

So am I. It was not my idea.

"Small children would love this."

No they wouldn't. They'd hate it.

"You should be commended for being clean at least."

Thank you. You are so kind.

"I peeked into your bedroom window once to see who you were."

Who was I?

"Where do you get your ideas from?"

The World Book. There are a lot of ideas in there.

"You will be very famous someday."

I hope not. Why must you curse me?

"Did you have to get a permit for this?"

For what? Did you get one?

"Did you have a happy childhood?"

One day when I was eleven years old. I still remember what that felt like. Happiness. I have never felt that again.

mb at eleven years old. Happy.

"Do you have a job?"

I work in a bank all day and at night I tend bar and put this up when everyone is asleep.

"Where do you get all this stuff?"

Mexico. A little village in Mexico. Baha, Mexico. Near the sea. A little old Mexican guy makes it for me.

"Were you ever trained to be a real artist?"

Yes, but I forgot how to.

"Do you ever go to museums?"

No, I am my own museum.

"What does the inside of your house look like?"

Just like the outside except that it's painted. Like Technicolor.

"Do you sell your work?"

No. I already have a good job.

"What's with the ships?"

That's what I do. I built ships and now I fix broken ones.

"What will you do if you have to move?"

Cut it down and move. Sell it for scrap.

"Will they let you do that? Can I have some?"

No, and you can't. They don't want you to have any.

"Even though it is rusty it is still inspired."

Thank you. That is nice of you to think so. I will write that down somewhere.

"Can you fix anything, Mr. Bulwinkle?"

Anything but a broken heart, Jonathan. I can't fix that.

"Is Bulwinkle your real name?"

Yes. My great-grandfather made it up. He was very creative.

"What are you making now?"

I don't know. Nothing I hope.

"Why are you taking it down?"

The roof is starting to leak and so is my life.

"Why are you taking it down?"

I want to and nobody told me not to.

"How can you take it down."

Easy. Watch me. I'm good at it.

"Did the city make you take it down?"

The city didn't tell me to make it. They didn't tell me to remove it either. Some things, like life itself, are some day better off over.

"Is there anything you are sorry for?"

My only real regret is that I didn't start out as a welder working for Boeing Aircraft. Aluminum is much lighter.

Back to Normal on Manila Street in The Rockridge. 1991

She got the house. I got the trailer.

The End

Mark Bulwinkle, 1982, Oakland, California.

"I tell you, we are here on earth to just to fart around,

and don't let anybody tell you different." - Kurt Vonnegut

Many thanks to Bob Barton who kindly loaned me these snapshots he took of The Thrilla on Manila so many years ago. They are the only pictures I have of that gone world. For fifteen years I constructed this monument to my own obstinacy so that it might live in the memories of others and the memory of its creator, whomever he may have been. No one made him create it and no one demanded that he destroy it. He sought no one's opinion, accepted no one's advice, and requested no adulation. For inspiration his scources were only himself and his own experiences. He wished it to live only in the memories of those who experienced it and loved it for what it was and simply to be one thing real that happened in their lives and in his own. In this sense, he considered it a successful work of art which needed nothing else to define or frame it but itself. L'chaim. 2021

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