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He was born Peter Holm in 1942 in Richfield, but he now calls himself "timeless" Mad Peeaire, citizen of the universe. He took his first philosophy course in 1960, at Gustavus Adolphus, from "some Polack who talked like a shit salesman with a mouthful of samples." He was bored so he quit, Mad Peeaire says, but the professor saw the kid's IQ scores and entreated him to come back. He didn't last long.
"Philosopher, poet, troubadour, rodeo boy, with his head out of the sand," is how he describes himself now, sitting in an apartment in Golden Valley. Resting on his lap is a 12-string acoustic guitar (or "Pandora's box") festooned with icons that hold great significance to the guitarist, if to no one else. It's plugged into a cheap boom box.
Mad Peeaire himself needs no amplifier: "Someone said, 'Does anyone understand you?' I said, 'Like Shakespeare said, "An honest man? You might find one in 10,000." No. Show me a thief, I'll show you a liar. They deceive themselves.'"
Though most of Mad Peeaire's teeth are gone, his white beard is perfectly trimmed. His eyes project a sharp intellect, undulled by anything stronger than the cigarettes he chain-smokes with drag-queen elegance. His fingernails are painted blue, decorated with stars and moons; he wears them vampire-long for guitar-picking and clit-tickling. His eyes cross and his tongue juts with Crazy Guggenheim exclamations. His homemade hats would make Wavy Gravy and Minnie Pearl envious.
He started writing in 1991, he explains, after public polls said that 90 percent of the country approved of Desert Storm. Mad Peeaire did not count himself among that 90 percent. He is not a man who is accustomed to being in the majority. These days, he trolls Hennepin and engages other life forms with whatever thoughts unspool from his never-say-rest mind. In the summer, he goes to Hidden Beach and communes with fellow freaks who are half his children's age.
"Philosophy is the only true, authentic science," he says. "A hundred ways back to nothin'. The love of wisdom for its own sake. Whom do you serve, if not your creator? Why be pulling for this purposeless pathetic, locked in a loop of 'beat me, bore me, don't ignore me,' posing, posturing, performing? For what? Some shabby little masquerade that says you gotta go in someone else's cotton field and be menial, trivial, superficial? The bored don't know they're boring. The boring don't know they're bored."
With such a rich arsenal of sophistry and bullshit at his command, it probably goes without saying that Mad Peeaire is best known as a spoken-word artist and a regular habitué of the city's open-mic nights: He can regularly be heard at Kieran's Irish Pub and Otter's on Franklin, singing his songs and reading his poems, forcing his square pegs into some semblance of round holes. But it's true that most who encounter his rants probably hear only the gibberish-spewing village idiot--though it's worth remembering Van Morrison's lyric that "the village idiot knows something."
"Know thyself, accept thyself, forgive thyself, become creator!" Mad Peeaire declares. "Sophocles said, 'The self-actualized man worships his own creator. He who of his nature is not his own lord and master but works for another is of his nature a slave.' And slaves lose everything with their chains, even the desire to break free of them. What is orthodoxy? That which can't let in a new idea because it won't let go an old."
A philosopher/motormouth of this dimension is, apparently, not made but born. As Mad Peeaire tells it, his father was an alcoholic who memorized Tennyson and quoted him at family gatherings. He has three cousins who are Lutheran ministers. He says that after he was kicked out of college ("There were rumors that I was head of a motorcycle gang in Minneapolis; I wish!"), he went into the Army, worked as an engineer, worked at a liquor store, and worked for an insurance company. Along the way he accrued two ex-wives and two kids, all of whom think he's bat-shit crazy.
"My family doesn't like me anymore," Mad Peeaire says. "I'm too in-their-face. I'm privy, party, and pleasured with the diamonds of my madness. Absolutely. More than I ever could have wanted. More than I ever thought I could need. I'm a satisfied intellect. I have seen clearly as poetry, prophecy, magnanimity, humility, equanimity, hilarity, and I met the joker face on."
He juts his jaw into the air, a defiant clown, and growls his last and latest epigram--I met the joker face on--into the stale kitchen air. The apartment sits across from a well-tended church off Olson Memorial Highway. A small scarecrow, some pumpkins, and a miniature statue of St. Francis of Assisi guard the garden, or what there is of it. Inside, there are framed pears on the wall, tiny heart-shaped soaps in the bathroom dish, bills and magazines and church leaflets on the kitchen table. The occupant is a stable, contributing member of society. This is not Mad Peeaire's home.
The apartment belongs to one of his exes, whom he refers to as "Hairy Mary, the Bowling Ball; the bars on her prison are other people's eyes and the mortar and bricks are what she thinks others will think of her." His own pad is a small "hole in the wall" on Hennepin Avenue in Uptown, which he shares with a bed, a TV ("only to watch porno, oh yes!"), and his poems, songs, and other writings.
He lives for freedom of mind, freedom of sexuality, and freedom from women, some of whom call him "Dr. Fuck." He quotes Shakespeare, Aristotle, Wilde, Lawrence, Blake, Mohammed, Freud, Einstein, Jesus, Voltaire, Chesterton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bob Dylan, and other kindred madmen and -women. Without notes. Without books. All from within.
"When Shakespeare asked, 'What's in a name?' he was referring to that little gold plate on the collar around one's neck with the leash to the organ grinder: Gotta gotta gotta, go go go, do it do it do it. Some jerk writes a book called Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Excuse me. We never learned to put our toys away, nor did we learn to share them. Langston Hughes said the dream deferred remains fertile. And then it explodes."
Though light on pocket money, he is well-endowed with stories, like the time when he was 11 years old and made it with a goat in "one of those barnyard affairs" that turned into an orgy. Or the Washburn High sock-hop he turned into a bacchanalia. Or the night he hung out with Salvador Dalí in Paris. Or the night he visited Stonehenge and realized he had lived a previous life there, and another life in Ireland, and another as a headmistress, and another still as Cleopatra's masseuse.
In the here and now, sitting potbellied in a suburban kitchen ("The suburbs are the breeding ground of angst and delirium") he fiddles with the effects box that gives his guitar that much-sought-after-but-elusive tin-can Moody Blues sound. Then he performs a perfectly ordinary version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."
"Say 'yes' to the seedling within," Mad Peeaire says. "A great tree cleaves to the forest. Say 'yes' to the universe, be neighbors with the planets. 'Yes' is the password to utopia. 'Yes' reveals the one true goddess, and she is crazy, fuckin' nuts about you."
Jim Walsh can be reached at 612.372.3775 or email@example.com.