These entries are from Jonas Mekas’ Diaries written during the last 10 months of George Maciunas’ life. He reads them aloud on the film’s soundtrack, which is accompanied by Monteverdi’s Zefiro Torna.

April 16, 1977
  In a sense, George’s stance is of one who is totally disillusioned, of one who has resigned to the fact that he has no longer a firm place on this earth, neither in body of geography. His country has been sacrificed on the altar of Yalta, His body is here only by the grace of cortisone, an artificial - by now – frame held together only by his willpower. The only thing left to him is his laugh. So he became a king in his own kingdom. A court jester presiding over the games of life, jokes, insignificances, the light and the subtle. The heavy importances he leaves to the rest of the world.

July 6, 1977
  Hollis remarked today, while we were walking down the Wooster street and talking about George – “Aprés moi le deluge, that’s George.” Which is another perfect description of George. One of one hundred such descriptions. No wonder his favorite historical character is Louis XIV, including Rossellini’s film of that name. He cares nothing about what people say, do, or possess today: it’s all worthless, in his eyes. And the way the people behave, they are still on the level of elephants. “You’ll see,” he has told me at least a dozen times, “after I leave 80 Wooster it will collapse in ten years, you want to bet?” Everything that he makes, all his architectural structures are made fragile enough to last only that long. “People are elephants,” he says. “They break whatever they touch: door knobs, chairs, light switches.” He would like to transfer the Japanese architecture – the architecture of bare feet, matts, fragile sliding doors etc to New York “to civilize Americans.”

November 17, 1977
  George is in town, stopped to eat with us, with a friend, Billie. Hollis thought she was his girlfriend. They were so nice together. And George was really happy. Most of the time he is happy anyway, no matter what. But he said he’s taking morphine every day, by prescription. Can’t stand the pain. Stomach. It has been like that for four months, doesn’t know what else to do, tried everything. The pain is like “pulling tooth without anesthesia all day long, how could I stand it without morphine?” he says. He said, he can’t sleep either. And eats only very little. But he ate a lot of tongue and sheep cheese. Said, he has four goats on his farm, is making a lot of goat cheese. Billie milks the goats. Twenty people live now up there, some he never sees. None of them smoke, he said, he saw to that. Complained that I seldom go to Fluxus events. He said, I have seen only one quarter of Fluxus events, I must hate them. No, I said, I really like them, but I have always so much to do. George then said, yes, but we have, we are of opposite tastes. He like, for example, Vanderbeek, and hates Brakhage. Anyway, he had a good time, was very happy, ate a lot of tongue, even tried some ice cream. It was good to see him in such a good mood despite his stomach troubles. When Hollis remarked that morphine may not be good for him, he said, if not morphine, the pain would be unbearable and he’d have to shoot himself.

January 28, 1978
  Barbara Moore called. Said, George is getting married. She said, he finally collected his courage – he said- and proposed to Billie and she said O.K.
    Called George. He says, I have some news. I said, New York is talking already.
So it’s true
    He said he’s coming to NY Tuesday or Wednesday to Sloan Institute. Barrington doctors give him only 2% chance which is not much, he says … Sloan is better equipped. He said, he feels much better, with Chemo treatment.
    Later I called Susan Sontag. Asked how she was, if she has any advice for George. She said, she’s still on treatment, at Sloan, and that’s the best place now. She said she’ll give a name of a doctor in Paris, to George, in case he can go there, he is very good. The mistake is, she said, to stay too long in provincial hospitals, they don’t know much. Susan’s cancer started with breast, and then some other complications came. But now it’s sort of stabilized.

February 3, 1978
  George called. He planned to come to Sloan Institute on Wednesday, and stay with us. He said, Sloan Institute told him there is a long waiting line, they don’t want him to come. He said, “I am nobody there, they don’t want me there.” Meanwhile, he said, the pain has come back, he’s taking maximum dose of morphine, and it’s getting worse. I promised to get Susan to call Sloan Institute, try to get him in. He suddenly sounded very very sad. I have never heard that kind of note in his voice. He said, I can’t eat, the pain is unbearable.
    I called Susan and gave her the name of the Chemotherapy guy George spoke to. Susan said she’ll call him first thing in the morning.

February 4, 1978
  Almus came and brought some Lithuanian bread. He said, he called George and offered to bring some bread. It used to be George’s favorite bread. George told him not to come, “I can’t eat it, I can’t digest bread anymore,” he aid to Almus. This depressed all of us very much. Poor George, he must be really bad not to be able to eat Lithuanian bread anymore. Almus said, he spoke with him about his marriage, asked him why he wants to do it now. George told him that he “wants to live, nothing else is left.”

February 11, 1978
  To be aware of approaching death is one thing, to accept death is another thing. But George has accepted living with death, in a perfect Fluxus spirit. Ah, he has been used to death all his life. He says, he’s so full of medicine & drugs & cortisone that the bugs do not bite him, and those bugs that bite him drop dead immediately. Already in 1960 doctors gave him only a few months to live. But he’s still around, George, doing his art, George is not using his body to make art, there isn’t much of it left, there never was; he’s using his life to do, to make his art.

February 20, 1978
  George: “They have to do it every month, this damned needle, through the beck. Both sides of the spine, and very slow, because everything is in the way, muscles, not safe. And I say to them, ‘It’s hitting the bone,’ and hey say, ‘No, no, no, it’s something else.’ So I used to say, at first, ‘You know, I am not too tolerant to pain.’ But they said,” George laughs, “Sorry, you’ll have to cope with it.”
    “I told you about the appendix operation, with no anesthesia? After that I can’t take any operation.”
    George: “Yeah … I was screaming and the pain, I remember, was the same … Maybe I’ll scream really high – remembering the appendix, because that was the worst I could imagine. I still remember, I was screaming consistently during the whole operation. It was during the war, and the appendix was about to break, so they said there was no time to go to the hospital, and they just cut it. And they had no penicillin. They were afraid it would burst any minute. You know, for a little kid – cutting your stomach. They tied me to the table with belts and they cut it out. And I never passed out. That was the worst of it.”
    Me: “When did you go to Arizona, your asthma trip? I don’t remember the year.”
    George: “I went there in 1962 for two months. And then again in 1967, for a month. I remember, in 1962, I went there with two suitcases, you know – like a man from New York … And there were only cowboys and Indians in that town. And I get into this rooming house and they talk only about the horses. And they say, what the hell this guy is doing here (laugh). And I stayed there, whole two months there – and it was cheap cheap cheap, like one dollar a day, and all those cowboys, coming and eating there and talking only about cows and no interest at all in anything else, and they all look at me, What the hell this guy is doing here …
    “This medicine makes me very sleepy. It takes ten times longer to do anything …”
    Hollis: “Then you fall asleep?”
    George: “I sleep, but not really asleep” (he laughs).

March 1, 1978

We were walking to the subway. I was carrying the bags. George refused at first, but then he gave in, he just couldn’t carry them, he said.
    “I wonder what I’ll be in my next life, I am really curious,” he said. “I believe in reincarnation.” I said: “Give me some kind of signal, or sign, like in Dovzhenko’s Earth, remember!”
    The train just pulled in, as we approached the token window.
    “It would be silly to rush now,” e said, and we took our time. I helped him through the gate, handed the bags, and we said good-bye, in Lithuanian.
    He came home from Sloan-Kettering – Hollis said – he was so low, so tired and depressed. The visit wasn’t what he had expected it to be. “They gave me the maximum of six months to live, that’s all. They refuse to operate, they say it can’t be done, the cancers are too progressed.” He said, he has to decide now how he wants to spend the six months best.
    An hour later, he has collected himself. When I came home, he was in a good mood & ate a lot and he said he felt much better.
George is an idealist if there ever was one. And he has the chief vice of a total idealist: fanaticism.

No Date
  George’s humor is self-referential, Brechtian. The awareness of every daily act we perform, of every daily object around us. And the critique of it all by means of humor.
    Pop art took a look at the daily banality around us also. But it seemed to embrace it, to approve of it. Fluxus brought it into a critical awareness by means of humor. In that sense Fluxus is a political art. George’s basement, full of boxes of every kind, containers, cans. He keeps every container of everything he eats, everything, every wrapper. And, like Joseph Cornell, uses it all in his art. Also, like Cornell, George is working on hundreds of pieces simultaneously, collecting bits of things to fit this one or that one, and many of his boxes and things are in various stages of growth, of progress. Waste is one thing George can not stand. All his texts, all his memos, postcards, manifestos, letters are filled from edge to edge single spaced, with same tight IBM type. His postcards, I need a magnifying glass to read his handwriting.

No Date
  George said, his favorite writers are Dostoevsky and Thomas Mann.
    George always insisted, at least to me, that Fluxus was not an art movement: it’s a way of life.
    It has such a touch of religion, I think …
    George says he is really looking towards listening to all 38 lost operas of Monteverdi after he dies … He says, it’s worth dying just for that. Monteverdi is his favorite composer, he says. Nothing of great interest has been composed after him.
    George was talking about his immense appetite. Even now, sick as he is, he eats a lot. He said, during our wedding (me and Hollis) he sat next to Francene because he noticed she was a good eater. To get to eat more you have to sit next to another good eater, he said.
    He said in his will he may ask that his ashes be placed in a miniature sculpture, statue of himself. He thought it would be very funny if everybody, all his friends would sit around it, during the ceremony.
    He says, he is a sucker for wide spaces and fields. He dreams raindrops on blades of grasses, he said. Romantic, George.

March 15, 1978
  And there is Seymour, * xeroxing newspaper clippings, materials for his monumental biography of D.W. Griffith, three days before his death, fully knowing that he’s going to die soon, any day now -.
    What was he thinking, that day when I saw him sitting by the Xerox machine and resting. “Yes, I have to sit down,” he said. “I think you should go home, Seymour, you don’t look well,” I said. He said nothing, just looked at the floor. I didn’t know he had cancer.
    I never had that fall on me, not yet, to really know death. Death always walked around me, sparing me, sparing me the experience of death. My father – I found out about his death five years or six years later. And my brother Povilas died far away. I found out, the letter reached me already with photographs of the burial, and with the distance of time and space.
    What was George thinking then, walking across the snow, upstate, with his eyes deep into himself, in some unfathomable space – silently, as we walked across the snow towards the parked car, and he got in and I came to the window and said, “See you soon,” but he didn’t look up, he was still in that very deep distance -.

August 1, 1990
  Warhol and George. Warhol and Fluxus. Somewhere there, very deep, they were both the same, they were both Fluxus, they both dealt essentially with nothingness, the both dismissed the current life, civilization, everything that is being practiced today as “everything is the same.” Didn’t take any of it seriously. Both took life as a game and laughed at it, each in his own way, untouched by any of it themselves, looking at it all from the side, or from high above, and creating their own realities that didn’t really fit into it. Andy, standing at the Studio 54 in the lobby, standing on the side, never in the middle of it, never really embracing it, and George, laughing, laughing at it all, including Warhol, and creating in its place his own fragile reality, totally inconsequential, unimportant, a world of games, little boxes, puzzles, jokes, all in praise of nothingness.

April 3, 1978
  Billie stopped by to tell that George is doing much better under the enzyme treatment in Jamaica. He’s cutting down on the morphine and feels much better. Will be coming to NY on Thursday.
    We were talking about George’s eating habits. On one hand, his perfect
*Seymour Stern
Bourguignon, when we visited him last time in Barrington; his passionate and deep interest in the recipes of various countries of various historical periods; on the other hand, total carelessness about what he eats. During the last stay at our home he brought bags and bags of canned food. Hollis later had to throw out empty cans from his room and placed a drinking glass on the table – George was using empty juice cans to drink water. All that canned junk that he was eating and
drinking on 80 Wooster Street! & our arguments about microwave cooking which he thought was so great. He had no interest in gradations, subtleties of real cooked food. He’d eat and drink milk made out of milk powder, anything made of any powder, or distilled, or whatever – but not real milk or real eggs or real fresh squeezed juice or etc. etc. And he has always been so proud of his dumplings – all those dumpling parties! I tried to eat them too, but I always told him they were about the most terrible dumplings I ever ate, or rather tried to eat. They were terrible, made out of prepared, packaged dough, heavy, half-cooked, and tasteless. But George sat there, in the chair, leaning back, holding his stomach full of them, hiccupping, and ecstatic …

May 5, 1978
  Visited George at the University Hospital, in Boston. He looks so thin, sitting on his cot. When I came in, the nurses were preparing to wheel him out to the surgery room. He asked them to wait five minutes so he could talk with me. “I thought they’ll wheel me out and then you’ll come and I’ll be in surgery.”
    We spoke for a few minutes. His voice was so weak that several times I had to ask him to repeat what he said, his voice was so weak. “They are very amazed that I am still around,” he said. All I can hope is that they’ll keep me going until the miracle drug arrives.” He laughed. He said, he is putting his hopes into a drug they are working on in Texas, or somewhere. “They are very serious scientists, I spoke with them,” he said.
    He couldn’t get on the surgery bed by himself, so I lifted first one foot, then another, and helped him to get in. He hadn’t shaved for several days, since he arrived in hospital, and he was an image of sickness and weakness. He said he had to move to the hospital, because “they were all panicking about me there,” he couldn’t eat anything. When he arrived in hospital, his legs were all swollen. “Look,” he said, “film them,” so I filmed them. “There will be a lot of pictures of me sick, I have always been sick,” he said. “Doctors said I was dying of hunger, I lacked protein, so now they are feeding me protein…”
    We sat silently for a minute or two.
    George: So you have to catch the train …
    Me: At Three o’clock. I have time.
    Doctor: (to the nurse): Roll it.
    George: Shigeko has gone back? …
    Me: No. She is still in New York.
    She is still here.
    George: Anthology should get more money …
    Me: I am working on it …
    George: This may take a long time (referring to his surgery)
    Me: As they say, it’s not easy to kill a man…
    George: Nothing to hurry now … (laughs).
    The nurse began pushing the bed towards the surgery rooms. So he
    stretched his hand and I said, “Tai laikykies,” in Lithuanian, “hang on,”
    more or less, and he gave me a weak smile and they wheeled him away.

May 9, 1978
  Dear Jonas –
    George died this afternoon. Nijole will probably call you –
    We are on the 10th floor at Terry’s.

    H & O

May 11, 1978
  Shigeko, Carla, Francene, Hollis, Oona, we drove to the Fresh Pond crematorium in Queens where George’s relative had arranged a small wake ceremony, just before cremation. His mother came, his sister, cousin, and a few other relatives and a good thirty-forty Fluxus community friend – Moores, Hendricks brothers, Dick Higgins, Yoshi, Allison, Almuswith Nijole, La Monte Young, Miller, etc. etc. George’s mother was there, and I came to her, and she said: “I saw him … He is so serious, so calm.”
    Billie brought the Purcell and Monteverdi taped that George himself had selected for this occasion. I set up the taperecorder in the chapel and we played 25 minutes of George’s favorite music. George’s coffin was right there, and some flower – dahlias and other – on top of it, and George’s mother said to us, “Come and take one, take home with you, from George,” – so we took each a flower and later we stood outside and nobody wanted to part, and George was still there, near us –
    “Oh,” said George’s mother to me – she spoke in Lithuanian – “I kept telling him to get married, and he always said no. Then when you got married, he used to say, ‘See, mother, if Jonas got married at fifty so why not I? I’ll wait till I am fifty, then I’ll marry …’ And now, see, it’s too late, he waited too long …”
    “He always used to say Jonas this and Jonas that, ever since he was a child. He was always counting on your support even if sometimes you disagreed. It was very important to him to have a friend. Later you sometimes disagreed, but he was always talking about you.”
    Later we all drove home and had wine and cheese and bread, Shigeko, Carla, Francene – and we spoke about George, how everything that we have, that we see here is connected with George – there simply wouldn’t be SoHo without George, we wouldn’t be in this building, in this home now, sitting around this table without George. Shigeko said George brought her from Japan and she is here only because of George.
    Later we decided to have a walk through SoHo, to relax. We just had to walk it out. He was so good, and even when he was suffering, he tried not to impose his suffering on the others, he used to retreat to our backroom, curl on the bed, and suffer by himself. He aid, it hurt less when he curled into the baby-in-the-womb position.