Sunday, August 31, 2008

Headed for the City of Brotherly Love

Or otherly love as may be the case...

Consider this a warning... a shot across the bow... or just consider it spam for the Home of the Philly Cheesesteak, MIke Schmidt and Rocky Balboa.

On September 27th, 2008, I have the privilege of crossing state lines to participate in the Fox Chase Reading Series (, hosted by the Mad Poets Society ( I've been honored with a feature spot (and I didn't even have to promise that I wouldn't unveil the revolutionary "epic haiku.") I'm truly humbled at my inclusion in this great series with some remarkable poets and not just a little intimidated to be brought up to the big leagues.

To quote the venerable (venerated? venereal?) Mike Schmidt: "Philadelphia is the only city, where you can experience the thrill of victory and the agony of reading about it the next day."

I do feel that this is the big leagues... and I hope I'm worthy. And that my elocution lessons pay off!!!!

This revolution will NOT be televised, but if you're so inclined to skip of to a poetry reading in another state:

Saturdays at 2 p.m.
Hosted by G. Emil Reutter
Featured readings followed by an open mic

3 Sisters Corner Cafe [Directions]
7950 Oxford Ave.
(corner of Loney & Barnes)
Philadelphia, PA 19111
2008 Schedule
Jan. 26: Steve Delia & Kristine Grow
Mar. 29: Eileen D'Angelo & Louis McKee
June 28: Vincent Quatroche & Alla Vilnyanskaya
July 26:
Glenn McLaughlin & Arlene Bernstein
Sept. 27:
Autumn Konopka & MacGregor Rucker

Saturday, August 30, 2008

All or Nothing?

ALL OR NOTHING may or may not be the best rock song of all time. The matter is open to argument. It's one of mine though and some who know me might say that given my stubborn, "all or nothing" approach to life, that it's only fitting it should be my favorite. An ex-girlfiend, having noted certain tendencies in me, gave me a little music box that played "My Way" when you turn the wee crank... point noted, darling. I must confess that this business of being "right" hasn't gotten me very far in either relationships or in life in general. I've even counseled friends on the possibility that if they met someone halfway... yet my own will to win at all costs remains uncompromised. So here I sit...

We watched Barack Obama's nomination/speech in a bar a few nights ago. I remain cynical about him and the Democrats in general, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't impressed. He might just be the best orator of our time and it was impressive to see the Lower East Side music silenced as people stood enrapt watching him. It was awe inspiring to see the footage of Times Square packed like New Years Eve with traffic at a standstill and throngs viewing the speech from the big screen. The other side can call it the Cult of Personality or call it what they will, but if you're not impressed by the man himself, be impressed by the reaction of Americans from all walks of life and their excitement... our excitement. My sister, in what I considered a seriously misguided statement, said it was reminiscent of Hitler. I had to point out that Hitler was getting people stoked about killing. Obama is exhorting people to STOP killing, and it's truly moving to see Americans excited by that. I believe that after years of Bush, and years of war, many Americans are feeling unclean. We are responsible for Bush. Those of us who didn't vote for him let him get elected twice. We didn't fight hard enough, and once the killing started, we sat on our hands like it wasn't in our power to stop it. And so even I was moved, and I'd begun to think that wasn't possible.

The part of the speech that resonated most with me was talk of unification and common ground... the importance of finding common ground between two sides that have insisted for years on "all or nothing," thereby stalemating politics for the better part of our lives. With the exception of the change of venue for the war, the bigger arguments aren't much different now than they were in 1968. We've made some headway on civil rights, womens' rights and a few other things, but the rest is looking very similar. Obama spoke of shifting paradigms and finding compromise through common sense--changing the language of the arguments to gain common perspective. My political views have always been: fight harder, tear it down and demand unconditional surrender. That is as impractical in politics as it is in one's personal life. It's never worked in either and it's always left me standing off in the corner alone. So I stood there on Thursday night, cloaked in my cynicism still, but saying... I hear you. I get that. Okay, let's do it! Call me a bandwagon jumper. Call me whatever, but I'm ready to try to work it out.

One thing for certain though is that getting Bush out isn't enough. Someone standing next to me commented that he felt people were campaigning against Bush, rather than against McCain or for Obama. He might be right about that. That scares me. We can't, on January 21st 2009, declare ourselves the victors and go home. The burden to make things change doesn't truly rest on the shoulders of Barack Obama. That would just make him the sacrificial lamb. The best we can hope for is that if we are willing to put in the work, that we've finally got someone at the top who won't squash us. It's going to take hard work, time and a lot of sacrifice, and we are going to have to really examine the way we live and what's important to us to hold onto and what we can let go... just because it's the right way to live. Similarly to what the Republicans carry on about, it's a moral issue. It's our burden though.

Probably best though that I cut this short, and I'll defer to another great rock song by Cracker, the chorus of which would make a good campaign mantra for the next 8 years of Bush-free living:

Let's GET OFF THIS and get on with it.
If you want to change the world, shut your mouth and start to spin it.
Let's get off this, get on with it.
If you want to change the world, shut your mouth and start this minute.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Profound Gratitude

I woke up this morning and looked in the mirror and saw the same guy I saw yesterday looking back at me... no crisis. I'm 47... that's it. It's okay.

I'd be remiss in not taking a moment to thank all my friends and family for their good wishes, cards, gifts and love. I'm grateful for each and every one of you for everything, but mostly for keeping me propped up all these years through all my weird moments, brain spasms, nervous tics, manic episodes, moods and moral lapses.

Thanks for a great birthday and thanks for everything.

Onwards and upwards.


Monday, August 25, 2008

September Song

Oh, it's a long, long while from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn't got time for the waiting game

So once more I've quoted out of context and made use of another's words... rearranged them and reinterpreted them to accommodate my own scattered musings. Getting off the train this evening, and the sun was already pretty low and Weill's plaintive melody skated across my world. Another summer is nearly done and I'm never entirely sorry to see it pass, but never quite done with it either.

The East Village was abuzz yesterday afternoon with busloads of students emptying onto the streets and parents snapping photos of their children at the entrance to their new homes... some of these kids looking far too young to be left alone here, though obviously eager to see the adults pull away and leave them to their new adventures. And I couldn't contain my envy. September doesn't mean quite the same as it did when I was a student, and how can it when the Tuesday after Labor Day will be very much the same as it was the Friday before. And there's a word for this feeling too:

sadly wishing for something lost or unobtainable

Not quite the end of the world though and I'm fairly certain I would not for anything wish to be 18 again, even if the grass seems so much greener. I'd rather be taking Kurt Weill and Max Anderson out of context at this point in the summer than Robert Frost... miles to go before I sleep... indeed.

Three of the younger people have left the job in recent weeks, not to go back to school but because they've just come to the realization in their own lives that September is probably going to mean a lot less from this point forward. They've taken off to follow dreams that will be much more difficult to realize in a few years when they've complicated their lives with families and possessions. I will miss them all but like the parents standing out on alien East Village sidewalks, any misgivings I have about them going takes a back seat to the excitement I feel for them. It's good and it's right. This is exactly what they should be doing.

With my own children nearly grown, I'm also in that most fortunate time in my own life when any given day, given the preparation and work, can be like the Tuesday after Labor Day... all new. It's just a bit more complicated, and perhaps there is less time to dally about. Less time to backtrack. Of course the complications preclude youthful rash decisions, and consequences... there are always consequences. But now I'm back to thinking about Robert Frost and lest my horse think it too queer...

Best to my young friends who've gone off on their own paths... I will miss you.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Billy Liar

I have, like many men and women all over the world, spent an inordinate amount of time trying to reconcile who I am and my lot in life, with grandiose dreams of the place I'd rather occupy in the world and in the minds of those who inhabit it.

Staring down the barrel at 47, I'm fortunate to find myself doing less of that, and mostly comfortable with the sum total of my efforts. I've not succeeded in accomplishing everything I've set out to do, but have come to a level of acceptance that I've reaped what I've sown and gotten a karmic fair shake; and I've gleaned successes that I had never consciously aimed for.

Billy Liar came at me years ago like a message from the other side of where I was. You're only as free as you allow your imagination to take you. You just have to put in the work and make choices and act on them, or you're destined to be the dictator of your own fantasy country. Living outside your head though, requires daily negotiations with the realities and fantasy lives... the constructs of other dreamers and other dictators. The average guy cannot impose his will upon the world. You can't call yourself a general, a king, a hero... or just a writer, and simply be it. But sometimes dreams are bigger than one's ability to make them happen. There is always fear in the outside world. In your own country, you make the rules and sometimes it's easier to stay where you are. For a time...

Tom Courtenay is absolutely brilliant in this... subtle and complex, and at points like most young men--like most dreamers--over the top. He's compelling... And Julie Christie (at the top of my "most gorgeous lips I've never kissed" list)... beautiful and wild and free and honest... not fearless but not willing to be complacent... willing to take the steps to have more.

I revisit Billy Liar in his country once a year or so. He has been a very big influence on my own journey to self-awareness and self-actualization... both also countries that you can only journey to but perhaps like Moses only ever be allowed to see like Israel, beautiful and golden in the distance. Real nonetheless, but elusive as there are certainly new obstacles and detours with every waking day.

For now though... I've a train to catch. Destination: Laundry. It's good to set forth on any trek with clean knickers.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What's your "theme" song

Many people have one song or another that has always really resonated. A song has always seemed particularly meaningful in the context of one's own life.


I've actually got several, depending on what level of reflection, introspection I'm involved in on a given day. This one has always really nailed me though.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sound Advice


There are days... and nights... when important messages come in from the ether. You have to watch carefully because you never know what form the messenger will take.

There are moments before your train pulls into the station, before you can take that step out across space, when the gap is especially wide. A premature step means disaster. Too late, even a few seconds of hesitation, and you're waiting for the next one.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Robert Lowell

(thanks Amy... I'm enjoying this immensely)

Middle Age

Now the midwinter grind
is on me, New York
drills through my nerves,
as I walk
the chewed-up streets.

At forty-five,
What next, what next?
At every corner,
I meet my Father,
my age, still alive.

Father, forgive me
my injuries,
As I forgive
those I
have injured!

You never climbed
Mount Sion, yet left
death-steps on the crust,
where I must walk.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Writer's Block

Bet nobody ever imagined that I would tire of talking about my favorite subject, but this whole memoir thing... oy! My feelings have ranged from excitement and exhilaration to painful tedium. I'm mired in the latter this week. I've just reread a couple chapters and tried to decide where to go... Memory is not linear and is often elusive, most certainly. Mostly though I'm just bored with myself.

I was reading someone else's unpublished memoir last winter, and found it to be incredibly clever--very well written with a very unique narrative angle. She had marketed the MS to agents and such and the bit of criticism she got back, that must have been galling, is that it wouldn't sell because there were no epiphanies and no reconciliation for any of the inner conflicts. People apparently need that... and that never occurred to me because how often does anybody ever really get that? And should that always be one's goal for any conflict?

My memoir, at this point, also has no epiphanies, but in reading over some of it I have to ask myself; if not reconciliation, what am I doing? And furthermore, why should anybody read this?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

For those we left behind

Another one from Paul Weller and The Jam... I never quite figured out if this referred to romantic love or friendship or both, but I suppose it could be either. This one though is in tribute--an epitaph for the ones that didn't last and those we left behind.

Thick As Thieves

Times were so tough, but not as tough as they are now,
We were so close and nothing came between us - and the world -
No personal situations.
Thick as thieves us, we'd stick together for all time,
and we meant it but it turns out just for a while,
we stole - the friendship that bound us together -

We stole from the schools and their libraries,
We stole from the drugs that sent us to sleep,
We stole from the drink that made us sick,
We stole anything that we couldn't keep,
And it was enough - we didn't have to spoil anything,
And always be as thick as thieves.

Like a perfect stranger - you came into my life,
Then like the perfect lone ranger - you rode away - rode away,
rode away - rode away.

We stole the love from young girls in ivory towers,
We stole autumn leaves and summer showers,
We stole the silent wind that says you are free,
We stole everything that we could see,
But it wasn't enough - and now we've gone and spoiled everthing,
Now we're no longer as thick as thieves.

You came into my life -
Then like a perfect stranger you walked away - walked away -
walked away - walked away.

Thick as thieves us - we'd stick together for all time,
and we meant it but it turns out just for awhile,
we stole the friendship that bound us together.

We stole the burning sun in the open sky,
We stole the twinkling stars in the black night,
We stole the green belt fields that made us believe,
We stole everything that we could see.

But something came along that changes our minds,
I don't know what and I don't know why,
But we seemed to grow up in a flash of time,
While we watched our ideals helplessly unwind.

No - we're no longer as thick as thieves - no,
We're not as thick as we used to be - no,
We're no longer as thick as thieves - no,
We're not as thick as we used to be -

no it wasn't enough - and we've gone and spoiled everything
Now we're no longer as thick as thieves.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Growing up... the other view

(in photo: background: Jim, seated: Fred, Tom, standing: Brian, yours truly, Tom D, Bo. There were many others there, but unfortunately didn't make it into photos)

Alternate blog title: A picture paints 1000 words, Part 2.

People are spread out these days so the reunions are few and far between. Never to be missed though; it would take a hell of a crisis for me to miss the opportunity. So it's a case of less hair, more flesh, but the same true souls/true friends as back in the day. The ideals weren't silly and there were laughs, and as last night proved, yet more laughs in store.

There were times then when I think we truly believed we were re-inventing the wheel, and maybe every generation truly does. That's how I felt this morning anyway.

But still the bittersweet moments hoisting glasses and remembering those who didn't make it this far and there are too many of those, sadly. Some passed on. Some burned out and drifted off like charred leaves after a forest fire.

Most of us though, have done really well, even when each year means an extra day of recovery from evenings like this last one.


Growing up... the cynical view

Burning Sky, by the Jam, from Setting Sons:

How are things in your little world, I hope they're going well and you are too.
Do you still see the same old crowd, the ones who used to meet every Friday.
I'm really sorry that I can't be there but work comes first, I'm sure you'll understand.
Things are really taking off for me business is thriving and I'm showing a profit and.
And in any case it wouldn't be the same, 'cause we've all grown up and we've got our lives
and the values that we had once upon a time, seem stupid now 'cause the rent must be paid
and some bonds severed and others made.

Now I don't want you to get me wrong, ideals are fine when you are young and I must admit
we had a laugh, but that's all it was and ever will be, 'cause the Burning Sky keeps
burning bright. And as long as it does (and it always will), there's no time for dreams
when commerce calls. And the taxman's shouting 'cause he wants his dough and the wheels of
finance won't begin to slow.

And it's only us realists who are gonna come through 'cause there's only one power higher
than that of truth and that's the Burning Sky.

Oh and by the way I must tell you, before I sign off, that I've got a meeting next week,
with the head of a big corporate I can't disclose who but I'm sure you'll know it and.
And the Burning Sky - keeps burning bright. And it won't turn off til it's had enough,
it's the greedy bastard who won't give up, and you're just a dreamer if you don't realize,
and the sooner you do will be the better for you, then we'll all be happy and we'll all be
wise and all bow down to the Burning Sky.

Then we'll all be happy and we'll all be wise and together we will live beneath the
Burning Sky.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Friday, August 08, 2008

Political shit and not so political shit.

Let's just get the "not so" over with up front.

John Edwards said he made a SERIOUS ERROR IN JUDGEMENT. Yeah, I'd say so, buddy. Not to moralize here but if you're going to have the cojones to drag your ol' lady's cancer out on the campaign trail, it's probably best you've got your trousers up when you're in the company of other women. Just sayin'... I mean, Newt Gingrich did the same thing, right? The dopey little git never had my vote anyway, but really. Tacky, tacky tacky...

On another note... The so-called race card. Barack Obama has been recently criticized and accused of playing "the race card" for pointing out that it's significant that a black man is the number one contender for the presidency of this weird place.

Excuse me... I mean... The guy would never be my first choice for president, given his generally middle-of-the-road political stances, lack of any real environmental agenda, and overall Al Gore-ness centrist tedium... BUT... it is so goddamn amazing to see a man of color in this position. I swear I never ever thought I'd see it in my lifetime and I'm flipped nearly senseless by the immensity of this!!!!!!

Every time a white man steps into the political forum it's playing the race card. That cannot be denied! Let's not lose sight of that, okay??? It takes a lot of damn gall for the GOP to sit on the other side and say that Barack Obama's blackness (despite any argument to it's authenticity) is meaningless. I'm lily-fucking-white and I find the dishonesty offensive.

But it's not so huge than I can't see that he's about as liberal as Richard Nixon.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

On turning 47, Part 2


The plot thickens!

And the academics weigh in HERE!

Perhaps not so random after all...

Friday, August 01, 2008

On turning 47, Part 1

It's coming in a few weeks, and of course I'm still thinking about it. And I'm asking why it sounds so much older than 45 or 46. There is some mystical power in 47 that makes it sound like more than a number. I needed some answers.

Where do you go when you need answers? WIKIPEDIA, of course.

I like this excerpt: Scheherazade Numbers: 47: The first prime number beyond the trigonometric limit is 47. The number 47 may be a flying increment to fill allspace, to fill out the eight triangular facets of the non-allspace-filling vector equilibrium to form the allspace-filling first nuclear cube. If 47 as a factor produces a Scheherazade Number with mirrors, it may account not only for all the specks of dust in the Universe but for all the changes of cosmic restlessness, accounting the convergent-divergent next event, which unbalances the even and rational whole numbers. If 47 as a factor does not produce a Scheherazade Number with mirrors, it may explain that there can be no recurring limit symmetries. It may be that 47 is the cosmic random element, the agent of infinite change.

Firstly, I don't know what a "Scheherazade Number" is but I like the way it sounds. I like the literary reference, and I like Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade, and I like the way it sounds.

Secondly, it's a prime number. I'm in my prime, not quite unlike Miss Jean Brodie, but not possessed of a Mussolini fetish and totally possessed of male genetalia. Yes, you get to keep that stuff as you get older. And "beyond the trigonometric limit" sounds totally science fiction.

Mostly, I like that 47 might be the cosmic random element and the agent of infinite change. If this holds true, then I could have a hell of a year coming up.