Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The Small Print: Iraq Casualties 3/23/04 - 3/29/04: 8 dead, 76 wounded (military only)

You can't light a stogie on a sixty watt bulb.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

I'll still be living in a studio apartment, which is all I really require, but it will be sparsely furnished, & my cluttered office/workspace will be in another room, across the hall.

The only "furnishings" I anticipate getting are an inexpensive imitation persian rug, several small houseplants, some stackable plastic record crates, & old-fashioned spring=loaded "black out" window shades. Edie E. said she would help me hang curtains. What is it with women & curtains? Curtains are just more dust & smoke collectors I'll have to wash. Must admit I've always fancied beaded doorway curtains, tho. Dragged the brown dresser to curb early evening, covered it with some plastic sheeting against the drizzle, it was gone within an hour. That's good. The recliner chair was taken when it went out. The dresser was with me at least 25 years, maybe more. Christine D's aquarium was on it for awhile. & a small lamp that broke a few years ago. & a dual radio alarm clock I still have but stopped using when the bed went. Except for that, some metal shelving, a desk top & kitchen things, all the domestic items from that period will be gone after this move. I had considered dropping the dresser in front of C's house, since she got it from someone in her family, to give her a zen moment while her mind puzzled it out.

But we've been in close proximity all along, passing each other on the street, in the post office, even sitting a few feet apart in the same cafe, without saying a word more than "hello" since 1991. Is that a major peculiarity? More than that, it's bizarre. I would enjoy chatting with nearly all of my old lovers at this point, & I'm genuinely concerned about how one in particular is doing. But I can say that I think Christine has become a strange person (as well as a diminished artist). She makes me seem like an extrovert. & her physical look is frozen in time - she reminds me of Mary of Peter, Paul &, in the sense of having a fixed appearance, except that Mary added a lot of weight, Christine only a little. I play on the fact that I look goofier with each passing year, my most recent "officlal" photograph taken last summer at Seaside Heights by Jim Coleman.

Beautiful photo below is of two Emerson College students reacting to Mass legislature vote on gay marriage/civil unions, a result that pleased no one. It pleases me that kids can still be so idealistic & passionate & vulnerable about important issues. More about that some other time.
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Monday, March 29, 2004

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Sunday, March 28, 2004

Finally, Channel 7 shows a good late Saturday night movie: Rebel Rousers, a 1969 biker flick with Cameron Mitchell, Diane Ladd, Bruce Dern, Jack Nicholson, Harry Dean Stanton, & the comedy relief of a fat sweaty chicano police deputy. The players seem to be improvising the dialogue. Dern is Eddie Haskell grown up. Jack is especially perverse. They're all a little too clean cut to pass as Hell's Angels. Even the Harleys look rented. The beach looks remarkably like the one frequented by Frankie & Annette. The soundtrack music leans heavily on outdated jazzy fifties 77 Sunset Strip style, plus some circa '63 surf instrumental stuff. . After Cameron Mitchell gets the shit kicked out of him, the tuff boys play motorcycle jousts to decide who gets to rape a pregnant Cheryl Ladd. It's a really great terrible movie

The new Rahway library opened up last week. Cafe. river view. Perfectly fucked up timing. It's absurd to take it personally, still I'm a Scorpio, so I felt like I'd gotten the finger & a collective "nyah nyah suckface" from the mayor, council, chamber of commerce & my landlord, with a parting, "& don't slam the door on your way out, & be sure to vote straight ticket in 2004, ya dumbass naive poet." I think in the future I might have to refer to Rahway in writing & on radio like Clinton did to Monica, as "That town." After 13 years I have only made acquaintances here. I've realized my local "community" in Jersey is WFMU = a secret cult west of the Hackensack River - & it will be my community until I land in one of the places I really want to live; where I imagine - better than that - know what I'll be seeing & doing each day; & the affection I already feel for the character of these places; & how it is literally impossible for those towns to wreck their fundamental appeal. I find this sort of quality in the letters & poems Bruce Longstreet sends from California - that he's not in a perfect place, but it's worth the sacrifices he makes to be there. Twisting Twain, nothing helps ham & eggs like scenery.

1. Don't do anything for free on behalf of people who are getting rich. 2. Babbitt is alive & well. 3. Poets shouldn't be "yellow dog" Democrats for political machines; we gotta stay loose enough to support the good causes when & where they are fought, win or lose. I took a calculated political cop-out not long after I moved into "that town" for which I have never fully forgiven myself. I will not do something like that again.

I picked UConn & Duke for Final Four. So did 90% of everyone else. That was the no brainer half. Big East was less plucky than expected. A tip of the hat to Xavier, they nearly won without Myles in the game at the end. At least I didn't go with Stanford, Gonzaga, Kentucky, St. Joe's. & Rutgers in the NIT Final Four - plenty respectable.

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Friday, March 26, 2004

People at both the Plainfield & Elizabeth Housing Authorities have been really good; supportive, professional, encouraging, pushing the paper along. & Betty, my housing counselor from psych rehab, is a great advocate - experienced, even-handed, positive, leaving nothing to chance if she can have any influence in the matter. This is what I was looking & hoping for when I got out of hospital last December, & it's gone better & faster than I ever expected. Betty might even arrange a van & a helper for the move. This woman does not want any of her people going homeless. I may not be out of here on the first of the month, but Elizabeth Housing is speeding up the required inspection. I could use an extra day or two to get ready - I've hardly begun to pick up & pack - just not being sure of when & how was enough to feed the procrastination.

A jury of 13 United Methodist Church clergy unanimously acquitted the Rev. Karen Dammann of charges springing from her own admission that she was a lesbian in a committed relationship. This would seem to run counter to UMC denominational "law," but I believe such a law is unjust & unChristian: "Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church." What has this to do with the spirit & application of Christian agape - it has to be strongly challenged at every opportunity. This was a great opportunity for challenge because the trial occurred in the liberal Pacific Northwest UMC Conference. The time for change is here. No surprise, of course, that the most negative responses to the verdict come from clergy in what prior to 1939 was the Methodist Church South. The Methodist Church split in 1844 over the issue of slavery & the power of the bishops. Some Methodists believe the reunion was premature. A congregation is not required to accept a minister it does not want. Karen Dammann's church wants her.

No church so committed by its founders & traditions to the advancement of social justice can long exempt itself from the very justice it promotes.
The UMC is hardly in the forefront of gay rights. The church's statements are highly contradictory, prohibiting "funds to any gay caucus or group, or otherwise use such funds to promote the acceptance of homosexuality," & yet allowing the use of church money to study homophobia. & writing into the Church Social Principles: "Equal Rights Regardless of Sexual Orientation: Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for homosexual persons. We see a clear issue of simple justice in protecting their rightful claims where they have shared material resources, pensions, guardian relationships, mutual powers of attorney, and other such lawful claims typically attendant to contractual relationships that involve shared contributions, responsibilities, and liabilities, and equal protection before the law. Moreover, we support efforts to stop violence and other forms of coercion against gays and lesbians. We also commit ourselves to social witness against the coercion and marginalization of former homosexuals." (Social Principles, Par. 66H) Although it seems to me that former homosexuals (I never met any, personally) aren't especially subject to coercion & marginization.

Interfaith Working Group

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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

As much as I would like to re-elect F.D.R. to a 5th term, he is unfortunately unable to complete his 4th due to that fact that he's dead. But I'll have no reservations about supporting John Kerry. Those of you who somehow find it in your hearts & minds to believe George W. Bush deserves another four years - well, go ahead if you think the war in Iraq is just swell, don't mind the profiteering of Haliburton, have no suspicions about why the price of gasoline hasn't been this high since the previous Bush administration, aren't concerned about the Federal Communications Commission (or Clear Channel), & are content with NAFTA & the new Medicare drug plan. Also, if you believe the Environmental Protection Agency is protecting the environment, Dubya is your man. If you're not bothered by the very real possibility that George's stumbling, convoluted use of the English language indicates such stumbling, convoluted thought processes that he needs other people to do his thinking for him, then slap that brand new Bush '94 bumper sticker on your gas guzzler.

If George W. Bush's apparently elemental, simplistic relgious beliefs ring true with you, then pray right along with him in the absurd faith that every patriotic American & trustworthy friend of these United States indeed does worship the same granite Supreme Deity of American Money In Whom We Trust. (John Wesley, founder of Methodism, insisted that reason was a crucial test of the Christian experience, along with scripture, tradition & experience, & if you're a Roman Catholic Bushite, please revisit Thomas Aquinas or at least Pope John XXIII).

Note the high Coalition casualties this past week. That's in Iraq, not Afghanistan, where the Taliban are re-gaining control of large areas & cruel tribal warlords run most of the rest & the opium poppy is the cash crop of choice. l

The Small Print: Iraq Casualties 3/16/04 - 3/22/04: 19 dead, 103 wounded
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Monday, March 22, 2004

The WFMU marathon wrapped up on Sunday night

As has become a tradition, numerous DJs performed songs with the Hoof n Mouth Sinfonia. It was my karaoke debut. Never even done it in a bar with recorded music. & there I was, live on radio, & internet cam, garbling Bob Dylan's "On the Road" with no rehearsal. I wouldn't exactly call it singing. I hadn't sung with a rock band since I last played in one over thirty years ago. Hoof n Mouth is a great "pickup" group comprised of real musicians, mostly WFMU staffers who actually play in bands. The amount & range of songs they have to learn is just amazing, & they have to sound good enough on every tune to let us singers impress & astonish with our own talent or lack thereof.

It felt like a DJ initiation I'd somehow managed to avoid for a long time. Earlier in the evening I mentioned in passing to Ken Freedman that I'd had a good year at the station & felt like celebrating. Ken couldn't be sure what I meant: For me 2003 was journey back from a self-imposed exile of a few years, partly because of personal problems - although everyone I know well on the staff has had their own - but mainly I think because I'd lost my sense of direction as a DJ/radio host. It wasn't about doing a weekly show; it was about centering myself as an older person. & that required, oddly, a lot of time reconnecting with the music I'd pretty much put aside in the early Eighties, until I felt comfortable & confident building programs around it. During Fabio's show, which I co-hosted, an internet listener from Norway pledged, recalling the program I played Carla Bley's Escalator Over the Hill in it's entirety (a Kenny G fill-in), & also music by Grieg. I'd decided that I wanted to get some special music in the WFMU web archives, & feature a variety of classical music in a free form context without sounding awkward. The decades of experience would take care of ithe rest. & it seemed to work, tentatively at first nearly two years ago ("Orffing Bizet," an archived program with an incomplete setlist). Retired Nino Rota's "The Clowns" as opening theme music. All I wanted at WFMU, I realized, was to be an authentic presence on the staff, supportive of younger DJs, not competitive with them - if you look at the program schedule, it's their station now & I'm more than OK with that. But I can still be myself, still be "Rix" to some & "Bob" to others, however or whenever I was introduced. Anybody who steps up to the mic with Hoof n Mouth Sinfonia on Finale Night is saying, "I'm crazy enough to do this, too." & since I'm one of the few certifiably crazy DJs there, I just had to claim my three minutes in the spotlight.

"Back in the day" - 70s & 80s, to 1990, the marathon ended with a performance by the Little Wally Band, truly a slap-together ensemble of just about anyone on the staff who could play three or four chords or bang on something & join in on "Roll out the Barrel." The true star of the evening was either Little Wally (Lou "the Duck" D'Antonio) who hawked chocolate covered frozen pierogis on a stick, or "Mrs. Little Wally (Kris 0, who really is of Polish ancestry), with the late great Frank "Vanilla Bean" Ballisteri pitching in. Irwin Chusid was the only alumnus of Little Wally who performed in Hoof N Mouth (drums), & a handful of others singing.

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Saturday, March 20, 2004

Rutgers - - 69
Chattanooga - - 74

Only loyalty kept me from picking the Lady Mocs on my bracket sheet. UT at Chattanooga has the nation's longest winning streak, & the injury-hobbled, higher-seeded Lady Knights were the white jersey "home" team playing on the Mocs' home court, a very unfair situation. The NCAA selection committee should not have leveled the playing field in such a blatant way for a lower-seeded team. Would Rutgers have lost this game in any other venue? I doubt it. But the Lady Knights have no bench depth & it always comes down to what kind of game Cappie Poindexter has, & she was in foul trouble by early in the second half. I believed that IF they survived this game, they would scare the bejeezuz out of Vanderbilt on Monday, with Cappie putting on a display worthy of Bill Bradley. They've had an erratic year - didn't get respect in the polls despite upsetting some Top 25 teams (which never seemed to hurt the ranked team's position or help Rutgers', go figure), lost some they oughta won. That kind of year. & it was injuries that made it so. They're still a fine team & Cappie's the best.

Monmouth - 52
Mississippi State 85

I didn't think it would be this big a blowout, expected Monmouth could keep it to about 20. - not an unrealistic hope. The difference is that I figured the Hawks to stay with the Bulldogs all the way to halftime, but they stumbled a few minutes short & so went to locker room down 12 points instead of 4 or 6. Mississippi made quick work of the Jersey Shore Boys early in the second half. Great year nonetheless. Nearly beat Rutgers at the RAC, a game they deserved to win.

Nevada (10) 91
Gonzaga (2) 72

I never believe in Gonzaga, this or any year. Had 'em losing to Boston College next week. So they jived even me into over-rating them. Fool me once, shame on you, selection committee.

Alabama 70
Stanford 67

Here's another over-rated team that got bounced a week before I predicted Syracuse would do it. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Final Four: Duke, UConn, Boston College, Pittsburgh. & I'm not being Big East sentimental. BC over Kentucky the only pick I consider a longshot. On my sheet It's BC & Kansas, not the Wildcats, in the Regional. Tournament Champ: Duke.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Gay couples who get married are traditionalists.

Gay couples who get married are traditionalists. People who oppose gay marriages are also traditionalists. But if the latter really want to preserve the civil institution of marriage with "Defense of Marriage" laws, then write those laws to make it more difficult to get divorced. Unless they want to concede that it's an American "tradition" for 50% of heterosexual marriages to end in divorce. & after that, find a way of stopping the common heterosexual practice of cohabitation - that discourages marriage, too. & when children are born to cohabitating couples, they are raised in untraditional households, as opposed to being raised by single & divorced mothers (many of them lesbians), which is traditional in America. (When I was a child, lesbians constituted a significant percentage of grammar school teachers & nobody seemed to mind. My 4th grade teacher, a fiftyish Miss Olsen, encouraged me to write poetry. I adored her. )

What about the married couples who embrace a "swinger's" lifestyle? Surely some of these couples hire a babysitter on the nights they go to the "club" here in town, discreetly entering via the back door of the building. It's a legal business. A "Defense of Marriage" law ought to explain why the lifestyles of these parents - who advocate adultery & engage in consenting sexual acts with opposite & same sex partners or in mixed group orgies - require legal protection against a nefarious immoral assault on "traditional" marriage by monogamous gay couples? Well, lets poll those swingers on the issue of gay marriage. You think many of them would object? Of course not, because the "sodomy" laws prohibiting some very pleasurable & common consensual sexual acts that have been challenged & overturned by the gay rights movement also applied to heterosexuals. Interracial marriages were once illegal in most states. Inter-faith unions, though not illegal, carried the taint of moral approbation, & still do in many religious communities

To the State, marriage is strictly a civil matter: government has no special interest in the morality of a legal marriage, or in the religious basis of the union. The State cares if children are abused or spouses are assaulted, but laws covering these are based upon dangerous, anti-social behavior, not marriage. Child custody is determined by a complex number of factors, which may or may not involve marriage. Marriage laws are concerned with matters of property & money. To be legally married, you need a license, & you need someone the State deems qualified to adminster the oath - an official appointed by law, a ship captain under certain conditions, an ordained leader in a nonprofit organization that is recognized as a "religion' - & you need witnesses. If you can get these people to just sign the document, you can dispense with the ceremony & the State will be none the wiser, nor will it care. But if you have a clergyperson perform the ceremony without a license, you ain't legally hitched.

I can find no reason why, in a society in which civil marriage is separated from religion & is defined as a legal contract, why that contract is permitted only to a man & a woman. It is an injustice. Let the religious denominations prohibit same sex marriages among their believers, if they can, just as they might prohibit the consumption of alcohol or pork, or card-playing & dancing, or the observance of Halloween. This is no concern of the State unless coercion is involved. But when the right to a legal, secular marriage contract is denied to any two people over the age of consent, that is a clearly a prejudicial violation of human rights, just as if it were two atheists being discriminated against instead two men or two women.

It's not like we're going backward. New Jersey has a new domestic partnership law, which was passed on the initiative of Democrats & signed by Gov. Jim McGreevey last January, going into effect this July. Such a progressive advance will lead inevitably, I believe, to the legalization of gay marriages in this state within a few years, provided the homophobic Republican right doesn't scare the nation into passing absurd laws, or even worse, a dangerous Constitutional Amendment. The best tactic now is to let these local gay marriages, in Asbury Park & elsewhere, play out through the courts one way or another - the movement won't be hurt there - but to fight relentlessly against the enactment of repressive new laws, giving domestic partnership a chance to prove that the arrangement will have no effect on anyone who isn't gay or over the age of 62.

The Small Print: Iraq Casualties 3/9/04 - 3/15/04: 12 dead, 73 wounded

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

It's marathon money-making time at WFMU. I'm probably the most consistently poor on-air fund-raiser in the history of WFMU, based on the number of marathons I've been through. Year after year I was the station poster boy for the policy that you never lost your slot because of a poor showing in the marathon. For reasons I've haven't completely figured out, I never built the kind of loyal listenership that generously rewarded me at marathon time. This may have proved that I was doing something right, something contrary to the station's overall creative flow - I'm stubbornly un-hip. Yet, when I took sabbaticals listeners phoned & e mailed me (& still do) whenever I did fill-ins asking when I was coming back on weekly. The best marathon show I had, Chris T (Aerial View) was my co-host & spent three hours praising me - it was embarrassing - sort of - but the phones rang. It's difficult to hype an overall style that has little hype in it - a lets not get excited kind of DJing rooted in late Sixties & early Seventies FM - rather than specific contemporary musics, lotsa live bands, or super-rarities. I present everything, including my own monologues, with an even-handedness, of all things being equal. Oh, I've always wanted to be like Glen Jones, Bronwyn C. or my favorite example, the legendary Lou "The Duck" D' Antonio, radio artists with presences that come right through the microphone & into your home or car. But when I tried to imitate them I just felt inauthentic, that I was wearing the wrong hat. Perhaps I protect myself with distance, an indistinct face, rather than with that other form of mask - a strong personna.
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Monday, March 15, 2004

Some things to think about in the wake of Madrid terror bombings & subsequent Spanish election results:

- Al Qaeda was not operating in Iraq until the United States led forces occupied it.
- The Spanish government insisted that Basque nationalists were the prime suspects.
- The majority of the Spanish people never supported an Iraq invasion & occupation conducted independently of the United Nations.
- We found no WMD in Iraq. But some turned up in Spain last Thursday. & they weren't put there by Saddam. Al Qaeda may not even be directly involved, except as Death Consultants.
- A democratically-elected government is accountable at the polls for its actions & policies, & no such government gets a "bye" on election day by claiming that only it can protect the nation from a real or perceived outside threat. The people decide what is real & what is perceived, & who is best qualified to deal with it. Yes, the bombings did influence the elections in Spain by putting the Socialists back in control. But what if Spaniards had reacted another way, giving the incumbent party such an overwhelming majority that its power would be unchecked by opposition & dissent?

The Cheney-Bush administration never made any effort before the Iraq War to correct a false perception that Saddam, Iraq, Al Qaeda & 9/11 were somehow linked. & now, because of Cheney-Bush policies, they have become linked - by 3/11. Supposedly, we had bin Laden & his gang on the run in 2002. But they got away, mainly because we failed to cut off their support at the true source - Saudi Arabia. It's still all about oil, folks.

"The hardest thing was hearing mobile phones ringing in the pockets of the bodies." Spanish official commenting the Madrid rescue effort.

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Sunday, March 14, 2004

Having grown up in a small town, Roselle Park, I've applied a small towner's experience to everywhere I've lived. It puzzles me, though, that all the time I spent in Atlantic City as an adolescent didn't toughen me up some, make me more dispassionate in this regard. Maybe it did - I'm comfortable in cities. We all know people for whom a trip from suburbia to the nearest large city is a rare thing, & never taken casually just for being there & wandering around.

I know a lot of people who live in Jersey City & Brooklyn, moved there from elsewhere; few of them are especially attached to those places - beyond the diverse & urban culture one can find there, & the close proximity to Manhattan. It's as if one lived in, oh, Brick NJ, so one could visit the ocean a few times each week, & the bay every day. One doesn't have to make oneself of the place where one resides. In fact, ever since leaving Roselle Park at age 19, I've carried who I am around with me - the music, books, art - because I don't find these in the places I live - I'd have to live in Jersey City or Brooklyn to replace these items with their live equivalents of concerts, literary readings, art galleries & museums, & to have the daily company of like-minded people. That's what made me move to New Brunswick NJ in 1971 - a university city with lots of musicians, poets & artists in it, & bars & coffeehouses where one found them hanging out. New Brunswick became too limited, & quickly. It was a dangerous city, too, as I learned when guns were pointed at my head a few times. When I heard there was a concentration of young New York-oriented teachers at Ramapo College, a new state college far up in north Jersey of all places, I left New Brunswick & went there for a couple of years, & it turned out to be the key educational experience of my youth, the one that reoriented me away from provincialism & made it possible to become a truly portable artist. That "portability" has been an important component of my creative aesthetic ever since. Although I draw material from experiencing & observating specific places - finding the "universal in the local" - this is standard poet method now - & I adapt to the conditions of place, I do not allow a place or the people in it to impose creative constraints. If I did that, I would be an entirely different kind of artist, & not the artist I try to be.

Some people who think they know me - younger ones mostly - ought to remember - if they don't already know - that I was a rock n roller at 17, a Vietnam War conscientious objector at 20, at Woodstock in '69, a student of poet joel oppenheimer, influenced as a young man by Amiri Baraka, John Cage, Paul Goodman & Mary Caroline Richards & Paul Tillich. These teachers are indicative of my era, & their art & ideas (Goodman's especially) still have a capacity make people in the cultural, political & religious mainstreams squirm. You have two anarcho-communitarian Jewish poet/writers, a German Lutheran existentialist theologian, a black socialist poet/activist from Jersey, a potter influenced by zen & Rudolph Steiner, & an experimental composer who changed the course of American art. Three of the five were associated with Black Mountain College, a small alternative school in North Carolina that went out of business fifty years ago. My education resembles the kind offered there, & I got the transcripts to prove it. One also ought to remember that when I joined the staff of WFMU in 1981, it was both literally & figuratively an underground radio station run on a shoestring, & most of the DJs were considered lunatics by nearly everyone who had an opinion about the medium of radio, other than our own small community of faithful listeners The only college station whose purpose did not include training students for a career in commercial broadcasting. One came to WFMU to learn & do the WFMU way. WFMU did not reach a reasonably safe harbor until twenty years after Vin Scelsa, Lou "The Duck" D'Antonio & their minions subverted it into freeform.

Kids who drove through university, knocking off credits like so many mileposts on the Jersey Turnpike, their eyes fixed on some "career," graduating as pretty much the same persons they were in high school - that wasn't my experience. I spent those years being baffled, dazed, confused & delighted by ideas I hadn't even imagined existed, driven to it, unconsciously at first, by the stifling intellectual & creative terrain of the middle of middle class New Jersey, & the way those with "authority" gave my neck a yank whenever I simply asked for a longer leash.. Add YOUR comments here

Saturday, March 13, 2004

THERE MUST BE A PLACE AT THE TABLE FOR EVERYONE. That is not the actual agenda of Democratic Party centrist faux-liberalism, but it is the essence of the Christian Liberal point-of-view (It's not radical theology, see Sojourners) - Against capital punishment. Against imperialism. Against exploitative capitalism in all forms large & small. For a human right to shelter, food, clothing, health care, education. & for these to be administered compassionately & impartially at the most local level possible. Rahway, by the way, followed many other Union County towns in passing off welfare services to the County. I opposed this, even as a cost-cutting move, as counter-productive, because a community ought to keep account of it's own poor. I would at least like to see caseworkers from Social Services schedule regular hours in the city halls of all Union County towns so that clients do not have to travel to Elizabeth or Plainfield (often using gas guzzling jitneys as free taxis) for Family First & other crucial benefits. Mount Laurel affordable housing has to be built where it is needed, in cities like Rahway, Woodbridge & Linden, & not farmed out, scattered & ghetto-ized in monstrous, impersonal suburban apartment complexes where people must own cars & travel long distances to jobs.

Usually, I react to political party apologists, the nozzle-noses or the jackasses, with bemusement. But I've looked over the edge of the abyss once too often, & I know who pulled me back, & why. A couple of weeks ago I slapped down a "bugger-the-needy conservative" Republican acquaintance who mistook empathy with his personal problems for agreement with the conclusions he's drawn from them. I suggest that overly-pragmatic "liberals are your only friends" Democrats also begin showing some discretion &/or creative thought in what they say to me. Because my poet vocation demands that I perform two duties: Pointing to the sacred presence, even when nobody knows what I'm doing* - the "mystical mode." & calling Established Authority to repentence & reform, even at risk of being scorned or exiled**- the "prophetic mode." For some years now a large daily dosage of Zoloft suppressed a desire to perform these duties, & other unfortunate situations distracted me from them. I did not, I hope, break the faith.
*Paraphrase from Williams Carlos Williams
**Immumerable poets from Isaiah to Ginsberg

By the end of 2004 I will be doing some kind of useful work; pay off or down some manageable debts; be putting a few bucks in the bank every month (I'm quite capable of frugality, yes); pedaling a reliable bike; giving more volunteer time to WFMU (Think of WFMU as non-profit club, not a charity); & assembling a book (already in-progress). I hope to make a long overdue visit an old friend in West Virginia & gaze upon the Ohio River (the California journey has to wait), & do something special for a special friend in Indiana, without whose unexpected generosity I would have become homeless in Rahway, for real. & most middle class people cannot imagine the reality of being homeless, so far it is from their realm of experience. The antidote to this is to talk to homeless people - talk to lots of them, especially those who live in cardboard boxes in one's own community.

We begin by taking a stand on what we believe, not on what we believe is possible.
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Friday, March 12, 2004

Walked around what I hope will be my next neighborhood in Elizabeth. Then stepped off train in Rahway to the terrible sight of the building that housed the Waiting Room Bar in ruins, knocked down in under six hours. The only "everyman" tavern in the downtown. Perhaps it will relocate on the next block, near the French restaurant I hear the Mayor plans on opening. A French restaurant, fer cripessake! Can Jim Kennedy tell the difference between a Manet & a Norman Rockwell. much less know a Manet from a Monet? Not that we expect politicians to be arts literate - although I wish we could. I don't believe it's totally a travail de l'amour for hizzoner - but there's also a liquor license - Le Bar à Le Jardin de Maire Kennedy sur la rue d'Irving automatically becomes a required stop for local Democrats & la bourgeoisie blanche avec les immobiliers on the Watering Hole tour.

Pardon my imperfect French, but too many people in this city are believing la merde n'a aucune odeur.

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Thursday, March 11, 2004

The Chateau Bleu motel in North Wildwood NJ was recently added to the New Jersey Register of Historic Places. Built in 1962, it has a heart-shaped pool. My personal fav is the Lurae, located a few blocks north on Surf Ave. I've stayed across the street at an inexpensive little motel called Kismet, where I noticed that they're always having a great time over at the Lurae. Any gal who expects to marry me has to consent to at least a brief honeymoon at the Lurae during July or August. But it goes without saying that this will be just fine with any gal who falls in love with the poet who created Boardwalk.
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Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The very first apartment I looked at in Elizabeth today was pretty much what I wanted. Large, older, solid building; second floor; near Morris Ave. about halfway between Eliz train station & Kean University; a large room with kitchenette (about the size of my current apt) plus a bedroom, an ample hallway between, high ceilings; & lots of closet space. & refrigerator. Owner recently purchased it - he's a landlord type, OK as long he does right by heat & security - says he's fixing up laundry room, that's an extra. Neighborhood somewhat like the one I'm leaving - similar mix of people & economic levels but without "Arts District" pretensions - in a transition zone of single family, two family, apartment buildings; I saw a lot of recent & current renovating. Also saw lawn furniture & kid's play things in nearby yards, a good sign. Though I'll skip the after-dark walks until I'm settled in - a few rundown buildings & a liquor store a block south, but also a new Hispanic cafe & a corner store. Only thing better would've been second floor pad in a two or three family frame. The landlord was eager for me to take the apartment - it was "pre-screened" for me & I'm more or less "pre-screened" as an older, intelligent sober guy who won't be hosting crack parties - & I was asking specific questions about locks, door buzzers, etc. Locked apartment buildings are never really secure anywhere because you can't trust other tenants about buzzing in strangers. Happens here, too - the coin laundry machines were busted up a few weeks ago.

Do I feel sad about leaving Rahway? Yes & no. This is a comfortable city, although I wouldn't go so far as to say it is a particularly warm or tightly knit community. It was sharply divided by class, race & economic level until the Sixties, so a lot of the nostalgia felt by older white residents rings false in my ears. I certainly wanted to get out of the downtown area, off the main streets, fade back into anonymity I had when I lived across town in the early 90s. Being "known" in Rahway got me nowhere. I can have that in Elizabeth, & be close to all the services I need & use.

The Small Print: Iraq Casualties 3/2/04 - 3/8/04: 4 dead, 31 wounded
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Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Raw, damp March day, impossible to feel comfortable outdoors. Yet for the birds it is already Spring.

Looking at apartments in Elizabeth tomorrow. If I like one I'm taking it.
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Saturday, March 06, 2004

I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.
- Abraham Lincoln

Did Lincoln actually say or write this? Certainly not in a speech. The source is never given.

Not much to report about moving because not much that can be done until later this week. Have started to separate records for large donation to WFMU, 2/3rds to 3/4ths of my collection, which I'd planned on doing after the annual fundraiser.

It is for a town to claim its artists. An artist who claims a town is provincial. & only magical places & possibly very large cities are worthy of that. When I say I live in Rahway, I don't mind at all being associated with The Prison, which is a few yards over the border in Woodbridge. The Rahway River just passes through here - it empties into Arthur Kill between Linden & Carteret - who possesses a river? If Rahway wants to put in a claim on me, now's the time.

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Friday, March 05, 2004

Bumpy week, not just for finding out I have to move, but because I wasn't able to push on to the next step. I don't actually get my rent assistance voucher until next Thursday. So all I could do was look at classifieds to see what's generally available. & even so, I don't know if I'll have a choice, or have to take what i can get, or find nothing at all, given the short time I have. It would be nice to avoid ending up in a section 8 families type building - these are easily identifiable as poorly maintained garden apartments emitting loud music. My oresent abode was one of those before the current owner bought it. Then, there's the challenge of actually moving from one place to another, which I need not to worry about yet.

Yet, I find myself making choices. Time to get rid of the brown dresser, which goes back decades to years with Christine & which I never liked.; & the lazy boy chair that just collects clothes; & maybe the metal desk - or keep only the top. Bring old-fashioned kitchen table given me by Anne & Justin; futon (got rid of bed over a year ago - lumpy mattress & too many memories); the filing cabinets; a few metal shelf units & maybe the heavy duty end table I found on the curb last year - ugly but serves a purpose. & hope this move doesn't kill the ancient fridge. & donate at least 2/3rds of record collection to WFMU. & keep the books.

I've been a record collector since the Sixties; but the vast majority of the vinyl is not rare, or valuable, or of much interest to me, or necessary for radio. Many many cutouts & flea market purchases. I have a few worthy collectables; & assortments from genres that do amuse me - soundtracks, organ music, album jacket art. & a core collection of classical, jazz & soul not available on CD. But even if my copy of Miles Davis' "Porgy & Bess" LP is near mint, it's also in the WFMU CD library. & it's worth maybe $15 to collector - but then it's merely "inventory," not an item to be treasured. About the only times I play any of my records are on radio shows. & at this point, I know which ones I'm likely to reach for in the future - that core collection.

On the other hands, my books truly are "rare" even if not valuable (many are worth quite a bit to the right buyer), & I do treasure them - especially the poetry & art books, & I'd feel good about putting the ones I can do without up for sale on eBay.

If I'm meant to stay in Rahway, something will turn up here, & the city may then actually become my home, at last - a transformation symbolized by joining the Friends of the Library & Rahway Arts Guild.

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Thursday, March 04, 2004


My eviction has ironies, providing a larger meaning & form to twelve years of inter-related prose writings that had eluded me. I came to Rahway NJ in late 1990 after being evicted from an apartment in nearby Linden that was being renovated, then to Irving St. when my previous residence was foreclosed upon - through a combination of high mortgage rates & then a property value deflation when the Reagan bubble burst - it ruined the life of the woman who "owned" the house with three apartments.

The issuance of the Elvis Presley postage stamp led to my writing over one-hundred short pieces for a local weekly newspaper. & that inadvertantly turned me into an "unofficial poet laureate." Those pieces - on a wide variety of topics of which perhaps 1/3 are about Rahway - are the core of a book.

I coincidentally became the only artist living in Rahway's designated "Arts District," an area re-zoned for retail artisans, not artists, & an attempt by commercial property owners to speed up the gentrification process. Fortunately, this gentrification has so far been thwarted by an influx of Latinos, largely from Mexico, into the neighborhood, & by the stores & restaurants they opened across the street from the renovated theater known as "Union County Arts Center." It is being stalled farther downtown by black-owned & other businesses serving people with modest incomes. Let's be blunt.... Rahway's gentrification depends upon white consumers, & benefits mostly white businesspeople - who cannot but hope that the black barbershops & beauty parlors relocate elsewhere, & other businesses not fitting the master plan just go away in time.

(Rahway does have a private Swinger's Club for couples on Main Street that attracts a lot of very expensive cars to an entrance on the parking lot at the rear of a nondescript building. How nice it would be to get more of these affluent folks & their credit cards into the local restaurants for some pre-swingin' dinners or apres fun 'n' hijinks drinks & snacks. )

Now, the only artist living in Rahway's so-called "Little Soho" gets kicked out by a businessman who actively promoted the establishment of an "Arts District." No matter where I go, I won't be staying in this part of town. So that ties up rather neatly time-wise the domestic autobiographical portion of the book tentatively titled "Devoted to DJ Rix."

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Wednesday, March 03, 2004

The Small Print: Iraq Casualties 2/25/04 - 3/1/04: 3 dead, 26 wounded
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Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I wasn't happy about happened today in Superior Court, which went against me (or with a more positive spin, protected myself as best I could), but I was prepared for the outcome. Some people need to "win." I wore my Mets cap, artpak backpack, hooded sweatshirt, & walked out of Union County Courthouse into a beautiful early spring day that made me smile, while The Landlord sat upstairs in Courtroom 3B, signing legal forms & looking quite old, a Quantitative Man evicting a Qualitative Man. Small credit to him, it isn't very difficult to kick someone crawling out of a hole, provided you don't try to kick the person all the way back in.

The full account must wait, or you may request that I e mail it.

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Monday, March 01, 2004

After being discharged from the hospital in December, I determined to set out on a path away from the experiences of the previous six months, step by step, allowing of no distractions. The deaths of John Narucki & Charlie Mosler, two people who had treated me as a creative peer before I'd truly earned that status, stiffened my resolve to make it through the winter & do what I needed to do. First, I had to accept that I had suffered a serious relapse, & that I had either ignored or failed to catch the earlier symptoms - probably because I didn't want to believe it was happening. I needed to take control of my treatment, & here I decided to change medications - a four to six week process of cleaning out the the Zoloft & letting the Welbutran - a very different drug - take over, while closely observing physical & mental changes & side effects. I had to repair a frayed relationship with my therapist, Dr. Elena. I had put myself back into the Bridgeway House partial care program & then quickly make use of their experienced social workers.

Meanwhile, in mid-February, my landlord filed a complaint for my eviction in Superior Court, for non-payment of 2 1/2 months back rent (listed as Jan, Dec & 1/2 of Nov). It was a serious distraction. Since I had nothing with which to negotiate a solution, I put it aside & kept to my recovery plan. Dr. K pushed some paper, I entered Bridgeway a little over a week ago & by Friday, thanks to their great staff & especially a counselor named Betty, I had a preliminary approval for a Section 8 rental voucher, & had re-applied for Family First benefits - the latter ran out as I drifted into apathy early last summer. Stay with the plan.

Today I made the decision not to go begging around for the full back rent from agencies & people. Friends, doctors, social workers, have given me so much personal & professional support. Gifts materialized unexpectedly, from the most unexpected sources, before I'd even gone into the hospital.

As one M.S.W. asked me, perhaps rhetorically, back in the hospital: "You were going to kill yourself mainly over money?" Yeah I know. Foolish. & a banal reason unworthy of a poet. Hart Crane jumped off a ship mid-ocean & to this day nobody's sure why he did it.

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"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

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