Thursday, February 28, 2013
I Saw the Light
Todd Rundgren & Daryl Hall with Daryl's band, from the very good internet show, Live from Daryl's House, but recorded at Todd's house in Hawaii, a home he designed himself. Todd & Daryl are both Philly guys, & both at their best write & sing Philadelphia pop. Two old pros doing one of the three songs that pay a lot of Todd's bills. Yeah, I love the song. & this is a good way to be aging pop aristocracy.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Rosa on a Pedestal
When I was high school, a full decade after Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a Montgomery, Alabama bus, she was already being portrayed as the "Good Negro, " a rather ordinary African-American who just became fed up with being disrespected. That was easier to sell to the White Folks Up North. Our segregation was de facto.
That wasn't Rosa Parks. She'd had been a civil rights activist for decades in a place where it could get you killed. A few months before her act, she had attended Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, which trained union & civil rights activists. Rosa Parks fought for justice her entire life.
On the occasion of this unveiling. Mary C. Curtis wrote: "And let’s hope that as the country places Rosa Parks on a pedestal, it can pay her the tribute of letting her step down from it and be appreciated for the complex, beautiful, righteously angry woman she was."
Labels: human rights
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
I got rid of just about everything under the futon. Some good shoes I've had for years & never worn. Some books. I'll want to order a new 6" coil or full foam futon mattress when I've checked out more in my price range, which definitely is not high end I've been sleeping on top of a down comforter for long time to have a bit of give & softness. Meanwhile this hard mattress gets sealed up in a hypoallergenic, dust proof bug proof cover, as does a pillow. Wrestling a 60 pound new mattress up here & on to the frame is something I'll have to deal with when the time comes.
I have an eager taker for some books. He wants poetry, but a few rarities may entice him into taking some others to sell at flea markets. But I have to get this room in shape first before I concentrate on the other.
Labels: home furnishings
Sometimes I think I'm the only protestant-by-upbringing, at least around KOS, capable of explaining to non-Catholics what it is that observant Roman Catholics do & why they do it & keep doing it. Not the doctrine, not the theology, but the dailyness of Catholic practice. It's easier to hear it from me than from an offended Roman Catholic.
Monday, February 25, 2013
Sister Mary Katherine entered the Monastery of Silence.
Mother Superior said: "Sister, this is a silent monastery. You are welcome here as long as you like, but you may not speak until I direct you to do so."
Sister Mary Katherine lived in the monastery for 5 years before Mother Superior said to her: "Sister Mary Katherine, you have been here for 5 years. You can speak two words."
Sister Mary Katherine said: "Hard bed."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Mother Superior said, "We will get you a better bed."
After another 5 years, Sister Mary Katherine was called by Mother Superior. "You may say another two words, Sister Mary Katherine."
"Cold food," said Sister Mary Katherine, and Mother Superior assured her that the food would be better in the future.
On her 15th anniversary at the monastery, Mother Superior again called Sister Mary Katherine into her office. "You may say two words today."
"I quit," said Sister Mary Katherine.
"It's probably best", said Mother Superior, "You've done nothing but bitch since you got here."
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Clean, containment, discard
The futon was fairly inactive, although of course I wasn't there.
I'm getting rid of so much clothing I'll have to offer Richie, one of the slacker tenants here, five bucks to haul it out to the curb. He does the trash.
Ordered high quality mattress & pillow encasement covers.
Rather than shelve & reorganize books, records & junk, I decided to start getting rid of it. Many wonderful books, but the fact is they've been pretty much in boxes for twenty years. Many of the rarer items I've wanted to give to a fellow Jersey poet for years, also a pack rat, but a generous & open-minded 'zine publisher who treasures beat & hippie era books. If he has duplicates, he can keep the better copy & sell the other. The best I ever considered doing with them was exhibiting them for a month at Rahway library, where friend closely connected with library would have enthusiastically promoted the idea & probably tried to talk me into giving a lecture presentation that would attract him & maybe ten others, including library staff. I would keep a nice, small, quality personal library. I know the books I keep going back to.
I know I can winnow the records down farther to some real rarities & a few I must digitalize if I ever learn how to do it. I think there's enough good stuff that WFMU would pick them up, separate them into library-worthy LPs, the remainder going to the record fair. I always wish I could contribute much more money to WFMU than I can budget. WFMU staffers dig into their pockets for fund-raisers & make their donations to other shows.
& oh the junk. & two old computers. In fact, if that other room gets emptied, & is vermin free, I'm likely to begin using it an office. My computer is situated so that I can watch TV while I'm online. But I rarely watch TV anymore. I've become a radio guy again. The digital change over didn't go well here, I'm on the side of the building away from the transmitter towers, lost stations; cars driving by screw up the signals. I don't get Channel 7 at all, which has the Academy Awards, exactly the kind of program I half watch.
Most positively, if I reduce my possessions to a certain level, moving becomes a realistic option. Because if I move only two pieces of furniture would go with me. & one is my old-fashioned kitchen table.
Labels: home furnishings
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Pretend I'm moving to a smaller but better apartment.
Labels: home furnishings
I stayed at Gina's last night, which I rarely do & then only if I'm watching some movie that ends at two a.m., just pull up the afghan & nod off. But I had to step away from the situation here, which is multi--faceted, away from the internet have a calm night with the company of cats & Star Trek Next Generation reruns. I had a decent six hours of sleep on her couch without Ambien. Got up, make a cup of coffee, watched the news, made a list things I can do here on a cold rainy day that aren't especially taxing, come home & see if the few steps I did take on Friday to improve the situation had any good effect. Indeed they did.
I've been very depressed. When something happens to snap me out of it too fast, I can be pushed into manic phase.(other depressives have also reported this phenomena). I really want to avoid that. I need calm plus energy.
For the first time in weeks, thanks to to the new locked door laundry room system here, I have bags of clean clothes & other stuff, & I can keep them clean & wash them as often as I need & add to them & secure them.
Because of a tub drain problem, my bathroom has fallen into an unclean condition, & that will be taken care of Monday.
I have a new vacuum cleaner on the way that ought to just right for this apt.
Gina resides a few blocks away on a suburban street, next door to a friendly couple, a Rabbi & his wife. I walk in my front door about 11: 30 with a cup of 7-11 coffee, Sitting on the radiator in the vestibule (there was smoldering fire behind it a few weeks ago from tossed lit cigarette), smoking a ciggie beneath a new "No Smoking" sign was the fearsome, never-smiling, probably sociopathic, female tenant of this building. One look at the woman you know this butch queen has done time at least in the county lockup for something, most likely assault & battery. Don't fuck with her. Don't say hello. Don't even give a nod of the head. Just brief eye contact to acknowledge I'm aware she's there. She's tougher than any guy in this building & she knows it. I'm so far down her food chain I'm not even a snack. Just swim on by. She's actually out of her territory in this place, this generally quiet, working class, predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, & she's not the first tenant like that to land here.
So that's a given. I have my own problems.
Friday, February 22, 2013
What's the problem, bubbala?
Plus, my new, inexpensive vacuum cleaner that received very good user reviews on Amazon shipped.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
The routines keep you going
Well, this apartment building is making it very difficult for me to hold it together. Basic repairs not done; the laundry room closed, maybe because one of the desperate tenants took a hammer to the coin boxes, I don't know. Haven't had a visit from the exterminator in two months. & the tenants themselves, increasingly a collection of stupified men hanging around outside with vacant expressions. One of them set fire to debris behind the vestibule radiator, carelessly tossing a lit cigarette it.
Now I'll have to buy a folding wheeled cart & become one of those folks hauling laundry to the laundromat, which I always detested & haven't needed to do in years.
Last night I reminded Gina how desperate I am for a couple of large snap together shelving units, available at the Home Dept we pass every week, never mind my need for a basic computer desk. Should invest in a better vacuum cleaner, too. The one I have is really for small spills & crumbs.
* This apathy is very difficult to explain to non-depressed people, who tend to flippantly dismiss it as laziness. But in fact the depressed person can feel it through 40 hour work weeks, doing your job well enough that the boss has no reason for complaint, but you take no pleasure even from the aspects of the work you like, which is really depressing. Depression ruins the enjoyment lazy people get from being lazy, so don't believe lazy people like being depressed either, or gloat that depression is suitable punishment. A suitable punishment for a lazy person who likes clean clothes is forcing him to use a laundromat.
Labels: mental health
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
If you come from a small town & you want to be a writer
What saved me was that, as a teen, I spent nearly a month every year in Atlantic City, winter & summer, & stepping on the boardwalk at California Ave., looking north toward the great piers & The Traymore was always so awesome. I felt like other people feel when they go to a dark place & see the Milky Way. Next thing I'm back home sitting at the counter in Murray's drinking a cherry Coke & nobody understands that three or four times a year I'm having these religious experiences where I'm seeing disembodied psychic energy patterns left by Al Capone, Frank Sinatra, Dean & Jerry, & Freddie "Boom Boom" Cannon shouting "Wooo" as he flies by in front of Irene's Gift Shop.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
"R.I.P. It's a terrible thing to realize your demons are driving you & you're just along for the ride."
My old friend, poet Jim Ruggia, always a more descriptive writer than I, commented on my post (in part):
"For a lot of people it's a highway at night out there, lights and flashers careening and strange half lit figures on the road side."
What Jim wrote is what happened to Cindy. She went to Nashville at age 18 with her great voice, good looks & ambition. She brought whatever demons she had with her. Part of the ambition, perhaps even the strongest part, was a belief she could escape them if she became a success, a star. Fame only compounded her problems in the sense that they were writ large for all to see. She would have screwed up her life just as much & in much the same way by staying home. She might have, however, been less isolated in her out-of-control misery. Maybe even had fewer enablers & few more genuinely helpful friends.
A couple of other FB friends were critical of her for what I think were the wrong reasons. Why do we believe celebrities ought to be better at handling their demons than we are? Because they have money to throw at them? Because they can afford expensive lawyers & luxurious rehabs?
Yes she did abandon her kids &, as Jim also noted, shot her dog "in one last contemptuous act before shutting out the lights. " But coming from Jim, this is more observation than judgment. He understands there's more important causes for outrage. & if one must choose a symbol of wealthy arrogance as madness, Cindy McCready is not a good one. She was just someone who fucked up her life, & got a chance to do it in a very public way, & when she decided she couldn't unfuck it, she angrily ended it. We can mourn her.
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Friday, February 15, 2013
Sen. Frank Lautenberg to retire
89 years old, 30 years in the senate, including coming out of retirement when an incumbent Democratic senator was forced off the ballot by legal problems. He is not retiring because he's afraid of a challenge from Newark Mayor Cory Booker. I already knew I'd be voting for Lautenberg in that primary.
Lautenberg was never "popular" in Jersey. He's consistently received among the lowest constituent approval ratings of United States senators. But he never lost a race. He was a tenacious, even dirty fighter. His first win came against a colorful, popular moderate Republican with name-recognition, Congresswoman Millicent Fenwick (considered by many the model for Lacey Davenport in Doonesbury, although Trudeau denies it). He wasn't expected to win. He did, by under three points. Jersey isn't known for producing distinguished senators. Bill Bradley is more a distinguished personage; he had to remind himself which state had elected him. Clifford Case was, to my mind, the last great Jersey senator, & the right wingers in his party got rid of him in a primary. But I think history will be very good to Lautenberg.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Old Maid Valentine
She's an old beat poet,
a surrealist painting on the wall,
a great stove, the bird cage is Trompe-l'œi,
& my guess is she has
a fabulous record collection
& a shelf of "art" photograph books.
Give me her phone #.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
It's the kind of small town page where people are always trying to get details correct; exactly where something was or where someone lived. Do you remember this or do you remember that? These matters are not of much interest to me. They never were. They are impediments to one's memories & imagination.
Although I grew up in a particular place, & I write about my experiences there quite specifically, I've also treated that small town in a generic manner. The "history" of the town is my personal history, & my history as it involves the town is of a young person enjoying the security of a small town in the Fifties & Sixties while gradually learning how small it was. The rest is family stuff & could have happened just about anywhere. The town was a bit like the Methodist Sunday School education I picked up there; enough to teach me some basic, important things & provide a safe environment for learning them, but not so much that I had to spend years chopping away a repressive accumulation of dogmas, doctrines & myths. I stayed in that town one year too long. I began becoming bored with the place after my grandmother moved to Atlantic City, accelerating when I was old enough to go to New York City. In high school, I became aware of my lack of sophistication. I didn't need to be Downtown NYC sophisticated, but I knew I needed what would be found there. I've never been bothered by being a small town person; coming from one, I'm all the more easily entertained & even astonished by things more urbane & traveled folks hardly notice. When in Manhattan, I still have to remind myself not to look up too much.
Neco - Velvet Bossa Nova
At first sounded like a typically sleepy easy listening bossa nova LP from the Sixties. Then I noticed it was made in Brazil, the guitarist is really good, the arranger knows where to put the strings, excellent song selection . A first rate cocktail music album.
Monday, February 11, 2013
The decrepit Pope John Paul II symbolized the Catholic Church's unwillingness / inability to honestly confront & deal with the child abuse scandals wracking the Church. One asked the question, "Is anyone in charge here?" The answer was, "Sort of." The person in charge was the future Pope Benedict behind the scenes. He dealt with it no better after becoming Pope. The situation requires outrage hitched to unquestioned moral integrity. Would the younger, vibrant John Paul II, age 59 when he took office, have used his authority to expose the tragedy & deliver justice? We can never know.
Pope Benedict at least recognizes that he does not want to become like John Paul II in his final years; an ineffectual shell. He wants to influence the election of his successor. Benedict is a cerebral man, an intellectual. He can live out his final years comfortably, with limited mobility. He won't be bored.
The next pope will likely share Benedict's conservative views. The voting Cardinals were all appointed either by him or John Paul II. Occasionally (meaning rarely) the Conclave anoints a complete surprise; a man they thought they knew but didn't really, a "miracle" like Angelo Roncalli, Pope John XXIII, the "simple priest," or one who is radically changed by the office itself. Every new pope brings new possibilities.
The main open question now concerns the future pope's nationality. Will the next pope be from Africa or Latin America? If not this one, probably the one after. Or will this pope be the last hurrah of the European popes? Perhaps even an Italian pope for old time's sake.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Saturday, February 09, 2013
About noon on Friday I looked at the radars & concluded, in my intuitive way of looking at these things, that it would be a substantial snowstorm but hardly one of "historic" proportions. Maybe that would occur 100 miles east over lower New England, wqhich would get the full brunt of the coastal storm, but not here. The storm from the west was drying up & the noreastern was speeding up. Still, newsradio was all ramped up. Yes, people should have stayed home from work Friday or gone home early. Common sense given our roads & mass transit. Radar was strongly implying the snow would begin later & taper off sooner, which means the roads would be cleared by late Saturday afternoon afternoon & life would return to more or less normal on Sunday. Media managed to make an interesting weather event boring.
Outside now: Light, steady snow. Wind not a factor. 10 inches on ground at most. Pretty.
Friday, February 08, 2013
Thursday, February 07, 2013
The old guy listens to you,
Poorly written Facebook status update of the day, posted by a young writer friend:
"if you've ever done something more peaceful than a night walk on a really clear, bitterly cold night, you're lying."
Nothing says peaceful like telling your friends to shut up if they have another peaceful thing to suggest.
There are several young writers I keep an eye on at FB. A status update is an opportunity to write something brief & succinct. It's a good exercise. Usually, the opinion expressed doesn't matter to me. I'm more interested in clarity & tone. One of these writers is an ideologue. He also a temperamentally kind person. The combination trips him into contradictions. But being an ideologue, he cannot acknowledge & embrace these contradictions, which are natural. Recognizing self-contradiction is a rich source of humor. But ideologues are usually humorless when they write or speak ideologically.
Another writer, the one quoted above, also a nice person, tends to see things only in terms of the effect on herself (or more expansively, a small group of people her own age). We have a snowstorm on the way & her status update today is "Can we get a proper Snowpocalypse tonight so I can get a 3 day weekend?! Jeez." You can see the similarity between this & yesterday's update. I am not looking forward to this storm, which is not due to really kick in until later on Friday. Neither are first responders & essential service workers, or parents of school age children, or those with plans for the weekend that require driving - which may be as routine as food shopping. But I can understand why someone would want it to extend all the way to Monday. So use a "we" instead of an "I."
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
Sort of Bruce Springsteen
Bob Rixon is sort of a Bruce Springsteen of New Jersey blogging. With his penchant for vintage postcards and other images, interspersed with musings on life, politics, and the personal, no one better encapsulates the Garden State than The Rix Mix.That "sort of" in important to me. Any resemblance to Springsteen is coincidental, the result of our being about the same age & having parallel yet different experiences. I had my own boardwalks, my own favorite music. I also played in a band in the late Sixties (with far less success). A few of my poems have a Springsteen feel to them, something I usually recognized as they were written (they are not poems about boardwalks). Springsteen's first two LPs were released during the period I was being drawn into poetry. I didn't care for Springsteen's "poetry" on Born to Run, his break-through third. I felt he had abandoned the spirit of "Rosalita." But he was doing in a big, ambitious way the same thing I was doing quietly at the time: Consolidating influences, shaking off provincialism while retaining a sense of the "local." It's what many artists do in their twenties as the first burst of youthful learning comes to close. He wanted to be a rock & roll star. I just wanted to make poems that would be published, read & appreciated outside of Jersey, like William Carlos Williams. We both succeeded. But I had understood when Greetings from Asbury Park was released, from the wonderful album jacket (better than the record, actually), even before I slit the shrink wrap, that what Bruce had done could be done only once. I might have put a similar postcard image on a collection of poems, with the same Jersey "fuck you" I believed it implied.
I'd be mildly disappointed that Springsteen has never read any of my poems or prose, if I had tried to get any of it to him.
Labels: about writing
Tuesday, February 05, 2013
Monday, February 04, 2013
The rest is a pop song
The rest is a pop song & I play with the lyrics., my right as a poet.
We were small town ambitious. We believed one or the other of us, or both, might become famous. Although neither of us was a great social butterfly, we were sociable & enjoyed being seen together.
I've always been grateful for her family, her mom especially, how I was taken into that crowded, chaotic house on Hemlock Street during a turbulent period in my own family. I was "Karen's boyfriend," & with that came meal privileges & use of the old upright piano.
Karen, of course, always wanted to get out of the house if it wasn't a school night, or if it was, at least go sit on the front porch or on the back seat of an old but functioning 1948 Desoto, a Battell heirloom called "The Turtle" kept in the garage. She would be annoyed with me If I settled on the couch, watching TV with three or four kids crawling over me. But I felt love in the chaos, & I sensed the love was emanating from the frazzled woman in the kitchen who welcomed me if I went in there, sat down & chatted with her. As long as mom liked me, I'd be o.k. with her dad & we'd get a longer leash. I liked talking with her mom. I suspected her dad secretly hoped we'd elope the day after Karen graduated high school just to get her out of a crowded house lacking in space & privacy.
It was my job as a writer to fit Karen into my narrative. Where I fit into her's was of small concern to me. I hoped only that she carried no hurtful memories, & in our few conversations later she never gave the impression she had.. You won't find her in my poems, except invisibly in a group I wrote in 1990 which drew from every romance & break up I'd gone through up to that point.
Karen passed at age 62, a tragic fact. I have only two early years of those 62 & I wish she had lived until my small percentage was much smaller. But they were two adolescent years filled with the kinds of days & nights everyone remembers as the rest of our days & nights & years speed by faster & faster. My poetry mentor, Joel Oppenheimer, taught by example that there are memories a poet holds in trust. He was passing down an old tradition. One might never bring those memories to a poem or story, but they are held & treasured all the same. It is a privilege.
Remembering how Karen, the most beautiful teenage girl I every knew, entered a party, a dance, a brightly lit diner, a wedding reception (we went to at least two), my dad's living room, whatever occasion called for it. She always did this if she was wearing something new from Daffy Dan's. She would walk through the entry, quickly survey the occupants, tilt her regal nose up & slightly to one side just so, & pose for a moment. Yes, people looked. Always. I'd be standing behind her or off to one side, thinking, "Wow! I'm sure she rehearses that." To me she was dancing.
In Memory of Karen Battell Silva, 1950-2012
Sunday, February 03, 2013
Saturday, February 02, 2013
"but he died not seeing this year
he died in winter after many springs
but every spring he saw we see still
every spring he saw we see still"
Which is, basically, what poets want us to see when they are gone, no matter what else they have tried to show us.
Friday, February 01, 2013
"Here was a mayor who was a combination of a Lindy's waiter, a Coney Island barker, a Catskill comedian, an irritated school principal and an eccentric uncle," New York writer Pete Hamill said in a 2005 discussion of Koch's legacy. "He talked tough and the reason was, he was tough."
Mixed feelings about the former NYC Mayor. Most people have them. I liked him more when he was no longer mayor, one could tune out the abrasiveness & overlook some of his views, his endorsements of Republicans (lousy Repugs for the most part, like Al D' Amato & Pete King), & even the ahs & ums that filled out his sentences. But I regularly tuned in to his radio show on an AM station way up dial that was owned by the Jewish Daily Forward.
I'm inclined to think he was right for New York City when he took office in 1978. NYC had a terrible image, much of it deserved. But anyone with a bully pulpit & unashamed to sound ignorant felt free to insult the City.* There were legit criticisms. The city was falling apart, dangerous, going bankrupt. But a lot of it was the usual barely disguised contempt for New York's diversity, an opportunity to express anti-semitic bigotry about "liberal New York Jews," hatred for LGBT (soon to endure the tragedy of the AIDS epidemic). The South Bronx had become a symbol for the city's decline. But Koch was having none of it. He loved New York. After Koch took office, if you mocked New York City on TV or in the papers, you did so at your own risk; you got it thrown back in your face by Mayor Ed Koch.
Ed Koch grew up in Newark NJ, when the city had a huge Jewish population. Newark was a tough place, too, even then. He saw combat in WWII. & when he became involved in politics, to advance his own ambitions in the Sixties, he had to join with a group of reform-minded upstarts to pull down the old Tammany Hall Democratic regime headed by the corrupt Carmine DeSapio. Koch became a congressman. In the 1977 mayoral primary, he ran against not only the seemingly hapless incumbent Abe Beame, but also Bella Abzug & Mario Cuomo. No shrinking violets there.
By Koch's third term, his administration was resembling something that could have come from Carmine De Sapio. He was bleeding allies & supporters. New Yorkers were weary of him. He failed to win a fourth term. But Ed Koch private citizen was nearly as formidable as Mayor Ed. Just as loud, abrasive, funny, infuriating, & public. He could very critical of New York City, never disparaging. He will be missed.
* There have always been people who hate cities, all the way back to when human beings first created something like a city. These people rarely reside in cities. They decry the crime, the immorality. But they really hate the diversity,the culture, the ability of people to coexist with other people they don't especially like.