Saturday, July 31, 2004

Here's the sort of neighborhood I live in. After 3 am, I couldn't sleep & was in bed reading. I heard a window being smashed, likely a car window. I looked out but didn't see anyone. I got back into bed. Remember, there are several hundred people who might also hear a window being broken, if they don't have AC on, & not all do. A couple of minutes later I heard what sounded like someone trying to start a small lawnmover, which meant it was an illegal motor scooter. FInally, the scooter kicked over & someone went buzzing down the street as fast as the thing would go. That was the get-a-way after the smash n grab, & I'm sure the punk was sweating when his machine wouldn't start. He'd sneaked into the area with it turned off. Nothing further.

& yesterday, a kid on a motor scooter - this one a red miniature motorcycle design - racing through rush hour traffic on Broad St. in Elizabeth, cutting in between cars. If one pedestrian had stepped off the curb with good timing, that punk would've gone totally outta control. Do the Elizabeth cops care? Shit, they're indifferent to punks at best, probably afraid of them, too.

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Thursday, July 29, 2004

John Kerry did a pretty damned good job of defining "values" tonight, & they are better "values" than the Republicans have. This guy is absolutely qualified to be President. He is more qualified now as a candidate than Bush is after four years in office. Flip flops? Maybe you don't understand the intricacies of Senate voting, bills that come on the floor in four or five different versions as wording is changed & amendments are added or subtracted.

What does this team have to say about fighting terrorism? Can it be clearer than what John Edwards said: "And we - John and I -we will have one clear unmistakable message for Al Qaida and these terrorists: You cannot run. You cannot hide. We will destroy you." What else do you need to hear? That we'll convert them to Christianity & then destroy them?

Yeah, Kerry's speech was padded, but at the core I heard a real person; I believe this guy means what he says. You don't have to give people nicknames & vacation on a ranch & talk like you're not a child of privilege - pretending to be a "regular guy" as Bush does. Kerry was in that boat in Vietnam. Did Bush ever see a man get his head blown off? He should try to imagine it, if he hasn't yet. That's war, & it's happening right now.

I have been waiting a long time for national figure to say something necessary about the Saudi Royal family. Because we must start separating the politics of Islam from the politics of oil. & to say that religion is a personal matter, you don't have to wear it on your sleeve. Because John Kerry is a Roman Catholic, & few Catholics will buttonhole you about your beliefs; Catholicism is a much more diverse church - in belief & believers - than Bush's Texas brand of Methodism.

What about all those voters - there is a multitude - who voted for Gore four years ago but the polls say are now locked for Bush? If I'm just getting to know John Kerry, do they know him yet? & do they really understand why they say they will vote for Bush? That's for another day.
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Monday, July 26, 2004

Happy Birthday Edie

Edie Eustice is 75 years old on July 28, this Wednesday. I've known Edie for nearly 25 years, meeting her first through Poetswednesday at Barron Arts Center in Woodbridge when Bruce Longstreet, Jim Ruggia & myself read there. I cheekily moved the podium to another wall & made a semicircular setup of chairs, a room arrangement I still consider superior to the standard ten short rows with center aisle that was done before & ever since. The success of Edie's reading series has come from its predictability of form, & especially from Edie herself; not being a poet, Edie has never competed with poets. Hundreds of poets have read at Poetswednesday, as featured performers & in the open. I have always recommended the open reading at poetswednesday to poets who have never read in public. In 1981, Susan "Sofran" Crotty (now McBride) helped Edie run Poetswednesday. It was great fun. After readings, we went back to Edie's house for snacks & chat, occasionally to the Rio Diner or Riffy's Tavern down the block, or across the street to the big funky house where Sofran lived with her then-husband.

Edie describes my personality as being "brusque" at the time. & so it was. I was ambitious, really believed myself the hot new writer on the scene. Edie quickly discerned - in part from my poems, which were good - that I was also very insecure & shy.

I got to know Edie really well after a long, somewhat insular relationhip ended in 1990, & Edie's guy, the great jazz guitarist Harry Leahey, died. Then I drifted off with another girlfriend for a few years. When we split, I was back on Edie's couch several nights a week, talking & watching Seinfeld reruns. Edie has been that kind of faithful friend to many people, & she gives even more of herself if one is going through an especially tough period. Just last night we were on the phone until after midnight. I was feeling low when Edie called. I felt "1000 times better" at the end of a typically wide ranging chat covering politics, religion, her family, my family, her childhood, my childhood, literature, music, plus some gossip.

Edie was over sixty years old when she graduated from Kean University with a B.A. She had been going to school for 18 years, first getting her GED, then associates degree. She loves learning. Her home is filled with books, the walls with art, fine jazz on the CD player or a good movie waiting to be seen, the kitchen table piled with newspaper clippings & letters. Edie is a reknowned hostess & excellent cook. But her kitchen is small, sometimes all the guests hardly fit at the table with leaves open, & all the preparation done in the same space. Now, having determined to regain use of her dining room (which was sealed off some years ago by a large bookcase & filled up with stuff), Edie's actually attempting to reorganize her home & get rid of things. I don't know where all this stuff came from. It seems to me that Edie once had her dining room plus a guest room on the cramped second floor. Guitarist John Conte was living up there for awhile.

During the decades I've known her, Edie's mother & sister died, as did my parents. I've watched Edie's grandchildren grow up & become good people. I've always admired her daughter, Cindy, a lovely, resilient woman.

A sad sign of time passing: when Edie had her house exterior repainted last year, it covered up a fading sprawl of flowers & greenery Sofran McBride had painted on the back outside wall, on which a group of Edie's younger friends had signed our names in Egyptian hieroglyphics. I remember that late afternoon over a decade ago, when Sofran was just establishing herself as a designer/painter of taste & talent. But we were so much older then, we're younger than that now.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Down in the dumps the past few weeks. The "quality" of my down periods has felt remarkably the same for thirty five years. So much the same in fact that they are sometimes accompanied by deja vu, as well as by specific "bad" memories of events from long ago. My recent depression, three weeks long, was deepened by a summer flu, which in turn may have been made worse by depression. Not every day is equally "bad" although the trend is generally downward until there's an unexpected burst of "up" energy. Basic things are left undone. I lose a taste for food; lose interest in most small daily pleasures, including music. I sleep. Or not sleep. I have panic attacks, usually at night. I've dreamed about people I haven't seen in thirty years. Some of them I would like to see again; Karen & Chrissy Battell, Joanie Evano, Sue Cuesta Dahl (where are they, who are they now?)

I've been in this Elizabeth apartment for over three months & I'm nearly 1/3rd of the way through the lease year. & I want to get out of here, & return to Rahway. Always the fantasy of going farther, down the Coast railroad line to Bradley Beach or Belmar, but realistically won't be ready for that kind of jump for two or three years. When I have a decent car again I may not even care to, since I realized that the Raritan Bayshore pretty much satisfied my need for water & sand & tide. Proximity to WFMU in Jersey city is no longer a factor in where I live. WFMU kept me in this area during a period when I otherwise would've been able to leave it, in 1997/98, & I regret that choice now. I am now paying dearly for several crucially bad decisions I nade back then. I recall being down in North Wildwood for five days in late August 1998, & I did not want to come home; wanted to stay a few more days & scout out jobs & places to live. But i was working at Pearl & at a graphics studio & had a weekly radio show & was scheduled to make the first regular broadcast from the new WFMU studios & life was hunky dory but for not living in Cape May County. Misplaced trust & faith.

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Saturday, July 10, 2004

Good luck to an old friend & fellow writer Sean P. Carr, who is headed from Jersey to Phoenix, Arizona where he'll serve as statewide Communications Director for America Coming Together, ACT through the November election.
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Thursday, July 08, 2004

Horror's index: The cost of the Iraq war

987: Number of coalition forces killed between March 19, 2003, and July 5, 2004
693: Number killed after President Bush declared the end of official combat operations on May 1, 2003
9,436: Minimum estimate of the number of Iraq civilians killed as a result of the U.S. invasion and occupation
40,000: Estimated number of Iraqis injured
14: Average number of violent deaths per month in Iraq in 2002
357: Average number of violent deaths per month in Iraq in 2003
30: Percentage of Iraqis unemployed before the war
60: Percentage of Iraqis unemployed in the summer of 2003
$151,000,000,000: Amount spent on the war through the end of this year, pending Congressional approval
$3,415: Monetary cost of war per U.S. household, on average
54: Percentage of Americans polled who felt that "the situation in Iraq was not worth going to war over" (Annenberg Election Survey)
52: Percentage of soldiers who reported low morale, according to a March 2004 army survey
28.2: Percentage of soldiers in Iraq who screened positive for traumatic stress, anxiety, or depression
34: Number of detainee deaths as a result of interrogation methods currently under investigation by the U.S. military
20,000: Number of private contractors performing traditionally military jobs in Iraq
1: Percentage of Iraqi workers involved in reconstruction projects
$160,000,000: Amount spent by major contractor Halliburton on meals that were never served to troops
82,000,000,000: Number of U.S. children who could have received health care coverage with the funds allocated to the war by the Bush administration

Source: Sojourners, Foreign Policy in Focus
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Sunday, July 04, 2004

Rahway's fireworks tonight behind city hall (how swell if I could sit on the outdoor deck of new library to watch). Be nice to have a date, but if I had a date with a car, we'd be at either Nomahegan Park in Cranford or down the shore someplace. Rahway's parking lot carnival fireworks lack the mysterious anticipation of night falling over a lake, dragonsflies flitting around. Or the boardwalk hysteria almost coming to a standstill when the first boom dud explodes over the beach, boat lights dotting the ocean beyond. At least I get to wear boardwalk clothes.

Later: During the fireworks I walked from Rahway River behind City Hall to the train station. The train platform may well be the best place to watch, with the exception of balconies at the Main Street Towers. Locals were up there in lawn chairs. Just as the finale ended, my train arrived, perfect timing.

With the opening of the library parking lot it was a lot less crowded. Biggest gripe: One zeppole concession, inexcusable. Two small deep fryers. After 8:30 the line never got shorter than forty people, even when the fireworks began; no one would abandon their place after waiting twenty minutes & counting for some overpriced doughballs. & Although it was hardly the fault of "TJ's Zeppoles," TJ didn't deserve the amount of monopolistic money he was making.

Listening for first time to Beethoven's 9th performed by Paul Weller conducting the City of Birmingham (England) Symphony Orchestra, an excellent complete set I got super cheap on eBay because it's neither a "classic" nor an oddity, but I happen to be a fan of the wonderful CBSO, which used to record in Birmingham Town Hall. If you see this 6 CD set around for under $10 in its Musical Heritage Society manifestation, get it. Includes a hypothetical movement from the 10th Ludwig was planning when he died.
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Thursday, July 01, 2004

Stopped in the new Michelino's restaurant/cafe, which opened in the old Elizabeth Jersey Central train station today. I'd never been in that building. Work was progressing slowly for a couple of years. Michelino's has perhaps the best all around pizzerias in the area, with brick ovens, & they added a breakfast menu. The restaurant had to fit itself within the historical renovation of the station, & it worked out pretty good. It's obviously an old train station, the wall benches & original brickwork are there. Of course, a ladder climbing up into the clock tower. Had an excellent iced latte.

Earlier, I walked from Trinitas Clinic on East Jersey St. to the train station, went to Rahway & did some errands, two miles hiking in pretty warm weather, so I was looking forward to an iced coffee at the dunkin donuts on St. Georges. I got in line behind a group of affable Chinese people all ordering iced coffees. While I was waiting patiently, a middle-aged woman came in & eased herself up to the counter next to the Chinese folks. I thought, she isn't really doing that, cutting ahead of me, is she? But she was. When the counterperson said, "Next," she started to order. I loudly said, "Hey, I was standing in line here for five minutes before you walked in!" She kept trying to order & I started asking for a medium iced coffee cream no sugar. I won. I was not be denied. Took my coffee, didn't even look at her, & sat down at one of the little tables by the Chinese. Later, walking back from a nearby Walgreen's, I passed two of the Chinese people & a lady smiled & said, with a heavy accent, "I see you before, in Dunkin' Donuts." just notified me of my annual billing for website services. This payment was at the crux of my decisions in 2003. Through Homestead I maintain boardwalk, rixfreeform, wesleylake, stuttering911, balancingbeam, murderismymusic, plus four other inactive & reserved sites. Of these, only the Bob Rixon's Boardwalk & DJ Rix sites are on-going creative projects, three are collections of poetry. Only the DJRix site gets much traffic. Last year, I stalled paying until Homestead froze my account & closed access to my sites. When they set the delete date, I paid. The payment left me short on rent. It was a crucial & important choice, & a good call. I'd already moved or rebuilt several of those websites when Juno ended its free Homestead-based webpage service a number of years ago. Homestead was ridiculously cheap at the time, & is still a bargain if one doesn't mind a domain name ending with Although I'm a getting more than I pay for, apparently "grandfathered" in when they tightened their services. Anyway, I decided that no matter what happened to me, where I had to live or even if I were homeless, those websites were staying put. I was not moving them too, to some free service with the explosions of popup screens & banners that I almost invariably bail out of before I get to the actual page I want to see. Boardwalk's layered collage front page is so dependent upon Homestead's page builder it'd be the devil to change anything on it. I was going keep my home on the internet.

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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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