Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Picnic Grove of Paradise

I'm done with fastidious Capricorn
women who make love on fur coats
they spread across cold basement floors
without taking off their watches.

Maybe done with idealistic
Pisceans who stay for years before
they swim away from a bad prospect.
I have a collection of their towels.

Done with that Libran who never wrote
letters, but sent snapshots from Paris,
where she posed with flowers & funny hats
for a lover who held the camera.

I'm through with hats. Please discern how
this poem is profoundly bare-headed.
Hats raise pimples on my poet's brow
& ought to be left to drunken novelists.

I'm finished with food metaphors.
No more smearing honey on the moon
or the sweet scent of ripened peaches
in the green picnic grove of paradise.

It's infested with bees & mosquitoes,
squirrels, ants, hornets, spiders & beetles.
Poet, believe no promise of paradise
the next time a goddess sees you naked.

 I think this is one of my better poems.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Santorum's Nausea

Sen, John F. Kennedy's Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, 9/12/60, is required reading in both great American oratory & First Amendment writing.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
What little I recall of the 1960 presidential election: First, grownups of my parents' generation were excited by it; a win by either Kennedy or Nixon would mark  a passing of the torch to a new generation. Second, there was already a general air  of sleaziness about the Kennedy men's personal lives, although adults didn't discuss the rumors in front of children. But it was there.  Third, there was an uneasiness among many protestants regarding Kennedy's Catholicism. It wasn't so pronounced  in my town; just something picked up from wisecracks of other protestant kids I figured they picked up from their parents.  My Republican dad, an ex-Catholic (raised strictly), so detested J.F.K. as a person & politician that I doubt religion even figured into it. He certainly  had no qualms voting for Catholic Republicans. But it surely meant more in the protestant South & Midwest farm states.

Kennedy's speech pretty much settled the matter of Roman Catholics in American public office.  In response to Kennedy's campaign,  the Vatican made an important change to its official view of church/state separation (from disapproval to alright for a Democracy; a key adjustment that eventually made it possible for the United States to open diplomatic relations in 1983, although Baptist  Harry Truman had wanted to do it in 1951).

We've since had a Roman Catholic candidate, John Kerry, & a Greek Orthodox Catholic candidate, Michael Dukakis, neither of whom lost due to their religions. Vice President Biden is Roman Catholic.  Six Supreme Court justices are Roman Catholic or were raised Catholic.

Rick Santorum, a Roman Catholic whose run for the presidential nomination as a candidate soliciting votes of conservative protestant Republicans seeking to erode church/state  separation was ironically made possible by John F. Kennedy, says this great speech made him want to "throw up."

Would Santorum take orders from the Pope?  His reaction makes me wonder about it. It's clear Santorum doesn't like secular laws contrary to Catholic doctrine.  Never mind required  health insurance coverage for  contraceptive methods.  What about the public availability of contraceptive devices & medications, including those Trojans on display in 7-Eleven? The Roman Catholic Church is against artificial insemination, also covered by many insurance plans. Marriage equality? Maybe Santorum wants to restore so-called "sodomy laws" that made heterosexual oral sex illegal.
Santorum backed away from the "throw up " statement but not from opinion attached to it.  He thinks there's some terrible threat to religious expression in America.  Has there ever been more religion in American political discourse? Have the  religious beliefs of presidents & presidential wannabes ever been more scrutinized & more important? What major religion in America is suffering more suppression than Islam? Every Muslim in America is still expected to apologize for 9/11 as a precondition to expressing a public opinion on anything else. "I'm sorry for the terrorist attacks, I condemn them, & would you please fill the pot hole in the street in front of my house?

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Wildwood NJ

The W Tree

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

The G-Clefs - 'Cause You're Mine

Early literary influences around third grade with their songs "Ka Ding Dong" & "Zing Zang Zoo," but this one with the crazy sax break is my favorite. I don't think Boston produced another decent rock & roll band of note (unless you count The Barbarians from Cape Cod) until J Geils first LP with Magic Dick on harmonica.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Three poems in Big Scream no. 50.  50? This beautifully printed 6" x 9" perfect bound paperback with the great front & back cover photos & title on the spine? The first Big Scream I was in around 1980 - it was already a number of issues into its long  run - was an 8 1/2" x 11" zine, mimeographed, staple bound, with a line drawing cover. That's the way it was for awhile. Then it became a copy machine mag with photo covers, & over the years it looked better & better until it became what it is today.  Publisher & Editor Dave Cope used to publish  them as  often as he felt like doing them, then they became an annual. They are still published under Dave's Nada Press name.  Dave is Nada Press, & has issued some other things, including an a collection of my stuff.

I used to write a lot of open-form, open field poems that wandered all over the page;  it was mostly the thought of Dave painstakingly retyping those kinds of poems from me into a mimeo stencil that made me reassess what I was doing & conclude almost every poem I wrote could sit comfortably against the left hand margin if I simply willed it so a little more. That & an admission from poet Ed Dorn in a preface to his collected poems  that he no longer understood how some of his earlier poems functioned. Meaning he had forgotten the personal language of his forms, & the poems failed to explain their own workings. So according to the general rule of thumb (not strict  doctrine) that I & most of the poets on my side of the literary fence use, "Form is an extension of content," an open field poem is complex thing. Was I determined to write complex poems? Not really.

Big Scream has a large "stable" of regular contributors  Dave's  collected over the decades.  I've been in a dozen to fifteen issues, as a guess. If I didn't have at least five poems for him to choose from  - he was bound to like one of them - I didn't submit any at all.  There were always two or three other literary zines & editors I liked contributing to, they came & went, & I've never been a prolific poet. I've known poets who would write poems the day they had readings just to have something brand new. That was never my way.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Anyone believing one of those four Republican contenders is superior to Barack Obama is seriously deranged.   They're fighting over what amounts to maybe 10% of the American electorate, the most hardcore, radical right segment of the Republican base. Romney says he's to the right of Santorum on birth control, & Santorum is personally against all birth control but wants to reassure us  this won't influence his actions as president. They believe birth control  promotes teen age sex & therefore teenage pregnancies.  Huh? Try figuring   that one out. This is an issue for the general election? Barack Obama is waging an all-out assault on religious freedom (because, of course, he's a closet Muslim, the radical Islamists love him despite the fact that he ordered the take down of bin Laden).  They hardly mentioned, you know,  jobs in last night's debate. Heck, they wish GM & Chrysler had failed & gone out of business altogether just to make an ideological point that guviment shouldn't meddle in preserving American manufacturing & employment. Rather than challenge the depth of proposed defense spending cuts, a legit conservative thing to do,  three of them  refuse to acknowledge that any cuts are possible.  They believe not only that gasoline can be $2.50 gal, but should be $2.50. Oh, we have no problem with hydrocarbons & the environment. All we have to do is drill, grind up shale & shovel it into our gas tanks, & maybe conquer & occupy Iran & take their oil,  since that worked so well for us in Iraq. Romney, if nominated, will have to choose some nutcase as his vice presidential candidate because the whacko Christian right isn't buying any of his heretical Mormon lies about being an authentic conservative. This is the screwiest primary ever.  I look at these guys & think, didn't their party produce Robert Taft, Everett Dirkson, Barry Goldwater? Dirkson even supported civil rights legislation, didn't think it tainted his conservative credentials.  & they make Ronald Reagan sound like towering intellect.

To win , an insurgent candidate usually has to make voters believe the incumbent is too small for the job.  So  nailing the incumbent on a series of small issues can backfire. Since voters want to vote for someone who will do something, it's actually quite tricky  to run on the premise that the current officeholder is doing too much. That's where the attack on "Obamacare" may fall short, because it matches a president who allegedly did too much against a candidate who would do nothing at all except try to put everything back the way was, which means a case has to be made for the way it was.
In sort of related matter, the owners of the Empire State Building declined without explanation a request to light the building red in honor of New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan's elevation to Cardinal.   The Republican congressman making the request was miffed. He seems to have forgotten that Dolan & the Catholic bishops have been at the center of the birth control health insurance coverage controversy, & are still fighting through their political proxies, so it's not just as he says a matter of honoring Dolan because he's a "humble" man who served food to the poor on Ash Wednesday. The public humility of powerful Catholic clerics is a practiced manner, an unwritten requirement,  as they rise  in the Church hierarchy. New York's Archbishops, the most visible in America, are always "humble," just ordinary parish priests at heart the way  Doctor McCoy, most famous, respected physician in the Federation on Star Trek claimed he was just a "simple country doctor, Jim."

Lighting the building red for Dolan a few months ago would have gone mostly unremarked upon. Doing it now would only remind New Yorkers of Dolan's vocal opposition to birth control  & marriage equality.   It doesn't excuse some of the inappropriate events & people the  building lights may have marked over the years. If you can't figure out why the ESB is lit certain colors, it probably shouldn't be lit those colors.

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Back online with DSL after several frustrating days of dial up. Amazingly, the ISP phone rep was correct; the problem was a failed a/c adapter. I don't think I've had a failed adapter that was supplied with the electronic device.  The device always failed first. Separate store bought ones have crapped out. The e mail customer service rep gave me the brush off, said I should contact the modem company, which was impossible because the company distributes the modems only through ISPs & doesn't deal with individual customers. All I wanted to know was how I could replace modem. He received  a very sharp rebuke from me. When I'm in the mood I'll go over his head & report that the online & e mail customer services are not on the same page, & the e mail one almost lost them a subscriber.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Stealing Valor

Here's a strange one:
Stolen Valor Act: Is lying about being a hero a right?

When Xavier Alvarez stood up and introduced himself at a local water district meeting in July 2007, he had no idea he was about to commit a federal crime.
“I’m a retired Marine of 25 years,” he told the other board members in Pomona, Calif. “I retired in the year 2001. Back in 1987, I was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. I got wounded many times by the same guy. I’m still around.”

In most social situations, such statements might elicit interested nods, admiring smiles, and perhaps heart-felt thanks for his brave service to the nation.

But it turns out Mr. Alvarez never served a day in the US military, had never been wounded, and – most important – was never awarded the Medal of Honor.

How much do you know about the US Constitution? A quiz.

After his false claim was exposed, the Federal Bureau of Investigation showed up. Alvarez was soon indicted for allegedly violating the Stolen Valor Act of 2005, a law that makes it a federal crime to falsely claim to have been awarded a military medal.

His lawyer attacked the indictment as a violation of the First Amendment, arguing that Americans have a free-speech right to make false and outrageous claims about themselves without facing criminal prosecution from a government truth squad.

A federal judge upheld the indictment, but a US appeals court panel reversed.

On Wednesday, Alvarez’s case arrives at the US Supreme Court, where the justices are being asked to decide whether the Stolen Valor Act is an unconstitutional regulation of free speech or an acceptable effort by the government to punish an alleged liar.
Alvarez is just plain stupid. No military medal is easier to verify than the Congressional Medal of Honor. There are websites (including wikipedia) listing every recipient & how it was earned. Alvarez's lie is so huge, so dishonorable as to suggest he is crazy. But he didn't do it to falsely claim veteran's benefits.

A former Mayor of Atlantic City for years claimed he had served in Special Forces, doing things  too secret to reveal. He mentally cracked up when he was exposed, so shamed he literally ran away & hid. But he was exposed because he had applied for & was receiving benefits he hadn't earned, & the feds caught up with him. He committed the crime of fraud. The irony was that the man had in fact been a good career soldier, serving two stints in Vietnam (where  any soldier could get blown up while off-duty  sitting in a cafe), &  received an honorable discharge. But some guys feel a military career without battle heroics is incomplete. In modern wartime, most military personnel never see  front line battle. We don't hold that against them. In Iraq & Afghanistan no place is really safe.

In any town in America, what Alvarez falsely claimed would mark him as the worst kind of fool & turn him into a social outcast shunned by all. Why would someone risk that unless driven by some psychological disorder? It's that outrageous. Any Vietnam vet would know Alvarez was lying after just a few minutes of conversation. He must have  avoided those encounters.   But does it make him a criminal? He didn't "steal valor" from anyone. The valorous are no less valorous because of Alvarez. The living valorous are also modest, because they know the most valorous of all were killed doing their acts of valor, often without witness to their heroic sacrifices. 

Our natural urge is to punish Alvarez in some legal way. But how? Jail him? We don't need to be protected from him & it costs money to keep people in jail.  Fine him?  Make him do community service? Tar & feather him?

Constitutional speech protections aside, the law itself is unnecessary, passed in one of the fits of patriotic fervor congress has when it's unable to accomplish anything constructive.  Like holding visible public hearings to investigate how we were paying for two foreign wars & how much of the money we borrowed & spent was being utterly wasted,

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

John Glenn - Friendship 7 - 2/20/62

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Online dial-up because my modem crapped out. The pages open fine, just have to be patient.

I can hardly believe what Rick Santorum has been saying. He's exhibiting  serious symptoms of demagoguery, an affliction of small, narrow-minded people whose pedestrian ideas get pumped up into Grand Visions.   Such a fool would bring the word "theology" into American political discourse. Whether or not he did so with conscious intent is debatable. I'm not certain he understands what he did, only that it drove  his supporters into a frenzy of religious fervor & monetary generosity.  He's no longer just a candidate; he's a crusader. Do you pray? Then pray this: Dear (place name of  divinity here,),  Protect America from Rick Santorum.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cape May Court House NJ

Court House Cabins

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Offline & Whitney

My DSL modem is down & I don't know what exactly the problem is. Nor is my service provider likely to identify it, what with phone service reps of unknown nationality, sounding like they're at home taking care of the kids at the same time, reading exactly the same troubleshooting tips as on my  DSL disk, none of which suggest the modem itself might fail after several years & offering a way to test that possibility. I'm at Gina's. One benefit of being offline is last night I dropped by to check e mail & actually had a drink & socialized with Gina for a few hours. We watched some horse racing & wrestling.
"Would someone here tell me who God would want to be broke?"
Rev. Marvin Winans on "Prosperity Gospel" at Whitney Houston funeral.
You needed to think on this one a bit more, Pastor Winans,  Nobody comes to mind? Not an international arms dealer or Mexican drug cartel boss or heartless Wall Street business buster? How about the pimps?
Well yeah. a lot of  rich people would be broke if God were the kind of God who reached into bank accounts & investment portfolios & miraculously transferred the contents to the Elizabeth Coalition for the Homeless, leaving a message:  I hoped you'd give some of this away, & you didn't, so I took it all.

They don't preach a "prosperity" gospel at New Hope Baptist in Newark like Creedo Dollar on television.  There is a free class on managing finances.  In Newark there's lots of ways to become prosperous, most of them illegal & evil & very tempting for poor people.

Much complaining about NJ Gov. Christie lowering flags to half staff  for Whitney Houston. Complaints generally include one of both of these rationales: She was an out-of-control dope addict. The flag doesn't get lowered for "real" heroes, cops, firefighters, military who die in the line of duty.

There's no adequate response to this. Flags do get lowered locally for military & first-responders. If you think they should be lowered at all government facilities, take it up with Christie. I think they should have been lowered on 9/12/01 & left there, as two presidents tried to distract us from the daily  carnage of two wars. Go shopping.

What was it Whitney did to hurt you personally? I didn't catch that part. She gave you a lot of music. You didn't have to pay attention to her personal problems. Really. I rarely did.  Whitney is from musical royalty in this state; her mother Cissy,  her aunts  Dionne & the late Dee Dee Warwick.  At the least those flags are lowered to show respect for Cissy Houston & New Hope for nurturing Whitney's talent.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Cabby in the Ride

Elizabeth isn't the ugliest city in New Jersey. But on a gray, damp, chilly March afternoon it seemed like it as two female  cabbies gave me tours of some of the ugliest streets, avoiding downtown traffic. Downtown is ugly, too. Not for the most part residential streets,  but light manufacturing, machine & suspicious looking  auto body shops, specialized building supplies, fenced in lots with junked cars, boarded up commercial buildings, bumpy pot-holed streets.

I was alone with the shrink's MSW assistant for awhile,  attractive young woman of oriental extraction, not long out of college. Good listener & I had some things to say, she prompted me well, I tell the stories well. Not someone I'd yet ask for advice - bring practical matters  to the older social workers who've heard everything & know what to do about it.  This wasn't a practical matter. Chat saves time with the shrink, who can only handle digests of anything important from the past two months. I think  she enjoyed what I had to say, talking about love, grief, memory, distance.   They're wonderful subjects. Would've been a  great session with my former Ph.D therapist.
I'd read everything readily available by author J.D. Salinger by the time I finished high school. There wasn't much of it,  & I wasn't drawn to his upper middle class characters, too young to learn from how he wrote, never went back to him.   I was recently was given the paperback edition of a recent biography, J.D. Salinger: A Life,  by Kenneth Slawenski, & read the entire book, though not front to back. Most interested in his horrific WWII war experiences in Hürtgen Forest, a tragic, ill-conceived campaign that turned into The Battle of the Bulge. It led me forward & backward in the book. I didn't recall many details about Salinger's writing. I've never understood why so many people became so  obsessed  with Salinger's withdrawal to New Hampshire, decades of seclusion (his neighbors saw him often enough),  & fanatical protection of his published works. He wrote it, put it out there, & gradually concluded he didn't owe the world anything else just because he was J.D. Salinger.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Dancer

In the summer of 1966, when  I  was 17 & a recent high school graduate, I met  Karen Battell,  16,  entering her junior year, & a devoted dance student.  For about two years from that time well  into 1968 we were  a couple. Her family witnessed it, my family witnessed it, our friends witnessed it, probably most teenagers in  Roselle Park knew it.  We reached the point when adolescent  lovers break up or grow up, & we broke up. The circumstances of the split haven't mattered for a long time.  Those are, I believe, the bare, indisputable  facts. & that I was in love with her.

Everything else about her is a song. Every meaningful memory of her from that time  is a song. I'm a child of doo wop; literally a child when it was in the air, mesmerized by its etherealness & absurd boppity bop ding a ding  dong  language of everlasting love. The idea that you could treat an adolescent  romance  with anger, sarcasm, mockery, as the Rolling Stones sometimes did,  was new to rock when Karen I got together (we both liked  Mick Jagger & The Stones). I knew it would never be my way.

Karen Silva died  at age 62. She left a husband, a son,   six younger siblings,  at least one dozen nieces & nephews & hundreds of former dance students. With so many knowing & mourning her, Karen's life story is secure. All those too-few years were more important years than the two with me. But those two years so long ago are mine to tell, what I remember of them, &  in my own way.  Karen knew I was a writer,  a poet.   Let her other years  be whatever they are, whatever anyone else makes  of them.

In that summer of 1966 Karen began appearing at the periphery of my social crowd, a loose, coed, fairly  diverse  group that had been hanging together a couple of years. Some of us skateboarded. Mostly we talked about records, which bands were cool, which were not. We were starting to  feel the Vietnam War & nascent counterculture pressing at the borders of our small town universe.  I was nearing draft age & my brother was in the Army.   I had hardly noticed  Karen around town, for reasons that soon became clear. My previous girlfriend & senior prom date had been a vacuous, whiny, faithless  blond cheerleader. It taught me a lesson & I had closed up.   I had to be  informed by friends  Karen was trying to get to know me. Ever cautious, I made a few inquiries about her, some background information but  mainly to find if she'd recently broken anyone's heart. What quickly came back was this:  Nobody seemed to know much about her except she had grown up in town, was the oldest daughter in a very large  Catholic family on Hemlock Street, & that she was really, really into ballet dancing.  Take a good look at her.

Karen Battell  was the most beautiful teenage girl I had ever seen.  She has remained so to this day  & will always be the most beautiful teenage girl I have ever known. Not an indisputable fact. Don't underestimate my ability to make a convincing case for it.  Accept it as the eye of the beholder.

She had a regal nose & dark hair sometimes brushed out, sometimes  pinned up in  a dancer's bun. She was also smart, quick-witted, sarcastic, sweet, knew how to dress herself, & had  poise & presence -  words that wouldn't have occurred to me then  - meaning  a way of looking good just standing in one place. & she was really into ballet.

We lived 1,500 feet from each other. Half block, long block, short block, right turn, first house on the right.   I can still walk it in my mind. So close. I know a family across the street. Where has this beautiful girl been hiding? It would have been like to me to look at her house, at night,  before I picked up the phone. "Here's her number," someone handed me. It was in the phone book. I'd looked. Thanks, I'll take it from here.

I understood  really being  into something. I was really into writing & getting into music. I had friends really into playing guitar. My dad was really into  American history. I didn't question their devotion or the time they gave to it or the dreams they had. Karen, just by observing me at a distance, had perhaps  intuited I was something of a kindred spirit. It was good to be a teenage couple in that town. She wanted a boyfriend who wouldn't compete with her dancing, wouldn't question her dedication. That would be me.   I wasn't handsome, I stuttered, I had anxiety attacks, I was an insomniac, I was shy.  But I had a  variety of friends, most of them  a little nutty,  I knew  how to have fun.   I had interests I didn't   much share with my friends. I had the capacity - familiar to other poets - of seemingly doing nothing for hours on end.

That's all there it is to it, for a start. There is not much chronology or narrative. I didn't keep a journal. I went away from writing for awhile, to make music. It's possible I wrote a few poems for Karen, perhaps some letters. It's mostly  anecdotal now. Some are anecdotes I've been telling for decades, on the radio, to friends, in my blog - impressions of her, her family. The way she looked in different surroundings,  how she moved. How I felt being with her. Never saying her name. She was The Dancer. There are things about her I have never shared with others & never will. We were both private people who held back large parts of ourselves, a Scorpio & Capricorn. My nickname, Rix, was itself  a kind of public mask.  Privacy was a premium in both our homes. we valued it,  & quiet moments. We were open with each other in ways we weren't with family & friends.  But even then we had our closed places. She became a rudder & keel to my sail.

I don't look back at it as a  failed relationship.  I've long thought of it as a successful relationship, a remarkable adolescent pairing for its time & place, hardly connected to what came before or afterward.  In a larger town  we would have been invisible.  Being a  couple in our one square mile town was a public thing.  In real life, people  have love relationships that go on two or three or more years after they should end. Some of them turn  into doomed  marriages because it's the direction the current flows in many small towns & families.  You get engaged halfway through college & from then on ride  toward the wedding on the commitment itself  &  on expectations of others, blinding yourself to  changes making  the  thing   an increasingly poor gamble. Take away the natural  adolescent  disappointment that Karen & I weren't soulmates & the relationship provided me with  just about everything I could have wanted from it.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Tragic singers

Two things to be considered. First, there's a physiological disposition toward addiction. Some bodies become addicted to alcohol or drugs  more easily than others.  Second, there's an emotional condition driving a person to self-medicate. Put those two together & you get an Amy Winehouse & a Whitney Houston. So  we ask, "Why didn't family & friends & all those folks who say they loved them intervene?" Well, some of them  did intervene, to no avail.

In a previous post I mentioned the sadness of Tony Bennett when he spoke of Amy Winehouse.  Yesterday they  won a deserved Grammy for their duet recording. He knew it was special. They recorded it together, not long distance. He appreciated Whitney, too. The man knows his singers. But in his long career he's witnessed it time & again, with great musicians & musicians who could have been great. If Tony could wrap those people in the  protection of his  warmth & wisdom & optimism & experience & save them from themselves, he would do it gladly. At least be knows Amy's session with him was one of the happiest days of her life.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Roselle Park NJ

Union Road, dated 1941, probably earlier photo
Most of these houses are still there.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

What a fool believes

I  almost have something to say. It's coming together. I have to trust  it wasn't all something I imagined.

Terrific cover of this Doobie Brothers hit. Instead of Michael McDonald's exercise in self-humiliation, we get a gossipy third person account of an embarrassing incident at a party. By the end, Sharon sounds so obsessed & worked up by what she witnessed that we sense she actually feels sorry for the poor guy.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Above all, love each other deeply,

because love covers over a multitude of sins.
– 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV)

Came in my e mail today.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Gustav Holst - Saturn

Bringer of Old Age, Ruler of Capricorn.

Charles MacKerras was one of my favorite conductors & he knew how to bring this wonderful music from gloom & struggle to serenity (shift occurs at 6:20).

In some astrological interpretations, Capricorns are older souls, having passed through 9 signs previously. So they tend to be cautious, conservative, efficient,  serious,  perhaps frugal  (they'll spend but not on crap), seeking security. But there are two more signs ahead: adventurous, incautious Aquarius, one more burst of newness;  & finally dreamy Neptunian Pisces, the fish who sense that the entire cosmos seen & unseen is their ocean, & they are not limited by human dimensions of time & space or the influence of planets & stars, & can transcend the cycle of rebirth.

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Sunday, February 05, 2012

Asbury Park NJ

In Memory of Karen [ Battell ] Silva
The Doors at Asbury Park Convention Hall.

Postcard  is from 1968.  But I saw them here in summer  of 1967.
 The Doors had been hastily booked in place of a Lou Rawls show, on the strength  of the monster hit "Light My Fire."  Tickets were cheap, the Hall maybe 2/3rds filled.  I brought my beautiful  girlfriend, Karen,  always up for a night on a boardwalk anyway. We'd been together about a year. She enjoyed  the concert.   Members of Rawls' ace group, who'd had their second show canceled so The Doors could perform, stood at the rear of Convention Hall looking utterly baffled as Jim Morrison - still a gift from the rock gods  & not yet a penis-waving drool drunk - squirmed around the stage.  Magical.  The experience totally changed my idea of what a rock band could be, & the role of a cheesy portable organ in a band.  I immediately coerced my garage band into adding almost the entire first Doors LP to our repertoire (not "The End").  The band had no leader, so I must have made  a good case for it.  A high point "date"  with Karen.    No doubt, Karen  forgot a whole lot about  our time together when we were teenagers, but  I'm confident she remembered this. I hope she found occasions to  brag about it.
In the short version of this anecdote, I'm "with my girlfriend."  The longer versions include a fond description of what a knockout of a girl I'm with & how great she looked on the boardwalk;  the way Karen would want it told.

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Saturday, February 04, 2012

Karen Battell; narrative not myth

Jotting down various memories of Karen Battell Silva, who passed away far too young this week. As they accumulated they began taking on a "what a fool believes" quality. Which is all wrong. I don't overestimate my impact on a teenage girl in the 1960's who lived an entire life since then, or her influence on me. She leaves a husband, a son, her mom, six siblings at least a dozen nieces & nephews. My condolences to them. But as a writer  I'm always trying to draw a narrative out of the episodic, was already doing that when I was 18 years-old. I'm the son of a fine  "amateur" historian & storyteller. There are a number of anecdotes  about Karen & her family I've told  all along.  I repeated one to my stepbrother earlier this week, before I heard about Karen  -  he knew her as  my girlfriend & met his future wife shortly after I met Karen -   about a particular summer night on the crowded  Seaside Heights boardwalk.  Karen & I were strolling the Seaside Boardwalk on a balmy summer evening just digging the scene. Karen probably wearing some light summery dress - she was very much a dress kind of girl in those days. Over leaning against the boardwalk railing were my stepbrother & his girlfriend, a tall attractive blonde, both in leather jackets.  At the timehe  had a beard & a bike & looked a bit like an outlaw Abe Lincoln. We sropped & chatted for a few minutes, the most natural thing in the world to meet in that place at that time.

 I 've told a few stories on the radio. None of them are negative.  I  began writing some of them down only after I started this blog,   I allude to Karen in a very general way  in just one of my poems  I can think of. Most of my poems are located in their moment of creation, recent past, or mythic time.  She was long gone when I began writing publishable poems. She has her place back there, mainly in mythic time,  but she is so distinctive a personality,  attractive,  sensual,  intelligent,  even as a high school student, so memorable - & I've been with several remarkable women since then in longer, more serious relationships. I imagine  Karen would  appreciate being so memorable. She wanted her presence & personality felt. She was very good at  letting me have the spotlight, but when it was her turn, I got out of the way. Maybe I learned that from her, when to get out of the way.  She also had small tolerance for crass or vulgar people, & that taught me something important, too.

 Karen was not only the first woman (at 16), but the first person to give an unqualified  "yes" to my creative aspirations, which at that time were vague & largely undefined & searching for outlets, but very strong.  For Karen it was part of who I was, just as dancing was who she was, & something she liked in me, & no further discussion was necessary.

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Friday, February 03, 2012

Sad news today

Chorus angelorum te suscipiat
May the ranks of angels receive you

Sad news today. My brother Joe reads the obits, remembered she was my first great love,  & broke the news.  It was a long time ago. She is  so special in my heart & memories.

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Thursday, February 02, 2012

Susan G. Komen for the Cure®

The fury of women at Susan G. Komen for the Cure® for de-funding Planned Parenthood is really something. One commentator wrote it's a "case study  in how to destroy a brand in 48 hours."  On the NJ Komen® website, State Executive Director Lisa Gallipoli writes:
The North Jersey Affiliate has always exhibited the highest level of transparency and integrity in our grant-making process to ensure the best stewardship of funds raised and donated by our constituents. In North Jersey, our contractual agreements with grantees have always stipulated that organizations need to be non-profit organizations, focused on breast health and able to receive federal and state funding. Our requirements also preclude grants to any organization that is under investigation by local, state or federal authorities. Planned Parenthood is currently under federal investigation, and therefore is not eligible to apply for future funding from Susan G. Komen for the Cure® until such time as the investigation is resolved.
It won't do, & she knows it won't do. Planned Parenthood here receives very little money from Komen® anyway, but serves the poor, working poor, the uninsured, teenagers & college students. Many thousands of women in Jersey received their first gyn exams after  becoming sexually active, first contraceptives,   & first breast exams from or referred  by Planned Parenthood. Their center in Elizabeth offers men's health care & welcomes LGBT. The  national Komen® decision will result in direct contributions to N.J.  P.P. many times over what it loses in Komen® funding next year. Women here know the federal investigation is a right wing witch hunt, an assault on women's right to control their own bodies,  & intent on wrecking Planned Parenthood, & that the Komen® "criteria" is a recent change aimed specifically at P.P., & many will resent any portion of their contributions going to the national Komen® office in Texas. Ms. Gallipolli is facing  the possibility of the collapse of local Komen® as the preeminent breast cancer research & prevention nonprofit, the one with the lock on pink ribbons & the word "cure" (use "cure" in your charity name & you'll hear from Komen® lawyers). Every product bearing a pink ribbon is announcing, "boycott me if you support Planned Parenthood."

Maybe the national organization believes it'll recoup the losses when the Southern Baptist Convention re-institutes its "Pink Ribbon Bible" campaign, one dollar donated for every Bible sold.  But what happens to the Greater New York Susan G Komen® affiliate, with its celebrity-laden, high profile events that make the newspaper society pages? What happens in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago?

By caving into right wing anti-choice (including contraception) influence, the national Komen® board politicized their organization,   & there's no turning back. This is not  blowing over quickly.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Low sixties here today, forties through weekend. Every day like this is one day closer to spring, & one more day without snow or icy slop. But Jersey is a humid coastal state, & winter is when we have our clean, clear dry cold air, good for people with allergies - just about everyone is allergic to one thing or another.  A deep freeze is  necessary for a really colorful early springtime when the crocuses, tulips, forsythia & dogwoods all bloom.  So it's a trade off. I don't think many people really mind cold, sunny days. Just layer up.
 Surrendering to uncontrollable lawlessness, Newark NJ city council passed a discriminatory & possibly unconstitutional law: 
Ordinance limiting hours of late night Newark eateries passes unanimously
Many of the city’s eateries won’t be hiring armed guards late at night because many will not be open.

From Lyons Avenue to Broadway, restaurants in high-crime areas must now close their doors at 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
If you own an eatery in a designated high crime area, you are  treated like the cause of crime rather than as  a victim of the city's inability to protect your business, for which you pay taxes. That's prejudice.  The police chief inaccurately stated that suburban businesses aren't open late. First, & most obviously,  a city isn't suburbia. Good American cities stay open late. In New York City nightlife doesn't even get rolling until midnight. But suburbia in Jersey has 24/7 diners, Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's, convenience stores & supermarkets. Many fast food places close for only two or three hours for the cleaning crew & breakfast menu  turnaround.
Pathetic dust up between an Oxford Professor of Poetry & the British poet laureate over the latter's suggestion that texting has "tremendous potential" for poetry.

Carol Ann Duffy is 'wrong' about poetry, says Geoffrey Hill
Oxford professor of poetry attacks Duffy's praise of text language

I don't know if it does or doesn't. You let poetry happens wherever it happens. But I do know that hardly anyone outside of the realm of poetry knows Hill or Duffy much less cares what they say. I began writing poems when poets still had some cultural credibility beyond poets, & it was common to find a few books from New Directions, Pocket Poets & Black Sparrow on bookshelves of people who'd attended college.

Although the terrain of poetry has expanded & more young people are participating in it, they - the poets - are still constrained by boundaries, as if a poet involved in  something other than poetry is no longer acting as a poet.

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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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