Sunday, September 30, 2012

Flemington NJ

Jo-Anns Motel & Snack Bar

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Friday, September 28, 2012

On the CRT monitor

Viewing on an old crt monitor with terrible contrast but otherwise quite clear. My three year old LCD started going blank screen after  one second.  I'd push the monitor on button, screen would show for one second. Also, the monitor menu  wasn't showing when I hit that button. With no monitor, obviously I couldn't even check the monitor.  I figured if the PC had somehow set the monitor to go to sleep after one second, it would do it to any monitor, The old PC's crt works fine.

The malfunctioning LCD's screen was a little smaller than I should have ordered, & the HDMI input was pointless.  Cost comes to  about $45 per year of use, or $3.75 per month.   That's why I didn't purchase an extended warranty.  If the thing fritzes three years down the road (which it did),  I'm not wasting weeks sending it to an "authorized"  repair  location;  I'll just buy another one. So I ordered a new slightly larger monitor.     Didn't even give it much thought.  Went to CompUSA,  quickly narrowed down choices by price, size & consumer reviews,  crossed my fingers & picked one. Meanwhile, use the indestructible crt.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Andy Williams

Sheese, Andy, the only reminder you were getting old was you were talking right wingnut screwy there toward the end, embarrassing for a friend of Bobby Kennedy, you were too far gone to realize how embarrassing. I loved this one, untypical  for you, seemed more  an Engelbert or Tom Jones kind of number:

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Radio twiddling, mental health, the Haitian woman, & Bruce Longstreet

Cabbie radio dial twiddler on way back from clinic. Right wing crap when I got in the taxi.  He twiddled,  Let's Hang On by the Four Seasons came on, I started grooving to that,  Halfway through he twiddled to the news station.

My shrink is not a therapist. He has a young MSW assistant who likes to get conversations going in the waiting room.  If there's other clients present,  I don't tell her much.   How are you, Robert?   My best friend died last week.  That chat was not happening today. Three others there, I wasn't bringing them into it.  It's no group.   But I try to bring any emotionally fraught situations to the shrink, if they're happening about the time of our bimonthly appts.  I also want to convince him I'm handling it.  I have about five minutes to do this.  My best friend died. He was in California. I wasn't his only best friend.  I haven't been sleeping well the past few nights, it's starting to catch up. I'm not really grieving yet,  I will, I can handle it.

We went through the death of my first girlfriend in February, but that was a whole other thing. I hadn't seen her in decades.  I had to reach back & make a claim on the two years I had with her, & what it meant to me & maybe to her.  It was on the whole a nice project for a poet.  I enjoyed revisiting young love.  Let it glow.  It doesn't require  realism, only a carefulness regarding nostalgia.  This is different. I feel a vacuum.

The shrink poked around a bit.  Known me a long time, He seemed to think I was o.k. I wasn't ducking it.

Oh yeah, here's something I noticed & noted in part because it was the kind of thing Bruce Longstreet noticed.  An older Haitian woman, immigrant, was in the waiting room. She was talking about her new job as a home health aid.  She worked 34 hours per week, averaging  two hours each for her clients.  She makes $9 an hour. She needs a car for the job.  The 34 hours are spread across more than 40 hours. She doesn't  receive health insurance from the job. She's receiving  Medicare & SSD.  SSD permits a certain amount of additional income in occupations not impacted by one's disability, &  encourages these jobs to eventually  become a path out of SSD. However, if she were on Medicaid or a Medicaid HMO, the additional income would disqualify her from Supplementary Security Income & she would lose Medicaid. Sometimes SSI pays only a couple of dollars but is crucial  for the Medicaid. This woman liked her new work.  Also, the additional income affects her Section 8 housing & Food Stamps, if she is receiving those.  All additional income must be reported for those services. She'll pay higher rent & receive a smaller allotment of food stamps.   In reality, it might be very difficult for her to use her new income to raise herself up.  She says she will need a more reliable car "in a year." It's very positive in the  mental game to think that far ahead.

Bruce & I were very tight for about six years. I came to think of him as my best friend.  I thought of him as my best friend until he died. Yet, I was aware Bruce was likely a best friend to a number of people.  Jim C, certainly, since high school. I trust Jim every bit as much as I trusted Bruce. I didn't hang out with Jim as much. That they were best friends  endorsed the both of them to me.  There were others. three or four people, college friends of his who had scattered to other places. Bruce & I were dissimilar people with similar backgrounds. White, middle class, not affluent.  He also may have had two brothers & a sister. Bruce had a much better relationship with his father.  Jim & I struggled with our strong, admirable  dads. Jim's  father, fortunately,  lived a lot longer than mine.  My parents divorced when I was a teenager. Bruce's & Jim's parents stayed married.  Jim & I were accustomed to being in relationships with women.  Bruce was stuck on unrequited love all the time I knew him in Jersey. He did better in other states.

All three of us had what philosopher Alan Watts called, "The irreducible element of rascality."

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sandy Hook NJ

From a  Spring-like afternoon in late December a few years back, wintry surf, enjoying Sandy Hook with Bruce Longstreet,  a pair of old poet friends strolling  together, what we always wanted to become for each other. 

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

If  like me you're a certain kind protestant uncomfortable with praying for repose of souls - it's not something  we do much, & in Methodism it doctrinally may not even be considered possible (I'd have to look it up), don't hesitate to ask Catholic friends if it will bring you some peace in your mourning.  They are accustomed to it,  it is important, & the very request is an  act of friendship for them, something they want to do for you & for  souls.

I cannot say with any certainty that we have a consciousness eternally entwined with God.   But if we do, we have it also when we are here in our burdensome  human bodies. The mystical experience repudiates the concept of  here & there. We are always in communion with the Divine, just unable to discern it from our side. Our separation from God  - & from each other - is an illusion. Dreams may overcome our resistance with metaphors that are wonderfully reassuring or disturbing.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bruce Longstreet

One of the finest human beings I have known. I thank God for blessing me with your friendship.
Rest in peace. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Battle of Antietam, 150 years ago

Sept 17, 1862, The single bloodiest day in American history.
This photo of "Bloody Lane" by Alexander Gardner only hints at the carnage. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012


When I was young guy, a chickenhawk was a middle-aged man driving a car with Jersey plates who slowly cruised by young guys  in Greenwich Village, checking out if you were a  boy prostitute. They were gross. We'd make chicken cackling sounds at them.

Later, the name became attached to  men who strongly support military action but actively avoided  military service themselves.  The lowest of the low.

At least four of my Facebook friends are chickenhawks by the second definition, three of them from the Vietnam draft era.  If I called them chickenhawks they'd probably unfriend me.

Of course, two of them were rattling the sabers this past week. Sure, let's go bomb the shit out of whoever attacked our embassies & killed our state dept. people. Send in the Marines. By the way, who & where are these murderers?

Yeah yeah I know. If you were only 30 or 40 years younger you'd be at the Army recruiting office tomorrow, or maybe the day after tomorrow, or next week, or next month, next year, or sheesh now you have a good job, you're getting married, you're too old, why bother? That's what happened 30 or 40 years ago, right?

How's the bombing stuff working out in Afghanistan? Our pilotless drones inflict collateral damage, atomizing some women here, incinerating some children there. So our frustrated, enraged enemies sign up to become policemen, go through our training,  & when we issue  them weapons they use the weapons to kill us, three or four at a time.

Bridgeton NJ

Seabrook Farms

Family-owned frozen vegetable company, still there. Many Japanese-Americans were recruited to work there when the WWII internment camps were closed, residing in company housing  with other immigrant groups & African-Americans.  I have read some unpleasant accounts of life in  the Seabrook company town.
Seabrook has a museum & cultural center

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Of the four siblings in my family, my sister & I were the  only two with a social relationship. It was centered around her home, which is large, comfortable, & near some of my favorite scenery in New Jersey.   My sister cared for me very well following serious eye surgeries in 1990 & 2000, & bailed me out financially once.  I visited most Christmases for 15 years, some Thanksgivings & July 4ths, & occasionally drove up just to spend a night & head up to Chester the next day to visit friends with businesses there. I have a good deal of respect for her husband for a number of reasons. My sister, a divorcee with two high-spirited kids, brought a tricky  familial situation to the marriage that overall I think he handled exceptionally well.

 I didn't give much thought to the dynamics of our relationship.  Didn't need to.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Would've wished my sister happy birthday yesterday but she unfriended me last November after I declined an invitation to a party at her house. She wouldn't take a polite no for an answer so I had to give her an impolite one. I had my reasons & they weren't all about her.

The split that occurred between us a decade ago was instigated by me &  had its source in one thing & one thing only: She would not accept the diagnosis of major depression given me by a team of mental health professionals. Even when it was explained to her by my therapist. Took me a couple of years to wake up to that. She subsequently confirmed it on a number of occasions. I was a contemptible person, a con man (an extraordinary one if you think about it, to pull off such a complex con for so little reward).

She would point, still, to a number of slights & insults & say I'm just too pig-headed to apologize. But I don't like being around people who have the effect of making me feel worse about myself. Some of the  other tenants in this building make me feel worse.  Unlike me, they sit out front on the steps all day long.  I pass them thinking, "That's not me, that's not me, that's not me." Online I'm a respected poet & writer, still a free form DJ  appreciated for my music knowledge, & for some I'm just an  online friend who stays in touch, or tries.   My online persona is not a facade; it's the result of real accomplishments. The writing exists. The  radio programs exist.

Not everyone needs to know the details of my illness, or anything at all, for that matter. Some older staffers at WFMU have an idea of what happened to me back there in the late-90's, most don't. Same for poets. A few old friends couldn't make the adjustment. I saw that & backed away. For others - who lived farther away - it explained a lot, but didn't touch them directly.

The professionals always ask you about your "support network" for recovery & continuing care. Many depressed people I have met way over-estimated the understanding they would receive from family & friends. But there's a difference between those who just don't want to deal with it & want everything to stay the same, & those who don't believe anything is wrong with you except that you are a brilliant liar.

What depressives really want is a link to "normalcy." This is actually very easy, & when the help is divided up among a number of people, it's really not much at all.  Gina provides it by setting aside about an hour every week to go to supermarket, a routine she needed to get into anyway. Sometimes we add a quick stop at the branch library.  If I'm a little too gabby on occasion, it's rarely talk about my problems, just an abundance of subjects.   Plus, by walking over & feeding her cats on late Saturday afternoons, I have some much-appreciated private couch potato time with a satellite TV, watch a classic movie or a ball game.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"War is your clarity. You don't see a policy where you don't see a war."

I think this is a succinct, valid criticism of a friend who accuses President Obama of being a weak leader & having no policy.

 War clarifies even when it does not, as in Iraq & Afghanistan. When no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, it became a "war of liberation." Then we "support the troops."

We're coming up on the 150th anniversaries of the Battle of Antietam & The Emancipation Proclamation. The rebel states & northern sympathizers believed the Union  would not fight to "free the niggers." But Lincoln wondered how long the Union would  accept carnage like Shiloh & defeats like Second Manassas   & keep fighting solely  to preserve the Union.  He had written that he would free the slaves, free some of   the slaves, or none of the slaves, whatever it took to win.

Most of now think of the Civil War as a war to free the slaves & preserve the Union.  Some revisionist historians continue to insist it was about tariffs.

The way American history tends to be taught, via major wars  - events leading to each, the war itself, the aftermath, along with the popularity of books about our wars & wartime leaders, many people with an interest in history never find other perspectives on history.  They interpret current events mainly with a view toward their potential for war, too often with a  hawkish slant  that every volatile situation involving our foreign policy  calls for an immediate, heavy handed, threatening response.  Whom do we threaten in Libya for the deaths of our consular officials?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


At the end of the day 9/11/01 I had an entirely different conception of "evil" than when the day began. Mainly, I was certain it existed in the world & one could not call it anything else.

Evil manifests itself through humans & our actions & institutions. I had been confusing evil with something else, something in the natural order of things. What I observed in nature could be a "fallen" world. But it wasn't evil.

I understood why theologian Paul Tillich, who repudiated supernaturalism, used the word demonic & used it quite often. He had experienced WWI from the German side & witnessed the rise of Hitler.

I haven't found the word to describe how 9/11 changed me. The term conservatism doesn't apply. Certainly related, but not in a political or even religious sense. Not how it's used in America.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

World Suicide Prevention Day

I don't like this event scheduled on the day before 9/11.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Seaside Heights NJ

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Friday, September 07, 2012

With liberty & justice for all

Former congresswoman Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords,  right, after leading the Pledge of Allegiance Thursday at the Democratic National Convention. Accompanied by her friend, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. For me, the most moving moment of the week. Gabby radiated joy to be there, to stand on her own, to make the most touching recitation of the  Pledge I've ever heard, every word meaning what it means & even more.


Thursday, September 06, 2012

Comments DNC Day Two

Sorry to say this, & hope I'm wrong, but Elizabeth Warren strikes me as the kind of candidate who has all the goods except what you need to be a winner, whatever that is. Why is she not trouncing Scott Brown in the polls? Because she's Mrs. Landingham.

OK Bill, I'm being distracted now, time to start bringin' it on home.

Madam secretary, we're proud to say New Jersey has more made guys as a percentage of population than any other state. Trenton makes, America takes pork roll. Home of the Lakewood BlueClaws. Jon Bon Jovi. I just wanted to mention him while I have the mic. The first state with a magazine & hardcover book dedicated solely to being weird. WFMU, it's never too late to make a pledge. Some says it's the devil, some a Big Foot that got lost. I'll have two slices & a cherry coke. This sh*t I bought outside the hotel is some awful smoke, making me paranoid. What? We're doing that tonight?

Wait a minute, my phone battery is dead. You Jersey guys, just line up & take the microphone & say whatever you texted me to say.

WTF, who picked Ohio? F*ck you. f*ck all of you. We're f*ckin Jersey. You don't f*ck with us.

Wait a minute, who is that guy? He staying in a better hotel? Hey you gimme that mic back or I'll twist yer dam head off right here.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

John Cage, born September 5, 1912

(Still in process of writing this post)

Unless you  cling to  narrow, obsolete ideas on music, John Cage doesn't so much  challenge what you believe about music as confirm what you already suspected.  Music can be what you perceive as music. It's absurd to make a distinction between noise & music; for a start  you'll never get everyone to agree on where you draw the line.  There is no such thing as silence; something is always making a sound (probably his most well-known quote).  You can do whatever you want. For many people in music the scariest thing about John Cage was that he always seemed to be having fun. The latter was no problem for me. I came from rock music, & when playing in a rock band stopped being fun, I stopped playing in a rock band.  I grasped & loved John Cage's spirit almost immediately.  It was the implications of what Cage was saying about the nature of music, & art itself,  that challenged me. It was like staring into an abyss where "composing" music, being a composer,  or any kind of artist, were no longer necessary. For the first few years of our relationship, my then artist girlfriend & I discussed Cage's ideas  for hours on end with each other & with friends, far into the nights, as we worked out the kinds of artists we wanted to be & the audiences we wanted to reach, This even as I was being mentored by a more-or-less traditional poet who had himself gone to an experimental college, Black Mountain, & had learned from an artist/theoretician, Mary Caroline Richards, whose ideas closely corresponded with Cage's. All that deep aesthetic thinkin' slowly dissipated.  Composer Charles Ives had proposed in the early 20th Century pretty much what John Cage was saying.   John Cage had kept on composing, although it was all "indeterminate" music, his choice.  I'd seen a great Marcel Duchamp retrospective in Philadelphia that put the matter in historical perspective.  I was hearing sounds better. I realized childhood nostalgia wasn't the only thing generating my love of  Jersey boardwalks.

By the end of the Seventies I'd concluded there was more than enough published poetry in the world, but never enough poets. I joined WFMU & loved the transitory, impermanent  nature of radio even more than I did the printed page. (When WFMU began archiving entire programs online, I became less interested in doing occasional radio shows. When individual song links were added, which undermined the idea  of a  "free form"  radio show as some kind of complete artifact,  like a painting or sculpture, I was more comfortable).  I decided that whatever I did, I'd just consider it something I did as a poet, because I needed somewhere to hang my coat that wouldn't confuse people, or myself.

But Cage also unleashed some anger in me at other poets, particularly in Jersey, because they would only deal with that piece of what I did,  & I knew it would never get 100% of my attention & loyalty. Only  a few grasped it was part of a broader package & maybe they ought to check out the rest of it  (I always had a handful of comprehending allies, here & out-of-state, & other WFMU DJs didn't need you to explain anything).

But it was John Cage's writing that had the most positive impact on me, & his influence has increased over the years, although I rarely go back to any of his writing.  I was intrigued by how Cage formally organized his writing, & by how he organized it into collections. I'd been intrigued since childhood by the idea one could subject writing to an outside formal  arrangement, even a visual one,  that had no connection with the writing's grammatical structure or meaning.  I remember exactly what make me think about this, although not so clearly:

Don't say
milk say
Bren nan's

Those words were on the side of a milk carton, with the  carton seam running between each pair of words, so the comma between milk & say was hidden,  if there was a comma there at all. Brennan's was divided into syllables.   One could make a radio jingle of  the motto, but here it lays flat, deadpan.   I was probably about 12 or 13. But I had already become interested in poetic forms just as forms. Later, although I didn't do it much myself, I still had a soft spot for the obsessive syllable-counters like Marianne Moore.

John Cage was one of the greatest experimental visual & "sound" poets of the 20th Century.  Without Cage there's no Yoko Ono.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

A Cat's Tail

I've been writing much about depression these past few days, but the subject is still too painful, too personal, to share my deepest feelings & thoughts. I've never aspired to a really intimate public prose or poetry.  Making such a choice for one's writing or art is not evasive, especially if one is giving it away.  The world or some small part of it might well benefit from my being more candid & confessional.  I've always been open to expressing myself privately on request.

We had a number of cats when I was growing up. I don't recall any of their names. They were outdoor/indoor cats, the hazards were many, the odds against a long life even in our suburban neighborhood.  But it was an interesting place for  cats.   All were  friendly, part of the family without making the sort of demands or needing the attention our nervous little dog Susie  required.  When I was a young teen one of them disappeared for a day or so. I was concerned, not yet alarmed. I noticed the door to the attic was open slightly. We had a very cluttered attic, a classic, decades of stuff up there along with the Christmas decorations. I tisked, sss'd up the stairs & heard a distant meow. I went up there & tracked the cat to a pile of old draperies hidden behind a trunk. It was fixed, so it wasn't having babies. I reached over & stroked the cat, & it screeched when I touched its tail. I got a flashlight & had a closer look at the cat. There was a distinct crookedness in the tail. The cat had gotten its tail caught in a door or something, badly  sprained or broke it & the injured cat had retreated to a secure "den" to mend. It wasn't visibly suffering. Except there was no food or water up there. I told my mom. She said put   some food & water nearby & leave it alone. I did, checked on it every so often, scritched its head.

A few days later the cat  came downstairs, looking fine, cat dignity intact, new bump in the tail, a bit sore to the touch.

Depression is not like a  hurt tail on a cat. It can make you hide in the attic for a very long time. When you do come down, if you decide to come down,  your dignity is fragile, you are changed more than a bump in the tail.


Monday, September 03, 2012

Good day for Democrats to remember that class & economic division & warfare  (99% versus 1%) has never succeeded in America as a national movement. It had some notable regional successes long ago. A number of Presidents have tapped into what amounts to class resentment. But America overall doesn't buy into the concept of economic classes. It's not just a hard sell - it's an impossible sell.

I am in favor of the redistribution of wealth from the few to the many. That's my ideology. Also that we  must expand the "many" through extension of human rights. But the political battles have to be waged culturally. Politics in America is cultural. President Obama it's clear to see is detested more for his various "cultures" than for his political actions. He's African-American, or not American at all. He's a Muslim. He's a product of corrupt Chicago ward politics (that is, "ethnic" & Black)..  & so on.  The goal of his enemies has been to tear him out of the "middle class," the large, rather indistinct category representing the average American's level of comfort, particularly white Americans.  Wealthy politicians have to act not wealthy.  George W. Bush largely succeeded. Romney is having problems connecting. He just seems "different."

I have frequent disputes with people propping up Progressive Jesus to oppose Conservative Jesus for some titanic  battle of the Messiahs. Progressive Jesus always loses. Why? FIrst,  he's part of the secular progressive culture. Conservative Jesus has his own culture all to himself. Second, Jesus is basically conservative even when he's overturning the tables of the money-changers in the Temple. It was only incidentally a political act. For Jesus it was the purifying of a debased holy space, not a condemnation of capitalism.  The politically progressive Christians I really respect  live as Christians: they're moderate in their habits, charitable, kind, not overly materialistic or acquisitive, have warm, loving homes. None of them claim to be better Christians than their right wing counterparts. & there's the difference. Sometimes.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Atlantic City NJ

Sixties Boardwalk view of Traymore Hotel

This was the northern end of my hang-out part of the boardwalk, a couple of blocks past Million Dollar Pier. Had everything I wanted. I'd wander the long walk up by the Steel Pier a couple of times during a week's stay at Nana's, but it was a different scene  there, more crowded, even more "touristy" if that be possible,  the Times Square of the boardwalk. My end had more of the regulars, yearly visitors, many from South Philly; the less crowded beaches attracted townies late in the afternoons.

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Saturday, September 01, 2012

R.I.P. Hal David

Tough pick. Of all the great Bacharach/David songs, one that made me smile at the simple American poesy, people talking to each other only they're singing. Jill O'Hara & Jerry Orbach in the hit Broadway show Promises, Promises.  By the late-Sixties Hal & Burt were making the kind of "art that conceals art."

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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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