Thursday, February 28, 2013

I Saw the Light

Terry Hall & his band, 1997. Singer with The Specials & Fun Boy Three, hardly known here (I had to piece together who he was), but has had a long, creatively fruitful solo career in Great Britain. His distracted, can't look you in the eye demeanor & barely professional voice are part of his appeal. I watched two  appearances by him on a humorous Brit show, Pop Quiz, & he was smart & oh so droll.  He was pushing 40 when he recorded this (the studio version is excellent, but I like this  live performance), a pure pop phase he went through.

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.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Rosa on a Pedestal

Rosa Parks statue unveiled at Capitol

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."


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

This works pretty good. Dirt Devil, only $50. free shipping, & the replacement parts (filter, motor belt) are inexpensive. Substantial collection  container. Received dozens of positive user reviews at Amazon. My old "vac" was just a hand held one with brush & handle attachments & a minuscule collector bag, almost useless. I had a very good old vac, so old that replacement bags were  impossible to find. I was buying the wrong type & shaping them to fit with scissors.

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.


No matter how shameful & stupid the behavior of the higher clerics, it absolutely does not justify anti-Catholic bigotry & the mocking of faithful laity.

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

Old Joke

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

Slept on Gina's couch Fri & Sat nights. Friday good sleep, Saturday not so good. I needed to step away from the problem & see what happened with the initial effort.  She has new resident cat, Max, mellow fellow when his curiosity overcame his caution & he introduced himself.

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.


Keansburg NJ

The Raritan Bay boardwalk town without a boardwalk. One storm too many, they went with asphalt. The family-owned amusement park was very badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy, but they are rebuilding & promise to reopen for the summer.  This photo was apparently taken in the early Sixties, after Hurricane Donna had wiped out the  shore section of the long  fishing pier. The amusement park has  expanded  considerably over the past decade.  There was much talk & rumor prior to that of it being torn down & replaced with condo development. It still has a wonderful underclass charm about it. True Jersey boardwalk fans like Keansburg. 

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Three forty gallon bags of rags. These were just old worn out  clothes I had stuffed in boxes  in case I needed a rag, or thought I  should  sort through for the Goodwill box, ,until I got around to putting them in  bags & out into the trash. Sheesh. That's what happens when you have a room you don't live in but  has space, in addition to stuff you want, to put stuff in until you throw it out & never throw it out because it's not in your way.

Pretend I'm moving to a smaller but better apartment. 


I pulled down a long rambling crazy  post from yesterday about a very serious problem I have in this apartment. It was something I wanted to share with the few regular readers of this blog, not with anyone who happened to be searching the topic & came across it.

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.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

What's the problem, bubbala?

I was missing Virginia, my counselor at Bridgeway House, who died suddenly a few years ago around Christmas. How when I was stressed out by practical stuff I 'd walk over there - once Bridgeway you're always Bridgeway, wait my turn, plop down in the chair in her small office, decorated with photos of her poodles, & she'd smile & ask, "What the problem, bubbala? You should stop by more often, we miss you." I'd leave with some reassurance & do-able advice, or she'd look someone up in her massive Roledex & make a call for me. While I was thinking of her, handyman Louie came by with the monthly exterminator. I learned the laundry room is still available but I needed the key from the woman in the apt next to it. Someone had indeed hammered the coin boxes. Then I reminded Louie the bathtub drain had to be snaked. Louie asked if I could wait until Monday. I said, fair enough. Louie's word is usually good. So I walked up to the bank for couple rolls of quarters & suspected Virginia was still being my angel.  But she was just preparing me for an larger problem in my apartment.

 Plus, my new, inexpensive vacuum cleaner that received very good user reviews on Amazon shipped.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

The routines keep you going

When you suffer from depression you have to keep routines. The routines keep you going. Things have to almost take care of themselves. The dishes get washed before you go to bed, you bath daily, you wear clean clothes, you do laundry & put clean sheets on the bed every so often.  That way, as the clutter & dust collect around your negligence & indifference,* you never fall so far into chaos & as to feel you can't, with a little bit of effort, pull it all together.

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.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

If you come from a small town & you want to be a writer

If you come from a small town & you want to be a writer, one of the first things you have to grasp is that every small town has a corner store owned by a guy named Larry across the street from the grammar school. & you will be marked forever as hopelessly provincial if you insist your Larry was the only Larry or the greatest Larry.

 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.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cindy McCready

On the suicide of talented, troubled Cindy McCready, I posted on FB:
"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.

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Highlands NJ

Highlander Hotel

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Sen. Frank Lautenberg to retire

Frank Lautenberg Announces He's Not Running For Reelection In New Jersey

 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

Old maid?
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 #.

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Valentine's Day

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Oddly, as I approach the 10th blogversary of The Rix Mix (exact start date unknown), someone from my hometown finally stumbled across it,  linked to it on a Facebook page, "You know you're from Roselle Park if," & asked if anyone had heard of me.  Two commenters had. One thought I had grown up in a different part of town & another claimed to be my stepbrother & predicted I would soon acknowledge the post, which guaranteed  I would not.

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

From the album "Velvet Bossa Nova" (1966). Guitar - Neco (Daudeth Azevedo 1932-2009); Drums - Wilson Das Neves; Bass - Tiao Marinho; Percussion - Rubens Bassini.

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.

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Pope Benedict stepping down, cites poor health

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.

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Rumson NJ

Rumson Road in Winter, 1910

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Saturday, February 09, 2013


On Thursday, the impending snowstorm was very worrisome, for good reason. A low was developing south into a wet, windy coastal  noreastern, & a frigid plains snowstorm was heading in from the west. That's how we get our largest snowfalls here in Jersey, when those two combine over the mountains & seaboard in our region.   Next thing the media jerks (not the National Weather Service) gave the storm a name, Nemo, & were dusting off "Snowageddon" graphics from past storms. Gina & I couldn't find a parking space at ShopRite, Thursday evening, had to go to the supermarket we don't like.

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.

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Friday, February 08, 2013

Donald Byrd

I can't even choose a favorite cut by this great trumpet player & band leader. Go to You Tube search his name. He was a giant of straight ahead jazz & a funk innovator. Most hip hop fans  probably never heard of him, but I can almost guarantee that if you looked at a hip hop artist's  record collection, you'd find a stack of Donald Byrd in it, in vinyl.

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Thursday, February 07, 2013

The old guy listens to you,

It won't hurt you to listen to the old guy once in awhile.

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

Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast gave me a succinct shout out the other day:
 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.


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The divorce

A couple I know with a lot of mutual friends in real life & on Facebook recently broke up. The woman reassured her FB friends that it was mutual & everything was o.k. between them.  The man, a long-time personal friend in this relationship,  pulled into himself a bit on FB. The woman began posting lots of photos of herself at various bars with other guys, then took off on a vacation with a guy whose relationship to her is not clear, & is posting photos of him. I wasn't  interested in the details of the breakup,  I never socialized with them as a couple, so I haven't observed  the trajectory of their relationship. But now I'm becoming curious about what the hell happened, which may or may not be her intent.  Breakups are  nearly always damaging to self-esteem, & people respond in variety of ways.

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Monday, February 04, 2013

The rest is a pop song

. It was obvious to others back then that I found her beautiful, smart & talented & loved her.

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

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Sunday, February 03, 2013

Edison NJ

Peterson Brothers Manufacturing Company

(Custom machine parts, still in business & family-owned.)

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Saturday, February 02, 2013

Groundhog Day

Poet Joel Oppenheimer celebrated so many holidays for so many different reasons I couldn't keep count of them. Groundhog Day was his favorite. It was the first day in winter Joel permitted himself to think of spring, shadow or not. I think of him every Groundhog Day (& many other days, sometimes wondering if that day was one of Joel's holidays). I remember lines from a poem he wrote in memory of Charles Reznikoff:

 "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.

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Friday, February 01, 2013

Ed Koch

"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.

"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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