Monday, December 31, 2007

One Last Poem for 2007

Ghost of Hope

The wind before the wire rolls
in a high cicada hiss,
Graceful lines bore through night,
with a murderous look.
Into the coffin went the truth
and threw out the corpse.
Many widowed are still many—
no alternative but helpless.
The law rewards the last resort.
A million visions
drifting away thousands of miles
to focal paranoia.
Debt into sand.

The kingpins of tin-poisoned arrogance
anxiously worship the game.
Contemplate domination,
seek maps for the right disaster.
Profit exists in chaos—
in waste after overthrow.
And noise.
Soldiers given crowns without swords,
warfare without battle,
bare, carbon nobility.
Left as hanging meat for the desert.
Pain is its own end
when compassionate rape is law.

But to the river a voice, into a dragon.
Chaos spent for sake of change.
To opened minds the echo,
to human, to frail sanity.
To hear is to know the whole.
To choose, the road.
To resolve—
not as things, not as postmortem,
not to more power,
not even to see,
but to put on the sound of hope
and dance the dawn.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Holiday Ruminations

It's snowing outside as I blog this. Appropriate, I suppose, considering Bing Crosby convinced me at an early age that I should should be dreaming of "a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know" (except, growing up here in Southern Oregon it never really snowed much on Christmas--not like in Bend, where I lived for a decade before moving back, where, by Christmas, it had already been snowing for 2 months and the prospect of shoveling the driveway just to get to the grocery store was not a dream so much as a nightmare, but, uh, anyway, I forget myself...). So, it's snowing and I'm ruminating on the holidays and thinking about what they mean to me. Not what they're supposed to mean--what they really mean to me. There are a couple of reasons for this:

a.) I've been facing a crisis of conscience regarding, what I see as, the rampant, unabashed consumerism that has engulfed the holiday and my own participation/revulsion in/at it.

b.) I've been facing the prospect of spending Christmas day alone.

First, the consumerism is unsustainable--it may not happen this year, next year, or even 10 years from now, but one of these days, in the not-too-distant-future, we will have successfully shopped ourselves out of a planet to live on. OK, I realize this isn't the jolliest of thoughts to be having on x-mas eve. In fact, I'm totally conflicted about it, and, therein, lies the problem. I'm not some Thoreuvian minimalist living in a cabin on a pond. I'm very capable of brief (and monumental) moments of economic insanity. And this, I guess, is my problem with Christmas--the obligation of it;the lack of spontaneity. Historically, what I want for myself, I purchase for myself. What I want from others and, hopefully, what I give to the people I care about, is love. Gifts are nice, don't get me wrong--it just seems so manufactured this time of year--so coerced. I was really going to protest the gift-giving thing this year and actually did with my biological family, as we (mutually) agreed not to exchange gifts (whew, fat man in a speeding sleigh dodged!) but then there's my other family--the friends I've chosen to share a household and a life with. Maybe I thought by taking a cross-country drive I could somehow avoid Christmas this year--my guilty feelings about being conflicted about it, the crowds at the stores, and, because I'm a bit challenged by it, wrapping presents. I came back from my trip, however, and damned if Christmas wasn't still happening--and there, under the tree, were gifts with my name on them. I talked to them about my feelings. I even pleaded my case but, in the end, I felt like Scrooge. I sucked it up and went out and tried to find gifts for them I know they will appreciate and use and, in that, it made me think about who they are and what they mean to me and, you know what? I realized that's really what this time (well, actually all times) should be about anyway--gratitude.

Second, the past few days (until today) I've been in a funk. Some of it, undoubtedly, was the above mentioned angst regarding the consumerism aspect of the holidays, but most of it, I think, was the fact that, for the first time in recent memory, I faced being totally alone on Christmas. I haven't talked to Nikki about her plans for the day (although we had a lovely evening watching "Elf" last night). I think it would feel strange to celebrate together (as we had for the past decade +) since we're now living apart. Cindy and Pete are off visiting family and, here I am, all alone (except for my dog, Poe). Even though I felt very little control over it, a part of me seemed to relish the "poor me" aspect--it seems so cliché; "alone at Christmas." How Dickensian of me--please, mister, all I need is a crutch. Well, today, my gratitude met my reality--that I have a number of options on Christmas to spend time with family and friends--should I choose them. Since I've ended my little pity-party (table for one), I've decided to embrace the day. Sleep in or have breakfast at my cousin's house? My choice. As is the choice to have Christmas dinner with my beautiful friends, Annie and Jeff, at Annie's mom's house (I think I'll take them up on it, however,--not to assuage any feelings of loneliness, but to have a great time with some of the most wonderful people I know). Tomorrow night I may call another friend, who is also facing being alone on x-mas (although she's not nearly as angsty as I was about the prospect), and see if she wants to hang out, drink some wine, and watch a movie. Alone and lonely are not the same thing--hopefully the past few days have taught me the difference. And now, oddly (and finally), I can't wait to celebrate a belated Christmas with Nikki, Cindy, and Pete (after they return from their trip)--not so much to open gifts, but to tell them how important they are to me.

Too schmaltzy? TOUGH! Happy Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, New Year, oh, screw it, HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Peace on earth, yada, yada...and, for Christ's sake, go tell someone you love them--do it right now, before you forget...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

It's War Dammit

I found this and couldn't resist posting it considering our creepy experience in Tennessee...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Committing Poetry

These local folks could use some support (and they have pretty nifty t-shirts too). Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


We're home now. Our last night on the road was spent in a divey motel in Anderson, California that was, oddly, missing an alarm clock. We didn't want to cross over the Siskiyou summit too early in the day (which was a good thing because, well, we didn't have an alarm clock) because of the potential of ice on the road so, to celebrate our last day on the road we stopped, as most people do when they're traveling through America, at a greasy spoon in Redding. For our last meal, we chose the Black Bear Diner (and, when I say "last meal" I'm not being entirely facetious--there was so much food we, quite literally, may not have to eat ever again or, alternately, the artery clogging potential will do us in before lunch). The biscuit that came in lieu of toast, while not as tasty as the ones at the Flying Biscuit in Atlanta, was decent enough and, depending on your point of view, had the added bonus of being as big as a large infant (I actually considered not eating it and, instead, claiming it as a dependent on my taxes but, alas, it was too alluring with all of its buttery goodness and, thus, suffered a saliva soaked end). Sufficiently stuffed we made our way to Yreka where Pete agreed to meet us to tow the trailer the rest of the way with his 4-Runner, as the mountain/weather combination could have been the one-two punch to bring down Sedona's up-until-now trusty little sedan. But, of course, who needs a steep mountain pass and a blinding snowstorm to damage a car when you can, as Sedona did, shortly after unhooking the trailer in the parking lot of the ingeniously named Liquor Barn, jump it, Dukes-of-Hazzard-style, over the curb and into the street. Fortunately for Sedona there were only a handful of people watching, pointing, and laughing, and I, for my part, won't tell anyone (so, shhhhh). Luckily, the undercarriage survived--it would have been embarrassing, to say the least, to end a 3,000 mile trip 40 miles from home, high-centered on a sidewalk. The weather was not as bad as it could have been, considering, and we made it over the top with nary a problem. Even though it's nice to be home, a part of me will miss the open road--the incessant rattle of the trailer hitch ticking off the thousands of miles of blacktop, each gaudy, cheesy billboard a poem of America.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I'm Pretty Sure I Left it Here: Looking for My Heart and a Parking Space in San Francisco

You are more likely to find an Emperor Penguin with a camelback full
of ice-cold Gatorade in the Mojave Desert than affordable gasoline in
Southern California. The way Sedona's poor little Mercury Tracer is
sucking up the fuel pulling the U-Haul trailer, I may have to start
selling my body to Japanese businessmen just to get home. Now, I know
what you're thinking--"Start?"

We decided to have one last hurrah before heading home, so we took a
little detour into San Francisco and, like everything else in
California so far, it cost us dearly. Toll into the city pulling a
trailer: $6. Parking for the car and trailer at parking meters for an
hour and a half: $8. Trying to find two adjacent parking spaces we
could pull the car and trailer straight into in downtown SF:
priceless. Obviously we didn't glean anything from our experience in
Nashville, where we learned (and as U-Haul Inc probably notes in their
rental agreement), you can't get the trailer into a parking garage--it
has something to do with violating the laws of physics. Actually,
considering the chutzpah it took to even attempt such a foolhardy
feat, we did pretty well finding said parking--except we were outside
of our desired goal of Chinatown with no time to get there via public
transit. Playing the hand we were dealt, we wandered around until we
found a promising Chinese Restaurant, called, oddly enough, Canton
Restaurant. Despite the fact that the place was enormous, the
proprietor sat us next to the only other people in the restaurant--a
college-aged girl, her boyfriend, and her very Russian parents who, by
the sound of their accents, were fresh from the motherland. As we sat
and discussed Sedona's just-ended relationship, we stopped to listen
as the Russian mother listed the things that were most important in a
relationship to her daughter. "Love," she said in halting English,
"love is the most important thing." Sedona and I smiled--I think
she's going to be OK. Our meal was quite good and, breaking our
streak rather than the bank, was quite reasonably priced. As we were
leaving, our waitress, a middle-aged Chinese woman wearing a red Santa
hat said, "Happy Holidays." "Happy Holidays to you too," I said

Next up: Homeward Bound.

Listen Up California--We Want Our Apples Back!

We decided to skip Vegas and pick up some lost time driving straight
into California. In restrospect, Vegas would have been the cheaper
option. Our first experience in California after crossing over from
Arizona was at the agricultural inspection station. If Tennesee is
wary of people saying "happy holidays," California is downright
paranoid about out-of-state flies. My recollection of the reason for
this is, some 30 or so years ago, there was an epidemic of alien
fruitflies that devastated California's crops. A law was passed
mandating these stations at all of the major border crossings and,
even though they've long outlived their usefulness, they're still
here--annoying and delaying all visitors to the state. OK, my
experience at these stops has been, when they ask you if you have any
fruits or vegetables, you say, "no" and they wave you through--advice
I gave Sedona (who was driving at the time), despite the fact we had a
cooler full of Georgian apples, pears, and one precious sharon fruit.
Well, as luck would have it, much like my "special security screening"
way back at the Medford airport, we were in for a vehicular strip
search. The woman working the station had Sedona pop the trunk and
open the u-haul and began going through the accumulated leaves on the
lip of the trunk with a pair of tweezers. When she was satisfied that
there weren't any nefarious insects lurking there, she popped the
question, "do you have any fruits or vegetables?" Sedona, apparently
rattled by the invasion of privacy, cracked faster than the spine of
an Arizona triceratops and blurted out, "we have a couple of apples."
I have to give her credit though, she sacrificed our apples but held
on to the rest of our produce. After the apples were confiscated and
we were back on the road, we laughed about the experience and
celebrated the martyrdom of those brave apples by eating pears and
tossing the cores out the window. We weren't laughing when we got to
Needles, CA however. Gas in Needles was upwards of $3.90/ gallon--
and I'm not kidding. Still blessed with a half a tank of gas, we
decided to gamble on finding cheaper gas at a truck stop on the way to
Barstow--we lost. Our last chance for gas ended up being at an out-of-
the-way place run by a surly ex-biker, where regular unleaded cost
$4.70/ gallon--let me repeat that--$4.70! We spent the night in
Barstow and were happy, as we drove out the next morning, to pay only $3.66.
Our experience in California so far has inspired me to come up with state mottos for all
of the states we've passed through on our journey (based, of course, on my very narrow interstate highway perspective). Here we go:

Georgia: Three Cops for Every Traffic Stop

Tennessee: Cold Beer, Fireworks, and Diesel.

Arkansas: God Loves Us Most

Oklahoma: What Happens in Oklahoma, Isn't Really Worth Mentioning.

Texas: Home of the Biggest Roadkill.

New Mexico: Whew! New Mexico.

Arizona: More T. Rex's Per Capita Than Any Other State - 40% Off.

and, of course,

California: The Fuck You State

More to come...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Please Help to Save the Poor Triceratops from Re-Extinction in Arizona!

I know what you're thinking. When is this guy going to stop writing
about billboards and roadkill? Well, not in Arizona, that's for sure.
Arizona boasts some of the most, let's say, creative advertising to
get travelers to stop and purchase authentic Indian jewelry 40% off.
I drove through this strip of Americana with my family back when I was
10 and, since then, the billboards don't seem to have been so much
upgraded as just embellished. Dinosaurs are a big theme east of
Flagstaff because, I guess, the Petrified Forest is here and petrified
kind of rhymes with fossilized, and, well, DINOSAURS! It starts with
childlike paintings of prehistoric reptiles mingling with the
childlike (and kind of unfortunate) drawings of Native Americans,
morphs into large, rudimentary replicas of dinosaurs that resemble
Barney's distant cousins, before culminating in enormous, realistic
statues of the ancient beasts--and here is my problem...the
triceratops is always on the ground being shredded like a Texas
roadside deer, not by a passing automobile, but by a frighteningly
authentic looking Tyrannosaurus Rex. Arizonans clearly have no regard
for the loss of their plaster Triceratops population to what seems to
me to be a veritable plague of toothy Rex's. Now, for me, the violent
death and dismemberment of a fake dinosaur won't get me to purchase
authentic Indian jewelry 40% off--but, of course, that's just me...

Aside from the overly obnoxious 70s era kitschy billboards, Arizona,
like its neighbor New Mexico, is incredibly beautiful. The sunset
tonight reminded me of melting into someone's eyes. California here
we come...

Well I'll Be Quirky--Welcome to Albuquerque

New Mexico was a breath of fresh air after our drive through the
heartland--and not just because the landscape becomes almost
immediately more interesting; it, literally, smells better because of
a conspicuous lack of roadkill. I can only think of a couple of
reasons for this. Either, a.) the animals in Oklahoma, Texas, et al,
are throwing themselves under the wheels of speeding cars on purpose
(and, let's be honest, who can blame them) or, b.) New Mexico has some
crack agency like a department of roadkill cleanup that swoops in and
removes offending smears before the tourists spot them. There are, on
the other hand, an inordinate amount of roadside memorials dedicated
to people who've died on the interstate. Fewer dead animals yet more
dead humans--hmmm...I'm not suggesting Wile E. Coyote is behind it,
just that it's a possibility.

We pulled into Albuquerque early enough to get some r & r in; which,
thanks to some insider information from Cindy (thanks Cindy!), we did
at a place called The Flying Star Cafe in the Nob Hill area. You may
remember me mentioning our great breakfast at The Flying Biscuit in
Atlanta, well I've decided from now on I'm only eating at restaurants
with "flying" in the name (tough luck Taco Bell--I'll be back when you
change your name to Flying Taco Bell). The place was awesome--a super-
cool atmosphere packed with velour-backed booths, swell southwestern
pastel colors, and a variety of hipsters in horn-rimmed glasses and
college students banging away on their MacBooks. After our roadside
religious indoctrination in Arkansas, this place really was heaven.
We liked it so much we went again for breakfast. Albuquerque is one
of those places I visit and think, "I could live here" (until I
stepped outside and realized it was around 4 degrees Fahrenheit in the
sun). It's a beautiful city in the middle of a beautiful state; one
boasting grand arroyos, spectacular mesas, and those big rocks
balancing on the skinny rocks that the Roadrunner taunts Wile E.
Coyote from (betcha didn't think I could sneak Wile E. Coyote in twice
in one post, did ya?). We just crossed the border into Arizona...more
to come from the Grand Canyon State...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Driving into the Sun

Wow, New Mexico is stunning...more tomorrow.

Everything Really is Bigger in Texas!

We just tore through 4 states like we were a five year-old shredding the gift wrap on a present on Christmas morning (or, as I like to call it, "Holiday morning"). The past 2 days were all about making time so we could slow down in time to enjoy the Southwest before heading up through California and into Oregon. Texas was the final state on our get-the-hell-through-this-state-as-fast-as-possible tour. I thought it was all just bravado--a bunch of cowboys bragging about the size of everything in their state because they were overcompensating for their lack of, well, you know...but, you know what, it's true--everything is bigger in Texas! We saw the biggest, gaudiest rest area I've ever seen*, something advertised as the largest cross in the western hemisphere (although it struck me as a little macabre--I mean, I hardly think, say, Marie Antoinette would be looking down from heaven and nodding approvingly at a giant MDF guillotine--but, hey, different strokes), the biggest douche-bag of a president the U.S. has ever had, and, thanks to a couple of tire-tracked deer carcasses, they even beat out Tennessee for biggest roadkill. Way to go Texas! You should be proud. I'm so ready for New Mexico.

*Actually the rest area, enormous as it was, was pretty cool and had some interesting information about wind power, canyons, and buffalo lineage. See, I can give credit where credit is due!

Oklahoma is eh

After we escaped from Arkansas (you know you're in the bible belt when
the churches are bigger than the Home Depot) we drove through eastern
Oklahoma in the dark--not realizing we were seeing the exact same
landscape we would have seen during the day. Oklahoma is a vast
landscape of flat emptiness, devoid of anything interesting save the
shredded plastic grocery bags lining the countless miles of barbed
wire fences. We did, however, have a stroke of luck with a motel in
Oklahoma City. It turns out that, since the ice storms last week,
many of the residents are living in motels. On our third attempt to
find a room we struck gold at a Holiday Inn Express--they gave us
their last room; one with 2 queen beds at a deep discount and the
cutie at the front desk even helped us to locate a parking space for
the trailer. We got a good night's sleep, worked out in the fitness
center, ate a decent continental breakfast, and struck out into the
void...did I mention there is nothing to see in Oklahoma? Even the
cows didn't seem satisfied chewing their cud. We couldn't even find
adventure when we went looking for it. Both Route 66 museums we
stopped at in western OK were closed. This state would be a good
place for a nap. Next up is Texas...

Happy Times in Oklahoma City

Ah, sunshine...starting our drive to Albuquerque.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Bible Belt Tightens: Juggling Jesus and Jenna Jameson in Arkansas

We took off from Nashville around 8:30 a.m. and drove through West Tennessee in a blinding rain. Today was a driving day, as we decided to save our sightseeing for the Southwest and push through all of Arkansas and half of Oklahoma before stopping in OK City for the night. Boy, Arkansas loves its God. Not since the lady at the welcome center in Tennessee tried to convince us of the miracle of Christmas had I witnessed Southern Baptism in its full glory. But if Tennessee Welcome Center Lady was the face of New Testament peace and love, Arkansas' billboards were Old Testament, smiting God stuff. Consider the following message on one of the many billboards lining I40 in Arkansas:

Use a rod on your children and save their lives: Jesus Saves.

Make up your mind; Is it the rod or is it Jesus? That particular billboard made me a little nervous so it wasn't until we drove past another billboard advertising X - Adult Superstore that I was able to relax. Arkansasans can hold two opposing views in their minds after all--whew, what a relief! Since we pretty much just drove, I don't have much else to report except I noticed a difference in the roadkill between Tennessee and Arkansas. Tennessee seemed to have a lot more large animals splayed down the fog strip--coyotes, deer and such, and, strangely, large birds. Arkansas, however, seemed to have predominately smaller varmints' guts littering the shoulder. I'm not sure what this means yet, but I'm tired so I think I'll sleep on it. Next--Oklahoma is just OK...

God, Guns, and Country Music: Table Dancing Our Way Through Tennessee

If you drive into Tennessee from Georgia like we did, you can't miss
the giant billboards featuring a character called Big Daddy. Big
Daddy is a big, fat cartoon with a creepy, clownlike grin dressed
either in camo hunting attire (think Deliverance) or like a pimp. On
one billboard, the hunting one, there are two Big Daddys--the
original, holding a shotgun, and his identical eviller twin, armed
with a hunting bow. They are facing each other like some kind of
surreal dualists advertising--you guessed it--Big Daddy's Sporting
Goods. But Big Daddy doesn't stop with selling normal items designed
to kill and maim--no, the other Big Daddy--the pimp one--is pushing
fireworks. This is, apparently, a lucrative business on the Tennessee
border because there are two of these enormous fireworks shops in
relatively close proximity to each other. The great thing about these
places is, in addition to feeding your need to make things explode,
you can also get cold beer and diesel. I'll let you draw your own
conclusions about the prudence of selling all of these items under one
roof. Even, more interesting (and telling) about Tenneseean values
than Big Daddy was the fact that the woman working at the welcome
center insisted on saying, "Merry Christmas" rather than "Happy
Holidays" and insisted on pointing this out to us because, I guess with
our piercings, we looked like Godless heathens to her and, you know,
"Christmas is about Jesus." As she wished us a Merry Christmas on our
way out the door, I had to refrain from throwing a "Happy Holidays"
back at her. I decided to leave her with her fantasies--both the one
about virgin births and the other one (Bill O'Reilly's) where us
liberal elites are out to steal Christmas from good, God-fearing
Christians, and just smiled and said, "you too."

We arrived in Nashville just after dark and booked a room at the Red Roof Inn.
Then, thanks to my great friend Kaycee (YO KAYCEE!), we were able to find Nashville's happening nightlife (well, about as happening as it can be at 7:30). After some drama trying to park the car-pulling-the-trailer downtown, we wandered the strip until some music sucked us into a place called Legend's Corner. The band was on fire; playing everything from Merle Haggard to Eddie Rabbit to Dwight Yokum (hey, when in Rome...). The beer, however, was way too spendy and there wasn't much on the menu for a Godless vegetarian, so we headed out for alternatives. The only menu we could find that met my requirements was at, of all places, Coyote Ugly. As we ate I expressed my surprise at Sedona's apparent ease in the surroundings. She assured me she wasn't into what I called "deviant fun," just "normal fun." A few minutes later she was dancing on the bar. Thank goodness we didn't do anything crazy. Nashville was great! Check back--more to come...and, oh yeah, Happy Hanukkah!

Southern Hospitality

Atlanta is a surprise in many ways. It seems super progressive
(especially considering its geographical location), with more Mini
Coopers per capita than, say, Ashland. Sedona took me to, quite
possibly, the best breakfast ever at a place called the Flying Biscuit
and then to the Dekalb Farmer's Market. The place is HUGE--so massive
in fact, I whipped out my iPhone to snap a photo and was instantly
approached by a guy who identified himself as a cop (but who was
undoubtedly security) and started asking me all kinds of questions
like, for instance, "why are you taking photos in here?" Actually,
now that I think about it, that was pretty much the only question he
asked. I explained I was helping my friend to drive back to Oregon and
I'd never seen anything like this place and he explained that taking
photos in there violated some kind of proprietary law yada, yada, and
that, under Georgia law I could be arrested--he he. Before he could
cuff me, however, we started talking about fishing and snowboarding,
and he told me he'd worked there for 8 years and how the place was
120,000 sq feet and, if I wanted, there were brochures up front. And
then we had a good handshake. I still have that brochure too. Bob
from the Dekalb Farmer's Market, if you're reading this, I'll never
forget your warm smile, firm handshake, and friendly threat of arrest...

Next up: cold beer, fireworks, diesel, and Big Daddy and the War on
Christmas. Welcome to Tennessee!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Don't Ask


She's not faking it--she is REALLY this happy to see, really...


I made it to Atlanta (where I am now, typing this on a real keyboard on Sedona's Mac). The plane was a bit late getting in because we had to circle due to another plane stuck on the runway or, as one of the flight attendants put it, "we had to go around one more time for good measure." The flight was pretty uneventful save negotiating an aisle seat (yeah, yeah, I'm not quite there yet) away from a non-English speaking Chinese gentleman who was sitting in my spot. After much pointing at the placard above the seat and then back to my ticket, it was done and I settled in for some successful napping. I caught the train in Atlanta to Lindbergh Station (all trains lead to Lindbergh) and, just as I was calling Sedona to tell her I arrived, her smiling face magically appeared from around a corner. Of all the places I could have disembarked, she picked the correct one. This bodes well for the rest of the journey--good car karma, so to speak. We went to a little bar for dinner, and then drove to Decatur to look for another bar which was closed but, instead, stumbled on a happening place that sold around 500 types of Belgian ales. We talked and laughed a lot and should get along famously for the road part of the trip.

Today we're going to hang out in Atlanta for a bit before setting off for Nashville. More to come as it happens...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Journey

I've always considered flying a utilitarian act--from here to
there, nothing more. As my friend Nathan says, "an airplane is a big
flying bus." I've never understood those who choose the window seat,
who "ooh and aah" at the clouds, or who compare vehicles on the ground
to insects; "Look Henry, those cars look like ants!" said with such
sticky sweet glee I have to refrain from throwing my empty 1/2" square
peanut wrapper in the direction of the offending voice. No, I prefer the aisle--no amount of enthusiastic offers of Sprite can shake me
from my mission; which is, simply, catch my flight, sit with easy
access to both the lavatory and my carry-on, and get off as soon as
the cheery, robotic voice of the flight attendant announces that it's
safe for me to do so--easy. I'm what you might call "a destination
guy." Today, however, crammed against the window due to circumstances
beyond my control; when the pilot announced the Golden Gate Bridge
would be coming up on the left, I decided to cock my head and look out
the window. The sun was just rising on the horizon, Venus still
brightly shining in the dawn sky--it was, I must admit, GORGEOUS.
This, I've decided is a good lesson for me--especially at the
beginning of a cross-country drive--to pay attention to the journey; I
may just see something spectacular.


The fun starred early this morning as I was selected for something
called "Special Security Screening"--that, said the security agent,
"is what those 3 S's on your boarding pass mean"--and then she said
something about buying a last minute ticket almost guarantees it. SSS
(which sounds very third reichish) consists of being felt up gently by
an older gentleman with a grey mustache and having my belongings, so
carefully packed, dumped out and rifled through haphazardly and then
left for me to repack when I have been deemed sufficiently harmless...
Well, time to board for SF. More to come...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pre Trip Party

A little get together with the guys before my trip... from left: Nathan,
Pete, Will, Goa, Jeff A., & Jeff P.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Road Trip - Prelude

Last Saturday I was hanging out at home and our friend Peggy was over working on costumes for her dance company's Solstice performance while, at the same time, she was stressing because her oldest daughter Sedona is trying to get home from Atlanta where she moved a few short months ago with her boyfriend (who seemed like a sweet guy but turned out to be a jerk). He moved her out there because he was going to medical school and they were supposedly going to be together forever. So, anyway, said jerk meets someone else (hence his nickname) and tells sweet Sedona that he "wasn't sure" about their relationship before they moved--egads (what a jerky thing to do). So, anyway, now she's brokenhearted and stranded in Georgia (Georgia, for god's sake) with no friends. She decides to move back to Ashland but Peggy can't find anyone to drive with her (because Peggy doesn't want Sedona driving across the country by herself). So Peggy is super stressed and her husband, Don, is super stressed and I'm thinking, "driving across country sounds like fun" and, really, what else do I have to do? So I tell Peggy I'll fly to Atlanta and help Sedona get home. Peggy breaks into tears and says, "really?" and I say, "of course" and we have a good hug and now I'm flying to Atlanta on Thursday. It's a win, win, win, win because , Peggy is happy, Don is happy, Sedona is happy (for now anyway--she hasn't, as yet, spent 12 hours a day in the car with me) and I'm happy because, well, ROAD TRIP! I've decided to post our adventures here AS THEY UNFOLD (or shortly thereafter), so break out the popcorn and stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Poetry is Elitist

so I’m going to a reading
and none of my friends want to go
because they think poetry is elitist
and maybe they’re right
but then I start thinking
that maybe they think I’m an elitist
and then I start thinking that maybe they’re right
but I don’t care because
they’re a bunch of philistines anyway
So I go to the reading
and there are a bunch of hipster types there
and I start wondering
if I look like a philistine to them
so I try to act ironic
and sit by myself
in the corner next to a stack of books
at least one or two of which I know I will buy
even though I’m nearly broke
but I feel kind of guilty
because I know poets don’t make any money
it seems elitism doesn’t pay very well
but poetry is better than TV
because it makes you think
and TV only makes you want
and I don’t care whether I get it or not
just that I got something that I can’t get from TV
and, besides, I didn’t waste another night watching
a bunch of dancing has-beens or housemates
fighting over a peanut-butter sandwich
and then I wonder if there’s anything elitist about peanut butter
but I think that’s probably reserved for preserves
and then a voice cajoles me from my smugness
and I realize I’m missing a poem
and think, for a moment, that I may not get it
but then I remember that that’s not the point
so I settle in to be enthralled
but I can’t help but notice the woman next to me
is wearing a too-tight t-shirt
and I think, “wow, that’s a tight t-shirt”
and then I wonder if maybe I’m just here
because I like funky, intellectual girls with hip eyeglasses
and tight t-shirts
and I wonder if that counts as elitist
and I decide it counts for something
meanwhile, the poet is droning on about kittens
but he’s using kittens as a metaphor
not as literal little cats
but I’m not sure what the metaphor is for
because I’ve been too busy wondering if I look ironic enough
to be hip but not too elitist that I look unapproachable
but then I wonder what the fuck I missed
those kittens sure seemed profound
but now he’s on to angst
and I have enough of that
because all that thought of peanut butter has made me hungry
but now I’m trapped here next to these books
one or two of which I know I will buy
instead of food
and I decide that’s fine
because I get to get inside someone else’s head for a change
and, besides, there’s a funky, intellectual girl in a tight t-shirt
sitting three feet away from me
and I realize I don’t really care if it’s elitist or not
I really like poetry

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Since November

1) I weave a purple cold cap.

2) non-stop to eat every day but can not do sports, I like a pig.

3) tearing down the gel nail, and now my fingernails with SAW II poster comparable.

4) I am looking «fashion moment».

5) tearing down the fake lashes, every North Korea when I do not know where the eye.

6) friends again to catch other people's fiancee, I would like to kill him.

7) the eight-hour day wearing orthopedic underwear makes me want to die.

8) stewardess peanut butter and I was maimed DoubleStar.

9) back cartilage transfer, physical therapy.

10) ipod nano maintenance period imminent, a new free-for-the.

11) despair miss crabs.

12) Ricepaper French Kiss super-delicious, AE platinum card, 50% (card: Princess Margaret Road Road).

13) the entire November, can only go to work for two days.

14) see the parents is an fears about the activities.

15) received a set of «Galaxy Railway 999», thank you.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Phase Grams of Health

The acquaintance did not know why people criticize me, still insignificant?

If you are like me, as a mother, land-guys -with a gooseneck Bridge vicious cur -to my 27.

The others are all trivial.

1. "Days at you." *

2. "Plot you, because living ending years啦." *

3. "Your company - lowly grid, the microphone to marry message that ah." *

4. "I keep eyes on the release of long life, to see your point miserable." *

5. She would wash my most beloved Black the most expensive clothes, forever.

6. She would kick Tu I have spent a good foot, most of the time.

7. She will be demolished my letter box inverted箧 View turned my garbage has been.

8. The end-to-end she would not seek marriage for me signed, executed under under.

No fortune teller know, she and I are of a certain phase grams of Health.

In fact, my mother loves me, I love my mother.

However, I still leave the better.


Male: "someone said, in the Lan Kwai Fong to see you, and a man who tailor."

Daughter: "so?"

From August 2006 to July 2007.

Exactly 12 months.

Once the men are not the only close one?

Jumping feet of the pain, Chasing not changed for several people.

It turned out that was only one year.

Friday, October 26, 2007

I Want to Buy a Good Buy 100,000

I want to buy a good corset 100,000 to buy corset.
What clothes the world more than it?
You can wear it to the garden-fresh eggplant cattle-face.
You can wear it to take tea Lan Fong cafes.
You can wear it to Ikea furniture buyers goods.
You can wear it to meet the parents (if the parents will certainly appreciate others).
You can wear it to beijing club night Po.
Letter I, corset really, as long as you are not afraid of the eyes.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Friday, September 28, 2007

Listen to a Story

Because accidental, the boys know the girls.

Of course, both boys and girls need to work also unusual hobbies,
but the circle of life is not the same.

There are too many girls who are always male,
efforts that boys, girls, smiled politely declined.

Then, the wave.

After some time, the boys know the girls single, to further her pursuit of one more.

When the boys return from overseas assignments,
such as honey to see the girls smile.

Boys know, the long wait for a long time, or can not wait.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Burning Man 2007

Working for The Man

I just returned from the annual art festival held in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada known as Burning Man (perhaps you've heard of it). A city of 40,000 + people springs up for a week of incomprehensible heat, cruel dust storms, and unbearably loud techno music booming through the night--in other words, the perfect summer vacation! There is also the most unbelievable art, beautiful, ingenious people, and a very palpable sense of community (I know it sounds cliché, but it's true I tell you). This was my 3rd BM in a row and, for me, the best yet.

It was Tutu Tuesday... I don't make the rules

I had the quintessential Burning Man day (or perhaps that is an oxymoron) on Saturday. I intend to write more about it later (in verse?) but it began with a beautiful woman grabbing my hand and guiding me quietly up behind a man in a short kilt where she bent down, looked under said kilt and then whispered to me in the most lovely, thick Scotch accent, "he's not really Scottish." She then slipped her hand from mine and disappeared into the dust. And that was just the beginning of my day...

Since I'm still recovering and still playing catch up, I won't even try to explain the experience now. As I may have mentioned, I will be writing more later (I am oh-so inspired) but for the moment here's a Burning Man Haiku I wrote and a few more pictures...

Searing Sun Beats Down
Saline Dripping From My Nose
A Guy Without Pants

Those trucks are real

Off to the Purple Rain party on Wednesday

All we are...

I won't even try to explain this

The night of "The Burn"

This is an art car--with ears that wiggled

Two burns for the price of one--the oil derrick explodes after an impressive fireworks display

Yawn... if you've seen one 30' tall sculpture with a beautiful, nearly-naked girl climbing it, you've seen 'em all...

The temple burns on Sunday--perhaps the most impressive fire of all

Friday, August 24, 2007

Robert Grenier and Clark Coolidge

Just because Kasey mentioned zombies the other day I'm reposting this--an essay from an earlier, more innocent time...

What is this?

Journal # 8 – Robert Grenier and Clark Coolidge

We have spent a lot of time discussing language in this class. Well you have anyway, while the rest of us stare unblinking at you as if we were extras in a remake of a George A. Romero film. Remember the movie “Dawn of the Dead” when the zombies longed for the brains of the living but were relentlessly gunned down in a shopping mall by the well-meaning “heroes” (I mean, come on, even if zombies don’t have “feelings” like the rest of us they were somebody’s loved ones—I just feel that blasting them in half with a shotgun or decapitating them with a machete is overkill considering that most of the time they could be taken out quite effectively with a sharp blow to the head with a baseball bat)? If not, I’m sure that you remember Barbara Guest and Jackson Mac Low from last week. They were the poets who, among others, talked a lot about language. If Guest’s An Emphasis Falls on Reality was about the birth of language and Mac Low’s “Dance” poems were about the usage of language, as I have previously claimed (see Journal # 7), then Robert Grenier’s poems are about the tools of language.

Even if Grenier’s poems were total gibberish (which they aren’t) they would “seem” to have substance because of the tool he uses—namely the IBM Selectric typewriter. When I was a kid, my parent’s ancient manual typewriter fascinated me. I would spend hours hammering away on it, not to create my literary masterpiece or even to write impassioned letters to the editor—no, I just wanted to see how many keys I could jam together at one time. Then along came the Selectric with its electric pseudo-efficiency—what a machine! Without those cumbersome keys my hyperactive imagination was freed to zip, efficiently, across the page at 70+ WPM! Since I no longer saw a future in key-jamming on a Smith-Corona (my boyhood dreams crushed like the face of the undead with a Louisville Slugger), I decided to learn how to write instead—something I’ve been doing, on and off, ever since. Grenier’s poems remind me of that simpler time—that time back in the 1970s when the costumes in zombie movies consisted of little more than gray makeup and thrift store clothing—and when I first discovered my love of writing.

Clark Coolidge’s manifesto Words had me reeling like a guy with a twelve gauge surrounded by flesh-eating corpses. Perhaps you were hoping that the zombie analogy would have died with Grenier, but it has, instead, crawled from the grave even stronger and smarter than before—in fact, it now bears more of a resemblance to the creatures in the film “28 Days Later” than anything Romero ever dreamed up. Coolidge’s words, like our weapon-toting heroes, are living, breathing entities—oh, sure they can dance like Michael Jackson in the Thriller video, but they can do so much more.

If I would have read Words only six weeks ago, I would have, embarrassingly (because I’m imagining myself in class doing this), scratched my head and said, “huh?” But my brain is so much bigger now (uh oh, I can only hope that no undead T.A.s—and I know they’re out there—are going to be reading this because, well, you know, bigger brain…)! Words makes sense to me in a way that I would never have expected. I am enjoying the feeling of “getting it”—that beautiful precursor to the magical ability to lavish elitist snobbery on others (a dream I’ve had ever since I first got the ‘F’, ‘G’, ‘H’, and ‘J’ keys successfully locked together like a Mississippi chain gang). Coolidge’s manifesto and his poems have opened my mind (insert your own zombie joke here) and inspired me to experiment with my own poetry. And, since I haven’t quite been able to beat the zombie thing to death yet (for God’s sake, toss me that lead pipe!), I’ll just add that, for me, Coolidge is definitely the hero of this journal. But does that, necessarily, make Grenier a zombie? I think Grenier might have a problem with that, so let’s let him be a hero too—but he doesn’t get the shotgun—no, if I have to use this cheapo plastic Microsoft keyboard, the least he can do is fend off those rotting spawn of Satan with his weighty Selectric.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

An Emphasis Falls on Reality by Barbara Guest and poems by Jackson Mac Low

What is this?

Journal # 7 – An Emphasis Falls on Realityby Barbara Guest and poems by Jackson Mac Low

I have discovered one of my new favorite poems in Barbara Guest’s An Emphasis Falls on Reality. I thoroughly enjoy the way “An Emphasis Falls on Reality” skates across the tongue before announcing itself to the world when spoken—and that’s just the title! People (as in “those people”), when talking about poetry, have a tendency to devote a lot of energy to things like “structure” and “flow,” but I want to avoid them almost entirely when discussing this poem. Hmmm, no flow and no structure—well, I guess that leaves me without anything to say so I’ll just move on to Jackson Mac Low. Oh wait—I forgot about “language”! An Emphasis Falls on Reality is all about language.

Guest’s brilliant use of language allows us to tiptoe psychoanalytically between the Chora (Lacan’s “Real”), a time before our introduction into language, and The Mirror Stage (our first entry into language)—the place between subject and object, a place philosopher and psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva terms The Abject. Where do we stop experiencing “the pure materiality of existence” and start experiencing our lives through the “reality” of language? Why, right there in the first line of An Emphasis Falls on Reality when the “Cloud fields change into furniture” (1). I imagine myself as a child, wrapped in my favorite blankie, staring up at the “natural” cloud fields (representing the Chora) before they morph into the “reality through language” that is represented by furniture and then, just as quickly, they change into fields. This back and forth between the surreal and the real creates a startling landscape. She deftly uses language with and against itself to take us back to a time before its existence. She evokes feelings by using the cloud fields, snow, silhouettes, and illuminations to represent that primal state. She even talks of “‘being’ and ‘nothingness’” (13) to bring us ever closer to that earliest stage of life when “silence is pictorial/ when silence is real” (18-19). By interspersing jarring, tangible words into this ethereal world—words like furniture, “fountains” (11), “motors” (16), and “walls” (24)—she is unleashing the revolt inherent in the Abject. These words somehow don’t belong, but they are there nonetheless. She goes even one further by speaking directly to the language, using words like, well, “words” (which “stretch severely” 5), “vowel”(22), “metaphors” (25), and “font” (32), and lines like “that letter composed of calligraphy” (21). We somehow know that “willows are not real trees” (28), but simply a word that represents the objects that “entangle us in looseness” (29) as “the natural world spins in green” (30). By looking at the poem in this way I appreciate the small miracle that Guest has performed. Language, inevitably and irrevocably, really does create “darkened copies of all trees” (45).

Jackson Mac Low speaks to language as well but much more directly than Guest does. He’s not taking us on a journey to a world of pre-language, but simply showing us the “dance” that language can do. I suppose if you’re going to have to use language, you might as well know how it works. He gives us a pretty big clue to what he’s doing right in the title of the collection from which the first three poems in the reading are drawn—The Pronouns. Sure enough, there He is, 1ST DANCE. announcing himself in line one of Mac Low’s He can do all sorts of things. He starts by doing pretty mundane stuff like “[making] himself comfortable/ & [matching] parcels” (1-2), but we pretty quickly realize that this isn’t your grandmother’s He. He starts by “[making] glass boil” (3) and I’m OK with that—I can accept that He is capable of this. But Mac Low isn’t satisfied to leave it there—our hero, He, can do even more. He somehow is “presently paining by going or having waves” (11). Wow! I had no idea He could do that! I in 6TH DANCE becomes the first-person alter-ego of He from 1ST DANCE (kind of like when John Travolta steals Nicolas Cage’s face in the film Face/Off)*. I is doing what He did, only now in his own words and from a slightly different perspective. He boiled glass but I “boil[s] some delicate things” (3). I “discuss[es] something brown (the bottle that’s not white perhaps) and “keep[s] to the news” (16) all while “quietly chalk[ing] a strange tall bottle” (9). You thought the person pronouns were impressive; wait till you see what This in 12TH DANCE can do. Detached, This really gives us a fly’s-eye-view of the happenings and sees things in a whole other perspective making “meat before heat” (20) and getting “leather by language” (22).

I’m going to speed over Trope Market and 59TH Light Poem (both which I liked very much) to get to the only poem of the reading that I initially had trouble with—Antic Quatrains. At first Antic Quatrains assaulted me with its structure and archaic language, but then I realized that Mac Low was playing a joke with language. The words in Antic Quatrains are so over-the-top, so ridiculous in their extravagance that it is impossible to take the poem seriously. Plus, as a bonus, when I began Googling the mostly unfamiliar words I found out the poem was pretty pornographic—and I know this because while I was looking up the definitions on the Internet I actually came across real pornography and was able to successfully compare the two. Unfortunately, all this time surfing porn precluded me from becoming too familiar with Mac Low’s final two poems, Twenties 26 and Twenties 27—on first glance, I guess I’ll just say that I kind of liked them…

* I never actually saw this movie.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Big Bar by Kenward Elmslie & Gay Full Story by Bernadette Mayer

What is this?

Journal # 6 – “Big Barby Kenward Elmslie and “Gay Full Story by Bernadette Mayer

We humans are an odd lot. What other creature in the history of the earth has ever had so much leisure time to ponder meaning. Why are we here? How did we get here? Where the hell are my car keys? Is this thing on? No, I am certain most creatures are too busy eating or being eaten to worry about such things. Surely the furry mouse does not ask the python, “What does it all mean?” as the last breath is squeezed from his tiny little lungs (or, perhaps he does in his own squeaky way, but since I don’t speak “mousian” I can only address human behavior). So that brings me to language and how we humans perceive the world. Ever since we learned in childhood that every story needs a beginning, middle, and an end we experience life through the narrative. When confronted with poetry that doesn’t supply us with a narrative, we desperately try to find one anyway—often behaving like a genetic hybrid of forensic scientists and keystone cops—spending hours on the Internet or in the library chasing obscure references nestled in the poem in order to find the ever-elusive “meaning.” In Kenward Elmslie’s poem Big Bar, we can’t help but want to know who this Hank Wurlitzer fellow is and to puzzle over the obsession with weights. There certainly seems to be some kind of meaning going on in the poem. But is there really? Maybe Elmslie is just having some fun with us.

Perhaps Billy Collins (yes, that Billy Collins) explains the incessant hunt for understanding in poetry best in his poem Introduction To Poetry, which someone serendipitously passed along to me not long after our classroom discussion on Tuesday.

Introduction To Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

I bring this up not only to introduce Billy Collins into one of my papers for the sheer joy of pondering your reaction, but also to—oh wait, that is pretty much the only reason. But Collins does, in his pleasurable little poem, nail it. We are so intent to beat the life out of a poem to find meaning that we sometimes miss out on a highly enjoyable experience. For me, Big Bar, was a highly enjoyable experience. Elmslie’s poem reminds me of a circus sideshow or a great Monty Python skit. It both inspires awe and makes me laugh out loud at its absurdity. Instead of trying to elicit a confession from it I just allowed myself to be entertained and—hopefully I’m not hyperbolizing too much here—it has made me a better person. I love it that much!

Bernadette Mayer has a hard act to follow, in Elmslie, with her poem Gay Full Story. Mayer’s poem is fine, but it is difficult for me to not juxtapose it with Big Bar, having read them so closely together. Or, perhaps, I’m already beginning to tire of the “new sentence” poems. Nevertheless, I just couldn’t get into it the way I got into Elmslie or even Silliman. I like the way the poem seemingly mixes directions for scrap booking with an Audubon Society field guide to birds before flitting off to “vaporous vege-/tating vitalization monkeys” (43-44), but I was left feeling a bit wanting. More than Gay Full Bar, I enjoyed Mayer’s essay, The Obfuscated Poem. In many ways The Obfuscated Poem does what Gay Full Story promises (or purports to promise—actually, come to think of it, it makes no such promise), in that it is absurd without seeming absurd. Maybe because it is ostensibly meant to be serious we are caught off guard—shocked even—when confronted with lines like “Abdication of feeling in life or in the mind creates a liverish potential for dead issues” (659). I think she “tells” it (the essay) better than she “shows” it (the poem). And, I wanted to add for the record, in case you were concerned, that no mice were harmed in the writing of this essay.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Clairvoyant Journal by Hannah Weiner and Tjanting by Ron Silliman

What is this?

Journal # 5 – “Clairvoyant Journal”* by Hannah Weiner and “Tjanting by Ron Silliman

If Amiri Baraka’s poem AM/TRAK channels jazz, then Hannah Weiner’s Clairvoyant Journal is television. Clairvoyant Journal is a barrage of words and images that reminded me of channel surfing on cable—150 channels of nothing on. It is the commercials, reality TV programs, late night infomercials, and FOX news pundits run through a blender and splashed on the page. Poor Hannah Weiner. If this was her experience of the world living with schizophrenia, it must have been debilitating. The only way I can imagine even coming close to this would be to zone in front of the tube glossy eyed, bag of Doritosä in hand, for days on end. And, fortunately for me, I still have the remote (unless it slipped between the cushions of the couch again). Obviously I had a hard time with this poem—and not just because it reminded me of TV (and I can barely stomach TV) or that it was particularly difficult in the way that some poems are difficult—it just didn’t allow me the one thing that I enjoy most about poetry—the opportunity to escape from reality. In fact, it did the opposite—it reminded me way too much of our hyper-consumerized, over-industrialized, super-sized culture. It wasn’t even so much the words that bugged me (although some of them did—the word fright pops up several times); it was the disorganization, multiple font sizes, and all-caps that really got to me. I felt assaulted by the BIG APOSTROPHE. Also, I have enough MONEY trouble without it being screamed at me—and don’t even get me started on the HOLY BIBLE. Having said all that, the fact that I was repulsed by her poem probably says a lot more about me than it does about her—and the fact that I still know that gives me hope.

On a more positive note, I liked Tjanting by Ron Silliman very much. Ironically, it reminds me in many ways of Weiner’s poem. They both convey a disjunctive stream of consciousness, but Clairvoyant Journal is exorcising demons while Tjanting is just distracted. In Silliman’s poem I could imagine an old, white-haired poet trying to overcome his writer’s block which was made all the more difficult because he could (cld) “barely grip the pen” (5). I was right there with him when he became sidetracked by the poppies growing out of the rockpile while the “cat on the bear rug naps” (54) and “(g)rease sizzles &/ spits on the stovetop” (54-55). I’m comforted to know that I am not the only person who makes the leap from “(t)hree/ friends with stiff necks” (70-71) to “(t)hree stiff friends with necks” (131) and, believe it or not, I don’t “like all those penises staring at me” (122) either! I have discovered, in Tjanting some of my new favorite lines in poetry. I especially like “Each sentence accounts for its place” (17) and “These gestures generate/ letters” (107-108). Not to mention, “Not everyone can/ make the sun come up” (161-162). I am now eager to check out more of Silliman’s poetry.

I am still pondering why these two, somewhat similar poems affected me so differently, but Google adwords gets results, what does “not to mention” mean?—am I using that correctly?, and, awww, she was so happy last night, but I should really take that cup downstairs to wash it, still, I need to remember to throw a calculator in my backpack in the morning, as long as I finish this journal by five-thirty I should be okay. Maybe it all comes down to this—Weiner’s schizophrenia frightens me while Silliman’s ADD is an affliction that I can really wrap my mind around (and around and around).

*I was so naive when I wrote this journal--seeing Weiner's Clairvoyant Journal in its original form has completely changed my opinion of it.

Friday, August 10, 2007

AM/TRAK by Amiri Baraka and Species Means Guilt by Bruce Andrews

What is this?

Journal # 4 – “AM/TRAK” by Amiri Baraka and “Species Means Guilt” by Bruce Andrews

It really pays to read AM/TRAK by Amiri Baraka while listening to jazz. I dug through my music collection and—SACRILEGE! —I couldn’t locate any John Coltrane. Fortunately I was swimming in music by fellow saxophonists’ Charlie Parker (who influenced Coltrane) and Dexter Gordon (who lived long enough to both influence and to be influenced by Trane—no small feat in a scene in which heroin addiction and alcoholism claimed the lives of many of the jazz greats much too early). Although I am far from being an aficionado, I have a deep appreciation for jazz and have spent time with Coltrane in the past—unfortunately my time was spent with the substandard sounds coming from the blown speaker in my Subaru Forester while Baraka’s time with Coltrane was a tad more intimate. Baraka achieves no small feat in AM/TRAK—he captures, on paper, the sound of jazz. He somehow manages to reproduce the syncopated rhythms and improvisation for the reader (or even more ideally, the listener), but he manages to do even more—he recreates a 60s free jazz scene loaded with raucous music (bahhhhhhh – heeeeeeee 5,38), hip characters (too cool to be a genius 4, 35), and endless nights of partying and excess (Alcohol we submit to thee/ 3x’s consume our lives/ our livers quiver under yr poison hits/ eyes roll back in stupidness 2, 13-16). AM/TRAK is not only an homage to one of the greatest jazz musicians of all-time, it is an homage to an era. Baraka’s recreation is so profane, so vivid, and so honest that I think I need to take an aspirin and download some Trane.

Oh Bruce Andrews, why do you taunt me? I found myself far more interested in how he created Species Means Guilt than in the actual content. Not that the content isn’t interesting—I mean, I was right there with “philosophical smiling kotex reconstruction” (22), but something was bugging me about the poem… I felt myself bouncing off of the surface of the method without really ever getting to immerse myself in the message*. Perhaps, for me, the sources themselves (boy, I’m really gonna feel dumb if he didn’t use sources) were too interesting to be bastardized. I love the line “I was castrated for seducing the local tax collector’s wife” (42). It makes me want to locate and read the original text—out of context, however, it seemed to be drawing too much attention to itself. I felt the same way with “impatience is not an achievement” (21) and, the final line, “Squirrels/ are happy without our help” (thank goodness!) (65-66). Even though these lines were likely pasted together by Andrews, they (and a few others) seem like they could exist outside of the poem and didn’t belong alongside the equally interesting, but more obscure “Well, don’t malice/ shown; only the bold choose liver, ass what gender” (13-14). And maybe that’s my frustration with the poem—there seems to be two separate (and equally interesting) poems going on in Species Means Guilt. But, I guess, as Andrews says in another of his poems, Bomb Then, Bomb Now, “If you want content, you have to pay extra” (28).

* maybe I am looking for something that doesn’t exist and was never intended to.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Wonderful Things by Ron Padgett and Leaving the Atocha Station by John Ashbery

What is this?

Journal # 3 – Wonderful Things by Ron Padgett and Leaving the Atocha Station by John Ashbery

Ah, how I look back on that heady time in my life, not so long ago, when words were simply words. A time before Saussure came along to tell me that a text really had no meaning at all until I, the reader, assigned one to it. And, if I had any doubt of the validity of his argument, along came Ron Padgett and John Ashbery to test me. Both Wonderful Things by Padgett and Leaving the Atocha Station by Ashbery are “difficult poems”—poems that don’t “mean” anything in a literal way. Lyn Hejinian, in her essay “The Rejection of Closure,” channels Goethe and the idea that there is a “rage to know” and that language inhibits that knowing. Trying to know the unknowable forces me to confront the language in the Padgett and Ashbery poems in unusual and sometimes uncomfortable ways. For example, in Wonderful Things, what exactly is a “tuba that is a meadowful of bluebells” (28)? The only clue we receive from Padgett is that it is “a wonderful thing” (29). Perhaps I missed something. Maybe if I stare a little longer at the zany chirping birds that are, apparently, riding our radio waves I will gain a better understanding. Hmmm—or maybe not. Is Padgett trying to make me feel like, in his words, a helpless moron? Or maybe a translation of the only line in French, “buveur de l’opium chaste et doux” (3) will provide a clue. Yes, “drinker of pure and soft opium”—that’s it! He was clearly high when he wrote this—that explains everything! Or is he talking about the dead Anne from the first line? Nevertheless, imagining that he was writing this in a hallucinogenic haze encouraged me to look at the poem from a less literal perspective, to see and appreciate the humor in it, and to release my preconceived notion that it had to be “about” something. In letting go, I enjoy Wonderful Things a great deal. Even so, there does seem to be a narrative going on in Padgett’s poem that I can wrap my mind around—I could take no such solace in Ashbery’s piece.

If Padgett’s poem is the stoned guy at the party with the perpetual smile, Ashbery’s poem, Leaving the Atocha Station, is the insane, bug-eyed guy on the corner blurting obscenities at passersby. Trying to force Ashbery’s poem into some kind of storyline proves futile and frustrating. Although it may be fun to hang out at the “epileptic prank forcing bar” (40) it is hard to be sure whether he is talking about a place or an object—or, just as likely, neither. I finally gave up trying to make sense of Ashbery’s poem and instead focused on the images that he creates and the structure itself. Even if I don’t get it, I still like to imagine how the “arctic honey blabbed over the report causing darkness” (1), or “the fried bats they sell there dropping from sticks” (3-4). Why does the “garment crow” (31) get his own line? Perhaps only the “fist”(64) can truly know. When Hejinian’s talks about a dictionary full of words that “seem frenetic with activity” (654) and finding the exchanges in definitions to be “ incompletely reciprocal,” (655) she is describing Leaving the Atocha Station. Just like the lunatic on the corner, Atocha demands your attention. You walk quickly by, day after day, trying to tune him out. Because you don’t have a clue what he’s ranting about you try to ignore him. And then, one day, after crazy guy is gone—in jail, frozen to death, institutionalized—you realize that you miss him, that you wish you had paid more attention to what he was saying while he was still there, pissing and cussing in the alley.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Language by Robert Creeley and Essay on Language by Wanda Coleman

What is this?

Journal # 2 – The Language by Robert Creeley and Essay on Language by Wanda Coleman

My initial response to Robert Creeley’s poem The Language was that I liked it a lot. The poem’s simplicity and structure appealed to me with its enjambment and discordant shape. The three separate readings in class also helped give it even more life and a deeper sense of substance for me. I held this opinion until I read it again on my own. Although I still like the poem and it still appeals to me on a certain level it seems, upon further examination, to be very much about structure and very little about substance. Yeah, okay, sometimes people say, “I love you” to fill the space—I get it. It has been said a million times before in a million different ways. I appreciate the uniqueness of Creeley’s approach, but if you read this straight through without the enjambment and look at the words themselves, separate from the structure, this could have been penned as a cheese-ball broken-hearted love song by any number of 80s bands like Journey or Air Supply. Okay, now that you’ve finished imagining Steve Perry belting out “THEN WHAT IS EMPTINESS FOR,” can you kind of see what I mean? I still like the poem, however, but now mainly for its shape rather than what it says. Perhaps I’m missing something, but now I have “any way you want it, that’s the way you need it, any way you want it” stuck in my head so I’ll move on to the Coleman piece.

My first response to Wanda Coleman’s poem Essay on Language, unlike Creeley’s poem, was that I didn’t like it very much. I thought “Oh great, how cliché, another African-American poet lamenting the struggles of her race.” She, of course, has every right to point out the travails of blacks in America’s egregious history with regard to race relations, it’s just that I’ve personally felt so inundated by the media for so long about racial issues that I’m practically numb to them. I don’t want to feel this way, mind you, but sometimes I think that by constantly focusing on our differences we will never be able to live in world free from racial prejudice or strife. So anyway, back to the poem. I read it again. I realized that Coleman was not speaking another language. By questioning her own beliefs she was able to draw me in and re-ignite my own empathy for the struggles of African-Americans. She says that they (I assume she’s talking about people like me) say,“the/ best fashion in which to escape linguistic ghettoization/ is to/ ignore the actuality of blackness blah blah blah and it will/ cease to/ have factual power over my life” (24-29). Of course this doesn’t make sense to her. She can’t ignore her blackness, just as I can’t ignore my maleness (or my coffee addiction). Going back to this poem I find more to enjoy with each reading. I’m glad that my first reaction didn’t preclude me from digging deeper because, unlike Creeley’s poem, there is a ton of substance in Essay on Language. I especially like where she asks us to “substitute writer for mirror, visionary for window, hack for/glass” (48-49). When we make the attempt we are rewarded with “…when a writer does not reflect what it is? not necessarily a visionary, merely hack? can it be something other than a hack? and once it becomes a hack can it ever be a writer again?” Wanda Coleman’s poem is beautifully and eloquently written by someone who clearly knows what she’s talking about—someone like, say, Steve Perry.