Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Getting dangerously nostalgic

Working wine retail on Thanksgiving was an insane time, more wine was sold on Thanksgiving Eve than Christmas Eve. The build up was slow the weekend before and then boom! Tuesday and Wednesday were as busy as it got. Salesman flying in and out, special orders filled in a panic. Will the check clear? Dollars and merchandise had to be flipped.

Last night with the Beaujolais Nouveau always brings back memories of Thanksgiving pressure. A lot of change went to buy that wine, and it had to go by Christmas or it would sit months into the new year.

There were good years here in Columbus, and very bad years. There was success at the Holiday. The owner would always go to Ray Johnson’s for shrimp and the horse radish sauce. We’d open up a few bottles of good champagne to go with it. Times were almost happy. At the Grandview Avenue spot, not so much. The owner screwed up purchasing again, completely ignored the lower priced wine and homebrewers, and saying no to customers became tiring to the point of depression.

After I quit, for years after I would have this adrenaline rush around the holidays. I’d been in retail for 13 years and then I was out. The pressure working for Barnes and Noble was nowhere close to the energy I’d get out of selling wine that I had a hand in purchasing or knew about. That urge finally left a few years ago.

I still do not know how I did it, because at the end of the last run I was broken. My marriage was broken and it took a long time to return to something close to intact.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

More on Propaganda for Preemies

I am very jealous of Dawn Raffel for having written The Strange Case of Dr. Couney: How A Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies. It’s a book and topic that has been in my head, hard drive and in a file of papers now on a bookshelf for about seventeen years.
After my son was born premature, I looked at a lot of books about premature babies and read about an Infantorium where the babies were hospitalized on Coney Island. Wait, what? Was my reaction and I immediately began searching online for any and all information on Dr. Couney. There was not much in 2002. I found Dr. William Silverman’s work from the 70’s and 80’s, a few scattered articles and little else.

I tried to find out more on the Doctor, his patients and ran into many dead ends. I did have a single email from one of his former patients which was great but did not lead to anything further. I spoke on the phone to one of the organizers of the Coney Island History Museum. He told me there was at least one person working on a book and when I asked if he had any idea where Dr. Couney’s papers were he said, “No, do you?”

While reading Ms. Raffel’s excellently researched book I saw that she had the same discoveries and dead ends that I did. Like her, I wanted to contact Dr. Silverman, but was unable to as he had died. But she had the ability to dig further, deeper and the talent to write it down beautifully. She was also unable to find his papers, and found out a lot more about his daughter than I was able to, with added speculation about her history. I always thought she was the key to a lot of his story, but most of that died with her.

Where I was able to find one of his former patients, Ms. Raffel was able to find several, and it led to a joyful reunion of some of them.

There is a great mystery to Dr. Martin Couney’s life, which is what compelled me to look into it for more than several hours a year over the past seventeen. It’s ability that I lacked in writing it down and Dawn Raffel has written a wonderful book that leaves a lot of questions open, but also provides many answers and unlocks more than a few doors about the profound life of a very enigmatic man.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Cars saved my life in high school

In the late 1970's, as a lonely high school kid, I thought The Cars were the coolest. Their debut and Candy-O lived on my turntable. There was something aloof about Ocasek. He seemed to be above all the craziness of rock stardom (he was about 10 years older, in his mid 30's, than everyone else). Great chords, flashy solos by Elliot Easton, quirky seemingly interchangeable vocals of Orr and Ocasek. It was all brought together by the stellar production of Roy Thomas Baker, who produced Queen's greatest work.

The Cars were the first band I ever saw live, although technically it was the opening band, XTC. We were in the last row of the Nassau Coliseum. We were still buzzed from a bottle of Canadian Club and I remember they chose a weird song, Shoo Be Doo as the opener. They were not flashy, and I am not sure if they were an ever meant to be arena band and I never did connect with the Panorama album - the one they were touring on. But it was not a bad show.

They really took off with the Shake It Up and Heartbeat City records, and those records were good, but I was moving on to other music.

Ocasek put out a few uneven solo records, reunited the group after Ben Orr's death. I was not really listening anymore. The memories will always be good though, and always there.

A few years ago, his daughter in law owned an art gallery in the Short North and put on a show of his work, which I did not really connect with. He was here for the opening and I was walking south on High and saw him and his family (including his wife Paulina) coming toward me. He was in black, black and white tie tied loosely around his neck, dark sunglasses on. He did not look much different than the late 70's. I was too stunned to say anything. I was stunned to see the news of his death cross my social media tonight.

Rest in Peace, Ric. Thank you for the music.



September is a busy month

Summer is leaving and fall, on the calendar at least because it's not in the air yet, is fast arriving. The Mets are on the outside looking in of a crazy wild card race, Everton are off to their embracing of mediocrity and somewhere in there I had a poetry feature.

As part of the Streetlight Guild's Rhapsody and Refrain series, I was asked by Scott Woods to take part. I agreed with some quiet trepidation as I have not read in public at any length for some time and writing has been, to be honest, very tough.

Yet I persevered and brought together a selection of poems, new and old.

For posterity, here's the set list

I already know about John Wayne, open a book (new)
The view from the patio of Atomic Liquors, Las Vegas, on a pleasant 95 degree evening (New)
Planned on this being about a rich Brit in an airport lounge calling Angela Merkel a nazi, but I'm keeping it local
The morning nod (new)
Notation
Before we went to Paris
Imposter father
From the streets of the under served
The luckiest ones
Is gun
David's rock
Ten reasons why I'd rather sit in my basement with a guitar than read a poem (new)
Space: the bigly frontier
After birth
Workshopping a strategic planning task force
For daredevils
The nail spa couch (new)
The last old reel spins (new)
All time none of the time
An obscene phone call from Mr. Potato Head

It went well, I hate my own work more than anyone and I felt comfortable with my personal review. Thought it was presented and paced properly. May have been too shouty, but that was my nerves and excitement. People seem to have genuinely liked it, and that counts the most.

Brought out the Danelectro guitar (and matching Hodad amp) for the 'ten reasons why poem' and tried to do a short riff between the stanzas. All I will say is it sounded better in the basement with no one watching. It looked really good though!

Felt alright to get back out there, maybe this month will inspire me to keep writing.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Early promotion

On Wednesday, September 11th, I will be taking part in a reading sponsored by Streetlight Guild at Kafe Kerouac. 30 poets will be reading in 30 days in the Rhapsody and Refrain Series. I'm humbled and honored to be one of them.

It's been awhile since I've read anywhere and I've written some new poems for this event. There will be new and old poems, I'll even take requests in advance.

Here's my Instagram Page for more information.