Wednesday, April 29, 2009

When the wrong poem is the wrong poem

It was another great night of poetry at Writer's Block. After a short, but healthy, open mic - nine poets were competing in the slam.

I drew sixth, which was a good spot for me.

Read that angry poem I mentioned a few days ago. Had some good fury going. Messed up a line or two but still finished in second for the round, which meant I went second, after Vernell in round two.

I had a couple of poems on my side board to choose from. Both new, one never read. I mistakenly went for the topical Talking Swine Flu Blues.

It went over like Greg Norman at the 1996 Masters.

I fell from second place to sixth. Must stop over analyzing and go with what I had this morning, before I had the bad idea this afternoon. Live and learn, again.

Congratulations to Vernell, who won. Scott came in second. Louise and Rachel W. tied for third. It was Rachel's first slam!

Next slam is on May 20th. The Grand Slam, for Nats is May 27th. May is going to be a crazy month.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Panther Crawl

The comedies of Ealing Studios have a real charm and wit. They also have a soul. I got a box set from the library of their earlier, little shown films that I'm sure will enthrall me over the next few days.

First up, I watched Whisky Galore, the first film directed by Alexander Mackendrick, the director of one of my favorite films, The Ladykillers.

It's 1943 and a remote Scottish island has run out of whisky. Then, a cargo ship containing 50,000 cases of the nectar runs aground. Before it sinks, the residents of the island snatch a few cases for themselves.

The excise taxmen are brought in to investigate. There are a couple of sweet romances, an awesome scene in which the residents sing as they're getting drunk for the first time in a long while. It's a very funny movie. I'm not very familiar with the cast, but I did recognize Joan Greenwood. Can't wait to watch this again with my girl so she can translate some of it as the accents can be a bit thick which, combined with 1948 sound, can be a bit tough for me to pick out.

A few years ago, there was an attempt to remake this beloved film, it did not go over very well.

There are four more films to watch. Maybe over the weekend, or I'll wait a bit longer to savor these wonderful comedies.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Girl, do you ever blink?

I bought a VCR at a friend's garage sale yesterday. I was not sure it worked, but the price was worth the risk. Heck, the RCA cable I bought cost more than the player.

Hooked it up and it seems to work ok. I played the first few minutes of A Hard Day's Night because it embodies all that is good in the world. It's a nice thing to have when my son needs a desperate form of entertainment. There's a lot of kids stuff on tape here, and we'll probably go through it to see what still plays and what does not.

Something I did play for him today is a personalized Dora the Explorer video. I think his grandmother or great-grandmother bought it for him when he was two or three.

He's been walking around the house with the tape in his hand. Looking at it with longing. And I felt bad because I had nothing to play it on.

Just so you know. I hate Dora. Her blank stare. Her learned helplessness. Her lack of self reliance. Her lame friends. Can't stand the kid. But, for my son, I make sacrifices. So I played the tape.

He payed some attention to it. It's a special episode and his name is edited in so it sounds like nails on a chalkboard. One of his old pictures is used in a major plot point. It's kind of cool, sweet and creepy all at once.

A lot may be happening this week. A lot is happening this week. April is leaving in a spring. May 2009 is going to be one busy month.

Friday, April 24, 2009

I have a tracking number

I have to admit my day was better than the six months pregnant women who was walking in the woods, got chased by a bear then hit by a car.

By checking a wrong box on a form, it cost $41.95 to send said, corrected, form 3,600 miles in two days. That's a lot of stamps.

Live and learn, and continue to wait.

In other news, it looks like I'm going to be interviewed about the Arts Fest gig on WCBE. The interview is next Thursday. Not sure on the air date but I'll let you know.

Earlier, I went to dinner at a Chinese place. I've been such a wreck today the fortune cookie slipped out of my hand and hit the floor. It broke open.

Here's what the fortune said:

"Good news from afar may bring you a welcome visitor."

The fortune is now on the refrigerator. I swear if the thing had lottery numbers on it I'd have played them.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Speed of Things

It's over. 6-5 Detroit. An absolutely brutal too many men on the ice penalty led to a power play goal with 46 seconds left. Crappy way to lose a game. A loss for the home team means the season is over. I would have liked to see the Blue Jackets win one game at home, for themselves, the fans, the uniform. The Blue Jackets played hard, coming back to tie after being down 3-1, then 5-3. The crowd did not give up, it was the loudest it's ever been in Nationwide Arena, but the bounces and calls went the Red Wings way - and Osgood had been on fire in net. Tonight, though, they have found some chinks in his armor.

This was one heck of a hockey game. The Blue Jackets left it all out there. Even Russell and Modin had goals. Easily the most intense game the Blue Jackets have ever played. No shame in losing to an obviously better talented Red Wings team.

It's a fine learning tool for next season though.

Got to hand it to the crowd. They were loud and supportive all night long, even when they were down two goals.

A lot going on behind the screen here. Stuff to worry about. There's a lot of work to do. Got the lawn mowed after work. Going to be a glorious weekend and I do not want to do anything other than enjoy the weather, and start cleaning.

One of the weirdest things about this year so far is that the two best books I've read have been poetry. More on this as I form it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Catharsis that left me shaking

Wrote what may be the angriest poem I've written to date today. Went to Cup O' Joe after work to build on what I scratched out between processing books, then formulated more of it in the car while waiting for a train to go by. Sometimes the thoughts and the process turns up my adrenaline so high. It was hard to catch my breath. It may be a piece of junk, we'll see, but the experience of writing it was intense.

Read a couple of books. One of them is the worst fiction I've finished this year. It's about the Arbuckle murder trial. I was unimpressed with the author's locker room talk. Then found out he was a college football player at Auburn. Which may explain that but not all the misogyny. He tried to be clever by inserting Dashiell Hammett into the plot. It does make historical sense as he was a Pinkerton operative and worked on the case. While that was the most interesting part of the book, the graphic and unnecessary violence toward women put me off. Even the solving of the murder, and the placement of a certain newspaper citizen mogul and his paramour into the solution was weak. Heck, I hated this book which is another work of fiction on Arbuckle and still found it more entertaining than this piece of dreck.

The new book by Michel Faber is a bit more satisfying.

It's a slim volume, well anything of his is slim in comparison to The Crimson Petal and the White, which you should all have read by now. In The Fire Gospel a down on his luck linguist discovers a set of manuscripts in a bombed out statue in an Iraqi museum. He smuggles them out, translates them and discovers they are the work of Malchus, a man who was actually witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus and reveals some information that changes the course of Christianity. But this is no Da Vinci Code (and hey, Dan Brown's new one is coming out in September) and Faber uses a lot of dark wit and situations to form a quick, but ultimately blase conclusion. I enjoyed the book, but it's a trifle. I really need to find something I can sink my teeth into right now. Because changes are a coming.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

As the Blue Jackets Lose, Again.

Returned home safe and sound from Long Island today. Put the bags down and checked the answering machine (yes, I still have one of those) and there was a message from an old Live Journal pal. Ziggy was in town for the day, and was at Goodale Park. So I got some food into my son and headed out there, still unpacked. It was good to finally meet her and her son.

Getting laundry done, and plotting a cleaning schedule. Even organized some poems, as June is just around the corner and May is going to be a whirlwind of activity. I'll be getting blown all over the place just like at Robert Moses yesterday.

Surf was up. It was bright, cold and windy out there.

We had a very good time east. Saw some people we have not seen in awhile. Parents look good. My son was quite social, to the delight of my Mom. I cannot say enough how good he was. He behaved beautifully, through layovers and waiting in line to being driven around in an electric car by a seven year old girl - he was wonderful and I'm so proud of him.

Hope I can stay up to watch the webcast of Glasvegas at Coachella. Big day tomorrow as the FA Cup semifinals are on. Go Everton. Please?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Room service

Lack of space has the kid and I sharing a bed.

He talks in his sleep.

I steal the covers.

Cousins unseen in over twenty years have shown up.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Headed east for a few days. May update from the road. May not.

Have lots of fun adventures people!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bird Flown

You came ready to play
So young that a wad of bubble gum
replaced chaw in your mouth
Scouts took a chance on you
while your manager did not for the first month of the season
Once he realized you could control your pitches
and throw a 95 mile an hour fastball
that jumped past the batter
and exploded in the catcher's mitt
you were put in the rotation
By then, America noticed

They could have been scared off
by your unorthodox enthusiasm
on the mound
The way you filled in the cleat marks you made between pitches
No one had seen such stunts on the mound
since Rube Waddell chased fire engines
seventy years before

Your arm and your act put fans in the seats
Teams would beg for you to start on their turf during road trips
to see your hat fall off between pitches
only to be put on over your unruly, curly locks.
You brought your joy to the mound
and threw nothing but strikes
They were intrigued
when you flapped your arms at the start of innings
to warm yourself up
They called you The Bird
And when you began speaking to the ball
telling it
imploring it what to do before every pitch
They called you box office
And when you filled stadiums
They made you an All Star

You won nineteen games
Lost nine
Named rookie of the year
You were twenty one years old

The next spring training
While goofing off in the outfield
You tore up your knee
You tried throwing off of it too soon
And screwed up your pitching shoulder

For three or four more years
you tried to make comebacks
But the damage was done
At the age of twenty five
you went back home to Massachusetts
And became a Sports Illustrated
Where are they now story

And I was at the Olde Mohawk
watching the Cubs play
A former Columbus mayor and his wife
sitting behind me
When your face appeared on the screen
With the year of your birth
Followed by the year of your death
Fifty four is too young
Ten years older than me

And on a day when baseball announcers drop dead
in the press box
Porn stars die in double wide trailers
Friends marriages lay on fault lines
Record producers get convicted of murder
And work turned into a turf war
This was too much
Too much

But I will fight off this hitter
The way you did
Tossing down the resin bag in a cloud of talc
Grasping my pen
And telling it
what to do

For Mark Fidrych (1954-2009)


Wrote that at the Rumba Cafe bar tonight. Man, that one got to me.

I read there tonight at the Poetry Forum. It's a very serious group of poets. Clapping is limited. I have to say it's a great venue for poetry. Reminds me of a sixties coffeehouse where Woody Allen would do stand up or Dylan would play. Louise showed up, so WB represented - as well at Arts Fest 1/2.

Brought the A Game and read After Birth, went over well. It's rare that I get there because I have my son on Monday nights. I hope it's not another three years before I get to read there again.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Totally bummed

Word has come out that Nancy's, a local Columbus restaurant, is closing on June first

This is one of the good things about Columbus. I bring people from out of town here. It's one of the few greasy spoon places in the city. The clientele is diverse. Homeless eat here, the city attorney eats here, hockey players eat here. I eat here after I get my haircut at Lucky 13 next door. It's one place to get a true cross section of the people in this city. Columbus is all about Nancy's.

(picture from

And on June first it ends.

Cindy was a hard working woman who gave a lot of food away to people who could not afford her already cheap meals and helped those who needed it, especially the elderly. I'm very, very sad to see it end like this.

I'm left at a loss for words, and for what to do.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Spring Reading

Reading has picked up the last few weeks. Even with my mind elsewhere on very important things I managed to squeeze in three books.

First up is Michael Davis' 'Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street.

I found this book to be both informative and frustrating. Learning how the show evolved and the efforts it took to get the government grants to fund the show was fascinating. I also learned a lot about Captain Kangaroo, which I never watched. Bob Keeshan was a cantankerous man with a sincere talent to entertain and educate children. What I did not feel enough was the presence of Jim Henson and many of the people who made Sesame Street the cultural icon it became. We hear way too much about the producers of the show, and their talents and limitations. Plus, I felt the Northern Hollaway (who played David) was dealt with rather disrespectfully while the roles of all the characters who played Gordon were barely mentioned. And Henson, with his sudden death, left a mess for his family to clean up concerning his verbal agreements with Disney.

I'm not sure Davis could have written a better book though. I think an oral history of the program, with all the actors and writers of the program would give the show its due.

Next up is a book that has some relation to the first. I Can See Clearly Now by Brendan Halpin.

Halpin is known as a writer of Young Adult novels but also has several adult works under his belt. This is one of the latter. It's a fictionalized telling of how the children's program Schoolhouse Rock was made. Halpin tells the story from the view of the musicians and songwriters who worked on the project. This is one of the book's major flaws. There are five viewpoints, and the narrative gets muddled because Halpin is unable to give the characters distinct voices. It's well researched with plenty of early 1970's references that are spot on. There's plenty of drug use, as a coffee can of herb is always in the studio to provide inspiration. This is a book I wanted to like, as Halpin is a very sincere and hard working author. Not a book I can recommend though. Try this one instead.

Finally, the memoir.

If you know me, you already know about my admiration for Kurt Vonnegut. When I saw that one of his former students, who had an affair with him, had written a book about it - my b.s. detector went off. I was pleasantly surprised that Loree Rackstraw did not do a hatchet job on him. Instead she wrote a fair book that may be a bit over kind to his work. Rackstraw and K.V. met in the sixties when he was teaching at the University of Iowa, they became very close. Eventually their affair turned into a life long friendship. It's also a critical assessment of most of K.V.'s work, and that gets a bit gushing at times. But their friendship is a kind one, and it's good to see someone I admired greatly shown to be a decent, but far from perfect man.

All right. Next up. Blue Jackets vs. Blackhawks. Blue Jackets need ONE POINT to make the playoffs for the first time. I may be back later!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Afternoon Snack

Called off work today so I kept sleeping this morning. Feeling better, still a bit out of balance.

When I went to Wise Choice in Huber Heights a couple of weeks back I picked up something I may have heard my girlfriend talk about in passing, or maybe some other Brit. Jaffa Cakes.

I saw the box and was intrigued by the prospects of putting "orangey center yippee!" cakes with "the squidgy orange bit" into my body. But life is all about risks, especially when it comes to British food. Do Jaffa Cakes come deep fried?

They're pretty darn tasty, and all the orangey goodness on a cake is there as advertised on the box. You can't have one of them at a time either, and I only have two left!

Washed down with a fresh can of Lilt, and your late day sugar rush is complete.

I first tried Lilt over the summer after finding a can at Jungle Jim's. Was not sure of the freshness of the can as it was the last one there. It was also dented and tasted a bit off.

Not so this one. All the tangyness of the grapefruit is balanced with the pineapple and citrus to make a perfectly refreshing beverage. This can was made in Ulster (with real sugar) and I'm not sure if it's made anywhere else besides Northern Ireland.

Still have a couple of untouched bottles of Irn-Bru and she's bringing more when she gets here, maybe with extra Jaffa Cakes too.

I'm lucky to have found some Passover Coke this year as well. Look for the two liter bottles with the yellow cap (they're Kosher) and send me one!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

As winter returns to Ohio

All weekend I've been out of synch. Been flying all over the place, eating junk, not sleeping near enough. There's too much on my mind and it's not settling well inside me. Did manage to clean out a bunch of junk and garbage, there's still a long way to go.

In better news Scott Woods successfully completed his fourth consecutive 24 hour poetry marathon. Well done!

Managed to watch one film. Bottle Shock is based on a true story. A now famous wine tasting in 1976 that pitted the best that France had to offer vs. the best of the United States. The tasting was done blind and the American wines placed ahead of the French counterparts. This event put U.S. wine on the world map.

Alan Rickman was wonderful as Steven Spurrier, the British wine shop owner who sponsored the tasting.

It also starred Bill Pullman and Eliza Dushku, who was not in the film near enough, for many reasons.

While walking down the parking lot to work last week I heard the sound of geese honking. Not unusual, but I did not see any flying overhead. I'm not sure I've ever seen geese on a roof before, but there they were.

I also think they were taunting me.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

This is where you should be this weekend, son

To promote National Poetry Month Scott Woods is going to read poetry for 24 hours straight.

This is no easy task. He's reserved the first and last hours for his own outstanding poetry and the other 22 hours will be filled in by an hour's set of 22 other great poets.

Why does he do this?

Because he's crazy hardcore Scott Woods.

So if you go to Kafe Kerouac chances are you will see this.

Why is he sitting? You try standing up there, reading poetry for an hour. He's doing it for 24!

If you're good you may see this.

And if you're really good, and if the stars are aligned right, you may get to see some of this.

One way or another, there's going to be some hot action on stage.

Last week I took my son to his first poetry reading at Kickstart, where they sell coffee and scooters. They won a customer by being so cool when he wandered around behind the counter.

Scott wrote this poem that night and read it. I was touched.

Neil doesn't speak, but he does.
He rides a third rail no one else saw
when they came in.

He rides it like a tricycle.
It would electrocute anyone else.
We all still want to ride.

He speaks; we just
don't know the language.
It is a playing card in the spokes

of a bike I used to have,
but lost, but found,
but never ride anymore.

So Neil stole my bike,
but really: he rides it
better than I ever did

Kafe Kerouac is at 2250 North High Street, just north of Lane Avenue. The marathon starts at eight tonight.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I feel a lot older than I should. Some nights at Writers Block I'm the oldest person in the room. Really.

There were a couple of poets who featured last year who really influenced me. Hey look, a couple of old guys who are still slamming. There's hope for me yet!

The first is Bill Campana. The guy's a Dali on the mic.

He's also insane. His series of Cheney haiku was evil and brilliant, just like Dick himself!

There was a night at Writers Block when an old man showed up and started talking to the host. I asked who he was. "The feature," I was told. He changed his schedule and was a week early.

Jack McCarthy blew my mind that night. His gentle power on the mic is a stark contrast to all the slam poets who try to spew out seventeen syllables per second. I like that.

Because he's so great I'm posting another.