Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Somewhere between 50 and 75

The deadline for applying for the Columbus Arts Festival has passed. If you submitted your poems, thank you. I'm fairly certain there were a record number of applicants this year.

You know what that means, right?

Competition is going to be tough. Any poet appearing on that stage is going to earn that spot. And if that poet earns it, it should be considered a big accomplishment. In the past, sometimes it may have felt like a rubber stamp to appear at the Arts Festival. That anyone and everyone who submitted and auditioned got a slot. Not so this year, not even close. This also means that the quality of poetry on The Word is Art Stage is going to be exceptional. This was a goal, and it's going to be achieved once the auditions are completed.

I had a number of applicants in mind when I started, and got a chuckle in return so I lowered my sights and the final number came in between the original and revised numbers. I'm very pleased.

Speaking of record numbers, for some reason January 2013 has had a record number of page views here. Thanks to all of you for stopping by, wherever you are.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The cheap felt that makes you happy

It was a banner shopping day, and not because I replenished the whiskey stock in the house. Or because I found out my debit card is cracked, yet still works so I no longer feel impotent. I've written about the skill crane before. My son likes to press the button when I get the claw in position, but I've never won with him present.

Not so today. After putting in my buck, which gives four plays, I lined up the claw and asked Neil to push the button. It went around the frog, grabbed it up and into the bin. Skill crane victory!

You would think the day is done after you win once, but we still have three plays left, so I looked for a brother to the Skill Crane Victory Frog. My son was excited as I lined up the claw and had another go.

I'd never won twice in a row before. My son was jumping up and down, clapping as the frog was deposited in the slot! I gave him one of the frogs, and he tried to put it back in the game through the glass, he just wanted to press the button and watch the claw.

Tried again, still had two plays left. Darn near pulled up the pink penguin, but it was not meant to be. Two wins on the skill crane, a day that will live forever.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Neil's Page Turner

Stillness is difficult in my son. From the moment he wakes up, he is constantly in motion. It has always been hard, and rare, to be able to sit and read to him. He would always turn the pages out of my hands. When he does have a book, the pages turn quickly, as if he was thumbing through a magazine. I'm fairly certain he can read, but determining the level is difficult.

This afternoon my wife and I were lying on our bed, he was in his room and I asked him to come see us. He climbed on and played with my eyebrows for awhile, which has been one of his recent passions. He says "eyebrows" long and sinister.

After a while he went back to his room and starting repeating the same nonsensical sentence over and over. I asked him to stop, to come see me and bring a book.

He brought this book with him. I opened it up and started to read. To my surprise he let me, leaning into me as I continued.

When I finished he said, "The end," took the book from me, closed it, handed the book back to me. I asked him what he wanted, he said, "Bears." "What about the bears?" I asked. "Book," was his reply.

Read the book five more times to him, trying to prompt him to say what he wanted. Got him to say "read" and "to me." It's very hard to draw meaningful words out of him, but for a few minutes on a Saturday afternoon something clicked between us a little.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The timing that cuts deep

Been one of those nights when you pick up a book after wrestling with a scanner, and this is the second poem in the book.

A Fantasy

I'll tell you something: every day
people are dying. And that's just the beginning.
Every day, in funeral homes, new widows are born,
new orphans. They sit with their hands folded,
trying to decide about this new life.

Then they're in the cemetery, some of them
for the first time. They're frightened of crying,
sometimes of not crying. Someone leans over,
tells them what to do next, which might mean
saying a few words, sometimes
throwing dirt in the open grave.

And after that, everyone goes back to the house,
which is suddenly full of visitors.
The widow sits on the couch, very stately,
so people line up to approach her,
sometimes take her hand, sometimes embrace her.
She finds something to say to everbody,
thanks them, thanks them for coming.

In her heart, she wants them to go away.
She wants to be back in the cemetery,
back in the sickroom, the hospital. She knows
it isn't possible. But it's her only hope,
the wish to move backward. And just a little,
not so far as the marriage, the first kiss.

Louise Gluck

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Empty shopping bag

Maybe I've been on a streak of bad luck while thrifting recently but the quality of stuff in the second hand stores I usually go to has been shit.

Sure, it's a hunt, a crap shoot and sometimes plain luck. But the past few months there has been absolutely nothing I'm interested in buying. The stores are even more run down, disorganized and a total mess. I'm also seeing a lot of total junk given a ridiculous price tag.

Are the stores putting their better merchandise on ebay, and completely bypassing the store shelves? Or are donations down during tough economic times?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

And good for Bourbon too

I appreciate a good glass with my beverages. Of course, there are times when I'll drink out of anything but when you have a decent drink of something it's pleasing to be drinking it out of a proper glass.

I've had fine wines out of hand blown Riedel crystal glasses and have noted the differences, especially in the aromas. Does a $75 glass make a $100 wine taste better? Not really, but there are flavors and smells that are brighter.

Having a wine glass with a stem is important. Spending money on wine when dining out and getting it in something that resembles a bathroom tumbler is bad form. Sure, I get that a place wants to save money on breakage, but really? I've ranted about this before.

There's a really good newer place downtown called Manifesto Tuscan & Scotch Bar. The food is decent, the ambience interesting and the whisky selection is excellent. I get my whiskies neat, no ice and they serve it in a very appropriate glass called a Glencairn Glass. A few nights ago I ordered a nice Auchentoshan. To open it up a little bit I poured a little bit into it from my water glass. No big deal, I do this all the time. Within seconds there was a manager at table side, with a small water pitcher specifically designed to add water to a whiskey glass I was stunned at the level of detail and service provided. This was done at the Bow Bar in Edinburgh and a few other places in Scotland, but I've never seen it happen here.

Been trying to find one in the city. World Market failed on several occasions, it was ridiculously expensive at Williams/Sonoma. Ok, it was a Riedel and I was not going to spend that much! Finally found one at Crate & Barrel and it passed the test earlier tonight.

It's a good fit in my life, my new whiskey receptacle friend.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

But Jesus, what brave losers we are

Early this morning, Jack McCarthy died. I've written about him a few times, most notedly here. It's very sad, but not unexpected. His voice has been silenced, but his words and influence will remain. The subject header of this post is a line from one of Jack's poems. Rest in peace, Jack. And thank you.

Jack was a Haiku Master, winning the championship at IWPS in 2007. Tomorrow night I'll be taking part in a Haiku Death Match for Writers' Block First Draft. It's the Haiku Nuku January event. Starts at 8PM at Kafe Kerouac.

I have very little to say about Lance Armstrong, but can add a couple of pennies about the drama that is surrounding Mantei Te'o. It's very depressing when one goes to such a deep effort of creating a person online whose only purpose seem to be manipulative. A few years ago I was in a situation where Catfishing was created and people close to me were drawn into and manufacturing the craziness. It's not fun and potentially harmful. So if Te'o was sucked in and is a victim, he has my sympathy. However, I do think he was involved in the hoax based on his claims that he met the girl in person. It's a weird situation all around.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Let's talk about Jesse

Had a meeting in the Main Library today. After, I checked out some of the special collections exhibits.

Where else but at The Ohio State University would you find the couch that was in Woody Hayes' office behind ropes?

There also a very cool exhibit that honors Jesse Owens in the 100th anniversary of his birth. He went to the university. Never received a scholarship because of the color of his skin. Imagine that.

There's a neat display of memorabilia of his from the 1936 Olympics, in which he received a photograph from Hitler, but nothing from President Roosevelt.

It's not everyday you get to see four Olympic Gold Medals in the same place.

On May 25th 1935 at a Big Ten Track Meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Owens did what may have been the greatest sports feat of all time. He tied the world record in the 100 yard dash, set world records in the long jump, 220 yard sprint and 220 yard low hurdles - all in a time span of 45 minutes.

That's one of the shoes he wore, bronzed, in the case. Owens still holds the school record in the long jump.

Easily one of the greatest athletes that ever was.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Did we really judge records and careers based on one single?

It was quite the pleasant shock when David Bowie released a single on Tuesday. It was the first new music from him in ten years and I did not think he would ever share music with the world again.

The backlash has been amazing. The song I will admit is not the best song in the history of songs, far from it. But so may have been comparing it to his earlier work, saying his voice is shot, that the song sucks and he does too, that Bowie is over rated, that he's releasing his music wrong and so much more.

The man is 66 years old. He is not the coked up mystery man in makeup that he was in the seventies. He is not the hit machine he was in the early eighties. He is not the man who made some questionable moves in the late eighties and nineties. Yes, I remember Tin Machine too.

Producer Tony Visconti says the record is much more upbeat than the initial single, Where Are We Now. I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of the record.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What I have not put in Facebook status updates or tweets.

I was at a Barnes and Noble recently, looking through the magazine rack I noticed about half a dozen soccer magazines, none of which were there when I worked there six years ago. I know print has changed, but you know the subject is gaining in popularity.

During last month's storm, the gutter on the front of my house was partially ripped out and hung there in the snow and ice. No way I was going up there. No way a repairman was going up there. Luckily it hung on until the snow and ice melted and I was pleased to find out it was repaired yesterday afternoon. Yes, I have to pay for it, but it's peace of mind.

This last month has been a struggle. Grief is all around me, and it's hard.

I really do not give a shit about who has and who has not been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year.

Hey, we've extended the deadline to apply to read at the 2013 Columbus Arts Festival. Poets, you have until January 28th to submit. You can do that here. It's quick, fun, and free. Showcase your work in one of the coolest venues the city offers you.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Touts est Eh?

The NHL lockout appears to be over. After over 100 days and the cancellation of the Winter Classic and the All Star Game, which would have been in Columbus - owners and players have finally figured out how to share revenue and their toys, for another few years at least.

Have to admit I have not missed the game. There are plenty of other things to do than sit around and invest my time in watching an increasingly public (and casino revenue) funded sports franchise charge ridiculous money for tickets and even more for a 16oz cup of soda.

Here in Columbus, the Blue Jackets are an often maligned excuse for a professional sports franchise, with only one losing playoff effort in 12 years of existence. It's hard to support a perennial losing team. It's hard to support a team that was forced to trade away it's one marketable player in Rick Nash.

Caring became hard during the lockout. At one point, I could not name the coach of the team and had to look it up. Hi Todd Richards. The franchise is once again attempting another rebuild with a new coach, a new manager of operations in the respected, but not as successful on the ice as you think, John Davidson.

On paper, the roster as it stands have no proven goal scorers, a potentially solid defense and highly questionable goaltending. Still not a playoff team.

Not sure what it's going to take to get me to Nationwide Arena this season. I'm sure the organization interns will begin calling me as soon as a 48-50 game schedule is announced, and attempt to sell me a package of games. I might be locking them out for the next 100 days or so myself, and see where they are in the standings when this sprint of a season nears its end.

As of right now, they're tied for first.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Maybe I'm callously belaboring the point

Until a friend posted this article on Facebook, I had not really looked at this poem in three years.

In November of 2009 I was asked if I'd like to be in a poem a day group online. There would be critique and, I thought, support. Coming out of IWPS I had not written anything and thought it would be a good way to kick start the process. I knew only a couple poets of the dozen or so that were in the group and wondered how that would go. The first mistake I made was not knowing the audience.

The poem was in no way finished, and greatly flawed. It was about all I'd had written and I threw myself into the fray with the first poem submitted to the group.

The first comment I received back was, in part, "To this, my rebuttal will be: YOU ARE WRONG." (sic) And to, "please think seriously about food and your relationship with it; I think that would make for stronger and more convincing material."

Here is where I wanted to say to please think about how you interact with strangers over the internet you have never met but I was not in the mood to go on with a fight with a complete unknown on day one. I also received some feedback that the punctuation needed work, that it was too straight forward. (Much of what I write is, I know my flaws) but the poem was not a personal attack. More of a snarky rant that was admittedly without focus. A first draft.

Never had another comment from the person who made the first critique for the rest of the month. Somehow I did manage to write 30 poems that November, not everyone in the group could. Without going back and looking I'm not sure if any of my work has stuck around in my rotation. There was a decent pantoum in the mix.

It was my first, and so far last, experience of working with a group online and I have no great desire to repeat the experience with anyone. Errors were made. It felt like high school and I got very little out of it. Day one was not one that gave me any enthusiasm to continue with any group projects in the future.

Anyhow, here's my rewrite of the piece, warts and all, which I've worked on the past couple of days. Maybe it's a piece of nonsense with a "napkin-dangling straw man" (yeah, the first critique again) but it's done. Sometimes you have to burn shit, or never reveal it. Sometimes they have to be released, somewhere, even when it's not an open mic night. Hey, I have a blog for that!

Pin the tail on the sacred cow

I do not want to know the biography, genetics, the family tree of every animal I eat
Nor do I wish to know the amount of water, what kind of fertilizer
the level of organic biodynamic, whatever.
Or whether the beans were direct descendants of Mendel's experiments
which goes into the plants I consume 

To be told the stress level of the vines and how many grape varietals went into the blend of that French wine from the Rhone I drank too much of
last night is beyond my level of caring. 
Been there, failed to be a sommelier.

I like music, and knowing about musicians
But wanting to know when, where and who Charlie Parker
shot up with before he recorded Orinthology -
or Jim Morrison's blood alcohol content
when he recorded Roadhouse Blues is not information I care to seek out
It’s not going to make the voice sound any clearer,
give the mix more passion or make the horn sound any sweeter
Somedays you want to simply listen
Others to simply eat
You go right ahead and look up those things. I'm hungry

You want slow food
I want quiet food
I know you and I both want good food
Knowing about emulsifiers, natural gums, sustainable agricultural trends and
what makes the cheese artisanal is not going to make what is on my plate
go down my gullet better 
Good things one and all, you hear what's going on in my abdomen though?

While I support your remarkable efforts at using
locally grown produce and other food stuffs in your bistros, cafes
the now peaking past the curve food truck -
do not throw me into a barbecue pit of your jargon,
expecting me to be armed with volumes of Escoffier and Pollan
to remotely comprehend what it is you are serving me
Or even worse, you explaining it all and I mean it *all* to me
as I try to put the fork in my mouth while I'm interrupted with paragraph after paragraph of your foodie wisdom

Don’t batter me around with gently farmed, vibrant,
free range molecular gastronomy served at clandestine dining establishments with communal tables built from salvaged materials of torn down Indiana barns
After the day I've had, will you let me simply sit, chew, swallow then excrete?
In the end, that is all everyone does.

The story, is nice
The constant assault of branding is demeaning, overwhelming, occasionally insulting
When a server tells me every detail of the nightly specials, I am starving to death while my head nods
May I have a pizza please?
Hold the anchovies
Especially if they’re over harvested out of the cold waters of the North Atlantic by an independent commune of Icelandic fishermen -
who only use dolphin safe netting

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Might as well post my work instead of hiding it

To start the year, three days in, a poem. Not sure if I'm going to put more of my work out here this year. That said, where else is my work going? Not like I've got people begging to publish my work or I'm submitting it anywhere.

From the streets of the under served

On a neglected street on the west side of Columbus
in the shadow of a pile of used tires
there is a brick on the ground
Next to it is a used yellowed condom
and I ask myself
"Is this why we have a casino now?"
Is this why a dormant perpetually losing sports team
gets millions of slot machine revenue
While there is a pothole in my alley
deep enough to bury a racehorse

At 1:25AM on new year's day
there is random gunfire
snapping out of my son's mouth
in the form of episodes of the Wonderpets
and a few verses of happy birthday
It is not my birthday for another six months
It is not his eleventh birthday until exactly nine months from this moment
And I'm trying to determine the difference between
visits and units of service from my insurance company
for his occupational therapies
I have my own emotional cliff to cling to
The raise a congressman just voted himself
could pay half of my son's treatment for a year

There are fireworks exploding in the backyard
of the boarded up house on the corner
a foreclosed building is a magnet for gunpowder
a broken fence a bed for empty spray paint cans
My neighborhood is not vibrant
It is barely sustaining itself amidst the evicted bedbugs who once resided in couches on the lawn next to my house
I can walk to play roulette
but cannot to get a cup of coffee and wi-fi
But i can find an old tire,
tie it to a tree in my front yard
Call it a theme park