Saturday, June 29, 2013

Plans and ambition

I live in a city, yet am on the west side of downtown and rarely go there. My blood pressure is stupidly high and needs to drop, along with about thirty pounds. So I decided to run a few errands and include a downtown walk as part of an early Saturday afternoon.

Did you know that Columbus has on the downtown riverfront, a full size replica of the Santa Maria? Now you do. It was built for the ill-fated Ameriflora exhibit in 1992 and has been docked down there ever since. If I recall right, the ship is rotated every year to keep the deterioration even. It's not the money maker the titans thought it would be, but neither was Ameriflora.

Naturally, our City Hall has a statue of one of the most renowned creators of genocide in history. We also have a statue of Arnold Schwartzenegger just on the other side of the river from City Hall. Next walk I'll get a pic of that.

I've lived here 22 years and swear I've never noticed that sign until today, despite having been by it hundreds, if not thousands of times. Maybe it was the angle?

Setting up in Columbus Commons for Picnic with the Pops tonight. There will be fireworks. I have thoughts about that stage.

This is another stage I have thoughts about, and it may be more realistic than the one at Columbus Commons, or not.

Good little walk I hope to repeat often. The route can be altered to form a decent circle with the Scioto Mile as a starting and finishing point.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Ich Bin Berliner Weisse

It's no secret that I like beer. It's also no secret that I've been quite contemptuous of breweries who use obscene amounts of hops and alcohol in their beers to mask flaws when they're so unbalanced. So last week when my wife and I were out to dinner I noticed one of the breweries I have taken to task had a very different style of beer available on tap.

Berliner Weisse is a rare style of wheat beer that is soured with lactobacillus, it is very light and low in alcohol. It's also flavored with raspberry or woodruff syrups to cut the acidity. Back when I was in the beer and home brewing business, there was no Berliner Weisse commercially available in Ohio until the late 90's. Boldly, I went all in and attempted to create the style in my kitchen without having tasted the style. I attempted an all grain beer and special ordered the liquid yeast and lactobacillus culture to add to the wort. I even buried a couple of bottles in the backyard for a few months, as tradition stated.

The results were, meh, I was never a decent home brewer to begin with, but the beer was pale, low in alcohol but not well balanced with the acidity. Not a failed effort, but not quite sound. So when Berliner Kindl came to our shores, I could see what I did wrong.

What was on tap where we ate was a Festina Peche made by Dogfish Head. Since I avoid their beers because of their overwhelming and unnecessary addition of hops and alcohol I did not realize they had been making this beer for a few years.

I thought the tartness and acidity were spot on for the style, and the use of peaches was a good touch. A very refreshing beer on a hot day. Not a warming winter brew at all. Overall, a very representative version of a rare style, with a unique twist on the syrup tradition with the addition of peaches during fermentation.

Dogfish Head, you got one right. Slainte!

Friday, June 21, 2013


There's little political passion in rock and roll these days. Or at least none that takes it right in front of a big oil corporate headquarters.

And there are far worse songs to be stuck in your head.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Behold, solid beer

My culinary skills are suspect, even at my best I am capable of burning water. A few months ago, we bought this cast iron skillet combo and rarely use it.

Why? Read the reviews, they are all correct. It's a very good piece of equipment.

A couple of weeks ago, I made burgers in it. Bad idea doing it in the house. The kitchen filled up with smoke rather quickly. Windows had to be opened. The smell lingered for a few days. The burgers however, were delicious.

I've toyed in my mind for a long time to make bread. Never had a breadmaker and I'm certainly not the type to spend hours flinging dough around. I am a lazy cook, on a good day.

So I was researching recipes on line and came across a few, what appeared to be simple ways to bake bread in a Dutch Oven.

Last night I assembled the ingredients, mixed them up, covered the bowl in plastic and waited. Pro-tip, do not mix with a whisk.

The mixture began to bubble and expand, for a moment I wondered if the bowl would be too small and the kitchen would fill up with a massive amount of fermenting dough. Then my wife reminded me that it would bubble then fall back which was when I remembered this process from my homebrewing days. I was not a good brewer either.

This morning the glop of dough was ready to be pressed into shape and put into the oven. I'm not sure it got into quite the shape I wanted, but it was on its way.

Did a variant on the recipe I posted and added parchment paper to the mix.

The process called for covering with the top of the skillet, then waiting half an hour to remove the top. Remember, iron gets really, really hot. No, I was not burned. I was prepared.

Bread smells came out of the oven. It seemed to be working out. Had to wait another half hour for it to be done. Would it be? Would it look right at least?

It looked alright to me. Thought it would rise higher but that might be because I did not shape it enough. The crust was hard and substantial. Yay!

Now the moment of real Truth. How would it taste?

Have to say, pretty darn good! Seems a bit salty but it's chewy, has a great crust and I can't wait to get out the olive oil and have a pleasant lunch later.

So there's my first loaf of bread, and yes, I had to blog about it. Posted pictures to Facebook too, it was my John Lennon in 1978 Polaroid moment.

Twenty four hours ago, this did not exist. I am amazed what can be done with four simple ingredients.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

No room for cream, but thanks

I'm not on the I Hate Corporate Coffee bandwagon. Do I try to support my local coffee shops? Absolutely. I get my beans from Stauf's and think One Line has the finest cup in the city. Did I like Starbucks' business practices when they were opening shops across from many independent coffee shops in town back in the nineties? Not really, no. But I did not go to them.

That said the Starbucks I go to has very friendly and dedicated staff. When I work early weekend mornings, I frequent one close to my workplace for coffee and a bagel. The people who work there are amazingly cheerful and efficient for being at work at 6:30 on a Sunday. Certainly more perky than I can ever aspire to be, even at mid-day. So I salute the people at the Starbucks on Olentangy River Road.

This morning the store's music was playing this song. Grim subject matter, but energy providing.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I don't even like the taste of the stuff, but it's eating away at my heart

Recently came across Kristy MacColl's first record, Desperate Character. It was released in 1981 and it has a few fine moments, including this number.

She's missed, still and always.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A great windup

A couple years after my son was born, my mother sent me my old little league uniform with the stipulation that she see him wear it when he was big enough. When his mother moved out of the house, the uniform was "lost" for six years.

Last week the uniform was found and I did not have my son until this morning.

Would have done the shoot outside, but it was pouring rain most of the day. The original cap disintegrated years ago so I had an appropriate hat or two he could wear.

The uniform is flannel and goes back to the mid 1970's. They're not made like that anymore. I wore this, and played ball in the outfit sometime between the ages of eight to eleven. Would have given him my glove, but it's bigger than his head. He's a lefty anyway!

The shirt fit fine, but is missing one button. The pants are a bit short, but he's even thinner than I was and needed a belt.

For some reason I thought I wore number four. Sent my mother the pictures and she was so happy. Grateful to have the uniform back before he grew out of it completely.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

This is the post where I talk about Arts Fest

If I leave you out do not be offended. This was such an amazing whirlwind of a weekend that it's impossible to thank or give mention and praise to everyone. This is going to be quite the random entry.

First off. I want to thank Gina Blaurock for being a great member of the Word is Art Committee. She went to more meetings that me for heaven's sake! She made herself available. Her insight, taking hits for the team and being a friend shows what an asset she is to the Columbus poetry community.

Speaking of community. Columbus, you stepped up. It was so great to see such a diverse section of the city come to the Arts Festival. Not only as poets, but as spectators and supporters. The crowds were great all weekend long, even on Friday night when I froze my ass off the last two hours because I forgot a sweatshirt. That was one of the two mistakes I made this weekend, the other buying a corn dog that cost six bucks.

Friday got off to a shaky start when the theater people did not show up. Then one of the member's of the Writers Guild could not make it. I have to say the kids from Flip the Page turned things around, brought a great crowd and youthful energy to the stage.

Secrets of Oshun was great. From the group piece opening they had the crowd, but when Izetta Thomas did her first solo piece, the area froze. Even the vendors stopped to pay attention. They had to, Izetta was on this weekend. All weekend long.

Then Kim Brazwell came on, told her tales of intestinal woe, killed the crowd and dropped the mic. She's incredible.

I was physically miserable during Page Meets Stage but Louise Robertson moderated a very cool poetry session between Jennifer Hambrick and Scott Woods.

Day two, Saturday, started out with more promise. The weather held up. The riverfront looked amazing. The place was packed. The beverage booths ran out of wine and margaritas. Art and food was being sold. Poetry was again heard.

Amy Dalyrmple of the Writers Guild did a reading about her special needs daughter that was quite moving and real.

There was a terrific early set by Michael Stout as I think he read all of his short poems!

If I had to pick a favorite set this weekend it was by John Gibson. I always like the man's work and as he was shuffling through his papers I suggested he read one of his nostalgia poems about Columbus, which he did, and it went over very well. A person came over to me and asked me who his name was. Yes, he was that good.

As I said at the start on Saturday. All of the poets who appeared on stage earned that spot during the auditions, and they proved their worth during their sets. Some poets have different energy levels than others. Some poems have different reactions when read to a small group of people in an enclosed room versus an open space of people strolling by while gnawing on a turkey leg.

Here is where I thank Wali Crowder for representing and hosting the show for a couple of hours in the afternoon. His energy was great and much appreciated.

T.M. Gottl gave the day a strong sense of justice and humanity with her work, which I do not get to hear enough of as she from the northeast part of Ohio.

Fred Kirchner left the mic, went to the front of the stage and brought out his yo-yo, shouting his poem the whole time. Beautiful.

Will Evans did an absolutely hilarious poem about doing repair work around the house when his infant daughter is in motion around him. Fatherhood has helped with his sense of humor and it's great to see it unfold on and off stage.

Hayden Brown brought his entire class over, it seemed, and delivered a set that had people paying attention. All weekend long it was great to watch the crowd, and see the people stop in their track to listen. Some even ended up grabbing a seat.

James Aaron Techumseh Sinclair has what may be the longest name of any poet to appear at the Columbus Arts Festival. He wore a skirt, was very secure in his delivery. He was also the second runner up. It may have been a bit cerebral for such an open space and stage, but his methods and words were quite precise. It was his first set in at least twenty years. Wonder how he was back in the grunge era?

Meg Freado is a joy to listen to. The first runner up. I'm not to familiar with her work, but her energy and words are quite moving. A poem she wrote for her father's wedding was quite impressive.

And our Champion, Izetta Nicole Thomas, was so wonderful and on point. Delivering a set of schoolyard sentimentality with the wisdom of a talented teacher. This was her weekend.

To close Saturday, Scott Woods hosted a slam that was as every bit hilarious as it was entertaining. I cannot say how engaging Scott was with the audience. He put together an hour that was as every bit perfect as it was irrelevant. Ethan Rivera danced, Izetta had things thrown at her, Rocky Horror style, and I got a four.

Sunday, today, was another gorgeous day on the riverfront. It got hot. But our first poet, from The (OSU) Journal was a cat who never read his poetry in public before, and he did an amazing job.

Hanif Abdurraquib took over emceeing at this point and did a great job interacting with Gumby and name checking the music that was played during breaks. We also had a great sound man all weekend. Joe was there when he had to be and did his best to keep good levels despite shouting poets and one or two vendors complaining about the noise. Sometimes poets shout, especially when they're in a wide open space, it can't be helped.

Hannah Stephenson and her poets from Paging Columbus did a fine job keeping the energy going.

I love what the Storytellers of Central Ohio do. There were six of them and they really are quite entertaining, with good humor. One of them recited Casey at the Bat, off paper. Yes, awesome!

The Docents at Thurber House were brief, but did some good work. One of the youth told a short story about war that was quite emotional and he even did some singing. Brave when your voice is wavering. It was great to have The Thurber House involved in this year's festival. I really wanted to get some kids involved in the weekend and Meg Brown has been very accommodating in getting her charges to the stage after school has let out for the summer.

The people at Wild Goose Creative finished off the year with a gentle goose. Fun stories in a speak easy session. I can't thank Andy Anderson and his crew enough for being involved again.

A few more shout outs before I close this rambling thing out.

Louise Robertson did a great job helping vet the initial entries. Her insight has been an asset to the whole committee this year and I'd be in very bad shape if she did not provide sunscreen yesterday.

Alex Fabrizio also helped with the vetting of the initial entries. She's been busy with a major move but her presence was very welcome and she did a fine job organizing her poets from The Journal.

Steph Killen lent us her music stand for the weekend. Thank you!

Beverly Wilkinson hung out with us for most of the first two days. She's dedicated and delivered a fine set of work Saturday afternoon.

My wife, Emma, has taken in a lot of venting and my stress about this for many months. She watched my son while I was out attending meetings and more. None of this could have happened without her help. And she delivered me lemon shake-ups all weekend long!

Finally I doubt I would even be in this position without Scott Woods. He was the one who recommended I join the committee last year and it spring boarded into me being committee chair this year. His expertise, advise and consult has been a great help to me this year during this process. I've never been in charge of shepherding anything like this before. So thank you, Scott.

Again, we did this.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A good groove on High Street

It was great to be partnered up with Izetta, who is now my Poetry Boo, for a reading tonight at Camelot Cellars. Decent crowd came out on a beautiful Tuesday night to hear us read.

Did my best to get the energy going, took a couple of poems to hit some form of a stride and when I was in the middle of one of my newer poems I could feel the click and connection with the audience happening during a few of the lines. So that part was cool!

My friend Beverly took this picture. Said it stayed in that spot for my whole set.

Felt very comfortable with some of the old poems I have not read in years. One of them was a very early one, for me anyway, going back seven years.

For record keeping, here's the set list.

Pantoum For a Child With Insomnia
Migrant Sign Spinners
Dear Unicorn Candle that We Accidentally Sent to Goodwill Yesterday
From the Streets of the Under Served
This is Not a Life Changing Poem
Previously Untitled Poem About the Vending Machine at Work
The Mother and the Chapbook
Negociant of Pleasure
After Birth
A Writer's Dream
Bullet Ponts to my Fourteen Year Old Self

Thanks to the organizers of the Wine and Poetry on High series for the invite. I really appreciated it.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Digging in the folders on the bookcase

Been battling vertigo again this weekend. Same damn thing I had a couple of years ago, left me out of commission yesterday. I was able to get to work today and have been slowly regaining equilibrium.

This Tuesday night, June 4th, I will be reading as part of the Wine and Poetry on High Series at Camelot Cellars, at 958 North High Street. It starts at 7PM. I'm reading for a half hour and Izetta Thomas will be my partner in poetry. It's going to be a smashing evening. I've been looking over what I'm going to read and found a few older ones that I have not read for awhile so I'm looking forward to bringing those friends back into play. I have more than a half hour's work. Easy. But I do not want to repeat the same things I did for the Writers' Block Fundraiser a couple of weeks back. Nor do I want to repeat much for my feature at Paging Columbus in August. It's a matter of mixing the so called hits with the work I want to present. They're nowhere near where I want them to be, and probably never will, but pockets are deepening. It's a pleasure to know I can pull out half an hour of poems without feeling it sucks.

We're only five days away from the Columbus Arts Festival. Trying to get fit for the long weekend. A lot of hard work by everyone went into this festival and I can't wait for the results to show for it. I'd get excited by jumping up and down but I'd get dizzy very quick.

My son's last day of school was Thursday. This Tuesday his aide for the summer beings watching him during the day. I'm nervous and excited about this all at once. Really want this to benefit everyone involved.