Sunday, December 31, 2006

Gerald Ford and the Seventies

I've spent the past several days reading about President Ford and his presidency. It brings back fond memories of the CIA and Nicaragua and secret incursions. Not to mention Gulags and long range nuclear missiles and spies. Oh, what a time! I remember when I was in college several of my friends were members of the Socialist Workers Party. They all used to spend most of their time debating who among them was a CIA mole.
Ha, what sort of great, powerful government would investigate a bunch of schmoos who couldn't organize a checkers game much less a great labor movement. Years later it turns out the government actually had an informant in their dumb little group. Duh! It was the moment I realized our government was as lunkheaded as my rabble rousing knucklehead friends. They wanted to organize the downtrodden workers. Workers with vacation homes in Belmar and a boat in the driveway and two kids (probably them) in college. For some odd reason they thought this country was Russia in 1917.
What a time!
Anyway, this all brought to mind a series of poems I've been working on about a new friend of mine. His name is Mario Infirme and he works for a government group. Unnamed. Here's one from Mario...

Mario Infirme Talks About Secrets

Mario Infirme comes up behind me at the bar.
He whispers in my ear.
He says, tell no one your secrets.
He says, tell no one the truth.
He says, if you do you must cut out their tongue
and if you cut out their tongue you must cut off their head.
If you cut off their head you must bury it in a secret place.
If you bury the head in a secret place you must set a fire to cover
your crime, you must burn the place to the ground.
If you burn it to the ground then you must return and salt the earth.

If you salt the earth then you should return and build a market.
In the market you may sell drinks,
cool lemonade, ice cold beer, shots of whiskey.
When people come to buy the drinks tell them stories.
Tell them about murder.
Tell them about love.
Tell them anything but the truth but don’t stop talking.

They will return, over and over, and you will run out of stories.
Then you may tell them the truth.
By then you will be old and no one will remember you or the reason
you are speaking.
There will be no reason to cut out their tongues.
Lie down at night then.
Lie down and dream.
When you dream you will dream of your crimes and they will be sweet.
Devour them.
Lies and crimes and secrets.
They are all you have.

I turn and Mario has left the bar.

Let me know if you like my friend and his stories. There are a few more I've already committed to paper and he comes to meet me often, late at night. He's not a nice man but he likes his whiskey and he tells a good story.
Good night world

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Christmas, New Years, and beyond

It's been a quiet holiday season in the world of Wiler. Not counting Johanna's being assaulted in Washington and getting two fingers nearly severed or Divina being taken to the hospital or my fellow worker Derrick dying of pneumonia (that's a euphemism). Mostly I spent the week between Christmas and New Years taking care of Johanna and yelling at the hotel to get her things back.
I also had to deal with my broken window and an upcoming inspection at Acme. Plus I think my poetry sucks, my book sucks and my life is in the toilet.
But beyond that stuff I did get Sirius Radio from my friends Linda and Patty and can now listen to Howard again! Hey Now! Artie, Robin, Fred, and the gang are back in my life.
Plus while I think my poetry sucks I have been writing so I'm sort of lying about that. I thought it would be good to post my most recent poem here to keep you all up to date with what's the what. Here it is. Read it and weep:)
What You Can Do in Central New Jersey at Christmas

I go with my friend Bill Wasnak to Sayreville or Jamesburg.
One of those central Jersey towns with one long street,
low, one and two story buildings and a half dozen dozing bars.
We walk into one and there are all my friends from twenty years ago.
Big Mike, Debby Fried, Alan Estevez, Bob Zirpoli, Jack Ward,
the Irregulars, all standing around, happy, drinking, laughing.

I’m talking to Pete Keen and I ask him where he’s living now.
He says the North Carolina coast.
I say, what a coincidence, I go there often.
I ask Bill, didn’t we go there, what, two years ago?
He laughs, takes a drink, and says, no.
The last time we were all there was the fall of 2001.

The fall of 2001.
What a cruel joke.
Now I understand.
Now I see the bar for what it is.
The ghosts of Christmas have washed me up just short of Christmas Day
in a dingy old man’s bar with all my lost and forgotten friends.
Bob Zirpoli, who hasn’t spoken to me since 1981.
Pete Keen, Christ, for all I know he’s dead.
Wasnak, married now, with two boys and a lovely wife.
Prosperous business man, avid golfer, man on the go.

I look around again and see the glasses covered in dust, the windows boarded up.
Waiting for the wrecking ball from some developers dream.
The Melody Bar crushed by the jaws of some great earth moving machine.
The Court Tavern huddled up against the New Brunswick of tomorrow.
My friends old and fat and drinking too much.
Working at jobs they hate.
Making too much money, or too little, with wives they abhor or who detest them.

O horrible dream. O stunted joy.
O Melody Bar.
A band now long forgotten plays some creaking punk anthem.
The smell of stale beer and lost love stinks up the joint and we reel out into the dawn.
Asking where’s the party, where’s the party?
Once someone would have said
I am the party
Once we would have laughed and laughed.
Now we stare at the harsh dawn sun, turn our separate ways,
march back home.

It’s hours till Christmas and the ghosts have not found me fit for redemption.
They offer this happy gathering, my long forgotten friends, this bar, this grim lesson.
O Christmas.
O Joy

Anyway, that's all for now. I'm busy planning my new year and my poetic life and my romantic life...all of which are in disarray. I'm reading with a bunch of friends at the Bowery Poetry Club on New Years Day after 3:00pm. Come and hear Danny Shot, Elliot Katz, Joe Weil, Bobby Tiedeken, Chevisa, and me. It's the most goofy, ego-centric reading of the year. Thankfully the bar is open. God bless poetry! Adios Saddam! Hail, hail rock and roll, and goodnight to James Brown! I feel good. To quote Was Not Was, "I feel better than James Brown".
Hello 2007!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Christmas at Acme

Yesterday was our holiday luncheon at Acme Exterminating. Bob took the women in the office and me out to lunch at the local steakhouse, Uncle Jack's. Luis, our boss, was supposed to go but sacrificed himself on the altar of duty to answer phones. There may have been a bit of bullshit in that but he felt we should bond with Bob and that he'd get in the way. Either that or he didn't want to go. Hard to say which.
Uncle Jack's is like every other NYC steakhouse. Pushy, weird waiters trying to get you to eat enormous amounts of expensive food and drink all you can. They interrupt the meal every ten minutes to ask if everything is okay. I'm convinced they grow these guys on a farm in Brooklyn. They're all overbearing and incredibly manly and the whole experience is unnerving. Quite honestly I'd prefer a gay guy saying hi my name is Todd and I'll be your server tonight to this ordeal by manliness.
The good part was the food was great, Bob was pleasant and enjoyable, and the young women I work with all had a fairly good time. They were also careful to order the most expensive items on the menu. If they were older they would have thought to order cocktails.
I myself was exhausted from my birthday celebration of the night before. I stayed up till 1am laughing and smiling and being with friends. I may have drunk a gallon of champagne. I got lovely gifts and reaquainted myself with some old friends and ate birthday cake. Johanna had her friends Sandy and Divina help with the serving and they were both great. Sandy was quite the lady bringing out appetizer after appetizer and Johanna was the queen of the house (in more ways than one).
Today, I'm going to settle back and relax, enjoy my day and roast a chicken. Tomorrow, another holiday party, my favorite, at Patty's house and the Giants/Eagles game. Good weekend, good life.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Happy Birthday

On Dec 14th 2001 I spent late morning and most of the afternoon projectile vomiting. It was my 50th birthday and my friend Danny and my sister Mary had come to visit. Me and Zithromax weren't getting along too well and as a result I puked and puked and puked and puked.
That was five years ago.
Happy birthday to me! Thanks be to God!
Today I will go to work, deliver Christmas gifts to my clients, argue with Luis about some dumb thing and at noon go to lunch with my boss, Bob. We will go to a restaurant I know he doesn't particularly like but which I do like and talk and eat and he'll rush off to an appointment. At 2:45 I'll leave work and go home, pay the rent, pick up two cards and two small gifts, and come home to cook Shrimp and Corn Chowder for Johanna. Then we'll wait for our guests to arrive and drink and laugh and talk till late into the night.
I'm still a sort of broken man physically but by and large I'm not the man that spent his 50th birthday covered in vomit. I don't intend any repeat performances. So here's to milestones and birthdays and simple things! Raise a glass with me and drink in this world in all it's joy. Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday to John and Jessica! Happy birthday to you all!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Poetry in Newton

Last night was my last public performance in 2006. Thank the Lord! I went to Sussex County College in Newton NJ. It's far, far away from Jersey City. When I was nearly there they were making tornado warnings on the radio. I figured five farmers and two chickens would show but it turns out there's an actual poetry community there and in spite of the threat of witches and houses dropping from the sky several people turned out to hear me read.
My friend Bob Carnevale did a nice intro and my performance felt solid and I sold my last five books. I've got four left. Time to buy more. I don't know if I've explained this earlier but poetry publishing is like Amway. If I want books to sell at my readings I've got to buy them and sell them. This wouldn't be so bad if I wasn't pissing my money away on wine and food but it's a tough nut otherwise.
On Thursday night I went to hear my friend Jeffrey Harrison read with two other poets from Four Way Books. My friend Martha Rhodes runs the press and it was a lovely event. I had publishing envy. Lot's of other poets I knew were there and the wine was free and Jeff and his fellow poets didn't have to pay for it or organize it. I'm doing something wrong. Ross Gay has Gerald Stern, Jeff has Martha, and I have me and my dogs running the show. I've got lots of energy but little experience and I think it shows in my poor turnouts at my readings. Boo hoo!
It will be good to celebrate my birthday in two weeks with Jessica and John and my friends and then run headlong into Christmas. This is my favorite time of year! If anyone actually reads this and would like to join John, Jess and I at our mutual celebration...come to my house at 590 Palisade Ave, 2nd Fl, Jersey City on Dec 14th and hoist a glass with us. Presents not required wine much appreciated as is food. It's time for Orion to cast his spell. Time to forget about poems and poetry and work and responsibility. It's showtime!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Day

It's 4:25am and I can't sleep. I had to let Milo out to pee and then my brain starts working and here I am talking to whoever reads this. This is one of my favorite holidays. It is a day that has no real commercial value except for the travel industry and the poultry and stuffing lobby. It asks family and friends to join together and give thanks and break bread. I've had some of my most cherished times at Thanksgiving. With my family and others. I think it could be said that I've celebrated Thanksgiving on other days, by design and by accident. Just before I became ill I had Easter dinner with my friend JT and his wife Laura and their children in Long Island. It was a wonderful meal. People laughing and talking and eating. Thanksgiving.
Last weekend John and Teresa and I had a quiet meal of meatloaf and squash and brussel sprouts and good wine. It was our small Thanksgiving. Every year at the Frost Place on Thursday Ron and Eloise cook up Thanksgiving for the poets. We clink our glasses and hug and read poems and give thanks.
I have so much to be thankful for it's nearly impossible to include it all. First, there is my life. God and my family and my friends and my doctors and nurses gave it back to me. Second there is Johanna. Who gave me a reason for living that goes further than just getting up and going to work. Who gave me Cookie and Milo and laughter and sorrow and joy. Then there are my many friends. Danny, Caroline, Mack, Mila, John, Teresa, Linda, and Patty, Suzy, and on and on and on. So much.
Then there is all the stuff that fills my life. My new car, our apartment, my book, the shelves my books are on. My job. My writing. So much.
So today I will give thanks. I'll pack Cookie and Milo in the back of the car and hope Cookie doesn't puke on the new car. We'll drive to Mick's house and then from there to my step brother Bobby's. We'll drink and laugh and someone will do something stupid or not and I'll go home to Mick's and talk a bit and call Johanna and tell her I love her.
Then, Thank God, there's another day. Thank God for that. A day to bitch about. A day of random things to do. Laundry and dusting. Cooking. Walking the dogs. Reading. Napping. Chores. So much to thank God for. And you get it every day.
So please take this as my toast to all of you who are in my life. God Bless You and hold you. Drink deep and eat well today.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Mutter Museum and life and me

I went to the Mutter Museum last weekend with John and Teresa. It was a revelation. Not one I was looking for but a revelation. They have a wall of skulls. The man who donated the skulls had an idea he might deride the idea of racial affinities, etc but nonetheless classified each of the skulls with their race and reason for demise.
Gypsy, Imbecile, Murderer, Suicide.
All of them dull yellow gaping bits of bone.
I'd seen them before in the mirror.
When I was very ill they looked much like me but I had a thin covering of flesh.
Oh and I still retained the cartilage of my nose and my eyeballs.
I'd like to think my teeth were generally better but I know they're not.
It was a window into my past and into my future. Our future.
All of us will be skulls. And bones. And sad descriptions of our lives. He died despondent over the death of his lover. He hanged himself when his wife left him. Suicide. Cancer. Heartattack. Shot in the battle of whatever in wherever.
All gaping bones. All sad men and women in a sideshow disguised as a museum.
Their souls departed. The hard facts of their lives left behind. Syphillis and cancer and foolishness. It amounts to nothing.
I spent the evening tonight with Teresa and John talking about poetry and art. About how you know what you write is good. About writers photos and publication dates and the joys impending publication and the vagaries of publishers.
I called Johanna and told her I loved her.
My dogs jostled over rawhide bones. Fought so hard I had to separate them.
Foolish dogs.
Foolish people.
Foolish poets.
Those skulls are just like the leaves we stepped on in the way into the exhibit. Dead reminders of something once alive.
The imbecile had a mother and a father and was treated however they chose or didn't chose to treat him.
The suicide made one really stupid decision but it doesn't matter.
He'd be here one way or the other.
Why should you write poetry?
Or play football?
Donovan McNabb is out for the season.
He seemed strong and sure and all looked well.
What good is poetry?
That's the topic of a talk I gave this summer in New Hampshire.
Here's what good is poetry.
It tells the story of those skulls better than their bones.
It tells the story of why they walked the earth better than their bones.
It is more important than the cancerous growths or syphillitic teeth or weirdly enlarged colons or monsters that might come from our wombs.
It talks about what was in the skulls before they were skulls.
It talks about what fills the earth.
Skulls, rocks, shells, dead leaves, granite have nothing to do with poetry.
Poetry is talk and roil and life.
Poetry is anger and sadness and grief and joy and dissatisfaction and glory.
It walks and talks over the centuries and it mocks the skulls in the Mutter Museum.
Somewhere in East Africa the skull of Arthur Rimbaud lies muldering in the dirt.
But everywhere in the world he rocks in a drunken boat.
Jack Kerouac might be a pile of bones in a grave in Florida or Massachusetts or wherever the fuck they laid him to rest but
people everywhere get up and get in a car and go in search of...
Life is the earth.
It fills the earth.
It builds on the skulls.
It builds on the garbage and the shit and it makes us happy and sad and dumb.
I almost died once.
When I look in a mirror I see my skull.
Not like most people do.
There was hardly anything left on my skull.
Just a thin covering of skin.
But beneath.
There was something that leaped and roared and laughed and cried and got bored at work and took the bus and ate bad food and loved men and women and sex and words and books and music and
You get the point.
The point is.
Everybody and everything dies.
What happens next nobody knows about.
But while you're here pay attention.
Make love.
Love someone.
Be human.
It might not be redemption but it's as close as you can get.
Pretend you're a great football player and you're going to go back for one last long pass.
You see the approaching linemen.
You know you're going to get hit hard.
You know it might end your career.
Throw it far and straight and with luck someone will pull it down.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Mutter Museum and more on poetry in general

Today my friends John and Teresa Carson took me to the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. We took a side trip through Wenonah so they could see the town that generated so many of my poems. They started thinking about buying small crafthouses there at bargain and I told them I don't want NYer's to know about Wenonah cuz they'll drive real estate values up.
The Mutter Museum was neat but disturbing. Not least of all because everyone dies of something I could die of. Not a good thought. I try to pretend I'm immortal even though I have intimate aquaintence with disease. I did like the wall of skulls. The guy who collected them thought there were no racial or genetic reasons to characterize humans and looking at all those knuckleheads I agree. Nonetheless he characterized them as suicides, killed in combat, or imbeciles and idiots. I hope someday my skull is in a collection with the label: IDIOT.
On the way home we talked about my friend Suzy Parker who has a book, Tumbling After. Teresa is reading it right now. I read it through it's creation. It was beautiful and strong and we talked about how I knew Suzy and all the permutations of my relationships with her.
The night before, at the celebration for Ross Gay's book, Teresa gave me her manuscript for her second book and made me promise to read it. I did. Tonight.
Oh. My. God. It was stunning. Everything poetry should be and in a voice that was not confessional or loud or contemporary but nonetheless all about her and her life and it moved me the way poetry should move you.
When I said Teresa Carson was at the event being filmed for "Contemporary American Poetry" you should understand even though she doesn't have a book published her book is and next book are contemporary american poetry.
I also neglected the names of two wonderful writers at my Bowery event... Joe Weil and John McDermott. Two great writers in two different streams. Real poets. Not acknowledged but real. Joe and I have jostled and hosted events at the Bowery and Mack has been my guide in writing for more years than I can own up to.
If you're going to talk about "Contemporary American Poetry" you should look harder than filmmakers usually do. Poetry that is real and hard and glorious is all over New York and New Jersey and I am lucky enough to know so many wonderful writers. For a few years Andy Clausen was my roomate in Jersey City. If there is an underrated writer in the US of A it is Andy. Powerful, passionate, committed. Andy lives and dies by the word.
Poetry is life. Life is Poetry. God Bless all of us who sit down and take pen to paper and try to sort shit out.

A Night of Contemporary American Poetry

Last night Teresa and I went to a book party hosted by Gerald Stern and Ann Marie Macari for Ross Gay. Ross just had a new book published by our mutual publisher, Cavankerry Press. The book party was at Poet's House on Spring Street in Soho in Manhattan.
It was a beautiful Fall night and before the reading we had dinner at my friend Linda's restaurant Barmarche. It's at 12 Spring Street and it's a great place to eat and we very much enjoyed the meal and Linda's hospitality. All this niceness is to set you up for the event and my reaction to the event.
First, there were a number of people there. This made me feel bad because I had had two book parties and not so many people came. Second, there were famous people there. Third, when we walked in Ross' friend Stephanie asked us to sign a release because a filmmaker, Norbert, was there filming the event as part of a piece on "Contemporary American Poetry". The evil God Envy was everywhere in the room and in my heart. I mean, I only saw two or three "Contemporary American Poets" (and I know a bunch of them) at this gig and I'm a contemporary American poet or at least a man writing poetry in the United States of America right now, yet I really didn't know anybody there, except Teresa, Ross, Ann Waldman, Gerald Stern, Ann Marie Macari, Jim Haba, & Teresa told me Joan Larkin was there, who I don't know. Oh yeah, I think Merwin was there. Or at least some old guy looked like him.
But in my head I don't feel that this is what "Contemporary American Poetry" represents. So, since nobody pays attention to me I really don't think this is what it represents. I mean, how could you do a film about poetry and not include the bard of Palisade Avenue? My heart had shrivelled to a black stone by now and Satan was knocking on the door with a pen dripping blood and a contract.
What the fuck is wrong with us that we act this way? Ross writes strong solid work that will only become more powerful as he gets older. Gerry Stern is a rock who stood up for him and helped him with his work as did Ann Marie. Gerry is a poet I admire more than almost any writer of verse in America. His voice helped shape mine. His displeasure with the bullshit of poetry always makes me happy. The wine was free!!!! There was food!!!! But I'm all resentful and peeved just like I was at my brother's third birthday party.
At MY book party at the Bowery Poetry Club my friend Danny Shot got up and read and spoke an introduction to me and my work. It was heartfelt, spontaneous, and warm. It made me want to cry. Danny is a contemporary american poet. In the room was my publisher, Joan Handler Cusack, another contemporary american poet. And Teresa Carson and Eliot Katz and Nancy Mercado, all contemporary american poets. There was Mungo who was in town to record "authentic NY voices" and he was there because he thought the Bowery Poetry Club was where you go to hear authentic voices and poems.
I think the truth is that that night and the afternoon in Hoboken were two of the warmest evenings in my life. I think Ross' night, last night, with his family and friends about him, was probably one of the warmest evening of his life. I think each of us is proud of his work and each wishes the other well.
What a piece of work is man. I can say this about the party without sounding spiteful. The wine sucked. But it was free which is like a little miracle. Any poetry event with free wine is an event of consequence. Prosit!
In closing, I'm off today to the Mutter Museum to see the "Oddities of American Medicine". Pickled and stuffed and plastered relics from another time. Old musty artifacts from another world. It's supposed to be a little scary and a little thrill inducing. You might notice I may be talking about "Contemporary American Poetry"
Thank you Ross, for a wonderful night and a truly great book.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

New Car & Driving Lessons

Yesterday I left the house at 11 and told Johanna I was going to look at cars. Specifically Honda Civics. I went to the dealership, Metro Honda, and took a test drive with a new sales guy Jess and the car was sweet. I told them my credit sucks. They came back and said, yes, it does but if we can get you approved will you drive that car off the lot today? I said sure. So I called Luis and asked for money from my sales commissions and I called Geico and got the insurance and at 1:45 I drove away in a 5 speed black Honda Civic LX. Hard to believe. No more 94 Mustang. No more worrying about getting pulled over for failed inspections! Cruise control! A driver's side mirror! Highway driving is a breeze!
So I came home and Johanna loved the car and today I took her for a driving lesson. She's undocumented so no license and she's never driven a stick. Yeeps. But she did good and my heart almost exploded but we got through it. I plan to do this every Sunday for the next month.
Soon Johanna will be up for her green card and then she can get a license and we'll buy her a nice girly car:)
On another note entirely I got a sweet comment from my friend Alicia Ostriker about my book. Here is what she said:

Isn't it great how writing about misery is fun? Reading about it too. Us lucky poets. The book is fabulous. what you said about randomizing the order is right--I love narrative, and my own first choice would have been to do the poems as chronology, BUT in this case i thought...fuck chronology, this is all existential, it's all right ma, he's only bleeding. Or scratch that, he;'s only living. Lotta living in this book. I laughed a lot too. thanks.


That's one of the reasons you write. To have people read and understand. On Tuesday I'm driving my new car to my Dr appointment and giving Dr Condolucci and his staff my book. They saved my life along with Danny and Johanna and my brothers and sister and father and mother and a thousand prayers from a thousand friends. God is good.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Dinner Out

Wow! What a mess! I received a very generous gift from a woman in Hoboken for doing a poetry gig for her. In return she gave me a $100 at my favorite restaurant in Hoboken. Not knowing what was my favorite restaurant she enlisted my friend Caroline to get that information. Caroline asked in a round about way so I ended up with a gift certificate for the Brass Rail. Which is a nice restaurant and maybe one of the best in Hoboken but a tough one for me and Johanna to go to. Why? You ask. Because Johanna has a tough time in blanco restaurants. She prefers something a little more latin. And if you add in the china and linen napkins and other little incidentals she gets a little freaked.
Anyway, my friends John and Teresa graciously offered to join us and share a bit of vino and the date was set. At 5:30 I got home and Johanna was no where near ready but she said chill and I chilled and by 6 she was dressed and set and I called Mojica and ordered up a cab and then it all began...
First Johanna doesn't wear a coat but the cab will drop us off and then we go downstairs but...the cab is late, late, late so she's mega peeved. Then we decide to drive but I can't remember where I parked the car...then on the way down to Hoboken she's pissed but thankfully we get a parking spot right away. No biggie. But, I forgot, on the way downstairs she says, I hope Sandy doesn't show up too soon. HUH? We get to the restaurant and I tell the waitperson about the gift and she says HUH? And Johanna is more pissed cuz she doesn't like awkwardness in public or anything that calls attention to her. And finally Sandy calls. She's at our house. So Johanna has to go back home, via cab. Then when she arrives she and Sandy have go to dinner.
So John and Teresa and I eat and drink and gab and plan John and Jessica and my birthday celebration (on December 14th if you don't know and now you do). We pay up, the gift certificate is resolved and I go to pay for parking but my credit card is declined cuz I tried three times to use it with the wrong pin earlier and Teresa offers 20 beans but my other card works, miracle of miracles and I go home.
I almost forgot what I ate.
Wait till the party! Sandy's cooking. Me and John and Jessica will be drinking and Johanna will be clicking her nails.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

After running

Back, back from the rain, back from dragging Cookie down the street. Back from a cold wind in my face on the way back. Just a short one, two miles, but necessary. This summer my red cells tanked and I lost a lot of strength and energy. Couldn't run till just three weeks ago. But on Sunday I did my first three miler which is a great thrill.
I love to run. I love being in the world with no one but my thoughts and the feel of the road. If you run you can do it anywhere. I went running in Macedonia. I ran in Oakland with my friend Suzy. She ran further and harder than I did. I'd like to do another marathon but am worried about the stress levels on my body. This damn disease fucks you up in ways you never even think about. But we'll see. It doesn't take long to train for a marathon, just a few months. I've done it before. Lot's of old guys run them. Why not me.
So, my push ups are done, my sit ups are done and now it's time to get clean and go to Acme. We have a new woman starting today and I have to do her orientation. With luck she'll work out and I won't have to release service tickets anymore.
Well, as all silly things must this post must end.

November 2

Well, that's a dumbass name for a posting. Although it's accurate. It is November 2nd. I'm posting this just for discipline sake so it's not going to have much of consequence in it. It's a nasty morning and I'm trying to decide if I should go running. And running I will go! More upon my wet and cold return...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Fall and Walking Dogs

I just spent the better part of an hour walking my lunatic dogs. Milo leaped a fence and nearly impaled himself on it. They both went crazy in the leaves at Columbus Park. They love this time of year. It's cool and since they're covered in fur it's not cold. They make me crazy walking them but what the hell, they like it.
The original purpose of this blog was to talk about the Eagles on game day. Sadly this was not a good day to watch the Eagles. They were flat and listless and the Jaguars wanted it more. Maybe my beloved Scarlet Knights will redeem the day for me tonight. Who knows.
The other day my friend Teresa told me how much she likes me as a friend. It was good and sweet but it scared me. I don't know I'm that good of a friend. A few nights back I had dinner with Caroline and her friend Paula and Paula reminded me that I broke Linda's heart. It came up because we were talking about Danny Hamilton, now Danny Maietta, and I said oh, he broke Linda's heart and Paula said: No, Jack, you broke her heart. And I did.
Being able to look back on what you did is a bitch. I did break her heart. I probably broke several other hearts. I don't think anyone ever broke my heart but I could be wrong. Now I try to live my life with care. I try not to break anyone's heart. I try to walk my dogs. I try to watch football and eat right and go to work.
These are modest goals and attainable.
I wrote last week about the Frost Place and my friend Don Sheehan. I worry about him and what he's making of his life. As we get older we have to confront what we've made. It's not easy. Don made the most beautiful place in the world for me and other people and now he won't go there. That makes me mad and it makes me sad. I wish I could walk down the stupid poetry trail and read the poems out loud to him. Tell him how much it meant to me to have this place. I can't.
It's like when a parent dies and you do something you know they would have loved. You can't show it to them. You can't watch the joy in their face. You can only hope you did the right thing.
So today I did the right thing. I took my dogs for a walk. They love to go for walks and they're really annoying but their joy is unalloyed by the shit of daily life. It's wonderful to be with them and it reminds me of what it means to be alive.
Oh, I'm reading my friend Richard Loranger's new book. It's cool, and weird, and gorgeous. More later in the week for the two people who read you.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A day at Acme

Today was a relatively pleasant day at Acme. I did have to spend an hour in the most horrible work imaginable; I know, you're thinking killing some hideous insect or fending off rats, but it's really releasing service tickets. This is a computer data entry task that requires using odd parts of the keyboard, interpreting the cryptic handwriting of our technicians, and coping with mistakes by other folks previously releasing tickets.
You basically enter numbers and amounts and times over and over and over and over. Mice and rats and ger roa, mice and rats and ger roa. Siege, glue, maxforce, siege, glue, maxforce, until the end of time or perhaps an hour. One of my technicians, Albert, was a graffiti artist back in the day. Buddies with Keith Haring. His handwriting strongly resembles Turk182 or somebody else from 1981 or 83 in the Bronx and the 3 train looking like a train to hell with really garish cartoons. The problem is this isn't art. It's how many glue traps Albert put down. Hard to say but the number looks real good.
Finally Peter reads a joke from the internet. Here's the joke. It's mildly sexist and offensive and probably in a normal workplace environment would get him canned. But what the hey, he's close to retirement. Peter read it out loud and changed the names as I have here to reflect our actual staff:
Luis was in quandary. He had to fire somebody. He had it narrowed down to one of two people, Willa or Jack. It was an impossible decision, they were both super workers. Rather than flip a coin, he decided he would fire the first one who used the water cooler the next morning.
Willa came in the next morning with a horrible hangover after partying all night. She went to the cooler to take an aspirin.
Luis approached her and said: " Willa, I've never done this before, but I have to either lay you or Jack off."
"Could you jack-off?" she said, "I feel like shit this morning."
This was very funny and we laughed and laughed. It has nothing to do with poetry but a lot to do with my job which I love. I hope it makes you laugh and is relatively inoffensive. But honestly I don't actually care at all. By the way, ever since I started working at real jobs there's always been a real problem when I take a day off. The boss always writes on his calendar "jack off today". Oh well.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Poetry at the Y

I had what is relatively my last poetry reading for a while at the Y on 63rd St. It was a small crowd but nice. I read with my friend Jeanne Beaumont. Jeanne and I both grew up near Philly and when we were young both went to Ocean City. Even more weird we were born in the same hospital. Fitzgerald Mercy in Darby PA. I met Jeanne at the Frost Place in Franconia NH where I go to think about poetry and poets every year.
I was going to write about my reading but I think I'll tell you about the Frost Place. My friend, Don Sheehan, was asked by the town of Franconia to help with a celebration of the house that Robert Frost lived in before he accepted the writers post at Amherst. He vacationed there afterwards for many years. It's a small white farm house with an expansive view of the White Mountains and a little barn. Don set up a writer in residence program and organized a writers festival around the barn and the house. I've been going there since 1981. That year my friend David suggested I attend so my other friend Mack and I drove up and stayed with my friends Abby and Killer in Bath and went each day to the Festival. What I saw and heard helped change me as a writer forever.
The Festival itself is a simple idea. In the morning a poet of some renown gives a talk about poetry or writing or whatever and then you eat lunch. In the afternoon the bulk of the people attending sit down in small groups to talk about their poems in classic "workshop" fashion. Then, in the evening, the poet of renown and one of the people who lead the small groups read their poems out loud in the barn. Later, the people attending the festival move out in various amorphous groups to drink and talk about life and poetry.
It's all kind of rote in a poetry conference way except that Don Sheehan had a unique way of structuring this week so that it felt like more than just a poetry conference. It felt and feels like a chance to really be a poet. To really hear and enjoy and talk and listen about poetry with people who love poetry. Almost without noticing you realized the value of what you do.
I would guess that 40% of the poems I've written have the stamp of that place on them. I remember one year coming home and telling my friend Suzy that I was the true Jack when I was there. That the person I was supposed to be was the person that walked the earth that week. She said that was bullshit. It wasn't.
One year Don came to Englewood, NJ to talk about Envy and the Arts. He gave a basically theological talk centered on Russian Orthodox teachings saying that Envy was "original sin". He said that the only cure for original sin was love. Not love of self but love of others.
A woman in the audience said she was sure she'd be a better writer if only she worked harder at it and that love had nothing to do with Envy. That once she was successful and published and acknowledged as the good writer she was she'd envy no one and besides how could you go through your life loving everyone? Don said, you know it's funny, once a year I invite 60 people to a small town in New Hampshire and ask them to love each other and they do.
That's the Frost Place. Once you're not involved in the bullshit of acceptance and validation and who's who and who knows who and you're just listening and talking about the thing you love it comes to you like a lost friend. Poetry.
One night I heard Hayden Carruth read. He'd been an asshole in the morning talk and was treating his wife like shit and I wasn't expecting anything of note. What could this asshole bring me? He brought me poems that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. That shook my core. At the end of this stunning reading a shooting star crossed the sky. Huge, big, and green. What a night!
I've been drunk with Bill Matthews and harangued Molly Peacock and embarassed myself with Tony Hoagland talking about the thing I love most. Poetry. When I'm there and for months after I'm the person I really am. A poet.
So, to get back to 63rd St...when my reading was done I realized for the second time in a week that I know what I'm doing. All this time spent writing hasn't been a waste. Poetry matters. For me and for the people who hear it and read it. Thank God.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tuesday at Acme

Well, it's Tuesday morning at Acme and I should be killing bugs or talking about killing bugs but I feel lousy and I've been thinking of some odd dreams I've had. Life can be very unsettling at times. I've got a book out, I get paid well, I don't have to work real hard but somehow I feel like somethings broken.
Go figure.
Of course, tomorrow is the 5th anniversary of the day I went to the hospital with AIDS and PCP pneumonia so maybe this forboding has something to do with that. Anyway enough whining and moaning and besides there's a lady on the phone with bedbugs. Got to run

Monday, October 16, 2006

Ralph Hager

My friend Suzy's husband, and my friend, Ralph Hager died several weeks ago. Yesterday was the memorial for him. Here's a poem I wrote for Suzy and Ralph and Jerry and Mrs Scott and everyone else who made their lives the best they could be.

Watching the Raiders with Ralph

It’s 1st and 10 on Oakland’s 45.
For the first time in my life I realize why 60 minutes starts late on the east coast on Sunday.
I’m watching football in Oakland with my friend Ralph and suddenly
in that flat mid western nasally voice I hear, “Jack!”, and I realize
he needs a sip of beer and even though for me it’s only 11 fifteen
I need one too.
God yes.
We’re drinking beer at 11:15am.
Of course it’s really 1:15 but the beer is great and Oakland
for the first time in two years is looking good and Ralph is all
full of himself.
He’s whining for that sip of beer of course because he can’t get it himself.
Which I keep forgetting.
Because he always sounds like Ralph.
And for me Ralph always lives in his voice.
His insistent yap yap yap about whatever makes him interested.
No wonder Livermore let him sit in an office for twenty odd years.
They were probably trying to keep him quiet.
But I spent the morning with Jerry pulling shit out of his ass and
I’m fairly clear he can’t move so I hand him the glass of dark beer
with the straw and let him sip.
We’d just spent the day before tooling through the Russian River
drinking wine and laughing and eating and getting the best treatment
possible because Ralph is a crip.
I kept forgetting he was a crip.
Which is dumb.
The first time I met him he had biked from LA to SF in one day.
What kind of nincompoop bikes from LA to SF.
The Ralph kind.
The kind who let’s a friend watch a man pull shit out of his ass.
The kind who takes advantage of his condition to get a great seat at Chez Panisse
The kind who can argue for hours and hours about stupid carpets.
The man who loves film noir and wine and beer and who let his wife,
my friend,
my dear friend,
let her friends drink his priceless 63 bordeaux’s on a Halloween night.
Really, a genius, you know.
The kind of man you’d let sit in a room in Livermore for years.
To hide him away.
Really a blessed, holy saint.
The kind who could turn wine into life and life into wine and then whine about it.
Really a great and true friend.
Really a man who could sit in a seat unable to move and make the world turn around him.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Day of Art in Hoboken

Well, I spent the day walking through Hoboken with my friends. We went in search of ART and WINE and we found both. Not necessarily in abundance or quality but still, there they were. We saw Tim Daly's magnificent landscapes of beautiful Hudson County and we saw Bob Piersanti's joyous pop paintings of mermaids and dominatrix's et al. We saw abstract art and realist art and surreal art and we saw it all for free. I also bought some art at cut rate prices to hang in my little work room and was dazzled as was my friend Teresa by how much money artists can get for their paintings or photos.
I don't know if you know this but poets don't make dick for what they write. Oh, a couple dollars here and there for a reading but no real cash. This is good on the one hand cuz no one can tell you what to write about (outside of your family) but bad because you're broke. Artists on the other hand can get tons of dough. On the other hand their paintings are treated like wall paper and not purchased cuz they clash with the color scheme in the living room.
In fact, on Friday, while looking for termites in a customers townhouse in NYC in the basement "family room" I'm fairly certain they had a Chagall hanging on the wall. In the basement. Just before you got to the laundry room and the heater. If that's not respect for art god knows what is. Of course Chagall's lo these many years in the grave and it is just paint on paper so fuck him. Hang it over the toilet if you want.
Anyway, I'm a bit toasted, as I thought I might be and Johanna is not impressed with my purchases even though I am and tomorrow it's another day doing battle with the army of rats and roaches massed against Manhattan. A good pest control operator needs to know when to rest and when to fight and tonight I rest.
Hopefully I'll dream tonight of rooms of art with people that love it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Jack's Blog: First stupid blog

Jack's Blog: First stupid blogWell, today I had the good fortune to talk about flying insects. First flies, then mosquitoes. All insects I can't deal with effectively with pesticides which means I have to convince people that other things are more important.
Removing standing water.
It's way harder than filling up a B&G with a gallon of one kick ass pesticide and spraying the fuck out of the place.
They always look at you like you're retarded.
And retarded I may be.
I also had a chance to show Willa, our dispatcher, one of my new poems.
She seemed to like it.
It's nice when a normal person likes a poem.
You can't trust poets.
They say yes but they mean no.
But regular people are kind of blind sided by poetry so when they like it they use real words that make sense.
Tomorrow cold comes back.
I hate the cold.
I can't wait for Saturday and the Greenmarket and then the Hoboken Studio Tour.
I'll try to post when I'm drunk as a lord Sunday night:)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

First stupid blog

I hate blogging and talking about myself but in order to say something nice about someone's poetry I had to create this dumbass blog. Blog. In and of itself an icky term.
I spent the day doing things I had to do. Haircut at D&V's barber shop on Washington Street in Hoboken, picked up my meds at my favorite CVS, bought cigars from Gil at the Smoke Shop, and then drank two Margaritas and ate a lousy quesadilla at East LA, easily the worst restaurant in a restaurant deprived town. Finally I picked up a Frederick Church print I had framed and called my friend Teresa who came over and we gabbed about poetry and the Dodge Festival all afternoon.
Johanna's in Washington for Miss International so I'm mega lonely and it was nice to talk about words with someone who gives a fuck about them.
We talked about being famous in a dumb little world and we talked about how poetry works and how we hate hearing how it works and we drank a lousy Bordeaux and in general had a nice poetical afternoon. All afternoons should be like this.
Milo and Cookie barking like idiots and warm fall sun and friends.
Not too bad.
In two weeks it will be the fifth anniversary of my getting really sick. I hope every afternoon will be like this.