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.