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...