25 December, 2009

the last blowing past

I first heard/got into Vic Chesnutt on an R.E.M. tribute album from the first half of the 1990s. "Surprise Your Pig," it was called, and his contribution was a groovy mashup of "It's the End of the World as we Know it (& I Feel Fine)." Being the dilligent music fan, I did my research and got into his work. He'd been writing songs since childhood, came from a musical family. Played a mean guitar from a young age.

I next really got into Vic's music with his 1998 album, "Is the Actor Happy." Vic wrote a mean lyric & did the most interesting things with the basest chord progressions & the most creative & spare arrangements. His "The Gravity of the Situation," from that album, is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard.

In the '80s, when Vic was 18, he was paralyzed in a car accident. He re-learned the guitar with his now-limited arm/hand movement, which forced his songwriting hand to the simpler. The simpler, you know, is the more tried and true way, at least in the music I like. This past summer, I had a dinner party and a friend of mine, himself a survivor of a tragic car wreck, confided an anecdote about meeting Vic at a show at Schuba's, requesting a song Vic's band didn't know, sharing his own car wreck story ... Vic played him the song, in spite of his sidepeople being out of the loop. Nice guy, I thought. I know it meant a good lot to my friend.

Vic released a great album, "At the Cut," this year. He recorded it & toured in its support with Fugazi's Guy Picciotto and a number of other fine musicians. In the past, he worked with great bands like R.E.M. and Lambchop. He received accolades from *everyone* who matters. In a town like Athens, Ga., where *everybody* plays in several really good bands, that means a hell of a lot.

I was lucky enough to stumble upon an interview with Vic & Mr. Picciotto a week or so back, on NPR. Vic was as intimate as his songs, honestly and humbly discussing his accident, his addictions, his past suicide attempts (there were many). As had been the case as long as I've known the man's music, I kept liking him more the more I heard.

Vic passed today/yesterday, 24 December. He'd overdosed, intentionally, and left a note, instructed the authorities who found him to contact his friend, Kristen Hersh. The first reports were that he was comatose, but soon enough, his death was confirmed.

All that has ever been cool in music or the arts for that matter lost a very, very good one this holiday season.

03 November, 2009

Things I Learned Reading Hemingway

-- Don’t be impressed by one’s titles, accomplishments, etc (“Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton. Do not think that I am very much impressed by that ...”).
-- Don’t live vicariously. Just live.
-- A good man may know his limitations, but that’s no excuse to walk the line as long as you’re honest with yourself and others.
-- Tell it like it is. Don’t sugarcoat it. Don’t go around comparing her to a summer’s day. Save your breath. She knows that’s bullshit. “She was damned good-looking” takes less time and space and says miles beyond any archaic, verbose sonnet.
-- Keep your writing friends separate from your tennis friends.
-- When in doubt, best to trust balls and grace. My late friend, Carl, put it that way once, but he was paraphrasing Hemingway.
-- Your art/craft above all else. When cash-strapped, buy books, not clothes. Gertrude Stein’s edict, adopted by EH.
-- At the end of the day, when it comes to you, it’s your way or the highway, and stay the hell away from mental health professionals.

27 August, 2009

Pleased to Meet Me


he sits
translates Rimbaud
cheap desk from Ikea
a dark studio by the lake
he sits

egged on by Spanish red
a semester of French in college
seduced by his TA to guarantee

an easy B, resorts
to search engines to assist
w/the trickier parts, but is surprised

bemused (Breathless)
what he’s retained
perhaps from subtitles
in films from Jeunet & Godard
Breathless (bemused)

I is
the other is not

the author & does
protocol for
meeting oneself

only in dreams
unrequited maybes
riff away on Walter Mitty

to the author’s
Masculin Feminine
-cigarettes & idealized selves


in a barn

on the S. side
of a steeltown

way of thinking
takes to drinking

like his daddy
(his daddy . . .

His old man’s Charger is all stale smoke & sticky old beer. The old man perspires Miller. Exhales Chesterfields. They see each other weekends since the divorce. Stay up late to watch Hee Haw and Benny Hill. As a man the child stays in most weekends. Never marries. Comes to associate sweaty beer aromas with country and western from the ‘70s. Acquires an affinity for tight-clothed redheads with curves. Southern accents. Lowbrow humour. Waylon. Willie. )


Ridge of his N. Mediterranean
nose the airs put on to his toes tapping
lines into stanza those Bohemian
shades so as not to catch his self napping
the newly-formed crows’ feet & blood-shot eyes
keep the sun away the critics at bay
nobody knows his poker show the yes
he promises & blindly looks away
tweaked on LSD he loses his mind
on too much Nietsche in college a fraud
in Chuck Taylors in the Bowling Green wind
& recalls reading something from Rimbaud:
if you see yourself coming cross the street
anyone else would be better to meet


I has Johnson’s Love in Vain
I meets ladies on Amtrak, paints

w/his cock in the rain & writes ghazals
to loves lost on trains easy as I finds it & improvs

Sonatas to weather patterns, rhapsodizes galaxies, jungles &
stillframes, all the while

I is me is

is an artist
feels pain is
homeless, orphaned tumbleweeds
on greasemonkey summer pavement joneses

for James Brown loud on headphones is
I’s opiate throat-rush enough &

dirty-fingered & minge-mouthed
Heartbreak Hotel & Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak

unafraid to sleep alone, I whinges
anyway, at the thought of it, but I

is alright
won’t complain
gets tight & recalls something
his old man used to say: even the best
wine stains.

26 August, 2009

pleased to meet me, before the clustered corpse

so, on Sunday, at high-noon, I'll be reading with some friends at the Bucktown Arts Festival. It's a collective piece ... basically we each were given the prompt: what happens when you meet yourself? and then we each pieced together our own lines on the idea and then Mr. Barton cut and pasted lines from each of our pieces into a finished corpse. It's pretty cool to see that process unfold, and should be a good time throwing it all together at Holstein's Park in a few days ...

23 July, 2009

Things to do around Hyde's Park

1. Grow a beard.
2. Build a bar in my bedroom.
3. Go bowling across the street.
4. Chill w/Clarence Darrow's ghost in Jackson's Park.
5. Shave my beard.
6. That silver-haired, Harry Morgan-looking regular at Jimmy's who always gets 4 or 5 burgers for takeout ... yeah, that guy ... get all the regulars to start calling him "Hamburger Joe."
7. Grow a beard.

14 July, 2009

some emails from 4 years ago

Scott DeKatch to Kristy

did you pay CJ $20 to appear in this? he emailed me that the $20 would be mandatory this year.
Reply Forward
Kristy Bowen: Seriously? WTF?...
I emailed him back the day he sent out the call and said I was in, but nothing about paying the $20....I was going to anyway, just to support the thing, but if that's the case.
From : C. J. Laity
Sent : Saturday, June 18, 2005 9:38 AM
To : Scott DeKatch
Hi Scott. In order so that I don't lose my shirt again this year on the fest the $20 anthology donation is required of all poets who want to participate. I'll put your name down on the pending list. Send me a poem w/ the donation asap as the slots are disappearing fast. --cj

Kristy Bowen:
oh boy, this is going to be ugly.... I just sent an e-mail to CJ withdrawing my participation. It's just so WRONG. I was more than willing to cough up the 20 bucks, but the whole pay to play thing is a little slimey....at least for a reading. What we'll end up with is a whole bunch of poets who payed the 20, not because they are good and were chosen for the fest based on that, but because they paid.
I’m seriously hoping he'll just quietly take me out of the line-up. Either that or there'll be an entire juvenile article on the website trashing me in a couple days. Hopefully, outside of attacking my mother or something, he doesn't have anything on me..
And I can't be the only one who's told him where to go..

Kristy Bowen to me

Fuck, here we go....Here was the response I got...we may BOTH be in for the wrath...



Please share this letter with whoever is concerned.

Your letter simply makes me sad.

I think of the fest more as joint venture among the poets. If we all chip in the $20 we can buy some advertising and cover the expenses of something this major. It is not fair that some poets chip in, and others don't, when all the poets take advantage of the fest.
The use of the word "required" or the _expression "lose my shirt" was only sent in one email to one poet, Scott DeKatch, so I'm assuming that this email was somehow shared with you and possibly with others. I am utterly disappointed that Scott did that. I have done nothing but support Scott DeKatch and his work, so for him to make a big deal out of a lousy $20 is to me, well, pretty damn icky.
I also feel rather let down that you will not appear out of protest. In order to make the fest a success I'm asking the poets to chip in this one time. So far nobody else has complained. You consider this "pay to play" but I think that is a rather unfair accusation that you are making. I do more "free" work than anybody in the poetry community. I did not get paid for my work with the Printers Row Book Fair. I do not get paid for all my work with ChicagoPoetry.com. I am constantly promoting other people's shows and books. Many times others make money off of my work, but I don't. That you or others have decided to make a big deal this one time that I am forced to seek funding from the participants, is again, extremely disappointing.

Kristy Bowen:
He claims that no one else has a problem, and yet, I recall another e-mail asking (practically begging) for features that went out a few days after the initial one..perhaps the glut of people he was expecting wasn't quite as large as he initially assumed....and why would it be, who pays to read for gods' sake?

14 June, 2009

dogging neruda

I did a reading, I think back in December, maybe on my birthday. Read an older piece of mine. At the end, Chris says, "are you *really* comparing Pablo Neruda to Rod McKuen???"

"No," I say. "The speaker in the poem is doing the comparing."

"But, really ... the speaker was calling them both 'hallmark hacks.' Do you really *mean* that?"

I've read Neruda, I told him. In spanish, even, and my spanish is pretty decent ... however you slice it ... it may be great and heartfelt and magical and musical, but there's still a hallmark thing happening ...

anywhooo, I had a reading a few weeks back ... I was pretty stoked for it, because I knew I'd have some long-lost friends hanging at it, a few of whom are big Nerudites ... so, i took a well-travelled Neruda piece & did my own translation, direct from the spanish text (keep in mind -- there is no spanish equivalent of words like "to do," and that it contains untranslatable idioms). Not tooting my horn, just stating it, and it follows:


I Can Write the Saddest Lines Tonight
by Pablo Neruda
trans. S. E. D.

I can write the saddest lines tonight
cld write the night is starry
the stars, afar, shiver blue

the wind of the sky in the night sings, circles
I can write the saddest lines tonight.
I loved her, Jack, &, sometimes, she loved me, too.

on nights like this I’d hold her in my arms
kiss her countless times beneath the endless sky
she loved me, Jack. I loved her, too, at times

how not to love those big, still eyes
I can write the saddest lines tonight,
to think I don’t have her. I lost her.

to hear the vast night, greater than she
verse falls to soul, is dew to pasture
what matters my love can’t keep her

the night is starry & she’s gone
far off, somebody is singing, far off
my soul is sad from losing

closer to the vest
my heart looks for her -- she’s gone
the same night whitens the same trees

we no longer are the same
I no longer love her, but how I did
my voice searched for the wind to touch her ear

& now, kisses from another, as before from me
her voice, her body clear, their eyes endless
I don’t love her, that’s true, but maybe I do

so short, love, & forgetting so long
b/c on nights like this I’d hold her in my arms
my soul is sad from losing,

even though this is my final pain
& these are the last lines I’ll write
I can write the saddest lines of all tonight.

19 May, 2009

I guess when I go down, I go down in flames ...

The price one pays for attempting wit. Guy got cheesed at me today for stepping on his lame one-liner on some message board about that Eugenides guy who wrote The Virgin Suicides. I end the workaday & log on to find not one, but three emails from this fellow. I received these via one of those 'social networking' sites. Sadly, when you 'report' somebody making threats, the site 'blocks' them & you can't respond in private. Not that I'd want any more of my info available to Dude, but, hey, one good turn deserves another, eh?

Correspondence #1: Hi

Today at 12:03pm
from: D.D.
Hey fa--ot......nice shades while indoors....you look like an AIDS stricken Bob Dylan....hard to look like a hipster when you're a srawny geek wearing a $ 7 blue workshirt.........humorous.....little weasel hiding behind your keyboard........f--k you

Dear D,

Thanks. I own several sunglasses, but those are my favorites. Bob Dylan is also one of my favorites, so thanks on that one, too. I always thought 'hipsters' *were* scrawny geeks wearing $7, blue work shirts. The one in the photo was purchased at The Gap, I think. It was pretty cheap, but probably more in the $15 price range.

There is a weasel behind my keyboard?!?!?! I could use a pet.

I'm sorry, I don't go for guys, and, also, I don't believe we've ever met. Therefore, I can't help you with that request.



Correspondence #2: Scott the nervous bed wetter

Oh nooooooooooooooooo ! Scott is on youtube in a HIP poetry reading club !!! LOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL ;) He's nervous, twitching, sweating. Apparently the pressure of reading his emo poem in front of 12 people is too much for him ! And hey geek, the pseudo hipster poem by Mike Myers in So I Married an Axe Murderer was much funnier ;)

Dear D.,

Glad you found that YouTube! I don't remember sweating at that reading, but I probably was a bit out of my element, as that was taped at this cozy, little bar where they usually don't bring cameras. I assure you, I can be quite the ham.

Per your last correspondence, I'm racking my brain trying to remember whether or not Mike Myers wears a $7, blue work shirt in that film. It *was* a funny reading his character gave, though. Sometimes I think he must have caught one of my friend Charlie's readings back in his Second City days.


Correspondence #3: message

Where'd you go fa--ot ? Curled up in your bed, crying emo style ? You're a dime a dozen - Wanna be writers who scribble terrible poetry in a worn spiral pad, quoting the Important writers you read, trying to convince yourself that one day you really WILL write that novel you've had in your head all these years. Er, you're 37 Scotty Boy, your times up already, you'll never write a novel, all you'll leave behind is your little notebooks with your god awful emo whinings. You're a reader, not a writer ;) Sad truth huh boy ? So follow that urge and put that gun in your mouth, yessssssssssss..........feel that muzzle in your mouth, just like all those gigantic black c---s you've had rammed in your mouth...follow that urge, you'll never be anyone, you're a wanna be...a nobody....you think you're a f--king writer ? You think you're some kind of f--king Mickey Spillane ?!?! LOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL ;) And oh, I know some twisted mutherf--kers in Chicago...behave yourself now boy.....I hope you sleep lightly.....

Well, D, I went to work. Then I went to get coffee with an old friend. A dime a dozen? Well, I don't know about that, but I prefer perfect-bound notebooks, as the spiral ones tend to mangle the pages, which then tear out too easily. I do most of my work on a word processor, though.

According to Monty Python, 37 is not old. They also had some nice things to say about John Denver, but that is neither here nor there. I don't have any urges to put any gun in my mouth, and as far as I know I've never done the other thing, but, hey, who knows, I mean I *did* have a few wild years back at school. (Sigh), suppose that would be my business, though, huh?

I sleep alright. I dream in color, too. Once, when I was 16 or so, I dreamt I was cutting class & got caught by the assistant principal. Then, I wished the situation could be a bit cooler ... wouldn't you know, all of a sudden I'm dreaming I'm on an airplane playing my guitar with Jimi Hendrix. He showed me some cool stuff and then said, "Excuse me, while I kiss the sky," and parachuted out of the plane. I believe the experts call that 'lucid dreaming,' but what would I know?

Chicago is a nice place, yes, but some folks can be twisted. I also know some twisted folks in the Ft. Myers area, as well as some cops.



16 May, 2009

retrograde in spring (unf.'d)

curses, mercury
in concert w/a full moon
to leave me scattered

mad as a hatter
(aptly named, that element)
& what hard winter

to precede this turn
of events, the whole night sky
one cold roulette wheel

or concentric
opposite cyclones
spun out above this hemisphere

game-player of an imp, you!
return my phone calls!
my better letters!

01 May, 2009

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio (magazines) ..

Who buys magazines anymore? Not talking your 'In Focus' or 'Celeb Snuff Gone Wild' stuff, but, you know ... those glossy, little stapled numbers with book reviews, album reviews & the like ...

... 15 years ago, I would rush to the mailbox for some of these guys ,,, I'd read a review of "Alien Lanes" in one, Welsh's "Filth" in another ...

Art has been fragmented, divided between the sell-it-nows and sell-it-howevers ... nobody creates to create. Well, almost nobody.

An old college friend's husband had a gig tonight. I really thought I'd make it, but I missed it. I'm sorry. I imagine it was a very good show.

Lou said it first, but I'm thinking it's the beginning/of a new age.

10 April, 2009


So, on the day the Sun-Times runs with a cover on how the CPD is gonna start cracking down on crosswalk violations, I was nearly hit by rude jag motorists three times. Two of these three were cabbies (go figure). I have yet to trek home, but the crosswalk On California by the blue line is pretty vicious ... one can only hope they sting that one.

06 April, 2009

pome-a-day, schmome-a-day, what are these deadlines ...

I always catch myself doing things I said I'd never do: Getting a tattoo, running a marathon, opening a bank account ... so, when I scoffed at a bunch of you last year or the year before when you did that 'pome a day for a month' during April (which, they tell me, is 'national poetry month), well, you knew me, and you knew you'd live to see me eat crow. Robert Brewer is hosting one of these pome-per-day shindigs on his blog and, for some reason, I have found myself rattling off little pieces for it, almost daily.

Now, I am an incredibly lazy writer. I mean, poor Matt Barton was on my ass for the better part of the second half of 2008 to write a piece on some mural at St. Paul's by the end of the year and I got it to him, I think, some time around January 10. All was well ... some of us have a different sort of clock for some things. I'm not always bad with deadlines -- I mean, I have dabbled in journalism, and was pretty good at getting that stuff wrapped up right & on time & whatever ... it's the creative stuff, though ... I don't rush it. Needless, I think it's at the very least a good excercise, so here went ...

The way this particular thing works is as follows -- each day, the blog directs the participant to a new 'prompt,' and the participant then constructs a pome around that prompt. Pretty simple. Anywhoo ... 5 or so days in, I've decided to post my entries to this point. Are they precious, little, talent-laden works ready for smarmy, ivory-towered literary honors? I don't think so, but they are sort of a nice window into process, or at least my process. anyway, here goes (I may have gotten a couple days out of order here, but you get the picture) ...

1 April (prompt = "origins")

AUTOBIO 101, lecture notes

Don’t hesitate
to embellish. “Born in a barn”

reads more interesting than
hospital reports to grab

the reader
as does conflict

btw. one’s parents’ in-law
conveys caste

from the cradle establishes
angle early. Chapter 1 is

all you’ve got. The best
writers began

as journalists.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

2 April (prompt = alienation/being an outsider)


found out for tipping a jitney in the sticks
of Long Island – ladies up from The City
for outlet mall shopping, who’d shared the backseat
from the depot w/N & me, ourselves there
for her friend’s wedding -- people I didn’t know
decked out in heavy taffeta bridesmaid gowns
in July’s hard, Atlantic humidity
tree-line wall around the Hamptons, private beach
ill @ ease, my neck raw from starch & sweating
unstable having forgotten vitamins
& my forced, two days too late apology.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

3 April (prompt = "the problem with ____________")

(I have yet to finish this one -- see, bad with deadlines, but they do give you until May 1)

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

4 April (prompt = Animal)


24 yrs. old, riffing on Melville
to impress a woman @ a party
after the bars have closed one Fri. night
& my friends from other bands are drinking
in the kitchen, taking turns picking out
new releases from Matador Records
to spin until sunup, when they might sleep
finally, or at least disperse & then
if the Melville reference does the trick
maybe she’ll accompany me to bed
ratty twin mattress on a ratty floor
of my old apt. @ 3rd & High
if she doesn’t stay, if she gets away
we’ll just call the flirtation ironic

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

5 April (prompt = Landmark)


we leadfooted down U.S. 68 past Dunkirk
headed to Columbus for a wedding
20 yr. old music from my boyhood
shuffling under the big W. OH sky
clear & cool @ noon on the 1st day
of spring & nearly blew by it to spite

our eyes peeled for it, anonymous, almost hidden
out the passengerside window, just beyond
the irrigation ditch, hemmed in by distant
treelines not yet leaved & the rumble of
tires on gravel in reverse to pull into
its dirt driveway, disembark & photograph

its sun & weather-bleached box office marquee recalling
tornados on Katie’s birthday, June ‘89
broke off & carried away the bigger part
of its whitewashed plywood screen, still unmended, to leave
the few who do come to see squinting
as if watching their grandparents’ portable TVs

appearing oblivious, it would seem, to the advances
of kids like me, there to lose/take cherries, now as then & back
in the now we frame the marquee, this
tumbleweed, if you will, to that cobwebbed corner of
my sentimental mind & take cover behind
the driver’s side door to skirt wind-kicked dust, resume driving

& sign aliases in an antique café guestbook
down the hwy in Kenton & marvel @ the unchanged
farm machines foreground to the yellow thaw
19th, to be exact, since I last blew through &
left behind & Stipe’s voice filling the car rings
apropos: Take a picture here. Take a souvenir.

12 March, 2009

Gina, pobrecita (or, everything's great in America, for a small fee in america ...) ...

I'm listening to NPR this a.m. when I wake up. A pretty run-of-the-mill wakeup, but I'm struck by this human interest piece they run on how folks are actually saving more than they're spending in these recessionary/depressive times ...

So, they talk to this woman in L.A. named Gina. Gina is beside herself, wallows in despodence over having to now save what she once spent. No more mani/pedis. No more birthday parties for friends at swank eat/drinkeries. No more starbucks. Poor, poor Gina must now do her own fingers & toes. Poor, poor Gina must now cook her own meals (&, from the sound of it, learn the proper way to boil water). Poor, poor Gina must now brew her own Yuban (a "downgrade," she claims (IMO, not bad mass-market coffee, at all)) instead of swilling over-roasted, $2/pint Starbucks.

These, indeed, are the times that try our souls.

10 February, 2009

What men talk about

no tissue is an issue

Last week, after work, I stop into a fast food joint for something on the way home. The neighborhood is sorta mixed, that area where R. North meets the Gold Coast near the SRO YMCA & the methadone clinic. You get all sorts from all stations in this joint, kinda like walking right into Terkel's Division St.

A bit grubby from the workaday, I hop into the john to wash my hands. In the stall, from the sound of things, is an older guy sing/talking to himself:

No tissue ... no-o-o-o-o tissue ... no tissue/is an issue ...

I have to laugh. I imagine this man's been handed many a lemon in life, and here he is, making light of things as they now are with his No T.P. Blues.

Which brings me to this theory I overheard somewhere. I think it was my mom or one of her friends, during an impromptu meetup of their She-Woman Man-Haters Club ...

We -- men, that is -- love to talk about our shit. Taking a shit, its regular/irregular consistency, the frequency w/which we do it ...

Pretty sure the aforementioned theory was about men never developing past the anal stage of early childhood. Dunno if it holds water (pun intended?) . I mean, they were all recently-divorced and also a tad tipsy, I think I recall ...

03 February, 2009

it was 50 yrs. ago, today . . .

(orig. from 2 years ago. Timely today ...)

The Day After ‘the music died’ – thoughts on Buddy Holly & Herb B. Berkowitz 4.2.07

I've never really been a fan of that Don McLean song. I've never really been a fan of that whiny, melodramatic '70s 'singer/songwriter' genre. Be it McLean or James Taylor or Seals & Crofts or Dave Matthews or whomever, I didn't get it when I was a kid and I don't today.
Don't get me wrong: I love when a great songwriter (Willie Nelson, Ani DiFranco, Neil Young, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Jeff Tweedy, Jay Farrar, Chan Marshall Paul Westerberg, to name a mere few) picks up a guitar or sits at a piano and just bares all. However, I also like my rock and roll to be at least a little bit threatening. After all, it's rock and roll – lock up your daughters and hide the radio teen angst rebel music. It was this way from its very accidental and organic onset and what's left of the good stuff is still this way. If it doesn't make a certain element of the 'power structure' cringe, it's elevator music: Pat Boone, not D. Boon.
Which is why I'm always disheartened every February 3 to open up any major newspaper and come across what I believe to be some reactionary version of a tribute to Buddy Holly on the anniversary of his death. Granted, Buddy has countless fans representing every nook and cranny of the spectrum (probably not as many as Elvis Presley, but that's a different story about the unjust nature of the so-called industry and its marketing practices). Yesterday it was an article by Herb B. Berkowitz, who directs a PR firm in North Carolina.
Mr. Berkowitz is obviously a great fan of Buddy's music. He was thirteen on that fateful day in early 1959 and has attended the anniversary tributes to Buddy, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson at the Surf Ballroom. I couldn't be happier to know there are such dedicated champions of Buddy's work, and none of this is meant to take anything away from Mr. Berkowitz or as any sort of personal attack.
What initially puts me off is the following quote from his tribute:
Back then, the cool rockin' daddies and teen queens who entertained teenage America did so with their voices, not by putting their private parts on display.
This is a rather reactionary statement, in my opinion. It's also spin not much different than that propagated by too many rightists on Martin Luther King's birthday every year when they unwincingly 'adopt' Rev. King as a champion of their own platform.
Now, I was born nearly 12 years after Buddy was taken from us. However, I don't think I need to have 'been there' to know this is anything but accurate. We've all seen the footage of Presley thrusting his hips like some porn actor on speed, no? Jerry Lee Lewis marrying his 13 year-old cousin? Chuck Berry violating the racist Mann Act? The orgasmic stage theatrics of Buddy's dear friend, Little Richard Penniman?
Buddy's work itself is every bit as sexually subversive as that of any of his contemporaries who were shaking up the white, patriarchal power structure of the Eisenhower years. In "Not Fade Away" -- a song dense hippies will mistakenly tell you was written by the Rolling Stones and made famous by the Grateful Dead -- Buddy sings, "my love is bigger than a Cadillac." "Rave On" could be his generation's "Talk Dirty to Me." His cover of King Curtis' "Reminiscing" addresses a cheating significant other. "I'm Gonna Love You, Too," according to some of the bios, was initially about an orgy in which Buddy may or may not have taken part. If you believe the first-hand accounts in said bios (or subsequent interviews with Little Richard Penniman), Buddy took the stage at one performance late and with his zipper down because he'd been backstage shagging a woman from Little Richard's band. He bedded his usurious producer's wife during a recording session. His fashion -- dark-rimmed glasses and all -- mirrored the style of the young, hip African-American men too many daughter's fathers reasonlessly feared in those days (a nearsighted Briton named John Lennon would later credit Buddy for giving him the courage to wear glasses onstage). He may not have trashed any hotel rooms, but Charles Hardin Holley was the epitome of the contemporary definition of rock star.
There also exists the story of one cold West Texas November during one of those notoriously draconian 'busload of talent' tours when Buddy invited tourmate Little Richard, a bisexual black man, to his parents place in Lubbock for Thanksgiving dinner. His folks, white Baptists somewhat set in bigoted ways, refused to allow Richard into their home or feed him. Buddy joined Richard on the freezing front porch, refusing to enter the house or eat until the elder Holleys finally came around and welcomed their son's friend to their table.
Berkowitz goes on to write, "In the pre-Beatles era of rock'n'roll (sic) (Holly) was one of just three white boys who really, really mattered, and the only one who didn't live long enough to cash in on it." He cites Presley and Roy Orbison as the other two who "really, really mattered."
Without going into any of the myriad reasons I'm moderately offended by the invocation of race in the above opinion, I could also opine this isn't exactly accurate. Les Paul pioneered the recording techniques Buddy embraced & remained fiercely adamant about. And Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran were hard-rocking, songwriting trailblazers who also died way too young and never really "cashed in." Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis were incredibly important artists, and claiming they ever reaped their just rewards would also be a decent-sized stretch of reality.Like too many recording artists of just about every genre, time and place, Buddy Holly was shamelessly exploited. Recording engineer Norman Petty strongarmed a naïve Buddy into allowing Petty partial songwriting credit for songs Petty had no hand in writing. At the time of his death, Buddy (whose wife, Maria Elena, was well-connected in the recording industry) was in the process of starting up his own independent record label, Taupe Records, as a reprieve for exploited artists. Ritchie Valens and Waylon Jennings were among those who would have been in the Taupe catalogue. Buddy had 'discovered' Jennings. He taught his friend, Roy Orbison, how to play a bullfighting call that would become the famous guitar hook in Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman." He wrote the first "girl's name" song, "Peggy Sue," and introduced minor chords and modes to rock and roll. Unlike Presley, Buddy Holly actually wrote his own songs. His independent, relentless conviction was responsible for sound recording innovations we still employ today. He played a Fender Stratocaster because it was the loudest guitar he could find, and he rocked hard. His band rocked hard. Several years before the Beatles made an advertising campaign of it, he put into words and music "we'll live and love with all our might."

21 January, 2009

rewrite of a freewrite

yeh, I'm not much for double-posting, but I like this one, &, since my efforts of late have been fiction-devoted (& since such fictions are too long for this format), here's a rewrite of a piece from September ... I guess rewriting a freewrite may be too much, but, hey, at least I'm not prefacing the piece by explaining it, right?

off-topic freewrite on a bus

that fat, old sun, She’s
a blood orange peeks out from
behind chalky clouds
traces their purple
as if they were islands &
She core of the earth
lightbulb in a globe
bought @ a novelty shop
$10 or less
& dies in the W.
to become the catalyst
for all religion
the childhood rhymes my
granddad sang, “sailor’s delight”
that old world voodoo
the herbs collected
for mojos by my granny
roots, essential oils
that 3rd eye, she sd.,
back of her head. She was born
her parents’ kitchen
Ambridge, PA, in
1911, same yr.
as the last rivets
into the iron
of that great unsinkable
the crown’s Titanic
Gigantic Empire
& the boat was long – the songs
from Tin Pan Alley
to celebrate her
this ironclad Jesus or
a 2nd coming
of old Viking Studs
blue-eyed Injuns forced loveborne
before Columbus
I went to the store
& bought a pint of Gordon’s
went home to the news
on the internet
& outside the impending
southerly storm clouds
The president hid
I met the new same old boss
hurricanes formed &
fell into the land
the candidates huddled &
made nice on TV
there was a vacuum.
it swallowed us all, taking
less time than The Bomb.

-2 Sept., 2008

sayonara, tyrant. thus always ...

The Steelers are in the Super Bowl. George W. Bush is out of the White House. I think it was Jerry Ford who said, "Our long, national nightmare is over." I couldn't put it in better words. It's a good week, so far.

16 January, 2009

things you may or may not know about me

ok, so on the Spacebook thing, Juliet tells me I'm tagged. If I tag *you,* the name of the game is you post a note with 16 thangs about *your*self and tag 16 more people to do the same. Think of it as a cross between a chainletter and that old 'SNL' skit w/Lovitz about, "GET TA KNOW ME!!!" anyway, I had fun with this, so here's the same for those of you who don't spacebook me.


1. I have been overheard, on more than one instance, referring to Barack Obama as "President-elect Wingman."

2. I would rather drop a good chunk of money preparing a killer dinner party for my friends than going out with them to, oh, 95 percent of restaurants out there (except maybe sushi places, since I really don't make my own sushi. Yet).

3. I used to work at a French Restaurant/wine bar. My boss, who hails from Bergerac, would often call on me to correct his American-born wife's not-so-good french. He never picked up on the fact I only took one semester of french in college, in which I only received a 'B' because the T.A. had an admitted Skodt-crush. As it stands, I have about a 30-word french vocabulary (most of which = words for some sort of food or beverage) and can't conjugate any verb in french to save anyone's anything.

4. As a child, I had nightmares about Jesus. In the here and now, I am an atheist.

5. But I do believe in magic.

6. If a gay man hits on me at a party or bar, I play along and don't let on that I'm straight, because, hey, don't we all love the attention?

7. I don't believe in seasonal-affective disorder, but if the Steelers lose, I am a raging psychopath until the next time they win. You should have seen me from Feb. to Sep. of 1996.

8. I'm not a leg-man, breast-man, ass-man, etc. per se, but I do have a thing for ladies from all over the globe with *any* accent not indigenous to the Northern 1/2 of the U.S.

9. I don't know if I'd be able to take a bullet for any head-of-state, but I wouldn't think twice about taking one for Paul Westerberg, Bob Dylan, Bill Cowher or Tom Waits.

10. I cried, like a baby, for a good 6 hours, when John R. Cash died.

11. One time, I finished the Chicago marathon. It was never a goal/dream of mine, but Joe Strummer finished three, so, uh ...

12. I am a complete effing *snob* about wine, but my favorite domestic is still $3 Chuck.

13. Who is this Bill Ayers character who keeps add-requesting me?

14. If I *ever* catch you putting ice into a glass of single-malt, you had better run, like hell, for your dear life (I will allow a *very* small splash of water).

15. back in the '70s, my uncle Ruben had a *GINORMOUS* afro. I mean the kind with a chin-strap. I was, like, a toddler ... anyway, I saw a lot of "Welcome Back, Kotter" in those days, and he sort of reminded me, due to his hair, of the Freddy "Boom Boom" Washington character from that show. My mom, my aunt, etc. -- to this day -- think it was *sooooooooooo* cute how I called my uncle "Oomboom" because I was not yet old enough to say "Ruben," but, really, I was trying to call him "Boom Boom" because he looked like Freddy Washington. Cousin Amy, now you know ... the rest of the story.

16. This is the Tom Green Show. It's not the Green Tom Show. It is my favorite show because it is my show.

15 January, 2009

a blast from the past

(orig. from Sept. 2004 ... I just like this one)


I don't know what it is when summer ends and the air gets cooler and my moods fluctuate with the performance of my favorite sports team. I find myself doing things I normally wouldn't, like setting foot inside so-named 'sports bars,' yelling obscenities at plasma televisions and getting drunk when the sun is still directly overhead. Perhaps one can take the boy out of the Rust Belt, but can't remove the Rust Belt from the boy.

I went the other day to the unveiling of a small, unassuming landmark to the Haymarket Riot (I'd call it a 'monument,' but it's not, as it's message is ambiguous (no doubt in deference to the CPD's continued insistence the innocent who were executed really threw the bombs)) . Suit-wearing headshots elbowed their way to the news cameras and so-called 'anarchists' wore black and brandished posterboard signs. What a crazy 120 years, I thought, during which time the voice of dissent has evolved from risking one's life to speak out for the oppressed to tying up downtown traffic with bikes for an hour or so every fourth friday. Surely, somewhere in the ether, Eugene Debs is proud. Me? I hear the job market looks up in Calgary, but is there a Steelers bar?

14 January, 2009

no paper for you!

All I wanted was a Sun-Times. The weather was lousy, the el is always slow and I like having the patternless crossword for the ridiculously long trek to work. Easy enough, I thought. There's a newsstand in the Logan Square station and I had 50 cents in my pocket. I could have gone into the newsstand, but I do like to get through the turnstyle (you never know when a train is going to sneak into the station and I didn't want to miss mine) and, anyway, there's a window there so folks can patronize the newsstand after they've swiped their card and cleared the turnstyle.

I approached the window. The newsie, a guy I see pretty much five days a week, acknowledged me.

"Could I get a Sun-Times, please?" I said.

He threw his arms into the air, as if he was exasperated, as if it would just have been way too difficult to walk around the counter and grab me a newspaper. Yes, he's been walking around the counter to get my morning paper now for four years, more or less. For some reason, today was the day my regular newsie decided to go on strike.

"But I've already swiped my card," I said. "The train's coming."

Again, he threw his arms into the air. At this, he began moving toward the edge of the counter, where the newspapers are kept.

"Look," I said. "Never mind."

Really, I get my New York Times crossword online. I read all my morning news (including both major Chicago papers) online, too. I can't get the patternless that way, so I give this dude $2.50 a week for it.

So, there I was, stuck on the inbound blue line without my patternless. 45 minutes to Jackson and then another 15 on the red just to get from Jackson to Chicago and State. I thought they'd fixed up that 'slow zone' garbage last year. I'd thought the customer was always right.

I was reminded of the fall of 2002, when I lived in Pittsburgh. I was walking to work one beautiful Squirrel Hill morning when I dropped some change into a machine for the day's Post-Gazette. As I opened the door to get my paper, a shopkeeper came barreling out of his newsstand there on Murray Ave., a frantic look on his face.

"Hey, Buddy," he said. "Does that vending machine pay taxes? Well, I pay taxes. Buy the paper from me."

I thought he'd made a good point, and he'd gotten to my ex-Catholic guilt thing, so I went into his store and bought a second copy of the same paper. I've stayed away from the vending machines ever since.

I tell you, now I'm having second thoughts. My newspaper issues are completely ferkacht. I'll start bringing books or something, I guess ...

13 January, 2009

voices in my head

these were the songs cemented in my head this morning, in the pre-9th circle cold.:

Love You To, the Beatles -- Make love all day long. Make love singing songs.

Lily, Rosemary & the Queen of Hearts, Bob Dylan -- some folks diss this tune b/c it is really long. I like it.

The Beast in Me, Nick Lowe -- don't ask. It just found its way there.

If Not For You, George Harrison -- Dylan's original comes from an album where he's kind of going through the motions. Harrison always brings it. There's always an urgency to everything he sings.

Strawdogs, Guided by Voices -- I was obviously on a Dylan/Harrison kick. Tobin Sprout is the George Harrison of '90s indie-rock.

11 January, 2009

how I spend my bar time

freewrite w/a corpse *
… for Mark Hutchins, still alive

our world
is ending, I’m pretty sure

enduring some generic covers band
@ some tacky R. north racket

$9, 4 oz. glass of piss
plus tax (still, I tip, ex-barkeep)

who will write the next
Last Picture Show? & who

will find it
& where

in the ethers of
some world-wide net cast

to the millions, seen
by nobody

(my old guitar buddy, Mark
cld rock it out, left-hand

& upside-down, fuzzy on booze
& put it straight to say

too much cologne, get me
outta this place, where

whips & chains
compete for space

in a dirty room

(Mark, I miss you. The moon today
arose red & oversized

behind the lake. I went out
w/old friends

from collegetown &
yr. name came up &
shit, I really think this

is it, I mean
all there is


to hang up the rock
& roll shoes

for middle-age, I’m fucking

*(note -- corpse: a poem, or part of a poem, constructed from pieces of other poems. The ‘corpse’ fragments of this poem are italicized.)

07 January, 2009

not a painter, I am ...

So, I don't really do pomes to order, but one of the waiting 4 the bus guys approached me on this, since 3 of us have a month's end shared feature at the Mercury Cafe. I said, "sure," either begrudgingly or full-bully (depending upon that evening's vino intake) & below is the 1st draft of what came to me.

The subject? So, at St. Paul's in Wicker Pk. (new home to a great 1st Friday poetry series), in the 'big room,' there apparently exists a big-ass Jesus mural/painting. I have never been to this 'big room' or seen this Jesus, but, what the hell? I mean, maybe that's the point?




consider the source
of all this
is overhead
mythologies invented

by Egyptians to dumb
down the journey

of Earth in the Cosmos; astronomers
they were
in the time of folklore, planets

for gods
& all we knew was blue
sky the phases

of moon
its nightly arc & sun

its retrograde into

the 1st nomads into

brought this along
reworked to spite the pantheists
& strongarm

the populace. consider the age

of Aries, rung in
to run off the bull-calf
then finally give way

to this fisherman myth. read backwards
the star signs
& believe

nothing you can’t touch
or deduce, fear

not the burning
@ the stake, rack
& hairshirt. that time

is past


I was a 5th grader @ St. Luke’s Roman Catholic, piss-poor
altar-boy in the days before attention deficit disorder

I’d learned my 1st few chords on a $70 JCPenney guitar & beat
around my 1st few Beatles tunes, would have rather grown up to be

John Lennon than Jesus, in spite of my cracked, flat pre-adolescent voice, my semi-absent old man

who saw me odd weekends, insisted upon attending
Fr. Shori’s Sat. p.m. mass, arriving early
so we could get a seat behind

Boom-Boom Mancini, fresh off his 1st-rd. pasting of A. Frias for the lightweight belt. I marveled @ being nearly his equal in height

@ such a young age, his date ea. wk. a different lady, his
rote knowledge of the mass ritual, the very altar boy

I never was &

ea. peace-be-w/you ego boost enough to my old man’s Cath. failure complex. The father, like son, no big fan

of the 1st commandment



I think I may have, once, @ a young-enough age
to have had viable nightmares

5, maybe 6
& the happy pills
prescribed to numb

my folks’ divorce
potent enough to illicit
hallucinations: Evil Jesus

outside the bedroom window in the night to
kidnap & keep me

some rusted out van
& the S. Cal. hillsides, an image

retained from an episode
of CHiPs

& left afraid
to sleep lights out until one day

I spit out my pills
to wait out the half-life, no longer

fearful of
anything I couldn’t touch & jaded long before

& little more than this white likeness looking
down onto peeled paint, chachke

to dollarstore candle-hipsters & burned
into the collective brain

of 1 billion-plus
save us


* * *

06 January, 2009

anyone who tells you they love Bob Dylan's 'self-portrait' is a liar.

so, twice in as many days, two different folks tell me they really, really, really love Self Portrait. Whenever I hear this, my very gut response is, “really? Is this a joke or something?” I mean, I really don’t intend any offense. I just have a hard time grasping that. It’s almost always one of you whose musical aesthetic I admire, too. I just really have to get this off the old chest …

Yeah, I know you’re out there. Every now and then, that “What’s your favorite Dylan album?” game comes up and one of you invariably says something to the effect of, “well, actually, I really like Self-Portrait.” So, OK, maybe you do like the album, for whatever reason, but is it really one of your favorites? I mean, out of Bob’s nearly 60 releases, is this one really in the same zip code-errrrrr-region as, say Blood on the Tracks or Blonde on Blonde or even, oh, Nashville Skyline? Shot of Love? Freewheelin’?

Again, I’m sure each Self-Portrait champion has his/her reasons, and I’ll get into those in a paragraph or so, but, really? I mean, preferring SP to the more, uh, agreed upon ‘favorites’ is sort of like preferring Coupling after Richard Coyle left the show, or preferring Archie Bunker’s Place to All in the Family. Isn’t it?

So, with Self-Portrait, Mr. Dylan attempts to string together a double-length set of country standards with countrified reworks of some earlier biggies (“She Belongs to Me,” “Like a Rolling Stone”). Most notable, though not for its quality, IMO, is a rendition of Paul Simon’s “The Boxer” in which Nashville Skyline Bob sings an overdubbed duet with raspy-voiced, ‘61-’67 Bob. There are a couple nice moments among the mess, sure, but every rough has its diamond …

why I don’t think Self-Portrait is great

Alright … note, I didn’t say I ‘detest’ or even ‘dislike’ the album. I’m just saying it’s probably toward the bottom of the pile. I mean, if you put out 57 of anything, you’re bound to have a few duds, right?

Chronologically, Self-Portrait is bookended by a very solid 1961-69 canon. Sure, Nashville Skyline doesn’t shine as bright as the albums preceding it, but it’s still a solid collection with a few really great songs (“Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” hops to mind). On the other side, a couple years off, Dylan puts out Blood on the Tracks and Desire and then his string of “gospel” albums, all of which crush Self-Portrait like a grape. Sure, Shot of Love is no Blood on the Tracks, but the gospel albums still hold their own, are much more enjoyable to sit through. Really, I’ve sat through all of them.

who really thinks Self-Portrait is so great???

Good question, Scott. I’ve divvied it into a two or three groups. Here goes …

1. David Zimmerman, Sara, Jesse, Anna, Samuel, Jakob Dylan, et al ….

I guess if your family won’t support you, nobody will. Then again, I don’t know any of these folks, so I haven’t been able to ask any of them directly. Shrug.

2. The Dylan completist/absolutist.

You know who you are. You’re almost always male. You own all 57 Dylan releases on vinyl, CD, cassette, 8-track and ¼-inch reel (on top of the burned remixes of your favorite albums peppered with your favorite “alternate takes”). Nothing Bob has done, does or will do was, is or will be wrong. On your wall is a near-naked icon of Bob hanging on a crucifix. You spend your spare time uploading bootlegs of Renaldo and Clara and Eat the Document to YouTube. You have not had a date since the Reagan years.

My advice: embrace your inner Blonde on Blonde. Go outside. Discover Lavalife. Visit the iTunes store & check out music by artists filed under A-C and E-Z.

3. The music snob (or did you hear the one about the indie-rocker?).

Soooooo, the joke goes something like this:

Jokerman: Hey, didja hear the one about the indie-rocker?
Straightman: No. Do tell me about the indie-rocker.
Jokerman (voice muffled, staring at shoes): Nevermind.

This is an archetype exemplified by the Jack Black/Barry character in the film/book, High Fidelity. His/her only purpose in life is to out-obscure his/her peers. To this ilk, admitting to like something enjoyed by any semblance of the masses is to concede everything one has worked at in life. He/she has likely never actually gotten into half of the shit they claim to dig, but if they let on, it would ruin everything they represent. How plebian to hold Highway 61 Revisited in such lofty esteem. Have you even heard “In Search of Little Sadie?” I mean, if you don’t know, I’m not gonna tell you, but, hell, “All the Tired Horses?” Come on, that’s light years beyond The Basement Tapes.

My advice: repeat, as often as necessary: It’s alright to like things other people like. Blood on the Tracks is very good.

What I actually *like* about Self-Portrait

OK. There are a couple good moments. It’s a good reference piece. It’s groovy to throw this version of “The Boxer” or “Like a Rolling Stone” into a party shuffle.

So-o-o-o-o-oooooooooo ...

The argument you’ll hear in favor of the album is that it represents a departure for the artist. But, come on, we’re talking about a dude who departs a good bit with each release. I appreciate the “departure” take. I really do.

My take? I think Bob was burnt out for ideas, had a contractual obligation to fill and phoned in a big, old turd.

Then again, I’m a guy who digs the music of Yoko Ono. No, really.

05 January, 2009

look what I dug up unpacking.





holiday wish list

discipline, maturity
painter’s eye
brevity of pen
& new & old friends
cash on hand
no war
a roof, a bed, a
rock and roll band &
pantryful of cans






02 January, 2009


- buy a new phone (mine is near-death, often gets no signal & the screen just cracked (rendering it near-useless, as well)).

- travel somewhere this year other than to Columbus for Jill's wedding.

- drink less alcohol.

- that novel I've been finishing since, oh, 2004, we-e-e-e-e-e-llll (no, really, it's there, I'm just anal about revision (is it possible to be revisionist about anal?)) ....

- finish the pome about the Jeezus mural at St. Paul's I told Matt Barton I'd have to him two days ago.

- drink more alcohol.

- no more eating like an arsehole.

- start a new band.

- learn to dream in b&w, not like the 'normal' kids, but because it would make my dreams Fellini-esque. Yeah, my dreams to this point have been exclusively in color.

- two words: Flugtag Ornithopter.