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.