Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Just Cause

Just because I feel like putting an older poem up, I'm going to put it up. Look at that picture of Jerry, Janis and Ricky Danko from the Festival Express above. Singing "Ain't No Cane on the Brazos." I see that and think of all my friends trading folk songs and all the old songs we know and love in our circle of friends. Sounds like hippy babble, but it's true. It's something I think about and love in the night after a long work day when people and songs I love come into my mind. Anway, here's a poem for anyone who's reading:

P.S.: Wade went for 39 pts, 2 reb, 2 stl, and 4 blks, on Sunday against the Pistons. MVP?

Dear Mrs. Capuano

Dear Mrs. Capuano, you look fine today,
Your hair is still blonde and straight,
The way I remember it in summer –
The big wooden picnic table,
And the plate of cold grilled chicken.

How’s your daughter, Mrs. Capuano?
Did she finally marry a millionaire
The way your husband would’ve wanted?
Will I see her up on page six,
Or on the cover of Life magazine?

She was the one who opened the world
With her small eyes and insecurities,
The way she loved me when I didn’t,
And her ocean biology and curves,
Which later broke my heart and left me with epiphany.

Where are my old friends, Mrs. Capuano?
You never knew them so well,
Just from the photos and mug shots,
But you’ll have to tell them I’m alright,
I just had to go up north and grow a beard.

You’ll find my friends if you look hard enough,
One’s a doctor and the other a thief,
One’s a cook and another is a lover,
They’re all illusions of myself
That I play from time to time for you.

I turn to you, Mrs. Capuano,
In the fallout of my education,
I have no atom bombs to scream at,
My world is made of oil regulation speeches
And an audacity to hope.

I don’t know where your daughter goes at night,
What kind of moon she sees or pretends to.
I’m as far away as you are,
I only know what happened back then,
The way she wore wet hair in the summer.

But I don’t care about all that, Mrs. Capuano,
Love will always be well used on the young,
It’ll never be wasted or misspent,
What comes next is the understanding,
And an ability to accurately dream.

You and I have seen the cigarette rubble,
We’ve walked under all the overpasses,
Those things will always be there for us –
Each generation looks for the world to get stranger
When it’s shape has remained the same.

You could’ve been my mother, Mrs. Capuano,
What trials would you have led me through,
What confessions would we have shared together?
Things turned out the way they had to,
And you still drive the kids to school.

I’ll never be tall or strong like your husband,
But I could love you the same way he does:
Late at night on the back steps without passion
With only the sounds of the trees and streets,
While you wait to see your daughter hop the fence.

I saw a mother and daughter in yellow, Mrs. Capuano,
They looked at their reflections in new slick windows,
They weren’t blonde but brunette like your daughter
And when I saw them, I thought of you two on a beach,
Before you were in my world, and didn’t feel sad.

The daughter pretended to cry, like yours didn’t,
Her tears were as real as the cicadas and deckwood,
The mother twirled her, like you must’ve done,
When I dropped her off with a puffy red face
And you knew that it was the world and not me.

I’ve been watching the storm fronts move in and out, Mrs. Capuano,
I see clouds and then I see the break from iron steps,
There is a smell of garlic, then fruit, and baking pizza dough
As the sun sets on the lavender rooftops
Where I wait for the rhythm of summer to reveal itself.

Who would blame me if I put everything in a letter?
I could leave it for you and everyone else I’ve loved,
But I’d get to their doorsteps and see the green paint,
I’d see them in the middle of dinner through the window,
Their shapes clearer than they are in my mind where love lives,
And I’d know what you knew at the end of August,
Because I’m like my generation in every way,
Because it is me and I can’t blame that on the world.
So I’ll touch the frayed lace curtains and turn.

“Excuse me, Mrs. Capuano, I don’t want to interrupt you in the middle of dinner.”

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


It is Wednesday night. Listening to a little Graham Nash and David Crosby "Frozen Smiles." Lost is on on Wednesdays and this is the perfect time in a Lost season to lose interest. I was not on the Lost bandwagon when it was first on, but got hooked in the summer of 2006. By hooked I mean I thought the show was amazing in that it could be broken down to the following dramatic interaction:

Character A: "I have to go do something dangerous maybe?"
Character B: "I have to go with you."
Character A: "No, you can't come with me."
Character B: "You have to let me come with you."
Character A: (Grimaces) "Fine you can come with me."
Character B: (Smiles)

But since then, I am always disappointed with midseason and stop watching only to hear how amazing the last episode is. I mean, Lost is no great show, it may be the funniest thing on TV right now, though, and you have to love a show with an abundance of characters that they can just concoct and throw at you. Especially when back to back synopsis of the show's episodes are "Sawyer finds himself in a lie." and "Sawyer finds himself supporting his lie." That's where we should all be working.

P.S. : Buy or download the album "Nash and Crosby"

Now, "From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt":


The piano has stopped playing and I hear two pairs of footsteps. One goes up the stairs and the other continues walking down the hall and enters the den where I’m sitting reading Frankenstein for my fiction class. All freshmen have to take it. Eve emerges and doesn’t seem to notice me.

“Hi, Eve.”

She jumps up and puts her hand to her chest.

“You scared the shit out of me.”

“Sorry,” I say.

Eve begins laughing hysterically. Her laugh is somewhat musical. It rises and falls nicely.

“What?” I ask.

“Oh, nothing. I just can’t believe that scared me so much.”

She sits down next to me on the couch.

“What’re you reading?”

I hold up the book to show her.

“Ah,” she says. “I always thought that was such a boring book. I hate those epistolary novels.”

“You were an English major right?”

She nods. “Your brother and I were complete opposites. I’ve managed to get him to become a bigger reader. How do you like school so far anyway?”

I feel tears forming behind my eyes but I don’t want to start crying in front of her. Besides, I’m stronger than that. Even if it is my fault, I can’t let anyone know or see that it affects me. I’m not the little girl.

“I love it. It’s terrific.”

“Yeah? You don’t miss home? Or, well I guess there wasn’t so much time to.”

We’re both quiet. I know she’s thinking about mom too. Mom would never say too much about Eve. I’d try to get it out of her. But she’d always keep it simple. “She’s a lovely girl.”

Something generic like that from a woman who was capable of turning eloquent phrases and who could really get to the heart of something. “She’s a lovely girl.” It sounded like something from a Hallmark card.

“How are the guys?” Eve asks laughing her little music again. I can’t help but laugh too. There is something infectious about it. When did James first fall in love with her? After her first laugh? What is it even like to fall in love and to know you want to get married?

“There are some cute ones. Not so many on my floor but definitely in some of my classes. In this fiction class actually.”

I put the book down. I like talking to her. Something about it reminds me of talking to mom over coffee. She lightly hits my arm.

“What about your roommate?”

“I don’t know. We’re feeling each other out still. We had our first sort of heart to heart the other night.”

“Ah, one of those late night talks when you both can’t sleep.”

“Yeah, its tough when you hear people outside talking. There’s something about it.”
Eve smiles. “That feeling that something is always happening.”

That’s exactly it. That’s been the best part about it so far. The feeling of things constantly going on. People constantly talking or staying up late. There could be a party going on in every room. There probably isn’t but there could be. Lights are never off at college.
“Yeah,” I say. “Something always happening.”

We’re quiet again. I can see that Eve is staring at the white bookcase that the TV sits in. All of the books are still up on the shelves. The photo albums too. No one’s started packing this area.

“I can’t believe we’ve got to pack all of this up,” she says.

“I know.”

“Ben’s always been like this?”

“I never saw it so much, but that’s what I’ve heard. He’s always been funny and had his own way about him. You know. My mom kept him from doing a lot of spur of the moment things like this.”

“After his accident right?”


“The motorcycle accident when he was drunk. Isn’t that what it was?”

I close the book. I never knew about an accident. All this time my family, all of them have been keeping this from me. James never told me. Tom never told me. Dad never told me. Not even Maggie who would’ve been the one to let it slip. But worst of all…. Not even after school. Not even when we were drinking coffee together.

The rain falls down. Everyone is holding black umbrellas and wearing black clothes. Maggie is wearing sunglasses. Eve and James are standing next to me squeezing each other’s hands. I watch the coffin lowering into the wet and almost black mud. My dress shoes squish on the grass and green blades stick to the shining patent leather.

I see mom’s picture. They have it standing above the hole. She’s young in it. She looks exactly like Maggie. She’s wearing a pearl necklace and smiling. You can see little lines by her eyes. Her red hair looks beautiful.

And there is dad behind the picture. He’s soaking wet. He has no umbrella. The jacket of his suit slopes down and looks too big for him. But he’s sitting on a motorcycle holding a glass with liquor in it. He looks at no one but me. He raises it up and the rain falls and runs down his face. He and I must share something.

Why couldn’t I know?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Two Things on Tuesday

There are two things I want to address tonight:


I've been on a new fiction kick lately. After months of rereading Anna Karenina and then delving into a Tolstoy biography, the past two weeks I have been catching up on some back logged Christmas gifts of new fiction (because really Christmas is the best time to ask for what is, for most consumers, an unknown commodity). The first week of March I wafted through Jim Harrison's "The English Major." I do not mean to use waft as a pejorative term, the book is very light and reads easily. However, it is a very good road story told from a perspective that has not been seen, by me at least, in a road novel. That perspective being an elderly man. What this narrator is looking for is not much different than any other protagonist in a road story, a new beginning, a better understanding of one's country and why one feels an attachment to it, and how all of the emotional entanglements, romances, and nostalgias of that individuals life are tied to their country - or their understanding of what they think America is. Good book.

The past week and a half I have been working on Joesph O'Neill's "Netherland." I am about three quarters through but have been compelled to comment on it from the first few pages. This is truly a fantastically written book. You will receive overwhelming waves of the Fitzgerald senisbility and mood when reading the novel - his sentences flow, digress and then resolve just as beautifully as Fitzgerald's do. There is also that almost unexplainably true sensation a reader gets when reading Fitzgerald as with O'Neill that a story is meant to be told in the wake of some significant moment that will only be revealed at the very end of the story. Now, this may seem elementary, but in the Great Gatsby, Nick has a terrific way of reeling the reader in and then letting the line slack as to why his tone and relation to the events that have occured to him are so profound and so heavily reliant on a retrospection that is intoxicating. So far, in O'Neill's story of a displaced Dutchman/Englishman in New York, the utilization of retrospection draws the reader in and places him in those shoes. O'Neill's protagonist may be estranged from his wife and child for reasons that he understands and at the same time struggles to see the truth in, but his tone and approach to the matter, with a vague sadness that points to the profound appeals and seems familiar to any reader. We all picture ourselves walking with our hands in slightly stale khaki pants, walking city streets in a mild cold in bewilderment. How did this all happen to us? And what are we going to do next?


The Tony Castles. Now all three of these guys, Gabi Wurzel, Paul Sicilian, and Willie Miesmer are good friends of mine. Gabi plays in the Muggabears, Paul a former member of Bernie Tonka, and Willie a member of Boogie Boarder, but all three have come together to make a band that is really going to do something. I am biased of course. However, if you go to their Myspace page, linked above, and listen to "Black Girls in Dresses," you will agree it is the hit single that no one is listening to yet. Forget about noise pop with little girls singing in asian, this is the music for the young and the masses. You make sure to look out (you who do stumble on this) for any next show they have listed. Ask me and I can ask Gabi.

Now, for the next installment of From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt:


The rain is falling outside and I don’t feel like doing anything. Dad’s leather study chair isn’t comfortable but it reclines back with my weight so I can trick my posture into being comfortable. It’s been a long time since I’ve sat and admired the rain. I was never melancholy enough to do it so often. I always got the sense that Tom was that way although he never really told me so or shared so much. I’d catch him reading poems and gazing out the window when I’d come home from school or on the holidays. I think he had an artistic bent to him. Turning and turning in the widening gyre. He had to recite that for English class. Mr. Marsh. I had to do that also. I forget what I picked. I think it was one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. There were so many of those to go around. I couldn’t really enjoy it. You don’t enjoy poetry or get caught up in a school assignment if you are on the lacrosse team. That would make you look like a fag. I always hated that word.

Drops are falling on bushes, the leaves are still full on trees and they move slightly in the wind. Things are green and wet and the light is still a summer light even though it is grey, it’s not dark and depressing like the rain or grey of November or December. How considerate of mom to die in a month when the weather is still nice and we don’t have to shovel snow to get to a grave. That’s what I’m looking at. The paperwork for the funeral. She and dad had enough morbid sense to make their payments already and plan everything out in advance. Who thinks of that? I guess we all have to think of that. We all have to set up our gardens to plant ourselves in, make our advance payments for it too so that everything is neat and clean trimmed mounds of dirt next to the green of the grass and maybe a flower or two. I spoke to Aunt Diane before.

“I ordered a flower arrangement.”

“Thank you but my mom had already picked out her arrangements.”

“A sister can add her own too. That’s the way it is at funerals.”

“I guess I never noticed before.”

“Best that you didn’t. What does a young man need to notice flowers at a funeral for?”

“I don’t know.”

“You had a good mother.”

“I know.”

“We could all use extra flowers.”

Everyone sounds so sad and seems so sad. We weren’t all this messed up all the time were we? I don’t think so. I had a happy childhood. I’d like to think that people were envious of our family. I was a good brother. Maybe I was too anxious to grow up. To handle paperwork and be a man, be relied upon by a wife like Eve. I could’ve been a better brother to Tom. I tried to teach him things, to stay away from losers, the guys I hung out with on the team. I wanted him to escape too. But what is he doing now? Why does he still live on the Island? Why does he come home? Why is he at mass now? I could’ve been a better brother.

The chair rocks back and forth and I hear it squeak underneath my weight. I grip the wood of the table with my right hand and shift the paperwork around with my left. Bryant and Sons Funeral Home. Old Town Road. The name is written in script with a slight flourish of graphic underneath it. Piles of paperwork make up this world; it’s the world that I work in. Numbers, files, papers. I don’t want Tom or Liza to be in a world like that, but I don’t know if you can escape it.

“You’ll be a good husband, James.”

“Do you think so, mom?”

“It doesn’t really matter if I think it.”

“Of course it does.”

“You had your father to look at.”

“But he had his problems didn’t he?”

“And so did I.”
“You did?”

“We’re all faulted.”

“That’s only the Bible talking.”

“Well, if you think that then we all have compromises to make. We face ourselves and sometimes we have to give things up. Luckily, your father was able to do that. He gives me too much credit. I might’ve been too much of a bitch when I was younger, but he seemed to understand something in it.”

“That all seems too nice. How can it all make sense like that?”

“I don’t know if it all does make sense like that.”

“What does that mean?”

“You’ll be a good husband, James.”


Her red cheeks. The reddishness of her hair like Maggie. The youth that remained in her face, especially in the corners by her eyes so that they still looked twenty-four. Why couldn’t dad catch the illness?

The desk lamp makes the room look gold. My life and childhood have been something out of a movie. I spin the chair and as it slows, I face the window and the rain again. Life isn’t so sad. Life is made up of rainy days and I should learn to enjoy rainy days more. I should let water drip off the end of leaves and fall to the grass to enter into the rest of the earth. I can remember taking naps in October on cloudy days in college and listening to music. I’m still young. When did I become the leader? When did I become responsible?

Come in here, James. There’s a little boy who wants to meet you.

I’m a father?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Ma$e Double Up

So I feel like doing a double post. Look at Dunston up there with Jason Alexander. Such a touching scene in a beautiful movie. I am going to post a poem I finished tonight below. Check it out and let me know what any of you think. If not I will just be vain and think it is good.

Sunday Dinner

There goes the flash of the silver –
Aluminum and wrought iron
Passing with coffee indigestion
And the quick touch of blue eyes,
Blonde hair and the grey striped parka.

One tuft of blonde hair is reminiscent
Of one that is more familiar,
A head shorter than you and
As equally younger but
No less filled with love and anger.

She doesn’t dictate which way her heart moves –
Everything moves in a million places,
Everying shatters and comes together again –
The words she speaks on the computer
Will splinter into an hour’s worth of tears.

And there’s a black quilt spread wide
With curling hair from a rhyming story
A song underneath the chapel’s juncture
The apse and navel of form
No temple and not yet a woman.

But there’s an overgrown beatnik
With a Lost Generation haircut
Who relies on words from an alpine cabin,
White pine memories that gave him happiness,
Which doesn’t mean anything at 5 AM.

Where we once saw the sun rise
We now find ourselves alone and sore,
But no shoulder pressure and mistaken passion
Will make us fall and give up –
Misunderstanding and patience give way to love.

One morning you’re a young professional
With a quick stride and an overcoat,
Pomade ambition staining your shirtcuffs
And that night, you’re in boots with beer
Stomping a wood floor in honky tonk reverie.

But the drizzle will straddle the two.
A dinner underneath the mounted wolf’s head,
Someone forgotten but loved once again,
The girl by the stone wall in a purple dress
The one who makes you a stranger to yourself.

What sadness does that blonde hair know?
What line will she read in blankets
So that everything will feel like it is OK?
It’ll take more than a green dress, a concert ticket
Or the love of the next man to make it true.

And you’re in the passenger seat
With champagne on your back and leather
Driving shoes halfway up your hands,
Passing them to a girl who drives at night
Looking for the ice, something clean and sharp.

What will you give her? A vacant stare?
The want of that engagement dinner
The steps you skid on the way to love
On the way to death and taxes and
Sunday mornings with music from the movies.

There’s no going back to the room filled with letters
The dusty rain soaked carpet of green.
There is only your cooking that burns my nose
With the strength of black pepper at dusk
And that’s all I wanted in that room with letters.

Anything you read on Wednesday morning
Is not serious or written in stone,
It is fluid like your love is.
And I’m in love too, maybe with you
But maybe with something that I could’ve been –
A time when knowing one thing was better
Than knowing so many others –
My friend taught me that with dinner
So I can never repay him or his images
Of forests and a firepit with friends.
No matter how hard I try, I will never repay
You either for letting me know exactly
What I wanted for just a time.

Now, there will be curling hair and blankets,
Missteps, guilt loneliness, but freedom.
Because my hands always fit in my pockets
Because the sun goes down and lights the porches
And stairwells of my life where I walk,
No longer defining love or your tight hair,
But feeling them within me – making my way to the door.

Wade MVP (Or the End of the Argument)

So we've just gone through an amazing week of Dwyane Wade heroics. I'm listening to "Every Night" by Paul McCartney. This whole NBA season has been completely focused on Kobe Bryant and Lebron James and rightfully so. Their teams (along with the Celtics) have been dominating the standings. Lebron put up a not so triple double at MSG right after Kobe laid down 61 in typical Kobe fashion (0 assists). The Cavs and Lakers could very well meet in the finals. We all know Kobe is a killer and Lebron is a freak of nature. However, Dwyane Wade silently, consistently is the best player in the NBA.

The MVP debate has historically centered around this dilemma. Player A is putting up great numbers and his team has a great record and is in the thick of the playoff/Finals discussion. Meanwhile Player B is putting up astounding numbers and without him his team would win maximum 15-20 games. Usually Player A, if taken away, would see his team drop in his absence, but not in such a dramatic fashion. Usually, Player B is putting up the bigger scoring numbers. In the end, in the NBA, it's player A that gets the MVP.

This year is different. Not only is Wade the leading scorer in the league, averaging an even 30.0 points per game as of this evening, he is also in the top 5 in steals and assists. Now, Kobe certainly shoulder a huge load for the Lakers from 2004-2006. However, that was the era when we saw Kobe score 81 points. Dwyane Wade is never going to score 81 points, nor does he ever want to. Dwyane Wade is a killer just like Kobe. Kobe, Lebron and Dwyane are the only three killers in the game today. There is no one else, and if anyone argues then they are arguing to degrees, because those three are the only ones who will kill you to win the game (i.e. the M.J, Bird, Magic, Isiah gene). I may give you Chris Paul as a 4th member on some nights, but not full fledged yet - he's too much point guard.

Now, where the difference arises is that, Wade will not let his team lose, but he will not go about it by trying to score as much as possible. Sure he pours it in, but his assist lines are just as ridiculous. Look at his lines the past two weeks:


5 out of 6 games he broke 30 points. 3 out of 6 games he broke double digits in assists. 1 out of 6 games he broke double digit rebounds, which a combo 1/2 guard really isn't expected to do. 4 out of six games he had 4 steals - a great to extraordinary stat for those who don't know. The turnovers are still his one weak spot, but look at that - 3 blocks in one game for a 6'4" guard.

See, Dwyane Wade is putting his team on his back entirely, but still remaining an all around player who can fill in the stat sheet, he is explosive, he is physical and yet still graceful. I know the media and any true NBA fan will be in awe of Lebron. Lebron is a physical specimen, he can get it done in the clutch, and he has carried a team to the Finals. We can't go by history in an MVP race. I think we can safely say that Kobe should be ruled out of the race this year. This race is down to the two guys who will be dominating this award for the next 5 years. Lebron and Wade. You can't lose with either, but if you look at Wade's overall body of work, the caliber and amount of support he has compared to Lebron (Lebron can get plenty of assists with Mo Williams knocking down 3's, with Varajao flopping baskets in out of control, with Big Z lumbering in for a dunk) while Wade has to hope that his young shooters can make a three to get an assist.

The Heat will be better next year and the Cavs will be just as good and may be the reigning champs. So let Lebron get his MVP as he defends his title. This is Wade's year. No one has worked harder, taken on more, but still shared and been a model player. Sorry 04'-06' Kobe you were amazing, but not at the same balance as Wade, which is why it took the 2007-2008 Kobe to win it. The 2008-2009 Wade season is changing the mold, and that's why he is going to win it.

Now, the next installment of From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt:


I’m in my bathrobe and the shower is running. I’m wasting the water and I know that. But I’ve always loved the sound of the shower, the sound of repetitive falling water as natural in its way as rain. I remember when I used to take a shower in the morning and when I’d step out James would be curled up on the bathroom rug with a towel over him sleeping. I’d laugh every time. There’s something natural about it. The warmth, the moisture and the sound. It’s like the womb. That stuff was always surprising about being a father. How your kids could do strange little things like that. Be so attached to you. You never imagine that. Another person being so attached to you that they’d wake up to come and lay and listen to you shower. But that’s what it is to be a parent. You can never project that, you can’t project a child sleeping on the bathroom floor or waking you up before dawn on Christmas. Those are the images you have, but you can’t fully project that. You can’t fully project the feeling of being in that bed in the dark on Christmas Morning and you are still a college student in some way wanting to sleep as late as possible when you can, but here they come. Here are these little people that can’t wait to wake you up and be alive and can’t wait for you to be up and be alive so that you can watch them open presents. And you want sleep so bad, but there is a joy in you – an unknown glowing organ that flourishes at moments like that. When the little legs and arms jump on the comforter in the dark and these kids are you and they need and love you.

But those are all memories and old feelings. I’m still here in my bathrobe and drunk. The bathroom still looks the same with the jacuzzi empty and the baskets with the different colored soaps and gels that I never used. I should just dump them all in the jacuzzi and lie there instead of taking a shower. Maybe I will. On the sink a glass of water is resting on the flat part next to the faucet. It’s one of the glasses with the red flowers on it. In the sink is my second Cutty Sark bottle. I took a few sips before.

I open the stall. Water sprinkles my forearm. I turn off the knobs. Steam has started to fill the bathroom and everything feels damp and comfortable. I step to the jacuzzi and turn on the water. I stop the drain and watch it fill.

When we first moved in, Rose and I would use the jacuzzi all the time. It was a luxury to have. That was the beginning of the prosperous time. We had Maggie and James. So much room and so many bathrooms. We still had a healthy sex life then too. Three times a week it was I think. We’d put the kids to sleep and the house was so big that it didn’t matter. But she’s dead now. Thinking about the sex you had with your dead wife. And how can I possibly get all of that back? I can’t and I know that but it would be nice.

The water is filling and I pour in some soap. It’s a round smooth plastic bottle with blue liquid. Then there’s a red one, its raspberry scented. I pour that into the mix too. A green one is next: kiwi. A purple one: passion fruit and plum. These are all scents I’ve smelt before but never known. Although it looks like the bottles have hardly been used. The soap and bubbles are rising and frothing beneath the flow of the faucet. The water is just about higher than the jets. I turn the jets on; some of the water shoots out of the tub and hits my robe thigh. It’s warm and leaves a soapy mark. The water has risen above the jets and now everything is bubbly and the room is steamy and smells like a strange rotten and overripe fruit vendor. I remove my robe. My skin is wrinkled. There are some liver spots on my thigh. I could’ve had more if I drank all those years.

I step to the sink and take the bottle of Cutty Sark with me. I look at my naked self in the mirror. Just another day of vanity. Remember when I was 20? Looking in the mirror all the time then. I’m walking over to the tub and now I’m sinking into the bubbles and the steam and watching the suds wrap around the bottle.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Basketball season is heating up and we are getting towards the playoffs. Some interesting storylines need to be discussed, but that will come at another time. "Crazy Captain Gunboat Willie" from Little Feat's first album is playing now and I feel the energy to write about Red Rose Speedway - Paul McCarney's fourth solo album.

I know I have mentioned this album a lot on this blog if any of you follow it. I know one guy does because he wrote a comment so I thank you Lautreamont, my first blog commentator. Anyway, Red Rose Speedway is pretty shitty by most people's standards I would think, but not for me. My good friend Nick Mencia was always raving about it while I was in the majority, raving about Ram, which most people consider the only bearable (aka not too sticky sweet though very semisweet chocoloate) Paul solo album. So I picked up the album and gave it a listen.

When first song "Big Barn Bed" comes on you are in full 70's mode. The sound is terrific I think and I am no real judge other than I like to listen to a lot of music and I know what I like. So when I hear chiming acoustic guitars, a slinky electric guitar and some good drums and bass with Paul singing in funny voices and running his voice all over his register, I know it's a great song. See, really Big Barn Bed could sum up all of McCartney solo and it was what he was really all about even though he had his missteps like anyone - I mean Lennon's shit sucked a lot of the time, lets be honest and he is my second favorite singer of all time - fun. McCartney had all the tools and he wanted to have fun with his music. Overproduced? Who cares? Too sweet for you? Who cares?

The second song "My Love" is absolutely too sweet. Overproduced as hell with a line that YOU could not make up "When the cupboard's bare, my love's still there." If you were that smart then you would not be reading these words about this song or even writing the words about the song - you would be a billionaire riding across the country in an old Ford Bronco.

"Get On the Right Thing," the third song, is my favorite song. Its a classic Paul rocker with some of the best lines in the history of rock music. "All at once you get love on your mind and your world is as unkind as a penny." That is just one line of genius. But while those kind of lines are going on, someone is playing ungodly Ringoesque drums and we have soul singers backing Paul and Paul is playing some honky tonk/Ray Charles piano. Then the drums really kick, the piano pounds, the soul singers belt it out and Paul starts putting on the Lady Madonna/Abbey Road medley voice that we all know and love. We get more of this and Little Richard shrieking for a blissful 4 minutes or so - I don't have the time in front of me.

Next is the country ditty "One More Kiss," which is so effortlessly melodic and perfect only Paul would've written it.

Fifth, is "Little Lamb Dragonfly." With a title like that and with Paul behind the wheel, you know this is one melancholy son of a bitch. A wistful acoustic guitar brings it in and then the strings swell and take over. Soon melodramatic horns are blowing and Paul is singing in some weird voice you never heard in the Beatles, like a strange opera singer. The song cascades and finishes, and I bet you (insert number) dollars that you will be humming this song when you walk down the street for a week after you hear it. Even if one lyric is "Dragonfly, fly by my window. You and I still have a way to go."

"Single Pigeon" is literally classic McCartney. Nice piano line, Paul singing perfectly. Even putting in obscure and abstract lines like "Sunday Morning, fight about Saturday night," that he hadn't touched on since "You Never Give Me Your Money." Perfect Paul. Put this one in the time capsule along with the next.

"When the Night" is another in Paul's great R&B line. It's in there with "Oh, Darling," "Why Don't We Do It In the Road," "She's A Woman," "Lady Madonna." This may be the best out of them all though. He really nails it. Steady piano, his voice doing that crazy Paul deep voice and then in the end the crazy Paul shriek. He even does the funny Beatle groove and quiet voice jams they would do at the end of the song.

"Loup (First Indian on the Moon)" Instrumental weird McCartney. You have to love it. The man liked tape loops. They aren't here, but it came from that Stockhausen part of his heart.

"Medley: a)Hold Me Tight; b)Lazy Dynamite; c)Hands of Love; d) Power Cut." Abbey Road medley? This is the only medley we should ever speak of.

This is one of the masterpieces of western music. Put it on with friends over on a Sunday night when you are drinking the hair of the dog to get better for work. Have a home cooked hot meal, enjoy the taste of beer and this album will reveal its miracles to you.

Now, From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt.


I’m sitting with Eve in the living room. She’s watching me play the piano. I haven’t played in a long time. I would’ve played at Easter if I’d been home. Something sounds off with it. No one has kept it in tune I’m sure. I used to spend hours here playing and playing in the afternoon. Mom would sit with me. She’d fold laundry or read the Times or whatever book she was reading. The philosophy she dabbled in too. But now it’s Eve and I and I’m playing a Bach etude that I learned to long ago. I forget if it even has a name. I like seeing my fingers move along the white and black keys. My fingers still look young even though I’m not. Thirty-two, dear God! I always dreaded when I would be able to say, “When I was thirty.” The past tense of being thirty, which is everyone’s cut off age for kids and marriage and all of that. I stop playing. Eve looks at me.

“Does it upset you to see Ben this way?” She asks. Her legs are crossed in jeans and she’s bouncing the right one, which is crossed on top.

“Why? Does it bother you?”

“You were the only one who was alive when he last had a drink. James treats that like its folk-lore or some sort of holy myth.”

“He does?” I ask.

She smiles and her eyes widen. “Yes, I think that you all do.”

I laugh. I can’t help it. “You’re right,” I say.

“It’s because of how legendary Ben was, isn’t it? How he was going to be famous?”

I know she knows this, but it’s the first time she has asked me directly about it.

“That’s what they say. He was famous in a way I suppose.”

“As a doctor in the town.”

"Well I guess that makes it more than one way.”

She smiles at me. I always liked her. I’m glad James married her. I hate that they’re married, though. What does it take to do that? What do they both have that I don’t? Or is the key word both?

I play around in the key of A. Linking subdominant chords, minor chords. Eve’s knee and draped thigh are bouncing.

“Did James tell you we’re trying to have a baby?”

No one had told me that. I didn’t know.

“No, was he supposed to?”

Eve shrugs and rests her chin in her palm. She looks French. I don’t think she is, though. What is she? Now she’s shaking her head. The light from outside is falling in. It’s grey and not so light but it gives the room that atmosphere. The atmosphere that something is heavy and that somehow that light is in your stomach and weighing you down like a big brick of dough.

“He wasn’t supposed to,” she says. “I just thought he might’ve shared.”

“Well we were never the closest, you know that.”

“That’s true.”

“He was closest to Liza I think. For some reason.”

Eve laughs. “I always wanted to be from a big family.”

“We’re not big,” I say.

“To me it seems like it. It was only my older sister and I. I just love the way it works between all of you.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, who is closer to who and how everyone has to vie for attention.”

I’ve never had anyone talk to me in admiration about my family. And I never gave it a thought. You never do, or maybe there is a point growing up when you’re supposed to see your family as a whole unit. A whole and complete entity as its own that you are within and without. I must have missed that stage. I was too busy being without - chasing images, photos in my lens. Stories. Maybe if I called Jake he’d come to the funeral, though if I were him I wouldn’t.

“I’ve never really thought about it in that way.”

Eve stretches out on the couch. “I guess if it was my family I wouldn’t either. But then again, maybe I would.”

This is the longest conversation I’ve ever had with her. She is my sister-in-law now. She has been for two years. That’s another thing you don’t think of - in-laws and who they are going to be. Eve and I are very different. I think a man would get the sense if he just happened to walk in the room and see the two of us, the two of us sitting relaxed in a grey heavy morning.

Eve sighs. “I’m going to miss this house.”

I nod my head and play an old progression that sounds familiar. F, A minor, G. “I don’t think any of us have any idea.”

Double Dip (Not Skoal, Grizzly or Kodiak) aka Red Rose Speedway

So February was a long month and not filled with much promise - well as far as this blog was concerned. But for me, it wasn't a bad month. It was cold, sure; there was Valentine's Day, sure; the recession got worse each day on as if it were that first cup of coffee in the morning moving your bowels on cue - and in many ways and for many people it was. For me, as I say, it was an enjoyable month topped off by just seeing Grizzly Bear play with the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra at BAM on Saturday, February 28. My dog got to stay with me in my apartment for a month which really raised morale for me. It's hard to describe or really emphasize how much having a little furry pal to come to changes the dynamic of the living square you spend your time in when it is cold outside. The morning walk, the evening walk and everything else changed up my normal routine of waking up, not really wanting to work but being glad to be up and the sun is shining, coming home making dinner, drinking 60 beers listening to music and trying to write while the traffic of Grand Street goes by. This all leads me to something I am going to write about

It seems to be a common trait or at least accepted phenomenon in the climate we find ourselves living in, that climate being the year and the impulses culture propels itself with, that large scale issues out drive a simple pleasure. I know that even that sentence makes a person sound outdated or at the brink of being a codger or as the old say "youth is wasted on the young." However, with iPod touches and iPhones and how great the internet is at placing you into any place in time or on the planet you want to be - something as elemental or clean (well many times not that's why you bring the bags) as walking a dog can be lost. Internet, fast-paced TV, handheld devices are great at giving us the news and opening up small portals of the vastness of this planet - of the atrocities and injustices that occur daily, the differences in culture and pace of life. However, it is those clean motions and small enjoyments that lend the portal into the vastness of the universe. For as our news and immediate gratification through song let us see the differences in things, just walking a dog at a slow pace, underneath a cold sky that, even if you are in a place as polluted as New York City, feels like crystal because it IS cold and the sky is that damn blue and there is just a hint of the fact that there are stars up there and the silhouette of buildings turns the night into a contained barnyard, where planes from two different airports take their dips in the trough.

This is for art as well. The art I find myself drawn to and the art I feel compelled to create. The simple will lend to the profound - or rather the messy things that seem profound. A teacher from my college that I loved, that was much like a father figure to me tried to teach myself and many of my classmates of the importance of novels and art that leant to the exotic. He warned against the allure of exoticism that a text's subject could provoke in a reader, however at the same turn he found himself in that same allure. A novel about radicals in South Africa, or a novel about a crusade in 14th Century Albania FEELS much more important because we don't know those things in the most immediate sense. I do not know a thing about the suffering that goes on in South Africa or the suffering that went on centuries ago. I don't know a great many things about a great many people. However, that take on art or on your life is crippling. You might as well make the amputation at the start. For as much as we do not know the sufferings of those from another time or another remote place on this great planet, we do not know the sufferings that lie beneath our own skin or beneath the skin of the people who are closest to us. What is that strange look, that glance to the side a friend of 20 years gives you? What eternal message is that telling you - that is the message of mankind. The ritual of sharing one drink on a curb in suburban Long Island, of enjoying the company of a canine connects us to the vastness that is history and space, rather than being boring, it is all time, it is all things. The pain you feel relating to a garbage man on a cold day because you are damn glad you aren't him but you wish things could be better, but they aren't and that is the way things are, cut and clean and that man came to that just as you came to work a job in an office you don't want to, or come to make the decisions you don't want to make. That is where art is. Art is not in the exotic. Artsy is exoticism.

However, what of the civic life? You can't turn your head to your naval your whole life. A bottle rolling along a curb won't solve any economic problems. For me, art was never meant to answer our politics and our economies. All The Kings Men was a story about fathers and sons and about love between a young man and a young woman couched in a political mystery. The best art is meant to make us turn and evaluate our humanity, where we stand in the story of history, the history of people borne by mothers and fathers, forever separating ourselves from death by calling ourselves Kings and Queens, politicians, Presidents, lovers, artists when all we are left to approach is that initial cause, that word known to all men, which we have all forgotten and are forever seeking to find the answer to. Art was not made for "The Times They Are A Changing," "Ohio" is not even one of Neil Young's best songs. '64 Bob Dylan had to be murdered by '66 Bob Dylan who was then murdered by the press and people looking for '64 Bob Dylan, but that kind of art doesn't exist and was never made to - which is why Nashville Skyline had to be culled, to create that barrier. Even War and Peace, a book that is heralded as the story of Russia, is really the story of Tolstoy's youth, couched in a sweeping epic of wars and eras of Russia. Which is why it is a masterpiece, it cradles the fine line of the simple, of the way things are, and perhaps no one did that better than Tolstoy. It was either Joyce or Tolstoy who did it best. This is the way things happen, this is a man shitting in all its disgustingness and reality, but didn't Odysseus shit?

A strong example of the simple is Merriweather Post Pavilion. "My Girls" alone attests to the power of the simple. "All I want is four walls and adobe slabs for my girls." Politicians, stock brokers, pet shop owners, musicians, and the dead wishes of corpses all have that same desire burnt into their bones, in all of its manifestations. That album features the best love lyric of all time, "I want to walk around with you." What do you want to do more when you are in love, than to walk around with that person?

Anyway, you may say that this entry sounds like David Foster Wallace. I never read him. I'm just drunk and listening to Little Feat. Anyone else done that?

Here's Tom from From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt


It’s cloudy this morning but it’s still warm. I could’ve drove, but here I am walking to church. I didn’t ask anyone else because I know they wouldn’t want to go. Well maybe I should have asked Liza to go; she and I were the only two who would go with mom before…

Dad would come every other week or two weeks, he’d use excuses about the new receptionist or the people in billing so he had to lower himself to clerical matters on a Sunday. I knew he wasn’t working but relaxing. Not like the old days when we’d all go all six of us and stand there proudly in our khakis and polos and button downs and skirts and dresses.

I can see Saint James’ white tower as I walk up the hill. I check my watch. 10:10. I’ll be there just in time for mass. I’ll walk in and smell that initial blast of perfume and incense and then the wet of the water on my forehead, the cross, and then kneeling and sign again. Then I will sit on the wood of the pew and feel the heaviness of church. What will I pray for? Mom of course. What else could I possibly pray for? I’ll pray for her and for dad. He was bound to take this the hardest and he has. I don’t like to see him this way, lolling and drunk, zoning out and then laughing and cracking jokes like an imbecile. He is almost speaking his own language, though in a way I guess he always did that.

The tractors are moving over the dirt on the farm. What do they grow there anymore? It was always pumpkins in the fall. When we were kids, we’d take field trips and pick out the best pumpkin. It didn’t always have to be the biggest, you could get one with the best shape or one that would curve easily although that was tough to figure out and I don’t know if you could ever really direct that to a science. But we would carve them and have a school wide contest. In fourth grade I won for the grade with my carving of Mona Lisa. Maggie and James both helped me. Maggie did the vague outline with me using that small metal carver. She was always a great lover of paintings, especially Cezanne. And then James would help me carve out the rough and thick sin. It was tough work. We messed up twice and had to go back to get new pumpkins. No one noticed, though.

I hear a plane fly overhead and on my right a door slams and I can hear the echoing of a basketball bouncing. A young kid comes out wearing shorts and a t-shirt. He’s yelling, “Mark! Mark! Mark!” Mark is probably his brother or his cousin. It could be Deluca’s little brother or cousin. I don’t remember him having a little brother just a sister, and I don’t think he lived in this part of town anyway.

It’s nice to have siblings. I was always glad to have an older brother and sister and also a younger one. It makes you more well rounded I think to juggle all of those different interactions. I’d never give any of the fights and awful car rides back. In a way, I’m glad Mom died. Now we’re all back under the same roof. My brother is back and maybe I can tell him how much I hate him for moving away. I’m not really glad that Mom’s dead.

I turn onto the church drive below the overhanging trees and I can see into a sideyard with a little wooden swing set. On my other side is the second half of the church’s cemetery. We won’t bury mom here. Grandpa had a plot all set up out east. We will bury her there. I wish she were alive so much. Just so I knew that she would be around to help me with my problems, to help me explain how I feel when I’m stifled, frustrated and trapped on this Island. I know I’ll get away someday. The way Mom never wanted me to. She was a simple God-fearing woman at heart. But she was good with words in a way that I’m not. I bet she could’ve been a writer or maybe even a psychologist with the way that she explains things. Explained things.

The parking lot is nearly full. Families pull up in mini-vans, dads in leather jackets holding the hands of their kids. There are some frumpy mothers and also sleek well-kept rich mothers with nice neat tan coats and slim black and brown sunglasses. There are old people too; there are always old people at mass. Walking or caning their way up to the altar to receive communion in ivory white sneakers. Or the old dames like grandma when she lived with us with her big hats with bows and feathers and large pearl necklaces. The perfume of church is a mix of mothballs and incense.

I open the heavy white door and enter in. An old woman hands me the weekly flyer, which is written in maroon ink. I push open the lightweight light wood door and hear the large echo of coughs and whispered talk. The organ is playing low. I reach my hand over and touch my fingertips to the water in the iron bowl. I always forget the real name of the holy water holder. I cross myself and a little drop of water remains on my forehead. I can feel it. At first glance I don’t recognize anyone. I slide into a pew closer to the back. I look up at the wood ceiling that always reminded me of a ship. It’s wooden, curved, and highly polished. The wood just looks strong like a ship. Then my eyes fall on the cross. I pull out the kneeler and it squeaks and is made of blue padding like always. I feel the heaviness of church, but it has a different twist because I’m alone at mass for the first time in my life.