Sunday, March 30, 2003

The problem with these journals is that by the time you find the time to write something in them, so much has happened that you don't know where to start. Or finish. Besides that, Salome says I've been talking too much about the war.

This past Monday's show couldn't have worked out better than if I'd sat down and written it out play by play. Virtually free of Nationals veterans and "slam professionals," it was a bunch of hungry, developing poets leaving everything on the stage for this all-or-nothing shot at the semis. They all came strong and it could have gone any which way but, in the end, I got just about everybody I wanted in the mix. Ed, Omar, Oscar and Ray all got in there, joining Sabrina, Mara, Dawn, T'ai and Shawn in the semis, all of which bodes well for the possibility of getting a couple of new voices on the team this summer.

Speaking of Nationals, the whole PSI war statement thing turned into an emotional fracas on the list unlike any I can remember and, in the process, I inadvertantly helped found a new activist movement: Slam Poets Speak Out. I really need to learn to pick my battles a little better. As it is, I don't have time for anything so adding yet another project to my plate is crazy! It's something people felt strongly about, though, and these certainly aren't times for convenient silence.

It's a known fact that there's only 24 hours in a day. On an average weekday, we wake up at 6am, get out of the house by 7:30am, drive down to the daycare by 8am, get on the train by 8:15am and to work by 9:15am. Leaving work by 5:15pm, we get to the daycare by 6:30pm and drive back "home" by 7:15pm. Ideally, we're settling down by 10pm and the kids are knocked out by 10:30pm. After getting things ready for the next day, we're lucky to be in bed by 11:30pm. This is an average day where everything goes smoothly.

There aren't very many average days.

Work is getting interesting. Getting a lot of opportunities to write and be creative but, as a result, I'm getting a lot of opportunities to work! Was just handed the coordinating and editing of the monthly advertorial sections for two of our magazines. Haven't had a job that kept me this steadily busy in a long time. That's a good thing, though, as you know the saying, "Idle hands lead to four or five fantasy baseball teams!"

I'm only in two leagues this season, a regular public Yahoo! and another season of my SLAM THIS! league. I'm really happy about my team this year (Pujols, Durham, Rolen, Berkman, Anderson, Giles, Wood, Clement, Nomo, Acevedo) and we've got a really active bunch of owners so it should be a lot of fun. The message boards are always a hoot as some of the funniest shit I've ever read gets posted there. Ken Green, in particular, is funny as hell, and happens to be my first opponent of the season. Garrett Anderson just knocked in a run so the Starving Artists - my team - are on the board for 2003!

Slam is a lot like fantasy sports. Mixing and matching players/poets for the best cumulative effect is a great test of strategic ability. Everybody wants the A-Rod's but I get more pleasure from taking a chance on the underdogs. I won my first-ever league last season, in Fantasy Football, but with the move back to NY, didn't really have the opportunity to gloat. Maybe that bodes well for NYC-Union Square this year?

Veterans, newbies or a combination of the two, we should have another great team this year. Once the semis are determined, I'll drop my picks here for posterity. Shappy is probably the most interesting wildcard in the mix as he's funny as hell but has recently shown an ability to target the humor at more topical issues without coming off as preachy like so many topical poets do. The fact that he might not even be in the running at Urbana is shocking. Most people figure our returnees - Roger, Lynne, Marty and Ishle - are a lock for the Finals but I say you never know, especially depending on the semis lottery drawing. They could conceivably all face each other on the same night which would make things really interesting.

Had a great family day yesterday as we managed to spend the entire day in Palisades Center Mall. That place is ridiculous! We did some shopping, a whole lot of walking and had dinner there, too. Got myself some great new shirts - the change from jeans and t-shirts to suit and tie to business casual has left my wardrobe lacking for the new lifestyle. Picked up another pair of shoes, too - my first pair of Skechers - so this is now the first time in memory that I've owned TWO good pairs of shoes! Did a lot of window shopping for my new Gameboy Advance SP - the combination of the redesign and a new Pokemon game was too much to resist! - and picked up a case for it. Already put 9 hours into Pokemon Ruby and only have two badges! They've done a great job of updating while retaining the best elements of the game. Gotta catch 'em all! To think, I almost tossed my card collection when we left Virginia.

Finally, today was crazy as some incredibly annoying events took place. Suffice to say that the move to the Bronx can't happen soon enough. Wanted to hit Westside Rhyme tonight to talk to Shawn and Karen about some...ideas...but we just had too much to get done here and the distractions from earlier in the day pretty much ruined things.

Got a call from that reporter from the Bronx Times (or is it the Bronx Voice?) that came to the Acentos feature - at my mother-in-law's behest - about interviewing me tomorrow so that'll be interesting. Also have the first UPPERCASE since I've been back, with Elana, T'ai, Ray and Rachelle and it's our first Monday with the no smoking law in effect. Should be an interesting night.

And I'm spent. Hope all are well.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

I don't know what's more frustrating: arguing the war with people that agree with it, or arguing how best to protest the war with people against it!

I've successfully avoided the subject at work where I'm literally surrounded by people blindly in favor of the war who say things like, "We have to get them before they do something else to us," or, "Saddam gave Bin Laden the funding for 9/11," or, my favorite, "They're savages!" They regurgitate whatever they hear on the news unquestioningly as fact and never stop to think twice about the ironies of the situation. I'm waiting for someone to ask me about the Pledge of Resistance I have hanging on my wall or, even better, someone Googling me only to find my name on the Fraternal Order Of Police Pennsylvania State Lodge List Of Mumia Abu-Jamal Supporters aka, "shoot these commies if you pull them over!"

My favorite is that "they're cheating" by not adhering to accepted rules of war. Without even pondering the sad state of a world that accepts war as so necessary it has rules established for it, how do you "cheat" when you're fighting for your life and your land? Even one of the injured soldiers in the press conference this morning, Staff Sgt. Jamie Villafane, said he understood why the Iraqis might feel the need to fight dirty. I thought of grade school, when you're fighting the bully, how you did whatever you could because there was no way in the world you could take him toe-to-toe. Bite him, kick him in the balls, go for the ears, whatever it took to survive.

Finally the Bushies are coming clean that this won't be a quick and easy war. Curious at what point the body count and his approval ratings break even and start to head in opposite directions. For all of our sakes, hopefully sooner rather than later.

As for the anti-war people, there's currently a discussion raging within PSI over whether the organization should put forth a statement condemning the war. It's amazing how some supposedly enlightened artists cower when it comes to taking a stand on something.

This is what I wrote in response to a frequent adversary agreeing with me:

<< Now I have to say everything Guy is saying is right. He is not just rabble rousing and giving the EC and PSI a hard time. He is standing up for what he believes in. I agree with him and support his opinion on this matter as well as all the other poets who feel that this war is wrong and that everyones personal freedoms are endangered by it's prosecution. >>

Well, this is an interesting situation.

I had to reread my posts to make sure because I thought I hadn't actually said whether I felt PSI should take a stance on this issue. I was purposely keeping my opinion out of it as it has often proved unnecessarily polarizing. What I WAS attempting to do was support those who wanted the issue discussed and keep them from thinking they had no say over it happening.

That said, my own opinion has been one of mixed feelings led by apathy, more from old sentiments about PSI's viability and overall importance than anything else. As a result, I had even voted No on the poll here.

Thanks to *****'s passionate and reasonable post, I've finally made up my mind and am changing my vote.

I DO think PSI should take a stand, if for no other reason than to let their membership know what kind of organization represents them.

Is it only the commercial aspects of putting on shows and getting our organizational due for the current status of spoken word, or is there a deeper, more grassroots philisophy that subscribes to the belief that what we do is important and can and has changed people's lives?

Would this be as big a controversy if it were Canada or England we were attacking, places where we actually have dues-paying members?

As for examples of similar organizations taking a stance, why do we have to wait for someone else to lead the way?

Why can't WE be the organization other's look to as the example?

Fire in the hole.

Why am I back on that damn list at all, you ask? I don't know! These people aggravated the hell out of me in 2001 to the point it made it preferable to walk away from the whole scene. You should check it out if you've got the stomach: It's an open list that anyone can sign on to. If you're on the scene, get your two cents in or, just lurk and take in both some of the most self-righteous masturbation you'll ever see alongside the occasional moment of clarity from an assortment of freaks that call themselves slam poets.
A friend forwarded me this letter to the editor from the Syracuse New Times:

Beating the Bushes

Has anyone considered that the impending pre-emptive war on Iraq sets a dangerous historical precedent, given that our motive for attack is based on the notion that we "think" Saddam Hussein will use his weapons of mass destruction against us? He hasn't in the past 12 years, so why would he use them now - unless he was provoked? Think China will decide to invade us because we have weapons of mass destruction and the "think" we might us them? Geven that we have Iraq surrounded with 300,000 troops and the world's most high-tech weapons, why is the president in such a hurry to invade? What's the rush?

Bush Sr., Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are all heavily invested the defense contractors, pharmaceuticals and big oil, whose stock prices will soar after the forthcoming obliteration and rebuilding of Iraq. Could that be the real reason Bush is pushing to eliminate the tax on stock dividends ASAP?

Former President Bush and Washington heavyweights frank Carlucci and James Baker are all major players in the Carlisle Group, a private investment firm that specializes in defense contracts. One company they are heavily invested in is Bioport, which manufactures the anthrax vaccine, their only product. In fact, after last year's anthrax scares the government promptly purchased $100 million worth of the vaccine from Bioport. Pretty smart investing eh? If you really wnat to know what dictates foreign policy, follow the money and see where it leads.

If you dig into the Bush family and their business connections, you'll find nothing but corruption and deceit. Bush Sr. was a partner in the treasonous Iran Contra affair and was accused of smuggling illegal drugs through CIA, of which he was a former director. Also, Enron was a huge campaign supporter of Dubya; he prevented the release of Reagan's personal records when they were to become public domain; and was defiant in preventing a private investigation into the adminstration's prior knowledge of events leading up to Sept. 11. What's he got to hide?

Remember the suspect circumstances surrounding Florida and the 2000 presidential election, which was decided where another Bush is the most powerful man in that state? Everyone knows the Bush family comes from oil; so it's a coincidence that they're building an oil pipline through Afghanistan after blowing it to smithereens and now they're planning to attack oil-rich Iraq for the second time?

Rush Limbaugh refers to peace demonstrators as "maggot-infested, pot-smoking tyes," some Christian ministers are preaching hate toward Muslims and nobody in this country has the authority or the guts to stand up to a presidential declaration of war. It has become un-American to criticize policy and the oil-soaked press downplays the resounding worldwide cry for peace. The United States is not trusted abroad because we have a reputation for war-mongering in the name of corporate greed. The archaic notion that we are the peacekeepers of the world is nonsense. We are on the brink of world cataclysm, all because power-mad bureaucrats are eager to sacrifice human life to fatten their off-shore bank accounts. Ever wonder why a politician will spend millions for a job that pays a couple measly hundred thousand?

Jim Vurraro, Eastwood

Monday, March 24, 2003

Unlike most people, I usually look forward to Mondays. At least for the past 5 years or so. But this morning got off to one of the worst starts in memory and I'm just hating life right now. It started last night when, after a great family weekend, we had to play catchup on things like laundry. Ended up going to bed @ 1am - Isaac included! - and waking up cranky as hell. Couldn't find my cell phone, my wedding ring or the floppy drive for my laptop and forgot my work ID and pass key. Finally got out of the house on time and still only made it to work @ 9am!

All things considered, it should get better from here. I'm looking forward to tonight's show both for Eric's featuring for the first time (@ 13) and our final open slam that's got a bunch of people on the bubble for the last couple of slots for the semi-finals. The rankings looked like dirty ass when I first came back and it took a lot of poking and prodding to get the people I wanted in the mix. Running a slam is a delicate balance of encouragement, ego control and strategy. With the randomness of the judging, the only things you control are the tone of the night, set by the host and the feature, and the diversity of voices, often a result of convincing good poets with no interest in slamming to take the risk. We've always been successful in not only ending up with teams of good poets, but in having a diverse Finals where any of the 9 poets involved would make an excellent team. That's a season-long effort, though, and I got the impression when I first came back that our showing at last year's Nationals had depressed some enthusiasm for the slam early on.

Anyway, I'm excited at how the rankings have turned out so far, particularly with people like T'ai, Dawn, Sabrina and Mara in the mix. Of our current top 15, TEN of them are women which is an astounding thing on the National level and something we've always been proud of. (In four years, there's only been THREE guys on the team: Roger, Bonafide and myself!) There's likely to be some movement in the bottom portion as tonight is do-or-die time for several of them.

"You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow..."

Speaking of, can you believe Eminem won a friggin' Oscar!?!? Much as he deserved it for an amazing song - an anthem for everyone, no matter what they do - I never believed they'd actually GIVE it to him. Was disappointed that they didn't even acknowledge him by playing the song, even if he couldn't/wouldn't be there to perform it.

And Michael Moore showed some brass balls! What?!?! Ironic what tone can do for you, though. While he was rushed off the stage by the orchestra, Adrian Brody's somber reflection actually stopped the music and let him make his heartfelt statement to the world. IMO, the two served as perfect bookends for the anti-war movement, Brody's velvet glove to Moore's steel fist.

"War is the failure of diplomacy." For a country that prides itself on being a beacon of freedom for the world, we sure are setting a great example with this war. I think of that whenever I see Isaac reprimand India for something and realize he's simply copying us. "With great power, comes great responsibilty." Obviously Bush didn't read a lot of comic books while he was growing up.

My biggest fear is, if Saddam really does have WMDs, he's waiting for our troops to get near Bagdhad to use them in a final act of desperation. Before that, I imagine the body count is going to quickly rise to a point of discomfort for even the most rabid pro-war American.

Truly sad times we're living in.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

The differences(or lack thereof) between Kuwait, Saudi Arabia & Iraq
from the CIA's World FactBook (last updated 2/13/03)

Government type
K: nominal constitutional monarchy
SA: monarchy
I: republic

K: approved and promulgated 11 November 1962
SA: governed according to Shari'a (Islamic law); the Basic Law that articulates the government's rights and responsibilities was introduced in 1993
I: 22 September 1968, effective 16 July 1970 (provisional constitution); new constitution drafted in 1990 but not adopted

Legal system
K: civil law system with Islamic law significant in personal matters; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
SA: based on Islamic law, several secular codes have been introduced; commercial disputes handled by special committees; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
I: based on Islamic law in special religious courts, civil law system elsewhere; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

K: adult males who have been naturalized for 30 years or more or have resided in Kuwait since before 1920 and their male descendants at age 21 (note: only 10% of all citizens are eligible to vote; in 1996, naturalized citizens who do not meet the pre-1920 qualification but have been naturalized for 30 years were eligible to vote for the first time)
SA: none
I: 18 years of age; universal

Political parties and leaders
K: none; formation of political parties is illegal
SA: none allowed
I: Ba'th Party [SADDAM Husayn, central party leader]

Executive branch
K: elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; prime minister and deputy prime ministers appointed by the monarch
SA: elections: none; the monarch is hereditary
I: elections: president and vice presidents elected by a two-thirds majority of the Revolutionary Command Council (the RCC is the highest executive and legislative body and the most powerful political entity in the country; new RCC members must come from the Regional Command Leadership of the Ba'th Party)

Economy - overview
K: Kuwait is a small, rich, relatively open economy with proved crude oil reserves of 94 billion barrels - 10% of world reserves. Petroleum accounts for nearly half of GDP, 90% of export revenues, and 75% of government income. Kuwait's climate limits agricultural development. Consequently, with the exception of fish, it depends almost wholly on food imports. About 75% of potable water must be distilled or imported. Higher oil prices put the FY99/00 budget into a $2 billion surplus. The FY00/01 budget covers only nine months because of a change in the fiscal year. The budget for FY01/02 envisioned higher expenditures for salaries, construction, and other general categories. Kuwait continues its discussions with foreign oil companies to develop fields in the northern part of the country.

SA: This is an oil-based economy with strong government controls over major economic activities. Saudi Arabia has the largest reserves of petroleum in the world (26% of the proved reserves), ranks as the largest exporter of petroleum, and plays a leading role in OPEC. The petroleum sector accounts for roughly 75% of budget revenues, 45% of GDP, and 90% of export earnings. About 25% of GDP comes from the private sector. Roughly 4 million foreign workers play an important role in the Saudi economy, for example, in the oil and service sectors. Riyadh expects to have a budget deficit in 2002, in part because of increased spending for education and other social programs. The government in 1999 announced plans to begin privatizing the electricity companies, which follows the ongoing privatization of the telecommunications company. The government is expected to continue calling for private sector growth to lessen the kingdom's dependence on oil and increase employment opportunities for the swelling Saudi population. Shortages of water and rapid population growth will constrain government efforts to increase self-sufficiency in agricultural products.

I: Iraq's economy is dominated by the oil sector, which has traditionally provided about 95% of foreign exchange earnings. In the 1980s financial problems caused by massive expenditures in the eight-year war with Iran and damage to oil export facilities by Iran led the government to implement austerity measures, borrow heavily, and later reschedule foreign debt payments; Iraq suffered economic losses from the war of at least $100 billion. After hostilities ended in 1988, oil exports gradually increased with the construction of new pipelines and restoration of damaged facilities. Iraq's seizure of Kuwait in August 1990, subsequent international economic sanctions, and damage from military action by an international coalition beginning in January 1991 drastically reduced economic activity. Although government policies supporting large military and internal security forces and allocating resources to key supporters of the regime have hurt the economy, implementation of the UN's oil-for-food program in December 1996 has helped improve conditions for the average Iraqi citizen. For the first six, six-month phases of the program, Iraq was allowed to export limited amounts of oil in exchange for food, medicine, and some infrastructure spare parts. In December 1999 the UN Security Council authorized Iraq to export under the program as much oil as required to meet humanitarian needs. Oil exports are now more than three-quarters prewar level. However, 28% of Iraq's export revenues under the program are deducted to meet UN Compensation Fund and UN administrative expenses. The drop in GDP in 2001 was largely the result of the global economic slowdown and lower oil prices. Per capita food imports have increased significantly, while medical supplies and health care services are steadily improving. Per capita output and living standards are still well below the prewar level, but any estimates have a wide range of error.

Exports - partners
K; Japan 23%, US 14%, South Korea 13%, Singapore 7%, Netherlands 6%, Pakistan 6%, Indonesia 4%, UK 2% (2000)
SA: US 17.4%, Japan 17.3%, South Korea 11.7%, Singapore 5.3%, India (2000)
I: US 46.2%, Italy 12.2%, France 9.6%, Spain 8.6% (2000)

Imports - partners
K: US 12%, Japan 8%, UK 8%, Germany 7%, China 5%, France 4%, Australia 3%, Netherlands 2% (2000)
SA: US 21.1%, Japan 9.4%, Germany 7.4%, UK 7.3% (2000)
I: France 22.5%, Australia 22%, China 5.8%, Russia 5.8% (2000)

Geography - note
K: strategic location at head of Persian Gulf
SA: extensive coastlines on Persian Gulf and Red Sea provide great leverage on shipping (especially crude oil) through Persian Gulf and Suez Canal
I: strategic location on Shatt al Arab waterway and at the head of the Persian Gulf
From the random thoughts department: I can't help but think that there's something terribly repulsive about this Josh Gracin kid being on American Idol instead of with his Marine unit awating deployment, while thousands of RESERVISTS have been activated, dragged away from their families and their jobs to honor their committment to Uncle Sam. That just stinks.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

I'm still awake when I should damn well be in bed. It's a rare opportunity that I can go to sleep before 11pm and I let it slip, anxious about this war we've finally begun. The bombs have started to fall - a target of opportunity, apparently - and from here on out, the world has changed again.

We are walking down a new road in unfamiliar terrain and I suspect there are landmines ahead of us that we have severely underestimated. I found myself hoping the "opportunity" was Hussein himself and that this insanity might come to a quick end but somehow, I know it doesn't stop with him. It can't. It's not like Iraq is unique in its despotism or capabilities. It's almost like they're being made an example of and whoever else doesn't get the message can consider themselves next in line. With us or against us is what Bush said and I believe he means it.

It's a scary thought that this is the man leading our country into battle. The total lack of emotion in his speech tonight was appalling.

Looking through some old emails post-9/11, I came across this quote from Jim Washburn of the OC Weekly: "Why, at this tragic moment, would I even think of writing an article critical of our country? Because we are the only factor here we can change. We can’t kill all the terrorists or shield ourselves against them."

All of our technological superiority and precision bombs and special operations forces couldn't stop 19 men from getting on airplanes and turning them into their own version of smart bombs. It couldn't stop them from dying for what they believed in. Now, tens of thousands of young men and women - not old enough to drink, barely old enough to vote - are putting their lives on the line for what they believe in.

The seams of the world are splitting apart.
This past Monday night was incredibly long and fun but, by the end, an incredible feeling of sadness came over me. It felt like September 10, 2001 again, but this time KNOWING something bad is coming next. Ironically, our feature that night was Evert Eden, one of Morris Stegosaurus' - Monday's feature - favorite poets.

Somewhere in the middle of the show, word came in that Bush had given his ultimatum: 48 hours. Cristin remarked on the virtual declaration of war conveniently coming on a night much of America was out getting wasted for St. Patrick's Day.

Towards the end, a guy I'd noticed early on, thanks to his FDNY uniform, comes up to me at the bar asking if he can read. Obviously drunk, but equally obvious that something's inspired him, I tell him it's depends on how late we're running as we were near 11pm. With about 10 minutes left in the show, I tell him we're way over time but, if he really wants to read, I'll put him up. He declines.

During the post-show inanity, he pulls me aside to talk. With a kind of melancholy rage, surprisingly tempered considering his level of drunkenness, he tells me he really wanted to "tell those liberals the truth." He pulls out a couple of pictures from his pockets, the gloss faded from frequent handling, and shows them to me. Two friends, fellow firefighters, lost on 9-11. He chokes up a little bit but never varies his pace.

I tell him he should definitely come back anytime to share his feelings from the stage. He declines, says "It takes balls to get up there." The alcohol had given them to him this night but he knew it was a one-shot deal. I laught, remind him he fights fire for a living. "THAT takes balls," I say. Unswayed, he comes back matter-of-factly: "No, that's what I DO. But getting up there takes balls." We talk for another minute or so, then he staggers towards the door and leaves.

The moment casts a pall over the rest of the night and repeats itself in my dreams. There are no easy answers.

On the brink of war, I have no answers at all. I fully believe Bush has opened Pandora's Box and shit's about to get real ugly, real quick. I chafe at the idea that now we're supposed to line up behind his decision because our troops are putting their lives on the line yet, completely understand their need to feel supported in light of what they're facing. I'm sad at the resignation that something bad will likely happen here in NYC and that the people I care for most may not be so lucky this time around. That I might not be so lucky this time.

This new world we live in - really just the same old world that we've finally become a part of - is a scary one. It can be paralyzing when there is no middle ground between running for the hills and business as usual. It's hard to think about the stupid car that's in the shop or our 2.5 hour commute this morning because of it or how June 1 and the Bronx can't come soon enough.

It's hard to look past 8pm tonight when the deadline passes and the bombs start to fall.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

I hate cars. H-A-T-E!

I resent having to have one, having to have insurance on it, having insurance be so damn expensive up here. I hate that cheap gas is almost $2/gallon and that that's still so much cheaper than in the rest of the world. I hate their convenience and how you come to depend on them. Most of all, though, I hate having to fix them.

Since we've been back in NY, we've put over $1000 into our car, a '98 Plymouth Breeze with 52k miles - that we're still paying for - of which we put 22k on in just over a year. Back in December, it overheated - yes, overheated in December! - because oil was somehow getting into the antifreeze, mucking it all up and turning into this capuccino-colored goo. This happened while it was cold as hell outside and we had the kids in the car with us. Not a good thing. Turns out there's a crack in the radiator and it needs to be replaced. Costs $650 to do it. Immediately after, the car's acting weird, not really warming up most days and the temperature gauge hovering right next to the little blue line of death.

A few weeks later, heading to the store, without the kids this time - the brakes go! I end up swerving side to side, shifting to neutral, then reverse, just to get the car to stop. Conveniently - or suspiciously, for my conspiracy theorists out there - we're a block away from the service station that fixed the radiator, so we pull in and have them check it out. The brake fluid is a thick, cold syrup in the master cylinder! "That's unusual," says the attendant. Ya think?!?! So we let the car run for a bit while pumping the brakes, and take it to Expressway Lube to have them check everything out and, by the time we get there, the brake fluid is fine! "You have oil in your antifreeze, though. Might be your head gasket."

Flashback: two weeks after we got to Virginia, we were told the same thing about the head gasket in reference to a steady oil leak. As we'd just bought the car a few weeks before leaving NY, there was no way to take it back to the dealer to get checked. The leak didn't seem too bad and life was getting more complicated by the day so it eventually went to the bottom of the list of things to do.

Flashback II: after the car overheated the first time, I took it to the same Expressway and they told me the exact same thing. When I told this to the mechanic, he said he doubted it, he'd seen this before, and it was definitely the radiator at fault.

Back to the recent present: I take it back to the mechanic, yelling about the head gasket and he says it's probably because there's so much gunk in the engine that it didn't fully come clean. Kind of like when a dirty person washes the dishes and leaves the pots greasy is my analogy for it. Oh yeah, and your master cylinder is shot! Replacing it, draining and cleaning the engine and radiator: cha-ching! Another $400. This was three weeks ago, right before I started the new job.

Last night, as we're parking up the hill from the apartment, we notice a weird bubbling noise and a glance at the dashboard explains, THE CAR IS OVERHEATING AGAIN!!!! There's this totally helpless feeling I get sometimes, when shit is so completely out of my control and the only thing I can do is laugh about it or lose my fucking mind. Last night, I just had to laugh. The alternative was too scary a thought.

Anyway, I take it back to the mechanic and we have a long talk about the situation. He walks me around his garage, shows me a car he's working on to illustrate his point and delivers the bad news: head gasket. At least $600, probably $750 or so.


Thursday, March 13, 2003

NOTE: I am permanently tired. Figure it's going to last until India's at least one years old. There's just no getting around it.

Tuesday at Acentos was amazing. I mean really. It's been ages since I've done a full-on 30-minute feature, much less here in NY. Nowadays, many more people know me as a host than a poet. Even Oscar had never heard me read more than a single poem at a time! The space, the Blue Ox Bar, is this cozy little spot in the South Bronx that gets packed with 50 people, and Oscar and Fish filled it, tireless promoters that they are. I was strangely calm before I went on, distracting myself with the rare ability to socialize as opposed to working the room like I do on Mondays. A couple of pints of Guiness helped. That I'd only gotten three hours sleep the night before was a factor, too, I'm sure.

I started off with a couple of thank you's and props to Oscar for what he's accomplished, then read Credentials, the poem about my name. I started with that one specifically because it addresses WHO I am and was also my of apologizing for not speaking Spanish. I really need to get over that because I'm the only one that gives me shit about it. I followed with Running Bases and Prodigal Son, paying subtle homage to my featuring in the Bronx for the first time and then, Bosco, Bilingual and Belated Regrets for my grandmother. Took a minute to present Oscar with the journal I'd done up to commemorate the night, complete with an excerpt from a Jimmy Santiago Baca poem and best wishes from the audience that had gathered. Then, I flipped the love and read Happy Endings, the piece about a certain battle that led to my being banned from a certain venue a few years back. Closest thing I have to humor in my repertoire! Next was the new piece, Mozer, Bethea and I and it felt like it went over really well. There's that moment when you can tell you've made some people think beyond what they know and it felt like that with this one. Definitely my new favorite piece. Finally, I closed with Breathless, the only poem I still have memorized!

I was pretty relaxed throughout, though I caught myself rocking on the barstool I was sitting on a whole lot early on. Nervous energy finds its way out somehow. I used it mainly because I was so tired but also because of what Willie Perdomo said at louderEDGE a couple of months ago, about letting his words speak for themselves without distracting the audience with a performance. "Like Miles Davis used to sit with his back to the audience." I liked how it felt and think it went over okay.

During the break, I sold some of the new chapbook, something I always hate doing. It's always been such an awkward thing for me. I can promote the hell out of other people's things but I'm still not good at it for myself.

One of the best things about the night was reading to a largely latino audience and feeling like I belonged there. I've got permanent issues about not speaking spanish but it was nothing but love at the show. Listening to the open mic, hearing the latino/nuyorican experience expressed in so many different ways made me more comfortable with myself but also made me vow to get better connected to that part of me. Have to stop blaming it on not being raised around it and just find it within myself and embrace it. Acentos will be a big part of that for me as I plan to be there every 2nd & 4th Tuesday!

Sunday, March 9, 2003

SELECTED SQUARES OF CONCRETE. That's the name of my new chapbook that I just finished putting together last night. I'm going to release it at Acentos on Tuesday if I can get it turned around quick enough.

"But, Guy..." you're probably saying, "You've written one new poem in three years! How in the world do you come out with a new chapbook?"

I call it the Dave Matthews approach: a mix of new, revised, never-before-released and old favorites. Some of the oldies have never appeared in one book together or, in the case of Sunday Mornings, never in a chapbook. The revisions, like 33-1/3 and Running Bases, have never appeared anywhere other than on stage. Basically, it's like a Best!; a Hits & B-Sides; a last hurrah, perhaps?

While figuring out what got in and what didn't, I couldn't help but think this might be my last chapbook. SOMEWHERE LEFT OF THIRTY - which came out THREE years ago! - was my favorite chapbook and included many of my best poems. The problem was it didn't include several of my early favorites, like Prodigal Son and Fulano. SELECTED brings them together and serves as the perfect coda to my poetry experience.

Poetry was never my preferred genre for writing and I got to the point a couple of years ago where I felt like I'd said all I wanted to say with it. My biggest concern was writing for the sake of writing and repeating myself, especially when it comes to topical subjects. There's nothing worse than hearing a poet you like do a piece and you find yourself thinking, "Damn, another poem about _______." Or even worse, "Damn, he's STILL reading THAT poem?!?!" I don't want to be THAT poet.

Of course, this doesn't mean I'll never write again. It's WHO I am. I want to do more feature/journalistic work as well as getting back into fiction. I've got a couple of novels in my head that have been begging for attention and it's time I gave it to them. One of these days, I'll go back to the screenplay that got sideswiped by poetry and revise the hell out of it. While I'm sure a poem or two will slip out here and there, it won't be my focus anymore. With copywriting now a part of my 9-5, keeping the creative juices flowing won't be nearly as difficult as it's been the past few years.

Anyway, here's a sneak peek at the cover of SELECTED.

Thursday, March 6, 2003

The snow is blowing wildly across the gray, depressed skyline as I'm looking north - I think! - from my office on the 25th floor. Mind you, I'm in a cubicle but our section sits next to a huge ceiling-to-floor window.

I've started bringing in some things to personalize my space. Not the playroom again but it feels comfy and that's what counts. Have a nice picture frame with 5 pictures of the kids, Salomé and me. Jungle Attack He-Man's here; Shea Stadium, my Jets flask, my "I'm Not Bossy, I just have better ideas" sign. Brought in only a few books this time, mostly poetry, plus the collected WATCHMEN Graphic Novel and a couple of marketing books. I'll hold off on Stupid White Men, The Great 401(k) Hoax, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together, etc.

My boss is in Italy for 10 days so I've gone from the frying pan to the fryer workwise. It's been great that I've been able to jump right in and tackle a bunch of projects but it's been dizzying, too. Haven't had time for much else since.

Missed synonymUS last night to catch up on some things and ended up not getting much done other than chilling out for a few hours. Eric came through to pick up his truck - just back from his trip to Amsterdam looking scruffy but refreshed - and ended up hanging out to watch American Idol. The wild card round was disappointing as they found a way to force that Kimberly Caldwell clown into the finals at the expense of a couple of girls that were much better. And let's not even talk about Simon's pick. I think that was a purposeful flipping of the bird to the idiotic Americans that put Justin in 2nd place last year! After, we caught some of the finale of that Celebrity Survivor crap and I found myself really liking Chris Judd. Seems like a genuinely cool guy. Glad he won it. And the money goes to charity which makes the whole affair a bit less lame.

Anyway, I'm starting to sweat my feature next week at Acentos. I feel like I really need to bring it like I rarely do, what with it being my first gig in the Bronx AND the premiere of the series. It's cool that Oscar asked me to be the inaugural feature but damn, talk about pressure. Haven't stressed about a reading like this since the '99 NPS semi-finals against the Nuyorican. And we know how THAT went! Wish I had more new stuff to read that night but, at the same time, I feel like I've been off the scene long enough to get away with a set of oldies but goodies. Figuring out what that set should include is the hard part. Sucky thing is the bar doesn't allow kids so we either need to find a babysitter or Salomé won't be able to make the show. Hopefully my cousin can hook us up.

Some good news: Maya Azucena is confirmed for April 28th, opening for the last semi-final slam! That should be a ridiculous night! Want to get two more musical acts for the other two semis. Eric suggested Karen Rockower which was a total "duh!" moment for me. Speaking of the slam, it's starting to shape up nicely. I was a little worried when I first got back but, with a couple of surprises in the next two slams, we could have a solid shot at a relatively "newbie" team. Love Roger, Lynne, Marty, et al to death but if I had my way, there'd be some stunned faces in the audience at the end of our Finals. My ideal team would be....

Ha ha! Not telling you. Yet. Maybe I'll post something right before I leave work that night with my picks for the team.