Wednesday, April 30, 2003

This just in: Def Poetry on Broadway will be closing on Sunday! Not sure how I feel about that to be honest. Not having seen it, I can't really comment but, based on what I've heard from people I respect that HAVE seen it, it's sort of a double-edged sword. Many poets (good ones, at least) felt it was a dumbed-down version of the best of what we do. A polished spin on Friday nights at the Nuyorican a couple of years back, perhaps. Most agree that they failed to take full advantage of the medium and, on top of charging $75 for something you can get for $5 three times a week, probably wasn't the best recipe for success.

Even dumbed down, though, poetry on Broadway has to be looked at as a positive step for both the audience and artists alike. It'll be interesting to see where Russell Simmons goes from here with the form and where the form itself goes. Kind of surprised he didn't try to make it through the summer. Knowing many of the poets in the show, I mostly feel bad for their loss of work.
Apparently, I'm a very bad person.

Narcissistic:Very High

-- Personality Disorder Test - Take It! --

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Fifth Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very Low
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Very High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)High

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test
"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Found parking quickly this morning! Yay!

Salomé and the kids are back tonight! Yay!

Going back to Hartsdale. Boo!

Last night's slam... Need another day to digest it.

Maya Azucena: WOW! The slam took a back seat to her performance.

Read my new poem (the end result from last week's free write) at the end of the showcase. It got some surprisingly strong reactions that caught me off guard as I'm not good with compliments. Not sure if it's because so many people that are around now have never really heard me read or the ones that have are just happy that I'm writing again or what, but it totally threw me how much people said they liked it. Probably one of the most personal things I've ever written, too.

Broke my glasses AGAIN last night, slamdancing with Al and Onome during Lose Yourself. Fortunately, I always carry the Crazy Glue with me nowadays. No more William Shatner moments! NOTE TO SELF: Get some new glasses already!

Reservoir was fun as a bunch of the "newcomers" hung out. Got to know Jayme a little bit better. Cool people. I find it interesting how our group grows so organically. There's the people that try to pry their way in, and there are those that just fit. Jayme fits.

Ok, I lied. I don't think I'll have anything figured out by tomorrow so here goes: last night's slam was WEIRD. Judges didn't really seem to love anything in particular so humor had the edge. They showed Ed no love at all. Til the last round when they gave him the high score of the night! Ishle left her heart on the stage, breaking out new work for the first three rounds, and it wasn't enough for them. They flip-flopped on Marty all night. Shappy came with some of his weaker stuff, opting for pretty straightforward humor the first couple of rounds. Claudia Alick dropped one of the worst poems ever in the last round. Shappy won, Claudia second, Marty third, Hulk mad.

Today's web site:

Monday, April 28, 2003

Looking for parking in the morning so completely sets my day off on the wrong foot! Looking for it in Brooklyn Heights on a Monday morning - where after driving around for 30 minutes, you stick it on a meter and cross your fingers you'll ONLY get a ticket - sucks like a five hour open mic in the park where the swings are off-limits and there is no shade.

I'm a little poetry'd out at this point. Since last Monday, I've been at a poetry reading every day except for Wednesday. Haven't done that since '98 when I used to try to read everywhere possible. Checked out Cornelia Street Café twice, Friday and Saturday, and it was nice to be in unfamiliar surroundings again. Friday night was the Pink Pony West, frequented by a much older-skewing crowd than I've been around in a while. That psycho, MS, was there, too. Haven't seen her around since the last time she came to 13, got pissy on the open mic and left. It's one thing to be a moron, but to be a terrible writer and a moron is a tough spot to be in. On Friday, she read her first piece, got some tepid applause (which is tough from this type of generally supportive crowd) and seemed to change her mind about reading a second one, saying never mind and leaving the stage. Whatever. I followed her with Mozer, Bethea & I, receiving a generally positive response. Jackie Sheeler runs a cool, laid-back scene and it's somewhere I could see dropping in on now and then to test work on a totally different crowd. My feature there on July 25th should be interesting.

Saturday was Poetically Incorrect's first anniversary as well as my first time there. Chance runs things like it's his living room and the whole show had that kind of friendly vibe; not love jones, just kinda chill. Impressive turnout, too. The work was all over the place with Acentos regulars mixed in with several people I'd never seen before. Mara and I read in the open mic while Oscar and Fish were a couple of the features. Ngoma was there, with his recently discovered loop station that allows him to do his multi-instrumental thing throughout his set. Freshened up his old work but nothing can cover for someone that seems a bit bored by their own stuff. I remember being blown away by him in the early days but he seems to have stagnated the last couple of times I've seen him. Signature poems can be crippling that way. Outside, Oscar and I were approached by a woman representing one of the poets from the open mic. Representing as in "manager." Poets with managers? OPEN MIC poets with managers? What the fuck has happened these past few years?

Later that night, I hung out with a bunch of friends at Pioneer, before moving on in search of something...less white. Stereotypes are horrible but, like gangsta rap, Pioneer was full of them. Anyway, Syreeta, Sabrina and I wandered the east village looking for parking and, while heading nowhere specific, ran across this guy she'd been talking about earlier in the night. Serendipity takes over and we find ourselves in a restaurant amongst his friends dancing to middle eastern music and eating mussels. It was like My Big Fat Arabic Wedding! Culturally, it was the perfect antidote to the bland blondeness of Pioneer. Afterwards, we trekked over to some middle eastern restaurant that becomes a club at night with an excellent DJ laying down middle eastern beats. Wolverine met up with his later, filling us in on her Yellow Fevered date earlier in the evening, that ended more for his like of bad poetry. Got back to Lynne's at 6am after dropping Syreeta and GK off and getting lost on Atlantic Avenue.

Last night I caught Westside Rhyme, the first post-Shawn Randall show. That whole situation is weird and, if you're not sure what happened with it, join the club. It's too bad because I really like what they've built there and for him to step down right before their 2nd anniversary show suggests some deep shit went down. You could see the weight of it on Karen's face at random unguarded moments through the night. They had a solid turnout, though, most notable for the musical support that turned out, including Maya Azucena in laid-back diva mode. She sang backup for a couple of performers and there's just no way Maya can be in anybody's background. It's like sticking Mariah Carey behind Kelly Clarkson and expecting her not to shine. One guy I'd never seen before was Bill Mann, one of the few male singer/songwriters I've come across that can hold his own with the women. His guitar-work was effortlessly impressive and he's got a strong voice. Got his info for a future louderJAM. Sabrina read, too, and it was the first time I got to see her do an extended set in ages. It's amazing how some people take a while to develop their voices while others, like Sabrina, seem to have them fully-formed early on and their progression is more about polishing that diamond. She's been this good since she was nineteen and she did a great job in a tough venue, not to mention following a ridiculous Maya performance.

Tonight's the last semi-final and I fully believe, the most dramatic of them all. Anybody truly can take this one. Edward Garcia has the ability to overcome the lead spot as long as he focuses on strategizing his own work as opposed to his opponent's. Marty is a perennial who can step it up at any time and actually gets stronger as the night goes on. The question is, will she stick with newer work or, back against the wall, pull out the oldies? Claudia Alick? I have no idea. I've seen her read once, something humorous in a squeaky, high-pitched voice. She kind of backed into semis and is a total unknown for me. Shappy is this week's wild card. His outright funny stuff has never quite worked in our slams and his recent addition of politics to his work may potentially be dated by it's focus on specific events, ie: the war and Herr Bush. This being his only shot at making a team, now that he's officially out of the running at Urbana, makes him a determined opponent. Finally, Ishle, who most nights you have to pick for victory, also has the advantage of the last spot in the first round. I wouldn't be surprised to see her repeat T'ai's dominating performance from last week. Her weakness has always been the clock, though, and not being around for much of this year could lower her confidence a notch. Who's it gonna be?

Of course, before the semis, Maya Azucena will be featuring. Have I said her name enough in this entry? Have I been this infatuated with an artist since...hell, Willie Perdomo? She's THAT good. Can't believe she's not super famous by this time next year, especially once her CD comes out next month.

Today's web site: Can't believe this page is still out there! Interestingly, it's not linked anywhere on the site. Undercover baby!

Friday, April 25, 2003

Three posts in ONE day? Bonus round!

:: how jedi are you? ::

Which John Cusack Are You?

"The most common misperception about financial planning that many Americans adhere to is that you can't afford to retire if you don't have a million dollars in your retirement account. That assumes everyone needs a million dollars to retire. The most damaging effect of the statement is to cause the average citizen to throw up his or her hands and say that a million is unreachable, so therefore they will save nothing! The implications for our economy and political environment are monumental."

William Gustafson, Ph.D., senior director of the Center for Financial Responsibility at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas

NOTE: While I believe "retirement" is a completely subjective word, "savings" is pretty literal in its definition. If you're not putting SOMETHING aside every month - whether in a retirement plan or a simple money market account - you're only digging a hole for yourself down the road.

Here's a great place to get started:
When I first came on the slam scene, I ranted a lot. In my poetry, I mean. Or what I was passing off as poetry. :-O

My free write from yesterday was turning into something interesting by the end of the day, too complex to finish before Urbana, and I wanted to read something new in their open mic. Sitting in my old home, Botanica (bizarre now, sans smoky haze), I scribbled out a good ol' rant while thinking of the morons lined up outside of Tower Records the other day for Madonna who pulled her video American Life from release because of its controversial message. Guess it's only cool to be outspoken when its sexual?

American Life - a rant
(2nd draft, free write)

You, on the tour bus
making your way through Harlem
taking in the sights from the safety
of the upper deck
listening to sanitized histories
told by over-zealous, underemployed actors
snapping pictures of the natives
while praying the pollutant-spewing bus
doesn't break down.

You, on 42nd Street
straining your neck
to take in the neon lights
that have bleached life and truth
to a pale escapist fantasy
that mourned Cats' passing
and see a difference between Disney,
Maddam Tussaud's and prostitution.

You, drinking the Budweiser and Coors Light
eating at Chili's and Olive Garden
shopping at Wal-Mart and watching Fox News and Friends
giving 10's to rants and 8's to poetry.

You, voting for Josh Gracin
and buying Iraq & I Roll while dissing the Dixie Chicks
saying "Protest is un-American"
while driving your SUV's and complaining
about $2/gallon for gas
but having no problem with $3/cup for coffee.

You, are the terrorists
and I'm declaring war!

Stopped in at Urbana early but the open mic list was full so I ran over to catch Karen Rockower's set with her newish band, the Hassle, which got a late start so I only caught 5 or 6 songs. She's really good with a band behind her, especially considering they've only been together a few months and the drummer wasn't even their regular guy! Headed back to Urbana for the semi-final slam and got there 30 seconds too late to be the sacrificial goat which was fine considering I wasn't there for the open mic. The slam was a little disappointing as somebody named PostMidnight won. I always hated the stage names in rap, even moreso in poetry. Poetry is supposed to be about truth, how do you get on stage with a fake name and expect to have credibility? There's a difference between nicknames and fake names. I say that to explain why I didn't really pay much attention to PM. RAC made a run at the end but PM took the slam and made their finals. I don't really like Urbana's format for putting together their team. It leaves the door wide open for random poets not particularly connected to their scene. As reigning national champs, that's always a danger. Worst thing, though, is their semi-finals that only requires poets to have three poems without time limits. Different philosophies, I guess. What the hell, though, they've won two out of the last three nationals so I guess it works for them.

Today's web site: Have to admit I'm tempted...

Thursday, April 24, 2003

This is what happens when you take a notebook with you to lunch...

"The View From Airplanes"
(1st draft, free write)

From the air
I remember the city of brotherly love
mostly for the fact that
I don't remember it at all.

Like movies filmed in Vancouver
images of buildings not tall enough
to be New York
I do remember how close they seemed
when we hit the air pocket
dropped a couple of hundred feet
and wondered what the news coverage would be
for a commuter plane crash killing
six of the United States Army's newest
recruits at the tail end of Desert Storm.

A ragtag lot
when asked why we'd joined
not one of us answered
"To serve our country."
instead, offering
"college money"
"three kids"
"lost my job"
"my father"
"the judge"
or, in my case,
"I was broke."

Twenty dollars to my name
twenty-one years under my belt
I'd spent a few thousand and a few months
looking for myself in the bottoms of
too many glasses, the hearts
of too many strippers.

In high school
a few wine coolers and cigarettes
were as bad as I got.

In Miami,
Long Island Iced Teas and weed.

In the Army,
Mad Dog, a pack a day and sex.

Lost my virginity at 16
to my girlfriend, in her bed
while her mother worked.

Lost it again at 20
to a 33-year old case of mistaken identity
in her bed, while her 5-year old slept.

I played with him over breakfast
before leaving the next morning
never exchanging names,
she still thinking I was someone else,
me wondering how the hell I'd ended up in Staten Island.

From the air
you can see the grid of Manhattan
look straight up 34th Street
past the Empire State Building
and into the East River.

At night
it is a galaxy
hiding a black hole
that will always suck you back in.

In Kentucky
the night is black.

Standing in the doorway of a C-130
awaiting the signal to "GO!"
numb fingers grip cold metal in fear
my eyes groping the night sky for a sign.

I jump a split second before
the boot lands on my backside
count to four mississippi
and relish the tug of my chute inflating.

The trust we place in things
far exceeds that we place in others.

We are both drunk
when she pulls out the video camera.

Close friends for the three hours
since me met, realizing
we shared the exact same birthday,
she was getting out the next day
after five years of service.

She outranked me
and I have no idea what ended up
on the videotape.

What would have been my 13th jump
was canceled because of weather.

Hungover from the night before
my first blackout
my contacts dried out
clothes still on
no memory of the stripper
the private dance
the vomit
only the lingering stench of
southern comfort
and rock bottom.

I've left more places by bus than plane.

The view is better
and it's less of a jump to the ground.
Good thing: one stop commute to work this morning, got in at 8:45am! Bad thing: parking in Brooklyn Heights sucks as bad as anywhere else. Ended up in a corner spot, crossing my fingers that we don't get another ticket!

Tonight's Urbana semi-finals has the potential to affect our Finals. If Shappy or Dawn win tonight, they're in Urbana's Finals next Thursday. Dawn's already in our Finals and most people would bet Shappy will be in the top three next Monday and also end up in our Finals. Shawn Randall is already qualified for both of our Finals, too. While I love cross-polination during the season, I hate it at this point. That's potentially one-third of our Finalists going out for both teams. (Pretty sure we don't have any cross-over with the Nuyorican this year.) If any one or more of them make the Urbana team, they have a decision to make. Accept the Urbana slot and drop out of our Finals or, stay in our Finals, making the commitment to accept the slot should they make our team. I'm apparently the most hard-line of the three venues on this issue. Should anyone drop out - (MATH ALERT!) - the fourth place semi-finalist with the smallest differential from third place would get the slot in Finals. Right now, that would be Mara, who was 0.8 behind Lynne this past Monday. Our last semi could be even tighter, though, so even that's up in the air.

This is the time of the year when the competition and community development start to bump heads. Had an interesting conversation last night with Omar and Ed about it all. With the possibility of this being our last year of sending a team to Nationals, I would like nothing more than to take a brand new team to Chicago. Over the past couple of years, I've tried to install a "term limits" rule to our slam, mandating a year off after two consecutive years on the team. Not surprisingly, most of the people that have been on the team before don't like the idea while those that haven't made it yet do. I think it's important to separate the competition from the invaluable experience Nationals offers. One of the early arguments against a new team was the chance we wouldn't do well. Last year's team shot that notion to hell, though. If anything, I think the more Nationals experience on a team, the more likely there will be problems with it. Personally, I'd rather get blown out with a team of first-timers than win it all with a group of veterans.

Karen Rockower's playing at Arlene's Grocery tonight. Tempted to catch that instead of the slam. Maybe I'll swing both? Play it by ear, I think.

Starting to work on my first two advertorial columns today: Fixed Income Funds and Technology & The Internet. Should be interesting. Gotta figure out how to put a subtle socially responsible spin on things. Some people say I don't know the meaning of the word subtle, though. We'll see.


Today's web site: Check out some of my handiwork!

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

What ever made me think that I'd find convenient parking when I decided to drive in this morning? Ended up in a parking lot after driving around for 20 minutes looking. Planning to avoid Hartsdale while Salomé and the kids are gone so I had to pack a bag this morning to get me through Saturday at least. Was planning to go to the Mets game tonight but it's kind of cold and I'm barely avoiding being sick as it is.

Went to Acentos last night, tired as hell. Mondays are killer and Tuesdays should have me in bed early but it's worth the exhaustion. Grisel featured and it was nice to see and hear her again. She had a brief run at 13 back in 2000, I think. Pretty solid set, though she seemed a bit nervous. Want to get her for a Monday at some point, maybe put her in a louderJAM to reintroduce her to the crowd. Our Latina representation is terrible and I want to fix that. Had an interesting conversation with Luis on Monday about it. While his focus was on gay Latinos, it made me think about our cast of our regulars to see how diverse we really are. At first glance, we've got a solid black contingent, but when you look closer, it's primarily Carribean-Americans. If you know, you know there's a difference. Ironically, since '99 and the New Jersey invasion, the Nuyorican has been the primary "black" venue. Since Oscar and Fish became regulars, our Latino contingent has grown significantly. Latinas, on the other hand, are virtually non-existent. At least on the stage. We used to have a strong Asian representation but that's faded a bit over the past couple of years. Plenty of white women, only a smattering of white guys. We've always had a solid lesbian mix, not so much gay men, though. The reality is the sum is much greater than its parts, though, as overall, I believe we're still one of the most diverse, welcoming communities on the scene.

Speaking of Mondays, the slam went well, with one disappointment. T'ai was in a zone, laying her claim in the first round and never looking back. At least two out-of-towners pulled me aside during the night to say, "So, she'll definitely be on your team." Nothing's guaranteed but if she isn't a front-runner, who is? Shawn took second with some surprisingly reserved but intense performances. His freestyle in the fourth round, incorporating the other four poets in the slam, got the high score of the night as well as some misguided hateration. Many slam elitists (an oxymoron if I've ever heard one) hate freestyle but I think it perfectly embodies one of the most appealing aspects of slam: taking risks. It's something I don't do nearly enough and have the utmost respect for. On the other end of the spectrum was Lynne, coming in third place, barely separating herself from Mara who almost pulled off the upset. After a flat second round performance of Rakim (so amazing in collaboration, I wonder if she's lost the feel for it solo) dropped her from second to fourth place, she went to the well in the third round, pulling out the oldie, Pretenders. I've got a love/hate thing with that poem for several reasons. Love it because I partly inspired it in '97, a blistering response to an early version of 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Minute that sent me back to the revision table. Hate it because it's THAT old and the original emotion behind it is rarely there anymore. My thing with slam is it should first be about the poetry, about keeping things fresh, about taking risks. The competition comes second. Veterans that go to the well when their backs are against the wall, IMO, violate that spriit. It's something I've always been against; quite vocally, too. Anyway, that performance pulled her back into a tie with Mara for third, setting up a showdown in the final round. So it was back to the well again, for Elemental Woman, one of the best things she's ever written, a poem that should always be a part of her feature set, but definitely not something I want to hear her do in a slam, especially on the heels of Pretenders. It nailed her her highest score for the night and ended up making the difference. Mara was a trooper, though. It's no secret she's one of my favorites for this year and I would love nothing more than for her to make the team as I think she brings a totally different set of experiences to the stage. She weathered the first spot in the first round, ending up fourth, but only 0.4 points away from third place. Like Sabrina last week, she was the only one to improve her score each round. In the end, Lynne edged her out by 0.8 points. Finally, Ray who stood tall despite an uphill climb from the beginning, made it clear that he's got the tools to compete and now, he's got some experience under his belt. Like Oscar last week, if he takes the positives from the experience and keeps working the craft, he'll be in the mix again next year, and not as an underdog.

Next Monday is the one I'm looking forward to most. And not just because Maya Azucena is featuring! It's the most diverse lineup of the three semis, a solid mix of humor and seriousness with the most unpredictable top three.

Salomé and the kids just landed in Virginia a few minutes ago. It's Isaac and India's first plane ride and I'm disappointed I couldn't be on it with them. They're going to have a good time down there, especially Isaac with all the things they've bought him. And my mother's only seen India once so she'll be ecstatic. Hopefully Salomé is able to get some sleep while she's down there. Even one night or a couple of naps will make a difference. Hopefully I'll be smart enough to get some sleep myself while they're gone, too.

Today's web site:

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

In the breakup with my last girlfriend before Salomé, I left a trunk full of personal items behind that my ex threatened to throw out. She never actually did throw it out but I never got it back either. There were a lot of things in that trunk I'd like to get back, not the least of which are a bunch of my grandfather's poems and lyrics that my mother gave to me after he passed. Isaac LeCharles Harper was a small-time record producer in the 60's, back when people weren't properly credited and were regularly cheated out of royalties. Among his claims to fame were housing Gladys Knight before she made it big and writing the lyrics to A Thin Line (Between Love and Hate). I remember when I first got into the slam scene and my mother had read a few of my early poems, she commented about how he never needed to use bad words to make his point. Not the subtlest of hints, over time, I grew less and less reliant of the shock value of "fuck," et al, to the point where my mother can read 90% of my work and not have a problem with it.

Anyway, I was thinking about my grandfather recently as I still haven't been able to find my wedding ring and I'm wearing a ring of his that my mother gave me a couple of years ago, once I'd proven myself to be relatively stable and responsible. That means married with kids, I think. I'm not big on jewelry, can't stand to wear most of it, but this ring of his is kind of cool. It's gold and some shiny things that may or may not be diamonds (bling! bling!) and fits my ring finger perfectly. I remember he was always well-dressed, rarely leaving the house in anything but a suit. He wore hats like nobody's business, too. Stylish. Always had candy in his pockets for the kids and something nice to say to the ladies, young and old, that swooned in his presence. He was the kind of smooth you don't see anymore. It was sincere and unaffected.

I wish he'd lived long enough to see me get my act together. Don't really believe in the whole afterlife thing but, on the off chance it's true and he's got internet access, I hope he knows that I think about him now and then and hope he's proud of me...

Monday, April 21, 2003

Almost forgot about the movies! Rented Drumline and Barbershop this weekend.


Finished hating? Ok.

Drumline was the infectious sugar-coated confection I expected it to be. The marching scenes were amazing and the storyline was solid if predictable. I love these teeny-bopper movies! This one's up there with Varsity Blues.

Wasn't sure what to expect from Barbershop, what with all the controversy around it last year. Ended up loving it like Soul Food. Pitch-perfect dramedy with some laugh-out-loud moments that hit all the right buttons. Ice Cube has managed to cross over without the Will Smith taint of sellout and become a solid actor. I was really impressed with Eve's natural ability, too. She's totally grown on me over the past few years. The movie was well produced and smartly-written, not at all the UPN treatment I was expecting. The only thing controversial about Cedric's old man was his mumbling. His comments on Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, while superficially offensive, made for an interesting departure from the norm. I'm all about tipping sacred cows to get to the truth of the matter, even if it means exaggerating things somewhat.

Finally caught a Matrix trailer, albeit a short one. Can't wait!
Today I'm fighting off either a cold or allergies. Hope it's a cold because allergies suck. Either way, I'm sleepy, my nose is stuffed and I'm hungry. June 1, please come quick!

Had a nice weekend, all things considered. Got a call from my cousin Jr. (of Prodigal Son) on Saturday morning that he was having a little dinner party. Hadn't seen him since X-Mas 2001, right before we left for Virginia. He didn't even know we'd come back til he and Bubbles (his sister) went down to my mother's a couple of weeks ago! Anyway, it was nice to get over there and get back in touch. They're the two cousins from my mother's side that I grew up with, both older than me. Jr. was still living at 1326 College when it burned down. Ended up in a nice rehabbed 2BR off E. Tremont and seems to really be doing well for himself. Nicholas is about to turn 4 and Jade is 14 now. Bubbles' kids are getting older, too: 11 and 9! I remember babysitting them when they were 2 and 6 months (almost exactly like Isaac and India) back when we were all in Ft. Campbell, KY. Seems so damn long ago. Another lifetime. Makes me feel old!

I'd always discounted the importance of keeping family close but more and more, especially having kids, I'm realizing how important it really is.

Tonight is the second semi-final, probably the most wide-open of the three with Mara Jebsen, Lynne Procope, T'ai Freedom Ford, Raymond Daniel Medina and Shawn Randall. Throughout the latter part of the season, Mara always had the bad luck of pulling an early slot so the good news is going first is nothing new for her. The bad news is, like Sabrina last week, her work is more thoughtful and doesn't really lend itself to that big opening bang. If she can survive the first round, though, she should be solidly in the running as she's arguably the best of the bunch. Some would say that's sacrilege with Lynne in the mix but Lynne's work can be extremely dense at times, losing the audience, and her aversion to strategy could put her in a bind. Going second will test that. No question she's got the range of work to come out on top in a four-round slam, though. T'ai is the likely energy boost that will dictate where the first round goes. She could potentially set it off like Roger did last week, putting Mara and Lynne behind the curve. Her main challenge will be stretching herself over four rounds, bringing something a little different each time. Ray is this week's wild card. Relatively new to the slam, I'm not certain he's got the depth or experience to stay in the mix over four rounds. He's certainly got the determination and in a slam with Mara and Lynne, the scales will be tipped in their favor in regards to overall tone. Depending on what the judges like, the three of them may be fighting for the third spot, though. Shawn is the most flexible of the group, both for his accessible style and ability to improvise. He knows how to work an audience and listens to the other poets in the slam more than most. Hard to say what conventional wisdom would predict with these five.

In other news, I'm going to catch a Mets game on Wednesday night. Roger and me, for sure. Maybe a few other people. The nosebleed seats thanks to Wendy's 2-for-1 deal. Haven't been since that first game back after 9/11. THAT was an amazing game. I'm not big on all the forced patriotism that's going around these days but that night was enough to bring a communist to tears, not to mention socialist little me! Wednesday won't have anywhere near that significance but it would nice to catch a ball or something. Haven't ever managed to do that.

Today's web site: I've updated some stuff. :-)

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Been too tired lately to get any Pokemon time in on the train and I bought Car Battler Joe over the weekend which I haven't played at all yet. Also have Castlevania (?) that Omar lent me but I haven't had a chance for that one either. CBJ looks fun, reminding me of this game I had a long time ago on the Commodore 64 called Car Wars. I think. Been trying to find it again forever but I'm starting to wonder if I made the whole thing up. It was set in a kind of Mad Max world where you build cars and travel from town to town doing courier jobs and fighting with other cars. Car Battler Joe seems to have the same concept but with the Pokemon flavor. Both CBJ & the newest Pokemons deal with a kid who's father is not around and part of his mission is finding him. In Pokemon, you actually battle him as he's one of the Gym Leaders. In Joe, he's possibly a bad guy that you run into towards the end of the game. Got issues?

India had her 6 month checkup on Tuesday, got her next round of immunizations and a clean bill of health. She's starting to catch up to her weight now, looking more like a baby than a butterball. Isaac, meanwhile, is a little too smart for his own good. I have to remind myself that he's only 2 1/2 because he's so aware and on top of things, and so talkative, it's easy to forget. That bi-polar mix of independence and dependence is dizzying at times. Salomé is about to start doing those sex toy parties. (Lord, I really hope my mother doesn't read this thing!) Like Tupperware but on the other end of the spectrum! She has to do three observations first, then she's off on her own. Long way from scrapbooking and something she would never have been able to do in Virginia. Have to wonder what those parties are like. I've always been lucky to have a lot of female friends and been privy to the kinds of conversations that make you realize there's little difference between men and women when it comes to sexuality but I can't really think of a comparable activity for guys. A live fantasy baseball draft maybe? LOL!

Going to a seder tonight up in Westchester. Never been to one but as far as I know, N's family isn't super-religious. Religion makes me totally uncomfortable, no matter which one it is. A lot of people swear I'm an atheist but the truth is I just hate organized religion. It's group mind control. It's no coincidence the bible is full of references to flocks and the meek and sheep. I DO believe in some sort of spirituality or karma, though. Not so much in fate, as the idea that I'm not in control of my own life has no appeal. There's all kinds of things that defy explanation and you just take a leap of faith with it all. From the sun coming up tomorrow to the phone ringing clear across the country when you dial a ten-digit number, I don't know how it all works, I just know it does.

Web site of the day: Dump AAA!

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Last night went about as well as I could've hoped for, with a good turnout, fun feature and exciting slam. Top three ended up being Roger, Omar & Dawn, with Omar holding on to 2nd by a mere 0.2 points. The judges were consistently in the 25-26 range, with a few spikes into higher territory reserved for some truly special moments of the night.

Sabrina got the short end of the stick with a low first round score and couldn't recover. I felt bad about flip-flopping on my initial advice about the piece she did as I wasn't confident that it had the energy required to lead off a slam. Good judges are almost always waiting to be wowed before getting off the high scores and more thoughtful work usually suffers early on because of that. Always go with your first instinct! She didn't let it get her down, though, performing each successive piece beautifully and ultimately scratching her way into fourth.

Dawn was consistent throughout and was very smart in her choice of first round piece. It was political, grounded and easy-to-digest and got her out of the first round solidly in the mix. Someone with her depth and experience, that was all she needed to be competitive. At first glance, she's easy to underestimate but she's got the kind of range that makes her a formidable talent. Coming in third puts her at a slight disadvantage for the Finals but she's someone that can overcome an early slot.

Oscar nailed his first piece, so much so that it could be argued it might've better served him in the second or third round. With the first two poets not scoring all that high, he could've went with something else, stayed with the pack and broke out the signature piece later when the energy had shifted. Instead, he peaked early and lost steam as the night went on. No shame, though, as he represented himself well each round and is sure to build on the experience and be in the mix again next year.

Roger was Roger but in a most impressive way, nailing his pieces with an energy you don't often see from someone that's been around the slam as long as he has been. Taking nothing for granted, he laid it out there each round and the judges rewarded him for it, especially in the 3rd round when he got a 30 for the Buffalo-remix. Perhaps the year off did him some good? At this point, he has to be considered a front-runner for making the team again.

Finally, Omar. Talk about someone being dialed in and focused. He connected with the audience in a way I haven't seen him do in...well, ever, I'd have to say. Particularly with his third piece, the one he did for the CD recording in January that got a completely wrong reaction (uncomfortable laughter in all the wrong places) from the crowd. This time, he did it following Roger's 30 - the only thing worse than going first in a slam is following a 30 - and gave a most intense, you-will-understand-where-this-piece-is-coming-from performance that held the audience entranced. The scores weren't great but they were good enough to keep him in second.

All in all, it was a good slam and I'm happy with the results. To be honest, any combination of the five would have been great. As for the betting pool, though, I blew it, picking Dawn, Roger & Sabrina as my expected top three. What the hell do I know? ;-)

Monday, April 14, 2003

Monday, Monday.

I'm really looking forward to tonight after last week's weather-induced, bad-stomach-bad-attitude debacle. The semi-finals have always been a lot of fun and we've got some great matchups again this year. With Omar, Roger, Oscar, Dawn and Sabrina in the mix, it should be a tight one. Conventional wisdom has Roger, Dawn & Sabrina coming out on top. While highly likely, anything can happen over four rounds and with Sabrina & Dawn leading off the first round and Omar closing it out, the early scores could quickly set the tone for an "upset."

Slam strategy is a fragile thing as it attempts to predict the whims of an often fickle crowd of random judges who willingly allow their personal biases to influence the scores. Roger is a bit if a chameleon, able to shift on the fly based on what the audience is feeling. He also has the uncanny ability to force an audience to deal with what he's putting out there. His stage presence commands attention, even when he's possibly insulting you and, if his back's against the wall, he's got the golden oldies he can whip out. Both Sabrina and Dawn weave magic with their words and are relatively grounded in their imagery but I've seen judges get lost with their work, too. If they can survive having the first two spots of the night, their depth should carry them through. Sometimes, though, the judges prefer the simplicity and sincerity of an Oscar. He's got limited depth but he's been working what he's got and has gotten pretty comfortable on stage. If he can avoid the rookie jitters, he could surprise. Then, there's Omar, the wild card simply for his sheer unpredictability. Focused, he's one of the best poets in the slam because of his energy and subversive humor and the fact that he's a damn good writer that knows how to combine the two. Unfocused, he sometimes berates the audience for their stupidity and that doesn't generally go over too well!

My picks? I predict a ridiculous show with the audience being the winner! ;-)

In other news, we finally went and got our taxes done this weekend and - surprise! - not only got a refund but got everything we paid out in taxes back and then some as a result of having two kids and being flat broke! So, while 2002 sucked, this certainly tempers the hit. Just in time, too, as we're starting to find apartments in the areas we're interested in moving to pop up in listings. There's one that's right around the corner from the kids' daycare which would be perfect! Crossing my fingers on that.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Welcome to the next edition of getting to know your friends. What you're supposed to do is copy (not forward) this entire e-mail and paste it nto a new e-mail that you'll send. Change all of the answers so they apply to you. Then, send this to a whole bunch of people you know *INCLUDING* the person who sent it to you. The theory is that you'll learn a lot of little known facts about your friends.

And it's just stupid fun.

5:30am if I'm on time, 6:15am if not.

Jessica Lynch.


The cinema? Talk to Her. Though the last MOVIE I saw was Chicago.

Currently: Bernie Mac, That 70's Show and Smallville. Ever: Miami Vice, Fame

A bagel, a smoothie or an Altoid, depending.

Rats and Conservatives.

Just tried, unsuccessfully, and my boss looked at me like I was crazy.

Life and everything about it.

LeCharles, from my grandfather.



Chunky Monkey.

I hate popcorn, though Crunch & Munch works for me.

[snicker] Probably blue.

Mini Cooper S.

What the hell is a sandwich FILLING? I like Reubens so whatever FILLING that is.

I'm going to sidestep the obvious and say New York City.

Indecisiveness. Be brave enough to risk being wrong sometimes!

None, really. Is a cactus a flower?

Greedy MF's would have to read about it in the Daily News!

Still water sounds like a swamp so I'm saying fizzy.

It's not my bathroom and I haven't the slightest idea.

Six (had to look).


That's a tough one but Cancun takes it, I think.

Don't believe in retirement. I will drop dead on the streets of New York.


Red, generally, though I'm not really a wine person.

Not much. Had a nice, homemade seafood dinner, though.

What's that? For blood, yes. The thing that says don't try to hard to save me, just take my organs? On my driver's license.

Football jerseys.

Ginger Ale.

This sounds rather perverted. Girl scouts have those Samoa cookies, though.

Mushy textured-stuff.

FOmar, 'cause he's too busy updating the louderARTS site! ;-)

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Josh Gracin. Why does this twangy fool irritate me so? I've been Googling him to get some more information on his status and it's all annoyingly vague and largely supportive. It's disgusting that this guy is living it up in a mansion in the Hollywood Hills, "pursuing his dream," supposedly using his leave-time to remain on the show. Granted, he's not infantry (some kind of maintenance) but the fact of the matter is that we're at war, some of his unit IS deployed and it's a total insult to the other kids who, if not actually in Iraq risking their lives, are confined to their bases awaiting orders. I wish Jessica Lynch would be next week's celebrity judge and they gave her a pair of pliers to show the fat little fuck what she likely went through while he was mangling pop songs on national TV.

Stomach's feeling all better now and I've recovered from the funk I was in Monday night. Mentally gearing up for our three-week run of semi-finals. Seve came up with a great idea: a betting pool for the semis! Laid it all out and everything. I tweaked it a little bit and turned it into a 50/50 to raise a little money for the team and make it a bit less cannibalistic. We'll see how many people play along. Have to say I like how the nights shook out with none of them having a clear top three. Of course, I've got an opinion on how they'll play out, not to mention a preference, but I'll save that (the opinions; the preferences stay secret) for right before each show and post my picks right before I leave work each Monday.

Been thinking about PSI and how much I hate the beauracratic sloth it's become. I've said it before but the time might have finally come for something else. The whole form has stagnated, its only redeeming aspect being access to all. There's gotta be ways to retain that while reinvigorating the edge it used to have. Pretty sure I've pissed Marc Smith off with my recent comments. Whatever, truth is truth and a President for Life is nothing more than a dictator, no matter how benevolent he may seem. Between the anti-war statement debate that he effectively squashed to the Nationals registration fiasco that might see the whole Bay Area locked out of Chicago, things are ripe for change. Want to play with some ideas over the summer in anticipation of those changes.

Speaking of changes, Monday nights are about to undergo another evolution. Reintroducing louderJAM is just the first step. I want to redefine what we do at 13. The last five years have been great but I'm worried we're falling into a rut, like the Nuyorican minus the tourist appeal. We'll still do the slams but the format itself needs to be freshened up. More on that another time.

Did some writing at lunch yesterday. Haven't done that in ages. Ginna hit us with some writing exercises and I used one, combined with an idea from my Writer's Block. Didn't get far but just getting the juices flowing was a good thing. Funny, after years of trying to write something about my Army experiences, it's the only thing that's been coming to mind recently. If only emails were poems!

That's all for now. Today's web site: Yum!

Tuesday, April 8, 2003

The antiNOTES...

Blame it on the rain? Maybe. It certainly messed with our turnout last night. I'm thinking my having to be sober through it all is what really set ME off, though.

The anniversary show was both a moderate success and a raging bust all at once. I had the whole night laid out on a tight schedule that required us to get started at 7:20pm but with the bad weather, the turnout was light and slow to build. Had to kind of wing it throughout the night and was never particularly happy with how things were going. With my stomach still not 100%, not only was I sober but I was starving, too, as I was concerned about eating the wrong thing so hadn't really eaten much of anything. I've heard of bitter drunks but WTF! Bitter sober!?!?!

The show itself was fun as we successfully introduced a new element to the mix with the musical guests. They were all great and Maya Azucena, in particular, was amazing yet again, energizing the room and holding everyone transfixed throughout her set, bringing people to tears with her version of Hallelujah at the end. Unfortunately, there were only 50-60 people there, a huge disappointment from a financial perspective. Thankfully, the artists donated their time so the little bit of door there was we were able to keep.

Most of the poetry came in the second half of the show and by the time I read, I was so not in the mood, i can only imagine how my performance came off. I felt pissy and annoyed and it seemed like it was coming out while I was reading my Army piece, giving it an angry edge that's not necessarily meant to be there.

Some of the old-timers bitched and moaned about the music:poetry ratio being out of whack but I'd warned everyone ahead of time that we would be setting the stage for some new directions with this show. Besides that, though, these are the same people that complain that there's usually too much poetry so whatever! I was so not in the mood for it, though, and kept avoiding the conversation.

My mood had steadily darkened through the night to the point I didn't even want to be there anymore, didn't want to talk to anyone, certainly didn't want to hang out for the afterparty. What sucked most was I couldn't really put my finger on what I was pissed about. Soon as the show ended, I gathered up everything, said quick goodbyes and broke out to catch the 11:30 Metro North which worsened my mood even more.

Woke up this morning not feeling all that much better. Gonna treat myself to a nice, stomach-friendly lunch somewhere and try to clear my head. I haven't been in a mood this bad since...shit, probably somewhere near the end of the Virginia days.

Today's web site:

Monday, April 7, 2003

I've found Calista Flockhart's dirty little secret: GASTROENTERITIS. With it, you, too, can lose 7 punds in just ONE weekend. No exercise required, other than the muscles used to regurgitate everything from the night before out of your mouth and any leftovers out the other end.

Yeah, I had a wonderful weekend!

Stomach's still roiling from it but I'm feeling much better now. At least I can stand for more than ten minutes at a time, stay awake for more than two hours straight and eat more than bread and water. Of course, that's just in time for a snowstorm in April! I used to love that Prince song, Sometimes It Snows In April, but WTF, don't they realize it's a metaphor?!??!

Backtrack a few days here, to Thursday night, and my meeting with Norman Lear's assistant, Caty Borum. She briefed me on the project - very interesting! - and we talked a lot about both of our backgrounds. She's basically conducting a national search for poets and wanted my input, both locally and nationally. It's an interesting moment when you find out who you actually respect on the national scene at moments like that, when you weigh artistic merit versus personal issues. Giving obvious props to people like Ellik, Ashe, MacMillan and Henry and not so obvious ones to Solis, we batted around names and scenes like a game of word association. Locally, it was a relative no-brainer as we're having our anniversary show tonight and the majority of people I'd recommend are already in it so we're just gonna tape the thing and give old Norman a taste. Side note: we met at Botanica, my first home back in the day, and it was bizarre being in there smoke-free. What would William Shatner think? ;-)

Headed over to Urbana afterwards and Cristin put on a super-sized open mic in order to accomodate the people she'd rounded up for their Lear taping. Amalia Ortiz gave a solid - if surprisingly nervous - feature and Shappy won the slam which puts him in their last semi-final. There was a poem in the first round that equated being a skater with being a racial minority and I so wanted to choke the living shit out of him. I hate when white boys with CHOSEN lifestyles compare their "plights" with that of minorities and women and homosexuals. HATE IT! It's so fucking ignorant and presumptuous and ignorant. Grrrr.

When Mr. Gastro hit the next morning, part of me thought it might have been the Puebla Wrap from the Bowery the night before as I've been warned about eating those things too late in the night. A little bout of food poisoning would have been preferable to the hell I went through. Add to it two sick kids puking and diarrheaing back-to-back and Friday was a day to forget. We're all recovering now and somehow Salomé has managed to completely avoid it which, while a good thing, is completely unusual. It's generally me that fights these things off or at least succumbs last. Instead, I was a useless blob Friday and Saturday. Finally fought back on Sunday and ordered some Papa John's and was able to keep it down with a minimum of fuss. Think I got back three of those lost pounds, too!

So with tonight being the kickoff of our best time of the year, a snowstorm hits! It's coming down pretty heavy and even seems to be sticking so this could be really bad. It's gonna be an amazing show, too, so it would suck if it falls through. Fingers crossed...

PS: Both of my fantasy baseball teams got whooped last week, one losing 5-7, the other, 2-8. The former is the one I care most about, from my SLAM THIS! league. Overall, they did pretty well; Ken Green's Chicago Hopeless just did better. Next up, Mike Henry's Earnest Borg Nine.

PPS: Pick your opponent:

is a
Beef-Eating Web Monkey

...with a Battle Rating of 5.2

To see if your Food-Eating Battle Monkey can
defeat loudpoet, enter your name:

is a
Tofu-Eating Killer Monkey

...with a Battle Rating of 4.8

To see if your Food-Eating Battle Monkey can
defeat glecharles, enter your name:

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

One of the five people that read this thing is bored at work and suggests I write something today. Not a bad idea as I need a couple of minutes break from work, both the paid one and the poetry one.

Stepped in dog shit this morning! Stepping in puddles and dragging my foot through dirt only served to cake it all in the tread of my shoes so I ended up having to wash the damn thing in the bathroom sink at work, hoping no one would walk in and wonder what the hell I was doing. Can't believe I didn't stink up the train. Or maybe I did and couldn't tell?

The train ride to and from work has become a lot more pleasant with my new GameBoy Advance SP and Pokemon Ruby! Pokemon rules. People think it's just a kid's game but, while there is a certain simplicity to it, it's fun as hell and completely engrossing. The strategy involved in selecting the right combination of Pokemon, leveraging strengths and weaknesses while balancing my preference for certain types over others. Haven't settled on a new favorite yet, though I like the Treecko I started out with. I prefer attacks with status effects, like poison and confusion but those Pokemon often have the most glaring weaknesses leaving them vulnerable to the one-shot KO.

Okay, so now you know officially. I'm a dork!

Got an email the other day from a woman who claims to work for Norman Lear (the 80's sitcom king) who is suppposedly looking to create some sort of national poetry show. She's in town for a couple of days and wanted to meet me; said my name kept popping up the more she looked into slam. Gonna meet with her tomorrow before Urbana and then stick around for the show. Should be interesting.

Speaking of shows, our anniversary show is coming together slowly but surely. Was on the fence for awhile about what we'd do for the night as the CD recording on January 13th was so off-the-hook as to not be duplicable. [Is that a word?] One idea was to invite some left-field special guests types and pair them up with some comparable up-and-comers. I've never been big on caring about booking "big-name" features but I put it out there to see what kind of response we'd get, at the same time, working on a plan B. Some good things came from the attempt, most notably the possibility that Maria Mazziotti Gillan will be featuring for us in July! She's the editor of my favorite anthology, UNSETTLING AMERICA, as well as being a gifted poet herself, so that'll be a treat. Plan B is what's going to happen, though, as I'm working on relaunching our louderJAM format in collaboration with Westside Rhyme. Details still need to be discussed around how we'll work together but, at a minimum, once a month at 13 we're gonna have a kick-ass show along the lines of what Shawn & Karen lay down on Sundays. Lisa Jackson is confirmed to swing through which should be a treat. The first time I saw Lisa was at Westside Rhyme a few weeks ago and she blew me away. Karen's got a gig in Brooklyn that night so she might not be able to play, or maybe she'll kick things off and then break out. We'll see.

re: American Idol. After a pathetic performance last night, can I hope that Josh [dis]Gracin gets voted off tonight? I can't stand that guy and I'm glad to see there's finally some backlash about him being on the show while 60% of his unit has been deployed to Iraq. Some Marine spokesperson had the nerve to say that it was good publicity for the Corps to have him on the show and that he was pursuing his dream. Like there's not a ton of kids fighting in Iraq who've had to defer their dreams? That's some bullshit. I hope when he does ship out he gets treated to an old-fashioned blanket party.

On a final note, my Mets got their asses waxed on Monday. Had an opportunity to go to the game but, only being on this job a month, figured it wasn't time to go playing hooky. Much as I would've like to have been there, between the brutal weather and the butt-kicking, I don't feel TOO bad about it.

Web site of the day: