Thursday, July 31, 2003

"I know where weapons of mass destruction are... Joblessness is a weapon of mass destruction. Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction. Homelessness is a weapon of mass destruction. Poor health care is a weapon of mass destruction. And when the government lies to the American people, that is a weapon of mass destruction!!"
-- Dennis Kucinich, 21 May 2003 (

Assuming the building doesn't catch fire or some other random act of randomness, at about 3pm today, I'll be getting three of my wisdom teeth ripped out of my mouth. Joy!

On the off-chance I don't survive (the potential complications waiver they make you sign is scary!), I wanted to reflect on one of the crossroads that led me to where I am today. Get comfortable, this is a long one.

Ten years ago this month, I went out with a group of friends to celebrate my impending early discharge from the Army after two years and four months of service. I had qualified and been recommended for the Green-to-Gold program that offered 4-year scholarships to historically black colleges (three years for regular colleges) to enlisted personnel that would result in my becoming a commissioned officer and agreeing to serve four more years in the military, active or reserve status. I applied and was accepted to Fisk University in Nashville, TN, majoring in English, and signed an agreement to accept a commission in the National Guard after I graduated. Because my actual ETS date was October 7, 1993 and my contract didn't allow for early transition, I had to use my accumulated leave time to get out in late-July, in time to find a part-time job and housing, before Freshman orientation started in mid-August.

It was a big night and we invited a bunch of the barracks rats (the guys that didn't drink and rarely went out) to come with us, mainly to be our designated drivers. We hit our usual club - I forget the name; JB's, I think? - a local bar with a dance floor and a DJ that played a varied mix of everything from pop to hip-hop to country to the thrice-nightly mandatory line dancing favorite: Electric Slide. The crowd was always a diverse mix racially as well as civilian/miltary, and we generally had a good time whenever we went. As it was a celebration, we proceeded to get lit. Mind you, I was in my Zima phase at this point: less-filling, drink more, maintain your buzz longer.

A little past midnight, a friend of ours rolls in from the hip-hop club he'd gone to earlier, looking for someone to drive his car on post because he's too drunk to get past the MPs. We look around for our designated drivers and all the bastards had broken out on us! Revenge of the nerds! I've always said that if I was going to die in a drunk driving accident, I was going to be the one driving so I had my last Zima at 12:30am and started sobering up. Considering I'd been drinking since 3pm, though, it took some work. We left the club at 2am; hit Krystals (the south's version of White Castle) where I had three double cheesburgers, a large order of waffle fries and two big cups of water; then stopped at my girlfriend's place to drop her off. (Side note: she lived in a trailer park! Leave it to me to find a Latina from the Bronx living in a trailer park in Clarksville, TN!)

All logic said that we should stay at her place for the night, sleep off the alcohol and head in first thing in the morning but I was sure we wouldn't wake up on time and be late for formation. So, around 3:30am, we head back to the base. At the main gate, we pull up, me driving my friend's car (which had beer spilled in it a few days earlier that the summer heat had cooked to a raw stench), and get waved through without a fuss. Seconds later, I see the MP pull out behind us, maintaining about a 50 yard distance. My mind clears and I focus hard on the weaving double yellow line, making sure to stay in my lane. We drive the mile or so to our barracks, reaching the intersection just before, and stop at the red. The MP slows down, maintains his distance. Light changes and I move through the intersection and drift left to park on the other side of the street, opposite our barracks. The MP throws on his flashers and hits the siren!

My best friend, Scott, jumps awake in the passenger seat and I explain what's happening. Two other friends are passed out in the back seat. The smell of old, hot beer fills the car. I'm already out of the car as the MP walks up, demanding my license and ID. I pull it out and Scott starts to plead our case.

Scott: "This is our barracks. We're home. How can you pull us over as we're parking?"

MP: "He was weaving and crossed the double yellow line."

Me: "What double yellow line?"

MP: "That one."

He points to the line behind us that I crossed over to park!

Me: "Dude, I crossed it to park! And I wasn't weaving. I saw you following us since we came through the gate!"

Scott: "Come on, man! He's getting out in two weeks! We made it home. This is our barracks. What's the big deal."

MP: "I've got his ass."

He has me stand behind the car and take a few sobriety tests: touch your nose with your eyes closed; walk the straight line; and, my personal favorite, stand on one foot, other leg pointed straight out, foot six inches from the car's bumper, and balance! Shit I can't do sober, much less buzzed, which I most definitely still was. He puts me in the back of his car and takes me to the MP station, telling Scott, "I've got his ass!"

At the MP station, I sit in a holding room for almost an hour, and start to get curious about the whole process. I'd never taken a breathalyzer before - hell, I'd never been arrested before! - and wondered what my level of drunkenness equaled on the BAC scale. I could feel myself sobering up the longer I sat there and, by the time he finally came back with the breathalyzer, I blew .09, .01 over the base limit but .01 UNDER the state limit. At this point, going further is purely up to the arresting MP's discretion but, having realized I was with 5th Group (Special Forces, who the 101st hated with a passion) decided he was going to "nail" me.

Ended up getting released to our sympathetic NCO on duty (SF guys despised the 101st in return) around 5:30am and had to report to formation at 6:30am. That morning was a special day and, instead of our usual PT, we had "fun" stuff to do, including activities like spinning around with your head on a bat and then trying to run. Great stuff when you're still kind of drunk and haven't slept yet!

Anyway, as a result of the arrest, for "suspected DUI," my outprocessing was suspended and I couldn't get out of the Army until after the hearing which was set for August 15th, a day before my 24th birthday, and about a week too late for me to get out in time for Freshman orientation. I beat the charge, getting it reduced to "careless driving" and a $75 fine, and ended up serving the rest of my enlistment, getting out on October 7, 1993. I left Tennessee behind having never attended a single class at Fisk, heading first to Miami, then to NYC and, after a couple of month's temping for a magazine publisher, fell into magazine circulation and marketing.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Couple of weeks ago, I think it was July 3rd, I got out of work early and decided to take a long walk uptown before hopping on the train home. Skirted Battery Park, past the evil DMV and headed towards the hole in the ground formerly known as the World Trade Center. I walked up Greenwich Street, past several closed up storefronts, "We're Open!" signs and a large office building covered in some sort of black shroud. About a block before you get to the construction site, the typically loud and vibrant energy of the city softens into something of a dreamlike hum. At the site itself, tourists crowd the fenced walkway, taking pictures and being generally annoying. There's a couple of vendors selling picture books and postcards and other 9/11 memorabilia. This all strikes me as rather obscene.

The site itself is rather unremarkable if you somehow didn't know what had once stood on it. The enormity of its absence finally hit me, standing there looking across the empty space I had walked over, under and through a million times over the years. There was a heaviness in the air and I actually found it hard to breathe. I walked steadily, up and over the ramp that leads to the World Financial Center, through the building and back out onto the street on the other side. Heading north along the West Side Highway, I kept looking to the east as large cranes and other construction equipment went about the work of rebuilding. I can't imagine what it must be like to one of the people working there. Wonder whether they feel a sense of pride or a sense of dread about their work. Whether they look forward to finishing or find solace in the act itself.

I'm not a big fan of the proposed new look for the site, though as compromises go, it could be worse. For once, I'd love to see a major decision made in this country based on something other than economics. To have the entire space made green, with a simple but unmistakable - and unpoliticized - monument to those who died in the middle.

It's a beautiful day today. Perfect for a walk to nowhere in particular.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Running makes me feel good

The good thing about exercising is that once you get over the initial hump of reluctance and pain, it actually becomes a lot of fun. I've always been pretty lucky that, no matter how badly I get out of shape, I usually bounce back pretty quickly once I get serious. In just a month of the gym, I'm already starting to see, and feel, a difference. That said, I didn't make it to the gym at all last week and was a little bummed about it as I was getting into a groove. Today, I used some of the Cybex machines, mostly upper body and then hit the treadmill for the first time. Not the bike or that crazy elliptical thing, just straight running. Hadn't run in a couple of years since the last aborted attempt at working out ended after one week and a twisted ankle. Today, it was good. Only went two miles, averaging 5.25 mph but it felt real good. Running has always been my favorite exercise as it gets the blood flowing, clearing my lungs and my head. I am still amazed at how much damage I could do while I was in the Army, generally getting to bed no earlier than 3am and still get up at 6:30am, do a 3-5 mile run and sweat it all out. At my peak, I could do a 5:11 mile, 10:24 two-mile. Nowadays, I'm lucky to roll out of bed at 6am when I'm asleep by 11pm! And that's sober, after a long day of loafing around! Right this minute, I feel energized and ready to go. I like it. :-)

This evening, I'm taping something for the Bowery All-Stars recording, then meeting with the documentarians for the interview portion of my taping, THEN heading over to 13 for the final bout in the NYC regionals. Was going to stay at the BPC for Bogosian's set but I kind of feel like I should be at 13 tonight to support. Since I stepped down, I've felt less and less compelled to catch a Monday, becoming more feature-oriented (and Maureen-oriented!) than community-focused, like I am with Acentos. Hell, if Maureen ever left, it'd be hard to get up the desire to go at all, unless it was a great feature I hadn't seen before. It's like staying friends with an ex, sometimes it works, sometimes it's just too awkward.

Last time I was there, for Maria Mazziotti Gillan, I had to leave early because Isaac got sick and Salomé had her hands full with my cousin's kids being over, too. Ended up missing Maria and Team Acentos in the slam which sucked as it was the only thing on the calendar of interest through the end of the summer. Tonight, I'm going more as a show of support than anything else. Since I stepped down, I've fallen out of contact with several people I used to talk to regularly. Some are long-time friendships that I suspect were damaged a bit in the whole slam drama. It's been particularly awkward because of the steady comments I've been getting about how things seem to have changed there, as well as my own disagreements with how some things have been handled. That's the nature of things, though. Change. Sometimes it's for the better, sometimes for the worse and sometimes, it's part of an even bigger transition that transcends either. The heart of the thing is still there, though, and I don't see that fading any time soon. Personally, I suspect transition is ultimately what will come of it. For better or worse.

Today's Web site:

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Fulano, comic books stars?

Friday's feature went really well. Ended up being a 20-minute set but, not knowing til the last minute, I'd prepared a flexible enough list beforehand (aka Down the Hatch: 2 beers, atomic wings & waffle fries!) and was pretty comfortable dealing with the time limit. Mixed some really old with some brand new as I opened with Reality, a piece I haven't done in ages that I was able to edit and memorize in the hour between getting off work and the start of the show. Started it from the audience, a common slam technique for effect, but also a great way to settle one's own nerves. The equivalent of just jumping in the pool headfirst. I was happy to see that I was quite nervous as Jackie announced the final open micer before the feature and my stomach went all aflutter. I've always said the day you stop getting nervous when you get on stage is the day you need to stay off the stage because the privilege has lost its meaning and its importance.

After a brief introduction, I did Fulano, another one I haven't done in ages. Between the two, I realized I hadn't grown cynical about slam over the years but, instead, had been that way from the beginning. It's right there in several of my early poems but no more apparent than Fulano: "to have come so far for this, seems such a waste." Next, I took a gamble and did my new Batman piece that I wrote and posted here just last week. Thought it read pretty smoothly, especially considering it was the first time out loud! Went with the Army suite next, the poems I wrote this year touching on my time in the service, gave props to the Nuyorican and keith roach (for the benefit of the documentarians) with Nuyorican Memories, and closed with the old standby, Breathless. Thematically, I felt like it was one of my strongest features ever, covering a range of styles, periods and subjects while all flowing together extremely well. The reading itself was pretty good, too, getting a little wacky towards the end as a couple of Columbia and Brown students took to dissing each other in a rather pale (pun intended!) attempt at the dozens. Nice gig Jackie Sheeler runs there and, if not for the tough time slot, it's a place I could see myself hitting once or twice a month.

Saturday was Big Apple Comic Convention day and, for my first time, it was quite the experience. Took the whole family down and it was a lot of fun. Way more comics than I could focus on (or afford!) but a great simultaneuous walk down memory lane and inspiration for my current revival. Came across a full set of the original New Mutants run, as well as much of the original Moon Knight series. Debated back-and-forth which direction I wanted to go - collect or inspire - and ended up going for work by writers I wanted to check out, including Morrison's Invisibles: Kissing Mr. Quimper, a two issue Hellboy mini by Mignola and the two-issue JLA: World Without Grownups with art (and a signed first issue) by new Spectacular Spiderman artist, Humberto Ramos. Amongst the tables and tables of comics, graphic novels, toys, cards, bootleg videos, etc. were two guys selling their own independent comics, including one that featured a crazy monkey named Jennifer. It looked a little silly with psychotic artwork but there was something endearing about the creator, Ken Knudtsen, sitting there telling me about it. Came back around before we left and picked up his graphic novel, My Monkey's Name is Jennifer, and got a surprise gift with it: a shot of vodka!

Odd thing about the convention: what is the connection between comic books, wrestlers and porn stars? There were a couple of wrestlers there signing autographs, as well as raunchy porn star Jasmine St. Clare. What's the story? [Side note: St. Clare is the first porn star I've ever seen in person and I have to say she wears her business like a shroud. Not surprising considering her reputation and approach but I'm pretty sure she's under 30 and, even under all of the makeup, she looked...used up. I don't really deal with the politics of porn much as, unlike prostitution, it's usually not something being done against one's will, though I do believe it's an industry that preys on women with self-esteem issues.]

Anyway, with one of my purchases, I got a free copy of the Claremont/Lee X-Men #1. Lee is the special guest at September's convention so I will be getting my first experience as fanboy seeking autograph! Excelsior!

Friday, July 25, 2003

The Box Monster

There's several milestones in your kid's life that you look forward to, some happily, some with dread. This morning, Isaac hit one of the those.

Last night, he discovered the box our latest shipment of Green Mountain Coffee came in (Fair Trade, ahem...) and started playing with it, standing in it, putting his toys in it and finally, putting it on his head. When he started walking around playing his own version of blind man's bluff [remember that game, best played with girls you wanted to feel up?], I decided to cut some eye slits into the box so he wouldn't go crashing into a wall or something. After he put it on, I decided to add to it, turning it into kind of a mask and telling him he was a superhero. He opted for monster, and the Box Monster was born as he spent the next 45 minutes running around the house roaring, "I'm a monster!" Of course, he didn't want to take it off when it was time for bed and only brushing his teeth distracted him, barely (weird kid, loves brushing his teeth, loves medicine...). So, this morning comes and we're getting ready to leave the house and he remembers his box and decides he wants to take it with him to day care. Not just take it, though, he wants to wear it on the way.

And that's the back story of why you often see kids wearing random costumes, mismatched and out-of-season outfits, crazy hairdos, and, in a similar vein, yelling inappropriate sayings that were funny in the privacy of your own home! Next time, give the parents a knowing wink and a smile. They'll appreciate it.

THIS JUST IN: That documentary I mentioned a week or so ago, the crew will be at Cornelia tonight taping some of my feature. If you can make it, please come out. I'll have MY camera, too, taking some pictures to add to the appearances page on my site, where you can also get the details for tonight.

Today's Web site: Long shots can win.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Hey Mr. Ashcroft!

It's a truly fucked-up world we're living in! Watch what you read?!?! Reading the wrong thing in public can get you in trouble.

I've printed the offending article out and am going to read it outside at lunch. Come get me, Mr. Ashcroft!

Remember the Open Room?

Been sent some interesting names for the show so far, with early favorites Performance Anxiety, Breaking Form and Word of Mouth. Send more.

Haven't heard back from Jackie Sheeler yet about the length of tomorrow's feature so I'm getting a little antsy about my set. There's a big difference between 20, 30 and 45-minute sets. I don't like 20-minute sets as I never feel like I get in a good rhythm and always have to leave out a couple of my favorite poems. 30-minutes is solid, enough time to present a range of work without feeling rushed. 45-minutes can be daunting as you have to really nail your flow to keep the audience engaged but it's also a fun challenge. The longer the set, the better feel for a poet's style and range you get. Three-poem slam wonders generally flounder past 20 minutes as the bombast gets old and the lack of depth becomes more and more apparent.

I've been reading through a lot of my old stuff recently and was surprised by how long it's been since I've read some of them out loud. Read Celluloid Childhood at Acentos on Tuesday and, despite the obvious rust, remembered that it was one of my favorite pieces at one point. The combination of pushing for the new in slam with allowing my own output to take a back seat for so many years has left me in the weird position of having to reconnect with almost all of my work as if it were brand new. Hopefully tomorrow is at least a 30-minute set so I can do a nice mix of the old and new. Well, newish! ;-)

BTW, speaking of Acentos, it was another great show this past Tuesday. Oscar and Fish have that oh-so-important homey feel nailed down perfectly. At first, I was a little disappointed in the turnout, having assumed the usual suspects would make a point to show up in support of Cheryl Boyce-Taylor. In retrospect, though, I think that's exactly what adds to the homey feel. It's not a scene. The regulars there come for the community. There's no gimmicks, no condecension, no pretension. Just poetry without judgement.

Reminds me of the Open Room at the Nuyorican when I hosted it back in '97-98, when we were all just hanging out sharing words and getting drunk. Before SlamNation and 60 Minutes; before Def Jam was on HBO and Broadway; before Joe Mama, with his three poems and not a single publication credit toured the college circuit hooked up by his agent. Not saying any of these things are bad, per se, but their very existence has changed how (and, I daresay, why) people step up to a mic these days.

Maybe I'm just getting old?

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

What's in a name?

It's raining again here in NYC. Serious, thunder and lightning, shake the building kind of rain. Got my ass soaked heading up to the Bowery earlier. Everything but my crotch and my hair got wet! Two hours later and I'm still not completely dry.

Anyway, I have a favor to ask all you random people that read this thing. I'm working on a new show idea, a monthly format with poets & musicians plus a lot of audience interaction. Think a combination of Pardon the Interruption, Politically Incorrect, Who's Line Is It Anyway and Arsenio Hall. Something like that.

It needs a name.

There's two options: one, with me as the centerpiece, a la Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Or, something catchy and clever, like Poetically Incorrect. Preferably a bit more original, though.

Hit me up with your suggestions. Winning suggestion gets a prize. Not sure what but I'll make it interesting.

And don't forget, tonight is Acentos. Don't let the rain make you a wuss. Cheryl Boyce-Taylor is worth getting wet for. Hell, Acentos itself is worth getting wet for! Stop hating!

PS: Who the hell was on here just past midnight EST and apparently read the entire archives!?!?! What were you looking for? Did you find it? Am I in trouble?

RIP: Celia Cruz

Salomé on Celia Cruz:

I just got back from the funeral procession for Celia Cruz. They left the funeral home on 82nd street at 12:30pm and I figured I could wait a little while (since I'm on 55th street) before heading to Fifth Avenue to see her be carried to the mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. But when I heard on the news that there were 75 THOUSAND people following the procession down Fifth, I decided to just head over there to make sure I could at least get a glimpse of them passing by.

When I got to Fifth at 12:35, not much was happening. It was just your usual lunch rush. But less than 10 minutes later, more and more people started walking down. I moved a few blocks south to 52nd street and parked myself under the awning of the Versace store since it looked like it might rain.

At about 1:15 it started to rain HARD! Really hard! Thunder, sheets of rain, the works! Oddly enough, the crowd (which was now as big as the crowds for any of the major New York parades) seemed to get even more loud and more excited. Nobody left or complained about the rain.

Finally, the procession reached us at about 1:50. First came a ton of police cars and various unidentified people holding Cuban flags. Then came six of those flower cars and behind them came Celia's coffin in a glass carriage pulled by two white horses. As emotional as that moment was, the crowd seemed even more moved by the sight of her husband Pedro WALKING behind the horse-drawn carriage. No umbrella. He stood tall (my guess is at least 6 feet) and strong and walked behind his wife with his close family and friends and made it a point to wave at people. The crowd chanted "Pe-dro! Pe-dro!". It was really very moving. Behind them came about 30 limousines carrying celebrities that were attending the funeral. Among the ones who made a point of sticking their heads out the windows to greet people were Ruben Blades, Antonio Banderas and La India.

It was unbelievable how many people were there. And it seemed that rather than being sad, people were happy to be able to participate. I'm sure that's exactly what she wanted. Rest in peace, Celia.




1) I'm so over Angelina Jolie. Caught pieces of her interview last week and couldn't help but be irritated. Salomé nailed it: "She's a spoiled, overprivileged brat that craves attention." Or something to that effect. Seriously, though, she's got big boobs and lips (but no hips or ass at all!) and has done a couple of decent movies (Gia and Girl, Interrupted) where she got to act out. Everything else she's done was lame to sucky. I feel sorry for that Cambodian kid she adopted. How the hell do freaks like her get to adopt a kid anyway?

2) The Kobe Bryant thing is kind of ridiculous. Sure he's a big star and all but front page news? Come on. Isn't there a war or something going on? Have to give his wife credit for standing by him, though. The easy thing would be to leave him hanging, get a divorce and cash in. The really easy thing is to be on the outside looking in, saying that's exactly what she should do. I don't understand the moral outrage that suggests she's weak for sticking it out and trying to salvage her marriage. Unless it turns out that it was rape and not consensual. Then, it's time to figure out visitation rights for the kid. Kobe's had a good reputation up until now so I have to give him the benefit of the doubt.

3) I despise people that are condemning the troops that had the nerve to speak out about their frustrations over the Iraq War and their lack of trust for the Bush Administration's handling of things. Especially people that have never even been in the military! These are the same people that cry "support our troops" as they're shipped off to die yet are shocked at the willingness of suicide bombers to die for their causes. Most young kids that sign up for service don't do it expecting to have to go to war. They do it in hopes of bettering their situations, to get an education, to take care of their families. There have been 275 confirmed coalition deaths in the war as of July 21, 2003. That's 275 men and women sent to their deaths by George W. Bush and every single person that supported the war.

Monday, July 21, 2003

A poem for Mr. Wayne

This might end up over on Gotham City News once I figure out what exactly I want to do with it. The blog, I mean. Wrote it today at lunch, sitting in Battery Park, having completely forgotten I was supposed to be at the the dentist!

Gotham City Suite
Untitled, #1

somewhere in the city
when night blankets the streets
and evil comes out to play

a man with too much money
and too little hope
battles demons
real and imagined

he is neither cure
nor salve

merely a tourniquet
sacrificing limb for body
peace of mind for soul

his enemies are funhouse
reflections of himself

he often wonders
what that means

whether the weight of a fist
mangling flesh and bone
can truly silence the howls

if the stench of compromise
can overpower that of decay

if fighting fire with fire
is simply redundant
a cliche whose time has passed.

perched on a ledge
overlooking abbreviated youth
he studies the bloodstained alley
where he was born again
looking for a sign
to give up the fight

feels the stretch marks
across his shoulder blades
the weight of the world threatening
to split the hardened skin

he knows this city
like a death row convict
knows his cell

has paced its length and width
and lack of depth

has spilled his own blood
and that of others

has seen death's grin
a million times over

and knows no other way
to live.

he could turn his back
leave it to others
hope they are up to the task

he straightens to his full height
strains against the confines of his skin
and leaps into the night sky.

a shaft of light pierces the darkness
and rests against the clouds

somewhere in the city
he is needed.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Hanging With The Anti-Clique

Work Is Love Haiku

Four foot eleven
I love her like few others
Ishle is the bomb!

Ishle's CD release party for Work Is Love was a lot of fun. It was the first time I'd hosted something at the Bowery Poetry Club and a nice turnout (Ishle's always had a strong following, though the crowd was a bit light on, um, slam scenesters; short memories, I suppose) caught Edward Garcia, Taiyo Takeda, Bassey and Ed Bok Lee open up for an amazing set by Ishle, with musicians backing her up on most of her pieces, adding another dimension to the more familiar work. One of the new pieces she did, a poem about her father, was one of the most heartbreakingly sincere poems I've heard in a while. Ishle's appeal lies in the unadorned vulnerability she shows in her work. Even in the seemingly lighter pieces, like the Pussy poem (never one of my favorites but something about her delivery worked for me last night) there's a raw honesty that takes it to another level.

The CD itself looks and sounds great, so its no surprise that Mas Yamagata had a hand in its production. He's the next Russell Simmons, an intergral part of some of the best spoken word CDs of the past few years, including feedBACK poets and 5 PAST 13. A cool guy on top of being a talented producer, technician and musician. He apparently DJs, too! Much respect to him.

After the show, Bassey, Lenny and I headed over to Two Boots to eat and talk and chill. Bassey leaves for Europe with Def Jam next Sunday! Ed, Helen and Omar met up with us a little later and we all sat in Two Boots til after midnight, talking mad shit. At one point, I was telling Helen about Isaac's new imaginary friend, Steve. She suggested it might be a result of him wanting something of his own as he has to split everything from toys to our attention with India. Considering he doesn't like us to talk to Steve, it makes sense. Having grown up in a haunted apartment, though (long story for another day), part of me is still expecting to find out that somebody died in this apartment recently. After all, it WAS empty for five months before we got it.

Fun night hanging with "the anti-clique." Hopefully the planets will align again soon and we can do it again.

VICE NOTE: No cigarettes last night - despite a momentary temptation from Helen - continuing my current quitting streak at 62 days!

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Happy Anniversary to us!

Yesterday was our 5th Anniversary! There was a point last year when that seemed like a milestone we might not reach. Weird thing about stress, when there's no specific source that you can address directly, it can turn inward and devour you. If 2002 went in the books as a down year in the marriage market, then 2003 has definitely been a bullish run with no signs of slowing down. The key to the metaphor is you have to be in it for the long haul. Market timers should just stay single.

In light of the recent move, we decided to keep it simple this year. A night out without the kids, no gifts exchanged. Less celebrating the past, it was more like welcoming the future with open arms.

We started out at the International Center of Photography to check out the Cuba on the Verge exhibit, an amazing collection of photographs of the real Cuba, full of decay and beauty, hardship and adaptation. One picture, of a couple sitting in their extravagant living room, perfectly told the story of a highly-educated Cuban middle class turning to tourist-related jobs in order to survive. The couple in the picture had turned their home into a bed&breakfast because their professional degrees were useless. Doctors and engineers work as waiters and cab drivers. Grisel has a great poem about people that romanticize Cuba while seemingly knowing nothing about the hard lives of the majority of its citizens. I thought about it while looking at the pictures, thought about how some people would dismiss the stories they told, resting the blame solely on US policy (which is definitely A culprit, but not the ONLY culprit) while ignoring the number of people jailed and/or executed for doing some of the things they take for granted every day. Like reading a poem critical of the government, for example.

Afterwards, we headed downtown for dinner at Esperanto. Excellent, excellent, excellent! On the corner of 9th & Avenue C, opposite the northwest corner of Tompkins Square Park, there were plenty of your stereotypical East Villagers hanging out. Starting with Mojitos, my new favorite hot weather drink (the real deal, not with mint syrup), we settled in for one of the best meals we've had in a while. The bread and peppered oil were annoyingly delicious and I was afraid of eating too much of it before our food came. The Calamares a la Parilla appetizer was perfect, the squid nicely grilled but still soft enough to practically melt in your mouth. The avocado was just right and the mango dressing on mesclun greens could have been a side dish on their own. For entrees, Salomé had the Carne Asada and I experimented with the Feijoada. How many different ways can you say perfect? Her steak was nice and crunchy on the outside, moist on the the inside and tender as hell. The fried yucca that came with it was lightly seasoned and fried a nice golden brown. The Feijoada - a National Brazilian dish, according to the menu - was basically a chorizo stew with rice and spinach on the side. I mixed it all together and cleaned my dish completely, using the fried yucca to sop up the last bit. For dessert, we had coffee (probably not Fair Trade, unfortunately) and split a coconut sorbet that was, well, perfect.

By the time we left Esperanto, satisfied and a little tired, it was packed inside and pouring outside. We hopped a cab crosstown to 3rd & Sixth and, huddled under a tiny umbrella, walked two blocks over to Pink Pussycat. A little awkward at first as I am definitely the more reserved between the two of us, but once I relaxed it was kind of fun checking out the toys and videos and stuff. Some of the things were a bit out there, like the vibrating rubber mouths, vaginas and , um... what the hell is the plural of anus? The foot-long dildos were a bit much, too. I mean really, where the hell do you fit those things? Their video selection was rather lame and made me think Fish should offer library cards for his collection! Among other things, ahem, I bought a button with a picture of a smiling Dubya that says "A village in Texas has lost its idiot."

From there, we headed home, picked up the kids and called it a night. Happy anniversary to us. And many more...! :-)

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Wednesday is new comic book day!

So I've gotten into yet another flame war with Danny Solis on the poetry_slam list. Why can't I just leave that shit alone? The whole PSI thing, I mean.

Solis is this big-ass, dreadlocked Mexican poet, currently out of Albuquerque, NM. If you saw SlamNation, he's on the Austin team, in that fun little group piece they do. Not someone you want to piss off, especially if he's been drinking. The irony is, as much as I've virtually fought with him over the years, I think he's a pretty good guy. He's a very good poet with a strong sense of social responsibility and a committment to Chicano culture that is insprational. On the other hand, he's a self-righteous blowhard that browbeats anyone with a different point-of-view (especially lesser-known white guys) and restates his comments more than the Bush Administration!

Our arguments almost always end up getting personal, which is an angle he can rarely win as, I may be an asshole, but at least I'm consistent!

As for PSI, I don't really understand why I'm still involved with them at all. When I came back to NY, I had to as slammaster, but now that I've stepped down, I'm not sure why I don't just unsubscribe from the damn list. PSI's gone from fledgling to floundering and I can't honestly say that I care enough anymore to deal with the requisite bullshit that comes with it. Grrrr.

In other more interesting news, Wednesday is new comic book day! I picked up a handful as I'm settling in to some regular titles: Micronauts, New Mutants and Gotham Central, along with Batman. Also grabbed the new Teen Titans and Spectacular Spider-Man, which were pretty good and I think I'll be adding them to my regular list. Next Saturday is the Big Apple Comic Convention that I plan to check out, my first such event. Should be fun.

THIS JUST IN: Catch me this Saturday at the Bowery hosting Ishle Yi Park's CD Release Party. She's gonna have a band and Edward Garcia, Bassey and Taiyo will be performing, too. Should be a lot of fun.

Monday, July 14, 2003

What the hell, all the kids are doing it...!

Blind loyalty
Money (as in too much of it)

Michael Savage (you HAVE to laugh, o'wise, you have to take him seriously)
Isaac (esp. when he's mad)

My wife & kids
Our apartment
Helping people

Blind loyalty
Money (when it's unfairly distributed)

How planes fly
Third eyes
Keanu Reeves' career

Pictures of my wife & kids
Shea Stadium Replica
Jungle Attack He-Man

Revising the intro to one of my advertorial columns
Marinating several story ideas for Gotham City News
Looking forward to my birthday (August 16, Midtown Comics or Best Buy gift certificates, please!)

Write and publish a novel
Write and have produced a screenplay based on that novel
Kiss my first great-grandchild

Be inspired

Fiercely (but not blindly) loyal

Tolerate willful ignorance, hypocrisy or laziness
Live in the suburbs
Sell financial products

Your conscience
Music, any kind

Fox News Channel
Michael Savage
Your own second-guessing

What the F***?
I f***ing hate ________________.

Shellfish, particularly oysters
Seafood Gumbo
Anything my wife cooks


Coffee (Fair Trade, ya heartless bastards!)
Water (Bronx Tap!)
Vodka (usu. Skyy) & Cranberry

Little Rascals
Muppet Show
Miami Vice

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Whenever I find a new passion - whether person, place or thing - I tend to throw myself into it 120%. Having cleared my plate of the administrative responsibilities (and psychological baggage) of running a little bit louder, comic books have quickly and completely rushed in to fill the void.

I am so hooked!

Finished reading Mark Salisbury's fascinating Writers on Comics Scriptwriting, interviews with an assortment of prominent comic book writers discussing inspiration, motivation and process, along with a healthy dose of egomania and outright weirdness. Grant Morrison, anyone? Despite only having a single woman represented and a complete lack of minorities, the interviews were invaluable insights into the world of comics that hit me along the same lines as hearing Willie Perdomo and Patricia Smith for the first time. I am SO jazzed right now.

Came across an interview online with Gotham Central artist, Michael Lark, and was so taken by his obvious love for the title that I picked up all eight issues! Read the first two so far and like it a lot. Told from the point of view of the cops of the GCPD, it explores the idea that the cops don't particularly like Batman's input and how they deal with it. Would make an excellent TV show. LAW & ORDER: Gotham Central. I'd watch it.

Saturday, I absolutely devoured Scott McCloud's must-read, Understanding Comics. A rare critical examination of comic books and their place in the world of art and literature, it is both amazing for McCloud's intelligently laid-out thesis, as well as his ingenious use of the comic book format, aka sequential art.

I haven't been this excited about comic books since junior high school when my friend Tracy and I tried to create our own! If either of these two books had been around then, I would have totally finished high school with an armful of scripts for Moon Knight and the home address of Jim Shooter.

I've started another blog just for comic journaling, Gotham City News, in which I hope to take a page from Gotham Central, telling stories from the angles of a cast of regular, and not-so-regular, Gothamites. Still playing with the layout while I get some ideas churning so I'm not posting the address just yet.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Have you ever heard me live? Fulano.

Listen to the live version, recorded at the 1999 NPS Semi-Finals when we were facing the Nuyorican in the most intense slam I've ever been in. The studio version, done on minidisc in Soft Skull's original Shortwave store in Tonic, sucks.

There's also the nycSLAMS and 5 PAST 13 CDs, with Prodigal Son and Breathless, respectively.

Catch me in person in a rare NYC feature on Friday, July 25 at the Cornelia Street Café.

That's the closest I get to self-promotion! Have a nice weekend. :-)

Thursday, July 10, 2003

What ever happened to Surge Frost?

I met with Cristin last week for the interview for her upcoming book on slam and, after nearly three hours, we'd only gotten up to the 1999 Nationals! Hadn't thought in-depth about the early days in ages but sitting with Cristin, one thing led to another, one story uncovering another uncovering yet another, and I was both surprised at how much I remembered and, even moreso, at how integral a part of my life the whole scene had become in such a short time. The first two years in particular were some heady times, from my first slam in July 1997 to NYC-Union Square's debut at Nationals in August 1999. Some of the stuff we covered will surely ruffle some feathers as I was pretty honest about my feelings around the whole Nuyorican drama.

Since then, though, I've been thinking about a lot of the people that were on the scene back in my early days and wondering what's become of them. Candace, the Goodes, Laverne Williams and Surge Frost immediately come to mind. I actually saw a guy the other day that reminded me of Surge. Big Viking-looking guy, he was an odd one, but at the same time, was one of the nicest people on the scene. He actually made Salomé and I a video for our wedding, with him reading a love poem he'd written in Polish, I think, and the English translation. There was also a 10-minute scene of him playing with some Godzilla dolls. Like I said, he was a bit odd.

Anyway, out of the blue the other day, I get a call from Jay Ward, another one-time friend, and simultaneuous nemesis, from back then. He was working on a documentary at one point and has apparently jumped back into it, now focusing on my mentor/nemesis originale: keith roach. Says I was always a "dramatic motherfucker" and wants to interview me and shoot me performing. Was kind of unclear on what he wanted me to talk about exactly but I get the impression I'm being cast as the one of the bad guys. That's cool, though. It's usually the best role!

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

"I Killed Biggie Smalls" UPDATE: one of the people emailed back saying my poem had been posted in a forum on - a fan site for B.I.G. - and caused a bit of a hubbub. I logged in to check it out and apparently somebody had come across the poem and posted it, asking "what's up with that?!?" to which someone else responded, "Could this be a metaphorically produced poem?" (Stop laughing!) Someone else posts my name and email address and says, "I say we email this sucka and ask him wassup." (I said stop it!) Two of them did, one posting my reply which generated this comment from the other: "I got the same reply back from the author. He might have some deep thoughts but that was just distrurbing at first. I was thinking this was a metaphorically transcribed poem. I've learned from Biggies death, which is obvious...jealousy took the man physically down but not mentally."

Um...what exactly is "a metaphorically transcribed poem" anyway? LOL! Seriously, though, it's nice to see the piece generated the discomfort I'd intended. Goes to show you never know who's listening in the audience or where your words will end up.

In other news, SIMCITY 3000 is like a black hole into which large chunks of my time have been lost forever since I bought the damn thing on Friday. I really should know better. The original SIMCITY kept me up for hours on end when I first played it back in 1994. (Was it really THAT long ago?!?!) The game is like a drug, tapping into the pleasure center of my brain (that part that likes to control things!) and refusing to let go. I actually had to walk away from the computer the other night and have Salomé shut it down because I couldn't make myself stop tweaking my city. This latest version has some cool twists that I think are new, like ordinances to control the types of industries that are encouraged, or discouraged and alternative power sources like windmills. I'm going to try a socially-responsible utopia to see if it's doable in the Sim world. I may be a dictator but I'm a benevolent one!

Monday, July 7, 2003

Now THIS is weird. For me, at least, who's more used to technical emails ("how do I get booked at...," "how do I get published...," etc.) than personal ones.

Today, I got two separate emails asking about my poem, Confessions of a Serial Killer. It's an old poem that I wrote back in 1997 and have probably read publicly less than 10 times, and only once in the past four years, at Acentos a couple of weeks ago.

Both emails asked why I wrote it, the first actually asking (jokingly, I hope), "did u really kill biggie smalls?"

My answer to both queries:

When I wrote this poem, back in late-1997, I was at the tail-end of my love affair with hip-hop. The rap part of it, at least. We'd grown up together from the beginning, and though we both strayed at times - me with Queen and New Kids on the Block, hip-hop with MC Hammer and "gangsta" rap - we always had love for each other.

When Tupac was killed, though, we had a falling-out and I blamed his murder on hip-hop's fascination with material things and false appearances. It had lost sight of where it came from, strayed from "its mission as the poetry of the people," and its loved-ones paid the price.

Biggie's death was inevitable by then as hip-hop was too caught up in "the game" to turn around, a game WE encouraged with our wallets, like blood-thirsty Romans screaming for blood on the sidelines. We were
enablers, no different than Gator's mother in Jungle Fever.

The saddest part about their deaths, though, is that we really didn't learn much from it.

That's my opinion, at least. Thanks for asking.

I asked both where they came across the poem as I didn't recognize either email address and it's not exactly a well-known or widely-distributed piece. Not to my knowledge, at least. Curious...

In other news, Day 2 at the gym was unventful, though I did connect with a trainer for my free session. His name's Patch. As in, he has a patch over his left eye! A nice leather one. Looked legit, too. Going to schedule it for this week so I can stop wandering the floor like an idiot, doing random stretches and riding the bike. Need to get some shower shoes, too. Eeewwww!

Thursday, July 3, 2003

A Call for Action...

I am urging each of you that reads this to step up and send $25 to the presidential campaign of Dennis Kucinich, and to commit to organizing at least three others to do the same thing.

Kucinich is the most progressive candidate currently running for President. A small donation now will advance his campaign immeasurably, forcing the mainstream media to pay more attention to him, and spreading his important positions on National Health Care for everyone, anti-Nafta and Gatt, rescinding the Patriot Act and making a true committment to peace.

As a four-term Democratic Congressman, he is not a symbolic candidate. He is a tried and tested politician who has stayed true to his principles. If you simply support who you think will "win," you can't complain when they don't represent your interests.

Support Democratic diversity, support a peace initiative and support a progressive agenda.

Find out more about his key positions here:

To contribute, go here:

The internet is changing national politics. Please participate.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

"Someone must step forward. Someone must say stop. Someone must say, America must take a new direction. Someone must say that it is time for a fundamental change of the kind brought by FDR in 1932. We must shake the nation from this color-coded nightmare of terror alerts and attacks on our civil liberties. . . . "--Dennis Kucinich

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Made it to the gym today. First time in…hell, before Isaac was born, at least! The convenience of it being right across the street from the job should shame me into going consistently twice a week.

It should be noted that I don’t really know my way around a gym. Don’t know the names of most of my muscles or their corresponding exercises. The little bit of stretching I know comes from the Army and my old acting workshops! (Improv is great exercise, physically and psychologically; much better than preparing to die.) Mainly, I use the bike or the treadmill, a couple of the upper-body machines that have descriptive pictures on them, do some crunches and pushups and hit the sauna.

Of course, HRC has a Chinese menu of options so I was a little overwhelmed when I first got in there. Add to it the feeling that I was like the guy in torn jeans and Pokemon t-shirt at the trendy SoHo bar and it was enough to make me cancel my membership! Tried to find somewhere out of the way to stretch while checking out other people for ideas of what to do. A few were using those big plastic balls to stretch and do sit-ups so I tried that and nearly rolled off the damn thing! Ended up doing just over 7 miles on the bike, a couple of machines and some half-assed sit-ups. In the locker room, as I was getting dressed after a most relaxing shower, I realized you were expected to tip the attendants who were handing out towels and making available various toiletries and I had no cash on me. Fortunately, I brought my own stuff (other than a lock, which I had to buy there for $6.50!), and was able to sneak out while both were occupied with tipping members.

Other than my sore calves and the need for a nap, I feel good. Exercise is one of the hardest things to get back in to but, seeing as I haven’t smoked in nearly a month and have already lost 6 pounds from all the moving we’ve done, it’s the perfect time for it.

Have a busy night tonight as I’m meeting up with Cristin who is interviewing me for the book she and Phil West are writing for Soft Skull, The Oral History of the Slam, or something like that. Hopefully SS hooking up with them means BPE’s insipid little slam book will never see the light of day! Afterwards, I’m going to run over to the BPC to catch Shawn Randall’s Faith Project performance. Sabrina, Mara and Elana are in it, along with Shawn and a few others I dont' know. The premise, “a collaborative performance piece exploring and exposing the similarities and intersections of the many faiths of the world,” sounds intriguing.

Think I'm going to walk up Broadway again. It's a nice day and I have to work off this cheesecake I had at lunch!

Kucinich 2004 Watch: Abolish the Death Penalty!
National FlagFinally, a country of my own to run!

Visit The Rogue Nation of Gonzalezia, then start your own country and join me in the Poetic Region. Password: slamthis