Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Today's Moment of Zen, courtesy of the fabulous Electoral Vote Predictor:

Polls have become marketing tools for the candidates. According to www.race2004.net "during the 2000 primary race Karl Rove had pollsters call Republican voters in South Carolina asking if John McCain's black baby born out outside of his marriage influenced their decision on whether to support him. The question was not only racist, it was misleading. McCain and his wife adopted a baby from Bangladesh. The child isn't black in the "traditional" sense, and the baby was born outside his marriage because he was adopted."
With everything these sociopaths put McCain through in 2000, you really have to wonder what skeletons are in his closet that he still stumps for them. At what point do you gather your last shred of dignity and say enough is enough?

Monday, August 30, 2004

Pumpkin Seeds: 2004 VMA Edition

1) Did Outkast officially step beyond the constraints of hip-hop and establish themselves as pure musical artists able to weave sonic magic from thin air?

2) Did Usher finally break through the inexplicable logjam of cookie cutter whiteboys and their stolen dance moves with his two awards last night?

3) Has a celebrity ever seemed more conspicuously absent than Britney Spears did last night?

4) Did Christina Aguilera deliver the final "enough is enough" nail to the "there is no comparison between Britney Spears and I" coffin with gusto, or what?

5) Was there anything sweeter than the love the audience gave Fat Joe during his performance of Lean Back, all on their feet and dancing, even Bruce Willis?!?!

6) Has a sports figure ever received a more spectacular welcome than Shaq did last night? And deserved it?

7) Whose idea was it to throw the Kerry daughters to the wolves with an ill-timed, horribly set up PSA? Was it the same person that thought Carson Daly - BIGGEST. DORK. EVER. YO. - should introduce them?

8) I'm looking forward to LL Cool J's new album, primarily for his collaboration with Timbaland, but I have to admit to also being swayed by those TV screen t-shirts his entourage was wearing.

9) If there is a God, this was Jessica Simpson's swan song, appropriately delivered as a circus act.

10) I don't care how much they push, MTV cannot sell me on taking Hilary Duff seriously. Or Ashlee Simpson. Or Mase.
I've always wanted to be in a real life disaster movie. Part of me, the same part that believes in parallel worlds and alternate realities, looks forward to this happening in my lifetime, though preferably while we're still living up on a hill in the Bronx. Don't want my comic books getting wet!

In more optimistic news, this weekend's wedding was a lot of fun. Not counting my own - or my father's town hall quickie for his second marriage - it's only the third wedding I've ever been to, and the most elaborate by far. The other two were more intimate affairs, both in nice restaurants with simple ceremonies. This one was a full-blown, three-ring extravanganza with all of the bells and whistles. (In a good way; not some over-the-top, obnoxious spectacle.)

While I've never been a big fan of ceremony, particularly religious ceremony, I understand its power and appeal. Not unlike in the Army, where I hated official ceremonies with a passion - until I was actually in the moment and overwhelmed by the emotion such things invoke. Even the national anthem at a sports event chokes me up sometimes, and I still tear up whenever I hear Ray Charles' Super Bowl performance of America, The Beautiful.

Weddings have that same power, something I couldn't fully appreciate at my own. The bride and groom tend to get lost in the commotion, their attention stretched in a million directions and they're unable to savor the individual moments until much later. It's usually the end of the night, if not during the honeymoon, and sometimes it takes seeing the pictures weeks later to properly digest the whole thing.

I've always thought weddings were a relative waste of money, elaborate productions more for the benefit of the parents and guests than the bride and groom themselves. Seeing Naomi and Michael's faces the next morning at breakfast, exhausted but absolutely radiant, thrilled that their night had gone incredibly well, has changed my mind somewhat.

Despite my own reservations beforehand, I remember Salomé and I feeling similarly exhausted but happy about our wedding once it was all over, particularly glad that we hadn't settled for a town hall quickie and a big party. I also found myself hoping Isaac and India won't inadvertantly shortchange themselves when their times come.

And, of course, hoping those times don't come for at least another 25 years!

Friday, August 27, 2004

Pumpkin Seeds: Are You Ready For Some Football? Edition

1. Thanks to Eliel, I'm going to tonight's Jets/Giants pre-season game! Guess that means I really can't back out of his feature at 13 on Monday, hunh? ;-)

2. The football season couldn't have been better timed, what with the Mets doing their best impersonation of Justin Guarini's entertainment "career." Please, please, please give me hope for 2005 by firing Art Howe now and giving Don Baylor the job before someone else snatches him up in the off-season!

3. I'm in four fantasy football leagues this year, two on Fanball.com's Exit42 and two on Yahoo! Sports. My primary league, the highly competitive GameSmack League (GSL) enters it's 3rd season and we just completed our [re]draft earlier today. My team, the Starving Artists, looks competitive, if not quite awe-inspiring:

QB Trent Green
QB Joey Harrington
RB Travis Henry
RB Moe Williams
RB Kevan Barlow
RB Antowain Smith
RB James Jackson
RB Mewelde Moore(r)
WR Santana Moss
WR Javon Walker
WR Peerless Price
WR Marc Boerigter
WR Jerry Rice
TE L.J. Smith
PK Jay Feely
TM Ravens
After two hard-luck, sub-.500 seasons, I'm ready to make a run for the playoffs with this team.

4. My fun league, though no less competitive, is the SLAM THIS! League on Yahoo! Sports. A mix of random poets from around the country and a couple on non-poet friends makes for some of the funniest commentary and smack talk you'll ever see. I don't even remember who wins the damn thing year-to-year, but I wouldn't skip it for anything. We do an auto-draft, aka potluck, next week and I'm making a pre-season guarantee that my team, He Hate Me, shall reign supreme!

5. One could argue that Ricky Williams choosing to retire, travel the world and smoke weed at his leisure is equally heroic as Pat Tillman's passing up the big bucks to die for [insert preferred "cause" here] in Afghanistan. They both followed their hearts over their wallets.

6. Welcome to New York, Quincy Carter. Please don't accept any guided tour offers from the following: Lawrence Taylor, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Shane Spencer or Joe Namath.

7. Bold pre-season prediction: the NY Jets will go 11-5 this season, win the AFC East, and ultimately lose to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Conference Championship game. The Chiefs will lose to the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl, 27-24.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Paul Ballew gets the Jackass-of-the-Day Award.

Report finds softer SUV sales; Detroit laughs
By Sarah A. Webster
Knight Ridder

Detroit — SUVs, which have been berated in recent years as rollover-prone gas hogs, are losing appeal, a respected automotive research firm said on Thursday.

Demand for sport-utility vehicles, such as the Ford Expedition, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Chevrolet Suburban, is softening, the Power Information Network LLC, said in a report that quickly became controversial in Detroit. The research firm is an affiliate of J.D. Power and Associates of Westlake Village, Calif., which is known for its consumer quality surveys and sells its research within the auto industry...

But automakers and SUV supporters scoffed at Power Information's contention that demand for SUVs is waning.

Even if SUV sales are slowing, they noted, sales of the vehicles are still up 7 percent for the year — nearly three times the increase in the automotive market, which is up 2.4 percent for the year.

In fact, sales of sport-utility vehicles have been growing for more than a decade, growing from about 900,000 a year in sales in the early 1990s to about 4.5 million in sales last year.

"I'm just laughing," said Paul Ballew, executive director of global market and industry analysis at General Motors Corp., of the findings. "The fastest-growing category is the sport utility category."
Like I said before, apathy.
"War is good for the economy...like cannibalism is nutritious."

In related news:

U.S. stocks rally as oil drops to two-week lows
Wednesday August 25, 1:35 pm ET
By Mark Cotton

NEW YORK (CBS.MW) -- U.S. stocks gained ground in afternoon trading Wednesday, buoyed by fresh drop in oil prices to two-week lows.

Crude for October delivery fell as low as $44.08 per barrel intraday on the New York Mercantile Exchange after the latest industry data showed motor-fuel stocks either unchanged or higher on the previous week, confounding analyst estimates of a decline.
A two-week low is cause for investor enthusiasm? Cannibalism, indeed.

I wonder if gasoline will ever drop below $1/gallon again? And if it doesn't, will anyone really notice? Will $1.49/gallon be cheap enough to continue to look the other way? Cheap enough to still justify SUVs clogging city streets while hybrids remain out of reach for the average American?

Cheap enough to die for?

Perhaps prospective SUV buyers should have to serve a minimum of two years in the military before completing their purchase? Commit to voluntering one hour/week at a VA Hospital every time they fill up the tank?

Americans have a stunning capacity for adaptation; or resiliency, a word we NYers had drilled into our heads post-9/11. We had to be or else, you know, the terrorists would win.

Is it resiliency, though, or just apathy?

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Luis Cartagena's feature last night was...interesting.

He's an acquired taste and what I love about him most is his desire to push the boundaries of so-called performance poetry. He's willing to take risks most of us wouldn't go anywhere near and is always eager for feedback. I spent as much time watching his performance as I did scanning the faces of the audience, variously enthralled, confused and discomfited, sometimes all at once. Using costumes, music and movement - including a bizarre Britney Spears-backed dance interlude - he threw stuff out there that the average poetry audience rarely if ever sees, stepping squarely on the line that separates "poetry, performed" from actual "performance poetry" without completely crossing it.

It was that reluctance (?) to cross the line that kept it from being a better show, though. At his core, Luis is a page poet, willing to experiment but ultimately anchored to the mic stand. He needs to cut the cord - literally; perhaps as simple as working with a lavalier mic? - and fully incorporate the interesting backdrops he creates for his work, giving in to the movement and stagework that currently serve simply as interesting bookends to his readings.

For all the sameness and unoriginality that permeates the poetry scene, poets like Luis are an important ingredient for moving things forward and clarifying and expanding the definition of performance poetry.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Throughout most of my twenties, I went through a few self-created "mid-life crises," unsure of what the hell I was doing and what I wanted to do next. The common thread running through that decade was avoidance. Avoid responsibility, avoid maturity, and avoid anything that might inadvertantly lead to either of those outcomes.

"Act first, deal with the consequences later."

My first "crisis" actually came at 19, a few months after I'd snuck out of my mother's house in the middle of the night, leaving my family and the Jehovah's Witnesses behind. Having been given three weeks notice of being evicted from the apartment I shared with my roommate [whose girlfriend had died the month before, a passenger on the infamous Pan Am Flight 103/Lockerbie] I checked into joining the Army for the first time, only to be delayed by the need for a waiver for my flat feet. I ended up moving in with my father in New Jersey, whom I hadn't talked to once over the previous four years.

Nine months later I was in South Miami Beach, drinking away my student loan money and catching up on all the things I'd missed out on during my relatively sheltered High School years. The following year, broke and out of options, I finally made it into the Army on my fourth attempt, evading the waiver thanks to the combination of a purging of records every two years, a cursory physical evaluation, and the first Gulf War.

Two-and-a-half years in the Army meant mostly disposable income and a false sense of security. I came out with approx. $800 in the bank and was back on my father's couch within a month of my discharge. I was back on my feet and in my own place six months later, but was no closer to growing up. I had a strong liver, though, and a perverse fascination with the concept of being a "functional alcoholic." Over the next year, I fell into the publishing industry from 9-5, rediscovered my love for creative writing after-hours, and developed a high tolerance for/attraction to stress around the clock.

Fast-forward to last Monday and turning 35 years old, happily married with two kids, and I can't say I ever saw any of this coming.

Back in 1996, I wrote an essay for my zine, zuzu's petals, called 30 With a Bullet. It was about how I was planning to kill myself when I turned 30 if I didn't like where I was at the time. That was the summer of 1999, one year into marriage and still practicing avoidance, but relatively comfortable with where things were headed.

I finally got rid of the gun in early 2002, right before we headed down to Virginia and what was hopefully the final crisis.

If I look at the past five years as borrowed time, I'd have to say I've used it pretty well, bumps in the road notwithstanding. But there's always room for improvement, and I think the next five years should see a lot more of it.

I still haven't come up with a formal list yet, as one of the things I've come to understand/accept is that they're no longer my goals to set alone. Hasn't been that way since July 18, 1998, really, but I can be slow to realize these things sometimes!

What I do know is that, psychologically, I've reached that point where I'm ready to stop avoiding things. Am extremely tired of it, to be honest. Avoiding is as tiring as doing, and much less rewarding in the end.


"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler."
--Henry David Thoreau
Amen to that!

Friday, August 20, 2004

Pumpkin Seeds: Randomonia Edition

1. Salomé doesn't want her own blog because she hates those that are of the self-absorbed, "Today, I went to..." variety. Between that and her complete disdain for politics, I'm starting to believe she really does only use my blog for the links to other people's blogs. That's what she tells me, at least! Meanwhile, she's bugging me to post my To-Do For 35 List. [Which is coming as soon as I figure it out!]

2. Five days into my 35th year and I'm sleepy, still recovering from the open bar and late night out on Tuesday. Between the two-day sales meeting and a rare after-hours, work-related function that I thoroughly enjoyed, I kind of feel like Mr. Corporate. My "Best Kept Secret" award was a nice ego boost, too. Am I selling out? Or buying in?

3. I have officially lost all interest in the upcoming Presidential election. Would someone please remind these clowns that Vietnam happened over 30 years ago and the average American couldn't care less what they were doing back then. Remember, both Clinton and Dubya, draft-dodgers supreme, beat highly decorated veterans in each of their Presidential campaigns, with Clinton doing it twice!

4. Is there a more perfect summation of the current campaigns than this?

Kerry Crushes Bush In NJ Cockroach Derby
Aug 20, 2004 7:53 am US/Eastern

(1010 WINS) NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. John Kerry crushed George Bush like a bug at the annual cockroach derby in New Brunswick...

Madagascar giant hissing cockroaches that represented the Massachusetts Democrat and Republican incumbent didn't move when the race started.

But with a little prodding, the "Kerry" roach sprinted down a six-foot tube while the "Bush" roach never moved any of its six legs.
If only the end result holds true.

5. And then there's this:

"Please explain to me why John Kerry sounds more dickish telling the truth than Bush sounds when he's lying. How is that possible?"
—Jon Stewart
6. Two trips to Midtown Comics and I still have money left on one of the two gift certificates I received for my birthday! Have I gotten more selective over the past year or am I just cheap? A combination of the two, I believe.

7. Even with a shipment of another 50 or so still to arrive from Canada (!), I am officially drowning in comic books! Between Ebay and Midtown Comics, I'm almost ready to open my own store. I am already 4/5ths of the way to owning a complete set of every Moon Knight appearance ever. EVER!!!

8. Other complete collections I now own or am closing in on:
  • Arion: Lord of Atlantis

  • Atari Force

  • Forgotten Realms

  • Suicide Squad

  • Team America
Team America is by far the lamest of the group but I just couldn't pass it up. I'm halfway through the 12-issue run and am fully embarrassed for all those involved in its creation. The weird thing is, with a little polish on the scripts, I could totally see it being republished today as a jingoistic, right-wing, Invaders-like book.

9. At my birthday party on Saturday, I brought my crate of chapbooks out of the closet and presented a free-for-all buffet for everyone that was there. Books from 1997-2004, there's a few in there that I'm sure their authors have since disowned. Or should. Not the one everybody would love to get their hands on, though. Not sure if I've ever actually owned that one myself, though I saw several of the poems it contains performed way back when and think it would serve as both an amusing and invaluable example of a writer's growth.

10. I didn't give everything away, though, as there were several books I hadn't seen in awhile and actually want to read again, to see if my high opinion still holds or not. I will be reviewing some of those here in the near future!

11. It's Fantasy Football time and I'm in the middle of drafting my primary team, Starving Artists, of Exit42's GameSmack League-South Division. Four rounds in and I'm already a little nervous about my picks: Travis Henry, Kevan Barlow, Santana Moss & Javon Walker. Need to get my annual Yahoo! league started up, too. Email me if you're interested.

12. Anyone that paid $100 or more for Google stock deserves to lose their money when reality sets in next year (if not sooner) and the market adjusts to the fact that its $85 IPO was already somewhat inflated, based more on past performance than future prospects. If not for the equal match I get from my employer offsetting this weak market, I'd have rolled my 401(k) into an IRA by now and invested in a stable money market account. I'll take relatively predictable 1-2% growth over a flat-equals-losing equity market every time. The glory days are over and anyone that tells you different is either getting a commission or talking out of their ass.

13. Between Fish hosting the slams and RAC taking over as slammaster (and hopefully being given the responsibility of booking features, too), I'm thinking I now have no good excuses for missing the next two Mondays at 13, with Luis Cartagena and Eliel Lucero featuring.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Happy birthday to me!

Great weekend, great party, great presents, including...

Batman pajamas!

Best birthday ever? Perhaps. Pretty damn close, that's for sure!

PS: I couldn't care less about the Olympics but the no-name Puerto Rico basketball team dismantling the egotistical, overhyped and overpaid USA Dream Team IV was a beautiful thing. Punks!

Friday, August 13, 2004

Pumpkin Seeds: Wizard of Oz Edition

1. I have no problem with anonymous comments – not everybody wants/needs to sign up for a Blogger account – but to do so maliciously, purposely hiding your identity so you can make hurtful or inflammatory statements is just cowardly, petty bullshit. To go so far as to create a fake Blogger account for the express purpose of tormenting someone you have issues with is even worse. Have the courage to own up to your shit or shut the hell up.

2. This has nothing to do with me directly as I couldn’t care less what an anonymous commenter has to say to/about me or something I write. That kind of thing rolls off my back.

3. Speaking of comments, they’ve been kind of light recently. Talk to me people!

4. NJ Governor Jim McGreevey’s pre-emptive self-outing was a ballsy political move, not the profound historic moment many are making it out to be. The guy is covering his ass with a savvy feint as his corrupt administration falls apart around him. That he himself was about to be implicated for having put his lover on the state payroll, in key positions he was completely unqualified for, is the real reason he’s resigning. His coming out is simply a defensive ploy to keep that aspect of the issue from being used against him.

5. Some idiot on the news had the gall to compare it to Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball. Um…no! I hate it when people attempt to equate certain prejudices with racism, especially in this instance. Robinson wasn’t guilty of anything other than being black when he broke into baseball. While there are definitely many barriers gays face in our society, other than the right to marry, none of then are written into law!

6. The saddest thing about all of this is McGreevey’s speech was an amazing one. Too bad it will be forever tainted by the context in which it was delivered. Imagine if he’d made that speech back in January when he signed NJ’s Domestic Partnership Act into law?

7. Damn, Ebay. I’ve been hooked. In the past couple of days, I’ve bought one lot of 50 random comic books, four packs of D&D Miniatures (Archfiends), and He Hate Me’s XFL rookie card! I’m currently watching a copy of MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #28 (Moon Knight’s 1st Solo appearance), and a complete set of XFL trading cards.

8. I’m two weeks behind on my weekly comic book run and am worried Identity Crisis #3 might sell out before I get uptown. I missed the last issue of the Loki mini-series, again, and will have to get up to Yonkers to hopefully track it down. Might be a good excuse to check out the comic book store over in Riverdale, too.

9. My birthday weekend is here! D&D tonight; party tomorrow; hope to squeeze some Xbox time in there, too. If I owe you an email, and I owe several, I promise to get back on track next week! Late next week, probably, but definitely by Friday. ;-)

10. Go Mets! I still believe.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

When Salomé and I got married back in 1998, it was a step into completely foreign territory as none of our close friends were married, few even in serious relationships. Not counting my father’s shotgun second marriage at town hall 18 years earlier, I’d never even been to a wedding before!

Our wedding was a relatively simple affair, with 90 or so family and friends attending a no-frills, non-denominational ceremony, and a well-catered reception with a DJ. We avoided as much of the traditional stuff as we could get away with – one friend jokingly called Sal's father the "wedding Nazi" due to his insistence on "tradicion!" – but it was still a pretty straightforward event.

Now, six years later, some of our best friends are married, or have at least matured considerably, and one couple even has a kid!

Later this month, a couple of friends of ours are getting married and they’re doing a whole weekend-long retreat for the wedding. Though they’re Jewish and will have many of the traditional prerequisites that come with their faith, the overall feel of what they’re putting together is pleasantly funky and inclusive. While one of my favorite things is the no-tux-required dress code, they have some great stuff planned, including an "after-dinner oneg talent show" on the first night, and a full-day of pre-wedding activities like hiking, boating, arts & crafts and yoga classes!

The coolest thing about them, though – and they’re both very cool people – is that for their registry, beyond the requisite where to buy stuff, they’ve asked for donations to specific charities and volunteer pledges. Predictably, and to their sincere disappointment, it seems no one has taken them up on the volunteer offer. It's so much easier to snag something off their traditional registry.

So Salomé volunteered me!

I didn’t take it all that seriously at first, until I checked out their web site and saw that they were actually very serious about it, having set up a wish list for the charities they wanted donations for and links to two great volunteering web sites - volunteermatch.org and networkforgood.org - with a form to let them know what you were pledging to do.

[NOTE: They have an entire web site set up for the wedding that humorously treats them like a non-profit organization, including an "about us" page that tells the story of how they met and identifies the Board, aka both families. Very cool!]

I checked out both sites and found something with The UnConvention: An American Theater Festival which features six pieces of "provocative, political theater" running before, during and after the Republican National Convention. They're also running some great panels and other events, too.


So I’ve pledged 6 hours as house staff for their shows on Friday, September 3rd. Why not join me?

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

John Rodriguez was a breath of fresh air at last night’s Acentos, dropping a solid mix of old and new work, as well as a nice little slam on half of the unusually weak open mic.

"Hey, Guy, remember when I used to yell all my shit? Waving my hands like I was conducting the orchestra?"

It felt like the slam had invaded the Blue Ox at times with some of the worst "love" poems and history lessons I’ve ever endured, too many of which were delivered at maximum decibel levels. The history lesson, in particular, had me leaning over to Alexa to ask if she yelled at her students like that, too. I found myself hoping for a Shyamalan twist at the end of the piece, but was left disappointed by yet another artless polemic that didn’t say anything remotely new or interesting.

John brought the poetry strong, though, making me feel like the old man on the porch yelling at the kids to get off his lawn and turn down that damn music! Left me thinking that maybe I should become Acentos’ Steve Cannon – the jaded, cranky old-timer at the bar demanding to hear some poetry.

"I wanna hear a poem!"

John, BTW, is clearly a fellow graduate of the Willie Perdomo school of poetry readings. His confident, straightforward delivery allows you to focus on the words, and his words are very much worth focusing on.

In related news, both Willie and Jessica are headed to Puerto Rico for extended visits – separately, of course; I don’t want to be the cause of any rumors! – and I’m very jealous!

I haven’t been to PR since 1984. We – my father, stepmother and, I think, my sister (?) – almost died in a car accident that time, heading to Ponce when we were rear-ended on a narrow road in the mountains that had no guardrail to keep you from plunging off of the side. Fortunately, we were turning in the opposite direction to pull into a gas station and were pushed that way instead.

I can vividly remember being covered in the remains of the shattered rear window. There's a metaphor in there somewhere...

Anyway, I would lovelovelove a week or two in PR right about now. Or Isla Mujeres. Hell, I’d take another week in the Poconos just to get away. If there are any independently wealthy people out there reading this, hook me up for my birthday!

Speaking of my birthday, it's next Monday, August 16th. I'll be 35 years old, one of those milestone years. The significance of that hasn't really set in yet.

Monday, August 9, 2004

It's been four days since my last confession, Blogger, but in a rare switcheroo, I was busy talking smack over on my little-used LiveJournal account, commenting on the debacle that was the 2004 National Poetry Slam. I won't get into it here other than to say, while I feel bad for those who attended and got screwed over in one way or another, you get what you pay for. If I were you, I'd think twice about renewing that PSI membership next year.

Mind you, this is completely separate from my opinion on the concept of slam itself, which I still believe is a valuable and necessary forum for new poets. Like any tool, it's how you choose to use it that counts. [EDIT: Yes, that means you have a choice!]

In other news, I'm still basking in the glow of my feature last Wednesday night. Having so many family and non-poetry friends turn out, including my cousin Junior (who appears in my poem Prodigal Son), as well as several others who'd never seen me perform before was very cool. Acentos was well-represented, many of whom have never seen me do more than a poem or two on the open mic, including Oscar who embarrassed me with probably the most touching introduction I've ever had. Willie Perdomo was in the house, too, and had also never seen me perform a full set!

Shout-outs and many thanks to Leslie Shipman and the Bronx Council on the Arts for giving me the opportunity to go out with a bang.

I forget sometimes just how much I allowed my writer-self to fade into the background after I started running a little bit louder, becoming much more of a host and administrator after the 1999 National Poetry Slam. I don't regret it at all, but it's taken a while to really appreciate exactly how much it hindered my writing over the past few years.

For those who wondered whether last week really was my final feature appearance, I think I can officially say yes, it was. My creative (not to mention ego-driven) energies are officially being redirected to other pursuits, including a renewed focus on fiction and a completed novel by next summer, as well as figuring out exactly what loudpoet productions should be and how to make it happen.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 5, 2004

Best. Feature. Ever.

Thanks to everyone that came out to the Blue Ox last night. There's no possible way you could have enjoyed it more than I did but I hope it came close. Having family, both blood and chosen, and friends in the audience along with a nice mix of complete strangers helped make it a truly special moment. Other than the night I proposed to Salomé at the Nuyorican, nothing else I've ever done on a stage even comes close.

At the beginning of my set, I mentioned Tony Brown's approach of what if this was the last time you ever performed? and explained how that played into the poems I chose to read.

Running Bases
Behind the Music
A Work in Progress
Sonnet for Salomé
Bosco, Bilingual and Belated Regrets
Sunday Mornings in the Kitchen with Gan'ganny
The View from Airplanes & Other Leaps of Faith
Mozer, Bethea & I

Each one represented an important person or moment in my life and if I never read another poem from stage again, even more likely after last night, I will be very happy to have last night remembered as my last time.

Now, it's time to buckle down and get to work on some fiction. Still formulating my To-Do List for 35, but one thing on there for sure will be a complete first draft of the novel that accidentally led me to poetry to begin with.

Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Intellectual curiosity is an aphrodisiac. I'm no elitist, but I do have high standards for certain things, especially when it comes to having a clue about current events and a passion for reading in general.

Book & Language Snob
You speak eloquently and have seemingly read every book ever published. You are a fountain of endless (sometimes useless) knowledge, and never fail to impress at a party.

What people love: You can answer almost any question people ask, and have thus been nicknamed Jeeves.

What people hate: You constantly correct their grammar and insult their paperbacks.

What Kind of Elitist Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla
I couldn't care less what "paperbacks" you read, just as long as you're reading something! Well, except for Danielle Steele and her ilk. That's crap! ;-)

I simply can't relate to people that don't read.

There was a time when I'd read a book a week. All kinds, too, not just fiction. Ironically, the more I got into poetry, the less I read as my attention span got shorter and shorter. For a couple of years, newspapers and magazines were pretty much all I read, and I was lucky to get through 2-3 novels/year. And outside of anthologies, I was never a big fan of poetry books, preferring the live and in-person experience.

Over the past year or so, I've been reading a lot more, averaging a book a month - currenly lagging thanks to the impenetrable The Black House which I'm still slogging through - along with a ton of comics, magazines and newspapers. (And blogs!) An hour-long train commute helps, one of the things I cherish about city living. Time spent driving is valuable time lost and I believe our increasingly mobile society is as much to blame for our ills as anything else. Interestingly, books-on-tape do nothing for me, not even for poetry.

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

I don't usually get nervous about a reading until 10-15 minutes before it starts so the premature butterflies that have been floating around since last night have me feeling really dizzy. I found out last night that my aunt, youngest on my father's side and more like a cousin, is coming to the reading and got a little freaked out. A couple of my cousins from my mother's side will be there, too - who haven't seen me read since my first couple of slams at the Nuyorican - as well as a handful of non-poetry friends, turning it into something of a personal salon.

Somehow, I feel unusually pressured now!

As for what I might read, I haven't the slightest idea. I'm treating it as a final feature appearance, as much for it likely being true as it is a psyche job on myself to move on with some other projects that have been lingering for a couple of years now. Surprisingly, I could do a solid 20-minute set of relatively new work since my Acentos feature last year, but with family and friends in the audience that haven't heard much, if any, of my stuff, I'm tempted to air it out a bit.

No 33-1/3, though. :-P

The first "feature" I ever did was when I first took over the space at 13 and Corie Herman and I each did 20-minute sets at the first official a little bit louder. Under the theme of "Stamping on the roots," taken from my favorite monologue in Chekhov's The Seagull, I strung together 5-6 of my poems in something intended to vaguely resemble a one-man show. It primarily served to relieve me of the awkwardness of waiting for applause between poems, and I remember rushing through it so fast that it only took 15 minutes! I'm thinking something along those lines might be fun, showing the progression of my work over the years, both in style and substance.

Just writing this has made me even more nervous! Come on out, if you can, and if you're able, do the full Bronx Culture Trolley tour that ends up at the Blue Ox in time for the reading.

Sunday, August 1, 2004

Nothing like terror alerts, Footloose and ESPN NFL 2K5 to cap off a fun but tiring weekend!

Something in Bloomberg's demeanor during today's press conference suggested this particular alert is the real deal and not some post-Democratic Convention political boogeyman cooked up by Karl Rove and friends. He looked intense and tired, like he'd been up all night, and his statement was an unusually page-bound reading of a carefully worded script, equal parts calm and alarm. That I work a few blocks south of the NY Stock Exchange and right across the street from a Prudential office building didn't help things.

In search of an emotional antidote, we came across Footloose and Mystery Science Theatred our way through impossibly tight jeans, actors old enough to play their characters' parents, and some of the most embarassing dancing I can ever recall emulating.

Later, I took my first victory in the brand new ESPN NFL 2K5 rivalry between my beloved NY Jets and my friend Frank's Philadelphia Eagles, 14-10, confirming my suspicions that Madden simply hates the Jets! The gameplay is sweet, the best yet, with smooth graphics and a fun ESPN overlay that includes game specific highlights. For $20, there's finally no reason to buy Madden 2005. As Mrs. Kerry might say, "Shove it, EA Sports!"

In other news, ever so loosely related, I recently read somewhere that the first season of Miami Vice will finally be made available on DVD, perhaps by the end of this year! Apparently, the expense of acquiring the rights to all the music that was featured in the series was prohibitive, but now they're moving forward with it. I hope they include commentary tracks because I know Philip Michael Thomas could really use the work. File this under ULTIMATE CHRISTMAS PRESENT!!!

[EDIT: Speaking of Christmas, let's not forget my birthday that's coming up. HINT, HINT and HINT!]