Wednesday, March 31, 2004

People I'm feeling right now:

M.C. Siegel:
The honest truth is that when I feel like I'm resisting this tendency I, for the life of me, cannot write. Emotional anguish and solitude are the perfect catalysts for my writing. Sadly enough, when I'm happy it's like being on soma, I have no ambition to commit my thoughts to paper. All I want to do is stay happy, kill time, and ignore the issues that make for the majority of my writing. It's just like drug-addiction...and it's the most normal thing in the world to do. The question I'm always facing is whether I want to drift through life in a cloudy haze of happiness, or if I want to confront the monster under my bed, even if that means sacrificing some of that "happiness" in favor of a somewhat different form of satisfaction, and ultimately one that I value much more than the former.

It's like John Stuart Mill saying that it's better to be Socrates dissatisfied than the pig satisfied. I used to always argue that it's better to be the pig, because the pig has no idea what it's like to be Socrates. The pig is content to roll in its own slop all day long without a single solitary care in the world. I, on the other hand, have a million troughs all around me, but choose not to eat. I choose to indulge my dissatisfaction so that (metaphorically at least) I might be Socrates.

Jessica Torres:
i have to admit that i felt like i didnt deserve to be thanked like i did because i really didnt do anything but read my work and fall in love with it/them. the boys took me onboard only recently and because of that i felt awkward hearing my name being called out. but they did so because they thought i represent what acentos is all about and what we want to do with poetry for the now and later. so i kept on telling myself that they are adding my name for the future..not quite for the past. it will always be o's and fish's idea materialized.. but it has become my place. algarin was sonorous. mayda was spoken word. open and closed mic was what really made me smile. hosting for those few minutes was nervy but i gave it a go...though i thought of eight million other things i could have said--once i had already gotten off the spot.

F. Omar Telan:
I was at a conference last fall where there were a number of administrators who work in dance organizations. One of the major discussions that I was in the room for, but could not contribute to was about getting local media to pay attention to what was happening at their venues. As I came to understand it, dance, as an art, is no longer an art form that is appreciated by overall society. Somewhere along the way stopped being for the audience and became for other dancers and choreographers. Whether or not this opinion is held by dance enthusiasts nationwide or only by the people who were in the room is unknown to me. What I do know is that from the vast majority of dances I have seen, the only thing I've been able to appreciate is the sheer athleticism of these bodies. Okay, I'm lying; I've also giggled a great deal at how silly some of what is obviously meant to be intellectually deep.

Mara Jebsen:
I lost it again in my writing class.
Race again.
One writer chose to do a persona poem as a black man, but he was
really sheepish about it, worried about whether he had the right.

I said, yes, in theory, if his intentions were right,
but that in this case the the voice didn't come off authentic and you have to watch for racial ventriloquism.
But the prof went off on a tangent about the natural need to impersonate, the existence of racial difference as a recent phenomenon (she studies ancient Greece, I think) an finally, alluded to something about tribalism, happening everywhere. like look at Rwanda and Burundi.
While I believe her intentions to be good, and her point about racial difference as an unnatural construction to be interesting, I think largely accepted as valid, at each point I took her on, until the Tribalism thing came up, and I was the little teapot, steamed up, out-bursting, emotional, pink, sweating and loud impossible. I know too much about this.
She apologized a bit, and deferred gracefully to my knowledge/emotion, but I still came off like an idiot for losing it like that. I don't know. Amongst my program people, I am not everybody's favourite person.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

As it's pretty clear that louder than words will be getting an extended run - just confirmed: Friday, May 21st @ 8pm - I've created a new blog specifically for it at Click it, bookmark it, and link to it from your own site or blog!

It's going to be a group effort, with Eric and Diane - and hopefully even Helen popping in as our Hawaii correspondent! - posting along with me, about the show, continuing some of the debates that are raised, baiting prospective guest name it!

I also added a post-by-post commenting feature so the audience interaction can continue even after the show is over.

Technology rocks!!!

Monday, March 29, 2004

From: Bob Holman
Sent: Sunday, March 28, 2004 12:22 AM
To: 'Guy Lecharles-Gonzalez'
Subject: WOW

So much to say, but overall, UNBEFUCKINLIEVABLE

Please forward to Eric, Helen, and crew.

Let's talk. How about 8pm Friday May 14?

More than any other feedback I've received on the show so far, this was the most gratifying, especially taken in tandem with his initial comment at the end of the show about it far exceeding his expectations.

It exceeded even mine.

I was an anxious wreck the couple of hours before the show started as we drove in from Westchester after dropping the kids off at grandma's for the night. It occurred to me that there were so many firsts I was facing with this show: an untested format; a super-tight schedule; a venue with people assigned to specific jobs that knew what they were doing. For a control freak like me, there was so much out of my direct control, my stomach was churning.

By 7:59pm, everyone involved in the show was in the house and we were ready to go. Breathe...

[The rest of this entry has been moved to the official louder than words blog at Click it, bookmark it, and link to it from your own site or blog!]

Friday, March 26, 2004

It's 4:30pm as I start to write this, 27.5 hours before louder than words premieres.

I still can't believe that it all came together so quickly and am more than a little nervous about both the turnout and the response. The concept has received a lot of positive feedback but, like many of my favorite sports teams over the years, it's not about how things look on paper. It's about execution. So many variables in the mix, so much of it completely out of my hands... Ironic that one of the things that triggered the desire to do the show was Cristin's comment to Morris about not being able to control the poetry read onstage!

I'm not the least bit worried about the poetry as everyone I've picked, for both shows, I have the utmost confidence in. It's the debate portions of the show, the real meaty stuff, that concerns me.

Roger and Taylor have the potential for being a volatile, controversial combination if we can push the right buttons. There was a moment two days ago when Eric, Helen and I met that we realized our focus was a bit too narrow and things could be brought to a halt by an unexpected moment of clarity from either of them. Or by their simple refusal to play along. I'm not really worried about the latter, though.

Judging by what he wrote about the show on his calendar, Taylor's coming prepared to have fun with it:

I am looking forward to this immensely because Guy is so incendiary and opinionated that he is fun to bait and argue with, but Eric says I should be ready to answer some pretty fank and honest questions about the choices I have made as a performance poet. So maybe Guy is planning a little ambush of his own.
On the other hand, I'm not really sure about what Roger's thinking. I'm expecting him to be on guard a little in the beginning but hoping his competitive spirit gets him riled up as we put on the full-court press.

As it is, they're two very different personalities, with Taylor being more open, while Roger is a bit more nuanced. At their core, though, I think they're very similar in the way they approach things.

Then there's Eric and Helen...the loose cannon and the wild card. As much as people are expecting me to push things, Eric's the one to watch out for. Which is why I wanted him to co-host with me. He's not afraid to offend with honesty or to speak from his own experience and own it. And Helen? She's probably the smartest person that will be on the stage and is like a hollow point bullet when she takes aim at a target. Of all the people on the scene, she's one of the few I'd be afraid to get on their bad side. Most poets are blowhards but she's the real deal.

27 hours and eight minutes to go. {shiver}

Hope to see you there!

PS: My Guestbook is getting jealous of the TagBoard. The quick comments are fun but where's the beef? Hit me off!
Been reading Esmerelda Santiago's When I Was Puerto Rican and Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals simultaneously over the past couple of weeks, and thoroughly enjoying them both.

I was concerned that Santiago's book would turn out to be another semi-autobiographical disappointment along the lines of Edwidge Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory, with a Lifetime TV plot full of "exotic" archetypes and cliché. Fortunately, it's a cut above that, largely because her writing is much less forced. It reads more like a well-written memoir than a pretentious literary whitewash. One of her strengths, that Danticat shares, is her talent for painting vivid pictures of her childhood home. Of course, I'm only a third of the way into the book and she hasn't been transplanted to New York yet, which is where Breath really started to fall apart so...I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

I'm further along in Alinsky's primer for wannabe radicals and feel kind of like a rookie pitcher that's used to throwing straight heat being introduced to fundamental mechanics and a slider. It's rare to come across a book that crystallizes many of the things you believe in and try to live by but have never been able to properly put into words. Or action. There's quite a few things that turned my head and offered some answers to past failures. That I was two years old when it was first published - in 1971 - and yet it remains on point about the continuing ills of our society is both amazing and sad at the same time.

One of his most interesting ideas is the difference between an organizer and a leader:

Having his own identity, [the organizer] has no need for the security of an ideology or a panacea. He knows that life is a quest for uncertainty; that the only certain fact of life is uncertainty; and he can live with it. He knows that all values are relative, in a world of political relativity. Because of these qualities, he is unlikely to disintegrate into cyncism and disillusionment, for he does not depend on illusion.

...Curiosity, irreverence, imagination, sense of humor, a free and open mind, an acceptance of the uncertainty of life, all inevitably fuse into the kind of person whose greatest joy is creation. He conceives of creation as the very essence of the meaning of life. In his constant striving for the new, he finds that he cannot endure what is repetitive and unchanging. For him hell would be doing the same thing over and over again.

This is the basic difference between the leader and the organizer. The leader goes on to build power to fulfill his desires, to hold and wield power for purposes both social and personal. He wants power himself. The organizer finds his goal in creation of power for others to use.
That's a healthy meal to digest on for anyone that believes they're really "doing" something with their lives. You know, beyond living the Nike slogan and being like Mike.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

President Forever 2004 is the perfect computer sim for political junkies. I bought the full version last week (only $12, well worth it!) and have run through six campaigns so far with Dubya kicking my ass all but once. He beat Kerry twice, paired up with Edwards and then Gephardt, neither of whom helped carry their home states. He beat Kucinich twice, with Edwards and then Clark, again with neither VP delivering their home states. Kucinich's default setup is oddly to the right of the real deal. Not drastically, but subtly enough to illustrate the annoying nuances of politics that leave us with choices like Kerry or Bush.

In the last two campaigns, I made myself the Democratic candidate using the Candidate Editor that lets you create new candidates or tweak existing ones. It's similar to some of the Selectors that match you up with a candidate based on your stance on various issues. The first time out, I ran with Gephardt and got trounced. The second time, though, running with Clark and a totally different strategy, I beat Dubya soundly, even taking a few southern states, including Clark's home of Arkansas. The main difference in approach that time was a focus on research that uncovered three different scandals on Bush; heavy barnstorming in swing states, including entrenching Clark in Arkansas and its neighbors for the final two weeks; heavy preparation for the three debates, each of which I won handily; and then a final week TV ad blitz, the only advertising I did for the entire campaign.

Not only did I win but I still had about $50 million of the $72 million I started out with in the bank! Take that Howard Dean!!!

In the real world, Kerry's back on the campaign trail after a relaxing week of skiing. And, presumably, another round of Botox shots as he's looking unusually smooth again. Way to connect with the average American there, Johnny boy!

I need to start boning up on my Spanish over the next few months because, if Bush wins, moving to Spain will become a really tempting option.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The t-shirts just arrived and they look mah-velous! They will be available this Saturday for $15. Cheap! Don't sleep.

Met with Eric and Helen over lunch earlier today to hash out the format and came out with some great ideas as well as identifying some potential pitfalls to avoid. I've gone from nervous and excited to nervous and ecstatic. It's either going to be a home run or a foul tip off the big toe!

Last night's Acentos 1st anniversary show was a new high as the Blue Ox was packed old-school Nuyorican-style, with people on the floor and packed in wall-to-wall. Appropriate as Miguel Algarin was the feature. He's one of those people the old cliche applies to: "He could read the phone book and make it sound interesting." His stage presence is amazing and his personality is sincere and natural that you almost don't even notice that his poems are pretty good, too!

I had a 101.5 fever just before I got to the bar that Motrin kept in check long enough for me to enjoy the whole show. The three showcases were spread nicely through the night, though at first I wasn't feeling the final one coming after a break following Miguel's feature as the fever was creeping back up. Some people left, but many more stayed and those that did got the special treat of seeing Mayda del Valle kick a mini-feature. Last time I saw her was last summer just before she was headed to Scotland for the Def Poetry tour. This time she's taking a break from Def Poetry and headed back to Chicago before jumping into the expanded Declare Yourself tour next month. Got to talk to her for a while after the show about the past couple of years, the whirlwind of activity, the highs and lows, the jealousy and hate thrown her way as a result. Was glad to see that through it all, she's still Mayda, and the "pseudo-fame," as she called it, hasn't changed her a bit. I would so love to get her on a louder than words with someone like Miguel or even Willie Perdomo.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004


Monday night out and a 3-hour meeting starting at 8am don't mix.

Hit 13 for the first time in months (lost track but it's at least six) and had an...ah, interesting night. Always good to see Maureen who kept my glass so full that I actually had to pace myself for once. Early morning meeting and all. Sad that the thing I miss most from there is the 13inis.

The vibe for the show was a bit off with a light and low-energy crowd, weird considering it was the last qualifying slam of the season. (The glow, she has officially worn off, methinks.) With a disproportionate amount of Acentos regulars "on staff" and on the open mic and Nuyoricans dominating the slam that was actually short one poet, there were surprisingly few familiar 13 faces in the mix.

Halfway through the first round of the slam, I remembered its appeal. By the end, I was bored as hell.

Talked shop with some people I hadn't seen in a while, did some promoting for louder than words, even read in the open mic at Eric's behest. Snagged Luis Cartagena for Saturday's show completing the opening showcase lineup that will go from poetry to performance and set the stage for at least part of the debate to follow. Eric and I barely got a chance to talk, though.

Had an interesting conversation with a girl whose name continues to escape me - Angela? - a recent transplant from LA on her first visit to 13, a casual fan of poetry shows. She made a point about the sameness of the topics and delivery at the few slams she'd been to, which I loved hearing from someone that wasn't a jaded old-timer. We talked about the problems with poets re: the slam and at one point she asked, "What are you going to do to change it?" I had to pause and give that one some thought for a minute before answering.

"I spent a good 2-3 years trying to change it. To be honest, I'm done with it. It's a stagnant format that's great for beginners but it's not somewhere to set up camp. I'm more interested in what's next."

What IS next?

That's one of the things I'm going to throw on the table Saturday.

TONIGHT: Acentos. First Anniversary show! Be there, or hate yourself in the morning.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Pumpkin Seeds

1. 3-day weekends that become 4-day weekends due to nasty viruses suck.

2. Crazy Wilson is my new [South] American Idol.

3. I don't remember the circus being such a musical production. Other than the lions and horses (booooooorrrrrrring!), though, it was a pretty exciting show. Especially the daredevilly stuff.

4. Ringmaster Kevin Venardos quite possibly has the coolest job in the world.

5. My "Original Broadway Cast Recording" of Barnum arrived today. I'm listening to it now. Don't hate!

6. Old Navy owns my soul.

7. The NASDAQ is under 2000 and the Dow is flirting with dropping below 10,000 again. Reality bites, doesn't it, Mr. Bush?

8. Favorite headline: "Dead" Devours "Christ"

9. louder than words is in 127.5 hours. I'm getting nervous.

10. I'm going to 13 tonight!

11. Welcome Maile Corina Chadwick: March 20, 2004 @ 6:57pm. 6.1 pounds, 18 inches.

Friday, March 19, 2004

What? You thought I wouldn't come back hard? ;-)

PS: No, that's not me. It may be winter but I'm not that light! Or hairy.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Puke-a-rama 2004: The Germans Strike Back!!!

Ah yes, another sleepless night of random vomiting. The dark side of day care. India handed off the baton to Isaac around 2:30am and the fun continued til 6am. Isaac threw in an epilogue at 8am and it's been pretty quiet since. He's running a 101 fever, though.

Limerick slam tonight is up in the air for me and will be a last-minute call. Decided to actually sign up for the slam and wrote 9 limericks for it. Apparently I'll need as many as 30 if I manage to advance to the Finals but the chances of that are pretty slim, I'm sure, with limericks like these:

American Beauty was a really shitty movie
About Kevin Spacey’s dysfunctional family
White people in the suburbs
Acting completely absurd
But the floating paper bag impressed the Academy.
Limericks are a silly (but tough) little form and, between that and the embarassment that is St. Patrick's Day, you have to wonder why there's no Irishman Defamation League to speak out on it! Or the Catholic Church, even. Can't imagine this is what they had in mind when they sainted the guy.

Anyway, click on the poster below for up-dated info on louder than words. It's getting hot in here!

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

"This land is your land..."

Tenn. county wants to charge homosexuals
By Associated Press, Wednesday, March 17, 2004

DAYTON, Tenn. - The county that was the site of the Scopes "Monkey Trial" over the teaching of evolution is asking lawmakers to amend state law so the county can charge homosexuals with crimes against nature.

The Rhea County commissioners approved the request 8-0 Tuesday.

Commissioner J.C. Fugate, who introduced the measure, also asked the county attorney to find a way to enact an ordinance banning homosexuals from living in the county.

"We need to keep them out of here," Fugate said.
"This land is my land..."

Fox News, also citing the AP, reported it this way:

Tenn. County Officials Seek to Ban Gays
Wednesday, March 17, 2004, Associated Press

DAYTON, Tenn. — Rhea County (search) commissioners unanimously voted to ask state lawmakers to introduce legislation amending Tennessee's criminal code so the county can charge homosexuals (search) with crimes against nature.

"We need to keep them out of here," said Commissioner J.C. Fugate, who introduced the motion.

County Attorney Gary Fritts also was asked by Fugate to find the best way to enact a local law banning homosexuals from living in Rhea County.

...Rhea County, about 30 miles north of Chattanooga, is among the most conservative in Tennessee. It holds an annual festival commemorating the 1925 trial that convicted John T. Scopes on charges of teaching evolution, a verdict thrown out by the Tennessee Supreme Court on a technicality. The trial later became the subject of the play and movie, "Inherit the Wind."

In 2002, a federal judge ruled unconstitutional the Rhea County school board's Bible Education Ministry, a class taught in the public schools by students from a Christian college.
And people want to make fun of Spain?

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

louder than words update:

Got the go-ahead from Bob to proceed with Plan A. Also found out that I'll be on the cover of their next calendar! Decided to hit Urbana for the Billy Collins/Limerick Slam show on Thursday to do some promo, even though the $20 cover really stings!

louder than words is a brand new show
that's going to reject the status quo
of poets spewing bullshit from the mic
'cause they think that's what the audience likes
instead, demanding both grow
Have to make a new batch of flyers once everyone is officially confirmed and Eric and I are going to hit a few shows next week to promote. Instead of the picture of me that's on the current one, I'm thinking of some provocative one-liners, a la ABC's yellow campaign a couple of years ago:

That time of the month.
Putting the "try" back in "poetry."
So you wrote a poem. What are you going DO about it?
Bruising egos since 1997.
The last one is my favorite!
Another hopeful sign...

Soldier who refused to return to Iraq to surrender in North Miami
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press

NORTH MIAMI, Fla. (AP) Shaken by a gunfight in Iraq that killed innocent civilians, a 28-year-old U.S. soldier declared the invasion ''an oil-driven war'' and said he won't return to the Middle East and fight.

Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia, of Miami Beach, surrendered Monday at an air force base in Massachusetts, where he was ordered to report to his unit Tuesday at the North Miami Armory in suburban Miami.

His attorney, Louis Font, said he believes Mejia is the first soldier to turn himself in after refusing to return to Iraq. Mejia said he would seek conscientious objector status.

Mejia was in Iraq for about five months last year until October, when he returned home on leave. He did not return to duty.

''This is an oil-driven war, and I don't think any soldier signs up to fight for oil,'' Mejia said Monday after arriving at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Mejia said he was particularly upset over an incident in which he and others were ambushed and innocent civilians were hit in the ensuing gunfire.

''That's one of the things that tells me there's no such thing as a fair war, no such thing as a just war,'' he said.

He did not believe his refusal to return to service in Iraq affected morale among the troops, saying: ''I think the morale of the soldiers is already affected.''

...Mejia said he joined the military upon his arrival in the United States so he could work his way into American society. He could not say whether he might be deported because of his refusal to serve, but said ''whatever sacrifice I have to make, I have to go there.''

Tod Ensign, director of Citizen Soldier, a New York-based group that provides counsel and defense to military resisters and is organizing Mejia's defense, said Mejia could face up to one year in prison for being absent without leave and up to five years in prison if he is convicted of desertion.

''I am saying no to war; I have chosen peace,'' Mejia said Monday at an anti-war news conference. ''I went to Iraq and was an instrument of violence and now I have decided to become an instrument of peace.''

Monday, March 15, 2004

I rarely give a conscious thought to the possibility of being caught up in a terrorist attack, fully accepting the likelihood that NYC remains a target and at some point in the future, another attack will come. Other than crawling under a rock or moving to North Dakota, there's really no other option and, to be honest, I don't even see much difference between the two.

Every now and then, though, something random happens that forces me to acknowledge that I live and work smack in the middle of one of the largest bullseyes around, and it can be a little unnerving.

Today, I took a little trip uptown at during lunch and on the way back, got off the train at City Hall because I wanted to walk a bit. Exiting the car onto the platform, my mind lost in the sublime logic of Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals (I've only read the Prologue so far and I'm already loving it; thanks, Siegel!) I just missed walking smack into a fully-armored police officer carrying an M16, trailed by two more cops identically equipped. Two of them were carrying their rifles with the barrel poionted up, a no-no in the military unless you're actively on patrol because of the potential for accidentally pulling the trigger and shooting one of your own. My first thought was that they were badly trained. My second thought was that they were on patrol. There, on the platform of the City Hall station. One car from the end of the platform and walking with a purpose.

Not sure which thought disturbed me more.

Outside, a few blocks south on Broadway, I can see the gaping hole that used to be the World Trade Center down the block to my right. Two blocks further, a number of police cars are lined up, an ambulance sitting behind them, lights flashing but no sirens blaring. A large cube van is pulled over at the line and a police officer is talking to the driver, a vaguely Arabic-looking latino who is still sitting in the driver's seat of the van.

For the next few blocks I think about Spain and the meaning of their new government and its new leader standing up to Bush on his continuing occupation of Iraq. I also realize that despite Alinsky's book being published in 1971, his prologue is startingly current.

By the time I make it back to work - on the fringes of the financial district, as likely a target as any here in the city - my thoughts have moved on to other more personal things and the sense of naked helplessness I'd felt 10 minutes earlier had completely passed. Life goes on in the big city; if not always by choice, then by necessity.
Perhaps there is some reason for hope...

Spain Vows to Pull Soldiers Out of Iraq
By ED McCULLOUGH, Associated Press Writer

MADRID, Spain - The leader of Spain's victorious Socialists said Monday he will withdraw his nation's support for the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, restating a campaign promise a day after his party won elections overshadowed by terrorist bombings.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, calling the war that ousted Saddam Hussein an "error," said he would recall Spanish troops from Iraq by June 30 unless the United Nations assumes control of multinational military operations there.

In a surprise defeat, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's conservatives on Sunday became the first government that backed Washington in Iraq to be voted from office. The election came amid charges that Aznar made Spain a target for terrorists by supporting the war, and that his government concealed possible connections between the attack and Islamic terrorists for political gain.

...The conservatives' defeat was unexpected. Pre-election polls had projected the Popular Party, led by Mariano Rajoy, would win comfortably, and even some exit polls Sunday showed it might win.

But when the ballots were tallied, the Socialists netted 10.9 million to the PP's 9.6 million. Turnout was 77 percent.

Zapatero ran for the first time for prime minister against an entrenched government and won. "That broke a lot of precedents," party campaign manager Jose Blanco said Monday.
You paying attention, John Kerry?

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Met with Bob (and Ed Greer) on Friday to nail down the details for louder than words. They love the concept and had some great input on the overall format, plus there's the possibility of Bob calling in some favors to book me some "big" names. Really, he's just hedging his bets there as they've been burned by lackluster shows in prime slots in the past and is concerned I'm targeting the usual audience which may garner a similar result.

With less than a week to pull together the lineups in order to have enough time to do some promo and prep work for the show itself, I didn't think twice about tapping the people I know. That got me quick confirmations, people I can vibe with in an untested format, and a base audience that allows me to have a general idea of a minimum turnout. Basically, I need 34 paid people in the house for each show for it not to be a loss on either end. Quite frankly, if I can't get 34 people to show up, I don't need to be doing the show at all!

To be honest, while one part of me loves the idea of sharing a stage with a Sekou Sundiata, for example, a bigger part of me would rather the show suceed or fail with the "usual" and then, if successful, come back as a monthly series in May or June with some big guns on the bill.

Either way, the next two weeks are going to be stressful as I'll have to get out a bit more than I usually do to promote. Thankfully, the Acentos crew is stepping up like real family and helping me get the word out. And, of course, Eric - who had some great ideas for the larger vision of the format - has the Monday night stage to promote from. All that, plus my own efforts should easily get at least 50 people in the house. I think as people start to understand the format - the biggest challenge in promoting this thing - the buzz about it will grow exponentially.

ie: Picture a couple of distinguished slam veterans debating their seemingly opposite rationales on and approaches to poetry slam against the backdrop of their own successes, failures and compromises in the format, and in their careers in general. Throw in a little game of Devil's Advocate to keep them honest and on their toes, and have the audience pick a "winner."

Or something like that. ;-)

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Download the flyer here.
NEWS FLASH: Mark Your Calendars!

louder than words

Bowery Poetry Club
Saturday, March 27 & Saturday, April 3
8pm SHARP!

It's Politically Incorrect meets David Letterman.
Def Poetry with an editor. Slam poetry with a brain.
It's a little bit smarter, a little bit quicker,
a little bit louder...than words.

The dates are tentative, pending tomorrow's meeting with Bob but it looks it should be a go. It's an intimidating time slot, prime time Saturday night, and only two weeks to promote the first show so I'm really going to have to bust my ass to pull it all together. Eric's on-board for both shows, with Helen on the 27th and Diane on the 3rd. Still tweaking the format so it fits comfortably into the allotted 90 minutes and already have an interesting lineup coming together for the 2nd show. Worked on the flyer last night and just need the features to plug in. May go with something generic so I can start getting the word out tomorrow, though.

Am I excited? Like grandma at a Tom Jones concert, panties in hand. Nervous as hell, too!

More later.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Sent my BRIO submission in today, two days before the deadline. Thank you, Express Mail!

It's the first time I've submitted for something like this - other than a single poem entered in a Literal Latte contest way back in 1999; I just don't have the self-discipline - and it was a real challenge to decide what to submit. 10 pages aren't very many poems when most of mine average 3 pages each. (Slam influence, anyone?) The fact that I knew I was definitely submitting Mozer, Bethea and I - a five-pager! - severely limited my other options as I didn't want to submit only three pieces. It's like a 10 minute feature - there's not a lot of room to stretch.

In addition to Mozer..., I went with handmade memories (one-page), Breathless (two pages) and Gotham City Suite: Untitled, #1 (two pages). Salomé wasn't thrilled with the latter, in particular, but there's something I really like about it. If you can get beyond the surface of it being about Batman (which should be relatively easy as he's never actually named) and dig into the pyschology of the character, I think it's a pretty good poem.

I did almost give in this morning and substitute the poem I wrote about Isaac but decided against it since it has his name in it, potentially revealing me as the author, which is a no-no. Same reason I didn't go with Credentials.

All in all, I'm comfortable with my choices and think they'll stand out on the first pass.

Part of me believes I should be a shoo-in for the grant based on what I saw when I was a judge for it back in 2000. It was like an average open mic: one amazing poet, a handful of solid ones and a short bus full of doggerel. If this were then, I'd definitely be in the top four.

It's 2004, though, and the realistic side of me knows that the Bronxites from Acentos alone will raise the bar considerably. (Thankfully Rich doesn't live in the Bronx yet!) And, of course, there's the question of taste. These kinds of competitions are no different from a slam, maybe even tougher as there's no sacrificial poet to get a feel for what the judges like, no chance to adjust strategy and give them what they're looking for. There's not even the opportunity to get a look at them and stereotype! Of course, that's a good thing since it forces you to go with your gut, but it's also much more intimidating.

I'll be honest and admit that I really want to win this thing. That it's quite likely my last hurrah as far as poetry is concerned makes it a big deal. That it's a grant recognizing artists from the Bronx is an even bigger deal.

Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Dear wannabe Warren Buffets:

If you're considering buying MSO stock thinking you're going to make a bundle when it swings back up, here's what I wrote to someone else that thinks the same thing.

It's definitely a gamble but unless you're playing with tens of thousands of dollars, I don't think it's going to be such a big winner that it's worth throwing good money after. The potential gain on a small investment* isn't worth the potential loss.

The brand is undeniably damaged and even if they pull off a Philip Morris/Altria, there's not a huge upside as Martha Stewart herself IS the brand. At best, they change their name and become just another small niche player in a pretty large sector.

There's also serious speculation that the stock will drop low enough that Stewart can have the company buy it all back without completely depleting its cash reserves and take the company private again.

Something else to consider: the stock was initially offered at almost $40 back in 1999, the peak of the market boom. It hovered in the $20s, on average, for the next couple of years before 9/11 took its toll, dropping into the high teens and then single digits by the summer of 2002. It's averaged $9-10 ever since.

*Bottom line: buying this stock right now not an investment but pure speculation, a game for those with money to lose and enough to make winning worth the risk.

I'd advise against it.

PS: Don't forget that there is still an SEC charge of insider trading that needs to be resolved (which could result in significant fines and more bad press), as well as a civil lawsuit from investors that have lost money on her stock due to her actions.

She's not out of the woods just yet. Not even close.
NOTE: This is a personal opinion as I am no longer licensed and cannot legally give financial advice.

Whatever you do, please make sure that you at least do your own research and know what you're getting into. Listening to the Today Show doesn't count. The stock market isn't a game for amateurs. There's better odds in Vegas.

Beyond that, if you've got credit cards to pay off, or monthly bills piling up, or less than 3 months worth of expenses sitting in the bank - or, even better, if you're sitting there wondering what MSO is - you have absolutely no business thinking about buying anybody's stock!
So I'm trying to finish this new piece [have I mentioned Acentos is tonight?] that came out of nowhere a little over a week ago and I go to open it up in Word a few minutes ago and I notice another file cryptically named "post," last modified on 5/14/2003. Curious, I open it and find this:

My father thought holding my head under the water was the best way to teach me to hold my breath and, ultimately, to swim. To this day, I cannot swim.

This is obviously something we will never agree on, though.

Competing against you or any other "veteran" in a slam doesn't make anyone better unless you're suggesting that the points actually mean something and who "wins" is representative of something other than the subjective opinions of five random people. I know if Shawn or Claudia had made the team, no one would be saying they were better writers than those they beat, they'd be complaining that the judges I picked sucked.

What makes people better writers is encouragement and honest critique and the opportunity to have their voices heard and an encouraging environment to develop those voices.

I didn't become a better writer during my year at the Nuyorican because I slammed against writers that were "better" than me, I got better because of the supportive community that existed there, encouraging me to get better, telling when something I wrote was crap. It was also a community that constantly wrote and performed new work because the "veterans" were no longer competing, they had stepped up to the next level and became mentors.

The experience of Nationals, in particular, isn't about developing to the point where you can take out Billy Collins in a head-to-head competition. Nationals is nothing more than a step, an EARLY step, in a poet's development process. At least it SHOULD be.

Instead, it seems to have become this ego-driven, cutthroat
It ends there, followed by the thread of emails I was responding to, all part of the internal debate about the slam that ultimately led to my officially stepping down from the louderARTS Project six days later. If I remember correctly, I'm pretty sure I knew I was done with them as I was writing that email.

As another slam season draws to a close, locally and across the country, and venues prepare for the final slams that will decide the teams representing them in St. Louis this summer, I've noticed several slam "veterans" have been pondering the vitality and relevance of slam in their journals. I wrote something for Word Street last year about that and think the main point still stands: As long as there are poets who have not yet found their voice, who have not felt both the sting and praise of audience reaction, there will always be a need for the poetry slam.

The problem isn't with the slam format itself, it's with the poets and how they choose to approach it. Period.

Everything else is just ego talking.

Monday, March 8, 2004

Cattell's 16 Factor Test Results
Warmth |||||||||||||||||||||||| 74%
Intellect |||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 82%
Emotional Stability ||||||||||||||||||||| 62%
Aggressiveness |||||||||||||||||||||||| 74%
Liveliness ||||||||||||||||||||| 70%
Dutifulness ||||||||||||||| 42%
Social Assertiveness ||||||||||||||||||||| 70%
Artistic Interests |||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 82%
Paranoia ||||||||||||||||||||| 62%
Abstractness |||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 90%
Introversion ||||||||||||||| 46%
Anxiety |||||||||||| 38%
Openmindedness ||||||||||||||||||||| 70%
Independence ||||||||||||||||||||| 70%
Perfectionism ||||||||||||||| 50%
Tension ||||||||| 26%
Take Free 16pf based Personality Test.

Interesting. And pretty close in several areas. Though with a Paranoia of 62%, you'd think Anxiety and Tension would be higher than 38% and 26%, respectively. Unless...they really are out to get me and I've simply come to terms with that fact!
Pumpkin Seeds

1. I just noticed my redesign pretty much killed the "angry pumkpin" tag. Other than in the title bar, it doesn't even appear anywhere. Hmmm...

2. Watched Deep Blue Sea Saturday night while working on the web site. Twice, actually, as TNT showed it back-to-back. Silly movie but it's got the Best Death Scene Ever when Samuel Jackson gets eaten by a shark in the middle of a rousing speech.

3. Bought tickets for the March 21st show of the circus at the Garden. I haven't been to the circus in years. We almost went this weekend out in Jersey but India would have had to pay for a ticket which is ridiculous. The first Broadway show I ever saw live was Barnum, back in 1980, a highly entertaining take on the life of huckster supreme P.T. Barnum. Great music and lots of circus antics. I even had the soundtrack and still remember several of the songs, which Salomé found a little disturbing. "There is a sucker, born every minute! Like dandelions up they pop, their ears so big, their eyes so wide and though I feed them bonafide baloney, with no truth in it..." Adding it to my wish list now!

4. The latest kid's song to worm it's way into my head: The Green Grass Grows All Around

The bird in the egg,
And the egg in the nest,
And the nest on the branch,
And the branch on the limb,
And the limb on the tree,
And the tree in a hole,
And the hole in the ground
And the green grass grows all around, all around
The green grass grows all around.
Did a search for the lyrics and found out that there's even more to the song! Maybe I'll read it at Acentos tomorrow night?

5. Those blogspot ads up above finally paid off with something cool: President Forever: 2004. It's a computer simulation that let's you control the day-to-day activities of a candidate's presidential campaign over the final 7 weeks before the election. Played the Demo last night as Ralph Nader: Spoiler and ran out of money halfway into the game. Planning to buy the full version this week. Back in 1996, I had the Doonesbury Election Game and played it for weeks, often into the wee hours of the morning, so I won't get it before Wednesday lest I miss Acentos tomorrow night!

6. It's fantasy baseball time again and this year's league is shaping up quickly, with only one spot left to fill. One newcomer so far, a Texan friend of Phil's, and I'm trying to push Siegel in if he ever checks his damn email! Going to try to pull off a live draft this time, via email, as the computer draft always screws a couple of people over and, with 12 teams, that pretty much guarantees someone abandoning ship mid-season. Which really sucks, especially when you lose to that abandoned team!

7. Russell Simmons on Def Poetry Jam, from Cleveland's The Plain Dealer:

The racial diversity of the cast was just a happenstance, Simmons said. The show was always about the best poets.

"We did not produce it for diversity's sake," Simmons said. "When you see it, you'll see a Mexican guy, a Spanish girl, a Puerto Rican girl, a Palestinian girl, a Jewish boy, but they're all hip-hop. The core culture is the same, hip-hop. And that shows what hip-hop is, what it is all about, what it does: It brings the world together - Asian, Puerto Rican, Russian. No difference."
Who's he trying to fool? Everyone knows they put that thing together with an eye towards diversity - racial, gender & sexuality. That lineup didn't just happen and it certainly wasn't about the best poets.

8. Haven't heard back from Bob Holman yet on the show and I'm getting a little antsy as I'm hoping to kick it off sometime in April. Need enough lead time to get some good promotion going, though. I'm so amped about the idea that if it doesn't work out at the Bowery, I'll have to find somewhere else to do it. Ideally, though, it all works out with the BPC. And on a night that Shappy's bartending.

9. Acentos is tomorrow night. Jack Agueros features alongside the best open mic in the city. Not just uptown. IN THE CITY. If I can pull it together and the list isn't too full, I might be reading a new piece. Be there!

Sunday, March 7, 2004

Today's lesson: How to be productive while getting absolutely nothing you intended to do done!

Exhibit A: this web site!

I completely redesigned the blog & so they now share one cohesive look. Weird thing is...I don't love it. I like it, and I'm definitely going to keep it awhile 'cause it was a pain in the ass to create (shout-outs to CoffeeCup's HTML Editor, one of the best mid-level HTML geek products available!) and, if nothing else, it's a start.

NOTE: it is sized at 640 wide on purpose because not everyone is using a 'sexy 19" flat-screen!' Ahem. ;-)

Between this and my renewed affair with Car Battler Joe, I have a feeling this entry may be all the writing I get done this week. Loser!

Friday, March 5, 2004

1. The Machiavellian Chronicles continue over coffee with my old boss this afternoon [Starbucks. She paid. I still feel guilty!] to discuss the current situation and the interesting direction it took earlier today. She's the only one I actually trust and things could get very interesting as early as next week so I'm trying to place my pieces on the right squares and minimize the collateral damage. Drama!

2. On a related note, I got some well-timed rave reviews for the series of ads I did for our new Accounting books. I love it when a plan comes together!

3. The next Zogby poll numbers on the Presidential election will include my two cents! I'm the married Northeastern Independent that thinks very unfavorably of Bush and somewhat unfavorably of Kerry, and isn't sure whom I'd vote for between Bush-Kerry-Nader but would take Kerry in a one-on-one with Bush. Hopefully there's enough like me to send the Democrats an early warning.

4. Martha Stewart found guilty. Duh! The real mystery is whether or not that means a big sale at K-Mart on her stuff? We need new pots.

5. How many times can I listen to the Maroon 5 CD in one day? Currently on its seventh rotation - six at work and once this morning instead of the news - and counting.

6. I must get some writing done this weekend. Not editing. Writing. I also need to pull things together for our next D&D session on the 13th!

Thursday, March 4, 2004

Woke up this morning / feeling excellent! / Picked up the telephone / dialed the number / Of my equal opportunity / employer to inform him / I will not be in / to work today! / Are you feeling sick? / the Boss asked me, / "No Sir" I replied, / I am feeling too good / to report to work today! / If I feel sick tomorrow / I will come in early.
--TELEPHONE BOOTH NUMBER 905, by El Reverendo Pedro Pietri
Pedro Pietri died yesterday.

From the Nuyorican: "The family and friends of Pedro Pietri will keep you informed as arrangements are finalized, through the Pedro Pietri Health Benefit voicemail (212-340-1237)."

I hope he was comforted these past few months knowing a lot of people were pulling for him and that his life, hard as it may have been at times, wasn't lived in vain.

Rest well, el Rev. You've earned it.

What the fuck?!?!

Black like who? Kerry's making history all right
John Kass, Chicago Tribune: Published March 4, 2004

If Democrat John Kerry wins the White House in November, he promises to make history.

He hopes to become our second black president.

"President Clinton was often known as the first black president," Kerry told the Urban Radio Network the other day, according to an Associated Press report.

"I wouldn't be upset if I could earn the right to be the second," Kerry said.
What the fuck?!?!

Wednesday, March 3, 2004

A recent discussion in Morris Stegosaurus' journal and a conversation last night about the poetry scene got me thinking about change and evolution and what influences both.

I haven't been to Bar 13 in the longest and have been waiting for the next UPPERCASE to come around as a reason to go. UPPERCASE always represented the best of what we did there with the series, putting the spotlight on a handful of relative newcomers and giving them the room to stretch their legs beyond the confines of the open mic or the slam. For many, it was their first time ever as a featured poet. The vast majority stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park and were always appreciative of the opportunity. The criteria was admittedly subjective as I was influenced as much by the quality of the work as the quality of the person, and I frequently took chances on people who, by the definition of some, weren't "ready yet" - a bullshit descriptor in a scene predominantly made up of relatively unaccomplished amateurs.

Anyway, I check their calendar every now and then, hoping to see an UPPERCASE on the bill and have been disappointed every time by its absence. Someone suggested that there just weren't enough good new people to schedule one but I see that as the craftsman blaming his tools. It's been six months or so and there haven't been three decent newcomers on the scene? There's more than that many at every Acentos! What. Ever.

More discouragingly, I've noticed a narrowing of their focus as they've begun doing more targeted formats like GrooveNation, for black poets; Raise the Red Tent, the rejiggered - and reportedly more restrictive - House of Woman-aka-WomanNoise; and now Q2, the new queer reading that started out at the Bowery.

Ironic that a venue once known for having one of the most inclusive reading series' in the city is now drawing such stark lines in the sand. Disappointing, too.

Anyway, all of this got me thinking again about the show I'd proposed to Bob Holman a while back that hit the back burner after we couldn't settle on a workable timeslot and then the holidays came and then I decided I was done and blah blah blah. It got me thinking about what I'd set out to do back in 1998 when I practically lived at the Nuyorican but saw a need for something outside of that, where poets & audience who enjoyed slam but wanted another forum, with a similar energy, that supported the non-slammy stuff. And so a little bit louder was born.

Much moreso than the current Monday night show at 13 , I think that it's Acentos that has picked up on that mission, creating the kind of space where everyone is welcome on the mic and everyone is made to feel comfortable.'s focus on Latino writers, necessary and admirable as it is, and it's location in the Bronx mean that there are certain limitations on what it can ultimately accomplish in terms of developing a diverse community. Some of my favorite poets will never be able to feature their work there beyond their 3-5 minutes in the open mic. (What I love most is that they show up and support despite this, a true sign of being in it for the love more than the attention.) This isn't a bad thing at all as it represents their commitment to a specific mission and they accomplish it exceedingly well with each successive show. It's totally different from a once welcoming-to-all weekly event like 13's switching to more exclusive niche formats, though.

The potentially great thing about the Bowery Poetry Club is that it's a full-time performance space with a calendar, if not audience, that's able to support a wide spectrum of events from the open-to-all Urbana slams to the completely esoteric Taylor Mead Show and all kinds of things in between. Plus, it's a great physical space. As such, I emailed Bob today to restart our talks about doing a show there.

Completely contradictory to what I said a week ago, I know, but that was February!

Here's what I sent him, in the "hypothetical press release" format he prefers:

louder than words
with Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

"If you are of the opinion that the contemplation of suicide is sufficient evidence of a poetic nature, do not forget that actions speak louder than words."--Fran Lebowitz

“Idiosyncratic and incendiary” poet/writer/malcontent, Guy LeCharles Gonzalez hosts a live, interactive variety show at the Bowery Poetry Club featuring poets and musicians in an engaging format that embraces the simple idea that art can be a catalyst for change and be entertaining at the same time.

“The whole scene has gotten too safe, too predictable,” explains the founder and former curator/host of the highly acclaimed a little bit louder reading series, and co-author of Burning Down the House (Soft Skull Pr, 2000). “I want to shake things up a little bit. Put a little controversy back into the mix and challenge the artists and the audience on their easy acceptance of bullshit.”

The 90-minute show will be co-hosted by Eric Guerrieri and Helen Yum and will feature music and poetry performances by both well-known and up-and-coming artists; improvisational debates between the hosts, featured guests and audience on a variety of controversial topics; plus, door prizes and a community action information table for turning words into action.
Feedback is welcomed, wanted and encouraged, whether in the guestbook or via email. Save the flames for my comments about 13. It's called an opinion and I'm entitled!

Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Let's ignore the undemocratic idiocy of the fact that on the one day of the primary season that the most delegates are up for grabs, there's only four of the ten original candidates actively running, one of whom has been routinely referred to as "the presumptive nominee" for the past few weeks.

Let's ignore the hypocrisy of the fact that the networks pledged to stop projecting the winner of individual states until after the polls were closed during the Presidential election, but tonight were projecting John Kerry victories in some states a full three hours before the polls in California closed.

Let's ignore the irony of the fact that 2/5 of the country - aka the other 20 states that haven't held their primaries yet - have basically been disenfranchised now that the race has all but been conceded to Kerry; if not by every single candidate, certainly by the media.

Instead, let's acknowledge the sad reality of the fact that John Kerry is at this moment, arguably at his peak, a shaky candidate for the Democrats, at best, and that the Bushies haven't even begun to fight. Add to it the disheartening fact that the election is still EIGHT MONTHS AWAY.

Thanks a lot Iowa, New Hampshire and the mainstream media. Due to your undue influence on the process, the chances of us being stuck with Bush for another four years are stronger than they reasonably should be.

Thanks Terry McAuliffe and friends. Due to your compressed calendar that completely overlooked the advantages of a prolonged primary, Bush and company have eight full months to tear apart an easy target.

Finally, thanks registered Democrats. Due to your unimaginative, lemming-like embrace of the mediocre, it's a sequel, Dumb and Dullerer: The Emperor Changes Clothes in November, ensuring another four years of relative status quo. We just get to choose the gift wrap.

ATTN: Dennis Kucinich & Al Sharpton - Please, please, please continue to challenge, if not outright campaign against, Kerry all the way to the convention. Give the remaining 20 states a choice. Don't sell out what you've stood for in obesience to a party that clearly takes your issues for granted and would like nothing more than for you both to disappear and shut up. The minute you do is the minute I tune out until October. Maybe even longer.

Monday, March 1, 2004

One of the more interesting memes I've come across, swiped from theklute's LiveJournal:

So, say you were meeting a new person - blind date, new friend, who knows. And you wanted them to have some idea of what kind of person you are, and who you are. But you can't actually tell them in so many words. Instead, you have to give them a box, with a dozen things in it for them to ponder over.

What would you put in the box? No cheating - you're not allowed to include things such as links to your livejournal.

01. Matt Ruff's Fool On The Hill
02. Willie Perdomo's Where a Nickel Costs a Dime
03. Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting
04. a RIGHT to be HOSTILE (The Boondocks Treasury)
05. Milli Vanilli's Girl You Know It's True
06. Fight Club DVD
07. It's a Wonderful Life VHS
08. Picture of my wife & kids
09. Picture of the Empire State Building
10. Bottle of Good-O Kola Champagne
11. An empty flask
12. A #2 pencil, sharpened
Pumpkin Seeds

1. If I had gone for the Lord of the Rings sweep (that I'd hoped for but didn't expect) and not taken a gamble on a couple of other longshot upsets, I'd have done better than 67% with my picks last night. Considering I hadn't seen the vast majority of the nominees, though, it wasn't too bad.

2. After last night, shouldn't Peter Jackson re-consider his planned remake of King Kong? I know I'd be thinking retirement if I were him. Or at least doing only small-budget films for awhile. As the great philospher Kenny Rogers says, "You gotta know when to hold 'em; know when to fold 'em."

3. The Passion of the Christ's huge opening weekend led to some entertaining puns: "Passion" Blesses Box Office; The Passion of the Christ really nailed it.; Jesus Christ a Superstar at Box Office; And on the seventh day ... Jesus ruled the North American box office.

4. I hate to admit it but I like Tiger Woods' latest American Express commerical, a knock-off of Caddyshack with him in the Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) role. First evidence of an actual personality I've ever seen from the guy.

5. John Edwards finally came out swinging in Sunday's debate but it was probably too little too late. And if he was holding back all this time for the VP slot, that slim hope is all but gone now. I'm starting to believe it's going to be a Kerry-Gephardt ticket. Once Bush brings Giuliani on board, this thing is going to be an ugly and unpredictable dogfight.

6. John Kerry is quickly moving up the list of people I want to punch in the neck. His response to a question about his wealth: "We all have different definitions of assets." Yeah, but we all probably agree on the definition of "asshole."

7. Tried to get some writing done this weekend but got bogged down (again) in editing what I'd already written. Part of the problem is the long gaps in between writing sessions which force me to re-read what I've already written. One change leads to another and then nap-time is over.

8. I had the most bizarre dream last night, the details of which I can't remember. One thing that stood out, though, was the in-dream realization that it was a remake of a previous dream.

9. If I haven't answered your email recently (like in the past few months) I'm most likely not ignoring you, I'm just way behind. I replied to several from December over the weekend!

10. My boss just referred to Starbucks and Blockbuster as "community-friendly businesses." Must. Not. Kill!

11. Without getting too specific, let me just say that I am so Machiavellian sometimes that I scare myself. The "worst" part is that it's more instinctual than deliberate. More on this later as things continue to develop.

12. Played the corporate networking game on Friday night for only the second time, a couple of drinks turning into several turning into a super-late night out. On the heels of my good - potentially great review - I realized the load I'd been carrying around recently had lifted a bit. Of course, it was replaced by the load from my not calling home to say I'd be later than expected. Much later! :-/

13. My milkshake is better than yours.