Friday, May 30, 2003

I love New York. Now, more than ever.

Really. It's more than just some marketing slogan for me. The good, bad and ugly; I can't imagine living anywhere else.

Went for a walk at lunch today, up Water Street to the South Street Seaport, walked the pier, then went across on Fulton Street to Nassau Street and headed back south to the office. The weather outside is beautiful - finally! - not too warm, nice and breezy. The Seaport was bustling with NYers and tourists alike. I picked up a Mango Italian Ice for a little childhood flashback. (Only partial, though, as I don't remember mango being an option back then.) Fulton Street and Nassau were almost exactly as I remembered from back in '89 when I worked on Maiden Lane for the Federal Reserve as a Currency Verification Clerk. It's the place that gets robbed in the last Die Hard.

My second "real" job (back in '88, I was a teller at the Bank of New York for a year), we processed, or verified, huge trays of money every night, discarding worn bills and IDing counterfeits. It paid $19k/yr, including a bonus for working the 4-Midnight shift. High-security, four of us worked in a room with windows on three sides and three cameras monitoring our every move. There were two known blind spots and we were all expected to watch each other as well. We handled a shitload of money and I was really tempted at times to steal some, but never did. Anytime someone came up short, the whole floor got locked down and no one left until it was reconciled. Got out of there at 3am once. Can't imagine what the security must be like now. I lasted nine months before disappearing for a week without notice. Decided to move to Miami and made up a story to cover my absence [and short-notice resignation] about Jehovah's Witnesses trying to take me back to Westchester and needing to get away. Was hoping to pave the way for a transfer to the Miami branch but, in the end, didn't have the one year of service needed.

Anyway, there's some new stores and new storefronts, but it's the same low-end, rip-off atmosphere that it always had. Bought a handful of things back then, usually electronics, that were always overpriced and, judging from the game store I went in to, nothing's changed. Grabbed a slice of pizza from the pizzeria I used to always eat at (corner of Nassau and Maiden) before heading in to work and it was as good as I remember it.

Didn't realize Nassau became Broad Street and walked past the NY Stock Exchange for the first time. Ridiculous security in front of that place. More than around City Hall or the Empire State Building!

The walk was great exercise, physical and mental, and reminded me why I've never been able to move away from here for long. There's not too many places in NY that you can walk through and not fall in love. Even the bad areas have their appeal, gritty and disturbing as it might be. If we luck into nice weather tomorrow, I want to take a walk through our new neighborhood after we check out the apartment again. Time to measure things and start figuring out what's going where and what we need to buy.

Today's web site:

Thursday, May 29, 2003

I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it. -Thomas Jefferson

Some would say - and have, at times - that I've always lived something of a charmed life, had luck on my side, a guardian angel watching over me. I'll be the first to admit that there's been times when things have inexplicably gone my way but I like to think it's more about karma than luck. Both good and bad, of course. That whole circles thing. After a hellacious 2002, when it seemed all the calls were going against me, 2003 has been slowly shaping into a rebound year.

Latest evidence: we got the apartment! [uncrossing aching fingers...]

Picked up the lease last night and should be moving in by the 15th of June, at the latest. They're replacing the kitchen floor and bathroom sink and giving us three new air conditioners, plus the usual clean-up and detailing. Turns out it's a rent-stabilized building, too. With some creative planning, there's no reason we couldn't live there for at least three years, at which point Isaac and India will need a bigger room, if not rooms of their own. That would be a record for us as we haven't stayed anywhere for more than a year and a half since we got married. Before that, my two years in Ft. Campbell ranks as the longest I've lived somewhere since high school in Mt. Vernon.

Next up, getting our stuff out of storage in VA and not killing each other over decorating the house. Even with the Trading Spaces/While You Were Out influence, I hate spending money on big-ticket items. I don't know why I find it so much easier to spend $500 on a bunch of little things than on one big thing, no matter how necessary. And we do need a few big-ticket things, especially now that our bedroom will be a decent size again. IKEA calls this weekend. Wish we had Amy Wynn or Ty in the backyard to just build shit for us!

In other news, the article I mentioned a while back for the new spoken word magazine that's in the works is going to be a critical essay on the relevance of slam, or lack thereof. I see it as something of a follow-up to the piece I wrote for Poets & Writers Magazine back in 1999, coincidentally the last time the Nationals were in Chicago. That piece concluded with: << On the verge of its 10th-Anniversary, the National Poetry Slam will return to its birthplace in Chicago, bigger than ever, and Smith is preparing a homecoming that will further imprint his vision on the slam. "Every revolution becomes an institution. Though it's being adopted in academia, the main movement is still very radical. It's still fresh and evolving. The mission isn't anywhere near completed." >> Marc stepped down from PSI after that Nationals and has since returned to his President for Life position. After some of my comments earlier this year, I wonder if he'd even grant me an interview again!

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Did some e-surfing on Friday, itching to find something spontaneous that we could do for the holiday weekend as the combination of no news about the apartment, bad weather and being in Hartsdale were quite depressing. Checked Yahoo! Travel for last-minute deals, Googled "family friendly bed breakfast," and scoured for kid-friendly accomodations, mostly to no avail. Came across one interesting B&B in Providence but they didn't have any rooms for Saturday AND Sunday. Picked through a ton of cheesy Poconos web sites before I finally found what I was looking for: Rimrock Cottages. Reasonable rates, kid-friendly, less than a two hour drive away and they had some vacancies. Priceless!

Despite the weather, it was exactly what we needed. The cabin was cozy and the sleeping arrangements worked out perfectly as Isaac and India crashed on the pullout and we finally slept alone for the first time since last October! We drove around a little bit, hitting a couple of crafty-type places for some cool homey stuff, as well as a used bookstore where I found copies of Fool on the Hill and Usher's Passing that I've wanted to pick up for a while now. Salomé snagged a copy of Tar Baby and we got her father a bunch of Dr. Who paperbacks. Isaac got his first copy of Where the Wild Things Are. Mostly, we chilled in the cabin, hanging out and watching videos, both those we rented (Men In Black 2: light fun; Minority Report: much better than expected; and Full Frontal: annoyingly pretentious, we didn't finish watching it) and Isaac's Sesame Street, Dr. Seuss, Dora the Explorer and Blue's Clues, all of which I practically know by heart now!

I haven't been this rested in a while. Mentally, I mean. Everybody should have a weekend away at least twice a year. I'd vote for anyone for President that ran on that platform. I think it would be a government program even the Republicans could get behind!

Picked up Batman: Year One this weekend and I think I'm going with him over Moon Knight for this fanfic project. Batman's always been my favorite anyway and it's clear to me now that MK was a pale (no pun intended) imitation. Might as well go with the real thing. It'll be more of a challenge, too.

Still haven't heard back about the apartment and I'm starting to feel a little antsy about it. We haven't looked at anything else and have no other prospects pending at this point. If it doesn't come through, it'll likely be July 1 before we move, which would suck badly. Keeping my fingers crossed but they're starting to get numb. :-(

Friday, May 23, 2003

Interesting article from Mother Jones: Forgetting Private Lynch.
Ack! I was really disappointed in my reading last night. Came off really flat, zero energy. Got thrown a little by the need to pick my last piece ahead of time for the light cues. I usually like to flow with what comes before me, finalizing what I'll read based on what's already come. Between that, wanting to read something relatively new, and squeezing it all into 7 minutes, I felt like some stereotypical academic that's never read out loud before. :-(

The show itself was cool, a diverse lineup with poets, dancers, theatre excerpts and a singer. Got to chat with some people I hadn't seen in a while, like Flaco Navaja (still skinny and talented as hell), John Rodriguez (who's working on his PhD) and Steven Sapp (talking about Universes, Def Poetry and balancing children with a career) and met some new ones. The Mad Promoters, Oscar & Fish were there, flyers in hand! I missed the last two performers thanks to an E-X-T-E-N-D-E-D Dr. Seussian piece about flushing the toilet that ran longer than I expected and Salome was downstairs in the car waiting for me for 20 minutes at that point.

This living in Hartsdale is REALLY starting to wear on me, making every night out a transportation nightmare, and last night it just put me in a foul mood. Fish dropped me off one night and was like "why do you want to move from here?" Because I HATE the suburbs, for one! And our current living conditions are nothing to rave about, either. None of us are getting enough sleep and I think it's really starting to have an effect on Isaac. He's always cranky, his fits are getting worse and I can't help but think the tension of the past year or so has gotten to him. Between the moving around - he's moved four times already, with a fifth around the corner - and the stress of the past six months, I'm surprised he's not worse off. Hell, I know it's gotten to me! I'm moodier than usual and have felt close to losing my temper a number of times recently. We're supposed to hear back about the apartment today. Good news there will go a long way towards easing some of the stress for all of us.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Been busy actually working today, forgot how much time I'd been wasting on personal stuff the past few weeks!

Tonight's the Pepátian: Jump It Up reading in the Bronx and I'm really looking forward to it. There's apparently 14 different artists on the bill and I've got 7 minutes to perform! What do you read for 7 minutes, especially when you're in the midst of a bunch of poets, singers and dancers?!?! It's a showcase for Bronx Artists so it's a no-brainer that I'll read one of my Bronx poems. Which one, though? And what else with it? Can really only fit 2-3 poems into a 7-minute slot. Guess I'll figure it out on the train ride up there.

[NOTE TO SELF: Write something funny before the end of the summer. You need an ice-breaker you depressing mofo!]

Checked out the space online and it seems like a cool venue. Hope they get a good turnout for the show. Curious to see what the mix of Bronxites vs. scenesters is. Getting people out of Manhattan can be a bitch sometimes.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUBEN!!!!!!!!! America got it right! 50.24% of them anyway.
Apartment update: Talked to the super this afternoon and he says the owner was happy with our application and that they'll be meeting tomorrow to discuss it. He thinks the apartment is ours. Judging from the fact that it's been empty for five months (!) and there's not a single latino name on the doorbell list, I'm not jumping for joy just yet. Cross your fingers...
It's official. I've stepped down from the louderARTS Project and from running a little bit louder.

Writing the email was one of the toughest things I've done in a while, not for any second-guessing but for getting it right. No bitterness, no anger, no potshots. No need for any of that. I did ask that I still be able to host two of the upcoming shows - Mara's feature and Maria Mazziotti Gillan's - as I feel like I should be out front on those two. Some administrative loose ends to wrap up but, for the most part, it's a closed chapter. And a weight off my shoulders.

The trick now is to actually recapture the energy that went into all of that and redirect it into new pursuits. I'll still be on the scene, without question, but I want to get back to being a writer again, first and foremost. I remember my boss at the Academy of American Poets and his most blatant regret was choosing the administrative path over the creative one. It ate at him every day and, in drunken moments, he'd confide that he wished he'd made a different choice. I refuse to end up like that.

With regrets, I mean. No matter how messed up some of my choices have been in the past - and trust me, I've messed up bad! - I don't believe in regret. It's paralyzing and it's also a cop-out. Live by your choices and deal with their consequences.

It's a brand new day.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Last night was a lot of fun. A bit too much, maybe, as my hungover ass stayed home today! Shappy beat me 3-2 in the head-to-head. I won the Star Wars round (!) and the imitation round, he took the other three. Every round was split 3-2 except for the imitation where I won all 5 judges over! Quacky was probably the most fun I've ever had on stage. I need to write funny stuff!

The Anything Goes round went really well (despite losing to Shappy's musical lambasting of the Matrix Reloaded) as Sabrina's edits made the piece flow nicely. Keith Roach was in the house and I brought him on stage to do the Prince section in the very beginning. Talk about coming full circle! The piece follows. I'm going back to sleep now.

This is Not Goodbye
a love letter in five parts…

I drank too much last night, got bills to pay,
my head just feels in pain
I missed the bus and there'll be hell today,
I'm late for work again and even if I'm there,
they'll all imply that I might not last the day
and then you call me

dearly beloved ..
we are gathered here today
to get through this thing called LIFE.

electric word "life", it means forever
and that's a mighty long time
but I'm here to tell you
there's something else ..

and it's not so bad,
it's not so bad

This is sacred ground.

Step up humble
to make your offering
someone is always listening.

Remember when the words came
because they had to
when we believed every one
gave them the breath of life
like our lives depended on it.

And I want to thank you for giving me
the best day of my life
ohh, just to be with you is having
the best day of my life.

When we hit open mics like AA meetings
two or three a day
to get our fix.

Before the applause and the scores
and the slamming of doors.

Before poetry went Def
dumb and blind.

There is a beauty here
that shines through it all
like the glowing faces of pregnant women
nurturing the future.

and it's not so bad,
it's not so bad

And I want to thank you for giving me
the best day of my life
ohh, just to be with you is having
the best day of my life.

Eight poets stuffed into a car
high on poetry and tequila
saved my life one night
taught me the importance
of action equaling word
of word secondary to truth.

I have carried that lesson
in my left shoe ever since
each step I take reminds me
of why I’m still here.

This is not a poem.

It is a love letter.
a thank you note.
a reminder.

We are here
because of those that came before us.

We will endure
because of those that come after us.

Push the door, I'm home at last and I'm soaking
through and through then you handed me a towel
and all I see is you, and even if my house falls
down now, I wouldn't have a clue because you're
near me

This is not goodbye.
This is not the end.
It is simply the prelude
to a new beginning.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Could it be that Spring is finally here for real? It's beautiful outside.

Grabbed lunch from the little Caribbean trailer out front - jerk chicken, rice and peas and plantains with a mint iced tea - and sat over in Battery Park to eat. The tourists are out in full force and there was a loud rock band playing somewhere in the park. The breeze from the River was pleasant and my lunch was delicious. After eating, I read over my Anything Goes piece for tonight's bout with Shappy. Ended up changing my approach and went for the whisper over the shout.

I don't think a lot of people fully realize what I'm planning. Salomé was caught off-guard by the immediacy of it and took it a lot harder than I have. It's kind of bittersweet for me but, at the same time, my sense of sadness is greatly overshadowed by my sense of hope, both for myself and for Monday nights. I'm hoping the newer people assert themselves and step up and take advantage of the opportunity. Unlike last time, there's not going to be any transitional meetings attempting to smooth out differences. Quoting myself: "It takes a clean break to heal right." In regards to the slam, I've got faith in Oscar, as long as he doesn't burn himself out working on two-and-a-half series. I think there's a few others that will find their niche in my absence as well. Of course, there will be others that will probably find themselves further removed from things. That's the unfortunate side of things but the reality is, with me there or not, that's going to happen.

I'm looking forward to getting out to other places again, hearing different voices and connecting to new scenes. Definitely be able to do every Acentos now, check out some of the other reads in the Bronx and catch some of the offbeat stuff at the Bowery here and there. This will be the first time since December 1997 that "host" isn't attached to my name!

Another benefit of being freelance is that I can now offer a critical eye on the entire scene without the bias of running one of the venues. Got an offer to write an article about the three NYC slam teams, as well as a commentary on veterans on the National level in general, for a new spoken word magazine. Should be interesting.

In other news, the Moon Knight one-shot I bought on Friday absolutely sucked! It's from the early nineties so I hope it's not indicative of the series back when I used to collect it. Yeesh! The new Micronauts was pretty good, with solid artwork and writing. No way I could tackle that one, though, as I've never been good at writing ensembles. [insert ironic smirk!]

Just took a 30-minute break from this to edit the Anything Goes piece with Sabrina on the phone. She made some great edits that make it a truly collaborative piece (my first real one!) and incorporates the Dido song more fully. I'm looking forward to it even more now. The beauty of having Sabrina perform it with me is that she was at the bar with me that Monday - March, 16, 1998 - when I went to meet with Corie to talk about taking over the series. I was working on the poem I'd end up proposing to Salomé with that Friday at the Nuyorican and read it in the open mic for the first time. That's going to be my first-round piece for tonight.

Like Oscar likes to say, it's all about circles.
Missed this one on Saturday:

Your Daily Horoscope for May 17, 2003
Dear Guy,
No doubt you are a well-respected member of the community, Guy, and you must feel some responsibility for maintaining the image you project. This pride in yourself is a sign of your integrity, but it may also cause you problems. You may be dreaming of returning to the carefree existence of childhood, yet you do not allow yourself to acknowledge those yearnings. It's an excellent day for granting yourself a little more freedom. Why not play hooky this afternoon?

...and then there's today's:

Leo Horoscope
Mon May 19, 2003 by
Try not to get weighed down by your own emotions today, dear Leo, but make sure you give them the opportunity to have their time in the spotlight. You may find that there is a strong force working to cover up the truth of what you really feel. Make sure you express yourself openly and honestly. At the same time, you don't want to be so over-dramatic that you blow things out of proportion and add more melodrama to the situation.

Both the specific (Saturday) and generic (Today) 'scopes are talking right to me. Freaky!

Sunday, May 18, 2003

the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.

Omar is a bad man. Bad. Appealing to the geek in me, he dropped the idea of a fan fiction-type project in my head - writing our own versions of comic books online - and it's like the time I was introduced to Pokemon! We hit St. Mark's Comics Friday night to refresh my memory as I haven't actively bought comics since the late 80's and I realized my taste in comics was pretty similar to my taste in other things: the underdogs, the unrespected, the b-listers. I knew Moon Knight was never on Batman's level but I didn't realize people laughed at you for naming him as a favorite! Others that I remember collecting were the Micronauts, Power Pack and (it took a while to remember this one) Arion, none of which appear on too many Top 10 lists. Anyway, the idea is - for me, at least - to approach it as a regular writing exercise to recharge the fiction side of my brain that's been dormant during the poetry years. We'll each (there's at least 5 of us, I think) pick a character or two and post a new chapter to our stories every month. I have to do some research on both fan fiction and on some characters I might want to use. Only fan fiction I've seen is some pretty bad Pokemon stuff a few years back. Picked up copies of a new (to me) Micronauts series, an old Moon Knight one-shot and an issue of Wizard. I'm leaning towards a reimagining of Moon Knight.

Caught an early show of the Matrix Reloaded yesterday. Woah! Great job balancing the exposition and the action without falling into the Phantom Menace trap of being pure setup with not much payoff. The first fight scene with the multiple Smith's and the highway sequence were mind-blowing. I was out of breath at several points in the movie. Visually, it is probably the most stunning movie I've ever seen. The whole mythology is fleshed out a bit more and they did a good job of explaining things without ruining the necessary suspension of disbelief. The love saves all thread continues here and walks a real thin line of hokiness. It's one of those things you accept if you're into the movie and you don't if you're not. The play on destiny and choice and beginnings and endings was extremely appealing. The best movies tell their stories while keeping some aspects open to interpretation and this is one of them. It also gave me some ideas about my anything goes piece tomorrow night.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Here we go again...

Leo Horoscope
Fri May 16, 2003 by
You have acquired some sound confidence in yourself, dear Leo. Now it is time for you to display it by actually performing in life. It's as though, symbolically, you have just completed an in-depth acting class. Well, now is the time to go on stage. Smile, and don't forget to bow when everyone applauds!
Sleep does a body good. And the mind, too.

India's been more or less sleeping through the night the past week or so, at worst waking up only once. It's made quite a difference in our getting some half-decent sleep which is a good thing considering I got the "9am" talk yesterday. That corporate thing that says no matter how late you stay, how often you don't take lunch, you MUST be at your desk by 9am. I reminded my boss about our morning travel routine and assured her that once we moved, it would be different, and she seemed to understand. She's cool people and, as it was, she presented the whole thing as coming from on high.

In the hubbub of Finals and its aftermath, I'd completely blanked on my head-to-head with Shappy next Monday. We've agreed on a Star Wars round to go along with the mainstay signature, improv and anything goes rounds. The other round is still TBD, maybe the imitation thing again? I'd love to do Butterfly or Quacky!. I'm looking forward to it as an opportunity to stretch myself a bit, especially with the anything goes round. Trying to work out a collaborative thing but I don't know if I'll be able to pull it off in time. Been working on something that I haven't made much progress on since last week.

This is not the end
simply a prelude
to a new beginning.

Ironic considering the recent turn of events in louder-land. For some reason, it reminds me of the last lines from the first Matrix. The whole idea of endings and beginnings has been running through my head all week as I debate my next move. Had an interesting talk with Diane last night about the need for something new and the fear of being the one to do it. I've had an idea for a show for a couple of months now and am almost ready to propose it to Bob Holman for the BPC. A sort of Politically Incorrect / American Idol / Daily Show concept, twice a month, with poets & musicians. Still thinking it through but the main idea would be to have fun again.

More like that
sing because you love it
because you have no choice
because you can
because you make people cry
make people come
make people stop and listen
make them feel alive

That's from something I wrote after Maya Azucena's semi-final feature last month. That inspired high seems so long ago...

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Last night, I caught myself thinking about my kids when they grow up. About the possibility that they'll end up completely different from what I'd hope and how I might feel about that and what I might do, if there was anything to be done. I realized the best I can hope for is that they're able to look at me as someone who raised them to view everything as an opportunity; every success, every failure, every celebration, every heartbreak. Everything is something to learn from, something to build on.

I was also thinking about something called Founder's Syndrome and how I might be going through that right now. How reluctant I am about this whole non-profit thing, how disappointed I am over the whole slam thing, how Monday nights suddenly feel like a burden, how close I am to saying "fuck it" and how not particularly bothered by it I am.

I was reading an interesting article on FS and some things really jumped out at me.

Some Troublesome Traits Among Founders
Founders are dynamic, driven, and decisive. They carry clear vision of what their organization can be. They know their customer's needs and are passionate about meeting those needs. Often these traits are strong assets for getting the new organization off the ground. However, other traits of founders too often become major liabilities.


It may be that the founder's greatest gift is converting a dream to reality by inspiring others with the ability to keep the dream real (and they will have their dreams, too!).
· In that case, the best thing for him or her may be to leave the organization once that dream is real, when the dream evolves an organization that others should take forward.

Maybe it IS me? Maybe it's gotten to the point that I'm holding things back? Or maybe my next step is to lead by example, making room for others by stepping aside myself?

There's an intense debate going on right now about my comments here yesterday, about the slam and the team, and at one point, in a rather left-field comment, it was suggested that my desire to create spaces for new voices was more a result of not being comfortable in the slam anymore, or from not having really written much in the past couple of years. In other words: those who can do; those who can't, host. It would've been an insult had I not always been very clear with myself about Monday's being my first priority, coming before my own individual efforts, sometimes even before my own family.

But I'm thinking that maybe I've given enough and it's time to start focusing on myself again. Start paying attention to nurturing my own talents and exploring my own opportunities instead of putting everyone else's first. Recapturing the time I spend on making sure Monday's happen every week would certainly open up some interesting opportunities for myself, both as a writer, and as a person.

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from ...
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

-- T. S. Eliot

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

A friend just passed this one on to me:

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Just in time for zero hour, I'm happy to add a new term to your vocabulary: kairos. It's Greek for "time of destiny, critical turning point, propitious moment for decision or action." Kairos refers to a special season charged with significance and in a sense outside of normal time; its opposite is chronos, which refers to the drone of the daily rhythm. When you're in kairos, you have the power and duty to act like the sovereign of a sacred land.

Last time my horoscope started speaking to me so directly was late last year when it was telling me to get the hell out of Virginia! Creepy.
Ditched the morning sessions of the conference yesterday and wandered the streets for a couple of hours, getting some air and clearing my head. Finally checked out the Pokemon Store in Rockefeller Center. Good thing I never went in there when I was actively collecting the cards! Had lunch with Salomé at Bread from Beirut and then struggled to stay awake through the afternoon sessions.

The slam ended just before midnight on Monday and I didn't get home til nearly 3am. I'm still feeling it today, both the exhaustion and the mixed emotions from how things turned out. It was an interesting night to say the least. Shappy got eliminated in the first round on a time penalty despite having the advantage of going last in the first round. My prediction for the second round was on point as Claudia fell victim to score depression midway through, delivering yet another awful variation on "the slam is bad" poem. Third round saw Shawn take a dive, dedicating yet another lame anti-slam poem "to the person who said in their online journal that I'd come up short this round" (that'd be me!) and going way overtime with it. Remaining six were, in order from low-to-high, Dawn, Omar, Lynne, Marty, T'ai, Roger and that's how things stayed at the end with Roger, T'ai, Marty & Lynne making the team.

And that's where the mixed emotions come in. They all performed wonderfully, as you'd expect from a bunch of seasoned veterans, but I'm not the least bit excited about them being on the team. Excluding T'ai, who I AM excited about and feel a little sorry for, I've got no interest in seeing Roger, Marty and Lynne at Nationals yet again. This is Roger's fifth year competing, Marty's fourth and Lynne's third. Roger's won the Individual Championship and coached a team to the Championship. Lynne won a team championship. Marty's toured the country three times over. I fail to understand their need to continue competing in the slam especially in light of my very public stance that the slam should be about encouraging and developing NEW voices. Honestly, it's just selfish.

When I came back from Nationals in '98 jazzed up over our victory and the overall experience, my motivation behind adding a slam to the format at 13 was to expand the opportunities for other people to share that experience. Back then, NYC had two teams, the Nuyorican and the fledgling Urbana, and an overflow of talented poets. With our fifth team just formed, we've now sent 11 different poets out of a possible 20. That's lame and, quite frankly, embarassing, and really pisses me off in light of the shit I went through in the beginning to get us established - the banning, the personal attacks, etc.

What pisses me off the most are people who flip on a dime from that whole mission of encouragement and developing new voices to that "they should be able to beat me" bullshit. So it IS about the points? Only until someone DOES beat them, of course, and then it's about the stupid judges and their inability to grasp the subtleties of the craft!

Right now, I've lost all interest in going to Chicago for Nationals. Why bother? I'd rather Oscar get the benefit of the full experience and I take the week of vacation to spend with my family.

People want to pin all of the negativity on the slam itself, blame the format of random judges when they don't win and never look in the mirror to ask themselves what their real motivations are. Every year I've suggested that veterans consider stepping down from the competition and every year I'm presented with a bunch of lame arguments about why they shouldn't. My favorite is the one that says THEY are the people our audience come to see and without them, the slam would fall apart. Whatever! If that IS the case, then the slam isn't doing it's job and we need to revise our format to resemble Def Poetry. Personally, I don't believe it is and I am ready to officially adopt the Nuyorican's rule of no-repeats. One year on the team and you're out. If that means they no longer support the show with their presence, either on the open mic (remember when just having an opportunity to be heard was enough?) or in the audience, so be it. I've always said what we do is bigger than any one person, more important than any individual agenda.

Yeah, the collective meeting is going to be interesting indeed...

This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as I live it is my privilege - my *privilege* to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I love. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me; it is a sort of splendid torch which I've got a hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.
--George Bernard Shaw

Monday, May 12, 2003

Last week we went to check out an apartment in a friend's building but there were only studios available, or at least so they said. Disappointed, we headed over to pick up the kids and on the way, saw a for rent sign in the window of a building on the Grand Councourse, half a block from the train station. Barely in the mood, we called for the hell of it and somebody answered. Five minutes later, we were on the fourth floor, checking out a corner 2BR with lots of closets, hardwood floors and a kitchen straight out of the '50s. The entrance was via a long hallway with two big closets. The living room/dining room was a nice open space with the small 2nd BR right off of it. The kitchen was next to it, suggesting it was originally a small dining rooom or maid's quarters, and the main bedroom at the other end was a nice size. The bathroom was unremarkable but for the fact that two people could stand in it at once. All in all, a really nice place. Surprisingly, the rent was right in our range and there was even a parking spot available. Too good to be true? We'll see. Salomé is dropping off the paperwork tonight and hopefully we'll get an answer within a couple of days. We had to stop ourselves from mentally decorating the place several times over the weekend! Please let it be this easy this time! Please!

Speaking of redecorating, I love those TLC shows, Trading Spaces and While You Were Out. I've gotten so many cool ideas since Salomé got me hooked on them. I actually watch them without her sometimes!

And speaking of reality shows, last night's Survivor finalé was a lot of fun and reignited my interest in it. I've downloaded the application for the next one and am seriously considering sending in a tape. Salomé (along with many others, I'd suspect) thinks I'm too bossy (I'm not, I just have better ideas!) and would get voted off right away. That's not my MO, though. I get bossy AFTER I've taken the lay of the land. Figure out who I can trust, who I can use, who's trying to use me. It's like the poetry scene! I think I'd be great on Survivor. Biggest thing would be getting in shape again, which I need to do regardless. I look like the one that had two kids in three years! Why is it so easy to pick up the bad things after a while away from it (like smoking!) but the good stuff takes a dramatic effort to get back on track? Part of the problem is there's just not enough time in the week to do all the things I want to do and exercise is the easiest thing to skip. Maybe time to reassess and cut some things loose?

Today's web site: Told you I was being watched! ;-)
Monday, Monday...

Have some stuff from the weekend to write about but I'll hold off as whoever's reading this today is likely only here for one thing: my take on tonight's Finals.

First, how's it going to work? It's a tricky balance of testing the poets' stamina while ensuring an entertaining show for the audience. Five rounds of poetry for a total of 36 poems! That's rough! To make the team, you need a total of six strong poems, five for tonight plus the one from semi-finals that cannot be repeated. This is mainly to avoid the one-to-three-poem wonders that populate the slam scene, reading the same shit year after year and never moving forward.

Each of the first three rounds is clean slate elimination, simulating the Nationals experience of everything riding on one poem. The idea here is to weaken the strategy of opening big and coasting on that one score. This mainly affects the one-trick ponys.

The order in the first round is drawn at random, based on placement in the semi-finals. ie: Dawn, Lynne and Marty draw from the 1-3 slots in the first round as a result of coming in third in their respective semi-finals. In a nine poet first round, it's quite likely one of them will be eliminated, simply on the basis of score creep. Unless Dawn goes first, my guess is Lynne doesn't get out of the first round. She blew her best jumpstarter poem, Elemental Woman in the fourth round of her semi to get past Mara and this is where it will come back to bite her.

The next three rounds are clean slate, with previous scores determining the order of the following round, from low-to-high. In the second round, Dawn will likely be near the top of the order, along with Shawn and Marty, the three of them fighting off elimination. Shawn, with the least to lose (he's already on Urbana) but the most to prove will probably go freestyle in this round to keep himself in the running. Claudia and Omar become the wild cards in this round as I expect the scores will still be fluctuating greatly midway through and Claudia ends up on the short end of a score dip.

Third round, things get interesting as everyone's still fighting for their lives. This is the round Roger dips into the middle of the pack, Dawn and Marty pour it on and Shawn comes up short.

Fourth round is clean slate, low-to-high again, but now it's not elimination. Both scores count here and there's six poets competing for four spots. Figure Dawn, Omar, Marty, Roger, Shappy, T'ai with T'ai and Roger on top and leading off the final round, Marty, Shappy, Dawn, Omar closing it out. Top four ends up being T'ai, Roger, Omar, Dawn, Shappy, Marty.

Whew. That all just played out in my head as I wrote it [with one revision after re-reading it]. Not sure what I think. My honest preference from this mix of nine would look more like Shappy, Omar, T'ai and Dawn, with Roger as alternate. My ideal team, going back to the semi-finalists, would have been Omar, Mara, Sabrina and Ed with T'ai as alternate.

So there you have it. I'm sure I'm off on the round-by-round but I think the final four will be pretty close. Of course, I was WAAAAAAY off in my semi-finals predictions so we'll see.

Friday, May 9, 2003

Ok, I lied. Quick fix!

Ed Garcia is THE man! The CD (5 PAST 13) is going to be ready for Monday night's show and it's purely because he busted his ass to get it done. The mastering, the design, the production...hell, he even ordered the track list! (I'm #13.) Fuck collectivism, it takes individuals with the drive and determination to get things done. All committees do is talk and obstruct progress.

Is it obvious that I'm not looking foward to the collective meeting at the end of the month? Going to take a lot of convincing to get me back on the non-profit bandwagon. All the things that convinced me we might be ready for it when I first came back have faded away and we're basically back to what I've always thought we were: a great reading series. With synonymUS on life support we've got Mondays, Acentos and the workshops (thanks more to UrbanWord than us), leaving no compelling reason to go through the hassle of non-profit creation. People have these fantasies of grant money waiting to be handed over, ignoring things like the Academy of American Poets laying off a bunch of people last year. If they're struggling, what the hell are we bringing to the table? Not a single one of us has any fundraising or grantwriting experience and of the entire group, I've probably got the most non-profit experience in general. Which probably explains my more cynical outlook on the whole thing!

Anyway, this is going to be an interesting summer on a lot of fronts. Could be some big changes in store.

See you Monday!
Your Daily Horoscope for May 09, 2003

Dear Guy,
Although you are usually an outgoing person, you could feel a little shy right now. It might be more comfortable for you to sit back and to be an observer, Guy. You could find it interesting to watch and to listen. Sometimes you are so busy expressing yourself that you miss out on little events that are happening around you. Be a silent witness today. You could learn something fascinating about the people and situations that surround you. Hold your tongue and open your ears.

Considering I've got a ton of work to do today, this sounds like good advice! Be back on Monday, and I'll give the inside scoop on the Finals and my picks.

Thursday, May 8, 2003

from Astronet:
Leo is Fire to the core! Fire brings a desire to create, innovate, and lead. The sign radiates mega-confidence. Of course, the Lion must have an audience. Without applause, what else is there? The fixed motivation adds self-reliance, a characteristic that works well in leadership positions. Leo is a formative energy, with the ability to consolidate and stabilize. Fire can rage out of control, so it helps to balance self-confidence with humility! Leo needs to become a humble but lovable lion. The playfulness associated with Leo can regress to childish demands for attention, as opposed to healthy recognition and encouragement. Leo benefits by allowing peaceful receptivity to surface. The mature Leo exudes big, beautiful heart and sheds sunshine on all who care to enjoy this bold spirit.

Hmmm... I'm a Leo! That explains it. ;-)
(Who's watching)

(Tell me who's watching)
(Who's watching me)

I'm just an average man with an average life
I work from nine to five, hey hell, I pay the price
All I want is to be left alone in my average home
But why do I always feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone, and

I always feel like somebody's watching me
And I have no privacy (oh oh oh)
I always feel like somebody's watching me
Tell me, is it just a dream...

Somebody's Watching Me, Rockwell, 1984

So I installed this Site Meter thing a couple of days ago (it's down there on the right, at the bottom of the links), curious about how many people are checking this blog out. As I write this, the meter stands at 53.

I am Jack's arm hair standing on end.

Wednesday, May 7, 2003

Smallville is the best dramatic adaptation of a comic book to ever appear on TV. Don't hate, appreciate.

Just started watching it again a few weeks ago after missing the latter half of the first season and the first half of this season and what they've managed to develop over that time makes for one of the most engaging shows out there. The overlay of teen angst and trials of adolescence breathes a life into the Superman mythos that has never been present in its other incarnations. I'd always found him one of the most boring comic book characters out there but, for once, Clark Kent's humanity outshines his indestructibility and actually makes him interesting. Knowing the ultimate fate of the major characters makes some of the smallest moments absolutely heartbreaking. Last night, Clark and Lana almost kissed and the intensity of the moment, knowing they'll never actually get there, nearly killed me. I love this show.

I remember when USA Today first started publishing. McNews they called it, with its color pictures and sound bite news coverage. We used to take whole stacks out of the machines, sell them and use the money to play video games til our thumbs cramped up. My favorite day was Wednesday when they'd publish the Nielsen ratings. I was a total geek for that stuff, tracking the performance of my favorite shows like it was baseball. Smallville is the WB's best rated show.

I've decided I want Ruben to get voted off American Idol tonight. America deserves a Clay/Josh finale and I'd hate to see Ruben tainted by facing either of them at the end and losing. Bad enough Kelly Clarkson is tied to the hip with that Justin idiot. Ruben deserves better and I want my Wednesday nights back! And I want to smack the shit out of Randy and Paula when they give their shocked little looks when it happens, reminding them it's their fault for encouraging Josh this long when they know damn well he should have been gone weeks ago. Jive Talkin' indeed! As for Clay and the hip shaking? Yuck! That's all I have to say.

Hater alert: I don't give a damn where Michael Jordan goes from here. He failed miserably in management, proved himself a mere mortal with his unsuccessful comeback attempt and still stands for nothing other than himself. For all the people that give Tiger Woods flack, why has Jordan always been given a free pass? Fuck him and his overpriced, sweatshop-made sneakers! UPDATE: Did some more work on the site this weekend, including a new black & white photo gallery, courtesy of Angel Thomas. Check it out.

Tuesday, May 6, 2003

What Famous literary Work Are You?
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The Sound and The Fury
You are The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner.

Confusing, complicated, but interesting after you've been deciphered.
So last night was the rather inauspicious relaunch of louderJAM. Light turnout, low energy and some of the most random MFs on the open mic. WTF?!?! The Impossible Home excerpt was interesting if a little sloppy in its adaptation to a different space. Reminded me somewhat of the erotica reading a few years back at Spy, though not as polished. Curious what the whole production looked like. All in all, it bodes well for future collaborative projects. (Side note: Why is Sabrina so ridiculously talented? Beyond the poetry, she sings, dances and speaks Spanish like it was her native tongue! Is that fair?) Our features were a lot of fun but the audience was too thin to really keep the energy amped. Tough night but they all put on a good show. It'll take some time to make the format work but I'm more commited to it this time around.

This journal thing is starting to get weird as more and more people are letting me know they read it. Couple of people have even referenced stuff from here in their own journals! Trying to blank that out while remaining honest is tough. I approach this thing more for myself and try to ignore the fact that I know certain people read it. It's almost like a diary that you know someone's sneaking a peek into but you keep writing in it anyway. So exhibitionistic!

On that note, allow me to address the rumor of the existence of a "banned list" at 13. The only person actually banned from 13 (on Mondays, at least) is Orion for some...ah...inappropriate activity in the stairwell back in 1998. And he was banned by the owner, not me, though he was on thin ice at that point anyway. Other than that, there ARE people that aren't particularly welcome based on things they may have said or done in the past, to me or those I care about. I'm very much a fuck with my friends, fuck with me kind of person so I imagine some of these people would be surprised to know they fall in the persona non grata category. At the least, they'll never have the opportunity of featuring at 13 while I'm still running things. Much as I'd like to name some names (and you know you wanna hear some) I'm not quite THAT petty.

I am extremely tired, though, and ready to go home.

Today's web site:, because the little things add up.
There are days you just want to walk away from it all. Not in a suicidal sense. More like Bill Bixby hitting the road at the end of an episode of the Incredible Hulk. Do-doo-doo-do. Do-doo-doo-do-do. Just drop everything, step out of the picture and start from scratch. I get that feeling every now and then, generally in times of stress. It's that fight or flight thing.

Some days, you just don't feel like fighting.

Monday, May 5, 2003

The Great Debate, #632: Is Freestyle Poetry?

Many say it isn't. I say, it depends.

One of the arguments against it that I hear the most is that it's unfair to pit a freestyle against a poem that's been crafted over time, edited and revised, etc. If you picked up some slam bias from the "unfair," you nailed the issue. Freestyle is impressive to an audience, generally scores high and, therefore, e=mc2 and freestyle is not poetry! There's also the question of how much of the freestyle is actually improvised, with the inference that the prefacing of a piece that may incorporate pre-existing work as a freestyle is gimmicky, not befitting the honorific of poetry.

In the slam, it's all about connecting with the audience and, more specifically, with the five random judges picked from that audience. There's a number of ways to do this: humor, politics, personal narrative, rant, memorized or on page, brand new or moldy oldie. Whatever angle a poet chooses to come from is legitimate and the poetic value of their work is not based on which categories it falls into but on the substance of the work itself. We've all heard some unpoetic stuff in slams before, probably more often than not. But, introduce the element of spontaneity and suddenly, the poetic value is no longer based on substance, rather on the form chosen to express it.

IMO, freestyle is as valid as reading that new piece straight out of your notebook. Sometimes it's raw, sometimes it comes out perfect. The fact of the matter is that freestyle takes practice, a continual honing of one's craft, not unlike the process a poet who writes everything down goes through. Does the freestyler hit a false note here and there? Surely. But probably no more than the poet who spends hours revising, looking for the perfect word or turn of phrase.

I used to hate funny poetry. Still have a bias against it but I've come to appreciate the fact that poetry can be funny and part of my early dislike of it stemmed from my inability to incorporate humor into my own work. I've lost slams to funny poems. Heard poems I loved get beat by funny poems. Just like I've been beaten by hyper-political poems and identity poems at times.

Shit is random in the slam. That is a fact. A 10 doesn't ultimately mean a thing, and neither does 0. That's another fact. Complaining about freestyle is like complaining about comedy, dumb judges and old poems. It is ultimately - no pun intended - pointless. ;-)
X2: X-Men United, lots of fun. What you want from a summer blockbuster and, as an old comic book fan, I think they did a nice job with the characters, particularly laying the groundwork for the Phoenix storyline.

Identity was creepy fun with a "twist" ending. I love psychological thrillers and it's got a great cast.

Salomé and the kids are sick again! Feels like we haven't gone more than a week without at least one of us being sick the last few months. She stayed home so I had to get the kids ready and to the babysitter myself this morning. I don't know how single parents do it! Can you say late for work again? 10:08am. 25-minute delay for a sick passenger at 59th Street clinched it.

Caught some of Westside Rhyme's 2nd Anniversary show last night. Kind of weird vibe in the air, couldn't really put my finger on it. Stayed for about an hour and a half before we broke out to Maya Azucena's birthday party at Nublu, a cool little out-of-the-way spot on Avenue C that looks like it's closed from the outside and has only a single blue light hanging by the door to identify it. Inside, it's like someone's living room with a bar and enclosed patio in back where a little rat-dog was running around and shitting all over the place! Finally heard Maya with [most of] her band and they were really impressive. On the way there, Sabrina, Oscar, Jayme and Youlanda squeezed into my car with Jayme and Youlanda actually sitting IN the kids' car seats. Funny as hell!

Earlier, I talked with my ex-girlfriend, CB, from my Army days who recently relocated to Houston from Nashville, in the early stages of divorce. We've stayed in touch since I got out of the Army - making her the friend I've known the longest at 11 years! - even met each other's spouses when they came to Virginia last year to check out the area. The marriage was doomed from the start but they kept trying and eventually had a kid and kept trying but, in the end, it just wasn't going to work. Basically, she's fiercely independent and he's not. At all. He's also a little younger than her, and shorter. Seems he's now moving to Houston, too! Good thing for their son but awkward overall I'd have to think. Anyway, not to put her business out there, it just struck me as crazy that the vast majority of my current friends are from the poetry scene and that I've only known them since 1997 at the earliest. Have some occasional email contact with a couple of old high school friends, no one from Miami or the Army (except CB) and that's as far back as things go. I've never been good at maintaining friendships after the primary connection is lost. The bad thing about that is you lose sight sometimes of where you've been and how you were. As a writer, it makes it harder to mine those experiences.

Thought for the day: 2am White Castle isn't so cool the older you get. :-(

Today's web site: or, because we need a break badly!

Friday, May 2, 2003

I think I have officially crossed the line and become completely jaded about poetry slam. I've never been so bored at an event as I was at last night's Urbana Finals. Not that it was a terrible show, mind you. It just didn't have the energy of a FINALS! The host, John S. Hall, sucked the life from the room every time he took the stage and the long setup of the club itself means what ever energy is there dies halfway up the bar. (They had the same problem when they were at CB's Gallery across the street.) The most fun was four of us in the back predicting the scores for each poet and just generally hating on everything. Fish won the pool, getting three out of four team members and the alternate correct. Best line of the night, not in a poem but from someone IN the slam: "I'd rather be watching a pay-per-view abortion."

Overall, I was surprisingly disinterested in the proceedings. So much so, I couldn't even drink! Two beers and it was on to Ginger Ale. No one blew me away either. It was a bunch of the same ole, same ole, even from the people I like. The lack of time limits didn't help either with two of the ironically named PostMidnight's poems approaching 7 minutes and several of the others testing the audience's patience as well! RAC did her thing but her lack of range and odd choice of third round piece made it easy to categorize her as the angry woman poet. Cristin was Cristin and I was disappointed she didn't drop her Mother piece in the midst of all the angst the others were bringing, choosing to stick with more full-steam ahead humor. Celena was in the zone, making it look effortless, something she'll even admit to at times. Giving less effort, I mean. Julian Curry actually surprised me. I didn't love his work but there's more to it than first glance would suggest. Dawn and George were probably my favorites of the night, which of course means they both got bumped after the second round! Shawn Randall narrowly beat them out and did his freestyle thing in the third round to nail his spot on the team.

And there lies the problem. I had assumed he would drop out of our Finals if he made Urbana's team, letting Ishle or Mara step up in his place but he seems to be on the fence about it. I told him to sleep on it and we'd talk later so everything's on hold at this moment for finalizing our lineup for the 12th. As it stands right now, though, Urbana has not just its first ever black male on the team, it's got three of them, plus Celena! No all black team has ever won Nationals and if Taylor Mali pulls THAT off, Marc Smith will permanently retire from slam!

I think I'm just getting too old for this shit.

Thursday, May 1, 2003

My goodness, these things are addictive!

What movie quote are YOU?


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America is stupid. At least the ones that watch American Idol and take the time to vote. I mean, really, what the fuck was THAT last night?!?! Ruben in the bottom two? Trenyce booted while Camouflage Doughboy lives on? That fake jarhead couldn't even hold his head up while Ruben stood out there waiting for the results, knowing it should have been him instead. Bad enough he didn't get a chance to step on a landmine somewhere in the middle of the deserts of Iraq, doing the job he volunteered for, but to sit up there watching two people with actual talent wait for the boot was too much even for him. To Ruben's credit, he's never seemed to take any of this for granted and represented himself well, especially after Trenyce was announced as this week's victim. No jumping for joy at her expense, he took a moment to give her a hug and stepped back, giving her the spotlight.

Tonight's the Finals at Urbana with one of the most random lineups I'd have ever guessed. Without much logic or explanation, my prediction is Celena Glenn, George McKibbens, PostMidnight and either Shawn Randall or Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz.

What's happening to the Mets? For this they fired Bobby Valentine? Somebody needs to issue an apology. No offense to Art Howe but Bobby got scapegoated for a bunch of overpaid slackers. Fire Steve Phillips now, sit the big paychecks on the bench and start from scratch.

Pokemon update: 21 hours, 10 minutes into the game and I have 5 badges. My Pokemon are LeCharles (Grovyle), Sparky (Minun), Haley (Solrock), Slick (Tentacool), Salome (Torkoal) and Gully (Wingull) and they'll kick your Pokemon's asses! If only running a slam were like Pokemon...

Got a random gift certificate from (I know, boo-hiss, but I'm switching over to very soon) and ordered a new copy of Fool on the Hill and Prince's Batman CD. Matt Ruff (Fool's author) has a new book out, Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls, but it's only in hardcover. I can't do hardcovers. Too bulky, too expensive. I want to reread Fool again - for the sixth time! - because it's always had a rejuvenating effect on my writing. My literary security blanket. :-)

Today's web site: