Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Chicago I love

Another reason to go to resale shops, besides the great price on lousy books and interesting odors, is the people. Mostly they keep to themselves, busy with their wayward children and balancing an armful of questionable clothing. But last night I met a good old-fashioned nutjob.

He starts talking behind me, and though I am well aware that he is talking to himself, or to anyone willing to listen, I ignore him. Then he calls me a shoplifter.

“These people have nothing and you’re taking their stuff for nothing. They’re giving it away.”

He was referring to the shop owners. Perhaps he assumed I had more money in the bank than I do because I was the only person in the store not dressed like the step-above homeless. Perhaps my youthful good looks have weathered time’s cruelties a touch better than the average patron. Whatever the reason, he decided to make an assumption about me, that I had money, which happens often. Countless street beggars have asked for money and not believed me when I told them I had none. We all make assumptions about each other, alas.

After he had my attention, he started quoting form Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, neither of which I care about these days. He also claimed to have stormed the beaches of Normandy, though he was clearly in his twenties, and said that the man behind the counter saved my life. “I wouldn’t have,” he said with his best steely gaze.

I mouthed off some smart-ass comments that I could tell made my companions a bit uneasy. Leave the lunatic alone, they might say. You just never know about these people, what they’re hiding under their coats… a salient point, but I can’t help it. I hardly egged the guy on, but I couldn’t help say a few things that I suspect went over his head. I censored the worst of my potential responses. I’m not a completely rude person these days.

As I left with my friends, I did hear him ask one last question: “Do you think the demons in Hell pray to Jesus?”

I told him I did not.

“They do! They do!”

I left, happy that I had riled him.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

State of the Union

Listening to Bach played on Harpsicord by the expert fingers of Maggie Cole. It is meant to soothe, at least that is why I put it on. You see, tensions rise and tempers flare when you step into gigtown. Apparently someone once started the precedent of elevating the voice level in an effort towards effective office communication. I do not concur with such a practice. Sadly, it is all too easy to get mine to rise as well, especially in combat of a screaming loon clutching title of paralegal.

Anyway, the nerves are frayed but are slowly being repaired thanks to green tea, deep breathing and J. S. Bach.

Other news:

School continues to baffle, not due to strenuous tasks and challenges but a lingering sense of not doing what’s expected. In short: thus far it has not required the long hours of outside study I expected. This is not to say that hard work is not coming, but really my first grad school class consists of reading poems for their mechanics and writing less than I expected. By the time the class is over I will have to come up with four short works of my own and no more than 20 pages of academic writing. In other words, this is a light load in comparison to the undergrad hell I am used to.

That being the case, I am able to sneak in some reading for pleasure. I finished Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry, which is a wonderful read if you like staggering sentences, drunken recollections, tragedy, insult and pain. Yeah, my kind of book. Once that was done I read the title story in Ana Castillo’s Loverboys collection, which was good but confirmed my feelings that Castillo is a wonderful poet and a brilliant essayist but I am still waiting for a piece of her fiction to blow me away. I think some of them could, the early works people seem to enjoy, but Peel My Love Like an Onion (maybe the greatest book title I can think of) and this short story, while both very good, seemed to fall short of the experiences I have had reading her poetry and her incredibly powerful nonfiction work, Massacre of the Dreamers.

After I read the Castillo and my homework (Frost, not my favorite, and Plath, good when she’s good, Thomas McGrath, wonderful, and Wordsworth, meh) I reviewed Paul Muldoon’s complex yet alluring long poem, “The More a Man Has the More a Man Wants” scanning it for nice sounding puns. I’ll be reviewing lots of poetry in the coming days, some I’ve had lying around for a while and not gotten to, like Marina Tsvetaeva and Yevgeny Yevtushenko and more of the Russians.

In that vein, I began reading Bulgakov’s A Country Doctor’s Notebook last night. As you may or may not know, Bulgakov wrote my favorite book and I consider him a hero. This book, found in Taipei, a nice British edition that I have never seen ‘round these parts, is wonderful. Somewhere, back in 1916-17 in a remote part of the Soviet Union, a young doctor gets a crash course in the absurdity of the human condition.

That’s all to report. I am hungry and I have nothing else to say.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I Love Chicago, Part ?

I give a homeless man a quarter and he asks, “You know a man named Satan?”

After some thought I tell him I don’t.

“What about a man called Snake?”

I again tell him no.

Alright,” he says, apparently quite happy.

Friday, January 12, 2007


I found Ciaran Carson’s hard to find book The Irish for No on going for between $10-$100 plus. Some of these expensive editions are signed by the man himself, which is cool but I could always just get a cheap copy and fly to Belfast to met the great poet.

Sadly, I have to watch this sort of splashing out for the rest of the month, school tuition and rent and all the little things that have added up. Still, I browsed and also found some McGuckian books that don’t seem to pop up much in the used (or new) stores of Chi. Ah, I’ll have to content myself with the backlog of Northern Irish poetry I have in stock.

In other (non) news, anyone who comes here (hola, niña) might notice that I changed the profile somewhat, most notably the “Interests” section. Coffee has been replaced by tea, which is true inside and out. No longer will I do the java jive. It is all on me and not the fault of the coffee. I know what coffee will do if I drink tons of it, but I can’t seem to keep it at two cups a day. Not to mention I tend to load up on cream and sugar when the black blood brew does not meet my standards (rarely) and so I add a shit load of dairy (disgusting) and white crack into my system. My belly will be thankful. Besides, tea is so much better. Calming when one needs calm, stimulating in the morning when one craves a fog lift. Warm and healing physically and spiritually—tea is simple and perfect. The other interests, of course, remain.

That’s all the reporting for now. No other news to relate, and even those items above are probably not going to shake any foundations. Again I call into question the purpose of the blog. Such an ugly little word, blog. I don’t care for the word or that which it represents. Nevertheless, I sally forth with my own piece of cyberego because it serves not only as an outlet but it allows you, mi vida, mi corazón, to have a place to go each day that is not blocked by the lawyer-cops who cruelly prevent you from loading up on a daily dose of Craigslist smut. Besos, amor. Ciao.

Trouble in Gigtown

I have entered a world of closed-door meetings and rumors— speculation and conjecture, suggestions and subversions. In short, I hear time’s winged chariot outside my desk and I am not afraid, only annoyed.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bad Joke Corner

A guy walks into a bar with his dog. The bartender says, "Sorry buddy, no dogs allowed." The guy says, "No, this is a special dog. He can talk." The bartender asks him to prove it.

"Hey, Fido. What's that thing above us keeping the rain from our heads."

The dogs says, "Roof!"

"And who's the greatest baseball player of all time?"

The dog says, "Roof!"

The bartender kicks them out.

Outside the bar, the dog turns to his owner and says, "You think I should have said DiMaggio?"

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Taming the Savage Beast

As if the gods conspired to make my March better, Trey Spruance’s Secret Chiefs 3 roll into town on the 10th, along with oddball outfit Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. This is a show not to be missed, not like all the others I skipped (Melvins with Trevor Dunn, Melvins with Big Business, Tom Waits around the corner from where I went to school). And as if that wasn’t enough, OOIOO, Yoshimi’s all girl prog-rock ensemble, hits the Empty Bottle on the 21st. The 22nd will see Isis come to town, and while I’m not a big fan of them I do like Jesu, the opening act, mostly because it is the extension of the now defunct Godflesh. Got all that, kids? You’ll be quizzed on your way out the door.

All this happens, more or less, after my quarter is complete and so school will not be an issue, as it so often was in the past. Once upon a time I went to DePaul and I hated the quarter system. Now I love it. My classes began earlier than everyone else’s and I got a slim break between being an undergrad and a grad student, (so slim that I barely feel the difference. Of course the truth must be that there really is none, or that I am so goddamn brilliant that I have always thought on a level above the average student. Well, at 35, I ought to have figured out what career academics want to hear, goddamnit). This is true, but I’ll be free from academic concerns for a few weeks just as three of my favorite musicians come to the ol’ chicken-in-the-car-and-the-car-won’t-go. 2007 is looking to be a better year than any I have had lately.

Damn, I just cursed it…

Friday, January 05, 2007

Yet he looks ashamed

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Day One

I recently saw Art School Confidential, and the movie, while not perfect, amused and (get ready to laugh) moved me. More than that, it depressed me—not a difficult task these days. I was depressed because I feared that the lighter events of the film (not the murder mystery elements) would mirror my coming days studying writing. Yesterday was class one of grad school, and I have to admit I saw some parallels, though I’m the first to admit I was probably looking for them.

To start with, there are my classmates, all seemingly ambitious, all very much writerly types in the annoying way that makes me want to run back to the southwest suburbs and find work in a warehouse or mail sorting facility. There was the young poet: a girl in her twenties, turtle neck and terribly sculpted eye brows, she takes pleasure in lapsing into French, correctly pronounces words we all agree sound better mispronounced (think “forte” and “angst”) and speaks often of her writing but rudely interrupts a classmate while he speaks of his. Like something out of Marquez, I saw the bull’s-eye form on her forehead as she forced her practiced laugh.

There was the blow-hard. Long hair in a ponytail and accompanying soul-patch, he speaks about how he “devoured” a recent book of poetic essays and name-drops writers he has read as if no one else ever could have heard of them. He then references his own writing almost as often, misreads the poem we read for class, and projects analysis on the poem when the professor asked for structural examination. He probably listens to that jam band nonsense and smokes dope to get in the creative mood. He probably loves the Beats.

And then there was the mother who returned to school to study poetry writing now that her kids left the house. Good for her. At least I’m not the oldest student in the room.

I suppose it is the fault of the professor. He asked us to talk about our concerns over our work, which, when it comes to would-be artists, is in essence a violent opening of the pretension floodgates. When it was my turn I babbled something vague that I don’t really mean, I just had to say something so they wouldn’t press. I think I said, “I really want to work on tightening my writing,” to which anyone with a brain would have replied with a sarcastic “no shit?” That’s the idea, right? What else am I there to do, fuck around for hundreds of bucks a credit hour?

I enter into this with slight trepidation. I am sure it will all get better or at least easier, or at least I will learn to tune out the boho blow-hards and the prissy princess poets. I wish to reiterate that I am very, very glad I did not do this as an undergrad. The level of writing is supposed to be better on the graduate level, or so they say, so I expect better things as a result from myself and my classmates—not to mention that a background in literary terms, analytical exercise and basic knowledge of the history of literature can only help when some ambitious youngster decides that what they are doing somehow is original. (Just last night someone spoke about writing a novel of all dialogue, thinking it a brilliant new idea. Obviously she’s never heard of Manuel Puig.) We’ll see, but for now I’m diving in and trying to silence those voices that whisper words of both failure and murder. Luckily they bottle the cure.

Thanks for listening to the preceding rant. Grumpy ol’ Bastard out.