Monday, January 25, 2010

Heart of the Country

"Heart of the Country" -- which has been in my head all night. From one of McCartney's first solo albums, '70 or '71, I can't remember which, but I used to own 'em all.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My New Yorker is back! :)

I knew I was really, really poor when I, after more than 15 years, had to let my "New Yorker" subscription lapse over a month ago. I'd been looking at it online, but...not quite the same! Luckily, my mother took pity on me and, while I was home for Christmas, renewed my subscription. And I just got my first issue today -- Hoorah! Perhaps I'm overly appreciative after being deprived, but... I just looooved some things in there. The story "Trailhead" by E.O. Wilson, for instance. About a civilization's tragic last stand. (And the "civilization" is... an ant colony.) And I learned about Renaissance Man Neil Gaiman (author of "Coraline"), whom I regrettably had never even heard of before. And then there was this extraordinary poem, "Earthquake," by Aime Cesaire -- again, someone I'd never even heard of. But this poem is amazing; such rich, energetic language. (Unlike the tepid Merwin/Bly/Strand the "New Yorker" usually loves.) I've read it at least 10 times already:

by Aime Cesaire (translated from the French by Paul Muldoon)

such great stretches of dreamscape
such lines of all too familiar lines
staved in
carved in so the filthy wake resounds with the notion
of the pair of us? What of the pair of us?
Pretty much the tale of the family surviving disaster:
"In the ancient serpent stink of our blood we got clear
of the valley; the village loosed stone lions roaring at our heels."
Sleep, troubled sleep, the troubled waking of the heart
yours on top of mine chipped dishes stacked in the pitching sink
of noontides.
What then of words? Grinding them together to summon up the void
as night insects grind their crazed wing cases?
Caught caught caught unequivocally caught
caught caught caught
head over heels into the abyss
for no good reason
except for the sudden faint steadfastness
of our own true names, our own amazing names
that had hitherto been consigned to a realm of forgetfulness
itself quite tumbledown.


His Wikipedia entry.

Classic Austin

Roky Erickson sings his hit "Starry Eyes" 30 years later...and it's still as good.

The Cool Boy I Watched and Wanted Every Monday

Two Hoots and a Holler: Austin, Black Cat Lounge -- every Monday, early '90s.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sustenance, Ringo-Style

When I was 15 in '80 and reading all I could about the Beatles, I read about the group going to India in '68 for some spiritual awakening... And Ringo coming home early (after 2 weeks, as opposed to Paul's 4 and George/John's 6 -- ooh, the vast spiritual difference!) 'cause he said he didn't like the food.

When I was 15, and so into the Beatles mythology, I was horrified upon reading about the reason for Ringo's early abandonment. Now that I'm older, and on my own trek... I sympathize with Ringo.

NYC food sucks. Famous for their pizza? Their pizza's not good, regardless of what part of town you're in -- barely any sauce, flat and tasteless dough, sparse and cheap-meat pepperoni. Famous for their street pretzels? Their pretzels are almost always cold and cardboard-ish. Famous for their street hot-dogs? Their hot-dogs are BOILED! When you ask for one, the guy hoils it out of a luke-warm bin of water! UGH! NASTY!

As for real food like (1) brisket, (2) fajitas, and (3) chicken-fried steak: (1) I've yet to taste any real brisket in this town. Though I've gotten into an argument with a Jewish guy who claimed that brisket was a JEWISH thing!! (2) I ordered fajitas once from a restaurant in Chelsea called "San Antonio Star" or something... The meat was disgustingly fatty and chewy, and I had to actually send it back and ask for another dish. (3) There's NO chicken-fried steak in this town! :(

And the closest I seem to be able to get to "Tex-Mex" is the one or two Taco Bells that I can find... and those are hard to find! (So far: There's one in Union Square; one in Union City, NJ.)

Ringo, I now completely feel your gastrological pain. I miss my brisket and fajitas and chicken-fried steak and SIMPLE JUNK FOOD LIKE TACOS! No, not weird Dominican/Central American "shredded beef" tacos with weird, creepy sauce, or weird California tacos with shredded beef and shredded CARROTS... NO. I want the good old-fashioned GROUND-BEEF tacos a la Taco Bell: ground beef, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, a dollop of sour cream. THE END. No carrots. No weird Central American/Caribbean additives. How hard is that??

(As a side-note: I also miss Arby's, Whataburger, and Long John Silver's. Where the heck are these franchises up here?!)

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Happening (The Supremes)

"The Happening" and "Girlfriend in a Coma" have to be the jauntiest depressing songs of all time!

Hey life, look at me
I can see the reality
'Cause when you shook me, took me, outta my world
I woke up
Suddenly I just woke up to the happening

When you find that you left the future behind
'Cause when you find a tender love
You don't take care of
Then you better beware of the happening

One day you're up
When you turn around
You find your world is tumbling down
It happened to me and it can happen to you

I was sure, I felt secure
Until love took a detour, yeah!
Riding high on the top of the world it happened
Suddenly it just happened
I saw my dreams torn apart
When love walked away from my heart
And when you lose a precious love you need to guide you
Something happens inside you, the happening

Now I see life for what it is
It's not a dream
It's not a bliss
It happened to me and it can happen to you
Ooh, and then it happened
Ooh, and then it happened
Ooh, and then it happened

Is it real?
Is it fake?
Is this game of life a mistake?
'Cause when I lost the love
I thought was mine for certain
Suddenly it starts hurting
I saw the light too late
When that fickle finger of fate
Yeah! It came and broke my pretty balloon
I woke up
Suddenly I just woke up

So sure, I felt secure
Until love took a detour
'Cause when you got a tender love
You don't take care of
Then you better beware of
The happening

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Not Ideas About the Thing But the Thing Itself

This has got to be my mantra for my middle age. Put away the fancies/fantasies of my youth (Sandra; tons of welcoming used book stores and cafes in NYC -- all ideas circa 1986) and listen to the realities of the place and time that I'm actually in.

Not Ideas About the Thing But the Thing Itself
by Wallace Stevens

At the earliest ending of winter,
In March, a scrawny cry from outside
Seemed like a sound in his mind.

He knew that he heard it,
A bird's cry, at daylight or before,
In the early March wind.

The sun was rising at six,
No longer a battered panache above snow...
It would have been outside.

It was not from the vast ventriloquism
Of sleep's faded papier-mache...
The sun was coming from the outside.

That scrawny cry--It was
A chorister whose c preceded the choir.
It was part of the colossal sun,

Surrounded by its choral rings,
Still far away. It was like
A new knowledge of reality.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The "Avatar" Blues

I haven't seen "Avatar" yet -- honestly, didn't want to; I, in general, hate sci-fi films ("Lord of the Rings" was utterly boring to me), and I hated Cameron's cheesy "Titanic" -- such a powerful story in and of itself, utterly ruined by DiCaprio's being chained to a pipe.) Thus, I didn't trust this movie. (Over Christmas with the family, I, choosing the "Christmas-with-the-family movie," went to see "Up in the Air" instead.)

But earlier this week, I read on CNN that some teenagers who had seen "Avatar" were actually thinking about killing themselves...Because the movie portrayed a world so pleasing that it didn't live up to the teenagers' actual realities... And they missed those good feelings.

Wow. My first knee-jerk conservative reaction, at age 44, was to scoff: "Gawd, I'm so tired of today's melodramatic, idiotic teens." But then I stopped and thought for a second:

Back in the early Summer of 1980, when I was a 14-year-old stuck at home alone out in the country, utterly isolated, pre-Internet, with only books and television for companionship... A local TV station was showing the few Beatles movies... I'd been listening to Beatles albums ("Rubber Soul" and "Revolver") for a few months prior (how did I discover those?? -- I can't remember now), and was starved to actually SEE them... Then "Help!" (1965) came on afternoon TV in Dallas-Fort Worth... I was so utterly miserable in my own actual 14-year-old life, but was so flooded with HAPPINESS after watching the Beatles on TV... It was odd, and scary. And after seeing "Help!" I remember standing underneath the heavy light in my parents' living room and wishing with all my heart that it would fall on my head and KILL me and PREincarnate me back to a time when I could be young and into the Beatles as they were happening.

I longed for that world with all of my heart.

And I've never read of anybody else feeling like that until I just read this about "Avatar."

It breaks my heart for those "Avatar" teens. I thought I was a freak. And I never wanted to hear about anyone ever feeling that intensely about anything again... To learn that that kind of feeling still goes on...

At 44, all I can say to young people is: Be Strong. Hang in there. Your feelings are intense and serious, but, ultimately, fleeting -- you, however sensitive, WILL move past them. When you're older, you'll see... You will not feel this bad forever.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Saturday, January 09, 2010

In the "I'm not crazy, YOU'RE crazy" department

OK, you know how when various mean things happen to you in a row, you start to get paranoid and think, "It's me! I'm doing something horrible to deserve all of this shit!"?

Well, here's my story to refute that it's me! (Sometimes all it takes is a random NICE gesture to completely counteract the earlier shitty gesture, and to set things aright with the world again!)

'Twas the eve of Christmas Eve (aka, "December 23rd" for you nonliterary types)... Now, admittedly, I was stressed out to begin with. I had to go to work for 8 hours, and somewhere in there also find the time to pick up a few cheap trinkets for my family, since I was flying home for Christmas the next day (aka, "Christmas Eve"). (No, I usually never wait until the very last minute to Christmas shop. This year, I was extremely unemployed and extremely poor, and I didn't have enough money in my account to get anything at all until then.) Anyway, that's why I was tense.

I needed cash before work, so once I got into NYC from Weehawken, I stopped at an ATM center for my bank. In NYC, ATMs don't just sit in a wall, out in the open. There's always a glassed-in, locked area with multiple ATMs inside. You swipe your card at the door to get in.

I arrive at the door. I swipe my card. It doesn't work. I try it again. It still doesn't work, and I still can't get in. There's a young black woman standing at a counter near the door. I make eye contact with her, hold up my card (to prove that I'm really a customer and not a robber), and gesture toward the door, thinking she'll open the door. Instead, she pointedly looks away. I then knock on the door to get her attention again, thinking she misunderstood. I again hold up my card and gesture toward the door. She again purposely ignores me.

In the meantime, several people have lined up outside behind me. I tell them that my card's not working, not letting me in; maybe one of theirs will work? The guy behind me tries his card. His also does not work in the door. The woman behind him tries hers; it doesn't work. The young woman inside occasionally looks up at all of us struggling with our cards and gesturing at her, then looks back down at whatever she's doing.

Finally someone in the queue behind me has a card that allows the door to open. All 4 or 5 of us rush in gratefully. By this time, I am absolutely incensed and practically BELLOW at the woman inside: "What in the HELL is your problem? Did you not see all of us out there? You couldn't open the damn door?"

She looked at me calmly and said, "Who do you think I am that I should open a door for you?"

I was flabbergasted. And I fear that this was some sort of idiotic "I'm a Proud Black Woman and I don't open doors for white people" crazy bullshit. I stared at her. And then I continued to yell back at her while I stormed over to the nearest available ATM: "What? WHAT?! You couldn't open the goddamn door? You didn't see all of us with our cards? I showed you my goddamn card! Did you think I was a bank robber? Where in the HELL are your manners? Where are you FROM?"

(I love that "Where are you FROM?" question! It always gets people's goats!) :)

Her "snappy" comeback: "Where are YOU from?"
My "snappy" comeback: "From New York, where people have MANNERS!" (Honestly, I almost blurted out that I was from Texas, but that wouldn't have made any sort of sense in this case!)

While I was getting my money, she and I kept going back and forth, her saying, "You are unbelievable. It's unbelievable that you would expect me to open the door for you." And me yelling back, "YOU'RE unbelievable! You have no manners! You don't know how to act!" Two ladies in the line behind me tried calming me down, telling me not to pay attention to her... but I was still yelling at the bitch on my way out the door: "You don't know how to act! MERRY FUCKING CHRISTMAS!"

Whew. Now, I'm 100% certain that I was in the right. (Half the time the cards don't work right away in the doors. Either they finally work, if no one's inside to open the door for you, on one's 10th swipe, or... SOMEONE INSIDE LETS YOU IN!!! Geez. I cannot stress enough: Someone always lets you in.) However: In this case, I completely lost my cool, I completely upset myself and was tense for the rest of the day (and in subsequent days, when thinking about the incident), and I completely failed to make her publicly back down and admit that she was a fucking rude idiot. (And then a very small part of me was wondering: Is she actually from out-of-town and doesn't understand the etiquette in this case??)

What would I do differently? Perhaps, upon entering the room, just SAY (rather than yell): "Why didn't you open the door for us?" And then, when she gave her "I don't open the door for Whitey" speech, just shut up and ignored her. Perhaps. But... it felt darn good to yell "What is your problem?!" Despite the tension I felt long afterwards...

Anyway, that whole unpleasant incident has hung around in my consciousness since the Eve of Christmas Eve. Until tonight. During my break at work, I went out to my bank's Times Square location to get cash out, had my card in my hand, ready to swipe... There was a young black guy just inside the door; he saw me with my card out, and, before I could swipe it, he... OPENED THE DOOR FOR ME!!! God. Thank you. THANK YOU. A tiny bit of regular human kindness and normalcy.

I'm not crazy. That woman was crazy!! :)

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Boxer (Simon and Garfunkel, 1969)

I am just a poor boy
Though my story's seldom told
I have squandered my resistance
For a pocket full of mumbles such are promises
All lies and jests
Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest

When I left my home and my family
I was no more than a boy
In the company of strangers
In the quiet of the railway station running scared
Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters
Where the ragged people go
Looking for the places only they would know

Lie la lie ...

Asking only workman's wages
I come looking for a job
But I get no offers,
Just a come-on from the whores on Seventh Avenue
I do declare, there were times when I was so lonesome
I took some comfort there

Lie la lie ...

Then I'm laying out my winter clothes
And wishing I was gone
Going home
Where the New York City winters aren't bleeding me
Bleeding me, going home

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev'ry glove that layed him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
"I am leaving, I am leaving"
But the fighter still remains

Lie la lie ...

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Job Mania!

I had a phone interview today with an HR rep for the major company I've been temping for off-and-on since last summer. A real full-time job! With real benefits! (Can't even imagine what that's like any more.) Not to be a naysayer, but I most likely will not get this job; another temp -- who's been at the company a year longer than me -- is also applying. (Our boss told both of us about it at the same time; and the boss has been giving the guy more temp hours than me.)

But what stood out was a little nugget of info the HR rep shared: Apparently, the number of people who have applied for this one job is... 100,000. 100,000!!! Now, that CANNOT be right! That's just an insanely large number, even in this economy. But then, things are weird right now. My brother, who's an editor/writer for a small Texas paper, told me last year that when they advertised for a position, they got nearly 1,000 nationwide applicants. (Conversely, when he himself applied for his position nearly a decade ago, he was one of under 100 applicants, most of whom were from Texas.)

"Behind every beautiful woman...

...there's a man who's had to put up with a lot of shit."

I just heard that on TV somewhere -- how true! :)

Ah, but the games all come to an end sometime: Witness Olivier's leaving Vivien Leigh for the dowdy Joan Plowright in '61.