Thursday, January 24, 2008

Linda's Tavern, Capitol Hill

All these black-and-white pictures of patrons
on the wall of Linda’s, a bar I’ve never been to
in a city I arrived in yesterday—

an arm-wrestling match between a guy and a girl;
lit cigarettes at the bar, clearly dating the photo;
a woman with fine red lips
and thin arched eyebrows, smiling
with her mouth open;
four band guys sitting at a table
with a sign saying
“drummer wanted”;
a bride and groom, come presumably back
on their wedding night
for a drink at the bar where they met;
a dead-drunk, slumped Santa Claus—

remind me
of the boxes of antique photos
in the Chelsea flea markets:
glossy-haired, stoic farmers;
women in black dresses right up to their chins;
grubby-faced kids now our grandfathers;
a forgotten-named dog, dead now eighty years—

for Linda’s will one day close
the photos taken down and stored away
until our tattoos our mustaches,
our self-consciously cocked hats our jokey outfits
our complicated hair our loves our lives
will be rifled through disinterestedly
by a Saturday shopper in search
of something for her bathroom.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Normally in these pages I would not comment on goings-on within the world of celebrity, that glittering mirage ... but as I'm sure everyone by now knows, Heath Ledger, 28 and a fellow Brooklynite, was found dead of a sleeping pill overdose yesterday afternoon in a SoHo apartment.

My friend called and told me this around 5:30pm—and it really affected me. Perhaps because of his great talent, perhaps because he's my same age, perhaps because of this friend's recent dealings with him, he had become more real to me—though more likely the reason that it affected me so was because he died by his own hand (though unintentionally) as a result of drug use.

If, as Auden wrote, "poetry makes nothing happen," then a blog post must surely do less—but I feel I must say, no matter if it does any good, that if you think you have a problem, or know someone who does, try to get you or them some help. Trying to help someone else probably won't work, but you can try. If it's your own self, though, I know with total confidence that it can work. Just be careful out there—there's no coming back from where Heath Ledger, god rest his soul, has gone.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Nearly forty years ago

Nearly forty years ago, on April 3rd, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech at the Mason Temple in support of the black sanitation workers then on strike in that city. The speech, which has since become known as his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" address, would turn out to be his last: Dr. King was killed at the Lorraine Motel the very next day. Anyone interested in listening to or reading this speech can find the audio and text here; I highly recommend it. It deals specifically with the problems in Memphis at the time, but it also grapples with the wider problems in America as well; Dr. King was an amazing speaker, and even now, listening to the speech, little chills, some strange emotional electricity, runs over my skin and through my body.

Toward the end of his speech, Dr. King relates how, in New York City in 1958, he was nearly killed by a mentally ill black woman who stabbed him while he was signing copies of his first book. He then touches on the fact that, on the way from Atlanta to Memphis that morning, his plane was delayed due to a bomb threat. And he seems to know what's coming, or to feel that his time on this earth might not be long—but he is at peace with that. He says:
Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop.

And I don't mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!
I hope we get there someday. Which brings me back to the present: Earlier in Dr. King's last speech, he says something that is just as applicable today, in this very important election year, as it was forty years ago. He says:
Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.
We do have an opportunity to make America a better nation; we can help make that change in the primary elections, when those of use who are affiliated with a political party can choose who we want to have represent us in the general election. And we can all—each and every one of us: white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Christian, Jewish, or any other of the unique colors, cultures, and religions that make America great—affect that change in November, when we can, at the polls, either make a choice for fear and xenophobia or, in concert with Dr. King, reject fear, embrace the world, help put a new, hopeful, and inclusive face on this great nation.

I encourage everyone who is not registered to vote to do so today, in honor of Dr. King and the ultimate sacrifice he made. Each state has its own rules and regulations, but the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization Declare Yourself can help facilitate the process. Go here and get registered now. Make Dr. King and his memory proud: Be an "extremist for peace," take on a mantle of "dangerous unselfishness," and let's do what we can to change the course of this country for the better both now, in November, and after. Dr. King would want it that way. As he said, in the last words of his last speech:
And so I'm happy, tonight.

I'm not worried about anything.

I'm not fearing any man!

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!
*If you want to help get others involved in this election year, send the link to this blog post to your family and friends. Here 'tis:

Friday, January 18, 2008

Anna Wise

This morning on NPR I heard one of the best, most moving things I've ever heard: The story—told in her own voice—of how this 96-year-old woman Anna Wise met and courted her husband, to whom she was married for 57 years. It's only two minutes long. Go here but don't read the story, which spoils it. You need to hear Anna Wise say it. Click the "Listen Now" link and dig it.

Also, I'm back from Seattle. More about that fine city TK.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

He makes a good point

In light of Hillary's recent showing of emotion, I think we should all watch this clip of Ali G interviewing Newt Gingrich. Ali G makes some very good points.

And this, from The Onion's What Do You Think? section, way back in 2001. (I found this, by the way, by searching for "Onion menstruates legislation"—some words from the bit that I half-remembered.)

N.H. postmortem

I was talking to my dad last night at around 10:30pm, when it was looking like Hillary would—as she ended up doing—win New Hampshire. My dad remarked that, going into the primary, polls were showing Obama to have as much as a 13 percent lead over Hillary. So what happened to that lead?, my dad asked me. His theory was that Hillary, in her rare display of emotion and vulnerability the day before the primary, may have won the women back to her side. And, according to this NY Times article, my dad was half right, if not more—Hillary did win back the Democratic women of New Hampshire, though just how and why are not speculated upon.

David D. Kirkpatrick, with Megan Thee, writes in this Times piece:
Democratic women rallied around Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the New Hampshire primary Tuesday, according to statewide exit polls, confounding expectations and providing her margin of victory over Senator Barack Obama.

In contrast to polling results in the Iowa caucuses, half the women who voted in the Democratic primary gave her their support, the polls showed. Four in 10 voters said Mrs. Clinton was most qualified to be commander-in-chief, while 3 in 10 said the same of Mr. Obama.
Now, my question is: Was Hillary's display of emotion genuine? Or was it merely the last, best card she had to play? I dunno, and really we can't ever know; we can't ever truly know anyone's inner motivations and thoughts—oftentimes we only barely know our own. But what do the readers of this blog (both of them) think? Were they crocodile tears, or the real deal Holyfield?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Hopping off the bus before
Port Authority, I look right to make sure
nothing’s coming—then I hit the avenue
running, up to meet one from the spring before,
with whom, on stoops, I had coffee and chocolate croissants.

That was a good spring. This January day
feels like spring: high fifties, fresh in the air.
Every year it seems
I write about the trees blooming
confusedly, their wood-brains believing
or wanting to believe it’s spring.

Up Ninth with a spring
in my step a sign
flashes red: Manganaro’s,
at which I’ve eaten—chicken parm subs the size
of footballs, and a story of two brothers
in a decades-long fight
over the red sign’s name. I, too, have a name,
but no brothers up here share it.
A little winter goes a long way
for this Southern boy.

Arrived at the park, I find the park’s been made
into not-a-park, rather a rink,
for the winter.
The buildings above, however,
with their white floodlights,
remain the same.
In the city and the buildings and the streets,
in the seasonally shifting park,
I seem to perceive an analogy
or a metaphor for me.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Hola amigos

It's been a long time since I rapped at ya—hope everything's still attached where it oughta be.

Item! Go Obama! New Hampshire's primary is tomorrow, and I hope against hope that Obama edges out Hillary—polls are showing them to be in a dead heat. It's not that I have anything (or much) against Hil, but after seeing Barack's speech following his win at the Iowa caucuses, I really feel that he is the man of the moment.

Item! Phosphorescent is a band on the GROW! I and a friend saw them open for White Magic in December. Even though I had never heard or heard of them until that night, they totally blew me away: They were like Wilco playing Spirtualized songs, just beautiful, chest-swelling, fractured, hopeful rock 'n' roll. They are playing Wednesday, February 27th at Union Hall in Brooklyn, and Friday, February 29th at Mercury Lounge in Manhattan; I have tix to the latter, and I highly recommend that others join me.

Item! I don't know why it's taken me so long, but I finally went—by myself, on a whim—to Fette Sau, the barbecue joint in Williamsburg, last night. The place opened last March, almost a year ago, but I stayed away until now. I think it had something to do with the place's very un-barbecue name, which means "fat pig" in German. Generally speaking, you do not want to visit a 'cue joint that's highfalutin enough to use another language in its name.

But the name is the only false note: The ambience, the music (Otis Redding and the like), the smell and, most importantly, the food and sauce, were spot-on. Yestereve I had the pulled pork and the burnt-end barbecue beans, with healthy chunks of both beef and pork involved in the latter. And man, I was in heaven. I brought a book I didn't even look at. The meat and the beans were spicy and smoky, done just right. The sauces, made in-house, were strong and had a real kick. There weren't any ridiculous fine-dining flourishes: just metal cafeteria trays covered with wax paper, whitebread rolls, wetnaps, and Mason jars. I tried to order a Diet Coke and they don't have it; they only have regular Coke. Now that's a barbecue joint I can respect, pretentious name or no. I highly recommend the place to barbecue-lovers and Southerners in the City.

Item! I watched Cool Hand Luke for the I dunno how many-ith time the other morning. Man, that is just such a great movie, one of my favorites. "Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand. " Anyone who hasn't yet had the privilege of seeing Paul Newman in what I think is his best role should run not walk to the DVD store or the Netflix queue post-haste.

That is all for now. I hope not to be gone so long, blog post-wise, in the future, though I am headed to Seattle on Friday for work. I can't wait to visit one of these "Star Bucks" I've been hearing about.