Monday, January 30, 2017

when i was about 23 or 24 my mother pointed out an ad in the local paper about how weather forecasters anticipated a very hot and dry summer.  fire season was supposed to be bad.  the central california university city, san luis obispo, was hiring extra seasonal firefighters.  the city would provide the training.  all that was needed was a relatively strong body and a commitment to stay for the fire season.

i thought, i can do that.  i'm not a physical chap.  i'm uncoordinated as fuck.  i am not strong, either, but i am, in the words of the muppet grover said, i am wily.  so i borrowed my brother's early 90s ford festiva, took my only suit, and headed south for an interview with the SLO fire department.

i learned two critical things on that journey.  i was not cut for firefighting, and that my suit no longer fit me.  i bought the suit for my brother's wedding a couple years earlier.  we thought we were so grown up, my brother and me.  he's getting married.  i was accepted to the local university.  i had a job as a custodian on campus and i was reading as much poetry as my eyeballs and mind could handle, which in those days was a lot, and writing as much as my crappy handwriting could muster.  in short, i was busy.

but the firefighting job appealed to my romantic interior.  i was reading the poet philip levine and levine championed the working fella.  indeed in a poem levine describes his son doing the firefighting work i set out to do.  gary snyder, too, spent some seriously significant time on a fire lookout, thinking, writing, in solitude.  i'm no levine or snyder but fighting fires in central california would only maximize the kind of experience that could only help add to the internal CV of the poet.

lo!  it were not be.  i got to paso robles when the ford festiva decided to overheat and blow up on me.  quite by surprise i managed to get the vehicle to the side of the road.  i looked at the steam coming from the hood, and the display panel, in utter incomprehension.  the car blew up!  on me!  now i was stranded.  i got out of the car, kicked it hard, then started walking toward the nearest exit ramp a few hundred yards away.

i don't remember much what came next.  i remember passing a passel of cows in a field who looked up in either confusion or greeting when i passed.  i found a payphone [yep, no cell phones, or internet even], called my parents, then called a tow truck.  the tow truck driver found a mechanic and a motel for me.  the car got to the mechanic who promptly set to work repairing my brother's vehicle while i walked to the motel and set up camp for three days while the repairs went underway.

i was alone.  i paced the motel room.  i watched MTV and watched the video 'smells like teen spirit' by nirvana, upon which i thought, finally the music channel got punk rock right.  i got a couple of beers from an AM/PM gas station and dinner at a carl's jr.  but being a lifelong vegetarian finding something without meat limited my dining options.

and yet, i had a great time.  i was young and dumb and not worried by much.  i had a little money in my bank account that could handle the motel room.  the repairs would cost me an arm and a let but lucky for me i just got a grant for school.  my tuition was paid for but the rest of my money would go for the repairs.  i was broke.  but i was happy.

i was happy because i knew little else at the time but hardship and travail.  that was life.  what i remember most of that time is the generosity of strangers.  when i was walking on the side of the road several cars pulled over and offered me their help.  the mechanic was a gruff but good man who had a good-natured laugh, especially when i told him i was about to interview for a position as a seasonal firefighter.  what i most vividly remember was my walk from the motel to the mechanic's garage to pick up my brother's car.  i had to walk on the freeway to get there.  the walk on the freeway was only for a couple hundred yards to the garage.  there was no other way to get there.  but when i was on the freeway a car driven by a young man, about my age, slowed down.  the driver had a concerned look on his face.  his girlfriend/wife/partner in the passenger seat also had the same look.  i gestured i was okay to them.  i don't remember what happened next.  i do remember their expressions of concern.

such exchanges happened several times during my adventures heading to SLO.  i was fine, okay, even.  but the people i encountered were strangers to me, and worried over my circumstances.  i remember this when i see what is happening in the world today.  some people are mean, venal and hateful.  many more are kind and wish to render assistance to their fellow human beings.

as for the cows that i passed a couple times in paso robles they were curious but i suspect they didn't give a shit what happened to me.  indeed, i watched them as they watched me.  both the cows and me regarded each other in mutual incomprehension.  i watched them as they watched me as if, if i can grant myself the license to think what a cow is thinking, they were saying, there goes that goofy dude doing what he thinks is the most important thing in the world, again.  

Saturday, January 28, 2017

said it before; it needs to be said again
(what's so funny 'bout) peace, love & understanding


quote unquote

write this
only to say

am here;
I am glad

--ernesto priego [not even dogs: hay(na)ku poems; meritage press, 2006]

remedial math

mind + body +/- uncertainty = L=O=P=E=Z poetry

Friday, January 27, 2017

at the end

                 what could i say
but i enjoyed the shit
out of life

Thursday, January 26, 2017

the great, & much missed, kirsty maccoll


Sunday, January 22, 2017

quote unquote

The twenty sank exhausted to the ground.
'Get up!' The naked swords flickered like snakes.
Then someone fetched a pitcher of kerosene.
Human justice, I spit in your face.
Without delay the twenty were anointed.
'Dance!' Roared the mob; 'This is sweeter than the perfumes of Arabia!'
They touched the naked women with a torch.
And there were dancing.  The charred bodies rolled.
In shock I slammed my shutters like a storm,
Turned to the one gone, asked, 'These eyes of mine--
How shall I dig them out, how shall I, how?'

--from the armenian of siamento [atom ergoyan] 1878 -1915
[epigraph to fredy nepturne (1999; fsg) by les murray]

Saturday, January 21, 2017


i see him almost every night when i walk home he is on the corner playing recorded reggae music full blast keeping time with his bongos he gives me the peace sign i give it back he gestures to his money hat set at his feet i pat my jeans and with a goofy shrug pull out my empty pockets

* * *

she called my name
                i sat in the
barber's chair
she looked at me
and sd you don't look
                 and you have
green eyes

i sd shakespeare reminds
us a rose by any other name
would smell as sweet

* * *

the book i am reading grows in pages but the words continue to disappear just as i am beginning to achieve their meanings

Friday, January 20, 2017

when the world goes to hell, in the darkest of night, i shall stand here reading, writing, loving, laughing, watching really bad movies, embracing my life, and yours, and the loves of my family, my friends, and my fellow brothers and sisters in and out of the art


Monday, January 16, 2017

rogue one: a star wars story [2016]

it's been a long, hard three-day weekend.  anna and i have spent the past couple of weekends, when not raining literal cats&dogs, cleaning up the front and back gardens, and rearranging items in our sheds.  strong toil and physical labor woke up muscles that screamed, feel me now, mutherfucker!  

but instead of resting on the third day, MLK's holiday, i took nick and his friend to see roque one: a star wars story at the newest theater in sac.  indeed, the theater, i don't remember the name of it at the moment, and am feeling too lazy to look it up, was built on the site of the century cinedomes where i saw the original star wars flick as an eager lad of 10 in 1977.  but we live in a different world now.  the old cinedomes, architectural marvels, really, sort of like googie architecture because the theater were really in the shape of domes.  that was all.  when the domes were built in the early '70s movies needed be the only draw to get people out of their homes and into the theaters.  today, we stream nearly everything we want, and what we can't stream we order via online with delivery promised sometimes in a mere couple hours.

so theater owners and film studios need to do something different.  the movies are no longer the only draw.  the theaters have to turn in to places where you want to hang out.  and but so these new theaters built on the site of the old cinedomes feature seats that ease back and let you relax like laz-e-boy recliners.  i nearly fell asleep in one of them chairs.  the snack bar has transmogrified into a lounge with beer and wine on tap and snackables beyond the mere nachos and pizza.  there are booths in the dining area where you can eat, shoot the breeze, tap in to the wifi, or people watch.  the menu screens are digital; so are the signs for the theaters which change from movie titles to product adverts.  the whole of the place is light, airy and roomy.  except for the theaters.  those are pretty small affairs.

what makes the experience so relaxing are those recliners.  one can doze in them, and forget there is a movie on the large screen in digital projects.  lo!  it is so a digital world that we bought our tickets, and reserved our seats, online and nick used his phone to get us checked in.  i don't have a phone. . .yet.  i guess i haven't fully entered the 21st century.

but then this boy born in the latter half of the 20th century still digs the movie going experience.  i do miss the cheap seats variety of old-time movie going when you saw trailers and snack bar ads viewable nowhere else.  this age is so gimmicky that the flick was presented in 3D, a forum that did not enhance the movie one jot.  i want to see this pic again, not because it is a great movie, but because there were lots of little details that i think i missed due to wearing those goofy 3D glasses.

and then there was the movie directed by gareth edwards, who helmed one of my favorite flicks a few years ago, monsters [2010], a real slow burn of a horror movie, and then guided the messy and confused reboot, godzilla [2014].  i didn't know what to expect from edwards this go around but the filmmaker created an admirable movie in the star wars mythology.

i really do need to see this movie again to give it a fair airing.  i thought felicity jones and diego luna were very good as our heroes, and it is a delight to see another strong female character take charge, kick butt, and think her way thru difficult odds to achieve her goals.  the special fx are state of the art.  the galaxy far, far away is grittier, bloodier, dirtier, and messier than ever.  grime and dust are very much in evidence.  these details made me wonder what a truly dark star wars movie would be like.  i'm sure there are novels, and there are oodles of books published about this galaxy and its characters, that are pretty bleak and dark that could make a viewer blanche.

i said we live in a digital world, and we do.  after the movie i asked nick and his friend their thoughts.  they liked it.  i said did you see anything wrong with the man playing grand moff tarkin?  who? they asked.  the old guy in charge of the death star.  no, they said.  i said he's a digital recreation of the man who played tarkin in the first star wars movie, peter cushing, who died some years ago.  then there was carrie fisher's digital visage as princess leia circa the first star wars pic.  the boys didn't seem to notice the uncanny valley of digital recreation.

that seems to be the rub of our age and the subject of another essay, digital culture, AI and automation.  three things i think are helping to transform our civilization in ways we have yet to fathom.  at any rate, edwards and co. have made a worthy edition to the star wars legacy that i find admirable.  there were enough little details to keep the fan boys and girls on the edge of their seats, e.g. cameos by the criminal luke skywalker crosses paths with at the cantina who tells luke he has the death sentence on 12 systems in the original flick, and by rt-d2 and c-3po.  lovely little moments that tie the story in with the original movie.

the recliners were so comfy i nearly fell asleep but that wasn't the fault of the movie.  rather it was because i'd been kicking my ass with hard physical labor this weekend.  my muscles ache!  after the movie i took my sorry ass home to soak in a hot shower, after dropping off nick's friend at his house.  all in all it was a delightful long weekend.       

Thursday, January 12, 2017


watching a television show set in 1998
the characters say, it is 1998,
as if the year is the apex
of modernity
& we say, how quaint,
from our vantage of the second decade
of the 21st century,
but step back
when you think about the situation,
our daily lives,
every moment is modern

Friday, January 06, 2017

check it out*

rob mclennan profiles mi amigo y poeta magnifico michael dennis here 

*also the title of one of my favorite late-'80s songs by john mellancamp

Thursday, January 05, 2017

i don't know how i missed the death of my favorite prose writer, thom jones, but jones passed away on october, 14, 2016 at age 71.  here is the new york times obituary.

jones was educated at the university of iowa but was working as a high school janitor when the new yorker published his story, 'the pugilist at rest', which became the title of his first collection of stories.  jones went on to publish two more collections of stories.  the dude was not prolific but his prose held a gritty grace that i fell in love with on first read.  jones' characters were often highly educated, odd fish who often suffered from mental illness and/or drug addiction.  their professions ranged from boxer to doctor to janitor.  but they were all lovable to me, and indeed, when i was working as a janitor at my alma mater, i became an addicted reader of the new yorker because i started combing thru back issues looking for more of jones' stories in the early '90s.

at the turn of the century jones fell silent, or at least published fewer pieces.  he didn't seem like a digital kind of guy so whenever i googled for news about thom jones i'd come up with very little.  i was surprised to read about his death today.  i was hoping for more essays, and the novel his bio notes in his books said he was working on.  but i do have his three collections of stories.  we have his fiction, his singular voice, and his presence upon this earth.  as anna reminded me tonight death is not optional.  we all die.  we all have six, seven, eight, or if we are real lucky, nine decades on this planet.  such a short time, but it is enough, nearly, for reading and writing.  i am grateful for thom jones and his beautiful stories.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

i love reading biographies because i love knowing that a human life is present in our world but i don't care for the obligatory early chapters of the subject's childhood particularly when the subject is an artist because inevitably his/her childhood is damaged and/or fucked up which makes it appear that a fucked up childhood is necessary for a creative life i would rather skip those opening chapters not because i think childhood is not needed for our growing as human beings but because who doesn't come for some form of the fucked up so it ain't about sometimes how you got into this world but how you managed to live because i am firmly convinced there is not a high or low art the same as there are no high or low lives for we are all pretty warped because warped is the human condition so i'd rather not read the early chapters of a biography where the subject was born of this or that flawed and/or toxic early life because really that is such a large club

Monday, January 02, 2017

& what did you want of the world

                        to say things plainly simply beautifully
& love as much as my heart can hold for there
is only this world for you & you & you & you
& me being in it

--for my brother in rhyme jonathan hayes


thinking of s. beckett & i too have nothing to say & the words to say it

watching the rushes of the film of my life as the film keeps breaking

meet the new year same as the old year but with a lot of surprises

the TV is on it is always on there be words & images & sounds

i wonder if the things i want are the same as the things i look for

i often have dreams of reading/writing that when i wake i don't know from dreaming to conscious life

what is it that i wanted to say again fail again fail well then good

oh yes hello to everyone as n. parra sd hello again