May I

indulge myself, among other things, for once.  Having spent the full month of April gallivanting about the East Coast of the United States, I feel inclined to try my hand at a neat little social column. Honestly, I’m always happy to be in buildings, or breathing, or walking down a street, but I don’t fly east for such trifles.  It’s the people that I’m there for, the multivaritragicom hirsute ones.  The compassionate mammals.  The synapse and the stew.  So please allow me an indulgence just this once, if indeed you’re still reading, to attempt a little socialog, or better yet a mammalog of my recentish Journey to the East.

Flew in on April 1st to give the Dad an April Fool – called as I was driving into town to ask him how the weather was, and kept him on the phone until I rang the bell.  Hung out with the folks and musical brother Geff in South Joisey for about nine days, and here’s what we did:  we sorted through a storage locker, long-standing, long-unopened with the remnants of my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ things. No Homeric lists here (though this post may be one in itself), but I must note the deep emotion that runs through the objects of the past.  Even those I hadn’t seen, but know my grandmother had touched, and held, and used, and kept clean.  And the books from my grandfather’s den.  An old chair or two, gone to mildew, filled with spirits.  Objects alive, and our task to set their fate.  A beautiful walkabout of the past, a collecting of remnants, and above all a setting aside, for us all and especially for the folks.  A turning forth.  A last farewell.  And a heaving.  Nine days there and full of heart and dust before heading north to that rupturing Apple of the sun.

New York was a ten-day odyssey of fleeting peeps, flung in a slurry and slung in a slew.  Several humans helped to keep me alive, a few days at a time, with shelter and various nutritions.  First roof came from sister Leigh and her mate Jeff, both of healing hands ethereal and mechano.  Then on to the Garret of the Tallon, J.K. Tallon, that is, where crickets sing and moonbeams swing and floorboards dream of ancient tomes.  A house of bones and brooks and loving looks.  Thereafter dug the digs of sweets Jane Ormerod and Pete Darrell, masters of hospitality and taste, and nary a poet nor pome will find itself a stranger at their door.  My final NY habitat was the crooked home of artists Drew Morrison and Jane Song, whom I bestmanned just a year ago, charm and ingenuousness rolling at their feet.  A garden sprung amidst the Brooklyn dreck is always sign of a hearty back.  And hearty all these soldiers sung and sing, and how they save humanity with gainly glean.  Hurrah!

What visit to NY is complete without several collusions with the Lonely One, that is Lonely Christopher, or He of Questionable LonlinessProvocateur and rimrider, singer of the dearth and bleet, trans-genre acolyte and starlight of a thousand twinkles, he lurks between my heart and soul as only an earthbound rabbit can.  And he can borrow my sugar any time.

Snuck out – and yes, I said snuck, and I mean it – snuck out for a tasty treats and tete-a-tete with old friend Justin V. Bond, storyteller, chanteuse, and fabulously successful mammal.  We came up together in the late ‘80’s SF Homocore scene, pranking and performing and running rampant with the likes of bands MDC and Fugazi, performance problems The Popstitutes, and queer-friendly skaters league Shred of Dignity.  V took off from there to New York and Kiki & Herb, her crazily successful stage duo, and I to mire and malady.  So sweet it was to taste V’s humanity again, and so very human it was, smart and striving and true as ever, and I was left with hope, ridiculous hope again.

Made the acquaintance of painter Brooks Frederick, mellow housemate of the Tallon.  He had a lot of work hanging around their ancient Brooklyn manse, and I was impressed by the subtle human expression in his portraiture.  Of particular note was a large portrait of Tony Hayward, former CEO of BP, which is part of a series of paintings done with tar and sludge from the Gulf oil spill.  Click on his website above to check out his work.

Taught a class for the first time since I ran screaming from the acratdemic race oh five years back, and had a boy oh boy of a time.  Okay, actually I spoke to a writing class at Pratt Institute helmed by Evan Rehill (rock incarnate) about some of my work the kidz had read, and gave them an intro to artist/writer/performer Peter Kadyk, who’d been an intimate of mine before his HIV-demise eleven years ago.   Also spoke of the genre-blent performance scene in SF of the 90’s, to build some background and context for their upcoming field trip to see Conspiracy of Beards, SF’s thirty-man a cappella Leonard Cohen choir, which was conceived by Peter and born out of that scene.  In attendance at the class, one Lonely Christopher and maestro Dan Johnson Lake, a former Beard (as am I) and sweetness with a dark side personified.

Had all too brief a lunch with Toni Oliviero, professor of humanities and media studies and former dean at Pratt (and my former boss and current friend).  Toni has just jumped back into teaching recently after many years of deanhood, and is really joyed to be back to interacting with students – really the hap of the job, iffn you ask me.  (I did it for eight years, really, check my cv.)  She’s looking to teach a few more years before her retirement, and is working on a book about her very curious (and somewhat mysterious) family.  Can’t wait to have it on my shelf!

Any trip to NY is full of odd run-ins as well.  Here’s one:  scurrying across Pratt Campus to yet another event, and feeling a bit peaked, I find myself wishing for a big dose of Vitamin C – and promptly run into none other than poets C. A. Conrad and Christian Hawkey, loitering upon the green.  Got a double-dose without an ask, and a fond hallo.  Just read Conrad’s recent book, A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon, and I’m going to tell you right here that it is a fabulous exercise in work and epiphany.  Do give it a gander.

Stopped by a salon for SF poet Joan Gelfand, she of gorgeous diction, with readings by her and David Lawton at Chez Ormerod.  Had a chance to chat with terrific poet-performers Brant Lyon and Karen Hildebrand for an essential update on the condition of the Apple.

Was excited to convene again with colleague and writer Kathryn Cullen-Dupont; after several years without a chat, and we sought each other out like magnets.  Kathryn’s recent book Global Issues: Human Trafficking, a journalistic study on the current state of that horror, has been making waves, though curiously not in academia, where, she says, it’s being criticized as being too focused on the actual urgent situation, and not enough on theory.  (Ahh, sweet Academia, you’ve always been such a special child.)  And I say thank dog for that – nothing like a book that actually parses out the crush of human rights, with righteous rage to boot.  So pick that righteous sucker up and rage!

Kathryn took over my job of Director of Writing Across the Curriculum at Pratt, and thrives in it and it through her, so I met with her at the Pratt Writing Center, also a longtime haunt of mine.  I sauntered in, expecting to recognize virtually no one except Randy Donowitz, reefhead and Writing Center Director extraordinaire, when up leapt a Greek chorus of familiar faces, bidding me pass the Gates of Hades (though hither or hence, I know not).  In chorus and in strife, the uphill sherpas of the learning of the kidz:  Cecilia Muhlstein, Kwami Heshimu, Diane Cohen, Heather Green, Lol Fow, Sean Kelly, Don Doherty, and the ever-adorable Jean-Paul Pecqueur, unsated poet and jubilant.  Such a clamor of knowledge and art they make at the steps of the hierophants.  Do click on each for a tunnel of weave.

Did three readings in the N.Y.C., the first on Friday the 13th (hooray!) Picasso Machinery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Hosted impeccably by Evan Rehill & Pete Simonelli, this super-fun mixed-genre p-space also proffered the jaw-dropping (and I fucking mean that) violin and voice of Ismaael Colombaani (hailing from Belgium), the sexed-up words of Russel Hoover, and the rock-punch rollick of the Reid Paley Trio.  In attendance (among others) the fabulous Jay Laubsher, lovemuffin, advocate, and savior of all.  Thank freakin’ god for Jay.

After the Picasso, lurked out with the Lonely, the Jay, and the Tallon for some late night fun at a Crush party at the fancy-shmancy La Sala on North 3rd St. hosted by writer and socialite Ben Fama. Ben explains that the purpose of the party was for the 20-something writer-scenesters to invite someone they had a secret crush on, to they may artfully reveal themselves.  Needless to say, I hadn’t been invited, so I mostly stood around feeling old and wondered about the logistics of having a secret crush within a scene where everyone seems to know each other already, in some form or another.  Honestly, the kidz these days.  And frankly, I haven’t been the object of a crush by a 20-something for a least a month or two.  So old.

That Saturday I painted the town in a manner that shall not be explored by this missive, though I will mention that in the course of that sweaty, rampant blur, I had happy run-ins with playwright/poet Matthew K. Johnson and creative energy Peter Fradua, each of whom were able to add a pretty swath or two to my evening…

I somehow recuperated on Sunday expertly enough to read with the truly joyous, fabulous, inimitable, ungodly spirit-of-man Bob Holman at Jujomukti Tea Lounge in the East Village.  What a gorgeous venue – I suggest stopping by for a reading on Sunday eves, or just for tea at the perfect time.  The series is hosted with generosity and grace by David Lawton, and brought many to attendance, too many to note here without injuring someone, though you will find a number of those lovely face-minds noted in Fresh Words this month as colluders in several collaborative poems.

And what is a visit to New York without a run-in with Jackie Sheeler, poetess, ranter, danger-woman and punk chick emeritus.  I had the good fortune to stroll adamantly with her and Jane Ormerod (who figures prominently in this journey, see you not, yes) through the sated SoHo streets, hearing tales of New York inanity and bombast, heroism and schizophrenia from the very very lips.  Such a treat in the heat.

A final and dna-altering reading found me in a replica of Jonathan Swift’s pulpit in the Swift Hibernian Lounge on a somehow still-seedy block of East 4th.  This was a liftoff party for the new pan-genre (and aspirationally multi-media) press entitled great weather for media, set up by poets Jane Ormerod (no kidding), Brant Lyon, Thomas Fucaloro, and George Wallace.  I was honored to be asked to represent, and to perform on a bill with such sure, sheer sheens as Jane LeCroy, Robert Gibbons, and the elegant Hala Alyan, who stunned a noise-soaked room with quiet shine.  Again there were many in attendance, but I cannot shirk to mention R. Nemo Hill, Matthew Hupert, Michele Melnick, Richie Israel, and the fabulous Jay Chollick, light of all lights.  (Click here to read a fun little interview that Jane did with me for the occasion.)

This is a long post.  And it shall continue.  I spent a final couple days in NY hibernating with friends, then slid quietly away in a rental car to outlying regions and the frontiers of goodness and frenzy.

The first frontier of goodness lies with L.S. Asekoff, poet and purveyor of the finest chicken salad and the freshest of air.  Excellent gabbage and catchup with him and his lovely partner Louise as well.  Art and poetry may aspire, but there is nothing like a fresh lunch in the countryside of Dutchess County, NY.  It almost makes me wish intelligence upon the land.  Was gifted a copy of his recent book-length poem Freedom Hill, based on a true man’s life and seeming full of struggle and the optic nerve.  Looking forward to diving in to the Asekoff-mind once again.

Had a far too brief a coupla half-days cavorting round a stoney ridge with the stunningly actual Kristin Wolf, keeper of many lives, the endlessly lovely Deborah Perry of the talking hands, and ecstatic heartbeat Lily of the Many Cuteness Layers.  This note is the core of love.

Had a far too brief coupla hours colluding with the Allamuchy Hufnagel-Funkhousers, and yes that means the memest Clan, the press of We, the far-flung ring-wound voices of eternity.   And that means lunch with Chris Funkhouser and Amy Hufnagel, writermusicartists and aesthetic wombs, and their vivulous offspring Constellation and Aleatory.  Christopher, author of perhaps the first comprehensive texts and history of cyberpoetics, has graced me with a copy of his recent chapbook, Electro Perdix, which has grinned me with many phrases as I’ve tumbled through this trip, and which I expect to soon peruse in the righteous sense.  Look for a review upon the ultimo.

And a far, far, far too brief coupla rainy days curing and culinarying with fab artists Nieves Saah and Jim Leonard, at their Lewisberry, PA farm.  Ten acres of splendor that has severally been my grouping ground, my respite and many others’, is only gloried by their tenancy.  These two are the job of much, and as it’d been a few too many moons (uh, like five years), I made it an agenda to stop by.  Beyond the Everest of art that fills their bicentenniagenarian stone inn on the edge of forever, I had the inimitable pleasure of tasting (er, drinking) cups of Jim’s homemade wines, which are, really ARE like no other – goldenrod, lavender, blueberry, and basil to start.  Stop now and imagine that, and you’ll never imagine it as it is.  Ya just gotta taste there.  And Nieves, whoa, beyond a swimstruck painter, Nieves is a pristine Basque – and that means cook.  She’s prepared some of the best meals I’ve ever delected, but this time outdid herself, with a dinner of roast Basque pheasant (just shot by a neighbor, marinated in three wines and vinegars, green olives, prunes, and capers – you can’t imagine that taste either), steamed giant purple asparagus from the garden, and a giant bowl of freshly picked morels sautéed lightly in garlic.  I mean holy moly.  Add to that a few glasses of just opened, full bouquet, water-clear thyme wine, and you’ve got an edifying culmination that might just change your life.  And I believe it did.  In fact I know it.  On the (other) creative side, Nieves has a solo show in Helsinki in August (check her website for details), and Jim is brilliantly reinventing the sluice (check the future for details).

The final leg of this unapologetic spree is titled Dickie Does DC.  I finished up the tour and most the month with a visit to friends in Manassas, VA, and a reading in DC.  Hung with art lover and international shipping agent Robert Hernandez and his heart-of-gold bf Jino Hong.  They accompanied me from strip mall to strip mall, all the way the heart of the nation, which I believe is called the West Strip Mall.  There were some buildings and pies and a couple of trilobites, and a lot of fences and things made of mesh and an unforeseen sport involving a very large ball and a lot of very bright colors and shrieking.  I remember sun in my eyes and a cracked sidewalk and a poor man asking for money.  Which all came together and all made sense with the reading, a queer-friendly street-friendly monthly blowout called Sparkle hosted by the plosive Regie Cabico.  It was at Busboys and Poets, an odd venue that’s essentially a giant fancy restaurant that celebrates poetry.  Though there have certainly been many venues of that ilk (read: Nuyorican Café; read:  Bowery Poetry Club; read: the hundred thousand readings of the American poetryscape), the giant fancy restaurant part may be kind of a first.  The food was great, but it all took me a bit aback.  They do have a dedicated reading room, with a terrific stage and maybe 40 tables, and patrons hand over an Abraham Lincoln just to eat in there and listen, though for some implacable reason some of the patrons just eat and talk and ignore the poets.  Why pay an extra five to interrupt a reading?  A mystery to me.  But the regulars hopped on, rocked out, and kicked my ass, good old fashioned quality wordpower, and I gotta say, if yer in DC you gotta go.

And we all do go, and I did go, and I was gone to spend a few last days with the folks and brother Geff, a few more family meals, a few walks by the beach, a few more nights of Cape May stars.  And now I write and fly, and am in the air, I am writing and flying and vantage is broad.

We are in the tall grass, we are all in the tall grass and peering, peering over into dusk, into dust, into a vermillion-rimmed sky.  Buzz of crickets, hum of cicadas that may be here or may be memory.  Smell of May grass and pollen.  Taste of dust.  Touch of sky.  And this is not a blog.

Sincerely,

Richard

 

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