9.03.2014

Time Capsule

My computer died about a month ago, so I'm using the one it replaced way back in 2008. It's about 80% annoying because there are reasons why I replaced it. But it's also about 20% fun because I'm rediscovering all the photographs I had taken back then which, in most cases, I'd completely forgotten about. It's interesting to look at the way I viewed the world then vs. now. It's only a few years but there are some differences. The first is that I didn't miss a chance to frame an image in a cheesy Paint Shop Pro frame (see above for example). This one isn't so bad, but a lot of them are hideous. And I used every single one. The second difference is that the photos are so small. Was I worried about storage? Computer speed? I don't know, but whatever it is I'm glad I don't worry about it anymore. The big difference is I got around a lot more back then than I do now. I think it's time to expand my range.

Autumn

Life in general is a time of contradictions and paradoxes, but it's especially true in Autumn. I've been out of school for *CENSORED* years now, but Autumn still reminds me of new beginnings, even as the leaves begin to turn red and fall off the trees. The cool Autumn mornings hint - discretely at first, then a bit more forcefully - at the Winter to come, while the warm afternoons remind you that Summer isn't going without at least a little fight. Autumn just never feels long enough. Not this year, Autumn. I may have frittered the Summer away but I have plans for you.

8.04.2014

Bad Poetry

I used to joke that "open mike poetry night" were the four scariest words in the English language, but one night many years ago, I learned it's no joke. A friend had invited me to an OMPN at a local church hall, and as incredible as it seems now, I didn't run directly to the Peace Bridge and hurl my body into the cold, raging waters of the Niagara River. I went. I remember sitting in the church basement, holding a styrofoam cup of flat soda and trying to get comfortable. I'm not a fan of poetry in general and bad poetry in particular, but the people seemed sincere and even I had to admit their poems were mercifully brief. Then "she" took the podium. She opened up a worn notebook, adjusted her glasses, took a deep breath, and launched into "January" the single most heinous poem I've ever heard, read or seen. You might think I'm being dramatic, but trust me: this poem was a stinker. It hit every trite cliche, every worn turn of phrase, every dimestore psychological insight in the book. But even worse was the dull, affectless monotone she read in. As she droned on, I was afraid of falling asleep and dropping my soda. Or clawing my face off. Both were very real possibilities. Eventually she reached the end of "January" and the crowd applauded. "Finally!" I thought, looking around the room to see who the next reader might be. But no. She turned a page in that worn notebook, took another deep breath, and launched into "February". I don't think it's exaggeration to say my life flashed before my eyes.

Years later the Real Dream Cabaret was working on a Cabaret Hell show to be performed at the opening of the brand new Burchfield Penney Art Center. I wrote a very long, very deliberately bad poem for my Cabaret Hell act, and I had a couple of ringers in the audience to heckle me a few minutes in. Tonight when I was clearing out some computer files I found the first draft of that poem. Enjoy. Or don't.


Monday

Monday rolls in like a 1973 Ford Pinto
And rides like it hasn’t had a tuneup
Since before my soul turned inky black and began to reek
With the stench of conformity
With the stench of acceptance
With the stench of acquiescence

Or perhaps it’s the stench of off-brand instant coffee
Waiting for the boiling water that will finally justify its existence
A garishly labeled plastic jar of powder
Ground and pulverized like my inky black soul
Seeping through my fingers and onto the kitchen floor
For the dog to sniff before losing interest and walking away
To lick itself in places we think obscene

Monday drops by unannounced
And overstays its welcome
Puts muddy feet on the expensive upholstery of my dreams
Leaving a mark no Oxy-Clean will ever remove
And no Sham-Wow will ever dry
Monday feels like salt and vinegar potato chips on a fresh paper cut
Take your search for comfort to some other day
Lazy Sunday perhaps, or Industrious Thursday
You’ll find no comfort here
For Monday is a harsh mistress
Her steely gaze and icy grip promise little and deliver nothing
Monday tastes like desperation
Yet the lonely gorge themselves at her banquet table of despair
Then ask to be excused so they can purge in the restroom
And return for yet another course
It’s all you can eat, baby
But the tray of roasted garlic mashed potatoes
Is always
Empty

Monday is the teacher of hard truths
And we her unwilling pupils
It’s 8 a.m. and Monday comes roaring into town
Sounding like the mother of all snooze alarms
She’ll sell you another ten minutes
But you’ll only be ten minutes closer to losing your mind
Monday makes awkward banter on slow-moving elevators
And whispers tales of weekend conquest in the breakroom
Sexual or otherwise
And it’s almost always otherwise






7.09.2014

silver linings



The skies have been absolutely insane around here lately. It rained pretty hard this afternoon, then the sun came out strong, and everything was bright and clear and wet, while the sky was as blue as you can imagine with big fluffy white clouds. I went down to the hatch where the sky was dramatic, and sat for a while on the stones above the water. Such wind! I was actually chilly, and the waves crashed against the rocks hard enough to spray me, 20 feet up, every few minutes. There were several layers of clouds, all different and all moving in different directions. Every once in a while they'd hit just right and the light would change completely and instantly. It was strange and wonderful. The water went from steely gray to mossy green in the blink of an eye, then back to grey before I was ready. My battery ran out so I headed for home, and didn't I see another rainbow?

7.08.2014

Ghosts

Being of a certain age and living in a Rust Belt city means there are big chunks of your history that are simply gone because so many people either moved away or died. It was really bad back in the mid 1990s, when it seemed every other weekend was a going away party for someone who was moving to North Carolina or New York City or anywhere but Buffalo or Syracuse. Times were tough around here back then, and the various associations I made between people and places stayed strong because nothing ever changes in a depressed Rust Belt city except maybe another layer of grime and decay. I used to call them my ghosts, because seeing this corner or that apartment building or the other storefront would take me back, instantly and without warning. Sometimes it was nice, but mostly it was just jarring. Buffalo has been on the mend now for a few years, and many of those old haunted places have changed, breaking the chain that links me to my past. I didn't realize how many of those links had been broken until today in Dollar General when I saw a living ghost; a woman I had known many years ago and who I thought was dead. It took me a few minutes to place the voice, the way she stood, the way she talked to the clerk, but then it all clicked into place and I felt that jolt again that I'd managed to avoid for a very long time. I knew she'd never recognize me - I was much thinner when she knew me - but even so I kept still in order to avoid catching her attention. I much prefer this city of living vibrant people to the land of ghosts I knew 15 years ago.

7.04.2014

Chasing the Light



I've often heard people who take a lot of photos refer to themselves as "chasers of light" and though I sort of understood what they mean, it never really resonated with me until last night. I don't know if it's Arthur's distant influence (note to readers from the future: Arthur is a tropical storm that keeps threatening to turn into a hurricane and move up the east coast) or just luck, but the skies were absolutely beautiful yesterday. Impossibly big, fluffy white clouds fought for space with dark, ominous clouds that looked packed with rain and/or other kinds of michief. All day at work, I glanced out of a window every chance I could, watching the show and trying to decide where to go after work to take some snaps. As I drove around, I realized it must be Arthur, because everything was all wrong. The fluffy clouds weren't where they usually are, and the ominous clouds were moving very fast and with a purpose. Meanwhile there I was driving driving driving but never finding just the right view. Chasing the light, Pulling into a lot by the outer harbor to watch the sunset, it started to rain. Ok, I thought, not having taken a single shot, I can take a hint. Grab some dinner and go home. Tonight's sky was to experience, not to capture, and that's ok. As I came out of the store with my dinner, didn't the sky taunt me with this rainbow?