Tag Archives: poetry

“But why are the kids crying?!”

“How can Rick be dead when we still have his poems?”

That’s the attitude I try to have when it comes to the death of someone I loved, yet never met.

In 2013, I lost three of my best friends.  The news was devastating every time.  Did I know them personally?  No.  And yes.  And not really.  And very well.

Why did I consider them my friends?  All of them had just, I dunno — all of them had gotten me through so many confusing, shitty, or just plain boring times.  I hope I don’t sound too crazy when I say that.  I’ve never stalked anyone and I understand the difference between fantasy and reality, but yeah, these people meant a lot to me.  They still mean a lot to me.  I can call them my “friends” if I want.  And I was sad when my friends made their exits.

Still, the question remains: “How can Rick be dead when we still have his poems?”

Lou Reed?  He ain’t dead.  He can’t be.  I still love him very much and I still have “Sweet Jane,” so nothing has changed.

James Gandolfini isn’t dead, either, and neither is Tony Soprano.  (My theory, anyway.)

Peter O’Toole.  My dearest, darling Peter O’Toole.  The coolest.  The smartest.  The hottest.  The craziest.  That voice.  That height.  That hair.  I think about him all the time and I miss him all the time, and yet, as long as I can get together with my friends every December and laugh and cry and yell and drink champagne while watching The Lion in Winter, Peter O’Toole can never die.

This morning, as soon as I got to work and turned on my computer, I found out that Rik Mayall died.  Today.  Rik Mayall died today.  Weird.  So very weird.  And sad.  He was still, well, young…

Just last week, I was listening to The Pogues and wondering when Shane MacGowan would die.  I was also wondering why Shane MacGowan hasn’t died already.  Seriously.

I should stop.  I don’t wanna give the universe any ideas.

My point is, I was already thinking about my remaining heroes and wondering who I’d lose next.  Apparently, not Shane MacGowan.

Oddly enough, I was also thinking about The Young Ones last week.  I don’t remember why or how, but, quite suddenly and inexplicably, I felt inspired to find the Dr. Marten’s boots song on YouTube.  After watching it, I spent a good hour and a half searching for cheap Dr. Marten’s online.  No avail.

The next day, a co-worker of mine mentioned The Young Ones.  He’s Scottish.  I said, “I fucking love The Young Ones.”  He said, “That’s too weird.”  I asked him why.  He said, “It’s just weird that you even know that show.”  I asked him why.  He said, “I dunno.  I mean, it’s British and it’s old and it’s weird…I mean, I was watching that when I was in high school.”  I said, “So was I.”

If you knew me in high school, you must recall that I was a pretty cool teenager.  I mean it.  Like, the coolest.  For example, when I was 15 or 16, I begged my mom to buy me orange suede ADIDAS like the ones Ewan McGregor wears in Trainspotting.  I felt so badass whenever I wore them.  Like, so very, very badass.  I also begged her to buy me a pair of plaid pants, because, ya know, Scotland.  Or something.

There’s really, like, very minimal plaid in Trainspotting.  I realize that now.

The coolest thing, though, was that every Saturday afternoon in tenth grade (after improv practice, no less) I would go to my friend Kaley’s house for Britcom.  Yes.  Britcom was our somewhat exclusive club that involved eating ice cream and watching British comedies until our eyes hurt.  We wrote a constitution at one point.  I don’t remember what was in it except for The Golden Rule, which came from an episode of Father Ted: “If anyone is ever talking to you again, think about what you’re saying and then don’t say it, and then just run away somewhere.”

The Young Ones was one of Britcom’s staples.  Every David Bowie reference made me feel so damn validated.  I went out and bought a Madness record and listened to “House of Fun” on repeat.  I began referring to my English teacher as a “fascist bully boy,” despite the fact that she was a She.  I seldom said, “I don’t have any money” — I usually launched into a Neil impression and said, “We haven’t got any breaaaad.”  When I was feeling boy crazy I was a “Bitch funky sex machine.”  I wrote “Boomshanka” on things I shouldn’t have written “Boomshanka” on.   I even once got a Starbucks barista to write it on the sleeve of my Americano.  I think I still have that sleeve somewhere.

Rik Mayall is dead.  The people’s poet is dead.  I’m sad for his wife and his family.  I’m sad for Ade Edmondson.  Like I keep saying, though, “we still have his poems.”

My VHS tapes of The Young Ones were dragged from my parents’ house to my college dorm (there was a VCR in the downstairs common room), and when I moved out of the dorm and into an on-campus apartment, I made sure to buy a TV that had both a VHS player and a DVD player.  Why?  Well, how could I live without Neil, Mike, Vyvyn, and Rick?  They were university students, after all.

I still have those tapes.  I’m not ever going to get rid of those tapes.

Aw, Rick.  Thanks for helping make it nearly impossible for me to legitimately enjoy 99.9% of the current comedies on television.  No giant sandwiches falling from the sky?  No jokes about Leonard Cohen being a vampire?  No pervasive political undertones?  No, thank you.

There was also the music: Dexy’s Midnight runners doing “Jackie Wilson Said” and multiple Madness appearances and that great scene with friggin’ Motorhead…

What the hell is that shot of you guys being pushed on that…what is that?  That’s a luggage carrier thing, right?  Well, it slays me.  Every time.

Ah, Rick.  Thank you.  Your show is so damn cool.  So, so cool.  It had everything the teenage version of Steff wanted in a show, and, since 27 year old Steff is very similar to the person she was 11 years ago, it’s still one of my all time favorites.  It’s part of me, really.  An appreciation for The Young Ones (or the ability to sit through several episodes in-a-row) is my litmus test for whether or not a man is husband material.  (Husband, not boyfriend.  Those are two different things.)  Watching an episode of The Young Ones is my solo go-to activity when I’m having a shitty day.  The music that plays during the end credits is what I hear in my head when I’m exceptionally happy.

Aw, Rick.  RICK.  My favorite pseudo-intellectual-anarchist-hipster-bachelor-boy.  You’ve never failed to make me smile.  You never will, you friggin’ weirdo.

 

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The Scuzzy Sons-of-Bitches Who Light Up My Life Part VI: Jack Kerouac

Scuzzy Son-of-a-Bitch #6:


Jack Kerouac

My Future Be-Bop Boyfriend

(2004)

My high school boyfriend bought me a poster of Jack Kerouac during our senior year.  I had never even read any Jack Kerouac — I was more into Allen Ginsberg’s homosexual rages and Charles Bukowski’s drunken stupors.  Nonetheless, he found a Jack Kerouac poster and thought of me.

He brought it to me one night when all I wanted to do was sit around and feel sorry for myself.  The school year had begun with a bang, to say the least.  I was Drama Club President (go ahead and laugh at me), as well as Co Editor-in-Chief of the high school newspaper (laugh harder).  I had to prepare for our school’s upcoming “Cabaret Night,” as I was hosting the prestigious event and I wanted to do a good job.  There was also the issue of mandatory play rehearsal until 5pm on top of writing a Goddamn play for the spring Murder Mystery Dinner and performing in improv shows every other Friday night.  Add to all this the horrible fucking reality of college applications and yeah, I was one angsty 17 year old.

I was sprawled on my bed moping about how I was losing touch with my friends and blah blah when I heard the familiar knock at the door.  My boyfriend always knocked — he never ever rang the doorbell.  My mom let him in, and he came upstairs and presented me with this awesome fucking poster.

“Where did you get this?” I asked.

“Cost Plus,” he said.

“What were you doing at Cost Plus?”

“They have the coolest chocolate,” he said.

He then procured a small tin of green tea chocolate and offered me a piece.  I didn’t fall in love with it, but I could understand why he did.  It was the same reason he chewed clove gum and ginger gum and got excited whenever he was in a place that carried Beeman’s.  He dug the weird sodas at BevMo and always opted for anything infused with chili powder or licorice.  He loved used record stores and antique stores and was always giving me dusty old Tom Jones albums because he knew my friends and I thought Tom Jones was funny.

I thanked him for the poster and told him why I was sad.  He gave me a back massage while I laid on my stomach, my bedroom door wide open for my parents’ peace of mind.

During Christmas vacation, I tried to read On the Road.  I got as far as Sal Paradise’s affair with the beautiful Mexican woman and their adventures in cotton-picking.  It was all very beautiful and very Beat, but once school started and it was time to focus on the next project, I had to put Jack down.

(2006)

During my freshman year of college I nabbed a brand new boyfriend who also gave me cute presents.  On Christmas he gave me ceramic figurine of a hummingbird, which was an inside reference to my very first panic attack — an event he got to witness one morning before the sun was even out.  On Saint Patrick’s day he gave me a ring that he had found when he was in middle school and vowed he would one day give to a special girl.  On Easter he sneaked into my room and hid candy eggs for me to find, which made some of the other girls in my dorm “Ooooh” and “Eeee!” and “You lucky bitch!”

He had never heard of Jack.  He didn’t read poetry.  He didn’t read.  I tried and tried to at least get him to read “Howl,” but he always refused.  One night, I finally got him to lie down with me and listen to a recording of Ginsberg reading it.  When it was over, the only comment my boyfriend offered was, “I liked the part about the watches.”  I tried to talk about societal revolutions and war and change, but the conversation didn’t last long.  I refused to give up, so I tried showing him Easy Rider.  When the movie was over all he had to say was, “You’re such a hippie.”

He also didn’t want to watch all the Beat Generation documentaries I rented on Netflix that year.  I couldn’t even get him to watch No Direction Home, even though his roommate had exposed him to Bob Dylan’s music, which my boyfriend claimed to like.  For the most part, anything having to do with poetry or music or counterculture was anathema to him.  This led to many nights of,

“You should come hang out downstairs.”

“No.  I wanna watch my movie.”

“Well come down afterward.”

“Nope.  I’m sleepin’ in my own bed tonight.”

“But I wanna see you.”

“Then watch the movie with me.”

“But I hate hippies.”

“The Beats weren’t hippies.”

Eventually he would go to his room and I would go to mine.  I would watch something about The Beats and he would do something else.  When the movie was over I would lean over to turn on the light, and Holy Metaphors!, I would be face to face with the Jack poster.

This behavior led to writing sentimental journal entries and scribbling short poems in the margins of my lecture notes and drinking way too much coffee and hoping that one day I would meet someone who really got me.  We’d go to San Francisco on the weekends and eat seafood and drink red wine and wander the streets tossing dimes to the bums and scat-diddly-dat-dat-datting back and forth in crazy love.

In August, one month before sophomore year started, I gave all the cute presents back and called the whole thing off.   One day, I came across some old CD’s of Jack reading his poetry with Steve Allen playing piano in the background.  I knew that we owned the CD’s because I had seem them in my mother’s bedroom before, but I had never thought to steal them.  Newly single and newly inspired, I brought them up to school with me in September and listened to “October in the Railroad Earth” while I pinned pictures of Johnny Depp to my bedroom walls.

Soon after school began, my mom took a trip up to Santa Cruz to visit me.  Well, okay, she wanted to check on me.  The split with the hippie hater had been a tough one, and my mom didn’t want me to spend my first weekend back in Santa Cruz sitting in my room and crying about some guy.  She drove up on Friday and spent the night, and the next morning she drove us to San Francisco.  We stayed in a small room at the Hotel Bohème in North Beach, and mom took me to City Lights and bought me Beatnik postcards.  We wandered into The Beat Museum, where we were given a tour by the owner.  He also showed us THIS:

On Monday morning, when mom drove home and left me to get on with my life, I felt absolutely cured.  I didn’t give a shit about boyfriend or ex-boyfriends.  Everything was going to be fine.  Everything was fine.  All I wanted to do was write poetry, and all I needed was my Jack Kerouac and Steve Allen CD.

(2012)

A few months ago, I quit my job and went on a road trip up north.  Before I left, I checked out an audiobook of On the Road.  I listened to it all the way to Santa Cruz, then a few days later I listened to it on my way to Menlo Park.  When it was time to drive to Alameda I put on The Dresden Dolls, and then when it was time to drive to San Francisco I listened to my new copy of Let Love In.

In San Francisco I ate dim sum in Chinatown and wandered around North Beach drinking Espresso and taking pictures of graffiti.  I had drinks at Cafe Vesuvio and scribbled in a notebook I bought on Valencia.  I was alone, and I was free, and I was happy.

One evening I crashed into the Beat Museum and asked the guy behind the counter if he had access to the Poet of the Month archives.  I told him that I had won Honorable Mention twice in 2007, and that I would like to have copies of my poems.  He explained that he didn’t have physical copies, but he could try to find them for me online.  He worked on his computer for about ten minutes before saying, “I found your poem from April.”  I said, “There’s one from May, too.”  He looked at his computer, then said to me, “That page has been corrupted.”  My face fell.  He said, “I can recover it.  Give me a second.”

About twenty minutes later, he announced that he had fixed the problem and I now had web access to my poem.  I thanked him profusely and bought some merchandise so I wouldn’t seem like a total asshole.

I was never able to find my poem online, but it’s okay.  Somehow, I feel that if I ever found it and read it, I would only see the stupid mistakes and the dorky word choices.  I would criticize myself, and I don’t want to do that.  Instead, I prefer to think that a perfect poem written by a romantic 20-year-old girl is somewhere out there floating around in the informational abyss, never to be seen by human eyes.  I think Jack would like that.

And I never finished listening to On the Road.  I think Jack would like that, too.

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The Scuzzy Sons-of-Bitches Who Light Up My Life Part V: Allen Ginsberg

Scuzzy Son-of-a-Bitch #5

Allen Ginsberg:

My First Fairy

(2004)

I was seventeen-years-old.  I was up late doing homework.  I was stressed out to the maximum.  Everything sucked.  I needed A’s, I needed to finish a gargantuan essay, and I needed sleep.  In my angst, I went to my bookshelf and grabbed the copy of Allen Ginsberg’s HOWL I had boosted from my mom a few months earlier.  Actually, I hadn’t even boosted it — my mom had given it to me.

Those opening lines freaked me out in the best way possible.  I needed a good freak out.

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
      madness, starving, hysterical, naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
      looking for an angry fix
 

When I was done reading, I knew that my tastes had changed just a bit more.  I was already into Jim Morrison and Lou Reed, so I was no stranger to heavy writing (nor was I unclear about what an “angry fix” was).  However, despite their darkness, neither of them sang explicitly about being, “fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists.”  Not even Lou.

Who were expelled from the academies for crazy &
      publishing obscene odes on the window of the
      skull
 

Deep inside, I wanted to be a trouble-maker.  As a seventeen-year-old kid who had spent the first 3/4 of her high school career doing everything right, the idea of being “expelled from the academies for crazy” sounded like a blast.  In fact, that was why I was so behind on my gargantuan essay — instead of going home after school to work on it, I had driven to Malibu with my friend, Nicole.  No one knew where we were.  We got frozen yogurt.  Oh, how dangerous we felt.

Who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear,
      burning their money in wastebaskets and listening
      to the Terror through the wall
 

I knew that America was falling apart.  We had been building elementary schools in Afghanistan since I was a freshman and we had been preaching Democracy in Iraq for a year.  The freaking President of my own country scared the daylights out of me.  I couldn’t stand the very sight of him when he came on television.  Even the five second clips Jon Stewart used to make fun of him on The Daily Show were almost too much.  An election was coming up in November and dear God, I was furious that I wasn’t old enough to vote.

I also knew that this kind of stuff — meaning “art” — especially stuff that included the word “Terror,” was just plain not allowed.  How can you put “terror” in a poem or a song or a screenplay and not expect government backlash?  You were just begging to have your stuff pulled from the stores.  Your concerts canceled.  Your books burned.

Your phones tapped.

I don’t remember if I got anything done that night.  I remember finishing the poem, and I remember crying.  Everything was different and I was terrified.

The next morning, while sitting in my English class pretending to listen to the substitute teacher drone on about the green light at the end of The Great Gatsby, I looked through the index of our American Poetry Anthology.  Holy Hell, Allen Ginsberg was in there.  I flipped to his section and read “A Supermarket in California.”  When I finished it, I tuned back in to the lecture just long enough to hear the substitute mention Walt Whitman.  How the Hell had she gone from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Walt Whitman?  Did I miss a discussion about “O Captain! My Captain!”?

I took the Whitman tangeant as an opportunity to maintain the illusion that I was not only paying attention, but also brilliant.  I raised my hand.

“Have you heard of the poet Allen Ginsberg?” I asked.
The future English teacher shook her head.
“Oh.  Okay.  Because he has a poem called ‘A Supermarket in California,’ where he fantasizes about walking through a supermarket with Walt Whitman.  It’s actually in our book, on page 325…”

I analyzed the Hell outta that poem.  I talked about alienation and consumerism and The American Dream.  No one followed along with me — the idea of deviating from the curriculum was too scary, I guess.  Plus, this was AP English, where there was zero time for, ya know, thinking.

The substitute didn’t have much to say aside from, “Oh, neat.  Thank you.”

To say that I felt cool would be an understatement.  I went right back to reading poetry, and the substitute went right back to quoting from her teacher’s edition.

      Where are we going, Walt Whitman?  The doors close
in an hour.  Which way does your beard point tonight?
      (I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the
supermarket and feel absurd.)
      Will we walk all night through solitary streets?  The
trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both
be
lonely

(2007)

I was twenty-years-old.  I had been up all night doing homework.  I was stressed out to the maximum…

Everything rocked.  I had one hour to finish my final essay for my 19th Century American Poetry class.  All I needed to write was my closing statement, and then I would be done for the quarter.  I got to choose my own topic, so I chose to compare Walt Whitman to Allen Ginsberg to Bob Dylan.  Instead of sticking to the 8 – 10 pages, I somehow wrote 15.  My title?

The Body Electric, Copulations Ecstatic, and the Heart Attack Machine:
An Appreciation of the Twisted Minds of Whitman, Ginsberg, and Dylan

When I finished the damn thing, I felt like a genius.  I was Joe College to the max.  Of course, when I tried to re-read the thing the other night, I could hardly handle it.  It is definitely not my best work, and I will never understand why my TA gave me an A+.  I am not fishing for compliments here.  I really, truly don’t understand.  However, I do think my closing paragraph shows potential:

      Last summer I had a dream that I was in a tattoo parlor in San Francisco brainstorming what kind of tattoo I wanted to get.  As I walked down the aisles of posters with samples of symbols I could choose from, I suddenly decided that I wanted to have one of Dylan’s lyrics emblazoned on my skin instead.  Of course in the real world it would take a long time to choose which lyric I wanted, but in my dream I instantly decided I wanted the line “Jeez, I can’t find my knees” from “Visions of Johanna” on my upper-thigh.  Soon after, when I woke up and realized it had been a dream, I felt a bit disappointed that I did not actually get the tattoo.  When I told my mother about my dream, she thought I was a genius for thinking of that in my sleep.  While I am still flattered by her motherly support, I must clarify that I am not the one who is a genius.  Instead, my dream was the result of a long line of brilliance that has just as much resonance today as it did over a century ago.  Whitman’s “gray-beard” appeared in Ginsberg’s supermarket, Ginsberg’s Howl echoed in Dylan’s brain, and now Dylan’s lyrics ring out in the tattoo parlor of my mind.  These three men, with their powerful voices and powerful minds, accomplished so much in their time that it would be impossible for America to ever forget them.  They will never be silenced.

I like knowing that seventeen-year-old Stephanie and twenty-year-old Stephanie weren’t two completely different people.  If time-travel is like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, I think that those former versions of myself would get along with each other if they ever wound up in front of the same Circle K.

I don’t think present day Stephanie would shun either of those girls, either.  There is a decent amount of serious dorkiness going on here…

Well, all right.  I guess it’s fair to say I haven’t changed at all.  I’m still up late writing about Allen Ginsberg and geeking out over the copy of Planet News I bought on my last trip to San Francisco.  America still scares me and I still want the war to end.  My favorite poems and songs don’t explicitly contain details about being, “fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists,” but I do have a hard and fast “The Weirder The Better” policy when it comes to all forms of entertainment.

And while yes, my idea of “dangerous” has changed, I still get a kick out of driving to Malibu for frozen yogurt.

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COLLEGE POEMS V

I opened up one of my college notebooks to a random page.  There’s no date written on it, but a few pages beforehand I have the date March 6, 2007.  Scrawled in purple pen and separated by squiggly lines are the following musings:

(QUICK NOTE! DUE TO THE VOLUME OF COMMENTS REGARDING HOW BEAUTIFUL THE POEM ABOUT “VIENNA” IS — I DID NOT WRITE THAT.  IT’S FROM A POEM BY FEDERICO GARCIA LORCA THAT WAS TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH BY LEONARD COHEN.  I EXPLAIN THIS AT THE END OF THE PIECE, BUT HERE IT IS AT THE BEGINNING NOW, TOO, JUST IN CASE.  WHY DID I SCRIBBLE IT IN MY JOURNAL?  BECAUSE I LOVED IT.  STILL DO.)

“I could still make it to class

But it’s such a fucking

beautiful day.”

————————————-

“I don’t know what I’m doing.”

————————————-

“The song they’re playing right now

Is absolutely beautiful.

I can’t even understand

What the singer’s saying

but his voice is still great

And I love that I can hear

someone playing the triangle —

Or are they chimes?

Maybe it’s some indie band

that someone put on a CD

titled “Tuesday Afternoon Mix.”

If that’s the case, I would love to shake that person’s hand.”

———————————————–

“I don’t think too many people

look attractive in shorts.

I myself haven’t worn shorts

in public in at least five years.

I don’t have long, skinny, supermodel legs

and I don’t pretend I do

So I save people the terror

and always wear jeans.”

————————————–

“Now in Vienna

there’s 10 pretty women

There’s a shoulder

Where death comes to cry

There’s a lobby with 1200 windows

There’s a tree where the doves

go to die.”

—————————————

“I love you like

sitting outside at sidewalk cafes

watching people stroll by

while I sip at a mug

of coffee and scribble in my

notcebook.

I’m wearing sunglasses that

reflect back an image of

you smiling and then closing your

eyes to breathe

Just for a second.”

—————————————–

1.) I wonder what I was doing in that moment that was too good to give up for the sake of going to class.  I suspect I was sitting at The Kresge Cafe, because I know that’s where I was when I wrote the ditty about the “Tuesday Afternoon Mix.”  Was I somewhere else when I wrote the first blurb?  Was I outside, or was I just content?  Finally…did I end up going to class?

2.) “I don’t know what I’m doing.”  Whoa there.  What was I talking about?  Whoa there.  Don’t even get me started on that one.

3.) How funny that I just posted the final draft of this one.  It’s interesting for me to look at this draft.  I guess I didn’t change too much of it, but I still think the changes I made were the right ones.  Go Steff.

4.) Ha.  Oh, wow.  I still haven’t worn shorts in public.  I wonder why I felt the need to write this down.  I probably saw someone wearing shorts and felt inclined to write about…shorts.

5.) No, I’m not secretly a brilliant poet who’s been hiding her true capability from the world.  This is a poem by Federico Garcia Lorca that was translated into English and made into a song by Leonard Cohen.  This song was my JAM when I was 20.  My JAM.  I’m still every bit as hopelessly romantic now as I was then.  ::Sigh::  Only question: “12oo windows”?  It’s “900 windows.”  I mean, “TWELVE” doesn’t even SOUND like “NINE.”  If I had written “FIVE HUNDRED” I would have understood, as “NINE” and “FIVE” sound similar…but “TWELVE”?  Pretty dorky, Steff.

6.) I blame my love for Jack Kerouac and Ani Difranco.

Dear God, was I being serious about all of this?  Or was I just having fun?

Why am I evening worrying about it?

Aren’t I doing this for fun?

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COLLEGE POEMS IV

I feel a little strange about posting this poem.

I’m not embarrassed.  Honestly, I’m having a great time sharing all of these dorky college poems with you.

Still, I feel a little strange about posting this poem, because this one was once very important to me.

I wrote it sophomore year, which I’ve come to realize was a time when everything was important.  I was 20 years-old — the oldest I’d ever been.  I was hundreds of miles away from mom and dad.  I was in charge of making my own meals and doing my own laundry.  I had my own room.  I was taking feminist studies classes and reading The Bell Jar in my spare time.  I was obsessed with Bob Dylan and Shane MacGowan and I felt so cool when one of my professor’s said, “Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Laurie Anderson.”  I loved my roommates and my apartment and my school.

In January, I started seeing a boy I’d been friends with for a few months.  By “seeing” I mean sneaking around with, and by “boy” I mean, ya know, a fellow consenting young adult.  We secretly kissed one night after a party, and instead of just leaving it at that, we had to repeat our mistake and make things complicated.

We liked each other and I knew that and he knew that, but for some reason we never really got it right.  One of us was always afraid of something and the other was always worried about something else.  One day we’d say, “Let’s just be friends,” and then after two days of being the kind of friends who stay up all night talking, one of us would say, “I can’t just be friends.”  We’d start over.

It was frustrating and painful and yeah, frickin’ exciting.  It always hurt a little bit after one of our “we need to stop this” discussions, but we’d always change our minds, which always meant a few more days of sneaky bliss.

We finally decided to commit, and things immediately soured.  I don’t know whose fault it was.  Maybe if I had just let him ignore me instead of barging into his apartment asking, “Where the fuck have you been for five days?” things would have been better.  Maybe if he had actually told me what it was that made him want to run away things would have been better.  Maybe it’s because we were both 20 years-old?

I tried to end it a few times, and both times I was talked out of it.  It was confusing.  It was frustrating and painful and I hated every second of it.

Things came to an end over the summer when we both had to go back to our respective suburban homes.  He broke up with me.  When he called me that day, I knew exactly what was going to happen — it had been ages since we last spoke.  He said, “I have to break up with you,” and I said, “Haven’t we been broken up for weeks?”  I was sad, but I wasn’t hurt — I had gotten all the “hurt” out of my system back in Santa Cruz.  Furthermore, I wasn’t about to let him think I was surprised to hear that we were through.  Looking back, I shouldn’t even have been that nice.  I should have just blurted out a big, loud, “DUH.”

I’m a huge fan of monogamy and commitment and intimacy and all that, but, I have to say, the best part of this relationship was the “sneaky bliss.”  It probably shouldn’t have gone beyond that.  Maybe we’d still be friends and I wouldn’t be posting a poem I wrote about him.

I wrote this one night after visiting him in his apartment.  A few weeks later, I decided to submit it to a poetry contest that was being held by The Beat Museum in San Francisco.  I didn’t think that I was going to win, nor did I really care.  The only reason I mailed the poem off to the city was because it seemed like a fun little creative outlet.  Despite my lighthearted feelings, I still decided not to tell anyone.  This was just for me.

A month later I called my mom one Sunday morning to ask her something — I really don’t remember what.  My older brother answered the phone.

“Hi Bobby!”

“Hey.  I just read your poem.”

Pause.

What poem?”

“The one about the diabetic boy.”

Yes.  My mother, being a Beat Museum enthusiast, had gone to their website that morning just for kicks.  Across the screen, she saw the names of the winners of that month’s poetry contest.  Honorable Mention went to Stephanie from Santa Cruz, California, for her poem “Sweet Love.”

March 2007

HONORABLE MENTION
Stephanie Callas Santa Cruz, California
Sweet Love

I know this guy who’s diabetic

Whenever he’s at my apartment

he has to go home every couple of hours

to check his blood sugar levels

I miss him during those few minutes

and I’m always overjoyed when he comes back

sipping his Capri Sun.

Once a long time ago at his apartment

he checked his blood sugar

right there in his room

and when the results were in

he shot insulin into his hip

I asked him if he needed a Capri Sun

“No sugar this time. Just insulin.”

He called me one night while I was

trying to write an essay

for some silly class

that I didn’t really care about.

My priorities don’t involve textbooks

“I need you to come over,” he said

“I had a seizure today at 4am.”

I was over an hour later

with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s

Double Chocolate Fudge Brownie

“Cause this time you where low, right?”

He grabbed my hand and said,

“Do ya ever have days when you

only wanna see specific people?”

Curled up on his bed

with the ice-cream close at hand

we watched the first half of a movie

and then we kissed for nearly two hours

Then I went home at 2am and stared at my

blank computer screen and told myself,

“I could love this guy.”

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UKULELE ANTHEM!

So.

I saw Jason Webley’s 11-11-11 show in Seattle last weekend.  Yes, Seattle is a good ways away from Agoura Fucking Hills, but I wasn’t going to miss the show for anything.  ANYthing.  When he played the opening of “Icarus,” a song Amanda Palmer has covered on more than one occasion, I got kind of…excited.  I thought, “Is she gonna come sing with him?  Is this gonna be the best performance of “Icarus” to ever occur on planet earth?”

This is what I managed to capture.  That’s me saying, “There she is…Wait…” and then screaming “WHAAAAAA!!” when she comes out.  Well, okay, I guess everyone is screaming, but my scream is the clearest, as I’m the person holding the camera.

After they sang “Icarus” together, they sang “Elephant Elephant,” which was damn jolly good.  I didn’t get any of it on film because I wanted to just enjoy the moment (someone else did, though…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQD_MbhwCbM), but THEN, oh then, THEN Neil Gaiman came onstage and read a poem about The Night Before His Wedding, which I did catch on film…and it did make me cry…just a little bit.

You can hear me release an intense “I’m absurdly single” exhale at 1:50.  And I apologize for the shitty video quality — I should probably save up for a new camera.  It could take me a few years, but I’ll do it.

The show went on for a good three hours.  All was right with the world.  Like…ALL was right with the ENTIRE freaking WORLD.

This was Friday night.  I got back to Agoura fucking Hills on Sunday night.  It is now Wednesday night.  I can do whatever I want with my time — go to the gym, go out to dinner, paint pictures of dinosaurs, etc. — but all I can really do is think about that damn 11-11-11 show.  I’m not going to go into the show’s effect on me — those details (a bunch of crap about FEELINGS and ENERGY and THE UNIVERSE and GROWTH and LIFE) are for my diary ONLY. All I will say is that it was a great time, and I will definitely tell my grandkids the story of the time when their crazy grandma was young and vibrant and ditched work to fly to Seattle to watch a skinny man in a hat play the accordion.

Interestingly enough, I haven’t really felt the urge to listen to any of Jason Webley’s music since arriving back home.  I’m definitely not over it, but I definitely do need some time to reflect…and listen to something else.

The feeling is similar to the one I get after I watch The Godfather — I can’t just turn on the TV and watch whatever comes on after sitting through the greatest damn movie ever made.  At the same time, I can’t just start the movie over…

So, what have I been listening to?

I’ve been listening to this.  And it rocks.  It rocks HARD.  It rocks HARD and it makes me want to spend a lot more time making SPANK paddles and writing poems and painting pictures of dinosaurs.  I suggest you give this a listen.

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COLLEGE POEMS!

I used to write a lot of poems. Like, a LOT of them. I’m not sure if they were good or bad, really. I may even go so far as to say that some of them showed potential.

Good or bad aside, they REEK of college. Absolutely REEK of it. They are all about, in the [poetic] words of The Rolling Stones:

“Laughter, joy, and loneliness
And sex and sex and sex and sex.”

I used to share these poems with ENTIRELY TOO MANY PEOPLE. ENTIRELY. I read them to my classmates, posted them on my MYSPACE BLOG, submitted them to poetry contests and WON…

…Well, ya know, I received Honorable Mention…TWICE!

Here’s one I just found. I will definitely share more of these.

Posted on my MYSPACE BLOG on March 19, 2008. At the time I was a junior in college, and I lived in a tiny blue house in Midtown Santa Cruz. I may have been dating a cannabis-growing, pot-selling convenient store clerk at this point — I’m not sure when exactly we started dating.

Anyway, I was a really happy, creative kid. And I wrote this poem.

“The Palace Flophouse”

A tiny blue house sits off kilter
at an angle
tucked between two much more substantial buildings.
The cars in the drive way virtually
tower over the beach shanty and
the blue paint is faded from years of
sunshine and rain
and the rust-colored mailbox creaks loudly
every time it’s opened.
The plants in the front yard
are sparse and shriveled.
They enhance…nothing.

The tiny, comfy living room
has an ugly white sofa
with a horrid floral pattern
and there are two brown corduroy chairs
on either side of it.
There’s always a glare on the television screen
because there aren’t any shades
on the gigantic glass windows
that make privacy impossible.
And the room is freezing…all the time.

A tiny, dirty kitchen
has a stove that never ignites
and a dishwasher that never works
and a huge, white counter
that’s never clean.
The floor is made of red bricks
and no matter how much anyone sweeps
it’s always dirty
and littered with crumbs, dust, hair,
and bottle tops.
It’s still swept everyday…anyway.

A tiny, horrid patio
has three white, plastic chairs
and two stools that have both been
destroyed by monsoons and heat.
There are green weeds growing like mad
between the slabs of gray granite
and they are slowly taking over.
A dirty shell sits on one of the stools
and it’s used for cigarette butts
and it’s always overflowing.
There’s ash…everywhere.

A tiny, stupid voice in my head says,
“How the Hell have you survived here?
“There’s no heating or air conditioning
and the bathroom’s full of spiders
“and the front door doesn’t really lock
“and your bedroom is so crammed
“and there’s really shitty lighting
“and the parking lot around the corner
is so damn loud at night
“and the beach is cold and windy
“and raccoons run on your roof.”
But I wouldn’t trade this place for…anything.

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The Scuzzy Sons-of-Bitches Who Light Up My Life Part II: Charles Bukowski

Scuzzy Son-of-a-Bitch #2:

Charles Bukowski

The Messed Up Voice In My Head

(2003)

Literature majors, UC Santa Cruz students, recent college graduates — lend me your ears!  Does this look at all familiar?

Drunk

By James The Poseur Extraordinaire

 

I was drunk.

And the drunk tears streamed down my cheeks

As she walked out the door.

The room was quiet

Except for the sound of the cockroaches scurrying across the walls.

The typewriter sat in the corner surrounded by torn pages

Broken glasses

And empty bottles of rye.

And her suitcase was gone

And she was gone

And the wine was gone.

I went to the liquor store.

I bought a jug a wine and a lotto ticket

And on my way home I thought about her.

My cock got hard.

The End.

 

Young poets, go forth and write your Charles Bukwoski poems.  Scribble them in the margins of your lecture notes, or on the back of the “About The Author” page of your copy of The Bell Jar.  Agonize over whether to end the line with “behind the bar,” or if that should be a separate line altogether.  Carry a designated Poetry Journal with you at all times, and bust it out for a scribbling session every time you find yourself at a coffee drinking establishment.  Write all about The Whore Who Ruined Your Life, or about The Time You Ruined That Whore’s Life.  It’ll be GREAT.  And then, you must STOP.   

It may be be easy to imitate our favorite scuzzy bard, but the time must come where you realize you are not Charles Bukowski, and, though he was no genius, he really had this whole thing nailed.

I was 16 years old.  It was a Thursday evening in May.  I had just finished performing a small part in a school play, and I needed a moment outside.  You see, earlier that afternoon, I had had my heart broken for the second time.  There was no sex involved, nor infidelity, nor broken promises, nor anything else that usually complicates adult break-ups.  The heartbreak I felt was the kind of heartbreak that can only be felt when you’re still relatively innocent.

I saw a crew member reading on a bench.  She asked if I wanted anything to read, and because I wasn’t in the following act, I told her yes, I did.

“Do you like poetry?” she asked.
“Sure,” I said.
“I have a huge book of poetry.”
“By who?”
“Charles Bukowski.”
(pause)
“Okay.”

She handed me a copy of The Night Torn Mad With Foosteps.  I flipped through it and stopped on a poem called “Love Dead Like A Crushed Fly.”  What can I say?  I had found someone with whom I could commiserate.  Of course, I had never been drunk like Charles Bukowksi.  I also hadn’t had as many illicit affairs, or lost as much money on the horses.  Still, somehow, we understood each other.  That weekend I went to Barnes & Noble in hopes that they’d have at least one of his books.  I didn’t find anything that had “Love Dead Like A Crushed Fly,” so, instead, I bought Love Is A Dog From Hell.  It wasn’t until a few months later I finally found a copy of The Night Torn Mad With Footsteps, which I eventually ended up leaving in a college boyfriend’s apartment.  He never brought it back to me, which is strange, because I would bet my life he didn’t keep it because he liked it.  

I’m now 24 years old, and heartbreak isn’t any easier for me than it was eight years ago.  I guess the only advantage that I have now is the ability to look back on what I felt when I was 16 and think to myself, “Well, you thought that would kill you, too, and you were wrong…”.  Experience aside, there’s just as much shit to trudge through, and just as much Charles Bukowski to read.  I find that comforting.

The Shower

By Charles Bukowski

we like to shower afterwards
(I like the water hotter than she)
and her face is always soft and peaceful
and she’ll wash me first
spread the soap over my balls
lift the balls
squeeze them,
then wash the cock:
“hey, this thing is still hard!”
then get all the hair down there,-
the belly, the back, the neck, the legs,
I grin grin grin,
and then I wash her. . .
first the cunt, I
stand behind her, my cock in the cheeks of her ass
I gently soap up the cunt hairs,
wash there with a soothing motion,
I linger perhaps longer than necessary,
then I get the backs of the legs, the ass,
the back, the neck, I turn her, kiss her,
soap up the breasts, get them and the belly, the neck,
the fronts of the legs, the ankles, the feet,
and then the cunt, once more, for luck. . .
another kiss, and she gets out first,
toweling, sometimes singing while I stay in
turn the water on hotter
feeling the good times of love’s miracle
I then get out. . .
it is usually mid-afternoon and quiet,
and getting dressed we talk about what else
there might be to do,
but being together solves most of it
for as long as those things stay solved
in the history of women and
man, it’s different for each-
for me, it’s splendid enough to remember
past the memories of pain and defeat and unhappiness:
when you take it away
do it slowly and easily
make it as if I were dying in my sleep instead of in
my life, amen.
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