Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Smoke 'em if ya got 'em

You never think it’s going to happen to you.

A couple days ago I came home and found my desktop off. Now I know I should be a good steward of the earth and all – but I leave my computer on most of the time. (I do put it in sleep mode when I am away for any extended period.) I assume we had a power fluctuation – it’s not uncommon in my neighborhood. So I rebooted and continued using my machine.

Well yesterday while I was working I smelled a strange plastic burning kind of odor. Then my computer quit. So ever being the guy not afraid to take things apart I removed the side enclosure and saw that there was a bit of dust in the thing. Nothing too extreme but I vacuumed it out so it was nice and spicitty span and rebooted – checking to see all fans were spinning away. Everything looked cool while the screen flashed past the splash and began firing up Windows.

Then, what to my wondering eyes did appear but a cloud of smoke emanating from my hard drive’s case? My hard drive had literally caught on fire. It’s something that I always thought was some sort of urban myth – the exploding hard drive – surely this was not a real thing. As my hero Frank Zappa sang in his seminal piece – the return of the son of the magnet monster “It can’t happen here – I’m telling you my dear – that it can’t…happen…here.” Losing all data was something that happened to other people.

I put this in the same category as hitting a deer on the road with your automobile. I used to think what moron hits a mammal weighing upwards of a hundred pounds unless they are completely unaware of their surroundings? That was until I hit a deer. It was as if the animal was dropped on top of the hood of my geo prism wagon from out of a tree. POW – it’s crazed wide eye flashing by my windshield for a half an instant. I had the same runaway elevator feeling in my stomach then as I did while I watched my hard drive self destruct ala Mission Impossible.

So right now my desktop is sitting at Micro Center where they will “make an attempt” to salvage some data from my Kentucky fried hard drive. 58 bucks if successful – but the bargain basement price of 38 smackers if they can’t. Since my computer was only 9 months old the thing is under warrantee but that doesn’t help with all the lost data – pictures, writing, programs etc. etc…

Needless to say – we purchased a 500 gig external hard drive for our home network.

I did have most of anything that was semi important backed up to CDs, but I have lost all my saved e-mails, contacts and edited photos. So now I have trying to re-build everything from scratch to look forward to. In the meantime I work on a laptop – hunched over – my fat fingers too big for the keyboard – like a gorilla repairing a pocket watch.

Back during my manufacturing days as a quality engineer my desk used to pile eye high with papers and assorted junk. I handled this by occasionally throwing everything on top of my desk away at once and starting from Jump Street.

Well, looks like I’m gonna be doing that here.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cleveland Poetry Scenes

Attended a reading, publication event for the new anthology and history Cleveland Poetry Scenes -published by Bottom Dog Press yesterday. The event was hosted by the Cleveland Public Library and the head of that institution’s literature department Ron Antonucci.

Extra big kudos goes out to the editors of the book – Larry Smith, Nina Gibans and Mary Weems. A rouges gallery of Cleveland poets showed up for the event and read from their works contained in the tome. We all jumped on stage afterwards for a group photo. While this is not all the great poets living in the greater Cleveland area at this time this was one of the more inclusive gatherings that I have been a part of.

Your scorecard is below.

1. Jim Lang 2. Meredith Holmes 3. Sara Holbrook
4.Chris Franke 5. Terry Provost 6. Adam Brodsky
7. Katie Daley 8.Ray McNiece 9. Mary Weems
10. Larry Smith 11. Kelly Harris 12. Michael Salinger
13. Kisha Foster 14. Mary Francis Player 15. R.A. Washington
16.Douglas Hoston Jr. 17. Bonnie Jacobson 18. Bree
19. Mwatabu S. Okantah 20. Nina Gibans 21.Mark Kuhar
22. Susan Grimm 23. Leonard Trawick 24. Vince Robinson

more pics from the event at my flickr site:

look for the Cleveland Poetry Scenes set.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Brave New Voices

Attended the youth poetry slam finals competition last night. First time in four years where I wasn’t MC’ing the show – we’ve turned those duties over to some of the teens themselves. I guess I’ve sort of taught my way out of a job when the students are ready to take over. This is a good thing, even though it was still kind of bittersweet - it was fun not being responsible for running the night, but then again I have never been one to shrink away from responsibility.

I’m happy to say that five out of six members of the team are students that I have coached or had in workshops. Also not being on stage this year allowed me to play favorites and I wasn’t above directing their performances and giving time cues from the audience.

I couldn’t be prouder of these kids. With all the negativity that surrounds growing up today, especially in an urban environment – it is more than a little encouraging seeing these young people speaking their minds with clarity and conviction.

I skipped out of sitting on a panel at a local college that was discussing the state of poetry in Cleveland in order to attend the finals. My partner in rhyme, Sara Holbrook, ably filled my slot there. I can tell you though – from where I was sitting last night – the state of poetry in Cleveland looked to be pretty good.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Travel Tanka

They say, in Bali,
If in this incarnation
One is not so good:
Canine the next time around
Hence, the many well fed strays

In the small grave yard
A couple dogs eye you up
But keep their distance
Like stalkers pushing limits
On a restraining order

Friday, April 18, 2008

Kooser Daddy?

Saw Ted Kooser – former Poet laureate of the United States – read last night. It was the third time I have attended a reading by him, thus the third time I heard a lot of his stories and jokes between his pieces.

Now I don’t think this is a bad thing and I can certainly sympathize with the guy. We all have our pat stories our go to anecdotes the one-liners we toss out speciously on the fly. I think these little segues are a very important part of any feature reading, many of which have been born in the cauldron of a moment and then reissued over and over – because they work.

A feature reading should be considered as a whole set, the patter in between the pieces a way to keep touch with the audience and to measure their interest. If one has the audacity to stand in front of a group of people and expect that crowd to listen then the speaker should be prepared.

Here’s a list of my pet peeves re: poetry readings in no particular order.

Going on too long.

Kooser read for about 40 minutes and he was the poet laureate – do you think your work deserves more stage time? Nobody, not even your mom, wants to hear you go on and on and on for an hour and a half. In the same vein – if there is a time limit set – say two poems - do not read two twelve minute epic pieces on your failed love life. Don’t ask the reading’s host for more time while you are up at the mic – this is a cheesy ploy that puts the person responsible for your opportunity in the first place on the spot in front of the rest of the audience. Leave your listeners wanting more is the mantra that should be adhered to.

Explaining every piece before you present it.

Granted, every once and awhile you may have an arcane reference in a poem that could use a bit of explanation. But, I could not give a rat’s ass about how you were feeling, where you were sitting, what you really mean, the TV show that inspired you, your favorite movie etc. etc. etc. If everything you are presenting requires a preamble it most likely also requires a bit more rewriting. If your poem cannot stand on its own no amount of propping it up with an introduction is going to save it.

Rifling through a stack of papers.

Are you telling me that getting up in front of this audience was a surprise to you? You may think that flipping through your stack of poems written on paper bags, post-its, grocery store receipts, a couple dozen composition books or scrolling through your PDA will lend you a devil may care aura of nonchalance when in reality it just makes you look unprepared and disrespectful of your audience. Similarly, don’t drop your pages to the floor as you finish reading the words on them unless your goal is to have your listeners stop listening to your words and look at the papers strewing the floor. (Most times this goal is applicable to the practitioners.)

Pleading with your audience.

If you have to continually ask your listeners “are you feeling me?” “Know what I mean?” or some other variation – chances are they don’t

“I just wrote this now…”

I have never heard a poem prefaced with this line that was not a self indulgent piece of garbage. I have no curiosity whatsoever in the scribbling you were doing while others were at the mic. Firstly, it most likely is going to sound as if it was just written – secondly it only shines a spotlight on your disrespect for every other person at the reading pointing up how you do not care to listen to others. Don’t tell me that you were “inspired” by something you heard either. Take a quick note if you have to – then write the piece when you have appropriate time to devote to it.


Stop screaming. Volume doesn’t denote importance. People scream when they are mad – are you mad at your listeners? If not, why are you yelling at them? While I’m at it – slow down, enunciate your words – you took the time to put them on page (I hope) – take the time to speak them clearly

Kooser did none of the above. Whatever one may feel about his writing, his presentation was gracious.

Okay – that’s my short list. Feel free to add to this. What are some of you least favorite reading faux pas or reader stereotypes?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

For Emily

A wild bird in the house portends bad luck
Even death
So said my grandmother
She of Slovenian descent
This superstition though, transcends nationality
Migrating across imaginary boundaries demarcating countries
Italians, Greek, Scandinavian, Irish, Chinese
All warn against harboring
Undomesticated things with feathers

The cats wake us at sunrise
Howling and chasing through the front of the house
And I assume they are fighting
Over another imaginary feline slight
Then I recognize
The flutter of wings in distress
So I put on my slippers

The mourning dove shivers
Wedged behind the grandfather clock
Cat tails twitching with pendulum precision
Feathers littering the room
Betray the mayhem that had only just subsided

I eye the bird’s beak
Thin, pointed, needlelike
Weigh the chances of disease
As I cup its warm, weightless and hollow boned body
In my hands
Pinning its wings with my palms to its side
I open the door with my elbow

I toss it into the air
Not knowing whether it will fall lame
Or fly

Monday, April 7, 2008

Drop it like it's hot


I got dropped like a penny heated by a burn-Z-omatic torch



Over the last three months while we have been travelling all over god's gray earth I have let my fitness regiment flag a bit. I decided to remedy this finally this past week so I dusted off my running shoes and hit the pavement a couple times.

I can measure the distance I have run by where the pain in my body is emanating. Right out of the blocks – at the end of my drive - I feel a sharp twinge in my Achilles tendons – sometimes both but always at least one like someone has whipped me just above the heel with a snapped off car antenna.  My knee will buckle a little as if I am going to list and fall over into the tree lawn but then the feeling passing just in time for me to gain my composure saving my neighbors from juggling the decision whether or not to call 911.


As I progress to the half mile mark the bottom of my right foot begins to feel as if a gulf ball has been inserted into my shoe underneath the arch of my foot.  This pain intensifies until I hit the one mile mark where it magically fades away being replaced by what feels like a coat hanger, straightened and heated red hot, inserted right below my calf then slowly threading up my leg against the bones to my mid thigh. Then at about the two mile mark, when I suppose, everything had been sufficiently lubricated and loosened up, all pain goes away and I feel like I could run for hours.  This will last til I reach the five mile mark where I swear I can taste blood in my throat.


Anyway – I decided to get my bike out this past weekend and sans any sense I elected to make my first ride one with a group of riders who were meeting at a new bike shop on Cleveland's east side. The ride was billed as a "Leisurely trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and back at a 15 to 16 mile an hour pace." The round trip was around 22 miles. In midsummer condition I can maintain a pace around 19 to 20mph for up to 40 miles so I figured no sweat. Well dear readers, I done figured wrong.


I was barely able to keep up with the 18 to 20 MPH pace this gang took on the way out to the rock hall. Luckily this bunch believed in obeying traffic signals so I managed to hang with them, catching up at red lights as we rode in our spandex splendor. Like a school boy watching the clock before summer break I watched the odometer on my bike, mentally keeping track of the percentage of the ride completed.  Once the pack turned around at the Hall and began climbing the East 9th street hill back into the rusted heart of Cleveland Ohio I knew I was a goner. This ride and pace was exactly twice as long as I should have attempted first time out.  They left me in their dust – the only person I finished the ride in front off was the guy on the Wal-Mart purchased mountain bike who took a cigarette break every five miles.


I rolled up to the bike shop a good 15 minutes behind the rest of the riders who were already on their second helpings of bagels and coffee.  They were gracious in suggesting excuses for me and I will join up with this group again – give me a couple weeks and I'll be able to hang with them for the whole ride.




The real winner here though was Bill the owner of Blue Skies Bicycle on 185th street here in Cleveland.  I left my bike with him to tune up (I certainly would have finished in front of the pack if my bike had been serviced before the ride – yeah right) and then when I went back to pick up my road bike Sara and I purchased a used tandem that he had for sale in his shop. We're going to run errands on our bicycle built for two this afternoon. The pace will be dramatically much more laid-back than my first ride of the season and Sara – well I don't think she'll have to worry about getting dropped.