Sunday, August 30, 2009


old_tv October 8th, 1977 was a pivotal day in the development of my psyche. It was a Saturday night and I was a fifteen year old tenth grader living in a suburb east of Cleveland Ohio. In fact, even with all the travelling and moving about I’ve done I am still just six miles away from that house.

Like most adolescent males I was a bit of a night owl and I had a habit of staying up late on the weekends watching whatever was on the idiot box until the American flag streamed across the cathode tube around two thirty am or so and the television signed off for the night. You old enough to remember that? The TV used to sign off every night to the strains of some military band playing the Star Spangled banner.

Of course this was decades before a hopped up soap pushing Billy Mays ruled the wee hours of the day. Heck, good portions of the shows I would watch were in black and white. The hosts who commanded the late night roost were local folks like Big Chuck and Hoolihan and my personal favorite The Ghoul. (I missed the infamous Ghoulardi by a couple years) Big Chuck was a producer of the earlier Ghoulardi show and Hoolihan was an AWOL weatherman – the pair took over the late night slot when Ghoulardi (Ernie Anderson) left the Cleveland market for greener fields and network TV in LA.

These cats would play whatever cheap horror flick they could get their hands on and sprinkle comedy skits in during intermissions. The Ghoul, Ron Sweed – who coincidentally was also a production assistant on the Ghoulardi show – a gig he landed by showing up at one of Anderson’s appearances dressed in a gorilla suit subsequently received permission from Anderson to resurrect the character) was an aficionado of blowing things up on set with fireworks and inserting sound into the terrible movies that he showed.

I remember one occasion when a viewer had sent in a homemade volcano with a fuse at the top with the instructions to only light the IED outside in an open space. The Ghoul debated with the camera – should I light it or not? I was yelling at the screen “Light it Light it!” And I’m sure due to my prodding; he fired the homemade Vesuvius up. The thing filled the studio with smoke and sparks and Sweed, choking gagging and laughing, had to cut to commercial – truly great television. after The Ghoul’s show was over the station would play one more horror flick – this time no sound effects or gags at intermission. Actually there were very few intermissions – ad time between one and three in the morning must have been a hard sell in Cleveland Ohio during the seventies. Most times these movies weren’t too scary; the choppy editing making the plot almost impossible to follow sometimes the movies just stopped – no credits nothing and up popped the flag. But every now and then a gem would flicker by. I saw the original Little Shop of Horrors, the Omega man, Vincent Price and Peter Lorre in The Pit and the Pendulum and Burn Witch Burn.

Burn Witch Burn – I have absolutely no memory of what the movie was about and it doesn’t matter. I could look it up on the IMDB but I would probably be disappointed because all I know is that as far as I was concerned it was the scariest thing I had ever seen. The movie ends, the star spangled banner plays, an announcer informs me that “we now end our broadcast day” and I watch the screen bw-test-pattern2revert to a test pattern accompanied by a 400 hertz sine wave tone. I’m sitting in a chair – my knees pulled up to my chest two feet or so away from the screen. Eventually the test pattern and tone disappear too leaving only a static and snowy image the sound reverted to a rasping fuzz.

“mom,” I whimper. Then again a little louder, “Mom.” This continues each vocalization getting a bit louder – Mom, MOM, MOOOM!! My mother finally appears in my doorway. “What the hell is wrong with you watching that garbage so late? Go to bed!” So I did.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about – this little event above happened a few years before October 8th 1977. See on the date in question I was watching Saturday Night Live and the musical guest was a 23 year old British singer songwriter named Elvis Costello. I’d never seen anything like it before – he sang “Watching the Detectives”. Well he didn’t really sing it – he snarled it like he hated the camera. He jerked around, knock kneed ducking and diving as if he were trying to escape from the screen, baring his crooked and gapped teeth, giant Buddy Holly type glasses – anti fashionable on purpose – his image evoking lyrics “She’s filing her nails while they’re dragging the lake…” and I distinctly remember thinking that this was important – that this was something new and I liked it. Elvis Costello turned me into a punk that night.

So yesterday – I’m in the grocery store picking up some organic chicken breasts and what do I hear coming over the Muzak? Watching the Detectives - barely audible, I stopped my cart to be sure and there it was. Not a sanitized string version either – it was the single, Costello’s singing backed by the Attractions. Thirty two years from life altering moment to background music for shopping. You know, I wonder if Burn Witch Burn is available on Netflix, maybe I do want to see it again.elvis_costello12-17-1977-snl-radio_radio062

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tri not to drown next time!

ltri02Ran the Lorain tri today – I came in second in this race last year so I had pretty high hopes for this one considering the time and effort I have been putting in this summer. Whenever I am talking to someone about running these races almost invariably they say - “I could do the run and bike but I don’t know about the swim.’ To which I reply, “The important part about the swim is not to drown.”

ltri01Well – today I drowned. As I was moving up through the pack of swimmers I took a foot squarely to the face and then was subsequently dunked under as I was paused in pain. My heart raced and I never did get my composure back I even contemplated throwing in the towel (or asking for one) and calling it a day. Fortunately I was able to grab a rock on a nearby break wall and catch my breath a bit – but my time was shot. (you can see me disappointedly checking it as i finally get out of the water above.) Usually I build my lead on the swim and bike portion but I ended up over four minutes behind my swim time of last year. Sara said she knew something was up when I didn’t pop out from behind the break wall when she expected me. There’s no panic like the panic of oxygen deprivation.

ltri04 I got my feces collected during the bike portion and had a really great ride. Got in with a pack traveling 20-21 mph it was so much fun I didn’t even mind the rain or the water streams that were spun into my face from the tires in front of me. We were flying along as a group taking turns chasing down the folks in front of us and chatting along the way.

ltri07 The run was as good as I could expect – I’ve got my mile time down to around 8:30 and i don’t think it is going to go any lower. I ran with my iPod listening to the Beastie Boys, Rob Zombie, Motorhead, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Yep, I ran a pretty god race minus that drowning part – SOOOOO – I can’t end the season on such a downer. I signed up for one more race to be run on Sept. 13. Not only do they have a Clydesdale division (200+lb)– but they even have an over 40 Clydesdale division. Now if they would add an over 40, Clydesdales who also are published poets division…


UPDATE: Turns out I took 4th place this year. If I had matched my swim time from last year I would have taken 2nd again behind the same guy (20 years younger than me.)

pics by sara

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Radio Active

Today Sara and I did the Around Noon "Open Air" radio show. We had a live audience and the show was also broadcast live which was lots of fun for us - but did make producer Dave DeOreo a bit anxious. It's a rather new format for the station and we were honored to be asked to help break it in.

I think this was the third installment - the effervescent host Dee Perry had called and asked for us to help kick the series off earlier in the summer but we were out of town so a back up poet was utilized. We were very happy that they called us back.

It's a funny thing - we very rarely see Dee outside of the studio (I have to be pushing about a dozen visits now - WCPN is a very poet friendly station) but everytime we work with her it's more like a reunion with an old friend. I think this is why she is so successful.

Here are some shots I took before the show with my phone. I brought the good camera but left it in the car.

All these wires go somewhere.

There's Dee giving me the corner eye look.

Dee and Sara chat while the band tunes up.

Dave the producer in white and the evil sound dude peeking out in the striped shirt.

Just about air time.

Here's a link to the show: Open Air /

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Domestique

The Domestique

Muscle fatigue is instigated

(according to the latest scientific hypothesis)

by tiny leaks of calcium on a cellular level

stimulating enzymes to assault muscle fibers

endeavoring to shut down whatever business is afoot


you already knew this

It is your nature to ignore this chemistry

Legs pumping with the precision of locomotive pistons

transferring energy to chain, sprocket and wheels

cutting through space

incited salmon-like forward

while every fiber below your neck screams

for you to stop

calves sinews braiding into knots

thighs threatening to split as if baking bread

the peloton follows in your wake

a brightly colored migration of spandex butterflies

and you come out of your saddle

to dance on your pedals

as if Bix Beiderbecke was blowing a solo in your skull

and then it comes

Your world is squeezed through a pinhole

and there is nothing

but the sound of wheels spinning

the hum of ceramic ball bearings

your heartbeat muffled in your ears

your body separates from your mind

and for an instant you are just

a projectile

sighting the finish line

Then it all explodes

shouts from the crowd first

followed by all encompassing pain

your will cannot maintain the pace

the universe has thrown a net over you

like Moses pointing to Canaan

you signal with your elbow the sprinter

who has been riding your wheel

for one hundred and twenty six kilometers

basking in your slipstream

like a dandelion seed behind a semi truck

and he slingshots by

to stand on the podium

to be kissed on both cheeks twice

by a duet of lovely French girls

while you look forward

to Epson salts and a whirlpool


Friday, August 14, 2009

Goat to get you into my life

Goat shows are very serious business.

goat01 Road out to the Ashtabula County fair with my parents to witness my nephew and niece show their angora goats. I have prior experience with goats – while I was growing up we always had one around the place – they make good company for horses and they’re fun. A goat will keep your weeping willow tree trimmed straighter than Betty Page’s bangs. A goat will let you grab its horns and wrestle with it knock you down on the ground and stomp on you and expect a handful of grain afterwards. A goat will spontaneously jump straight in the air and kick its legs out in all directions just for the hell of it. A goat will stand on top of a 4x4 fence post and look down at you impersonating a buzzard. A goat will decide that its favorite vantage point is the hood of your neighbor’s new Cadillac. Goats are pretty much barnyard clowns with weapons.

goat05 Anyway – I got to the goat barn at the fairgrounds in time to see the kids putting the finishing touches on their goat showing attire because this is a formal affair after all. Remember – goat showing is very serious business. I don’t know who received more grooming – the goats or the kids – but they all looked Sunday morning go to meeting fresh.

goat02 I am amazed at subcultures – now I don’t know if I can fairly label a bunch of preteen kids dragging goats around by collars and horn as a subculture but I think it gets close. There is so much to keep in mind when showing a goat and the judge who oversaw the various classes was as thorough and sharing of her knowledge of all things hircine as she was rotund. This lady got down on her haunches to be eye level with the kids (both varieties present) and when she did she reminded me of a wrecking ball at the end of a crane – but when the time came she sprung right up over and over. She spent a lot of time with the kids and was really encouraging to all of them – even though she was the first goat show judge I had ever seen – I have to say I think she will most likely be the best I ever witness.

goat06 Both kids received 4th place ribbons in their respective classes and all were very proud of our goat showing family members.

In any event – subcultures, they abound. I wandered the midway with my brother in law – the goat showing kid’s father - and we chatted a bit about the subject. I’ve got my triathlons which come with their own goat04special group of lunatics – my parents breed show dogs (check out the film “Best in Show”) – my sister’s fiancĂ© rides a Harley (more along the weekend warrior type than the Hells Angels variety) – the poetry community – the education community – zombie movie aficionados the list is never-ending. All these niches filled with rules, vocabulary and customs.

So, what specialized little community do you belong to?


p.s. Sara had the good camera so i had to take these w/my phone

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Step write up

Just finished a week on the road. First off I delivered a car and a trailer loaded with furniture down to Sara’s daughter in the DC area. I am still impressed with the audacity of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission – how they can collect tolls with straight faces is beyond me. Like Sisyphus – their work is never done. The entire length of the PA turnpike is dotted with construction equipment, ghost town rest areas, giant concrete barriers stacked into time sapping mazes and speed traps. There’s a sign somewhere along the infuriating length of roadway declaring that the stretch of road is “America’s First Super Highway.” To which I can only reply, “Yins are out of your minds!”

Ben is a blur as Danny supervises. After exiting the pay as you go obstacle course in Breezewood – that fast food and motel Mecca, we headed south into Virginia to deliver the loot and spend a couple days with Sara’s daughter, son-in-law and trio of boys. Shoes were bought, dinners were grilled, trampolines assembled, runs ensued, biking the old Dominion trail and a yellow jacket attack were highlights of this visit.

Thursday we headed into the city – the city being Washington DC – or more accurately Alexandria to have dinner with a friend and fellow author Sandra Whitaker who has just taken the job of literacy coordinator for all of the Department of Defense schools around the world! Not too ambitious an undertaking – do ya think?

PA001 Then we drove up to Millersville PA to speak at the Pennsylvania Writing Institute. The Writing Institute is a national project that believes in order to teach writing effectively in the classroom teachers should be writers themselves. So a whole lot of the emphasis of the program is on developing the teachers as writers so that they may share their experience as practitioners with their students rather than lecturers, a little goose / gander action.

PA004 We love these gigs. Sara and I have come into this profession through a side door. Starting as writers and then becoming educators – so, while our paths may be a reflection to the teacher’s journeys the ground covered is essentially the same. We spoke at a Writers Project Institute in South Carolina earlier this year and while having a great time we were received really well. Same in Millersville PA – the group was attentive and ready to work even though it was the last day of their weeklong summer residency (one of the questions submitted on an index card at the end of the day was a request for more writing exercises!)

PA002 Doctors Donna and Kim proved to be wonderful hosts and even went the extra mile of being advocates for our foo foo dog Suzi when she was kicked out of the ballroom by some self important catering manager. We had the additional pleasure of seeing our good friends Will and Sue Mowery in attendance as well. So, even though the drive across the state leaves much to be desired the natives do seem to be friendly – except of course for that catering manager.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Who let all these fast people into the race?

cleve00Ran the Cleveland Triathlon This morning – it was drizzly and windy. This is the one big race I’ve run the past couple years.

Last year I came in fourth in my division – the Clydesdale division for men 200+ lbs. So, since I’ve been training pretty hard this year I thought I might have a shot at a podium position.

Well it turns out this year the race has been sanctioned by the USAT – the governing body of all things triathlon in the United States. An opportunity for folks to garner points enabling them to participate in other invitational races with the final goal being some sort of national title or something.

Needless to say this brought out a whole new level of competitors out. I came in 8th this year – but I improved my time by almost three minutes. A time good enough to have won the division last year - not so this year.

In a couple weeks I’ll be running one more race – one that I placed second in last year. I am hoping for some success – but I’m not making any bets.

update: Final standings are up and I actually came in 7th out of 28 competitors in my division - last year I came in 4th with a dozen participants so I think I made some forward progress - I do know my legs still hurt.






pics by sara