Thursday, October 30, 2008

By request

As I promised someone earlier today, here is James Wright's "Northern Pike." I am now four months into my self-imposed one year waiting period before I tattoo the thing, in some big tattoo font, on my muscular back. The one year wait is to help reduce the likelihood of my regretting the decision, but also because I need the time to make my back muscular.

Northern Pike

All right. Try this,
Then. Every body
I know and care for,
And every body
Else is going
To die in a loneliness
I can't imagine and a pain
I don't know. We had
To go on living. We
Untangled the net, we slit
The body of this fish
Open from the hinge of the tail
To a place beneath the chin
I wish I could sing of.
I would just as soon we let
The living go on living.
An old poet whom we believe in
Said the same thing, and so
We paused among the dark cattails and prayed
For the muskrats,
For the ripples below their tails,
For the little movements that we knew the crawdads were making
under water,
For the right-hand wrist of my cousin who is a policeman.
We prayed for the game warden's blindness.
We prayed for the road home.
We ate the fish.
There must be something very beautiful in my body,
I am so happy.

--James Wright

So, we'll say eight months from today, then. That's a lot of words/ pain, I'm realizing.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Frank Stanford Diary, Part 2

The Chief

So the Chief ended up being so great. If I drove by this place at night and Edward Hopper were riding shotgun with me, he'd almost decide to paint it. "Dude, slow down . . aw, never mind," he'd say. They had shampoo packets, too, which was a bonus, because I had to wash my hair with tiny bar soap at the Motel 6 the night before.

The rest of my diary, then:

9:05 Atlanta Bakery

When there is a table of retired men sitting in a bakery where there are no pancakes, one of them will do all the talking. He is the large one. He will talk to his smaller, fellow retirees about other men they might know, and who have heart trouble and are looking for part-time jobs in their retirement. It is always this way.

9:15 Atlanta Bakery

I want to know, in The Savage Detectives, what happens to Juan Garcia Madero, but the book is not telling me and I am getting distracted. I almost put tea in my coffee just now.

Mathew Henriksen giving directions before the marathon reading of The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You. In the background, you can see trucker hat guy.

9:44 in the upstairs loft at Night Bird Books in Fayetteville, where I have just discovered a new book of Chris Ware sketches that is beautiful but too expensive.

Before I left school yesterday, my friend Wendy said to me "Have fun on your trip! I hope you get to meet your poet-guy." "He's dead," I said. Then she laughed.

10:30 Farmers' market at Fayetteville town square .

Half of the citizenry of Arkansas is dogs. And yet it is still a red state. Not enough dogs.

If you see a three-legged dog, it is good luck. Especially if you have a leg and are looking for a dog.

12:50 Fayetteville public library, first panel discussion.

This guy in a baseball hat on the panel just said the exact same thing I have been thinking about Aime Cesaire and Frank Stanford but assumed I was wrong about. Now I think it's a good idea.
I will write it.

Matt again.

9:30 pm Marathon reading for Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You

We are 100 pages into Battlefield, and I have never read this much of it at one time and it's just too crazy. It's the only way this thing should be read. There are about thirty people listening in here and whenever the door opens to the hall outside, you can hear another twenty or so clinking beer bottles and talking about the poor market for PhD's.

I just got to get up on stage and read two pages. They included the part where the circus performer's cat is doused in cognac and lit on fire. I tried to rise to the occasion.

11:17 Getting tired already.

This guy in a trucker cap just got up there. I can't tell if the trucker cap is ironic hipster or sincere, but I wish I could wear hats the way he does. He gave the reading of the night. He sang it almost, in a voice like, I don't know, Michael Stipe or something if he were a public-access TV preacher. He was phenomenal, and a perfect note to end my night on. I'm not doing this all-nighter thing, though I might have if I brought a sleeping bag.

Irv Broughton, film-maker

And that's all I wrote! The travel and lack of decent breakfast was wearing me down, I think. I spent the whole trip home reading The Savage Detectives, but slowly. In the photo above is the guy who made the film that was one of the centerpieces of the conference this weekend. Before I took this picture, we talked IU basketball and Kelvin Sampson and the Ft. Wayne Zollner Pistons for a while. Super guy. Here's to hoping he can get a good version of It Wasn't a Dream, It Was a Flood released in the near future. It's stunning--I keep remembering the looped, hacking laughter of the figure that keeps coming in and out of focus at the beginning. Crazy.
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Monday, October 27, 2008

Late Birthday

I'm so bad with birthdays. This blog, for example, turned three a few days ago. The vanity! To celebrate, and to buy time as I pick out what pictures to use for part 2 of the Frank Stanford diary, here are a few of the old posts that were kind of funny, if occasionally long and pointless:

8.6.07, in which I report on Prospector's camping trip to the Upper Peninsula.
and part two of the same trip.

9.27.06, in which I first cause my daughter significant trauma, both physical and emotional.

9.6.06, in which I recount the time I told a joke about drunks for third grade show and tell.

Good times!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Frank Stanford Diary

In Arkansas, they use vines for telephone wires, like on Gilligan's Island.

I'm back in Indiana, where my newspaper delivery lady, Maribel, has started delivering the paper to a different door, and I can't decide if I mind or not. Here is one part of a diary of my weekend in Fayetteville. This part, admittedly, does not have a lot to do with Frank Stanford.

Friday, 6:10 pm, Fort Wayne Int'l Airport

It has been so long since I last flew in a plane and I am surprised to learn that they still want you to only bring small tubes of things on the plane, not big tubes. I brought a small number of books, and have a small amount of change in a pants pocket, but they don't care about that. So my large tube of toothpaste, large and white and tartar-fighting, must go. I even throw it out before I go through the line to save myself the embarrassment of being exposed in front of others as someone who doesn't know about these kinds of things. When I go through, they don't even look in my bag, so I could have saved my toothpaste. I still have my floss, though.

6:45, departing Chicago O'Hare for Fayettville

It is night and downtown Chicago is all lit up below and around my window and I just remembered the Liz Phair song where it goes "I flew into Chicago at night, something something/ it looked like a Galaxie 500 video." I've seen a few Galaxie 500 videos, but don't remember any that look like this, but I am glad that I remembered that line while I was living it out in a way.

When you fly over a city at night and its lights are briefly and suddenly obscured by a soft shape below you, you have just seen a "night cloud," a cloud that is made at night

6:50 (all times are guesses because I don't have a watch)

I just realized that my wife's ipod that I have here has Galaxie 500 on it, so I could have been listening to them while I remembered that line. Minor setback.

9:20, landing in Fayetteville

When all the people around me, the second the pilot says it's okay, pull out their cells and call someone just to tell them "I just landed," the people on the other end should answer "So?"

Saturday, 8:00 am, Motel 6, Fayetteville, Ark.

There are blood stains on my motel wash cloth, and I haven't had a bloody nose and don't remember killing anyone last night.

Last night, when I checked in, the clerk said to me "Are the cops still out there?" "I dunno," I said. "Was there a dust-up?" "Every weekend. The cops come every weekend. It is a good thing," he says.

I like staying in awful motels. It has all the hardships of camping without any of the gratification, so it's more hardcore. I found a cheaper, hopefully more awful, motel closer to the Stanford deal, called "The Chief," so I'm going to move there for tonight.

I sat in the morning sun and watched this string band for an hour.
We talked about our favorite banjo tunings (D and double C) and Ralph Stanley.

8:45, after driving around looking for pancakes.

88.3 FM in Fayetteville is the coolest radio station I have ever heard. So far, though, I am the only person I have seen here who looks like they might entertain the thought of listening to it. What's more, you cannot buy a pancake here, yet all of the people I see look like they would really like pancakes. Fayetteville, I am learning, is a city of contradictions.

There is, literally, not a pancake within 50 miles.
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Friday, October 17, 2008

It was carnage as usual at the Mississinewa 1812 reenactment this fall. Last year, I took the kids but missed all the fightin', so we made it a point to bring the whole family and get there early. The trees were gorgeous and the river is pretty: steep banks and a little bit broader than the river that is near your house.

Only when I got home did I read up on some of the history to learn that no real battle like this one you see here ever took place. The real battle on this river was in the middle of a snowy November and was an attack on some sleepy Indian villages. There weren't gaggles of British forces and cannons and firing lines and what not. We didn't care.

Because this thing was cool. The whole day. At first you think it might be embarrassing to see all these people playing dress up in one place, but they take it on with such earnestness that you can't help but suspend your disbelief a little bit. This is J and me listening to an Indian story- teller (not pictured) (and not Indian, either). I need a new black hat. My Air America hat, like the radio station, is fading.

This, too, is not an Indian, but he rubs red paint on his skin and plays one on the weekends in a kind of make-believe Native American National Guard. This particular one appears to be inter-marrying, establishing a Metis culture in a part of the country where I don't think there was one.

I still am not sure what tone this weekend is taking toward the events of the battle itself. They aren't celebrating it, but they aren't examining it either. The Indians always lose, though, that's for sure.

Best shirt of the day. And his friend had one just like it.

The climax of the day was supposed to be a "pirate battle," which just ended up being men shooting randomly at each other from across and in the river. Best part was when a white man settler-kind of guy ran out into the river, got tomahawked, and then did a dead man's float in front of us, following the current. I can imagine him looking forward to that performance all year: "Just wait til they see my dead man's float!"

You should go next year. It'll be fun.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bad news.

So sad.

Seen on the way to the annual Mississenewa 1812 reenactment, where a big Indian slaughter is celebrated, or depicted, every year near Marion, Ind.

Notice how the sign uses a backward D, creating an emoticon that can't be made with a keyboard. Some linguist working on her ph.d should interview the author, I would think.
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Friday, October 10, 2008

Tomorrow's Breakfast

So in Chicago a couple of weekends ago, Kimberle totally kicked my ass at ordering breakfast. I made a common mistake by erring on the side of excess, going with a manly pile of eggs and chorizo and I think there were avocados in there, too. Kimberle went simple, though: oatmeal and caramelized bananas. I didn't have a chance!

So here is me correcting my mistake, realizing how laughingly simple it is to caramelize your own dang bananas. Why don't we do this every day, I have to wonder. Anyway, touche, Kimberle.
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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Anything for the angel of death

Man, I want to go to this thing: they've actually organized a conference for Frank Stanford in Fayetteville in two weekends. If I can get it approved for my professional development this year, I'm going to fly down, but time is running short for me to get approval before ticket prices go up. I wish I had known about the thing sooner, but oh well.

For the last year or so, more than almost anybody else, it has been his books that fall out at me when I go stare at the shelf. Here's one I read with my writing club last Friday, and which got a stronger reaction that I'd even expected.

Everybody Who is Dead

When a man knows another man
Is looking for him
He doesn’t hide.

He doesn’t wait
To spend another night
With his wife
Or put his children to sleep.

He puts on a clean shirt and a dark suit
And goes to the barber shop
To let another man shave him.

He shuts his eyes
Remembers himself as a boy
Lying naked on a rock by the water.

Then he asks for the special lotion.
The old men line up by the chair
And the barber pours a little
In each of their hands.

UPDATE: I'm going! My goal is to have at least one of my patented "awkward conversations with a kind of famous person who matters to me" with C.D. Wright!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

file dump

Here are some other pictures to show what kind of fun we could get into with 24 hours of babysitting and enough gas money to get to Chicago and back. I love that city, but it's always a little scary going there. "What if I get lost in Gary?" (didn't happen) "What if I can't find a parking space?" (did) "What if I get jealous of all the cool downtown neighborhoods and their stately homes?" (did, but that's part of why you go there in the first place)

This is the second picture Cath ever took of me since our first kid was borned. Honest. She was mainly trying to get the prettiness of Potato Creek State Park, where we fit in two laps on their rightly-lauded mtn biking trails. Not technical, but fast and more fun than you'd think, being in what I assumed would be flattish part of Indiana. I bit it 2.5 times, but only one of those times was at all cool.

And this is the first picture Cath took. That fall light can't be beat and it makes you want to take pictures of everything, even your husband. My triumph of the day was after this picture when I talked our way through three levels of state park bureaucracy to get to use the campground showers before we drove into Chicago for the concert: (1) campground booth lady; (2) young ranger guy booth lady called in for backup; (3) unseen boss ranger guy called on his radio who gave us the ok.

Pointed toward Chicago now.

Hanging out after big burritos at Carmela's Taqueria, one block from the Aragon Showroom, oblivious that MBV was probably playing their first song right about now. It was a cubicle-sized restaurant that we shared with five ticket scalpers and a cop. Very cozy, and good food, but I wish I got to hear all of the first song.
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