After two weeks in the Finger Lakes region of central New York, tonight was a literary love-fest at The Waypost in North Portland. Six women reading their work with or without hipster-fresh-squeezed margaritas. The beat does, indeed, go on even when it's 71 degrees outside...
My (some might say experimental) poem, “Up in the Old Hotel” — initial inspiration from Gertrude Stein and her Tender Buttons, epigraph from the infamous Leonard Cohen song about the Chelsea Hotel, and title from Joseph Mitchell — will be published in an upcoming issue of Posit, a New York City-based journal of art and literature, in early 2014. It is another one of the “book title” poems in my manuscript, Miss Scarlet in the Library with a Rope, still making the rounds, desperately seeking some kind of publishing house home. Coincidentally, we stayed in that part of Manhattan this past November; the Chelsea is currently closed for renovations. Scaffolding is involved.
My poem, “Climate Change Primer I, Sunshine State Bellwether” was chosen by Gathering Crows to be showcased as part of their November 2013 multimedia exhibition, Unnatural Acts: Crimes Against Mother Nature. Opening on the night of November 1. Panel/reading on Sunday, November 10, 2013 in the afternoon. Events are at Milepost 5 Denizen Gallery, Portland, Oregon.
I guess I've finally arrived, Portland-wise, with mention and linkage as a real writer on the Literary Arts blog, Paper Fort. Kind of...sort of...anyway. Keep on rockin' in the free world a wiser one than me often says.
I forgot to mention. This week began with John leaving early on Sunday and me stumbling on a great Live from Lincoln Center program on KMHD hosted by the always-informative Wynton Marsalis. The show's theme? George Gershwin. A very very very interesting fellow. I listened to the opera, Porgy and Bess, over two days this week and now, in celebration of the return of summer and Friday and my colonoscopy on Monday, I'm listening to the fabulous Ella Fitzgerald and the inimitable Louis Armstrong do P&B highlights. Now is that a great cultural Friday night or what? Wikipedia yields up arcane facts: did you know (I did not) that George was born Jacob Gerhsowitz? Another high school dropout, following his artistic passion in an earlier era when that wasn't economic suicide, I guess...
I share a birthdate with George's brother, Ira -- he was born 99 years before me. Does that explain my adoration for their music? Here's what the Wiki has to say about George, Porgy, and Bess:
His most ambitious composition was Porgy and Bess (1935). Called by Gershwin himself a "folk opera," the piece premièred in a Broadway theater and is now widely regarded as the most important American opera of the twentieth century. Based on the novel Porgy by DuBose Heyward, the action takes place in a black neighborhood in Charleston, South Carolina, and with the exception of several minor speaking roles, all of the characters are black. The music combines elements of popular music of the day, which was strongly influenced by black music, with techniques found in opera, such as recitative and leitmotifs. It also includes a fugue and "advanced" techniques such as polytonality and even a tone row.
By the way, I just want to point out the above passage is in the font, Helvetica, along with a few more little known WIki Wiki facts in the ubiquitous Helvetica as well:
Early in 1937, Gershwin began to complain of blinding headaches and a recurring impression that he was smelling burned rubber. He had developed a type of cystic malignant brain tumor known as glioblastoma multiforme. It was in Hollywood, while working on the score of The Goldwyn Follies, that he had collapsed on July 11, 1937, dying at the age of 38 at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital following surgery for the tumor. Gershwin died intestate, and all his property passed to his mother. He is buried in the Westchester Hills Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. The Gershwin estate continues to bring in significant royalties from licensing the copyrights on Gershwin's work. The estate supported the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act because its 1923 cutoff date was shortly before Gershwin had begun to create his most popular works. The copyrights on those works were expired at the end of 2007 in the European Union and will expire between 2019 and 2027 in the United States of America. According to Fred Astaire's letters to Adele Astaire, Gershwin whispered Astaire's name before passing away.
Bob Dylan just played one lamenting that the Russians sent a puppy into outer space -- all this learned during the chatter he offers on Theme Time Radio Hour on XM Satellite Radio. This week's a rerun on the theme of Dogs. Danger was also feature. We are worked our way through the Bob Dylan DJ alphabet, which only goes to Y.
It really is a fabulously interesting show. Impossible to describe because it is so eclectic and strange. And one you have to listen to over and over and over and over in order to get all the bizarro stuff Dylan babbles about. Partly that's because it can be hard to catch all the details thanks to his faux hipster accent. But mostly it's because he talks about the weirdest, random shit. That's really the only word for it. The man is a maniac and a genius. You feel like saying God Bless America for somehow producing a Bob Dylan after you listen to one of these crazy shows. They are that freaking good.
I've got the radio playing and Barack Obama is talking from Iowa as he straddles getting enough pledged delegates from Kentucky and the poll news from Oregon in a half-hour, once the polls officially close here. What an orator! He really is an inspiration. The talking head OPB commentators are saying it sounded like a civil rights rally. That only sounds like good news to me.
Now they are interviewing a commentator who is at our ballot center/drop-off site up on Killingsworth and he's talking about how the vibe up there is as if everyone has moved on to the general election season with Obama as the candidate. Apparently, it's like an impromptu street party, lots of honking of horns as people drop off their final ballots. I wish John were here. We could walk up and join in the celebratory fun. Instead, I'll hole up here with the cats and the radio, the waning light as evening arrives. My big excitement so far tonight has been sewing the hem of the second curtain panel for the bathroom window...
What else noticed in the changed-weather world of Portland, Oregon today? That I could keep the windows open, screens letting cool, fresh air in only until late afternoon when the winds came up and we were catapulted back to familiar breeze and chill after a heady, exhilarating, bizarre batch of heated-up days. That I need to start the day with focus or else I fritter about, piddling away time on this and that. That the stargazer lilies in the bouquet Colin sent me for Mother's Day are just now starting to wane -- after days of being open, opulent, and gorgeous. The big shipping-and-receiving excitement of today was discovering? realizing? waking up to the fact that the Federal Express building on Cornfoot Road is indeed a place where you can drop off packages without the too-right parking lots of both the Broadway and Hollywood FedEx/Kinkos outposts. Duh.
On the radio, we're back with Ethan at the Killingsworth Obama HQ where, apparently, things are moving into celebratory party mode. It's sure nice to feel optimism for a change. Funny, if Hillary were the candidate, I'd feel the same way. Anything to be rid of the Worst. President. Ever. And all of his crony-thugs.
Apparently 75,000 people assembled somehow, someway on the banks of the Willamette River earlier today to hear Barack Obama speak for half-an-hour. Lines wound around downtown corners, landmarks, blocks -- up to two miles of walking -- before you could get into the event. I had my RSVP but we chose to stay home and clean gutters instead. I mean, we've already voted, and for Obama, and taken our ballots up to the neighborhood campaign HQ on Killingsworth & 18th, isn't that the important thing? I'm not sure my Irish skin could have handled more sunblock after 5 hours on Alberta Street on Saturday.
So we cleaned gutters instead while history was made and a city of people lined up, walked, and baked in this slightly abnormal (for Western Oregon) mid-May summer-style heat: John on the newly-purchased-for-the-job extension ladder scooping organic matter so fetid it smelled like dying flesh into a white sesame tahini bucket that he then handed down to me and I dumped, very much unceremoniously, into our yard waste bin, collected by the city NEXT week.
While people queued, and waited, and listened, and clapped, we figured out how to turn on irrigation in our new back yard. Rigged up netting as a faux fence to keep the cats hemmed in until we can get friends to come visit and build us a sexier fence and gate. Hacked at over-zealous day lilies. Disassembled a rusting golfer weather vane from the roof of the garage so we could replace it with the cool glass and verdigris globe N/S/E/W objet from John's childhood home on West Street.
I planted ivy geraniums in a funky painted wooden planter found at one of the shops on Alberta yesterday when I worked my volunteer shift at the annual Art Hop. I like that I can see them out the window of the dining room while we eat. We chatted with a neighbor, put more sliding screens in windows, swept and vacuumed the bricks and flagstones in the back garden, and watched as the Rain Bird irrigation came one and went through its paces of six separate, discrete zones. All in all, a great day.
Second anniversary of Balthazar going off "into the wild" to die his dignified, private death.
Second anniversary of Colin making it to Los Angeles to start his new, other-coasted, relaxo-life.
It's sure great to be sitting in our driveway soon to be patio taking advantage of the wireless from inside the house, batting away the last of pre-summer bugs, watching the daylight fade. I love having a home, being home, putzing around a home, doing this and that, being here, being, letting the day unfold, no worries, no frets, no agita about needing to be somewhere else. Ah, bliss...
Today was a slow, living-in-the-neighborhood day. John hiked through San Polo and Santa Croce up to the Rialto markets this morning to find fish and veal (which I've never yet had) for dinners for the next few days. We're assuming everything except the super-touristy spots will be closed for the holiday on April 25th. So planning ahead a bit. I mostly puttered about Dorsoduro, in search of talcum powder to put into my shoes so the Superfeet innersoles won't squeak with every step, and a bit of window shopping as I stroll down calli crowded with touring high school, maybe even college students--they seem to travel in clumps, looking all the same in their MTV-inspired, faux hipster uniforms, and enjoy tormenting any pigeons they come across.
We made Pasta y Fagioli, a traditional bean soup, a simple recipe the apartment owners left along with a handful of others. Then, after lunch, we sauntered to see the Tintoretto paintings at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, near the Frari Chapel. Wow wow wow. The guidebooks are right when they call it his "Sistine Chapel." There is so much art covering wall and ceiling, on two floors, along one stairway, and in a side room, that you are dizzy from looking up, swiveling your head to take it all in. The thoughtful members of the scuola provide mirrors you can hold in front of you to reflect (and thus better see and study) the paintings, especially the ones on the ceiling. We then visited two more churches (San Rocco, and our neighborhood, I Carmini) before calling it a day.
Bells ring, as they seem to at least every half hour. And a neighbor is bailing out his boat, Lucia, as I type these words, speedy scoops of water tossed hurriedly over the skiff's wooden sides. This was done two or three days ago, before it rained. Seems anytime he wants to go anywhere, this task is necessary first. I'd already be figuring out where to snag of the smart, corrugated green plastic covers that the boat in front of his has...oops, I keep forgetting, being lethally efficient is a vice not a virtue here. We are definitely on the back-canal gondola tour route here on Rio San Barnaba. A bit of showing how the locals really live, I guess.
We're poaching fresh trout for dinner, along with white asparagus and fresh haricots verts. Tomorrow we head for islands in the lagoon, most likley San Michele (the cemetery island) and Murano, the home of the Venetian glass furnaces. Slow travel, slow time, slow food, slow days. And I still managed to clock 3.5 miles just wandering here and there. All in all, having enough time to take it all in isn't a bad way to get to know a place as lustrous, as rich, as visually lovely and beguiling as Venezia.
We went on a pilgrimage to Padua (or Padova as it's known here in Italia) to see the Giotto frescoes at the Scrovegni Chapel. Fifteen minutes for 20 to 25 of us in a micro-climate-controlled room before we are allowed to be in the presence of genius, of masterpiece, of the glory that is paint on a 2-dimensional surface rendering life even more than alive. The cycle of Christianity from before even Mary was born to Christ's ascension to heaven and sitting on the right (is that right?) hand of God on Judgment day. And did I mention the man did it all in two freaking years?
What to say? Hell looked pretty much like Dante describes. I'm sure I'll have more words once the whole experience sinks in. Right now, the seven miles we hoofed today are still being felt in my falling arches and our very-much-Italian late supper is nearly, nearly done. The highlight of John's day was seeing the lingua (tongue) and mento (larynx) of St. Anthony, relics enshrined in gold and glass in the cappello of his daunting, astonishing basilica.
This evening, after returning by train from our outing, we found ourselves in our neighborhood campo when the panificio was open so bread could be bought. The vegetable stand was still open, too, at just-past-work time and we scored potatoes and tomatoes to add to our leftover apartment dinner fest. People walk under our windows--our apartment is on a first floor, the piano terra as they call it here -- chattering in Italian about life, liberty, maybe even the pursuit of happiness while Pennsylvanians, my people, go to the polls.
I wonder, did Giotto sense what he was doing when he painted those all-so-human expressions on those faces, changing the whole history of art, or did he simply do it because that was all he felt, all he knew?
John just reported the tide is coming in, because the newspaper someone threw into our canal is floating to the right instead of the left. Life in Venezia, 22 April2 2008.