Okay, I once again missed a live David Sedaris reading. I'm sure it was all laughs and sighs and you-got-that-right-boy fun times. Don't rub it in.
Instead, I will tell you my personal Sedaris story. Feel free to live through me.
I was working at Borders one morning, and my general manager called to tell me to put all of Sedaris' books on a cart and wheel them to the front because he was coming in to sign them. I hurryingly snatched up every book from around the store and had the whole cart up in the cafe just in time to open the doors. And there he was. Promptly at 9 a.m. Fresh as a bathed seal. And smiling.
For some reason, I always imagine celebrities to be much taller than me, even authors. Where Sedaris towered over me with his storytelling, I looked down from a good five to six inches on him.
He was very nice and polite. I served him some coffee. He asked me to sit down with him as he signed all the gazillion books of his we had in stock. I never once saw him suffer from writer's cramp. If he did, he hid it like the pro he is.
He was sincere, and he even signed a copy of Naked specifically for me. He inscribed, "To Jason, I hope to read your poetry one day." Damn, I liked him before, but now I really liked him. He was one of the few authors to come through our store that really impressed me with his genuineness.
Poem of the Day for National Poetry Month "A Blessing" by James Wright
Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota, Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass. And the eyes of those two Indian ponies Darken with kindness. They have come gladly out of the willows To welcome my friend and me. We step over the barbed wire into the pasture Where they have been grazing all day, alone. They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness That we have come. They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other. There is no loneliness like theirs. At home once more, they begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness. I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms, For she has walked over to me And nuzzled my left hand. She is black and white, Her mane falls wild on her forehead, And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist. Suddenly I realize That if I stepped out of my body I would break Into blossom.
Fair warning: I may offend some of my female readers (and probably some metrosexual guys). I have to ask, though, what is the deal with embroidered jeans? You know, jeans like this:
Or like this:
And why is it that I only see women over 30 wearing them? My 19-year-old sisters don't wear them, but a 38-year-old single woman will gladly stride through a bar in them. Is it a status statement? Look at me. I'm older, I have more money. I can afford to wear fancy jeans.
Or is it purely a peacocking effort. Oh, I see I just caught the eye of that guy across the room with my faux-diamond embroidered jeans. He's so going home with me tonight.
Seriously, women who own these jeans (and I know who you are), please tell me why you have them and why you wear them.
Poem of the Day for National Poetry Month "Bricklayer Love" by Carl Sandburg
I thought of killing myself because I am only a bricklayer and you a woman who loves the man who runs a drug store.
I don't care like I used to; I lay bricks straighter than I used to and I sing slower handling the trowel afternoons.
When the sun is in my eyes and the ladders are shaky and the mortar boards go wrong, I think of you.
When I was in British Columbia a few months ago, I visited the Vancouver Art Gallery and was treated to the wonderful work of Brian Jungen. I liked it so much, I almost bought the really big book that the museum was selling. Almost. Then I decided to spend my money on booze and hookers.
"Through the transformation of consumer goods and common materials into symbolic sculptures and installations, Jungen examines cultural norms and social issues. The artist is perhaps best known for his Prototype for New Understanding series (1998-2005), 23 startling simulations of Northwest Coast Aboriginal masks fabricated from disassembled athletic shoes. Through this ingenious manipulation, the artist collides two seemingly different commodities-globally branded footwear and revered First Nation's artwork."
"Also widely celebrated are Jungen's three enormous and incredibly lifelike whale skeleton sculptures-Shapeshifter (2000), Cetology (2002) and Vienna (2003). Made from common plastic lawn chairs, his 'whales' oscillate between objects of natural history and critiques of commodity culture, simultaneously understood as both natural forms and recognizable household objects. Cetology, the largest of the three measuring 49 feet in length, is in the Gallery's permanent collection."
Poem of the Day for National Poetry Month "Portrait Number Five: Against A New York Summer" by Jack Gilbert
I'd walk her home after work buying roses and talking of Bechsteins. She was full of soul. Her small room was gorged with heat and there were no windows. She'd take off everything but her pants and take the pins from her hair throwing them on the floor with a great noise. Like Crete. We wouldn't make love. She'd get on the bed with those nipples and we'd lie sweating and talking of my best friend. They were in love. When I got quiet she'd put on usually Debussy and leaning down to the small ribs bite me. Hard.
Since my links were starting to get jumbled, I went ahead and separated them into non-music sites and music-related sites. I refuse to alphabetize them. See, it's a balance: order in the separation; chaos in the listing.
Last night, a friend sat next to me after seeing her ex-boyfriend leave the room. "So, who's cooler, me or him?" she asked. I refused to take sides in this sort of one-upmanship. "You're both my friends, and you're both cool. Drop it," I replied. I guess that satisfied her, because she then left.
Still, this conversation got me to thinking about pissing contests. Lately, they seem everywhere. If you check out WeShotJR you can read the ongoing debate about which town is better: Dallas or Denton. Seriously, people who debate this....grow up. It doesn't really matter which town is better. They both have their good and bad points, and good and bad bands come from both cities.
Dallas Observer vs. Dallas Morning News: Make peace. Who fucking cares? One is a weekly alternative and the other is a daily newspaper. I know you both want to get the first scoop on a story, but in reality it doesn't matter to the readers. They don't care who ran the story first; they just want the story published.
Finally, journalists who feel the need to bash other journalists on public forums: I wasn't a journlism major, but do colleges not offer classes in professionalism nowadays? If not, they should, and journalism majors should be forced to take them.
Poem of the Day for National Poetry Month "A Bone to Pick with You" by A.E. Stallings
It's time to take the skeleton out of the closet, Where it has lain these months in the catalogued gloom, Stored bone by bone in boxes and brown paper parcels:
Femurs, vertebrae, fibulas, skull, meta-tarsals. It's time to put it together with wires and hooks, To light the sullen lantern behind its sockets,
And dress it in the black suit with the fraying pockets, And the creaking shoes with holes worn through the soles. It's the time of year when the skeleton malingers
On the front porch, and the neighbors point their fingers, (But nobody, nobody whispers behind our backs.) It's time to take the skeleton out of the closet,
Where it lies the rest of the year like a safety deposit, Accruing the interest of dust, and a layer of gossip. Later we'll drag it back in, and bone by bone
We'll take it apart, and clean it with acetone, And pack it in cotton-balls, muffled with tissue paper— We'll padlock the door, so that no one can ever tattle.
But something's afraid of the dark. Hear it rattle, rattle.
As promised yesterday, here's my review of The Game by Neil Strauss.
Cari suggested this book to me, and every time I told someone that I was reading it, I'd receive crossed looks. I admit, I was feeling shady by even expressing interest in purchasing it. I told myself I wouldn't pay full price for it. So, I bought it for half off on Amazon, but after finishing the book, I declare that it's well worth the full price.
You may think that the whole book is nothing but pick-up techniques, and you'd be incorrect. True, there are some techniques laced into the story, but they're there to push the narrative along. In the end, the book is really a declaration of the power of monogamy.
A majority of people in the world are trying to fill holes in their lives, some by drugs, some by sex and some by power, of which the main characters in this book fall into the latter. Yes, power. Oh sure, some of the pick-up artists (PUAs) do have a lot sex with the women they meet, but ultimately, their main concerns were about control and power. Once they found out how easy it was to pick up a girl at a bar, get her number and a week later have sex with her, they became bored. Also, they became very distrustful of women, because they saw how easily a lot of girls would cheat on their boyfriends or husbands. They'd ask themselves, "If you can't even trust the ones who say they're committed, then you really can't trust anyone."
After the novelty of sexual conquest wore off, some of the PUAs starting fighting for the throne of Best Pick-Up Artist. Neil Strauss was awarded that crown for two straight years, but over time, he saw that most of the guys who voted for him were using his same techniques and trying to be him in looks and manners. They were becoming Strauss robots.
And this is basically what leads him away from "the game." Strauss meets a girl that he falls in love with. She likes him for who he is and not some player that he pretends to be. But Strauss does acknowledge the fact that even though the qualities that his girlfriend loves about him were already a part of him, without learning the techniques of the PUA community (which helped him gain confidence in himself), he'd never have the nerve to present himself to her. He'd be like most guys, seeing a girl and immediately thinking he's not good enough for her because of her looks or the company she keeps.
The techniques and skills the people learn in the PUA community not only help them with women, but with their professional lives, as well. Just being able to get a girl's number at the end of the night bolstered self-esteem, and over time that self-esteem spilled into other parts of life. Having confidence in yourself is really what this book boils down to.
Poem of the Day for National Poetry Month "At Blackwater Pond" by Mary Oliver
At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled after a night of rain. I dip my cupped hands. I drink a long time. It tastes like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold into my body, waking the bones. I hear them deep inside me, whispering oh what is that beautiful thing that just happened?
Because I know you only come to my blog to read about sex, I'm giving you this nice video. It kind of ties into my review (tomorrow) of The Game by Neil Strauss, which I finished last night. I have a lot to say about the book. Okay, maybe not a lot, but at least more than one paragraph.
A little about the video: Say you're Japanese, and you're learning the English language. Well, what's the most important part of English? That's right, learning how to bed American women.
Link for those who are unable to see the embedded video.
Poem of the Day for National Poetry Month (The following poet was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry yesterday for her book Late Wife.)
"Stable" by Claudia Emerson
One rusty horseshoe hangs on a nail above the door, still losing its luck, and a work-collar swings, an empty old noose. The silence waits, wild to be broken by hoofbeat and heavy harness slap, will founder but remain; while, outside, above the stable, eight, nine, now ten buzzards swing low in lazy loops, a loose black warp of patience, bearing the blank sky like a pall of wind on mourning wings. But the bones of this place are long picked clean. Only the hayrake's ribs still rise from the rampant grasses.
Song of the Day So Says I by The Shins, who are appearing at this year's Austin City Limits Music Festival
On those days when I'm at a loss of what to write about (but still following William Stafford's advice to write every day), I'll present some links for you to check out, items that I found interesting.
And this is one of those days.
Did Kurt Cobain die because he misread a poem? Writer Tim Appelo believes that Cobain’s response to an Alice Ostriker poem proves that he died by an act of misreading. Read about here.
I saw Prayer for Animals on Saturday at the DarkSide Lounge. Once again, they put on a stellar performance, illustrating that they're one of the better up-and-coming bands in the North Texas area. After their set, I finally got a chance to see Teenage Symphony, who are somewhat twee and heavy on the harmonies with catchy melodies. They're another band to keep an eye on to chart their development.
The other day, WeShotJR titled one of their Myspace bulletins "music is so much more fun to talk about than to listen to."
I believe they were joking (right guys?). Still, it reminded me of a conversation Eric and I had the other night, which I will now script for you.
EXT. The dirt road is empty. A saloon, a hotel, and a sheriff's office sandwich it. A light breeze stirs up the road dust, and a couple of horses are tied up at a post and drinking water. A man is walking down the road and enters the saloon.
INT. A man with a short haircut and a black vest on is playing cards at a table. A whiskey glass sits on the table. He looks up at the man who has just walked into the saloon.
1st Man: So, you still read my blog? Man pushes aside swinging doors and walks toward the man at the table. You can hear the spurs as he walks. He is wearing assless chaps. 2nd Man: Yeah, I look at it every day. 1st Man: Yeah. Cool. You ever listen to the songs I put on it? 2nd Man: No.
2nd Man: I mean, you only skim my blog. He starts to finger the gun on his belt. 1st Man: Yeah, but all you have to do is click on the song and listen to it. 2nd Man: That's not good enough for me. I want to know why you like the song, why you put it up there, what it means to you. Music swells. 1st Man: Dude, just listen to the songs. If you want to know why I put them up there, ask me and I'll tell you. 2nd Man: Nah.
Just then, they hear a shriek and run outside.
1st Man: What the fuck... 2nd Man: is Godzilla doing here?
I'm sure cave people didn't sit around and talk about music before they invented it. Probably it was more like, "Hey Gwanntux (that's a real cave person name, by the way), listen to this....if I hit this stone against this other stone and this stick against this log, I can recreate the opening drum part to 'Hot for Teacher'."
What I'm driving at is that music is predominantly an aural experience and should always be approached that way. People can talk all day about how great or bad a song is or what a song means to them, but it means nothing to me if I haven't experience it via my ears.
In the end, I don't care if you listen to these songs I link on here. I'm just putting them up because I like them. If you want to know why I like them, ask me out on a date and I'll tell you. Otherwise, just sit back, listen and enjoy the songs.
Poem of the Day for National Poetry Month "The Reckoning" by Theodore Roethke
All profits disappear: the gain Of ease, the hoarded, secret sum; And now grim digits of old pain Return to litter up our home.
We hunt the cause of ruin, add, Subtract, and put ourselves in pawn; For all our scratching on the pad, We cannot trace the error down.
What we are seeking is a fare One way, a chance to be secure: The lack that keeps us what we are, The penny that usurps the poor.
It's true; I love to travel. I love to visit new places, meet up with old friends (maybe making new friends in the process), and get away from the routines of my day-to-day life. I like getting to airports early (that's my own fear of being late), and I enjoy flying. It gives me a chance to catch up on my reading or to practice not snoring or drooling in public when I sleep.
Things are changing. On my recent 3-hour trips to and from New York City, I was appalled at how low American Airlines has sunk. They haven't started charging for pillows and blankets yet, but they've taken the first step. They've done away with giving you free peanuts or pretzels.
Seriously, how hard is it to give me a little snack for free as you play some Jim Carrey movie over my head? Oh sure, that $4 snack pack looks delicious, but I spent that money on the flight ticket (or my parking or the overpriced airport food).
What? You're saying I could eat before I get on the plane. Yes, I could. That's not the point, though. Think of the peanuts as a goodwill gesture, a token of appreciation that says, "We know you're cramped in your seat and there's a bad movie we selected for you, but thank you for choosing to fly with us."
As I've recently experience the past few days, if you want your blog hits to increase and your comments to spin out of control, just criticize a local band or venue. That's all it takes. Talk about how some hyped band is terrible or over-hyped or has smelly feet, and those bands' fans come out of the forest, tripping over themselves with reasons why their favorite artists are the greatest things since fire.
Should I hop on this wagon? Ahh..what the hell! Here are some hyped Texas bands and my thoughts on them. I may insult your favorite band, so please come to their aid, fiercely.
Caveat: Yes, I'm in a band, too. This shouldn't disqualify me from criticizing. If anything, it should give me more insight into band life.
The Happy Bullets: Good, solid band; nice people; probably play too often in Dallas (though I under$tand why).
The Tah-Dahs: Another good, solid band; energetic; probably play too often with the Happy Bullets (though that has changed recently, I've noticed).
The Theater Fire: Their past recorded music I've found to be meh; the live shows are much better, and they're interesting to watch. I mean, come on, they play a washboard!
The Black Angels: Austin band whose CD of drone pysch-rock is much better to listen to while drinking a beer than actually watching them live on stage.
Midlake: I couldn't get into their first release because I'd already heard the Flaming Lips and Granddaddy release the same style of music. The few new songs I've heard are more interesting and they seem to be coming into their own sound.
Pegasus Now: Another promising young band that hopefully won't drown in all the hype.
Bosque Brown: Please. Turn. It. Off. Now. Another artist that's better to listen to late at night when you're writing in your diary about how your lover jilted you.
The Undoing of David Wright: Probably the most interesting act in the area. They're full of energy on stage, and they actually put on a show. Skinny Puppy meets the Faint.
That's just a few of the artists that everyone is going ga-ga shit over (mainly here in Texas). I don't even think I was mean at all. See, there's no way I could be a music writer; I just don't have it in me to be mean for mean's sake.
Poem of the Day for National Poetry Month "The Land of Happy" by Shel Silverstein
Have you been to the land of happy, Where everyone's happy all day, Where they joke and they sing Of the happiest things, And everything's jolly and gay? There's no one unhappy in Happy There's laughter and smiles galore. I have been to The Land of Happy- What a bore
Upon my arrival back from New York City, I learned that one of my favorite bars closed down. The Double Wide, with its $1 Pabst Blue Ribbons and trailer-trash charm, shuttered its doors after three years of great live shows and endless tornado footage. I pour my PBR out to you, dear DW.
And now on with the NYC recap.
Celebrities spotted: Alice Quinn, poetry editor for The New Yorker, and Jorie Graham, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet.
Number of pizzas eaten: One slice, which I made Kim share with me.
Number of hot dogs eaten: One, at the Mets game.
Scary statues encountered: Two
Scary vegetables encountered: One (my friend, Julia, pictured with it)
Number of thongs seen in a restaurant: One
Number of times I offered up anal: One
Number of times I raised a glass with my friend Mike: Three
Best misunderstood question: "Do you have a sandwich?" I replied no. However, she really asked me, "Do you speak English?"
Best bathroom message:
And finally, best example of pro vs. con smoking in bars: Top ceiling tile, pre-smoking band; bottom ceiling tile, after smoking ban.
It was a great trip, and I'm looking forward to my next visit, where Kim and I will attempt to either hijack David Letterman, Conan O'Brien or Andy Samburg...or maybe all three.
Poem of the Day for National Poetry Month "Some Trees" by John Ashbery
These are amazing: each Joining a neighbor, as though speech Were a still performance. Arranging by chance
To meet as far this morning From the world as agreeing With it, you and I Are suddenly what the trees try
To tell us we are: That their merely being there Means something; that soon We may touch, love, explain.
And glad not to have invented Such comeliness, we are surrounded: A silence already filled with noises, A canvas on which emerges
A chorus of smiles, a winter morning. Placed in a puzzling light, and moving, Our days put on such reticence These accents seem their own defense.
The only thing worse in the world than being talked about is not being talked about. -- Oscar Wilde
So we were shut out once again from being nominated for any of the Dallas Observer Music Awards. A lot of other great local bands were passed over, too, so I like to think we're in good company. We're the outcasts at school. We're not the popular kids, the people everyone hopes will get fat and have bad jobs when they get older.
Surprisingly, The Tah-Dahs didn't garner a single nomination. Either they didn't have enough fans vote for them, or the industry "experts" didn't think they were worthy of a nod.
(Hey you, the person who told someone who told me what you said about my blog being addictive....Ira Glass asked me about you.)
Poem of the Day for National Poetry Month "I Finally Managed to Speak to Her" by Hal Sirowitz
She was sitting across from me on the bus. I said, "The trees look so much greener in this part of the country. In New York City everything looks so drab." She said, "It looks the same to me. Show me a tree that's different." "That one," I said. "Which one?" she said. "It's too late," I said; "we already passed it." "When you find another one," she said, "let me know." And then she went back to reading her book.
When Long Division was on Myspace, she ran across a dead person's profile. It was kind of creepy reading the comments, ranging from "Hey man, let's parrrrtttyyy tonight" one day to "Oh, man, I can't believe you're gone; I know you're in a better place" the next day.
If you haven't heard by now, all of these dead Myspace profiles are on one site for you. MyDeathSpace.com includes the obituary and a link to the person's Myspace page. Have fun, kids!
Poem of the Day for National Poetry Month "Friendship After Love" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
After the fierce midsummer all ablaze Has burned itself to ashes, and expires In the intensity of its own fires, There come the mellow, mild, St. Martin days Crowned with the calm of peace, but sad with haze. So after Love has led us, till he tires Of his own throes, and torments, and desires, Comes large-eyed friendship: with a restful gaze, He beckons us to follow, and across Cool verdant vales we wander free from care. Is it a touch of frost lies in the air? Why are we haunted with a sense of loss? We do not wish the pain back, or the heat; And yet, and yet, these days are incomplete.
Breaking News: My band, Ashburne Glen, has an upcoming show with those charming fellows, Pegasus Now, on Friday, June 9, at Dallas' DarkSide Lounge. If you're in town, please attend the show. We'll wink at you from the stage.
With all the hype surrounding the band, one might expect great songs. That's not what I discovered. I'm not saying the songs are bad; they're just not take my head off in ecstasy great. In a laser/shotgun comparison, they're definitely shotgun. Standout tracks include "Steady As She Goes," "Store Bought Bones," and "Blue Veins."
Poem of the Day for National Poetry Month "The Vacuum" by Howard Nemerov
The house is so quiet now The vacuum cleaner sulks in the corner closet, Its bag limp as a stopped lung, its mouth Grinning into the floor, maybe at my Slovenly life, my dog-dead youth.
I’ve lived this way long enough, But when my old woman died her soul Went into that vacuum cleaner, and I can’t bear To see the bag swell like a belly, eating the dust And the woolen mice, and begin to howl
Because there is old filth everywhere She used to crawl, in the corner and under the stair. I know now how life is cheap as dirt, And still the hungry, angry heart Hangs on and howls, biting at air.
The Theater Fire are a good band that I enjoy more in person than on record. Their subtle Americana on acid feel was a great beginning to the show. After them, the Happy Bullets put on one of their best shows I've ever seen. I've never heard them as tight as they were that night. And concluding the party, the Tahs-Dahs proved once again why they're the best band in Dallas, charging forward with energetic and caustic songs that had the crowd singing and dancing along with them.
Best overheard snippets from that night: 1) "Yeah, I have about five more Happy Bullet shows left in me." 2) "It's fun to pretend to be gay." (Guy saying it to a girl.) 3) "You have nice hair." (Thanks Audrey!)
Okay, so it's National Poetry Month, and in honor of it, I'll post a new poem each day. Those of you who don't like poetry can skip this section.
"Radiator" by Connie Wanek
Mittens are drying on the radiator, boots nearby, one on its side. Like some monstrous segmented insect the radiator elongates under the window.
Or it is a beast with many shoulders domesticated in the Ice Age. How many years it takes to move from room to room!
Some cage their radiators but this is unnecessary as they have little desire to escape.
Like turtles they are quite self-contained. If they seem sad, it is only the same sadness we all feel, unlovely, growing slowly cold.