Last week I attended something that billed itself as the "North Beach Poetry Festival". To put it kindly, during the two days and 10 hours or so of the event, I didn't see a lot of poetry. But there was this.
A cool little independent bookstore a few blocks from my place is closing down. Last night they hosted a little farewell event. Art, wine, beer...and this girl who did interpretive dance to punk rock songs. I was rather smitten. This crappy little video doesn't nearly do her justice. In person she was rather wonderful. But, for what it's worth, here ya go.
Yesterday I was sitting outside Cafe Trieste with a beer. Because, you know, if you're a “poet” in San Francisco, that's where you go to drink your beer. Actually, you're supposed to drink wine or some complicated coffee drink, but, rebel that I am, I drink the beer.
Anyway. Lawrence Ferlinghetti was inside talking to some old poet guys. At the table next to me was a young man drinking a glass of wine, reading a book of poetry he just bought from City Lights. He looked to be the hippie/bohemian type, probably from somewhere else, he just didn't have that San Francisco vibe about him.
Eventually Ferlinghetti walked out of the Cafe with a younger woman. His wife, daughter, caretaker, I don't know. The young man's table was right outside the door. I believe this was the moment he had been waiting for.
“Mr. Ferlinghetti?” The young man said, as Ferlinghetti came out of the cafe, “Mr. Ferlinghetti?” Ferlinghetti was just inches away , but he chose to ignore the young man and continue on his way. The young man called out to him one more time, and the lady who was with the old poet kind of stopped him, turned him around and pointed out to him that the young man was trying to get his attention. Ferlinghetti paused, turned around and looked at the young man with a blank face and perhaps an air of slight annoyance, then turned around and kept walking.
The young man and myself exchanged glances, shrugged, and he said something along the lines of, "Oh, well. That's' the way it goes."
Now, I realize I am not as famous or as old as Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and may well never be as famous or as old as Lawrence Ferlinghetti, but it seems, even if he didn't want to take the time to talk to the young man, he could have, at the very least, acknowledged his presence with a wave, a nod, a smile, something. But just to completely ignore him seemed more than a little rude. The poor kid probably just wanted to sheepishly mumble something like, "Mr. Ferlinghetti, I really like your work.." and maybe quickly shake his hand or something equally harmless.
Ferlinghetti wasn't being mobbed by a bunch of people, and the young man was very respectful and not in his face or anything. He just seemed a bit disappointed that someone he admired turned out to be kind of a jerk. And, admittedly, perhaps I shouldn't judge too harshly. Maybe the old boy was having a bad day. Whatever. But some kind of acknowledgement doesn't seem like it would have been too much trouble.
Anyway, whilst I is on the subject, for all his fame, Ferlinghetti was never that interesting of a writer. He has had a lot of books published, sure, because he started the freaking' publishing company and all, but he, to my knowledge, has never written anything particularly groundbreaking or profound. He is famous for opening a cool bookstore and having a lot of famous, more talented friends. Anyway. Those are just my thoughts on the matter.
I have a few audio clips of myself reading some of my work on dublit.com. I just uploaded a new selection of poems from my upcoming book, The Hunger Season. Click the image below if you are so inclined.
the New York Quarterly # 65 is now available. It contains a poem of mine, as well as work by Grace Zabriskie, Chris Cunningham, Marge Piercy, Lyn Lyfshin, Dave Church, A.D. Winans and other good folk. There's a truly fascinating interview with David Shapiro as well.
The NYQ is one of the best, last great poetry journals out there, and I recommend picking up a copy. The latest issue is about 175 pages of poetry and poetry related interviews. All of it is readable, and most of it is very good. Some of it is great. And when you're talking about a poetry journal, that's truly saying something. They've been around since 1969, and over the years have published the work of W. H. Auden, Anne Sexton, James Dickey, W.D. Snodgrass, Charles Bukowski and many other amazing artists. I'm honored to have my work appear in their pages.
In other news, my dear friend Sarah at Street Walkin' Cheetahs just turned me on to The Dark Night of the Soul, a musical collaboration between the likes of Sparklehorse, Danger Mouse and David Lynch. Also appearing are members of flaming Lips, Grandaddy and lots of other wonderful people. It really is as good as you imagine it might be. I had heard rumors about this, but didn't know if and when it would be available. The official release might be delayed indefinitely due to label issues or some such nonsense, but you can listen to it here. A companion book of photographs is available as well.
Lastly, and hopefully not leastly, I found a new job at a nice little independent bookstore on Polk Street. Seems like it might be a pleasant enough place to work. And I don't start for another ten days, so I have the luxury of enjoying a little vacation without stressing about the fact that I have no idea where the rent money will be coming from.
That's the name of the Oliver Nelson CD I'm currently listening to. It seems a fitting enough title for this blog entry as well, and so it shall be.
It seems the benign indifference of the bloody universe has me by the balls.
About this time last week, I joined the roughly 11% of my fellow Californians who find themselves unemployed. It was, shall we say, unexpected. Though in the back of my mind I knew this moment would come, I knew I would one day be forty years old, unemployed, with no impressive job skills and no grand plan. In a word, I have officially become obsolete.
If nothing else, I am in good company. My neighborhood is full of those who got lost somewhere along the way. Perhaps I will follow their lead and take up some new hobbies, say, like maybe hanging out at the corner liquor store, spending my government money on junk food, beer and endless amounts of losing lotto tickets which I will litter the sidewalk with on my journey home. Once home I will stand in the doorway of my apartment building and drink aforementioned beer and stare emptily in the distance for hours. And smoking. I need to take up smoking. You can't really stand in the doorway of your apartment building, drink beer and stare into the distance for hours without a cigarette in your hands. It just isn't done. When I need a break from that I will go back to the liquor store and buy another shitload of lotto tickets and toss those on the sidewalk as well. Then I'll walk up a block to a nameless, characterless dive bar and join the other good folk there at 1:00 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon.
I will order a bud light and nurse it for as long as possible as I continue to stare emptily into space. Maybe I will put a few old country songs on the jukebox if there happen to be any free credits. Maybe some Dylan.
"Hey, Bill." "Hey, Ed. Hey Trudy. Hey George." "How's things, Bill?" "Ah, you know, Ed. Same shit different day." "You got that right, ha, ha." "Ha, ha." "You watch the game last night?" "O, yeah." "Crazy, huh?" "Shit, man, I couldn't believe it, ha, ha." "Ha, Ha."
After a few hours of that I will go back by the liquor store for some more lotto tix, beer and cigarettes, then back home to stand in the doorway of my apartment building to finish off the day in grand and classic style.
Of course, that kind of rigorous and disciplined lifestyle is something I will have to work my way up to. In the meantime I have taken to simply getting drunk in the afternoon and wandering about the city aimlessly, checking the mail every hour or so for confirmation of my unemployment award.
On the more positive side of things, yesterday I collected about $70 for my books I have sold through a few local bookstores. Later today I will wander over to North Beach and check in at City Lights and The Beat Museum and hopefully collect some more book money, most of which I imagine I will spend on a few drinks at Vesuvio or The Saloon. On the way home I will buy a cheap bottle of wine and maybe something for dinner. I will spend the evening drinking wine, playing videogames and hanging with Anise.
Tomorrow perhaps I will get some writing done, or maybe some painting, and start in on a few of those jobs around the house that there is never enough time to tackle when one is gainfully employed.
So, in short: fuck you, universe. Bring it on. I can take it. Or at least pretend to. I can put on a tough face with the best of 'em. I have the willful endurance of those who do not expect much from life. I will match your indifference with my own.
For all to be accomplished, for me to feel less lonely, all that remains to hope is that on the day of my execution there should be a huge crowd of spectators and that they should greet me with howls of execration.