Sunday, February 23, 2014

Scott Chaskey reads from SEEDTIME, and shares his organic wisdom at Canio's Books

2/23/14 09:26

Amanda came home Friday night.  Ali took the train into the city to meet her.  Later, that night Emma Tess showed us incredible pictures that she took during her trip.  Oh yes, Ali and Emma arrived safely from their trip to London, Paris and Madrid.  It was a relief to have them safe and sound - back home.  Even exhausted they stayed up Thursday night and shared some stories before falling into a deep global trotting induced sleep.  Joe was relieved their trip was over and admitted he did not suffer too much under my assumed and expected harshness and of course; the diverse meal suggestions.  All in all it was an easy transition for us.   I was aware I could not ask too much from them and would not make any concoctions which would involve gagging and sudden outburst of tears.  It was a relatively safe ten days except for Joe spraining his wrist while sleighing. There were some chores which I asked from both Bella and Joe. So, both realized Dad is not that bad after all.  Bella chipped in on the chores without prodding, breaking ice with me on the driveway, shoveling, and afterwards we had a nice walk around the block.  I shared how my Grand Da would always insist when taking walks, take in a deep breath of air.  “Breathe it all in, Mick, get it in the lungs.  There…that’s good.”   She loves to hear family stories.  But anyway, Amanda was back for a bit, and left early this morning with my father-in-law Joe and Diana, taking the 7:30 ferry from Port Jefferson to Bridgeport.  Yesterday, the six of us went to Patchogue, and had lunch in the Brick House and discussed summer plans, Adirondacks and Gettysburg.... 

After lunch Amanda and I took 27 out to Sag Harbor and walked out onto the dock, the wind was blowing mightily though it was a relatively mild day.  We went into a record shop and I bought a copy of The Byrds (Untitled) and I will download it later.  After that we drove to the end of Main to Canio’s Bookstore.  I know what some of you are thinking, a record store and a bookstore in one day? Both types of stores are becoming scarce.  The smell is sweet inside Canios; the decades of the decaying scent of yellowed pages and undisturbed dust.  We drove out to see Scott Chaskey who was there reading from his new book.  His new memoir is titled SEEDTIME (Rodale Books), and as he took the podium, he joked in front of the small audience - that he was a frustrated Shakespearean actor.  He appeared to be an actor, weathered red face, white bearded character from one of William’s plays.  I was there to hear and learn since I hope the book will inspire me; since I am leading a group of fellow gardeners at our church’s organic garden.  All of the food will be donated to Middle Island food pantry.   Scott was articulate, engaging and I wish he read more of his poetry which resonated within the cozy book store - which was packed.  Above us a tenant walked on a creaking store, the distinct chimes from the rusty half-moon bells on the door, the whispers from an indiscreet conversation followed with a rush of ssshhh’s… If you were late to the reading, you could not get inside.  I had the opportunity to meet Scott and suddenly my mind went blank.  I tried to explain what we were doing at church and how the food will be donated, but the words were a struggle inside my blank brain.  I think I was so impressed with the way Scott spoke that I felt - anything I would say would be a pale comparison.  But Scott looked up at me with patient eyes as if to say, no need to speak you blubbering ignoramus; I will try to cultivate the words out from the deep soil of your dense mind…and he said, “Oh, you’re starting a garden or restarting a garden at your church and donating the food.” I nodded.  He calmed me down and said I should contact the farm he works for - since they help organizations like ours.  But there was little help for my speech deficiencies…  He signed my book.  Amanda and I walked into the Saturday night and witnessed the faint remnants of sun light cast itself over the calm Sag Harbor waters.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Walt Whitman ponders on the path through the snow

2/12/14 18:28

This is my journal for the 10 days or so that Ali and Emma are in London, Paris and Madrid.  They flew off last night and while we were sleeping landed in Great Britain.  Earlier today, Ali called from London and said it was pouring rain.  She was on her way to dinner via the tube.  She also sent some texts, having spent the afternoon in Coven Garden.  She called later and spoke to Joe and Bella before hitting sack, it’s five hours ahead in London, and with the time difference and classic jet lag, she was exhausted.  I made tacos for dinner and in a little while will heat up an apple pastry served with vanilla iced cream.  The Talking Heads are on the radio, Little Creatures…are whatever the song is called.  Hope to watch It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World since Sid Cesar passed away today at 91.  Yesterday, we lost Shirley Temple, at 85 and just the other week, Pete Seeger, 94. I have to get downstairs and hang out with the bums, last night we went to Target to buy a toy for Joe which he needs as a prop for the play he’s in…and I was struck how articulate my children are and what a feminist Bella is.  At school one of her friends was selling something and told Bella that being a girl, she was able to get a discount and Bella said that was not fair, if anything both boys and girls should pay the same…amazing…

2/16/14 08:54

                I got out of bed about an hour ago.  Sleeping in till 07:00 is a luxury on the weekends.  It snowed yesterday and into last night, and even with the warnings, I didn’t want another day stuck inside the house.  Originally we were going to drive to Boston with Joe and Diana to see Mo Cheeks and spend two nights in Boston.  With the approaching storm and the threat that Boston was going to get the brunt of it, we decided it was best to stay home.  Who wants to be stuck in a hotel room?   Like I said I didn’t want to spend another day inside the house.  Besides the storm was slated for last night, but on the drive home after a visit to Book Revue and an early dinner at Munday’s on Main Street Huntington – we were the last patrons for the night, the car slipped a little in the snow in Kings Park.  I said, “Shit,” out loud and regretted saying it since Joe and Bella were in the car.  Thought of the Eddie Murphy’s line, “You heard the word, but it doesn’t mean you repeat it.”  I made the comment and Joe rolled his eyes, the budding teenager.  Before Huntington, we hung out at my parents for a couple of hours.  Bella asked Ma, “How did my father propose to my mother?”  The historical event took place in Huntington Station at a place where they hung out with their friends.  Think late fifties…Dad and Ma picked out the ring at the diamond center in New York City, after taking the train from Huntington and Ma picked three rings and Dad picked the biggest one.  I don’t think I heard that story before.  I knew the snow was going to come down as the day progressed so around three, I clapped my hands and made the announcement we were leaving, we made our way to Huntington.  Honestly, I wanted to stop at Walt Whitman’s house for a tour since neither Joe or Bella know who the great poet was….anyway after the meal we ran up the snowy sidewalks, cleaned off the car and drove back home around 5 PM, and pulled into the driveway in the dark, and I blessed God for getting us home safely.  Now Bella wants to know what are we doing today?
Ali called from Paris...having a grand time, loves the beauty of the city...Emma is in her glory...

                After church we drove out to Walt Whitman’s birth house in Huntington after I explained who Walt was.  One of the greatest lessons for many of us was the movie, Dead Poet’s Society…that will trigger more of their imaginations. Maybe they’re too young?  All of my children are history buffs which was passed to them by my father-in-law.  Once I said the house is a national landmark and a little more about the man, they hurried and got their jackets on and we were back out on the road.  I can’t say I have budding poets, but Joe is busy downstairs working on a play he is writing for the Theater Three One Act contest.  After walking through the rooms at Whitman’s house with another couple who joined us, and after our small group stood in the small bedroom where immortal Walt was born, and then going up steep stairs and checking the height of the snow outside the windows, kitchen, pots, tables and candles all homemade since there were no factories to make clothes or food, we walked in the winter air in single file through a narrow path the width of a shovel which cut through the snow…

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Steve Earle exposes his heart & soul in Westbury


                Westbury has a new venue for concerts.  The Space is another concert venue for Long Island, which has Huntington’s Paramount, Amityville’s Revolution Bar, Rocky Point’s Suffolk Theater, the Bolton Center in Bay Shore and while we are at it, NYCB Westbury theater, Landmark, Port Washington, and some others which means all of us on Long Island can see a decent show almost every weekend.  Last night was the first show I saw at The Space which I understand is a converted movie theater.  It’s an odd theater

, seems like you’re walking into a store front and soon corralled in a sparse lobby.  We went out onto the main floor and were shown our seats. The aisles were narrow and difficult to squeeze through while holding a couple of beers and a glass of wine.  The venue reminded me of The Paramount, with a bar off to one side and seats in a balcony in the back, the tall ceilings with exposed industrial air vents, and a cozy stage. It was warm in the theater and seemed to be sparsely attended.   I was not sure if Earle was popular to the Long Islanders since I’m a late bloomer to Earle who later performed a two hour solo set to what was then close to a sellout. 
Before Mr. Earle, was Brooklyn based Dawn Landes who had a pitch perfect voice which reverberated between the walls.  I’m not that familiar with her work, but am kicking myself for not buying a copy of her new album, Blue.  Her last song was Blue which was different from her other standard country folk jangles.   She also had the crowd singing Pete Seeger’s Turn, Turn, Turn which surprised her – the response from the audience.
After a brief intermission and without an introduction Earle slowly walked onto the stage, wearing a baggy shirt, chains dangled from a wallet in his back pocket, a red bandanna wrapped around his right wrist and his thinning greyish hair and long disheveled beard gave the illusion this man was a pondering soul who was lost.  He picked up a guitar and started playing, actually didn’t really stop till he described having an 8th grade education and researching by reading different topics.  “If I didn’t know why something was happening, I’d read.  I’m always reading.”  Mr. Earle did not sound like a man with a limited education.   At times in the first half of the show I felt he was tapping in Tom Wait territory.  His ability to write songs which kept tapping at scars and exposing their pains which is what Mr. Earle has had a lot of pain in his life, battled addictions, broken marriages, time in jail, the tortured soul, his youngest son diagnosed with sound of his lone boot thumping in cadence echoed from hollow stage floor, an isolated performance from a dim stage.  One song which resonated was his take on God.  God is God, “We can learn to play the songs the angels play.”  I believe in God and God ain’t me…” The Devil’s Right Hand is an anti-gun song although he denied it when it was first recorded, since he was raised with guns.  When an ex-wife told him that he need to raise his rebellious son, Justin Townes Earle found a 9 mm which his father kept under the mattress, but Justin denied finding it.  Steve described getting him in the truck, like tackling a deer and dragging him in, and took his son to a labor camp for juveniles.  After one day at the camp; Justin called and told him where he could find the gun.  There were other stories like playing and recording with Pete Seeger and close the end of the show an obnoxious woman, maybe she was drunk and frustrated, but she demanded he play a certain song, I think it was Copperhead Road.  He told her he had a plan and, “Hold onto to your knickers.”  She went back at him, the audience started booing her and Earle went back to his songs and the show continued. 

      Steve is passionate about his progressive causes and he was clear, he will always be passionate and not give up the hope for peace and social justice in the world.  He saw the change take place in Northern Ireland, from when he first toured there and saw tanks in the roads to these days which is a peaceful place without barbed wires the roving tanks.  He hopes the same can take place in Jerusalem.  He described recording with an Israeli musician which took place is a studio owned by a Palestinian, a Muslim engineers the controls in the studio and he said as long as he can, he will always play his song Jerusalem.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Lost Art of Writing Letters

1/25/14 21:30

I’m thinking of Andy Rooney at this moment since over the last few months, I have sent out a few letters to writers and none responded.  Why not?  What happened to the art of writing a letter?  Are we too wrapped up in the email, Twitters and Face Books, blogs, instant grams, and anything else which are forms of communication, but let’s be honest - most are displays or reports of our lives.  This is different.  Writing and sending a letter through the post office takes time and patience.  I think of years ago when I’d write to Charles Bukowski or William S. Burroughs, James Purdy, Tess Gallagher and all wrote back.  There were the baseball players like Bobby Richardson, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams.  They wrote back.  There was the typical waiting period after sending a letter.  It may take a couple of weeks, maybe three…at most.   But each time I would receive a letter or a card back.  The idea is to write a letter of appreciation for their work and perhaps ask for some advice or if they would consider reading some of my writing.  The response I received was a gesture of their gratefulness since I took the time to write a letter.  All of the writers I mentioned said I could send some of my work, and I received their insight.  Charles Bukowski edited one of my poems since he was too hung over to write.  These letters were a distant connection, but we met through our words and our pens.  Sure, it takes time for someone to write the letter and print it, fold the paper, place a stamp on it and write the address on the outside.  What has happened to the intimate moments when we can feel the words under our eyes and read the letter more times than just deleting it?  Filing it?  What has happened?  Are we impulsive and inpatient?  I can agree to certain correspondence which an email will suffice especially for business and to check in, but a thank you letter in recognition for a writer’s work or an artist and I’m including sports stars - should not be an email.  So, I will keep on writing and hope a good person out there would take the time and respond.  There may come a time when writing a letter will become antiquated and I guess it has, but I hope we don’t forget how to fill out an envelope and write a letter.  Perhaps letter writing will return like the sound of music on an LP which sounds richer and increased the sales of the album.  Maybe we can go back and write letters?  Last week I sent two letters.  Maybe some of those I wrote to… misplace my letters since the weeks have turned into months; I’m still waiting for Jim Harrison, Russell Baker, Harvey Mackay, and President Carter to respond…and you too Stephen King.  My grandmother told us, patience is a virtue, seldom found in a woman and never found in a man.  I’m waiting Grand Ma…still waiting….Mr. Harrison reads...

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Six Months since I saw my wife due to Covid

  9/6/20 19:13 Home Tomorrow will be six months since my wife and I waved goodbye at the airport in Mexico City.   I planned to work in Me...