Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Strange Happenings

I've done a lot of readings in my brief literary career. I've read at colleges, bookstores, and featured at dozens of open-mics in a number of states. This, by the way, is not boasting or a sad attempt at a resume. Anyone who has done the reading scenes will tell you that readings can range from exhilarating to "slit-my-wrists-and-drop-me-in-a-warm-tub" depressing. I've read to large, enthusiastic audiences and audiences you could pack into a bathroom stall. It's really crap shoot when you agree to read at a venue.

There's one thing, however, that I can ascertain: reading in Portland, Maine is always going to be interesting. Last night I featured at The North Star Cafe. Now, I should note that The North Star Cafe is a lesbian coffee shop---that serves booze---that has been kind and generous enough to provide a venue for The Port Veritas open-mic series in Portland. The reason I mention this is because the information will become quite relevant later.

The evening was almost Shakespearean in its foreshadowing. Early on, the host, whose name also happens to be Nate, and I were smoking cigarettes outside the cafe. "Man," he said, "something is off tonight. There's something strange about it." It would not have surprised me, in hindsight, to find three witches stirring a cauldron on a side street outside The North Star Cafe.

For the sake of brevity, I'm only going to stick to main events. First, any open-mic, by default, is going to draw its share psychos wandering off from a halfway house somewhere in town. This was no different. One of the readers, a regular who I will call Leo, introduced a new component to the weekly reading series. Generously, Leo has decided to start reading directly from his personal journals, something he has broken up into 15 chapters and has promised to read one, languorous chapter each week at the open mic. Book your plane tickets, folks. This is "don't miss." While Leo was a reading a young, rather pugnacious woman in a black wife-beater was restlessly searching for an acoustic guitar. Apparently, her reading, which she saw as the night's true "feature", required one.

After Leo finished with something utterly and mind-numbingly incoherent that stretched the five-minute time limit to close to half an hour of journal entry, I went on for my feature. And it went well. I read some new poems, a couple of family-oriented pieces from Honey, I'm Home (there was a young couple with their newborn in attendance and it seemed fitting), then I launched into the new material from Teaching Metaphors. The audience was receptive and kind, and it seemed that the night was going to take a turn for the better. Nate's instincts were erroneous, maybe even paranoid.

Then it all came down.

It started with an older man in a two-ton electric wheelchair and an American flag on the back (a friend of Leo's) reading fifteen-minutes of "Roses are red" poems, while the angry lesbian in the wife-beater brooded on-deck. She had found an acoustic guitar and was carrying it like lumberjack carrying an ax. She was pissed off that the crippled man was taking so long and holding up her show.

Finally, the wheelchair man finished, and the angry lesbian came stomping on stage, grabbed the microphone like it was phallus she was trying to tear off a male, and went into this acerbic rant that included post-it notes. Apparently, she had been writing some of it down while I was reading.

"And I don't give a fuck about hearing about people with a wife and kids complaining about having nothing," she went on.

I nudged my friend Jonell, who went with me to the reading. "Is she talking about me?"

Jonell nodded. "Oh, yeah," she said. "She wants to kick your ass."

So I spent the rest of the night afraid that the angry lesbian was going to sucker punch me outside the cafe because I read about my family. Didn't she know my marriage was on the rocks? I wanted to go up to her and make something up to get in her good graces. "Listen, that was all an act. My wife and I actually hate each other and the institution of marriage. Let's go buy some wife-beaters then slam some shots of whiskey, maybe punch some street signs after we're good and drunk."

It never happened. The angry lesbian played her song (in spite of some small details, such as she didn't know how to play the guitar) and didn't end up kicking my ass; however, I did end up carrying the man, in his wheelchair, out of the cafe with Nate and pulling a muscle in my back. Before leaving, the wheelchair man asked me if I'd give him a free book. Apparently, transporting him in his wheelchair out of the cafe wasn't enough. I gave him an old copy of Frostbite.

Later, at an Irish bar next to the cafe, Nate, Jonell and myself had a beer while some seventy year-old man next to us made out with his twenty-year-old girlfriend who was wearing a t-shirt that read Hottie.

"Looks like you were right, Nate," I said. "This was, indeed, a very strange night."

"I knew it, man. I sensed it in the air."

As I was leaving, a copy of Teaching Metaphors fell out of the box of books I was carrying. Hottie picked it up. "You write books? That's soooooo cool. He's trying to right a book," she said, pointing to her septuagenarian boyfriend. The man glanced coldly at me.

"Don't bother," I said to him. "The lesbians will hate you."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Idiot Bliss - Dan Cray

This is my good friend Dan doing one of his kick-ass tunes. Lyrically, this is fantastic and, sadly, dead-on true. I'm posting this without his knowledge, so he might be coming to kick my ass. But little does he know that I was trained to be a ninja. Check out more of his music at www.dancray.net

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The All-Star Break Blues


Here it is, the All-Star break and the Sox have an 11 game lead in the AL East. They have one of the best records in baseball and seem like a lock for the post-season. So why is it that I haven't warmed up to the 2007 Sox? Why is it that I have a hard time liking this team? Is it the Pink Hats? Is it the fact that I'd have to take a second mortgage out on my house to bring the family to Fenway these days? Is it the fact that they're actually selling a CD of the songs Dice-K listens to before his starts AND people are actually buying it?

Well, it's all of the above and more.

I guess the real problem is that this team doesn't seem to have a soul. The Red Sox have become clinical, business-like in their approach to winning. While trying to compete with the nefarious New York monsters, they've become the Yankees. They spend a ridiculous amount of money to field a team that looks brilliant on paper, plays brilliantly on the field, and has absolutely no character. Historically, the Red Sox have been the blue-collar rebuttals to the opulence of the Yankees. They've always been the lovable losers, the underdogs, the dirt-dogs. Dare I say that I miss those guys?

A perfect playing metaphor for this can be found in JD Drew. Let's remember that the Sox jilted Trot Nixon to put this putz in right field (Drew even stole his fucking number!). They're paying this guy a grand for each time he takes a dump in the clubhouse, and he's about as boring to watch as the Republican National Convention. It's apparent, to me at least, that this guy gets paid to play baseball. If he has the fucking sniffles, he's out of the line-up. There's no passion, no verve, no style whatsoever with JD Drew. He plays the game like a bad porn actor humping a blow-up doll.

Like a good book, what made the 2004 Red Sox so amiable were the characters--- Kevin "Cowboy Up" Millar, Johnny "I sold my soul and hair to the devil" Damon, Billy Muellar, Trot, Derek "Glug-glug, let me grab my crotch" Lowe, Pedro "The Princess" Martinez. This is also the team that Theo Epstein liquidated the next year for the Edgar Renteria's and JD Drew's of the baseball world; guys with stellar stats and the personalities of pubic hairs.

Listen, I'm not going to stop watching and rooting for The Olde Towne Team. The Red Sox are in my blood and always will be. But this season I'm getting the sensation of team that has been bred for success, like private school brats, and will do everything the foster the image of "success." The next time the private school brats take the field at Fenway Park, take a gander at the crowd. They're being applauded by their peers.

***(correction, The Red Sox have a 10 game lead. Guess who made the last out with a little pussy pop-up to third and a runner in scoring position in the ninth inning? He didn't look too upset after choking in the clutch, yet again. My point exactly. I miss you, Trot.)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Horsin' Around


I don't think it's presumptuous to go ahead and divide my life into two distinct periods: before-HBO and after-HBO. Before Nate Graziano received HBO (yes, I'm writing about myself in the third-person. You wanna go?), he dreamed of writing great books; he valued things like family and friends, and was said to enjoy reading a good novel on the occasional rainy afternoon. All that has changed. Now, after receiving a year free of HBO and Starz as part of a cable package deal, Nate Graziano has abandoned the novel he's been working on for a couple of years, stopped reading altogether, and spends his time trying to catch up with the back episodes of Entourage before the new one airs Sunday night at 10 p.m.

However, the point of this blog isn't necessarily about HBO and how I've become a slave to the Home Box Office. This morning, while our kids were in daycare, my wife and I decided to abandon our plans for the day (we were going to paint the living room, and I was supposed to work on the novel that I've stopped writing anyway) and watch Real Sex 36 on HBO ON-Demand. To say this show is bizarre is a lesson in understatement. It's like describing The Iraq War as a small tactical gaff. The episode we watched began with a segment on "Pony Play."

Most of us would probably call this behavior...oh, slightly aberrant. No. Poor choice of words. How about fucking insane! The gist of Pony Play is that one partner pretends they're a horse. And this isn't just a horsey ride into the bedroom. I mean, who doesn't do that, right? These people take it to the next level. They bray; they allow themselves to be saddled up (see picture); they're chewing bits, pushing carriages and sometimes having their partner ride them bare back and feeding them carrots. They get brushed, washed, and praised for temperate behavior (I mean, who wants to ride a wild stallion) with comments such as, "That's a good horse, good boy." And the horse-man/horse-woman brays and allows themselves to be pet. Sometimes, the whip comes out. And here's the coup de grace: they have blacksmiths who fit these people for horseshoes!

They're being fitted for fucking horseshoes!

Now, I'm a pretty open-minded guy, and I could care less what gets you off in the bedroom. To each their own, you know. If you can't climax unless you're partner is wearing Bozo wig, break out the wig, baby. But there's something about Pony Play that just strikes me as creepy. They claim that it dates back to Aristotle. Apparently, in between chapters of Poetics, his wife throw a saddle on the back of his toga and go to town, giving him a carrot then smacking his ass red with an ancient horse whip. I wonder if he ever pretended to be the Trojan Horse? Think about that one. I don't know. I guess I should go easy on these folks. They're getting their nuts off and all is well on the Animal Farm, I suppose.

But they're being fitted for fucking horseshoes!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July.