Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hipsters and Happy Thanksgiving

Before some hipster starts bemoaning the fact that this "is so cliched," let me acknowledge that "Alice's Restaurant" on Thanksgiving is cliched and un-hip and predictable, unless it's being played ironically (this is not being played ironically). Because hipsters, as you know, thrive on listening to bands that no one has ever heard, except, of course, other hipsters who really get irony. For example, The Hipster might see that I posted Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant," roll his eyes, and say, "Der Furz, the German death-metal band, does a better cover of this song. Ever heard it?" Which is, naturally, a rhetorical question, because no one--including 90-percent of the band members' families---has heard of the band, much less their cover of "Alice's Restaurant." But The Hipster has. In fact, he's been listening to Der Furz since their first album, Widerlich, which he'll tell you was by far their best. In fact, The Hipster might even have the CD in his car or a Der Furz bumper sticker on a filing cabinet or an electric guitar case (he doesn't play, but he's friends with a guy in an indie band who gave it to him).

So, yes, hipsters, I understand my transgression in posting this. I'm lame. But it's Thanksgiving and, like most Americans who don't get irony, I want to stuff myself like a true hedonist, watch some football, nap, and listen to this song.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reading tonight at PSU

I will be reading tonight at Plymouth State University, the fine academic establishment which, after admitting me as an undergrad in 1993, really turned things around. Anyway, it's always a lot of fun to go back to my old stomping grounds. Those five years as an undergraduate were some of the finest of my life. Oh, the memories, and the lack of memories, and the shit I've made up that never happened, like the time I bungey-jumped off the English building as thousands of my fellow students cheered me, or that sorority who once abducted me and kept me as their house slave for a week (they nicknamed me "Mr. Biggie"). Ah yes.

So I will be returning tonight, which is the last reading this year from After the Honeymoon. I will be reading from my novel on Dec. 2 as I complete my MFA at The University of New Hampshire next month, and I will be reading with a host of other New Hampshire poets at Gibson's Bookstore in Concord as part of a holiday celebration of poetry on Dec. 12. But this is it for my book tour this year. More information to come on those readings. I also have a handful of venues set up for 2010, but that's a year away---oh no, I'm officially that tool who says "See you next year" on Dec. 31.

But tonight I ride at The Frost Commons at 7 p.m. My friend and former-professor Paul Rogalus will be riding with me. We ride. Hope to see you there.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Above is a picture of me with Dan Crocker. Dan is my best friend. Seeing I write poetry, which automatically places me high on the "allegedly-gay" scale in this society (as if homosexuality is a character-flaw), I have no problem saying that Dan is my best friend in the world. In fact, I'm honored to say it.

Friends. Most of us, myself included, take them for granted: X is my friend, which is, I suppose, better than an enemy. But friends, I've noticed, are also something we like to quantify. Think about Facebook, for example. Does anyone really have 329 friends? Really?

"Friends" seems to be the wrong word, but I suppose it saves space on the webpage because if you were to label it accurately, it would read: "People I know, most of whom I either met once; or knew in high school and had completely forgotten existed, and there's probably a good reason for that; or people I know, call a friend, but don't trust them as far as I can spit; or don't know at all, but call my friend because of a need to be loved, which may or not be result of not getting enough attention from my mother." That might look pretty cumbersome on the side of the screen. Then, of course, you'd need a second list for your real friends, which would most likely include three or four people and, if you're lucky, your spouse.

But here's the thing: as far as I'm concerned, friends can't be quantified, in any respect. I've only known Dan for seven or eight years, and we've never lived less than 1500 miles from each other. Numbers. We see each other once a year, maybe, and maintain our friendship mostly via emails and talking on the telephone like two old widows. However, few people in this world understand me like Dan, and when you think about it, that is one of our core human desires: to feel less alone in this universe. Friends, like good art, will do that.

Like myself, Dan Crocker is a writer, a damn fine writer. But I don't care if my friends are artists or big names or people who can do something for me. I could care less if Dan ever penned another word. When we're talking to each other, we have a tacit understanding that we will not talk about writing. Why? We know what one another does. There's no need to discuss it. Friends shouldn't give a fuck what you do. The important thing, as I understand it, is who you are.

Look closely at this picture. Dan and I have always wanted an iconic photo, like the one of Kerouac and Neal Cassady used on covers of On the Road. This is ours. Look again. In this picture, you'll see two grown men, best friends, deep into their 30s, with wives and children and lives that, geographically speaking, exist far from one another. But you'll also see two men pleased to be in each other's company.

This is me and Dan Crocker in November of 2009. And he's my best friend.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Rockin' the 'stache

A couple of quick things before I take off for the weekend to read with some of my dearest friends, Becky and Cracker. Right now, Dan Crocker (those of you who own After the Honeymoon, you'd know him as "Cracker") is staying with me, and we're solving the world's problems.

1. There's a review of After the Honeymoon in the Hippo Press today. What do you think, folks? Nate Graziano as Manchester's official city poet? Rockin'. I'm going to put up a link to write Mayor-elect Ted Gatsas and a template to copy-and-paste to him. The official city poet should have a mustache. No?

2. I'm now rockin' the 70s porn star mustache (see above). Yup.

3. To anyone who comes out to see me read this weekend in Cambridge or Kingston: If you buy a book from any of the readers, you will receive a free copy of the chapbook Men of Letters, the final installment of the Idiot Trilogy I wrote with Cracker.

4. Tonight will be the world premiere of the one-act play "Pack O' Smokes." One of the characters in the play rocks a mustache.

I hope to see some of you this weekend. The world looks different when viewing it from behind a mustache.

Show me the money!

Listen, I'm going to try to be diplomatic here, as diplomatic as my Red Sox blood will allow. I avoided the knee-jerk acerbic post last night and waded through six hours of restive slumber to write this. I'm trying, folks.

First, the Yankees deserve congratulations: They won the World Series. And regardless of the money you spend in assembling an All-Star team, the said team needs to perform in order to be champions. Since the All-Star Break, the Yankees have been one of the most dominant teams in MLB history. They deserve props. Definitely.

But, really, is any of this shocking? Has there been any drama leading up to this? Seriously, who didn't expect them to win after they went on their $423.5 million dollar spending last off-season?

I have no interest in getting Nietzschean here, but in order to be successful, you can argue, you do whatever it takes, whatever is in your means, to be successful; otherwise, you need to embrace failure. The world's biggest creep, John Henry showed us this lesson when he failed to pull the trigger on Texiera, failing to pony up what turned out to be a nominal bucket of cash in respect to overall spending. And while the Sox cut their payroll, ticket prices continued to sky-rocket in one of the worst economies since The Great Depression. One of the few past times that can relieve Boston diehards from their dire financial woes is now unaffordable. Talk about a kick in the nuts.

Shame on you, Red Sox.

But the real disturbing thing about the Yankees winning the World Series is the message it affirms: money does, in the end, will prevail. We can tell our kids tales about prodigal sons and Robin Hood's and Jesus, but in the end, the person with the most cash wins. This is what we learn from the New York Yankees. And that's not meant to be bitter or dramatic; it's a fact.

While I'm sure I'm not the only one flashing these stats today, take a gander at the team salaries for 2009:

1. Yankees: $201,449, 189
2. Mets: $149,373, 987
3. Cubs: $134,809,000
4. Red Sox: $121,745,999

Now, Yankees fans will argue: The Mets and The Cubs didn't make the playoffs, and the Sox were eliminated in the first round. Very true. See the second paragraph of this blog. But here's the thing: the disparity between the Yankees and the Mets is over $50 million bucks! This is more than the Padres, Pirates, and Marlins pay out for their entire team! And Yankee fans will say: If the Sox spent the cash and won The World Series, you wouldn't be complaining. This is all sour grapes.

I don't know. Something about this disturbs me on an ethical level. And, listen, I'm by no means a man of unshakable ethics, but this just feels wrong. Maybe this is knee-jerk Sox fan indignation. Maybe it is sour grapes. But there's more to it than that. This is what's wrong with the bullshit we feed our kids. We tell them that money can't buy happiness. Really? Money looked pretty fucking happy on the pitcher's mound last night. And will the Sox go out and spend a butt-load in the off-season to keep up with Jones' and keep the affluent population of Boston paying $300 a ticket for box seats at a Yankee game in Fenway? You bet your ass they will. Because in the end, it's all about the bottom line. Don't kid yourself. It is.

Maybe that's what we should be teaching our kids: it's all about the bottom line. There are no Jerry Maguire endings in the real world, kids. It doesn't happen. So congratulations, New York. You bought this fair and square.