Sunday, October 24, 2010

PORTL& ORegon: Powell's, Milagro/Miracle Theater

Portl& ORegon: Powell’s; Milagro/Miracle Theater
[revised from The Well’s “Bookstores You Love”]
Dr. Ginny & I just went to Portland OR for the 1st-time,
staying at the Mark Spencer Hotel (409 SW 11th) 2 blocks
from Powells 'City of Books' whole-block (SW 10th-11th
at Burnside) reminding me a lot of
New England Mobile Book Fair (off-Rt. 9 in Boston's
western-suburb Newton MA.) Powell's is Portland's, w/even a children's books-full branch inside
the PDX airport.
Powell's full-windowed coffee-shop (cor. Burnside/11th;
run by World Cup Roasters) acts as a hangout for literati
in downtown Portland, on the edge of the trendy theater
(Center Stage), art-gallery, brew-pub Pearl district.
& so, we met Portland writer-stand-up Mark Saltveit
at Powell's coffee-shop twice; he took us to a packed Thurs
eve. run-thru perf. of !VIVA DON JUAN! at the bilingual
Milagro/Miracle theatre, SE 6th & Stark,
art-directed by his wife Olga Sanchez, [29 Oct-14 Nov.]
Unable to find the book I wanted (a used trade-paperback
of the 50th anniv.ed. of Auerbach's MIMESIS w/Said pref.)
on the shelf in Powell's Lit.Crit section (14), I ordered it at
the customer service desk; shipped
w/in 9 biz.-days.
It arv'd in Santa Clara on Tues. 26 OCT 10]

Sunday, October 17, 2010



My mother was a very bright (top of her Salem MA public high-school class) 1st-generation American Polish-speaking girl who, 2 years after graduation, was told by her Polish-speaking convent in Enfield CT to go back home instead of 'professing' final-vows.

Why? Because she had exposed another postulant (=would-be, aka novice) for her leaving dust on a shelf by writing the word DUST on it with her finger, cinematically, as tho from a script drawn from a novel written by Francois Mauriac.

She was suddenly out: a hopeful, lifetime-career as a Roman Catholic nun terminated (perfectly cinematically) in that one dusty word: DUST. She came back to pre-WW2 Salem a young Polish-convent wash-out, a would-be prestigious (to Poles) career failure. made my own life possible & my own life (as you will read in these brief installments) has often turned on trivial, but definitive deeds (actes gratuits), often causing what prove to be irreversible changes...


My (bilingual) Polish-speaking mother decided to send me to a Polish-language kindergarten run by nuns of the local Polish parish school, St. Michael’s in West Lynn MA.

At first, everything appeared to be going well: I already spoke some Polish at home with my mother, answering to Billy as well as to Bolesh, so why not enroll in a Polish-language school? The nuns liked me. The other children liked me – but one, Dorothy Zuk (=sugar) soon liked me altogether too much. Once, while we were bending over to play with a wooden chest full of toys, Dorothy took out a gold-painted cast-lead eagle (that had once been the pole-cap of an American flag) & rapturously began to beat me over the head with it. I fell into the chest head-first, not quite unconscious, but rendered hors de combat d’amour enuf to have to have my mother called to come over (we only lived 2 short streets away) to take me out of that kinder-class for my own safety. I never returned to that Polish-language nun’s school again.

My mother quickly & unsentimentally decided that instead, I would just have to go to the nearby Lynn public school first-grade class (there was no kindergarten class as such, yet) where I was again received well by my teacher (Mrs. Reynolds) & the other children in the class. I happily recall our planting little seeds in potting-soil filled wooden cheese boxes and placing them high up on the windowsill nearest our seats to collect the sun. Mine was filled with seeds that soon sprouted (unsurprisingly) ‘Sweet William’ flowers.

So I was saved from the legendarily brutal horrors of Roman Catholic nun’s grammar-school by an erotically-deranged fellow kindergarten student. My subsequent grammar-school education would be both secular & public. But then, my prep-school was Xaverian (C.F.X.) where we were irrationally beaten with cut-off pool-cues. My undergraduate college was Jesuit (S.J.) where we were subtly intellectually (& otherwise) seduced. Roman Catholocism’s allegedly 'superior' education came with parentally-accepted perils; we were its often rights-waived victims.


Getting chillier as I sat in the bathtub awaiting my mother’s return from shopping nearby, I got up, put on my bathrobe, picked up my Classic comic-books, and went downstairs to sat on the sidewalk outside the funeral home across the street & read them.

Soon, semi-retarded Carol Patten appeared in front of the funeral home & asked me what I was doing outside in a bathrobe, so I told her. Along came the long, straight, black-haired black-Irish daughter of the undertaker who asked, too. Soon they were performing a writhing sister-act before me, pulling each other’s panties down & off so that I could see their hairless pubes. Eventually, my mother came home from her shopping, & shockedly put an end to our erotic children’s sidewalk theater directly across from where we lived.

Jack Casey, whose aged parents rented the 2nd floor of their inner-city cottage to my parents, must have felt something because of (if not for) me. He invited me downstairs one afternoon & sitting on his living-room couch, asked me to kneel before him with my mouth open, with my eyes closed; I did, but after a while, wondered what happened next. Opening my eyes, I saw he was holding his erect penis & slowly beginning to enter it into my mouth, so I jerked back & stood up. He grunted; I ran back upstairs & told my parents what had just happened Result: we soon moved out ASAP.

Years later, I’d be assigned to his clean-up crew as a City of Lynn summer job (because I was politically connected thru my aunt who ran the local state rep’s office; Jack was the son of the Public Works superintendent.) On my 1st-day, Jack’s threatening black-Irish eyes said: Never tell anyone what happened back then! I understood & didn’t. Also on the crew was Fred Shepler, the gay son of a Methodist minister from the other (wealthier) east side of Lynn, a student at Tufts University. We became friends; after we graduated college, while living on Beacon Hill, Boston, I visited his apt on Charles St. that he shared with his lover.

Years later I told this Jack Casey story to George, a gay, black ex-priest who was a Harvard Community Health Plan (HMO) couples group psychotherapist, at his private practice in Harvard Square, Cambridge.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hallowe'en, Variously

Hallow e'en (All Hallows Eve) varies from culture to culture, region, city, neighborhood, house, in poly-celebratory USA.

Here in what was once Spanish Colonial upper-Mexico (now California) the Day of the Dead (El Dia de los Muertos) is still publicly and privately obsrved with the inclusion of indigenous Mexican practices - family altars, costumes, edible sugar-candy skeleton dolls, etc. Family altars display photos of their dead, their favorite belongings, offerings of their favorite foods, etc. as tho they were due back shortly after a trip. Professional artists even make art-altars to demonstrate their degree of congruity with or respect for the tradition.

For the second year now, in San Francisco's notably gay Castro neighborhood, civil and commercial authorites are urging people to celebrate Hallowe'en together, entirely at home, rather than outdoors in the streets (Mardi Gras-style), in the hopes of decreasing one-on-one violence and general public disorder.

For the third year now, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra (SFSO) marks El Dia with a Dia De Los Muertos family concert (this year, Nov. 6, 2010, 2pm) celebrating the music of Mexico and the Spanish-speaking world; discount tickets for under 17s. Displays, refreshments and children's activities fill Davies Hall's lobbies. Resident Conductor Donato Cabrera concucts a suite from Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas's ballet La Coronella - with dancers. Supported by S.F. Arts Commission, Univision, Telefutura, SFMuni, El Mensajero.

666 miles north of San Francisco, in Portland, Oregon, bilingual theater group Milagro/Miracle puts on its annual Dia De Los Muertos verse and musical play, this year (28 Oct.-14 Nov.) !Viva Don Juan! by Martin Milagro (the collaborative group's pseudonym), art-directed by Olga Sanchez; the dead Don returns on El Dia to earn an annual altar for both himself and his lost love from their convent-sequestered daughter; living and dead redeem and celebrate each other

[Back East] In chilly New England (I was born in Salem, raised next to it in Lynn, Massachusetts), commercially-made death-image paraphenalia offer no guarantee that the dead are happily coming back.

But - instead - that malicious (demented) evil spirts are and must be defended against, coppered/warded-off by young children's dressing up in traditional Hallowe'en costumes and trick-or-treating from door-to-door in one's own neighborhood which has now become a defensive perimeter, the fear of child abuse having grown in the past few decades, so that only commercially-wrapped candies are acceptable as ghost-gelt; unadulterated apples seem to be OK, too.

[Back West] Presbyterians in Silicon Valley (Sunnyvale, California) are offering a safe church parking-lot located "Trunk-or-Treat" one day earlier, on October 30th, at 7pm.
Roman Catholics (I was, until 20), probably maintain a relatively benevolent relationship with deadery, with maybe even some tolerance for teenagers "Trick or Treating" dressed up as vampires, hoping that "That, too, will soon pass - tomorrow!" Tolerance does have limits.

Prohibitively devout neo-conservative Baptist Christians (in 7-sisters collegiate Wellesley, Massachusetts) insist on dressing their children up as 'little saints' for Hallowe'en-replacing Little Saints Nights held at their churches to which No (real or imaginary) Witches Need Apply. For them, a now unacceptable All Hallows Eve has brightened before an already glorious All Saints Day, traditionally the next day.

Not far away, fabled Salem, Massachusetts (where I was born), the location of the Great Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692 (over which an ancestor of Salem fictioneer Nathaniel Hawthorne presided, to his lifelong shame) has (incredibly) now become a wicca-tolerating tourist-bus venue, presided over by Salem's principal witch Laurie Cabot (whom I've never seen or met.) Contemporary wicca is proving itself to be a perennially beneficial draw to Salem's year-round tourist biz. So go there!

My wife Carolin Combs (who died on Jan. 26th, 2007) delighted in dressing up in a white owl-like commercial artfully-pinked cloth costume to greet children coming to our door in Wellesley Massachusets and again in Santa Clara California. Her costume scared (at most) a few small children. (I have color-photos of her in that winsomely owly white costume before the spider-image decorated front-door of a friend's house in San Jose California.)
Originally written, at her request, for Ann Wainwright's TypePad cakecakecake blog edited from Leven nr Beverley, nr Hull, Humberside, England GB; also in The [S.F.] Bay Citizen Citizen Blog section.

Friday, October 15, 2010

WHUF abt U?

Listening to Australian novelist Peter Carey being interviewed on BBC overnite, responding to whether he’s an optimist/pessimist, I’ve begun to think of this myself. Whuf abt me?

I’m neither; as a writer, I just let what my mind makes come out. Some (certain) people have surprised me by saying they think I’m cynical; if so, I think I’d better adopt a different definition of cynicism than I have so far.

Generally, (I think) people work with what they’ve got until circumstances force/enable them to do otherwise: i.e., I’m the kinda guy who habitually picks up paperclips & saves them, if not actually uses them, a lifelong habit learned from my parsimonius, pragmatic Glaswegian-born dad, for most of his major working life a parts inspector of naval gears for a large GE plant in West Lynn MA.

And so, what I’m writing here will be soon be -clipped under the title of an as-yet untitled 'piece' of writing, formed by years of writing op-ed ‘pieces' for newspapers (just anutha writing skill to master.) Have I hit 350 wds yet? I’m sure I will once I get rolling, having learned length matters in newspapers, but not on-line; so being online, I’ll continue this, if I may...

Cynicism? No. Anxiety, Yes. Always anxiety, at least in writing prose, compared to my deploying increasingly incisive rage in poetry. You see, as I write this, I’m gradually realizing that I don’t ‘celebrate’ much/enuf. I’m usually too anxious to.

So now I do want to celebrate my daughter Maya’s birthday today: 15 OCT 64 & have sent her 3 b’day greets: an e-mail reply, an animated musical e-card, & a traditionally-stamped paper card, thinking: She’s far away (3K mi.) in Putney VT. As for anything else about her, you'd best google/facebook her. Her life is hers to reveal as she will; (no doubt) she thinks I’ve long over-revealed mine - even tho I have yet to write an autobiography, as such.

But enuf about me, whuf abt U?

15 OCT 2010 (Santa Clara CA 95050)v2


Saturday, October 9, 2010

"Ladri di biciclette" (1948)

"Bicycle Thieves" (Italy, B&W, 1948, dir. Vittorio De Sica)

Desperately needing a bike defines one excruciatingly-thin Giacomettic walking-man, the visual icon of post-WW2 European existentialism.

I 1st saw a English-dubbed clip from "Bicycle Thieves" on the B&W -TV "Ed Sullivan Show" about a desperate Roman guy just after WW2 who gets a rare chance at a job - putting up film posters on walls all over Rome, but he must have a bicycle to do it.

Suddenly 2 brothers steal his wobbly bike & he pursues them on foot across Rome along with his little son (who pauses to pee into an outdoor wall-urinal & suddenly spins around to show us his little wobbly penis.) Things have gotten so bad for their family that the wife has had to sell their bed-sheets. I quickly saw that things were worse for them than us in war-winning West Lynn MA: my Glasgow-born dad had a secure job in the Lynn MA GE River Works plant as a naval-gear parts-inspector; my mom wasn't reduced to selling her bed-sheets (or herself.) As for me: my first bike, an American-made second-hand Colson, was stolen in Lynn, but was retrieved by the Lynn police. My second, a new English Dunelt, lasted until it was stolen after I'd moved to Beacon Hill, Boston, after graduating Boston College.

I've never successfully learned to drive a car, so the desperation & anguish over an absolutely necessary bike that filled "Bicycle Thieves" was & is still intertwined with mine at age 68, over fifty years later.

Others still feel as acutely about the film, too. In a recent interview, Woody Allen called it "The greatest film ever made." (Its actors were all non-professionals; none ever worked in any other films again after it, even though the lead actor looked like a truly-starved Humphrey Bogart in "Treasure of the Sierra Madre".)

[Q] Does the desperate guy ever get his bike back?

[A] No, not even after confronting the thief in a brothel, who's since sold it. An attempt to steal a replacement bike fails and the desperate guy's arrested, but out of pity, the owner refuses to charge him with the crime. He & his small son walk away, hand-in-hand, finally defeated.

An earlier draft of this ongoing recollection was 1st-written, at her request, for Ann Wainwright's TypePad cakecakecake blog that she edits in Leven nr Beverley, Humberside, England GB. In the USA, it also appears in The [S.F.] Bay Citizen Citizen Blog section.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010



“When supporting God:
do we need 2B consistent?
Such a high calling should
B granted some slack.” ?;-)

About as much sl@ck
as sweetened whipped-cream
(brightly-lit, fluffy knowing)
floating on top of dark coffee
(deep, brooding unknowing)

"Herr Oberst, bitte, bei mich
mit schlagobers, bitte! bitte!

(06 OCT 10, Santa Clara CA)v5

Monday, October 4, 2010


{Anita:} Lift your finger up to the window


...beginning...the earliest visionary sequence
of my early childhood (in chilly West Lynn MA)
as I pressed my index-fingertip onto the ice
that formed overnite inside my bedroom window
(there was no storm-window on my bedroom) &
slowly melted it with my stinging skin's warmth,
again & again, to be able to peek out
thru the small openings I'd made...
that eventually melted & melded.

(02 OCT 10m Santa Clara CA)v4

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My air-adventurer

"My air-adventurer"

to Carolin, my air-adventurer

A few hours ago,
I thrashed in the night,
thinking of us waking in dark
for a dark van to the airport,

or riding in your purple Saturn
to catch a suburban daytime bus
to BOS/Logan for SJC/Norcal;
now I can only ride w/out you.

We did what everybody else did,
but monocoastal's all I can do.
You brought so much to my life;
what we did was way beyond me,

adventuring bicoastally, yours:
I helped, packed, carried bags,
but you were my air-adventurer.

(2:34-5:24 a.m.. 02 OCT 10, Santa Clara CA)v5

to Carolin, my air-adventurer

A few hours ago,
I thrashed in the night,
thinking of us waking in dark
for a dark van to the airport,

or riding in your purple Saturn
to catch a suburban daytime bus,
to fly out to northern California
where I'm writing this, alone now.

We did what everybody else did, but
I no longer do, now that I’m alone here.

You brought so much to my life;
what we did was way beyond me,
the adventure of bicoastiality, yours;
I helped, I packed, I carried bags,
but you were my air-adventurer.

(2:34-5:24 a.m.. 02 OCT 10, Santa Clara CA)v4

Friday, October 1, 2010

USE {this} POEM

This poem is character- & case-sensitive.


Use this poem as a key; no, not
a metal one, but a logical one:

Type: Th1sKeyPoem

into your KeyProgram
& watch it character recognize
it all the way to the [EOF]

K@-pop! It’s Open!

(01 OCT 10, Santa Clara CA)