Saturday, August 22, 2009

We're moving
Just in case there's either of my readers strolls by in the near fulture and wonders where the blog is - I'm in the process of changing hosts (so I can scrap blogger and move to Wordpress) - so Yesablog may be in limbo for a few days.

We'll be back - and maybe even posting a bit more often!

Stay tuned!!

Monday, August 3, 2009

And so but then
That rusty, scraping, nails-on-chalkboard sound you hear is the sound of my creative wheels attempting to unfreeze... A substantial amount of lubrication may be required to get this, me, this in motion.

I joined a group of people this summer who are making the daunting attempt to read the massive David Foster Wallace tome "Infintie Jest." I bought a Kindle for the occasion and I have to confess: without it, I seriously doubt I would have gotten past the first chapter - again. You see - this is my second try.

I bought the door stop book shortly after it's initial publication because a friend was reading it. At over a thousand pages, it's size wasn't intimidating; I rather like meaty literature. It was Wallace's opening serve 1 that caused me to put it down without attempting a return volley. Whut. The. Fuck.

A few months ago some of my internet friends were tossing around the idea of reading the book together. Not together together like reading in sync together - but at the same time, book-clubish 2 together. It didn't come to be until this summer when some good and brave folks out there decided to launch the Infinite Summer project. A few of us signed up, a forum for discussion was created and then...

Well, amongst each other, there hasn't been much discussion. At least none that I've been party to. Which is okay, really, because more intimidating than reading the book is the idea of trying to Discuss It.

I'm just a speck of an insect floating on the top of the vast sea that is this book - not even my Kindle can define of most of the gold-plated words Wallace pulls out of his lexicon and his intellect is leaving vapor trails it's so far over my head, for chrissakes.

But I am soldiering on. I've relied on our guides over at Infinite Summer to get my head under the surface. Thanks to them I've bruised my forehead with many a V-8 moment which has gotten me to the next chapter, and the next and the next.

I was also greatly relieved to be given permission to hate the novel - which I do, in part. 3 I've developed a dysfunctional relationship with the book. Apropos, I think, because the book is rife with and thrives on dysfunction. So I'm fully expecting to be thoroughly screwed over by the time I reach the end. But, as with any doomed relationship, I'll lick my wounds and do my best to take the lessons learned on to the next literary affair.

I will say this - it is absolutely true that DFW makes you work - and work hard. IJ is not for the feint of heart or those looking for a breezy summer read. He has reminded me why I fell in love with books so long ago. The opportunity to visit the world of another's creation - and especially one of an author like Wallace who is infinitely uncompromising 4 in his depiction of that world - is an opportunity to deepen my relationship to and understanding of my own world.

And in this new era of 140 character weedy snippets threatening to choke our already shortened attention span, IJ is a welcome return to whole days spent reading, exercising nearly atrophied brain-cells and going on an adventure with a great mind and talent. How sad, indeed, that this one is tragically gone from us forever.

If you love literature and haven't done so already, you owe it to yourself to settle in with the IJ experience. Truly.
 

 

 

 

 




1 IJ readers will have to forgive the bad IJ metaphor, I just had to. But I promise it'll stop there. I won't abandon punctuation or burden you with sentences that run on for a mile or two up and around behind and through the subject then so come back around and finally exhaustively come to the point dammit. [back to post]
 

 

 

 

 

2 I'm compelled to mention Oprah in the same breath as "book club" - kinda Pavlovian and sad in a way. These days an Oprah Book Club nominee is the kiss of death for any book that wants to land on my bookshelf. Or, now, in my Kindle. I'm sorry if that hurts Oprah's feelings. It is what it is. [back to post]
 

 

 

 

 

3 Like the footnotes a - this is why the Kindle is essential to reading this book in particular. The footnote is a click away as opposed to flipping ten pounds of pages back and forth. [back to post]
 

 

 

 

 

4 Except w/r/t things like w/r/t. He takes shortcuts with trivial references, transitions, impatient to get to the next serve of a capacious word he cannon-balls right to the base line. b [back to post]









a And subfootnotes. [back to footnote]
 

 

 

 

 

b Well, as you no doubt have noted, I lied. I snuck in one more IJ metaphor. [back to footnote]

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sincerely, L. Cohen
I had listened to only the first couple of cuts off Leonard Cohen's "London Live" album (streamed by NPR online) before I was surfing the net to find out Cohen's tour dates and stops in the US. The closest location to me was in Grand Prairie, Texas (between Dallas and Ft. Worth) this last Friday, April 3rd. A modest three hour drive away.

Within minutes I was on Ticketmaster. My ongoing unemployment and need to conserve cash nagged at me as I trolled for the best "cheap" seat available. There was one available in the center of the first row of the mezzanine. A respectable seat for $57. I stopped, however, before passing go and finalizing the transaction.

"Just for the sake of, let's see what is available at any price..." I coaxed myself.

A few seconds later, there was the seat - Row O, Seat 11 just right of center in the orchestra. With a price tag of $150.

Given my current situation - an uncertain future, dwindling reserves, financial obligations - I hesitated. How could I justify spending that much for a concert? And not only just for the ticket. There was gas for the car and, most likely, an overnight stay in a hotel. The price tag was ballooning.

And then... I let all that go. It was purely an impulse; a decision made within a single unfettered heartbeat; a leap without care. How could I let a chance of a lifetime slip by?

We can live our lives blandly or we can flavor it with a seasoning of rich experiences and adventure. And while I'm prone to live in the former, this time I chose the latter. And was glad I'd retained at least one credit card for emergencies such as this.

You see, Leonard and I have had a very long relationship. His poetry and music have been a large portion of the sound-track to my life. I had to go. It was ludicrous to think otherwise.

I set off for Dallas as soon as my class ended on Friday. I did, indeed, book a hotel room at a nearby "Studio 6" and, in spite of a minor slow up in rush hour traffic, checked in with plenty of time to get to the Nokia Theatre a mile away.

Arriving about thirty minutes early, I paid the hefty $15 for parking and joined a light stream of people moving toward the venue. I'd printed my ticket at home which presented no problem at the door. It was electronically scanned and I was directed where to go to find my seat.

The orchestra was only about a quarter full, my row completely empty, when I took my seat. The stage was back lit with soft pinks, blues and purples through floor to grid lengths of fabric.

Upstage center a large projection peeked through - a later online search confirmed my suspicion that it was of Cohen's own art: The End of the Day.

The stage was set with equipment and instruments, a couple of technicians and roadies doing what technicians and roadies do. The auditorium was slow to fill and I wondered if I'd be so lucky to have empty seats in front of me. I wasn't - but it didn't matter. I had a relatively clear view and was compensated with empty seats on either side of me for the first half. Flanking both sides of the stage were large video screens. A sign of modern times.

Close to curtain time, the auditorium filled - few empty seats. The audience at last in, a cheer rose up when the band and backup took stage, then a roar and we were on our feet when Mr. Cohen took the stage.

Leonard Cohen, April 3 2009, Nokia Theatre - Texas


Clad in a dark grey suit, grey silk shirt, bolo tie and his iconic fedora, a slight stoop to his stance was the only betrayal to his seventy-four years of age. He took hold of the microphone like the cheek of a lover, knelt to the ground and eased into "Dance Me to the End of Love." His rich resonating bass voice invited each of us in to share a deeply personal few hours of our time.

It's no accident that Cohen has become the legend that he is. He has the gift of artistisc genius that enables him to refract his life through a prism of experience that makes it relatable and relevant to our own. And through it all - there was a twinkle in his eye. A reminder not to take it all too seriously.

Under the musical direction of Austin bassist Roscoe Beck, the band gave each song it's signature sound augmented with new layers by Spanish guitarist Javier Mas, Neil Larson on keyboard (including a Hammond B3 organ with Leslie), saxophonist Dino Soldo, percussionist Rafael Gayol, and long-time collaborator guitarist Bob Metzger.

The gentle and almost ephemeral backup vocals were rendered by a trio comprised of Hattie and Charley Webb - (the Webb Sisters of the UK) who were exquisite on "If It Be Your Will" and Sharon Robinson - Cohen's co-writer and soloist for "Boogie Street."

There were several times I was moved to tears. Particularly poignant was Leonard's recitation of "A Thousand Kisses Deep." I looked up at the video screen to witness a tight close-up on his face. Toward the end of the poem, there was a glistening of tears in his eyes...

Leonard Cohen, Nokia Theatre April 3 2009

For three hours he took us on his journey - skipping on and off the stage to several encores and standing ovations. At last the band set down their instruments, came forward with the singers and Leonard and were joined onstage by the road-crew - all duly chappeaued. Cohen thanked everybody - everybody - from wardrobe to the hall tuners - for their work and contribution, his affection and respect for all clearly evident.

He closed by saying "I hope you're surrounded by friends and family," and then added... because he knew ..."but if that's not the way it is, may blessings find you in your solitude."

Thank you, Mr. Cohen, for a night I will long remember.

Leonard Cohen, Nokia Theatre - Texas, April 3 2009



Photos: iPhone

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

So How's It Going?
As I sat in my corner of space in the back of the room, I longed for the once-held luxury of a private office. I fished a kleenex out of my drawer and feigned an allergy attack in a feeble effort to justify the tears that were creeping down my cheek.

Why was I crying? Moments before I'd opened an e-mail from someone I've been at odds with of late. The e-mail was from me to me. A year ago today, I composed an e-mail via FutureMe.org and set it to arrive today. I'd forgotten I'd done that – as I well knew I would.

The e-mail took me off guard – hence the tears. It asked about things that I'd hoped would come to pass and people who were in my life 365 days ago. I cried because of what hasn't changed, for what did change and for what seems to have slipped away.

Aw hell, I cried because that's what I do best. What follows is the e-mail and my answers to my past self.

Dear FutureMe,

Today is Monday, March 3 2008. I'm sending this while at work - are you still there?


Nope. We staged a bloodless coup and, long story short, the organization closed up shop. Currently I'm a week and a half from exhausting unemployment benefits and a couple of months away from finishing trade school. Should be a full-fledged Certified Bookkeeper by summer. Yay. Me.

It's been humbling. Outwardly, I've embraced the opportunity to pursue a new path but, inwardly, I resent like hell that I have to. That I didn't prepare any better. That a so-called retirement is all but out of the question now.

Angry. You betcha. I struggle with it every day. So far, Optimism is still packing a pretty sound whollop on Pessimism and Cynicism, but I can't speak to it's continued success.

As of today, you're on the upswing from a miserable few weeks and months - pain, depression, health issues. Today you started to change your eating habits and have sworn to start yoga. Why? Because the blood pressure and the cholesterol levels needed to come down. Did you succeed?

Well, no. I did not succeed. Rinse and repeat. I bought a treadmill a couple of months ago. Only this week have I come to terms with using it. Two months now, I've managed to actually cook dinner the majority of evenings. I have a few hits amongst the many misses – but I am eating healthier than I have in many, many years – if ever. So I may be on the verge of a permanent change, but do not hold your breath.

In the last two days, you put your poker blog in stasis. How's it doing? Do you still play poker?

The poker blog is dead, save for the couple hundred bucks a month it still brings me. If not for that, I'd erase it from the internet.

I do not play cards right now because I do not have the bankroll – neither for live nor on-line. Until my financial situation changes, that's how it'll remain. I miss it. I love to play. I just don't ever want to write about it again.

Are you still writing Yes...a Blog?

Well, duh, yes, on and off. More off than on but, obviously I'm still making a stab at it. Writing a blog brought me a whole lot of good in the past. I hope it can again.

You've been planning - in your head - upgrading the house and backyard - did you do it?

Yes – partially. I landscaped the back yard and put in a new deck. I look forward to a great spring out there. It took so long to get done over the summer, I only got a couple of weeks out there before the weather changed.

Inside the house – no. The remainder of the remodel money is what is supplementing my unemployment for the time being.

Are you still in touch with your internet friends?

Barely. This is what I fear has slipped away. I'm not an outwardly social person which makes it hard for me to maintain friendships.

My default is to assume that if someone isn't maintaining contact with me it's because they don't want to and so I refrain from making contact because I don't want to intrude or, worse yet, be rejected out-right.

Yup. That's pathetic with a capital P, but that's how I'm wired.

It saddens me – I met some outstanding people and I would love for them to remain a part of my life, but I fear my crazy neurosis has let it all slip away.

Did you start your portfolio?

Well, yeah. With great timing – at the start of The Great Depression II. A third of it's value has already washed away in the tide of the economic tsunami.

Are you going to retire in two years?

I have to laugh, because tears are redundant.

Are you happy?

The jury is out. Ask me again in another year.

-------

(and Otis, if you're reading this – yeah – what a coincidence that we both would've done a FutureMe e-mail on the exact same day... cue the spooky music... )

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On This Day
A few memories have popped to the surface today:

I was embarassed when our cocker-spaniel would consistently bark at a black person.

An evening, when my parents were out to dinner, when I turned on all the lights in the house and hid under the coffee table because the TV was reporting that blacks were marching into white neighborhoods and rioting.

A Thanksgiving dinner when I was mad because my grandparent's black maid, Murphy, had to eat her Thanksgiving dinner alone in the kitchen.

"Whites Only" signs above water fountains.

Being horrified watching news reports of blacks being beaten by police and sprayed by the forceful water from fire trucks.

The first two black students to be allowed to go to my high school.

The first black family to move into our neighborhood - and the stir it caused.

The only black student my freshman year in college.

I remember coming to understand that the way things were was wrong, and believing that it just couldn't stay that way. That, ultimately, people had to be better than that.

These thoughts are swimming in my head as I try to put today's Presidential inauguration in perspective.

Earlier today I got a little frustrated. There are those who aren't pleased that Barack Obama is now our president and, with the ability to publicly voice one's opinion no further away than a keyboard, are very vocal via forums such as Twitter and Facebook.

As my memories of a time of egregious inequality, hatred, and fear bubbled to the surface, I became increasingly annoyed by those who do not seem to be able to set cynicism aside for a moment - just a relatively tiny moment - and allow this historic day to sink in.

I told them to shut-the-fuck up.

They didn't.

I won't hold it against them. After all, we have the right to express opinion in this country - along with the right to disagree. I can't help but observe, though, those who are being so negatively vocal today were born and have come of age in a time when the signs above the water fountains are no longer there; their schoolmates were a salad of different races and cultures; and Martin Luther King, Jr. means an extra day off work.

They are fortunate, indeed.

Will President Barack Hussein Obama be the leader our country so desperately needs right now? There is time to debate that - another day than today. On this day, I choose to be idealistic and hopeful. To let the weight of this historic moment sink in.

Tomorrow - we get to work.

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Auld Lang Syne
Ah. Well. Here I sit - and have been for a couple of minutes while listening to the first couple of spins off the last.fm wheel of fortune: John Hammond - Buzz Federline segued into Ludovico Einaudi - Fuori dalla notte... I don't think there's a better illustration of the flaky layers of my psyche...

The joke was on me this morning when I rushed out the door and to school only to discover school does not start until tomorrow. My two week hiatus had a bonus day. And with that bonus day went any further excuse for avoiding this space and picking the lint out of my navel.

So here I am. Pecking away at the the keyboard trying to figure out how I can summarize the last few months without wallowing in a slough of murky self pity...

It's a funny thing about depression. It's depressing.

Since typing that last sentence, Norah Jones, Eliza Gilykson, Eric Clapton, Johnny Lang and Jarvis Cocker have serenaded me.

I don't seem to be able to wallow. Doggonit...

Doc Watson just sang to me:

...for I thought myself lucky to be alive.

That does a good job of summing up. No need to provide details.

This is a hard bicycle to get going... I've long been out of the habit and discipline of writing (can I really call it writing? I think not - to do so insults those who have that talent and gift - let's scratch that and say, instead) scribbling. It may take me a few pushes to get back up on the wheels...

I think I will leave it at that and, for the time being, point you to a few folks who provide barrels of inspiration for me as Donna the Buffalo reminds me to "wake up and light the tree that you're on" - truer words... I expect to be back here more often now. Hope you'll join me.

The following blogs are consistent must reads for me. I know two of the authors personally - two guys on opposite ends of the life pole who, but for a common passion, might never have met and become comrades at arms.

One channels Hunter S. Thompson and is living life on the razor's edge, honestly and with no apology. He splashes his life onto the canvas with abandon and color and when he gets it - he gets it. Raw and uncensored.

The other uncannily and consistently gets inside my head - he is  journalist, writer, photographer, family man, with a rogue-ish side, who lives a private life in a public way.

All four authors have that gift with their writing that elevates their personal experiences to a level of reflection that is universal and relatable. We share their lives through their words and are rewarded with insights into our own. Have a read or two or three while I do a little housecleaning. I'll be back.

Rapid Eye Reality
Tao of Pauly
Waiter Rant
Anthony Bourdain

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Me - the disaster movie
I shouldn't be allowed in a kitchen. If I had a mate, I'm sure I would be eternally banned from the vicinity of anything that is related to food preparation. But. I don't have a mate. I have cats. And they don't care. Most of the time.

I am entering week four of my "new path." A path that is dictated by budget - a very tight budget. I've had to re-examine my spending habits, which included re-examining my eating habits. Being a complete kitchen idiot, ninety-nine percent of my meals manifested out of a to-go box, bag or, if I was feeling daring and adventurous, the micro-wave.

Up until this evening, I was holding my own in the battle between all things food and making it work in the kitchen. I discovered the blessing of pre-roasted chickens in the grocery store and am now able to stretch that sucker for a week and beyond. There are frozen portions of homemade chicken soup nestled next to the homemade tomato soup in the freezer (soups I learned from a brief stint in a sandwich shop years ago - it came back to me pretty quickly).

Last week I made my first ever meatloaf. I know! How can someone reach my advanced years without ever creating one of those wonders???? It was pretty good and provided my school lunches for most of the week.

So I was feeling fairly confident. Confident enough to attempt a pork loin this evening. The recipe came from one of my new favorite sites Sparkspeople*. A simple recipe for a balsamic vinegar glazed pork loin.

That simple recipe ended up creating a scene of purple spatter that would have made an prime case study for crime scene investigation. And before that happened I had to solve the problem of too much meat, get it into my head just how to brown meat, and then do the math on roasting time in the oven...

Once the stove disaster happened (make SURE the pan has cooled to low before pouring vinegar into a pan of sizzling hot olive oil), the balsamic vinegar glaze was off the menu. The pork loin was skewered together (a result of cutting it in half) and popped into the oven.

It's resting comfortably now while an impromptu pot of applesauce is steaming on the stove. I can't screw up applesauce, now can I?

Want to lay a wager down?

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