12.03.2012

I mean, you must take living so seriously / that even at seventy, for example, you'll plant olive trees— / and not for your children, either, / but because although you fear death you don't believe it, / because living, I mean, weighs heavier.



FALL

Saturday was the first day of snow, but for months I forgot to talk about fall. Fall arrives in New England like there's no such thing as global capitalism collapse, global class rage, global climate change and wholesale ecological dissolution, global anything. New England didn't get its shore or its subways wrangled by a hurricane. This Fall makes me want to read poems like "On Living" and "Things I Didn't Know I Loved" and "Some Advice To Those Who Will Serve Time In Prison" by Nazim Hikmet. "We'll still live with the outside," says Nazim Hikmet, "with its people and animals, struggle and wind—" To the left is a turbine in Maine. Fall arrives in New England like no one ever made fun of Sylvester Graham for inventing the graham cracker. Fall arrives in New England with snow that throws itself around like it's been shotgunning energy drinks. Beautifully, gloomily, well-timed, apple cider and woodsmoke and cardigan gust. "And I also advise weaving," Nazim Hikmet says, "and making mirrors."

CHRIS TOLL

First I have to say something about Chris Toll. He was jolly in the corner, and it's very strange that he is gone. I'll miss him. I rode down to Baltimore in October with my friends Chris and Heather, who were reading in a literature party/ tribute / celebration. It was good to meet Chris Toll's sons and see all my Baltimore people—their loud pants and casual shirts and big beards and crooked-tooth punk-it-all heartwork—and it was good to have friends from New York and Northampton there too. There was a big photograph of Chris Toll, and spidery strings of something that had to do with the unrelated installation between our heads and the ceiling, but nothing's really unrelated. Chris Toll's book covers had things on them like a tiger, Yoda, a mummy secret agent doctor, a UFO, and a fish humping a pickle cactus. His poems said things like "Why isn’t lunch in melancholy?" They said things like "How long can I stay / at the inn in innocent? / Love is so hard / and it's all we came to do." For my birthday this year he gave me a big book of conspiracy theories to set me straight. I asked him if the book was good and he said he hadn't read it because he knew it all, but if I was interested there were lizard people videos to watch on YouTube. My friend Chris Toll picked up the light he was always telling us about, and he went on with it. And a little while ago after some pizza, my friend Seth interrupted whatever all of us were talking about to point out the stars—like, I'm sorry, but would you just look at those stars? I mean geez. ("I just remembered the stars," says Nazim Hikmet. "I love them too / whether I'm floored watching them from below / or whether I'm flying at their side"). You can read more about Chris in the Baltimore City Paper, at Atticus Review, and on HTMLGIANT. Goodbye and hello to your light, Chris.

SUMMER

Once upon a time a person didn't update his blog an entire summer. Near the end of the summer, on a couple buses back from weddings, the person irrationally freaks out and envisions his death among strangers—specifically among the inclines and declines that mark the entries and exits of said buses onto and off of interstates—and continues to anxiously envision said death for a few weeks. He decides under the monsoon of this irrational anxiety to vacuum his dark-ass secret basement of self with all its fucked up shit and put the resultant bag of dustbunnies in between himself and the person he loves the most.

Included in the bag is, you know, your betrayals, your dishonesty, your stupidity, your narcissism, your self-fulfilling prophecies of self-protective darkness—one funny thing about capitalism is there are bags for anything and no one can remember who got the size and shape so perfect the first time because we've gotten so good at reproducing these bags. The person the bus person loves, she is like what the fuck is this shit? She is like I did not sign up for this. She is like this is your own bag. She is like you didn't buy this from anyone else but yourself. She's right.

Anyway. The person the bus person loves goes and gets a new place with flowers and farmers. It seems good. Meanwhile the bus person is surrounded by graceful friends. The bus person looks at the moon and clicks up the phone and feels ridiculously and melodramatically alone, and then he looks for his friend, who is right there in the living room with his wife, and the bus person's friend comes out on the porch and sits with the bus person for a little while, and they talk about family systems, and the best thing that talk ever accomplishes is to promise more talk. The promise of talk not being done ///

Meanwhile the rest the world is secretly thinking, dude, chill out, it's just love. But he can't help it, and he sees the person he loves, and at least she is still in this world. Which is a really good thing for the world, and some of the world has realized that and some of the world will get to realize that, and he feels happy that there is more of the world to await. And the Orioles made the playoffs and a weirdly named moderate Republican got re-elected so he can keep authorizing the remote deaths of not-your-four-year-olds and Bonnie Prince Billy made a beautiful cover of an Everly Brothers Christmas song with Dawn McCarthy and really: you say basement, they say record of collapsed earth, and that's about as belonging as we've figured out how to get.

And then the bus person changes his tone on this blog post at least and gets on to the stuff he didn't post about in the summer, all the stuff that's been hiding there in the queue, plus some new stuff, which is as usual a record of the kindness outside of himself, which he has decided to just post anyway, without changing to reflect any current moods, because moods are currents, rimshot, a joke he makes by himself, inside, staring, screening, buying bus tickets.

THE OLD POST

They finished the building across from the building. They sent all of us an invitation. Building for the Future, it says. Where do I go to get on a bill? The bike trail is where the daring squirrels hang out. The wok is where the tomatoes boil. Zorro masks are reasonably priced on the internet, but toy guitars are more fragile than advertised. Leonard Cohen can always get talked into singing another song if you tell him about the faces in the front. Summer never hid—it treaded water under the railroad bridge until summer.

BUSHWICK IS NOT A NEW PRODUCT WHERE A CHEAP BEER TURNS INTO A CANDLE WHEN THE POWER GOES OUT

Thanks again to Maggie Beauvais for inviting me to hang out at Bushwick Open Pages. It was a good time of giving away magazines, meeting some 010101 people in person, banh mi sandwiches, freak June thunderstorms, that thing where a bar/restaurant has a wall facing the street but the wall goes away when the weather is nice, which always makes me want to steal food when I walk by, but obviously not if I'm on the inside, though I guess when it really comes down to it, I have to consider myself made mostly of the outside, at least when it comes to how I walk. Actors daring some freakward inside dives. Discussion of information theory and hospitals in Baltimore, attempts and failures to buy a stuffed panda thanks to the inflated prices of graduation season.

A LITBRIDGE IS A BRIDGE THAT LIGHTS UP EVERY SUNSET WITH DISCO LIGHTS [[ OR ]] IT'S THE GATEWAY MUSIC THAT EVENTUALLY AND UNFORTUNATELY GETS YOU INTO THE BAND LIT

Speaking of the picture of me eating a Newman-O (what is this, Tumblr? MySpace? iNarcissism? Xenga? Jenga? What is this, am I an extra in that Jumanji movie? No? I'm not? I'm not friends with Robin Williams? Shit.), Melissa Burton asked me some questions for LitBridge about starting Magic Helicopter Press. Thanks, Melissa! I feel a little guilty about being so flip about the MFA question, especially since the title of the thing is "How to Start a Press While You Are Still An MFA," but I don't feel that guilty because technically that sentence means "while you are still a master of fine arts," which is a hilarious thing to even try to parse. November update: no longer running MHP out of a bedroom, now running it out of a corner of a living room. Get ready for my square footage math, IRS! Specifically the Will Ferrell IRS character in Stranger Than Fiction, and all of Maggie Gyllenhaal's characters in all her movies are secretly terrific bakers (square that one, MG fans).

OMAHA, NEBRASKA IS FULL OF SWEETHEARTED AMBLERS AND IS FLAT AND WIDE LIKE A SHY HAPPY CORN CAKE

In August, I went to Omaha, Nebraska to do an event put together by one of the purest hearts I've ever known in my short life, Mr. Gene Kwak. The first mention of Mr. Gene Kwak on this blog was in April of 2010, when I said I felt broship with him, and this broship has not abated over the years—it has only grown and grown. He is someone you want holding the knot. I would trust his advice in a forest on berries and mushrooms and even leaves.

In Omaha, I got to read with Ryan Ridge, who is like if a NASCAR announcer just kept expressing earnest concern for the emotional wellbeing of all the drivers and wondering out loud if they were really hanging on in there and inviting everyone who could hear him on TV to come down to the bar with him and have a highball or two. More Ryan Ridge please. Always. If we're being honest, I need him slapping me on the back every morning is what I really need out of this life.

We did some wandering and eating and drinking and cozy basement-sleeping (many thanks to Gene's sister and family) and sleeping-with-cats (thanks to Gene's friends) and music watching and got to hang out with Gene's Omaha crew, who were collectively like a wonderful wool beach bonfire blanket, except in the middle of the country in Silicon Prairie, so figure that one out. The event was with Simon Joyner, one of my goddamn heroes, which was pretty surreal, and he was a nice guy and raised his hand when I asked the audience if any of them had been an asshole in high school, which I feel like it takes a really straightforward guy to admit.

The event also included The Betties, who were dozy-doe and flannel twang and lovely sad drink-it-up-and-make-some-hell-until-our-eyes-look-red-and-good music. Plus Mike and James of Gus &Call, who had harmonies like what it would taste like if the soda Mountain Dew actually lived up to its name.

Thanks to you, Omaha. I will brush your dust again one of these days.

BOSTON


Then a few weeks later in August, I did a reading in Boston with Jill McDonough and Ariana Reines. Hosted by the gracious Jon Papas and Molly McGuire at the always rollicking Brookline Booksmith. I was scared about a tornado, but thankfully it was a false blust. Jon and Molly live in a sweet warehouse space now, and I felt like I was on a very specific sub-genre of sitcom known as the "loft sitcom." Ariana's bus was rankled in storm traffic, so she read over speakerphone. Ariana was her brilliant self—talk about an agent of changing the air. Jill was hilarious and read about secret agents. I was happy to meet her and get to know her crisp/wise and funny/sad work.

Also I saw a hometown friend who is out of the military now and is trying to meditate to avoid PTSD. Seems sustainable. It was good to see him. Even if all the rest of my life has gone to shit, I feel like I am really fulfilling the destiny of the senior yearbook photo where I was voted "Most Likely To Succeed" and insisted on dressing up in my homeless-uncle coat. An asshole loves his incongruity. Ariana at one point asked me if I used to have long hair. She was incorrect in substance but correct in spirit. In the morning before my bus, Jon and Molly and I had breakfast at a diner that gave us free banana bread the way some places give you free dinner breadsticks. It's funny when you have to explain a good idea by really drawing out the description of a common idea. Thank you for everything, Boston. See you in a few months.

THINGS ON THE INTERNET


I've speckled the internet a little bit since we've seen each other, blog friend. Blog fry. Blog slice. The internet and I, we just can't find the keys to the handcuffs between us. We keep spilling on each other. Ladies and gentlemen of the journey, the exhibits, AKA this is what happens when you don't update your blog for like six months, AKA a here-is-a-potentially-overwhelming-and-alienating-dump-because-I-am-just-trying-to-thank-everyone-and-at-the-same-time-be-ecologically-transparent-about-what-it-means-to-be-a-blathering-hiccup-in-this-suffused-and-suffering-world:

<<< $*$ >>> At Atticus Review, new dad and dude-who-is-as-good-at-being-a-friend-as-chartucherie-is-at-being-a-concept Jamie Iredell featured some work of mine. There was a YouTube theme. First, a story from Look! Look! Feathers, "Susan White and the Summer of the Game Show," that is about what happens when you put the loneliness of YouTube in the bean grinder with the loneliness of everybody in your town. Then the first ever excerpt from this huffing zombie baby of a thing I've been working on called You In User. We also had a good conversation, as we've had more than a few times now, and we took turns describing YIU and Jamie won and then there were a few paragraphs about Burning Man but you'll have to do the click-through for those:
JI: So You in User: former YouTube employee in email conversation with a kicked off user? Am I getting that right? Tell us what the hell’s going on in this novel, you know, without spoiling too much of it.

MY: Yes, gawddamn, thank you for managing to do what I have a really hard time doing, which is explain the pretty simple premise in a single sentence. Here now is my unnecessary elongation of your explanation: YouTube comes up with this service where they hire people to write personalized account cancellation notices, almost counselor-ish, help the deviants, etc., except they almost immediately realize that’s a terrible idea and they can’t really pay anyone to do that, so the narrator of You In User, Neil, is fired, except he has one last user left in his queue, and he has other wobbles, duh of duhs, so he starts venting in this huge never-sent email to this last user of his, tacking on more and more, draft after draft (or, like, one big draft? I honestly am foggy—like real life foggy, not just in this thing—about what a draft is) as things start getting more and more fucked. Like for example Neil’s mother is getting these weird packages of candied bones in the mail. And his father is living by himself in a condo in Springfield, MA designing golf carts. And then there’s this runaway teenage daughter of a woman whose exotic pet is a YouTube celebrity, and there is even a girl who plays bass on rollerskates and a French guy who really likes high fives. I am a shit-for-brains when it comes to summary because I feel like I just made it sound like a terrible Tom Robbins adventure book, but maybe it is a terrible Tom Robbins adventure book, in which case I will try to swallow this and run with it and resign myself to my inner hack and go to Burning Man or something.
<<< $*$ >>> And then at Leveler they explained my poem "Scare the Information Through Direct Observation," and at first I didn't like the explanation but then I did. Thanks to Jennifer Fortin for not giving up on me after I took like a year to send her something. What's relevant to the brutal stranger is that this poem has the Doritos taco from Taco Bell in it, and frogs at a baseball stadium.

<<< $*$ >>> And then Jeremy Bauer told me my stories reminded him of action movies at Front Porch, which was a reaffirming thing to hear, and we talked about that and about food and towns and Barbie limousines. Thanks, Jeremy! He's a great dude, too. Now, I'm not going to narcissisticly scour my entire fucking blog to see if I've ever done a picture of a Barbie limousine before, but here's guessing I have, so I've tried to switch it up by Google Image Searching "sad barbie limo," and I found this person's living room floor. The most interesting things about this picture are: 1) how long it takes to load and thus slows down my page, 2) the reappropriation of a perfectly complicated stranger's living room floor, the 3) the fact the link will probably die by, say, the next presidential election, and archivists will really have to use their imagination.

<<< $*$ >>> And then another thing I did was I wrote a little about Thailand and soldiers and war for Robert Kloss, who asked me to riff on his very fine book The Alligators of Abraham over at Sundog Lit. I was happy to talk about soldiers with their boots in the river and heartstopping language mangles, and I was happy to share the space with Matthew Salesess, also a new dad. WTF is with all these new dads, yo. All I can see is people giving each other piggyback rides in the parking lot next to the radio station and managing to not fall in the snow. That's all I'm ready for.

<<< $*$ >>> And finally I presented a book of prison letters by Aileen Wuornos over at HTMLGIANT, including a conversation between the editors Lisa Kester and Daphne Gottlieb and some selections from the letters themselves. I was very affected by this book, and here is what I said in introducing it, which if you're following along in your attic is actually a maintaining of thematic coherence in this here blog plod:

Imagine you are shown a picture of yourself walking along a highway you have never seen. And now you are asked how you got there. Obviously you have to start running. As in running out of what you remember. Or running out, like losing it. And they want you to talk and talk, so immediately you’re talking back through hell. Talking back to hell. Or taking back hell. Maybe sing, you could call it, like hell. Whatever you want to call it and others call it for you. Insanity is a community decision, heroism is a community decision. Violence is the opposite of space. Everything I know about violence is also the nothing I know about violence.
PEOPLE I'VE READ WITH RECENTLY AS EXPLAINED BY ONE ANIMAL I ADMIRE AND ONE REFERENCE TO A FAMOUS SPORTS STAR I ADMIRE:

— }}} %%% ::: Zach Savich: the Ichiro of snow foxes.
— }}} %%% ::: Blueberry Morningsnow: the Kirby Puckett of flying squirrels.
— }}} %%% ::: Leora Fridman: the Dominik Hašek of mountain lions.
— }}} %%% ::: Anthony Madrid: the Spaceman Bill Lee of owls.

AND NOW FINALLY THIS VERY LONG POST IS OVER AND I AM GOING TO PLAGIARIZE SOMETHING I SAID IN A TEXT MESSAGE AND THEN SAID IN A TWITTER AND THEN SAID IN A POEM AND I'M GOING TO USE THE DRAWN OUT SYNTAX THAT'S THE ONLY THING THAT RELIABLY MAKES ME HAPPY AND WHAT I SAID WAS I SAID "The sky looks like a Goodwill that’s closing down for good
and all that’s left are three identical wool coats" AND THE ACCOMPANYING SONG FOR THAT DESCRIPTION OF THE SKY IS THIS SONG BY IRIS DEMENT, WHO IS THE BEST COUNTRY VOCALIST EVER, MALE/FEMALE/SKY/BASEMENT/OTHERWISE:


5.19.2012

tiger skin mosquito cape

Probably a lot of beautiful human beings have blogged since February. So, okay, I'm not one of them. But somewhere out there (I can't believe Blogger still lets you randomly scroll through blogs by clicking Next Blog, seems like Google will kill that soon, will replace it with their sniffs at circles of influence, as if the only meaningful connections were categorical and historical, no love for having the same mole as a bus stranger, just kidding Google, you know you're my big G) people have blogged. What have I done?

Well I got a new job doing cicada amassment for a snowboarding company, where I find and install cicadas to make snowboards louder. I'm moving back to North Hampton, which is the area directly north of wherever former Colorado Rockies ace Mike Hampton lives at the moment. This is called a quantum residency arrangement. Here's most of what's near me right now: empty Smartwater bottles, packing tape, a capo, a Ben Kopel Victory button, a canvas print by Anna Emelia Hoffman, who I went to junior high with in Oroville and who now insanely lives four doors down from where I'm soon moving away from in Baltimore, a Publishing Genius tote bag, a valiant little fan, my butterfly shoes, a harmonica holster, a Raid can, a multi-colored chewtoy rope, and a VHS of a Leonard Cohen performance my mother taped for me off PBS. Here's a belated Mother's Day video present for the mothers out there and for the Mr. T fans who have never been able to conceive:




Here are a few cool books I've read/am reading since I last blogged:

Fuckscapes — Sean Kilpatrick
After Claude — Iris Owens
Flatscreen — Adam Wilson
Partyknife — Dan Magers
Hallelujah Giant Space Wolf — Dan Bailey
Together We Can Bury It — Kathy Fish
Baby Geisha — Trinie Dalton
The Sisters Brothers — Patrick DeWitt
Too Big to Know — David Weinberger
Toward An Anthropological Theory of Value — David Graeber
Victory — Ben Kopel
The State of Kansas — Julianna Spallholz
These Dreams of You — Steve Erickson
Moby Duck — Donovan Hohn
The Black Forest — Christopher DeWeese
I Am Your Slave Now Do What I Say — Anthony Madrid
Hydroplane — Susan Steinberg
The Coming Insurrection — The Invisible Committee
For Out of the Heart Proceed — Jensen Beach
Because It Is — Kenneth Patchen
Gould — Stephen Dixon
The Information — James Gleick

Had some fun times in Boston, DC, and Richmond. Uh, I know that's boring, so here is a smoosh of everything that's in my cell phone's drafts folder no matter how embarrassing it is. I can tell you right now there's a weird preoccupation with hippies and the people of Asian countries:

  • Motherfuckers have their ways.
  • 4 yr old in a college sociology reading study / doing better than both of us.
  • Two Bawlmur hillbillies charmingly swapping child abuse stories on the bus while one has a giant cat scratchpost castle. [seriously, what are those called? Carolyn says "cat castle" is fine. The next one is really embarrassing. But, you know, full disclosure and all that. This is a blog, right? This is 2003? Right?]
  • Tell the gods of poetry I'm 25 and listening / to covers of One Headlight on covered-ass bridges. / 1-800 Mattress, worldwide logistics / Who knows how legit this is cuz baby that's the business.
  • He was watching me to make sure I was watching it. 
  • Alarm salesman / horses in Iceland / the sorting / getting knocked down.
  • Don't pretend u don't exist.
  • Baguettes for drumsticks.
  • Death fantasy baseball.
  • A/B testing in the stutter motif.
  • U can no longer watch tWo girls one cup like u can no longer visit the grand canyon.
  • Thick with tick sex.
  • Albany Bulb Poseidon sculpture near horse track.
  • Tiger skin mosquito cape [that one's actually pretty good].
  • 'So many spectators they were congested like flour in a coconut shell.'
  • Foxhole radios in broom heads and water bottles.
  • U can smoke in Beijing bathroom / surgical mask = Japanese male/hippie gutterpunk intellectual fashion statement.
  • Do I want meaningful encounters with ppl or to use them for meaningful encounter time?
  • Love is when you take someone more seriously than you take everybody else.
  • Sunset as punishment: child shushed and instructed to stare at it.
  • Subway hipstergrass band: "rather drink muddy water than sleep in a hollow log."
  • Recycling Scavenger emptying extra soda out of bottle / grandma opening greeting card in supermarket to discover it plays Who Let the Dogs Out.
  • Cotton Rosser / don't have too much fun without us.
  • Does any love explain a love of Sacramento?
  • Birds like spilled black pepper
  • Floor fish, Asian mom, WTO wary hippies
  • Table of old bowling alley, espresso in the Shell
  • Awe or ah
There! Now you have a perfect vision of what my last few months have been like, and I can finally delete all the messages in my drafts folder. Have I mentioned that my phone is "broken?" Have I mentioned that it's not really broken at all, just now an amazing torch?

Coldfront kindly asked me to write about a song, so I wrote about Charles Bradley's amazing song "Why Is it So Hard" right after the Ravens lost. If you click on one thing in this post, you should click on that link, just to make sure you watch that song.

Shout outs to Troy Weaver and Dan D'Angelo for enthusiastic and perceptive new reviews of Look! Look! Feathers in Gently Read Literature and Phoebe respectfully. Thankee thankee to those bros and pubs, or pros and bubs. Dan's review intelligently considers the role of snow that everybody else forgot about, and Troy makes an impressive list of smacks: "life and energy and degradation and redemption and death and internet and posture and eggs and bacon and tiny babies and medicine cabinets and drugs and alcohol and America." And I think that list is right, because Mark just told me this alcoholic sweet tea and lemonade thing I am drinking is called a John Daly.

2.23.2012

sell me a sand trap and tell me you're floating

Everybody's got their wait for the busted dryer. We've all got our terrible TV pilots about small potatoes political campaigns. And yes, every single person has that weird spaceship/lion collage above the light switch. It's like why bother, right? Wake me up when you figure out why details exist.

That's my preamble. My amble is multifold:

One book I really think might spook you in the best long-winter-of-the-soul way is a book of poems by Mr. Edward Mullany called If I Falter at the Gallows

—Hope to see you soon in Boston, DC, Chicago, New York, and/or Richmond. Check out the list to the right to see where you can find me and tell me nothing I write will ever be as good as The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll and how annoying my beard is.

—Many thanks to Chester College for having me visit and talk to people and read some work. So many fun and smart people there. I really dig the whole tender-hearted art freak sleepaway in the forest vibe. New Hampshire! You are full of surprises. Tender thanks owed to a lot of people, especially Mark and Laura for their instigating and adventuring, and the awesome faculty at Chester (Monica, Chris, Tim, Jenn) for their woodsy alchemy. I did a little video poem thing for Chester's "In Place" series while I was there. They wouldn't let me stand on the backhoe, but I did get to work with a guy named Kyle Petty. He wasn't the race car driver, but he was very handy. Meg Cameron recorded the sound and helped me make sure I didn't eat the microphone. The poem is called "Can We Get Ice Cream at This Hour" (thanks again to Mark and Laura for originally running it in Big Lucks!) and you can watch it by clicking on some triangles:


08 - Mike Young - Can We Get Ice Cream At This Hour? from In Place on Vimeo.

1.25.2012

baltimore vs. northampton vs. self promotion

I have figured out the definitive difference between Baltimore and Northampton, which comes in the form of two opposing bagel prosciutto sandwiches. Northampton's bagel prosciutto sandwich comes with sliced green apples and sharp cheddar and dijon mustard and is on a wheat bagel. Baltimore's comes with cream cheese and tomatoes and is on a seasame bagel that somehow tastes like an onion bagel. Also the two visions of prosciutto are a little different: Northampton's is very thin and lean, while Baltimore's is thick and marbled. I don't even need to tell you about where to eat these bagels, the crowd in these eating places, or the streets outside, because simply telling you about these bagels tells you all that other stuff. These differences represent themselves without value judgments.

And speaking of Baltimore, PGP is doing a $5 Book of the Month January special on All Good. There are only a few January days left, so go spend a little bagel money there if you're not hungry right now.

1.21.2012

dead auxiliaries in heaven, opportunistic comedians in the basement

So I've got a whole trove of stuff to catch up on, which means I need to wear my special pink skull power wristband to type it all. Actually nevermind I took it off immediately after I took that picture because it's too small for my wrist and I was about to pass out.


—The last Glitterpony for now is out, very bittersweet. A fine swamp of poems up in there. All the faves and new faces too. Sampson Starkweather says "light is awesome! / there should be a mind Olympics" and in so saying invents a new school of poetry called The School of Poetry That's Impossible to Disagree With. I have a couple poems in the issue, with 2/3 saucy-mouthed titles: "Why Fuck Around?" and "You Must Motherfucking Change Your Life" and "Know and Make Known." These are from a new school of poetry that involves taking chickpeas and pouring some masala paste on them and cook-stirirng things in a pan of warm olive oil until your dinner is evenly coated and easy to have made.

—Back on December 9th I did this "New Voices in Fiction" thing at Brown University with a great bunch of folks: Matt Bell, Rachel B. Glaser, Lily Hoang, and Matt Salesses. It was kind of a trip to read and have my work taught at Brown. Deep thanks to all the organizers and coordinators and cool Brown MFA students we met, especially Evelyn Hampton and Sarah Tourjee. One kid came up to me and aggressively grilled me about changing the ending to "The Peaches Are Cheap," which was exciting. Here is what else happened, according to my text message draft notes: "Hometown jigsaw and orbitwheels. The keep-yr-distance-bug-vaccuum. Jimmycake benedict." I only remember what the last one means, because the last one is about food.

—Then around Christmastime I went back to California, and within California went to the Bay Area to eat burritos and visit cool people like Chelsea, Jimmy, Mike K, Lorian, and Elliot/Erin. While there I did a reading at SF's hippest new tweegoth secret spot, the 851 Squat, beautifully decorated by Janey Smith and friends. Thanks to Mike K and Janey for inviting me. There were some interaction opportunities ("C'MON!") and some sexy stories. Here is a video of my reading (thanks to Evan Karp for recording), which is 13 minutes long, so you know, get a samosa or something (I mean to eat instead of watching it, not to eat while you're watching, geez, what do you think I am, aggro or something):






—Some thanks to bow at faces: thanks to the big DC for including Look! Look! Feathers in his list of favorite 2011 books, and thanks to Michael Fillipone for mentioning We Are All Good in his list of every book he read in 2011 and saying that when I open my mouth, "America comes out." Which, geez, I know my stomach's been weird since I got back from Thailand, but I hope MF doesn't have any information I don't. I still need to do my Every Book I Read in 2011 list for HTMLGIANT. There are around 92 books, so less than last year, but hey, I had to figure out the Baltimore bus system, gimme a break.

—The super cool Carrie Lorig asked me to make a playlist for the University of Minnesota MFA blog, and how could I say no to that? My playlist is called "A POETRY ADVICE THEMED PLAYLIST THAT IS SINCERE AS A JAR OF SWEET PICKLES BECAUSE I DIDN’T LEARN THE WORD GHERKINS UNTIL I WAS 23 AND BY THEN IT WAS TOO LATE." Sources inform me that gherkins aren't actually always the same thing as sweet pickles, so be careful about taking any of my advice. But do listen to the songs, which are really good.

—A long time ago Gene Kwak asked me some very sharp questions about place and place's role in my writing, and in January that back-and-forth went up on Hobart. Some of the stuff I say is a little gherkins-y (see above), but at least one true thing is when I say that I feel at home whenever I visit somewhere.

—For January I've been guest editing Everyday Genius, and I felt like the most genius thing I could do was acknowledge my own lack of genius and farm the selection process out to some actual geniuses, so I asked Gene Kwak, Evelyn Hampton, Nat Otting, and Carolyn Zaikowki to harvest some content, and they did an amazing job finding stuff. January isn't quite over yet, so check out what's there and stay tuned for more.

—In a few weeks, Mark and Laura and I are driving up to New Hampshire, where I'm going to do a guest workshop/reading at their alma mater, the Chester College of New England. I'm very excited, as New Hampshire has a very endorseable weirdness that floats over its entirety. Also we're going to stop in Northampton on the way back, so it will be cool to see friends and do snowy high fives there.

—Finally, the 2012 Magic Helicopter Press catalog is up! Do the checking of it outness! Especially the April 2012 forthcoming book of Jordan Stempleman poems No, Not Today. Speaking of how I'm unable to publish a book that doesn't have "today" in the title, major props to Ofelia Hunt's Today & Tomorrow for winning the Alt Lit Gossip 2011 Best Debut Novel award. Keep the channel on Alt Lit Gossip's Tumblr for all your alt-lit gossip needs. I wish the rest of life were so accessible. Like I could go to cheapindianfood.
tumblr.com for all my cheap Indian food needs. For now I guess I will have to yell at the microwave.

1.19.2012

sunburns and monkeys and buddha and coconut milk: the very long thailand post

Hey guess what: I just dripped some beet smoothie on my blue jeans. Action figure Spock is doing push-ups next to the Hanakuh guy toy Rachel gave me. Turns out I'm Polish on my mother's side, not Russian. Joe Montalex is a nickname I invented for Niners quarterback Alex Smith. One of the people who invented the essay was a Sumerian flood survivor. Nobody is ever going to fix the water in this apartment. One thing I probably won't ever be able to say sincerely is "Smoke 'em if you got 'em." One thing I can and do say sincerely, if only occasionally, is "Consider the source." Also: I went to Thailand!

That's right, I went to Thailand to visit Carrot Cake Zaikowki. We had a grand time. I will now recap our time in a hella extensive blog post I've been kind of dreading because I know it will get very long. For once the pictures are really pictures I/Carolyn took. Gross! There's also a whole other blog post in the wings full of misc. writing related stuff. I will inhale the jet fumes of this blog post to follow up with that one. First let's see how much I can remember about Thailand.

My flight from San Francisco to Beijing was eleven hours. The only movie I got really into was Source Code, which was one of those Hollywood movies that's full of amazing scenes to look at but once you turn the sound on is incredibly stupid. Also I ate like six Cliff Bars. To get the internet in the Beijing airport I had to scan a copy of my passport, so now my face is in the Chinese ether. Finally I got to Bangkok, hugged Carolyn for a million minutes, and then we went to our guesthouse and I ate some chicken-on-a-stick and learned how to use Thai toilets. The next day, we visited some temples and saw how high the river had risen. An old lady lavished approval on Carolyn's tattoos and command of Thai language. At some point I ate delicious things in curried sauces with coconut milk. Also I drank some fruit shakes because coconuts, mangoes, bananas, and other such fruits are all fresh in Thailand, which is amazing to experience in a mouth way.

One thing that happened in Bangkok—though I can't remember if this was the first time we were there or the second—was we went to a temple where we had to take our shoes off. There was a place you could buy candle things to light a thing, and Carolyn bought one. But she dropped the little foil wrapper of the candle stick on the ground, and a monk came by and said something in Thai and picked up the foil and dropped it in a large communal foil pot.

Even butter tasted like coconut. I got some mosquito bites and freaked out about them for no reason. Boxing is very big in Thailand, as is the King. The King, in fact, is literally big on all the posters he's on. Tourists in Thailand have completely demolished the credibility of that Red Bull shirt with Thai lettering, the pink version of which I own and used to think was cool before I went to Thailand.

After Bangkok, we went to this island called Ko Phi Phi. It's where they made the movie The Beach with Leonardo DeCaprio, which is a movie I've never seen and now strangely feel like I must resist, like it is somehow an enemy of me, like it will try to find me and make me watch it randomly and I'll have to carry a special tigerskin blindfold for such occasions.

We took a boat to get to Ko Phi Phi, and the boat was filled with bro-ish Australians, but that might not be fair because every time I saw somebody do something bro-ish or obnoxious I nudged Carolyn and said "Look at that Australian" without checking whether they really were Australian or not. Ko Phi Phi was insanely beautiful, like the beautiful level of the video game, the one everybody on the team is like "Let's let Carole design this level because she's more attractive than any of us and she knows what the deal with attractiveness is." We saw monkeys on Monkey Island, and some jerks fed them instant coffee. One of the people at the guest house we were staying with said he was born in Stockton, California. We asked him if he ever got tired of how beautiful Ko Phi Phi was and he said "Yes." He said Alaska was more beautiful, but I dunno.

We tried to go to a mosque, but it was closed. At the highest point of the island, a gardener kept trying to speak Russian to a Polish lady, even though he knew she was Polish, which I and everybody else thought was hilarious. I drank coconut stuff out of a huge coconut! We ate twice at this place called Papaya, which had amazing massaman curry that took apparently eight years to make. The place is ran by a former Muay-Thai boxer who seems super gay in a good way. There is some spice that happened during some of the pad thai frying that caused everybody in the room to cough. An Asian mother filmed her pantsless child peeing on the Monkey Island beach. The child peed for like ten minutes straight I swear. We met a Norweigan lumber speculator who said he'd always wanted to go to the redwoods. On a boat Italians and Spaniards talked together in halting English about how fun it was to vacation in some island off the North African coast. In the Phuket airport, there was a store that sold cashews, and there was a huge video in the store of how hard it was to work on the assembly line in the cashew factory, but this seemed like it was intended to impress you into buying more cashews.

Back in Bangkok, we saw a dude with a lot of face tattoos at Carolyn's favorite Thai vegan restaurant. We talked a lot about whether you choose to get all those face tattoos or you get addicted to tattoos. Speaking of skin, I got an infected sunburn on my leg and had to visit a pharmacist. The pharmacist said it was okay to let my pants down. She gave me some antibiotics and patches that cost under $30. "You will take care of him, be his doctor," she said to Carolyn. Later I thought she'd said "nurse" but Carolyn firmly corrected me. We took a cab to the bus station and the cab driver laughed at a passing train.

We took a bus to Ayutthaya, which was the capital of the kingdom of Siam for 400 years. Back in the early to mid 1000s. It used to be called the "Venice of Asia." Was allegedly one of the most beautiful and bustling cities of the ancient world, and I believe it. Nowadays it's very weird because it's sort of a working class/factory/university city whose infrastructure and city blockage is occasionally interrupted by these amazing and crumbling ancient temples.

We saw a three story golden Buddha and somebody sat in the Buddha's lap, which you're not supposed to do. We took a boat ride, and fishermen made their kids wave at us. We walked around a lot and met some Germans and Carolyn posed with some giant chickens. We refreshed ourselves after our walk at a Hello Kitty themed coffeeshop where one glass table was decorated with a bunch of cell phones under the table top. We played trivia in an ex-pat bar sort of against our will because the owner kept aggressively giving us questions like "What are all the American states that start with New?" When we forgot something or got something wrong, he'd say "Don't you speak English? I was born in Seattle. Just kidding." We met a very nice middle aged Thai man who said Carolyn would make a beautiful Thai woman. He said that in Thailand women are rated from 1 to 4 (this doesn't seem corroborated by, like, anything else anywhere, but let's roll with it) and that Carolyn was definitely a 4, even though she didn't seem as tall as other Americans. He also said Carolyn's style would make her a beggar if she were Thai, but because she's American it made her a cool hippie.

After Ayutthaya, we went to Kanchanaburi, which was my favorite. I made up a song that went "Baby baby don't you worry. Come on down to Kan-chan-a-burry." Kanchanaburi is where the Bridge Over the River Kwai/Kwoi/Kwahe is. At sunset the bridge lights up in a disco way, even though hundreds/thousands of prisoners of war died to make it. Just one of those things. In the nice museum with the nice bathrooms, the wax statues were very graphic and scary and depressing and informative, and so was the overall experience, even though there were cool lights you could press to make different areas of the mine shaft model light up. Mostly Kanchanaburi was a river town, and I know river towns. For example, we went to a restaurant owned by a guy who probably owned the coolest pair of eyeglasses in Kanchanaburi, and he was very anxious to please us, and meanwhile some teenager was playing guitar there for what looked like the debut of an open mic series, and the teenager had brought his two friends with him, one of whom was very dopey and encouraging, and the other of whom was a girl who looked bored but also kind of like she had a crush on either the dopey kid or the guitar kid, not sure. River town drama, y'all.

Also we saw some Russians making muscle arm poses under a waterfall. We got involved in a three act play at a Portuguese restaurant where I ate some cake and a husband said "Spicy women they make the sweetest food" and a wife yelled at the husband for being drunk and turning up the music and she yelled "What are you, drunk with power?" There were kids and dogs and motorcycles and a long lost friend from Copenhagen and sangria and chess. This episode merits a lot of discussion, actually, and Carolyn and I agreed we would each write our own version at some point in our lives. Mine will be a three act play, definitely, and hers will be something more interior monologue-ish.

In Kanchanaburi I finally broke down and bought a souvenir: a t-shirt of an elephant playing soccer or "SHOWING OFF" as the shirt says. I ate some cashews flavored with coconut cream, some mango with sticky rice (actually, wait, I didn't eat that until I got to the airport, but I kept wanting it the whole time I was in Kanchanaburi) and the best pad thai of the trip at a place where the waitress was like the Thai Janis Joplin: she swayed around and kept trying to read her own handwriting through white sunglasses that clearly didn't have corrective lenses. I ate some red curry that came with rice in a heart shape. Some old British guy had a bookstore with very anal policies. A toothless dog gummed my ankle. I ate fried bamboo. I drank a kiwi shake made by a woman who Carolyn accidentally called beautiful even though she was trying to call the town beautiful, or she did accurately call the town beautiful but the woman misunderstood, but nonetheless the woman demurred and said "Oh no you are beautiful" in Thai. Some things I learned how to say in Thai, spelled phonetically, are "Sa wah dee krap" (Hello), "Kap gun krap" (Thank you), and "Arroy maa" (Very delicious). At some point I ate a fried banana, but I can't remember where. I never ate a grasshopper, but the cart for fried grasshoppers in Bangkok charged you 10 baht to just take a picture of somebody else eating one. Luckily it's like 30 baht per dollar, but you know what they say: "smoke 'em if you got 'em."

But my favorite part of Kanchanaburi by far was the crazy Thai museum they called a WWII museum but was actually a hodgepodge castle maze of amazeaballs. This museum seemed to have a joyful lack of organizing principles. Some ceilings were illustrated proverbs. Some walls had cutouts from fashion magazines. One wall had a bunch of kitchen equipment. Elsewhere there were a million guns under a glass case. A Korean War soldier corpse in one room. One hallway featured very unrealistic wax statues of key WWII players, all described in very weird ways. The Mussolini statue had an extra placard that was actually just a note to revise the original placard. Among the items up for revision: "Make sure to mention his time spent working in a chocolate factory." In the middle of the "courtyard square" area of the museum was a 1970s looking space age Buddha temple capsule. On the tops of the towers the views were amazing. At one point there was a train engine with an old Rolls Royce on top of it. Carolyn said "This must be what it looks like inside your brain." In a basement room, a placard explained that the museum itself was protected by earthquakes by a specific mysticism. There were a lot of signs with hilarious English translations. One of the outside areas just had some clothes drying. One of the inside murals was of fighting elephant gods. All in all, this museum was probably my favorite thing humans have ever got together and done.

We took an amazingly harrowing van back to Bangkok, and Carolyn and I had a tearful re-departure goodbye at the Bangkok bus station after I was too afraid to eat the bus station food and Carolyn forgot to disinfect her fork in the boiling water station. It was awesome to hang out with my lovely and amazing and talented Carrot for two weeks, especially after having not seen her since September, and it was very sad to have to leave her again. After we parted, she took a sixteen hour bus to the far northern reaches of Thailand where she now lives in a grass hut with snakes.

In Beijing I couldn't meet up with my friend Luke because I couldn't leave the airport. The authorities kept telling me it was "too late." I thought they meant proverbially, but really they just meant it was 2AM. So I paid too much for a bed in a weird airport hotel place, telling myself it was worth it for the experience. I guess what I meant when I told myself that was the hotel clerk picked her nose in a really interesting way right in front of me. On the plane back to San Francisco, a kindly Chinese grandmother type tried to speak to me in Chinese and helped me find my pen when it fell between our seats. Back in the Bay Area, my first re-acclimation impression was everybody in America has too much space and quiet to themselves.

That was Thailand! Let me know if there's something I left out that you really wanted to know. Most people want to know if I ate anything weird, which I guess I didn't, in the common sense of what might be weird to put in your mouth and think about digesting, but Carolyn at one point bought a bag of potato chips that came with a packet inside them of weird sugar and chili flavored ketchup. Now I will end with a quote from Baudrillard's The Transparency of Evil:
"Travel was once a means of being elsewhere, or of being nowhere. Today it is the only way we have of feeling that we are somewhere. At home, surrounded by information, by screens, I am no longer anywhere but rather everywhere in the world at once, in the midst of a universal banality—a banality that is the same in every country. To arrive in a new city, or in a new language, is suddenly to find oneself here and nowhere else. The body rediscovers how to look. Delivered from images, it rediscovers the imagination.”