Sunday, July 31, 2005

American Life in Poetry: Column 018


Every reader of this column has at one time felt the frightening and paralyzing powerlessness of being a small child, unable to find a way to repair the world. Here the California poet, Dan Gerber, steps into memory to capture such a moment.

The Rain Poured Down

My mother weeping
in the dark hallway, in the arms of a man,
not my father,
as I sat at the top of the stairs unnoticed--
my mother weeping and pleading for what I didn't know
then and can still only imagine--
for things to be somehow other than they were,
not knowing what I would change,
for, or to, or why,
only that my mother was weeping
in the arms of a man not me,
and the rain brought down the winter sky
and hid me in the walls that looked on,
indifferent to my mother's weeping,
or mine,
in the rain that brought down the dark afternoon.

Dan Gerber's most recent book is "Trying to Catch the Horses" (Michigan State University Press, 1999). "The Rain Poured Down" copyright (c) 2005 by Dan Gerber and reprinted by permission of the author. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

(This link contains several realplayer recordings of the poet from a 1999 reading at Michigan State).

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Real Star of the Movie: The Aztec Motel

NOB HILL--We walked up to where the movie was being shot. The Aztec Motel was gorgeous. She was all dressed up in her usual finery of kitch...planted wine bottles, prints of bullfighters, manikins, medallions, hanging plastic plants, little colored lights. You know the song: baubles, bangles, bright shiny beads.

How could a mere actor compete with that? I don't know. I guess we'll have to wait until the movie shows on TV in November. What a scene stealer this motel will be!

Meanwhile, a couple dozen onlookers kept the movie crew company as the shooting continued on an empty Central Ave. There were a couple of emergency vehicles coming from the general area of the filming. They could be part of the action. Or maybe not.

Three Wise Guys Filming on Central

NOB HILL--I got a return call from the city Film Office. The filming today and tonight on Central Ave. is for an NBC Christmas special called Three Wise Guys. It will air November 20th. The Futon Critic has a plot summary and a lot of other information, but here is a teaser:
Tom Arnold (Best Damned Sports Show Period, Austin Powers), Judd Nelson (Suddenly Susan, The Breakfast Club), Katey Sagal (8 Simple Rules, Married...With Children) and Nick Turturro (NYPD Blue, The Longest Yard) head an all-star cast of television veterans in this genre-bending takeoff on the traditional Christmas story. The cast also features Eddie McClintock (Crumbs, Friends), Jodi Lyn O'Keefe (She's All That, Nash Bridges), Arye Gross (Minority Report, Ellen) and WWE Hall of Famer Rowdy Roddy Piper as the Pastor.
I read the above quote a little too fast the first time and mistook "genre-bending" for "gender-bending." And "Rowdy Roddy Piper as the Pastor" also stopped me. But maybe Samir, a professional wrestling expert, can tell me whether this is casting against type as much as it seems. What a cast!

Central will be closed until 10:00PM from Washington to Carlisle, except for the buses. The filming will continue around town for the next two weeks.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

John Shows Up...Finally

NOB HILL--There are only two street people that I "do business" with. John is one of them. I saw him this afternoon on Central. He looked pretty well-groomed, but thin. His hair was cut. His shirt wasn't all that dirty. He had clean hands. If you know John, you know that this is good. He has had some problems.

John said he had been in jail for the last two weeks (criminal trespass), and this kept him clean, cool, and fed. Back on the street now, he is living at somebody's house. He walks their big white dog occasionally.

John blesses us whenever we give him some change. And we bless him. You might say that Blessings are his business. He is pretty good at least he leaves me smiling.

I was glad to see him again today. I was worried. He always looks so frail.

Central Ave. Closed Thursday for Filming

NOB HILL--Route 66 closes down tomorrow afternoon and evening to film a scene for a movie. I have a call in to the City Film Office and will update this post when I hear back from them. According to Jenna at 242-ROAD the closure will be from Carlisle to Washington, lasting from 3:00 to 10:oo PM. Meanwhile, our beloved Rapid-Ride buses will continue to rumble right down Central without interruption. More details later.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Movie Recommendation For the Reform Minded

DOWNTOWN--Last week Crosswinds Weekly's cover story was entitled, "What's wrong with our schools and how to fix it." Well, I'm not going to get pulled into that squabble today except to say that life for the young is a little more complicated than 3 short articles in a weekly newspaper. At any rate, before you start thinking too seriously about school reform, see Mad Hot Ballroom now playing at the Century 12 Downtown.

There are a lot of people out here telling us what is wrong with education today. But few listen to children and observe their actual growth in the course of a school year. This is what this film does best: it listens. Besides that, the movie is cute as hell. I might mention, however, that on the day we saw it, of the 50 or so members of the audience, the only other male left early. Just to let you know...

It doesn't have to be about dance, you know. I coached chess club at Monte Vista ES for several years. We had an active membership of about 100 students. We competed locally, statewide, and at the U.S. Chess Federation K-6 Nationals. One of our students was National Champion in his rated section, a section of over 800 kids...undefeated in 7 games against opponents who were mostly from those big New York City schools.

We also placed 2nd at the Nationals in Portland at the K-3 level rated under 800. We finally were defeated by a team of 12. We had 5. The 4 best player scores counted.

I am not bragging...well maybe a little :-). The point is that school isn't just preparation for life, it IS life. And whether it is Art Club, Young Astronauts, Soccer, or Dance isn't that important. Children need some ways to help them grow up. See the movie.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

How Many Times Can Allen Hancock Abuse His Police Power and Still Get Paid?

NOB HILL--Allen Hancock, the APD officer who is accused of roughing up Dr. Vincent Moss last week in front of a downtown bar, has been involved in 4 lawsuits over his violent behavior. The Moss incident will be his 5th. Why are we putting up with this bullshit? Even forgetting the fact that no one will tell us how much it cost to settle 2 of the lawsuits, the cost in goodwill and credibility is enormous.

Saturday morning I saw several policemen questioning a black man in handcuffs at a bus stop on Central. They were being very circumspect in their witnessed by the distance between them and the man. But no amount of care today can correct the lasting impression of last weekend.

The new accusations follow fast on the heels of James Lewis, Albuquerque's Chief Administrative Officer, reversing findings of the Police Oversight Commission that APD had violated their own policy in shooting at a stolen car suspect. This was released just last Wednesday.

It doesn't take many incidents like these to give the impression to all of Albuquerque (and the rest of the U.S.) that APD is strictly a small-town bully: unprofessional and shameless. We need to do better.

Hey, Take a Minute...Read This Week's Poem Written by Wendell Berry...Really

American Life in Poetry: Column 017


Nearly all of us spend too much of our lives thinking about what has happened, or worrying about what's coming next. Very little can be done about the past and worry is a waste of time. Here the Kentucky poet Wendell Berry gives himself over to nature.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Reprinted from "Collected Works" (North Point Press, 1985) by permission of the author. Wendell Berry's most recent book is "Given: Poems" (Shoemaker and Hoard, 2005). Poem copyright (c) 1985 by Wendell Berry. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Kitchen Remodel Simmering Along

NOB HILL--The cabinets are hung and the counter guy has taken a template for the granite cutter. The electrician is finished. The window installer is supposed to be here Monday or Tuesday. Now comes the hardware. We are totally amazed and happy with what is happening. The only bad part is how the remodel highlights how much else there is to do around here.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Handlebar Wrap Up...Home At Last

NOB HILL--I'm posting just a few pictures to wrap up that bike trip through Wyoming. Yes, Mike and I did make it to West Yellowstone, Montana. My beautiful GF MaryAnn joined us there along with Mike's wife. We now had 2 vehicles there. The girls had driven 1200 miles to pick us up. We owed them big time.

So, after a few hours in the Evergreen Motel, Mike and Carol headed back to ABQ...that would be 2400 miles in 3 days for Carol.

Meanwhile, MaryAnn and I spent a little more time in Wyoming...Yellowstone, Du Bois, and the Wind River Range. I had reserved a room at the Twin Pines Lodge. The room had one huge bed and the whole place was made out of logs, dating from about 1920. It was also 100 yds. from the Wyoming Cafe. What a wonderful place to eat! It was a little pricey (about $20 each), but everything was fresh and made from scratch. You have to make reservations if you want to sit on the balcony overlooking the Wind River...even in this small town of 197 people. The next day we traversed the Wind River Range on the only road that does that. It was gravel, but in pretty good shape. We met a group of 5 motorcyclists on bmx type bikes who were doing the Great Divide Route. This "bicycle" route goes from Canada to Mexico 80% on dirt and gravel roads, 10% single track and 10% paved. We also met a ranger who gave us directions to a nice view of the whole area.

The following day we headed south to dinosaur country: Vernal, Utah. This is a National Monument you don't want to miss if you have an interest in fossils. My own interests aren't nearly so academic. I am easily entertained.

At any rate, we drove home from Vernal in one day...even after spending the morning at the Monument. When we got home, the house was utter chaos with the kitchen under construction, the floors in the entire house between coats of sealer, the sprinkler system on the fritz, and the heat way up there. But it was home. I am still somewhat blitzed by riding all those days and the drive home. Long distance riding is a mostly silent experience. It takes a while to start talking freely again.
But the experiences and memories are indeed "priceless." And the things that MaryAnn and I share make our life together so much richer. I am the luckiest man alive.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

American Life in Poetry: Column 016


There are thousands upon thousands of poems about love, many of them using predictable words, predictable rhymes. Ho-hum. But here the Illinois poet Lisel Mueller talks about love in a totally fresh and new way, in terms of table salt.

Love Like Salt

It lies in our hands in crystals
too intricate to decipher

It goes into the skillet
without being given a second thought

It spills on the floor so fine
we step all over it

We carry a pinch behind each eyeball

It breaks out on our foreheads

We store it inside our bodies
in secret wineskins

At supper, we pass it around the table
talking of holidays and the sea.

Reprinted from "Alive Together: New and Selected Poems" (LSU Press, 1996) by permission of the author. Poem copyright (c) 1996 by Lisel Mueller. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Hell Bent for Dubois: 75 Tough Ones on Day 5

ON THE ROAD TO DUBOIS--It was sure beautiful, especially as we got closer to Dubois. But it was 75 miles. And the hills were all in the last half of the ride. It was a hard ride coming as it did right after we had done a double day of 85 miles. But there is nothing between Lander and Dubois, nothing with a shower that is. The last time we had stayed in a motel was Rawlins on Day 2.

Handlebar Readout

Time Out: 7:56
Time In: 7:30
Distance: 76.86
Ride Time: 8:32
Average Speed: 8.93
Max Speed: 38.0
Trip: 303.1

Muddy Gap to Lander: 88 Miles on Day 4

MUDDY GAP, WYOMING--We didn't leave the refrigerated "Deli Express" display until almost 7:00. I had a breakfast burrito and waited for the coffee to brew. By the way, the owner insists that if anyone stops and beats him in a game of chess they will get a free Italian gelato. Now that's a buck an hour job I might go for. The next stop for us is Sweetwater Station, about 45 miles away. But if you look at the "handlebar readout" notice that we actually went 88 miles today...all the way to Lander. Mosquitoes.

Handlebar Readout

Time Out: 6:59
Time In: 6:20
Distance: 88.09
Ride Time: 8:53
Average Speed: 10:05
Max Speed: 34.1
Trip: 230.6

There is plenty of time for reflection on these long and beautiful stretches. The road has many lessons. One of them is you have to take it as you find it: windy or calm, uphill or down. To fight any of these doesn't work for long.

Sometimes out here chasing cattle seems like a good idea. Here Mike tries to get to the head of the line.
We got to Lander late in the day. It was the 4th of July. Lander on the 4th is unlike anything you have ever experienced. ALL fireworks are legal on the 4th in Lander...for one day only. And they also suspend the open container law for that day as well. We slept in the city park. We were tired enough that the exploding mortars, bombs, rockets, and dynamite didn't interupt our sleep. I was also to tired to get a picture of it.

We Wind Our Way Through Southern Wyoming

ON THE ROAD TO MUDDY GAP--If you like New Mexico scenery, you'll love southern Wyoming...except it's greener. Oh...did I mention the wind? It blows every day. Thank goodness! It keeps the mosquitoes down.

Handlebar Readout

Time Out: 6:45
Time In: 2:30
Distance: 45.5
Ride Time: 4:37
Average Speed: 9.95
Max Speed: 29.1
Trip: 140.5

Aha! A restaurant! But is it open? Somehow the sign leaves me wondering. The store owner up the road has to call Grandma to find out.

Well, Grandma was in. And the food was good. We did leave a nice tip.

Later that day we met these bikers on the road. That is the young woman's father in the yellow jersey. His daughter, who is touring from Oregon to Virginia, lost her boyfriend/partner earlier due to an injury and had been riding with an Englishman for the last 1000 miles or so. The father decided to check him out by riding with them for a couple of baggage, but a nice gesture. The mother was waiting for them at Grandma's.

The Englishman was almost impossible to understand. What language was he speaking anyway? He did seem happy to meet up with the young lady. I am not sure the father liked him all that much.

But his daughter looked like she had an independent streak. She wass a bicycle messenger in Portland, and had just a little bit of an edgy quality to her.

We got to Muddy Gap early in the afternoon. It was hot and the private campground was shadeless and parched. Mike and I elected to do a "stealth" camp in a grove of trees next to the fire station. We just hung out there all afternoon and when the sun went down we put up our tents. We were gone by 6:00 the next morning.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Stunned, The Bad, and the Stunning: Day 2

ON THE ROUTE--Mike decided to air himself out this morning. We pulled into a wide spot in the road commemorating the Overland Trail. There wasn't much traffic and we had a tailwind. That never happens in bike touring. So far so good. At any rate it turned out we weren't alone. Lindsey rode up, one of the group of 11 cyclists riding from Virginia.

Handlebar Readout

Time Out: 7:11
Time In: 2:19 (after fooling around in Rawlins for quite a while)
Distance: 45.44
Ride Time: 4:30
Average Speed: 10.24
Max Speed: 36.6
Trip: 94.7

It was a hot day anyway...and it seemed to be getting hotter. She didn't seem fazed by Mike's "costume" and offered to take our picture.

So here we the middle of absolute nowhere...and the photographer has a secret.

Lindsey, despite her smile, dropped a bombshell. There used to be 12 in her group. One of their riders was killed near Pueblo, Colorado. The whole group was devastated, but it seemed to have affected her in a more public kind of sitting by the side of the road and staring. I can't imagine. I can't imagine.

He was hit by an off-duty policeman.

Well, that sobered up the day. Mike put his shirt back on and we rode into Sinclair, home of the Sinclair refinery. This old hotel is a vacant, beautiful reminder that there is more to the oil story than oil. Then on to Rawlins, where we are spending the night in a Days Inn (wifi in the bar).

On The Road At Last

RIGHT ON THE COLORADO/WYOMING BORDER--Mike and I got a ride from his cousin-in-aw, Sylvia, to the border from Steamboat. We were busy getting our stuff assembled when bicyclists started pulling up. They were a group from Adventure Cycling...11 of them on their way from Virginia to Oregon, stopping to take pictures at the state border. What a nice group of people. We all left at more or less the same time and ran into each other throughout the day at stores and restaurants. They spent the night in a motel in Saratoga. Mike and I pedalled on a couple of miles down the road and put up our tents in the Saratoga Lake campground. We had no idea of the terrible burden they carried that no one mentioned.

Handlebar Readout

Time out: 10:30
Time in: 5:00
Distance: 49.3
Ride Time: 4:13
Average Speed: 9.23
Max Speed: 29.5
Trip: 49

We were excited to be on the road again. The hills weren't too steep, and it would have been perfect if the wind had been blowing on our backs. The last five miles were a little hard. I was glad to be finished for the day.

The Campground at Saratoga Lake was beautiful, but didn't have too many trees. Bikers can pitch their tents for only a buck...and it was only a mile off the Route!