Monday, March 18, 2019

ONCE UPON A TIME

Here's a photo my dear old friend Bobby Miller posted on FaceBook earlier of me in he says 1987, though I think it's closer to 1978, anyway he includes it in a series he calls: "The Handsome Talented men series"!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

HAPPY SAINT PADDY'S TO ALL

Something I heard today that I wanted to pass on (and I'm sure I'm not getting the wording as well as the speaker but you'll get the idea). A woman referred to that line in the typical "Irish blessing" where it says "May the wind be always at your back" then she added, "but if it isn't may you know how to adjust your sails."

Saturday, March 16, 2019

W. S. MERWIN R.I.P.

I met W. S. Merwin in 1967 when he came to the University of Iowa to do a reading to promote his new book LICE. I remember Marvin Bell, a poet teaching at the famous Iowa Poetry Workshop, introducing Merwin as "the prince of poetry" and thinking, the man does look like a prince. Merwin was movie star handsome, but came across whenever I was around him as humble and more interested in you than himself. 

Like later that night after the 1967 reading, there was a party at some faculty member's house in "downtown" Iowa City (then only a few square blocks of bars, businesses, and some domiciles), a group of students were on the back porch passing around a makeshift pipe made from an empty toilet roll with a joint in it. I was still relatively new to Iowa City and coming from four years in the military and some street experience during those years and before that in the 1950s and early '60s, so was still too wary to toke weed in public with strangers.

I knew one person there, the poet Robert Slater, and he passed the toilet-roll-pipe to me and I just passed it on to Merwin without imbibing. We talked poetry and anti-war politics which I was very active in and I felt respect and appreciation for the guy. Five years later, in 1972, I was living in DC but visiting New York with a fellow activist in the "gay liberation front" that I was working with, and entering his apartment building in the West Village, we ran into Merwin, who lived in the same building, and as my friend introduced us, Merwin said "I remember you Michael, we met in Iowa City on that back porch where you were the only one not taking a toke from the marijuana being shared"—or words similar to those—and I thought wow, this guy has an amazing memory, and was struck again with his humility and generosity of attention.

I only saw him a few times over the years, but admired the man and the poetry. He had a good long run with many rewards and accomplishments, but will still be missed by poetry lovers everywhere.

Here's a wonderfully poignant later (2005) poem of his I love:

THANKS

Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
taking our feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
thank you we are saying and waving
dark though it is




Thursday, March 14, 2019

SOME WOMEN I LOOKED UP TO IN MY FIRST YEARS

The women in this photograph taken during WWII were the main influences on my early years. Starting on your left, my Irish immigrant grandmother Lally who lived down the street, my Great Aunt Allie who would move in with us a year or so later, my sister Joan, (next to her our cousin Rod who lived next door and behind them our two oldest brothers Tommy and Buddy), my grandma Dempsey who would move in with us not long after this (in front of her our cousin Mickie who lived down the street, my sister Irene, our third brother Robert and our father in the fedora), my mother (with me in her arms) my Aunt Peggy who lived down the street, and Aunt Mary who lived next door.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

I'M NOT HERE and JUANITA

Did another double feature yesterday, this time two unexpectedly unique films, starting with I'M NOT HERE, a 2017 film I missed, which should have had a best actor nomination for J.K. Simmons. It's a small film, mostly confined to an old alcoholic's apartment—directed, edited, produced, and co-written by Michelle Schumacher. Most of which she does very well for my taste.

It won't be for everyone, and while I was watching it there were times when I thought it wasn't for me. But despite how uncomfortable some scenes made me, in the end it satisfied me, and not just for Simmon's performance. It may seem a little heavy handed in its use of the philosophic/quantum physics quandary of the Schrodinger's cat challenge, but ultimately, as I keep flashing on the film throughout my day today, fitting the pieces of the puzzle together and feeling more and more impressed, it worked for me.

JUANITA just came out on Netflix, and I've had access to that lately so jumped at the chance to see the always extraordinary Alfre Woodard. And JUANITA—even with an amazingly delightful cast—is all hers. (But just to mention two of the outstanding other performers, LaTanya Richardson Jackson and Ashlie Atkinson, the latter played the KKK wife in BLACKKKLANSMAN and is so transformed here I didn't recognize her).

Woodard also produced JUANITA, along with her husband Roderick Spencer (full disclosure, I've known them since my L.A.days), and Spencer also adapted the screenplay from a book by Sheila Wilson. Directed by Clark Johnson, there were times when I could have jumped for joy just with the unique use of a variety of filmic devises.

JUANITA is a delight, a story unlike any you've ever seen, though with elements you have. For one, the leads in JUANITA and most of the supporting actors are either African-American or Native American, and the combination of those distinct groups filling up any movie—let alone dominating the story and scenes—would be a bonus, but in one as fun as this it's a kind of movie heaven for me.

Don't miss this one.

Friday, March 8, 2019

MATERNAL LINEAGE

My mother, her mother, and her mother
in the 19teens before women could vote,
though they were all politically active.