Sunday, June 30, 2013


Drove to upstate New York, along The Hudson River to a remote farm in rolling hills with a vista that fits my definition of "paradise." In L.A. when I lived there, people would always say, "another day in paradise," because the sun was usually shining and I lived hear the beach.

Certainly a lot of people who grew up living through Jersey and New York state winters consider warmer Southern and Western climates preferable, but after almost twenty years in the L.A. area I'm happy to be back in what I feel are the landscapes of my soul. Especially on a weekend that was predicted to be full of storms so severe large hailstones were expected.

But it didn't turn out that way. For the wedding of my sister-in-law and her love, the weather was perfect. Bright blue sky with puffy white clouds over a vista that rivaled any I'd ever seen, and I've seen    extraordinary vistas.

But the view was nothing compared to the wedding party. There were several buildings on the land but the main house was a contemporary marvel. Not just all the amenities, but more so. Bathrooms as big as my bedroom in my apartment with showers as big most elevator cars. Beautiful art, etc. I'm too tired and incapable of describing the lay out and features but suffice it to say it was out of one of those articles in The New York Times magazine about amazing homes. And it rested on a knoll surrounded by hills but closer by looking down on meadows and ponds and frolicking baby goats and lambs, etc.

The ceremony itself was down from the house in a meadow next to a big pond where we waited for the bride and her entourage to come down and when they did, as someone said, it felt like we were in a movie.  The groomsmen were dressed in their own choice of outfits, my youngest, looking like a GQ model in a slim pale suit with a lavender shirt and skinny tie, among them (there also was a kilted man, a handle bar moustached man, the best man in slim jeans etc.).

Two beautiful little girls led the procession of bridesmaids, each in their own version of a colorfully patterned floor length filmy dress, so that rather than eliciting comparisons of how different women wore the same dress each stood out with their own style that accentuated their individual beauty (and the varieties of beauty among them and handsomeness among the men made it feel like we were definitely in some sort of film or magazine shoot for the hippest wedding and wedding styles ever).

The bride wore an antique dress she had altered to her own specifications creating an outfit that, combined with her natural beauty, made her look like the hippest, most stylish, most uniquely beautiful and perfect bride I've ever seen. (Sorry I suck at photographs or I'd offer some as proof, though no photo could capture the impact her entrance and presence created, especially along with her long haired handsome groom.)

The ceremony was brief, starting out with a friend of the marrying couple officiating unable to resist for his first word: "Maowidge" cracking everyone up. The couple wrote their own vows that moved us all, I read a poem I'd been asked to write for the occasion (my sister-in-law came to live with her big sister and me and our son when she was still young and stayed for years so I got to watch her grow from a teenager to an accomplished—and beautifully tattooed—woman I feel I helped partly raise).

The reception was a short walk up to a big barn with an upstairs dance floor and rented tables and chairs and hay bales (yes, rented hay!) set up as couches! Friends of the couple provided some tasty Latin jazz (Miles style trumpet playing, and bossa nova style guitar strumming). Several people remarked on how beautiful the couple's friends, from California, New York, New Jersey and Florida, all were.

My sister-in-law is thirty and her husband a few years older, and their friends are their age and all with their own individually unique style, so the whole affair was almost like a hip fashion show. The love and celebratory feeling was contagiously satisfying as everyone agreed out of all the couples any of us had ever encountered the bride and groom were the one their friends most wanted to see together because they seemed so right for each other.

People had brought tents and sleeping bags, so the landscape was dotted with colorful little temporary abodes, some with small children and infants, but despite the rural setting and the camping realities, somehow everyone managed to have enough outfits to change into new and equally flattering ones as the weather and circumstances changed throughout the day and night.

The toasts, the conversation, the food, the dancing, the energy and love made the event what my youngest declared was "the most fun weekend" of his fifteen years. He tends to feel deeply, like many of us, and may say the same thing again before the summer's out, but somehow I doubt it. This really was, as many agreed, the best wedding they'd ever experienced (and I have the weddings of my older children right up there with the best I've encountered—plus on the same day my nephew Carl's wedding was happening in Alaska in a landscape definitely as or more spectacular as well as unique) because of the setting, the wedding couple, their friends, and the whole concept of a three day wedding on a farm with more than all the amenities and room (200 acres) in a landscape as close to my idea of paradise as is possible (outside of Manhattan at various times in my life and The Berkshires now) and given as a three day affair with swimming and communal cooking and eating and games and row boating and the sights and sounds of goats and lambs and one of the sweetest dogs you'll ever meet (who briefly wore a tie and interrupted the wedding ceremony itself as she ran up to the couple, no barking or bothering, just to check them out and then recede, as did one of the little girls, making the event even more natural than it already was).

I'm tired from dancing late into the night, or into the early morning actually, but wanted to get down some thoughts about my lovely sister-in-law Luloo and her great guy husband Evan down for the record, at least my record.

Friday, June 28, 2013


Interesting. Three women in the news this past week.

One was a single parent who worked her way through Harvard law school and became a Texas legislator and a new hero of mine for her courageous filibuster that stopped an abortion law for Texans that would have been precedent setting in its interference in a woman's right to control her own body, etc.

One helped legitimize gay marriage at least for the states where they're legal. An elderly woman who lost her life partner several years ago to death and who only came out about that relationship in recent years but felt wronged by the federal government taxing her partner's estate in ways the survivor of a straight married couple would not be.

And the third, a Southern woman with incredibly backward attitudes about everything from food to race to feminism who defends herself by acting as if the Civil Rights struggle and problems with bad food causing illness and death were just recent developments that she shouldn't be held accountable for contributing to because she "is what I is"—which some Southerners point out is the punch line in a racist joke about African-Americans, etc.

All white, these ladies, all blonde, all strong, independent, mature women, making difficult choices, One was rewarded with fame and fortune by our society. Interesting that it was the one who was contributing mostly negatively to our society, encouraging people to eat unhealthily, and in the work place treating people inhumanly if the witnesses bearing testimony are to be believed, and there's too many of them to discount.

The first two are the ones who deserve the fame and fortune. I'm grateful that they received at least some recognition and I hope it helps them. But they're the ones that have contributed something lastingly worthwhile to our country and our culture, even if only as examples. I sure wish this society could gets its priorities in order and see that the common welfare should come first, not individual success at the expense of others...

Thursday, June 27, 2013


“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.”
― Nelson Mandela

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Been a real rollercoaster of a ride with the news lately heh? It's always true that any given day has what's called "good news" and "bad news" but the last couple of days have been like the new weather patterns, extreme.

The set back from the Supreme Court to the Voting Rights act—Texas as I understand it already chomping at the bit to reinstate voter I.D. requirements that discriminate against the poor etc.—and then the same court's overruling Prop 8 in California—which had outlawed "gay marriage"—and overturning a crucial aspect of the Defense of Marriage Act, so that the federal government can no longer discriminate against legally married anybodies, damn talk about opposite extremes.

And then there's Wendy Davis in Texas at the state legislature pulling of a real MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON Jimmy Stewart filibuster moment to prevent a draconian anti-abortion law from passing. She's definitely a new hero and one the Dems should put up for national office as soon as possible, an inspiration.

While in my neck of the woods, in a nearby town (one of several that border mine) a home robbery was caught on camera with a two hundred pound grown man caught on a nannie cam beating mercilessly a startled housewife whose house he broke into with her three year old watching and her willing to give up whatever he wanted but him beating her horribly for a long time as if venting some gender or racial or personal vengeance on whatever she stood for to him. Horrible to watch and worse knowing it was very close to some of my dearest friends.

Let's not even get into the Snowden affair that the corporate media is treating like a chase movie rather than an expose of a terribly overreaching government spy complex. Where are all the outbursts from the rightwing "Originalists" when it comes to the proliferation of secret agencies and spying which has no place in our Constitution, etc.

Life is full of disappointment and satisfaction, things to cheer and things to jeer, heartbreak and joy and all, and these certainly haven't been the most startling examples of radically oppositional extremes over a short period, but they sure have seemed like it.


This is a minor flick in many ways, like a lot I stumble on when cable channel surfing as we used to do in pre-smart-everything times. But my older son had seen it and dug it, and my younger son was watching it when I came home yesterday, so when it popped up last night I watched it too, because they both had enjoyed it and been surprisingly satisfied by it.

It has a lot of obvious plot points familiar to college romantic comedies, with sometimes predictable twists and sometimes not (the Asian coed is so quiet you can't hear her, the model looking hottie is sexually promiscuous, etc.) but some good acting nonetheless within the limitations of the genre, including by the lead: Anna Kendrick (who was so amazing in the George Clooney flick UP IN THE AIR, or whatever it was called).

The set up is a competition between college acapella groups, like those TV singing and talent contest shows. Whether dubbed or not, the singing is not just good but at times so delightful it's inspiring, and along with the choreography and acting and sometimes clever comedy (sometimes not, like the seemingly obligatory puke scene in too many of these young adult comedies) kept me watching.

For a little escape from the roller coaster news lately, demonstrating how messed up some things are while others seem to be getting better, this flick fits the bill.

Monday, June 24, 2013


My old friend Tom Wilson, "Willy" to some of us, sent me this DVD of the sessions for a 1996 CD of Joe Cocker singing some of his hits and other tunes not necessarily associated with Cocker in entirely new arrangements.

Produced by Don Was, who explains to the camera that he did the project because someone said Joe Cocker is the best singer out there and he realized he agreed. And the sessions on this DVD certainly make the case for Cocker's being one of the greats of all time. He's one of those derivative artists who used to bug me when I was a kid. I'd be all about how he sounds like Ray Charles etc. this effin' Brit tryin' to come off like a soul singer etc. But the fact is, Cocker made that style his own, or rather he owns that style now as much as anyone.

The vocal control he displays in these sessions is impressive and at times even poignant. My friend Willy said this DVD had brought him to tears. And at first when I started watching it I thought that seemed a bit extreme. I was digging the musicianship—there's an array of stars with people like Randy Newman contributing piano to two of his own tunes and Billy Preston, once known as "the fifth Beatle" playing keyboards (organ and electric piano sound, I don't know what to call the variety of keyboards out there since I played plain old piano in clubs back in the day) making everything he contributes to more delicious sounding, to name just two—but then all of a sudden I was choking back tears.

Partly that was in sheer appreciation of the artistry of everyone but focused on supporting Cocker's unique takes on familiar songs. Like Preston's "You Are So Beautiful" which is familiar to probably all of us from Cocker's original rendition I used to play over and over again decades ago when he first recorded it, but in this session adds a whole new layer, layers really, because of the seasoning of age and experience and the ultimate outcome we're all facing.

There's too many songs to pick out only some, but damn, "Heart Full of Rain" and Newman's "Sail Away" cut to the bone. Let alone Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers to Cross" and the tears that aroused. But maybe my favorite, was Cocker's take on the classic Van Morrison song, the first one to cement Van's artistry as unique after his beginnings as an Irish cat appropriating "American" blues and rhythm and blues styles—"Into the Mystic"—damn Cocker makes it his own on this deal.

It probably works to just buy or download the CD version, but this DVD with the close ups of Cocker and the musicians' fingers and playing techniques or the gestures of the back up singers etc. as well as brief comments from Was and the musicians and Cocker, make the DVD a perfect gift (thank you Willy) for anyone, including yourself.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Subtitled "A One Man Comi-Tragedy" LAST OF THE KNOTTS is old friend, poet Doug Knott's one man show about a few important elements of his personality, life choices and perspective. I won't give it away except to say it focuses on his relationship with his parents as a boy and how that influenced one of the most important decisions of his adult life, one I suspect few of his fellow adults ever struggled with so honestly.

It has moments of such clearheaded self awareness that they startle. I knew Doug in L.A. where he was a poet who ran poetry venues and had a local cable show where he interviewed poets, and was part of a crew of L.A. poets who performed and traveled as the Carma Bums. I always liked and appreciated his enthusiasm and his honesty. A no b.s. kind of guy, which means my kind of fellow human.

I love people's stories, whether shared on train rides or airplane trips or in bars or in bed or in barracks or at a lectern or on stage. Everyone's story, I find, always has an unexpected twist that makes it surprising and engaging, and even often enlightening. I always believed this, and so did others, but until recently that really wasn't the accepted wisdom. Stories of the rich and famous, or assumed historically important, were considered more relevant and necessary to know about.

Knott's one man show not only captures much that's unique about the man, but the revelations are not the usual ones that garner attention in memoirs and one person shows these days, because they are so common and yet rarely spoken of so honestly. In fact, the dilemma at the heart of this show I've never seen addressed this directly, and accessibly and starkly. There's a stripped down kind of poetry to the language and the rhythms of the narrative that anchors the story, and even in Knott's ability to express the personality of the various people from his life that speak through him in the show, and originality as well.

If this comes anywhere near where you are, it's definitely worth seeing.


           you get the best light
                     from a burning bridge.)"
—Geoffrey Young (from The Dump)

Friday, June 21, 2013


I like Bing's solo recording of this tune, where the lyrics really hit you. This lighter version though has Fred MacMurray when he was young enough to see why Hollywood recruited him, but even more cool is that little guy, Donald O'Connor, the comic dancer who did one of the great scenes in Hollywood history in his "Make'em Laugh" solo number in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. They may not all be actually playing their instruments, but they're all singing and Donald's dancing shows why he became a star as well.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


You probably already have heard that James Gandolfini died of a heart attack while in Italy. I don't have much to add, but to say the only time I spent with him was on a SAG picket line in Manhattan several years ago. We held signs and marched side by side for the length of a few blocks (though turning and coming back was half of it) and he was in that brief time, friendly, sweet, seemingly very happy (pretty much constantly smiling), just came off as a fellow worker not a star in the making which he was at the time.

Others have mentioned his range, though he will always be identified with his most famous character, Tony Soprano, and I too was impressed with the variety of types he could play. But my favorite role of his outside of Tony was Bear in GET SHORTY, a character in the bad guy vein though so different from Tony. That portrayal was when I first really noticed how good an actor Gandolfini was, and it was probably what caught the attention of David Chase as well and the team that cast him in THE SOPRANOS.

He was only 51, way too young for anyone to pass, especially when he had such a beautiful young family. His work will live on, but even those of us who only knew him peripherally will miss him. May his family find the consolation they need.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


First of all The Cutting Room is a great venue. The stage is big enough to hold a grand piano and still fit a band with drum kit, speakers, amps, etc. (the sound man whose name I can't remember—Gerard?—was also terrific, the system top of the line digital so he could set different levels and the system remembers etc.) and high (like four feet), the room intimate yet also big, holding 180 people at tables (and it was pretty packed), the menu simple and the food very good for a bar/nightclub. The owner moved it from 23rd to 32nd (so all I had to do was exit on the Seventh Avenue side of Penn Station and walk straight for a few blocks) into what was, as I understood it, a rug store and warehouse now reconfigured into a large bar up front and the room with the stage in back.

The evening started out great when New York friends John Restivo, and Marty Brandel with his friend Shannon, showed up early. [Later more friends arrived from New York and Jersey, a shout out of gratitude to DeLaune, Ron, Stephanie, Annie, Rob, Tim and anyone else I'm forgetting.] While we were waiting for our dinners, Marty asked permission to play the grand, and the manager gave it adding "You better not suck"—he didn't. Marty played a beautiful arrangement of Lennon's IMAGINE that set exactly the right tone for an evening of creativity on the theme of LOVE NEVER DIES.

The advertised show began on schedule with my old partner in Poetry in Motion back in my L.A. days, Eve Brandstein, introducing the evening by reading a poem about the history of her journey from the Bronx to The Village in the 1960s to L.A. and success as a writer/producer and too many other hats to list, while all the time writing poetry and when we met starting together the weekly series that ran for eight years from '88 to '96 in various L.A. clubs (ending up for the longest stint at Largo which our series helped put on the map) and which she has revived in recent years and now is bringing to New York a few times a year starting with last night.

Then Donnie Kehr got up and played the grand while singing a song he wrote that segued into Elton John's TINY DANCER and had the audience not just bobbing their heads but singing along. He was so good from the first note that I felt a rush of excitement at the high level of talent he was kicking the show off with, knowing it would raise everybody's game, and it did.

Then Dolly Fox came up to sing, with Donnie backing her, and stepped it up. This beautiful former model and cabaret singer and TV and stage actor hit exactly the right poignant note about when love never dies but the loved one isn't around any more. And she was followed by Susan Merson setting the scene and then acting it out from an original play of hers, proving the talent that has made her a successful multi-hyphenated theater powerhouse.

Next came the wonder Elinor Nauen. I've written about her great books of poetry and prose on this blog and have been a giant fan of her and her work since we first met in the 1970s. She did not disappoint. Reading from her great little book, MY MARRIAGE A TO Z, she had the audience laughing and nodding in agreement as though she'd been doing stand up or stage story telling at the highest levels all her life. She left the audience wanting more. The applause after her and every performer only grew louder then what came before when it started at a level that was already so loudly enthusiastic you thought it couldn't possibly grow, but it continued to because every performer raised the bar and then leapt over it seemingly effortlessly, including Elinor.

Then came Nathan P. who performs his poetry, or spoken word work, without any notes or writing, just a five minute memorized narrative about his love for a woman who though not with him anymore was still in his heart. A lame description of what may sound generic but was anything but with his seductive low pitched voice, all alone enough to satisfy the audience but coupled with the cleverness of his narrative's imagery and rhythm had the audience mesmerized, our expectations kicked up another notch beyond what seemed possible.

May Pang introduced her reading of an excerpt of her memoir about her relationship with John Lennon by making it clear she hadn't read this passage since she'd written it and put it away. It was a devastatingly honest description of what happened the first night she and John made love with all its awkwardness, confusion, fear and unprecedentedness (spell check makes it clear I just made that word up but it fits). In many ways it was disturbing to hear some of what she wrote, for those of us who love John, but it was also revealingly human and clearheaded.

Man, I had to follow all that. Fortunately I had many friends in the audience, some I didn't yet know were there, and I chose a few poems, including one written for the occasion, that people responded generously to, so I felt I'd made a solid contribution to the night. Then came Taylor Negron who changed the tone to a bit more sardonic, killing it with his take on what's not just funny about love or the lack of it, but what's realistically unfair and even unbecoming often about it, only again, he made it hysterical (I laughed so hard I cried kind of moment) in ways I unfortunately can't find words good enough to describe. Just catch his stand up or one man show as soon as you get the chance.

Now the evening had reached what seemed like a peak that couldn't be topped, a full, rich, satisfying, night of amazing creative energy, but wait, here came John Fugelsang straight from his show VIEWPOINT on Current TV to tell the story of how his father (a Franciscan brother til his mid-thirties) and mother (a nun until her mid-thirties) met and fell in love after avoiding giving in to that for ten years before finally succumbing and how that love lasted and continues to even beyond the passing of his father. It was a triumph of storytelling and poignant restating of the theme of the night in a way that could not be denied.

I didn't think the audience could applaud any more, let alone louder and stronger and even more enthusiastically (I mean it was one of the most enthusiastic hands I ever got and those who came after me got more) but I wasn't prepared for Sylvan Joyce.

I don't know how old she is, she looked pretty young to me as she and her band, The Moment, came on stage, her barefoot and in an outfit that I got as a punk version of gypsy style. She began with a song she wrote when she was twelve, initially soft and crooningly romantic (she plays keyboards, which for this tune meant the kind you hang around your neck and are as big or bigger than a guitar—"key tar"—and were popular a few decades ago as I remember it) but within seconds it seemed had careened into the kind of forceful and dramatic vocals and stage presence I first encountered from Janis Joplin performances.

But then she took it further. The power this little woman projected from the stage was so overwhelming it was as if the entire audience were that guy in the chair in the old TV commercials for whatever it was, the sound system or the audiotape, that blew his hair and the chair he was sitting in back from the source of the sound, and yet in person Joyce was having the opposite impact, as if we were being blown back by the force of her voice and stage presence while at the same time being drawn toward and into the magic of her unique stage personality and presence.

People were going crazy by the time she finished. Her band backing her with the kind of support lead singers should always have. The drummer and bass player driving the force of the beat into our bodies, the electric violinist superbly flying over that beat with flourishes that felt essential, as all good collaborative music does, the guitarist adding the "rock" and "blues" to the descriptions of the band's music as part "gypsy rock" part "blues and cabaret"...

Then she almost disappeared behind the grand piano (I kept thinking if I was hitting those foot pedals barefoot like she was my feet would be bleeding, but she obviously is as strong as her stage presence) as she took it to an even higher level (it made me think of the first time I heard and then saw Laura Nyro, because this woman, Sylvana Joyce, is as unique a performer as her) with a hora kind of rhythm to a favorite Romanian song of her mother's, who was present, that had us all clapping in time and shouting—and then there was even more. Sylvana Joyce is now at the top of my list of performers to catch live anytime it's possible to do so.

It's the next day and I'm still wiped out from the sheer satiation of the evening, like one of those experiences where you keep thinking it can't get any more pleasurable than this, and then it does, and keeps doing, that's what the evening was like. I fell in love with everyone, which is what a performance is supposed to generate in an audience when it's great, I mean not just the performers, but the audience too, because we all, or so it felt to me, were together with the performers for every beat of their bit, and like good lovers the rhythm seemed not just natural but ordained, like we'd been waiting to feel that sensation and ride it before we even knew it existed.

So, if any of these folks are doing anything anywhere near where you can get to it, please, reward yourself and check their sh*t out. You will not be disappointed.

[This isn't all the performers, but standing is Elinor Nauen, me, Susan Merson, Eve Brandstein, Nathan P. and the violinist and drummer from The Moment (I don't have their names yet but will get them and put them in when I can) and sitting are May Pang, Taylor Negron with The Moment guitarist crouching and Sylvana Joyce up front.]

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


On the ride home yesterday from Massachusetts, my youngest mentioned hash tags and I said I didn't get what they did and he tried to explain it and then looked me up on hash tag my name and found a bunch of my most outrageous poems and a couple of photos when I was younger, strange to have someone somewhere doing that, I still don't get how it works but like I said in the original post it's out of our, or at least my, hands now...

Sunday, June 16, 2013


For Father's Day weekend I got to see all my kids and grandkids up in The Berkshires, including hearing my oldest son play at The Red Lion Den in Stockbirdge last night with the Transmitters, a mostly instrumental trio that reinterpreted some funk, rock'n'roll, surfer and soundtrack music like great jazz improvisers.

But today I'm thinking of my old man and since I love all the shots friends have posted of their fathers, and I just dig old photos and what they reveal about us and the people and styles and times that we come out of, I thought I'd share some photos of him, starting with before I was born:

Oldest known photo of my father, we guess in his late teens or early twenties with a cousin and aunt that was given to my daughter by an old woman she got to know in The Berkshires who turned out to be my father's cousin, this taken when he visited them in Massachusetts.
My old man and a buddy behind him on a trip in the 1920s in what may be Florida, where he spent the week between Xmas and New Years all his life as his only vacation, cause he could go to the track there in winter. 
My three brothers (who survived childhood) with our father in the '30s at my maternal grandma's down the Jersey shore in Belmar.
Around the time I was born, down the Jersey shore with his youngest brother John behind him and a friend behind him, c. 1941.
1942, me in my baby dress on my mother's lap and all my siblings (except the one who passed as an infant before I was born)—this photo disappeared with the printer who printed one of my early books (chapbook) THE SOUTH ORANGE SONNETS.
Me in my mother's arms with my siblings and old man WWII.
Jersey shore at my mother's mother with her, some siblings, my mother, and my father with his hands touching the big troublemakers in the family, my brother Robert, before he became a cop, and me with my summer burnt toast tan 1950s.
Me and my sister Irene in front of my old man's home repair business, where I worked and she had obviously stopped by maybe to visit me, 1950s.
In the 1960s, after I left home, my old man was given a political appointment job for being a great ward healer, getting out the vote for the Essex County Democratic machine in the 1950s and early '60s, so they made this seventh grade dropout "secretary and executive assistant to the Essex County Shade Tree commission"—but being a stand up guy, he actually did the work and taught himself the names of all the trees, and had more planted which he's pretending to be part of here by standing in the street with a shovel!

Friday, June 14, 2013


Just a reminder of the gig I'm part of this Tuesday evening in Manhattan, a pretty stellar line up:

Thursday, June 13, 2013


One of the things that bothers me the most about the Internet, is the claims people make for it. People are always writing and talking about how "all human knowledge is now at our fingertips." Huh? Or they're citing something from the Internet as if its presence on the web makes it valid.

This illusion seems to be pervasive, despite the fact that so much of human knowledge has not been digitized and therefore is only accessible through books or other primary sources, or has been lost forever. Those of us who had readings and performances filmed or videotaped or audiotaped that have never been digitized and may never be because of the deterioration of the tape, or newspaper articles whose records were never digitized and are long since destroyed or were microfilmed and that technology ended up being not as long lasting as once thought etc. know how much the net does not contain.

I've probably had over fifty readings of mine filmed or videotaped and maybe a hundred audiotaped since I first began reading publicly at the end of the 1950s, and I only know of one audiotape on Penn Sound and one reading in recent years on YouTube, neither were ones I necessarily would choose to represent the best of my reading experiences.

What made me particularly think about all this was my discovery the other day that someone had inserted into the Wikipedia entry on me that I had acted in porn movies and later wrote them! Never happened. And there were other entries on that site that were incorrect and obviously meant to embarrass me or create confusion. I edited them out but have no intention of checking up on it so for all I know they're back. Plus the entry itself characterizes my work in a way I wouldn't necessarily, etc.

I've only goggled myself a few times since Google was created, and then only because someone told me to check something. But every time I have done it, I've discovered all kinds of misinformation. The entry on the IMBd site about my film acting attributes to me several jobs an older man named Michael Lally did before I even started acting. He was the reason once I was in the Screen Actors Guild I had to add my middle name David, because he owned my name in the union. The confusion came about because I wasn't in the union for my first role starring in a low low budget vampire movie called DRACULA'S LAST RITES. And I was interviewed for a documentary on Hubert Selby Jr. in which I was identified as Michael Lally, without the David, and that too is on the site. So they then conflated some of the acting jobs the original Michael Lally did with a bunch of ones I did as Michael David Lally.

I think about all that confusion just on two sites that supposedly offer "facts" about me, and then add to that all the misinformation compiled on other sites about all of us, and then add to that the spying and snooping that goes on and I wonder how these cyber spies can even keep things straight, let alone prevent crime or attacks or whatever.

I long ago surrendered to the reality that we have little control over what others write and say about us anyway, so I wasn't surprised or upset, much, about misinformation about me (in some of the reviews and even publisher's advertising in early poetry books of mine it was reported that I was a student of James Dickey, who I never encountered, as well as a jet pilot in the Air Force, which I wasn't, etc.).

One of the reasons I have written so much about myself, besides it being as Whitman and Thoreau both wrote, the subject I know most about, and the idea of creating an art object out of personal experiences and observations, was to set the record straight even if just for me. But it's probably ultimately pointless.

And all this is not to say I don't love the access to so much information the web provides despite its misuse and misinformation and so much it doesn't contain. Like I found this still from the Dracula movie I was in on the web and had never seen it before so it was like meeting my younger self and seeing me from a perspective I never had. That makes the whole deal worthwhile I guess.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


"The whole struggle is to squeeze into that public record some tiny essence of the perpetual inner melody."  —Henry Miller (from PLEXUS)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


The subtitle to this biography of Charles Jackson, author of THE LOST WEEKEND among other books, is: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson. I wanted to read it when I first heard about it, and then my good friend, novelist Delaune Michel, sent it as a gift and once I started it I couldn't put it down.

I doubt everyone will find it as compelling as I did. It's a more or less repetitive story once the traumas of childhood are gotten out of the way. And there are some pretty serious ones I'll leave you to discover if you read it. The main point about Jackson that biographer, Blake Bailey, makes, it seems to me, is not that Jackson was an alcoholic who contributed a book to the literature of alcoholism that had an enormous impact, or even that he was also a homosexual throughout his life despite his marriage and daughters, but that Jackson wasn't as great a writer as he wanted to be or as sometimes others saw him as.

I have to say, I read a lot of biographies and autobiographies, more than fiction these days, but I hate it when writers do the horse-race kind of comparisons that makes the mistake of judging works of art by their commercial success, or even worse, judges them by their success among academics who often assign importance to work that furthers their own theories or relationships or careers etc. Reading FARTHER & WILDER made me want to find whatever is in print or available on the Internet of Jackson's so I can judge for myself what at least I think of his work. That's a good thing, as it is that this book has brought attention to Jackson, even if for the wrong reasons at times.

Bailey makes Jackson out to be a literary pioneer in terms of his expose of what it was like to be an alcoholic (and pill addict) and a closeted gay man in the first half of the 20th Century, from the teens to the 1960s actually. And he certainly was one of the daring few who were. But I have to admit, from the photo on the cover I was expecting to also discover that Jackson was "passing" as the expression had it in the first half of the 20th Century, when often fair skinned people with some African ancestry passed for "white" to avoid some of the worst aspects of racism. Turns out that wasn't the case, or at least Bailey doesn't address the possibility the cover seemed to me to fairly scream to be addressed.

Jackson was not always an admirable character, but he was deeply human in more openly honest ways than many of his contemporaries would ever allow themselves to be. His ambition and self aggrandizement, let alone self-indulgence, is often expressed in quotes from letters and other writing more blatantly than most would dare to expose these days. But it is difficult to tell with Jackson where he was being honest or where the alcohol or pills were talking. And Bailey doesn't help by referring often to Jackson's talks at meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, as though Jackson were some kind of representative of that group when the whole point of the second word in that group's name is to avoid the kind of notoriety this biography brings to Jackson's failure to follow the tenets the group stands for.

But despite the repetitive highs and lows of what turns out to have been also undiagnosed bipolar disorder, as well as periods of drunkeness followed by periods of sobriety, and the illusion that Jackson can only write when popping pills, a dangerous assumption on Bailey's part based on not necessarily corroborated factual evidence but more on the kind of anecdotal evidence that contributes to the myth of creative people needing artificial stimulation to do their work, or alcoholics and addicts using it as an excuse for their drinking and drugging etc.—despite all that, the story is still fascinating, at least to me, how an upstate New York provincial closeted gay alcoholic became a world traveler (for treatment of his tuberculosis) before he became world famous (for THE LOST WEEKEND) before he became a figure in Hollywood and Manhattan celebrity culture, before he became a Liberace like Hotel Chelsea character...

Like I said, despite this biography's shortcomings I found it compelling. You might too.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Maybe it's just me, but this opening to the Tony Awards last night struck me as the best ever, and Neil Patrick Harris as the best ever host. Hey, you don't have to be a lover of Broadway to enjoy the sh*t out of this (and you gotta watch it to the end, then tell me Neil Patrick Harris isn't feckin' brilliant, even if you don't get all the jokes just imagine trying to duplicate what he pulls off in eight minutes LIVE ON STAGE WHILE STILL PLAYING TO TV CAMERAS!):

Sunday, June 9, 2013


I didn't see this when it first was broadcast (thanks to Jaina and others for sharing it on Facebook) but it certainly reveals a lot (especially the last short bit with the third "thief")

Saturday, June 8, 2013


I missed this documentary when it came out last year, though everyone I knew who saw it urged me to get to it. I read reviews and articles about the story so knew what to expect, I thought, when I finally caught it on cable tonight. A singer-songwriter from the late 1960s and early 1970s who called himself simply Rodriguez, and whose records never sold, went back to the life of basically a day laborer, hard manual work, to support his three daughters, unaware that meanwhile his records have made him more popular, famous, and adored in South Africa—and a few other African countries as well as Australia and New Zealand—than Elvis, Dylan, and The Rolling Stones!

But I still wasn't prepared, obviously, as the story, especially the testimony of his daughters and co-workers, let alone the South African fans who searched for some closure to this revered figure who was thought to have died and discovered him alive and unhonored in his own country, because I shed more than a few tears watching it. Not because of the rediscovery of, and appreciation for, his musical importance, but because of his amazingly humble and deeply profound commitment to live a simple life of service to others.

Saintly figures are not entirely unusual in the music business—Eric Dolphy and Coltrane in his later years are two examples—but rarely do they disappear into "obscurity" (in quotes because that's only from the music public's point of view not the reality of the importance of each of us to the people who know and care about us) to be rediscovered decades later and have an Oscar winning documentary made about them.


It's late and I'm tired but from a full evening that included a late dinner with two good friends and catching the music of a band, Sea of Otters, that the two sons of two of my late cousins (one passed a few years ago, the other several decades ago, but both cousins I was close to growing up) front.

Nothing better, or not much, than hanging with good friends swapping stories, eating good food and then catching some live music by people you care for. Sweet night. May they all be.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Hectic couple of days, but tonight had a chance to attend most of a memorial for poet and friend Anselm Hollo and got to hear great tributes from his first wife Josie, who I hadn't seen in many decades, and his second and last wife and caretaker to the end, Jane, and Anselm's and my good friend, poet Simon Pettet, as well as other friends like Bill Berkson. [And earlier seeing poet and old friend John Godfrey, etc. a full evening.]

I had to leave to get back to Jersey, exhausted from a few days of challenges, but it was great to see the memorial at The Poetry Project at St. Mark's crowded with old friends of Anselm's or ex-students of his, as well as just plain fans.

A lot of what was great about him was mentioned, but the best thing about a friend who leaves the legacy of his books behind is you get to hear his words transmitted through your own mind's voice anytime you read in one of them. I have book shelves full of the voices of old friends. How lucky.

Monday, June 3, 2013


Thanks to Rob Fife for hipping me to this through a Facebook post. Not only do you get to watch Miles and Trane at their best (not to mention Paul Chambers lead in and exit—wish he'd had a long solo too though) but on a composition and arrangement that tops any soundtrack of my life. [And if the date is correct on the video this was shot at the time of the original recording!]

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Here are two of my favorite snapshots from my Hollywood years, as I like to call the almost two decades I lived in Santa Monica and worked in movies and on TV. In the first (taken in 1983) my hair looks kind of goofy and in the second (I'd guess taken around 1993) my expression does, but both of these women look as beautiful as I found them to be in person. I felt lucky to know them.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


I met jean Stapleton once, in the summer of 1972, in a summer stock theater she ran with her husband in Pennsylvania. She had become famous the year before for her role as Edith in ALL IN THE FAMILY, which I had seen a few times so had an idea who she was. Len Randolph, who ran The national Endowment for The Arts had brought me to see her in a play at the theater because he was an old friend of Jean's and wanted us to meet.

She was as delightful as you can imagine and, of course, not much like the character she became famous for. I found her to be very smart, thoughtful, warm and curious. We ended up having an intimate conversation off by ourselves after the party wound down. She invited me to come back and see her anytime that summer, but I didn't get the chance to. For all I know she may have been as generous with her time with everyone she met and invited them to visit too, but it felt personal and heartfelt and I was very grateful for her attention and kindness.

How happy I am that she had such a long and full life, and how lucky I feel to have been a part of it if only for an evening.