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Posts Tagged ‘Kent Ohio’

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my trusty Kent black squirrel sticker, one of the best charms a girl pushing 50 can have on her mini-van’s backside

Long ago, after giving a friend of mine a massage, I asked how she felt and she said “Are you kidding? I feel like a million bucks!” This was the way she talked.

Feeling like a million bucks is not a phrase in my vernacular, but today I took my 2000 Toyota mini-van, all 163,000 miles of it, to get its state inspection. You know it failed inspection 2 years in-a-row, right?

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the “ass” of my car

My daughter fastened all the seat belts before I dropped her off at school, a good omen.

At 8:15 this morning, the second-to-the-last day of the month, I pulled into the Sunoco station on Route 9, handed over my registration and 29 dollars to the grizzled but friendly mechanic, and parked my ass in the dingy, fume-y, dusty “waiting room,” chatting up a plumber and the woman behind the cash register. With baited breath (at least mentally baited breath), I bided my time. The car passed inspection.

I usually don’t have to leave the house for whole days at a time. I don’t drive my kids to school but once or twice a season. But today, I actually got dressed. I pulled on my skinniest jeans, by which I mean, they are not skinny jeans, but they are the only pair that may make my ass appear with some semblance of youth and dignity, by which I mean, they are snug and tight with just the right amount of stretch to make sure all loose flesh is tautened into a neat package. It’s not like I’m going to turn heads, but I felt like I was turning heads as I slid on the icy lot walking away from the Sunoco waiting room back to my car. I am sure heads were turning because of my faux-skating and not my ass.

These days, the car is missing portions of its hubcaps. It has no handle on the rear passenger side door. One of the sliding doors no longer latches, making it slide closed when parked on a hill. The windows make a slow grinding sound on raising and lowering, in protest of having to work so hard. The inside backseat air vents are missing their louvered covers. Only half of the dashboard lights up. The heating makes a whistling sound when it’s on full blast. But Fucking A. My husband presented me with this car in July, 2000, just weeks before we relocated our entire life to Western Massachusetts.

It’s falling apart, it doesn’t get the best mileage. It’s beaten and banged and bruised. But it’s mine. I drove away from the Sunoco feeling like a million bucks.

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my min-van, not a metaphor for my bodily state or anything

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It pains me to say it. It could be un-PC. It could alienate me from some in the local poetry community. I might look bad. The doorkeepers who are published could shun me from their presses. Really, who reads my blog anyway? I am fairly sure this won’t reach the eyes of the poets involved in a recent reading I attended at The Elevens. But you never know. Maybe part of me hopes it does. Maybe some of the people who’ve been running things around here need to hear from some of the young upstarts (writing poetry since I was a child, am I an upstart?).

For a few months, I have been trying to learn more about my writing as well as the local poetry scene by attending local readings, ones in which others read their work as well as some open mics. Some of the formats include both—featured poets and an open mic.

I went to one last-Sunday-of-the-month Esselon reading in May, the first time I had read my work out loud since I was in my 20s.

Let’s start there, my 20s. My younger self. My scared self. My virgin reading voice. My childless womb. My full blood and tits and ass. My eyes. My hair. My voice that cracked. My hands that shook as I held the pages. Me, pre-Alexander Technique training, pre-marriage, pre-motherhood, pre-peri-menopause, pre-sobriety, pre-I lead a helluva lot of Shape Note songs on Tuesday nights in Northampton. Pre-me coming into my full power. Yes. Me, easy to give a push to and I’d fall over.

Sunday afternoon/evening, August 26, was the monthly last-Sunday Esselon reading, except that this reading was moved from Esselon to The Elevens. Confused yet? Okay, not such a big deal, a change of venue to a better space and time is probably just what the doctor ordered.

Let’s go back again to me in my 20s. Kent, Ohio. Brady’s Cafe. JB’s Down. Outdoors, walking around, a poem per outdoor spot. Fred Fuller Park. The Cuyahoga River. Coventry. Drinking. Cleveland Heights. Poets who are now dead. Obnoxious poets who drank too much. Bars bars bars. Men Men Men. A few women. Some lesbians. Me, shaking scared unsure. Bad poets. Good poets. All poets influenced by The Beats, no doubt about it. My boyfriends. My mentors. My friends. My dying father. My dead father. Intimidating men. Children running around. A child I loved and my best friend, her mother. All of that informs me today and all of it informs what I know to be right about poetry readings. These were my people.

But not really. Just part of me belonged. Still, I understood what worked and I got what I know to be right about poetry readings.

RULE NUMBER ONE: If you are one of the readers, do your damnedest to stay and hear everyone read. IF YOU ARE A FEATURED READER, this goes double, maybe even triple. Maybe even to infinity. If you can’t stay, let the people around you know. Be kind. Be courteous. Be respectful. This is not about you. This is about Poetry and every person striving to share their voice after they just sat and listened to yours.

RULE NUMBER TWO: If you announce, online (or anywhere, really) the amount of time the reading will last and how long each open mic poet gets to read, don’t change it when the poets show up. In good faith, they have put their trust in you. In good faith, they expect you, their leader and the organizer, to hold them. When you say 5-7 pm reading, 5 minute-limit for the open mic, stick to it. Do not change the time to a 3-minute, 2-poem limit because you want to be at another reading and you assume all attendees will want to be there, too. Don’t presume to read your own work if you’ve already cut everyone’s time short. You invited us. Keep the table set until everybody has gotten their portion and be sure you stay to clear the table. Kiss some ass because we just kissed yours.

Oh, also, if a reading is in a bar and you are ordering a drink? Make sure that you aren’t cutting in front of your confreres who’ve been waiting in line longer than you. Capiche? This is really the definition of Bad Form and it’s extra bad form if it is your reading series. The host or hostess drinks last.

RULE NUMBER THREE: Know each poet’s name who you are introducing. Use BOTH first and last names so the listeners can catch who the hell they are listening to. If this is your reading series and it’s time for the open mic and every featured reader was not only introduced by first and last name but also their introduction included a short bio which mentioned their published works and publishing houses as well as the fact that they have books for sale, don’t screw this part up. Naming is what poets do. Show some understanding of this.

Needless to say, I shant be attending the last Sunday Elevens readings any more.

I do like the once-a-month Tuesday Straw Dog Writers Guild readings that are held at the Elevens, at least the 2 I’ve attended.

I have been to one last-Friday-of-the-month reading at Rao’s in Amherst and I will be attending it again this coming Friday. (Spoiler Alert: I will be a featured reader (SAVE THE DATE!) in September).

I just found another poetry series which happens every Friday night, 5:30-7:30, at The Thirsty Mind in South Hadley. Can’t wait to check that out.

Of course, there’s the every Tuesday night reading series at Hinge in Northampton, but as this is my yoga and Sacred Harp singing night, it’s unlikely I will make it often. Still, I hope to clear some Tuesday evening in the near future to check it out.

This sort of leaves Mondays and Wednesdays and Thursdays and Saturdays and about a hundred other venues in the Valley for me to fill with a reading of my own devising. Just like it’s high time I start my own writing workshop. You know how it is, you who flounder to be heard and seen and to define yourself both inside and against the tide.

You remember my bike n bitch tenet that there are no bad rides? Well, guess what? There are bad poetry readings.

Since the post is void of photos and is dry and boring and I know already too long, here I am. Giving the finger. Kiss my ass muthafuckacocksucka. Oh yeah.

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These last few weeks have been no exception to a sea of changes that seemed to coincide with the start of my blog, January 01, 2011.

You may recall that my youngest graduated from the 8th Grade less than 2 weeks ago. You may recall that I am peri-menopausal, if not outright menopausal (don’t hold your breath, you have to go a WHOLE YEAR without a period before you are considered good enough to be fully old, crone-like, ancient menopausal). You may remember that we had 2 cats get killed within 6 months of each other. You may also remember that Hubby and I celebrated 21 years of marriage recently.

Completing 8th Grade in a Waldorf school is a BIG DEAL, I have stated before. I mean to write a nice, long, lovely post about this, but in some way I am uninspired.

To be honest, as yours truly is want to be, 20 years, and now 21 years of marriage, has been a monumental time of change for me and Hubby. We have always striven to make our relationship better and stronger, to dig deep in when things haven’t worked, but some remnants of old stuff have been getting in the way so Hubby and I find ourselves delving again, deeply and fundamentally. Why do I tell this here? For one, it’s a cultural taboo to talk about these things, at least until you’ve earned about 40 or 50 years in. Then, everyone is all ears about how do you make a marriage work and how did you do it and what is your best advice to young newlyweds.

Sometimes I think my poetry has dried up, but it’s not true, I write quite a bit. Sometimes I think I’m a bad mom. Sometimes I think that the garlic scape growing out of the compost bin is the loveliest thing in my life. Not only because garlic scapes are beautiful curled green things, but because there’s some accident there—I did not plant garlic in my compost bin.

I want to post poems here, I want to save them, I want to gnash my teeth. I want to scream at the poetry that gets published in respectable journals, I want to shout fuck you to name-dropping authors who are full of themselves and whose essays barely touch the surface of human experience.

I wanted to tell you about the ladybug that hitched a ride on the top tube of my new bike yesterday, my virgin ride on it, how I felt blessed, but how I was just trying to find an excuse that the world makes sense.

I did want to share about my cracked rib, but I didn’t want to divulge how it happened. I told a few people as the subject came up, but I hemmed and hawed with most people who asked.

I am not shy, so let’s say it involved a massage table, which has a very hard surface after all, and let’s say it involved sex and let’s say I’m being honest.

My right side has been feeling pained, deep intense pain like when you get the wind knocked out of you.

the solar plexus

When I was a little girl, in preschool or maybe kindergarten, at the little private school I attended for kids with high IQs in a suburb of Detroit, I remember getting the wind knocked out of me and going to see the nurse. Her name was Mim, we called her that at least, and I remember a white nurse’s hat and pink stripes, maybe even white shoes; somehow I associate her with the color pink. I loved her. I remember a stick of ammonia, smelling salts. I remember lying down in the nurse’s room more than once. How much I loved her and now, when I think of that time, how small I see myself, tiny and sad of heart.

I will write again. I will post poems, but maybe not my latest poems. I will save them for the waters or maybe for paper.

Sometimes poems reveal things and sometimes poems hide things and sometimes the time for either has not yet come.

This is me, one of the first photos I ever took of myself in a mirror (I found another one from earlier, when I still lived in the dorms at Kent State). This photo is from October, 1983, in a house I rented with 4 other people, Lake Street, Kent, Ohio. We found out my father had cancer in August 1983. One of many beginnings of growing up too soon and also one of many times when I wasn’t ready to let go of that tiny girl inside.

Remember to pay attention. You might miss something otherwise.

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In 1983, I was a sophomore living in the dorms at Kent State University.

Some time that year, we got the diagnosis that my father had colon cancer. Now that I come to write about it, I realize I don’t have many details. He had surgery to remove part of the colon and when they opened him up, they found that the cancer had metastasized to the liver.

My parents were living in Sylvania, Ohio at the time.

Some time in 1984 or ’85. Our good family friends in Southfield, Michigan, lent me a giant, dark-green Ford so that I could commute back and forth from Kent to Toledo while my father was dying. I spent the summer drunk, screwing a number of non-boyfriends, dancing to reggae bands upstairs at Mother’s Junction (above Ray’s), and going to see the Numbers Band at JB’s down.

I can’t remember what job I held. I do remember the heart-wrenching misery of driving to Toledo every Friday night and returning every Sunday. The long dark road, I-80, where deer/car collisions were a regular occurrence and the tail-end of the Appalachian range flattened completely by the time you’d reach Northwest Ohio. Some damn ugly land. I remember how everything in me screamed not to go. If I didn’t go home, would he not die?

Richfield, Ohio, Kita Lyons’ property. I had written in my book that this is July 13, 1985, 2 days shy of my 23rd birthday. One of the necklaces I’m wearing belonged to my Tante Nelli, but she died in May 1986. I wonder if she gave me some jewelry earlier than I remember.

My father died in August 1985.

I decided to make my pilgrimage the following year. My mother bought me a used, silver Toyota Corolla/Tercel, a model that they made for only a short time. I think it cost 4 thousand bucks. I have no memory of how many miles it had on it. I do remember going to someone’s house to check out the car, how their driveway looked, dark black asphalt. I would pay my mother back from my aunt’s estate when I received that money. My father’s only living sister, Nelli Landau. She died 9 months after him. I know it was a broken heart, for she loved my father and had no husband or children of her own.

I decided first to drive east. I would be staying mostly in youth hostels, but also had a few connections to stay with people I’d never met. Friends of friends. I miss that spirit. I miss it.

I am not sure any more all of the places I stopped. Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where I stayed in a governor’s mansion because my friend’s friends were the caretakers. The wife was a New England blue blood, going back several generations. She was a fiber artist, had a studio set up in the house.

They steamed mussels we picked up fresh from a little fish shack in town. I’d never eaten mussels before. I learned what a Widow’s Walk is. I toured the rose arbor in the back yard. The wife’s name was Sydney. This is how people name their children in New England.

One night, we drove past oceanfront mansions, stopped on the damp ocean beach, got high, and watched the sunset.

I next stopped in Cherryville, Maine, the famed place of an annual blueberry harvest which gathers hippies, loafers, stoners, and other back-to-nature types for seasonal farm work. Now I realize that there must be real migrant workers who go there, not just the educated white children of middle class families.

The hostel was really an old hippie commune. My first of so many things, again. I used an ATM machine in the quaint town. I got poison ivy (sumac?) on my legs. I stood in a circle with a couple dozen other people, stoned, holding hands, swaying, singing om om om. I learned what a Clivus is and determined that some day I would have one.

Maine, Bar Harbor, a little boat trip around some of the islands where I saw seals and puffins. The first time I heard the word shoal. Acadia where I walked on some barnacled rocks for a few hours, did nothing else, and left. I met a guy at the youth hostel. I remember eating a meal, walking around the town. Saying Bah Haba like the locals over and over, laughing, tschoke shops, lobster everything everywhere. I gave him a ride to the Greyhound station in Boston. A kiss in the rain. I didn’t even like him, but he was friendly. Dark hair, not too tall.

One very clear memory is of driving on the interstate in Massachusetts and the giant granite rocks on either side, with their trees and lichen, roots, gray and yellow stains. I think of it still when we go to Boston on I-90. I remember.

I started this post thinking about every car I’ve ever owned because my 2000 Toyota mini-van is up near 160K miles and creaky.

Let’s call this Installment One of Old Girl, the story of the first half of my cross-country trip after the death of my father.

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Hey, I’m not saying I like this, but I went to see them live a lot back in the day. The first video is kinda shaky to start, still good to see them looking good and playing after all these years.

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Butternut squash is an old staple crop here in the Valley, but in attempting to research it on the web, I couldn’t get a clear history (time to ply Farmer Dan for answers). Squash was part of a traditional Three Sisters garden. When my kids were each in 3rd Grade at their school, they planted a Three Sisters garden. Awesome.

You see field after field of butternut all along the Connecticut River. I know the pumpkin crop in New England was heavily damaged due to Hurricane Irene; I’m not as sure about the butternut squash. You see truckloads piled high traveling hither, thither, and yon on the roads around here. I haven’t really noticed this year.

It’s been damp and cloudy for days. I feel like I’m in Ohio except for those wild animals that were running around over there last week. Hubby and I discussed our memories, from about 20 years ago, of living in Kent and reading for weeks about someone in Rootstown who had a wild-animal farm where some little kid got attacked by a tiger. Claims of safety ensued, lawsuits and debates followed. At least I think it was Rootstown. Anybody else remember this?

In this week’s Thankful Thursday, I wrote about homemade veggie stock. I’m simply too lazy to write up a veggie stock prescription right now, but it would make logical sense to have your veggie stock ready before you cook this. Also, in keeping with being NON-CANDY-ASS, you’ll want to have soaked about a cup (or slightly less) of white beans the night before so they’re ready to go for adding to this soup.

Here comes a recipe for one of my favorite soups of all time. FAVORITE OF ALL TIME! That’s a bold statement:

Kale, Butternut Squash, and White Bean Soup                                                                                                                                     from Simple Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin

1/3 C olive oil
2 large onions, diced
10 C vegetable stock
1 C finely diced canned tomatoes, with liquid
2 tsp fresh rosemary (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced, appx 2 C
2 C cooked or canned white beans, well rinsed
1/2 lb. kale, shredded
grated parmagiano-reggiano

1. Heat oil in stockpot. Add onions and cook until tender.
2. Stir in stock, tomatoes, rosemary, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Add squash and simmer. Cook 30 minutes until squash is tender.
3. Add beans and kale, cook 15 minutes and serve with cheese.

NOTES: I make this soup in all manner of batches and sizes, usually doubling it or more. The quantities of ingredients are very forgiving. Sometimes I use fresh tomatoes to no detriment, or of course (NOT CANDY-ASS ALERT) the ones I’ve roasted and frozen from the summer crop. I also sometimes use spinach over kale. Just a softer texture, not so much for the flavor. It freezes well and is a great fall soup when the crops are all in. If I use fresh rosemary, I add it toward the end of cooking. I always use my own veggie stock which I highly recommend over store-bought or bouillon.

The recipe was given to me by an old Kent friend, Abby Greer. She made it at a Play Group Christmas Party in 1998. Warm memories and post-partum depression.

For musical accompaniment, you could play “Beautiful Soup” from some manifestation of Alice in Wonderland, the best one being Gene Wilder singing it from a somewhat charming 1990’s TV movie. Or you could listen to this which seems to fit my mood today and the weather we’ve had of late, even though the video was shot in the spring.

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I never knew who Leonard Cohen was until well after college and beyond, into the time after I became a massage therapist (the late ’80s). I have a strange memory of the song “Bird on a Wire” from my younger years. I definitely knew the song “Suzanne,” because I went to camp as a kid and the wanna-be hippie counselors were probably singing it on their hippie guitars around campfires. Or maybe I heard Judy Collins singing it on the radio, or both.

I had a massage client in Kent (Brady Lake, no less), and he used to give me cassette tapes, back in the day, of all sorts of music I hadn’t previously known. He turned me on to Leonard Cohen and I introduced him to Robyn Hitchcock and Tom Waits. He gave me Marianne Faithful and Ken Nordine and really every Leonard Cohen song that you couldn’t find any more on vinyl and that would never be released on CD (or so I thought in the early ’90s).

I think the song I’ve most listened to is “Famous Blue Raincoat.” I like how it’s in a minor key–it’s so fucking depressing–and then he switches to a major chord for the Jane came by with a lock of your hair line. For a tiny moment, he gives a respite. But not for long, plunging us into the depths again.

and you treated my woman to a flake of your life

Sweet Jesus, can you believe that line?

This is the one that I listened to over and over when he was new to me:

This whole post was inspired by my recent listening to “Hallelujah” for about the last 4 months.

When my kids were younger, we forbade them from using the word “awesome” because of its disgraceful misuse by the youth of today (well, by now, the youth of yesterday), but we finally caved because we are NOT word Nazis, dammit!

This is an awesome song, as bad as that adjective sounds when applied to anything of substance. It’s beautiful and rich and complex and deep and meaningful and I am in awe of it. I love it and I think I can sing it, too, but I have to read along because my capacity for actually remembering new lyrics has greatly diminished of late. Perhaps, too, I could use a good guitarist. Maybe someone cute, even beautiful and sexy, younger than me, but not too young. I would like the challenge of singing with a man playing a guitar, but I’d probably prefer a woman because, ultimately, things would be less subject to any confusion, you dig?

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A little late today….

I may have hinted at it and I may be repeating myself, but I am grateful for my family and home and for living in Western MA. Nothing like a trip, which included 700+ miles on the road and about 1000 miles in the air, to remind me of what I love and of my many blessings.

Back in Ohio, I was able to catch up with many friends who I hadn’t seen in a lot of years. I attended my 30-year HS reunion in Sylvania. It was strange and surreal and heartening and fun, a blast and really groovy overall.

Really grateful to be sober.

While in Kent, I visited my friend who owns and runs a frame shop. I bought a couple of black squirrel glasses, poked around her new space. Back in the day, I had many things framed by her (when I used to earn a buck and could afford it). She is the best framer I know and runs one of the best businesses in town. Unbeknownst to me, another friend of mine was cutting mats in the basement of the shop right then, so I got to see her as well. What a fabulous surprise.

I got to visit an old roomie of mine, finally see his house and meet his kids (though I met the oldest when she was a baby). He played the tabla for me right next to the newly-created pond that he built for his wife. It was all just so good.

I miss my old life because of those folks.

What else? I attended a wake, unplanned, that. I did get to see my friend from New Mexico who I hadn’t seen, we calculated, in about 17 years. Despite the circumstance, her mother’s death, it was great to be able to see her.

Back in Sylvania, I had the great fortune to stay and hang out with one of my oldest friends. I can’t put into words what that all meant to me. The overarching feelings are just these, gratitude and love.

You know Judy Collins’ does the Sandy Denny song “Who Knows Where the Time Goes,” right? You could play that right now. Or you could listen to this:

Lastly, and more fun than a barrel of monkeys, is that I got to do something I’d wanted to do since I turned 40 and that was a nude photo shoot. A friend of mine recently got a new camera and I volunteered to be a body for her. As it turned out, I wasn’t naked for a lot of it, and Kathy wisely brought some different draping fabrics. She is the professional after all.

This was another full-circle experience because this friend was an attendant and photographer (pre-digital!) at both of my daughters’ births. I am now at the other end of my fertility and she took photos of me again. It was a great experience–educational, fun, and empowering. Not as empowering as having a baby without drugs, but less painful and more fun. For the most part, I wasn’t even naked, just wrapped in gauzy Greek goddess fabrics.

Now go out and get to your next HS reunion and don’t be afraid of getting naked when you’re old! ‘Kay?


photo: ©kgfarthing2011

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