Friday, November 01, 2002

Just got off the phone with my mother. She is hard of hearing so I let her do the talking instead of yelling to get her to understand me. But tonight she took her hearing aid out and suprise, she could hear me all right. Poor Ma, she's got hearing problems and now her sight is going with some unidentified skin problem around her eyes. She is dermatologically cursed and has passed on the curse to me. All her travails await me down the tunnel of years.
Mom said she had a good time visiting my sister Carol in Houston. Carol's getting a divorce from her yuppie wanna-be cheating bastard husband, who I pegged as an asshole early because he plays golf and was in a fraternity in college. Never could stand frat boys. They reek of privilege and obviousness. And that's Steve, I guess. I don't really know him, and guess I never will. Don't really know Carol for that matter. She's a very private person. And a Yuppie, too, but I won't hold it against her. Every family's got to have one.
Okay, I'll play this cruel, peg in hole game. My siblings in a nutshell. Mike -- Misfit; Carol -- Yuppie; Bob -- Follower; Ken -- Playboy; Greg -- Hippie. These words do nothing to describe the real people behind them, but does get to the essence of our characters. I genuinely like my siblings. They are all well-mannered, even Mike, painfully honest though he is.
Last night I went to the Divine Cup for the first time. The interior all 60s art-deco, soft pecan wood finish behind the coffee bar, metal hand railing, inlaid colored marble floor, rugs, vinyl cushion seats, coffee tables. Halloween night and there are a lot of young people around because this place doesn't serve alcohol, it being associated with the Salvation Army although not overtly religious. And I sit there people watching, alone. Esther dropped me off and went back homeward to do laundry. Agreed to meet me there or at the Irish Rose later. But here at the Divine Cup there is nobody reading poetry, but I spy the stool and microphone stand. Ask the coffee guy, what up with the open mic? He said nobody showed up to participate. Well, I'm here, I say. Can I just go do my thing? He clicks a button and I'm live. Got the bass voice booming. A brief introduction and it's off to the poems. I read four of 'em, including a Halloween poem I just wrote.
Friendly applause when I'm done and I go sit back down. A group of teenagers, one of only two groups of people in da whole place, come over and we rap. There's two Sarahs, one dressed as a prom queen, the other as a ballerina, an effeminate dude, Gabriel, who wants to move to New York and be a fashion designer. He did an expert sewing job on the bodice that one of the Sarahs is wearing. And I ask them about their dreams and hopes and future plans. And they show me their photo albums, some very artsy cool gothic/victorian, basic, but full of promise and attention to detail. I was impressed. But so strange to be the wise old sage. They hung on my every word. My poetry gained me entry into their younger world. And their kindness puts a lift in my step when I leave for the Rose.
Susan's working when I arrive, and I sit at the bar. Guy sitting next to me, Mike, turns out he is here to take over the family business, Dean's Foods. Came from Fort Myers, Fla. Wealth, real estate. Dad died Wednesday. Heart attack age 61. Mike's really bummed and I listen to him talk about how close he was to his dad because of the business, dad was his best friend in high school...etc. He buys me a beer. Then Esther shows up and he disappears. Leaves a barely sipped on beer. Gone, like that. Like his Dad. And we are connected by the business. Many childhood memories of going to Dean's Food with my mother to pick up wholesale foods for her catering business and restaurant. Now that business is his. He's slightly overweight, scar on chin, straight-laced, gold-band watch, single man, but sad about dad. Glad I watched the World Series with my old man. You just never know.
Inevitably, Shawn Robinson shows up. And he's with his friend, Dave. Dave sells cars at Napleton's Autowerks, where we bought our Honda Civic. He tells us the old man, Richard, who sold us our car, got fired because he beat up another salesman. Kicked his ass. Quite impressive, Dave said, for an old man. And a pastor at that, speaking about loving God and all that. Guess he got all Old Testament fire and brimstone on that salesman.
But Dave starts talking about this new $45,000 death box convertible he bought two days ago, and how he will only drive it on the weekends. And tells about his trips around the world this year: Russia, Sweden, Finland, etc. The whole tour bit. Got pulled up onstage at a Russian folk festival. The white boy dance in front of thousands. Then when he's got to pay for his beer he gets outraged when he discovers it's $5.65 for a Bass draft. And I agree that's expense, but caveat emptor. But he goes on and on about it. Embarrassing. Typical money-centric mindset. Guess that's how you acquire wealth, with such nitpicking. And I think about the Dean's Food mogul clutching his chest and slumping over. All that unspent dough. All that industry and acquisition and effort. For what? Too much hassle. Look what it leads to. Worry and gray hairs and this false sense of control over fate and your own little corner of existence. Money is false conceit.
The last couple days I've worked as a substitute teacher at Kishwaukee Elementary School. Enjoyed my stint as a gym teacher, kick ball and the Darwinian rules of the playground, passivity and aggression. The PE teacher's office is hot, and there's a coil water heater tied to the ceiling, iron and painted silver, all filigreed, and I can feel the heat of it radiating down to the top of my head. Beautiful old school. All dark-stained wood and polished tile floors. Well kept up in its old age. Brick and asphalt. A beacon surrounded by squalor. And so refreshing to be around the honest beautiful children. Just let the kindergarten and first grade classes go nuts with a variety of toys -- bouncy balls, jump ropes, the ring with a ball tied to a string that you swing around your ankle, rollers, cup stilts, styrofoam stilts, red dodge balls, basketballs, hula hoops. Craziness, chaos, in half hour segments. But for the most part kids are well-behaved. Third and fourth graders played kickball. Another case of chaos barely contained. Difficult to get outs, so I counted out 10 kickers before making 'em switch. Didn't keep score. Would have been too hard to keep track.
And tonight is Friday, usually a good time go out and get wild kind of night. But my early aerobic 5:40 a.m. rise and work crew leader tomorrow morning keep the debauch at bay. Maybe tomorrow night. I've drank beer this week, but never more than two at a time. Might slam 4-5-6 tomorrow. We'll see. I'm not so much the partier as I enter the respectable 30s.
Been a good week. Steady work, except for Tuesday, two open stages (one sucky, one good) and a poetry reading. Spreading the word. Spreading the love. Feeding ego and love of performance, even if venues are insignificant and applause can be measured by single clap noises. Every avalanche starts with a single flake.

Here's my journal entry from Halloween night:

For the last couple days I have substitute taught physical education at old brick Kishwaukee Elementary School in south Rockford near downtown, two blocks away from an eyesore public housing tract. Some of the classes are entirely asian, Thai, I think, because the secretary in the front office has a Thai-English dictionary on her desk.

I like this age group. They call me Mr. G. I try to smile and not be too much of a hardass. There's a whistle hanging on the light switch in the regular teacher's office. I leave it, as much for the cootie factor as I hate being martial. I'm subbing for another dago, Mr. Pirrello.

Today is Halloween and the kiddies are all full of mischief and energy. Instead of trying to orderly corral them into any organized activity I give them free reign and just hand out big blue bouncy balls, four-wheeled rollers, hula hoops, basketballs, jump rope and these styrofoam stilt thingies. Keep the peace, deflect queries to go get a drink or the bathroom, crying children he hit me with the basketball Mr. G!!!

The afternoon was easy as the last two classes I was supposed to teach didn't show up because of a Halloween party. The entire school body, some 300 students, paraded around the school yard. The yard bordered by a tall fence and on the other side dilapidated housing, dark windows, tall weeds. Leading the students is a tall, spooky rubber-masked satan in crimson garb, scared even me.

On yet another co-opted pagan holiday
in this lit age where no one knows the cycle of the moon
I think about what really scares me
that old surety, death, yeah
but not satan who is too familiar
and certainly not the silent dead
becoming dirt
it's no fun being a naturalist
where all is reduced to its role
in the food chain
and mysticism, mystery, religions
are explained away by tight
superior sociological theorems
And that's what scares me
these mad machine scientists
prometheus unbound
palm pilots and cell phones
complexity for its own sake
cold tile bleached walls
covering the smell of death
with oil and formaldehyde
give me covens, demons
midnight seances
blasphemous utterances
werewolves, vampires
cobwebs and mildew
Much prefer superstitions
of the fearful conscious torch-carrying villagers
than the blind cold fury
of this rational, capital age



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