Saturday, October 26, 2013

some words in recollection of Rich Guenette

some words in honor of the memory of our pal Rich Guenette -

tho lumpy and inadequate, this is what I read at the gathering in Northampton on 20 Oct. '13...


Evidently we’d taken the wrong class...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


The smoky candle end of time
declines. On the Rialto once.
With Lupe Velez. Prepared the crime.
But Irving's valet was no dunce.

Had seen Tirolean dances there
before. And though she was no whore.
Perhaps was hired by the state.
Yet would not scare. And knew no fate.

Time's thick castles ascend in piles,
the witnesses to countless mobs.
Each with intentions, torches, throbs.
Bequeath the coming dawn their wiles.

Yet Irving was not meant for this.
He books the first flight to the States.
He suffers to receive Lupe's kiss.
While all around the chorus prates.

There's something does not love a mime.
Tirolean castles built to scale.
There was a mob. There is no crime.
These modernisms sometimes fail.

T.S. Eliot with a Baedeker

T.S. Eliot's famous poem Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar is a kind of fantasy, a hallucinated joke, at the expense of everyone. The plot of the poem is deceptively simple and clear. A Burbank--on holiday in Venice--takes up with a Princess Volupine--in a romantic episode on a "shuttered barge" that "burned on the water all the day." Even the boatman smiles to see her. Meanwhile, the Chicago Jew Bleistein takes it easy in Venice. The great episodes of diurnal history are erased. Burbank thinks: "Money in furs." Men are willing to pay a lot to keep women; it is a lucrative market for the fur dealers--here, presumably Bleistein. Then--just as suddenly--Princess Volupine is entertaining another admirer, Sir Ferdinand Klein, presumably another Jew, an English Jew, and Burbank is out. The punchline of the joke comes in these lines:

Klein. Who clipped the lion's wings
And flea'd his rump and pared his claws?
Thought Burbank . . .

This has two meanings: 1. Women have men whipped, and are the motivation for their grooming themselves for the game, and competing with each other, and 2. The rich Jewish merchants have beaten the English, as the Rothschilds did when Britain turned to their financial assistance as a last resort: this extends even to their being knighted and monopolizing beautiful women. Burbank would seem to be English. Like a good Jewish joke, the joke is on the Jews, on the English, on the Americans, on men, and on women, all at once, with the poem's greatest animus being reserved for a sexual resentment directed towards women. This is not inconsistent with the seeming misogyny of a number of Eliot's poems from this period. Burbank "meditating on Time's ruins" is on one level reflecting on losing Princess Volupine so abruptly. I've forgotten what "the seven laws" alludes to. I make no attempt here to explicate the local details of the poem. The sexual metaphor of the horses that "Beat up the dawn from Istria / With even feet". The reference to Cleopatra. The juxtaposition of classical beauty with modern decrepidness. The jazzy demeanor of Bleistein. The "protozoic slime" which represents Bleistein's location in sensibility, and the primitive origins of mankind. The reference to all that is lost to history, and the way in which such a loss relates to the primitive origins of mankind. The poem is a sort of academic joke, that takes things as they appear to be, without taking sides, except in a generally distributed animus towards life in general. Or so it strikes me. The joke appears to be largely built on the deceptive blaming of Jews, which is only then abruptly disintegrated--or diffused--into an even greater animus towards women. But it is Burbank's meditation. A little hallucinated drama played out in his mind. Such beauty as the poem possesses is contained in the exquisiteness of its form, its perfect demonstration of the art of joke telling in a lyric form. In the fine suggestiveness of certain details and the evocative simplicity of their statement. And in such truths as are inexecrably contained therein. The ugliness of such truths is merely pondered, and not so much as judged quite. At least the poem wears gloves.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Inman Square Stroll By.

I've been a denizen here now for as long as anywhere in Cambridge that I could call home.

It is a strange vain place, a kind of stage within stage for various flavors of yuppies to have their various mating and conspicuous consumption rituals. And, beyond the hardware store and a few other improbable practical things it has devolved into fluff. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Billy Ruane

On the night it became known, my phone went nuts at around 9pm. "The Phoenix is reporting that Billy Ruane died...." The news moved through the system very fast. 

And I flashed to one of our last face to face moments. He stopped by the gallery to give everyone food and make arrangements to get a disc of the night's concert with Junko Simons. My mission was to get it to him. We talked about getting old and he gave me an excited description of his disagreement with his physician about the meaning of blood pressure data and what was more important, with him insisting the opposite of conventional medicine's outlook was true. I had a feeling this would be a problem, in the back of my mind, but also thought, maybe he's right. 

He wasn't and now he's gone. Billy loved his salt and his fatty stuff and had gained more weight than his short frame really wanted to handle. And he had three flights of stairs to traverse. I oughta know, I lived there myself. He also loved caffeine. Not coffee, no, his Eucharist was Vivarin and he was despondent when it was discontinued as No Doz would not do. 

One of my regular chores as his sidekick was to do vivarin runs to 7/11. I imagine whatever substitute he found..,red bull?? counter nostrums?, was the detonator in the ticking bomb of his poor old heart. I assumed he was sturdier.

He wasn't and now he's gone.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Swing Circa 1857, Jazz Robespierres and Boston’s Undiscovered Wax

a very nice posting from my pal Andrew Sammutt's jazz blog Clefpalette, highlighting my jazz record memoir for the Battersea Review, linked within.

Swing Circa 1857, Jazz Robespierres and Boston’s Undiscovered Wax

I got to know Rob Chalfen through his work directing Outpost 186, an intimate space for progressive jazz in the Boston metro area, and through conversations about early jazz where his knowledge and insights never degenerate into dry encylopedism. It should also be mentioned that the recordings of WC Handy and World War I Puerto Rican municipal bands never sounded better than coming out of his turntable and speakers.

The impresario, record collector and audiophile shared some of his memories and a few war stories from a fifty-year love affair with jazz online at The Battersea Review. From childhood discovery to the tireless stone turning, with side trips through the civil rights movement and the elitist phase we all go through, Chalfen wittily and warmly describes how music and life don’t just intersect but grow from one another. Enjoy.

Rob Chalfen in Boston003 copy copy

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Old Yiddish Curses (via Jonathan Scheuer)

Old Yiddish Curses

Eyn imglik iz far im veynik. One misfortune is too few for him.

Shteyner zol zi hobn, nit kayn kinder. She should have stones and not children.

 Azoy fil ritzinoyl zol er oystrinkn. He should drink too much castor oil.

 Oyf doktoyrim zol er dos avekgebn. He should give it all away to doctors.

Zol er krenken un gedenken. Let him suffer and remember.

 Zalts im in di oygen, feffer im in di noz. Throw salt in his eyes, pepper in his nose.

 Shteyner af zayne beyner. Stones on his bones.

Trinkn zoln im piavkes. Leeches should drink him dry.

Lakhn zol er mit yashtherkes. He should laugh with lizards.

A hiltsener tsung zol er bakumn. He should grow a wooden tongue.

 Krugn zol er di (town name here) brokh. He should get the (town name here) hernia.

Fransn zol esn zayn layb. Venereal disease should consume his body.

Farshporn zol er oyf(tsu)shteyn? Why bother getting up alive?

Er zol kakn mit blit un mit ayter. He should crap blood and pus.

A kramp (a kram, a kortsh) im in layb (in boyakh, in di kishkes, in di gederem, in
di finger).
A cramp in his body (in his stomach, in his guts, in his bowels, in his fingers and toes).

Meshuga zol er vern un arumloyfn (iber di gasn). He should go nuts and run around (through the streets).

Vi tsu derleb ikh im shoyn tsu bagrobn. I should outlive him long enough to bury him.

Got zol im bentshn mit dray mentshn: eyner zol im haltn, der tsveyter zol im shpaltn un der driter zol im ba'haltn. God should bless him with three people: one should grab him, the second should stab him and the third should hide him.

A groys gesheft zol er hobn mit shroyre: vus er hot, zol men bay im nit fregn, un vos men fregt zol er nisht hobn. He should have a large store, and whatever people ask for he shouldn't have, and what he does have shouldn't be requested.

 Ale tsores vos ikh hob oyf mayn hartsn, zoln oysgeyn tsu zayn kop. All problems I have in my heart, should go to his head.

 A meshugener zol men oyshraybn, un im araynshraybn. They should free a madman, and lock him up.

Es zol dir dunern in boykh, vestu meyen az s'iz a homon klaper. Your stomach will rumble so badly, you'll think it was Purim noisemaker.

Migulgl zol er vern in a henglayhter, by tog zol er hengen, un bay nakht zoler brenen. He should be transformed into a chandelier, to hang by day and to burn by night.

Ale tseyn zoln bay im aroysfaln, not eyner zol im blaybn oyf tsonveytung. All his teeth should fall out except one to make him suffer.

 Hindert hayzer zol er hobn, in yeder hoyz a hindert tsimern, in yeder tsimer tsvonsik betn un kadukhes zol im varfn fin eyn bet in der tsveyter. A hundred houses shall he have, in every house a hundred rooms and in every room twenty beds, and a delirious fever should drive him from bed to bed.

Vifil yor er iz gegangn oyf di fis zol er geyn af di hent un di iberike zol er zikh sharn oyf di hintn.
As many years as he's walked on his feet, let him walk on his hands, and for the rest of the time he should crawl
along on his ass.

 Zol es im onkumn vos ikh vintsh im (khotsh a helft, khotsh halb, khotsh a tsent kheylik). Let what I wish on him come true (most, even half, even just 10%).

 In di zumerdike teg zol er zitsn shive, un in di vinterdike nekht zikh raysn af di tseyn. On summer days he should mourn, and on wintry nights, he should torture himself.

Finstere leyd zol nor di mama oyf im zen. Black sorrow is all that his mother should see of him.

Oyskrenkn zol er dus mame's milakh. He should get so sick as to cough up his mother's milk.

Gut zol oyf im onshikn fin di tsen makes di beste. God should visit upon him the best of the Ten Plagues.

Er zol altsting zen, un nit hobn farvos (mit vos) tsu koyfn. He should see everything, but have no reason (with what) to buy it.

Khasene hobn zol er mit di malekh hamoves tokhter. He should marry the daughter of the Angel of Death.

Tsen shifn mit gold zol er farmorgn, un dos gantse gelt zol er farkrenkn. Ten ships of gold should be his and the money should only make him sick.

 Zayn mazl zol im layhtn vi di levone in sof khoydesh.
His luck should be as bright as a new moon.

 Er zol hobn paroys makes bashotn mit oybes krets. He should have Pharaoh's plagues sprinkled with Job's scabies.

 Heng dikh oyf a tsikershtrikl vestu hobn a zisn toyt. Hang yourself with a sugar rope and you'll have a sweet death.

 Me ois vaxen svi a tsibele miten cup in vant. You should grow like an onion with your head in the ground.