Friday, September 26, 2008

Obama Took It

I think McCain was bound and determined not to look at Obama and was tight and distanced.

But I really want Obama to convince the country that "smart" is good, and I think he might be too smart to be elected.

I wonder what everybody else is thinking.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Shaky Sunday at the Autumn Equinox

When in doubt, thrown in a sunset shot

Oh, lord, am I the only one who noticed Henry Paulson's left hand shaking as he was being fruitlessly grilled by George Stephanopolos? That crooked little finger, the hoarse voice, the slight shake (ominously, on the left side of his body) -- it's foreboding. My Friday giddiness has worn off along with the burnishing pleasures of the Verget du Sud, and today, vestigial remains of my Ohio Protestant childhood sweating out of my pores, I'm, like, PRAYING.

And what, exactly, WILL happen? Nobody -- Paulson, white coiffed Chris Dodd, scarily blue-eyed John Boehner -- nobody seems to know what, exactly, was said in that meeting where "all the oxygen left the room," as Dodd keeps saying. All the oxygen left the room? What does this mean?

Meanwhile, George W. Bush, who has essentially taken Rome down in the worst presidency of my lifetime, looks like a drowned rat, a whipped dog, in his brief pathetic appearances, limply whimpering, "it's gonna work." My interpretation of W's affect is: deeply depressed. Exhausted. Joi de vivre kaput. Hooverish, as others have said. Will he make it to Jan. 21 when he'll get to clear brush once again?

I take a long deep breath. Still oxygen in this room, at least for the time being. What could I live without? Is it time to buy a gun and a generator? What will happen to the birds? Will there still be poetry?

Perhaps elegy, cried out from the fetid ruins of Galveston, from the smoky remains of the Marriott in Islamabad, from the graves of the 62 U.S. military who have committed suicide so far this year.

I breathe again, grateful in the moment for whatever grace this Sunday morning affords: finding an old poem in a dusty folder, sipping a cup of strong English breakfast tea, a hot shower and a clean black teeshirt that says "art" in 40 languages.

Here's the poem I found, at least 15 years old:

In Autumn

This is a difficult season, dense
with hue. Is it true we have just
so many heartbeats? Profligate old
bootmaker, my heart pumps on,
ragged with hope and regret,
while the earth tries to settle,
all that rot a smile toward spring
all that sweet cessation and giving up.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Giddy Friday

I'm giddily happy tonight. My car has been in the garage, untouched, since a week ago, and I've walked to work every day this week -- five days, an hour each day, a half hour each way, in brilliant tangy autumn weather, my beloved black backpack secure against my body.

And it's possible that the country is not quite so mindlessly infatuated with Sarah Palin this week as last, and maybe I feel fizzy because of the huge financial crash we've seen happen this week -- it's like the way you feel after getting high on LSD and thinking you're never going to come down and then you wake up the next morning and everything is ultra-clear and daily life in all its ordinary beauty is a relief.

Here's Barbara Mikulski: " Democrats wear lipstick too, and we need somebody who gets it! We don't need George Bush in lipstick!" That image is making me giggle, but maybe that's because my system is flush with fresh-air endorphins and the two glasses of rose from the bottle I found in the refrigerator door (Verget du Sud, 2006) It's so funny because Barbara Mikulski doesn't really look like she wears lipstick, but God bless her! The Wall Street Journal (yes, the Wall Street Journal!) lambastes John McCain for his hot-headed call to fire Christopher Cox from the SEC. So I relax and play with my tiny zen garden (see photo above...for the record, the bottle is empty now.)

The world's complications are amusing and fascinating tonight. I'm in a much better mood. Even while listening to idiot Bay Buchanan bluster about Palin and McCain on CNN. Tonight she just seems silly and irrelevant.

And by the way, how about Joe Biden saying it's patriotic for people making $250,000 or more to pay more taxes? I say, three cheers. I don't think that was a gaffe. It makes sense that the rich should pay more. This of course means that prosperous Americans would develop some late-in-the-game altruism, which doesn't seem to accompany standard capitalism. We don't know from sacrifice. How 'bout a little dose of sacrifice, damn it? I like what Joe Biden said.

I'm not saying I'm happy about the bailout. Welfare for the bigtime capitalists, at a massive scale, probably means that any hope for universal health care, decent public education and -- yeah, even -- the arts won't be in the picture for the rest of my lifetime. We've just rewarded the slobbering, snarling dog for stealing food from the baby.

Nonetheless, it's a beautiful autumn night and that rose has me mellow and optimistic. I'm going to sign off and enjoy it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hey Flint! Save Sept. 29 for Gary Gildner

Flint-bred novelist, memoirist and poet Gary Gildner will return to his hometown Monday, Sept. 29. for two classroom visits and a community reading, at 7 p.m. in the Tuscola Rooms of UMF's White Building. He's the author of 20 books, but the one front and center in these visits is The Warsaw Sparks, his 1990 account of coaching a Polish baseball team when he was in Warsaw on a Fulbright Scholarship. Save the date! It would be great if we had a robust local crowd for the reading.

More info:

Gildner’s works include My Grandfather's Book, Blue Like the Heavens, and The Bunker in the Parsley Fields, which won the Iowa Poetry Prize. In his long career he also has received the National Magazine Award for Fiction, Pushcart Prizes in fiction and nonfiction, the Robert Frost Fellowship, the William Carlos Williams and Theodore Roethke poetry prizes, and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Of his latest book of poetry, Cleaning a Rainbow, critic Paul Zimmer wrote,
"Here he comes again with a new book of poems—Gildner, the kid from Flint, the jaunty pitcher/shortstop, the quarterback from Holy Redeemer, a genuine American article, still in love with the 1950s and being young, still showing us the fancy moves and surprising turns that inevitably swerve his poems toward the reader’s affections. He still has the briskness and inventiveness, but these poems are wiser, more practiced, embracing a new kind of resolution.”

Gildner’s mother and a number of other relatives and many friends still live in the area. He said when contemplating his reading tour for the reissued memoir, his stop in Flint is the one he is most eagerly anticipating.

Plus ca Change: Politician in the Buckeye State

I'm enjoying hearing an account of Biden invoking Catholic phrasing ("Bless me father for I have sinned...", McCain having a "political, not a policy, epiphany") in one of my childhood neighborhoods of Wooster, Ohio. The high school band strikes up, there's a parade, there's the drawling political talk -- as the commentator says, it's all rather timeless. One could be cynical, but since as a preacher's kid I respond with amusement and wry recognition to these religious catch phrases, the effect on me is positive -- not that I'm observant, but that I enjoy the rhetorical allusions. And, I must say, it's a bit reassuring. This is more entertaining to me than Palin addressing an Ohio crowd the other day as "guys and gals" and talking to them like they were a roomful of third graders. As one onlooker and fan put it, "He's not a flashy pick but he tells us the way it is, and that's what we need to hear." Well, I'm not sure anybody knows "the way it is" right now, but I'd rather have a sly and soulful rhetorical approach than a dumbed-down bit of condescension. Later Biden's going to Canton, my actual hometown, which is in almost as bad a state as Flint. Ahh...America.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Taking a Break for A Lovely Moon

Like many other people these days, including my esteemed blogging friend Gillian Swart, I've been so obsessed with recent politics that I've had trouble sleeping and as you can see, I've been crabby and complaining. But one needs a break.

This morning I went out walking in the clear, cool air after a weekend of heavy rain. I took my usual route, through Burroughs Park and back along I-69 on Brookside and Sunnyside, around Pierce School and back down Calumet. It takes me a half hour and it felt wonderful. Sometimes when I walk that route I notice everything. Today, though, for some reason, all I did was breathe in the tangy air, daydream and think about my classes. I barely remember anything about the walk, but my body felt vigorous and healthy all day afterwards.

And coming home after my evening grad class, my little old Honda and I drove directly into the glow of a bright 7/8ths full moon, gleaming over Court Street.

It was a rugged day all around the world but I still had that green walk in a neighborhood I adore and an almost full moon to welcome me home. Time to savor the simple pleasures.

I'm a little confused...let's see if I've got this straight:

Many thanks to John Coyne of Peace Corps Writers for forwarding this overview. I'm still trying to find out who actually wrote it. So, let's see here:

* If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're "exotic,

* Grow up in Alaska eating moose burgers, a quintessential American story.

* If your name is Barack you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.

* Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you're a maverick.

* Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.

* Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're well grounded.

* If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first
black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive
that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law
professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over
750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human
Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a
state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the
Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs
committees, you don't have any real leadership experience.

* If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council
and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as
the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you're qualified to
become the country's second highest ranking executive.

* If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2
beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real

* If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your
disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you're a Christian.

* If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the
proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.

* If, while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other
option in sex education in your state's school system while your unwed teen
daughter ends up pregnant , you're very responsible.

* If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a
prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community,
then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values don't represent
America 's.

* If you're husband is nicknamed "First Dude", with at least one DWI
conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until age 25
and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from
the USA, your family is extremely admirable.

OK, much clearer now.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Flint Mayor Don Williamson's Latest Idiocy

Kay Kelly Illustration by Patty Warner

In the latest act of ignorant cronyism, Flint Mayor Don Williamson has fired Kay Kelly, project director of the wonderfully successful Kearsley Park Project. I'm so frustrated and outraged about this that I'm ready to go down to City Hall and SIT IN.

Here's a link to my June East Village Magazine column about Kay. Kay Kelly Reclaiming a Public Space. It is infuriating that in a town so often bereft of good news that Kay's remarkable project should have to fight for support, much less be axed. This is not just knucklehead myopia, this is urban sadism.

Added later: Here is what Mike Kelly posted about Kay's firing on Facebook this afternoon. You'll note I'm making no pretense of objectivity about this...I haven't heard any of "the other side" but here in Flint we are used to Williamson's capricious and often irrational actions.

There may be some rumors flying around so I wanted to get the facts on the record.

Don Williamson terminated Kay Kelly as Kearsley Park Project Director via a perfunctory letter on Friday, September 12, 2008.

His decision was made despite the fact that Kay Kelly had turned Kearsley Park from a park people avoided to a vital place used by diverse individuals for exercise and recreation. Kay had raised money to bring playgrounds, ball fields and walking/biking paths to Kearsley Park. In addition, she turned the park into a vital center of community activities from theater and concerts to weddings and family reunions.

All of this was accomplished by fundraising efforts that resulted in no cost to the City or the city taxpayers and often provided free entertainment and enrichment to the community.

Kay had already received confirmation of a grant to continue her position for two more years when it appeared that Williamson wanted to replace Kay with one of his cronies.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

...And Another Thing That Bugs Me

...was when Sarah Palin announced that only one of the candidates had fought for our country, and that was John McCain. I have to say, since when was it true that the only way we "fight for our country" is when we are in the military? Since when is being part of the military the only way to demonstrate one's patriotism? A country demonstrates what it's made of as much when it's "at peace" as when it's "at war." Do its citizens fight for good public education, available to everybody? Do its citizens fight for health care for everybody who needs it? Do its citizens fight for arts opportunities, so that children with talents in singing and playing instruments and writing poems and dancing and painting can thrive and be happy? Do its citizens fight for clean water, clean air and fertile soil?

The narrowness and negativity if this exclusively military interpretation of patriotism really gets my goat. It's a reflection of a darkly rigid world view that I find immensely depressing.

Andrew Sullivan Backs Obama

I've been following the career and often cantankerous opinions of gay Brit Catholic conservative Andrew Sullivan, and while sometimes he drives me crazy, I really admire the way his mind works and how he observes American politics. So I was quite struck by this piece, laying out his extreme disallusionment with John McCain, that appeared in The Atlantic yesterday: The Daily Dish on McCain.

Bought my Obama yard signs today at the headquarters on Fifth/Robert T. Longway that used to be Windmill Place. Interestingly, there was much more activity at the new Family Dollar store, which had its grand opening in the parking lot in front of the Obama storefront. On the nightly news, much was made of this opening -- providing at long last one spot at the entry to "The North End" to buy some everyday items and groceries.

And watched the first excerpt of Sarah Palin being interviewed by Charlie Gibson. Without her teleprompter assistance, she went back to saying "nuke-you-ler." When questioned by Gibson about whether she'd met any heads of state, and she said "No," she quickly flashed a bit of the adolescent hubris she'd demonstrated elsewhere, sneeringly breaking dignity to say that she didn't have a "big fat resume" (like some of those other uppity candidates? The ones who've had the gall to accumulate top-notch educations and international expertise?) as if being well educated and experienced is somehow suspect. Education doesn't matter, though, because apparently, God wants her to be VP. She didn't even blink when McCain asked her, she said. She is ready "for our mission." She had a hard time clarifying anything -- what the "Bush doctrine" is, whether the war in Iraq is "a task from God," as she said at her former church recently, whether she thought the U.S. had the right to attack Pakistan. It was deeply disturbing to watch.

We will be in big trouble with this person as vice president. I vigorously agree with Andrew Sullivan's take on the deterioration of the dignity and credibility of John McCain. I feel like going back to that spartan Obama office almost hidden behind the dollar store and giving more money.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Political Congestion and Ear Flaps

Bad sore throat. Is it because my voice box wants to yell out "enough already"? What a clogfest of cliches and bowdlerized biography and choreographed theater. I'm relieved it's over, but I couldn't stop watching -- the carnivals of both conventions hooked me. Neither one did much for the quality of national rhetoric, but of course, that's not what they were for. Nevermind -- they were irresistible and vintage American entertainment.

Sarah Palin a phenomenon as big as, say, the last King of Tonga, RIP. The extravagant lovefest that met her is completely predictable and IMHO depressing. When somebody in Sterling Heights just said on NPR, "Michigan is gonna love her," I believe him. Last night some GOP woman in St. Paul told the Daily Show's Samantha Bee, "She makes it seem like anybody could be president." Yeah. Great.

Palin's arrival on the scene actually DOES remind me of one night long long ago at the Dateline Hotel in Nuku'alofa. I was there with a bunch of my Tongan family and work colleagues to see some Balinese dancers making a rare swing through the Kingdom on some kind of cultural exchange. I couldn't wait to see them: I wanted something, anything different from my intense immersion in Polynesia's love of the noisy and gargantuan. When the dancers came out, tiny and androgynous, tinkling delicate finger cymbals and flying rainbow costumes, the Tongans got a giggle fit. They thought the dancers were the oddest and weirdest thing they'd ever seen. In the midst of this madness, the King himself, Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, made a dramatic entrance. He weighed close to 400 pounds and marched in wearing a huge Russian fur hat with ear flaps and enormous knee-high black boots, along with his Tongan wrap around skirt and a pandanas mat tied around his girth. The Tongans hardly regarded it as worthy of commentary that his majesty was wearing a fur hat with ear slaps in a humid courtyard overgrown with tropical palms and banana plants.

"He's wearing a Russian hat with earflaps," I incredulously commented to my companions.

But they were too busy ridiculing the beautiful Balinese dancers.

Man, I've got political congestion. Wonder if I have more Alka Selzer. Or is it Lava Soap I need? Wily populist Huckabee said his family was so poor the only soap they could afford was Lava. He said he was in college before he realized "showering didn’t have to hurt."

Of course, as more than one blogger pointed out, Lava costs more than regular bath soap. So, the vigilant researchers speculate, maybe Huckabee's family couldn't afford TWO bars of soap.

Whatever -- at this point I could use some grease-cutting soap for the political season. And it's just beginning.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Okay, so I haven't been blogging since I got back into Flint, and with good reason, but rest assured I've been formulating my classes, watching the conventions and saying goodbye to T for the time being. And here's what brought me right back to the keyboard:

Hundreds of people at St Paul, almost ALL white, yelling "Drill Baby Drill, Drill Baby Drill!!" during Rudy Giuliani's speech.

My god. This scares the hell out of me. Do these people really want to gouge out the earth and its oceans and its air until nothing is left?

Giuliani also sneered at Obama's job description as "community organizer." The dripping disdain of that moment also made my gall rise up.

I'm having a really hard time watching this cynical orgy of knee-jerk patriotism and treacly "family values."