Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Great Day!

Today, my friends, was a great day. It started off on a positive transportation note, as I just got to the RTA platform as the train was pulling in, and then, after exiting Tower City, I walked to the trolley stop right as it pulled up. I get to my office, plenty of time to spare, catch up on some emails and look over my lecture notes, and then it is off to two relatively smooth classes.

I get back from class #2, check my email, and am greeted with two wonderful developments: my paycheck has been deposited a day early AND an article by Jose and I was accepted for publication in a pretty good journal. Then a book lady comes by and gives me $135 for the stack of American Government textbooks I had amassed over the last several weeks.

Eventually, the good days comes to an end and I head home. During the train ride, I decide to stop off at one of the many places in Ohio City and reward myself. I head up the stairs, then start toward the Garage Bar for a $3 bowl of chili. About 80% of the way there, I think, "You just got a free $135 bucks, live a little."

As is usually the case, I did what the voice told me, turned on my heel and headed toward the Flying Fig. As I made my way there, I saw the sign for Bar Cento, a new winebar next to my apartment building. I decided to go in, and boy oh boy was it a treat.

I bellied up, ordered a fancy beer and the spicy salami and pickled veggies plate, and perused the menu. Bar Cento specializes in pizzas, pretty beautiful pizzas that are criminally under-priced (ranging from about $7 to $17). I decided to splurge and went the "liver and onions" pizza -- a decadent blend of foie gras, carmelized onions, and boudin noir. I'm not such a big fan of the boudin (hey that rhymes!), so I had them substitute lamb sausage instead. I also ordered a side of warm beets and bleu cheese and a semolina cake with chai ice cream. They packed it all up, along with the bottle of Willamette Valley pinot I bought and brought home at the last minute. (You can buy anything on their wine list and bring it home -- for 50% off!)

I can't find a website, but you can see a menu here.

I can't wait to go back, to try the "sunnyside pizza" (thin crust with eggs, pancette, and lots of black pepper) or the "seaside pizza" (with clams, white wine, garlic and parsley) or the seared Lake Erie walleye (not a pizza, thankfully). They also have a pretty decent daily special list, particularly on the great lakes fish days.

Now, I'm home, fat and too tired to be sassy. Tomorrow I have to go in to the office for a 3 PM meeting, despite it being my day off, but that should be plenty of time to work off my red wine hangover.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An exhausting relaxing Tuesday

Got up bright and early, despite it being Magic Tuesday (i.e., my day off), and went over to the Glass Bubble Project. After back-tracking a bit, to catch a java fix at Lelolai, it was off to downtown Hudson -- a sort of bougie, articifially-created downtown commercial suburban area between Cleveland and Akron -- so Mike and Chris could install some light fixtures they had made at a local restaurant.

We enjoyed a lovely ride, sharing differing philosophies on getting stuck in traffic jams and dating approaches, and made it to Hudson in about an hour. After a bizarre interlude in an Ace Hardware and a failed attempt to buy iced tea, it was time for them to do work (and for me to pretend to be some hybrid artist/supervisor role. It wasn't that hard.).

The installation turned in to something like a practice run as the fixtures weren't exactly right (though they looked pretty awesome) and one of the pieces had broken in transit. Mike and the proprietor talked about what to do next, and then it was off to Kent, home of Kent State University, Mike and Chris' alma mater.

We picked up some burritos, stopped at an apple orchard for non-pasteurized cider (though we settled for pasteurized. In addition, I bought a cool chocolate/marshmellow spoon that you use to stir hot milk and as it melts makes hot chocolate. Awesome, huh? And only $1.25), and then went over to this beautiful park. After walking the trails, checking out the large Hopewell Mound they had, and hypothesizing what a Native American tribe that predated Christ and were members of a "mysterious cult of death" would do if they could be reincarnated and caught us kicking it like slackers upon their thoughtfully crafted monument to their deceased ancestors, we headed over to the glass blowing studio and, then, art building at KSU. Outside the art building was a really cool sculpture of sorts, comprised of stacks and stacks of newspapers and now home to a small garden at the top.

After the campus pit stop we hit Arby's for milk shakes, jamocha for Mike, chocolate for me and Chris, though his wasn't chocolately enough so he flat out refused to drink it. Eventually, we rolled back into the lot outside the studio. I, beat, staggered back to my place, signed in, wrote this, and now ....

Monday, October 29, 2007

A little secret

So, here's something you may not know about me, dear reader.

I am a weeper.

Let me clarify. Movies, whether art films or mass schlock, make me cry. All the time.

I first noticed this my freshman year in college, when I played football and a group of my teammates and I would spend the late morning/early afternoon every Sunday after a game (and the subsequent evening's bachhanalian excesses) by watching a Sylvester Stallone movie marathon. Every odd weekend was the Rambo trilogy, every even weekend the Rocky series (or maybe it was vice versa). The afternoons were often capped off with an extra extra-large pepperoni pizza, slathered in grease, from a pizzaria near campus that was awesome. I can't remember what it was called, something generically Italian, but no clue what.

Anyway, every weekend, there was a certain moment in Rocky III that would reduce me to tears. Every time. By the end of the season, Jimbo, my offensive lineman buddy, would know it was coming and be there with a manly half-hug or, more famously, a quick rendition of our group's favorite dance move, "The Lumberjack," to console me.

Most people, when they hear this story, automatically assume it was the scene when the Russian kills Apollo Creed in the ring, but they are wrong. I'm not that ridiculous. It is actually the scene when, after Apollo dies and Rocky has decided to go fight the Russian on the Russkie's home turf. The scene when he passes Adrian on the fancy staircase in their mansion and she tells him not to go, that he shouldn't go because he would lose ("You can't beat him, Rock!") and that they would lose everything they had. After playing dumb ("Lose what, Adrian?"), Stallone strikes the best slack-jawed, emotionally destroyed expression ever captured on film, muttering something to the effect that he never expected Adrian to doubt him, not Adrian. Anybody else, but not Adrian.

Reduces. Me. To. Tears. Every. Time.

There is also a scene in one of the Rambo movies, specifically the one at the end of Rambo: First Blood, Part Two, when Col. Trautman asks a diffident Stallone what it is, exactly, that he wants. His response, vintage: "What do I want? I want what every guy who spilled his guts over there [Vietnam, duh] wants ... For our country to love us as much as we love it."

Waterworks. Gasping, snotty tears.

Moments like this make me vow never to watch these films in front of any woman with whom there is an imaginable chance of future procreation.

Problem is, these moments come all the time. Scenes of romantic distress? Tears. Examples of the sacrifices inherent in true friendship? Crying. Scenes of familial bonding bridging chasms of dysfunction? Bawling. Little kids doing cute things? More tears. Training montages and dramatic victories? More crying.

It really is sickening.

In the last couple of days, I've gotten choked up at the following points: when Keanu Reeves lets Patrick Swayze "escape" into the sure-death of the killer 20-year wave in Point Break, when one of Jude Law's daughters whispers "berry kiss" in response to the name of Cameron Diaz's lipstick in The Holiday, when the fat guy from the old Nickelodeon shows manages to land the plane in Snakes on the Plane, when the little boy spots his father (played by Tyrese) walking down the beach at the end of Waist Deep and shouts "Padre," again in The Holiday when Jack Black tells the other chick he only used the good notes when composing a song that sounded like her. The part in Singles when Campbell Scott tells his girlfriend that she lost the baby as a result of the car accident and, again, when she gets back from her ecological superhero boat trip and that old spark isn't quite there and she moves back in with her lame ex.

Don't even get me started on Love Actually. Or the very end of Before Sunset, when Julie Delpy is dancing to Nina Simone and jazzily sings to Ethan Hawke that he ... is going to ... miss ... that ... plane ... and he just smiles and says, "I know" and the screen goes black. Dear good. You'd think it was Old Yeller or something.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I was saved by rock and roll

Ok, so the title of this blog actually draws from some Tweedy-penned Wilco lyrics, but they still seem kinda relevant.

To cap off my weekend, I headed over to the east side to visit Music Saves, a cool independent record store and an cultural/commercial anchor of the surging Collinwood/Waterloo Road neighborhood. (Check out this article for more about Waterloo Road and the role Music Saves plays in it.)

Music Saves reminds me a lot of Tim DeLaughter's great record store in Dallas, Good Records (pun intended), only a little smaller. Same vibe, though; well-selected indie rock and fan ephemera, moderate album selection, but no overwhelming hipster know-it-all attitude. Good people, great music, plus a bonus sense of community and shared prosperity. Good for the soul, better for the ears. Or some shit.

Anyway, Music Saves was celebrating the 10th anniversary of Zaireeka. What is Zaireeka, you ask? Well, that's a good question. Zaireeka is an experimental album released by the Flaming Lips 10 years ago (duh). (Here is a good brief history of the album and the experimentation that led up to it.) Actually, it was four albums, designed to be played simultaneously on four separate stereos. I have every other Flaming Lips album, but have never even heard any of the music from Zaireeka (mostly because I don't have four stereos), so I figured this would be as good a time as any to visit Music Saves. I'd been hearing about the store from just about every solid music listener I've met since moving to Cleveland, but still haven't gotten over there. Talk about serendipity.

So, after prepping the requisite peanut butter rawhide, I snagged a couple tall boys from the fridge and hit the road. I found the place with no trouble, walked in, chatted with one of the owners for a bit, and began browsing and boozing. They have a decent selection of concert and pop art, and about the time I got done checking the inventory out, it was time to begin. The music of Zaireeka was cool, you could definitely tell it was a turning point for the band, as it reflected more of the music that came after (especially The Soft Bulletin EP) and not so much the psychadelic hijinks that came before.

While the cds were playing, some guys from the LA-based band Film School came in. They were playing a set that night at the Beachland Ballroom next door and seemed to be just as geeked about the Zaireeka event as everybody else. The guys were really cool and offered a place on their guest list for the show, but I passed. After the disaster that was last week, I want to start this week fresh and energized. Staying up till 2 to listen to a band, no matter how well-reviewed and how cool the members are, just wasn't in the cards.

But the offer added to my overall positive feeling about Music Saves. I'll be back again, soon. And when I do go back, I'll probably pick up the latest album by Film School.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Recycled Toppings

Had a lunch fit for a king ... or at least a king with a kingdom currently suffering from an economic recession.

A burst of creativity struck me as I was gazing into my refrigerator for the third time of the day. Thinking, "If I combine this and that, it might be ... and that and the other thing would ... hmm."

Like any bachelor, my fridge is filled mostly with condiments, beverages, and toppings. Between the three, I composed a lunch of a minimalistic chef's salad and a small bowl of chili.

To make the chili, I heated up a sauce pan full of beanless hot dog chili sauce (using the remains from last night's chili dogs) and some medium-heat queso (usually used for chips or to slather on chicken patties), and then added some oyster crackers (left over from the clam chowder I made last week).

The salad included shredded lettuce (left over from taco night a few days ago), half a tomato (originally from the West Side Market a couple weekends ago; the other half had to be quietly sawed off and disposed of), rolled and sliced turkey breast lunch meat, and a bleu cheese vinaigrette, the origin of which I'm not really sure.

In all, it was surprisingly delicious, appropriately filling, and economically efficient. Yum.

Now I'm off to catch the train. I'm heading down to Public Square, where they are apparently giving free tours of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument and its underground tunnels until 4 PM. Should be cool.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Thank Fucking Christ it's Friday.

This week blew.

But even I couldn't keep up the week-long sourpuss. I cracked a smile against my will when sudden and very brief downpours manifested only when I was (a) taking Ellie from my building to my car and then again (b) when I took her from the car to doggie daycare. All other moments were, of course, dry.

Later, I suddenly giggled when reading my current book on the train and coming to a passage where the protaganist's pathetic dentist was being described:

"He had strawberry blond hair. That's enough right there. That's all you need to know. If you're a man with strawberry blond hair and you're not in the circus or a Viking, odds are you have not found your place in life and never will. Doug's strawberry blond hair hung down in limp curls that always looked like they were wet, like he was an out of work Hasidic Jew who just didn't give a shit anymore. But then he also had the monk's tonsure up top where male pattern baldness had started its slow, inexorably humiliating crawl. Doug's head was an aesthetic and theological mess. And he had a mustache. It was too big and too ragged and trying too hard to compensate for what he'd already lost on top, and it was a few shades more strawberry than blond. He looked like the star of a new "Would you leave your child alone with this man?" pedophile awareness campaign, one that would be very effective."

Once at work, I snickered (in a very nice and supportive way) during my upper-division class when, during debates about the Electoral College, one student used the phrase "ameliorate the institutional deficiencies" (though he was actually 100% in both substance and usage) and guffawed when, after her team came in last place and thus failed to earn any extra credit points, a student slammed down her pencil and muttered, "We don't need any sympathy bonus points."

And, just a few minutes ago, while I was changing clothes and watching the early part of Something About Mary, I howled during Ben Stiller's "franks and beans" scene. When the initial zipping occurred -- howling. When the step-father scolded him -- more howling. When the cop came through the window and the firefighter asked how exactly Stiller's character got the zipper up to the top -- the most howling. And when the actual damage was shown, I simultaneously subconsciously crossed my legs and ... snorted.

Thank Fucking Christ it is Friday. I need the weekend.

To celebrate, I'm off to have a beer with the Ohio City hordes.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Boycott Work

I boycotted work today. Rather, as it is still mid-afternoon, I should say I'm currently boycotting work.

The great thing about academia is that you don't even have to make up an excuse not to go to work.

Slept in, took Ellie to the dog park in Tremont. She didn't do so well there. Two different times, bigger, more hyper dogs tried to play and she got really upset. More upset than usual, really, despite the fact that she's been going to this doggie daycare place semi-regularly. I'd have thought she'd be more socialized by now. Hmm.

This week has been sort of a bummer. It began with the Indians blowing a 3-1 lead in the ALCS (and thus costing me dearly) and has since featured another midnight intrusion by Awful Neighbor and a bit of a melt-down in my Intro class.

Awful Neighbor apparently got shit-faced at the wine bar down the block, came home and found her smoke alarm "chirping." She wasn't able to get in touch with the maintenance folks (surprise - it was midnight), so she pulls the fire alarm. Twenty minutes later, we're being hustled outside as the CFD explores the building. She made up some choice details like how it woke her up from a sound sleep and how she smelled smoke as she was leaving the building. Then she went BACK to the wine bar.

Awesome. At least the building owner hates her because of all the trouble she causes -- almost getting the building's apparently quite expensive security doors busted down by the firefighters didn't endear her to him any more.

The next day, I go into my Intro class. This one has been stressing me out quite a bit, but lately it has really gotten my blood pressure up. Seriously. Today was the low point, of a semester that has already featured its share of low points -- and we are barely past midterms. Here's the play by play:

This girl shows up late then proceeds to talk and pass notes for about 15 minutes. Finally, I asked, "Is there something in that note that is more interesting than what I'm talking about."

She smirks and says, "Kind of."

Don't ask questions you don't want the answer to, I guess.

I said, "Listen, you are paying a lot of money to be here...."

Her interruption: "I don't pay tuition."

I paused, (more) blood rushes to the head, and turn around and start erasing the chalk board. I get about halfway through, turn back to the class and say "Class is over. The material I didn't cover today will definitely be on the next exam. Perhaps your classmate over there (nodding to her) can give you the rest of the lecture."

Stunned silence. I finish erasing. I leave.


This class is seriously the worst group of students I've ever had, in terms of manners, professionalism, and comprehension. I have tried everything I can think of to remedy this, from being cool to pep talks to explaining why students are failing to ignoring it to begging/pleading/crying for them to just pay attention. Needless to say, nothing works.

Today, I'm trying a one-man, unannounced campus boycott. I'm skeptical this will accomplish anything. But at least I'm sitting at home in a beat-up sweater and track pants, instead of fighting rush hour train crowds and indifferent teenagers.

Maybe, though, the wardrobe dimension of this boycott needs some further attention. Seriously, I look like track suit-sporting Ben Affleck in Good Will Hunting.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

One small bummer

I just realized something today, one negative aspect about my transition from Texas to Ohio.

I don't listen to as much music as I used to.

Between the fact that I don't have a stereo in my office (mostly because I don't spend enough time there at night and on the weekends to make it worthwhile) and the fact that I hardly drive anywhere anymore (thanks to the recently awarded "best in the nation" Cleveland public transportation system).

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not missing the 60-70 hours a week in the office that I clocked in grad school and I'm totally digging the fact that I fill my gas tank about once every 6-7 weeks.

But I do miss the music.

Whine over.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

I need a fucking table...

and several bookcases.

If there is a single aspect of my relocation that is lagging behind, it is my indecent lack of furniture. I'm typing this post on my laptop, which is stationed on a requisitioned end table that has one leg shorter than the other three. At the same time, my long breakfast bar is filled with stacks, stacks of bills, stacks of clippings, stacks of books, and - now that I glance over - stacks of plates that I thought I had washed, but apparently just moved out of the sink.

There is one thing that could solve the dueling problems of the wobbly end table and the over-flowing breakfast bar: a table. A table, a not uncommon piece of furniture, would solve both problems AND provide a place for me to eat. Right now, the end table is also doubling (or, I guess, tripling) as my dining room table -- the laptop just goes on the floor.

Behind me, to my left, to my right, and in front of me are many more stacks -- this time of books. In all, about 800. These books are stacked because, well, my crappy bookcases in Texas weren't worth dragging up to Ohio. If I had, I don't know, 4 or 5 bookcases, that would be AWESOME.

The problems I have, I tell you.

All over the road

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Although there are writers and works falling within the Beat milieu that I appreciate more, the level of celebration evident in the literary community here has been quite impressive. Throughout the entire weekend, there have been interesting On the Road events, each one slightly different, but all featuring public readings of the book.

Friday night, at Visible Voice, there was a beer bash in honor of Kerouac (who was, somewhat ironically, I guess, an incredible alcoholic that drank himself to death before he turned 50). So-called "local dignitaries" read bits of Part 1. That was pretty boring, actually, so after the first reader, I headed up to the attic there and watched a half-hour or so of film clips about Kerouac, as well as Ginsberg, Burroughs, and other important Beat figures. I stayed around till about 915 or so.

Once in my car, my typical map anxiety kicked in, as I tried to fine my way over to the east side, to watch one of my cooler student's band play. The band, the Whisky Daredevils, were pretty cool, actually -- a hard rockin' rockabilly spectacle. The two opening acts were cool, too; one a faux-southern experimental apostolic rock act, the other a straight-forward rockabilly troupe. One of my colleagues joined me, along with his wife, though they mostly hung to the back, blaming sensitive ears and early bedtimes. It was cool that they came out, though, supporting students and being open-minded to cultural events attended primarily by folks a generation or two younger than them.

Afterwards, I headed back home, watched an episode of Oz, and hit the hay. Saturday morning I woke around 11:30, put on a sweater (and pants, duh) and walked over to the Bookstore on West 25th. This was part 2 of the Kerouac festivities, and this time, instead of booking a list of "dignitaries" - many of whom had never actually read On the Road and mistook Kerouac for a hippie, even though the book was written 20 years before the Summer of Love - it was a free-wheeling, democratic affair. I had submitted a poem of my own via email for a related event to Jim Lang, the big chief of the event, and when I met him, he was enormously kind, greeting me with a bag of poetry (you'd have to see it to get it) and an introduction to the literary scene in Cleveland. We read and read and read, interspersed with some pretty great blues music from a local guy (also a Cuyahoga County newbie, though from West Virginia, as opposed to Illinois/Texas) and lukewarm beers. It was so much fun, I haven't laughed and smiled as I did there in a long time, especially when words like "maniacally" and "Tucson" and "Houma" and others were mispronounced.

After a while, the energy started to fade and the critical mass began to disperse. Most of the poets headed over to the Barking Spider Tavern, an interesting bar frequented by writers and artists on the campus of Case Western. I headed home, attended to the feeding/watering/walking needs of Smellie Mae, and watched another episode of Oz.

After getting on Mapquest and trying to find out how to get to the Cinematheque (an awesome indie/art/international film theatre on the campus of the Cleveland Institute of Art, I kissed my darling doggie goodbye and left for an evening of live jazz-accompanied silent films. I got there about 45 minutes early, so I walked over to the Barking Spider (2/10 of a mile away, or about that anyway) for a beer and to observe part 3 of the Kerouac festivities. They had Labatts on tap and on special, so I ordered one, said hi to the Visible Voice owner and a couple of the writers I had just met a few hours before. About the time my beer was gone, it was time to head back to the theatre.

I got back to the CIA building, with just enough time to find the restroom, get a watery coffee out of a machine, and find the perfect seat (according to my own baroque movie seat preference matrix). I did, plopping down in the seat on the inner aisle of the last row in the left third of seats at the front half of the room. The place is great, by the way. I think it seats about 600, though there only seemed to be about 250 in attendance. The sound quality is extraordinary, the projectionist the most professionally competent I've observed since the Angelika Film Center in Houston. They really take their craft seriously at the Cinematheque and it makes a noticeable difference.

Eventually the announcements concluded, the lights dimmed, the previews ended, and the musicians took the stage. First up was Blackmail, an early Hitchcock film starring Anny Ondra, John Longden, and Donald Calthorp in a story about a woman who ditches a boorish Scotland Yard detective for a smooth-talking artist who later tries to rape her. She kills him, flees the scene, and later the jilted lover is assigned to the case. When he finds evidence tying her to the crime (a glove with holes at the ends of two fingers - earlier in the film he noticed the holes and dryly commented that he would have to buy her fingernail scissors for Christmas), he goes to confront her. As he is trying to do so, another hoodlum steps up and tries to blackmail the estranged pair. Drama ensues, ending with a chase scene, a fatal fall, and a narrowly avoided confession.

At intermission, I went for another coffee, filled in some nervous Indians fans on the score -- thanks to Cary and his texts, I was well-informed throughout the night -- and then headed back for the next film. Next up was Underworld, a movie about organized crime figures, love triangles, and betrayal. It ends with a pretty awesome shoot-out/siege scene, especially considering the era.

All in all, the evening was great, the movies were fine, and the musicians were fantastic (though I still have to give Graham Reynolds' Golden Arm Trio's live score of Battleship Potemkin at the old Alamo Drafthouse in Austin the nod). I headed home, played with the dogder a bit, and hit the hay.

Today, I woke up, decided against attending the final Kerouac event and instead took Ellie to the Tremont Dog Park. She's usually skittish when playing with other dogs, at least for the first 20 minutes. Today, it seemed to take her longer to warm up, and she never did do much running around, mostly just sniffing and walking and exploring. She finally did a little running toward the end, when I was chasing her, but even then she seemed disinterested. We eventually left, but I decided to stop off at Lincoln Park in Tremont before heading home. I took her on a long walk around and through the park, and here she seemed happier and more relaxed. I enjoyed it more, too. Lincoln Park is really beautiful, and with the leaves turning and crisply covering the grass, it was wonderful, the first true fall day I've enjoyed since before I moved to Texas in 2002.

As Ellie and I walked, I kept getting deja-vu vibes, as the foliage and the setting reminded me of times when I was very young, visiting my great-grandmother Ross (my mom's grandmother) on her farm in Bonfield, and also of times driving alone in the afternoon on 113 back in Illinois. Those times, for whatever reason, always make me think of the Civil War, what it was like, fighting battles between trees and over stone fences. If I believed in reincarnation -- I'm not against it, I just don't carry a torch for the idea -- I'd swear that in a past life I fought and died in one fall day, somewhere in Virginia or Tennessee or Pennsylvania.

Anyway, eventually it was time to go. We'd ceased the hike, were sitting and observing the quiet area at a chess table in a corner of the park. A look between the dog-der and I sealed it, and we headed back to the car, driving home to the sweet sounds of Electric Six's new album.

Now I'm at home, about to make tacos and then look for my VHS copy of the Deer Hunter (most of the domestic portion was filmed in the very same neighborhood that the dog park and Lincoln Park are located). After that, there's a lecture on presidential elections to write and an Indians game to sweat.

Go Tribe!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Life and Times of a Twenty Dollar Bill

When I go out, kicking about town, I often take a single $20 bill with me. I'm always interested in how it gets spent. Sometimes, I buy a CD, other times a few beers, or a meal, or a double feature and a cherry coke.

Yesterday, I took $20 out of the ATM. Here's how I spent it.

$1.50 - parking outside the Grog Shop. Amount remaining: $18.50

Leaving Visible Voice, I broke the bill. The cool clerk there told me to bring plenty of change for parking at the Grog Shop, where I was headed. I didn't have any in my car, and didn't want to incur the wrath and howling of Ellie by coming home and then leaving again, so I had him give me $2 in change and smaller bills. Apparently, the cops focus far more on parking tickets than real law enforcement there. Judging from all the transit cops around the area, the advice was solid. I plopped 6 quarters into the machine.

$4.00 - PBR tall boy (2.75 for the can, 1.25 for the tip). Amount remaining: $14.50

The show at the Grog Shop was sponsored by Pabst, which meant (a) that it was free and (b) it would be the height of ingratitude for me to drink anything else. So I sauntered up to the bar, bought myself a tall-boy, and nursed it the rest of the night.

$8.00 - 2 books at the Bookstore on W. 25th. Amount remaining: $6.50

The next morning, as I was waiting for the Kerouac event to start up, I was browing the innumerable disorganized stacks of used books. Naturally, within 15 minutes I found about 80 books I wanted to buy, but by virture of some time-consuming, borderline pathological tournament-style decisionmaking, I whittled my selections down to two: Don DeLillo's Mao II and Christopher Moore's Bloodsucking Fiends (apparently a vampire love story. I bought it because the dude in the tryst was likened to an undead Kerouac, so it seemed appropriate).

$5.00 - Joe Landes Demo CD - Amount remaining: $1.50

Before the reading roundtable and, occasionally, during, a young musician named Joe Landes played some pretty impressive slide steel guitar. I wasn't really sure what the story there was, but he was good and was pretty stoic about being ignored by the assembled writers, so I decided to temporarily become a patron of the arts and buy his record, Blues from 402. Will I ever listen to it? Probably not. But it paid for his gas to get there and back, I guess. Maybe I'll give it to my boss, who is into such instrumentation.

$1.50 - bought a little kid a cheap paperback. Amount remaining: $0

I was with a group of poets at the Bookstore on West 25th, across the street from my apartment, doing a roundtable reading of On the Road, and this family came in. Mom and Dad were doing their thing, little brother and sister were in the kids section, but this kid - probably 7 years old or so - picked up a book about werewolves and came and sat by the folks reading Kerouac. Jim Lang, the main guy organizing this event, asked the boy if he'd like to read a page from his book, and to my surprise and the little guy's credit, he agreed and did a great job. The passage he read was about a telegram, and he would say "stop" at the end of several sentences. You could tell that didn't really make sense to him, so a couple of the poets explained to him what telegrams were and why they would say "stop." For whatever reason, I just knew his parents were going to tell him to leave the book behind, so I gave him the last $1.50 in my pocket to buy it for himself. He did. Now he has a new book to read and I have a shoulder out of socket from patting myself on the back. Seriously, though, it was a good way to finish off the twenty.

Friday, October 19, 2007


So, yesterday, I attended a diversity leadership forum on campus. It was a good experience, and I'm glad I went, but I gotta admit it was a bit basic, sort of as if someone took a copy of Diversity for Dummies, wrote a summary, and then gave a power-point presentation of the condensed version of that summary's key points.

But it is the thought that counts, and the mere fact that diversity forums are offered here makes them worth attending.

But it wasn't the attending of the forum that makes this an interesting story (interesting to me, at least). No, it was one of the attendees that made the forum interesting (again, interesting to me, at least).

She was cute, nervous, and skeptical, intent to prove she belonged there yet not quite smooth enough to avoid looking bored and distracted. Sounds perfect, right?

So, during the five hours or so it lasted, I did my best to seem cool and casual, a few funny moments here and there but nothing too much, nothing to make it seem obvious.

Afterwards, we left the conference room, both heading in the same direction. We traded our most interesting facts, the kind you think the other person might find intriguing and laudable enough to ask a follow up question, like how she served in the peace corps and how I just moved up here from Texas and how she really likes working with non-profits and how I really appreciate the mission of our institution and she's really enjoying her graduate program and I'm really excited about being through with mine and blah and blah and blah.

About the time we discovered that we both had dogs and that our canine attachments were equally intense, we reached that point, that point where it is shit or get off the pot time, where you are in danger of the conversation ending, whether because of bad luck, boredom, or cowardice. So, as I asked her whether the Lakewood or Tremont dog parks were better, in her opinion, she said she had to go straight at the intersection, in order to catch the bus, and I said I had to go right, toward the student center, to get shit from my office.

After that was cleared up, she strenuously advocated the Lakewood park. excitedly telling me I should really take my dog there. I said, happily, even confidently, something along the lines of, "Cool. I think I will on Sunday. What are you doing on Sunday? You and your dog interested in joining me and mine?"

Deer in headlights.

Just woke up from a nightmare.

Oh shit, dear god, what do I do now.

These are just a few impressions I took from the look on her face.

When she was finally able to speak, it went a little like this, "Um, I have like 5000 papers to write this weekend, um, and, um, you know..."

Yeah, I know.

Last ditch effort: "I remember how it can be. How about a cup of coffee some time."

Her: "Um, sure. I work in the such and such office. Stop by there some time."


Then we shook hands.

Yeah, I know.

At least my voice never cracked.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thoughts on Shaving

Within a half-second of smearing the first thick swath of inexpensive shaving cream across my weeklong beard, I remembered exactly why I had waited so long to shave. I hate shaving, and for seven consecutive days had allowed myself to rationalize the decision of not shaving. Nevertheless, I had committed, and thoughts of “you don’t have to be perfect, just get most of it and get the rest next time” alternated with “stupid fucker – why did you wait so long” and “why are you even doing this – you don’t have shit to do until at least Monday.”

Typically, I shave every second or (more often) third day. I probably could shave every day, but my facial hair is on what seems to be a 36-hour cycle. (I once met a woman – and by “met,” I of course mean, “attempted to seduce” – who told me she was on a 36-hour sleep cycle. Her roommates ridiculed her for this to varying degrees – she was also quite attractive, however, and they were certainly not, so some of this, of course, was due to envy – but I did not, as I empathized with her plight, because of my own.) The morning after shaving, I convince myself that the stubble is hardly noticeable (though I know that by early afternoon this will be a lie) and that I do not need to shave. The following morning, about half the time, I shave again, and half the time I consult my daily calendar and deduce that I have no pressing meeting or entanglement that requires smooth cheeks that day. Occasionally, I actually convince myself that a particular meeting or entanglement requires an unshaved look, though this is usually evidence of a chemical realignment at work in my head, soon to unveil itself as a short-term bout of depression. Once I am passed the third day shaving threshold, the morning shaving rationalization process becomes unwieldy, and predicting what I will do on day four, five, six, and so on becomes about as likely as guessing which direction a drunk will stumble next – it can be done, but without acute understanding of topography, success is primarily determined by luck.

Like I said, I hate shaving, as I hate showering (not being clean, mind you, but the physical act of getting in the shower), vacuuming, eating anything with even marginally fresh or uncooked onions, driving long distances, and math. I occasionally hate people, but not usually for long periods; either my attention is diverted or I rationalize why I should pity them and they become a source of amusement (and, subsequently, more depression).

Before moving on, I feel the need to clarify why I am using inexpensive shaving cream. The cream at hand is Barbasol (soothing aloe, to be precise, of the Beard Buster® variant), and I only bought it because I could not find a bottle of the Colgate (sensitive skin) I had previously used and, actually, enjoyed. I only originally bought that Colgate as a delayed rebuke of my last long-term romantic relationship and its relatively dramatic demise. I say “delayed” because the relationship, such as it was, ended more than three years ago. During the course of this relationship, my then-girlfriend turned me on to the joys of expensive toiletries. Due to the fact(s) that she was (a) the worst kind of nouveau riche southern trash and (b) was tragically attempting to recreate her emotionally unavailable father, she was quite informed on things such as forty-dollar sticks of deodorant and pre-shave oils with essence of sandalwood. Due to the fact(s) that she (a) had a remarkable figure and (b) was, yes, more than a little crazy, I willingly obliged. The additional fact that she paid for these toiletries did not hurt.

After the relationship ended, and the month(s)-long non-shaving malaise that followed also ended, I retained an affection for the luxurious balms, creams, and soaps to which she introduced me. Thankfully, I also retained a cabinet full of her purchases.

Recently, however, the ex has made an altogether uninvited return to my subconscious. In the last month, I have found her invading my dreams (nightmares, really, since I have been on quite the drinking jag lately). I have the horrible anxious churn in my stomach usually reserved for moments when I know I am going to be dumped or, worse, when a girl I have been “seeing” tells me that she’s “late.” (Isn’t it amazing how we bachelors, even when we know exactly what “I’m late” means, always reply, in a husky, near-choked voice, “Late for what?” My only explanation for this is that we cannot possibly think of anything else as our blood drains rapidly from our faces in its race to join our stomachs at our feet.)

Because of her recent return, I chose to abandon the toiletries of the sophisticated set and return to stereotypically humble roots. Thus, I find myself popping the top off the Barbasol, wishing I didn’t have to shave, wondering how much a permanent facial wax would cost, and cursing the fact that my mind wanders like this whenever I have a dull stationary task to perform.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I'm a fan of Tuesdays. This semester, they've been my primary day off. Mondays and Wednesdays are both teaching and office hours days, Fridays are teaching and b.s. bureaucratic work days, and Thursdays are usually the days I go in to the office even though I don't have to, just to catch up on shit.

Which leaves Tuesday as the day that I have all to myself. Today was a classic one, in the 8 week history of my life in Cleveland.

Woke up about noon, dawdled and gradually got ready, took Ellie out, threw the peanut-butter slathered rawhide in her crate for a distraction, and then headed out for the day.

Stop #1 was Talkies, where I got a coffee, bought a couple birthday cards, and was bribed by a fellow patron to go across the street and buy some beer for him. Fear not, he was 21, and had driven over from Indy to buy some just-released, limited quantity stout from Great Lakes, but they limited purchases to a maximum of 6 22-oz bottles (total cost = $90). He wanted to get at least 12, but had apparently made a scene in the gift shop, and needed someone else to go get more. I agreed to do so, and probably made a friend for life. The barrista, not the beer freak, as I think she was getting tired of his begging.

After returning to Talkies and dropping off dude's beer, I finished my coffee, wrote in my cards, and then headed to the bank to deposit some cash. After kissing my cash good bye, I stopped by the Glass Bubble Project to hang out for a minute and pick up the painting I had agreed to buy last weekend. Mike was there, along with Mitchell Sotka, the proprietor of what sounds like a pretty cool gallery over in Rocky River. I'd met Mitch briefly last weekend, but hadn't really had a chance to chat with him. Today, it was just the three of us, and we were all able to joke around for a while. He's a really funny guy.

After Mitch took off, Mike handed off the painting to me, showed me some stuff he'd been working on, and then it was time for me to get back on the road. (FYI - This year is the 50th anniversary of On the Road. More on that cultural milestone in the next week or so). I hopped the rapid down to Tower City, where the nearest post office is located. I dropped a 20-spot sending a bunch of packages that had been languishing forever on my kitchen counter, including: information on civil war reenactments and a piece of hardtack to Dan the Man; a bunch of gallery flyers to Ducky, as part of my campaign to get him to move here; a birthday present and card for my brother, the same for an old grad school friend, and a t-shirt from CSU to send to my former office-mate.

After dropping off the packages and hanging out in Tower City for a bit, I got back on the rapid and headed to W. 25th. It was about 4:15 when I got back, and I was famished. Happy hours at the various upscale eateries in my neighborhood would begin in 45 minutes, so I decided to drop into a nearby bar and drink a beer while I waited. The Garage Bar was closed, but the Old Angle was operating, so I strode in and asked the comely barmaid, in the most charming delivery yet, what their least expensive brew was. The answer was Pabst, in the 16-oz can, for 2 bucks. The price was right and I peeled off 3 slick singles from my roll of, well, singles.

After an hour, a couple beers, and a gratis whisky shot, I pushed away from the bar, walked out into the drizzle and down Bridge to Momocho, hoping to catch the happy hour. I was on time, and greedily ordered a half-price margarita and the duck taquitos (about $7 with the happy hour discount).

This was the 3rd time I've been to Momocho and every time it has been great. The first time I went in, it was for a killer 5-course tequila pairing dinner (only $40!!!). The next time, it was for incredible pepita-encrusted trout, which revolutionized my thoughts on ordering fish at non-fish specialty restaurants. It was incredible, just like the cod course at the previous tequila dinner was.

Tonight I went with duck, rather than seafood, and was rewarded handsomely. The taquitos were basically a large serving of pulled duck breast, as well as some ancho barbacoa, along with onions and peppers -- and five small corn tortillas, with a beautiful pomengranate sauce and a nice verde salsa on the side. Although the margarita was just OK, the taquitos were great. I finished up, said goodbye to my lovely server (one of the consistently best I've had ever), and walked back home. The rain had stopped, I was feeling content, and I still had plenty of time to feed, water, and walk Ellie before tonight's Indians game. Speaking of which, it is about that time...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Can't really complain about my life these days...

Q: So what did you do on Monday, man?

A: Well, I gave a canned lecture on political parties, followed by a class period devoted to the relationship between presidents and rock and roll.

Q: What does that mean, exactly?

A: That means, I sat around in front of my class, playing various songs on my circa-1992 CD player that directly or indirectly concerned presidential politics.

Q: Ahh, I see. And they pay you for that?

A: Technically, yes, but don't get me started on salary issues.

Q: Then what did you do?

A: Oh, well, then I sat in my office, wrote a faculty development memo stating my expected academic activities for the next 12 months, did a little bureaucratic this and that, then went over to the university's monthly food fest, which in this case was Soul Food Day.

Q: Cool! What did you have?

A: Look at my gut, man -- I had a little of everything, from cheese grits and collard greens to fried catfish and chicken & waffles.

Q: How was it?

A: Good.

Q: And then what, Mr. Excitement?

A: Then I did a little errand-running up and down Euclid Ave., before catching the Red Line home.

Q: And then?

A: Well, I came home, fed my dog-der, drank a beer and watched the end of "10 Things I Hate About You."

Q: What is it with you and waste-of-time movies?

A: I can't really explain it, but you might forgive me if you heard what happened next.

Q: Interesting. What happened next.

A: Oh, nothing ... just that I went and drank bourbon with Freddy Noe.

Q: Cool! How did that happen?

A: Well, the Great Lakes Brewery was having an event celebrating the release of their 2 new bourbon barrel-fermented beers: the Rackhouse Ale and the Blackout Stout. As part of the celebration, they invited Fred Noe, aka Frederick Booker Noe III, the 7th-generation scion of the Jim Beam distillery operation, up to host a small bourbon and beer tasting. In addition to plentiful samples of the two GLB brews, we were also talked through a 5-stage tasting of Mr. Noe's finest, ranging from Jim Beam black label at the low point to Booker's, the world's first ultra-premium bourbon and arguably still the finest, at the high end, with samples of Basil Hayden's, Baker's, and Knob Creek (named after the childhood hometown of Abe Lincoln) in between. I favored the Basil Hayden's, but also agree with Mr. Noe's claim that the Knob Creek makes a mighty fine Manhattan.

Q: Sounds awesome! Learn anything new?

A: Oh yeah, a bunch. Fred told a bunch of great stories, but also, in response to a question about whether mixing bourbon with mixers is taboo, told a story about his mother. He said, "My mother drank Knob Creek and Ginger Ale her whole life and I never heard my father, one of the world's leading makers of bourbon, say a single bad thing about it. In fact, I asked him once, and he said, 'Listen, son, if you take one of the finest bourbons in the country and mix it with coke, you have one of the finest bourbon-and-cokes in the country." I agree with this sentiment whole-heartedly. Noe said folks that claim to be purists are full of "bullshit" and that what is important is enjoying it however you most enjoy it. In fact, he freely admitted that most bourbons, especially the best and most expensive, are made BETTER with a little water and/or ice. I'm going to extend that to scotches, as I've taken untold shit from scotch puritans about liking my whisky on the rocks or cut with a bit of aqua. So Cary, Bettina, take heed. I win.

Q: My, you haven't matured much since moving to Cleveland, have you?

A: No, not at all. It is possible I may have actually back-slid.

Q: Anything else to report?

A: Sure! I met this cool couple, up from Dayton to attend the tasting. They were really interesting folks and hopefully we'll hang out again, next time they visit the Land of Cleve. Hopefully, the chick brings a friend or, even better, a sister, as she was pretty darn cute.

Q: OK, I'm going to end this fake interview now, before it devolves any further. Besides, I'm not exactly sure what the mental illness implications are for interviewing yourself on a blog that nobody reads.

A: I'm not sure, either. Take it easy.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Saturday on the West Side, Sunday on the East Side

The other night, while quaffing an evening brew at the Duck Island Club, I had the good fortune to meet Mike, an interesting dude and one of the founders of a local glass-blowing coop, the Glass Bubble Project (GBP). A couple mornings later, I was taking Ellie on her morning constitutional, and I encountered Mike and his friend taking a walk of their own. I received another invitation to drop by his studio and, as I haven't made any real friends in Cleveland yet, decided to take him up on it.

Yesterday, I finally had a free day, so after grabbing a cup of coffee and sharing appendectomy stories for a few minutes at Talkies and visiting the crumpled paper edifice that is West 25th Books, I walked down the block to the GBP. I was greeted their by as much cheer and material kindness as I have experienced since my first day as a stock clerk at University Liquors (read into that what you will).

Simply put, I had a blast hanging out with the various artists and other talented folks hanging about. The vibe is relaxed and the set-up there is about as home-grown rigged as could be, but they have a full-fledged furnace roaring and innumerable beautiful pieces filling every nook and cranny. Eventually, I looked at my watch and realized it was nearly 6 PM, and that I'd spent more than 3 hours drinking beers and chatting about anything from birds to dating to whether it would be appropriate for a resident of Indiana to be involved in setting higher ed policy in Ohio to why federal government employees used to be called g-men and why they aren't anymore to whether the Elliot Ness story was true or just a myth to much more I don't remember. I do remember putting down a $2 deposit on a painting, though I don't remember what the painting looked like -- there was some blue in it, I think.

Some time during the rambling afternoon, one of the ladies at Lelolai Bakery came by and dropped of some awesome Cuban sandwiches .... for free. It took quite a while for it to sink in to the assembled folks that these sandwiches were indeed for us and that we did not need to spend money on them.

After I gathered my wits and returned home, I took a brief nap, and then woke up to find the Indians-Red Sox game notched at 6 in the top of the 7th. I trudged to the fridge, poured my V.I. Lenin coffee mug full with cherry coke (no ice) and settled down to watch the end of Game 2 of the ALCS. About a billion and a half hours later, the Indian offense exploded, scoring more runs in the top of the 11th than they had in all the previous innings combined. The Red Sox couldn't match the output in their half and the Indians emerged from the marathon contest tied with Boston, heading back to the Jake for three home games.

Shortly after two am, I headed back for bed, doing a celebratory happy dance with Ellie and turning on Coast to Coast AM so I could fall asleep to the husky tones of George Noory and all the crazed truck-drivers calling in to share their thoughts on aliens, cloning, the Tri-lateral commission and all sorts of good stuff. Unfortunately, it was the voice of Ian Punnett, not George, I was greeted with, and the program was about survival in a post-apocalyptic world. I think I managed to hold on for 15 or 20 minutes before drifting of to a slumber filled with dreams that seemed to merge scenes from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, Close Encounters, and Major League...

... around 9 AM my alarm went off, reminding me to take the train to the east side and meet up with another Mike, this one the editor of the newly-resurgent Cleveland Reader, an independent rag and poetry zine I'm interested in helping out with on the side. We met up at Algebra Tea House, this funky little cafe on Murray Hill in Little Italy. I'd not been there before, though I walked past Murray Hill once on my way to the Cleveland Museum of Art. Little Italy is really cool, it reminds me a lot of Tremont, and I figure the more time I spend over there, the more I'll like it.

It was cool hanging out with Mike and another local musician-type named John. Another few hours of rousing conversation, featuring mostly the impossibility of solving the homeless problem without making any difficult policy choices, the whorishness of the Clintons, the utter lack of sympathy OR empathy of the Reaganites, the relationship between art and the cyclical nature of urban neighborhood surges and declines, and how pretty the girls in Little Italy are. Eventually, it was time for this young man to once again go west, and after a quick stop at Dave's Supermarket, I came home to feed my dog-der and rescue her from her loneliness.

I'd thought of going to the LanguageFoundry and catching the Sunday Film Series showing this evening, but their selections were a bit too out-there to convince me to make the 20-minute hike and, besides, there's another baseball game to sweat. It just wouldn't be right not to sit and watch, in real time, the D-backs lose for me.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Awful Neighbor

I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later, given my track record. In fact, I should probably be somewhat impressed with myself that I've managed to live here in this building for nearly 60 days without offending one of my neighbors.

I'm going to have to settle for nearly 60 days, though, as tonight my charming disposition earned my at least one new anti-friend.

Story goes like this: I'm sitting in my chair, Ellie's on the couch, and we're watching TV, flipping between Hoffa and the Rockies-Diamondbacks game. I'm getting surly because (a) I got up early and am starting to get tired, (b) the Diamondbacks are playing against the Rockies the same way the Cubbies played against the D-backs in the last round, and once again my prognostication skills are on the outside looking in, and (c) every time I flip back to Hoffa something new is happening and I have no idea what is going on, other than some major scenery-chewing by Mr. Nicholson and Mr. Devito.

So, my mood is slipping away from me and, about 11:30, there's an irritating tap at the door. Too light to be cops, too heavy for me to ignore. Ellie starts freaking, doing her dying seal impersonation, my patience completely disappears, and I trudge over to answer the door.

At it is my gross downstairs neighbor, clad in bathrobe and sweating incredibly. I barely get the door cracked and she joins Ellie in the screeching. She starts off with this sarcastic, "I've been hearing all kinds of noise, is there a party in there," trying to look in my apartment. I say, gruffly, "Lady, I'm sitting in my apartment watching TV." Immediately, she babbles, "Oh, it must be the people in 303. I've reported them before. I'm going to call that in." Whatever that means.

Right away, I recognize her type, the awful, intrusive, tattle-tale, rabble-rousing type. I say, stupidly, "Don't report anyone, just knock on their door and say something. But for the record, I haven't heard anything from them and I live right next door."

She begins hyperventilating, complementing the screeching with howling and spitting, saying "I've tried that before, and all I got for it was threats in the parking lot ...." I hear that, and think, "Enough."

I open my door, saying, "Lady, I hope you get to sleep..." She then changes her tune, "Well, maybe it is your TV. You need to turn it down. This building is supposed to be silent after 10 PM."

I say, "Well, make sure you report me, along with 303" and start closing the door.

She sputters, "Oh sir, I wouldn't do that, I just wouldn't ..." but the door closed on her and I went to give Ellie a treat, just to get her to stop doing what will now be called (or at least thought of, by me) the neighbor lady impersonation, prancing around, tongue wagging, threatening to have a stroke.

Could I have handled it better? Duh.

But seriously, people like that, they are going to complain. She's probably been plotting for, well, nearly 60 days.

And people like me, we just can't help making their dreams come true.

So much for a quiet Thursday night at home ... for anybody.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Two Great Young Poets at the Trinity Commons

Today was the first day it felt like fall to me in more than 5 years. After an extended summer -- mid-October and still the anti-global warming buffoons persist -- today the temperature finally dipped below 75. By mid-afternoon there was even a cold drizzle!

As is the norm on MWF, I spent the morning talking about politics, and the afternoon avoiding doing so. I did get some work done, today, though, including the composition of what ended up being a pretty good little paper proposal about presidential transitions for a conference in Chicago next spring.

After that, a mentally exhausting meeting with a student, and a really crappy piece of pizza for lunch, I headed over to the Trinity Commons for a poetry reading by Joshua Marie Wilkinson and Noah Eli Gordon. I picked up a small coffee at Cafe Ah-Roma, where I inadvertantly insulted the barrista. Apparently, she was greatly offended when I laughed and told her how hip and edgy it was for her to shout out "drip with room" to another barrista at a different stage of the process, thus indicating to cafe chick #2 to pour me a drip coffee with room for milk. Whatever.

As I was exiting through the back, making my way to the Trinity Commons, I semi-recognized a tall, mildly bearded fellow standing at the door. I said, quite impressively, "Uh, you're the poetry dude, right?" He smiled and agreed that he was, and then pointed at his companion and said, "This is Noah, the other poetry guy." We actually stood out there for a good 10 minutes, chatting about the Midwest, the disparate fortunes of the Cubs and Indians in this year's MLB playoffs, the surprisingly rich poetry community in Cleveland, shared experiences on the academic job market, and cool neighborhoods in the northern reaches of Chicago.

Eventually, it was time for them to perform, and we entered the room where the reading was to be held, joking about bodyguards and academic standing.

The reading itself was impressive. Wilkinson, whose work I was somewhat more familiar with, performed with an interesting air, sincere, measured, and passionately humble. Noah was more humorous, making jokes both between and during poems; the wit in his work was both more pronounced and, occasionally, honestly, a little distracting. I guess. But what do I know. Not enough to be bitchy about poetry, that's for sure. Especially not from two of the leading poets of my generation.

After the reading, I picked up a copy of their just-released co-authored book-length poem, Figures for a Darkroom Voice. The book itself is the end-product of an interesting poetry game the two created one day, during a three-hour flight home from a reading. It started off trading a notebook back and forth, sentence for sentence, the expanded to finishing one another's sentences, playing with one another's sentence structures and twisting one another's logic. The game itself seems gimmicky, almost affected, but the end result is laudable and clever in the very best way.

After each poet performed their own individual work, the two performed a few from this book together. If you are interested, here's a youtube clip from a previous performance:

One particularly memorable piece of the poem goes:

"The signal is two women standing side by side before the elephant door. Each time one of them speaks another metric layer of sawdust pours up from the earth. Their teeth, winter; their hands, gauze; eyes, little lions; their jewels, jewels."

A few pages later, another great part:

"Sparrows shoot over the white earth. A candlelit silhouette keeps the prisoner from his loneliness. In an office ten flights above, you badger the investigator's secretary for a date. You say, double feature, mummies & shit, & her cheeks won't blush, she won't even look up from the legalese. What you have is an apology twining through a leash for the dogs in her garden. Winter turns birds to a bird-shaped absence in the air. Summer will harden the light into bricks, as all evening it was afternoon. & the misnamed boy tumbles from the sounds ascribed to his future."

My favorite part of that one? Probably yours, too: "You say, double feature, mummies & shit, & her cheeks won't blush, she won't even look up from the legalese."

There are a hundred Russian novels in that sentence.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Brewmaster's Dinner at Great Lakes Brewery

For the record, I love Columbus Day. Thanks to this very special Italian-American holiday and my MWF teaching schedule, I'm at the tail end of a lovely 5-day weekend.

Also for the record, I think Great Lakes Brewery just might love me, as they scheduled their penultimate Brewmaster dinner of 2007 to coincide with the end of my very own long weekend.

So, after yet another day of lounging around the Vaughn Lounge (the new name for my apartment, courtesy Jose), trading places on the sofa with Ellie and making even more questionable movie-viewing choices (today it was "Rookie of the Year" and "Hellraiser: Bloodline"), I took Ellie on her post-dinner walk and then headed over to the Great Lakes Brewery, which is literally right next door.

OK, full disclosure it is not "literally" literally right next door, rather about 1/2 block down, but the point is, it is close.

So, I headed over to the brewery, popped in the gift shop area around 6:45 and picked up a magic coupon. This magic coupon entitled me to 1 free tour of the brewery's premises, led by a charming and hilarious man (who's name I forget) that I really hope was of Irish ancestry (cause if he wasn't, someone needs to have a talk with the staff there about a little thing called racism. Or would it be nationalism? Whichever. He was still really funny, especially with the bit about the time he tried to explain to the cop who had pulled him over that the two pints he was holding were really just "Irish hand-cuffs." Or the one where he said to tell the cop that beer is 90% water, so you aren't really drunk.).

But I digress. Again.

So after the tour, during which I found out that I am neighbors with Grady Sizemore, we reconvened in this incredibly difficult to find upper room and enjoyed a 5-course pairing dinner. There were some hits (i.e., the stuffed figs and the bisque) and misses (the hyper-dry pork and the idiotic idea to create a beer ice-cream float), but all in all, it was an enjoyable evening. The menu is below.

Fig stuffed with Smoked Hungarian Sausage and Fontina Cheese (served with the GLB Glockenspiel)

Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Burning River Vinaigrette (served with the GLB Burning River Pale Ale)

Butternut Squash Bisque (served with the GLB Eliot Ness Amber Lager)

Porkloin stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes and gorgonzola cheese (served with the GLB Nosferatu)

Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream Float in the GLB Edmund Fitzgerald Porter with a side shot of Navan Vanilla Cognac)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Saturday in Tremont and the West Side Market

Although there are many fine neighborhoods in Cleveland, in the few weeks I've lived here I have not encountered one as charming in Tremont. I find myself looking for excuses to go over there, whether to pick up a book at Visible Voice, have a fancy burger or plate of killer mac and cheese during happy hour at Lolita, or take my dog for a stroll through Lincoln Park.

Yesterday, I enjoyed a great afternoon. After dropping my dog-der off at the Mutt Hutt, for some exercise and affection by the great staff there, I stopped by Visible Voice and dropped off a Steve Keene painting inspired by The Replacements. Did you know that the bookstore's moniker was inspired by lyrics from a Replacements song? I didn't, until it was announced the other night there, during a byob issue kick-off event for the newly-resurrected Cleveland Reader. Before I knew that, I just thought the store was cool. Now, well, I think it is really cool.

After dropping off the painting and flipping through the Kerouac section -- the 50th anniversary of On the Road is this year -- I departed for Asterisk, Dana DePew's addictively energetic gallery on Professor, where I was picking up some more art, this time for myself. At the September Art Walk, I had been struck by one of the prints in the Mark Mothersbaugh exhibition. Stopping back few a couple days later, during the Tremont Arts Fest, I decided to purchase it and now the piece was finally ready to be brought home. After getting the print, talking with Dana about next month's show by Arabella Proffer and about the tough contest the Browns faced the next day versus the Patriots, I headed over to Lincoln Park.

Camped out in the park were a group of Civil War reenactors, members of the Voluntary 8th Ohio Regiment. The whole "dress up and play war" thing isn't exactly my scene, but I was raised in a family that took vacations to Civil War battlefields and worshipped the image of Abe Lincoln, so I found the event pretty interesting.

After that, I crossed the street to get a cup of coffee and a slice of turtle cheesecake at Civilization. I hadn't been there yet, but the guys at Visible Voice had endorsed it a couple times, so I figured where better to read Khaled Abou El Fadl's book, The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists. El Fadl is coming to Cleveland to give a lecture on the rise of Islamic Extremism and Islamophobia next week and I wanted to at least be conversant with respect to his argument. Civilization was cool, though I don't see myself frequenting it on a regular basis, and I was only able to get through 1 chapter and about 1/3 of the cheesecake before the heat of the cafe got to me. My out-of-shape ass sweats enough when I'm hiking about town, the last thing I want to do is sweat when I'm sitting indoors trying to read and relax.

A look at my watch (actually, my cell phone, since I don't wear a watch) told me I didn't have to pick up Ellie for a few more hours, so I headed back over to Ohio City to do some shopping at the gourmet emporium that is the West Side Market. An hour and about $15 bucks later, I headed to my apartment with some grape tomatoes, a 1/2 pound of shitake mushrooms, and a decent slab of boneless pork loin. Stops at the nearby dollar store and the Dave's super-market remedied some of the deficiencies in my cooking utensil collection.

By the time I returned home, unloaded everything, it was time to pick up Ellie. We came back home, and she went straight to bed, tuckered out by an afternoon of playing like a puppy with her Mutt Hutt friends. I watched the Cubs lose to the Diamondbacks while making an ancho-shitake marinade for the pork loin. After the game ended, I headed over to the Duck Island for a couple brews, then hiked back home to roast the pork, have another delicious solo dinner, and call it a day. A last minute long distance phone call put that all off for a few hours, but eventually the day came to a close.

I couldn't ask for a better Saturday.

Lazy Sunday

In a twist of irony, a new blog about discovering the great parts of Cleveland starts off pretty quickly with a post about staying in on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

But stay in I did, after an evening of fruitlessly watching the Cubs lose to the Diamondbacks, followed by a couple scattered beers at the Duck Island Club and one ill-advised late-night conversation, I trudged off to bed around 4 AM.

I woke up just in time to turn on the TV and watch Derek Anderson throw his second interception. The Browns lost by 17, but really it was a closer game than that. They were definitely beat by a superior team, but against these Patriots -- arguably one of the more powerful teams in NFL history -- to keep the game close until late in the 4th quarter is a pretty solid achievement.

After that, it was more sitting sitting sitting, flipping between the MLB playoff games on TBS and "Waiting to Exhale" on HBO. (What?!? -- Don't ask me why I spent the early evening watching that flick -- it just happened.)

Now it is over and the Indians-Yankees game is in the bottom of the third. The Cleveland club has put a 1-spot on the board in each of the first three innings, while Westbrook has been blanking the businessmen ballplayers (at least so far). I'm signing off to watch the game with more attention.

Welcome to Cleveland Bachelor!

I recently moved to Cleveland after several years in Illinois and, more recently, Texas. I came to Cleveland to take a position at a local university, but also to return to northern urban culture.

Since establishing a beach-head in Ohio City about 6 weeks ago, I have been very pleasantly surprised by my experience(s). The other night, as I was walking home from an incredible solo dinner at Momocho and I found myself thinking I should really start keeping track of all the incredible things that are going on.

So, from high culture to low cuisine, here are my experiences. I expect to update from time to time, reporting my new experiences. Maybe, if I'm not feeling lazy, I might jot down some rememberances about the stuff I've discovered the last several weeks, too.