Sunday, March 23, 2008
Friday, March 21, 2008
life goes on- soggy ground and all- and i was asked for my sylvester stallone story (i may have told this before)- but, thinking of it again, wanted to write it down (below). am gearing up for tesol presentation (finishing the writing part), but running out of time, and running into, head first, a new term of two full writing classes. it's ok. it's what i do. good work is coming out of it...more about that later.
perhaps the most rewarding part is, my students do learn the language- they go off and do their thing- and more come to take their place. i've seen a lot. i've lived through a few changes. and i'm beginning to feel like i can breathe a little, enjoy the big apple. i'll be representing illinois, land of obama. no basketball teams to go for- siuc, & iowa, not in the tournament- but i'm a kansas fan now, and kansas actually has a chance. that's a twist, pulling for a team with a chance.
pounding rains, rising rivers, soggy ground, kind of reminds me of quaker campouts, which we stopped trying to pull of on easter weekends. we'd got rained out maybe eight or nine years in a row...last year, we'd given up, and it was sunny- finally. this year, the water comes into your shoes as you slog across the mud, in what looks like the high spots. the cold remains of the ice storms stays down there, dormant, icy, ready for the real thaw. who knows what the season holds. excuse the ramble- got the bicycle out earlier- i'm on an early schedule now- and that leaves me a little lightheaded- scattered. Really, i've got memories, lots of them, and i need to get a little more organized, get them on paper. it'll all start here, i'm sure. at least you'll be in on it.
i'd grown weary of iowa city- a college town where everyone was a lot like me- and attracted to dubuque, an old, pretty but very conservative river town, with steep river bluffs, brick streets and an incline, like pittsburgh, where i grew up. i didn't mind the lack of jobs- iowa city had that problem too- and thought, if i tried hard enough, i'd find something. i thought maybe i'd investigate it. i had a friend in iowa city, a bit of a hustler, who said he had a job on sylvester stallone's movie, Fist- a minor part, but an important one nevertheless, he said. stallone was a personal friend of his, he maintained, and, he was going up there tomorrow, would i like a ride? of course i agreed. he explained that they were making most of the movie in the warehouse district, down by the river, and they had fixed it up to be like the depression, when the movie was set. sure enough, when we got there, after a morning's drive up from iowa city, it was very much like the depression. actors hung around wearing 20's costumes, leaning on walls of very old buildings, smoking cigarettes.
my friend the hustler changed a little, got nervous, as if he owed everyone money. i wanted to hang around a little, meet the actors, see the place where they were getting their clothes. but he was not eager to hang around; he agreed to take me to the red stone inn, a redecorated house that was now dubuque's best coffee shop. we drove up through the center of town while i noticed how different dubuque was from iowa city. the red stone inn was up against the bluffs, on the other side of downtown, but it was easy enough to find; we parked and walked in. and there was sylvester stallone, getting his coffee from the cashier, and turning around to face me.
he was relaxed, confident, and friendly, and said hello to me. my friend had disappeared, completely; I was alone. so i said, welcome to iowa. in my own way, i felt confident too- this town was so much like the one i grew up in; though i wasn't familiar with either the town, or the red stone inn, still, i was at home, that was easy for me to say. and he walked away; he took his coffees to the table. it was a mystery what happened to my friend- i'm not sure i ever caught up with him. he must have owed stallone money too, was all i could figure- or worse. years later i actually watched the movie, which i liked- didn't see the friend anywhere. stallone, whatever else you could say, was at least good at what he did; iowa was better off, for having him for a while. i myself went back to iowa city though- there were no jobs in dubuque for strangers- and i guess i figured that out pretty quickly. the corn peeked out of the ground in the afternoon sun on the way back- it wasn't hard to get a ride, as usual, and i got home by nightfall- didn't see the friend for a long time after that, and by then, i'd more or less forgotten. he'd at least given me a ride though. who knows what else i'd stumbled into?
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
i had a moment of clarity, there, in the fresh spring sun, that had more to do with fathers & sons, and being there for them to come around and play with. my own father, i came back to several times, a few of them i was ashamed of who i was and what i'd become, yet we'd do jigsaw puzzles, or something, and he was always there for me. i know now, lucky enough to have a household of boys, well trusted with boys, i feel grateful, hope i'm worthy of the task. the last one is just now learning to use the potty, to hang from the rings in the playground, to play "king-me" and get the joke. we leave the acorns and sticks on the table- maybe the next people will take up where we left off.
the six-yr.-old's idea of a good time is to fill up the bike tires with air, and go over to mcdonalds to get a kids meal. the first flowers are sprouting near the sidewalk on our way. also, a telephone pole, laid to waste by a driver, who left glass from his windshield on the side of the road. don't know who that was, or what night it happened- winter's been long, people went a little bonkers, maybe. for him, the days of staying up making cardboard cars from the cars movie- with cardboard axles, buildings, etc.- are over; he's into pokemon now, and we make pokemon characters, or pokemon cards, and fill in information about their attacks, their power, etc. one of my favorites, "psyduck," has as its attacks, delusion and migraine. he doesn't use the cards to play actual games, that i know of, but he does try to remember their attacks, their evolves, which characters evolve into which others, etc. he's like a walking pokedex (encyclopedia), and he'll break into a conversation, say at the mcdonalds, to tell me what one character evolves into. it's an enormous and imaginary world, but then, so is the one i live in, and i realized that, at the mcdonalds, he was now too big to play in the little play-space; too big to sit on the clown's lap; and, when he got home, he gave the little plastic toy to his little brother. all of these, enormous milestones in their own right. life goes forward; we hurtle into another warm-season.
meanwhile, what little time i have to write, i'm doing quaker plays. april's is called Second First-Day at the Interfaith (you may have to scroll down- the permalinks do not work well on this blog)- it's a quaker tribute to an old and crumbling building, our home for years, a thoroughly local play, kind of focused on the material plane with a gentle poke at the spiritual. it's not entirely finished, but it's almost ready to perform, and i do hope to do it in april or soon after. then, also, the one on top of it, more serious, Good Tidings of Yule, just finished (redone) tonight, about a plane crash in africa, written originally in 2006 for the unitarians, who rejected it- but i'm quite proud of it, and have now adapted it better for our own meeting. would have done it this last season, as a christmas play, but i fell off a ladder. now, at least i can say, it's written, it'll work for the kids we have. finally, the big potato, down in our hearts, also known as not quiet on the home front, absolutely not finished, maybe i can get it done this week also, but i've lost quite a bit of it in computer crashes, not to mention packed away the books it was based on, somwhere. all the while, avoiding working on my tesol presentation, for my grand entrance to new york city, a big moment for me personally, as the east coast is the place i started traveling, an old friend, a place with a voice. and they may not know all about me, being all wrapped up in their own stuff and all, but i've gotten used to that, i've been out here in the big valley for thirty years or so. playing music, writing stories, doing plays, getting by, and i'll bring with me memories, & see if the place has changed any.
it reminds me, the band is playing at the mix, in carterville, saturday night, don't miss it if you're in the area. after that, it's back to the clown's lap for me, another term will start. but hey, my father read the walmart stories, and liked them, and that means a lot to me- and my older sons & daughter do some writing too, which i really like, whether it's facebook superwalls, blogspot, daily kansan, you name it, they're out there, putting a mark on the world, making me proud. the stone-table checkerboard- it becomes e-mail, after a while, but the fresh clear smell of an oak grove, pine needles, you can't pile that stuff on top of itself, it blows away, moves over, lets the new spring come up, & show itself.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
vignettes from a weekend trip to paducah, kentucky, a truly different world, yet less than 90 minutes from here. a truck accident on the o-river bridge- forced to detour through a small town and then a metal bridge, very narrow, where i couldn't put my elbow out the open window. high above the o-river, felt like i could see all the way to pittsburgh, where i grew up, where the muddy monongahela washed into it and gave it that sickly color. but alas my window went west, and i couldn't even see the bridge with the accident on it, though i could see the sun shining on the river below. in paducah, a lot of swimming with the kids, a hot tub, exhaustion, yet spring was breaking out, even there, it was starting to be time to open windows. this was back before the ice storm, on a weekend when people were coming out, happy, relieved. i like to listen to people talk- down there, it seems like there is a whole different mix of speech patterns, and i often have to ask people to repeat. finally found an old arts section of the city, where fixed-up victorians are made into art galleries yet the wide streets and old trees give a lazy southern feeling, like it's very hot around here much of the time, which it is. but the place- the whole area really- lost a lot of trees in the ice storms, and many of them are still standing around, though life has gone back to busy. and it's hopping, commercially, lots of new cars around, as if all the japanese car factories are just leaving a few of them to give away, i'm not even sure where those factories are, but somebody's getting plenty of work. in the restaurant, a swordfish dinner, now that was a strange sensation, i'd never associate kentucky with swordfish, but i will, if that keeps up. and, a lot of driving, on busy roads. mccracken county, it's called, and they use the word 'bluegrass' much like we'd use 'egyptian'....bluegrass payday advance, bluegrass bmw, bluegrass toyota. i'd-a stopped to appreciate the irony, but there was too much traffic, kids hocking for a dairy queen, there was no way i could even find out what was on the radio, much less have time to even listen to it. another time, i guess- it's not going away, in fact, summer's coming, but that just means, more busy.
back home, illinois is cold, though the snow has melted. all trace of the third, freak ice storm, gone. march, its mixed messages, mixed blessings, all thirty-one days of it, & fixin' to go green, as soon as i can get the fiddle out.