Thursday, February 28, 2019

Overread at Table One: Poem for a National Emergency

Poem for a National Emergency

Two weeks into the so-called National Emergency,
nothing had changed. Nothing from before.

We lived our lives as though everything was fine.
The sun still shone on the same-old same-old.

We went to work. We went home.
We ordered stuff from Amazon that we did not need
(two day delivery with Prime, you know)

We watched whatever Netflix told us to watch.
We talked about the upcoming season of Game of Thrones.

We got laid … or not.
If we didn’t get laid, we jerked off in the shower.

We posted to Facebook and Twitter and IG and
we pretended that our opinions actually meant something.

We talked about things as though we were experts.
In all our conversations, we pretended confidence and composure.

We got haircuts. We got our nails done.
We took the kids to baseball practice.

No Guatemalans stole our jobs.
No Hondurans took our tax dollars.
No Mexicans parked taco trucks in our yards.
No Salvadorans raped our daughters.

Instead, they stood beside the walls of corner stores,
waiting to be picked up for day labor, or else 

they stayed out of sight, picking lettuce
in the rotting fields of dying farms.


Monday, February 25, 2019

Overheard at Table 2: Book Worms

Billy: Shooting an Elephant

Joe: Water for Elephants

Jim: Like Water for Chocolate

Bob: Chocolate War

Billy: War of the Worlds

Joe: Worlds Apart

Jim: That's a movie, not a book.

Bob: Actually, it's both.  Just googled it.  It's some kids book, in a series.

Billy: Well, don't we like to stick with one genre?  I thought we were doing adult fiction.

Joe: Chocolate War is young adult.

Jim: Chocolate War is all ages.

Bob: OK, fine ... it stands.   Now, where were we?

Billy: Things Fall Apart ...

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Overheard at the Counter: All Heroes and Villains

As a student and teacher of history, I can say for certain that all those who have gone before, and whose lives are now ended, truly do not give a shit what you think of them or what they did.

Whether you think that they are heroes or villains, or even if you are astute enough to understand that they, like all humans beings, are complex creatures and a mixture of both heroism and villainy.  They still don't care.

Their work on this earth is done.  For good or ill.

So don't go around pretending that you mean a damn thing to them, just because you may have some sort of either real or fictitious familial tie, or even if they happen to have the same melanin content as you.

They are not you.  You are not them.  

In this country, the United States of America, what it is now, is a gift from all the heroes and villains who helped shape this country, and those of us who live here - each and every one of us - are children of those heroes and villains.

Yes: we are all children of George Washington and George Washington Carver and Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson and Thomas Jefferson and Jefferson Davis and Robert E Lee and Lee Harvey Oswald and Harriet Tubman and Eugene V Debs and WEB Du Bois and Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X and MLK Jr and Susan B Anthony and Frederick Douglas and the Rockefellers and Charles Manson and all the statesman whose names you never learned in school and all the workers whose names were never written down in any book, and all the people who bled for this country and all those who shed the blood of others for this country and those who beat others for their own selfish racism and those who were beaten by race hatred.

We are the children of all of them.  Together,

So stop acting like you are only part of the history of this country.   You are the child of all of it.
All the ancestors are your ancestors.   They are all your parents, and my parents, and our parents, and its high time we all admit that and decide how we're going to move forward.

Else we'll just be fighting over who gets the silverware while the whole  house burns down.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Overread at Booth Three: First Draft of "Theme for Ernie"


Theme for Ernie

start at 1:06

Walking down the backstreets and the alleys to cut through to the sidewalk in front of the line of bodegas that are the borderline between the grime and success, the grand succession of neon lights and fevered dreams. Cracks in the sidewalk stared up at me as I huddled deeper into my coat, hands shoved so deep it was like I was trying to pick my own pockets. The rain was a cold chill serrated knife edge, and I hadn’t seen Ernie in weeks.

We were wondering where he was, where’d he’d been, what he’d gotten up to. This night I was checking out the old haunts, I had nothing better to do but waste but my own dime, passing what passes for time by wandering through the oily silverfish glow of the maudlin watercolour blues that is the city at night.

Walking past the café where we used to sit and talk for hours about heaven and hell and everything in between. Looking into the window, seeing only one woman huddled over a coffee, seeped in Edward Hopper colors and staring into the forlorn wilderness of her own bespotted dreams.  

Next door down was the laundromat, where we used to kick machines to return our eaten quarters. Now only a few Salvadoran women, sweating in the heat of freshly dried sheets as they fold them into crisp hospital corners, and a young lanky black man practicing his rap about poverty, guns, drugs, love, and overcome, when

I’m suddenly jostled by a gang of six youths, rolling down the sidewalk, just fresh from the exit doors of the community theatre. They don’t even notice me as they stagger by, all high on life and youthspeed and one of them looks just like she could be Lucinda, 20 years back, and

I watch her recede into the night, along with her pack of friends, and I think about how Ernie was so head over heels for Lucinda. Lucinda. All last year, every word out of his mouth was wrapped around Lucinda. Said she had a thing for John Coltrane. Ernie bought every album by John Coltrane. Hell, Ernie didn’t even LIKE John Coltrane, but he played nothing in the apartment but John Coltrane, absorbing every lonely note, every frenetic trill, because that sound, man, that sound, just spoke to him of Lucinda.

Because a good lover is like an addiction you just can’t quit.

I looked up into the neon skyline and I knew, Ernie had gone back to Lucinda. The rain spoke to me of John Coltrane, and suddenly there was a warmth in the midst of the chill, like good jazz gives you: that shelter from the storm.

There on the corner of Filth and Grime, under the bright streetlamps marking time, I called Ernie one more time, and one more time I left a message on his voice mail: “Ernie, hey man, hope you’re doing ok. The gang misses seeing you around. Give us a shout when you can.  

“Your pal,



Narration inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper, the Lucinda Williams song “Righteously,” the film “Paterson,” the wealth of American Beat Poetry, and, of course, this song by John Coltrane … which harkened me back to Sesame Street.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Overheard at Table 3: Facts Ain't Neither Left Nor Right

40 goddam years of being told that there are two sides to every story, in the way that there is a Left and a Right side to every story, and we've all had to be force-fed this bullshit that the "Right" needs to have their side of the story told.

That's the only thing Fox News was made for.
That's the only reason why you have shit like Rush Limbaugh, who gave birth to shit like Breitbart, and Infowars and that Alex Jones psychotrash.

Simple fact is the truth is the truth and facts is fact and there ain't nothing Left nor Right about it.

A company either dumped toxic shit into the river or it did not.   That's not a Left/Right story.   Companies dump toxic shit into rivers.  Makes 'em turn bright orange and glow in the fucking dark.

Earthquakes in Oklahoma and Texas are growing in size and frequency.  That's a fact.  That's not Right or Left.   They are.  Fact fact fact fucking fact.  Now, we can all fight about whether fracking has caused that, and I can argue that more fracking equals rise of earthquakes and you can say correlation is not causation and that's all fine and dandy, but it's not a Left/Right, there is no "Left side of fracking debate" versus "Right side of fracking debate"  Let's find out what's causing the damn earthquakes and call it a day.

But let's not keep acting that there are two sides to these stories.   Because that keeps us all from seeing what's right in front of our eyes.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Overheard at Table 2: Lucky and Blackface

Otis Redwing: You know, in high school, that used to be my nickname.  'Blackface.'

Lucky Moran:  No shit.

Otis: No shit.  Some kids thought it was more creative than just calling me 'Oreo.'

Lucky: And why would they call you 'Oreo'?  Are you tasty in milk?

Otis: Because I always hung out with dorks like you.

Lucky: Wonderfully intelligent and dashingly handsome?

Otis: No.  Kids who played Dungeons and Dragons and read HP Lovecraft and Isaac Asimov.   I never played sports.  So even all the football and basketball players - which were the black kids at school - even they started calling me 'Blackface' because they said that even though I had a black face, I'd always be white just underneath.

Lucky: Wait ... are you telling me ... you're BLACK?!

Otis: Oh no.  Not this again.

Lucky: Otis, do you know what this MEANS?

Otis: I'm gonna have to beat your ass in the parking lot?

Lucky: This means that I can tell everyone that I HAVE A BLACK FRIEND!!

Otis: Not if you keep going like this you don't.

Lucky: Whoo hoo!  I can't be racist!

Otis: Too bad you can't stop being a dumbass.

Lucky: How come you never told me this before?

Otis [a pause]:  Because I knew this is how you'd react.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Overheard at the Counter: Valentine's Day at the Gas Station

"on the way home I stopped to get gas and I'm standing there filling the tank and I see a twentysomethign woman in a mini van in front of me and on the other side of the pump there is another minivan, with an older man getting out and they are both filling their tank, and then the woman takes a young boy - about five - out of her mini van and takes him to the older man, who takes the boy's hand and puts him in his car. 

"and I'm thinking 'is this a child trafficking thing?' What should I do?  Then I'm thinking that this looks like a woman who's letting her father, the kid's grandfather, take the kid.  I mean, it's Valentine's Day, maybe she's going out to dinner with her husband.  Or maybe this older guy is her ex-husband, maybe he's the child's father.  I mean, the kid is hugging him and smiling.

"... and then I'm thinking, 'What makes people fall in love?' 'What makes people fall out of love?'

"What makes people move their kid from one car to another at a gas station?  What have we done when we move our kids around like we would bags of cat food?

"Why are we so blasé about our relationships?  Why are they so easy?  Why do we so easily forget all the promises that we made that we imagine we would keep?  What happens to those dreams?

"and at that moment, I just want to get home, and tell my wife that I love her, tell my kids that I love them... before the moment comes that they or I or any of us switches from one car to another, and we are strapped into the child's seat and driven away, toward some distant unknown sunset."

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Yes "The Clap"

One of the earliest recordings at the Zen and Tao Acoustic Café.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Overheard at Table 4: Liver and Cheese

Daughter, "Mom doesn't understand how tough it is to date."

Dad, "Yes, she does."

Son, "Hardly!  She probably only ever dated you!"

Dad, "And what's that supposed to mean, son?"

Son, "Well, come on, Dad, Mom's just not ... well, like THAT!"

Dad, "Hey kid, your mom was a steamin' hottie when I met her, and she's gotten hotter every day I've known her."

Daughter, "Ew Dad!  Gross!"

Dad, "Steamin'!"

Daughter, "Dad!  Really!"

Dad, "You kids never knew it, but your mom had a lot of guys trying to go out with her, but I always say I won her over with Liver and Cheese."

Son, "What the hell is 'Liver and Cheese'?"

Dad, "So glad you asked that, son!"

Daughter, "Why did you do that?"

Son, "Walked into that one."

Dad, "Whenever I knew some guy had designs on your mom, I would always find a way to meet up with the guy when she wasn't around, and I would say to them, 'Hey man!  Liver and Cheese!' and they would say, 'What?' and I would say:




Son, "I'm now wondering why she ever married you."

Daughter, "Really, Dad.  It's a frikkin' miracle that we're even here!"

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Overheard at Table 2: Gen-Ex-Centric - Micky D's

MR says to Niall Carter, "It was the early 90's, I think, and I was at a McDonalds.  I was ordering like a Quarter Pounder with cheese and I wanted them to hold the onions.   I'd had a friend who'd worked at a McDonalds and they said that if you order it with a change, that's when they make it fresh.  Otherwise you get just what's been sitting on the warming tray for two hours,

"and the kid looks at me at says, 'Uh, I don't think I can do that,' and I asked 'Why not?' and he says, 'I don't have the picture for that," and I said, 'What do you mean?' and he motioned me to look around at the cash register.  I leaned over and looked at it and yeah, all it was was columns and rows of pictures:  Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, Fries, the different drinks.

"It was then I realized, 'We're hosed.  This next generation is not going to be able to read, or think, or do anything that doesn't conform to one button of one cartoon picture that gives them an easy choice."

Niall Carter says, "Fast forward to now.   My wife is all the time complaining that while she's texting, her phone keeps putting up icons.   She was trying to tell her brother that's it was really warm yesterday, misspelled 'warm' sent him a picture of a green WORM."

MR says, "Exactly!"