Tuesday, February 12, 2019

While the Smudge Lingers

Seeing a flowering quince in Jackson Ward today can only mean one thing: spring must be coming.

Said the eternal optimist.

Mac was the one who noticed it as we were walking down Marshall Street on our way to the river, but I was the one to point out clumps of daffodils nearby, their buds so yellow they'll be blooming by Valentine's Day, I'll bet.

Tonight, it was a long-simmering desire to hear poetry read to me by strangers, not to mention wanting to "spend" my Christmas present gift certificates, that put me at Chop Suey for a reading and some book shopping.

First up was the soft-voiced Semein Washington who was admonished to speak up after he introduced himself. "I will, I will! I'll use my diaphragm," he promised and upped the volume, which didn't affect his tendency to speak in a monotone.

It's always fascinating to hear people read their own work because despite a presumption that no one can read their own words better, that's not always the case.

A poem about John Coltrane spoke to a 21st century jazz lover with "As your sax hums and haunts from my computer..." while one about Dr. Manhattan included the line, "He locks lips and holds hands with two women while promising both he'll love them forever."

Good luck with that, doc.

His ode to his favorite band in the world, Hella, insisted that "You get me twisted with joy, joy turns my muscles to heat." The uber-fan went on to say, "Your double time beat chops through my bandwidth."

In a poem he dedicated to the friend who was outside parking his car, Washington read, "LSD made it easier to love ourselves" while also noting that, "I feel a togetherness of my brain and thoughts." What thoughts, you wonder? "If love brought us here now or made us stay."

Never having taken LSD, that's not a question I can answer.

Another poem about taking mushrooms recalled that they "healed me of my fears and made me laugh so hard I couldn't open my eyes." I happen to know that you can laugh that hard without taking mushrooms because I do it a lot these days.

After a poem about his grandmother clad in a chrysanthemum-print dress, he closed with the somber "This May Have Nothing to Do With You," a poem about innocent people being killed in Yemen.

Next up was Beasa Dukes, wearing a top hat and displaying far more vocal inflection. Beasa read two parts of one long poem with references to an electrical storm letting "the atmospheric energy kiss my toes," seeing god as a rat or a woman and a cop shooting a child.

This was not poetry for the faint-of-heart.

Beasa closed with, "This is how all things begin, with the blood and the nothing and the end."

As far as I was concerned, at that point there was nothing to do but buy a best-selling biography of Stevie Nicks with my gift certificate and head down Cary Street to Plan 9.

I walked in to find three guys, one an employee, deep in a spirited conversation about musical equipment in the back. I was alone in looking through the bins of records and CDs for something I wanted to spend my gift certificate on, eventually deciding on Australian band Middle Kids' "Lost Friends" album and the new CD from Pedro the Lion, "Phoenix."

Before I left, I got caught up in a conversation with one of the employees I know. His first question was about my thoughts on Northam and the blackface debacle that is dominating the news cycle. That, of course, led to him asking for my thoughts on the Fairfax #MeToo accusations and, before I knew it, we were knee-deep in a discourse on the state of the state.

That's when he reminded me that the last time we'd talked had been at the Village Cafe back in 2014 after a screening of "Dr. Strangelove" at the Grace Street Theater. Chatting after the film ended, we'd both had lots to say about the racist (him) and feminist (me) issues raised by Kubrick's film, so we'd adjourned to the Village.

You know, the good, old Village, where you can count on some rummy at the bar reaching for his backpack, only to have a half-full 40-oz roll out of it, spilling, then clanking to the floor. As befits the Village, nobody batted an eye that night.

What I also recalled about our tete-a-tete, besides the 40-oz incident, was the hella good chocolate milkshake I'd had, while his memory involved asking me my opinion of Hillary and lowering the drinking age.

None of that stuck with me. Interesting, isn't it, how different people store shared memories?

Chocolate and drunks, apparently that's what chops through my bandwidth.

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