Tuesday, September 1, 2015

(I tried posting this on facebook regarding a friend who passed away recently. It's too long a post for facebook, so I placed it here so that some friends and family of Todd might be able to see it.) 

Greetings... I have been in a mental fog since I heard that Todd died.
While we were very close for a few years, as were all of us here, the
past fifteen-plus years, I was not in regular contact with Todd, nor
with any of you. I realize that's life, and so it goes. Todd's death
is terrible news. And while I do not know what was going on in Todd's
life at the end, I have always wished we had stayed in closer touch.
But it was hard to do so! Part of Todd is gregarious and outgoing and
extremely generous, but he was also very private. I was initially hurt
when he wouldn't respond to letters or emails or a couple phone calls,
but then I decided he's got a life, I've got a life, what can you do?
I respected whatever way he chose to respond or not respond. Over the
years, I've been in touch with Lezle, and would get bits of news
passed back and forth from and to Todd. But this was quite a change
from when we lived in Dayton or after grad school in the mid-90s when
we lived close and saw Todd and Lezle and Emily regularly, and Todd
and I would occasionally talk on the phone during work. He had a job
with social services in Dayton, which had its challenges; I was in a
soul-sucking job which I finally got out of. We had many talks about
what to do and Wendell Berry's concept of "right livelihood" came up a
lot, as did baseball, Bruce Springsteen, books, and whatever else.

I told Lezle a few days ago that she and Todd were the first adult
friends I had; they were married, expecting Emily, had been in the
Army and were all grown up. I, by way of contrast, was an idiot! I
always thought they were a good example of how to be grown up and
adult. The way they raised Emily was really good to see, as well,
though I didn't understand how much work it took to raise a child
until Nancy and I had our own daughters. Once in the years after grad
school, I was hanging out with Todd and Emily, and Todd decided we
should pay a visit to Lezle at an art show she was taking part in in
Oakwood. We got there and were walking along with Emily, who insisted
that we both hold her hands. Todd said "Mike, we must look like one of
those alternative couples!"

I admired Todd and Lezle for getting out of town when they did, but I
missed them deeply. That's about the time everyone began moving on.
While it could be frustrating to correspond with Todd, every few years
I'd get a package from Amazon containing a book I hadn't ordered. It
might be Chinese nature poetry or a selection of Philip Whalen' poetry
or a book on Christianity and Zen or a Gurney Norman book. That's how
Todd chose to communicate, and I still have those books. I tried to
reciprocate, but I can't imagine I had anywhere near the influence on
Todd that he did on me. I regret we ran out of time to find out what
Todd might think of Jack Spicer or Lucinda Williams's records or the
avant writing scene, which is such a breath of fresh air--I
think--when compared to many alternatives.

Todd had a mischievous streak, which I admired. His practical jokes
could sometimes be on the harsh side, but no harm, no foul, as they
say. He could have done or said almost anything to me, and I don't
know that I'd be hurt. There are a couple other people I can say that
of--one I married, and another I also met at UD. I can't remember if
Todd put me up to this, or if Bryan did; regardless, I needed little
help when it came to sabotaging my academic "career," but sometime at
the beginning of our second year, Dr. F__ told me that he had to
see me teach before I could leave UD. It was some sort of unwritten or
perhaps written rule. I really had no reason to not want him to see me
teach other than my own hard-headedness. I don't know if I can claim
this for myself--it seems like a Todd idea or at least one he would
have approved of--but for all of that final year of grad school, I
dodged F__'s classroom visit by scheduling on his days off or by
telling him a day in advance we'd be at the library doing research . .
. whatever BS excuse I could come up with. By April, the gambit had
paid off. I avoided him. Todd found that amusing. I also might have
consulted with Todd on the slight-of-hand trick that led to the
English department misplacing, somehow, the copies of my master's
thesis that were supposed to be left in their collection. I hated that
thing and was only too happy to have the copies end up who knows
where. If one remains in Roesch library it's only because I haven't
gotten to it yet. I trust it's buried under the dust of the ages in
any case. (the other person I consulted with is still with us,
thankfully! and I won't implicate him/her!).

Another time, Todd invited me to sit in on one of his classes because
he was using an Edward Abbey essay for an in-class writing assignment.
He wanted me to be there to see the students' reactions and hear their
responses. The Abbey piece was about illegal immigration, the solution
to which Abbey recommended arming illegal Mexican immigrants with
rifles, giving them boxes of ammunition, and sending them home to take
over their government. I wonder if anyone uses that essay today?

A few months ago I found an old telephone message that Todd left me
when I was working at the UD Alumni House, a job which Bryan helped me
get and for which I've always been grateful. It was a nice place to
work in the summer and they were great people to be around. The
message, written in the beautiful handwriting of fellow student worker
Cara Swisher, read "Rick Manning called. He asked that you call him
back." Rick Manning was a weak hitting, good fielding center fielder
for the Cleveland Indians in the 70's. Another time the message read
"Duane Kuiper asked if you're free for dinner." Kuiper was the 70's
Indian's shortstop and current SF Giants radio analyst. Those are
little gags that I've always missed and always will.

Todd could also tell you things you didn't necessarily want to hear,
but that you might need to hear. Not long after we graduated, Todd
shared with me an unflattering comment a former prof I once admired
made about me in front of a few people we knew. That hurt, and I
wondered why he relayed the news to me; honestly, I was pissed at Todd
for a bit, but that passed quickly and I've been grateful he did tell
me. It's good to know where you stand, and it confirmed my belief that
getting away from UD, academia, and that period of life was a good
move, and as Steve said to me once, while laughing at some story I'd
told him, "Mike, you weren't cut out for academic life!" Which is
true. One of the vacuous comments I remember a professor saying to us
"in them days" is that we shouldn't worry about employment after grad
school, but rather, she argued, we must cultivate "a life of the
mind." Ah well. Some of the books Todd sent me explained Mindlessness,
and that has served me better over the years. Philip Whalen's work in
particular. I'm probably wrong, but at least I don't mind. I've got
that going for me!

Joe and Mark's and Laura's memories--everyone's memories--are good to
read. I think Mark caught very accurately Todd's ways of speaking and
a sense of the passion he would bring to things that interested him.
And as Joe noted, Todd was generous to all of us, as was Lezle. I have
many good memories of just hanging out with them or having dinner with
them. I hope that the distraction and entertainment we provided Emily
helped a little and that we weren't a burden!

I feel bad that we won't be able to share our accumulated life's
adventure stories with Todd or, most especially, hear his. After
twenty-plus years of wondering what to do, it occurred to me that the
"right livelihood" that Todd believed in and always encouraged people
to aim for, and which helped him quit a job in Dayton that had become
a sort of prison, and which I imagine led him to all sorts of other
places, though I don't know the stories, has probably been here along.
I only held a "real" job for about six-and-a-half years after grad
school. I spent fourteen years at home with our daughters, and got
into all sorts of kid-related adventures. Currently, I work on a
bookmobile, driving around Butler County, visiting schools and in
summer putting on story times for 3- to 5-year olds. I have thought a
number of times that Todd would get a big laugh out of the bookmobile.
In a way, it's a parody of the academic life that I thought we had all
begun together twenty-four years ago at UD. It's an enjoyable parody
to live, though. When the kids hug you after a story time and say they
love you, you don't have to worry about having a sexual harassment
claim made against you! And who wouldn't like to perform a puppet show
based on Maurice Sendak stories? I find Amish romance novels (they are
every bit as bad as you'd think) and other odd books for a handful of
retired patrons who will sometimes bring cookies to the bus. It beats
dealing with the heroin addicts and homeless mentally ill that the
librarians at the branches deal with. So driving a bookmobile is not a
bad livelihood, though livelihood should be in quotes, since I am
willing to bet that the graduate stipends at UD are possibly more than
my salary! (Possibly. I hope the English grad students are a little
better paid than we were).

Nothing is easy, which is trite to say, but another thing I liked
about and think I learned from Todd is that he welcomed, or seemed to
welcome, life's absurdity along with its delights. For instance, when
I tell people about some annoying defeat I've experienced in life,
such as seeing a natural area I'd long been an advocate for, ran bird
surveys at, wrote articles about, and lobbied for, literally destroyed
by bulldozers at the direction of the local park system, and I laugh,
people think it's sad and that there's nothing to laugh about. Yet
there is. Todd would have gotten the joke. He understood how that kind
of thing works, how the "universe" operates. But maybe that wore him
out a bit and that's partly why we lost touch with him? I don't know.
Without knowing otherwise, I have to respect whatever decisions he
made, and since we didn't stay in touch better, I have no right to
know anything more (though I would like to) and nothing can be changed
now, anyway. I've missed Todd for years and I'll miss him for many
more.

Take care, my friends! It's good to know you're all out there
.

Thursday, April 30, 2015


wheron

lwegal

androgyniverse

comediverse

Buddhaniverse

Jesuniverse

Allahniverse

Jehovaniverse

unawiers

uniworse

uniwurst

omniwurst 

All but the first two pwoermds are from a collection called "universe," which I'm compiling.

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d¡sapno¡ntu 



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Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Bhalt!morte




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Tuesday, April 28, 2015



dirsputions




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hoarkrsos / kyēkrsoskers /

Fun with a few proto Indo-European roots.


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Monday, April 27, 2015



Spicerabulary




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Sunday, April 26, 2015


smeopoemds




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Saturday, April 25, 2015


iambwattiamb

voceniverse

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Thursday, April 23, 2015


triyst



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Wednesday, April 22, 2015


palimpniverse



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Tuesday, April 21, 2015


uility

conelectivity


orchasm


These should catch things up. It was difficult to get computer time Monday because of internet problems.

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Saturday, April 18, 2015


¡symbibliolé!


This came out of a conversation with a coworker Thursday morning. There's a lot I've meant to unpack regarding this one, but internet connection has been so spotty this week, that I'm going to throw this out really quickly while I can and come back to it later. ...


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Friday, April 17, 2015






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Thursday, April 16, 2015


squirrwralshed

Kent, Ohio has many black ones. Occasionally a white one. Sometimes, but very rarely, I see a black eastern gray squirrel in southern Ohio, most recently in a front yard down the street from Lindenwald Elementary in Hamilton. Last week, I saw a lovely reddish-hued eastern gray squirrel in the neighborhood. They vary a bit in color, but usually they are standard issue gray. I don't like seeing them dead on the road, but it happens. A co-worker said in conversation last week while we were eating lunch, watching squirrels run around outside the bus, and discussing where among the animal section we could place squirrel books so that children can find them easier, that "squirrels are loser monkeys." Maybe we could put them near the primates, but not so close to the tigers, cats, and bears? During the school year on the bookmobile, we have so many books and kids coming on and off the bus that the Dewey decimal system goes to heck, so we shelve in rough Dewey order, but with an emphasis on subject area. That's why we take some liberties with the animal section.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015


pecifics



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Tuesday, April 14, 2015


deepth



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Monday, April 13, 2015


spharrow



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Sunday, April 12, 2015


endrearment



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Saturday, April 11, 2015




Another damaged sign found on my commute. This business seems to be really busy, and I'm sure the sign is a weather casualty.

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Friday, April 10, 2015


mssing



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Thursday, April 9, 2015


knilobob

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015


u ility

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015


LOl ' FPY

This is dipping the proverbial bucket once again into the imaginary well in an attempt to catch a real Leopard Frog. Waiting at the stop light at Grand Blvd., and Ohio 4 today, the gas station LOTTERY sign had transformed once again. I hope it doesn't seem that I'm picking on this place. They are catty corner to a continuously busy Kroger gas station. I'm not even sure the pumps operate anymore. There are a couple places I know of that quit selling gas a few years back when regulations changed and it became too expensive for some independent stations to buy new equipment to store and pump gas. Some of these survived as convenience stores. I haven't been inside this one, but it seems to get a lot of pedestrian traffic from people who live near by. It's much safer to walk here than to risk one's life crossing Route 4 to reach Kroger.

Found on southwest corner at intersection of Grand Boulevard and Ohio Route 4 (South Erie Avenue), April 7, 2015.

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Monday, April 6, 2015

frogeny

This is what an innocent thought about spring and frog procreation gets you: a death metal band, possibly from Poland, called "Nomad"--not to be confused with an Australian world music outfit, of decidedly more optimistic bent, nor assorted death/black/brutal death/death thrash/stoner sludge doom metal bands from the US, Hungary, the Netherlands, and England. They (the Polish band?) recorded a song called "The Branch of Cool Frogeny," and it appears on their album Demonic Verses, which is subtly subtitled "Blessed are those that kill Jesus." I found "The Branch of Cool Frogeny" on YouTube, and I seemed to be the first or second person to listen to the song. I'll let you look it up for yourself. They're not my cup of tea. Or my cup of blood, or whatever one sips while listening to death metal. And after listening to the song, I have no idea how they are using frogeny, but I'm pretty sure it's not the way I'm using it.


When I'm trying out pwoermds, I like to run them through google to see if they already exist in some form. I'm curious how words appear and I'm always up for expanding my vocabulary. "Frogeny" leaped out to me (pun intended) when I saw the title of a James Broughton film Erogeny while watching the documentary Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton. In spring, it's common to find large masses of frog eggs along creeks or in muddy puddles, on the edges of ponds, etc. And it's also common to see frogs chasing each other around, mounting each other, having sex, then doing it again. That's how they create their progeny. And they're good at it, unless they've been chemically poisoned and produce (hopefully) sterile, but obviously mutated horrors


The google search for "frogeny" produced a note that reads "Did you mean progeny, orogeny, erogeny, froggy?" I'm happy that the search brought things back around to frogs. Or should that read "I'm happy that the search Broughton things back around to frogs," since froggy followed erogeny, and erogeny links to the Broughton film?


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Sunday, April 5, 2015


ffffrainffff

trrainniarrt


It rained almost all day Friday. I was intending to go with my family to Nancy's family gathering in Gatlinburg, but our oldest daughter is recovering from a concussion and can't travel. The two of us stayed home. Rather than take a day off, I went to work while my daughter rested in relative quiet at home. A coworker and I spent a good portion of the day cleaning the bookmobile, inventorying the materials in it, and cleaning the AC units in preparation for warmer weather. (Ho-hum!) But it's a useful task and when everything looks nice and orderly, it feels like one has accomplished something. S_ and I were happy with the work. We even cleaned the windows. 


On rainy days, when you're in the building, the noise of rain hitting the roofs of the garage and the large workroom where we store books, mixes with the sound of the trains that pass through Hamilton throughout the day. It's steady, haunting, and sometimes lonely sounding, but if you're warm and dry and inside, it's oddly comforting. And "train" already has "rain" inside of it. 


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Saturday, April 4, 2015

rorabins

Friday morning was dark and cold, with steady rain. The neighborhood Robins' dawn chorus goes on regardless.


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Friday, April 3, 2015

From partially ruined signs found in Hamilton, Ohio:

ottery


Found on southwest corner at intersection of Grand Boulevard and Ohio Route 4 (South Erie Avenue), winter 2015. Sign since repaired. A coworker told me that a group of otters is called a "raft." 


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Thursday, April 2, 2015

From partially ruined signs found in Hamilton, Ohio:

BR EA K  FA   T


Which is from a sign in front of the now unfortunately closed Beck's Fresh Donuts and Restaurant, also called at one point Becky's Sunshine Diner. You can shift the viewing vantage point around in the google link and see the sign in its pre-pwoermd state. That way, you can fill in the missing letter in "Br ea k fa  t" instead of merely guessing!


Update, July 1, 2015: Good news! The empty diner is now a Dominican Diner. I plan to try it out this summer.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

From a message received at a Meijer gas pump while waiting for a receipt: "receipt ready in an oment."

oment


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Saturday, March 7, 2015

A few photos and notes for "Matchless"

Alex Gildzen sent me a matchbook in the mail late this January. Alex sent a lot of matchbooks out in the mail this January; and to say receiving one of the matchbooks made my week and cheered me up during a rather depressing few days might seem corny or overstated, but it's true. Here's the matchbook Alex mailed to me:


Before moving to New Mexico a few years back, Alex was curator of Special Collections at the Kent State University library. There was "one degree of separation" between us while I was attending college: I had two friends who were work study students at the library and worked for Alex in some capacity. As it goes, I met Alex virtually some years ago, but didn't know him while I was in college. It was a near-miss connection that I didn't realize until many years later. Similarly, another very interesting poet named Tom Beckett, who also happens to be a friend of Alex, lives in Kent. But I didn't meet Tom until five years ago, when I attended the last day of the 2010 Avant Writing Conference at Ohio State University. I lamented to Tom that day that I wish I'd know him and Alex when I was living in Kent because I admire both of their approaches to writing, though they follow different paths, and Tom said "well, sometimes we meet our influences when we're ready for them." I think of that comment quite often. I haven't met Alex in person, but I consider him an influence. His work seems so simple and direct as if to appear effortless, but there's a lot of genuine artistry and skill in seeming so effortless! It's never pedantic, disingenuous, or preachy work, and always strikes me as being distinctly personal, and matter-of-fact. I hope that this poem of Alex's from December 2012 about Buddy Guy, the great blues guitarist, illustrates more effectively what I am trying to say:

WIRES FROM THE SCREEN DOOR

Buddy Guy
used them
to make
his first guitar

no keeping
the music inside
from getting out

An artist is going to use whatever materials he or she has at hand. There's no stopping the work.

I met Alex through his blog, Arroyo Chamisa. I'm glad that in these days of twitter, facebook, and instagram--applications or inputs or whatever they're called that make the internet feel even more ephemeral and untethered than it already is--that Alex still writes on his blog. Among the highlights of Alex's blog is a link to "MAKING CIRCLES: a collection of lists mail art & conceptual pieces." Alex likes collections and lists, but these are never materials to have simply to have them at hand. A coin might refer to a specific place, which usually refers again to people who were with Alex at that place at some time or had inhabited that place and its space in some way. Objects are never just objects--there's always a link to another person. Alex's collections strike me as being very human and loving. Though I know personally almost none of the people who are referred to in Alex's work, it doesn't matter. I know they're real people and as people they have a vitality and interest and life of their own. It's clearly evident in Alex's work, be it his poetry, mail art or collection or list pieces.

So when I received the R*E*A* Express Restaurant matchbook from Alex, I knew that it wasn't just a matchbook, but that there must be more to it than something pocketed during a visit to a restaurant in Akron sometime in the--I'll guess--early to mid-1970s. Here's what I learned: REA is the acronym for Railway Express Agency, and was a UPS-like organization the Federal Government created during World War I to ensure that goods were shipped quickly around the country. It had its ups and downs, but eventually became a leading shipper of refrigerated goods in the 1940s. By the 1970s REA had lost favor with the government, run into troubles with labor and UPS, and filed for bankruptcy in 1975.

Here is a photo of the R*E*A* Express Restaurant at Quaker Square in Akron, dated 1977, and available on the Cleveland Memory Project website:



Evidently, the restaurant is next to or perhaps was the terminal that REA used during it's years in Akron. And here's a photo of the inside of the restaurant, also from that time:


So that's where my new matchbook came from. I like the stained-glass windows. It looks like a comfortable place. I hope the food was good, but there's no way to tell from the photos. It seems good conversation was possible? That's important to think about. At least there's a specific place for me to imagine this matchbook having been at one time. A few weeks back, I took some photos of the R*E*A* Express Restaurant matchbook at my library job. I work for a bookmobile, and it's a very good job for me. A friend told me he thinks of a bookmobile as "an ice cream truck for intellectuals." At its best, that's one of the things a bookmobile is. It's a pleasure to drive it around and visit schools and the communities the system I work for serves. I thought since so much of Alex's life has been around libraries and collections--institutional and personal--that it would be fitting to show the matchbook he sent me at my library, a library I'm lucky enough to get to drive around a portion of southwestern Ohio. Here's a shot looking out the window over the driver's dash at my weekly evening stop in Darrtown, Ohio. The newly remodeled Hitching Post is in the background. A sign of our times is that I'm sure there are no matchbooks here. Patrons have to go outside to smoke. The owners, a young couple named Pat and Tasha, visit the bookmobile regularly with their daughter:


Here's a self portrait (of sorts) with matchbook in a convex mirror:


And, finally, a panoramic shot of the interior of my mobile library (it should open up larger if you click on the image):


Thank you for the matchbook, Alex. I appreciate it!