The other day I received news concerning this from David Curtis’s lovely and endlessly witty and observant blog Beneath the Tin Foil Hat, the Versatile Blogger Award. Aw….well, shucks, Dave. My thanks. My wife rightly says I do not know how to handle compliments, and the fact that this note is a couple of days late probably speaks to that. ANYWAY….
This award involves my doing a couple of things. Four, actually. And so:
Seven things about me you might not know: Ooooh….you’re asking the most private person you know (or may not know) to reveal seven things? Wow. OK, then. In no particular order:
1. I volunteer at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind here in Toronto; it’s a gig I thoroughly enjoy. I record book texts for blind folks. I’m able to do this twice a week most weeks, and the people I work with, mostly retirees, some of whom emigrated from England and therefore have commanding BBC voices (though the fact is all of them have wonderful voices), are sweet, friendly, and enjoyable to be around.
2. On a related topic, you may not know I’m hoping to get into voice work on a more professional level. From the time I taught at Bowling Green, people have told me I have a voice for radio; I contend I have a face for it, too. So I thought I’d take them all up on it. CNIB is absolutely a catalyst for me in that direction, and it’s through them that I’m beginning, if slowly, to get into it for real. I may have more news on this in the near future. Stay tuned. It doesn’t mean I’d ever abandon writing, however. Voice work is anything but a time-intensive business, anyway.
3. You may not know but may have suspected that I’ve had a history of concussions. I’ve had between 11 and 13 at this writing, and there are times this tells on me. Unfortunate but true.
4. You may not know I attended one of David Bowie’s most infamous concerts. It took place in Tampa at Curtis Hixon Hall, and was infamous because of a highway accident. Bowie had two tractor-trailers carrying all the tour equipment; one carried the sound, the other the visuals (the enormous, Broadway-sized stage setup). The latter truck crossed the border into Florida when the driver was stung by a bee and wound up crashing the vehicle into what turned out to be a rattlesnake-infested swamp. The truck had to be abandoned, and on show day Bowie had to decide whether to go through with the show. He’d lost the skychair for “Space Oddity” and all, you see. So Bowie kept us all waiting while he decided. Finally he went through with the performance, which turned out to be amazing because he was suddenly forced to rely on his own talents without the visuals. That evening Bowie and band absolutely killed. I will not forget it. Oddly enough, that show isn’t listed on his Wikipedia page. Go figure.
5. You might not know that a number of my relatives were coal miners in West Virginia. That’s one reason why to this day I support miners and loathe the mineowners, mainly because those relatives became matters of past tense long before they should. Those owners are killers; nothing less.
6. Dave talked about his fears. Here’s one of mine: Snakes. Show me a snake and I’ll faint dead away. Once, a student decided bringing his snake to class was a good idea. It wasn’t. Let me assure you. I learned this fear out of childhood foolishness. At the old Highland Park Zoo in Pittsburgh they used to keep rattlesnakes and copperheads in open-air aquariums with mesh roofing. Bad idea. I stood there looking at this one copperhead and started tapping on the mesh. “You ain’t so bad, copperhead—” It curled tightly, watching. Then it lunged—straight up. I barely got my left index finger out of the way before it hit, and hung onto a mesh wire, venom pouring out both fangs.Then it dropped back down in a tight coil, looking at me saying “Try that again, motherfucker, I got the range on you now.”
Lesson: Never taunt a copperhead in a cage. Better yet, never put a copperhead in an open cage where little kids can do shit like that.
7. You know I’m a huge racing fan; always have been, always will be. You might not know that one night I beat Jimmy Spencer in a racing video game contest. The winner got two seats to Pocono, no small thing. For one night, I learned what winning felt like, if only in an ersatz way. Spencer said, “This guy didn’t just beat me, he embarrassed me.” He’ll never know how good it felt that he said that. He’s a very nice guy, by the way. I enjoyed meeting him.
And here’s an eighth one: You might not know but will not be surprised to learn I’m an actual card-carrying member of the Communist Party. Of Italy.
OK. Now onto blogs.
First, I want to shout out to Michelle Beltano, David’s partner and author of Carving Out a Voice. It’s wonderful to watch former students continue to evolve in their work. She uses her blog as an artistic instrument for self-reflection, and as such she treats her work objectively. My favorite thing about her blog is its political slant—hardcore progressive and unflinching. She proves that poetry can be political in nature without taking second place to the message.
I’d also name Dave’s Tin Foil Hat, but he named mine, so….Dave’s site is funny in all good ways, and as with Michelle his politics are surely in the right place as far as I’m concerned.
Speaking of poets and their blogs, let me turn you on to Mary Biddinger and The Word Cage. I’ve known Mary since the mid-nineties, in the MFA program at BGSU, and can honestly tell you I respect her opinions as much as anyone’s. Hit her blog and you’ll also see links where you can buy her collections, which you need to read.
My third pick is a political blog, called The Rude Pundit. Of course it is. Lee Papa’s site was the inspiration for mine; the fact that his blog’s so aptly named (something that I love as a profanitarian) taught me there are no limits as to what you’re allowed to say on your own motherfucking blog. Until TRP I didn’t know I wanted to blog at all. Now it’s one of the most important parts of my writing life, and I owe Papa for that.
Then, if you’ll pardon, I’d like to name two blogs that are actually larger than our little operations: First is Harriet: A Blog, part of Poetry magazine’s Web presence and something I’ve come to much enjoy, and not, I stress, merely because they picked up one of my blog entries (which shocked me, BTW). There’s much important news about the biz that we call po-, and it reminds us all that there’s a real connection among us as writers. That connection still matters, even if sometimes we feel it might not. The other is The Conservative Lie, which as you already realize is a watchdog and something I think we all need to consider in terms of the blog’s mandate. The lies on the Right are many and deep. It’s up to free-thinking people to consider this.
So, I should get busy here soon contacting people. To Dave and Michelle, I say Thank You. To my other blogmates, another Thank You. Also, Thank You whoever you may be. I have a very difficult time promoting myself, so all this isn’t as easy as you might think, but my gratitude is real and deep. Thank You.
Also: There’ll soon be a new page on this here blog, concerning philosophies, memories, odds & ends. Hope you’ll enjoy. Again, to you all, my everlasting Thanks. Much Cheer—