Archive for October, 2012

Philly Journal, 10/30

Posted in Philly Journal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2012 by sethdellinger

Life chugs along here in Philly/ South Jersey.  There are quite literally more things to do than I have time for!  The list of ways I want to spend my time keeps growing and growing and I rarely fully check something off of it.  In addition to tourist areas/ landmarks (which my mother and I tick off a list at the rate of about one a week), there are larger projects I can’t seem to get my feet under me for:  familiarize myself with the local rock music scene, find when and where nationally-renowned poets are reading in the area, figure out the local New Jersey history, take pictures of as many Philadelphia historical markers as I can, become familiar with Philly record stores…and on and on.  Luckily, I like doing things.

There was a hurricane yesterday.  Despite all signs pointing to the fact that we should have been, like, directly in the worst part of the hurricane, close to nothing happened here.  Just a whole lot of rain, and a little bit of wind.  For a moment it looked like there might be a flood danger.  Watch this video I took, once an hour from between 1pm and 5pm:

A few nights ago I went and saw the band El Ten Eleven at Philly’s North Star Bar.  It was interesting to finally see a show at this venue, as about two years ago, when I was living in Erie, I had planned to see the band Hey Rosetta! at this location when I was home on a vacation, but those plans got changed, however, I had stayed on their mailing list and have recieved monthly e-mails from them for two years, detailing the bands playing there.  While there are dozens and dozens of venues in Philly, it just so happened that the North Star Bar would end up being the first place I actually saw a band in Philly after moving here.  It was, essentially, a dump.  But I loved it.

This concert was somewhat unique for me because I attended it WITH SOMEBODY.  I went with my friend Bill Hanna, who doesn’t have a Facebook, so it’s almost like he doesn’t exist. But he does have a Twitter account, and I’m sure he’ll hate the fact that I just linked to it.

El Ten Eleven is post-rock, which I reference all the time but you still don’t know what it is. Damn lazy readers.  Anyway, it’s really serious music for really pretentious bastards like me.  But seeing post-rock live is pretty much the most intense experience I ever go through.  It is life-affirming, gut-wrenching, and sorrowful.  And seeing it live with a friend is even more intense.  Kudos to Bill Hanna for making the trip, as I think he still has just one foot into the genre, not yet sure if he likes the temperature, although he is a certified fan of this post-rock band.

Anyway, the day of the show, I spent wandering around Philly before meeting up with Bill and going to the show.  I made this video of footage from that day, set to El Ten Eleven’s “Lorge”, followed by footage I shot of them opening their show that night with the same song:

Other intense things lately: my mom and I saw a show of some of Winslow Homer’s paintings, including this hum-dinger:

Went to the intriguing Franklin Science Center with the sis, nephews, and mom:

I’ve visited the building Thomas Jefferson was staying in when he wrote the Declaration of Independence, the house where Walt Whitman died, four Phillies games, toured a battelship, taken a million (really good) pictures, eaten way too many cheesesteaks, allowed my mother to teach me that, yes, plants are actually badass, recieved multiple cool owl things from my sister, played a seriously challenging game of hide-and-seek with my nephew Ethan, bought a really sweet new record player, went to the damned zoo,  attended a meeting of our development’s Homeowner’s Association with my mom and Brian (formerly known as Pumpkin Latte on this blog, but that would be too weird considering my recent career change, so to my blog readers: Brian is my sister’s husband and also a registered Shaman in Alaska), went to dinner at a fancy schmancy joint with a visiting Michael, became obsessed with the works of this poet and even found a book of his in, yes, an actual bookstore, visited Newville and had my dad take me on a tour of his childhood, oh and this and also this,  and really almost too much stuff to name.

I took a break from the blog for awhile, just basically finding where it fit into my new life, but things have settled into a nice rhythm now, so expect it to come roaring back, with a vengeance. Also, vote for Obama, you bastards.

Flemington, Again

Posted in Memoir, My Poetry with tags , , , , , on October 13, 2012 by sethdellinger

As stated in this post, my mother and I visited Flemington today.  It was an incredibly surreal experience.  It was truly lovely, but proved to be a very interesting exercise in the nature of memory and how I perceive the passage of time.  Until visiting there, I still had myself convinced that living there had been a “recent” occurence.  But being there again proved to me that it is most definitely verging on “a long time ago”.

Here are some pictures of the house we lived in (taken today):

We only lived on the top floor. The large window in the middle was the living room. My bed was up against the window that is seen at the far left of the picture.

And here is the best poem I wrote in which this house makes an appearance:

Like It Always Has

The dog runs away when I come near,
like it always has.
Off to the garage somewhere,
or to nose around in the garden,
maybe.
The skinny gray cat, however,
allows me to stroke him.
I like the cat, with his rough,
sandpaper coat and vibrating
contentment.
The cat meets my gaze with honesty,
commiserating over the heat,
the long days,
and the loud cars
which are ceaseless.

The house towers above us,
is taller than even our cars.
It is lit up like a ballroom,
and tonight it promises
to keep all wild things out,
like it always has.

OK, it’s me again.  Here is a picture I took today of the Boston Market I worked at while living in Flemington:

One of my lesser-liked poems from this period(the few people who have mentioned it to me usually call it weird or something like that) is a poem that was inspired by my job at this Boston Market, called “Growing”.  It is not actually about something that happened to me here, but employs a literary technique called Magical Realism in order to say what I’m thinking by presenting an impossible scenario.  The poem is about my fear of growing up and, ultimately, my fear of growing old—not unlikely topics to tackle at my first job after getting out of rehab and moving in with my mother.

Growing

Yesterday, at the ordinary restaurant where I work
a quite elderly woman bossed her way to my drive-through
window wanting food.  Upon passing me her hard-lived-for
money, my fingers briefly scraped the tips of hers,
and they were terrible, dead things,
scabrous extensions depleted of vigor or tautness
hardened at the end like pencil eraser nubs.
Whether these hands were worn heavy with worry,
decades of turmoil and injustice and life’s folly,
or whether these lecherous ladyfingers had become laminate
as the hands that doled out beatings, ear-cuffings,
being the manacles that held down and slapped,
I won’t pretend to know.  But like dried candybars
they crumbled and dissolved as I put her change
in her despicable palm, her fingernails crunching
like bugs under her tires as she drove off.
I laughed, and so did everyone else who saw it.

OK, me again.  The time I spent living in Flemington was so early in my sobriety, I was counting the days I had been sober.  Today is day ten, today is day 27, and on and on.  It is a practice unlike any other, to count one’s life back into existence.

Within the recovery community, the first really big milestone is 90 Days.  Newly-sober people are often encouraged to do a “90 in 90”, meaning to go to an AA or NA meeting every day for your first 90 days.  I did not do a 90 in 90, but my 90 day anniversary was still a big deal.  As such, my mother took me out for ice cream to celebrate. She took me to a little village of shops in Flemington–the chic kind of place with cute little shack-like buidlings with outlets in them, and quaint little restaurants with only 6 tables in them.  We had ice cream (I had pistachio) at a free-standing ice cream shop in the middle of a brick-lined shopping plaza.  For whatever reason, it’s always been something I remembered very distinctly, and I hadn’t been back there until today.  It’s all mostly the same, but the ice cream shop is a bakery now:

When you’re writing so much poetry (and often with such grandiose ideas), you end up missing the mark a lot.  One of my biggest disappointments from this period are my “thick days” poems.  It was my big poetic ideal to, on certain anniversary days, to write a poem about what it felt like to be sober that many days.  I ended up with three poems,  “75 Thick Days”, “90 Thick Days” (written the day of my pistachio ice cream) and “Thick Days Forever” about being sober, y’know, from here on out.  It was a good idea, but it was pretty much all idea and no substance, and I’ve always cringed when reading them since (they appeared in my second collection of poetry from Flemington, The Mundorf Bench).  But, even though they suck, I’ve never presented them online before, and being back at the ice cream stand today convinced me to do so, warts and all.  I also find it interesting and a tad terrifying that I refer to myself in these as young man.  Here they are:

75 Thick Days

I have inserted
75 thick days
between it and myself
I have licked
and kicked
and battered
the beast
for 75 thick days
and it is rather amusing
spying it reeling
still possessing strength
to lob me doubts
are you strong enough
young man?
Will time really tell?
When does
one of us
win?

How vigilant are bottles?

90 Thick Days

Such optimism
such a varicose life
laid before
and neatly stacked
beautifully puckered
within each day
such soberism
makes a nice wife
but a bad whore
old days packed
away and suckered
for this new way
these thick days
each day a prism,
the sharpest knife,
the brightest shore,
the ceiling shellacked.
90 days puckered
as if to say
they are here to stay.
I now await the next one with ease.
They have taught me something new:  “Please…”

Thick Days Forever

There will always be the graduations of younger folks
and who doesn’t like to see those fast happy times,
and music never stops being made for us to listen to,
bless those musicians.  Maybe dancing.
Or maybe singing; one can always take lessons
and, presumably, become good at almost anything,
with time, with enough days,
and so much usable time, so many precious tickings,
the message of moments easily lost or confused
so that choices become blurred or marred.
Perhaps hangliding, or bungee jumping, or such things affirming.
Or just to wander curiously about, not limiting
yourself into opulent categories or expensive specializations
but just to peek and peer under this,
above that,
seeing what such-and-such is made of
and how it does it.
Oh, with enough time, enough days
the world could become a tiny place indeed.
Nary a thing undiscovered, unfetched.
The days taper off like a coastal shelf,
and with enough of them, one becomes immersed.
What a view from here!
From these thick days, forever.

My 25th Favorite Song of All-Time

Posted in 100 Favorite Songs with tags on October 12, 2012 by sethdellinger

OK folks, we’re in the top 25.  From here on out, these songs are essentially vital to my existence as a human being.  I privately refer to them as my “anthems”, although I suppose it is now publicly, as well.

And my 25th favorite song of all-time is:

“Is There a Ghost?” by Band of Horses

Shortly after moving to Erie, I was perusing upcoming concerts in the Cleveland area, as I wanted to take more advantage of my proximity to that city.  I came across a listing for Band of Horses, a band I had never listened to but that had been swirling around my periphery for quite some time.  I decided it was worth looking into, and I downloaded a few Band of Horses albums.

The first song of theirs I heard was “Is There a Ghost?”, and I knew immediately that I was in love.  The song swells from a quiet, mystical twinkling to an epic rush of meaning; lyricist Ben Bridwell uses a few simple repetitions that seem to circle back on themselves, meaning-wise, in a clever, profound way.  And, having just moved to Erie and left all my loved ones behind, the lyrics and the tone of the song seemed to be written exactly for me.  If I was a musician, I would have written this song even before Band of Horses did.  Make sure to watch the phenomenal live version below the studio version:

 

In Flemington

Posted in Memoir, My Poetry with tags , , , , , on October 12, 2012 by sethdellinger

My mom and I are visiting Flemington, NJ tomorrow.  This may seem like a very not-big deal to most of you, but to me, Flemington is a place of magic.

Flemington is the town my mother lived in when I went to live with her when I got sober.  Like, within the first 12 hours that I got sober.  I’ve written a lot about my alcoholism, both my active drinking time and my recovery period, but I’ve never written at length about the very end of the drinking and the very beginning of the sobriety—and I’m still not going to, although that post is percolating, probably for sometime closer to my ten year sobriety anniversary, in April.  But it should be noted that my life as I currently think of it began in Flemington, NJ, about 9 and a half years ago.

I only lived there for six months (with my mom and her husband, John), but it seemed like much longer, and it still seems like yesterday.  I find it nearly impossible to believe it was almost ten years ago.  I still seperate events into things that happened “post-sobriety” and things that happened “pre-sobriety”, even things that didn’t happen to me.  If a movie was made in 2004 (post-sobriety) I consider it relatively new, despite it being 8 years old.  My life in Flemington serves as my own personal Big Bang.

Not only did I experience my early recovery “pink cloud” in Flemington, but it was an idyllic time for me in many ways: I was a grown-up with a job, yet had no bills.  Literally, no bills.  It was my first time in my life living outside of Central PA and I was discovering my love for “exploring”.  I was developing my love for movies, music, and books at record pace.  It was a wholly unique time of rebirth in my life.  And, I was writing poetry like I would never write it again.

It’s possible that I’ve gotten technically better at writing poetry since my Flemington period, but never again will I be able to write such genuine, immediate, voluminous verse as I was then.  I was bold, experimental, and searching for my unique poetic voice (by the time I moved in with my friend Duane in Carlisle, PA, six months later, I had found my poetic voice completely, and would go on to write a second batch of great material from our shared apartment on North Street).

The whole point of this post is for me to have an excuse to post my Flemington poems (or “early recovery poems”) for the first time in a long time.  I suppose it’s possible I am more fond of them than they deserve, because of my warm association with their creation, but I really do think they’re great.  I don’t have the time or space to post them all, or even all my favorites (I started writing this later at night than I had planned), but I’ll get a few here.  First is the poem I have repeatedly said is my best ever, and I stand by that.  The poem, “In Flemington”, doesn’t seem outwardly amazing, but it drips with emotion, and very accurately captures my experience.  It is a unique narrative chronicle and ends by revelaing that the narrator (me) has actually been thinking about a nameless woman that he didn’t mention previously, and that the entire poem has actually been addressed to her.  An immediate re-reading of the poem should then change your comprehension of the narrator’s (my) emotions, and add yet another layer of emotional depth to the piece.  Here it is:

In Flemington

On the corner at a small shop I buy a coffee
and take it outside with me.
In the air it steams to cool,
in communion with the breeze.
Strolling east, the cars and bicycles
are sparse today, even birds are few,
this close to downtown.  Passing the laundromat,
sweet, pungent softener assaults the nostrils
and the rumble of coin-op dryers is melancholy and promising.
Turning left onto Reaville Avenue a small boy
eight years old if a day
sits on the curb just sitting there
drying his hair in the sun like the sidewalk
and I almost say hi to him.
The coffee cools quickly in the chill afternoon,
I almost turn back to buy another,
but think better of the three dollars I have left.
I sidle into a quaint bookstore to gape at magazines,
the lives of others and kitchen equipment
glossy and flaxen, and the portly
latina by the register eyes me
and she is beautiful in that way
only latinas and llamas can be beautiful:
using solely the eyes.
Asking her if there is a restroom, she grudgingly gives me a key
knotted to a large wooden block
as if this were an interstate filling station,
and points me to the back corner,
but the door is open when I get there.
Safely locked inside, my pants stay buttoned
and I use only the mirror, studying my lines,
the old souvenir red blotches, reminding me
of lives and moments, other bookstores
or towns; some oversize pores poke peskily
into view begging for me to wash my face more often,
but not right now, not now, a time and place for everything.
Giving the key back to the girl, I emerge onto Main Street
and suck deep the stunningly new air,
amazed by the realization that you are somewhere far away
occupying real space
breathing just like me
and smiling right this instant,
your eyes gleaming like little coins.

OK, it’s me again.  Here’s another one of my all-time favorite, “You Sould Be Good”, a poem I write after my mother and I saw a woman collapse at a flea market.  I still read it and, when I get to the last few lines, I get chills.  Undoubtedly, I think, one of my most publishable poems.

You Should Be Good

I saw a woman stricken today—
with a heart attack, most likely—
it was at the flea market that occurs
every Sunday in the baseball field
beside my mother’s house.

She lay there quite still,
her insides arguing most likely,
and no one came running
except one woman wearing khaki shorts,
a daughter probably—
somebody’s daughter—
who knelt to tend to her.
(she was already dead?  perhaps)

The other market-goers stood,
seemingly stricken themselves,
stranded in place and looking on,
listening as the ambulance
from not-so-far-away
took up its familiar and chilling cry,
not just a wailing, but a caution:
You should be good.

Hey, it’s me again.  I’ve got to go to bed now, but I really have more of these to post, even though surely nobody is reading this.  So anyway, I’m going to return to this subject tomorrow, after my mom and I get back from our visit.  Goodnight, cruel world!

My 26th Favorite Song of All-Time

Posted in 100 Favorite Songs with tags , on October 12, 2012 by sethdellinger

is:

“Brian and Robert” by Phish

This is probably not on many people’s list of favorite Phish songs.  It’s just a tiny little song that you can’t dance to, but for some reason, it’s always really spoke to me.  It, lyrically, seems to subtly nudge the listener, saying, “Hey!  Don’t be so sad!  Snap out of it!” while, musically, the song is actually really sad.  Seems to me like the kind of contradiction that life is made out of.

My 27th Favorite Song of All-Time

Posted in 100 Favorite Songs with tags , on October 10, 2012 by sethdellinger

My 27th favorite song of all-time is:

“Growing Old is Getting Old” by Silversun Pickups

Who can’t identify with this badass song by California rockers Silversun Pickups?  Stick with it, there’s an awesome, intense change about halfway through:

My 28th Favorite Song of All-Time

Posted in 100 Favorite Songs with tags on October 7, 2012 by sethdellinger

Click here to read about this list, or click here to see all previous posts on this list.

…and my 28th favorite song of all-time is:

“Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads

My first time hearing this song, it was playing in the background of a piece on Channel One, sometime in my middle school years.  I remember being very attracted to it’s beat, followed by seemingly disjointed and incongruous lyrics that seemed poignant but unconnected.  “And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack.  And you may find yourself in another part of the world.   And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile.”  The song seemed to be a key to understanding very basic facts about our modern life, which I just couldn’t quite (and still can’t) quite understand.  But the song sure is a damn fun mystery.

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