Archive for January, 2014

Dead Folks in Old Photographs

Posted in My Poetry with tags , , , on January 31, 2014 by sethdellinger

All they could do was act oblivious
holding their bodies still for the camera,
sometimes one of them thinking to move
and leave a blur for posterity.

Most just held their smiles, forever.
The young couple, he in a vest three
sizes too large, her in a flapper’s skirt
and Cloche hat, with a tulip in it.

Two sisters sitting on a low curb
above a dirt street, a horse behind them,
the sun casting their shadows diagonally
behind them like knives, or long fingers.

A squinting man outside a bus station
playing the guitar and singing.
A young boy in a bowler hat very close to the camera,
winking and sticking his tongue out.

 

Wherein I attempt to read you a poem, but am interrupted by Time, Death, the Cosmos, and Wailing Guitars

Posted in Seth's Favorite Poems (by other people) with tags , , on January 23, 2014 by sethdellinger

Watch this video, fearless reader:

 

This is a five stanza poem but for some reason today, WordPress is not listening to me when I tell it to put spaces in.  So this looks like one long unbroken poem.  Also, of you are a glutton for punishment and would like to see me read the entire poem (without the long intro) that is viewable by clicking here.

Aubade
by Philip Larkin

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
—The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.
This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.
And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.
Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

Who Needs You to Shovel

Posted in Philly Journal, Prose with tags , , , , , on January 22, 2014 by sethdellinger

My neighbors are obsessed with shoveling snow.  Every time it snows more than an inch, there is continual shoveling going on on my street, in the immediate vicinity of my house, for approximately 36 hours straight.  I am talking about perhaps my ten closest neighbors.  The shoveling NEVER.  STOPS.  Shoveling, scraping, pounding of ice in cracks.  It’s like they need to dust for some fingerprints on the concrete.  photo 5And listen, each one of these houses has approximately a three-foot-wide sidewalk that stretches the length of their house…maybe 20 feet.  Every time it snows, I shovel my sidewalk, as completely as would be necessary on a street upon which nobody travels, in about five minutes as soon as I get home from work.  After working ten hours.  And riding my bike two miles.  I’m saying: it’s not hard to do.  Now, don’t get me wrong here.  I’m not “complaining” about this.  I know I’ve got a reputation for “complaining” about things (I interpret it as “having opinions”, which comes from “being super fucking intelligent and awake to the machinations of the wider world photo 8and structure of reality”, but whatever, if you think I’m a complainer, I’m a complainer), so I don’t want to be seen as particularly complaining about this.  It’s whatever.  You want to shovel your sidewalk ten times after it snows, go for it.  More than anything I just find it peculiar.  Are they just bored?  Or is it a situation of trying to out-do the Joneses?  Plus it is SO COLD right now.  You KNOW I’m a trooper with weather but no way would I be going out repeatedly into that cold just to get my sidewalk–which in all likelihood only the mailman and my own family will walk on—perfect.

I know we don’t live in a world anymore—if ever we did—in which a significant amount of people care about the performances of musicians on late night talk shows.  For quite a few years (as should surprise almost nobody) I was such a person, one who actually paid attention to that world.  I knew the performance lineup from all the shows, almost every week, for about 4 years, I stayed on top of that.  Although lately that world has faded from my attention.  But last week, a band called The Orwells (I can only assume named after author George Orwell)

I hate to seem like a bumpkin, but this is a picture from my very first (solo and sober) cab ride yesterday...I think I'm finally a city boy.

I hate to seem like a bumpkin, but this is a picture from my very first (solo and sober) cab ride yesterday…I think I’m finally a city boy.

performed their new song “Who Needs You” on the David Letterman show and it was a pretty authentic, impassioned performance, which made some waves big enough that it made its way to my attention.  Now, there was nothing especially outrageous about this performance (other than the lyrics to the song, which nobody seems to have noticed, which include lines like “You better burn that flag/ Cause it aint against the law”…and for the record everybody…it isn’t against the law), except it wasn’t a cookie-cutter, “Let’s nail this!” performance.  It was just a little quirky, a lot impassioned, and fairly off-key.  I like it, but they’re probably not going to become a favorite band of mine (although I have put their album on my “to-buy” list). Although I don’t want to take too much away from the legitimacy of their performance; it WAS reminiscent of the early days of some great bands (who would later, inevitably, lose steam and passion) like the Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam, or The Doors before Morrison died (take note: I hate The Doors).   The more pertinent point of discussion, for me, is: what kind of artistic culture have we fostered where a band simply playing with a bit of abandon on a talk show makes the front page of Rolling Stone‘s website?  How neutered has our art become?  How boring are we?  Watch the performance here, and make sure you stay all the way to the end to see how unexpected Dave and Paul found the performance:

photo 6

37 of the Worst Oatmeal Beers

Posted in Philly Journal, Prose with tags , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2014 by sethdellinger

What is up with this trend of inane lists on the internet that have a purposefully odd and senseless amount of items in them?  38 Things White People Don’t Know or 16 Ways I Blew My Marriage or The 42 Most Haunted Places in Ireland.  When they first started popping up, I just assumed the list makers had gotten lazy and didn’t feel like making a list that made it to an even number, but it soon became obvious photo 2that the trend was too prevalent and too consistent to be an accident or a product of laziness.  Something about this odd-number list is a draw to readers–or at least a proven click generator–and I just can’t figure out why.  Why would an oddly numbered list prove to be more attractive to a reader?  Is it just a curiosity thing?  Maybe the number itself jumps off the screen at you more, because our brains are trained to scan past numbers we see all the time, like 10, 20, etc?  No matter the cause, it should surprise nobody that this annoys the shit out of me.  I like my lists nice and tidy with rounded numbers, you know, like you were kind of trying.  And photo 1don’t get me started on the silly, needless lists that this tactic has caused to pop up on my news feed.  Sigh.  I really do kinda hate the internet.  But it’s definitely a love-hate kinda hate.

I still have yet to be able to find any information about those piers in my video on my previous blog.  Of course, I’m just Googling.  Does a more in-depth way of researching things still exist?  Does going to a library and…I don’t know, doing something there increase my likelihood of figuring something like this out?  I mean, not everything is on the internet, believe it or not,photo 3 but I seem to have lost the ability or the know-how to do any research aside from internet searches.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m really good at internet searches, but still…

Sometimes in life you say something, maybe just a few words, a sentence, and you regret saying it.  Even twenty years later, you regret it, and maybe you regret it for the rest of your life.  Because saying something is an action, and maybe something you said hurt somebody, and somewhere deep inside us we know that some things do last forever.  And you wish you hadn’t hurt that person.  You wish you hadn’t said or done the thing.  People love to talk about not having regret, but you do.  You have regret because you’re a human being and having 027regrets is as much an ingrained part of the human experience as pooping, or stretching in the morning, or hating the Pittsburgh Penguins.  You can get into some stupid language game like well to me regret means blah blah blah, but I don’t, I just use experiences to blah blah blah.  Whatever.  Stop watching daytime TV.  Life aint tidy.  Own your regret.

I’m sure glad I stopped drinking before this whole “craft beer” thing started happening.  I certainly would not like these sludgy beasts.  Oatmeal beer and wheaty stuff and dark beers with bits of rice floating in them, or whatever.  Of course, I am sure that many people are constantly forced to pretend to like these things by a photo 4hipsterish peer pressure.  I can tell just by looking at these bottles that these “micro-brews” (once you’re bringing science into beer, you’ve probably lost the plot) are like beer syrup.  They probably make Guinness look like Coors Light.  No thanks.  Thank you, sobriety!

Here is me, looking at The Signer:

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I’m a Kind of Portion, I Guess

Posted in Philly Journal, Prose with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2014 by sethdellinger

I had a long conversation last night with one of my employees about demonyms.  Demonyms are the words we use to describe where we are from, that you are a person from a specific place.  For instance, Philadelphian is a demonym, and so is Israeli and Marylander.  I have always found demonyms very interesting.  They come in so many shapes and sizes, and there are no rules about how it is formed (and typically, there aren’t even official demonyms).  I first became really aware of and curious about them when I first moved to Erie, PA, and realized I had become an Erieite.  That is a helluva word!  Ever since, I have been intrigued by each place’s demonym.  You can usually guess it, but not always.  In addition, what REALLY blows my mind is that there is a demonym for everywhere.  I mean, continents have 007them…European, Asian, South American, etc.  Obviously, countries and states, too.  But you really start to slither down the rabbit hole when you think that every town has one!  Not every city, every town has it’s own demonym.  Just thinking about the people likely to be reading this blog…Dad, obviously I know you are a Newvillian.  So am I, to a degree.  Mom and Adi and Brian are Mantuans.  Kyle…what are you, a Ridgecrester?  I hope that’s what it is.  Cory K. lives in Racine, WI…that one boggles my mind.  I could look it up but I hope he reads this and tells us in the comments.  My best guess is Racineite.  But in my conversation with my employee last night, we took 012it one step further.  Sure, we were both Philadelphians, but we also lived in sections of the town that had names.  Did they, too, have demonyms?  Of course they do!  But we don’t know what they are.  He lives in Society Hill so he settled on Society Hiller, and I like Pennsportian (rhymes with portion).  I seriously could think about demonyms all damn day.

I stumbled onto something pretty interesting today.  Watch this video I made.  I don’t even make you listen to any hip music in this one:

Things I don’t understand in life include, but are not limited to: hopscotch, red licorice, the stock market, bandwidth, point spreads, football’s “secondary”, tort reform, Celsius, 12 bar blues, and the aeronautical concept of lift.  Also, unrelated,

For those with a passing interest in architecture, these apartment buildings near the Delaware River in Philly are Frank Gehry buildings.

For those with a passing interest in architecture, these apartment buildings near the Delaware River in Philly are Frank Gehry buildings.

there is a place in Maryland called Big Assawoman Bay.  It’s a bay.  Really.

Why does my phone die faster when it’s cold out?  seriously, is there someone who can explain this to me?  And why, why, does there not exist a device which is portable, with which we can charge our phones using stores solar power?  I know I am sounding like some green tree-hugger (I kinda am) but for real, I hate how when I leave the house for extended periods of time, I now have to plan where and when I’ll be charging my phone (losing the car option has changed things a tad; that was always a go-to charging area).  With these smartphones being power sieves nowadays, after an hour and a half out of the house on foot, I find myself having to conserve battery power.  Not cool, world.  Figure something better out!

I bought this mini-figurine of William Penn because I am good with money:

photo

I Wear My Heartburn at Night

Posted in Philly Journal with tags , , , , , , , on January 16, 2014 by sethdellinger

There is something very unique about living alone.  Obviously, I guess.  Certainly it is not for everyone.  Mostly, it is for loners and pricks, I guess, but I must say it does agree with me.  I know I’ve covered this area a lot in things previously written, but I just can’t get over how…interesting…it is to not utter one word to a human being some days other than while I am at work.  Of course, my job requires me to say A LOT (“verbally exhausted” is the industry slang) so oftentimes, the break from speech is quite welcome.  This isn’t important.  Just thinking out loud.002

I was riding my bike down Snyder Ave. in the bike lane this morning and three teenagers were standing in the lane, craning their necks down the street, presumably looking for their bus.  As I neared them they didn’t budge one bit.  I also did not alter my course.  I buzzed by them, inches away.  I made eye contact with them as I passed, and they were obviously pissed.  One of them started to say something, but I wasn’t sure what, and I didn’t even let him remotely finish before I blurted out “Get the fuck off the road, kids.”  Either: A) I am a badass motherfucker or B) what the hell is wrong with me?

photo6

I have watched the movie “Meek’s Cutoff” three times this week.  It is an exceptional film.  I watched it when it first came out, in 2011 (and it even took second place in my top ten movie list of that year) and I promptly bought it on DVD, but I waited until this week to even view it a second time.  But then a second time became a third, and then a fourth.  It is an extraordinary film.  It is now one of the things that I will come to associate with this, the winter I moved into Philadelphia.  Watch this clip:

I rarely hear my neighbors, despite sharing walls with them on two sides.  However, when I do hear them, it is a bed squeaking rhythmically.  Sex or masturbation, I don’t know, but I guess I’ve lucked out, since there are no vocalizations to go along with it.  It’s just awkward, is all.

My mom and I went to the Hard Rock Café in Center City for my birthday.  Here is my mom there:

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Oh, my birthday, by the way.  I turned 36.  So it goes.  That sounds pretty old to me, but I guess if I’m lucky, someday it will sound young.  People say life is short but it seems pretty long to me.  Longest thing you’ll ever do, anyway.photo12

This blog entry just took a turn for the sour because I have heartburn now.  That’s what I get for drinking coffee after midnight.  There, as far as I know, is no certified medical reason for drinking coffee after midnight to give you heartburn, but alas, it always does so, to me.  And yet, I continue to do it.  Lesson learning is not, nor has it ever been, my strongest trait.

It is unseasonably warm.  Can’t argue with that.  Everyone likes unseasonably warm.  Everyone.

photo5

Not Here, Not Now

Posted in Memoir, My Poetry with tags , , on January 14, 2014 by sethdellinger

Of course, being a man who writes poetry and also thinks about himself a good deal, I have written multiple poems on my birthdays.  Here are my two favorites.  The first, “Upon My Birthday”, was written the day I turned 26.  If you like it, you can hear me read it aloud if you click here.  Here it is:

Upon My Birthday

I’ve spoken at length with you about years rolling by unhinged
like breathless wagons drawn by crazed stallions;
I’ve sat with you in the hushed cellars of our
toilsome peers devising machines of immortality;
I have calmly stepped with you through the doorways of hospitals and morgues,
scoffing at the gall of centuries to lay claim to my soul;
I have laid upon you, dear, halfnaked in dawn’s presence,
sucking sweetly through my nose the air you just breathed out,
heaving my breath in time to yours,
and even then, dear,
(even then!)
I did not feel as truly alive as I do now
upon my birthday,
this day with the earth in a precise arc in it’s trembling orbit
which somehow belongs to me,
this day swinging stubbornly around once a calendar year
so that I may live with true vigor and purpose these scant hours,
and be reminded there was a time
I was not even alive!

 

And here is another favorite of mine, obviously written on the day I turned 30.  There is also an audio version of this one here.

 

On Turning Thirty

Of course everyone knows there is something ridiculous about the way
time moves,
slithering into and out of crevasses,
ravines, serpentine granite chapels like a freezing-cold
underground liquidway,
usually unseen,
usually only the merest mention of it on the barest surface
of these real things we do,
flowing through sand checkout lines and sky traffic jams
like the most unpredictable ubiquitous damned thing you ever did see;

It is when turning back,
craning your head to see the vast vermilion horizon
of your own crusty underpants
learner’s permits
snot smeared on windowpanes
itchy petting zoos
women left in the rain
tears shed in amusement parks
vomit on the lady’s pants
that certain incense in that certain basement
pennies crushed by trains
soaking wet suede sneakers
pot smoked from soda cans
dad catching you peeing in the yard
naked in the car
alone on campus
malls with grandma
the nipple like a bullet in your mouth
and the loudest music you ever heard
that this queerest thing about time is more evident than words;
when you see yourself inside of it, it seems so long,
but when you try to look back on it,
it’s like there was never any time at all,
that all instants happened at once.

Somewhere I am eight,
and somewhere I am wrestling,
and somewhere my mother cradles my tiny head
and somewhere my leg is broken
and somewhere I am drunker than hell
and somewhere I am one-hundred and ten pounds
and somewhere I am dancing dancing dancing
and somewhere I am in those mountains watching those two rattlesnakes have sex and you were there too
and somewhere we stand around a swimming pool full of glow sticks
and somewhere a goose is chasing me
and somewhere a man in a chariot just yelled at me to slow down
and somewhere I am on a couch stricken unable to move
and somewhere my father and I are driving around town wearing Halloween masks and it is funny funny funny
and somewhere I am thirty and somehow remembering the loudest music I ever heard but that place is not here, not now.

 

 

 

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