An Announcement: We’re Gonna Make It.

English: Postage stamp depicting the main buil...Postage stamp depicting the main building of the Tampere City Library (“Metso”), designed by Raili & Reima Pietilä (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes! Finally I can tell you some things. There are still struggles; there are still problems. Some of these I can’t talk about, mostly because I wish to maintain the privacy of those involved. Other issues I won’t bother to mention, basically because we all have these problems. The car breaks down. Your indoor cat somehow gets fleas.

And while it’s good to purge sometimes, I prefer selective and productive dumping, so as not to pollute the public’s emotional water ways. Sometimes others need to hear the specifics of your struggles, so that they do not feel alone. This isn’t one of those days. Today I need to share a bit of good news, because the gods know I have been needing some good news. And in this way, I hope to bring some encouragement, not through commiseration, but through celebration, and tangible reasons for hope.

So let’s boil this down. My beautiful 100-year-old building was bought by new owners this year. I was a little worried because frankly I’ve been living here pretty cheaply, and that allowed me to take that leap and quit the restaurant biz, go full-time at the library, and start working on that freelance editing thing. But the first time they raised the rent it was only by 25 bucks. Whew. Then, like my knee, the car broke down. No problem, we have another car and I can walk up the street to work. It will take time, but we’re gonna make it, I thought.

My table that I don't sit a often enough.

My table that I don’t sit a often enough.

Then in July we got the news that the rent would go up again, with the promise of a further hike coming in January. All totaled that’s a 200 dollar rise in rent in their first year of owning this place! Hey, if I’m going to pay that I want at least a postage-stamp-yard, not just a stone courtyard, with stones that are only there because friends and I drove the truck and put them there (with sweat, and little help from the previous landlord).

For that price I want a place with more light, not a cave tucked in between these dark buildings. I want a view akin to what I had when I was up on the third floor, when our family was smaller, a view that looked over the building toward the hills along the river, not this view of an ugly wall. For that price I want the stained tiles in my kitchen ceiling replaced, like the landlord promised months ago. A little insulation in the place would be nice too. The cheap rent only served to offset the high cost of heating and cooling.

There are nicer places (and we don’t need one quite this big now that the boys are older) for that price. But even so, I couldn’t afford the two hundred-dollar hike, not yet. The budget really was that tight. It meant a change in plans, and honestly taking my wounded knee and my battered heart back into waiting tables just wasn’t an option. I love my job at the library here. For the last year and a half I’ve been happy going to work, not dreading it (even when the computer lab tech issues seem to be conspiring to bring me down!). But circumstances were just making it clear that I needed to adjust my plans.

And to keep this story from taking up your whole day, here’s the news: After some inquiries, two interviews, and several weeks, I have accepted a job offer that (once I get past all the moving expenses–thank you to my friends who are offering assistance!) will get our heads above water again. No, we won’t be living lavish life-styles of the rich and famous, but we’ll be in much better shape and on our feet financially again.

They were a tad younger here.

They were a tad younger here.

It’s a little further from my sons, but my sons are well above driving age now, and really the few extra miles just make sense. We’ll be closer to Brian’s family, and that will save him his monthly week-long absences to work with his brother and father. And we have friends in the area too, so while we will miss our Northumberland-Lewisburg crowd, we will not be adrift or alone.

I’ll be supervising a small branch library and learning a little each week in the large home library downtown too. There is a local, active arts, music and poetry scene, and I’m looking forward to getting involved once we settle in. I’ve scouted out birding opportunities in the vicinity–it’s important! There’s even a little fall hawk watch south of town. And of course, we can pay the bills, rather than juggle them, without my having to do any more damage to my body on restaurant floors.

So that’s the scoop. The picture in the video below makes me chuckle, because while we are not exactly moving to “the big city,” for this country boy, it’s pretty close. So allow me a little artistic license here. As I’ve said elsewhere, “I’m a poet, not a historian.”

It’s interesting, as I type this post in the editing window, WordPress is suggesting tags that include Star Wars, Nazi concentration camps, World War II, and the Associated Press. These are big life changes going on for us, but thanks for the contrast, WP Editor; It’s really not that bad. Here’s Little Milton (no, my cat is not named after him) with “We’re Gonna Make It.”

Music Monday with Eels, Part 2

Eels - Manchester 2005

Eels – Manchester 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I said in Part One, some things you really cannot talk about in detail online. No, seriously, you really can’t. Or more possibly, you can–people often do–but you cannot do it well, so you shouldn’t. We are still catching up to this text and technology thing. It’s marvelous, miraculous. I remember AOL Instant Messenger (I think it might still exist–does anybody use it?) I don’t know how I would have survived as a single father without cell phones and tech. What a soul-saving thing it was to be at work back then and see the AIM message pop up on my computer from my son Josiah, after he got home from school: “Hi, Dad!” Instant joy.  Immediate connection.

But as much as I love the intimacy and open-book style that many of us, myself included, try to take to online writing, there are still things that you just can’t say, or you shouldn’t say them, not just yet. Millions of Facebook posts and tweets should just never have been made. We are not wired to communicate intimately with 2000 friends.  Neither are we adept as a whole, at learning so much about some people on our  “friend” lists.  Sweet ain’t Loraine is a rabid political conservative? Can you handle that knowledge? She posts sweet pictures of the kids though, doesn’t she?

So on this Music Monday, as I attempt to say more with music than I can say in prose, I bring you two more songs by Eels. Yes, Eels. Did you miss Part One? I don’t think Ogden Nash was thinking of this band when he penned the poem:

I don't mind eels
Except as meals.
And the way they feels.

In any case the first song is about how I am working to not repeat old mistakes, to learn from the past. Last night I had a discussion, if you can call it that, with a dear friend who is hurting. We’ve known each other for nearly 20 years now, and perhaps he is close enough to me, trusts me enough, to just lay bare his feelings at his worst. I had hurt him inadvertently, and when I explained the misunderstanding, it seemed to help.

But really, there is so much more he is battling. And he was, I think, mostly latching on to some tangible reason to be angry. Not that there might not be other justified reasons to lash out at me, but he has been physically ill, and often in pain for some time, and that takes its toll on the mind and the spirit. I am trying to not take it personally, but I do want to learn and make sure that I take actions to prevent such a misunderstanding.

English: Arlo Guthrie at Bardentreffen 2010 in...

Arlo Guthrie at Bardentreffen 2010 in Nuremberg . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The final song is a cover of an old Elvis Presley tune. I first shared it here sometime last year in post with singer-storyteller Arlo Guthrie. It’s a song that my sons and I have sung together. The first time that a friend heard the mini-concert is when they were quite young. He and the four of us were crammed in one vehicle. When the we finished singing there was silence before my buddy let out his breath and said, “Wow.” It’s one of those tunes that can mean so much more than what it says, simply because you of sing it with someone else.

You might remember from previous music posts that I have a deep affection for bands with multiple traditional instruments. There is magic here. Have a good Monday, or at least don’t let it get to you. You are loved, and you are worth it.

Music Monday with EELS, Part 1

English: Eels at Birmingham Town Hall 26 Febru...

Eels at Birmingham, 2/22/2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Twenty one days ago I made some enigmatic statements here about certain aspects of life being “up in the air,” and other aspects of life just being down, dirty, and difficult.

A person gets tired. I think I’m handling myself well, for the most part, as well as I can, but I apologize, dear reader that I haven’t yet been at liberty to be more specific, despite this needling need to share my angst. I don’t mean to make you suffer with me. I promise I can say more about some of these things very soon.

In the meantime I am going to launch into a very music-heavy Music Monday, because often songs can say more than prose, especially about emotions. There are all those helpers: the melody, the harmonies, the key changes, the crescendos, held notes and fade-outs, that speak to us in physical ways. When a song is done well, the music and the lyrics conspire to do something to the heart.

And some things you just can’t say out loud, or online, because you love the people in your life, and even if writing in your blog is cathartic, those loved people just happen to read the internet, and your cathartic blog just happens to be on the internet, for family, friends, and present and potential employers to read–and misunderstand.

‘Nuff said.

Speaking of things being up in the air, despite how busy I have been these 21 days, I’ve been trying to take time for important things like sleep, and a little birding. Yes, birding, it’s always good for my soul. This last week was basically Broad-wing Hawk season here in Pennsylvania, and while I squeezed in the bulk of Sunday, and a good chunk of last Monday for hawk watching, I swear I am going to take the whole week off next year if possible! Life is too short not to see kettles like this each year (not my video, but visuals to come; I promise):

And in the after-glow of my spending a gorgeous five hours on a mountain lookout on Sunday, seeing Broad-wings, Sharpies, Bald Eagles, and even a Merlin! I bring you, a song from the birding comedy (yes, there is at least one movie that fits the genre), The Big Year. Actually the song has been around a few years before that, but I first heard it during that movie. It’s by the Eels–no, that’s not right–I think they just call themselves Eels, and it’s called “I Like Birds.” [UPDATE]: The original video I had posted here was a live version by Eels that was pretty cool, but it has disappeared due to copyright claims, so I have substituted one from the guys at the Cornell Ornithology Lab and Birds and Blooms, that really gives me the giggles, and reminds me of exactly what we look like out there in the field.

And since it’s such a short song, I am also sharing, in keeping with the “I Like” theme, one of their tunes that makes me think about my beloved Brian. Birding puts me in a good mood, sure, but I assure you, I adore Brian every day. Okay, some parts of a day might not count, like when I’m cleaning up a coffee spill he missed, but at least a good part of each day. I try not to gush about it online. I don’t want to gloat, and I know I am damn lucky to have someone in my life who lights up nearly each time I walk in the room. Damn lucky. And after six years I can still say, “I Like the Way This Is Going.”

Part two of Music Monday with Eels, coming up later today.

How This Whole Thing Got Started

DavidSince I am too impatient for (or intolerant of) Throw-back Thursday, and since Flash-back Friday has become passé, I will attempt, while back-gazing, to get ahead of what’s fashionable, and call this post a “Way-back Wednesday.”  But here, alas, I see Twitter has already hash-tagged this. So be it.

From the Way-back Machine, here are two videos from my past. The first was recorded as a response video (back when YouTube allowed that activity) to a Billy Collins reading by the great SpokenVerse, who goes by the nome-de-net of Tom O’Bedlam. I was stunned and so pleased when he actually wrote back to me. What a voice that man has! He still corresponds with me from time to time, and I consider it a great honor.

The second is from 2009 and the very beginning of my YouTube channel under the screen name SonofWalt, and what has led to over a hundred and fifty poetry readings on YouTube, and later another sixty-plus tracks on SoundCloud. My son Micah decided to start filming while I read a different Billy Collins poem (the first of his I had ever read I think–when it appeared in Poetry Magazine) to my friend Miranda.


Labor Day, by Joseph Millar

josephmillarHere’s a short poem for this day, written by a man who understands what labor is about. A fellow Pennsylvania native, Joseph Millar is known for his “blue-collar” poems which, unlike much contemporary free verse, have a rich music and rhythm all their own.  I just love how they sound, how they feel on the lips and resonate in the ear. I plan on reading “Love Pirates” soon!

Working as a fisherman and a telephone repairman did not prevent him from studying at Penn State (where I once worked and lived) and John Hopkins. You can read all about him on the Poetry Foundation, and explore more of his work on his own beautiful website.

Follow along with the text of the poem here.

Photo by Charles Ericson at the 2012 Dodge Poetry Festival.

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