Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy


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Back In My Little Town

Buddy Cushman Art

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Once upon a time, far away and long ago, I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts named Wareham. Hard by the Buzzards Bay inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, and no doubt a clone of sorts from Wareham, England, itself hard by Poole Harbour and its larger Atlantic mother. The “Gateway to Cape Cod”, that’s what it was called at times, that’s what the sign said out on Route 28 by the Chamber of Commerce. Situated just before the Bourne Bridge crossing over to The Cape, at the confluence of the Cape Cod Canal and Buzzards Bay.

I was lucky to have grown up there, for many reasons. It was a gentle place, mostly, dotted with beach communities and summer homes and summer days, Cape Verdean enclaves and culture, pine forests, and luscious ponds carved out by retreating ice-age glaciers. In the winter we skated those ponds, pushed against…

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Poems of the Week

Introducing a new feature on my Blog, what with me being a poet and all now. Beginning today, once a week, I’ll feature a poem I love from another poet, and one of my own.

 

For today – to begin – I first offer a take on poetry from the poet Mina Loy:

“Poetry is prose bewitched, a music made of visual thoughts. The sound of an idea.”

 

And from me today:

I turn the bed around

and awake alone.

Awash in rainbows scattered

through a plum of glass —

dangling —

in the south window.

Our bedroom is a sacred place

with you or alone

Here, in a factory

of manufactured dreams.

Where all the workers

are night faeries. 

 


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To Go Where No Buddy Has Gone Before

If the question is – “Why a book of poetry?”

The answer, (honestly), is – “Beats me.”

I do not remember writing the first poem. It was just there. Another followed, then another. Over a short period of time – no moSusan holding Minorre than 10 days – someone who’s never had much of an inclination toward or appreciation of the written poem fell down the rabbit hole and all the way in. Quickly I found myself entirely devoted to poetry. It began to fall out, every morning after sitting meditation and with coffee in the recliner. In fact, many of the poems to be found in my first book of poetry – “Minor  Revelations” – showed up in a flash sitting in the recliner.

I have always been a Shakespeare fan, a big one. Beyond that, no friend of poetry. In fact, a couple of years ago a friend named Kate, someone with whom I’d worked years earlier in a Portland foster care program, got the idea to bring poetry into Portland area juvenile detention centers and groups homes – something she’d been involved with in Seattle – and when asked, I signed up as a volunteer. I went to a number of the poetry planning meetings and brought home the books of poetry written by the kids up in Seattle Kate gave me to read (though I never read them much). After a while, the familiar fog of guilt upon me, I respectfully resigned…..Little did I know.

Today I have a second book of poetry in the works, about a third of the planned way complete. One of the poems in that project is called “Kate, I Didn’t Know”. Kate and I had a cup of tea at the Chinese Garden downtown Sunday morning and I told her about it – my new life as a poet, the second book, the poem with her name. She laughed — with me or maybe at me, who can tell. Probably a little of both. Kate’s always been a fan and supporter of my varied adventures.

My answer, above, to the question “Why a book of poetry?” was “Beats me.” While  the “you got me”, “couldn’t tell ya”, “never woulda thought it”, all those ring true, there’s also a fabulous obsession in which I found myself immersing about a year ago with the literature of “The Beats” – Kerouac, Ginsberg, Corso, Hettie Jones, Diane di Prima, Clellon Holmes. Obviously there’s a lot of poetry there and while reading everything Kerouac I began the tiptoe through some of Ginsberg as well. “Howl” for sure. Then others. The point being that it’s possible the Beat poets were reaching out from the 50s and 60s, whispering in my ear – and in my heart – “come along with us, Buddy. It’ll be worth it. It’ll be exciting. It’ll be fun.”

So far it has, a joyride eons beyond anything I considered, never mind hoped for. I’ll talk in more detail –  in my next post – just how that ride has looked as I’ve whizzed along all the road maps and signs of my interwoven life.

Here are the last 19 lines of “Kate, I Wasn’t Ready”:

…..

Though I suspect it was a game,

Always a game.

Call it hide and seek

Where I was

Forever ‘It’

And poetry a better hider.

 

So,

Then,

When Kate took my hand,

Led me to workshops,

Filled my flimsy arms with thin volumes

of the good stuff,

Explained to me as if to a child.

All that time –

All this time –

Poetry giggled

Almost silent,

Hiding behind my favorite tree.

 

Invisible.

 

 

 

 


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Bad Gringo Hombres

 

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So this was yesterday.

I’m coming back from the center where I’ve dropped my son and a brief stop at Trader Joe’s for non-organic fruits and vegetables. Dinner’s my bag tonight and I’m already sweatin’ it. It’s just after 10 am.

I’m flying down Cesar Chavez/39th and way down there I see an old Chevy pickup slowing at an intersection as I approach, and here I am gunning it 45 in a 25 mile-per- hour zone and just as I get there the pick-up swings into his left turn directly in front of me, I’m jacking up the brakes and looking into a cab filled with four pale hombres who look to be casting rejects from “Deliverance” and meanwhile the driver looks like Donald Fagen from Steely Dan except here he’s been on a vicious meth run for the last two and a half weeks so my speeding-down-the-hill black Taurus is probably mistaken for some strain of mosquito, and since there are barely any mosquitoes in Oregon to begin with I take him and his cab-mates for Trump voters. As my Mexican wife would say – “Estupido”.

Good thing I make it back to the house, having swerved around Sheriff Arpaio or whoever he was, just in time for a traffic jam, my roommate Jannine crawling into the back seat of some road-trip pick-her-up in my parking place, so I’m facing down the street on the wrong side and coming flying in my direction, making my previous speed look lawful, are two small foreign jobs and there’s not much room between the Taurus and the Buick Regal picking up the roomie so I throw up my arms in the windshield in a slow-the-fuck-down you morons we got little kids on the street gesture, as if there are streets that don’t, and in the rear-view I see the tail lights jam to red and there’s screeching stops and out of both cars come the drivers, big scary white dudes both let me point out with Make America Great Again red caps, indicating in less than a half nanosecond that I’m dealing with morons and odds are bigoted pea-brains, and as Jannine’s about 50 percent of Jamaican heritage I slip out the 38 from the glove box and leap out the passenger side, whacking my nuts across the console which pisses me off further and the MAGA boys take one look at the piece of steel and my expression and skedaddle on back to their let’s- make-america-great-again Hondas and boot it around the corner. Which at the same time the Regal and roomie drive off so I can swing a half u-ee and pull in front of the house and unload the apples, raisins, and broccoli, fruits and veggie somehow unharmed after this decidedly trump-world danger driving home from the grocery. It’s 10:14.

Less than an hour later – I’ve been in the basement typing like there’s no tomorrow, which of course there might not be, listening to a YouTube collection of Brenda Lee and Zakk Wylde favorites when I hear some pounding on the door upstairs so I go up slowly – my cajones gently but persistently reminding of the less-than-ballet-like vehicle departure, so it takes a minute and I open the door to two millennials in white shirts and black ties with short hair and big smiles asking if I’d like to be saved, preferably today, never mind receive swell literature with only a monthly contribution to the great educational work going on at Liberty U over there in Virginia, and they confirm that yes in Lynchburg which I point out is surely always a welcoming vision for folks pigmented like my roomie Jannine, of whom they have no idea. But they morph into less than praise-go friendlies when I say no thanks I’ve just express mailed a check for two grand to the Southern Poverty Law Center, me and Morris Dees are tight bruh, and I see their hands curl into oppo turn-the-other-cheek fists, but I don’t think I mentioned yet that I brought the 38 into the house with me – ain’t America great after all – which I now produce in the hopes that even these trump voters (yeah, they got the red caps too, and one’s sporting a rather large button with the words “Goring was good”) so there’s another not necessary giveaway, anyway the 38 helps make the point that my abundance-filled self points in another direction from theirs.

Now get this. It’s not even 11 am on a Tuesday morning and here’s two MAGA imbeciles on the porch and one of them looks at me and quotes Eldridge Cleaver – “If you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem”. I have to laugh and it ain’t easy to laugh these days – though our laughter is a shield – but I’ve got to laugh that I’m being quoted Panther phraseology on a Tuesday morning by these two Liberty emissaries who are clearly not, like the Blues Brothers, on a mission from God, and after I’m done chuckling I unbutton my orange-hibiscus-on-blue Hawaiian shirt and reveal the Public Enemy t-shirt I’m wearing underneath.

Fight the power, kiddies.

And that was just the morning.

 

(Above photo contains no bad gringo hombres. But possible aching cojones.)

 


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Guts

Remember these guys?Defendants in "Chicago 8" Trial

They were charged with crossing state lines to incite a riot. Subsequently formal investigations determined that the riot had actually been caused and perpetrated by the Chicago Police Department at the bequest of warlord and Mayor Richard Daley. But the trial went forward — though without the sole black defendant – Bobby Seale – who was bound and gagged in the courtroom and removed for a separate trial later.

I mention this piece of most unpleasant history to wonder aloud why there is not talk this morning of alt-right, white supremacist, neo-nazi leaders from around the country being brought up on the charge of crossing state lines to incite riot –  an actual appropriate use of that law. And beyond that, being charged as co-conspirators in the death of 32 year-old Heather Heyer.

You know who else needs to be charged as a co-conspirator in her senseless death?

Donald Trump.

My wife Susan and I traveled across the country to be married in Virginia in 2010. We stayed and were married in a little town a few miles from the Skyline Drive and spent one of our honeymoon days in Charlottesville, walking around UVA, strolling through the beautiful center of town and having a hot dog dinner there, earlier making our way a few miles south and east to Monticello and the home of Thomas Jefferson. Charlottesville is a beautiful place.

I weep for Charlottesville and Virginia this morning, and for my Country run by morons and bigots and spewers of hate, the soundbites of whom cross state lines every day. Every hour.

The leaders and instigators of these torch-carriers and Hitler slogan-screamers and violence-encourage-rs and murderers should be charged and prosecuted and sent away to prison.

God damn them – each and every one.

 


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Love Is An Ocean I Can’t Forget

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I am going to the ocean tomorrow. To this place.

I came from the ocean. I know, supposedly we all did, if you’re a Darwin kind of gal or guy. But, specifically, for me, I came from the ocean side. Born in New Bedford – the Whaling City – raised in Wareham, a town filled with beach communities and bays and water all about. I graduated from Cape Cod Community College, a half mile from the Atlantic on those Main Street days, and later Salem State College, a stone’s throw from Salem Harbor/the Atlantic. I lived in Salem for many years, then off to Rockport and its peninsula self into the Atlantic for a winter, eventually to Plum Island and Newburyport, where the mighty Merrimack River flows into the cold ocean there.

When I first left Massachusetts, at age 27, I flew to Los Angeles and lived for a short while in both Venice Beach and Santa Monica. Later crashing in graduate housing at UC Irvine, hard by the Pacific, and working for a spell in San Clemente, able to take an occasional dip there or in Laguna Beach. A few years later it was New Smyrna Beach in Florida,ariel-view then Vero Beach. Back up to Mass and a year-long stint running an HIV/Aids housing program in Provincetown, a block from Cape Cod Bay. I squeezed a year and a half in Oakland, CA somewhere in there, crossing the bridge or taking BART under the San Francisco Bay, while running a kid program in the Lower Haight. Where, with the right eyes, you could see salt water from the tops of the highest hills. And certainly from Berkeley out from Blondies Pizza.

Yet somehow, within the reality of this always-by-an-ocean Bedouin life, I ended up in Portland, Oregon. Nearly 100 miles, as the raven flies, to the ocean. The Pacific. The one in the photos above. Some two hours away. Let me paraphrase “Remember the Titans”: How far? Too far? How far? Too far.

You can take the boy out of the ocean – if you must – but I don’t believe you can take the ocean out of the boy. Certainly not this boy…..Ocean si, Portland no.

I married an amazing woman

moonlight+beach+encinitasand her parents live in San Diego, and I have traveled there with her many times and everyone of those times been lucky enough to spend time in the Ocean Beach part of town. And swim there. A lot. We’ve day-tripped up to Encinitas a couple of times and swam at the gorgeous Moonlight Beach as well.

 

But most of the time, for these last eight and a half years of beach-withdrawal life in Portland, I have ached for the ocean. Deep down. I’m a beach boy. Look at my writing: “Ring Around The Rosy” and it’s ocean-side wander from Marion to Rockport; “Astoria Strange” where the Pacific sparkles and shines from the top of the Astoria Column. My current work, “When I Settle For Less“, book one of a novel set in southern California’s imaginary DeLoreal Beach.

You can’t take the boy out.

I’ve been blessed with the fact that my step-daughter Marie’s dad, my wife’s ex, owns with others a cottage three hundred yards from the Pacific Ocean in the Pacific Beach community of Tierra Del Mar. We rent it cheap for the promise of an amazing cleaning by me (and it’s always cleaner after than before), and I’ve been able to go and be there many times these last six years. The last two Marie and I – both writers – have commited to a “Writing Retreat” of five days/four nights, and I am thrilled to say our third such venture begins tomorrow. If the creek don’t rise and there ain’t no meltdown I’ll be right there, where I took those photos at the top, in a little less than 24 hours.

Get to refresh the genetic shadows deep within, of life by the water.

Get to rejoice.

"Gorgeous sunset from UC Berkeley!"


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A Laugh and A Tear

 

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Hunter Thompson is one of my favorite authors. These are my Dr. Hunter S Thompson books, most of which I’ve owned for a very long time, as evident by the covers, in this case by which you can judge the book.

I’ve posted about Hunter Thompson here in the past, and an opportunity I had one night on a cross-country airplane to hang out and talk with him. You can search my past posts for “Hunter and Me” and read about it there. This brief post speaks to something else.

Recently I picked up and began reading again “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas“. You can see the bookmark there, about halfway through. Back a ways, in Part One of the book, is a passage I’ve always considered my favorite of his — among so many favorites. I’m going to quote it here in its entirety.

“My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe 40 nights — or very early mornings — when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L.L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder’s jacket…booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turnoff to take when I got to the other end…but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was. No doubt at all about that.

“There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda…You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.

“And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.

“So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

For me that is beautiful writing, and I feel this passage deep in my bones, the certainty that we had something then that we have no longer. What? Righteous belief? Pure hope?Universal love? Musical and colorful joy?   “Those days are gone forever”, Steely Dan sing in ‘Pretzel Logic’, “over a long time ago.”

I got to meet Hunter Thompson and talk for some 90 minutes in the back of a plane due to my most fortuitous entanglements with two men named Bob Zimmerman and Dr. Doug Martin. That’s explained in the previous post.  Sadly Bob and Doug and Hunter are no longer with us on our tattered planet, and its the planet’s great loss – and certainly mine.

Bob gave me a present back in 2006, the copy of “Hey Rube” up in the picture on the middle left. Hunter was one of the ways we connected – along with Doug – in what we considered “the main vein”. Plugged in. Turned on. With it. Bushel-full of personal faults (especially me) or not. Bob signed the book in his only-Bob way.

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Only way to be.