Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy


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10,000 Revisions

Open Mike 2

I pray today is a day of no wasted time. Exactly none. I’ve been successful so far though it is only five minutes past seven in the morning. In the morning recliner I was reading the poems — a few — of Pablo Neruda from a library book of his complete works. Mostly I was reading from the lengthy introduction. From there, on the second cup of coffee, I moved on to breakfast recipes in the Tassajara Recipe book, which arrived earlier in the week via Ebay and set me back only four dollars and some cents including shipping. I took a little time to ponder over five photos of myself the resident Papaccino’s coffee shop photographer slipped me in an envelope from a local print shop as I made my way back to my seat from the microphone in the corner of the room. Two months ago I could not have imagined reading anything — a recipe, a prayer, some passage from one of Dr. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing books, anything — in front of people, having developed (I remember distinctly) a variety of panic disorder reading in front of a group of men in a brightly lit basement room in a church on Medford Ave in Somerville, MA — all with hyper-ventilations and heart interruptions and fear of not catching a new breath — ever again — meaning I have refused to read in public for more than ten years.

This morning
Gray with misunderstandings
And surrenders
Distractions of the highest order,
Golden,
Enticing in their ambiance
Welcome turnaways from
That hungry child
In the public school door.
She’s invisible.

But this was my fourth appearance up at the open mike, after one initial week of panic and refusal, and some neighborhood guy was handing me pictures of me. By the way, I look old though I can happily and honestly report I feel within my mind and spirit and soul quite the opposite, even in a world of aching knees and prescribed cholesterol medication.

Last night I read two poems from Minor Revelations and one from my second book of poetry — Dictation from the Backyard. I finished, placing my hands on the provided metal reading stand to keep the shaking less visible, with a poem I’d written only yesterday morning, I felt compelled to read it even if it didn’t feel in it’s final state — kind of like how I feel about myself….not my final state, not yet. Still, the poem is titled 10,000 Revisions, which could or could not be some metaphor for my own transformations.

Someone yelled out, after my first poem, “Did you write that?” Someone else approached me when the open mike thing was over and said he wanted to buy a copy of my book. I said I’d bring one next week. Meaning I can’t be wasting any time…..anytime.

I’ve followed you to the carnival,
Followed into the funhouse,
All it’s laughable distortions.
But see,
Here,
I hold a mirror
True in its reflection
Taken from atop the girl’s
Second-hand dresser,
A birthday gift some year back
I’ve watched her hold it
In one hand
Brush her hair with the other, and
Now I’ve borrowed it
As if it is a breaker
To be snapped closed
And cut through
The tripped darkness,
Which is intentional
And obligates me
To flip the switch.
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Bread Crumbs

The guy behind the counter was playing jazz when I took my coffee to a chair in the Just Bob Coffee Shop on Alberta in Northe20160916_142455_hdrast Portland last Friday. It was just after two in the afternoon, and while there was the occasional customer lining up at the take-out counter, most of the seats in the shop were empty. Mostly I didn’t hear the jazz music playing, and when it would intrude into my consciousness every once in a while, I’d ignore it. Jazz is not my thing. It’s funny, my non-appreciation of that purely American music form, because it was a favorite of The Beat writers, including Jack Kerouac, one of the writers I most revere, and try to borrow from as a writer. He wrote like jazz, these long, often connectedly discombobulated riff of words, sometimes making up new words to suit the flavor of the riff. Like jazz.keruoac

Which isn’t really the point, other than saying I love Kerouac and don’t like jazz.

There was a woman sitting in one of the three stuffed chairs in the shop — I was in another, facing her — and she was reading a paperback book, a softcover to be exact, and squinting my eyes I could see the title of the book was “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together In the Cafeteria?” She herself was a black woman, young, maybe mid 30s, and was taking notes in a bound notebook like the one I carried in. Mine was for recording any ideas I could brainstorm for the 11th and final story in my collection of Astoria, Oregon tales. (None happened to arrive while I was there.) So, I shifted tasks, and asked The Universe for ideas for future Blog posts — like this one — and the thought came to me to play detective — Buddy Cushman, Coffee Shop Sleuth — and follow the woman’s book wherever it would lead me.

When I got home, it took quite a while from NE way down to SE where I live, with Friday afternoon city traffic, but it was sunny and hot and I was playing, very loudly, one Tower of Power song after another, so the trip was not only tolerable but, in fact, a wicked blast, rolling, singing, howling, party on wheels (think The 52s “Love Shack” www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SOryJvTAGs ) Anyway, at the computer dr-tatumI googled the book from Just Bob’s and learned it is a highly valued thought piece on race and race identity and relations in the Country, collective experiences and perspectives written by Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, the President of Spelman College in Georgia. Here is a ten and a half minute review, very thorough and interesting, of the book and its author. It’s worth a look and listen:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_l5bO9KZrY&list=PLlFqqfHxQmjOGUX3oN6On3kJW253lUGRx     I now have the book on order from The Multnomah County Library system.

What can be more important than how we live with, and value, each other?

The woman with the book left before me, and I sat there looking at the sun stream through the multiple front windows of the shop. At some point the barista behind the counter changed the music and I instantly recognized the opening descending bass and violins of The Left Banke’s “Walk Away Renee”. Hard to imagine anyone doesn’t know the song, and certainly anyone who grew up in the 60s. I mean, the empty sidewalks on my block are not the same.

I was struck, wleft-bankehen “Pretty Ballerina” came on a couple of songs later, about the so-often-highlighted black and whiteness of the world — of the day. The woman and her book, it’s black title, and now a thoroughly ‘white’ sounding pop group from 1965 New York City. After another song I walked up to the counter and asked the guy what exactly he was playing. Turns out it was a “best of” collection by The Left Banke called ‘There’s Gonna Be a Storm: the Complete Recordings 1966 – 1969’. A
couple of songs , white poppy little things, stood out to me — I’d never heard them, shame on me, especially working in a record store most of those years and holding The Banke’s debut album in my hands many times. So here they are, for your listening enjoyment, and maybe they are long-time favorites. “She May Call You Up Tonight”:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZSlF2AkrS4   and “Let Go Of You Girl”:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=POdiO1xOg-E

Way cool. And maybe all this matters not a wit to anyone but me, Buddy Cushman – Coffee Shop Sleuth. Oh well. And by the way, as Oakland’s Tower of Power — a strong example of what glory we can get when you combine black and white — since they helped me along my way home, I’ll end with one from them. Thanks for showing up.

“So Very Hard To Go”:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9BRqGpppJw

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