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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Hunter and Me

 

There are Hunter 2eight million artist stories in the city. This is mine. This is called “Hunter and Me”.

This is a story involving my old friend Dr. Doug Martin. It also involves Bob Zimmerman, my other old friend. I wrote about them in a previous blog – “67blondies”. They’re back.

I was living in a third floor apartment in Somerville, Massachusetts in 1984. You had to climb up wooden stairs outside the back of the house to get to my place. I wrote about this apartment, and my phone on the wall, in another blog – “One Friday Night”. I was working as an outreach counselor with teenagers for the Drug and Alcohol Resource Program in Stoneham, about seven miles north, and I had stayed away from any alcohol or drugs for about a year and a half. I wasn’t married, I didn’t have a girlfriend, I had an old used car, I had started collecting some actual possessions, certainly more than the two trash bags of items in my friend Bob Hallett’s cellar a town over that I could claim the day I said “if I booze, I lose, so I’m done”. Overall I was pretty happy. This is a fairly complete summation of my life back at the beginning of October in 1984 when the phone rang.

Doug was calling from Los Angeles. “Bud, Hunter Thompson is speaking at Berkeley. We must attend, the universe demands it. Saying no is not an option.” I explained in a previous blog that Doug lived much of his life in a wheelchair, the result of polio contracted when he was six years old, a year before the vaccine was discovered. I had met Doug out in LA on the first of a number of east/west journeys and adventures, and had morphed into his attendant at times, carrying him in and out of cabs and airplanes, putting him in his electrified wheelchair, setting up and turning on his breathing equipment at bedtime. Doug was well respected in disability services circles in California and I had traveled with him a few times around the state when he was attending commission meetings. And once to Washington DC. Now Doug was telling me that he had a State Disability Commission meeting in Oakland at the end of October and he was going to get the State of California to pay for a plane ticket for me roundtrip from Boston to LA so I could then fly with him to Oakland and serve as his attendant during the conference, and after, when we would stay the weekend and see Dr. Hunter Thompson speak at Berkeley. Doug was right. Saying “no” wasn’t an option.

So I put in for vacation, flew out to LA the last week in October – Doug and an attendant picking me up at LAX, then Doug’s parents bringing us back to LAX the next day for the flight to Oakland, where we stayed at the Sheraton out near the airport where the conference was being held, and then transferred over to the Durant Hotel in Berkeley, literally a stone’s throw from the campus. It was another memorable adventure with Doug, and Bob, who came over from San Francisco to hang out with us. Halloween was a Wednesday that year, and we ended up at a costumed Halloween party in Berkeley with about 20 people, Bob and I the only ones not in wheelchairs. Then on the Saturday night three days later the three of us rolled and strolled over to Cal Berkeley and watched and listened to the Hunter Thompson show. It was great. The next day Doug had planned for someone else to fly with him back to LA, and after goodbyes all around they dropped me at the San Francisco airport and I boarded my plane for the flight back to Boston.

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