26 October 2006

Heinz 57

OK, many things. Too many things. And heaps of work.


A couple Saturdays back, I did three short talks at the Writers' Circle of Durham Region's Chapbook Fair at Ajax Public Library. It was an amazing event. The kind of energy and enthusiasm that there used to be at the Toronto Small Press Book Fair. Word is, when I addressed the WCDR at last February's breakfast meeting, I challenged them to all go home and make chapbooks. They listened to me.

The TSPBF could use some kind of shaking up. Actually, that's going to happen, as this fall's fair is divided into two days at the Victory Cafe, with half the presses displaying each day. November 11 and 12. Maybe the tininess of the venue will inspire a real grass-roots feeling again. It'll be interesting to see. The beer might help.


Later that Saturday night, Dana and I went to see Randy Newman solo at Convocation Hall. Dana snagged incredible seats just a few days before the show. Second row, a little to the right. Randy was magnificent, and funny as hell. And sometimes not funny as hell, as when he performed "In Germany Before the War," an incredibly haunting song inspired by Fritz Lang's M.

Apparently Bob Rae was in the audience. Carl Wilson was there. And so was Paul Quarrington. A few Little Criminals were there, from San Francisco and Pittsburg. And Seb Agnello from here in Toronto. And a young LC named Aggie, who I didn't get to meet.

Before the show I saw a familiar face in third row. I told Dana I hadn't seen this guy for 20 years. He and I looked at each other and grinned, then he wandered over. It was Kevin Pasquino, who used to be the Entertainment Editor at Excalibur during one of the many years I was a typesetter there. We had a great chat. What a neat guy. I like this thing of seeing people I haven't seen in millions of years. Or 20.

After the show, Dana and I got backstage to meet Randy. We'd met him a couple years ago in Rochester. This time I was more relaxed, and we had more time with him and a few other Little Criminals. When I introduced myself, he said, "I feel like I'm looking in a mirror, only 30 years younger." I told him I wished he'd done "ELO"; he hummed it a bit, then said he couldn't do it solo piano. I asked him if he'd ever got my poetry book (with "Poem for Randy Newman's Birthday") that I dropped off to him at the Four Seasons Hotel when he was in Toronto a couple years back. He said yeah, and that he could picture it on his shelf, but I think he was just trying to be nice.

But he is really nice. And so fucking smart. He played a couple new songs, including "In Defense of My Country," which feels a bit like a follow up to "My Country" from the Bad Love album. It's one of the most ambitious, political things I've heard by him. Brilliant. I also particularly enjoyed "My Life Is Good" and "I Miss You." Don't know why he plays "Short People" still. Carl says it's because there are people who would be very upset if he didn't play his one hit single.

Dana took some nice pics of me and Randy, but I can't find the thingie that connects my camera to my computer, so I can't post them. Yet.


The next Sunday was another Poetry Boot Camp at This Ain't the Rosedale Library. I was pretty tired, but it went pretty well. Seven Boot Campers, and some good writing came out of it. I have to be careful, though, that I don't keep evolving the workshop to follow my own interests. Gotta stay with some of the tried and true projects. Even if I've done them a million times, new and interesting stuff keeps arising from them.


Mary and I went to the Andy Warhol show at the AGO last week. It was curated by David Cronenberg. I was a little annoyed that DC referred to a trio of pieces he assigned to one wall ("Blowjob", "The Kiss," and an electric chair print) as "a triptych." As if AW had created it as such. Otherwise, it was a pretty inspiring show. My favourite thing was watching the John Ashbery screen test. In fact, I liked all the screen tests I saw. I wish they'd've had the Ron Padgett screen test there. I wonder what Ron did during his screen test.

RP's going to Poland in November. I told him two of my grandparents were from Poland (Lodz). He told me that everyone is telling him lately that they have grandparents from Poland.


I've been working like crazy, finally feeling like I'm catching up. Finished the edit for Rosalie Sharp's memoir of growing up Jewish in a non-Jewish neighbourhood in Toronto. Rosalie's really neat, and her book has a very distinct voice to it, lots of personality. I went for lunch to her sprawling home on a North York ravine. A lovely time, and she showed me some of her china collection. Reminded me of my mom, who was also a decorator and a collector of old stuff. Rosalie's husband Issy founded and runs the Four Seasons Hotels and thus the hotel that Randy Newman stayed in when he came to Toronto for his non-existent Bravo taping. ECW is doing the book, just as they once did a book about Randy Newman (by Kevin Courrier).

Had to write the catalogue copy for David McFadden's Selected this week. I put it off forever, but then enjoyed doing it. Especially enjoyed selecting a poem excerpt to accompany the blurbage. I think I mentioned in these pages that I'd forgotten to select from one of his book, Anonymity Suite. God, that book is good. I want to include just about every poem from it.

Other editing has transpired. And grant applications. Lots of those. For the new novel I've begun. It takes place in Guatemala. It's nice to revisit Guatemala in my head.


I do, really. For a long time it's felt like I'd never catch up enough with other stuff to get to my own writing in a substantial way. I think, though, that it will happen. I think it will.

I think so.

I believe it may.

Over and out.


At October 28, 2006 12:36 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Summer, 1973. There's a bunch of us crammed in the back of a station wagon following a tennis tournament. After one kid told a polish joke, my mom interrupted the laughter: "Hey you guys, Jeff's grandmother is Polish."

I never spoke to my mom for 14 years.

Are the jokes over? Is it OK to come out now?

At October 29, 2006 6:54 pm , Blogger j-love said...

I too loved the Ashbery screen test, and thought of you when I saw it!


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