Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Train Reading


I work in Baltimore and live, for the time being, in D.C. Which means: Commute. Walk to Metro; Metro to MARC; MARC to MICA, and in reverse at the quitting whistle. I am on the 7:21 express train that leaves D.C.'s Union Station for Baltimore's Penn Station, every morning. Above, you can see that the train passes through the Maryland All y'All Mountains (MA'AMs). If I'm lucky, I arrive at Penn Station by 5 minutes to 8:00 a.m. The campus of Maryland Institute College of Art -- where I direct the writing studio and learning resource center -- is quiet, then: Whatever art or crime or health-foods that has happened overnight, has settled down by daybreak. I climb four floors to my office which has a killer view: By killer, I mean various kinds of types of various shapes and sizes.

Every day, I look forward to that famous contact sport: Books / Reading. Especially in the morning, when the MARC is funeral-quiet: Weeping can be heard, even, on account of the death of Noise. My pal, Rod Smith, who is a fabulous writer and manages Bridge Street Books in Georgetown, D.C., hooked me up with some fantastic reads. A real winner was Ron Padgett's memoir of his friendship with Ted Berrigan, entitled, simply, Ted. Another pal, the sorely-missed Mark Wallace, who now resides in Carlsbad, Calif., recommended Patrik Ourednik's Europeana, which comes off like an abridged, biblical retelling of the 20th century European experience, with no artificial humor added; it's a wild read. (In my copy, I found a Rod Smith train ticket -- a detail that really baffled me for half a minute, so early in the morning.) In the first two months, I have also read books by Linh Dinh, Jean Echenoz, Stephen Hawking, Nathaniel Mackey, Michael Ondaatje, Kurt Vonnegut, Mac Wellman, Ntozake Shange, W.D. Snodgrass, Katie Degentesh, and Rod's new collection, Deed, a must-read, just out from Iowa.

Today, I settled down with a collection of plays by Clifford Odets. One really has to start with Waiting for Lefty, which is probably Odets' best-known work. The setting isn't so much America as it is the labor movement, between the wars, and not so much management versus labor, but labor versus labor, and people versus people, as in wife pitted against husband. A coincidence that, yesterday, American auto workers went out on strike? I guess it goes without saying that they're striking against their employer, GM, but it would be kind of funny, I guess, if folks went out on strike against another, unrelated company. There should be an acronym for that: Like CAT or BAT or HAT. You'd fill in the words, yourself. And that's the "think" about 21st Century Acronyms (21CA) -- you don't even need to know what made them up in the first place, anymore. The differences between the labor movement in Waiting for Lefty and today: Numerous. Perhaps the most telling is, what I'll call, The Globalization of Our Eco-Political Problems. And "Eco" can mean anything you want it to mean: Ecology; Economy; Health-foods; Funk; Rodents; etc.

In other developments, I dropped a green tea pomegranate soda at Safeway the other day and it went crazy, there, on the floor, propelled by the thin jet of the soda itself as it went around in circles like a spinner or fireworks, constantly eluding my grasp and causing more than one person to skate in its gloopy wake. No Safeway officials saw me put the soda back on the shelf, with another pomegranate soda on top, but a few patrons did, and Oh, how they commented in more than one foreign language. It may be that we are all, as human beings, getting clumsier and clumsier. Global Clumsy (G-CLU) is not to be trifled with, Ladies and Gents. But that's a topic for a future post. In the meantime, I'll close by saying that I'll always associate Waiting for Lefty with the GM strike of '07; with the diesel MARC locomotive; with this era in my life -- hauling ass to work in the early tones of morning. And I will further remember this era by the first post, on this blog, and by saying to you, friends and readers, "Welcome," that I am Dan, Blood And, Gutstein, and I approve of this message.

12 comments:

The Goose said...

Ah, yes. He has arrived. "ECOUTEZ!"

Baby Bear said...

Many times I have reached for a soda only to find it sticky and half empty, its innards gushing... now I know that it is you who are to blame!
Welcome to the blog-orgy... blorgy, if you please.

Buck Bobbin said...

I don't know what is more troublesome though, the man conforming to 'The Man's' blo-org (blorgy is fun but i like mine better) movement, or that Dan has found a place here on the internet with no alleged persuasion (unsubstantiated).

Olgasmic said...

Hey Dan, sorry i missed the outing on Friday - any other (soon-to-come) day I can find you roaming streets of DC?

JKW said...

The Washington Post ran an interesting story today about the future expansion of the MARC system...soon one will be able to take MARC all the way to Newark, Delaware, at which place one can switch to Philadelphia's SEPTA system, which can take one as Trenton, the outermost station on the New Jersey Transit line to New York's Penn Station. All of this is to say that soon one will be able take commuter trains all the way from Fredericksburg in the south (courtesy of VRE) to New Haven in the north (on Metro North)...and should a commuter rail line be constructed from New Haven to Providence one could go as far as Boston from Northern Virginia by commuter rail alone.

Truly, we live in interesting times!

Dan / Daniel Gutstein said...

Monsieur Pierre heard "Ecoutez" in his final moments in Mlle Torossian's trash can. I don't usually repatriate ruptured soda cans, but I did (blush) because I have few options in life. Buck, Unsubstantiated, Bobbin: Substantiate that. I can be found about D.C. often, Friday nights at Fitz's and The Goose's happy hrs, and otherwise, by appointment. As for commuter rail to NYC -- I will not rest until I can take commuter and/or light rail to Quebec. I mean, the real challenge would be -- to be the first -- to take commuter rail all the way across the world. With Global Warming -- it may happen. More later folks. BA

Asikram said...

When engaged in train reading, are you positioned on the upper or lower deck? And on the right or left side. All of this must be put under the microscope and conclusions must be drawn.

Dan / Daniel Gutstein said...

Upper deck. Left side on the way to Baltimore. Right or left on the way to D.C. Facing front. In cases of extreme chippiness on ride to D.C., I will iPod at the same time as reading. BA

mark wallace said...

Now wait just a minute here. I've been on many trains in many crazy places in the world, some of them forsaken even by the devil, running from who knows what, maybe a hellhound on my trail, maybe a monkey grinning on my shoulder, but in all the trains in all the years that I've been on that go from Washington to Baltimore, ain't one of 'em ever gone through a mountain. Just what are you trying to pull, fancy city boy with your fancy city blog think you know everything.

Dan / Daniel Gutstein said...

i am proud to say that MARC now offers "Emergency Budweiser" stations on its trains. in case of Emergency, you break glass and receive a Budweiser. as for those mountains: them's the Maryland All y'All Mountains, the MA'AMs. they are new mountains. built recently. under MARC's new Emergency Scenic View Initiative (ESVI). that's the thing about new mountain construction. it is here. it is there. i have had an actual monkey on my shoulder, in florida, once, but in another part of florida, twice, i did not see them dancing monkeys on the horizon. mr. peacock and old charlie did, though. BA

Michael said...

This needs to be known: Bush's 3-fold Fuck-up, today:

1) threatening to veto a hate crimes bill/amendment pertaining to homosexuals. Leave it up to the states, he says. The fuck--

2) threatening to veto spending that'd provide healthcare for 4 million underprivileged children. The fuck.

3) organizing an environmental summit just to say, "hey, y'all emit what y'all need to emit."

Jesus Christ. I think we're all waiting for lefty-- great fuckin' play, by the way. I've taught it in my classes...

Dan / Daniel Gutstein said...

all duly noted sir. and perhaps fodder for a future post. lefty, of course, wound up with a bullet in his head. those hacks is still waitin' for lefty. dg