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.