Saturday, July 08, 2006

Two summers ago, this when we still lived in Ithaca, Anna and Noah (6. mos. old at the time) and I were driving north from Berkeley to a house that her parents had rented in Mendocino when we passed the establishment a photo of which now adorns the banner above, and wherefrom, by way of a Tom Waits song, this blog takes its name. I recently had the chance to retrace our route, and although my memory had placed "Red's Recovery Room" about forty miles away, in a much nicer spot on the erstwhile "Bohemian Highway" between Sebastopol and Bodega Bay, probably because Tom Waits, I was told at the time, lives around there somewhere The bar is actually in Cotati, just off the 101, right next to a seemingly uninhabited surfeit of tract-housing. I didn't get a chance to go in--but I imagine looking, on the inside, like the setting of Iggy Pop and Tom Wait's wonderfully maundering and inconclusive conversation in Jim Jarmusch's "Coffee and Cigarettes."
I haven't listened to this particular song, or in general any Tom Waits, in the intervening time but not for lack of admiration for what he does as songwriter and noisemaker. I'm taking a break--like I'm taking a break from the Pixies, from Charles Mingus, from Dylan, from Nirvana, etc., and all kinds of music I've worn through from overlistening. In general, I feel pretty dumb about music but I like this song, and I feel drawn to and repulsed by its lyrics, their recovery and preservation of a historical moment, a U.S., that the sign above refuses to any longer portend--"sawin on a jaw bone violin there /Kathleen was sittin down /In little reds recovery room /In her criminal underwear bra" (the credits here belong to Waits and the aformentioned Kathleen, his wife I think). Sometimes, it seems that majority of us poetry-bloggers (late babyboomers or gen-x'rs) are trying to sort through the leavings and residues, failures and wrong turns of the revolutionary moments of the late 1960s and early 1970s--the artistic products of which are now the dominant voice in poetry and art, and the political legacy of which (liberalism's auto-cannibalization--which is not, Jordan, to say democracy sucks but rather what democracy, whose, which one? Lots of people speak for me. They get paid to do so even) needs to be better understood if we are to understand where we are since 2001--the neoprimitivists and constructivists and post-situationists and neo-Mallarmeans and dialecticians and techno-artists and the macaronics, all of us blindly feeling our way along toward the promise of the promise of promise betrayed. A song like this, retrospective as it is, makes some of that work easier.
But if this is a space for recovery, it's largely the recovering of things that were never mine to begin with, that I either did not know I had, didn't have any idea what to do with or just plainly did not have at all. Starting a blog, and starting to read blogs, and argue and befriend and confabulate with poets, has completely changed my sense of what it means to write and to read--and it's pointed me in the direction of more points of interest than I could ever countenance with an army of self-clones. Where before I saw scarcity and a moribund artform I practiced dutifully and for the benefit of seven or eight people, I know see abundance. Maybe that's community--but it's a community that overspills and fails to encompass any term like "the poetry blogging community" or "the Bay Area poetry scene." Less like the avant-garde neighborhood watch and more like a garden where you know the vegetables much better than the hands that tend them.
But there's something to be said for solitude, for the eremite, too. I think that's the (un)happy medium that blogs offer--a social hermitude.
(I know this has a strange valedictory ring to it, but don't worry--or do--I'm not going anywhere).

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