Friday, May 28, 2010

headlong into the irresistible

Me and the roommate said goodbye yesterday to some friends of hers from English class who were over here studying from Palestine. They left early this morning and told us that whenever we wanted to, we can come to Gaza to visit them.

Life had gotten so crazy this past year that we didn't see them as much as we wanted to. I'd see Abed when I was at work, and my roommate and his wife would chat on Facebook and practice their Arabic and English. They had us over for dinner last year and let us borrow their car when ours got locked in, even though they hardly knew us, and we'd play with the kids while some terrible late night sitcoms chattered in the background and we cringed to think that their perception of us would have anything to do with this show.

We took pictures and the kids were dancing around, we got to see the new baby, and met Dawoud a sweet kidwho's having surgery after his home got shelled.

And I think about how messed up the world is, how those in power on both sides do terrible things and then there's so many people caught in the middle just trying to live life. Both sides seem to do a great job of making it worse and of vilifying the other.

And then, since it was a lovely night, I drove out to the Beachland thinking about all this and got there almost in time for the Jeremy Lyons/everyone but Sandman Morphine show, which was even more than I expected.

I was too young to see them back in their heyday, and the combination of smoky sax-driven alt-rock and spooky blues was perfect for a hot sticky night, and of course everyone was about a decade older than me and Frank. And I got those shivers you get when the music hits you perfectly... "Let's Take a Trip Together" never sounded so perfect.

"somewhere there's no distractive
breeze of information
leaking through the windows
dripping from the trees
somewhere there's no earthquakes
no other people's anxious questions
no nervous wrecks
going down
no nervous wrecks
going down..."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

like shining from shook foil

I need to read me some more Gerard Manley Hopkins, because this is good stuff.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

more fun with Craigslist

Things have gotten weird and Nordic here on Cleveland Love recently.

But if you want a "volunteer" opportunity to be a Viking, here's your chance.

>>> Viking festival - an amazing volunteer opportunity in Iceland
Date: 2010-05-24, 3:01PM EDT
Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]

Viking Festival
June 6 - June 23, 2010

During the annual Viking Festival, which will trake place from the 11th until the 20th of June, Icelanders and "Vikings" from abroad celebrate their heritage. The Vikings settled Iceland around 874 AD and the Icelanders are very proud of those brave people who had the courage to start a life here in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The Vikings' wild and adventurous spirit lives on today, in the people of this unique country. In Hafnarfjörður there is a small Viking village where the volunteer project will take place.

The event is a lot of fun; there are displays of ancient arts and crafts, and large gruff men in full Viking attire demonstrate their ancient battle skills to anyone brave enough to challenge them.

The volunteers will help with the preparation before the festival and afterwards help the organizers to run the festival. You will receive Viking costumes to wear and different tasks to perform. Tasks will vary and include controlling the venues, giving assistance to visitors, helping the other Viking volunteers and staff in the kitchen or serving the meals. Working hours are flexible and in this project it is important to be very flexible as well. Sometimes the festival is very chaotic but the old Vikings were also known for lack of organization so that is a part of the programme.

Apart from our group of Vikings, there will be around 120 more Viking volunteers coming from all around the world! A big collection of artists will be at the Festival: warriors, bowmen, wrestlers, woodcarvers, stonemasons, blacksmiths, storytellers and enchantresses, musicians and magicians. The working hours are not completely fixed and they will be established according to the different phases of the festival.

Location: Hafnarfjörður is a town with population of 23.500 people. It is located 10 km away from the capital, Reykjavík. Hafnarfjörður takes its name (meaning Harbour-fjord) from the area's excellent natural harbour. The town is first named in the medieval "Book of Settlements," and the earliest reports of voyages to Hafnarfjörður date from the end of the 14th century. Today, Hafnarfjörður is one of the nation's largest fishing centres and the site of Iceland's first fish wholesalers' auction market.

Hafnarfjördur is famous for having one of Iceland’s largest settlements of elves, dwarves and other mystical beings, which are usually called ‘Hidden Folk.’ Centuries-old folklore has it that whole clans of such beings reside in the rocks that make up part of the town’s centre. We do not doubt this at all. Though elves are visible only to those with second sight, a great many Icelanders believe in their existence. Indeed, there is much evidence to support this belief, as stories abound of instances where new roads or housing developments were under construction and strange happenings took place. Hidden Folk enjoy a certain regard, and nowhere more so than in Hafnarfjördur. There is even a Hidden Worlds tour that takes you to their home sites, stopping at places like Hellisgerdi Park and the base of the cliff Hamarinn, which is said to be home to the Royal Family of the Hidden Folk. Along the way, the guide relates ancient folk tales of the magical hidden worlds and describes how the town grew and developed in harmony with the Hidden Folk.

Project language: English
Age range: 18 and over

More information and enrollment:

For volunteer opportunities in other countries please go to: or give us a call: 617-502-0400 (US); 604-628-7400 (Canada)

the Bestest Party: or Iceland vs Cleveland

In Cleveland, we make videos where grown men grovel before a 25-year-old athlete to save our city.

In Iceland, the standards are a little bit higher. They want the Bestest Party. And a Disneyland.

Seriously, you need to watch this. Subtitles are awesome.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Inevitable Saturday Night Live Reference

The blotter's been failing me lately, but
Craigslist still has some interesting ones.

I'm am a Cowbell player with 20 years of stage experience. I have pro equipment; 3 acoustic cowbells, 4 electric cowbells, and a couple of good drumsticks. I can play fast as well as slow. I look good on stage also; a stylish pompador and a black leather vest. I don't sweat much and can play equally good with the cowbell in either hand.

Need some cowbell to fill-out your stage sound..? Contact me. ( I also do studio work, but I charge by the beat.)

starting over from scratch...

I took the best art class I ever had at Tri-C my senior year of high school. My art teacher was part-timing it between three different schools and would sit in the middle of the room while we workedand tell stories about Jamaica and Mexico and her three previous husbands and hanging out with Sting and would let us listen to almost any music we wanted to. It was a fun three hours every morning, and I learned how to take my mediocre skills and translate them into something that worked.

Me and my classmate Tony would bring in all sorts of CDs as we were feverishly discovering new sounds and figuring out what we liked, climbing out of the teenage nu-metal abyss into adulthood. It was a great group of people who didn't shred each other's work to pieces and I found myself using many of her techniques in my own art later on.

She was a huge Morphine fan, and told about how the singer had a heart attack on stage a few years back. I found a couple of their CDs at the library a few years later and was hooked on the sound that really didn't sound like anything else. On a hot summer night two Junes ago, I played a huge chunk of "Cure for Pain" my second night on the air, and it just felt so perfect.

Tomorrow night I'll be hitting up the Beachland Tavern to see the surviving members of that band with my longtime friend who like me loves all things 90's.

"People always try to give you free advice, and that's something I've always tried, but you get what you pay for that's what I say, and now I'm paying and paying and paying..."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

fall, rise and fall

So many things to be done and to do, functioning on adrenaline and coffee, trying to figure out how to do everything. There are so many of those mundane adult things like changing oil and buying paper towels and paying bills that seem so hard to keep up on sometimes.

And I don't know what these people who believe in world peace are thinking when it seems like every day there's some kind of chaos erupting somewhere... Kyrgystan, the Koreas, Bangkok, Kingston

My roommate went running last night and ran into the older brother of the kids I used to tutor and I met up with them to walk and catch up. We went to go visit the mom of the kids who got beat up but we missed the visiting hours at the nursing home she's at. He said she's going to be ok, and that the kids are separated but staying with some good people in the community.

I think everyone knew that her husband was unstable and capable of this kind of thing, and I can only imagine what mental illness and instability compounded with traumatic experiences can do to someone. When I hear them talk about life in the camps, the chaos and the violence and then coming here to see another kind of the same thing, it's something that I can't even wrap my mind around.

He asked me why I haven't been around and all I could say was that life had gotten crazy, and it had, since I'd last seen him, with going back to school, family hecticness and holidays and third roommate drama and moving. I couldn't keep all those plates spinning.

Now that it's summer, I can finally take a break, and begin to reconnect with everyone that I lost touch with.

The Cleveland Institute of Art offers continuing education classes and I'm going to try and sign up for one this summer. It's one night a week for me to feel like I'm back in art school again and hopefully learn some new skills.

Monday, May 24, 2010

playlist 5/18/10

autolux - capital kind of strain
morphine - let's take a trip together
mulatu astatke - munaye
madlib - slim's return
the roots - upper egypt
portishead - it could be sweet
coldcut - man in a garage
soul coughing - true dreams of wichita
lamb - gold
joy jones - nomad
savath & savalas - ultimo tren
janelle monae - 57821
erykah badu - love
novalima - yo voy
sidestepper - que sera
manu chao - primavera/me gustas tu
razia - babonao
angelique kidjo - zelie
toots and the maytals - pressure drop
galactic & irma thomas - heart of steel
kings go forth - paradise lost
don isaac ezekiel - the lord's prayer
tinariwen - tamatant tillay
samba toure - foda diakaina
ramata diakite - nana

Sunday, May 23, 2010

the warmth

I was driving out to the east side Friday night and kicking myself for not having a camera to take photos of the double rainbows over the steel mills and rows of trains covered with amazing graffiti.

There will be many days this summer to compensate for that.

And the new Janelle Monae is rocking my world, doesn't sound like anything else, and in a perfect world she would be a worldwide pop star and not Lady Gaga... it's bouncy, literate, and epic, never thought I'd see a mashup of epic classical intros, renaissance sounding folk interludes, Outkast-esque beats, Fela meets Radiohead meets Prince meets... damn.

It's week two of housesitting and dogwalking and so far I've met the Puerto Rican guy around the corner with a pit bull/yellow lab mix, the older Cambodian man the next block over with a pair of shih-tzus, loads of little kids, bored teens, and a girl named Sugar who's lived here three weeks.

It seems like people get more social if you've got a pet because even if you have nothing else in common, you still have something to talk about.

And this weekend ended up making up for the annoyances and frustrations of the last few and I somehow ended up on the east side for everything... girl time over falafel and Indian style coffee, art museum, hippie watching at the Hessler Street Fair and exploring the Cultural Gardens, and then more good conversation and good people, playing with babies and eating biryani before going back to let the dog out again and put more of the garden in.

I've never really been a huge gardener because I hate being out in the sun, and I find a lot of these urban gardening people a little overbearing, but we had about two feet of unused space next to the parking lot that was overgrown with weeds.

I experimented with some sugar snap peas and those are growing on the other side, and today we put in squash, watermelon, and cucumber seeds. I have no idea if this will work but it's worth a try.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

why bother

Where I live at, you almost don't even bother calling the police because they may or may not show up or they'll take their time.

I called 911 for the first time in awhile when I was driving up the street and had to cut down one of the sidestreets because there was a huge brawl in the middle of the street near a known drug corner. I called not because I really felt like it would do any good, but because there were already people on the ground and I didn't want to feel guilt later on for not doing anything.

The next day I get pulled over on the same street for going a smidge over 30. I'd already been having a frustrating day and didn't even pretend to cry because I was already there. He didn't tell me how fast I'd even been going until he wrote up the ticket and I was furious. So you've got complaints about speeders? what about when I call because there's fighting in the street and drugs and it takes 45 minutes for anyone to show up? Oh, I guess there's no revenue in that.

So that's what I told the cop and I've probably screwed myself over just in time for my court date at the end of the month for yelling at him. I never yell at people. But it gets to the point where I'm fed up with trying to be nice, because I know they don't care either way, because it's an easy way to generate money for the do-nothings that suck us dry. I know this isn't the right attitude, and I'm trying to have a better one, but damn it's hard.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I'm housesitting again, time for a retreat, looking forward to two weeks of many walks around the neighborhood, nights at the kitchen table with a sketchbook, journals, and colored pencils, and hopefully some time for introversion and contemplation on the back balcony.

I've had a lot of blasts from the past recently, people I haven't seen in years, some I've lost touch with, some just seemed to disappear, are now showing up again. I'm hanging out with Derek tomorrow for the first time since the weekend that James Brown died when we wandered the empty streets of Akron. I got a random phone call from someone from my days when I was hanging out in Tremont, and then another friend who I haven't seen because of geography and time and untold other things...

There's been a lot of trouble going on all around me... seems like everyone's dealing with loss and bad situations and the lame things that people do to each other and I just hope I'm doing something that isn't contributing to the problems that I see.

It seems so often like it's so much easier to tear down and destroy, to let things disintegrate, rather than building them up.

And either people change so much you hardly know them anymore, or they're stuck in the same rut wishing for the good old days, and then there's some who are growing up along with you, and there's still some kind of spark there, where you catch up and it's like you haven't missed a beat...

And I wonder what the next five years will look like, where I'll be, where everything else will be. I don't worry too much anymore, but everything has shifted so much and my perceptions have altered so drastically that it is so evident when I brush against worlds that I've left behind.

dino metal for the children

In America, the kids have Barney. In Finland, they have Hevisaurus. Finland wins.

Monday, May 10, 2010

given to fly

Friday night I was on a front porch with some friends drinking tea and watching the storm come in until the temperature dropped and the rain got horizontal.

And after a Sunday afternoon of attempting to create a garden out of the sides of the fences in my back parking lot, and taking my own photo walk, Frank picked me up to go see Pearl Jam downtown.I haven't seen him since we saw the Dirtbombs back in '08 and we caught up and reminisced about back in the day and where everyone is now and how everything's changed since then.

I've never seen Pearl Jam before, somewhat avoided it for economic reasons and also during the Bush II years when the albums weren't so great and there was a lot of political ranting that I didn't feel like listening to.

But I like this last record and despite the steep ticket price, the show was good and long, one song after another that I loved and never expected to hear live... amazed that Eddie Vedder still has that kind of energy and I also realized throughout the course of the night that I know all these songs but I still don't totally know what he's saying in half of them... guess I'm not a real fan, hmmm?

They were the soundtrack though for a lot of us growing up in the burbs and these songs brought back so many memories of cutting class and driving around Cleveland listening to the radio with my dad in a beatup 1985 Pontiac 6000 station wagon, borrowing his wornout flannel shirts (I still have one by the way, but my roommate told me I'm not allowed out of the house in it), banging on a crappy acoustic guitar and a friend of mine singing "Last Kiss" on a hot sticky day, shelving library books to my tape of "Yield," angsting out to "Black." The first time I heard "Even Flow?" Damn.

There's a part of me that loves a good nostalgia trip and gets sentimental over weird things, but I'm so glad I'm not 19 anymore and hanging out with people based on if we liked the same bands or both looked weird because now that I look back on it, a lot of those people really weren't all that nice.

anyways, this is what was played...

Wash, Hail Hail, Corduroy, Got Some, In Hiding, World Wide Suicide, Force Of Nature, Immortality, Go, Even Flow, Army Reserve, Unthought Known, Daughter/WMA, Sleight Of Hand, Johnny Guitar, Do The Evolution, The Fixer, Why Go, Just Breathe, Given To Fly, Leash, Porch, Wasted Reprise, Life Wasted, Black, The Real Me, Smile, Alive, Indifference

Thursday, May 6, 2010


The occasional sleeping in mornings are always welcome even as I'll work late tonight. I've been so stressed and barely able to do much except function on a very basic level. I stopped by my roommate's work with falafel and hung out with some nursing home residents, pouring punch, taking photos, and pushing wheelchairs while a guy played "Margaritaville" on steel drums for the "Mother's Day Luau." It felt good to get outside my funk in a way that I didn't expect.

Woke up early, cleaned the house, made soup out of my leftover sweet potatoes and coconut milk,
rode my bike around the neighborhood, stopped by St. John's to get a closer look. There was an
Underground Railroad station here back in the day, known as "Station Hope." I've heard that the church closed for lack of members, but I'd love to find a (legal) way to get inside, and get some more history on the place.

I know there's more history up here than what I know, but I feel like so much of it was erased by the time I was born, and is continually obliterated even as I'm now conscious of it. There were tribes here once, and people who settled here, and factories that no longer turn buildings black. Those of us who stayed are comfortable with rust and have a special affection for old bridges and abandoned buildings, dirty beaches, things that are old, that remind us of times that existed before us, when things were not better, but definitely different.

Monday, May 3, 2010

a father to the fatherless

This weekend started out quiet... catching up on my sleep, bike riding at sunset, house party on the east side, dancing at Native Tongues Night at the b-side with some good people (I don't tend to do the clubby scene but I love me some early 90's hip-hop goodness) and staying out way too late.

And then I get a phone call Sunday morning while I'm at church.

The father of one of the families of refugees I worked with beat up his wife horribly and then committed suicide. Children's Services took the kids and now they'll be in the foster care system, which scares me to think of them being separated and having do deal with a whole new level of stress.

It's been about six months since I quit volunteering and working with the kids on Saturdays and tutoring them three nights a week during the school year. It was an incredible year of my life that opened up a world to me and I learned a lot about a culture very different from my own and hopefully did some good.

But being immersed in their lives and culture also meant that I had gotten in way over my head, found that in typical Western world fashion I'd become someone that enables rather than someone that empowers and life got crazy for me personally and I got burned out.

This news didn't come as a surprise to me because this was one of the families that was struggling the most in so many ways. The kids were having a hard time in school and last summer I had to get a social worker involved last summer because of a slumlord they were renting from. 9 people in the top of a single turned into a double, with a foot of water in the basement that smelled horrible.

I think about this woman with a broken body who's been to hell and back countless times and wondering what will happen to these kids and wishing I could do something that would make everything ok but all I think I'll be able to do is go and visit her at the hospital tonight, try to stumble through my Swahili and just be there. I've been able to find out that she'll survive this, though she isn't speaking at all right now, and that the kids are in Columbus. I hope they're not separated from each other, there's 7 of them aged 3 to about 15.

It seems like we have this skewed way of looking at those who live among us as strangers and refugees, speaking different languages and doing things differently than how we do. Either it's a fear or a distance because they are "other" or some of the more socially conscious can sometimes be guilty of looking on with pity or elevating them to some level of sainthood for being born in the wrong place or the wrong time.

Or we think that the struggle ends when they get here, but here also means unemployment, discrimination, cultural clashes, isolation, and often heavy alcoholism in a profoundly economically depressed city in dangerous neighborhoods where they're especially vulnerable. It's hard to learn a new language when you've never been in school and can't read in your own language.

I was reading through the Psalms last night and marveling at how God cares about those who are strangers, those who are fatherless, those who have lost. I hope that Mari and the kids get a sense of that.

"You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,

defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more."