Thursday, March 8, 2012
Artichoke Haircut Puts A Spring Back Into My Wig
It sure is nice when the pieces of a sweet night fall in place. I'd been feeling way out of touch lately. Doing the work worry home worry work routine gnarling the belly from the inside out, but as I set out for my first Artichoke Haircut night at The Dionysus Lounge the air was alive with that freshness and promise of jumpstart spring before the dead trouts of summer slide all through it leaving static cling to the neurons. Can's "Landing" was in the player - "I like your hairdo" - what a refreshing delivery of silliness above beats that are still new after decades of beatmeisters, beat diggers and beat to deathers.
Climbing the stairs to the upper den where the Artichoke readings are held I was whisked back to my youth of climbing darkened stairs for a Casual Carriers gig at Oddfellows Hall. What will the night bring? Will I black out and leave pieces of my stomach on my Charlie Brown jersey? Most likely.
From the get go, the atmosphere was bubbly. Ebullient. And I usually reserve that word to describe the blood gushers caused by sticking a pen in the folds of Rush Limbaugh's neck.
Mike Young the famous young lean poet who is a former Thai monastery Zen instructor told me tales of AWP in Chicago. The bartender cracked open a new gallon of Coke for me, saying "Cheers Popeye. And I'm not calling you that because your arms are big."
Bruce Jacobs, poet and musician, chanter, sat with his saxophone looking even more taut and sculptural since I last saw him. His head could now be severed by Brancusi and placed on a pedestal and win many art awards.
I was immediately placed at ease by Herr Shutz and by the amount of love I was getting from the new generation of Baltimore weirdos for Normal's Books, Records and Pocket Time Scramblers.
I got the lead off call and the crowd was gentle. A few even put leggings over the bats they beat me with. I was extremely happy that my newest babies - "On the Matter of the Pinched Baby" and "Snow, Tree Forts and Alcohol" - went over really well. I feel confident enough with them now to move them into the regular lineup.
Then Father Young took the stage among confetti poppers and promises of cake at the break in honor of this night being the first anniversary of the Artichoke Haircut launching.
With Joe's readings I always feel like I'm wandering through a warm fairly dark cave with someone who occasionally throws a strong light on carvings along the walls as we pass, images and feelings slowly adding up to dream enlightenment.
After Joe, after the cake, after a nice talk with Baroness Megan McShea about how she was frazzled dealing with her stable of pure bred daschunds all coming down with gout from her feeding them on rich lump crabcake, the open mic session began.
Now as most people who have attended a poetry reading where the gates of the public ear are swung wide open in a world of tortured souls, sometimes these things can have you reaching for Pernod that is no longer there or the cyanide capsule hidden in the false bottom of your cane - anything but hearing another Tori Amos lyric dipped in carnival floss and urped on by Rod McKuen - but honestly every reader here was sharp. Of course it was led off by time proven vet Bruce Jacobs, but all the other folks I hadn't heard before, possibly since I haven't left my house much in the last year, and they brought it like maid Elsa once brought incredible salami sandwiches in Kaiserslautern 1962.
Two of particular interest, I thought, were Lily Herman (who has her own reading series called, I believe, "Illiteratis") and C.L. Bledsoe. Lily has an interesting presence. She announced at the beginning that she felt like Bilbo Baggins, but she read with a quiet fierceness and there was a great sense of you never know what's coming next. Of course, she also stripped off her sweater and stood in black bra for her poem called "Fucking", but I am a happily married man, that is not what drew my honed artistic interest!
The other reader who reached my slightly tainted senses most was a gent named C.L. Bledsoe. Slightly on the larger side physically, he has a high, almost ethereal reading voice. He read a hilarious piece about ladybugs destroying the world and in the spirit of whoever it is inserting zombies into classic literature, he inserted the protagonist of "Diehard" into Flannery O'Connor's A Good Man is Hard To Find and Crime and Punishment.
Many thanks to the Artichoke crew for making me part of their anniversary and to homies of Sea Couch and The Baltimore String Felons for coming out.