Friday, March 29, 2013
It's near 3am after the first Shattered Wig Night after Blaster slipping through the time crack. I've been cobbling together this tawdry little homage using bits of his bits.
Well Dr. Feebnuts
I didn't have these
lumps when I entered
but here they are
with so many
heads mewling sweetly
mewling at the body with bop cap
of word clattering glory
the horded pork
loins of droopy drawers Jim
a big bummer
Hey sailor, there's
a pumpkin in Uranus
There is a sun behind our sun
A moon behind our moon
and the puppet strings
have crossed forcing my
hand onto your leg
Here is the alley where
you took a blackjack
to the face for me
Here are the Clover eggs
fried with hangover leaden lids
still sliding on the sweat-sheened
I am not Lulu
and you were not Sidney Poitier
but if you wanted the moon
I would write across the stars
The Moonhead News
- that news being that
you cracked my mind
revealed my past to me
like a turd shimmering
on the end of a fork
but with promises
of comets blazing ahead
And how should I thank you
for that and the Thai meals
and Emmylou fried chicken
I will never know
but I will place
you in the wrinkled
McDonald's bag of my heart
jammed under the seat of
a pickup truck
Sadly Dr. Feebnuts, my
current insurance won't
cover a mind blowing, a
near deadly glimpse into
The True Reality
but I will use the
one last bit of advice
from my old pal Blaster -
If the bill collectors are
calling, always answer your
phone "Juan's Taco Palace!"
- Rupert Wondolowski
Blaster Al Ackerman: An Obituary
"Book in hand, I began to creep toward him. 'Wanna see something pretty?' I called softly."
[from "The Puffin Book", in Corn & Smoke: stories, performances, things, Shattered Wig Press, 2006.]
It started somewhere in 1994, I think. Out of school, working the kinds of jobs a pillow-soft high school graduate can get, ping-ponging between passed out on the curb, puking out the window, and white-knuckle sobriety. I was, obviously, the kind of adolescent who had as a constituative part of his self-identity something called 'being a poet'.
Part of this meant writing poems, and sending them off, to try to validate myself through publication. Being a corn dog in Denver, essentially completely without any connection whatsoever to culture, finding places to send my mediocre efforts to was a DIY affair. I had to buy Factsheet Five or The Poet's Market and work only thus dimly illuminated, with SASE and cover letter and three to five selected pieces, over and over again. (First thing you learn is you always got to buy an issue before you submit.) They list the editors in The Poet's Market, so your cover letter can sound professional—or whatever the analogue for professionalism is in the deliberately self-marginalizing, endlessly self-regarding, pseudo-mystical world of poetry. When I started submitting things to the Shattered Wig Review, their listed editor was Fred Engels. I didn't get it. I failed the test.
I wrote a couple letters to Fred Engels—I bought issues, I submitted stuff. And, page by page, issue by issue, the Wig changed my life. Mainly by way of regular and large doses of the writing of "Blaster" Al Ackerman. Weird little poems—often with faint, unplaceable whiffs of something irretrievably sad—hilarious and nightmarish stories, brilliant and unsettling cartoons. I started chasing him through the small press underground.
You Hear That
you were giving me a ride someplace
that didn't pan out, the movies I think
but that closet's too dribbly to go to the movie
you hear that
Words mean nothing to such a game of wetness and
that's why cats faint as they learn who made us
if not he who made the big purple heads
is like a wet dream of thought now willed
that can make a new being made of elements
which cannot be identified, only spent.
You hear that?
Words mean nothing to such a thing
These transitional expressions really can not be real
Now it seems to have disappeared
No, wait. It seems to be coming back again, a little
But it's becoming broken like a fruitcake
It's dreaming all the while like the blackness of sleep
But what is this? You say sleep is black as night
And yet it seems possessed by nothing but imagination
That is the way sleep goes and we are a lot like Dryden
We cannot be correct
We haven't time
The most reliable source for the Blaster Al I liked best was John M. Bennett's Lost and Found Times, where Ackerman regularly had a few pages to detail his methodical and playful poem-making practices: "Ack's Hacks". One month he might take a John M. Bennett piece and a Steven Spender piece, rip each down the middle, and splice them together, left halves by Bennett, right halves by Spender. Another month he'd use what I remember he called the "World of Wastebasket": wad up and partially smooth out somebody's poem, and use the words you can see as a word bank for your own poem.
I adored the results, with their roiling mix of perspectives and rhythms, their weird, unpredictable lexical combinations—and a kind of surrealism that went ineffably deeper than unusual image-juxtaposition or unexpected placement—their humor and sadness. I also adored the window into their creation, the frank joy and attention to detail, the constant demonstration that "being a poet" is always dumped and trumped by "working to write a poem". Issue after issue of Shattered Wig Review and Lost and Found Times—and others!—taught by example that "inspiration" is nothing at all, that the poet-persona never matters as against an ass in a chair, doing the work, that doing the work was best done with humor and honesty as the watchwords, tempering the arrogance of making something with the humility in admitting where it came from and the determination to make it as good—and as well—as possible.
I found pretty much the whole world in these poems and stories. There was ugliness, horror, and immense confusion; weird rhythms of recurrence; humor that lacerated and healed by turns; references to genre from romance to hard-boiled to science fiction to newsletter to shaggy-dog story to rambling guy in a bar. Maybe sometime somewhere somebody will top The Crab as an exemplar of the personal essay; I'm not holding my breath. Sense was not always on display on the surface—perhaps the Doctor's most notable concession to consensus reality (and certainly his deepest subversion of same; one of the most consistent pleasures in this intensely pleasurable work is the slippage between name and thing and thing and thing—half his narrators spend half their time asking, and needing to ask, and not really getting straight answers to, questions like:
"Do you mean a bat like in baseball or like in 'any of numerous flying mammals of the order Chiroptera, having membranous wings and navigating by night by echolocation?'"2
2 I won't leave you hanging. The answer: "I mean 'bat' as in Batman or Devil Bat."
[from] "The White Bat" (widely reprinted)).
Somewhere Ackerman noted1:
so much of what I do is gibberish, but looking at the world, it's hard to say that gibberish isn't the central art form of our time
"Sideshow Days with Your Pop"
[from: Shattered Wig Review 18, Summer, 1999.]
When I found Feh! Press' brilliant Omnibus, the lessons only amplified, clarified, purified. Blaster introduced one piece with this:1
These are words scribbled hastily in the margins of a life, by a man too often taken in drink, some written sitting behind the wheel of a car, waiting for someone to finish their physical therapy appointment
1 This quote is from memory. Forgive my citational incompetence, please: I write these words without access to my full library.
This, then, was how to go about writing. His treatise on the "Tacky Little Pamphlet" was how to go about distributing that writing: you'd write some stuff, you'd stuff it all onto some papers, you'd leave them around, in magazine racks, or at the laundromat, or stuffed into envelopes and mailed to random addresses. This I did.
"Stamp: Can I Touch Your Leg?"
[from: Shattered Wig Review 18, Summer, 1999.]
Eventually, I sent a thing or two to Blaster Al himself. He always write back—his grand scrawl "Get This to:" on the envelope, usually a hand-drawn stamp: there was never any mistaking an envelope from Blaster Al Ackerman. I lost all this correspondence moves and moves ago, I think, but I have retained the kindness and generosity he showed to a nobody from nowhere, some dumb kid just trying to figure out how and what and why to write. He once sent a draft version of an as-then-unpublished story called "Floaters". It was so good, and meant so much to me, that I carried it through six weeks of travelling, Portland to Rome to Barcelona to London to NYC to Georgia to Chicago to Austin to Denver to Portland, nothing but a backpack and not much room for books.
C.S. shifts around in the golf cart, trying to ease his legs. How can there be so many strange and unexplained things in the world, he has no idea. Recently, he has read an article in Playboy about men who are turned on by wearing lobster claws and watching boa constrictors swallow alarm clocks. They are called Dadaists.[from] "Floaters"
The good Doctor died last week sometime. I found out on Twitter. The link was to this, excellent, remembrance: Dear Blaster. Among the regrets this instanced: I had written him in years. I had not bothered to write this appreciation.
Al Ackerman was a great man. His work was varied and brilliant, and anyone free of dogmas about the inferiority of humor or prejudices about underground writing will find a lot to learn from, and laugh at, and linger over. If you care more about what he nice, I can assure you he was. There is much evidence on this point, and it all agrees with me. The evidence of his genius is even more abundant.
His democratic willingness to engage with just about anybody isn't there, anymore—but if a legitimate titan of underground writing could take time from his medical transportation gig to answer his mail, so can you...and so can I. Good things may come of it!
Back in front of my building, three men were out on the stoop—two of them were having a beer-pissing contest, the third was refereeing from the top step. The referee, I saw, was gross old Mr. Barsh, the building super, who never fixes anything.
Book in hand, I began to creep toward him. "Wanna see something pretty?" I called softly.
[from "The Puffin Book", in Corn & Smoke: stories, performances, things, Shattered Wig Press, 2006.]
In between work and mail and life, and fighting for what dignity and decency we can manage, we can write, or draw, or sing, or otherwise make stuff. Blaster Al did.
I want to close with a couple long sections from my favorite Blaster Al chapbook. They include the powerful repetitions, the humor, the sadness, the horror, the confusion I associate with the best of his work. It's the whole world, in other words—the best words: the words of Al Ackerman. The world is a poorer place without him.
[from: Let Me Eat Massive Pieces of Clay, Shattered Wig Press, 1992.]
from DEATH DEAT DEPARTURE
Are you sick? drunk?
Well it's good to know that for a few days
Voices come alternately from both sides
Though under normal circumstances the saying that never comes true
Starts to smell after a few years--so that each day, after that, was
akin to a large doll's face burping outside the window
Whew: that face was the size of a parking lot, and all onions, near which stood a man named Canarse Park
Now forget that
That was no church! That was rodomontade,
Or the moss-hell "false memory"
Of lofting the teeming BALTIC AVENUE DRUGSTORE
To relocate it more nearly above locations that never change when
Proofs of dark, roam and percolate
Nourishing the urge to understand bur not hear about any
Plans to overrun or swarm about in large numbers but still, in the shredded-silver
REFLECTION that goes tearing along overhead
Topped with a drawing (chedderchrome) of mayonnaise congealing on
The lip of the drinking glass the Coca Cola and Jim Beam is in:
It was ten-of-seven
When Hawk realized he
Was unshaven and
Driving a van he had
Never seen toward
UNREALIZED POTENTIAL MORE FULLY UNREALIZED
Now forget that
Thursday, March 28, 2013
("Sax Rohmer's Widow" by Blaster and collage below from tENT's archive)
Blaster Al In The Cosmos Tribute Week continues with a submission from booed usician, filmmaker, author, mad scientist, archivist tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE, known to some alley denizens in the area of Normal's Books as "Mr. Zipper Man".
tENT was also my conduit to the enchanted forest of Blaster's art and mind. We worked together at Second Story Books and tENT showed me copies of Popular Reality and John M. Bennett's epic long running visionary literary magazine Lost and Found Times, two of Blaster's main vision portals of that time (Lost and Found Times for decades and Popular Reality went on to publish the Monster On The Bookshelf - The Blaster Omnibus.f
The truth can now be told. We are almost all dead now. I am the only one left alive. The 6 Finger Club sent circulars from Belfast to San Antonio to Tepoztlan to BalTimOre to San Leandro. Lafferty is dead, Zack is dead, Blaster is dead. The stench of sulphur that hung about us has been sanitized by the shrunken hebephrenic cardboard pine tree. We all opted out: live fast, die old.. but DIE, baby, DIE. We are all dead now, except for maybe DJ.. & Nunzio.. & False Kitty.. Blaster began by breaking things that morning. He broke the glass of water on his night stand. He knocked it crazily against the opposite wall and shattered it. Yet it shattered slowly. Even I am dead.. & if you were to ask me why I'd tell you that story, the one you've heard more times than you can remember. In fact you can't remember it at all & that's why I keep my shaving cream next to the bust of Blaster. Wch is a flat screen tv. I am tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE & I am a hebephrenic. Oh, sorry, wrong meeting. Blaster's bust is flat. In fact, Blaster's bust IS that pine tree, that pine tree he planted that thyme, most commonly Thymus vulgaris. Fact is, the world's a flatter place w/o Blaster. The Flat Earth Society was right. Marshall B. Gardner was right, contradictory as that may seem. If Blaster were still here he'd have a bicycle pump attached to that sucker in no time flat & Pego & Rupe wd be plunging it up & down like a dynamite - w/ Blaster & that fucking pillowcase & Mogen-David cackling like a hen w/ a Johnny Cash brain implant. & the world wd be a safer place for it.
tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Dr. Blaster Al Ackerman 1939-2013
Love to you now in the eternal network!
Outside Normals Bookstore 2007
In the kitchen door like so many morning glory seeds
in your stomach golden and queasy wrapped up in
cellophane smelling of pine, deer park, old pulp
envelopes and centrefold yellow hacks who dream on
35c a word for truth and eerie goings on in the 'other
Friday, March 22, 2013
You had moved in to Normals and seemed to like it.
Who was this new denizen of the murky book nook?
Rupert quaked and burbled in your presence, which made me wanna
Quake and burble too.
Soon after first meeting you… I would don the wretched yellow
Bathing suit and drag you around town for a night or two…
Or was it a week in that fucking thing?
You said the strangest things in the night that I could never quite remember... but you were quite serious
With the beer drinking quietude in the daytime.
And that always made me feel unsure… which turns out is
Something I thrive on.
Ca- Rack o Canned Beer! o yeah from the corner… and a swift Quay sashay…
You had a chair there… but I could swear it was a fucking merkahbah
You had access to… I was convinced you were an honest
To god time traveler. I liked that you liked beer how I liked beer.
Then one day I decided to pack up and leave... Rupert bought all my books which would end up being what I had to move away with. We had going away party… I heard that someone was getting a champagne enema in the basement and I wanted to go and look but you stopped me and you gave me One of your pastel 8 by 10 drawings… I think it was a self-portrait of you barely held inside a red Bathrobe… the NYC skyline in the background and the words… "Welcome to New York" were written in black oily scrawl. All the hair on the exposed body looked like gray ramen… how’d you do that? Shoo.
I seen done been so many fucking things since way back then… and from my travels I have very little left to show…. but that I held onto and still can admire. When I look at it… I remember all of us… fearlessly fucked up and all friends and friendly. Last time I saw you… you had yer soap in mouth maw a flappin… and out of the sudsy garbled sides flew your one of kind poetry. I knew it that first day I laid eyes on ya and also the last day… I was lucky… we were lucky when you decided to move into Normals.
- Amanda Pollock
Amanda Pollock is a singer songwriter, author, former nurse and undeniable force of nature. In the haze and fuzz of '90s Baltimore she was a member of the musical assault circus troupe Cloaca.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
(Photo by Patti Ackerman, supplid by Istvan Kantor)
Blaster with fellow storefront preacher, Father Higgs, in the legendary 14 Karat Cabaret during a Normal's Books & Records anniversary show/ party. Photo by Liquid Borgnine.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
(above - Sleazy, Kantor, Ackerman, dec 20, 1985 San Antonio, Texas, photo Bretty Nova)
Dear Lord, or Shiva, or John Smith, or Vicious Cosmic Vacuum Cleaner Salesman,
Baltimore and the world of the arts have been losing some grand masters this winter! This blog is starting to feel like an obituary column! First Chris Toll, who on top of everything else, was my first publisher, so he was a god to me right off the first crack of the bat! Then sweet night prowling flesh covered music encyclopedia Pope Croke. Now dear old Blaster.
Blaster first blew my mind in the '80s when I came across him in Crowbar's "Popular Reality". Tentatively a Convenience and I were both working at Second Story Books on ye olde Greenmount Ave. and he turned me on to said rag. When a group of us decided to start Shattered Wig Review to push those we loved to create more of what we love, Blaster of course became my dream contributor.
I sent him a copy of Wig #1 with three sodden burritos and a case of Schlitz and begged him for some words of his Secret Master Essence. In a matter of weeks I was holding "2,976 Vienna Sausages" by Blaster, what proved to be one of my very favorite stories by him, and it found its first printing in humble side-stapled Shattered Wig Review #2.
(Blaster with my Chimp Tantalus)
When Blaster and his wife Patty broke up in the early '90s John Berndt and I told him he should come drink up the seedy climes of Baltimore and we even sent him bus fare to add to the temptation. The cheap bars, the populace packed with creative humans barely clinging to sanity and a huge appreciative fan base and like-minded weirdos was able to glue Blaster here. Every Shattered Wig Night he would hold forth and stomachs and minds would hurt from the expansion of laughter and beer and Phil Dickian time/world slips, not to mention drip with Lovecraftian ordure! He changed my life, he changed Baltimore, he made us all wonder if we were living in inside one of his stories.
shoulder water an my wave re
petition the soggy blade my
leg remeats my repe
tition where my your po
cket cheese finds the rep
etition scrawls the nu
mber same the numb r
epetition ur swallow off
the elbow juice repetit
ion nods all closet
treasure repetition dust an
gritty sock repetitio
n ease yr fading b
ones yr repetiti
on itching like a g
nat repeats repeated
in yr r ear no wonder
they call you King of the World
John M. Bennett
for Blaster “All Different All the Same”
Al Ackerman (with tiny addition by Blaster Al Ackerman)
Here is a link to a bibliography of Blaster's writings that Sir Bennett worked on:
Click on "Books and More", and do an author search for "Ackerman, Al". There are 29 entries there, all stuff in the Avant Writing Collection.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
(Above - Chris Mason with list of poets he wrangled at the Chris Toll fest)
One brisk chilly September night we stood together in the parking lot behind Dunkin' Donuts as he played me the two available songs from Dylan's upcoming "Tempest" album on his iPhone and a little over a week later the great poet and my old friend Chris Toll was dead. Here is his obituary:
Chris' memorial at Ruck's Funeral Home was packed to capacity with loving friends and family in shock. It felt cathartic to be among the huge community of Chris' friends and riding on this energy Beefalo Bob Friedman got the idea to have a night of poets reading Toll words and musicians playing songs by chris' muse, bob Dylan. Above is a picture of Mr. Beefalo, who started the evening with a fine rendition of Mississippi".
Here is a link to Baltimore Fishbowl's write-up of the memorial service for Chris:
Chris' activity in the poetry world spanned from the '70s through the first decade of the 21st Century and he was well loved, so the night filled and stretched on with people wanting to pay his generous spirit homage. I was happy to be in on it and got to do double duty, singing with Don Peyton's Tear Stained Bibles (above), which included my nephew Geff on fiddle and mandolin (below).
Above is the whole Tear Stained bunch.
One of the readers was Kate Pipken (below), who co-edited Open 24 Hours with Chris. This journal was the first to publish me as a young Colt 45 besotted lad before I moved to Baltimore, so I have particularly strong warm feelings for it.
One of Chris' most recent publishers, Adam Robinson, who made Chris a movie star with The Disinformation Phase on Publishing Genius Press did a duet reading with Lauren Bender. One of Chris' earliest publishers, Tom DiVenti, whose press put out Blue Confessions was present in the form of T.T. Tucker his country punk persona (below).
Coming along about three hours into the night was Alix Tobey Southwick doing a beautiful, soothing rendition of "Tomorrow Is A Long Time" that overcame the shaky sound system with its passion. Alix, below, painted Chris as The King of Hell and Pope Croke as Pan in the ladies' room of The Club Charles long ago and these two friends and Baltimore icons left the Earth within months of each other.
And in this cruel winter that demanded so many souls from us, even as we joined together to sing and chant in Chris' spirit a month or so after many of us did the same for Pope, there was a fresh sorrow of the death of Half Japanese and Spidercakes drummer/force of nature Ricky Dreyfus. And now when I've finally gotten around to writing this post Blaster Al Ackerman who is in my upper pantheon of folks who made my life an adventure worth living passed away in Austin from complications of a brain tumor.
All these departing giants are going to take a long time to digest and life will certainly never be the same, but there is the consolation and inspiration of the next generation of hepped up weirdos (Soft Serv God's Littlest Homie and Fletcher Smith Unlicensed Phrenologist below) and already the ones lined up after them like Lyra Marlowe, gypsy daughter of the Mainz Caravan. The Toll and Pope and Dreyfus and Blaster particles will live on and influence and inflame in many ways and forms. I will think of them and bow my unraveling head in all moments when life becomes so clear and raw that the membrane between Here and Other begins to split and when I am in the frothy embrace of the ocean reveling in the glory and fragility of existence.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
As easily as you or I may drink a cold or hot beverage or lay on a ratty couch smoking a doobie watching cartoons, Michael Kimball writes novels. And not blind-assed word churning either, but books that seemingly every major media outlet races to pour honeyed praise on. If he is not careful Joyce Carol Oates may plant a deadly scarab beneath his pillow to take him out of the literary running.
Michael's latest publication is a book collecting life stories of real people that he condensed onto postcards. We are holding a Shattered Wig Night Friday, March 29 to celebrate this new treasure and to let people love up on him. Here is what he says about it:
Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard) started five years ago at a performance arts festival. Between then and now, I wrote over 300 postcard life stories, condensing over 10,000 years of life. Now it's a book. You can get it directly from Mud Luscious or from Amazon. Unfortunately, I couldn't publish everybody's postcard life story in the book or it would have come in around 700 pages.
Here is a link to his blog about the book:
Michael's last novel was Big Ray.Big Ray was named an Oprah Book of the Week, featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the like and excerpted in The Collagist. Michael provided a context for Big Ray in the Huffington Post piece “Obesity Book: The Underrepresentation of Overweight Characters” and showed another aspect of his succinct writing style in “Audacious Ideas: Postcard Life Stories,” posted here.
In addition to Big Ray, Michael has authored the novels Us, Dear Everybody and The Way the Family Got Away. His books have been translated into a dozen languages, including Italian, Spanish, German, Chinese, Korean and Greek. His shorter works have appeared in Bomb and New York Tyrant. He is also responsible for a couple documentaries, the 510 Readings, racing around softball fields like a madman and the conceptual pseudonym Andy Devine.
Josh Fruhlinger is a writer, editor, and comedian who lives right here in Baltimore. He's the creator of the Comics Curmudgeon, a nine-year-old blog about Mary Worth and Rex Morgan, M.D., that proves that you can become semi-famous on the Internet for just about anything as long as you post something every day. He'll be reading a chapter from The Enthusiast, his novel-in-progress, which is a satirical tale about unorthodox marketing strategies, post-industrial capitalism's claim on our emotions, and subways. The Enthusiast was launched as a Kickstarter project and will be available in November, hopefully.
"If an opium pipe had vocal chords, it would sing like Wheatie Mattiasich," Prague music magazine Ucho Med stated in their "Why aren't These Artists Being Worshipped?" december 2012 article. Wheatie is a fantastic singer songwriter who plays a mean autoharp and guitar and is known to do haunting covers of John Jacob Niles. She's currently wrapping up a new vinyl lp.
Baltimore's Mr. Moccasin is led by Hanna Badalova, born in Baku, Azerbaijan. A poet, she sings sometimes in English and sometimes in Russian as moods change in the music. Their influences are Cocteau Twins, Throwing Muses, B-52s, and The Sugarcubes.
Musicians in the group are Jared Fischer, Chris Martinelli (guitars) and Greg Hatem (drums) back Hanna up with rock, folk and punk.
XAHA is the band's forthcoming album, produced by Greg Hatem. XAHA is the Russian cyrillic spelling of the name Hanna, the singer of Mr. Moccasin. The album is rallying around her as an artist. Her stories, visions, and expressions come to the foreground on this record, as in "Black On Black," the first single.
The Wig Nights are still fortunate enough to be housed in the legendary 14 Karat Cabaret at 218 W. Saratoga St. The cover is $5 and doors swing wide at 9.