Thursday, May 30, 2013

Al's Burnt Book: May 30, 2013


For the pedants among you, today is Thursday, May 30.
     Okay, we did that.
     I want to celebrate the return of my friend, Joseph Syzleyko, to Greensboro. Of course, he won’t stay long, probably only this summer, because  if anyone has wanderlust, it’s Ol’ Joe. Here’s a scratchboard he did, a self-portrait, Joe on his bicycle (see below). These days he rides a motorcycle, and he’s a bear, not an elephant. If the pedants are still with us, they’ll want to know that Joe’s untitled scratchboard drawing is from the Guilford College student magazine, The Piper, Winter 2002 issue. I notice a lot of art work by Noah Howard in that issue of The Piper.
     Yes, alas, Joseph left Nadia, the Colombia beauty he met at the U. S. Social Forum in Detroit several years ago. He’s been living with her Florida way. But, well, you know wanderlust.
Me, now, I ain’t got wanderlust. I got turtleitis, stayputness. Hate Moving Lust.
     Jennie asked me what my travel plans are for this summer. She’s off to Holland and who knows where else. (Anya off to Holland next month, too. Is it the free kif in Amsterdam or what?) I answered Jennie I might make it to Aycock & Lee Streets or, again, off to Freeman Mill Road and Florida . . .
     Yes, it’s eight o’clock, and I’m already hard at work. Daniel and Lauren Goans, nice enough to share their home with me, are in D. C. or Richmond, or Who Knows Where. They’ll stop in Sunday, then–you guessed it–off again. Strum, strum, strum on the guitar. Tra-la-la singing. They’ll introduce their first big album at my bookshop August 9 (Nagasaki Day).
     “So, Al, Joseph Syzleyko is back in town. What else?”
     Patience! I’m not through with my friend, Joseph.. He’s gonna build me at least two (2) bookcases. And fix the flourescent lighting better. One reason he returned is the wealthy private school he attended is re-doing another whole building on their campus, and Joe’s the best worker, they asked him to come supervise the operation, because he understands fluorescent lighting.
     Joe came in the shop yesterday and donated a dozen good books to the bookshop cache. Mike Bohlen came in, too, and dropped off a dozen superb books–he brings a carton of books every once in awhile for a twenty dollar bill.
     Jonathan Starch got the job he wanted at The School of the Arts. His supervisor said she had never seen a Reference Letter such as I wrote for Jonathan in her whole life.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

May 12, 2013 :: from Bookshop Journal

     Paul Lavack visited Glenwood Coffee & Books yesterday (Saturday), and we had a nice talk and “catch-up.” I had visited Paul in his home, when he was recuperating from recent surgery. (He had collapsed at work.) Paul has written a novelette, 70,000 words, and he’s hired me to edit it. (I only charge $15/hr.) He also wants me to check out his blog, his “autobiography,” to read it and perhaps to see if it is publishable.
     Just last night, I was reading Ruskin’s Praeterita, which expanded the realm of autobiog genre considerably. Before Ruskin’s late-19th Century unfinished autobiog, there hadn’t been much of such a genre in Literature. And what autobiography there was concerned spiritual issues; one thinks of Augustine. Ruskin was the first to combine what today we would call a journal or even a blog and snapshots of one’s personal life. “ “Praeterita” seems to be a Ruskin neologism that he says simply means a rendition of past events of one’s life.
     Of course with my recent writing explosion of 20 journals in two years, I’m interested in anything written in this realm.
     Last night was the first use of The Back Room for an event since Maureen Kessler left the bookshop’s employ. Cakalak Thunder had a fund-raising benefit, party, dance, silent auction thingy. Cakalak is definitely a women’s creation. That was clear via the women who arranged it, the women who collected and distributed all the money, the women performers. I saw some of my old women friends (or, at least, once-friends): Joy, Audrey, Margo, Leila, Alyssa. Marnie, Devon, etc.  Saw Juan M. for the first time since Mo’s defection. ne of the silent auction offerings was a massage at Lotus Center, offered by Kamaleathahh Livingstone. Is she back in town?
     Cakalak gave the bookshop 20% of their “gate,” $30.00. And I sold a volume from my Penguin Classics. And some soda and coffee. I sat around, reading, until they finished shortly after midnight.
     I’ve done away with the amplified noise Mo brought into The Back Room (Punk Rock). Although, last month, the bookshop took in over five hundred dollars from renting out space in The Front Room, where the bookshop originated, where the coffee is. I like use of the front room much, much better than the raucous goings-on that used to break up The Back Room, with drinking and smoking and bad behavior in general. Punk Rock seems to be a Boy Thing, and today’s boys in their 20s aren’t a mob you want around, trust me.
     The girls do it differently, as last night’s party proves. The women were all dressed in extravagant puttings-on, costumes, silver and gold dresses, exotic headgear, wonderful! Creative and entertaining. Not just noise, dirt, alcohol, fights, and insults, like the boys do when Mo gave them their punk rock nights.
A very different crowd, neither the women I have described nor the men, is found in the bookshop when there’s a folk concert with acoustical music. That crowd seems religious, somber, reserved (total silence in fact, with respectful listening). It’s a much smaller group that comes to those here. Those concerts begin early and end early, and they’re my favorite. Think of Daniel and Lauren Goans' Lowland Hum.  Although an Extravaganza like the Cakalak Thing last night would be good, say, once a month. After all, I’ll be 77 this month, and I already work from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. 7 days a week, without parties at night, cleaning up, extra work . . . For thirty dollars! Of course, providing a community center for just such activities, has been part of the mission at Glenwood Coffee & Books. But, for me, obviously, what I really want to do is have a great bookshop resource for the community and, yes, if I can, have peace-and-justice meetings and a Public Space.

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

May 1, 2013. Criminal Journal Entry

MAY DAY. A group of university seniors have been meeting in the bookshop all year, planning a big statewide May Day Event in Raleigh. God knows there’s plenty for them  to protest: huge classroom increases, fewer faculty, too many students, much higher fees, emphasis on sports and de-emphasis on The Humanities, tuition increases every semester, inflated administration salaries. You name it! The state legislature is planning Draconian cuts in education budgets!
     So a big rally has been planned for today. In the Occupy Movement and other exceptional activist meetings in which I have taken part thousands of times, time is strictly observed, usually two hours. One starts on time, say 4 p.m. and one ends at 6 on the dot. It’s part of the solidarity discipline. But these Milleneals, as today’s young people are sometimes called, are different. Because of the Cell Phone Revolution, this is a “fly by the seat of your pants” generation. Meetings are arranged and changed at a moment’s notice, all with the smart phone, with texting and its ilk. Nevertheless, the rally organizers met pretty consistently. Another difference is that students talk for hours, meetings last all day.  How much organizing do you have to do? For four months, I’d say the six or seven seniors and graduate students met for a full day about twice a month. To plan the Greensboro contribution to the May Day Rally in Raleigh. Much of the meetings were efforts to be made to get a large turn-out.
     A couple of weeks ago, Alyssa emailed me, “Could those going to the May Day Rally park their cars in the Bookshop Parking Lot?” The students wanted to car-pool, to pile into just a few cars and go together. Hey didn’t have enough people or enough money for a bus. Of course, I was happy to have the bookshop chosen as the gathering point for the cadres. Alyssa said the cars would be there from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
      Got up early. Perhaps the students would want to use the bathroom in the bookshop? How about complimentary coffee? But no one came. At 10 a.m., three of the organizers arrived. That was it. One automobile in the parking lot. The other with three kids driving to Raleigh to protest all these detrimental changes to what was once a pretty good state university system.
     One year ago, exactly one year ago, OCCUPY had been a pretty vibrant group. And, looking back, it died that week. May Day, 2012.
     When I say a pretty vibrant group, that’s an understatement. No fewer than 50 people attended “general assemblies” that were meeting twice a week. In addition, there were six active Working Groups that met weekly, that never had few than six in attendance and sometimes eight or ten to each meeting.
     Amendment One won heavily that first week of May, 2012. The women who had bottom-lined Occupy disappeared. Four of the six active working groups, a large gaggle of over 50 people who had been in the movement at that point for  9 months, dissolved instantly. They had been bottom-lined by the talented women who had become engaged in the Amendment One fight. But they abandoned their working groups without notice and without handing on responsibility of leadership, which meant the groups disappeared, never to reappear. Attendance at the general assembly (G.A.) dropped from 100 a week to less than 20. Finally, the General Assembly dissolved altogether. A few valiant souls kept two of the working groups–Energy & Foreclosure–going, and they are extremely active and successful to this day; although just four women pretty much killed Occupy in a single May Day ‘12, a blow from which Occupy never recovered. Were they burnt out? Were they so disappointed at the disgusting success of Amendment One anti-gay legislation? But why did they all . . . just disappear? No notice. No warning. Worst of all, no handing on of the baton they had assumed. Aside from numerous journal entries about this extraordinary betrayal that I have doused, not a single word has ever been said or written about this. The women were very popular and, to my knowledge, remain so. None of them has ever entered the bookshop since May 1, 2012, although they were in here two, three, four times a week for 9 straight months previously.
     Well, that’s my May Day ‘13 reflection. The working groups that were destroyed were: Education/Enrichment; Employment/Unemployment; Civil Rights; and Process/Access. It would take a book in and of itself to describe these incredible undertakings, what we members hoped from them, the benefits that would have accrued to the community. I think the story of their dissolution belongs in the Criminal Journal. And it seems to go, I’m not sure exactly how, with the invisible turnout sans students of May 1, 2013.
     When I was in Columbia in the 50s, one of the big international events was the U. S. assassinations of Patrice Lumumba and, immediately afterward, Dag Hammarskold, engineered bv the CIA.
I organized a rally on my campus, a march from New York’s West Side to the U.N. building. There were 2,000 undergraduates at that time at Columbia College–and another 20,000 students at the entire university, excluding Barnard. Plus a huge college staff and liberals in the adjoining neighborhoods. It was a pretty important issue, perhaps the single starting point of U. S. postwar oppression? But there were only nine (9) of us who attended the March.
     My disgust with Academia starts with that disappointing turnout. Hadn’t thought about that for a long time. Until today.

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