George McGovern’s death reminds UD not only…

… that when she was a teenager she sang (standing with her guitar on the front porch of a house down the block from the house on Rokeby Avenue where she now lives) at a McGovern rally… And that she thinks she sang There But for Fortune...

It also reminds UD how impressed she was with the writing of this Laura Blumenfeld Washington Post article about McGovern’s daughter’s alcoholic death. It’s got precision, clarity, narrative shapeliness, and an attitude that’s humane but not sentimental. You remember writing like this, years and years later.

She was intelligent, funny, generous, charismatic, tender. She was a flop-down doorstep drunk.

All his life, George McGovern has been a textbook liberal, either an idealist or a sap, depending on your politics. He believes that human beings are improvable, that good intentions translate into good policy. He believes it is possible to intervene to solve people’s problems. He does not believe, did not believe, that at some level life is just a cold, lonely fight.

In talking, just now, about Robert Frost’s…

… poem, Desert Places, I suddenly thought of Frank Zappa’s What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body?.

I mean, it suddenly seemed a very close parallel – not in terms of style, but in terms of the idea that the scariest desert place is your own mind.

The students seemed to have heard of UD‘s beloved Zappa… Or were they just humoring her?

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And then there’s this, by Philip Larkin.

If, My Darling

If my darling were once to decide
Not to stop at my eyes,
But to jump, like Alice, with floating skirt into my head,

She would find no tables and chairs,
No mahogany claw-footed sideboards,
No undisturbed embers;

The tantalus would not be filled, nor the fender-seat cosy,
Nor the shelves stuffed with small-printed books for the Sabbath,
Nor the butler bibulous, the housemaids lazy:

She would find herself looped with the creep of varying light,
Monkey-brown, fish-grey, a string of infected circles
Loitering like bullies, about to coagulate;

Delusions that shrink to the size of a woman’s glove
Then sicken inclusively outwards. She would also remark
The unwholesome floor, as it might be the skin of a grave,

From which ascends an adhesive sense of betrayal,
A Grecian statue kicked in the privates, money,
A swill-tub of finer feelings. But most of all

She’d be stopping her ears against the incessant recital
Intoned by reality, larded with technical terms,
Each one double-yolked with meaning and meaning’s rebuttal:

For the skirl of that bulletin unpicks the world like a knot,
And to hear how the past is past and the future neuter
Might knock my darling off her unpriceable pivot.

It’s a sad, sad story…

… the story of UD‘s college drug use.

Everyone’s talking about college drug use, onaccounta the Georgetown University drug lab guys, and a lot of people around UD‘s age are reminiscing about the drugs they did in the dear dead dorm days beyond recall

When I search my mind for images of UD high, at Northwestern University, I discover one measly memory-trace. (Alcohol-wise, the results are no better. I remember vomiting spaghetti into a toilet after drinking hard liquor. End of alcohol story.)

It was Christmas, and my roommates had all gone home. I was still in Chicago because, being a fuck-off, I’d postponed taking a take-home final until the very, very last minute. I remember the test was about Walt Whitman in particular, and Romanticism in general…

I sat at a desk that wasn’t mine – don’t remember which of my roomies used it – and I played vaguely with stuff in the top drawer while pulling myself together…

Right away I saw a very fat marijuana cigarette. I took the joint out and lit it, figuring being high while writing about Romanticism made plentiful, plentiful sense. I also turned the radio on, figuring listening to loud music while writing about Romanticism…

Because I was a weed virgin, I got astoundingly high almost immediately.

The radio was tuned to an insane born-again preacher berating listeners about their sickening materialism, most starkly on view during the holidays. He shrieked of UD’s evil ways, her selfish ways, her godless ways, and threatened her with damnation.

UD listened, enrapt. She leaned close to the radio and took in every word, weighing it carefully. She forgot about her exam. She took a few more drags. Not many. She was high as a kite and the owner of the joint would never know anyone had touched it. She listened to the man as if he were Kant on the categorical imperative. She marshalled her intellectual resources to follow his argument…

But she had no resources, and after about fifteen minutes she gave up trying to follow his logic and turned instead to her Whitman essay.

She got an A.

Why do you think she went on to become an English professor? UD can do this stuff in her sleep. Or blotto.

It’s not too late to get there, but you’ll have to rush.

Vancouver’s Dead Poet’s Slam takes place tonight at the Cafe Deux Soleils.

All hallow’s eve is almost upon us so that means it’s time for the Dead Poet’s slam. Come dressed as your favorite dead poet. Read some Sylvia Plath with an oven on your head. Perform some Al Purdy or some Charles Bukowski with some beer in your hand. All dead poets are welcome. And as a feature we have–back from the dead–Janis Joplin.

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[First in a series of UD Halloween posts.]

UD’s beloved…

Zappa gets his statue in the city of UD‘s birth, Baltimore.

UD will try to make a pilgrimage next weekend.

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Update: Extended remarks from Professor Mondo.

Dead Symphony No. 6…

… by Lee Johnson, based on ten Grateful Dead songs, will be performed at UC Santa Cruz on Sunday, the fourteenth anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s death. 

Last year, the university announced the acquisition of the Dead’s own archives — a sprawling collection of memorabilia featuring correspondence, photographs, fliers, posters, televised interviews, stage backdrops and concert props. The university, which offers well-attended Grateful Dead courses taught by music professor Fred Lieberman (who has also collaborated on two books with Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart) as well as a weekly campus radio show dedicated to the band’s music, will house the collection in a purpose-built room of its new library. 

The samples sound great to old UD, though she knows little Grateful Dead music. A touch of Copland, some Bernstein, some Gershwin. But its own thing. Very nice.

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