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Monthly Archives: February 2014

Satan doll.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the passing of Duke Ellington. (Someone that suave doesn’t just die; they pass.)

Wonder what he would think if he saw one of his most famous compositions poorly performed on an instrument resembling a tuned chainsaw.


Yakety, indeed.

If you’ll excuse me, I have to go find a bald man to slap on the head.


Old-school hoops.

A big storm with ice is coming and I am lousy and nervous around big storms, so I will make words come out of my fingers for a little while and it will distract me, like eating or talking or smoking cigarettes do for other people.

Tonight it was my turn to do parental duties at my younger son’s youth basketball game. I volunteered for it this time, because he was playing in a room that I might actually call one of my favorite places in the Lehigh Valley.

Coplay is a little pumpkinseed of a town (a borough, in Pennsylvania-speak) next door to the larger township where I live.

It’s the sort of little town that squeezes every drop of life out of its public buildings because it’s not Bala Cynwyd, for godsakes, and there just isn’t loose money to throw around.

Coplay Borough Hall, which is also Coplay police headquarters, used to be Coplay High School, many years ago when there was such a thing. (Coplay kids go to school in neighboring Whitehall now.)

Just inside the front doors of Coplay Borough Hall is what must have been the high school auditorium, back in the day.

Actually, I know it was the high school auditorium, because the rows of faded wooden seats (I think they go up to P or so) have “CHS” stamped on the sides.

Have a seat.

Have a seat.

There’s a balcony, too, which looks like it must have been a wonderful place to snog back in the day, but which now seems to be given over to storage.

(Yes, I tried to get in. No, the doors were locked. No, I didn’t have anyone to snog with, anyway. I was flying solo, like Charles Lindbergh. Or maybe Ham the space chimp would be a more apt comparison.)


Watched over by a set of aging arched windows is a combination stage and basketball court. I saw a grade-school band concert there a couple of years ago; and tonight I saw it put to its other use.

This pic is no triumph of the shutterman's art but consider clicking it anyway. I like the wraithlike effect of the running kids.

This pic is no triumph of the shutterman’s art but consider clicking it anyway to see it larger. I like the wraithlike effect of the running kids.

You’ll note an old upright piano at the front right of the room, covered (as it was last time I was there) by what appears to be an old flowered tablecloth. The ivory keys are just about exactly the smoked-brown shade you’d expect them to be.

If you look hard at the front left, you’ll also see a couple of kids manning one of those low-tech flip-number portable scoreboards.

That’s because the permanent scoreboard on the back wall — a gift from the Class of 1944 — either doesn’t work at all, or is reserved for more hallowed events.

Love the big clock in the middle. God knows how many basketball games this scoreboard has seen. If scoreboards had eyes, of course.

It didn’t work during the band concert either. (I keed, I keed.)

I love the yellowed funk of this room, not to mention the bare-bones authenticity of its purpose.

See, I grew up in bedroom-community suburbs that had enough kids, and enough money, to build separate gyms and auditoriums in their school buildings. This cramped old room is foreign to my experience.

(Sometimes the auditorium and the cafeteria doubled as the same room in the elementary schools of my youth. But those were elementary schools, not high schools; and besides, it felt different than this room does. It felt like a smart re-use of space, not like a penny-pinching, space-scraping small-town necessity.)

The room clearly hasn’t been updated or refurbished since before I was born, and I’m old enough to be turning gray. (Thanks in part to all these goddamned storms. Did I tell you about the storms?)

I said on Twitter that I could imagine the Coplay High Class of ’42 sitting through its graduation ceremony in this room, and then going out to enlist the next day. The room probably looked very much the same that day, except shinier. I bet the piano was in tune then, too.

God knows how many years of kids have watched a game from this "bench." Not a lot of room there for gangly high schoolers.

How many years of kids have watched a game from this “bench” at the lip of the stage? Not a lot of room there for gangly high schoolers.

They don’t build rooms like this one any more. It’s a neat old mini-cave of a room — sort of the Boston Garden of Lehigh Valley public spaces. Might be a good place for intimate concerts, if the borough fathers could be persuaded to open it up, and if audiences could be convinced not to spit and stomp all over it and hasten its demise.

I’ve got at least one more school-band concert to watch there in a year or two, I’m fairly sure, and I’m already looking forward to it.

It is better than thinking about the storms.

Good game. Good game. Good game ...

Good game. Good game. Good game …


When I went to college in Boston in the first half of the Nineties, one of the great temptations of university life was a “Tower binge.”

Tower Records had a big store on Newbury Street, a short walk from campus. I went there for concert tickets; to pick up the free in-house music magazine, Pulse; and every so often, to give in to temptation and buy a bunch of CDs.

I didn’t give in very frequently; I was a dutiful lad. But once in a while I’d go over to Tower and lay on a new supply of music to feed my head.

So would the people I hung out with. One college friend of mine went on a real bender there once, to the tune of a few hundred dollars, if I remember correctly. He still speaks of it with awe — a complete surrender to the twin muses of music and commerce.

(I wonder how many of those CDs he still has. I wonder how many of my Tower purchases *I* still have. Most of ’em, probably.)

I’m reminiscing about this because I just went on the 21st-century, fat-and-40 equivalent of a Tower binge: An Amazon binge.

My local public library doesn’t have much of what I’m interested in exploring. (I noticed a few months ago that it has one book by Ezra Pound about poetry, but two books by J. Edgar Hoover about Communism. That about says it all.)

So, rather than kvetch about it, I finally decided to put up some money and enrich my personal library instead.

Arriving on my doorstep, hopefully not in the rain, snow or sleet, will be:

Hemingway: The Paris Years by Michael Reynolds. (This and the next book were recommended to me in 2007 by a former colleague with a thing for the Lost Generation. I printed out the email with his recommendations, promptly misplaced it, and recently found it again.)

A Draft of XXX Cantos by Ezra Pound.

Skylarking by XTC. (A record produced by one of my favorite musicians, featuring a band I’ve long wanted to explore. Why do I not already own this?)

The Complete Poems, Philip Larkin.

John Berryman: Collected Poems 1937-1971.

Collected Poems: W.H. Auden.

The Complete Poems, Randall Jarrell.

I feel like I’ve just laid on a couple cases of brandy; I expect my new acquisitions to nourish me for years, whenever I want something to pick up and roll around on my tongue for a while.

I also expect that all this poetry will inspire me to write more shitty pastiche-verse of my own … so those of you who read my other blog, Hope Street, might want to steer clear for a while. Gonna be some crimes against terza rima going on over there.

I think I’ll close with this song. It’s not about buying binges, and it’s not on Skylarking. It’s just one of those pet YouTube clips I inflict on other people every chance I get, because it crackles: