Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Julia Child


The famous chef was born in 1912 &
Arrived in the world’s arena
In a wealthy family. (No one called it
The mean streets of Pasadena.)


One looks back now & can easily say,
“Julia, very soon you’re
Going to be in the big leagues but now
Enjoy one that’s Junior.”

With Pasadena’s Junior League, the
Fundamental fact is
She worked on plays for children as
A writer & an actress.

The Junior League’s loss was our gain:
She was later keen for us to believe
In French cooking even if we couldn’t
Define or pronounce joie de vivre.

Because Julia was so unpretentious, she
Made culinary tips approachable
And even when recipes were complicated
She prevailed by being sociable.

Dashing about the kitchen, she had the energy
Of not one person but a dozen. It’s
Chaotic but fun, she was always larger than life:
Think Big Bird but with oven mitts.

 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Teaching Philip Larkin To Dance


This fell to Maeve Brennan, a fellow librarian
Whose life was arguably a bit dull
Until she later became one of the three women
Involved with the Don Juan of Hull.


At Oxford, Larkin loved jazz but didn’t dance
And back then had the view
That dancing --- without any question --- was
Something very difficult to do.

He even consulted dance instruction books
But concluded concretely
That black feet, white feet and dotted lines
Just baffled him completely.

One imagines Maeve wasn’t merely hoping
He would be ooh-ing and aah-ing
At her expert instruction in both the waltz
And all manner of cha-cha-cha-ing.

I guess her secret mission was to make Larkin
Not see it as a possible hex
To have physical contact with a woman that
Wasn’t actually part of sex.

Intimacy was something he grew up without
So it’s pretty easy to understand
That regarding aspects of love & romance, he
Was a stranger in a strange land.

Some of her lessons must’ve sunk in but I bet
His mind drifted off to mopeds
Being driven by young & flirtatious girls who
Were Hull undergraduate coeds.

 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Jonathan Gold (1960-2018)

  
The achievement that still remains
A bit hard to believe
Is Gold’s being chosen as the first
Food critic to receive


A Pulitzer Prize but what’s even more
Worthy to yell & shout about
Are the City Of Angels restaurants that
He decided to write about.

Unlike his L.A. Times predecessors who
On a rather regular basis
Reviewed upscale restaurants, he was
Drawn to out of the way places.

The various and exotic ethnic dives that
Jonathan often sought
As a rule always tended to reflect Southern
California’s melting pot.

Gold inspired so many locals to be daring &
After an awfully long freeway trip crawl
Across surface streets to find some amazing
Vietnamese place in a crappy strip mall.

He changed the way that millions eat &
Embraced this as his duty
Yet somehow did this without sounding
Like an obnoxious foodie.

 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Cutoff Point


My old pal, Jim Jensen, recently told me that for a while
the receptionist at the beauty parlor his wife went to was
... Lorena Bobbit.

Yeah, that Lorena Bobbit.

I promised Jim I'd find the poem I wrote about her and
post it.


*

The Cutoff Point

While he was asleep, Lorena Bobbitt
Sliced off her husband’s penis, went
For a drive and then tossed it out the

Window like it was a flyer that she’d
Found under her windshield wiper
For teeth whitening or rug cleaning.

In court, Lorena claimed John Wayne
Bobbitt persistently denied her any
Orgasms. I’d hoped the fallout would

Be husbands with unsatisfied wives
Would overnight all become the most
Attentive lovers. No such luck.

*

“The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” was on
Then. I sensed that Robert MacNeil hated
This story & desperately wanted no part

Of it. But the following year, 1993, when
The verdict in this case was finally going
To be announced, MacNeil had to mention

This because the Bobbits had found a way
To become legitimately newsworthy. He
Did the wrap-up on world events and then

Brought up the end of this controversial
Trial. I wondered exactly how he would
Convey all of the sordid details. The wall

Behind MacNeil now was suddenly like this
Enormous dam with multiple visible cracks
And water beginning to leak out. Still, he

Single-handedly attempted to keep it in
Place and prevent the coarsening of the
Culture and harm to all things decent and

Proper. “Lorena Bobbitt was found not
Guilty of ‘malicious wounding’ against
Her husband for severing his … payniss.”

MacNeil elected to mispronounce the
Offending word to make it seem genteel.
But the dam broke anyway as cable TV

And talk radio and O.J and Fox News and
The internet would soon wash away all of
The decorum that PBS and their flagship

News show had fondly cherished. Looking
Back, it was inevitable but I now can see
MacNeil bravely trying to stop the tide like

Some Canuck King Canute and despite my
Mockery back then, I now salute MacNeil
For giving it the old college try.
 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Downward Spiral

             
In my teens,
I met Mary twice.
A friend of a friend.
Pretty. Nice.


A few years later
At twenty-one
Mary’s short life
Came undone.

Atop an office building,
Unanswered prayers.
Descended to street level:
No elevator, no stairs.

*

Mary was the first
Person I’d
Met who committed
Suicide.

In the heyday of shame
Such events
Created a silence that
Was immense.

Her death was hushed up
Efficiently banished
Like mishaps where nuclear
Missiles vanished.

It took many
Many years
For whispers about Mary
To reach my ears.

*

A Golden Gate Bridge
Documentary provided
Glimpses of people
Who had all decided

They’d had it with the world
They were living in
And took leaps without faith
Into oblivion.

These images helped me visualize
Mary’s fate ---
Battling gravity means punching
Above your weight.

*

Over 200 feet in the air
Should be a corrective
To supply any missing
Life perspective.

But speeds approaching
75 miles an hour
Will deprive anyone from
Having the power

To think very clearly when
What beckons
Is a death wish whoosh of
Four seconds.

*

If you swallow pills, there’s
Always the chance
To invite salvation by calling
An ambulance.

But jump off a building & things
Are as bad as they can be.
No cavalry left to summon ---
No Hail Mary, no Plan B.

 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Sirhan Sirhan

                                               
I actually have not one but two connections
To Sirhan Sirhan.
Right from the outset, I would really like to
Be very clear on

All of the basic facts --- the first one is that
I do remain somewhat beguiled
Because I now live in Altadena near where
He attended classes as a child.

He went to an Altadena school but Pasadena
Is where he lived back in the day:
Seventeen miles from the Ambassador Hotel
Where he shot and killed RFK.

My proximity to history brings it alive and it
Reminds me how Fate can be cruel:
I ponder Sirhan and Robert F. Kennedy when
I’m driving by Eliot Middle School.

*

The second connection’s also school-related:
This happened way back when I
Was fifteen, living at home with my parents
And going to Pacific Palisades High.

I missed a whole day of school --- an event
Which alone was worthwhile:
A family friend in local news had offered to
Take me to this historic trial.

The defendant that day was quite silent, very
Much the introvert
Unassuming and tiny in his way too big, loose-
Fitting white shirt.

 
At times he seemed distinctly lost in all of
The legal proceedings
Often sitting without moving at all during
His lawyers’ pleadings.
 

A courtroom artist slowly nodded off
As I watched his techniques:
I later met the defendant’s mother &
She pinched both my cheeks.

The morning session broke for lunch and
I felt like I was in a classroom
As class just ended. I went on a mad dash
To try and find a bathroom.

I looked without success and hadn’t figured
That one would be so hard to find ---
I approached newsmen with microphones
Who wondered what was on my mind.

I didn’t think that The Fourth Estate were
Folks I should be shunning.
I stopped, blurted out, “No comment” and
Then resumed my running.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Market Going


I was minding my own business driving to a
Southern California store for groceries while
listening to Philip Larkin on a CD reading

“Church Going.” He suddenly stops, coughs
(coughs?) and, incredibly, improvises this
entirely new stanza that I instantly know no

one’s ever heard before. Was I hallucinating?
Probably. Nonetheless, I abruptly pull over,
park & play track fourteen thirteen times but

what I thought I heard has gone missing, like
Larkin himself did back in 1985.

*

Phil, are you taking the piss out of me from the top
floor apartment you now occupy in the next life with
a most commanding view of the cosmos? Did the

telescope I assume you brought with you find me
here on Earth and prompt you to prank me just like
Conquest famously did with you? (These days, you

would no longer have to ask Robert to pick up girlie
mags for you in Soho porn shops --- computers now
have access to smut 24-7.) In related news, 1,000

Girl Guides have still yet to assemble to recite “This
Be The Verse” but give it time. I agree with you it’s
bound to happen. Your old pal Kingsley became the

famous novelist you never did. But there aren’t any
statues of him. However, there is one of you in Hull
which also has popular Larkin festivals where large,

colorfully painted toads that you'd gleefully loathe
dot the landscape. After Motion’s biography, some
felt you were racist, sexist and didn’t deserve your

reputation. But, like Martian Poetry, that didn’t last.
You’re still beloved around the world but especially
in England where (as you predicted) there was room

for you in Westminster Abbey: you wound up in the
hallowed Poet’s Corner in 2016. Anyway, feel free
to spy on me whenever you’re inclined. I’ll leave my

computer on. Right now, it’s playing one of your
favorite songs --- Sidney Bechet’s “Blue Horizon.”
Like his playing, your poetic voice falls upon all

of us as they say love should, like an enormous …
something or other.