Saturday, September 29, 2007


LET NO ONE DOUBT That Philadelphia is the home base of the Underground Literary Alliance-- and of myself. I've planted enough roots in Philly to ensure my ongoing presence.

HOWEVER, at the same time I'm operating more under the radar and with wider scope than previously.

There's nothing to hide about my strategy. Here it is:

A.) Philly will operate as a hub from which ULAers can radiate out, with excursions not just to New York City, but to other east coast cities and to points west: Boston; Baltimore; D.C.; Pittsburgh; Cleveland; Detroit; Chicago; Athens Georgia; Austin Texas; and beyond. Soon enough, the west coast. We can't allow ourselves to be cooped-up in one spot.

B.) My returns to Philadelphia from journeys will be with reinforcements and/or resources to strengthen our base and make us stronger viz-a-viz our competitors.

C.) I'm allowing for more sophisticated tactics from ULA opponents, who'll become more ruthless as our success proceeds. They're not beyond arranging attacks on themselves in attempts to discredit us. After all: what happened at Penn's World Cafe a while back. Alter-egos? Copycats? Something else??

Daniel Handler went out of his way to let me know he'll be in Philly in October for the McSweeneyite 215 Festival. I can be entrapped in nothing if I'm not in town. I won't be when whatever is set-up to occur goes down.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Abandoned City, Abandoned People

IN MY UNIQUELY CRAZED WAY I believe a writer isn't doing his job unless he's in a struggle for survival.

That seems to be anyway, accidentally or intentionally, how I've lived much of my life, jumping again and again from a tolerable situation into one less safe.

Fitting if I feel beaten down lately by circumstances-- not to mention maliciously mocked and attacked by Manhattan establishment fops and pseudo-underground stool pigeons alike. Fitting that I'm staying for the moment in the Beaten-Down City.

What a tragic place!-- a sad comedy whose streets scream with loss and pain. The City's downtown is very beautiful actually. The moving river is full of soul and beauty. Buildings surrounding the river gleam. All downtown lacks is people. The rest of the city is in ruins, the remains of half-a-century of boomtown industrial wealth followed by half-a-century of relentless failure.

There is much to write about here-- part of the reason I returned is to rediscover myself as a writer. I should start with my journey from Philly. First, though, a short image, because it strongly affected me.

Every day I pass through once-glamorous Grand Circus Park on the way to my new job-- how temporary a job I can't say. At night I walk again through the park on my way back to where I'm staying. During the day the weather is sunny; the west side of the park's semi-circle, where the fountain is, is surrounded by loitering street people, the discarded residue of society. One afternoon a bundled up figure in a wheelchair-- man or woman; probably woman-- had parked itself against the fountain. A single brown hand from the multi-hued rags extended itself into the coolness of the rippling urban fountain, on this hot September day. I sat on the rim of the walkway which surrounds the fountain, building my energy and courage to face trying to prove myself at a new workplace with strange-to-me people. This old dog hasn't been completely up to speed. I sat for thirty minutes, chilling, one could say, in the sun, until it was time to leave. All the while the brown hand in the fountain extending from a bundle of rags in a wheelchair remained. Young men smirked to themselves, old men slept, crackheads chortled and exclaimed, beggars walked past, the sun beat on us all, and the bundled up raggedy figure in the wheelchair by the side of the fountain remained.

Last night walking home in darkness, the city silent, deserted, with no Tigers baseball game to momentarily fill nearby streets, I noticed that activists had erected throughout the park, on the grass on both sides of Woodward Ave, small white tombstones to represent American dead military people from the ongoing permanent war in the Mideast. I paused to glance at some of the names before continuing.

The area around the fountain was empty now save for one solitary figure in a wheelchair, facing the rim-like barrier, back to fountain, head tilted, sleeping, inside its layers of rag-like clothing. What a life!

A forgotten soul. Somewhere people laughed, drank, ate, partied, among glowing lights, yet in the silent darkness of the once-glamorous but now seedy park the most forgotten person in the most forgotten city sat alone outside with no place to go, apart, sleeping. Alone in a deserted city containing miles of desolation. The image was heart-breaking. The conjunction of this civilization's realities shook me: the remembrance of dead, the ruins of a once-great American metropolis; the abandoned core, price paid for war, greed, and empire.

If I'm back here in this toughest of spots, hardest of cities, maybe it's for a reason: to serve as witness on stray occasions to this huge and terrible nation's real stories.

Tinfoil Hats

"The Central Intelligence Agency controls everyone of any importance in the major media."
-William Colby, former CIA Director.

Is this a thing of the past? Gee, I don't know-- what do you do with someone like Anderson Cooper, who not only is the son of recently deceased billionaire Gloria Vanderbilt, but interned with the CIA for two summers in a row while a student at Yale. Cooper decided against a career with the Agency (so he says), but has had a spectacular and interesting career-- including as a student at the University of Vietnam, where he went after Yale.

IS Anderson Cooper so talented that based simply on his own abilities he rose quickly at a young age to the very top of the heap of mass media, in his current role at CNN? Why are so many other "stars" of the conglomerates like John Stoessel, or Alexandra Pelosi (who served six years "in the trenches" at NBC before publishing a book) the offspring of very wealthy and connected individuals?

Many undergrounders don't want to know-- don't bother them with this information; disclosures about the true nature of the society in which they live; even about their own realm of literature. Things are okay as is, according to some of them; they're content to remain impoverished and unknown, while the Overdogs own and control, well, everything.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


RECENTLY I went to New York City for the day on personal business. What I saw different from eight months prior: further fast-paced gentrification. The city has become too expensive for all but the affluent. Even many barmaids are on trust funds. Stop in any saloon or cafe across the city and you'll encounter only gentry. Of the once-gritty Bowery around CBGB's there's not a trace. The character of the area has been destroyed.

Literary scene? There is no literary scene. There's not one bar in the entire island of seven million people of Manhattan where patrons talk about books and literature. (There are several spots where the business of publishing is the topic of conversation.) There are no humbly compelling dives where a Jack London (or Steve Kostecke) carrying a duffel bag, cocky grin on his face, would be liable to walk through the door and tell you he's a writer. (All "writers" in this city are poseurs and wannabes.)

New York can't in any stretch of the imagination be called a literary city. Other than a few staid events at chain bookstores, there are few literary happenings. The two major "alternative" papers, Village Voice and New York Press, on the day I was there, contained no information about poetry open mics. These two papers anyway are thin ghosts of what they were even six years ago.

Boom town New York, flooding with money and rich people, is destroying its roots. No more will there be an East Village haven for bohemians. Struggling writers and artists could never survive in the once great cultural city. No O. Henry or Bob Dylan are possible. Future just-arrived Madonnas will find no flea-bag hotels to stay at, because even the flea bag hotels are pricey.

Underground artists need look for another neighborhood in another city as focal point. The question is where that will be.