Happy Amazing Holiday Cookout Supreme.

*Three things.


Walking to the graveyard today, my mother is taken by nostalgia.

You know,” she says, “Years ago, cars would be lined all the ways up this street. Now there’s nothing. There’s no flowers by the graves up there. When I was a kid, people would be bringing lawn chairs out and they’d sit there all day. There’d be these men selling plastic American flags and Cracker Jacks...”

Drips of drizzle dropped down onto us.

Memorial Day isn’t what it used to be,” she declared.

We walked up a little bit further. My father paused.

They sold what?”


I woke up to screams today. A friend is way back in a different room, yowling and groaning. I opt for going back to sleep. Another friend goes over to him.

I CAN’T MOVE MY FOOT!!!” he screams. He’s pretty fucked up on assorted things, and he had tripped in a ditch earlier in the night/morning.

You wanna go get an x-ray?” the other friend says, “I can drive...”

NO... no no no no...” the first friend mutters, standing and hobbling around. I hear him thunking and muttering.

Why did I come back here? Why?


At the end of our holiday sojourn, my parents and I decided to inspect the older portion of the cemetery.

We had already seen the graves of a number of relatives, but my mother had the idea that some of our most venerable relations were napped away toward the ancient edges of the field; she was right.

Kneeling down before the headstones of my great great grandparents (mom’s side), we saw that palms had grown all around. We pulled them from the ground, and dug our fingernails into the crevices of the grave-rock, yanking free hay and dirt, so the text on the stones’ fronts was easily readable again.

You see the same names over and over in that cemetery, dispersed to different sectors of age. Entire extended families in the same area, kids and kids of kids and kids of kids of kids, all laying asleep according to era now.

In the oldest sections, the graves all speak Italian. The names remain the same from the more recent zones, but the words speak from a less English-literate immigrant day.

Morta. 1920.

Morta. 1929.

Morta. 1918.

Nobody seems to leave this place, says the same names from up the hill, Dead, 1984, Dead, 2001.

Walking out we spied a nice spread, a whole mausoleum in simulation, in miniature. There was (and is) a poem inscribed on a rock in the middle.

If tears could be a stairway,
And memories a lane,
I’d take them up to Heaven,
And bring you home again.”

Nobody ever leaves.

*Well, happy Memorial Day, if you happen to celebrate it.

*Speaking of memories, I had managed to remind myself to check out an interesting-looking magazine at the local Large Chain Bookstore around here; the same Large Chain Bookstore is in my usual area too, but they managed to not carry this particular publication. I picked it up yesterday, and I’ve been reading through it.

It’s the twice-yearly arts magazine “Esopus”, a striking-looking thing, certainly beautifully designed. It’s only on issue #4 right now, having launched in Fall of 2003. Following the link above will take you to an image of the front cover, a nice shot of a fallen blob of chocolate ice cream resting on a street, carved by whatever means to resemble a fist, as if bursting forth from some primeval comfort food bog, the birdshit-sprinkled streets of the city its volcanic birth planet (to offer a dissenting view, my seven-year old cousin glimpsed the cover as he sauntered by and went “Ew.”). A nice image. There’s all sorts of doodads and goodies inside, including a free CD. Having looked through it weeks ago I noticed it was ten bucks (bucks which I did not have), and I promised myself I’d get it later, which was yesterday. Upon reading it closely at home, it seems that Dan Clowes is on their advisory board. Consider that a comics connection for this portion of today’s entry.

Esopus is published by the Esopus Foundation Ltd., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide an unmediated forum through which artists, writers, musicians and other creative people can connect directly with the general public.” So goes the introductory language of the publication (‘Esopus’, by the way, refers to a creek up in the Catskills which zips around New York at its own dynamic pace, mixing diverse elements into a powerful force, and you know what - screw it because every last one of you knows where this is headed). In execution, the magazine focuses heavily on ephemera, offering such regular features as ‘Alex Shear’s Object Lesson’, presenting some bit of industrial/pop-cultural detritus (this edition, it’s a Support Our Troops license plate from the Vietnam era, presented two-sided as a full-sized cardboard pullout), and a continuing spotlight on assorted ‘found objects’ (here, we get the contents of a woman’s folder of employment rejection slips from 1930). It’s a wonderfully, lavishly produced enterprise, the reproduction quality picking up every speck of dirt on that plate, and every crinkle on those letters. Talk about memory. One cannot escape the feeling of voyeurism, maybe even the whiff of exploitation about the recontextualization of somebody’s personal effects into a straightforward display of art world edification (for delightsome mind games, compare this with the re-editing of home movie footage into avant-garde film, a la “Decasia” or the like). But I cannot deny how I enjoy such gazing into the unfiltered past.

Other presentations hew closer to the physically transformative, the filters explicitly applied in the contemporary. We get a bunch of old book covers with new titles painted or bleached onto them. I was unimpressed. We have a collection of miscellaneous ancient photographs with the artist having digitally replaced every set of eyes with her own. Subtle, but kind of neat, and beautifully integrated. And there’s what I suppose has been dubbed ‘American Folk Art’ too: a pull-free foldout presents wood carvings of every US President up to Bush I, made by a barber from Georgia. Nice looking stuff. And there’s a really lovely poster by one Ati Maier, included free in its own little folder, printed on delicate near-transparent paper: it’s sort of reminiscent of the cover to “Kramer’s Ergot 5", an explosion of color with representational forms mixing with swathes and blasts of feeling. Great stuff.

There’s text too. I enjoyed the short history of ice cream truck music (apparently 19th century ice cream parlors had music boxes that could play full movements of Wagner’s “Tannhauser” in limited timbre), as well as Jody Williams’ account of her apprenticeship with a chef in Italy (lots of nice pictures of cheese-making) and a one-page piece on the complete history of the year 1685 (lots of Catholic rulers cracking down on Jews and Protestants it seems, and it was very cold). The fiction feature, “For Emergency Use Only” by Ethan Rutherford, is a fair post-apocalypse piece, about a young couple driving around a post-war US, slowly dying from whatever fallout is appropriate, their relationship decaying and the past being reflected on and etc. This sort of thing feels awfully familiar to me, and I haven’t even read much literature on the subject; it needed more visceral kick to break through to me, and it felt to aloof, too reserved, too proper and respectable and cool about The End. But the focus on memory and the past ties it firmly to the rest of the book.

It’s a decent magazine, I guess. Not everything worked, but some of it was fascinating or entertaining. Looked beautiful; you’ll get your $10 worth of sheer production opulence. I didn’t even get to the CD, which features all-new commissioned music by assorted parties crafting songs around stories about the imaginary childhood friends of subscribers, sent in via e-mail. That’s the sort of interaction I like, though it constitutes yet another look back, another fit of Memorial.