Thursday, August 30, 2007

Poetry Wednesday Thursday

Sorry, didn't post anything poetic yesterday. Actually, I did, briefly, post a poem I had written in June called "Sipping Red Bull through a Straw," a voyeuristic subway piece, but I had second thoughts, both due to subject matter and ultimately (and more importantly), due to my happiness with the poem. I think it's too good to throw up before it has faced more revision.

That said, here's a consolation prize from my archives, a not very good poem, but one that may amuse:


I walked up the hill,

right up to them,

sitting, standing, looking away, eating.

"Okay," I began excitedly, "I bet

you guys haven't heard poetry before."

I extracted a battered notebook from my backpack

and skimmed through,

trying to find a sonnet or an ode, haiku

or something that cattle would enjoy.

I finally found something half-decent

and announced in a serious voice,

"This is the first time I've read

this particular piece before an audience,

so please, be gentle." Two dozen pairs

of somber eyes focused on me as I began.

I don't know if it was the poem,

or the sound of my voice, or simply,

the fact that they were just cows,

but halfway through I glanced up

and only three or four were still

paying attention. Everyone else had

gone back to grazing, cud-chewing,

and flicking tails at bothersome flies.

Disappointed, I half-heartedly

finished the recital and closed

my book. The sole remaining captive

listener shook her head, a red ear-tag

flapping vigorously,

like exuberant applause.

Then she turned away

and let it fly. A beautiful cowshit

by bovine standards, I guess.

Turd after turd popped into view

and landed with a significant splat!

in the lush emerald grass. It was

humiliating, yet somewhat appropriate.

I turned and lumbered down the pasture.

A light rain began to fall

just as I reached the house

and I wandered inside to work

on some desperately-needed revisions.

Pihanakalani Ranch, Pa'auilo, Hawaii, November 1993

©1993, William Dickenson Cohen

Seemed an appropriate choice and yes, it's based on a true story.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Lucky Squirrel!

Behold: it's Lucky the Squirrel, who watched last night's Yankees-Red Sox game in its entirety from atop the right field foul pole. Fans are already crediting Lucky with helping Johnny Damon's game-winning home run stay just fair. The question remains: how did Lucky get past Security?

Poetry Wednesday: "Sipping Red Bull Through a Straw"


The woman

on the N train

standing next to me

on the morning commute –

she is fondling her iPod, her finger

circles the click wheel

with an intimacy

I can feel on

the back of

my neck.



sporting a black & white

striped hoodie, and Dolce & Gabbana

shades, perched on her head

like a tiara.

She takes a sip

from the drink in her right hand

while her left grips

the subway’s steel pole.

We emerge from the tunnel

onto the Manhattan Bridge

and her lashes flutter

in the sunlight. She continues

to grip the can and the pole,

her thumb fidgeting

with her fingers

as she listens to music


taking an occasional sip,

her index finger

steadying the straw

that juts out of the Red Bull.

Her lips suck the liquid up

through the clear tube.

I imagine that fluid

filling the back of her throat

and splashing down into her,

the caffeine straining

against its molecules,

dying to enter the bloodstream

like a thousand angry pit bulls

growling at the ends of their chains.

©2007 William Dickenson Cohen

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Random Tuesday Junk

Go here and have fun pretending to be Jackson Pollock.

Here is an eBay auction run by a talented woman who wrote a hilarious product description for a box of Pokemon cards and has ridden her blog to waves of fame and envy-inducing traffic that leaves the rest of us in the blogosphere in awe.

Speaking of eBay, I'm selling some signed books here, trying to get rid of some yummy items to raise money for the Weird Al Yankovic Hollywood Star fund. Signed books from Charles Simic, Kurt Vonnegut, Jimmy Carter, Orrin Hatch, John Irving, and Charles Bukowski. Actually, just using BillyBlog to possibly promote more notice for the books.

Oh, and my sister sent me these:

with the following explanation:

I've been meaning to get this for you sooner, but, well, I'm lazy. This sign is tacked to a tree on my block where leftovers are often found at the base of the tree. There is also a chicken that lives on the opposite corner - perhaps the food is left for it, but its hard to tell. If you look closely, there is rice at the base of the tree today - evidently (I didn't see, but have it on good authority) the first day the sign was there a pot was sitting next to it, the following day, a second, and the next day, a third. I wish I had gotten to see that ;)
Thanks BillyBlogSister!

The Loneliest Lamp Post in Bay Ridge, Part IV

Taken Tuesday afternoon, August 28, 2007:

Prior posts here.

Tattoosday #5: Dolphins, Shackles and Skulls, oh My!

So last week, BillyBlog received its first unsolicited tattoo submission. I had no specific policy on this, but decided that, due to a gloomy week in NYC, I could use all the help I could get. Tat number one is blogged by proxy, courtesy of The Ancient One, Blessed Be He. He is, after all, Dear Old Dad, so I couldn't possibly refuse. Well, I could, but that would just be silly.

Dad wrote:

If you are willing to accept photos from others, I have attached a tattoo photo taken ... of the lower leg ...[of] one Suze Campagna, an extraordinary stage manager whom I featured on the blog a month or so ago. I have seen this tattoo often but yesterday I asked to take a picture of it and have her permission to send it to you. I can't offer too much back story. Suze turned 40 recently (like you) and when I asked about the little dolphin, she said it was her first tattoo and that she got it in celebration of her 30th birthday.
Thanks, Ancient One!

So, as mentioned, it was a cool, rainy week and the preponderance of flesh, let alone inked flesh, was atypical of August in the Big Apple. However....

The sun came out late Thursday, followed Friday by a slew of tattoos.

I discovered early on that my old reluctance had returned. I saw some nice ink, but everyone seemed to be heading somewhere in a hurry. Imagine that, in New York City!

But late Friday I was headed to a Cyclones game (thanks, Atlantis Health Plan, for the free tickets!) and the prospect of heading to Coney Island excited the tattoo aficionado in me.

But on my way to the ATM before hitting the subway, I saw a guy standing in front of The Garden, smoking a cigarette. He appeared to be covered with tattoos. Without hesitation, I ambled up and introduced myself and he obliged to be the first participant in Tattoosday, part V.

The guy I met was in his 20's, maybe early 30's and said his name was John Adams. He has an even dozen tattoos. He offered me up two tattoos, with the following tales...

He said he was most proud of this one, around his left ankle. It is a shackle with a broken chain.

He elaborated on this piece's history (forgive me, I am paraphrasing):

I got married in Vegas and it was the worst mistake of my life....the marriage lasted about 2 weeks...the divorce is still going on....after the marriage ended, one of my friends suggested I get this, showing that I had been chained down by a bad mistake, but I had managed to break free....the more I thought about it, the better the idea seemed, and it's one of my favorite tattoos because it reminds me how I escaped from a bad situation.

Again, I paraphrased there. John, if you're reading this, feel free to correct any details.

John's shackles were inked at Chris P. Tooles Tattoo Incorporated in Vacaville, California. He is originally from Vacaville and he seemed delighted not only to learn I knew where Vacaville was, but also that I had stayed there on numerous occasions with old college friends.

John also offered up a second piece, on his right elbow.

Through a seres of events, John here had been living in Slidell, Louisiana two years ago, right before the birth of BillyBlog. A weather disturbance known as Hurricane Katrina rolled through town and like so many Louisiana denizens, John found himself relocated elsewhere.

He found himself in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and ran into a tattoo artist at a shop called Tattoo Zoo. According to John, the tattooer had designed the skull, but no one wanted it. It was an orphan design, looking for a host. The artist felt bad for John after Katrina, and offered to ink him for free using his extensive tattoo ink sets back at the shop. John requested he add a jester hat to the design, and the rest was history.

John noted that the piece was particularly sentimental because it had come on the heels of Katrina and it had been a generous gift from a sympathetic artist.

John was in New York just visiting. He was very cool.

Thanks John for your tattoos and accompanying stories!

Finally, as I headed home on the R train on Monday, I spotted a young lady with a nice koi tattoo on her left biceps. This was the first person I ever asked on the train to participate, and my luck has continued. No one has declined my invitation yet to be on BillyBlog, and this individual, although tentative at first, agreed once the train stopped at 95th Street, to let me take a picture of her arm above ground.

This piece, which is a part of a theme for her, is a carp, or koi, representing the element water. Her right biceps has a dragon on it, representing wind, and her back boasts a phoenix tattoo representing fire. She understandably told me that it would not be appropriate to show me the back tattoo, not that I was forward enough to ask, I figured as much.

Her carp, if not all of her art, was inked at Rising Dragon Tattoos, a shop only 7 blocks from my office, situated just downstairs from the Chelsea Hotel on 23rd Street. I imagine that this will not be the first tattoo I find from this famous shop.

We talked briefly about how I was lucky I caught her on a good day (I did, after all, interrupt her while she was reading). She acknowledged that she is occasionally annoyed by people asking her about her tattoos. I was surprised, as I have not seen a lot of people going out of their way to ask about tattoos. She thinks that women get asked about their tattoos more because it is more accepted for men to have tattoos, and because hers are so large on her arms, people tend to ask about them more than one would think.

I gave this nameless, yet friendly, subject a printout of a prior Tattoosday post and invited her to e-mail me when she had some color added, as she is thinking of doing.

That wraps it up for this week's Tattoosday. Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Updates from Monday, August 27

Let's look back....

I updated this post with a link to a local television news story about the funeral of William Alfred Bujold. My cousins Marc and Noelle are among the family interviewed.

I retro-posted here about the Brooklyn Cyclones-Oneonta Tigers game at Keyspan Park last Friday night.

Um, we used some old movie passes to see this film:

Check out the movie website here.

The Loneliest Lamp Post in Bay Ridge, Part III

Okay, on Sunday, our lonely lamp post seemed less lonely and more, um, tacky:

"Dreaming of your touch" is romantic, but the "ooh-la-la!!" just ruins it for me. Previous lamp posts here and here.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Waiter, There's a Beer in My Glass!

I may not have mentioned it, but last month I celebrated my fortieth birthday.

Last week the first installment of a three-month gift that keeps on giving arrived in a large, heavy, unmarked box that contained 12 bottles of joy. Yes, my pals the Geigers had given me a delicious run at the beer-of-the-month club. Actually, it's 4 different beers each month, times three.

Since I am an occasional beer consumer, this present made me quite happy.

Tonight I cracked the first of the four brews sent my way, a tasty "black Bavarian style" lager from Sprecher microbrewery in Milwaukee.

Steve, some guy on The Opinionated Beer Page, wrote the following about this beer:

I traveled 1000 miles to find this black lager. It's almost stout-like, with its dark chocolate background, slightly sweet flavor, and dark maltiness. I am dying to go to Milwaukee to check out this brewery (among others). It'd be like a trip to the Holy Land for the Pope. This was made for winter nights. (1/31/2004)
I am not a connoisseur, by any standards, so when I read the description from Sprecher:

This intensely dark Kulmbacher style lager (currently entering contests as a strong porter) has a superb malt complexity with the distinctive flavors and aromas of coffee, caramel and chocolate. A renowned smoothness and a creamy, tan head make it a world champion.

I say, "Okay, I get that."

All I know is that I am quite often in the mood for a dark, thick brew with a sweet taste that reminds me of years ago at Crown City Brewery in Pasadena, when one of my favorite beers was a Watney's Cream Stout (review here). Alas, Watney's cream stout hasn't passed my palate since the early 1990's, and a message board here intones the bad news: "Apparently when Watney's was sold they stopped production on several lines, including this one. Shame on them!"

So since I apparently will never have one of these again,

this Sprecher black lager was a delicious reminiscence. I am hardly qualified to talk about hops and malt complexity, but I am qualified to say that I liked this beer a lot. Anyone missing those good old cream stouts of Watneys might find an adequate replacement in this delicious beer. It's dark complexity of taste is welcome in my beer glass any day!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

New York Minute: Fireworks Can Be Distracting

The scene: Keyspan Park on Coney Island. Friday, August 24, 2007. The Thursday game was called due to fog and started as part of a doubleheader at 6:00 pm. That pushed the 7:00 pm game back to 9:00 which coincided with a 10:00 fireworks show.

Distracting to the batters? You decide. It's not like the fireworks were right behind the pitcher's mound....

Well, it was not distracting to Paul Lo Duca, making a rehab start for the Cyclones. Lo Duca, a Brooklyn native, managed to put the ball in play:

And later, the fireworks long over, Lo Duca provided some of his own:

And some still photos:

Friday, August 24, 2007

Grace Paley, 1922-2007

The writer Grace Paley has passed away. The NPR report is here. Despite many opportunities to see her in New York I never had the opportunity. Her poem "Here" appeared in The Best American Poetry 2001:


Here I am in the garden laughing
an old woman with heavy breasts
and a nicely mapped face

how did this happen
well that's who I wanted to be

at last a woman
in the old style sitting
stout thighs apart under
a big skirt grandchild sitting
on off my lap a pleasant
summer perspiration

that's my old man across the yard
he's talking to the meter reader
he's telling him the world's sad story
how electricity is oil or uranium
and so forth I tell my grandson
run over to your grandpa ask him
to sit beside me for a minute I
am suddenly exhausted by my desire
to kiss his sweet explaining lips

I was bemoaning the fact that I never had the chance to see her to my friend north of the border and he wrote me back the following anecdote:

I met her once, and she was delightful. I got her to inscribe her second book to me (from 1974) formally and to sign a bunch of anthologies, etc. I recall her smiling complaint about signing a Best American Essays proof underneath Cynthia Ozick's signature: "Oh, I'm used to this---Paley always follows Ozick alphabetically." When I presented a book of interviews that had already been gloriously inscribed to me by Joy Harjo ("For _____/for justice/for love...") she craned her neck and said "whose writing is that?" When I replied, "Joy Harjo, isn't her handwriting beautiful?" Paley jokingly responded "she's a show-off!"
There is more great Paley material here at The Paris Review site.

The Loneliest Lamp Post in Bay Ridge, Continued

So yesterday morning, I posted a photo I took of a sign on a lamp post in Bay Ridge. The sign simply said "I Miss You". Later that day, as I walked the kids to camp, I was surprised to see the message had changed.

"O un desiderio di baciarti sul tuo sorriso" is what the sign reads. Not being fluent in Italian, I turn to Babelfish for a translation. Babelfish says it means "Or a desire to kiss to you on your smile," which I will interpret as "I desire to kiss your smiling face," or something like that. If anyone wants to offer up a better translation, I will welcome it.

What a lamp post! How romantic! Or, is this Illuminator of Streets a Creepy Stalker?! Either way, I am impressed by its bilingual nature.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Poetry Wednesday: Move Over Charles Simic, Here Comes Jolee

Last night I passed up the opportunity to hear the new U.S. Poet Laureate, Charles Simic, reading, and instead attended a reading for some up-and-coming literary stars. Jolee, eldest spawn of BillyBlog, just participated in her first public reading.

For close to a year, Jolee has been an active member in "Ridge Girls," a program in our neighborhood to foster creative writing skills in young ladies in our neighborhood. The free program, sponsored by the New York Council for the Arts, I believe, has been a great creative outlet for Jolee, and she had three pieces published in the anthology which was unveiled last night.

Here's a YouTube clip of Jolee reading two of her poems, followed by scans of the text from the anthology. Sorry for the poor quality of the audio. Whether you're an adult reading at a coffee bar competing with the bean grinder, or a tween premiering published work with a bunch of young kids in the room, it's hard to avoid the noise of the disinterested.

I am a proud poet/parent indeed.

On a side note, this is BillyBlog's 1000th post! Hurrah!

New Yorker Update

Just recently read three pieces in The New Yorker:

"How I Spent the War; A Recruit in the Waffen S. S." a fascinating memoir piece from Nobel Laureate G√ľnter Grass. Strongly recommended reading.

Significantly less compelling, but still a nice piece of writing is the short story "Faith" by William Trevor.

Both came from the June 4, 2007 issue.

Also, a very good story from Marisa Silver in the November 20, 2006 issue: "Night Train to Frankfurt". The writer Michael Lowenthal, on his non-blog, remarked on the story:

I did, however, read this week's short story, "Night Train to Frankfurt," by Marisa Silver, and I'm very glad I did. The story is about an adult daughter accompanying her elderly mother, dying of cancer, to a German clinic for an alternative treatment. Silver's prose is heady but humorous and full of heart (hearty?), with an almost Philip Rothian (and yet distinctly female) fluidity. Here's an exchange between Helen, the daughter, and her mother, Dorothy:

"Would you like me to read to you?" Helen asked, once they were back in their seats.
"What have you got?"
Helen dug eagerly in her bag. "Vogue. People. Neruda."
Dorothy smirked. "That's cheap, sweetheart."
"You love Neruda."
"Are we searching for my epitaph?" Dorothy said.
"That's unfair," Helen said, with the requisite amount of hurt in her tone. The truth was that she had thought about what to read at her mother's funeral and had made the private decision that it would be Neruda.

I agree with Lowenthal's assessment. It's a haunting journey with an underlying sense of humor in the face of a parent's mortality.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tattoosday #4: Ozzfest Edition

Well I had this all worked out. This week's Tattoosday was going to kick butt. I went to Ozzfest last Thursday and figured it would be a piece of cake to get a cavalcade of awesome tattoo shots. Hmmm.

One problem: I'm a dork. Going up to people twenty years younger than me and asking them if I can take pictures of their tattoos for my blog, Sephora and I agreed, would be the pinnacle of dorkiness. Not quite, we later acknowledged, when we saw a young metalhead going to his seat with his mother, who looked like she was there to chaperone, rather than enjoy the show.

The scale of body art was unfathomable. I imagined I would see an incredible range of tattoos, and I was not disappointed. We arrived around 3:30, and I decided around 5:00 that most of my tattoo shots would be candids, without the hosts knowing they were being photographed.

Here are some of the folks I shot whose tattoos didn't come out so well:

Snap enough random pictures of passers-by, and you'll get a few good candid shots:

A closer view reveals a pretty nice "Don't Tread on Me" tattoo:

But ultimately, I did get some fairly nice pictures, especially of one back piece after the concert when everyone was reeling homeward.

First, there was this cool tattoo from someone sitting a few rows ahead of me:

Then, there was this one on the shoulder of someone sitting a few seats over from me:

The detail and coloring of this Aztec piece is quite impressive:

There were so many amazing back pieces and sleeves that it would have been impossible to catch them all. As mentioned before, this guy was ahead of me as we exited after the show. The eyes are amazing. Not anything I would do myself, but still a bit awe-inspiring. Note his friends Misfits tattoo on the right:

I can only assume that Allgaier is his last name.

Ultimately, though, I really missed the Tattoosday theme, which is to get back story on the pieces I photograph. Wouldn't you like to know who this guy is? And why did he do his back like this? How long did it take? Whose eyes are those? And is Allgaier really his last name?

For those shortcomings, I offer my heartfelt apologies. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy this week's edition of Tattoosday.

Monday, August 20, 2007

William Alfred Bujold Coming Home to Maine

An interesting bit of family lore came my way recently due to some very newsworthy developments. This actually involves my Aunt's family, the Bujolds of Maine. This coming Friday (August 24, 2007), the remains of Army Air Corps 2nd Lt. William Alfred Bujold will be laid to rest, over 60 years since he was listed as "Missing in Action". "Uncle Al," as he was known, was my Uncle's uncle, which makes him distant kin to me. Nevertheless, the story of his short life and heroic service in the Pacific, is of great interest to me and many in my family.

There's a great article here with greater detail and photos. Truly amazing.

Update: Local news report on the funeral here.

I've Got the Monday-Morning-Post-Ozzfest, End-of-August-Rainy-Day Blues


Started Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union this morning on the train.

Added new blog to the music roll on the sidebar: "The Headbanger's Ball" blog. Why not? It has been the theme of late and I met the writer last night at a local Temple function.

Other than that, Leona Hemlsley died, and it's been a slow day.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ozzfest Recovery

Well, I have seen it, and it was good.

Ozzfest came and went in New Jersey and the impact was significant. First and foremost, unfortunately the concert brought about changes to New Jersey Law as PNC Bank Arts Center will no longer allow people to consume alcoholic beverages in the parking areas (so now people will drink off site and drive while intoxicated to the events). This after two deaths (!) and 83 arrests (New York Times report here, review of the show here). Another report here, without the hassle of NYT-registration or archival time constraints). There's a WNBC news report here (note the YouTube clip from the Hatebreed set).

Yours truly is fine, my recovery was of the sleep-pattern-disruption kind. I saw no more chaos than any other metal show. There are always knuckleheads that will get arrested. As for the two deaths, it is unfortunate that these two twenty-somethings passed. The news reports that cocaine/marijuana/alcohol trifectas caused their bodies to shut down (although the CBS affiliate here reported it was caffeine, not cocaine, I'm guessing errantly). The extreme heat and humidity most likely contributed as well. The crowd was estimated to be over 17,000. I would always point out that rock concerts are statistically safer than driving on the freeway/throughway/turnpike/expressway, etc.

Anyway, after the show ended, it took me 3 hours and 45 minutes to get home.....PNC shuttle to NJ Transit to Penn Station to the D train to the N train to the R shuttle.

Another funny small world story, today I was walking down my block and saw a dude that was on the train down to Holmdel with us, and on the shuttle to PNC. The guy lives across the street from me. Wow.

Here are some clips of Ozzy Osbourne's performance:

First, my capture of the tail end of "War Pigs":

I'd have to say seeing guitarist Zakk Wylde was the highlight of the show, especially his guitar solo:

Here's another part of the same solo, with Zakk doing the Star-Spangled Banner:

"Mr. Crowley":

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Ozzman cometh!

He opened with "Bark at the Moon".

Ozzfest and Lamb of God

Lamb of God just performed "Walk with Me in Hell". They have to be the heaviest band I have ever seen. Holy cr

Update: Here's a self-portrait during Lamb of God. It may look blurry, but that is how my innards felt....

Here's a clip I took from Lamb of God. Thank heavens I used my earplugs after the Static-X set!


Has tons of fans here. Now doing their song "Cold" from the Queen of the Damned soundtrack......

Here's another clip, performing "I'm With Stupid":

Ozzfest Update: Static-X

Static-X has taken the stage, much to the delight of all the Lordi-haters. During Lordi's finale of "Hard Rock Hallelujah!", a woman sat down 3 rows in front of me with a New York Yankees tattoo on her back.

"Hmmm. I think I recognize that tattoo. Well, hey, Melanie's cousin Beth is here!" As David Lee Roth once told me, "Small f@cking world, ain't it?"

Wow. Static-X is making my ears bleed.

Here's them performing "Cannibal":

Here's a sample from my camera:

Ozzfest update: more Lordi

Lead singer is holding a smoking skull while they perform "They Only Come Out at Night"!

Ozzfest Update - Lordi!

Lordi has taken the main stage. They opened with their anthem "Bringing Back the Balls to Rock".

These guys are nuts. KISS meets GWAR, with a little dash of ABBA.

They were decent seats, but here's some more detail:

Lordi's definitely big on pyrotechnics.

Here's a short YouTube clip of them performing "Who's Your Daddy?":

Ozzfest Update #2 (Hatebreed)

Currently watching Hatebreed shred the 2nd stage.....

Update, here's a taste:

(This is the clip making all the news shows)

Ozzfest Update #1

My brilliant idea to bring a 3-liter jug of water seems not so bright in hindsight after the cap to the bottle was confiscated at the gate.

Think about that for a second.

There's a guy with a giant albino boa filling a tub with water.

Too many tattoos to shake a camera at.

Today is Ozzfest !

Today is Ozzfest! Why this is cool:

1) I am 40 and going to a free metal concert
2) I'll get to see Lordi
3) I'll get to see Zakk Wylde on guitar with Ozzy
4) Expect some live-blogging from the venue
5) Can you say "Tattoosday: Ozzfest Edition"?

Why this is uncool:

1) Despite weather-watching all week, it looked like we'd have decent weather. This morning I checked the Weather Channel, and we're looking at 40-50% chance of strong to moderate thunderstorms from 4pm to 12 am today. At least the PNC Bank Arts Center is indoors. Oh, wait....