Saturday, January 31, 2009

26. When I was four years old, my father heard me saying a little poem :

Play, play, it's time to play!
Play all day, that's what I say!
Your work is done,
come out in the sun!
Play, play, play!

As it happened, he was rushing off to work (as he always was - the poem was probably meant for him), so he wrote it down on a tiny piece of brown paper - a key tag (for a set of keys).

50 years later, my mother sent the key tag to me in the mail.

27. The first rock music I ever listened to was in jr. high school art class. The teacher, who was a sculptor, liked to play Beatles, Byrds, Doors in the background - he thought it made us more creative.

28. I started taking guitar lessons when I was about 13 or 14, from a guy who taught after hours in a small music shop in a little shopping center called Lilac Lane, in St. Louis Park (I think). Harmonica I taught myself, listening to old records - Sonny Boy Williamson, etc. I also had a book on the subject by a local musician named Tony Glover. I heard him play with his band one summer in Loring Park, which is across the highway from the Walker Art Center.

29. I heard Leo Kottke give a concert once on the Washington Bridge, near the U. of M. (These musical anecdotes are from the late 60s.)

30. My senior year in high school I was playing in a band called Spur of the Moment. We had a kind of Elvis lookalike as lead singer (he was the oldest, recently out of the Army). I played harmonica and a miniature piano, which was actually QUITE heavy (it was a small upright) - rigged up with a microphone in back. Tom Davis, of the Franken & Davis comedy duo, was one of our "roadies".
Franken, a classmate of mine with Tom, later ran for US Senate, and maybe he actually won.

31. Franken & I were on the wrestling team together in high school. He was a weight class heavier, but we often practiced together. Neither of us were outstanding wrestlers, but we were on the varsity squad. It was one of the toughest sports or activities I ever put myself through.

32. I used to walk to school, along some disused trolley tracks in Hopkins. I did the paper route in the same area. The neighborhood was a cosmos. We are talking ticky-tacky, working/middle class suburb, 50s & 60s - but with trees, woods, hills, lakes, lakes, old farm remnants.

33. The public library in Hopkins had a spiral staircase up to the children's section.

34. Once on a canoe trip with a group of boys and a teacher/guide, we had lashed two canoes together to make a catamaran, since the lake was endlessly long. We raised up some sleeping bags for sails, & sailed blissfully downwind. Then the teacher, Mr. Fisher, asked me to saw the rope or log binding the canoes together, and as I started to do so, I dropped our saw - our only saw - to the bottom of the lake.

35. On rest breaks on rocks, after canoing, we used to spear flies with pine needles. (The flies were everywhere, & voracious.)
1. I'm left-handed, but rather ambidextrous (bat right, tennis right, etc.).

2. My head is a little too flat on top. But good for carrying plates that way.

3. My family tends toward having been born (nice phrase there, Hank) on national holidays or birthdays : ie. 4th of July, Lincoln's Birthday, JFK's Birthday (me), Constitution Day... special kind of patriotic family planning, I guess.

4. When I was young I had this nervous tic I did with my hand - basically, I fiddled with folds in whatever shirt I was wearing. I'd make little folds in the cloth & play guitar on them, sort of. I liked the texture. Stopped doing this for a long while - many decades - but it started up again a few years ago.

5. When I was 4 yrs old I had Guillaume Barre, or French Polio. Was paralyzed up to my neck for about a month, was on respirator, etc. One of my earliest memories involved suddenly not being able to walk - then, again, the first time I could walk after I recovered. My mother wrote that I was spoiled rotten for about a year after I got home. This experience might have something to do with my deep need for fresh air, my sharp feeling of love for wind, etc.

6. The first thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a milkman. I liked his truck.

7. My paternal grandfather was City Assessor of Minneapolis for many years, in the 1930s-40s. These were the rough old times of Kid Cann & other mobsters. I've noticed the Gould clan tended to get involved in town politics, going back many, many generations (we're talking 1600s). But my g'father may have been the last of the line.

8. My maternal grandfather loved opera. (My mother's middle name, in consequence, is Elvira.) His younger brother wrote Keatsian nature poetry, studied Transcendental Meditation (on the farm in Iowa), created a small private zoo, and died of pneumonia at age 21.

9. I have been homesick for Minnesota for the last 30 years. But I am very fond of Rhode Island - at least some things about it.

10. I am 5'10" on a good day. I was captain of my high school soccer team. I was a mediocre wrestler. My younger brother Jim was State Champ, but he is smaller than I am, fortunately.

11. When I was about eleven, I formed a separate "nation" in our backyard, with fence, flag, constitution, army, etc. The morning after the nation's founding, I discovered somebody had hung a dead bat over the official national Sign. It was a short-lived nation.

12. I went to Harley Hopkins Elementary School, where I had a crush on Martha Damerow, who was a friend of my friend Tom Fleming, who had more of a knack with the girls.

13. It's clear from this list that I am a typical Boomer, who has never grown up.

14. Okay, more recent random, if possible! I am a night-owl, I think, biologically. But I get up most mornings at 5:15, in order to get to work early. (I am a wage slave.)

15. My favorite piece of music is the 3rd movement of Beethoven's Quartet opus 132.

16. I don't wear glasses yet, though I'm starting to feel the strain, reading. I was told recently that I have the hearing of a 5-yr-old, which is pretty good.

17. My middle name is Hale. Nathan Hale is a distant relative. My grandmother Gould (the one who was born on the 4th of July), was a member of the D.A.R. She had a print of a painting of Lafayette dancing at a ball, with George Washington watching, over the dining room table.

18. I was brought up Episcopalian, because G'ma Gould joined that church as a teenager, after her father died young in a flu epidemic, and she was depressed, and a school friend of hers invited her to her church. I had a religious/psychological crisis myself when I was 19, which totally re-oriented my life & thinking.

19. My father loves to play any kind of game (not sports - games), & he is good at almost all of them. He was his high school valedictorian. He & my mother went to kindergarten together. In their 80s, they still live within about 4 blocks of where they both grew up. My mother worked in the New York Public Library for about a year after college - trying to escape, perhaps - but my father went out & brought her back home.

20. My eyes are blue-gray. My mother wrote in her diary long ago that they sort of fade in and out of being bright, whereas my brother Jim has very mild blue eyes, and my brother Bill (the arctic biologist) has arctic blue, very bright eyes; my youngest brother Mike's eyes are more gray-blue. & my sister Cara's eyes are a big deep brown.

21. I also have terrible buck teeth. My mother says it's too bad they didn't get them fixed when I was young. Oh well. C'est la guerre. (I wrote a poem about them - it's in Stone.)

22. I've written only one poem in my sleep. I woke up & wrote it down. It's in the book, Stone - titled "Lousanna".

23. I went down to New Orleans to help after Katrina mainly because I had written so much about New Orleans in some poems, without ever having gone there. I also felt very frustrated at the government response to the situation, & wanted to do something. I had a great 10 days there, met some wonderful people & undersides of houses.

24. I have done (or not-done) many cowardly things in my life. Also some things I will always think of with shame & regret. But we won't go into that.

25. Between 1979-2009, I've been writing some very fine American poetry, maybe the best there is. But I've been getting some competition from BAP, AWP, the New Yorker & Poetry, Rod McKuen, Langpo, Flarf, Franz Wright, some other poets... quite a few, in fact. So I need your help. If you act today, I will give you a 20% refund on any checks over $200. sent to me within the next 24 hours. Join the Henry to the Canon Crusade - Right Now! p.s. last random item : I'm an egomaniac.