Adrian Blevins: My Mother’s First Husband

Vox Populi

My mother’s first husband, who was the first mentally ill person I ever met, rents storage spaces all over D.C. He saves in crate after carton after crate: paper towel tubes, his son’s second grade science projects and college term papers, broken air conditioners, hammers, screwdrivers, curtain rods, weights, spatulas, pots and pans, old cans of paint, drills, sandwich bags, magazines and books and paper clips, window panes and big, long rolls of pink insulation and leather gloves and half-empty cans of shoe polish and arm chairs and tube tops and baby aspirin and vinyl records as well as the files of the court records (as well as their Xeroxes) of what was said before the judge between he and my mother more than forty years ago. When I saw him a couple of years ago, he was standing in my sister’s dining room organizing boxes of National Geographic, which…

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The King’s Last Game

Longreads

Steven Church | Ultrasonic: Essays | 2014 | 15 minutes (3,655 words)

Imagine this: It’s early in the morning at the Graceland estate, well before dawn on August 16, 1977, just a few hours before the end, and the crickets and cicadas are thrumming in the Memphis heat. The sun is on the rise somewhere in the east, but the light hasn’t yet reached this place. In the distance a small dog barks sharp, rhythmically, and steady. A siren wails and fades. All else is quiet, all except for the strange noise emanating from an outbuilding behind the main house. It’s a cacophonous noise. Unexpected. So you creep up closer. Tiptoeing now like a trespasser, a voyeur into the past. You shouldn’t be here at all. Yet in this lucid dream you press your ear against the locked door and listen, straining to catch the strands of a voice. The

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Milton Glaser: Designing Dylan

Right Ear Left Blog

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I can’t help myself – when I go to record stores, sooner or later I find myself in the Bob Dylan section. Seems reasonable, but I’m usually trying to spot if they have one of my least favorite albums of his: Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits. Problem is, I already own it. Three times. If they have a copy, I quickly open its dusty side pocket to see if I’m bringing another one home with me. I can’t help myself.

In 1967, when Columbia Records released the album each copy was accompanied by a beautiful poster designed by Milton Glaser. It’s rare to see one still slipped inside an old copy, but when it happens I bring it home. I really love this poster and have looked at it a lot. Two full sized copies are framed in my living room, next to each other. When people come over…

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Whatever Floats Your Boat

feelosophical

“Our love was lost;

But now we’ve found it.”

– Love Lost, The Temper Trap

On the theme of “Afloat” for this week’s Photo Challenge, I immediately thought of Hat Yai’s Floating Market I visited last December during one of my trips to Hat Yai and Songkhla as part of my fieldwork. I’d never heard of the market before so I had no idea what to expect; when I got there, I was over the moon when I discovered that this place was in fact a food haven, for there was an entire row of boats with men and women (who are Thai but ethnically Malay and therefore Muslims) selling some of the best food I’d come across during my visit to Southern Thailand.

I had a sample of the ais batu kacang (ABC — a sort of sweet delicacy made of crushed ice showered with syrups of all colors and…

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Lying in Translation: Notes Towards a Truthful Memoir

Bending Genre

In the grocery stores, dime stores, department stores of the New Orleans East neighborhood where I grew up, my grandmother stole and I lied.  It became part of the rhythm of our days:  Lala brought us into the English-speaking world, where the Americans talked like chirping, or was it squawking birds—I can’t pin down the analogous word, but I knew she didn’t like the sound of it, ese maldito ingles—and she spoke only Spanish, so I served as translator.

Very quickly I learned I must lie. Because at TG&Y off Michoud Boulevard, Lala deigned to purchase household items like toilet paper or detergent, but stole whatever tchotchke it was I wanted. In the check-out line the cashier might ask how we were doing, to which Lala would reply in Spanish, “I’m fantastic, you dummy, because I’m stealing from you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” All those…

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Way Back Machine Encounter with a Rock Legend

Lame Adventures

Like many hardcore New Yorkers, I was born someplace else. In my case, it was San Francisco, a lovely city where I did my earliest lame adventuring. Bruce Thiesen, a Bay Area native who writes the blog, Ram On, recently published a post featuring verse by Patti Smith that triggered memories of an up close and personal encounter I had with her in May 1978.

Patti was on tour promoting her latest album, Easter. It featured her biggest mainstream hit, a song she co-wrote with Bruce Springsteen called Because the Night. It reached number 13 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. She had also just published a book of poetry called Babel. I saw her on that tour when she played a fantastic concert at Winterland Arena. The next day, the San Francisco Chronicle’s music critic, Joel Selvin, published a rave review of her performance. He…

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