February 2016


Snow, Dontcha’ Know


It is winter after all. In the midst of pulling this Muse together, finally here in NYC, the season’s first snow started to fall. A redundancy I realize, as snow rarely starts to rise. And I was actually in the midst of sleeping at the time, not pulling anything together really. And upon awakening, and throughout most of that Saturday, the Blizzard of 2016 (it already had its own branding and logo on some telecasts), went on and on and on. And when it was over, the National Weather Service reported that “26.8 inches fell in Central Park.” (Presumably, outside of the park as well). That made it the second highest total since such record keeping began in 1869; just one-tenth of an inch below the all-time high in February 2006.


Of course it snowed heavily in 11 other states as well. But I’m a New Yorker. And therefore I have “New York Values,” of which you may have heard tell. And therefore, I don’t care about the snow of others. Just ours.


Anyway, it seems apropos to reprise a poem that I wrote three years ago and posted at this site, inspired by another such sort of a day. Though who knows, it could be 72 degrees here this month, what with the weird weather patterns these days.


Snow Day







What the... "L"?



I was so looking forward to the “L” in the logo, and in every promotion and ad. But in announcing Super Bowl “50” this year, “they” have decided to deep six this whole Roman number thing from here on in, and go Arabic.



Though given the troubles in the Middle East, don’t be surprised to hear someone declare: “When I’m President we won’t be using Arabic numbers, I can tell ya’ that right now.”


I was so ready to point out that this would be the last time that a single Roman numbered letter would be used to designate a Super Bowl, until “C”! In other words, until 2066. When those of us of a certain age, will certainly be dead. (Don’t you hate when that happens?). And that it has now been 40 years since the last single letter marked still another over-hyped and much anticipated Sunday—“X” (a game played in MCMLXXVI).


With “X” being an unknown factor, it is unsurprising that I have no recollection of that game. But really, by that point I had stopped caring, what with so many more important life events just up ahead. Like Divorce “I” and then just prior to Super Bowl XLV, Divorce “II”.


Of course I remember the first Super Bowl very well. It was trumpeted in all the on-air TV promos, as if the Second Coming. Though hype is not exactly something that hasn’t existed throughout the ages. (“Mary Stuart gets the ax tomorrow. News at XI!”).


I also remember Super Bowl II, and most especially “III”, when Joe Willie Namath guaranteed that his New York Jets from the upstart American Football League would—and did— defeat the powerhouse Baltimore Colts of the supposed superior National Football League. The Jets were 17 point underdogs that day. That’s a lot of points. Even in Latin. Though I had forgotten how dorky its logo.


The other single letter one, “V,” was the first following the AFL-NFL merger, and it would forever serve as the official league championship game. For the record and for those keeping score, those aforementioned Colts, on a field goal by Jim O’Brien, beat the Miami Dolphins in the final five seconds, 16-13.


While I often lean towards nostalgia and love traditions and rites of passage—I even look forward to my annual flu shot—the loss of those Super Bowl designations, are really no skin off my un-Roman nose. (All my Italian roots aside). The use of Roman numbers in titles, events, sequels, dates and the like, has always struck me as a bit pompous. As if to announce that, “This is really important.” Whereas, in its rather convoluted alternative to Arabic numbers, it suggests just the opposite to me.


MCMLXXXVIII as a date for example— which is about the length of a freight train and looks like something foreboding out of ancient history—is simply 1988; the year that Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was released. That’s why I wryly suggested once, that given the humility of Pope Francis I, he might consider referring to himself as Francis1. Or even better, using lower case…francis1.


You don’t even want to know about a Roman calendar and how it is organized, and its days counted. But if you do, you can reference it in a short piece I once offered on the subject called, Kalends and Nones and Ides Oh My! (MARCH, 2013 MUSE-LETTER).


To cut to the tackle, the monthly date for this year’s Super Bowl would be expressed via a Roman calendar as “VII Ides.” In English and Arabic…February 7. And as I’ve also said before, (with a license I got down at the DRM; the Department of Repeating Myself), this method of date keeping also suggests still one more reason for the fall of the Roman Empire. (Though not of the Roman Polanski).


As for the game itself? Like so many who will watch—and are not in any betting pool— I’ll have no rooting interest in the participants or the score. Or even the ads really (“been there; done that”). Just pass the chicken wings and let’s raise a Bud (remember the “Bud Bowl?”), to the days of Roman numbers past. Who the “L” needs ‘em!





Quote of the Month





“I used to be on top of the world.
Now the world is on top of me.”

                    —Francis Lawrence








Thinking Inside the Box; Coloring Inside the Lines



I got a few gifts this past Christmas, forewarned by the giver before I would unwrap them, that they were not intended to be some sort of a gag. Though she need not have worried that I would mistake her intentions, so sublime and thoughtful were these surprises.


At three score and a decade, I am now the proud owner of a box of 96 Crayola crayons and two books: “Alice in Wonderland: Vintage Coloring Books for Adults” and Disney Princess: Art Therapy, 100 Images to Inspire Creativity and Relaxation.


Let’s start with the crayons. When I was a kid, there were only eight colors in the box. Though schooled in the color wheel, I learned how other colors could be created. Which pleased the nuns immensely.


I guess I might have later owned a box of 32 when they were introduced in ’58, though at age 13 by then, well, puberty has a way of suggesting an alternative activity to coloring. (Which would not have pleased the nuns at all.)


But I once proposed in a piece, with no tongue in cheek, that you could trace The American Experience Through a Box of Crayons (SEPTEMBER, 2010 MUSE-LETTER). And though I could question if we really need 96 colors—Crayola actually puts out an “ultimate” box of 152?! —as I once also concluded in a poem…

Why the mourning the death of Raw Umber?
It is quite apparent
the world wants Fuchsia
and there will be no turning back

So it’s not the crayons that blew me away. (At first, anyway). It’s the coloring books. Because as so often happens when you come upon a trend or phenomena of which you had previously been unaware, suddenly you start seeing references to it everywhere. As if in confirmation, or some sort of validation, right there in The New York Times in The Arts section on Christmas Eve (which I didn’t get to read until a couple of days after opening my gifts)…

“If 2015 stands out for nothing else, it will be remembered as the year when millions of adults unabashedly regressed to their pre-school selves and rediscovering the allure of coloring books.”

Really? I read further.

“Scottish illustrator Joanna Bashford, whose intricately patterned adult coloring books have sold more than 16 million copies in some 40 countries

No kidding.

“There are more than 150 adult coloring books on the market according to Publishers Weekly…


“…the chief executive of Barnes & Noble recently singled out adult coloring books as an important revenue stream for the chain.”

A confirming piece on CNN added to my sense of wow, with all of this:

“… the first commercially successful adult coloring books were published in 2012… the once niche hobby has now grown into a full-on trend, with everyone from researchers at Johns Hopkins University to the editors of Yoga Journal suggesting coloring as an alternative to meditation.”

OK. Enough validation. I’m in. This ought to be easy. And fun. And “right up my alley.”


For one thing, I’m not a meditative type. I think it’s too stressful to force oneself to sit and relax. And isn’t sitting unhealthy and dangerous as we’re now being told? So what a wonderful substitute this coloring business could be. And I could even color standing up I suppose, if I chose. And so, united with all the unabashed adult colorers of the world, I opened up the Alice book all set to let my creativity flow. At this age, I could be unrestricted by lines or conventional limitations, while in the process reaching nirvana to boot. Aah.


Immediately, I sensed a problem.


Schooled in Disney’s vision of “Alice in Wonderland,” Alice had to be blonde. Or in kindergarten terms, have YELLOW hair. I could not bring myself to consider any other color. My hand, almost with a will of its own, could not bring itself to pick up an alternative, say a brown, or black, or orange crayon. Even though in the reality of today’s hip fashion, hair comes in a rainbow of colors. Sometimes on the same head. But this is Alice. But now, which yellow?


Do I dare go with “Laser Lemon”? “Gold?” “Goldenrod”? “Dandelion”? “Macaroni and Cheese”? (cute). Something in the box, looking yellowish and designated as “Gel FX”? Too many choices.


Then there’s the White Rabbit who by very definition has to be white, no? But is that being racist in some sense?


And what do you do about the Queen of Hearts? That card suit is RED. What other color can hearts be? This presented a problem far in excess of those yellow choices: “Jazzberry Jam,” “Red Violet,” “Cerise” (as in Cyd Charisse?), “Wild Strawberry,” (ah, Ingmar Bergman) “Magenta,” even “Hot Magenta,” “Maroon,” “Razzmatazz” (give me a break), “Brick Red,” “Scarlet,” and of course, fuching “Fuchsia.”


All this reminded me of just the other day when in Duane Reade, I was confronted by fifty, FIVE-O, choices of brands and variations of toothpaste. No poetic license taken here, I actually counted them. Toothpaste, for chrissake. But I digress.


My stress level at this point was almost palpable.


Taking a deep breath (and halfa’ Xanax), I had to come to grips with the fact that I’m not only a stay-inside-the-lines kind of guy, but I’m not exactly a Jackson Pollack either when it comes to “thinking outside the box” in choosing color, deciding where it goes, and then how to apply it. Which of course got me to wondering if Pollack ever colored when he was a kid. I imagine him melting the crayons and letting them drip on the paper …or floor. (“Jackson, you’re gonna’ set the house on fire.”). Also as an aside, how did Pollack know when one of his paintings was done?


Anyway, “submitted for your approval,” as Rod Serling used to say in introducing every “Twilight Zone” episode…


Not bad, huh? Though in the interest of full disclosure, finding it too taxing to re-color the top third of the illustration to match that of the bottom, I “Photoshopped” it. Which I found to be an extremely relaxing thing to do. And yes, the Queen of Hearts is wearing purple. It’s a step.







Word of the Month


parkour: noun par•kour \pär-'ku?r, 'pär-?ku?r\


the sport of traversing environmental obstacles by running, climbing, or leaping rapidly and efficiently


As in a sentence I recently read:

“We’re trying to invent parkour for the mind.”



As in a sign I recently imagined:











January 26, 2016 at 7pm: Artists Without Walls Showcase at The Cell Theater, 338 W 23rd St, New York, NY 10011


This as it appears on their site

“Ron Vazzano opened the night with a series of seven poems collectively entitled, ‘Notes on Slumming Through the Continuum,’ which was accompanied by a dramatic visual presentation. The poems were said to be inspired by a quote of his own making, “Time waits for no man in its mad rush to infinity” (to which he noted, “Yes, in a ‘Trumpian’ fit of self-adoration, I’m actually quoting myself”). It was all highly applauded by an audience that seemed to hang on every word.”





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