January 2014


Pope to Pop More Surprises in 2014?



In the nine months he has been in office, it seems Pope Francis pops one surprise after another on an almost weekly basis. Be it a startling quote, an act of ya-gotta-be-kidding-me humility, or some off-beat everyman disclosure (“I was once a bouncer”), he has captured the imagination of a large cross section of humanity.


I mean, a pope in a clown nose?


In designating him as their Person of the Year for 2013, Time magazine had this to say:

"… he has placed himself at the very center of the central conversations of our time, about wealth and poverty, fairness and justice, transparency, modernity, globalization, the role of women, the nature of marriage, the temptations of power. When he kisses the face of a disfigured man or washes the feet of a Muslim woman, the image resonates far beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church."

And that’s just on Monday.


And then shortly after, Advocate, the oldest gay rights magazine in America, also honored him as their person of the year. In so doing, they hailed as a landmark, his famous response to a reporter who had asked about gay people in the church: "If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?"


One can’t help but wonder in all of this, what surprises and revelations might be forthcoming in 2014, regarding this popular pontiff. These are but a smattering of headlines that are not difficult to imagine in the coming year.



Pope Francis: “I once got a ‘D’ on my Latin Final”


A Vatican source who asked to remain anonymous, revealed that the Pope was a also terrible speller.



Pope Francis Lives in a Studio Apartment with His Dog “Assisi”


Sources confirmed that he walks to work every day, after first walking his dog, a mutt he rescued from a pound in his first week as Pope.



Pope Francis was Born in Kenya



Pope: “Mary Magdalene was an Apostle”


When asked by someone in the press corps on a flight coming back from the desert in which he had spent 40 days and 40 nights, if he was saying therefore that there were really 13 apostles (and a woman at that) and not 12 as in the scriptures, he responded: “13, 12, 11, whatever…it’s just a number.”



Pope was Fired from Bouncer Job


It was revealed today in the Italian press, that Pope Francis was fired from his job as a bouncer for always turning the other cheek and never checking ID’s at the door.



Pope in line at Motor Vehicles


Not using his status to avoid a four hour wait, Pope Francis stood in line to renew his license at a nearby Motor Vehicles in Rome today. (He drives an ‘84 Renault in lieu of the Vatican provided chauffeured car). It gave him the opportunity to “demonstrate patience, rather than merely to preach it,”he said, as he consoled some who had stopped by in tears, after having failed their written test.



Pope Francis Was Once Jewish



New Dress Code for the Swiss Guard


The Pope announced today that the Vatican will institute a casual Friday dress code for the Swiss Guard beginning this Spring.



“It’s Gay Divorce I’m Really Concerned About,” says Pope Francis



Pope Surprises Many on Scriptural Interpretations


As for the eating of the apple in the Garden of Eden, he responded: “I might have done the same. Who’s to say? I love apples.”



Pope Owns a Cell Phone


But in keeping with his austerity, it is a rotary. And he has not downloaded any applications. The U.S. Government has confirmed this.



Pope’s Denunciation of Capitalism Caused the DOW to Drop on Friday


Cardinal Dolan in a recent homily at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and in follow ups on Meet the Press, the Today Show, Good Morning America, Charlie Rose, CNN, CNBC, Fox News and the Tonight Show, assured all that the pope was speaking metaphorically.



Pope Once Gave Meat to a Hungry Man on a Friday


When asked whether or not the man was Catholic, “Don’t ask don’t tell,” he explained to the press.



Pope Meets with Lady Gaga


They shared a bit of humor about the number of syllables in their respective real names: Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. Ted Cruz is outraged.



Pope: “I am Not Worthy of My Name Being Capitalized”


In still one more sign of great humility, the pope issued a statement in which he asked that his name no longer be capitalized, nor should a formal Roman number follow it. He asked that it now appear in print as francis 1.






January Blahs and Writer’s Block



Maybe it’s the January blahs that causes me to sit here at a loss for words, following the previous “pop pope” piece. According to psychologists, there is such a thing. No, not the use of the letter “p” in obsessive-compulsive alliteration, but the January blahs. The peak of which occurring on a day said to be the saddest day of the year: the third Monday in the month, aka “Blue Monday.”


A doctor named Cliff Arnall who specializes in seasonal disorder at the University of Cardiff, Wales (is there a degree for that?), actually created a formula that takes into account, the various factors that go into the depression that comes with January.


His model is:                  [W + (D-d)] x TQ
                                             M x NA


The equation is broken down into seven variables: (W) weather, (D) debt, (d) monthly salary, (T) time since Christmas, (Q) time since failed quit attempt, (M) low motivational levels and (NA) the need to take action. (Source: World News on, 2005).


You can’t make this stuff up. Which is why I’m having a case of writer’s block. Though given my stature in any literary circles, it’s more the size of a baby’s block, as opposed to say, the mammoth blocks by giant writers that I once outlined in a piece eight years ago. (Writer’s Block or… Six Authors in Search of a Character? FEBRUARY, 2005 Muse-letter).


But one might ask how writer’s block can be attributed to January blahs if one is actually writing this in December? (Poetic license? “Yeah, that’s the ticket!” Like, where have all the SNL catch phrases gone?).


Let there be no misunderstanding, big or small, this is not the sort of affliction in need of a telethon. Imagine Pat Sajak hosting one, and going to the tote board which is showing a lot of missing letters, imploring viewers to send in anything they can, even lower case. (“And even the smallest punctuation counts!”).


In any event, I offer snippets from Januarys past, when this condition was not in any evidence. They have been edited, tweaked (“re-pronouned” as I no longer use the royal “we”…which was a royal pain in the ass I was told), realigned, “re-fonted” here and there, and in a couple of cases, with an updated “editor’s note” included. They follow a chronological order.


An Encounter with Sir Shadow

“While attending a 20th anniversary fund raising event hosted by the Working Theater in New York honoring Harry Belafonte, I happened upon a gentleman who goes by the name Sir Shadow.


He is a virtuoso of ‘the freehand line’—uninterrupted. Never lifting his meandering felt pen from paper in the course of the minute or so it takes him to finish, he turns out works of art that…well, once again a picture being worth a thousand words…



I bought one. The cost? ‘Whatever is in your heart,’ said Sir Shadow. My heart said priceless, but I opened up my wallet instead, and gave him something that seemed at least somewhat worthy of his short time, yet long talents.


He continued drawing and philosophizing: ‘I call my writing and art work FLOWETRY; which is the art of positive thinking in action.’”




600 ° Of Separation?


“In reading Bob Dylan’s fabulous Chronicles Volume One— right there on page 22— I was stopped cold.


Dylan, in writing of his time in The Village in the early 60’s, mentions in passing that:


‘…I was over at the Mills Tavern on Bleecker Street where the basket-house singers would bunch up, chitchat and make the scene.’


Frankly, that’s not how I remembered Mills Tavern (now long-since sold, refurbished, remodeled and renamed, The Village Lantern).


In a poem, written some years ago I described it, though not directly by name, as:

A place where men sipped ale
       while death came looking.

And what exactly makes me such an expert on this shanty of an establishment? It was there that my father tended bar.


Ergo, (not to mention ‘Eureka!’)… My father must have served Bob Dylan!





January in Amsterdam

A bicycle outside The Anne Frank House
Sits enchained in a virgin snow.


     The canal, like hell, has frozen over.

Whose bike? Not hers. In fact she may never
Even have learned how to ride. What with

The war, the hiding, the being found out.

But surely Otto must have taught her. While in Merwedeplein?
Steadying the seat as she wrestled with her balance?

        I, myself, was once given a ride down those very streets

Or straats as they call them—on the back of a bike
Of a girl so angelic I almost cried.

My arms wrapped about her as our laughter shattered

The delicate glass of a summer night.
We woke up the kinfolk when we arrived at the house.

One ride of passage… one ride never taken.

                                          —Ron Vazzano



A Luncheon Meeting with Gerald Ford


“With the passing last month of our 38th President Gerald R. Ford at age 93, I could not help but recall the day (August 7, 1997) when I got to meet him at a luncheon sponsored by Time magazine. 84 years of age at the time, he looked absolutely terrific as our photo op below will attest.



“In short, he seemed like a nice guy if ‘…rather unremarkable; rather closed…’ as I further noted in my journal.


Gerald Ford…rest in peace.”





Through Time Descending

              That light doth so transform a man’s whole bent

                                                        — Dante, Paradiso


The Long Acre days of livery trades
When a single gas lamp lit the square
Died of a pen stroke in proclamation
An April day under pastoral skies.
This long before that month was said
To be the cruelest of the year.

Soon a beast below the street
Would arrive on the sparks of friction—
A scream of wheels:
“Forty-Second Street/Times Square, 1904.”











It will always be not so much a place
But a churning kaleidoscope of shards of glass;
A sequence of squares each lighting the way to another.
Where energy ignites the human transition.

A clustering spirit
From in and out of town
That stops in mid stream
For the sheer joy
Of looking up.

A metaphor made flesh each New Year’s Eve


                  ball      all
                 aglow      in
                     a      slow


                                                 —Ron Vazzano





Poetry As Insurgent Art – Lawrence Ferlinghetti


“A small book with big ideas on the art of poetry and that of life. Some lines that caused me to pause…

Make common words uncommon.


See the rose through world-colored glasses.


Climb the Statue of Liberty.


Poetry is private solitude made public.


Poetry is the light at the end of the tunnel and the darkness within.

And my favorite, so ironic coming as it does from such a hall-of-fame hipster…

Don’t be so open minded that your brains fall out.

That’s something my uncle Willie, a hall-of-fame bus driver, would have said.”





"Ah Feel Your Pain" (Still)


“Bill Clinton. Ya gotta’ love him. At the recent memorial service following the death of former diplomat Richard Holbrooke, a NY Times article (with the emboldening of words, my doing) reported the following:

… Bill Clinton recalled, standing with one arm around Mr. Holbrooke's widow, Kati Martin… “he (Mr. Holbrooke) understood the political implications of the psychodynamics of every conceivable permutation, when people sat down together…

It is a syntax that could make even the dead sit up and take notice.


When I die, I would wish for: ‘He was smart.’ Which I think is what Clinton was trying to say, in so many supercalifragilisticexpialidocious words.”







Auld Lang Sign





Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot


“In a similar vein to what he had done earlier in the year at Woodstock—when he transferred the Star Spangled Banner into something from Mars—Jimi Hendrix’s Auld Lang Syne could stop a clock.

I had been to the Fillmore just three weeks prior, unaware that he was to perform there on New Year's Eve, so I missed his interpretation of it live.

And as a new year invariably seems to be a clarion call for seeing old things in a new way, this audio YouTube moment recorded 42 years ago epitomizes the very thing.”
(Hendrix rendition starts 59 seconds into the audio)




The 100-Watt Bulb Goes Dark?

“On October 1, congress will enforce the new standards requiring that light bulbs use at least 25% less energy. In effect, what is happening, is that traditional incandescent light bulbs—which essentially use the same technology as Thomas Edison's original one—will begin to be phased out. Alas Horatio, I knew him well.

Imagine this scenario one day, dealing with light bulbs in some dark alley: ‘Pssst! Hey, you wanna’ score some 100-Watters? I got frosty or clear.’”


Editor’s note: As just reported at, “Light bulb manufacturers will cease making traditional 40 and 60-watt light bulbs -- the most popular in the country -- at the start of 2014.”(A metaphor in search of a poem it seems).






“Victor Hugo.

I find myself thinking about him a lot these days. (Doesn’t everyone?). Not in association with Les Miserables, but in the context of a quote attributed to him that I had run across not all that long ago.

Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

I think of it when I hear and read the likes of which I can’t remember ever having seen before on the issue of gun control…

    • ‘I am a conservative Republican who received the NRA's highest ratings over four terms in Congress…I knew that day that the ideologies of my past career were no longer relevant to the future that I want, that I demand for my children. Friday changed everything. It must change everything.’ (Joe Scarborough)

    • ‘Eleven members of Congress who had previously opposed gun control announced a change of heart, including Senator Joe Manchin…’ (The Nation)

    • ‘Bare majority now support major gun restrictions…’ (CNN Poll)

    • ‘Support for stricter gun control at 10-year high…’ (CBS News Poll)

    • ‘54 percent of respondents favor stricter gun control laws, a five-year high; 59 percent back a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips…’ (ABC News/Washington Post Poll)

    • ‘I believe every American has Second Amendment rights. The ability to hunt is part of our culture. I have an NRA rating of an 'A,' but enough is enough.’ (Senator Mark Warner who represents the NRA's home state of Virginia)

Is this the type of idea to which Hugo made reference? Has the time come? Time will tell.”


Editor’s note: Time told. And the answer was “Never.”






Pope to Pop More Surprises in 2014?





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