Saturday, January 30, 2010

To My Father on His Birthday.

My sister started a new tradition in our family where, on a family member’s birthday, we each tell that person why he or she is special. This felt strange on my tongue the first time we did this for my mom’s birthday this last November. We’re not a family who gratuitously compliment, our compliments are shy; they hide within jokes, or are implicit in gestures. So, in anticipation of this new tradition for my dad’s 67th birthday party on Sunday, I thought I would write what is difficult for me to say.

All my life I hear the same phrase: you’re just like your father. In the childhood years I go without combing my hair; during my middle-school years when eons before environmentalism is trendy, I carry a lunchbox to school because it is less wasteful; in everyone’s fear that I choose to move as close to Manhattan as I can for college; in my mother’s anger that I decide to travel even farther to the Peace Corps; and in my poor family’s frustration when I marry someone no one thinks is right for me. All these times and more, I hear, in the face of my fierce purposefulness, you’re just like your father.

Pragmatic New Englander my father very much is, and very much is not. He works hard; his accomplishments are as vast as the cords of wood that corral the property of my childhood home in New Hampshire: the farmhouse in Jaffrey that takes years to restore, the antique cars, the maple syrup, stained glass, and every sort of home improvement. His ventures, however, I’ve come to realize, are not always the systematic or calculated moves of a pragmatist like, say Hilary Clinton. In fact, some of his decisions, like moving to North Carolina, are instinctual, even whimsical. In all of my dad’s choices, there is a commonality: a Thoreau-like call for a life well-lived. Dad and Thoreau would have been friends for more reasons than that they are from the same state. Dad’s life is testimony to Thoreau’s words, “Be true to your work, your word, and your friend.” My dad does not leash himself to his lucrative computer programming job, nor to his place of birth, nor even to his homes that he painstakingly polishes to showcase beauty. Instead, my dad takes chances. Not all of them pan out--some rise to greatness while other shatter--but all of them are his legacy. His actions have taught me to value life, to create it, fight for it, and to pay stubborn attention to my visions.

My father walks a softer road in his love of family, and most importantly, his relationship with my mother which winds back as far as middle school. I know that many people say this, but in my father’s case it is true: he has never looked at another woman. When I was a kid, I watched women, married woman, fall all over themselves over my dad, and I watched his Ataturk-blue eyes seek refuge with my mother. My father has only ever had one best friend: Mom. To this day, he is uncomfortable when she is gone for too long. All three of his kids are solid committers. None of us have ever cheated on anyone, and all three have entered our relationships earnestly and with faith in our partners. That faith, that earnestness is a gift given to us by our parent’s marriage.

I have a little secret that should be shared on my dad’s 67th birthday—about time, right? I don’t mind when people tell me I’m acting like you. In truth, I’m proud that I’m just like you.
Happy birthday, Dad.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Support Haiti by giving to Partners In Health (PIH)

Haiti. You see the images, hear the appeals, and want to help. I recommend Partners in Health.

When I first heard about the devastation in Haiti, I immediately thought of the nonprofit, Partners in Health, founded by Dr. Paul Farmer and Ophelia Dahl. If you read Tracy Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains, which tells Paul Farmer's story and his enduring commitment to health care in Haiti,then you surely had the same thought as me: give to Partners in Health. No aid organization understands the health needs in Haiti as well.

According to an e-mail I received from PIH, "the PIH/Zanmi Lasante team was designated by the World Health Organization to serve as the coordinators of the public hospital, Hopital de l' Universite d'Etat d'Haiti" PIH team members were some of the first on the scene, they have one of the best health care infrastructures in Haiti, they're recognized by the World Health Organization and, most importantly, they are respected by the Haitian people.

Find out more about PIH, what they're doing, what they need, and how to contribute by going to this site: PIH IN HAITI

If you don't want to take my word for Partners in Health, here's an article that ran in the St. Petersburg Times

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Join Us At Three Friends Coffee House

Coming February 8: CAFFEINATED ART #80 – A. Molotkov, Bruce Greene and the Moonlit Guttery Poetry Team – “Love Outlives Us”

7 p.m., Three Friends Coffee House
SE 12th and Ash, Portland, Oregon
Love Outlives Us

A. Molotkov, Bruce Greene
and the Moonlit Guttery Team
an evening of words with music

Bruce Greene:
text, spoken voice

The Team:

Shawn Austin:
text, spoken voice
David Cooke:
text, spoken voice
Ragon Linde:
guitar, electric guitar, percussion, musical direction
Carrie-Ann Tkaczyk:
text, vocals, spoken voice

A. Molotkov:
text, spoken voice, vocals, duduk, percussion, handsonic

Luke Lefler:

Based on texts by A. Molotkov, Bruce Greene, Shawn Austin, David Cooke and Carrie-Ann Tkaczyk, “Love Outlives Us” is a symbolic exploration of the value and meaning of a human life, the character-defining nature of human interaction, and each individual’s responsibility for the world in which they conspire to exist. The tone of this performance is balanced around a stark contrast between A. Molotkov’s mysterious and laconic verses and Bruce Greene’s real life stories, in this case his experiences as a teacher in the years following the war in Vietnam. Shawn Austin, David Cooke and Carrie-Ann Tkaczyk contribute their own unique visions to make up a whole that has a sense of unity, despite its many edges. Ragon Linde’s musical contribution and several sung compositions by A. Molotkov expand the palette. Backed up by music, words acquire a greater levity, contributing to the listener’s ability to be entranced and whisked away on an hour-long tour of self-discovery through meaning and metaphor. Several audience participation numbers allow the listeners to become part of the performance in a more tangible way than possible in a passive listening mode. “Love Outlives Us” seeks to engage the audience on all levels, to ask questions that will linger in one’s mind long after the performers have left the stage.

love outlives us

like trees

love outlives us

like the air we breathe

Bruce Greene, David Cooke, Carrie-Ann Tkaczyk and A. Molotkov are members of The Guttery,

Shawn Austin and A. Molotkov are the founding members of The Moonlit Poetry Caravan,

Luke Lefler is the Digital Media Producer for Show and Tell Gallery.

Bruce Greene

Bruce Greene taught English, history, and psychology in the Bay Area for many years. He now works with beginning teachers at Marylhurst University. In his eclectic writing career, Bruce has been a correspondent for a national thoroughbred horse magazine and published everything from poetry and educational research to creative non-fiction and memoir. He is always looking for another river to fly fish, coffeehouses conducive to writing, and an agent for his recently completed memoir, Above This Wall: The Life and Times of a VISTA Volunteer 1969-70.

Shawn Austin

Shawn Austin would like to thank his wife for putting up with and supporting him. A poet first, Shawn draws on an eclectic approach to poetry stemming from work in the Social Services, Mental Health field, and also from his youth where he credits his poetry, “Being nurtured from the kneecaps of parties.” Much of those perspectives can be found operating in his poetry today. Shawn sees great poetry much like the kitchen, patio, refrigerator, or a toilet; “An inflected space” in a strange house where the reader steps into and interacts. Shawn is a founding member of a poetry meetup group in Portland called “The Moonlit Poetry Caravan” and has started an artistic movement in poetry, called “Inflectionism.”

David Cooke

David Cooke is an award winning poet living in Lake Oswego, Oregon. His poems have been described as vivid, assured, startling, sustained, lucid, satisfying, lyrical, gorgeous, beautiful, and mysterious. The poems are complexly layered while preserving a first reading cohesiveness. His facility at blending everyday language, puns, and natural images with the scientific, mythical, and religious is enviable. “Edges” received the Ruth Stone Poetry Prize in 2009. “Mentimos Cuando SoƱamos” and “Elliptic” will appear in Discretion, the first collection of his poetry. He hopes that you will be quite smitten with each poem.

Italics drawn from written comments by Charles Atkinson, Miciah Bay Gault, and the staff at Hunger Mountain Journal.

Ragon Linde

Ragon Linde is a musician specializing in eclectic jazz. He plays the guitar, drums, and bass. Ragon moved to Portland in 2006 from Tulsa, Oklahoma where he lived most of his life. While in Oklahoma, Ragon played in a wide range of musical groups over the last 35 years whose styles included big band, psychedelic jazz, heavy metal, acoustic folk, classical, and western swing. Much of his work has been recorded and his latest album of work titled My Own Private Jihad can be found on his MySpace site. Ragon is particularly excited about the February 8th performance as this is his first since moving to Portland three years ago.

Carrie-Ann Tkaczyk

Before landing in Portland, Carrie-Ann Tkaczyk lived all over. She learned kickboxing in Turkey, faced-off with a rhino in Nepal, discussed the weather with Queen Elizabeth in England, and was chastised by Mother Theresa in India. She’s now proud to declare herself a coffee mug carryin’, microbrew drinkin’, Powell browsin’, environmental stumpin’, trail hikin’ Portlander. She writes novels about the adventures that occur when the will of the individual and the collective muscle of a culture clash.

A. Molotkov

A. Molotkov is a writer, composer, filmmaker and visual artist. He lives in constant stress, torn between a multitude of projects in various art forms – way too many for any one sane individual to handle. Born in Russia, he moved to the US in 1990 and switched to writing in English in 1993. He is the author of several novels, short story and poetry collections and the winner of the 2008 E. M. Koeppel Short Fiction Award. The winning story “Round Trip” has been nominated for the 2009 Pushcart Award and accepted by Intramel for publication in Italian. A. Molotkov’s poetry and short stories have appeared in over a dozen publications, both in print and online. His inclination to break the rules and his interest towards blending art forms tend to get him in trouble a lot, including the challenging performance of Love Outlives Us. Visit him at if you have an hour or a week to spare.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

An Anonymous Poem From Iran

Iran has one of the richest cultures in the world. I have hope for Iran. I have hope.

Nelson Mandela's favorite singers

After watching Invictus, I was struck by the strength of forgiveness. Anger is easy, but to be soft in the face of anger and righteousness is difficult. I couldn't sleep, so I read up on Nelson Mandela--one of my heroes. And I learned that while in prison for those 28 years, he was deprived of music. Today one of his greatest pleasures is to listen to music while watching a sunset, specifically classical. He said that one of his favorite singers is Paul Robeson.

Here's a link where you can hear Robeson and read a bit of this New Jersey native's own struggles.

Paul Robeson

When I talk about South Africa and music, I have to add a link to a video of one of my favorite songs by South Africa's Johnny Clegg. Listening to this reminds me of road trips with my friend Marianne. It is a touching song and a great story.

I Never Betrayed The Revolution