living with the wound from a stray shot

ufo – foto by Smith

Here are the news headlines I did not post yesterday because they were too depressing, so of course I’m posting them today when they’re no less depressing.

Time Magazine has called these past 10 years (2000-2009) the worst decade ever, mainly because how badly George W. Bush and Dick Cheney screwed us in the U.S. and the rest of the world as well. I call these past 10 years The Aughts with the Naughts.

~ D ~ R ~ E ~ A ~ D ~ L ~ I ~ N ~ E ~ ~ M ~ A ~ L ~ A ~ D ~ Y ~

Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping

Cancer Victim Went On $80,000 Spree Before Finding Out She Was Going To Live

’12 Days Of Christmas’ Items Would Cost Over $87,000

Massive Sushi Fraud

40% Of Food Produced Gets Trashed, While 1 In 6 Go Hungry

One in Eight Americans On Food Stamps

1 In 4 U.S. Children Relies On Food Stamps

Video Of Diners Eating A Deep Fried Fish — While It’s STILL ALIVE

49 Million Americans Going Hungry

More Than Half Of Teachers Report Buying Hungry Students Food With Their Own Money

Kids Reenact The First Thanksgiving With Smallpox Blankets And Whiskey

Two-Thirds of Chicken Tested Harbor Dangerous Bacteria

Sex, Beer, Heroin and Cocaine: How Prosecutors Pay Off Criminal Snitches

Stealing Money, Selling Heroin and Raping Boys — The Very Dark Side of the Afghan Occupation

US Army Suicides Continue at Record Paces

U.S. Companies Kill 16 Workers A Day

Number Of Seniors Living Alone And Seeking Help Up By 81% In 2008

Economic Crisis Is Getting Bloody — Violent Deaths Are Now Following Evictions, Foreclosures and Job Losses

Pharmaceutical Giant Paid $500,000 to Psychiatrist Who Used Chicago’s Poor as Guinea Pigs

Teenager Charged With Murder Said Hobby Was ‘Killing People’

“I Couldn’t Give Up Jesus” For My Jewish Husband

Catholic Bishops Put Sex Obsession Ahead of Mission to the Sick and the Poor

Church Of Scientology Accused Of Torture, Forced Abortions

Santa Claus Actor Gets Prison For Part In Global Sex Tourism Ring

Peruvian Gang Killed People To Extract Their Fat

Lab Grown Meat Could Be Safer Than Eating Animals

Big Pharma Promises To Save Government $8 Billion, But Not Before Raising Prices By $10 Billion

Republicans Promise “Holy War” To Delay Health Care Bill

GOP Senator Wants To Let ‘Mentally Incapacitated’ Vets Buy Guns

Cult of Conservative Christian GOPers Backs Death Penalty for Gays With HIV

Uranium From Polluted British Petroleum Mine Found In Nevada Water Wells

Chinese drywall causes metal corrosion

Steelers Fan Killed Puppy Before Game

Rancher Jailed For Housing Homeless

The Vampire Banks Are Back

CIA Manual Of Trickery And Deception Declassified, Now On Sale

Women Now ‘Better With Gadgets Than Men,’ Study Says

Men Married To Smart Women Live Longer

Living With the Wound From a Stray Shot

don’t kill the messanger – foto by Smith

As Our Brains Shrink

lov rat – foto by Smith

I’ve harvested too many heavy headlines from the news these past two weeks and a bad chunk of them are grim sad mean and downright perverted. I’ve had enough of gritty nitty reality, so here are some of the lighter lines, leaving the larger darker horrors on the cutting room floor.

~ ~ ~

Toys For Tits

The Government Is Trying To Control My Breasts

I Was Told To Have Boob Job

$3M Bra

Boobs & Balloons At Victoria’s Secret Show

Colombian Chefs Create Viagra-Laced Dessert

Man Marries His Video Game Girlfriend

Sex, Please, We’re British

Youth Group Rap Advocates “Side-Hugs” Over Sinful “Front-Hugs”

Spray-On Jesus

Michael Jackson’s glove sells for $350,000 at auction

CNN Gave Dobbs $8 MILLION To Leave!

7 Great Products For Telling The World You’re A Rich Jerk

Laptop Steering Wheel Desk: So You Can Work While you Drive?

Electronic Polar Bears Replace Real Bears At St. Louis Zoo

Galileo’s Lost Tooth, Fingers Found By Italian Collector

A ‘Meat Band-Aid’: Mass-Produced Living Tissue Could Help Healing

Roadrunner, Conch, And Pork Brains: The Craziest Canned Foods Ever

A plague of flatulence

Humans Still Evolving As Our Brains Shrink

Dad Locked Kids In Trunk While Running Errands

Cell Phone Use Linked To Brain Changes

Think Like An Intellectual

They’re Getting Rid of Whom

~ ~ ~

This is Whom, once again reporting backside the unemployment line in the shallow end of the gene pool just the other side of Looking Glass Gone where we all see our strangeness in the black water’s reflection.

C bar C – foto by Smith

man who chews with broken tooth

$100 worth – foto by Smith

Having a tooth pulled at 8:30 in the morning is not the way I’d choose to start my day. I’m sick of the taste of swallowed blood. That and my love of garlic shows I would make a darn poor vampire – besides, I’ve been to enough parties with the brainless to realize the undead are not my preferred conversational tribe.

Last time I had a tooth pulled, the dentist wouldn’t give me my tooth, said it was against the health laws. Time before that the dentist did give me my tooth and I put it in a fine collage titled Post Coital Repression. This time when I asked, he said sure, and then the assistant threw it away anyway. The dentist came back with a prescription and asked if I’d gotten my tooth. Said no, so he went to the trash can and dug the two pieces out for me. Now that is service.

When my father had his artificial knee installed, I asked if he’d ask the surgeon for his old knee cap back so I could use it in art. The doc laughed, said that was the oddest request he’d heard and that he’d be happy to except old knee caps are sliced out a thin section at a time so there’d be nothing to give me.

The tooth did not want to come out. Believe my body was thinking I’d lost enough teeth already and was fighting to hold on to this one. The doc’s pliers kept slipping off into my lower teeth and I had visions of him breaking even more.

Doc said the tooth next to the one he pulled was loose and would eventually go. That leaves two loose future lost teeth on top. Aren’t you glad you’re not me?

The minor good news is I miscounted my top teeth – I have nine left now, not eight. I’ll take what I can get.

After I left the dentist and spit blood all over the street, I glanced at the prescription – it’s for 30 Vicodins. Last tooth extraction they told me to take Aspirin or over the counter Tylenol, so this is a major gift. In fact, I have a good buzz on now.

I now have 9 left on top, 13 on bottom – foto by Smith


Sometimes I deliberately leave the poetry scene, I deliberately don’t create art or write because it can just be too overwhelming and come at the expense of the necessities of life.

The aftermath of Yuyu’s leaving is like a perfumy vaccuum of curry evacuated out the space hatch. I feel happy, rich with community and words, but too stimulated. I’m sleeping and not delusional but very poetic and unable to focus on anything other than art and writing, not work, though I’m trying. Grandpa is not on the radio lately but Smith’s worrying because I’m overstimulated.

Poor Smith got his tooth pulled this morning. He just walked in with blood on his hands, bloody packing in his mouth.

“What’s the damage?” I asked.

“Oh, not too bad. $100 to get the tooth pulled and $15 for the pain pills.”

“That’s not what I meant,” I said. “How are you?”

“I’m sick of the taste of blood.”

Yuyu offered to take my grandma to Nepal to live out the rest of her days. I told him we’d miss her but he could ask. I told her his offer and I don’t think it registered with her. I think it would be neat. Imagine, Grandma in Nepal. In Nepal they have a festival when you turn 77. You’re carried around town in a chair by porters.

It’s just such a messy blessing, this existence.

Smith and I found a very good movie (a VGM) yesterday, “Kabluey.” It also led to some very good music (VGM) and I’m falling in love with the music. I thought there was no more music for me on this planet, which was bad, because I love music.


the toothless fairy

dropped our house guess off this morn – foto by Smith

Got too tired to keep myself together and broke yesterday.

Three days of cleaning for our first stay-over guest followed by nine days daze of energy output, people overload, insufficient sleep and absolutely no downtime recovery time made me so unfocused I could no longer hold my reality together with just my mind and I broke one of my remaining teeth yesterday during Thanksgiving dinner. Fortunately it was one of my too many root-canalled teeth so there’s no pain or feeling.

My teeth are a sorrowful tale.

When fluoride was added to the nation’s drinking water in the 1950s to prevent cavities, we lived on a farm and drank unfluoridated well water. At the same time we were poor and the dentist was only for pain emergencies; periodic check-ups were for those with money.

I figured I could finally get my teeth fixed up when I enlisted in the Navy in 1963; instead they pulled two and promised they’d replace them soon. That was 46 years ago; I’m still waiting.

After the Navy kicked me out for smoking grass in 1968 (with an honorable discharge because they didn’t want the bad publicity of putting me through a court martial and embarrassing the U.S. Naval Academy), I started doing a lot of crystal meth and ground my teeth like all speed freaks do. I have very small teeth anyway, so this didn’t help.

Later on down the line as one tooth after another went bad, I usually had no money to fix them properly so many times they were pulled rather than repaired and crowned. One I did have crowned was so badly done the crown kept falling off. I’d glue it back on my tooth with some extremely foul-tasting 5-minute epoxy, but the mouth saliva would turn the epoxy brown and soft and the cap would fall off 2-3 days later (usually while chewing; I was constantly afraid I was going to swallow my crown or break another tooth on it) and I’d glue it back on again. One dentist told me the soft brown epoxy goo he pulled off my tooth gave him nightmares, dreams where his patients’ teeth turned brown and soft and fell out.

My biggest tooth insult came at the hands of Dr Liesman. I paid him $1,500 for an upper and lower partial. He fucked up the lower and had it sent back, then forced the repaired partial into my mouth. Over the next 6 months the partial caused all my lower teeth to go crooked and overlap.

One night in the midst of a bad run of unemployment when my world was crashing around me and I was in danger of losing my studio, I got hit with bad tooth pain and absolutely zero money. I decided to pull the tooth myself using pliers, but when I grasped the tooth with the metal prongs, it shattered – the insides had rotted away. I sat in bed that night with tears rolling down considering suicide because at least if I killed myself the studio would be paid off and mom would have a place to live. Got through the night and went and asked a rich man to loan me $1,000 to get my tooth fixed and me back on my feet. He stared at me in silence for a long time, then said he was going to loan me the thousand because if he lost it, it wouldn’t affect him any, but he would be extremely disappointed if I didn’t pay it back because he’d hate to lose our weekly visits and conversation. Took the money, fixed the tooth, bought some clothes to interview in, got a job three weeks later, and had him paid off two months after that.

Three weeks ago I learned at the dentist that one of my two upper front teeth is loose because it hasn’t had a tooth next to it for 15 years to support it and finally just got tired and I’ll be losing it eventually.

I have 9 teeth on top, 13 on the bottom. Today the dentist told me the broken tooth is unsaveable so will pull it tomorrow morning. That’ll leave 8 on top. Getting to the point chewing is becoming an adventure, especially since top and bottom teeth rarely mesh.

Pretty soon I’ll have no teeth and can offer my wife a gum job. The kids in the neighborhood can start calling me a toothless bastard.

Being poor affects your whole life – from what health care you get along the way to what and how you eat (i.e., obesity is more prevalent among the poor because they eat cheaper inferior starchier fatter foods).

I tell you, reality lately seems to be testing me, trying to see what it’ll take to knock me down and keep me down. But I doubt that will work, because no matter what, I always eventually pop back up with whatever is left of me and start slogging that cold empty trail to fame and fortune I’ve been unsuccessfully flogging these past 63 years. Guess they’re going to have to kill me to get me to stop (not that that would break my heart – if it weren’t for Lady, I’d rather have been gone by now anyway).

My only two real fears are that I’m slowly losing my sense of humor, and I’m slowly losing my sense of hope. Both define me to me; I wouldn’t be worth much without them. But even that doesn’t really worry me because the humor only gets darker and edgier, while the will always bounces back eventually – and where there’s will, there’s hope.

a face in the crowd – foto by Smith


Somewhere in the middle of yesterday I stepped in dog poo in my parents’ yard, a real big patty that got both shoes. It was like, a veritable cow patty pile of poo. I was so afraid Yuyu would see them and get grossed out. I’d heard about people from India having a kind of real distaste for anything to do with shoes because of dirt, and especially people of his heritage (Brahmans). I set the shoes aside to clean discretely before we left, and promptly forgot about them.

In the hustle bustle of activity before dinner, my grandmother prepared a pumpkin cream cheese dish to schmear on graham crackers. My aunt was to bring pumpkin pie. As my grandmother stirred the schmear, she became fearful of having crossed some sphere of territory of my aunt’s, that the schmear was too dessert-like and also in competition with the flavor of the pumpkin pie.

Yuyu and I had made kheer for dessert as well. Kheer is called ‘the food of the gods.’ It is holy because it has so much cow milk; cows represent Mother Earth. Kheer takes a labor of love to prepare. It’s like a pudding made of rice, milk, nuts and raisins. I stirred the kheer constantly for an hour as it simmered.

So, I was fearful that I’d set my aunt’s dish up for competition, it having been discussed that there are spheres of territory at this Thanksgiving dinner. But everyone took it in stride, a heap of kheer side by side with pumpkin pie.

As my mom chomped away on some bite of dessert, she bit down onto a hard object. ‘Oh!’ she exclaimed, and pulled something out of her mouth. A penny!

“I don’t know where it came from, the pudding or the pie,” Mom said.

“Well, it couldn’t have been our pudding,” I said.

“It couldn’t have been my pie,” said my aunt.

My mom put the penny in her mouth again. “Pie crust,” she said.

“No, it couldn’t have been the pie,” asserted my aunt.

“You are lucky,” Yuyu said. “Copper is very lucky in my country. You are going to be rich.”

“Penny from Heaven,” I said.

After dessert, we had to leave. I realized then I’d forgotten about the shoes. There was no way to deal with them gracefully other than to borrow my Mom’s shoes and put mine in a plastic bag to ‘isolate’ the contamination. I tucked the bag into a corner of my car trunk.

We drove to the end of my parents’ street. Smith and Yuyu said at once, ‘I smell dog shit.’ So I had to tell them about the bag in the trunk. But the smell was really strong, so it was decided that everyone would get out of the car and check their shoes. Yuyu was fine. The shoes I borrowed from my Mom were fine. But now Smith had stepped in shit. I wonder if it was the same pile.

“I wish I had stepped in the shit,” Yuyu said. “In India, it is considered lucky. It means you are going to get rich.”


blueberry wine

wonder stuff happy bargains delightful doodads neat grabs – foto by Smith

Was going to blog my latest harvest of headlines from the daily news, but that seemed an awfully heartless and curmudgeonish way to start Thanksgiving Day. So I’ll repost my funny philosophical food poem instead. I was 19 when I wrote it, and it’s now 44 years old. Namaste.

Confessions of a Conservative

Let others munch spare frog’s legs and things
Or their mother’s tidbits so fine.

Not me.
I prefer wee bumblebee wings
With a pipe of blueberry wine.

I’ve no desire for porcupine stew
Aunts coated in chocolate yea thick
Fried crocodile
Ala flayed caribou
Or some other chef’s table trick.

A simple table whenever I dine.
Not mine all these modern cuisines.
I’m quite satisfied with blueberry wine
And old fashioned bumblebee wings.

– Steven B. Smith, 1965

Love Me (Chicken) Tenders – foto by Smith


This cultural exchange is different from our experience living in other countries. It is a kind of intensity, living with someone from another culture. When I lived in other countries, it was like a movie, like a chinois wallpaper pattern, a dense incomprehensible strangeness. But having this immediate access to Yuyu is like opening a window into the wallpaper and peering into a galaxy. The myths he describes seem a way of parsing alien archetypes into multiple armed fantasies or bizarre chimeras of improbable combinations. One of his childhood stories: his mother told him that if he didn’t finish even a single grain of rice on his plate, in the next life he would have to pick up the grains of rice with his eyelashes.


The intensity of his drive is like a wakeup call for us, a catalyst for commencing artistic work again in Cleveland.


(Mom is pictured above)

I phoned my Grandmother a couple days ago. She asked a bunch of concerned questions, an edge of caution evident in her voice, asking if he was there now as though he might be listening to our conversation. And if he’s coming to Thanksgiving dinner. And when he was leaving. I told her he tours six months out of the year, that he’s based out of New York.

“I think she worries he’s a scoundrel,” I told Smith afterwards.


“I had no idea what to expect,” I told Mom. “I had some kind of vague idea of an Indian man. Anyways, he’s turned out to be quite the gentleman.”

“You need a rough surface for something to appear,” Mom replied.

“I’m going to steal that line from you.”

“I thought you might. Go ahead.”


poetry people plethora

mid north dining room wall – foto by Smith

If aliens hadn’t stolen my brain years ago, my mind right now would be awash in people, poetry, egos, ids, needs, heeds, feeds, and fatigues.

It’s a shame the aliens did take my brain because I’d hardly ever used it and was thinking of selling it on ebay as new.

But my mindlessness is still taxed, hacked and pre-facted into uselessness from a poetry people plethora, so instead of words I’ll blog two more of my assemblages, one less savory than most.

Road Kill, 1995, 33″ x 18″, Smith – foto by Smith

Some cringe at this one because it contains the front half of a dead turtle (upper right corner of alligator postcard), most of a dead flattened frog with leg bones showing (lower right corner of alligator postcard), and all of a small dead Florida lizard (lower right corner of piece). I conceived of this as road kill stew, so added my baby spoon and fork from 1946 in case the viewer gets hungry. I love to use non-electrical interactive material that changes as people walk by – like 3-D postcards, glitter, mirror shards, etc. The blues are from my liquid copper corrosion creation, while the grays are from my mixture of aluminum powder and acrylic polymer.

WPX5 (for Bird), 1992-2002, 30″ x 20″, Smith – foto by Smith

This is supposed to be a low space orbit radio station for Bird (aka Charlie Parker). Used hologram of a skull, mirrors, costume jewelry, copper corrosion and aluminum powder.