Review of the New Ytown Reading Series and Three Legged – Elephants

When I started writing this blog I was hoping I could review some events in the Youngstown and surrounding area. The first problem with having a Blog is you have to know how to write. I don’t mean just stringing thoughts together but actually using proper punctuation, spelling etc. Remember how you took another language in high school or college? Know how all you can do today is count to ten in Spanish or German. That’s the problem I face today with writing skills. After a couple of years at college and working two jobs and being dirt poor I quit the jobs and college all in one day (more on this another time) bummed around for awhile and got a job in one of our ancestral job sites known as a factory. I then didn’t pick up a pen for decades so I lost all writing skills.

Being someone who was into Punk Rock I realized you didn’t need writing skills to write. I started reading working-class poetry and decided that mixing my industrial background with a less is more, irreverent punk school of thought would be something I could do. Punctuation, spelling be damned (but thank God for Spell check anyway). OK that’s my way of saying I don’t know what the Hell I’m doing but full steam ahead. Nietzsche once said, “It is better for the Three-Legged Elephant to dance foolishly than to never have danced.” In the last decade and a half I have been dancing foolishly a lot.

While working on a monthly labor issue newsletter with some wonderful folks I started writing poetry. I realized I was going to at some point get in front of a crowd and read these poems. I was the guy in high school that wouldn’t take speech because I was afraid to get in front of folks and present something. Well, I have been getting in front of small groups doing readings for over a decade. Yep, I still am uneasy doing it and know I always will be. But by damn this three-legged Elephant doesn’t want to miss dancing.

Back to my wanting to review events in the area. The truth is I really don’t get out enough to be able to review anything. Also, after working with hyperactive kids all day I am hammered by the end of the day. My day at work is full of noisy kids and I really need some quiet when I get home. I love my job but I pretty much took a vow of poverty when I signed on. Truth is with poverty wages a son in college and a daughter going to college next year I really can’t afford to attend very many events.

I loaded up my vehicle with lots of heavy scrap metal today to get a few bucks ahead. At the scrap yard I had to drive down a long road filled with broken glass and scrap metal. I also had to unload all this crap myself. For all my hard work I walked away with the princely sum of $1.43. I will probably end up having to repair a tire for $20 with all the glass I drove over. There is no getting ahead brothers and sisters.

When I do venture out it is usually for some free event. As I mentioned previously my wife suffers from Lupus. Cold weather is especially hard on her so if I do venture out I try not to stay at an event for to long. I actually would like to bring folks to tag along but because I tend to get in and out of an event I don’t bother to ask anyone to come along. I’d actually love to stay some place I’m at longer and socialize. People who know me well will say I’m opinionated, boisterous, and humorous and love to banter back and forth with people. On the other hand if I don’t know you I am not unfriendly just shy.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way let me tell you about an event I attended Monday night. I went to Cedar’s Cafe for the New Ytown Reading Series. Local author, Chris Barzak is putting on this event, which features a visiting writer or poet, followed by an Open Mic. Monday’s speaker was the Akron Beacon Journalist David Giffels. Giffels newest book is, “All the Way Home.” It is a memoir about rehabbing a crumbling mansion in Akron. He has also written, “The Story of Rubber in Akron” and a biography of one of my favorite bands, Devo. He’s won a slew of awards and before you start thinking oh no not some high brow boring shit let me mention he was a writer for “Beavis and Butthead.”

This event featured two things I’m all about first access to beer and the event was free! Cedar’s Cafe has reopened and features tapas and panini sandwiches. I ordered hummus and it was creamy, yummy and a generous portion. I also got a Straub draft for a mere $1. Straub is my favorite beer along with Stoney’s (a great name for a beer) as both have all natural ingredients and are as pure as beer can be. A real working-class punk valued beer. None of that dark beer over yeasty, added flavor crap for me. Drinking that dark crap is like pureeing a loaf of pumpernickel bread and drinking it. What the Hell is with Corona beer? When I visited Mexico almost a decade ago I noticed you couldn’t give Corona away. People called it peasant beer. I learned that was because it was aged less than three weeks and contains corn syrup instead of 100% malted barley. Some how it made it’s way to the USA and is marketed as a top-notch beer. Any beer that people stick a lime in to mask the over sugary taste should be a tip off that the beer sucks. You shouldn’t have to add fruit to a beer just like you shouldn’t have to add mixes to liquor. A whiskey that won’t stand on it’s own isn’t worth drinking.

But I digress and must say I enjoyed David Giffels. He brought back memories of the Bank punk club in Akron and talked about Highland Square. He made me realize I love going to Akron because it reminds me so much of Youngstown. David talked and joked with us about trying to remodel an Akron mansion while trying to convince his wife he was up to the task. The book is a coming of age life story about dealing with an aged house on life support. Dealing with such a remodeling task David wondered at times whether he was breathing life into the home or it was sucking the life out of him.

I enjoyed briefly talking with David about the things I love about Akron. I was glad to learn David had fond memories of being in a band and playing at Cedars. After David there was an Open Mic where local folks shared poetry. Including the elecpencil himself. I don’t think I will ever be comfortable reading my poetry and I have a hard time looking at people after I am done. I really do admire some of the folks that can recite poems off the top of their head, as it’s something I would never attempt to do.

What I do isn’t poetry as much as observations and rants. To me there are only two types of poems, ones you start and ones you finish. I really do try and avoid some poetry readings that are highbrow shit with poems about nature with a ton of adjectives. I’ve been to a few poetry events that feature award winning poems and short stories by people working on their Masters’ of Fine Arts (MFA) and PhDs in creative writing. After hearing their poetry I started to think MFA must mean Mother Fucking Awful. This is the artsy fartsy, boring soulless, sterile academic, uninspiring crap that gives poetry and short stories a bad name. I want to hear short stories and poetry about events and characters that make you laugh, cry and even angry. These kinds of writers and poets are ones who’ve earned their MLE (Master of Life Experience) on the shop floor. If there were any justice in the world these writers would be the award winners who could earn a living by being a writer. I’m glad to say David Giffel is in the later class.

All in all it was a good event and I’d recommend you go next month. Chris Barzak who I’m told is a gifted writer himself (I’m to poor to any longer buy books) is putting on this monthly event. Being in some organizations that put on events I can tell you a lot of work goes into events so I was glad to see a nice size group of audience members. I as usual had to rush home after the event but if my broke, tired old ass can drag itself out for the night than you can to. See you next month at Cedar’s Cafe and bring some poetry to read as we three-legged elephants should stick together. ~ In solidarity ~ the elecpencil


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