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Ticket to Ride is featured in this month’s installment of Bookviews. Bookviews is “a monthly report on the best in new fiction and non-fiction books. [Reviewer] Alan Caruba is a charter member of the National Book Critics Circle and has been reviewing for more than five decades.”

I am thankful for Mr. Caruba’s time and consideration.

__________________________________________________________

In which poem by Dylan Thomas did he write:

The hand that whirls the water in the pool

Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind

Hauls my shroud sail.

And I am dumb to tell the hanging man

How of my clay is made the hangman’s lime.

(Note: This was written on a beautiful day in Northern California. No wind, a high pressure system, temperature around 80; the kind of day during which you just can’t help but feel good.)

Driving to The Golden Gate or

An Ode to Walt Whitman

I

With a “Celtic Wedding” thump, thump, thumping in my ears,

I string my way like sea foam

along the continent of

North America

beating an invisible bodhran

to keep the Irish time.

It’s a day made of, and for, poetry

and I can feel the benevolent leash of my soul

tugging me on,

til I’ve come upon Davenport.

A busy little jewel is Davenport

A town built with brick and timber and constructed of poems

where behind the market counter, a little girl reads little girl romances,

travelers like myself stop to stretch and refresh

and waitresses cater to the internal fire.

Alongside the road, a group of land speculators

have stopped to survey the world,

to them the earth is on sale,

and perhaps it is,

even to the poor speculator such as myself,

as I purchase the land and sky, sea and shore

with a heart and eyes which shine as brightly

as any silver coin,

or in my pocket,

copper.

Do I make a profit from such purchases?

well,

not in cents,

but in senses

as my very pores open to the promise of future investment.

II

Lighthouse points are made of brick and stone

and are the I’s , eyes, and Ayes

of ocean folks

and the protectors of wooden ships

that navigate the zig-zag sea

but they are no more stationary than

You or I

for at night they dance on their lily-pad cliffs

and swim with the thick, elusive fog.

Woolly sheep graze

poets dream

and at Half Moon Bay a hitchhiker

waves his last two dollars in the wind

he’s a desperate man but today

I’m traveling solo,

in the company of God,

and am not in need of the companionship of man,

and besides,

I couldn’t have taken his last two dollars

and I am sure that someone else soon will.

Seabirds, trees, rocks, and weeds,

they’ve all come to congratulate me

for my freedom

and are thankful, that I’ve heard their call.

And as I return their words of praise,

follow their flight,

and contemplate the bend in their forever

I begin to write while still on the road so as not

to lose the lines that offer themselves like

lifeboats,

but then I opt not to enter

their finely planed hulls

nor sit neither stem nor stern

preferring to swim at my own pace,

and slowly,

at the will of what might lurk beneath

conceiving but never confining.

III

The Golden Gate

Gateway to the West

Refuge of the East

An eclectic myriad of men, women and culture,

a global village is San Francisco

painted white to reflect her light into the world.

On the bridge my hands sweat with vertigo-thoughts

as the land relinquishes itself

to the Bay

and I, high above the prospect of the sea,

rejoice in the wonder of the Pacific Northwest

and hiking beneath the bridge,

I stop to eat a pauper’s feast,

then sit like a pelican,

pining away the day

_________________________________________________________

I recently felt forced to defend Ticket to Ride and it came out sounding snobbish and arrogant. If anyone felt put off, you have my apology. Having a popular blog can lead to all sorts of weirdness, like thinking you’re more than just another guy with a laptop. It’s not the first time I’ve taken myself a little too seriously. Perhaps Michael Stipe from REM said it best in the song World Leader Pretend:

This is my world
And I am world leader pretend
This is my life
And this is my time

I have been given the freedom
To do as I see fit
It’s high time I razed the walls
That I’ve constructed

And then there’s this from the U2 song Stand Up Comedy:

Josephine, be careful of small men with big ideas

_______________________________________________________________________

Excerpt: Chapter 11, Ticket to Ride

On assignment  for the New Yorker in Dublin, Livy has a chance “meeting” with a new band called U2 at Trinity College.

Pictures in grey, Dorian Grey, just me, by the sea. And I felt like a star, felt the world could go far, if they listened to what I say…” – U2

Trinity College. Old stone, arches, the Book of Kells, for a pound you can read it. Everything has a price. Music is streaming in through the corridors. Raw, but heartfelt. One o’clock, I’m late, where’s Hope in all this, crowds. The courtyard is full of hippie-ish kids, some with Mohawks and looking very down, all an extension of the Beat. Kerouac, dead in 1969. Didn’t know what he’d created.
“We’re U2 and we’re calling this one, sumthin’ like ‘Whatever happened to Pete the Chop.’” shouted the lead singer.
Like a little coal-miner he is. Coal-miner with blue eyes and soul. Awkward bunch.
“Thank you, don’t mention it… I’m pleased to meet you…” he sang.
Indeed. There’s Hope.
“Heya lovey.” Livy shouted.
Hope turned to the sound of her voice, stepped away from her contingent of all the contingents.
“Hey Liv, you mind if I call you Liv?”
“Fine.”
“Glad you could make it. Aren’t they fuckin’ brilliant.”
“The little one’s like a sawed-off Morrison. Great sound.”
“You missed the first two but these are the best.”
“Come over with me and I’ll introduce ya to some of my friends. Might be a story here.”
“Not looking for stories at the moment. Just cruisin’’ really.”
“Just meet’em. They’re a good lot.”
“The singer keeps lookin’ at me.”
“Look back. Give’m the what for.”
Livy hung with Hope’s friends for awhile but with the volume of the music, they couldn’t speak much.
“Hope says you’re a writer.”
“Sort of.”
“With the fuckin’ New Yorker. I saw that ‘Livy on the Continent’ article. Right down on it girl, hardcore. Sort of, my ass.”
“Thanks love, but it’s really just the one so far.”
“I saw the other bits. Your core girl, core.”
Livy smiled and looked again to the stage. The singer smiled at her and said:
“This next one is for the auburn beauty at the back…
… 11’o’clock, tick tock… one two, three, four….
There was a barrage of guitar and drums. Livy could feel it coming up through her.
… it’s cold outside, it gets so hot in here. And the boys and girls collide to the music in my ears. I hear the children crying and I know it’s time to go…
… I hear the children crying, take meeee home…
Painted face, and I know we haven’t long… we thought that we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong. I hear the children crying and I know it’s time to go… I hear the children… take me home. *
Livy’s knees went funny and she grabbed Hope by the arm and smiled.
“Seventies are about over.”

* from “11 o’clock tick tock” by U2, Island Records

the julian day

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