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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

RIP Joe, our neighbor

Joe LaMagno, who lived across the alley from the bookstore and who was a daily presence in our neighborhood was murdered just half a block away last week on November 22.  We will miss him.

Joe Dead

Joe with Simone with the crooked paw out at the gate,
Joe talking, yelling at the dogs, plaintive but not demanding,
Joe talking slowly and having his cigarette,
Joe coughing,
Joe, everybody's friend,
Joe of no evil,
Joe of no complaint,
Joe with the little pipe and the little stash,
Who would suck until his lungs could get no bigger,
Joe in the cap and the coat, huddled,
Joe of no ambition,
Joe of routine, of stationary positioning,
Joe who preferred the alley to the street,
Protector of dogs,
Of chores and trips to the 7-11,
Joe with his long hair and easy laugh,
Friend to Troy and anyone who wanted to chat,
Joe leaning on the street with two dogs pulling,
Joe who would yell but not discipline,
Joe who reserved his enthusiasm,
Joe who would pour water into a dumpster instead of calling 9-11,
Joe who I never saw eat anything,
Whose place I never visited in the ten years I saw him at the back gate,
Joe who was not a gossip but sometimes had news,
Joe who was not optimistic about life,
Who thought about moving back in with his parents and quitting smoking and drinking,
But liked his routine enough to start it again each day,
Who tried indoor baseball but didn't like it too much,
Who was not old but resigned even so,
Who was not a health nut,
Who smoked and coughed and coughed and smoked and coughed and coughed and coughed,
Who appreciated simplicity,
But was complicated enough to know a simple life was not so simple,
Who wouldn't pick a fight,
Who liked getting high,
Friend to beer,
Whose environmental foot print was quite small,
Who never hit the dogs,
Buzzed sometimes but not drunk,
Who did not demand to be greeted,
Who left without a sound,
Phantom Joe,
But visited, or waited in a pall for visitors,
Who was harmless in every way, but to himself,
Who almost everyone liked,
Joe, pretty content,
Of little means and smaller claims,
Who trained Simone to sit in the open gate but not Jake,
Joe who would praise the sky but not complain about it,
Joe lacking bitterness, knowing humility,
Not unhappy,
Who didn't seize life, but cooperated with most of it,
Whose eye was calm if not always focused,
Who didn't want to interfere,
Joe who would like to help out but was no longer strong,
Who never asked for favors,
Never borrowed a buck,
Who let Simone bark for hours in the middle of the night when she pinned a possum beneath the shed,
Because he couldn't catch her,
"She was wild," he said,
Joe who doesn't expect you to be friendly,
But is always friendly himself,
Joe who not everyone is warm to,
Joe on his way to the 7 -11, walking slowly,
Joe dead on the sidewalk,
Passing quickly into death instead of slowly,
By the hand of someone far more unfortunate than him,
Dead Joe,
Dead Joe,
May his smoke linger in the heavens,
His body mix in the soil,
What does it mean Joe,
That we will only know you now
In our minds,
In our hearts,
In ourselves?

-- Sean Carlson

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Holiday Craft Sale

Our friends at Petti Rosso Cafe, 1101 East Pike, are having a holiday craft sale this Friday from 2pm to 8pm.  Several of the Petti Rosso staff  and others will be selling their wares:  lampshades, knitted hats, glass lanterns, laptop / ipad / iphone covers, cards,  cookies and candy, and other delightful items.  I will be there selling recycled ex-library blank books and some hand printed cards.  I have a new batch of blank books ready to go, thanks to the help of the marvelous Troy Carlson, who is also Pistil Books' packing and shipping department.  I take apart the books, cut the paper, and choose any pages that may be re-bound with the blank pages.  Troy is the one who binds the blank text block, first with glue, then with a drill and thread, adding headbands (the colorful decoration at top and bottom of spine), and a ribbon bookmark.  Then I re-assemble the blank text block back into the library binding.  I hope anyone reading this in Seattle will stop by and say hello.

Reading Notes
I just finished another past issue of Granta magazine with the theme  "Women and Children First", which had a horrific account of the inside of a refugee camp in Rwanda, "The Problem Outside" by Linda Polman.  I'm also reading a collection of short stories called Tales from Firozsha Baag by Rohinton Mistry, set in an apartment complex in Bombay.  I had previously read Mistry's great novel, A Fine Balance.