From A Poet In Center City ('12)


It’s early 2004. Elizabeth died a year ago; I’ve cut ties with Joe Miller. I’m doing a reading in Northern Liberties for an online journal called Lunge. It’s not just me— there’s a bunch of bands playing, short films, and a team of technicians doing “ambient.” The crowd is a hundred-plus; the mood is festive. The multi-media angle reminds me so much of Swinging London (my imagination of it) that I get an intense frisson. It occurs to me that now might be the time to write the second chapter of This Charming Lab— that the moment might be germane for it. Meanwhile, Bill Rosenblum is producing an album for me. We’re recording at his pad at Eleventh and Webster— “Webster Street Studios.” The album was supposed to be just spoken-word; but we expanded and expanded until it looked like we would reach an album’s full of songs. Through Bill, I’m introduced to what the Highwire Gallery is, in the Gilbert Building on the PAFA (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts) campus. I begin to put pieces together— this is where I could stage the sequel I’ve been cognating. The curator is an erstwhile roadie for the Grateful Dead— Jim O’Rourke. He’s older— short, thin, intense, a redhead. The Highwire is a space to die for; several rooms, all with high ceilings, including one which looks like a cleared-out factory space. Still, the man-power is missing; I need running-buddies for this new “trip.” Simultaneously, I graduated magna cum laude from U of Penn and geared up for grad school.


I met John Rind at the Last Drop at around this time. John was twenty, and had been raised in Center City by an interesting family. His Mom was a therapist; his deceased father had been a hustler and a card-shark; his brother, who was my age, had been murdered on a college campus years before; and his older sister was a burgeoning fashionista in New York. The tragedies in John's life gave him a precocious sense of humanity; he carried himself like someone who had been through crises. He was extraordinarily good-looking: 6'3, thin, with piercing brown eyes and curly dark hair. Providentially, he was also artistic— a junior at University of the Arts, majoring in film. His nexus was all artistic kids. U of Arts (Sara Blount was another grad) has its own social niche in Center City— the archetypal U of Arts undergrad is a snotty, sexy, know-it-all brat who WILL make it, by hook or crook. Older Philadelphians take for granted that these kids will soon be derailed by circumstance into eternal waiters, bartenders, and service-industry goons. But John's not snotty with me at all (as Sara is). His attitude is flexible and open. He's also a damned good hustler— between his imposing height, looks, charm, and barfly style (he's also precociously sub-alcoholic), he can only be an asset. To add even more sauce, John is an active bisexual. He oozes seduction in all directions out of all of his pores. Furthermore, we wind up working together at B & N, which assures us a context and constant contact. This is how the fun started— the sense that John and I were a team.