nobody but you

Over the weekend I finished reading Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way, a book of poems by Charles Bukowski.

One of the last poems in the book, nobody but you, serves as a punctuation mark and a pep talk from the late author to all human beings.

After reading it, I imagined Bukowski, an avid horse racing bettor, standing up in the grandstand at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California.

Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California.

Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California.

I pictured him holding a microphone and shouting the words of the poem to the people around him and the crowd below.

He would say: “OK listen up, this is what I have to say. I’m only gonna say it once.”

And in a rough voice he would recite his poem:

nobody but you

nobody can save you but
you will be put again and again
into nearly impossible
they will attempt again and again
through subterfuge, guise and
to make you submit, quit and/or die quietly

nobody can save you but
and it will be easy enough to fail
so very easily
but don’t, don’t, don’t.
just watch them.
listen to them.
do you want to be like that?
a faceless, mindless, heartless
do you want to experience
death before death?

nobody can save you but
and you’re worth saving.
it’s a war not easily won
but if anything is worth winning then
this is it.

think about it.
think about saving your self.

your spiritual self.
your gut self.
your singing magical self and
your beautiful self.
save it.
don’t join the dead-in-spirit.

maintain your self
with humor and grace
and finally
if necessary
wager your life as you struggle,
damn the odds, damn
the price.

only you can save your

do it! do it!

then you’ll know exactly what
I am talking about.

Bukowski, Charles. Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way. New York: Ecco (An imprint of HarperCollins Publishers), 2003.

After receiving thunderous applause, Bukowski would say, “That’s it. Enough poetry for today. I need to go make an exacta bet—six and four in the fifth.”

He would drop the microphone and head toward the betting windows, getting lost in the crowd of other patrons. It’s a fitting image since the man is gone but his words remain with us.


Where Do You Want To Go?

I found this piece of paper recently on a shelf in the Biblio Gallery, a small art exhibition and study space located on the fourth floor of E.S. Bird Library at Syracuse University.

Where Do You Want To Go?

Where Do You Want To Go?

No text accompanied the sheet. And the open-ended question perplexed me. Did the writer mean “where do you want to go” for vacation or relocation? I wondered if the gallery had a hidden camera tucked behind the wall, with the lens zooming in on me, to pinpoint which city my eyes hovered on.

I thought about the question again and decided to play the game with the intention of making a new home in one of the cities.

I stared at the photo thumbnails. The 12 cities are, in order on the page: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, Washington, DC, Denver, Boston, San Francisco, St. Louis, Phoenix and Las Vegas.

Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC and New York would provide the best career options for me, since I work in the field of media/communications, specifically video production.

After I finished college in the early 1990s, I dreamed of going to Los Angeles and working in the film industry, starting out as a production assistant and working my way up the movie business food chain. Instead I went to graduate film school in Washington, DC and then started working in journalism because I needed to repay my student loans.

But even today, more than 20 years later, the dream of residing in California still tantalizes me. I think about golden sunsets, waves crashing along the beach, gleaming skyscrapers and making friends with laid back Angelenos who can point out art house movie theaters, historic Hollywood architecture and the best places to go for authentic Mexican food.

I still get giddy when I see a California license plate standing out in a snow-covered parking lot in the middle of a Syracuse winter. And I desire to see my first and last name on an envelope followed by a California mailing address. I would probably buy colorful return address labels so I could attach them to the Christmas cards I would mail to my family and friends in central New York, rubbing it in that I would be warm during the holidays while they would be freezing.

But I think the best part of living in LA would be being able to listen to Vin Scully announce Dodger games and watching live thoroughbred races at Santa Anita Park.

Dodger Stadium. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

I looked at the sheet again and made my selection. It was definitely LA.

Of course I understand the risks of living in Southern California—the threat of droughts, wildfires, earthquakes, high crime and the insane traffic on the freeways. But I think I’d like to give it a shot.

And if it doesn’t work out, I could always pack up and drive cross-country back to Syracuse, where I could sit in my living room and make plans to go somewhere else. I could pull out the sheet I found at the library, cross out Los Angeles and say, “one down, eleven to go.”

But I considered the question again: “Where Do You Want To Go?” And two different thoughts popped into my head. One is … I could be happy living in any one of the 12 cities on the list, as long as I have a decent job and a place to live. And the second thought is … why do I have to go somewhere else? Why do I have to leave?

Is it possible to be happy right here in Syracuse? Or do I need to reside in one of these major cities in order to prove to myself that I’m successful, that I’ve made it, that I’ve lived up to my potential?

I’m still trying to answer those questions. So I’ll ask you: “Where Do You Want To Go?”