An Ode to Tarnopol

(© 2004, Scott A. Josephson. All rights reserved.)

"It all changed when The Beatles recorded 'Rain'," offered the man who cooked me dinner -- who, since I started working a full-time job, I have considered my sage.

Pour another trothful of wine -- better yet fill my glass halfway, otherwise I will spit to spill volumes characteristic.

Nestled we were in mile-long suburbs, sprouting train stations across lush, tree-stretching swamplands -- there eternal shared a man and a woman and a newly 25-year old boy, one duplex, voter registration, raw fish weekend loaded down in nostalgia burdened not by the weight broken by a thousand iconic Helens of Troy, or Flemington, as it were.

Hearken a time in my life when my friends were still in college, my cynicism less dry, my eyelids torrential less dry -- East Village emptiness, ice walks slippery -- bound West for A, C, E train and West 4th and the gaping disappointment that would be the Summer of 2001, despite the light illumination of forever under construction granite Arch.

Whisk my body to the shift of 24, seated agape adjacent to Boston lilac, crushing passionate Italian -- brown bags piled after jug after jug of nectar Neopolitan. Dizzying, narrow Philadelphia -- its grey and dusty, terrifyingly tiny avenues winding -- and who puts a bathroom atop a staircase mighty in a bar frequented by the already trashed eternal?

Expense me alcohol and Bombay Chicken salads, hungover and hungering for bodily smarm with the other Assistant Directors, if only for a snatch of a second -- name I cannot our hotel, or anything at all learned at this, our inaugural training -- but that many of us are now Directors or fired or in a sphere now where Philly matters not -- but I cannot cease remembrance, vivid were it earlier this evening: NJ Transit trek downwards, Ed and a bag of Chips Ahoy! and charming lesson historic of what New Yorkers term the Midwest, and the working-class bridge spanning Trenton -- switching trains, crossing tracks; the rotund, unbearable Asian girl weaving her way to the Electric Factory for evening concert and gabbing until Ed couldn't grace us with his Mark McKinney grin any longer.

25 now and all the less secure. Has it been two years since I have done anything theatrical?

Image of myself, accompanied by ageless thirty-somethings -- beings brilliant who at once escalated this town as academics shining -- streets sidelined, brick-lined walls bordering fields and halls and an aching city whining, once capital of infant nation, now tented and shrieking, spelling out my name on SEPTA buses, spanning Allentown to Schuylkill County, and all those Morrissey-less miles in tandem.

Oh city, how thy pain speaketh in syllables this suburban fetus at once understands in ways uncounted, and in longing I knoweth thine misfortune!


I think maybe I started to get something in that hot, midday Philadelphia sun -- perhaps not as reveling as the burgeoning autumn of Waltham '99 -- but an uncertain loneliness, or the shadow of John Kerry, and white Toyota, poised and pointed to defeating a highway, battling toll booths and Atlas maps where roads intersect relationships and Conshohocken, 15 years ago -- basement hockey, friendships locked in the ruination of the backseat of dueling attorneys' Mercedes, the end of elementary and the onslaught of silent highschool, four years sweatpants, two years jeans -- but friendless all the same.

Philadelphia, 1987: wide-eyed white boy clinging to his souvenir Liberty Bell, standing on tip-toes to spot Sun Chair -- smelling, sensing history; seeing a nation now emblazoned over, blanketed, blinded red, white, and blue in SpringFest horrific.

Please freeze me until reality TV and Atkins slip on the ice and crack their fucking head open and die. I don't care if that means cutting my head off, it's a worthwhile sacrifice. Just piece me the fuck back to together better than they tried to in that choking, awful mistake I think they call high school.

Philadelphia, 2003: how our pain is mirrored, mired all the same. Drown your ADs in Chinese food, Dunkin Donuts, family-style Italian gorging -- you cannot pay us enough, offer us a million margarited Mauis, and still expect happiness or an output of success overloaded. Feel me then, one year after birthday bliss dissected in July email, stringing my body across the Brooklyn Bridge, resurrected only by familial cell phone conversational reassurance and smiling, mind-conquering, long-haired brunette traipsing tight-wires across opposite direction -- stopped only by plaques and my own childish, dimpled smile, too often masked brown, under tinted sunglasses, mangy facial hair, but most of all, wroughtless frown.


John Kerry will win Pennsylvania's electoral vote courtesy of a young man who registered to vote in Virginia while in college whom I approached -- unaware of his inability to vote in his home state of PA, I registered him -- my one bite of the day entire, but a weekend worthwhile not for a tent bursting with ignorant, striped shirt college know-nothings -- but a 22-year old clutching a tank topped girlfriend, soothing his 4 year absence in his promise of sweet return. That embrace -- not $3 drafts, nor blondes in tight shirts, nor cover bands, nor cigarettes, nor Volkswagons, nor singles websites -- is America.


Perch me at the foot of your couch and speak with me past midnight. Inflate my mattress in your work-study, piled floor to ceiling windows of knowledge, tomes teeming -- like your minds Mensa -- of a life examined, fulfilled, puzzled questioning -- accepting neither self-destruction any longer nor denying destiny not for the loss of New York, finances, or the integrity that never comes with working tireless for corporations unscrupulous.

Drive me to the foot of New Jersey, feed me cheesesteaks -- stick me in the sun until I'm no longer shy. Let me forget what you know is no longer worth knowing.

Give me yet another reason to live onward, for you always provided me with a fair chance and a sound logic and never the condensed bullshit a boss is told belongs in the esteemed realms of proper management.

Resume scripting poetry for you are the gifted one -- for I know you hunched, peering over keyboard inspired -- or biking and drumming and typing a misery I can never know. And you consider me the fortunate one, but I have always believed that you possess the strength to overcome even yourself.

If there's one thing you've taught me, it's that I am exceptional -- but I've never really believed you and I don't think I will until maybe when I reach my 30th birthday. And at least by then, George Bush can't possibly be President.


  1. This one's from my Kerouac phase, originally posted to my blog after a weekend visit with Dug and Donna just after my 25th birthday.

    Since I'm not sure Dug had a chance to read it, I thought I'd share, since it's not characteristic of my usual writing style, but something I'm proud of nonetheless -- and inspired by the Tarn himself.

  2. Very cool -- thanks!

    Donna enjoyed it, too.

    I like the style quite a bit, btw.

  3. It's hard to see myself as a sage, though, I must admit. But I appreciate the thought!

  4. I love the style! It was dizzying!

    Question: This was written before doug's wedding, right?

    Doug, it is so awesome to imagine you in this story... I mean, you could fit into that

    Sage as in honored for wisedom and experience?

    Is the character himself "sage?"

  5. Thanks for the kind words!

    Yes, this was penned nearly a year and a half before Dug's wedding, when he and his lady were living in quaint Edison, NJ.

    I have always admired Dug for his wisdom and experience -- that's not to say he's ancient, but older in a mature (yet immaturely cool) way you can only respect. He was always like a camp counselor at work.

    As to whether my narrative voice is sage is questionable -- as writers and humans, we're always learning.

  6. I find the "sage" part hard to picture insofar as it denotes wisdom. The age part is taking care of itself! LOL.

    Does anyone else think Ali G is hilarious? I saw a clip today that was so funny I literally almost wet myself.

  7. Yea, I'd agree that your gettin up there... And since age denotes experience, and experience leads to wisdom (experience is defined in as "the sum of learning through the ages"), I'd say you've made yourself sage.

    So in conclusion, you are an old wise man!

  8. The only sage I'm familiar with is in a bottle on my spice rack!

    But I appreciate the thoughts, even though I don't recognize myself in them.


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