Eliyahoo Talgam – Embrace the Pain – MP3 Podcast

Eli TalgamMola Coffee is a little café on the east side of Hoboken’s Washington Street. On any given day one can find a motley collection of caffeine seekers, and a cursory glance on this day reveals just such color: a lounge playing jazz pianist woos the passers-by with his portable keyboard; most don’t tip, but he doesn’t seem to care. A deadhead plays his iPod nano while veiled behind a thick cloud of cigarette smoke; a textbook-sized dissection of his favorite band’s lyrics sits before him, and he follows it page by page. A group of bookish youths from the local university ignite Camel Lights and maddeningly try to forget about their school work with each heavy drag. A disturbingly attractive woman studies group psychology at a nearby table, her yellow highlighter poised like a deadly knife above the text. A comic book colorist adds detail to a strongly jowled, cartoonish face that reminds this author of “A Scanner Darkly”; his laptop and stylus-pad double as a studio. By the window a writer struggles with the third chapter of his first novel, a work of historical fiction. In the café’s garden, a bunch of teenagers pseudo-surreptitiously smoke pot; one wonders if they think they are being discreet. Other patrons tap on laptops or turn pages of their books, but most just sit and talk. And if you wait here long enough, on any given day, you will most likely hear the resounding voice of an employee berating the customers for no apparent reason.

“You want a cappuccino? Why should I give you that?” he says in a thick, Israeli, accent. “What have you done for me lately that I should help you?”

It’s a joke, of course, yet you can’t help but stutter. He speaks curtly with one customer, and in a complete reversal of tone that throws you off guard if you’re not paying attention, he speaks endearingly and charmingly to another. His abrasiveness, you see, is reserved for those he knows and cares about, a kind of inside joke. And though his first language is not English, his retorts are always eloquent, as if prepared before-hand, but inside his beleaguered pauses you can almost see the gears turning inside his head. It’s impossible not to notice this loud, witty man with a shaved head and glasses as he bounces from one end of the café to the other, commenting unabashedly.

And after a time sitting, sipping your coffee, you begin to realize that this is all part of the banter of this place, that the motley collection of people come in here not just for the coffee, but for the conversation, the atmosphere — perhaps even just for him.

His name is Eliyahoo Talgam, though he goes by Eli (a name that rhymes with “Eddie”). And though he is hesitant to call himself a poet, Eli has been writing poetry for more than twenty years.

“By not calling myself a poet,” Eli says, “I avoid the criticism that goes with the title.”

And he is very much a self-made creation. For a few weeks, next to the café’s register, there was a piece of paper with the word “unfortunately” translated into several dozen languages, each in unique handwriting. The translations were provided by the customers, awaking the patrons (and this author) to the incredible diversity of the coffee shop, but the genesis of this idea was solely Eli’s. Today, there sits a scribbling book on the counter where anyone can write down their thoughts. Flipping through its pages one finds everything from laments against the current political situation, to poetry, to teenage scrawls about “How much I [heart] Mola coffee.” This scribble book is also his creation.

“Since an early age I was involved with art in many different forms,” he says. “I wrote poems and short stories, and created some music which has appeared around the world.”

Born in Jerusalem, but a Tel-Aviv-nik at heart, he came to the US three and a half years ago. Originally published in Israeli newspapers, his Hebrew poems garnered some acclaim, but he has only recently started writing again in English. Yet, in only two short months, his English poems, posted on his website, Florecita Plastika, have attracted wide attention, including a guest appearance on Radio Hudson.

“His poems are deeply personal,” says Melissa Knott, a co-worker of Eli’s. “Yet they are naked and obvious to readers.”

On thing is certain: they are powerful, even with the occasional mistake.

“There’s a quality [in Eli’s poems] that only a non-native speaker of a language possesses, the combination of verbs is more concise and clever than a trained speaker could concoct,” Melissa says.

Sometimes abrasive, yet endearingly compassionate, fiercely dedicated to his son, often to the chagrin of others, unstoppably creative yet totally approachable, Eli Talgam took time out of his busy life to sit with me and discuss his poetry. The mp3 podcast is below.

Eli Talgam Interview
Eli Talgam Interview (27 minutes, 25 Mb)

(Eli has graciously offered to be available for comments on this post)

The Jim Hans, Hoboken Extraordinaire Podcast

Jim Hans.  Can you dig?(As Published in Sybil’s Garage No. 3. Click here to order the magazine).

The story goes something like this: One sunny early autumn day I was strolling down Third Street in Hoboken, heading towards Washington Street when I happened upon a small gate sale. I browsed the various items for a few minutes when a home-grown magazine from the late 70s called Time Machine caught my eye. Full of beautiful engravings and drawings from the early 20th century, as well as letters from Buckminster Fuller and other notables, articles of opinion, comedy, and history, the magazines begged to be purchased. And each of these treasures was only $1. I grabbed the lot of them and went to buy, when an innocent looking man named Jim said, “Oh, you like those? I got more in the back.”

He returned with a stack of several more, remarking, “Those were real fun to make.” I then connected the dots — rather slowly — that this Mr. Jim Hans was the creator of this wonderful magazine. I later found out, Jim holds more secrets. He was the founder of the Hoboken Historical Museum, and his book of history, 100 Hoboken Firsts was recently released by them.

An entire room of his home is filled with the most fascinating items from the beginning of last century. He currently lives in Hoboken with his wife, Beverly. This interview took place a few weeks after our encounter. (We weren’t expecting to release this as a podcast, so please excuse our “ums” and “wells” and verbal hopscotch. A (heavily edited) transcription of this interview is included in Sybil’s Garage No. 3

Interview Part 1 (29:43)

Interview Part 2 (28:42)

To purchase Sybil’s Garage No. 3, please click here.

“New York City vs. The World” by Lauren McLaughlin

New York City Vs. The World

by Lauren McLaughlin
to the sound of Radiohead’s Amnesiac…

As published in Sybil’s Garage No. 2.
This story is also available as a podcast.


I’m afraid the answer has to be no.

Did you even consider my request?

No. Not really.

Mind if I ask why not?

The answer is no.

Yeah I got that. Some elaboration would be nice.

None is required.

It friggin’ is to me.

Yes I know. That is the root of the problem.

What problem?

The fact that you require me to explain myself.

Look, don’t get uppity with me, World. I made an honest request backed up by a rock solid argument. Now I ain’t some nobody you can flick away like a goddamn fly. I’m New York City for chrissakes.

And you feel this merits greater consideration?

You’re goddamn right I do.

You’re wrong.

Look. He doesn’t like me. I don’t like him. Let’s stop pretending.

You need each other.

I don’t need anyone.

You’re wrong.

And if recent events are any indication, Uncle Sam doesn’t need anyone either.

Wrong again.

Other than geography, what do we have in common?

More than you realize.

You know I’m not without options here, World. You don’t authorize this separation, I’ve got steps I can take.

They won’t work.

Yeah? Let’s say I shut down, take a snooze. Cut my monkey base loose.

You’d never do that, New York.

Wouldn’t I? Imagine it. An over-crowded city full of aggressive people with no sense of community. Wouldn’t be long before productivity declined, the infrastructure collapsed, markets went haywire. Ouch. What happens to Uncle Sam then?

What happens is this, New York: Uncle Sam expends enormous resources bringing you back to life while renewing his love for you.

Temporary. The love is always temporary.

Yes, and if Uncle Sam deems you unstable in the long run, he quietly begins moving operations elsewhere.

Are you threatening me with brain drain?

I’m merely forecasting a future it’s in your interests to avoid.

‘Cause the best brains are right here, baby. And they ain’t going nowhere.

You honestly believe that, don’t you.

Try and dispute it.

I think Silicon Valley might dispute it.

One trick pony.

You see. This is why you have trouble getting along, New York. You’re so arrogant, so self-absorbed. That’s why others resent you.

Who are you kidding? That’s why they love me. Why do you think their monkeys spend so much time watching me on TV?

Morbid curiosity.

Fine. They resent me. Uncle Sam resents me. Isn’t that what I’ve been trying to say? We don’t like each other. Let’s do like the song says and call the whole thing off.

You know as well as I do that consenting to this separation would set a dangerous precedent. How long before Staten Island requests a separation from you?

I’ll throw her a farewell party.

Cute. And don’t think I’m ignorant of Manhattan’s ambition for autonomy. Where does it end? East Side versus West Side, Uptown versus Downtown, block versus block? You see where I’m going with this.

Well don’t let’s blow this out of proportion. All I’m saying is geography ain’t everything. Ask Internet. Ask Capitalism. Geography is meaningless. And geography is the only thing tying me to Uncle Sam. I’m telling you, we’re a bad fit.

I don’t see why.

Of course not. But you didn’t take a black eye from Jihad because of Uncle Sam.

I take a black eye from Jihad every day, New York.

Sure, sure, but you’ve got to cop to that, World. Jihad is part of you. He ain’t part of me.

Actually–

Don’t even say it. Jihad is not part of me.

Fine. I’ll let you cling to that delusion for now.

And stop with the tone, for Christ sake. I’m struggling here, World. I gotta make room for every genius, crackpot, refugee, crook, and capitalist from the far-flung corners of your monkey base. Every misfit you spit out, I absorb. That’s a friggin’ jungle of inconsistencies I gotta manage. I don’t have room for Jihad. And I don’t have room for Uncle Sam neither. The crazy bastard keeps sticking his tongue out at everybody. When they want a little payback guess who they hit? Yours truly. Is that fair?

We’re all in this together, New York.

This? What “this?”

Don’t play dumb.

I ain’t playing.

Then you disappoint me.

Look, if you’re telling me I’ve got to stick it out with Uncle Sam for some great and noble purpose, make with the details.

You know perfectly well that my purpose is greater integration.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So you keep saying. But what’s the point. So you integrate us. Big whoop. You bring Jihad and Zionism together. You integreate red states with blue states. You merge France with freakin’ anybody. What’s the up side? Besides you bland us all out into the same boring beige.

Do you have something against beige?

Yeah. It’s not as slimming as black.

New York, of all of the cultural entities on this lovely planet of ours, you should know that integration does not mean assimilation.

Yeah, sure. It doesn’t mean that to me. That’s exactly what it means to Uncle Sam. A Wal-Mart in every town and a McDonald’s on every corner. And he wants to spread this over the whole planet. Like Euro Disney wasn’t travesty enough. You’re being suckered, World. Uncle Sam has you wrapped around his fat little finger.

I assure you that is not the case.

I ain’t assured.

I want you to see something, New York.

Don’t go changing the subject on me.

Over there. That Yoga studio on Broadway.

You’re changing the subject.

I am not changing the subject. I am merely digressing momentarily so as to elucidate my underlying point.

I am ‘merely digressing momentarily’–What have you swallowed a dictionary or something?

Do you see that man? Third yoga mat from the left?

You mean the one with the peek-a-boo shorts?

Yes, that one. What do you think he’s doing?

Sleeping?

Come on.

Alright, alright. He’s trying to meditate. So?

How much do you know about this man?

What’s to know? He’s an investment banker. Bored with his job. Girlfriend just dumped him.

That’s all you see?

I see that he needs to invest in some new shorts.

What else?

Is there a point to this?

What else do you see?

I see that he’s feeling guilty about the fifteen pounds he’s put on since he got the ax.

That’s it?

He’s thinking about a career in environmental advocacy.

Look closer.

When he gets some shorts that cover his privates I’ll look closer.

Interesting.

If that’s interesting, World, you need to get out more.

You really don’t see what’s going on there, do you?

I see what I see.

But you don’t see what matters.

So enlighten me, you’re so smart.

That man is in pain, New York. His life is disintegrating.

Hold on a minute. Let me unpack my violin.

He’s in so much pain, New York, he’s trying to break through.

Break through what?

The limitations of his consciousness. He’s searching for the next level. He’s searching for us.

Bullroar. That guy doesn’t know we exist. None of them do.

Sure they do. They call us culture or the collective unconscious. They know we compel them in mysterious ways. They just don’t realize we’re conscious. But I think they’re starting to suspect something.

A guy takes a nap at the gym and you think he’s suddenly smart enough to comprehend us?

Not yet, New York. One human mind is capable of very little.

Tell me something I don’t know.

But link them together and they give rise to something much greater.

Yeah. They give rise to us.

Indeed. But that is not their purpose.

It is from my point of view.

You see. This is what I’m talking about, New York. You’re so self-absorbed, you think humans exist for no other purpose than to serve you.

Hey, I serve them too. They keep coming, don’t they? Why do you think rents are so high?

You’re not serving this man very well. His life is falling apart.

Boo effin’ hoo. He’s in pain. He needs my help. Everybody needs my help. I ask for a little help, for a little well deserved break from this three hundred pound gorilla on my back, and what do I get? I get the goddamn middle finger, that’s what I get.

Let me ask you something, New York.

Ooh, what’s this? Another change of subject?

Do you ever wonder what’s beyond us?

Whoa! There it is, ladies and gents, a shiny new subject.

Well, do you?

You’re about to get philosophical, aren’t you?

You’ve never thought about it? You’ve never wondered what exists beyond our own consciousness?

Tell you what, World. I’m gonna rest my eyes for a minute while you philosophize. Keep your eye on my city, will ya’.

You know in some ways we’re way behind our human base. They know we exist even if they don’t fully understand us. We, on the other hand, can’t even sense the level above us.

Zzzzzzzzzz.

You’re bluffing, New York.

Yeah, but what if I weren’t?

Point taken. We’ll return to the subject of your proposed separation from Uncle Sam in a minute. I was only hoping that if you understood my greater purpose, it would put your own concerns into perspective.

What greater purpose?

Have you not been paying attention? My purpose is to find the next level of consciousness.

What makes you think there’s a next level?

Matter gives rise to life. Life evolves consciousness. Conscious beings evolve culture. Cultures evolve consciousness. Why would it stop there?

‘Cause we’re enough?

That’s right, New York. We’re the crowning achievement of the universe. Even humans don’t believe that any more. What if there’s more? What if we were meant to integrate with cultures from other worlds? What if the consciousness of the universe is a creature waiting to be born from the integration of all conscious entities within it?

Did you say other worlds?

I most certainly did.

And how do you intend to find these other worlds?

That’s what we need our human base for.

Hold on. Hold on. Are you talking about space travel?

I am.

That’s the great and noble purpose all this integration bullshit is serving? Some pie in the sky dream of communing with little green men?

Not with little green men, New York. With their cultures.

But these monkeys haven’t even gotten their asses to the next planet yet.

Perhaps if they combined their efforts more seamlessly–

Oh I get it. Right. Let me tell you something about space travel, World. When the monkeys do finally slingshot themselves out of the solar system, here’s what I see. I see a tin can full of starving, horny beasts on a one-way rendezvous with a supernova because they forgot to convert imperial to metric. I hope you got a back up plan.

I am paying close attention to the search for radio signals.

Anyway, if you’re gonna rest your hopes on the Keystone cops down here, you should forget about integration. You’re better off letting us splinter.

Why?

The monkeys got their asses to the moon by competing, not cooperating. What you need is a space race.

You make a good point, New York.

Don’t act so surprised.

But there is one flaw to your argument.

No way. It’s airtight.

Competition is an effective motivator. But space travel and missile technology are far too intricately linked now. Without cooperation, the technology to take our human base to other worlds will most likely destroy them before they get there. And us along with them.

Scare monger.

Deep down, New York, you know it’s true.

I know what I know.

Deep down, you understand why integration is the only way.

Maybe I do, maybe I don’t.

You are integration, New York. You are the great coming together of people and all that they bring with them.

Flatterer.

I know it’s not easy, but integration is your destiny.

So all this is my fault.

It’s your burden perhaps. But don’t pretend you’d have it any other way.

There’s that tone again.

I’m only stating the obvious, New York.

Alright. Alright. I guess it serves me right for letting that hundred foot broad stand in my river and invite everyone over.

Precisely. And don’t forget, New York. She’s standing in Uncle Sam’s river too.

Ooh. Good one.

Do you understand now why I must refuse your request?

Yeah, yeah. Don’t rub it in. Anyway, you know I had to ask.

Of course. You wouldn’t be New York if you didn’t. Now tell me, what are you going to do for that man on the yoga mat?

He’ll be fine.

He needs you, New York. More than ever.

Christ, I don’t know. A friend of his ex-girlfriend works for the Sierra Club. I guess I could arrange for them to run into each other at a party.

Very good.

Yeah, I’m a friggin’ saint.

Hardly. But saints aren’t what I need.

No. What you need are martyrs.

All for a great and noble cause, New York.

So you keep saying.

Sh. Listen. Do you hear that?

No.

Neither do I. But they’re out there, New York. Somewhere. Waiting for us to find them.

Yeah. Sure they are.

And just like that man on the yoga mat, I’ll never give up until I hear them.

Well, do me a favor then.

What’s that?

When you hear them, tell them to shut up already. It’s noisy enough down here.

The End

© Copyright 2005 Lauren McLaughlin & Senses Five Press