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CHRISTMAS EVE EVE

It’s Christmas Eve Eve

it’s time to decide

On which side of “Naughty or Nice”

You reside.

I’ve minded the ledger

for three-sixty-three

to know which stockings to fill

and which to leave empty.

By today for most people

it’s perfectly clear,

but for some tomorrow

will decide their whole year.

For those still “TBD”

(and you know who you are)

perhaps take this last chance

to shine like a star,

To be grateful and generous

thoughtful and kind,

more orange-soda-sweet

than old-lemon-rind.

You say it’s too late?

Rest assured that’s not true.

Each tomorrow’s a new chance

To make a better you.

So on Day Three-Six-Four of this year,

here’s the trick:

Be nice.  Tip the scales.  You’ll be glad.

Signed, St. Nick.

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This, one of my favorite Norman Rockwell covers was published on December 16, 1939.
For more of Rockwell’s classic Christmas images, click here.

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CHRISTMAS CLOUD COVER

Christmas night rain
Was causing trepidation
For reindeer who worked
Through precipitation.

There were no good galoshes
To cover a hoof
And also give traction
To walk on a roof.

A red nosed windshield wiper
Had not been invented
A slicker for antlers
Nowhere could be rented.

So wet Christmas Eves
Rudolph would fear
Along with his team
Until finally one year,

They became so distracted
Checking the weather
Their boss caught wind of
His team’s ruffled feathers.

Mrs. Claus heard and said,
“Let me ring a friend.
I bet once and for all
Their concerns we can end.”

A couple weeks later,
It was early December,
A large package arrived addressed
KRINGLE TEAM MEMBERS.

As he opened it Saint Nick whispered,
“What have we got here …
SAINT ELLA UMBRELLA’S
REINDEER RAIN GEAR’?!?”

“Just in time,” said Mrs. Claus
walking in, “it’s arrived.
Ella said she could help.
I knew that was no jive.”

The Reindeer Rain Gear
In the box was a boon,
With it on Santa’s team
Hoped they’d face a monsoon:

Water tight goggles,
Impervious slickers,
Treaded hoof booties,
Fur sealing knickers,

All there among Saint Ella
Umbrella’s tricks,
The Reindeer Rain Gear
For a wet Christmas fix,

Thanks to Mrs. Claus
And the power of friends,
Since that year the reindeer
Viewed rain through a new lens.

Hohohawks #christmascards #hawkman #dccomics #fatherandson #christmas #justiceleague

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CLEMENTINE WHO

To the tune of
“O, My Darling,”
did a Mama sing sweetly,
to her girls,
Rose and Mary,
when they were just
one and three:

‘Sissy Ro-Ro,
Sissy Ro-Ro,
Sissy Ro-Ro,
Sissy Mare!
Sissy Mare-Mare,
Sissy Mare-Mare,
Sissy Mare-Mare,
Sissy Ro!’

As they grew up
Rose and Mary
Agreed Mama’s words were fine.
So not ‘till now in
this here story,
did they hear of
Clementine.

STANDUP STORY

There once was a bird
who wanted to be
any bird
but the one
that he was:
an ostrich named Stanley.

Sometimes he’d act like
the macaw
(you’d guffaw)
or a chick
(it was sick)
bird of prey
(yech…no way!)

Even more than those acts
that Stan couldn’t master
other tries were plain bad,
no worse,
a disaster:

His strut recalled peacocks
less than it did newts,
his night hunting efforts
made every owl hoot.

And when he carried on
like some bird he wasn’t
the Small Stan inside him ‘tsked,
“Big Stan you mustn’t.

“You’re an ostrich,
Be proud if your head’s in the ground!
Don’t clown cluck around
like The Birdbrain of Town!”

Some messages
the first time
are loud and clear,
while others
don’t arrive
for some reason
for years …

So it was one day it hit Stan
And he could see,
“What I really know how to be best
is me.
Not them
or they
or he
or she.

The feathers of others don’t fit on my frame
And trying to force them has made me look lame.”

So Stan said to himself,
“Let’s forever agree
For you to be you
And me to be me.”

From then till forever
Stanley didn’t mince,
Nor did that old ostrich
once lack confidence.

BIG BREAK

Half way through October
Columbus is my best friend
For his famous trip that led us to
A three day-long weekend.

The next month comes the long weekend
When three days turn to four:
When we say, “Thanks, Thanksgiving,
For serving us that much more!”

There’s the great week-long weekends in
December and the spring,
They make me smile, yes,
But only one weekend makes me sing:

It begins the day that school lets out
Sending fun into high gear:
It’s the biggest best break ever,
The Longest Weekend of the Year.

At the start of it the end of it
Looks way further away
Than the New World looked from Europe
On an explorer’s set-sail day.

On this magical most-long weekend
That lasts a quarter year
You don’t need navigation,
It’s permissible to veer

From late nights to slow mornings,
There’s no brakes on this big break:
The Longest Weekend of the Year
Means having and eating your cake.

And when sadly in late August
The Longest Weekend ends
You’ll appreciate again Columbus,
Our three-day-gifting friend.

ON ARA

Click the link above to visit Instagram and see both photos from the Ara Parseghian statue at the Miami University Cradle of Coaches.  

NEW BIG DOG

UPDATED 9/18/17: To see this poem as a fully photo illustrated STELLER STORY, click here.

Up in the Hudson Valley
Lived a dog named Zo
He was always the biggest pooch
Wherever he would go.

Weighing more than most grownups,
Even far away he looked tall,
“No dog in all this land,” thought Zo,
“Could ever make me feel small.”

As he started each day
That was Zo’s world view
It kept his sun warm,
Made his sky extra blue.

And that’s how it was
As he strolled a new street
One morning and looked up
And saw two large feet,

And above them huge legs,
Giant ears, a big kisser,
Eyes climbing, Zo thought,
“What have we got here, Mister?

“That can’t be a dog,
There’s no way. But it is.
Up there … on that roof ….
That whole building is his.

“Do my peepers deceive me?
Is he bigger than I?
Who am I kidding?
He blocks out the sky!

“Could he be part Bull?
Smooth Fox? Jack Russell?
Would even Godzilla
With this fella tussle?”

Politely Zo nodded
And yipped a hello.
The roof dog’s response
Was too slight to show.

Or too little, at least,
To detect from the street,
At the level of Zo’s
Now fast moving feet.

“Good day sir,” Zo barked,
without looking back,
“It appears on this street
You’ve got things well intact.

“Should you stop what you’re doing
because of me? No!
You just hang out up there,
I’ll go keep being Zo.”

Then off he moseyed
Politely smiling
While in his brain this address
He was filing.

Good old clear sighted Zo
Still gets thrown in a fog
Thinking back to first meeting
That other big dog.

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BHIZARRO BHEATLES

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GRIT and GRACE

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THE REMNANT: A Let’s Go Mets Story

My first creation with the app OVER, which enables the design combination of text and images.

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HOMEMADE STEFON: A Visit to Gotham Got-Ham

It’s been quite a few weekends since Stefon last updated us on New York’s hottest clubs.
So this week rather than yearn for a new recommendation from him, I wrote one.

For Stefon, Wherever He May Be

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EGG ODE

Twelve letters say it:
Why Not The Egg?
Up there so high
without even one leg.

Why Not The Egg?
It isn’t a joke:
It just might contain
Planet Earth’s biggest yolk,

Or hard boiled folk,
Or a shell hard as oak
Or be filled to the brim
With Poached Cherry Coke.

The Egg is no yoke
that saddles its city,
As giant Egg buildings go
it’s downright pretty

Making the skyline
so very fine
It’s an Egg to admire,
not on which to dine.

The scramble to see it
does not ever stop,
Not its round belly bottom
or skyward flat top.

All that and more
is why it’s no bull
That Egg lovers glasses
are always half full.

Shouting, “Why Not The Egg?”
Those twelve little letters
For Egg-love reminders
no Dozen is better.

SUI EGGENERIS: The Egg – Albany, NY

 

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THE ZEN HEN: On Diligence

If in the world’s largest pig pen

the assignment you receive is

to install a country mile of fine tile,

pay no mind if the farmer’s blind

grab a bucket, trowel, and towel

and until that floor’s all in

stay snout to the grout.

UPDATED 10/28/17 with a graphic version:

Adapted from "The Zen Hen on Diligence"

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Better Late Than Never: THOUGHTS ON FRANK DEFORD

During a job interview with NFL Films near the end of my senior year of college, I sat across from the man who named the Dallas Cowboys “America’s Team.” Older, quieter, and more serious than the rest of the 4-person panel conducting the session, he spoke up only occasionally, and throughout, appeared generally unmoved by any thoughts I had to offer.

During one answer about something else entirely I happened to mention Sports Illustrated, a side-door he immediately threw open.

“Who’s your favorite Sports Illustrated writer?” he asked.

It was a completely subjective question from the senior guy in the room, someone whose thinking I could not possibly have prepared for, and yet who could on the merits of any one answer determine the fate of my application.

Frank Deford, I replied.

“Mmmm,” he nodded. “Deford is the greatest writer that magazine has ever had.”

Never mind that a court of law would have dismissed it as an opinion. In these chambers, the fact that mattered was my taste and the head magistrate’s were the same. It was enough to calm my racing heart in the moment; it was what came back to me first when Films called with a job offer a week later; and it was what I thought of immediately upon hearing recently that Deford had died.

“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten,
either write something worth reading or do things worth the writing.”

Ben Franklin wrote it. Frank Deford merely embodied it — penning himself a permanent place in the history of American letters by both writing volumes worth reading and indisputably doing something worth the writing: inspiring others. They are many, I am one. Officially, since the day in 1999 when I read “The Ring Leader” and loved it with the pure, inexplicable certainty that only the best creators spark.

Despite the example of his writing and the cosmic assist he provided in that job interview, I never did make the appropriate effort to thank Frank. Not even given the opportunity a few years into my career, when he was one of my interview subjects the first day I ever directed a documentary film crew.  Be a pro, I thought.  Circuitous anecdotes in which a thesis of gratitude only might be clear to the listener, well, those are a tricky species. Better to try being a competent inquisitor than come off as a stammering ink-sniff.  So I stuck to the task at hand.

It was an air-ball with no do-over.  So let this be my penance.

Thank you, Mr. Deford.

I’m happy to say I’m still at NFL Films, the company your inspiration helped lead me to join. The week I marked my 15th work anniversary was the same week your pen went silent forever. Since then, countless lovely words have been spilled in your honor. But unless you, Frank, got out in front of the Reaper, filing the copy for a publication to be named later, I’m certain there’ll be no written tribute to you that’s quite worthy.

For its small part, my best assessment of your influence is to offer this: that whatever accolades every G.O.A.T. of Sports’ Future may ultimately compile, all their resumes will still possess the same hole: Born too late to be profiled by as great a writer as any magazine ever had.

FOR AN HOUR in New York in 2005, I conducted this interview of Frank Deford for the first long form documentary I ever worked on, “Rozelle: Building America’s Game.” On this day part of my job as director was to bring props in the event we got stuck shooting in an undesirably blank room. And so, my own typewriter, books, and portrait of my high school adorn the set behind one of my writing heroes.

FLOWER SHOWER

A flower shower

Turned the tree green

Turned the grass pinker

Than I ever seen:

Cotton-candy colored

It yesterday was

When into and out of it

All the bees buzzed.

Then the quick change.

Perhaps it was the breeze:

Petals went packing

To the lawn from the leaves.

Now the Pink Tree Photo

I had taken in my head

Resembles Sun-dodging

confetti instead.

ALL FIGURED OUT

Want in on my Master Plan?
Come closer and listen to me.
Because the blueprint of it’s now taking shape
Oh so satisfactorally.

When’s it start, my Master Plan?
Well don’t worry it won’t be long now.
Just know by the end life will be so sweet
We’ll sweat candy bars from our brows.

Before that part, the Master Plan middle
Involves espionage and boats,
Action car chases, exotic horse races,
Fine jewelry, machine guns, fur coats.

What’s the Master Plan Step 1, you ask?
Simple: win the lottery.
Huh?
Well….
…..guess what…
If you’re gonna’ roll on the floor laughing at it,
Then out of the Plan you can be.

Lighting in a Bottle – New Orleans

WINDING DOWN WINTER: A Steller Story from Hamilton, NJ

The remarkable GROUNDS FOR SCULPTURE is like no place I’ve ever been.  Part museum, part botanical gardens, this indoor/outdoor art gallery contains the realistic and abstract, the sublime and ridiculous.  As remarkable as the space looked during my visit, I left thinking that I could probably enjoy entirely different experiences of it in the spring, summer, or fall ; in the early morning or by the light of the scattered lampposts and landscape lights.  So large and diverse is the installation, that every trip there seems as though it would offer something unique.

On the afternoon I spent at this world class exhibition — tucked into a quiet, central New Jersey town between Trenton and Princeton — the plants on the snow covered landscape were still shivering, but doing so with their leaves turned optimistically toward the sun.  The scenes produced by the intersection of the natural and man-made artwork on that Eve of Spring inspired my latest STELLER STORY, readable by clicking on the photo below.

Click the photo above to view scenes from the Grounds for Sculpture.

THE LOOKS AROUND

There are almost no places
Where there are no faces
Even in the cases
Of in-between spaces

Like the Frowning-Big Tree
His acting has no range
Which isn’t so strange:
Bark expressions don’t change.

Or the Tractor-Wheel Elf
While his view always spins
That strong rubber chin
Won’t let sickness set in.

Perry is the given name
of Snowy-House Face.
While the world to summer always wants to race
He for hot weather forever must brace.

Yes, even while you
sit at work thinking
The-Face-In-The-Drop-Ceiling-Tiles
is blinking.

Take it from me
the Garden-Stone Grump
I may look like a rock-headed chump
But I’ve gathered perspective here from my rump:

Ungaze from the obvious, like Mr. Moon,
Don’t let on the foreground your focus last
And slowly at first but before long fast
Will appear all the faces you used to rush past.

NOTE:  To see this poem with photos in the STELLER STORY format in which it originally appeared, click here.  

ON DR. SEUSS’S BIRTHDAY

Grab 100 candles
Add a baker’s dozen more
For what happened this day
In 1904:

Little Ted Geisel
Arrived on the scene
Who could know at that time
What he one day would mean?

To the Doc who still keeps
Brains and funny bones fed,
To a Cat like none other,
Happy 113th, Ted!

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To see more like this, go here, where it originally appeared on 3/2/17.