A Return to Philadelphia

A return to Philadelphia is one of those bitter sweet type of things.

The sweetness comes from the people there and the community in which I thrived for so long in. Without them I would not have developed into who I am or had the confidence to reach for the stars. There are memories of the madness I played with in a house all on my lonesome that I could barely afford the rent for and all the various manifestations previous to that and all of those that have spiraled out from there within. And there’s still the same people there, I could leave for ten years and still come back to them, just chugging along and building new ideas and installations and always partying in a belligerent fashion, which is kind of endearing and even especially intoxicating when personally in the same sort of mental state, myself. They tell me of their successes and their continually growing creative careers and the new spaces they have occupied and the recycling of old failed institutions into more progressive active ones.

And now there seems to be even more of a populace, which keeps growing everywhere you look, beyond that old, small tight-knit community which held hands when they played out in the dark. And there are all these new faces (I guesstimate probably from Brooklyn) walking around, jogging around, gallivanting around, in places where only two years ago I wouldn’t have seen anyone. And they seem unaware of the history of the city streets they tread upon and the violence that one used to encounter there or how this city is still a tough place for a lot of long time residents. And yet they’re attracted to the even more seemingly endless supplies of beer gardens and gastropubs that who knows who can really afford to drink at, at least not on a typical Philly wage, and who knows who can really afford to pop up, but I suspect again Brooklyn, because well, Stephen Starr had to eventually max out in Fishtown, sometime, right? And the refuse is still building up with plastic bags blowing in the wind and catching in the potholes of an infrastructure that I’ve seen the city dig and fill and redig and fill in and repeat for at least half a decade in the exact same places because seemingly they can’t find a utility company that’ll get it right the first time.

But there right there is the bitterness and this comes back in a landslide, though I’m newly capable of letting it go, since I no longer live in it on a day to day. It’s the same story I’ve seen everywhere I’ve traveled to in the country, but here it’s so much more personal. A city begins to resurge with a creative population, and that attracts developers who only want to make money by shipping in the young business class who a majority of doesn’t have any interest in going out and seeing the culture offered by their new city residence, and this cycle spreads outward like a disease quickly eradicating first the people who grew up in these neighborhoods, then the artists that were good for some real estate company’s next press release. And all the time the rent keeps going up while the wages stay the same and it starts to seem almost impossible that anyone can afford the time or heart to keep on going.

I start to remember how for years I started to feel chased out of my own city, always being pushed a block at a time north until finally even that started filling up and the anarchy of the emptiness here that attracted me here in the first place was all completely being swallowed up. And the first thing to be said in a conversation by every one of my friends that I run into now is how quickly all the abandoned lots are filling up with new construction plots and even the mega lots, which no one thought would ever sell, are being sucked up by these unknown developers and their makeshift cookie-cutter town homes. The tears come out in all our eyes over the trees, the urban wilderness, the community gardens that have all been sacrificed to “progress”, and we count on our fingertips all the places where we played pop-up outdoor psych rock shows that are now a 4-5 story condo.

It’s not the actual development, I think, that burns people out so much. It’s the seeming mismanagement of the whole thing. There is no community involvement in the process. Yes, the neighborhood associations have the power to veto a new project, but the developers can use any number of loopholes to bypass that process, as long as they have some local council in their pocket. And the votes are always about approving some project, but not about telling the developer to keep some trees or front yards or some type of greenery when they’re building atop their mudpits and not to make them so tall or so ugly and skinny. And to make them blend in, not stick out. To make them use the same materials that makes Fishtown look like it has some history.

How many people have time to attend their neighborhood meetings anyway. And when are they allowed to voice a simple “Hey, maybe this is happening too quick for a typical human’s consciousness and maybe we should cut new construction down to maybe one home a month, as opposed to the hundred or so that keep popping up every other day”.

I think the main thing that effects people is the quickly shrinking amount of green space, which was always limited in Philly’s urban sprawl anyway, but in most places got squatted on and turned into a surreal artist’s wonderland to prevent illegal dumping and provide other good intentions. To add injury to insult all the jack hammers, drills, and mechanized sounds of things being built or demolished start at 7am and reverberate all through each city block so that one has to go all the way to Graffiti Pier to get away from hearing it.

And we all have our memories of what is now dead. The Frankford Ave. Arts Corridor is now about twenty boutiques and a few vape shops that who knows how they manage to stay open or who’s their target audience. Girard Ave. is an attempt at the next Old City with all demographics South Jersey filling it’s streets with their entitlement. Northern Liberties at this point is unrecognizable. And in all these place there’s a cloud of despair and hopelessness that hangs heavy over the social climate there. It’s the threat of too much change in a weekday, and the threat that next week it’ll be too expensive to still even live there.

But then the sweetness comes back. It’s Saturday night and a new warehouse gallery celebrates its second exhibition. Familiar faces come and take glimpses of the post-modern ceramics placed around the white rectangle. Some friends are stronger than myself and more willing to adapt to the constant flux of a city in its post-Renaissance days. They have played musical chairs long enough to resettle in places better than their last. Some are even buying property and digging in, making sure they can continue to have some sort of autonomy.

The room is full to the brim and everyone’s a little worried that something will break, and though no one in attendance has any money to throw any which way other than to refill their Natty Bo can, the artist and the curators receive the attention and good vibed support that an underground art community always should be able to offer. There’s the typical Philly modesty or lack of imagination, but with 100 people stuffed into a tiny salon, and maybe another 100 more passing through, it’s very easy to make comparisons between the scene of this community and any historical community of any favorite art celebrity, whether from NYC or Los Angeles or even Paris. It takes you back to times when things were less dictated by money and more inspired by passion and artistic eccentricity.

And that’s where Philly is at today. The Renaissance there that started several years ago is digging in deep, and even with all of the unsettling of the constant developments reseting the neighborhoods and their urban landscapes, the artists don’t seem to be getting wiped out any time soon, only regrouping and popping up in new places or old places with new agendas. It’s only a matter of time before they become conscious of their own capabilities, and begin to mobilize and redirect the flow of all that residential developing back to a more creative anarchy.

And who knows, maybe all that new money in the hood will soon learn to do more than Netflix And Chill and start to look around them too, and begin to buy in to something like a city’s cultural history.

A Return to Philadelphia

Live video of “The Orgone Wurlitzer”

THE ORGONE WURLITZER by Marshall James Kavanaugh
Here’s an erotic ode to Damien Hirst. It comes straight out of the psychedelia-infused romp, Fire. Sun. Salutation. This live reading is from the book release party at The Random Tea Room in Philadelphia last April.

Like this one? You can grab a copy of the book here: http://bit.ly/FireSunSalutation

Live video of “The Orgone Wurlitzer”

The Flight of the Crow

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It’s amazing how quickly one can skip across the country. One day acting a fool in the desert of Joshua Tree, the next day climbing desert mountains until finally i’m crossing the border of New Mexico and diving through colors so grand the sky is like nirvana unimaginable (to think some people see this every day and think nothing of it), then pulling over and sleeping in Pueblo ruins alongside ghosts of an old alien culture that transformed themselves long ago into the crows that follow my car to every rest stop and grand vista pull off. They bark at me loud orders and i think of something my friend Mariana said about how they signify that i’m going to say things that people won’t like. I see them as elders and they guide my dreams. I’m on a heist like in the old westerns, only somehow i’ve conned a moving company out of a truck loaded with gold money and with a crew we’re driving out of the city. I’m swimming in a lake of liquid lava and out of the flames of my own body a falcon rips to the surface soaring over us with red and purple colors streaking the skies behind her. I make love to a beatnik princess and after lovemaking we talk about the change of guard and how someday we’ll settle in the country and grow our own food but first we’ll make love more in our dreams together.

Did I tell you about how I followed two crows around in Joshua Tree? I was dashing through some boulders and moon temples and I heard one of them cawing but they kept flying further out of reach until finally I hiked through some arches and out of a wash to a clearer view of the mountain where they were gliding around. They cawed to me so I started climbing. The sides of the mountain were exploding with fragments of rose quartz as I got higher and at the peak I found a few dozen rock balances from past wanderers. Now the crows were below me and I slowly descended to where they sat laughing and pruning their feathers atop a giant round boulder kind of like a skull. They let me walk right up to them and they just sat there staring at me. Now was my turn to make silly noises so I howled and wooped  and yahooed as much as I could think to. Here’s where it echoed, surprisingly out into the valley and I wondered how, when I was so high and the ground so far away. It drove me practically crazy and I kept testing it. My woop followed by seconds of delay and then it coming back to me faintly almost as if my ears were playing tricks on me. The crows just stared at me some more, slightly alarmed but more just blase. I think they were just surprised to be cawed at by this silly ape below them. Not usually used to anyone paying attention to their own voices. Eventually they flew off and I caught one on film for a future TV installation. Cute couple gliding away and back into the boulders to bother some other tourist.

I wake in the morning and I’m as cold as a ghost myself with frost permeating from my blue lips and caking on the tent ceiling. I watch the sunrise and watch her colors streak all across the sky evenly filling it with the fire of my dreams. I do a quick sun salutation but i’m shivering like a wild man so I pack up and take the Willie Jeep route and head for Santa Fe grabbing at the sage brush with my hand held outstretched through the open window. The crows are around every bend, but i’m not paying attention to them anymore as the Rio Grande grows into a Grand Canyon beside me. Eventually there are snow covered mountains, Pueblo ruins, and painted canyons on every horizon. I pass Santa Fe (thinking of my friends there, bummed to miss them) and roll up to Taos taking the main street in, happy to see nothing has changed. I park at the Spot Cafe where all my last adventures began, and immediately feel like a wanderer returned home from the season of travels. Here a pretty punk chick smiles at me as I enter and an old hippy lady tells me, “Oh, number 11. That’s  a good number. The number for ‘peace’ in the I Ching.” when I receive my number for my breakfast sandwich. There’s a group sitting in the doorway and they remind me of everything I love about people in the mountains. Earthy vibes, with a little bit of elfish wonderment,  but here there’s also the vibe of the desert rat and a wild-eyed hippiness that got here 50 years ago and got so excited they stripped off all their clothes and dove right in. Soon i’m basking in hot springs, letting everything around me drift away and loosing my sense of identity. That flow of the earth breaking away at whatever worries I may have for heading home. Soon i’ll spend time with friends of the heart that I made the last time I drove through here. And then from there tomorrow I’ll make the last dash for the east where more friends and a series of readings awaits me.

The Flight of the Crow

The Desert Jester and the Joshua Tree

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The desert fool sits between a Joshua Tree and a pile of boulders. He thinks of himself as a Lone Ranger type in this land of very little spoken word. His golden mask made for a masquerade, but seemingly appropriate for this lanky bandit lost in his own revelry. The sun warms his smile as he sits there and ponders what it must be like to be one of these humble trees, with heads and arms all contorted in several different directions. So rooted in the ground so as to let the madness soar in every which way above the earth up towards the heavens.

He stands up and begins to contort his body in its own natural way. Raising his arms above his sombrero in a sun salutation and his legs into some kind of binded anchor. He lifts his wbole weight up onto his tippy toes and accelerates his gestural dance until he himself has sprouted several more arms and heads.

Here the magic tells him it is very normal to want to pass on and be reborn a tree. Even the desert crow and the wandering coyote entertain the idea. Still one must be very wild to grow in the desert.

The Desert Jester and the Joshua Tree

Live Video of “Howling at the Moon!”

It’s been almost a year since Antonio and I biked up Nob Hill and howled at the full moon with all those 200 or so San Franciscans and here is a spoken word recording of the grand borderline fiction it inspired. Marshall Deerfield, front and center with Antonio Bandalini making an appearance, facing the stagnant contrasts of Skid Row in midst of the Tech Boomed-out streets of San Francisco. Here in its entirety is “Howling At The Moon!”, a fraction of a novel about all those wayward zig zags across the west coast last year, but definitely one of my favorite tales to tell.

This was filmed back in April by Andrew Galati at the Random Tea Room in Philadelphia at the book release party for my collection of psychedelic erotica, Fire. Sun. Salutation. It took me a few more weeks to talk out all the tongue ties and stutters of the narrative, but this night in particular still has my heart hanging heavy. Thanks to Becky Goldschmidt for hosting, the other performers for setting the stage, and to everyone who attended. That night we became a bunch of wild wolves hooting and hollering at the muse above. Also thanks to my parents for giving me a quiet place to write these beginnings to a novel that’ll hopefully soon be finished. Without that brief pause from the 9-5 all this material would still be stuck up in my head or randomly notated throughout several journals on some dusty bookshelf.

Anyway, enjoy the lofty imagery and dream-inspired beauty above!

Live Video of “Howling at the Moon!”

An excerpt from Fire. Sun. Salutation. – Sand Full of Friction



Here is another excerpt from my new book Fire. Sun. Salutation.


Order your copy today on Amazon! or if you live in Philadelphia, you can grab a copy from The Random Tea Room & Curiosity Shop (713 n. 4th street, Philadelphia 19123)

from the story “Sand Full of Friction”: 

The sun divides into two and then four and multiplies until the full sky is full of its ecstatic light. His naked body impure under its brilliance. The tar melting now sweating and dripping down his sides becoming one with the earth beneath his toes hardening forming a dead sea’s bedrock. He takes one step and then another and begins to walk again on into the desert surrounded by only irresolution.

From the haze enters a female figure sand blowing in every which way as her belly shakes side to side in a roundabout way possibly pregnant bringing life with her every swagger. Tip toeing now he moves closer until he is just behind her upon her he reaches out to touch her to see if she is real but her movements are too rapid and with each reaching of his hand he stumbles as she pivots away. She turns to him now her full breasts levitating in a magnificent way above her midline holding up her heart beneath gold glitter and rubies hanging scarlet around her thin neck. Her hair is long and it traces her buttocks as her hips gesticulate widely and he imagines only briefly the fuck.

To finish the story you’ll need to grab a copy for yourself. Fire. Sun. Salutation. is available now! It is a collection of 9 short stories of psychedelic erotica. Grab a copy today! tinyurl.com/FireSunSalutation

An excerpt from Fire. Sun. Salutation. – Sand Full of Friction

Happy International Women’s Day!

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ah…that glorious divine feminine.

“She is the
. . . . . MOON,
the SUN,
. . . and the EARTH
on which I call home.

My grounding below pushing me forward
and the glorious
guide above
leading me
through
. . . . . . . . DAY and NIGHT.”

. . .
. .
.

FIre. Sun. Salutation. is available for sale at The Random Tea Room & Curiosity Shop​ located at 713 N. 4th Street, Philadelphia PA. Grab a copy today! Not in Philly? You can order a copy from Amazon: tinyurl.com/FireSunSalutation

Happy International Women’s Day!