A holiday podcast for Christmas Day

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There was a short story I wrote when I lived in my adopted hometown. I posted it last year.[1] An edited version of it was published in an indie newspaper ten years ago this month.[2] Hope you enjoy the story. Merry Christmas!


A Christmas story: Our home is waiting for us

by Matthew Mulder

DSCN3236[sqr-classic-dallas]

Westville Pub was busier than I thought for a Christmas Eve. It looked like we were not the only ones escaping the chilly, damp Appalachian December night. My small family arrived a little after eight in the evening to enjoy an energetic performance by Gypsy Bandwagon. There was only one booth available near the back that we quickly populated. The bar maid took my order for a pint of ale, chips and salsa and ginger ale.

Gypsy Bandwagon, self-described as genre-challenged, played lively Irish and Scottish jigs and reels, a bit of Bluegrass, classical piano solos and traditional gypsy pieces. Lead guitarist and vocalist shared singing chores with his wife, an accomplished violinist and keyboardist. The drummer,Uncle Biscuit, complemented his wife, a multi-instrumentalist, who played everything from the violin to the bass guitar. The band put on a free concert for the holiday crowd and brought gifts to give away to people in the Pub. With festive flare they gave away wrapped gifts if you owned a dog or claimed to be a Chicago Cubs fan or if you liked the last number they performed you got a free Gypsy Bandwagon CD.

Many traditional Christmas favorites filled their set list that pleased the crowd. A 16th century carol haunted me. I don’t even remember the name of it, but I imagined a New England tavern must have sounded much like that over two hundred years ago. I wondered about the first Christmas celebration.

Rome. December 25, 336 was the first recorded celebration of Christmas. Was there egg nog? Probably not. St. Francis of Assisi assembled one of the first Nativity scenes in Greccio, Italy on December 25, 1223. Nearly a thousand years between those two dates—and a lot of history. Leap forward nearly 600 hundred years, the well-known Christmas carol “Silent Night” was performed for the first time at the Church of Saint Nikolaus in Oberndorff, Austria on Christmas day in 1818. What will Christmas celebrations will be like in 100 years?

Thinking back to how I was raised by my parents, I suspect the notion of attending a gig in a pub with kids on Christmas Eve must seem odd—if not a bit disturbing. My oldest loved the whole experience. I am not sure if it was the ginger ale or the nachos or the bouncing on the booth seat to the music or the fact that he was up past his bed time. He seemed glad to be there. His baby brother fell asleep.

Uncle Biscuit came back and said hello during a quick intermission. He and his wife are good friends. It was getting late. After wishing him and his wife a Merry Christmas, we left.

It had begun to rain outside as the family gathered into the car. We drove home with the windshield lightly swishing away the rain droplets. When we arrived home my son said, “Our home is waiting for us.” I like that expression—home is waiting for us. The smell of fresh-cut poplar was sweet in the damp night air as we entered our waiting home.

Christmas morning. My family attended church. Coena Domini, or Eucharist, was celebrated. In low church fellowships it is called “the Lord’s Supper” or “communion.” Supper seems so common for a sacred “feast” on Sunday morning. Well, it was twelve ordinary guys that witnessed the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

As the elements of Eucharist were distributed, I thought of Jesus — the babe born in Bethlehem. He reportedly fulfilled more than 300 prophesies. During the morning homily I read of ten of those prophesies. I found the fulfilled prophesies amazing. Ann Rice admitted to discovering similar facts while she researched her book, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.

What I did not find fascinating was the small plastic cup filled with grape juice and a crumb of broken Saltines. Is this not a Blessed Sacrament—as some Christians call it. I had a challenge finding anything sacred about a swallow of grape juice and a scrap of cracker. But these are simple reminders of a greater narrative.

Jeremy Huggins, author of literary nonfiction, posed the question, is there “any reason why I couldn’t go through the Communion line more than once?” Initially I responded: “When was the last time anyone ate a suggestion of bread and a swallow of wine and called it supper?”

For some reason I thought of the pale ale and nachos I had consumed the previous night at Westville Pub. Why is it that ale and nachos are not sacred reminders of the holy truth? Maybe that is a bit sacrilegious to be considered on Christmas—a holiday. Holiday means “a religious feast day.” A day like any other day recognized as sacred, hallowed, sanctified seems out-of-place in American culture.

As I held a swallow of grape juice and a scrap of cracker in my hands that Christmas morning, I remembered the night the Christ was betrayed. He shared his last meal of wine and bread with twelve ordinary, mostly nondescript guys who were being prepared to turn the world upside down. I identified with Jesus the Christ by taking the Eucharist. Am I more holy now than I was before? Does a day change its nature simply because it is recognized as sacred? I will leave those questions to the philosophers and theologians. “Our home is waiting for us,” my eldest child said on Christmas Eve. In more ways than the child realizes, that statement just might explain the reality of Christmas.


Listen to an abridged audio version of this story:

NOTES:
[1] A Christmas Story
[2] Recently Published Writings

Interview: Caleb Beissert on Beautiful translations of Federico García Lorca and Pablo Neruda

Reposting this interview. Enjoy!

Coffeehouse Junkie

Beautiful by Caleb Beissert Caleb Beissert is a poet, translator and musician. His published work appears in International Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, Asheville Poetry Review and Beatitude: Golden Anniversary, 1959-2009.

This week, Poetry at the Altamont celebrates the release of Caleb Beissert’s first book, Beautiful, a selection of poems by Pablo Neruda and Federico García Lorca translated into English. During the last few weeks, Beautiful was well received by enthusiastic audiences at Montford Books & More and Malaprop’s Books & Cafe and is a Small Press Distribution best-seller.

The Altamont theater doors open at 7:00 P.M. for Poetry at the Altamont. Admission is $5 at the door. Beer and wine sold at the bar and lounge will remain open for drinks after the reading. Event link.

UPDATE: Caleb Beissert is the featured guest of the Coffee with the Poet Series, Thursday, February 21st at 10:30 a.m. at City Lights Bookstore. Event…

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A Christmas Story

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From the living room window, I see the full moon rising through the twinkling reflection of Christmas lights. At a glance, the moon might be mistaken for a street lamp. The play of lights off the window and through it remind me of something I read earlier this week: “Keep the ripple going.”[1] There is a short story I wrote that I have been sitting on for nearly a decade. An edited version of it was published in an indie newspaper.[2] Since it is Christmas and a full moon, it seems time to release the unedited/extended version of the text tonight before the clouds roll in and hide the moon. Hope you enjoy the short story. Merry Christmas!


A Christmas story: Our home is waiting for us

by Matthew Mulder

DSCN3236[sqr-classic-dallas]

Westville Pub was busier than I thought for a Christmas Eve. It looked like we were not the only ones escaping the chilly, damp Appalachian December night. My small family arrived a little after eight in the evening to enjoy an energetic performance by Gypsy Bandwagon. There was only one booth available near the back that we quickly populated. The bar maid took my order for a pint of ale, chips and salsa and ginger ale.

Gypsy Bandwagon, self-described as genre-challenged, played lively Irish and Scottish jigs and reels, a bit of Bluegrass, classical piano solos and traditional gypsy pieces. Lead guitarist and vocalist shared singing chores with his wife, an accomplished violinist and keyboardist. The drummer,Uncle Biscuit, complemented his wife, a multi-instrumentalist, who played everything from the violin to the bass guitar. The band put on a free concert for the holiday crowd and brought gifts to give away to people in the Pub. With festive flare they gave away wrapped gifts if you owned a dog or claimed to be a Chicago Cubs fan or if you liked the last number they performed you got a free Gypsy Bandwagon CD.

Many traditional Christmas favorites filled their set list that pleased the crowd. A 16th century carol haunted me. I don’t even remember the name of it, but I imagined a New England tavern must have sounded much like that over two hundred years ago. I wondered about the first Christmas celebration.

Rome December 25, 336 was the first recorded celebration of Christmas. Was there egg nog? Probably not. St. Francis of Assisi assembled one of the first Nativity scenes in Greccio, Italy on December 25, 1223. The well-known Christmas carol “Silent Night” was performed for the first time at the Church of Saint Nikolaus in Oberndorff, Austria on Christmas day in 1818. What will Christmas celebrations will be like in ten years? Or 100 years?

Thinking back to how I was reared up by my parents, I suspect the notion of attending a gig in a pub with kids on Christmas Eve must seem odd—if not a bit disturbing. My oldest loved the whole experience. I am not sure if it was the ginger ale or the nachos or the bouncing on the booth seat to the music or the fact that he was up past his bed time. He seemed glad to be there. His baby brother fell asleep.

Uncle Biscuit came back and said hello during a quick intermission. He and his wife are good friends and he is a local cartoonist and illustrator. It was getting late. After wishing him and his wife a Merry Christmas, we left.

It had begun to rain outside as the family gathered into the car. We drove home with the windshield lightly swishing away the rain droplets. When we arrived home my son said, “Our home is waiting for us.” I like that expression—home is waiting for us. The smell of fresh-cut poplar was sweet in the damp night air as we entered our waiting home.

Christmas morning. My family attended church. Coena Domini, or Eucharist, was celebrated. In a non-denominational church they simply call it “Lord’s Supper.” Supper seems so common for a sacred “feast” on Sunday morning. Well, it was twelve ordinary guys that witnessed the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

As the elements of Eucharist were distributed, I thought of Jesus — the babe born in Bethlehem. He reportedly fulfilled more than 300 prophesies. During the morning service I read of ten of those prophesies. I am not a theologian, but I found the fulfilled prophesies amazing. I am not a mathematician either, but the probability factor is equally fascinating. Ann Rice admitted to discovering similar facts while she researched her book, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.

What I did not find fascinating was the small plastic cup filled with grape juice and a crumb of broken Saltines. Is this not a Blessed Sacrament—as some Christians call it. I had a challenge finding anything sacred about a swallow of grape juice and a scrap of cracker. But these are simple reminders of a greater narrative. Nothing wrong with common things.

Jeremy Huggins posed the question, is there “any reason why I couldn’t go through the Communion line more than once?” Initially I responded: “When was the last time anyone ate a suggestion of bread and a swallow of wine and called it supper?”

I wonder if American Christians embrace an ascetic view of communion because they live an epicurean lifestyle. Should followers of Christ not seek the highest pleasure—desiring God? Let us feast Deo favente (with God’s favor).

By practice, the fellowship I attend also observes the Passover Supper each year as part of Passion Week. The elements of the Seder Dinner (Maror: bitter herbs-horseradish, Karpas: vegetable-parsley, Chazeret: bitter vegetable-lettuce, Charoset: apple, nut, spice and wine mixture, Zeroa: shankbone-kosher lamb and Beitzah: egg) are symbolic and common. Likewise, bread and wine are common food items. Still a supper is a supper, not an appetizer.

For some reason I thought of the pale ale and nachos I had consumed the previous night at Westville Pub. Why is it that ale and nachos are not sacred reminders of the holy truth? Maybe that is a bit sacrilegious to be considered on Christmas—a holiday. “Holiday,” from an Old English word “hligdæg,” means “a religious feast day.” Why a holy day? The Middle English word “holi” has Old High German origins from the word “heilag” meaning “sacred” which has Gothic roots meaning “hallow, sanctified” which further has Latin sources in the word “sanctus.” A day like any other day recognized as sacred, hallowed, sanctified seems out-of-place in American culture.

As I held a swallow of grape juice and a scrap of cracker in my hands that Christmas morning, I remembered the night the Christ was betrayed. He shared his last meal of wine and bread with twelve ordinary, mostly nondescript guys who were being prepared to turn the world upside down. I identified with Jesus the Christ by taking the Eucharist. Am I more holy now than I was before? Does a day change its nature simply because it is recognized as sacred? I will leave those questions to the philosophers and theologians. “Our home is waiting for us,” my eldest child said on Christmas Eve. In more ways than the child realizes, that statement just might explain the reality of Christmas.


Listen to an abridged audio version of this story:

NOTES:
[1] Who touched your heart forever moment year by Melissa G Wilson
[2] Recently Published Writings

Poem: Expectations

Expectations

Anyone may “find” a text; the poet is he who names it, “Text”.
–John Hollander [1] [2] [3]

1.

The very heavens
rupture — news of Pontiff’s decision
to abdicate.

2.

Somewhere in America,
for nearly a week, film and
fiction collide — Rambo-like
manhunt ends as expected.

3.

She sings, When you get
to Asheville send me
an email…. 

Will she tell me that
the President is
coming to town?

Will a hollywood
celebrity greet
him when he arrives?

Will he retire
to the Paris of the South
after this whole
presidency thing
?

4.

Whether it comes from
above or snakes its way through
the dark depths below,

the number one regret on
the lips of the dying is
to have lived true to one’s self

rather than by the
expectation of others.

NOTES:
[1] From the archives of this blog.
[2] The poem was composed from and of news headlines and related blog posts. John Hollander wrote in Vision and Resonance: Two Senses of Poetic Form that “anyone may ‘find’ a text; the poet is he who names it, ‘Text’.”
[3] Annotated version of this found poem was published Feb. 15, 2013 and originally titled “The courage to live”.

In the news again. Or, Why I Left Asheville.

Screen shot 2014-08-12 at 4.06.57 PM There was something else I intended to share today. But a story I wrote that was published in August is making its rounds again. [Read the full story here: Why I Left Asheville]

First, big thanks to David Forbes — editor of The Asheville Blade — for accepting and publishing the story. I had no idea that the story would resonate with so many readers. And, to be honest, I did a poor job of promoting the story here and through social media.

A few readers shared their stories in the comment section of unrelated blogs posts due to my failure. Their stories are touching and make me ache with sorrow.

There are many Asheville — shall we say — expats who have similar stories. And, there are many citizens of Asheville that continue to struggle. I hope the story I shared shines a light on the forgotten men, women and families of Asheville.

[Podcast] Translating Visions & Dreams Into Art & Music

SEPT2014_iTunes_ImageHow does an artist translate visions and dreams into pigment on canvas? These and other topics are discussed with artist Eva Scruggs. Next, poetry readings and acoustic singer/songwriter sets are common at bookstores and cafés. Join me and take a glimpse behind the scenes of one of those events that takes place at Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, North Carolina. Finally, visit the Grey Eagle music hall and meet Deborah Crooks as she shares a conversation about liberation and home.

Special thanks to the Anne Malin for permission to use her song “darling” for the music between each segments. Anne Malin is a folk musician from Boston, Massachusetts. Her albums “Bog Songs,” “AM” and “Vessel” are available on iTunes and Spotify. New releases and a special edition of the album “Bog Songs” with art by Projekt Katharine is available at her Bandcamp page which is annemalin.bandcamp.com.

Listen on:
PodOmatic: coffeehousejunkie.podomatic.com
SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/coffeehousejunkie

[Podcast] Re-release of episode 13

As mentioned last week, here is a re-release of episode 13 of the Coffeehouse Junkie audio podcast. This episode features the essay “The Field” as well as two poems that are discussed in the fourth session of the poetry writing workshop I directed at the The Flood Fine Arts Center in Asheville, North Carolina.

As a side note, each poetry writing workshop I lead concluded with a class chapbook featuring the best of the students’ work and a poetry reading. Additionally, the essay featured in this podcast is abridged and will be released in an expanded version in a forthcoming book.

Here is: Episode 013

As always, I look forward to your feedback. Post comments, question and/or requests in the comment section of this blog post and I will address it in the upcoming episode 15. Episode 14 will be re-released later this week. Thanks for listening!

[Podcast] Re-release of episode 12

As mentioned earlier this week, here is a re-release of episode 12 of the Coffeehouse Junkie audio podcast.

The Flood Fine Arts Center in Asheville, North Carolina was the home to poetry writing workshops I directed. One of the six-week workshops was called “Coffee at Albiani’s” and featured a syllabus and writing exercises. This episode features an essay from the syllabus entitled “The Echo” and two poems that were discussed during one of the sessions of the poetry writing workshop.

Listen to: Episode 012

If you have a question or request after listening to this episode please leave it in the comment section of this blog post and I will address it in the upcoming episode 15.

One final note: Episode 13 will be re-released early next week and episode 14 the end of next week. Thanks for listening!

The return of the Coffeehouse Junkie audio podcast is coming soon

Many, many moons ago in a far distant place there used to be a Coffeehouse Junkie audio podcast. For professional reasons I had to place it on hiatus for an indefinite period of time. In, short, I launched and produced nearly 500 audio podcasts for a national news group earning nearly 800,000 downloads in a little more than two years. Since those professional obligations no longer exist, it is time to resume some Coffeehouse Junkie audio podcasting.

There will be some new features to the audio podcast.

  1. A few topics that seem to be popular on this blog include writing, poetry and publishing. Since I have years of experience in the publishing industry, I will feature some episodes on a behind-the-scenes look at publishing.
  2. Additionally, I plan to open up the request lines (to use an antiquated terrestrial radio expression) . If you have read something on this blog that you would like me to address, I will plan an episode around that topic. Please include your name, Twitter handle and request in the comment section of this blog post.

I will re-release the last three episodes of  the Coffeehouse Junkie audio podcast in the next week or so to prime the pump for the relaunch. The last episodes released featured essays and poems that were presented and discussed in a poetry writing workshop I taught at the Flood Fine Arts Center in Asheville, North Carolina. Episode 12 will be re-released later this week, episode 13 early next week and episode 14 the end of next week.

Found poem commemorating AVL 100TPC 2013

As promised last week, here is a found poem I constructed based on the poets who read at the Asheville 100 Thousand Poets for Change event.

Poem for 28 September, 2013

Do not wonder when I say it directly to your ear,[1]
“I am writing a letter to my dead sister. . . “[2]

We anticipate the leap into freedom. [3]
We make our vows in the beach dunes. [4]
We need visual signs of healing. [5]

All that remains is the small few. . . [6]
A home where the family never can return. [7]

They sold their own inheritance. . . [8]
And must return to the center. . . to learn more. . . [9]
It is possible to have everything. . . or at least twenty dollars. . . [10]

NOTES: Each line in this found poem is from the following poets who read at the Asheville 100 Thousand Poets for Change event on September 28, 2013.

[1] Britt Kaufmann
[2] Barbara Gravelle
[3] Steve Brooks
[4] Jeff Davis
[5] Jessica Newton
[6] Jeff Davis
[7] Caleb Beissert
[8] Britt Kaufmann
[9] Jessica Newton
[10] Brian Sneeden