In Praise of Extraordinary Things

Your diligent servants here at Polyform International HQ have uncovered the following extraordinary things:
  • The American Chesterton Society, where you will find practically everything you ever wanted to know about one of my favorite authors. His birthday was just the other day, I think.
  • Video Journalist Ruud Elmendorp has arguably the best name I've ever heard, in addition to very well made vlogs from Africa
  • I get most of my news from the International Herald Tribune, which I first got addicted to in my last couple of trips to Europe. It's effectively a distillation of the NY Times, with an emphasis on international affairs and commerce, so you don't have to wade through all that fashion crap.
  • I really love these t-shirts.
  • This site is really handy.
  • Jolie Holland is coming to the Aladdin Theater on the 15th of June. I'm so there.
Comment below if you want a coveted Summer Letter from the desk of the Paul-Monster. Or send snail-mail credentials to fulgiatore@yahoo.com.

That's all. Back to work, the lot of you.



Excerpt from my Letter to Rachel, 25 May 2006

...Two weeks ago, I attempted a James Brown song for the first time. I was at the Galaxy Lounge's Karaoke Bar with a number of friends, the day after my birthday.

Perhaps you know this already; it's a heavy thing, to dare an attempt at James Brown. You must master the most demanding coordination of skill, hubris, alcohol and luck--far more ambitious than anything I know of in the typical karaoke songbook. You must be wilful and insouciant, armed with the temperament of a saber-toothed platypus--grimly determined to be whimsically ridiculous, and yet perfectly capable of "taking it to the bridge" as the need arises. I was very genuinely concerned when the KJ called me up.

Fortunately for me, between the friendly audience, five beers, and the auspicious ocassion of my birthday, my rendition of "Get Up (Sex Machine)" went so well that, afterwards, both the KJ and the management personally approached me, inviting me to perform it every Friday night, at which point they began talking about competitions and bands needing lead singers and the like. To be honest, I wasn't really paying them any attention, by that point.

In spite of the risks--abject humiliation, race riots, death by exhaustion--I have to say I highly recommend the experience. The available vocabulary describing transcendental profundities woefully fails to describe the sheer awesomeness of performing something by James Brown. In his book, "Middlesex," Eugenides talks about how he loves that Germanic method of constructing vast, forbiddingly unwieldy words to describe the excruciatingly specific, far more preferable to the insipid generalizations encompassed by solitary anodynes like "happy" or "sad." there should be a word, for example, that encompasses the mortifying humiliation of seeing an ex- with someone else and not being able to decide whether you're okay with that, even if you'd firmly resolved not to care about it. Or a word that signifies the kind of relief you experience when the incredibly elaborate lie you told your dying grandmother actually turns out to be substantially true, but only after her death. In this case, our language languishes without a word describing the euphoric exhaustion after singing a James Brown piece for the first time. Something really must be done about this.

In spite of that night's sucess, I'm hesitant to attempt a repitition. I have been to the mountaintop already; try that again and I risk the indignant wrath of the gods. Instead, these past couple of weeks I've been reveling in my unemployed freedom, vigorously prosecuting months and months' worth of laundry, quietly applying for jobs and carefully weighing competing plans for the fall.

I now have the luxury of noticing hte most remarkable things, nestled amongst the reassuringly quotidian blandishments all around me. For some reason, it's deeply satisfying that our postmen now wear raincoats over their shorts and their pith helmets, and that the bike commuters have begun to preen and strut in their mud-splatter. The vivid greens, in their infinite shadings, seem almost to illuminate our rainswept streets. And I know of nothing so remarkable as small children in hoodies and galoshes, galloping across uneven sidewalks.

My poverty notwithstanding, a substantial portion of me earnestly desires to stay here, in this becalmed place, tracing the progress of rainclouds and the shadows blooming like inkblots around the streetlights. Of course, this isn't enough by far to keep me here--just enough to make me want to linger.

So. As ever, I hope this finds things well and thriving with you. I hear good things from Sarah, from time to time. My Summer Housemate is a droll, gay dell'Arte man whom I rarely see. Portland is much diminished without your resplendent influence. Take care of yourself, and look to hear more soon--

love and butter,


Excerpt from my Letter to K, 25 May 2006

...A very good friend of mine just paid me the high compliment of asking me to contribute to a literary erotica website she's setting up. Kathy believes that there's a massive, untapped potential market for erotica that's intelligent, highly developed, well-written, daring. Something beyond simply crass prurience. It's something I've never tried before; thus, it's necessarily something I want to do.

As I was speaking with Kathy about working on this project, I was reminded of our conversations months ago about moving to New York. To me, the gestures are similar--confiding our ambitions with one another speaks to the breadth and depth of a true friendship. Collaboration is the coin of mutual regard. Even when these things are merely chimeras of hope, they still mean much to me.

I've never worked on anything overtly erotic before. Of course, we've all had our daydreams, and the veiled intentions we ourselves hardly suspect; the patterns we imagine in the precisely careless movements of strangers. Who is not well-acquainted with the sheer sophistication of our hapless fantasies? The invitation to spell all this out is just as transgressively satisfying for me as though I were asked about the unsavory history of my family. Perhaps more so. (Of course, more so.)

Now when I think of New York, I'm no longer struck by the inconceivability of such ambitions. It's true that I'm unemployed at the moment; it's true that there are any number of rational arguments to be made against this prospect of who I am and who I intend to be--prospects, incidentally, that in no way present themselves so clearly as to actually be useful. But my images of myself are compelling enough to clearly militate against the creeping despondencies that arise when you know you've stayed too long in the same place.

I'm primed and hungry and impatient to reconfigure the very terms in which I deal with the world; I see this hunger as both a cause and a product of the sea-changes all around me.

In this manner, adrift on the surging tides of expectation, from time to time I wonder after your own doings; I wonder how similar confrontations unspool in your own expert hands. (Often I wish I had the benefit of your knowing poise.)

I hope this finds you well and thriving, as ever. Drop me a line when you can.

pink cadillac loving,



I am a fitful keeper of secrets.

On the one hand, notions of loyalty and obligation are deeply rooted in who I am--their roots intertwine indistinguishably with my own--the roots of my world-tree are gnawed upon not by earth-shaking dragons, but by anachronistic principles.

Perhaps precisely because of this, when it comes to Knowing a Thing, I must be as liberal as an indulgent grandfather. This is not necessarily about secrets of the heart, or of conscience--I do not know enough of those to speak with any authority. (Or perhaps, in fact, I do, and I release those so much more cunningly that I've succeeded in deceiving myself.) This is usually about knowing what is About to Happen, or knowing Why This Is the Way It Is. Secrets of Explanation. Secrets of two steps ahead, or of two steps back. Secrets I do not know whether I am entitled even to know to begin with.

I gloss and polish such secrets, accenting and refining their meanings and valences, changing the cadence, rearranging the meter. And, more often than you would think, the alloyed substance that results from my subtle alchemizing is a True Substance, more than plausible, so seamlessly slotting into the panoply of the real all around us that I almost forget the fact of my interventions.

I have seen entire tables of uncles and aunts and even grandparents turn to me to reveal secrets of life and death--the mechanics of chemotherapy, the intricacies of metastasizing cancer, the swelling treachery of pulmonary disease. I've initiated generations of close friends in the mysteries I observed on the Hopi Reservation, or in the ambulances with paramedics, or in the sacristies of cathedrals. The secrets I've revealed may not have been uncovered with strict legitimacy--I have never been, in any way, strictly legitimate--but they've always been true. By the faithful and conscientious manner in which I reveal my secrets, I've always brought clarity and insight where none existed before.

The long experience of example and exposure to so many similar masters of secrets has almost eclipsed my self-awareness of this secret craft, this secret appetite. On the one hand, to inform those I love is to serve them, thus abiding by those same dragons of Loyalty and Obligation nestling in my roots. But by giving Secrets their own lives, I am releasing them from a kind of imprisonment, abetting an escape from those same dragons who would rather devour secrets than see them illuminating others.

I take great pleasure in this.



I'm sitting in the sun with a beer and a four-month old puppy, reading scripts and writing letters from Canada.

Devoted Polyform readers abroad will be delighted to know that the Paulmonster 25th+1 Birthday gathering, at the Galaxy Karaoke Lounge back in Portland, was a suprisingly distinguished success. Throughout the night eminent and magnanimous friends and colleagues dropped by, and I took home a surprising mountain of loot. Highlights include:
  • Jeremy gave me a print of the Othello portrait linked below.
  • Peter dropped by on his way to the airport, just to say happy birthday.
  • Sam gave me a 'Wonderful Dog,' which is a hollow gilt plastic statuette filled with orange gummy candy, and brimming with generous and warm-hearted symbolism.
  • Patrick gave me over $70.00 worth of liquor (he picked up the tab) (and he brought most of the guests that evening) (because Patrick is a Bad-ass Rockstar who sings with the Portland Opera)
  • Sarah brought me all her friends in town.
  • David tried out his first attempt at Led Zeppelin's 'Black Dog'
  • Jordan gave me her phone number.
After months and months of zealous karaoke action, I'd never had the courage to attempt James Brown until that night. My first attempt, "Get Up (Sex Machine)," was so memorable that the KJ and the management of the bar both personally invited me to perform it every Friday night, and they also said stuff about bands needing lead singers and upcoming karaoke competitions, but I was rather distracted by the cumulative effects of exertion, alcohol and Jordan by that point.

The puppy wants some attention now, and my cousin is firing up the barbecue, and so I better go and make sure he doesn't destroy the province again. More soon,



Othello Lives

The good folks at Portland Actor's Ensemble put up a still from last year's Othello in their banner. I miss my beard.




kites and polar-grizzlies

I really love Newport.

I picked up a panda, an elephant and a Clydesdale horse at Sandcastle Toys.

I got myself a winged box kite at The Kite Company.

I almost bought myself a French Military Box Kite, but then I would have had to've surrendered to somebody.

After flying my kite on Nye Beach, I walked up to the famous Sylvia Beach Hotel, which was beautiful and awesome. I really must stay there someday. I was able to look into the Melville and the Edgar Allen Poe rooms--the latter even has a pendulum over the bed!

Between these and the aforementioned Rogue Brewery and the Oregon Coast Aquarium, I've half a mind to pitch a tent and stick around out here for some time to come.


Thus far, 25 rocks. More soon.

paulmonster-Ursus maritimus horribilis


Excerpt from my Letter to A., 10 May 2006

...I'm teaching a week-long residency out here on the Coast, and I'm having a very fine time of it. All my kids are enthusiastic and deeply inspiring, the teachers are quick and forthright, the weather absolutely splendid. I spend my days making puppets with kids, helping them tell stories with them. After school I get to explore the beaches and trails honeycombing the area, with places like the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Rogue Brewery to sustain me. I'm very happy here.

If anything, it's the eve of my birthday that tempers things for me, now. Turning 25 feels sobering, mostly because I'm particularly conscious of how little I have to show for my efforts. There's a growing Credibility Gap (to use a term from the Johnson Administration) between my abilities and ambitions on the one hand, and the credentials that speak on my behalf on the other. Given how extended my responsibilities are--in caring for my mother, in pursuing my own work, in making rent every month--obtaining the necessary credentials (that is, a college education, a living wage, health care) is now an insistent priority for me, if only because it's the lack of such things that are dissuading me from extending myself even further towards more important work. My biggest challenge, as I see it, is this business of becoming a grown-up, without inflicting myself with adulthood shackles.

To this end, here I am writing yet another similar letter from another far-flung place, chronicling the ebb and rush of so many more minor ambitions, many more little triumphs and petty debacles. Projects come and go. The teeming texts of scripts and ideas that populate these gestating years still motivate their suceeding hopes and intentions, such that I am thus in thrall to a self-perpetuating momentum of impoverished creativity--which is why I rely so heavily on these lonely letters to punctuate the inexorable tide of things.

I'm driven to restlessness in the loneliness of all of this. It is deeply disquieting, in the dark of the night, to see in myself how painful my isolation can be, and still to know how impossible it is for things to be otherwise. Every minotaur has a labyrinth like this, of some kind.

From time to time valiant and indomitable friends of mine will suggest that I join forces and move east with them, trying our combined strengths and fortunes in a broader world of mightier possibilities--and it is such a tempting prospect. I only wait for the opportunity to move from a position of strength--that is, I must be capable of sustaining a degree of sophisticated imagination that will in turn enable me to properly acquit myself in my undertakings.

Is it so strange that, thus far, I feel that I haven't thus properly acquitted myself? I've only ever felt that portions, or facets of myself have ever truly been engaged at any given time. I feel like a kind of iceberg, passing through so many worlds largely submerged and untapped, hidden from view.

Of course, the greatest personal temptation to move east is the prospect of your close personal proximity. Your friendship is especially sorely missed. I am very much in need of friends, now. It is a disappointment to have cumulatively celebrated so many birthdays alone, even when I do so by choice.

I hope you will forgive and indulge me in yet another long and self-involved letter; looking back, I see too much melancholy in the tenor of my words, whereas I truly am happier right now than these pretentiously brooding words let on. It is literally quite impossible to remain discouraged for long, even in face of the larger world's calamities, when one spends so much time wrapped up with precociously invincible children.

Dear lovely A. I miss you a great deal. Please take care of yourself, and let me know how things go in these months of yours. When you come back West again, there's a number of glorious jellyfish I'd like you to meet....

much love,



Fund Free Mammograms!

I have no idea how these things work, where you click on a link once a day and then magically something worthy like homeless shelters or a mammogram are funded. But they're saying that this month, your clicks are worth double, so go, click away. Go now.



London Calling

The English Invasion is off, looks to be happening in the fall at the earliest. Which is unfortunate, but also okay, seeing as how my financial health is not exactly conducive towards a herculean expenditure of that magnitude so soon.

This opens the door for a couple of other lower-key projects this summer; Work Songs, college investigations, Crater Lake and The Beach, making and saving money. It's all good.




Glorious Bacon and a Lightsaber.

Days, weeks, months... Everything goes barrelling along, faster than I know how to manage.

Last weekend I performed one of the work songs I've been working on (more like marinating) for well over a year now. It was a deep plunge into a bursting place, kind of like suddenly sprinting for three miles when all you've been doing is ambling along. Lots of good feedback, but yet I'm still lacking a few key insights into the nature of the thing. It's a matter of courage right now, I think.

Passed through Moscow, Idaho, on the way to British Columbia last week. The highway runs through this beautiful rolling region of hillocks and ridglets, scooped and scalloped like sculpted soap bars, festively adorned with the ocassional decorative cow. A few millenia ago, some busy old glaciers swept past the region and left this rolling loveliness everywhere.

I stayed with my good friend Sally in Moscow, and ate tons and tons of delicious food; there was this dish called the Barbecue Chicken Coalition, and that, my friends, is what it takes to inspire a real Coalition of the Willing. Much laughter and plotting. She lives with four cats and a prize-winning playwright, in a fairy-tale corner of Idaho where the co-op is staffed with legions of nubile young things. How can you not look north with envy?

And then Canada with my cousins, performing in an opulent cultural center, tons and tons more food. There's this diner in North Vancouver called the Tomahawk (it's only mildly offensive), where they serve this legendary breakfast special called The Yukon Platter, which is heaps and heaps of old-style Canadian Bacon, a couple of vast eggs and diced hash browns on toast. Just staring at this staggering concentration of greasy goodness makes all the cares in the world seem frivolous and inconsequential, even as your soul and your arteries eagerly contort and harden in anticipation. You consume the plate and then you sleep for a couple of hours while your metabolism compensates for the sudden overabundance of bacon in the system. Then you wake up groggy and punchy, and the mere mention of food curdles your intestines.

My cousin gave me a lightsaber for an early birthday present. It's this gloriously extravagant costume piece that lights up and makes those wonderful sound effects. It comes with its own mounting stand. My cousin and I, we're such dorks. Somehow I managed to get this thing past customs, don't ask me how.

T-nine days to My Birthday Festivities. On Paul's Wish List:

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes
Peace On Earth
An Antique Pickaxe (or Sledgehammer)
A Utilikilt
A Gerber
Financial Security
A College Education
Universal Health Care
Plane Tickets to London
Interesting Stamps from Foreign Countries
True Love
Another Lightsaber