Paul read his poetry naked.

He was a crowd favorite at urban poetry readings, especially at the former punk club QE2 on Central Avenue, where he screamed his edgy and ironic “White Boy” poems — often completely naked. Occasionally, he wore a baseball catcher’s mask to go with full-frontal nudity.

Such is how my once friend and colleague, Paul Weinman, is described in a tribute posted in the Albany Times Union today. He just died from the complications of Alzheimer’s. He was 75 years old. The newspaper piece celebrates Paul’s delightfully skewed lifestyle and creative pursuits and is an entertaining read even if you never knew him.

I met Paul when I began working at the New York State Museum in 1980. He already was a fixture and a legend in that institution, often annoying the staid administrators with his controversial off-site antics, while, at the same time, becoming a beloved and entertaining teacher in the Museum’s educational program. Parents and kids alike flocked to his workshops based on the Museum’s exhibits, and inner city neighborhood kids would show up in the Museum after school hours just to hang out with Paul and be entertained by his adventurous historical tales and re-enactments of life in the wilderness of the Adirondacks. He treated all kids with respect and affirmation; he dealt with adults with honest response to the way in which they dealt with him; he responded to the hypocrisies of every power structure with naively gutsy irreverence.

My professional path crossed with Paul’s because we were both poets in an institution that shared a building with the New York Sate Library and Archives and that often held literature-related events. Together, Paul and I organized and hosted the Museum’s annual “Banned Book Week” public readings. We held ekphrastic poetry events in conjunction with Museum art exhibits. We worked well together as colleagues supporting the educational mission of the New York State Museum.

Outside of our jobs, as part of the Albany poetry community, we came to know each other as writers, although our styles — in both content in presentation — had very little in common. As a challenge to my more conservative bent, one day Paul suggested that we do a collaborative poetry chapbook that explored male-female sexual tensions. I would write a poem and then he would write a poem in response. We would go back and forth like that until we had enough for a chapbook. Paul would print out and staple copies of the chapbook and then distribute it, for free, around the area, as he did with all of his poetry projects.

The whole idea was way out of my comfort zone, but Paul was pretty much an icon in the local poetry scene, and I was intrigued by both him and the challenge.

This is what the cover and back page our chapbook looked like. “Fruits of the Harvest Press” is just the name Paul gave to his own personal printing and distribution system. There’s no date on the publication, but it probably was in the late 1980s.

It took me a while to figure out how to approach the subject of sexuality, but I found a way to do it my way: through food metaphors. Hence the title: “Eating Disorders and Other Mastications.” My first effort was inspired by a Thanksgiving turkey neck.

something about turkey necks,
gizzards nestled in palm of hand,
stroked with oil,
moist heated
until firm, juice-laden,
ready for needing,
nibbling, gnawing–
fine night dining,

And we went on from there, as I branched out from the food metaphors into other expressions of female sensuality and Paul responded with blatant come-ons such as this, which became one of his famous “White Boy” series:

A.   autographing pens
      strapped to hips
B.   rakish hat
      festooned with
      panty hose
C.   boots tooled
      with female in-
      initials, cellular
      calling codes

My relationship with Paul never moved beyond friendship, although as a willing participant in Dionysian revelry, he might have taken it in that direction. But as attracted as I often was to “bad boys,” Paul was way out of my league in that arena. Plus I got to know Paul’s wife at the time, Judith Braun , a talented visual artist who really didn’t come into her own until she divorced Paul. I liked Judith, enjoyed the bohemian parties they threw, was energized by the creative energies with which they always were surrounded. Paul caused me to stretch the boundaries of my writing and my perceptions of what is acceptable to me in both words and life.

Paul loved the lore of the Adirondacks, and he spent the last five years of his Alzheimer-ridden life making miniature chairs out of tree branches. As the newspaper tribute reports: He built miniature chairs in the Adirondack twig furniture style and left them anonymously around town with a note: “I’m an orphan chair. Please take me home and put a stuffed animal or plant on me.”

I don’t know his latest wife, but I’m going to try to contact her to see if I can get one of those chairs to hold a plant in my garden and hold his memory in my heart.

calling all friends of mine — and b!X’s

How about doing something really nice for b!X, whose recent employment ended when a wall in the old building where he was working fell down, revealing a substantial lining of black mold. That was sort of the final obscenity in a work environment that had gotten steadily worse over time.
B!X birthday is October 25, and when I asked him what he wanted, he responded by saying that he wished all of my friends would by one of his photographs, which he has for sale here. They come 8X12, matte finish, unframed, and printed by a professional photography shop.
This is “Broken Circle,” one of my favorites. I even bought a copy for my new living quarters:
broken.pngFlickr photostream list of subjects and pick one of those — for example, from his cemetery series , or his green door series, or his central east side (Portland) series. If you want one from there, just let him know and he’ll move it to his storefront so that you can buy it.
It’s never a great time to be out of a job, but this time it has to be the very worst.
Actually, if you know anyone who owns a bookstore and needs someone who can do just about anything that needs to be done — from ordering to inventory to cataloging to shipping to stocking shelves — give them b!X’s web site, where he posts his resume (of sorts) under “about,” which I quote here, just in case…. (He says he’s even willing to relocate.)

About The One True b!X

An eleven-year resident of the Portland of Oregon, born nearly forty years ago in upstate New York, he is a devout agnostic and misanthrope who aspires to be an at least passable rationalist. He believes that cynicism only results from first believing people are capable of better and then repeatedly being proven wrong.
If events were pictures and emotions were sounds, his memories would play as silent movies.

When he was very little, he learned the all-important lesson that adults don’t always know what the Hell they are doing, when he revealed to a number of grown men that the reason the ramp on the U-Haul truck his father was using to move out of the house was not steady was because they had failed completely to attach it properly.
During his senior year in high school, in response to an uncooperative student newspaper, he published several issues The Myra Stein Underground Press (named for an infamous teacher who one day disappeared without explanation), which despite being an anonymous publication he later saw sitting in his file on the guidance counselor’s desk.
His brief college career in the main was marked by the eruption of controversy over the playing of a bronze Henry Moore sculpture with percussion mallets, a debate which landed him in The New York Times and ultimately led to him writing (the night before it was due) a well-received term paper on social drama.
Prior to moving to Portland, in 1995 he helped organize the S. 314 Petition, one of the first large-scale Intenet petition efforts, which sought unsuccessfully to prevent passage of the Communications Decency Act, although it did yield him an appearance in Rolling Stone.
Shortly after moving to Portland in 1997, he become co-owner (and then sole proprietor) of the Millennium Cafe, which he then ignominiously proceeded to run into the ground, but not before holding two successful July 4th events at which people read aloud the Declaration of Independence.
From late 2002 through late 2005, he published the critically-acclaimed Portland Communique, an experiment in reader-supported independent journalism whose departure is still lamented by some today, although likely not by the people who falsely accused him of taking bribes in exchange for coverage.
Sometime in 2003, he discovered The Finger, a zine apparently published by Swan Island shipyard workers during World War II, which he made available online and for which he has perpetually-delayed plans to make available as an on-demand reprint.
In early 2006, he founded Can’t Stop the Serenity, an unprecedented annual global event consisting of locally-organized charity screenings of the Joss Whedon film Serenity to benefit Equality Now, which to date has raised more than $200,000, making it far more important than any of the many other Whedon-related fan efforts or websites for which he’s been responsible.
Late in the Fall of 2007, he helped launch Fans4Writers, a grassroots effort to support the Writers Guild of America in its strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, although he was involved only long enough to get the website up and running.
He no longer is employed at The Great Northwest Bookstore, and would not necessarily object to working at another independent bookstore if a full-time opportunity presented itself, and in fact might even be willing to relocate for it.

He neither bikes nor dances nor dates nor drives nor drugs nor swims. He does, however, drink. Oddly, he no longer smokes. He is a life-long resident of Red Sox Nation who, when not wearing his baseball cap, enjoys wearing a porkpie.