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How to Identify a Mail Bomb

There was a traffic jam at State and arlow and I had to wait at the comer for ten minutes or more. When the bus to the South end mall rattled by, saw three mannequins, standing upright, arms in L, clutching at the plastic loops dangling from the hand pole overhead. The sun through the tinted windows looked blue against their synthetic skins. I felt nauseas. The crossing signal fla hed a white, stick man sauntering purposefully to indicate walk, walk. I wondered: is the guy on that walk sign the same guy who poses for restroom door markers? Is he the one who shovels dirt on the "Men at Work" diamonds or touches hi foot to the third rail 00 those subway warning plaques? Has he been painted in pose with a vending machine coming down hard? Did he hold his daughter's hand as she crossed for the bus? Did be lose a finger or two in a snowblower, a toe in the lawn mower? Does he mourn a child lost in a bizarre, pickle bucket drowning incident?

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Cutout One night, drunk on malt liquor, I made out, iJ1 the backseat of my best friend's car with a beautiful, young, blond dread whose life, it would later be revealed, was every bit as complex and confusing as mine. The morning after, as we sat barefoot in the embrace of a stand of pine boughs, arms around one another's waists and her head on my shoulder, she with wine hangover and me in a dirty, ripped shirt, we were happy. Later that day, drunk: on malt liquor, 1 would make love to the best friend of one of my ex's and, even though she was probably the most attractive girl I had ever been with, I did not allow myself to come becau e, even though we fucked for over an hour, she did not have an orgasm. That night, she old me that her father had put his hands on her as a child. She told me how she had enjoyed it and therefor felt she deserved it. We laid together, anTIS and legs atangle, and I desperately wanted to comfort her, but she never cried, not even later when she awoke from a strange nightmare not knowing who 1was or where we were.

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AN INTERVIEW WITH LOR FROMTKE COMMOHGBOUHDCREW BY RICHARD BROOKS
Loti is part of a Hip Hop revolution; a 30-year-old MC from Bangor, Maine with grandiose dreams of marrying Hip Hop to Poetry and, he's in good company. Some of the most blunt, lyrical Hip Hop of the past ten years has come out of this section of the country. Acts like Buck 65, Lab 7, and Anticon (which gave birth to the amazing Them LP and Sole's genre defying Bottle of Humans) are pushing the limits of what rap can be. These artists are more concerned with expressing themselves constructively than they are 'Withbragging about driveby's and drinking. Detractors will say it's because they're mostly white boys from the suburbs and, while it's UUe that few of these Me's have the tough guy, street cred of an Eminem, those detractors are missing the point. It's not about skin color. These artists are using Hip Hop in it's purest form; as modem day, lyric poetry. I caught up with Lofi at his home office where he was watching Pirates of the Caribbean, eating chicken wings, and drinking a Sam Adams at four in theafternoon. "It's my third," he admitted before offering one to me.

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Firstlhings lirsl. For people. whodoo'llmow ...
Almost everybody reading (Laughs). My name is Lofi. I am one-fourth of the Hip Hop group The Commonground Crew. Representing Northeast skills and styles (Laughs).

_Who th.eHell are vouP

So whal's UP with lbeCommonground
The CGC is on semi-permanent hiatus .

CrewlCGC]P Whal'sneXlP

.Are VOU hrok.en npP
We're all working on different projects, I'm making mix tapes 'WithDJ Playskool, Detox is working with film now, making movies ...

Whal ever beeameol vour albumP
We got lazy. We got busy. The album never got finished. It's weak, I know.

Whal are vouworking on nowP
Well. I've discovered music on the Internet. Before, I was always ju st looking at porn. I've started importing beats, getting access to beats that are more up tempo and commercial sounding.

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Belore vou rapped over primarilv live music.
My dream was always to fuse straight up Jazz with rapping. The album I recorded with The CGC was primarily Liveinstrumentation.

Nowvou're doing more sample based musicrt
Definitely. It's bringing a new edge to my music. I'm working with a DJ for the first time.

Plavskool;t
That's right; DJ Playskool, and Shawn Timms will be producing the album for Space Ghost Records.

Shawn Timms, he's worked withwbort
He produced an album for Object, a band that you were in.

naughingl For lbe lolks who don't know.
Shawn Timms owns and operates Space Ghost Records. He has produced albums for such bands as Ares Mayhem and Object. He is currently working with the band Blanket of Ash. Should I give the E-mail address? I feel like I'm doing a fucking commercial.

So Space Ghost is more 01a Heavv Metallabel;t

Shawn works with who he wants to work with, but mine will be the first rap album on the label.

Your Ivries were alwavs reallv political. Have the themes changed now that vou're working with diUerent people and, as vou said, more up tempo beatsP
Right The CG was reaUy dark. Everyone in the band was a fan of Heavy Metal. 1, for one, am a huge fan of bands LikeSonic Youth and Fugazi. We made dark music and addressed some dark themes. For me, that was nothing more than an extention of the poetry I was already writing. My lyric have not changed. If anything, they've gotten more political. 1 am not happy with Pre ident Bush. I am not happy with the Patriot Act. The environment is going to shit and nobody cares. Sometimes I think I'm the amy person who remembers that Oxygen comes from trees, plants. 1 don't want my grandkids to have to wear gas masks whenever they want to go outside because the Earth no longer has an atmosphere

What's the Hip Hop scene like in MaineP
There really is no place where Hip Hop acts can perform live. A few Summers back I was with a "HipHopi Jazz combo called Bikini Atoll. We played a lot of open rnics and eventually got some paying gigs at a few bars, but we were primarily a Jazz band. We had a Little,trap kit, an upright bass, one kid played saxophone, and two MC's goofed on freestyles. The cene around here really developed more around parties. Somebody would get on the drum kit and a bunch of kids would start freestyling. Later, DJ Shade and DJ RPM started rocking basement parties and opening for local Hardcore bands. Kids would freestyle with them. Later still, RPM had Headphone People. They were tight.

Whal about other spols in the NonhwestP
Canada has a live scene, kid trading tapes and stuff. There was a local radio show a few year back, Vibes From the Underground, I think the host was one of the Me's from Lab 7. He played alot of great stuff from anada. He'd have Canadian MC's call up and freestyle live on the air. Of cour e now, everyone is getting on Buck 65. He' great. He was in Spin last month. Out of Portland (Maine), you've got those Anticon kids. Sale just had a new album out. The Them LP is amazing. I still listen to it all the time. That record changed Hip Hop for me. What aboul graHiliP Do VDo Slill wril.eP I was never any good at it really There are a lot of talented writers up here though. Ijust got back from Arizona and I didn't see any good graf out there. It makes me wonder if the East coa t i taking control of the graffiti world.

Is tbal a challenge;'
Sure" Bring it on L.A.

Belore I go, can you name the lop len Hip Hop albums thai you're leeling rigbt now;'
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no particular order, they are: 1" Jurassic 5 Quality Control 2. Mas Def & Talib Kweli Black Star 3. Quannum Spectrum 4. Styles of Beyond 2000 Fold 5. Kool Keith Black Elvis/ Lost in Space 6. Beastie Boy Hello Nasty 7. DJ Shadow The Private Press 8. Deltron 3030 9. Sole Bottle of Humans 10. Lab 7 Take it Back

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Give Blood I want to live everybody's life. I want to be the grey, black man at the downtown cafe with the porkpie hat who yells across the street to a friend from his childhood and they both laugh, one remembering afternoons on the stoop, drinking grape Ne-hi, the other thinking about a double date from 1963 and trying to recall the girls' names. I want to be the young computer programmer stepping out into afternoon sun through shimmering, glass revolver in an upwardly mobile fashion, lap top slung across shoulder in a knapsack style bag from the Gap. I want to get into my Bentley or my Beamer, cruise home to my apartment with the white carpets, and do sit-ups until I need a drink. I want weekends at the bar, a different, beautiful woman every night, a seventy-five dollar a day coke habit, and a real sense that the whole thing is just spinning out of control. I want to be the cute, blond girl [ made out with one night in the backseat of my best friend's car. I want to get inside her everytime [ see her. I want to feel what she feels. watch her dance, eyes closed, really seeming to feel the music. I want to be the bus driver. Everyone respects the bus driver. Everyone says: "Thank You," as they step off at the corner.

Back to Zero The first thing I saw was a row of bare trees as grey and paJe as a swatch of concentration camp newsreel. I rolled onto my back and the sun, still low over the river, pushed its rays into my forehead right at the spot where a trepanner's drill might go. I sat up. My hangover wasn't too bad, but I bad, apparently slept in the park. I stood up and dusted my elf off. There was a hole in my shirt that hadn't been there the day before Another casualty of the War on Drugs, I thought. Then I thought: 1 need a beer. There was a catch-all on the corner, over the bridge, and a quick stick of the pocket revealed more than enough cabbage to keep my party rolling at least until noon I cleared my throat, spit twice, smoothed my hair and headed off in the direction ofthe store. Slowly it came back to me. We had fought again, me and the wife, and 1 left late, unable to stand anymore, in search of alcohol. I was already drunk and sad. The World looked thin, like an eggsh II, and Just as pale. I walked down by the river and found Dan Spools and some of his boys. They were huddled around a small fire and laughing, laughing. The sound was a warm wave that pushed my troubles away and put me in a new mood. Dan said: "Hello, hello, and handed me a beer from a cooler packed with ice. I opened the bottle and swallowed deeply. Dan said: "Hey everybody, this is my friend Jughead, He's a poet." A thin man with a peppered beard said: "Nobody reads poetry anymore," and they alJ went back about their business. Four serious men drinking away their Social Security and mine on a warm, Summer night. Dan said: "Don't listen to them, they're just bitter." I shrugged, said: "Who isn't?" Ping-ding. I was in the shop. The guy behind the counter was all eye bags and Fuck the World which is just how a store clerk should be. I resent the oh-so-choreboy-how-are-you-todaycertainly-is-a-Iot-of-weather-we're-having-have-a-nice-day bullshit. moved to the frosted cooler at the back of the store and selected a forty ounce bottle of beer based on its alcohol content. The clerk said: "How are you today?" I grunted, thought about saying something like: "I'm buying beer at 9 A.M., how the fuck . are you?" Instead, my attention was distracted by a miniature display of cheap, silver jewelery at the left of the cash regi ter. I studied the choices and finally settled on a small piece fashioned to look like a seahorse. I would buy it for my wife and then go back to the park and drink: my beer before going home.
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The beer went into a bag, the seahorse went into my pocket. Ping-ding. I left the shop. Crossing the bridge I saw two teens with bandannas over their faces, spray painting designs across the pylons at the water's edge, and stopped to watch. The words looked alien to me, but I suddenly understood the complex emotions involved in anonymous vanity. Behind those cloaked faces and geometric patterns I envisioned a World of respect and integrity, things that my poetry lost over the years since writing became a career. I remembered college then and my days as an open mic all-star. I hadn't yet published a single word, had never been the featured poet at a book signing, or won an award. I had fans though. Men who wanted to be me, women who just plain wanted me. There was a respect then. Now, all of that seemed lost to professional jealousy and deadlines. Freelance writing is a cut throat business. I hadn't published in almost two years. I walked back towards the park. I thought about my wife. I thought about my career. 1

thought about my drunk, I thought about the graphitti kids and their cool, cool, secret World, 1 laid down in the grass, still warm and flat from the night. I opened my beer. I took a drink. I awoken-om my dream.

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