Sunday, March 29, 2009

BURNING LOVE


i love this song. i like this band. the original "studio" video should be seen. it's based on the great derek jarman's "caravaggio," a movie meditation on the loneliness of desire & art's(at least, the artist's) attempt to ease the pain of it. the real caravaggio wanted to "destroy painting." he struggled w/the lie of art & the politics of patronship. he died alone & in exile. you can see it on you tube but the embedding mechanism is disabled so i couldn't put it here.

this is a southern band consisting of 3brothers & their cousin. their father is a hell-fire fundamentalist preacher. the boys chose not to go that route.

i'm always amazed when a big crowd is so into a song you can actually hear them singing along. this works for me.
enjoy.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

SPECTERS OF HISTORY



"Spectrality does not involve the conviction that ghosts exist or that the past (and maybe even the future they offer to prophesy) is still very much alive and at work, within the living present: all it says, if it can be thought to speak, is that the living present is scarcely as self-sufficient as it claims to be; that we would do well not to count on its density and solidity, which might under exceptional circumstances betray us."
fredric jameson


as bush & his cronies continue their unprecedented & feeble attempts to rewrite history, i've been struck more by the republican party's inability to craft a coherent, reasonable response to obama's very large gameplan.

let's face it: the republican party hasn't ever really been a party of ideas. for the last few decades, they've been elected based on their positions vis a vis a very few social issues: abortion, gun control, gay rights. their positions on these issues never required any significant thinking---their only argument was that they were upholding "core american values," even when polls clearly indicated this was no longer the case.

i suppose phil gramm was one of the last "thinking" republicans & he got the hell out of dodge after he'd crafted the various laws that lead to our current economic crisis. like the excreable trent lott, gramm retreated to a higher paying private sector job where he could reap the benefits of his money grubbing ethically challenged public work in the senate.


if you doubt me, just tune in & watch the republican's nightly exercise in jaw-dropping nonsense & non sequiturs in the face of our near economic meltdown. it's tax cuts & spending freezes over & over w/nothing in between. if we didn't already have an historical precedent that proves how catastrophically counter-productive those ideas are(vide 30s america, ie the great depression), just a few moments of reflection would reveal how counterintuitive they are.

the culture wars of the 90s have produced a republican party that's w/o intelligence, short-sighted in global issues, burdened by intractable positions on social issues, & unable to hear itself parroting failed & obsolete ideas. when the country wasn't fighting TWO wars, on the brink of economic chaos, & dangerously reviled around the world, the republicans could count on their base & steer the discussion toward social issues. they weren't compelled to KNOW anything about economics or world politics or globalization or science. in the past, we've certainly looked to our political leaders to at least give us a heads up about the important issues of the day. for the most part, the democrats still do. but the republicans have been caught out in the open now, their weaknesses so glaring they blind us to any strengths that might be there. the rapidly vanishing middle-class has been the victim of these people's incompetent leadership. their children are being sent to fight again & again & again in a spectacularly pointless war, losing their lives & their minds. they've seen their hard earned retirements vaporized by the greed & corruption of republican sponsored wall street. any children spared the horror of war face the horror of not being able to go to college, not because of merit but because of money.

our brand spanking new president has already demonstrated in less than 70 days on the job more intelligence, more wit, more innovative thinking than the entire republican party has since lincoln. watching bush & his bootlicks try to manipulate their place in history made me realize just how pathologically clueless the last adminstration was. when history washes over these nitwits, it won't be to wash them clean but to slam them into a true & right judgement. we may well have been briefly the victims of their ignorance & evil but in this great democratic experiment called america, the "truth will have out."

i think obama knows this. i think he realizes there are many histories in our america. i think he knows he's highlighted one particular but significant thread in the complex weave of this country's fabric of existence. that's why the specters of history won't haunt him. he knows they're actually here to help & that it all comes out in the wash.

LIFE'S RICH PAGEANT///1


just a bit of a break from the personal narrative. i'm utterly captivated by these incredible spaces. it reminded me of a very old childhood memory. right down the street from us on hatton, there was a large house w/a basement(very rare for houses in east hill). the family had a small store down there & sold candy & various other sundries. i hadn't thought of that in nearly 40years.


Bulgarian "Squat Shops"

In the late 80's, private ownership of production was legalized in Bulgaria. Among the first businesses to appear were these small "Squat Shops," operated out of floor-level cellar windows. Despite more legitimate storefront space becoming available, these small portals remained operational and lucrative - miniature convenience stores catering to the cigarette fix of the passing pedestrian or the midday thirst of those waiting on bus stops, for which patrons have no objection to stooping to street level. An idiosyncratic, now common element of the Bulgarian capital, over time the shops have evolved elaborate displays, framing the small street level openings with bottles of alcohol, coffee, and cartons of cigarettes, often in eye-catching bright colors.


Friday, March 27, 2009

JEW JOKE



we were having a civil phone conversation, mother & i. this was pretty much a rare thing. things usually went in other directions:

"hello mother."
"who is this?"
"your youngest."
"my youngest what?"
"son."
"i don't have a son."
"you have 3 sons. i'm the youngest."
"my children are all dead."
"no mother, they aren't."
"they're dead to me."
"ok. well, happy mother's day."

the phone went dead. mother was quite a diva. she was the youngest of 13 children & really had to work for attention. she'd gotten really good at it. on the other hand, i'd gotten really good at not giving it to her. i never called back when she hung up like that. i'd wait till the next significant day.

this new conversation was a little different. she was trying to give me some information---mother was like the hyman roth character in godfather part2, always dying but never actually doing it.

"if i die & that could be any day, you need to know how to access some accounts."
"mother, you're not dying."
"says you. we're all dying, smart guy. listen to me, you need a password for these accounts."
"ok."
"listen," her voice dropped conspiratorially, "it's your great grandmother's name."
"ok."
"gluckmeyer."
there was a long silence.
"ok."
"it's jewish."
"yep. sounds like it to me."
"your great grandmother & her family were jews. the good kind," she quickly added.
"the good kind?"
"yes. that's what some one told me, ashki's---something like that. i think that's what they called them, ashkis."
"ashkenazi?," i asked.
"yes. something like that." she was still whispering into the phone.
"this is pretty interesting. it explains all the chicken soup & lamb i ate as a kid," i joked.
"that's jew food," she replied.
"but you're telling me we ARE jews, mother."
"well...only technically."

the fact is, i don't think my jewish brothers in arms would actually accept me into the ranks of the chosen people. it has something to do w/matrilineal lineage(uterine lineage for those of you NOT in the know). many native american tribes would warmly welcome me. so too the nairs & kurichiyas of india, the naxi in china & those wild & crazy tuaregs(of god knows where). but the jews, well, they don't pay any attention to those wonderful laws that sinclair lewis wrote about in "kingsblood royal" that made you a jew or a negro or a native american if you had 1/64% of their blood. & i don't think they'd appreciate my great grandmother's family's anxiety, southern jews, doing what they could to hide their jewish ancestry in the south by marrying their young daughter into a family as weird but as neutrally named as jones. nah, i'm not one of the chosen people.

it's really no big deal. it explains a little, i guess, why many of my childhood friends were jewish(the kahns, the greenhuts, the rickoffs) though i never really thought about it back then. i guess i got circumcision & a sense of humor & a taste for chicken soup out of the deal. i didn't get the huge cock that ugly short jewish guys were rumored to have. i would never want to contest whether i was part of the chosen people, not even arguing for maybe a less than quality heavenly view. the bible hasn't really been a major part of my life for a long time & that's really where that pact was sealed.

i will say that at mother's funeral i mentioned our jewish heritage to my family. we were sitting in the hatton st house's living room & my brothers were there along w/their families. the judge & olga had gone. we were going through a bunch of old pictures & found a picture of my great grandmother on bobo's side of the family. she was a gorgeous, absolutely drop dead beautiful cuban woman. i knew that the jones family had migrated up from miami. that someone in my family had the balls to marry this gorgeous hispanic woman way back when didn't seem to bother anyone.

"o by the way," i said, " mother told me we're jews.
"what? what are you saying?", my oldest brother barked out. his body jerked up out of his seat like he'd been electrocuted.
"well, that great grandmother's name was gluckmeyer. she was jewish. that makes us jewish. "
"no way. that's not possible. it's a lie," there was an odd strained sound in his voice. his face was becoming bright red.
"i have no reason to lie about something like that, especially under the circumstances. it's something she told me. gluckmeyer. that name is part of our family, cam." at this point, i was reconsidering my telling them this. it didn't seem to be going down easily(tho to his credit, chip, by middle brother, wasn't pitching a fit like cam my oldest brother was).
"i wouldn't repeat that if i was you. that's not going to do anyone any good," cam asserted. he'd calmed a bit tho there was an underlying truculence to his tone. his face was jutting forward like he was daring me to take a swing at him.
"o, you expect fiery crosses on the lawn out there, cam?"
"you know what i mean, danny. it's not true. lies don't do anyone any good." he seemed to content himself by delivering this lame moral homily.
i just stared at him. everyone else in the room pretended to be doing something else other than listening to this conversation. "yeah, cam," i thought, "like the jones family doesn't lie. it took mother 40 years to fess up."

at another time & another place, i wouldn't have let this go. i can hear where i'd have gone w/this: "hey, a priest, a minister, & a rabbi all went into a bar...."

i like to think i'm better than that now. or at least that i know a better joke.

this tornado loves you///part 4



everyone knew.
i couldn't believe it but everyone knew. it was a much discussed topic. bus-stops were a-buzz; the hallways hummed w/it. alicia & i were nearing our two month anniversary & we hadn't kissed. we hadn't kissed & everyone knew. everyone talked about it: some w/me, most w/alicia but it was definitely the talk of our crowd.

there had been a few awkward moments at some parties. it was understood that "couples" made out. that's what they did at parties. i'd seen it myself. i remember stumbling onto kathy boyle & gary galenbeck making out at a party at lewis greenhut's. i was frozen to the spot, watching as their mouths & jaws worked furiously, tongues slipping & sliding all around. suddenly, kathy broke the kiss & glared at me. "why don't you take a picture?," she hissed. i stumbled away in utter abjection. i felt it all the way to my toes.

i'd been told what french kissing was by my hoodlum friends at the slot car raceway i frequented until alicia came along. i remembered being horrified. & baffled. i just couldn't figure out the mechanics of the thing. where would the noses go? & the tongue thing was confusing too. did they meet midway? was there some kind of breach if my tongue went too far? or hers? & of course, there was the issue of spit.

as she & i sat together at another party, glumly watching other couples kissing, i kept saying to myself, "that looks easy. shit, if randy waldrop can figure it out, it can't be too hard." but regardless of all the mental gymnastics i performed, i just couldn't bring myself to lean over & do it. i sat there w/my arm around her, making small talk. & then, it was time to go & our parents arrived to pick us up & another opportunity, in front of our friends yet again, went up in smoke. there was palpable frustration, due in part no doubt to hormones, & more false resolve to end this ridiculous situation. i remember several parties where we were the last two to leave, her waiting for my big move & me being unable to deliver while impatient horns honked, drawing more attention to the situation.

it was at one of these parties, at becky petrie's, that i had my big break through. we were sitting in a lazy boy chair together, my arm around her casually. as usual, we were watching the other couples make out. the room was semi-dark, for the kissing couple's privacy, i suppose. suddenly, i realized that my hand was on her left breast. i was petrified. what happens if she flips out? how much more embarrassment could i take? i moved my hand just a bit & relaxed it again. i waited. i repeated my last move. i started to get dizzy. i was on second base! my heart began to pound as i began to freely move my hand over her breast & she drew a pillow up to cover what was going on. this went on for what felt like an eternity. i was floating in a lust haze of sexual bliss & yet, we didn't kiss. the party started breaking up. bobo showed up to take me & walker home.


the next weekend she & i went to the movies & walked from the saenger theater on palafox st up to the elks club on garden where bobo was playing dominos. we got some cokes from booker, the old black bartender there & retreated to the front room of that ancient building. there beneath the huge antlered head of an elk, we settled into a cuddle on a ratty old couch that turned rather quickly into a groping free for all(on my part, anyway). w/my hand down her shirt, feeling her small pert breasts once again, our mouths came together as mouths do & then it was our mouths working ferverishly & our tongues slipping & sliding delightedly. i remember feeling drunk, woozy, & inflamed. i certainly felt like i'd found my niche, something i could excel at, something i wanted to excel at. our session lasted over an hour & by the end we were both panting & flushed. her bra was long gone, thrown onto the floor but oddly, as excited as we both were, we remained content that night kissing & petting.

later when bobo drove us home, we sat together in the back seat & continued our new found activity. i restained myself from feeling her up more there in the backseat but our tongues swirled away until we got to her house. bobo & i drove home in silence & i thought about getting to second base before i went to first. "ass backwards," i imagined bobo muttering & i silently agreed w/him. i leaned my head back & breathed in alicia's perfume. surely this was love or lust or something equally as profound. i just had to figure out what.

my adult kiss initiation was over. though in actuality, it had just begun.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

this tornado loves you///part 3



alicia & i got together in the summer of our 7th grade. she'd been in my science class taught by mr studstill(i swear). he'd arranged the seating into quads, four desks set together, two facing two. alicia sat directly across from me, facing me. i don't remember who the other two at our "quad" were. at the time, they were invisible to me anyway. alicia was the only thing i saw.

actually i saw more than you'd imagine. i used the oldest trick in the book, the "dropped pencil," to look up alicia's relatively short dresses. at first, tho thrilling, her white cotton underwear was a bit of a disappointment. still, her long legs were gorgeous & knowing that just that little bit of cotton material was separating me from the most profound mystery of life sent me into masturbatory paroxysms every afternoon when i got home from school.

at some point, i noticed the white cotton underwear had been replaced by tiny silky multi-colored panties. my head nearly exploded the first time i saw these. a year later, alicia admitted she knew what i had been doing & wanted to tease me. she said she figured i'd realize she knew & would proceed w/our "relationship" accordingly. i was 13yo &, while i was shredding my poor little cock nightly in marathon jack-off sessions, the idea that a girl, an object of desire, would be willingly providing me w/material for these exercises just escaped me.



at some point, late in the school year, sally told me alicia liked me. up until that moment, our "attraction" had been defined by teasing, name calling, & probably some pushing or punching or some other kind of disguised attempts at physical contact. we had been in mr manning's art class(an elective, as i recall, to replace p.e. for a semester)& she'd been impressed w/a piece of pottery i'd done. that was as close as we'd gotten to "couple" behavior. i mean, she liked something that had something to do w/me. but i was a little intimidated by the news that she actually liked me. what did that mean? what was i supposed to do? i suspected a trick of some kind.

sally reassured me. if i asked alicia to go steady, she'd accept. this was a complex ritual, this "going steady" thing. first, you had to have some token, usually a bracelet w/the boy's name engraved on it, to give to the girl. then, you had to actually ask. then, there was an entire set of rules of behavior once the "going steady" was finalized. all this made me dizzy w/apprehension & desire. should the bracelet be gold or gold plated or just silver? what kind of engraving should be done & did the different kinds of materials & techniques signify different levels of commitment? where would i get the money to pay for this extravagance & who handled these kinds of objects? what if she said no? or laughed? or recoiled in horror? or said, " i like you as a friend...".

sally reassured me & filled me in on the practical details(elebash's on palafox, $30 for a silver bracelet w/$5 engraving fee, etc). she even agreed to kind of run interference for me & let alicia know when i'd be asking. i will say for myself, when it all came down, i did step outside my fears(mainly because sally had assured me it was a done deal). i replaced the bracelet in the jewelery box w/my 7th grade school picture. it popped up when you opened the box.

we were walking down the north hallways of workman jr high school, just after our last period class. i sputtered out my entreaty as boldly as i could & she, quite sweetly, said yes immediately. i gave her the gift wrapped box. we stood at her locker & she opened it. my picture popped up. she stared blankly at the image. the joke fell flat at our feet. i quickly pulled the bracelet out of my pocket & her face brightened into a huge smile. she slipped the bracelet onto her thin wrist. she was beaming. i suppose i was too. "i have to catch my bus," she said. "ok, don't miss it...ha ha ha," i said. what was i suppose to say? she ran out an exit door to the bus stations.

walker came up. "well?," he asked. jimmy hadn't been much help during all this. he'd always acted like he was a ladies' man but he knew less than me about what to do. "we're going steady," i said. "c'mon, we'll miss the bus," he said.

another initiation. my first girlfriend.

this tornado loves you///part 2



it was the boys only free-play that alerted us. my 6th grade teacher, miss mostella, announced what should have been a thrilling thing in somber adult tones.

we were wary of this "reward."
first, free-play was never a boys only affair. second, free-play sessions were always allocated as rewards for various achievements. otherwise, we were given over as minions to the grotesque crone, mitzy miller. things just didn't add up.


john elmore, a few other boys & i huddled together on the playground. "what do you think's going on?," was the main topic of conversation. "it's obvious," john asserted, "this is some kind of sex thing. bird & the bees. how to do it. you know, stuff like that." we were all on thin ice here. 'how to do it' was a young boy's macho obfuscation. what the hell did we know about "how to do it'? how to do WHAT, exactly? "yeah, you're right," we all chimed in. "sex things...ha ha ha."

when we returned to the classroom, the girls were all down cast & shy. something had happened right here in our classroom that we as boys weren't privy to but it still seemed to be hanging in the air like an embarrassing presence, like a drunken relative at c'mas.

i nudged ann hathaway, "what happened?," i asked impotently. she half turned, head down between her bent elbows & shook her head quickly. "huh?," i returned mystified. "i can't!," she spit out quickly. most of the girls seemed in shock. none of us seemed to be able to reach them. they seemed further away then ever & that seemed pretty damn far.

at the end of the day, miss mostella went around to every girl & passed out several sheets of mimeographed pages. "you're to bring this back w/you tomorrow, signed," she said in her most severe teacherly voice. the girls quickly put the papers away. whatever this secret was, it hung heavily in the air now. miss mostella seemed to be rubbing it in w/her distribution of this contraband material in plain sight of the boys. we were inflamed.

bobo picked us up at the end of the school day. there was lewis greenhut, bruce rickoff, bob palmer & me, all chattering away about the day's mysterious activities. "john says it's all about the birds & the bees," i offered. they all considered this & seemed to agree. bobo said nothing. we kept up the speculation but in even more vague terms until we'd dropped off the last of our rides(bob). i did whatever i usually did w/my afternoon but i kept running things through my mind.

after dinner, i was doing my homework in our living room. unexpectedly, my mother came in. "can i talk w/you for a minute?," she asked in a strange strangled voice. i felt a deep awfulness in the pit of my stomach. my mind seemed to float away. i didn't answer her query. "your father said you boys were talking about the girls today." i think i nodded but i felt frozen & numb. "well, i think i should explain what's going on. it's something you should know." again, i tried to nod my head. her voice was strained & her body seemed to be twitching. she sat down. i'm sure she was trying to steady herself.

"danny, there are times, for girls, for women when we're just not ourselves. you never know when it's going to happen. it just does. i remember once when i was younger & we were out at innerarity point beach & some boys were throwing all the girls into the water & we were all trying to get away but they kept catching us & throwing us in. danny, there are times when girls just can't go into the water. they just can't. that was my time. i tried as hard as i could to get away but they caught me & were about to throw me in & your grandmother stopped them. i couldn't go in the water. she knew it & she stopped them. it wasn't their fault. they didn't know. but now YOU know. danny, you understand now, don't you?"

i was already unnerved by the situation & her calling me "danny." this was some kind of formal circumstance that i hadn't been prepared for. i hadn't really followed her story. i remember her eyes darting all around the room. she was wringing her hands in a studied kind of agony. i nodded. "yes," i croaked out. her body seemed to deflate & she quickly got up from the table. "you get back to your homework, ok," she blurted out & bolted from the room. i stared at the door she slammed shut behind her. i sat there for an hour. i didn't finish my homework.

i didn't share this information w/my friends.

this initiation was over. i'd gotten my birds & bees.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

JUMP CUTS

BOMBS AWAY


h-bomb in spain 1966

i can only imagine what they're not telling us nowadays. this happened back in the halcyon days of the cold war & our naive mixed feelings about nuclear arsenals. that the bombs in spain fell mainly on their plains(& not on, say, omaha)doesn't really account for the blithe tone i detect in this report.

March 18, 1966 - A hydrogen bomb that went missing for three months in the Mediterranean Sea is back in the hands of the U.S. military after being found the previous day.

The bomb had been lost in January when two U.S. military planes, a KC-135 tanker and a B-52 carrying four thermonuclear weapons collided during midair refueling. Three of the four bombs fell to the ground near Palomares, Spain. While none of them detonated with a nuclear explosion, the high-explosive triggers in two of the bombs went off upon impact and contaminated the area with radioactive material.

A fourth bomb plunged into the water off Spain's southeastern coastline.

Following the incident, the Spanish government announced it would no longer allow U.S. planes carrying nuclear weapons to fly over its territory.

The search for the missing bomb takes 80 days. On March 17, the U.S. Navy, using a midget submarine called the Alvin (pictured on The Chronicle's front page the next day), finds the bomb 2,500 feet underwater, intact and with its parachute still attached.


PIG CHENEY & THE MAN OBAMA

dick cheney has disgraced the office of the vice president to the point that he, specifically, is no longer deserving of the respect most of us try to hold for the office, if not the man holding the office. his attacks on obama are so cowardly & petty that he's re-defining arendt's idea of the "banality of evil."

& the attacks are coming while obama is "manning up" & saying "the buck stops" w/him when it comes to solving the mess that cheney & his stooge president created. while the bush administration was in office, they distinquished themselves w/their craven lies, duplicitous crony-ism, & shameless banditry. the cowardice of their irresponsibility will be historic. they are now proving that this really had nothing to do w/the old idea of "power corrupting." it's all about the lack of character & integrity & decent humanity in these people. god help them. history, i can assure you, will not.



NO JOY IN MUDVILLE

i expect the usa team to get waxed by japan. they haven't played well & are lucky to be in the semi's. they've been rehearsing their excuses since they got blown out in a mercy rule 7inning game by puerto rico. they shouldn't have gotten this far but they dug down deep & actually played ONE inning of gutsy baseball when they had to do it. that's about all we're going to be getting from them. the other night, during their loss to venezula, nearly the entire on-field team forgot how many outs there were. the ensuing confusion wasn't commented on much but it pretty much summed up team usa's attitude.


PAPAL PABLUM


just how out of touch is the catholic church? well, let's just forget about the bumbling, fumbling attempts to deal w/the child abuse. they'll never ever come completely clean about all that, even tho millions & millions keep being paid out.

let's just focus for one second on the pontiff's african aids debacle. africa has 2/3 of the 33 million infected children/adults in the world. this is a conservative estimate. the pope told his new constituency(africa is one of the last places that catholicism is actually growing in terms of numbers)that not only are condoms WRONG but that they make things worse.

i think there's a point in time where belief can topple over into delusion. i think there's a moment when an obvious lack of compassion reveals underlying cruelty & ignorance. i think there's a moment when superstition & blind compliance collapse beneath the weight of a harrowing reality. preaching abstinence in africa is criminally negligent. as far as i'm concerned, his holiness abdicated any moral authority he had or we were willing to give him. any of his pronouncements on any world issue should now be politely ignored. & he needs to ask his god for forgiveness.


BOYS & GIRLS IN AMERICA


they really do have such a sad time together.

when hervey beat haller up, my initial reaction was to get a couple of the outrigger gang & beat his callow ass into a senseless pulp. i remember johnson always espousing a credo taught to him by an old black guy that used to work w/him at the toxic chemical company: "you beat a man bad enough, he never fuck w/you again." that always made sense to me back then. of course nowadays any young punk can get his hands on an automatic weapon & an automatic weapon tends to render credos irrelevant.

i did go to confront hervey about the assault & found him & haller in bed together. all had been forgiven. they were ready to move on. it was two days after the episode & her black eye was quite a sight to see. they broke up for good maybe a month later after another beating. a true romance.

i read this nyt article w/only a little surprize & sadness. things haven't changed much for boys & girls in america. not since sal paradise. not since the outrigger. not since rihanna & chris.


HOT TAMALE BABY

"Singer, songwriter, and pianist Marcia Ball was born today in 1949, in Orange, Texas. She leans heavily on a New Orleans jazz and blues sound in her music, and is a great favorite in these parts in live performances."

i can still remember hearing ms. ball at the maple leaf bar sing "i'd rather go blind." it shook me all the way down to my toes & it's not a boogie woogie song like many of her standards. she's a texan but she's definitely plugged into the new orleans musical zeitgeist. let's hope she's keeps playing for many years to come.










TIME WAITS FOR NO ONE



evil has a way of working on a man. there's no doubt that manson was scapegoated way back when(this was the REAL face of the counterculture, we were told). there's also no doubt that this was/is a truly insane man. helter skelter, charlie, she's comin' down fast.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

this tornado loves you part 1


i was running hard & fast, just as furiously & desperately as my legs would allow. jumping fences, ducking through shrubbery, i had to get away, to escape the fate that had been decreed by my elders. what they'd threatened if i was captured was unimaginable. my mind recoiled at the mere suggestion of that kind of torture. i had to flee. deep down, tho, i think i knew i was a goner. my pursuers were older, stronger; they were better suited to the hunt than me.

i was 7yo. my brother chip, the bell brothers & bill thorton were hot on my trail, just steps behind. they caught me out back of the bell's old garage, just over their white farm planked fences. i'd stumbled going over & fell hard. they were on me like jackals, pinning me to the dank earth beneath the huge old flowering dogwood tree. i was powerless to stop what was about to happen. "c'mon, judy," they chortled like in-breds, "c'mon!" they began to chant, "do it, do it, do it." i felt like a mayan sacrifice, waiting for my heart to be cut out w/a stone knife & lifted up still beating, dripping blood for all to see.

judy bell, age 6, stepped forward, amidst the chanting & clamor. she took her time. perhaps her hesitancy came from her own reticence, an ignorance of consequence that gave pause. it seemed however to stem from her wanting to savor the moment of my utter defeat. she bent down quickly, like some small, furtive animal, & kissed me longer, as my memory serves, than what you would expect from a girl this young. if she'd put a burning coal to my lips i don't think the memory would be any clearer or profound. just as quickly, she reared up over my prostrate body, her haughty & regal disdain palpable. i remember her eyes shining, gleefully triumphant. she kicked me sharply & savagely in the stomach.

my initiation was over. it was my first kiss.

Monday, March 16, 2009

james purdy 1914-2009


" I would talk to myself, telling myself the same story I have already told so many times, but it helped explaining things somehow when I got in this state, when I was blown up, all my veins and arteries moved from the inside where they belong to the outside so that as that army doc put it, I have been turned inside out in all respects."


i read purdy's first four books sometime in college, two collections of short stories & two novels. "in a shallow grave," where the quote comes from, was the last thing i read by him. as i recall, i always felt like he tried too hard to reach for the gothic, that dark & dangerous place, to illuminate modernity, like a second-rate flannery o'connor. god knows, i thought, there's been more than enough o'connor imitators. his persistence of vision makes me want to go back & read some of the later work. since he made the effort to continue into his 90s, i think some respect is probably due.

nyt obit

Thursday, March 12, 2009

we all shine on like the moon & the stars & the sun


you know there ARE people who deserve gitmo. they're the ones you really want to see punished in the most severe ways but who escape severe punishment because their crimes, while heinous, are somehow vague enough to pass indifferently into the general psyche.

this guy stole millions from elie wiesel, a holocaust survivor whose fund for other survivors was the target of this evil ass-wipe. all of his assets should be confiscated & used to reimburse his victims. & while his remaining $67 million can't equal the $50 billion he swindled, it can't hurt. if the feds find the rest of the cash in off shore accounts, there should be some way to keep him from that too. after that, give him every day of the 150 years he faces, every day, every hour, every minute.

if you think i'm being harsh, just wait till the commissioner of the nfl re-instates the most despicable man on the planet: michael vick. this inhuman cretin should spend the rest of his life in service to dogs. he should never be allowed back into the nfl nor to make one dime doing what allowed him the leisure time to kill, maim, torture dogs. nothing excuses what he did. nothing. & he isn't even close to paying for what he did & had done.



as a buddhist, i believe in karma. i know that what goes around comes around. in another life, michael vick will be a flea on the back of a dog beneath a porch somewhere in appalachia. bernie madoff will be a prostitute in a third world country. this happens because in another prior life, they did something that lead them to having the money & the glory & the fame they had here in this life but then they misused all of it so so badly & in such evil ways. i also know that my wishing them ill just bites me in the ass. i know this. i'll take what comes to me. one of them slaughtered dogs & one stole money from holocaust survivors. i'd just like to see them get what's coming to them in THIS life. i don't have to see what happens to them in the next life or the next. i think i'll have my hands full then myself.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"better than a thousand hollow words..."


this is the 50th anniversary of the tibetan uprising against the chinese occupation of their country. the good thing about it is that it brought the Dalai Lama to the west. the bad thing is that it's a chinese occupation. they're not known for compassionate occupation. of course, i'm not sure who really is.

i'll write more about what the west owes(that's right OWES)tibet but right now i just wanted to acknowledge this one of many atrocities in the world.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

hank locklin 1918-2009


there was faron young & porter waggoner. guys that made it easy to make fun of country music way back in the day. the twang in their voices & the over produced music(lots of cheesy strings & an occasional odd horn section)wasn't what hank williams was all about as far as we were concerned. of course, had williams been alive then, he'd have probably been making records like that too. that's just how it was back then(hell, listen to early willie nelson & you'll want to get out of the room as quickly as possible). the record execs imposed their ideas upon the singers(forget the singer/songwriter, they didn't make an appearance for a few more years)& the singers played ball or went home.

hank locklin was another one of these guys caught up in the "nashville sound" mess back then. his biggest hit, "send me the pillow that you dream on" was an even bigger crossover hit for dean fucking martin. i can still remember mocking martin's version. this was just not music i wanted anything to do with.

philip met hank locklin through jeana walker's mother. locklin was born in the panhandle & is survived by many that still live there. i'm not sure how jeana's mother connected w/him but hank locklin was definitely a presence in their lives when philip was involved w/jeana. in fact, this connection was probably how we even knew hank locklin existed.

i'm sure ken & mike remember this little story but i have to tell it anyway. philip was at some gathering w/jeana & her mother. they may have been at locklin's farm which was in the north end of escambia county(i think). philip & locklin had talked music before. at the time, i think we could all fake it in terms of knowledge of country music(this was high school & just after). philip & hank were talking & locklin said, "o that reminds me," & he got up & went into the other room. he came back w/an unfinished guitar, a grammar guitar, & handed it to philip. "what do you think about this, partner?" & philip was mostly nonplussed. he finally managed a "how much does something like this cost?" & hank replied, "well that right there isn't gonna cost you a thing. it's yours." i remember we were all floored by the sheer magnanimity of this gesture when philip told us the story. grammar guitars were THE nashville guitar at the time.

philip took the guitar up to muscle shoals & had it finished by one of the top luthiers of the day. philip couldn't remember the guy's name. as fate would have it, when we were in new orleans this last summer, i'd met a guy by happenstance who ran the b&b next to the lamothe house where we were staying. he was working on a history of muscle shoals music. he'd done producing there & knew everything there was to know. he knew the guy who worked on philip's guitar. when i introduced philip to him, they talked about it. when he said the guy's name philip remembered.

the grammar was a real beauty. it was blond & you could see the eyeholes in the wood on the back of the body. i liked the tone tho the fretboard was thinner than i like. but who could complain? it was free. & since life loves to serve up amusing little ironies, it was stolen from philip when he lived up in new york city.

i actually never met hank locklin. it was supposed to happen several times but it just never did. if he'd been kristofferson or willie or waylon, i'd have pressed harder, i imagine. he got an autograph for me from waylon jennings that i carried around w/me for a while. "hoss, we got to play together some day," it said. that didn't happen either.



locklin's obit in the nyt.

Monday, March 9, 2009

political poetics/poetical politics



The State Will Be Served Even By The Poets
julian beck 1925-1985

the breasts of all the women crumpled like gas bags when

neruda wrote his hymn celebrating the explosion of a hydrogen bomb by soviet authorities

children died of the blisters of ignorance for a century more when

siqueiros tried to assassinate trotsky himself a killer with gun and ice

pound shimmering his incantations to adams benito and kung prolonging the state with great translation cut in crystal

claudel slaying tupĂ­ guaranĂ­ as he flourished cultured documents and pearls in rio de janeiro when he served france as ambassador to brazil

melville served by looking for contraband as he worked in the customs house how many taxes did he requite how many pillars of the state did he cement in place tell me tell me tell me stone

spenser serving the faerie queene as a colonial secretary in ireland sinking the irish back for ten times forty years no less under the beau monde’s brack

seneca served by advising nero on how to strengthen the state with philosophy’s accomplishments

aeschylus served slaying persians at marathon and salamis

aristotle served as tutor putting visions of trigonometrics in alexander’s head

dali and eliot served crowning monarchs with their gold

wallace stevens served as insurance company executive making poems out of profits

euclides da cunha served as army captain baritoning troops

and even d h lawrence served praising the unique potential of a king

these are the epics of western culture
these are the flutes of china and the east

everything must be rewritten then

goethe served as a member of the weimar council of state and condemned even to death even to death

this is the saga of the state which is served

even to death

pinerolo to faenza palma de mallorca paris roma
november 1976 august 1979

i've always felt that poetry & politics don't mix. poets have a tendency to speak too directly when they're addressing the masses politically, like they don't want to be accused of equivocating or something. or maybe they just don't want to end up in a poem like this. i came across this perfect example of a great political poem on jerome rothenberg's blog. this litany of personal blindness & failures is a little harrowing. how wrong we can be when we're convinced we're so so right!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

"given to write"

my college years(spring 1977-1982)were more adventuresome in terms of poetry. here are my thoughts about stevens, olson, & creeley. i'll cover the other seven more quickly in another post. here is ron silliman's list & also a list of women poets he admires. two women make it onto my list here but women dominate my post-college list.

stevens
olson
james merrill
dickinson
ammons
bishop
spicer
bukowski
hart crane
creeley


"Perhaps, it is best, too, that one should have only glimpses of reality - and get the rest from the fairy-tales, from pictures, and music, and books". --Wallace Stevens

i'm not sure i can overestimate the impact reading stevens, all of stevens, had on me. i can't say that it felt like discovering a kindred spirit because i don't think our sensibilities worked on the same plane. reading "the necessary angel" you felt you had met a mind, a mind determined to make sense of its own actions, a mind focused on feeling out the nooks & crannies of the creative impulse. my mind has never been so subtle or patient but i certainly appreciated stevens' efforts.

mainly, you saw this same mind at work in the poems, even the most fanciful ones. in the poems, that mind worked w/emotions, impressions, & yes, fairy tales to create a universe both all-encompassing & finite, expansive but inclusive of everyday minutiae, hoon & the snowman. it was a rich & exotic world that constantly worked to strip itself of that richness & that exotica to get down to the kernel of specific imaginative activity that, in fact, creates the rich exotica world we live in.

& the tone of the voice that spoke to us from the poems? at his most expansive(the comedian as the letter c)or at his most reductive(of mere being), there's a tone that drew me to the poems like no other i'd heard before in my mind's ear. perhaps it's the tone of fairy tales or late night campfire stories, of wonder & awe but of a beholding too. beholding implies some kind of detachment or reserve or separation from what's being observed. i hear that too in stevens.


“I take SPACE to be the central fact to man born in America, from Folsom cave to now. I spell it large because it comes large here. Large, and without mercy.”

how could you not be drawn to olson, his drama & insights. he was a big man & a big thinker who wrote big poems. big always risks misses; large leaves no room for details. OR large can feel compelled to fill itself in w/too many details, cluttering the space w/distractions or irrelevancies. certainly late olson became something like that.

but before that he was chancellor of black mountain college during its supreme years of artistic output(which carried over for generations). he wrote several important essays(projectivist verse, being one)& "call me ishmael," his great study of melville(which the above quote opened with). he wrote several great poems("the kingfishers" "in cold hell, in thicket" "la preface"). there is also his large epic poem, "maximus." at the time, only the first part of that poem(already book-length)was available.



To be in different states without a change
is not a possibility

We can be precise. The factors are
in the animal and/or the machine the factors are
communication and/or control, both involve
the message. And what is the message? The message is
a discrete or continuous sequence of measurable events
distributed in time
is the birth of air, is
the birth of water, is
a state between
birth and the beginning of
another fetid nest
is change.

this, from "the kingfishers," is cerebral poetry at its best. unlike pound & eliot, olson doesn't reveal or even hint at his sources. unlike stevens, his imagination doesn't flow to the fairy tale but more to myth or the stripped down structure that myth embodies(mythos?). the poems are not intricately large universes peopled w/the strange & exotic but bare places, large in their use of space(the page, the poet's mind), inhabited by singular vision. the poem is a tool to work on/out ideas, real knotty & complex ideas of sometimes opposing natures. the poems reflect the effort. engaging the poems doubles that effort & becomes very real productive activity.



"I mean then words — as opposed to content. I care what the poem says, only as a poem — I am no longer interested in the exterior attitude to which the poem may well point, as signboard. That concern I have found it best to settle elsewhere. I will not be misled by the “niceness” of any sentiment, or its converse, malevolence. I do not think a poet is necessarily a nice person. I think the poem’s morality is contained as a term of its structure, and is there to be determined and nowhere else."

creeley is, next to dickinson, the oddest poet to me. i think that's part of what drew me to him. there is a sense of interiority, of a near sweating torment, of struggle in his poems that i hadn't experienced before. dickinson's cramped hermetic poems may be the result of repressed desire or guilt from merely speaking out or trauma but there's still the sense of outwardness, that the poems are directed toward something or somebody. not so w/creeley. the poems may well be directed towards something or someone but those things or ones are in the poet's head & the cramped hermetic poems of creeley are sites wherein the tools of expression are formed & reformed over & over in an attempt to get it right or make it clear. the "it" is important, crucial to the project. the "it" that creeley struggles w/is the poem itself, the idea of the thing which above all else communicates, expresses the intention of communication itself. no wonder there's so much hesitation or stuttering felt & heard in the poems. to say what must be said requires deliberate tho active process, a clearing away of the extraneous to get at the root of meaning which can only be suggested based on whatever means of communication is available at the time:

the one man
i will
not
fuck to
night
is you

that complete poem is titled "curse." eleven monosyllabic words that if spoken at the right time to the right person would surely be a "curse." of course, the pun built around the "curse" word, fuck, pulls the poem in another direction. if you read any of wittgenstein's philosophy you get the same feeling, that each utterance is being SOUNDED for sense, that each word is being carefully considered for its lack or failure as much as for its appropriateness. if one is called to write, by whom is that call issued? & to answer such a call, what is required? creeley's best work tries to address those questions.

mildewed memories


i have to say that on & off, michael has put up pics that take anyone from that time & place back to those moments, those odd not so adult moments, of beauty & grace & fantasy. i suppose that would be childhood. i, myself, don't trust those memories but why are they rattlin' round my head?


my parents took me to weeki wachee springs on a wild & memorable trip to south fla when i was just a child. the vision of the mermaids behind that huge glass screen was hypnotic. as the show went on, i remember being utterly entranced seeing these mermaids swimming deep in those crystal clear springs, taking their brief oxygen hits off the gently bubbling hoses, gracefully turning acrobatic moves in that magic space.

years later, i mentioned weeki wachee to jack pyle, our older gospel singing buddy. he told a salacious story about he & hawk(his notorious sidekick)picking up several of the "mermaids" on a trip of theirs back when i was probably 12yo or so. what he & hawk & the weeki wachee "mermaids" did to the inside of that airstream trailer(hawk sold them for a living at the time & they were transporting one from south fla to birmingham ala at the time)is simply not something i can accurately communicate here. suffice it to say, there were complaints by the buyer upon delivery. i will say that THIS was my "santa claus doesn't exist" story. those women seemed inviolate in all the crystal clear water!

if mike had pics of late 60s gulfarium, when i bummed a quarter off him(during the safety boys annual trip...which ultimately undid the sheriff of escambia county, bill davis) when he was king of the city, i'd be amazed.

put up or shut up. & btw, i got some instant pussy for you. this is the real world, mofo

Friday, March 6, 2009

newest dinners for ann

when i was posting these nightly, ann got upset. "no wonder i'm so fat," she used to say. i've decided to spread the postings out so she'll feel like she's actually on a diet.





fantail buttermilk rolls.







handcut homemade noodles w/roasted chicken, arugula, & shaved parm






argentine matambre: flank steak stuffed w/spinach, onions, carrots, & hardboiled eggs. mixed salad. potatoes fried in duck fat.






carnitas w/red chile chipotle sauce, cuke salad, & cheese grits.

horton foote 1916-2009




we've all been so distracted lately, what w/mike getting ripped off & all, that we've missed some news that really matters. i didn't know that foote had done the screenplay for "to kill a mockingbird" but that movie & novel always struck me the same as it did flannery o'connor: "anemic." i can't say i'm a fan of a lot of his movie work & i can say i don't really know any of his work on broadway. i do know he wrote one movie that's always been near & dear to my heart, what w/combining(not really that hard, it's true)country music & alcoholism.

"tender mercies" is about someone on the other side of the wreckage their drinking has caused & that person trying in their own way to move on from it. robert duval plays a former country star(let's say, george jones)who's working on his recovery & doing his best to acknowledge & accept responsibility for a past he can't really recall. an alcoholic confronts all kinds of reactions to his recovery. there're the folks who won't forgive, no matter what. there're the folks who forgive too easily. there're the ones who worry the good times are all over & the ones who want them to start. there're the tangential nobodies who weren't really a part of the whole mess but carry some kind of never ending grudge & there're the assholes who involved those nobodies for no good reason other than jealousy or ego or mind games. the list is endless. trust me, i know.

in the movie, there's a scene where duval is trying to connect w/but shield his daughter from what he was &, maybe, what he might become. his blackout has pretty much encompassed most of her teenage years. lots of pain & unanswered prayers have brought them to this one moment. she asks him about a song he used to sing to her when she was a baby. she can't recall it. it had something to do w/birds, maybe.

duval hesitates but then says, "no, sorry, no i don't recall that song." for a long minute his daughter stands, not really believing but also, you can tell, not understanding how something that might connect them can't be remembered or didn't exist. it meant a LOT to her. she wheels around & leaves.

cut to duval, looking out a window. he sighs. "on the wings of a pure white dove, he sends his pure sweet love, a sign from above, on the wings of a dove," he sings clearly, & maybe for the first time in the movie, while keeping time w/his boot clad foot. out of the depths of a fractured memory, the alcoholic remembers what someone else, who needed to, couldn't. the things we remember & cling to, good or bad, is a cause for wonder. how we choose to share those things, good or bad, is too.

i can tell you that if i ever come close to writing something like that i might just leave it at that, pull up stakes, call closing time. whatever. it doesn't get any better than that. a drunk can never, ever, save anyone but him/herself. a lot of folks who've been effected by drunks don't get that. ever. but they blame the drunk, no matter what. that's cause it's so easy to blame a drunk, even if they're not drinking. i don't know if horton was a drunk but he nailed that moment & so much more in that movie.

america has a lot of writers who fly under the radar for whatever reasons. they write regional fictions. they write "small." they write about things no one coming to broadway wants to know or hear about(august wilson & tony kushner). horton foote wrote about texas. he was a writer & now he's dead. he connected once w/me. i think that connection makes everything, even high priced tickets, tolerable. what do i know?


"you just go on your nerve"

on some of the poetry blogs i read, they've been listing the "top books of poetry that convinced you that poetry was important." i'm all for lists because usually there's something on each one that i hadn't considered or heard about or read. here's my list of books from high school & just beyond(pre-new college)that galvanized me into wanting to BE a poet:

dante
rimbaud
eliot
pound
w.c.williams
berryman
ashbery
frank o'hara
james wright
ginsberg.

i need to add that this list is based on my p'cola years, 1970-1975. high school & the two years before i went to new college. i'll put up another list of college influences tomorrow.

i've always agreed w/eliot's claim that shakespear & dante divide the world in two. & yeah, i suppose dante cribbed the descent into hell from homer but who cares? the sheer force of his imagination in the divine comedy is so powerful that it forces everyone else to the margins. creating those worlds & peopling it is amazing enough but doing it in terza rima makes it a tour de force.

rimbaud was a punk, a talented one, but a punk just the same. there's something about the imaginations of teenage kids that makes over the top seem unimpressive. they take it even further. the illuminations was just such a production. wildly inventive, richly worded, fiercely imaginative. i ate this up in high school.

eliot & pound were pretty much the same for me(tho i understood the cantos less than i understood prufrock). erudition was the key element here. eliot ended by taking his erudtion into the academy; pound ended up w/his in the penitentiary. guess who i preferred?

bill williams is another story altogether. asphodel astonished me. it was the painful, honest kind of love poem i suspected love to be about but didn't KNOW first hand. dr williams was a smart guy too but he didn't wear his learning on his sleeves. i think he & pound(more than eliot)really opened the gates for me. i truly believe that the "pound era" was the "pound/williams" era, in that the innovations each introduced have influenced almost every major poet coming after them.

berryman's dream songs were so much fun. i was drawn to his fractured syntax, his playful use of punctuation, his two characters: henry & mr bones. highly disiplined poetry too(despite the appearances). it was no surprize to find out he knew shakespear backwards & forward. you can hear it in the poetry. berryman was from the last generation of poets who weren't subsumed into the teaching academy. some of them made efforts to fit in(money being the main reason. one thinks of delmore schwartz)but most were doomed to fail as teachers. i did a presentation at uva taking howard singerman's idea of the impact of institutionalization on the artist(in howard's case, he wrote about the bauhaus)& his art. it's something to think about, esp since artists didn't start teaching until early-mid 20th century.

the first poem by john ashbery i ever read was "lithuanian dance band." it was in an early issue(i mean REALLY early)of american poetry review(they even botched the publication & had to re-print it in their next issue. they left off the first line). i was smitten. i don't think any other poet ever connected w/me the way ashbery did. there's a casualness(from auden, i think)& a playfulness(from the french, i think)& a melancholy(from being gay, i think)& a joy of language(from o'hara, i think)that spoke to me in some fundamental way. his poetry has changed somewhat over the years; he's less direct & more playful. he's considered a major poet(meaning that you either love him or hate him but you have an opinion of him regardless)but he's continued to produce interesting poetry. i met him in gainesville at a writers conference. his reading style then was awful as far as i was concerned but it seems like his newer poetry is being written w/that style in mind now(see below). his poems now seem like something you'd overhear spoken on a subway, w/o knowing ANY of the context of what's being said.

i stole frank o'hara's collected poems from the uwf library. i'd read an essay by marjorie perloff about him. it focused(i think)on "the day lady died" & blew me away. as did a lot of o'hara's poetry. o'hara was like that brilliant, loquacious, drama queen gay friend we all had in college(actually i had more than one). at the time, all we had in p'cola was nicki & dondi. i didn't make the connections using them but once i got to new college, things became clear. o'hara uses the erudition from pound/eliot & turns it into gossip. he uses bill williams use of plain spoken language & his lyric sense of love & queens it up. he fractures syntax, ignores punctuation, & lays out jazz-like improvisations in language. it's funny that kerouac hated him. frank was just as hip as any beat. his sin was being gay & he wrote & saw & listened & felt everything from that very specific(&, at the time, problematic)point of view.

wright's collected poems was another book i stole from uwf. it's funny to have james wright right after frank o'hara. their poetry & their aesthetics couldn't be more different. wright had a near haiku-like quality in his best poems(which were the later poems in the "collected"). the midwest subject matter couldn't be further from o'hara's frenetic nyc but there's a melancholy here too, a frostian sense of mortality & loss. very plain spoken language but always ready for a simple shift that opens to revelation. i can't really say what attracted me to him except that. that's probably enough.

allen ginsberg's kaddish was what got me hooked, not howl. howl was the big bang but kaddish was poetry to me. there's the jewish thing, the mother thing, the death thing, the guilt thing. that's a pretty rich field to work. his language was always informed by the measures of the old testament prophets, sometimes wild & raving, sometimes deliberate & funereal. & his poetry took me back to our great original oracle: whitman. i never tried to write like ginsberg but i listen to him anyway. that was a lot like listening to america itself which is something poets do.

in my senior year of high school i wrote a big poem about a relationship based on the seasons(yeah, original idea, right?). i tried my best to copy rimbaud, eliot, pound, williams, & berryman. as far as i know, i never tried to write like ginsberg or james wright or dante. ashbery & o'hara were major influences in college when i started writing poetry again.

i didn't really read wallace stevens until college. that changed everything.


here's ashbery reading a later poem. it's an excellent video.
enjoy.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

end of days 3

if only lynn had been raised w/this little item & not her maggie the dog doll. things probably would have gone more smoothly later on.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

double back to a cul de sac



i was living in san diego at the time w/john sideris. it was 1974. it was during nixon's first recession & i was starving, quite literally, in those days. i'd go six days just drinking kool-aid & on the seventh day i'd treat myself to hamburger helper or a frozen chicken pot pie. it seems like i'd heard that the human creature could go w/o solid food for a week before dementia set in. this was not a deliberate experiment testing that hypothesis. there was no control aspect to it. sid was in the navy & posted to the aircraft carrier there in port in san diego. he had the uncanny ability to show up from off the ship the day my florida unemployment check arrived. john was a big boy & always seemed to appreciate the groceries my money bought. when they ran out, he headed back to the ship & all that delicious free food the navy provided him. he always said he HAD to go because it was his turn for "watch-duty."

i mixed a new pitcher of cherry-flavored kool-aid & sat back to enjoy the aromas of a baking pot pie wafting through our little tri-plex apt. unbidden, thoughts of the previous weekend came rushing into my mind. van morrison had played up in westwood, his tour promoting his newest release, the great "veedon fleece" album. several years before, he'd toured w/a gigantic band(strings, horns, various percussionists)& recorded his double live album as a result. he would be w/a stripped down band on the current tour. he could have been solo or w/the lawrence welk orchestra as far as i was concerned. i'd be there one way or another.

i checked on the potpie. it was bubbling up & getting all brown & toasty good. ten more minutes & i'd feast! morrison's concert was memorable for a couple of reasons & none of them was how great the concert was. he played in a big venue, one of those twenty-thousand seating arenas, & they had come expecting a big show w/the full big band treatment. morrison came out w/a drummer, a bassist, a pianist, & himself on guitar & sax. he was also feeling jazzy. the crowd was not prepared for a free-form version of "moondance" & started letting him know it. i'd seen the mobile alabama fools boo ronstadt off stage but i wasn't prepared for seeing my hero & the headliner jeered at by toked up mouth-breathers. van, however, was very prepared.

as the crowd got louder in its disapproval, the lights on stage started to dim. somewhere into his sixth or seventh song, the stage went black & while the band kept playing, the vocals became a mixture of grunts & roars. he'd actually done some of this vocal styling on the veedon fleece album & it was strange there. if you stretched things, you could call it scat singing but here it was clearly operating in a more scatological mode. as this live song drug on & on, the grunting became more guttural. finally, the lights started to come up. the crowd, by now very confused had a mixed reaction to the tableau on the stage as it was finally revealed: morrison laying on the big piano flat on his back, the lighting now smoky blue, & van still grunting into the mic he held to his mouth. suddenly, after nearly 30minutes of this, it ended abruptly . morrison hopped off the piano & led the band through two quick songs, domino & blue money, & then he was gone. he'd played just over an hour(his contract probably imposed that on him), eight songs & the 30 minute grunt improvisation. my head was spinning. he didn't come back for an encore.

i took the potpie out of the oven. the look & smell of it nearly intoxicating. i felt my saliva glands involuntarily filling my mouth w/spittle. i swallowed it down, imagining the creamy chicken-y taste i was about to experience. i let it rest, like you'd do a proper roast, & thought about the rest of my trip to see morrison. as usual, i hadn't really calculated just how far westwood(pauley pavilion) was from san diego(& imperial beach). i just drove. i had to see morrison. of course, i was blind to the practicalities of having enough gas to get there & back. i made it back to somewhere outside of oceanside. i slept in the pinto in a shopping center parking lot. sideris wasn't answering the phone down in imperial beach. another fine mess. bobo wired the money to get back down to imperial beach. it took nearly all day.

i'd lit candles & made my place to feast directly in front of our ancient record player. at the time, i had cohen's new skin, morrison's veedon fleece, & dan fogelberg's souvenirs. they'd all come out that year, 1974. i'm not sure which album was playing as i carefully carried my dinner out to the living room. i think cohen is more appropriate but i'd like to think it was morrison's song "cul de sac." just steps away from my repast, i dropped the potpie onto the cheap-ass shag carpet. it landed top down & oozed out all into the long dirty carpet. i stood there, gaping. as i slowly crumpled to my knees, nearly weeping, i made the decision to return to p'cola. maybe it was dementia, i've thought later to myself. things were so clearly out of control. still, i didn't want to double back. but god knows, even after this, i would again & again.

we lost track of john sideris. i had some good times w/him out there in san diego & definitely in in high school in p'cola(his mother was a middle-school principal). i fixed him up w/regina & they had a brief fling. i remember he was put out w/me for leaving cali, even tho some of his navy buddies had shown up once(during one of john's "duty calls") & been so appalled by my circumstances, they bought me dinner.

while i have very very mixed feelings about our adolescent music heroes doubling back to their great past moments, i have to say this one pretty much works. van's voice is still a marvel & the band is tight. the material is beyond dispute. after all these years, "astral weeks" might be the only album that still holds up from beginning to end. it certainly still sounds "new." nyt gave his new york appearance a thumbs down, based mostly on his odd behavior, as i read it. that's morrison. dat what he do. too late to stop now.

for ann marie



the first time i ever played guitar & sang for strangers was in new orleans at johnny white's. this was back in '73-'74. i'd been drinking at the bar, listening to the singer butcher song after song, & running my mouth to a guy sitting at the bar w/me. when the guy up on stage took a break, the guy i'd been talking with called him over, introduced us & asked him if it was alright if i played a few songs during his break. the guy was bar-manager. what did i know? i did ok. i played the few songs i knew at the time(bojangles, ruby, silver tongued devil, john philips' mississippi)& fled the stage. it was a real rush, i admit, but it was scary too. i had new found appreciation for the guy who had the gig.

the first time i was ever paid to play guitar & sing for strangers was at the tiki motel on p'cola beach. i worked(more or less)there as the night porter. it was a perfect job & i did it for 3 years from '73-'75. i read & played guitar. the most work i ever did was mess w/stopped-up toilets, wheel a roll-away bed to someone, or take room service. one night a guy stopped by room #40(the "porter station")& listened to me playing. after a few minutes, he said, "i heard you playing "help me make it through the night" earlier, right?" i confirmed that he had. "listen," he whispered conspiratorily, "do you think you could play that for me? i'll pay you." i started to play it & he interrupted me, "no, not now, not here. at my room. you sit outside my room & play the song, ok?" what the hell, i thought, he's paying me. "ok, let's go."

we got to his room & he handed me a twenty dollar bill. i was stunned. "just play it over & over, ok?" "how many times?", i asked. "maybe twenty or so, ok?," was his reply. he went into his room & i heard him open the front window & then heard a woman's voice & laughter. ah...there's method to the madness, thought i. i began to play. i played it 25 times. those extra five times was to show what a guy i was. i'm not sure he appreciated the gesture. he probably wasn't paying much attention by that time.

$20 was a lot of money back then. my weekly paycheck from the tiki was about $60 takehome. i probably took holly to angus steak ranch that week. i was flush.


i just had dinner w/ann marie & david. she mentioned kristofferson, how he's the only man she'd cheat on david with. david shrugged. i'm sure he's been hearing that for years. i found this clip of kris & rita looking for something else i wanted to post & write about(steve earle's great tribute to townes van zandt). this is a dreadful version of a ground breaking country song, sappy & made into a love song which it most definitely is not. but they do look gorgeous together & i did think about that moment at the tiki motel, so there it is.

ann marie, i think you'll like this more than "bring me the head of alfredo garcia."
enjoy.