Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Battle of the Bands: Unorganized Hancock vs. James Bond

There's nothing like a good battle of the bands. A stirring hullabaloo, if you will. There's a problem. There is no one compares with U.

Unorganized Hancock, that is. Here's a snippet of their show at the Mystic Theater at 49 Franklin in Rumford. It's the shizzle. It's the show.

But we must try to find a worthy adversary for our Battle of the Bands. Because Unorganized Hancock has the Greatest 12-Year-Old Drummer in the World, finding competition is rough. Performers that can entertain an audience with only a 12-year-old drummer to help are in short supply, too, I guess. How would I know? I never leave the house.

At any rate, we had to look for worthy adversaries among people who are licensed to kill. Think of that! Only one member of Unorganized Hancock is even licensed to drive. But we are not looking for a New Jersey General for our contest. We want Daniel Dravot.

Hmm. It doesn't have a great beat, and you can't dance to it. I give it one ping only.

[Update: Many, many thanks to Kathleen M. in Connecticut for her constant support and encouragement of my children via our PayPal tipjar. I am not exaggerating one iota when I tell you that she refreshes my opinion of the human race]
[Many thanks to the Execupundit for his enthusiasm for the boys' efforts]

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Blind Beautiful Devotions Which Only Women's Hearts Know

This child was her being. Her existence was a maternal caress. She enveloped the feeble and unconscious creature with love and worship. It was her life which the baby drank in from her bosom. Of nights, and when alone, she had stealthy and intense raptures of motherly love, such as God's marvellous care has awarded to the female instinct — joys how far higher and lower than reason — blind beautiful devotions which only women's hearts know.

             -Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
My wife is reading a little book. It shows the touch of other hands. Its spine is gone gray by touting its charms to everyone, unheeded mostly, and settling for an even century of the attention of the passing sun across the sky, slanting into homes unknown. It is a sort of a missal. It fits in the palm of the hand. The pages are like the skin of an onion. The print on the other side of the page shines through a bit, and in every way. Backwards, right to left, it shines through. This book is the little blue tent of the sky in the prison yard of my wife's life. Inside the cover, it says that it's part of EVERYMAN'S LIBRARY. I am beset by doubts on that score.

It was smuggled in to her by her little son. He gave it to her for her birthday. I wish I could give my own mother a present so fine, but my heart has been toughened by the calisthenics of living and it's fit only for lifting heavy objects -- and dropping them, generally. It works enough to wish things were different, which is something, I guess. I fear that there is nothing truly heartfelt left in my heart. Nothing pure. My little boy's heart is a flower, and mine a potato. It is the way of the world. He did the exact right thing because he had no idea what he was doing. How many walking the Earth could claim that?

My wife must consort with dead imaginary people because there is no one left to talk to in this world. Only they understand her, so she takes her encouragement where she can find it.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Rumford Delenda Est

I did something well out of the ordinary yesterday.

Or was it Thursday? I don't know. Or is today Thursday? I don't know what day it is, or what week, or the month, because these concepts have no meaning to me anymore. Time passes and that's that. I do what I do, day and night, winter and summer, Christmas or Lent -- it makes no nevermind.

As I was saying, I did something out of my routine. I left my house. I got in my truck and drove perhaps a half-mile. My wife knows how I am, and has a mordant laugh at my expense: I do not know how to leave my house. What is it I need? A wallet, I guess, some keys, if I remember correctly. I'm required to wear glasses in order to drive, but I don't even know where they are most of the time, because the law and I have different opinions.

I have different opinions than everyone about everything, it seems to me, so I keep them to myself. Other people avoid rubbing their neighbors the wrong way about this or that, and simply skip over the few topics not held in the same esteem by both parties, whistling past the graveyard of opinions that bring only discord. Me? I avoid everything.

I could be a Savonarola. Mussolini on the balcony. I'm good at it. I'd say I'm better than most, but that would be lying. I'm better than everyone at it. It's just another topic for me to be at odds with everyone about. I have no desire to burn people at a digital stake all day. Or, more truly, I know in my heart that I have the desire to burn real people at a real stake, so I'd rather not travel down that road even one inch. It's not simple human kindness exhibiting itself on my part. I'd have to pay attention to people I find repellent, and I haven't got the stomach for that. I do carry matches, though. Just in case.

Back to the topic. I left the house. Found my glasses and keys, and we set out on our five-minute journey. My wife and I used to walk around the neighborhood for a fresh air and birdsong interlude, but I got tired of ill-mannered dogs and vinyl siding, and gave it up. But I know where everything is, and what it looks like around here. I live in a mill town, given to dreariness on a good day, and the last good day was thirty years ago. My wife had gone out alone to escape the house with three versions of me in it, and had seen a wonder, and wondered if I'd like to see it too.

On a street not far from here lives a man. I do not know him, but I have waved and said hello. He is salubrious in a way I admire. He has lived here forever and a day, I imagine, and watched his town disintegrate. He refuses to go along. His house is conspicuous. It is so yellow that Van Gogh would throw in the towel and go back to the store and start shopping for raw umber. He crawls up and down it, and all around it, and it is as neat as a pin. He does everything himself. He put up a big fence around his yard, an enormous undertaking, and never flagged until he was done. Every surface is clean and bright and in good repair, everywhere you can see. It is the only structure in this town I can describe in that way.

We stopped walking down his street a while back because his neighbors were disreputable. On one side was a house gone to seed for forty years or more. The denizens had approximately 150 snot-nosed urchins who played in the street, which I rather enjoyed seeing, but they kept two, hair-trigger pitbulls the size of donkeys, and you could never tell if they were tied up or not. These animals represented a desire to publicly contract ebola so you could get your own seat on the subway of life. Fine by me.

On the other side of the neat house was a two-family affair that looked in rather better shape, but that's not to say good. There were no obvious structural issues visible to my eye at two hundred yards, which is more than I can say about my house. The house had been occupied by a series of Hatfields and McCoys, cars by the dozens, but somehow never with an even number of tires, abandoned toys everywhere, stray cats outside and stray people inside. I never saw an actual person who lived there outside, a mark of the breed. One minute the window curtain would be a confederate flag, then the rental merry-go-round would spin and a Sponge-Bob beach towel would take its place. The stray cats were the only constant.

The man in the perfect yellow house persevered. He painted his driveway and waxed his lawn and dusted his roof shingles. He polished his trees and chromed the inside of his mailbox. He was adamantine. He was, and is, a species of wonderful.

He must have gotten weary of the noise, and the trouble, and the endless low-rent hubbub. I testify to you, with God as my witness, that when the houses on both sides of him decided to spin the wheel of occupancy one more time, he bought them both, and he gave them the delenda est. Flattened them. There was a pile of lead-painted pickup sticks on one side, waiting for the next round of dumpsters, and the one on the other side was nothing but a patch of straw with the first hint of grass yet to poke through.

That man knows something. Something important. It's not that he knows exactly what would show up in the two houses when the For Sale or For Rent signs came down. He's not pretending to tell fortunes at the fair. What he knew, for a dead cert, was that there was no chance of any change bringing anything but: Worse

I should get out more often.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

I Must Not Do It


From the forthcoming book: The Regular
By: Sippican Cottage

I couldn’t buy her a birthday present. I have no money. That is to say: there is no money. Money can’t be had.

I have seen money. Felt it in my hand. I have wasted it one day and built temples to my fellow man the next with money, with no good reason to do either. I have watched it slumber in a bank book with my name on it waiting for nothing more than a notion and a signature. All gone. Gone for good, I think but must not say. She hears everything I say. I utter the sounds but I don’t listen to what I’m saying. What is the line? I must remember the line. Strut and fret upon the stage, I think. Strut and fret his hour, it goes. Yes, that’s it. I strut and fret though my hour is long over. Oh, I’m full of sound and fury.

The fury is nothing, just like in the play. I say these extravagant things and they roll off my tongue but they signify nothing to me or the rest of the world, except for her. That is why I must not say them. I must not, I must not. She hears them and they burrow deep and make a nest in her heart. She takes them in like a stray cat or a rain dog and gives them the home they don’t deserve. Same as she did for me, I guess. But my words are born hunchbacked. They foul their new nest and they break her heart.

It’s her birthday and I needed to find something. I chant it in my heart like a monk murmuring over his beads. I know why the monks chant. They chant to keep themselves from thinking about the topic at hand. They say words they can’t bring themselves to believe, over and over again, to keep from thinking about what’s coming out of their mouths. They have committed the great sin of being born, and they can’t handle it. They whisper some dread god's name time and again hoping it will ease the expected blow if they bow and scrape. They never learn that dread comes with earplugs. Deafness comes with the job description. Gods or devils, it makes no never mind. What difference does it make if they brain you with a scepter by accident or poke you with a trident with a purpose? Either way, we’re just the front pins in their game of skittles, whether we’re good or bad. Sorry, I had to install a pillar of salt somewhere, and you’re in the way. Nothing personal.

Nothing is ever personal anymore. A man with eyes like a rat in the starlight put us in the street and said it was nothing personal. Something about having the sheriff tagging along made me suspect he was worried that there might be something personal in it for me. Our little boys looked dazed, and they naturally fear a man in a uniform. My wife never says much of anything but I could read it in her eyes – do not do what I was thinking of doing. I would have made it very, very personal right up until someone brought in the cosh, and she knew it. I yielded to her eyes, like I always have, and I began my new life of living by my wits.

I wasn’t trained to live by my wits, because I am educated. There aren’t any wits required in an office. There’s just a steady drip of nothing personal written in the ledgers and you tend them like a gentleman farmer. In a ledger, people are like carrots in a field. There’s a little bit of green showing to keep track of, but it’s the part you don’t see, the part that’s hidden from view, that defines what you are. Our ledgers were the turnrows that looked down the long winding field of useless green that a man waves over his head to prove to the world that he’s still there. When you grab that green and pull it out of the ledger, when you pull that carrot of a man out of the ground, that’s when you see what he’s really made of. The green was nothing. The green is separated, chop, chop, and the part that's always kept below stairs is consumed. That’s why it's a rare man that can afford to be pulled from the ledger.

I farmed men in ledgers all the livelong day without a care in the world until the man I worked for said stop. It was all I was good for, to keep track of the little useless tuft of green that testified that there was a man under there. I was pulled from the ledger like any other man and set in the street where a man lives by his wits or perishes. I’m not allowed the luxury of perishing, not with three other faces arranged around my kitchen table, and I have no wits. That is a hard place to find yourself.

I told her not to worry, that I would reason it out. That’s what I’m good for, reasoning it out. I said it like I say everything. Only she heard it. What could I figure out? The clocks ran backwards now, the sun rose in the west, and there were no ledgers to lord over anymore. I might as well have told her not to worry because tomorrow I’d teach myself to be left-handed. I don’t know what to do. How can I learn how to do it?

I took our little all and squandered it on men that said they had the answer. They said they’d let me in on it for a few pennies. These were men that knew how to live by their wits, I thought. I thought correctly, as it turned out. The only way for a man to live by his wits in this world is to find other men that don’t have any. They found me.

She never complained. Never. Sometimes I’d see her linger over the dishes in the sink, her back turned, her head hung down. There was a pause. She’d lean on the sink for a long moment and perhaps you’d hear the plosh of a drop of water that didn’t come from the tap. Then it would pass and she’d wash the dishes again. I never tried to conjure what was passing by the window of her mind. I’m ashamed to admit it but it’s true. I was afraid to think about it. I sat stock still like a coward until the moment passed, every time. There are some fears a man cannot face.

It was her birthday and I had to find something. I had to. I picked over the winter field of our possibilities one more time like a crow. Could I pawn a present from years gone by, when money leapt into my pocket? No, they were pawned already. I couldn’t steal. I could steal for myself, commit murder, even, if not for money, then for spite at least. But I could not steal for her. It would be like taking the washing from the line behind an angel’s house. She must never touch a stolen thing. It was a disease she must not catch from me without knowing.

I laid in the bed like the undertaker put me there, and turned it over in my head. Tomorrow was the very day and I couldn’t pick the lock of my mind to find what I needed. She was on her side, facing the far wall, and I didn’t know if she was asleep or not. Out of nowhere, she spoke like a whisper in a confessional.

“I know your mind. You must not do it. You must not try it. I know what is in your heart. You will want to make a big show of it but I can’t have it. If you robbed a train and bought me a tiara I’d wear it like a crown of thorns. No matter what gimcrack you bought I would have to ooh and aah over it, and keep it where you could see it. The money buried in it would haunt me every day. It would be a shrine to one more meal that the children would never get to eat, shown to me daily like a penance for a sin I did not commit. You must not do it.”

Just like that, the whisper stopped, and I was left to examine the ceiling again.

I would take my own life, you know, put an end to it, and gladly. One big thing, finally, that was more than just talk. Linger below the chin while shaving. Nothing to it. But I can’t leave her alone in this world. I must not do it.

Copyright 2015 Sippican Cottage. All Rights Reserved 

[Update: Many thanks to Chasmatic for his generous contribution to our tip jar. It is much appreciated] 
[Update: Many thanks to Bill O from Tejas for his friendship and generous contribution to our tip jar. It is much appreciated] 
[Update: Thanks to Gerard, Bird Dog, the AVI , and the Execupundit for linking to this essay. It is much appreciated]

Friday, April 17, 2015

Yngwie Matsumoto in the Land of the Rising Sunny

There is a magic place. It's in a faraway land where they talk in little pictures and wear benches for shoes. I don't know the name of this place, but it has a fried egg on the wall, and all they ever play there is Sunny by Bobby Hebb. That's it. It's like heaven on Earth for a guy like me. Well, except for the bass and drum solos, I mean. With thumb and slap bass, at that, another abomination. But still. Sunny !

I tried to translate the hieroglyphics on the YouTube page to see what this lost tribe of my brethren was trying to say to me, but all the translator could come back with was: "Fast Playing Session." I'll say. It's like he had to go home early, so he's trying to get in all the notes as fast as he can. He must be working piecework.

As I was saying, this is a magical place. It is my Xanadu. It is my Shangri-La. It proves me right, that Sunny by Bobby Hebb is the Official Cover Song of the Twenty-Teens. The fried egg on the wall signals only one thing: Sunny is coming.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Datfunk Is Featuring Vasilis Xenopoulos! That Makes it a Sunny Day

I hadn't heard from Vasilis Xenopoulos in ages. Or about him. Or around him. Or something.

As you have probably guessed, when I heard that Datfunk was playing at the Afrikana Bar, I immediately decided to drive on over there. Or fly on over there. I dunno, swim there, maybe. Anyway, as soon as I figure out where it is, I'm there. Well, in spirit. I know Datfunk is trying to lure me from my lair by featuring Vasilis Xenopoulos on the saxophone. What grown-up can withstand the gravitational pull of that? I ask you. Vasily, or Vaseline, or whatever his name is, is world-renowned by several people. Dude can blow.

I don't know anything. I admit it. I don't know where the Afrikana Bar is. I don't know who Vagisil is. I don't know if those are Christmas lights or Kwanzaa lights hanging in the background. But two things I do know: Bobby Hebb's Sunny is the Official Cover Song of the Twenty-Teens, and I'd kill four innocent drummers to get my hands on that drummer's Stax/Volt T-shirt.

OK, I know three things. That last line was silly. There is no such thing as an "innocent drummer."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Scusi, Ma Sunny รจ la Canzone Copertura Ufficiale del Decennio

Mi dispiace, but the Montefiori Cocktail version of Sunny is so hot you need a fire distinguisher just to listen to it. This version is sure to plummet to the top of our listings of the Official Cover Song of the Twenty-Teens. This version is unparalyzed in the history of the song. These guys don't sing through their noses, they sing using their diagrams like they teach you in mucus school. I'll sing their praises until the undertaker reads my last will and tentacle.

Monetefiori Cocktail