Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Easy Part Is Playing It

George Gershwin plays I Got Rhythm like he's got a bus to catch. He made more money than any other composer ever did, or ever has.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Eleanor, Gee I Think You're Swell

Paul Rose plays the Beatles' Eleanor Rigby

I've made it my business for the last couple of years to write stories in a couple of lines. You have to have pregnant thoughts. The words have to do double and triple duty. There must be ambiguity, hints of things around the corner you can't spare the text to explain, but not just plain obscurity. You can't waste time. Since there can be no filler between the important stuff, any filler you rely on takes the place of important stuff and the attempt fails.

Paul McCartney is supposed to be a kind of amiable dunce to John Lennon's sophisticated artiste. A music hall tuba player gone global. If so, then what the hell is this? It's worthy of Yeats or Joyce, and neither of them could play the radio.

Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been;
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door;
Who is it for?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Father MacKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear;
No one comes near.
Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there;
What does he care?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name;
Nobody came
Father MacKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave;
No one was saved

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I have a headache that could pull a bus.

There is still a little snowbank across the street.

I did not have to rise before dawn yesterday to make a fire, for the first time this year.

I still rose before dawn.

There is a dead skunk in the middle of the road, stinkin' to high heaven.

My wife and I are sad for the dead skunk, for he was jolly and waddled through the yard and gave no offense.

A window is open for the first time this year.


There is a battered and rusted farm-ish ventilator installed at the crown of my roof, and it shrieks as it spins when the wind blows hard, but sounds like a calliope sometimes.

I can't get at the ventilator with any ladders and staging I possess.

If my neighbors didn't like me, they'd kill me over the ventilator.

Momo the cat sat on one mole while he killed another in Lloyd's yard.

There is a 175 foot drainage pipe that goes under the street out front and travels beneath a good portion of my yard, then ends in the rear of my house in the rock garden, and the neighborhood cats, including mine, use it for a subway.


There is a hardwood tree some call a linden outside my window; it grows like a weed and looks sturdy enough, but you can cut a branch off it the thickness of your wrist using only a nippers.

A neighbor lady lectured me about various species of wood the other day in a neighborly way, and I found it amusing and pleasant.

If she had known what she was talking about it wouldn't have been nearly as pleasant.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Devil's In The Cows

I told that boy, I told him. You don't want no part of this farm, nor another. A farm is a jackplane for human boards. Wears you out like a sermon.

It made ma mere old, and his, too. She was beautiful once. Gone to seed, now. The work wore at her. Not the work, no; getting nothing for the effort but chapped grinds a person down. A farm is a twenty-five hour timeclock with no paycheck. She done it for me, and I done it for the farm, and for pere and ma mere, but it dies with me.

It's a terrible thing to raise your own to disown you. The girls was no trouble 'cause all girls like frilly things and a farm is a dreary place. First magazine comes into a farmhouse with pictures of socialites, and daughters is planning their escape. The only mistake they can make is letting a farmboy convince them that they're the ticket out of here. A wandering mind and a weak back is fine for a city dweller, but it's deadly out in the landscape. The farmboys with a touch of neon about them and their coquettes generally break down and wander back before they even get to a road with two stripes on it. We sent the girls to Augusta to school, and they found fellers with ink all over them and we breathed a sigh.

"It's a boy!" my wife said, "We were blessed with a boy, Xavier, and he can help you." But I already knew in my heart that it was a curse, because I loved that boy so, before he was even borned, that I could never let him like me much. He had to see how hard life was here and so put aside a man's sneaky love for his father and go away someday. I had to drive him from this place. That is a hard thing my friend; a hard thing.

So I shows him what's what, and drive him like a team from dawn to dusk his whole life. I gotta wear it out of him early. He learned everything about the old place, but it's all bad son, all bad, I says. He'd keep even with me when he was only shoulder height, and I'd catch him sneaking a bed lunch for the power that was in it. I didn't know what to do with him after a while, for I could never bring myself to be mean with him, never.

My father in his turn told me all of the things a man needs to know about a farm, in his mind anyway. He loved it so, and tried to make me love it too. I loved him, truth be told, but hated his farm. But he got rheumy and I stayed on to help and eventually I slipped him in the ground here and threw dirt on him like any other seed. By then it was too late to slip the orbit.

Then the boy comes to me and says there's a war on, father, and I'm gonna go and kill a German or two. And my wish is granted and I curse the genie like all men do that go for a rub expecting a free lunch.

The kids from the city will think it's a lark until they're pissing themselves in a trench, and could no more kill anyone than a kitten. That's good, and might keep them safe. But the boy ain't never been afraid like that, and that's bad.

"You remember gran-pere, boy?"

"Of course, dad."

"Well, I've never been no more good to you than a pharoah to a jew, but now you have to listen to me. Gran-pere he was wise about the world. It wasn't knowing things; any damn fool knows things. Gran-pere could feel things. He went beyond the knowing and let himself feel things. You got to do that. It's in you, I know it, because he got it out of me, and you're mine."

"I feel things, dad."

"No, not like that. Not moonin' over the neighbor's girl or getting angry over the radio. It's sense, like smell or something. It's not on purpose. Laissez faire, boy."

"Dad, the train is leaving."

"I remember when I was young and we was working, gran-pere would put his nose up in the air and mutter, the devil is in the cows. The sky might be dead blue, not a puff of wind, six hours of work to be done, and we'd go in and within an hour the heavens would open up and we'd watch weather like the Bible from the parlor."

"Goodbye, dad."

I saw him sit through the glass, and the train slowly pulled away. He didn't look back.

Oh God, watch for the devil in the cows, son.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Was There Something You Wanted?

A parable of marriage. Men chase things for reasons unknown, and have no idea what to do with them once they catch them.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Before. This Is The Way It Was

Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Let's Play Find The Spoof!

Hint: The one that isn't a spoof seems the most absurd.

Mmmmm. Lee Remick. Little-known fact: Barack Obama was the rhythm guitar player in the Rutles.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Stifling Uniformity

Look at Andres Segovia in the fifties. If you didn't know who he was, I could have told you he invented a transistor, or reviewed mortgages at the savings and loan, or toiled in any number of mundane professions, and his appearance wouldn't give it away.

People used to be serious, and you'd find serious people in every walk of life. Now all the Jeeves are dead, and everyone's either a high or low budget Wooster. Who allows their work or their art alone to speak for them anymore?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The World Has Always, And Will Always Be A Race Between Barbarism And Civilization

Today, civilization gets in a few punches:

Put yourself in that man's shoes, and his chair for a moment. Now stand up.

ReWalk. 150 grand, eight hour battery life.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It Was The Tin Man That Had No Heart

Dad was always in the kitchen when I got there and that made it home.

I remember the patterns of the place. The linoleum swirled and looped this way and that, colors revealed and subsumed again, made still more random by the scrape of a million footfalls in a way no mechanism could replicate. The radio was molded hard, but still looked like the kind of plastic mash it was made from, and fought a determined rearguard visual action against the battered red dinette tabletop. The chrome legs stabbed at the floor.

There was a strange man there and I mean it in every way. He had a pinky ring and smelled like cologne instead of work and his suit was shinier than the table leg ever was. He had a gold tooth and a galvanized smile.

"We're not getting any younger, you and I..."

My father was the you. I immediately got the impression there was no I there.

"Climbing a rickety ladder every year, and for what? To do it all over again next year. You should be at the ballgame, not scraping and priming. Our space-age aluminum siding never needs painting, and once you set it, you forget it. Our easy terms put it in the reach of even a family with a modest income..."

He kept going, but I was distracted by my father. He drifted from his usual quiet self to an Easter Island face. The man was pushing all the buttons, as he had done before countless times to numberless people, no doubt. But all men's buttons are not the same, are they? Or maybe the buttons are all the same but are mislabeled on some people. The man was trying to talk incessantly without saying anything, but that's hard to do. Can you do it? The man reminded father of things gone, but not forgotten. Of wear and tear. Of loneliness and loss. Pain and regret. Of sitting alone at a battered table under a picture of your life gone away.

"It will always look good from far away, and every day that passes you'll thank yourself for forgetting it forever," he said, and held out the pen.

My father seemed startled, and he looked at the picture of my mom, dead and gone fifteen years, that hung over the table.

"Get out of our house."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I'm Unsure Of The Exact Tipping Point When The Only Persons You'd See In An Enormous City Dressed Like Businessmen Were Just Pretending To Be Businessmen

If "synchronized phoney businessmen dance" isn't a euphemism for the last decade ...

I just made it a euphemism for the last decade. So there. Or those Japanese fellers did. Someone did. Whatever.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

All Music Is Just Organized Noise. Meet Felix, The Organization Man

Felix Thorn is a young feller from Brighton, England, with a penchant for banging on things. He's a painter, or a composer, or a sculptor, or a woodworker, or a tinsmith, or a computer programmer, or a musician, or a tinkerer, or a delightful syncretist or an annoyance or something.

Go and visit Felix's Machines.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Grand Day Out

There are very few days like that.

It's not that I don't see them. I see them all day, every day. But there is too little time for nothing. There is almost no nothing in a week. I take them to the lumber yards and the hardware stores and everywhere else I go, which is almost nowhere, but that's always about something. Kids need nothing sometimes. Not alone nothing. Together nothing.

Doing nothing comes like an inspiration once in a while. Not exactly "I could do nothing." More like "I should do nothing." I look at the world and wonder where everyone gets the time and money to do nothing so furiously all day. Oh how they squander their nothing. Not dolce far niente. They smother their nothing in the cradle with activities. They drive nowhere while typing with their thumbs like they're the leader of some great enterprise. They know in their hearts that to be left alone with their thoughts for a moment would expose a great void, and so fill the hole with endless distractions.

Me? The snow is in remission, trickling away into the river and then the sea, soon to come back to fall on our heads again one way or the other. There's a road around the corner quiet enough to teach the eight-year-old, finally, how to ride a bike.

There aren't ten days in a lifetime like Sunday was. After an hour he was racing the other kids, and losing with a big smile on his face. Almost as big as his old man's.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I Write Stories

Stories are not well understood, I think. They are not well understood even by those that write them, sometimes. Or perhaps they understand perfectly, but are ashamed to acknowledge that they are not ultimately the tree that bears the fruit. They are a pail, not its contents. They hide their shame by dissembling when asked about it, and go back to the well in stealth of night.

No, not a well. A derrick. The world and everyone in it yields nothing but noise, a slurry, tailings, clinker, whatever; it's a barren rock, the surface -- not without signposts, no; there are too many signposts, they are over every inch of ground and directions to all of them are in the mouths of every person. But the surface yields nothing. You must drill, and break your bit, and your back, and go fishing in McElligot's Pool until you find what you are looking for. You cannot make it, only find it. Just recognize it when you see it? Not so simple.

You wander alone with no surety but that no one can help you. It is in the barren places you look, so you do not waste your time sweeping away the seeds left by the cultivators who broadcast over the beaten path. To plant there is to be trampled, anyway.

You go where others do not and you're a fool for a time. Or forever.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Holy Cow Itzhak Perlman Was Good In 1958 When He Was Thirteen Years Old

If he was thirteen years old today he'd probably play X-Box instead, be systematically starved and hounded because he's "obese," and be drugged into oblivion because he won't pay attention to drivel in class.

Friday, April 08, 2011

The Mucilage Of Figaro

Cut and paste, baby. Don't laugh. According to Wikipedia, Joe Penna has the most YouTube subscribers in Brazil, where he was born, and has the seventh-most YouTube subscribers in the world. His videos are closing in on a quarter-billion views.

You couldn't get that many if you knew how to play The Marriage of Figaro properly.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

A Long, Languid, Heartfelt Plea Launched Into The Ether

Driving around a virtual world with the windows down. Blows hot and cold.

Notes in a bottle. Fingernails scratching at the unyielding mica schist in a dungeon, trying to leave some totem of a life. A wounded bird set free in a world of felines.

I didn't mean nothing by it. I didn't mean to look. You stood still and the Doppler put you on a carousel, gone loose in the joints, the big, spidery gears smeared with grease and the swarf of a million revolutions. The neon flickers all the time, but sometimes you can pick up the frequency and see the rhythm in it.

Is it a prayer or a curse you offer? Is there a difference?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


See him drink. From a bottle.
See him eat. From a plate.
Cute, cute. As a button.
Don't you wanna make him stay up late.
We're having fun. With no money.
Little smile. On his face.
Don't ya love. The little baby.
Don't you want to make him stay up late.

Monday, April 04, 2011

I Have, In The Past, Directed The Activities Of Hundreds Of People At A Time In The Construction Field; But I Now Enjoy The Greatest Benefit Of Working Alone:

No employees demanding to listen to "Wolfmother" at flight-deck volume while they work.

A twenty foot (!) capacity lathe. Dude's hardcore with the parting tool, too.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Double-Edged Sword

A bunch of Eastern Europeans play music from a Venetian in a Portuguese Church. Tomaso Albinoni. We don't know much about Tommy. He didn't seem to need a gig, wrote what he pleased, and didn't hang out with the baroque music set enough to develop a personality cult. I like that a "posthumous" collection of some of his work was published in France eleven years before he actually died. Gotta like a guy that skipped the eighteenth century version of Facebook and LinkedIn that thoroughly.

What little we do know was made less by the bombing of Dresden in World War II. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down is tough on libraries. According to the fellow that has the most to gain from lying about it, a mere scrap of this work was sent to him, charred, from the Dresden State library, and he took said fragment and wrote the rest of it. The eye notices that when it was in his interest to say Albinoni wrote it, he said Albinoni wrote it, and when it wasn't, he didn't, and moves on.

The church is Igregja da Misericordia of Aveiro. A misericord is like a shelf in a church for your butt, placed so you can lean on it and remain standing throughout a long service; a "mercy seat." A misericorde is a sort of stiletto, used to give a death stab, a "mercy strike" to a wounded knight on the ground.

You have to take your mercy where you find it in this world.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Dr. Lonnie Smith. Sick Sikh Hammond Organ Playing

The debonair commenter and reader Misterarthur, fast becoming our go-to guy for our raging Hammond organ fetish, reminds us of Doctor Lonnie Smith.(very cool website, but it autoplays music)