What is it?

A female at work offered up the theory that women are more apt to internalize their struggle, whereas men tend to strike out. My term is impotent rage, and as we see, it’s becoming more and more of a problem. 

I have always believed that if people want to own guns legally, they should. Consenting adults should be able to do whatever they wish as long as they don’t hurt anyone. And I don’t really, in my heart of hearts think that more guns equal more senseless crime. Just more…efficient crime. 

I think that we are more apt to cave in to the fear. I, an “older man”, feel the fear well up sometimes if i’m exposed to too many commercials poking gently at my deepest fears. Impotence. Cancer. Retirement. Jon Bon Jovi. Look at the ubiquitous nature of those inescapable insurance ads. There’s Flo. But there’s also a subtle subtext. Fear. You’re gonna get sick. You’re gonna get hurt. You better get ready, fucker, for the judgement day. It’s coming, fatty. Take your pills. I dutifully do. And I’m not the smartest man, but I’m sophisticated enough to know when I’m being manipulated. I don’t cave in too much. Moreover, my feminine side takes over. I internalize my fear. But I also have the added advantage of already having procreated, married, domesticated. Sullen but safe. And I think that these kids, these boys, probably don’t have the perspective or the outlet they need. 

That last fella saw therapists and he fooled them. His parents knew he had problems but all the love in the world didn’t stop him. I don’t think he was lonely. I think he was afraid. I think something inside wouldn’t take another minute of uncertainty. When i was a kid i prayed to the stars that I would find someone, anyone, some girl to hold me and kiss me and love me. I remember those nights. So what kept me from getting a gun and shooting people’s faces off? Who knows? But i don’t think guns are the problem. 

In my limited understanding of the female, they seem to internalize these insecurities, punishing themselves for perceived inadequacies. My friend at work told me that this is what women do. And that’s why there aren’t many girls shooting up classrooms and shit. 

I’m not blaming TV, It’s a combination of things, including mental disease. But  don’t think the constant bombardment of young psyches via impossible images of what they think they should be can be ignored in this equation. Every new TV show features groups of thin, attractive, well-groomed characters staring dolefully into the camera. Only comedy can accommodate we fatties. Only Mike and/or Molly feel our pain. And it’s constant. And it’s unrelenting. Online. On TV. In music videos and shit.

 

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2nd amendment is the best amendment. Are there other amendments?

It’s called the “Second Amendment” because it takes a “second” to dismiss all rational debate regarding it’s relevance circa 2014. And those of them that wish to couch this latest latest latest bad apple run amok as a mental health issue (oh NOW you care about health care…I bet the ACA would be good for that), I’ve decided that the abnormal and rigid canonization of the second amendment uber alles is in and of itself a mental issue. You’re a ticking time bomb, Cletus. 

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Bumper Stickers.

Why, if you think about, do you have bumper stickers on your car? I was forced to buy a new car a month ago after Cletus gave me the ol’ “what fer” regarding my 2002 Saturn Vue’s incessant whining and thumping. It might make it to work. Might not. Might last a month. Might not. Gon’ cost ya. How much? Hard to say. Don’t rightly know.

Desperate is no way to walk into a dealership. But desperate was I. And I came out of the fracas with a shiny new Ford Fiesta. YES, foor the hundredth fucking time, they STILL make them. Or  should I say they “again” make them. Whatever.

Last time, flush from a 2008 victory by me ‘n’ Barack, I had one of those “We did it” bumper stickers sent to me, and I placed it proudly on the right ass of my black mariah. He looked more like a pensive robot than anything else, but still, it was my first political adornment of the vehicular variety.

This fucker was hard to remove, after my disillusionment at his failed drug war policies and continued surveillance acquiescence. But it wasn’t worth it after a while, and besides, I still like the guy.

The thing is, what was I trying to say? And to whom? Why would anyone behind me care about my political leanings? Was I gonna change anyone’s mind? If Hitch couldn’t do it, I sure as hell wasn’t going to. So why bother? Do you have bumper stickers on your car? Why? When I see a stick-figure family, I think “abduction”. I don’t know why. But the one that really makes me cringe is this one:

Why? Is someone behind you going to curb their seething hatred based on a number of fictional characters based on having to sit behind your fumes? Seriously, not to be glib, but what are you thinking? Are you smug about showing off to the world that you do, in fact, want people to not take up arms based on some crazy book? NO ONE wants that. The others want you to lay down and renounce. Violence being a messy byproduct of non-assent. But I just wonder if you think you’re going to change someone’s mind. I guess I’m as bad as anyone, having been caught up in the sweet zeitgeist of 2008, so maybe I should just shut up.

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Nancy Ann Neal Lee

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Nancy, like me, was the subject of merciless taunting in school. Because of her weight, and because we both were forced to hunt for the cleanest dirty clothes in the never-emptied hamper in the bathroom. My mother didn’t do laundry because she never bothered to get the washing machine fixed. So I know exactly what I went through and I can only imagine how difficult it was for Nancy. I’d ask her occasionally in our adult years, but Nancy wasn’t the kind to reflect on the bad times. See, she had this one quality that I and almost everyone else who grew up in that shithole neighborhood lacked. And that was grace. She never hurt anyone. Even though she had every right to be bitter and spiteful. She never hurt anyone.

She met one guy who cared deeply about her and there were no games. As if the two of them realized quickly upon meeting that that was the anchor they both sought. That had eluded them in the past. She and Ken got married and never stopped loving each other. I can’t tell you if they were good parents or not, but I CAN tell you that through good times and bad, Nancy never changed. Somehow, through her terrible childhood, through the relentless taunting and perpetually shifting earth beneath our feet, she had escaped drug free, alcohol free, and bitterness free.

Nancy and I had a couple of spit fights when we were teens.  Spit fights. Owned an Osmonds album or two, Grand Funk, and, inexplicably, “Head” by The Monkees. She sang. I have a recording of her, Paul and I doing “Never Ending Love”. I forgot that she got me and my band our first “paying” gig at a CB party. I talked about that elsewhere. She had rhythm. She could play “I Love Coffee, I Love Tea” on our living room chord organ. My father taught her how to play it. It was her go-to. All black keys! I wonder if she ever showed her church friends that song.

She talked on the CB radio and made so many good friends that way. Why was it so hard to meet friends in school but so easy thusly? I’m guessing that they didn’t judge her weight. Or her wardrobe. Or anything else. They heard her voice first, her smile and intelligent words second, and then they saw her body and didn’t give a shit. Her voice broadcasting from her bedroom cut through our house’s electrical thingie or something. All I know is that when Paul and I were trying to record our next cassette album, our rock and roll would be interrupted by BREAKER BREAKER THIS IS TOPAZ KQD8427 HOW BOUT IT PUDGE ?YOU OUT THERE ? Grrrr. We complained and we worked out a schedule whereby our “studio” time would not interfere with her CB time. She’d have her friends over and do the latest dances in our living room. Things like the LA Shuffle. KC and the Sunshine Band. Steve Miller. Slightly before disco.

And I do believe that some remnants of those halcyon days still ripple into our lives. One of her CB friends taught me how to play “Lyin’ Eyes” and do harmonics. One gave me cocaine. One of her girlfriends wrestled me to the ground in a delicious misunderstanding, making my husky plaid slacks fit poorly. But more than that, those times, I believe, gave her the confidence to forget those school assholes and remember that she deserved to belong. Deserved friends. Deserved fun. Deserved love.

And when she got married you sorta knew it wouldn’t be a tumultuous pairing, because she wasn’t that type of person. Unlike so many of us who grew up in Winchester, she wasn’t lost or scandalized, violent or drunk.

Many people knew her better in her adult years, but I can say that no one knows as much about what she went through in her childhood as I do. I can say also, happily, that she made it out and led a good life. Too brief, but who’s to say?

When people offer their condolences on Facebook and whatnot I remember the stories Nancy would occasionally tell about those people. She forgave them. She understood them.  But death or the perception of death somehow makes these folks forget what they did, as if death is the end of a game well-played. “Good game, Nancy. Sorry about mercilessly making fun of your body back then. No hard feelings?” Nancy wasn’t bitter, but I never said that I wasn’t. And the scars these little fuckers inflicted on me and her and probably you are ours to bear. Good game. Nice one. After all these years, let’s forget it and move on. To even talk about it would make us petty and strange. We’re the idiots. 

I always tried to make her laugh. And I always could. And she me. She knew me well enough to not talk about religion, even though it was a big part of her life toward the end. She sang his praises in health until the day she wasn’t healthy anymore. We never debated the existence of god or jesus, and maybe that’s another one of her graceful conscious choices. See, she prayed every day, and as far as I can see, god gave her a pretty inglorious ending. I won’t go into detail, but what kind of god would do that sort of thing to one of his best angels here on earth? She was terribly young and deserved better. Or maybe not. Her life was going to be a straight line of routine and comfort until the end anyhow. She was happy. What possible reason could there be to yank her from our world? There is no reason. There is no deity. There is no reason. No benevolent god would do this.

I honor her by making peace with the sasha. The tales of her goodness on the living earth are the best means by which to honor her. Call me cray cray but it seems to me that instead of picturing her with the angels playing Foosball and watching her stories, we best honor her by celebrating her humanity and wisdom. Her fidelity and grace. She’s not an angel. She was a woman and she died. My sister lives on in my memory, not in some hope we’re going to reunite at the big buffet table in the sky. With working washer/dryer.

I didn’t go to her funeral. Funerals are for the living. I made peace with Nancy after high school, and we sat and talked last summer in Gowanda and every time I was in town, on the phone birthdays and holidays and when someone died. It was how I want to remember her. I, her only brother, do not need condolences from people I haven’t seen in decades and probably won’t see again. In a very real sense, most of the family I knew in Buffalo have chosen to be or were chosen by me to be ghosts. What possible solace could they give? Was I going to go all that way to hold my tongue? I’m an adult and I’m not one to edit or censor myself. I have few friends, but the ones I do have have my eternal loyalty. The ones I chose and who chose me. I mourned, oh yes I did. Not being a religious person, I made the decision to do what I needed to do to get me through.

Play basketball with Holden and help with homework.

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Rich Stadium

I heard some lady complaining about the economy. How all she could afford, after all her bills were paid, was formula and diapers. I think the formula is probably giving her diarrhea, which was why she….you know…

I was watching “Chisum” on TV. There’s a line in it that Jesse James killed a man at the age of 12. Sorry, but no twelve year old can be called a “man”.

When I get that tangy silver-tasting feeling of steady-pumping rejection from people I’ve never met, like today, I am taken back to a conversation I had with a really fine local singer/songwriter, half of a duo, who released what is one of the finer local releases I’ve ever heard. She told me that she would on occasion DJ at a local college station. Shortly after her CD was released, she looked to see if they had included it in their rotation. She found the CD with the words “don’t bother” written in black marker. I’m not sure if I’m heartened or even more sullen when I think about it.

I was there in 1990. Go to 3:30:

We were sitting in that end zone. And when Bruce Smith almost took off Cunningham’s head, the noise was incredible. And when he escaped and completed the pass down the field, we all sat in stunned silence for an hour. And even though the Bills won the game and continued what was a charmed season, and even though the team, our team, achieved what we had all prayed for for so long, only to rip our hearts out, that’s the moment that stands out for me.

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,600 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

My voice – an update.

I get tired of my voice. I read the stuff I wrote and it all has a familiar hum to it. I get tired of that hum and nowadays it rather exhausts me. So I’m taking a little break.

Having said that, a new job in Greensboro doing the thing I like to do the most, which is to think hard and long in the presence of adults.

My pulsatile tinnitus is gone, just like the ENT said it would. I wish I could reassure others like I tried to do with another “cause” in which I was immersed, but maybe people who go to WebMD for succor are immune to my gentle caresses in any event. So let’s just put that as a key word and hope Google finds it. If you have pulsatile tinnitus, I KNOW you’re scared or maybe panicking. Don’t. It goes away.

I played a gig last weekend in Raleigh and sold two CDs to two very nice couples. One of the wives cried when I was singling Don Henley’s “I’m Taking You Home”. It was so much nicer of an evening than I was expecting. It always is. It always CAN be! I bought a Fishman thingie for it and it kicked ass! It’s a keeper!

At 4:52, the diminutive blonde on the right is Puppa Herbert. I love her. She died in 1980 of a drug overdose, but she seems so damned… German. I know we would have been the best of friends.

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Albums I listen to when the shit hits the fan.

I’m playing this Saturday night at a place in Carrboro called Steel String Brewery. I start at 8. Please come by if you can.

The Free Design hailed from Delevan, New York, and sang at Richard Nixon’s 1968 Inauguration Ball. I love them. Their first 7 albums were on Enoch Light’s  Project 3 Label. The albums were always varied and fun, united by Chris Dedrick’s stunning writing and vocal arrangements. You might call it sunshine pop. To me, they were superior to, say, The Carpenters, in every way. My favorite record by them was their 7th, 1971’s “One By One”. It doesn’t even have it’s own Wikipedia page at this time, so perhaps I will start one. Here’s the title track, one that feels even more prescient given the fact that Chris Dedrick died in 2010 of cancer. I listen to this album when the shit hits the fan.

Sadly, Tears For Fears often gets lumped into that slagheap of lesser artists from the late 80’s. However, they were much more than that. And this album is as deep and rich as anything from that time. Maybe it’s the feeling of familiarity and the ubiquitous nature of their previous singles that made people take them for granted, to this day. I think it was pretty ballsy to dedicate almost half the album to works that featured an undiscovered club singer named Oleta Adams at a time when they themselves were red hot and hardly needed to extend their palette. This album is art to me, and when things get rough, “Badman’s Song” always brings me back. Featuring Pino Palladino and Manu Catche. Brilliant.

I have personal reasons for loving Lou Christie, but even if I did not, this album would be among my favorites. Other 60’s singers had tried and failed to expand their audience with reinventions that went against type. But I don’t see “Paint America Love” as a reinvention so much as a striking evolution in writing and performing. This is the guy that sang “Lightning Strikes”, and he’s still touring today, but when the fur flies in my heart, I like to hear these songs.

If you ignore the history and stuff (if you can), I believe this to be their most varied and accomplished piece of work. Epic in scale and execution, and even though some folks thought a single album would have been wiser, that’s a silly argument now. “With The Beatles” would have been better if it was reduced to just one side. Etc. etc. I like the fact that there’s so much music, and different music. Different voices. The ultimate summation of everything they had ever learned, achieved and shared. I love them deeply as you know, but this is the one I have on repeat. I never get tired of it.

By the way, a “glass onion” is a monacle.

There’s no better record from beginning to end than this. I, myself, of course, am thrown back to my Reuben’s Backstage days when Phil Messina, the owner, would put this on the eight-track house stereo as the evening wound down and I was trying to find a ride home.  I know I’m nothing compared to him, but I do try to emulate him when I do my own music, in regards to making tracks cross-fade, and alternating styles.

Dennis Wilson wrote “Slip On Through” and a couple more great tunes on this, their best record to my ears from beginning to end. Not as revolutionary as Pet Sounds, I know. I just like it more. The first album they did where they were a band.  I never get tired of this, and “Our Sweet Love” is a real highlight of the pop music of that era. The weirdness that preceded and followed…

I like pretty much all their albums, but this one is a little more aggressive and relate-able to me. This song in particular reminds me of some recent developments. Sad. To me, it goes: The Beatles to Stevie Wonder to XTC to Radiohead. What’s next? Nothing.

There’s four songs on this album, all of ’em pretty long. Too long to hold your passive interest, but I love this album. Renaissance was formed by Keith Relf of The Yardbirds along with his sister Jane. I know you’re more acquainted if at all with the version that recorded this album. The one with Annie Haslam. Later on they signed to the I.R.S. label, owned by Miles Copeland. Like many progressive bands, they tried vainly to change styles to keep their audience in the 80’s. This album is their best. One of my classical music expert friends pointed out the familiar (stolen?) themes that they incorporated into their magnum opus “Song off Scheherazade” but I don’t think it lessens the effect. Oh what the hell. If you have 24 minutes, listen to this. It’s wonderful.

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Paul McCartney was/is overrated.

In the immediate wake of the 9/11 unpleasantness, the most successful songwriter in the history of the world by almost any metric put pen to paper and spake thus to a waiting world:

This is my right, a right given by God 
To live a free life, to live in freedom 

Talking about freedom 
I’m talking about freedom 
I will fight, for the right 
To live in freedom 

Anyone, tries to take it away 
Will have to answer ’cause this is my right 

Has there ever been a more shallow, depressing response from such a canonized figure about such a galvanizing event? What pandering! God? Really? And the little allusion to potential bloodshed. Oh, you don’t think so? What does “will have to answer” mean to you in this context? A stern finger-wagging? Perhaps a fourth-hand reference on a b-side of one of his boutique singles? No, this was a shrewd re-immersion into the crass banalities which have defined his solo career. A man who talked about love while impregnating half of Australia. A man who could have told his partner in the biggest business music has ever known to shut the fuck up, lose the studio pet, and understand that the drugs and shit are ruining everything they had built up to that point, and that perhaps there’s a bigger picture. A currency to all the hard work. Instead, he hummed and hawed and approached that conflict much like Nick Mason would approach a 16th note. Silent, simmering sadness partnered with a withering fear of/aversion to conflict. The English Way. I hate him because he, in his way, deprived us of so much.

Paul McCartney is overrated. He, like his partner John Lennon, suffered mightily outside the hothouse of musical excellence that was “The Beatles 1962-1969”. But they all did, of course. His craft was melody. His music-hall tendencies and gift for a tune were free to flourish at first, then rot. He had nothing to say, because having something to say would require a stance. If Lennon chickened out over and over (two examples off-hand “You can count me out…in” and his complaints about Dylan making openly religious recordings while at the same time chiding his audience for believing a single word he was saying were things the contemporary Lennon kicked himself for not doing when he was more than equipped to privately, and yet his tantrums were moot exercises in house-husbandly petulance, as he never found the nerve to express his real beliefs), McCartney had nothing substantive to say. Ever. Had he died in 1980, the subsequent generations of lost youth might feel compelled to sift through his rock and roll detritus to find some deeper meaning in his silly love songs, but there will be none. No deeper meaning.

While Lennon’s needle moved from politics of peace to war to utopia to fascism to atheism to karma, McCartney was always careful to stand for nothing. I don’t know which solo career infuriates me more. At least George Harrison’s pontificating was somewhat consistent in its boorish self-righteousness.

Look at his attempts at engaging the political/social realm beyond the studio clock. “Give Ireland To The Irish” could have been a provocative indictment of Bloody Sunday. But after having initiated this potentially devastating, even career-defining leadership role, he proceeded to come off as some entitled school teacher.

Great Britain you are tremendous 
And nobody knows like me 
But really what are you doin’ 
In the land across the sea 

But really, Great Britain. What are you doing? Really? You are tremendous. But really…pish posh and all that. As ham-handed as Lennon’s ode to a political cause in which he himself was conveniently remote was, this little soiree into politics is embarrassing.  And it would happen a few more times. See, my theory is that the concept of meaningful, thoughtful lyrics are a total afterthought to this man. And he, like Lennon, was the beneficiary of nose-to-nose, men in white shirts and ties quality control like that of no other group, before or since. His gift for melody was unsurpassed. No one, not Arlen, Richard Rodgers, Hoagy Carmichael, Beethoven, no one created more enduring, more pleasing melodies than Paul McCartney. But he would and could create a pretty melody from the sound of  turkey being sliced. It’s anything deeper than that that makes me think that he’s overrated. He wrote a song called “Bip Bop”. “Morse Moose and the Grey Goose”.  He crafted immaculate arrangements and deeply moving lines and covered them with shit. Listen to “Motor of Love” off Flowers in the Dirt.  The production is a little dated with the electronic drums and airy synths and whatnot, but a fine melody. It’s when he sings “Turn on your motor of love..heavenly father look down from above…” that I realize that in his oeuvre, there’s no such thing as writing yourself into a lyrical corner.  He’s gonna blast his way out, come hell or high water, regardless of how that might compromise the effectiveness of the song itself.

What does “Jet” really mean? I think he just came up with a good melody, and thought up a one-word chorus. It could have been “puke” or “cup” or “plum”. Did it really matter? Even “Hey Jude” is the sort of song where you have to accept that he’s speaking in some sort of code, and your interpretation of that code depends on acceptance of the nonsensical. You and I have been TOLD what it’s about, but for poetic license to be given, one must understand what he’s saying. Lennon, in the deepest throes of his heroin addiction and incessant egotistical ramblings, somehow thought the song was about HIM.

Of course, it wasn’t always that way. When the machine was running on all cylinders, there was a built-in cull of the worst of his tendencies. This faded as time went on. But he sang these meaningless couplets with such conviction and such authority that you could not help being pulled in.

And while he’s no Anvil, he’s not that far off.

——————————————————————————–

You and me together
Nothing feels so good
Even if I get a medal from my local neighbourhood

———————————————————————————-

When you’re wide awake
Say it for goodness sake
It’s gonna be a great day
While you’re standing there
Get up and grab a chair
It’s gonna be a great day

———————————————————-———————

From “Jet” to “Rough Ride” to “Press” to “Beautiful Night”, even his pre-solo work. songs like “Get Back” start out as little political screeds. Pakistanis taking British jobs, etc.  Fine. You agree or don’t. But like Lennon, he backs off for the sake of some kind of impulsive need to be universal by being vague. Like a politician. No point in alienating half the population by standing for something when the people who don’t stand for that thing will never buy your records again. As if that were true. It’s ridiculous. I’m an atheist, but I still buy Stevie Wonder’s music and am moved by HIS conviction. Earth Wind and Fire. When McCartney mentions god, it’s a cheap means of writing himself out of a corner. I used to cringe when i’d listen to “Living in the Material World” because Harrison was preaching to me. At least he was PREACHING something. At least there was no question where he stood. In his lyrics, at least. In life he was just as filthy as anyone else in showbiz. But better that then the endlessly nebulous quicksand that is and always has been Paul McCartney’s lyrics.

If Paul McCartney ever decided to write music for Scott Walker, I wonder what would happen. Or Leonard Cohen. That would be something.

I leave you with:

That would be something 
Really would be something 
That would be something 
To meet you in the fallin’ rain momma 
To meet you in the fallin’ rain

No, all music doesn’t have to “mean something” but after all this time, wouldn’t it be nice to know that under all that sugar coating beat the heart of a real revolutionary?  A hardened criminal? A pervert? He did sing about animal rights once. Here’s that:

I saw a cat with a machine in his brain
The man who fed him said he didn’t feel any pain
I’d like to see that man take out that machine
And stick it in his own brain, you know what I mean

I saw a rabbit with its eyes full of tears
The lab that owned her had been doing it for years
Why don’t we make them pay for every last eye?
That couldn’t cry its own tears, do you know what I mean?

When I tell you that we’ll all be looking for changes
Changes in the way we treat our fellow creatures
And we will learn how to grow
(Learn how to grow)

Well, I tell you that we’ll all be looking for changes
Changes in the way we treat our fellow creatures
And we will learn how to grow, yeah
When we’re looking for changes

I saw a monkey that was learning to choke
A guy beside him gave him cigarettes to smoke
And every time that monkey started to cough
The bastard laughed his head off, do you know what I mean?

Really makes you think.

 

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