Archive for death & grief

“Smoke Bend” Dollar Bill Johnston (Sunday P.M. Punk Rock Gospel)

Posted in country music, I Heart My Love-Tribe, Music & Life & Sundays, politics, Republicans scare me, Spirituality & Religion, Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2010 by alphabetfiend

Now it’s winter on the river, and a cold swift swollen tide meets a warm southern breeze from the gulf of memories.  

Every year, around the 9th of October, I fall into a funk. This blue mood is a complete mystery to me until the part of myself that’s been trying it’s best to keep the date from me will lag,  inevitably exhausted, and it will hit me. Oh! Right. That. The day that my father left this lousy place for good. The day that changed everything. The day that was so swollen with uncontainable sadness that even now, all these years later, it still will not be contained.    

      

I have another tough week in the spring. Another mysterious doom. “So?” Steffe’ll ask, pensively. “How are you? You always get down whenever y’know… me too. I miss him too.” And then it’ll hit me. Oh. Right. That. The week that our friend Paul had a heart attack in Florida, while shacked up with another poet on a houseboat.     

   

Souls have a secret calendar of agony.  

The Robot fades to black every year ’round labor day. The holiday serves as a hard-to-suppress reminder of the weekend his cousin/ little brother/best friend put a gun to his own temple. He was drunk and fighting with his girl friend, suddenly desolate, momentarily stupid. Maybe he meant to mash the trigger, maybe not. Those kind of over-wrought emotional moments can color the future with what is really just a temporary explosion of too too much. I keep a close eye on RB as the holiday nears. He wouldn’t do something so drastic but still, the date itself is a reminder of how hopelessness can swallow a grown folk whole.  

Like a snake eats an alligator.   

The gator goes down easier than you’d think.     

   

(Though I did see a story where a python tried to eat an alligator and the snake exploded… so that’s oddly comforting.)     

These last few days, I was hit by another mysterious gloom. It began with three days of insomnia — I was amped & aimless, annoyed with TV, avoiding the computer –followed by 15 hours of boulder-like sleep. It was a sleep-monster Saturday: ’round 4, Robo put me down like a toddler in need of nap; I reluctantly dozed off at the approach of 6; woke up at 3am to finish/post the gospel but mostly spent 2 hrs staring vacantly into space; then came Gospel!? We don’ need no stinkin’ gospel!; at 10am the Robot woke me with my favorite breakfast. I’m still annoyed and considering sending him back for reprogramming. It wasn’t until I finally got online that I ran smack dab into the Oh. Right. That.     

 Katrina.     

   

There, on the wordpress dash sat a letter from a reader/ friend, bummed about the anniversary of Katrina and wondering where-o-where was the Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel? Ah. Arggghrr. (That’s an argh that becomes a grr.) In a split second of watery blinking, I decided to forsake my previously planned song in favor of another song which we played constantly in the wake of that fateful & fatal storm. Before too, but so so often after. This song has meant the world to myself and the loverman (why, he was just a little robot, maybe 8 or 9, when he first started reading The Times Picayune; wishing he could get into the city, good old Big Easy, to see Black Sabbath at City Park.)     

We played that record ragged. That album was our refuge in the storm. That smoking Piggie was a good gentleman friend to us. The song is “Smoke Bend.”  The album is The Gourds 2002 release “Cow Fish Fowl or Pig.”      

   

Yes, I know we’ve just done The Gourds recently but we’re talking about Katrina today and for me, there is only one Katrina song.     

 “Smoke Bend” by the Gourds with Dollar Bill Johnston.      

Dollar Bill Johnston joins The Gourds on stage

Dollar Bill is the father is the father of Gourd, Max Johnston (also of Wilco and Uncle Tupelo.)  Interestingly, Max’s sister and Dollar Bill’s daughter is singer/song-writer Michelle Shocked, who I love.       

        

They’re sandbaggin’ the levees     

They’re shovelin’ night and day     

It’s the year of ’27     

Gonna wash us all away     

 This song was not written about Katrina. Which in my mind, for my purposes, makes it better. Rather it’s about the ever-present worry that the levees might break and if so, then what?    

 The levee gonna bust     

On your side or mine     

A little dynamite on your side     

Help the river make its mind     

It’s about the day that you hope never comes. It’s about the risks we all take in life whether it’s living in the basin of New Orleans or loving even when you know know how much losing is gonna hurt.    

 Folks left that west bank town     

 Left it all behind     

 Start life on higher ground     

 Gonna get out just in time     

 I didn’t grow up in New Orleans, but I was worried by my own what-if’s.    

Even as a small child, my attachment to my father was so enormous that I was haunted by his mortality. This what-if stayed with me through-out my life. In college, laying in bed one night, I tried to picture the cruel day and could imagine no future for myself beyond it. I saw myself in my messy closet, tucked in the fetal position, refusing to come out. Ever. By the time it happened for real, that closet was long gone, and I was living in Austin, but I could still find the fetal position.     

It must’ve been crazy growing up in New Orleans in the shadow of what if?    

 After all, that’s was the place I wished to be.     

   

I’m a corn-fed midwestern girl (by way of A! I! Ohio!) so I’m not native to the south. But I wanted to be, oh I wanted it so badly, always, and I think that counts for something. It always made sense, jived with my version of self. I’ve kinda secretly way-down-deep-in-me thought of myself as the Delta Lady, the epitome of southern eccentricity. When I was very young, probably too young to long for such obscenity, I’d listen to Joe Cocker’s “Delta Lady” and think “That’s me! There I am! Standing wet and naked in the garden.”     

   

So it’s no surprise that this secret self-appointed Delta Lady found herself a mint julep of a southern gentleman.     

The Robot’s often spoke of the hurricane parties people have while weathering out the storm. They drink hurricanes, play cards and hope like hell. His stories were always punctuated with “Oh, you’d love it. You especially would love it!” ??? 

A hurricane party?     

   

It did sound like something I’d adore — the enforced play, the mandatory leisure; the tendency towards hedonism or at least too many hurricanes; the chaotic familiarity of community and iffy festivity of gatherings; kids running wild, adults divulging secrets; all that human energy, all that snap crackle pop, and over-top — the bristling electricity of sky & fear.      

But after Katrina, I dunno… it sounds too… scary.      

Robotboy grew up in Mississippi, just outside of New Orleans, so his family was hit. The eye of the hurricane passed directly over the family home. It was scary and it was scary even for us, waiting to find out if everyone was okay. They were. They lost a roof and few 100 year trees, a prized pecan, but our people were all very lucky. But then they weren’t depending on the levees…       

    

“Smoke Bend” is about the day that we hope will never come, and yet we know it will, and still that changes nothing.     

Now there’s mint juleps at Oak Alley     

  There’s poison in the air     

 There’s new dangers on the river     

 It’s so good to be from there      

    

We continue to love whatever it is we’re so afraid to lose. Once we’ve lost out, the love goes on. That’s another little something we can count on.     

{{MP3 17 – Part II – Smoke Bend}}   

Smoke bend 

CHORUS:

Now it’s winter on the river

And a cold swift swollen tide

Meets a warm southern breeze

From the gulf of memories

Missouri and clear Ohio

Give their currents to the tide

Now the river’s Louisiana’s

For the willow tree-lined ride

From cruel Angola down to Venice

Scatterin’ horseshoes everywhere

The river’s Louisiana’s

With no glory or bank to share

If the river had its way

The Atchafalaya’d be its home

Straighten out them horseshoes

Find another bank to roam

There’s cane fires up the bank

Of that horseshoe of Smoke Bend

The smoke was double thick

And the fog was rollin’ in

Tie your boat to a willow tree

Climb the bank so high

Above the blanket on the river

See every star in the sky

Smoke fog and family

Kept to that west bank town

Smoke and fog would burn and blow away

The folks they’d stay around

There was catfish with the Kingfish

And a culture spice gumbo

There’s coonass music playing

On a glowin’ radio

Klan and crackers on the side

At the Last Chance Cafe

Crawfish etouffee

Warm red river Beaujolais

CHORUS

They’re sandbaggin’ the levee

They’re shovelin’ night and day

It’s the year of ’27

Gonna wash us all away

The levee gonna bust

On your side or mine

A little dynamite on your side

Help the river make its mind

Folks left that west bank town

Left it all behind

Start life on higher ground

Gonna get out just in time

Now there’s mint juleps at Oak Alley

There’s poison in the air

There’s new dangers on the river

It’s so good to be from there

CHORUS

**************************************

Stay ahead of the snake, y’all, don’t get swallowed up cause really that’s silly, a gator in the belly of a snake, c’mon? Even a python! C’mon! And it’s not safe for the snake either. So just lift yer snout outta the swamp n’ hum a little cajun tune or maybe that one about the river, who did that one? The potatoes? The parsnips? The Gourds! With Dollar Bill Johnston!   

 So whaddaya say, alkies, got a hankerin’ for hurricanes? Well, why’ont you whip us up a pitcher!     

  

Thank’s to Mike — fellow Austinite, who grew up in Chalmette — for documenting his own (from afar & helpless) vigil during the storm and subsequent obsession with the recovery of his homeland. See his story and more of his storm photos (like above.) 

Immerse yourself in gourdy goodness at the band’s sweet sight, complete with wood round rekerd playa.   

If you’re in love with “Smoke Bend” (and you should be) the song can be downloaded for 99 cents. A great song for the price of a candy bar. The album “Cow Fish Fowl or Pig” available on amazon.  If you’re not ready for the I couldn’t nor wouldn’t begin to suggest where future aid should be sent so I open comments to suggestions.  

*************************************************   

Today’s edition of the Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel is dedicated to everyone who saw Nola through that storm as well as to those who continue to be with her now. To those who lost lives, loved ones, homes, schools, churches, haunts. To those still healing and still helping in the aftermath.     

My heart aches for all of you, for your families wherever they may live, and for every one who had their heart mangled by that hurricane (even if “only” in an an empathic human way)  

Today was hard for people, people’s hearts are still hurting. Even those not directly affected by Katrina, even those hearts are clenched like angry fists. In a strange sad way, Katrina became a shared trauma, a throbbing dated ache that yearly seizes up. Katrina blew through our TV screens and flooded our family rooms. Which is not to diminish the unfathomable experience of being in New Orleans both during and after that storm; nor the losses borne by other areas hit by Katrina.

“Con Te Partiro”; With You I Leave (Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel)

Posted in Art & Culture, Art Lover, Livin' La Vida Frida, Style & Fashion, Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 18, 2010 by alphabetfiend

When you are far away I dream on the horizon and words fail, and I do know that you are with me, with me, with me. You, my moon, you are here with me. My sun, you are here with me, with me, with me, with me. With you I will leave.

As you may already know, I’ve been a most irresponsible ringleader. I’ve only recently returned to Cream Scene Carnival after a long hiatus. It wasn’t until I returned that I learned I had any “real” readers and now that I know, I’ve promised no more extended absences.

But can a gypsy-carnie with a history of wanderlust really make such a vow?

Well… yes.

Some time away doesn’t seem like such a big deal except for when it comes to one reoccurring post: The Sunday A.M. Punk Rock Gospel. The column I obsessed over and that no one ever read (besides The Reliable One) but he loved it too so I forged ahead with the idea. The idea?

A temple built of alphabet & musical notes, a church constructed of code, a sacrament of song.

I call it “The Punk Rock Gospel” though only some of the song choices are officially “punk rock.” It’s our attitude that’s punk rock. 

We’re outside the religious main-stream but still ass-kicker omen-seeker mystic-minded mutants who are looking for a moment of holy meditation but on our own damn terms.

No nun to rap our knuckles, no priest to diddle us under our choir robes. No bigot to tell us who to love or hate. No big-mouth phoney with his pants down and his hand out. No saintly soul with her lips pursed & judging our upblown skirts as we smirk all Tinto-Brass balls-out saucy. No one luring our loved one to the woods and striking her down because she is beautiful and he wants her which makes him hate her. (RIP Ronnie. The Robot-Boy misses you.) No one to tell us which hotdog to eat. No one to chop at the genitals of our babes. No one to shame us for unabashedly loving eachother and ourselves.

Now watch as I pass out pastels and ooh and ahh as you draw chalky caricatures of Muhammad on the sidewalk.

No one to kill us afterwards.

Down with the dogma! Up with the dada!

When I started Cream Scene Carnival, I had high hopes for the punk rock gospel. I wanted people to read it, to love it, to listen to the songs and then to come back again. And again.

It seemed as if it would never happen. Now, almost out of nowhere, my hopes have been realized. Y’all are reading the punk rock gospel! You’re coming back the next week and the next week too! I’m so happy I could fly my own heart like a bright red kite.

Which is why I MUST find my way here every single Saturday night or early Sunday morning (Monday at the latest?) Either that or I must initiate others to serve as Gurus of Garage Rock or Mofos of Funk for those times when I am unavailable in any of my holy guises: High-Priestess of Tom-foolery; Trickster Fox Fortune-teller; Lipstick Shamaness. Finding a sacred sub is really the perfect solution as it means a fresh perspective or a whole new kind of song on a special kinda Sunday.

This week is in that spirit, even though I am here (having hauled my butt to a late-night diner to surf their wireless.) So it’s me whose typing these words today but it’s a reader — and new interwebby friend, Alice — who chose this video and song. She sent the link to me after a recent post on Frida Kahlo’s 103rd birthday. Maybe, if you are lucky, Alice will contribute her own thoughts/”gospel” in the comments. Although I’ve noticed that a normal modest person with decent goodness and the appropriate level of humility doesn’t take easily to the idea of writing “gospel”. I say, Phooey! and Screw that chicken til the feathers fly! I say take the word “gospel” and make it work for you. I say that God was created by us and is ours to recreate.

Of course there are those who will gasp — aghast! — and call me a hell-bound heathen. But the way I look at it, I’m keeping my heavenly options open. Wide open. I’m after an all-access pass! If I wanna smoke a stogey with the Devil after a day of wind-surfing with Jesus but before a long night of drunken club-hopping with Artemis and Venus, well then, so fucking be it. These are OUR MYTHS and we should be able to interact with them freely.

On that note, I’d like to open up the Sunday A.M. Punk Rock Gospel to all of you because it was my gift to you and now it’s yours. That doesn’t mean I won’t keep writing week after week but it does mean that I am open to song suggestions or topics of discussion. Anyone interested in guest-hosting a punk rock gospel (choosing song, video & theme, as well as writing the text) should raise their hand with a hell yea! or a why the hell not!?

This week’s song is Com Te Pardis or “With you, I Will Leave” (also known as “Time to Say Goodbye.”) The song is sung by Andrea Bocelli and was “chosen” by Alice who “gifted” it to me after a tough couple weeks in which I wrestled with issues of loss, grief and death. As Alice and I discussed, there’s always that shamanic meaning within injury, illness or trauma.

Let us be the ones to look for those gifts which aren’t showy or jewel-encrusted.

Let us be the ones to love being alive and to never ever be too cool, too hip or too busy to (know) show it.

Let us be the ones who find a new spirit in the rubble of religion.

Let us be Lizard Kings! Let us be everything!

Livin’ la vida Frida!!

Con Te Partiro; With You, I Will Leave

(With you, I leave)

Quando sono solo sogno all’orizzonte e mancan le parole
(When I’m alone I dream of the horizon and words fail)

si, lo so che non c’e luce in una stanza quando manca il sole
(Yes, I know there is no light in a room when the sun is absent)

se non ci sei tu con me / con me
(If you are not with me / with me)

su le finestre
(at the windows)

mostra a tutti il mio cuore che hai acceso
(show everyone my heart which you set alight)

chiudi dentro me la luce che / hai incontrato per strada
(give to me the light / you found on the street)

con te partiro
(with you i will leave)

paesi / che non ho mai
(countries which i have never)

veduto e vissuto con te
(seen and experienced with you)

adesso, si, li vivro
(now, yes, i will live them)

con te partiro
(with you i will leave)

su navi per mari
(on ships across seas)

che, io lo so / no, no, non esistono piu
(which, i know, no, no, no longer exist)

con te io li vivro
(with you i will live them)

quando sei lontana sogno all’orizzonte e mancan le parole
(when you are far away I dream on the horizon and words fail)

e io si lo so che sei con me / con me
(and I do know that you are with me, with me)

tu, mia luna, tu sei qui con me
(you, my moon, you are here with me)

mio sole, tu sei qui con me, con me, con me, con me
(my sun, you are here with me, with me, with me, with me)

con te partiro
(with you I will leave)

paesi che non ho mai
(countries which i have never)

veduto e vissuto con te
(seen and experienced with you)

adesso, si, li vivro
(now, yes, i will live them)

con te partiro
(with you i will leave)

su navi per mari
(on ships across seas)

che, io lo so / no, no, non esistono piu
(which, i know, no, no, no longer exist)

con te io li rivivro
(with you i will relive them)

con te partiro
(with you i will leave)

su navi per mari
(on ships across seas)

che, io lo so, no, no, non esistono piu
(which, i know, no, no, exist no longer)

con te io li rivivro
(with you i will relive them)

Io con te!
(I’m with you!)

********************************

*The surrealist pieces Angels of Death & Infinity are by George Gris and are available as prints.

I love how the Angel of Death has the rowboat which she sails in the song: “With you I will leave, on ships across seas, which, I know, no, no, no longer exist, with you I will relive them, with you I will leave, on ships across seas.”

I’ll be all gypsy-wild & on the road after this is published so there may be some delay in answering comments. But I’ll be back. Be assured.

Grieving Harvey Pekar

Posted in Alphabetfiend, Art & Culture, Books & Writing, Cinema & Filmmaking, Fame & Celebrity, I Heart Funny Fellas, Movies & Movie Stars, Technicolor Pop with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 16, 2010 by alphabetfiend

That brilliant pecker, Harvey Pekar, died this week. Bummer.

Pekar was the author of the auto-bio comic “American Splendor” (which was made into a great film of the same name.)

He was also a frequent R. Crumb collaborator.

Harvey Pekar was 70 and yet it feels too soon.

I always feel profound sadness when extraordinary talent departs the planet Earth.

I hate to see Harvey go but maybe now he’ll get to experience a whole new expanse of splendor.

Roam in peace, Pekar. You’ll be missed.

Check out this radio interview with Pekar.

Death Don’t Have No Mercy (Sunday A.M. Punk Rock Gospel)

Posted in country music, Lipstick Shamaness, Music & Life & Sundays, Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2010 by alphabetfiend

This weekend — shadowy due to the solar eclipse perhaps? — has been morbid and over-wrought and thus Devo’s Fresh really wasn’t gonna hit the spot.

 

Due to the ache of the last couple days — Nightmares, Roadside Tragedy and other Ick — I really don’t have my usual Goof-given gratitude and all-around zest for life. And yet I do. You bet I do. It’s just that I’m all too aware of how easily that life can end in a split-second convergence of circumstance, timing and (bad) luck. 

Okay, fine, I’ve got gratitude and zest, sure, but no words. My eyes are red and my sockets are dry from too many tears. Every tear I shed took one word with it and now there’s no words left.

Rather than “Fresh” by Devo, I’ve chosen the blues classic “Death Don’t Have No Mercy.” Actually, I was too spent even for the making of choices, but after I read my last post aloud to RB, he suggested I do “Death…” as it’s one of my all-time heart-wrenching favorites and unfortunately apt. Of course! “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” indeed.

“Death Don’t have No Mercy,” originally done by Reverend Gary Davis, has been covered many times by everyone from The Grateful Dead to, more recently, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. I’m especially partial to the version by the late great, John Martyn. Martyn did the song in the late 90’s, covering a Portishead song on the same album. (The song was Glorybox, the album was The Church With One Bell.)

I first fell in love with “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” when Martyn did it and so I was hoping to share his version with you but no luck. Nevermind.  The song is amazing, period, and both of the following versions are great. That said, I urge you to check out Martyn’s version, should you take to these. 

I often promise a less-wordy week than usual and then pull words like handkerchiefs from a magician’s pocket but not this week. I mean it. Seriously. I’m shutting up now. (If you crave the usual Sunday A.M. chatter, check out that last sad post.)

And now, the genius Reverend Gary Davis.

And now, my beloved Ramblin’ Jack Elliot.

Death Don’t Have No Mercy

Y’ know death don’t have no mercy in this land
Death don’t have no mercy in this land, in this land
Come to your house, you know he don’t take long
Look in bed this morning, children find your mother gone.

I said death don’t have no mercy in this land.
Death will leave you standing and crying in this land,
Death will leave you standing and crying in this land, in this land, yeah!

Whoa! come to your house, y’ know he don’t stay long,
Y’ look in bed this morning,
Children you find that your brothers and sisters are gone.
I said death don’t have no mercy in this land.

Death will go in any family in this land.
Death will go in any family in this land.
Come to your house, you know he don’t take long.
Look in the bed on the morning, children find that your family’s gone.

****************************

Death don’t have no mercy, but sometimes Death’ll take a raincheck, as was the case with the man who fell nearly 500 feet off a cliff and lived to respect the hell outta Senor Death. So keep hoping and keep loving, my mutant mystics, until that day when Death comes calling.

See you next week for another Sunday A.M. Punk Rock Gospel.

Goof willing.

Nightmares, Roadside Tragedy and Other Vampiric Ick

Posted in Alphabetfiend, Books & Writing, I Heart My Love-Tribe, Psyche & Sexuality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2010 by alphabetfiend

As a day, this one has taken an odd toll.

I awoke from a nightmare in which my little brother (a sweet affable fellow who is nothing but adoring, loving, forgiving and kind… to everyone, but to big sister certainly) was horribly vicious to me. I was writing a play in the dream and it was going well, very. I had that feverish creative energy-influx that happens when I’m working, and happens with giddy intensity when the work is going well. The play was about a young pre-pube boy and — this being a dream, a good dream at first — the play was pure lovely genius.

(I’ve had a YA novel about a young boy stewing in the far back of my mind, in real life, although it is developing so far back that it feels almost dream-like. The book has a steampunk theme which adds to the dreamy quality. I write literary fiction, not YA or sci-fi genre fiction so this project, if published, would be published under a pen-name.)

As I was dreaming, I assumed that the play must be referencing this project’s viability. Writing in dreams and buzzing/thrilling over the work is, for me, akin to sex dreams, only better because I prefer that writerly jangle to any other feeling in the world. So this was a damn good dream until suddenly the goodness and the writing were shattered by this familial attack which took me not just away from the writing but away from all semblance of security and comfort, leaving me homeless. The love my brother has for me in real life was completely non-existent and he terrorized me with relentless cruelty. I was especially stunned by this because things were going so well with the writing and how could he do this to me when I was peaking creatively??

(Of course those in the know will recognize that this has nothing at all to do with my brother and everything to do with the events of the past year; my best friend would snort at that “last year” part and point out that these issues go much farther back.) My brother has been a loyal ally in this mess and definitely didn’t deserve to be portrayed this way by my subconscious.

In fact when I called him, crying, he teased “You crazy dreamer!”

“I dreamt you didn’t love me, ” I sniffed.

“Not true, “ he said. “I do love you. I love you dearly.”

Normally, after a nightmare, I like to go back to sleep and re-work it in my favor like a good little lucid dreamer, but Mr. and Mrs. Robot had surprised me with a shiny new fridge for the Mississippi love shack and it was due to be delivered this morning. Yes, poor me, nobody loves me, everybody hates me, mize I go eat worms. Here I am, lavished with love, spoiled rotten like a summer peach, and yet sobbing into my pillow over imaginary unkind acts. Yet, I couldn’t shake my woe as I emptied out the old fridge in preparation for the new fridge’s arrival. Nothing helped to alleve my ill-temper, not the Bot’s sweet buss or the nuzzling of the baby wookie; not the loving assurances of my brother or the new “icebox” as Mrs. Robot says in her southern way. Not even my baby niece screaming “DIA! DIA!” as she runs to me for hugs & sugars. (She has just started to include the “i” rather than calling me “Da.”)

Then my big niecey shows up (little niecy’s too-young mama, I call them Thing 1 and Thing 2.) We’re gushing over the baby’s cuteness and plotting an art project for tomorrow, when Thing 1’s boyfriend comes in and says, “It’s good y’all got held up yesterday or you’da been on the road when that semi crossed the median.”  Why? Were there fatalities? Robot Boy hands me the paper and there on the front page is the familiar sad image from the day before. Up until that moment I’d held out hope — foolish hope — that everything had been okay.

Yesterday, we were just about to walk out the door for a much anticipated errand into town, the 9th of July being the expiration of our rip-off cell phone contract. Our family was now free to move to ATT and join the iphone madness. Thing 1 had been waiting for this day for weeks, warning the lazier members of the family (Robo and myself) that she wanted to be there at 9 am on the dot and would not tolerate our usual night-owl excuses or late-starts. I was so worried I’d over-sleep, I ended up with insomnia but hey I was there with bells on, no delays. But then Uncle Robot suggests to Thing 1 that she call around and make sure the iphones are in stock, offering to drive to the coast if needed. A short while later, having learned that there wasn’t an iphone to be had in all of MS or LA, we’re off to cancel our old service and place an order for future iphones. We looked like a clown car, packed in like sardines. Thing 1 and I shared the tiny backseat with Thing 2’s carseat. Slowing to a crawl on a normally breezy stretch of highway, we knew it couldn’t be good. The debris on the side of the road — including a wheelchair, lonely and eerie on the sunlit asphalt — made us squirm.

Well, the state troopers are filming it, says the Robot gravely. So there were fatalities.”

I desperately hoped that he was mistaken.

That was just after 9 am. We went on to have a great day of family togetherness:  jumping on the iphone bandwagon, sharing a nice lunch at Olive Garden of all places. Thing 1 was thrilled. Thing 2 was adorable. Mrs. Robot was proud to be out and about with her children. The Robot and I were just digging on the cozy vibes —  glad to be in town, making our loved ones happy. It was after 2pm as we headed home, so we were shocked to see the accident still there on the other side of the highway. Only now, that side of the road was closed off, as they laboriously lured a canary yellow rig with trailer still attached out of the brushy woods.

The road had been closed for so long that people were out of their cars and milling about on the hot tar. SUVs with impatient drivers spun their wheels in the swampy muck of the median; stuck like sitting ducks, now in need of their own tow trucks, awaiting police citations.

A hush fell over our happy car.

Thing 1 tucked her chin into her chest and resisted the urge to suck her thumb (a hard habit to break.)

My heart broke at the sight of that wheelchair, knowing with certainty that this was indeed the same accident and not just some new nothing.

It wasn’t nothing, it was SOMETHING and, for that family that lost 4 members in the blink of an eye, it was an ENORMOUS SOMETHING.

They were from our same po-dunk town (a town that can barely afford to lose four citizens.) They were a family heading into “town.” There were too many of them crammed into too small a vehicle. We were 5 (4 and 1/2?) and they were 4. We were in Thing 1’s itty-bitty KIA, they were in a pick-up (wheelchair loaded into the bed of the truck?) Myself and Thing 1, we weren’t wearing seatbelts. Same thing with three of them. One was Mrs. Robot’s age, another was my age. They were on the same stretch of road that we would’ve been on if not for Uncle Robot wanting to give his niece immediate ipod satisfaction. It could easily have been us — mowed down on a Friday morning, after the front tire blew out on an 18-wheeler, causing the driver to lose control and shoot across the median into oncoming traffic. Or we could have been the woman behind the pick-up who wasn’t hurt, except that she had to watch the whole thing happen which surely shaved a good ten years off her life.

Damn if that doesn’t put it all into perspective.

My heart breaks for that family, for that woman who witnessed the accident and even for the truck driver who escaped with minor injuries. I’m from a trucking family; my Dad ran a trucking company and his Daddy before him and his Daddy before him. I know that a driver never gets over this kind of thing. I know he faces his own rueful suffering.

Up until this morning, ignorance was bliss. I could still believe that they survived the accident. I’m fully aware of how quickly everything changed for them, and for the surviving members of their family. It’s not meaningful because it could’ve been us, but it’s that proximity — having seen the real-life version of that grainy newspaper photo — that makes it all the more real.

It sits sticky and heavy in my gut, like black tar and roadside gravel.

This dreary afternoon, done with chores and family socializing, having sat crying over the newspaper, I retreated to bed. I pulled my laptop onto my belly for more research on my recent obsession with William Blake’s painting “The Ghost of a Flea.” How icky could that be right? Yea. I ended up reading this spooky, creepy stuff about vampiric entities and mind parasites. Sonofabitch. I’m done with this damn day. Except it’s a Saturday and I have to write the Sunday A.M. Punk Rock Gospel. The song I’d planned on is far too cheery. (Devo? No.) So don’t be surprised if this Sunday is more of a silent be grateful for what you have cause it could gone in a flash kinda Sunday.

*************************************

Author’s Addendum: having thought of the perfect song — “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” — I managed to do the Punk Rock Gospel. I featured the versions by Reverend Gary Davis (who did it originally) and the ever-brilliant Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. For a fine musical post-script to this shitty Saturday see Sunday’s Death don’t have No Mercy (Sunday A.M. Punk Rock Gospel.)

**************************************

Out of respect for the family, I have decided not to mention the names of the deceased. This writing was about the witnessing. This is not my loss, these aren’t my loved ones, and those aren’t my names to drop. They were our towns folk however. I didn’t know them but Mrs. Robot did; she says the family ran (runs?) a dance school for kids. Our hearts go out to their family. We ache for the monumental loss that no one family should have to bear. I hate that this has happened and I’m so very sorry for everyone involved. These photos are not mine, they were taken by Channel 4 wwltv, where more details are available.

“Cinderella” Dies at 81

Posted in Cinema & Filmmaking, Fame & Celebrity, Movies & Movie Stars, Mythos, Romance, Style & Fashion, Technicolor Pop, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2010 by alphabetfiend

OK, don’t freak out — Cinderella didn’t die because Cinderella shall live forever in Technicolor.

Ilene Woods died at 81. Ilene Woods was the voice — speaking & singing — of Cinderella in the Disney classic.

Woods was just 18 when Walt cast her as Cinderella, beating out 400 hopefuls for the coveted part. The fellas who wrote the lyrics for the feature film were friends of Ilene Woods — songwriters Mack David and Jerry Livingston — and so Woods sang in the demos that were submitted to Disney. Walt liked what he heard and gave Woods the part. How exciting that must’ve been!

I wanna be a cartoon!

I wanna end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard.

When I got my boobs & hips overnight, taking on a pronounced hour-glass shape of near fetishistic proportions, I was immediately hailed as “Betty Boop” by all the boys (much to my dad’s dismay.) The Boop thing continues to this day but before that, I was called “Cinderelli” by my father. If I felt the least bit put upon or taken for granted (as the oldest of six, I often had cause to feel grumbly) Dad would mercilessly tease me in sing-song, “Wash the dishes, Cinderelli! Fold the linens, Cinderelli! Sweep the hearth, Cinderelli! Serve us stew, Cinderelli!”

Only I had no mice or birds to make me gowns of cast away gewgaws. O woe! I want mice and birds! I want a perfectly drawn up-do. I want a pumpkin carriage.

I want GLASS SLIPPERS, the most dreamy and absurd accessory of all. As silly as the diamond-soled shoes that Paul Simon sang of, “People say she’s crazy, she got diamonds on the soles of her shoes, well that’s one way to lose these walking blues. Diamonds on the soles of her shoes!”

Yes, I wanna be the itty-bitty specimen of footly perfection that slips, effortlessly, into that magical high-heel.

It looks like Woods had a real-life pair of glass slippers! (She’s posing with the heels in the above photo.) Lucky lucky cartoon lady.

Ilene Woods said that the best part about playing Cinderella in the timeless classic was that her children (and her children’s children and so on) would be able to connect with her long after she parted.

I wonder if they’ve watched the film since her death on July 1st.

Maybe their hearts are still too raw for that.

Like Janet Jackson was, after Michael Jackson died, when the film “This Is It” was in theatres. Janet refused to see the film, citing her grief and a lack of readyness. Someday, she said, Not yet. Not now.

After my Dad died we continued to pay his cell bill, for months, because we couldn’t give up the comfort of that phone number. We’d call the number just to hear his voice on the message. It was kind of like pushing a big purple bruise, flinching, ouch, and then you push it again. When I finally decided to disconnect the phone, I checked his voicemail one last time and was astounded to find that calls had been pouring in, at all hours of the day and night, from family, friends, kids, cousins, nephews, even his dry-cleaner/tailor who had once turned the flag my dad stole from the post-office into a subversively patriotic shirt. It took me forever to listen to all the messages, as people spoke to him with desperate yearning.

How could you do this to me, Paul? asked one friend, You sonofabitch asshole cocksucker. Why’d you leave me here alone?

Losing a loved one is never easy. I can only imagine how hard it would be if your mother was CINDERELLA. Maybe it is too soon for Ilene’s family to cuddle on the couch and watch as Cinderella enchants Prince Charming. But someday they will and Woods is right, that film will be a gift that keeps on giving.

Bon Voyage, Cinder-Ilene! I hope you are traveling by coach. I hope the journey is magical and Technicolor and glorious. I hope you are wearing your glass slippers.

 

**For more info, see Animation Magazine.  **“I wanna end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard”  is from “You Can Call me Al,” yet another song by Paul Simon.

Tryin’ To Make It Real Compared To What?! (Sunday A.M. Punk Rock Gospel)

Posted in I Heart My Love-Tribe, Music & Life & Sundays, politics, punk rock, Rock & Roll, Spirituality & Religion, Sunday AM Punk Rock Gospel, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2010 by alphabetfiend

Where’s that bee and where’s that honey? Where’s my God and where’s my money?

This was one “Sunday A.M. Punk Rock Gospel” that almost didn’t happen.  After the busiest of weeks and hours of off-line frustration in the Mississippi country-side, I said screw it all to hell and collapsed into bed with weary bones. Maybe it’ll be a Monday A.M. Punk Rock Gospel, I thought as I drifted into a deep air-conditioned slumber. Two hours later, at 4am, I awoke with a jolt to the spectres of Eddie Harris and Les McCaan. This is our Sunday, they insisted, so I reached with drowsy digits for my discarded laptop and whaddaya know?!  We suddenly (miraculously?) made contact. Now, fueled by caffeine & cigarettes, and a crazy lovely love for this song, I’m gonna knock this sucker out.

This week will be less wordy that usual, partly due to my fried-egg sunny-side up brain, but mostly because this song sings for itself.

How to introduce “Tryin’ To Make It Real Compared To What” ???

What can possibly be said about one of the greatest songs of all time?

All I can do is tell you what it means to me and urge you to form your own fibrous connection. And you will. You will. It’s that damn good.

When I was 15, my Dad and I took a long dusk-to-dark ride through the New Mexico mountains. Our headlights guided us around treacherous curves which my father — an expert driver and Motor City son — took smoothly, sweetly, safely. The moon was fat and the stars glittered like sugared candies. It was the kind of memory that sticks to your ribs; the kind of living that gives life texture, taste and deliciousness. It was the kind of  time that carves into your soul and (RE)MAKES you into a new configuration (concoction?) of your self. It was there, in that cushy comfy night, that I first heard “Tryin’ To Make It Real Compared To What.” It was also the second, third, fourth and fiftieth time. We played it over and over and over while reveling in the troubled beauty of the world.

Ten years later, my Dad was dead.

There would be no more moonlight rock-out rides; no more trading barbs over breakfast until he broke into a grin over my writerly wit; no more mounting our motorcycles at dawn and VVROOM-VVROOMing into the rising sun. 

There was no one to call when I needed to remember who it was that did that amazing fucking song. 

After all, that crazy beautiful fucker had turned me onto so many songs over the years and I figgered he’d always be around to help me keep ’em straight.

What was the song we used to play on the pontoon as we floated lazily down the Maumee River? Right. Take 5. Dave Brubeck. I remember now.

Who was it we were listening to that 3am by the fire? Ah! Buddy Holly. Duh.  

Who was it that did that kick-ass cool song that we couldn’t get enough of that night in your Lincoln, with the fat moon and her spilled candy?

Huh? Who? Hello? Dad? Where the hell you’d go? Hello?…hello…hey…hello? Daddy?

Damn that silence sucks.

Fortunately, there’s now such a thing as google. I typed in “tryin to make it real compared to what,” and was led to youtube, where Eddie Harris & Les McCaan broke my heart all over again. Then fixed it. Then broke it. It was awesome. I hit replay at least a dozen times. Oh. Such goodness. Such beauty. Such power.

My body flooded with rock & roll relief.

The song returned to me, like a gift, an act of cyber kindness, and now in the spirit of punk rock gospel, I am passing it on to you. I hope it breaks your heart and blows your mind. I hope it carves into you and sticks to your ribs. I hope it stays with you forever.

Is that too much to ask? No, I really don’t think so. Listen to it, see for yourself. Then go buy the record, download it onto your ipod, add the song to a playlist — spend some quality time with it. Let it add taste and texture to your memories… all the while striving to make it real while asking “Real?… Compared to what?”

Like a Buddhist koan, there’s really no answer but the question props your mind open.

TRYING TO MAKE IT REAL COMPARED TO WHAT

I love the lie and lie the love
A-Hangin’ on, with push and shove
Possession is the motivation
that is hangin’ up the God-damn nation
Looks like we always end up in a rut (everybody now!)
Tryin’ to make it real — compared to what? C’mon baby!

Slaughterhouse is killin’ hogs
Twisted children killin’ frogs
Poor dumb rednecks rollin’ logs
Tired old lady kissin’ dogs
I hate the human love of that stinking mutt (I can’t use it!)
Try to make it real — compared to what? C’mon baby now!

The President, he’s got his war
Folks don’t know just what it’s for
Nobody gives us rhyme or reason
Have one doubt, they call it treason
We’re chicken-feathers, all without one nut. God damn it!
Tryin’ to make it real — compared to what? (Sock it to me)

Church on Sunday, sleep and nod
Tryin’ to duck the wrath of God
Preacher’s fillin’ us with fright
They all tryin’ to teach us what they think is right
They really got to be some kind of nut (I can’t use it!)
Tryin’ to make it real — compared to what?

Where’s that bee and where’s that honey?
Where’s my God and where’s my money?
Unreal values, crass distortion
Unwed mothers need abortion
Kind of brings to mind ol’ young King Tut (He did it now)
Tried to make it real — compared to what?!

(Music break)

Tryin’ to make it real — compared to what?

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