Archive for Ramblin’ Jack Elliot

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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