The Music Blog: Rocktober Vinyl Party

Vinyl Party! I have no idea who started, Scott I suspect but I do not know that for sure but it’s the most brilliant idea ever for a party, and I mean ever. Now granted I don’t have a lot going on other than the music I play, the music I write about and the stories and bits of poetry and fluff that I piddle with now and again. I will have joy in my heart for weeks after probably a lot longer than anyone else.
So what is a vinyl party you might ask? Now I will say this, sustaining a party like this requires you to have people fairly committed to the process. It requires music lovers and when I say music lovers I mean music lovers who know back stories and connections and a real genuine love of music which binds the group but also for everyone there. I have never really felt awkward at a vinyl party never felt that I didn’t fit in and that truly is a people thing and not a music thing at all. I have been wanting to take someone for a long time just to have them witness the thing to have them feel what a beautiful thing a vinyl party is. Now the obvious other condition that has to be met is that you have people who have a fair chunk of music on vinyl, you know, records. If you don’t have that you don’t have a party.
I was really happy to introduce my friend Gwen to the party. She is an artisitic soul and she is probably out there buying vinyl so that when the next party comes around in January she will be ready. This party also had Scott’s son Gunnison and his fiancé Paige so it was a packed house. As everyone starts to arrive the first thing we do is eat, we always start with a meal and this time Scott and Genia who were hosting threw down a spread of appetizers, Yes of course this was all Genia’s handiwork. I must say the food is always divine and diverse and completely delicious.

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Gwen and Our Host Genia

About now my 5.4 readers are asking so what’s the concept here? My readers ask the very best questions don’t they? So the host picks a theme and sends an invite out. The invitee’s job is to go through their vinyl and select songs that meet their interpretation of the theme. Now you can interpret the theme anyway you choose unless the host stipulates this but mostly that’s the way. Now all of your songs don’t have to have the same interpretation. You pick 5 songs and it’s always good to have backups just in case someone goes before you and uses your song. This also applies to albums. I will give you an example this party’s theme was Got Wood?. I instantly thought about the album Chicago 5 because the album looks like a giant piece of wood. Got it? So with this theme you could have songs with wood in the title, with performers named Wood, with instruments that were wood based, like a song done in acoustic guitar. Apparently there is a sexual connotation to this theme but no one explained it to me so I am still at a loss. There are a few ways you can present your music. You can tell a story related to the song, or maybe what the song means to you or that it just fit the theme and you were out of ideas. There are no judgments, none. This is an amanzing group of people who have a genuine fondness for each other and for music and let’s face it we are also usually liquored up. We have a strange ritual of doing a shot of apple pie moonshine sometime during the night, some of us (me) do two. So someone has to go first, and sometimes there is some jockeying for position out of concern that someone might snatch your song away leaving you with dipping into your back up songs.

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Greg and Denise

So Cindy went first. I love the way Cindy looks at themes, always seeing an angle that I just never imagine and she always brings a song that is just cool and different. I am not going to sit here and repeat stories it would take up acres of space. She started us off with one of my all-time favorite songs from one of my all-time favorite albums although she used a live version which was awesome The Beach Boys Wouldn’t it Be Nice. I love it when vinyl party gets going with a great song. Her second song was Rocket Ride by Kiss (one of Cindy’s favorite bands) and proof that a previous blog I had that Ace is the most important Kiss member. No he’s not, un huh he sure is, and I am arguing with myself. Next up the Unforgettable Fire by U2, and then came the surprise of the night and a candidate for a Rosco award Away in a Manger and I never really did get who this was by a bunch of kiddoes singing but it had us smiling and laughing and Cindy’s list said it was David Frost and Billy Taylor. She then went away from the theme to honor and show respect to Ginger Baker who recently passed away and played Strange Brew by Cream. The night was off in all the right ways.

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Cindy and yea she has a KISS album

Next up was our rookie making his first vinyl party appearance Gunnison, Scott and Genia’s son. Personally I think using the excuse “I was in law school” for why he couldn’t attend earlier was complete bollocks. I was really looking forward to what he might present as its always interesting to see new perspectives although he stole my word angst which is ok because he helped me through a blind moment, more on that later. He did not disappoint me introducing me to some new music and some new perspectives; I might be wrong but he was the only one to select a song because of the absence of wood in the title, which was brilliant. He started us off with the song Leaf by Title Fight a little bit punk which I am all over. Then he went in the opposite direction with Live Oak by Jason Isbell reinforcing my belief that Scott and Genia raised a great young man even if he did steal my word. His next selection was Long Hot Summer Day by the Turnpike Troubadours which was brand new for me too and was a great song. He surprised me going old school with Cross Tie Walker by Creedence Clearwter Revival. Now we were all a rocking. He closed the show with Cement Clay and Glass (see no wood at all) by New Riders of the Purple Sage. A really nice five if I may say so.

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Gunnison and Paige

Next up and she is not chopped liver, Denise. Denise is up for multiple Rosco awards because Rosco likes her. She is one of his favorite humans. Denise can be deep with these themes, she is really clever finding new angles but she played this one pretty straight. She only brought 3 songs but 3 good songs. Everyone loved a couple of her 3 songs. So someone had to do it so Denise stepped right up to the plate and knocked it out of the park. She brought Knock On Wood by Amil Stewart and now the disco lights were up. We had a line dancing and Scott was leading us around. It’s in the blog so it must have happened. I think I pulled a muscle. Her second selection was Billy Joel’s Say Goodbye to Hollywood. She closed her three out with Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood using a non-vocal mix version of the song and naturally we provided vocals. Down the street there was a children’s party and they thought someone was being murdered so they called the cops. After they took the handcuffs off we all laughed.

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Disco Denise

We now come to the technological marvel section of our program. We usually have moments that are remembered at every vinyl party. We had a couple of moments this night. Now this particular moment did not win moment of the night, that belongs to someone else but it does warrant its own award. Next up was Greg who brought 4 songs and did with three of them what I had been trying to put together for a month and failing but I will get to that. For his first selection he brought the Trees by Rush but the disc was actually done as with the entire album cover a 40th Anniversary release and you literally could not see the lines to cue up the songs so Greg was having trouble so Scott tells him to use the headphones which I think Scott bought in 1973 or something and truthfully he might have bought them used in 1973 as all the padding was gone and even though there was no actual duct tape involved it certainly defied logic how there wasn’t. The picture taken should now be used for every invite. So on plays Rush and then Greg played 3 songs that were all related to each other and the theme Got Wood; Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix, Proud Mary Creedence Clearwater Revival and Piece of my Heart by Janis Joplin. What ties the songs, these artists together, they all played at Woodstock. Good stuff.

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Greg & the album that gave us the next moment

Those headphones, seriously!

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Greatest picture EVER!!

So next up was little old me and I just picked songs that fit the theme in various ways beginning with Snowbird by Elvis because the songs are listed on little logs of wood. My second selection, because nothing goes with Elvis better than Dokken, was Into the Fire. Around this time our moment of the night happened. Genia has that moment but no need to re-live it here but we have long memories. My next song was Chicago’s Saturday in the Park and I thought I had a touching little story here. Then came what I was sure would make Scott just cringe or vomit but he did neither when I played Morris Day’s Oak Tree, come on now shake a leaf. I ended my five with Mother Love Bone’s Chloe/Crown of Thorns. And as always thanks to my cue man since I can’t see to cue my songs Scott.

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Lazy Bastard but I believe those are Greg and Denise’s shoes

Oh and me and Cindy both Love Elvis.

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All the song titles are on little logs of wood

Scott being the host closed the show. Scott always has an interesting five. He has the ability and the know how to select five songs that no one else has ever heard of and don’t think he won’t do it. I look forward to Scott’s selection the same way I look forward to everyone else’s. They are all so passionate and Scott kicked his five off with Stay With Me by the Faces. He then said he used the sexual connotation of got wood which I still don’t get with the song My Sharona by the Knack. He had us bouncing a bit in our chairs. He then played an artist who I think is just universally loved John Denver and Rocky Mountain High. It is such a good song. Then he told a wonderful happy story about his next song George Winston’s January Starts which is a beautiful song that he wanted played at he and Genia’s wedding but he could not find the sheet music. So he wrote the publishing company and the artist himself sent the music with a note signed which of course they still have. It was a beautiful story Scott. Scott ended the night with Stargazer a very old Rainbow song.

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Scott in mid wedding story. It was a great one.

What a night and now its awards time.

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So sweet he worked hard on the awards

The Rosco award for best usage of a word goes to Paige for her use of the word atrocious

Best use of a technological device without getting electrocuted goes to Greg for his use of the home improvement style rewired 1973 headphones brilliant

Blind Moment of the night goes to me since I have an advantage for filling my plate with food none of which I could see including the buns for the sliders. When I sat down I was wondering why Genia made meatless sliders and then Gunnison helped me out.

The best new convert award Gwen because she might be hooked. I am sure she is shopping for turntables and 1970’s headphones

Best New Music Gunnison gave me a couple of new artists even though he stole my word angst

Song of the Night goes to Cindy for Away in a Manger, it was audacious.

Best Song I wished I had played Denise for Knock on Wood

Best legal advice in a musical moment Jason to Denise telling her that half of Greg’s albums are now hers and she should pick the ones she likes best brilliant

Best use of the Theme I loved Greg’s putting 3 songs together. Brilliant (obviously my new word)

Story of the Night Scott’s wedding story. Scott and Genia are two of the most amazing people I know. I loved this story.

Moment of the night goes to Genia, and all I can say is Greg Giuffria. I am betting she hears this again

For all who attended thank you from the heart. I know everyone has a good time but the event means more to me than any blog could ever describe because words will never do those kinds of feels justice.

The Music Blog: The Dust of Angels

The early 90’s is absolutely my favorite time period in music. For just a short while radio and MTV were filled with interesting bands and interesting music I spent my time eating it all up. I spent a lot of money around this time all of it on cassettes with that slow realization that I needed to buy a CD player which I would eventually do around that time. There were bands, new bands, hard edged bands, electronic bands, bands with amazing singers, bands that spoke to me bands, bands, bands. It was musical heaven. I listened to Screaming Trees a lot, and Alice in Chains but there were other bands: The Pixies, Concrete Blonde, Cowboy Junkies, Depeche Mode of course, New Order, Smashing Pumpkins. Never before, when I went to a music store to buy music, had I been confronted with so many amazing choices to buy so I bought them all every time I got paid. Not surprising right, one doesn’t get to nearly 4000 titles by not buying music.

There were two really big bands for me at that time that I listened to a lot, and remember at the time I was buying a lot of music but not listening to it alphabetically. That came later. At one time I had hated the Red Hot Chili Peppers, just not liked them without really listening to much of their music at all. I struggle a bit with fusion types of music and this fusing rap and funk and rock was a lot to take in but eventually a friend, sat me down and over conversation and a bottle of cheap wine I fell a bit in love with the girl, silly, the girl I was talking to. I hardly heard what music we listened to but when you really like someone you believe that the things they like are things you should like, unless it’s Frank Zappa. That girl is history if she likes Frank Zappa. She loved the Chili Peppers and so I listened to them and long after she was gone and never more the Chili Peppers remain in my heart. The other band, was Faith No More.

In the late 80’s I bought Introduce Yourself on a whim. I love that word, whim, whimsical. Now Introduce Yourself probably doesn’t have a single song that you would know unless you like the band but I loved it because to me it was a little hard around the edges not over produced and it had humor that I always think is important. Bands that take themselves too seriously get to be a bore. It was their second album that put them on the map. Everyone remembers that video, the goldfish flopping. It outraged a lot of people. The song was Epic and the album was The Real Thing. I always get them confused, just seems like Epic is a better album title and The Real Thing is a better song title and its stuck with me all this time. I still get them confused. It is a great album including a wonderful cover of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs. Now I have a story for you, of course.

I had an ok job but the hours fit in perfectly with staying up late with friends or even roommates, I had two of them in a big house in the Meadowbrook part of Fort Worth. I could get anywhere I needed in about fifteen or twenty minutes. I worked at a freestanding psychiatric hospital, free standing meaning that it was not attached to a larger facility. There are not many of these places left. Now people go to a floor of a hospital or a unit and that’s where they receive care. Everything now is 3 or 4 days and a blaze of glory but back then there were longer stays. While there were monetary abuses that forever changed the insurance world I do believe that what we did back then was more effective especially with adolescents.

I have never really hung out a lot with the people I work with mostly because I never really liked anyone that much. The guy I worked with though was a real character named Jerry. We were about the same age. Jerry seemed to like two things, eating and drinking and he was a born used car salesman. It should have been his calling. I never really saw him drink liquor just beer in prodigious quantities. Technically our shift ended at 11pm but we had to wait for shift change where the outgoing Nurse manager would report on anything to the incoming Nurse and tech. It usually didn’t last long. Jerry and I started hanging out after work. Now I have never been a professional drinker, and I never mastered the art of drinking every night and still managing to function the next day but for a short while Jerry took me on that ride. Now at 11pm there wasn’t a lot of time for us to get into a lot of trouble. We had two places. The first was nearby and a real hole in the wall No Frills Grill which was really a restaurant but around 11 it turned into a bar. There was a pool table in the back and everyone knew Jerry. The girl who ran the bar, well she was hot, not gorgeous but she was hot and I LOVED her but of course she had standards and rules about dating customers. Poor me. She was great and knew what everyone was drinking and there I always drank Sam Adams, the only place I drank Sam Adams. There almost always was a crowd there of people we knew. The other place was Bobby Valentine’s and the attraction there was a late night menu because sometimes we were starving after work. It was a different crowd there, more reserved serious drinkers but they had Rolling Rock. Sometimes we would go there and eat chicken wings, really good chicken wings and then Jerry would call the chick at No Frills before last call and tell her to put a couple of beers out and we would drive there. On these nights I drank maybe 3 or 4 beers but Jerry would easily drink 6 to 8 beers. He was well on his way to alcoholism and I even talked to him and he said he knew it but it was fun and he wasn’t going to stop. One night while driving around, we saw a group of cars at a house and an open front door and music was playing loud enough for us to hear it. Jerry makes me stop and next thing I know we walk in like we own the joint not knowing a single soul. When we were asked who we were Jerry gave some used car salesman story about looking for a party and he was sure this was the house but honestly he didn’t have the address or even remember the street name and we stayed for two beers.

You want to know where I am going right. In 1992 Faith No More came out with the album Angel Dust. It remains one of my all-time favorite albums always makes me think of crazy Jerry. I have often said that the worst thing that can happen to a band is to have their first album be their best album because for the rest of their career they are chasing that album. Pearl Jam would be an exception to that rule thriving despite their first album being their best, in fact one of the greatest albums of all time. Faith No More waited until their third album to make their greatest album. For a nyriad of reasons mostly band conflicts they have never equaled Angel Dust or The Real Thing afterwards. I will get arguments that because of the song and the video Epic that The Real Thing is the better album but I strongly disagree and I love that album. Angel Dust is harder, in your face with two incredibly amazing songs Kindergarten, and Midlife Crisis. Those songs though are just the best of a bunch of good songs. It’s a driving album, it really is. Write it a hundred times. One of the many reasons I loved No Frills and would go back long after Jerry went his own way after being fired and then moving was that Becky, that bar manager played it on the sound system. When one day they were not playing it I asked her to play it and she said it was a customer’s and they had taken it back. The next day I went and bought it for the bar. I loved that album and I still do.

Mike out

A Story for Halloween: A Death Whimsical

Eh Muerto. Pinche! Me muri.

The realization struck me surprisingly in Spanish. I was third generation Texan and raised in a household that spoke English primarily. I could get by in Spanish but it was not how I usually thought. Still, it meant something, although not as much as the thought itself. I was dead. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I mean, dead was dead, an ending, yet I was not ended and instead adrift with some dim sort of purpose not yet fully realized. A whimsical fancy of something I thought impossible. I was dead. Death was always something that occurred somewhere else, even when it had reached out and taken friends. Death was not something I thought about. Now, death consumed me, took up every spare second. If I didn’t keep active it crept into the dark corners of my mind, depressing me and making me want to find a dark place to hide, where nothing and no one could find me. But death could always find me. Death had already found me. Death now encapsulated me like a coffin.

The knife that had entered into me, sliding so easily, so coldly and yet so incredibly painful had seemed real enough, a natural conclusion to a life spent on the edge like the knife blade itself. I had lived a hard thirty years, and looked older than my chronological age. I had been stabbed before so on thinking back it was probably the fact that this particular knife had slid so coldly inside of me multiple times, seven in fact, with some force and purpose behind the blows. The person who wielded the knife was someone known to me, a casual conversation turned wrong in the bar that I loved so much. I did not tell the cops who my assailant was, as I didn’t feel it was their business. It was simply a natural consequence of both being in the wrong place at the wrong time and arguing with a man with a shorter temper than me who had a viciousness I lacked. I spent a couple of weeks inside of the hospital, some on life support and underwent three surgeries to save what I thought was my worthless life. The fight had started innocently enough at the bar I hung out regularly, El Gato, on the side of Ft. Worth one did not wander into casually, near the stockyards but not close enough to be police protected. Paco, or that’s what everyone called him had a known temper especially when he was drinking which was not that unusual for any of the patrons of El Gato myself included. Still I knew better than to get into a fight with him. I had survived a two year prison sentence on the kind of instincts that should have kept me out of those fights, but I was high, as I sometimes got, on some meth a dealer had given me in exchange for some rough work on a customer who owed him money. It just meant free drugs to me, not that I was an addict, I just liked to partake now and again. Like I said, it was a hard thirty years, my life up until that moment. As I laid on the asphalt that night, paramedics working on me, the world growing dim, I wondered if I were dying. Turns out I was and those paramedics brought me back from the brink and got me to good old John Peter Smith Hospital in record time. At the time, I felt blessed that they had arrived in time.

Lying in the hospital room day after day recovering gave me lots of time to think about those hard thirty years. I needed to change my life and really wanted to although I knew I was going to have some limitations. It wasn’t like I suddenly wanted to get a college education or anything, just that it was time I tried to settle down, do some real honest work for a sustainable time period. It occurred to me that I sort of owed it to those paramedics, doctors, nurses and even to myself. My parents had sat in that room huddled together with my three brothers and they all urged me. I could at least give it a try. So upon discharge I sat in my small one bedroom, one bathroom garage apartment and started to look for jobs. I was honest in the attempt, looking for something that an ex con could do, looking for a place where an ex con would be a possibility. I realize now it was planned, foreordained or something but I kept coming back to the same want ad. It was for a groundskeeper position at Oakwood Cemetery, an old historic cemetery in Fort Worth. Groundskeeper of a cemetery seemed awful close to gravedigger, but something about the ad compelled me, and so I went. It took only a few hours and I was hired. I was Mexican after all, so I ought to make a good gravedigger.

That’s when my problems began, except that was not exactly true. My problems began the night Paco stuck his knife into me seven times. I had been working at the cemetery for a couple of weeks. My boss was nice enough to let me start slow, especially when I showed him my scars. Again, things were happening beyond anyone’s control. I didn’t know that at the time though. Someone wanted me there, someone, or something. I started to see things in the cemetery. I surely was not the first to get the creeps around a bunch of tombstones and crypts, some very old. Oakwood with its history and the trees could be creepy and there were rumors that it was haunted, one of the most haunted places in Fort Worth. Still, fleeting images, shadows and things that were not there, even in the daylight hours started to appear. Then it happened and I was hardly even surprised.

I saw a woman. She wasn’t just any woman, she was a dead woman. Judging from the clothes she was wearing, she had been dead for a very long time. She watched me for most of a day, and it took me some time to finally realize that she was indeed dead. She was not pale, or maybe not like you might expect, more surreal, sometimes seeming of substance and other times not at all. She was not a constant in my day, just flitting in and out, sometimes watching for an hour or so and at other times just a few minutes as if she were checking on me. She was dressed like an old saloon girl, a dress that seemed to have an overabundance of lace and displaying a cleavage that any man could admire, be she dead or alive. She was beautiful too, in that old timey sort of way. I had to catch myself though, realizing that she was dead. No one else seemed to be able to see her at all. A girl like that would draw a lot attention from men, and all I worked with were men. As the work day ended I found her seated on a bench near some very old crypts.

“It’s a nice night,” I said to her, not knowing how to talk to a dead girl any better than a live one. What surprised me most was that I was not even afraid. I had no idea whether she could or even would harm me, but I had no fear. Instead, I felt kindred to her.

“I suppose it is,” she answered, her voice like a whisper on the wind and she seemed surprised to even hear it herself. She looked at me for a long moment and I met her gaze directly. I wanted to show her that I was not afraid of her. “Hey what’s up with you?” She finally asked.

“What do you mean?” I questioned back.

“I mean you’re dead, but you’re walking around talking to all these people,” she said gesturing with your hands. “They can see you. Do they know that you’re dead?”

“Dead? I’m not dead. My heart is beating, I sweat, I breathe. I am fully alive,” I protested.

She stood and then walked up to me putting her hand to my chest. “Interesting,” she finally said. “But you’re still dead.”

She walked away, leaving me perplexed. I had just had a conversation with a dead woman, a woman who thought I was dead. I took the bus home and thought about everything that she had said. Near home I exited the bus and ducked into the church where I had gone as a child I had been raised Catholic but had long since ceased going to mass. I entered the church doors and thought to myself that I should probably light a candle or something. I saw the priest walking towards me, in a hurry. His cross was out and he was pointing it at me.

“Out, you must leave this place dark spirit” he said, still pointing at me. He began mumbling to himself, and I could discern that he was saying a prayer.

“Father I need your help,” I interrupted.

“You are beyond my help dark spirit. You must leave this place,” he said, clearly frightened.

I retreated not knowing what else I could do. If the church was beyond me, where else could I turn, the dead woman’s words still haunting me from earlier, “You’re dead,” I heard her whisper.

When I got home, I decided that I needed a beer and decided to go to El Gato. I had not been there since the knifing. I needed a beer though, and maybe something stronger. It was my favorite bar, and sooner or later I needed to face Paco and let him know that I was not a threat.

El Gato had not changed since my stabbing of a few weeks. El Gato never changed. There probably had been three or four other stabbings since I was last there. As I entered the dingy bar everyone turned to watch me as I went to a table instead of my usual place at the bar. I waved and some waved back turning back to their drinks or beer. I was just a regular and they figured whatever had passed between me and Paco was done or soon would be. I could feel Paco’s eyes stare at me as I walked to the table. I knew he would be there, because he was always there bullying everyone. I ordered a pitcher and was well into my second beer before he approached. I could feel his eyes upon me but I didn’t dare look up. I was afraid of him and I definitely did not want to provoke him. I wanted him to know there were no hard feelings and that I had kept my mouth shut with the cops, something that he should have already known. He would have been arrested long ago if I had said anything.

“What are you doing here?” he asked angrily.

Still not meeting his eyes I replied, “I just wanted a few beers. You got nothing to worry about from me. I don’t want any trouble with you Paco.”

“You damn right you don’t want no trouble with me, or I stick the knife into you some more. You understand. Maybe you like the knife and that’s why you came back. Hey Ese.”

“I understand. I don’t like the knife. Can I buy you a beer?” I asked, hoping to assuage him.

“Buy me a beer? You think I’m your bitch, your old lady or something. I don’t need you to buy me no beer.”

“Sorry Paco, I said, holding my hands up and still not meeting his eyes. It was like dealing with a wild animal.

As before the knife glided so easily out of his back pocket, razor sharp and ready for use. “You damned right you’re sorry; a sorry piece of low life who don’t know to mind his own business. I think I should drag you out into the parking lot and finish what I started, only this time I cut your throat. What do you think?”

And then something snapped inside of me something deep and even with my temper something I had never felt or experienced before. It was like a fire lit somewhere inside, controlled but hot and I lifted my eyes to finally meet his eyes and he saw something there because he flinched and Paco never flinched. I stood up and faced him which I had never seen anyone do before without dire consequences. I thought little of the knife before me. The fire I felt inside seemed to be centered in my hand, but it was a cold fire that also sent chills up my arm. He stumbled backwards.

“What are you?” he asked.

“You are going to go back to your seat Paco, and if I ever see that knife again pulled on anyone, or even hear that you have pulled that knife I am going to finish this in a way you won’t like,” I said, my voice menacing and something frightening.

Before he could move away I grabbed his arm above the wrist of the hand where he held his knife. I would normally have thought this a stupid move but at that moment I felt fearless and the knife clattered to the floor. Paco withdrew, gasping in pain and shaking his hand as if it were numb. The cold fire in my hand was gone and I sat down again. I didn’t understand anything happening to me, but I could feel everyone’s eyes on me. Paco turned and walked back to the bar where his friends were, dumbfounded as to what had happened. It might have been the first time anyone had seen him afraid. He left his prize knife on the floor where it had fallen and I kicked it away. I didn’t care if he later picked it up or not. He was on warning.

Then a man walked in the door, walking to the knife and chuckling. He was dressed in slacks and a short sleeve dress shirt, a tiny moustache like he was Clark Gable or something. His hair was long but neatly arranged falling about his shoulders in brown waves. He walked to my table and I could see his face had not a line on it, his eyes a warm brown. He was the kind of man that women would find attractive and men threatened by. It was in his walk a confident carefree walk as if he had nothing to explain about himself to anyone. He gestured to the seat across from me and all I could do was nod. I didn’t know him, but he didn’t seem to be the kind of man you turned down.

“Who are you?” I asked angrily, still not over Paco.

“Death,” he answered simply.

It was such a matter of fact answer that all I could do was stare at him. He appeared amused so I figured he must have been joking, although by all appearances he did not appear to be the type to kid around much. With my encounters at the cemetery, church and now Paco my greatest fear was that he was telling the truth.

“You have discovered some of my new gifts to you but there are others. You are changed, something different than before, yet the same. I think that’s important. I didn’t really change who you were.”

“What gifts, what are you talking about? Changing me?”

“When I sent you back to serve me, I provided you some gifts. How else could you serve me if I didn’t make you more than you were. I had to change you, “he stated with emphasis.

“You’re Death and you saved my life, sent me back here with some special gifts. Yeah right, this continues to be one messed up day,” I said.

“I didn’t save your life. You are dead. You were dead so you see there was nothing to save. Your heart beats and you breathe on my whimsy alone. Fail me, or if I tire of you then you die, simply, just keel over and it’s done.”

“So I work for you now?” I asked unbelieving.

“You serve me, or choose not to, in which case you are already dead. I just have to release my will and your heart ceases to beat, you forget to breathe. It’s that simple. Watch and learn.”

I waited somewhat anxiously for a sign and then felt it more than anything else, my heart visibly slowing sweat suddenly on my brow and a difficulty drawing in air. My vision dimmed and I gripped the table even as my strength seemed to wane. I didn’t know If this was some sort of trick, I just knew that it was all too real for me. He sat there, without changing at all, watching me almost as in concern.

“Please,” I gasped.

My breath came back in a rush, my heart suddenly pounding in my chest. I sat looking at Death for I don’t know how long. I grabbed my mug and took a long pull.

“Alcohol will have no effect on you by the way. Technically you don’t have a metabolism. So I see that you now perhaps believe a little more. Shall we discuss your new job duties?”

“I have a job,” I said.

He smiled at me, amused, “I expect you will want to keep that one. It’s where I want you to be, so I pulled a few strings. Where better place for a dead person to find you than a cemetery?”

“Why will dead people want to find me?”

“Because they are haunted and they will need your help to release them, and I get to acquire a few long over due souls.”

“Can’t you just take these souls?”

“Hmm yes I could. You will find that death, as in life there are certain rules, certain protocols which can be a bit cumbersome. You will also find that in death as there is sometimes in life one becomes bored and frustrated with the status quo. It is in those times that you try and shake things up a bit. But, if you are not interested, I could always just let you go, let you fade into oblivion. I would think that you would wander awhile, looking for something, something you would like to, so many do. So is our business concluded, you wish for me to find someone else?”

“No I don’t want to die,” I said.

“Well too late for that, because you are dead, it just has not become obvious to everyone else.”

“So how will these dead people find me?” I asked, knowing the answer.

“They’ll find you because you are dead and they will know that. Help them.”

“How?”

He considered the question for a moment, or maybe it was only for effect. “By using the gifts that I have given you.”

“You keep mentioning gifts, will I be able to walk through walls, have superhuman strength, be able to fly? What gifts?”

“Yes to all of that. You will be stronger, you will be able to morph into mist or practically any substance that you like and in that you will be able to fly, move through walls or even people. As you discovered with your friend Paco, you have the ability to touch people with a cold hand, a hand from the grave, a ghostly hand. That touch will numb and even cause hurt and pain depending on how much you want to affect the person. You have the ability of illusion to make any scene, graphic, use it to make your enemies weak and afraid and when they are at their most terrified you will take their soul.”

“Take their soul? How?”

“When the time comes you will know. You will hold onto the soul until I come and relieve you of it. This will not always be easy. These gifts are yours to play with, test, as you did with Paco over there; however I caution you, use them to your own ends and I won’t even give you a warning. You will just cease to be. This is not a contract, this is not a deal. This is a command. You do not have an option that does not include you dying for good. I also am providing you with a helper, someone to help explain the more sordid details of being dead. She will be a go between. I think you have already met her. Use her in whatever way you would like, only treat her well. Do not fail me in this. She is quite special to me.”

I sat there speechless as he stood and walked from the bar. I finished my beer and then ordered three tequila shots. They went down as they always did, but there was not the following glow. Well, I thought I could finally drink as much as I wanted. I made my way home later and spent a sleepless night, wondering if I needed to sleep or eat at all. I finally drifted and dreamed of death, dreamed of dying. When I awoke in the morning I made myself ready for work and made the bus ride with so many thoughts I didn’t know what to do. As I worked that morning, muscles straining I searched for the woman I had seen the day before but she never came. I thought about the gifts that I had supposedly been given, and wondered at how to use them. I tried to force my will on my supervisor but nothing happened. I thought of all the horror pictures I had seen growing up and pictured an image in my mind. I then noticed a visitor to the cemetery, the panic on his face and then he fled in terror, looking over his shoulder to see if something was chasing him. It was not what I had wanted to do frighten someone so badly and I was not even sure if I was the source. The cemetery was old and there were things there. The thought struck me, and I wondered how I knew this. I supposed that being dead gave one some sort of perspective. Still I realized I needed to keep my thoughts to myself, the images in my brain protected. I really didn’t want to hurt anyone. Again this thought so surprised me, as I had never worried about hurting anyone before. Was it my mortality, the fear that death would just end me or something else? I didn’t know. I was not sure I wanted to know. I did know that I needed to control whatever I was thinking, for fear of injuring or frightening an innocent person. The power of illusion was more than I expected. I had not thought of how real I would be able to make those illusions. I wondered if I could make them happy illusions. I wondered if I should even try.

As the day ended I walked through the grounds of the cemetery. I didn’t even have the energy to think. I was lost and dejected.

“You’re dead,” said a voice from the trees.

I turned to look and it was the woman again. “I know,” I answered.

“I don’t understand,” she said.

“Do you always have this much substance?” I asked.

“No. I have been here a long time though. I don’t even know what year it is. Usually I am like mist. I think it has something to do with you. You seem so real, so human, maybe you make me more real.”

“The year is 2011,” I said, watching her expression go to one of awe.

“I have been dead a long time. I died in 1896. I remember it, so well, like it was yesterday. Why are you doing this to me?” she asked sadly.

“I am sorry. I died a few weeks ago, a knife fight outside of a bar. It seems that Death has a purpose for me, and you have been sent to me to help me understand things.”

“I don’t want to help. I want to rest because it’s been so long, walking these grounds, seeing all the sadness. I thought maybe you were here to send me on.”

“On to where?” I asked.

“On to wherever. I don’t care, just something I feel.”

“I am sorry,” I said again. I didn’t know what else to say, but I felt her sadness as much for me as for her. “How did you die?” I finally asked.

“I was knifed like you, outside of a saloon, like you. A gambler did it, and then he rode away. I watched him go, without a thought to my life that he had just taken. I was so sad. I didn’t have much of a life, just a girl who worked the saloons, singing and dancing with whoever wanted me. I was a prostitute. I wanted so much more.”

I again could say nothing but, “I’m sorry. Perhaps this is a way for you to find peace at last.”

“Do you think?”

“Maybe, sure, why not?”

“How am I supposed to help you?”
“I don’t know but I think we’ll be able to figure it out together. Death said that the dead would seek me out, look for justice. I think we just have to wait.”

“Do you think I can leave this place? Finally? I have never been outside the gates before. I always seem to run out of energy.”

I thought about the question, saw that as we had talked she had taken on more substance. “Yes, let’s try.” I held out my hand and she took it, her hand cool but seeming to become warmer.

She seemed to read my mind. “I am warmer. I have not felt warmth in a long time.”

“What is your name?”

“Millicent, everyone calls me Millie.”

“My name is Frank, Frank Cruz. A lot of people just call me Frankie.”

“Frankie and Millie,” she said, smiling. It was a terrific smile, but sad underneath it all. “I like it.”

We left the cemetery with some caution, Millie stepping slowly as if she would be forced back into the cemetery where she had been lost for so long. As we walked along Millie stopped to touch things, look into windows, fascinated with how much the world had changed in a hundred years or more. She could not stop looking at all of the cars passing her so fast and she was more frightened than a ghost should be. I noticed that she was drawing looks which made me realize that other people were seeing Millie too, so we stopped at a second hand store and bought her clothes. She was not like me though, no matter how hard we tried, she was not breathing, her heart so still inside of her. That night we slept in my bed together, enjoying the warmth which she had not felt in so long. She asked me questions about everything, about people she had known, people she thought famous or well known but I could tell her nothing of these people as I did not recognize any of the names. I thought it would be interesting to take her to the old stockyards and let her walk around, listening to her stories. There was nothing sexual about our night together, although I realized that it might have been if I had asked. Yet I was not sure if that is what she wanted, given her life before, or that she might turn to mist if I tried. I woke up sometime in the wee hours of the morning and saw that she was preparing to leave.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied, “but where it is you can’t go so don’t follow. I don’t understand but I am compelled to do this. I will find you later and maybe I can explain.”

With that she was gone. I went back to bed, struggling for sleep. I went to work looking for Millie throughout the day. When the day was over I waited, hoping that she would appear, but she did not. I went to El Gato wishing I could just get drunk but knowing I was now unable. So I sat there downing beers and taking shots. The bar had lost a little of its pull on me, considering that I could not get drunk and the last encounter with Paco. I was now someone to fear, when a lot of the patrons there just wanted to hide in their alcohol. As I left to walk home, Millie suddenly appeared at my side, like the ghost that she was. She was tense but excited.

“Come,” she said taking my hand.

My transformation was a shock to my system, but I could feel my substance slip away and wraithlike I became like mist. I didn’t want to look around for fear of seeing my body like the shell that it was. I was flying, fast taken by Millie to another cemetery, like being compelled and something inside of me was aflame.

“She is very frightened Frank,“ Millie said, “you must help her. She can barely speak but I can communicate with her. I know what she is feeling.”

Millie was excited and full of energy as she led me to a grave. It was a fresh grave and a young girl sat near it, in obvious grief. I could tell from the dirt that the girl had been buried that day, and I could tell from the girl that she was the one buried. It was so sad to me, striking me so deeply to the core. She was young too, not older than fourteen. Too young to die in what I knew instantly was a violent death. Even in death I could see the marks on her neck of a big man who had killed her so brutally. As I sat next to her I felt her eyes turn to me, pleading. Millie sat facing her, taking her hand, two ghost hands shimmering yet together clinging to each other, and Millie’s hands did indeed lose substance when they touched the girl’s. I read the girl’s name on the small metal plate next to the grave.

“Are you Denise?” I asked.

At hearing her name her eyes again desperately sought mine. I could see the pleading there. “Denise, I’m Frank, I am here to help you.”

With those words I felt something fire in me, and Death’s voice chuckling somewhere. It was like a feeling of agreement, something I seemed to understand deeply and Death was smiling. I turned to Millie.

“It’s difficult at first Frank. You give her energy though and she is thinking about her death. Difficult for her but it was someone she knew. Give me a second here Frank it’s coming slowly.”

I nodded and reached out my own hand, slipping it around the girls shoulder, my arm becoming smoky and wraithlike, but Denise seemed to grow strength from it.

“That’s good Frank. My god, it was her neighbor, the father of her best friend. Such pain I feel in this girl Frank. She caught him doing things to her friend that fathers are not supposed to do. Oh Frank I can’t take this.”

Millie let go of the girl’s hand, her form becoming real and she rose and walked away. I patted Denise’s shoulder and gestured to her to wait. I followed Millie to where she stood, even in death crying. I wiped the tears from her face. Then I wrapped her in my arms giving a place for her grief to go, the grief over the girl and the grief over her own life. I seemed to be able to absorb those feelings of pain and sadness drawing them into myself. Millie looked at me in shock and some amazement.

“I didn’t know that someone could hurt worse than me about their own death. I am sorry Frank I didn’t know that this would be how I had to help you. But thank you for whatever you did to help me.”

I nodded at her. “I need to go. This cruel man needs a visit. Will you stay with her?”

She nodded. “How will you know where to find him?”

“I don’t know. I just know that I do.” And then I was gone.

It was like a gps tracker in my head as I drifted like mist drawn like a beacon to the man who had killed that girl, all because she caught him doing horrible things to his own daughter. A man living a secret life, a man unsuspected or Death would not have intervened. I knew I was just a weapon but I found myself liking being used for this purpose. Again I heard the laughter of Death in my mind.

I arrived at the house in the dead of the night. I went through the walls as if I were without substance which I guess I was. Once inside I chose a form that was semi-transparent, semi-substance. As Death had told me, I seemed to just know how to use the gifts that he had given me. They were sleeping and I stood watching them until they started to stir. I wasn’t really sure what to do, so I chose to ensure that the wife remained asleep, providing her with an illusion through dream of all that she had ever wanted. She moaned peacefully in her sleep wrapped up in the illusion I gave her. I visited the daughter’s room and did the same, so surprised that I could compartmentalize so well. I suppose Death knew I would need this ability. Then I turned back to the useless human being that had killed that young girl Denise. I woke him up to the sound of rattling doors.

He awoke with that feeling of panic that we all have felt in the deep of the night. He was not sure if he had awoken from dreams or from some other source so he sat there his breath rapid but slowing. I made another noise and he rose to investigate. He entered the living room with the image of two beautiful women wrapped around each other in obvious passion on the couch, women he knew. Surprised he called their names and I had them motion him towards the couch. He looked around but started walking, urges overriding all caution. As he neared though the visage of the women changed into something grotesque and blood was suddenly everywhere. He stopped in panic and I chose then to move through his body, tasting the sour taste of his soul. I knew then that I could take it whenever I wanted, another gift from Death. I also knew that Death wanted the man as frightened as the little girl he had killed. The room around him shifted, his family tortured and dead around him. It was difficult to provide him with such images, of his mother, of his father and his three sisters, not to mention his wife and his own child but I was compelled to do this. My life or my death was on the line. With his relatives chained to the walls, some of them with nightmare creatures eating them alive I touched him, running my hand down his spine. With all feeling gone, he dropped to his knees in confusion. I became substance and walked towards him, a figure out of dark books, hooded and all in black even though I still wore my jeans, work boots and an old sweatshirt. I was Death’s messenger and I was there for him. He sobbed as I let illusion take him, showing him the girl he had killed so he would know, and I felt his hold on her soul released, and then I took his own swallowing it whole. He would remain alive for a few more minutes I knew, until his body finally gave in. He would be found the next morning dead from terror but I gave his wife peace as well as his daughter. Somehow they would know that it was good and their lives at peace. They would know. It was a powerful illusion, a gift from Death, beyond my capabilities.

I left the house and made my way back to the cemetery and Millie. She was waiting for me at the graveside, softly crying and I went to her and put my arm around her. She buried her head into my shoulder and cried for a long time, cried for the young girl and cried for the life that had been taken from her by a vicious gambler so many years ago on the mean streets of Hell’s Half Acre in Fort Worth. When she was done she pulled away.

“She left so suddenly. She looked around with this incredible look of peace and then told me to tell you thank you. Then she was gone. It made me happy and sad too.”

“What Death is asking us to do is going to be very hard for both of us.”

She nodded, “I can feel his soul inside of you,” she said placing her hand on my chest.

“It is the worst feeling I have ever had. Death told me I would have to keep it until he came for it.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?” she asked.

“You’re already doing it,” I said to her smiling.

Millie suddenly stood looking around, intent on something. She seemed to be focusing on one direction and then a small gasp escaped her lips. I could see him coming, Death. As he came into view I could see him wearing a sharp tracksuit from the 1980’s. He somehow made it seem so modern and cool, even in the pitch black and haunting atmosphere of the cemetery.

“Nice outfit,” I said.

“Thank you, it seemed a nice night to jog through a cemetery.”

He walked to Millie and placed a hand on her check. She covered that hand with her own and seemed to lean into it lovingly. “You did so well child, just a little longer. I know it is difficult but you of all people will understand the most.” She nodded in answer, a tear rolling down her cheek. I felt so much sadness for Millie.

He turned towards me and I asked, “Will it always be so hard?”

Death considered for a moment his answer, “Yes and no. You did surprisingly well Frank Cruz. You surprise me, such a vivid imagination. It was a nice touch with the wife and child. I am sorry. I had not considered them, but you did. It reminded me of why I chose you in the first place, your compassion. For all the bad that you have done, the waste of a life, you have always had an underlying compassion. You showed this tonight, even as you showed that more cruel side of you.”

Death considered me for a moment and then whatever he did I felt released as if a thousand pounds had been taken from my shoulders, the weight of a soul. I wondered how I would be able to handle more than one. He seemed to read my mind.

“All souls have a different texture, some will be easier to carry, but this one was too heavy by far. I won’t always be able to relieve you of the burden immediately like this. Since this was your first, I choose to reward your compassion with some of my own. I am busy though, you may have to carry several before I can relieve you of them in the future.”

“So you’re not going to take me, kill me?”

“You’re already dead Frank remember?” he asked smiling impishly.

“I remember,” I said a little defiantly.

He laughed. “Don’t get so feisty Frank. I like you after all. You did very well tonight, so for now I choose to keep you around. Millie will help you and you better treat her right.”

I laughed too, “I will. I will.”

With that he turned and walked away leaving Millie and I there together. I felt drained and I sat on a nearby bench, Millie next to me, huddling, enjoying warmth she had not felt in over a hundred years. I thought about the night and what I had been through, what Millie had been through. It had been strange beyond belief. Mostly I thought about my own mortality.

“Me muri,” I mumbled to myself.

“You are, “Millie agreed. “You did die.”

I looked at her, beautiful in the darkness as she was during the day, “It’s not so bad,” I said meaning every word.

Interlude A poem: Blind Confusion

And it comes…
Lost in my own house
Darkness my friend, creeping
Where am I? Where is the wall?
I will fall, I will fall. I reach.
Ludicrous panic rises, you will laugh
This is funny, take a step, a chance.
The more it hurts the more mirth ensues
What’s the worst that can happen?
And so Death comes to me,Taking my hand, guiding me to safety.

Chastised and brow beaten
By all my sighted friends
To get out, go places use your cane.
A Neighbor screams at me harshly
I am on his curb, cane bent at my feet.
I am turned around, every thing a blur.
Blood streams down my shattered knee
Everything hurts, and I am lost
And so death comes to me
With a smile and carrying bandages

Get out get out, go somewhere
The streets are so busy, so loud
Cars whizzing by and I a little boy
Without my mother to hold my hand.
A car honks, someone laughs
See the blind man jump and flinch.
They are gone too fast to see the tears.
Is that a rock or a hole, my cane can’t tell?
And so death comes to me
With a tissue and an offered arm.

A night out with friends
Do I have enough money?
Bright colored lights surround me.
They run and streak like a horror movie
I say it’s fine, but I am dizzy
Walking to the restroom a guy steps in front
Waves his hands in my face laughing.
He won’t move, I feel closed in.
And so death comes to me
With a snarl and wearing boxing gloves.

I am bruised and battered
Alone alone, I am so alone
Three times I have run into the same thing
Move it you dummy they say
I have, twice before
They laugh at my bruises
Are you really that clumsy or stupid?
I want to be held, but there is no one
And so death comes to me
Carrying an icepack and an angry glare

I ask for help too much
I don’t ask for help enough
I whine and complain all the time
No one likes you, or your silly music
Who wants to be around one such as you?
Why is everything about your blindness?
Why can’t you get a life?
You are not stupid just ignorant
And so death comes to me
Carrying a pillow and a story to read

Come see me come see me, you say
Blindness is an excuse, use your cane
Get over your fear, being blind is easy
At my house there are new walls to run into
I can take pictures of your bruises and laugh
If I put a dead bug on your food would you see it?
Oh we will have lots of fun at your expense
I will move things and watch you trip.
And so death comes to me
Carrying a six pack and a movie.

There is a pig in my laundry
Black and white and snorting.
You stupid pigshit, it is only a dream.
There are boots on a walkway
A killer walking, coming for me.
A tiny adult child walks into my house
Smiling, she is perfectly manicured
A tall woman stands by my bed.
And so death comes to me
Singing lullabies and burning sage.

And it comes…

The Music Blog: Bob Dylan

I was born in 1963 in Fort Worth, Texas, so again it’s not exactly a hotbed of musical innovation and activity even now. Most of the music I remember from childhood is from the 70’s, childhood, adolescence and those upper teen years as I moved towards manhood. I graduated in 1981 so the music I most remember is that 70’s arena rock we listened to driving around in cars, looking for girls and being afraid when we found them. It was not unusual though in the 70’s for music from the 60’s to be played. My high school classmates have this love affair with Pink Floyd. I am more towards the Aerosmith spectrum and the harder stuff although I never really had a problem with Pink Floyd, love them but I am more of a Gilmour guy and not a Waters guy.

What I am trying to say is that 60’s music was as much a part of my growing up as the 70’s. Given who I am I think I probably fit more into the 60’s than the 70’s but maybe if I am honest I don’t fit in anywhere. I am writing today at a really low point with everything falling apart but I still have music. I remember how Don Maclean was just run into the ground so much so that I really don’t like the song American Pie anymore. It doesn’t irritate me as much as Blinded By the Light. I want to hurl when I hear that song. I guess what I am getting at is that I never really got into Bob Dylan at all. I really don’t remember him being played on the radio much, but again it’s Texas. I can really blow your mind by saying hey I don’t like the Eagles either. I think Glen Frey was one of the worst bandmates in the history of music. I don’t like them. You can’t make me.

See how gifted I am? In just a few short paragraphs I have managed to annoy or downright piss off everyone who loves Roger Waters, the Eagles, Glenn Frey especially and everyone who thinks Blinded by the Light is the greatest sing along song ever written. A few of Manfred Mann and Bruce Springsteen fans out there probably think I am directing some sort of ire on them. That doesn’t even include the Bob Dylan fans who believe he hung the moon. Oh yea Bob Dylan, remember Bob Dylan. This is a blog about Bob Dylan. I wish I had a camera just so I could see the faces of people who are making faces at me because they want to know when the heck I am going to get to the point. Hah well it’s pointless to expect me to have a point. If you are one of the 5.4 readers (yes the average is up a tick) then you know it’s pointless to expect me to have a point that anyone can follow.

Ah Bob Dylan. You see I never really listened to much Bob Dylan and I am pretty sure that if a Bob Dylan song came on the radio I would have switched the station. His songs were rambling and not very melodic and I was pretty sure as horrible a singer as I am that I could carry a tune a bit better. I found the songs played on the radio difficult to digest. Again music that is easy to digest is a target. It’s all well and good to have music that makes you think that serves some sort of purpose but ultimately people like to listen to music that is enjoyable. That’s a relative term enjoyable as it means different things to different people. For some that means there is nothing better than a cold Busch beer and some Warrant on the old cassette player and for some after a hard day they want Megadeth the louder the better. There are many who love Bob Dylan. I have a good friend who loves Bob Dylan and listens to him regularly.

But wait just a second there soldier, hold your horses. In the mid 80’s I was working with at risk youth and I was lucky enough to have a little leeway with what I presented to them. Now there were a lot of things going around about the evils of certain types of music. I attended a seminar so that I could hear exactly what they were saying. Oh it was brutal judgmental diving into satanic and evil album covers to lyrics and songs about suicide. All of this was having a deteriorating effect on youth or so these misguided people thought. Youth simply lacked the resources to deal with such messages. Hogwash! It was all a bunch of hogwash. Kids know because it’s their world. It’s why artists like Marilyn Manson come around. They know that most adults are going to be repelled by Manson’s images. I love Marilyn Manson. This is about Bob Dylan though and this thing I did with the kids I worked with. I guess you could call it like a school of rock except we didn’t play instruments. Mostly I wanted to do two things; one to give them a history of music across cultural lines and two I wanted to teach them to make their own judgments and decisions about music. No one should really tell you that you should not listen to certain types of music, certain albums and certain artists, except maybe Frank Zappa. No one should listen to Frank Zappa ever. Really no Zappa. That should be a rule or one of those law thingamajigs.

To do what I wanted though I recognized that I did not have near enough music, especially 60’s music and I covered everything from Motown to anti-war protest songs. Naturally this meant covering one of the most important figures of the period Bob Dylan. I was lucky to have two friends who helped me gather music by mailing me cassettes as neither lived locally and that music included a few artists that I lacked music for. This inspired me to obtain a little more and the first Bob Dylan album I bought was Highway 61 Revisited. I suppose if you have to start with one that’s a pretty darn good one. For a long time that is the only album I had by Mr. Dylan and then at a book store, you know one of those that suddenly offered nice comfy chairs to read, a coffee bar and even some select music I found Blood on the Tracks for a cheap price and bought it. So you can see I wasn’t out there buying every Bob Dylan album I could get. I liked a few songs but honestly he just wasn’t an artist that I understood very well. Now some of that can be explained away that he began his career in a decade where an artist found it difficult to talk openly about drugs, or even the war in their songs. Artists had to be a lot more careful about what they put in their songs, and so some songs can slip right past you with references that unless you lived the times would be really hard to catch unless you got a Bob Dylan book that explained all of his songs, but he didn’t and to a large extent still doesn’t pass that test of mine that music has to be, needs to be digestable. I will give you a good example, Bob Dylan wrote and recorded the song All Along the Watchtower. As far as Dylan goes, it’s a wonderful song one of my favorites up there with The Times They Are a Changing, Lay Lady Lay, Hurricane and Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. That’s about it for me when it comes to Bob Dylan songs I like. But Jimi Hendrix took All Along the Watchtower and did something magical to the song. It’s the same basic melody same words but man oh man is it ever a different song. Now you say, well geez morgon (I am more gone than a moron) that’s Jimi fricking Hendrix. Yeah but it’s also Bob fricking Dylan. Tell me that the Byrds didn’t make Mr. Tambourine Man better despite the fact it’s the same melody same words. Look there is just a reason why I think music has to be digestable. I know a lot of people who love Bob Dylan and I am not saying I don’t really like him really respect him. I do. I now have over a dozen albums from Bob Dylan almost all of them because they are on Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 500 albums. There exists music that I could listen to and do nothing, just listen sit on my back porch maybe smoke a cigar maybe drink a beer or just a good cup of coffee. It just isn’t Bob Dylan.

I was thrilled though when he was recognized for the poetry he writes, because ultimately lyrics are just poems by another name. I think to see him live in New York when he was becoming the voice of a generation would have been life changing. I do think he is that kind of performer. There is a Sopranos episode in the last season where AJ and his hot little girlfriend are making out and they are listening to Bob Dylan talking about what a genius Dylan is. It is just an off moment and every time I see it I think what 20 year old would choose to listen to Bob Dylan, old Bob Dylan at that and actually be able to relate to it especially a character who is more or less a moron. Maybe there would be a few but when I listen to Bob Dylan and I was born when he was really just starting to make a name for himself I simply don’t get it. But I can read those words and get a sense of the man, the man he was and the man he became and since you know I dabble a bit in poetry the really bad poet inside of me can certainly relate and believe in that.

Mike out

Interlude: Poetic Journey, Searching for Answers to Questions Unknown

So my sharing of a poem has proven to be a groundswell of burgeoning support; well not exactly. Twenty percent of my readers though asked for more, which when you think about it considering that I only have 5.2 readers means one person wanted to see more poetry.

Rather than just throw some out there I decided to do it this way so I can mock myself because I am not a very good poet. I have loved writing since I was a kid but poetry was something that always fell short with me. I think personally it was just a timing thing. Maybe too its a matter of perspective on what you see as important. Writing to me has always been about telling a story and poetry is about words. Yes there are still stories and hidden meanings but poetry is much more about language. Many people I think get hung up on poetry because they don’t venture beyond what is assigned. So you might read ee Cummings, or Robert Frost. A few might be brave and venture into sonnets and Shakespeare, but I doubt that many people could name more than five poets. I was lucky to briefly be friends with a peson who loved poetry and at least introduced me to different poets. There used to be a website that had a way of alphabetically searching for poets and poems and it was a huge data base. You could pull up Dylan Thomas and read a selecton of his work, not all of it but enough for you to realize whether you wanted to read more. Not easy Dylan Thomas. That is how I introduced myself to poetry by going to this data base and reading a lot of poetry from different poets, different styles different time periods.

I did all of this without any real intention of writing a poem myself. It just seemed awkward and antithetical to anything I had ever written before. Eventually I gave it a whirl. I was proud of it too, and then realized how stupid it was like a twelve year old girl had written it. I still have it and I cringe when I read it. I tried again though and I experimented with different styles, with rhymes and couplets and stanzas and boy I thought I was something. I didn’t take a risk though and poetry like any writing requires you to take a little risk. The more I wrote or attempted the more things bounced in my head and poetry like stories where an idea captures my imagination os about phrases. I get caught up in phrases. The first phrase was “A shock of white and then nothing.” I still like that phrase.

A Shock of White and Then Nothing

Red streamers, vibrant, violent, clawed and pinched

Brilliant bursts of blue spots, luminescent, fading

Yellow like a sunburst, a golden warmth

Green, verdant and alive, a smell of growing things

A shock of white and then nothing

Death’s smile gruesome, a keening silence

It is all action and deed, thoughtless, uncaring

Providing only silence, without any comfort

Other than an icy grip, a cold hand

It is a heartless beating, a tamed uncaged beast

Leaving behind only memories, fading, aging

Like an old picture, forgetting accomplishment

The kind words, the work of many hours

A tear shed, a void, the smell of old clothes

A shock of white and then nothing

Its still a very early poem written around 2005 or 2006. For awhile I churned out at least one poem a week. As you can see I was fascinated with death, still am, punishment, death and forgiveness, the themes of my life searching for a forgiveness that will never come longing for a death that will likely only bring more punishment. Those themes I have explored and I am in good company. I may write another blog on the importance of Anne Sexton and her poem “The Rowing”, which I read with some regularity. Its my favorite poem of all time, some of my favorite writing of all time. A little while later all this poetry reading and writing had this strange impact on me. It broke down walls I thought were strong, battered right through them and left me a weeping mess. I started to cry a lot, and it wasn’t so much sadness, but it was happiness, it was guilt it was remorse. It was everything all at once and then it washed me clean, lifted me and connected me to a part of me that I can only describe as the deepest part of my soul. I explored that as well.
Soul Spoon
I turn to you at the dawn of a new day
Your back is to me, I wrap you in my arms
Pulling you close, feeling your warmth
You are beautiful, asleep, peaceful, loved
The shape of your eyes, the line of your neck
The strength of your hands, perfect
Your beauty is more than that visible
Your beauty captured me before ever we met
Your beauty carved a simple niche, a
Cubbyhole of space, a warm haven
For the coldest night, the stormiest weather
A spoon for my soul, a symphony of
Beating heart, a single breath of crystal
A shining place of light and security
Beyond any previous conception of love
Yes indeedy I got sappy. That is what I do best. So with all these gushing soul chirping tears of joy let’s cry over everything I naturally fell in love with sonnets and for a really long time that was my preferred poetic style. One thing I noticed that the more poetry I read the more I became aware that it wasn’t all just freestyle let it fly without any real thought to how you were getting there. I can’t rhyme when I do it sounds like something a third grader would create. Its probably not even that good. I liked sonnets because they gave me a structure I had to adhere to fourteen lines of iambic pentameter. I didn’t always get it right but I did try. I stayed sappy for awhile and then those themes just kept coming back like they always do.
Darkness
Shadow wrought and a luckless death inspired
Clinging to such crevices and corners
Slinking where thought fears to tread so lightly
Winged death, draining all color from life
Inspired by childhood nightmare, it so creeps
Singing a song of despair, quiet scream
Breath like ice, such fey spirited haunting
Why do I awaken alertly stained?
Fear wringing my soul dry, gasping I search
A dog’s howl upon the night, blood like ice
Enshrouded death takes you, beating heart pumps
A pale echo upon your memory
Leaving only a single deep cried tear
Creeping, uncaring, fairy dark shadow

Yea see I like that dark, so much I was rewarded by blindness. Such is life. I explored this in another poem, another phrase I fell in love with so much so that I used it as a title for the first of a series of superhero books called the Calvn Ring series. Yes of course its unfinished.

Darkness
What sound does the darkness make?
A sound of breeze on the air
A tickle on the cheek, a rush of breath
The sound of a heart beating
Is it a scream, or is it a whisper?
The sound of a tear falling
Does it smell like the ocean at dawn?
A salty brine of crashing wave
What sound does darkness make?
Is it the sound of sadness?
A haunting of past mistakes,
Of tears shed, a cacophonous quiet
Is it hope the darkness brings?
A reckless anticipation, fearless
Scanning the horizon, searching
As dawn’s rays bring forth light

Obviously it’s not a sonnet. I still love that concept. Sometimes the darkness screams and sometimes it whispers. Sometimes it is silent and sometimes its the board creaking in the hallway. It fascinates me.

Sky
Quick hard, ruthlessly it plunges through me
Hanging on the edge of a blade afraid
Sliver of steel, so cold inside my core
Staccato warmth filling my hands, painless
Stumbling, gripping night like a vice so hard
Shall you thrust it home again, yes I say
A knife of my undoing, sliding up
A shudder of pain, falling to the ground
Wonder of me, receding into dark
A pool of blood widening beneath me
Shall it end so, like some vague memory
Wouldst thou remember my laugh so mirthful
Is there no touch of your hand, brow soft kissed
As I roll over will there still be sky

So hey twenty percent of my readers need to be more careful of what they ask for. Now don’t you just love the wouldst and the thou like I was from the 1700’s, sheesh. When you are a little fascinated with death you wonder if death was a person what would he be like? Would he resemble the mythological stories a hooded skeletal figure in black wth a big scythe or would he be more dapper and wear an 80’s track suit, all shimmery and probably red or purple, maybe even sky blue? I wrote a poem and shared it with people and got a huge response despite not liking it myself. When I say huge I think four people liked it. I wrote 2 with this same concept if I died would death welcome me maybe cook a meal for me something warm and comforting. I tend towards the weird.

Solace
Monumental struggle, my day’s only thought
Some colossal blunder to blight my way
A path long rutted over and weed chocked
I wonder at the pain such life has cost
Like aged stone wearied from crashing wave
Tumbling upon its surface, eroding
Shall some child one day play in that warm sand
Digging small hands into what once was stone
Shall my life be chaff to slide through fingers
I wonder of death, shall it take me now
Will death cook a meal for me to welcome
Or shall I feed upon scraps like a dog
Shall I ever embrace that peace of love
And find solace my head upon her breast

So let me say as I get closer to ending this horrible poetic journey. Its actually so embarrassing that I am chuckling a little. When I have shared poems before I have always felt on solid ground, they might not like what I wrote but they wouldn’t tell me. Now I am blogging it and its public so naturally anyone can read it. The blog posts I love that I spend so much time with rip out part of my guts for never get read. It is hard not to be hurt sometimes. That’s part of my life too though. That’s what I am here for. I am sure of it. Sometimes though images just stick with you. When I lived in Atlanta I got up early to get myself to the grocery store and I passed this house and the entire front yard was full of black birds, probably just crackles or thats what I always called them but to me it reminded me of a field of crows and as I drove by they all took to the sky. it was beautiful.

A Field of Crows
Blackened earth on a field of fading green
Summer’s glory fading to fall’s fell death
Avian flock, feral, foreign and fey
Shall my death be fodder for such menace?
A foul upon my soul, painless and quick
Golden eyes stare right through that blackened veil
A shudder fills me with such cold dead dread
A life lived so cheap, without a harvest
Love so cheaply tossed away like refuse
A lovely smile so taken for granted
Pecked away like cold flesh torn asunder
Oh fowl messenger of death’s fall harvest
Shall you look upon me with sad regret?
And the sky filled with black clouds flown away

Well you didn’t seriously think that I would write a happy poem, Of course I could never do that not when I can hit on all my favorite themes. I love the words in that poem love how it reads the alliteration the use of foul and fowl, I do. It mighit not be great but I like that. There is beauty in death though peace for most. So when I moved back home from Atlanta I lived in this house in Hurst with a covered driveway and most of the time that’s where I parked. I used to lov to sit out there and watch storms roll in and I was out there once and all these white clouds were going by on a breezy day and it was exactly how I felt, how I always feel, wispy and tossed about. So I went inside and wrote a short poem that is my absolute favorite that I ever wrote. I still love to read it which is saying something.

Low Cloud
While walking outside
A warm and breezy day
My gaze rested upon
A bit of low flying cloud.
I marveled at this wisp
of beautiful fluff
holding steady in the breeze
to the slipstream
or whatever clouds hang onto.
I longed for that kind of strength
The kind to outlast the fury
Of all that God throws at me
And I hang onto myself
Wondering at the spite
Hurled against me so fiercely.
And I hang on, and on
To the slipstream
Or whatever clouds hang onto.

And that’s a wrap.