The Wanderer: A Serial Story in Small Parts

The storm formed quickly over the mountains, as mountain storms sometimes do. Had there been a casual observer to this rising confluence of cloud and wind, they might have believed the storm’s coming was even preternaturally quick. The sheer power developing in the black gathering clouds might have given rise to flights of fancy that two heavenly angels were fighting among themselves, engaged in some great wresting bout. The tiny flicks of lightning within those clouds slowly gaining in intensity might have brought a wonder that it was God himself angry with some humanly misdeed, an ancient God. The smell of brimstone might have been detected with just a hint of the far away sea. A different kind of observer might have felt the storm was the result of some other worldly presence and somewhere beyond the cloud lurked a strange ship from some distant star. Whatever the source of this storm might have been, the eeriness was set off further by the sound of dogs barking, every dog on the planet.

            The focal point of this storm appeared to be a single location, that place where mountain and desert floor blend perfectly into one singular landscape.  As quickly as the storm formed, the breaking point was like a small bomb going off, intense, as sheets of rain, vertical and horizontal lightning flashed all at once. As with any desert storm, the desert floor soon became treacherous as every gully, dip and dry stream bed became raging floods within seconds. The storm was terrible in intensity and rather than diminish with the breaking maintained this awful power for some time drowning out the dogs who continued to bark from both everywhere and nowhere all at once.

            Out of the midst of this deluge, in fact, the very focal point of the preternatural storm walked a most ordinary appearing man. He might have been as young as thirty-five or as old as fifty. He wore a rumpled golden brown suit which hung about him carelessly. His hair was a wispy sandy color and upon his head was a brown porkpie hat. He carried on his shoulder a weathered backpack by a single strap because a single strap was all there was left. Despite the storm raging about him., he seemed quite carefree. He strolled to a small stand of scrubby aspen muttering that yes, they would do nicely, and there he sheltered. He lifted to inspect first one shoe and then the other, old brown oxfords.  Then he began to whistle a strange almost mournful dirge. He seemed to notice the dogs barking which caused him to smile which broadened when they suddenly stopped. Had they been there at all?

            This ordinary man in his rumpled sodden suit, was soon joined by a dog. The dog was completely normal, in color almost matching the man’s coat. He appeared like any Labrador Retriever, except for the yellow rain boots he wore. The man scoffed loudly when he saw him.

            “You again? Really? You’re the best they could do? Where did you get those ridiculous rain boots? You won’t need them. The storm is passing.”

            “Crikey,” the dog answered, or at least that’s what it appeared he might have said.

            “Well never mind, we must be off. I believe some distance that way,” the man said pointing away from the mountains, “we should find our road. Come along then.”

            The dog waited a moment and then followed, without the rain boots. The unlikely pair never looked behind. This was just their way. They had traveled together before, actually being quite fond of each other. Behind them though, the scrub aspen trees were lush and luxuriant offering ample shelter.

            About twenty-five miles away as the crow flew stood the small town of Cordova. Cordova was like many towns, having never been a boom town. One had to wonder why it existed at all. Exist the town did though, despite dips of misfortune and tiny successes occurring much like ebb and tide.  Located on the desert flat, the storm which had developed over the mountains had not been noticed in poor Cordova. Instead, children and teenagers had gone to school, the bank had opened, and the single teller had done a steady business. The drug store had opened, so too had the hardware store. People gathered at a few spots for breakfast and morning coffee and just to say hello to each other and spread the local gossip. This was small town life. Nothing out of place ever happened in Cordova. Yet the town did have some notoriety, some prosperity and attracted the odd tourist.

            One mile down the two lane black top which served as both highway and main street for Cordova, was Carlotta’s Café, the source of that prosperity, notoriety and of course the odd tourist.  Carlotta’s was much like any café. You could get just about anything at Carlotta’s from typical diner food like meatloaf, to Mexican food favorites to hamburgers and sandwiches. You could get breakfast anytime. The current proprietor was Maria, Carlotta’s granddaughter. Like her grandmother, and mother before her, Maria ran a tight ship. Everything was neat and clean, shiny clean. The kitchen sparkled and despite a steady business was kept that way because Carlotta had insisted. Maria was the third generation to run Carlotta’s Café, yet faced the same dilemma the first two had faced. No matter what was done, Carlotta’s Café served the worst food in the world.   The strangest aspect of this phenomenon was that Carlotta’s was still the local favorite. There were rarely empty plates at Carlotta’s. People came to be amused by how Carlotta’s could mess up even a simple hamburger, or a shaved turkey sandwich. There was a lot of chuckles at Carlotta’s. Maria, just like her mother, Dolores, who was just like Carlotta hated that no one loved the food. Maria was an excellent cook, like her mother and like her grandmother. 

            Over the years, Carlotta, Dolores and Maria had taken over the cooking duties themselves. They had all hired expensive chefs, experienced line cooks, invested in the very best of ingredients and nothing had worked. Maria had hired paranormal experts and discovered nothing. Carlotta’s had been the subject of countless cooking show specials which was the source of the notoriety and the tourism. The lengths in which people would go to amuse themselves knew no boundaries. Maria went home crying many nights and lately was contemplating her options. She was considering hiring someone retired from the military who had experience feeding many people. She was considering changing back to an experienced line cook or even a new chef wanting to find fame. Mostly she was considering closing this place that she really loved but caused her so much pain.  She was thinking this very thought, walking from a table of northerners who had traveled down to eat the bad food and make fun of the cozy café Maria called home when the bell to the door rang, and in waled the ordinary man from the storm.

The Music Blog: The Wrap Up

That’s it, the last cd has played and there isn’t anymore. Of course, you know what I am going to do right? I am going to start over with the letter A and do it all over again, because that’s what I have always done, but for this music blog there is an ending and maybe a new beginning.

I started the music blog portion of my overall blog for a specific reason with a specific goal in mind. You see I am a writer. Whether you want to call me a struggling writer, or a failed writer or any other kind of writer that’s up to you. I wrote my first novel in my 20’s. I still have it unpublished. I co-wrote another, also unpublished. I wrote a novella that is a series and have started a second, and I have started a third. I started the great American novel or that’s what I call it and then grew intimidated by my own writing. I rarely think anything is good that I write, but that is my Mona Lisa. I am stuck on it. I started another book with the same results, The Bonding and I am stuck on it, and back in the perfect vision days I could bludgeon my way through blocks. I find it hard to do that, and harder still to write for more than an hour. I thought that since I was ending the letter Z that people might like a blog to go with the sharing of my music that I have done on facebook for the last ten years. I grew excited about the prospect and wrote three prequel postings to the music blog. I thought that I could grow my blog and attract some new readers and start a project that would have an ending. So with ZZ Top now posted the blog has ended. There were a few grumbles but the more I thought about it the more I was sure that ending the music blog was the right decision. That was the plan all along, to start a project and complete that project. I have completed that task. I have also decided to stop sharing music on facebook, because that process is time consuming, and I really need to spend my limited vision resources doing something more productive. I would really like to submit some of my work again so it can be rejected. Getting published is extremely difficult. Somehow that type of rejection hurts less.

I still don’t know what the music blog has taught me, what it actually means.  I can break the blog into some easy numbers. If you take away the first three prequels, then I wrote the first blog entry for the music blog and posted on June 1, 2019. I wrote the last just a few days ago. From start to finish getting through the music in my collection took 23 months, almost 2 years of my life. In that time, I wrote 83 music blog postings.  In that nearly 2 year period I played 3, 594 albums, all vinyl or cds and that included compilations of bands that I made.  The average readership of the postings was 5. On average 5 people read the postings I made. The most widely read posting was titled Melsie, which will tickle my friend Melissa to no end since this was about her and the quirky timeless friendship we have.  There were 22 of you who read that post. There were none who read my post on Evan Dando.  There are 11 posts which had only a single reader. In effect when I felt like no one cared enough to read I had ample evidence to support my feeling.

I have grown used to rejection of my serious work, the work that was submitted to publishers even the times when clearly they took my offering from one envelope and placed it in the return envelope and sent it back as soon as they received the package without reading it at all. Some never came back at all. This rejection though was expected and I knew up front getting published is hard. The rejection I felt sometimes over my music blog was much more personal.

Why, you might ask? I decided early that anyone could give you details. Hey this band was formed in this location by these people and they recorded this many albums. I tried to do more than that. In fact, I gave you part of my soul with each writing. There were some entries so difficult that I felt drained afterwards. At times I had to weigh whether I really wanted to share what I was sharing and open myself up to ridicule or criticism. I shared anyway. I worked hard, harder than I should have because I am passionate and in love with all of this music, except for Zappa. That guy, yikes.  I wanted to open your minds, introduce new sounds and emotions to you and impress upon you just how much the process meant to me. I failed. There is no other way to really look at it. I failed to capture your imagination your love. Sometimes you commented. Those lifted me. Sometimes you liked a post and made me smile, gave me hope. Other times it felt like any failure except that I would open myself up all over again.

I don’t know what it all meant. I struggle with that.  I succeeded in that I met my goal of completing this project but really failed in every other aspect.

Where do I go from here?

The blog domain stays the same. There will be a new direction. I have something creative in mind, a serial story. I hope its easy writing and whether you read or not won’t matter quite as much. Don’t get me wrong, I still plan on giving this full attention in the moment and then I will move on. I will have more time to finish a short story I am working on and then maybe bludgeon my way through some of those other blocks.

For the last time (at least this version) Mike out

The Music Blog: That Little Band From Texas

December, 31  1980

I was half-way through my senior year of high school and was already feeling pretty done with it all.  Just short of my 18th birthday I was ready to move on to something different. High school had mostly made me feel how completely inadequate I was. I never really seemed to fit in. I was athletic, but not quite athletic enough. I was too accepting of everyone, which had only set me up to be lumped into categories and name calling, which were not true, but still struck cruel blows anyway. I had little confidence and was already afraid that the world was not going to be different once I moved on. I also can’t say that New Years eve, the promise of a new year had ever meant anything to me. It still does not. Rosh Hashanah has so much more meaning, so much more promise.

I don’t remember New Year’s eve being any more special than any other night. I remember being home more and watching things on television rather than party hopping. We were kids though, and anytime we went out that meant driving around and going to parties if there were any.  My friend Guy had tickets to a concert though and I was going with him.  Going out with Guy, could be a raucous affair and Guy usually made pretty good plans. Neither of us were the legal drinking age, which was 18 at the time in Texas, like that could stop us. The band was one I had seen before and I enjoyed seeing live. We were expecting a really good time.

Guy picked me up early in his Trans Am that he drove like a mad man, which always had me laughing hysterically and holding on for dear life. The show was at Reunion Arena in Dallas which was a new venue but I had already been to a few shows. We were up high but that didn’t bother us and we ended up sitting with some awesome people, all young but older than we were. There were 6 to 8 of them and they were easy to talk to. Like many young people in that situation, they had no problem buying us beer so we settled in and watched the arena slowly filling up with people. For the record, Guy and I may have had a few before we got there.

The Bus Boys were the opening act. We didn’t know who they were, but they had several hits in the 80’s and made it to a few soundtracks. Looking up that concert I recently discovered Rick Derringer was also a part of that show but for the life of me I don’t remember him. The Bus Boys were absolutely great, they had the entire arena pretty much hopping and rockin’. I enjoyed them immensely. They did what opening acts did although Guy and I wondered why they came on so early. When their show was over the lights came up and I noticed that the arena was still filling up. Our new friends got more beer for us and it wasn’t too much longer that the lights went down and the band we had all come to see was on stage, early, way too early. ZZ Top played for about an hour. I say that just to be generous. They came out for one encore and wished everyone a Happy New Year and then the lights came up and everyone was filing out. It was by far the worst concert I had ever seen.  We were home by 10:30. We managed to find a party and hung out for a while. The next day I searched for a review of the show to see if someone had been sick but found nothing.

ZZ Top back then was a rite of passage for any Texas boy. In college I would have friends from other states who reported that ZZ Top was a good rock band, but they were nothing like they were in Texas. They were as much a part of Texas culture as cowboys, Indians, oil and the Dallas Cowboys. Everyone grew up with their music and there likely was not anyone my age who could not rattle off a dozen songs at the drop of a ten gallon hat. Beer Drinkers Hell Raisers was our anthem, our call to battle. When we sang Jesus left Chicago we were sure he would stop in Texas to hang with the bearded boys. Every cover band of 70s rock and roll better have some ZZ Top in their repertoire to play. They just better.

I saw them after a couple of times, and they never disappointed me again. Maybe that night something was happening because they knew how to entertain a crowd and always did.

So let’s play the last of my collection as a shout out to that little band from Texas.

Mike out

The Music Blog: Zola Jesus

As I come to the end of this musical journey, and there most certainly will be an end, and very very soon, don’t be surprised to see me meander. This has been introspective for me since mostly I have been writing to myself.  In the course of my life, I have met many people who state they love music, but the vast majority of these people do not. I feel some raised eyebrows out there. What most people are saying is that they love jazz, or they love rock and roll or they like country music.  When they make these statement, I truly believe they do love music. If you speak to them about music you find yourself in a spinning drain that goes something like this; I love music, actually I love rock and roll, actually I love rock and roll except for this kind of rock and roll and oh that kind of rock and roll too until what you are left with is I love rock and roll but it has to be classic rock, and then classic rock only from like 1965 through 1979.  They don’t really love rock and roll at all. Its more than just not liking a band. Not every band even should be universally liked. I hope this makes sense and I hope that in writing this I am not singling any one person out. I know a lot of people like this, in fact most of the people I meet who say they love music. I think this Is the reason I love my friend Melsie so much, because she really appreciates all sorts of music.

I have made it pretty clear that I do not care for the country music of today. I have listened to it though before I made that statement and even then, there are some country artists, like Kenny Chesney I really love. I am not crazy about the direction hip hop has taken my beloved r&b but I have a lot of that music and I had a co-worker once who played some neo-soul that I just loved. I do not have a lot of that music, but I am recognizing I do not have the resources to do everything to buy everything. Still there are some things happening in music the really make me smile and encourage me, like the Weekend. I just don’t know how you can listen to his music and not be enthused.

I have written all of that as a pretext for this moment. The rise of Netflix has been very good to music. I can watch the show 13 Reasons Why just for the music alone. So it should not surprise you that I discovered Zola Jesus on Netfflix.

One of the shows I have really enjoyed is the science fiction show Another Life. The show stars Katee Sackhoff as a captain of a long-range space faring ship. She is fighting some trust issues with her crew mostly because of a previous posting she had to another ship in which there was an incident in which several crew lost their lives. She has been widely blamed for the accident.  In fact, she followed a procedure to save the ship and most of the crew but the result of that was the loss of some crew. She did everything right but like the crew she has blamed herself. The show only has one season to date and there will be a second season but I do not see everything so its not unusual for me to watch a series two or three times. This show I have seen three. It was the third viewing where I discovered Zola Jesus. There is a moment in which the crew is trying to wake the captain from a cryo-sleep but cannot because she is trapped in a dream loop. She is reliving that accident and trying to change the outcome and until she goes through every possibility she is trapped.  Each time she changes her decision the outcome is worse until there is a slow realization that she has to live with her decision and that she did the best she could. Now we all do this maybe not in dreams, but we all have some regrets, some things we wish had turned out differently. While she is going through these permutations there is a song playing, and the words of that sone kept repeating, “If it doesn’t make you wiser, doesn’t make you stronger, doesn’t make you live a little bit what are you doing?” That song captured the moment so well and I wanted to know who sang the song. So, I searched for the song and found it.

Nika Roza Danilova is an American singer song writer mostly from Wisconsin. She took her performing name from the French writer Emile Zola and some religious guy that you might have heard of (I kid because I care.) I don’t know why I have grown so fond of her. I admire the massive creativity that she has shown in her music which is mostly Goth. She has a big voice and I have watched two live performances on youtube and just loved them. For many, anything electronic means that what is produced is not music. I am sorry that is just not true. There is a mighty creative energy behind her music, and I have been following her on Twitter and she is absolutely an artist, a musician and a tremendous creator and actually a really sweet person who wants the pandemic to end so independent performers like herself can get back to work, get back to what they love doing.

I just love her and her music.

Look, you have many options in this life so why not be open minded and give something new a try. I love the old bands too and I don’t quite obviously sit around listening to tons of new music but its out there and some of it is amazing. Among the things I have learned from this blog is sometimes you gotta shake things up a bit. Search out new music because some of that music will knock your socks off.

Mike out

The Music Blog: The Dreaded Zappa Post

The blog posting you have been waiting for anxiously. Your popcorn is buttered and at the ready. Maybe you have a frosty beverage by your side. Margarita anyone?

Honestly, don’t expect fireworks.

Some time ago, about a million years or so, I wrote something or other about how all music fits neatly for me into four categories; music I love, music I like, music I dislike and music I hate or despise, aka, Frank Zappa. I find nothing redeemable about his music, nothing at all. I have seen various music articles proclaiming him to be a genius, another claiming he is one of the greatest guitarists to ever play the instrument. I don’t care.

A long time ago, I commented on a post or created a post that said pretty much everything I have ever said about Zappa in just a few words. I hate everything about him and his music.  So someone felt he had to prove me wrong and replied and said what about this song. I said everything means everything. So the guy mentions another song and another until I told him to stop because I was ready to unfriend and block.  Honestly, I didn’t care that the dude loved Zappa, I was annoyed because he just kept trying to prove me wrong. I don’t care.

Like any artist I have ever made a statement about, I did not come to this decision because of a single song. I listened to a lot of Zappa.

So since I have mentioned my absolute disgust for this so called artist in nearly every blog posting I have made, you have a right to know why I feel this way.

Remember this is my opinion and if you feel differently that’s just fine with me. We can still be friends.

Music to me needs a melody, needs something to bring you along with it, to carry you to a place.  Zappa treats music like a gigantic joke. Look I am not a big fan of Weird Al Yankovick either but some of his stuff is down right funny but you also know he is trying to be funny. Most of Zappa’s music seems to have the goal of convincing you that he has produced a work of genius. I believe Zappa sat in a room and tried to make something horrible as a gigantic experiment to see what he could sucker into buying. He serves up rotten food with a smile and has you convinced that it’s a gourmet’s delight. That goes for Zappa disciples like Captain Beefheart as well. I can see him sitting in a room, guitar in hand, thinking how bad can I make this and still convince people to buy it. He treats it as a joke. Did he somehow produce some gems out of this chaos? No, he didn’t and that’s what separates him from artists I dislike. They still have songs I tap my feet to or sing along. Zappa doesn’t even give you that. Whether its his work with Mothers of Invention or later solo work, thare is nothing he has done that I respect or remotely like.

That’s how I feel about Zappa the clownstick. Now I don’t get a lot of comments on my blog. Seriously I only have four regular readers but if you somehow read this and decide that you are going to prove me wrong then I have the right to publish all comments or not. I have only once not published someone’s comments and that’s because the person was a wacko (clinical term). So there you have it.

Mike out

The Music Blog: Bakersfield

When I was a kid evening life meant gathering around the television watching shows your dad selected. This was a pretty common occurrence on the block. I was about ten years old when my parents bought me a small black and white television but even then, most nights the family gathered around and watched something together at least for a while. One of the shows my dad really liked and really everyone liked was Hee Haw.  It was a fascinating show full of Opry, and comedy and of course was really centered on the talents of two men who always seemed part musician and part comedian. My dad loved Roy Clark and every time Roy played he marveled at how amazing a musician he was. Who didn’t like Roy Clark, the sheer talent and brilliance of how he played. It was that other guy though who I loved. I don’t know if it was the red, white and blue guitar, his band the Buckaroos or that my mom always joked that he was so ugly he was cute, but Buck Owens was the reason I sat and watched. I waited for Buck to have his one song with his band that he got. I knew absolutely nothing about who he was, figured he was some low-level country star that had found a home on Hee Haw. It would be years before I knew better. Eventually I just became more and more introverted, wanted to spend more and more time alone in my room listening to my music and watching my shows and dreaming my dreams of having girlfriends who in reality would never notice me. We all grow up a little and grow apart.

I am deeply sorry if I have ever trapped you in a conversation about music. While everybody may love music to some extent or another, I can get a little nutty. I want to know what connects bands, the back stories, the breaks they got, the inner struggles and the inner demons. I love it all and at different times in my life I have been in love with pretty much every genre there is. I grew up listening to country music, its all my dad played and its all he plays now so naturally at different times I have loved country music. I have some strong opinions about today’s country. I am not a fan, and I certainly don’t really enjoy the bubble gum country and wanna be rock stars.

In 1988 Dwight Yoakam released his third album Buenos Noches From a Lonely Room. I liked Dwight, I liked that he was not so much a Nashville driven musician, and I loved his voice.  That album though really made me a fan and really made me love Dwight. That album and the song Streets of Bakersfield took me back to a guy with a red, white, and blue guitar. It was the first time I realized there was a connection between Buck Owns and Dwight Yoakam that went beyond a song on the radio. That guy who I believed in my young mind to be a minor country star had in fact been a big star and who along with others, most notably Merle Haggard, rebelled against the Nashville polished country scene to create something different, harder, more electric with a back beat and a drive like rock and roll. Buck Owns helped make the Bakersfield Sound.

Dwight Yoakam may have been born in Kentucky and raised in Ohio, but his musical roots were formed and forged in Los Angeles and was as diverse as you could imagine including punk music. He had moved to Los Angeles because Nashville had rejected the hillbilly honky tonk country he was playing. He found a home in Los Angles so no wonder he would form such a powerful relationship with Buck Ownes and the sound of Bakersfield.  He is one of my absolute favorite musicians. I absolutely adore his music and yea I can hear a whole lot of Buck when I listen to him. As you might expect he has paid homage to Buck including an entire album devoted to Buck. Now if he would only play a red, white and blue guitar.

Mike out