Monday, December 27, 2010
Spinning vinyl is an act of meditation for me. I am only three months into my monthly residency at Johnny Brenda’s and I feel as though I am finding my center behind the perch of the DJ booth looking out onto people, pool sticks, and passing of time. This last Monday, in addition to the Christmas music I had planned for the evening, it was a lunar eclipse, and a selection of moon songs were gathered in the hodge podge of cardboard boxes I use to clumsily carry my records.
Moon songs come around fairly often over time. It’s a right of passage for someone that writes songs. You could treat it like you are roping a steer, or maybe more like gathering wind. A little of both. We confide in the moon with our loneliness, our desires known and also hidden, and go to it when everyone else is reasoning and we want undoing. But the moon’s undoing is really marked by a grand scheme of planetary order. I’ve been really intrigued lately about this moon club.
Christmas is in my blood. My father, who I’ve mentioned before in earlier posts, is Polish, and the city of Krakow, Poland is known to be the Christmas capitol of the world. I still write letters to Santa, and my mother has archived the evolution of the dialogue that happens between us in a scrapbook she keeps in a writing desk in the living room. We express a lot about the shifting of our lives, wants that have ranged from some large bungling toy to hoping lost family members will find themselves. This too is a meditation for me.
The amount of information we are expected to consume as a normal amount anymore is really getting to me and I’ve become disturbingly fascinated with how our brains and memories are changing in how we process all this information. Spinning records allows me to focus. I’ve found myself more and more on many occasions hearing something either in a public or private place and asking, “What is this?” and the person looking at me and saying, “Oh I don’t know, it’s in my playlists, I got a bunch of stuff on there.” This concerns me. Not only because it taps out on some level to the art that is moving them but also because it creates a disconnect from the creator and the work involved. If I play a record by Los Lobos and you’ve never heard Los Lobos and it turns out you freakin’ love Los Lobos after that, then by all means be aware, seek out Los Lobos, and discover more of what they do. It’s a means to connect the dots. We are just as much constellations as the creatures we’ve woven into the stars, so let the man in the moon look down on us and see our mystical lineage. Let him peer through the round wreath on the high frosted window at the end of the bar, through the lucid lights coloring the pints of beer, and enjoy the songs in his and all of ours honor. Cause really, all this music and those that make it are trying to do is give this existence some honor. It’s startling these days how there is such a lack of care for life. Everyday, in everything I do, I’m trying to counteract this disregard.
The night brought visitations from friends and strangers all confiding in me through songs that sparked memories. Remembrances of childhood, of trips, of old lovers. It is no coincidence that they are called records and not files or downloads. Even the language associated with vinyl connotates romancing and dreaming whereas the digital era has not been able to find such rounded verbiage. Into the a.m. the bartender excitedly ran out and back in to exclaim that is was happening, that the eclipse was beginning and things were changing so much so that a clear distinction was upon us. I peered out my icy porthole to see the change, a night where both science and spirits were weaving their glorious patterns and laughing at the folks who deem the two enemies.
I saw the bar empty and played things in regard to the emptiness. The two bartenders set the pool balls and cracked a game, satisfied with the nights ending. I put on Elvis singing Peace in the Valley, and thought of how wide the valley is here. I wonder if all those country songs about lowlands were talking about a place like Philly? There are no mountains as far as the eye can see. Sometimes I don’t even think they had ever imagined such a huge broken valley in those songs.
The fragile existence of all of us alongside each other is overwhelming but it has made me feel no other option except to be a healer. To honor and to be honored. To acknowledge the gathering of all these stars, both sky and earthbound for glory.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
across from the scuba store
cow pasture out back
trailer park homes faded colors
special on ancient glaciers
18 wheelers roar
the Indian keeper recites
the internet code
down the road aways
bbq served for decades
neon sign as proof
collected on a bookshelf
by the front entrance
mason dixon blues faint thoughts
rolling mountains soft
some civil war quilts
hung on walls in a town’s museum
fabric torn from a flag
to make a different flag
with a new intent
heartbroken by the divide
of their new country
and their three syllable names
“oh dear Lucinda”
i have never had
a life of such heartache
lost loved ones immense
sons met at fences
not even at the front door
to go off to war
and here I am now
same man on same bench
a few artful shops
connect the lively dodgers
of this existence
is giving away pumpkins
to all customers
what is my work here
not born of necessity
but of my passions
to be of use
maybe that’s what I really want
in my simpler heart
in my other heart
every turn holds more muses
muses hold stories
i am a servant
to these everlasting songs
civil war trail blues
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Country Mouse City Mouse. I’ve always remembered that book from when I was a child. And now, I can recall only images more than storyline, the country mouse holding on to blinds so a vacuum cleaner won’t suck it up. The city mouse sitting oddly and bored in the hollow of a tree. Yet every time I spend time in either place I sympathize with both of the mice and realize that perhaps that’s my human complication, I encompass so many things and places and experiences and need them all.
We clearly have a bunch of stuff going for us, what with speech and books and philosophy. And then there was the whole inventing of tools then machinery then the soup can and then Andy Warhol, and then a host of other things like Italian films on the leisure class and R. Crumb documentaries.
What I like about heading up to Vermont in August for what is now becoming a traditional tour stop, is staring at rocks. Huge rocks where I can see the strata and all its intrusions and cataclysms. Patterns upon patterns of violent change that hold no emotions. I harbor a desire sometimes to be a chunk of granite.
In a vintage motorboat that my friend somehow acquired (he’s got a gift for being this kind of unofficial mayor of Burlington so I guess with this job comes peculiar gifts) we headed out into the center of Lake Champlain. The rocks on the beach started turning into an encampment of gray tents and the mountains in the distance became more like gauzy ebbing waves of smoky greenish blacks. The trail of the sun was silvery and we followed it as gracefully as a 40-year-old boat can and finally cut the motor in some estimated center spot. There was not much noise out there but for the occasional other boat and us talking and my head whirring.
What an odd creature I felt like in my skin and bones and guts out there. It’s the first time in awhile I’d felt such abandon and yet still I was aware. As a lover of song and stories and details how hard it is to totally pack up and jump the ship that is my brain. We gathered back into the vessel and our captain put on a 1950’s compilation cassette on in what looked like a Walkman without headphones. The songs bubbled out of the little speaker. Songs of the love,loss, and dreams. We drank from a single bottle of wine passed around. I borrowed a bathing suit for the occasion while some gentlemen rolled up their pants. Our captain had spray painted the boat with fleur de lei stencils and a handmade patchwork flag that said “GO!” in colored duck tape snapped in the breeze. Aaahhhh, this is our own kind of leisure class. What do we call it? Money deficient but able to use creativity as buoys, anchors, and sails. We shall make things out of nothings or other somethings and bring them to life. We are, after all, humans and not rocks.
Monday, July 26, 2010
(photo by Lisa Schaffer of an installation done my Angela Miles)
The temperature last night dropped 25 degrees since the afternoon. The whir of multiple window fans shifted as I turned them off into a muted hissing of locusts. Bob Dylan has a great song about locusts in which he’s talking about escaping some stifling scene to head out into the Dakota hills with a lover and the chorus reaches an exalted crescendo and he wails, in a rich nasally voice, “And the loooooooocusts saaaaaang, and they were siiiiiiingin’ for meeeeeee!”
It really feels lately like the locusts are singing for me. Maybe I’m just regaining energy that’s been zapped for quite awhile, but the blurry almost full moon and me tonight, well, we’re rendezvousing in high-style.
Yesterday I sold sundries and sundresses at a “Punk Rock Flea Market” at a table with a friend. We were charging way on the cheap so we could just get rid of it all; we were delighting in the idea of it leaving us. The beauty of this is that there were plenty of takers. Just as I am moving into a different time others are hitting their prime in the era of flea market gluttony. Young girls in their teens and twenties held small bills in their sweaty palms looking for flashy feathers to strut their stuff. I too was once this way. Decorum is truly part of being young. Not that decorum disappears as you get older but it’s less pinned on your lapel and more running in your blood and your blood usually knows what works by a certain point and rejects things that don’t fit as it does with the wrong blood type. We no longer are looking for a purse in the shape of a goldfish to wear to a party so we can talk about the goldfish purse.
I think this process is all natural though, the goldfish and the lack of goldfish. And I know that after this flea market today all I feel like doing is getting rid of more of this stuff. I don’t even have that much stuff, but I’ve always dreamed of having a single dress in my closet, a pair of pants, my guitar, my voice, and my stories. Oh yeah, and a record player. Maybe some band-aids for paper cuts. Oh, the list gets longer. I am definitely amazed though by how much so many hold on to, or work for, or feel they need. I think I had to figure it out fast that so much could be eliminated to allow for me to have a lifestyle where I could center it around something so lucid and quixotic as songs. And now the treasures I find and do want to keep are much more backed with a story like money used to be backed by gold.
I figured out the exact temperature drop while riding on the back of a scooter last night with my friend when we passed a digital bank clock. Being on a moped has the effect of making old things new. Restless in this newfound climate we left our respective houses to moped down to South Philly for a gin drink I had had at this bar once with muddled honeydew and candied thyme sprigs. We nightdreamed of being city planners and turning everything into park respites and turning abandoned old gas station garages into patio perfect Italian coffee klatches.
A renaissance of personal proportions is happening and I’m sending out wishes that others are feeling the same. I also think that realizing this renaissance existing in each other is crucial. Spend some time sitting with someone and listening, be his or her balm but also stoke that matchstick. If you need to, list the times in your life that you felt the most at peace on paper and by god reinvite some form of that back on in to your heart. I’m saying all this just as much for you as I am for me. I know that everything will go better if I can make peace with seasons and know that it will drop 25 degrees in a quick sashay of a breeze. Or it won’t. I should know that I may find that lost CD in another case at some point. Or I may not. I know that a cared for notion is a seed for devotion.
I finished out this day two of the renaissance sidewalk chalkin’ with my nephews. We drew arrows to their shrubs on the stairs with the word “Bush” and then arrows into the house with the word “Busches”, group therapy I suppose for all the confusion we’ve faced. My one nephew drew a double-necked guitar not realizing that they existed beyond his imagination. “Oh they’re real” I said and debated whether to back it up with Google image fact or let him continue to draw his mythical beasts. Regardless, the renaissance definitely will involve double-neck guitars.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
I’ve had a hard time picking what it is I am going to write about lately for you in this place. It’s more because so many things have been going on. I have been pacing along next to a Fourth of July parade queen literally and metaphorically. I’m hazy and delirious and as she throws things out of a bucket from the back of a shiny convertible mustang with that smile of adolescent high hopes I’m on the ground unpeeling all these sweaty candies.
So yeah. Back to where I was? Was I even anywhere? I’ll just stay on the asphalt with the candies as the convertible passes and now I’m headed over to the curb to hash this out.
James Brown once said in an interview, referring to himself, that “That racehorse, he don’t run if he ain’t got no lust.” This line, it’s always amused and scared the straight up dickens out of me and it’s been reoccurring in my head lately. The other thing that has been in my head is this passage I read in a Joni Mitchell biography. She talks about how it took a long time but that she reached a point in her life where for example she could see a beautiful man on the steps of a cathedral in Europe and just watch and not feel that need to make him hers in some way, there wasn’t that selfish joy but rather an observance of beauty being beauty in its own existence and the contentment of sharing this living existence perhaps separate but of the same humanness.
Is there a place where you can equalize your lust and desire with your chastity and aversions? Could it be similar to maybe the way an accountant does taxes or the way a barber cuts your hair?
An aside: A barbershop window to me has always been to me such a beautiful site. I love seeing grown men having to just be still and vulnerable under a cloth cape as another man goes about his art. He looks out the window with his eyes stretching up so as not to move and we make eye contact.
I want to go to this place. The place that has the people that do the thing for you in a very “this gets you that” way. Sometimes I think one of the reasons so many musicians feel peculiar is because our life’s work is not this for that, it’s not clear and so we are not clear, and this rolls into the context of our day to day life.
I don’t think I mean lust in necessarily a sexual way, although I won’t rule that out, I don’t like to be too discerning. But I think it’s more this constant quest that leaves me….feeling like I’m on a constant quest. It leaves me feeling alien. It leaves me feeling like I don’t know where it came from and can’t I just worry about finding a proper job.
But then I talk to my dad’s best friend and he wants to know how in the world do I write songs and keep them all in my head without notation or chords or any concrete evidence? Where do they come from? He’s amazed and wants to know. I do too. The best ones seem to come along like communications from Gods, ancestors, or people still living that need desperately for you to say something that they need to be said but for whatever reason can’t get it out themselves.
This lust for life, it’s how I see things. I watch the hands of people on their instruments and wish perhaps I could be every instrument that ever existed while simultaneously wishing I could be every hand that ever existed. I follow melodies like fireflies swooping and dipping lazily and try and understand the peculiar existence of them that are always beyond reach. Music never can really explain itself. I guess I can never really explain myself. Which I guess is why I’ve had alot on my mind.
I do believe there is a territory out there, perhaps mysterious like the Bermuda triangle but nonetheless there, where life is sensual and peaceful. I’ve been to this territory, I come and go and when I return I realize that there is where I want to be more than anywhere else. When my 87-year old neighbor peels an orange skin into a long curly unbroken snake and then pulls a worn bongo drum in between his legs and plays along to a primitive radio. He draws me in with a smile and shows me how to do it. That’s the place. Less racehorses that run on lust but lambs that thrive on love.
Where is this place for you?
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
There are a few things in my fridge. Lemon wedges have begun to turn into thick hides and a Chinese food container keeps its place, despite its uselessness. Sometimes I feel akin to it. I pace my apartment. I look at cat hair statically forming along the edges of rooms. I note that it is time to do laundry. I can do none of these things. I walk around some more. Should I turn on music? Maybe I should turn on music. I walk back into the other room again. I don’t turn on music.
This is what I’ve been doing lately. Well, lately meaning post-TUSK. I will write TUSK in all capitals because that’s how it rests in my head, with the left side of the “T” pressing against the one side of my head and the right side of the “K” on the other like a support beam.
I realize the phrase post-TUSK will come as very foreign to some and perhaps that’s why I write, to familiarize you with this thing. TUSK is a Fleetwood Mac record that was put out in 1979. It’s a double record. It’s very pastel and earthy on the cover in a very late 70’s early 80’s way and sometimes I imagine myself sitting on a precipice in the desert having a heart to heart with a lip-glossed lady whispering really close as her long gauzy colored skirt falls over the skin on my leg. In the imagined situation I am completely scared and completely excited and completely at peace and totally feeling like a pawn in the weird experiment that living can be, which I guess is what TUSK is all about.
A group of us got together to perform this record from start to finish in May in three different cities...Boston, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia. I should mention though that we’d been getting together to rehearse it for months, in a way that I was needing to rehearse for a long time, whatever the project. We made pacts and got up early and encouraged each other and went for it. We drove in cars with new friends and told jokes and stories. We shared music like we were revealing treasures from vaults and listened like seashells held up to ears.
I find such beauty in people who stick with this love. They follow it like a shepherd sometimes and then other times like a wolf and then sometimes they lay gently with it, patiently why it sleeps, totally confused as to why they follow it at all. I’ve played shows and made recordings where it seems like I’d been as Cinderella, up in some tucked away place meticulously weaving and placing and loving only to walk down to meet others and feel as though it gets overlooked, torn to shreds. When you find these kindreds its a wonder we don't burst into phoenix flames. Let this piece be a thank you to these star-crossed companions who I miss terribly already and to all of you who came to partake not only in the celebration of a great record, but in the celebration of everything.
Hopefully you go out and get TUSK. Hopefully we will do this again.
Blame it on my wild heart, don’t blame it on me,
A few photos from the three day odyssey...and to find out more about this project you can visit us, The Lindsey buckingham Appreciation Society, at http://tlbas.tumblr.com/
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Last weekend I left Philly to play at a wedding on a remote island in the sliver of outer banks that extend into the ocean off the coast of North Carolina. We drove through the night, stopping at hushed rest stops with claw machines and canned music. The Weight was playing as I washed my hands under the sensored faucet in the restroom and I paused to reflect on the amazingness of it. I often do this in public places. Wawa, a chain convenience store in our area, always seems to have on doo-wop tunes like Poison Ivy. A thrift store in my neighborhood plays an amazing gospel program whenever I peruse the racks. It seems odd that such vital music becomes “canned”, and I imagine people in the case of it being a verb stuffing it into some airtight tin only to be released on some other occasion.
We split up the drive and stayed at a hotel and I found a lone rubber ball, perhaps from the claw machine from a hundred miles away, sitting in the rug-covered hallway. With all my strength I threw it down to see it hit the dull floor and then ricochet in the long rectangular space.
We woke up to a local TV station covering a monster truck show. A middle aged man who went by the name “Grave Digger" was claiming how he was going to put all the youngins’ in their place as the clumsy cars with their gargantuan wheels made their way in circles behind him.
The continental breakfast room hosted a family of five in which the husband kept getting up over and over as things kept popping out of toasters and chatting it up with the woman workers about how he wishes they were his wife cause they’d always be feeding him and cleaning up after him.
The outer banks are very sleepy in the off-season. Rental homes sit like Star Wars giants and bikini stores lay patient. Ice cream stands have flipped their signs to “closed” sometime 7 months ago.
Okracoke is the final island, only reachable by car ferry. The loud hum of the ferry engine prevails until you arrive at the shore and are sent on your way, down a long road with stretches of marsh on either side. We checked in at the hotel and pet the office cat, and sat on a deck to look out at all the mellowness. White noise is so abundant in Philly. Sirens would cause panic here but back home it’s part of the daily array. Helicopters over the house again, cop chases, feral cats in heat, and gas station arguments. I remember reading a biography of Tom Waits in which he commented about his move to New York City and how he would just sit and take in all the sounds as they fell in on him.
I needed this lack of white noise. What’s the opposite of white noise? Anyhow, as we sat and went through the songs that would be played during the ceremony, a Fahey tune, Bill Frisell, Dixieland Jazz, some of my originals…I was so aware of the music and how it took to the environment, how maybe I had been writing music all along for this place, without even knowing it.
Sunlight glowed through smoked glass windows and etched patterns from the green leaves outside. Pews creaked, and people filed in and sat listening to the music. I forget that to those not familiar with playing music, it seems like almost a trick of the eye and mind. It’s an innocence that I would love to return to sometimes, like I had made a decision as the mermaid had did in deciding by going to land I could never totally return to the sea.
The minister, a South African man by way of Wilmington, Delaware, read a passage from Corinthians about people talking about love but not truly loving actively are like rusty gates. I thought of the rusty gates I’ve known and walked through and the ones who have walked through me.
Wonder is all around us but there is something about leaving the homestead that moves in me my wild heart. There are places in time that can bring out both nostalgia and newness that I hadn’t felt in a long time. Old roads that were replaced by highways are things left to be discovered again, however faded or forgotten, with signs that seem as if they are speaking directly to me. I find fragmented sand dollars, flyaway feathers in wind-blown dunes, and shells balanced on sticks like an ancient measuring system.
Our lives seem to not allow for this kind of adventure more and more as time goes on. We become the keepers of responsibilities to both ourselves and others and sometimes the lines become so gray. Who am I? What is it that makes me feel at peace with being here and everywhere? Realizing that these questions have different answers for everyone and being open to every way the blank can be filled in is a huge part of actively loving so that we can all walk through rusty gates to somewhere with different light and shadows and sounds, with inspiration as consuming as the ocean on a clean calm day.
Friday, March 26, 2010
My sister’s birthday was last Friday and as a present her and her husband came into the city and stayed overnight while the kids stayed with the grandparents. They live ten minutes away in our hometown but they treat it as though they are visiting a foreign country, a close-by excursion to their own little Paris, which I think is an awesome way to think about it all.
Friday afternoon she spent painting at an easel in Rittenhouse Square, and then they ate at a restaurant located at the top of one of the tallest buildings. I then met up with them at a smaller building, a two-story rowhouse style Polish karaoke bar in the Port Richmond section of town. Port Richmond is a long-standing Polish neighborhood. My sister somehow found this place as where she wanted to spend the last witching hours of her special day. We showed up before they had arrived from dinner, and the waitress held over the bar clusters of oversized bottles of Polish beer that seemed like reverse udders she was holding shut from the top. My dad handed them off to us one by one. They were mild and cold and satisfying.
Upon arrival a Samoan looking man with a long ponytail down his back was singing the pop ditty “Let’s Get it Started”. He seemed to be the only one that wasn’t Polish in the bar if not by immigration but by lineage from an immigration of the past but he was obviously a regular. Another regular was Eddie, a man with a ballooned reddish nose and a tendency, as I would soon find out, to yell all the lyrics of his chosen songs into the mic in a monotone growl. He also shares the same birthday as my sister which I would find out later.
I have to say that I realized my Polishness there with my blonde hair and oily olive skin. I looked at the stocky men at the bar and the woman named Basia serving them as they glanced at me with striking blue eyes and I could see the physicalities we share so obviously. Familiar strangers.
After the “Samoan”, a man took the mic and started crooning a fifties gem into the cordless mic. He was the host. He walked around and said hellos and handed out sheets of paper to pick a song out of the book we’d like to sing. The book was passed to me. It was a huge plastic-lined thing the size of an unabridged Webster’s. I was trying to find things they wouldn’t have but surprisingly they had a lot. I thought of all these people in the past, all these folks in all the 8x10’s that lined the wall caught in a candid and charismatic belting cameo blurred from the resizing, and thought about what song they had picked. What one of these has never been karaoke’d? Which one should I decide to sing? There are so many factors that come into consideration with what you decide.
I went with Angel by Fleetwood Mac because I’m trying to prep myself for a string of shows we have coming in May where a group of us are covering their Tusk record from start to finish. You have to choose a key and I chose the wrong one, and I struggled to get it out. It made me feel deflated and I felt like one does when you don’t get a point across or when I tried out to be in a play in school and didn’t get the audition right. I then sat in the corner and read along to all the lyrics of everyone else’s song on the projector screen as a student learning a craft while everyone else executed their picks or talked over the noise of Eddie’s growl.
Songs to me are such sacred ground, I take everyone so seriously that I just don’t think I’m cut out for karaoke, and I don’t mean this in a Debbie Downer way. I mean this in a stare at the lyrics as they scroll by, analyzing all the turns and twists and language maneuvers, trying to tell the drunk person next to me why this is a great song kind of way.
Joey, a friend of my sister’s, picked a Neil Diamond song with the line, “Money talks but it doesn’t dance and it doesn’t walk.” That’s a great line, it kind of redeemed Neil for me, and I thought about how it’s funny that that was what came along in this situation to make me hear that song that way. And so it went as I watched everyone, me dissecting each choice like I was sitting in my own tower of song, trying to understand all of the mysteriums and deliriums that occupied each one.
I got up again later to give “Wake Up Little Susie” a try, this time in a confident key (the right key is like good lighting) and invited the host with a gesture of my arm to join me for harmonies. We really started to kill it when my sister and mom rushed the narrow bar to sing, atonally but with wild enthusiasm and abandon, a group rendition in the one mic I held in my hand. Sometimes song choice is about bringing specific folks together. Songs are amphibious, multi-various, peculiar creatures and I love seeing how and why some gravitate towards certain ones, and others to others.
I must say, “Come Sail Away” has some goofy ass lyrics, but it works, cause within a song you are in its own world. How bout “Captain Jack”? Now there is a wacky song. And how about “Stolat”, the Polish version of Happy Birthday they played twice for both my sister and Eddie? Its words translate “May you live 100 years.” But only 100. After that it’s on to karaoke heaven.
From the corners of the centers of our universes, over and out…..
Monday, March 8, 2010
“I like him because he shows me different ways of looking at things.”
A friend said this to me while attending the Todd Snider concert at the World Café Live in Philly. I agreed and realized I had forgotten that in my head, that simple truism of how the best songs make you see something, and it could be something you already know or feel, and turn it all on its head for you a bit, showing it to you from a different angle. We have bird’s eye views and we also have song’s eye views. I love being there when you have a room full of people digging on this and singing along or with lips closed making an appreciative faint “hmmmmm” accompanied with a gentle nod.
Todd Snider is a favorite of mine. He has a song where he takes on the voice of a stressed out middle age father at a fast food take out window pondering maniacally about having to get his daughter the car she wants and another in the voice of a tree who has been cut down and turned into a newspaper. It got me pondering songs that are favorites of mine and why it is I like them so. “My First Lover” by Gillian Welch is a particular one and there it is again with making you see and feel something differently, a song of the story of her first lover with the song that was playing in the background as they rolled around on the floor the centerpiece of it all.
Sometimes the centerpiece might be buried in a barn, or lying along side you, or in your pocket or up pressing along the inside of windowpanes of a house you fly by on a road. I think Joni Mitchell bringing my focus in on a frying pan in My Old Man is classic and I’ll never forget John Prine’s Spanish Harlem in which he goes to a strip club and turns the chorus of the song into what the exotic dancer is telling him to do while leaning into his ear…..
Go into the country
Eat a lot of peaches
Try and find Jesus
On your own.
I think it’s important to stop and consider why you love the songs you love. The best ones always inspire me to go out and find my own centerpieces. The worst just make me want those other songs.
Once in a review a writer compared me to Eudora Welty, an American writer of the 20th century whom I had never read. My friend got me a book in which Welty writes about her beginnings and I really liked something that she says, and I feel it touched on something about all the greatest writers and songwriters as well,
“I suppose I was exercising as early as then the turn of the mind, the nature of temperament, of a privileged observer; and owing to the way I became so, it turned out that I became the loving kind.”
Long live the loving observer.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
"I'll put my foot
on the living road
and be carried from here
to the heart of the world"
-Lhasa De Sela
Yesterday I found myself at the obituary page in Mojo magazine. People all die in different ways. Usually there’s a heart attack, a middle age man who was young enough that it seems only slightly surprising. There’s also maybe a drug problem that takes someone. I looked to the right side of the page and there I saw a name of a female artist I had seen 3 years ago at a small club in Philly named Lhasa.
I said this out loud. I was kind of confused to imagine this girl not alive when it felt like I had just seen
her perform vivaciously, tenaciously, and possessed with a lifeblood. If there was anyone who wasn’t dying it was her and her performance made her seem to the audience as if she were a phoenix infinitely overcoming any borders, both physically and mentally.
Lhasa, born in America to a Mexican father and Lebanese-Jewish-American mother, mixed traditional Latin American songs with originals, and was strongly influenced by both Mexican and Klesmer music, as well as Eastern European Gypsy music, Middle Eastern Music, and alternative rock. She would sing in all these different languages, giving the same strength and care to all of them. She encapsulated the emotive qualities of Opera and traditional Latin torch singing through the eyes and heart of a fearless seeker, and sung the songs like they were manifestos she wrote up while crossing the desert and floods of humanity.
Lhasa de Sela died in her thirties of breast cancer. About a year and a half after that show she was diagnosed and lived for 21 months more. I kept waking up in the middle of the night remembering her and also remembering this cardboard box of sparklers that I have tucked away in my bottom dresser drawer from somewhere I can’t even remember. These two things kept bouncing around in my hazy half-asleep head. Again and again these two things over and over. I’ve forgotten on nights like Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve to bring them out and use them, even forgetting they were there entirely, but I know now what I’m going to do. I’m going to take one out and light it and with that nervous awareness that comes with knowing they burn fast shake it around like crazy before it cuts out. For Lhasa. We never knew each other personally but I miss her dearly in this world.
Friday, February 26, 2010
My friend Kevin told me of a saying he heard, I think when he was in Italy. It goes, " Those that eat alone, die alone." It sounds morbid but really it's just an Italian way of saying, "Hey man, how great does it feel to sit down with each other and feast?" I'm a big believer in food bringing people together. Perhaps one of the lonelier times in my life was that post-college apartment jumping stage where I was always sharing a place with people but always sitting down at different times and eating solo. I remember realizing that although I was by no means ready to start a family to remedy this I really wanted that experience back of sitting down with loved ones and kindreds and sharing a meal, sharing the end of a day together.
Anyhow, I thought of this tonight as I sat down with some friends to share a friday evening. Cooking has always been something that seemed just an extension of my creativity. I don't think I haven't met a passionate musician that wasn't also a passionate cook. Feel free to let me know about the exceptions in funny anecdotal character descriptions if you can. Now I'm drinking some bourbon while also licking fresh cookie dough off my finger and I'm sitting down at my desk while they play in the front room.
I'm excited to sit down right now cause I'm about to post photos from the Philly Opry I hosted at Johnny Brenda's a few weeks ago. It was our first one, an experiment of sorts, and I was getting nervous as the day came because of all the snow. I started acting like a fatalist and making all these nervous predictions that everyone wasn't going to come cause of no parking, etc. But it was as if someone opened the top of the club and poured them all in. I could only describe the crowd as giddy, rammy, and riotous with occasional bouts of slow dancing fever.
The broken bell republic was aglow. We would like to thank Johnny Brenda's for being such
a music institution, Lisa Schaffer for taking all the photos, Nick Miles and Veronica for building the barn out of salvaged cardboard (!), Angela Miles for homemade nudie suits, raffle prizes and more, and everyone who decided that that's where they needed to be that night. This may become a tradition.....Love, Birdie Busch
more photos of the night can be found in my photo section at birdiebusch.com!