Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Answer 84 - A decent burial followed by a Good Irish Wake!

At what point does 'honoring the animal' cross the line into 'I just really want to keep my ivory-covered car because it's totally bitchin'?'  

Since I've been called to the carpet, and I love arguing more than I love gouda in Gouda - Here's the thing: it's not that I'm a fanatic (mostly) - try not to be about much of anything, other than coffee in the morning and occasionally politics.. and bad poetry.. er..and... Well, anyway, even a fool like me knows that you can't be part of the First World [insert orchestral flourish with tom tom and gong] and not participate in the killing fields, on many levels. 

But we all have to pick our battles. Elephants are mine. I can't tell you why - I just have an affinity for them, and if you feel strongly about a thing, shouldn't you try to honor the thing? Like that Julia woman in the redwood tree, remember?  
  Sure you look like a touchy-feely granola crunching hippie, but the tree can't speak for itself. Neither can the elephant, last I heard.

Since I've made a point of trying to support the elephant population, it just seems contradictory for me to participate in the ivory trade. right? That trade has never have been honorable, so I see no honor in the owning of the ivory. I don't honor my leather walls (it turns out all my walls are covered in leather - thought it was pleather), nor my harp seal throw pillows (thought they were mink). I don't honor my mink napkin rings and matching spittoon (knew they were mink).

And there's a question for you - Do you keep the mink spittoon and harp seal throw pillows in order to honor the impossibly supple and soft furry animals, or do you give them a decent burial?

The way I figure it - if it turns out so, I replace the ivory bits with other bits, give the ivory bits an honorable burial, and I still have my accordion and my self-respect. But no worries, folks, I'll still be buying all my clothes from Indonesian sweat shops, and I only wear shoes made from the skins of baby alligators. 

Quippy is better than soppy. But I'm still getting rid of the ivory keys.*

*However, if it turns out they're made of bengal tiger claws - OH YEAH! It's back to E-Bay for my little Silvetti.

Baby needs a new set of snakeskin coasters!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Answer 83 - Because nothing is more important than displays of wealth

My accordion keys may be made of ivory.

I didn't know this.  The man in security at the Belfast Int'l airport pointed it out - and now what am I supposed to do?  Dave bought the accordion on e-bay for me.  It's old.  It's Italian.  And maybe it's built on the blood and bones of a nearly endangered species that I've tried to do some small part to help.

 Dave says that it may not be ivory at all - that even all those years ago they'd managed a process whereby the look of ivory could be replicated.  I want this to be true.

But that doesn't make it true.

I want it to be true because if it's not true, I can't play it anymore.  And maybe that makes me a bleeding heart fool, but it takes an orphaned elephant 3 years to begin to get over the loss of its mother.  And they never entirely do.  We're not the only species that thinks.  We're not the only species that feels.  And they're brutally slaughtered for a product that can be easily replicated.

Now the geniuses that own the world (well, at least they own the U.S.) have decided to buy the ivory stockpiles that Tanzania and Zambia are putting up for sale.  For what?  So that we can all rest assured that nothing, but nothing is more important than a pretty display of wealth...

And that will mean so much to us, I imagine, when we're the lone species, in its final minutes, blinking in the bright sun after every last tusk has been carved up, every last tree has been cut down... watching the water rise... counting our money on our ivory abacuses and chatting about the good ole days while we pick nits off each other (just like the good ole days)...

You wonder why I drink...   Still, I'll find out if it's ivory. 

In the meantime, if you're feeling it, send money to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.  They're fighting the good fight while most everybody else is fanning themselves with pretty currency...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Answer 82 - Yes, but then I forgot the question

Last night, an Australian novelist was in the audience at the show in Twickenham (South London).

Afterward, she said, 'You've given me a story.  I hope it's alright that I steal one of the lines you spoke.'

I can't tell you the line, because then I'd give away the exclusive - but suffice it to say that Dave will be the subject (strapping romantic lead, I'm assuming) of an upcoming book.  Possibly he'll be on horseback and some raven-haired heiress with a heaving bosom and whale bone corset will spurn his affections only to find that she's inexplicably drawn to his Adidas Sambas.

Er.. sorry... it's just that Dave always wears Adidas Sambas - they're a kind of sneaker/athletic shoe.  He's worn them since high school.  So, I can't imagine him without the sambas.  Even on horseback.

"Have you ever thought of writing a novel?" - someone asked the other day.

I have thought of writing a novel in the past, as a matter of fact.  And then I re-think it because I believe I lack the attention span.  Shiny objects are the bane of my existence, and they're everywhere.  Who knows.. maybe with age will come patience.. er, focus..

er... it's raining in Blackheath... shiny droplets on the window... drip drop... shiny...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Answer 81 - Road Space

Where am I?

I've entered road space now.

It's a place that exists between hyperspace and real time.  Here's a passage from my journal:

*Insert Twilight Zone Theme Music*

No sense of day or week... not much of time or place... signs appear, I ordered the fish, delivered, battered... lights, sound, hotel...  I remember.. I remember... dogs and the smell of burning wood.  What day is it?  I'm sleeping... someone's driving... lights, sound, hotel... I think there was a ghost, or maybe it wasn't a ghost but the guitar seemed to be playing itself... was it the color of money or the color of clover, that Irish Hill... the range.. the Mournes? the Mournes mountains, yes... and sheep the color of coal... lights, sound, 'is this your first time here?', I'm in the bath.. there were birds.. lights, sound, sing...

It's Sunday and I'm in south London... foxes walk down the streets in London.  Like cats.

I may be still be dreaming, because how can foxes walk down the streets like cats?

there were sheep.. now foxes.. lights, sound, sing...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Answer 80 - Strumwise

Driving in Ireland has been tricky.

For one thing, the Tom Tom (GPS, Sat Nav, box that tells us where to go) changes its mind frequently, and for another thing, Dave has taken to requesting that we stop saying, 'turn left up here' or 'turn right in about 1/2 a mile.'

Since he was a kid, left and right have been interchangeable.  Just in general.  So one of us'll say, 'turn right!' and he'll turn left.. and we'll all have a good laugh, unless we're suddenly put onto a major superhighway (none of which exist in the whole of Ireland, in this case, but England's another story) - and we end up miles out of our way, and then I'm generally not laughing.

So which direction is the right direction when you're directionally challenged?

Now, he's requested that we used the words 'strumwards' and 'chordwise.'  Because he's a guitar player who strums with his right hand and chords with his left.

You see the logic in the system.

The challenge is for us to remember the new words.  We're still ending up going the wrong direction at times, but it's good for a laugh, and possibly good for our brains to have to think in this ridiculous way.

Last night was a great show. I walked into the Bronte club (the old haunted church) - and there were figurines of Patrick Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, and a fairly angry looking man in an ascot, whom I thought maybe was Heathcliff, in his later years.  I was shocked a little bit when I saw them, all standing there looking at me.. knowing there was a ghost on the premises.

Then Andy, the promoter, took us out on the windy churchyard, in the dark, with a tiny flashlight to show us the grave of Squire Hawkins, the bad man who now haunts the place, and, indeed, a  cross had been burned into his gravestone, by lightening, as the story goes.

We didn't take pictures of it.

Don't want him following us to England.  Could be a skirmish.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Answer 79 - Yes, and the Swiss will prove it

Tonight, it's the Bronte Club in Rathfriland - about an hour south of Belfast.  Beautiful, isn't it?

The famous Bronte sisters (Charlotte & Emily) are the namesakes - though neither of the girls ever had the fortune to set foot in beautiful Ireland, the venue is an old church, and the place where their father preached his very first sermon before heading to England for the remainder of his life.

Oh, and the churchyard is haunted!  I can't find any information on line, but Andy tells us a practitioner of black magic was buried in the churchyard, when no other yard would have him.  The horses wouldn't pull the funeral carriage carrying his body - they were, quite literally, spooked.  Shortly after, a lightening bolt split his tombstone in the eerie shape of a cross.

His ghost roams the passages now...

Are they real?  Ghosts, I mean?

Mike, the bass playing organic chemist thinks not.  Dave, the engineer, thinks anything's possible.  Krista, the dramatist with a slightly analytical bent wants to believe they're real.. even it's just a tightly woven conglomerate of particles existing in hyperspace.  I want to believe the human soul/collective consciousness is real, is viable, and outlasts this mortal coil.  So maybe, when the body dies, the soul jumps into hyperspace..?

Hence, my fascination with the Higgs boson or 'God' particle.  It's not been observed, but is thought to exist in that place between matter an anti-matter.  So.. assuming the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland doesn't actually destroy the known universe in the process, it'll be interesting to see what comes of smashing the tiniest bits known into tinier bits.

Don't even ask me to do the mathematics involved in this idea.  I glaze over 10 seconds in.  But that's not the point.

The point is, yes, ghosts are real.  And the Swiss will prove it.

Meanwhile, I'm heading into town to the Crown Bar, just to look, not to drink - and then, south through the Mourne Mountains
   and to the haunted churchyard!  I'll most likely bring a talisman or two, you know, just to ward off anything menacing...


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Answer 78 - Scrambled

So. Scrambled or fried?

When you're at someone else's house, I mean?  And they ask you, 'how would you like your eggs?'  The answer is 'scrambled' - it's less pressure on the host to achieve the perfection of the fry - to whatever varying degree of fry-ness you might happen to desire and less chance that you'll be in an uncomfortable position when attempting to swallow something unpalatable.

"Wow.  Thanks for this wonderful fried egg, Marge.  I generally don't like the yolk to run off the side of the plate, but then again, when in Rome!"


"Umm... rubbery!  Makes the whole process of getting it to stay on the fork a fantastic adventure!"

And then, well, especially cross-culturally, feelings are injured, cooks are insulted, and, inevitably, embassies have to be called in.

At a French restaurant in London on my first trip to Europe, I was asked what I'd like to drink.  Being a health-conscious American, I asked for water.

(Insert ridiculously snotty delivery and enough attitude to sink a freighter)
"Would zat be meeneral watair?  Sparkuhling watair?  watair from ze kitchen seenk?"

At which point, I stuttered... I blanched.. I looked around the table for support and watched the eyes of all of my dinner companions avert, instantly - I was suddenly very alone, and so muttered, 'um.. sparkling?'  And when he walked away, I was insulted and angry for about 5 seconds, and then the whole table burst into hysterical laughter.

I've just insulted the entire Republic of France no doubt, with my stereotype of snotty french waiter, but this guy WAS exactly that stereotype.  And there are a zillion lovely French people out there.. But I love walking stereotypes, like I've said.  Really makes me question the whole 'art imitates life imitates art' quandry..

Anyway - point is, it's easy to insult somebody with expectations.  Especially when it comes to water and eggs.

Scrambled.  It's fool proof.  Even in French.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Answer 77 - Sadly, this answer eludes me

I sang of the dancing stars,
    I sang of the daedal Earth,
And of Heaven - and the giant wars,
    And Love, and Death, and Birth -
        And then I changed my pipings -
Singing how down the vale of Menalus
       I pursued a maiden and clasped a reed:
Gods and men, we are all deluded thus!
       It breaks in our bosom and then
            we bleed:
All wept, as I think both ye now would,
If envy or age had not frozen your blood,
      At the sorrow of my sweet pipings.

I found a book of poetry by Shelley in the cabinet here at the cottage.  This stanza I find comforting, because I realize humans have always been in the throws of pining for a lost age, and assurance that the golden age is long gone, never to return.

So I'm reading through it, and realizing that, at the time, it must have been scandalous.  All that unencumbered sighing and passion and Oh Love!  Oh Misery!  and bosoms and woe...

It was a time of 'free love' - Shelley and Byron trotting around the countryside, boys with pretty faces wooing the women of England and beyond.  And even with his clubbed foot, Lord Byron could make his way into a woman's boudoir with a word.  He was a poet after all.  Fiery, tempestuous, tortured... ah... so attractive to say many ladies of leisure.

The question for me, though, is
What does it take to be a scandalous poet in the 21st Century?

I remember a comic discussing a rock&roll scandal a few years ago.  Slash had been kicked out of Guns & Roses, to which the comic quipped, "What the hell do you have to do to get kicked out of Guns & Roses?"

I won't elaborate on his speculation - because it was graphic and crude, but I think the speculation is the point.

What, exactly, do you have to do to be considered scandalous in the 21st century?  Poet, painter, performance artist?  I mean, slicing yourself up on stage while screaming or reading your poetry for that matter, consuming excrement, etc... it's all been done - it's not scandalous - it's tired, it's derivative, it's so last Tuesday.

Sadly, this answer eludes me today.  I shutter to think of what the answer might be.  (I know, I just said 'I shutter to think of it,' but give me a break - the first thing I read this morning was Shelley... "Sublime on the towers of my skiey bowers.."   So I shutter, damn it.)

Still, I'll let you know.  Or maybe I won't.  At least not in polite company.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Answer 76 - D.H. Lawrence DNA

We're in the English coutryside.. West Sussex, in a converted cattle barn - it's an amazing cottage now, that came into its current incarnation at the end of the 19th century.

Shortly after its conversion, D.H. Lawrence spent 6 months here.

Says Mike, the bass player: 'Can you imagine what a CSI team might find if they came in here?'

I never think of things like that - I always imagine much more romantically where he stood when he wrote - were the daffodils in bloom like they are now.. ?  But Mike's an organic chemist.  Naturally he thinks of DNA.

The far end of the building next to us in this homestead appears on a survey from the year 1071.  So here we sit, traveling musicians who are generally fine with sleeping on a couch, nestled snuggly in a converted cottage, in a homestead that was first surveyed in the 11th century, hanging out with the ghost of D.H. Lawrence, with (and this is the truly unbelievable part) wireless internet.

Have to go take a walk down the country lane before sound check.

And there's a sentence I don't write everyday.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Answer 75 - We didn't make the disc scratch & sniff

I'm looking at my third 3-Star review from a National Dutch publication.

The text of the review doesn't indicate 3 stars.  Once again.  The text of the last two didn't, either.  The texts indicate 4 stars at least.

So what's with the three stars?

I think it's because the new album is separated into Suites.  I lose one star for making it complicated.  Hm.. Anais Mitchell did the folk version of Orpheus and Eurydice.  Maybe she only got 3 stars.  You know, for a complicated idea... even with Greg Brown playing Orpheus, and Ani DeFranco playing Eurydice. 

Little do they know, Dave wanted to make the actual disc, which looks exactly like an orange, be scratch and sniff.  That'd really have thrown them!

"Dear God, this album has a scratch and sniff disc! This is sacrilegious!  This flies in the face of all that is tried and true in the utterly infathomably music business!  Who does she think she is?!  First these 'suites' and then a scratch and sniff disc?  2 Stars for not adhering to the tightly constricted singer/songwriter rulebook! Shame.. shame..."

Genevieve Tudor of BBC Shropshire, on the other hand, said today:  "Aside from loving to listen to the disc, I'm having to fight the urge to lick it! The album art is scrumptious.."

We discussed it and we think scratch and sniff could have worked.. and could even open up entirely new realms in the interactive musical experience.  Think on it - patchouli scratch and sniff for the hippies, 'ocean breeze' or 'meadow' for the new-agers, 'burst of summer orange followed by a hint of chocolate' for me.

Mmmm.... orange... chocolate...

Can't you just smell it?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Answer 74 - Bang your head against the dashboard

What do you do when the Tom Tom dies at 1:00 in the morning, as you hit central London?

If you're us, you drive around and around the round-a-bout until one of the musicians in the car comes up with a plan.  After about 15 minutes of this, as the dizziness began to overtake all of us, Mike, the bass player, came up with a plan.

We made it back to Blackheath, where we were staying, last night, thankfully, but realized that, in this technological age, we didn't even bother bringing a map.  We have a box that talks to us and tells us when to turn right or turn left, or get on or off the M25.  Maps are antiquated.  Unless the box dies and abandons you in the middle of a strange city in the middle of the night.

Of note - during the 1-hour scramble to find our way from Central London to Blackheath last night, I counted one 24-hour McDonalds drive thru about every 3 blocks.

Also of note - the streets of London were laid out by drunken cattle drivers.

That's my take on it, anyway.

But it's worth it.  I mean, come on - it's London!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Answer 73 - It can't be quantified

Inspiration.  How do you quantify it?

I was browsing the comments section of a review of the new album on a Dutch Music Website (it's over to the right, take a look) called Johnny's Garden.

Someone's commented that he's skeptical of my 'inspiration' by Lorca,  If I'm reading Google Translate correctly, in order to be propertly inspired, the author of the comment seems to think I need to have studied the works of Lorca and, say, Dylan Thomas exhaustively... for years.  Otherwise to present them as inspirations is pretentious.

Hm... I'm pretty steeped in both of their writings... who hasn't read Fern Hill?  In addition, he also seems to take issue with my being inspired by what is a part of the highschool reading lexicon.

Hm... I could argue with him - but I won't, because he says he'll still listen with an open mind - despite the further pretention of the album cover (following a 'heavily-retouched' Cover Their Eyes)

Hm... food for thought.  There's little re-touching on this one, though - because I lost some weight and had elaborate amounts of plastic surgery.  I actually look exactly like Nicole Kidman in person now.

Heh.  I'm kidding.  I did lose weight, but no plastic surgery...

Still, How do you quantify or qualify inspiration?

As far as I'm concerned, if I read one sentence - only ONE - in my entire life, that kicked a song into existence, that's enough.

I'm not a literary scholar and don't pretend to be.  Lorca is an influence on me.  He just is. I can't pick up a piece of his writing and walk away without the imagery burned in. And to listen to the first Suite of the album and not hear that much is to not listen to the first Suite.

And, thing is, pretentious or not at first glance, if you know anything about me or what I do, you know that I lack the capacity to take much too terribly seriously on this big blue ball.  How could I? I stood in the water holding an accordion with as much reverence as that 80s comic Judy Tenuta on the last album, for God's sake.  Did I look like I was taking myself horribly seriously?  If so... look again.

We're all struggling for air, we're all praying to say the right thing when the right thing needs saying, we're all singing like birds when we can, and painting pretty pictures when we can.  We're all walking around banging our heads into trees, only slightly less hairy monkies than we once were... grabbing in the dark for the people we love to hold on to some anchor in a sea of uncertainty - sandwiched, for a short time, between 2 points of oblivion.  Sometimes, I want to write the world the way I see it.  It's all I can do.

For a brief whisp of a blink in a moment, I was inspired by Federico Garcia Lorca.  However, to save my life I couldn't give you a scholarly literary analysis of his work, or much of his biography.  Because, you see, it was the poem.  The poem was the thing.  The chocolate paper gown was the thing.

So I'm wearing the chocolate paper gown on the cover of the album.  It's the top hat that's pretentious.

And inspiration can't be quantified.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Answer 72 - And I don't mean £

To Adventure Boy's delight, I'm not much of a backseat driver when we're in the UK.

I can't afford to be.  I'm confused by being on the wrong side of the car, for one thing.  The wrong side of the road is just the element that puts most of my brain pan on 'tilt' and I tend to quietly drool while watching the English countryside blur by.

Adventure Boy can drive a stick shift, from the wrong side of the car, on the wrong side of the road, with the wrong hand.

I am very impressed by this, but still stay in such a state of panic as I speed along, that my brain simply can't make the connection to my mouth, in order that I let him know the best route to take, the best speed to go, and the best way to signal well in advance of a turn.

Consequently, he absolutely loves driving in the U.K.  And who wouldn't?

It's rainy in England today.   Ah, but then it wouldn't be England if it weren't... my 5th time on these shores and it feels like home now.  Even with my hair puffed to 3 times its normal size.  We're in walking distance to the Greenwich Meridian Line - Longitude 0, the center of all World Time.  Pretty auspicious, being here at the center of the world.

Today's only question is:  Where is the pound/number symbol on a UK keyboard?

If you know, please tell me.  For now - off to the market to walk the aisles and look at all the strange and shiny packages.  Mmmm... mince...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Answer #71 - Jonathan Livingston House Finch

I'm in JFK airport, NYC, on my way to London.  At the beginning of a 4-hour layover, I'm literally watching birds fly around here at the indoor (let me say it again - I'm IN the airport) 'concessions' area - the concessions area consisting entirely of: 1 Burger King, 1 Overpriced 'Grill' [with the kind of earthy name that we've grown to expect from our upper-end 'grills' - something involving stone or aspen.. or agate or some such], and 1 Salad/Sandwich kiosk [which is currently out of both salads and sandwiches].

The fun part is the birds, though.

Here inside the airport, there are what appear to be finches (many, many finches) on the tables, on the industrial grade carpets, picking up left over french fries and the like.. hop hopping around and then flying up to the top of the soffit with their fries, just above the flat screen that's streaming CNN.  I think there might be a gigantic finch housing development up there - nests & fries everywhere you look, little chirping baby birds, mouths agape...finches bustling.  What a great place to live!  As long as you're a bird that doesn't care about ever sailing the skies - wind beneath your wings and an endless horizon...

So the question is: With an endless supply of fries and breadcrumbs, what kind of bird would leave?

Maybe Jonathan Livingston House Finch.  You know, the philosopher finch always making the other finches uncomfortable with his musings.  The finch who'd ponder the fries and then try to convince everyone to only scavenge the greens from the kiosk, for the good of their souls.  The guy always questioning a meaningless existence on the soffit.  And while the other birds are happy with CNN ("Come on, Jonathan!  Count your blessings!  At least it's not FOX! Why can't you just be happy with fries and Keith Olbermann?") and airport announcements, he'd no doubt be itching to see what all the scuffle and hullaballoo outside was - with all the big metal birds and their shiny metal wings... and all that sky..  What's out there, behind the glass? 

Now, of course, I'll be looking for the one finch that keeps smacking into the window.

Admit it.  Somewhere in the deep dark past, behind a closed door, under a blanket with a flashlight, you read the book.  And even though you'll never admit it to a living soul, you know that, eventually, with perseverance, he makes it.  To wherever 'it' is.

Well, I gotta go.  Wow. This is absolutely true: a pigeon (that seriously resembles a seagull) just walked past Dave's chair.

See.  Anything's possible.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Answer #70 - Talk to the hand

It's not over, but it's closer to being over.  I feel better than I have.  Just in case, I have an antibiotic prescription next to my horse-shoe travel pillow and my personal inflatable germ bubble in which to encase myself on the plane.

I don't really have one of those bubbles.  I wish I did.

Our last flight on American Airlines was pretty bad.  One television set for all of us in the cattle car - and we were forced to watch CBS's chit chat about their coming television series.  Also Mama Mia.  Not fair.  Not right.  Don't get me wrong, I'm an Abba fan, but Mama Mia was torture.  At many thousand miles above the world... that much worse.  Northwest airlines has a screen behind each seat and you can pick whatever you want to watch.  Also, a little mid-flight yoga video, so you can stretch in your seat.  I like them.  They're nice.

Yes, I know this sounds so whiny (especially in light of the 'Everything's Amazing and No One's Happy' guy ) - but come on! Network TV stars chatting about their new shows?  ack. And you can't look away!?  You can't.  It's there.. they're jabbering.  You turn the volume down, but then you're reading their lips and slowly going insane...

Anyway - Adventure Boy's a fishatarian, and specified a vegetarian meal pre-flight.  The flight attendant, (who strangely resembled that Kate Gosselin person) looked at him as if he were Jo Jo the Village Idiot Dung Collector.  Shook her head, shrugged, and said, 'nothing we can do about that.  your options are chicken or beef.'

Wow..  were we incensed and aggravated.  And Adventure Boy is pretty scary when really aggravated, so eventually, they found some pasta somewhere, and grudgingly handed it over.

Later they handed out 'snack boxes.'  When I inquired as to the contents of the box, just to see if it was full of summer sausage and burger bites and pig on a stick, the pissy (and I don't use this term lightly) male flight attendant said, and I quote, 'a snack.'

At which point, we burst out laughing.  Because it was funny.  You don't often see a caricature walking...

Flying is different than it used to be.  It's more the 'you got another option to get to where you're going in 3 hours?  I don't think so.  Why don't you sit down and shut up and eat what you're given.  In case you hadn't noticed, I have the authority of the federal government, you economy-class-peon!  Not interested in your customer service issues - talk to the hand'  philosophy of personal interactions.

And what are you gonna do?  Don't have another option. Guess I'll talk to the hand. 

Here's to hoping that Delta, who bought Northwest, is infinitely better tomorrow.  And don't mind me, I'm sure it's still the Nyquil talking...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

#69 - To the Sulfur and Red Bull Store

Where the path of difficulty crosses the easy, mark a holy place. - Black Elk

Day 9 of the siege of replicating snot cells in my entire cranial cavity, and I believe it's possible that I may have come down with that nasty virus that Stephen King wrote about in The Stand.  I tend to the dramatic, and hence, must be overcome with something horrific and possibly supernatural in origin.

I'm trying to mind the words of Black Elk as I contemplate the suitcases unpacked, the plans unfinalized, the dogs ungroomed and the refrigerators un-emptied of leftovers from last September.

I said to Adventure Boy, "I think I'm going to get one of those energy drinks - because what I have to do today is everything and what I can do today is think about sleeping.  And blow my nose."

To which Adventure Boy responded, "NO!  You'll destroy your immune system with that crap!"

To which I countered, "My immune system has failed me miserably and deserves to be destroyed!"

To which he pronounced, assuredly, "You need more ginger tea!"

To which I dismissed, "Yeah, that seems to be terribly effective. Now where did I put the echinacea and the cats claw? Oh, I remember!  Next to the jar of leeches you collected!"

To which he chided, "You need to keep cleansing your system and trying to get healthy."

And where, in this stale mate, can one go?

"WRONG!" I yelled, as I jumped onto the table, (the place I like to give my oratories generally) "MY SYSTEM IS LIVING WITHIN A LARGER ECO-SYSTEM THAT IS COMPLETELY FOULED AND TOXIC." - It's possible you may be killing with me with all your insistence on healthy choices. I need to be able to survive the PCBs and the toxic waste and the damage the cell phone's doing to my brain every time I pick it up.  I need to FIT IN with the toxins, not STAND OUT!!  Not 'cleanse my system!'  No. That's just made me more vulnerable. It's time that I take matters into my own hands."

Starting with sulfur in my socks and a big swig of Red Bull.  And THEN, I'll mark a holy place.

Monday, March 15, 2010

#68 - Smoulder

I played my first show this past weekend in a theatre that was most recently a XXX porn house.

Through a handful of incarnations - it went from being neighborhood cinema to.. well.. a somewhat unsavory but still economically-contributing 'art movie' house.  Now it's a really cool and funky (actual) art space, which is kind of cold for an Indiana winter... but there are church pews rather than theatre seats (thankfully, the theatre seats are gone)... can lights and old, cracked brick walls.  I love old buildings - even the ones that are kind of mouldering... all the history and the smell of ghosts in the long velvet curtains.

What's the attraction to the smell of decay?

I think it's tied somehow to the idea that we spring from and go back to the earth - the fecund soil.  Makes the existential footing more solid in the slippery slopes of 21st century teflon life.  I can still smell the past - so it's never entirely gone - brings me more fully into the minute I'm in as I breathe in those microbes from long ago.  And to extrapolate further - in this way, maybe I'll never be entirely gone.  Because people will still be able to smell me.  Especially if I develop some sort of signature cologne.  I'll call it 'Smoulder'.  or not.  Probably not.

72 hours and I'll be on a plane to Europe.  Where the history comes from.  Our 100-year-old moulder hasn't got anything on their 1,000-year-old moulder.  If I'm lucky, I'll get more than one big whiff of velvet ghosts clanking iron chains...  No matter what I'll get a really good cup of coffee.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Answer #67 - Play the odds. But if you're wrong...

Question for a Sunday morning -

Is God really speaking through the Man/Woman on the Television Set who says that God is speaking through them?

Excerpt from Rules for Aging by Roger Rosenblatt:


Chapter 9:  Stay Clear of anyone - other than a clergyman - who refers to God more than once in a hour

One sees a growing number of professional moralists who appear on TV telling people what God wants of them. If these folks are right about God, it is splendid news, and one should follow them as if they were Moses. If, however, they have misinterpreted God's wishes - about political candidates, free expression, human reproduction, other issues on which He is said to be communicating His opinions to a select few - or if these professional moralists have mistaken God's voice for say, Elvis's, then paying attention to them may only lead to divine trouble.

Better to play it safe and avoid such people. The danger in hanging around them is that God may be tired of listening to them misrepresent Him and decide to revert to His old bad-tempered tricks with locusts and floods.  Of course, this being the 21st century, He may have refined His arsenal so that He can pick off only the offenders and leave the rest of us unharmed.  But I would not count on this.  God is good, but He may not be that good.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Answer #66 - 42 (forty-two. and thanks for the fish)

Crocuses.  They're out.  Everybody's saying that... means Spring is coming to Indiana.

Somebody asked me, the other day, if I miss California.  Yes and no.  I miss the ocean - I don't miss the static nature of So. Cal - no seasons.  I don't miss living in one consistent season ranging from 'windbreaker to light sweater.'  But that's now, and who knows about the me down the road for whom this may be irresistibly appealing.

I wandered the world from the time I graduated college until I settled in Indiana.  Moved every 2 years.

No, this isn't a travelogue.  It's just that it occurred to me, when answering the California question, that I'd still be wandering the world if I weren't a traveling musician in a traveling mudshow.  Touring is what allows me to stay in one place, and not pack up and wander away every two years.

And that's a revelation of sorts.

This revelation may seem more, er, revelatory, because I'm loopy still on cold medicine (but feeling up for tonight's show, which is a good thing) - but still, I'll probably write it down in my own personal Book of Revelations (surely you've got one?  a Book of Revelations, I mean) - to look back on, years down the road, so I can size up whether or not I acted upon the revelation, or let it slide by, unactedupon... and then connect the dots accordingly to the events that followed.

Why would anyone want to do this? (you ask)

Well, I intend to create a flowchart of my entire life, every single event, revelation, decision, and step, when I 'retire' and have the time.  I think it'll be fun and educational for my only marginally interested progeny.  But still - I'll see the shape of the whole thing, of a whole life - and will undoubtedly find the answer that Douglas Adams claims is '42' but that I know is otherwise.

And won't that be a revelation?!  A little on the Beautiful Mind side of things, but whether or not I have entire rooms filled with charts and equations that no one understands but me is my business
                                                          For now, I take comfort in knowing that, in those minutes when the suitcase I always keep packed under the bed begins making a ruckus, I have had the revelation that I don't have to take it out and put it in the car and drive West, because I'll almost certainly be driving West soon anyway...

And in Indiana, the crocuses are blooming.  I like it here.          

Friday, March 12, 2010

Answer #65 - Because Zombies are Big Box Office

The  flu officially has me.  But at least I can talk this afternoon.  I won't go on and on, but it's the second one in 6 months, like I said.  Went to Blockbuster to pick up a couple of movies to get me through the night, passed yet another Disney film, which, of course, begged the question -
Why is the mother in the Disney movies nearly always dead?

Dead Disney Mother -      Krista Detor (on Nyquil)

I'm the Dead Disney Mother, you find me at the movies
I'm the one who's dead and that's my part
and sure, it's been successful, this device at the box office
but I'm feeling kind of angry in my heart

Because I haven't got an agent and never merchandising
no lunch boxes have my image on the lids
no royalties or contracts, nothing catered or delivered
and I never see what happens to my kids!

I just start out dead or end up dead, or stick around a little
but I'll wind up dead, bank on it, won't make it to the middle
as the plot revolves around my husband as a single dad -
he'll raise our child, oh, all alone, and yes, isn't that sad?

But I want to SING!
I want to DANCE!
I want to ACT!
Give me a chance!
They're gonna love me, Mr. Disney
Let me live!

I'm the Dead Disney Mother, you'll find me in the forest
or the savannah or in Europe or the sea
Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel and Belle all lost me
The Hunchback, the kid from Ice Age, Simba and Bambi

Occasionally, I'm just absent, with vague explanation
but still, a motherless star is on the set
and 10 gazillion dollars later, sure you've filled up all your coffers
but you haven't seen my stuff, not yet!

I can SING!
I can DANCE!
I want a CHECK!
Gimme a chance!
They're gonna love me, Mr. Disney
Let me live!

And not in some inconsequential way like Mulan or Mary Poppins,
Homeward Bound or 100 spotted dogs (plus one!)
Even Spielberg put Dee on the marquee when he came up with his E.T. Mr. Disney, let me have some fun!!

I thought that things were changing when you hired Holly Hunter -
The Incredibles was getting on the track!
But that flaky Princess Diaries mother, with her artsy something or other frankly, she just pissed me off, in fact

I'd rather be in the coffin than make some lame decision
like deciding to conceal the fact that my only child's a princess
who'd inherit a bloody fortune and whatever the he** she wanted - a crown, a throne, a U.N. seat - you know what, you can forget this!

Mr. Disney, I'm not interested in starring in your movies
I've been studying Holly-nomics, and, in my spare time, passed the Bar
So I think a Holly-lawsuit is just what the doctor ordered not the dwarf, no Mr. Disney, this one drives a big black car..

And I can SING!
Yes I can DANCE!
But this for you?
Night of the Zombies II:
The Zombie Mommies
Shoulda let me live..


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Answer #64 - Nyquil and moonbeams.

I'm snorting a concoction of Alka Seltzer Cold Plus, Sudafed, and Ibuprofen - with a Nyquil chaser.

I am getting increasingly agitated with the Indiana allergens and winter virus-laden air molecules.  I don't have time to be sick, and I don't have time to be unfocused. And yet, for the 3rd time in 6 months, I'm succumbing to invisible forces larger than myself which are succeeding at rapid mitosis in my sinuses.

Vast invisible forces... comprised of millions of mini monsters...

Since I can't fight them, being invisible, I'll be heading to my happy place.. the place in my mind where I sit against a live oak tree, on the side of a stream... where the stars shimmer in the warm summer sky, and there is no sound but the running water.  As I gaze up to make a wish on a shooting star, I can almost make out the outline of something malevolent crawling up my leg and heading toward my nose.

WAIT.  I'm supposed to be in my happy place.

How can I keep my happy place happy when I'm under siege?

I know! Nyquil helps my happy place stay happy...

Ah... that's better.  And the stream is a deep, emerald, Nyquil green - occasionally a blue fishy jumps languidly up and up, arcing and gently gliding back into the Nyquil, I mean water.  As I gaze up to make a wish on a shooting star, I can almost make out the outline of a happy dancing mostly invisible thingy dancing on my nose.

Happy invisible thingy.  Oh happy day in my happy place...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Answer #63 - Land. Or Imminent Rains of Frogs.

I woke up this morning with Suzanne, by Leonard Cohen, running through my head..

Jesus was a sailor and he walked upon the water
and he spent a long time watching
from a lonely wooden tower
and when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him
he said, 'all men will be sailors, then, until the sea shall free them..'

I pulled a copy of Cohen's Book of Mercy 
off a friend's shelf a couple of years ago.  Cohen's passion for the holy fire is the stuff that converts can be made of.  Me, even maybe.  Watching him sear through layers of text and dogma, snatching up every shard of holy stained glass he comes upon, and then laying all the pieces out in a way that reflects and refracts infinitely more light than the original window ever could have.. well, I could walk that water with him for a while...listen to him speak in tongues...

When I'm close to drowning, I'm more inclined to become a sailor.  Probably like most people.. treading water for so long.. even a small boat starts to look good.. like heaven, even.  There was a time that waking up with a song like Suzanne on my pillow would launch many questions.. 'why?', 'what should I be looking for today?', 'what is this a sign of?'... (I'm another boring romantic. probably won't change anytime soon). So..

What is it a sign of?

Maybe that I'm treading water... maybe time to float... maybe there'll be enough grace left over for me, even if I never make my way on to the boat.  Maybe I'll find the shore...and dig up some colored glass shards in the sand.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

#62 - In boxes in the barn

They all left, the house is empty
and when you open the door there's a mirror
in which you see yourself whole.  It makes you shiver -  
Pablo Neruda

My cat brushes my leg for no particular reason except that she enjoys a frame of reference that is her, smells like her, is essentially a mini-mirror of herself.  She rubs up against the furniture, the legs of strangers, the legs of tables, the girl dog that doesn't chase her - leaves a small picture of herself everywhere she can, and then settles into a nice nap, nestled safely in her own reflection.

I decorate my house with things I pick up on the road, mementos people send, piles of books, rocks, egg gourds, bottles from old ships... lately paintings of saints, a pope, a handful of wire-haired angels carved roughly out of soft wood by some south american artisan somewhere.

Frame of reference.  Where I've been, who I've seen, what they said, who I am.  I find myself taking down the pieces and pictures along the way that remind me of anything unpleasant or painful - some dark minute when the wide-eyed wonder shrank, thin and gray.. some vessel for regret or scar tissue.. get rid of it, I tell myself.  Life is too short.  The reflection of me, the reference point for the thing I said or the thing she did - or the bristled black rope to the day he left (with plenty of warning) - get rid of it.  I've nearly cleared it all out.

"But it's the scar tissue that holds us together!," laughs Arbutus from the passenger seat.  "It's the compound between the joints.. the knees..the hips.  Scar tissue holds us together.  That and the memory that we used to know how to walk on the water..."


Where did I put all the scar tissue? 
Ah, right - it's in boxes in the barn... It hardly whispers anymore.. maybe I'll bring it back in.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Answer #61 - Yes. As long as my demographic includes Glenn Beck.

We have sallied forth and sallied back.  And now we're back and I am within my semi-usual frame of reference and I can't help but think of Glenn Beck.

But first - the back story - I'm nearing the end of the 31 hours of drive time from this weekend's short tour - a great romp through the Great Plains - to visit great friends and do some shows with Arbutus and Adventure Boy - and it's just Arbutus and I, down to the wire, as we've put Adventure Boy on a plane in Wichita, Kansas because he's got to get back to the studio to record SNC for Atlantic. (Straight No Chaser.  Google them..)

We are buzzing on espresso & lemon bars that Jane packed us in Madison and chocolate that La Shara packed us in Giltner - and cider that Valetta packed us in Moundridge... and we stop in McDonald's just outside of Terre Haute, for more caffeine, because we're desperate (and jonesing) and they have some sort of 'lattes' now - and I walk back to use the restroom, and there it is -

The lounge.  Like Starbucks.  McDonalds, along with its hoity-toit coffee line is now installing faux-leather arm chairs and coffee tables.

Not kidding.

Ah, but here's the rub:  faux-leather arm chairs are not accompanied by the NY Times and an array of college-educated, coffee-connoisseur-sanctioned Hear Music releases - but rather, with a large, flat-screened TV featuring - TA DA!  Glen Beck.  Glenn Beck.  (Oh, bugger that, I refuse to learn the accurate spelling of that jackass's name.)  Thing is - McDonald's had a damn Starbucksesque lounge and a flat-screen TV covered in the pasty mug of the new Rush Limbaugh.

I was fascinated... but.. he was... really... making sense... somehow... he was telling us that unless we keep the poor poor and the rich rich there'll be NO MIDDLE CLASS!

"WHAT!?"  I yelled at the McDonald's flat screen.  "NO MIDDLE CLASS!?  THE HELL YOU SAY!"

"Krista Detor," said Arbutus, as she sidled up behind me, McDonalatte in hand, "step away from the shiny object and make your way back to the vehicle.."
"Man.  I used to hate that guy... but.. he's really making sense!"
"Krista Detor," she stated flatly, "Glen Beck is comprised solely of tallow and goat shit.  Do not make me elaborate further."

"Yeah.. of course..", I realized.  Shocked at the implication. "I... I must be road-worn, I'm tired... what am I thinking? Wow!  Get me out of here!  Get me to a Starbucks!"

"Ah.. and there will you be safe in the bosom of your demographic?", she asked, non-plussed.
Yes.  Wait.  No. 

"Shut up and take me home," I say, as Terry Pratchett hits my ears and Terre Haute hits my eyes and the McDonalatte hits my veins... "No middle class..," I mutter, "..the hell you say..."

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Answer #60 - It's absolutely grand. May the crocodile be with them.

Last show of the weekend, and I realize I didn't blog yesterday.

The hole in the ozone layer is more than likely bigger because of my omission... I've made a commitment to blog twice this week to make up for it.  And not one of those gratuitous blogs, but a punch-packing blog that rings resonant for generations to come.

For now, 19 hours drive time in, the last two shows have been big fun - with lovely people,
great rooms, chocolate, wine, chocolate & wine, some mexican food and an irish pub.
Some truly wonderful people drove hours.. and my gratitude is immense.  The pizza last night
at the Sit'N'Bull was fantastic (if you're ever in Giltner, Nebraska, go there) - and the Glory Sisters sent us packing with beer, wine, and, yes.. chocolate.

So - listening to Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett, on CD, as, like I said, Arbutus will not abide
crap fiction.  The pepitas have lasted, as has Arbutus' observation and good humor.

I have to get on stage in a minute.  But Arbutus would like me to leave you with this:

Bombast, referred originally to the cotton stuffing in garments to keep out the cold.  It so accurately describes the interior of many minds, protecting them from any originality of thought.

May the crocodile be with them.  

We are all flawed.  Isn't it grand?

Yes.  It's absolutely grand.  Happy Sunday... be flawed, be grand.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Answer #59 - If someone brings a sledgehammer


Sometimes it's important to work for that pot of gold. But other times it's essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow. ~Douglas Pagels


  Of course, that day won't be today because I'm driving to Madison to play a show.  Also won't be tomorrow, because I'll be driving from Madison to Giltner, Nebraska.  Probably not Sunday because I'll be driving from Giltner to Hesston, Kansas.  And Monday's pretty much out because I'll be driving from Hesston to Bloomington, Indiana.

   But Tuesday - it's me and the Leprechaun.  And hopefully the little guy'll bring whiskey.

   If I'm lucky, I will have scored a copy of Into Thin Air on CD - by Jon Krakauer for the journey, as Arbutus will be along on this trip and has no tolerance for crap pulp fiction.

   Krakauer is the finest writer in this genre I've ever read.  He's the Ken Burns of true story adventure writers - seriously ground-breaking.  I believe Arbutus will approve, though I can't be sure.  Her tastes are discriminating, and it's only going to take the slightest hint of pretense or histrionic and she'll put in the ear plugs and read something else.  Still, I'm willing to risk it.  I can live with her disapproval because she brings pepitas (pumpkin seeds) that she roasts up herself for the road.  It all works out.

    And though I will miss the obvious plot device and stereotypes of crap fiction, I have an on-line coupon for 30% off any single item at one of those gigantor book stores that are in every shopping mall between here and Paris.

    So.. it's the road & book on CD today.   

 Will I actually make time for Lucky Charms and whiskey on Tuesday?  

   I don't know.   I do know that I'll have stories to tell.  Maybe I'll wait til Wednesday to write them down. 

   Problem is, though, I'm more likely to try to climb the rainbow with an ice pick than gently slide down it.

   Baby steps.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Answer #58 - Right. And the Abyss is Just a Hole.

A Thursday Morning Manifesto:

No more.  Not biting.  Not going there.  Not one more shiny carrot dangled in front of me will hypnotize me into spilling my righteously indignant guts out onto a keyboard and into the virtual world.

This morning, I'm recalling the quote from Dr. Martin Luther King:  

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. 
 No more arguments with dark souls of any sort.  Also turning in my Darth Vader helmet.  Darkness is insidious.  Sometimes the mirror can be a bit shocking.  Especially when you didn't know you had the helmet on.. and there it is.

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, 
 No more skirmishes with hateful zealots who like the taste of blood.  No more cocktails with them, either.

violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness
 No more swatting ignorance just because I can.  Just makes it tougher and me ashamed.

in a descending spiral of destruction ... The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation."
I've looked into the abyss, and the abyss has looked into me, and I've decided to step back and turn on the florescent bulb.   

The abyss is only fascinating for the first 30 seconds. After that, it's just a hole.

So this morning, here's to honoring a new Manifesto and the possibility the man presented to all of us.  It's the seed of great Hope - and Hope defies the odds and lights the way.   

Nothing funny about peace, love and understanding, right?

What's funny is plunging yourself into a dark abyss of righteous annihilation wearing a Darth Vader helmet and boxing gloves.
See full size image

Just saying.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Answer #57 - Onion Grass in my Socks

In September I'll have dinner with Wendell Berry.  We may not speak much more than passing introductions, while a table full of the faithful hang on his every utterance between fork fulls of squash and whatever the good Kansas harvest brings.  But I'm an open book, and whoever he turns out to be - for better or worse and away from the wonderful writer that he is - I won't be able to much hide my reaction to it.  My face betrays me all the time.

In grocery stores, perfect strangers have been known to say, "Are you allright?" - and not just in the Midwest, but in the heart of Hollywood once.

I was floored that Hollywood day, and kept looking at myself in the reflection of the freezer case, trying to see what they saw.

I just saw me.  Thinking.  Too much.

These days, I tell myself that to think too much - to distraction - is a waste of time.  I tell myself that I can't be inundated by every piece of tragic news broadcast across the surface of the good Earth and expect to continue to walk upright, despite what arguments facebook friends may or may not make of my responsibility to dedicate all my waking hours to the absorption of the needs of the many.

So, in the still winter-dark light of March, and nearing the end of  
The Importance of Being Iceland,
   I'm having breakfast with Eileen Myles, the poet author of the book.  And though some of her friends are a little pretentious and self-important for me on a Wednesday morning, I still like her.  Not so in love, but that's okay - that's the way of it and better than some long, unrequited infatuation anyway.  And if she quietly clings to the art world like a barnacle to a freighter in the perfect Atlantic storm, I have to wonder,

What do I cling to?  What do we all cling to? To keep us from flying off the Big Blue Ball?

Me, today anyway, I cling to the thought that not too long from now, I'll be on the lawn tractor with onion grass in my socks and sweat on my neck.

Back to
the animus
the city's
smiling face
a hail of birds
     fly out
something simple
  to keep the baby amused
we tied it
to her wrist
and it
    flew away.

Still, Gong, the city clock rang on,
the minutes the seconds all
    had their say

Once in a while
    you look real
    close, a
    fingernail an MCMXLIV
    you know it's borrowed time
but it's

    time, wild
    & wooly to forge our
faith &

family by,
       to buy
a tractor to be serene.    
         -  Eileen Myles    

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Answer #56 - It's ineffable.

I was talking to a doctoral student at a party the other night. Her thesis focuses on teenagers and social networking.

"Yeah," I said, "I read that GenY will be able to multi-task 7 things at once. That's got to be some sort of evolution forward."

"Well... not sure. I was hoping it would be. But it looks as if the ability to multi-task at that level is showing a decreased ability to focus on a single subject - hence, adequately take in information in the form of learning."

Well that's depressing.

Unless, of course, it's ineffable - Evolution, that is. Maybe as our ability to learn single-subject matter decreases, we'll actually grow more limbs with which to get more virtual things done. And eventually, even, maybe a second head or something, dedicated solely to learning single-subject matter while the other brain multi-tasks social networking, gaming sites and catheter monitors.

You never know with the ineffability of evolution.  It's not that it's random or some cosmic game - it's driven by an enormously complex set of rules. But for all intents and purposes they're magic rules.  That I don't know.  And neither do you.  Someone does though, because...

As Einstein put it:  "God does not play dice with the universe."


 And then Terry Prachett put it better:

"God does not play dice with the universe. He plays an ineffable game of his own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players, to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a dealer who won't tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time."

I can currently multi-task 4 things at once, more or less effectively, to a relative degree of effectivity.  It requires occasional sedatives, but I can do it. So -

Am I a tadpole poking my nasal gill out of the primordial muck or a human sticking my whole head right back in it?

Wish that damn dealer would stop smiling in the dark.