Dreadful, Selfish Misdemeanors

 

Where the coyotes howl and the wind blows free

Johnny Cash, “Oh, Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie”

 

Lots of cheating going on in country songs,

Lots of sinning,

 

Drinking — worse than drinking — honky-tonking.

Wrack, domestic rubble, crying babies, hysteria.

 

Lots of people breaking Jesus promises

In “them” songs — adultery galore, lonely rooms,

 

Like the one I’m sitting in now,

My own little lone prairie,

 

After cheating on the Times crossword puzzle

And laying hoodoo curses on a president.

 

 

 

 

 

Ode to Lucinda, Southern Apologist Edition

Although I’ve had no correspondence with her except for a couple of emails, I feel like I know Lucinda Williams (who once a very long time ago shared the stage with my back-up spiritual advisor/next door neighbor, James T Crow).

James T Crow

I feel like I know Lucinda because her mama talks like my mama used to talk.

You better do what you’re told.
When I get back this room better be picked-up.

I feel like I know Lucinda because we both grew up in an undiscovered Tennessee Williams play.

These lines from “Greenville” bring to mind my ol’ man:

You drink hard liquor; you come on strong.

You lose your temper when someone looks at you wrong.

And these the premarital I-and-I:

I see you sleeping in the car
Curled up on the back seat
Parked outside of a bar.

And these, the people of my region:

Born and raised in Pineola,
His mama believed in the Pentecost.
She got the preacher to say some words
So his soul wouldn’t be lost

My financial advisor/life coach Jacob T Williams turned me on to Lucinda. One day in ’92 0r ’93, he came down to visit and handed me a gift, a cd, Sweet Old World, Lucinda’s fourth studio album. Sharing music he ardently digs is typical of Mr. Williams (no kin to Lucinda). [1] Jake the Snake is what my personal Life Affirmer/Joke Curator Jim Klein calls “a cat.”

from left to right, I-and-I, Sue Kovacs, Jim Klein, Judy Birdsong

But back to that album: her voice, the arrangements, the tunes, the lyrics – the South.

The last time I saw her perform, she said it was nice to hear some Southern accents. Oh, to be a Southerner now is to be looked down upon,[2] and certainly the blood soaked Bible Belt with its heritage of hatred and poverty and ignorance must seem desitively toxic from afar, but for better or worse, “the land of cotton” is the plantation of American culture. No South would mean no yodeling hillbillies, no moaning blues singers, no Lester Young or Miles Davis.

No South means American cultural impoverishment.  Spills over into meaning no Rolling Stones.

But back to Lucinda. Find me one compilation album she’s on that she doesn’t dominate, whether it be her rendition of “Here in California” on that Kate Wolf tribute record or her duet cover with David Crosby on “Return of the Grievous Angel” on the Graham Parsons tribute album or her heartbreaking interpretation of Hank Williams’ “Cold, Cold Heart” on (guess what) Timeless, a Tribute to Hank Williams.

So when I’m down, like today, I can put on Lucinda and feel somewhat better because misery loves company, because she sings songs that cry commiseration.

But let’s give her the last word(s).


[1] In fact, it was Jake who turned Lo’Quacia and I-and-I onto NOLA Sunday Second Line., which you can join clicking here. If in a hurry, scroll down to the second video.

[2] For example, we’re very unfamiliar with dealing with six inches of snow (unlike Wallace Stevens’ “thin men of Haddam.”)

Say What?

I saw this today on Twitter and have to say I more or less agree:

Obviously, we live in an age of hyperbole, and the obvious question is how come we overstate?

American optimism?

Media saturation?

Ennui?

A compulsion to spraypaint the mundane?

Of course, I have no idea, and certainly eyewitness Judy occasionally informed me the anecdote recently shared had been embellished. Though I hadn’t meant to — it had not been a conscious augmentation — No, I remember distinctly it was a Rottweiler, not miniature schnauzer. I can see the drool dripping from the corner of his all-too-audible snarl.

Could probably pass a polygraph.

Maybe could pass.

No doubt would fail.

Anyway, I’m sort of a pessimist, so the first three words on the above list I rarely use, except in class when I explain that “awesome” has no meaning because it can refer to anything ranging from a neat pair of sneakers to a twin-star double supernova. (I also inform students that “thing” can refer to anything from bellybutton lent to the resurrection of Jesus Christ).

So my hyperfication (good luck looking it up) of language most frequently falls into the realm of describing the unpleasant.

When I say . . .

Horrific      

It means . . .

Unpleasant, like  encountering a family of five all dressed in identical orange Clemson sweatshirts and sweatshirts)

When I say . . .

I’ve lost the will to live! 

It means . . .

I need a nap.

When I say . . .  

Menacing

It means . . .

Rather aloof          

Of course, the kingmaster of overstatement is our President. As far as negatives go, Trump’s go-to pejorative is “disaster.” Here’s a sampling via Quartz from the first presidential debate:

  • “Our energy policies are disaster.”
  • “Your regulations are disaster, and you’re going to increase regulations all over the place.”
  • “[Libya] was another one of [Clinton’s] disasters.”
  • “We invested in a solar company, our country. That was a disaster.”

C’mon, Donald. You can do better:

Your energy policies are the equivalent of the Yellow River Flood of 1887 that killed 900,000 Chinese citizens!

Your regulations bring to mind that 68-year-old woman fractured both legs and an arm while exiting the ride vehicle of Peter Pan’s Flight.

Anyway, I’m sure someone in the social sciences or philosophy (probably Steven Pinker) is studying just why we construct such mountainous molehills in our speech.

Get to it, ladies and gentlemen/Steven.  Enquiring minds and all that jazz.

That Was the Year I Wish It Wasn’t

Because for me and my family – and I dare say the nation at large – 2017 was such a doleful twelve months, I thought about not constructing my traditional year-end recap of my blogging; however, going back through the posts has been, if not exactly therapeutic, instructive as dredging up the past has provided me a more detached idea of my state of mind during Judy’s decline. Essentially, the omnipresent Scythe Wielder is ignored, which makes sense, since Judy was a reader, sometimes (not often enough) a proofreader of this blog.

January was Trump obsession month, though my favorite post attacked not the Donald but king hell hypocrite Paul Ryan, suggesting that the arch Catholic should read Flavory O’Connor, but I did stray away from politics  to reminisce about Judy’s and my courting days.

wes-chaplin

In February I fantasied what it would be like to see Trump as a tragic hero and wrote about the practical advantages of memorizing poetry,  Huh?

And celebrated Mardi Gras on Folly Beach by making a film. As it turned out, the celebration supposedly got out of hand.

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In March, in an act of great generosity I provided stuck fiction writers the titles and scenarios for mass market paperbacks based on Dylan lyricsMore seriously, I offered teenagers, whom I know something about, some good advice, and to offset any pretense of wisdom, told the story of bribing my middle school sons by buying them the issue of Playboy magazine depicted below.

s-l1000

April is supposedly the cruelest month, and it came very close. By now I had abandoned politics and turned my thoughts to avoiding a living death  with the idea of termination looming.  Perhaps I was angry at the universe.  Why else rant about hairstyles?

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May

Judy dies.

I grieve.

I deliver a speech.

judy memorial eve cropped (original)

Judy Birdsong Moore 1954-2017

June

The Art of Grieving,

But life goes on.  I learned a new word.  Failson, and reported for jury duty.

gamer

July

As Emily wrote:  “First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –”

Unanswered prayers.

Trafficking in Mockery.

And speaking of failsons. Here’s a shopping guide.

Hey Jude

August

As far as writing goes, I was lazy in August.  I was hanging with a grief counsellor, hanging at Chico Feo, discovering the Island Breeze, preparing for my 32nd year at PG, checking out total eclipses.

Sign at Island Breeze

September

Back to school and into a new classroom.

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October

Definitely, the highlight of the year.  NOLA.  If you haven’t checked this out, you need to.

mother in law exterior

Front Door

November

Judy Birdsong In the Lobby of the Chelsea Hotel 23 April 2011.

December

If typing this in London, leaving tomorrow, need to pack, so I’m out of here.  Thanks to all my repeat readers.  This blog sort of keeps me off the streets and out of trouble.  Happy New Year.

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Christmas Eve in London

 

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Big Ben in an Iron Lung

The first time I visited in ’83, punk ruled.  I talked to a woman in a nurse’s uniform with piercings galore and a pink Mohawk that brought to mind the plumage of an exotic bird that you might encounter in a Sci-Fi magazine. She was sweet as pie as she instructed me how to get to or obtain whatever I had asked.  Last night when I was momentarily lost, the seeming old gent wasn’t quite as accommodating as he waved his cane and growled ‘Je ne sais pas” after I asked for directions to the Tower Hill metro station.  Robert Earl Keen fan that I am,  I put on my most meanincing ugly American mask and hollered, “Ou est la gare? Ou est la gare?” Of course, he ignored me, walking on, stooped over, tapping, disappearing into the fog.

Do you know the Robert Earl Keen song “Whenever Kindness fail?”

However, the folks — both staff and clientele — at the pub Hung, Drawn, and Quartered were as nice as could be as Ned and I ordered minced pies and local ales.  I like a joint that calls a “toilet” a “toilet,” that makes you go downstairs and pass through double doors to take a piss in a communal urinal.  These conveyances are okay for the Herculeanly endowed, but if you’re hung like Ganymede, and it’s crowded, I suspect it might be embarrassing.

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At any rate, a good time was had by all.

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So after the pub crawling and 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep (thanks for the earplugs, Loquacia), it’s Christmas Eve, overcast, dank, and gloomy, just like in the illustrations of A Christmas Carol I remember as a boy.

Of course, Ned and I are here to avoid memories of Christmas pasts, but, at least for me, Judy’s omnipresent, snaking with me through the roped maze at Heathrow, the documentation safely stowed, or sitting next to me in a pub pre-children pining for Sally and Jack, the springer spaniels we’d leave behind for two months in 1983.

However, these are good memories to be smiled at, not wept over, and as it turns out, I’m doing some contemporary pining for the left behind as I type this just across from the Tower of London where historically some bigtime pining went down.

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So it’s time to accumulate some new memories to be smiled when tomorrow’s Christmas has come and gone.

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Birthday Murmurs

Portrait of the Artist as a Suckling

I don’t know about my paternal grandparents’ nuptials, but elopement was the means of marriage for both my maternal grandparents and my own parents. Back then, in those pre-FDA-pill-approval [1] days, it seems that some women dare not their chaste treasures open [2] even to the the most insistent importunities of non-husbands.

In my parents’ case, benighted by the long shadow of Victorianism, carnal inclinations short-circuited the pauser reason, so rather than waiting to marry until she finished Roper nursing school and he Clemson, they eloped. Inconveniently, they lived in separate cities until she dropped out of Roper and moved into married housing at the aforementioned land grant agricultural college whose main hall is named for Pitchfork Ben Tillman, a bigot who makes quasi-Klansman Roy Moore seem like Hubert Horatio Humphrey in comparison.

But I digress.

Perhaps my un-and-underemployed parents had never heard of condoms because a mere 10-and-a-half months later, 65 years ago today, on a snowy Sabbath in Summerville, SC, I was born.

It was a difficult birth. Forceps, strawberry hemangioma strewn across my squashed, dented head. On the bus back on his way to Clemson, my father looked so woebegone that a woman asked him what was the matter. “Lady,” he said, “my wife just gave birth to a seven-pound four-ounce monkey.”

So thus began my life, and I’m very thankful for my parents’ lack of discretion. So many little things can make such big differences: my late wife Judy’s not getting into her first-choice graduate school; she and I impulsively riding out to Folly Beach one Saturday and buying that very day the lot where we built our house; and two decades later, on what had been a very sad day, a propitious happy hour at a bar on Spring Street a few blocks from where my father grew up.

To all who have wished me a happy birthday, thanks so much. I feel, if not exactly blessed, fortunate.


[1] Certainly, the Germans have a word for this.

[2] Here’s how No Fear Shakespeare renders Laertes’ pleas: “Then think about how shameful it would be for you to give in to his seductive talk and surrender your treasure chest to his greedy hands.” A more than a little is lost, methinks.

Ask Jean Paul: Sage Advice from a Sage

ask jean paulpsd

Dear Jean-Paul:

I don’t know why, maybe I’ve been cursed by a malevolent god or something, but every time I get in a line at a supermarket, it always ends up being the slowest line, no matter what. There can be a line like with 6 people in it and a line with 2 people in it, and if I get in the shorter line, invariably there will be a price check or the customer will pay with rolls of pennies, and sure enough, all the people in the long line, plus newcomers, get served before I do.

Any insights? Suggestions?  It’s driving bat-shit crazy.

Seething in Winton-Salem

Dear Seething,

Grow your own vegetables, raise your own livestock.  


Dear Jean-Paul:

My mother died today. Maybe it was yesterday, I don’t know. I received the telegram today. At any rate, the funeral is in a couple of days, and I don’t feel much like going. It’s so much trouble. I’d have to ask the boss for a day off and all. What would you do if you were I?

M. Meursault

Dear M. Meursault:

 I would go to the funeral and make the most of it. Relax at the wake, enjoy a cigarette or two.  After the service, try to pick up a girl, take in a movie, have a swim. May I also suggest casual sex, a seaside stroll, shooting an Arab or two?


Confused, Out of sorts?  Slightly nauseous?  Having trouble deciding what to be or to do?  Send for Jean Paul’s amazing self-help manual On Being and Nothingness.  Available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.