Pernell McDaniel at Chico Feo

photo credit George Fox

One of the premier artists at Chico-Feo’s Singer/Songwriter open mic Mondays, Pernell McDaniel performs a wide range of originals. Whether he is singing about his beloved grandfather, star-crossed interracial couples, or the abundant goods available at Bert’s Market, his melodies and lyrics seamlessly meld into well-crafted crowd pleasers.

Here he is performing “The Ballad of Chris and Willy” on 19 September 2022.

The lyrics appear beneath the video.

Enjoy!

THE BALLAD OF CHRIS AND WILLY

On the other side of the tracks
On the shady side of town
Two young bucks worked a corner spot
Sharing their love around
Pimpin’ riffs and rhymes
And layin’ down beats and tracks

Chris and Willy made their way
Climbin’ each others backs
Scrapin’ and scratchin’ A
nd tryin’ to get ahead
Where street cred and the dollar bill
Was all the pride they had

And then the big time struck
Like a lightning bolt
And they got swept away in the fray
Not knowin’ that their crooked paths
Would cross again one day

Chorus

Yeah, Chris and Willy had a lifelong feud
Kinda like they never had Nothin’ much better to do.
But, Chris and Willy Never had a real fight
Until a bald headed woman Came between ’em At the Oscar’s one night

Willy married a time or two
And wound up with a chick named Jada.
She was a swinger with alopecia.
She was low hanging fruit for a hater.

Chris got rich on SNL
And later on the silver screen.
His money was green.
But, he was an A-list star
‘Cause his jokes were all so mean.
Then one night at the Oscar’s Willy had a nomination.
And Chris was MC-ing center stage
And tryin’ to be an aggravation.
In a single lapse of judgement
Chris joked about Jada’s scalp.
And Willy stormed the stage
And slapped the taste Out of Chris’s mouth!
Tears filled Willy’s eyes
As he reached his front row seat
While Chris was tryin’ to keep his cool
And checkin’ for loose teeth.
Jada scanned the crowd
Then beamed at Willy in adoration.
But Willy couldn’t let it go
Without one last indignation.
In a voice that thundered Like the cannon fire
When Sherman raped the South He said
“Don’t let my wife’s name Come outa your fuckin’ mouth!”

Yeah, Chris and Willy had a lifelong feud
Kinda like they never had Nothin’ much better to do.
But, Chris and Willy Never had a real fight
Until a bald headed woman Came between ’em At the Oscar’s one night

Screen-Faced Nation

Megan Posey

George Fox’s Monday Night extravaganza known as the Singer/Songwriter Soapbox provides local musicians and poets a venue to showcase their original works, and many of them are damned good, like Jason Chambers, Chuck Sullivan, among a host of others.

Last night Megan Posey recited – not read – recited “Screen-Faced Nation,” a performance you can check out in the video below. This twenty-something has some serious chops. Check her out.

Note: the incompetent videographer [embarrassed throat clearing] didn’t start shooting until the fifth line, but you can read the entire poem below the video.

Screen-Faced Nation

by Megan Posey

I’m reporting to you live from Addictionville, USA

Found in the collective mind of humankind

Where substances and behaviors disguised as property investors

Develop land on top of your bulldozed dopamine receptors

Uppers, downers, booze, gambling, sex, shopping and food

Are just some of the towns long established moguls of real estate

The city was historically inhabited by massive huddles of the tired and poor

And though many transients were lured in by the pleasure and escapism that dangled as bait

It was an exit on the interstate that you would probably just ignore

But that is clearly that is no longer the case

We’ve become a needle-armed, powder-nosed, screen-faced nation.

Pundits are puzzled over what led to the gentrification

But I’d like to shift your attention back to 2010

When we had just demolished OxyContin

And nicotine was undergoing renovation

The cigarette was outdated but we hadn’t yet created

A plan to market vaping to the younger generation.

So there was some land available in town

And a growing family looking to settle down

That’s when Social media began to break ground

And construct their now all-encompassing compound

But look beyond the flimsy facade of connection

And you’ll see an opium den filled to the brim with junkies

Fiending for their next self-esteem injection

This just in

Property crime in the area has now reached an all-time high

Your focus, motivation, and creativity are being jacked in broad daylight

But the truth is you hand them over without so much as a fight

See, you were so scared of getting left behind

That you closed your eyes and got in line with the blind

Until one day you woke up with your head pounding on a cold, hard floor

You tried to escape, but what did you find?

The foyer had turned to a labyrinth of corridors

And there was just no easy way out anymore

Even if you could manage to free your mind

These days you still gotta have at least one foot in the door

It’s sad to watch people waste their whole lives in this podunk town

They’re like stillborns in the underbelly who never started to crown

A real individual could have been born and that’s a hefty cost

But so long as you search outside of yourself for the way

It does not matter what turn you take, you will always end up lost

In the unnavigable wasteland of Addictionville, USA

Ain’t Got You

A aged man is but a paltry thing, a tattered coat upon a stick, so what shall I do with this absurdity, O Heart, O Troubled heart, decrepit age that has been tied to me as to a dog’s tail? What am I gonna do? Make a fool out of myself, that’s what. Here’s exhibit A. The Old Scarecrow Boogie.

Ain’t Got You

I’m sixty-five, got cataracts,
Hump-forming on my back,
A candidate for a heart attack,
But I ain’t got you . . .

Got nurses to the left of me,
Nurses to the right of me,
Nurses all around me,
But I ain’t got you.

Got a wheelchair, a walk-in tub,
Teeth ground down into little nubs,
Got a membership to the Rotary Club
And you lookin’ good in your hot pink scrubs!

Got a closet full of robes,
And no matter where I go
Got hair in my nose.
But I ain’t got you.

But I ain’t got you.
No, I ain’t got you.

A Reading from “Today, Oh Boy!”

Photo credit, George Fox

Here’s a snippet from a reading from Today, Oh Boy! at Chico Feo’s Singer/Songwriter’s Soapbox. The novel is coming out this fall via Austin Macauley Publishers.

A Bit of background: Over the intercom, Summerville High School Principal Paul Pushcart is interrupting art class by summoning Rusty Boykin to the office on a Monday in October 1970.

Dreading an upcoming midterm because he hasn’t opened a book, Rusty is drawing a model of the human digestive system in a ruse to sneakily study for the exam.

Song Lyrics as Opposed to Poetry, George Fox Edition

George Fox, photo by Caroline Tigner Moore

Generally, when I first listen to a song, I don’t pay much attention to lyrics. If I dig the melody and beat – as the boppers used to say on Bandstand – I’ll start paying closer attention to the words, and if the diction is clever or thought-provoking, all the better.

After all, it’s really rare to encounter lyrics that possess the compression and structural integrity of poetry, i.e., to find songs with words that can stand alone on a page and engage sans musical accompaniment.

My friend George Fox’s latest song – so new that it’s still untitled – comes close to accomplishing this rare feat. The song, which consists of three verses followed by a chorus, distills a lifetime in four-and-a-half minutes and does so employing diction, imagery, and structure that reinforce and embody the song’s central theme, what Andrew Marvell famously dubbed “time’s wingèd chariot.” George wrestles with the metaphysics of time, the illusive nature of past, present, and future, and how a lifetime passes [cliché alert] in the blink of an eye.

The song begins with a callous youth speeding through life in rural Orangeburg County, South Carolina:

Just eighteen, driving an old pickup truck,
Joint in the ashtray and a bed full of luck.
Running nowhere as fast as I can
Down an Orangeburg County washboard road
Not enough sense to take it slow.
Rolling Stones singing “Street Fighting Man.”

Here, the theme of speed is introduced, and we have our first bit of compression in the allusion to the Stones’ “Street Fighting Man,” which melds the attitude of the the speaker in the Stones’ song with George’s narrator, both young men fueled by the fire of youthful exuberance.

What’s a poor boy to do but “run nowhere as fast as [he] can?”

The chorus shifts to the present, and again, we have speed, the idea of chasing “the dying light,” or as Marvell puts it in “To His Coy Mistress,” although “we cannot make our sun /Stand still, yet we will make him run.” Yet, in the last line, the speaker comes to the realization it’s always now, that the past and future only exist in the present and meaning lies in perspective, depending on where “you’re standing.”

Right outside of your window, just outside your door,
Everything is waiting for you
To fall into the night and chase the dying light.
There’s no need to be gentle.
Sometimes it’s heaven, sometimes it’s hell.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
All depends on where you’re standing.
I stand before you now, and I see it written in in the clouds,
All that was and is and could be is now.

In the video below you can check out the first verse and chorus from a live performance at Chico Feo’s Monday Night Singer/Songwriter Soapbox, which George emcees. The song is a work-in-progress, and for me, it’s thrilling to see it evolve on stage, as George experiments with phrasing and gestures.

In the second verse, the middle verse, the narrator finds himself suddenly middle aged, “thirty-three/With two little boys sitting on my knee” and has come to know “how love is made,” but swoosh, suddenly, with the days having flown by “like a midnight train,” he looks down to see, not his sons, but his granddaughter Eliza Jade.

Turned around and I was thirty-three
With two little boys sitting on my knee,
And I realized how love is made.
The days flew by like a midnight train.
The years fell on me like the pouring rain.
Now I look down and see Eliza Jade.

The last stanza arrives like a melancholy last act, with “second guesses, another last chance, and one more shot.” Once again, the radio is playing, not “Street Fighting Man,” but “a brand new song” saying “the same old thing” but “still get[ting] it wrong.”

Second guesses are all I’ve got,
Another last chance and one more shot.
And how I got here I don’t even know.
The radio plays a brand new song.
It says the same old thing they still get wrong
Oh man, and so it goes.

And so it goes – a lifetime distilled into a handful of words.

I could go on about structure, how the number three is central to the architectonics – three six-line stanzas, three nine-line choruses, the narrator citing at one point his age is thirty-three, but you’d think I was overdoing it, and you’d be wrong. If it’s there, it’s there, whether the artist planned it or not. Making art is like dreaming, it comes from below, often surprising the artist him or herself.

By the way, George’s band Big Stoner Creek has a new album out. You can check it out HERE.

PS. Here’s an earlier rendition of stanza three and the concluding chorus:

Being of Two Minds: Dionysian Edition


Molenaer, Jan Miense – Battle Between Carnival and Lent

One of the recompenses of old age – and believe me they are few – is that getting rip-roaring, intestine-unloading, word-slurring, sidewalk-reeling drunk has lost its allure.[1]

Oh, Lawd, my geriatric muse, Erratatata has descended:

Dionysius, boon companion of my youth,

has grown so very long in the tooth

that he looks like Nosferatu,

like, like bad, bad juju.

Before
After

Nevertheless, even though my days of dancing-on-tables, driving-MGs-down-parking-garage-steps have long passed, I still enjoy checking out Folly Beach’s party scene, to engage tiara sporting brides-to-be and their uniformed entourages in conversation.[2] I also enjoy making small talk with the young men at Chico Feo or Low Life who share adjacent barstools.  I relish shooting the shit, as my father might put it, with many of the bartenders whom I consider more than acquaintances.

But only for an hour or two. Too many Founders Day IPAs makes Wesley a dyspeptic codger.

Nevertheless, I tip my fedora to those old sybarites who never forsake the temporary comforts of strong drink, the Sir Toby Belches and T. Frothingill Bellows of the world, who belly up to the bar and have at it until the day they started to drink becomes the morrow or until their livers eventually give out.[3]

the great WC Fields

Yet, ultimately, forgive the cliché, but home is where the heart is. There’s nothing I’d rather do than sit on the deck with Caroline on a gnat-less late afternoon and look out over the river at the light maturing, going golden, and ultimately dying, then sitting down to dinner with Brooks and rehashing the day’s trivial events, which all and all make up most of our lives.

Now, as some of us used to say in the 60s, that is where it’s at.


[1] Of course, the cliché “with age comes wisdom” is somewhat true. I say “somewhat” because the wisdom of perspective, of the long view, i.e., the road map that experience provides, is merely two-dimensional. For example, I’ve learned in my old age that acute intoxication comes at a cost not worth paying, but that revelation isn’t exactly profound – it’s not as if I’ve embraced the Four Noble Truths and eliminated desire from my mental makeup, not as if I have achieved the serenity that a life of virtue provides. I still occasionally slip up and get drunk, though that’s never my goal.

Anyway, if old age provides wisdom, how come so many of my senescent brethren wear scowls instead of sport beatific smiles? I’ll tell you why, because their joints ache, they’re lonely, the world is going to hell in a handbasket as it has been since time immemorial, i.e., since the discovery of agriculture, Eden’s end.

[2] In which I offer sage advice like “monogamy is the cornerstone of a non-violent marriage” and “if you get caught in undertow, swim parallel to the shore.”

[3] Sir Toby of Twelfth Night and T. Frothingill Bellows, the protagonist of WC Fields’s The Big Broadcast of 1938.

A Dog Ain’t Necessarily a Gentleman

Victorian Whippet by Michael Thomas

My love for creatures isn’t wholesale. 

For example, I don’t love a dog merely because it’s a dog, don’t love a baby because it’s merely a baby. Loving something just because in falls into category strikes me as indiscriminate.  

Oh, look at baby Putin, he’s so adorable. Coochie Coochie Coo, Vladimir. 

On the other hand, I have loved and do love individual dogs like Jack, Sally, Bessie, Saisy, Milo, Cosmo, Daisy, and KitKat because they cool, not because they merely possess four legs, sport fur, and love you unconditionally if you feed them and offer them the scantest attention.[1] I don’t love babies because they’re supposedly innocent or cute or whatever. I love babies with personality, party babies, babies with soul.  Like this one:

Grandson Julian

If you don’t like dogs – and some people don’t – it’s probably not a great idea to announce it on your Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles.[2] For whatever reason, where I live dogs have risen in status approaching the parental love levels of demi-human.[3]  Sometimes. it seems to me that people who bring their dogs to bars consider their dogs alter egos, like the dog is an extension of themselves, a walking scarf, as it were. I suspect that some dog owners work all day and feel obligated to drag their shepherds and Boykins to Chico Feo or Lowlife for a modicum of stimulation and companionship for the dog while the owners seek human contact and alcohol. 

Unfortunately, today I had unpleasant encounters with three bar dogs. The first one, one of these ubiquitous poodle mixes (perhaps a waddle waddle doodle doodle) was lying underneath my stool and looked up beseechingly and me, so I addressed him as if he were human, saying something along the lines of, “How you doing, Buddy Roe,” and he immediately growled at me, showing his teeth. His owner, a dour faced woman eating an exotic dish, didn’t chide the dog, so I said to it testily, raising my hands with palms pushing outward, “End of conversation, canine.”

A bit later as I was leaving, my passage was blocked by two straining spaniels on leashes, held by an attractive smiling blonde, and when I tried to slide past them, they barked aggressively.

I stopped and addressed the dogs. “Look,” I said, “I come to this bar practically every day. This is my territory.” Then glanced at the woman and said, “I’m serious.” 

A Dear Abby suggestion: If you’re gonna bring belligerent dogs to restaurants, sit in a corner. 

On the way home, the light was beautiful as I walked down Cooper to Hudson to take KitKat out to pee, which she did indeed, happy but not overjoyed to see me. 

The cat, on the other hand, hangs with me in the study, now asleep he is, curled up like a black, hairy caterpillar. No way I’m ever taking him to a bar.


[1] I’m a slack ass grammarian and lazy to boot, so I omitted the verb here because most of the dogs are dead, though a couple are alive, and I didn’t want to clutter the sentence with the verbs “were” and “are” as in “because they are and were cool.” I could have used “be” as in “they be cool.” But you really don’t need it:

            We real cool. We   

            Left school. We

            Lurk late. We

            Strike straight. We

            Sing sin. We   

            Thin gin. We

            Jazz June. We   

            Die soon.

[2] Donald Trump isn’t into dogs, not to mention not being into his son Barron, or whatever his name is. Some people consider not liking dogs a character flaw, but I don’t. Not liking your son is a different matter. Trump’s father doesn’t seem to have loved him, which reminds me of these lines from Larkin:

Man hands on misery to man.

    It deepens like a coastal shelf.

Get out as early as you can,

    And don’t have any kids yourself.

[3] Parental here means ownership. Dogs have become like offspring, especially for single people, which is fine.

Getting Wasted in Margaritaville

photo courtesy of Savannah Morning News via Latitude Margaritaville

When it comes to dead-end hedonism, I’m not one to wag my trembling finger at those Boomers who have opted to spend the twilight of their lives playing pickle ball, riding from bar to bar on golfcarts, or listening to classic rock on what they wished might be a never-ending loop.[1] In other words, I’d be a hypocrite to diss the 55-plus crowd who have decided to purchase expanded dorm suites in the Jimmy Buffet-themed retirement community of Margaritaville.

After all, nearly every afternoon, I shuffle down to Chico Feo to bask in its Caribbean vibe and consume two or three session IPAs (on Monday open mic night maybe six or even seven).  I will say, however, that Chico provides much more diversity than Margaritaville (which you can read about in this New Yorker article).

For one thing, Chico offers a range of ages, from minors unsuccessfully trying to pass off fake IDs, to surfer dudes with their bronze tans, bleached hair, and intricate tattoos; to middle-aged Folly denizens; to tourists, who come in all ages, shapes, and sizes; and finally, to codgers like I-and-I with, if not one foot in the grave, a big toe testing the temperature of the down below.[2]

Chico Feo in the Morning, collage by Wesley Moore (for sale to a hip family)

Obviously, Margaritaville also lacks economic diversity, which Chico possesses in spades. Economic diversity, I might add, enriches those of us who hang with the day-to-day strugglers, which for many years I counted myself as one. Dishwashers and house painters don’t share their First World irritations but tend to embrace the swirling eddies of day-to-day existence where the future exists merely as tomorrow’s sunrise. 

Blind Willie McTell’s dishwasher never went on the fritz, which brings to mind that American musical culture comes to us from the bottom up, from Mississippi Delta shacks and hillbilly hovels, not from the gated communities where Bennington Rhodes is unsuccessfully attempting to tune his brand-new Stratocaster. 

Of course, Margaritaville has its share of house cleaners and maintenance workers, but they’re unlikely to be swapping tales with the parrot-shirted McSweenys, who have forsaken the high taxes of the Delaware for sunny, low-tax Daytona Beach.

Chico also possesses a modicum of racial diversity, and once again, I can’t imagine that many African Americans admire Jimmy Buffett’s meld of country and calypso.[3]  

A bright lightbulb just flashed on above my fedora: Some enterprising entrepreneurs should come up with a retirement community based on Willie Dixon’s music. I might seriously consider moving to Wang-Dang-Doodleville:

Tell fats and washboard sam
That everybody’s gonna jam
Just shake it boxcar joe
We got sawdust on the floor
Tell chicken head till I die
We’re gonna have a time
When the fish head fills the air
Be snuff juice everywhere
We’re gonna pitch a wang dang doodle all night long


[1] I suspect that Eric Burdon and War’s cover of “Mother Earth”: isn’t on the playlist:

Mother Earth is waitin’ for you, yes she is.
She is big and she’s round,
And it’s cold way down in the ground.

[2] They say teaching high school keeps you young because you spend many of your days with adolescents. I think this is true to an extent. Also, you don’t know how close I came to mixing metaphors with that sentence.

[3] Nor am I fan, except for his early album A-I-A.

Wintry Mix

Here’s a brief video of me reading “Wintry Mix” at the George Fox’s Singer/Songwriter Soap Box at Chico Feo on 31 January 2022. The poem is printed below.

Wintry Mix

I’m not a fan of the wan light of winter, the weakening light of day, the marrow-penetrating 
wind off the river, the fallen leaves’ decay. 

I’m not a fan of hypocrisy, the politician’s flipflop, the post hoc ergo propter hoc array of fallacious thinking I hear every day.

I’m not a fan of fantasy, ogres, princesses, dragons, flying carpets defying gravity, flagons containing elixirs, mages with conical caps, sages holed up in caves.

I am a fan of poetry, though, even the darkest of wintery verse, Dylan Thomas’s father’s curse, John Keats’s death lament – that shiny black hearse in reverse.