The older you get the the less a day off is a day off. It becomes an auxiliary, all unfinished business is stuffed in square-peg-in-round-hole style til counter-intuitively the day off contains more work than the work day. I use mushrooms to get by.
But lets let that wait for now. This morning began innocently enough with one of my recent favorite distractions, playing songs on Blip.com. I'm sure it's making someone money, but every now and then I get "props" from a pretty woman with good taste in music and it keeps me another inch from the edge. Fuckin A.
So sometime later I walked Ella over to the laundromat for some long overdue washing. When I say--or evince in pure spirit as is so often and disorientingly my m.o., that this will be the summer of hallucinogenics and the pursuit of happiness I should, again both literally and in pure spirit as evinced, add that I have also taken an unexpected interest in cleanliness. As my days at the Goose are numbered--soon I will be but another lay person crashed out on the right side of the bar, I have found a new affinity for clean skin, clean hair, and sartorial trapping free of burnt zucchini's unmistakable aroma. Got me a haircut, a few items of personal hygiene, and have every intention of getting some new clothes before the tax return money is spent. No rivulets of salty beer sweat here, just crazy trippy shit happening in my head all day and night. Doctors will trace a catatonic burn-out condition back to this precise moment. When we imagine the purpose of writing do we ever really anticipate it as having evidentiary impact? Isn't the notion that it could come of anything similar to the notion of death, it's been proven time and again, but the prospect of it happening to ones self is, though not unrealistic, a tab bit hard to picture. Someday this writing will explain a catatonic state. There.
So I was at the laundromat with Ella, when a not unattractive woman approached me to pet the dog. It was not long before she told me all about her dogs, the accumulation of pet hair on the rugs and empty nest syndrome. She was really good natured and Ella liked her. Now I don't know if it's because I was still drunk from the last night or whether she was communicating strangely (kind of like the Orson Welles movie, The Lady from Shanghai, which for a number of reasons, both technical and performative, involving the sound track of the movie I have no idea what it's about beyond the things a compromising man would do for Rita Hayworth). Whatever the chemistry, I ended up slightly puzzled by her, and in short turn found myself trying to play catch-up with her meaning. She raised terms like "task bartering", "child bartering", and "hang it on so and so". It developed into one of those Double Indemnity scenarios. If I'd have leaned into her and asked, "You want me to kill your husband, right?", she'd have--still petting the dog with a puckered baby play face mind you, have rebuffed me with, "Not here, we can't discuss it here."
I don't like speaking ill of exhilaration, but the truth of it was that the Jefferson Starship song "Miracles" was playing on the radio in the laundromat as all this was happening and I just figured the prevailing air of confusion was a small price to pay to hear a song I'd always loved, the album of which I would likely never buy. We pay. One way or the other we pay for what we take.
I walked Ella home with the peculiar memory of the woman who wanted me to kill her husband ebbing as a more distant one quickly emerged. This too involved "Miracles" and the presidential election of 1984. I was nine, and the song was on the radio. I got up before everyone else, and ate cereal by the radio. I had just seen Walter Mondale on tv. I have no idea, apart from the unbiased sequencing of long-term memory, why I link these events, or even why my imagination chose to fight so strongly to keep intact two banalities equally well-served apart. But really, is what I don't know now so much worse than what I didn't know before conceding to this? I am, above all things, striving for inner peace, and the shadow of doubt must find its bay.
Earlier, maybe an hour or so. It was a Saturday and I had the tv room to myself, waiting for cartoons. At that hour only the odious Christian-themed cartoons ran, and even then I found them unpalatable and hated the shoddy manner in which they attempted to disguise their moral monochromaticism with such bland characters and shitty artwork. So I watched an informercial with Walter Mondale, he was discussing America's problems, the poor and such, basically making his case for the presidency. I liked him. He didn't seem like the kind of guy who would push you around. Reagan always struck me as the kind of guy who would--like the kid at school to whom everyone was nice, but only because he was a violent asshole whose self-amusing wrath you'd just as soon avoid. My dad was awake. "Miracles" was on the radio and summer as I first knew it permeated the absorbency of my alert life. I thought this has to be a woman singing, but a woman who sounds like a man. I always thought Carly Simon sounded like a man, too. Like in a vacuum I could picture Carly Simon as a dude. It amused me from a young age to find that not only was Carly Simon a woman but thought of as something of a sex symbol. Sometimes when flipping through records at a store I'll see cover art depicting an attractive but forgotten singer. Julie London comes to mind, but I know there are better, more recent examples, just none I can think of off the bat. I think: it's instantly clear from this moment in time why this person got a record deal and why it didn't work out. I wondered to my Dad why he didn't support Mondale instead of Reagan. After all, my Dad hated douchebags and bullies as much as anyone. His response is unprintable.
A palindromic current of conservativism originated that would change courses in a feeling of being had just before my college years. I still get a laugh though when I pass a record by Carly Simon in a record store. Whatever dude.
There are two primary qualifiers for the great American city. The first is the presence of decent Ethiopian food. I like Ethiopian food, I'm not nuts for it. Probably why I find it such a reliable indicator, that in its failure to arouse me personally it still manages an emissarial statement. The second is that of at least one annual birthday dance party honoring Morrissey.
Pittsburgh, I learned today, qualifies on both terms.
Lately I've found the signage of this city curious. The first example concerns our annual birthday party honoring Morrissey. Among the selling points of the bash, listed first in fact, is 'Fresh Pastries.' But then at some point after the sign was posted--the copy I saw was posted in the vestibule of Brillobox, 'Delicious Pastries' had been crossed out. Barring either a myopic act of vandalism or an equally bizarre tribute band named 'Delicious Pastries' I had to conclude that there was a falling out between the venue and the baker, or between the party-thrower and the baker. Or perhaps between the three of them. It amused me to imagine--whatever the cost to actual human emotion, the fraught exchange, the revoking of baked goods, and finally, the revised notion of a Morrissey dance party with no baked goods, as had been promised. Even bakers have problems. But in the end we all stand to gain from celebrating Morrissey's birthday. Here's hoping they patch things up in time.
The other rash of signage I mention touches on a sensitive subject here in Bloomfield: three slain police officers. Before I come off glib let me, for the sake of all due respect, say that officers Eric Kelly, Stephen Mayhle and Paul Sciullo III died valiantly on Saturday April 4th of this year, killed by an enthusiast of the Second Amendment and outspoken opponent of our Zionist state. Infamy being a kind of fame only vaguely--and I'd say imperceptibly, dimmer in apprehension I'll refrain from repeating his name. Sufficed to say the community has, as the saying goes, come together in the face of it. There was a service up the street with bagpipes and a choir. I took Ella for a walk and watched the procession. I wrote to my parents, and recall a sense of grief I had not felt for fallen law enforcement since September 11th.
In the time since the shootings I've witnessed a distressing proliferation of flyers papers nearly every store front along Liberty Avenue. It started with one that appeared, as do candidate election placards in regular distribution. But over the weeks more personalized ones have popped up--a barbershop down the street posts seven--and a sandwich board. The message, though given to slight variation consists of three basic tenets: we show gratitude; we remember (vigilantly staving off the abnormality that is a forgetful mind); and we take single-faith comfort in knowing the slain police officers are with God now. Several businesses have taken to peddling "Fallen Heroes" bracelets. They're $2.00 each.
There really is no way to segue through to my point now without coming off as a cynical, aloof collegiate liberal. So fuck it. The fact is these signs, these advertisements and souvenirs have become highly distressing. They fetishize the grief, ignore the very valuable banalities of living, but most importantly they trivialize the world of death that surrounds just these isolated three.It s a funeral that refuses to end--an abnormality. What began as personal expressions of grief and gratitude for honorable service has turned into a drone loop masking several unsettling elements of the crime and how it affects the community below its surface.
First, when not mourning slain police officers many of us, to varying degrees of course, live in fear of them. It makes the slayings no less tragic, and in fact as cop-fearing citizens many of us reveal our unconditional sympathies in just such moments. We too were moved to great sadness. The deferment of our fears has lasted nearly as long as the fundraising efforts.
Another aspect of this incident which has been obscured is the poor custodianship we have, on so many levels, made of the Second Amendment to the Constitution. As a gun-owner myself it wasn't until the Cheney-Bush Administration's Department of Homeland Security was instituted that the real impetus for this provision was felt in earnest. Til then I just took it as an outdated entitlement to personal and organized defenses against the government (which it is) misused to ensure unstable persons will, on principle alone, be able to buy dangerous weapons (which it does). I remain convinced that the Amendment is valuable to individual freedom. But the all or none approach, as this incident bears out does not work. Furthermore the one-sided focus on the victims is an unjust distraction from a great problem: The criminal element responsible for, and Constitutionally enabled in, the commission of these heinous acts.
I overheard a wingnut on the radio lay the blame on the police dispatcher for not giving proper advanced warning to the doomed officers. Imagine the firestorm had air traffic been blamed for 9/11 as opposed to, you know, the terrorists.
And you know I don't do myself any favors by writing things like that: There are columnists and comedians who do it much better than do I, more articulately and fearlessly, with firmer insights into the framing legislation and debate. But Jesus Christ, the signs.
So it is with a confessional heart and the sincerest desire to get off the burning path into the cool spring grasses of inconsequence that I come to the photograph included above.
Seen in the tableau are a bag of wheat flour, a bottle of Angostura bitters, a photograph of Truman Capote taken in the 1950's by, I believe Arnold Newman--or maybe Irving Penn, and in the foreground a plastic bottle of distilled white vinegar wearing an ill-fitting stopper. You see, last night as I sat watching It's All Fair Weather at Gooski's with Dave & Sarah, John, the bartender uncorked a bottle of Blanton's bourbon. The cap is a pewter racehorse--perhaps a subliminal emblem for its complementary effect on the mint julep, sitting atop a real cork stopper. On removing it John said, 'I always tell myself to hold onto these. But what would I do with them?'. So I grabbed it, knowing I would wake up to find my hoodie pocket smelling of (a better brand of) bourbon the next morning. So I awoke and so it did, and so it still does. Somewhere in my reasoning too was the idea of creating a momentary piece of art in which the stately stopper was tucked into a cheap bottle of no real consequence. King for a day. There you have it. I made good, but the effect, even I have to admit, is kind of poor. I suppose there is some fabulous consolation in that I tried.
Truth be told I discarded the stopper after snapping off the picture. And I suppose that when all other messages of expression fail they succeed at least in lighting the end.
Update: It's Delicious Pastries not Fresh Pastries. Delicious Pastries. They're a band. Kinda sounds like they're in the wrong line of work. I regret nothing.
Alexej von Jawlensky Das Oy-Tal (Russian-German 1910)
What a difference a Rozerem and spring cleaning can make. Uncluttered, chemically well-rested, and at the foot of a day off, I am happy to say the world of music is alive.
Borodin. I ought to not be talking about this Russian chemist's first string quartet, as it is a weekday diversion. But it takes up a grand space in me, and as such, warrants honorable mention. The daily ritual is to soft cook some eggs on macerated tomatoes--I add a pinch of light brown sugar to coax them along, give em a dash of sesame oil and some chili flakes. It's one of a few dishes I make in which the dog shows no interest. I eat in peace.
But it's a moody record, and today's going the opposite way. A few weeks ago I mentioned how charismatic I (finally) found Neko Case. Well, leave it to Camera Obscura to sneak in and steal her seduction-by-songcraft thunder with their most recent, My Maudlin Career. Singer Tracyanne Campbell didn't gild lilies this time around, and the songs feel, compared to the sugary Let's Get Out of This Country, a bit restrained. It's only fair to say that by nearly ANY other standards they are anything but. However it is amid this mirage of disciplined jubilation and heartachy effusion that Campbell's voice achieves, as does ideal bath water, the temperature of disarmament. No one that I can think of in indie or even mainstream pop has the hypnotic sexuality she has. Over the past decade or so of music nerddom I've fallen into a pattern of infatuate, over-estimate and disappoint when it comes to throwback artists. Maybe it began with Shelby Lynne, or Macy Gray. Hell, maybe Lyle Lovett. Anyhow, the clause "not since" has come to signify a kind of reliable warning. So when songwriting teams Boyce & Hart and Lieber & Stoller began to infect my swoony response to Camera Obscura I was alarmed. Take a line (from 'You Told a Lie') like:
Are my eyes the coldest blue?
You said once this was true.
If it is I don't know what I'll do
'Cause I'm stuck with them,
And they're stuck on you.
Setting aside the physiological effect it has on me, it's a chorus whose literal invocation of blue-eyed soul is an elevation of the tired sub-genre mantle. Mind you both in production and performance it draws self-conscious attention to its craft. But when you got it, flaunt it. This is quite simply the best country soul record I've heard in a long while.
So too was I the recipient of a righteous blood rush from Ghost, whose performance this past Thursday at the Andy Warhol Museum pushed them in the pantheon of bands I've most left the seclusion of home to see out. It's such a dynamite equation. Each time I get a slight reservation, handing the dude my ticket. This is psych rock. I could be home, high, on the couch. You know, the ideal context. Ghost produces such a diverse and inter-colliding host of sounds, moving from Rundgren-esque piano pop, to blast-out Nuge rawk that the opportunity for distraction is simply nowhere to be found. Even when they spread out Ghost eschews noodling. It is reassuring too that not only does a band of this cultish a status care enough to play such a career-encompassing set, but that in doing so they could do a solid sequence. For as small a listenership as the band seems to enjoy there isn't a hell of a lot of filler to their repertoire. Glad I left the house.
In truth, I am back to spinning the Borodin now. So much for weekday solipsism. In between shocks out in the world it is easiest to make happiness out of habit. And the moodiness sponsored by a chemist, that's something that, for better or worse, refuses to leave you.