For the past couple of months, I’ve been obsessed.
And what could be the object of this utter fascination? The recorded catalog of the original Carter Family, which came into being on the first of August 1927 and concluded in the middle of October 1941. Now, an astrologer might tell you that those dates correspond, roughly, with the period that the planet Neptune, said to rule music, was transiting through the tropical sign of Virgo. But I’m not an astrologer; I’m just a music fan, and a rabid one at that. Still, that idea kind of intrigues me. Because I am, well, obsessed, and obsessed people will seize upon trivia and minor details and obscure little sidenotes the way that a dog bites into a new chew toy.
By now I think I have a reasonably vague idea of how I fell down this rabbit hole. Because I often can become reasonably interested in the mundane genesis of extraordinary things, I became enamored with the Bristol sessions, that last week of July and first week of August in 1927 when Ralph Peer, a freelance artist-and-repertoire man for the Victor Talking Machine Company of Camden, New Jersey, showed up in Bristol, a city straddling the Virginia and Tennessee border in the Appalachian region, with two engineers from Victor and a portable recording apparatus, hoping to record indigenous folk musicians. The newly developed Western Electric microphone they brought with them made these field recordings possible, and opened up a whole new possibility of capturing mountain music and rural blues recordings in their home settings, much closer to the environment where the music was birthed and its creators lived.
Peer had a pretty good idea that this musical panning for gold in Bristol might turn up some choice nuggets, and he had an ulterior motive – he grasped the then-novel idea that songs might become lucrative intellectual properties and copyrights, and he was looking for songs for his own company, Peer-Southern, to publish. So what happened over those two weeks of what’s come to be called “the big bang of country music,” specifically the first four days of August, was that Peer and Victor stumbled upon the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, essentially the two acts that, not long after, would lay the foundation upon which the edifice of country music is built.
I’d been somewhat up to speed on Rodgers, but the Carters never quite had gotten under my skin and into my heart. Sure, I knew that one of my big musical heroes, Johnny Cash, had married June, the middle daughter of Maybelle Addington Carter, who was the guitar-playing genius cousin of vocalist Sara Dougherty Carter; to complicate matters, Maybelle had married the younger brother of Sara’s husband, the mountain folksong collector Alvin Pleasant Carter, better known as A.P. (yes, this being Appalachia and all, family trees often looked more like a thicket sometimes). So, over the years I’d heard, again and again, that this original Carter Family – A.P., Sara and Maybelle – was really important, but that realization never quite took anchor with me.
Nevertheless, Johnny Cash always sang the praises of the Carters – that his mother-in-law Maybelle had invented the style of guitar that anyone listening to country music, not to mention rock ’n’ roll, would recognize instantly, a melody line played on the lower, bassy strings, mixed with chords strummed. It’s a sound you know when you hear it – a simple and straightforward melody line that rumbles into your waking consciousness like a freight train, with those delicious little hammer-on and pull-off notes that you instantly associate with country music. Indeed, until Maybelle came along, the guitar had been relegated to a minor role in string-band songs; the far brighter fiddle and banjo provided the ornamental embellishments, and the guitar was just there to provide added texture. Basically, according to some experts in the matter, if it wasn’t for Maybelle’s innovations, we might all be listening to banjo music. Or accordions, God forbid.
I never quite grasped that significance. My loss.
I also hadn’t fallen under the spell of Sara’s voice, an achingly plaintive but gorgeous instrument that still comes across, even over the distance imposed by pre-high fidelity recording, through a barrier of static and hiss, the kind of wall that can eliminate a lesser artist’s appeal for a modern listener. Seduction often is not immediate, and oftentimes we do not recognize we’ve been hooked until it’s too late. So it was with the voice of Sara, who accompanied her twang-inflected singing by playing the autoharp, a boxlike zither with string-dampening buttons that can be pressed to form chords that are then strummed, or plucked. Even when Peer convinced her to yodel, probably because fellow Bristol discovery and Victor artist Jimmie Rodgers yodeled, and he’d become the biggest seller in the genre, and even though Sara by account hated yodeling, there was magic in the way she let the notes tumble forth on her breath. (I should confess that I also kind of fell in love via old photographs of Sara, a beautiful woman in my humble opinion, but that’s another story and future blog post, and I was dumbfounded to realize that we’d both resided in the same county in interior California for many years, even though Johnny Cash once told me during an interview of “visiting family” there many times. And, I guess it’s been a while since I’ve managed to fall in love or cultivate a loving relationship with a real living person, so sort of falling for a twice-married singer who’s been dead almost 35 years can’t be the worst thing that could happen to a guy, no?)
Also, I hadn’t understood the particular genius of A.P., who quite accurately could be described as the father of the hit single. What A.P. did was adapt songs, which had been passed around from musician to musician and hearth to hearth across the mountains and hollows of Appalachia for generations, for the then-novel medium of the phonograph record. These songs carried stories, and being vehicles for information transmitted via oral tradition, they tended to go on and on, sometimes like interminable sea shanties. The temporal limitation of a 78-r.p.m. record was around three minutes, though, so some editing work had to be done to make them fit. A.P. figured out how to winnow each song down to its essentials, and how to frame it by inserting Maybelle’s guitar parts, typically playing the melody line, as a compositional element, often leading into the song and then coming back several times as an instrumental bridge. Then the group would alternate Maybelle’s instrumentals, Sara’s sung verses, and a harmony part with Maybelle singing over the top and A.P. “bassing in” underneath. This process and principle of compression would form the heart of most hit singles from pop music’s golden era of the 1950s, ’60s and beyond – and, as far as I can tell, this is where it started.
Then, there’s the music to reckon with: “Can the Circle Be Unbroken” (later, better known as “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”), “Keep on the Sunny Side,” “Wabash Cannonball,” “Wildwood Flower,” “John Henry (Was a Desperate Little Man),” “Worried Man Blues,” and much, much more. Even when you think you haven’t heard, say, “I Am Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes,” you have heard songs that share its template, such as Roy Acuff’s “The Great Speckled Bird,” Hank Thompson’s “The Wild Side of Life” or Kitty Wells’ signature song “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels,” an answer record to Thompson’s hit. The Carter Family catalog spans hundreds of songs, most of them in major keys with simple three-chord constructions. And while many of them sound like rewrites of earlier material, there’s something to recommend each one – a unique vocal harmony here, a Maybelle guitar part there, a stunning little twist of lyric that catches you off guard.
I could go on and on, as I probably will in later posts. Not that you need to know how and why I fell head over heels in love with the Carter Family at this late date, but I feel like telling it. Until then, I give you my warmest regards. –Jackson Griffith
Okay, no apologies.
My MacBook died, and I haven’t gotten round to replacing it, and right now I can’t afford it; got to put my dough elsewhere. But if this chinchilla ranch thing I invested beaucoups bucks in comes up with a big payday like I think it might, I may be back with mad swag – or, maybe not. Who knows?
Look, the truth is, I got burned out on writing, and this space turned into a lot of solipsistic navel gazing and blathery philosophizing on why a middle-aged guy finds himself sober and utterly unable to attract the right person into his life, and is mildly butthurt about that. You don’t need to read that kind of semi-tumescent hornswagglery and phosphorescent psychobabble, and neither do I. So I figured I might wait until I had something to say, and then I’d come back and commandeer a ’puter somewhere and say it.
So here we are. I may be back, or possibly I won’t. Hell, I don’t know if I have anything interesting to say anymore. But I’m not a good judge of that.
It’s my guess that you, gentle reader, may be. So here you go. –Jackson Griffith
Of course, here I am again, apologizing for my lack of posting. The other night, I’d begun working on something for this space, and my MacBook started making this weird beeping noise. It crapped out on me, I restarted it, it couldn’t find the hard drive, then I tapped Apple key + C and got it to load, then it started beeping again. I opened up a utility called DiskUtility or something to repair permissions, and the hard drive was marked in red and it told me it could not be located or saved. I’m not a computer person, my credit right now is shit, I’ve got some other pressing bills to pay, and so the prospect of buying another computer is outside the realm of possibility for the near future.
I need a quick get-rich-quick scheme, because I’d begun recording and cataloging my songs for an upcoming project, and that’s out the window now. Also, I would like to do some short song-length videos of me playing my songs to upload to YouTube, so if anyone can help me out there, you can reach me at email@example.com. I’m not going to apologize here again, but I will tell you I am very frustrated. It’s just been one thing after another.
Hope to be back soon. —Jackson Griffith
Didn’t intend to have a crummy day, but that’s just how it worked out. Some days are like that. They pick up momentum, and there’s one little thing that happens that alters the trajectory toward the corner pocket courtesy of a random eight ball, or hurtling into the gutter, or whatever your metaphor du jour may be.
Me? Woke up late, even though I’d gone to bed early the night before. Got to work and all the parking places on the side of the building were taken, and I had to park up front, directly across from where one of the bosses was showing off his new 600+ h.p. muscle car. D’oh. But that was okay; where things went south was mid-morning, when I breathed in and suddenly noticed a stabbing pain in my lung, and then pretty much felt like a compost heap for the rest of the day.
I try to dissect the particulars of whatever is coming up as the day goes along, because I know that it’s possible to turn a day around at any point if you set your mind to it. But my throat was mildly sore, and my temper was unusually short, and it became almost comical how really little things were pissing me off completely.
So then, a spot check using an acronym: Hungry? No; ate taco truck tacos just before noon. Angry? Yeah, more than mildly butthurt that my horizontal intimacies with women have slowed beyond a crawl to a complete halt since the demise of my marriage over five years ago, and rattled that I can’t find a fan base for my music while certain people seem to get booked once a week in this town and jizzed all over by the so-called music critics who took my place when I more or less got pushed out of the writing game by circumstances and opportunistic competitors. Lonely? Well, yeah. Who doesn’t want to love and give love in return? Probably my biggest saudade right now. Tired? Yep. Got home and slumbered for an hour and a half, and I’m still a bit janky.
So here I sit in a neighborhood cafe, looking at a very cute and nerdy couple on what appears to be their first date, discussing what they like and don’t like and what they want from a relationship. I feel like I’ve stumbled into one of those indie movies made by the son or daughter of somebody involved in the entertainment business, who’s got a leg up in the industry by virtue of the Lucky Sperm Club. The date appears to be going well. They like each other!
And now Nora Ephron is dead, and Dick Cheney still walks the earth. —Jackson Griffith
I could blame it on my computer, but the reality is that I didn’t get off my ass this past week to write anything. My aging MacBook is reaching the end of its lifespan, it seems, and I don’t have the cash to replace it right now, as I’ve got to make some amends with the taxman, to make up a fraction of what Mitt Romney isn’t paying. But the honest-to-goodness explanation is that I haven’t made the time.
So, I will be back sooner than later. Promise. —Jackson Griffith
Mitt Romney may be my least favorite politician since Richard Nixon. Actually, I begrudgingly dug Nixon, who might’ve been an all-right chap to hang with in some Pacific Ocean cliffside golf country club cocktail lounge, sucking down old fashioneds and buttering up the old crafty pol to cut loose with those cool stories about squeezing the testicles of the opposition and hiring dirty tricksters to take the bark off them. You know, all that groovy political arcana that’ll turn you into an arachnid-gobbling lizard if you roll with that world for longer than a week.
Romney, however, bothers me on a really visceral level. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it; was it the patrician anti-Bob Dobbs look, or the prep-school prick mien? Not quite. Was it the godlike über-Mormon persona, the wielder of the Keys of the Priesthood, that magic-underwear-clad Adonis here to save us “gentiles” from our wicked ways? Partly, but not really.
Finally, I think I figured it out. Mitt Romney is that soccer dad on the opposite team, the yuppie dickhead who’s constantly working every angle with the refs, cajoling, whining, bitching and carrying on like a primadonna, making sure little Biff or Morgen’s team gets every break. Call him on it, and insufferable entitlement will ooze out of every pore as he comes right back at you with his patent neo-robberbaron bullshit.
I saw a guy pull this crap once. My kid was six or seven, and he was pulling for his daughter’s team from the sideline across the soccer pitch. He was nonstop with the refs, wrongly figuring that the working-class Mexican scruffs (i.e., our team’s dads) would take it up the tailpipe just like he’d been serving up Monday through Friday at whatever bank he probably held court in, dishing out laughably high-interest loans to the poor saps who crossed his transom. But they did call him on his tripe act, by yelling back and openly jeering him. And that pissed him off.
“Fuck you,” he snarled, adding two extended middle fingers for punctuation. Suddenly it was on, and one of our dads ran across the soccer pitch and felled him with one punch. The other team’s dads quickly piled on, and then our team’s dads jumped in, and all of a sudden it was like a cartoon punchup: Biff! Bang! Pow! Cops showed up rather quickly. I grabbed my kid and another girl, the daughter of the guy who threw the first punch, and we got the hell out of there.
Anyway, I’d like to see one of those people who has gotten metaphorically prison-raped by one of these “private equity” job-killing enterprises like Romney’s Bain Capital throw a nice roundhouse right at Romney, but that isn’t gonna happen. Actually, I don’t encourage violence at all; it’s wrong, it’s counterproductive, and it’s bad energy. But still, I understand the seething resentment of the underclass, who have yet to break through the One Percent-funded hypnotic propaganda from Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel and the Bain Capital-owned Clear Channel radio network clearly enough to articulate the true nature of who stole their American dream and stomped all over it.
I could go on about Mitt Romney. Is it that Mormon doctrine of “Eternal Progression,” which tells good Latter-day Saints that they will get to play God and Mrs. God on their own planet after their promised resurrection to the Celestial Heaven? I don’t want to pick on his religion, because that wouldn’t be fair or wise; I only want to point out particular doctrinal quirks that may predispose some members to certain behaviors. Eternal Progression, or “as God once was, man is today; as God is now, man someday will be,” certainly poses a weakness for a narcissistic authoritarian like Romney, much in the same way that, say, that Roman Catholic dogma might be a thorn in the side for anyone in that faith who’s predisposed to unnecessary guilt. LDS Eternal Progression, mixed with a bullying tendency here on earth, might make for a recipe for a really weird star-spangled Mussolini figure. This asshat Romney already thinks he’s god, so a coronation by Karl Rove and the Koch brothers’ pocketbook will make an apparently nasty problem even worse.
Nevertheless, I think Romney’s unfitness for public office has more to do with his career as a silver-spoon-fed big business sociopath, a man who will do and say anything to get elected. Anything. He comes off like the character Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, sending out little poker tells to those of us who are really paying attention, but playing the part of the central-casting silver-templed Wall Street sage to the rubes who haven’t sussed out his monster vibe yet.
I hope they do. I don’t believe in the Antichrist, but if I did, I’m guessing he would look a lot like Mitt Romney. So beware, brothers and sisters. Beware. —Jackson Griffith
Comrades, I return from the socialist paradise of Obamastan bringing great tidings! Which is to say, my bee-yotches, that I’m gonna start writing again, because that seems to be one of the things I do well when I apply myself. So, rather than kick off with a really long-winded post, I’m gonna start out simple, kinda.
Where have I been? You know, working, coming home, practicing a bunch of tunes I’ve written on guitar, staying out of trouble, living a boring life, sleeping, getting up, lather, rinse, repeat. It’s hardly the stuff of wonderful comedy. The biggest excitement lately has been the parking lot wars in my apartment complex, which culminated in a jeremiad posted on everyone’s door that included tow-truck threats, stuff about the pool that I never use, and a new sticker, one allotted for each apartment.
Here’s hoping that puts a crimp on those ladies in the back apartment, who take up two spaces plus one more sometimes when one of their boyfriends stays over. Not that it’s a hassle or anything; I can go park on the street if the lot’s full. But I like parking back there since I pay rent here. Stupid, huh? I mean, the rent is reasonable, and I only have to put up with the orgasmic moans of one of my downstairs neighbors once in a while, which can be amusing if you yourself are finding satisfaction somewhere, but when you’re going through a drought, the effect of hearing that can be mild butthurt escalating to full-on crankiness.
The remarkable thing is that I’m not getting cranky or even butthurt, even though this has been one of the more prolonged droughts of my existence since my pre-sexual years. Aside from one brief emotional rocket-ride-slash-crash-and-burn earlier this year that I may or may not have completely hallucinated, I’ve been pretty much the mystified lone single since Jerry Brown got elected governor to replace that little orange Schwarzenshmeggege fellow. The last time ol’ Jer was governor, he supposedly was getting sideways with Linda, and I was working in a record store and dodging the amorous advances of horny MILFs left and right, not to mention getting busy with plenty of fine ladies closer to my age. So I can’t blame Governor Moonbeam, but these days I have a happy day if some sweet lady smiles at me, or gives me a hug.
Anyhoo, it’s gonna be time for Plan B, methinx. Gonna hook me up some fly suits, a low-riding Cadillac, and a new body of mellow but sexxxy songs with a lot more of an Al Green or Marvin Gaye feel, maybe. Gonna get me a band that can walk the jawaka right out into the audience and drop some panties, and I’m gonna work on my neo-soul man act. Yes, that’s it: If I can combine Al Green and Marvin Gaye with maybe a little Leonard Cohen and perhaps a touch of Serge Gainsbourg, I most likely won’t be complaining about any dearth of lovin’ down the line.
Or, maybe I’m just done and don’t know it. Ergo, shuffleboard, horseshoes, bocce ball. More soon. —Jackson Griffith
Don’t own a TV, but I’m certainly not one of those snobs who turn his or her nose up whenever the trashy content of most television programming is mentioned. No siree. I’m inclined to revel in bad TV. In fact, I’ve spent so many hours and days and years in front of the idiot box, Devo started writing songs about me. There’s no programming too stupid for me to get sucked into, unless you’re talking about anything involving the Kardashians. But that’s because I’ve got an anti-procyonic bias; you won’t cold-bust me watching any cutesy nature shows about raccoons, either.
So by not owning a TV, apparently I am missing out on a hella full-tilt brown-acid meltdown involving various members of the Republican Party who’ve been running for president this year. From what I’ve gleaned by watching clips online, there’s this one guy named Willard, who used to be an empty suit who fronted for a band of rapacious venture-capital coyotes called Bain Predatorial. He looks a mite brittle, like that prick blueblood dad whose browbeaten kid is on the opposing team at your eight-year-daughter’s suburban soccer game, that entitled guy who’s constantly getting in the faces of the refs so that his kid’s team can eke out a win by repeatedly penalizing your kid’s team. You know, that guy about whom you cannot stop obsessing over the idea of ritually disemboweling with a rusty old beer opener. His nickname is “Mitt,” which is Biff’n’Muffy short for “Mittens,” and he is utterly without the subgenius concept of “slack.” He has no slack. None. Zero.
Mittens Romney’s biggest problem, in a field of competitors who are desperately trying to out-Jesus each other, is that his particular religion, while it makes claims that it’s “uniquely Christian,” is considered to be some sort of apostate say-tanic cult by the hyper-drooling, Jeebus-wanking fanatics that make up the majority of today’s GOP. Sure, Mormons wear special undergarments if they’ve qualified for their temple recommend card, and in their temples they baptize dead people, including your relatives, and probably mine, too, by proxy into their church, and their doctrine of eternal progression runs at least a teensy bit contrary to the Christian concept of salvation by grace, but when you think about the stuff that the more over-the-top branches of evangelical Christians believe, which is about one Amanita muscaria cap short of a full-on UFO abduction by day-glo Merrie Melodies cartoon characters who ebb and flow in exquisite Busby Berkeley-choreographed formations, I’d think your average Latter-day Saint is pretty darned reasonable by comparison. My major quibble is that the LDS mothership in Salt Lake City bankrolled a “Don’t let the gays and lesbians get married” initiative in my home state of California, then bused a bunch of “volunteers” to my state to push for its passage. Not cool, Mittens and other Mormons. Not cool.
Fortunately for Romney, his competition is hilariously unelectable. Consider one Isaac Newton “Newtler” Gingrich, who has been described as what looks like viscous lumps of mashed potatoes poured into a suit, then topped by a rotting Jack O’Lantern that was thrown away by the neighborhood serial killer/child molester, who’d tried and failed to carve the pumpkin to look like Pedobear to draw the kids within striking range, but instead it ended up looking like some hallucinatory Aztec approximation of a Hieronymous Bosch angel of death. Gingrich tries to sound affable, and smart, and even reasonable, but his patronizing and bullying natures usually come out when he’s challenged, whereupon he behaves like a cross between a cornered wolverine, or more accurately a honey badger chomping on a week-dead cobra, and a petulant toddler dragged kicking and screaming past the candy aisle in a Walmart. But don’t you want to “do” his third wife, Callista? That spray-on newscaster helmet hair! That kabuki makeup! Imagine her in banana-yellow silk lingerie, her head and neck dripping with jewels from Tiffany, crouched on all fours on a cheap flea-market rug resembling the U.S. Constitution, cooing the 70-page John Galt address from Atlas Shrugged as you, uh, gosh darn it, I’ll shut up now before I get myself into real trouble. But I already am.
So, well … uh … Ron Paul, on the other hand, looks like Mayberry deputy sheriff Barney Fife, if ol’ Barney’d sold his soul to the devil and then got tricked by Baron Samedi into spending the rest of his earthly days stealing nuts from squirrels. The one caveat is that Barney the nut stealer was given the gift of charisma by Auld Scratch as a consolation prize for his bedebbilments, so that he would appeal to anyone thick enough to have made it all the way through The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged without laughing derisively or throwing those literary masterworks into the shredder, instead acquiring a fanatical devotion to Paul and his ideas. (And you Pauline apostles, especially you pot-smoking ones, I wrote the above just to piss you off. I fully expect you to fill my inbox with angry letters defending your hero. Do not disappoint me.)
Oozing out of the Lone Star State, Rick Perry pretty much dumb-shat himself into oblivion with an on-camera derp-derp-derp moment that was breathtaking in its stupidity. So he’s back at the old family hermitage in Cabeza del Negro, Tejas, pondering whether or not to attempt a Gee Dubya-swaggering comeback in one of the Southern primaries, riding up, ahem, bareback on some hawse from the family ranch, firing a couple of nickel-plated Colt 45s at any lib’ruhl media clowns who might be lurking about. I say go for it, governor. Wear the ass-less chaps the lads in Austin say they’ve seen you sporting in local watering holes while you’re at it. You know them Babtists don’t care if you’re one of them hoe-moe-sekshuls as long as you ain’t one of them Utah Mormon devil worshippers, because you of course love the real Jesus.
There’s another dick in the race, I mean another dick named Dick, because there are a big bag of dicks running as Republicans this year: Rick Santorum, however, is somewhat of a surprise. I guess if you stick around for long enough, somebody will ask you to dance. In this case, it’s a half-bright lawyer from the Keystone State who got elected to the Senate, and managed to lose the next election by, what, 40 points? This guy is that hammerhead on a high school debating team who, when he isn’t comparing gay bedroom behavior to “man on dog” bestiality, or Mormon polygamy, keeps whipping out his toolbox of logical fallacies to pummel every opposing viewpoint like a drunken chef tenderizing some calamari, to where everyone else is snickering and betting on what completely idiotic spew the sweater vest-wrapped bonehead will say next. And I won’t even mention how he’s enriched himself with wingnut welfare from private healthcare companies, or that thing with the stillborn baby that squicks me out so badly I can’t even make a joke about it, not even one involving cheesesteak preparation.
Hey, speaking of food, let’s look at the others. Pizza Guy flamed out, which is too bad. I thought that with that smoking campaign manager, Herman Cain was almost fixing to get ready to ratchet up the surrealism to way past where it already is. Maybe bust out some fine music at his campaign appearances, like the extended mix of “Candy Licker” by Marvin Sease, or maybe “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-A-Lot, while the big-butt dancers from Bobby Rush’s blues revue come parading out onstage to shake major can at befuddled reporters and Republicans. Maybe unveil a big Baphomet logo when he discounts the price of his nine-nine-nine extry-sausage combo to six-six-six. Meanwhile, the trouble with one sexually harassed female crawling out of the past is that, pretty soon, they’re crawling out of the woodwork like cockroaches after a pyrethrum cleanout in the kitchen of a greasy spoon. What to do, what to do? Don’t be a pussy: Own it! “Shucks, yes, American voter. I have been known to be a victim of my lustful urges. But I am deeply sorry, and I have confessed to my God, and Jesus, and my preacher, and my loving and faithful and understanding wife, so I have been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb the Redeemer, and I am ready to like be your president and stuff.” That’s how you handle that shit.
Michele Bachmann dropped out, too. She’s bag-o-nuts crazy, of course, but nevertheless I’m disappointed, because her husband the pray-the-gheh-aweigh “doctor,” whose loafers are reputed to be even lighter than Liberace’s, would have done a fine job redecorating the White House. But she’s no longer a factor. Boo hoo. And who else is left? Jon Huntsman? He’s still in the race? Oh, he’s all right. His daughters are kinda dorky for making those videos, but they’re kind of hot. Maybe Huntsman will do well in New Hampshire tomorrow. But he’s the same religion as Romney, which unfortunately does not “test well” with certain dominionist Christian types.
And where is Sarah Palin? Why, God, why?
It’s bedtime. I could write more snarky stuff about these clowns, but I think I’ll go buy a TV instead. —Jackson Griffith
The trouble with maintaining a blog is that you think of all sorts of things to write about when you’re doing something else, like working, or driving, but when you finally sit down in front of the computer, all those great ideas go right out the window. So you end up, or at least I end up, spewing a bunch of “blah, blah, blah, I’m not feeling so good right now” twaddle that comes nowhere near the brilliant, elusive, dreamy posts that fly in through one ear and out the other before they make it into typed words. Oh, if you could have seen the posts I composed in my head.
I’m sitting here in a cafe typing into my laptop right now. The impermanence of life is weighing heavily on my mind, and has been for a while. The holidays are over. One person I knew, a man who helped me out a lot, simply by living an example and by exuding serenity when I got to a crisis point over 19 years ago and had to abandon one way of life for another, died over the holidays. Another person I’ve known just about as long, who was around when I was wrestled by life into surrender, is reportedly on her deathbed as I write this. My daughter, 23 and beautifully independent, left for Thailand right after Christmas on a one-way ticket. I sincerely hope there’s a god, or maybe some benevolent spirits, who will watch over her and keep her safe.
Me? I’m not a loser. I make a lot of mistakes. Lately, the task of making amends has been coming up, partially because of where I am in a certain spiritual-growth process, and partially because, well, I’m sick and tired of making the same mistakes over and over, and I’m tired of doing stupid things that hurt people I care about, and I want to stop and I want to set things right. I’ve got one in particular that’s at the top of the stack, an old friend I badmouthed on Facebook, and maybe somewhere else I can’t remember because I was in a fugue state of being a butthole. I’ve tried to make amends several times, with no response any time. Please don’t laugh.
Many of my resentments seem to grow out of my frustration to be heard as a songwriter and musician. I get frustrated, then bitterly resentful, and then that negative state I’m in, along with the damage I’ve caused, turns people against me. What I really need to do is let go of any desire to play music — not give up, but just let go. I did that for my nonexistent love life, which is still nonexistent, but at least I’m not torturing myself anymore whenever a beautiful woman crosses my path, or worse, a beautiful woman who at one time professed love for me. It doesn’t mean I have to stop playing music or singing or writing songs; it just means I have no expectations that anyone other than me will give much of a hoot.
This morning I woke up to a pretty cool dream. It was long and byzantine, probably fueled by the anodyne Tom Ka Gai soup I ate the night before to ward off this horrible fluey-coldy thing that hit me on New Year’s Eve, and all I remember was the end. I descended with a small group of people, familiar to me but I can’t recall their names, into a cave that led to another world inside the Earth, kind of like Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, which I’d enjoyed in comic-book form (Classics Illustrated) until I stupidly took it with me on a Boy Scout 50-mile hike and the Scoutmaster caught me reading it behind a tree and he made me burn it and a couple of other childhood comic favorites, me weeping like a pussyboy at losing some things I loved dearly, in front of all the other Boy Scouts.
Anyway, this group and I descended into this other world, which was verdant and primitive, like the plants were at an earlier stage of evolution. There were these younger boys, like my sons, and at one point one of them told me how cool it might be if we could fly. “What’s holding you back?” I answered him. “It’s easy. Watch.” Then I got a running start, but my arms out like plane wings and took off. I was zooming around this inner dome world, rising and diving and doing barrel rolls, and I saw that they followed. The sky was pink and orange with clouds, and the landscape was lush and green, like hilly jungles that went on for miles. At one point, I flew over what looked like some kind of modern defense installation, or maybe a nuclear power plant or a UFO, all gleaming chrome in the bright light. My mind couldn’t make sense of what it was doing in the corner of this domed jungle world of my dreams.
And then, we all landed, and it was time to leave. There was a woman sitting in a lounge chair on a deck, and she was a composite of my first girlfriend Jo and my daughter’s mom Lynne and a couple other women I’ve loved. She looked up from the newspaper she was reading, and as I walked by she rose up and planted a big kiss on my lips. “It’s so good to have you back, Bri,” she said, calling me by a shortened version of the middle name I’d gone by in my younger years. “It’s so nice to see you acting like your old self again.” I’m not sure what she meant. I mean, I kinda have an inkling, but I’m really not so sure.
Then again, there is a lot I do not know, and probably never will. —Jackson Griffith
So what did you do to ring in the new year? I dragged myself out of my little hidey-hole, figuring that it would be much better to welcome the new year while being somewhat sociable than just chilling out in my apartment. Didn’t really have a plan; walked a few blocks to Tres Hermanas, a Mexican restaurant in my neighborhood, and right after I got seated, a threesome that I think might’ve been roasting a bowl on the sidewalk came in, carrying a really big bottle of cheap (Cook’s) champagne, acting like they owned the joint. That takes stones; the only thing cooler would have been if it was Andre cold duck. The guy was hispanic, with one of those goofus fauxhawks and a fake tan; he was wearing a black dress shirt with a really ugly crimson tie. One of the two women was a blonde, the other a brunette; both had painted-on dresses, and the blonde’s lingerie covered up her tats, but the brunette had a bunch of stuff in what looked like olde English script tatted all up and down her slightly plump legs.
There was a couple seated in between them and me, so I only could gander snippets of their conversation; something about “you look hawt,” directed toward the blonde, and a rather loud passage wherein Mr. Ladies Man was arguing over his cell phone with what sounded like a cab dispatcher about the price of getting from Tres Hermanas to the Mercantile Saloon, an easy five-and-a-half block jaunt by foot in athletic shoes, made slightly more difficult in counterfeit Louboutins. I kept trying to take pictures of them, because they were such a funny sight, but I am the world’s worst photographer. When I left, Fauxhawk and the blonde were decamped outside with their champagne and cigarrettes: “You look sooo hawtt,” he told her again, “but Gina just looks sooooo trashy tonight.”
Later, I made it over to the Fox & Goose in time for D.J. Larry Rodriguez’s big soiree, which must have been pretty fun. Except that Sir Nose D’Voidofunk hit me with some kind of anti-bop entropy gun, so I got rhythm about as well as Mitt Romney, which is to say, not at all. Everybody was dancing, and had not committed to Larry that I would pull the string at midnight that would release the balloons, I might have bailed. I mean, I could not dance, I could not feel it; what I was feeling instead was crummy, increasingly crummy.
Once I got home, I didn’t leave until this morning. On New Year’s Day, I felt like that Detroit Lions fan who ran in front of a bus, except that I lived through it. At least I think I did. Maybe not. I just proned out in bed, slept, woke up, read, and dreamed of buying a toaster. That’s what my life has been missing, I thought: The ability to make toast on demand. So today, finally, I scraped myself off the mattress and into the shower, and then made it across town to pay rent and go to Target to shop for, you guessed it, a toaster.
I hate stores. I hate shopping. I hate other people in stores who push massive shopping carts down aisles and expect me to stop concentrating on various makes of toasters so I can flatten myself against the shelves to make it easy for their obese juggernauts to pass me by. I hate getting in line behind some couple whose teenage daughter is still running around the store grabbing stuff to buy, only to sprint up to the checkout and dump it on the counter ahead of my solitary toaster, solitary because I didn’t feel good enough to buy more stuff. Meanwhile, everyone else who made smarter picks for lines to get into have bought their swag and moved out the doors. Especially I hate shopping when I don’t feel good. Still, I ain’t about to pepper spray anybody.
Right now, I feel like a catbox left to fester. I’m doing laundry. But I did make amends with the guy I’d maligned, described in my last post here, by apologizing, saying I was sorry, telling him I’m really working on not practicing any more of that dickish behavior, which is rooted in my own insecurities that the world has passed me by, and I asked him if there was anything I could do to make it right. There is one other person I offended a while back, a big shot in the local music scene, to whom I’ve sent three separate messages apologizing for my behavior, but he’s choosing to ignore me and my entreaties, or not acknowledge them. Which is something I have no control over. If he doesn’t want to accept my amends, that’s his choice.
I just have to stop shooting myself in the foot. And I gotta start feeling better, too. —Jackson Griffith