Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Great Bleeding Heart Lyric

(Through a hallway, into a room, in the corner you wait just watching the shadows

Thoughts that keep you up late at night disappear in the smoke of a thousand cigarettes)

This is the beginning of Fell in a Hole, a song I wrote in the early 80’s. It was released on Wax Theatricks’ last record in 1984.

It’s gratifying to see your lyrics in print. This was the one, of which a rock critic in Hawaii said, “The singer sounds, strangely like Burl Ives.”

Lyrics have always been the most anxiety producing aspect of song writing for me.

With the exception of a couple of songs I wrote with Tracy Wynkoop, Dominic Schaeffer, Fojammi, and I were the principal song writers of the band. All of us tried writing together but the good stuff was so personal we had to work alone.

At the time, if you tried to say too much with lyrics, it was considered pretentious. I’m sure we all struggled with that one. We had to look past it because we really believed in what we were doing. Fortunately we had each other’s standards to live up to. We were all avid readers and we knew we couldn’t get away with laziness.

I think what we were after was some kind of inner truth about the human condition. We were after something so personal it was undeniable. It had to hurt a little.

I’ve seen lyrics from all of us printed somewhere. It not only strokes your ego but you feel like someone is actually listening. Supertramp’s “just as long as there’s two of us” comes to mind.

(It’s you that has to grow, it’s you that has to reach, still you wait around for someone to teach you) This is from Dominic’s Listen to Me. I’ll never forget singing it to my girlfriend Jill while playing it on piano in the Magic Masters studio. She was very impressed. It’s the closer from our first LP “Distances”.

Our songs had to pass the “scrutiny from each other” test. We could be pretty merciless with each other too. If a song passed that test though, I’d feel pretty good about myself. Like Fojammi said in one of his classics, “Rosy colored pictures of myself, you know they’re necessary for my mental health.”

I’m my own worse critic of course. We actually recorded Fell in a Hole before I was finished with the lyrics. They’re in a notebook somewhere. Something compels me to record the finished product.

Benet sent us a link to a guy who apparently had been looking for a copy of Fell in a Hole for years.

Check out this link and let me know if you think Dominic sounds like Burl Ives.

Pic is back cover of our last LP by Matt O’Shea. I just noticed the “for chas” over to the right. He took me on a tour of college stations in Chicago to promote one of our early singles. I think I may have posted about it. After Jill and I split she moved in with him. I believe she was at his band’s rehearsal at Magic Masters studio when he died. I think he had a brain hemorrhage in the middle of practice. We loved him.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Social Networking

About a year ago Sue, a dear friend of mine, told me how much she hated email. “I really miss letters!” she said. I had the feeling she really meant she missed love letters. I asked her to imagine spending $100.00 to send a letter that may or may not reach its destination in a couple of weeks.

Social networking has come a long way since the Pony Express.

There is something to be said for a tactile experience. I have to admit I still have piles of old letters stashed away, especially the love letters.

Hell, even Cheech and Chong’s Big Bambu doesn’t sell on CD. You gotta have the giant rolling paper album cover.

When my friends and I first started with MySpace and then FaceBook it seemed we really had the ulterior motive of advertising our music, art, and writing.

We quickly came into contact with people from our past. Some of whom we presumed were dead. It was wonderful.

I personally belong to 3 childhood neighborhood groups. It makes me believe I’ll come into contact with people I’ve been seeking for years. I actually have found a few long lost friends.

I don’t have a lot of time to spend at my computer. When I do I usually have a lot of work to do. It didn’t take long to accumulate enough friends that I no longer have enough time to keep up with everyone.

I think maybe it was my fault my friend Fojammi joined FaceBook. I got an email from him asking how these people had so much time to spend social networking. He couldn’t begin to keep up with everyone either.

When I go to FaceBook to check in on one of my groups I always get caught in an instant chat. I love everyone there but I wish I could log in and out quickly. It’s gotten to where I’m afraid to log on at all.

I turned 52 last Monday and was expecting it to pass unnoticed. I was actually a little bummed about it. Not to mention the bones seem to be growing a little creakier and the muscles seem to be a little more stiff.

I was surprised with a barrage of birthday shout outs that totally lifted my spirits. They became so numerous that I had to copy and paste my thank yous. I’m sure it was obvious to everyone.

Then the inevitable feelings of guilt set in. I’m never going to remember to wish everyone happy birthday. I didn’t even realize I’d entered mine in my profile. Valerie told me birthdays were posted on the right hand corner somewhere but that presupposes I’ll be logging on often enough to catch everyone.

To give you an idea of how deep my guilt can run, I hate getting a massage because I don’t enjoy giving them. Don’t get me wrong, I love touching, especially intimate touching but a good massage was always hard for me to pull off so I hate getting them. It seems like everyone I know is really good at it too.

I have also always hated the idea of sending thank you notes for gifts. I’d really rather not receive the gift.

The only reason I receive FaceBook comments is they’re forwarded to my email. The problem here is all my friends contact me through FaceBook now. When I reply my letters always come back undeliverable. It’s maddening.

Ninety percent of my kids social life is social networking. I suspect it’s gotten that way for my adult friends too.

Go outside and play!!!!

Pic is the cover of my birthday card from Valerie.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


When I got married I began to lose track of my family rituals. My brother, my mother and I would no longer spend holidays together. I still miss our Christmas Eve chili dinners.

My ex has a large extended Catholic family and my tiny little family was completely swallowed by them.

My mother, though not entirely comfortable with it, would come to the new gatherings. My brother very rarely did. When he brought his girl friend Gwen to one of the large gatherings he would always introduce her as his wife. I think he just thought it would be easier for this very straight group of people to handle. They had already been living together for 10 years.

My son Dylan has always felt the absence of my dad almost as much as I have. He wanted more family from my side. He was very excited to learn I still had a living uncle. He was probably around five when he found my uncle Bill’s address on the Internet. After composing a long (to him) letter he sent it through the mail. Unfortunately it was returned a week or two later “undeliverable”. We let it go at that.

It finally occurred to us all that my mom still had a little family left. Just as my marriage was coming to an end in 2004, my mother decided it was time for my kids to meet her family in Hardy Arkansas. My mom’s mom and brother live there.

My parents met when my dad was visiting his folks there. They owned Udell’s Motel. My mom has pictures of herself in front of a Udell’s Motel billboard before they met.

The visit was great and it meant a lot to Dylan. Family has always been very important to him. We’re all very lucky to have one.

Hardy’s a beautiful place. My mom used to cross the road after school and swim in a river.

Pics show my mom’s mom Marie with the kids in front of her house (she does look like my mom). It used to be my great grandparents Mommo and Daddo’s place. My mom has the kids call her Mommo now. A group pic of my grandmother, mother, uncle, his wife, and our lids. The big stone house is one of my mom’s childhood homes. There are a couple of pictures of what’s left of Udell’s Motel. The kids are standing on a slab of one of the units. The stairwell the kids are standing at the bottom of used to belong to my grandmother Marie. I fell all the way down them when I was three or four and she tore my head off for breaking my new toy watch. Last pic is my mom’s brother Mike, his son-in-law David, and me having a beer in the yard. Hardy is still in a dry county. Mike drives to Missouri, buys beer, and stores them in a giant ice filled barrel in his yard.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


I could probably stand to spend a little time with an analyst on this one. I’m class conscious.

I’m smart enough to know it’s all an illusion. You spend your life believing something and it becomes true. Look at religion or patriotism.

When my ex threw me out my buddy Tracy decided I needed to camp with him on a mountain in the Rockies. I needed to get my head straight.

It was beautiful. I’d crawl out of our little 2 person tent in the morning and look down into a misty cloud filled valley. Our little tent would be in the middle of a herd of elk and I felt lucky we weren’t trampled in our sleep. These suckers were huge.

Tracy and I can’t spend any time together without waxing philosophic. One morning, while we were struggling with a coffee maker that plugged into the car’s cigarette lighter, our conversation was overheard by a guy who was camping by himself. Now there were three of us.

We spent a few days together traveling around Colorado. I finally saw my first real moose with them. It was a momma with her baby. They were hiding out in a herd of elk.

I can’t remember our new friend’s name. Tracy took pics but I don’t know what I did with them.

We were talking about how cruel certain cultures could be about class. He was from India and said something about how tolerant and accepting his countrymen were. I had to remind him of the caste system. He nodded in agreement.

They only reason these things exist is we make them real. It reminds me of the Stephen Colbert Christmas special. Colbert was looking at a little nativity scene. One of the little characters was Willie Nelson. Colbert rubbed his eyes in disbelief. Willie said, “I’m so high, you’re hallucinating!” I think other peoples beliefs can be so strong, you have to believe them too.

I have always been sensitive about class. I grew up practically indigent but surrounded by affluence. The mansions on the private streets of the West End were my playground. Sometimes I felt like a social parasite.

I poked fun at their ostentation. The kids I hung out with were really cool and non judgmental but I had a chip on my shoulder. “It’s not where you came from but where you’re going,” I would say. I was so bull headed I was convincing. I know you can make people believe things if you’re determined enough.

But I was afraid.

I remember one New Years my buddies and I went to a party at one of these mansions. I wore a tux that was way too small, and tennis shoes. A friend of mine wore a tee shirt with a tux painted on it.

A friend, who had invited us, greeted us at the door in the most beautiful, slinky gown I’d ever seen. Behind her in the greeting area a man played a full sized grand. Everyone one was dressed impeccably. I felt like an ass.

I’ll never forget my girlfriend Julie and I were tripping and visiting a friend at one of these homes.We got lost in a labyrinth of rooms in their basement. We stumbled into one room that had a real suit of armor. I couldn’t believe it. We were rolling around on the floor convulsing in laughter.

We pulled ourselves together and made it upstairs. We found others socializing in a room that was surrounded by little glass panes. Outside the yard was covered in a blanket of snow. A young man about our age was sitting on an overstuffed chair that was obviously not mass produced. He was in front of a very large fireplace in a beautiful thick sweater with his nose buried in a book.

“Whatcha reading?” we asked. Without moving his head he raised his eyes to meet ours and said, “Lord Byron.”

My friend Fojammi went to the wedding of one of our friends in this neighborhood recently. He said he felt like Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story. I’m glad I’m not the only one struggling with class.

I know it’s not just privilege that scares me. Poor people scare me too. Brutish, uneducated, television watching, sports fan, lifelong employees waiting for something better after life is terrifying to me.

There but by the grace of God.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Okay now it’s all over. Dennis and Noel’s “Day After” party always makes me feel like I’m starting the New Year on a positive note.

This year we even had a designated driver. Although I’m not sure William Stage was in any better condition than Valerie and I were. He did make sure we got out before all Hell broke loose. Unfortunately we missed Noel singing Funny Valentine.

Dennis got me to shuck an oyster. It’s been more than 20 years and I took about 4 times as long as everyone else.

As I was shucking, Dennis and I remembered one of my first oysters. I thought maybe I’d posted this story before but I can’t find it anywhere.

It was probably 1982 and we’d just moved the kitchen of the Oyster Bar from upstairs to the back of the first floor. We used to shuck oysters at the sink behind the bar. Now we were doing it in the back.

I got a really tough one. I worked on it forever. Dennis handed me an oyster anvil. That’s a big solid hunk of iron you put an oyster on. You do kind of look like a blacksmith when you use it. I still couldn’t get that damn oyster open. In frustration I put the oyster on the concrete floor and slammed the anvil on it. It exploded and thousands of roly polys writhed, twisted and scurried across the floor like some kind of Hellish fever dream. Apparently they had created a vacuum inside the shell which made it impossible to open.

When I became a vegetarian in 1979 I almost made an exception for shellfish. I always figured they had about the same level of consciousness as plants. I sure hope that’s true. Being eaten alive by roly polys has got to be a grisly way to go.

I just realized I must have gotten to my particular level of drunken obnoxiousness last night. I seem to remember telling people they were being awfully shellfish.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Moving On

It’s New Year’s morning and, as I sit at my computer with my traditional New Year’s hangover, I’m relieved that this holiday stuff is finally over. There’s nothing left but the tree.

Years ago my buddy Rib Tip and I decided Super Bowl Sunday was when it came down. I realize it’s a bit of a fire hazard but it’s become tradition.

Valerie and I were at a strange party last night. There were lawyers, artists, and one guy who just got back from the mountains of Peru. He chewed coca leaves with the locals. He also went through some kind of ritual that included exotic psychotropic plants. He had an iPhone with pictures of everything. It filled me with wanderlust.

We do have one more event. William Stage will be taking us out to our friends Dennis and Noel’s farm.

Years ago everyone in my circle of friends either played in a band or worked in a bar on New Years Eve. It was the best money making night of the year. We’d all end up at a friend’s house afterward. The party would continue out in the country the next day.

This is when Rib Tip and I decided we’d start a tradition of jumping into his pond. We had to chop a hole in the ice. The second year we tried it we had a six inch drill bit that wouldn’t penetrate the ice. We were relieved that tradition ended right there.

Rib Tip and I had a strange macho relationship. If he was willing to do something stupid, I had to too. We’d try to outdo each other diving from the highest bluffs we could find on float trips. That came to a stop when a friend of mine dove from a tree, hit a log, and instantly became quadriplegic.

Anyway, back to William. William just had a semi-memoir published about his job as a process server and his search for his biological parents. It’s very funny, I recommend it! (Oh, it’s called Fool for Life).

One of the attorneys at the party last night used him several times to serve papers. It also turns out this attorney owns the Soulard house and court yard we’ve been partying at for several years during Mardi Gras.

It strikes me as odd, all of a sudden, that I never really knew the owners of the house I’ve been intimately familiar with for years. That’s just the nature of Soulard I guess.

While I’m on my “morning after” rant I should also mention my friend, MJ’s, house borders this court yard. Apparently she’s been invited to these parties for years but never went.

MJ is a retired grade school teacher and one of my skydiving buddies. We were skydiving instructors together in Sullivan, MO. She also plays a mean bass clarinet in the Alton Municipal band.

Now that we know the owners of the house, we’ve been officially invited to their next party. The Soulard Dog Parade and Super Bowl Sunday are the same day. I’m going over and drag MJ to the party.

Valerie and I are going into the new year with financial/logistical/emotional uncertainties but I think the older we get the more relaxed we get about our struggles. Maybe it’s a survival tactic but I feel somehow optimistic about what’s coming. People need new beginnings. Not to mention a chance to throw away an unpleasant past.

I have 2 resolutions I’m determined to realize this year. I’m going to finish the record I’ve been working on for years and I’m going to get skinny again. It’s all a matter of distancing oneself from one’s distractions. I’ll learn to stand back in cool detachment in my cocoon of objectivity.

Just for the record this aftermath picture was stolen from the internet. It ain't my place! I also had to repost the pond pic courtesy of Linda and Joe. Brrrrr!