Thursday, January 29, 2009

Kind of blue

Blues music is as ordinary as a dog. In a lot of cases you're talking about a man and a guitar and a time signature like cold molasses; lyrics cut down to nothing but a single declaration of fact.

The moment I 'got it' is engraved very distinctly in my mind. It was genuinely like falling in love. I don't mean romance, I don't mean the limerance; I'm not talking about an emotion at all. I mean that thing that's bigger than you, that flow and change that rolls through you and brings something new to life. I was about 12 or 13 at the time. Nothing has changed.

Now here in my declining years I'm still stuck with this thing and I carry it like a worry. I like a lot of different kinds of music. I love metal, thrash, rock, funk, Motown, I can sing everything off Goodbye Yellow Brick Road word for word in my sleep, I love the Kronus Quartet, Robert Kyr, Bach, Glenn Gould, Aretha tastes are pretty fucking eclectic. But none of it happens to me the way that blues music does and I do not understand that now any better than when I was in Jr. High.

I know I've been annoying on the subject too. I know I have. And I swore I would not be this kind of person. One CANNOT dictate taste to other people. I KNOW this. It's rude. I remember the first time I read American Splendor... I was so blown away that I wanted to walk up to people on the street and MAKE them read it. Of course, I did not do this. That 'social restraint' mechanism in your head that keeps you from having public arguments with trees and cats and dumpsters and shit kicked in, as it should. I restrained myself, realizing that not everybody wants to have complete strangers come up on them raving and slobbering about Harvey Pekar.

That restraint is completely absent when the subject of John Lee Hooker comes up. 'You need to buy this,' I'll inform some poor fool down the racks from me. Apropos of nothing. Just turn to them and hold up the Rhino compilation like John Brown's bible. 'You see this? You need this. Right here. This is the VOICE OF GOD, DUDE.'
I've done this. Yes I have.

Not to say that I like the blues unconditionally, or that I could stand listening to it all the time either; I mean, come on, right? There are simply times you don't want to hear about how someone wants to lay on the railroad tracks and die. But then again, you can hear that in the context of the blues and it will raise you up in your heart like the St. Matthews Passion being sung in a big church will raise you up, if anyone can get with that.

I have no more in common with someone like Leadbelly now than I did when I was a poo-butt kid. I have no idea what it is about this particular kind of music that is speaking to me so clearly. None whatsoever. But nevertheless it cuts straight through me like I don't even exist. I'd like to be able to apologize if I've offended anybody, but to tell you the truth I'm not sorry because I did it for your own good.

The Red Balcony

this is a description of a real place that I used to go to in Portland back in the '70's. I've been looking for a mention of it or pictures of it and no luck. The whole building is gone now.


The Red Balcony was a bar, and like most bars in downtown Portland it had a big mirror and a cute bartender and some old movie posters on the brick walls. What it lacked were the Boston ferns, Nagel prints, and the 'flamingo and palm tree' neon sculpture that would have said 'gay bar'. It was, though.

The first thing you noticed was the height of the ceiling. The walls with their antique molded pilasters seeming to go up and up and up into the gloom until complete darkness obscured their capitals. Sometimes in the evening the sunlight would reflect in off the windows of the skyscrapers and reveal it for a moment; ship lapped fir with flaking paint, blind chipped athenas with acanthus garlands atop the dusty columns.

The bar was mahogany and the top was either zinc or steel; some kind of grey metal that bore the mark of every sharp blow it had ever received. It smelled like money in your hand on a warm day. None of the taps wore a distributors pull. You took the bartenders word that the glass he filled for you was what you had ordered.

This was not a place you ordered a daiquiri. Napkins, no. Umbrellas, monkeys, picks, toy fish, no. If you found anything other than booze and ice in your glass you picked it out and reminded yourself that alcohol is antiseptic.

There were two slate top pool tables in the front next to the only two windows in the place. Twelve bar stools lined the bar, six on either side of the grab rails. Six tables with four chairs each in the front of the house, then a stage in the middle with a dance floor the size of a postage stamp, and finally a large back room with more tables, the walls lined with booths.

A semicircle of eight brass columns rose in barley twists around the stage to support the floor of a large half-moon balcony. A person seated up there had a view over the entire space and yet remained in constant shadow, unless they sat right against the rail.

A perilous, narrow and distinctly non-code corkscrew stairway lead up to the balcony. Each step you took made the entire structure shudder and creak. Flakes of rust fell down onto whoever was standing in line waiting to use the restrooms below. If you didn't think you could make it, then you'd probably be better off staying downstairs. If you made the climb, then chances were you knew enough to conduct your shit once above just as carefully.

Up above in the balcony everything was red and black, all of it old and stained and smelling of spilled drinks and cigarettes, aftershave and Brasso. Low backed chairs lined the rail overlooking the bar, and more of the same were scattered around, along with padded hassocks and low side tables. Bounding this was a Moorish-styled railing, bellied wrought iron, scaled with ancient paint. The only light was provided by one small candle on each table. No waiters served the balcony.

I used to sit at the bar in the early part of the evening and watch the young boys come in after school and go up the stairs, dark hair and sweet smiles as they glanced your way. You could hear them laughing up there in the shadows, lanky arms and legs, smooth faces up above you in the gloom, holding hands as they sat and leaned along the railing, sharing cigarettes, passing pipes.

and the rest of this is up at UJ.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


...ok now go down and read the dugong thing. VVV

Monday, January 26, 2009

rerun: Black Lynx Caution the Five Angry Diatom!!!!!

q: What is a dugong?

The dugong is a member of a small group of aquatic mammals known as 'Sirenia'. Other members include the manatee (which is not nearly as fun a word to say as 'dugong' so we'll just pretend that it doesn't exist) and the (now extinct) Stellars' Sea Cow.

...yes, it's two you-know-what-atees. it's my blog and i'm calling them dugongs.

...which was in fact not terribly cow-like; it was more like a big hippo-seal type thing.
Although it would be really cool if it HAD been like an aquatic cow and it gave milk and said 'moo'? and like maybe it had these huge horns that stuck out REALLY FAR and they would stampede and they'd get in cool fights and stuff? and divers could go down and have rodeos and the seaweed would be like tumbleweeds?

Centuries ago, the first Dugong sightings were reported in the logbooks of Spanish sailors who (upon seeing the bald, grey, flippered animals swimming around chewing on seaweed and burping) immediately mistook them for a race of seagoing human women.

This may say more about Spanish femininity than we care to know.

q: Where do dugongs come from?
a: Duh; the ocean.
q: Oh Jesus fine. What is the life cycle of the dugong?
a: Ah. Well then. That's an interesting question.

When a mommy dugong and a daddy dugong love one another very much, they want to share that love with a baby dugong. So the Mommy dugong lies on her back, and the daddy dugong orders one from Ikea.
But ordering from Ikea can take time, and sometimes the quality sucks, so the smart mommy and daddy dugong usually go to the KING OF THE DUGONGS and ask him for one.; it gets bigger. waaaaaaaay bigger.

This is the beginning of a magical, mysterious process that has very seldom been documented on film. Are you paying attention? I said put down the damn ocarina and pay attention. I don't care if it's called a sweet potato in the rural South put the damn thing DOWN.

Opie, King of the Dugongs, goes out to a sacred place far, far back in the woods where small dugong bulbs lay dormant in the soil. At his command, a small gnome-like creature emerges from the grass and begins excavating.

It digs and digs and digs and digs, throwing soil everywhere and getting exceedingly filthy...soil in its ears, soil in its butt crack, soil absolutely everywhere.

...until finally, the first tiny newborn dugong emerges.

Close enough.

q: Is communication with dugongs possible?
Yes! Recent experiments using extra sensory perception have yielded undreamed-of results in the field of dugong-human communication.

Here a diver uses the 'mind meld' technique.

"Can you understand me, fellow earth dweller? Gentle giant of the sea, can you understand me?"


Q: Do dugongs spy on America and then give all our secrets to hostile foreign powers?
a: Yes. they sneak up on your when you are swimming and yell "DUGONG!" in your ear real loud and then swim away.

Dugongs SUCK.

q: Do dugongs migrate?

a: During certain times of the year the trans-oceanic currents shift, and with this shift comes a subtle change in the temperature of the sea. ...image of migrating dugongs thanks to KYAHGIRL

This is the signal that the dugongs have been waiting for.
Once a reliable source of medical-grade helium has been found and the deliveries completed, they line up along the shore in the light of the full moon, wait for a favorable wind, and ascend towards the stars.

Aren't you glad that only happens in Florida? Talk about making a mess of your car. I mean that would be RASTY. They're herbivores.