Monday, June 26, 2017

It's Always Right Now

He couldn't drive. The D.U.I. you know. I had to go by to pick him up. We were both playing short sets for some benefit. They tend to run together over the years. His little duplex apartment was tucked into what had become seedy, bordering on ghetto. As I tried to avoid the bicycle debris pulling up to his door, I heard my rear tire let go. I had run over some brake parts.

He had told me not to get out when I got to his place, that he would come right out. Well, now I was going to have to use his phone to call AAA. The old days, huh?

When he peeked through the front door I could see the chaos over his shoulder. I had to wait for him to put the one dog into a bedroom. A biter. He held the other one, the smaller one, by the collar as he yelled for me to come in.

There was no order to anything in the place. I wasn't expecting Architectural Digest but this was just sad. Books, records and old magazines were everywhere. The papers on the floor still had the dog waste on them. This was beyond bachelor pad culture. Well beyond.

Just above the phone was the only "art" in the place. It was a framed, black and white photograph. Of me. Neither one of us said anything.

I called AAA and we waited. Outside.

He took his life about a year later. Lots of us never got over it.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

On The Nature Of Love

  • Seems to me love's like water. You can see that it's there. You can feel it. You can't really control it, though. You hear stories and they tell you in school that too much of it will kill you. Maybe. I've never seen anybody complaining about too much of it. I'm not one to tempt fate but it seems like a good way to go. Love, not water.
One thing's sure- you can't do without it. Either one.

Greedy investors have been buying up water rights for a long, long time. Oh, we're not running out but if you can control folks' access to it, you can charge them a ransom for what we've always considered free.

Don't think for a single minute that the Koch brothers wouldn't buy up all the rights to love if they had any idea where to get it or how to store it.

Here's a secret. Don't tell them. It can't be stored. Use it or lose it. I suppose that we all tend to be frugal with it. We don't want to waste it or give it to somebody who won't give any back. I hate to admit it but I've been stingy with it, too.

There's good news in all this hippy-dippy gobbeldy gook. It doesn't take any effort. In fact you have to work to withhold it. Now, that's my kind of endeavor.

If you've gotten this far, I know what you're thinking. I don't care. I've always been like this. I'm not waiting for a Pulitzer or a Nobel Peace Prize. To quote my pal, Bill Kirchen, "You can't pay me what I'm worth, I don't work that cheap."

Pray for peace. Search for truth. Settle for love. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Beneath Me

In my lifetime I have watched hate and greed invade all facets of this American culture. When I was a kid, a preacher caught up in a scandal was out of business. He had "fallen" and was to be pitied but could no longer ply his trade. 

A banker, at one time, was on the street looking for a new career once his reckless behavior cost his customers their life's savings.

Crooks ran the music business from the time that I was aware of a music business. Generally speaking, though, they were crooks who loved the music. They might have been cheating their artists out of most of the money but they were buying them Cadillacs to show some measure of appreciation.

Politicians have always been suspect here. Any hint of scandal that ended up in the newspaper ended almost any elected official's career, though. Now, at the highest level, and I do mean highest level, we tolerate outright lies. Not only do we tolerate the lies, forty per cent of us approve of them.

When I was eleven or twelve years old professional wrestling was the pinnacle of melodrama. When the Von Brauners battled the Volkoffs, with the losers forced to leave town, I thought that the world spun around that ring. Two evil, Nazi brothers; fat, shaved heads, goatees, evil sneers, and to top it all off, a sniveling coward of a manager with an umbrella who certainly appeared to be Jewish. Gentleman Saul Weingeroff. And gay! He would, of course, climb cowardly into the ring and whack any opponent who seemed to have any physical advantage over Kurt or Karl during a match. Well, what the hell would you expect of a Jew? A gay Jew!

Now the boys were really up against it by the time that Boris and Nikolai Volkoff hit town. Need I remind you that we were only a few years beyond Duck and Cover in the public schools. The warts all over Nikita Khrushchev's face figured prominently in many of my end of the world nightmares. We still had artists and writers unable to work as a result of McCarthy's despicable actions.

Yeah, Nazis and Commies. I thought we had peaked.

It would have seemed ludicrous if you had told me that gutter culture could sink lower. If you had described a seventy one year old man who sported a spray tan of a weird orange hue with greenish-yellow hair swirled around on his head, who waddled when he walked and bellowed mean, vitriolic rhetoric in sentence fragments, and bragging that he was able to grab women by the pussy and get away with it because he was famous...

Let's not leave this picture unfinished. What if we had hours of filmed lies from this character. What if he had left court records of cheating people and breaking laws. What if he had proudly boasted of his infidelities and publicly humiliated the mothers of his children. 

You don't really suppose that we might turn over our government to him. Do you? Trust him with the nuclear codes? Stand by and watch him dismantle our state department and the agencies that protect our environment? Put religious zealots who don't believe in science in charge of our children's education? Dismantle our inadequate health care industry to concentrate even more of our finances into the pockets of a few American oligarchs? Hire on Wall Street crooks whose names we remember from wrecking our economy before?

What if he surrounded himself with weird, spooky old white guys who looked like they showed up for the casting of villains in the next Batman epic? Evil turtles and the like. 

I couldn't make this stuff up. I don't have the imagination.

Oh, I wasn't happy with the way things were going. I don't think many of us were. It might be beneficial for you to read up a bit on psychopathy. Mental health specialists have said that the preponderance of them in D.C. is staggering. I have to say that I used to wonder how they knew that, how they could quantify any such thing. 

Now I know. They just look around.

I'm still betting on good. On love. Sometimes I worry though, that we get the government we deserve.


Friday, June 23, 2017

What Have I Missed?

Lemme see here- over the years I've been lucky enough to see and hear Sam Cooke, LaVern Baker, the Rolling Stones,  Elvis, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, Benny Joy, Johnny Preston, Clyde McPhatter, Brenda Lee, Little Willie John, John Prine, k.d. lang, Waylon Jennings, Guy Clark, the Drifters, the Platters, Marv Johnson,  Cowboy Jack Clement, Muddy Waters, Flo & Eddie, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, Ike and Tina Turner, Los Lobos, James Brown, Lyle Lovett, Ray Charles, the Who, Arthur Brown, the Grateful Dead, the Staple Singers, Minnie Pearl, Duane Eddy, Lucinda Williams, Sam and Dave, Dr, John, Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, Taj Mahal, Tom Waits, Frank Zappa, Billy Joe Shaver, Moondog, Sonny & Cher, Junior Walker, Jackie Wilson, John Hiatt, and Big Joe Turner. I'm sure that I'm leaving folks out. 

I've played on bills with Van Morrison, the Allman Brothers, Wilco, the Band, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, the Shangra Las, Sly & the Family Stone, Jerry Jeff Walker, the Dave Clark 5, Sam The Sham and the Pharos, the Chambers Brothers, Steve Earle, Jimi Hendrix, Bo Diddley, Bill Haley and the Comets, the Gentry, the Knickerbockers, the Steve Miller Band, Billy Preston, Dave van Ronk, Tiny Tim, Alabama 3, Andre Williams, Wanda Jackson, Three Dog Night, Irma Thomas, Dion, John Mayall, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, the Flatlanders, Patti Smith, Rufus Wainwright, Chip Taylor, Nappy Brown, the Sir Douglas Quintet, Judy Collins, the Cyrcle, Pete Seeger and Canned Heat.

I have promoted shows for the Byrds, Derek and the Dominos, Donovan, Janis Joplin, Cat Mother & the All Night News Boys, Terry Reid, Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen, the Kinks, the Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Mike Bloomfield, Creedence Clearwater Revival and so many that I've tried to forget.

My good fortune has had me accompanying Gene Vincent, the New Beats, the Coasters, Chuck Berry, Monti Rock III, Edwin Starr and countless heroes.

What was the best show I ever saw? Hank Ballard and the Midnighters. Tomorrow I might give you a different answer.

What was my biggest thrill? Probably Elvis offering to teach me karate. He didn't, of course. Maybe Speedo inviting me to a party in the Coasters' room. Honestly it's all been a thrill.

There are plenty of stories in there and probably more that I've forgotten, 

When it's time for an obituary, though, I'd go with:

He never saw the Beatles. He's never seen Bob Dylan. Never saw Hank Williams. He never saw Nervous Norvus.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Flash Love, Smile Pretty

As I watch Americans continue to vote against their own best interest I am reminded that greed is at the center of our culture. From our treatment of the native Americans who greeted us right through slavery and, more recently, the LGBT community. The nineteenth amendment to the constitution in 1920 finally gave women the vote. Now we have decided that corporations are people and money is speech. We can't look to religion to get us out of this mess. The televangelists preach greed and hate to the desperate and the uneducated. There is nothing shameful in this country when it comes to bigotry.

What will happen with healthcare in the United States? Maybe I'm missing something here but, it seems to me that the voters are interested in their own best interest. I should say their perceived best interest.

Ten years of my life were devoted to saving the environment through government work. When my salary was eliminated from the budget, (I was told not to say that I was fired), I worried that it might dampen my enthusiasm for the environment. It didn't. It did, however, sour me on government. Oh, I'm a patriot when it comes to theory.

I will go so far as to suggest that good men and women still serve in the ranks. Unfortunately, bad guys have all the tools to see that good work will not be done.

Some priorities seem obvious. To me. Peace. Health. Education. Environment. Infrastructure. Culture.

Somehow I am managing to maintain what scraps of sanity that I still have. I will vote. I will resist. I will work for candidates and parties that play fair and don't cheat. I will not hate, yell, cheat, lie, insult, belittle or disrespect other human beings.

Cheaters win. I suspected that from time to time as a kid. I was told, as you were, that the meek would inherit the earth. Let's just take a quick glance at the top of the heap, shall we?

If I had answers I would type them right here. I will offer this advice- don't play their game. Let them cheat each other. When they flash money, you flash love.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What Do You Do?

When I told my friend that I was a son of God, he laughed at me. As I tried to explain that he was too, he was busy calling me arrogant and conceited. Delusional. It's more uncomfortable when I fill out government forms. Worse yet, as the men stick their hands out as they enter the conversation at a cocktail party.

" Hey. Ralph ..., eminent gynecologist. What do you do?"

"Evenin'. Hal ..., wealthy personal banker. Member of the Yacht Club. My dad was, too. Sometimes I dress up like a pirate and throw up on my loafers. Is that your Maserati? What do you do? How much you make?"

I'm trying not to be judgmental here. Doesn't look good on a son of God. To tell you the truth it would be nice if the pay was better. A little better.

I've sold stuff and I've managed folks. I've played guitar, mopped floors and written newspaper columns. I've put sauce in bottles and I've battled within the government for the environment.

The fact is, though, I don't really do anything.

Oh, I write songs. If you hum and whistle while you work, you write songs, too. Johnny Mercer was a songwriter. I write songs.

Hopefully this doesn't sound like I'm whining here. I'm not too bad a guy. My ambition has been saving the world since I was eighteen or nineteen years old. I might have bitten off more than I can chew.

Don't get too close to me- I'll get love all over you.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

They Don't Know Any Better

Oh, to turn it on and turn it off. Sometimes I envy the ones whose emotional meters go from one to one hundred. I pegged the needle at about six hundred when I was a kid and I can't keep my foot off the pedal today.

Every child who wakes up hungry. All the dogs on the street. Every soldier who misses home in the name of some made-up god's war. The broken hearted mother in the nursing home who does have a memory. Lots of memories and no visitors.

Visions of the one-legged seagull who didn't seem to be able to catch any of the crumbs.

The payoff for the ones of us who came without insulation on the wiring is pure, perfect joy. It's in every cute kitten video on You Tube and every baby's laugh. Rock'n'roll was built on it. It manifests on love.

When I was a kid I dreamed of a compound where all of my aunts and uncles, all of my cousins and my beloved mother and grandmother lived and nobody ever had to leave. Ever.

I still wish I believed in heaven. I'm glad I believe in love.