Turkey Day

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Ah, Thanksgiving… that special time of year where we traditionally congregate in the company of our loved ones, fill our faces with stuffing and turkey meat, and take time to acknowledge that for which we are most thankful.  However, some years aren’t so traditional, and sometimes we may find ourselves in the company of only a single loved one, or even alone, and we just may or may not be thankful for a goddamn thing.  In these less traditional lean years, oftentimes we find ourselves focusing instead on the things we don’t have:  the loves lost, the lives ruined, the opportunities wasted– the truly good things in our lives we let slip through our fingers only to be lost forever.

So this holiday I’m spending Thanksgiving with my favorite kind of turkey:

wildturkey

Gobble gobble gobble.

 

How Soon Is Now?

There are plenty of great rock anthems out there, but there are only a handful of nearly perfect singles in this world, and this gem by The Smiths is one of those tracks.  I’m old school, so I come from the line of thought that, much like The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, you have to choose either The Smiths or The Cure– it’s theoretically impossible to like both bands equally, so you have to pick one.  Well, I choose The Cure because when it comes to emo angst, I’ll take Robert Smith’s sincerity over Morrissey’s any day of the week.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t acknowledge The Smiths’ “How Soon is Now” as one of the most iconic songs of the 1980s and also one of the greatest recordings of the last thirty years.  With Johnny Fuckin’ Marr’s hypnotic reverb riff and Morrissey’s haunting vocals, this is a song that sticks its hand right into your chest and grabs hold of your beating, bleeding heart just long and tightly enough for you to fully comprehend the pain of loneliness.

“I am human and I need to be loved– just like everybody else does.” 

Yup.

I am the son
and the heir
of a shyness that is criminally vulgar.
I am the son and heir
of nothing in particular.

You shut your mouth–
how can you say
I go about things the wrong way?
I am human and I need to be loved,
just like everybody else does.

I am the son
and the heir
Of a shyness that is criminally vulgar.
I am the son and heir
of nothing in particular.

You shut your mouth–
how can you say
I go about things the wrong way?
I am human and I need to be loved,
just like everybody else does.

There’s a club if you’d like to go–
you could meet somebody who really loves you.
So you go and you stand on your own,
and you leave on your own,
and you go home and you cry
and you want to die.

When you say it’s gonna happen “now,”
well when exactly do you mean?
See I’ve already waited too long,
and all my hope is gone.

You shut your mouth–
how can you say
I go about things the wrong way?
I am human and I need to be loved,
just like everybody else does.

(apologies to The Smiths)

The Prairie Troubadour

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My previous post about poet Stevie Smith got me thinking about one of the other prized volumes in my poetry collection:  Vachel Lindsay’s Collected Poems.  Discovered by chance while browsing the poetry section of a used bookstore in Knoxville, Tennessee [note: used bookstores in academic towns are the best places to find fantastic yet forgotten books of poetry], it was the first (and only) time I’d ever encountered the volume, and I bought it immediately.

One of the first things I noticed about the book (other than its wonderful illustrations) was its dedication page:

IMG_1093“this book is dedicated to Sara Teasdale, poet”

For those who don’t know, Sara Teasdale was a poet with whom Vachel was romantically involved and very much in love.  A man whose means were as modest as his self-image, Vachel was far too worried about his ability (or inability, rather) to provide for Sara, and over much hand-wringing managed to convince himself that no matter how much she might also love him, he just wasn’t good enough for her.  So she, of course, ended up marrying a wealthy businessman with whom she was ultimately unhappy.  (Ain’t life grand?)

For lack of a better term, Vachel was an “interesting” dude.  Handsome, brilliant, and too artistic for med school (he dropped out to pursue his calling as an artist/poet), he was a romantic at heart as well as a bit of a politico.  Nicknamed “The Prairie Troubadour” for the impassioned poetry readings he delivered as he travelled the midwest, he was known as a nationalistic progressive, which seems something of an anachronism now (believe it or not, there was a time when patriotic people could both love their country and want to change it without having to be labeled a Communist).  Never to be mistaken for a cynic, Vachel was an extremely sincere man who stood for his convictions and among those convictions was fighting for equality, especially among racial and socio-economic divides, as evidenced in both his writing and his life (he was an early mentor of Langston Hughes).

Vachel also believed strongly in the musical roots of poetry, most of his verse carrying an undeniable musical rhythm within its meter.  I’ve often wondered what he would’ve thought of the last forty years or so of musicians who fancy themselves poets, particularly the more progressive songwriters such as Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, et al.

vachellindsay“my precious,” as Golem would say

Like Stevie Smith, Vachel was also a draftsman (and a talented one, at that), and his art is scattered throughout his Collected Poems.  And like Stevie, he, too, suffered from depression.  But Vachel didn’t handle his depression nearly as well as Stevie did.  On December 5, 1931, he killed himself by drinking a bottle of Lysol.  I can remember reading about Vachel’s suicide when I was a child, and that image haunted me then just as much as it haunts me now– I cannot imagine a more particularly terrible or horrific way to go.  [note:  two years after Vachel’s suicide, Sara Teasdale would kill herself by swallowing a bottle of sleeping pills]

I’ll finish this post with one of Vachel’s poems.  It’s not his best poem, but it’s one I have always enjoyed for shallow and superficial reasons.  Though Vachel was from Springfield, Illinois, the woman he loved was from St. Louis, Missouri, and I’ve always identified with this poem as a writer from Springfield, Missouri.

vachel lindsay springfield

(I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear

Feelin’ awfully melancholy and nostalgic tonight (Melanostalgic?) and stumbled upon this old tune by the venerable pop/punk band Blondie.  While the band will always be remembered foremost for “Heart of Glass” and “Rapture,” it was ethereal tracks like this one that made them my favorite band when I was a teen (helped in no small part by Clem Burke’s wicked drum fills which made it impossible to listen to Blondie without beating the hell out of everything in sight whilst air drumming).  And name me another rock band to use the word “theosophy” in a song, I dare you.

Was it destiny?  I don’t know yet.
Was it just by chance?  Could this be kismet?
Something in my consciousness told me you’d appear–
now I’m always touched by your presence, dear.

When we play at cards, you use an extra sense.
You can read my hand, I’ve got no defense.
When you send your messages, whispered loud and clear–
I am always touched by your presence, dear.

Floating past the evidence of possibility–
we could navigate, together, psychic frequencies.

Coming into contact with outer entities–
we could entertain each one with our theosophy.

Stay awake at night and catch your R.E.M.s
when you’re talking with your super friends.
Levitating lovers in the secret stratosphere–
I am still in touch with your presence, dear.

(apologies to Blondie)

Life is full of disappointments

Braum's

Waiting in line at Braum’s for a late-night dinner after a long day’s work, I witness a white-trash woman undertaking an arduous order of ice cream.  One of her feet is wrapped in an oversized protective boot as though she had fractured it falling out of her above-ground pool (or possibly trampoline) and the other foot taps incessantly as she stares at the overhead menu.  Quite a line-up forms behind her while she’s hemming and hawing at the myriad of ice cream choices available to her, and after several minutes of mouth breathing she finally speaks:

Woman:  “Now… with the pecan caramel fudge sundae… are those pecans… toasted?

Fast Food Worker:  [brief pause as he’s processing her question]

Woman:  “I mean, are they… raw?

Fast Food Worker:  “Um…

Woman:  “Or are they toasted?

Fast Food Worker:  “I don’t think they’re toasted…” [proceeds to hold up a cup of crushed nuts, apparently not toasted]

Woman:  “Ooooh… nope, that’s not gonna’ do.  Hmmm…

Apparently unaware that she is in a fucking fast food restaurant and not the Four Seasons, the lady goes back to studying the overhead menu, her epiglottis making an unappealing noise as she continues to mouth breathe with her head tilted back.  Her facial expression is one of deep consternation while she carefully weighs her confectionery options, and all I want to do is tell her, “Life is full of disappointments, lady.”  But before I get the chance, my order number is called, so I grab my to-go cheeseburger value meal, the grease from the fries already permeating the paper bag, and get the hell out of there.

Deep

My father was the first person to ever point this out to me many years ago, and I can remember being floored by the concept of having a deathday. I’ve never been a big believer in birthdays– why all the hullaballoo for being born? Every person on Earth has been born, so that’s nothing special when you really think about it. Once you reach a certain age, birthdays become entirely meaningless– there’s really no need to celebrate getting another year closer to dust, is there?

Wonder Of My Worlds

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Southern Accents

Had this song stuck in my head for a while the other day, and I just felt like sharing. “Southern Accents” is technically Tom Petty’s song, but as soon as Johnny Cash recorded it, it officially became his.

This is a wonderfully honest song with one of the most beautiful and haunting bridges ever sung.

“For just a minute there, I was dreaming…”

There’s a southern accent, where I come from–
the young ‘uns call it country, the yankees call it dumb.
I got my own way of talkin’, but everything is done
with a southern accent, where I come from.

Now that drunk tank in Atlanta, was just a motel room to me.
Think I might go work Orlando, if them orange groves don’t freeze.
I’ve got my own way of working, but everything is run
with a southern accent, where I come from.

For just a minute there, I was dreaming…
For just a minute, it was all so real…
For just a minute, she was standing there, with me…

There’s a dream I keep having, where my mama comes to me
and kneels down over by the window, and says a prayer for me.
I’ve got my own way of praying, and everything one’s begun
with a southern accent, where I come from.

We’ve got our own way of living, and everything is done
with a southern accent, where I come from.

(apologies to both Tom Petty and The Man in Black)

royalslogo

Well, it’s time to buy a lottery ticket, I guess, because my Royals just won the World Series in dramatic fashion. Yet another extra-innings game, this one was decided in the 12th inning. The Royals were down 2-0 in the ninth, came back to tie it, and then busted the game wide open with five runs in the 12th to claim their first championship in thirty years. THIRTY YEARS!!!  And all I can say is, it’s about goddamn time.

worldserieschampsRoyals win!  Royals win!

I’ve rooted for this mediocre ball club damn near all my life, and lemme tell ya’– it was tough growing up a Royals fan in Southwest Missouri when almost everyone I knew was a Cardinals fan. But I wouldn’t trade my memories of being ridiculed for rooting for that losing club for anything now. To this day, I’ll never forget going to Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City as a ten-year-old kid to see my first MLB game.  Not only did I get to see George Brett (one of my heroes) play, but I also got to see Bo Jackson break his bat on his knee after striking out.  And let’s be serious here– watching Bo Jackson break a bat over his knee was waaaaaaay cooler than watching him get a hit.

bojacksonbreakBo knows breaking (both bats and hips)

I’ve waited thirty fucking years for this moment (the Royals last won a World Series in 1985, against the Cardinals no less), and the wait has finally paid off.  I can’t help but realize that this would’ve meant a whole helluva lot more to me if it’d happened when I was twelve years old.  But as Charlie Brown said when he was reluctantly given leftover valentines, “I’ll take it!”