everything you ever wanted to know about nothing at all...

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I'm trying to read your poetry but I'm helpless like a rich man's child...

It was a relatively quick phenomena, I never really cared much for poetry. I figured poems to be people sitting around in a garden pondering the beauty of a flower. They always seemed so abstract & pointless to me & I figured nothing worth knowing could be divulged in such a short amount of time, & if it could, I certainly didn't have the patience to sit there & figure it out.

One of the most finger on a chalkboard exercises would be when a teacher would ask the class what they thought a poem is about. What every great poet or songwriter knows is that once their words are out there, the poem is only half finished. The other half comes from the readers interpretation, thoughts, or feelings about the work. The reader could be dead wrong about the meaning from the writer's perspective, but the writer in most cases will never have the opportunity to set the record straight. Another one of my pet peeves is when a poet or songwriter tells these grandiose stories about what inspired their poems. Most of the time, if a poem is worth anything, the story never lives up to the poem, & the poet has given away the secret about how the rabbit got into the hat. The magic is lost.

The poem is an extremely tricky thing. I've tried it, & I don't have it. With a song, you can count on the melody & the rhythm to carry or in most cases overshadow the lyrics. With prose, you have lots of room to get your points across & you can count on certain verses or lines to carry others. A poem has to be tight & there's no room for error.

The first poet I really read was Philip Larkin, & he dispelled the idea that I had in my head that poets were air-headed dreamers & sissies. He was pissed off & bitter, but his words could be beautiful in the face of it. Most of the poets I liked had this frame of mind, but later I'd expand. My favorite poets still are the outlaws, the people who have an urgency in their writing, with the thought that "if you don't get what I have to say in these three stanzas you'll never get it, so I better make it count, rules & conventions be damned".

My sister bought me a gift certificate to Borders for my birthday, so the first thing I thought of was the Oxford Book of American Poetry that I've had my eye on since it came out last year. I'll let you know how it goes.

Here's a new one...

Barton Springs,

by Tony Hoagland

Oh life, how I loved your cold spring mornings
of putting my stuff in the green gym-bag
and crossing wet grass to the southeast gate
to push my crumpled dollar through the slot.

When I get my allotted case of cancer,
let me swim ten more times at Barton Springs,
in the outdoor pool at 6AM, in the cold water
with the geezers & the jocks.

With my head bald from radiation
and my chemotherapeutic weight loss
I will be sleek as a cheetah
-and I will not complain about life's

pedestrian hypocrisies,
I will not consider death a contractual violation.
Let my cancer be the slow-growing kind
so I will have all the time I need

to backstroke over the rocks & little fishes,
looking upwards through my bronze-tinted goggles
into the vaults & rafters of the oaks,
as the crows exchange their morning gossip

in the pale mutations of early light.
It was worth death to see you through these optic nerves,
to feel breeze through the fur on my arms
to be chilled & stirred in your mortal martini.

In documents elsewhere I have already recorded
my complaints in some painstaking detail.
Now, because all things are joyful near water,
there just might be time to catch up on praise.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Accidentally Like a Martyr-Bob Dylan (song by Warren Zevon), Kent 2002
Messiah Ward-Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Abattoir Blues
You Will Miss Me When I Burn-Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Greatest Palace Music
I Was a Lover-TV on the Radio, Return to Cookie Mountain
Tiny Cities Made of Ashes-Sun Kill Moon

Happy Tuesday, friends...


Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Fool Such as I

Pardon me, if I'm sentimental...

Ah Saturday, endless possibilities. Perhaps my good gal & I will head off to the beach or play some tennis or golf. Maybe both. That Simpsons movie looks tempting, but I think I'll wait until some of the excitement wears off. I still haven't seen Micheal Moore's new movie, Sicko. Christie & I went to see Harry Potter order of Phoenix last night. I was proud of myself, one of the theater employees made an announcement about some new type of screen before the show, & upon conclusion, I started a round of applause for her announcement. Christie then hit me. Hard. As for the movie itself, I felt a bit out of the club, as I haven't seen any of the movies or read any of the books, I've only seen this.

I thought about undertaking the project I've been putting off for a year & a half now, painting the stairway & the upstairs hallway this weekend, but since I'll be headin' to the east side tomorrow, I wouldn't be able to finish it, so I'll save it for another weekend.

Why the title, you ask? Well I had the song runnin' through my head since I woke up this morning. Elvis sang it. Hank Snow sang it. Bob Dylan & the Band played it in the basement of Big Pink. I don't think anyone else can top those three. I think it pretty well sums me up.

Words & Music: Bill Trader
(Now and then there's a fool such as I)
Pardon me, if I’m sentimental
When we say goodbye
Don't be angry with me should I cry
When you're gone, yet I’ll dream
A little dream as years go by
Now and then there's a fool such as I

Now and then there's a fool such as I am over you
You taught me how to love
And now you say that we are through

I'm a fool, but I’ll love you dear
Until the day I die
Now and then there's a fool such as I

Now and then there's a fool such as I am over you
You taught me how to love
And now you say that we are through

I'm a fool, but I’ll love you dear
Until the day I die
Now and then there's a fool such as I
Now and then there's a fool such as I
Now and then there's a fool such as I

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Ninety Miles an Hour (down a dead end street)-Hank Snow

A Fool Such as I-Bob Dylan & the Band, Genuine Basement Tapes

I think I picked up all the Basement Tapes at this little used cd shop in Grand Rapids. They were selling all five cds illegally, but I was thrilled to come across them. They were never meant to be heard by the general public, but it's some of the greatest music the collaboration had made. These were made up in Woodstock before Woodstock became the mecca of counterculture that it would later become. Some of the music from the basement tapes went on to be perfected on The Band's greatest album, Music from Big Pink, later on the Columbia's two disc Basement Tapes Release & of course in concert, but none of these match the magic of these old grainy recordings of both traditional & original material.

Long Black Veil-the Band, Music from Big Pink

Hold on, Hold on-Neko Case, The Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

Sign on the Cross-Bob Dylan & the Band, Genuine Basement Tapes

Happy Saturday, friends...


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Sea & the Rythym

Hello, friends. Happy Tuesday. Things are swell here in Grand Haven. Tonight, I got to use the Ipod that Christie bought be to it's full potential: on a hike at Rosy Mound. For those of you who don't know, Rosy Mound is this little nature park south of Grand Haven. It's nature trails take you through the woods & past the dunes until you get to the beach where you have a nice secluded view of Lake Michigan. The beach is much cleaner than the State Park beach that everyone goes to, & there's also less people, probably because the hefty hike you have to go through to get there. Some day I'll take some pictures & post them for you to see. The big lake never fails to intrigue me every time I see it. Sometimes it's the miles away deep waters that interest me, imagining what it's like to be out there & what creatures lie withing. Today you could only see for a couple of hundred yards, so it had the effect of being on the edge of the world. It reminded me of that movie, the Truman Show, where Jim Carey is stuck in a television show about himself & he doesn't know it until he hits the edge of the lake & the end of the set.

Now, to the Ipod. This little thing is quite the instrument, I feel spoiled not lugging around a hefty disc player & a stack of cds shoved in my backpack. I also feel spoiled having so much of my music at my fingertips that I can switch songs or albums with a push of a button. The function I like the most is the shuffle, as it forces me to listen to stuff I haven't listened to in a long time or songs that I often skip over. How could it be that it's been so long since I've heard Robert Johnson's They're Red Hot or Know Your Rights by the Clash? Good stuff.

It was a great weekend, Junior's wedding was a lot of fun & one of the more interesting receptions I've ever been to with the bride & the father of the bride singing songs before the meal. I'm proud of the big ogre. Christie took a bunch of pictures.

I got a couple of special visitors at the store today, Grams & Aunt Jeanne stopped by on their way to Russ's. It's always a bit surreal to see family members at work, since although I've known them all my life, they've never seen the place I go to every day. The visit was short & sweet & a nice break during the day.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Free Ride-Nick Drake, Pink Moon

Underground Dream-Son Volt, the Search

Wagon Wheel-Old Crow Medicine Show

I can't get enough of this song, lately. I don't know what it is. See for yourself. Six months ago, it was I Hear Them All by OCMS that would never leave my head. I must see these banjo pickers & fiddlers in concert someday. The guy plays Lee Oskar harmonicas, the best kind.

Accidentally Like a Martyr-Warren Zevon, Excitable Boy

They're Red Hot-Robert Johnson

Happy Tuesday, friends. I hope you all have good songs playin'...


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Train of Love is a coming, big black wheel's a hummin'...

One year for Christmas, my mom & pop bought me this Karate Kid house because I was a huge fan of the movie. I'm quite sure I asked for it, since for a while I would run around the house doing that stupid karate kick that Ralph Machio did where he'd hold his hands & one leg up in the air until he was ready to kick. The house, of course, was a piece of junk, & none of the stuff from it worked. We took it back to the store, & instead got a toy train set, which turned out to be one of the best Christmas presents I'd ever received. Setting up the train set was one of many things my old man & I used to love doing together along with playing basketball, baseball, ping-pong, watching the Three Stooges, & going to Bud's. A couple of years later, Oma & Opa gave my dad his toy train set from when he was a kid & we bought several new cars for it & set up the tracks every Christmas. He still sets it up for the grandkids, but I think he likes playing with it just as much (I know I do) as they do.

Why do I bring this up, you ask? I just saw this clip on the you tube about Neil Young & the train set he set up for his disabled son. Watch it, if you can. Many of you know Neil Young only by his nasal voice & controversial songs, but this clip is incredibly touching.

I've never been on a train. I could hear the train go by from my house in Waltz & on Valley, but I've never been on one. Maybe I'll make that one of my goals for the second half of 2007.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Train of Love-Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash Tribute 1999 (song by Johnny Cash)

Hate it Here-Wilco, Sky Blue Sky

Heart of Gold-Neil Young, Massey Hall 1971

Honest With Me-Bob Dylan, Philadelphia 2002

Beast for Thee-Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Superwolf

Happy Wednesday, friends. Happy Birthday, Savvy.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sky Blue Sky

Happy Sunday, friends. It's been a while. The last couple of weeks have been filled with all kinds of little adventures.

It seems to me that any time there's either something you look back on fondly, there's a song or an album that will take you back to it. I'm not sure, but if I had to guess, it'd be the song What Light from Wilco's new album Sky Blue Sky.

"What Light"
If you feel like singing a song
And you want other people to sing along
Just sing what you feel
Don’t let anyone say it’s wrong

And if you’re trying to paint a picture
But you’re not sure which colors belong
Just paint what you see
Don’t let anyone say it’s wrong

And if you’re strung out like a kite
Or stung awake in the night
It’s alright to be frightened

When there’s a light (what light)
There’s a light (one light)
There’s a light (white light)
Inside of you

If you think you might need somebody
To pick you up when you drag
Don’t loose sight of yourself
Don’t let anyone change your bag

And if the whole world’s singing your songs
And all of your paintings have been hung
Just remember what was yours is everyone’s from now on

And that’s not wrong or right
But you can struggle with it all you like
You'll only get uptight

Because there’s a light (what light)
There’s a light (one light)
There’s a light (white light)
There’s a light (what light)
There’s a light (one light)
There’s a light (white light)
There’s a light (what light)

This is a good lesson for anybody, if you ask me. If you believe in something, don't be afraid to put it out there loudly for everyone to hear. It reminds me of one of my favorite Dylan lyrics, "I'll tell it & think it & speak it & breathe. I'll reflect from the mountains so all souls can see it. Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinking, & I'll know my song before I start singing." There's more on this song, later.

Anyway, on to the proceedings. I took a couple of days off for my birthday, & Christie went well out of her way to make it special. She's quite good at that. Other than getting me this fancy Ipod contraption, which is just the coolest thing since sliced bread, she also arranged for us & some of my best friends to go to the Tiger's game on July 3rd. Go here for pictures. We had incredible seats & it was a great game, even though the Tigers couldn't come through with a victory despite having the bases loaded & only one out in the tenth. It was exciting to see a game that meant something to go into extra innings. It was a great time, & it was great to see my friends from Detroit for the first time in a long time.

On the fourth we watched the obligatory fireworks in downtown Grand Haven with Jr & Debbie, then it was back to work for a few days. On Saturday my Ma & Pa came over for a visit. We went to church & hung out in downtown Grand Haven on Sunday before Christie's parents came over Sunday evening to meet my parents for the first time. The East West Summit, as it came to be known, went off without a hitch, with Christie's dad & my dad swapping stories. This was good because I didn't have to carry the conversation, something I'm not particularly good at.

It was back to work on Monday for a day before Christie & I headed north to Traverse City & Interlochen for the Bob Dylan concert & for some sight-seeing. It doesn't matter what the destination is, I love getting up early in the morning with a big cup of coffee & some music & hitting the road. It was a beautiful drive, you can see the difference in the countryside as soon as you get north of Muskegon. The first place I stopped once we got into Interlochen was the old cottage we used to stay at on Duck Lake. I'm guessing the last time I was there would've probably been 1993 or 1994 & I found it right away. We took some pictures, which I've stolen from Christie's camera that are at the top of the page. The cottage didn't look any different than when I was there as a kid. Maybe there's a different paint color or something, I'm not sure. Oh, & the cows aren't there anymore. When I got to the stairs to walk down to the water the number 37 popped into my head. Sure enough, there were 37 stairs.

We then went downtown Traverse City for some shopping & to go to the Cherry Festival before heading to the Dylan concert at the Interlochen Fine Arts Camp. I'll save my review of the concert for later, to save those of you who don't like reading about those types of things.

The next morning we went to Mabel's for breakfast & then took a walk along the beach on Grand Traverse Bay before heading to the edge of Michigan on Old Mission Peninsula. When I got to the edge of the peninsula I remembered that I'd been there before, but I certainly didn't remember the drive. It's incredible the views you can see from 37 between the two bays. It makes me ashamed that I don't go up there more often. We walked to the very end of the peninsula & hung out at the edge for a while. The water is so blue. It was a beautiful day, although a little chilly to swim. I did put my feet in the water on many occasions, however.

We decided to save the wine tasting for another trip & instead headed down to Frankfort for shopping & lunch. Call me crazy, but Grand Haven has nothing on Frankfort other than more tourists & more condos. In Grand Haven, the water has become so territorial, with developers striving to build on any square inch of land that can even see the water from a distance. It's not that way in Frankfurt, where you can easily see the water from many vantage points. I hope it stays that way.

On the way back south from Frankfurt, I decided to stay on m-22 rather than getting back to the quicker route of taking 31 back to Grand Haven. Little did I know that this is the most beautiful stretch of drive I've ever seen & it goes from Frankfort to Manistee, going past Onekama & Arcadia. Around many corners came the most beautiful views of Lake Michigan & other small lakes.

From there, it was back home & back to real life. I suppose you could call it a vacation, although it was only two days. I could've stayed up there much longer.

Anyway, on to the show...

It was pretty incredible to see Bob Dylan in such a small town, & the Interlochen Fine Arts Camp was a perfect venue for a show. It wasn't overcrowded, the parking was free, it was easy to get in & out & the staff was very friendly. You could hear a jazz band practicing in one of the cabins on the walk towards the auditorium. The students still wear the blue uniforms that they did when I saw them 15 years ago. It's a wonderful little wooded campus, with many small wooden cabins & unobtrusive buildings that don't take away from the wooded landscape.

This was the first time I've dragged Christie to see Bob in concert, & it was interesting to hear her perspective.

Before heading in to find our seats, I saw Denny Freeman, lead guitarist for Dylan's band, casually chatting with a fan. I fought the urge to talk to him about the tour & what it's like to play with Bob, although maybe I regret it. Oh well.

Our seats were towards the back, but there weren't any bad seats in the house. Jimmy Vaughan opened with his band. He's an excellent guitar player with a competent band, but his slick blues sound doesn't do much for me. As a performer, he's the opposite of Bob, talking to the audience quite a bit, & making gestures on stage that go along with the songs he's singing. The rains started pouring down during his set & the people who were on the right side of the stage got drenched as the wind blew in & the water came in off the roof. It was the student section, however, & they loved every minute of it, dancing along to the songs. Jimmy then played his late brother Stevie Ray's song, Texas Flood, which was recieved well from the audience.

The rain let up after Jimmy Vaughan's set, & the stage was set for Bob, complete with black drapes over the side of the stage so you couldn't see Bob & his band walking from their bus to the stage, which backed right up to Green Lake. You could see the lake & the stage at the same time.

The band came on & started playing Cat's in a Well, with Bob on electric guitar. It was a good start to the show, & it was great to see Bob on guitar again after five years. Don't Think Twice (It's Alright) is one of the songs that got me interested in Bob's concerts a long time ago, the way his voice would drop as he sang "it's alllllllllll-right". This one, however, wasn't very good. Bob flubbed the first few lines, & again later in the song. His guitar seemed to be behind the band.

Things got better with Watching the River Flow. Bob sang it very strongly, I was struck especially by the line "I wish I was back in the city, instead of this ol' bank of sand, with the sun beatin' down off the chimney top & my true love so close at hand". About this time, you could see canoe's & pontoon boats anchored on Green Lake, enjoying the show. Not a bad place to sit & listen to a show, if you ask me. Next came a masterful version of It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding). I was looking forward to hearing this with the new arrangement which really brought this song back to life. Bob sped through each line in order that he could really stretch out the last word of each line. It worked to great effect.

To Ramona is a song where I love the lyrics but hate the melody, the lilting up & down kind of gives it a circus feeling. It was a good surprise, though, as I've never seen him play this live & it was quite good. The thing that makes Bob Dylan concerts such a thrill for me is the fact that he's got this huge catalog of songs which works as a tapestry to play & sing these songs with vastly different arrangements & vocal mannerisms. You never hear a song sung the same way, he always changes up the pace of each line & the emphasis of each word so that its always on the edge. This version was a great example of this. Rollin' & Tumblin' was the first song played from Modern Times, & he was back on the organ. It's probably the worst song off the album, & it didn't interest me too much, but the crowd was into it. He flubbed up the funniest lyric from the song, "some young lazy slut has charmed away my brain". Another song from Modern Times was next, When the Deal Goes Down. The song bores me on the album, but hearing it live is another story. It's a slow, sleepy song whose melody reminds me of one of those Country Time Lemonade commercials, but the lyrics are something else entirely. I think this song is about the connections & promises people make to each other, in the face of trials & hardships, & knowing how difficult & rewarding those promises will be. This song got the best reception from the crowd. A slow, sleepy song for a slow, sleepy town.

Honest With Me was performed very well, as always, although it's not one of my favorites. It works better to be played only once in awhile rather than at every show. Bob's a funny guy. As soon as the sun was out & the rain had stopped, he played a majestic version of A Hard Rain's a Gonna Fall another first for me. I still have goosebumps from the last verse, which he always puts careful emphasis & energy into. Consequently, this was the first song that Christie recognized. This was definitely the highlight of the evening for me. The energy kept going with Tangled Up in Blue, however, once again Bob flubbed up a couple lines in this song, & is often the case, did his best to make up for it with a great harp solo to end it. Unfortunately, it was a train wreck. Highway 61 Revisited was next, & since I hear it at every show, I suppose it sounded okay from the can.

I was hoping to hear Bob play Ain't Talkin', but instead he played one of the best versions of Nettie Moore I've ever heard. It's incredible how much care he puts into the lyrics of this song. This is probably rude of me to say, but during the song, somebody came riding in one of those rascal thing past us up the hill to exit the theater, & just as he passed us Bob sang the lyric, "I'm riding with you to the top of the hill". It was merely a coincidence, & I think I'm the only person who found it funny, but so it goes. The next song was Summer Days, which is usually a crowd pleaser but it doesn't do much for me. All Along the Watchtower was next, which he plays at every show, but the crowd loved it, & it sounded better than usual.

The encores began with an awful version of Thunder on the Mountain. Something went seriously wrong, here. The rythmn guitar player didn't play at all, & one of the instrumental breaks lasted for several minutes & Bob just stood in front of his organ pacing back & forth. Later, he mentioned something to Donnie Herron, the steel guitar player, & finally one of the techs came out & did something to his organ so it worked again. The last song of the evening was a carnival version of Blowin' in the Wind, which I haven't heard in years. He kicked it off with a great harp solo. When he started singing "the answer my friend..." his voice was so high that it sounded like every bad impression of Bob Dylan I've ever heard with that high pitched wheeze. It was quite comical, & somehow it worked. The band stood in front of the crowd's applause & then they were off.

Christie had a slightly different view of the concert. She found it odd that people didn't stand through the show, or singalong or that Bob never talked to the audience other than to introduce the band. Bob Dylan concerts are very strange events, & they never get old for me.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Hate it Here-Wilco, Sky Blue Sky

What Light-Wilco, Sky Blue Sky

Either Way-Wilco, Sky Blue Sky

Canadee-i-o-John Wesley Harding, Trad Arr Jones

Half an Acre-HEM

The perfect song for a trip up north.

If you read this far, thanks for reading, friends...


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Sunday Morning Gospel

the late Bill Moss & the Celestials-Does Anybody Here Know Jesus?

Doin' My Best for Jesus

The Staples Singers starring Mavis-Pray on My Child

Sister Rosetta Tharpe-Down By the Riverside

"I'm gonna meet...ALL of my brothers!"

Mahalia Jackson-Amazing Grace


Go on your way, accordingly, & know you're not alone...

It always amazes me the circumstances that bring people together & the connections that are made because of them. If I didn't work where I do, I'd have missed out on meeting some great friends, including Christie. If I didn't go to GVSU I would have missed out on meeting three of my best pals. If I didn't live in Saline I would've missed out on meeting others, & the same goes for living in Waltz.

There are very small decisions in life, it seems, that lead up to these large coincidences. Perhaps somebody didn't like the people they worked with & that caused them to go work elsewhere. In the movie Back to the Future that is known as the "space-time continuum". Curly from the Three Stooges would call it being a "victim of circumstance". Are we put in the places we are to meet the people we are supposed to meet, or do we simply meet those people as a result of where we end up? I'd like to think it's the former. I guess were all just small links on a very big chain.

Even though I only see Amy once a year at best these days, I was kind of bummed out that I missed her wedding last night. We've known each other longer than I can remember & have been friends for just as long. Cheers to you, Amy & Brian.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Single Girl, Married Girl-the Carter Family

I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine-Vic Chesnutt

You Ain't Goin' Nowhere-Bob Dylan & the Band, The Basement Tapes

Bob Dylan's Dream-1991

Bob Dylan's Dream

While riding on a train goin' west,
I fell asleep for to take my rest.
I dreamed a dream that made me sad,
Concerning myself and the first few friends I had.

With half-damp eyes I stared to the room
Where my friends and I spent many an afternoon,
Where we together weathered many a storm,
Laughin' and singin' till the early hours of the morn.

By the old wooden stove where our hats was hung,
Our words were told, our songs were sung,
Where we longed for nothin' and were quite satisfied
Talkin' and a-jokin' about the world outside.

With haunted hearts through the heat and cold,
We never thought we could ever get old.
We thought we could sit forever in fun
But our chances really was a million to one.

As easy it was to tell black from white,
It was all that easy to tell wrong from right.
And our choices were few and the thought never hit
That the one road we traveled would ever shatter and split.

How many a year has passed and gone,
And many a gamble has been lost and won,
And many a road taken by many a friend,
And each one I've never seen again.

I wish, I wish, I wish in vain,
That we could sit simply in that room again.
Ten thousand dollars at the drop of a hat,
I'd give it all gladly if our lives could be like that.

Copyright © 1963; renewed 1991 Special Rider Music

Praying on the Old Camp Ground-Mississippi John Hurt

Happy Sunday, friends...


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Grand Haven, Michigan
the sun shines on a dog's ass every now & then...