Showing posts with label music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label music. Show all posts

16 April, 2019

From Field Notes: Excerpts, 7th-9th April 2019 - Orange Poppy, Long Gone

7 April


view of the Wakarusa River
Spent the early afternoon downtown. Had lunch with the Market Street Irregulars and then had the opportunity to visit my friend, local artist Heather Houzenga, at her shop at the base of Market Street. We mostly hung out in front of her shop, which lends itself to the opportunity of running into other people. At one point there were maybe 5 of us including Heather, Ray, Dave Cuckler, and Jeff Creath, who split time between Carroll County, Waukegan, and parts unknown with his wife and fellow globetrotter, Kat. There were also two dogs, including Heather's new pooch, Handsome, a boxer mix that is still very much a puppy... but a happy one, and Ray's lovely dog Lady.

It felt good just to be able to hang out on the street without anyone wondering whether something illegal is happening -- one of the graces that is still afforded in a place like Mount Carroll, Illinois.

At one point, later in the day, Dave was downstairs playing guitar and singing, and I was listening through the floorboards. There are moments we experience that resonant, repeat, and carry us backwards and forwards in time, embodying all of our sense memories into a distilled, rich, existential bliss. Listening to Dave Cuckler sing through the floorboards is one such moment, and it let me know that I was, if only briefly, at a place where I still have a home.

Music through the floorboards
that long remembered smile.
A congregation of old friends,
dogs, and peaceful passersby.

8 April

The river is high here, like everywhere else. Parts of Savanna are flooding. The power and prestige of the Old River 1 never ceases to amaze me.

The river lays siege to the flood plain
reminding people (again)
these ancient arteries
will wash away
what passes for Empire.

9 April

I was able to take some time yesterday and walk around town a bit. On my way back to where I'm staying, I walked up the Washington Street hill and over to S. West Street, by the house I lived in here with my ex. Inexplicably, the place is still standing and there's a family living there.

I know it seems strange to some people that I like coming back here. One local musician, a friend of a friend, upon figuring out that I was actually me and discovering that I showed up intentionally to visit, asked what I was visiting for. There's a basic assumption among some folks about this place... an assumption I hear more from people who are born and raised from here -- that there is nothing here. Or, at any rate, there's nothing here that would be of any interest to anyone not from here.

But the truth is that I learned a lot here. Mount Carroll is the place I learned to embrace a place and find beauty, poetry, and music -- even when there is a (very) thin veneer of stasis, greed, and ugliness. It was here I learned to live more in the moment and to seek out community rather than expect it to come find me. It was here that I learned what the word home means -- with all those fraught implications.

It was here that I learned what it means to dive deep and follow the currents. What I didn't learn here was not to dive TOO deep. I had to learn that later.

Some things persist
in spite of soft memory.
What is not erased
is a reminder that 
what we carry in the present
we picked up in the past.

Orange Poppy, Long Gone



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23 October, 2017

Rockabilly Billy and the Texas 5, Part 4: All deals are non-refundable

serial short fiction
Before I could say anything else, Julia Dream was standing next to the table. She smiled down at me, her full lips curled up in a funny little smirk. Here eyes shone like the deepest blue green Gulf waters, taking me in.

Come on with me, Georgie. You heard what The Man said.

I was helpless to resist and unable to find my voice. I wanted to try and explain that there was no need for what I thought was about to happen. I mean, it wasn't that I didn't WANT to. Of course I wanted to. But not like that, like it was some mile marker on The Road to Rhinestone Glory.

You go with her, Kid, He said. You go with her and then we'll hammer out the details.

I let her lead me back behind the bar to the little room where she lived. She opened the door and bid me to follow her in. Her room wasn't no bigger than a medium sized closet, but there was enough space for a narrow bed, a dressing table and mirror, some shelves, a few books, and an old steamer truck. It was the kind that opened up and was a mini chest of drawers, like people took on long boat voyages back when people still traveled by boat for more than just over-priced vacations to foreign port where everyone speaks English and there's a fast food joint on every corner. The trunk was in great shape, too. Like she took pains to keep it clean and in good working order.

She paused in front of the bed. I shuffled in and closed the door behind me. Then I waited.

Then she laughed. You're so funny, Georgie, she said.

How's that? I asked.

She wheeled around on her heels, her hands on her hips, to face me. You're shaking like a rabbit that's about to get jumped by a coyote. You don't need to. What you think is going to happen AIN'T going to happen here.

But I ...

Julia Dream placed her lovely red-tipped forefinger over my lips to silence me. Now Georgie, she chided me. Insulting a woman's intelligence is no way to get to her bed. It wasn't going to happen... not today, at any rate... but still. If you're gonna be traveling with Bill, you need to learn how to act in front of women. She smiled again, and without missing a beat she drew me to her and kissed me. All of her was pushed up against me. Her arms were around my neck. I put my hands on her hips and she swiveled them a little so I'd wrap my arms around her waist.

The kiss lasted for what seemed like hours. Her lips were soft and tasted like strawberry wine. When it finally ended it felt like I'd never breathe right again without her lips on mine.

Oh, Georgie, she said, shaking her head. Where you been hidin' THAT? If I'd a known you kissed like that, I might not have let you run off with Himself. She locked her eyes on me. I could screw you silly, Georgie Boy, she said. I could screw you like you'll never be screwed again.

Then she pulled away and sighed. But not today.

In a fit of kiss-drunk foolishness I opened my mouth and told her everything I'd been carrying around in my heart. I told her I loved her, that all I thought about was her. I told her I'd stay there with her on her narrow bed or I'd sleep in the bar just to be around her. I told her I loved so much it burned me up thinking about what wasn't going happen... and that while I didn't exactly WANT it to happen, I didn't exactly want it NOT to happen either.


Julia Dream just shook her head and rubbed my cheek. You're already promised to Bill, she said. I can't come in between that. But if you go out with him and come back to me... and if you still want me...well, Georgie, I'll make sure you never forget it.

Before I answered she went on. I know what you're thinking. But I haven't had a man in my bed for many a moon. I don't take on lovers lightly, no matter what some of these old hound dogs around here think. 

I wanted to know who her last lover was and how whoever it was could have been so stupid as to leave her in lurch at the Treetop Bar. She shook her head.

Now listen, Georgie, and listen good. I got three things to tell you. They won't make any sense now, but they will. And these things I'm about to tell you are ONLY for you. You got to promise me you won't tell any of them what I'm about to tell you. Do you promise?

I promise.

Do you promise?

I promise.

Do you promise?

I swear, Julia. I won't say word. I promise!

She nodded and told me that I promised three times, which made it three times as sacred and three times as terrible if I was to ever break my promise. Then after she told the three things, she kissed me on the cheek -- there was still just a hint of strawberry wine -- turned me around on my heels and sent me out of her room.

I walked back out into the bar. Rex and Tex the Younger whooped and asked me if that meant I was man.  Dolly and Sue giggled and played with their cocktails. Sue told me I better not have laid the pipe down TOO good, because their drinks were about dry.

Himself told them to shush and he motioned for me to join him again at the table. He admonished me not to worry about them sorry onlookers. The last either Rex or Tex the Younger got it up they were toe up at a leather convention in Waukegan. And he told me not to worry none about Dolly or Sue, either. 'Cause the only reason they ain't screwed Rex and Tex is 'cause their old man taught 'em to sling it outside the family. He smiled at my dropped jaw. I'll tell you that story someday,  Himself said. When you're a little better seasoned.

He slid set of car keys across the table. They were attached to a key chain with two pendants: a crucifix and and a silver lightening bolt. Now before you take them keys, Himself intoned, there's just one thing you have to understand. 

Himself leaned forward and looked me right in the eye. His eyes were pitch black and his voice reverberated down my spine. You take them keys and that's the deal. There's no giving them up until the run is done, no quitting, no second guessing. You take them keys and the deal is made and you are bound by all holy writ and seals until the run is done.

Then he sat back and smiled. By then Julie Dream was back at the bar, only she wasn't looking at me or Bill or anyone else. She went around and refilled everyone's drinks and wiped off the tables. I looked at her, not looking at me, and thought about that kiss and what it felt like to have her body pushed up against mine.

But I could also feel Himself staring at me, waiting. I thought about what Julia said about coming back after and if I still wanted then, well then ok. I reached up for the keys with my right hand, and I asked Himself where we was going first.

If I didn't know better, I could swear I saw a tear trickle down Julia Dream's perfect face.


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16 October, 2017

Rockabilly Billy and the Texas 5, Part 3: The Road to Rhinestone Glory

 Well, I'm no musician, and I told him so. He didn't seem all that concerned about it.

We got all the musical talent we need. But what we lack is exactly the bill you'll fill, Georgie.

Julia Dream smiled and licked her ruby red lips. I was so shocked at Bill's invitation and his dauntless confidence that I had a role to play that I didn't notice that she was smiling at me in a totally different light. Rex and Tex the Younger and Dolly and Sue were up on their feet, up in arms about him inviting me along at all. I can't say I blamed them. After all, I was just some green kid who'd climbed up and wandered into the bar and gone ga-ga for the bartender. To be honest, the Treetop Bar was the farthest I'd ever traveled in my entire life.

When I asked Himself what it was he thought I could do, he told me he needed a driver. But, He said, it's more than just driving.

When you drive for a hard driving rockabilly band,  He said,  you're a driver. You're a roadie. You're security. Sometimes you're an entertainment wrangler. 

 Himself leaned forward and pointed his bottle of Sioux City Sarsaparilla. He smiled and his teeth shone like razors. I ain't gonna lie, Georgie. I won't ever lie and I'll never steer you wrong. There's all kinds of romantic bullshit out there about being on the road with a band. Some of it's true. Some of it's shine. But you'll figure that out for yourself. If you've got the balls to drive a 1959 Caddy Eldorado with more horses than Pancho Villa.

Everyone in the bar -- Rex and Tex the Younger, Dolly, Sue, and Julia Dream -- were all looking at me. Himself took a big swig and drained his sarsaparilla.  It was like he knew before I could chicken shit out and say no.

Get him ready, Julia. Times burning on both ends and the road to rhinestone glory waits for no one.




  

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02 October, 2017

Rockabilly Billy and the Texas Five, part 1: chrome rockets and warm beer

 October 1st

We was at the Treetop Bar. The beer was warm as usual, but cooler than it was outside -- in spite of the altitude and preternatural humidity.

I was sitting there talking with Dolly and Sue, Rex, and Tex -- the younger one -- and Julia Dream. We talked about the heat, about the warm-but-still-cool beer, and the usual kind of things you might think to talk about sitting a top the tallest tree in three three counties and maybe in three states, planted near the Red River at the crossroads of Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.

Julia Dream could just about talk about anything and I'd listen. She knew it, too, and while she didn't take no pleasure in torturing me, she was, at least, aware of the impact she had on me.

Georgie, she'd say. You really need to go find you a nice girl. You tangle with me, you're likely to get spoiled for anyone else. And that would be a shame. You with those pretty blue eyes your momma gave you. You gotta pass them on to a daughter. It's just not proper for a boy like you to have eyes like that.

She worked the bar most days and played the piano and sang most night. The piano was old and out of tune -- no piano tuners would bother to come to The Treetop -- so Julia taught herself to play and taught herself to sing so it didn't sound out of tune.

So we were sitting there talking about whatever we was talking about then someone -- I do believe it was Tex the Younger -- started to complain about the egregious expense of the last music festival he went to.

I don't have no issue with paying musicians,  he said. They earn every penny they scrape together. But you know as well as I do that it's about the promoters. They charge high ticket prices, pay a mere pittance to the talent, and pocket the rest. It's an almighty god forsaken travesty!

 Rex blamed the times. He said it was just to damned difficult to find good music. It ain't like it used to be. Used to be, you could expect that if you showed up at the Treetop on any Saturday night, you'd find somebody playing their guitar or pounding on that piano. Saturdays, the very roots of this here tree used to shake! Now all we got is Julia Dream. And she don't even show her tits to make up for the lack.

The entire company laughed. Julia Dream laughed the loudest. Not in your wildest wet dreams, honey. Then she shook her round, gravity defying tits at the room. These beauties ain't for the likes of you ruffians. She nodded over at Sue, who knew how to carry a tune, and Dolly, who couldn't sing but would -- if pushed -- play a mean drum, and said Get one of them drunk enough and if you're extra specially polite they might just grace you with a little hint of nipple.

Both Dolly and Sue roundly rejected the idea, proclaiming to one and all that they were saving themselves for real men, not the ruffians who hung out at the Treetop.

Rex pointed at me and laughed. But Georgie ain't no ruffian. You all going to deny him?

Aw, Dolly said and walked over and tousled my hair. Georgie is a nice boy. He ain't nothing like you haughty reprobates.

Then she sighed and said all the real rock and roll cowboys was dead had their nuts cut off by commercialization.


All but Rockabilly Billy, Sue echoed.

Just then there was a thundering in the distance. Only it wasn't no thunder. It was the sound of a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado convertible with rocket tail fins and a magic V12 with no top end. We all knew it was Himself, Rockabilly Billy, popping his clutch and digging into Oklahoma dirt.

The mad laughter was also a palpable sign.

Sue got all excited and said Billy was still on a tear and probably wouldn't be worth a damn on stage anyway. Himself had been on tear since Professor Longhair died. He hadn't picked up his guitar nor sang a note since 1980. He stopped in the middle of a show right, declared that Professor Longhair had died, and promptly drank every drop of liquor in the place. No one had heard him sing in recent memory, and the common talk was that he'd drank and drugged the song right out of him.  People lost count of the fans, groupies, and fellow musicians who came by the bar trying to pull Rockabilly Billy out of his tear and put him back on stage.  Like his last show of any memory in Apalachicola. It took two hookers and a considerable amount of effort just to prop him up on a stool with his washboard cherry red Les Paul.

Dolly smiled and laughed so hard her tits jiggled and knocked Sue's beer off the counter. That weren't no dodge, she said. Billy always did favor ladies of the night.

Well a show would be fun, I said. Could all my friends together. A show might coax Rockabilly Billy out of his desert patio home long enough to put on the hell of a show.

They all looked at me like I was crazy... or worse, a tourist.  The only one who didn't look at me that way was Julia Dream. She just smiled. Her eyes twinkled and leaned over to give me partial view of a heart tattoo over her left breast.

Why Georgie, she cooed. I didn't know you had it in you.

I blushed so hard my lips must have looked blue.

[Another installment on Monday 10/9. Subscribe to our email to get the next installment in your email. Please donate below if you enjoyed it! Thanks for reading! - Mick]

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26 April, 2017

Love is the best disease

My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me. -- Winston Churchill


When I rolled into River City on a Greyhound bus 5 years ago this week, I had no idea what I was in for.

My plan was to stop through on my way west. I'd been living on the road since January and had been bouncing around the East Coast, Appalachia, and the Ohio Valley for months. I stayed with family, visited friends, and slept on buses, trains, and in stations between Chicago and Newport News.

The way I understand it, she had to pay someone $20 to pick me up because no one wanted to drive downtown to the bus station. Traveling by the big grey dog is frowned upon by a certain segment of the population, and perhaps (though unlikely) by some of you, Dear Friends and Readers. So it was that after beating the bushes and offering cold hard cash, Amanda managed to find someone to pick me up and deposit me at the house that would, eventually, become my home.

And I say again: that wasn't my plan. My plan was to roll west, cross the wild Mississippi River, explore the big square states and head to the Left Coast, where all freaks and all geeks of every stripe are welcome.  I didn't intend on settling down so much as wandering around and back again. I had some unfinished business up in Illinois -- an anti-climactic and passionless divorce -- and was planning on looping back east to visit family and friends.

When I came to Louisville five years ago this month, I didn't expect to meet the love of my life. I expected to reconnect with an old friend from college that wouldn't mind a visit now and again as I passed through The Bluegrass.

But that's exactly what happened. I didn't expect my entire life to change, but it did. That's the way love works, though. It's not calm. It's not reasonable. It doesn't take your plans into account. And it doesn't always mix in with the life you're setting up for yourself.

If you're lucky, love makes you a little crazy. Cynics say that falling in love is like a drug and just as temporary. Being in love takes work. And that work requires that come back to that person, over and over again. If the definition of insanity is the desire to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, love means looking at the love of your life everyday and embracing inevitable change.

In a way, real love is a disease. It invades you and changes the way you breathe, the way your blood flows. Love demands that you make changes, even when the changes might be uncomfortable at first.

I'm not always particularly good at living the domestic life. I've written about that before. But I love that today, I get to celebrate my marriage to a woman that knew that when she decided to take a chance on a guy like me.

And that's the thing about love. It's not a warm fuzzy kind of thing.

But if you're lucky, it sure does feel that way most of the time.



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