Monday, June 22, 2009

Mississippi River Runnin' Backwards

Steam boat whistles blowin' underwater
Everything's backwards and upside down
Baby Moses in the bulrushes
Paddling sideways to higher ground…

People, let me tell you, there was an earthquake down South in 1912, and they say the Mississippi river ran backwards. The world turned upside down for a few days and all creation was a children's nursery rhyme. One of the darker kind. The Land of the Razz-Ma-Tazz! Folks began to come apart. Fuller Brush men hanging in trees; insurance executives run out of town on rails. Tarred and feathered. Blow Gabriel Blow. They say Brother Levon went out of his head out on farm road #34. To quote Levon: "Man come down here tellin' me he got a mule for sale, and I realize it's a dead mule….and the man, he dead too, and then I woke up and wished I didn’t wake up cause outside my porch come the water and comin' fast and I'm knowin' I gotta hoof it for higher ground….'cept there ain't none. Only God be on the higher ground. So I lay down and wept. And that's when things gone real real bad."
Hell, I have no idea what this song is about. I only write 'em. Some sort of hillbilly Armageddon gone modern. But I woke up in the emergency ward in Tucson the other night and this song suddenly made complete sense. The world had turned upside down, and in the room next to me was a three hundred pound killer from the county jail who was chained to his bed; two cops watching him like hungry crows. The killer wore an orange prison jumpsuit and had a huge bald head and horn rimmed glasses. He looked like Rod Steiger in "The Pawnbroker." As I passed his room I thought I heard a nurse say: "…Oh, God, something's wrong. It's running backwards!"

(Song # 7 in a series of sketches on the songs off the coming record: "Blood and Candlesmoke." This song is now released and streaming from )

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Series of Dreams # 6 - "Finding You"

So blessed are the shoeshine boys,
For they'll possess the earth
And please bless those who sleep alone
May they find what love is worth…
And blessed are the troubadours
Who handed me the feather...

A few days ago I sat down on the wall in front of the Mexican mural near Olvera Street in Old Los Angeles. The mural title was "The Blessing of the Animals." I was born somewhere around here; right up the street. Now I could still smell those same French Dip sandwiches at "Felipe's;" could taste the pancakes frying at "The Pantry" on Figueroa. I recall the Archbishop blessing the animals and the shoeshine boys. I used to drive a rose truck from Santa Barbara down to Fifth and Main in L.A. as the sun came up over the burlesque marquees and the L.A. river. John Fante walked these streets when he wrote his classic: "The Brotherhood of the Grape."Bukowski drank in these dank bars, sipping beer, with a bag of groceries between his legs filled with fresh fish, bread and oranges. Fante and Bukowski and I walked the Mexican alleys looking for the same thing: love, laced with a dash of respect; and money enough to endure and to keep food and wine in the bag and continue writing; throwing the jab. The oldest game in the world.
Forty years and fifteen relationships later I found myself in Switzerland, at the edge of the Alps, playing in a honky-tonk near a farm pasture where herd of buffalo were grazing. The West goes on forever. A beautiful girl walked in to the bar; right out of a Swiss fairytale. I walked up to her, grabbed her arm, and declared someday I'd marry her. All my Beat guardian angels were rolling their eyes and holding their breath; waiting for another collision. Two years later I proposed in Venice Italy with a ring of fried calamari. It was a long way from downtown Los Angeles and all the rusted wreckage and bad poetry along the way. Sometimes all your racehorses come home. Sometimes you pass by the dragons without being devoured. Somewhere in Yeats' lyrical desert the Sphinx begins to move, trotting off toward an Indian casino where Johnny Mathis still sings "Chances Are," and "The Twelfth of Never." Somewhere, later in your fight, in what they call "the championship rounds," your jab begins to connect, and you dance and lay blistering left hands to the jaws of anger, hate, fear, doubt, guilt, depression and embitterment. The naysayer will nay and the dogs will bark, but the caravan moves on. Into an eternity where persistence and endurance pay off. Where hope melts into a tangible heart-shape soul which bleeds with thankfulness every time you hear a Sinatra song, and "love" is not just a four letter word.

("Finding You" is song #6 in a series of twelve off the coming record "Blood and Candle Smoke." This is a love song. Every album needs one. Lift up the needle and turn the record over. You're only half way through. Carry enough water. )