Nearly two years gone
yet still can’t listen to you
Nearly two years gone
Nearly two years gone
yet still can’t listen to you
The rain continues here in Colorado. I admit to missing sunshine, but it’s been pleasant running weather and I’m very hyped for the green-green-green landscape.
Every time I catch a glimpse of that intense green, I think of Loudon Wainwright III’s “The Acid Song” which tells a story of Loudon and four others dropping acid in a city bar and then escaping that unsettling urban landscape for nature:
Oh we got to my house in the country
Yeah, the country, I like this
The trees were all throbbing and green
That line has been my longtime go-to whenever I’m in a place that receives lots of moisture. Oddly enough, that place is now Colorado. All throbbing and green.
It feels particularly cruel to lose a man of such empathy and wit right now. If there’s one thing the world needs more of, it’s people sensitive to the struggles of others. John Prine left us a catalog of songs that illustrate a deep understanding of people’s inner lives and the moments that often go unremarked. He was a treasure.
In the fall of 2002, President George W. Bush was beating the war drums (with the enthusiastic help of Democrats like Senator Joe Biden) in preparation for invading Iraq. During those months, I played “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore” an awful lot. It was my way of maintaining equilibrium during those days of flag-based jingoism. Because, no exaggeration, flags and flag decals were EVERYWHERE. My family attended anti-war rallies in Denver during that fall and spring of 2003, and I helped the boys make signs that expressed their sentiments. Here’s Zebu in the middle, holding his sign.
That sign was always a big hit at rallies because, once again, John Prine had nailed it.
Well, the U.S. ignored the millions of us around the world who over and over took to the streets to say NO WAR ON IRAQ, and invaded in March 2003 (with Senator Bernie Sanders voting against invasion and occupation). John Prine died on April 7, 2020, and minutes after I’d finally dragged my sad self out of bed this morning, I learned Bernie Sanders ended his presidential campaign.
Today is an especially hard day on the planet. Think I’ll put “In Spite of Ourselves” on repeat and sit in the sun.
Last night Zippy and I went to the Bluebird Theater in Denver to hear Parker Millsap. Same as the last time he was in town, Parker put on one helluva show. Unfortunately, also the same as last time there were a bunch of rude people at the general admission/standing venue. So much talking talking talking during the performance. Last year after suffering through two women having a loud conversation in front of us I eventually pointed out that since they weren’t interested in listening and we were that maybe they could switch positions with us. They did, and happily moved their socializing well behind us so we could focus on the singing/songwriting.
Last night it was two men talking in loud voices behind us. When I went over to tell them I couldn’t hear it was incredibly frustrating/rage-inducing to realize that one of the blabbermouths was from the opening act. (In fact, two members of that act were loud and disruptive during the main event). You’d think, that of all people, performers would fully understand proper audience etiquette.
Tonight Zippy, Wildebeest, Zebu, and I are going to watch the Nuggets play the 76ers. I’m excited because one of my favorite former Michigan State players, Gary Harris, plays for the Nuggets. Also, I love basketball.
However, that excitement doesn’t mean I won’t be packing a pen and notebook. Yes, I’m a basketball fan. But I’m also a writer who likes to be prepared, and as Tom Waits says: Any place is good for eavesdropping, if you know how to eavesdrop.
Even a basketball arena.
Zippy won a pair of tickets to hear Parker Millsap tonight at the Bluebird Theater. We haven’t been to a concert in a while and are looking forward to the night out. I love me some singer-songwriters.
I’m determined to have a good time, even if the donkey doesn’t show.
The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.
~ Mark Twain
I hope that helped. I’m definitely feeling better.
Leon Russell went to the big piano bench in the sky last night. When Zippy told me the news, I felt deflated. But I didn’t realize how hard his death had hit me until I put on “A Song for You.” I couldn’t finish listening because the grief was too intense.
Leon Russell was a singer-songwriter who created music I was ALWAYS thrilled to hear whether it came on the radio, popped up on an iPod shuffle, or was background music in a shopping mall. I never wanted to tune him out. Leon Russell’s music made me smile, made me feel, and inspired me to sing along. His voice was unusual, his phrasing could trip me up, and his piano playing made me want to dance.
These two albums reside in my record cabinet. I don’t remember when I bought the Best Of, but have a very clear memory of buying Looking Back. I’d spent the day at the beach and was in the neighborhood supermarket in West Los Angeles when I passed a bin of deeply discounted albums. (I remembered this being a cut-out, but when I pulled it out of my cabinet just now, I was surprised to see there are no notches in the cardboard). This particular Leon Russell record was being sold for about $2, and I snatched it up. Any Leon Russell is great Leon Russell, right? He could sing the phone book and I’d listen.
Well, I got home and discovered that Looking Back was purely instrumental. Leon didn’t even sing! Not only that, Leon didn’t play the piano! On Looking Back, Leon played the harpsichord!
I have to admit I didn’t listen to that album a whole lot over the years (and I doubt any radio stations ever played cuts from it), but I’m still glad I bought it. That record represents an enduring memory from my time in LA. Also? It’s fun to think of Leon now playing in that super-band in the sky, shredding on his harpsichord while Leonard Cohen plays piano.
Thank you for all the music, Leon.
Rest in peace.
As has been documented here over the years, I’m a long-time Dylan fan, so wasn’t completely surprised when it was announced today that Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. (Although, as I said in an email to a friend, I do wonder whether Bob should’ve been disqualified from consideration due to his Victoria’s Secret commercial years ago.)Nonetheless, this year the committee chose to honor Bob Dylan’s work which, on a personal note, feels very fitting because Zebu is studying in Sweden right now. The award also feels fitting because of one Dylan song in particular that tragically never, ever goes out of style. For “Masters of War” alone, I’m good with Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend
filled with new notions
a wild ride or two.
If you need a weekend soundtrack, this is a great one.
Last night Zippy and I, the temporarily childless couple, went to the Denver Botanic Gardens to hear Loudon Wainwright III and Richard Thompson play. The evening was perfect. Dinner and a bottle of wine on the lawn as we listened to two extremely gifted songwriters pour out their hearts. I laughed and I cried. Loudon was coerced into performing The Acid Song (oh happy day!) and Richard sang Walking On a Wire (a song he wrote when he and his former wife/singing partner, Linda Thompson, were splitting up; Linda sang it on their album so I’ve never heard him sing it). Wow.
Earlier in the week, R’s nurse and I were discussing the frustrations of trying to get R to drink some stuff he needed to drink before having a procedure he’d agreed to have done. R was in rare form and had dug in his heels. Big time. He complained about what he couldn’t do and complained about what he wanted to do but refused to take any action that would alleviate his complaints. It was infuriating. The nurse told me she’d worked with him on a previous hospital stay and that R kind of cracked her up. I told her she had a great attitude but that his contrariness was making me want to bang my head against a wall. She said, “Don’t do that. Then you’ll have a headache AND a pain in the ass.” That really made me laugh (I was tired!) and I felt so much better. Nurses are the best.
I’ve been disciplined about my writing goals this week and hit my word count five days in a row! I’m realizing how important it is for me to establish a routine and stick to it. And yes, I’ve had this realization before and then lost sight of it along the way so I’ll probably be back here in another few months saying, “You know? It’s really helpful when I set a word count goal and then hold myself accountable to it each and every day!” Feel free to laugh when that happens.
My other cool writing-related development is that I have a new technique for handling my inner critic. Lately I’ve really been plagued with negative thinking whispered in my ear by that horrid inner creature. I guess William Faulkner’s off drinking or having sex or something because he’s not doing a very good job watching my back right now. But that’s okay because I now have an actual voice to put to that inner critic. And that voice is………………R’s voice! That’s right, folks. Whatever nastiness starts echoing in my head (You know, Tracy, this isn’t very good. No one’s going to want to read this.), I repeat aloud in R’s rasping whisper. And then I laugh! And keep writing! I totally recommend this method for thwarting your critic. Not everyone is as fortunate as me in having a near-constant negative person in my life who complains about everything in a very unique voice (his vocal chords were damaged years ago) but I’m sure you could use your father-in-law’s voice or that nosy neighbor’s or the twit at the bank the other day. Try it, you’ll like it!
Wishing everyone a glorious weekend.
Last night as I listened to this, one of my favorite Billy Bragg songs, it occurred to me the song’s like a mini-YA. Everything you need for a satisfying story, right here. In just 267 words.
THE SATURDAY BOY By Billy Bragg
I’ll never forget the first day I met her
That September morning was clear and fresh
The way she spoke and laughed at my jokes
And the way she rubbed herself against the edge of my desk
She became a magic mystery to me
And we’d sit together in double History twice a week
And some days we’d walk the same way home
And it’s surprising how quick a little rain can clear the streets
We dreamed of her and compared our dreams
But that was all that I ever tasted
She lied to me with her body you see
And I lied to myself ’bout the chances I’d wasted
The times we were close were far and few between
In the darkness at the dances in the school canteen
Did she close her eyes like I did as we held each other tight
And la la la la la means I love you
She danced with me and I still hold that memory soft and sweet
And I stare up at her window as I walk down her street
But I never made the first team, I just made the first team laugh
And she never came to the phone, she was always in the bath
In the end it took me a dictionary
To find out the meaning of unrequited
While she was giving herself for free
At a party to which I was never invited
I never understood my failings then
And I hide my humble hopes now
Thinking back she made us want her
A girl not old enough to shave her legs
** This video ends before the song’s finished but it’s the best quality version I could find on YouTube. Just a taste….