Friday, May 30, 2014

Paul McCartney poem excerpts

Old loves return
To kiss the lips
In case the empty gallery
Should fill with whispering strangers
Like a flood



I would come back from a run
With lines of poetry to tell
And having listened, she would say
"What a mind."

She'd fold my words inside her head
And though the lines may not have been
Supreme, she wasn't merely being kind
She meant it, what she said

And I am blessed
For she said "What a mind."


A 20-year-old hipster was instructing his girlfriend on the bus this afternoon, and I got to benefit! I first tuned in when the boy was mentioning Pearl Jam's re-make of 1961's "Last Kiss." Did the girl know that "the '60s" had a genre wherein the singer's boy- or girlfriend died tragically? (No, she did not: "Really!? Wow...")

OK, so there really WAS said "teen tragedy genre," albeit in the late '50s/early '60s more than "the '60s" ("Teen Angel," '59; "Leader of the Pack" '64, etc.)... I'll cut the little nerdy bugger some show-offy slack. But then he went on about Pearl Jam, et al....

"I really can't STAND those '80s bands: Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young --- I hate all of those guys. They're so way overrated." (Girl: "Really.")

Really, he gave as examples of "'80s bands" Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, and Neil Young.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Beautiful Night (Paul McCartney, 1997)

"I won't need a castle, they've got castles in Versailles..."

It took me about 10 listens to fall in love with this beautiful song.

Someone's gone out fishing, someone's high and dry
Someone's on a mission to the lonely Lorelei
Some folks got a vision of a castle in the sky
And I'm left stranded, wondering why

You and me together, nothing feels so good
Even if I get a medal from my local neighborhood
I won't need a castle, they've got castles in Versailles
And I'm still stranded, wondering why

Make it a beautiful night for me
It's a beautiful night for love
A wonderful sight for lovers of love to behold

Make it a beautiful night for me
It's a beautiful night for love
A wonderful sight for lovers of love to behold

Some boat's on the ocean, we're here in this room
Seems to me the perfect way to spend an afternoon
We can look for castles, pretty castles in the sky
No more wondering, wondering why

Things can go wrong, things can go right
Things can go bump in the dead of the night
So let me be there, let me be there
Let me be there with you in the dead of the night

Make it a beautiful night for me
It's a beautiful night for love
A wonderful sight for lovers of love to behold

Yeah, it's a beautiful night
Yeah, it's a beautiful night
Yeah, beautiful night, beautiful night
It's such a beautiful night, beautiful night

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Me and Race Relations

(1) I was born in North Texas in 1965. As a kid around age 5, I'd often hear my father (born in 1940 in East Texas) "playfully" recite the rhyme, "Eenie-meenie, minie-mo, catch a nigger by his toe..." My German-born mother amended this to "catch a TIGER by his toe," which is how I continued to recite the ditty whenever I had to do some picking.

(2) My father was in the Air Force and we travelled a lot. I lived in small (under-5000-people) towns primarily in Texas until I graduated from high school in 1983. From kindergarten through my senior year of high school, I had almost no black classmates. In 2nd grade in College Station, Texas (college town for Texas A&M), there were a couple of black kids -- one, Alvin, handed me a folded-up love note one time and almost ran me over with his bike another time. In 3rd grade, my family moved to an Air Force Base near Warner Robbins, Georgia, where I attended school for only a year. There, I had my very first (and only) male AND black teacher, Mr. Hand. I was kind of scared of him because he was an older, 50-something male (previously all of my teachers had been younger white women) and had a constantly very-stern expression on his face. At this Georgia AFB, maybe 1/3 of the kids in class were black. I was friends with a black girl named "Pam," who was very smart and also very athletically competitive with another black girl whose name I can't remember now. The two argued constantly about who was the fastest. One day, they had an unofficial race out on the playground and Pam came in second. Also re Pam: I remember once sanctimoniously telling my mother -- I was 8 years old, mind you: "I think one day Pam will do great things for her people." (How completely ODD! In 1973, "race relations" and "black power" certainly weren't a topic of conversation around my house. Where in the world did I get "great things for her people" from?!)

(3) The next time I thought about "black people" as a subject was when I was in 6th grade (1976) and Alex Haley's "Roots" had just been published. My parents were not getting along, and in the months prior to their divorce, my mom took me and my brother to her home country of Germany for an extended stay. Everybody in the US was talking about "Roots." And of course my East Texas father specifically FORBADE me and my mother from reading it... Guess what she and I shared a copy of on the plane...

(4) I didn't think about race relations again until I entered college at the University of Texas in '83, when I was 18. My roommate for one semester was black. There was an awkward moment when she came in the room one time after I had borrowed her "Black Boy" book by Richard Wright. I guiltily asked if she minded: "Why would I mind if you read that?" "Well, it's YOUR book!" That same semester, I was walking into my dorm, and a black couple were right ahead of me, the guy holding the door open for the girl, but me also passing through behind her. When I said "thank you" to him as a courtesy, he responded, "I was opening the door for HER, not YOU." (That made me feel horrible; what unnecessary unkindness.)

(5) For 3 years in the early '90s, I had a black woman boss at the library where I worked who was completely a great boss.

(6) When I moved to San Francisco in 1994 for grad school, I got another awakening. In a record store, there was a stand-up cut-out of country artist George Strait that someone had scribbled "FUCK U CRACKER" across the face of in black magic marker. (I didn't even know that "cracker" was still used as a term any more.) In all my years in Texas and in Austin, in all my years of going into record stores, I'd never once seen "NIGGER" written across any face. That I'd entered an Alternate Universe was made even clearer to me later in SF while I was working at a movie theater a few blocks from my apartment: Four black girls tried to sneak into a show without paying; when I stopped them, the immediate response was, "Fuck you, you frizzy-haired white bitch!" When, on another day, I stopped a group of Vietnamese teens from trying to sneak in, I got: "You're racist! You just don't want Asians here! This place hates Asians!" (Really, I just wanted them all to pay their admission. Plus the theater manager was Asian.)

SF proved constantly crazy: On the city bus one time, a young black guy got on and didn't feel like paying his dollar fare. We passengers all sat there for 10 minutes while the guy went on and on and on with the driver. A kindly fellow-passenger even went up and handed the guy a dollar, but he wouldn't take it. He just DIDN'T FEEL LIKE PAYING HIS FARE. And so we sat there. And finally the driver gave up and let the guy on.

It was a fucking bullshit-fest. This was the first time that I actually remember having a Racist Thought: "If I were back in Texas, there'd be some tough white guy on the bus who wouldn't put up with this shit and who would put this guy in his place." I consciously MISSED that "white guy" who would "set things straight." Not necessarily "white against black" but "somebody against bullshit."

(7) Another San Francisco thing, when I worked at the movie theater: During a movie break, a 30-something woman came out for popcorn and noticed that I had an accent. When she asked and I told her that I was from Texas, she "stage-whispered": "Texas is great, but there are too many MEXICANS!" What the fuck? Before coming to SF in '94, I'd lived in Austin for 10 years and in Texas as a whole all the years before, and I'd never ONCE heard anyone, ANYONE, say "There are too many Mexicans." NEVER had I heard this in any place in Texas. I only heard it once I came to San Francisco.

(8) Post-1994, things had been trolling along diffidently... Until a year or so ago (2012) in Austin, when I got on a bus heading downtown. A couple of young black guys were at the back of the bus. And they were going on and on for miles, LOUDLY, about the girl they'd fucked the night before. I finally turned around and screamed at them to SHUT UP: "No one wants to hear it!"  I then got verbal abuse, the bus-driver got verbal abuse, the guys paced up and down the aisles of the bus shouting until their stop. It was scary. (The one funny thing that the guys said to me was, "You shouldn't even be on this bus! Where's your car?")

Oh yeah -- I forgot about the two black drug dealers (Marty and Philemon) that I hung out with in Austin clubs, and sometimes spent nights with, circa '95-'96... I was completely unhappy with my life at the time, but they were both gentlemen, both very patient with and kind about my unhappiness...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

One More Kiss

This one's not to be.

I knew you for a minute...

Your heart just wasn't in it any more.

McCartney Paintings

Just now found and ordered this for $6 -- hardcover! A book from a small 2000 gallery show in Germany. I'm curious as to how this will turn out...

Paul Kick

For the past couple of months, I've been on a Beatles-related book kick. Books that I've bought:

Mark Lewisohn's new bio, "The Beatles: All These Years" vol. 1
Hunter Davies official bio from '68 (had only read once from library)
Peter Doggett's 2009 "You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup"
A replacement for my 2nd-ever and all-time favorite Beatles book, Nicholas Schaffner's "The Beatles Forever," which was falling apart
1997 Paul bio by Barry Miles "Many Years From Now"
Fred Seaman's "The Last Days of John Lennon"
A replacement for Albert Goldman's "The Lives of John Lennon," which I once owned but had since sold
Plus another Paul bio that I've forgotten the name of and haven't received yet.

Of these, I've now read Lewisohn's (rather coldly scholarly and in-depth but not "magical" and love-inspiring like Schaffner's), Doggett's (dull, mainly about legal/money wrangling -- will most likely re-sell), Seaman's (lots of info I didn't know, but...highly depressing; despite John's public spin on his last 5 years, I found myself thinking, "Take Paul's calls! Please! Get yourself out of this horrible, mind-numbing rut where you're not interacting creatively with anyone!").

What I'm, by far, enjoying the most is the Paul bio by Miles. It's considered an "official" bio and his interviews with Paul are interspersed throughout -- in fact, probably half of the text is direct and lengthy quotations from Paul, including in-depth details of his composition of his songs, their inspiration, etc. (Similar to what Lennon did before his death in the Playboy interviews, later published as a book.) The Miles bio is over 600 pages and I'm currently only on p. 172, but I've already started underlining and flagging the most interesting passages -- it's THAT good! (If a book is just "mildly interesting" or "blah" to me, I just sit there and read it... If it's GOOD, though, I start getting inspired by stuff and wanting to remember where to re-find passages in the future.)

Here's one thing that I marked:
That creative moment when you come up with an idea is the greatest, it's the best. It's like sex. You're filled with a knowledge that you're right, which, when much of your life is filled with guilt and the knowledge that you're probably not right, is a magic moment. You actually are convinced it's right, and it's a very warm feeling that comes all over you, and for some reason it comes from the spine, through the cranium and out the mouth...
I got goosebumps reading this, remembering especially one evening over 20 years ago when, in the midst of horrible depression over a breakup, I'd managed to finish an incredible poem after messing with it for weeks... When it suddenly clicked into place, I KNEW that I had something... and actually physically got down on my knees and thanked god for it! It really WAS magical. And, though I've read lots about various writers, authors, musicians, I'd never heard the moment described as Paul described it... The "guilt" part was interesting -- Paul McCartney walking around feeling murky and unsure for "much" of his life, a feeling often only assuaged by creation?? Wha? I knew I often felt like that (about both my everyday feelings and about the clarity that art brings), but the surfacely-UNtortured McCartney??

There was another interesting thing I found. Paul mentioned picking up a women's magazine and reading an advice column where a woman asked what to do about her boyfriend, who smoked pot. Paul said:'re hoping the advice will be, 'Well, you know it's not that harmful; if you love him, if you talk to him about it, tell him maybe he should keep it in the garden shed or something'... But of course it was, 'No, no, all drugs are bad... Librium's good, Valium's good, ciggies are good, vodka's good. But cannabis, ooooh!' I hate that unreasoned attitude. I really can't believe it's thirty years since the sixties... It's like the future, the sixties to me, it's like it hasn't happened. I feel the sixties are about to arrive. And we're in some sort of time warp and it's still going to happen.
His "voice" is an interesting, thoughtful one. And the more I learn about him (and re-listen to his solo albums that I'm currently re-buying on CD), the more I'm reminded of Hemingway's "iceberg theory"-- how the best art reveals only 10% or so, but you the viewer/reader/listener SENSE how much more is going on below the surface...

Monday, May 12, 2014

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Today by the elevator...

... the secretary from my department looked me over and said, "I always like how you dress. Like Mary Tyler Moore."

How HAPPY this made me! :) 

For one thing, from NYC in 2007 until just 2 years or so ago, I had about 3 black shirts and 3 white shirts and 2 pairs of flats and 2 pairs of winter boots to my name. It's only recently that I've been able to start stocking up on clothes that I actually LIKED in order to try for some kind of LOOK. And late '50s/early '60s Laura Petrie/Doris Day is EXACTLY what I like: The capri/cigarette pants, the ballet slippers.

Years ago, for whatever "pseudo-Western" event it was, I went over to my brother/sis-in-law's house with pink suede boots and a glittery hot-pink cowboy shirt. My sis-in-law commented: "I never knew you thought about fashion." My reply to her was that previously it had only been POVERTY, not any lack of  THOUGHT that had prevented me from dressing appropriately for an occasion! :)

In the meantime, I'm BASKING in the glow of being told by someone, a stranger, that I have a Laura Petrie Look! :)


Sunday, May 04, 2014

Not Making the Grade

In the mid '80s, when I was trying to make my way at the University of Texas, I couldn't get onto the paper staff because I didn't know how to use the then-newfangled computers; and I couldn't get into the film department because there was a required tech class that involved doing something with a turntable that I tried for two semesters to figure out, but never could.

I was interested in writing for the paper, and in writing about films. I'd been the editor of my high-school newspaper, for one thing, and liked the hurly-burly intelligence of it. In state UIL competitions my junior and senior years of high school, I'd won editorial-writing and headline-writing contests. But when I got to UT, I had one interview with an editor who asked me what I read: In all honesty, I replied: "Time" magazine and "Rolling Stone." Which was, indeed, all I read as an 18-year-old in 1983. I got scorn for that. (Shades of the same scorn I would get in '94 at grad school in San Francisco when a professor asked us all who we'd read the previous summer and I replied "Norman Mailer.")

Computers aren't so newfangled nowadays, and the film department has long-since (thank god!) done away with the tech/turntable requirement for film majors interested in the screenwriting portion of the major.

I didn't pass the test back in the '80s. It still makes me sick, the look of scorn on the paper editor's face when I told him that the papers that I read included "Time" magazine. I'd always thought that was pretty debonair for newly 18-year-old me.

The Platters

Yesterday, I woke up and went to the computer, then heard some buzzing from my iPod that I'd unplugged the day before and put over to the side. What the hell? When I looked at it, it was playing "The Great Pretender" by The Platters. OK. More Platters, then, Ghost! :)

from "Adele 21" (2011)

Reading a couple of weeks ago that the best-selling British album of all time was "Queen's Greatest Hits" made me trust the country's radar for good popular music. Seriously, you can't get any better or more intelligently interesting (catchy AND intricate) pop-music-wise than a distillation of Queen.

Click here to read the whole list.

On the best-selling list after Queen came ABBA "Gold" (again, like Queen, pretty genius when it comes to crafting intelligent, interesting, intricate pop music), then the Beatles "Sgt. Pepper" (a thing unto itself and part of Britain's national identity), and then Adele "21".... I understood exactly why Queen and ABBA and Beatles, but then... Adele?? Based purely on the Brits' list alone, I bought her album last week. I liked it a lot.

"Rumour Has it": "just 'cause I said it / don't mean that I meant it"

My latest books!

Thank god for Amazon, where you can buy used books for cheap. (Even back when I HAD a car and could easily drive to used book stores, the local "Half-Price Books" had already started charging half of the CURRENT price -- even if the book was a dilapidated version from 20 years earlier-- not half of the ACTUAL COVER price, as was their initial policy. They suck. Amazon does not suck. I think the entire below batch cost me under $80, despite the Hughes and the Universe books alone being over $100 had I bought them new.)  

Friday, May 02, 2014

Life after Death

by Ted Hughes
from "Birthday Letters," 1998

What can I tell you that you do not know
Of the life after death?

Your son's eyes, which had unsettled us
With your Slavic Asiatic
Epicanthic fold, but would become
So perfectly your eyes,
Became wet jewels,
The hardest substance of the purest pain
As I fed him in his high white chair.
Great hands of grief were wringing and wringing
His wet cloth of face. They wrung out his tears.
But his mouth betrayed you -- it accepted
The spoon in my disembodied hand
That reached through from the life that had survived you.

Day by day his sister grew
Paler with the wound
She could not see or touch or feel, as I dressed it
Each day with her blue Breton jacket.

By night I lay awake in my body
The Hanged Man
My neck-nerve uprooted and the tendon
Which fastened the base of my skull
To my left shoulder
Torn from its shoulder-root and cramped into knots --
I fancied the pain could be explained
If I were hanging in the spirit
From a hook under my neck-muscle.

Dropped from life
We three made a deep silence
In our separate cots.

We were comforted by wolves.
Under that February moon and the moon of March
The Zoo had come close.
And in spite of the city
Wolves consoled us. Two or three times each night
For minutes on end
They sang. They had found where we lay.
And the dingos, and the Brazilian-maned wolves --
All lifted their voices together
With the grey Northern pack.

The wolves lifted us in their long voices.
They wound us and enmeshed us
In their wailing for you, their mourning for us,
They wove us into their voices. We lay in your death,
In the fallen snow, under falling snow.

As my body sank into the folk-tale
Where the wolves are singing in the forest
For two babes, who have turned, in their sleep,
Into orphans
Beside the corpse of their mother.