Monday, August 26, 2013

I Only Loved You When It Rained

It's always raining in my songs.  When I love someone there is always rain-- blessing the moments,  slurring the shadows.  Wet nights feel safe.  There is nothing more to wait for, to dread.  The endings... they have moved in.  All those blues songs...the Sky is Crying... etc.  My very first poem was titled 'I only love you when it rains'... even then... it felt like a cliche.  It was.  But all these years later--- less so.

Among the paper scraps where I jot down inspirations, thoughts, during the day-- one I found last night-- it was a list... more than a year old-- maybe 2 or 3--for a clueless schmuck I'd been dating:  one of those guys who sweeps you off your feet, calls you Baby, breathes in your ear as he whispers things you can't quite hear in dark clubs, plays like an angel, fucks like an animal.  But the list--- it was so pathetically sad--- a list of things I needed to talk about--- as though the guy cared about anything that wasn't in his pants or mine...

It sat by the phone, that list... for maybe a year--- a year when it was unravelling--- when the only 'intimacy' (one of the items) I had was listening to his version of whatever it is men think you want to hear while we lay in a dark room, me adding things to the list... knowing better than when I was 20 that the exit is best without dialogue... that it had all become a monologue with me making vague disconnected responses, that the guy never noticed, had never listened (another item), even during the 'Birthday Sex' episode (another item).  That despite his melodramatic 'attentions' and chestbeating and solos 'just for you, baby', that it was all just 'content' for another memory, maybe another song... another bird for whom I left the cage door open, waiting for the sigh, the shadow and the rain.

So today I came across the list at the bottom of a box in which I keep unfinished songs-- things I write when I lose people--- things written with pain (rhymes with....) in dark rooms with sometimes illegible scrawl-- which is part of the recovery... not being able to decipher words-- the way you miss things in life, and it is too late to ask--- 'what was that you said to me when...?'  And if you did, it would no longer be true, or it never was, or it is gone like everything is gone, no matter how painful or happy.  You heal, or you do not heal.  You miss the perfect moments, you do not miss the terrible ones--- but there they all are, in one of these boxes--- written or unwritten, sung or not sung.

The list was so cliche'd and juvenile-- like something one of my son's exasperated girlfriends might have written--- or my niece (I have a post-it souvenir I leave by my kitchen phone with a number she deleted from her phone (just in case) and an arrow and the words ''---'s asshole ex non-boyfriend"). So teenaged and so perfect.  Like my own  personal Tracey Emin.  My niece doesn't know who Tracey Emin is.  Nor did my list-guy.  In fact, in a few more years, I might not even know who the list-guy was.

Do you ever think people are faking their memories?  The way that girl used to tell me all about her relationship with Bob Dylan and I knew she was lying... but it was funny, or pathetic... the way my list was pathetic... because so often we breathe meaning into these moments.  Like you are walking down the street--- and a cab stops, and you answer--I want to go somewhere taxis don't.  But it is just a cab, and you didn't really say that, and the list-guy--his solos weren't soulful, they were just coming out of his auto-pilot musical repertoire which was not familiar to you and after a few nights you started to hear them again and realized the guy is a fraud.

But he isn't a fraud.  It is you.  Or me--- who is expecting some revelation--- like a poem I have never seen which is amazing, and then I look at the others, and they dilute that one until you put the book back and that is that.  Is life disappointing?  It is our own failure to turn over the card and find something extra-terrestrial or ultra-nuclear... and maybe there was only that one love for me--- the one who died, so the dream never does-- the hero who never got old, the face that shined, the passion that was perfect, the loss that taught me everything about loving the rain, because he was the rain-- -the dark, and the wet and the hidden, the technicolor underside of my skin.

There is a girl beside me in this cafe, reading a book called 'The Inheritance of Loss'.  We hold onto our losses because they are really the only lessons we have learned, the reverse blessings we do not comprehend, the best and the worst.  And no matter how many times we think we are winning, we will lose-- -all of us.  We are all lost, with our GPS's and our perpetual instant instructions and ubiquitous internet connections.  Loss is our great common denominator-- our guardian angel, our past and future.

So we learn to love the rain... the B-side, the thing that 'isn't'--not the pretentious loneliness and ravenous despair of  histrionic poets and socio-analysts of loss but the simple imprint, the wet shadows of missing angels-- and we learn to love the empty room with the ghost windows which in damp quiet with the perpetual virtual soundtrack of everything I have ever heard tells me everything I need to know.



Monday, August 12, 2013

Reel to Real


Okay.  I confess I watched a few minutes of the Jersey Housewives--- enough to see one of these women whining about her autistic child who, despite all the therapists and housekeepers money can buy, is a bit of a challenge.  So… although she spent umpteen thousands and many weeks of tears getting pregnant in the first place, she now is going to go to California on her own to 'get a break' and have her stomach surgically reduced at the same time.  (I’ve got a mind to give up living… but I think I’ll go shopping instead).  After all, it is all about her. 

On the 106 bus yesterday, people were sighing and trying not to complain about the nearly 5 minutes it took to board and secure the wheelchair of a young black teenager with such severe cerebral palsy, his head and neck have to be strapped against the chair, and a sort of tray is attached to his chest to catch saliva and whatever fluids drip uncontrollably because he cannot close his mouth, and his tongue moves constantly between 3 or 4 irregular rows of teeth, as though he’s trying to say something we cannot understand. I wonder if his Mom whines.  He was alone--- relying on the driver--- unable to get a drink, protect himself from the soaking rain, blow his nose, wipe his eyes,  complain.  He seemed to be smiling, even when 2 boys boarded the bus, stared rudely at his plastic bib, and declared it was ‘disgusting’.  I wanted to kiss him.  But that is pathetic too. 

To think I used to complain about Sex in the City…now this Housewives (with an emphasis on ‘real’ just in case we were wondering) stuff has gone so far back down the ladder of media ‘evolution’—do people really find this entertaining? These prematurely botoxed brainless women with plasterboard mansions and hair extensions screaming like bloody siren-brats? They need to clean latrines for a few weeks.  They need to spend a few days with the boy on the bus.  They need to read a Pearl Buck novel and reevaluate what it is to be a woman. 

It is very confusing, though--- they are on magazine covers and talk shows, they travel among celebrities, they do fashion shoots.  At least Marge Simpson stays in a box.  Apparently in the US, as opposed to the UK, you can buy a crown and be a princess.
Ask Jay-Z--- you can buy yourself a free pass to royalty—a color, changed name, the top of the charts---whatever.  Celebrity Fairy Dust… Remember the couple that crashed the Obama Inaugural Ball?  She managed to crash a reality show and get paid, and now she’s eloped with a rockstar.  Is that a 21st century fairy-tale or what?  And the princess is probably 50 years old.  Does anyone ever call these people out? Say--- hey, you’re not even really singing! You’re just an impostor!

There is also the celebrity cancer thing.  Michael Douglas--- Angelina—Giuliana…these people make it almost desirable to have cancer.  They are more beautiful, they do not appear to suffer… they get clothing and more invitations, more dinners--- awards, accolades.  Not so for the people on the 106 bus,  a percentage of whom, according to statistics, will be diagnosed, are being treated, are in pain—have earned a crown of thorns. 

And who isn’t an imposter?  A-Rod who hit an unadulterated home-run today?  Lindsay Lohan-clean?  Michelle Obama with her Barbie hair and bangs?  A confessed murderer? After all, do we all not lie about small things, exaggerate?  Amplify our guitars and voices, wear clothing, smile, tolerate?

I attended another Blues Hall of Fame induction.  For me, Blues is what it was.  Who are these people, in 2013, including myself, and what is blues to this new culture besides the soundtrack to Viagra commercials?  There’s a Russian guy who for maybe 35 years has been busking on 23rd St with a cheap little amp, singing and playing 12-bars.    Sure, he’s improved… but is the blues the music or the circumstances of his life?  He wasn't at the induction. The guy from Canarsie who get on our stage with difficulty, bears scars and holes from heroin abuse and beatings--- plays a harmonica and makes up lyrics that can’t quite find a rhythm?  He seems to have the blues.  He certainly dresses badly and wears a Disabled reduced-fare MTA pass around his neck.  When he sings or raps, I believe him.  He wasn't at the induction either.  How about the kids with the expensive guitars whose Dads diligently paid for lessons and Clapton-camp until after 30 years of diligently covering Muddy and Buddy like top-40, now sit in with their idols---at least the few who are left?  A few of these were there.  On and offstage.  Waiting for their Warholian Blues Moment.  Maybe if Andy had lived he'd have done a portfolio of Great Bluesmen.  It would have made a statement.  I would have trusted his judgment.    

Today I passed my neighborhood Health Food Store.   There is a vintage set of Beatles dolls in the window from the Yellow Submarine era, as a sort of nostalgic and dusty symbol—because this is where John Lennon shopped when he was a New Yorker.  I remember being on line here several times with some annoying asshole who pretended to be John Lennon, flirting and making jokes in his Liverpool accent while I waited to pay for my rice.  I was in my 20’s then, and the store manager suggested that I might not want to be rude to a fellow customer, and I replied…You mean that Beatle impersonator asshole?  And he whispered to me that no, that was the real John Lennon.  The thing is, the guy was annoying and I didn’t believe him.  I think the real John Lennon appreciated me for that.  He stopped making stupid comments and I continued to ignore him.  After all, what was the difference?  If I had a cellphone would I have taken a shot of us and posted it on my facebook page every year on his birthday to commemorate this happy coincidence?  Maybe if it had been George.  And I still don’t have a cellphone in 2013.

There used to be this Rod Stewart look-alike and he’d take people to the Hard Rock CafĂ© and they’d pick up the tab.  For all of us.  He’d even protest and they’d insist.  Last month I refused to go see the imposter CBGB’s bathroom that’s been replicated in a venerated Museum.  If this is the CBGB’s bathroom, I reason, how can I trust the Temple of Dendur? 

What was it Dennis Hopper said in ‘River's Edge’?  I’m not crazy; I know it’s a doll.  These people today do not know it’s a doll.  They can’t tell the real from the imposter because the labels have been all mixed up.  Like the last decade’s Real World… the endless versions of ‘Real’ Housewives.  Real housewives were pushing shopping carts today on east 106th St with clusters of kids and benefit cards.  Real housewives are sitting on their stoops swapping cigarettes and spitting out bad teeth they can’t afford to fix.

Two girls were in my building lobby this afternoon wearing T-shirts that said ‘Anyone But Quinn”.  They were passing out leaflets.  I asked them who they were really for, and they didn’t seem to know, but they were earning $5 an hour and ‘meeting cool people’. 
We hope, eventually, the ‘real’ mayor of New York will step up to the plate.