Wednesday, March 21, 2007
21 March 2007. Morning light. Rain pools on sun green grass--walking through in sandals. Last night's storm. How to understand. The Appaloosa, for instance. Brown forequarters, then white. Degas rider--lithe, small head--indistinct, as if the horse were all. Budyonny's men--Cossacks from the Kuban--described by Isaac Babel. Letopis. His "differentness." Talmud and French liqueur--literature, that is. De Maupassant. Anything to get beyond Odessa--those thousand steps, down to a colorless sea. The Moldovanka--Benya Krik, "poltora zhid," the Jew-and-a-half... "Terse, astringent, lyrical." Moon over the Brzuch--their fate.
"One shy star..."
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
20 March 2007, Tuesday. Rainy morning. Mist rising from milky blue-green pool... A few lone swimmers, orange cap. Woman with black umbrella, upright, burnished lipstick, dark dark red. Waiting for the bus. San Francisco and points beyond. P&O Orient--full page ads in Horizon magazine--1957. Fiji, Manila, Hong Kong. Causeway Bay and Sheung-wan. The warren of market stalls, one after the next--open sacks, spice and root. Tiny dried fish by the thousand, shape of ancient sea horse--to what end? Ginseng, black tea...aromas, darkened corners... Last night: story of Orpheus--the descent. Eurydice. Where has she gone. Oh but he knows. Refashioned as a song... "And tonight she sleeps on the cold cold ground, in the arms of Gypsy Davey..." Un embrazo muy fuerte...
Monday, March 19, 2007
20 March 2007, Monday. Pearl gray cloud bank to the west, whispy edges of sun to the east. Brilliant green of Chinese elm, filigree. Last night: Son Seal, Chicago Blues...world of Robert Nighthawk, Elmore James, flashes of Albert King, Junior Parker, too--and Muddy Waters on the jukebox at the Dipsy Doodle. Sylvio's, Smitty's, the Expressway Lounge (over on Fifty-fifth)--and the Flamingo. A fan by the name of Wesley Race--holds the phone outside the booth so that Bruce Iglauer can hear. "Who the hell is that?" Shades of Leonard Chess.
From Robert Palmer, Deep Blues: "Between the sets I asked him about all the ghosts I was hearing. Were they really there? "The things that I heard and learned while being around those guys are things you can't forget,' he said. 'Even though you're tryin' to do your own thing, that basis will come out. A lot of time it may come out without your being conscious of it. You're hearin' somethin' that sounds like Robert sometimes, and somethin' that sounds like Elmore? Sure man, it's there.'"
Friday, March 16, 2007
16 March 2007. Sunlight in wash of pale blue--still early, Navigator Escrow casting long shadow on Bank of America wall. Senegambia--the music always participatory--down to the northern coastline of Guinea...what had been the Wolof realm, then Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Ivory Coast--Ghana, Togo, Dahomey. Nigeria and Cameroon. Pitch-tone language--the rising and falling sounds, distinct and significant. Voice masking in parallel with change in appearance. Mirliton membrane drawn over the mouthpiece-- "a buzzing timbre, not unlike that of the kazoo." Ritual and religion, sacred singing. Follow to Blind Willie Johnson, Dark Is the Night. East Texas coastline, hurricanes and floods--the fire in winter, wrong place, wrong time, and yet the voice lifts, incantatory--joy and pleading--charged, resolute, sometimes with another responding--as if there were an answer (oh, but there is).
"Who's that calling? John the Revelator..."
14 March 2007.
On the Wring Side of Solano
On the Wrong Side of Solano
we're goin' from door to door
There's an ancient troop of gypsies
And prophecies galore
They'll tell you of the future
All you'd ever want to know
On the Wrong side of Solano
The seagull and the Crow
Jim's phrase, from yesterday morning. Inevitable point of departure--like the stories of Harlan Howard at the Sunset Grill in Nashville-- "three chords and the truth..." All of them, sitting at one of the tables or at the bar, a phrase overheard--someone gets it down on the back of a napkin... "Heartaches by the Number," among others. Or, when he was still driving a forklift in LA, "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down." Not so lyrical, of course. More a kind of bourbon-tinged irony. Old-style Camels. But what the hey. You go with what you're given...
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
13 March 2007. Golden morning light. Tiny brown and white puppy appears in front of window, red leash--then gone down the street, anorak woman in tow, multiple wry grimace--in her own world. Sunlight falling gently across entire back end of Coca Cola truck--nosed into the 7-eleven. Red and white swirl, all on the diagonal. Stubby Marathon van zips past--also white, but worn in--color used... Beuys again. That image from Renée Block--with cape and shepherd's crook. Nicholas recalls his arrival "...in an ambulance on the Van Wyck Expressway." Mississippi Sheiks: "World Gone Wrong." From 1920-something. Also prescient. Dylan, too--another turn of the screw. And yet--the great marshland, open water, stands of reed...pampas grass, coriander... Casmerodius albus...
Monday, March 12, 2007
12 March 2007, Monday. Daytime moon, one pale slice, above whispy cirrus clouds. Trudging bus, gleam of black SUV. The errors of our ways. Songs played until late--Dick's spread of harmonicas--pulled like musical rabbits from a blue nylon kit bag, The Hoener in C--manifest presence--like a double-decker sandwich--played with the muted wings of his fingers reaching high into the air on either side. Then a tiny one--in D, maybe--bright horizontal wafer--fits in one hand. Melody notes from some old-time trail drive--moon over the Ruby Mountains, a spring somewhere up ahead. Mules tied off just behind a chuckwagon, livestock grazing peacefully in the twilight. Mesquite, sage, chaparral. "The last nomadic herders," his trip to Mongolia. Clumps of soil dug up along the byways of Genghis Khan. Horse just outside the yurt--always ready to go...
Friday, March 09, 2007
9 March 2007, Friday. Milky morning light--feels like late autumn, air crisp, touch of breeze off the bay. Last night--even after we'd finished--Doc Watson singing his a cappella Amazing Grace, with Jean Ritchie on harmony--then the mountain Baptist church--shape-note singers, someone calling out the first line in a clipped, hickory-pitched voice. Image of Roscoe Holcomb, his lone figure, narrow face, sinewy arms. Paul Robeson, too--the man as well as the song. Slow, deeply felt--his sense of measure. "...that saved like a soul like me." The Rutgers football shot--muddy field, long ago, leather helmets, horse hair padding. The Emperor Jones, those kinds of roles. Othello. With stolid woman of elder years--a comrade, CPUSA--both of them smiling. Then: Swing Low. Two pure-voiced women, also from a southern church--this time East Georgia. Folkways recording. Old songs as they're sung, simply and well--the meaning within. Mahalia Jackson on tv set--four white figures just behind--for decor?--as she belts out "Down by the Riverside." Good spirits--but a lone missionary in a foreign land. Finally, almost everyone's stepped out for a rest--Sister Rosetta Tharpe--on the long platform of a railway station, somewhere in England. Two of them, strutting side by side--an entry, a celebration. "A little rain..."
Thursday, March 08, 2007
8 March 2007. Small patch of sunlight falling across upper right corner of the page. Jet on diagonal across luminous sky. Map of darkened world--Stuttgart to Jakarta--tousled figure half-wrapped in Lufthansa quilt--or was it BOAC? Or are they both just names from the past--entities, that is--quasi-personae, making the world seem known. As opposed to Joseph Beuys, on his first visit to the US: I love America and America loves me. Lone figure in heavy hooded cape, made of what looked like gray felt-- shepherd's crook emerging from the top, face hidden. His companion--a coyote--the two of them behind metal bars across one end of gallery...welcome. Or the jet aircraft at JFK--raw metal fuselage, uninflected, no stripes or names--just one long titanium ding an zich...
To waken the dead, to bless the living...
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
7 March 2007, Wednesday. Down by the Salley Gardens... Quiet gray dawn, wafts of steam rising from surface of pool...woman in soft red, sporadic underwater strokes, head above the surface like some caucasian otter. How things ought 'er be...Woody Guthrie's diction--out of the Indian territories... "You'd better go back to Ok-la-ho-ma...," tornado winds and the sudden freeze...Seminoles shipped west--the quiet forest dwellers--marched across to the harshest plains...Canada winds at full gale, all the way down the prairie. No wonder it's clipped--the words, I mean--no time to do anything but stay warm--or cool, as the case may be--all this reflected in the way you talk. Inviting, though--like a cabin door, open to all...
As opposed to the Irish hearth. Decades of stories--centuries--each one refashioned, time and again--enjoyed in the making A kind of luxury--rural, loquacious...hill and dale, cows on a winding path...the need for song...
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
6 March 2007, Tuesday. Light blue sky--a California cerulean--with distant cirrus whisps. Giant golden Corona Extra bottle sprawled on its side down more than half the length of an imposing white truck. Improbable liquid pouring forth into blue bubble-rimmed pool--vignette of tropical sea--a grass-roofed hut perched at end of wooden pier. One form of travel... Horizon beverage, small red letters on door of cab. Behind me, a chirpy voiced woman at color copier. Cheerful, instructive, businesslike. They decide on 200... In front, someone else, an older person at bus stop, light green chenille jacket, unruly close-cropped hair, looking down over furrowed brow as she leans back against the post. Monthly pass in one hand, row of small geometric diagonals running down one side. In the other: a nylon backpack, soft, black. The two models--verses from Dante. Less playful than they seemed...
5 March 2007. Puffy torpedo clouds with flashy edges--a sky full--back-lit like some divinely incandescent flounder...scales and fins, always the criteria, scales and fins, so that the catfish, the gar, the perch, even, come into question. Can this pass? A history of color--among other thoughts--begin with that early painting from Venice--a Scylla and Charybdis (or perhaps simply the Bosphorus)...a single wide-sailed ship en route in between. Warm tones and cool--all that we might need. Desert track near Antofagasta. Chilean miners, described more with her eyes and gestures than anything else--also en route--a desolate bus station in a remote town--from there a day's walk to the mines. "To walk to the end of the earth." "To walk and return, drunken." "To walk until you meet another person, and then to continue together."
Friday, March 02, 2007
2 March 2007. Sun-filled morning, blue clear sky. "No day but today"--hand-painted sign on back of sizeable roll-door truck--a dull orange and muted red--like something out of the Upanishads. Ancient stories, told and then retold again. As with the songs: Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight. She must undress--but will he not turn around...she seizes him by the waist, casts him into the sea. Two figures on a shore--joined by a story, their own, of course. Bird as witness, messenger, judge. Parrot in a golden cage--price of her freedom?
Jet zooming across the sky, dipping under one faint cirrus cloud...gleam of sunlight on white street lamp orb...secondary illumination. The words appear, disappear--like small stones, moving from one to the next. Pebbles in a river--a rosary. Buddhist beads...ochre and red...
"I thought of you, too..."
Thursday, March 01, 2007
1 March 2007, Thursday. Mottled gray skies, beads of rain on gray hood of LXi. Jim hopping across the street in his Carhart overalls, mass of non-descript hair--en route to gray--and floppy black sweatshirt. "That's money right out the door...," to Greg--regarding wall behind desk, now empty of cards and fliers, photos of bluesmen, labor leaders, children... Lacey's family, gathered in the rumpus room, or in front of some school front in Arkansas. A narrow white corrugated box, too, pinned up at a slight angle--with drawing of bird, delicate, almost invisible. "That's money right out the door." His quasi-Southern diction. "You know, I almost didn't get any sleep last night, knowing I was going to have to come in and do double-sided..."
Empty wall, like a bank of clouds on the horizon--propitious, welcoming--full of possibility. "So, this could be you..."