False Start

Darts – birds hitting their marks. Feathers painted in plastic. Flickers, scrub-jays. Black gloss enameled crows. Black capped chickadees. Bushtits. The sorrowful hot guitar trill of a song sparrow. They voice the old songs, their beaks cracked, worn plectrums. A few sit still on a telephone wire while another takes a solo. To-wit. To-hoo. Clack, clack, clack.

Salsa Party on the Moon

In the news, water discovered on Earth’s moon: Not so much water apparently though that NASA will start shaping surfboards for its astronauts; nor is discovered quite right – confirmed or proven more precise. Meantime, of course, what with someone always turning up the global warming thermostat in the house, we’ll soon be wanting to bring some of that moon water down to Earth. And where there’s water, there could be also be tomatoes. And where there’s tomatoes, there could also be salsa. Now, a salsa party on the moon – countdown! And where there’s water, there’s sound, so the previously assumed to be silent moon, if you put your ear to the crater, just might produce some good vibes after all; and what’s a salsa party without music?

You Can’t Go Home Again

Sylvie. 30 Day Letter. Termination. Goodbye, Seattle. Country Blues Song.

You can’t go home again. Neither should I have stayed on another week at Hotel Julian. The subdued rhythm of my pastoral turned boisterous with the arrival of the fleet, and my absence in Seattle and now my prolonged and somewhat mysterious trip south caught up with me, testing Walter’s patience, and as he was wont to do at any sign of disloyalty among those with a seat at his table, he terminated me. There was of course more to it than that. The Walter Team was disestablished. It would be near impossible to disambiguate the transactions. In any case, I was no longer Risk Manager to the gods. Sylvie said Walter had sent me a 30 day letter. I could transfer to a desk in Morocco or take my leave, but the 30 days had already expired, and I had been cut loose with a modest severance bonus. Sylvie was on her way to spring training with her Single A team in Costa Rica. She had leased the Queen Anne house to some moonshiners out of the hills somewhere in east Skagit who planned to set up a microbrew. She had taken the liberty of putting my severance into a fund of fund of funds with no guaranteed rate of return but with a reputable track record. While I would not yet have to give up my weekly room status for a berth in the bunkroom, I would have to scout around for some part time work. I would not go back to Seattle though. I would take my risks elsewhere and in due time. Come Thursday night of my second week on board I climbed the Hotel Julian fire escape up to the rooftop bar and grill where I drank a slow beer and listened to Jack Tar and the Flower Girl with the Weathered Weary Blues Band messing around with some country blues with players on guitar, banjo, harmonica, a snare drum with a single cymbal, a Flatiron mandolin, and a stand up bass. Flower Girl nearly keeled me over with this song:

“Back Home Again”

What I know about love, I wrote on a postage stamp,
and mailed myself half way up to the moon.
I’m in stardust singing – I do, I do, adieu.
I’m out on the road, and I can’t go home again.

I was born in the back of a beach bum shack,
again and again, then I sailed the seven seas.
I never made it back home again.
Adieu, adieu. You can’t go home again.

She was born in a coral of a rodeo,
off a road they call Route 66.
Between the cowboy and the clown she broke free.
Goodbye, goodbye. She won’t be back again.

The moral of this story, the point of this tale,
if you ever leave home, you can’t go back again,
because you won’t be there when you arrive.
Goodbye, my love, goodbye my love, goodbye.

And it’s home again, I want to come back to you,
see all my family and all my old friends too,
but it’s true what they say, you can’t go home again.
Goodbye, my love, goodbye my love, adieu.

Note: Hear “Back Home Again” played on the guitar
here: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CEAoxkhIXgq/

“You Can’t Go Home Again”
is episode 23 of
Ball Lightning
a Novel in Progress
in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
(Click link for continuous, one page view of all episodes.)

Pretty, vacant, and we don’t care

Watch the stars as they collide
Erase the dots in your eyes

What do the lyrics say we can’t hear
The singer and the song disappear

Pretty vacant and we don’t care
Pretty vacant and we don’t care

What’s your name the color of your hair
Saw you down at the LA fair

Have so much no need to share
Look at us oh what a pair

Pretty vacant and we don’t care
Pretty vacant and we don’t care

“Pretty, vacant, and we don’t care”
was part of an originals set played on
Live at 5 from the Portland Joe Zone last night,
and included:
Bury My Heart in the Muddy Mississippi
If You’ll Be My Love
Two Riders Were Approaching
Goodbye, Joe
She Shakes Me Out

Virtually Nowhere

Writing for the New York Times Sunday edition for June 28, California veteran-reporter Shawn Hubler, reporting from Davis, California, on the ghost town effect Covid-19 is bringing to college towns across the country, and wandering around the abandoned town UC Davis keeps flush, notes, apparently sans irony: “Outside the closed theater, a lone busker stood on a corner playing ‘Swan Lake’ on a violin to virtually no one.” I know the feeling.

Meanwhile, musicians across the globe are turning to virtual possibilities to keep their chops up in front of a live audience. Amateurs too are getting into the act, as evidenced by the creation of the “Live at 5 from the Joe Zone” shows, nearly nightly live broadcasts (5 pm PST) via Instagram “stories” and “IGTV” posts, featuring myself, a nephew, and three brothers, to wit: “The Joe Zone nightly Live at 5 with Joe@ketch3m@johnlinker@charleslinker@kevin_linker: Portland, Salem, Healdsburg, Ione, Drytown.” Listeners tune in to hear music and stories while watching the player, and comment live, often talking, virtually, to one another, via their online comments.

The shows last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. These are not group performances. If we could figure out how to do that virtually, we might give it a go, but for now, each of us takes a night in our respective hometown pandemic quarantine digs and creates a solo show for the live entertainment of our loyal followers. The other night, I had 5 listeners in my audience (go ahead: irony, satire, and sarcastic comments all accepted with good grace). There were, at one point, 6 listeners, but one apparently came and went. It happens. But that was also a slow night. I’ve had as many as 14 live listeners, at once. Ok, ok, still not exactly Arena Rock. And, but, in any case, that’s not the point.

If one saves the live show via IGTV, most followers eventually find it, but at which point it’s a kind of rerun. The key is to catch it live. But of course 5 in the evening is not necessarily the best time-fit for any given listener. I’ve not saved my shows beyond a few hours, if at all. I caught grief last week for an immediate delete, since Susan thought it was my best show yet, but the rerun dilutes the live effects. And the show is intended as a real quarantine activity, a virtual get-together, a virtual hoedown or hootenanny.

Of course, all towns are potential ghost towns (there appears to be a gene for it they are born with), and all performances are played potentially “for virtually no one.” Still, Davis is but a rock’s throw from the much larger Sacramento (about a 20 minute drive) and just over an hour to the Bay. Not to mention it’s a major Amtrak stop for the north-south Starlight Special. In many other small college towns across the country you can already hear the whistle’s last blow and watch the tumbleweeds filling the streets.

If You’ll Be My Love

I’ll paddle out through sharks for you
live on Desolation Row with you
burn all my books for you
if you’ll be my love

I’ll walk the pirate’s plank for you
smoke a cigarette or two
join the National Guard for you
if you’ll be my love

I’ll sleep with deadly snakes for you
crawl through caves of spider nests
I’ll be a bee for your nectarine
but I won’t sting your sweet flower

I’ll barbecue my ribs for you
wash the dishes and take out the trash
change the cat litter and watch TV with you
if you’ll be my love

I’ve nowhere to go to take you to
no gold ring from Saks Fifth Avenue
I’ll write a letter of love to you
if you’ll be my love

Now these days I sing to you
memories of long-ago
don’t you think it’s time that you
let me be your love?

But you don’t want to live yesterday
and not necessarily for all time
and love seems so far away
in a song like some kind of oldie

The song “If You’ll Be My Love” performed Live at 5 (PST) from the Portland Joe Zone on June 20, 2020.

Note: the last two lines in the third stanza were substituted in the live version with these:

I’m a bee flying around your room
looking for the flower of your love



Goodbye, Joe

Hey Joe, where you going all tangled up in blue?
Gonna change my attitude, walk on down the avenue
Fly away on a magic carpet ride down to Graceland.
Goodbye, Joe

Hey Joe, what kind of mood you in with that cat-like grin?
I’m moving off the dark side of the moon
Going over to see Jerry Lewis at the Paradise.
Goodbye, Joe

Hey Joe, what’s that seaweed vine around your neck?
After months at sea I washed up on a beach
Now I’m drinking water from a coconut cup.
Goodbye, Joe

Hey Joe, who you seeing, hanging out with these days?
When the going gets tough, the tough get lonely, that’s what she said to me.
Gonna put on a tie and suit up for a career in the red dust.
Goodbye, Joe

Hey Joe, where you going with that book in your hand?
This here book is Penina’s Letters.
Going down to the water and toss the whole book off the jetty at D&W.
Goodbye, Joe

Hey Joe, why do you sing songs when we know you can’t sing?
This is my song to the world that’s always singing to me.
I’m taking voice lessons from a locomotive trapped in a tree.
Goodbye, Joe

Hey Joe, what’s that in your DNA?
Trains, uniforms, wheeled and track vehicles
Off the rack guitars and SWR surf films.
Goodbye, Joe

Hey Joe, been down to the cathedral lately?
You don’t need a church to pray.
Jesus said, two of you gathered in his name,
and he’ll take you home, he’ll take you home.

I’ll be performing “Goodbye, Joe” from the JoeZone, live at 5 (PST), tomorrow, Sat Jun 6, on Instagram: @joe.linker

She Shakes Me Out

She shakes me out, she jiggles me down
starts me dancing like a rodeo clown.
Twist to the left, twist to the right
never do we get too way up tight.

She stays so near, she goes so far
she ain’t no Facebook or Internet star.
She’s seen over here, she’s been over there
all night and day, everywhere.

Turn it up loud, turn it down soft
turn it all the way off.
She never says yes, she never says no
she knows when to say let it all go.

She don’t wear silver, she don’t wear gold
she’s never been bought, she’s never been sold.
She rides me high, she rides me low
she rides me fast, and she rides me slow.

Turn me loose, I have no choice
she rides me like a pet mongoose.
She be hep, she be cool
she never ever don’t be cruel.

She sings the old songs, fingerpicks a guitar
she don’t care if all the words go wrong.
She walks the streets, visits the sick
she don’t mind being in the thick of it.

She knows how to live, knows how to die
she looks me straight in the eye.
Color me blue, color me green
she’s the best thing I’ve ever seen.

She heats my beans, toasts my buns
and I hardly ever get the runs.
She shoots pool, shoots the shit
she ignores all the rules of it.

She hits a home run, lays down a bunt
she lays it all on the line.
She knows how to fly, knows how to fall
knows how to climb this here wall.

She knows how to pray, knows how to sin
she always knows the shape I’m in.
She knows how to work, knows how to play
knows to go home at the end of the day.

She knows how to give, knows how to take
she knows how to ask if there is some mistake.
She knows how to swim, knows how to sleep
she knows how to make that midnight creep.

She knows how to laugh, knows how to cry
not every guy in a suit is a spy.
She likes a tete-a-tete with a cat or two
down by the water.

She likes it slow, takes it easy
drinks a bourbon in the salsa garden.
The sun makes her happy, but rain makes her glad
Her blue eyes seldom cry.

She forgives, she forgets
she’s got rooms to let.
I do her dishes, scrub her pots
change the diapers, that’s my lot.

The bells of Saint Mary’s, down by the sea
the waves they did cry.
The day she got married, on the radio
angels they did fly.

She took a walk, on the mild side
she went to bed, and fell asleep.
She shakes me out, jiggles me down
I get up in the morning like a working clown.

“She Shakes Me Out” is a song I wrote and performed on my show “Live at 5 from the JoeZone” on Instagram on Monday, May 18 (now deleted). I used the chord progression:

Bb7  Bb9  Bb7b9  Bb9 
Eb9  Eb7b9  Eb7  Eb7b9 
Bb7  Bb9  Bb7b9  Bb9 
F9   Eb9   Bb7   F9

Tune in to Live at 5 from the JoeZone most nights (PST), a pandemic quarantine social distancing live video hour (or less) of music, talk, stories, and such to help pass the time and ease the mind.


Two Riders Were Approaching

Two riders were approaching
on hogs and wearing leather.
“Let’s stop here,” said one to the other,
“for a cool drinking beer.”

They passed the time on songs
that ofttimes rhymed.
On the trail or in the big city.
They parked the hogs in the gutter.

At the bar the one he uttered,
“What’s that you got in the vat?”
“Saltwort Ale,” the barkeep did tell,
combing his beard with a hand.

“Two lights for us, my friend,
the day grows warm and thin,
the dust is finding its corners,
the dogs want shade and water.”

“No light here,” the barkeep says,
“and we don’t serve no rhymesters.”
“But we are the two riders,
two riders who were approaching.”

“This here’s a craft brew pub,
not some seedy tavern.
Take your hogs and dogs across the tracks,
go see John Wesley’s mother.”

The two riders went back to riding.
On the trail where we last heard their cry,
they were still approaching.
Two riders were approaching.

“Yippi-yi-yo,
yippie-ki-yay,
we’re gonna go
our own way.”

Yippi-yi-yo,
yippie-ki-yay,
we’re gonna go
our own way.”

“Two Riders Were Approaching” is a song I wrote and performed on my show “Live at 5 from the JoeZone” on Instagram on Saturday, May 9 (now deleted). I used the chord progression Am Dm E7 Am. I changed a few words and lines here, and I discarded here a few of the lines sung live, as follows:

“…where the hodads hang their hats”;
“The hogs are hot and tired”;
“I don’t care if you’re the four horses of the apocalypse.”

If I ever play “Two Riders” again, I’ll probably change it some more.
Meantime, tune in to Live at 5 from the JoeZone Saturday nights (PST), a pandemic quarantine social distancing live video hour (or less) of music, talk, stories, and such to help pass the time and ease the mind.

I wrote this song, as I explained on “Live at 5,” to celebrate the latest Bob Dylan recordings, his first with all original songs in eight years. The title of my song, “Two Riders Were Approaching,” is the penultimate line in the Dylan song “All Along the Watchtower.” As I asked my audience, “Have you ever wondered what happened to those two riders?”

Photo: Pic I took of a photo at the Oregon Historical Society “Barley, Barrels, Bottles, and Brews” exhibit in 2019: two musicians and a bartender at the Cowdell Saloon in Antelope, Oregon, 1913.



Motti, Lazzaro, and Django

The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch (Swiss, 2018) is a coming of age story, Motti’s single marital status of existential concern to his mother, who tries to set him up with any number of, for Motti, unsuitable but available girls whose mothers are equally concerned about the marriage status of their daughters. But Motti has his own ideas about attractions and family values, even as his young and tender heart is yanked from his body by the carefree girl he falls off a cliff for, and a parental sponsored trip to Israel banking on his finding a girl the family can approve of only makes matters worse. Expect much laughter, and crying, out loud, with actors speaking German, Yiddish, and Hebrew. The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch is about the surprise of life.

Happy as Lazzaro (Italian, 2018) is another coming of age story. Lazzaro does, literally, fall off a cliff, but not for love, and his heart remains surreally whole, inviolate, even as his body is bruised and abused. He’s a static character, the same at the end as at the beginning, even as life around him changes dramatically. The dwelling settings, country and city, are brutal but beautiful. The lives of the sharecroppers, under imprisonment and later emancipated but just as poor, still captives of poverty, illustrate that poverty is protean, affecting both the poor and the wealthy.

Django (French, 2017). A dramatization of the life of the guitarist Django Reinhardt and his family during World War II. The Nazis persecuted the Gypsies, many of whom tried to flee to relatively safe zones, joined the resistance, or were caught, killed on the spot, or transported via train to the Nazi concentration camps. The film focuses on Django’s one attempt to escape France, and while he did try to escape to Switzerland, according to the book Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend (2004, Michael Dregni, Oxford University Press), Django spent most of the war in Paris, where he was allowed to continue playing his music because by then he and his music had become so popular. But he had to play for the occupiers as well as for the locals, his safe treatment thus coming at the cost of a kind of debt bondage. From the book:

“Hitler bore a deep hatred for Gypsies…From 1933, German Gypsies were doomed. The Nazis barred Romanies from cities, shuttling them into settlement camps. Nazi doctors began sterilizing Romanies as early as 1933. And German Gypsies were required to wear a brown triangle sewn on their chest marked with the letter “Z” for zigemer, German for “Gypsy” – a precursor of the yellow Stars of David pinned to Jews (168)….Yet in Paris, Django was flourishing. Never did he have so much work or live in such sumptuous surroundings. Just as the Germans permitted jazz in Paris, they allowed Romany musicians to continue to play – and paid to come hear them every night” (169).

Still, Django worried for his family and for his own life, and if some considered him a hero, others thought of him as a conspirator: “Being in the spotlight saved him from the fate awaiting other Gypsies, but Django began to sweat under the glare” (182). Django takes off with his pregnant wife and his mother. They get caught and are imprisoned, but then, in the absurd way these things seem to happen, Dregni says, “A miracle arrived in the unlikely form of the German kommandant. He was a jazz fan, and when he came to question his new prisoner, he was astonished. ‘My good Reinhardt,’ he said, ‘whatever are you doing in this fix?’ Django promised not to try to escape again, and was freed” (184).

Django the film is must see for anyone interested in Gypsy jazz. But it’s also just a classic film – the acting, the setting, the timing, the war, the family and country drama and suspense. It features much magnificent music, including the organ “Mass” piece Django created. Django the book by Dregni should also be read. Django never learned to read or write, save at a most rudimentary level, and that late in his life (he died age 43). The book reveals a deep history of jazz music in Europe, particularly Paris, including stories of the many Black American musicians who traveled through Europe, most stopping in Paris, many playing with Django, following both World Wars. It covers the business of music and recording and performance management, popular success and failure, the changing style of jazz as musicians work to assimilate new music experienced from new exposures.

Bells

Manual typewriters contained a bell that rang to signal the coming of the end of a line. The typist could adjust where along the line the bell might ring. Shorter lines…Longer lines. The faster typist increased the frequency of the bells one heard. When the bell rang, the typist had but a few strokes left before reaching up with left hand to push the typewriter carriage return lever to the far right to reset the type guide at the left margin of the paper to begin a new line.

I got a new job, in a large, corporate office, flying paper airplanes. During the day, the three story building housed around 500 employees sitting at grey metal desks. There were a few managerial secretaries with typewriters. The rest of us used the typing pool. All you had to do was pick up your phone, dial the typing pool extension, and, when you heard the bell, begin dictation. Finished, you could let the piece fly, or ask that it be delivered to your desk via the office mail to proof and return to the pool or place in the outgoing mail.

There was a procedure for just about everything. New procedural bulletins arrived regularly. Some updated older bulletins or clarified procedural details. Others introduced new procedures. Sometimes, a section meeting would be devoted to reviewing a new procedure before its effective date. In short order, most procedures were memorized, but employees also stuck notes around their desks to remind themselves of key procedural steps. For procedures that never became part of routine, one referenced a procedural manual, which was an encyclopedia of procedure bulletins, collected by category and number. Employees also made notes in these manuals, and flagged the most frequently referenced pages.

The mailroom was located in the basement. The mailroom employees were also heavily burdened with procedures. The cafeteria was located on the top floor, and afforded views of the surrounding area, which included a freeway interchange. There was a patio on one side of the cafeteria, with tables with chairs and umbrellas, where one could take a coffee or sandwich and enjoy the fresh air.

There were procedures for evacuating the building, in case of emergency, initiated by the ringing of signal bells over the public address speaker system. These bells also controlled the start and end of the work day as well as the start and end of break and lunch periods. The workday started at 7:30, signaled by the single ring of a bell. Employees were expected to be seated and working at the bell; otherwise, they might be considered tardy. This was explained in the Personnel Procedure Manual. Employees took breaks in shifts, so that no section or department was ever completely idle. Morning breaks ran from 9:30 to 9:45 and from 10:00 to 10:15. A bell signaled the beginning and ending of each break. Thus four bells would ring at fifteen minute intervals. Lunch break was 45 minutes, and ran from 11:30 to 12:15 and 12:15 to 1:00. An efficient three bells sufficed. In the afternoon, four bells rang again for breaks, beginning at 2:30 and ending at 3:15. A final bell rang at 4:30 and the building quickly emptied, faster than for a fire drill.

By procedure, the secretaries placed dust covers over their typewriters at the end of the workday.