Blue Skies

History, a day game, his story, a looper machine, a rhythm continuously churning the same old fat. The past cannot cure this present precious moment as it is devoured by his own story. The ark sinks, the birds do not return, the sacrifice runs on and on and on. He was so Goddy Dodgy that he gave his only Son so that no one would need to sacrifice or be sacrificed again, to bring peace, yet every son and daughter is still sacrificed. Moloch. The Earth rolls forward, will not be stopped, leaves no tracks, nothing motionless as this tiny airplane 8 miles high begins its descent to a 9 inning game where I sit in the center field bleachers in the Tucson sun for an inning before retreating to Sylvie’s air conditioned suite next to the press box over home plate, with a glass of iced tea with a slice of lemon and a sprig of spearmint stick. Perado grounds to short, out at first. Alofme strikes out, looking hot and dehydrated, too exhausted to swing the bat. Carmone drives a hard ball to deep right center and already rounds first when Waltzer up against the fence leaps and pockets the shooting star. Sylvie mentions a few fine restaurants where we might later dine. She likes to eat out, under the blue skies, in the open air, and there’s a one story place she knows in South Tucson with a roof patio, with shade palms in huge buckets and fine water misters cooling the outside tables and a water fountain running against the traffic noise, bubbling and burbling, colorful umbrellas. The game was booked, we left the ballpark for the restaurant, and on the menu we found Berkshire Pig Tacos, Ossobuco with Gremolata, Peruvian Roasted Chicken. Sylvie ordered a bottle of cold dry white Merlot and another of dusty purple Sangiovese. The skies were blue, the sun setting solid gold, the heat lifting quickly in the cloudless desert evening. Your skies are never blue, Sylvie said. Always cloudy, or foggy, grey, cold. Why don’t you come live in the desert for some time away. There are ways to cool off. Swimming holes, sunhats, shorts and t shirts and sandals. The shade of the Tipu trees, Velvet Mesquite, the Blue Verde. Why do you gotta be so desperate all the time? Find some blue skies, enjoy the porch shade, relax. Stop worrying about the world. You’re the King of Anhedonia. Take off that crown of thorns. Feel some joy. Joie de vivre. Sit out with me and talk and dine and let the blue skies seep deep into your body. She reached across the table for my hand and I let her take it in hers and I tried to feel some pleasure in it.

“Blue Skies” is episode 58 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Tin Can Beach

I rode into a fog, thin at first, the coolness refreshing, but visibility continued to reduce. The ray from the lamp on my Vespa bounced back at me. Visibility soon reduced to virtually zero, and I pulled over to the side of the road and rolled into the trailer park at Bolsa Chica. No tent camping. No sleeping on the beach. I tuned the time machine on the Vespa to 1954, the fog lifted, and I saw a few firepits spitting light in the darkness down on Tin Can Beach. I found a place in the sand off the road where I could park the scooter and spread out my cowboy bedroll. Some crooner with a banjo sang folk songs in the distance. I covered myself with my space blanket and fell asleep to Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene,” this crooner’s notion to swim out into the ocean and drown.

“Tin Can Beach” is episode 46 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Weathered Weary Blues Band

Hotel Julian. Bunkroom. Jack Tar. Blues. 

Room 293, my room for the week, viewed Port Street, below the monthly rooms on the third floor of Hotel Julian and above the hourly and daily rooms on the first floor. Also on the first floor, located above the ground floor grocery, was a bunk or barracks room with twelve canvas and steel spring cots let by the night, two rows of six, one on each side, a three foot aisle down the middle. The Bunkroom opened at 7 in the evening and guests had to be out by 7 the next morning. The Barracks was closed during the day. A communal latrine at the end of the room served personal needs. Other than use of the latrine for cleaning and relief, the Bunkroom, or Barracks, was for sleeping only. The room was open to men or women, but not to couples. Singles only. But how Julian enforced that rule, I don’t know. Bunkroom conversation, if there was any, was sotto voce. If Hotel Julian guests wanted to hear or make noise, they climbed the back fire escape up to the rooftop, where an outdoor bar and grill, open to guests only, featured a house blues band Thursday through Sunday nights. The rooftop was closed Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and open from 9pm to midnight the other nights. I checked into Hotel Julian on a Monday, and it was a few nights later when I climbed the fire escape to the roof to hear the Weathered Weary Blues Band. Apparently, the band consisted of only one regular player, a guitarist who went by the name Jack Tar, and whether he came on alone or was joined by other players, he went by the Weathered Weary Blues Band. I got up to the rooftop around 9:30 and counted 9 folks including myself in the audience. I sat at a table in the rear and ordered a beer. But the tide was in and so was the fleet, and soon the rooftop filled to capacity, about 40 of us listening as Jack introduced none other than my disappeared flower girl who started in on “The Blues are Brewin,” accompanied by Jack Tar lovingly stroking an acoustic Gibson with a bottle neck on this little finger and a tall thin fellow blowing and sucking fills on harmonica. Up on the roof was lovely, and while dangerous waters might have been rising below, we paid that no mind as we got stuffed to the gills with the blues but never felt full.

“Weathered Weary Blues Band”
is episode 21 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.)

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.


Summer Notes: 5 – A Blues

In the morning, when the sun comes up
In the morning, when the sun comes up
In the morning, when the sun comes up
Give thanks for this cup of coffee.

In the evening, when the sun goes down
In the evening, when the sun goes down
In the evening, when the sun goes down
Ballyhoo this cold glass of beer.

At midnight, when the moon comes out
At midnight, when the moon comes out
At midnight, when the moon comes out
Laud, laud the light.

The 4 Hour Blues

(for Langston Hughes)

We start work at 6,
break at 8,
go again till 10,
then spread thin,

straining hoom
across the street,
pay to park the horn
in the barn.

4 plus 8 hours of bars:
menus, bibs, gases, and books.
We buy these blues,
coughing up blue stained bills,

so our blues may change
to greens.
We play the 4 hour blues.
We play the 4 hour blues.

78 RPM Saturday Night

Three new short pieces up over at SoundCloud with The Variable Trio. “Little Richard” and “Easy on the Blues” were attempts to recreate the shellac 78 sound, using aged vocals recorded open microphone into a portable recorder on tape cassettes then playing them back through a boombox into GarageBand, using the laptop open microphone and the “telephone vocal” setting with increased reverb. “Coffee House Scramble” was recorded using six tracks of GarageBand settings (Wide Wide Wah, Spring Theory, Alien Waves, Echolalia, Old School Punk, and Swampland), using the Fender Telecaster played unplugged acoustically into the laptop open microphone, and adding tracks of Yamaha Bass, hand claps and thigh slaps and slides, and acoustic piano.

Blues Bus to the Blues Fest; or, The Blues Concert as Lecture

“I am here, and there is nothing to say,” John Cage said, in his “Lecture on Nothing” (Silence, 1961). “If among you are those who wish to get somewhere, let them leave at any moment.” So we boarded Line 15, ancient music now turned summer, for the 2011 Portland Blues Festival. The bus in summer is different than the bus in winter. The bus in winter is a lecture on nothing; the summer bus is a lecture on something. Yet Cage also said, on the flip side “Lecture on Something,” “This is a talk about something and naturally also a talk about nothing.”

We went down to hear a lecture by Lucinda Williams, who sings in a laconic voice, lips tight but arms open, looking like some hair-tired but blessed mom who’s just thrown a gutter ball. Singing on an outdoor stage close by the river spotted with yachts, Lucinda appeared to be glancing at notes loose on a music stand, and during “Born to Be Loved,” a breeze up from the water blew the notes off the stand and onto the stage, reminding us of a paper we recently read on the Norm Friesen blog: The Lecture as a Transmedial Pedagogical Form: A Historical Analysis.

Friesen, whose publication set-list rivals a Dylan discography, and whose research funding rivals a branch of the military, argues that the lecture is “a remarkably adaptable and robust genre that combines textual record and ephemeral event.” Thus Friesen tries to save the lecture as a meaningful pedagogical tool: “The lecture, I argue, is most effectively understood as bridging oral communication with writing, rather than as being a purely spoken form that is superseded by textual, digital, or other media technologies….”

Lucinda first appeared to want to rescue the fallen notes, then turned to face the born to drum Buick 6 drummer Butch Norton in cowboy hat and Bermuda shorts and banged a clinched fist against a desperate hip, for, as Friesen explains, “…the ideal for the lecture is to create an illusion. Parts of the lecture may be memorized, but in a long-standing tradition, it is generally read aloud. And in reading aloud, what the lecturer strives to create is the illusion of spontaneity and extemporaneity.” I started to jot down some notes, Joe Mitchell style, and the woman next to me (we were standing at a beer garden table behind the seated crowd, with a panoramic view of the Hawthorne Bridge to the north, the river, the water turning from blue to silver as the evening spread, dappled with the playful yachts, and Lucinda’s serious stage to the south) asked me if I was working on a set-list.

When we were in school, pre-e-hysteria, pre-WeakPoint, there were two kinds of teachers, those who lectured and those who ran discussion classes. Discussion classes were often popular for their freewheeling possibilities, yet many students avoided them, for they often filled with students who themselves seemed to want to lecture. My favorite lecturer was Abe Ravitz. There was never a syllabus, just a list of books we’d be reading, a set-list. Dr. Ravitz walked purposefully into class, book in hand, and started talking. He had no notes, just the text, which he referred to, quoting frequently. We took notes. This was not an illusion. We wrote in-class essay exams, in blue books.

Larry Cuban, commenting on the Friesen paper, asks, “if lecturing is so bad for learning and seen as obsolete, how come it is still around?” Amiri Baraka explains in his groundbreaking lecture on the blues, Blues People (1963): “With rhythm & blues, blues as an autonomous music had retreated to the safety of isolation. But the good jazzmen never wanted to get rid of the blues. They knew instinctively how they wanted to use it, e.g., Ellington.” This is in the chapter titled “The Blues Continuum.” Just so, the best lecturers are part of a continuum, and don’t want to get rid of their roots, and know how they want to use them, and the worst lecturers are those who are self-satisfied, and who might lose their cool if they lose their notes. Yet there are always breaks in the texts, as we learned from the French scholars (Barthes, for example). Lucinda’s notes blowing off her stand was a break in her text, revealing that she is a blues lecturer, but not a self-satisfied one.

Schopenhauer’s Blues; or, On Jazz & Folk Music, from Hoedown to Hootenanny: A Happening Post

Over at JazzWax, jazz journalist Marc Meyers pulls out an old discussion, with Stan Kenton trying to explain a depressed jazz market. Marc focuses on Kenton’s suggestion that the emergence of folk helps explain the jazz recession, but finds Kenton’s explanation historically inaccurate: “I find this entire folk-as-jazz-killer thing a hoot,” Marc says.

Hoot of course is the folk mating call, suggesting hootenanny, a down-home “happening.” Yet the etymologies of both hootenanny and its precursor, the hoedown, suggest that folk and jazz have common ancestral roots in Blues People.

A flat note of interest in the Kenton comments transcribed by Marc suggests an adulteration of jazz through the commercialization processes: “The jazz we have known, explained Kenton, from 1890 to the late 1950s, has spent itself and has become absorbed by American music in general.” But, by definition, we might argue that jazz is that music which absorbs every other musical form without losing its own identity. Jazz is, at its roots, a folk music, and to suggest that folk music isn’t now or wasn’t ever popular is a self-contradictory proposition.

In any case, foraging through the OED this morning, researching the etymology of hootenanny, hoedown, and happening, I culled the following hoots, displayed below:

1963 Daily Mail 11 Sept. 8/4 Hootenanny. …is to the folk singer what a jam session is to the jazzman. 1964 Mrs. L. B. Johnson White House Diary 13 Jan. (1970) 44, I love folk music, but the name ‘Hootenanny’ rather repels me. 1967 ‘J. Munro’ Money that Money can’t Buy ix. 114   Two more cowboys appeared. …They played hoe-down music. 1969 Guardian 2 Sept. 8/2 The atmosphere was that of…a hoedown in—well, perhaps in Hibbing, Minn. 1970 Daily Tel. 29 Dec. 10 Tomorrow the 1,600 delegates will see a ‘happening’ called ‘Thank God We’re Normal’ performed by 70 boys and girls from…comprehensive schools in London.

Music is a language of feeling (as opposed to a language of thinking), though it might sound illogical to think of music as a language, since music not being a language is what gives it its universal character. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “with respect to the theme of achieving more peaceful and transcendent states of mind, Schopenhauer believes that music achieves this by embodying the abstract forms of feelings, or feelings abstracted from their particular everyday circumstances. This allows us to perceive the quintessence of emotional life — ‘sadness itself,’ ‘joy itself,’ etc. — without the contingent contents that would typically cause suffering. By expressing emotion in this detached or disinterested way, music allows us to apprehend the nature of the world without the frustration involved in daily life, and hence, in a mode of aesthetic awareness that is akin to the tranquil philosophical contemplation of the world.”

As good a definition of the blues as I’ve ever heard.