Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Hidden Frame

i'm not convinced
not yet anyway
i'll admit
you do seem fearless
at ease
but there is something there
in the way you just shifted your weight
from one leg to the other
it was just a hint
a hidden frame
some slight sign of weariness
visible behind that smile and nod
that says you would really love to just lie down
it would be welcomed
i assure you
no mocking tone would ride the breath
of anyone here
warm tea and cool rags
would be delivered with all sincerity
your feet
washed with unguarded hands
i understand that these days
do not allow for the embracing of anything earnest
that the cynics tongue is the rule
and to stand before another with open arms
and not a trace of irony
is to play the fool
but i am willing to take that part on
are you


Monday, October 26, 2009

The Blue Glow

From the couch
I can hear the cat drinking out of the toilet
The ceramic reverb of a tiny room
A mosquito feeds on my right hand
The fleshy part just below the thumb
I allow this

The buried ringing in my ears
From too many cymbals
And one ballsy Fender Deluxe
Is a tenacious lover spurned
Relentless and pleading
Try as I might to deny her
She always finds a way back in

I check the blue glow for a third time
Knowing full well I should be creating
But instead seeking
Vanity is a false stroke
Flattery a cold mouth

I have the tools
To dismantle almost anything
I have the ability
And the care
To repair the deepest crack
I try
My best
To utilize my faith
To administer a salve of compassion


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Today I found myself on the side of a barren, two-lane highway, stamping out a grassfire in the rain. The result of a tossed cigarette I'm sure, but odd that it would catch in such wet conditions. I felt almost guilty for extinguishing it. It must have struggled like hell to burn.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Atwater: An Appreciation for Joe Henry

From Here

To Here

In 1990, i was working in an antique shop and living in the back. I say back but it was really just a storage closet that was four feet wide by eight feet long. It had a cot, a small table, and a wall of book shelves filled with hat boxes, doll parts, assorted ceramics, a variety of salt and pepper figurines, a pair of womens' black victorian lace up boots, stacks of 78's, brittle paged books and numerous Sharpie marked boxes, yellowed with age,that i never dared pry into. I had also managed to wedge in my old Kenwood turntable, amp and two speakers and what records i had brought with me on my exodus from my hometown of Abilene,Texas. I bathed in the bathrooms cold water sink and warmed cans of soup and beans on an upside down iron, a trick i had picked up from a passage in "On the Road". My main companion was a black Harmony acoustic i had picked up in a pawn shop for 80 bucks. It was all self inflicted hard scrabble and i was enjoying every bit of it.
I was manning the store for the owner, a working actor who was out of town for several months performing in a play. The store was located on Glendale Blvd. in a part of Los Angeles known as Atwater Village. At the time the only thing "hip" about the area was the highly modern, Italian restaurant two doors down, sandwiched between the tackle shop and the liquor store. Everything else around looked like it probably had for the last 40 years. Everyone on those two blocks of storefronts knew each other. Each morning at sunrise was a Mayberry moment. I would walk past the bird lady at the pet shop, the insurance salesman with the leaky window unit above his door, the cranky old sailor that ran the tackle shop(he truly looked like Popeye only with a little more weight on him) and other colorful neighbors, too many to mention. I would make my way down to the German Bakery for coffee, pastries and that first morning smoke, that, at 23 feels like the entire world opening itself up to you but at 40 feels like your stacking the final stone up onto the Great Wall. Afterwards, I would walk next door to the thrift shop and search for possible items to buy and resell in my store fifty yards away. Lastly, like savoring the last bite of a perfect meal, i would flip through the record bins.
It was on just such a morning that i came across an album that would stand me up, turn me around and send me on my musical journey. Unlike books, I have always judged records by their covers and while i know there have been many gems i have overlooked, more times than not my instincts have proven to be dead on. The title was intriguing enough, "Shuffletown", but it was the name that really grabbed me. The generic, everyman, John Doe quality of it...Joe Henry. I had grown up with my father singing songs to me filled with names like that. I was raised on Johnny, Kris, Hank, Tom T, Willie and more. I could tell a storyteller when I saw one without even hearing a single note. At the time, the writers I was listening to the most were from across the sea. David Sylvian, Lloyd Cole, Shane McGowan and such. I had found them in cut out bins and though I had not yet been schooled in the music business, i knew that something was amiss when artists and albums this good were landing in racks with 99 cent stickers on them. I immediately bought this new discovery, took it "home" and played it. Repeatedly.
I didn't get it the first few times but i let it play again and again while i busied myself with tasks around the store. It was about the 5th play thru that i remember actually sitting down in a "whoa" kind of moment. The roomy, live quality of the recording, the pace and the patience required and the way the lyrics drew me in and slowly revealed themselves, all took me back to a time and a place i had never been before but somehow felt i belonged. Nostalgia for something I had not even experienced. It was filled with everything i was drawn to and, in that store, surrounded by. Worn leather satchels , torn furniture, dusty shades and silver flasks. I was 23 in an old mans clothes and I had found my soundtrack. Many years later, my wife and I would dance to "Date for Church" at our wedding and further still name our second daughter after "Helena by the Avenue".
Back then, there was no internet to search or Google, to discover up to date facts about the artists you liked. The mystery was allowed to remain intact. I would have to wait for the occasional article in underground music rags to find out about new releases or, as many discoveries were made, follow the liner notes from album to album and artist to artist and the chain of associations that exist. I was surprised how few people seemed to know about this guy though, even people i met that worked in the music business would say, "How have I not heard this?" I wasn't obsessed with the man, hell, maybe I was, but every young songwriter has their Dylan. Mine just wasn't Dylan. In my own writing, I tried to avoid imitation, but influence was inevitable. I followed each release and every one was like a gift and an education. There was an urgency in them, a vitality and they were ever evolving in unstrained strides. You could tell they were being made first and foremost for himself and every other intention trailed behind that.
We all have those things we discover under the radar that feel exclusively our own. A film, a novel, an artist or an album that we feel protective of. We want to share it with the world but we also want to keep it under out hat. But I like to think that I've done my little bit to spread Joe's music around to friends and strangers over the last 20 years. (Not that he needs my help.)
I can't say that "Shuffletown" is still my favorite of the albums. There have been too many great ones to pick just one. "Scar", "Civilians" , "Short Man's Room" and more. But now as I sit here, many miles and years later, listening to the new album, "Blood From Stars", i can't help but smell the coffee in the German bakery, hear the parrot on the bird ladies shoulder and see the water slowly dripping from the insurance mans window unit. Appreciative of the long journey now behind and the one that lies ahead.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sometimes Nails Will Weep

not in this day buddy
there is no place for it
everything is a joke now
why can't we just slow the hell down
and actually speak to one another
feel the others presence
like a rat on the shoulder sniffing at your ear
to afraid to let the screens go dark
we raise our walls and build our fences
and sometimes the nails will weep
will we continue to whitewash them over
or let the stains show thru

Heels & Blades

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Peace House Concert

Thanks to Jason & Penny Jo for hosting such a nice night.
photo: Corey Hayes
(I am available for house concerts.)
You can contact Laura Thomas:

Monday, February 16, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Violinist in the Metro

(I found this story online)

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.
A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.
A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.
The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.
In the 45 minutes that the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.
Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats average $100 each.
Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

photo:Yves Klein: Leap Into the Void, 1960

i find it fascinating, though not surprising, when millionaires and billionaires start throwing themselves out of windows and in front of trains after losing their fortunes in times of financial crisis. i would think that if a person has the ability, the drive, and the vision to achieve such success, that they would apply those same traits to their new situation. but to actually take your own life because of the loss of money or status is bizarre to me, if not a little pathetic.
is it embarrassment? is it the fear of living without an expected level of comfort? is it shame for the way in which the success might have been gained? is it guilt for those whose lives were also affected by those actions? is it the "seeming" loss of power and freedom? or is it the stark realization of being forced to face who and what one really is when everything else is stripped away? perhaps that presentation of self, or lack of, is what takes them to the ledge. i certainly don't know. but i'd like to think that if i were in their shoes. i would instead, take a leap into the void and soar into the discoveries that this new life would present.