Heart of Glass

Last night I watched a German film from 1976: Herz aus Glas (Heart of Glass.) It had subtitles, but much of the language I could make out, hearing the words behind and ahead of the blurry written text. After decades, I finally found this movie that has a mythic weirdness like few others. The director, Werner Herzog, claimed that he hypnotized the cast every day before shooting. Certainly some of them look like they're under a spell. The movie is slow, highly irrational, dreamy, and virtually plotless. And though at times I was bored, it still had a big impact on me. Heart of Glass woke something in me: German language, a 1970s recreation of the nineteenth century, mystic kraut-rock soundtrack by Popul Vuh, and mesmerism. Not a great film, but an opening in my mind.

Rock On Baby Queen

As a one-hit wonder who ended up far more successful acting than making music, David Essex here does the cinematic mind-meld. His hit veers toward romance ("prettiest girl I ever seen") then fades into lost-soul call: hissing sibilants ("ssssssshh)" and gospel wails ("Oh my soul"!) More trance than dance, more necromantic spell than pop song, "Rock On" still lingers in the ether - tugging at the souls of lonely planet kids who remember, or who have convinced themselves that their music-spawned memories are real.

Lost in a haze of Jamaican dub (with reverb-soaked bass playing lead, tom-toms and congas giving a jungle vibe, dead stops opening into harrowing silence, and no guitar) this tune anticipates music that will be supposedly cutting edge ten years later. "Rock On" also harks back to 50s-era poppy dreamland, conjuring up summertime blues and blue suede shoes.

This call to "rock on" doesn't mean merely to get stupid and loud. It points toward obscure resurrection. The question "Where do we go from here?" comes from nowhere and finds no answer. Multi-tracked vocals add to the reechoing reverie. "See her shake on the movie screen." Who is the
"Baby Queen?" We never find out.

The Book That Changed My Life

"Chaos," by the Great and Mysterious Hakim Bey, loomed out of the shadows in 1985. Published by the Grim Reaper Press in Providence, it's only 28 pages long. But line for line, phrase for phrase, no book has had as big an influence on me as a writer. Sometimes classified as a collection of rants, "Chaos" is much more than that: with a hundred times the gorgeous weirdness of countless other so-called Great Books. Most of these short poetic pieces made their initial appearances in cheap xeroxed  zines, floating like specters in the U.S. postal system. Just a few titles gives some hint at what the writer was up: "Wild Children," "Poetic Terrorism," "Paganism," "Art Sabotage," "Chaos Myth," "Sorcery." The language is beautiful; the subject matter is strange and at times distressing. I read this book again and again. The amazing images and ideas seeped into my brain. They've been leaking out in my work ever since.

Infernal Blessings

For weeks, there's been a small sign on the expressway bridge I pass under as I drive to work: "I love you, Jesus." Today, I saw it had been replaced by another sign: "Lucifer is Light." This got a genuine belly laugh out of me, and seems a good portent for the day. Thousands of cars pass under the sign every day. How many drivers will look up? How many will feel blessed by the light?

The Davi Question

A number of readers have asked: is Davi a boy or a girl., both or neither? That's a hard one to answer. Given that Meet me in the Strange is told by Davi, we never get a solid "he" or "she" - only "I."

I see Davi through a retrofuturist lens. Glam rock, from its beginnings, blurred the boundaries between the sexes. I'd often see the word "androgynous" used to describe Bowie, Eno, Jobriath and other early glam rockers. Literally, "androgynous" means man-woman or masculine-feminine. When the first pioneers crossed the gender boundaries, fans, music writers and people gawking from the outside had fewer words than we do now to describe the phenomenon. And it was far more risky, even dangerous, to "take a walk on the wild side," (as Lou Reed put it.)

Some readers see Davi as a boy and some as a girl, some don't care, and some project onto Davi their own fears and desires. Meet me in the Strange started with Anna Z. - a girl at a concert, overwhelmed, blissed-out. Davi was the observer, the teller of the tale, and because they both live in a world of glam rock fantasy, Davi's sex, or gender, or whatever word you use, dissolves in the mist and music.


Meet Me in the Strange has been called a "retrofuturist novel." That is, it looks back and embraces much of the style, music, and attitudes of  '70s era glam rock. (And yes I was there, listening to Bowie, T Rex, Mott the Hoople, Roxy Music, Eno, New York Dolls.) It also looks to an alternate future - when the world (especially for two wild teenagers) is mutating into something strange, unpredictable and amazing.

Can a person be haunted by ghosts from the future? Why not? Can we send our minds (and eyes and ears) back to a time when things were better (or at least much cooler?) I say: absolutely. A very smart (and somewhat sad) person once said, "The past is where they keep all the good stuff." Music, books, art, movies, snazzy-looking clothes, heroes. This is partly cheap nostalgia. But here in the present we can look back at the past and recognize the really good things that will last.

What's ahead? One thing is for sure: new experiences. So Meet Me in the Strange exists in a weird limbo: forward and backward, there and not-here-yet, maybe and if only.

Dagon and the Hand-Jive



You got a crazy little finger, a crazy little thumb.
You got a crazy little organ, think I'm gonna get me some.
Everybody get religion. Everybody get a stick.
Everybody get some fish eggs and beat 'em till they're thick.

Hand-jive Dagon do the slime
digits working overtime
Come on all you Philistines
it's time to make the scene.

Sharkskin suit and cheaters too.
You got a mirror shine on a cloven shoe.
Up all night in the Temple of Cool,
worldwide champ of pocket pool.

Hand-jive Dagon do the slime
digits working overtime
Come on all you Philistines
it's time to make the scene.