My Secret Mess

I've been writing by hand again - Pilot G-2 gel pens on lined paper. These early drafts are a slithery secret mess, full of cross-outs, blobs of black ink oozing through the pages, words I can't read ten minutes later, arrows pointing upward and down, private abbreviations and meaningless squiggles. I just finished a new novel - the whole thing done first by hand. A thousand words a day at my kitchen table, then downstairs to the screen and keyboard. Typing them in reduces the heady generative chaos. It's necessary of course, if I want anyone else to read the words. But every time, I feel a pang of loss. Creativity is a mess, or it's nothing.

Happy Doomsday

High point of the weekend: singing shape note music for three hours at a Mennonite Church. No mikes or amps, no instruments, no audience, four part harmony, a couple dozen people, loud and raw. Some of the songs - like my current fave, "Doomsday" - go back to the mid 1700s. "Behold! with awful pomp, the Judge prepares to come. The Archangel sounds the dreadful trump and wakes the general doom. The living look with dread, the frightful dead arise, start from the monumental bed and lift their ghastly eyes." Out of the grave - singing. Up to the skies- on wings of wonderful-terrible song.


When I get sick, when the fever spikes, my thoughts get scrambled. The flu hit on Friday and by Monday, I was hot, achy, and delirious. The whole time, I was reading Brian Jones: The Making Of The Rolling Stones. Highly recommended (the book, not the flu.) Brian founded and named the band, and taught Mick and Keith how to be rock stars. It's not a happy story - but full of exotica, sixties high flash fashion, beautiful girls and journeys into weirdness. Fave episode: Brian travels to Morocco to record a crazed all-night ritual to conjure up the Great God Pan. A sacrificial goat, endless drumming and dancing. I was feverish through the whole thing (the book, not the ritual.) Do me a favor - find it - I think it's all true - and see if what I remember is actually there.

A Clockwork Orange

Behind glam rock - and Bowie was honest about this - lay A Clockwork Orange. In 1971, the film version was released and glam exploded. Walter Carlos (soon to make the transition to become Wendy Carlos) created the soundtrack. It was mostly thunderous classics (Beethoven, Purcell's Funeral Music for Queen Mary, the Day of Wrath) mutated by early analog synthesizers. On the screen, wild goon squad teenagers rampaged in bizarre costumes. On my turntable: the soundtrack album. Carrying secret copies of A Clockwork Orange became a fad among my high school friends. The book, the movie, the music, spread their vicious tentacles far into our suburban nowhere culture, and we talked much about "tolchoks" and "groodies." For a while, we lived the imaginal droog-life: not much violence, plenty of secret words.


Is it candy, or is it poison? Or both? Tiny, black, and mysteriously vile, Sen-Sen seems to be something spies would hide in a false tooth to bite down on when captured. But in fact it's claimed to give "breathtaking refreshment" which "masks the odors of smoke, food or drink." The taste? Dead flowers, formaldehyde, licorice and cheap hotel soap. For over a hundred years old ladies have carried tiny foil pouches of Sen-Sen. I first experienced the noxious burning flavor as a little kid, digging for gum in my Grandma's purse. I suppose I never really recovered.

Roadkill BBQ

Back from central PA - I mean, Pennsyltucky - where I enjoyed genuine barbecued roadkill, again. At a farmhouse just east of Butztown and Hecktown, I was pleased to find a crockpot full of spicy meat harvested off a big doe. It had been hit that morning and wandered, dying, onto Farmer Dan's land. He said that if the car hits a deer going too fast, the internal organs explode. So roadkill from winding back roads is best."Slow killed, slow cooked," his wife said. "That's the best." Afterward, many of us went down to the basement and sang for hours, old loud hymns in four-part harmony. My kind of party.

The Lost Thirteen

These are the bands I've performed with. All of them either did live shows or recorded, or both. Most are long, long forgotten:
Health and Beauty
Mongo Fury
Ju-Ju School
Screaming Vinyl
Caravan of Fear
Those Wild Swedish Mongoloids
Flat Planet
Nemo's Omen
The Fabulous Rectotem
The Behemoth Brothers
Invisible Stain Removers
Tape, vinyl, digital, memory: all dissolving into the past.


I dreamed last night that Trevor Blake's sister was possessed by a supernatural being - a shaman or demon - called "Jeezolay." From the name I can conjure him up: a cross between Jesus and Frito-Lay, or maybe Jesus and Chevrolet. The savior, cheap greasy snack food, and all-American transportation. He's my new godhead - the fast, slick, high-calorie, slightly-creepy messiah. Sing it: "Oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse Jeezolay." And "See the USA in your Jeezolay." I asked Trevor about this apparition and he said, "No sister except in Dreamland." I told him that in the dream she was doing fine. She either escaped from Jeezolay or found out that he meant her no harm.

Velvet Goldmine

It's a song (1971) and a movie (1998.) Both are great, and neither one reached the huge audiences they deserve. "Velvet Goldmine" was recorded during the Ziggy Stardust sessions. But it got left off the album (a little too sexy-suggestive - "naked on your chain, I'll be your King
Volcano" - even in the golden glory days of glam.) Velvet Goldmine, the movie, was officially a bomb, losing millions of dollars. But they both capture the wondrous weirdness, the fey slippery feel that Bowie perfected. He hated the movie script and refused to let his music be used on the soundtrack. Still, he looms over the whole story, just as the song - robbed of its title - lurks in the background, a hot and smoky ghost. 

Diamond Dogs

It started with David Bowie. The first concert I ever went to was the first American date of his Diamond Dogs Tour. David Bowie live - June 17, 1974 - with twelve thousand wild glam fans. I remember the stage set (representing a place called  "Hunger City") more than the music. At one point Bowie sang trapped inside a mirror-glass "asylum." Even better was Bowie singing "Time" (off the Aladdin Sane album - which I played obsessively and still have - in the original cellophane sleeve) in the palm of a gigantic hand. Yes, David Bowie - so skeletal, schizo and very scary - in a huge human hand.