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.

Voltage Hymn



Rise perfect voltage, pow'r and light
whose majesty is unconfined.
Indwell this luminary night
the shining darkness of the mind.

Your inward speaking wakes the dead
and by its tongue they understand
the excellence of words unsaid
the silence that you can command.

Pure generation - turbines turn
in deepest earth where few may go.
These mortal coils forever burn.
This is the truth we all must know.

Copper and iron make the life
that flowing current - liquid love.
mated as man and fated wife
like waters fall endless from above.

When we are risen, turned to light
then we shall see as those once blind
transformed as day is turned to night
filled with the brilliance of your mind.

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.