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Saturday, August 28, 2004

What a goofy day! I was the lone member of the management team in the building today. I suddenly was the answer man. Funny what a guy in a Hawaiian shirt can get accomplished when pushed.
I really don't have much news tonight. I'm hoping that I'll have something to report on tomorrow. We'll see. One thing is for sure; the day will start with two episodes of "The Green Hornet" on cable. I now have the theme to that show as the ring tone on my phone. It's a psychotic variation on "Flight Of The Bumblebee". Really cool.
Tonight's selection from the famed Writ Of Common Wisdom can very much be identified as the beginning of me stretching my legs as a songwriter. This song is eleven years old. I wrote this while I was living in Greensboro, North Carolina in late '92 or early '93. I wrote it, left it alone for a while, and then in going back through the few songs that I had already written, discovered I had used this exact same chord progression for another song with a faster tempo. The dream is to someday put the first song (which I call "Interior") and this song as the bookend tracks of a concept album. There's a line in this about living "beside this train". This is not an exaggeration. There were freight train tracks about 30 yards from my apartment window in Greensboro. As a person who's used to city trolley cars, this was a little disconcerting when the first freights passed by my window. I got used to it though, as this song celebrates to a degree.

Exterior (Somewhere Else)


The most important people in my life have come and gone

And my eyes won’t see that truth for many days

And I can’t remember who it was who told me I was wrong

When I told them non-conformity pays

I find myself in foreign towns where people twist my name

And at least on face will always ring some bells

And I could travel here and elsewhere, but it all remains the same

‘Cause I always know that I’m from somewhere else


I wake up in the morning and I wish I was with you

And knowin’ your not here will bring me grief

And I quickly regress back to 1986

And I rub my swollen eyes in disbelief

You’re standing fully clothed, flicking ashes on my bed

But I know it’s all a dream inside my self

And I could wish here and elsewhere, but it’s all within my head

‘Cause I always know that I’m from somewhere else


My days go by in darkness and my nights about the same

And I’m not sure how much longer I can last

And I look around my neighborhood for someone I can blame

Or someone to remove me from my past

And things that seem to matter equal nothing in the end

And pretending to love is something I can’t sell

And I could live here beside this train or someplace ‘round the bend

But I’ll always know

I’ll always know

I’ll always know I’m from somewhere else


I don't play this song much anymore, but it still has its strong points when I sing it. For now, I'm going to enjoy the break in the humidity of the last few days, continue listening to Midnight Oil's "Red Sails In The Sunset" and continue my search for hidden wisdom.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

OK, I haven't had the patience to put an entry up this week, but MAN do I have a lot to say, so here it comes.
We'll start with this past Sunday. Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards paid a visit not just to my state, but to my neighborhood. It was advertised as a block party. It was situated roughly four blocks away from my current abode in Milwaukee. I walked up in the afternoon and had numerous nice conversations with the other people in the crowd. I went up to Humboldt Park at roughly 3 PM. While Edwards didn't make his appearance until 7 PM, I didn't mind. It is emboldening and empowering to know that I do not stand alone against this travesty of a president we currently have in office. I ended up standing next to a very nice lady who later bought me a bottle of water for saving her spot while she went to the bathroom (ah, Porto-San!).
John's speech was highlighted by his typical talking points (two americas, creating opportunities, the moral imperative of fighting poverty), but on this day, he added a special harangue for these lying bastards who are running ads trashing Kerry's military service. Nevermind that EVERY official military document directly contradicts what these Brownshirts are spewing, but they ought to get a good look at the record (or destroyed lack thereof) of the man they support. Our president is a cokehead and a drunk who skipped his last Air National Guard physical and went missing because he couldn't possibly pass a medical screening. This fact has been covered up very carefully by his propaganda minister, Karl Rove.
On to more positive topics. At the end of Mr. Edwards' speech, I dared to launch myself into the crowd and with a desperate reach of a hand, I shook the hand of the future vice-president of the United States. It was a moment that filled me with a great sense of peace and satisfaction. Who knew shaking the hand of a politician could have such an effect?
My boss is back from her injury and in remarkably good spirits. I wish her a continued speedy recovery. Lovely Lady Leslie is trying to talk me into going to her father's place this weekend for a garage sale. I'm not really interested in going. I want to bury myself in paperwork this weekend. For the short time, I think I'm going back to the Bremen Cafe tomorrow night to hit their open mic to pump out some more tunes.
And one of them might be this one. Since I'm in a political mood, I'm going to jump out of order and give you a song I've written about our current misLeader. More to the point, I see the United States as currently being in a state of civil war. It gratifies me that I am on the correct side of this argument, but honestly, I don't see this war ending with the election. A lot of people are looking at this coming election as the end of this madness. I see it as only the beginning. No one in this country is listening to anyone from the other side anymore. All I am hearing is hate speech from the right, and invective from the left. This song talks about my eventual exodus from this country.

Right Foot Down


The turnin’ of the tide is turnin’ to a tidal wave

And no one seems to listen anymore

It only takes a nervous tic on someone else’s gun

To turn discussion into civil war

But I’ll be on the sidelines with my gun up on the shelf

Drinking beer and living long while you destroy yourself


CHORUS:

So put your right foot down

Pick your left foot up

Kick your right foot out

And you’ll all fall down (2X)


See the monkey leader read his cue card speech with ease

He made himself on someone else’s dime

I wonder whose banana he’ll be chomping on today

Or if he’ll just go missing one more time

Though someone’s gonna pick him off it hasn’t happened yet

As he stands on top of corpses telling you you’re in his debt


(Chorus)


What seems to him like heaven is a hell for me and you

If you think that number one is bad, take a whiff of number two

(Chorus)

I gladly lend my voice to those who would fight this terrible, heartless and cynical presidency with all of their might. As people lay dying in Darfur, Sudan due to religious hatred, as our veterans go without adequate healthcare, as MILLIONS of people in this and other countries go to sleep hungry and as our young men and women slowly get killed in a land we had no credible reason to invade, I wonder how Mr. Bush sleeps at night. And the most infuriating thing is he dares to stand in front of America saying that God speaks to him. Mr. Bush, may I sit here and exercise my First Amendment right to say "Fuck you!!".

Saturday, August 21, 2004

FAST REVIEW
Project I AM
August 18, 2004
Open Mic, Bremen Cafe

Ah, open mics. The first step on the road to Hope. The last undiscovered country of music where the talentless mingle with the criminally undiscovered.
Thursday, August 19,2004 saw an open mic at the Bremen Cafe, located at the coner of E. Clarke and Bremen in Milwaukee, a nice little place with great food and all the Newcastle Brown Ale a dark-beer-drinking singer needs to oil his pipes prior to setting the room either on fire or running for the exits. On this night, there was a purpose afoot, for this was the humble debut of four performers appearing under the banner of Project I AM, a new and exciting venture put forth in the hope of forming a front of support for musicians, artists and the chronically creative in Milwaukee and the surrounding area. Thanks to the quick thinking of project founder, Eric Kulwicki, the four performers started off the open mic in the first four spots on the bill.
First up was Kulwicki, starting off the evening by bringing a post-grunge aesthetic forward with his three strong songs. Kulwicki's voice was revealed as a distinct surprise. It is hoped that his tasks as a leader will not keep him off the stage in a role that seems to come naturally to him.
The second act was some nameless hack who missed several chords on his acoustic guitar and bellowed histrionically with his eyes closed, causing the breakage of several beer glasses, one stained-glass window and - in the unkindest cut of all- an ovary belonging to a poor, unfortunate college girl in the back of the cafe who was innocently surfing the internet at the time. The audience applauded as he quickly exited the stage amidst a hail of sandwich baskets, balled-up paper towels and rotting peppers.
Next up was Craig Stoneman, whose daring chord choices highlighted songs of great humor and keen observation. Instrumentally, Stoneman showed himself to be the strongest of the four acts, easily gliding up and down the bridge with ease. His third song, which lamented the absense of actual music on MTV, deserves to be repeated.
Thankfully, the project saved the best for last. Jennifer (last name still withheld; why is that?) took the stage, Stratocaster in hand, and left the crowd wanting more with her sole performance, an original composition called "Sorrow". Emotion exuded from every note from her mouth. Nervous due to being a piano player first and a guitar player second, Jennifer was both relieved and deservedly pleased as she left the stage.
It is hoped that Project I AM will be blowing through another venue in the very near future for more performances like this one. Stay Tuned..........

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Late at night....waiting for the humidity to break. A cool breeze is trying to fight through the heat and take over. In the interim, I have the ceiling fans on.
Tomorrow is the coming-out of Project IAM at the Bremen Cafe. I'm rather excited about this. It will be nice to know that I have someone else rattling the sabre and charging up the hill with me. In the spirit of team play, I'm listening to Bakkus' record for what must be the seventh or eighth time since I acquired it. The music is well-played. This is solid rock and roll. I hope they accomplish what they want with it. It's a really tight record.
As for me, I contacted the spectres of musicians past today. I dropped an e-mail to Curtis, one of my oldest friends in the world and one hell of a musician. Between flooding in his basement and his youngest son contracting hand, foot and mouth disease (they live on the fringes of Amish country in South Central Pennsylvania), life is good for Curtis. I first met Curtis when I was 14 (almost twice that much time has passed since then; unbelievable!). I met him through a mutual friend. I was plastered on kamikazes and he was playing with the band who I had helped with the moving of equipment. I seem to remember that this was his first gig with that high school band. The rhythm guitarist lit this girl's patio on fire and initiated Curtis into the band. Just ridiculous. I bet the patio still has a slight stain from the reagent alcohol that fanned the flames. The girl was Shelley Straff. She fancied herself an actress/singer. She annoyed the hell out of a lot of people.
Ah, memories. What a filter! Oh well, onward to tonight's entry. I have no idea what inspired this song. For a time, I was writing a lot of ballads with natural elements (sea, sand, snow, rain, clouds, blah blah blah). This is one of those songs. I find that when I write ballads, I escape to the natural world instead of the many abstractions that are encountered by looking inward. I've always liked the elements, but unfortunately I have no tolerance for them most of the time, as I have chronic seasonal allergies. It turns out that Milwaukee is second only to Grand Rapids, Michigan for cities rated best for allergy sufferers in the United States. I have stumbled accidentally into the right place. Another reason to love it here. I don't know what all of this has to do with tonight's entry, but at the very least I've given the reader a window into the world of J.P.

Every Leafless Tree


If you knew how much I miss you, try’n to dream away the pain

In the lonely days of winter I can hardly stand the strain

In the wind-blown snows of evening, how the drifts become the sea

And I see us on a sandy shore in every leafless tree


To see you was a month of love in a second and a half

How my hands caressed your body in that private hotel bath

It’s these memories of you that come ever back to me

On every silent snowfall, in every leafless tree


And the winds blow hard and bitter ever vigilant and cold

My arms hang lifeless at my sides without a hand to hold

I tell myself under all this white, a little green must grow

A memory of love and loss under January snow


If the seasons change, they can replace the cold with warmth again

A ray of hope for golden days to say, “Remember when?”

A love entombed in ice is always difficult to see

And yet I’ll search in time for you in every leafless tree


This song is in a lower vocal register than what I am used to, but I think I pull it off rather well. The chord structure allows for that. For now. I have to kill just a slight bit more of time before I fall blissfully asleep next to Lovely Lady Leslie, with our cat Sadie continuing her hunger strike at the foot of the bed. Crazy place this world.....

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Another August 17th has come and gone. For all of those reading this who had a birthday on the day that just expired (in the immortal words of Ray Manzarek) may you have had some champagne, eaten some cake and balled the old lady!
It's been a bad couple of days. I found out today that my boss broke a cervical vertebrae falling off a horse. She is being told not to talk due to cord shock and will be fitted with a cervical collar for roughly three months to speed healing. Get well soon Jill! I 'm not sure which is worse for you; the pain in your neck or you not talking. May you regain both soon.
And this was on the heals of finding out that a person I work with in one of our client's offices lost her grandmother and father within a week of each other. She's only 21. I can't imagine the grieving process she must be going through. Peace to you Jenny!
The next song in alphabetical order in the Writ Of Common Wisdom is inappropriate after news like this, but what better way to change the mood, right? Perhaps when I think about it, this song is totally appropriate. I wrote this song way back in the foreign country known as the 1990's at the peak of the grunge boom. I was growing increasingly tired of winy depressives with tattoos telling me in 7-minute songs how bad they felt. This was my two-chord reaction to all of this foolishness. Is it any wonder that Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley are dead, given the dour mood of their music? This song could use some updating, as we live in a period of profound stupidity, starting with the current occupant of the Oval Office and trickling down. May we all forget this time period soon by welcoming President Kerry.

Everybody’s Stupid


Everybody reads the paper

Everybody listens to the press

Everybody wears a goatee

Everybody’s so depressed, I guess everybody’s

Stupid, STUpid, STUPID!!!!!


Everybody’s watchin’ TV

Everybody’s feelin’ lousy

Everybody’s huffin’ bug spray

Everybody quotes Bukowski, everybody’s

Stupid, STUpid, STUPID!!!!!


Everybody’s switchin’ spouses

Everybody idiot’s a warrior

Everybody’s getting tattoos

Every killer gets a lawyer, everybody’s

Stupid, STUpid, STUPID!!!!!


Not one of my more subtle compositions, but I think this does the trick. When the stupidity around me in this country surrounds me to a higher degree than normal (how could it GET any higher?), this song pops into my head. Up yours, America! You're slouching towards illiteracy, imperialism and dictatorship. WAKE UP!!

Sunday, August 15, 2004

It's been too long a time since I decided to stop in. The week was uneventful. The political season opens itself up to charge and countercharge. I did my good deed by putting a Kerry/Edwards bumper sticker on my car. I did have one very good experience this week. I met Michael Proft, a fellow member of my Laura Nyro discussion group on Http://www.cafeutne.org. It is always a relief to discover that a like-minded individual resides in your immediate sphere of influence. I hope to have further conversations with Michael as time goes forward. I have a feeling he can add to my generally happy mood. I only hope I can add to his as well.
Currently, I'm listening to the very poor CD release of the album "Wow/Grape Jam" by Moby Grape. I say poor due to the fact that there are tracks missing from it. Hopefully this will be rectified someday.
I'm going to give the reader a bonus this early morning. Instead of just one entry from The Writ, I'm going to offer two. This is my penalty for staying away for a week. Now, where did we leave off?....
The first of tonight's two entries is a relatively new entry. When one listens to a lot of Randy Newman, songs like this tend to pop up. Why anyone would write a song about stealing a dead body on the first day on the job as a hearse driver is beyond me; or perhaps, it's right up my alley. The hardest part of writing this song was thinking about what a man who dies in his sleep dreams about. All in all, if I get the chance to die in my sleep, I guess dreaming about strippers with even tans wouldn't be so bad.

Drivin’ Away


Benny Watson, late of Hunter Park

Died smiling, his eyes closed in the dark

Dreamin’ about strippers with even tans

His family put a little money down

For a lovely casket to be buried in the ground

But that hearse driver, he had other plans


CHORUS:
He’s drivin’ away, He’s drivin’ away

That big black car is gonna go far today

He’s drivin’ away. He’s drivin’ away

Where Benny lands, no one can really say


Jimmy Neal, first day behind the wheel

Taking bodies to the cemetery field

Drivin’ slow, leading with his headlights on

In heavy traffic, he saw an exit ramp

His brow was sweaty, his hands a little damp

Before they knew it, Jimmy and Benny were gone

(Chorus)

BRIDGE:
Jimmy drove all day and all night

And Benny never said a word

“What’s a matter Benny? You’re mouth sewn shut?”

Was all that Benny might have heard


Jimmy got hungry; he stopped off for a bite

At a Jersey rest stop in the middle of the night

Had himself a burger and a big ol’ Coke to boot

Out of the window, in the corner of his eye

The hearse he was drivin’ was waving him goodbye

Benny always looked great in his favorite suit
(Chorus)

The second selection tonight is of the same ilk as the first, only more outrageous. I feel I must preface this by saying that I'm NOT a fan of the writing of Ernest Hemingway. It becomes more and more dated with each passing day, and reading about some guy's macho exploits is the last thing I feel like doing in this world. Why not just go to a frat party and watch small-minded schmoes drink themselves sick? This song is my revenge for having to read "For Whom The Bell Tolls" in high school. Leslie probably wouldn't appreciate this song, as she works with the mentally ill for a living, but Hemingway is too inviting a target for my pen.

Ernest Hemingway Discovers The Wonders Of Prozac


F. Scott Fitzgerald novels on the bathroom windowsills

And everything looks funny when I take these little pills

Bullfights are less exciting and the fish just aren’t as big

I feel less like a macho man, more like a chauvinist pig

CHORUS:
Put away your bullets boys, for my sofa is the sea,


Ask not for whom the pill tolls, man, you know it tolls for me


Well I’m not half as angry and I’m not half as sad

Since I got this here prescription Ketchum doesn’t seem so bad

I think I’ll stick around about another year or ten

And sing songs with that Dylan kid and never say, “Remember when…”

(Chorus)


Medication is the answer, my own little movable feast

I might have a shaggy beard, but I don’t feel like a beast……….anymore


Well, I keep them in a bottle just above the bathroom sink

If I knew about this long ago, I’d have never had a drink

I’d never drive an ambulance or try to shoot a deer

And I don’t even give a curse that Marcelline’s not here

(Chorus)

CODA: ……..for thee, and all of we.


The sun's getting ready to come up, so I'll bid the world a fond "until we meet again" and shuffle off to bed. Peace and Love

Saturday, August 07, 2004

"...they never stop thinking of ways to harm Americans, and neither do we."

George W. Bush, referring to terrorists.

Kerry/Edwards 2004!!


I'm VERY sorry for not posting something this week. It was a busy week at work, dealing with multiple vacations, illness and the loss of Judy's production. It only gets better next week when one of my employees remains on vacation, and another one goes on maternity leave. To my unit's credit, we got everything done that we needed to get done. I thanked the four employees who showed up yesterday for their extraordinary efforts.
Last night, I went to a place called The Main Stage in Waukesha for the first meeting of Project IAM, (http://www.projectiam.org) and the band of one of the members, Bakkus, played a great set of music for their CD release party. I received a copy of their CD "Seventyonesix" and will listen to it later in the ol' changer. What I heard last night through the substandard sound mix of the bar was intriguing. I'll write a review here after I've listened to it.
Leslie went to her sister's place in Illinois today, and I'm all alone. The dog is sleeping, the cat is slowly dying because she's too lazy to eat a full meal and I'm here dreaming of a pizza which I may or may not buy.
Today's entry from the Writ Of Common Wisdom is, bluntly, a hangover song. This song is a compendium of all the rough mornings I heard people have had or I have had after drinking heavily. There's something to be said for actually RECOGNIZING the person you wake up next to after a drinking binge.


Drink Some Juice


Well I woke up with my keys taped to my forehead

And a pack of Camels underneath my arm

There’s bottle caps and condom wrappers everywhere

And this woman’s face is just cause for alarm


Now the wine did treat me badly and affected my eyesight

But I’ll drink some juice and everything’s all right


Well my head feels like a 12-ton ball of headcheese

And the birds outside sound like a traffic jam

Every step I take goes to my cranium

Her name is Kim, but I just called her Pam


Now my cash has all been squandered, and my eyes ache from the light

But I’ll drink some juice and everything’s all right


My kingdom for a good pair of sunglasses

The beer goggles I had don’t fit right now

This shower water feels a little heavy

I think I’ll puke before I reach my towel


Well I wish I wasn’t working, wanna sleep until tonight

But I’ll drink some juice and everything’s all right

Said everything’s all right!


I'm off to get some food. I haven't eaten yet today. More to come later. Love to all.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

OK, I'm kind of pissed off. I've tried to post this song twice, and I keep getting some kind of error that shuts down my computer. I'm going to try again. First off, nothing's happening. I'm broke until next Wednesday, I'm looking forward to the initial meeting of Project I Am on Friday night. Leslie is currently at a golf outing with her company today. She'll be home in an hour.

And now, today, the final attempt at this entry from the Writ Of Common Wisdom. It does need some background. I am a passive sports fan. I've been a little more passive since I left Philadelphia, but I follow sports with some level of acuity. My favorite sport is ice hockey, and in the summer months (and what may be longer this year due to a labor dispute) when there's no hockey, I turn to baseball. Baseball is a very forgiving game. You can be at your worst physically and mentally and still have the game of your life. Babe Ruth often hit home runs when he was either drunk or hung over, and he's still beloved after all these years. Which brings us to the strange case of pitcher Dock Ellis. One day in the early 1970's, while pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter, which is not an easy feat. I watched Steve Carlton, who was the best conditioned left-handed pitcher I ever saw, win 329 games in the big leagues, and he never threw a no-hitter. Dock Ellis did, but on the day he threw his no-hitter, he was erratic. He walked a few guys, hit a few guys and generally had no control of the ball, and yet he threw a no-hitter. Years later in an interview, Ellis admitted that on the day he threw his no-hitter, which was the absolute apex of his big league career, he was on LSD. When presented with this information, I couldn't possibly ignore it. Therefore I give you....


Dock Ellis


Why is the crowd swaying back and forth the way they are?
(Can’t hit me, you know you can’t hit me)

What a weird-looking multi-colored bullpen car
(Can’t hit me, you know you can’t hit me)

It’s a beautiful day for baseball, or for kickin’ back and shootin’ the breeze

I can get these guys out with the greatest of ease


I don’t need any warm-up pitches today
(Can’t hit me, you know you can’t hit me)

The tip of my tongue says I can pitch out here all day
(Can’t hit me, you know you can’t hit me)
I’m sorry I hit your leg, baby, I’m sorry I hit your arm

Like, I don’t believe in doing anybody harm…you dig?


I’m not the world’s greatest pitcher, but today I’m the whole league’s ace

Today you won’t hit one by me; today you’ll never wipe this smile off my face; YAA!


One more out and my no-hitter day is through
(Can’t hit me, you know you can’t hit me)

You can’t hit me but dude I can sure hit you
(Can’t hit me, you know you can’t hit me)

The pitcher’s mound ain’t the only thing I’ll be coming down from today

Life is like…you know…what did I just say?


And that's that. This song is my psychedelic (of course) tour-de-force. When completed, this one is one for the ages as far as effects go.
I'm going to get some decent sleep tonight, so this post is my last today. Take care of each other. It could be that that is all you get for a while.


Monday, August 02, 2004

CONCERT REVIEW
SHOE SUEDE BLUES With PETER TORK
Saturday July 31, 2004
Shank Hall, Milwaukee, WI

OK, first things first. Peter Tork of The Monkees can play an instrument. In fact, he can play a NUMBER of instruments, and very well I might add. Despite the historical drubbing that The Monkees have taken from the critical music press, the band as it was constitued in the beginning contained three members out of four that could play something. I defy you to find a manufactured band in this day and age which has a member who can play ANYTHING, save for the listening public for the gullible suckers that they are.
With this knowledge in mind, I, along with three female compatriots (Peter WAS a Monkee, after all; Monkee = chick magnet) went along to Shank Hall to see Peter Tork and the band Shoe Suede Blues. Being a bit of a blues fan, my attention was gained with the blusier numbers of the evening, including nice renditions of the classics "Wine" and "Let Me Play Wit' Your Poodle". Tork, along with band mates (my apologies for not completely remembering their last names) Richie on guitar, Michael on bass and John on drums, were enjoying themselves greatly when their attentions turned to blues, and they acquitted themselves well in that idiom.
And yet this is obviously NOT what the audience of mostly women of all ages was there to hear. The audience thoroughly enjoyed the smattering of Monkees covers thrown in for their entertainment. Many women danced, including a large-breasted young lady whom I thought would surely blacken her own eyes, whom Mr. Tork enjoyed greatly based on the look on his face. And yes, The band performed that timeless favorite "Your Auntie Grizelda".
If this were a band that was playing your typical blues joint on a Saturday night, they'd probably get some positive press. Unfortunately, the weight of legacies die hard for aging teenage idols. I'll give Peter this though; I can only hope to be playing to a room full of women when I'm 62 years old. That counts for something.