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Candy and Cigarettes

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Do You Know the Way to San Jose

Just watching how much energy Holden has when he gets up tires the shit out of me.  I mean, this kid opens his eyes cranked to 11.  Since it falls upon me to watch him during the morning, it creates a comical scene.  You got this little bugger crawling at the speed of light up and down stairs, eating cat food, banging on pots like a hippy in a drum circle, and his old daddy, with the broken back, arthritic hip, and achy muscles, creaking behind him, asking him to please stop (before going outside to yell at those damn kids on my lawn).  OK.  It's not that bad.  But I do have chronic pain from the accident, and Holden has limitless energy.

And this makes me think of San Jose.

Yes, that San Jose, the town no one wants to live in, let alone visit.  My buddy, Dan, and I once took a train ride there.  This would've been back in aught three.  I wasn't always like this.  OK, I was.  But there was a brief three to four year period where I actually liked to go places and have adventures (Justine is going to read this and say how she wished I still loved "activities"), when I too used to have energy and enthusiasm.

When I got to San Francisco back in '91, it was on the heels of reading a lot of Kerouac.  We're talking On the Road, Subterraneans, Dharma Bums, Desolation Angel, Visions of (both) Gerard (and) Cody, you name it, I read it (except Dr. Sax for some reason.  And a lot of his poetry.  Because poetry is stupid.  Except for my friends who write it.  Then it's not).  And Jack loved two things: drinking and adventures.

I joined Dan's band, and he was my only real friend, and to his credit a guy who didn't back down from a challenge, even what said challenge was something as lame as, "Hey, let's get drunk and hop on a train!  Man, who knows where we'll end up!"

San Jose.  That's where we fucking ended up.  Forty minutes south of San Francisco.  Not Mexico.   Not even LA.  Goddamn San Jose, which is like a slightly less lame version of Daly City or San Carlos.

I think the day started out with the possibility of getting speed (couldn't have adventures in those days with a little speed), but it fell through, mostly because our "dealer" back then was Brian, who played in one of Dan's band, and who was a total dick.  So Dan and I filled up a pitcher with cheap vodka and lemonade.  I put on my fedora and pea green sports' coat (yes, I really dressed that way.  Don't blame me. Blame Tom Waits).

So I'm banging on Dan's door, probably at like 7 a.m. because I haven't slept.  I'm guessing he would've been living on Webster at this time, at the foot of the projects where that New Year's a hipster would make the mistake of wandering into the complex and be beaten to death, and where Dan and another friend had recently just been robbed at knifepoint, but I don't care because I weight 160 lbs., stringbeanskinny, and today is adventure day.

We start drinking on our way to the train station, and the sun is out, and we're feeling good because we're young and full of energy, and I'm probably chain smoking unfiltered Camels because I want to see how many pack a day I can get up to, and I'll end up getting up to three and a half until I start spitting up chubby worms of blood and have to scale down, so it's down to the train station on Third and Townsend, and it's all about the girls we like and want to sleep with and how long until our band is signed and whatever other crap you talk about at 23.  Because who knows where will end up?  Could be anywhere, man!

San Jose.  That's where we fucking end up.

By the time we're at Sunnyvale, the drunk is wearing off.  By San Jose, we say we'll recharge at a bar.  And we find a bar, and we drink, but we can't catch the drunk again, which happens sometimes.  So we sleep it off in the park (the same park, I believe, where I just saw [and met] the Gaslight Anthem).

The sun's going down when we wake up to find we don't have the money to get back.  So we get on the train, try escaping the conductor, which lasts about four stops.  They let us stay on, but make us get off in Oakland, and then we have to coax the bus driver into letting us on the bus, because in those days nobody lived in Oakland.  And they do.  And we get back.  And who knows what happened next. I probably went to my ex-girlfriend's house because I had to sleep and get up for work the next day and now I was so goddamn lonesome and depressed that I couldn't sleep alone, because Jack Kerouac had lied to me and I was starting to see maybe you couldn't believe everything you read in a book.


And I'd like to wrap this up a little better but Holden, like a midget on crack, thinks otherwise.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Best Seller

Spurred by my latest success in deciphering editorial tastes by actually reading material previously published, mining said material for key points, and then interjecting those points into my own work and submitting as my own original piece, I've decided to write a best seller.  I don't think it'll be that hard.  Something like this:

Granted it has only been two publications in which this strategy was implemented, but the ease with which this plan worked has filled me with confidence.  And I have a few things going for me.  1.) I went to FIU, where best seller was not a dirty word and commercialism was strongly encouraged, and where this particular tactic, the mining of hits to replicate, was very much out in the open; 2.)  I have no delusions of artistic integrity.  Writing, like everything else in life, is merely a series of rules to manipulate, adhere to, or circumvent as need sees fit; and 3.) I have the luxury of the time to do this.  

The other day, I had Justine order three books from the year's top ten bestsellers. On that list is a book by Nicholas Sparks, an author I abhor.  I hate him, like, more than I do the Red Sox.  Or pretty close.  The man (and I use that term loosely) writes crap, Hallmark schlock, Oprah Book of the Month Club drivel embraced by oversexed, drumpy housewives everywhere who, parcel, post, package, swallow the propaganda of love everlasting and young guys without shirts declaring such in the rain.  In short, Nicholas Sparks is the antithesis of everything I want to be as a writer, a man, a human being.  Except... The mutherfucker has, like, 18 books on the best seller list, and while I'd love to sit here and just bash the guy, obviously he is doing something right.  I mean, we're not 16 anymore.

"Hey, they're playing Journey."  

"Journey?  They suck."

Maybe you don't equate commercial with being indicative of worth, and it isn't always the case that just because something is popular it is necessarily good.  But it's a better barometer than most, and it certainly is more true than the converse, that if something is mainstream and adored by the masses it must suck.  I don't know the appeal of Sparks, but the truth is, I've only seen The Notebook, never even read the damn thing.  You can't have all those books on the best seller list by accident.  So I want to steal his ideas.

Now, of course, I am not saying I am out to write The Notebook or Dear John or whatever Sparks writes.  I simply want to dissect what it is about his work that translates to commercial gold.  

And his are not the only works I will be doing this with.  I am going to read a bunch, including those goddamn Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Who Kicks the Hornet's Nest books, and I might even read Eat Pray Love.  Yes, mutherfuckers, you read that correctly.  Eat Fucking Pray Fucking Love.  Fuck, let's just include The DaVinci Code, a book so awfully written that when I tried before to read it I stopped when I got to the line, "He donned his purple robe."  That was on page 3. But fuck it, because what I've been doing hasn't been working, and if I learned anything from AA it's that stubbornly sticking to a game plan that ain't working isn't heroic; it's plain stupid.  

Now I know everyone isn't going to be a fan of this strategy (I've already been told by a good, dear friend, who has asked to remain anonymous, that my last short story "Dancing: A Love Story in Five Parts" was "a retarded little monster baby" which, as it's mother, I have to love.  And he has a point.   This is a danger.  I am going to have to cull and infuse carefully.  I can't do so at the expense of my own vision and voice.   But I want my boy to see his daddy is not a bum, and I am going to get a book deal, one way or another.  Simply trying really really hard and coming up short is not an excuse.  Like Sean Connery says in The Rock:

Writing a book, let alone a best seller, is hard fucking work.  As my professor John Dufrense once said of writing, "Of course it's hard.  If it wasn't hard, everyone would be doing it."  But if I am going to put the work in, might as well shoot big. And make failure not an option.  

Stay tuned.  I'll let you know how it goes.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Ghost of Ricky Smith Pt. II

One of the earliest blogs posts I wrote was called "The Ghost of Ricky Smith." Ricky was an ex-classmate and -junkie I knew in grad school, an old New Yawker, with a surly disposition, who battled his demons, drugs, and one fucked-up past, which included, among other things, his mother shooting his abusive stepfather and once getting stabbed in an alleyway, like, 14 or 47 times.  Ricky died a few months before I left Florida from complications of, well, life.

A couple days ago, one of Ricky's old friends got a hold of me, and yesterday another one of our mutual friends from grad school and I touched base about this, and about Ricky.  And the "ghost" part of the above title still proves apropos, since Ricky is still around in a lot of ways.  And not only because of the friends and people who knew him and all that, or even in the broader sense that because he, too, was a writer, his work will live on.  No, Ricky's presence is a little more ominous that that.

I still don't like talking about my brief relapse, even though it's now been more years after than before, but I know that's part of it.  Moreover I think that the specter of Ricky is really about the life not lived, how close I came (and still fear coming) to ending up like he did, dying in an apartment, alone, not found for weeks, slumped over a keyboard, still trying to finish a life's story.

Part of this, of course, is perception, my skewered intepretation of just how miserable and lonely Ricky was in his final days, which these recent conversations with friends of Ricky's have helped dispel.  At least somewhat.  But if you knew Ricky, you know how...tormented? troubled? fractured?...he was.  Self-destruction is a shared trait in all addicts, and the question, after you run long enough, merely becomes a question of how fast and soon is now?  It is going to end badly, and the worst part is the "end" isn't always the dying part.  In fact, that's the good news.  The real tragedy here is being the walking dead, and I don't mean in the cool new AMC show sort of way.  It's walking around with a death sentence, carrying the scars, both seen and unseen, that make you feel ugly and unlovable; it's the knowing the rotten things you've done that you can't shake, the people you've hurt, the repercussions of a selfish lifestyle that you can't, for the life of you, understand as you get older.  What made you think you were entitled to shirk responsibility and act with reckless abandon, scorching the earth with everything you touch.  At the time it made sense, somehow.  Life is too hard.  I can't go on.  Whatever and whatever more.  But, later, when you get some semblance of what life is about, start to, against all natural instinct, mature, you can't reconcile those two worlds, and it's fucking torment.  And you have nobody to blame but yourself.  And that is the worst part.  Because until this realization, you had everyone else to blame:
--your parents, society, friends who'd done you wrong, the fucking government. Which was all bullshit all along.  Only now you know it.  Add to that the scourge of disease and stigma and whatnot, those memories you can't shake, and it can make you one unhappy mutherfucker.

And I don't have that.  But I came close.  Oh, so very close.  And just its ghost scares me shitless.  It's like being sentenced to 50 years in San Quentin, or waking up paralyzed from the neck down, a Johnny Got His Gun sort of existence, the horror plot of the man trapped in a coffin, buried alive.

I guess knowing this shit is what makes you truly appreciate a second chance if you're lucky (blessed?) enough to get one.  Maybe you're not supposed to be able to shake those unpleasant memories or shed the fear that somehow, however irrationally, that you may find yourself in the midst of it all again.  Perhaps it needs to stay that big, black unpleasant ball you don't touch.  You just have to let it hover there.  That is your burden.  That is the price you pay.  Ain't nothing in this world is free.  Least of all second chances.

Monday, June 27, 2011

New Strategy Re: Literary Magazines Pt. II

Well, it worked.

You may recall a while back my resolve to try a new strategy to get into literary magazines.  Actually reading the damn things.  Which is harder than it sounds.  At least for me it is.  I don't like reading stuff I don't like reading (or as an ex-boss once aptly said of me, "Joe doesn't like to be told what to do."  [And, no, Joe doesn't]).  I have a very particular taste when it comes to...literature, namely, that it isn't literature, and that it's got some grit and edge to it, a little darkness and subversion. But I don't like straight-up genre; rather, I like a conflation of elements, like Americana and cowpunk over straight-up country.

If you missed that first post, here it is:

So I began working on a piece, tailor-made to adhere to these rules.  The result is a story called "Dancing: A Love Story in Five Parts" (posted below) and it implements all the mandates. It's actually pretty amazing if you go back and read that original post (and the story) just how much I was able to approximate in the piece.  Keep it vague?  Check. Magic realism?  Check.  Second person?  You bet.

I spent all last week on this story.  Well, that's not totally true.  I've been working on like five short stories at once, but "Dancing" was one of them.  And it was an interesting exercise to approach writing this way, and it proved much easier than I thought it would.

First, I used the motorcycle accident as the governing motif, but then I transplanted that to France, weaving in bits of magic realism and Hemingway-esque simplistic language, combining the intimate details of several past (and current) relationships. I also split the story into five parts, since a lot of magazines seem to favor Roman numeral subsets.

The weird part, even though I began writing this out of a challenge set forth by my writing parter/reader, Jimmy, is how much I ended up making it mine.  Yes, it was borne out of something less than genuine, but when it was done, it very much became a Joe story.  The sarcasm is there.  The darkness it there.  It proved to be what I have always suspected about writing and various genres.  That it's like Keith Richards said about lead versus rhythm guitar: it's all just guitar, man.  And writing is all just writing.  The rules change, but you--whoever "you" are--will come through.

So I finished polishing the piece on Saturday, and then I sent it off the magazines. Actually, I sent it to one, Monkeybicycle, which responded in less than 24 hours, saying that that loved it and were publishing it immediately.

So here is the result:

It's a little different.  No hookers die.  No one shoots up.  But a heart does get broken.  Hope you like it.

(Special thanks to Monkeybicycle and guest editor C. James Bye [] for putting it up!)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Good Years: 34

It's hard when you know how bad something ends to look back on it fondly at all. 34 was the year I met my second wife, April, and though the way it all turned out certainly sours the overall experience, this was a very good year for me.

I was three years sober at the time and finishing up my undergraduate degree at Central Connecticut State University.  I was also wrapping up a dead-end relationship, a girl I'd met in rehab that ended the way relationships usually end with girls you meet in rehab.

At CCSU, I was a star.  At 34, I was considerably older than the other students, but not so ridiculously much older that I was like this guy:

I pretty much lived on the 3rd floor of Willard, which is where the English Dept. was, hanging out in professor offices and working at the school's writing center, and editing the school's literary magazine, Helix, down the hall, and I still smoked back then.  Not even lights, but full-flavored Camel filters.  Good times.  And I had a sidekick.

Jon Page was short and hairy, with crappily drawn tattoos, and a big bushy beard. He looked like this:

Every morning we got coffee together before class.  Green Mountain coffee from the little convenience store, where we'd smoke and talk, and it doesn't sound like much, but I was coming off ten years of drugs and poverty and homelessness, and having a friend to talk to and smoke cigarettes with before class was pretty fucking awesome.

And then there was the writing.

It turned out I was good at something.  At least that is what I was told.  I took writing classes with Dave Cappella and Dr. Ostrowski, and Ravi Shankar and Tom Hazuka and Jill Weinberger, and I was winning awards and contests and giving readings and getting scholarships, and it was all pretty fucking sweet.

Not that there wasn't bad, too.  My mother and father were both dying.  But even that, as weird as it sounds, I was finally doing well.  I'd been such a shitty son for so long, the fact that they got to see me excelling at something, achieving whatever, however small on the grand scale, meant it was as good as they'd seen me.

It's funny.  Justine was looking at an old copy of Helix the other day, and she was laughing because the whole thing was like Oprah's Magazine, all Joe, all the time. I'm on the fucking cover with my paintings, and I took the centerfold too.  And there was my (crappy) poetry, (almost unreadable) early excerpts from my memoir, and short stories, and song lyrics, and I'd publish friends, as well.  When I took over the magazine, I got us a, like, $10,000 a year budget (don't ask me how), so this all was 4 color, good looking shit, and it's where I got to hone my editorial chops.

And, like I said, I met my second wife.

I received a message a while ago that my ex-wife reads this blog, which in itself is pretty funny (I don't know why any ex-wife would want to read her ex-husband's blog), in which I was told not to write about her family.  Which is also pretty funny, since I never have, nor would I ever, say a bad word about them.  My (ex) in-laws and sister-in-law were amazing people, and I thought the world of them.  I still do. When I met and married April, one of the biggest perks was I also got a new family, which worked out well, since as I said, my parents were gone.  When the divorce happened, I lost them, but I don't fault them for that.  She was their daughter, and they stuck by her, as they should.

My 34th year, it looked like everything was where it should be.  I was sober.  I had a degree.  I had a direction, and it's not a cliche to say I had a new lease on life. OK. It's a cliche, but that don't mean it wasn't fucking true.

I was genuinely happy (as happy as I'd be until my next good year, the final in this series [so far], my 40th).  Everything I'd been through, the misery and the wretchedness (albeit of my own doing), the loss of people I cared about, it all seemed to make some sort of cosmic sense.  I was where I was supposed to be.  It felt a lot like this:

I was going to graduate school.  I was going to be an author.  I had it all figured out. And then it all turned to shit.  Again.

Remember the Titans

There are some movies that when they come on TV I must watch.  The Rock and Con Air immediately come to mind.  So, too, Heat (although I stand by my assertion that Mann should've ended the film with DeNiro simply walking away without anything, his girl or his money or his crew, which would've underscored the movie's mantra of the progressional criminal having to be able to pull up and leave everything he has in fifteen minutes, instead of catering to the Hollywood staple of good cop shooting down bad villain, but it's a minor quibble, one that keeps a great film from being legendary).  I also think of Goodfellas, which I will watch whether it's on HBO or TBS, even if it proves tougher when it's the latter and all the "fuckin'" turns into "freakin'" or "flippin'," making the gritty gangster tale, which already treads the lines of camp, into full-blown cartoonish.  There are certainly others, like Shawshank Redemption.  And add to that list Remember the Titans.

I'm not saying all of these are great or even good (or even OK) films, just that I find them imminently watchable, bordering on almost fascinating.  In the case of Titans (which is on A&E as we speak), I imagine part of the appeal is the easily digestible, though ultimately reaffirming and positively upbeat, commentary on race relations. It's a film in which racism is presented, confronted, and solved within two hours. The (progressive) good guys win; the (bigoted) bad guys lose.  And Joe feels better about his life.  It's fucking Disney, for crissakes, what do you expect?

And it's about sports, football, and though Remember the Titans doesn't exactly break new ground (and besides Raging Bull or maybe Bull Durham what sports' flick does?), it's supposedly based on a true story, but unlike a piece of shit like We Are Marshall, RTT... actually, I don't know what the fuck it does, or why it works so well.  Better writing?  Better acting?  Better soundtrack?  All I know is that if it comes on, I watch.  Maybe it's because it's got a bitchy Kate Bosworth.

No, it's the race stuff.  Which is why I liked Crash so much (a movie that interestingly enough, played a significant role in my second divorce, an unexpected perk, I suppose).  I grew up in Berlin, CT.  There wasn't exactly racism, because there wasn't exactly any other race.  We had one black family.  It's not something you much thought about, and then when I got to San Francisco, which is liberal and progressive and forward thinking, there was such an embrace of everything and everyone, I kind of bypassed that part too.  But you'd have to be blind or an idiot or living on Mars not to encounter racism just about every day, and it's clear which side gets the short end of the stick.  When you've grown up white and privileged, even in blue state pockets, you accumulate a great deal of white guilt, can't help but feel like shit.  To quote Brett Dennen, "And then I curse my whiteness and I get so damn depressed / in a world of so much suffering, why should I be so blessed?"

Then Remember the Titans comes on.  And white folk feel better about their lives, and about the plight of others, and we all get along.  Equality.  Harmony.  Brothers and sisters holding hands.

(And as evidence of the power of RTT, Justine just walked in the room.  She asks, "What you watching?"  "Remember the Titans," I say.  She sits down, and within five minutes, she's simultaneously crying and smiling.  Of course, this is a girl who cried at the opening credits of Legally Blonde II, so maybe it doesn't say that much.)

Hell, maybe I'm over thinking it.  Maybe I just like certain movies, however artistically credible.  Like Con Air and The Rock, Remember the Titans is deftly paced, superbly acted, and whether its ultimate life affirmation is the result of racism solved or sports' perfection, what does it matter?  I just wasted two hours of my life on The Hangover Part II, so maybe it's just nice to get those two hours back on a movie I love.

I gotta go.  It's the part where the Titans enter the game, soul style!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Writing Like a Douche in a Coffee Shop

Yup.  Crossed that final threshold.  I'm that douche writing in a coffee shop.

I'm hanging with Holden, Day Three of Displacement, drinking coffee and writing a blog post.  Self-loathing somehow bores deeper.  We're waiting for Mommy to show up so we can work out, and God willing, move back to our house on the hill...

Looking over the last few days' hits, which we chart like MTV monitoring its latest teen drama with the coveted 14- to 18-year-old demographic, we're trying to figure out what you, our target audience, want.  Since we prefer to operate in the negative, first here's what we know you don't want.

  • No Politics, No Religion, No Baseball
          These three topics are tantamount to desperation while trying to get laid: you get no play.

  • Don't Be Mean
          It be a fine line ye walk when ye talk like a pirate.  And when you are treading that razor's edge of candid, forthright, and cutting... 

  • Don't Insult Jane Austen
         It upsets my friend, Laura, and we like Laura (Hi, Laura); furthermore, since she is one of our regular readers, and we are here to serve our regular readers, we will pick a new writer to hate.

        Subtopic: Which Writer Should Now Be the Subject of Our Scorn?   Please select from one of the following:  

      a. Stephanie Meyer
      b. Nicholas Sparks
      c. Jon Page

So those are the new rules by which we will operate.  Still, doesn't tell us what you want me to write about, in terms of a topic, though I know you like 

  • Lists  
          These go over particularly well, especially the bulleted variety

  • Holden
          And I am not beyond using my kid to shill my work ("Who's a cute boy?  Wave at the computer, son.  [Holden, waving at computer screen.]  Good boy!")

  • Tales of Personal Humiliation
          Whether be tales of dating woe, rock 'n' roll failure, or attempts to cash in the this pirate craze (What?  It's not pirates; it's vampires?  Fuck), you like to read, judging purely by daily hits, the times I admit to being a tool.  Like admitting that I am writing a fucking blog in a fucking coffee shop.

That's it.  Gotta go.  (Holden waves bye-bye [looking extra cute and...hungry...])

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Places of Displacement Pt. II

Being homeless really sucks.  The family has been displaced while the fumes from our emergency painting job dissipates.  I bounce from the house to grandma's to be with Justine and the kid, and then back.  But everything is in a state of upheaval.  I need my routine to get my work done.  Still, pretty productive day.  Been writing a lot, sending stories out and all that.  Well over 20,000 words into the new memoir. But like a large gal in a muumuu, it's shapeless, without form.  Which is part of the process, the shitty first draft as Anne Lamott likes to say (in her terrific writing guide, Bird by Bird).  This is the least fun part of working on a big project, the auto-dumping, getting it all on the page, having little idea where you're going to end up. I do know my father has to be a bigger part, more clearly defined.

At my last appointment with my psychiatrist, the doc says, "Your father could be a book."

To which I respond, "I'm trying."

I could use a little more with which to work.  I spoke with his best friend the other day, figuring he'd have to have something I could use.  I mean, this was his buddy, a guy he'd known all his life, who was with him when he met my mother, through all the affairs, his truncated boxing career, worked with him, too, and working was the old man's life, and what did he give me?  Not a fucking thing.  He was nice, tried to be helpful.  

He says, "Your father, he was a tough guy."

What motivated him?  You have to have motivation for your characters.

"Money," his friend says.  "Your father would do anything to chase a buck.  Mow lawns, plow streets, he didn't care."

That I remember.  We had money growing up, more than a lot of my friends.  So it's not like he was hurting to pay the bills.  He just liked making money.  And he died with a lot of it (for which I am sure my stepmother is grateful).  

But this did little to tell me who the man was.  Which is the irony of all this, I suppose.  I didn't have any desire to know the guy growing up, and now that he's not around I want nothing more than to ask him some questions, introduce him to his grandson, as I try to figure out why I became what I did, because I am part him, just like my boy is part me.

It's looking like I am going to have to make some shit up.  

The Wandering Jews

Thursday is writing day.  Working on some short stories and the new memoir, but I thought I'd post a little something about...the band, man.

For those of you who are not my Facebook friends, here are some clips to our recent shows.  The sounds isn't always great, and the video can cut in and out, but I still think they're pretty cool, and I'm proud of the way the band is sounding. Big props to Big Tom and Pete for providing the foundation, and to Raviv and Jarret for supplying the flourishes.

First up is a cut from our last record, Down on the Farm.  The song is called "You Weren't Even My Favorite Wife."  Video goes a little wonky at the end.  Of minor interest (perhaps), this song took me almost twenty years to write (I would add another verse for every ex who slept around).  This is from a show at the Red Devil.

And here is our closing number from our last show at the Blue Maccaw.  It's Bowie's "Moonage Daydream" (as always dedicated to Richard Prasch) and Neil Young's "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World" (for which I received a hefty citation from the rock 'n' roll police).  This last one we sorta just winged, but that's always fun too.

That's it.  Gotta finish a story about Da Vinci's last words...

I Know It's True Because Rocky Says It's True

Been a crazy last couple of days, and by "crazy," I mean shitty.  A painting miscue, -hap, had the family displaced, leaving daddy homeless again for the first time in over a decade (oh, the memories).  All seems right now even if "right" is about to cost me a shit-ton of money).  But the important thing is I will not be eating out of dumpsters again, or if I do it will be out of choice.  A-like so

Anyway, that's the reason for the absence and lack of posting of late, and we're still not back up to full speed at the Chateau du Clifford, with the pots and pans everywhere, the doors off the cabinets, and the general state of (imagined) squalor, which is funny, how that word has changed meaning over the years.

My Lip Service West sponsor, Idan "the Machine" Levin, stopped by yesterday to borrow the PA for an event his San Pablo Arts District is hosting this Friday (  It was the first time he's seen my new house, and he made the same tired, lame joke they all do. Anyone who knows my past--and let's face it, if you know me, you know my past because it's like Vince Neil's heart, an open book for the whole world to read--is quite familiar with the skid rows, shooting galleries, and soup kitchens (and that, kids, is called parallelism.  And what's that, Timmy?  Oh, yes, there is some alliteration).

"Who'd have ever thunk it?  You living here," Idan said.


I got in an argument a little while ago, and they brought out the "drug addict" card, which was weird to even hear.  Because it's been so long that I've thought of myself that way.  I still write about it.  Still joke about it.  And when I see ol' running buddies like Tom P., we still reminisce, not about the "fun" we had so much as two old combat veterans wondering how they made it out alive (and, no, I am not comparing addiction with patriotism, only the reflecting of horror; I don't want any nasty letters).  Still, this argument reminded me that no matter how far I've come, some people are always going to view me in that less-than-flattering light.  Which may be fair.  And which may not.  Even if you include my brief, unfortunate relapse after my second divorce, we've been straight for more years than we used (and that relapse, while embarrassing and humiliating, was also the best thing to happen to me; it allowed me to close a door on that option forever).

It's tough to separate what you've done from who you are, since the two are so intertwined, and it probably sounds nuts to say that while I regret many of my actions during that time that I am also grateful for having gone through it, that I think what I learned out there has made me a better person, will make me a better husband and father.  True humility, much like true empathy, cannot be taught; it must be experienced.  Lines that were always etched in stone and drawn in sand started coming with footnotes, as it became less possible to judge the actions and misfortunes of others.  In other words, I very well might still be a Berlin right-winger (not that there's anything wrong with that!).  But, hey, like Rocky (IV) says, we can all change...

And since that is such an important message, let's post that fucker again, but this time in French!

For some reason I've been thinking of an AA bumper sticker lately.  I could even have it wrong, but it's something like "spiritual pursuit, not spiritual perfection." Maybe I'm conflating faiths, but if that isn't a bumper sticker for ex-addicts, it should be.

I so want to be a good person, but it's so easy to get derailed.  If you know me, I am not the most optimistic of guys, but I have also always believed that faith is the cousin of hope and if you're not going to keep trying to get it right, you might just as well be dead, so let's arrange the funeral, Mr. Wahoo Waturi.


Y'know, I had a really kick-ass closing point.  I think it was even going to include the best link yet.  This fucker was going to really resonate, maybe even save lives in the process.  Then I went back and edited this post a bit, and now I forget what it was.  Fucking short term memory loss.

So let this be a lesson to you kids out there.  Don't do drugs.  Stay in school, eat your greens, and, um, listen to what Rocky says.

Sorry.  Best I can do on such short notice.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Daddy Blogging

Rough night.  Kid wouldn't sleep.  Justine pulled the old "bait and switch," sticking me with Holden in the spare bed while she went to "brush her teeth," never to return.  (The way our new house is set up, the guest bedroom is on the bottom floor, with the master upstairs and well ensconced from screams of "Hey!  What the hell?!") The mattress in the spare room is too soft for my bad broken back, so can't say I slept much until 3 a.m., when I put the kid back in his crib and dozed off to sleep immediately, only to wake up (with a soiled diaper) at 6 a.m., which is where you now find me, having navigated the mine field that is my kitchen (it's in the middle of being painted by Pete French) to get my coffee, finding the microwave to heat said coffee (I like my coffee to taste like melted coffee ice cream [i.e., lots o' cream]), and retreating to my writing office (where the magic happens [except that I normally do my morning routine upstairs 'cause getting down here with Holden is hard.  And pointless.  Since all the boy wants to do is chew on my computer cords ("No, son, take daddy's iTouch charger out of your mouth")].

So here's to those of you who wanted me to write a Daddy Blog.

There does seems to be a revolving door of topics we cover here on C & C. Neurosis being number one, I guess.  Since anxiety tends to get the best of me (had a great session with the shrink yesterday; maybe tomorrow we'll cover why I feel so guilty about my mom dying; that sounds like fun).  Then we have boxing and blasting my pecs, because fitness is sorta my life after "the Accident" that left me battered, bruised, and in need of a new hip at the tender age of 40.  We have the past relationships that have left me a shell of a man.  We also have writing and rock 'n' roll, 'y'know, the arts.  And why that makes me want to link this, who knows...

(I think it's because in the A3 original, they do this spoken intro about "getting on in the world" and being 41, "41 stoney grey steps toward the grave, y'know, the box"--and I just wrote "y'know, art," which triggered the association, in case you were wondering how the artistic mind--or at least my mind--works.  Or doesn't.)

Then we write about domestic life, Justine and the kid.  This last set up of topics fall under the "crowd pleaser" section, the feel-good comedies.  It's Reese Witherspoon and monkeys dressed as butlers, because everyone loves a family man.  And if you don't believe me, just ask these guys:

Which of course would make me have to put up the Simpsons and the world's second greatest band (with Oates, Mussina, Garfunkal, and Andrew Ridgley, I think), but I can't find it on You Tube.

Of course the rub with the daddy blog stuff is that it is usually inspired by whatever Holden has done lately.  This usually involves putting things he shouldn't into his mouth (like yesterday when he calmly cruised over as I was writing my moving tribute to Springsteen saxophonist Clarence "the Big Man" Clemons, who died this past Saturday, and decided at nine months he was ready to try coffee for the first time.  And, no, for some strange reason, he didn't want to nap yesterday.  Go figure).  Such is the case today, when he didn't sleep last night, climbed all over me like I was a jungle gym, and squawked like a pterodactyl (his latest trick).

Which you think would drive one crazy, and it sort of does, except for the part where the little thing actually falls asleep, and as tired as you are, as much as your bad back is barking on this marshmallow mattress, you look down at this boy, your son, and he's all nestled against you, baby snoring and (finally) peaceful, the hot pink cheeks and his tiny monkey fingers curled around your 17-inch biceps (well, I mean if you're me), and you're, like, "Holy shit."

Now there are a lot of good feelings you get in this life, from the raucous to the rock 'n' roll.  I've done the drugs, had the girls, and as a fan of the most successful franchise in all of professional sports celebrated many a championship.  But there ain't nothing that compares to having a family, a beautiful wife and big 'ol house, and most of all this kid.  This kid, man, who'd have thunk it?  He can drive me nuts, get in the way when I want to get shit done, and Lord knows I'd love to have an off switch on the buggger.  But lying in bed last night at 2 a.m., cool breeze blowing down the mountain, deer hoofing outside my window, and my boy sleeping next to me, I've never had it better.

OK.  I have to take my son out of his jumper now.  That's where I put him as I am going in to the home stretch, in lockdown for a few so I can finish my writing, and it lasts about fifteen minutes.  And those fifteen minutes are...just...about...up.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Big Man

For years I denied my love of Springsteen.  When I got to SF, I wanted to  So I pretended I didn't like the Yankees, that my favorite book wasn't Catcher in the Rye, and that I didn't listen to the Boss.  These days I have no problem admitting I'm an American cliche.  I wear blue jeans and white T-shirts. My favorite movie is Rocky.  Jack Kerouac is the writer who has most shaped my life.  And no matter how many times I mock it, I believe wholeheartedly in the American Dream... When it comes down to it, there are only a handful of things in this life that truly get me jazzed.  So why deny myself the few that do?

I love Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

This isn't such a radical statement these days, I know.  In addition to the grizzled dinosaur set, Bruce has achieved a level of indie cred, with new, up-and-coming bands like the Killers and Gaslight Anthem, Mumford and Sons, all kneeling at the E Street altar, and Bruce's place in the pantheon of rock 'n' roll greats is undisputed.  There was a time, however, not so long ago--probably right after Born in the USA--where backlash against the Boss was fevered (and the "Dancing in the Dark" video probably didn't help.  Though I will say that, though overproduced, the song itself is among Bruce's finest), and admitting to being a fan of Springsteen was tantamount to admitting Titanic is your favoring movie (and who does that, Sarah Weston?).

Anyway, there are a lot of eulogies that are floating around the I-net after E Street saxophonist Clarence Clemons, AKA the Big Man, passed away this past Saturday from complications of a stroke.  And I don't want this to be one of those.  Because it'd be disingenuous.  I didn't know the guy personally; he's a saxophone on a record, a distant voice bleeding between the lanes and the miles.  Furthermore he only resonates because of his attachment to Springsteen and the E Street Band.  "Attachment"?  Actually, more like he was the E Street Band.

Now I love Bruce, but two of his weakest albums are Human Touch and Lucky Town, which were both recorded without Clarence and Co., and while many of the songs themselves are terrific (still love both title tracks), without E Street behind him, something is missing.  Yeah, Bruce gave E Street their name, and he probably would've been great without them.  Just not sure he'd be the legend he is today.

I am a musician, but the truth is, I don't know jack about what makes someone good, in terms of chops; I don't have the nuanced ear.  Every drummer I know goes nuts over Terry Bozzio--I mean nuts--but all I know about the guy was he was in a band called Missing Persons (don't worry, Big Tom, I am not dissing them!), and they were cool enough, I guess.  I mean, in the early days of MTV, "Do You Hear Me" was a video I always liked.  But I didn't notice anything particularly special about the drumming. And I remember a time when Neil Peart made every pimply kid jizz in his jeans, but he always bugged me (especially his lyrics, which I once heard described as sounding as if they were written by--and I fucking love this--"a deeply affected 14-year-old boy heavily into Rod McKuen."  Ouch).  Jimi is a guitar virtuoso, and Flea is among the best bassists; and, again, I am not saying this isn't true (and, again, BT, I like Dale B.!)--I only bring this up, my lack of musical acumen, as a long, roundabout way of saying that I don't know if the E Street Band is even any good.  I just know that they move me, like no other band, before, since, or ever will again.

There's a scene in a terrible movie called...Just Friends.  If you haven't seen it, don't go looking for it; it's a piece of shit.  It's got Ryan Reynolds (who I actually like.  OK.  I don't like him so much as think he's got terrific abs and consider him a personal hero for banging Scarlett Johansson) and Amy Smart, and it's about... Oh, really, who gives a shit?  But there's this scene where Reynolds in a fat suit stands in front of all the kids who are mocking him, and says, "It's a town full of losers, and I'm pulling out of here to win."  And it's played for a laugh, and the line, on it's own maybe, might be a goofy line, but not the way Bruce sings it, at the end of "Thunder Road," when he pleads with Mary (who "ain't a beauty, but hey [she's] alright") to climb into his car, hit the highway, and kiss these small town fools goodbye; man, that line is fucking poetry.  Maybe not Theodore Roethke.  But to me it was better than any crappy poem about trees.  It spoke to me, because I hated that town, and I wanted something more.  Everything I read, everything I listened to promised me something more.  That song was a personal anthem after fist fights on the baseball bus, after whatever girl didn't notice me, after all those lonely, unnoticed days "with the ugly kids in the art room."  It isn't melodramatic, or overly sentimental to say that music kept me alive (I was a very mopey kid).  So when "Thunder Road" ends, and the Big Man kicks in with his sax, I don't know if that solo is any good, but, fuck, it hits me hard; it takes me to that better place.  Back then, I could see I was going to make it out if I just...held...on.  Clemons's sax is hopeful and full of promise but it never abandons the heartbreak festering beneath the surface, what made the declaration (that you are better than this) necessary in the first place, the years wasted killing time among the "skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets," knowing you're no hero, but, fuck it, man, you've got to have something special inside you.  Something special to offer to someone who'll just take a chance on you.

And now the guy's dead.  And I can't say my life will really be personally affected.  Probably not, at least not like a friend's dying or something.  But there is one less beautiful thing in the world now.  And that is never a good thing.

You wonder what you might've said to these people (heroes) if you had the chance to meet them.  My friend in Miami, Scott C., tells this terrific story about meeting Johnny Cash.  Cash was, like, an ex-girlfriend's godfather or something.  Anyway, this girl calls Scott because Johnny is over her house, and this wasn't long ago, so Cash is pretty sick and old at this point, but Scott can't miss this chance (really, who doesn't love Johnny Cash?).  So Scott rushes over, and he's catching Johnny just as he's leaving, and of course Scott has a million things he wants to say, like how much Cash's music has meant to him and how it helped him through tough times, and all the things any of us would want to say to Johnny Cash.  But Scott can't get any of it out, because he's too overwhelmed; he doesn't know where to start.  So he's just staring at Cash, with the look of a guy who's got a million things he wants to say but who is too panicked and pressured and tongue tied.  And Johnny sees this, and he just nods, one cool, knowing nod, as if to say, "Don't worry, I get it, kid.  You're welcome."

Yeah, it's something like that...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Shameless Plug for Self-Promotion

Over the past few months, I've received several comments, e-mails, and Facebook posts from people telling me they like this blog and my writing, and that when I finally get that book deal they will buy whatever I publish  Thanks.  I have some of these correspondences still, but because I am a short-sighted dumbass who will throw away a box yesterday that he needs today (I have really bad OCD), most of them I've deleted to keep my electronic files clean.  Some of this has been due to necessity, since most of these comments have been posted to my Facebook wall, and if I left them all up I wouldn't be able to post new links, interviews, articles, etc.

The whole purpose of this blog was to explore another angle to get my work out there.  Frankly, I figured I'd write this thing for a week or two, get 7 or 8 people to read it (including Justine), and then quit.  But for whatever reason, people seem to read Candy and Cigarettes regularly enough to warrant my continuing it.  Which is very cool.  I started this in earnest in February, and we get about 1,000 hits a week, which isn't the 10,000 a day my agent would like but it makes me feel pretty damn appreciated, especially since the feedback has been resoundingly positive.

So the reason for today's special Sunday Father's Day post...

I spoke with my agent, Michele, the other day, and I mentioned some of these comments I've gotten in support of my work, pledging to be onboard for any book I publish.  Now, admittedly, a lot of these have come from friends, acquaintances, people in the SF "scene," but just as many have come from strangers who just stumbled upon C & C, and that's been awesome.  Michele suggested I compile all these comments into a document and use them in our next book proposal.  Pretty shameless, I know.  But I thought I could kill two birds, by 1.) saying any and all such comments are appreciated (especially from people I've never met), and that, 2.) if you leave such a comment, I'm hoping you don't mind if I use it in my next proposal.

That's it.  I hate to play on sentimentality.  Especially on Father's Day.  My first Father's Day.  With my son, Holden, who just wants to be proud of his daddy when he gets that first book deal.  So we can someday afford food that he doesn't pick up off the ground ("Son, put down the floor apple...  Daddy's trying to be a man in your eyes...")

I mean, if you get a minute...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Connells: One Simple Word

I'm taking a page from my friend Chris Ludko (i.e., I'm stealing his idea).  He's got this site where he and a buddy review albums they like called Shit for Fuckheads (  No real criteria for which records they choose.  Some are indie and underground, some are pop and mainstream. Basically, they review whatever the fuck they want, what records have moved them and helped shape who they've become.  Now I'm not plugging SFF because they say they're planning on reviewing the Wandering Jews' latest, Down on the Farm (well, not entirely).  (On a bit of side note, I actually went to high school with Chris back in Berlin, CT, though I barely remember him.  Which is a shame, since the dude has impeccable taste in music, is a terrific songwriter in the Bob Mould vein, and if I hadn't been such a weirdo dick in high school, I could've started a band with the guy, and we might've taken over the world with our music.  Or at least had some fun trying.) Anyway, I like this idea of picking whatever records have moved you, and the other day at the gym the track "Another Souvenir," from the Connells' 1990 gem One Simple Word, came on the iTouch, and it got me thinking, not just how awesome a record this is, but how influential a role it played in both my music and life.

So let's break this fucker down, Shit for Fuckheads style.  (Although since I don't have any friends helping me write this, we'll be forgoing the witty back and forth exchange.)


The Connells are the quintessential college radio darlings.  I first heard them out CCSU's dinky little 8-watt transmitter in 1989, my first year of college, as I chased the Amys and Katies of the world, still young, pretty, strong, and naive enough to believe I could get everything I wanted.  If you know of the Connells, you probably only know this song, which is their one "hit," and a video I posted a while back in a post called "Compromise."

It's a great song, with a catchy hook, and if the video doesn't bring you to near tears and wondering what you're doing with your life, you might want to follow homestarrunner into high finance or male modeling, because it's stark naked heartbreak, and you could be dead.

But the album it's from, Ring, while solid, isn't as memorable as One Simple Word. Not for me, at least.  Some (like Chris, I think) might argue that Fun and Games is their masterpiece.  Which may be true, but like any music you came of age to, or that simply played as the soundtrack to some pretty cool times, OSW is the one that sticks with me.

The Connells' line-up has stayed mostly the same throughout the years, but like most bands, they've added and subtracted pieces along the way (the band can still be found playing little clubs and bars today in their home state of North Carolina).  But to me, and for the sake of this review, the key pieces are vocalist Doug MacMillan and guitarist/(primary) songwriter Mike Connell.  For my money, MacMillan has one of the most distinct, pure voices in all of alt rock, and Connell, while perhaps not the most lyrically sophisticated, can match words and music (much harder than it sounds) as good as anyone in the game.

Stone Cold Yesterday

Like Rob Gordon says of a good mixed tape, you've got to kick it off with a killer, and that's what you get here from the Brothers Connell (Mike and bassist brother Doug sharing songwriting credit).  This high-powered pop nugget showcases the best of the Connells, right out of the gate.  You've got the pure, pristine late-'80s guitar tones and MacMillan pitch-perfect phrasing, as verse, chorus, and bridge explode to start our tale of the ordinary masquerading as the extraordinary, and vice versa.  The conceit here is all about deception, internal and otherwise, and reconciling what isn't with what you always thought (hoped? foolishly believed?) was.  It clocks in at a economical 3.37, with MacMillan harmonizing with himself, "Don't it make you wonder, man?" (Or is it "Wonderman"?)  It didn't hurt that the song about "not an average Betty" and a guy who can't dance named "Jimmy" fit so aptly into the story of my life at the moment, as my best friend, Jimmy, had recently provided the impetus to the Something Like Paisley dance classic, "Ask Me about Betty (and why she so sad so sad so sad so sad)."  (Seems I've been mining the Soyka for material from the get-go.)

Speak to Me

"Speak to me and then sentence me..."  After the high octane (and remember "high octane" for college radio darlings isn't the same as for, say, Motorhead), the boys pull it back with "Speak to Me," like a bottle of classy $8 wine, letting that fucker breathe.  (And you also have to remember, $8 for wine in 1989, that'd be like almost $20 today.  And that shit is classy.)  Now I'm a sentimental pop guy.  Don't let the muscles and tattoos fool you.  I'm a sensitive mutherfucker.  This is only a year before the bone-bruising self-loathing of Nirvana took over college radio, and while I liked Nirvana (especially at the time), they also helped usher in one one of my least favorite eras of music: grunge (and that fucking midget Eddie V.).  This tune is the not exactly the opposite of grunge, but it's "hardness" would sound wussy to most by comparison.  Which would be a mistake.  It embraces the best of rock 'n' roll outsider, and sounds damn pretty doing it.

All Sinks In

What makes One Simple Word such a solid record is that, start to finish, there isn't a weak track, each tune building off the last, even the "worst" merely holding course. But this ain't one of those weaker links.  Here in "All Sinks In," MacMillan takes that theme of alienation and turns it in on itself resulting in desperation brimming, as that liminal moments are broached.  I'm outside, and I'm never getting in.  Deal with it. Lines like "I walked out this morning as the soup kitchen lines were forming" and "I recognize the classic signs of this unkind disease" played in my head many a-times as I walked to get barley soup at Martin du Pours with the rest of the wretched and homeless...

Get a Gun

This is the one.   The song that hooked me on this band, the tune that played on CCSU's radio station.

She never listens to me at night.  Get a gun, get a gun; we're losing altitude... What else is there to say?  That chorus is as good as it gets, as MacMillan's voice weaves seamlessly through impeccable pitch, tone, and intonation. Sugary but without being overly sweet (again, not as easy as it sounds).  This is the band at their best.  Connells writes.  MacMillan sings.  It's rare a singer can take another's words and make them so much his own (the only other names that come to mind is Robin Z. and Rick N. in Cheap Trick).  Frankly, I don't know what the fuck Connell is writing about, but I don't care.  When MacMillan sings I feel the frustration, dread and regret.   I am hard pressed to think of a better first four kick-off to a record.

What Do You Want

You don't want to blow your wad, Rob G. says, so you've got to take it down a notch; there are a lot of rules. This track feels different, because it is written by George Huntley, the second guitarist/keyboardist.  It's a testament to a band when they can basically take a song by anyone and work the same magic. Huntely's tunes are fine, but without the Connells playing them, they'd be much more forgettable.  This song isn't forgettable, and drummer Peele Wimberley's shuffling snare over lines like "she's pregnant but barely showing"is masterly interplay.  Still, it's one of the weaker tracks.  Not because it's bad, but because the others are so good; it suffers by comparison.

Set the Stage

I remember downloading this album back in 2004 or 05.  This was right after I discovered this new thing called...iTunes (I sorta missed the computer explosion shooting drugs).  I was very excited to have this record again.  I played it for my (then) second wife, April, as we drove up to Amherst to check out grad schools for my (then) promising writing career.  She wasn't impressed (she was a big fan of midget rock and Eddie V.  Did I mention how much I loathe short rockers and Pearl Jam?).  She said something to the effect of the lyrics being all cliches.  Which is actually a very valid point.  But never underestimate the power of a well-placed cliche in a pop song.  Words so often only get in the way of a good tune.  You're riding an emotion, and a goofy lyric can ruin the moment.  Get out of your own way, man.  (Social D and Soul Asylum's entire career were made riding the power of the well-timed cliche, and I've dipped my songwriting pen in that well often myself.  This isn't poetry, man; it's pop music.  Don't confuse the two).  Another track that contributes skillfully to the overarching theme of regret and loss and underachievement that colors the album.

One Simple Word

There's no denying the debt the Connells owe to R.E.M., and this cut might be the most blatantly obvious I.O.U., with Mike Connell borrowing a page right out of the Buck playbook, ala "One I Love." Shimmer and chorus, chorus and shimmer...  Like "What Do You Want," the title track suffers because of the company it keeps, but it's no dud; it simply doesn't advance the overall effort as far as some of the others.

Another Souvenir

Deceptively simple, this song is the only one written entirely by Doug MacMillan, here playing the part of both Stipe and Mills, with an achingly devastating backing vox that overflows with angst and loss.  Might as well be singing "fire"...  These things we collect and these things we lose, they are what define us.  Definition in the absence, in the negative spaces, the trinkets of letters, what memories we can hold onto, mental snapshots and snippets of all the lovers we burn through...


The aptly titled "Link" is another Huntley tune, and certainly the weakest on the album.  This Pink Floyd-sounding offering clocks in at barely a minute, making it less a song and more of a bridge to the next track.  Still, this minute is better than anything you'll hear from the Ke$has of the world...

The Joke

We're back on the upswing here.  Lush harmonies, no-fat songwriting, the Connell/MacMillan team take 3 minutes to weave the sparkly chugging story of a man who can't take a joke, manipulating emotion with crescendos and big balloon catches as you fall.

Too Gone

After "Get a Gun," probably my favorite track, as Connell and MacMillan climb the rock mountain, masterfully segue into Shannon's "Let the Music Play..." Fucking genius.  We just did a mash-up at the last Wandering Jews' show, fusing Jarret's "Bad for Me" with Tom Petty's "You Wreck Me."  Let's face it. You got 12 fucking notes in rock 'n' roll, and most of the time we are going 1, 4, 5, so why not admit the obvious?  "When am I too gone for you?  Wasn't I once on for you?"  I steal this sentiment for my song "So It Goes," which was written about a week and a half after first hearing this track.  The word "gone" says so much.  Means I had it and I gave it away, loved and lost.  Huntley's keys help bring this song to its final fevered pitch, as MacMillan pleads to let the music play, and let him at least hold on to the memory of what was.  Which still ends up being too much half the fucking time.  

Waiting My Turn

Like MacMillan's "Souvenir," this, too, is deceptively simple, with Huntley's keys at their haunting best, mimicking a violin's lilt.  And MacMillan's ability to pinpoint place harmony is rivaled by no one.  We're coming to the end...

Take a Bow

Can't go out on a mopey note, so Mike Connell gives us a little some melancholy to chew on.  Gave it my best, while all along I knew it wasn't possible.  "What" wasn't possible?  Who knows?  Maybe crafting some of the best music you'll ever hear, which no one will ever hear, and in 2011, you'll still be playing North Carolina bars, while cookie-cutter, soulless fucks like the latest American Idol "star" gets crammed down the collective throats of the masses as what constitutes talent, thus promoting generic poser "rock" (Daughtry anyone?) while true luminaries languish in obscurity.  I mean, if I had to venture a guess.

And like a freshman comp paper, I say, In conclusion...

If you are a fan of top-notch pop songwriting and pristine vocals, a real "record" as opposed to a collection of focus-group generated imminently forgettable crap; if you long for that simpler time before auto-tune and reality TV ruined rock; if you want to go back to that time before you turned 20 and started to realize Holden Caulfield just might be right and this world is full of phony bastards who get flitty every time you try to take a fucking nap, you could do a fucklot worse than checking out this record.