Sunday, February 17, 2008

Music and Valentines

I've got Hendrix on the earphones, always a bad idea when trying to write. I can't help it if my comfort music includes Jimi as well as Frank. My tastes are eclectic. Still, I generally require of a performer two qualities: expertise and soul. I've always had problems with U2 and Neil Young for that reason, as they have soul but their musicianship is at best, average. Dylan, for that matter, knows how to pick a good backing band, and in his recordings there is enough soul to overcome occasional musical missteps and turn them into a rustic charm. I've been trying to make peace with U2 and Neil Young for years, as they are outstanding stylists despite ham-handed guitar work and the fact that “The Edge” (a title which irks me) couldn't even play his way out of a twelve bar blues break. I guess it's one of those “sum of the parts exceeds the whole” thing.

My ultimate comfort music is the Beatles, whom I listen to each Sunday morning with “Breakfast with the Beatles,” a longstanding California tradition and radio show. Once a week for a couple of hours the Beatles are plain therapeutic. Their genius becomes more firmly established with each new year of Grammys for songs with no melody to speak of. Fun that Aretha got a special award this year, though I blame here for introducing white and black America into endlessly toying with each note, sometimes over three octaves, as if to impress the American Idol judges. Whitney Houston and Beyonce' just took it too far, IMHO.

A good song doesn't need a bunch of embellishments to make it good; just straightforward, soulful singing will work. You know of what excesses I speak-- the runs and riffs that singers, especially female singers, wring out of notes today. “Won't you be-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee mi-hi-hi-hi-hi--i-i-i-ii-iii-ne for-ee-ee-ee-ee-ever.” I think our national anthem one tune extremely ill-served by such pyrotechnics. And I sometimes think all the playing around with the least syllable is a way of disguising the fact that many singers can't hold a true, honest note for more than a second or two. Some of my favorite singers? Fred Neil, the guy from Crash Test Dummies, Cat Stevens, Frank Sinatra (even Tony Bennet dolls up his tunes too much for me), David Byrne, John Lee Hooker, B. B. King, Eric Clapton (I think he sings better than he plays), Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Streisand, Phoebe Snow, big, rich voices—although I'm also quite partial to Dylan and Lennon and their nasal tones and twang for some odd reason.

Yesterday's treatment went smoothly. Afterwards I hitched a ride into the city with my sister and wandered around, finding a pair of shorts and a new backpack at a four-story Ross Dress-for-Less downtown. It felt good to buy something for myself. As for food, I had a jumbo San Francisco dog with everything from a vendor near Union Square, a tuna sandwich from an Internet cafe', and some sushi from Safeway later, with a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and a Lagunitas Seasonal Ale thrown in there somewhere.

I most enjoyed visiting hippie hill and the drum circle in GG park, where I danced, or moved rhythmically (depending on one's point of view) and let all my joints loosen up. The drum circle at GG is one of the best I have ever heard. Really good players come there. One guy specialized in three types of cowbells and several tambourines all mounted on a custom rack. Others had the usual congas. The whole effect was of a living, breathing organism, and it felt so human! No other animal can accomplish such diverse patterns of rhythm in a communal exercise. The complexity, the changes, the movement, the spaces, all very therapeutic. If music is the universal language, then rhythm is the universal touch. To let your joints dangle freely in response to multiple beats is good therapy. I truly felt a part of, not apart.

So the day went well, and I even had a chance to chat with my sweetheart for about an hour from an Internet cafe. Because of our new digs, Kathleen's captioned phone is not yet working. But the chatting brought back old memories, as in the winter of '99 after we had first met and we used to chat a great deal from LA to NY. I still have records of some of those conversations, just like I have hundreds of our early e-mails tucked away somewhere. I'd love to tell our love story sometime, as amazing as any love story I've heard. It seemed as if heaven and earth moved to bring us together and afterwards we could never be sundered.

There is true love, true Eros that can last a lifetime, but it is an anomaly, an anomaly I wish for all, pofor nothing is so good as to be deeply in love and have love reciprocated, or better, multiplied exponentially.

Here's the Valentine I wrote for Kathleen:

Valentine 2008

You are a granite waterfall, my love.
Your stone is slippery and sensuous.

I fall into a pool beneath your feet
And lie upon a thousand polished stones.

I look up at the alders overhead
And marvel at how you give yourself to them

Without diminishment, without attrition,
A steady miracle of sacrifice.

Downstream trout fingerlings mouth bits of algae
Because your pounding fed them oxygen.

The vines that weave the cliffs live off your spray.
Bright orange salamanders make their bed there.

The hummingbird hovers to sip your mist;
Droplets adorn his iridescent green.

A pale succulent grows in your cleft,
Its purple stalk a wand of yellow stars.

Inside the moss-lipped haven of your granite
I hide behind your thundering skirt of water.

Your clarity dissolves all self-deception.
I would not recognize myself without you.

The shelter of trees is never so generous
As your pouring and thinning of yourself

Into the forest air. I kneel and drink
And like the alder rise up satisfied.

If I can keep from any conflicts with my loved ones I may yet heal. I cannot bear to hurt or be hurt. I need comfort, not rigor, mercy, not judgment.

Thine in Truth and Art,



  1. Anonymous7:34 AM PST


    Yes indeed I'd say you are in love. All the best to you and Kathleen.

    "I think our national anthem one tune extremely ill-served by such pyrotechnics." <--You're preaching to the choir on this one.

    Don't you find that few of the trademark voices we enjoy are technically proficient or should I say 'trained' in a classical sense? I think a popular music voice must be, above all else, authentic. Moreover this authenticity is understood at a pre-reflective 'soul' level. We all just know a faker, a copyist or a conventioneer.

    Poetic voice is very much the same. That is how we can appreciate many poets of disparate styles...because they have one thing in common...they are being themselves.


  2. As in your Johnny Cash video--love his voice though he is often just a tad out of pitch, but it's self correcting. And on Nashville Skyline with Bobby D. "Girl from the North Country Fair" is charming although Bobby clearly violates pitch on an attempt to harmonize on 'true love of mine," and Cash holds the fort. Love Waylon and Willie as well. Eddie Vedder even. Or Richard Harris, who famously "talked" his tunes. Or Jimmy Durante for that matter and Louis Armstrong, of course.

  3. Hello, Craig. I know the love story; was there from the beginning. Do you remember me? I am glad you make Kathy happy with moonlight and love songs.

  4. grab that little bite of happiness and eat it up- the poem is delightful!

    hugs to you


  5. Bobby can violate pitch for me any day...particularly on Girl From the North County. : ) Nashville Skyline is a favorite of mine though many rank Blonde on Blonde higher. My favorites are Blood on the Tracks, Nashville Skyline, the more recent Time Out of Mind and an old 1979 live album at Budkon.

    So good to hear you sounding fiesty. Thanks for sharing the love poem. I know she loved it, too.


  6. Budokan, even. : )


  7. what a beautiful and touching love poem, CE. i remember the previous ones that were published in niederngasse ages ago and how much i loved those, too. i'd certainly love to read about your love story one of these days.

    hope the treatment goes well and gives all the desired effects.

    oh, and my eyes couldn't help popping out when i read that your pulse was 48! didn't even know that was possible. my normal is at 80-90. i'm a friggin' canary. hee.


  8. Masale Wallah7:48 AM PST

    Hi CE,

    Glad to read that the treatment is working. I'm very happy for you! Great poems too.

    My best wishes,


  9. db2lan: you have me at a disadvantage since you lack a blogger profile, but I'm sure I'd remember anyone who was there from the beginning. The revelation of love tends to suspend time into intense fragments, but all the fragments are there, and when I see Kathleen, they unite. Who would have thunk that I would fall in love after half my life was past? And true love gives to others, it doesn't hide away in its own Florida condo.

    Pat, "Highway 61" I think Bobby's best album, but many think "Blood on the Tracks" deserves that honor. I don't put "Blonde on Blonde" in the running, still think he should have made it a single record. Blasphemy, I know.

    Praise from Shann and Arlene is enough to make my day, fine poets both. Arlene's site is listed in my links, btw.

    And how could I ignore my inveterate correspondent, Norm, who has a good singing voice, especially for rock. You can find his U-tube music videos here and there and at his site. God, do I even have a link to his site? I'll have to check. Site oversight!

    Thanks all.

  10. I like your valentine so very much...

    Good health and joy to you!


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