Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sippican Cottage. Your Home for Bolognese Skiffle

I can never figure out if the world is wonderful or a dreadful bore. Whenever I'm feeling particularly jaded, I usually head on out to the Intertunnels and look for Bolognese Beatles cover bands doing outre versions of Liverpudlian rockabilly songs.

The fellow singing the McCartney part  in this video is Galeazzo Frudua. He taught my son how to sing the harmony parts of All My Loving, although Galeazzo might be surprised to know that.

Galeazzo and his charming coven of friends have been featured here before:
It Won't Be Long
More Beatles Bolognese
How to Avoid Norwegian Wood Splinters
Hey Giuda

[Update: Many thanks to Kathleen M. from Connecticut for her constant support of my children's efforts via the TipJar. It is greatly appreciated]

Friday, May 29, 2015

Some Great Date

The weather has turned here in Western Maine. A few weeks ago you could still find disconsolate patches of snow here and there, loitering with bad intent in northeastern shade. There were frosts last weekend, down in the twenties at night. The frosts punished people that planted pansies and passed the slackers on by. The lilacs have pushed out their wan purple bottle cleaners to scent the breeze and draw their trinities of hummingbirds, butterflies, and bumblebees. The tree swallows have moved back into the house that's not supposed to attract them, for the third year in a row. The male sits on the roof to guard it while the female swoops and darts across the little meadow in the back, and she comes back full speed and goes right in the hole without pausing. Then her mate bombs across the meadow to get his share. It all seems so impossible but there it is, like everything under the dome of the sky if you're paying attention.  If you do not know the sky in Maine when June enters the dooryard you can never understand the attraction of this place.

It seemed to me that nothing would survive the winter. We had so many stray cats roaming around our yard last year we made names for them. There was Newman and Catzilla Junior and The Dishrag. Our old cat Momo has wasted away to two dimensions, and we feared that he would no longer be able to hold his own in the spring. He shambled out across the snow drifts in March and ranged over Puiia mountain and Rich's steps and Davis's tumbledown greenhouse looking for friction but found none. He sleeps untroubled on the rocker on the porch, all night, waiting for an adversary that never comes. He is the solitary king of a dead dominion.

My neighbor, as solitary as any cat, caught cold I guess. Winter takes its vigorish here whether you can spare it or not, and it took him. Pneumonia. I liked that man a great deal. He was friendly on his own terms, something that's common here. We would see him, rarely, as he came and went, and every once in a great while we would be passing by while he was outside, and stop to chat. He was salubrious in a way that is rare in this world today. He was in the military many years ago, directed a factory of some sort, was a policeman in a small town for a time, and did charity work when there was no other work to do. He lived all alone. He had a son who was in the military, too, in one war or another, the country doesn't seem to keep track of such things coming or going anymore, but returned home safe. Later he stopped to help a woman who was in danger when her car was disabled on the highway, and he was struck and killed.

My neighbor never spoke of his son to me. It broke him in some fundamental way. It did not diminish his generous smile when he waved as he mowed, but it put it behind bars somehow. His son is buried in a little boneyard near here on a quiet lane where we ride our bicycles. He wanted to be buried with him, but he had to wait because the ground was still frozen.

My wife and I pedal past the iron gates of the cemetery, the granite markers unread except by the gold finches that rocket through on their constant errands, and I look over my shoulder and wonder if I too am waiting for some great date but my ground is still frozen.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Have You Heard Guided by Voices? They're a Band

None-hit wonders.Guided by Voices could half-fill a tent show or swamp a converted sweatshop barroom for twenty years or so. They had one recognizable song I know of. This is it. I've come to the conclusion that everybody has one garage rock hit in them. It's inborn, like a vestigal tail or an appendix, and about as useful. People who can produce more than one are rare indeed, and need not be discussed here. No matter what, both the audience and the bandmembers keep expecting another tune worth the tap of a toe to be vomited forth, but it never shows up.

Because everyone knows, correctly, that they have that one song in them, they look at the mess on the stage in whatever club they're in and grumble, "I could do that." The modern music store industry is based on getting every single male human being to buy $25,000-worth of Les Pauls and trash cymbals and attempt to make one coherent noise in their mother's garage, and then quit. If you enter the music store wearing a Guided by Voices T-shirt, you're already doomed. You'll buy anything.

To people like Guided by Voices, who have had their cup of coffee in the almost-big leagues, comes a kind of peace. No matter what, for one brief shining moment, they slipped the orbit of the portion of the home or the freestanding building designed and constructed to house a vehicle or vehicles, but never does because it's got your goddamn son's goddamn drum set in it.

Just as an aside, I might point out that the Unorganized Hancock version of Game of Pricks is immediately the definitive version of the tune. Watch the 12-year old drummer, then search the Internet for other versions of the song. No one can hold a candle to him. Nobody.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Battle of the Bands: Unorganized Hancock vs. James Bond

There's nothing like a good battle of the bands. A stirring hullabaloo, if you will. There's a problem. There is no one compares with U.

Unorganized Hancock, that is. Here's a snippet of their show at the Mystic Theater at 49 Franklin in Rumford. It's the shizzle. It's the show.

But we must try to find a worthy adversary for our Battle of the Bands. Because Unorganized Hancock has the Greatest 12-Year-Old Drummer in the World, finding competition is rough. Performers that can entertain an audience with only a 12-year-old drummer to help are in short supply, too, I guess. How would I know? I never leave the house.

At any rate, we had to look for worthy adversaries among people who are licensed to kill. Think of that! Only one member of Unorganized Hancock is even licensed to drive. But we are not looking for a New Jersey General for our contest. We want Daniel Dravot.

Hmm. It doesn't have a great beat, and you can't dance to it. I give it one ping only.

[Update: Many, many thanks to Kathleen M. in Connecticut for her constant support and encouragement of my children via our PayPal tipjar. I am not exaggerating one iota when I tell you that she refreshes my opinion of the human race]
[Many thanks to the Execupundit for his enthusiasm for the boys' efforts]

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Blind Beautiful Devotions Which Only Women's Hearts Know

This child was her being. Her existence was a maternal caress. She enveloped the feeble and unconscious creature with love and worship. It was her life which the baby drank in from her bosom. Of nights, and when alone, she had stealthy and intense raptures of motherly love, such as God's marvellous care has awarded to the female instinct — joys how far higher and lower than reason — blind beautiful devotions which only women's hearts know.

             -Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
My wife is reading a little book. It shows the touch of other hands. Its spine is gone gray by touting its charms to everyone, unheeded mostly, and settling for an even century of the attention of the passing sun across the sky, slanting into homes unknown. It is a sort of a missal. It fits in the palm of the hand. The pages are like the skin of an onion. The print on the other side of the page shines through a bit, and in every way. Backwards, right to left, it shines through. This book is the little blue tent of the sky in the prison yard of my wife's life. Inside the cover, it says that it's part of EVERYMAN'S LIBRARY. I am beset by doubts on that score.

It was smuggled in to her by her little son. He gave it to her for her birthday. I wish I could give my own mother a present so fine, but my heart has been toughened by the calisthenics of living and it's fit only for lifting heavy objects -- and dropping them, generally. It works enough to wish things were different, which is something, I guess. I fear that there is nothing truly heartfelt left in my heart. Nothing pure. My little boy's heart is a flower, and mine a potato. It is the way of the world. He did the exact right thing because he had no idea what he was doing. How many walking the Earth could claim that?

My wife must consort with dead imaginary people because there is no one left to talk to in this world. Only they understand her, so she takes her encouragement where she can find it.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Rumford Delenda Est

I did something well out of the ordinary yesterday.

Or was it Thursday? I don't know. Or is today Thursday? I don't know what day it is, or what week, or the month, because these concepts have no meaning to me anymore. Time passes and that's that. I do what I do, day and night, winter and summer, Christmas or Lent -- it makes no nevermind.

As I was saying, I did something out of my routine. I left my house. I got in my truck and drove perhaps a half-mile. My wife knows how I am, and has a mordant laugh at my expense: I do not know how to leave my house. What is it I need? A wallet, I guess, some keys, if I remember correctly. I'm required to wear glasses in order to drive, but I don't even know where they are most of the time, because the law and I have different opinions.

I have different opinions than everyone about everything, it seems to me, so I keep them to myself. Other people avoid rubbing their neighbors the wrong way about this or that, and simply skip over the few topics not held in the same esteem by both parties, whistling past the graveyard of opinions that bring only discord. Me? I avoid everything.

I could be a Savonarola. Mussolini on the balcony. I'm good at it. I'd say I'm better than most, but that would be lying. I'm better than everyone at it. It's just another topic for me to be at odds with everyone about. I have no desire to burn people at a digital stake all day. Or, more truly, I know in my heart that I have the desire to burn real people at a real stake, so I'd rather not travel down that road even one inch. It's not simple human kindness exhibiting itself on my part. I'd have to pay attention to people I find repellent, and I haven't got the stomach for that. I do carry matches, though. Just in case.

Back to the topic. I left the house. Found my glasses and keys, and we set out on our five-minute journey. My wife and I used to walk around the neighborhood for a fresh air and birdsong interlude, but I got tired of ill-mannered dogs and vinyl siding, and gave it up. But I know where everything is, and what it looks like around here. I live in a mill town, given to dreariness on a good day, and the last good day was thirty years ago. My wife had gone out alone to escape the house with three versions of me in it, and had seen a wonder, and wondered if I'd like to see it too.

On a street not far from here lives a man. I do not know him, but I have waved and said hello. He is salubrious in a way I admire. He has lived here forever and a day, I imagine, and watched his town disintegrate. He refuses to go along. His house is conspicuous. It is so yellow that Van Gogh would throw in the towel and go back to the store and start shopping for raw umber. He crawls up and down it, and all around it, and it is as neat as a pin. He does everything himself. He put up a big fence around his yard, an enormous undertaking, and never flagged until he was done. Every surface is clean and bright and in good repair, everywhere you can see. It is the only structure in this town I can describe in that way.

We stopped walking down his street a while back because his neighbors were disreputable. On one side was a house gone to seed for forty years or more. The denizens had approximately 150 snot-nosed urchins who played in the street, which I rather enjoyed seeing, but they kept two, hair-trigger pitbulls the size of donkeys, and you could never tell if they were tied up or not. These animals represented a desire to publicly contract ebola so you could get your own seat on the subway of life. Fine by me.

On the other side of the neat house was a two-family affair that looked in rather better shape, but that's not to say good. There were no obvious structural issues visible to my eye at two hundred yards, which is more than I can say about my house. The house had been occupied by a series of Hatfields and McCoys, cars by the dozens, but somehow never with an even number of tires, abandoned toys everywhere, stray cats outside and stray people inside. I never saw an actual person who lived there outside, a mark of the breed. One minute the window curtain would be a confederate flag, then the rental merry-go-round would spin and a Sponge-Bob beach towel would take its place. The stray cats were the only constant.

The man in the perfect yellow house persevered. He painted his driveway and waxed his lawn and dusted his roof shingles. He polished his trees and chromed the inside of his mailbox. He was adamantine. He was, and is, a species of wonderful.

He must have gotten weary of the noise, and the trouble, and the endless low-rent hubbub. I testify to you, with God as my witness, that when the houses on both sides of him decided to spin the wheel of occupancy one more time, he bought them both, and he gave them the delenda est. Flattened them. There was a pile of lead-painted pickup sticks on one side, waiting for the next round of dumpsters, and the one on the other side was nothing but a patch of straw with the first hint of grass yet to poke through.

That man knows something. Something important. It's not that he knows exactly what would show up in the two houses when the For Sale or For Rent signs came down. He's not pretending to tell fortunes at the fair. What he knew, for a dead cert, was that there was no chance of any change bringing anything but: Worse

I should get out more often.