At The End Of The Day

by Honest Babe on October 16, 2015

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The man woke to a familiar phrase.

“Move along.”

The sun beat down on him, bright and menacing. It was punching him in the face, is what it was doing. Reassuring him that it hated him, disliked his whole existence. He found it somehow comforting, since the nightlife was more his scene anyway. Then the sun found new intensity. A starburst, strobing now, pulsing, flashing, killing his entire being through the tiny slits in his eyes.

“It’s time to move along, sir.”

The hotel security guard removed the high-powered flash-light. High-powered. Shit, atoms might as well have been fusing inside that thing. Dom realized that it was still dark out. Probably almost morning he figured, judging by his encroaching hangover and the city quiet around him. Must’ve been that eery hour that still exists in the city, that wee small slither of time between when the bars close and and worker bees wake. It was eery because all the other urchins didn’t sleep and most of them were fucked up on a head full of bad medicine. Nobody just got drunk anymore. They needed something else. It made them untrustworthy and he hated that hour because of it. In their desperation to get most fucked up, they gone and fucked up the night.

“Excuse me, sir!

“Alright alright.”

Dom always found it funny, the whole sir charade. He had never been sir to anybody except policemen and security guards – men who genuinely meant the word as much as Dom genuinely thought he deserved the label. He rose, thanked the man courteously for the rousing and asked him for a light. “Sure.” The security guard said, and then brought the strobe light back to his face. Dom got the message. He wandered drunkenly down what he now considered a lame and unenthusiastic street of Hell’s Kitchen. ‘New York’s gone to shit.’ He thought, rubbing the burnt stars out of his eyes. ‘Now I’m the reason people fear the night. A goddam fat drunk lying asleep on a stoop. People forget man. The people always forget.’

He made his way past Broadway and saw the opening to Hamilton. There were a few die hards taking photos and selfies behind the billboards. He read the reviews, snorted at the clever plot line and jealously made his way toward Port Authority – the grundle of New York. The city’s last bastion of scoundrels. Dom wanted seediness. Needed it. Wanted to dive head first into the muck. You see, the sign had pissed him off. Dom had tried his hand at theater and failed. He wouldn’t want you to know it but he was an understudy for Jean-Vel Jean in Les Mesérables back in ‘96. Now, he paints and sings on subways for money. Oh and don’t worry. When he says “I paint,” it doesn’t come with the same air of douchebaggery that comes with the vanity of an artist. No, he paints to get by. He paints walls. Stains wood. Sands steps. He sweats…grinds. And he hates it. Actually. He hates artists.

“I fucking hate artists!” He yelled at the people as they took selfies. “MUSICALS SUCK SHIT!”

Smiling youthful asian women gawked and went scurrying all about.

“EAT SHIT, DIRTBAG!” A flamboyant man yelled from down the street.

“YOU WANT SOME!”

“I wouldn’t fuck you with Hamilton’s dick!”

This made Dom laugh. Dom wanted to fight. The man, on the other hand, had something else in mind. Middle fingers were exchanged, as was  custom in the city and they parted ways.

Dom was jaded, he knew this. The truth was he loved artists, he just didn’t love them post success. He had no stomach for it. Their knowing smiles, their dreams come true. Their assuredness in their talent, their vision – that they were the one who was supposed to make it through the bog. Dom shook his head…’One man makes it through and a thousand others fall short…tens of thousands. All of ‘em stuck in the mud and spinning wheels till their goddammed motor stalls out.’ He was never a man for odds, but he figured this was why his own engine died. Still, there existed in him the gnawing obviousness that he sang on subways. No one could explain that. He couldn’t even explain it. He didn’t need the money but he felt compelled, almost driven by some ruthless demon to use his voice everyday. It was as if that demon wanted entertainment and Dom had no choice but to obey. Sometimes he would sing in the rambles of Central Park, specifically hoping that no one else could hear it. He just needed to sing. And the demon needed to listen. Horny little bugger. 

Up ahead Gene was hanging on the corner, sending up smoke signals. He was as skinny as a rail and it always befuddled Dom how a man who drank and ate more than he ever could remained so bony and anemic. Dom walked up and asked for a light, this time he covered his eyes just incase a smart ass guard might be around.

“Tha fuck you doin?” Gene asked.

“Just light my cigarette, would ya.”

Gene obliged, “Wine no good tonight?”

Dom pulled away his hands, shaking his head at the question to reveal eyes full of tears. There was no sobbing, no emotion, just the souring leftovers of a dream never realized.

“Must’ve been a bad batch.” Dom tried to smile.

Gene had seen this before in Dom, a common occurrence when he frequented the old play houses. They walked around the corner and headed back toward Time Square together. Highlights of the democratic debate flashed across the towering fifty foot screens that lit up the city blocks, advertising to the concrete jungle the need for more cement.

“The ducks…they quack.” Gene said, staring unwillingly at the CNN ticker.

“Yeah. But at least they’re the good ducks.” Dom said. His cigarette had now burn down to the filter. He thought about smoking the filter too but wisely spit out the stub.

“What’s a good duck?” Gene asked.

“The ones who know that flight is still within in their grasp.”

“You’re full of it.”

“Naw-naw. It’s about lift.”

“These quacks don’t know that.”

“It’s not about them,” Dom said. “It’s about the others they might inspire to fly.”

“People like you are why I drink.”

Dom smiled. When Gene said that, it normally meant he was right. And Gene entertained the bottle often.

“You can’t get on that platform without some sort of ego, though.” Gene said, Dom nodding along. “You know that…”

Gene kept on about what is required of a human to talk from a soap box and none of it being good. Dom remained silent and always disliked Gene for never letting his metaphors end conversations when they clearly already had. They stayed in midtown and strolled aimlessly, Gene had work soon.

“So when are you gonna get a job?” Gene asked. “You need a job.”

“I paint.” This time Dom said it like an artist.

Gene was unappreciative of the humor, “No you don’t. You sing.”

“Not right now.”

Gene shook his head and let out an egregious exhale. “You lie. You sing all the time. Hell, you probably sang at the sake bar six hours ago.”

“Sans employment.”

“Well change that.”

“Sake bars pay shit.”

“I mean – audition. Shmuck.”

“We’ve been over this. It almost killed me – literally. I’m done.”

More sighing could be made out, “But you house a trumpet in there.”

“I’d rather have a house and a strumpet.”

“I’m sure you would. So tell me then, why do I always hear Vivaldi on the subway platform every evening come 6pm?”

To this Dom had no response. Somewhere deep down Dom knew that he sang in public with the hope of a passerby hearing his gift and being somehow connected to the world of theater. That the ears of the unexpected stroller would be so entranced, so transformed and helpless against his all consuming voice that the demon would release its hold on Dom and take up new ownership over the will of the passerby. That the need to get his voice out to the world would soon overwhelm the bystander and in theory, land Dom a lead role somewhere on Broadway, or at the very least, a goddammed agent. There was a cartoonish bubble forming over Dom’s head that was quickly wafted away by Gene.

“At the end of the day, you’re not just failing yourself. You’re failing me.”

At the end of the day..really Gene?”

They both shuddered at Gene’s word choice, reeking of a boardroom as it was.

“But at the end of the week, I’m still alive.” Dom said, full of snark. “And at  the end of the month, quarter and year too, for that matter. Jesus fuck. Why not use a goddam baseball metaphor and tell me I’m striking out!”

Gene was sheepish and fell heavy to embarrassment when his corporatism spilled out into the real world, but there was a point to be made. “What I meant to say was…you’re giving up, and yeah. The game iddn’t over yet - it’s not even the seventh inning stretch - you fuck.”

All the sudden Dom started checking his pants pockets. “Shit.”

“What?”

“I think I lost my keys.”

“Of course you did, again.”

Dom struggled through every pocket. Change spilled onto the curb. He bent over to pick up the few quarters and dimes and his pants started to fall down.

“You’re maybe the most pathetic roommate I ever had.” Gene was chuckling now and absolutely lost it when Dom, woozy from trying to stand upright, doubled over on top of himself and face-planted into the brick wall. “And the most entertaining friend ever…here.” Gene held out his keys.

Dom smiled at this. He made for the keys but Gene pulled them away as he noticed his friend’s dirt riddled shoulders. “You sleep in the fucking gutter?!” Dom made as if it weren’t out of the realm of possibilities at which point Gene offered him a proposition. “Two keys for two auditions…or back to the gutter.” Yeap, to get into the building and into their apartment, Dom had to agree to two auditions.

Dom thought long and hard about the gutter he woke up in and the cold, damp, dark, urine-scented cement. This wasn’t the usual for him, by the way. Normally, he loved sleeping inside overpriced hotel lobbies. Snoozing on their comfy couches and schmoozing accomplished women and acting as if he, too, were an out of towner. Some drunkard businessman passing through, just another Clooney Up In The Air. Last night, however, the bottle got the best of him and he could never quite clear the entryway.

The sun was up now and he was still tottering over the proposition. The gutter, full of piss and shit, still sounded better than the gut-wrenching, pride-killing, soul-crushing stage, but Dom had to be honest with himself – self pity was no longer for him.

A deal was struck.

After that night, there was a quickening of all things in Dom’s life. And much of it was owed to years of reliable friendship. A sympathetic symbiosis for the two men were both urchins who liked the wee hours of the night, Gene the early riser, worker bee, and Dom, his degenerate late-blooming counterpart. One owned a voice of reason and the other a voice from god. It seemed as though these two were interchangeable and when Dom took to the stage, he finally stopped listening to the voice in his head, and instead unleashed the voice from within. The Voice of the Night: the struggle of darkness that comes with trying to find the light.

And out came the trumpet. The notes he waxed went beyond his natural given talent. This time around, the notes were earned and held within them the growing pains of the long hard road. The polished grit created a gravitas that consumed the room. The atmosphere fell on happy ears and pulled the judges into him; into his melodious and emotive vocals and there they found an opus of friendship; of folly and fortitude. Of truth. And just a few short months later, a sold out audience would respond in kind by rising enthusiastically from their seats to Dom’s curtain call.

He no longer had to tell people he painted.

He could now tell them…

“I sing.”

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 7.45.59 PMThis story marks the end of a long bout of blogging for me. It is the second goodbye to be attempted here and I fear the final one. Though I may share music from time to time, all efforts with words shall now dutifully be put toward print. What else is there to say except that I am tired of hiding. There is too much work to be done, too many steps to be climbed to come out from the shadows. And let’s be honest, to live a life behind a blog is to live permanently in the shade.

Recently, a much older and wiser gentleman told me that this is bar none the worst time in the history of books to be an aspiring novelist. And then he told me that that is exactly what makes it the greatest time – for “where the struggle is greater, the voice is louder.” I agreed with him and am passing on the same sentiment to you, dear readers. In which ever path and passion your heart takes you…

Press on.

At the end of the day,

Press on regardless.

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 Cyndi Lauper – All Through The Night
The Jam – Town Called Malice
The Style Council – My Ever Changing Moods
Foals – Mountain At My Gates
The Lovely Bad Things – Hear or Anywhere
Mac Miller – 100 Grandkids
Barbara Lewis – Hello Stranger
Wayne Fontana – Game Of Love
Willie Colón – Che Che Colé
Louis Armstrong – High Society Calypso
The Untouchables – Crawlin’
Gary Numan – M.E.
Boxed In – Mystery
Shalamar – A Night To Remember
All the People – Cramp Your Style
Dawn Penn – No, No, No
Quincy Jones – What’s Going On?
Gal Costa – Baby
Ehtiopiques – Tezeta 2
Barbara Lynn – You’ll Lose A Good Thing
Irma Thomas – Anyone Who Knows What Love Is

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La Vie Est Belle

by Honest Babe on October 15, 2015

le-pamplemousse

cinq minute du paradis:

Le Pamplemousse – Gimmie What You Got

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A Confluence Of All Good Things

by Honest Babe on October 7, 2015

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I was asked by my aunt recently to paint her apartment for her; as a favor mostly but more so an opportunity for me to explore my long repressed talents with a brush. It was a mighty kind gesture on her behalf, and seeing how her new one bedroom was located on the upper east side of Manhattan and that I had just gotten into Hamilton, the musical, there arose in the paint-scented air of that high rise apartment a confluence of all good things.

This paint job was an important job, rest assured. Paramount in its need to be executed thoughtfully, the wall was now my canvas and was to be treated as such. It was my expression. My art. My je ne sais quoi. And, after listening to Lin Manuel Miranda’s musical once through already and reeling song after song – nigh unbearable as it was in its abundance of wit and talent and adorations of revolutionary history (of both the nation and hip-hop alike) and lest we not forget, a tipping of an honest hat to the human condition as a whole – I knew the wall deserved my best effort. It deserved inspiration worthy of such an all-encompassing soundtrack that now echoed off its sullen white-washed walls.

The walls looked soulless, I tell you. Empty. In need of restoration. I suppose that is why I was fingered for the job. Or perhaps it was because I was jobless and enjoyed fingering. Either way, the truth remains that Hamilton was about as far from soulless as you could get. “Where’s the color?” I asked aloud, demanding an answer from the walls. “The Vibrance!? Where is the LIFE?!” I thought about launching an entire can of paint at its dusty, chalk-plastered heart, abstract-like in the heat of uncontrollable emotion, but I knew that that had already been done many times before. I smartly put the paint can down and remembered how unoriginality is the ultimate sin, particularly to the crowd who are fluent in sin. Aritsts, that is. Worse even was that it would’ve been an act unworthy of the Hamiltonian splendor doing backflips and summersaults of originality on my eardrums. It too doesn’t need mentioning that my contractor probably wouldn’t have been too thrilled at the emotional anarchy that would have claimed both her ceiling and hardwood floors – dousing them in a Yellow Bisque aftermath – a natural byproduct of a true artist at work.

I kept on with the job, sanding the walls and mixing the paint and prepping the area, but it just wasn’t right. Something was off. Variables weren’t adding up. The paint wasn’t mixing correctly with the sound. So, mid set-up, mid-verse, mid-mental blogging, I stopped. I got outta there. A mindset still needed finding. The music was too good, too affecting, too…honest about life. And well, laying out drop cloths and taping down corners and plotting the fastest points of getting such a job done wasn’t living – it was living to get the job done. And what is worse then doing something just to get it done? Living through life just to forget it was lived? I for one wanted no part in that. Something else was sorely needed, another way to approach the work was desperately called for, perhaps something to make me appreciate the now, the everyday blue-collar work that allows the next day to come. I was down the elevator and out the door and putting tread to pavement before I knew it.

The crisp autumn air danced on my cheeks as I strolled toward Central Park. Leaves were on the cusp of changing and its coolness hit my lungs and lifted me, giving the upper east side an improper upper hand – affluent as it already is. I walked aimlessly, sort of foolish in that I thought walking would deliver an answer to my listlessness but I needed some clarity. As my pacing found rhythm, I thought about my sister and felt thankful that she had recommended Hamilton to me. More than recommended it, she had complimented me deeply by saying “there are so few people in my life who will appreciate this music – you definitely will.” I suppose the raft of deadly diseases we are sure to inherit later in life are worth the genetic charm that comes with the Colpo/Formisano namesake. And walking down Fifth Ave, shared memory after shared memory claimed my brain and how my love – or shall I say, openness to Broadway – was shaped directly by my older and much more well-cultured sibling. Whether it was the earth shattering arrangements of Les Meserables or pop-induced melodies of Rent or any of the other numerous shows she starred in throughout high school, all of these gems came amplified out of her room with some authority in my youth and left me, little brother and constant seeker of approval, with little choice in the matter. I still find myself humming Les Mes“One Day More” in public and have nearly lost many a close friend to what is admittedly, the ‘least manly thing a man can do in public.’ The good news, for any of you manly men who visit this here drivel-machine, is that I am not here to plea a case that might change your views on broadway and the absurdity of a story line where every line must indeed be sung. Yes. Every word. Every single syllable…Sung! My god! The horror! Sweet Christ! The Effeminacy! The Coodies! No, I will not be doing that. But I am here to make my case about art. And believe me, for much of my life, it was a case that had the same ring about it as does a foreign language falling on deaf ears. Imagine a romance language, though beautiful and entrancing and at its greatest times, liberating, but never to be understood in the first place without the ability to hear…or in this case of metaphor, to listen…to truly see.

You see, my stroll had taken me unexpectedly into the halls of The Metropolitan Art Museum. A one dollar donation later and a light walk past the Hellenistic sandstone sculptures and bounty from the times of Alexander the Great, did I drift by divine providence into the world of the Impressionists. And there they were: Monet, Renoir, Degas, Camille…

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Camille Pissarro-568692

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Names I had once relegated to only be understood by the supremely educated, the rich. The decadent gold frames that surrounded each of these masterpieces along with the fact that they were located on the most expensive street to live on in the entire country were reminders of why I figured a strong majority of wealthy prep-schoolers go on to become art-history majors, and in turn, go on to become the snooty curators of museums who talk to you like you don’t know anything. Those little privileged bastards were lucky that I didn’t know anything today, otherwise I might’ve taken offense. Especially when the lady informed me, coughing-gasping slightly while pressing her spectacles firmly back onto the bridge over her nose, that “Degas does not, in fact, rhyme with Vegas.” The bitch. It was also why I figured that you could only understand art if you were raised around it. Which, of course, to me was still a luxury only to be afforded by the wealthy. But sitting there, in whose company deserves uninterrupted silence, gnawing at the hanging skin around my thumbnail, taking in Monet’s Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lillies and lulling mindlessly into the slight fuzz that came to my eyes…so with it came the vision that was Monet:

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The clarity of the soul that he wielded with each brush stroke, the levity he garnished with each reflection of the light, the child-like abandon of color that resided at the heart of playing with paint, and only there could I start to glimpse the actual reality in which art’s greatness exists purely because its result is democratic. That all who can afford a dollar can walk into a museum and witness its beauty absolute. That it doesn’t even need to be understood, nor broken down, nor opinionated nor critiqued nor used up intellectually to the point that both canvas and artist lie bleeding on the floor in exhaustion…that in truth, those who bear the greatest fruit from such beauty don’t think about it, they feel it.

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The unexpected revelation of art being a democratic experience transported me directly back to the apartment. Back to the blue collar, back to the work. Back to brush in hand and paint in motion…and through it, back to greatness, to Monet and Renoir, to work becoming something timeless; and through them, back to Hamilton, to the importance of originality in music and storytelling and the idea that history is written by those who are privileged to write it, but a legacy, a legacy is left by those who are willing to create it. To the lofty notion that greatness and ambition are married to one another and resemble perfectly the two sided coin of life – it is only up to our character to decide which side that coin lands on. And finally, to the gift that is sharing these resultant passions, sharing what we love with one another. And just as a museum offers that gift to millions, so did my sister charmingly offer the brilliance that is Miranda’s exquisite musical to me, and here I am, regurgitating the same implication, with half the charm of course, to dare you to experience a story that has taken both broadway and history and completely flipped the script.

Rare does a boy with such an affinity of the founding fathers as well as harboring such a staunch belief in music and comedy find himself so plainly spoken too – personally. The confluence of all good things comes in the form of Hamilton in that it is a modern musical for a modern generation and yet, speaks so frankly of things that transcend generations. For fear of ruining the storyline that I hail to be worthy of replay – over and over and over again – I can only tell you that Hamilton’s story is one of humanity, its thirst for greatness and its inherent need for forgiveness that comes from such a perilous pursuit. It is accomplished without a whiff of pretension, intricately woven with the cultural roots of the nation’s black community and has quite magically created a storyline that is at its heart wholly patriotic. What was, up until now, a rather yawnfest to any passerby you asked on the street, has now become a compelling, dramatic tale written by a virtuoso who has seen fit to deliver history in such a way that it is edifying to all. More than that, enjoyed by all. Beyond that, needed by all. It is, by all means, what education should be: something you cannot live without.

I told you before that I wasn’t here to plea a case on account of broadway nor the absurdity that can be a sing-song musical, that I was only here to make my case for art. It shouldn’t surprise you then that the democratic enjoyment of both reassures us that they are one in the same, and Hamilton has written the sentiment into law. Should you find yourself in doubt over such a statement, you would do well to remember that it is being put down on paper by a longtime fan of Jefferson, and if he can find it in his ridiculously ideological and lionized heart to tell you this, you better believe it is a law worth abiding by…just you wait:

Zip DL Link: Hamilton Soundtrack

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Sure, One Is Great…But Two’s A Pair.

by Honest Babe on October 1, 2015

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Gianni Ferrio & Gino Marina – Lady Bossa Nova
Gianni Ferrio & Gino Marina – Samba Do Bom
George Benson – Turn Your Love Around
George Benson – On Broadway
Purity Ring – Push Pull
Purity Ring – Bodyache
Wavves X Cloud Nothings – Come Down
Wavves X Cloud Nothings – Nothing Hurts
Joyce Manor – Catalina Fight Song
Joyce Manor – The Jerk
Kurt Vile – Pretty Pimpin
Kurt Vile – Dust Bunnies
Slow Club – Tears of Joy
Slow Club – Suffering You, Suffering Me
Buddy Guy – Buddy’s Groove
Buddy Guy – Keep It To Myself
Lester Young – All Of Me
Lester Young – Prison of Love
Glass Animals – Gooey
Glass Animals – Hazey
Gustavo Cerati – Engana
Gustavo Cerati – Puente
The Growl – Liarbird
The Growl – John The Relevator

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Deep Cuts At The Heartbreak Motel

by Honest Babe on September 18, 2015

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It was dark in the bar but a slight grimace could be made out behind a tipped rock glass. A Pall Mall lie burning down to its end in a glass amber cigarette holder and the smell of stale beer clung mustily to a blue work jumpsuit. The man had had enough of himself and of the drink, too, and so he got up and wandered over to the jukebox.

As he approached, determined to get outside of his own head, dark sunken eyes and greying whiskers were illuminated by a warm orange glow. The old Crosley beamed the strongest light in the bar but when the man stood in front of it, he loved that it somehow still felt soft. Easy and inviting…it was a comfort iridescent. At first it made him feel youthful, all that talent and good company at his fingertips, all those old dandies and their hearts laid out on the line of a hook, but then the tender words got the best of him. They forced the man to think about her again. She was everywhere. He had now reached a point where shaking her off was now a practiced exercise in futility – she was a loss he had to live with and a love he had to live without. Flipping through the artists whose locations he had all but memorized, a few quarters dropped in and good company answered his beckon call. He made his way back to the bar; his long lost lover trailing ghostly by his side.

Merle Haggard – Going Where the Lonely Go

When he got back he realized a woman had walked in and parked herself only two stools down from his smoldering cigarette. He thought this curiously close, as they were the only two warm-blooded bodies in the joint. There was the hefty Kennedy behind the bar, but he’d gone cold a long while ago. Some say it was when he got back from the war, but all who know him remember it was when the plant shut down. Still, he poured drinks tall and strong and any traveler who decided to stop in at Hank’s Hotel and Bar Too knew exactly what they were getting…perhaps that is why there weren’t too many who stopped.

Kennedy came over, grabbed the man’s glass and filled up four-fingers worth.

“This one’s on me, Hank.” He said.

Hank cracked a half smile. They were all on Hank, of course – it was his establishment. Kennedy knew that if Merle Haggard was playing, Hank was in a mood. Hank had been in this mood for several years now. But, buried just beneath the surface of Kennedy’s cold heart, existed a hot core that would bellow from time to time for the poor lonesome proprietor. The love came in the form of cheap jokes and beaten paths already taken, but Hank loved him all the more for it.

Jim Ford’s “She’s Got Her Own Way” came on and the pang of Hank’s last few years settled in. It was of stark memories, lonely nights, and two jobs unfulfilling. He felt as though life was just passing right on by; his daylight always fading, his moonlight always waning.

Tony Joe White’s “I Thought I Knew You Well” soon followed and all Kennedy’s prescient opinions were proven true: A mood was being set, and Hank, forlorn and fatigued, was treading water in the deep end of the dark, dark blue.

“You wounded or somethin?” The lady asked, quite jovial.

Hank looked down nervously at the drink in his hands, half-hoping the woman wasn’t addressing him. He wasn’t ready for that, another woman. He needled at his dirty fingernails and wished his bear paws hadn’t looked like they had been bathed in motor oil all day. For that is exactly what had happened to them – he’d only got off his shift at the garage down the street an hour ago. Empty bar tops and vacant hotel rooms don’t pay the mortgage, after all.

“Excuse me.” The lady was more forceful this go around. “Are you wounded or somethin?”

“Oh you’re talkin’ to me.”

The older woman looked around and smiled at the room, empty as it was.

“That I am, honey. That I am.”

Hank was sullen.

“So?” She asked, encouragingly.

“So what.” Hank said, stupidly.

His stupidity quickly shifted to stupefaction as his gaze rose to hers, and his loss for words reassured Hank of what he had been missing the entire time: Beauty. It was the kind of beauty foreign to the rural roots and lady-less highways of Appalachia. She was tan and had smokers eyes and crimson lipstick and the kind of short-cut blonde hair that blended grey and blonde strands naturally. She was older, had to be in her fifties or so, but beautiful nonetheless. Hell, he was getting up there these days. Hank had always hated sayings like ‘forty is the new thirty’ but seeing how he was about to go tumbling over the hill himself, her age seemed to only add to her appeal. She was refined, confident, almost cunning in her own skin, and at that moment, Hank felt very much the opposite. It irked him, the ease with which the opposite sex could mangle his emotions.

The stereo clinked and cracked and then he could smile again. Junior  Kimbrough’s “Meet Me in the City” somehow always provided him with hope. ‘Maybe she’d still come back?’ He thought. It was nothin’ more than venom in his veins – hope – and the thought fell through his hands before he could even grab hold of it. Greasy hands aren’t much good for things like that. It was here, with a thumb out, stranded on memory lane, where Hank noticed the woman still eying him. She was lightly bopping to the Kimbrough’s touching serenade.

“Lovely tune.” She said.

Hank had nothing to offer except a shoulder shrug. He forgot that he once had a cock.

“You the one playing the music ain’tchya?” She asked.

“Oh yes ma’am.….sorry.”

“Oh don’t apologize, hun. And it’s Mary. Ma’am is for mothers.”

“Hm. No kids?”

“Wasn’t blessed with that gift in life.”

“Ah.”

Hank felt sad for her. He wasn’t expecting such a serious and candid response. He wanted to make a joke and tell her she wasn’t missing out on much but he knew that wasn’t true. He had two boys he hadn’t seen in a while and the thought made him sad. Everything was sad…it pissed him off. The brown booze had a way of manifesting primary colors, and through the heated chemistry of alcohol in blood, blue inevitably turned red. He mustered out a haphazard apology for her misfortune and fell, as he always did, back into the black hole of his ex. Mary reached her hand out and told him what she meant by her original gesture. He reeled at the softness of her hand, the assuredness of her gaze, and eventually fumbled out an apology for the grease. She didn’t seem to mind as she held on for just a moment too long, catching Hank’s breath in the process. She was strong and confident and seemingly unaffected by her inability to have kids. Hank felt something funny flutter in his chest. Marvelous was a word that flashed into his mind.

“It’s just this bar.” She went on, “The music. You all alone over there listening to these sad songs. It just don’t seem right. It all just feels so…wounded.”

“Mm.”

“I don’t mean to intrude.”

“Then don’t.”

“You’re a lively one.” She said, unable to frown. “What I meant was that it’s all better with a little company, no?”

Hank made a noise relative to a grunt. This time around he wasn’t being a dickless tweed, this time around he was being nervous. He liked Mary. He liked her legs in particular. They looked never ending in those long white pants. The pants themselves were exotic – he couldn’t remember the last time he saw white pants. Perhaps on the cover of a Foriegner album but he couldn’t be sure. He caught himself daydreaming and stiffened his upper lip. And then, almost immediately, he began to worry that she might not like him, that his life might be, as his ex put it when she walked out the door, “impotent.”  His plaguing insecurity since the divorce could not be conquered.

There was a clinking noise from the Crosley in the corner and, after the mechanism that screamed loud for replacement realigned, Percy Mayfield’s “Please Send Me Someone To Love” echoed about the empty walls. Hank felt somewhat embarrassed at his song choice. There was a neediness in this song unlike the other ones who came before it; a vulnerability about wanting someone to love. It was an obviousness, that he desperately wanted love again in his life. Was he begging for it by playing such a song? He didn’t know. He couldn’t be sure of anything anymore. Weakness crept in and he felt supremely vulnerable, like walking on a tightrope with shaky feet…and then Mary steadied the line:

“Oh Percy! You didn’t!”

She started to dance from the waste up in her seat. It was a slow back and forth swoon and the weak legs of the bar stool creaked as her whole body found rhythm. Her eyes were closed and Hank felt the permanent knot in his gut start to loosen.

“Oh Quarters! Please!” She started to dig around her purse. None to be found. She flagged down Kennedy who had been enjoying her intrusion of his bosses sour mood and asked him for change. She was up and had the money in the machine before Hank could even say a word.

“Ah. These are all so great! So many greats!”

Hank was delighted. He had personally curated the albums; they were his favorites, his loves, his pain-killers. His friends from afar. There was something to that madness of tastes he couldn’t quite put his finger on; he wasn’t sure but it had something to do with the fact that finding someone who shared your same worldview meant more than just finding the right mirror, it meant finding answers to the questions we all ask.

Mary’s eyes lit up at what was surely her favorite artist of all time. Sam Cooke’s “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” came barreling through with its nifty brass and trickling jazz piano. The woman might as well have been a teenager in Hank’s eyes. Her ass swaying back and forth, her toes tapping, her hips gyrating round and round and…round. He’d lost himself a moment.

“Some woman.” Kennedy said.

“Yeah.” Hank echoed.

She was free. She had one hand on her stomach and one hand up in the air leading herself around the room. Hank grew boyish, and aside from the plastered on smile, Kennedy could tell flattering impressions were being drawn. As the bridge drew near, her dancing elevated to an art form and it wouldn’t have taken a cultured man to discern the woman had a history on the bar. Limber and fluid and downright sexy, she twirled and twirled and wrapped new ribbon around Hank’s heart. He enjoyed the fresh gift-wrapping, enjoyed it good.

“Well.” Kennedy went on, “far as I see it. You either go dance with that woman or I’m quitting this dammed job and never coming back.”

“You sleep upstairs,” Hank said, chuckling. “Just tuck your tits back in fat man, I’ve got this…” He looked at her natural ability out on the dance floor and his throat tightened a bit. “Ahem, I think.”

Hank winked at Kennedy and walked over with an ace up his sleeve. Two quarters went in and a lady-killer came out in Aaron Neville’s “Tell It Like It Is.”

“Not Aaron!” She said, smiling and swooning gleefully. She couldn’t stop moving. Fingers snapping, her mouth open in a gaping smile, revealing her tongue firmly pressed to the top of her sharp teeth. Her shoulders shimmied in small concentric circles and her brow furrowed along intensely to the sentiments behind Mr. Neville’s soul-searching tell-all.

Hank walked over to her, mouthing the words of the song, his entire face embodying the subtle inflections of Neville’s tone. Suddenly, Mary found herself enamored. She liked Hank at first because he seemed, well, down. Hurt. Wounded. Sour at life. She had been down there herself, pissed at the world, living in an open rebellion against the utter unfairness of life. She could find empathy in someone like Hank because of it. But now, there was something else in him; a real possibility, there was good to be found here. Joy and tenderness and so on.

There was a problem though – Hank had two left feet. Okay, there were two problems – Hank had two left feet and was completely unaware of it.

At first, Mary thought he was joking around, his inability to keep rhythm. But soon the reality was revealed and he was just bad, like mathematics professor/tax lawyer bad. She started to laugh but held back. It was awfully endearing, the sight of an aging dirty mechanic writhing like that. She knew right then and there that she was going to spend the night with him. He evoked an innocence that made her feel safe; the bad dancing was one thing, but more so in Hank’s hopefulness for new love, she found herself newly awakened to the same wanted feeling. The vibrations between them shifted course and her heart lead her back to the jukebox and more quarters tumbled in. She made her decisions and made them wisely:

Otis Redding – Pain In My Heart
James Carr – You’ve Got My Mind Messed Up
Otis Spann – Cry To Me
Percy Mayfield – Loose Lips

“God, you’re just the worst dancer the mountains ever produced.” She said.

“Damn right.” Hank answered, doing something close to the mash-potato mixed with a cool jerk…without the cool.

He was pulling on her shirt and tugging at all the wrong moments with all the wrong intensities. Mary couldn’t stop the laughing now. It was more a girlish giggle, if she were being honest with herself, and with every painful misstep, every knee that was knocked and every toe that was crushed, she’d fall a little harder for the big buffoon. There was something so disarming about him, he was a strong man who at heart, could never hurt anyone, ever. He could protect her while at the same time never use that strength against her. He was the fulfillment of all those empty promises of men who had come before. And she let him know it by leaning in for a kiss.

Hank, naturally, hadn’t read the signs right and they bopped foreheads rather solidly. The laughs that followed lit off their love like a firework. Looks were exchanged: he was flawed and so was she, but they both sauntered on into the warm sunrise of new love with the tried and true wisdom in that the flaws to be found in the clumsy are the most lovable of flaws.

“Sorry.” Hank offered, “I’m a clutz.”

“I’ll say!”

She was laughing, so hard now she was practically bent over and holding her knees while rubbing out the pain. Her cheerful state encouraged him to keep dancing, keep her laughing. Hank didn’t know why, but his insecurity had now become a thing of the past. Maybe it was the music, maybe it was the promise of new love, and with it, a new life, or maybe, just maybe it was the simple series of looks Mary gave him throughout the night that made him feel as though even in his worst and most miserable of moments, everything would be okay.

“I’ve got one last one I’d like to share with you,” she said. “And I think even you could dance to it.”

There was a pleasant silence between them before the song came on…and then, when he realized her song choice was specifically chosen for him, the core of his being filled with a purpose he had all but written off long ago…and their lips finally met:

Keith Whitley – Don’t Close Your Eyes

When Hank opened his eyes, his Pall-Mall now sat completely out in the amber ashtray. He wondered then, if ole Crosley could bring him that kind of fortune, that richness of the night, that promise and magic of the future. He didn’t want to lead himself on, but then again, it was just a couple quarters in his pocket and he knew the old adage true:

It don’t hurt to dream.

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On the Merits of Being Wrong

by Honest Babe on September 9, 2015

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“What is so wrong with being wrong?” Kerry asked.

He was rolling a cigarette and had a fresh haircut that made it hard not to laugh at him. One side of his head was buzzed and I distinctly remember wanting to call him Macklemore. I didn’t however, for the conversation had finally found some meat, and besides, we had both long since agreed that Macklemore should be less of an insult these days and more one of those characters in Game of Thrones who gets flayed alive.

“Being wrong is essential. Being wrong is learning.” He went on, a two-hearted ale sweating in his palm. “Without it, a teacher can’t teach, a fool can’t change, and progress remains just that, a word…meaningless and empty.”

“Hm. But you’re still…wrong.” I said, sipping inspiration. “Isn’t it better to be right in the first place?”

It was clear, I needed more alcohol. My mind wasn’t so keen and quick and  open to abstraction as his. It was something I would always be jealous of; the floating minds of artists and writers whose thinking always seemed to lack a certain geometry. It wasn’t outside the lines so much as there weren’t any lines to begin with: In their world, you draw the lines yourself.

“If you’re afraid to be wrong, you will never create anything original.” He said.

Smoke plumed about the room and the late night was tipping its hat to early morning. I raised an eyebrow at him, looking for more clarity.

“Take you for example. You used to apologize for every single opinion you laid out. You thought you were apologizing and excusing yourself so as not too offend anyone who might disagree with you, but that immediate ‘sorry’ wasn’t actually an apology, it was just you being afraid of being wrong.”

Another beer top was cracked, and I sought after its insides with haste.

“But now look at’chu! You shovel out bullshit with the best of ‘em.” I smiled. He was right. “And your nearing a better place with every fresh-scented pile.” I blushed. He was right, again. “The only thing wrong with being wrong is lacking the bravery to admit it so, and the dexterity to learn and grow and adapt to embrace what is right.”

‘Artists.’ I thought. ‘You can’t kill ‘em, and you certainly can’t let ‘em know when they’re right.’

I told him he had had one too many and that he should probably stick to brushwork. He liked that. He liked that a lot and the night clamored on as it always does, destined for hazy truth; full of jokes and irreverence and the sort of easy conversation that makes the pursuit of an honest life not seem so damned arduous…nor absurd.

To me, it was glorious.
To him, it was just another night.
Of course, I could be wrong about that too.

8169184767_511679cbb5_bThis is Bud Shank and his take on The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour. Though there a few other pop covers thrown in the mix, many-a-purist would argue that such a perfect album should never be messed with; that some things are too pristine and well-balanced and any attempt at change would tip the weight in the wrong direction. I would like to argue otherwise. I believe The Beatles’ iconic sound warrants exploration, particularly in the realms of jazz – where, if done right, can be the most rewarding of musical experiences. And well, yeah, with a name like Bud Shank, you’ve got to figure the man didn’t mind throwing his name in the ever-dreaded pile of wrong, just to pull out something so right:

Bud Shank – Flying
Bud Shank – The Fool on the Hill
Bud Shank – I Say A Little Prayer For You
Bud Shank – Hello Goodbye
Bud Shank – Paper Cup
Bud Shank – Windy
Bud Shank – Never My Love
Bud Shank – I Wanna Be Free
Bud Shank – Your Mother Should Know
Bud Shank – I am the Walrus

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Vices Aural In Nature

by Honest Babe on September 4, 2015

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 Hm. Okay. So I just watched Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice and I don’t really know what I just watched. A bud of mine said that it was something like The Big Lebowski Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Though I chuckled heartily at the seamless corollary, there is far too much going on here – as is to be expected from anything based off of a dense Thomas Pynchon book – but I think it’s going to take another couple…dozen views before I can even begin to put anything down in the form of an opinion. That said, when it comes to the film’s transportive and delightful soundtrack, some forms of greatness need only come in one take to be understood fully, thoroughly, soulfully. Yes, some things, vices or otherwise, are inherently great:

Can – Vitamin C
The Markets – Here Comes the Ho-Dads
Minnie Riperton – Les Fleurs
Kyu Sakamoto – Sukiyaki
Neil Young – Journey Through the Past
Les Baxter – Simba
Chuck Jackson – Any Day Now

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Done Lost My Cool

by Honest Babe on September 2, 2015

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It is the dog days of summer and I’m fresh out of anecdotes. And you know what, I am somehow okay with that. This is to say there is no overheard wit at the end of this exercise, no underlying theme of creative expression, no exhausted sexual overtones nor superficial utterances that may or may not allude to a brilliant mind behind the words. No, here, at this juncture, there is no brain, there is just a sun that won’t set and a man with a genetic predisposition for sweat.

“But, it’s summer.” The girl says to me, emphasizing the word summer like it is that holy thing that makes everything grow green and good in the world. “You’ll be wishing you weren’t so ornery when it’s late February and it won’t stop snowing.”

“Ornery?” I looked at the fictional character and told her, “Please don’t call me names I don’t understand. Insults are one thing, but assumption is quite another. You assume I have book smarts and well, that just makes an ass out of you, not me.”

Ole Mr. Webster’s daughter cranked out something close to a stink eye, “No, it just makes you an idiot.”

“Not now, Lady Logic, it’s too hot.” I fanned myself in such a manner that no breeze was created. The humidity was beyond intense, solid and soupy, it was the morning breath of God.

“Are you always like this?” She asked.

“Like what?”

“Such…a pussy?”

She had a point and so I was forced into that lame corner of conversation when a closed-mouth serves you better than an open one.  The dramatic fanning was turned up a speed.

“And are you always like this?” I finally responded, unoriginality in tow. It was a childish repetition but I didn’t care – it was too hot and haze had now settled in thick between us.

“What?”

“Well I may indeed be a pussy, but that can be confronted, worked on – improved even if I wished it so. But you my dear, are ass ugly and there iddn’t a damned thing you can do about that.”

The stink eye hardened into a death stare. I noticed big blobbing beads of sweat curling around her crinkled brow and soured, drawn up cheeks and I began to question the gal’s mental faculties. The use of ornery was remarkable and of another time no doubt, but could she really be ‘all there,’ as they say, while enjoying a t-shirt that was now completely sticking to her back and feet that have most likely taken to a scent that only a two year old Ugg can reproduce? I had no time to find out for she had turned on her heel and flipped a pony-tail fiercely in the process. I’m glad she was fictional, otherwise she most definitely would’ve slapped me in the face. And rightfully so, I lost my cool.

“Summer should die a sweet death! It is an aberration!” I yelled. It was a yell that held within it the anguish of an entire season’s discontent, but it was too late. She had already rounded the corner and was off to some EDM pool party, I know it. ‘Her loss,’ I thought. ‘She would’ve gotten half-wet over an antique like aberration.’

dOwOtzD

The sun came back into the foreground and I was forced to squint. Actually, the thing had never left. Which was the whole point behind this entry in the first place. And yeah, I know – I lied. I promised you nothing and gave you something – arguably better than nothing. And so what, I’m sweating and pissed off and you should be too, goddammit. So as to not leave you too jaded nor unwilling to return, I give you all an essential gift of the times in Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment’s Surf. It is one of my favorite mixtapes of the summer and whether it is the talents behind the bohemian brass and chill arrangements of Nico Segal or the ever-heady and undeniably modern smarts of Chance the Rapper – it comes fortified with all the joys of summer and none of its pains. Believe me, if I can tell you that while wiping away what was surely the third gatorade of the day, on this my most dogged of days, you know it’s got to be true:

Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment – Wanna Be Cool
Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment – Familiar
Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment – Slip Slide
Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment – Sunday Candy
Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment – Miracle
Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment – Windows
Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment – Caretaker
Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment – Questions
Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment – Pass the Vibes
Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment – Something Came To Me
Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment – Go

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The Brown Crayon Chronicles II

by Honest Babe on August 24, 2015

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Fiddlesticks and Forget-Me-Knots

Here’s my two cents on love:

You can’t play the fiddle
without a riddle.
Consider this a ditty to help you on your way.

It should be fast and freeing and slow and calming and warm and fiery…

Full of flame.

Of Life Inextinguishable.

It should be obvious, just as all those descriptors scream obviousness.
It should be apparent in its ability to change and grow
just as you scream to change and grow.
Its adaptation,
that is the mark of two-vines intertwined,
whose roots grow thicker, stronger…
Screaming loud, a happy tangled mess.
Full of blunders and mistakes,
Distinctly nettled and all knotted up
…for what is love if not two fools
being messy with their hearts?
And smiling through the chaos.
The wild friction.
The simple heat.

It should be easy.
It should be other things too, of course,
it should be every thing
But this is the one you can’t trade out,
the ease of it.

Want to know what easy sounds like?
Just say her name and there you will have it.

Minx

But don’t get it twisted, that vine,
Don’t confuse ease with complacency.

For it should be challenging too.
The sort that makes you want to recycle your worth to her upon every waking morning.

It should also be safe.
The sort that makes you feel secure while jumping out of airplanes.

It should be entertaining.
The sort that makes you long for the mundane times of life, because they deserve reruns like an episode of Seinfeld.

It should be enchanting.
The sort that can only be found when watching her sleep.

It should be understanding, undying, and forever undone.
It should exist in you…and out of you too.
Yes, you should glow.
And if you haven’t felt it yet,
that illustrious aura,
keep searching.

Cynics be damned.

For it should also be full of cheese and sentiment
and everything wrong that is right about a ‘90s rom-com:

The Minx was good with her hands.
I told her,
“You can be the handy one,
and I’ll just be handsy.”
She liked that.
I even think she liked me.
I had a knack for falling face first into luck.
Luck and Love are synonymous,
by the way.
(And if you don’t believe that,
check out the faces of a couple swimming in it.
Note two of the luckiest goddammed smirks on the planet,
Smirks who need no life-jackets by the way.
Floating is their thing.)

“Your words are an inspiration,” she said.
“Alcohol is the inspiration, I am just the medium through which it flows.”
Brunette curls jostled lightly back and forth.
“You’re cheesy and horribly hopeless and it is all so endearing, I tremble..”
“You’ve been drinking too much again.” I said.
It was our first rock-glass, but still.
“You share your pain. You don’t know what that does for people.”
“Mr. Bartender, no more for this young lady here.”
“You’re missing my point. You don’t know what it does for me.”
“Oh.”
My bar napkin twirled and twirled.
It was our first rock-glass, but still,
not to be our last.

We tied one on.

A knot not forgotten,
for fiddler’s of life we were.
And this was our tune,
it was the only one we knew
so we played it loud and on repeat.
It was that of Improvised Luck;
Of foul-ups and fuckery,
Fiddlesticks & Forget-Me-Knots.

Nick Drake – From This Morning
Sly Stone – Just Like A Baby
Ray Charles – That’s Enough
The Doors – Touch Me
Joe Williams – Alright, Okay, You Win
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – Simple Girl
El Guincho – Mientes (ft. Julieta Venegas)
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes – Home
Marvin Gaye – It Takes Two
Otis Redding – These Arms of Mine
Little Willie John – Talk To Me, Talk To Me
Elmore James – Rollin & Tumblin

Tom Jones – She’s A Lady
Nat King Cole – L-O-V-E

PS. More doo-doo doodling to be found here.

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Women Leading The Front, A Mixtape

by Honest Babe on August 19, 2015

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Dionne Warwick – Wives and Lovers
Donna Hightower – Trouble in Mind
Miriam Makeba – Pata Pata
Amy Winehouse – Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
Nina Simone – Here Comes the Sun
Lianne La Havas – Green & Gold
Lake Street Dive – You Go Down Smooth
Heartless Bastards – Hi-Line
Nancy Sinatra – Walk On The Wild Side
Janis Joplin – Maybe
San Fermin – Sonsick
The Cranberries – Dreams
Tracy Chapman – Fast Car
Alanis Morsette – Not the Doctor
Amy Grant – Baby Baby
Mariah Carey – Emotions
Merry Clayton – Yes
Gloria Gaynor – Never Can Say Goodbye
Patsy Gallant – Maman ne m’a pas dit
Ginny Arnell – Dumb Head
Ethel Waters – Am I Blue?
Julie London – Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye

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