Sunday, December 6, 2009

Song notes... "Crossroads and Crucifixes"

The Gulf Coast rain pounds a rhythm in my mind. There are some times when the night drags on and on and weighs me down, when I suffocate and feel like breaking apart, that I miss those long pine tree miles. I could give everything up for a one-way ticket to anywhere, but instead I watch the ashtray fill up and contemplate my defeat. Will they expect me to give a speech? I won't. I have nothing left to say. No matter what I do tonight, tomorrow will still come, and I take no solace in that thought.

The world spins round and round, and I'm stuck on the Gulf. Or the desert. New Mexico put the Gulf in my eyes, and all you see is a projection, a reflection. How's that make you feel; falling in love with something no more real than the mirror stretched abstract between sea and sky? Blue cold and hard as slate, ice you'll never melt. Las Cruces changed my bones to pigiron, a metal frame to protect a soft heart, pumping rain and sand and steam.

Robert Johnson, where are you now, and where's your Devil? Where's that crazy man I met in Florida who claimed to have found your bottleneck slide, buried somewhere in the Mississippi mud? I need you here, poison in your whiskey, and dying howling like a dog. I'll break the dial off the radio and we'll be stuck with each other all the way to the Delta, just a couple of wide-eyed ghosts. And I'll drive into the soft spiderweb underbelly of the South, where the green and black all gives way through the junkie veins of swamp and moss to the glowing, nuclear Gulf. And we'll sink 'til we're breathing mud.

*roadmaps, red and blue veins against the grey of my mind

Crossroads and crucifixes
I fell in love with every waitress
From Brooklyn, NY back to Memphis
Nothing but crossroads and crucifixes

Crossroads and crucifixes
Traded my soul for a life less wasted
From New Mexico back to Memphis
Nothing but crossroads and crucifixes

Crossroads and crucifixes
From the Emerald Coast back to Memphis
Nothing but crossroads and crucifixes

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: Epilogue


"Whether he's happy or not, I don't know. I don't suppose happiness means as much to an artist as to ordinary folk."

All through this month, though I brought several books, I've focused mainly on one in particular; "The Air-Conditioned Nightmare", by Henry Miller. Superficially, there may be some parallels drawn; a book about traveling through America, written by a wholly natural expatriate who had lived abroad for several years, being read by a wholly natural wanderluster while he travels through America, after having been cooped up in domestic civility for several years. I spent most of my time in awe of the beauty and wildness of the traveler's America, however dreary and sinisterly multifaceted that America may have shown herself to be. Miller, on the other hand, spends a large portion of his travels disgusted, comparing everything to some idyllic and contrary chateau or cafe that he remembers from Paris or Algiers or wherever. But what do I know? Miller's one of the greatest writers America has ever produced, and I'm but halfway through his book.

"This subject, the relationship between wisdom and vitality, interests me because, contrary to the general opinion, I have never been able to look upon America as young and vital but rather as prematurely old, as a fruit which rotted before it had the chance to ripen. The word which gives the key to the national vice is waste. And people who are wasteful are not wise, neither can they remain young and vigorous. In order to transmute energy to higher and more subtle levels one must first conserve it."

Then again, as my father reminded me tonight, there are no coincedences. What may appear coincidences are just moments where you are clued in to the larger arrangements of the energy and potential of Everything, given a brief map of the overgrown paths that wind with the barely controlled and subtle chaos of the whipping of a conductor's wand through some orchestral and verdant forest. It's like dipping your finger into the righteous eddies of Lao Tzu's Mississippi River and, for one moment, tasting Wisconsin snow. What am I trying to teach myself? What are all these roadmaps tracing blue and red across my brains, seeping like little spiderweb tributaries into the fertile delta of my confused, exhausted dreams?

I'm home now, and little worse for the wear. Stayed up late, watching Alien and reading and writing and smoking, keeping Megan up with me. It's going to be a lot of work to readjust, and in some ways I feel I'm too far gone. I can hear that same roar of the cosmic tumblers. The safe is being cracked again, and the dam within has sprung a few leaks.

Jeezus, I'm taking everything too seriously, everything for granted. I keep writing love letters to rivers, everything in motion, everything rolling and winding, each handful wholly unique, like swallowing a lungful of time, where only the shore stands still to be beaten and cheated and washed slowly out to sea.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: Mama, I'm Coming Home


Ozzy Osbourne - "Mama, I'm Coming Home"

It was a muggy fucking night in Tuscaloosa.

Now all that was so long ago
But my luck still hasn't changed
And now it seems everywhere I go
I'm followed by the rain
So tell all them boys you just need to spend tonight alone
Cuz when you hear that rain a-fallin', then you know I'm coming home

Last real day of tour. We drive back to Memphis tonight. The rain's followed us all the way back to Nashville.

Last night in Tuscaloosa was a drunken frenzy. We played at Egan's; the Angel Sluts playing two sets with me playing a solo set in between. I was fairly well-received, though I can't truthfully remember much about playing.

We're in Greenbrier, TN now, at a coffee shop. The other band is a Christian metal band from Alabama who, ironically, we passed on Highway 65 and nearly ran off the road, thanks in no small part to Matt taking the driving reigns while I napped in the back.

Timmy and I stayed up late with our Alabama host last night, getting high and eating snacks and listening to Mineral.

I have definitely reached the end of my rope, and thank Gawd this coincides with the end of the road. Halloween show in Memphis tomorrow (I'm going as Doyle, and he as me), and then home, where all sorts of treats and amenities await.

There are dumb little boys strutting around this coffee shop who need to be slapped on principle.

I'm exhausted. No more writing until I'm back in Memphis.

. . . .

5 am? Maybe?

Memphis, safe and sound. Rainy, out of touch. It's like deep sea diving; you gotta be careful how you surface.

"Swamp Critters of Lost Lagoon" - Weird kids' show, possums and gators, bizarre, bad acting, cheap set, very fucking sincere. Surreal hillbilly role-models, woodland saints living together in transpecies jugband harmony.

"Nashville's Country Family Reunion" - RFD-TV - Is this for real? Spooky collections of pop-country also-rans, singing together and telling old stories, everyone looks like a drug user. Most of them have theaters in Branson. They force smiles until their exoskeletons crack, and squeeze all the right tears out of their saggy udder eyeballs. Weirdly touching. I want to download all the episodes.

Barbara Fairchild - "Opal and Euless"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: Going on and on 'bout silence.


Over four weeks in today. I've been watching these gauges for a month.

Charles Bukowski - "Women". Did I already make note of this one? I like the subject matter. Who recommended it to me? Jeremy in Cincinnati? Everything blurs.

I need to spend more time silent, I think. Observing and listening, leaving room to breath in the world. And all the characters I've met and known, and all those I've yet to meet and know. A silent man is regarded with suspicion, probably arising from misplaced jealousy, or perhaps because people think that a silent man is a judging man, or a man who knows some mystery or sinister secret and he dares not unsew his lips lest the wisdom escape. I am not wise, nor mysterious nor judgmental. I just feel that sometimes silence is a powerful tool, a gentle weapon, a medium which our heart can take hold and, uninhibited by a struggling tongue trying desperately to keep time with a fervent and fickle brain, paint our dreams on the the black canvas of our eyelids and write poems on the backs of our throats.

There's music everywhere, in everyone and everything, even this humid night in Atlanta, and perhaps it's time I shut the fuck up and let the music do the talking for me.

We're staying with Matt's ladyfriend Ashley tonight, a disdainful employee of CNN who has a small apartment well-stocked with books. She and I discussed Studs Terkel and poetry at length tonight, both finding inspiration and solace in the great subversive post-modernists, though perhaps I shouldn't speak for someone else and their literary convictions. She may have just been making conversation. Whatever.

Ashley sweetly offered me any of her books to borrow, and also offered to give me her corporate FedEx account number so that I may ship back the books when I'm finished. A wonderful proposal, but I distrust myself with others' books, whether I fear I'll destroy or lose them, or just become so attached that I can't bring myself to part with them. I think, instead, I'll make a list of all the recommended and captivating titles, and add 'em to my preexisting list which I fear will never be complete or conquered.

Funny to look back through this journal and watch my handwriting deteriorate into manic scribbling. The first few entries are neat, orderly. Now, nearing the end, they're barely legible. Notes in the margin, ink smudged across the page, entire paragraphs scratched out into oblivion. I'm frayed. Thank Gawd I'll be home soon.

Bride of Chucky is on TV.

One of the passages of the Tao Teh Ching teaches that "He who knows does not speak/He who speaks does not know". I've struggled often with this lesson. Back to the silence. I've spent most of my life with a humble heart but a quick, arrogant tongue. I admit my immodest faults, my flowery cocksure observations, and I really truly feel the need to finally reconcile the gross imbalance. It's easy to say this after a month in a subcultural stupor, in a capsule of tedium rocketing around with an endless array of color and variety on the bluescreen surrounding us. Whether or not I take these lessons, and all the other relative wisdom and insight I feel I've gained, back to the real world is up to me. I'm worried I'll lose some strength and perspective when my feet are firmly planted, and all this will have been for naught. It's tiring to try to prove myself to the world around me with frivolous hand-gestures and well-meaning but misguided gesticulation. It's time, I think, to prove myself to the world within.

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: Wistful in Hotlanta


Someday I'm going to write a book called "Oh, The Places I've Shit".

I bravely conquered rainy Atlanta traffic at rush hour today. We pulled into the familiar neighborhood of Cravey Drive and visited my uncle, who took us out for an amazing Chinese dinner. Watching his mannerisms and listening to him talk made me feel a little wistful. He's a Dietz as much as I, and it's a rare pleasure that we Dietz's get to share some moments together, face to face, basking in the warped mirror of each other's company. I miss my Ozarks Dietz's. Been thinking about my family all night. I'd like to somehow make it home for Thanksgiving. I've remained aloof for so long, estranged from my family in ways that no one, not even my closest friends, know about. I don't see my isolation ending any time soon, but I need to start working towards taking an active part in my family again, no matter how fucking crazy they are, and how much guilty anxiety they cause me. Birds of a feather, they know me better than I know myself. There's no sense in denying the cosmic strings that tug at all of us alike, and no reason to try to make sense of the tumultuous and taxing lives we all lead, independently and, more importantly, as a whole. Nobody ever said it would be easy, and goddamn if it's not just another river that just don't run straight.

I'll try to make it home for Thanksgiving. My family doesn't expect me to, and I honestly don't expect myself to either.

We're sleeping like princes in my uncle's basement tonight. Thor, the giant German Shepherd, is keeping us company. An off day tomorrow, we're hoping to visit the Coca-Cola factory. Alabama the next day, bringing our total of states visited on this tour to something like twenty-two or twenty-three. Then Nashville, and Memphis on Halloween. It'll feel so good to get home, back to my boys, and back to that sweet little doe-eyed girl who loves me in all the ways I don't deserve. I'll pay for all of my guilt and sins someday. I suppose, now, I should just keep free-falling, appreciating each moment and each soft kiss and on-ramp and warm meal and sloppy punk rock show for what they truly are; the individually unique moment, frozen in time, to be cherished as a world unto itself, dying with a heartbeat and stretching backwards infinitely. The centipede of blessed potential that nips at our heels with the sweet poison of passing time and heartachingly perfect memories.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: The Devil and Robert Johnson


A rockslide in North Carolina closed the interstate today, so we had to backtrack towards Knoxville and find an alternate route along backcountry roads. Our detour couldn't have been more fortuitous. We crawled up and down the Smokey Mountains, fully appreciative of every tiny town, roaring creeks glimpsed from high on rusty bridges, and the Carolina sunset, gently depositing us in Georgia. It was a lazy, transcendental off day.

We're staying with Tim Gill tonight, my old friend from Echoes of Harpers Ferry, in the clean, comfortable Athens apartment that he shares with his adorable Albanian girlfriend, whose lovely name I will not tarnish with crude misspelling. She fixed me a plate of eggs and mushrooms, toasted rolls, and fresh salted tomatoes, which might have been one of the best meals of the trip.

Now we've outlasted our hosts, sprawled out on the floor and watching cable television. There's a show on about Robert Johnson. Johnson is a ghost, probably always was a ghost. Just another one of Mississippi's lost souls, from a time when the world was sepia, framed by open boxcar doors. The Crossroads are still there, in Mississippi, but the magic's probably gone. They call it the Devil, I say it was the Holy Spirit.

Las Cruces translates roughly to, alternately, "the crossroads" or "the crucifixes". Maybe I did lose a little bit of innocence back there in New Mexico, made a bargain with something sinister beyond the clouds. Maybe it turned my bones to pigiron, put the Gulf in my eyes, turned my blood to steam.

If I haven't already sold my soul, maybe it's time I did. Like I said, what they call the Devil, Robert Johnson's Devil, surely wasn't nothing but the Holy Spirit; a fierce avatar of dust and mud.

Johnson was murdered in 1938, poison in his whiskey. He's just a haint again, a specter staring out of old picture frames.

I wish jukeboxes were free, and I wish there were radio stations without commercials, reserved for ghosts and devils. I'd spin my dial, and then break the fucker off. I'd drive all the way to the Delta, get all four wheels stuck. And I'm hopelessly stuck, and sinking until I'm breathing mud, and I'd never turn that radio station off.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ghost Hints

I feel pregnant, about to burst. My ideas like foetus, each unnamed, but their hearts are beating and if you squint you can see their fingerprints like psychedelic swirls of color and meaning.

We've all been this way before; we're treading well-worn paths with new feet. Old souls, new soles. The roller coaster becomes familiar, every jerk and turn and anticipatory ascension and stomach-dropping plummet. We need to be unafraid to grasp onto the clues of the myth of deja vu. That sinister feeling, mis-leading you comfortably backwards through the hazy mists of memory and past. It's just a sign to move forward, ever forward, excelsior. Hints from the ghosts that lurk inside of our crystalline genes and the mysterious folds and valleys of our gray brain. Telegraphs from the Brahman to the Atman.

Recognizing familiarity and unpronounceable longing is the first step towards recognizing that we have a choice in this life; to continue walking the treadmill of comfort and worldly passion, or to take these clues and use them as a key to map out our transcendence. I'm not ready for this, I'm not ready to deny the seemingly natural course of my existence, but I'm learning to recognize the ghost hints for what they truly are. I could be wrong, but this is of no consequence. I could be right, and therein lies the prehistoric wilderness of my dreams, ad infinitum.

inspired by psychotropic botanical-induced murmurs concerning deja vu and Bill Hicks and Lord Vishnu as an infinite ocean, Stanksgiving '09, Murfreesboro

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: Days Float like Dreams


The days float like dreams. That's all I got.

Eastern Tennessee is a bit like Heaven. You gotta see firsthand some of these mountain scenes to believe they exist. It all looks perfect, framed in a windshield. You can't let your reality become the celluloid glass. There can be no bystanders, no passive observers. I am the clenched fists on the steering wheel, the whining transmission grinding the four black tires. I am the road ahead and the sky above and the rearview mirror's lonely, wistful kiss to the disappearing horizon.

Matt splurged and got us a motel room tonight. I feel like undeserving royalty, a cheat, a half-assed trespasser, a thief in a cheap little mansion with nothing to steal. Everything's replaceable. Just another termite in the honeycomb.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: Kentucky


We stayed in a rural town outside of Lexington last night, in a double-wide owned by a sweet couple who perform together in the Vibrolas. Their trailer sits on a long, soggy dirt road, overlooking a pond and pastureland. It smells like home; wet gravel and animal musk and rotting leaves and the general peaceful, crisp air of the hill country. It's gonna be hard to leave this one.

It feels good to be back in the South.

Last night, I spent some time with an older gentleman, named Henry Earl, who holds the US record for the number of times he's been arrested, the count hovering somewhere between eight and nine hundred*. He smelled strongly of cheap whiskey, and wasted no words where sideways winks and his own made-up language of hand gestures and sign language would suffice. He was expertly dressed, homeless or not, with a silk shirt made to look like a quiltwork of various animal prints, reptilian and mammalian, and a suede suit jacket. His white slacks were splattered with grease.

Nat, the tough-looking doorman at the club last night, had "MAMA TRY'D" tattooed on his knuckles.

Time to get on with it. Knoxville today. The rain follows us still, irritably, like a slighted and persistent lover. Oh, I'm happy when it rains, even moreso when it feels so much like home. It's the heavenly white noise, far from the electromagnetic static hum of neon signs, powerlines, and internal combustion.

*Upon further investigation, Earl's been arrested well over 1300 times.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: Cincinnati


Today was maybe the longest, most exhausting drive yet. Eight hours, with two separate interstate death collisions expertly, though narrowly, avoided. It was a beautiful drive, though. West Virginia was exceptionally striking. Wild and wonderful. Leaving Frederick, Maryland this morning seems a year ago. Time moves so strangely while on tour.

We were at a sort of punk rock dive bar in Cincinnati tonight, the sort of place I'd probably appreciate more if I were well-rested, well-fed, and drunk, but I was none of these things. As it was, I spent most of my time sitting on their rear deck, where they had a fire pit properly stoked and burning, and where I discussed longshoremen and fixed-gear bikes with a funny, stoned hipster girl.

We're staying tonight in a three-story house in the Cincinnati 'burbs. Very accommodating folks here, especially the devastatingly cute little raven-haired girl, dating Jeremy (one of our hosts), who showed up in cowboy boots to give us weed and humor me with some idle "True Blood" discussion. We have stayed up late tonight, watching Snoop Dogg videos and drinking beer and playing Madden '08. Our drive tomorrow is a quick jaunt to Kentucky, so we're all planning on sleeping in, as well as taking full advantage of some well-deserved R&R with some very gracious hosts.

Matt has certainly helped us original five warriors out, giving us some much-needed late-comer's energy and gusto, and helping to alleviate some tensions which may have been building in the cramped, smelly van.

I'm sleeping on a ratty couch in an unfinished basement tonight. It reminds me of a tomb, fitting because I plan on a deathlike hibernation. The longest hauls are behind us, and we're all a bit relieved, albeit broke and wearing thin, to sense our momentum build for our final stretch and triumphant homecoming.

A basset hound named Dolly stole two of Harry's bagels tonight.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


for Shea, may he be weird wherever he is

Open boxcar doors are no more picture frames
As the rolling hills and the strobe of faces are all shades of gray
The great dust clouds are locked up with cement and key
But the clouds of data are amassing and learning
The reactor looms over the treeline
And every falling star is the bomb
The Great Basin is withering under the shadow of holy Trinity
Where the desert was melted into glass
The familiarity of intersecting interstate gas station colonies
The desperate pleas from lonely little racists, scratched into bathroom plastic
What we must seem like, like ghosts
Passing like ghosts through a world of television mirrors and microwave color
A foul odor on the wind, to be bleached by the air conditioner

Joe Camel was Steve McQueen on the island of Dr. Moreau

5 am, 11-24-09, Murfreesboro, TN

Sharks and Winona Ryder

Playing to the cadence of my footsteps leaving town. The timbre is always fresh. I lick it like dew, every morning, off of their lips and their hips and all the bent green grass. The way it tastes is always nostalgic, my heart straining to grasp onto one little piece of some childhood memory of Christmas or summer vacation.

Each day a different flavor; sunlight warm on young skin, cold snow against sharp teeth, a feather's comfort or a dog's loyal eyes that punch through your guilty guts with a heavy sadness that just wants to go back back back.

But you can't go back, you can't go home. So baby arch your pretty little spine. There's a righteous train a-comin', curated by cowards. We're all ticket punchers with punched tickets, cradling baby bottles full of gin and pretending we don't recognize the engineers.

We're all sharks here, and the currents are warm with blood and sex and we swim with our mouths open and our lungs full. We lick each dewdrop gently, like sunshine acid, and it sizzles on our tongue and puts the scent of a fresh kill in the heavy water and we're off to that same cadence. Wheels hum and transmissions grind and lovers hum and grind and fuck and smoke is inhaled exhaled. And someone is tapping their foot to it, and if it ain't God it may as well be one of us, by God, and we may as well write a song to that rhythm, that anarchist drumbeat of the whole world spinning and fucking and breathing.

And the dew just sizzles on your tongue and everything gets heady and you learn to bend color and create your own stars when the ones that someone else already put in the sky just don't suffice anymore. You realize that you can feel the whole world's heart beating. It swells triumphant. Rachmaninoff.

But then you realize that it's only your own heart but what's the difference and it's all the same. And you're just a shark, sniffing for blood and any other living heart that pumps it. And when you find her, you'll want to stop swimming and enjoy it for a while, to dance a ballet in the pink smoke and gorge yourself. But every shark I've known is invariably a coward, and death looms over the stationary souls. So we flee and play songs to that same sad cadence of our footsteps leaving town.

This is not part of my tour journal. I wrote this last night.

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: The Air is Clear in Maryland


I'm sitting on the toilet in a house somewhere in the idyllic Maryland countryside. Have I already used "idyllic" to describe the countryside on this trip? I know I've used "serene". Just goes to show how I feel about countrysides.

I finally saw the Brooklyn Bridge, which was even more massive and magnificent than I imagined, and the Statue of Liberty, which looked small and lonely. A beautiful early day in New York City. The view was worth a million words as we left through Staten Island. I won't even attempt. Johnny Thunders on the radio, and then Daydream Nation on the Jersey Turnpike.

Baltimore happened tonight, I guess.

And now rural Maryland. Everyone else is downstairs asleep. I'm the last to lay down, as usual. My brains keep me up all night, in league with my heart's discontent. Always churning, connecting, and spinning. One would think I'd get all my thinking accomplished on the highway, but it's at night, in a stranger's silent house, with no one else awake, that I really get my musing done. It starts in my guts and the top of my skull, meets in the middle, aches in the solar plexus.

The stars are bright, and the air is clear. What a lonely way to live. I think I'll do it forever.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: Final Clarity in NYC


My head has cleared a bit today. Maybe it's the prospect of leaving this looming, grotesque city behind tomorrow that has offered some levity and comfort to my soul. I love New York, don't get me wrong, and I'll certainly be back, but these past three or four days have been the loneliest and most withering thus far. Tomorrow, we rocket out of the Boroughs and into parts unknown.

Spent the day wandering around the East Village, which may be my favorite place in the city, though there are still so many places I've yet to see. We visited the Joe Strummer memorial and I made sure to plant a kiss on his blessed forehead.

Drank with Irishmen, met Jesse Malin and a great old New Yorker named Wood or Fatman or something. He owned Otto's Shrunken Head, the bar we played at, and smelled sweetly of cigars. He had big Jew-frame glasses, a beard that seemed to naturally impart some sort of sympathetic and mystical wisdom, and walked with a cane. A jolly old-skool type, telling us wild stories about the Hell's Angels and bribing Coney Island parade judges and hanging out with the New York Dolls. "I'm the biggest nigger in this place," sez he.

Driving these streets, I can feel my hair turning gray. Stick to the middle lane while chaos reigns supreme on either side. Grinding lights, the strobe of faces.

Part of me feels this journal entry to be forced, as if my New York entries should've ended last night, at my wits' end and ready to sleepwalk all the way home. Maybe so, but what's done is done. I shan't write another word tonight, though there's scores more to be writ. I'll remember what I need to remember.

It's so good to see familiar faces and to witness a passing acquaintance possibly burgeoning into a lasting friendship, forged from heartache and happenstance. I am awash in the maelstrom of brick and noise. Sing me back home. Don't quit me yet. I'm going to read some Rimbaud and go to bed.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: Lonely Little Metaphors


Fuck this island. All the free whiskey in the world can't get me to fall asleep content tonight. I still haven't seen the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, or Coney Island.

Last time I was here, we rode the L Train all over the place. The L will always hold a special place in my memory, though now I'm a little resentful for how its mention stirs my heart. Everything, everything was so long ago. Goddamn you girls. I'm spun. What kind of conspiracy have you all been plotting, you with the faraway eyes and the smiles that reduce me to rubber and sand?

How do I want to remember Brooklyn? Maybe I don't want to remember it at all. Maybe I need to give it another chance. Just like the L Train, rumbling below this cat-piss floor tonight. Just like it. I'll never forgive, but I'll never forget. Same goes for you, I suppose. I don't even know who I'm writing to anymore.

These long, lazy days in NYC have ruined my rhythm. I want to get back Out There and drive, unrestrained by the belligerent and claustrophobic cluster-fuck that is New York traffic. I am the parallel parking king, but what good is it? I want to rule the roadways. I'm ready for seafood in Maryland, to attack Tennessee from the east, for truck stops and the long lonely hum of the countryside rolling by. Big city, you ain't my home.

Ok, New York City. We have one more day and night together. I won't cave to my crippling exhaustion and depression just yet, no matter how gray and miserably drunk I may have been for the past three nights. This too shall pass.

Good night, big city, and all of my lonely little metaphors. I'll never forget you, no matter what my prayers may plead before my head hits the pillow.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: Another Day in Brooklyn


Woke up in Brooklyn feeling like hell. Drowsy and morose all day. Pizza and beer made me feel a little better.

A girl named Melissa rolled me a cigarette and drank tequila. We talked about the Replacements. She was the bartender at Don Pedros. These sentences are completely out of order, and could have probably been written more interestingly concise. She plays in a band with one of the Vivian Girls.

I've been constantly sucking cough drops. I think this may be the first step to quitting smoking.

the Trashmen - "Sleeper"

We're staying with a guy named Nate, who is possibly my favorite host so far on this trip. I'll tell you all about him sometime. We talked about Uncle Tupelo and watched the Bills/Jets game. Or maybe it was the Vikings.

I'm exhausted, and can't, or don't want to, really remember today. Bodega, maybe. Coffee. Naps on black leather couches. Cigarettes cost ten dollars here. I'm tired of New York, and we're here until Wednesday. I kinda just want to go home. I know I'll feel differently tomorrow.

Matt flew here to meet up with us, and will be along for the rest of the tour. I'm not sure yet how I feel about this, as a certain sort of chemistry and balance has already been established. We'll see.

Too tired. I spent most of my day in silence. I've got enough to keep me busy. No use for words.

My blood's too thin for this shit. I want what I can't have. Perpetually. I'm so thirsty, y'know?

Melissa's band is called Flowers.

I need to call my mom tomorrow and remind her about my bank business.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: Pretend You're Flying


Something like 5 pm: Pennsylvania

"Lawrence County Line", snow on the ground, etc. Oh, Pittsburgh. ideas ideas.The trees all look spun from gold.

Eastern Pennsylvania is beautiful. This is one of those blessed days, listening to Loveless and watching snow fall in the mountains.

I've taken to writing the following day, it seems, rather than at the end of the night. Probably because the past few nights' ends have been drunken and busily euphoric. Euphorically busy?

We stayed at a huge house in Pittsburgh last night owned by a true Dudebilly named Junior. He had a full bar in his basement, and we stayed up late as he refilled shot glasses and got choked up talking about Wanda Jackson. I smoked Dirty Johnny's weed out of an apple with Timmy, and sat around bumming cigarettes and sipping glasses of Disaronno.

Junior's house was Frank Lloyd Wright's Hillbilly Pennsylvania Nightmare; an old, sprawling three story monster nestled on a cliff side overlooking a lushly tangled holler of glowing green weeds and wrecked Cadillacs. An oasis in the middle of a city that, for all of its industrial magnificence and tiered cityscape, will remind me mostly of being cold and wet, all the buildings the color of factory exhaust. I love it all, though. Everywhere is home.

Something like 6 am: Brooklyn

Spun, twisted, and confused in NYC. A splash of images, structure. Superstructure, infrastructure. I was a damn fool tonight, maybe, but I successfully navigated Manhattan bridge traffic for several drizzly hours, sweaty-palmed and smoking. There are no rules here. Ignore lane markings, speed limits, traffic lights. Honk for no apparent reason. Wave at New York's finest as you drunkenly carry beer out of the bar and stumble straight into them, or while you hotbox the van with a sweet big guy named Dirty Curtis. Shiver-fits. Coy glances and monstrous puke sessions. Lost under bridges, wondering about definitions.

Shea informs me tonight's a good night in Springfield. I'm in New York City, a million miles away, and I'm lonely. Loneliness is becoming a natural state for me, neither positive nor negative. Just natural. I can deal with it. I miss Springfield and I'm lonely and a million miles away. I'm in New York City, just another lonely kid in the loneliest city in the world.

I can deal with it. Sometimes you just have to free fall and pretend you're flying.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: Bridges, Bridges, Bridges


Song ideas come and go. Everything is so immediate, one experience after another, each feeling or emotion being immediately replaced by another each time I take an on-ramp or pass under a bridge. "I see your name everywhere, on roadsigns and bridges and lakes" or something like that. It's all I've come up with, or all I can remember.

The drive into Athens was breathtaking. I fell instantly in love with the town and the gorgeous mountains that it is nestled within. It's apparently the most haunted town in America, but I saw nothing to hint at this sinister legend. It was crisp and serene, refreshing.

Met up with Ian, and we of course picked up right where we left off. Many beers, many shots of whiskey, and many bowls of the "best weed in Ohio", and I was fucked. Relying on the kindness of strangers, as always, we crashed with a nice couple who gave us beer and cigarettes, and cooked us hot sausage and gravy this morning, to be eaten with great relish as we watched old episodes of Tales from the Crypt.

Money in my pocket, I'm free to eat a little better. I cherish each meal as if it's fit for a king, or like a death row inmate's last request. A stomach full of warm food is my chief concern each day, and I take none of these divine meals for granted.

I ran into Dirty Johnny and Jeff, from the Makebelieves, in Athens, having completely forgotten that they were from the area. Dirty Johnny gave me a nickelbag of weed in gratuity for my having given them a place to stay in Springfield, which seems like a lifetime ago.

I'm never going home. Each day I feel further and further from the individual who left Memphis just seventeen days ago. Not even three weeks. Some convictions have been bolstered and reinforced, some have been dashed on the rocks and tossed out the window like a cigarette butt. I'm softening, and I'm hardening. Transformation, all that. No greater catalyst for growth, for better or worse, than days upon days of alienation, blinking under bright gas station lights, staring at highways and horizons, dreaming about girls and guitars, unsatisfied and totally content. Plenty of time for thoughtful solitude despite the constant camaraderie that whirls about the van and the crash pads like a horny, sweaty tempest.

The follows us still, but that didn't affect the graceful roadside beauty of Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania today. I don't know what we've dubiously dubbed the magnificence of this area (Alleghenies? maybe?), but that's beside the point. Bridges and turning tree.

Pittsburgh is dark, gloomy, wet. I'm sitting in the van drinking cold coffee and listening to rain on the roof and the mediocre rockabilly bleed from the bar's window. Inside there is free beer, beautiful young ladies, friendly faces and backslaps and warmth, but I'm where I want to be, keeping silent sentry in this driver's seat, the only place I feel comfortable anymore, and squinting under the dome light.

No idea where we're staying tonight. You wish I was there to warm you up, and I wish the same. New York tomorrow. I wish I'd brought a warmer coat.

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: Hungover and Hungry


Hungover. A rainy morning in Cleveland. Didn't write anything last night, too busy staying up with an impossibly pretty punk chick named Lauren, drinking beer with the boys and listening to Blatz.

Columbus was weird. Some drunk moron punched Doyle in the back of the head. This story doesn't deserve to be elaborated upon, but I'm not stroking my own dick when I say I handled the situation expertly.

A kid named Frank showed us around Columbus yesterday. He had lived on the streets, in and out of jail, for about twelve years, and had the jittery mannerisms and general physical appearance to prove it. His face was covered with tattoos, dominated largely by a criss-cross of railroad-track stitches to give the impression of a sad little sewn-together ragdoll.

The rain seems to be following us again after several days of relative sunshine.

The thought of a warm meal dominates my thoughts and dreams. I walk around gas stations staring at the rotating hot dogs, the gross little cardboard trays of fried chicken. Timmy and I sat at the bar in Chicago, watching television for the first time in weeks, and we had to turn away at each commercial for food. Heartbreaking. We take warm meals for granted. You have no idea how good a hot Sonic cheeseburger can make you feel until you've spent the previous two days living on almonds and oatmeal bars.

I've been completely out of money for about a week and a half now, but today in Athens I'm picking up a couple of paychecks as well as getting some money from Ian. I am salivating at the thought of a warm meal, all fat and grease and salt, paid for out of my own pocket. Reminds me of "Hunger", by Hamsun, and the protagonist driven mad by hunger, chewing on scraps of wood to try to satiate his panging stomach.

Lydia Loveless (Columbus, OH)

Linden (?): jolly fat kid from the rockabilly band (Rockabye Ransom? maybe?), said he'd help out with Cleveland shows.

15th House - Columbus DIY venue/punk house. Timmy and I got stoned as hell smoking resin with a cute little girl with Clash tattoos named Morgan. She plays drums in Rag Rage.


Surreal moments: Listening to opera while watching the Indiana landscape swing wildly between lonely and serenely dull countryside and the fire-breathing industrial wasteland.

the Pogues - Hell's Ditch

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: Cats


Harry: $2 (coffee)
Walt: $ .50 (jelly beans)
Timmy: $6.00 (chili)

An off day in Chicago. We walked for hours, explored various shops and alleyways, and were witness to a car jacking.

Tonight we're staying with a bizarre older lady who has several cats. The apartment smells like cat shit, and she refuses to let us shut the bathroom door for any reason, being that her cats' food is in there. This creeps me out, so Walt and I took a brisk walk in the rain to a nearby gas station to use their incredibly horrific facilities (dubbed the "Bathroom Chainsaw Massacre" by Walt). A small price to pay for modesty and seclusion while dealing with personal physiological functions.

Just as I have pledged not to turn down any free food or drink, as there is no shame in accepting charity in these times of vagabondism and diminished returns, so shall I take any opportunity to crash a little earlier if need be, and to get some much-needed extra rest. Particularly after a night that ended only at dawn, and particularly when the situation is so uncomfortably weird that an early retirement seems to be the only way to avoid any further anxiety. Bring on the dawn. I want to awake refreshed and free to shit and shower as I damn well please. It's a matter of principle, and I am a man of principle.

She spoke disdainfully of cigarette smokers with the angry, gleeful zeal of a racist, and likewise of dope smokers, knowing full well we were both. All of her shoes had giant lifts, some as tall as seven inches she informed us. I have no idea why.

And the cats. She kept referring to us as her cats' "new boyfriends". I try so hard to keep an open mind and not begrudge others of their customs or opinions, but when those rituals infringe upon my own comforts and interests as a modest and righteous individual, wary of his own safety and comfort (within reason, mind), a line must be drawn. This is especially true when I feel I am being subjected to inane ritual with a completely bullshit justification. I hate to beat a dead horse to a second death, but there are so few instances in which a human should be cheated out of basic amenities and and comforts for the sake of the relative comfort of a cat.

As I said, I try to keep an open mind, and to be respectful of others' convictions, but I've also been taught to not tolerate bullshit. This I cannot abide.

Morning Summation: Though I may have simply been falling victim to my own paranoia and neurotic insecurities, she did sit outside the (open) bathroom door and talk to each of the boys who dared to shower, as they showered. I waited until this morning, while she was at work, and took a wonderfully long, hot shower, disturbed not by cats nor cat ladies, and took full advantage of the surplus of fragrant and botanically-based soaps, gels, balms, and unguents that she had stockpiled in the shower. Now I smell like a whore.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: Sea-Salt Chicago


A drowsy day spent admiring the marshy Wisconsin countryside, and dodging deadly yuppie traffic outside of Chicago.

Now I am in a Chicago drug circle, resting cross-legged on olive green carpet on the fourth floor of an apartment building. Blunts are being rolled and bongs are being loaded. I'm a little drunk and a lot exhausted, and frankly have no patience for this sort of thing tonight, but I'd rather have experiences peppered with regret than dull nights of relative comfort and rationale, lost to the tide of true sea-salt memories.

(proving my point. . . .)

That was all hours ago, and now the sun is coming up through a pearly blue Chicago sky, blue like a smokey ocean. I'm being rocked to sleep by the rattling roar of passing buses.

the Dumpster Babies (Chicago, IL)
Wrong Crowd (Kansas City, MO)

Whitewater Tavern (Little Rock, AR)
Red Barn (Peoria, IL)

Harry: $10 (Cracker Barrel)
Timmy: $2.oo (hot cocoa)

*the Cramps - 1st record
*Echo and the Bunnymen - Songs to Learn and Sing

Friday, November 13, 2009

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: The North Country


I didn't write anything last night because I felt awful, naively drank a bottle of 'tussin, and promptly lost my mind. I still feel weird today, though a rib-sticking dinner at Cracker Barrel helped me feel a little more human.

We sliced cleanly through Northern Missouri yesterday, and though I myself am certainly guilty of a bias on the subject, I believe the general consensus was that it was the prettiest drive so far on this trip.

Tonight we're freezing our balls off in the North country. The bar the boys were supposed to play at wouldn't even let Timmy in the building, as he's just a pup at twenty, so while the rest sat inside and tried to figure out what the fuck was going on and got soused on the free beer, Timmy and I bundled up and wandered the chilly streets of downtown Milwaukee. We smoked cigarettes and drank hot chocolate, talked about girls and God and Dinosaur Jr and all the other important things in life, and pressed our chapped faces to the darkened windows of closed record and comic book stores.

I am the master of run-on sentences.

So now here we are. Milwaukee. We're sitting in the van, sucking on cough drops and spinning the radio dial. The van's heater feels so good.

Lake Michigan at night is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: Kansas/City


I am getting sick in Kansas City tonight, battling illness with garlic and Bloody Marys. My nose has been running all day.

Still don't feel like writing. I like the town we're staying in tonight. It reminds me of home. I think it's called Silver Creek. We're staying with a big fat dog named Bojo, and his folks are sweet as hell and very accommodating.

So far, everything that gnaws at me or causes anxiety during this tour has nothing to do with touring or anybody I'm spending every day with. I'm exhausted, but ironically enough the promise of a five hour drive, and a nightly bout of drinking and music, are the only things that drive me onward.

I've gotten over heartache and headache before, and I have faith that all the old anodynes will prove just as effective as they've ever been. Bitterness and the open road. We'll cast our grievances to the wind.

This entry sucks shit. I'm going to bed.


Driving through Arkansas was beautiful today. Our passing through the Ozarks coincided perfectly with that supernaturally serene turning of the leaves. Fall in the Ozarks is held close to my heart, and I take delight in being witness to a small part of it.

I can't really write tonight. It's been such a busy evening, what with Shea meeting us in Lawrence and all. Fuck it, the muse is not with me tonight, no matter how pleasant the Kansas rain felt on my back.

I love the crusty dreadlocked chick whose house we're crashing at, and how she insisted on calling me Hank Williams all night.

I'll write you a letter tomorrow
Tonight, I can't hold a pen

W. C. Williams - collected poems (the revised 80's edition)
Frank Miller - "Ronin"
Mojave 3 - "Excuses from Travellers"

Walt - $2.75 (chicken gizzards, potato salad)
Timmy - $5 (records in Lawrence)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: Giddy in Little Rock


I will never underestimate the relief a good night's sleep can bring, the previous night's suffocating anxieties washed away with the morning's benevolent and glowing potential, even if that morning is spent in rainy Dallas traffic, frustrated to the point of homicidal thoughts, chain-smoking menthol cigarettes.

But now we're giggling in a quiet, intelligent house in Little Rock, being put up for the night by a quiet, intelligent black man in a Ramones hoodie named, simply, T. We're fully saturated with beer and weed, smoked out of one of Harry's apples (without his consent). The night went extremely well. I gorged on blackened tilapia tacos, and I made it to T's house without killing anybody. And now here we are, stoned and giddy and cackling like hyenas. This living room is, at this moment, the only place I'd like to be, our drunken little Loki vigil interrupted only by T's roommates irritably stumbling through on their way to the bathroom, or to walk their dog. They are all female, and they are unimpressed.

Turns out I was premature in my earlier dismissal. I still hate Texas. It is an unbelievable relief to be in Arkansas.

We were originally going to stay at another house, full of partying punk rock kids. The free beer and cute roommates were enticing reasons to stay, but after a .38 got pulled and waved sloppily around the living room, and after a big black girl with biohazard tattoos (and who arrived driving a hearse with questionable personalized plates) tried repeatedly to molest Doyle (or so he claimed), we decided to take T up on his offer for a quiet and more prudent decompression chamber. We have a long drive to Lawrence tomorrow.

So here we are, giggling.

I owe:
Walt: $2.41 (coffee, peanuts)

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: Off Days in Texas


I just don't have the energy tonight. A long, shitty, grey day in Texas. My distaste for this sprawling, dull state has returned. The people are rude, the food and cigarettes overpriced. My head has been pounding for hours. I feel like stamping my cell phone into pieces. Too many words were spoken tonight, and perhaps too many more were left unsaid. I don't know which is the greater tragedy.

Two days without shows have ruined me. Tomorrow we resume the long haul, a show a night 'til kingdom come. My hyena tongue is salivating at the promise of smokey bars, snowy loins, the never-ending blacktop, and the painful, beautiful sting of music in my ears, cranked up and drunk, like a knife dipped in honey, stabbed into my brain.

Arkansas, I miss you and all of your old promises. Little Rock meant something to me once. I'll tell you all about it sometime.


Sort of a lonely night in Austin, the kinda night country songs are written about. Faces missed, all kinds of faces.

Hungover all day, jumping on a trampoline and daydreaming about vampires. Cigarettes, tomato juice. I had to wash fucking cat piss out of my Levi's.

These days of relaxation are spoiling us. We have a long, long road ahead. Tonight I am beset with a sort of homesickness, but for where? Which home? Beset with longing, but for whom? For what? If there's anything a certain cold night in Las Cruces, NM taught me long ago, it's that these road feelings of skeptical angst and anxiety are easy to overcome. Let them naturally pass, lost to the whistling wind like smoke from a cracked window, disappearing like the horizon in a rearview mirror. Do I lose a bit of empathic humanity if I decide this is truly the life I want to lead? Is it worth it?

Maybe what I'm losing is made up for in what I gain; a purposeful, lonely sense of self. How do I know about the world? By what is within me.

"Maybe in the American park I am just a cow chewing a bit of discarded tin foil. Maybe everything I care about has been eroded away and I am just a gaunt idiot whose ribs are cracking under a Southern sun. Maybe I am standing on a dead planet in a scientific film and because everything is strange and new I miss the beauty of it. Maybe my desires are too human, too tangible, too immediate." - Henry Miller

Maybe Miller has it all ass-backwards, though I must admit the imagery is striking.

Oh, and I won't forget the rainy Austin dreams, bracing myself against the wooden railing in front of the bar.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: Austin City Limitations


Drunk. Don't wanna write.

Biscuits and coffee for breakfast. Got caught in a torrential, apocalyptic downpour, so we sat and smoked cigarettes in a quiet little gas station until the storm subsided. I tried to steal a pack of cigarettes but was caught red-handed. Listened to Spiritualized in the van. Austin looked like Gotham City; owlish skyscrapers shrouded in mist and moonlight. Mild anxiety attack, mild claustrophobia. Watched pretty girls strut down the avenue. On the guestlist for the Queers show in an outdoor venue. It took me three tries, just now, to remember how to write a capital, cursive "q". Still not sure if I used the correct form of "capital". Capitol? I smoke too much weed, it dampens my vernacular fire. Danced with an anonymous punk rock girl during "Punk Rock Girls". Yummyyummypunkrockgirls. Bonded over Townes Van Zandt with some locals. More free beer. Tonight we're staying with a very sweet goth-nerd couple who have promised us grilled grass-fed locally-raised Texas hamburgers tomorrow. They're super-sweet. Mind the coyotes outside.

Oh, no one has to know
We'll tiptoe around the crows
and the lilacs

Drunk. Don't wanna write no more.

My ears are never gonna stop ringing.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: Tigers, Tacos, and Texans


Writing feels like a chore tonight. Not because of any sort of exhaustion, real or imagined, physical or mental, but just a sort of general irritible apathy that arises at the thought of pushing this cheap pen across this cheap notebook.

Seems like my hardened distaste for Texas may be softening, though I've only been in the Lone Star State for a day. We stopped barely a mile past the Texas border at a rest stop that turned out, by the best sort of serendipity, to also be a visitor center for the Blue Elbow Swamp. We took a long walk on the wooden boardwalk, admiring the cypress and Spanish moss and turtles.

We arrived in Houston much earlier than expected, so we spent the day slouching around the beautiful Rice University campus, where the boys were slated to play a radio show later in the evening. We drank coffee and followed gorgeous college girls around for several warm hours, the surprisingly majestic Houston skyline rising above the dancing, stretching trees that were carefully planted along the grounds.

The show tonight was closed by a band called the Hates, who formed in 1978 and have been a fixture in the Houston punk scene ever since. The bass player wore a studded leather vest and knee-high mocassins, and spent much of the show lunging and spin-kicking like some sort of Nordic god, long hair tossed with the manic energy not seen in many musicians half his age. The singer and guitarist was of indiscernable ethnic origin, with a tall orange mohawk and a stage prescence that called to mind Joey Shithead, from DOA. The soundman, a polite older fella in a Stooges shirt who wore a small red metal vial of unknown content around his neck, informed me that this charismatic mohican was nearing sixty years old.

Side note: While still in Louisiana, we stopped in a ramshackle little town called Grosse Tete, where we saw several signs for a live tiger exhibit. The exhibit consisted of a single large cage, in which a solitary male tiger paced back and forth sullenly, paws treading a well-worn route about the enclosure. It smelled like shit, and was wholly depressing. A banner fastened to the cage read something like "SAVE THE TIGERS! HELP KEEP THE TIGERS IN GROSSE TETE." Fuck that. Set 'em free, and let 'em feast on the fatty pink flesh of their second-rate captors.

The women in Texas have been, thus far, beautiful. The beer is excellent, and the equally excellent Mexicano radio station played in the van all day. We ate asada tacos from a mobile taqueria for lunch, and deep fried tacos from Jack-in-the-Box for dinner. I'm all out of cigarettes.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: NOLA


I backed the van into a parked car today.

The New Orleans morning met us warmly with coffee, cigarettes, and sweet Greek biscuits. We spent the day wandering around dirty business districts, reinvigorated post-Katrina. While browsing a guitar store, we were witness to a car wreck as a burgundy pick-up sailed through a red light and smashed into a yellow Volkswagen. For the next few moments, the scene was pure spectacle; people hugging and crying, gasoline pouring from the Bug and collecting against the curb, smoke and shattered glass and confusion. All the while, an older man sat outside the guitar shop, spraypainting several PA speakers and trying his best to remain impatiently oblivious to the drama about him, framed in metal and splintered fiberglass and noise.

The afternoon was spent lazily at Jason's house. Jason, an old acquaintance of Harry's, resembled a hip, gracious Danzig. He gave us espresso and red wine, and we smoked marijuana out of a leopard-print pipe.

I worked door at the bar, arguing with drunks and a persistent little asshole from Holland. Afterwards, fortified with several free beers, we headed carefully back to Harry's parents' house, where we ate turkey sandwiches and drunkenly discussed exactly what was wrong in that farcical world of smoke and mirrors known as American politics, a world where the bottom line is the infallible dollar, and the price too often paid for with the blood and sweat of the caste of ignorance. Rights, as we perceive them, as "free citizens", are just solid lines drawn through and around the godlike potential we've been blessed with since our privileged births. Ignorance is our greatest obstacle, save perhaps fear, though any enlightened individual can surely see that fear and ignorance are hand-in-hand, disguised as silver bangles, wards against those who would dare threaten our vague notions of liberty and security, and that ultimately serve solely as shackles.

Houston tomorrow. We leave early. I hate Texas.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Rainclouds and Cigarettes: Prologue


It was a long drive through Mississippi today. The van is enormous. I've never drove such a beast before, though I of course lied and said that I had. By the end of this month, I will have become one with the machine. I am the American Dream.

I enjoy reading aloud the names of towns, rivers, bridges as we pass the title-bearing signs. Some are so peculiar without the softening lens of familiarity, and they dance and roll off my tongue, bounce against my teeth.

listened to: Zen Arcade, Hank Williams, the Pogues, the Clash, Nick Cave

We are staying with Harry's parents in New Orleans tonight. His father is an old Greek man who speaks English in a thick, elegantly clumsy accent. He served us steaming bowls of gumbo, and Harry's gracious mother presented us with her homemade bread, warmed in the microwave. Afterwards, we ate beignets and drank hot chocolate. I am satiated to the point of idle, glorious contentment, but plagued with mild heartburn. I will sleep well tonight, stomach full, in a clean bed with soft sheets. It is important to cherish these small moments of domestic comfort and bliss, as approaching there is a month of the complete opposite. The comfort and satiation are a waning moon, and tonight I sleep in its warm glow.

Maybe I'll try to quit smoking on this trip. It's certainly not economically feasible, considering I can't even afford to feed myself. Ian owes me money, but that's in Ohio, which is weeks away, and it's uncertain that our arrangement will even be carried out, relying on checks mailed across several states, and various letters explaining positions and arrivals, or that he'll even be able to respond to my demands.

Get in shape. I need to get in shape. Tonight I did forty-five push-ups, went outside for a cigarette, and then did forty-five more. One step at a time. I wish my cell phone worked better.

We listened to Link Wray as we drove over swamps and Lake Ponchartrain. The roads in Louisiana are hellishly uneven and bumpy. Link Wray was the perfect soundtrack, crusing along the highways and causeways and bridges, the smell of mud thick in the air, the view to our left, southward, dark and desolate, what was surely the delta and the Gulf and beyond.


Woke up strung out. Not much sleep the night before, as I stayed up late packing and re-packing, deciding which books to bring (I settled on Henry Miller, Vine Deloria Jr, Rimbaud, The Shining, and a couple by Prabhupada), and writing last-minute letters. Writing, always writing.

Coffee gets me through the day. I enjoy my coffee with cream now, though the notion once disgusted me. Left for Memphis at half-past two, eating at a Mexican restaurant along the way. Listened to Gram Parsons, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Billy Bragg, and Nirvana. Wandered around truck stops, buying bottles of water and more coffee. Smoked cigarettes and admired Megan's profile as she drove.

Memphis now, gorged on catfish and a root beer float. We are staying in the guest bedroom at Harry's house. Harry is the frontman and driving force behind the Angel Sluts. His house is idiosyncratically decorated, with fine collections of music and books, and towering stacks of recording and engineering magazines. Somewhere unseen is his home studio.

Tomorrow we drive to New Orleans. Harry's mother has promised us gumbo.

I have bills and obligations looming somewhere in the distance, but in the distance is where they shall remain. This month will be a time of thoughtful liberation in the guise of an inebriated shotgun blast, riding the currents of gunpowder and wanderlust, caving to adolescent impulse. I have sixty dollars in my wallet, and a supreme doubt that this meager sum will last even a week or two on the road, let alone an entire month. Death to doubt. I hedge my bets and err on the side of righteous indifference and the blind, grasping Hope and Faith that I share with a blessed few.

I need be reminded that I chose this life for a reason. Fear and anxiety have turned my muscles to jelly. A new spine is to be forged.

Writers: Sherwood Anderson, Kenneth Patchen

John Stuart Mill?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


We have busted knuckles and sliced fingertips, blood shed on limestone and offered back to the earth. Those summer days baked our skin into scales and leather. I used to daydream about railroad tracks plowing through the sky, and raise my eyes to watch that train roar by. At night, there was a boxfan in the window to soothe our burns and aches.

Oh, I learned so much about myself. I feel older now, but none the wiser. The choices I've made have offered little solace. I find inspiration in my father, and I pray to Gawd that he never feels defeated, for then I too will feel only defeat. He is my barometer, and that farm will always be my home. I can never fall too far, too hard, knowing what waits at the end of old Slate Road.

I've woken up shaking and sweating on bathroom floors, and I didn't think I was going to survive this summer. But I can't bring myself to throw away what I don't need. Maybe it'll prove useful someday, like chicken shit and tablescraps. What else did I learn on the farm?

I want to say so many things to you, but so many pairs of ears would hear it, and believe it meant for them alone. They'd all be wrong. This is for no one anymore, no one but myself. I'll keep my head down, humbled but not broken, and keep tilling and sowing and reaping, baking in the sun. Someday I'll pull the scales from my eyes and change my name, like Saul on the road to Damascus.

I just want to spend my days like dreams, and save my abstractions and selfless hope for my father and his farm. There is no hope for me, the way I've been carrying on. Oh, look at my father. My back's just as bad, and my heart's just as sore, and I'm not sure I want to be a farmer anymore.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Creatures of Note.

Slept in late today, but not as late as I have been. Yesterday, I didn't emerge from the blankets until well after four in the afternoon. This is not conducive to productivity, as if such a thing concerned me.

And yet it should concern me. I've been a Tennessee resident for nearly half a month, with no real progress or gain to show. As it should be, I tell myself. What did I expect? This is a land of milk and honey. The sun is warm on my shoulders. I feel content in my monetary poverty, and proud of my inner riches. I am in the constant company of friends. I am well-fed and well-read. We are the Lost Boys. I catch toads and throw up behind bushes.

There are always fires going, like a refugee camp. Sometimes we eat the smoke, and sometimes the smoke eats us. It peels our flesh from our bones, and we dance in the Expanse, mad skeletons. We laugh, and the world shrieks with us.

I live in a little monklike den, very simple. A mattress on the ground, a metal shelf with some folded pairs of blue jeans and a few shirts. A nighstand made from an overturned milkcrate, upon it resting some weak sleep-aid pills for the anxious insomnia I've recently fallen victim to, wrapped in cellophane. A green ashtray. Next to the mattress, stacks of books. At the foot of my bed, a turntable. A small stack of records. A lifelike human skull. A portrait of Johnny Cash. This is my room, a tiny wooden box at the top of the stairs, swelteringly hot if one does not rise before noon, when the Tennessee sun turns it into an incubator. Kevin compared it to Henry Haller's little room, at the top of a different flight. But I have no room to pace, no tome in which to inscribe anything remotely profound.

Tonight, I will pace across town, across property lines. I feel like wandering, as I always have. And now I have no obligations to stop me. Not yet, anyhow. Responsibility is a gorgon over the horizon, but I have no fear. I will find a job soon enough. I have been putting forth the necessary effort. No need to help the gorgon along her dismal, pragmatic path. She'll be upon me soon enough, and I refuse to have any regrets about the vacation I spent in her absence. Keep your bitch talons out of me, at least for the time being, and I will pretend not to feel contempt when you crunch my bones and suck my marrow. But I will not pretend forever.