Archive for April, 2006

Haiku for the Housefly

April 22, 2006

It was an exciting day around the cabin. The sun was shining and the guitar was out. I strummed on the front porch while Lance the cat chased bugs in the yard. Later I was reading with the front door open when my neighbor’s labrador retriever sauntered in as if he owned the place. Lance didn’t like that and things looked ugly when he got between the dog and the door. Seeing his only chance, the dog bolted for the exit and escaped, but not before taking a parting shot from the cat. He let out a yelp as if to say, “Whoops. Sorry!”

A little while ago I smelled a foul odor which I haven’t experienced since last summer. A flying insect that entered through the newly opened windows had expired on the bulb of the torch lamp in the corner. A puff of smoke rose to the ceiling. I wrote a haiku about it:

Dead bug, spewing smoke
I mourn your sadful passing.
Ain’t that torch lamp hot?



April 21, 2006

Yesterday was one of the most marvelous and memorable days of my life. I am still processing it, but here is one small piece of it. You would not believe me if I told you all of the things I left out.

People who have not lived in the Pacific Northwest need to know that in this region of the country, there is a period of one or two days at the end of every winter when it becomes clear that the rain is slowing and the sun and warmth of Summer returning. It is a good day for the soul.

For me, that day was yesterday.

I had just finished three months of hard project work at a firm downtown and walked out the front door at 2:30pm. Twenty minutes later I was hired by phone to do a new project for another firm starting Monday. I was looking for something to do.

A few minutes later I randomly ran into my close friend J, who was riding by on bikes with a college friend who was in from out of town. They were on their way to Laurelhurst Park to meet another friend and throw the Frisbee. On the spot, I decided to join them, even though I was dressed in work clothes. It was sunny and 70 degrees.

We sat in the sun next to the lake and observed the dozens of ducks and geese that make their home in the park. A great blue heron flew right in front of us and landed on a floating log. At one point, a large hawk came flying through and shook things up. There were happy people, some with children or dogs. The four of us spent an hour tossing the Frisbee in the glen next to the lake, the first time I have done that in a few years at least. I felt a little strange running and leaping in my dress shoes, but it was all very good.

Later we went back to J’s house, where I lived for two years. We had beer and pizza and others were there. I had a very intense conversation with my friend AC about his arrest at the Republican National Convention in New York in 2004. I left to catch the 10:45 bus back home. I thought my day was over.

I soon realized that I had left my lighter at the house, so I dashed into a convenience store next to the bus stop to buy a new one. As I was walking out the door, the number 20 drove by, leaving me feeling really lame. It would be 30 minutes before another one passed.

I had too much energy to sit on the curb for half an hour so I started walking, figuring I would catch the next bus whether I was here or twenty blocks down the route. While I was walking, I passed a young man and woman who were standing at the next stop. The guy asked me for a cigarette. When I gave him one he said, “Thanks. It’s been a hard day.” We talked for a bit about when the next bus was coming and I told them it would be about 30 minutes. We said goodnight and I started walking again.

When I had gotten about a block, the guy yelled, “Here comes one!” I ran back up to them, hoping he was right. I looked up Burnside Street and thought I saw the yellow light of the route display of a TriMet bus. It turns out that it was not a bus, but an optical illusion caused by the configuration of the streetlights on that part of the street. It happens sometimes, especially when you really WANT it to be a bus.

I was planning to start walking again, but the more the guy spoke, the more interesting his story became. He told me he was 26 and she was 27. They had been thrown off the last bus because their fares had expired. Hours earlier they had been asleep at home when their roommates, who were very drunk, set their house on fire. Half the house burned before firemen arrived and put out the flames. The roommates were arrested and this guy and his wife, who is four months pregnant, barely escaped with their lives. His clothes were singed and he was wearing donated boots. They were carrying everything they owned in two very small bags. The Red Cross does not help fire victims if someone on the lease is responsible for a house fire.

They had no money and were not allowed to stay in a shelter because they have not had the required tuberculosis test. The people at the shelters told a pregnant woman to get lost. I gave them the $5 I had in my pocket, wishing it was more. I gave him some more cigarettes and loaned them my cell phone to make some calls. He has a good job at a fabricating shop in NE Portland. Today is payday so all he had to do was get to work and get his check. They arranged to spend the night with a friend. “I wish I had a car,” he said. “We’d sleep in it tonight.”

While I enjoyed a marvelous day, my new friends were experiencing one of the worst in their lives. We met by chance on a street corner.

Soon the bus came and we got on. They got off at 39th Avenue while I rode all the way downtown to catch the 58 to get home. As I got off the 58 and began the five-minute walk up the hill, a light rain began to fall.

The Sounds of Africa

April 8, 2006

Here is a Podcast of some of the multi-faceted music of the continent of Africa. This one-hour program travels from the dance club music of the 1950s perfected by bandleader Franco to the African blues of Ali Farka Toure and the electrified tribal rhythms of Toureg refugees Tinariwen (pictured). Click here for a PDF of the set list and a description of the artists featured in this program.

Blues Show

April 7, 2006

Here is a Blues Podcast for the listening pleasure of any blues music fans. I need to pull together a setlist and notes for this show and post them here in PDF format. Till I get a chance to do that, please enjoy the show.

This is a one-hour program featuring the music of Bobby Bland, T-Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker (pictured), RL Burnside, John Mayall & Eric Clapton, Luther Allison, Greg & Duane Allman, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, the legendary Otis Rush, and the dead Eva Cassidy (RIP).

This music is studio. It’s live. It spans from the 40’s to the 90’s.

(It must be said, also, that the Gatemouth Brown song with the weird cuts at each end was due to the shitty recording that I have. Mr. Brown lost his home in Slidell, Louisiana to Hurricane Katrina and died of cancer and a broken heart two weeks later in Orange, Texas. He was in his 70’s, played about 6 or 7 different instruments and began his career with this song, “Okie Dokie Stomp”, in about 1947. I had the pleasure of seeing him perform at the the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (Jazzfest) in 1998.)

Two Worlds

April 5, 2006

A friend from New Orleans told me that she gave notice at her job recently. Friday is her last day as a legal secretary in a law firm there. I didn’t get many details from her, and wouldn’t share them on the Internet anyway, but I thought about it a lot today. To be put in a position to leave your job, being one of the relative few New Orleanians still possessing stable, middle-income employment and a home in a demolished city. Must be a drag.

Here in Portland, I spend too much time craving Spring and Summer, worrying about what a drag public transit is going to be when TriMet carves up the downtown transit mall to install light rail tracks, thinking about what I’m going to do on payday, reading, writing songs.

In my very own country, in a city I have lived in, friends and family of mine (and maybe yours) are living day to day in their city that is on life support. Hundreds of thousands of their former neighbors have left, many for ever. I have done nothing to help, but I watched it on TV for hours and hours.

I am able to write music and lose myself in books and work while my friends and family suffer, while my country is mired in a global criminal act that is about to get worse, while a thousand other things in our culture are terribly wrong. I am, it seems, an American.

This Don’t Look Good —> Pentagon Declares War on the Internet

April 2, 2006

This piece in the (Scotland) Sunday Herald notes that our esteemed leaders in Washington have assembled “The Information Operations Roadmap”, a guidebook for the upcoming war on the Internet. According to the article, “the US wants to take control of the Earth’s electromagnetic spectrum, allowing US war planners to dominate mobile phones, PDAs, the web, radio, TV and other forms of modern communication. That could see entire countries [including the United States] denied access to telecommunications at the flick of a switch by [the purported leaders of] America.” [brackets are mine]

That is why I am sure you will agree that “this don’t look good”.

[P.S. That is the real logo that was going to be used by the “Office of Information Awareness” when this whole program was first announced a few years ago. People freaked out so John Poindexter was fired and the name was changed and they stopped talking about it publicly.]