Screaming sounds are buzzing through my brain Am I mad or am I sane?

It’s been a strange couple of weeks. In the UK for the first time in awhile. This was meant to be a different type of trip, fun and adventure for me and Ben as he made some big decisions in his life that would ultimately impact the whole family. Over the last ten days I have not managed to have the “conversation” I thought I wanted to have.

This has been waylaid by my dad being in hospital the entire time. Days have been taken up looking after my mother, drinking coffee with her and then visiting in the hospital. This has not been the most exciting time for poor Ben, he has been very patient with it however. All in all it’s been somewhat bemusing. We have not managed to achieve any of the things I wanted to. Which makes me think those things maybe were not ever achievable.

Maybe the time for the heart to heart is gone with Ben and even with my own dad.

It’s odd coming from a city that is known around the world. You tell anyone you meet that you are form Liverpool they will know certain facts, mainly about the Beatles or one of the two football teams. It is however a whole lot more than that. An independent city that has finally succumbed it seems to gentrification and it’s own fame. The lines to Anfield were multinational this Sunday and you hear many languages as you wonder around town. The working class houses in the city center now multi thousand pound apartments. It is almost certainly a different city than the one I wondered around as a child/young man, there is however enough familiarity in the streets that I can still navigate with ease.

Slightly drunk on Sunday having met up with two friends that I had not seen in 20 or so years we reminisced about the apartment Andy, who was not present, had lived in. He lived on the top floor of a tenement on Bold Place opposite the bombed out church. The lower floors housed some prostitutes who would try and feed him up as he was so skinny. He is still skinny and living in the south of England now. He probably wouldn’t want me to tell you about the prostitutes though. The day ended in the Pilgrim surrounded by slightly self conscious students watching the football. The football was glorious, the students remained self conscious as the still slightly drunk older men shouted and chanted and cheered.

John made the observation that we all had felt so dangerous back then. How we must have pissed off a lot of people and also how people had looked after the stupid drunk 16 year olds in town. A kinder gentler more connected world. Now the self conscious students just looked bemused by the slightly drunk older men. They also somehow managed to be a little disapproving. Didn’t they know that in our prime we had screamed into the maelstrom that was Hawkwind, The Clash, Magazine, Gong and Here and Now, we had been through the excesses necessary and survived. We were entitled to our bleary gazes and ragged chorus of You’ll Never Walk Alone.

We staggered around from one teenage hang out to the next. Reminiscing and laughing as Ben looked bemused at these middle aged men remembering a time before smart phones and streaming jukeboxes. The Marlborough is no longer the Marlborough and Val is long gone, as is Big Clive from the Swan and the Wilsons is nothing but a memory, the Cracke is living on its brief flirtation with John Lennon as a student. At least John and Paul(the immortal Gooey) had held on to most of their hair even though they had moved to Manchester, of course who am I to complain with the 6000 mile move.

It had been Record Store Day the day before. I showed Ben where Probe used to be and the slightly diminished sad place where it is now. We never went in though. I suppose I should have really as that is what a collector should do isn’t it. I have never really experienced the thrill or need for RSD. I do however have a few of the releases I have picked up when they go on sale or online. We also walked past several other record stores that did not drag me in, mostly because they were closed.

Being in an urban environment as opposed to the rural environment we normally inhabit is a shock to the system. There is no roar of large diesel engines heading out in the morning or the sound of woodpeckers in the evening and the frogs who could forget the frogs, there is however the constant hum of the M62 across the field and the trains every 15 minutes or so and the harsh laughter in the streets and car doors slamming.

So for two weeks I have lain in my childhood bed listening to the music of my youth on headphones. The very same way I used to listen late at night so as not to disturb my parents. These days those albums are streamed on Spotify and not on crackly discs of vinyl. Each night has taken me through an album of the past in its entirety. No shuffle play and no skipping the annoying track allowed. The sounds of my youth in my ears as I come to terms with my parents aging and my youngest leaving home.

In this way I listened to Dark Side of the Moon, Here Come the Warm Jets, Hunky Dory, Wind and Withering, Close to the Edge, Stormcock, Meddle, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Space Ritual, Thick as a Brick, Audentity, Ricochet and Full House amongst others. Sometimes I woke up to Spotify deciding what I should listen to next based on some algorithm that would predict my taste. This was invariably not what I wanted to hear at all.

Then one night I looked up into the corner of the bedroom and there she was glaring down on me in her glory, the glow in the dark Virgin Mary that had counted my teenage years . Her ghostly green hue looking at me disapprovingly as I drifted off to In Search of Space. She has been a story I told my friends in the past and there she still is watching quietly as I tried to do my best.

In a fit of rebellion against the Virgin in the corner I bought Hawkwind ‘s record store day offering The 1999 party finally in vinyl were it belongs. I sat and looked at the record and then succumbed to streaming it. No Bob Calvert but Simon House on violin and keyboards and the joy of the glories of Lemmy and the boys blowing the minds of Chicagos youth. Tonight I sat down finally at home and played the record and it is as good as I hoped it would be. It’s anarchic and wild and free flowing, from a time when the pettiness of band life had not destroyed the fun of making a racket.

At the end of the day with all the travails that family bring, the worry of parents and their health, the difficult decisions children have to make and then the knowledge they have to make the decisions for themselves it is good to know there is always a Hawkwind record that will screw its your mind. My dad also reminded me that Ben is just like me, he is going to make his own mind up and at the end of the day a parents job is to love their children to support them to trust them and sometimes to pick up the pieces when they fall.

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when the night is come, and the land is dark…

I looked out across the wasteland of my yard this morning, the mud and mole hills, the scrubby grass and the creek meandering it’s way through the cedar trees and sipped my coffee. Ry Cooder was singing the Ben E. King song Stand By Me in the background from the album Chicken Skin Music and I had a sense of dissatisfaction. In an hour I would have to go to work with all the things that brings right now, trying to run a social service agency in the Newmerika we all live in.

Today however is Friday and I can put my shorts and sweat shirt on if I want to, go get lunch with my wife and hopefully make it to the weekend without a crisis.

I had turned the TV off an hour ago. Another democrat was entering the primaries and CNN was excited, the US had pulled out of another meaningless nuclear deal, this one truly so, and the tweeter in chief was just warming up for the day. The atrocity show was about to start and it would be easy to be dragged in.

“You should know I was never untrue…” was sung by Ry and I pondered what fidelity and ethics mean in the land of the free.

So today as the calming balm of Ry Cooder pervades the quiet house I can commit to trying to make someones day a little easier along with all the other difficult choices to be made.

So I found this record in the junk store, it had obviously been part of the Newport Oregon library collection, it was very important to the librarian that borrowers care properly for the records and so these helpful hints are stuck to the front.

There is a real history to library records. Personally the local library was how I broadened my own musical horizons, and I am sure this is true for many people. Also normally when you buy a used record it may have belonged to 2 or 3 people, a library record belonged to the community and may have touched hundreds of peoples hands and record players. This may cause problems for hardened germaphobes and audiophiles, for me though it connects me with the hundred of others who had sat there listening to Ry sing Goodnight Irene at the end of this album and felt calmed, happier, sadder or more connected.

It was community property. It’s a little sad that it’s days of being passed around are over in some way, I am sure the Newport library has moved on to CD’s now. The other thing to ponder is what journey it took to get the three hour drive inland? How many hands did it pass through heading east from the coast? A truly well travelled record, and with very little damage.

the wrong jeans…

My Dad taught me about Levis. Being from Liverpool in the 50’s and 60’s jeans apparently were important. He and his brothers would steal Levis from the ships importing them to England and then redistribute the wealth. They wore them for work, never to go out. They were utilitarian, not decorative. The kids they sold them to may have felt differently.

These were the shrink to fit variety, the most comfortable jeans in the world, cotton that fits to your form, not the pre-shrunk acid washed bleached stuff we know today. These were the pants of Guthrie and Dylan, Brando and Dean, the work wear of railway men and miners, prisoners and farmers. Made from raw cotton and riveted for strength.

There is the relentless customs/traditions/myths and rituals of shrinking the jeans. My Dad took me through all this, sitting in the bath, towel drying and then wear them wet until they dry and don’t wash too often if ever. The inevitable roll of cotton at the end of your leg, some would go with a broad roll, my dad insisted that your fold should no the more than an inch. He would sit there with his rolled up cigarette, his D.A. haircut and white t-shirt, skinny and lean and go through this so seriously, set by step.

I have never bought any other jeans than shrink to fit Levis. It’s a connection to my Dad in some strange way. Now I am not saying I do all that sitting in the bath tub shit still but some of the other stuff I still go along with. My wife thinks I am crazy not washing my jeans too much and never letting them near the drier and “why do you roll them up when you could buy them pre-shrunk to fit?”

I say all this because it is my Dads birthday. For 25 years now I have lived on a different continent from him. Sometimes things fade away, memories roll into each other and become confused, muddled forgotten. There is however that serious day when my dad sat me down and explained how to make your jeans fit. That lived on with me, especially as I work my way through difficulties with my own sons. They don’t wear Levi’s maybe that is the problem at it’s core.

Out of interest, as I walked down the street the other day I was accosted by this thing called a vintage jean shop. The world has surely lost its head, what normally would have been the rack in Goodwill is now a boutique stop for hipsters looking for their hip hugging vintage jeans. Of course two doors down is the used record store that caters to aging rockers looking for a clean copy of some obscure relic of the vinyl age…

All in all, it is all as it should be and I still wear my jeans too baggy according to my wife, however what does she really know about the secrets of raw cotton. Somewhere in my dads closet is a pair of Levis that must be 40 years old, they will never fit me or him again, they may however fetch some cash at that hipster store, that however may be a step too far, come the day I may frame them as art, a relic to a fading practice and an afternoon with an old cast iron bathtub in the back yard and the indigo dye staining my skin as I shrank my first pair of Levis. The other kids at school bought their jeans pre-shrunk, I am not sure we bought ours but we had to work to make them fit, after all my uncle Jimmy still worked on the docks.

why why why…

I was in the mood for a little chaos other than the constant roar of the news.

The solution, The Woodentops with Live Hypno Beat which simultaneously sounds fresh and like every concert I went to in the 80’s that was not metal. Screaming guitars, shuffling drums and shouty lyrics. A lot of fun to jump around too without thinking too much. Actually sounds like every metal concert I went to as well, maybe it was the clothes that were different.

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The down side of the Woodentops for me was that Morrisey liked them, this is why it has taken me so many years to truly appreciate the cacophony that is Live Hypno Beat. It’s better than the Trumpian Paradigm I am living right now.

“There is no proof of anything.”

Thus is the new world ushered in.

Its a lot better to jump up and down and shout lyrics into the night to clashing guitars and insistent drumming than trying to translate the voters pamphlet even though I cannot vote.

I was dreaming of the past…

The move is finally done…

Number 18 and hopefully the last if there is any justice in the world.

One of the outcomes of this has been less time to write on the blog. Is it time to quit? Or is it okay to just let it go for awhile?

Anyway so just to let you know I have regressed to the age of 17 in my listening, gone are the deep meaningful agonized soul searching moments of the past and enter the rock beast.

It’s time to connect to the inner testosterone monster of adolescence and let it all go.

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Or as Syd the dog insists run like a crazed loon through the forest:

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There is always another tree to smell, we just don’t know which one.

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Thankfully the elder statesman Ziggy is there to remind us all to stop and just be:

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I am sure there will be more until then take Ziggy’s advice stop and take a look around and then take a leak.

Your mama told you never to eat your friends…

I got a new title at work. Director of Programs, it’s a title that virtually means nothing. Instead of two program I am now responsible for five, now not all of them are residential  so I have responsibility for outpatient programs as well. I guess technically it is an absolutely correct title.

It’s more interesting, I get to move around a lot more although the office is super quiet without 26 kids clamoring for attention and 40 staff, I got to give them to my protege I guess. She promptly took off to climb a mountain leaving me holding the baby, well adolescents.

In reality my biggest concern may be that my view changed for the worse. I now no longer look out on 90 acres of woodland and creeks but a dumb ass orange canopy and some trash the builders left on the roof.

I also for the first time in 32 years of working life have to figure out what I am going to eat for lunch as I no longer have a cook and a kitchen to meet those needs. I have been eating out quite a bit but that does not seem to be sustainable or even healthy. Alternatives are being considered, I do however seem to have settled on the make a damn sandwich my friend, as my colleague Paul said. There has also been some adjustment to the coffee regime, my new office is enamored of the Keurig, seems wasteful and the coffee is a little weak.

Some non-negotiables in taking this gig, I will not wear long trousers unless it’s too cold or I want to, no ties ever and a pay raise if a suit is required.

So the current view is:

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The previous view:

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I really think I am losing out here. Oh well someone has to do it and it appears that idiot is me.

In a fit of senselessness I managed to acquire a fun desk that goes up and down with a sweet electric motor, how high tech and trendy of me.

In another world the Planet Earth Rock’nRoll Orchestra exploration trundles on with Grace Slick and Paul Kantner’s Sunfighter album. The orchestra members plod on with their spaced out jam fest of an album. Containing songs covering everything from cannibalism to the joys of parenthood via domestic terrorism and vegetarianism and the Kent State incident it’s an album with more ism’s than necessary perhaps.

I also like to think that the album cover inspired our favored grungeanauts although they went all blue and male underwater instead of all sunset and female rising out of the oceans..

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Seems I am on a mission to rediscover these self-indulgent albums one by one. It’s not a bad journey to fill the days after a hard day at work followed by the manual labor of preparing the new homestead.

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Pick axes and string have been involved in creating a solid base for the shed arriving on Friday, this is our first outbuilding as we finally prepare to maybe move in one day soon, actually over the next four weeks. Math was also involved which my wife the clever teacher correctly identified as a practical use of the pythagorean theory. I believed it was magic.

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It is a good job I have early 20’s helpers to wield the pick and shovel at twice the pace an old fart like me can.

Personal liberties…

It’s been an intense couple of weeks. It seems I could come to writing these words just about every day for the last two/three/four years. Truth is there is currently an intensity to life that is both gratifying and terrifying. It’s not that this is a bad thing, it just needs a commitment to life that is intentional.

I have been listening to much of the music I have been reading about on other blogs. Punk, rock, metal and Fripp have percolated around my brain firing the synapses in untoward ways. I have also found myself becoming angered at the news and the actions of our “leaders” in so many ways, this has resulted in an imbalance for me.

Out of the blue I got a call from a voice I had not heard or years, “pack your shit we’re going upriver.”

Filled with a Heart of Darkness moment I agreed and Thursday afternoon we set out, jeep, canoe and party of three, with whiskey a guitar and snare drum, leaving the electronics behind locked in the car we headed out up river on our own journey to escape the noise that is everywhere it seems.

Three days of paddling and singing and drinking, neither Heart of Darkness nor Deliverance but fellowship and a shared desire to reconnect with humanity in the face of a dehumanizing society. Fishing and eating and taking the time to swim and play and lounge in the cool waters.

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Driving down out of the Coast Range we could feel the weight settle on us as the heat intensified from a comfortable 70 to an oppressive mid 90’s. The question then being do you let yourself be sucked back in or address the world as well as you can going forward. As the world closed in around us we turned on the electronics to be confronted with the bleats, peals and notifications of the world discovering we were back.

Sitting on the shelf as I got home was Let The Power Fall by Robert Fripp. An album of Frippertronics from his tour of canteens, record stores, restaurants and theaters. Each track dated for a year from 1984 through 1989, it’s a claustrophobic dense collection of pieces. No guitar heroics or jagged chords but thoughtful collages and constructions of sound that are moments in time from that tour.

In the notes on the back I read:

“We have already entered an era in which the erosion of a wide range of personal liberties to which we have become accustomed, and which are often constitutionally and legally acknowledged, is general and accelerating. To call attention to this is necessarily polemic”

Sitting letting the music wash over me I was painfully aware that things have not changed for the better since 1980. It also is again necessary to be polarizing in drawing attention to this in every day life.

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Heading out later to the intended home we discovered that they have begun to drill our well. This is the last piece of a puzzle we have been putting together for thirteen months. We are all ready to move and get back to the country and if things work out it should be soon.

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