November 2006

There’s a new book out that someone suggested I read, called “The Female Brain.” I skimmed through it for a minute and I can see that I’m in for a real education. Not sure exactly how I’ll integrate that information into my life, but I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, I’m clueless. Here’s a poem by Mark Halliday, called “Refusal to Notice Beautiful Women”:

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before.
It’s so simple: I just won’t notice.
Twenty years ago the hormones would have exploded this idea
but now I’m- now I have the wisdom of- anyway
I’ll just be like “What? Oh, I didn’t notice. Where?
Over there? Nope, didn’t happen to see her.”
Life is going to be a lot easier. I’ll read more books;
I won’t keep looking up when somone comes into the cafe
because who cares? I mean,

to hell with them! They want to be so impossible?
They want to be so many versions of sublimity on two legs?
Let them go watch each other, whatever, let them go tantalize
lurching iron pumpers who wear backwards baseball caps.
Or let them go get engagement rings from suits that wear cologne,
vice presidents with tickets to Jamaica. I’m very vague on all that
because I’m so devoted to other values. Like,
“art’s endless campaign to represent the mysteries of the spirit’s
passage through the realm of time and change.’ That’s
what I’m all about- but I get distracted I mean till now I did
get distracted by BWs but that’s over. Finito.
Let them shimmer and slink in Jamaica,
let their bikinis be murderous-
that’s only flesh! Flesh is nothing but- you know, it’s only meat.
It’s only physical substance. With whatever warmth and smoothness
ultimately it’s- well, the seventeenth-century guys called it dust
and they had a point. Were they happy? Well,
that’s not my problem. I’ve got very large bookstores I can go to
where a thousand books are shiny and smooth-

I abjure Jamaica. I extract Jamaica from my heart
with the tweezers of mature sobriety. Not that I had any actual access
okay okay anyway I have this life now: I embrace it.
My jeans are wearing through at the kness. i embrace this.
My hair, to the extent that it remains, points northeast in a peculiar way
since my last haircut by Dawnette who is much less sexy than her name
and who calls to mind a vat of mashed potato- but I don’t say that
because she’s human, plus I’m not thinking about how any woman looks.
Yesterday I spilled ginger ale all over the seat of my gray Mazda-
all right. It’s my life. I accept it. The thought that a BW is unlikely
to ride in an old gray Mazda coated with ginger ale does not come up.
I read books. Oh,
perhaps on occasion I recall that in 1967 Kathy Farley smiled at me
on Thayer Street but I know that has become fiction, she is fictive,
and I’m off now to a very large bookstore,
and once I’ve got a tall mocha and some slim volumes in the cafe
even the Michelle Pfeiffer of 1983 couldn’t make me look up.

I played the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood on Monday night. It was an ASCAP show called “Quiet on the Set.” It’s an ongoing series put together by my longtime friend Brendan Okrent. There were six writers, each playing short sets. I played “Nobody’s Girl”, “Mercy, Pity, Peace & Love”, “Everything Comes Easy To Me”, sequeing into an excerpt from “My Funny Valentine”, and “Just My Imagination.” The crowd sang the chorus of “Just My Imagination” beautifully. I love to ‘jump into the mosh pit’, metaphorically speaking, and see if they’ll catch me, by not singing the chorus, and seeing if the audience will jump in and carry it. They did. Songs like that are so permanently etched on our souls, that it’s almost as if they’re playing as an endless loop in our minds, waiting for us to open our mouths and let the song come forth.
Adam Levy was there. He was in LA rehearsing with Norah Jones for the tour to promote the release of her 3rd album. We hung out backstage passing the guitar back and forth, trading songs and stories. He’s just finished recording a new studio album of his own in New York. He’s recorded a new version of our song, “I Put a Spell on You”, that I can’t wait to hear. The best live music gets played backstage. It’s such a strange way station. I want to do a photo series of backstages all around the world. Some are amazing. The green rooms at the Vredenburg concert hall in Utrecht, Holland, have ironing boards, separate private bathrooms, lighted mirrors, a full bar and restaurant, etc. Many however are like a tenement apartment in Spanish Harlem, funky! The Hotel Cafe is somewhere in between. Lot’s of friends that night. John Leftwich, killer stand-up bass player that I’ve worked with a lot. He played with Chet Baker in the “Let’s Get Lost” movie and album, Julian Coryell, son of guitar legend Larry Coryell, bass player Vivi Rama from Argentina, who I’d played a show with last summer, Phil Roy, new Welsh artist Paul Freeman, Dan Bern and more. Spoke with Dan Bern briefly. He’s become a painter and we talked about that; how we’ve both found something with our visual art that exists in a “pure” place unadulterated by the world, in the way that the music has been. I must say, however, that to blame the music business for ‘adulterating’ the music, is becoming an outdated excuse. The music biz exists in a diminished state these days. Well, there will continue to be music and business in some fashion, I’m sure.

Finished reading Stephen King’s book, “On Writing.” I’d forgotten that he was hit by a van, walking along a road in Maine a few years back. Mainer + alcohol + van = trouble! Walking in the woods up there, someone’s apt to shoot you, mistaking you for a moose! Give me the safety of the streets of New York.
The thing that really hit me in his comments on the craft of writing, was the moment early on, when he realized that the writing didn’t just fall down upon you from heaven. It was a hippie line of thought that cost me a lot of wasted years, not acknowledging the concepts of craft and discipline. Here’s a quote from Stephen;
“I don’t want to speak too disparagingly of my generation (actually I do, we had a chance to change the world and opted for the Home Shopping Network instead) but there was a view among the student writers I knew at that time that good writing came spontaneously, in an uprush of feeling that had to be caught at once; when you were building that all-important stairway to heaven, you couldn’t just stand around with your hammer in your hand…
Would-be poets were living in a dewy Tolkien-tinged world, catching poems out of the ether. It was pretty much unanimous: serious art came from…out there! Writers were blessed stenographers taking divine dictation.”

Of course, his point is that in order to receive ‘divine dictation’ you’ve got to learn how to write it down.

“At it’s most basic we are only discussing a learned skill, but do we not agree that sometimes the most basic skills can create things far beyond our expectations? We are talking about tools and carpentry, about words and style…but as we move along, you’d do well to remember that we are also talking about magic.”