Home (Another Song)

might be about life

might just be about sailing

I’ve sailed upon this wilderness all my life
This sea has taught me everything I’ve learned
It’s taken from me everything I ever had
And all I ever had has been returned

Hard weather howled horizon to horizon
Tackle overboard and lost for good
Fearsome creatures prowling in my wake each day
Sun and stars still found me when they could

So many islands green and fair crossed my bow
So many times I thought to go ashore
But not one held the port I knew awaited me
One by one they fell astern forevermore

The time has come to furl my sails and ship the oars
Time to end this life on brine and foam
My time’s been spent in just the way it should have been
And now’s the time, and now, oh now I’m home


Do the Math

Second of four songs I wrote in February.

Best Beloved’s feet are even itchier than mine. We’ve driven all over two countries and we’ll never really settle down.

Seed for the song (this version, #3 I think) came from the discovery that Best Beloved’s favorite client was born in the tiny hamlet of Valentine Nebraska, a place we considered moving after driving through, just because it was so beautiful.

A few forced lyrics; I was in a hurry. Suggestions for better wording are always welcome.

like I said last night it’s time to go
ain’t sayin nothin you don’t already know
can’t do the math to stay in one place too long
I’ll tell you something so you know nothing’s wrong

gear’s loaded, truck’s warming up
good strong coffee, poured you a cup
guitar behind the seat, backpacks in the bed
so get your boots on, we gotta go just like I said

can’t do the math where you and I get divided
pluses and minuses are all pretty one-sided
you’ve already seen some action
but I’m telling you it’s only a fraction
add it all up you’ll get the same answer I did

valley in north Nebraska near Valentine
couple of minutes from the South Dakota state line
peaceful quiet and green where the river winds through
I’ve seen it before but now I wanna see it with you

can’t do the math where you and I get divided
pluses and minuses are all pretty one-sided
you’ve already seen some action
but I’m telling you it’s only a fraction
add it all up you’ll get the same answer I did

middle of the country the tall grass covers the plains
speed limit means we can have some fun racing the trains
sit behind the Flint Hills see the sunset silhouette
I’ve seen it before, but I haven’t seen it with you yet

can’t do the math where you and I get divided
pluses and minuses are all pretty one-sided
you’ve already seen some action
but I’m telling you it’s only a fraction
add it all up you’ll get the same answer I did

follow the ocean San Diego up to Vancouver
water left, dirt right; not a complicated maneuver
head across to Newfoundland take a ferry over the sea
how you do the math doesn’t make any difference to me

except I can’t do the math where you and I get divided
pluses and minuses are all pretty one-sided
you’ve already seen some action
but I’m telling you it’s only a fraction
add it all up you’ll get the same answer I did


Dark of Night

I’ve been participating in February Album Writing Month for 15 years. Though I’m not aiming for 30+ songs during February like the past two years, or even the standard goal of 14, I couldn’t let the month pass without writing something. Which, of course, happened spontaneously as I was trying to sleep one night last week.

Dark of Night

You’re the dark of night
You steal the sun from the sky
You’re the dark of night
Make the songbirds cry
You’re the dark of night
And I don’t understand why

You told me you loved me
Sweet as a slice of peach pie
You told me you loved me
Intoxicating as rock and rye
You told me you loved me
You knew all along it was a lie

You took my heart
Made me think I could fly
You took my heart
Told me I was your guy
You took my heart
Was just a piece of meat for you to fry

You’re the dark of night
You steal the sun from the sky
You’re the dark of night
Make the songbirds cry
You’re the dark of night
I’ll never understand why


02022020

Palindromes fascinate me, even palindromic dates.

Here’s a video about what made yesterday (missed it by that much!) not only unusual, but unique in the Gregorian dating system.

Music! Laughs! Bad Hair!

And, more fun perhaps, here’s Weird Al’s take on one of the best music videos ever created, Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues. You’ll see why it’s in today’s post.

Al

Bob

Here’s some 02022020 art I made.


A Month into Winter

Not that the Phoenix valley has much of a winter, but this year was more wintery than the past two; December’s highest temp was 73º but the previous two years it was in the low 80s.

For the first time in 15 years, I’m not knee-deep in songwriting. I’ve participated in February Album-Writing Month since 2006, some years writing as many as 32 songs in a single month. I want to write at least one to celebrate my 15th FAWM, but I’m having a hard time dredging up the feeling.

I’m also 6 months or so behind on delivering the third Jake Calcutta story. And don’t get me started on the third Irish Adventure; poor Web Martin ended his second adventure on a low note and I’ve been meaning for years to lift his spirits with another chapter in his life.

The family band used to practice music 5 days a week. We’ve been up in the music room twice in five months. I’ve barely strummed my brand new 3/4-size Orangewood guitar. It’s beautiful, easy to play, great-sounding, and parked beside my desk. But, parked. In the same stand as my Blueridge tenor, the most wonderful musical instrument I’ve ever owned.

Moving my mother into assisted living absolutely trashed me physically and emotionally. Getting herself evicted in under 90 days because she’s so uncooperative was a gut-kick to Best Beloved and I after all the time, energy, and money we spent making it happen.

I usually ignore my age; I don’t celebrate birthdays, and the only reason I know my age most of the time is that it ends with the same number as the year. I haven’t been conscious of anything special about turning 60 the end of last month, but I have been feeling old, slow, a bit bleak.


Bells

His mother picked up his sister from our house. She said he’s not answering his phone we have to go.

His mother, young enough to be my daughter, cut him down.

His sister ran to the neighbor, my friend: he’s dead he’s dead.

My friend knelt over him in the hallway for two hours doing CPR until the paramedics came. Two hours.

The paramedics worked for two hours before they gave up.

My friend texted me. He just didn’t have the strength for the phone call.

I told my wife. She cried.

We talked. We told our daughter. She cried. Her first death.

My wife said I have to be there. We went over.

We hugged everybody. Everybody hugged everybody.

There was no crying left.


Three months later I wrote this song.

I finally cried.

Bells

I really don’t blame him he chose not to call
he’d been there for hours crouched in the hall
he sent me the message my heart tore in two
said someone was dead he said it was you

there should have been bells
so everyone would know
’cause the silence is killing me
since you had to go

Why didn’t I see you were so lost?
Would have done anything, paid any cost
But I never asked, and you never said
And some days I wish, it was me instead

there should have been bells
so everyone would know
’cause the silence is killing me
since you had to go

no matter how black there’s always hope
but it’s hard to see at the end of your rope
in the middle of love now there’s a hole
silence so loud taking its toll

there should have been bells
so everyone would know
’cause the silence is killing me
since you had to go


Arthritis Finger

I’ve had some flexible squishy tape wrapped around the last joint of my left index finger for over 5 weeks. The doctor is treating a symptom of the severe arthritis in that joint.

On the surface, that sounds like typical old guy stuff.

Let’s dig below that surface.

First, a conundrum: the same joint on my pinkie finger on the same hand has the same severity of damage, yet feels no pain, no discomfort of any kind.

Next, the deeper issue: as a musician, the top joint of my index finger is vital to playing any instrument. You use your left hand to choose the notes you’re playing, and it has to be strong and flexible. Arthritis is neither of those.

The damaged joint affects me physically, and concern about its future affects me emotionally.

There’s good news. The pain and swelling has been exacerbated by a cyst at the end of a bone spur. The bone spur is quite small; the cyst was growing. And painful. And causing swelling and pain in the joint.

Large doses of anti-inflammatory meds plus a 6-week regimen of light pressure (thus the wrap) has almost eliminated the swelling, and reduced the pain, even when I’m playing an instrument, to negligible levels.

Videos of Les Paul, a great enough guitarist to have the most famous guitar in the world name for him, show his aged hands twisted with arthritis, the knuckles swollen.

He was still Les Paul, still one of the greatest jazz guitarists in the world, ever.

I’m gonna hang on to that image.


The Stranger on the Road

a barnEver since he’d set the barn up as a recording studio, he’d wanted a window so he could see his farm while he played. Windows not being inherently sound-deadening, it was a complication, but over time he’d hit upon a solution involving multiple layers of glass embedded in spongy soft stuff that helped reduce sound transmission.

So when the old man in the battered brown hat headed up his gravel driveway, he didn’t have to wait for the surprise of someone banging on the big barn door and messing up the track he was recording. He’d stopped playing his old Telecaster to watch as the stranger trudged up the drive, never raising his head enough to reveal his face.

But there was no banging on the door. With no windows anywhere else in the barn, he didn’t know if the old guy had gone around, or was just standing there.

Easy enough to find out.

He hung the guitar on the wall and crossed to the door, sliding the crossbar and pushing outward.

Mr. Brown Hat stepped back, blinking, obviously surprised.

“Um, hey, I’m sorry, uh, I was just . . . ” His hands wiggled around as he talked.

“Did you need something? Like, I mean, are you lost? Long way from anywhere, sir.”

The elderly gent chuckled. “I’ve been lost a long, long time, but not how you mean.” He shuffled his feet, glanced toward the road, shoved his hands in his pockets.

“I was passing, y’know, just walking down the road, and I heard the music, and, well, it drew me. I wasn’t trying to trespass, just getting closer to hear it better.”

That brought a chuckle. “You do realize that’s the shortest route to a musician’s heart, right?”

He pushed the door open wider. “If you want to listen, you might as well come in and get comfortable.”

The traveler pulled his hat off and held out his hand. “Morris. Morris Michael Miller. For which I apologize on behalf of my long-departed parents.”

“No apology necessary, Morris Michael Miller. I’m Reed. Reed Smith, most common last name in the English-speaking world, I guess.”

“There’s a reason for that, but instead of boring you with that, what if I sit down and shut up and you can play some more of that hopeful-sounding stuff you were playing.”

Reed smiled. “Hopeful? I guess the words made the music lean that way. Come on in.”

Morris found his way to one of the battered old kitchen chairs near the biggest speakers, and Reed grabbed the Tele and sat down to play.

He had no idea he’d just begun the greatest friendship of his life, nor that the stranger he’d taken in would live out the rest of his long life on the farm he’d been passing for no reason except that was where the road took him.