Thursday, February 06, 2014

The Raven (but not That Raven).

My sense of smell is stronger than it probably should be. She smelled like she didn’t much care for deodorant, if she owned any at all. I dismissed this as okay. Curiously, Europeans get a pass on smelling like just rained-on dirt. She spoke at length of a past college thesis, the one that preceded her becoming a professor, it involving the still-mystery that is combustion theory. I knew nothing about any of that, but I took it in, moving things around in my brain to make room, and so glad at this sudden opportunity to learn.

When I had the chance to speak, my subjects paled in comparison—what I did for fun, how long I’d lived here—but she let me speak, didn’t try to complete one sentence, seemed to welcome not having to talk herself. I occasionally wondered, mid-sentence, if she understood every word I said. I’d dismiss the notion just as quickly, too, as her listening was intense and rapt and wonderful and rare. So what if she didn’t? Hours into our meeting for the first time and already she was making a fast habit of using my words to hang on; I may as well have been telling tall tales around a campfire. I wanted to prolong that feeling of being listened to so reverently, wanted to stretch these moments out into days.

Monday, October 28, 2013

this american life: the writer edition.


sometimes you wake up on a Sunday night (third time in four hours) and you have the most clear thought in your head that you dig around for an unused field notes notebook and you quickly scrawl it out so you can remember it later. and, as far as you're able to tell the next day, it's shouting at you in manic, scribbly diagonal lines.

"in the end, I intend to write about all of it. and it will show up in scripts and it will show up in poems and stories and my blog and sometimes on Facebook, too. it'll make it hard to collect it all and put it inside a portfolio, but I will have made my mark, my stain on this world."

you've succeeded at determining your life's mission, see, and, once you're finally able to get back to sleep (if that's what you want to call it at this point), you promptly return to doing other things that also make a world of sense, like a dropping a deodorant stick in your dreams, one that shatters and turns into really big, really gross maggots.  

Monday, October 07, 2013

Help Jay William Henderson Make You Some Songs.



Today’s been one of those rainy, gray ones. In my mind, that makes it the best of days. Instead of falling leaves all the burnt colors of Fall, we’ve daily visits by buckets of raindrops and the occasional surprise clap of thunder. Instead of being clobbered with sunshine with the season switch, I can pretend it’s a sweater’y day in Portland. The air conditioner has eased up and my candle is sending over its best cinnamon-vanilla wafts. On my mind? Pie. I’ve taken a break from the four Frank Sinatra albums I slipped and fell into today (judge if you must) and put on a different kind of soundtrack, Jay William Henderson’s magnificent The SunWill Burn Our Eyes. Not the streaming bandcamp laptop variety, either. There’s no wrestling with tinny speakers here. This is campfire-warm vinyl, the one to match the mellow mood of this space. After all, he’s got a voice that makes more sense in this setting, this season. Ol’ Blue Eyes can wait.

I didn’t learn until a few days ago that the singer-songwriter had another album in him. But, without any real fanfare whatsoever, a message was sent out that, yes, he’d some songs he’d conjured up, songs he wanted pretty badly to share. After spending some time in Nashville, he’d returned to Utah, spending days on end writing and singing songs in the desert. Who knew? The long and short of it? He’s trying to raise the requisite funds to get these songs, a whole album of them, to those who would like to hear it. Call me crazy, but I’d imagine there’s plenty out there who’d like to hear it.

You see, he’s got a certain kind of world-weariness about him. His songs come out smooth, but not overly so. There’s sun-drenched dust scattered through verses and half empty bottles of easily accessible Bulleit in the shadows. His tales belong to troubadours … cowboys with a past … wearied wanderers. Throw in a harmonica and some chaw and this is the stuff of a forgotten—but loved—Western. “Lonely Man” or “Let The Sail Be Your Guide” will end up on the opening credits of a black-and-white Johnny Depp something-or-other someday, mark my words. Perhaps I get a little to close to over-romanticizing? Eh, that’ll happen.

If he raises $6,500 or more in the next 24 days, the album will come out by early next year. If he doesn’t, chances are good that it won’t. Fans are in the driver’s seat on this one, though. He’s about a third of the way there, but there’s no time for standing on the sidelines, folks.   

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ruminations on Johnny Cash, 10 years later.


I was in my parent’s van and on the way to my grandfather’s funeral when I learned that Johnny Cash had died. We’d just gassed up and I’d grabbed a USA Today before being dealt that blow.

I should back up. He’s not really my grandfather, not by blood. And he’s not even my stepdad’s actual father. Grandpa Stan is my stepdad’s stepdad, and we were on our way to Canada to pay our respects. We would attend a funeral in a small chapel, where my adopted grandma wouldn’t have it in her to properly reveal her sadness. Dry tear ducts, you know. She was as broken up as anyone else, but never had the tears to show for it.

I recall a kindly man who looked vaguely like Jimmy Durante. He had dimmed eyes and a smile to share; he had a joke or story for you, too, and you would hold off on whatever else you were doing to take it in. Grandpa Stan buoyed you up, whether you liked it or not. And you always did.

Still, there wasn’t enough time to get to know him for me to get sad. I hadn’t enough shared conversations. Instead, I had small talk at Christmastime. This a man who had survived a plane crash while in the air force. Shot down in India, with a lifetime of back problems to show for it. Now? He was well liked and hard of hearing. He’d survived right on into his 90s and it was his time to bow out, but not without a certain kind of graciousness. He’d lived a full and storied life.  

The news of Johnny Cash, on the other hand, was a surprise punch in my gut. Sure, his June had passed on not long before and, yes, he’d had his health problems, but he wasn’t supposed to die. Hospital visits and bouts with drugs were simply obstacles to step around and look past. He may as well have been a grandpa of mine, one I’d grown up with long enough to miss. I’d filled my head with enough of his tales, enjoyed enough of his concerts for the prisoners. He was the real thing. Genuine. Extraordinary. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Next Time by Joyce Sutphen


I'll know the names of all of the birds
and flowers, and not only that, I'll
tell you the name of the piano player
I'm hearing right now on the kitchen
radio, but I won't be in the kitchen,

I'll be walking a street in
New York or London, about
to enter a coffee shop where people
are reading or working on their
laptops. They'll look up and smile.

Next time I won't waste my heart
on anger; I won't care about
being right. I'll be willing to be
wrong about everything and to
concentrate on giving myself away.

Next time, I'll rush up to people I love,
look into their eyes, and kiss them, quick.
I'll give everyone a poem I didn't write,
one specially chosen for that person.
They'll hold it up and see a new
world. We'll sing the morning in,

and I will keep in touch with friends,
writing long letters when I wake from
a dream where they appear on the
Orient Express. "Meet me in Istanbul,"
I'll say, and they will.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Star Wars in the 7-11.


I'd only gone into 7-11 to buy a water. The cashier told me that, if I ponied up for the bigger size, it'd be 2 for $2. A steal, I thought, and I quickly acted on her suggestion. Got back to the counter and she commented on my metal bracelet, asked where I'd bought it. My answer: a thrift store. I asked after the tattoo on her forearm, an incredibly detailed rendering of the Millennium Falcon, as yet unfinished, and there to cover up the failed tree rings tattoo just beneath. She told me how her blood type or skin color meant that tattoo had changed colors and she didn't like it anymore. All at once, I felt like I might as well be playing the lead in some unwritten indie film, and this scene was acting itself out pretty well so far. Paid and left. I'd only gone into 7-11 to buy a water.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Jay William Henderson (is a) Lonely Man.


In case you've not yet heard this musician or seen this beautifully orchestrated video he unveiled just a couple days ago, allow me to throw back the curtain for you and help do the secondary honors. It's a curious thing, when images are allowed to match up with the sounds you already like so much; I consider this a success on both accounts. I'd love to see if there are more videos to follow but, even if there aren't, this is worthy of playing and replaying, liking and flat out loving.

JAY WILLIAM HENDERSON // Lonely Man - recorded live at the Pleasure Palace from jd brickmaynard cowboy on Vimeo.

Monday, January 14, 2013

2013, a year to discover.


As it’s so many days into the new year, I feel compelled to collect some thoughts in this space, something I used to do much more. If there’s a reason, perhaps it’ll reveal itself at some point. And, if not, that’s okay, too.

I left my job of three or so years just over a month ago, so I’ve a little more time on my hands than I once did. It’s funny, though: I left a job where I wrote for a living and, in the space of time since, I’ve done relatively little of the sort. It’s been several weeks well spent visiting family, reconnecting with faces and friends I’ve not seen in years and seeing my world cast in an altogether new light and hue. And, in my quieter moments, it must be said, I’ve wondered at what my future might bring, too.

I can’t help but expect good, fulfilling, exciting things to happen this year. I left my job, not because I was entirely unhappy, but because I was in a stagnant place; I didn’t feel like I’d any other choice but to do so. When your gut acts up and says it’s time to push on, you can’t really argue—you feel any kind of fear in the decision and push onward, believing in what’s next. The funny thing is, I felt no fear. I’ve sort of made a life out of not worrying and not fearing and this followed that pattern. Three years is a long time to give yourself to anyone or anything. When the growth has stopped, when there is no longer progress, when you’ve no real goals to aspire towards, you go about finding that new path. That’s where I am, walking to wherever it leads. I see it as a new adventure. I’ve real hope in what’s next. 

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Sound of Scampering: The Latest.

For the new readers of this little spot on the Web, I wrote and published a collection of poetry recently. And, for readers both new and old, I have a new website to send to point you towards if you'd like to add a copy to your various piles of books. It just launched last night and isn't the sole place you can place an order (either paperback or electronic versions), but it's a pretty title-specific place to do so. Pretty easy to remember, even. With further adieu then, head towards this spot:


And, in closing, should you grab yourself a copy and have anything to say about what you read or experienced (both good or bad), I'd welcome your comments. If you don't want to say two words, hey, that's fine, too. 

Have a great day. As for myself, the sun's shining where I am and I'm warm. Life's grand, it really is.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Taking the Hands.

Taking the hands of someone you love,
You see they are delicate cages . . .
Tiny birds are singing
In the secluded prairies
And in the deep valleys of the hand.

"Taking the Hands" by Robert Bly, from Silence in the Snowy Fields.