32. Independence day.

 

‘Til the world falls apart
I wanna be with you
I wanna be with you
That’s what I wanna do
Until they rip out my heart
I wanna be with you, I wanna be with you
Well that’s all I wanna do

Springsteen, I wanna be with you.

 

DSC_1215

Fourth of July fever had gripped New Jersey by the time I arrived; stars and stripes as far as the eye could see. No one does this sort of thing like Americans. Every house, to varying degrees, seemed to be sporting the colours. Some were happy simply to put a flag above the door, others were clearly serial festooners and bedeckers. Forests of flags had sprouted in Jersey girl’s little township, it was quite a sight.

DSC_1217
So, this is normal huh?

I confess there was a time in my life when I would have been decidedly uncomfortable with that level of rampant nationalism, but I guess I’m getting mellow in my old age, because now I simply saw it as exuberance and pageantry, not to mention a series of photo opportunities. Besides, this carnival of colour perfectly reflected my mood. I was back, back in Jersey, and back with my girl.

DSC_1218 (2)

To celebrate my arrival, Jersey girl and I took the kids to Clinton. That was a little different to what we’d done the last time. That fall we’d taken ourselves off to lunch (sans kids) at a bizarre little roadside bar not far from home.

The place had been all sorts of wrong, but they did killer buffalo wings, the beer was good and, best of all, we’d had each other within reach again, what could be better than that?

I know it’s just possible I sing the praises of this woman a little too much, but at the risk of sounding repetitive, when I’m in her company I feel like the luckiest man alive. I’d just never believed, until her, that it was possible to find a fit like this.

I don’t know about you, faithful reader, but through all the other relationships of my miss spent past, I have always felt the need to hold a part of myself back*. There was ever a sense (perhaps an erroneous one) that, were the other person to know me completely, they would be sure to run. Perhaps this stemmed from being abandoned by my father at a tender age; who knows?

Seriously, do you know? I have no frickin’ idea.

Whatever the reason, I never gave fully of myself, and I think my partners always sensed that. It’s ironic I suppose that the method I chose to avoid abandonment is probably the very cause and reason why I was always ultimately abandoned.

This time, it could not be more different. It’s impossible to describe the mechanism which told us this, but both of us knew from the very beginning that we had met the person with whom we could safely share absolutely everything.

I hope that you, dear reader, have found that person in your own life. If so, you have my heartfelt congratulations, you have achieved something truly rare. Hold on to what you have with both hands, lest it slip away in some careless or distracted moment.

Those really were a magical couple of hours spent in the dim interior of that strange little bar. We laughed a lot over our buffalo wings. And the buzz we were enjoying was due to much more than the beers we were imbibing.

That’s what happiness is, a lazy afternoon spent with the love of your life after a months- long separation.

Frozen yogurts with the kids in Clinton was good too.

DSC_1194 (3)

*I’ve spoken at length about the ‘glass partition’ in a previous post and I guess this is another aspect of that.

All images used in this post are my own.

©2016

From the shotgun shack to the Superdome

 

“I have spent most of my time as a musician measuring the distance between the American dream and the American reality.” ~ Bruce Springsteen.

 

 

One thing I admire immensely about Springsteen is the way that, in recent years especially, he has been unflinchingly critical of the criminal bankers (I prefer the term banksters). His contempt for the sociopathic opportunists who have all but reduced the world to the bare bones is barely, if ever, disguised.

No small number of his songs reflect this animosity, but he chooses many and varied ways to voice it. The song Jack of all trades strikes very directly with lines like,

The banker man grows fat, working man grows thin
It’s all happened before and it’ll happen again
It’ll happen again, yeah they’ll bet your life
I’m a jack of all trades, darling we’ll be all right

or

if I had me a gun, I’d find the bastards and shoot ‘em on sight.

Death to my home town is equally direct. Couched in the style of a traditional Irish rebel song (replete with brogue) it speaks to the underhanded way these corporate bandits destroyed whole communities (with, it might be added, the complicity of the world’s governments).

Now, no shells ripped the evening sky
No cities burning down
No army stormed the shores for which we’d die
No dictators were crowned
I awoke on a quiet night, I never heard a sound
The marauders raided in the dark
And brought death to my hometown

Easy money, delivered as a metaphor also attacks the greed fueled moral turpitude of the banksters.

There’s nothing to it mister
You won’t hear a sound
When your whole world comes tumbling down
And all them fat cats, they’ll just think it’s funny
I’m goin’ on the town now, lookin’ for easy money

In the ironically titled We take care of our own, Springsteen also indicts the banksters’ partner in crime, government, for its failure to react effectively in crisis’ from Katrina to the GFC.

I been knocking on the door that holds the throne
I been looking for the map that leads me home
I been stumbling on good hearts turned to stone
The road of good intentions has gone dry as a bone
We take care of our own

Wherever this flag’s flown
We take care of our own

From Chicago to New Orleans
From the muscle to the bone
From the shotgun shack to the Superdome
There ain’t no help, the cavalry stayed home
There ain’t no one hearing the bugle blowin’
We take care of our own

Then there’s the up-tempo, Seegeresque Shackled and drawn, documenting the distance between the powerlessness of individual working men and women…

Shackled and drawn, shackled and drawn
Pick up the rock son, carry it on
I’m trudging through the dark in a world gone wrong
I woke up this morning shackled and drawn

… and the greed and untouchability of the bankster.

Gambling man rolls the dice, workingman pays the bill
It’s still fat and easy up on banker’s hill
Up on banker’s hill, the party’s going strong
Down here below we’re shackled and drawn

In the truly beautiful This depression, we peer into the deeply personal internal world of a man at the end of his rope. Presented within the intimacy of a love song, we see the true cost in human suffering of human greed.

Baby, I’ve been down, but never this down
I’ve been lost, but never this lost

This is my confession
I need your heart
In this depression
I need your heart

I haven’t always been strong, but never felt so weak
All of my prayers, gone for nothing
I’ve been without love, but never forsaken
Now the morning sun, the morning sun is breaking

In How can a poor man stand such times and live? He again confronts The disaster in New Orleans and damns the government’s uncaring attitude towards the poor.

There’s bodies floatin’ on Canal and the levees gone to Hell
Martha, get me my sixteen gauge and some dry shells
Them who’s got got out of town and them who ain’t got left to drown
Tell me how can a poor man stand such times and live

Go ahead!

Got family scattered from Texas all the way to Baltimore
Yeah and I ain’t got no home in this world no more
Gonna be a judgment that’s a fact, a righteous train rollin’ down this track
Tell me how can a poor man stand such times and live
Tell me how can a poor man stand such times and live
Tell me how can a poor man stand such times and live?

What has this to do with the banksters? perhaps nothing, perhaps everything. When the Banks blew all our money on their insane gambling spree, what did government do? That’s right, they took our hard earned tax dollars and pumped them back up.

When the poor of New Orleans needed help, what did they do? They sent Blackwater in to shoot ‘looters’.

That it is left to a man, himself worth hundreds of millions of dollars, to be almost the lone voice of the disenfranchised says something about the complacency of our culture. Even as whole institutions lay waste to our society, we sit by and wait for someone else to fix the problem for us.

The message in Springsteen’s songs is pretty clear. The government won’t save you, they’re owned by the banksters. The Banks won’t save you, there’s no profit in it. And I can’t save you, I’m just a musician.

Maybe we have to save ourselves.

There ain’t no help, the cavalry stayed home
There ain’t no one hearing the bugle blowin’

We take care of our own.

 

 

 

©2016

 

 

 

 

31. Long time coming

 

‘Round your hair the sun lifts a halo
At your lips a crown of thorns
Whatever other deals goin’ down
To this one I’m sworn

I’ll work for your love, dear
I’ll work for your love
What others may want for free
I’ll work for your love

Springsteen, I’ll work for your love

 

IMG_7948a

Frenzied; if you want a single word that describes the first twenty-four hours of any visit, that’d be it. After that, it drops back to crazed and eventually levels out at unseemly. This is a consequence of long separation and the uncertainties that stem from the tyranny of distance.

This time, though, there was another element; a deeper tenderness. We both felt it; it was as if our passion had acquired a new and beautiful layer. I’m not sure how to describe it except to say it became more like music; more resonant and deeply harmonious.

This was unexpected. Things had always been so good between us physically that I really hadn’t thought that there was anywhere else to go from there. Unflinching intimacy had always been a hallmark of our relationship. Even in the days when all our communications were shared only in text, we exposed our deepest wounds and flaws; things we’d never told another living soul.

And that level of intimacy and trust had transferred itself effortlessly into our physical relationship. When you know another that well, how could it not?

And still, this new layer ran deeper. Things slowed down. Our bubble lost all sense of time. Outside, the world ended and was reborn nightly.

Finally… finally, we truly met.

Hello, beautiful soul.

©2016

Life on Mars?

 

Time – He’s waiting in the wings
He speaks of senseless things
His script is you and me boys
Time – He flexes like a whore
Falls wanking to the floor
His trick is you and me, boy
Time – In Quaaludes and red wine
Demanding Billy Dolls
And other friends of mine
Take your time

Bowie, Time

 

I’m honestly not sure what I think about this. I’ve never been much of a fan of Lady Gaga and her debt to Bowie was so apparent it bordered on plagiarism. Some of the performance here is not bad, but somehow she manages to trivialize the importance of the music and focus too much on the imagery.

I feel this effort from young New Zealander, Lorde is probably more honest and has the advantage of being backed by Bowie’s last touring band (including the inestimable Gail Ann Dorsey).

 

One thing both tributes do achieve is to remind us again just how many amazing musical moments this insanely talented man gave us.

30. Garden of a thousand sighs

 

Well, I will provide for you
And I’ll stand by your side
You’ll need a good companion now
For this part of the ride
Leave behind your sorrows
Let this day be the last
Tomorrow there’ll be sunshine
And all this darkness past

Springsteen, Land of Hope and Dreams

 

Another New Jersey summer.

DSC_1216b

Left to my own devices I would probably have come in the spring, but she asked me to be there for the kids’ summer break. She was working full time by then and wanted me to be around for them. She’d taken two weeks off for my visit, (I have to say the US is incredibly stingy with vacation leave – In Australia we get four weeks a year, paid) and I was sitter guy the rest of the time.

It’s a ridiculous system that has almost all the school breaks for the year lumped into one months-long stretch. It probably worked OK when mothers mostly stayed home, but now it causes nothing but headaches and expense; just another example of a system that refuses to recognize the changing times.

DSC_1178 (2)

Fortunately, I get on well with all of Jersey girl’s kids and there has never been a problem of any sort. I know, right? What are the odds? We bonded pretty quickly and they all treated me as one of the family pretty much from the get-go.

Jersey girl, fortunately, works a rotating roster in her job, so she had a few days free during those working weeks too. All in all, it worked out pretty well.

You may be wondering where the kids’ actual dad is at this point and well you might. I’ll keep things civilized and leave it to your own suppositions; you read blogs, you’re obviously a smart bunch. All I’ll say is that he’s come to be known as Mr minimum legal effort required.

DSC_1097
A little surprise the kids cooked up for my arrival.

It was so damned good to be back. NJ already felt more embracing to me than the city I’ve lived in for the past twenty-seven years. As usual, I just slotted back into place as if I’d never been away.

The kids were making fun of pretty much everything about me (accent, locution, appearance, general ignorance of the ways of the Jerz) within an hour or two of saying hello (I’m tearing up a little just thinking about it).

This was – I was –  home. Every time I returned, that was becoming more and more obvious.

DSC_1490

All images used in this post are my own.

©2016

21a. Inside the bubble

 

 

My fingertips

Drawing lines on

goose-bumped vellum

Unschooled cartographer

Ranging

Her topography

Eye to eye

Unblinking

An inch between

Raw, nerves singing

Animal songs

Pressed flesh

Undressing, uncivilizing

Tearing at body’s freckled fabric

She wants to be unbound, unearthed, unskinned

Too long a prisoner

Pushing against the yield

Reopening unheeded wounds

Hard stone

Warm wax

She becomes new creature

It all runs out.

 

DSC_1767AA

Words and image are mine.

©2016