Year: 2021

Vampires In Love (live, solo)

My favorite new track this year. Written with Composer+Producer Masaya Ozaki (https://masayaozaki.com), in response to a call he received from a music licensing company for “summer songs about adventure and time.” Every once in a while, I write with no irony. Anti-confessional mode, you might say.

“Screw off, I’m happy.”
– Summer2021

lyrics
sometimes words don’t mean anything
with you i don’t need to speak
our future lies
across the great divide
and there’s nowhere i’d rather be

you’re my queen
you can lean on me
you’re my dream
nothing comes between

all the world can melt away
all the colors turn to gray
there’d still be nothing left to say but
you and me

baby can you see love is in reach
even where sunshine’s never in view
and in a thousand years
love never disappears
it’ll always feel something new

Clouds Over LA (Sarsaparilla Sessions 20210210)

A song written in 2018 in Laurel Canyon, CA. Performed this year in Lowell, MA (which we affectionately called Lowell Canyon while living there for 8 months in 2021).

LYRICS

time will not release
a missing puzzle piece
or faded memories
of deleted scenes

you can’t watch a sunrise
through someone else’s eyes
if they never see you
in dreams

clouds over LA
dance alone
between skies

distant freeways shimmer
traffic as rivers
red and white ribbons
valley to sky

lost friends reappear
in dusty windshields
as evening light hits
California 5

clouds over LA dance alone between skies

drifting the night
suspended from life
shadows of every last good bye

clouds over LA dance alone between skies

3 Generations To Erasure

People with power in any system know that any human custom, behavior, or thought process can be eliminated in 3 generations.

Take human custom “X.”

“X” is outlawed during Gen 1.

Gen 1 becomes the last to experience “X.”

Gen 2 relies on the accounts of Gen 1 for their view of “X.”

Gen 1 says:
“X was overrated.”
“I don’t really miss X’ing at all.”
“Your mother and I X’ed, but that was another time.”

Gen 2 knows only the context of illegal or outmoded “X.”

Gen 3 never X’es or knows anyone firsthand who X’ed.

Most of Gen 3 is afraid of or apathetic to X. A few will try it, but X now always will be fringe.

Gen 1 completely dies off during Gen 3.

By the end of Gen 3, no one alive remembers life with X.

By Gen 4, X is a distant memory, relegated to blithe nostalgia, or designated with no resistance for outright erasure.

AustinTown (live, 20210128)

Austintown, OH, is the driving midpoint between New York City and Chicago. Written election season 2004 in Austintown at the Best Western off Rte 80, in view of the Quaker Steak ‘n Lube across the highway.

performance recorded Jan 2021 at the old Hood’s Sarsaparilla Soda Factory in Lowell, MA

from Hola, Sayulita (2010)

LYRICS

When they dig us up – they might never know
We dug deep – left our evidence as far down as they will go
They might even think we were older than dinosaurs

Arrogance thinks we’ll see the end of the world
That we’d be last ones – to ever see
the truth/the truth
it’s just funny how much
truth
you
find

½ way between here & there
so many secrets you can’t begin
to dare to leave
escaping only in dreams
looks like it comes down
tonight to AustinTown

They’re gonna say we went backwards – all the way back
Before we went forwards again
Here it comes around again
And there goes the

the truth
ah, the truth
it’s just funny how much
truth
you
find

½ way between here & there
so many secrets you can’t begin
to dare to leave
Escaping only in dreams
looks like it comes down
tonight to AustinTown

Brighter Than Stars

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“I’m brighter than you stars!” New York City taunted, waving their walk signs, shaking their streetlights at Orion, the sole visible constellation that Fall night.

“Pfft,” said Rigel, Orion’s brightest star, “what are you, a hundred years old?”

“Shut up, I’m almost five!”

—-

Fwiw, Capella, Vega, Sirius, and Deneb were also visible over the City the night of the story. They’re each close enough to us to eavesdrop. And close enough to each other to gossip about us behind our backs. 

The moon, of course, has no choice but to hear our every word, always within earshot of our silliness.

Are we here, in the Milky Way, living in the suburbs? Or are we the Great Galactic City, and Capella’s our Great Neck?

On clear nights, Jupiter and Venus, and Saturn, on the darkest nights, also manage to pierce the city’s incandescent fluorescent din. 

New York City was terraformed; it’s an invention - a dream made real and gone wrong all at once. There’s no way to build it without erasing most stars. The night sky here acts as more of a ceiling. 

Here in NYC, there’s at-least cursory curiosity about the stars. There’s a real planetarium. And you just know there’s a radio telescope tucked away in some inaccessible corner of Staten Island, that some alien civilization, unable to secure a credit card, is using to steal Netflix for their planet.

Four or five years ago, my late neighbor, Ian, would take his then-middle school aged kids out on the block on clear-sky nights with a telescope, and stargaze together. The kids would call out stars, and passersby, now illuminated, would look up, strain to see, and take it on faith the telescope and the children were telling them the truth.

Most telescopes stay inside here, locked off at more horizontal angles in apartment windows, pointed (of course) at other apartments.…

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[A Few Words On] Comedy Dehumanization

The death of comedy signals an upstream, tactical conflation of embarrassment and shame.
Banning jokes is a means to censor laughter, not words, or comedians.

How do you censor a few comics?
Make one die onstage.

What is the world’s most offensive joke?
Depends who laughs.

Any word can be made dirty.
“Milk, milk, lemonade, around the corner fudge is made…”

Any words can be made hurtful.
“Shut up you unwashed leek!”

Kidding not kidding.

Coerced silence and arbitrary language fences lead only to false enlightenment.

Recognition of the absurdity in the human condition (i.e., the ability to laugh at ourselves) is the true underpinning of civilization.

Counterintuitive as it sounds, laughing with each other, while also laughing at the ways we laugh at each other, opens true pathways to peace.

A world without laughter is a world at constant war, one that rejects intimacy, and ultimately evolution.

Hmm…

The censorship of evolution.

Who profits from that?

Free Baggage



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“Free-stuff? More like free baggage!” Luna piped up, looking at the discarded wedding memento, a painting inscribed by guests with personal wishes to the newlyweds, now left to the sidewalk free-cycle giveaway wilds (presumably by one of the ex-spouses still residing in the brownstone behind the wrought iron rail on which it leaned).

“Divorce is rough,” I posed.

“Drain the jacuzzi.”



“Jacuzzi’s long empty, Kid.”

“How so?” she asked.

“Well, divorce is different than letting go. This here’s a letting go.”



“Lol free baggage like I said.”

“This effin’ city. Let’s go.”


There are other possible scenarios. I don’t know the truth. Perhaps one spouse passed away. Perhaps they’re still together and decided, on finding a wedding memento while decluttering, that they couldn’t store it, and perhaps it would bring joy to someone else. Perhaps its latest owner wasn’t anyone involved with the wedding. Perhaps one or both of them couldn’t bring themselves to throw it out, and left it to the wind to decide.

For a wedding artifact, that’s a lot of perhapses.



“Do you take this painting to be lawful wedded artwork?”
“Perhaps.”

As I stared at it with Luna, I kept wondering why it was there, on display. To give this away to strangers just seemed wild to me. If it had been mine, and I wanted to get rid of it, I would have dismantled it as much as possible and consigned it to a bin, to then be bagged and sent to the curb, where it would be compacted into the semi-weekly NYSD pick-up destined, perhaps, for the Fresh Kills landfill, or a barge off into the Atlantic coast.

If I really really didn’t want it, maybe burning it would come into play.

The guests signed the matte, so there’s no way to roll that up if you want to store it.…

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Truth In Paradox


The paradox of truth in the context of privacy arises where lying is not always unjustified, or even unproductive.

Sometimes, lying is downright forgivable, even necessary.

Anonymity and pseudonymity, for example, are forms of lying. But in these cases, untruth protects the truth. The “lie” is IRL armor; shielding a true identity.

Everybody lies about what’s going on inside their heads.

“How are things?”
“Great!”

The initial question often feigns interest. The nicest ensuing answers can feign reality, or at least, obscure nastier truths, if needed. “I’m great” may be a lie, but it’s what the other person (hopefully) wants to believe is true. The remaining interaction’s tone is predicated by the answer.

You really only have 3 options with, “How are things?” So maybe it’s not the best example lol
“Great”
“Not so good, actually.”
“Oh, you know.”

No truth is a lie, but all lies are true, in that they are always true to themselves.
“This statement is a lie,” is not a lie.

I’ve been deceived a few times. I’ve deceived others. If I’m lucky, maybe the ratio’s 1:1. We all learn to lie. We all learn to embellish. Most of it in service of living our mythology. Who doesn’t want to live the grandest vision of themselves?

Most of my friends are eyeball-deep in politics. That’s okay – they effect a lot of good. Some of them, though, overpay – and not just in time, money, influence, or etc. Their true price is to believe 1/2 the world is a lie. Or, at least, that half the world believes all the lies.

I understand why people would walk through life that way. There’s no greater salve to everyday chaos than to create right and wrong in every decision.

“What kind of milk, Westy?! What KIND?!!! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DECIDE NOW!!!!”…

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smile your being

There’s nothing more dehumanizing than relying on technology to get you through the day. To outsource all your gathering of knowledge and perspective, to a network that has no human sensations or emotions, is the essence of dehumanization.

Technology, however, has no monopoly on dehumanization. Not only can nature “de-human” quite easily (think tsunamis, earthquakes, asteroids, etc), it also offers up diseases such as Alzheimer’s or ALS that strip away self-consciousness and self-awareness. That which “humanizes” you, i.e. your dignity, your memories, your knowledge – all these things that make you you – are never totally yours.

The internet itself doesn’t know the joy of running its fingers through a cool flowing river on a scorching day. Compassion can’t be programmed. There’s no algorithm to give your iPhone the sense of relief from sneezing.

No network of carbon nanotubes will ever know the physical rush of love and attraction in the middle of a rave.

“Hey! I like your tube!”
“What?!”
“I said I like your tube!”
“Oh! I like this tune, too!”

When we hold our phone up, reverse the camera, and snap a self portrait, we capture ourselves (1 word), but also cede to the network a little bit more of our selves (2 words) with every shot. With every server-side token, the internet learns more about you than you ever take away from it.

There’s a meme for a few years that sees people as Non Player Characters (NPCs) in video games. The memes are dark comedy, but not because they ring true about people they are aimed at. They’re dark & funny in how they crack open a stage door into the system that sets the parameters of our choices.

So much of our system is designed to obscure how all of us are changing, losing control of our selves in order to placate ourselfs.…

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ok [sarsaparilla session 20210330, lowell ma]

Solo acoustic version of “ok” from Hola, Sayulita! (2010), and also included on my early-years greatest hits collection Your Song Is Beautiful: 2002-2012 (2012).

This performance is from March 2021 in the old Hood’s Sarsaparilla Soda factory, my temporary home Lowell, MA for the last 8 months. We leave Lowell for good in ~2 weeks on 7/31. I will be wistful about this place, but am also ready to return home to NYC, if only for a few months. Home is home, no matter how long you’ve been gone, or how long you can stay.

A couple days ago, my phone served up some video “memories” of a 2018 trip into Manhattan’s West Village. That night, I took an uptown F from Brooklyn, saw my brother play with his band at The Bitter End, walked a few blocks around Bleeker, and went home. It was just life as we knew it pre-covid, hopefully will know again. Maybe that’s why the images fit so well over this song of enduring friendship, no matter how far-flung in distance and/or time. The videos’ random appearance was my City telling me, “I’m still here, and I’m ok, too.”

The shot of the ambulance in the middle verse, is from covid times, fwiw, and the opening shot’s from a quick round-trip to Brooklyn two weeks ago to start moving back home. Cat is working on the latest final season of Dexter up here in MA, and it was hilarious to see the book that the show was based on sitting in a front-stoop giveaway pile on our block. The image of the book being let go, for me, cemented the fact our time in Lowell is ending.

That’s what times do, of course. Times end so that time goes on.

We’re ok.

LYRICS

You never know just how long you have
Before you go
Away

So take back life; hide it from view
It will only be us and
the wind

Times are down but we’re ok
Lines are down but we’re ok
We’re ok.…

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The Resurrection of Uncle

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That Old Guitar on That Old Guitar

Uncle, a 1934 Gibson L-1 flat-top acoustic, came to me via my wife Cat’s father, Steve, a stellar pianist and big band leader in Chicago. Cat’s great Uncle Ernest, Uncle’s original owner, bequeathed the guitar to Steve.

Uncle guarding Luna, May 2021
Uncle guarding Luna, May 2021

Cat & I found Uncle (in his original case) in Steve’s basement on a trip to her Chicago home. I tuned him up best he would, and strummed an open G major (the strings were a dozen years old, at least). He rang for less than a second before the bridge popped off. The sound of the chord was brilliant, however, and I took him back to New York, where the luthier of legend Paul Schwartz of Peekamoose Custom Guitars worked his magic (he is “The Moose” in the lyrics).

Paul has modded all my guitars, and also built me Fabien, an extraterrestrial Peekamoose M2 that’s the only electric guitar I’ll ever need if I ever need to have only 1. Definitely the one I’m grabbing, running from a house fire.

Fabien et moi
Fabien et moi

Uncle’s restoration process at Peekamoose involved a lot of micro-movements, acclimation periods, and clamps. And took almost 2 years.

The original bridge and half of the top’s bracing were not salvageable, and got replaced. Everything else is a time capsule, a literal message in box. The fretboard is still worn where Ernest spent most of his time playing (lower frets in open G tuning from what I can trace), and the flat-top’s 87-year-old finish reveals the most gorgeous cracks when the light hits it just right.

echoes of ernest on the fretboard
echoes of ernest on the fretboard
uncle's crack top
uncle's crack top

Uncle plays with the flawless ease you’d expect (and demand) of an instrument that was designed to be slung over the back of a blues traveller.…

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[img] May 12, 2021 at 08:52AM

“Let me in, Luna.”
“No.”
“Why?”
“Take me to @downtowndoghouse to see @baracudajo. Massachusetts has turned my coat into hard scrabble!”
“Kid, that’s where we’re going. Tomorrow you see JoJo.”
“Oh, ok. In that case what are you waiting for? Come in! I’ll ring the Footman.”
May 12, 2021 at 08:52AM
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