Monday, January 11, 2016

I'm Quite Aware of What I'm Going Through

It all began with a small, blue transistor radio

I woke up to find Chloe, the world’s most loveable dog, pawing me, pleading with me to let her outside or else. I looked at the clock and found the alarm wasn’t set and that I would be late for work (insert Beatles’ reference). Naomi was visiting friends through Monday, and so Chloe knew I was the default human.

I grabbed my coat, stood out in the cold waiting for Chloe to do her thing, spoke to a neighbor, then went back inside and made coffee.

It was Monday. Nothing out of the ordinary except Naomi being out of town. Then I looked at Twitter and saw a post featuring a picture of David Bowie with the hashtag: #BowieRIP. For a moment I thought the internet was messing with me. A few moments later, I learned the truth.

Then I started to cry. Wasn’t sure why. But I cried

Can You Hear Me, Little Warren

When I was a kid, which was something like a trillion years ago, I had a little blue AM transistor radio. It was square with two little dials on the side, and there was a little strap that you could slip your hand into and, if needed, you could take the strap and twirl the radio around like a propeller. You could do this until you were reminded by mom that you were wielding a weapon of considerable destructive powers.

WLEE was the station of choice for the blue radio. It played nothing but pop hits, and Space Oddity was one of the many songs I remember hearing. It was a neat catchy song, and neat and catchy worked well for someone who was on the verge adulthood, or what most would call the lofty age of 10. It was an odd song, countering many of the popular songs I hummed and sang. But like most 8 or 9 year olds, I was running from one distraction to the next, and the moment got mixed in with an era.

I loved that little radio. One day I was going to be on the radio.

There’s a Starman

My first reaction was- Why? It was odd feeling this way about the death of a celebrity. So why all the emotion?


In 1979 I was poised for college. God, I hated high school, and I was looking forward to a place where I’d be rid of the bullies and the asses. By that time, WLEE was a distant memory, and WRXL was my new friend. My brother had a Pioneer receiver that doubled as a space heater. He had nice speakers, and when mom and dad were out, I had the speakers make the house cry for mercy. At that time, my brother’s album collection was one of my main sources for music. Albums included Elton John, the Eagles, Jimmy Buffet, and America. I also had a sizeable 45RPM collection, most of which was purchased for 20 dollars from a girl I knew in high school.

The thing about WRXL… it was different. For several years I was listening to WRVQ, a competing station in the Richmond market, but their playlist at this particular time was ‘less than’, and I remember switching to WRXL so I could listen to a more interesting selection of songs. WRXL introduced me to Pink Floyd, specifically Run Like Hell, and a couple of years later I heard what I think was a musical turning point for me- 1981s Lunatic Fringe by Red Rider. Lunatic Fringe was different, and it was the kind of song I knew I’d want to play when I became a deejay.

A year later, I was working at a campus radio station at East Carolina.

Just For One Day

I logged on to Facebook and started seeing the posts. He was really dead.

I knew I wanted to post something, but I couldn’t find words. Everyone who knows me knows I enjoy words, but no words came. I cobbled a few sentences together, posted them, and continued reading all of the other posts.

Soon after my post, my friend Stephanie replied:

Here's something I found: "If you feel sad, remember the world is 4.54 billion years old 
& you managed to exist at the same time as #DavidBowie"

Okay. So I cried a little more. I was becoming a freaking fire hydrant.

Is There Life In Greenville

I hooked up with some neat and strange people in college. I met Naomi (my lovely wife!), Mary Lou, Todd Coats, Jim Ensor, Jeff Chester, Lynne Rupp, Kit Kimberly, and many other lovely folk. There was this one friend I really enjoyed being around. Thinking back, she resembled Bowie. Like most of us, she smoked Marlboro Lights, a brand we nicknamed ‘Bowie Lights.’ She loved intense conversations, and we had many of them. She lived in a little apartment down the street from the Alpha Omicron Pi house on Johnston St. (By the way, I was one of the Pi’s big brothers, and yes, I’m still surprised at that asterisk in my life.)

And she was a Bowie fanatic. Capital ‘Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa Fanatic.’ Along with many other friends, she helped spawn my interest in eclectic music, an interest I carry to this very day. So I owe you many thanks, Trina. And many thanks to the rest of you, and you know who you are...

I learned about Bowie. Hunky Dory. Ziggy Stardust. And by the time I started learning about Bowie’s early albums, Let’s Dance was released.

I remember Bowie was central to the circle of friends I knew. Though we still listened to Zeppelin and Floyd and all the other traditional staples of rock, we seemed to talk about and listen to Bowie a lot. And from Bowie I gravitated to Peter Gabriel, REM, King Crimson, and XTC.

Bowie was the gateway drug.

I Never Did Anything Out of the Blue
I went back to Twitter to see what the Twittersphere was doing. Bowie was trending at the top. I read more posts. I saw more pictures. One picture stood out. It was Bowie sporting his Aladdin Sane 
lightning bolt makeup with the caption: 

#ImAMisfitBecause He made it OK to be so.

At this point I was worried I was going to run out of water.

Beep Beep

After campus radio, I continued searching out new music, and Bowie was kind of a yardstick. The music needed to sound different from the mainstream.

One thing that fascinated me most about Bowie was how he could change his sound but you could always tell it was him. I think he had a characteristic which all musical greats have. I’ve found it in Sinatra, XTC, Radiohead, U2, and my beloved Robyn Hitchcock. It’s the ability to look for other things to play with, whether it’s a sound or a lyric or a rhythm. A restless spirit. A playful spirit. To me, the greats make music interesting, not just for me, but for themselves.

When Bowie came out with Heathen in 2002, I remember wondering what he’d been up to. I had the usual Bowie suspects in my CD collection, and I was up for adding a fresh one to the Bowie canon. If there was one thing I could count on when I purchased a Bowie album, I could count on it being fresh and different.

I wasn’t disappointed. Though the melodies and hooks reminded me of some of his older music, there was a new creative energy that underlined each song. It sounded like he was having fun, and I was happy to come along for the new ride. I was happy to hear an old friend again.

A couple of years later Reality was released, and I went crazy over Pablo Picasso. It’s still one of my favorite Bowie songs.

Is There Something Wrong?

Chloe went with me to work, and when I got to the office, I prayed that my faucets were finally dry. I went to my desk and did some work, but all the while I couldn’t shake the morning news. My head was still fuzzy feeling like it was stuffed inside a giant cotton ball.

Naomi texted me telling me she’d heard the news and that she and Mary Lou were listening to Hunky Dory. I texted back saying I was feeling pretty sad.

Later in the morning I dropped Chloe off at home and packed my bag for Columbia, SC. Before I hit the road, I thought about grabbing a few Bowie CDs and listening to them during my three hour drive. I decided not to. I just wanted to think.

Sound + Vision

Here’s the deal.

I knew I was going to write something. I was going to burst if I didn’t. I wanted to write it all out so I could understand why I was so emotionally invested in Bowie. And I wanted to share my thoughts with each of you so you might understand what he meant to me, your friend. I’ve seen so many posts from so many different people on how he impacted lives. He had a big impact on mine as well.

While driving down to Columbia, I decided to look backward, and I started remembering an important part of my life, a place where I met and retained some great friendships. I developed an ear for artists. I really listened to the lyrics, and I listened for poetry. In some respects, I became a bit of music snob, but I’m okay with that. I know what I like, and I know how I got here.

That era, over 30 years ago, was significant for me. And Bowie was there. Whether he was in the foreground or in the background, he was there somewhere. There was a niche in my soul that he burrowed into, and I decided, happily, to keep him there.

And I realized today, he’s still there, and he’s not leaving anytime soon.

Saturday, September 19, 2015


(to Everclear's "Santa Monica")

I hate this yoga and this
Bending and twisting
I can’t reach toes
I don’t think this move can
Help spine
I don’t think this move’s
Completely sane

Had some big bland fruit
And some no-taste shakes
I do believe they’re made with the silt from lakes
I just want to be a
Fit guy
I don’t need to run a
5K race, what a bore

I just want to eat some
Ice cream
When I try, I find
My butt grows with ease

So I drink the rancid potions
Exercise behind
Life coach on retainer
Wish I had pie

So I keep my legs in motion
Simple life denied
No more mashed potatoes
Wish I had wine

So now I’m running here in
More like a waddle, though gaining speed
Can’t get away
Who the hell said this is
Good time?
I just want to eat some
Crunch and Munch and a Smore

I have no doubt
That there’s another way
Not liposuction or de Sade pain play
I don’t want to be the
Fat guy
I just want to do a
Jumping jack then the door

I don’t need to be Joe
I would rather surf some
Cool sites on Google Chrome

I don’t have the drive, devotion
Lack the fire inside
Best with sleeve of crackers
Bag of pork rinds

But I’ll put my bod in motion
Leave the snacks behind
When I talk to waiter
Ask for less fries

Yeah ask for less fries
Yeah ask for less fries
Yeah ask for less fries
Then ask for more pie

Sunday, September 13, 2015

At Fifty-Three

(to Janis Ian's "At Seventeen")

I now arrive at fifty-three
An age I thought I’d never see
A life it whirls in light speed style
You blink and find the years have wiled

The beard I have has roots of gray
Like weeds in lawn, find more each day
Some dye perhaps might fix the look
But cash is best spent buying books

And those exams at doctor’s places
Prodding in unholy places
Bills to pay, maintain the home
Annoying robots ring the phone
They call to say come buy from me
They sell such swell amenities
Not really what I need
At fifty-three

My brown eyed wife, she loves me now
Though why she does, it still confounds
I’m not an easy man to know
My moody self, the highs and lows

And the loud and rocking concert scene
Replaced it with a calmer thing
The avant-garde I love it still
Preferred at lower decibels

Now were there times when I was sane
Just a Joe with scraggly mane?
I don’t recall the sanity
I have retained humanity
My mom and dad they taught me true
Now odd surprise I’ve made it to
Bifocalled days of me
At fifty-three

The creaks and pops, the random pain
But all-in-all I can’t complain
Adult I am, mature not quite
My mind will wander off at night

I will oft reflect and drift away
Synapses fire and cells will play
I know far less than I believe
The world is larger than it seems

I now write some words in favorite chair
I’ll gripe and grin, let down my hair
Inventing stories, phrases flow
Revealing worries, worlds unknown
Some tales are bad, some tales are neat
I call them my amenities
The changing world I see
At fifty-three

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Last Trick

Tiny little fingers, sweet with the scent or rosemary lotion, grabbed his long white beard. Lindy’s pudgy legs danced in the air.

Mercator hovered over the floor. He tilted his head closer to Lindy so his great great granddaughter could explore more of his ancient hair, and she gratefully accepted as she moved her little hands deeper into his silken beard.

“That boy needs a vowel in his name,” Mercator grumbled. “Even that gray fellow with the pointy hat had vowels. Two of them if I recall correctly. That fellow from…”

He looked at Lindy as she lay on her back, and he half expected her to answer, She offered no response except a smile as she continued her fascination with his beard.

“That middle place,” Mercator continued. “Mirth? Girth? It’s on the tip of my tongue. What was that place?”

Lindy laughed.

“Laughing at your senile great grandfather, I see.” Mercator laughed and softly clapped his hands together. A small cloud in the shape of a horse sprang from his fingertips. Lindy’s green eyes and puffy hands disconnected from her great great grandfather’s beard and followed the horse as it crossed her bed and then disappeared under her blanket.

“MckWffth,” he said. “That’s the boy’s actual name. He’s the one who wants my job. Bad name. Good magic. Very good.”

Lindy stared up her great grandfather and cooed.

Mercator nodded his head. “Yes, he’s that good. It’s like every spell I learned when I was ten, he knew it at age five. And he does them better than anyone I’ve ever seen. An amazing boy.”

Mercator slowly lowered his feet to the floor. He summoned his favorite chair and placed it beside Lindy’s bed. The chair, maybe hundreds of years old, accepted Mercator’s old frame with a sigh while its cushions happily molded themselves to his shape.

“When he challenged me, I confess I didn’t know what to do. No one’s challenged me for a century.” He produced a pipe from his cloak, and with a snap of his finger, he produced tobacco and a flame. The smell reminded him of winter and the crackle of wood burning in the fireplace. The smoke reminded him of something, but he couldn’t think of what it was.

“Mercator the Spellinator. That’s what they once called me. I made the crops grow. I kept the evil away. I once…” he said, beginning to laugh, “I once did something that was so amazing. I was maybe, maybe, twenty or thirty, and there I was… there was this darkness that did…it did something. I remember everyone looking at me and wondering,” his voice deepened, “’Has that kid got the tools? Are we doomed? Will we ever…’ Something like that, and I remember raising my arms like this and…”

Lindy’s eyes were wide.

“And I don’t remember.” He lowered his arms and took a draw from his pipe.

It was important to remember, he thought as he exhaled the smoke.

“And now I can’t remember what it was,” he said as he reached out to caress her cheek. “And sometimes I can’t even remember your…”


He felt the emotion again, the frustration welling up behind his eyes. He began to rock back and forth in his chair. The chair happily sighed.

“I was a boy once, just like this boy with a vowel deficiency. I challenged a wizard when I was ten, I think. I lost, of course. But I knew even at that young age, his time was through. Done. He was an old wizard, his name escapes me now, but I do remember he was old. Maybe ancient.”

Lindy cooed again.

“I know, ancient like me. But you see…”

I don’t want to go, he thought. His two centuries had flown by, and he sensed the times ahead held more fascinating things for him. More quests. More magic. More memories…

“But you see,” he sighed “I still don’t want to leave, but I know…I know I need to.”

He lifted himself out of the chair and then he lifted Lindy to his chest. She smelled sweet like flowers. Sweet, sweet flowers.

“I need to go, my sweet girl,” he said. His frustration returned, but he knew how to respond to it. The tears came quickly and vanished beneath his beard.

“I need to go,” he said again and placed Lindy back on her bed. He waved his palm over her curious eyes, and her eyes yielded to sleep.

Then he straightened himself, crossed his arms, and gently faded away.

Sunday, August 9, 2015


Steps- A Self Portrait

and I confess
I’m quite amused
when mind is sharp
or times confused

I marvel at
the cells of gray
on truest paths
they often stray

to weeds as tall
as oaks or pines
its feet don’t walk
in perfect lines

do cells have feet?
I do not know
you’d think that they
have tiny toes

it does make sense
their stepping shakes
my head will throb
with soleful aches

at times they dance
in tennis shoes
I bet those feet
have neat tattoos

and bracelets gold
‘round ankles small
that jingle round
synapses halls

where pictures hang
of mem’ries clear
of mem’ries dark
of mem’ries dear

I bet sometimes
the feet will linger
or speed on past
to hear a singer

sing songs I knew
but can’t recall
like ones I hear
in shopping malls

where I get lost
from time to time
but that’s okay
when I’ve had wine

or maybe beer
or something sweet
when I get lost
it’s always treat

so I confess
I’m quite amused
when path is clear
or tad confused

I marvel at
the cells of gray
the beauty of
a thought astray