I drove for three hours, through the desert and back over a mountain, to get home. Listening to XTC the whole way, I felt every twenty minutes or so tears of gratitude welling up, which I staved off, because I was driving at sixty-five miles per hour and singing along to every single song, neither activity conducive to weeping, even though I felt like weeping, even though I kind of wanted it.
I drove through the desert and back over the mountain to get home. Sometimes, you feel luckier than you deserve, you feel somehow unworthy of this kind of life, even with its bullshit struggles, even with its blights; these are your bullshit struggles and your blights, your insecurities and idiosyncratic hang-ups and disappointments, but you still feel lucky. You think about the people you love in your life and you want to cry for that richness. And you think about these strangers you just spent a weekend with, and you feel love for them too, and privileged and honored to know and serve them, and that makes you want to cry.
I drove through the desert and back over the mountain to get home, and I felt that way, stupid and lucky, flawed and happy, unworthy and honored, in awe and full of wonder for this life, on the verge of tears, while Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding sang to and with me, and every sign I saw along the drive said the same thing: You are here.
Steampunk Art by Brenda Adams
The Steampunks of Spring
Two octopuses sit on the window sill
sporting their top hats and flight goggles,
little works of art made mostly from
recycled odds and ends, scrap
leather, gears, watch parts, wheels,
lucite grapes, steel wire, old jewelry, junk.
Behind them, through the glass,
Spring arrives. The oaks are alive
with squawking crows and
the chirps of the small bird, finch,
robin, blue jay, warbler. Any
evening now the crickets will
begin their buzzing. Mowers
and blowers are constantly busy,
the smell of cut grass is everywhere,
any day now the oaks will leaf,
and I have octopuses on the sill,
the steampunks of spring.
You’re going to hear a real gully-whumper
right about now. If you weren’t such a gulpin
you’d have a chance of seeing right through
the gum. In my life, I have never heard such
gummation. Go ahead and pour yourself some
guinea red, loosen yourself before the gumball machine
comes down the gravel drive. Don’t give me
any of that gumfudgeon, you gummy. They’re
after you, all right. It doesn’t take a gumshoe
to figure out your under the gun, on the gun, so
you better jump the gun, ride the gun or else
get the gun sooner or later. I’d be smoking some
gungeon right about now, if I were you.
I’d guarandamntee it, I would, I would.
Say the word animal.
Look at this dog.
It doesn’t seem right
somehow. The word
not sufficient and too
much. This creature
seems to rise above
the distinction, as you
talk to it and feel for it,
pick up after it and
play with it as if it
were a human child.
And yet, a lion is an
animal. Giraffes are
animals, and for some
reason, you, most of us,
have forgotten or
have never actually
believed that people
are also animals.
You are an animal.
This animal is you.
And even if you didn’t
choose, even if the dog
just kind of landed
on your lap, so to speak,
even if you believe that
life would be so much
simpler and easier
without the demands
on you of caring for
this animal, your heart
melts when you look
at this face, you squirm
with joy in response
to her kisses, a tongue
in your ear, nibbles on
your fingers, and you
know no sweeter
sensation than burying
your face in the clean,
sweet fur of her coat.
This animal, this dog.
It’s 1986, the winter
after our wedding and we’re
living in a shack. Seriously,
I’m not a tall guy and I can
stand in the living room
and place my hands flat
on the ceiling. It’s the holiday
season and I’ve just bought
XTC’s “Skylarking,” which
I listen to from start to finish
over and over and over again,
sitting on our cheap-ass
rattan settee from Pier One
Imports, headphones blasting.
It’s cold outside but Andy sings
of Summer’s Cauldron, Colin sings
about adolescent sex, the birds
chirp and the keyboards thrum
and Super Supergirl comes on
and I’m on fire like I’ve never
been about how good a good
pop song can be in the hands
of master songwriters. And
Rundgren’s production, his
attempt to make them sound
American and their response
to sound more English than ever,
so perfectly wrong and beautiful.
The strings of 1,000 Umbrellas
sing to me under Andy’s
woeful lament of joyful misery
as The Season’s Cycle moves
round and round. Side two
finds me right where I am,
newly married, schooling
unfinished, worrying about
whether I can Earn Enough
For Us after our Big Wedding Day.
My mind blown by the
perfect fusion of rock,
jazz, and big idea in The Man
Who Sailed Around His Soul,
and finally, a pop song
gives me words to express
my budding atheism and I am
grateful beyond all account.
Poor and happy, hopeful,
this record gives me 14 songs
to sing for the rest of my life
and I am still singing them,
will keep singing them
in my Dying, while Colin
croons along in this great
Sacrificial Bonfire of existence.
Filed under Music, Poetry
Jesus and the Easter Bunny walk into a bar.
Sugar ants invade the bathroom, are crawling
all over the toothpaste tube and toothbrushes.
They are not, necessarily, on friendly terms;
it goes almost without saying.
The bunny goes in for Steam Punk art,
likes Jesus and the Mary Chain, which the Son
of God finds amusing, and in the off season
dresses entirely in black. Jesus has read the
four gospels and has many questions.
Sugar ants are easily bored, and they appear
to materialize out of nowhere, are interested
in what Jesus is drinking, a Pinot Noir most
likely. One would be surprised how many
varieties of biting insects there are in the backyard
and in the bedroom. Jesus wonders if sugar ants
are biters. Decides not to look into that any further.
The Easter Bunny drinks Bourbon, neat. He’s
curious why Jesus has invited him. They’ve not
been on what you could call speaking terms.
Customarily, Jesus does not kill insects, but an
ant swims around in his glass and has drowned
by the time he fishes it out. This one does not bite.
Have you read them? Jesus asks. Read what?
The four Gospels. Can’t say that I have, says the Bunny.
Do you know how many immaculate conception
stories there are, across cultures, across the
millennia? And how many resurrections?
As the sugar ants pass him by, one by one,
The Bunny picks them up and puts them in
his mouth. I have not counted, he says to Jesus,
but I suspect there are as many as there are
sugar ants crossing the bar. Do you believe them?
I believe sugar ants, Jesus says. They’re as plain
as the nose on your face. How do they taste?
It’s not the season, he says, too early. And some
of these guys have a decidedly minty thing
going on, almost like they’ve been swimming
in toothpaste. I mean to say, it’s not that unusual,
Jesus says, my birth, my death, my rebirth, or
yours, yours, yours. And the ants go marching.
He says, Do you remember that song by M.? That was 1979,
I say, and I was fifteen. Talk about, he said, pop music.
That’s the only thing I remember. Yeah, the only other thing
I can remember is shooby dooby doo wop. It was a kind of,
I say, spoken word thing, a nonsensical white boy rap
thing. A cool song but that guy, or that band, just vaporized.
Right? he says. You know, if you think about the other nerd
pop gems of ’79, I say, I can think of three right off the top of my
head that were so nerdy they came out the other end the
coolest thing ever: Devo’s Are We Not Men, Gary Numan’s
The Pleasure Principle, and Talking Heads’ Fear of Music.
Those bands were nerdy as fuck–they put nerd rock on the map.
This M. guy, I say, as you nod your head vigorously, was not
authentically nerdy, was a failed nerd, a wannabe nerd.