Town And Country

Add a foot of snow and replace the romantic old Americana buildings in the video with chain stores and food depots and aluminum siding clad houses and you’ve got a lot of my town tonight. Found this on youtube last night while shunting around looking for tunes to make my brother learn on guitar by Christmas. Got thoroughly depressed listening to Maura O’Connell singing Blue train of all things on you tube and became rather fixated on the skinny gent who makes mournful sounds in a suit I rather admired at the chorus. Nancy Griffith or Griffin sits on a sofa in the background with her hands cupped to mark time like a spinster grade school music teacher looking beatific and just wailing away. It was Saint Patrick’s day with my father’s side of the family and Christmas with my mother’s here tonight I tell you. I’m quite wrung out. But it’s not going to be entirely a Steve Earle Christmas this year, thank you very much. it sounds like we’ll have both an analyst and a veterinarian to dinner so we’re all covered. I know the emergency room nurse here up north and my brother works at the hospital in the city, so it’ll be good, wherever we hang our stockings. I want an the ipod touch with the itazer.

I’m just blathering off the top of my head here for a bit. I’ve been writing a blog post about the obama victory, a thing called, “This Decisive Moment”. Sort of the story of a dime as it knocked around from weaselly little boyfriend to cafe to quite alarmingly dear friend to solitary walk across town in the big smoke on the American election day and then again the day after, with feeling. A study in pattern and decision. I kind of went into town taking notes, and of course nothing is more indecipherable than day to day life, let alone notable, and things became more complex upon observance rather than whatever. Riting is hard. A blog piece tends to come to me like parts of a jigsaw puzzle one by one in the mail. So I figured a lovely little folk song and just chill.

Decisive moments indeed. You wonder whether the decisions will have any effect as wall street reports ribbon across the bottom of the tv screen but then they did a little happy dance today there. I haven’t turned the tv on actually but for that once today since the election. I felt we all needed a rest. I’m no Anderson Cooper. I took a lot of lofty notes in town, but then when I got to the part when i was describing myself writing a bitter love poem and it came to the point where I was going to have to insert the purely insipid and insincere lines of har poetry themselves I balked. I’m that self absorbed here in the country, despite quite complicated involvements in family and community life, let alone painting. Which actually I am let alone to do. Because I am a monster otherwise. Quite simply. As Susan quite rightly pointed out that lovely autumn afternoon on the patio at the Only when I interrupted her lunch with Toby to see if she could have like party platters for fifty for me in two hours for an opening. Which she and Toby fucking delivered. Lovely platters too. I think Susan and I came to the city at the same time, she opened a little shop and I was renovating the top floor studio. She says you have to be.

I gypsy about, live like a teenager. Sixteen in the pants, at least in theory. I’ve been getting ready for a little Christmas show, day of the Santa Clause parade up north. A pleasure show, just to be there. A new gallery, a gallery 62, a friend from high school opened up. There’s a good dj in the hotel after the parade, which will be in the evening. Little town of three hundred souls. With snow now. Place I’d move to for good in a minute if there was any way to make a living there.

Snow fell deep tonight. I’ll have to get up and shovel in the morning so this is short. Little folk song, and chill.




Let’s see.

We’ve had our substantial snow. Substantial. It seemed sudden. I moved enough topsoil in those last “bald headed days in November before the first snowflakes sailed” that the snow settled as impediment to a timorous ninety point turn in the driveway, which is the size of a church parking lot and holds one car, seemed small wet white beans indeed to shovel. Until the fourth clearance.

There isn’t paint white enough for the glorious glare outside the window today, at high frozen noon. Winter. Done like Flynn, the shift of painting indoors, the radio muttering ills that must comfort or would not be so pervasive, in other rooms, the cat flung to her waterbed lair, the well, if somewhat skeptically intentioned setup of fireside projects. The jigsaw puzzle under the tablecloth…I suppose to be flung back in joy for cocktails, is more indicative of early cabin fever than it is of any intention to actually assemble what I believe is the entire saga of robin hood and every leaf on every tree in Sherwood forest.

I’m inarticulate with apathy and isolation I suppose, at least that’s the party line this morning on my silence. On all regretted human silence. There remains the radio. It is worried again today that facebook is haunt of child serial killers. Or serial child killer bulllies who play video games with strangers or something. What should Canadian listeners think? Facebook, twitter, what shall we do. Maybe fiddle with the dial. I have been familiarizing myself with promising document management software and have set myself the antsy snowbound task of transcribing, from pencil on brittle yellow paper, promising short stories fading in my possession. But for my familiarity with the writer’s cryptic hand, accurate transcription would be unlikely. I’m finishing up some small paintings too, images incised on wooden panels with a surgical scalpel long ago by the same friend – at his leisure at first, and later at a pace to complete the peaceable vision condemned. And that’s been rather fun once I started. The carvings are good enough in themselves for the most part to give me pause in any approach to embellish them with paint, a five year backwoods pause but that was in another country and the bastard is dead.

For myself, I paint buildings and portraits, small beans, guiltily completing summer’s work as my niece hangs her Christmas lights alone up the street this vivid afternoon, hurrying to have them hung before the kids are home from school. The yellow school buses stamping and steaming in the parking lot at about three. I heard myself rather curtly pointing out the other morning that I went to the same school and walked the distance there in my day as these kids do today, with nothing but a lard sandwich in a paper bag and plastic shopping bags for winter boots, and I never whined a bit. And we used a board with a nail in it for Nintendo. I have a horrid feeling I’ve become merely spry, or will have to do so. Alas. I smile when I say.

My grandmother’s little apartment is snug and warm, the sun room poised anxiously awaiting for sun like a doomed Anita Brookner heroine. My mother, in the main part of the shanty rises cast iron again after her dramatic summer illness. There is much to be thankful for and you have to tell her flat out. The remainders of her close family, sisters man the phones for the cynical daylong domestic reportage their dialing plans afford them. Their conversation runs like a cnn news strip through my days. Cousins giggle through the house as ever, mocking the furniture. Not enough cousins really… there used to be fifty of us kids at Christmas, on the farm. With snowmobiles. We were wondering yesterday how none of us were ever killed. Or why. At birth. My email is bloated with their pictures. Facebook is an absolute nightmare. My aunt Sandra says every time she sees me “well here’s Norman Bates” but then she’s only married in and never really felt like she belonged, as she always says at dinner with thaty smile that maybe just for a moment knows she is our delight. Anyway, seems you can’t climb a flight of stairs these days without a lifestyle helmet.

We knew my mother was well again when she bought herself a second hand Hammond organ while visiting her sister in the chateau. it was out in the hall. As these things should be. She told the great grand children she’d play away with her old arthritic fingers by the window and give concerts for the poor children over Christmas.

So There’s still hope here in these troubled fields.

Nevertheless, tilting my banjo aside, I am very glad that my friend, the city mouse and trumpeter, Bill has not renounced, or abandoned, painting, let alone done with the little studio we’ve taken on in our little home city, which is my last fucking grip on sanity some days I tell ya, that old view overlooking the quaint city square with its ducking pond and crackheads. What hilarity. What with the long nights here with the unshared sky hard and cold and brilliant as a Finnish fairy tale illustration, what with the diplomatic silences, the eloquence too, of the living and the dead. And my own. And all the clumsiness.

I grow as weary as anyone I suppose of fortifying the unsustainable, triviality, of pretending it is practical, the right and only thing to do. I’m sick to death of soothing the wounded sense of entitlement of spoiled television shoppers. of never saying you’ve had too much, there is not enough, the poor are with you. I am tired of Christianity twisted to justify the worst thing. And the muslims. I am tired of praising famous men. I am tired of the artist Britney spears. I am up at six in the morning, sickened by Blackwater. I am up late at night, making luxury objects, though the actual act of painting is the enemy of the tidy sort of house proud. here at mission control these precariously perched trays of dreary octaves of wet paint, tilted upon synthesizer cables and wireless clutter, among painted panels, surrounding my central monitor on my own Formica dining table provide a fence against any but the most graceful of perched elbows, my cat’s, The guitar string that will not remain coiled, ever in the middle of the still life. a few others.

Yes, The company here that isn’t family here is rare but excellent. . … a nice young man comes now and then and takes me for a walk along the lane to the shops. I talk too much, I think afterward. Some kind agency I think sends him. People call. A foreign sounding man on the phone last weekend was trying to herd a few of us together at a barn dance down snow banked back roads.I could see us, dressed for mardi gras under parkas, hauled over to the crusty ditch by a Christmas cop ride program. It was a tempting vision. He said that I didn’t know a damned thing about running a posse and I wouldn’t last five minutes in Jamaica, that I was pathetic. You could tell he’d been thinking. I blame this Obama victory.

People write, respectable vicar types check in, not my snake handling relatives either as one neatly pointed out. Shoppers are rushing right out to invest in art certainly now we acknowledged we’re in a real American recession, so I’m just rolling in money. I have hopes of Ikea convenience and minimalist eternal youth. Things aren’t bad, I don’t think I’ll snap in under a year, but it does me world of good to know that when I get back to Moscow there’s a worktable and not just a yellow cafe table to settle me. I miss the people with fanciful hair I know there. The festivals of culture and tourism and that smoking elegant cat on whose company so much of my own inability to feel a complete exile depends.

I put up a new flash site at the url

I’m doing a little Christmas show at the gallery up 62 north and hanging around there on Santa clause parade weekend,
and here’s a link to info about that. There may be dancing at the hotel. There will be music.


Blue Hotel


I just rose into the visions of the village idiot this morning like I’d never been away. The ice of the night had burst a pipe and the water was up to that first little wooden step in the basement. I followed him down the glistening street into the diner where I learned from eavesdropping on the villagers that his reports were true and I had a double order of toast and jam and two large white mugs of coffee. You never know.One of these I took outside into the blast where I had a cigarette. He came out and headed back home to his apartment with a hamburger in a Styrofoam tray in one hand. He stopped to clear a drain with the toe of his boot. Which is more than most people’d do.

My business here is done but I’m staying up at the hotel for a couple days in a monastic cell, just like I ordered. The screen and the Eliza Gilkyson are hearth enough with a bottle of Green tea and the occasional trip down stairs a flight and out to the veranda to get stoked in outdoor pleasure. This storm’s just a good excuse for me to stay off the road. I feel I should be out chopping ice from the eaves and drains but for a day or so I take leave of such concerns. The hydro was out for a bit this morning. Not long enough to be an emergency. If that happens I’ll get off my butt and save an old lady or something. I’m done in.

I told the girl in the next room I didn’t know whether I needed detox or more and she said knowingly, just a walk, so I took one with my camera. Dropped in at the gallery to pack some stuff and locked myself out like an idiot when I went to the store for more tea. I mistook my room key among my things for the gallery key so I came back to the hotel to the monastic cell for a bit to warm up and dry out. Not a bad day at all. Took some pictures. Now the glamor’s off the place. I haven’t been here in a while, I’m on retreat, and there isn’t much of family here anymore but my father and my grandfather drank here, and I came here myself when the draft dodgers started getting bands together and there was dancing. I’ve seen misery here, had my hand in it up to the elbow but it feels like home as several places do. My father’s buried down in the valley there below the church just there. My grandmother ran the hotel across the street. These meaningless identifiers. We used to sneak across that pasture there up tothe barn and peek in the door at the dances. We could hardly see over the long grass to get there in the dark but we’d do it. Now that barn’s got a parking lot full of smart trucks with gun racks and a dance floor to die for. I ate a slice of bear meat there with a blueberry sort of chutney on the side one night I thought it was me who died and gone to heaven,.

I find I’m pretty happy on my own in transit between these places. I’m not shy, or afraid to seem strange. I like the country music from the local station on the radio and the frozen home fries in the diner. I noticed somebody had scratched into the artificial Christmas snow sprayed on the window “Don’t leave God out of the equation’. Just somebody doing someone’s little part. Oh to feel that crucial.

The cell is hot, the hotel is hot. The place has an outdoor furnace which the owner plies with chunks of log the size of his own admirable torso. My walls bear replicated sprays of violets. I have a mirror, a poster of a sadistically thoughtful timber wolf, with eyes oddly like the musician Marilyn Manson’s. A European wolf, the tag says. Smokes Gitanes likely. Bisexual. Will screw the crack of dawn and doesn’t know what he wants. Can’t settle on a sugar bowl.

The bed is firm, the pillows meager but numerous. Later tonight I’ll shower and settle in for sleep. My black outerwear, shed and hung, lends my room a certain unbuttoned priestliness. I feel very white and dissolute, half regretting the dark hounds tooth. Outside the rain blows off in a slapping wind that seems warm in a sudden breakthrough of sunlight, the highway dries safe, quickly and then the sun is obscured again, fast, and the mercury falls. A friend who visits here with me sometimes, we go to church, says that hilltop villages are subconsciously reassuring because they are defensible… you can see what’s coming. Off in the distance on lower wolf colored hills, veils of snow . In this hot room, where I sleep with bottled water close to hand, I stand at my window drinking ice tea, wanting to undress, watching the vicious swat of the wind on the high western false fronts of the few austere buildings, imagining the sting of the ice and road gravel in it.

Buddy angry down in the hall, staying upstairs with a work crew, wonders why the bar isn’t open downstairs. Thought I worked here. I used to do so too. Nobody wants to watch you get drunk I want to say, knowing it to be true but I mutter some palliative in the tone I use for panhandling crackheads. He circles mindlessly near the barroom door like a baby wanting a bottle from the fridge. He just forgot to buy a bottle on his way home from his work site, counted on the bar being open. My mother’s words echoed again, “Don’t take your guns to town, leave your guns at home, Bill, don’t take your guns to town.” Whiny little drunk man. Palliative. I have a reputation. “That’s only weekends now, lad.” Hard times in Babylon. You’d find that bar more confusing if it was open.

But half the working guys in the hotel have driven into the ditch today, and are calculating costs, there’s more than one bloody knuckle from some cold metal skid or another. I imagine a drink’d be welcome. It’s so hot and dry in here, and so extremely neither outside… snow hurling under the gas pump lights across the road last night.

I was born in the next town down the road but as a kid I played here, we’d come here at Christmas. There were those heartbreakingly earnest little angel choirs singing carols in their snowsuits on floats in the Christmas parade the other twilight, not much changes, and dogs barking from the animal rescue mission float at dogs along the route. Tossed candy. I have the bladder of like a fifteen year old poodle in the cold and I missed half the parade finding a bathroom but it was nice.

After the hot dogs which followed and everything was shutting down, three of us drove to another village to a Legion hall to hear a reggae band while a fourth spent an hour skating round the rink here in moonlight. That would have been something to see. We were each bothered and graced by the full moon. We were all pawing at the moon that night bothered and enlivened. We were running wild. There seemed to be one or two of everything at this party. Everyone told charmingly modest stories on themselves in the parking lot in little trails of smoke against a mural I could not decipher until I walked away to take a leak, up into the bush a bit and I could see it was a painting of a child blowing a dandelion head to snowy effect down the length of the concrete block building.

The band played late… near the end the janitor took to flicking the warning lights. A bit laid back for my tastes. Certain point everything kicked in and Cleveland commenced those little Jamaican warm up steps on the fringes of the floor. He says there’s a hip fairy comes to white people in their sleep when they turn thirty and locks dem up. The hip fairy. They are no longer loose, no longer hip. I try not to make it an obvious study but I aim to approximate those gently anticipatory warm up steps one day yet. He dances on the sidelines, observant, compact, sloe eyed. Like he’s on some guard. Sometimes he’ll dance up and rap out some fleet observance in your ear while your eyes are closed, wants you to notice something funny.

His wife and I have danced together since we were in our teens, skinny trouble makers in Polk Gulch, wharf rats. Bareback discos of the land. So we know our moves. We hardly dance together until there’s some hard r and b measure when you need to lock eyes with another human being in mutual pleasure. Little bit of wilding always has been important to us. I never spent any time in the Kingston ghetto but I have my humiliations to shake off down these verdant frozen back roads. Sometimes a fourth will join in. I’m no angel of the first degree, I’m no tupelo honey, I know you come to the end of romantic adventuring and these snow fields cover over the pulse in your throat but I have a few years of it left.

Jeep through an avenue of snow plastered pines all the way there and home, sleepy, at three in the morning to this old blue hotel. Tiptoeing up the stairs with my cuffs full of snow and beer on my breath like my father before me. Didn’t have any little insults to mull over this morning. Just a little dry. No dry fuck of an inbox. I didn’t remember to care. I skittered on ice up to the diner and had a western sandwich the size of my own head. Slack jawed with the realization of my own joy about twenty times a day. Not a bad count.That’s one wicked night out there. That wind’d kill you. The special effects are amazing. I gotta make a call or two now, in case the lines go down, see whether the roof’s caved in at home . Going to do a little snowshoeing tomorrow I gather if the weather settles. I’ll have the ass of a retired figure skater if I don’t drop dead of a stroke this winter shoveling.

You’re that geisha boy again out there crossing over near Rivière du-Loup, be careful, keep your eyes on the road in this extended tantalization under this big close moon.Remember the trucks? Trunk full of loot. Private data cleared. I’m glad of those heated leather seats on a night like this. All those calibrated details of that material progress. Through Kamouraska, all of it. This is like one of those places you hurtle through on a clear night there with your chin in the keyboard light, places that barely register on global positioning. You know, ‘The waitress was no princess, but I held out my hand just to touch somebody strange and she gave me back my change.” You wonder what kind of fire could burn there in a heart to keep it resident but we know better.