Life’s Simple Pleasure

January 14, 2022 § 1 Comment

Nothing ruins a cup of joe like fugitive grounds who escaped the filter's tight weave. Sipping and spitting the tiny, soggy pebbles from the tip or your tongue like watermelon seeds across a summer lawn as the sweet juice trickles down your chin. Some say that is half the fun. 

I should sample more of life’s simple pleasures: marveling at birds, laughing at squirrels. But there is nothing simple about either, to be honest. It took eons to evolve from a T-Rex to a Robin. And the antics of a squirrel are really a pattern of convoluted signals used in competition for acorns. 
I might enjoy a slice of freshly baked bread if it weren’t for the fact that this simple pleasure is a complex carbohydrate probably involving the chemical diagram for methylbutanol. 

Coffee and bread. In France, that is all they want for breakfast, maybe a cigarette. In Texas, the line of cars in the drive through of Chick-fil-A is known for blocking traffic on the highway as morning diners wait for fried chicken on a biscuit. 

I typically skip breakfast just to spite those who claim it is the most important meal of the day. And as we all know, spiting know-it-alls is one of life’s simple pleasures.

T-Rex to Robin in only 65 million years. Do Not Feed Yourself to Wildlife.

Heroin

November 17, 2021 § 3 Comments

Jeffrey Lee Pierce

No one wants to have a medical procedure, unless you have a fetish for that sort of thing. I do not. However, even the best models breakdown every so often and have to go in for a tuneup.

The worst part is always the preparation leading up to the big day: endless paperwork, tests, restricted diets, fasting, choking down vile solutions, NO ALCOHOL. Perhaps the greatest torture is having nothing after the witching hour the night before which means no morning joe.

But all of these miseries are worth suffering through when you finally get your hit of Propofol. (is it a coincidence that it rhymes with alcohol?). I understand why the Prince of Pop used it for recreational purposes. I understand why people keep finding something wrong with them and keep going back for more outpatient surgery.

I have to admit, this time was good but not as good as the first time. That is a typical complaint of heroin addicts, incidentally.

And on the subject of heroin, the first time I heard “She’s Like Heroin to Me” by Gun Club I was hooked and, unlike junk, it delivers the same high every time. I am a Jeffrey Lee Pierce devotee. Not only because of his songs and his enigmatic poetry but because of his ability and relentless determination to make music using whatever raw materials he had despite the limitations he faced. Not everybody was born a McCartney or Prince or got to record in Studio A.

I could never match the raucous energy of the original so, in the spirit of JLP, I made it into something of my own. Below is a performance of my version from about 10 years ago before I got hooked on Propofol ;). Stay in school and don’t do drugs.

She’s Like Heroin to Me

Vive Le Pain

November 9, 2021 § 1 Comment

I bet you didn’t kneaux I spoke French, did you?

When it comes to haute cuisine, or less than haute, Houston has plenty to offer. Yes, it is Texas so beef is king, and anything that can be, will be barbecued. It should also come as no surprise to anyone with access to a map of North America that Mexican food is plentiful as are daily catches of fresh fish from the Gulf.

It might be less than common knowledge, however, that Vietnamese food is popular here, especially the beef noodle soup and the Bánh Mì sandwich. And while I am on the subject of sandwiches, nothing ruins a Bánh Mì or a shrimp po’boy like terrible bread. You know the type: doughy, under cooked and made with sugar. I am no baker, but unless you are making a cinnamon bun and the like, sugar should not be in your recipe.

The French are proud of their bread and because of their influence on both Vietnamese and Cajun cultures you might assume that serving anything less than a quality baguette at Pappadeaux’s or the Saigon Cafe would be unacceptable. You would be wrong in that assumption, though, Houston has a real crisis.

My quest for a decent dinner roll was aided by my insatiable thirst for wine. Serendipity, I think they call it. I celebrated a birthday last week, and I decided to splurge on some fancy French labels you don’t see in the discount bin at Spec’s.

As the name implies, French Country Wines is actually operated by someone from France and, being sympathetic to my plight, he directed me to Magnol Bakery. I was not disappointed. Magnol not only has staples like croissants and baguettes, but also a few sweet surprises like Canneles de Bordeaux which is like creme brulee in petit four form.

I confess, I will never grow tired of BBQ, but my beef rib from Hitter’s will be served alongside an epi baguette. And wine, of course.

Music by the Lost, Words by the Found

November 2, 2021 § 1 Comment

No Guitars were harmed during the recording of this song.

I spent countless hours of my youth poring over the liner notes of every record I could get my hands on. No detail, from studio location to assistant engineer, went unappreciated. Lyrics were always a welcome bonus.

As a young, wannabe musician I was particularly interested in the songwriting credits to learn who did what in the band. It was usually: Music by Guitar Player X, Words by Singer Y. But sometimes there would be a wildcard.

The theme of being lost and found again is a popular one in both secular and non-secular music. It got me to thinking what would happen if Lost and Found wrote a song together. Press play and crank it up! Lyrics are included.

Music by the Lost, Words by the Found – John Truelove copyright 2021

The saved will ring the bell
The damned will beat the drum
As this day is lost
So shall tomorrow come

Join me in a song
There are verses for the weak and the strong
We all know the sound 
Of music by the Lost
And words by the Found

Let the Angels pluck the string
Let the Demons blow the horn
As we die today
So shall we be reborn

Join me in a song
There are verses for the right and for wrong
We all know the sound
Of music by the Lost

Words and Music by John Truelove copyright 2021

Houstoniansphere

October 13, 2021 § Leave a comment

Houston is the largest strip mall I have ever been lost in. I have been trying to find my way around this maze for nine months and I am still trying to comprehend why anyone needs half of the things available to them.

There is plenty of superfluous abundance in other large cities but no other U.S. metropolis epitomize’s urban sprawl better than Houston. I can’t help feeling depressed when I drive through it. Neither can I help feeling that as it continues to metastasize so will modern America’s inter connectivity of abject loneliness and isolation.

Houstoniansphere

Plastic salad sandwiches served on frontage road
Mufflers, brows, tattoos and taxes
Sprout from gardens of immediacy 
Planted on the macadam feeding insatiable times. 

What cannot be found here drops from the universe
Outside Sam Houston’s perpetual orbit of shining satellites 
Waiting to fall inward 
Or spin away to Conroe and Woodlands

A gale blows cellophane in from the Gulf 
Chaff of sprawl snags in the branches 
An arborist cleaves from live oak 
Bags once plump with Mexican limes

The heat spawns violent storms and violent people 
You can’t outdraw lightning
You can’t hit a raindrop in the heart
That is why gullies flood while bodies pile up

Generations with no patience track their baubles
While in tombs of nostalgia 6 to 8 weeks molder
Old things are discarded casually on the highway
Orange vested misdemeanors collect them for the landfill

A breeze combs a crape myrtle, pink snow in October
I brush a blossom from the page and sigh
The salutation is smeared
I miss writing more than text messages

Weeding Zen

September 30, 2021 § Leave a comment

Insert Somber High-Rise Here

My first professional job was in Manhattan inside a somber high-rise. I wore a suit and carried a pager. I was also given a company cell phone. My little Motorola could place and accept international numbers in case a partner in Berlin couldn’t open his email. In our current epoch of communication, this might not seem like much but in the mid-90s having such a powerful cell phone meant you were no longer playing in the bush leagues.

The lobby of the building was not much different from its counterparts up and down the street but what set it apart were the two serene Zen gardens on either side of the security desk and elevators. Smooth pink and white stones swirled like sinuous ocean waves around islands where lush Ming Aralias towered above the crags of moss-covered rocks.

I have been captivated by these oases of calm ever since and make a point of enjoying them whenever I visit a park or botanic sanctuary that boasts a Japanese garden. 

Above: some gardens I have visited

Ever since purchasing my first house with both front and back yard in Houston’s tropical climate, I have come to appreciate Zen gardens even more, especially their sparse vegetation. Like rust, grass and weeds never sleep, particularly when nature provides them with plenty of rain and warm sunshine. I never knew that Live Oak trees had such an infiltrative root system. 

When I am not engaged in jungle warfare with my own property, I am contending with incursions from neighboring plant life. Everyday a new tendril has slithered beneath or crept through the slats of the fence. Discarded fronds drop like dead birds from the palm trees in an adjoining lot and every period of gusty winds carries plant detritus into my territory. 

But there is hope; a slow and steady process of deforestation is underway.   

The removal of a dilapidated pergola left an ugly, filthy hole. A heavy down pour would transform it into a stagnant lake suitable only for breeding mosquitoes or mud wrestling. Rather than extending the lawn, I had it covered with attractive paver stones. Incidentally, the area of my new patio is roughly the same size as the bedroom in my former Queens apartment.

Slide the bar back and forth to witness the Before and After
Victory at the Battle of Bull Rock

New gutters and a state-of-the art drainage system have been added to make the backyard less of a soggy marshland no matter how much it rains. Keeping with the masonry theme, a ton of bull rock, with a weed barrier underneath, provides one meter of plant free trim between the turf and the house’s foundation.

My HOA has strict guidelines for street facing property but they are far more lenient with what goes on out back. This is bad news for a pair of prehistoric looking fig trees that appear to have lost the will to live. They flourished all summer, comical leaves reaching to the sunny sky. I harvested several desserts worth of fresh fruit, and while figs are not something I seek out on my own, it was fun getting farm-to-table food for free. 

Prime Figs from Happy Trees

Now the poor twins have drooped. Many of their leaves are yellowing and their limbs crawl on the ground like groveling supplicants. Perhaps they are begging for the water I draining from their roots.

It may not sound very Zen to destroy life but that plot of grotesque black mulch where the fig trees are currently floundering is a perfect spot for smooth pink and white stones raked in circular patterns around a few low maintenance cactuses. 

Houston Dream Home

April 29, 2021 § Leave a comment

It’s been four months since moving to Houston and so far I have lived through the coldest weather in 100 years and the deprivations it delivered upon us. I have survived several revolutions around the metropolis on the 610 “Insaneway” and a Spring Break at Port Aransas.

Eaten alive in Port Aransas. It’s really a metaphor for the Texas real estate market.

All of these life threatening experiences are nothing, however, when compared to what I have endured in the crucible of Houston’s real estate market. And not just Houston proper either. The hamlets of Magnolia, Katy, Spring, Tomball, Humble and the Woodlands are confidence men in this shell game.

I think I have seen over thirty listings in just a few days. The only thing more depressing than picking through the remains someone has left behind is, well, trying to buy it.

Homeownership is something I have avoided for nigh on 20 years. Not because I feel the need to spurn worldly possessions due to they suffering they cause but by virtue of living in overpriced New York City. Perhaps I could have purchased a house in Gotham but I was unwilling to fork over a million bucks for a standup bedroom with a half bath.

Apartments in Houston are palatial in comparison (as in aside, in New York it is pronounced House – Ton, like the film maker). But unless you enjoy living through Spring Break in Port A every weekend, an H-Town housing complex is no place for you.

The only thing more depressing than picking through the remains someone has left behind is, well, trying to buy it.

It’s always a party in Port A

Something about low interest rates that I don’t understand has made houses in Texas as scarce as good Italian food. Adding scores of Yankee*** refugees to the equation only makes things worse. My agent, who will be eligible for sainthood or the Peace Prize after the market stabilizes, has remained doggedly persistent and a favorable outcome is hopefully in sight.

My Dune goes to 11

If it doesn’t workout this time I am considering selling all my basses and guitars and investing in a sporty RV and going mobile like the Who.

That way I can live in as many places as I want, albeit in a Big Apple shoebox, but at least I can have a different front lawn whenever I choose. A year of beach front property only sets you back a measly $12 in the Texas Republic. Pull up, park and begin a new life as a beach bum from the Jimmy Buffet School of Ne’er-do-wells. You can do a lot worse than Port A or Padre Island.

Good luck finding your dream home.

***Disclaimer: John Truelove was born and raised in Bedford County, Virginia. He is not a real Yankee.

T for Texas

February 1, 2021 § Leave a comment

McGovern Centennial Gardens

I have moved to Texas, Houston, to be exact. After over 20 years in NYC I finally threw a dart at a map and headed west. “I loved the crime and the traffic but it just was NOT hot and humid enough,” as that old bon mot goes. The time was right to escape. The events of 2020 destroyed everything I liked about the city, I started feeling less and less safe and I didn’t want to be trapped under the rubble when the metropolis finally collapsed under its own weight.

In other news, I have a car for the first time in over 20 years, a condition that will only add to Houston’s vehicular congestion and another …er..um… imperfect motorist to a population already replete with drivers on the offensive. (At least when they aren’t busy backing into a parking spot – a peculiar Houston idiosyncrasy)

Galveston Beach

Things are refreshingly different here. For instance, the weather is mild. As of this post a good old fashioned nor’easter is dumping two feet of snow on my old home. Snow is only fun once a year, the first fall of the season, and then only if you are inside with no where to be and a drink in your hand. It is isn’t quite mild enough to perform my famous cannonball off the swimming pool high dive, however, although the clear blue of her undulating skin beckons. This amenity is another first. Access to a pool in Gotham required a steep membership fee and 6 a.m. lane reservations. Yawn.

It was not warm enough over the extended weekend in January to go plunging into the Gulf of Mexico but walks on Galveston beach and delicious Pier Beer in the warm sunshine was pleasant, indeed. Having this new car sure is handy for getting away for the weekend. Corpus Christi and San Antonio are next on the road trip list and beloved Lafayette and New Orleans have never been more accessible.

I am going to miss my friends. I am going to miss walking home from my favorite bars. I am going to miss my band Dixie Automatic. Yes, ironically enough I was in a New York band called Dixie Automatic. It was a good group and we always had a lot of fun together playing Country music for Yankee hipsters.

Below is a sample from a live show in NYC before they boarded the place up.

Honeymoon by Dixie Automatic

Two Little Devils

December 15, 2020 § Leave a comment

King Truelove Christmas Album

For several years my wife and I released a Christmas video for family and friends who are scattered all over the globe. I wrote the music for each and recorded the music in my home studio. We also filmed and produced the videos in our tiny apartment or on location in the wild streets of Queens.

“Two Little Devils at Christmas” is an exception. Way back in 2014 we wanted to do something slick so we hired a professional band, went into an actual recording studio and called in a film crew.

A lot of folks were disappointed that we didn’t have puppets but I was happy with the results. For the first time I didn’t have to worry about production, creating a blackout or being arrested for not having a permit.

We will return to the DYI format in 2021 if Christmas doesn’t get canceled but for now please enjoy living in the past with me for Auld Lang Syne. I’m the cute one playing the bass.

The Hurdles of Epiphany

November 24, 2020 § Leave a comment

Coach Milton climbed the bleachers overlooking the football field where on crisp Friday evenings in early Autumn the Fighting Bluejays of Middlesburg High battled other local teams on the gridiron to an  insufferable soundtrack of current pop hits arranged for marching band. This was, however, early Spring, a period that marked the beginning of track and field season. At the top of the stands, Coach Milton had a commanding view of the dirt ring that orbited a green sea of turf where an assistant coach led a new crop of would be sprinters, high jumpers and pole vaulters in calisthenics.  Watching the gawky teenagers struggle with the coordination required to perform jumping jacks, brought to mind an analogy between track and chorus. It wasn’t his own, he knew next to nothing about music, but was tendered to him by Mrs. Blackmore who at the time was Middlesburg’s chorus instructor. That was in the early part of his teaching career when a new school year promised a fresh start even though they all ended very much the same.

Track is to sports as chorus is to music, a dumping ground for students eager to participate but not talented enough for the football team or the concert band.

How did it go? He lifted a pair of binoculars to his eyes and fiddled with the little wheel between the lenses to bring into focus a distant point. What emerged from the blur happened to be the shapely rump of a girl genuflecting in a hamstring stretch.

Track is to music, no, that wasn’t right. The looming sky looked as if it could have been an artist’s interpretation of sorrow done in charcoal. He searched it for the answer like a bad student consulting his crib sheet but heaven held no inspiration. 

He took another peek at the girls bottom. Oh, yes. Track is to sports as chorus is to music, a dumping ground for students eager to participate but not talented enough for the football team or the concert band.

At first the observation had pissed him off and he had wanted to punch Mrs. Blackmore’s sad, weary face that was made all the more unattractive by her jaded attitude and an enduring puffiness caused by too much wine and sodium. However, each school term since had come to an unwavering conclusion, bringing the idiom into perspective.

He sighed and brought his attention back to the business at hand. In the lenses of his field glasses stood the magnified image of Wilton Brown, his lean regional champion of the 400 meter hurdles. A senior now, he would surely go All-State this year. Coach Milton made a habit of observing his best athletes from different vantage points in order to spot potential weaknesses or strengths that could be exploited. As of yet, he had seen nothing but perfection from his star runner. His measured steps between hurdles were swift and consistent and he leapt over the obstacles with the ease and beautiful grace of a deer hopping a fence.  Watching this youth excel reminded Coach Milton that there were indeed rewards to his job.

But just as Brown cleared the final jump and sprinted the remaining stretch to the finish line, the coach felt something tighten in his chest and he grew short of breath. At first he thought he was having a heart attack but seemed to remember hearing somewhere that cardiac arrest always starts in the left arm. He flopped down onto the smooth wood of the bench under the crushing weight of an unpleasant epiphany as lethal as any infarction, albeit much slower, painful and cruel.

It was an utterly banal reflection for a track coach. Nonetheless, he had never thought about it until this moment. All of his life up he had been going in a circle, an endless loop of years. It didn’t matter who came in first or dead last, we all end up right back at the beginning to start all over again. Worse still, he was teaching young people the same circuitous pattern that would lead them spiraling to their own unfulfilled existences until they disappeared like water down the black hole of a drain. 

He jumped to his feet, allowing his binoculars to slip from his grasp and go crashing through the crisscross of steel support beams that held the tiered seating erect. He descended the stands at a clumsy pace that nearly caused him to trip twice. He darted to the school parking lot and his dumpy Ford Fiesta with faded paint and a squeaking fan belt that needed changing. He jumped in and raced home.

His wife, who was not expecting him home so soon, was interrupted from her afternoon routine of Boone’s Farm and self pleasure. She wrapped herself in a bathrobe and concocted a haphazard lie about being under the weather as an excuse for her unkempt appearance. Coach Milton took no notice as he pushed passed her into the bedroom without saying a word. He wrestled from the closet the same Samsonite that had carried his things to Myrtle Beach on the couple’s honeymoon years ago. He tossed it into the middle of the sagging mattress and began filling it with items from his chest of drawers. 

“Aaron, what on earth are you doing? Do you have a track meet out of town or something? It’s not on the calendar. Aaron?” His wife, still groggy from the effects of wine and mechanized ecstasy, watched her husband’s erratic packing in an indifferent stupor that suggested she didn’t really care if he answered or not. 

From behind the screen of the front door she watched Aaron Milton fling his single piece of luggage into the gaping rear of the hatchback and drive away. She waited for him to return the next day and the next. After two weeks she called her friend Sandy at Coldwell Banker and put the house on the market.

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