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.
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.
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.
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.
February 1, 2021 § Leave a comment
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)
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.
December 15, 2020 § Leave a comment
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.
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.
November 13, 2020 § 1 Comment
Most everyone who reads this post had a terrible 2020. We couldn’t travel and lost those vacation deposits. We were isolated at home like political prisoners under house arrest. Visits to family and friends were highly curtailed. Worse, maybe you knew someone who passed because of all this. I can’t speak to your neck of the woods but New York city is not much without its bars, restaurants, museums, movie theaters, concerts and impulse clothing purchases.
Frankly, it doesn’t do any good to contribute to the babel of of discontent. So, in an effort to be affirmative, hopefully without coming across as sappy, I offer you a post that focuses on the positive things that happened to me in this dreadful year.
I survived skin cancer and a brain tumor all during a pandemic while the city of New York deteriorated into crime, chaos and sorrow. I endured three surgeries, four MRIs, daily radiation therapy and countless lab and doctor visits. If I did not have good insurance I would be buried in debt for the rest of my natural life, no matter how long I live on. My odds for a successful recovery were greatly increased just by my zip code and the access I have to the best health care in the whole world.
2020 is the Year of the Rat in the Chinese horoscope. Specifically, 2020 is the year of the Metal Rat. (No, not that one). Most of us in the West would consider a rat to be a fitting representative for a nasty 365 days but The Rat has a different meaning in Chinese culture. According to what I have gleaned from the interwebs, The Rat is “resourceful” and the Metal Rat, moreover, is “strong, determined, and resolute.”
The article above goes on to describe how the other signs will fair in 2020. Sheep like me will “be able to sail through 2020 with minimal problems.” I wouldn’t go that far (I kinda got sheared, ha! ha!) but I did lucky, like lotto winner lucky.
Even if you weren’t as fortunate as me, I hope you are alright and I urge you to be like a Metal Rat and get through the rest of the next month and half in one piece. See you in 2021 or, if you prefer, the Year of the Ox.
February 12, 2020 § Leave a comment
Nature paints a violent portrait
In a thick impasto of worried gray, bruised maroon, frigid blue
Gulls get stuck in the oil
Invisible wind punishes the sea grass
And blows sand onto the canvas
Blending with the palette’s tortured colors
Half a tube of titanium is squeezed
To frost the curling surf
Endless coils of leaden thunder break
In silence behind rain distorted glass
The stormy world melts with a Van Gogh eye
December 4, 2019 § Leave a comment
I bought myself a parrot
A kaleidoscope of tropical hues
Bleeding from jungle flowers
I tried to teach her to talk:
“Pieces of Eight”
“I love you”
“Scotch and soda”
She just squawks
She flaps her clipped wings
She makes a mess
Yet each time I try,
Each time I try returning her to the pet store,
She talks me out of it
November 12, 2019 § Leave a comment
Whenever I have a bout of insomnia I try to make the best use of my time. I usually try and sort things out that I have been ruminating on during the day. But I never accomplish much. Moreover, it is very dangerous. Although I am conscious of being awake, I think my subconscious is more active than I realize and I can’t form coherent thoughts. You can’t trust what your mind tells you in this state. It must be what a schizophrenic experiences when a shadowy character in his head tells him that nothing good will ever happen and he should go jump off a building. If you make it through the night things always look better in the morning. Even still, insomnia is a miserable way to spend the evening.
Seven shards of moonlight
Shimmer on the sill
Brittle as silver ice
Shaved from a frozen block of midnight
Ghosts pace their cells
Behind glowing bars
Sliced from brutal street lamps
By Venetian blades
Never welcome 3 A.M.
Or shake her sable hand
She tricks you into talking
In dark, spinning circles while she snores to mock you
Four turns five in nine chimes
Wood grain drinks the melting ice, ghosts go free
The Angel of Dawn descends
And slowly stretches out on the carpet
October 31, 2019 § Leave a comment
I compose a humble prayer for rain
The paper drinks my ballpoint dry
Below a sheet of baking tin
In the steaming thicket locusts drone
Like monks they murmur
Invocations for a cool shower?
Who knows what locusts want.
Locusts are always hungry
“They will cry out with shouts of victory”
A plague of drought descended earlier
It’s too too late for supper
Our crops wither
Down the highway rolls the swarm
Gnawing tires whine and hum
Off to McDonald’s or the markets?
God knows what humans do.
I check my empty refrigerator again
The air is cool like a cloudless sky
Above a sheet of baking tin
My prayer for rain remains unanswered
September 6, 2019 § Leave a comment
Flames in your eyes
Black gunpowder, short fuse
Built for beauty, for speed
Waiting to go up in smoke
One spark is all
Bottle to be strong
Wake up you lazy Guardians
Will you sleep too through this blast?
Prepare a room in Father’s house
Here comes another bottle rocket
Exploding into night