Risk, the classic board game of world conquest. The secret to winning is to occupy Australia first as players begin to place their armies. The less experienced invariably chose more colorful locations like England and Egypt but those mythical lands are vulnerable to foreign attack whereas Australia is the only isolated territory on the board. Launch your invasions from the land down under and victory will be yours. As it is true in history, it is true in Risk, Ukraine is a terrible place to find yourself defending. Like wind off the steppe, alien hordes periodically sweep across Ukraine’s fertile plains, stopping long enough to gorge themselves on her ample wheat before steamrolling West to plunder the Gold. If you are lucky enough to be hundreds of miles away from the current upheaval, my advice is to stock up on staples: dried beans, rice, coffee, bottled water and wine before the prices get too high or there is simply nothing on the shelves. Hunker down in your own private Australia for a while and work on that project that has been collecting dust because you have been too busy binge watching reality shows. That novel isn’t going to finish itself. Who is going to pluck the right phrases out of the air and assemble them into poems if not you? Tàpies did not have a staff of brush monkeys to do the work for him. Ravel did not own a synthesizer. When the fighting stops and the world returns to whatever we accept as normalcy you will be ready to strike from your isolation and be triumphant.
Imagine if Bartok had given up on symphonies, quartets and concertos and focused on composing Please-Hold music for corporations to be performed while their customers waited for the next available Service Technician or loops to set the mood of a podcast, a DIY video on YouTube, a TikTok nothing. Had the maestro owned a copy of Ableton Live or Bitwig, what influence would he have had on producers of dance and trance scores? Ponder a dance in 5/4. Art is a difficult subject and yet it is not avoided at parties like religion or politics. I have never known of fisticuffs and dissolved friendships brought about by a disagreement over Bob Ross versus Picasso or Led Zepplin versus Tupac. If you have a soft spot for 80’s New Wave, no one really minds too much. People usually indulge your passion and nod and smile politely while you go on and on about the sound of an analog Moog synth. Bartok would have enjoyed Moog’s laboratory. He might even have been added to the product development team. That is a lucrative iron in fire for a song-slinger between gigs. Bela was never too flush. Art is a difficult path.
On the subject of music, please be sure and visit my music page. After all, you are already here: https://johntruelove.com/music-sweet-music/
The Season’s visage wears a scowl.
Cold smoke moves on specter toes.
Join the lonely wind in howl,
Chant the words in Winter’s prose.
It has been a long, cold winter but the worst has passed. February brings milder temperatures to South Texas. The only sign of the old frigid man is yellow grass, some bare tree branches and pruned crape myrtles. A sense of season is easily confused. Landscapes surrounding office buildings and cul de sacs alike are planted with invasive, perennials of implacable green. The display of chocolate hearts is replaced by chocolate rabbits beside a sale for sunscreen. The new line of patio furniture relaxes in cool umbrella shade, inviting a shopper to sit and consider the sale price on the laminated tag. Everyone should own a grill at least once in their life but no one really needs a leaf blower. Did Washington and Lincoln believe in one nation under God with liberty and justice and 30% off for all? Wait! Don’t buy that, put it back on the shelf. Save your money for a weekend getaway to Port Aransas. The seashore is enticing but beware the Ides of March and the college students who storm the beach in amphibious assaults like drunken Marines. Spring loves to tease but she is just around the corner. Open a bottle of wine and listen to Carmina Burana. You may have to turn the stereo up loud to be heard above the mating call of leaf blowers.
There are some people who look forward to winter. This type of cold weather folk can’t wait for the first report of powdery snow on their favorite slope so they can dress in thermal finery and ascend a mountain where, once at the summit, strap 2x4s to there frozen feet and hurl themselves off risking broken bones and frostbite. The roaring fire and a tankard of IPA in the lodge are the perfect end to a thrilling day of cheating death. In my past, ski resorts were a great gig for a cover band, good money and dinner show hours. But it was always cold and, since I consider anything below 60 F freezing, I never looked forward to Vermont in January. When I lived in New York, I could tolerate winter only because inclement weather was an excuse to stay inside and I could dry my towels on the radiator.
Now that I live within spitting distance of Mexico, I can’t complain about frigid weather too much or use it as justification for being lazy. Except when it is really, really frigid. When the mercury plummets to 18 F and icy precipitation creates a clear candy shell on sidewalks and statues in the Northeast people shrug it off as another nasty day. In the South, those conditions create a sort of surreal pandemonium. You may recall one such day in 2021 when an arctic blast shut Houston down for a week and Gulf beaches were polluted with the carcasses of sea life. It was almost Biblical.
Here is one man’s account in verse form:
Twenty pelicans sail by in jagged formation. The beach is lead and mist. Wind whips the crispy, brown fronds of tropical transplants; victims of the big freeze. Just like the fish that washed ashore to ferment On the sand stinking surströmming. A feast for gulls who turn up their snobbish beaks Preferring purloined corn chips and french fries. The grackles laugh. They are amused by everything: Death Pelicans struggling against a squall Broken glass in a hopping man’s bare foot I get the joke, too. Fish don’t wear sweaters Idiots don’t wear shoes And palms should not wander too far North of Bogotá. But laughing at a pelican is just plain cruel.
It is the Lunar New Year. The Chinese New Year. The Year of the Tiger. The Bengals are in the Superbowl this year. My astrological sign in the Eastern horoscope is the Sheep or Goat or Ram. The Rams are in the Super Bowl this year. Everything seems to be coming together in the universe, at least in this small sector. Who knows how things are going around Proxima Centauri. I would write and ask but it would take light years for a letter to reach them and by the time an answer arrived back it would be old news as if an old girlfriend from high school wrote me a note during second period and slipped it through the gill slits of my locker on her way to biology, written on lined notebook paper with little hearts as dots over the “i”’s. But she made a mistake and the little missive went into locker 223, the locker beside mine, assigned to a geek with a terrible teenage complexion who entertained a fantasy that he had a secret admirer for years to come until one day when he forwarded the note to its rightful owner. By then it was too late. It was too late to tell my girlfriend how much I liked her and that I would come over to her house to watch a movie on the VCR. I should not dwell on the past, however. My Chinese horoscope advises me to live in the moment. And who would argue? The signs have already picked the teams in this year’s Super Bowl.
After a lengthy legal battle, I have won back the rights to all my intellectual property. Just kidding, there was no legal battle but I did add me a brand new page to this here website. The Music, Sweet Music page will feature tunes that I have written and recorded. You can access it in the Menu section (upper right, click on the hamburger) or you click this link. Crank it up!
Thursday dawns without inspiration or impulse. In my liminal state before coffee, I searched the dark for a sketch of the day to come. All I found was the base animal instinct to rise and begin prowling the earth for food and procreation. If I have a muse, he has taken Thursday off for personal reasons. Who can blame him, assigned to the likes of me by the force governing the universe, for needing a break? It must be frustrating: guiding my clumsy fingers along the fretboard or ivory keys, helping me choose words. Indeed, it must be exhausting. If only I could crack into my skull and reconfigure the dip switches to genius mode. I asked the neurosurgeon to do some tinkering around while he was in there removing a tumor but he couldn’t be bothered. He was too worried about saving my life. Besides, my insurance did not cover elective procedures like aptitude modification or synapse diversion. And so I am stuck with what I’ve got and a muse who takes Thursdays off.
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.
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.
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.