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