Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Some Songs

It’s Wednesday, June 1st. I can hear someone tossing their laundry into the dryer. It’s a funny sound, air in a hollow drum of metal reverberating with the thrust of clothes, click of zippers and buttons, slam of the dryer door, setting of the dial, then a long monotonous hum, a gentle, steady drone of neutral diffusion. This is the “Song of the Dryer.”

Our cat is on a feeding frenzy. I worry that he might have worms. We look for little rice-like pellets in his favorite places to sleep, the pillow under the study lamp and the end of the bed, but can find nothing. Something seems to be bugging him. It would be helpful if cats could talk. He sits by his bowl until we put food in it. If I scoop out a generous dollop of cat food, he sucks it up in seconds, and is back again a few minutes later, and will sit by his bowl until one of us breaks down and gives him a little more. This is “The Ballad Of The Cat.” Poignant, compelling, utterly silent.

May was not a kind month. The refrigerator required repair, water got trapped in the door of our car, Toby - who is an indoor cat - got a bad case of fleas, and I came down with the flu. On top of which, the weather was awful. Cold, wet, gloomy. May may as well have been November. Except November is generally nicer than this.

The water in the car door event drove me nuts. I heard it sloshing for over a month and thought it was a bottle of water trapped under one of the car seats. I searched everywhere. No bottle. Nothing. I was teetering on the verge of some serious frustration. Then Roberta noticed the sloshing when she was opening the door. “It’s in the door,” she said. “You’re kidding?” I answered, incredulous. She wiggled the door. The sloshing was unmistakable. This was the “Song Of The Car Door Sloshing.”

She took the car in to Hobb’s Garage on Garfield. The drainage hole in the door got plugged. Same damn thing happened to the refrigerator. Only the drainage hole was nowhere to be found. It was behind a panel. It required special tools, special skills. We had to call in a repairman.

It was the flu that got me really depressed. This is common. For one thing, I took antibiotics, which not only kill the offending bacteria, but the bacteria (microflora) that normally live in one’s intestines, functioning almost like another organ. The resident gut microflora positively control the intestinal epithelial cell differentiation and proliferation through the production of short-chain fatty acids. They also mediate other metabolic effects such as the syntheses of vitamins like biotin and folate, as well as absorption of ions including magnesium, calcium and iron. Iron is needed for producing red blood cells, the lack of which results in brittle hair, anemia, a craving for licorice, and naked despair.

Whenever I get a little depressed I like to watch YouTube videos. The opening scene of Adventures In Babysitting is a favorite. I love to watch Elizabeth Shue dance around her bedroom while the Crystals sing “And Then He Kissed Me.” The energy is glorious. Sexy and goofy and bursting with elation. She uses the bedpost for a microphone and makes a wedding veil out of the window curtain. How could anyone not fall in love with this woman?

I also really like Nolwenn Leroy’s version of the traditional Breton song “La jument du Michao.” The people in the video remind me of the people I used to hang out with the in late 60s. The kid with the slouch hat and long hair could be the young Arthur Rimbaud.

I marvel at the new song Robert Plant and his Band of Joy put out, “Monkey,” which is actually the creation of a rock group from Duluth, Minnesota named Low, and members Alan Sparhawk, Mimi Parker, and Zahary Micheletti. Plant sings “Monkey” with Patty Griffin, a pretty singer and song-writer considerably younger than him. It’s weird to see Plant looking so old, crags in his face, sags in his jowls, but his hair still long and blonde and curly, he could be Druid priest, or King Lear’s wise and aging fool.

“Monkey” is a weird song. The lyrics are highly evocative, but extremely elliptical, like Neil Young’s “Down By The River.” With the help of the music, the song communicates on a very deep, intuitive level, and even though I don’t know what is meant by the phrase “the monkey dies tonight,” it sounds prophetic and eery, like something from a David Lynch movie.

It’s often a good thing to have a song splashing around in your head when thoughts turn ugly and somber or thinking just gets onerous and tedious and you want to empty your head of it all. Listen to the Beatles. That effervescence has turned classic like Mozart. Not Mahler, Mozart. Most definitely Mozart. The Beatles always had that spritely Mozart sound never that somber Mahler pathos with its fevered unrest or the grandness of Beethoven’s towering dramas. Even a relatively ominous number like “A Day In The Life” has moments of quirky humor.

Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet” is a moving portrait of one’s waning years. The mood is bittersweet and reflective. I can listen to that over and over. It’s a good song to hear when you get old and crepuscular. Unfortunately, I can’t find any decent video for it. They’re either plastered with ads, really bad covers someone had the moxie to post on YouTube, or terrible amateur recordings made during a performance using what must have been a cell phone. The sound is awful and the image of Dylan’s now aging figure trussed up in glitzy cowboy clothes à la Hank Williams and a Texas Swing band goes in and out of clarity.

I also really like this new young lady from England, Adele, whose “Rolling In The Deep” is large and powerful and whose cover of Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” is performed with stunning sincerity. I usually don’t go for a video dramatization of someone’s song, but the video that goes with “Rolling In The Deep,” with that odd figure in the eighteenth century costume of an elegant aristocrat with a wig and cane dancing in all that flour or cocaine or heroin or whatever it is, is pretty damned interesting. So are all those glasses of water, the water trembling with the drum beats. Very cool. Here again, though, no way around the ads.

Music cures nothing, but it can help with a few of life’s more indelicate circumstances. Delusions of grandeur. Bad cough. Aching muscles. Worn book jackets. Hospital bills. Strange cities with complicated intersections and slow traffic lights. Corrupt politicians. Lying deceitful sociopathic presidents.

What’s your favorite sensation? If I had to pick just one I couldn’t do it. Getting into bed is high on the list. So are eating and sitting in the shade on a really hot day. Getting silly with a bowl of jello. Hot water hitting my skin after a long run in the rain and sleet on a cold winter day. Feeling cat fur or the soft muzzle of a cow. Walking barefoot and drinking from a garden hose. Squirting lather out of a can of shaving cream. Squeezing paint from a tube. Riding a horse in ocean surf. Hearing the roar of jet engines and that first feeling of lift as the wheels leave the ground. Carrying something heavy like a piece of furniture or sack of cat litter a long way and then putting it down. Quitting a job and walking into the sunlight. Finding something I lost. Ambiguity (sometimes). The flavor of almost any food except broccoli or liver. Opening a present. Weird colors like violet and infrared. A room that is illumined by a single large candle. Meditation. The smell of rain. Walking on a path on the side of a mountain. Pulling a shirt off when it’s hot. Being excused from an onerous task because someone else has offered to do it. Or it is already done. Or there is nothing to do. Not even think. Or make sense of the world.

Anybody can describe logic. But can you describe cotton?

Don’t knock reason. I think reason is great. The sleep of reason produces monsters. But music is not a product of reason. It operates best without reason. In that respect it is very similar to poetry.

Poetry and songs have a lot in common. Both use words. Both strive to charge the mind and emotion. Both employ alliteration and assonance and rhyme. Both are steeped in reverie and wish fulfillment and dream. But they’re two different species. Same phylum, same family, but different species. Like insects. Ants, aphids, lacwings, pill bugs, locusts, grasshoppers, crickets, millepedes, earwigs, gnats, moths, scarabs, houseflies, tarantulas, wasps, yellow jackets, spiders, mosquitos, weevils, wood ticks, beetles, hornets, termites, cicadas, butterflies.

Which is the song, which is the poem? Is the ant a poem and the cicada a song? Is a spider really a novel? Is a wood tick a ballad? Is a hornet a sonnet?

Many insects are hairy. But many are not. Ladybugs, for instance, are shiny red little pellets of insect joy. Dragonflies are magnificent. Dragonflies are fugues of lucid buzz.

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