Monday, April 20, 2009

Talk Talk

"Spirit of Eden" by Talk Talk is one of my favorite albums of all time. I will go on the record as saying that. When I first hear the album, from the opening moments of that very serious tuning or ambiance of the strings in the background to the mournful trumpet notes tempered with distorted guitar, I knew that this was either going to be a pretension fest that I was misled to by my trust in another music review, or the best album that I had ever listened to. Well it was close (2nd best after Bob Dylan's "Self Portrait" {easily the best concept album of all time}) Once that guitar comes in on "The Rainbow" to set the scene, mixing with the haunting harmonica (spooky!) you are immediately drawn in. I have always likened this album to Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks." Both albums deserve the accolade "organic." Because there have been perhaps only three truly organic albums (to my knowledge) in rock history: Astral Weeks, Spirit of Eden, and Laughing Stock (also by Talk Talk). "Organic" being a conception of an album born out of the idea that the musicians and lyricist would not coordinate before recording. Astral weeks was made when Van hired the best chamber musicians possible to play tracks that he would sing along to. There was minimal to no discussion of mood. On "Spirit of Eden" the tracks were not discussed or written out. Talk Talk played these songs as they went along - lighting a candle for ambience. The singer (I don't know his name as I write this so I refuse to look it up) made up lyrics as the songs went along. His voice, in the classic Jagger school, becomes another instrument, bubbling up and along with the instrumental tracks - becoming as passionate as their outbursts are and then subsiding just as quickly. This may be perhaps the best recorded rock vocal of all time.

The flowing nature of the music on this album had me thinking that the first three songs "The Rainbow," "Eden," and "Desire" were all just one song for the longest time. However, when the strange guitar and trumpet moans of "The Rainbow" fade and give way to the piano and strumming acoustic guitar of "Eden" build and then break into a laid back drum beat you sooner or later figure out that this is a different song. Here Talk Talk basically trump all of U2's 80's output. As the keyboards and guitar chime together and rise up while the singer sings "Everybody needs someone to live by" you being to think why there were ever any other bands or lyrics or sex in the world. These outbursts subside into a persistant groove that is only broken by sharp blasts of distorted guitar that then give way to the most clear out of tune acoustic guitar strokes, which then raise into another outburst. Music and instruments have never sounded as good as they do on this album.

"Eden's" guitar chime slowly fades out to quiet. The piano builds again only to die out and give way to strings from a keyboard, then just keyboard and distortion. Then the heavy synthesized organ comes in and "Desire" starts. This isn't any U2 cop out. This is "Talk Talk" and they use the power and refrain of the church organ to drive this song home. When the singer finally starts in with the lyrics you are hypnotized: "Desire, whispered, spoken." The keyboard and organ slowly build into a guitar freak out that is simply one of the best codas I have ever heard and if you do not want to rip yourself apart after you have heard it, then you must have less than half of a heart or the passion of someone who keeps the first job they are given. "Desire" is the type of song that, when you are walking along the street and see a tree in first bloom and realize that the universe and nature are eternal and you are merely a part of that eternity in a very mortal sense and temporary, ties into that deep feeling in your gut - that the world, your friends, your love is impossible and you are merely tied into its whims. "Desire" in reality and in song never gives up.

"Desire" fades and we get a reprieve of rain from the cymbals in "Inheritance." The singer's moan fits the slight jazz snare sweeps and the late night piano until we it what I guess is a chorus that springs out of stand up bass plucks and soars into synthesizer sounds that are too good to have lived past 1990 in order to be destroyed by bands who didn't know how to use them. This gives way to an interlude of clarinet and oboe that hadn't been seen since 1967. How ahead of the time and yet so retro! And once more for good measure we get the sweep of synthesizers. Talk Talk had really understood their peers at this point, had mastered the mastery of their initial angular image and the image of the 80's that was being sold in sight and sound and manipulated it into a completely new sound and art form - something that has become timeless. This is ultimately music of the 80's but set apart from it simultaneously, which is what any artist does and should do with his own generation.

"I Belive In You" is the fifth song. A slow burner that rises to a boil like all of the songs on this album. The singer starts in really haunted on this one though. This is a song that feels like a constant pivotal moment. Here is the singer's finest moment, he hits the emotive levels of "It's My Life" when the weird ghost guitar and organ songs come in. This song is a day in the mist. It makes you feel as though you are ready to explode, especially when the singer moans "Spirits" and the organ, keyboard, and choral backing voices all swirl together and fade away.

Finally, after what seems like an emotional journey, we come to the beginning of the weary "Wealth." The piano is slow and then a true churchly organ comes in and the singer belts "Take my freedom!" Just as soon as you feel redemption, the melody fades back into a low base point of piano, organ, and acoustic guitar, before rising once more into a shimmering hallelujiah. Outside of a religious sanctuary, this is the closest you come to feeling that strange grey feeling that being in any holy place gives you - for good and for bad. This song makes you see the ritual, of either worshipping, of creating, of living and makes you see the holiness. For that is what church hymns do. They are tied to an institution and institutions must always be avoided, but they make you remember the power - the absolute power of melody and intoxication. How you can be swept away by any maudlin emotion of love or worship. There ain't no Jesus and there ain't no Holy Land. I wouldn't vote for either no matter who endorsed 'em. We're always East of Eden - that's way all we have is the Spirit and that's as much a tree or an onion or a beer. And that's what the organ says to me on "Wealth" as it fades away.

A poem:


The street vegetables heard you sing
Exasperated, thinking of the moon,
Never tired or angry by the oranges –
Just bloated and wanting to cry.

Your favorite movies play on Saturday
And your love seat memories come alive
Even if your skin feels less than
And your patience has drive you mad.

Subways make you think of Desolation Row,
But your mind isn’t satisfied there,
You want something fresh like parsley
A new American song in a peach crate.

The girl you know invites you over
She keeps her soul singers in a box
She tells you about the rates of sex
That a young couple should have.

While she’s asleep in the jade,
You’re out watching the lightning,
Thinking about all of the hurt feelings
And smiles you should’ve hurt much more.

So take a walk then – the backward guitar –
See the rain turn the stoplight magenta
On the pavement, feel the rain on your back;
Turn white, damp flowers into a motto.

Cars keep going but only for so long,
You’ll have to face the sunlight
Your young muscles and your friend
In her navy suit on the way to work.

The cobblestones will turn her to dust
So too will the rails you trip on
Making your way down to the waterside –
Slabs of granite waiting for a picnic.

Where is Monet to paint the crowds?
Where is Monet to paint the willow tree?
The dots gathered on the grassy shore,
The children wading shin deep in silt.

You can see the spot under the Bridge,
The spot where Hart Crane was beaten by sailors.
It’s all under water now crashing with waves
While elevators raise you to your pay.

Maybe we should all jump off of boats
And rip ourselves apart because of a song
To see the mist fall in between pine trees
To want to disappear into the day.

We could all disappear with haircuts
But then we’d all be like you
And no virtue was born of that
But here is April with its showers sure
So this May will be the best in years.
Your friend won’t tell you the story you need.
She won’t tell you of indecision in suspenders,
Of falling on the floor in delirium.
She won’t tell you the truth, because she’s your friend
And she wants to see you by the vegetables,
Alone with the moon to your right
Water in your brown, worn work loafers
And fear, alone gathered in your right hand.

That’s where your song will seed.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Wednesday Night Post

I don't have time to post any new reviews or musings tonight. This weekend I will be going home to camp on the beach with my friend and some dogs. Then it will be Easter Sunday. Next week I will give you some good album reviews and then a preview of the NBA playoffs, which are starting soon and will be some of the best playoffs in years: Kobe, LeBron, Wade, Howard showcase. Tonight, though, another entry in "From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt." Enjoy.


Who first invented the shape of a bottle? It’s really an ingenious design. It must have been the Egyptians when they were fooling around with the mason jars. I’dve liked to have that as a gift: a collection of mason jars with Egyptian godheads on them. It would’ve been fun to scare the kids by putting fake organs in them. I could’ve made up plenty of lies about them. Haunted hearts, livers that were still living. Tom would’ve been the most scared. My jokes and pranks always worked him up.

But I think there is just something terrific about the shape of it. It’s romantic in a way whether full or empty, though I suppose the empty bottle has been romanticized more in movies and in books as a symbol. Everybody loves a hapless drunk, a haunted loner who lives in the shadows. We want our heroes to fall almost as much as we want them to succeed. I’m not sure I’d know what a hero looked like on the street if I met him. Or her.

I should turn the lights on in here to read but the windows in here and the skylights always give enough real light to see. it doesn’t matter to me whether I carve up a Christian or the first fowl that comes my way. That was always one of my favorite quotes. You could use it as armor when dealing with patients. I’m not that cruel, but it’s nice to pretend it’s possible. I never bothered to read Bovary before. She was the one that told me to read it. It had to be a little bit after James was born. We’d sit here after we put him and Mags to sleep and both read underneath those overhead track lights, which were too bright then so I had the dimmer put in right over there by the back door. We’d sit like two kids back in the college library, except instead of being awkward or passionately fighting off the urge to have sex in public we were married and reading together, tired and I can always remember wanting a drink. I didn’t want to drink; I just wanted a drink to relax with the pages in front of me and nothing but sleep then and patients the next day. She wouldn’t let me. She kept me to that promise and made sure I stuck it out. We are both stubborn people. Well, she was and I still am stubborn.

The island. So many times she’d lean against the marble when I’d get home. I’d see James’ cleats by the back door, dirt on them, maybe a little round mold of mud clay lying on that back door rug. Someone’s notebooks on the table. My mind draws up the era when Mags was out of the house. What imprints that on my memory? Marble countertops and Rose standing there, gray on the edges of her auburn. Her and Mags with the shining auburn. Rose was auburn always. Always auburn. I’m pushing the bottle along the wood table. My bottle of Cutty Sark. Sark the sequel revenge of the sark.

The left leg of my khakis is missing. The most comfortable pair of pants I ever had. My skin all bashed up and black and blue. My ribs wrapped up and my arm draped around Connor. His long hair over the collar of his brown leather jacket. I’d always thought I was more handsome, but that night he seemed the older and more confident brother. Maybe because he saved my life. And Rose rushed over to me; her hair long and auburn and she just leaned into me a bit. Just that little lean made the ends of her hair touch my leg. Something that soft should’ve never touched that injury. Although I was proud of it afterwards - gave my thigh and knee a nice definition even if I had a strange crick and limp when it was too humid. She looked at me. Her face young. I was young too.

“You’re drunk.” She smelled.

“Yes I am.”

“I’ll step in the other room,” Connor said.

“Thank you.”

“A scholar and a gentlehand.”

Connor smiled at me and flicked my ear, his leather arms squeaking. The leather later cracked but worn and comfortable. I wore it.

“This is a long time coming.”

I nodded.

“The motorcycle?”


“Who was it? Billy?”

“No, not that piano playing drunk.”

“Who then?”

“It was this guy. His name was Nicky Schwartz. He was going to introduce me to this comic who’s supposed to be on Saturday Night Live next month.”


Her hands were always so cold.

“This is going to stop.”

“C’mon, mom.”

She narrowed her eyes. Oh, when her eyes were narrow and gray. What could I have possibly done but to listen? But then she grabbed my right hand, which was wrapped up too and put it on her stomach. The white wrap of my bandagehand on the purple the soft purple of her dress. There were darker purple flowers on it too.

“You almost died.”


“It has to stop.”

“But I don’t want it too.”

She gripped my hand. I could feel the pressure and I saw her nails digging into the bandage. Her eyes grey and round storms. The old house with the round wood table that had marks from hot plates I put on it without trivets because I didn’t know any better. I could feel her stomach round and my hand looked round.

“Will you?”

Round the cycle spun and round I fell onto the pavement and I’d put a lot of money into that bike and I loved taking care of it but it turned into mangled metal. All of your dreams turn into mangled metal I’d thought then. It’s not true now. I thought of the first time Connor and I got drunk in the field by the barn. I’d stolen the gin and we didn’t know what was what. We drank it without thinking and of course we threw up side by side in the weeds next to the red painted wood.

“Will you?” She asked again.

“Yes,” I said. And that was the beginning of the end. I slept that night in pain and spent the next thirty and more years in pain without a drink. I could’ve made people laugh and I did resent her for that for so long even when I saw the fluid and the blood and James in the artificial light of this world for the first time. I resented her in the off-white porcelain of the jacuzzi and her auburn hair and I resented the fruit smell of so many of her clothes because I couldn’t and I could’ve…

In comes Tom from the back door and he’s wet and his coat is wilted. He pulls off his boots and they thump on that back door carpet. He’s got a beer in his hand. There’s a scrap of brown paper bag clinging to it. His hair is soaked and black.

“Hey, dad.”

“What’s the weather like?”

“What do you mean?”

“Do I need a coat?”

“No, it’s warm.”

I think you might find a lot of answers from the drooping and full flowers and bushes of September in the rain. The square divisions of the window make leaves and branches look like pictures. I hold my hands up and pretend to take a picture of Tom, my second son. He looks at me and sips his beer. He wipes rainwater off his chin. Or maybe its beer.

“A little early to be drinking,” I say.

“What about you?”

“I’ve earned it.”

“Me too.”

I laugh because I like when my kids are quick. It makes me see myself in all of them. It’s a humane mental insurance policy.

“What are you always riding the train for?”

He sits across from me at the table. He stretches his right hand out and touches the golden and curved knob of the right back door. His left arm sweeps back and touches one of Rose’s plants on the sill.

“I like the rhythm of the train. I like looking out the windows.”

“You always liked this one too. Didn’t you?” I point outside at the rain and the leaves and the rocks and the water in the pool and then the fence and beyond that the woods and beyond that the Smith’s house through the woods.

“One of the better ones I’ve looked through.”

“You were at church?”

“Yes.” He sips.

I sip. “They mention your mother?”

“Not that I heard.”

“The bastards.”

I’m quiet thinking of that damn church and how Rose wanted to go every Sunday. My mother wanted me to marry a good woman well I married a good woman a god-fearing woman just like my mother.

“Dad?” Tom says.


“Are you going to be alright tomorrow?”

“I’ll be fine.”


“Don’t tell James or Maggie.” I wink.

Tom laughs and takes another sip of his beer. I look him in the eye and nod my head. He slides his beer across the wood and I slide my bottle. The can is cool, wet, and slick. I lift it. Cold beer and carbonation. We make eye contact and laugh together.

“Dad?” He says.


“Why don’t you keep the house?”

I lean my neck back, look up at the skylight, and see the drops forming a momentary perfect circle and then splash and slide down the glass. There are streaks running in every direction from perfect symmetrical natural liquid circles.

“Because if I couldn’t save her, why would I save the house? It wasn’t ours anyway. It was hers.”

I feel hot and angry but that’s not the way I mean it and that’s not the way I want it to sound. Tom slides the Cutty Sark across the table at me.

“I don’t believe that.”

“Now you’re getting the hang of it.”

He moves to get up. His hands are poised on the table, his forearm muscles are contracted and a vein runs up from along the joint of his thumb’s distal phalange. But he sits back down again, wet with strands of dark grass hair hanging low on his forehead.

“You’re alright, dad.”

“You too?”

“I think so.”

“At least you’re that far.”

Tom and I drink together. I’m not quite sure what time it is but it has to be after noon. Although, I’m not quite sure what the difference is.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

God Must Have Been a Tar Heel Fan...

Last night the University of North Carolina defeated the Michigan State Spartans 89-72 in the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship. I had guessed the final score at a BBQ on the rooftop of my BBQ the afternoon before after I had seen UNC take care of Villanova handily on Saturday Night. There is Danny Green up there front and center, Ty Lawson tucked away in the right corner and Roy Williams looking at Danny, smiling and thinking "Daggumit, Danny, after all these years of dealing with your reckless talent and sometimes out of control shots it sure feels good to have this title." What this shot doesn't have in it is Tyler Hansbrough who has become one of the most storied basketball players in NCAA history. Hansbrough will probably not go on to become an amazing pro; he doesn't have a singular skill set. However, he's got strength and he's got an amazing work ethic and if he is drafted to a decent team and fit into a rotation he will definitely provide a surprise contribution and boost off the bench in his rookie season in the NBA.

Also in this picture we don't see Wayne Ellington (my favorite player on this team) Deon Thompson and Ed Davis. These three, along with the three players mentioned above will all be playing in the NBA either next year or in the next year or two after that. It is amazing that this team will have six future pros. The last UNC championship team contributed four future pros: Rashad McCants (who I am still hoping will showcase his talents, seen above #32), Raymond Felton (solid), Sean May (injuries), and Marvin Williams (emerging on a good Hawks team).

This 2009 UNC team has been one of my favorites of all time. I have watched many of these guys (the seniors really) closely since their freshman season in 2005-2006. That year they had ramshackle team with only a handful of players leftover from their championship team in 2005, namely Rayshawn Terry and David Noel (solid roleplayers who had great years). That team had a disappointing second round exit to the 2006 Cinderella George Mason. The next year, my senior year of college I watched as UNC really hit their stride. They had a highly touted recruiting class with Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Deon Thompson. Hansbrough had truly become a national story as a sophmore, Green was talented off the bench and Rayshawn Terry had a sweet three point touch and senior leadership. However, as I did my radio show on a Sunday evening in March 2007 (heartbroken for another reason at the time) my heart only broke even more as I was forced to watch on the as North Carolina choked away their regional final to Georgetown in overtime. I am still convinced North Carolina would have beaten Ohio State and then Florida in that Final Four. Last year, my father and I went to the Final Four in San Antonio with the hope of seeing UNC in the final game. Alas, they put up one of the most puzzling performances in sports history against Kansas in the National Semifinal and were gone. My dream of seeing a championship in person ruined.

This year the four was in Detroit, my dad and I decided to skip it. This year UNC was hailed as unbeatable before the season. With all their starters coming back and the top recruiting class in the country. But as this team has been wont to do the past 3 years, they got lazy and played erraticly, relying on their impressive talent to pull the wins in when sometimes defense and serious heart was needed. However, they pulled it together this past March and played like that unbeatable team everyone forecasted and brought home the 5th title for UNC.

For me, I have been a UNC fan since 1993 when I was seven years old. My dad took me, a burgeoning sports fan, to the sweet sixteen in East Rutherford, NJ. We arrived at the game and saw Cincinnati defeat Virginia. When the game was over, I was ready to go. That was when my dad blew my mind by telling me there was a second game. The second game saw UNC defeat Arkansas (who I hated for the 1994 and 1995 Corliss Williamson glory years). That night I became a die hard UNC fan because they stood for the good of basketball, seeing multiple games in one day at one venue. The beauty of the NCAA tournament. A week later on a Monday night my mom let me stay up late and watch the game at the next door neighbors house. While my dad and the other neighborhood dads drank beer and I got to eat chicken wings and stay up to midnight, Chris Webber called timeout when there were none remaining. UNC iced the free throws and won Dean Smith his second national championship. My fandom was cemented (hey little kids can get away with being frontrunners). I rode the glory years and underachievement of the 90's with future NBA stars like Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, Antwain Jamison, and Vince Carter and even enjoyed more subtle players like Adema Okulaja, Dante Calabria, Serge Zwicker and even cult players like nasty point guard/Tupac lookalike Ed Cota.

Each season dug me deeper into the rich Carolina history. I learned easy lore like the 1982 team and their epic lineup. How a play drawn up for an earnest freshman started the career of the best player to ever play the game of basketball. I even learned about less heralded eras of UNC such as the Hubert Davis and Rick Fox years of the late 80's and early 90's. I stuck through the down years of Doherty (not a great coach but ended up as a pretty damn good recruiter). And here we are again. We have the glory once more. This is the Roy Williams era. We have the title from 2005 in one of the greatest NCAA Championship games of all time against Illinois (seriously, watch it again if you have NetFlix and 60 beers to kill to yourself). Now, we have the 2009 championship. The icing on the cake for one of the most talented teams of all time. Many of these players will be gone from Chapel Hill come late June when the draft rolls around. However, we still have Ed Davis(will be legendary), Tyler Zeller, Larry Drew III, Marcus Ginyard and the nation's number one recruiting class once more.

God must have been a Tar Heel fan because he made the sky Carolina blue.

Now for the literary side of things. The next installment of "From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt."


“Jake, its good to see you again.”

“Seeing you is like a shadow.”

“A shadow?”

“A mystery you mysterious woman of the lens.”

“I think you would’ve liked my mom.”

“Did you ever tell her about the ring?”


“I suppose that makes sense.”

He’s growing a beard I think. He has on a trench coat, or is it a pea coat? It’s dark anyway and it has a nice collar and big buttons on it. It makes him look like a man, which he is and always was. The one who gave me my first real orgasm anyway so that has to mean something. At least it does to most girls.

“Are you growing a beard?”

“Am I?”

“I don’t know if you are.”

“What do you want by bringing me here?”

“I don’t know. I think just you and your shadow beard.”

“Well you have it it looks like.”

He turns away from me and walks up along the grass past the other graves and stones. He walks past flapping flags stuck in the dirt and among the green blades. There are flowers too. Red, pink, purple, blue, yellow. The yellows are vivid. I’m not sure if it’s sunny or gray. He’s walking, his coat flapping and hitting his thighs. He looks back at me.

I walk towards him in the sun. Or is it gray?

The rain is falling against my bedroom window. How many days did I look out at the rain? It’s somewhat pathetic to look out at it and wish for things that could’ve been or should’ve been or maybe might be. But you do it when you’re younger. You can’t avoid it because that’s what adolescence is all about – dreams, dreaming and angst. Well, usually that and headphones, Led Zeppelin and pot. How I sat here in high school thinking about whoever my crush was at the time. I even kept a journal too, a running high school social commentary. I can picture my teenage self. I see her with her hair cut short in some sort of feminine rebellion. I can see her little stash of weed in the bottom desk drawer hidden behind old magazines and a small knitting set that was supposed to be a school project. I want to taunt her and her love of boys’ names. Mike, Johnny, Jordan, Blake. Which one do you love the most? Which one do you think you love the most? What are you looking for? And I can see her shrugging at me from my vantage point with my questions. She’s slipping on the headphones with the ripped pad on the right one. I can’t hear what she’s listening to, it’s muffled and she’s picking up a camera from the floor and looking out the window.

I’ve spent most of my life taking pictures and watching people. The moment of capture, motion and identity frozen in time. With photos you can stop blood, you can stop time, it is the static art and when observed closely it can reveal countless things to us about humanity and instantaneous occurrences that occur everyday. The little girl in the purple dress poking a flower in the white marble walls in Dubrovnik. The monk and the crab picture I took in Thailand. Or Even more simply the one of Jake when he spilt the wine and he stood over it with an umbrella as a walking stick.

“Oh, miss! Would you please take a picture of my wife and me?”

A flick of his wrist and the umbrella was lifted; he wrapped his arm around it.

“Don’t you feed her?”

“Please, she’s had a bit of an accident and she’s upset.”

“What seems to be the problem?”

“She was crying over spilt milk and well…”

“Ah, the wine.”

His laughter, hard and loud. Him poking the umbrella in my direction pretending as if it were a sword parrying me. I jumped back and snapped pictures in my socks. He moved closer and closer to me.

“No more business. You’re a dedicated professional woman.”

“It’s not business its art.”

“Shuah shuah.”

“I don’t have that accent.”

He was good at teasing me. He wrapped my waist and persuaded the camera out of my hand and in the same movement gently placed it on the table with the right hand while leaning me back with his left against the back of the couch. We fell over onto the cushions. He slid down to the floor his legs on my stomach and on the couch while his back rested on the rug and his face looked up at me.

“I love you, you know.”

I nodded.

“I’ll clean up the wine.”

I’m fondling my camera in my hand. Don’t look out the window at the rain coming down in the afternoon. Tom walked to church. He’s caught in the rain. Should I have gone with him? He seems strange. I know there is something similar in us. It’s a restlessness in our nature, even though he hasn’t gone anywhere and I’ve been so many places. We both got it from him. I think Tom might be taking all of this the hardest despite the fact that he hasn’t really showed it. He hasn’t shown much of anything since I’ve been here. I’ll talk to him tonight. The funeral is tomorrow.

There are boxes piled in my room, some of them empty some of them with filled with things. There are a few with leftover and old books. It’s mainly the closet that needs to be cleaned out. I haven’t lived here in so long but there are still things in the closet that you think you’ve thrown out but are still there. Old bins full of school papers, old clothes too. I even found a few stuffed animals. My old Winnie the Pooh and the cow that I sewed in home ec in eighth grade. I’ll take pictures of the boxes. There is something absolutely picturesque about them. It might be the cleanness of their shape, how simple and defined they are in their squaredom. This is a messy world and the objects in our boxes are messy too. But the boxes themselves can be beautiful.

There is the grass again. The mound of dirt and the flags sticking up here and there. Dad’s in a suit holding his bottle in his left jacket sleeve. He wears a red rose on his left lapel. There’s a wooden box above the hole and the wind moves the leaves. Someone touches my shoulder. It’s Jake again. He doesn’t have a beard. I think I’ll take a picture of him and the box.

I’ll bring my camera to the funeral.

Will I call him?

“You look beautiful.”

I can feel the singleness of my half full apartment in my slowly emptying room that isn’t even mine.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Journey Forward

Well the reviews (some) are in. I submitted The Journey Forward in Amazon.Com/CreateSpace's Breakthrough Novel Award contest. It is a contest that (shocker) allows aspiring and unpublished novelists to submit their manuscripts in hopes of winning a book deal with Penguin. While my novel did not make it to the quarterfinals, they still provide you with feedback. Anyone following this blog or this novel can see what some of the great critics of this internet world are saying about The Journey Forward:

"I like this so far because I was an English major and took several classes on the American Novel, so right away I was hooked. However, I think the author's assessment of the Great Gastsby is a bit off but most of being an English major is having a difference of opinion and convincing people you know what you're talking about.
Aside from that, my curiosity is aroused about the characters brought up in these pages. What goes on between Mark and Sophie? What happened between Mark and Petr? The writing is clear and I like the descriptions of the senses, taking in the colors, the smells and the feel of the warmth. I'd like to see where this goes." - Expert Reviewer #1

Ah, the wonders of youth, college, love, and the Great American Novel. "The Journey Forward" begins in a very open-ended fashion as we follow Mark Deluca, a young literature student with the Gods of Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Joyce, and Fitzgerald on his mind and on his lips. Amid the warm spring weather and the rising sap in the student body, the author describes Mark right before term break, a much-anticipated trip to Burlington with his friends.

I enjoyed the author's introduction of the various characters; future roles and motivations are implied in various ways such as seemingly passing conversation, his professor Louis Stevens' attention to an attractive blond as well as his attention to Mark, an underachieving friend and a pugnacious roommate, his girlfriend Sadie Gordon whose intensity matches Mark's. The prose strikes a good balance between nonchalance and portent -- in which direction will the author take us?

At one point right before a class discussion of "The Great Gatsby", Mark has a premonition of a car accident on his way to Burlington including "Snow, cold, wreck, red blood". Weather is repeatedly described and alluded to throughout the first chapter, leaving the reader to wonder if Mark's thoughts describing the only serious passage in the first chapter as well as mentions of God, guilt, and Catholicism will be one of the novel's critical events.

"The Journey Forward" will prove engaging for younger readers in particular. The conversations and descriptions are believable and swiftly moving, although perhaps a bit mundane for a novel's opening; I would have liked a passage that might provide a better hook or a signpost for future plot and character development. Still, this is solid writing; Mark appeals to intelligence and he is presented with a youthful joy that leave me wondering about his coming journey."
- Expert Reviewer #2

Well there you have it. They did not get to read the whole novel but a lengthy excerpt. Good and bad take the comments in and perhaps see for yourself about this manuscript. Maybe you'll enjoy it.

In more blog related news, in the upcoming days and weeks you can look forward to posts about Paul Simon's first solo album, Talk Talk's album "The Spirit of Eden," a review of Tony Earley's book "The Blue Star," a wrap-up and review of the Final Four, and a preview of the NBA playoffs, and of course more editions of "From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt" and more heartwrenching poems.

See below for the latest installment of "From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt":


I’m in the darkness of my eyes. In the beginning there was the word. Repent your sins and welcome the love of the lord. Taake aaand eeat. Taake aaand eeat. Let me escape from this past from what is holding me back. Forgive me for hating my brother and for not knowing my family well enough and for being glad that my mother is dead in some way because it sets me free somehow and I think she knew that overall. She knew that by dying she would be able to bring us together again even though we’ve always been together something needed to change and she being the woman she was knew that in some way too. I move my knee on the blue and smell perfume and mothballs. There are stars and rings of color in the darkness, in front of me I hear the shuffling of feet on the stone floor, and I know that hanging up there is the crucifix and Christ. Forgive me for not taking advantage of the opportunities given to me. Why am I afraid to move on with my life? Why didn’t I go away to college? Why am I content to work two jobs I don’t care about? I come to church for answers because it is the only thing I know. It is what my mother knew and so stubbornly stuck to. We’re all not believers.

Next to me one of the two old women is coughing. I think it’s the one wearing a fur coat and she must be hot in it. One of the women – I think it is the same one – is blowing her nose. They’ve stopped singing the communion hymn and now the organ just plays its chords and notes. The organ has such a resonant sound; there is something about it. I wonder if Maggie could play the organ if she tried. Her auburn hair. James’ short and clean cut brown hair, his still athletic build and broadish chest. Liza’s light brown almost blonde hair that seems so out of place with the rest of us. Dad is grayer and grayer. We all have to move away and grow up sometime. Why is that? Why do we have to keep moving and growing up? What does it all add up to? Why can’t we just be young forever? We have to die don’t we? Our parents will die the ones we came from and so must we. These things are too morbid I have to open my eyes but I can’t. I’m deluding myself of something and I think that something might be death but its what we all have to face and understand isn’t it? I don’t know. Open!

I look up at the wooden sailboat ceiling of the church. Everything looks the same as it did before I closed my eyes and stepped into the dark. I wish I hadn’t come to church and just stayed at home and slept in my bed or sat with Liza or James or Eve. I look at the two old women next to me. The one in the fur coat smiles. She has white hair and she reminds me of a substitute teacher I used to have in high school. The other one is still closed within herself praying to God. Her brow is furrowed. I can only imagine what things she is facing inside of herself after being alive for so many years. I remember to smile back at the woman and then I turn away and gaze up at the cross. Christ is thin in his frozen middle age.

In two days we’ll watch mom go beneath the ground. Then we’ll have to leave this house behind unless James manages to change Dad’s mind. Something has to give within me.

Christ is sad and bleeding. He knew he couldn’t escape. None of us can. I haven’t truly even tried. But I can’t, James can’t, Eve can’t. Maggie can’t either.

I’ll get a beer from 7-11 on the way home.